September 30, 2011
Strange New World by Fred Wong
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, BATTLEZONE!” yelled out Ms. Victory as she soared to the sky to intercept the hi-tech mercenary Battlezone as he rocketed away with a small cache of stolen semi-conductors and computer hardware. Following his jet stream, Ms. Victory quickly narrowed the gap as she prepared to deliver a well-placed punch to knock him back towards the ground below.
“In yer dreams, babe,” muttered Battlezone as he released a salvo of concussion grenades that struck Ms. Victory, exploding on impact as she fell from the sky and landed hard on the ground with her ears still ringing from the blast.
“Buh-bye!” Ms. Victory got up and dusted herself off as fellow FemForce members Stardust, Tara, and Synn arrived.
“You okay?” asked Tara.
“Yes, just got a little sucker-punched by him,” answered Ms. Victory. “He’s not far. We can still catch him.”
“You have a plan, I assume?” said Stardust.
“Always,” said Ms. Victory with a smile. “Stardust, you and I will continue the pursuit to keep him distracted. We’ll get him to circle around so Tara and Synn can close the gap.”
“Sounds good to me,” replied Tara.
“Cool beans,” giggled the bubbly Synn as she hovered alongside Tara as she ran down the street.
Ms. Victory and Stardust took to the sky after Battlezone, who continued to prove to be an easy target to pursue his trailing jet stream.
“Get his attention before he hits the afterburners,” said Ms. Victory.
“I’m on it,” answered Stardust as she released an energy blast that hit Battlezone. Although the blast bounced harmless off his high-powered armor suit, it was enough for him to release his getaway wasn’t going to be easy.
“Goody-goody, two more playmates,” cackled Battlezone as he swung around into the hover position with his jet boots, firing two mini-missiles at Stardust and Ms. Victory. Stardust fired another energy blast of her, intercepting the missile and destroying it instantly.
“GOTCHA!” yelled Ms. Victory as she evaded the mini-missile and caught it mid-flight and threw it back at Battlezone. “RIGHT BACK AT YOU!”
“ARRRRRRGH!!!!” bellowed Battlezone as the mini-missile struck him in the chest, damaging a sizeable chunk of his super armor. Battlezone reduced his speed and descended back towards the ground, where Tara and Synn were getting into position.
Stardust followed up the pursuit with a rapid barrage of energy bolts, striking Battlezone to further deplete his defenses as he finally touched down on the ground, as Tara activated her power and increased her size into a giantess with Synn hovering near her.
“Whoa, where’d you two come from?” said Battlezone to Tara and Synn.
“You’re in no position to ask questions, little man,” replied Tara, now a little over 25 feet tall.
“Yup,” agreed Synn playfully.
“It’s over, Battlezone, surrender,” ordered Ms. Victory as she and Stardust hovered overhead, “This is your last chance.”
“Yours, too,” replied Battlezone as he quickly unhooked what appeared to be a large metallic cylinder attached to the back of his armor and mounted it onto his forearm. “This little spar with you is just the opportunity I was looking for to field my new quantum cannon…goodbye, ladies.”
“SHIELD…FAST!!!” yelled out Ms. Victory as Battlezone opened fire with his quantum cannon, surging a massive blast of energy blast forth that seemed to rip the very fabric of reality. Stardust activated a large energy shield in front of herself and Ms. Victory in the air, while Synn covered herself and Tara with a protective aura as the cannon itself exploded from the energy released, engulfing all of them in a roaring explosion that shattered windows for blocks around the blast radius.
Moments later, Battlezone awoke lying on the ground in only his boxer shorts, as his power armor was blown off his body and was nothing but charred metal scattered about as he slowly emerged unharmed.
“DON’T MOVE!!!!!” yelled four policemen who arrived on the scene and pointed their weapons at Battlezone. Unarmed, powerless, and practically naked, Battlezone raised his hands and surrendered.
“What just happened here?” demanded a police officer as he handcuffed Battlezone.
Battlezone scanned around, seeing no sign of Ms. Victory, Stardust, Tara, or Synn.
“I…I don’t know…” muttered Battlezone in disbelief.
* * *
Elsewhere, Ms. Victory stirred and awoke, finding herself in an urban alleyway along with Tara, who groggily awoke as well.
“Where are we? This doesn’t look like the area we fought Battlezone,” commented Tara.
“I’m not sure,” replied Ms. Victory as they emerged from the alleyway onto a busy city sidewalk where regular people and commuters were passing back and forth. They drew several stares from their striking appearance and flamboyant costumes, occasionally getting a remark here and there.
“The comic convention’s the other way, at the hall near the downtown Civic arena, Miss,” commented one bystander.
“Oh, uh, thanks,” replied Ms. Victory awkwardly.
“We need to get to someplace quiet,” suggested Tara. “I think I see a small park nearby.”
“A few minutes later Ms. Victory and Tara were underneath some trees at a small city park, away from the usual fare of joggers, bike riders, dog walkers, and others enjoying the park.
“This place looks familiar, but it’s not Florida…a city in the northeastern United States maybe?” commented Tara.
“Maybe, but it’s odd on how no one recognized us, though,” replied Ms. Victory. “Most thought we were two ordinary people in costumes.”
“How’d we even get here? We’re hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from where we were,” added Tara.
Without warning they heard an unusual whistling sound coming from the sky that grew louder and louder, until finally its source impacting into a grassy plot in the park that sent people fleeing in panic. As the dirt cloud settled a heavily armored figure emerged from the hole with bronze colored technological armor, with an evil, older looking man’s visage within the helmet.
“It’ll take more than that to stop me, Galaxy Ranger,” boasted the armored man.
“Hold on, I’m just getting warmed up,” replied his opponent as she flew overhead.
Ms. Victory and Tara quickly assessed the situation, as the woman in the air dressed in a blue and white battlesuit engaged in combat against him.
“Perhaps some property damage would be in order,” said the armored man as he released a small salvo of mini-missiles, blowing up a fire hydrant, a small metal playground, and a nearby hotdog stand. Children screamed in terror as they fled the carnage, as the flying woman flew by a group of people and activated a laser shield, absorbing the blast of the last mini-missile.
The woman then deactivated her laser shield and fired a laser blast at the villain, which seemed to have no effect on him.
“Fool!” roared the armored assailant. “You may have gotten a few early shots but I’ve now calibrated my armor to absorb your laser beams. The more you shoot, the stronger I get! Looks like your bosses’re going to need a replacement for this space sector, Galaxy Ranger!”
“It’s not over, Doctor Destructo,” replied the Galaxy Ranger as she powered up another laser blast and shot at the ground underneath his feet, knocking him off balance and onto his back. The Galaxy Ranger grabbed some residual metal from the damaged playground and flew hard onto the prone Doctor Destructo as he recovered his bearing, pinning him down with the shredded metal frame.
Doctor Destructo grinned as he easily shoved the metal off of him and threw the Galaxy Ranger back before springing back onto his feet. Doctor Destructo then fired two more mini-missiles at her, striking her and knocking her onto the ground from the explosions.
“The energy I absorbed from you doubled my speed and tripled my strength,” boasted Doctor Destructo as his armor reconfigured on his right arm, revealing what appeared to be a small blaster cannon, “And charged my power cells to finish you in one final shot.”
Before Doctor Destructo could fire, the remnants of the hot dog stand he destroyed earlier flew in the air and slammed into him. Knocked to the ground, Doctor Destructo cast off the metal and discarded frankfurters to see a woman dressed in star-spangled costume fly into him to deliver a devastating punch straight into his belly. Rivets and circuits popped from the impact, as overloaded systems shorted out to prevent him from mounting an attack.
“Who…who’re you?!” said Doctor Destructo.
“The name’s Ms. Victory, Mister Spam-in-can,” answered Ms. Victory sternly as Tara revived the Galaxy Ranger. “Now let’s peel the tin, shall we?”
Using her super strength, Ms. Victory peeled away the front breastplate of Doctor Destructo’s armor, followed by ripping apart the armor on his shoulders and arms to expose his bare flesh. Upon closer inspection, Ms. Victory noticed that much of the power armor was wired directly into his body, like a life support system.
“Hold on a second, I’ll take it from here, friend,” said the Galaxy Ranger as she approached the prostrate Doctor Destructo and concentrated her laser beam, cutting apart the remainder of his armor suit that concealed other technological weaponry while still keeping his life support systems intact. Police and SWAT soon arrived with an armored prisoner truck, where they collected Doctor Destructo and took him away for arrest processing.
“Whoever you are, thanks,” said the Galaxy Ranger, gratefully as she extended her hand in friendship. “I’m a Galaxy Ranger. You?”
“I’m Ms. Victory,” replied Ms. Victory.
“Tara Fremont,” said Tara. “Pardon my asking, but where are we?”
“Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, why?” asked the Galaxy Ranger.
“We’re not from around here,” explained Ms. Victory. “We’re based out of Florida. Maybe you’ve heard of us. We’re the Federal Emergency Mission Force; FemForce for short.”
The Galaxy Ranger had a perplexed look as she replied, “Sorry, I can’t say I have. The U.S. federal government doesn’t support superhero groups, but I don’t think you’re lying, either. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something different about you two.”
“Well, we feel kind of out of place, ourselves,” admitted Tara.
“I’ll take you back to my place,” replied the Galaxy Ranger as she took to the sky with Ms. Victory carrying Tara. “It’s not far.”
“Thanks,” replied Ms. Victory as the lingering thought prevailed in her mind, “Where are Stardust and Synn?”
* * *
“What a fun place this is!” commented Synn as she and Stardust awoke in what appeared to be a toy warehouse. “Oh, I would love to buy one of those, three of that, two of those…”
“Synn, aren’t you concerned as to how we arrived here?” asked Stardust as she surveyed around, seeing boxes upon boxes of various toys. “We have no idea how long we’ve been in this place or where Ms. Victory and Tara are. And didn’t it occur as odd to you that we have encountered no one in this packed warehouse? No employees, janitors, or even a security guard?”
“Company holiday?” replied Synn innocently as she picked up a large teddy bear mounted on a display stand and gave it a hug. “This is so adorable!”
“Nap time…” said the teddy bear with sweet sounding voice as it opened its mouth, revealing a small metal tube and shot out a pink gas that Synn inhaled. Seconds later Synn collapsed on the floor fast asleep.
“SYNN!” cried out Stardust as she ran over to help her, when suddenly a small army of toys came to life and began advancing upon her. Stardust immediately fired a stream of energy bolts along a wide area, blowing them apart.
“What manner of place is this?” said Stardust as she destroyed another group of toys.
“CATCH!” called out a voice as a series of green, blue, red, and gray balls hurtled out of the shadows towards Stardust. Stardust immediately responded by shooting them apart as they neared her, blasting the green, blue, and red balls. The gray balls struck Stardust in the chest and exploded into a swirling mass of sticky gray bindings that ensnared her, pinning Stardust’s arms at her sides and legs together as she collapsed onto the floor unable to break free. Despite her paranormal strength and aura of star energy, Stardust was unable to break or burn herself out.
“What…IS…this?” cursed Stardust as she strained against them.
“Curious,” said a voice emerging from the shadows. “I’ve been studying you on the monitors since you appeared and still can’t tell who you are. I’ve never seen either of you before.”
“Who are you?” grunted Stardust.
“You’ll know soon enough,” answered the man as he sprayed a stream of sleeping gas into her face.
* * *
Elsewhere, the Galaxy Ranger had led Ms. Victory and Tara into the secret passageway that teleported them into her home, a medium sized three-bedroom apartment in Shadyside, a suburb of the Pittsburgh metro area. Ms. Victory and Tara were sitting on her living room sofa, as the Galaxy Ranger, now dressed in regular clothes, returned from down the hall with a small basket of clothes in hand.
“Here, you might need these for a while,” commented the Galaxy Ranger as she presented them with some ordinary clothing. “I told my neighbors you’re friends of mine from out of town whose luggage got lost at the airport. They’re about your height, so the clothes’ll fit you better than mine.”
“Thanks, again, Galaxy Ranger,” said Ms. Victory.
“Sorry, call me Oriana. Oriana Hedgeman,” said the Galaxy Ranger. “What’s your real name, if it’s okay for me to ask?”
“Jennifer Wayne Burke,” said Ms. Victory before she skimmed for some items to change into.
“No fancy name for me, what you see is what you get,” teased Tara. “Is it okay if I use your bathroom?”
“Sure, first door on the left,” said the Galaxy Ranger. “So let me get this straight. You were fighting a villain who used this experimental weapon on you and your teammates, and somehow it caused a chain reaction that catapulted you from Florida to Pennsylvania?”
“Something like that,” replied Ms. Victory. “Once we find Stardust and Synn, we can head back to our headquarters to get to the bottom of everything. Although I’m a little surprised that I’ve never heard of you or that villain you were fighting, Doctor Destructo, was it?”
“Really?” said the Galaxy Ranger, still a bit perplexed about how little either of them knew of each other. “I’ve been the Galaxy Ranger for this sector for about three years now, and Doctor Destructo’s been on a high profile crime spree for almost three weeks until today. It was national news, since he hit Seattle, Chicago, and even New York City before arriving here.”
Meanwhile, Tara had just finished up in the bathroom and was washing her hands, and caught a quick glimpse of a travel magazine near the washbasin. Tara checked the issue date, which read “January 2004” but when she saw the cover photo her eyes lit up in shock. Tara immediately grabbed it and went back into the living room, nearly stark white in complexion.
“Tara, what’s wrong?” asked Ms. Victory.
“Jen, we’re not only in the wrong state, we’re in the wrong world,” said Tara nervously.
“What are you talking about?” replied Ms. Victory with a puzzled look. “What gave you that idea?”
Tara held up the magazine cover to Jen and said, “The Twin Towers are still standing.”
* * *
Synn awoke and found herself in what appeared to be a luxurious hotel room, emerging from a large and soft bed dressed in a nightie and observed the hard oak furniture and paintings decorating the room, along with a large plasma screen television mounted on the wall. The door opened, with a well-dressed man entering and pushing a small cart.
“Room service. Sorry we’re late,” said the man politely.
“Room service? I didn’t order room service. I don’t even remember how I got here,” said Synn.
“Oh, I’m sorry. They didn’t tell you everything, did they?” said the waiter.
“Tell me what?” asked Synn.
“You were in a surfing accident on the beach earlier,” explained the waiter. “The lifeguards rescued you and the paramedics treated you for a head injury. Your friends brought you back here and then ordered room service for you. Hungry?”
The waiter removed the tray covers, revealing a plate of freshly made french toast decorated with strawberries, fresh cantaloupe, bacon, orange juice, and milk. Synn couldn’t remember the last time she ate as her stomach made a loud gurgling sound after smelling the food’s aroma.
“Um…a little,” said Synn, a little embarrassed by her stomach. “Well, I hope you feel better,” said the waiter pleasantly.
“Thank. Um…I…can’t find my purse or wallet to give you a tip…sorry!” apologized Synn.
“Don’t worry, Miss, it’s already been taken care of,” said the waiter as he left the room.
Synn hungrily ate the food, still confused on what was going on, as she still felt strangely disoriented. She remembered fighting Battlezone, then blacking out, and then arriving in a toy warehouse, blacking out again, and now here in a hotel room. Synn then turned on the plasma television, seeing an animated cartoon show of “Wacky Waldo, Master of Science.”
“Oh, I’ve never seen this before,” said Synn as she attentively began watching the show.
* * *
“How’s our guest?” asked a portly man dressed in a business suit, observing Synn through a two-way mirror.
“Who? The space cadet babe with the platinum blonde hair? She bought the story hook, line, and sinker, boss,” said the henchman as he changed out of the waiter outfit.
“Outstanding,” cackled the man as he rubbed his hands near his chest. “I, the Grand Toyman, now have two more action figures in his collection, lovely ones, too, I might add.”
“What about the other one, boss?” said the henchman.
“Take a look for yourself,” commented the Grand Toyman as he gestured to the opposite side, where in the other two-way mirror Stardust was still cocooned in the tight bindings straining to escape in a padded room with various sensors mounted on the walls.
“I’ve never seen her before. But with those looks, she’s an extraterrestrial, that’s for sure,” said the henchman.
“LET ME GO THIS INSTANT!!!!” roared Stardust as she thrashed about the room. “Oh yes, she’s a feisty one, all right,” said the Grand Toyman. “Her power’s off the charts. Look at these readings.”
“Impressive. She looks strong, boss,” added the henchman as he skimmed through the notes.
“Quite. But the binding materials are dissipating the heat energy she’s using to try to escape and are keeping her under wraps,” said the Grand Toyman. “Once I find to way to harness that energy, I’ll be unstoppable.”
* * *
At the same time the Galaxy Ranger was taking Ms. Victory and Tara towards Oakland, a large section of the Pittsburgh metro area. Dressed in civilian attire, the three superheroines arrived at the physics research wing of Wean Hall on the Carnegie Mellon University campus.
“Oriana, what a lovely surprise,” greeted Kyle Lachlan, a physics professor and researcher. “What brings you here in the darkest hole of the CMU campus?”
“Kyle, this is Jen, and this is Tara,” introduced Oriana. “Remember that hypothesis you spent about six months developing in quantum physics about dimensional warping?”
“Yes, what about it?” asked Kyle.
“It’s more like a theory, now,” alluded Oriana as Jen and Tara began to explain in full detail of what they encountered.
* * *
“Okay, kids,” said Wacky Waldo, Wizard of Science, “Now we’re going to talk about turning lead into gold like they tried to do in medieval times. Do you have your science kit?”
“Science kit? Hmmm…okay!” replied Synn as she used her matter manipulation power to conjure up a home science kit that mimicked the one portrayed on the television. “Right here, Wacky Waldo!”
“That’s great!” said Waldo. “Now, let’s add chemical A to chemical B and voila, lead to gold!”
“Hmmm…chemical A plus chemical B…here we go…!” said Synn playfully as used her powers once again, literally turning a piece of lead the size of the tissue box to pure gold.
From the two-way mirror the Grand Toyman nearly wet himself out of excitement.
“Holy-moley!!!!! That ditzy blonde’s got powers beyond belief!!!!” realized the Grand Toyman. “All I got to do is keep her happy with pizza and cartoons and she’s gonna make me rich, rich, rich!!!!!”
* * *
Back at Wean Hall, Professor Kyle Lachlan conducted his preliminary tests on Ms. Victory followed by Tara. As he tested Tara, Ms. Victory spoke to the Galaxy Ranger in private.
“Thanks again for everything, Oriana,” said Ms. Victory. “How’d you get these connections?”
“I work in this area,” replied the Galaxy Ranger. “In my secret identity I’m a graduate student in biology and genetics. How about you?”
“I really don’t have a life outside of this,” conceded Ms. Victory. “It’s a long story. Does Kyle know?”
“About what I really do? Yes, he’s one of only two other regular people who know the truth,” said Oriana. “That’s why I brought you two here.”
“Well, I think I see a pattern,” commented Kyle as he printed out his findings.
“How’s that?” asked Ms. Victory.
“The two of you seem to be containing an excessive amount of some kind of electromagnetic energy I’ve never encountered before,” explained Kyle. “But you each seem to have absorbed it and it somehow brought you here to our dimension.”
“That makes sense,” added Tara. “Stardust activated an energy shield and Synn created a protective aura just as Battlezone fired that weapon; it’s like a chain reaction.”
“So if we siphon the excess energy off, does that mean they get sent back? Like an overcharged electron returning back to its original valence in an atom?’ asked the Galaxy Ranger.
“Possibly, but I’ve no idea how to siphon it off,” admitted Kyle reluctantly. “Or if I could, if it would even work.”
“I’m open for suggestions,” added Tara. “Anyone here know where we can buy some ruby slippers?”
* * *
“RRRRRRAAAAAARRRRGGHHHHH!!!!” roared Stardust as she finally broke free of her bindings after straining against them for hours. Nearly exhausted, Stardust staggered about before regaining her bearings, firing an energy blast to blow apart the door.
“Aw man, the boss ain’t gonna like this!” thought the henchman as he sounded the alarm.
Stardust left the room and went to an adjacent room, where she found Synn playfully watching cartoons on a giant sized television. In the room with her was a large pile of gold bars she converted from lead along with a trashcan filled with a discarded pizza box and empty soda pop cans.
“Oh, hi, Stardust!” said Synn.
“Glad to see you enjoying yourself, Synn,” commented Stardust sternly as she wiped the sweat from her brow. “I’m not even going to ask what happened, but we need to leave now.”
“Okey-dokey,” said Synn as she changed her nightie into her costume.
“You’re not going anywhere,” said a voice from behind.
Stardust immediately turned around and assumed a defensive stance as she replied, “Who said that?”
“I am the Grand Toyman,” said the portly Grand Toyman, dressed in his oversized novelty suit. “The platinum haired ditz’s gonna make me rich, and you’re going to make me powerful.”
“Never,” replied Stardust bitterly.
“Never say never. Just say, not yet,” threatened the Grand Toyman as two oversized robots came crashing through the wall. Stardust immediately fired a volley of energy blasts to cover her and Synn’s withdrawal from the room.
“We need to get out, fast,” said Stardust as she desperately held off the robots.
“Just a sec,” replied Synn as she used her powers to turn the wall into tissue paper. A robot struck Stardust with a well-placed punch, knocking her clear through the transformed wall into the warehouse floor below. Synn flew after her teammate and helped her up, as an army of small, medium, and large toys sprang to life and began advancing on them.
“Uh-oh…” muttered Synn.
* * *
“Any luck?” asked Tara on her wrist communicator to Miss Victory as she trailed behind in the Galaxy Ranger’s car while Ms. Victory and the Galaxy Ranger flew overhead.
“Nothing. I’m not picking up any signals from their devices. They probably shorted out like ours when we jumped dimensions,” said Ms. Victory. “Lucky we were able to score some repair parts at Kyle’s lab.”
“Let’s try the Strip District,” suggested the Galaxy Ranger. “Lots of warehouses and vacant lots. Maybe they ended up there.”
“Lead on,” said Ms. Victory.
Moments later they arrived at the bustling Strip District just outside of downtown Pittsburgh as a steady stream of tractor-trailer trucks and big rigs pulled in and out, delivering countless merchandise to distribution warehouses with customers galore on the streets and shops.
Passing by a newly renovated warehouse, Tara stopped the car at a traffic light and scanned around, then suddenly saw Stardust and Synn coming out of its windows and landing hard onto the ground nearly unconscious.
“Jen, Oriana, this is Tara,” said Tara as she pulled off the road and parked the car. “I’ve found Stardust and Synn, and they’re not alone!”
“We’ll be right there,” said Ms. Victory as she and the Galaxy Ranger increased their speed to close in on Tara’s position.
“Now, playtime’s over, and time to get back inside,” said the Grand Toyman maniacally as he emerged from the warehouse doors piloting a giant mechanized robot, bearing four legs and four arms, two of which bore fists and the other two bore machine guns. “Or do I need to play rough?”
“You called it, buster,” said Ms. Victory as she first swooped down and delivered a hard punch, knocking the giant robot suit off balance and tried to rip off one of its arms.
“Naughty, naughty. Grand Toyman must punish,” said the Grand Toyman as the two machine gun arms opened fire on Ms. Victory at point blank range, blasting her off with a hail of steel. While not piercing her flesh, the hard bullet impacts kept her stunned.
“Now for the coup de grace,” said the Grand Toyman as the chest of the robot suit opened up to a massive cannon as it prepared to deploy. Without warning a stream of searing laser struck into the bore of the cannon, detonating the ammunition inside as the robot suit exploded. As the smoke cleared, the Grand Toyman fell out of his canopy covered with black soot as his massive robot suit collapsed like a deck of cards into heaps of scorched junk metal.
“Indeed,” said the Galaxy Ranger with a smile of satisfaction, pulling her fist back to blow the smoke off of her wrist laser.
* * *
“How’re your teammates?” asked the Galaxy Ranger as the police cordoned off the area and paramedics treated Stardust and Synn. Ms. Victory was giving her statement to the police as Tara and the Galaxy Ranger remained away from the public spectacle created from everything.
“Not bad. Just a few cuts and bruises. They’ll heal quickly enough,” said Tara. “So who was that guy?”
“The Grand Toyman, a petty supervillain trying to make it big,” explained the Galaxy Ranger. “He was spotted in Orlando last year robbing kids with his remote controlled toys; who would’ve guessed he moved his operations to here? I’m glad you all were here to help catch him.”
“Thanks, but where does that leave us, now?” said Tara.
“I really don’t know,” conceded the Galaxy Ranger. “None of you have any money, so I suppose you four can crash at my place tonight and get a fresh start in the morning on how to get home.”
“SLUMBER PARTY! SLUMBER PARTY! SLUMBER PARTY!” giggled Synn cheerfully as she walked towards them, overhearing the tail end of Tara and the Galaxy Ranger’s conversation.
“What’s with her?” asked the Galaxy Ranger.
“Believe me, you don’t want to know,” said Tara.
“Make yourselves at home,” offered Galaxy Ranger as she opened the door to her apartment to allow Ms. Victory, Stardust, Tara, and Synn inside. “I should have dinner ready in about an hour or so.”
“Thanks, but we shouldn’t impose, Oriana,” said Ms. Victory. “Can’t we at least help out?”
“I kind of like being in control of my kitchen,” replied Oriana, a little embarrassed.
“Nice place you have,” complemented Synn as she flopped on the living room sofa. “It’s been a very, very long day,”
“Tell me about it,” replied Tara as she stretched out before sitting down. “How are you feeling, Stardust?”
“My head still hurts,” muttered Stardust. “Would an aspirin help? It’s acetyl salicylic acid,” said Galaxy Ranger.
“Yes, it would be fine. Why the chemical name, may I ask?” commented Stardust.
“I wasn’t sure how the chemicals here are Earth would react to your alien chemistry, Stardust,” replied Galaxy Ranger as she handed her two aspirin and a glass of water. “Which planet are you originally from?”
“Thank you. I’m the top scientist from the planet Rur. Have you been there?” asked Stardust.
“No, sorry. I’ve been to Aldeberan Seven and Typhorus One, though,” replied Galaxy Ranger. “Either of those planets sound familiar to you?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” answered Stardust. “I guess we’ll have to compare star charts some time!”
“I suppose so,” said Galaxy Ranger pleasantly as she starting boiling a large pot of water.
Galaxy Ranger prepared a large pan of lasagna for the dinner meal along with a large salad and Italian bread to go with it. She figured it’d fill them up well enough while not breaking her food budget. About three hours later the five heroines consumed the dinner meal and loaded up the dishwasher for the night before relaxing in the living room.
“That was wonderful. Thank you,” said Ms. Victory as Synn let out a couple hiccups.
“You’re welcome,” replied Galaxy Ranger. “I have enough blankets and pillows for everyone, but am not sure who’s going to sleep where. I only have one guest bed in the spare bedroom. Do you have any suggestions?”
“Stardust was hurt the most in today’s little scuffle, I’d say she gets the spare bed,” suggested Tara.
“I do not need preferential treatment,” stated Stardust.
“Tara’s right, Stardust,” added Synn. “You need rest.”
“Yes, I saw first hand how much beauty sleep you received at the hospitality of that villain,” replied Stardust.
“Okay, I know where this is going…” muttered Galaxy Ranger, who knew all too well that despite their amazing powers, they were still strongly emotional women prone to bickering now and then when given the opportunity. “I have a plan.”
Galaxy Ranger went to the kitchen and returned with four pieces of dried spaghetti. “Okay, you know the drill. Take one. Small stick gets the spare bed,” said Galaxy Ranger.
“You’re kidding,” replied Ms. Victory. “We’re drawing straws?”
“And, your problem is…?” joked Galaxy Ranger.
“Not at all,” said Ms. Victory as they each drew a piece of dried spaghetti, with Tara getting the spare bed.
“Clever thinking, Oriana,” said Ms. Victory pleasantly.
“Thanks, but get used to this method. It’s how we’re deciding who uses the bathroom first tomorrow,” replied Galaxy Ranger.
Ms. Victory, Synn, Tara, and Stardust burst out in laughter.
* * *
It was around 11:45 PM and Tara was fast asleep on the spare bed in the guest bedroom, while Ms. Victory and Synn slept on the floor in other room used as a study room in some borrowed sleeping bags Galaxy Ranger got from her neighbors down the hall. Stardust elected to sleep on the living room couch, but was still wide awake as Galaxy Ranger entered in long sleeve workout shirt and pair of boxer shorts, finding her watching some late night talk shows.
“Anything good?” said Galaxy Ranger.
“Strange, we have the identical television personalities in our universe, but there I never watched them. Now that we’re here, I was relieved to see them on these channels,” commented Stardust. “Why is that?”
“It’s probably because they’re familiar and remind you that you haven’t gone insane, Stardust,” suggested the Galaxy Ranger.
“I suppose so,” agreed Stardust. “Oh, my name’s Mara.”
“Mine’s Oriana,” said Galaxy Ranger. “So you can’t sleep, either, can you?”
“I am still wondering how we got here and how we are to return home,” conceded Stardust. “And yourself?”
“Tara snores like a buzz saw and Synn talks in cartoon voices in her sleep. I don’t know how Ms. Victory can sleep at all,” replied Galaxy Ranger.
“Jennifer stuffs cotton in her ears and then wraps a towel over her head. It works for her,” responded Stardust.
“Well, staying up all night isn’t going to help either of us,” commented Oriana as she heated up some milk and poured them into two mugs with some chocolate syrup. “This always helped me when I was a stressed out undergrad.”
“Thank you,” said Stardust as the two drank their warm milk cocoa. Within 30 minutes, Stardust was asleep on the couch and Galaxy Ranger was asleep in her bed also, although with a pillow over her head as Tara snored and Synn giggled aloud.
The next morning Galaxy Ranger pulled out five pieces of dried spaghetti to determine who would get the bathroom first. Synn drew the shortest straw and was the first one inside showering up as Galaxy Ranger started preparing breakfast.
“What exactly is a Galaxy Ranger, Oriana?” asked Stardust.
“It’s kind of like an interplanetary cop,” explained Galaxy Ranger as she began beating the eggs. “We’re each assigned a sector to patrol and round up alien criminals who seem to pop up on Earth a lot.”
“Why’s that?” asked Tara.
“I don’t know. Maybe the shopping?” commented Galaxy Ranger humorously. “My predecessor could probably give you a more thorough explanation about the whole organization; I try to stay away from all the bureaucracy involved.”
“Could your superiors help us? Their technology is clearly more advanced than what’s here on Earth,” suggested Stardust.
“Possibly, but only as a last resort,” said Galaxy Ranger. “It’s primarily a law enforcement group, not a lost and found service. I’d prefer to show them that we’ve exhausted our options here before going to them for assistance.”
“Sounds fair enough,” said Ms. Victory as Synn came out from the hallway in a bathrobe. “Where to, this morning?”
“I was thinking about taking Stardust with me to meet with Kyle again at Wean Hall. He has some prototype devices on quantum theory that she might be able to advance with her expertise,” suggested Galaxy Ranger. “I don’t see a reason to take the rest of you along, you can relax here or hang out in the city. Everything’s in walking distance and I can leave you a little cash if you need bus fare or to grab a bite to eat here and there.”
“I like this woman,” whispered the starry eyed Synn. “She’s paying us to hang out.”
“Shhh…!” muttered Tara.
“Are you sure?” said Ms. Victory skeptically. “Wouldn’t it be better if we came with you?”
“The two of us entering would be less conspicuous,” explained the Galaxy Ranger. “Having you four coming with me at the same time, even in regular clothes, would create quite a stir of curiosity that we don’t need.”
“I’m not following,” replied Ms. Victory.
“Think Baywatch meets Revenge of the Nerds,” suggested Galaxy Ranger.
“Ohhhhh….” said Ms. Victory in an epiphany.
* * *
About three hours later all five heroines were finished cleaning up in the bathroom, changed into regular civilian clothes, and eaten breakfast. As Galaxy Ranger took Stardust to Wean Hall on Carnegie Mellon University, Tara decided to go to the arboretum in Schenley Park outside the campus area while Ms. Victory and Synn hopped on a bus line to the Allegheny Center planetarium located near the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.
Upon entering the planetarium as it opened, the eager and wide eyed Synn first walked up to one of the child activity units illustrating the operation of the lunar lander as Ms. Victory paid the entrance fee for the two of them.
“Oooh, what does THIS button do?” giggled Synn.
“It’s going to be a long day,” thought Ms. Victory. “Nightveil’s so much better at keeping an eye on Synn than I am.”
* * *
Elsewhere Tara was among the first to enter the arboretum, a welcome change from the wintry weather she was dealing with while in Pittsburgh. Lush tropical trees and flowers from around the world filled the robust complex, making Tara a little homesick as a bald man wearing glasses greeted her.
“Hello, first time at the arboretum?” said the man as he handed her a tour guide pamphlet.
“Yes, thank you,” replied Tara as she took a good, hard look at him, as he looked strangely familiar. Tara then scanned his nametag, which read, “Dr. Heinrich Rittmeist.”
“Could it be him? The Nazi scientist behind Lady Panzer and Lady Luger?” realized Tara. “Or is this just a coincidence on this world?”
“This can’t be her! It’s impossible. A wild coincidence, it must be!” thought Dr. Rittmeist. “Still, there’s a way to find out.”
“How would you like a free tour? I’m one of researchers here,” offered Dr. Rittmeist.
“Oh, I couldn’t impose…” replied Tara.
“Not at all. You look like a nature lover yourself, Miss…” said Dr. Rittmeist.
“Fremont. Tara Fremont.” answered Tara.
“Tara Fremont of the accursed FemForce! How could they have tracked me here?! It’s impossible! This is a coincidence, it has to be!” thought Dr. Rittmeist.
“Shall we go?” offered Dr. Rittmeist.
“Lead on,” said Tara pleasantly.
For the first twenty minutes Dr. Rittmeist gave her a guided overview of the arboretum, slowly gaining a basic trust before leading her into his private laboratory, a secluded section that was newly added to it over the past two years.
“How long have you been in Pittsburgh, Miss Fremont?” asked Dr. Rittmeist.
“Oh, I’m just visiting,” replied Tara. “I reside in Florida, actually. How about you?”
“Ah, Florida’s a beautiful state in a beautiful country,” replied Dr. Rittmeist. “I’ve been here about two years, give or take a month or two.”
“What kind of plants are these?” asked Tara. “I’ve never seen them before.”
Painting of Tara by Marcus Boas“Ah yes, they’re a special breed. They emit a most fragrant scent that lasts quite a while; I’ve been trying to develop it as a substitute for using animal materiel like ambergris in the production of perfume,” explained Dr. Rittmeist. “Why don’t you sample it?”
“Okay,” agreed Tara as she walked over to it, when suddenly vines ensnared her wrists and ankles at first before ripping off her clothes within seconds, revealing her green camouflaged bikini and knife strapped to her leg.
“WHAT THE….!” yelled Tara.
“So, it IS you. Tara of FemForce!!!!” realized Dr. Rittmeist. “I don’t know how you tracked me across the dimensions, but my carnivorous plant will finish you once and for all!”
“YOU!!!” shouted Tara, realizing that it really was Dr. Rittmeist, formerly of the infamous Third Reich who oversaw the creation of Lady Panzer and other super powered muscle fighting for the Nazis. Using his own version of the V-45 formula, he’s been able to stave off the effects of aging to an extent, and somehow transported himself from their home dimension into this one. “ALL THIS TIME…!!!! WE THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!!!”
“No, simply disappeared,” replied Dr. Rittmeist sinisterly. “I’m sure in some other dimension Elvis is having a grand old time.”
“AAARRRGHHH!!!” yelled out Tara as the vines tightened their grip around her. Tara managed to grab her knife, but with her wrist ensnared she could cut herself free.
“It’ll be over soon enough,” cackled Dr. Rittmeist. “How’d you do it?” grunted Tara. “How’d you get from our world to this one?”
“A lucky accident, really,” conceded Dr. Rittmeist. “I was trying to develop a quantum energy bomb to annihilate you all in one fell swoop but the prototype went off prematurely and created a dimensional rift that warped space and time itself, it seems. I ended up here. A lucky event, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yeah…great…” muttered Tara. “I hate to do this, but you leave me no choice.”
Tara bit down on the vines, piercing its vegetated flesh with her teeth to free her wrist. Tara immediately impaled the plant as she rammed the knife backwards, driving it deep into its core as she pulled it out and stabbed again. Mortally wounded, the carnivorous plant released its grip on Tara as it flailed wildly while Dr. Rittmeist ran to grab one of his weapons.
“OH NO, YOU DON’T!!!” yelled Tara as she jumped off the plant and delivered a hard kick into the back of Dr. Rittmeist, knocking him to the floor out cold.
Tara activated her communicator to Ms. Victory and Stardust. “Meet me at the arboretum. We’re going home,” said Tara sternly.
* * *
An hour later Ms. Victory, Stardust, Synn, Tara, and Galaxy Ranger had Dr. Rittmeist in custody and were reviewing the design schematics he recorded on his desktop computer. Coincidentally, he had another prototype of the quantum bomb constructed in his private lab that was inactive.
“It won’t work. It has no power source,” blurted out Dr. Rittmeist. “I wasn’t able to steal something to power it up without getting caught.”
“Which was why you worked at the arboretum, to try and steal some of the experimental energy sources they’ve been working at the universities in town,” deduced Galaxy Ranger.
“Yes, very clever,” muttered Dr. Rittmeist.
“Quantum theory is based on photon energy, right?” said Tara.
“Yes, that’s what Kyle told me,” agreed Galaxy Ranger.
“Yes, that’s true,” added Stardust.
“Can’t you two charge it up?” suggested Tara. “The Galaxy Ranger’s lasers and Stardust’s star energy just might be enough to start the chain reaction to get us home.
“It also could blow everyone to kingdom come,” commented Galaxy Ranger. “True, but Synn can create a shield so if the worst happens, it’ll only affect us,” said Ms. Victory. “It just might be our only way home.”
“It’s up to you,” said Galaxy Ranger.
“I’m for it,” said Tara.
“Me too,” said Synn.
“I, as well,” said Stardust.
“And you know how I feel,” stated Ms. Victory. “Let’s do it.”
Synn created a defensive field around them as Stardust and Galaxy Ranger began charging the quantum bomb with their star and laser blasts, feeding a steady stream at a low level. Slowly, they increased more and more power as the quantum bomb began activating with a short countdown.
“No time for long goodbyes, Oriana, get out of here or you’re coming with us,” said Ms. Victory.
“Good luck,” said Galaxy Ranger as she gave them a quick hug and flew out of the lab through a temporary hole in the shield Synn created and watched overhead as a large glowing orb engulfed them within Synn’s shield before imploding in on itself. Galaxy Ranger descended and surveyed the area, finding no sign of them.
“God speed,” whispered Galaxy Ranger.
* * *
Ms. Victory, Stardust, Tara, Synn, and Dr. Rittmeist blacked out from the implosion of quantum energy and awoke on a rooftop with the hot sun beating down on them. Ms. Victory was the first to awake, seeing everyone sprawled and out cold. Ms. Victory walked to the edge of the roof and scanned around the immediate area, finding several large billboards posted.
The first read, “HIDALGO, ONLY ON CHANNEL 10”
“No way,” said Ms. Victory as a smile started to form on her face.
The second read, “USE STELLA STARGAZE COSMETICS AND BE THE TRENDSETTER!”
“No way,” added Ms. Victory as the smile started to grow.
The third read, “SEE RAYDA IN ACTION WOMAN RETURNS, OPENING FEB 4TH! ONLY IN THEATRES!”
“Way,” said Ms. Victory with a beaming grin. “We’re home.”