Femforce 20

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This big 20Th issue celebration starts off with a party at the latest place the Femforce call home- an abandoned private school near Orlando, Florida. The occasion? Why, the official swearing in of new members Dragonlfy, Stardust, and Tara.(She hit the ground running with the FF in #1, but was never inducted officially ’till now.)As She-cat drifts away from the revelry and dreams of her adventure back in the Old West, ( in issues #’s 7 & 8 ) she finds herself going back thanks to a favor from time travel expert Dr. Jimenez. In the past, she crosses paths with Buckaroo Betty Bates, a two -fisted young widder women (who looks a lot like Betty Page) who inherited the sheriff’s job in a wide-open town when her husband was killed. Just when it seems the whole thing was a trap set up by Ripjaw and the Black Commando, She-cat wakes up realizing, it was all a dream. Or was it…? “Are You Ready For Buckaroo Betty?” is written by Bill Black and Rik Levins, drawn by Billie Marimon, and rendered by The All-Inker’s Squad. Guest-starring The Scarlet Scorpion, Paragon, Astron and Astra, Captain Freedom, Rio Rita and a host of characters not seen before or since. Also, this book has the beginning of an interview with the AC editor/publisher , A Conversation With Bill Black, by Leo Laney. Color cover by Billie Marimon and Mark Heike, interiors are black and white with graytones. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1989.

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Femforce 19

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When strange costumed characters with superpowers start appearing, what else can the Femforce do but assume they are some threat?Who could imagine that they are really heroes and heroines from a bygone era, kept inert in stasis in a government facility. The place is called the Vault Of Heroes, and it’s keeper is Dr. Jonathan Weir, owner of The Purple Claw. Though the heroes mean no harm, there appearance does signal a threat- they have been revived (an eventuality hinted at in the previous year’s Femforce: Out Of The Asylum special ) to help in a coming battle royal with the greatest villain of all time- The Black Shroud. Brought back for this titanic conflict (and seen here in action for the first time in any AC book) are actual Golden Age heroes from defunct G. A. publishers, including The Catman and Kitten, from Holyoke; Captain Flash, of Sterling Publications, The Green Lama, from Spark pubs, Rocketman and Jetgirl, of Harry “A” Chesler, and more. Over the years, these Vault Heroes would become a prominent and popular part of AC and Femforce contiuity. It all started here, in “The Dark Return”, written by Bill Black, drawn by Greg(Espers)Horn, and inked by John(Mystic)Dell.Guest starring T. C. Fremont. The back-up also ties in with the lead , as “Nightveil Meets The Avenger” The Mystic Miss(Laura Wright, in her civilian I. D.) comes face to face with the revived Magazine Enterprises hero, (whose real identity is Roger Wright) and learns that he is her long-lost older brother- and that he carries a terrible, fatal secret. Story and inks by Bill Black, Pencils by Jim Royal, with the Avenger origin flashback a reworking of Dick Ayers’ original art from M. E.’s Avenger Comics #1.

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Femforce 18

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What could possibly harm the Femforces ‘ reputation more than a nude layout in a skin magazine? The answer to that question is-nothing!! So , when just such a hoax is perpetrated, you’ve got to figure Stella Stargaze is behind it. But she’s not. Though that’s not to say that she and her partner-in-scandal Hildalgo Romero don’t intend to do all they can to maximize their benefit out of it. But when the FF find the actual culprit, they enlist his aid in turning the tables on Ms. Stargaze in a unique manner. “In The Buff”, written by James Misson, with pencils by Bill Lux, Don Secrease and Bill Black, and inks by John Dell and Bill Black. Back-up story is a vintage reprint, Cave Girl by Bob Powell, from her original 1950’s Magazine Enterprises run. The story is “The Volcano Fury”

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Femforce 17

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The Femforce is actively recruiting new members, so it all works out for the best that the Sentinels Of Justice may be forced to disband. Since former Sentinel Stardust will be at loose ends , she will make a perfect new FFer. Meanwhile, Nightveil suggests a fictional character that she accidently brought to life with magic as another possible recruit. Unfortunately, Stella Stargaze’ manipulations have taken hold on T. C. Fremont, and he evicts the group from their temporary HQ on Jungle Island. “Sentinels No More” is written by Bill Black, drawn by Darren Goodhart, and inked by John Dell. It guest stars Paragon, Commando D, The Scarlet Scorpion and Riot O’Rourke. Color cover by Mike Harris and Jim Sanders III. Black and white interior with graytones, standard comic book format. Printed in 1989.

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Femforce 16

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THIS BOOK IS SOLD OUT AND UNAVAILABLE AT ANY PRICE!!!She-cat has a new bond, and with it has taken on new characteristics. But at least her major crisis is over -or is it? The “little girl” she’s bonded with, Octavia Howard, is not all she seems.As Stella Stargaze worms her way back into T. C. Fremont’s affections, his daughter Tara and the rest of the FF slowly recover from Alizarin Crimson’s demolitions, but they’re still taking the rap for destroying T. C.’s corporate headquarters. Guest starring Janice Lawson. “Barefoot And Malevolent” is written by Wes Covington, pencilled by Darren Goodhart and inked by Brad Vancata. Next, a Golden Age reprint- a Nina Albright-drawn story starring Miss Victory- “Devils With Wings”, from Captain Aero #22, April, 1945. Finally, another 1940’s gem reprinted; Nyoka of The Jungle in “Curse Of The Snake”, from her original Fawcett Publications run. Also, a Mark Hempel Miss . Victory centerfold, reprinted from the Paragon Pubs book, Bizarre Thrills #1, from 1978.This book has a color photo-manipulation cover by Bill Black, and interiors that are black and white with graytones. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1988. Note: this comic is one of the rarest AC books : we only have one copy in stock. Once it’s gone, it’s gone!

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Femforce 15

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“Witchwar”!! Alizarin Crimson has the whole Femforce imprisoned in her mystic tower. Except for Colt- so when the pint-sized sharpshooter tracks them down and sneaks into the tower, she makes the perfect host for Nightveil’s astral self, forced out of her real body by Crimson’s enchantment. When spirit and body are reunited, Nightveil has the power to blast Crimson into defeat. But She-cat is still on the loose- or has she found a new bond- with a little girl named Olivia? Story by Wes Covington, art by Bill Lux. Color cover by Bill Lux, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1988.

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Femforce 14

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Using Nightveil as her puppet, the witch Alizarin Crimson systematically decimates the Femforce. First, she captures Tara, then destroys the Fremont Building in downtown Orlando, and frames the FF as the perpetrators. The Shade tries to intervene, to no avail. Jennifer Burke’s resolve starts to falter. Soon, Alizarin Crimson has the whole Femforce in her clutches. So, why has she released She-cat? Could it be because ‘Cat has gone without her bond too long, and the beast in her (Sehkmet) is ready to kill? “New Ways: I Dream Of Wires”, written by Wes Covington, pencilled by Darren Goodhart, inked by Ralph Cabrera, Bill Black and Jeff Whiting. Guest starring Janice Lawson and Dr. Pretorius. Color cover by Bill Black, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1988.

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Femforce 13

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Without her bond to Joan Wayne, She-cat is becoming increasingly more unstable and cat-like. Tom Kelly pays a visit to Jennifer Wayne-Burke, (Ms. V.’s daughter) to suggest that she replace her mother as a government-sponsored paranormal. Rad returns home to her old stomping grounds, to find Tara laying in wait to ambush her, and somehow, that vigilante-turned-madman the Black Commando is free. When Nightveil appears before the strung-out She-cat, it is as the mindless puppet of Alizarin Crimson. And no matter how big her guns are, Colt can do nothing to solve any of these crisis’. Guest starring David and Jason Burke.”Step Out And Away”, written by Wes Covington, drawn by Don Secrease, and inked by John Dell and Bill Koch. Color cover by Bill Black, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1988.

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Femforce 12

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THIS BOOK IS NOW SOLD OUT AND UNAVAILABLE AT ANY PRICE!!Still trying to generate publicity (and cash ) from her purloined alien egg, Stella Stargaze teams up with media sleazehound Hildalgo Romereo to try to get a big payoff for staging an alien birth on live T. V. in “The Egg And I”. When jealous Romero cuts the strap of her gown on the air, Tara’s father T.C. begins to see the real Stella. ( And so do millions of viewers! ) Meanwhile, Alizarin Crimson’s attack last issue has left Nightveil her helpless prisoner, and Crimson in possession of her Cloak Of Darkness. Rad starts a riot in a disco, whiler Colt wonders why she ever got mixed up in all this. Story and inks by Bill Black, and pencils by Darren Goodhart. Guest starring Janice Lawson. The back-up, “Terror At The Top Of The World” has Tara and Janice on the trail of the evil Dr. Rivits. They run afoul of his twisted daugheter, Roxanne. Script and inks by Bill Black, with pencils by Marc (Mars)Hempel. This is a reworked version of a story that originally ran in the Paragon Pubs book, Tara On The Dark Continent, in 1976. Plus, Dragonfly is trapped in an alien dimension, bereft of her powers, in a story that ties into the last issue of her own book, (#8) and the first issue of Fem Fantastique. Untitled, story and pencils by Rik Levins, inks by Bill Black. Color cover by Mark Heike, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1988.

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Femforce 11

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hideous thing, not even her Hypnotic Eye can help her. “The Thing From The Egg” is written and drawn by Bill Black. Guest stars T. C. Fremont , Janice Lawson and Dr. Rivits. This story incorporates parts of a Paragon Pubs era Tara tale. Back-up stars Nightveil in “Monsters”. A rare evening at home musing about her encounter with The Haunted Horseman turns strange as mystical beings stream out of her T. V. to attack her. It’s the work of her ancient enemy, Alizarin Crimson. Script by Wes Covington, plot and pencils by Nick Northey (his first AC assignment) and inks by Bill Black. Color cover by Northey and Black, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1988.

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Femforce 10

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Our scene shifts to Tara Fremont’s Jungle Island, where the beleagured Femforce is temporarily quartered. When an alien spacecraft crashlands in the island’s lagoon, it brings not only the FF, but the evil scientist Dr. Rivits and his mob. When the not-quite-dead occupant of the spaceship raises hell and flies away, he leaves a little memento in the hands of our heroines. “A Day In The Life Of A Jungle Girl”, Written , layed out and inked by Bill Black, and pencilled by Darren Goodhart. Guest starring Janice Lawson. As a special bonus, this issue features a reprint of a Golden Age adventure of Camilla, the Fiction House jungle girl, from Jungle Comics #102, June, 1948; with art by Matt Baker. Color cover by Bill Black, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1987.

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Femforce 9

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Back from the past, troubles a’brewin’ for the Femforce. In order for She-cat to hold in check the power of the evil cat -diety that possesses her, she must form a psychic bond with another being. For decades, that bond was with Joan Wayne, A. K. A Ms. Victory. But Joan and Ms. V. no longer exist-thanks to a forced overdose of the compound that gives Ms. V. her powers.(It happened in Nightveil #7) Now, only the unstable and antisocial Rad exists in Joan’s place. She-cat’s bond is gone, and the goddess Sehkmet is in complete control. Oh, and Rad plans to disband the Femforce, too. All this in “Breakables”, written by Wes Covington, with pencils by Dell Barras, and inks by Danny Taverna. Guest starring Tom Kelly, Stella Stargaze, and introducing Colt as new leader of the Femforce. Color cover by Tom Grindberg, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1987.

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Femforce 8

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Picking up the storyline from Sentinels Of Justice #6, this finishes up the Western Jam storyline with “Frontier Justice!”. Back in the Old West, Nightveil meets the mystic being known as The Haunted Horseman, and the encounter leaves both shaken. Meanwhile, a gunslinger’s showdown between the Latigo Kid and a raygun -toting Kronon may have finally convinced The ‘Kid that he may someday become the super-being known as Paragon. And back in the present, the paranormals are choosing up what sides to be on in the upcoming Armaggedon Factor. Story and art by Bill Black and Rik Levins, inks by Black, Dan Davis and John Dell. Then; from the casebook files of the Femforce, comes an early tale from Synn’s past, as we see how a secret government cabal, the Lifeform Supernormal Development program tried to use her to it’s own ends, soon after she gained her reality-warping power. Guest starring Atomman, reprinted from Paragon Presents. Story and art by Bill Black. Monochrome cover by Bill Black, full color inside. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1987.

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Femforce 7

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CURRENTLY SOLD OUT AND UNAVAILABLE AT ANY PRICE!!!Legendary Femforce Western Jam issue!! In a storyline that continues on into Sentinels Of Justice #6, (And eventually ties up in the Armaggedon Factor mini-series) sexy superheroines Ms. Victory, She-cat, Nightveil and Stardust are sent back into time to the days of the Old West, where they take on appropriate aliases for the time ( Calamity Kate, Black Phantom, Cherokee, and Frenchy King) and mix with Wild West types of all kinds- Angel Eyes Barcroft, Marshall Steve Brand, Tim Holt, Cheif White Cloud, Bullseye, Old Sure-Shot, Bat Masterson, Rocky Lane, The Hooded Horseman,Wild Bill Elliot, Black Diamond, The Lemonade Kid, The Durango Kid and more,as they head for a showdown with Kronons that will bring about the origin of the man called Paragon!! The story is called “The Good, The Bad, And The Paranormal”, and guest stars Harry Diamond, Doc Marvel, Wild Bill Pecos,Colt, Atomman, Captain Freedom, The Scarlet Scorpion, The Shade, Danny Brant and The Vardax. Written by Bill Black, Rik Levins and Don Secrease, with art by Levins, Secrease, Black, Tom Grindberg, Howard Bender, Steve (The Simpsons)Vance, Dan Panosian,Bill Anderson, Dan(Stars And Stripe)Davis and Mark Heike. Color cover by Mark Heike, full color throughout. Standard comic book format Printed in 1987.

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Femforce 6

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Another cast member is added, and the origin of Synn, the Girl From Lsd is recapped in “Girl Talk”. Strange alien apparitions are the result of Synn’s powerful mind in stasis, so the Femforce’s sorceress supreme, Nightveil vows to take her to a dimension where her mind will be left free to expand. More of the best in modern-day “good girl art”. Guest stars Stella Stargaze and T. C. Fremont, Janice Lawson, The Brotherhood Of Purity and Farkas, with cameos of Atomman and Alizarin Crimson.Story and inks by Bill Black, with pencils by Robert(Meteor Man)Walker. Color cover by Walker and Black, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1986.

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Femforce 5

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A giant She-cat robot terrorizes the Ocean World attraction in Orlando, and the real She-cat and Ms. Victory are on hand to stop it, even as the cat-fight between Tara and Stella Stargaze heats up. The two combatants are down to there undies before Nightveil (in her civilian identity of Laura Wright) steps in to help.”Cat Fight” is written by Bill Black, pencilled by Mark Propst and inked by Bill Anderson. Guest starring T. C. Fremont, and Captain Tom Kelly. Then- the first FF appearance of- “Synn, The Girl From LSD”. Newcomer Tara learns that Synn, and her reality-warping mental powers, are stored in stasis in the basement of FFHQ. And She-cat’s off to track down giant robots!! Story and art by Bill Black. Next, She-cat solo tracks down the lair of the mysterious Dr. Pretorius, but the good doctor is out. “Copy Cats”- story and art by Bill Black. Finally, Moon’s Mind Masquerade concludes with “The Mind’s Have It” as Colt pulls in a surprise Femforce member to defeat montague moon, then takes her creators out to lunch. Story and pencils by Don Secrease, inks by Doug Hazlewood. Guest-starring Don Secrease, Rick Burchett, Paul Daly, Bill Black and Nightveil. Color GTS cover (Based on the Attack Of The Fifty Foot Woman movie poster) by Bill Black and Bill Anderson. Full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1986.

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Femforce 4

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Even as She-cat, Tara and Ms. Victory stop Randall Crowley, his gang and their giant mechanical octopus, the Machiavellian Stella Stargaze sets her sights on the next gem to steal- Tara’s mega-rich father, T. C. Fremont!! See the origin of Stella Stargaze, and her secret weapon! See Ms. Vistory lift a king-sized, flaccid fake octopus!! See Tara in an evening gown, rolling on the floor in a cat-fight with Stella!! Over the top “”good girl art” made this book a hit!! It’s all here in “The Hypnotic Eye”, written by Bill Black, drawn by Mark Propst and inked by Mark Heike. Guest-starring Captain Freedom, Riot O’Rourke , T. C. Fremont and The Great Leolani. Then, Moon’s Mind Masquerade continues in “Mind Games”. Colt pays a visit to writer Don Secrease in a preemptive first strike, and asks for his help in trapping Montague Moon. Don agrees, but has he been double-crossed? Written and pencilled by Secrease, inked by Mark Heike and Secrease. Color cover by Bill Black, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1985.

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Femforce 3

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Blue Bulleteer returns to her normal state as Nightveil, and the Femforce go to the underwater city of Oceanus One to track down a gang of smugglers whose trail starts at Tara’s Jungle Island refuge. But are the bad guys after exotic animals- or gold??!!?? “Skin Game” is written and layed out by Bill Black, pencilled by Mark Heike and Mark Propst, and inked by Mark Heike and Bill Black. Guest-starring Janice Lawson, Captain Freedom, Commodore Faraday, Randall Crowley, Riot O’Rourke and Stella Stargaze, the first Femforce appearance for all of these characters. In the back-up, Colt’s nemesis Montague Moon is back, in “Moon’s Mind Masquerade”. He plots to destroy Colt by having her creators killed in his artificial dream-hypnosis machine. Paul Daly, Rick Burchett and Bill Black are all menaced, but finally saved by Colt, in there own dreams. Story by Don Secrease, art by Daly, Black, Burchett and Secrease. Color cover by Mark Heike and Bill Black, full color throughout. Sitandard comic book format. Printed in 1985.

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Femforce 2

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Good girl glamor and heroics continue as the world’s first all-female supergroup battles Amazons and gangsters South of the border in “A Gentleman Named Ripjaw”. An escape from capture by giant women, a short jaunt back to prehistoric times and the origin of the man with metal dentures are only the beginning, before the Femforce finally save the day and bring back Dr. Jimenez’ Time Triangle. (Guest-starring Colt, Satch and Wallow, Jennifer Wayne-Burke, and the first appearance of Reggie Blodgett.) Story, layouts and inks by Bill Black, pencils by Mark Heike.Back-up is the first and only AC appearance of Joan Mann, The Last Detective, in a story called “Pursuit”. Joan is, quite literally, the last working gumshoe in the far flung future. She returns a stolen statue and stops a gang of smugglers. Story and pencils by Mark(Lobo)Propst, with inks by Jim Sanders III. Color cover by Hieke and Black, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1985.

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Femforce 1

femforce 1

femforce 1Price: $100.00

 

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First historic issue of this long-running independant comics smash hit from the creative genius of Bill(The Invaders)Black. Initial offering of the only successful ongoing series ever to feature a team of super-powered women., only the 229th title in all of American comics to eventually surpass the 100-issue mark. This is the first color appearance of the Femforce team, “Trek For A Time Twister”, introduces Ms. Victory, She-cat, Nightveil,( who mystically reverts to her Golden Age persona of the Blue Bulleteer for this adventure) and Tara Fremont. The girls recruit new member Tara, and head down to South America to help out the neice of FF founding member Rio Rita. There, they encounter dinosaurs, primitive Amazons, and the villain known as Ripjaw, all while trying to return an experimental time-travel device. Probably the first modern “good girl art” comic, harkening back to the great pinup traditions of 1940’s comics artists like Matt Baker, Bill Ward and Bob Lubbers, and the top magazine cheesecake illustrators such as Vargas, Petty and Driben.. Story, layouts and inks by Bill Black, pencils by Mark Heike. (First appearance of Rita Farrar, Ripjaw, Satch and Wallow, Dr. Carlos Jimenez and his Time Triangle.) Also, a solo story of Colt, the weapons mistress, as she has her first encounter with a most bizarre villain in “The Menace Of Montague Moon”. Written and drawn by Don Secrease, inked by Kevin Dzuban. Color cover by Mark Heike and Bill Black, full color throughout. Standard comic book format. Printed in 1985.

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SHEENA: Golden Age to Present

Sheena has survived the ravages of time. First seen in 1938, published by Fiction House, Sheena endured through the 1950’s as a comic book and and then as a TV series. She was introduced in “Jumbo Comics”, appearing in 167 issues, and then in her own title, “Sheena”, lasting 18 issues. Several artists worked on her adventures including Will Eisner, Mort Meskin, Bob Powell (who first gave her her trademark leopard skin outfit), Alex Blum and Robert Webb. The figure of Sheena was drawn by Eisner/Iger shop female form experts, Matt Baker, Jack Kamen and a few others. She was the first female jungle character to gain popularity and was followed by many imitators.

She was starred in her own TV series in the 50’s. Twenty six half hour episodes were released in syndication in 1956. It starred Irish McCalla, pin-up queen and cover girl, wearing the famous leopard skin outfit. Sheena then disappeared from the scene only to reappear in 1980 in a film version starring Tanya Roberts. Although fans were disappointed by this version, still it served to renew the love for the character and heighten interest in another TV series.

Also in the 1980’s, AC Comics was given permission by the former president and publisher of Fiction House, T.T. Scott, to reprint Fiction House characters. The rights to Sheena had been sold to film producer Paul Aratow who has granted AC Comics permission to reprint stories of the jungle queen. Many Golden-Age stories of Sheena were reprinted in the series “Jungle Girls” and “Good Girl Art Quarterly.” In 1992, AC’s parent company, Paragon Publications, published a book on Irish McCalla, the beautiful blonde actress who starred in the 1950’s TV show. This book includes two Sheena comic book reprints from the forties, in color, and a new story entitled “Irish of the Jungle”.

In 1997 permission was granted London Night Studios to produce a new art, present day version of Sheena. This jungle girl lasted four issues. Clad head to toe in leather and wearing high heeled shoes, this version did not appeal to fans of the original Sheena. In 1999, permission was again granted AC, by Paul Aratow now of Galaxy Publishing, to produce a book on “The Golden Age of Sheena” in which a number of classic stories from Fiction Houses’ run in the 1940’s were reproduced. Paul is in the process of launching new Sheena products in the classic tradition.

The TV series was long in coming, but in October of 2000, it was finally launched, starring Gena Lee Nolin. The series of hour long episodes is in syndication throughout the world. While very different from the original TV series, the production qualities are vastly superior. Filmed in Florida, stock footage from Africa has been seamlessly woven into the story. Sheena is portrayed as intelligent and is certainly able to take care of herself and those around her, including the men. However, she has been given certain paranormal powers, which make her more than human and in some ways detracts from her physical prowess. It remains to be seen how old fans of Sheena will react to this series.

To find the comic books in which reprints of Golden Age Sheena stories appear, go to the Online Store and place the word “Sheena” in the search box.

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An Interview with Don Secrease: Colt and her Creator

Webmaster’s Note: This interview is from 1999.

If you can’t figure out the influences that led Don Secrease to create Colt, the Weapons Mistress, then you haven’t been paying attention. You might say, the sexy spy in the customized cavalry officer’s jacket wears her inspiration on her lapel. A fan of the Old West and enamored with detective and spy thriller genres, Don couldn’t help but instill a little bit of himself into his most famous character. How she ended up in her familiar costume, however, is a little less clear.

Don can’t really remember how he came up with the design of her costume, or, more specifically, where he got the idea to put Valencia Kirk in that sexily customized version of an old west cavalry officer’s jacket that transforms her into Colt, but he says, “I wanted something somewhat revealing, yet practical (practical?).” Certainly, the jacket distinguishes Colt from the typical comic book character clad in spandex, but, as Don explains, the idea was tied into her origin.

“As the story goes, Val creates a variation on the costume that her husband wore. His outfit differed in that he wore wrist gloves, a visored cap, and his shirt actually tucked into his pants, no bare midriff for him, but you might notice that she buttons her tunic to the right, like a man, instead of to the left. For the very first appearance it was an oversight on my part until I realized, perhaps Val would button it this way in remembrance of Kevin.”

Colt’s tunic was also supposed to have been made from the fabric of her husband, Kevin’s, tunic. Of course, as Don notes that’s a little hard to swallow as Kevin was blown up by the criminal organization called, “The Pact.” Since Colt became a costumed crimefighter as a consequence of the murder of her husband, you would expect that she would try to bring his killers to justice, but Don says she’s never gotten really close to apprehending the Pact’s leaders. “The closest she came was in a pre-AC tale published in Swashbucklers Issue 4, where she almost caught Mr. TNT, the most predominant of the Pact’s leaders.”

While some of Colt’s pre-AC stories have been re-used since Colt entered the AC Universe, not all of her stories have made the transition. “Before AC, Colt appeared in Swashbucklers #1, 3, 4. She was tentative to appear in #5 and Vista Graphics Presents #4 but neither of these were published.” The Swashbuckler books and Vista Graphics were an outgrowth of Don’s earlier involvement in the comic book industry. “I’ve always loved comics and been an avid reader/collector since the late 50s. During numerous non-art jobs, I’d been lucky enough to draw for various fanzines (a lot for a fan-based group in the 70’s called Interfan) on the side. Eventually Rick Burchett, Paul Daly, and I started publishing our own fanzines. They weren’t so much fanzines as they were stripzines. From there we sort of gravitated to the smaller publishers.”

It was during this time that Don created most of his published characters. “Besides Colt, and her Rogues Gallery, Paul Daly and I created The Terranauts (published by Fantasy General), Ed Stehlin and I did White Heat (for Bill), The Missourian (see Bill’s Great American Westerns #1), Redlaw, Torn Path, and the Savage Sisters (for Caliber), The Specialists (Thunderhawk, LionMane, Lioness, Domino, JackKnife) (originally in Swashbucklers, then Bill’s AC line), Starr, the Pirate, (see Swashbucklers1,2), and maybe some more I can’t remember.”

Speaking of Colt’s Rogues Gallery, two characters in particular have attracted the most attention from fans, Dr. Montague Moon and Dollface. Colt’s first nemesis in the pages of AC Comics was Dr. Moon, a deranged scientist with a large deformed head resembling the moon. Speaking about Colt’s Rogues Gallery, in general, and Dr. Moon, in particular, Don says, “For Colt, I wanted to create a Rogues Gallery that combined the villainy of Batman enemies (Pinto Williams/Mr. Coffin), the costumes of the Flash’s opponents (Trail Blazer), and, most importantly, the grotesqueness of the Dick Tracy hit list (Mime/Baron Blutsbad). I want Moon to be all the above plus add to him a tragic side… what he has is killing him and he only has so much time left.”

Dr. Moon first appeared in Swashbucklers Issue 1 and the back-up story beginning in Femforce Issue 1 is an expanded re-telling of that first story. While Montague Moon has consistently plagued Colt and become very familiar to long-time Femforce fans, Dollface has rarely been seen in stories published by AC. Her absence is not due to a lack of regard from her creator, however. “Dollface is one of my favorite Colt villains. When Bill Black and I talked years ago about the possibility of my writing a run of Femforce (I still have tons of outlines laying around here somewhere), one of my directions was including Dollface and making a huge ‘alter-ego’ change when a final showdown was to happen. To this time, Dollface still hasn’t been used to what I feel was my original intention. Depending on the crime at hand, she would dress to a particular scene, etc., except for her face, which would retain that cold, white mask. Hers was a tragic origin and, eventually, she was to become sort of an unbalanced Robin Hood, so to speak.”

So, how did so many of Don’s characters find a home at AC? “I’ve always been a fan of Bill’s, (and his art and line of books) years before I met him. Tell you the truth, I don’t remember how we first teamed up. I had to have sent him some of my work, then we communicated via mail. We met face to face at the ‘83 Memphis Western Film Festival. I learned a lot from him. He’s sorta like a father figure to me (Hi, Bill!).” The transition for Colt was fairly easy. Her husband’s name, Adam, in the pre-AC days, became Kevin Adam Kirk once Colt entered the AC Universe. The newly named Kevin was part of a trio of covert operatives that included a Mexican named El Puno, a master of hand-to-hand combat, and Dark Shadow, a woman who could trail anyone, but the Pact was still responsible for his death and that still led to Valencia Kirk getting disgusted with the whole espionage business and quitting to become a costumed crimefighter.

These days, unfortunately, Don doesn’t have much time to play with his characters. “My commercial art takes up most of my time. I’m also involved in getting a package of daily gag strips out to suburban newspapers. I still dabble a little if Rick Burchett needs me to ghost his backgrounds. Rick and I are working on a few DC mini-series ideas that may never see the light of day. I’d like to be able to do more Colt stuff with Bill should the space and time allow.” Until then, he’s turned over the reins to Bill when it comes to taking care of Colt. “I’ve always trusted Bill with his sense of direction with the characters. I haven’t always been available to help, and, to tell the truth, Bill and Mark and Rebekah have had things under control all the while. Bill and I agreed long ago if Colt needed to be involved in the series, use her.” Of course, there is at least one condition, “Bill retains my copyright and, as long as he doesn’t give Colt a haircut, she’s there for him.”

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An Interview with Bill Black

Webmaster’s Note: This interview is from 1999.

Bill Black is the Editor and Publisher of AC Comics and the main force behind the creation of the Femforce. Having worked in comics for over a quarter of a century, he has combined a love of the Golden Age of Comics with the sensibilities of a more modern age. A penciler, inker, and storyteller in his own right, he has also provided dozens of comic book professionals with some of their first opportunities to have their work published.

How did you break into the comic book industry and what were some of your early assignments and experiences?

I started drawing amateur comic books for my own pleasure in the 6th grade. The first one was STARTLING COMICS starring THE BLACK COMMANDO, THE BLUE EAGLE and AIR WAVE. Although AIR WAVE was before my time, I had seen the character when reading older kid’s comics. Why AIR WAVE stuck in my mind, I don’t know. At the time I had never owned a copy of DETECTIVE COMICS with that character in it. But he became one of my earliest stars appearing in STARTLING and at least two issues of his own title.

When SHOWCASE No. 4 was published, seeing Barry Allen reading a copy of the Golden-Age FLASH comic jumpstarted my imagination. I remembered ALL STAR COMICS and the Justice Society but none of those comics survived our family’s move from Pennsylvania to Florida. Inspired, I began drawing the adventures of THE FLASH, GREEN LANTERN, DR. MIDNIGHT, etc. just from my memory. My versions were a little off…. GL fired his beam from a belt buckle, not a ring! But I got the costume almost perfect as I would later discover. By the time I was in high school I had graduated into drawing my own characters such as THE SCARLET SCORPION and THE STARMASTERS.

While at FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY I met BILL KILLEEN, editor and publisher of the (soon to be) award winning college humor magazine, THE CHARLATAN. I joined the CHARLATAN staff as a cartoonist and did covers featuring WONDER WARTHOG. The Hog Of Steel was co-created by Gilbert Shelton and Killeen who scripted the first adventure. WWH was featured in early issues of CHARLATAN. My main function was illustrating paid advertising in a humorous and, if possible, vulgar manner as that’s what college kids liked. After a year, I became Associate Editor. I learned how to assemble and publish a magazine on the cheap from Killeen with whom I shared many adventures including hiding out from the cops and filming a movie based on H.P. Lovecraft’s COLOR OUT OF SPACE. I also drew back cover ads for a Tallahassee pizza parlor that featured many comic book based characters… BATMAN, THE HULK and SHEENA.

During summer breaks from FSU, I submitted art to Warren (received a nice, thoughtful and encouraging letter of rejection from Archie Goodwin who gave me some pointers), Archie Comics (I thought Paul Reinman was doing a horrible job on the Archie revival of the MLJ characters so I took it upon myself to do it better. I submitted a 6 page strip, pencilled & inked, to show them how Mr. Justice and Steel Sterling should be done. Never got a response, nor my art back. Hindsight showed me that it is not wise to tell an editor that he is doing a lousy job. At AC Comics when I receive such audacious submissions, I toss them in the circular file which is no doubt what Archie did!), and Marvel Comics. At Marvel during those halcyon days of the mid-sixties, I corresponded with Fabulous Flo Steinberg and Sol Brodsky. Both were incredibly kind and encouraging. Sol actually set it up where I would do a sample page to try out…. and Marvel would pay me for it! Can you believe that? I sent in a page that showed as many different characters as possible. Again I was rejected and again hindsight showed that by switching locations in every panel to get to different characters resulted in very bad story telling. I don’t know why I didn’t pitch them on hiring me just as an inker but I thought that was the end of it. Besides, I had to finish college. Flo sent a check from Marvel and, boy, it was a tough choice…. cash it or save it as a memento!

After graduating from FSU I was drafted into the Army where I continued my film-making and comic-drawing, and began publishing as a side line. I did a 7-page horror story in ink wash and submitted it to Warren. They didn’t use that story but returned the art (it was later published in AC’s GHOUL GALLERY). I was shocked upon opening the package to see that they had cut the big climax panel out of the last page with a razor blade! It turned up in CREEPY or EERIE as a sample of fan art. This submission, however, did lead to my being hired in 1969 by Warren editor BILL PARENTE where I did stories for CREEPY and EERIE. Never got any of my published art back… this was before Neal Adams had changed industry standards… but since Warren paid for it, I didn’t expect to get it back. So, after my fourth attempt, I became a comic book pro! With the exception of having Marty Griem show my work to Archie editor Victor Gorlick in 1984, I never again submitted work to a publisher… tho’ subsequently I’ve worked for dozens of publishers.

What led to your decision to become an independent publisher?

Independence led me to become an independent publisher. My background is somewhat different than most people in the comic book industry. Rather than starting comics after high school, I went to college. Back in the 1960’s there were only 6 publishers and almost no opportunity to get into comics. Mostly it was a closed shop situation. While attending art school at Florida State, I was introduced to fine arts as well as commercial arts. My instructors were fine artists of some reputation who painted for a living. Their work hung in reputable art galleries and some works even appeared in our text books. Working under them I became very excited about painting and developed a philosophy of art. To me the thrill, the high, the personal value of what I was doing was in the CREATION of the art. The ACT OF CREATING was the turn on, not the finished piece. It is a very solitary process and it is accomplished solely by myself. This differs greatly from comic books which, inherently, are the product of an assembly line. Working for a company you were either a writer, penciler, inker, letterer or colorist…. rarely was one artist given the opportunity to create the entire piece of art.

So, professional comic art, after my stint at Warren, was less satisfying to me because I was completing only part of the process. When you have your own publishing company, you can do the whole thing. Of course, it takes much longer. The first 15 years of my Independent publishing, I did it all while working a full time job and therefore was only able to produce around 3 books a year. After I started AC Comics, I had to work the business like everyone else and go to the assembly line method. That was the only way books could come out on a monthly schedule. At one point, we were producing 6 books a month. The good part of Independent publishing is that I have followed my dream and guided my own creations into reality while the downside is that I have little time to actually draw. It’s mostly production. I’m producing books with my creations (which is much better than “work for hire” where I would be working to bring somebody else’s vision to life) but am no longer doing all the creating. This method has worked and I’ve published nearly 500 books and, luckily, have done little “work for hire” for other publishers.

By being an Independent publisher I am able to bring my visions to life which is far more important to me than working on a feature for another publisher. Even working on a high profile, famous character holds no allure for me. I like what I’ve done and enjoy doing that. It’s amazing that I’ve made a living for my family doing what I love doing for so many years. Being well known or reaching high number circulation is not a concern because I’m interested in the creation, not the distribution. I would be just as happy (or possibly much happier) if I just created comics, paintings or films that only I saw. It’s the act of creating that is fun… but naturally the comics must be printed and distributed for me to make a living!

What was the genesis for the Femforce title?

In 1978 when I was working for Marvel Comics, Roy Thomas was my editor. We were doing an issue of WHAT IF which supposed that the Avengers were formed in the 1950’s rather than the 1960’s. This was fun for me because I was dealing with characters that I read when I was a kid… Marvel Boy, Venus, The Yellow Claw and a villain I remember distinctly from CAPTAIN AMERICA’s short run. Guest starring in the book were JANN OF THE JUNGLE and the Sub-Mariner’s girl cousin, NAMORA. After it was over, I suggested to Roy that he might write a story featuring a team-up of the Marvel female heroines from the 1940’s & 1950’s. Though few in number the team could consist of Blonde Phantom, Miss America, Venus, Namora, Jann and Lorna. Roy said “no” emphatically stating that books with female characters “don’t sell.”

Okay, if Marvel wasn’t interested, I’d do it myself with my own characters. I created “THE ALL GIRL SQUAD” subheaded “Femme Force One” and they first appeared in FEMZINE No. 1 (1981). I had used the Golden-Age character, MISS VICTORY, before but this story was the first to explain why she was still young. The story had the villainess Gorgana eliminate all male heroes so it was up to MISS VICTORY, a government agent, to assemble a task force from her files of heroines. SYNN, PHANTOM LADY and TARA had been regularly featured in other Paragon books but BLONDE BOMBER seemingly came out of left field. At that time I had done a story starring her but it has yet to be published. SPYGIRL was set in the past and STORMY TEMPEST was in the future so the team was set with those five.

The following year I started AC Comics forming the company in August. I decided to do mainstream superheroes instead of “girl art” to broaden the reader base. When the Direct Market collapsed in 1984, it was no longer possible to continue to pay established rates for new art. I began digging thru unpublished strips and unearthed several stories that were planned to be published in FEMFANTASTIQUE but which had been shelved when we started AC. I decided to bridge several girl art stories and make a book length feature that would be entitled FEMFORCE SPECIAL No. 1. This FEMFORCE team would be comprised of the characters in existing inventory stories.

Both Mark Heike and I had been doing commisioned drawings of Fiction House’s Senorita Rio for the same customer. These were a series of single illustrations that went together to tell a story. I reconfigured these illos into panels forming comic book pages and constructed a Senorita Rio story out of Mark’s art.

I had been commissioned to draw a Golden-Age Black Cat story for Jim Chadwick’s ALTERNATE EXISTANCE (sic) magazine. Chadwick said he had the rights to Black Cat but he did not. He also said he would pay me which he did not. I then took that story and reworked it into a new character and SHE-CAT was born.

In pre-AC days I was using PHANTOM LADY, the Fox Features version, as a leading heroine. With the coming of AC, PL was re-vamped as NIGHTVEIL complete with new costume. Mark and I had completed a PL story for FEMZINE No. 2 and I plugged that into the FF SPECIAL by renaming the character THE BLUE BULLETEER. So for adventures taking place from the period of WWII up to 1960, Laura Wright would henceforth be known as THE BLUE BULLETEER.

If you look at FEMZINE No. 1 and read the SPYGIRL story, you will note that SPYGIRL ends her cliffhanger story in the exact situation that begins the MISS VICTORY story in FF SPECIAL. That chapter , or at least the 4 pages of it, was originally drawn in pencil as SPYGIRL chapter 6, “High Altitude Horror.” Therefore the first AC FEMFORCE team, set in WWII, was comprised of MISS VICTORY, BLUE BULLETEER, RIO RITA and SHE-CAT.

We used this old art with new bridging art to allow AC to keep publishing and were surprised at how well the title sold. Immediately we planned a new series which would become the salvation of the company. Since we got in the sales figures from the distributors before we went to press, we were able to plan for this by including a full page ad for FEMFORCE No. 1 in that special. FEMFORCE No. 1 was set in the present and used the established Paragon character, Tara Fremont as the plot device to introduce new readers to this group of characters. Tara was involved in the story but was not a member… not at first. As she learns about MS. V, NIGHTVEIL, etc., so do the readers.

How did you decide which heroines would be in the Femforce?

After appearing in AMERICOMICS, BOLT and SHADE, Tara didn’t have a home. Since she was a favorite of mine, I put her in Femforce as the only non-powered member. She would provide contrast to the super gals. I really liked what I did with SHE-CAT in the SPECIAL. She had an edge to her that set her apart from other dogooders. Since she first appeared in a 1940’s story and reappeared looking just as youthful in FF No. 1, I thought this ageless quality would add to her mystique. MS. VICTORY had appeared in a Special of her own but AC didn’t have the resources to continue her in her own title. Besides, the MS. V SPECIAL was so far afield from what I wanted to do with the character (both in terms of art and story), I felt I must regain control. FEMFORCE became her book obstensively. Though we delve into the lives of many different characters, it is MS. V that is the back bone…. the structure for Femforce. As she developed, so did the team. Joan was more than just team leader…. without MS. V there is no FEMFORCE. NIGHTVEIL became the only AC character to appear in 3 titles simultaneously. By the time her title and SENTINELS OF JUSTICE folded, Laura Wright was firmly ensconced in the FEMFORCE. Eventually, FEMFORCE became the backbone of the AC Universe so as books were cancled, the characters (even male characters) moved into the FEMFORCE book. Thus, STARDUST, DRAGONFLY and COLT became members and all interacted with PARAGON, SCARLET SCORPION, THE SHADE and COMMANDO D.

Naturally, it didn’t take too long before I introduced SYNN (my most favorite chatacter of all time) into the world of AC. She was the only PARAGON character missing from the AC line up. It didn’t take long for her to become a fan favorite as well. Since Colt and Dragonfly were not my creations, they slid into the background. Finally I had a great core team that I really loved — MS. V, NIGHTVEIL, SHE-CAT, SYNN, TARA and STARDUST.

What led to the creation of Tara, the Jungle Girl?

If memory serves, TARA was my SECOND female creation? I believe SYNN was first tho’ TARA might have appeared in my amateur comics as early as 1958, like SCARLET SCORPION. I really loved the jungle girl comics drawn by JAY SCOTT PIKE at Atlas, JANN OF THE JUNGLE and LORNA, JUNGLE QUEEN. Jay drew really beautiful women, the most beautiful in comics. His femmes were slender, tho, in keeping with Comics Code restrictions. As a kid I never saw the pre-code version of LORNA drawn by Werner Roth which featured a truly full figured gal, bustier than SHEENA.

Around 1963-64, IW Super comics reprinted a RULAH book from late 1940’s Fox Comics which did not adhere to the Comics Code. RULAH was very built and wore a skimpy bikini made of giraffe hide. My first version of TARA had a similar outfit except it was black with light colored spots. TARA first appeared in PARAGON PRESENTS No. 2 DARK CONTINENT dated 1970. On the cover she wore the “Rulah” type bikini. Inside the outfit was different with two strips of material running from the neck to the waist to cover her breasts. I remember that I drew the story with the cover costume then changed it as an afterthought…. but I can’t remember why! By this time I had discovered Werner Roth’s LORNA and “borrowed” several poses from that series. The entire TARA story was drawn & inked on 8 1/2 X 11″ paper. I sold the art in the late 1970’s only to have it retrieved by Captain Joel Kilmer who gave it back to me in the early 1990’s!

Also in that issue, in the CAPTAIN PARAGON story, Rurian scientist MARA appears as MISS MARVEL (pre-dating the Marvel Comics Ms. Marvel). Later, of course, she became STARDUST. As somewhat of an homage to JAY SCOTT PIKE (who is still around and who apparently spent his career drawing beautiful women), I’m doing a short TARA story based on an old JANN adventure for FEMFORCE 113. It features Dr. and Roxanne Rivits who first appeared in TARA No. 1 and 2 respectively. I enjoyed doing TARA because it gave me an excuse to draw a babe running around in next to nothing and also spoke to environmental problems which was a concern.

How were you able to give new life to so many Golden Age characters, like Miss Victory and Yankee Girl, from now defunct companies?

I can’t remember how I discovered the Golden-Age MISS VICTORY… probably from a really ratty, coverless copy of CAPTAIN AERO. As drawn by Charles Quinlan, MISS VICTORY was no great shakes but she certainly had potential. Later, I learned that she pre-dated WONDER WOMAN. Her first Paragon appearance was in BIZARRE THRILLS No. 1 which was as different from the Quinlan version as you could get! I was intrigued that her alter ego was JOAN WAYNE… so close to JOHN Wayne…. but again MISS V actually pre-dated Wayne’s patriotic war movies! Just a coincidence.

CAPTAIN AERO was published by Holyoke which went out of business in the 1940’s. YANKEE GIRL is a similar situation. Published by Chesler, she appeared in DYNAMIC COMICS which went out of business in the 1940’s. I first learned of her from the IW Super Comics reprints of the 1960’s. Those books were not even copyrighted. Both characters had no personality in the Golden Age so we molded them to our needs. Mark Heike particularly liked to write YANKEE GIRL. Her costume is just like it was in the 1940’s but her figure is more… ah, filled out.

Can you provide a sense of the problems surrounding your early use of the Fox Phantom Lady character that ultimately led to the creation of the Blue Bulleteer and subsequently, Nightveil?

As explained earlier in this interview, NIGHTVEIL came first. When circumstance dictated that I use an unpublished “Phantom Lady” story, I retro-fit NIGHTVEIL’S WWII persona as BLUE BULLETEER. I first saw the Fox version of PHANTOM LADY in the 1954 Ajax Comics revival. Then (again!) IW Super Comics reprinted some of the Matt Baker and Jack Kamen PL stories in 1964. When I saw that, I fell in love with the character. As I said the IW Super Comics were not copyrighted. Back in the 1940’s-1960’s, books could be copyrighted for a period of 14 years with a renewal of an additional 14 years. Most of these companies did not last 14 years so they were not renewed (if they were ever copyrighted in the first place. Many were NEVER COPYRIGHTED at all!). My plan was to wait until copyrights expired and then revive old characters.

I started publishing PHANTOM LADY in 1970, over 20 years after the Fox series folded and 16 years after the Ajax series. Later on, someone at DC who was reviving Golden Age characters and needed more females, revived the Quality Comics version of PHANTOM LADY. DC assumed they owned that character as they had purchased the Quality characters in the mid-1950’s. However, PL was being published by Ajax at that time. Check it out in the price guide. Back in the early 1940’s, Quality Comics hired outside studios to provide art for their comics. Shortly thereafter, Quality publisher Busy Arnold lured Will Eisner with a deal he could not refuse (THE SPIRIT) and Eisner then headed the newly formed Quality Comics stable of artists. At that time, the use of the outside studio was terminated and properties such as WONDER BOY and PHANTOM LADY were dropped from the Quality books and stayed with the outside studio. That studio later founded Ajax Comics and revived PL and Wonder Boy among other properties.

I had been publishing PL for 13 years when DC editor Dick Giordano called me and told me to “cease and desist.” He said DC owned that character and I had no rights to it. I explained the aforementioned situation and asked him to send me proof of ownership. At the time I had a great deal of respect for Dick and believed him to be honorable. I agreed to stop using Phantom Lady and awaited the “proof” which was never forthcoming because it never existed. It was a case of the big guy bulldogging the little guy and I couldn’t buck DC. Besides I had a schedule to keep so a resolution had to be found immediately. I came up with the name “NIGHTFALL” and she appeared under that name just once. Then I got a letter from the Pini’s lawyer (Warp Graphics) stating that they had a character named “Nightfall” and I should cease and desist. Within 30 seconds “NIGHTVEIL” was born. Although it was a pain in the ass at the time, it all worked out for the best. Honestly, Phantom Lady was a two dimensional character and cannot compare to NIGHTVEIL which has become a long running favorite. So Giordano did me a favor! The only way a publisher can “own” a name is to register it as a trademark. DC has never registered PHANTOM LADY and they never will. For that matter, Warp never registered NIGHTFALL either. NIGHTVEIL, on the other hand IS registered and is the best name of them all. ALL FF characters are registered trademarks of AC Comics.

How did you come up with the idea to have the “Golden Age” Blue Bulleteer become the immortal Nightveil so that her continuing youth could be explained?

It was sort of the reverse of the question. Another case of retro-continuity. Remember, NIGHTVEIL started off as the Phantom Lady and in the Paragon books we had stories of her in World War II. By the 1970’s when she was featured in modern-day Paragon stories, she would be too old to be crime-fighting. I made her a sorceress using her magical powers to stay young. When we moved from Paragon to AC we had to drop the Phantom Lady name. I came up with a new name and costume for Nightveil. Everyone missed the old costume, the WWII costume, so I came up with stories set in the 1940’s so the costume could be used (FEMFORCE SPECIAL No. 1). The Mythos was established so that Ms. Victory, She-Cat and Laura Wright fought in the 1940’s but stayed forever young. My Phantom Lady had used guns whereas the Fox version did not. To retro-fit her with a fitting Golden Age name, I came up with THE BLUE BULLETEER.

Now in AC continuity, Laura Wright was The Blue Bulleteer until around 1960. She can’t be as effective as she was when she was younger so it looks like killers will do her in. Then AZAGOTH enters from another dimension to save her. He takes her to a world in another dimension to become a sorceress. Laura realizes she would have been dead if Azagoth had not saved her so she agrees. So then Laura lived on Dark Dhagor for a span of time say from 1960 until she appears in the 1970’s in the Paragon books teamed up with Synn. Now she is immortal.

She-Cat is your take on Harvey’s Black Cat. What led to the use of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet to provide She-Cat’s origin?

As a kid I loved the Harvey’ BLACK CAT. She was beautiful. Today reading the stories, the art by Lee Elias is great but the stories are not so hot. She was a cat in name only. I wanted my cat character to have the nature and attitude of a cat. She was the character with an edge to her. Her origin was a mystery for several years. One writer came up with an Egyptian origin that was nothing unique. Later, I wrote the true origin which, like everything I come up with, is very complicated and convoluted. I made the character tied inexorably to the feral cat goddess, Sekhmet. It took a lot of effort to make Jessica a sympathetic heroine even though she commits violent murders. It has taken literally decades for Jess to control the Beast and she couldn’t have done it without the help of Femforce. So she is tied inexorably to Femforce, too. She is a savage loner but it became her destiny to be a team player.

Synn is one of your earliest creations. What gave you the idea?

Ever since I Iearned that we use only about one-tenth of our brain power, I have been fascinated by theories of what would happen if a man (or woman) learned to use 100%. I’ve always been drawn to science fiction stories where this happens. My favorite is A.E. Van Vogt’s NULL A series, based on an entire scientific philosophy of using the brain to its ultimate advantage. In the 1960’s, I made several films with plots where the protagonist is psyonic. Later, I read the book, THE ENDLESS SEA- LSD, and was fascinated by the mind expanding potential of that drug. By 1964, I was working for the college humor magazine, THE CHARLATAN. The editor, Bill Killeen had co-created WONDER WART HOG with Gilbert Shelton and reprinted early hog epics from the Texas Ranger (campus mag at U of T). Eventually he ran out so I thought I’d try my hand at a new concept and came up with THE GIRL FROM L.S.D. Unfortunately, Killeen gave up the magazine before I had a chance to submit it. I did the first story in 1967 (?) just before I was drafted. In 1969, after I was released from active duty, I created PARAGON ILLUSTRATED. SYNN (her full name was SYNESTHESIA, a psychedelic drug term explained in the before mentioned book and used effectively by Roger Corman in his 1967 film, THE TRIP) began her adventures in PARAGON ILLUSTRATED No. 2 with the story intended for THE CHARLATAN.

You’ve written the overwhelming majority of the stories AC has published. How do you go about the process of setting out the story in a way that the penciler can follow your vision?

My scripts are pretty descriptive. Since I am an artist myself, I know what you need to include in the script to direct the artist. Believe me I’ve worked with plenty of “professional” scripts that didn’t. Still you’ll find artists that refuse to follow the scripts. Those are the ones you don’t use twice. Some artists follow it bang on. Others improve upon it. For Femforce, we have to come up with a synopsis for the distributor’s catalog months before the comic is done. When it’s time to write the script, I use the synopsis as a springboard. I usually don’t have anything worked out ahead of time but the muses have ALWAYS whispered in my ear and the scripts flow very easily. With characters like the FF, the scripts write themselves. To me writing scripts is the easiest thing in the world to do. Wonder if I could make any money at it?

AC’s published a lot of comics and stories representing many different genres. Westerns, Space Adventures, Horror, Superheroes. What creators most influenced you growing up and why?

Jack Kirby influenced me most of all. I grew up in the 1950’s when there were few super heroes. The ones that were, SUPERMAN, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN, were really dull compared to anything Kirby came up with. So, when I saw CAPTAIN 3-D in 1953, I thought it was the greatest book ever printed. Earlier, I was in on the tail end of the JUSTICE SOCIETY in ALL STAR COMICS and greatly lamented their passing. When I was 12 yrs old I began drawing and what I drew was from memory. Inspired by SHOWCASE No. 4, wherein Barry Allen reads a copy of the Golden Age Flash comics, I drew JSA characters from memory. But my favorites of that era were the Simon/Kirby FIGHTING AMERICAN, STUNTMAN (reprints), SKY MASTERS and CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN.

Later when Jack teamed up with Stan Lee to create Marvel Comics, I was in heaven. I also loved Dick Ayers on GHOST RIDER and THE AVENGER, Gil Kane on JOHNNY THUNDER, TRIGGER TWINS & NIGHTHAWK, Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert (TOR, VIKING PRINCE) and Alex Toth. In the Westerns, I loved Frank Bolle (REDMASK), Joe Maneely (TEXAS KID), Syd Shores (BLACK RIDER) and John Severin. I couldn’t draw like any of these guys but sure wished I could. Kirby remains my greatest influence for his action and his humor. All these artists I named, I bought everything I could find by them (except I did not buy war or horror books). Also loved John Romita (Capt. AMERICA, WESTERN KID) and Bill Everett (MARVEL BOY, VENUS and SUB-MARINER).

For girl art, Jay Scott Pike (JANN and LORNA) was tops. I missed SHEENA (too young) but thrived on LORNA and JANN. Wallace Wood, in his MAD COMICS parodies, was the very best. What BABES! In 1958-59, Ross Andru did a fabulous job on WONDER WOMAN but editorial policy made him stop. I’ll never forgive Robt. Khaniger for that. Russ Heath and Bob Powell also did yummy women. And Frazetta… there was a DAN BRAND story in a DURANGO KID that was just too hot!

AC/Paragon published the early work of many of today’s highly considered artists. Tell us a little about the many artists who have contributed to AC’s titles.

AC/Paragon, or “Stepping Stone Comics,” has employed Jerry Ordway, Mike Machlan, John Beatty, John Dell, Jim Sanders III, Paul Ryan, Tom Lyle, Steve Lightle, Tom Grindberg, Michael Bair, Erik Larsen, Tim Townsend, John Nadeau, Jordie Ensign, Rik Levins, Bill Marimon, June Brigman, Roy Richardson, Steve Vance, Don Newton, Mark Propst, Mark Hempel, Dan Reed… all of whom went on to have successful professional comic book careers of varying degrees. Some of them are still in the business.

You’re developing a new print-on-demand system for many of your titles. Tell us a little about why you’re going in that direction and why comic bookfans should support the effort.

POD or “Print On Demand” is nothing new in limited book publishing but it is new to AC Comics. The time has come to give it a try because now there is only one comic book distributor and it cannot distribute enough copies of a title containing new material to make it cost effective. With this low circulation our printing costs are covered but we do not make enough money to pay artists for artwork. Going thru the comic book distribution, the publisher has to give up 60-70% of the cover price plus another 5-10% on the shipping costs. This only works if the distributor can sell thousands of units. With POD we sell via Internet & mail order directly to the customer. This eliminates the middle man and AC gets 100% of the cover price.

Of course we’ll sell even fewer copies doing this but we don’t have to sell as many to make the same money as with the old system. There are about 1000 different comic book titles issued each month. No store could carry all of them. In fact most stores have shifted from comics to selling another product that is more lucrative. Most big stores would carry only the top 100 best selling titles which leaves 900 titles not getting any shelf space. Often we hear from old readers who are startled to see that FEMFORCE is still around. They hadn’t seen a copy since No. 60 or so. That’s because for over 5 years FEMFORCE has been pretty much only available thru store subscription. If a reader does not read Diamond Previews, he does not know that FEMFORCE (or any AC Comic) exists.

Since neither the comics stores nor the comics distributors fill the purpose for which they were intended, it is up to the smaller publisher to seek other venues. To me, the Internet is the answer. That is why AC Comics is changing the way it does business. We will have a commercial site (accomics.com) up and running by August, 2000 where you should be able to see covers of nearly 500 books available for immediate mailing. Thanks to the enormous success of ebay, people are used to buying comics on the internet. For newcomers to learn more about AC Comics, FEMFORCE, MEN OF MYSTERY, BEST OF THE WEST and our other titles, they can find tons of info on the Femfans and other fan supported sites. An editorial in the POD edition of FEMFORCE No. 113 addresses this very situation. AC has published POD editions of WESTERN MOVIE HERO, FEMFORCE, ROCKY LANE and BEST OF THE WEST. In the coming months, we will release new titles such as FUN COMICS and FEMZINE and FEMFORCE No. 114.

In addition, using the POD system, books once out of print can be born again. We could even assemble “customized editions” if readers feel that there is a demand. This way a fan could literally own a “one of a kind” book. As an example, FEMFORCE 113 exists in regular POD edition and as a special, custom fitted signed and numbered “Femfans” edition. This Femfans edition was limited to only 55 copies and has a centerfold and color photo insert (plus several other differences) that the regular POD edition does not have. We will still do book store titles but we are very excited about the new POD titles as they will have an editorial policy that is very reader friendly. Readers of the POD FEMFORCE should feel like one of the AC family.

It’s a closeness you can’t get with a mass market product. AC has always been proud of its reader loyalty so we’re putting extra effort into the POD titles to make the reader feel at home.

Thanks Bill!

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An Interview with Julie Michaels – She’s Electric

Webmaster’s Note: This interview is from 1999.

So what did Julie Michaels think when she saw herself immortalized by John Nadeau’s pencils in the pages of AC Comics’ “Femforce” Issue 54 as the superheroic Rayda? “It rocked!”

Of course, as Femforce fans know, Ms. Michaels has contributed more than just her likeness to the character of Dyna Morisi, a.k.a. Rayda. “I auditioned for Mike Frankovich and he decided to create the character of Rayda after meeting me. I was flattered, to say the least. When he first came to me with the idea of Rayda I was humbled by the honor. I was never in the armed forces, but Mr. Frankovich thought adding the military influence would make the character very patriotic! I loved it since I am the daughter of a military man and was even born on an Air Force base.”

Rayda, the comic book character, shares a career in Hollywood as an actress, stuntwoman, and model with her real-life inspiration. The similarities don’t end there, however, because if Rayda is billed as a “human dynamo” due to her electricity related powers, then Julie’s energy and spirit make her the real world equivalent.

Julie was attending the University of Washington as a gymnast when an injury forced her to look for another way to pay for her education. “I was recruited to run in the Miss America program in which I won enough titles to finish my education and attend a performing arts college. An audition for a show called ‘Follies on Broadway’ took me to Miami and, while there, I was cast in ‘Dreamgirls USA’ in Hollywood. Soon after that, I was cast in the feature film, ‘Road House,’ with Patrick Swayze.”

As if acting isn’t enough of a challenge, Julie became a stuntwoman, as well. “I fell into it!!! Okay, only a little funny! Actually, for the film ‘Jason Goes to Hell: Friday the 13th, Part 9,’ they wanted an actress that could do her own high fall.” The result: Julie is featured at the beginning of the movie as the comely FBI agent used as bait to lure Jason to his doom. In a departure for the series, her character survives! It must have been that background as a collegiate gymnast that allowed her to escape the infamous slasher’s clutches! The sexy heroine role is typical of her acting and stunt gigs. “Recently, I have been doing a comic book series called ‘Black Scorpion.’ She is a female Batman. It feels so great and very empowering to be so strong. I felt the same way about Rayda but have yet to put her on screen.”

Rayda may not have made it to the screen, yet, but Julie has appeared in costume as the character at comic book conventions and other venues. “The character is so well received by both men and women. Men love strong women, and women love that I can kick some serious butt!!!”

Of course, since Rayda did just that in her Femforce mini-series, published in Femforce issues 110-112, we can expect Julie Michaels to do the same, at least figuratively, in her upcoming projects. What do Femforce fans have on tap from Ms. Michaels? “I have ‘Rat Race’ in theaters now. I play Dean Cain’s girlfriend, Charlene. On DVD, a Dinero film called ‘15 Minutes.’ I hosted a show for the Learning Channel called ‘The Ultimate Driving Quiz,’ where I used my knowledge of stunt driving to inform viewers of the safest ways to handle life-threatening driving situations, that should air in January. Black Scorpion can be seen on the SciFi Channel, and my website, JulieMichaels.com is up and running.”

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Golden Age Femforce Story by Femfan1

This story is a little different than “Heroes and Friends.” I didn’t have it fully developed in my head before I started on it and I basically sat down and typed it all in one shot. I guess it’s not bad as is but I’d love it if people would send in suggestions for changes to make it better. Maybe more detail, additional dialogue, or alternative ways to identify the characters (I love alliterations, i.e., buxom blonde, pint-sized pistolera, etc.). As long as the changes don’t alter the basic structure of the story, I’ll amend it to include reader’s suggestions that make the final story more fun to read! Thanks so far to Jim Johnston for his suggestions.
The World Spins ‘Round and ‘Round!
The window slid open silently and the caped figure crept into the darkened storefront. She congratulated herself on a much quieter entry than if she had tried the padlocked storm cellar door. Shadows in the room loomed threateningly cast by the streetlights illuminating the sidewalk outside the shop. Drawing her twin .45’s from their holsters, the Blue Bulleteer listened for any sound piercing the silence which might alert her to danger. For, if this was one of Lady Luger’s hideaways in the United States, danger was assured.
Goosebumps crept across her flesh and she wondered how the other members of the Femforce were faring as they investigated Lady Luger’s other suspected hideaways. It was a stroke of luck that they had obtained the information that Lady Luger had again crossed the Atlantic. Just this morning they had foiled an espionage attempt at the local Air Force base and one of the captured German spies had been coerced into revealing the sites and the identity of his new boss. Having just come under her command, he was less fearful of her revenge than he would have been had he been a seasoned agent. Of course, there was always the possibility that he was sending the team into a trap.
The spy had revealed four locations where Lady Luger based her local operations. A warehouse on the marina, a seedy motel on the edge of town, a house in the countryside, and this toy store near the center of town. The Femforce had split up with each taking a location and as Laura peered through the darkness at the grinning faces of so many jack-in-the-boxes she wondered if she wouldn’t have preferred the countryside.
Having ascertained that no one was present in the retail portion of the store, the Blue Bulleteer cautiously moved back the curtain and eased into the back room. An office of sorts, it had two doors, a desk, a chair, several filing cabinets, and papers strewn throughout. She lifted a piece of paper from the desk and peered at an invoice for toy trains. If this was a hideaway for Lady Luger it seemed the shop doubled as a legitimate business. Once the building was secure she would check the various documents for clues, but given the haphazard nature in which she found them it was not a task she relished.
Standing with her back to the wall at the side of one door, she twisted the knob and let the door swing open. The squeaking hinges seemed deafening in the silence as she stepped into the doorway with her pistols raised. Her eyes having grown accustomed to the darkness, she found herself confronted by an empty restroom. She sighed to herself and moved to the other door where she repeated the procedure. Steps leading down to a basement. She listened intently for any sound that might signal a human presence but heard nothing.
Carefully, the Blue Bulleteer placed her foot on the top step and shifted her weight. The wooden plank creaked under the pressure. Laura knew that she wouldn’t be able to search the basement without making some noise. Hopefully, no one would be around to hear it. She moved down the steps, listening for any noise other than that of creaking wooden stairs. She was halfway down when she felt icy fingers clamp around her ankle long enough to trip her as her momentum sent her tumbling forward.
Miraculously, though she bounced off the steps several times, she found herself unhurt as she skidded to a stop at the base of a wall. Suddenly, the lights clicked on and the Blue Bulleteer’s pupils could scarcely adjust quickly enough to see the figure of Lady Luger towering above her. Before she could raise her weapons to defend herself, a vicious boot to the chin sent her back into darkness.
“Wake up, Schweinhunt!”
The sound of the whip cracking inches away from her face shocked the Blue Bulleteer back into consciousness. As she blinked her eyes and tried to focus, she felt the tug of gravity pulling on her wrists. Shaking her head to clear the cobwebs, she looked at her arms and saw that she was bound by the wrists to a multicolored circular board. As her senses cleared, she realized that she was tied spread-eagle to a wooden wheel.
“Ahhh, the infamous Blue Bulleteer. How good of you to join us! Miss Victory is at the Marina, no doubt?” Lady Luger again cracked her trademark whip with unerring accuracy, this time the tip actually brushed the Blue Bulleteer’s raven hair.
It had been a trap! She should have known one of Lady Luger’s operatives would never have given up such vital information so easily! Ignoring Lady Luger, she tugged at her bonds, testing their strength. From behind her she heard another voice. “Foolish American! You don’t even have the strength of Miss Victory. Do you really think you can escape when her superior, Panzer, has tied you down?!?”
Panzer and Lady Luger. Together! This was serious! She wondered how quickly the other members of the Femforce had been able to secure their targets. If they were done, and she didn’t report in, they’d come to check on her. She had to buy time.
“That paper hanger in Berlin must be really desperate to send you two losers over here to cause problems!”
“Our glorious Fuhrer has decided that we can ensure the 1000 year Reich by forcing the United States out of the war.”
“You’ll never be able to get us out of the war. All your espionage efforts will never sway the will of the people!”
“Maybe the American people will be swayed by the death of their beloved heroine, the Blue Bulleteer? Maybe they will cry out that no more of their heroes should be lost?”
“It’ll never happen. You’ve got it all wrong. My demise at your hands would only serve to galvanize public anger against you Ratzis. The American people will work and fight even harder to bring down your evil regime!”
“So the Americans will not mourn your death? What a shame! Your going to suffer so much, your people really should mourn after what you’re going to go through.”
“You see, American, Fraulein Luger has decided to turn your demise into a game. The Spinning Wheel of Death upon which you are tied will decide your end! Your method of execution will be determined by where the pointer lands!”
“Of course, Blue Bulleteer, our aim may not be perfect. You may not die after the first time around.”
“Fascist Fiends! You’ll never get away with this!”
“If we don’t, you won’t be around to hear of it. Spin the Wheel of Death, Panzer!”
Laura felt the pointer skim across the top of her head and then the rushing force of her body turning head over heels and upright again with each turn being marked by the pointer slapping against the side of her head. She spun around more times than she could count, her body weight shifting up, down, and side to side as she closed her eyes and tried to keep her equilibrium. Finally, she slowed to a stop on her side.
She opened her eyes and Lady Luger had put aside her bullwhip and picked up a hatchet. “Turn her upright, please, Panzer. I’d like to go for an arm.”
Panzer rotated the wheel and the Blue Bulleteer steeled herself as Lady Luger prepared to throw. Laura tensed as the razor-sharp tomahawk flew through the air and she jerked involuntarily as she heard it slam into the wood not far from her right arm. She exhaled, knowing that her arm was intact, and she looked to see the blade embedded above her forearm.
“Bah, you missed! Here, let Panzer show you how to do it.” Panzer threw the wheel into rotation and walked over next to Lady Luger. Laura closed her eyes and waited for the wheel to stop turning again but the sound of metal slicing into wood shocked her to attention. As the world spun around in front of her, she could hear her tormentors laughing.
“It seems you missed as well, my friend! But, I like your version of the game better. Spin her around again and let’s see how we do with the throwing knives.”
As Laura came to a stop, she looked around to see where the hatchet was embedded. She located it protruding from between her legs. Scarcely had the implications of the location set in than she was again spinning around. She tried to look at the two harpies as they drew back their new weapons but soon dizziness and nausea overcame her and she scarcely heard the knives whistle toward her. She felt the tug of her cape and realized that at least one had found it’s mark uncomfortably close to home.
“Ah, it seems we’ve both missed again. Perhaps, a bullet will better find it’s mark?” Lady Luger drew her pistol from it’s holster.
“No, Fraulein, wait.” Panzer walked over behind the wheel and emerged with the Blue Bulleteer’s weapons. “Better with her own guns, I think!”
“Indeed! How ironic it will be! Panzer, for this idea, I give you the honor of going first!”
Lady Luger walked up beside the Blue Bulleteer on the wheel. “I think you will not be so lucky this time! Do you have any final words?”
“Nuts!”
“Feh!” Lady Luger tugged on the wheel violently and the Blue Bulleteer began spinning around with so much force that she could barely stay conscious. The Teutonic twins watched with delight as the Blue Bulleteer’s body shifted to and fro. Panzer took aim. “Perhaps, we start with a kneecap?”
The gunshots echoed in the small room. Laura felt no pain and knew the Nazis had missed. Relief washed over her, but she knew that sooner or later her foes would tire of playing games. Sure enough, as she slowly came to rest just shy of vertical, her vision cleared and though the room still seemed to be spinning she was able to focus on Lady Luger’s visage. It was clear that this time, she wouldn’t miss. Luger took the .45 from Panzer and standing directly in front of the crimefighter raised both guns to fire.
“Auf wiedersehen, Amerikanen!”
The Blue Bulleteer knew that if this was it, she was going out fighting, and, who knows, she might make the Nazi numbskull so angry that she’d miss. “Ok, you swastikad stooge, let’s see if you can finally hit your target. If the rest of you Aryan schmucks are all as bad a shot as you, our boys will make short work of them!”
Lady Luger’s lip curled up in a sneer, and then, suddenly, the room was bathed in red light. “Eh? Someone else has entered the store. Panzer, check to see who it is?”
The Blue Bulleteer watched Panzer go into a curtained room over near the wall on her right. For the first time, she had an opportunity to notice her whereabouts. It was evident that she was in a finished room in the basement. She couldn’t see the steps that had proven her undoing so they had to be somewhere behind her. Behind Luger she could see steps leading up to the storm entrance.
Lady Luger walked up to the Blue Bulleteer and hissed in a hushed whisper, “If you try to say a word to alert someone, you will die before the first syllable has escaped your lips!” Laura’s .45 pressed against her jaw as Luger clamped her hand across the Blue Bulleteer’s mouth.
Suddenly, a streaking figure clad in red, white, and blue crashed through the storm cellar door. Miss Victory rushed forward only to stop dead in her tracks as Lady Luger shoved the .45 under the Blue Bulleteer’s jaw.
“That’s right, stupid Amerikanen! Any closer and the insides of your friend’s head will get scrambled!”
“Luger, your operation at the marina has been crushed. You’re finished. Give it up! It’ll only go harder on you if you do the Blue Bulleteer any harm.” Miss Victory moved closer trying to dominate Lady Luger’s field of vision. “Come on, hand over the gun.”
“Yes, maybe I should?” Lady Luger’s words did not deceive the patriotic powerhouse. Miss Victory knew that the Nazi would never surrender so easily. Laura’s eyes widened with fear and her muffled cries filled the room. Too late, Miss Victory realized that she herself was in danger as a strong arm grabbed her from behind pinning her arms and a strong hand clamped a damp rag across her mouth. Surprised the superheroine took in a sharp breath as she struggled to free herself from her attackers iron grip.
Too late, Miss Victory recognized the sickly sweet smell of chloroform on the rag. Sensing her peril if she did not escape from the overwhelming effect of the drug she redoubled her efforts but her initial breaths had already taken their toll. Her strength waning, she could not free herself from a foe almost as powerful as herself. Mighty legs buckled and powerful shoulders sagged as Miss Victory slowly slumped into unconsciousness.
“Excellent work, Panzer!” Lady Luger walked toward her compatriot who was the only thing holding the almost unconscious Miss Victory aloft. She tucked the Blue Bulleteer’s pistols into her belt. “You should check around and make sure that none of the other verdamnt Femforce are around.”
“Why don’t you check around!?! I captured Miss Victory, the honor of destroying her should be mine!”
“We captured Miss Victory, just like we captured the Blue Bulleteer! The Fatherland will shower plenty of honor on both of us. Besides, I am your superior officer and I have issued an order!”
Panzer stood petulantly for a moment and then released her grasp on Miss Victory. The mighty heroine’s eyes fluttered as she was freed from the intoxicating chloroform but her legs were without strength to carry her weight as she fell unceremoniously to the floor. With a backwards glance at Lady Luger, Panzer stalked off through the storm cellar entrance.
“She’ll be your downfall, Luger. She’s too ambitious. She’ll try to take credit for what you’ve done!”
Ignoring the Blue Bulleteer’s attempts to cause her concern, Lady Luger looked down at the semi-conscious Miss Victory. Kneeling she pressed the liquid soaked rag over the blonde bombshell’s nose and mouth. The momentary respite had allowed Miss Victory to regain some of her strength but despite her best efforts she was still too weak to push the Nazi fiend away. Luger continued pushing the cloth onto Miss Victory’s face until the blonde heroine’s breathing became regular and shallow. Checking underneath Joan’s eyelids, she confirmed that the American was unconscious. Standing, Luger walked into the room Panzer had previously entered.
“Miss Victory! Miss Victory wake up!” Laura’s heart sank. Panzer and Lady Luger had managed to capture not only her, but Miss Victory as well. The blow to the American public’s morale if they were both defeated would be tremendous. She couldn’t hope that She-Cat or Rio Rita would find them. She had prayed for Miss Victory to arrive and look at that result, the situation was worse. The Blue Bulleteer again tested her bonds and was overjoyed to find that they had been loosened by the centrifugal forces exerted by her spinning body. She began to work her arms trying to get the ropes free as Lady Luger returned with a bottle of what Laura had to believe was more chloroform.
Miss Victory’s vaunted recuperative powers had kicked into high gear and in that short span she had roused herself into semi-consciousness. Rolling over onto her side, she tried weakly to lift herself up but before she could get to her knees Luger pressed a boot heel into her shoulder and shoved her onto her back. Still, her eyes fluttered open again and she tried to sit up only to have Luger again smash the chloroform soaked rag into her face. Miss Victory pawed at Lady Luger’s arms trying unsuccessfully to push them away before the fumes again overpowered her senses and she slipped off to sleep.
As Laura watched Lady Luger sit back and stare at the unconscious Miss Victory, she realized in horror that her buxom friend’s invulnerable body would not save her from the overdose of chloroform that Lady Luger was clearly planning. The Blue Bulleteer frantically called out to her comatose comrade to wake up but the prone powerhouse did not respond. Turning her attention to their captor, the Blue Bulleteer screamed, “Get away from her you Nazi witch! Only a coward would attack a fallen opponent!”
Lady Luger was so absorbed in the realization of her dream to bring about the demise of the personification of American patriotism that Laura wondered if her comments had even been heard, then the teutonic titan respondent in a chillingly quiet voice, “Be quiet liebchen, your turn will come soon enough.”
Devastated by the off-handed manner of the German’s reply, the raven-haired adventuress returned to working on her bonds, desperately attempting to free herself and rescue her fallen comrade. She was gaining significant headway when she was alarmed to hear a noise at her side. Thinking it might be Panzer returning from the check of the grounds, she was enormously relieved to see a surprised Rio Rita who, upon witnessing the awful tableau, quickly drew her pistol from its’ holster located on her leg, high up under her dress.
“Don’t move a muscle, Luger!”
The Nazi swung around, dropping the chloroform soaked rag and extracting one of the Blue Bulleteer’s pistols from her belt, but Rita Farrar’s shot was true and the force of the bullet impacting on the gun in Luger’s hand sent the pistol flying across the room. Seeing that she was covered by a sharpshooter, Lady Luger sheepishly put her hands in the air.
“Stay on your knees, but turn around. Now, take that pistol from your belt butt first and slide it on the ground over toward the Blue Bulleteer. Okay, the same with the luger in your holster. Fine, hands clasped behind your head and don’t move a muscle.”
As Rita Farrar took Lady Luger into custody, the Blue Bulleteer continued freeing herself. Having managed to free her arms, she was working on her legs when she warned, “Rita, be careful, Panzer is around here someplace, as well.”
“You’re warning is too late, Amerikanen! Panzer is here, now!”
As Rita turned to face the giant German, she was met with a slap that sent her hurtling through the air and slamming into a wall. She slid to the floor, stars in her eyes. Sensing her opportunity, Lady Luger went for the gun that had been shot out of her hand. The Blue Bulleteer, having freed her arms but not her feet, leaned forward falling to the floor where she was able to grasp the .45 Rita had ordered Luger to slide her way. Just before Lady Luger reached the other weapon, she was able to fire and the bullet whizzing past the Nazi’s head caused Luger to abandon her effort.
Panzer kicked the gun out of the Blue Bulleteer’s hands before she could turn from her awkward position, but as Miss Victory again regained consciousness and Rio Rita managed to regain her wits the Teutonic terrors both realized that without either weapons or the element of surprise they were completely outclassed. Lady Luger darted out the storm cellar entrance as Panzer fled up the stairs.
Rio Rita, her senses returned, sprinted over to the Blue Bulleteer to help extract her from the final rope binding her to the wooden wheel as Miss Victory finally regained enough strength to sit up. A freed Laura and Rita helped Miss Victory to her feet as She-Cat finally arrived.
“Hey! What’s up with you three? I thought we were going to meet back at the base?”
The three ruffled heroines embarassedly dropped their eyes before Miss Victory attempted to change the subject by asking She-Cat if she had run into any problems at the house out in the country.
“Not a one. Nobody there. I ripped the place up pretty good, though. What happened here?”
The Blue Bulleteer tried the casual approach. “Oh, not much. We ran into Lady Luger and Panzer, but they got away.”
“The three of you let them get away?!?”
“We didn’t let them do anything, Jess!” Miss Victory looked at her compatriots, “We’ll get them the next time.”
The End

 

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Heroes and Friends by Femfan1

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“Can you back up and try again, I think you missed that pothole?” The bouncy jeep ride had made She-Cat even more irritable than usual and the company she was keeping didn’t help.
“You don’t like us much, do you?”
She-Cat eyed the Lieutenant and the driver. The reports of human rights abuses had been leaking out of this tiny Pacific Rim country for months as the government cracked down on rebel forces. If archaeological evidence hadn’t been discovered on this island showing that Sekhmet had once been worshipped here, she would never have made this trip. “How much further?”
“We’re here. You know, things aren’t always what you think.” The jeep turned a bend in the winding road and the foliage covering the trail disappeared as they entered a clearing full of ramshackle huts. The villagers warily eyed their vehicle as it moved towards the center of town. An old man approached as they stopped. Ignoring the soldiers, he smiled heartily at She-Cat. “Welcome, welcome, my name’s Gregorio, it’s so good of you to come! Please, come with me, I will show you to your accommodations.”
She-Cat looked towards the soldiers for confirmation that this was her intended greeting party. Their only response was to toss her bags out of the jeep. She had just enough time to hop out herself before the vehicle turned and sped away.
She-Cat turned and smiled at the old man who had already scooped up her bags. “Nice place you got here. Tell you what, I’ll carry my bags, you lead the way.”
“Certainly, Miss She-Cat. Did you have a comfortable trip?”
“You mean other than the busted spring in the seat goosing me every time we hit a bump?”
“Oh…I’m sorry. Well, if the bed isn’t to your liking, you let me know.”
The old man swung open a door to one of the huts and ushered She-Cat inside. She found herself in what appeared to be a kitchen, surrounded by a group of people engaged in a vigorous discussion. The room went silent as she entered.
“Come, come, Miss She-Cat. You’ll be staying back here.” The old man disappeared into another room. Nodding to the gape-jawed assembly, She-Cat followed the old man into a bedroom. An open makeup case covered the dressing table and pictures of the old man with several of the people in the kitchen decorated a makeshift bureau.
“Now, Miss She-Cat, the bed is very soft and…”
“Is this your room?”
“Yes.” The old man appeared crestfallen. “It’s not nice enough?”
“I can’t stay in your room!”
“B…but why not?” Suddenly, the man’s face brightened. “Oh, no! You misunderstand. You will have the room to yourself. The woman and I will sleep in another room.”
She-Cat laughed. “No, no, no. It’s your house, you should sleep in your room on your bed. I should sleep in another room.”
“Ohhh, but the bed in the other room is…”
“Is?”
The old man shrugged. “You’d be better off sleeping on the seat of that jeep.”
“I see. Well, I still insist that you keep your bed. Show me the other room, after all, it’s only for a night or two.”
The old man showed She-Cat into another room where she dropped her bags. A quick check of the bed confirmed that he was probably right about how well she would sleep. Still, he was opening up his home to her and it would be rude to complain. “Thank you! This will be fine.”
She followed the old man back into the kitchen. It had somehow become even more crowded. “So, when do I get to see the shrine to Sekhmet?”
The expressions on the faces of those in the room ranged from confusion to amusement. The old man cleared his throat and tried to speak. “Oh…uh…yes…well…here’s the thing…uh…Sekhmet…yes…”
“Father,” a tall dark haired man in his early 20’s cut the old man off. “Tell her!”
“I’m telling, Mateo, I’m telling. Yes, Miss She-Cat. See, the thing is, the Sekhmet thing, is not exactly true.”
“It’s not true at all, dad!”
“EXCUSE ME!”
“I apologize She-Cat. My father thought if he could just get you here, you would help. Nobody actually thought you would come. That’s why we were all so surprised when you first came in the room.”
“So, there’s no archaeological evidence that Sekhmet was worshipped here?”
“No.”
“That was just a lie to get me here?”
“Yes.”
“Please, Miss She-Cat! I know it was terrible to lie to you, but I had no choice. We need your help! What other choice did I have?”
“The truth would have been an option!”
“You wouldn’t have come. You couldn’t have come if you’d known the real reason!”
“Which is?”
“You have to protect us from Colonel Joe and his men!”
“Whuh? Who?”
“Colonel Joe is the leader of the ‘rebels.’ They’re really just a gang of criminals, drugs, guns, but they’ve got everybody fooled into thinking they’re leading some popular uprising. They’ve been moving from town to town, gradually increasing the area under their control by killing anybody who stands in their way. When the government tries to help, Colonel Joe massacres one of the villages under his control and then tells the western human rights organizations that the government did it. Now the government is scared to move against him because they don’t want to risk any more bad press.”
“No, son. The government doesn’t want any more massacres.”
“Either way, we’re next in line for takeover by Colonel Joe’s forces and that’ll mean the end of this town.”
“Please, Miss She-Cat. Help us!”
She-Cat couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The media had made it sound like the rebels were freedom fighters. Could all the human rights organizations and all of the media been so easily played for fools? Come to think of it… Still, the United States official policy was to stay out of this and as a member of a government sanctioned superteam she could hardly get involved. “I can’t. You’re right. If I’d known the real reason, I wouldn’t have even been able to come here.”
“But, we can pay. I’ve saved up some money, many of us have. We could pay you?”
“First you lie to me, and now you insult me! Since when did I become a mercenary? You’re going to pay me to fight your battles for you? I’m afraid I’m going to have to go!”
Tears were streaming down the old man’s face. “Yes, yes. I apologize. I’ll arrange for your transport back to the capital immediately.”
***
“Dusty, you’ve got Proxima! Rayda, don’t let DarkFire get away!”
“We’re on it!”
“I’ve got Valkyra. Synn, see what you can do about Gorgana!”
Any observer would have told the tale of an epic battle. Separated into its’ parts, the combatants were evenly matched. Ms. Victory pounded Valkyra through the side of a building and was herself slammed through a light pole. Stardust and Proxima continued the battle they have waged across galaxies, and Rayda used her powers as a human dynamo to short circuit DarkFire’s Menta Helmet illusions. Meanwhile, Synn and Gorgana conducted a mental duel, fighting each other with mental powers that seemed to have reality spinning like a hurricane. Yes, any observer would have recounted an amazing story if there had been any observers, but the scene wasn’t only spinning because of the combatants reality influencing abilities. It looked like a hurricane because it was a hurricane.
Even as the coast was being evacuated, Ms. Victory had convened a meeting of the available Femforce members and auxiliary members. Tara was on a book signing tour in the southern hemisphere, Nightveil’s whereabouts were unknown but presumably she was studying with Azagoth, and She-Cat had gone to investigate claims of ancient Sekhmet worship on a Pacific Rim island. The natural force of the hurricane was not of concern to the Femforce, the people had been evacuated and the team would help with repairs to any property damage after the storm was spent. However, Ms. Victory knew that the abandoned coastal towns would be unprotected against any criminals powerful enough to brave the 100 m.p.h. winds and flying debris.
Femforce v FearforceIn fact, even before the storm hit, reports indicated that the FearForce had robbed several banks and private museums. In a flash, the Femforce was moving to intercept the criminals and, so, the battle was on. Surprisingly, Rayda was having the easiest time handling the elements. Using her dynamo power to create a magnetic force field around herself, she didn’t have to worry about the flying debris, and the ever present water allowed for a great electrical conductor. DarkFire quickly realized that Rayda’s electrical discharges were interrupting the signal from her Menta Helmet thus rendering it virtually useless. Sensing that she was overmatched, she retreated to the bank vault while avoiding Rayda’s blasts.
Stardust’s stellar energy seemed less effective against the Rurian weaponry utilized by Proxima. Perhaps the conditions had dampened her power. Nevertheless, she managed to hold her own as both Rurians dodged flying automobiles and spear-like shards of glass. A similar stalemate had occurred in the battle between Gorgana and Synn. Synn’s constructs and Gorgana’s monsters took turns defeating one another as their creators constantly directed their attacks to the wrong location.
Ms. Victory’s battle with Valkyra was going surprisingly well for the heroine. Her years of crimefighting had made her less reliant on sheer power and more skilled in tactical combat. She repeatedly caught her opponent from behind and delivered crushing blows which sent Valkyra sailing through the air. Certainly, she wasn’t throwing a shutout and Valkyra had managed to score some hits of her own, but having been pounded many times, Ms. Victory was clearly the fresher of the two fighters as Valkyra began to show signs of weariness.
Ms Victory v Valkyra”Heads up, Valkyra!” Ms. Victory’s uppercut sent the villain shooting across the sky. Moving in to take advantage of the situation, Ms. Victory carefully approached the crumpled criminal. Valkyra struggled to get to her feet but as she was just about to stand a shadowy blur streaked past her. When she finally stood to face the heroine, Ms. Victory was gone. Her head clearing, Valkyra scanned the area for her foe, preparing for another sneak attack, when, to her delight, she saw a shocked Ms. Victory embedded in a brick wall by a large stake truck. The bed of the truck had slammed into the bricks at waist level and Ms. Victory’s arms were pinned against the wall leaving her unable to protect herself. Quick to take advantage of the fortunate turn of events, Valkyra ran full speed at the heroine and launched herself into the air landing a two-fisted piledriver blow to the helpless heroine’s chin. Ms. Victory’s head snapped back, slamming into the brick wall and bouncing off. The woozy heroine struggled to free her arms, but Valkyra continued her assault and pounded Ms. Victory with crushing rights and lefts to the chin until the heroine’s shoulders sagged and her strength faded. Reveling in her foe’s defeat, Valkyra rushed to the street corner and dislodged a stop sign that had been blown to the ground. Returning to the truck, she sprang onto the bed and stood before the defeated heroine.
Valkyra wins?”Ha, ha, ha. Finally, I have proven my superiority. Gaze up at the one who has vanquished you, American swine! Know that it is Valkyra who has claimed the final victory!”
With an effort Ms. Victory managed to raise her head. Her eyes went wide and her jaw dropped as she beheld Valkyra poised before her. The villain’s arms were raised above her head, both hands clutching the twisted metal sign pole, as she prepared to plunge the jagged edge through Ms. Victory’s chest.
“That’s right! Fear me, Ms. Victory! Fear the one who has stopped you forever!!!”
***
She-Cat leaned back in the rickety wooden chair and put her legs up on the rails of the weathered porch. She was in a foul mood. A long uncomfortable ride out here based on a lie, being treated like some gun-for-hire, being asked to get in the middle of a “civil” war on what everybody else in the world would consider to be the wrong side, and now, waiting, amidst all this disappointment, for a ride out of here. She sipped on a sweetly flavored tea and tried to be mad at somebody. The problem was, for some reason she couldn’t understand, the only person she was mad at was herself for not being able to help. Heck, she should be mad at the old man. He had lied to her. He had tricked her into coming here out of some illusion that she was some mercenary who would come to the rescue. Maybe that was the problem. He’d gone about it in the wrong way, but his reasons were valid. He had to lie for the chance that she would help, and isn’t helping people what she did?
The sound of a jeep moving down the street interrupted her thoughts. It stopped a short distance away and three men armed with automatic weapons jumped out. Their garb was not that of the local military. They exchanged glances in her direction, but ultimately they moved away towards the middle of the village where a large crowd had gathered. She-Cat could see Gregorio addressing them, but she couldn’t hear the conversation. Her curiosity piqued, she deliberately got to her feet and moved closer. As she approached their jeep, her keen hearing picked up enough of the dialogue to establish that these were some of Colonel Joe’s men and they had come to claim the village. She-Cat leaned against the side of the jeep wondering if she should intervene in some way. The old man was trying to convince the rebels that the village wasn’t important enough for them to control. Shaking her head at the futility of his argument, She-Cat glanced down at the spring protruding from the seat of the jeep. A closer inspection also revealed bullet holes in the seat covers and dried blood. Her head swimming she could hear the Lieutenant’s voice telling her that “things aren’t always what you think.” Now she was mad at somebody beside herself.
“Hey!” She moved into the street, the late afternoon sun at her back. “Where’d you get this jeep?”
The rebels turned to face her, squinting into the sun. One of them took a few steps in her direction. “What business is it of yours?”
In the blink of his sweat-soaked eye, she was on top of him like a blur, her razor sharp nails digging into the underside of his jaw. “I’m making it my business!”
From behind him, one of his buddies offered, “Hey, hey, it’s cool! Chill out! My uncle gave me the jeep last year as a present.”
“Yeah, h.hh..his uncle g..gave it to him!”
The unmitigated gall of the lie was offensive. Pushing the rebel back towards his friends, She-Cat said, “What’s your business here?”
The third rebel finally piped up. “We’re having a private conversation with some friends.”
“You have all your ‘private conversations’ in the middle of the street in the center of town? Get out of here now and I won’t rip your lying lungs out.”
Looking at each other in surprise, but unwilling to confront their strange adversary, the rebels began to move toward the jeep.
“Uh-uh-uh, the jeep stays here! I had a chance to get to know it personally this morning and we’ve gotten rather close.”
Scowling the three rebels reluctantly trudged off into the rainforest, setting off a great cheer from the crowd. The old man joyously ran up and hugged She-Cat, thanking her for saving the town. Everyone seemed to be celebrating. Everyone but She-Cat and Mateo. Gregorio’s son just looked at her and shook his head sadly. She knew she had just taken it on herself to save this town.
***
Tara smiles for the camerasTara smiled and tried not to blink as the thousandth flash bulb went off. Another fan’s request to have his picture taken with the Jungle Girl satisfied, she sat back down and continued to autograph copies of her book for the assembled throng. For a scholarly treatise on conservation it was getting quite the reception from the masses, although she suspected the overwhelming majority had less interest in saving the rainforest than in ogling the author. If every autograph and photo didn’t raise money for the cause, she never would have agreed to do this international book signing tour. The only benefit was that in her down time she’d been able to visit some beautiful countryside. After today’s signing in Sydney, Australia, she was going to get a short tour of part of the Outback before heading to Fiji for a signing tomorrow morning and then on to the Philippines.
She finished signing another copy of her book and, once again, graciously agreed to pose for another photograph. Another smile lit up the room and another charitable contribution was logged in the ledger. Exhausted, Tara turned to her friend, Janis Lawson. “Didn’t you say She-Cat was going to be checking out an archaeological site around here somewhere?”
“Yeah, well, up closer to the Philippines, I think.”
“Maybe tomorrow after Fiji, we can drop in and surprise her?”
“Ehh, I’ve got a lot of stuff to do in the Philippines before the event there. You should go, though, she’d appreciate it if you stopped to see her.”
“Stuff to do. Yeah, right. You just think Cat doesn’t like you.”
“She doesn’t. She can be so mean sometimes!”
“I keep telling you, don’t pay attention to what she says, pay attention to what she does.”
“That’s easy for you to say, she’s nice to you.”
Laughing, Tara watched another flash of light go off in her face. “No, she’s not!”
***
She-Cat couldn’t tell if Gregorio lived in a house or a social club. It seemed the whole village was in his kitchen jabbering excitedly about how Colonel Joe’s men had been driven away. She had avoided involvement in the discussion by heading straight for the theoretical privacy of her room where she sat ponderously on perhaps the most uncomfortable bed in modern creation. The unknowing joy in the kitchen was so palpable that it was making her sick to her stomach. The people had no idea that her irresponsible actions had sealed their fate.
In another small room, She-Cat could hear Mateo speaking with one of the young ladies in the village. He was upset and she was urging him to “go in and talk to her, then!” She-Cat wasn’t sure what to think about Mateo. It was clear that he hadn’t supported his father’s idea to bring in help, but he seemed to revere the old man and she got the sense that Mateo was being torn apart by this situation. She wondered if he wasn’t a rebel sympathizer. His dismay when she drove the advance party away had been evident. Of course, he may have known what she knew, that it wasn’t the end but the beginning of the end. Still, she sensed that he resented what she’d done.
She wasn’t surprised when there was a knock on the wall outside the room and Mateo appeared in the doorway. “Can I please speak to you? I’ve been talking to my friend, May, and I think today, what you did, was a big mistake!”
“Come on in, Mateo. Take a load off.”
“That bed is…very uncomfortable, even to sit on. I think I’ll stand, if you don’t mind.”
“It’s your house. So, you came in here to tell me off for getting involved?”
“It was very foolish. Colonel Joe will be very mad and he will come with a lot of men and they will kill everybody who is a ‘problem,’ like my father!”
“I know. I’m sorry. I’ll have to figure out a way to stop that from happening.”
“You’re one person, even if you are some big-time American superhero. You can’t stop bullets. Even if you can save yourself now, you can’t save us. Even if you held him off for a week or a month, eventually you’d have to leave and the Colonel would get us.”
“It seems I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, huh? If I had turned a blind eye this afternoon, what would that have said about the kind of things this Colonel Joe has done? What would it have said about liberty? You’re right, though, if it’s just me it won’t be enough to stop him.”
She-Cat stood and walked into the kitchen where the celebration remained lively. Her appearance brought a hush and then a crescendo of applause which died out in response to the serious expression on her face. “You shouldn’t be celebrating, you should be preparing for war. Colonel Joe will be back, tomorrow, and he’ll have an army with him. I’m not going to be enough to make him forget about this village forever. In fact, what I did today is going to guarantee that he shows up tomorrow determined to make the destruction of this village a lesson for every other village he hasn’t yet conquered. No, I’m not going to be enough because I can’t beat an army alone, because I can’t stop the men on the left from shooting all of you while I’m fighting the men on the right. The only way for this village to escape subjugation by Colonel Joe is for this village to fight for itself. I’ll help you. I’ll do what I can. You have to fight him off, you have to make it not worth his while to control this village, you have to fight for your own liberty. That means some of you will die. That means I may die. He’ll be here tomorrow. I guarantee it. I’ll stand at the front to take him on, but if you don’t stand up for yourselves, he’ll slaughter us all.
***
Valkyra’s eyes blazed as she prepared to plunge the proverbial stake through her enemy’s heart. Her scream of triumph was accompanied by simultaneous thunder and lightning signalling the end. A helpless Ms. Victory could only close her eyes and wait for the twisted steel to penetrate her breast. The mental anguish of the final moment seemed to last an eternity. Seconds passed and Ms. Victory could still feel her chest heaving with the intake of each breath. Finally, unable to bear it any longer she opened her eyes to see an unconscious Valkyra prone on the bed of the truck before her. Ms. Victory blinked disbelievingly, before nervously chuckling in relief. Just as the storm had given Valkyra an assist earlier, it had now delivered Ms. Victory from evil. The lightning strike had been drawn to the metal stop sign and the force of the electrical surge running from the pole through Valkyra’s body had knocked her cold. Ms. Victory could see her foe was still alive, but she was out like a light. Letting out a deep breath of relief, Ms. Victory summoned her strength and managed to dislodge the truck enough to free her arms. Once her arms were free, it was a simple matter to push the bed clear of her body so that she could extract herself from the brick wall and take Valkyra into custody.
With Valkyra out of the way, Ms. Victory could assist the rest of the team in dispatching their opponents. Proxima had managed to herd Stardust into a confined space and she had Dusty in her sights when Ms. Victory swooped in from behind to snatch the former Rurian general’s weapons from her hands. Taking advantage of Proxima’s surprise at Ms. Victory’s appearance, Stardust caught her with a stellar blast that left the warrior unconscious.
Rayda appeared at the entrance of the bank with Menta Helmet in hand and DarkFire in tow. The spy had decided that given the conditions, the best course of action would be unconditional surrender. After all, she who lives, lives to fight another day, and running around in the middle of a hurricane wasn’t everything her compatriots had said it would be.
Upon seeing her accomplices captured, Gorgana slipped away, leaving Synn’s constructs to finish up their battle against Gorgana’s monsters. In short time, the captured villainesses were again incarcerated in their specially constructed cells and the Femforce had returned to headquarters.
“We were very lucky to get out of this encounter without any casualties and with only Gorgana escaping.”
“Oh, come on Ms. Victory, I thought we handled ourselves pretty well. I mean, I don’t know about the rest of you but DarkFire gave in to me pretty fast.”
“Well, I was having difficulty with Proxima but Ms. Victory handled Valkyra so easily that she was able to come to my aid.”
“Yeah, every time I caught a glimpse of your battle with Valkyra while I was playing with Gorgana, you were wiping the floor with her. Valkyra never had a chance!”
A faint smile crossing her lips, Ms. Victory looked down and contemplated the unmarked skin on her chest. “Yeah, she never had a chance.”
***
Dawn’s breath was slowly lifting from the ground as the late morning sun warmed what was left of the cool night air. Through the haze, faceless numbers appeared at a treeline forming a wraithlike battalion. A mass of at least 100 men marched resolutely toward the village where the emboldened villagers waited behind their champion to receive them. The cobbled together citizens’ militia had armed themselves with whatever weapons they could find. Old pistols, knives, bows, and arrows, abounded. An audible murmur of despair could be heard when their enemy drew close enough for the rebels’ superior firepower to become evident. She-Cat could hear the whispers behind her suggesting that, perhaps, it was not too late to seek the rebels’ mercy. Her chest tightened. No matter how many times she’d taken on impossible odds, she always felt the pull of her mortality. A little fear to get the adrenalin going. She watched the rebels move inexorably toward the village, their rifles by their sides. Certainly, this was how they had cowed recalcitrant villagers in the past. The show of superior force was more than enough, why waste the bullets when surrender could be achieved without a shot and dissidents handled after total control had been established? The rebel force stopped 10 yards in front of her and the first line raised their rifles and trained them on the village. A man at the back of the troop stepped onto a tree stump and raised himself above the crowd.
“Hello, American hero! I’ve admired you for years! The savage She-Cat! I really don’t want to kill you, but if you insist on standing in my way, I’m afraid that I may have little choice. Why don’t you go home to the United States and stay out of this business which is really none of your concern?”
She-Cat stood her ground, eyeing the rebel leader intently. He was right, of course. She’d gotten involved in something that she wished she hadn’t, but under the circumstances she didn’t see that she had a choice. The village had asked for a hero to help them. They’d asked for her to help them, and the politics of this island nation aside, she knew that helping these villagers save themselves and their village was the right thing to do. She knew she was fighting on the side of right just as surely as she knew that this battle was unwinnable. She couldn’t stop automatic weapon fire from killing these villagers, and, eventually, herself. She couldn’t save this village, but she had to try. So her eyes hardened, and her jaw clenched, and with a look she signalled her answer.
“So, it’s a ‘no’ is it? Why do you protect these people? They have no honor. They’ve already forsaken you and melted into the shadows of their homes. Would you really stand alone against an army for the likes of them?!?”
She-Cat didn’t even have to turn around to verify that she was standing alone. She could feel her isolation. Only Gregorio moving closer to her provided any support. The rest of the citizens’ militia was gone, their instinct for self-preservation having overcome their desire for continued freedom. She felt the old man’s trembling hand at her side.
“Ms. She-Cat, it was wrong of me to draw you into this. This is not your village. It is not your problem. It is not your fight. He will let you leave if you go now. It would be best for you if you left.”
She-Cat moved her hand to his shoulder while never taking her eyes off the rebels. “He’d let me leave, you’re right, but he’d kill you before I was out of sight.”
“I’m a foolish old man, perhaps…”
“I can’t allow it, move behind me.” “Colonel, if I allow the slaughter of this village then I’m also complicit in the slaughter of the next. You know, I can’t do that.”
“Bah! Foolish woman! You can’t stop me! It’s not bravery but stupidity to die for no reason!”
“Maybe, but do you really want to kill an American hero? You won’t be able to pawn off my death on the government. It wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of a real investigation and there would be repercussions. The whole world would find out about your deception. The individuals and organizations who’ve been duped by your ‘freedom fighter’ act would disappear into the night and an international force would come in and hunt you down!”
The color drained from the Colonel’s face, to be replaced by a glimpse of anger, and, finally, a smirk. “Yes, you have a point. So, we are at an impasse. I cannot kill you, but you are still one against many. I don’t have to kill you to take this village, just capture you. Men! Don’t kill her, if she dies I’ll shoot the persons responsible, but I want her subdued and brought to me! Now!!!”
“You won’t need them to bring me to you, I’ll be with you in a second!!!”
With lightning quickness She-Cat bounded forward and leaped into the massed rebels. Taken aback by the speed and ferocity of her attack, they could scarcely react as they fell by the twos and fours from a variety of slashes, punches, and kicks.
Leaping airborne she moved across the tops of their heads, knocking two rebels out by smashing their heads together as she lashed out with both legs to kick two others in the face and send them reeling backwards.
Landing on the ground in a crouch, she executed a forward roll ending with a boot to the groin and a straight right to the nose of the now doubled over soldier.
Flipping backwards to her feet, she delivered a reverse chop to the neck of one rebel and a straight kick to the gut of another.
The Colonel watched astounded as he saw his troops being mowed down by nothing less than a tidal wave. Soldiers unaccustomed to fighting an enemy without pulling a trigger receded before her. Stepping down from his perch, he moved away from his position, avoiding the current ripping through his men.
The battle raged for almost an hour as a seemingly inexhaustible She-Cat fought through an army trying to get to their elusive leader. Soldiers discarded in the first few minutes recovered only to be victimized again and again as she pressed her assault.
She-Cat fights Colonel Joe’s men
The fight continues!
Vaulting off a rebel shoulder, she scissor-kicked a pair of his friends into unconsciousness before kidney-punching him to his knees.
Using his back to launch herself into the air, she spotted the Colonel’s new position even as she wrapped her legs around the neck of another soldier and twisted him to the ground.
Moving into a crouch, she bulled forward between a new opponent’s legs and flipped him over her shoulders as she stood up just in time for her eyes to focus on a hammy fist about to smash into her face. The punch sent her reeling and she tripped over the moaning body of the soldier she had backflipped to land, blinking the cobwebs away, on her butt.
It was really the first substantial blow she had taken, but combined with the energy she had expended it was enough to turn the tide as a dozen men leapt on her to hold her down while they wildly delivered whatever blows they could. Soon she was surrounded by bruised and bleeding rebels seeking to exact some measure of revenge for their injuries even as she lashed out to deliver more punishment.
Too many blows delivered by too many attackers began to have their effect. There were just too many people to overcome and now the pain began to dominate her senses as boots and rifle butts and fists crashed into bones. The ceaseless barrage rained down upon her until all she could do was curl up and try to protect the most vital areas of her body. Finally, when she could barely see through the pain, the Colonel ordered his men to stop.
The tide turns
An ultimatum Walking up to the fallen heroine, the Colonel watched as she shakily tried to maneuver herself onto her knees. He lashed out with a kick to her jaw which sent her sprawling onto her back.
“That was a most impressive battle She-Cat. In fact, you’ve managed to decimate my force so completely that I’m not going to be able to take this village today. You have no idea how angry that makes me!”
She-Cat again tried to get to her knees, only to be driven back down onto her side by a boot to an already damaged rib. A short intake of breath through clenched teeth signalled the pain. With a toe under her collar, the Colonel rolled her over onto her back. “Grab the old man that stood with her!”
With a single step, the Colonel placed his boot squarely onto the fallen heroine’s chest and leaned over her, shifting his weight onto her body and digging his heel into her skin. Staring down at the semi-conscious She-Cat, his lips curled into an evil smile. “We’re taking the old man with us. We’ll be back tomorrow. If you’re still here, you’ll watch him die!”
His message delivered, the rebels melted back into the forest, leaving the defeated She-Cat laying spread eagle on the empty field of battle to sink into unconsciousness with the Colonel’s ultimatum ringing in her ears.

chapter two
THAT CUNNING ENEMY
Nightveil on Dark DhagorStumbling across the inhospitable terrain of Dhagor, the terrorized figure sought refuge behind a rocky outcropping. Her raven hair matted with sweat and dirt and her cyan clothing in tatters, she furtively peered around the volcanic formation seeking some sign of her pursuer. Relieved to have gained a respite, she sank back against the stone and attempted to catch her breath.
An involuntary shudder ran through Nightveil’s body. She had been summoned to Dhagor by her mentor, Azagoth, but no sign of his presence was evident on the desolate plane. Instead, she had been greeted by a dark figure who had wordlessly engaged her in mystic battle. The Sorceress, well-schooled in the dark arts, had easily been able to protect herself from the wizardry which she initially faced and soon she was able to counterattack. In stunning succession, she used a wide array of her powers to hurl bolts of occult energy at her attacker while mentally probing for some clue as to his intentions.
However, the shadowy presence was clearly a powerful sorcerer himself, for he obliterated the energy bolts with a wave of the sceptre he held in his hand and easily repelled her mental advance. Calling out a spell of enchantment, Nightveil attempted to encircle him in a magical net, but again he shattered the energy bands with a mere wave of his staff. Clearly amused by her efforts, he sent a wave of energy toward the mystic maiden which forced her back against a canyon wall. Surprised that her protection spell had been less than effective, Nightveil doubled her defense shields just as the mystic wave broke over her. Shrugging off the pounding, she created a quagmire at the feet of the mage, but with a touch of his staff he again stood on solid ground.
Consternation was evident in the face of the Sorceress Supreme as she eyed her opponent. He was garbed in loose fitting cloth, dark as pitch, which covered him from head to toe. Upon closer inspection, the folds of his clothing revealed all manner of amulets and mystic charms, several of which seemed familiar to the pupil of Azagoth.
“Sorcerer, identify yourself!”
“Is it not clear, witch? Can you not see?!?” His rumbling voice cascaded around her as he strode confidently forward.
Boxed in, Nightveil sought some clue to his identity in his face. His features were obscured by the shadows from his hood. She could only make out his eyes, which appeared to be orbs of fire surrounded by rings of lightning. Her gaze turned again to the amulets. The necklace looked much like the charm worn by the sorcerer, T’uva Ra, and she had once seen a ring like that on the finger of a witch named Saaviena. Nightveil’s blood ran cold as she pieced together the mystery.
“Ahh, I see a measure of understanding has breached your peanut of a brain. Yes, witch, I am a predator and, at present, you are my prey!”
The witch hunter conjured a giant fly swatter and brought it crashing down on the stunned sorceress. Her protective spell spared her from injury but she was bashed about nonetheless. Striking back weakly, Nightveil engineered a lightning strike from behind, but the electrical impulse was attracted to the metal sceptre and did no bodily injury. Indeed, the dark mage seemed energized by every attack even as Nightveil felt her power weakening. He laughed when she cast a spell to turn him into stone, and soaked in the occult energy before continuing his advance. As he approached, he eliminated every route of escape until he stood glaring down at her.
Nightveil v Rehtam”You don’t have much left, do you, Sorceress Supreme?” The sarcasm in his use of the appellation dripped off his tongue as he brought his staff crashing down onto her shoulder. In an instant, her protection spell had disintegrated and she was driven down onto her knees. Whirling the staff as a weapon, he twirled it around and brought the head of the sceptre up into her chin. The force of the blow lifted her back up onto her feet for the instant it took him to bring the staff of the sceptre crashing into her midsection. Doubling over, she crumpled to her knees gasping for breath. Nightveil felt icy fingers grasp her by the hair and pull her up off the ground until she was suspended in the air. A gloved hand grabbed her by the neck and slammed her back into the canyon wall. “Any last words?”
A velvet fist punched the Sorcerer in the throat causing him to release his hold, and, as she dropped to the ground, a lavender pump kicked him in the shin resulting in a howl of pain and curses. Memories of her career battling thugs as the crimefighting Blue Bulleteer flitted across her thoughts, but it would take more than fisticuffs to defeat this powerful enemy. Nightveil darted past her assailant and attempted to mystically transport herself back to her Sanctum Sanctorom in the Florida Everglades. To her shock, her power fizzled and her journey took her only to the far side of Dhagor. Again she tried to leave the mystic plane, and again she was unsuccessful. Bereft of sorcery, Nightveil had no recourse but to travel by foot in an effort to elude the hunter who, no doubt, was in pursuit.
She fled across the landscape until she finally found respite behind a volcanic formation. As she leaned back against the stone and attempted to catch her breath, an involuntary shudder ran through her body. Her mystical powers exhausted, she would stand no chance if the witch hunter should find her. He would not again overconfidently allow her the option of a physical assault. Where was Azagoth? Could he have already been defeated? Nightveil put the thought out of her mind. If Azagoth had been defeated then she stood no chance of survival. She strained to think of some course of action which would enable her to defeat the dark mage, but without her magical powers the task would be difficult, if not impossible. Of course, she sardonically noted, she hadn’t been all that successful with her powers.
Nightveil captured
The Sorceress felt something slither across her stomach. Looking down she was shocked to see a rocky tendril snaking from the formation behind her and binding her at the waist. Two stone hands appeared out of the rock and grabbed her around the arms. Her body was pulled tight against the weathered juggernaut while another stony tendril grabbed her around her neck and immobilized her head. Finally, two more hands grew from the rock and seized her ankles. The Dark Sorcerer materialized before her.
“It wasn’t very nice of you to kick me in my shin, witch!”
Trying to quell her growing fear, the Mystic Maiden demonstrated cool arrogance. “Next time, I’ll aim higher.”
Nightveil watched the Mage’s sceptre reach out and touch her on the forehead. Immediately, her thoughts were engulfed in a sea of turbulence and her body convulsed as though it were being torn apart from the inside. Quivering lips cried out for Azagoth as her mind went blank and she sank into unconsciousness.
***
“How long have you been sitting there?”
“Not long.”
“I thought you were jet-setting it in Australia.”
“Australia was yesterday. Fiji was this morning. Thought you might be bored out here in the middle of nowhere so I decided to make a little side trip. I’m glad to see you’re enjoying your little vacation.”
“Ha ha. Very funny. When did you start cracking wise?”
“I’ve been taking notes.”
“Yeah? Well, stop. It doesn’t suit you.” She-Cat shifted her position on the bed. “So, how much do you know?”
“The way I heard it from most of the villagers, you showed up out here unbidden and, against their wishes, decided to attack the great liberating force of Colonel somebody. He left you beaten, unconscious in a field, and as punishment for your actions took one of the village elders.”
“Oh. Is that what happened?”
“That’s what they said. They also said they would have left you out there, but apparently the old man’s wife got her son to bring you back here to recover from your injuries.”
“Ha…owww! Darn rib! Yeah, Mateo probably figured I was too comfortable out there laying on the ground and that I’d suffer a lot more in this bed.”
“Yeah, Mateo’s not real happy with you. He did provide a slightly more plausible account of what happened, though. He said his father tricked you into coming here to stop some evil men from destroying the village and that instead of walking away from a fool’s errand you managed to make the situation worse. Frankly, it has a ring of truth to it which makes me believe him.”
An agitated She-Cat glared at Tara. “You have no idea. Don’t come in here and tell me I screwed up. I know I screwed up! I just don’t know how I could’ve done anything differently without something else bad happening. You know, sometimes things don’t get handed to you on a silver platter!”
“Cat, don’t get mad at me cause you got your butt kicked. I won’t be your personal whipping girl because you’re mad at yourself!”
A knock interrupted the brewing argument. It was Mateo’s girlfriend, May. “Excuse me, Ms. Fremont? What are you planning on doing about Mateo’s father?”
The Jungle Girl and She-Cat stared at each other in stony silence. Finally, Tara offered, “We’ll put our heads together and come up with something. Don’t worry.”
After May had left, She-Cat muttered, “See? That’s how it starts, and the next thing you know, bam, you’re fighting 100 people all by yourself.”
“I’m not fighting anybody. This country’s civil war is none of my business.”
“Mm-hmm. Alright, Too Tall, let me tell you a story.”
For the next few minutes, She-Cat recounted the previous day’s events for the Jungle Girl. When she was finished she waited for Tara’s response.
“Sounds like you were between a rock and a hard place.”
“I still am. I can’t walk away and let the village fall to Colonel Joe’s tyranny, but I don’t want Gregorio’s blood on my hands.”
“Mmm-hmm. Well, we have until noon tomorrow to come up with a plan. Maybe a good night’s rest will make everything clear in the morning.”
“Maybe, but sleep isn’t going to come easy. By the way, where are you bunking?”
Tara came over and pressed her hands into the mattress. “Well, I was thinking maybe you’d give up the other half of this bed to a friend in need, but, on second thought, I think I’d be more comfortable finding a nice soft patch of grass on the ground outside.”
She-Cat smiled knowingly, and as Tara made her way out of the room called after her. “Just like a pampered rich kid! You just have to sleep in the lap of luxury!”
Tara laughingly shot back, “What can I say, I’m spoiled.”
As she disappeared through the doorway, the Jungle Girl barely heard She-Cat say, “Glad you decided to stop by, friend.” Tara knew better than to acknowledge the sentiment.
***
“Wow! It’s so bright and sunny, it’s hard to believe a hurricane just passed through here.”
Stardust surveyed the billions of dollars of property damage evident as far as the eye could see. “Umm, Synn? Are you going to help with cleanup or not?”
Synn smiled merrily and turned again to help Stardust repair structural damage to local buildings. Rayda was working to safely restore electrical power, while Ms. Victory did most of the heavy lifting, clearing up the tons of debris strewn across the landscape. It was not overturned vehicles, however, but Gorgana’s escape which weighed heavily on the Femforce leader’s mind. The ghoul had caused the team a lot of trouble over the years and the thought of her on the loose was not a pleasant one. Moreover, as usual, Nightveil could not be contacted which meant that Ms. Victory couldn’t even warn the Sorceress to be on the lookout for her sworn enemy nor could she count on Nightveil’s superior magic to capture Gorgana.
Synn, Stardust and Ms Victory aid in the clean upAs she righted a pickup truck and pulled it away from the shattered storefront through which it had been propelled, Ms. Victory watched Synn make wacky faces in an attempt to get Stardust to laugh. The Rurian scientist obliged her immature companion by cracking a smile before again coaxing Synn back to work. Synn’s synestrophic powers had proven very effective in battling Gorgana. Ms. Victory concluded that, in Nightveil’s absence, Synn would be the key to capturing the ghoul. If Synn could keep Gorgana mentally occupied, then the ghoul would be less able to protect herself from being knocked unconscious by an undetected physical assault. Ms. Victory could only hope that Gorgana didn’t do too much damage before the plan could be put into action. The approach of a police officer interrupted the red, white, and blue clad heroine’s thoughts.
“Excuse me, Ms. Victory? There’s a priority call for you from a General Strock?”
“Thank you, officer.” Ms. Victory had barely raised the receiver to her ear when she heard the General’s voice on the other end of the line.
“Ms. Victory, we’ve got a problem. I need all of you to report back to Femforce Headquarters immediately.”
“What’s going on?”
“That means now!”
Roberta’s curtness with her, which was highly unusual, clarified the urgency of the situation. Ms. Victory dutifully rounded up her crew and they sped back to headquarters. General Strock met them in the conference room.
“Ladies, less than an hour ago, we received an emergency transmission from Colt. There was a lot of static and it was mostly inaudible. We digitized it and took out all the static. Here’s what’s left. Listen carefully!”
“(begin transmission)….found……….warehouse by…pier. Looks like he’s waiting for someone…try to get closer…..Where’d she come from?!? I think I may have been sp……..Try to hide…No…(gunshot)…Ungh!…No! NOOOO! (end of transmission).”
***
The sun had travelled halfway in its’ arc across the daylight sky when Colonel Joe’s men moved across the field where only yesterday they had been engaged in a singular battle. As they approached the village, She-Cat strode out to meet them. The opposing forces again confronted each other.
She-Cat stood alone. Her feet shoulder-width apart. Her arms by her sides. Her fists clenched. From the safety of his rear guard, Colonel Joe ordered his men to bring him the old man.
“I warned you what would happen if you were still here, woman. His blood is on your hands!”
“We’re going to stop that from happening.”
“We?!? You and who? The same villagers who abandoned you yesterday? The only person who stood with you is about to die!”
Tara plucks Gregorio from Colonel JoeDropping down noiselessly from high in the trees, the Jungle Girl moved out into the field behind the Colonel’s unprotected rear flank. Having drawn as close as she could without being detected, she grew to a height of fifty feet tall. She-Cat motioned with her head for the Colonel to look behind him.
Turning to face a leg the size of a tree trunk, the Colonel craned his neck upward. Tara leaned over and snatched Gregorio from his grasp. Sweat streaming down his forehead, the Colonel stumbled backwards away from the Giantess.
“My friend, She-Cat, thinks we should destroy your ‘army’ and take you in chains to government officials. I’m willing to go along with that, but then you might try to create the perception that agents of the United States crushed your movement for ‘freedom.’ In the end, wiping you out might put our government on the wrong end of a public relations nightmare. So, we’ve decided not to interfere in what our government officially considers to be your nation’s civil war. Instead, we’re going to notify human rights organizations to send unbiased observers to monitor this village. I’m a big contributor, so I’m sure if you do anything out of line, the world will find out the real truth about your movement. Until observers get here, She-Cat and I are going to stick around. If anything happens to these villagers, you’ll personally answer to us. Got that?”
Having recovered his composure, Colonel Joe steamed at the unexpected turn of events. His contact in the village had not warned him of the arrival of another heroine. What was it about this village that heroes from half a world away were seemingly rushing to its defense. Still, he was not easily deterred and he knew that if he allowed himself to be turned away from taking this village he would lose the confidence of his men and fuel future displays of intransigence in other villages. Through gritted teeth, he assented to Tara’s question even as he plotted a way out of this debacle.
“Good! Then you and your men can leave. Now!”
Glaring back at the Giantess, Colonel Joe gathered his men and marched them away into the bush. She-Cat looked at Tara with a raised eyebrow. “I still think we should have kept him prisoner until the observers showed up!”
“How do you think it would look if we took the leader of another nation’s freedom fighters captive?”
“Yeah, but you don’t really think he’s gone for good, do you? Now he’s free to attack us on his terms!”
“If we can protect the village for another day, two at the most, that should be enough time for independent observers to show up. Once the organizations who’ve mistakenly given him international support are on the scene, he won’t be able to risk losing that support by wiping out the villagers.”
“That just means if he wants this village, he’s got to come after the two of us, hard and fast.”
“Yeah, the two of us against an army. I wish we could call in the team for help, but we’re not even supposed to be involved in this ourselves.”
She-Cat nudged Tara in the ribs. “You know, Too Tall, this would almost be a fair fight…if he had more men.”
***
A defeated NightveilThe Dark Mage strode to the very center of Dhagor, adorned with the cloak of darkness. Nightveil, the cloak’s owner, was folded neatly across his shoulder. The former Sorceress Supreme hung limply, her arms and legs dangling loosely with each stride. Having reached his destination, the witch hunter grabbed her wrists in one hand and slung her around to hold her up triumphantly as a sign of his victory.
“Azagoth, it’s time to come out and play!”
He received no response, save a chill wind whistling across the plain.
“Can’t you see I have your pupil, Azagoth? Is this not enough to shame your cowardly soul into facing me?”
Flinging the defeated sorceress to the ground, he strode around her body. “You can have her back if you defeat me Azagoth. I’ve taken her power, but if you face me I may spare her life.”
Like a whisper echoing through cavernous hallways, Nightveil felt the presence searching through her mind. Azagoth explored his unconscious pupil’s memories for some hint of a way to defeat the powerful force which was calling him to battle. The being, known as Rehtam Nottoc, had grown substantially in power since the last time Azagoth had been aware of his presence. Eons ago, his crusade against sorcery had posed no threat. However, Rehtam Nottoc had recently obtained the Sceptre of Valoo which drained the power of a sorcerous attack. He had used the sceptre to defeat an increasing number of mages and, with each victory, Rehtam Nottoc’s power grew. Azagoth had summoned Nightveil to Dhagor to warn her about the power of the Sceptre of Valoo, but Rehtam Nottoc had arrived on the plane before his pupil. Unable to engage the witch hunter in mystical battle, Azagoth had been forced to secret himself and hope that Nightveil was able to discover a weakness which could be exploited. Obviously, as he leafed through the jumbled file cabinet of her brain, she had been largely unsuccessful. Azagoth could discern no chink in Rehtam Nottoc’s armor against magical attack.
In her unconscious state, Nightveil heard Azagoth speaking to her. “My pupil, I have repaired the disorder in your mind and imparted to you all that I know about Rehtam Nottoc and the Sceptre of Valoo. I have also given you enough mystical power to protect yourself for a short time. Soon you will regain consciousness. You must flee this plane. It is the only hope for both of us.”
Growing impatient with Azagoth’s lack of response, Rehtam Nottoc scowled as he walked over to the fallen sorceress. Pulling her onto her knees by the back of her top, he reached into the folds of his clothing and extracted a vial of puce-colored liquid which he opened and tipped towards her parted lips. “Azagoth, you know the effect this will have on her. Do you wish it upon her to wander limbo as one of the mindless living dead for the rest of her existence?!?”
“Enough!!!”
Rehtam Nottoc let the unconscious heroine fall back into the dirt and replaced the vial in his clothing. “It’s about time! I was beginning to think you had no affection for your pupil.”
“She has served her purpose and identified your weakness, now I will exploit my advantage!”
“Ha! Your words betray themselves as mere bluster. She identified no weakness. She fell as easily as all the others. The best she could manage was to whimper for your help before I drained her of her power. If she had found a weakness would she be laying defeated in the di…eh?”
Nightveil escapesTo his surprise, Nightveil had regained consciousness and managed to crawl to her feet. Azagoth opened a dimensional hole. “Go, child!”
“No! She will not escape me!!!”
As Nightveil dove through the mystical hole, Rehtam Nottoc reached out a dark arm which extended out to stop her flight. Nightveil felt his hand snare her foot, but she twisted out of his grasp and left him clutching only her lavender pump as she hurtled through the void. Azagoth closed the dimensional hole behind her just as she heard Rehtam Nottoc scream, “Just for that, Wizard, I will bring her back and leave her lifeless corpse at your feet as a reminder to you in your last few moments of the consequences of your cowardice in refusing to face me!”
***
Tara moved through the jungle foliage effortlessly. Mateo had disappeared shortly after the day’s excitement and it was becoming increasingly clear to the heroines that he was a rebel sympathizer. Love being blind, however, May had slipped off to find him and now Tara followed the girl’s trail and hoped that she could reach her before May came to harm. In only 20 minutes, Tara emerged from the trees and jogged into a clearing near the river bank. She was immediately greeted by the sound of voices which had previously been obscured by the dense bush. It was Colonel Joe and a handful of his men, and they had May! The Jungle Girl stopped and sought to melt back into the treeline, but shouts from the rebels established that she had already been detected. Standing at the edge of the clearing, she started to assess the situation when Colonel Joe called out to her.
“Jungle Girl! What brings you to our neck of the woods?”
“I came to check on May. It looks like it’s a good thing that I did. You’ll let her go if you know what’s good for you!”
Tara heard movement in the jungle behind her. Most likely more rebels had circled around for a sneak attack. That would explain Colonel Joe’s cavalier attitude toward her presence. She gave no hint that she had heard their footfall. She had to get closer to the Colonel if she was going to be able to help May, but the rebels were well-armed and even if she escaped their bullets in a frontal attack there was no guarantee that May would be alive when she made it to the riverbank. She sensed three sets of footsteps approaching cautiously from behind and allowed a smile to play across her face. Raising her arms and then locking her fingers behind her head, she turned and acknowledged the three rifles trained on her.
Colonel Joe could scarcely conceal his glee. “I think now, Jungle Girl, that you will come quietly if you know ‘what’s good for you.’”
Tara dejectedly moved across the clearing, prodded by the gun barrels poking her in the back. As she got about 10 steps away she began to use her growing power. The optical illusion that she was just getting closer would buy her some time with Colonel Joe and the men surrounding him, but the three at her back knew immediately what was happening. With lightning quickness, Tara employed her fighting skills to send all three flying with a roundhouse kick. As she continued to grow, it only took her another step to reach Colonel Joe. The Colonel forlornly stared up at the giantess towering above him.
“Heh, heh. Y…You wanted …the girl?”
A terrified May raced over and wrapped her arms around Tara’s shins. The giant Jungle Girl looked at the rebels below.
“Now, what am I going to do with you?”
Colonel Joe responded quizzically, “Why should you do anything to us? It was never our intention to harm the girl.”
Tara felt a stabbing pain in the side of her leg and looked at May in time to see the girl finish plunging a large syringe full of liquid into the giant woman’s calf.
“You’re far too trusting, Jungle Girl. That sedative can stop an elephant, it should at least be able to slow you down. Get her men!
The rebels by Colonel Joe’s side rushed the giantess and grabbed hold of her legs. Tara easily shook them off as her size gave her an advantage in strength and leverage, but they were joined by a score of men racing out from the jungle with nets and ropes. Casting the nets over her feet, and encircling her legs in rope, they held on for dear life as Tara’s might was still too great to control. Moving carefully, so as not to trip herself up, Tara reached down to remove the netting, but one of the rebels launched himself at the back of her knee causing her leg to buckle. The Jungle Girl crashed to the ground, catching herself with her hand, and before she could recover a handful of rebels grabbed her by the wrist and forearm while others scrambled atop her legs trying to hold them down. With her free hand, she started picking rebels off her other arm, but her position on her hands and knees had made it easier for the rebels to scale her body and now two of the men had managed to reach her head and they were hanging from her hair and ears trying to pull her body down to the ground. To make matters worse, the tranquilizer was kicking in and Tara felt sluggish. A wave of dizziness washed over her and she put her free hand down to get her equilibrium. She realized the mistake immediately, as another handful of men quickly took advantage of the opportunity to grab her by that arm, as well.
The advantage of Tara’s size having been taken away by the tactical victory of bringing her to her knees, the rebels began to tug outward on her arms hoping to get her all the way down to the ground, but the giantess managed to maneuver herself closer to the riverbank and the rebels found difficult footing in the muck and mud. The score of men on her legs, however, had good leverage and were soon able to pull the weakened Jungle Girl’s knees out from under her. This position made it much more difficult for the giantess to counter the rebels efforts to subdue her. The mire of the riverbank, which had previously been to her advantage, now worked against her. She could get no handhold in the mud, and as rebels she had previously discarded returned to the fray, she now had five or six men pulling outward on every limb.
Exhausted from the struggle, and the effects of the tranquilizer, Tara could feel the river flowing under her chin. Colonel Joe waded out and stood in front of her.
“Arrogant American! If you had just minded your own business, you could have left this island alive! Now, it’s unfortunate, but your government will hear that you accidentally drowned while swimming in the unfamiliar waters of this nation.”
Grabbing the hair above her forehead, Colonel Joe pulled down seeking to dunk the Jungle Girl’s face into the river, but Tara tensed her neck muscles and, looking him in the eye with steely determination, signalled that she would not be so easily dispatched. Furious, Colonel Joe commanded every man who was not securing a limb to assist him in submerging the Jungle Girl’s head in the water. The concentrated effort of the half-dozen men not securing her limbs was required, but with rebels standing on her shoulders and pushing against the back of her head, and rebels pulling down on her hair and ears, Tara’s face was forced under the river’s surface.
The cold, running water was like a slap in the face to the drugged giantess. She felt a surge of energy as her adrenalin kicked in. Caught unaware the rebels securing her arms and legs almost lost their grips as she began to kick and squirm in an effort to free herself. On several occasions she managed to raise her face from the water and draw in a quick breath. The river was only about four feet deep near the bank and it was difficult for the men forcing her head down to control her ability to turn her head to the side and suck in air.
Still, Tara couldn’t help but feel that she had squandered her window of opportunity. Her first surge of energy had startled her attackers but now all 30 men had refocused their efforts to drown her. As she bucked and strained in an effort to shake loose her assailants, she reproached herself for never considering the possibility that May might be aligned with the rebels. It was the tiny native girl’s traitorous tranquilizer which had been the deciding factor. The Jungle Girl struggled to focus her attention on the battle, but her mind kept drifting. It seemed like yesterday that she had answered the call to join the Femforce in finding Dr. Jimenez’ lost Time Triangle. She had gone to meet the legendary heroines full of doubt regarding whether she belonged in such illustrious company, and now…
To the surprise of the rebels, the giantess slowly began to shrink. Without oxygen, her red blood cells could no longer feed her giant-sized body and Tara involuntarily began to return to normal size as her body sought to adjust to meet the demand. As she reverted to her non-giantess state, the score and more of rebels had little difficulty controlling her as she continued her efforts to wriggle free of their grip. Eventually, a hardy dozen stood waist deep in the river holding the Jungle Girl entirely under water as her arhythmic efforts to free herself slowed before her hands, straining as if clutching at the sky, finally went limp.
Tara captured
Colonel Joe checks Tara for signs of life Cautiously, the rebels in the water released their grips and watched as Tara bobbed face down in the river’s current. Grabbing a hunk of her hair, Colonel Joe lifted the Jungle Girl’s head up out of the water until she hung limply before his eyes. Then, satisfied that she would never trouble anyone again, he removed a golden bracelet from her wrist before releasing her and letting her slide back under the choppy surface to the cheers of the assembled rebels on the bank.
“Through my planning and cunning, we have toppled the Giantess! Now May will take word of this tragedy to the village. If anyone still dares to defy us, I will show you how to skin the Cat!”
Tara floats face down in the water

chapter three
TWO THINGS THAT LAST ‘TIL THE END
The rusty taste in her mouth and the throbbing in her jaw were relegated to the back of her thoughts as the Weapons Mistress rebounded from the force of yet another blow. Her tormenters chortled with delight as they tilted her slumping head up to face the light and prepared to deliver more punishment.
Colt shifted her body and tried again to squirm free of her bonds. Her wrists and ankles were bound to the arms and legs of a wooden chair, with more rope coiled around her body securing her tightly to the seat and back of sturdy mahogany. Her costume was undisturbed, save for the tension exerted on the fabric by the binding cords, and the leather of her gloves and boots inhibited the tightness of the rope and allowed her some ability to maneuver her arms and legs. However, her wriggling had not yet loosened the bonds enough for her to protect herself.
Another backhand slap crashed against her jaw and sent her head whipping backwards with a momentum that rocked the chair onto two legs. The pint-sized pistolera teetered on the brink of falling over, but a kick to the chairback by one of the thugs reversed her momentum. Licking the blood trickling from the side of her mouth, Colt hungrily eyed her gun belt which had been removed and placed on a table out of reach.
“Wishing you could get your hands on your weapons, huh? What would you do to us right now if you had a piece in your hand?”
The men all laughed as the Weapons Mistress could only grit her teeth in frustration. Pulling out his own gun, the man pressed the barrel against her forehead and pushed her head back until the weapon was pointing at the floor. “Lucky for us, you’ll never have that chance again!”
Colt and ?A shot rang out, echoing throughout the warehouse, and then another. In rapid succession shots and the echoes of shots created a cacophonous barrage of weaponfire. Colt felt the barrel of the gun slip away from her skull as the tension on her neck eased and her head rolled forward. Orienting herself, she saw the thugs lying around in pools of blood.
In the dim light of the warehouse the figure of a man approached, his features obscured in shadow. Colt found his movements vaguely familiar and, squinting, she sought to recognize her rescuer. Strangely, the terrain of his face remained always in the dark, his identity a blur. He moved behind her and began to untie her arms.
“Just another second, Val, and we’ll be together again.”
Colt couldn’t suppress a sharp intake of breath. That voice! It wasn’t possible. Her husband had been killed years ago investigating an organization called “The Pact.” Could his death have been a lie, like the one concocted about Dan Barton, the Black Commando?
“Kevin?!?”
His arms moved around her body and began to unbutton her jacket as he leaned over her shoulder and whispered, “Of course, Val. It was just a matter of time before we’d be together again.”
The words sent a chill down the redhead’s spine and her face went ashen when she felt fingers fumbling to unbutton her jacket. Her gaze transfixed by the site of rotting flesh oozing from skeletal hands to drip against her bare midriff, Colt’s eyebrows raised in horror and her lips curled in fright as she struggled to escape the grasp of the living dead.
“Come with me, Val! We’ll be together again like before.” Grabbing the struggling spy from behind by the waist, the zombie pulled her close, squeezing her tightly. Her breath escaping from her lips, Colt pulled at the arms of the inhumanly strong monster in an effort to break free, but the creature would not release his grip.
The Weapons Mistress arched her back, through excruciating pain, until she could reach her arms behind her head enough to gouge at the creature’s eyes with her thumbs. With a shriek, the zombie released her and she sprawled onto the floor gasping for air.
“What’s wrong with you, Val? Don’t you love me anymore?!?”
Colt fights off KevinColt tried to scramble across the room but the rotting corpse snagged her by the bottom of her unbuttoned jacket and pulled her back towards him. Ripping herself away, the mini-marksman dove for the table and her gunbelt. Extracting her favorite pistol, she rolled over into a seated position and faced the monster.
“Don’t make me do this, Kevin!”
“You wouldn’t shoot your husband, would you Val?” The zombie continued to move towards Colt. The heroine’s hands, and the gun they held, were shaking.
“Please don’t, Kevin!!!”
Springing at her, the creature leapt for Colt’s throat. In rapid succession she fired three times, once to the head, heart, and gut, before toppling backwards from the weight of the carcass falling on her. Distraught, Colt slid out from under the corpse of her dead husband and slumped against the table leg to rest.
Without warning, a bony hand gripped her collar and she felt herself being lifted to her feet. Twisting around, she could see a look of fury on the zombie’s face.
“I can’t believe you tried to kill me, Val! Good thing I’m already dead!”
Kicking and screaming, Colt struggled to get away, to no avail, as the zombie dragged her towards a cemetery and pulled her into the inky blackness of an empty grave.
***
Tara and MateoDarkness gave way to blurred vision and the realization that she was coughing. Then, the feeling of liquid running out of her mouth and over her lips and the hazy outline of a figure hovering above her. Remembering her predicament, her arms and legs flailed provoking a grunt from the shadow compressing her chest. Soothing words came from a familiar voice and her eyes focused for an instant on a recognizable face.
“Mateo?”
“It’s okay, they drowned you, but it’s okay now.”
“Mateo.” Tara didn’t understand, but she felt safe, and tired, as she fell asleep in his arms.
***
She-Cat listened to the villagers at Gregorio’s table debating over whether Colonel Joe would again try to take the village or whether he would forget about them and move on to a town unprotected by such a stalwart defense. With hopeful eyes they had repeatedly set forth their case that he would search for an easier town and had looked to the heroine for confirmation that they were correct. Her candid response that such an outcome was the least likely only led to more vigorous arguments intended to convince her, and themselves, that she was wrong. The din of voices went silent when the door swung open and May staggered inside.
The girl’s clothing was in tatters and tears streamed down her face. In her arms she cradled a foul smelling package wrapped in leaves. Choking back sobs, she extended it towards She-Cat.
“I…I was searching for Mateo and Colonel Joe’s men found me. They took me captive but Colonel Joe let me go so I could bring you this gift.”
She-Cat gets a messageShe-Cat took the package from May’s arms and set it on the table. Her heart filled with dread as she looked at the moist leaves. For moments she could not bring herself to unwrap the “gift.” Finally, she steeled her heart and, holding back the trembling in her fingers, she moved the leaves away to reveal a golden armband encircling a dead fish.
“I don’t understand, Ms. She-Cat. What does it mean?”
A combination of anger and anguish roared within her and feline nails gouged into the wooden table top as she tried to steady herself. “It means, Gregorio, that your Colonel Joe has seen too many movies!”
Breaking into sobs, May cried, “No, it’s true! I saw it with my own eyes. Drowned! Drowned in the river!!!”
Her heart breaking, She-Cat could barely think through the fury that was raging inside of her. The only reason Tara had been here at all was because she was a friend. It made no sense. Neither of them should have even been here. They had no stake in this town. “Drowned?”
The words seemed ludicrous as they passed She-Cat’s lips. The Jungle Girl was almost as at home in the water as she was on land. She-Cat felt sick at the thought that her friend’s last moments must have seemed such a cruel joke.
Speaking to She-Cat, but addressing the entire crowd, May composed herself and continued to deliver her message. “Colonel Joe also said to tell the villagers that all who deliver you to him will be spared.”
The room erupted in protestations that they could never do such a thing. They would not dishonor themselves with such an act of cowardice. She-Cat looked at the room and knew that in their hearts all but a few had already accepted the offer of self-preservation and it was only a question of how and when they would come at her. Matter of factly, she said, “I think you should all deliver me to Colonel Joe. Then he will spare the entire village.”
A chorus of voices rang out. “Are you sure?” “It does make sense.” “Of course, if all of us turn you over to him then we’re all in the clear.” “Yes, maybe you’re right.”
“Nonsense! I got her involved to help us protect our liberty. She and her friend have tried to help us. We can’t offer her as a sacrifice because we are too cowardly to risk our own lives for our freedom.”
“Gregorio, she is telling us that is what we should do!”
“Of course, because she knows you are cowards and will do it anyway!”
She-Cat spoke with measured resolve. “Maybe, maybe not, but it is what I want you to do.”
***
Gorgana and Iron Jaw broke away from their conversation to watch as the unconscious Colt’s flailing movements resumed. Iron Jaw surveyed Colt’s unrestrained body stretched out before him on the floor of the warehouse. “Is she waking up?”
“I told you when I brought her before you and laid her at your feet that she’s in the middle of a nightmare more tortuous than anything her conscious mind can withstand. As long as I control her thoughts, she will never be able to wake up!”
“You better be right, Gorgana. I agreed to help you defeat the Femforce because you found her spying on me and took care of her, but I prefer my hostages tied up!”
“I told you she may have managed to transmit a message before I turned her lights out. If the Femforce is on the way to her rescue, we need her like this to bait the trap!”
***
“After you and She-Cat rescued my father and humiliated Colonel Joe by making him leave, I went for a walk to calm myself down. I had the hope that maybe he would go away for good, but in my heart I knew you couldn’t humiliate a man like that and not make him an enemy for life. I was distressed that, when you left, he would take his revenge on my father and on my entire family. I was considering whether I should flee to the city when I saw you battling the rebels. I was downstream, on the other side of the river, but I was too scared to help.”
“One man wouldn’t have made a difference against thirty.”
“I was frozen with fear. Too scared to even run and get help. I didn’t want to get involved. I didn’t want to give them any reason to hurt me.”
“By the time you made it to the village and back it would have been over.”
“I thought…you’re a hero. You’ll be allright. You’ve taken out worse than these guys!”
“As part of a team, not by myself.”
“Yeah, but you’re a hero. Then I remembered how they managed to beat She-Cat and take my father captive and I started to worry for you. When they forced you to the ground, I wanted to help but I couldn’t move. I watched you fighting thirty of them by yourself and I was too much of a coward to help.”
“Mateo, if you’d tried to help me, you would have only gotten yourself killed.”
“That’s what I told myself, ‘Don’t do it. You can’t help her. You’ll only get yourself killed.’ I kept thinking, hoping, you’d get away on your own. I was hoping…and then I saw all the guys around you relaxing and Colonel Joe lifted you out of the water. All the rebels started laughing and I knew that you weren’t going to get away… That you didn’t get away. They just left you floating there. The river’s current bringing you towards me. Mocking my cowardice!”
Mateo tells Tara of her rescue Tara watched the young man castigating his own character. The reason he was reluctant for the village to face Colonel Joe and his irritation at She-Cat for getting involved became clear. Soothingly she offered, “It wasn’t a coward that fished me out of the water when you could easily have been spotted.”
“I knew I had to do something! When you floated past, I pulled you to shore and dragged you into the jungle. Out of sight. When I turned you over on your back, I was sure you were dead. I don’t know how much time had passed. It seemed like an eternity, but maybe, probably, it was only a few minutes. I tried to get the water out of your lungs. I did mouth-to-mouth. I tried to get your heart going. I thought it was hopeless but then you started coughing and you kicked me. I was very happy to be kicked.”
“I’m happy to have done the kicking!”
“When you went to sleep, I brought you here. I thought the river area wouldn’t be safe. This is an old temple. No one ever comes here.”
“Mateo?”
“Yes?”
“Thank you!”
***
Ms. Victory, Stardust, and Synn flew south. General Strock had informed them that Colt had last been seen in Pompano Beach, Florida. The trio converged on the warehouse district near the pier.
“Synn, take the buildings to the left, Stardust to the right. I’ll get the ones in the middle. If you spot anything send up a signal for the rest of us and wait for backup. We don’t know who we’re up against, so be careful!”
Ms. Victory watched her teammates head off to their respective buildings and then she began searching her section of warehouses. After a few minutes a stellar flare lit the sky. Ms. Victory raced over towards Stardust.
“The building appears to be empty…except for Colt. If you look through this window, you can see she’s alone in the middle of the floor. It looks like they cleared out and left her behind. She’s not even tied up!”
“Hey guys, didja find her? Is she okay?”
“Stardust found her. We…”
Synn peered through the upper floor window. “Why doesn’t she get up? She’s moving around.”
“She appears to be having some kind of seizure, Synn. Stardust, check the building’s perimeter again. Synn cover me while I check on Colt.”
Synn watched Ms. Victory slide through an open window and swoop down to kneel beside the Weapons Mistress. Colt’s eyes had rolled back into her head and drool was running down her chin. Ms. Victory tried to wake the fallen crimefighter as Synn called down from above.
“What’s the matter with her? Is she going to be okay?”
Ms. Victory was about to answer when she heard a whistling sound coming from a nearby building. “Watch out, Synn! Something’s incoming!”
Synn turned toward the sound behind her just in time to see the bazooka shell streaking at her. Her mental command to create a giant baseball glove was only half-formed when the shell rocketed into her construct and exploded just a few feet away. The concussive effect blew the startled heroine through the window.
Moving quickly, Ms. Victory sailed up past shattering glass to catch her falling comrade. The doe-eyed blonde was out cold. Ms. Victory continued climbing out of the warehouse and visually retraced the trajectory of the shell. The Femforce leader saw Iron Jaw hiding near the window of a nearby building. Unable to counterattack while holding the unprotected Synn in her arms, Ms. Victory flew back into the warehouse. Alighting, she carefully laid Synn on the floor near Colt. The Weapons Mistress appeared to need prompt medical attention. Quelling the voice inside of her that demanded swift retribution, the Femforce leader determined that the proper course of action would be to get the fallen heroines to a doctor. After Synn and Colt were safe, Iron Jaw could be brought to justice.
“You monster! What have you done to Ms. Victory!”
The Femforce leader felt the impact of a stellar blast in her back as her body was propelled across the room. As she stumbled to her feet and turned to face her attacker, another blast struck her in the chest, sending her flying head over heels until she slammed into a steel girder, her nearly invulnerable body buckling the building support even as she twisted around the metal and crumpled to the floor.
Holding up a hand, she cried out, “Stardust?!? What are you doing!?!”
Stardust saw Gorgana rise to her feet. “You’re surprisingly resilient, ghoul, but if you continue to attack I will blast you into space!”
Standing invisibly behind the Rurian scientist, Gorgana stifled a laugh. Her plan was working. Iron Jaw had taken Synn and her reality altering abilities out of the game. Now, with no one to challenge Gorgana’s own magical powers, her illusions enabled her to use Stardust as the perfect instrument to defeat Ms. Victory.
The Rurian was convinced that Ms. Victory was Gorgana and that Synn was a broken and bloodied Ms. Victory. Furious at the sight, she was holding nothing back and each blast was unerringly finding the mark. Gorgana inwardly chortled at the sight of Ms. Victory being pounded into oblivion by her own teammate as the Femforce leader at first would not, and then could not, fight back. Once Ms. Victory was kaput, it would be a simple matter for Gorgana to strike a treacherous blow against Stardust from behind. Then all three Femforcers would join Colt in a neverending nightmare.
***
Determined to bring the villain responsible for killing her mortal self to justice, Firebeam had followed Iron Jaw’s trail of evil all over the State of Florida. Now she slipped through the closed warehouse doors and found herself in the midst of a shocking scene. Her erstwhile allies, the Femforce, seemingly littered the warehouse floor. Synn and the masked spy she knew as Colt were out cold and Ms. Victory barely clung to consciousness as she pleaded with her attacker to stop. Unimaginably, it was another Femforce team member who was doling out the damage.
Firebeam moved to stop Stardust when she felt the cold chill of evil at the Rurian’s back. Sensing a malevolent presence controlling Stardust, Firebeam embraced the cold, warming it with her flames. Screeching, Gorgana’s only thought was to escape the inferno surrounding her.
Stardust saw Gorgana transform into a battered Ms. Victory. “Ehh? The Ghoul’s aspect changes!?! What trickery is she up to now?”
A shaken Ms. Victory realized that Stardust’s attack had momentarily stopped. “Dr. Mara, behind you!”
Stardust turned to see Gorgana darting through a wall of flames and the Rurian unleashed a stellar blast at the ghoul. The distracted Gorgana never saw the blow coming and, in an instant, she plummeted from vainglorious victory to darkest defeat.
“Hold it right there, Stardust! Don’t make another move!”
“It’s okay, Firebeam. Stardust’s still on our side.”
“If you say so, Ms. Victory, but it sure doesn’t look that way from here.”
“Gorgana created an illusion, Dusty thought I was the ghoul.”
“Indeed, I did! I’m so sorry! Even at the end, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing until you addressed me so personally.”
Ms. Victory got to her feet and began the task of waking the unconscious Synn and Colt. “Firebeam, how did you know Gorgana was here?”
“I didn’t. I followed Iron Jaw’s trail to this building. When I entered I saw Stardust attacking you. I was about to stop her when I felt the cold presence of an evil entity. I didn’t know what was going on, but I figured Stardust wouldn’t normally attack you so I went after what had to be the source of her actions.”
“Owww! My head hurts and my ears are ringing! Hey! What’s Firebeam doing here?”
“I followed Iron Jaw’s trail of evil to this building. I know he’s been here.”
“Iron Jaw?!? I bet he’s the one that tried to blow me up!!!”
Ms. Victory helped Synn to her feet. “It’s a good bet. I saw him hiding nearby. He and Gorgana set a trap for us that almost worked.”
“If he’s nearby the fresh trail will be easy for me to follow. Let’s go!”
“Firebeam, as much as I hate to say this, capturing Iron Jaw’s going to have to wait. Synn, might have a concussion and Colt’s in a state of shock. Plus, we need to get Gorgana into a stasis cell before she regains consciousness. Why don’t you and Synn get Colt back to Femforce Headquarters so she can receive medical attention while Dusty and I make sure Gorgana is safe behind bars.”
***
“Ms. Victory, there you are! Is the situation with Gorgana resolved?”
“Yes, General. All of the Fearforce are now in custody, but Firebeam wants to bring in Iron Jaw.”
“That’s who Colt was after, as well.”
“How is Colt?” Ms. Victory’s voice was hopeful, but uncertain.
“The doctors think she’ll be okay. Physically, she’s unharmed. Emotionally, Gorgana really got to her. She’s going to need some time to recover, but, knowing her the way I do, I’m confident she’ll be fine.”
Ms. Victory knitted her brow. Something was bothering her about their recent encounter with Gorgana but she couldn’t figure it out. The thought that something was wrong nagged at the back of her mind. “How about Synn?”
“The doctors say she might have a slight concussion, although I don’t know how they can tell.”
“Well, I guess Stardust, Firebeam, and I will be enough to capture Iron Jaw.”
“I’m confident the three of you would be successful, but something else has a higher priority.”
“A higher priority than Iron Jaw?!?”
“While you were down in Pompano Beach, I got a briefing from Washington, D.C. The CIA and State are furious. Their operatives are reporting that Tara and She-Cat are compromising our foreign policy. I don’t know all the details. Apparently I didn’t ‘need to know’ that information. Buncha jerks. What I do know is that it has something to do with that island She-Cat was planning on visiting. Take Synn and Stardust and find out what She-Cat and Tara are doing over there. Rayda and Firebeam will have to hold down the fort here while you’re gone. If something comes up and you can’t make it back in time, we’ll call in some favors from the Vault heroes and heroines.”
***
Colonel Joe laughed as he walked into the village. She-Cat lay in the center of town, her wrists bound behind her back and her ankles tied together. The mass of villagers stood behind her.
“I see you got my message. I’m glad so many of you were smart enough to do the right thing and save yourselves. I will be true to my word and spare your lives. You have one hour to leave this village.” As the townspeople dispersed to collect their belongings and flee, Colonel Joe directed several of his men to check the heroine’s bonds. A thorough inspection confirmed that the knots were secure.
Colonel Joe strode up to the dejected heroine. “What hurts more? The treachery of those you sought to protect or …”
Rolling up onto her knees, She-Cat tucked her feet under her and sprang forward. She caught the surprised Colonel in the jaw with the top of her head and sent him flying backwards into his men. Maintaining her feet, she hopped forward and then launched herself to deliver a two-footed kick to his throat.
As he fell to the ground, she landed on his chest and, swiveling her body around, rammed her knees into his neck. His men were too stunned to help him. The Colonel’s face quickly turned a purplish-red and his eyes bugged out of their sockets. Her razor-sharp nails had already frayed the rope around her wrists and she almost had her hands free when she was tackled from behind and forced away from her prey.
Shocked, She-Cat saw that it was May who had come to the Colonel’s defense. As the young girl jumped up and scrambled away from her to the protection of the soldiers, She-Cat felt the rifle barrels trained on her body and heard the click as safeties were turned off. Coughing and gasping for air, Colonel Joe scrambled to his feet and put some distance between them.
“Heh, heh. I guess you didn’t like my ‘gift?’ I thought cats liked fish?”
She-Cat glowered at the Colonel as she finished severing the ropes around her wrists. “You should remember that the guy who sent that message in the movie didn’t live to see the final reel.”
“That was in the movies. In this jungle, automatic weapons fire will tear your body into pieces before you can make up half the distance between us. In this jungle, the heroes lose! You lose! Just like ‘Giant’ Tara!!! Before this day is out I will look into your eyes and there will be nothing but darkness.”
She-Cat smirked. “Darkness, huh?”
The heroine’s suddenly smug attitude irritated Colonel Joe. Wasn’t she afraid of death? Why, even his own men were looking at him in fear. How could she not be afraid? He could feel the day grow cold, as if in preparation for her death. The sun had suddenly clouded over and he now stood in shadow as a large raindrop fell on his shoulder. Several of his men were white as sheets as they fearfully melted off into the jungle and scattered in every direction. With a sense of unease, the Colonel realized that those of his men who remained were looking not at him, but behind him. His heartbeat increasing, he slowly turned around.
“Oh, are you in for a world of hurt!” The Jungle Girl towered over Colonel Joe, water dripping from her hair and clothing onto her would-be assassin.
“But, I killed you?!? You’re dead! Your eyes were dead!!!”
“Yet, here I am!!”
“Don’t come near me! If you touch me, my men will shoot She-Cat!”
“It sounds like you just threatened the life of a member of my team.” Landing next to She-Cat, Ms. Victory addressed Colonel Joe. “I don’t think I like you very much.”
She-Cat’s nails ripped through the rope at her ankles and she climbed to her feet as Stardust and Synn alighted nearby. “What’re you guys doing here?”
“General Strock sent us to check on you two. You want to tell me why this guy’s trying to kill you?”
Nightveil plummets to earth”This guy’s a thug masquerading as a freedom fighter. The people of this village are trying to avoid getting slaughtered or pushed out of their homes and we…uh…we sort of got involved. Now listen! Before you jump our case, if anyone’s to blame for this it’s me. The Jolly Green Jungle Giant over there tried to keep this from turning into an international inci….eh?”
A dimensional rift opened in the sky above the village and the disshevled form of a twisting Nightveil plummeted to earth landing in a heap on the ground near Ms. Victory’s feet. The Femforce leader dropped to a knee to attend to her fallen comrade. The Sorceress grabbed Ms. Victory’s hand and squeezed tightly. Her voice weak, the mystic maiden drew Ms. Victory near. “Joan, the sceptre. The sceptre. I can only protect you for a short time.”
The effort having exhausted her, Nightveil slumped back onto the ground. In the moments it had taken the Sorceress to speak, the sky had darkened and storm clouds had appeared above. An apparition with eyes of fire and lightning streaked towards earth. The sight of the fearsome entity caused the remainder of Colonel Joe’s men to scatter, fleeing in several directions from the otherworldly sights.
“Tara! Watch out behind you!”
At Synn’s warning, the Jungle Girl leapt to the side, tucking and rolling, as a bolt of fire pierced the air where she had stood and crashed into the ground in front of Colonel Joe. Abandoned by his men, and in the middle of a confrontation beyond his understanding, the rebel leader fled, cowering, into a nearby ditch.
Tara takes on RehtamCatching herself against a stand of trees, the Giantess reversed direction and sailed toward the dark figure swooping past her. Rehtam Nottoc felt sinewy arms wrapping around his oversized visage. Casting a minimization spell against his attacker, he was surprised to find that it had less than the desired effect. Although the Giantess became dizzy and a little nauseous, she retained her size. Nevertheless, he was able to break free of her grasp.
“Fool Witch! You should worry about saving yourself instead of wasting the little power you have protecting these insignificant insects! What protection will they have when your defenseless body is torn asunder!”
A ball of mystical energy shot from Rehtam Nottoc’s fingers and hurtled toward the semi-conscious sorceress. Sensing that Nightveil had left herself completely unprotected in order to shield them, Ms. Victory dove on top of Nightveil to protect her from what was surely going to be a killing blow.
“Hey! You shouldn’t have ought to done that!” Synestrophically turning herself into a giant equal to the dark figure in size, Synn walloped Rehtam Nottoc with a right cross to the face. Pain seared the mage’s mind as blood began to pour from his nostril.
“What manner of magic is this that it hasn’t been absorbed?!?”
Grabbing Nightveil’s cape from the dark mage’s shoulders, Synn said, “This doesn’t belong to you.”
She-Cat jumped into the fray, ripping into the dark mage’s shin with razor-sharp fingernails. Yelping in pain, Rehtam Nottoc kicked the heroine away only to have her land on her feet and bound back onto his leg. Focusing through his agony, the sorcerer called on his mystic lightning. Nightveil’s ability to protect the team diminishing with each magical attack, the strike battered She-Cat and caused her to lose her grip. As she slipped off Rehtam Nottoc’s leg, the Sorcerer caught her in her already damaged ribs with a punt that sent her flying into a nearby ditch. She-Cat takes on Rehtam
She-Cat saved by Mateo Clutching in agony at her broken ribs, She-Cat rolled uncontrollably down and across the rocky stream bed of the dry creek. Colonel Joe watched She-Cat tumble to a writhing stop. His hatred for the heroine who had caused him to lose his army overpowering his fright, the rebel leader removed a long knife from his boot and lunged at the unaware heroine preparing to plunge the dagger between her shoulder blades.
“Nooooooo!”
Mateo, who had been watching the battle with Rehtam Nottoc from a safe distance, dove into the ditch without thinking and intercepted the blow intended for She-Cat. Alerted by his cry, She-Cat turned just as Colonel Joe drove Mateo down on top of her. Realizing that his assassination attempt had been foiled, the rebel leader turned and ran while a shocked She-Cat stared at the hilt of the knife sticking from Mateo’s shoulder.
She-Cat looked to the rest of the team for help in assisting Mateo, but they were all busy dodging Rehtam Nottoc’s mystical blasts. Synn had managed to return Nightveil’s cape to the fallen sorceress, covering her with it in the hope that it would repel any attempt to injure its’ owner. Tara was again grappling with the evil magician while Stardust maneuvered around looking for a clear shot which would not injure her teammate. The dark mage once again used his minimization spell, but this time it was effective as the dizzying effect made Tara unable to maintain her focus and she returned to her normal size.
Rehtam is defeatedThe taste of blood in his mouth led Rehtam Nottoc to the realization that Nightveil had found his weakness. As long as he had the Sceptre of Valoo he could not be harmed by magical attack. However, a physical attack, such as her kick on Dhagor, could cause real injury. Desperate to reap the full effect of his magic, the dark mage knew that he had to eliminate the witch responsible for protecting the women assailing him. Calling upon his full assortment of sorcery, Rehtam Nottoc fired dozens of mystic bolts, balls of fire, and lightning strikes at the defenseless Nightveil with each finding its’ mark. Her surprising ability to withstand his assault infuriated him and he redoubled his efforts until the air between himself and Nightveil was filled with mystical energy.
Confused, the Dark Magician looked around to see that his aspect was no longer greater than that of those around him. To his amazement, Nightveil weakly lifted herself into a seated position, her cloak of darkness covering her lap. Raising an eyebrow, she drew the Sceptre of Valoo from beneath her cloak. “Missing something?”
For the first time, Rehtam Nottoc realized that he did not hold the Sceptre. “How?!?”
Ms. Victory smiled. “When Synn hit you, your grip relaxed. Enhanced speed, enhanced strength, it wasn’t hard to snatch it from you. Synn was bright enough to give you another one of her own construction so it wouldn’t be missed. I guess, when she saw me take it, she figured it was important to you.”
“Stardust, would you mind?”
“Not a problem, Nightveil!”
At a fraction of full force, the stellar blast delivered by the Rurian was sufficient to incapacitate the magician. Nightveil approached the fallen mage and touched the sceptre to his forehead, drawing out the remainder of his magic.
“Colonel!”
Tara and She Cat deal with Colonel JoeThe team turned to see May swinging a jeep around as Colonel Joe hurried to make an escape. She-Cat and Tara sped to catch him as the others looked on. Colonel Joe caught up to the moving vehicle as May slowed and jumped into the passenger side seat. With a howl of pain brought on by contact with the sharp metal of a busted spring, he popped into the air and tumbled out onto the dusty roadside while May continued to flee the village she had betrayed. As he clutched at the seat of his pants and scrambled to his feet, the Colonel raised his eyes just in time to see the faces of She-Cat and Tara before their respective right and left fists slammed into his jaw and left him flat on his back seeing stars.
“Man, that felt good!”
“All I know is it made every one of these broken ribs seem worth it.”
“So what do we do with him now?”
A bandaged Mateo stumbled towards them. “I think…that we’ll take it from here.”
“Don’t sink to his level, Mateo.”
“No, I promise. His men have fled. He has no power anymore. We will hold him until the human rights observers come. You have my word.”
Leaning over, both heroines kissed a suddenly blushing Mateo on the cheek and simultaneously said, “My hero!”
“Saved my life, you know?”
“Mine, too!”
“I think we need some time off from our free time!”
The end!”Still have that hotel room in Manilla?”
“For another day.”
“Four-star hotel?”
“Soft bed!”
She-Cat smiled. “You’re still a spoiled rich girl, you know?”
“I’m aware of that, yes.”
“Just so we’re clear.”
Ms. Victory shook her head in disbelief. Tara kissing something other than a jungle cat? She-Cat being upbeat? She watched the two walking together, Tara helping support the injured She-Cat and She-Cat letting her. “Who are those people and what have they done to my teammates?”
Nightveil laughed. “Sometimes it’s good to know there are people in this world you can count on.”
The Femforce leader watched the bedraggled Sorceress approach her. “You talking about them, or you? You took a big chance leaving yourself unprotected like that so that you could spread what was left of your power out to the five of us. He was out to kill you.”
Nightveil looked at her tattered and torn costume, with the blue stocking of one foot still shoeless. “I was sure he would…until I saw my friends. Then I never gave it a second thought.”
With a wave of her hand, Nightveil appeared once again in full, undamaged, costume. “Now, let me consign this fool to limbo for all eternity and we can go home.”
Ms. Victory sighed. “Did I mention Iron Jaw’s on the loose again?”
THE END

 

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Mystery on Taragonia by Richard Paulk

chapter one

IS THERE A ‘DACTYL IN THE HOUSE

On a remote island just off the coast of Florida, known as Jungle Island, Tara Freemont, environmentalist and owner of the island, is laying prone on a beach towel sun-bathing. She’s always loved the island for it’s year round warmth and isolation but, she loves it mostly for the animal reservation in which close to extinct animals are protected.

As she lays there daydreaming and enjoying the cool breeze blowing off the ocean the sun is suddenly blotted out if only for a second. She rolls over to look, confused as to why a plane would be so far off course (Jungle Island is a no-fly-over zone), and is astonished to see a 30 foot long leather behemoth.

“Wha…? A pteradactyl! And it’s headed for the main land,” Tara stammers as she quickly jumps to her feet, slipping her skimpy top back on. “The only place pteradactyls still exist are on Taragonia where I left the ‘girls of wildside’ to study the strange and prehistoric flora and fauna. But the purple haze that surrounds the island was supposed to prevent anything from leaving the island through the air. I’d better call the Femforce to track the ‘dactyl before it causes a lot of damage to Florida. Then I’ll hightail it over to Taragonia to find out whats going on.”

From the offices on Jungle island Tara enters a special code into the vid-monitor and contacts the Femforce, finding the She-cat on monitor duty. “And if you can take care of the problem state-side, I’ll call as soon as I know what’s happening on Taragonia,” Tara finishes explaining.

“Right,” She-cat says. “I’ll contact Ms. Victory. She should be in the vicinity your calculations showed the pteradactyl will be arriving on shore. Good luck, and if it turns out you can’t handle your end just let me know and the Cat will come bail your backside out—again.”

“Uh-right. Thanks!” And with that Tara switches off and prepares for her flight to Taragonia.

Landing her helicopter on the patch of barren land that has been designated as a landing field, Tara is met by Nyoka Gordon, Cave Girl, and Tygra. These four women, along with Princess Pantha, were sent to Taragonia to figure out what, if any, effect governmental nuclear testing had on the island. What they found was a lot more than anyone expected.

The ecological system had gone haywire. They found prehistoric creatures, mythological beings, man-eating plants, and all manner of strange phenomenon. They also dicovered, with Nightveil’s help, that the island was a nexus of an evil occult power and a dimensional gateway to the Earth’s past and future, as well as other dimensions, created by Doctor Shinduu and his magical concubines. Doctor Shinduu was destroyed when he tried to fly through the strange atmosphere surrounding the island but the concubines, led byVarushka, remain on the island.

“Hi, girls!” Tara calls as she steps from the ‘copter. “Where’s Pantha?”

“Not sure,” Cave Girl, the large Jungle beauty replies in her usual broken English. “Not seen for some time.”

Tygra, the scantily clad biologist of the group joins in,”Yeah, we hardly ever see her anymore. She started showing more and more interest in the strange animals on the island and we started seeing less and less of her. It’s almost as if she isn’t even here anymore. She doesn’t even come back to the complex at night to sleep anymore.”

“If you want, I’ll help you guys find her later, but first we’ve got to figure out how a pteradactyl could have possibly left the island without dying!” Tara says, not wanting to wait on niceties.

“Oh, no!” Nyoka exclaims shaking her head. “I was afraid of something like this. At first, I thought I might just be seeing things, but I thought I could see some faint, almost imperceptable lines in the purple atmosphere. I did a few studies, and sure enough, there were gaps in the protective zone, and they’ve been getting more noticeable. Look for yourself.”

Sure enough, after having it pointed out to her, Tara thought she could also see the lines. “But… why? What could cause this to happen? Why would the barrier have lasted all these centuries and all of a sudden dissipate now?” “Well, I have a theory about that, as well,” Nyoka continues. “The lines are straight and seem to follow patterns. I think that every time a plane or some other mechanical structure flies through the atmospheric layer that looks purple to us, it cuts a line through whatever it is in the ozone that keeps everything in. Then if something, say the pteradactyl you mentioned, would by chance follow one of the tunnels it would get free to the outside world.”

“That seems as plausible as anything else, I guess,” Tara admits, “but right now we need to figure out what we’re going to do to prevent this sort of thing from happening again!”

Nyoka pauses and then tells Tara, “It sounds nuts, but I think I know where all the strange beings on this island come from. Maybe we can cut off the source instead of just containing the problem.”

“Nothing about this island will surprise me anymore,” says Tara. “What have you found?”

“During your absence, I became bothered by the fact that so many different eras and dimensions could be represented in such a confined area. So I started tracing all the different atmospheric and dimensional disruptions I could find. For a while they would show up anywhere at anytime, but then they started congregating at one place.”

“And that place is?”

“The core of the inactive volcano that sits directly behind our home complex. There are strange swirling patches of darkness scattered all over the interior walls that I believe to be dimensional doorways. Any time someone or something accidentally steps through the portals, whether they did so before or after the doorways were in the volcano, they wound up here. I really can’t verify any of this as I haven’t dared so much as to even touch one until my studies are completed, but I have thrown rocks and sticks at them and they’ve disappeared.”

“We better go take a look,” Tara asserts. “It may be time to take the risk and enter one.”

* * *

Hearing the situation from She-cat, Ms. Victory immediately heads for the Florida coast in the general direction from which the pteradactyl was predicted to come. She spots the coastline and the pteradactyl at just about the exact same moment. So much for having time to work on a plan of action, she thinks to herself.

Figuring that a direct approach would be best with a populated city so close by, she angles her flight pattern directly for the beast, arms outstretched, and prepares for the collision. To her surprise just before contact the pteradactyl changes course just enough that it caught just a glancing blow and then continued on toward the city.

Man! How could something that big move so fast! Ms. Victory wondered as she banked for another blow at the creature.

Closing in at bone-jarring speeds she prepared herself for another quick maneuver by the pteradactyl. Watching for a shift in direction Ms. Victory shot right past the pteradactyl as he came to a sudden dead stop. She didn’t so much as touch it. There’s definately something wrong here, she thinks, pulling up to a stop. This thing’s much too smart for being a mere dinosa—

From behind, the behemouth smashes full force into her back, knocking the breath from her. Becoming temporarily disoriented, Ms. Victory begins plummeting toward the ground. She tries desperately to regain her composure before she hits the gound but unfortunately she hadn’t been very high to start with. She hits the ground with such force that she leaves a furrow behind her twenty feet long before coming to a stop. Oooh, that hurt. I sure wasn’t expecting that. I’ve got to pull myself together. That was a planned maneuver the likes of which a dinosaur with normal intelligence would be incapable of. Also, to be able to beat me around like that, I’m not real sure that there wouldn’t have to be some kind of magic involved. Where’s Nightveil when you really need her? Well, no time for that kind of thinking. We’re right by the city, I’ve got to stop him now.

Taking to the air, Ms. Victory realizes they are closer than she even thought. And to make matters worse–the pteradactyl is nowhere to be seen!

* * *

The old, burned-out volcano has so many cracks and crevices running through it that gaining access to it’s core poses no problem what so ever for the girls. But once inside, Tara is totally unprepared for what she sees. An eerie green luminence radiates from the walls giving plenty of light, but the truly captivating sight is that of the portals all over those self same walls. There has to be hundreds of them and they are so completely black that they seem to suck any light in the immediate vicinity into them, while at the same time, they contradictingly swirl at a mind-numbing pace.

“I tried to tell you there were a lot of them,” says Nyoka.

“I know,” Tara says in a hushed, almost reverent tone, “but seeing it is deffinately different than hearing about it.”

Even speaking quietly, the cavernous interior of the volcano was so large, that echoes seemed to go on for several seconds (as did any sounds of steps or rustling noises caused by any of the four girls).

“What we do now?” asks Cave Girl in her deep but incredibly sexy voice.

After a slight hesitation, Tara responds, “I guess the only thing we can do. If we’re going to check Nyoka’s theories, one of us is going to have to enter one of the portals. I’ve never been the kind to ask someone to do something I’m not willing to, so I’ll go first.”

“I don’t think so,” protests Tygra, barely able to contain her feline enthusiasm.

“I didn’t ask,” says Tara, “and it’s my island. I make the calls. Thanks for the concern but if we’re right about this thing there’ll be plenty of doorways for everyone.” Warily she closes in on the first black hole. “We’ll see what’s on the other side of each doorway. If it’s a harmless enough place we can simply mark the wall as to what’s over there. But if it contains something dangerous we’ll have to try to find a way to close or block the passage way.”

“What if I’m wrong?” asks Nyoka. “What if the second you touch that swirling mass you’re torn atom from atom?”

With a forced smile she answers, “Don’t think that hasn’t crossed my mind but it’s something we have to know. I’m sure I’ll be right back.” She picks up a rope. “I’ll leave this rope I brought sticking through the portal just in case it can’t be seen from the other side.”

As she gets right up next to the portal, electrical static causes her hair to stand out from the head. She’s still nervously talking as she inserts her upper body into the doorway. “Boy, does this feel weir….”. Immediately Tara pulls herself out of the window, coughing and gagging. She’s soaked from the waist up. “I was expecting (cough, cough) air on the other side (cough) not water. I feel like I swallowed an ocean full!”

Walking toward the portal Tara just tried Nyoka says, “It looks like this one is mine then.”

“And why would that be?” inquires Tara, wringing water from her hair.

“Because I’m the only one here that can breathe underwater.” Seeing the confused look on Tara’s face she continues. “Oh, that’s right. You haven’t heard. Shortly after we got here I almost drowned off shore and the mermaids rescued me by enabling me to breathe in or out of water. I’ll tell you all about it sometime but for now, I have a job to do.” And with that statement, she disappears through the portal, trailing the rope behind her.

chapter 2

WHAT’S BLACK AND BLUE AND WET ALL OVER

Immediately upon passing through the portal, Nyoka finds herself immersed in water. There is plenty of light so she doesn’t figure she is too deep, but there is no dry land in sight. Of course that doesn’t mean anything she thinks. If you entered Earth in the middle of an ocean there wouldn’t be any dry land in sight either.

Nyoka starts swimming north (because that’s just as good as any other direction when you don’t have a clue what you’re looking for) and starts shedding her clothes down to her ‘civvies’. I’ll probably lose my clothes but that’s what I get for not thinking ahead enough to change into some kind of swimwear.

Topping an embankment, Nyoka sees her first signs of life. An overwhelmingly large city, built right on the ocean floor, with no apparent protection (be it a protective dome or visible guards or any of the things she had preconcieved she would see, if she found anything at all). That certainly didn’t take long. In fact, I….

“Halt,” comes a loud, deep voice from behind as Nyoka feels a knife point (spear point?) jab her in the back. She jumps just enough to draw blood from the weapon at her back.

“Oww! What the crap do you think you’re do….,” Nyoka fades out as she turns and sees a huge, muscular mer-man, long red hair and beard floating around his stern face, holding an extremely large and deadly looking spear directly at her.

“You don’t belong here. What are you doing, spying on us?” he asks.

Feeling a little of her resolve coming back, Nyoka snaps back, “I’m not a spy. You hurt me with that thing. You ought to be a little more careful waving something like that around at people before you know the situation.” She slaps the spear aside but it is immediately retrained on her with a little jabbing motion for emphasis. “Didn’t you hear me?”

“I heard you, Little Minnow, but you’re the tresspasser, and since I’m the one with the spear, maybe you should be a little careful,” the mer-man asserts, a deffinate threat in his voice.

You best back off, Nyoka she thinks to herself. “Point well taken. I honestly meant no harm or disrespect. My name is Nyoka. I’m from another place. I really don’t know how else to explain it. Any way, there’s a type of dimensional doorway from your world to mine. Where I’m from ‘mer-people’, or whatever you call yourselves, only exist in mythology, except on the one island where we found the doorway leading here. I figure this is where those mer-maids came from. Except there were only women there. No men. So I’m not really not sure that this is where they come from after all.”

“By Poseidon’s beard, Little One..”

“My name is Nyoka!”

“Fine. Nyoka. Do you always talk so much?

“Only when large fish-men…”

“My name is Volstaff!”

“Fine. Volstaff. Only when extremely sharp weapons are being pointed toward my throat.

“Oh,” Volstaff blushes slightly and chuckles, lowering the spear but, Nyoka notices, he stays ready to snap it back to position if the need arises. “Sorry, Nyoka, but we are a people always at war. And since I truly do not know you, it is only wise to first assume that you are the enemy.”

“I can understand that,” Nyoka conceeded. “What I don’t understand is why you accepted my story so readily. If I heard a story like that I’m not sure I’d even begin to believe it.”

“We’ve known of the ‘reality hole’ for all of recorded history. Like I said, we are a people of war, but every once in a while one of those weak scientist types, almost always a woman, opposes the natural order and tries to stop the fighting. When found out, in order to stop the persecution, they try to escape through the hole. We’re usually able to kill them before they get through but on occassion one will make it. I’m sure that’s who you encountered.” Raising his spear slightly again, Volstaff asks, “They didn’t send you here did they?”

Holding her hands out in supplication Nyoka denies the allegation. But before the conversation can proceed a laser bolt strikes a rock mere inches from Nyoka’s head, a splinter of stone cutting a paper thin slice across her cheek. Volstaff grabs her by the arm throwing her behind an outcropping, safe from the sniper’s fire.

Rubbing her face as a thin wisp of blood oozes from her cheek, Nyoka starts feeling a little irritable, “You know, Volstaff, I’m getting a little tired of losing small chunks of flesh, what with everybody stabbing me, shooting at me and throwing me around. I don’t even belon…”

“Zounds, woman,” Volstaff yells,beginning to lose a little patience himself. Don’t you ever shut up? We’re under enemy fire here. Let me think, will you?”

“Uh, Volstaff,” starts Nyoka.

“I said shut up!” growls Volstaff.

Nyoka points, “But, Volstaff…!”

Volstaff looks up, finding them surrounded by twenty five heavily armed and angry looking mer-men. And every weapon is pointed directly at them.

“By Poseidon’s Golden Trident!” Volstaff mutters softly as he drops his spear and raises his hands.

* * *

Ms. Victory flies through the streets as fast as she dares, looking for the pteradactyl. There’s no way something so big could just disappear like that. It’s got to be around here somewhere.

And indeed, just a few blocks away in a section of town just a little less savory than the one Ms. Victory finds herself looking, the pteradactyl is confronting a homeless man in a shadow darkened alley. The look of fear on the man’s face exceeds even the smell of booze on the man’s breath and the stink of urine in his clothes.

Do not be afraid, mortal the pteradactyl communicates directly into the wino’s mind. This will be over soon and I have much better plans for your body than you obviously did.

As the great creature closes in on him, the man suddenly wraps his arms around his head and starts screaming and writhing as if being torn to pieces. And rightly so, as his soul is being ripped from his body. Making a last desperate effort to hang on to his humanity, his soul grabs just a little tighter before losing the last of it’s grip. Then with a shriek that totally drowns out the previous screams, it’s over. The displaced soul dissapates leaving behind an empty husk. But before the empty body can fall it is reinhabited. The eyes now hold the evil malice previously held in the eyes of the pteradactyl. And in the pteradactyl’s eyes, nothing but the confused , animalistic rage of a beast, wounded and backed into a corner. As it takes to the sky to vent it’s primal fury, the only thing remaining in the alley is the cold maniacal laughter of a man no longer there.

Ms. Victory turns in mid-flight as she hears the screams of someone in exquisite pain. But before she can get there she hears an ungodly shriek followed a few seconds later by new screams of pain and terror just a block further on. She seems to hear a laugh echo from the direction she had been heading but disreguards it as being the wind, whistling between the buildings. Arriving at her destination, Ms. Victory goes numb with horror.

A large camp for the homeless has been rent from end to end. Body parts are strewn the length of the alley. What appears to be more blood than could have possibly come from the assorted bodies laying around covers everything, including the only thing left living in the alley. The blood and gore splattered pteradactyl picks through the remaining pieces of flesh left laying around it, swallowing gobbets of the meat.

Feeling the need to throw up, Ms. Victory takes a stumbling step forward, the sound alerting the creature to her presence. It spins and for a split second locks eyes with her. Something about the pteradactyl looks different but her current sence of shock fails to allow her to acknowledge the fact. The beast takes flight as Ms. Victory gathers herself, fighting both the nausea and the coldness thathas claimed her since first arriving on the scene.

Taking to the air, Ms. Victory realizes she has given the behemoth quite a lead but has resolved to make up the distance, however quickly it takes, to prevent the last scene of horror from ever happening again. But then the pteradactyl pulls up and just hovers. Floating directly in it’s path is Paragon, one of the most powerful paranormals in the universe.

“My gosh, Joan!” exclaims Paragon, taking in the gore-encrusted pteradactyl and the shocked, pallid look on Ms. Victory’s face; the haunted look in her eyes.

“This…this abomination,” she stammered, trying to control her emotions, “just massacred an alley full of people!” Unable to stop them, tears begin flowing down her face and her body shakes in great sobs. “He was eating them, for God’s sake!” she screamed.

The pteradactyl jumps when she yells but otherwise doesn’t move, not knowing what to do.

“Let me handle him real quickly and then I’m taking you out of here,” Paragon tries to soothe her.

“No, Chuck, wait! He’s really intelligent and he’ll allow you to get in real close and then he’ll duck under your attack and escape,” Ms. Victory says, almost within herself.

But it’s too late. Paragon is already rushing full speed toward the beast, his arms outstretched, fists closed. Without so much as a flinch, the pteradactyl takes the blow directly on it’s beak and falls like a rock to the pavement below.

“No! I don’t understand. He is really smart,” Ms. Victory cries. “He dodged me everytime I tried to hit him. Really! He’s smart!”

“It’s okay, Joan,” Paragon tries to comfort her. “We’ll work everything out.”

But Ms. Victory won’t stop, “No, Chuck. Don’t you get it? If he’s not as smart as I thought, if he really wasn’t able to trick me, then I just allowed all those innocent people to get killed!”

* * *

Back in the volcano, the girls are all staring at the portal that swallowed Nyoka. Each is unconsciously holding her breath, hoping to hear quickly from their friend. Tara suddenly speaks, startling everyone and causing them to remember to breathe. “If we just stand here waiting like this it’ll just drive us crazy. The old ‘watched pot never boils’ syndrome. She won’t return any quicker with us waiting like this so let’s find something to do until she get’s back.”

“Like what?” inquires Cave Girl.

Tygra intercedes, “Actually, there are some plants right outside the volcano that I’d like some help collecting to study. They are unlike any plants I’ve ever seen anywhere else and I’ve been meaning to examine them for quite some time.”

As the girls go outside to help Tygra , inside the volcano a figure seperates itself from the shadows. I didn’t think they would ever leave long enough for me to do what I have too. Under no circumstances can I allow them to close off any of these doorways. The figure grabs the rope sticking out of the portal and tosses the whole thing through. Now they can’t close this one or they’ll be stranding Nyoka on the other side.

* * *

With their hands bound behind them, Nyoka and Volstaff are led toward the city of the ‘dark-hairs’. “You mean to tell me,” asks Nyoka astounded, “that the only reason you and your enemies have for killing each other is the fact that they have black hair and your people have red?”

“Yes,” answers Volstaff in short fashion, apparently not in the mood for conversation.

“And this is worth having a war over?” continues Nyoka, anyway.

Volstaff gives her a tired look, understanding any attempt at getting her to stop talking to him would be futile. “Is there a point to any of this?”

“No wonder those women tried to escape this insanity.”

“Look, wench,” Volstaff explodes. “I’ve had just about all of you that I….OW!” A spear point in the side settles him back down.

Nyoka smiles, “You see. That doesn’t feel too good, does it?”

“That’s it.” Volstaff says quietly to himself. Then, with a deep breath, he emits the loud, high-pitched screech of a dolphin. He throws himself down, taking Nyoka with him.

Suddenly the water blackens and screams of dying men fill the area, as a sixty-foot monstrosity of an octopus comes around an underwater embankment and begins tearing the unsuspecting mer-men to pieces. Volstaff pulls Nyoka into a small, camoflaged cave to wait out the carnage.

The screams continue on and on, and Nyoka is forced to close her eyes against the massacre, even though it cannot be seen from their safe haven. Slowly the dying cries fade and the two slowly emerge from the cave. Nyoka sees it was really not much more than a small indention in the side of the mountain. “What just happened?” she asks, visibly shaken.

“It’s one of our prearranged contingency plans,” explains Volstaff. We have several traps around in case the Dark Ones attack. I signalled with the dolphin cry and the octopus was sent in.”

“But how?” Nyoka is clearly confused and still shaken. “Do you possess some kind of telepathy or something that it obeys?”

Volstaff laughs, “No, Little One. We have no such powers. I guess it’s all right to let you know, now. The women I mentioned, the scientists, have a device they created that allows them to control all the creatures of the sea.”

“And there was no other way? I mean, these men were mutilated beyond recognition. Couldn’t we have…?”

“There was no other way,” interrupted Volstaff. “Believe me. What they had planned for us was at least that bad.”

“Yeah, but….Hey! Wait a minute. Why would the scientists let you have their machine if you persecute them?” Nyoka wants to know.

Nyoka whirls around as she hears giggling behind her. Seven beautiful mer-maids are swimming toward her and Volstaff. The nearest one, obviously the leader of the group says, “Okay, Volstaff. You’ve played the ‘bad fish’ long enough.” Then to Nyoka, “Volstaff has been secretly helping us to escape for years, despite a sure death sentence if he’s caught. I’m not sure any of our sisters would have been successful in their escape attempts without his help. Despite his demeanor, he’s really a big, old softie!”

Volstaff mumbles something unheard under his breath and turns a bright red, obviously not appreciating the mer-maid’s assessment of him (at least not outwardly). It’s all Nyoka can do not to laugh in the big mer-man’s face as all the pretty mer-maids start oohing-and-aahing over him. This adds even more to his discomfort and embarrassment.

Trying hard to not think of the slaughter she was just surrounded by, Nyoka tries to smile. “While all this has been great, I think I’d better be getting back home now.”

As they approach the area where the portal leads to her own world, Nyoka notices the rope laying on the ground. “Oh, no! I had that rope marking the way out of here.”

“Not to worry, friend Nyoka. Our nexus locator will have you on your way before yoy know it,” says the mer-maid who had started the teasing on Volstaff. She produces a small device (Nyoka has no idea from where, considering her lack of clothing) and as she turns a centralized knob, the dimensional doorway seems to materialize from thin air. “We have more, so please take this,” she says handing the box to Nyoka. “If you should ever return, you can use it to find your way home.”

“Thank you all, very much. I hope to visit again soon. I have some very powerful friends who would be more than happy to help you with your situation here,” offers Nyoka.

“Well, girlie,” Volstaff growls, trying to regain some of his stolen dignity, “if you want to check back later that would be greatly appreciated, but for now I feel like we need to handle this ourselves.”

Nyoka grins, “Between these resourceful young women and yourself, I’d bet on your side everytime, Volstaff. Waving as she passes through the portal, Nyoka disappears from the dimension of the mer-people.

* * *

Nyoka is greeted by her friends, who have gathered back inside the volcano after gathering the strange plants that Tygra wanted.

Rats thinks the hidden figure as it slowly fades back further into the darkness. I don’t know how she found her way back out without the rope but now I’ll have to do whatever I must to prevent them from closing the doorway.

Completely unaware of the person’s presence in the shadows, the girls rush up to Nyoka, a thousand questions on their lips. “I’ll tell the whole story after I get a shower and get dried off,” Nyoka says, dripping on the cavern floor. “But, there are some brave people on the other side whose very lives depend on this doorway staying open. We absolutely can not close it.”

Yes! I won’t have to intervene after all thinks the figure as it disappears completely in the stygian depths of the tunnels. At least not yet.

chapter three

JUNGLE FEVER

Having just passed through a portal, Cave Girl, wearing the nexus locator on a belt Nyoka made for it, finds herself in the lush, humid atmosphere of a dark jungle. Cave Girl like already she thinks to herself. The thick undergrowth would make it next to impossible for a normal person to walk through but Cave Girl handles it with ease. Just as the heat and humidity of the jungle would sap almost anyone else’s strength in a matter of minutes, Cave Girl seems to thrive in it. Makes me miss home. The roars and rustles heard both near and far visibly relax her even though, until her arrival, Cave Girl didn’t realize how tense civilization had made her.

A loud roar sounds directly behind Cave Girl and she turns just in time to avoid a giant claw from cutting her in two. A saber-toothed lion with back arched ready to pounce, teeth bared in a feral snarl, a deep growl rumbling from it’s chest, and saliva flowing from it’s mouth, is staring her in the eyes. Cave Girl, an extremely tall woman in her own rights, barely has to look down to meet the creatures eyes, even with it being on all four legs.

Without skipping a beat, Cave Girl falls back into her old role of jungle girl. Faster than the saber-tooth can follow, she executes a perfect forward flip with a half twist to land astride the beast’s neck. Easily avoiding the maddened swipes of the lion’s claws, Cave Girl presses the temples of the cat’s massive head causing it to scream in pain. It’s efforts to claw her away increase ten-fold until slowly they diminish and the creature falls to the ground unconscious.

Barely breathing hard from the exertion, Cave Girl walks away from the struggle as if battling a two-ton cat is nothing out of the ordinary. She had heard a clamor to the south during the last few seconds of the wrestling match and her curiosity over-rides any second thoughts she might have given the saber-tooth.

The jungle is so dense, Cave Girl is almost on top of the scene before she sees it. A tall, lean, muscular man, clothed in nothing but the smallest of loin cloths, is holding a velociraptor at bay with a very crude looking spear. Gorgeous is Cave Girls only thought as she looks the jungle man over. She starts to call out some advice to him on how to bring the dinosaur down but decides, under the circumstances, distracting the man might not be the best of ideas.

As it turns out, she didn’t need to worry. Snapping the spear in two with it’s incredibly strong jaws, the velociraptor slowly approaches it’s prey, feeling the man is now helpless against it’s superior strength. Then with a movement so swift that neither the ‘raptor nor Cave Girl sees it, the jungle lord pulls a foot long dagger from the strap of his loin cloth and plunges it into the dinosaurs throat. The velociraptor fights on for a few seconds not realizing that it is already dead, then it’s eyes glaze over and it falls to the ground.

Cave Girl steps into the clearing, too quiet, she thinks, to be heard. But the man turns with the same quickness he had used to dispatch the velociraptor, and brings his spear up, ready to defend himself. Seeing the beautiful woman (instead of the imagined male of a foreign tribe attempting to steal the newly won meal his tribe desperately needs) the tension leaves his body and he lowers his spear. “Very dangerous to sneak up on Kazan while still under battle-lust,” the large man says.

His long blond hair, tangled with sweat and blowing in his face, gorgeous was still the only word Cave Girl could think of to describe him.

“Cave Girl not sneaking, just quiet,” explains Cave Girl.

Kazan turns back to the dinosaur. Not recieving a reply, Cave Girl asks, “Would Kazan like help carrying your meat?”

He snears at her, “Kazan does not need the help of a woman!” He bends and wraps the legs of the velociraptor around one shoulder and the arms around the other. Being careful not to cut himself on the creature’s claws he lifts the dinosaur with a mighty heave. “See woman, Kazan needs help from no one,” he says, clearly showing off. But just as clear is the strain Kazan is under from carrying such weight.

Cave Girl can not resist a smile st the display of machismo and the apparent hurt Kazan is putting on himself. Then, after a few struggling steps Kazan can not help but drop his catch. Cave Girl breaks out laughing, at the obvious displeasure of Kazan, despite an all out effort not to.

“Go ahead and laugh, woman,” the last word meant in a derrogatory manner. “At least Kazan is powerful enough to lift such a beast. Not a weak woman like yourself.”

“Cave Girl not a weak woman,” Cave Girl says brushing past Kazan. She easily lifts the beast over one shoulder. “Cave Girl strong woman. Now, which way we go?”

Kazan is stunned to see such strength in a ‘mere’ woman. He just nods and points south. “That way,” he says quietly, barely able to find his voice.

* * *

Walking through the alleyways, the former wino gloats over the ease of his escape from Taragonia. To think those Bimbos thought me destroyed so easily. When my body was rent asunder by the atmosphere surrounding their island, I merely transported my soul into the body of a nearby flying beast. Then all I had to do was bide my time until opportunity presented me with a means of escape. As lines were cut through the sky by various means I seized the chance to fly through one of the tunnels created in the purple heavens so that now I, Doctor Shinduu, have returned to once again conquer all I survey! Evil laughter once again fills the canyon like alleys of the city as Doctor Shinduu disappears into the darkness.

* * *

After delivering the stunned pteradactyl to the Orlando Zoo for safe-keeping. Paragon takes a no-longer hysterical, but still distraught Ms. Victory back to Femforce headquarters. Nightveil, having taken over monitoring duty from She-cat, meets the pair as they enter the compound. Emotionally drained, it doesn’t take Ms. Victory long to fall asleep once in the comfort of her own bed.

“So, what’s wrong with Joan, Paragon? I’ve gotten several reports of her subduing a pteradactyl but I didn’t get any specifics,” says Nightveil. “What gives?”

“What gives,” Paragon turns on the witch for what he mistakenly percieves as a cold, uncaring attitude directed at the woman he loves, “is that Vickie arrived too late to save a community of street people from that creature. For some reason she’s blaming herself for the whole slaughter and quite frankly I don’t appreciate your flippant attitude toward her after all she’s been through!”

“Wait a minute, Paragon! I didn’t mean anything by…”

But Paragon is in no mood to listen to anyone, “I really couldn’t care less what you meant. I don’t have time for this right now. Joan needs me.”

Controlling her temper with a great deal of effort, Nightveil isn’t about to be pushed aside without a second thought. “C’mon, Chuck! You’ve known me way too long to believe I’m any less concerned for her than you are. But right now she needs sleep far more than she needs you and there’s obviously a problem here that needs to be dealt with. Please…calm down and tell me, as the friend I’ve always been able to depend upon, exactly what’s going on.”

* * *

“Hello? Cave Girl? Is anyone here?” The girls, again waiting inside the volcano for Cave Girl to re-emerge from a portal, immediately recognize the deep, resonant voice of Strong Man. The loin-clothed muscle man commonly known as ‘the world’s strongest human being’ has been coming to Taragonia more and more often to spend time with Cave Girl.

Tara sticks her head out of the crevice they’ve been using to enter the volcano, and spotting him outside their island compound, waves him in. “Over here, Strong Man.”

As he enters the cool interior of the cavern he notices that Cave Girl is not with them. “Have any of you ladies seen C.G.?”

“We felt the need to explore the worlds beyond these dimensional doorways,” Tygra volunteers, “and right now Cave Girl is in that one right there.” She points to one of the swirling gateways.

“Why her?” Strong Man wants to know, despite his earnest effort not to slip into a natural protectiveness of the woman he has come to care so strongly for. He understands that this is the nineties, but he is from the fifties where believing the man is always needed for protection was not just accepted but expected.

“I went into the first doorway,” Nyoka says placatingly. Now totally dry, you wouldn’t know she had just been through any kind of ordeal if not for the occasional bruise and cut.

Ignorring Nyoka completely, he turns to Tara. “And you condone this recklessness? You are in charge of this island, aren’t you?”

Not wanting to feel like she owes an explanation for her actions, Tara gives one anyway. “We’ve encountered some pretty strange things while on this island, as you well know. One of the more dangerous ones escaped and we decided it was time we did something about it!” Even as she says it the explanation sounds kind of weak, even to her. She doesn’t suppose it sounds any better to a love-smitten hero from the fifties. She is real glad as Strong Man slowly nods his head, contemplating what he was just told.

“How long has she been in there?” he asks, edging closer to the specified hole.

“Not long. About fifteen minutes,” Tara guesses.

“Maybe I should check on her,” Strong Man says.

Tara shakes her head, “I really don’t think that’s a very good idea. She has a nexus locator to find her way back. If you should happen not to find her, you could be trapped there forever.” She tries to take his arm and lead gently lead him from the gateway.

Having none of it Strong Man pulls his arm from Tara’s grasp. “I’ll find her. And if not, she’ll come back for me.” Without another thought he steps through the doorway.

* * *

“That’s some story,” exclaims Nightveil after Paragon relays the recent events as best he could piece together from Ms. Victory’s ramblings. “And I fear she’s right.. Something just doesn’t sound quite right about that kind of behavior from a pteradactyl.”

“I just hope there really is something to her story and it’s not just some kind of mental lapse due to her inability to cope with the disaster,” says Paragon.

Nightveil’s voice takes a slight cold tone, “Really, Charles! You should know better than I, that Joan is made too tough for such foolishness. No! Something is amiss and I have a feeling it’s something we best not ignore. Mind the store for me, will you Paragon? I have some investigating to do.” Without waiting for an answer, Nightveil waves her cape around herself with a flamboyant flair and disappears with a slight wisp of smoke.

“Sure thing, Nightveil,” Paragon answers, though no one is listening.

* * *

The first thing Strong Man hears upon clearing the portal is the sound of Cave Girl’s voice, “Now, which way we go?”

Not believing his incredible luck he starts to call out to her but hears another, deeper (although decidedly more quiet) voice , “That way.”

Quietly, Strong Man makes his way toward the voices just in time to see Cave Girl and a muscular, barely clothed man leave a clearing and head into the jungle, a dinosaur in tow. Curiosity setting in, and not just a small amount of jealously, Strong Man decides to follow the pair for awhile. He doesn’t go far bfore he is able to see Cave Girl again and is almost ready to call to her for a second time when the man accompanying her suddenly grabs her and pulls her around to face him.

“Kazan like powerful woman. Want you for mate.” He kisses her with such force and passion that Cave Girl is temporarily stunned into inactivity.

She didn’t even try to stop him, thinks Strong Man. Maybe I’ve waited too long to let her know how I truly feel abut her. He starts to turn and leave when the sound of the velociraptor being dropped causes him to look back in the direction of the couple. Expecting to see more of what he just witnessed, Strong Man is shocked when Cave Girl curls her fist and delivers a haymaker to the jaw of Kazan, lifting the large man a full eight inches off the ground.. He lands hard, holding his jaw and looking at Cave Girl in disbelief.

“What you hit Kazan for!” he wants to know.

“Sorry,” Cave Girl says, honestly not having meant to hit him. “You caught me by surprise. Should not kiss Cave Girl, anyway. I already have man that I love.”

Hearing Cave Girl’s declaration causes Strong Man’s heart to soar, but he also realizes she must tell him when she’s ready. He decides to slip away, back to the vicinity of the portal and hopefully find it, but as he happily turns he comes eye to eye with what appears to be a six foot tall Tyranosaurus Rex. A small roar comes from the dinosaur’s throat as a set of very powerful jaws snap in his direction.

If that’s what I think it is, they’re not nearly as big as I was lead to believe. As the T-Rex takes another bite at Strong Man he swings a powerful blow into it’s snout staggering the beast, even if only for a moment. Shaking it’s head, the T=Rex becomes enraged and lunges at the muscle man, claws slashing and teeth clashing. Strong Man barely has time to avoid the attack, but answers it instinctively with the same ferocity. Before he realizes he’s doing it, Strong Man has hold of the dinosaur, upper teeth in his right hand, lower teeth in his left and pulls until the sound of bones breaking signifies the end of the battle has arrived. I didn’t even hardly work up a sweat, he thinks dropping his prey. What a disappointment. I was expecting a little more from a dinosaur from listening to Cave Girl’s description of them.

He turns to find himself looking at the thigh of an exact duplicate of the dinosaur he just fought, only three times the size. “Oh, no! Cave Girl!!!” Strong Man yells as he jumps to the side, missing being bitten in half by the narrowest of margins.

* * *

“Strong Man?” Cave Girl calls, rushing toward the cry for help. What’s he doing here? she wonders. Rounding a bend in the trail she has been following, she sees Strong Man laying on the ground, trying to keep out of harms way as a Tyranosaurus Rex takes several bites at him. She sees the dead baby rex and immediately understands the situation. There will be no stopping the mother from exacting revenge short of killing her.

Heedless of her own danger, she launches herself at the T-Rex, landing astride it’s snout, looking it square in the eyes. Momentarily forgetting Strong Man, the dinosaur emits a deaffening roar, easily heard throughout the entire valley. Undeterred by the noise, or the violent shaking of it’s head, Cave Girl pulls her dagger from the belt holding the nexus locator, and plunges it into the beast’s left eye.

The dagger is not long enough to reach the brain or to cause any fatal damage. The pain sends the Tyranosaurus into a feral, mindless thrashing, dislodging Cave Girl, sending her to slam solidly into the base of a tree.

Cave Girl’s interference has given Strong Man time to regain his feet, but seeing his beloved thrown into the tree, maybe severely hurt (maybe even dead) sends him into a bloodlust like he’s never known before. Yelling like a maddened beast himself, Strong Man charges headlong toward the creature. So intent is he on retribution, he fails to notice the slashing tail until it is too late. The tail catches him solid in the chest, knocking the breath from him and breaking a few ribs. Horror overcomes him as he realizes the dinosaur is turning toward the (hopefully) unconscious form of Cave Girl and he is unable to get up in time to prevent it from getting her.

Suddenly, from somewhere behind him, a crude looking spear flashes by, burying itself three feet into the ruined eye that Cave Girl’s dagger is still sticking out of. As the Tyranosaurus falls forward, pushing the rest of the spear through it’s already impaled brain, Strong Man whirls his head around to see Kazan. A bruise is already forming on his jaw.

Finding his feet, although he has never hurt nearly as much as he does now, Strong Man rushes to Cave Girl’s side. She is already stirring as he arrives but it is clear she is badly hurt. Gently picking her up, Strong Man walks over to Kazan. “I owe you more than I can ever repay,” he says, grasping one of Kazan’s hands, being careful not to jostle Cave Girl too much. “But my lady is badly hurt and I have to take her back where we came from for help.”

Without so much as a backward glance, Strong Man takes the nexus locator from Cave Girl’s belt and turns the switch. (Luckily there is only one switch.) Going back to the area he first entered this dimension, he finds the swirling blackness and carries them through.

* * *

Tara, Nyoka, and Tygra are all waiting as Strong Man arrives, Cave Girl craddled in his arms.

“What’s wrong with her?” cries Tygra.

“She needs help, NOW!” Strong Man heads for the infirmary, the three girls following closely on his heels. Tara calls ahead on her cellular phone to make sure the medical staff is ready.

As soon as Cave Girl is being taken care of, Strong Man relays their adventure as best he can considering his difficulty in keeping focussed on anything but the medical proceedings.

The girls depart the infirmary, leaving Strong Man behind to stay with Cave Girl. As they re-enter the volcano, all are in agreement that this particular portal definately needs closing. “So the only question now is, how do we go about closing it?”

“The answer to that is simple, my friends,” comes a voice they all know well but have not heard for awhile. They all turn in unison to find Princess Pantha stepping from the shadows of a tunnel, gun in hand, “you don’t.”

chapter four

ANOTHER FINE MESS

Following the trail of evil, eminating from the alley where the slaughter occurred, Nightveil is sure she is closing in on the end of the trail. The sense of wickedness has become so strong I must be veritably on top of the vile perpetrator she thinks. But just as the aura of evil is just about to overcome her, it suddenly ceases. In it’s place words seemingly begin to form from thin air, right in front of her.

Nightveil – I knew you would come searching for me so I left this message for you (No one else has the ability to see this). Since learning of your incredible powers I have long since desired to match sorcerous abilities with you. But not now. I’m tired from the transformations and the chase your friend gave me. But remember this! When you least expect it you will find yourself challenged like no challenge you have ever faced before. So swears the mighty Dr. Shinduu!!

The words slowly fade leaving Nightveil without any traceable path to follow. But she swears she can hear an evil laughter echoing over and over again in the back of her mind.

* * *

“So, what’s with the gun, Pantha?” Tara asks.

Not being able to percieve any concern from Tara’s attitude (as well as Tygra’s and Nyoka’s) Pantha visibly becomes a little edgy, not truly wanting to have to use the gun. “That’s Princess Pantha, little miss rich girl. Although I can undertand how you can forget that considering the state of my country.”

Clearly confused, Nyoka questions her. “What in the world are you going on about?”

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand,” spits Pantha. “You’ve never been the ruler of a country. Well, I have and it was a country with a proud, rich heritage. But then I was frozen in that cursed vault of Dr. Weir’s. Sure, I was given the country back but it sure wasn’t how I left it. There is no money, and no pride left. The villagers are down trodden, living in filth, barely being able to find enough to eat. And it breaks my heart to see my once proud people living in such squalid conditions!”

Hurting for her friend, Tara exclaims, “Why didn’t you let us know the situation. We’ll do anything we can to help.”

“If you truly cared, you would have seen it for yourself,” Pantha yells, her rage growing with her story. Do you truly think we need help from the likes of you? I have the matter well in hand on my own. I used to own a zoo with all the wild animals from my country. People would come from all over to see them. But zoos have become common place and people are no longer interested. So to build the riches of my land back, I’m creating a zoo like no one has ever seen before. I’ve already gathered mer-maids, monkey men, dinosaurs, alien life forms of all kinds and many other wonderful sights that people will be willing to pay a fortune to see.”

“Mer-maid and monkey men?” asks Nyoka.

“You can’t be serious,” continues Tara. “Their sentient beings. Surely you wouldn’t incarcerate innocent people for self gain?”

“They aren’t real people,” says Pantha. From the strain in her voice it is obvious she hasn’t completely convinced even herself of what she is saying. “But the people of my tribe are.” Tears begin to run from her eyes as her need to comfort her tribesmen totally overwhelms her. “They need me to help them to overcome their lives of poverty – to be able to be a strong and proud people once more.”

Tara shakes her head, “Knowing the inherant goodness of your tribe, I know in my heart that they would never wish harm on others just to help their own plight. Listen, there are other ways to…”

“There are no other ways!” she screams, tears now flowing down her face. “All of you just shut up. I have to help them and that’s just how it is. SO JUST SHUT UP! If anyone says anything else to confuse me I promise I’ll shoot you all. Just leave the portals open so I can get more specimens, and leave me alone, and everyone will be okay.”

“Sorry, but Princess need help,” comes a voice from behind her. Princess Pantha turns just in time to see the huge fist of Cave Girl smash her across the jaw, bringing unconsciousness. “You not well.”

“Cave Girl? But how?” Nyoka wants to know.

Strong man enters the cavern. “It seems like my lady is not only beautiful but resiliant as well. After laying down a few minutes she insisted on coming back out here with you. I tried to stop her but there was no way.”

Cave girl says, “Cave Girl fine, but what we do with Princess?”

“The only thing we can do,” says Tara. “We get her help. Dr. Weir should be able to help her. He knew all along it would be hard for some of his vault heroes to cope with a life, forty years past their own time. One thing she said is right though. We can’t close the portals.”

“And why is that?” Tygra wants to know.

“Because we have to find the people and things she captured and try to return them to their own places and times. Then after things settle down, maybe we can figure out what to do with the portals. But for now, I think we’ve explored enough,” says Tara.

“Amen to that sister!” agrees Nyoka. And for the first time in a while they take the time to laugh a little.

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The Lost Planet

Lost Planet DVD wrapper artPrice: $14.95

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 THE LOST PLANET 1953 – 15 Chapters
Eccentric Earth scientist Dr. Grood (MICHAEL
FOX), has coerced the military leader (GENE
ROTH) of the alien planet Ergro into doing his
bidding. The inhabitants of THE LOST PLANET
are pressed into slavery under the forced control
of hypnotic helmets. The true genius, Dr. Dorn
(FORREST TAYLOR) has been kidnapped from
Earth and made to use his incredible inventions
for evil conquest. Reporter Rex Barrow (JUDD
HOLDREN) and Dorn’s beautiful daughter, Ella
(VIVIAN MASON), are also captured by Grood and
flown to Ergro by rocket ship. There Rex and
Ella try to stop Grood’s efforts thru 15 startling
chapters!
Leading man Judd Holdren was often used as a
Science fiction hero. He previously starred at Republic
As “ROCKETMAN” in both the ZOMBIES OF THE
STRATOSPHERE and COMMANDO CODY- SKY
MARSHALL OF THE UNIVERSE which was both
A TV series and a theatrical serial. At Columbia he was
the movie’s version of TV hero CAPTAIN VIDEO and
fighting Rex Barrow in THE LOST PLANET. Like
CAPTAIN VIDEO, this serial is over-loaded with
pseudo-scientific contraptions generally used to place
the protagonists into imaginative perils.
The picture quality of this release is not up to par with
previous Republic serials. This cliffhanger is very rare
so serial fans are happy to be able to see it at all.
Starring: JUDD HOLDREN, Vivian Mason,
Michael Fox and Forrest Taylor.
Directed by Spencer Bennet,this vintage 1953 serial
is an all-ages, regions-free presentation in NTSC format,
on two DVD-R Discs and should play on any stansard
DVD player.Almost 4 hours of exciting entertainment,
with an Interactive Menu. Released by Smarty Pants
Entertainment and CultRetro in 2012.

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Ms. Victory Gallery

A gallery of pinups and fan art featuring Ms. Victory

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Blue Bulleteer Gallery

A gallery of pinups and fan art featuring The Blue Bulleteer

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Stardust Gallery

A gallery of pinups and fan art featuring Stardust

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Synn Gallery

A gallery of pinups and fan art featuring Synn

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Tara Gallery

A gallery of pinups and fan art featuring Tara

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Miscellaneous Gallery

A gallery of pinups and fan art featuring other heroes and heroines

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Photomanipulations

A gallery of pinups and fan art featuring digital art and photomanipulation

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Federal Agents Vs. Underworld, Inc.

Price:$14.95Add to Cart View Cart

FEDERAL AGENTS VS. UNDERWORLD, INC KIRK ALYN, ROSEMARY LaPLANCHE, ROY BARCROFT, CAROL FORMAN Nila (CAROL FORMAN), an international criminal, and Spade Gordon (ROY BARCROFT), an American gangster, conspire to form a criminal conglomeration called Underworld, Inc. Their initial goal is to locate the mysterious Golden Hands of Kurigal, ancient artifacts that will lead to untold power and wealth. Government agents led by Dave Worth (KIRK ALYN) arrive to challenge this evil when Professor Clayton (JAMES CRAVEN), the archeologist who discovered the tomb of Kurigal turns up missing. Worth then joins forces with the professor’s pretty aide, Laura Keith (ROSEMARY LaPLANCHE) to solve the age old mystery and to combat the violent forces of Underworld, Inc. Twelve thrilling cliffhanger chapters have you on the edge of your seat as Federal Agents are propelled through high speed chases, high-flying leaps, explosive blasts and numerous death traps! Starring Kirk Alyn, Rosemary La Planche, Roy Barcroft, Carol Forman Directed by Fred C. Brannon Republic Pictures 1949 B&W 167 Mins. Digitally remastered, all-ages, regions free, in NTSC format. Presented on two DVD-R discs with interactive menus. the program should play on any standard DVD player. Released by CultRetro in 2011.

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