Subject name: Lorraine Jett
Ten years since last mission.
It has been a long time since any missions were taken and completed by this elastic woman. So long, in fact, that just after her last mission, Ms. Jett dropped her career as a superhero entirely. She only used her elastic abilities for rudimentary tasks from there on.
Lora simply went back to her old job that previously wasn't always fulfilled 8 hours a day.
She wasn't the only one to change, either.
Her boss, Mr. Richard Hearst had stopped pointing out crimes for her to take care of, and his son, Arnold, had become a teenager and lost interest in Plastic Man comics that usually helped Lora in a few missions. Even her own sidekick, Meredith, had stopped thinking about fighting crime, and had grown to be more like an adopted sister to Lora than a sidekick.
Lora herself thought that crime could take care of itself, like the illegal drug issue. The police would do a better job than she ever did, because after all, Centropolis, California, wasn't much of a place for heroes.
But now, she felt a sense of regret. She missed being a superhero after exactly ten years. The news reports on television proved her wrong about crime easily disappearing. As a matter of fact, it rose dramatically since her absence.
"Oh sure, one superhero drops off the face of the earth for ten years and crime skyrockets. I had assumed that the police and that H.U.B. organization would take care of it, but No-o-o. Pfft, how stupid is the justice system these days?" Lora sighed on the couch of her new house. She turned to her pink, shiny friend and continued, "Say, did you ever do anything before meeting me back on that weird planet?"
Meredith thought for a moment, then shook her head, saying that she didn't remember.
After a moment of silence and a sip of coffee, Lora stood up and groaned, "That's it, I want a nefarious crime scheme to thwart, and one way or another, I'll get one!"
First she tried fumbling through the latest newspaper that she never actually read, but found no major disasters; only a few common muggings and a small jewelry theft. Next, she looked at police records on her computer, but no sign of any known major villains were on file this year. It's funny, ten years ago Lora wasn't above petty crime, but now that she's wrong, she feels not up to it anymore.
But then she had an idea: If she went out to thwart a smaller crime, maybe one of the criminals involved would explain who they were working for. A bit desperate, but it might work, she thought.
This time, Lora decided to put on a disguise: She'd dress as a classic medieval foot soldier, and use Meredith as a fake double-edged sword. The latter didn't object to the idea, and Lora jumped right onto her new motorcycle traded from her car. She sped straight downtown to a new crime that was just now started as she pulled in: It was a building fire, here on a high rise apartment building. Fire was one of the things Lora detested, because she knew it would damage her rubber body in less than a minute.
Thankfully, however, Meredith demonstrated a trick she hadn't shown to her "leader" up to now: A fire engine was smashed up, probably by the people who started the fire, but the equipment on it was working. A ladder was already extended towards the burning building, so their next step came: Firstly, Meredith would extend her neck and grow several times larger than normal, then Lora would pump just enough water into her using the truck's hose, and use the ladder as a support to stretch all the way to the top of the building, and spray out the fire from the top downward.
Although a little nervous about backfires, Lora gathered her courage and did as her sidekick asked. Standing at the top of the ladder, which was only reaching the second floor of the apartment building and its hydraulics were broken; Lora steadily stretched herself upward until level with the top floor. Then she placed her hands around the pink shiny dragon's sides, and squeezed. This discharged a powerful jet of water right into the windows of the apartments, extinguishing the flames but only sprinkling the inhabitants as she turned left to right across the building's wall.
Soon, the fire was completely quenched and the people inside safe, even though they would clearly have to move somewhere else due to the place still being scorched on the inside.
Cameras clicks and applause roared from all sides, and she knew that this was because no one had ever seen this girl, Lovergum, in a solid decade. She couldn't help but smile while Meredith, back in her normal shape, was perched on her right upper arm. Lora even felt tempted to rip the glasses-like goggles from her face and look more attractive to the eye, but Meredith convinced her not to do so, as that would immediately expose her "secret identity". "No superhero ever removes their mask just to show off!" She continued. Lora knew she was right because Plastic Man always had a pair of black goggles when fighting crime.
Just before she could bask in attention further, out of the corner of her eye, she saw 3 apparently mutated people two men, one woman - running down the street with a bag in the arms of one of them. To perform a stunt that would wow the audience further, Lora jumped into the air, somersaulted, morphed her legs into a rubber coil spring, and bounced almost completely across the city block, and landed, legs right apart and directly in front of the sprinting men, who stopped dead and frightened by Lora's sudden appearance.
Feeling a rather mischievious smile cross her face, the red + pink rubber heroine tightened her gloved fists, and sharply elongated each arm one at a time, to punch each of the mutants in the face. However, realizing she hadn't thought this through, Lora retracted her arms instantly. Good thing, too, because Meredith didn't point out what kind of mutants they were until just now:
The tallest one in the back appeared to be a huge monster made of rock, with quite bulky hands.
The middle, who was holding the bag, was a green-skinned amphibious hybrid, with one fin on his head resembling a Mohawk. He wore a black T-shirt that depicted a band name: The Depth Charges.
And the last one resembled a Guatemalan teenage girl, with a bluish, semi-transparent hue to her skin, not to mention floating as well. The features of this girl depicted an angel that could apparently control ice, and fly as well.
But there was one thing the mutants had in common: Their eyes were all the same shades of lavender, purple, and black; and appeared to have concentric rings inside. Meredith deduced this to each of these mutants actually being innocent, but hypnotized by another being or person. Lora figured out how to kick them out this of hypnosis: She still could generate a type of sweet-smelling pink goo that smelled so sweet to anyone sprayed with it that it would become dazed and most likely drooling over Lora's physique or other qualities.
Of course, the planning they had was almost for naught, as the 3 mutants suddenly charged on the two pink girls.
The amphibious punk-rocker began with scratching Lora down the gut with two sharp-clawed and webbed hands, surprisingly drawing blood and not pink goo. In furious retaliation because she never expected to get legitimate injuries to an immortal plastic being like herself Lora held out her right hand directly in front of the mutant's head, squeezed on it, and secreted her secret weapon all over the guy's face, making him scream and fall backwards in...pain?
The ghost/angel girl was in the process of encasing Meredith in ice by generating extremely cold gusts of air from her hands. Downing her was harder because it appeared that she was only a being of cold air with nothing solid to hit. However, it didn't take much for Lora to distract her, and this gave her the chance to make a puddle of goo on the ground for the "little angel" to get stuck to. Lora felt actually sad for doing this, because she was harming a teenager, but it was only for the sake of breaking hypnosis, after all.
Finally, the rock mutant was the toughest of all: Before Ms. Jett could squirt more of her sticky pink ooze, he reached for her body with one rocky hand, thrust her hard against a concrete wall, and punched her right in the face. Meredith, now thawed out from a passing soldier carrying a flamethrower who melted the ice, was frightened out of her smooth and shiny hide, for when the rock-man's fist withdrew, Lora's head was now squashed flat like a pancake, and in some places turned into pink goo from the impact (again conflicting with the blood loss in her gut). Thankfully, it regenerated within a couple of minutes, and this gave her the opportunity to this time squirt her weapon from both hands and feet like Spider-Man could, and despite tearing off the goo over his face in anger, the anger faded along with the swirly pattern in his eyes. With that, Lora was placed back on the street again.
The amphibious mutant was confused as to why he was holding a bag, looked inside, and found it to be full of clearly robbed jewels.
"Whoa, what happened? I feel like I was sleepwalking and acting like a kleptomaniac," The rock-guy asked while rubbing his head.
"You were...um, not sleepwalking, but hypnotized," Lora explained.
The green-scaled man added, "If any of us hurt you or your little friend there, we're sorry if that happened." He grabbed Lora by the hand, brought her to her feet, and suddenly gasped in alarm at the cut in her gut, which now appeared to be sealed over with pink goo, "Egads! Did I do that?!"
"Yes, you did, and I never expected to bleed like a human, because according to the person who gave me these elastic powers, I should be immortal and completely invulnerable to damage!" She cried in response.
Blushing after looking her over, the same mutant continued, "By the way, I'm Thomas Dudley. What's yours?"
"I'll tell you if you can keep it a secret."
"'Kay, I'll do that."
"It's Jett, Lorraine Jett, but fans call me Lovergum. That's my hero name. Hey, if you're wearing that shirt, what's that band like?"
"As a matter of fact, I'm in it as their vocalist. I was bitten by a strange reptile, and gained this amphibious new body from something in its venom. I can breathe both air and water, thanks to my new gills being able to close. My buddies wear costumes to help me fit in on stage. The fans who love us don't even know I'm like this. You know, er...Lora, you're kinda cute."
"Aww, thanks. Call me later if you want to...you know,"
"Yeah, I got it," Thomas nodded while taking a piece of memo pad paper written on by Lora and stuffing it into a pocket on the swimsuit he wore.
She turned to the enormous rocky monster and asked with a hint of timidity, "So, what's your story?"
In a gravelly-sounding voice (no pun intended), the man explained, "My goodness, that's a very vivid memory. While I was excavating a ton of rock in a quarry, I found this wacky red ore that glowed, but when I got close to it, my buddy told me to get away. Soon, I knew why: A rockslide was happening in the quarry that was very close to my position. My body didn't stand a chance against the crushing weight, but I got to touch the ore as my last human effort. Something strange happened as my exposed arm suddenly turned into living rock, making my somehow still conscious mind realize that the body was merging with the rock on top of it, and making a new one made of living rock out of it. My teeth got sharpened as a result, too. I kinda like this mutation, actually. Oh, and the name's Bill Hammersmith."
The girl was too frightened from all this excitement to explain her powers' origin, or even to say her name. Instead, she cried in the voice of a sad ghost, "Oh, that horrible witch! She used me as her slave and wanted to use my powers for evil! And she took my brother! My mom told me never to part from him, even if we are complete opposites in these enchanted forms!" After which she fell to the ground perhaps hovering on her stomach, and cried frozen tears that actually hit the ground as solid objects. Maybe this girl wasn't a teenager after all; she only looked as tall as a 13-year-old in this form.
Lora wanted to reach out and help her up, but her arms only passed through subzero air, and they nearly froze completely through, just like a real ghost. What she could do was kneel down and say calmly, "There, there, you're safe now. I'm not going to hurt you, and neither will my little pink friend."
The icy girl moved up to a sitting, floating position, almost like meditation, and continued, "Really? If you can, try to find that evil lady..."
"Yeah, and we'll give her what for in making slaves out of us!" Thomas interrupted while pounding his fists together. Bill just hit his rocky fist against his gut in a similar tough-looking way.
Meredith flew closer to the little girl as well, and asked, "Could you tell us where this 'witch' is?"
She simply pointed down the street, causing everyone to look in the same direction. That soldier with the flamethrower was confused at this, and said, "You mean...that way? But that leads out to the coast, and the only thing there is a beachside hotel that was closed down in the 80's!"
"Hmpf, perfect hiding place for a villain, I'd surmise," Lora crinkled her mouth in assumption.
In all this excitement, Lora had forgotten her motocycle back in the town square with the still safe tenement building, but now the group of citizens had grown larger, and filling into cars to drive off. These, she assumed, were the now homeless inhabitants of the apartments. Her own bike was parked right where it was but coated now with sticky notes and cards apparently written by men to her, in asking for dates or movie nights. Unfortunately for them, Lora didn't want just anyone off the streets to fall in love with her, so she simply took the paper items off her bike and deposited them in a nearby public trash can.
She revved the vehicle back into motion, with her outfit now morphed into a vinyl biker's clothing, with Meredith as a sturdy pink helmet. Lora could just hear Thomas Dudley's punkish voice shouting, "Don't forget, I'll call you at 6:00 tonight!"
The road ahead was a single two-way road with only one lane per side, winding around a cliff with a seawall built on the left side, facing the ocean. Stairs in gaps of the wall lead down to a beach, but it was completely abandoned, with long-forgotten items left behind, ranging from broken beach umbrellas to over-toppled folding chairs, and from empty picnic baskets flying around in the wind, to pulverized sand castles on the ground.
Likewise, up ahead was a tall hotel with a burned-out neon sign that said: "Centropolis Park Beachside Hotel". Every window on it was sealed over with sheets of corrugated iron, its front door boarded up and covered with police tape, and its front gate locked tight with an unusual device. It wasn't a padlock, but rather, an electronic fingerprint scanner. Technology must have advanced greatly in Lora's absence from heroism.
Of course, when she parked her motorcycle, Meredith took care of that issue by slashing through the lock with one sharp dragon claw.
"I have a very bad feeling about this," Lora anxiously said in the way Luke Skywalker always did.
"I do too, but it's the only way if we want to get to the bottom of this," her lackey explained.
They walked cautiously down a worn tile walkway, past a long dried fountain and towards the front door, as if sneaking into a haunted mansion. Lora did some vandalism this time, and morphed her left hand into a large pair of working scissors, though vinyl like the rest of her, which took care of the hanging police tape. Then, Meredith giggled and assumed the form of a pink hammer, allowing her leader to pry off the boards which were the last line of defense against these two heroines' getting in.
As soon as Ms. Jett gripped the doorknob and pushed the door inward, she knew right away that something was wrong.
Standing right before her was a friendly-looking woman about the age of 45, with long brown hair and green eyes. She was wearing the attire of a classic Hotel employee, as well. Behind her, the lobby of this hotel appeared to be brand new, complete with lattice-patterned tiles and whitewashed walls as if from an office building.
"Well? Aren't you going to come in?" She inquired as if impatient.
Lora and Meredith, more so felt very suspicious of this lady. The happiness in her voice sounded all too unnatural, as if she was pretending or even brainwashed. And if this hotel was said to be abandoned, which it was on the outside, why was she seeing it new here in the lobby?
Lora just turned towards the door, looking for that receptionist, but turned again towards the front desk to find her sitting there now. She moved a bit closer and said, "Er...have you seen a witch around here lately?"
The brown-haired woman simply shook her head, and now asked if Lora wanted to book in for the night.
She thought that over for a moment...maybe a night's rest would give her some time to think...or better yet, a chance to do some snooping after hours, and so said yes. She signed her name in a strangely yellowed guest book, where Lora's now signed spot was number...666? It wasn't likely that this place could hold over 6 hundred guests, so this was probably just the next available slot on the page. The number itself however, again aroused the rubber woman's suspicions.
To further (unintentionally) arouse their concern, the receptionist pointed to Meredith and said to her leader, "I'm sorry, but we don't allow pets here in the hotel."
"What?" Lora glanced at the creature on her arm then back at the lady.
"That creature on your arm there, it has to stay outside."
"Why? I don't think this one qualifies as a pet, because it's completely intelligent, and has the ability to speak."
But the clearing of this woman's throat clarified that she wasn't about to play games, so Lora had no choice but to place Meredith outside. Since it was November, she'd be in quite a pickle tonight out in the cold.
Following this, the receptionist, whose nametag seemed to say "Patricia", handed a gold cylinder lock key to Lora. Room number C20, presumably the 20th room on the hotel's 3rd floor.
Patricia asked if she'd like to show Lora her room, but she declined the offer and wanted to look around herself. There was a convenient elevator in the lobby which lead straight to floor 3 at the touch of a button.
The hallway looked quite tasteful, nonetheless, with blue and gold-patterned carpeting and green plast cup-lights on the walls between each door. The door Lora was given stood at the hall's end, near a stain glass window. When she placed the key in its lock and turned it, the room she entered wasn't too bad either. It resembled a classic hotel room with '80's décor, with two beds, a desk with a rather bulky laptop, and a wall-embedded CRT television with a VCR below.
She glanced out the large balcony window at the end and again felt a sense of concern and unease: The beach was open for business and dozens of citizens were having fun down there, some tossing around a large rainbow beach ball, others pitching umbrellas, picnic equipment and chairs, and a little boy constructing a sand castle close to the water. Again, how could something that was classified as abandoned be completely operational again now?
Lora felt a nap would help her sort things out later, but before doing so, she took a VHS tape quite obsolete now from a cabinet in her nightstand and slipped it into the VCR. It was a movie of 20-year-old woman being awakened in a room a lot like this one, except someone shoved a strange gun right into her hands, and smacked the person or robot that gave it to her, making it spin rapidly while confined to a ceiling rail. The gun appeared to make an array of man-sized holes that she was able to use as transport from one room to another. But Ms. Jett was already asleep when the best part came on.
She slept far from well.
In her dream, Lora was dropped from someplace high, into a completely white room, and a piercing computerized male intercom voice announced, "White-Room Round One, Initiating."
Oh no, she had seen places like this in first-person-shooter games played in her teen-hood. A level like this would put the player in the middle of a round and whitewashed chamber where enemies would strike from all sides, so one could never tell where any of them were or came from. The best solution would be to run sideways around the edges and fire in a circle, but here, Lora didn't have any weapons at all, let alone guns. What was she to do now?
It just got worse, as about 12 hatches in the floor opened up, raising serious-looking male villains. Then it hit her that most of these were villains she fought before in her previous missions, some of which included that trio of mutants, the two thugs in green, that evil purple snake-man hybrid, and several more that she hadn't even seen before.
The announcer blared again, "Begin White-Room Round One."
Those villains charged on the red elastic woman all at once, but each in a different way. Scarier still was that every one of the opponents weren't so much as bruised by Lora's elastic punches. Her sweet-smelling pink ooze did naught either, it only made them angrier. The worst happened when Ms. Jett expected them all to dog-pile her like on a football game, but instead, each one of them grabbed her arms and legs in twos and threes, the purple naga even gripped her head, and used his free "snake-head-hand" to pull off her goggles. That last event would have seemed like no big deal, if it wasn't for several security cameras glaring at her from the ceiling. Her secret identity had been exposed, on camera.
A hanging flat-screen monitor between the cameras lit up as well, showing a news article on-screen.
"In a stunning turn of events, Centropolis' first superheroine had just exposed her own identity. We now know exactly who this 'Lovergum' is: she is in fact Lorraine Jett, a local candy store cashier. Local citizens are saying that an exposure like this would probably ruin her reputation for good, and that unnecessary popularity would arise from this. Her boss, Mr. Richard Hearst had this to say:" "I feel sorry for Ms. Jett, because now they'll be asking her every day to rescue every cat stuck in a tree, or do them cheap favors. What a terrible shame."
"No, no! This can't be happening!!" She screamed in tears, also from the pain of being overstretched.
Just after the two thugs laughed in an evil way, Bill Hammersmith, the rock-man, created a sharp ax head out of his left hand, sharpened with the use of smooth igneous minerals.
"This is the end of your pitiful career as a hero. Heroes aren't welcome in humanity, and they never were," the Naga ominously announced.
The rocky ax head dropped down on Lora's neck and everything went black soon after.
She woke up breathing heavily and in a cold sweat. And that wasn't the end of it, no. What Lora was facing happened to be the same hotel room as before, but every inch of it was in disrepair. The once brightly papered walls now were bare, with pieces still stuck to the plaster; cobwebs were clustered around the furniture in every possible area; the mini-fridge reeked of mold and spoiled food; and cracked glass in the balcony window.
Lora jumped right out of bed to take a look around, and saw the beach back in its abandoned state, just like when driving up here yesterday. Wait, how long was she out?
The VCR had automatically ejected its tape during this time, and the TV was now showing a news broadcast. She feared that it was the same as in her nightmare. A reporter named Carr Fenton began, "Just last week, Lovergum, the only superheroine we know, had finally emerged from oblivion after exactly ten years, then subsequently vanished when investigating a coastal hotel. Some citizens are led to believe that she died during the investigation, others that she fell off the coastal bridge and drowned before reaching the hotel. Whatever the case may be, no solid evidence has come up regarding this woman's fate. It may be safe to assume that we have lost our greatest line of defense against major crime."
So they think I'm dead, Lora thought, and I've been under for only a week, yet the hotel resembled its heyday self when I came here, but only on the inside.
Something very weird was going on, and one thing was clear: Lora had to find out. Up to now, she was wearing her secret-identity attire, but this time she morphed her clothes into a new outfit: A ninja's, all black from head to toe. Not really the best for a stealthy approach, but it was the best she could think of that wasn't an airtight leather suit.
Before leaving, however, the room's telephone started ringing. It was strange, however, because the line appeared to be severed. Nonetheless, Lora picked up the receiver and listened. A female voice whispered, "You're in danger, lady."
"From that evil sorceress; She's keeping us here, you too. We need your help."
"What can I do?"
The voice cut out as if someone remotely severed the connection on the other end. Now there was absolutely no contact. Great, she thought. No phone, no sidekick, and public assumption of my death.
She peeked out into the now abandoned hallway, and saw that it was still empty. Closing the door behind her, Lora pondered for a moment: "Think, Lora, Think: If this was one of those adventure games I liked in my childhood, and sorceresses were involved, where would be the most likely place to look?"
It soon hit her that she should look for the hotel's basement. Where else would an evil person hole up in to make their nefarious schemes in? Unfortunately, the door to the stairs was locked now, and she had no key. However, her gaming instincts pointed out another good thing: She could improvise using the ventilation system, although a rather uncomfortable thing to do in real life. Thankfully, Lora's elastic body would provide no trouble in that.
Pulling the grate off with relative ease, she gripped the insides and carefully pulled her front half in. However, Lora could barely move her body under these conditions. She couldn't stretch her body out to get a thinner torso, because the rest would remain the same size, and she wasn't sure if her body would be able to shrink past normal size. Ms. Jett tried the latter idea anyway, and found that she COULD shrink to a smaller size by deflating like a balloon. This made the crawl much easier for Lora.
The air vents were a rather creepy area to traverse. They were all lit in a dark red light coming from other rooms below, or in some places, in the fan shafts next to the main vents. She felt a sense of terrible dread when passing horizontal grates set in the bottom. She could see down into other hotel rooms, and in shock, could also see what looked like dead bodies inside! They were all tucked in as if in stasis. Others contained transparent people walking around. Were they ghosts?!
In one of the rooms on the first floor (first off the ground floor), the grate gave way and she plummeted into another room. It was empty, but the walls were coated with murals and graffiti.
On the desk at one side, a note was written, dated from 1995, yet addressed to Lora. It said: "Time is short, but you may be able to stop that awful sorceress from tormenting us further. Get to the cellar as quickly as possible. I've left directions for you on the wall. Be careful, John Madison".
Ms Jett glanced at the wall on the bed, opposite the desk. On it appeared to be a floor plan of this hotel. She was right, the basement was the way to go; it was marked with a red line from this room to there.
Before she could leave the room, Lora's right foot snagged on a loose floorboard. There was something inside as well: They appeared to be a set of infrared goggles. Turning her right hand into a hammer, she pried off the board and took the goggles with her. She stopped at the stairs, and felt a strong need to use the restroom. Lora hoped the plumbing was still working.
The bathroom was bathed in cold blue light, from antique glass lamps on the walls. The walls themselves and the floor were coated with intricately patterned black and white tiles. After finishing on the toilet, Lora glimpsed herself in the mirror, morphed back into her "street clothes" form and felt rather afraid now. This place was so dead by now; Ms. Jett nearly thought that she and her powers would die along with it. Pulling at her ear heightened the likelihood.
With that, she left the bathroom and returned to the now-decrepit lobby downstairs. She tried on the goggles, thinking that they would detect something, and surprisingly, they did: A door with a keypad on its handle had small traces of heat, left behind from 1996. Wow, these were so advanced; they could detect evidence from the past. The code wasn't hard to find either: Rubbing a #2 pencil on a sticky note pad revealed the door's code...or clue to the code: DEATH. How ominous. Since the keypad resembled a phone's, and with the help of her cell phone's keypad, Lora deducted the code to be: 33284.
Lora stopped in front of the door, because she somehow felt weak in her legs and had to sit in a chair for a moment. She hadn't felt pain since...oh no, did this mean what she thought it meant? Lora tried elongating her arm, but...nothing happened. So it was true. Somehow her powers had been neutralized, but how did it happen?
She entered the code and descended some darkened stairs to find out. The goggles helped her locate a hidden door in the wall helpful more so because the lighting was broken.
Although it might have been only the goggles, the basement seemed to be bathed in that same hellish red light, complete with a large ventilation fan blowing from one wall towards another. A door that stood out among everything else had a sign above it that said: Hotel spa. Lora knew that she wasn't going to get a massage here.
She stopped, and heard whispers on the other side. They seemed to be talking about her, but no details could be made out. So she turned her right finger into a lock pick, and picked the door lock to get in.
As soon as the door creaked open, Lora stopped dead: She was facing what looked like a classic hotel spa, with an empty and filthy mud bath in the rear, but right in the middle on a table was an array of Satanist-related items.
She first looked at an open book on the table, and felt a chill when noticing that the article shown was a spell for summoning a demon. Her hands were shaking when she turned around and glanced at the floor: A chalk-drawn pentagram turned upside down so that two points of the star were sticking up. A line made from human blood followed the circle's edge on the outside; 5 colored candles stood around the inner pentagon, still burning, it seemed; and in the center was a triangle with an eye in it. The symbol for the all-seeing eye.
Although dark in this side of the room, Lora just managed to see an Ouija board over on the far left, propped up on a tanning bed. She glimpsed someone's hand moving its marker over several letters, not spelling real words, but making some kind of incantation instead.
After the hand put the board's marker back on the side, Lora heard what sounded like a raspy-voiced man preparing to throw up, but what she saw ahead was much worse: It was a monster colored in dark red and black, with the horns of a ram on its head. Her heart sank when she realized that this was a legitimate demon, something only discussed in the bible. This one had a look of ferocity in its eyes, and its mouth open with glass-sharp teeth and its arms spread wide. Before she could make a move, the demon literally jumped Lora, grabbing her with its upper arms and holding it close to its chest. She struggled and tried to ooze her way out with her powers, but they were gone.
A woman's voice cackled softly from that dark area of the room. Lora quickly recognized the voice: it was the strange receptionist from just one week ago. But a ball of blue-violet light proved that source wrong. A 47-year-old woman approached from the darkness, clothed in a slightly tattered indigo dress. Her hands were covered with strange and eerie jewelry items, and an odd necklace hung around the woman's neck. Her head was pale like a vampire's but showed no fangs in the mouth. She also had long purple hair, except for her scalp, where it was shaved off to make room for a bizarre headdress. Some kind of combustible compound in the "hat" created a brilliant blue flame that was a bit taller than the woman's own head. Overall, Lora found this person to be a sorceress of some kind. Not a generic witch, because of her age and different attire.
"Who...who are you?" Lora stammered while still restrained by the demon.
"I cannot say, but I certainly know who you are, Lorraine Jett."
The sorceress paced around the room, and started a monologue, "Ever since you showed up on the list of useless heroes, I've been keeping a very sharp eye on you. It seems every villain you fought was male, and I was itching to take down someone like you. And, whoosh! Here you are, just like I planned. Yes, I cast an illusion to fool you into staying here, and placed a temporary sleeping spell on you to make the public think you were dead, and they probably still do. Also, I knew you'd find me, so that's why I summoned this demon for protection, and did everything else to weaken your defenses against me. Now you're right where I want you, and you can't stop me from destroying you, Miss Jett. I stripped you of your sidekick, all public contact, and now I can do the best step of all..."
She waved her right hand a bit, with purple energy surrounding it. Lora felt like her skin was being ripped off, and her body appeared to change for a moment: Her standard heroic form morphed back, but the suit which made that suddenly began to ripple, lifting away from her true skin. It then tore away from her body and slowly pulled itself off, snagging on Lora's left hand, but still stretching towards the sorceress. Lora watched in shock as the suit began to slowly wrap itself around that woman, bonding itself to her skin, and even changing color to match.
The sorceress cackled, "...I get to take control of your powers!!"
Her demon shielded Lora's face as she screamed and writhed in terror, knowing that there would be no escape now. It made sense that those two clones of Lora wouldn't have worked, because, just like in a magnet, like poles repel each other. This time, the tables were turned: Lora would be back to a normal human being, while her enemy would use the powers she once had.
Before long, the sorceress was completely clothed in a dark blue and cyan rubber suit, ready to attack Ms. Jett any moment. No sign of her former clothing could be seen, and even the flame on her head had gone out.
The dark red demon was ordered to let Ms. Jett go, for something else its master had in store for her captive. She declared, "Because I haven't yet tested my new abilities, I'll make this easy for you."
"Easy? What are you saying, ma'am?"
"Why don't we settle this like 'proper Ladies', and settle this out in a good clean one-on-one fight? I demonstrate my newly gained abilities on you, while you try to defeat me with any human skills you have in store."
"Any terms of this fight I should know?"
"*sigh* If you win, you get your powers back and let my captives go. But if I win, evil chuckle* My demon gets to take your soul, and I keep your powers forever!"
Lora thought this over, then nodded, "All right, but no magic from you should be involved. Oh, and one other thing, what's your name, just so I can remember?"
"It's Lydia. I won't tell you where it originated from."
She sounded odd to Lora, as if she was hiding something big from her. But she chose to hold that thought and currently focus on how to beat Lydia with only her human skills. It felt like being crippled in a wheelchair for a long time to know how it felt for Lora being without her elastic powers, and felt momentarily sad for not remembering any combat-related things in her past. Nonetheless, she thought back to her childhood, and only found her being good at baseball and soccer. However, at the age of 14, she recalled signing up for a Karate class and earned a red belt - not a black belt because a broken shin at the last class before being able to earn a black belt.
Lora assumed a ready position, with her legs spread apart. She didn't say anything, but held out her hand and lifted her fingers all at once a stereotypical kung-fu sign of "Bring it on!"
Lydia tightened her arm muscles, then threw an elongated punch to her opponent's jaw. Lora fought back with a spinning one-leg kick to the sorceress' right arm, knocking her to the floor only for a moment. The latter squirted a glob of the pink jelly right into Lora's uncovered eyes. Surprisingly, its effects didn't do anything to her; she didn't become dazed as the male victims were. Therefore, it wasn't too hard to tear off that goo from her eyes.
The sorceress tried to strangle her opponent by wrapping her elastic arms around Lora, but she managed to block both of them with only her fists.
Lydia nodded her head in astonishment and said, "Impressive, you seem to know as much about defense in human form as I know about attacking in this form."
"You could say that, yes. Are you ready to give up? Because there's plenty more where that came from!" Ms. Jett had to lie.
"Not yet, I have one more trick up my sleeve, and this one I bet you never used with this suit!" the witch cackled.
Lora wasn't prepared for what came next, though it did seem familiar from her boss' son's Plastic Man comics: Lydia first breathed in several units of air, then forced her opponent into her now partially-inflated body. Somehow she was happy that the point directed at was in the gut and not above. Lora was pulled in feet-first, and it soon came clear that the sorceress was trying to smother Ms. Jett with her powers. Lora never did this as Lovergum!
Before too long, she was neck-deep in the massive indigo rubber cushion of air, making it seem highly improbable that this was a sorceress with stolen elastic powers. But just before Ms. Jett thought she was doomed for sure, she suddenly had an idea: What deflates balloons? Sharp objects! And even though Lora didn't have any safety pins or knives on her person, she could...no, her powers were still gone.
Out of the corner of her eye in the room, however, lady luck smiled on the 41-year old cashier, for when she looked out of the increasingly diminishing hole in the embarrassingly large villainess' belly, on the floor happened to be a pair of standard size scissors, lying right on the concrete. Lydia saw this and cried, "Hey you, what are you doing? Shouldn't you be crushed by my massive gut by now?"
Lora groaned mentally while she reached out her human arm as far as she could. She felt that this sorceress had lost her mind. No, she had gone so mad with power that she'd forgotten what her real powers or she took the battle rules too seriously. How old was Lydia? 65? That didn't matter, though, as when Ms. Jett finished pondering in frustration, she had rammed the sharp tip of the scissors into Lydia's over-inflated belly.
She screeched not only from the pain, but also from the just-now exploited weakness on her.
"How do ya like them...plumbs, lady? Well, at least it's better than apples, and you're purplish-blue."
Lydia's eyes rolled to the top as her suit returned to normal size. When she did so, Lora continued, "And you know the deal: I win, you give back my powers, and...free that little ice girl's brother. And I won, so you know what that means!"
In frustrated defeat, Lydia waved her hand once again with a purple aura crackling around it, and the suit she wore returned to Ms. Jett's body, returning to its original red and pink colors while doing so. While this happened, Lora stared at the witch's indigo dress, and spotted something odd on the necklace she wore. She asked, "Say, what's that on your necklace?"
"These? They're special creatures that I keep in their respective red and white metal spheres, and deploy them when I need to. Not that you'd need to know anything about that, since you've beaten me already!"
"It's just that I've seen them on TV when I was younger. They look very familiar."
Lora was tapping her foot now, making Lydia roll her eyes again, prompting her demon to vanish, and a wall to open, revealing several people kept in chains. Some of them were humans with scars and burn marks, others appeared to be animals with missing limbs. But one in particular was a short, demon-like humanoid about the size of a 12-year old child.
Just now, a loud crash echoed across the concrete basement. Both women looked up, and it turned out that something smashed a large hole in the ceiling. A voice shouted from above, "Knock, Knock!" It was Bill Hammersmith! The mutants had come to save Lora!
Two people dropped from the hole. One of them was the icy ghost-angel girl, and apparently the mutants had company: Rubber Lea from that huge superhero nexus had arrived as well, probably as backup. The funny thing was, that even though ten years had passed since Lora had seen this woman, she hadn't changed at all. Perhaps she, like Plastic Man, was immortal.
As soon as the "little angel" saw the fire demon-boy, they appeared to run towards each other in slow-motion, probably with "Chariots of Fire" playing in their heads. And when they touched each other, everyone else in the room was shocked: The pair had transformed. The angel became a young Guatemalan girl with long black hair tied in a ribbon, while the boy had the same lineage, but with strange native markings on his skin.
The girl turned towards Ms. Jett and announced, "Thank you, thank you for helping me find my brother." Her brother continued, "And now we can return home. There's something that we need to do. Urgh, that witch kept me locked up for so long because she tried to use my powers for her own purposes."
Lora's eyebrows dropped rapidly, making her turn back towards Lydia, with Lea looking the same way. The former sternly questioned the sorceress, "Is that what you want? Stealing other mutants' powers? Don't you have any of your own, with those little creatures and that magic of yours?"
She held up her hands as if surrendering to the police, and pleaded that her magic has grown very weak, as she's forgotten a lot of spells. Her huge spellbook that was on that table in the middle had apparently become damaged, which caused this. So she wanted to steal other mutants' powers to become more powerful than before, which of course didn't work.
Ms. Jett began to smile after this, and came to a conclusion: Elastic abilities cannot be used effectively against her. She bragged to Lea about this, and coaxed her to try and punch Lora in the jaw, but the latter blocked it with her hand in one second. It was no wonder, then, why that useless clone of Lora never worked on the original.
"So, what do you want to do now? What is to become of this sorceress?" Tom Dudley inquired while watching from the ground floor.
Right away, Lora knew the police would never be able to deal with a supernatural person such as Lydia. The military wouldn't work either. She didn't think any of the hero teams in the H.U.B. had a type of prison for villains. Unless...
She turned to Lea, and asked, "Is there any sort of wacked-out alternate dimension for the worst villains?"
Lea put her finger to her chin for a moment, then remembered something, "One of the villains on our list is a female Genie, tied to a lamp like all the others. So I guess you could do something like that. In fact, Suno could probably build some kind of hypercube for this sorceress."
"Sounds perfect," Lora turned back to the defeated sorceress sitting hopelessly on the floor. Apparently her black headdress, with its flame now extinguished, was knocked off her head and lying on the floor. From all the Satanist equipment set around the room, it was clear to everyone in the room that there was no good at all in Lydia. But Lora felt pity for her, and explained, "We're sorry, but it's for your own good that I turn you over to her. *points to Lea with her thumb*"
Lydia moaned miserably, "It doesn't matter anymore. All I wanted to do was increase my powers. Of course, even with the spells I used that did work, I'm really only an amateur at my age. 37, would you believe. I wanted your powers to...how do they say it...increase my edge. It doesn't matter anymore, though. I'm a failure, and...I was only trying to look powerful with these things you see around here."
"Then how did you SUCCESSFULLY summon a demon? Not many magicians know how to do that."
"Well, now that you mention it, there is ONE branch of magic that I am good at: Dark Magic. Yes, that's one of my better talents. I suppose you could say catching all those mutants was meant to broaden my magic by stealing theirs. Superpowers are a form of magic, aren't they?"
"I don't know how you could say that, but it does seem clear to me that you're not completely evil, Lydia. But you do need to pay your 'debt to society' for attempting to control other mutants," Lea formally replied.
While this was going on, it appeared that the boy and girl had vanished. If they were happy to be reunited, and healthy, it wasn't likely that they died. Did they teleport somewhere?
Lea grabbed Lydia by her right elbow, called someone on a cell phone, laughing, "Get this, ladies, we have someone to turn in for rehab. And this one's a witch!"
No voice could be heard on the other end, but apparently Lydia teleported out somewhere. Lea turned in Lora's direction and smiled, "Don't worry, she'll be fine."
"I...heh, figured that. So, how did you get here with those 3 mutants? Er...two now."
"One of them said they might need backup to find this place. You wouldn't believe all the crazy stuff that was happening outside."
"Oh, really? Pray tell."
"When that green-skinned guy drove up here in a minivan, some dark red monsters climbed over the seawall that separates the bridge leading here to the abandoned beach next to it, and attacked us. Demons, I believe."
"Huh, no surprise there. One of them was used by that...Lydia to restrain me. Because you sent away the person who summoned them, I bet they're gone by now."
Lea just nodded.
Bill looked down and asked, "Hey, since you two are done down there for the time being, what's say we all go uptown to the city park for a little concert?"
Concert? Oh yes, Thomas Dudley did say he was part of a band. The two elastic women said yes, and headed back outside, where a green van was waiting, toting a large trailer behind with the logo of "The Depth Charges".
Lora was given the offer to sit in the front passenger seat, while Lea sat in the middle. Surprisingly, Bill knew how to shrink to the size of a normal human, AND gain a real human body! He was a tall, well-fit African-American man with green eyes, and wearing a grey short-sleeved shirt saying "Lapulzi Mining Co." with blue jeans.
Along the way, the van came to an unexpected stop, prompting Lora to ask why. Thomas explained, "We've all agreed that you need some changes."
"What do you mean, exactly?"
Bill added, "In that tailor shop is a special costume that we paid to have made for you. Just follow me, ma'am."
Lora and the latter man exited the parked van which had its trailer placed in a separate lane and into a tailor shop rather squeezed in between a Subway and a glasses shop. As they entered, with Ms. Jett in her civilian attire, an Asian woman was calmly waiting behind a marble counter on the right. She addressed Bill, "Ah, Mr. Hammersmith, right on time, I see."
It seemed that the tailor here had placed the new clothing article already in one of the 4 dressing rooms, but Lora spoke to Bill for a second in the waiting area, "So why exactly did you and your buddies pay for a new costume for me to wear? The one I currently use is where my powers came from."
"Not to worry, we took care of that. Someone with the name Iris agreed to this on the phone, saying that the suit you have wasn't really meant to last more than 15 years, and after all, it is better to replace something just before it goes bad, than buy it new long after going bad. That's what my father always said."
"Hmm, okay then. I'll take a look." She moved over to the main counter and asked the Asian woman who looked very familiar, "The costume, could you tell me which dressing room it's in?"
She entered a rather cramped plaster chamber with orange striped wallpaper on its sides, despite being only about 4 x 4 x 8 feet in volume. Hanging on one wall on a row of hangar hooks was the costume Lora was asked to replace her original with.
It was funny, Lora didn't feel anything wrong when Lydia stripped her of the original costume Lora was used to wearing, but now it felt like the greatest challenge yet to do it herself. For one, how would she be able to get it off? For 12 years, it was bonded to her own skin because Iris II explicitly said that she had no way of removing it.
However, like magic, there was a bottle the size of a soda can sitting on the protrusion in the room's back wall where dressers were meant to sit. She picked it up, and read the label silently: "De-Bonding gel, patented by Emily Emerald." "Directions: Apply thin coating of gel to all places where any bonded material is in contact with user's skin. Avoid contact with eyes. Do not swallow."
Lora almost unconsciously forced her suit to the surface of her skin, or rather molded her body to show it. Then, she unscrewed the cap, finding it to have a large brush attached to it. Carefully, inch by inch, she coated the suit in a strange green transparent gel, eventually covering it neck to toe. At that point, she felt strange, like a part of her body was being removed, or even amputated. Like before, she could feel her true skin, but this time it felt almost numb, like when one removes a bandage after a day of it being stuck on. She soon remembered the way it was put on those years ago, as well: The waist had two dark red ovular parts that could be pulled apart, allowing the pink lower half of the suit to be pulled off just like pants. After that, it wasn't too much trouble removing the upper half. And surprisingly, no part of her body underneath was changed at all.
It still felt strange, parting from something that wasn't a normal piece of clothing. As soon as she set the old costume down on the "sitting ledge", something appeared from the mirror. It appeared to be a pair of arms glowing in rainbow light. A familiar voice spoke, "Thank you, Lorraine. May your new outfit serve you well, and last longer." Then the arms took the old suit right through the mirror, and vanished without a trace.
Then Lora turned to the new costume hanging on the wall. This one looked similar to the other one, but was more detailed.
The heart shape in the center was pink now, with a purple stripe above. It stopped above the belly button this time.
The shoulders had pink bulges with purple bands as well, almost like elbow guards.
The gloves, all pink this time, reached from the fingers all the way to the elbow.
Two purple triangles reached parallel to where the heart's downward point, apparently right towards the crotch, but hopefully, that didn't matter.
The red leggings reached down to the knees, where they continued along the calf muscles, but not at the shins.
Those, on the other hand, were pink, continuing to meet the boots, both of which were separated by individual purple bands.
The suit even had its own goggles, which were purple, with a small red heart in the middle.
As Lora took the suit off the hangar to put it on correctly, she didn't notice until now how strongly it smelled of balloon rubber. It's funny, but she felt quite pleased by that scent. This time, however, the suit had a zipper that ran straight down the middle, but again making room for the leggings which reached some ways into the upper piece.
Weirder still, she could feel the suit's latex material more clearly than when she put on the first suit. Whoever made this had a pretty strange idea in mind. As soon as the costume was put back together with Lora in it, she could feel something else: She could think of all the things that would be possible with a new elastic super-costume like this. All the villains she could strangle and leave drooling, the limitless number of shapes her body could assume, the sizes she could achieve...All these thoughts were flooding her mind like a recently opened dam that Ms. Jett wasn't noticing what was happening to her actual body right now:
Her feet weren't touching the ground anymore. Somehow, all this enthusiasm had made Lora suddenly assume the form of a human balloon, as if excitement alone had given her a "lighter-than-air" feeling that was made real by the suit. She couldn't even feel her body anymore.
Finally, Lora snapped out of it when her head lightly bumped against the ceiling, where somehow neither Bill nor the woman at the counter were watching. She could see over the stall-like edge of the booth. In fact, they were sharing a joke with each other. She thought, "I want to be back to normal" and the suit did just that, returning her to normal size and shape, back inside the dressing booth.
Glancing in the mirror one more time, it was interesting to note that Lora's hair color and length had changed as well: It was red, and reached all the way down to where...yes, her navel again. Great, there'd be some secret power THERE as well. And one interesting thing was that her breasts had slightly increased or inflated in size. She had hoped this would only be temporary. It seemed that now Lora had a "thought-sensitive" costume, not just simple powers.
And Lora thought that with a new costume, she might as well change her heroic name as well. "Lovergum" never really sounded right before, so Lora picked a better title: "Trinity", it struck more on topic of comic book heroes, like the name of a powerful hero, which Lora knew she might grow to be.
Finally, Lora left the small booth and presented herself to Bill, "Well, how do I look?"
Taking a moment to look at her figure, Bill exclaimed, "Why, you look absolutely gorgeous!"
Mr. Hammersmith immediately paid for the tailor's work, and led his companion out the front door and back into the van. Thomas, in the driver's seat, was even more thrilled by Lora's appearance than how she was before, and didn't even have any words to say about it.
In fact, silence consisted in the entire trip to the park, save for the smooth jazz on the car's radio. Eventually, they reached the Centropolis Park, where a wooden stage was already set up. Above it was a banner that read: "The Depth Charges, Live!" Bill opened the trailer back, and everyone who came here helped in setting everything up, even Lea and Lora.
By 3:00 PM, the concert equipment was set, and Thomas explained that they had already rehearsed throughout the whole week that Lora evidently missed. People were arriving quickly like ants at a picnic, and the two elastic girls took their seats right at the front, next to each other as well.
It didn't take long for the park's chairs to fill up all the way, and during this time, a station wagon parked near the stage, with other band members dressed in aquatic-based costumes. One, the drummer, wore a costume that resembled a crustacean, another, their bassist, dressed as an octopus-humanoid, like Cthulu, and more. The band consisted of about 5 members total.
Soon, everything was set. A large number of citizens took their seats, and the Depth Charges' instruments were all tuned. Thomas Dudley then advanced towards the microphone, and announced, "Hel-lo, Centropolis! This song goes out to this city's newest superhero or should I say heroine, and her new outfit!
Lora stood up right on cue, raking in a wave of applause. Then she sat down again, right when another member cued, "1, 2, 3, 4!" And at that, the band kicked up in a blast of rowdy-sounding punk music. The audience cheered in awe as the band members did their thing. Not only did they play perfectly, the guitarists performed very complex stunts on stage at the same time. Thomas' singing voice sounded quite different than before, like a slightly garbled, monster voice. Being upfront, Lora could clearly hear the song he was singing as well.
While she wasn't closely paying attention to the lyrics, Lora could tell that he was singing or rapping about the issue of crime in Centropolis, and that it needs more superheroes to solve that problem.
Just when Lora was about to stand up and dance along to the song, she felt something odd on her leg. It felt like a part of her left thigh was stiffer than the rest of it. She slid her left hand over that spot, and found that there was a really thin seam in one spot on the leg. She pulled, and discovered that this was a pocket she could open. Inside, there seemed to be a piece of paper with some kind of code written on it.
The code, it seemed, resembled a series of clock-hand positions. It couldn't have been specific times because they were arranged in an odd way. Rubber Lea peeked over Ms. Jett's shoulder and said that it was a simplified form of the semaphore code. But it would take some time to crack it...
TO BE CONTINUED...