Author: AnonyMPC

Title: Relatively Powered #5: "Just Dropping By, Part 2"

Summary: Two wannabe superheroes, a brother and sister, powered by incest! The two finally meet Little Miss Menace. Tabby is less impressed than she expected.

Keywords: mf, inc, anal, cons, superhero, scfi

Previously, in Relatively Powered: Alex and Tabby are two not-so-ordinary teen siblings. Not only are they in witness protection because supervillains want their dad, but they've also been becoming far closer than siblings should be... sexually close. But when they discover that acts of unprotected incest give them superpowers, their whole lives change. In their quest to figure out who had impersonated the bestial hero Menace and went on a rampage, they decide to pay a visit to his daughter... only to find her house surrounded by media. Alex convinced Tabby to teleport inside... where they immediately set off an alarm.

Relatively Powered by AnonyMPC (mf, inc, cons, superhero, scfi)

#5: "Just Dropping By, Part 2" (Additional Story Code: mf*, anal)

"We are authorized to use deadly force against intruders," the voice said as we stood in the foyer of the home of Little Miss Menace. I knew entering a hero's house uninvited was a bad idea, but I didn't really expect to be facing some kind of floating automated drone staring us down and somebody announcing... that. But that was the situation we found ourselves in. They were authorized to kill us. Just for entering without knocking? It seemed a little excessive. What happened to a fair trial? We were heroes too, after all. It wasn't like we were trying to break in, like Alex said, we were just dropping by.

I couldn't protest the unfair treatment, though. I found that all I could do was stare at the gun barrel, if that's what it was, in the hovering thing that once looked like a light fixture but now looked singularly menacing. It might have been a laser, or shoot out some kind of electric bolt. The uncertainty probably freaked me out more than anything... if I knew what it did I could maybe decide how I should react. I should have gotten us out of there right away, but the truth is, I just froze. It's silly, I've been shot at and fought Menace and I didn't freeze then, but those times I had time to psyche myself up to it beforehand. Here, I was expecting a social call only to have a big possible-gun aiming at me and my brother Alex, and an authoritative voice had just told me not to move. I guess deep down I thought listening was a good idea.

I stayed still, but my brother Alex didn't. Suddenly, I felt a gust of air, and before I could even think about it, he was in front of me. He'd put himself in between me and the gun, between me and the danger, even though, with his super speed, he was no more invulnerable than I was with my teleportation powers. We were a little more durable than a normal human, but neither of us felt we were bulletproof.

Yet he did it anyway. Again. Sometimes I worried he had some kind of secret death wish... he seemed happy enough, and I never saw any other kind of evidence for it. But I know that when the time came, he thought of my safety before his own. Even back before we had powers.


My mind flashed back to that scene, months ago, when we were hiding in the bushes in the park. I didn't know what to do, and I was freaking out, even worse than I was there in the foyer. All I wanted to do was hide, and do the minimum necessary for that. I was afraid to get up, afraid to even move. I just lay in the tall grasses, sobbing quietly, still in shock from the explosion, and the demands that we, by name, surrender ourselves.

The demand didn't make sense. We weren't heroes at this time, we were just ordinary teenagers. We didn't yet know that acts of unprotected sex would grant us super powers... we didn't even know we'd ever do anything sexual with each other at all.

When the first explosion hit, we happened to have been on the edge of the group, thank God, and together... Alex pulled me into the woods to hide and run away the moment the man landed. It didn't work as well as we'd hoped. Not even thirty seconds later, a blast of bright orange knocked over a nearby tree and the shock sent us to the ground, crawling in different directions. That was when they started calling for us to come out, by name, and that's when I froze. They were hunting us specifically, and knew where we were, although slightly less specifically. We later learned they'd tracked our cell phones.

"Come out, or I keep shooting until I hit you," said a gravelly voice, and that was punctuated by a nearby zap.

It was then I realized I wasn't as alone as I felt. I knew my brother was nearby, but not exactly where, and as scared as I felt, he might as well have been miles away... at least until I felt him pulling himself over me. He wrapped his arms around me, like he was giving me a hug, except we were on the ground. "Don't worry, they'll hit me first," he whispered, with forced lightness. I tried to turn my head and look at him, but he was on top of me and I could only see him out of the corner out of my eye. I felt him squeezing me a little tighter. "Listen, Tabby... stay down. I'm going to give myself up. When I do, you crawl through the rest of the bushes, and when you can, run, okay? Don't look back."

I swallowed and found my voice. "No," I pleaded. "What if they kill you?" We didn't know that they were just trying to capture us... it was too weird to be happening at all.

His voice shook just a little bit. "Then... remember that I love you." He gave me a kiss, right near my eye, a kiss goodbye, and then crawled away to get some distance before he stood up.


I thought I might lose him that day. And I hated that feeling, and being reminded of it, back in the foyer, that spurred me out of my shocked immobility. I put my hand on his shoulder to... I don't know, pull him back, let us face it together. It wasn't worth sacrificing himself for me. I could handle dying if we did it together... I didn't want him to leave me alone.

"Didn't I JUST say NOT to move?" the voice asked, and I could practically hear a smug grin behind it. "Any further movements of any kind will be considered a hostile act, and I will respond accordingly." It was now that I thought about teleporting us away... but if I started to try, would he shoot us before I finished? It usually helped if I wiggled my fingers. Worse, I was nervous, and nerves always made the process slower. Even the lightshow might be interpreted as a hostile act... and the gun could fire while we were still being surrounded by my purple flames. Was it worth the risk?

A new voice startled me out of my pondering. "Whoever woke me up had better be in the mood for an ass-kicking." We were told not to move, but I couldn't help it, I looked. At the top of the stairs stood the woman we'd come here to see, the illustrious Little Miss Menace.

Like her father, Little Miss Menace had hair of silver and skin that looked like metal... although where his was a sort of dirty bronze, hers looks like polished gold. Other than that golden skin, and her tail, and claws, and... okay, well, her body size and shape, and facial features resembled that of a teenage girl... even though she was probably older than Mom and Dad.

She said we woke her up, and that looked to be true, even though it was past noon... she was still dressed for bed. In fact, she just wore a pair of tight panties (rolled down about a quarter of the way further down than they should, probably because of her tail) and a dark red robe. This lay open, exposing her stomach and even one of her breasts, although I'm not sure if that really counted as indecent. I mean, sure you could see the shape of her nipples in far more detail than anybody needs to know. She had the kind of puffy kind that stand out a little from the rest of the boob. My friend Mary had those kind, she was always self-conscious about them. But at the same time, with Little Miss Menace, they weren't a different color from the rest of her chest, so it really looked no worse than somebody wearing tight CoreWear and no bra. Except that it's not a costume, it's her skin. I don't know, all I'm saying is that if somebody broke into my home, I would have tried to throw a shirt on before confronting them.

I only thought about this later... because everything happened very fast. No sooner had she appeared and said what she did, then she vaulted off the top of the stairs and over the wall, advancing on us in a crouch.

The voice who'd been speaking earlier said, "Stay back, Carol, these hostiles are unknown, we don't know what they're capable of, and right now, sweetie, you're in my line of fire." If that was true, the floating-gun-thing must have had a wide line of fire.

Little Miss Menace didn't seem worried about it, though. She casually cracked the knuckles of one hand against the palm of the other. "You worry too much. I'm sure I can handle them."

"We're not hostiles," Alex promised, putting his hands up. "We're really big fans, actually."

The woman made a face. "Even worse. Don't call yourself a fan when you break into my home..."

"We didn't mean to," I said, sincerely, standing on my tiptoes to peek out over Alex's shoulder. He was still trying to defend me with his own body. "We were going to ring the bell, but there were too many reporters outside."

He continued, "And we're fans, but we're also heroes, like you. We're actually here on business."

Little Miss Menace cocked her head. Normally she doesn't really look like a robot, but with that expression, she kind of did. It was like we'd flicked a switch and she was now processing it. "What kind of business?"

"We're the ones that took down Menace yesterday," Alex told her proudly. "Or the guy who looked like him, anyway."

"That was you?" We nodded. She looked up to the gun-thing. "Raj, stand down." The machine slunk back and retreated into the wall with a whirr that sounded almost... disappointed. "I don't recognize you."

"We're kind of new..." I admitted.

"But again, big fans."

"We'll leave if you want. We didn't mean to wake you or anything." Seriously, it was past noon. If she was really a teenager I could understand it maybe, but she had a job and everything. Even on a Sunday she should be up before noon.

She looked at us... hard to read her expression with eyes that didn't seem to have pupils, but I guess she was considering it. "I guess I can spare a few minutes to help out some newbies." She brushed past us and started back up the stairs, and then used her hand to beckon us upward. "Come on up." To the air, she said, "Raj, could you be a dear and bring me a bagel?"

A soft sigh, followed by, "Yes, Carol."

We gave her a little head start, mostly from surprise at the sudden shift in tone than anything else, but pretty soon, Alex was already partway up the stairs, and I followed behind him... his butt actually looked pretty good in CoreWear, even with underwear, although I'd never admit it out loud.

"So what are your handles?" Carol asked, as she led us into her bedroom. It was a total mess. There were bits of clothes and bottles all over the floor, some stacks of Chinese take-out containers piled up on a table. She had a completely unmade bed, too... but then I remembered she'd just woken up, so I guess that was understandable.

"Handles?" I asked.

"It's what they used to call code names," Alex explained in a whisper.

"Oh," I said. "I'm, uh, Taboo..."

Alex took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. Prepared himself to say it out loud for the first time to anybody other than me. "And I'm Deviant," he said.

He was still unsure about it... and with good reason, he'd only come up with it late last night.


"Finished!" I said, lifting my new uniform top away from the CoreWear programmer. I held it up to inspect it one last time. It looked good, although I'd still have to try it on to make sure the insignia was centered. But at the very least, I wouldn't have any stuck zipper problems with this one. "What time is it?"

Alex looked up at his computer screen. We were in his room, the previous night. Since his room in his basement it was safer to hang out there than in mine. And it was fun, too, usually, although Alex had grown quiet while I was working on my costume. "Quarter to two."

"Wow... is it just me, or do nights pass super slow these days?" Alex didn't answer. "Are all powered not able to sleep, or is it just us?"

That got him to say something. "It varies," Alex explained. "Some need it as much as anybody. Some don't need to, but can, some can't even if they want to." He looked over and grinned. "If you want to doze off for a while, you can always masturbate."

That would remove my powers, and the energy buzz that keeps me constantly awake, until we had sex again. Which, might be appealing sometimes, but... "No, we're going to need me to teleport tomorrow." And we wouldn't necessarily get a chance to renew them without our parents overhearing. I stood up, stretched my legs, and walked over to his computer chair. He was still looking through the dictionary. "Still no luck finding a name?"

He scowled. "No."

"If you don't have a name, you'll have to let me do the talking," I reminded him with a grin. "And you can just be my sidekick... too unimportant to even introduce." I was only teasing him. Maybe it would inspire him to finally choose something. "You could always go with Secret, for now. It wasn't THAT bad." But I didn't like it, either.


I leaned over his shoulder. "Take a break. I'm sure something will come to you. We could watch a movie or something." He just made a sound, still wrapped up in looking for a name, and I found myself a little disappointed. I guess I wanted to distract him, for selfish reasons. I was bored. Sure, I could watch a movie myself, but that's not as much fun... if he wasn't going to talk to me I might as well just go to my room and read.

Well, there was one thing I knew would get his attention, so I wandered off towards where I left the top of my costume... and I took off my shirt. "Well, then can you do me a favor?" I asked, waiting for him to look over to me. When he did, his eyes widened with surprise at me being unexpectedly topless. Yeah, yeah, I was shamelessly using my body to get his attention... but it works! Personally, I don't think there's anything special about my breasts... they're not all that big and I'm pretty sure they're a little uneven. But Alex acts like they're the best ones in the world. Probably all guys act like that around all bare breasts, but I don't care... I'm not above using it to feel better about myself and, sometimes, get what I want.

Once I knew he had his eyes on me, I pulled my costume on over my head, smoothed it out over my breasts and stomach, and asked, "Is the logo positioned right? I don't want it to be off-center." I got close to him. Even though the top was now on, the CoreWear clung to my body, even outlining my nipples, almost like I was naked, so I still had his full attention. I swayed back and forth, enjoying the way his eyes followed me... well, not me, but them.

"Looks good to me," he said finally.

I smiled inwardly, then turned around and took it off, so it wouldn't look obvious that I was letting him look. If he kept watching he'd get another bare peek at them when I changed back into my search.

Except, I forgot for a moment that my bare back had an eye-catching quality too. "How's the back?" he asked, a little sadly, like he still felt guilty that it was his fault.

I sat down on his bed with my normal shirt in my lap. "It's getting better," I assured him.

"I wish there was something I could do to help," he said. "I'd offer a backrub, but I don't think that really works on bruises." Another reason to regret hurting myself. I loved a good backrub, and Alex was really good at giving them.

I swung my legs up off the floor and waved them. "You could give me a foot rub?" I joked.

"I'm not sure how that would help..."

"It would help me?" I offered, not really expecting him to do it, but, to my surprise, he shrugged, put the dictionary down, and then got out of his chair to sit down on the other end of his bed. He let one of my feet sit in his lap, and began pulling off the sock. My eyes boggled a little. I couldn't believe it... it really was just a joke. My feet weren't even sore. And he'd never done that before, but then, I don't think I'd ever asked, not seriously. Of course, I was still topless. That must have been a factor.

But I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I lay back while I felt his hands run over the sides of my feet, squeezing the heel, and then, slowly, working up a rhythm where his thumb pressed into my sole. And oh my god. It felt so incredibly good. And somehow more... intimate too, than a back rub. As he slides his fingers along, there's a hint of smoothness, from sweat, which you'd think would be icky but somehow the moistness and smell doesn't seem to bother him... and after a while, when his thumb digs deep into your sole, for a moment it sometimes feels like he's actually going inside, even though that's impossible. It was almost sexual. I guess a little more than almost, I'd started moaning softly... just a little, quiet "Mmm", and my feet shifted, and my heel struck a lump... Alex was hard. That could have been from my moaning, or that I was topless, too, but it was almost sex without sex. I smiled at him, as though reading his mind. I thought I was reading 'we should have sex, right now'.

I read wrong. But I was close. What he said was, "You know, there is something I thought of that might help your back..."

I moaned again as that thumb pressed in... every time it did it felt like it was pushing all the way up to my knee. "What?"

"Well... it's always possible that one of us has some kind of healing powers... we just have to find the right way to activate them."

I saw what he was getting at. He was looking at my butt, or the part of it that I'd turned towards him to better facilitate my foot being in the right place. "You just want to fuck my ass." I just said it like that. Normally I'm the kind of girl who hardly ever swears or talks sex, but when I'm with Alex I feel like I can talk like a brazen slut, just say exactly what I want. I guess that's one of the things I really like about when it's just the two of us.

And he never seemed to hide his feelings either. "Of course I want to fuck your ass. Who wouldn't? It's a great ass." I rolled my eyes a little. "But it's not just the ass... you've heard of a foot job, right? Or a boob job. We should give them a shot sometime... they could all give us something useful."

"Give you something," I pointed out. "I wouldn't get anything out of those." As good as his rubbing my feet felt, I didn't think I could get an orgasm, which is what our powers required. It was so unfair, there were so many ways to make a guy cum than there were to get a girl off.

"Hey, if it turns out to give me a healing touch, it helps out both of us. And besides, girls do cum from anal." It was an old argument. I didn't entirely buy it, or at least I didn't think I would be one of those who would.

"We could try some other things," I allowed, putting a stress on the some. I still wasn't sure about anal... but I was loosening up on that. "But not tonight. We've got business tomorrow. What if it winds up we get another result like with the hand job? Nothing useful, and no way to switch." When we tried that, we learned Alex gained a temporary immunity to various powers... including my teleportation, and even our ability to recharge. If that happened again, we'd be out of luck for visiting Menace's daughter like we planned.

Alex conceded the point, but wasn't ready to give up on his goal. "We could still try anal, just for fun... we could just do it costumes on." CoreWear made an instant condom, allowing us to have sex without switching powers... if that's what we wanted.

But I wasn't ready to try anal, not quite yet. I made an excuse. "And if it hurts and I cry out, we might wake the whole house." I didn't turn off the intercom that lets sounds from the house filter into Mom and Dad's room, and Sally's room most certainly wasn't soundproof. Our conversations were quiet enough that there wasn't much risk, but in the middle of the night I didn't want to risk a cry of pain... or pleasure, for that matter.

"We don't have to do it here. You could teleport us anywhere. A rooftop in Crash City..." His eyes seemed to light up a bit. "Or hell, it's the middle of the night... we could do it right in the middle of school. Imagine, us going at it right in the Principal's office, right on her desk, even."

I did, although I was picturing us having normal sex, riding on top of Alex in the Principal's chair (which I had to imagine, never having been in her office), or in other places at the school... the science lab, the cafeteria. It had appeal... I did get extremely turned on whenever we had to do something in a public place to switch powers, where anybody could be watching, even though I don't think anybody had seen us. But although I'm freer with Alex than I am with any other guy, I still go back and forth between wanting him to think of me as a slut, and wanting exactly the opposite. That's why I rolled my eyes and said, "God, you are such a deviant sometimes." Then I hoped he would try to convince me to go through with it anyway, like he had so often.

"Damn right," he said. "A deviant who just took down Menace." his eyes widened, then, and the thumb that had been circling around the bottom of my foot stopped. "That could work..."


He dropped my foot and went back to the computer. "Deviant. I could use it as my name... I just have to check and make sure it's not being used."

And so I was forgotten, at least for the moment... right when I was kind of getting wet, too. But I took it with good grace. I wasn't sure it was an appropriate name, but at least we went well together... and maybe I could even convince him to take on a symbol like mine.


"Deviant and Taboo," Little Miss Menace said after hearing the names, looking back to us with a smile like a gold scimitar. It doesn't sound natural to say the names the other way around. So score one for Alex, he always gets top billing. But I don't care, that much, I'm not in this for glory. She picked up some clothes off her bed and retreated behind an old-fashioned dressing screen, like they have in the movies. It was attached to her closet. I couldn't resist peeking... not at her, she was still safely hidden, but at the closet. She's known for so many wild and crazy outfits, one of the few heroes who doesn't stick to CoreWear variants. Miss Menace favors elaborate outfits with dresses, and hats or bonnets, something that stands out as distinctly odd in the modern world. And of course, she really likes parasols. I could see a bunch of those on the edge of the closet, strewn about without rhyme or reason, mixed in with custom-made shoes. The dresses were, at least, hung up neatly on hangers. "You're not at all worried about being mistaken for villains with those name?"

"So says Little Miss Menace," Alex pointed out.

"Touché . But mine's inherited. You guys break into a girl's house with a guy with 'hentai' written on his chest."

"Huh?" I asked. Not very eloquent of me.

"The Japanese. It means... well, I guess 'deviant' is close enough, but it's also the name for a genre of porn in Japan, and Japanese communities here. When I first saw it on his chest I thought it meant he was here to try to rape me with tentacles... which, don't get me wrong, every once in a while..." I frowned automatically. That struck me as a little tasteless. A rape joke? Really?

"You read Japanese?" Alex asked, impressed while I was disappointed.

"Not really. I speak a little, picked it up when I lived there for a few months after they threw out the Russkies." It's always weird to hear someone casually throw around a term you've only heard in old movies. That was before I was born, and she spoke about it like it was yesterday. "But they make a lot of 'hentai' about me, so... naturally, the symbol for that stuck in my memory." She threw her robe over the dressing screen and poked her head around the corner to look at me. "Now that I think about it, I recognize yours too... usually with a number before it. As in, forbidden to people under 18." Her head disappeared again.

"Do you think it's offensive?" I asked, worried. "I don't want to anger anybody."

"It doesn't offend me." One of her golden arms dipped up over the dressing screen as she put on some kind of shirt. "I wouldn't worry about it I were you. No matter what you do, people will find something to get offended about if they try hard enough, right? So what do you do? Your powers I mean." Her head poked out again.

"It varies," Alex said, and I could have killed him. He's the one always telling me that the more you tell other people, the less of an advantage you have. Sure, this wasn't a villain, but stuff like that gets out. "Right now I have super speed." He zoomed across the room in an eyeblink, to right beside the dressing screen. He leaned in just a little, looking like he was about a peek, but stopped himself and cocked a thumb back at me. "Taboo's a teleporter... that's how we got in."

To avoid scowling at him for giving up our secrets so easily, and also keep myself busy while Miss Menace was dressing, I wandered through the room checking the walls, only to find my disappointment in her growing. There were a lot of pictures there, and most of them were of her. How vain, I thought. My pictures were of family and friends and celebrities I like, and any pictures of myself were with other people I cared about. Though I guess many of these pictures were with other people, so maybe it wasn't that bad, even though a lot of them were celebrities. Her superhero teammates, of course, but some real celebrities too. There was one with Cat Stevens, probably from when he did that big charity album with the Headliners. Her with President Clinton. One of her with her dad. Maybe some of the others I didn't recognize were family, but there were still far too many solo pictures, which struck me as a little vain. The next thing I noticed was that they all seemed to be pictures of her in her Menace form, and that made me doubt myself a little. I knew she could look totally human when she wanted to, but I couldn't find a picture of plain old Carol Ferber. I used to think she was confident for going out like Menace, but this... this was starting to feel kind of sad, like she didn't think her normal look was good enough.

I wondered about that as I stopped in front of a poster from a cartoon, near one of her windows. It was a group shot from Disney's Kim Possible, where she was the inspiration for the villain's sarcastic robotic sidekick. She also did the voice from the second season on. Alex and I used to watch the show when we were really young... it was probably one of the first shows I remember watching.

"That was a fun gig," she said to me, startling me. She'd come out and saw me admiring the poster, and somehow sidled up to me without me hearing her. Now, she was dressed, although not in one of her signature outlandish outfits, but something like I might wear, with just a long t-shirt and shorts, though with a custom-designed hole for her tail. I guess when she was home, she dressed more casual. "If you're a fan, I've probably got some leftover Miss Go glossies from a convention, I could give you an autograph."

"Would you?" Alex gushed. "That would be awesome."

I cleared my throat. "We're here on business, remember?" Besides, Mom probably already had her picture and autograph somewhere in storage, although not as the cartoon character.

"Right. Well, what do you need me for?"

"We're trying to figure out how and why there was a false Menace."

Alex stepped forward and pulled his phone off his belt, then unfurled it and called up the image. "Do you recognize this guy?" It was the picture of the fake-Menace, right after he turned back. Tall, skinny black guy. Naked, too, although obviously we didn't take a picture of that.

She looked at it. "No, he doesn't look familiar."

"We were thinking that if he changes like your father..."

"Yeah, yeah. There are a whole bunch of people Seconded off my Dad one way or the other, starting with myself." I'm no expert on heroes, but even I knew about how she was supposedly Secondarily Empowered when she got some of his blood in her mouth on one of his rare contagious flare-ups. She was born before he'd become Menace at all, so it wasn't inherited or anything. "Not all of them have met him, either. Were there any distinguishing features? When he was monstered out?"

"No... he looked exactly like Menace. And I mean, exactly, as far as I could tell, and I've got his trading card."

She tilted her head to the side again in that curious robotic expression. "That's unusual. Even if one of Dad's body fluids was responsible, their own genetics still shape the look. In fact, usually they have to be pretty close for it to work at all."

"So what are you thinking?" Alex asked.

"I'm not thinking anything, I'm just saying it doesn't add up. It could be a shapeshifter, I guess." Why would a shapeshifter imitate Menace? It's not like his reputation was that great to begin with... if you wanted to make a hero look bad, there were better targets. "Did you talk to him?"

I shrugged. "A little... when he woke up, he didn't seem to have any memory of being the monster at all. He said the last thing he remembered was going to bed the night before." Which meant, if he was telling the truth, either he'd lost many hours of time before he transformed, or he was hidden a long time before the news picked up on him.

"My dad had the same experience the first few times... of course, your guy might have been faking."

"He didn't seem like he was faking," I said. He seemed pretty convincing, actually. "We dropped him off for the cops just in case, and they let him go."

"He might have been faking," Alex argued. "Cops don't necessarily know anything. But is there any way we can talk to your dad? See if maybe HE recognizes the guy?"

She smiled ruefully. "Story of my life, half the time people want to talk to me, they really want to talk to Dad. The cops already called me too, about this guy... his name's Michael Brooks. They are keeping a watch on him, just in case, by the way, but without any evidence that he's responsible..."

At this point, the mysterious Raj entered the room, holding a platter with a bagel on a plate, covered in cream cheese and that dried fish thing I could never understand, and a glass of orange juice. He was taller than any of us, but thin and only in his twenties or so, good looking, with dusky dark skin and black hair with frosted tips, and a bright smile. He wore a white silk shirt, top button unbuttoned, and khakis. "Here you go my darling," he said, and put the tray on the nightstand.

"Thank you. Now, Raj... do you remember what I did with the phone I use to call Dad?"

He looked at us, like he was still a little wary of us, but said, "I believe you threw it in the trash after your last phone call with him. You remember, the Tony Awards?"

Little Miss Menace frowned darkly. "Right. That might be a problem then. I could send e-mail, but it might take a few days for him to check it."

Raj continued with a knowing smile. "I, of course, took the liberty of retrieving it once you had left the room, in anticipation of the time you would need it again. I believe I placed it in one of the downstairs broom closets."

She smiled. "Thank you Raj. You know me so well. Could you be a dear and fetch it for me? I suppose it's about time I forgave him."

He nodded and left. "What did he do?" I asked, before realizing it was none of my business.

"It's not important. Just one of those father-daughter things." She took a bite out of her bagel.

"So if you hadn't talked to him in a while," Alex realized, "You didn't actually know it wasn't him, while it was happening."

After swallowing, she admitted, "No, not for sure, but I didn't think it was him... Dad avoids big cities these days, especially this one."

"Maybe he was coming to visit you?" I suggested, realizing that he actually wasn't there at all, but she might have thought it, anyway.

"Not out of the blue." She didn't elaborate, just drank some of her juice. "Anyway, I was on a flight back from Hollywood at the time or I would have gone to stop him myself."

"I thought the Headliners were in Europe..."

"What, you think we do everything together?" She shook her head at me, making me feel stupid. "We're not attached at the hip, you know. I was laying down some voice tracks this week." Then, adding, fake-casually, like she was totally bragging but trying not to look like she was bragging, added, "I'm appearing on The Simpsons again."

"Oh, wow," Alex said. "That's awesome. You know, the one where you help Mister Spring is one of my favorites?" I was less than impressed. It took me a second to even remember she was in it. I remembered the episode, of course, from back when the show was still funny... it was the classic one about the town's resident super hero losing his powers and having to stay on the Simpsons' couch while he tried to get a normal job. Little Miss Menace just showed up at the end and revealed that Mister Spring didn't really lose his powers, he was just being tricked by Mr. Burns into thinking he did. It was a cameo, and literally it could have been done by ANY hero.

She took the flattery well, though, especially considering she was obviously fishing for it. "This time I'm in it much more. Homer gets temporary powers from a case of contaminated Buzz Cola, and tries to join the Headliners. They're trying to get all of us in on it to do the voices, but you know how that works, it's hard to get us in all at once."

"That's so cool," Alex said enthusiastically. "I can't wait to see it. Hey, you mind if I ask... what are the other Headliners really like?"

"If you're going to stay in the hero game for long, I'm sure you'll find out. It's a small community."

"Oh, come on... okay, at least tell me this, who's smarter, Charles Core or Howard Hughes?"

"Battle of the walking alien databases, huh?" She tilted her head back just a little and I imagine she was rolling her eyes, like it was a question she had to deal with many times before. "Charles, no question. Hughes had Engineering, so he builds more practical stuff, but Core's always been smarter. Hell, little Monty Hatfield's smarter than Hughes, and a lot more fun to be around." A grin, there, genuine.

"You ever see him? Without the suit, I mean?"

She shook her head. "Nobody has, except on video. Guy doesn't even take it off for sex..."

I blinked. "You and he..."

"Uhhh, no," she said, as though she was offended I'd even ask. "I wouldn't meet his 'high standards'. But he just doesn't have unprotected sex, because he's terrified of spore exposure." That threw me for a second... I mean, pretty much everyone who was infected with crash debris in 1947 already got their exposure in the sixties when they were first unleashed. The spores were still out there... it was rare that they altered an average person nowadays, but any of the Immortals who hadn't been exposed were still extra sensitive, since the spores were originally designed to attack Plejaran technology, like the alien repair nanobots. Even the denatured spore fragments in a Spore Kid's cells could trigger a reaction and activate mutations before an Immortal's alien immune systems adapted. Usually it was a minor change, often even beneficial, but it was unpredictable and sometimes it was big and permanent.

Now, of course even I knew Hughes had kept himself isolated at first... that was why he built his famous Aviator suit, after all. But I guess I'd assumed he'd gotten over it at some point and that his reputation as a recluse was exaggerated. To limit himself to either a clean room or a sterile suit, 24/7, for over fifty years? He must have been terrified his reaction would be debilitating. Maybe he was right. It's what turned Menace into Menace, after all, and people still speculate about exactly what it did to the Queen of England.

Alex went on with his scattershot questions, like he'd been saving them up for years and they were all tumbling out randomly. "What about your battle with Jackhammer a couple years back. I've seen the footage, but I've always wondered what happened after you guys went into the store?"

I had to grin. If he ever made fun of me for gushing over Edward Twilight stars again, I'm going to remind him of this day. We were supposed to be here gathering information, acting like professionals, but all Alex could do was ask questions like a fanboy. Then again, I shouldn't be surprised... I already knew how much of one he was...


I was lying on my bed, with one hand underneath myself as the other turned the pages of my book. I was wearing a short skirt, only now the front was pulled up underneath me to better let my hand slide into my panties whenever I got the urge... and I had been having the urge. Between the images in my book and my mind replaying that fight in the laundry room over again for what must have been the tenth time since it happened an hour earlier, I needed to touch myself. Alex was definitely aroused, I thought, again. And now I guess, I was, too.

A knock on my door jarred me, and I instantly pulled my hand out of my panties and turned over, to let the skirt fall back and be decent again. "What?" I called.

"It's me," came Alex's voice. Muffled as it was through the door, I recognized that clearly. "Can I come in?"

I sat up more fully... lying as I was, at the position I was in, from the door, he could see right up my dress, which, right then, I had mixed feelings on. "Sure."

He opened the door, a little nervously, like he was afraid that I was going to yell at him or something. "Listen," he said. "I'm sorry about earlier."

He'd already apologized for it, and I'd forgiven him, but he seemed sincerely scared that I might not really have meant it. And it proved that he knew what happened just as much as I did, that he'd had a boner. But I wasn't ready to talk about it, and didn't know if I ever would be... as much as the thought excited me, it was weird. He was my brother. So I pretended he was talking about something else, and just looked away. "Don't worry about it. Stealing my book is far from the jerkiest thing you've ever done."

He took the hint and didn't correct me. "Okay, I just wanted to make sure we were cool."

"We're cool."

There was a pause of several seconds before he said, "Anyway, I got a Hardstick for you."

My gaze snapped up at him. "What?"

I relaxed as I saw what he meant, he was actually holding a Handy Remote Hardstick, one of those portable data storage units that plug into any computer. "I put my collection of Little Miss Menace videos on it, in case you wanted to use it for your project."

"Oh." Now I felt embarrassed. "Thanks. I'm still not sure I want to do it on her."

"Well, if you change your mind." He tossed it to me and I caught it.

There was another awkward silence of a few seconds, and then he seemed to turn away, about to head out, and I just didn't want to leave it like that. He had been pretty thoughtful bringing it up here, and I guess I wanted to reassure him that we really were cool. I didn't want him to be awkward around me. "Hey," I said. "You want to watch some with me? Maybe point out the best ones?" As soon as I offered I was worried it might be selfish, that I should have offered to play his game with him, but right away he grinned, and I knew I made the right call. He loves geeking out about heroes.

So I got my laptop, put it on my bed, and we lay side-by-side, watching videos of her for the next hour or so. Some of them were useful and either had historical relevance or tied in well with the topic Alex had suggested earlier... for example, when she was called to testify at Madonna's trial after the singer published pictures of herself having sex with a Spore Kid who was thirty but looked fourteen. A lot were just action, videos recorded off the street or by the news of some famous fights. And it was fun, even though it really wasn't my thing... sometimes when you're with something who's really excited about something, you can't help but be excited too. Lying beside Alex, hearing him offer commentary, put a real smile on my face.

One of the fight in particular stuck out in my mind, just from a couple years earlier... we were living in Crash City at the time, though we were all at school. Little Miss Menace was fighting the criminal Inertia. She was dressed in a black and white French maid outfit, with a white bonnet, and, rare for her, no parasol. Maybe she'd already dropped it. He of course, was dressed in a well-tailored suit and wearing his wraparound sunglasses. Together they almost looked like they were a couple on Dancing with the Stars doing some sort of theme, but what they were doing was far from dancing.

Like most of Alex's videos, it was a fanedit, compiling the best of security cameras, news footage, and camera phones... whoever had the best view at the time, basically. And obviously, he'd watched it many times before.

"Watch this... come on.... wait for it.... and..." Little Miss Menace leaped at Inertia in a flying kick, and, the moment she touched him, his momentum-redirection powers kicked in and she went careening in another direction. He didn't even lift a finger. "Smackdown," Alex said as she got knocked into a car. He really seemed to be enjoying this.

"Shouldn't you be cheering when the badguy's the one to get hurt?"

"It's not like she's really hurt," he said. "Watch." She had smacked into the car with enough force to dent the metal, but she didn't seem bothered... she just wiped herself off, got back on her feet, and launched herself at him again.

Predictably, a similar result, in a different direction. She kept coming at him, and he kept knocking her aside like she was nothing. One time, he knocked her straight upward, and when she came down to land on him, sent her shooting off head-first into a nearby building. There was a great shot of that, because somebody was filming from that that location and she flew right through his window. "Bet that guy just crapped his pants," Alex said as the hand holding the cover suddenly dived out of the way. When he got a glimpse of her again, her outfit had a big tear along one side. They rarely completely survived a fight, but I guess that's one of the risks you take when you don't use CoreWear.

The most she was ever able to do is knock the briefcase out of his hands, scattering the cash he'd stolen around the ground, and he seemed a little annoyed, but picked them slowly and methodically. Little Miss Menace attacked him as he did so, trying to scratch at his head, but he just elbowed her and sent her flying. It was starting to be a little ridiculous.

"I don't get it, he's not even breaking a sweat, why does she keep trying the same thing over and over again. She's trying to get his glasses, right? Cause he's vulnerable to blinding?"

"Well, sort of," Alex explained. "I'm sure she's trying that, too. He's much easier to take down if his eyes and ears aren't protected. But you have to be really quick and catch him off guard to get them off him, otherwise he just bounces you back the moment you touch."

"And she doesn't really have much luck with that. Especially when she keeps running right at him, over and over again. She's not very subtle."

"She's not really trying to defeat him, though..." Alex explained. "She's just trying to keep him occupied. While his attention's on her, it's not on anybody else. And... wait for it..."

I waited... and it actually seemed what I was waiting for was for Little Miss Menace to lose. She fell on her back and Inertia put his hands on her neck. I guess he was going to hit her with some stored up momentum, but before he could, Inertia stiffened up and was enveloped by a pure white glow, and when it cleared, he fell forward and an arrow was sunk into the man's back. "What just happened?"

"Apollo's arrows. They're magic, Inertia can't repel them." Inertia was still moving, but was now stumbling around on his hands and knees. He didn't seem to be aware of his former opponent at all... he was more occupied with his sudden desire to puke in the street. "Look, they're making him sick." Suddenly, there was a blur of motion, and the next thing you could see, Inertia's hands were tied to his legs, behind his back, sunglasses removed. He was still puking. "And that's the game. Headliners win again."

"Why didn't they just do that in the first place?" I knew, but I was trying to be snippy, and Alex liked explaining anyway.

"Because they weren't there. Inertia can get away quick once he's got room to move. He probably would have been gone by the time the Headliners got there if Little Miss Menace hadn't stalled him."

"So the whole fight was just... a distraction." Okay, she was smarter than I gave her credit for.

He grinned. "Can you think of a better one than a metal monster?"


"A distraction..." I said suddenly, remembering. Both my brother and Little Miss Menace looked at me. I'd just blurted it out, even though it had nothing to do with their conversation. Feeling embarrassed, I explained, "Maybe that's what this was all about, why they looked like your father. A distraction, to draw away heroes from something else." Little Miss Menace made a good distraction for a villain... the real Menace would make a better one, for anybody.

"Yes, that's always a possibility," Little Miss Menace agreed, finally, after giving me a long stare. That felt good. A little bit of validation from somebody already in the field. "The question though, is what they were distracting us from?"

I thought out loud. "Either attacking some place that heroes are at all the time, like Hughes Tower..." Or one of the homes. "Or else to cover for some other crime. It'd have to be that, right? They didn't want to risk anybody interfering with their real crime, so they set up a decoy." I was pretty proud of myself.

"Makes sense," Miss Menace admitted. "If that's true, then the fake Menace won't get you anywhere, he'll just be a patsy. At best you might get a description of somebody who paid him in cash, and probably not even that."

Raj returned, holding a yellow baton. I was felt a little smug satisfaction when I realized that she had a BP, just like I bought the other day, instead of the more popular Handy. I looked to Alex to try and catch his eye (or the eye-parts of his mask, at least) to silently gloat a little, but he was still starstruck by Miss Menace. "Your phone, my dear," Raj said, handing it over.

"Thank you," she said, ultra-sweetly, beaming at him.

"We might as well still make the call, see if your father knows anything," Alex said. "Since you've got the phone and all. It would be a shame to have come here for nothing."

I was more impressed with my own sudden insight, and had already pulled out my phone and activated the web browser. "What do I search? Is there a Crash City Crimes site?"

I was asking Alex, but Little Miss Menace waved a hand dismissively. "I don't know," she said. "If I wanted information like that..." If? Didn't she care? We were trying to prove her father innocent... sort of, anyway. "...normally, I'd just ask MARQUEE."

"Marky? Marky who?" I looked to her boyfriend, but she already called him Raj.

"MARQUEE," Alex said. By his voice I could tell he was rolling his eyes at me under his mask. "The Headliners AI system."

How was I supposed to know she meant Howard Hughes' pet robot brain? It sounds like 'Marky!' "Oh. I guess... you'll have to... I mean, would you mind doing that with us? After we call your father? We don't exactly have access to that."

Little Miss Menace sighed then, like we were taking too much of her time. "Listen, I do have some other things to do today... like deal with the crowd of reporters outside..."

You could tell that was the start of a large, probably self-absorbed list, but I could stand it anymore and interrupted. She was nothing like I'd expected so far, and I guess it was getting to me. "Don't you care?" I blurted out. "I mean, you don't seem especially interested."

She shrugged and admitted it freely. "Not really. This is your mission, I'm just helping out as a courtesy. If you find somebody who needs to be smashed for that attack, give me a call, but I'm really not in the mood to play detective, and like I said, I've got other things to do today. You can't let the criminals rule your life." I guess she felt my judgmental stare, because she added, "Why don't we do this? While I call Daddy and let one of you ask him your questions, my man here can take the other down to my MARQUEE terminal to help with your investigation."

I exchanged a look with my brother. "You'd probably be better with the computer," he said, but what he really meant was 'I want to be the one who gets to talk to Menace'. That was fine with me, his daughter was kind of rubbing me the wrong way. At least maybe I could get some work done... maybe she didn't care about the who or why, but I did.

"Fine." I looked to Raj, who smiled at me and waved me towards the door. I'll say one thing for her, she seemed to have good taste in men, he was cute. I didn't know what he saw in her, but I could sure understand why she kept him around.

On the way down the stairs, I asked him, hoping it wasn't a dumb question. "Why do you have to go to a special room to talk to MARQUEE? Can't we just phone it or something?"

"We can, if we wanted to chat. But his brain has multiple levels, and to access the one we want, we need a quantum-entanglement link. For security. Anything else will just be constantly attacked by hackers until they get through and corrupt his programming... we've had that problem before." Maybe I really did need to bone up on my superhero history, I didn't know any of that. I guess it was a dumb question, although he was nice enough not to make me feel dumb about it. Still, maybe my ignorance was why the next thing he said was, "You know, for my own conscience, I have to say, you're too young for this."

I was offended at first. I didn't see what age had to do with anything, but knew that it didn't matter... even if our ability was exactly the same, nobody would respect us the same way. I guess that was one point in Little Miss Menace's favor, she didn't treat us like kids. Maybe that was because she and I looked about the same age, if you took away her metal skin. Luckily, that provided us a perfect excuse, too. "We're older than we look." Plenty of heroes, mostly Spore Kids, looked even younger, and would stay that way forever.

"Of course," he said, and I could tell by the little smirk on his face he didn't believe it for a second. "But whether you are or not, you're very new at this, and it's not a life for the faint-hearted. It's dangerous. I really would have shot you there, when you first broke in. But why would you listen to me? I didn't when I was your age."

He was a hero too? Another surprise. He obviously wasn't a Spore Kid, since he was at least in his twenties. He could be one of the much rarer Spore Adults, or even one of the original Crashers, but he didn't have that distant, bored stare I'd come to associate with people who'd been around for seventy years or more and who were disappointed in how the world had turned out. He had an easy, boyish smile, like he really was just a little older than me. Also, and this was a subtle point, he was very stylishly dressed, current, genuinely young-looking. A lot of the people who are eternally young, not all, but a lot, start to lose track of fashion and get stuck in a rut a few decades old. The older they get, the more often it happens. He didn't look like that had happened at all.

More likely, I thought, was that Raj was another victim of Secondary Empowerment. Maybe he was bitten by a spore-infected animal or something. That still gave me no clue as to his real age... many of the Seconds were also kept eternally youthful. A rare few, like Little Miss Menace, even froze in adolescence, a Spore Kid without any spores, not that it mattered. Unless you used serious political pull like she did to get a rare special exemption, the worst of the Spore Kid laws applied to you anyway. I regularly prayed that we wouldn't turn out like that, however we got our powers. I could get to like being eternally young, but just let me hit eighteen first. Still, if I had to guess, I would say Raj was probably pretty close to the age he looked... maybe within a decade.

I didn't recognize him as any hero I'd ever heard of, but I don't follow them like some people, and I was worried that if I asked, I'd betray my ignorance or offend him, so I let the topic slide. I could ask Alex later, he'd know. But I guess it explained how he and Carol hooked up, and it gave me an excuse to change the subject that I felt I could ask about. "So how long have you and Little Miss Menace been together?" I hadn't come across a reference to him while studying, although he may have been in the background of some of the pictures.

"About a year, uninterrupted, and, on and off, about five," he said, and then explained. "She has her temper."

"Are you planning on getting married?" I asked.

He laughed once, sharply, then gave me a condescending smile. "No. You misunderstand. I work for her. Whatever gave you the idea that we were dating?"

Now my face was burning again, and I felt very small. The only thing worse than making a big mistake is making it in front of somebody else. I tried to explain myself. "You said you were once a hero, and you seemed pretty close... and she called you her man..."

"Manservant. Personally, I prefer the term personal assistant, but she's old school. And we are close, but as friends, that's all. She's not really my type, considering I'm gay."

"Oh," I said, feeling myself blush. "Sorry."

"Don't be, I'm not. If I wasn't gay, I couldn't hold this job as long as I have."

That didn't make sense. "What? Why not?"

"Carol is a very sexually open woman, but she doesn't like romantic entanglements," he said bluntly, and then his eyes slid towards me as though he thought I might not approve. "She makes no secret of this, and so I betray no confidences here. And I'm not saying this to judge, either... there is nothing wrong with this. But it presents certain complications for a working relationship. A straight man in her employ will eventually want to have sex with her. Some women will as well, although mostly she just prefers to hire men. Every other time she's tried, there is plenty of sexual tension. Sooner or later, Carol will give in, or pursue him, or her, herself. They will tell each other, and themselves, that it is just sex, but once they start having sex, it's only a matter of time before the relationship falls apart." We were downstairs now on the main floor, and about to head downstairs again, in what must have been the basement.

"Why? I mean, they're both adults, why can't it just be sex?"

He made a weird clucking noise with his tongue and mouth as he flicked on the light. "It's almost never just sex. One night stands are one thing. I have those myself. They work because you never see the other person again. But seeing somebody every day, and also having sex with them? You can't put those things together and not expect fallout. 'Friends with benefits' doesn't work, not if you want to remain friends. It's biochemical, really. Your body tries to push you into falling in love, and it usually succeeds with one person more than another. You still feel jealousy when they're with someone else, resentment that the other person doesn't want to commit more. And when you work together, it's a disaster, because in some ways you're closer than friends, it's like you're more like family... you can't just walk away for a while until you get your head on straight, not unless you want to quit entirely. Most of the people who leave the Headliners? Do so because of just this sort of thing."

I wanted to argue, to tell him that sex could just be fun, that you could care about the person, love them, but not be in love with them. It just didn't feel like I had any good points to make. I mean, I'd only had sex with two people. Still, something inside me rebelled against his judgment. Alex and I were living proof, right? Except I couldn't use that as an example without revealing secrets I didn't want to reveal. There had to be some good, objective argument against it. I just had to find the right words. "I don't think..."

I didn't get a chance to finish, but I didn't really know what I was going to say anyway. He held up one finger, and put his other hand to his ear. "Yes." I couldn't hear what was being said, but he made a little face, sort of rolling his eyes. "Very well."

"Something wrong?"

"No, it was just Carol. She always seems to find one more thing for me to do." He grinned. "It's hard enough to work for her as it is, can you imagine what it'd be like if you added a few more hormones to the pot?" He opened one more door, and said, "And here we are. She keeps the terminal in the basement... don't tell her I said this, but the real reason she didn't want to help you herself is that it creeps her out. I do most of her searches for her."

That made me nervous. "Why?"

He shrugged and opened the door. "If it was a rational feeling, it probably wouldn't bother her so much. I don't mind it."

We emerged into a simple room that glowed with an unearthly blue light, coming from the center, a sort of pillar that came up to chest height. On top of it was a large flatscreen, and there were other gadgets attached to the bottom or clustered around the screen. One looked like a camera, another a speaker, and others I couldn't begin to guess at. The room was also very cold, like air conditioning turned on to the max. With me in my costume, I could only really feel it on my face, but I could see it being uncomfortable for a normal person to stay here for too long. "MARQUEE, are you there?"

"I am here." The voice was soft, neither male or female, and it sounded unconcerned.

"We have some work for you."

The bland voice of the machine told us, "You currently have guest level privileges."

"That's all we need." Raj looked at me and said, "This means we have access to the Internet, essentially, and the part of the police database they extend to registered Powered crimefighters, which I'll be on hand to sure you don't abuse. You won't get into any secret files or anything, but you'll have the advantage of his search capabilities and reasoning ability." I nodded. "MARQUEE, this is Taboo. Extend her guest level privileges for the next hour on my authority."

"Granted." I realized then that I'd never actually said my name while Raj was around... he must have been listening in while we said it to his boss.

"What would you like to ask?" Raj asked me.

I gulped. It was my moment. "I'm looking for crimes that occurred in or near Crash City. Yesterday, during the time that Menace was reportedly attacking." Information began to scroll across the screen. Wow, that was easy. "Maybe a little after, too. Say to the end of the day." For all we know it was meant to go on for hours and we stopped it early. More information appeared. Too much. "Cut out anything that's like a domestic assault, or misdemeanor, or where they arrested everybody already. Focus on break-ins or anything associated with the Powered community." I asked.

This was much easier than searching myself, but I still had to spend a couple minutes narrowing down the categories, and even then I still had a list of about a dozen crimes that might possibly be related, in order of likelihood. There was a lot more crime in the city than I counted on, even involving powers.

The most likely culprit, to me, was a break in at a research lab in broad daylight. Some kind of Powered attack broke in, although none of the reports I could find said whether anything was actually stolen, or would admit to what they were researching, it seemed like the kind of thing that might hold a secret weapon or something that a group would try and steal while all the heroes were distracted. Try as I might, I couldn't squeeze any more information out of MARQUEE, so I just gave up. I used my phone to take a picture of the list on the screen. "I guess we're done," I said with a sigh.

"Are you sure?" Raj offered. "It's quite a handy tool, and you might not get the chance to use it again." He smiled conspiratorially. "You know what I did the first time I got access?" I looked at him, curious. "Celebrity gossip. MARQUEE can't find much that's not already on the net, at least not on guest level, but if you ask the right questions, you can draw inferences. Think two celebrities are having a secret affair? Ask it to pinpoint the times they report being at the same place at the same time."

I smiled. It was tempting. "Like AnnaSophia Robb and Tom Felton?" There were rumors that the two stars of the Edward Twilight movies were having a secret affair.

"Try it," he suggested. "It'll be our little secret. Even MARQUEE doesn't consciously remember what people search, as long as it's not something that triggers a red flag like 'How to kill the Headliners'."

I shook my head. Although I was curious, I really did feel for the stars who had no personal life, and I didn't want to be a hypocrite by spying on them, and even if the information was out there, using a supercomputer brain to collect it all in one place... that felt like spying. "I'd rather stick to hero-related tasks..."

He seemed a little disappointed, and looked back at the screen. "Well, are there any other avenues you wanted to explore? Or other crimes you want help to solve?"

I started to say, "I don't think so," but then I remembered there was...


He told me to run, to not look back.

But he was my brother, and he was giving himself up to some psychos who wanted us, specifically, for some reason that we, at the time, could not even imagine. We thought our Dad developed food preservation additives back then, and Mom was pursuing her art. Neither was a reason to target us. I should have been making my way through the trees to get away as fast as I could... instead, I was still crouched in the bush and high grasses.

"I'm here," Alex said, after he'd crawled a significant distance away from me. I didn't want him to go, I felt better with his arms protecting me. "Just don't shoot any more..."

"Stand up," came the voice of the guy who'd been shooting energy bolts. I had started to move, but I couldn't not look. When Alex complied with the order and stood up, I saw him. And, through a gap in the bushes, I saw the guy, more clearly than the first glimpse I got of him, when we were running. Six feet tall, muscular, bald with a goatee, wearing black. He held a bare fist out, pointed at Alex.

"I'm standing up," Alex said. "I don't want any trouble."

"Come here." Alex took some steps forward, hands up. "Where's your sister, Alex?"

"She's gone," he said. "She ran the other way." I saw now there was another guy, dressed in black, with a helmet that covered his face, and what looked like curved blades on his arms.

He looked down at his arm, where there was some kind of band, an electronic device strapped there. "No, she's still here." He began looking around, and I ducked back behind the tree so I was completely covered.

"She's not, she's long gone," Alex insisted.

I should have run. But I couldn't just leave him.

He raised his voice. "Tabitha Carey. I know you're out there. You have ten seconds to show yourself, or I blow your brother's leg off." He pointed downwards. "I'm supposed to bring you in alive, but nobody said anything about intact." I wanted nothing more than to stay hidden, but he sounded serious and... if he was supposed to keep us alive, it wouldn't be that big a sacrifice to save Alex's leg. "Nine... eight... seven... six... five..."

I moved out from behind the tree at four, and stood up, and opened my mouth to say, "I'm here!" I got the first word out, but then...

... a streak of light from the heavens, like a bolt of lightning, targeted right at the monster who was nearest to Alex. The guy fell to the ground, and at first I thought it was an after image, because beside him, was a man who seemed to be made of light. It was then that I realized that it was Photonic. Our savior. He turned in our direction and said, "Run," in that buzzing voice, before being knocked backwards with a bolt of energy from the man who he'd just downed.

I ran to Alex, who grabbed my arm and practically pulled me away, although he couldn't help looking back either. Looking, but he didn't stop as he might have in any other situation... alone, he might have run towards a Powered fight, but now, his only priority seemed to be to get both of us to safety.


We knew Photonic, of course, but even Alex didn't know the guys who attacked us. Neither were among the big-named villains, and our parents were really protective of us and didn't want us to know anything other than that both were captured, and they were hired mercenaries, and honestly, we didn't ask more at the time... we were too shocked by the revelations that not only did our Dad work in secret government research, but that there were criminals after him. We didn't have any power to try and track the guys down, or the people who hired them... but now we did. "Can I look up a Powered criminal?"

"If you want, but you could probably do that from anywhere..."

"The problem is we don't know his name. He's not one of the famous ones. I was thinking MARQUEE could narrow it down." I focused on the guy with the energy bolts. I didn't even have a rough description of what the other guy really looked like, and for all I knew, the blades were part of a costume that he just used for that one job. Energy-bolt-guy at least had powers, and that was a starting point.

"Give it a try."

"Okay... I'm looking for a guy. Shoots energy blasts. White. Bald." Faces appeared on the screen as fast as I said the words. Mugshots, from the police databases. They weren't directly accessible by the public, but apparently we could get them here under guest access.

Not all the faces on the screen were bald. That's one of the things that was cool about MARQUEE, I guess. Somehow it was smart enough to realize that even though I said 'bald', heads could be shaved, so it gave an assortment of pictures, with the bald guys just among the best matches. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Powered crooks with energy blasts. And I mean a LOT. But that counts anybody who ever took powering drugs and used them to commit a crime, even if they don't have the powers full time. The problem was, for all I knew, the guy I was looking for fell into that category. I couldn't spot the guy in any of these pictures. "He might have been captured by Photonic once."

That narrowed the field significantly, down to about ten faces, two of them bald. Neither of those were him, but I saw number 3 from the bottom, with a full head of hair, had a recognizable goatee. "Him!"

Raj leaned forward to look as the face expanded, the moment I pointed. His name was Kevin Bush, and had a rap sheet full of assaults and robberies and break and enters. He was listed as 'currently depowered', which meant that he wasn't a Spore Kid or contaminated by Crash Debris... temporary powers from drugs was a good possibility after all. Luckily, included in the file was a list of known criminal associates. That might be a good place to start once we were ready to go down that road. I snapped a picture.

"It says he's incarcerated, and depowered." Raj pointed out. "I don't think you need to bother with him."

"I know. I'm really more interested in the people he hangs around with." I had a new idea. "Can I also get a listing of known organized crime figures in the city involved in drugs?" It was unrelated, as far as I knew, but I really wanted to take down that guy who electrocuted Alex once. We knew almost nothing about him, he was just a voice on the other end of a computer, but surely he was known to the cops somewhere.

The names started appearing, and I smiled, but Raj cut me off. "No, stop, MARQUEE." The response was taken literally. The names stopped flowing, but the ones there were still on the screen. I already had my camera up, but I looked to see what Raj was going to say. "You admitted you're new at being a hero, so listen to me. Do not go after crime lords. Stop random muggers and rapists, by all means. Tackle the super-powered morons who rob banks instead of getting a job, if you think you're tough enough. But unless you're fighting crime 24/7, with no room for people to care about, stay away from the type of people who will make it their business to ruin your life, just to send a message."

"Fine," I said. And then I snapped a picture anyway. It's always better to have information than not to.

He noticed... with just the two of us in the room the click was pretty hard to miss, and so he sighed in response. "I should just shut down the link entirely."

"Then why don't you?"

"I don't know. But are you sure you don't want to look up some celebrities instead?"

Maybe it wouldn't be that bad... I mean, if Alex was here, I'm sure he'd be using it for that... of course, the celebrities he'd be looking up would be Powered people. He might even accidentally trip over one of those 'red flags' Raj mentioned. It probably was a good thing my brother took the phone call with Menace, although I bet I'd uncovered a lot more useful information than he did. "No, it's probably best to be getting back. Deviant's probably talking your boss' ear off."

Raj made a weird noise, halfway between amusement and annoyance. "I'm sure they wouldn't mind if we took a little more time."

There was something about the way he said it that made me look at him and narrow my eyes a little, although with my mask he couldn't see it. We'd been down here a while, how long could a phone call take?

I sent my spatial awareness upwards, towards Menace's room, just to check if they were still talking, at least that's what I told myself, and I saw that instead of two people chatting at a safe distance, there was one big blob of motion... and it was on what I was pretty sure was the bed.

My stomach lurched, like I was going to throw up. No. He wouldn't.

She wouldn't. They wouldn't. Would they?

It had to be a mistake. It was just a fuzzy blob in my perceptions, after all. It could be misinterpreted.

And I had to know for sure.

Without any explanation or apology to Raj (who, I have to admit, I completely forgot about as anger and hurt raged within me), I teleported into the room... not out in the open, but behind the dressing screen Little Mess Menace had used when we first arrived.

I heard the grunts first, Alex, a little high pitched because he was using super speed, but I'd know those sounds anywhere, and, at the same time, a female voice, groaning, and saying, "Harder... harder..."

I didn't want to look, but I had to. I peeked around the corner and saw them... having sex. Little Miss Menace was naked, like a gold statue with silver hair, which was now flung all over the place. She was bent over on her hands and knees, and my brother, with his CoreWear pants lowered just enough to expose his penis, was penetrating her from behind. He also held her tail in one of his hands, pulling it upwards to get the bitch's ass in just the position he wanted, I guess, but it also made it pretty clear to me what he was doing.

Her own hands were rubbing her pussy from below, but Alex wasn't having sex with her... not normal sex. His dick was sawing in and out of her asshole. Not just pounding in and out, either, but vibrating, in the application of super-speed I loved so much, although not in my ass. For all of Alex's promises that it shouldn't hurt, if I was Powered, I'd always been scared and... I guess I wanted to hold something back. My resolve had been weakening, though, and I'd been almost ready to let him try, if he just waited a little longer.

And now he was doing it to some other slut, the first chance he got. I don't care if she was famous, she shouldn't be sleeping around with random people she just met... neither should he, for that matter. And she was bucking her hips like she liked it, too, like some porn star in an all-anal movie. She didn't seem to have any trouble taking him, either... Alex's got a pretty big dick but it all slid in and out of her with no trouble at all except a slight rippling of her butt cheeks as she tried to squeeze down on him. "Go on, fuck me... you claim to have super speed? Give me the maximum." she muttered. "I'm almost there..."

Some more moans, and an odd beeping sound coming from beside her bed, but I wasn't worried about that. I knew she was about to cum, and maybe he was too, and I couldn't stand that... this was worse than when I found out he got a blowjob from a mutual friend of ours... at least there, I didn't have to watch it. And just like then, only worse... it hurt me somewhere deep inside. It was just... wrong. So I did the only thing I could think of.

I teleported Alex away, back to his room.

I very nearly teleported Little Miss Menace away, too, maybe somewhere out into Lake Michigan, but I wasn't sure I could lock on to her directly. Besides, I wanted to give her a piece of my mind, once I could calm down enough to figure out what to say. The moment I sent him away, I ducked back behind the screen, and reconsidered... just leaving without a word seemed like a very good idea. Still, hearing her, "What the fuck?" was pretty satisfying. Not 'imagining her dumped in Lake Michigan' satisfying, but satisfying.

That beeping sound was now about the only sound in the room other than Little Miss Menace's slowing breathing. She must have answered the button, because I heard Raj's voice. "Finally! You know, it's hard to keep an eye on a teleporter. She disappeared about a minute ago, I know you wanted more warning, but... "

"I know," she said tiredly. "She's here now. It's okay, Raj." Her voice changed, now projected directly towards me. "You might as well come out now, I can hear your breathing." She must have super-acute senses like her Dad.

Well, now that hiding was no longer an option, I stepped out, in full rage mode. She lounged back on the bed, against the headboard, still naked, and legs spread obscenely. Her tail showed off an unexpected talent, wrapping underneath her and pushing at her slit casually, like an extra long, stubby finger that she could use to masturbate with. And while she was talking to somebody, too. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" It was the only thing that came to mind.

"With me? I'm not the one who barged in on a consensual sexual encounter."

"You don't even know us. For all you know he's really sixteen."

She shrugged, like it didn't matter. Can you believe it? The bitch shrugged! I probably shouldn't have said it, we were supposed to pretend we were older, but still... it was illegal! And she didn't even care. Some hero. "He said he wasn't, and I believed him," she said casually. "And, by the way, he said you weren't his girlfriend, too, so if you have a problem with what we did, take it up with him, not me."

"I'm not his girlfriend," I insisted.

"You just want to be."

"I do not."

She sighed. "You're having sex though, right?" she asked, and then didn't let me answer. "I could smell that much. So either you want to be more than fuckbuddies, and he won't commit, or you're not ready to admit you're in love with him."

"I'm not in love with him," I said.

"Then why are you so jealous right now?"

"I'm NOT jealous." I wasn't, I was sure of it. I was just mad. At both of them. For being so irresponsible.

"Uh-huh. Believe me, I understand... the boy is... very good at what he does." She reached over to the night table, opened a drawer, and pulled out a long slim dildo. The girl was totally shameless. "Look, if you want my advice...."

"I'd never want your advice," I snapped. "You seem like a horrible person, and are probably a horrible hero. I can't believe I once did a report, praising you."

She paused, stared at me, and for a second I got legitimately afraid, but then she continued, as though I hadn't interrupted her at all. "You'll get your feelings sorted out, and tell your partner how you feel. Because it's not going to work out if he doesn't know you're in love with him." I opened my mouth to protest again, but she continued, "Now, if you're done being jealous, I've got some unfinished business. Apparently you can show yourself out."

"Bitch," I said, and then teleported away... but just to the rooftop across the street, where I collapsed and let the tears I didn't know were coming start to flow. My phone began to ring... Alex, probably, but I didn't answer it for the same reason I didn't teleport directly to him. I needed time, time to calm down, time to come up with the real explanation for why I did what I did.

There had to be one. I just wasn't consciously aware of it, but my subconscious must have picked up on something and made me react on instinct.

That had to be it. Had to be.

The alternative was that Little Miss Menace was right, and I was in love with my own brother.

And that was impossible.


To Be Continued...
Next Time: Cold Shoulder

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The Letter Column

It's time for our letter column! Here, I'll post mail direct from (volunteering) fans, and answer questions for all. Just one letter this time around...

1oom writes:

I have finished reading issue 3, which was great, and am all ready for 4 to come out! I was wondering though?is the younger sister going to get involved/have powers? Obviously, no spoilers, but I would love to see it happen.

Thanks! It's funny that you ask "is the little sister going to get involved/have powers?" and then "Obviously, no spoilers!" 

But let's just say this: given the rest of my work, it's not a huge leap to make to suggest she might get involved in some way.  At the same time, it's not expected to happen in the immediate future. Tabby and Alex need some time to get used to their situation before a new complication gets added. 

And if you liked this installment, please provide feedback:

Note: If you want your feedback to be answered within the Letter Column of a future issue for others to read, please include a request to that effect and include a name you'd like to be called by. Your e-mail address, if you provide it, will not be published. This is completely optional, it's just for fun, to give the series a more comic-book vibe, and it will allow me to respond even if you don't want to give an e-mail address. If you don't specifically request this, your mail will be answered privately (again, assuming you provide a reply-address).


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