Monday, September 21, 2009

The Horsell Commons Affair/ A Sarah Jane Drake story

The Horsell Commons Affair

Spring brought a burst of sunshine and renewal to London, and not even Sarah Jane Drake was not immune to its effects. On a warm Sunday in early April, she found herself on a walk with an old friend, a Professor she had worked with years before. The man was a walking history lesson; though Sarah Jane sometimes found his version of history a bit different than the accepted versions.

This particular Sunday found the two of them walking on the Southwest side of London, near Woking. "Why Horsell Common, Professor?" asked Sarah Jane, pushing her dark brown locks out of her eyes for the fourteenth time that afternoon. "And particularly, why here? This is a bit off the beaten path."

Indeed it was. The paths had long given way to overgrowth, then dense trees. Here and there, the forest cover had little flecks of red.

Professor John Smith, PhD, Royal Geographical and Historical Society, paused for a moment. His formerly stocky frame was smaller now, his dark brown curls gone grey. He smiled a crooked smile at Sarah Jane and pointed a crooked finger at her. "History is ALWAYS found off the beaten path, my dear. Those signs, those paths, those museums are all part of the official record, yes, but sometimes the truth is covered up. Or in this case covered over." He moved his walking stick a bit, uncovering a length of barbed wire. A wooden sign drooped from the wire and Sarah could just make out the warning.

"Do not cross this line, under the orders of Colonel Adonijah Washburne, Queen's Royal Regiment, Second of Foot. August 29 1898." Sarah paused a moment. "Do you think that order still stands Professor?"

"It's never been rescinded to my knowledge, Sarah Jane. But then I've never been one to listen to the rules of others, now have I?" His gray eyes twinkled with mischief as he pressed the wire to the ground. "After you, my dear?"

Sarah smiled and crossed the wire. "I really shouldn't you know, Violating a military order is grounds for having my license pulled." She looked at the thick brush then decided she was all right. "But I doubt they'll be too harsh on a trespasser. Besides, you've piqued my curiosity."

The professor stepped over the wire and lifted his stick. "This way," he said, setting a brisk clip across the brush. Sarah Jane hurried behind him, not noticing the burn marks on the back of the sign. She would have fallen into a deep hole had the professor not stopped her with his walking stick.

"Mind the Gap, Sarah Jane," he said affably.

"We came out here to see a hole?" asked Sarah Jane.

"Not just any hole, my dear. This hole is all that remains of the great Martian Invasion of 1898." He held Sarah Jane's gaze with a serious stare.

Sarah Jane couldn't stifle her laughter. "Oh come now Professor. Surely you don't mean...I mean you couldn't possibly...but that's preposterous!"

"Can you imagine the terror, Sarah Jane? The large Heat Cannon rising up out of the pit; cutting down the constabulary and the soldiers? The panic as the people fled, fearing for their very lives? It was real, Sarah Jane. Just a little creative accounting to justify it in the books, to broom it all under the carpet.

"Remember what I said about official and unofficial histories Sarah Jane? The official history is that nothing happened. The government covered it all up. Thousands dead, most of the war machines destroyed, the Empire nearly fell. And it's all the stuff of a popular fiction."

"You mean its all the stuff of HG Wells," Sarah Jane retorted. "Professor, it makes absolutely no sense. If Wells wrote about it as fiction, then how can you stand there and say it's fact? After all, it was over one hundred years ago."

The Professor studied the hole once more. His chest rose and fell heavily, as a great weight was unburdened from inside. "I know because I've been working on the cover up for fifty of those years. I've been part of the Mercury Radio Project, which has been working to uncover and reverse engineer these weapons. Remember when I said most of the war machines were destroyed? National security demanded it. But it also demanded a defense. Our purpose was to develop them both as offensive weaponry and defenses against them. Why do you think we changed from a steam economy to an electric one?"

"WHAT?" asked Sarah Jane, incredulously. "In all these years you never once mentioned it to me. Why now? Why today?"

"About three weeks ago one of my colleagues, Roger Ainsley was found murdered just outside his home. He was still in his auto, but his computer and papers were missing. The Metropolitan police and the Mercury Radio Project security have both investigated, and concluded it was likely a murder to commit robbery. But the computer hasn't turned up anywhere yet."

The Professor fumbled in his coat pocket, and pulled out a press clipping. "Then yesterday, I saw this in the evening Standard."

Sarah Jane took the press clipping and quickly scanned it. "The Carthoris Corporation announced a breakthrough today by demonstrating a sonic device capable of shattering stone at a range of 100 yards."

"Don't you see, Sarah Jane? The Carthoris Corporation has Martian technology. Those big machines were Tripodal in nature. We had almost made the breakthrough on controlling them when Ainsley died. I'm certain that the patent that Carthoris is seeking should properly come to the Ministry of Defense, and under strict classification. But without breaking secrecy laws and my oath to the nation, I can't accuse them."

"So what do you want me to do about it?" asked Sarah Jane. "I can hardly waltz into the company and inspect their most secret documents."

Professor Smith's face fell. "Then we've lost it all. Ainsley had a complete overview of the War Machine in his files, and now, those are gone. The nation is now at risk from both Outer Space and potentially hostile nations. Ah well, perhaps it was time for the great coverup to come to an end."

Sarah studied the crestfallen face of her friend. "I didn't say I wouldn't do it, Professor. Just that it wouldn't be easy. How long do I have?"

"About one week, Ms Drake. You'll need to get the plans or destroy anything they may have done already."

"Professor, you can't expect me to waltz merrily into a high security place like the Carthoris Corporation," Sarah said indignantly as the pair walked out of the dense thicket. "And even if I DID manage to get in, what could I do in there?"

"You're an investigator aren't you? Investigate! There must be something linking them to the death of Roger Ainsley."

Sarah Jane knew that tone of voice well. Despite her better judgment, she also knew she'd not prevail against the Professor's determined will. "All right then," she acquiesced. "Then how are you going to get me in there?"

The Professor led Sarah Jane to his small Audi wagon. He opened the passenger door and rummaged in the glove box. "Here," he said, handing Sarah Jane a thick envelope. Inside were credentials, indicating Sarah Jane was a security consultant from the Ministry of Defense.

"Where did you get this?" she asked suspiciously.

"Oh don't worry so, Sarah Jane. It's all perfectly legitimate. After all, I still work for the ministry; so it's only natural that my security consultant do likewise. I ran it past Brigadier Gordon, and he agreed I needed an assistant and bodyguard. How did he put it?...Oh yes 'Smith, you're far too valuable an asset to be left unescorted, so I'm assigning you a bodyguard.' "

Sarah Jane giggled at the Professor's impression of his superior. "Yes but I'll wager he didn't count on me?"

"Well he DID say I could have anyone. He might have indicated from the staff security team, but you know I sometimes have trouble hearing. Anyway, Carthoris has their public demonstration in Manchester Tuesday morning. But we members of the Ministry get to come in first for a private look see, tomorrow afternoon. Would you care to join me?"

Sarah felt the tension leaving her shoulders. "All right Professor, as long as I don't have to answer anything more than A level science. I'll pick you up though, I'm not too trusting of your car."

Later that evening, Sarah Jane skimmed through HG Well's classic The War of the Worlds. The novel was still as gripping as it had been when she was 11, and reading it for the first time. But the description of the cylinder on Horsell Commons drew her eye, and for the first time she imagined it in the crater. "That thing must have been MASSIVE" she thought to herself. Well at least I know it won't be easy to hide." Satisfied with that comment she turned to the computer for a long look at Carthoris.

The Carthoris Corporation was started by an elusive John Carter, shortly after the Second World War. It had been a metallurgical operation at first, turning out precision knives, medical implements and high quality castings for many applications. But over the years, it had grown, and pursued more military applications. The company was still privately held, did not trade on the markets; and it appeared that Mr Carter was still firmly in command.

"If that's true, he must be nearly eighty now," figured Sarah Jane. There appeared to be no recent photographs of the elusive owner, however, and the estate house was on the grounds of the factory.

"Curiouser and curiouser," thought Sarah Jane. "I wonder what he's hiding? Or if he'll even appear tomorrow?"

Monday broke, and Sarah Jane drove her Mercedes 350 to the office for an early start. After shuffling some papers and paying some bills, she stretched and straightened her business pantsuit. The new suit was dark, coloured in charcoals and greys, but a white silk blouse added a bit of brightness and femininity to the look.

Sarah Jane pulled up to the Professor's flat and was met by a uniformed Sgt Major. "Sorry Ma'am, but I need to see your credentials," he said.

Unfazed, Sarah handed over both her PI license and the Security credentials Professor Smith had given her the previous afternoon. The soldier took them, studied them, then smiled. "Ahh, the sly old dog. I'll bet he hand picked you for this assignment didn't he?" He handed Sarah Jane her credentials, then waved at the front door. The door opened and Professor Smith trundled out, very annoyed at the attention.

After he'd climbed into the car and buckled his safety harness, he told Sarah Jane to drive.

"My goodness," she said. "Is it ALWAYS this secure?"

"No," grumbled Professor Smith. "But the Project is taking the threats a bit more seriously now."


"Death threats. Against me, against the Brigadier, against the facility. Someone has broken through the Mercury Radio project, and even scored a major blow against our computers."

"Was anything essential lost?" asked Sarah Jane in a worried tone.

"No, our main database is too well encrypted for mild hacking." The professor sighed and slid back against the leather seat. "But it did wreak havoc with our messenger and outward facing systems. Shaw was none too happy to have to rework the systems I tell you. But Gordon upped security on all of us. You're only here because my vouching of you was firm."

They continued the drive in light banter, both of them working out their nerves on the way to Manchester. Finally though, Sarah Jane brought the sedan to a halt at a security gate outside the Carthoris Corporation. The guard duly tallied them on his sheet and waved them through.

The Carthoris Corporation was a large stone building, crafted in some reddish stone Sarah Jane had never seen before, and with a very unique and distinctive architecture. They walked into a long, cool atrium, lit by several windows and found the small auditorium where the initial tests were to be performed. They found seats near the front, where the Professor could badger if necessary.

Professor Smith found a seat toward the front of the auditorium, and Sarah Jane grudgingly settled in beside him. She had a hard time following the mathematics, though Professor Smith seemed intrigued. He nudged her once, saying, "Those are Quatermass' equations, though I don't see how they can possibly apply here." Sarah Jane just nodded politely and Smith took it as agreement.

But when they wheeled a large device on the stage, both Sarah Jane and Professor Smith sat up. "That's a direct copy of the heat cannon," hissed Smith. "Those villains stole it!"

"Calm down, Professor," warned Sarah Jane. "Isn't it possible they've been working on a similar device? After all, Wells' book can be had in every bookseller in London."

"An exact duplicate?" growled Smith. Still he sat still until the young looking technician stepped to the podium.

"Thank you all for coming this afternoon. My name is Jed Taran. We at Carthoris Corporation take pride in revealing to you our newest device, a heat cannon." There was a general titter in the crowd, and a few people were overheard shouting, "That's nothing but a folly of science fiction."

But Sarah Jane could sense the tension in Professor Smith's arm as he gripped the rest between them. She saw the veins in his neck pulsing through the skin.

Taran motioned and a large block of airplane titanium was wheeled in. "This is titanium," he explained. "Imagine the heat cannon being used against it." Taran pressed a switch and the heat cannon warmed up, then a bright, red beam shot from the nose of the cannon, striking the titanium plate. The plate glowed red, then the beam broke through, shooting into a large log and igniting it. Taran flipped the switch and turned to the thunderous applause of the audience.

"FRAUD!" shouted Professor Smith. His face was beet red with rage. Before Sarah Jane could restrain him, the professor leaped onto the stage and caught Taran by the sleeve of his lab coat.

"No one should be able to do that!" shouted Professor Jones at the stunned young scientist. "We haven't been able to do that of over 100 years! It's only recently we've been able to make the breakthroughs!"

"Unhand me sir!" said Taran, indignantly. "Security!"

Two armed guards came running toward the stage at the same time from opposite sides of the room. The Professor paid them no mind as he continued to assault Taran. "Tell me how you did this! Tell them how you killed Ainsley!"
Behind him, a security guard brought a ton-fa down on Professor Jones' bare cranium. The professor slumped to the floor, unconscious. Sarah Jane leaped from her seat. It had all happened so quickly.

"Oh, please don't hurt him," she said.

"Who are you madam?" asked Jed Taran. "And who is HE?" Taran added, jerking a thumb at the prone form of Professor Jones.

Sarah reached for her purse, aware of the hands reaching for guns. "It's just my id," she said calmly and unhurried. Sarah Jane handed the two pieces of id to the gurad and he stared intently at it.

"Sarah Jane Drake, Ministry of Defense and Professor John Smith, Ministry of Defense, scientific advisor?" He studied the pictures once more, then handed the id's to Taran who glanced at them and handed them back to Sarah Jane.

"All right, we've seen the bona fides, but that still doesn't answer why Professor Jones just attacked me."

"Can't we get him some medical attention first?" asked Sarah Jane. "I promise I'll fill you in." Taran nodded and a small gurney was wheeled into the room. Professor Jones was trundled onto the gurney and wheeled out. Taran took Sarah Jane to a small commissary and sat her at a table. A moment later he returned with two coffees and an assortment of creamers, sugar and other sweeteners.

"He's a bit high strung," began Taran.

Sarah added two packs of Splenda to her coffee and smiled. "I think he's allowed. One of his friends was murdered, and his life's work was compromised. He was working on something similar to your heat cannon. I think the similarities had him convinced that the Carthoris Corporation had something to do with the death of his friend."

Taran sipped his coffee, and Sarah studied the young man. He seemed to be in his early thirties, with a thatch of dark brown hair and a boyish smile. By his blinking she could tell he was wearing contacts, though his vision seemed rather acutely focused on her chest. "So where is Professor Smith?" she asked.

"Hmm?" asked Taran, a bit embarrassed. "Oh he's in the medical bay. I imagine Dr Sullivan will be about finished with him now. Shall we go see?" Sarah Jane agreed and Jed Taran escorted her through the hallways toward the medical section. She noticed very exotic art and some interesting red plants growing in the window ledges.

"What are those?" she asked.

"Oh they're good luck plants from my part of the world. Quite exotic really," grinned Taran, giving nothing away. As they passed closed office doors, Sarah Jane took careful note of her way through the building. Presently they reached the medical bay.

"There you are, right as rain," smiled Dr Sullivan. Professor Smith had a small plaster on his head, but otherwise looked all right.

"Are you all right, Professor?" asked Sarah Jane.

"Quite, Sarah Jane. Dr Sullivan worked all sorts of wonders on my wounded noggin!" Smith tapped the side of his head. "Yes sir, better than ever."

Sullivan flashed an embarrassed smile. "All I did was apply a bandage and some aspirin. Most healing is in the mind you know."

"Well we've taken enough of your time," apologized Sarah Jane. "Come on Professor, you promised me a roast beef at your club tonight."

"I did? Well, a promise is a promise. Let's go Sarah Jane."

Sarah rolled the Mercedes back onto the roads and headed back from Manchester to London. On the drive, Professor Jones was transcribing his thoughts to the Mercury Radio project via his cell phone. Sarah was focused on the rad and wasn't paying too much attention, but it sounded like the professor was a lot calmer than he had been when they first saw the demonstration.

They were about 30 miles out from the city when the Professor began gasping. Sarah noticed the sweat pouring down his face and saw him unbuttoning his shirt and loosening his tie. "Professor? PROFESSOR!!" The professor was fumbling for his cell phone and it slipped from his hand, landing near Sarah Jane's left leg.

She scooped it up with a rapid movement, then hit redial. "Radio Mercury, what's your pass code please?" said a pleasant voice.

"I don't have a bloody pass code," said Sarah Jane.

"I'm sorry ma'am, but this is a high security installation, and we don't have time for prank..."

"I"m Sarah Jane Drake, the assigned body guard for Professor John Smith. The professor is having a heart attack. Now get me someone I can give information to." Sarah calmed her breathing, eyes on the road rather than the professor. Presently a gruff voice got on the line.

"This is Brigadier Gordon," he said.

"This is Sarah Jane Drake," Sarah repeated. "Professor Smith is having a heart attack."

"Good God, woman! Can you bring him in?"

Sarah Jane looked at her passenger. His skin was turning grey. "I don't think so," she said. A blue sign with an "H" loomed in front of her. I'm right at St Alban's on the northwest side of London. I'm taking him in there."

"All right Ms Drake. But don't leave until we're there to relieve you, please?"

"I couldn't possibly leave the Professor, Brigadier. I'll be here." Sarah Jane shut off the cell phone and pocketed it. She turned the wheel and pulled into the emergency section of St Alban's hospital. "I have a heart attack victim!" she said, bursting into the ER.

The doctors bustled and soon Professor Smith was placed on another gurney, wheeled out of sight. Sarah was soon buried in admission paperwork, worrying about the fate of her friend.

Sarah waited anxiously as the crash team carted Professor Jones into the ER. "Sorry ma'am you can't go any further," an orderly warned as Sarah Jane attempted to go through the heavy double doors to the Emergency Ward. "Why don't you wait in the commissary or there's a chapel?"

Sarah Jane scowled and sat in the waiting room. An aide with a clipboard prodded her for information until Sarah Jane barked at her. "Look, I don't KNOW the answers--I'm only his driver!"

"Well excuse me!" said the aide and she waddled back to the station.

Chastened, Sarah Jane rubbed her head and replayed the events of the previous day. The rumbling in her stomach reminded her she was hungry. She slipped down to the commissary and ordered a salad and iced tea, then sat to eat. The food did her good, and Sarah's mood and optimism began to return.

As she returned her tray to the conveyor belt, she was suddenly flanked by two large men in dark suits. "Yeats and Benton, ma'am, with the Ministry," said the tall man with a roguish smile. "Would you come with us please? The Brigadier would like to speak with you."

Sarah accompanied the two gentlemen down the hall, and was surprised to find them turning toward the chapel. "Oh no!" she said. The door opened and Sarah Jane saw the room was empty, except for a grizzled man in a wheelchair. He turned to Sarah Jane and harrumphed.

"Well don't just stand there with your mouth open. You'll swallow a fly like that! I'm Brigadier Gordon, in charge of the project." Sarah sized the man in the chair up. He was built like a barrel, and there was no doubting his physical power would be great. His hair was a dark grey, and his suit was almost a match for it. The Brigadier exuded an air of authority about him.


"You're Ms Drake, John's bodyguard and babysitter." The brigadier eyed her up and down and Sarah Jane felt a bit uncomfortable at the close and unwarranted inspection."

"It appears Smith made a good choice. You're well toned, not overly muscled. I daresay you've got a healthy workout routine. I guess I can forgive him for overriding my authority," he sighed. "Again," he added.

The Brigadier motioned for Sarah Jane to sit on the front pew, and she did so.
"Now fill me in on the day's events."

In concise fashion, Sarah Jane recounted the demonstration at Carthoris. The Brigadier didn't interrupt, merely nodding his head and following her narrative.
As Sarah was finishing her tale, Yeats stepped into the chapel.

"Sir, Professor Smith is asking for you. He's going to be OK."

"Thank heavens!" said Sarah Jane, along with the brigadier. They stepped toward the ER, where the Doctor stopped them.

"The professor is resting--so please do not get him excited. "Brigadier Gordon, Ms Drake, he was asking for both of you. If you'd step this way?" The doctor led Sarah Jane and the Brigadier to a private room, with a military guard.

"Just a security precaution, Ms Drake," said the Brigadier. Professor Smith was laying in a hospital bed, with an oxygen mask covering his face. Sarah was shocked to see how weak he looked. But the Professor smiled when he saw Sarah Jane.

"Good show old girl," he said. "I told you we were on the right track."

The brigadier looked at Sarah Jane with a quizzical expression. "What does he mean?"

Sarah Jane smiled. The professor is convinced that Carthoris stole your designs."

"What do you think?" asked the Brigadier.

"I think that they've been working on a similar design. I've seen it happen a lot in industrial security. Company A develops a new product, only to find Company B has developed an almost identical device. Satellite Radio for example. or the different types of digital recordings."

"Wouldn't that confirm at least industrial espionage? Does the Mercury Radio project have a mole or a leak?"

"I don't believe so," said Sarah Jane. "Usually its just a product of two highly trained minds working down similar pathways."

"But the possibility remains," said Smith weakly.

"Excuse us a moment, Smith," said Brigadier Gordon. He motioned Sarah Jane out of the room and followed her. In the hallway, he said, "I trust you know you're on very thin grounds here, Ms Drake. If anything gets out regarding the Mercury Radio project, or the invasion; well lets just say the penalties for violating the official secrets acts are very grave indeed."

Sarah Jane let the words sink in, carefully considering her reply. "I think I understand Brigadier. You'd like me to go home and forget this ever happened."

"Precisely Ms Drake. Nothing untoward happened. Your good friend and mentor Professor John Smith had a heart attack, and you brought him to the hospital. Nothing more."

Sarah Jane nodded, opened her mouth, then closed it. "Tell Professor Smith, I'll visit him tomorrow." She turned on her heel, then left the hospital. She slipped into the car, painfully tired and aware of the lateness of the hour

Back on the nearly abandoned freeway, Sarah proceeded toward her Croydon home. She checked the mirrors and noticed two non-descript dark sedans following her at a not quite discreet distance. One sped up and passed Sarah Jane and she breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn't being tailed.

Sarah Jane relaxed for just a moment until she saw the front sedan slamming on the brakes. Shocked, the sexy detective hit her own brakes, and felt the Mercedes go into a skid. Sarah Jane turned her wheel to the left, and felt the bone jarring crunch of the second sedan hitting the rear end of her car. Sarah Jane shrieked as the Mercedes rocked, then dropped off the berm. He car steadied itself but slammed into a large maple tree, Sarah jerked forward, but her forward progress was stopped by both the air bag and the seat belt.

She sat back woozy, and trembling. From behind her she could see the bright red and blue lights of the police car looming up behind her. "Thank goodness," she thought. Moments later, though, she was having second thoughts."

"Ma'am are you all right?" asked the police officer.

"I think so," said Sarah Jane. "Though my head seems to be a bit sore."

"Have you been drinking tonight Ma'am?"

"What? No! I'm coming home from St Alban's hospital. I left my friend Professor John Smith there. He had suffered a heart attack and I took him to the nearest hospital." Sarah Jane gave him all the information, including being run off the road.

The officer wrote it all down, then called the incident in over his radio. A moment later, he replied. "It all seems to check out Ms Drake. I'll have a breakdown lorry here in a few minutes. He waited with Sarah Jane until the truck appeared, then tipped his cap.

"I've put out a bulletin for the two sedans Ms Drake, but I doubt we'll find them. No doubt a couple of young punks out for a joy ride. But I'll make certain that if we gat anything on them you'll know." Sarah Jane thanked the officer, then climbed up into the cab of the breakdown truck.

The driver dropped Sarah Jane at her home, then said, "If you'll call down tomorrow, Ms Drake, we'll have a driver drop off a rental to you. I'll have my lads call with an estimate later in the day if that's all right with you?"

Sarah Jane stifled a yawn. "I...That will be fine, thank you!" She found her key and let herself into her townhouse. Kicking off her heels and slipping out of her black dress, Sarah Jane climbed into bed, exhausted.

Sarah Jane Drake awoke, uncertain if the ringing was in her head or coming from the front door. Deciding it was the latter, she slipped into a pair of tight blue jeans and slipped a bathrobe around her bare breasts, then ambled barefoot to the door.

The ringing stopped when Sarah Jane began fumbling with the locks. Swinging open the door, she beheld a large swarthy man, with a dark pallor to his face and an affable smile. He held a clipboard in one massive hand and in the other hand a the ballpoint pen seemed almost delicate.

"Ms Drake? I'm Tarkas vrom de car rental. Here is beink your rental car. Come mit please!" Curious about the strange accent and the prompt service, Sarah Jane followed the man outside and saw a silver Mercedes, very similar to hers, sitting in the parking space.

"There must be some mistake," protested Sarah Jane. "My insurance would never pay for this much rental."

"Is no Mercedes!" said Tarkas, pointing at the familiar logo. And bill approved for two weeks by..." he studied his sheet, "Stewart Gordon." Tarkas harrumphed, billowing his big mustaches.

"The old darling," Sarah Jane smiled and took the proffered clipboard. After signing the contract, she exchanged it for the keys to the car.

"You aren't from around here, are you?" observed Sarah Jane.

"Yes! I'm from Leister!" protested Tarkas. He laughed, and Sarah Jane could see massive muscles rippling beneath the coveralls Tarkas was wearing. "But yes, am Immigrant. Brave soldier at home, then regime you say, deposed. Came here many years ago. Speak English good, no?"

Sarah Jane covered her smile with an polite nod. "Indeed you do."

"Well, be seeink you," said Tarkas cheerily. Then he paused. "Excuse. I hate to be troublink you but is no one to take me back to car lot. Would you...?" he asked sheepishly.

"I'd be delighted," said Sarah Jane. "Please, give me a moment though. She invited Tarkas to her living room, then slipped back to her room and quickly changed. Sarah slipped into a clean rugby shirt and slipped into some comfortable sandals. She ran a brush over her thick, dark hair, smoothing down the flyaways and contemplating a new haircut.

Five minutes later though, a somewhat refreshed Sarah Jane Drake followed Tarkas once more to the waiting Mercedes. She climbed into the driver's side and buckled her harness snugly around her. Turning the key, Sarah Jane smiled as the motor roared to life, then settled into the satisfying, growling purr.

Tarkas provided terse, concise directions, and in no time, Sarah Jane was dropping him at the lot. "Hmmm, Dejah Motors. I don't recall ever seeing this place before," she said.

"Is new, maybe six months?" said Tarkas proudly. "Is named for former ruler of my land. My thanks to you Ms Drake, for bringing me back, and happy motorink!" Tarkas exited the car and waved before going back toward the offices. Sarah Jane proceeded up the boulevard until it intersected with the cross street to her office.

Tarkas watched as Sarah Jane drove away, his mustaches bristling. Looking down at his watch, he spoke softly, "She is away. Observation devices are all operational now."
Sarah Jane heard the pea gravel crunch under the tires as she pulled into the parking lot of her converted cottage office. She was grateful that she hadn't converted the small bathroom. Dropping her purse and keys on the desk, Sarah stepped into the bathroom and out of her hastily attained attire. She slid into a hot shower and felt some of the muscle tensions from the previous night begin to slip away.

As she was showering, a small device rose menacingly from her handbag. A small sphere on spindly legs crossed the floor utilizing a unique tripodal ambulation. It pulled itself behind Sarah Jane's' filing cabinets, hiding itself. Wit deft motions, the little robot cut into and spliced itself into Sarah Jane's telephone line and internet cable. It gave a little bleep when its task was completed and began its waiting.

"Is someone out there?" asked Sarah Jane from the bathroom. She stepped into the office, glancing around. Satisfied nothing was amiss, she padded across the thick plush carpeting in her bare feet, reveling in the soft feel of the carpet. Sliding her feet underneath her desk, Sarah Jane sighed contentedly. Bare feet were one of the joys of Sarah Jane's life, though she generally preferred the cool tile or moist grass.

After handling the morning's tasks, Sarah Jane picked up the phone to call Brigadier Gordon. She used her photographic memory to recall the number from Professor Smith's telephone. When the Brigadier came on line, Sarah Jane beamed over the phone, "Thank you so much for the expensive car rental. I don' t know how you knew about the accident, but it's much appreciated."

"What the devil are you talking about, Ms Drake," answered a confused Brigadier Gordon.

Surprised herself, Sarah Jane recounted the previous night's events, ending with Tarkas arriving with the Mercedes. "And he said it was paid for by Stewart Gordon," she said. "I assumed it was from the Mercury Radio group."

"Now why would I do that?" asked Gordon. "There's a budget minded minister overseeing almost every expenditure. I have to get requests for office supplies and staples done in triplicate. We have to account for every pound. I certainly can't be giving it away; especially for rental cars to unofficial bodyguards.

"Now on the other front, there's good news. Professor Smith has been evaluated. His heart attack was relatively mild and he's expected to make a full recovery. You did capital work getting him to the hospital so quickly. We've had him moved though, security precautions you know."

"Where is he now?" asked Sarah Jane.

"We've moved him to our sickbay for now. Can't have him sneaking off again, now can we? Why don't you drop by in a few days and visit? I'm sure he'll be ready for guests by then. He's already beginning to pester the nurse for a laptop to continue his work."

Sarah Jane smiled, knowing that the brigadier was probably not exaggerating. She agreed to come down and rang off. Fumbling in her purse, she found the invoice for the breakdown truck and checked with them. Finally, she called the metropolitan police to see what needed to be done regarding getting her accident report. After those two calls, though, an uneasy feeling gnawed at her gut.

There was no record of Sarah Jane's accident with the police, and the towing company had no record of a truck in her vicinity all night.

She forced herself to sit still long enough to record her notes from the day before, storing them in her computer. Frustrated, she then made herself pay bills, then made a pot of coffee and settled in at the computer for a more intense research study on Carthoris. She added terms to the search, broadening it to include the Mercury Radio Project, HG Wells, and Brigadier Gordon, looking for any connections.

She wasn't half surprised to discover a link between Mars and Carthoris, as well as a similar connection with John Carter. Sarah Jane sat back from the computer, and rubbed her eyes, realizing the lateness of the hour. She looked at the notes she'd scribbled all afternoon.

"Brigadier Gordon, Heat Cannons, Tarkas, Wars of Worlds, Carthoris and a warlord from Mars. Even Mars itself! This all adds up to a military and dangerous situation. There is definitely something more going on here than industrial espionage." Still she remembered the Brigadier's warning about the secrets act.

"But he didn't say I couldn't investigate my own accident," she said. "I can't believe this isn't all related somehow. And I think the place to begin is Dejah Motors."

Sarah spent a busy morning at her office, catching up the case files and reviewing her notes from the visit to Carthoris. She had the uneasy feeling she was being watched however, despite being alone in the office all day. Finally, though she decided enough was enough. She forwarded the telephone, locked the office and headed back out to the rental car.

Sarah drove back toward her flat the way she'd come that morning. As she passed Dejah Motors she was surprised at how little activity was actually occurring. The car lot took up a whole block's worth of space, but there were very few cars actually for sale and no customers. She drove on home, stopping only at the grocers to get the ingredients for a simple dinner.
After cleaning her apartment and doing dishes, Sarah Jane zipped up a dark hoodie over a white tank top. A pair of tight black lycra pants hugged her waist and thighs, framing her body like an inky silhouette. She laced on her running shoes and clipped a small light to her waist. In the dark streets, her dark outfit would not stand out, and Sarah Jane didn't feel like getting hit by any cars tonight.

She stepped out onto the pavement and stretched briefly, warming up, then headed east down the route laid out by Tarkas earlier that morning. Sarah set an easy pace; her run had more purpose than just exercise tonight. She jogged up about 1 mile, then angled over past Dejah Motors. The building sat dark. Sarah noted the security cameras set up around the perimeter in the front of the building, as well as the high fence that separated the car lot from the convenience store in the back. Without breaking stride, Sarah passed along the side of Dejah Motors, then ran across the front of the lot, observing without breaking stride or being obvious. she continued up the street another five blocks, then cut back and ran along the next street back toward home.

She pulled up short on the way home, dipping into the back of the convenience store that was behind Dejah Motors. The store's dumpster was flush against the thick privacy fence behind Dejah Motors. Sarah's nose wrinkled at the acrid smell, but she had to know. She climbed up the huge metal dumpster, then with an easy grace jumped into the service lot behind Dejah Motors.

It didn't look like any service lot Sarah Jane had ever seen. Aside from the dearth of automobiles, there were no oil drums, no stacks of tires, none of the accessories that indicate cars were serviced there. Sarah crossed the lot, and stood next to the service bay entrance. She opened her jogging lamp and pulled out her small set of skeleton keys.

"I really shouldn't," she said to herself, "But there's just something too strange about all of this." The lock came open easily and Sarah looked for the pad that would shut off any alarms. But there were no pads--nor any alarms that she could see. But in the service bay, Sarah Jane spied a large ovate spheroid on the jack.

" couldn't be. A flying saucer?" Behind the sauce stood something Sarah Jane recognized immediately though, a version of the Carthoris Heat Ray. She slipped into the service bay to examine it more closely.

"I am tellink you I have something heard!" Sarah recognized the booming voice of Tarkas coming from the front of the building, but heading her way.

"Don't be silly, Tarkas, the locks are tight, the building is secure. Look! Nothing on the monitors. "

"Then please, humour me. Help me the service bays check."

"All right." Sarah's blood chilled. The service bay had only the one exit. She scanned the room quickly, and found a trailing wing on the saucer. With the graceful skill of a gymnast, Sarah Jane pulled herself onto the wing then pressed herself flat against the saucer, high above the floor. She could hear Tarkas and the unknown man searching the bay below her.

"There, you see? Nothing."

"Still does not right feel. Are we something missing?"

"Tarkas, there's nothing here. Come on, I'll stand you a round."

Sarah listened as the two sets of footsteps left the bay then counted to fifty. Slowly and noiselessly she slid her spandex covered body over the edge of the saucer again and dropped to the floor. Her trainers moved quietly across the concrete floor. Sarah moved cautiously, but the voices remained in the front of the building.

Cautiously she turned the knob that would release her to the back of the service area again, and stepped onto the concrete stoop. Carefully closing and lcoking the door, Sarah stood up and began to turn toward the fence.

BWAHHHM!!!!! Suddenly the night sky seemed full of fireworks and stars. Sarah almost didn't notice the pain as the tire tool dented her cranium. Her body folded almost instantly, spilling onto the cold asphalt outside Dejah Motors.

"I told you something we are missink," said Tarkas.

"Yes, but NOW what do we do, asked his unknown friend."

Sarah reached for the back of her head, trying to stand, willing herself to motion. But another heavy blow tattooed the back of her head, and the gorgeous detective drooped to the ground; her chestnut hair spilling all around her head.

(do I need to add, to be continued?)

Friday, June 5, 2009

The End?

(based on an Image by
he let me do another image like it)

Diana's eyes fluttered and she felt the intensity of the bright halogen bulbs against her retinas. She blinked hard again, trying to clear the fog and cobwebs from her brains and with startling clarity she remembered.

The Ambush....

The message from the Justice League called Wonder Woman to rendezvous with Superman at the refinery outside Blue Valley. Rumors of Metallo's apparent return had convince the Atom that the showstoppers of the JLA were needed. Or so the message had said.

But now she realized it had been a trap for her all along. Diana landed next to the burly, unmoving figure of the Man of Steel and put her hand tenderly on his shoulder. "I'm here Kal. What's this all abou...?"

At that moment, the ground trembled and several bombs exploded in a circle around the two surprised heroes. Wonder Woman was able to dodge most of the shrapnel, but one large tanker truck exploded behind her; a large chink crashing into the back of the Valiant Amazon's skull and knocking her unconscious....

Her memory now regained, Diana leaped to her feet, alarmed. "KAL!" she shouted. In her excited jump, Wonder Woman discovered her wrists were bound tightly together...with her own lasso.

"I'm glad to see you could rejoin us Princess," said a familiar and sinister voice in the shadows. Wonder Woman peered intently into the glare.

"Luthor?" she asked. "Where's Superman?"

"Of course its Luthor," he chuckled. Who else would have been capable of engineering the capture of the amazing Wonder Woman? Or of finally destroying the so-called Man of Steel?"

Superman dead? Wonder Woman's heart fell, but her posture showed she didn't believe it.

"You doubt me, then?" asked Luthor. He held up a tattered red cape; the once proud "S" shield now charred and burned. "The explosions were laced with a heavy green Kryptonite radiation. His death was slow and painful, I'm afraid."

"But the Justice League...?" began Wonder Woman.

"Has no idea where you are," finished Luthor. "It was no small matter, but I've been tapped into your JLA communicators for months now. I've broken your codes. All I had to do was interrupt your transmitter and substitute my own message. And you fell for it. " He held up a restraining hand and Wonder Woman shuddered when she saw the gold lasso tightly held in Luthor's fist.

"Before you ask, even if your friends were able to track you to Blue Valley, they'd find a dead end. The explosion contained a magnetic pulse that destroyed both your comlink and your subdermal GPS locator. We're well within a registered lead lined facility, so even your Martian friend can't find you. Aside from yours truly, no one knows where you are Wonder Woman."

He pulled the lasso a bit, and Wonder Woman was forced to take a step forward. "Now we're going to play a little game Wonder Woman. This lasso of yours compels someone to tell the truth! I should know, I've been in its grip before. But is that all it can do?"

Wonder Woman's body shuddered as she attempted to resist the question. But the answer forced its way from her lips. "NO!" she practically shouted. Luthor smiled a cold, wolf like grin...

Dangling the lasso,so that it whipped slightly against her fists, Luthor prodded, "And just what else can it do Princess?"

Wonder Woman rocked, fighting the compulsion..."nnnNNN It can compel the truth, but whoever is bound by the lasso, must obey whoever hold it."

"I see, and for how long?"

"That depends on the command," replied Wonder Woman. Diana swallowed hot tears, knowing she couldn't stop the last piece of information, even if she wanted to. She tried to bite it back but in a strangled voice she said, " There's more..."

Luthor leaned forward, intent, "Yes?"

Her willpower completely destroyed by the constant battering of the lasso's compelling force. Wonder Woman bowed her head in shame, the raven hair covering her eyes and blocking Luthor from her sight. Her voice dropped so softly, that Luthor had to strain to hear her.

"The lasso can alter how one perceives the truth. It opens the mind, allowing someone to edit basic information. Though its more intense than simple command obedience, it functions along the same lines. While so bound," she held up her bound wrists, " you could convince me or change how I see the truth of almost anything."

"A perfected brain washer. Have you ever used this power before?" Wonder Woman shook her head.

"Of course not, how altruistic. Too powerful and too afraid to use it, I assume. Well I'm not. Let's start simply...Who is Superman?"

Wonder Woman looked up, startled. "You said he was dead."

"I lied. It's what I do. I see you trying to avoid the question Princess, so I'll ask again...Who is Superman?"

For the next hour, Diana told Luthor all the secrets of the Justice League and their allies. He stopped her at that point, then smiled.

"Dance for me, princess. A little harem girl dance."

"What? No! I won't..." but her feet were already moving in little precise dance steps, her hips gyrating sexually. Soft music came up and Wonder Woman found a beat, moving sensuously with the swaying rhythm. The music changed, becoming strident, brassy and definitely bump and grind.

"Go ahead Wonder Woman, strip for me," laughed Luthor, his eyes drinking in the Amazon's humiliation. Despite her bonds and her inexperience, Wonder Woman gave a passable striptease, leaning into Luthor, shimmying her Amazon breasts at the hated villain. Her body gleamed with sweat.

"Stop..." said Luthor. "I think its time to alter your perception."

Wonder Woman disappeared that day. Her costume was carefully preserved, mounted and framed; hidden in Luthor's Lair. Luthor also acquired a new bodyguard; one who was powerful, sexy and fiercely loyal to him. She was tall, tanned and spoke with an exotic accent. She had a build like a supermodel but was hard and cold toward any threats directed at Luthor.

One by one, members of the Justice League disappeared, then returned--driven by Luthor's plans of domination and justice...

the end?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The anthology DC Comics won't write

Recently DC has been bringing out collections of "The Best _______Stories Ever Told" Most of these are terrific stories featuring the heroes--memorable and enjoyable. Here's my challenge to you. You're an editor (or at least part of an editorial pool) at DC comics charged with creating a new anthology. The Working title is the "Best Superheroine Peril Stories Ever Told" The rules are these...

1) The stories have to be memorable stories--ones that have stuck with you for a long time and you should be able to defend choices.

2) Groups stories count too...but only if the heroine is the key to success--no helpless heroines being rescued (Because I consider that cheating--is she a heroine or not?)

3) Note the title is Super HEROINE peril...I do not, nor ever will count Catwoman as a superheroine.

4) Note that the company is DC--no Marvel stories.

5) Don't worry if you think the character is obscure--believe me, ifyou've got one, chances are someone else will have heard of it. Make the list BIG! I'll post it eventually and we'll whittle it downto the top 20 , then the top 10 until we finally have the TOP Superheroine Peril story from DC...Just to get us started....

Justice League 151--Wonder Woman versus Amos Fortune

Adventure Comics 400--Supergirl Versus Black Flame

Action Comics 339--Brainiac's Trap for Supergirl

Lets hear your choices...

Wonder Woman:Nuclear the Magnetic Marauder

(A Wonder Woman adventure in the IADC Days)

by Captain Zammo

Diana Prince stood with Steve Trevor in the small block house control tower at a private airfield in the Pacific Northwest. General Charles Hunter, USAF, retired, was standing with them, pointing out the new military jet. "The Skyhawk is going to be something spectacular, Steve," he said.

"She sure is a beautiful plane, general. Watching her fly almost makes me wish I'd followed in Dad's footsteps," said Steve.

"Well, your father was one hell of a Flyboy, Steve. He would have loved to fly the Skyhawk, I'm certain." The general shot a glance at Diana and turned red. "My apologies for my mouth, Ma'am. Sometimes I think I'm still leading men." He looked at her again, and frowned.

"General Hunter went to work with my dad right after the war, Diana. Dad taught him everything he knew. And to pay Dad back, General Hunter helped me get a job with the all new IADC."

"Well, I could see you were more like your dad when it came to the cloak and dagger stuff." The general grinned, then added, "And after seeing you total that Camaro at sixteen, I knew I didn't want you flying one of my jets!" General Hunter sat down in a large leather chair and sighed. "But after thirty years, it was time to get out. I'm glad I've gone civilian at Jettech."

Diana took Steve's hand and held it. "Steve's gotten much better with his driving, General. I think he's only had three crashes this year, and all of them were for minimal damage only. The stunning brunette's deep blue eyes twinkled.

Steve looked first at the General, then at Diana; his mouth agape in mock shock. "That's not fair Diana! The chase in Cartagena doesn't count; someone cut the brake cables, as you well know!"

The general laughed. "Don't worry son, we were only fooling." Then the general's face took on a somber expression.

"But there was another reason I wanted to get in touch with you, Steve. The Skyhawk project has been threatened by some nutcase. He calls himself Nuclear, if you can believe it."

Diana and Steve both sat forward, attentive and all business at that point. Steve motioned Hunter to continue.

"My contacts at military intelligence haven't been able to turn up much on him, Steve. His phone calls are routed through several satellite links, and too short to be accurately traced. All we know for sure is he's somewhere in this general region."

"What does this...this Nuclear want?" asked Diana. "An end to war, starting with the Skyhawk?"

"No, nothing that noble. This is extortion, plain and simple. Nuclear is demanding a payment of a quarter million dollars from Jettech. In exchange, he'll 'allow' us to make delivery to the Air Force."

"You've refused to pay, of course," said Steve.

"Damn straight we have!" shouted the General. "The military agreed with us and said they could protect us. But Nuclear called again this morning, and told me personally that this would be the last flight of the Skyhawk."

The trio wandered down the stairs and outside to watch the end of the trim jet's test flight. Performing without a flaw, the civilian pilot landed with ease, then rolled the jet to a perfect stop. On the tarmac, the two IADC agents and General Hunter crossed toward the hangar.

The young test pilot was babbling happily and excitedly. "She was just perfect, General, just like you said."

"No anomalies?" asked Steve. The pilot, a young Inuit named Thomas Kalamaku. turned to look at Steve, then at the general with questioning eyes.

"It's all right, son," said the General.

Kalamaku nodded agreement, then answered Steve, "No sir, none at all. The flight was as smooth as silk." The three of them turned back toward the plane, for the post flight inspections, and they saw a commotion among the ground crew. The wrenching sound of stressed metal was accented by the popping sound of rivets flying free from the sleek jet.

"Holy Christ!" shouted Steve, racing toward the jet; Hunter and Kalamaku on his heels. Before them, the Skyhawk continued twisting and buckling.

Diana glanced at the hills beyond the landing field, then ran into the hangar, now emptied as the workers were running to see the unfolding disaster. Diana found a dark corner, behind some oil drums, and begin turning in a circle, her arms outstretched.

With a bright flash of light, the comely IADC agent disappeared; only to be replaced by the familiar crimson and azure clad Wonder Woman. After a brief check to make certain her costume was in place, Wonder Woman raced out of the hangar. Sprinting across the runway, she leaped the cyclone fencing. Picking her way across the rocky hills, she spotted an oddly dressed man pointing his arms at the airfield.

The man was dressed in a dark green bodysuit, with a peculiar bronze armor covering his chest. An equally odd helmet covered his head, masking his features from the amazing Amazon.

With a casual approach, Wonder Woman said, "I thought I saw something up here. Nuclear, I presume?"

"Fear me, woman! For mine is the power to destroy!" he said, his voice mechanically altered.

Wonder Woman crossed her arms and slowly shook her head at Nuclear. "Oh I deal with master destroyers like you on a daily basis," she said. "She took another step closer, and moved to unhook her lasso.

Nuclear turned and out of the corner of her eye, Wonder Woman saw several sheets of corrugated steel arrowing at her. Before Wonder Woman could prepare, she was peppered with a sheet of corrugated steel. She turned to brace herself, raising her bracelets to fend off the sheets. She was successful in flinging them away from her, but the sheets fell into the ground, forming a barricade between Wonder Woman and Nuclear.

The feisty heroine leaped high over the barricade, but in mid-leap she was hit in the small of her back by another sheet of steel. Stunned Wonder Woman dropped to the ground. Nuclear motioned again and the sheet of metal danced as if it were alive. The steel bent, and Wonder Woman heard the same wrenching sound she'd heard before at the hangar. But this time, the steel wrapped tightly around the heroine, replicating a trick Wonder Woman had performed on countless criminals.

"That should hold you for a bit," sneered Nuclear. And if not, then this should keep you occupied." He gestured at a line of fuel trucks, filled with Jet A. The bottoms of the trucks ripped open, and gallons of fuel splashed onto the field. Nuclear laughed and as the fuel burst into flames, he disappeared into the woods.

Wonder Woman struggled briefly in her corrugated cocoon; amazed at how quickly and thoroughly Nuclear had subdued her. She flexed her shoulders, and gained a bit of freedom for her wrists and hands. Pressing against the sides of the steel envelope, Wonder Woman strained her muscles and was rewarded by the sound of the corrugated sheets buckling. "Hola!" shouted Wonder Woman as she spun from its steely embrace. Wonder Woman spared a glance at the rapidly departing Nuclear, but the villain had already disappeared from sight.

Glancing back at the airfield, she saw the flames were swelling higher. Wonder Woman raced back to the airstrip, and began racing around the flames, containing and snuffing them with her feet. She kept the flames at bay until the crash trucks arrived to quell the blaze.

From the corner of her eye, Wonder Woman spotted Steve and General Hunter running toward her. Steve took her in his hands. "Wonder Woman!" he shouted excitedly. "Thank goodness you were here! Did you see what happened?"

Wonder Woman nodded grimly, "I did. I'm sorry I wasn't fast enough to prevent it from happening though. There was a man on the hillside, he called himself Nuclear and..."

"Nuclear!" exploded General Hunter. "He's been threatening the Skyhawk project all along." As the general blustered, a timid aide stepped up and handed the general a note. The general scanned it briefly, then turned to Steve. "Another threat! But I won't pay it! He's demanding more, Steve. But I also can't afford to have any more destroyed. Jettech is too new for us to have deep pockets. If I lose any more, we'll be ruined financially."

"I'll have the IADC put up a secure perimeter, Steve said.

"And I have some investigating of my own to do," said Wonder Woman. "If you'll excuse me?" She disappeared into the woods and a moment later, Diana Prince appeared from the hangars.

"Diana? Where have you been?" asked Steve.

"When the Skyhawk was being torn apart, I thought I saw someone running into the hangar. I didn't find anyone but I did find this on a workbench." Diana proffered a sheaf of documents. Steve and General Hunter studied them with a grim look.

Back at IADC headquarters the next day Joe Atkinson led Steve and Diana into the video conference room. The chamber sealed behind them and the trio seated themselves into comfortable chairs for the briefing.

"I don't have to tell you the Skyhawk Project is a high priority Steve," began the president. "It's not only the best replacement for the F14, but the fuel efficiency and the speed make it an economical choice as well. If someone is trying to sabotage it, then we need to stop them."

"I've added a detachment of soldiers to surround Jettech's test field. They're surrounding the base and keeping strict quarantine there. Additionally, I've arranged for flight escorts from Dunn AFB for the remaining test flights," Steve confirmed.

"That sounds good on defense. What are we doing on offense?"

Joe replied, "We're following up several leads from the other manufacturers, dismissed employees and a few peace activist movements in the area."

Diana added, "I'm also going to do a canvass of the neighborhood. It's fairly isolated, but I'm certain that someone in the area has seen something."

The president's voice seemed to smile. "As I recall that area, it is isolated, and there are a lot of high priced mansions. You should be the one doing the canvass Diana; I can't think of anyone saying no to you." Diana's eyes twinkled.

Joe stood up. "Well then, its all set. What are you still doing here? Shoo shoo!" Steve and Diana stood and smiled. As they entered the hallway, Rover beep-beeped at Diana. A small envelope was in the robot's tray.

Diana picked it up. "What is it?" asked Steve.

"IRAC has some additional information for me. I'll catch up with you tonight, all right?" Steve humphed, but nodded. Diana followed Rover to the computer section, and logged herself into IRAC.

"Good Morning, IRA," she announced into the air.

"Good Morning Diana Prince," came the mechanized response.

"What do you have for me?" she asked.

"Nuclear...a name known only recently by any intelligence branch. First reported by Jettech within the last six months. No known affiliation with any paramilitary or terror organization."

"What about Wonder Woman's description?"

"Wonder Woman reported a man, in an armored suit with magnetic ability. She was able to postulate size as approximately 6 feet tall, slender, yet powerful. She was unable to see a face or skin tone, yet owing to the area' s resident population speculated that he was likely adult and Caucasian."

Diana sighed. She already knew that Intel; she'd provided it. "Any speculation as to who might fit that profile IRA?"

The computer hummed and clacked. "There is an eighty two percent likelihood of Nuclear being a resident of Lancer Pointe, the home of Plazcyk, Karl and Plazcyk, Joye."

"A husband and wife?" asked Diana.

"Siblings,"replied IRAC. "Family fortune was raised on shipping and aircraft manufacture. The sister is the head of all the corporate entities, while the brother is seen as a playboy, with little industry."

"IRA, I think I may just have to pay a visit to these Plazcyks," said Diana smugly.

"I concur that it might be a good spot to start, Diana Prince," said IRAC. "But be careful, since Nuclear was able to surprise Wonder Woman."

The following morning, back at Jettech's test field, Thomas Kalamaku warmed up the Skyhawk for another flight. "She checks out OK General," he reported.

"What do you think, Steve?" asked General Hunter.

Steve studied the skies, until he picked out the F 14s coming in from the south. "Well, the troops reported nothing moving all night long, and here's the escort. Let's take her up."

Hunter motioned the go ahead and Kalamaku revved the jet, then launched into the clear sky. The flight continued well until the very end. From the control tower the frightened cries of Thomas Kalamaku came across the radio. "She's not responding. I'm heading for the ocean. Looks like a crackup."

"Pull out Thomas!" called Hunter. "Eject, eject!" Mortified the two men followed the blip until it disappeared into the ocean.

"Parachute sighted, Eagle Six," came a call from the F 14.

"Copy parachute, Eagle Three," the other plane responded.

"Thank God," said Hunter. Steve nodded in agreement, though his face remained grim.

Diana stepped out of her Cougar and took in the surrounding vista of the Plazcyk estate. The home stood on a bluff, overlooking the Pacific ocean almost two hundred feet below. Pine trees softened the ledge, and an elegant fountain and a tennis court stood in front of the house. With some trepidation, she stepped onto the large verandah and rang the doorbell.

The door swung open and Diana caught sight of a slight woman, with dark hair and an elegant Slavic look. "May I help you?" she asked.

Smiling, Diana said, "Hello, my name is Diana Prince with the IADC." She showed her badge to the woman at the door. "I'm looking for Joye or Percy Plazcyk."

"Oh well, Percy's not well. I'm almost certain he's sleeping in fact. But I'm Joye Plazcyk, Ms Prince. Won't you come in?" The door opened wider and Diana found herself ushered into a tasteful sitting room.

"Now, how can I help you?" asked Joye. She was dressed in a modest green dress, with a lace collar. Her dark hair was permed, and hung about shoulder length. She looked at Diana with innocent, eager eyes.

"Well, I've come to ask about some strange doings at Jettech," Diana began. "They've been receiving threatening correspondence from someone named Nuclear, and I was hoping..."

"Nuclear!" shouted Joye. "I should say so. Poor Percival's nerves have been shattered by that menace."

"You have knowledge of Nuclear? What has he done to your brother?"

"Oh I'm not quite sure. But poor Percival used to be quite cunning until Nuclear began threatening him. But I haven't heard from him in months, ever since the company began losing money."

"How did Nuclear threaten him?" asked Diana.

"It's a long story," began Joye. "But when we were younger, Percival only was interested in science; chemistry and physics mainly. But he also would play hard, and was frequently gambling in gentlemen's clubs until his debts overwhelmed him.

"Our father was the president of Plazcyk industries. He was furious at what he perceived as Percy's laziness. Finally, he cut Percy off, no more money; and made me the president of the business. Percy was heartbroken, but vowed to make a name for himself in science. I funded him secretly until father died, then openly afterward. But even I find it hard to support his gambling habits."

Joye sighed, and Diana sat quietly for a moment. Her sharp Amazon hearing had detected the soft creak of a footstep on a wooden floor, and she suspected Percy was about.

"Do you think I might have a word with your brother?" asked Diana patiently.

Joye looked up. "I suppose so, but you need to be gentle."

"As a lamb," promised Diana.

Joye knocked on the bedroom door seconds after Percy closed the secret closet. He darted into the bed and pulled the covers over. "Who is it?" he asked timidly.

"Percy darling, it's Joye. I have a woman from the IADC asking about Nuclear." Joye swung the door open and Percy buried himself in the blankets, quaking in terror.

"I...I can't talk about Nuclear! He'll kill me!" Percy trembled in fear.

Diana pressed her glasses up on her nose and frowned. "I'm here to see that he doesn't get anyone Mr. Plazcyk. He's been making threats and trying to extort money from Jettech. And Joye said he's been trying to do the same to you?"

Plazcyk burrowed lower. "That was a long time ago. He made me use my lab to build his armor in payment for gambling debts. Joye will tell you he's left us alone since then, won't you Joye?"

Joye tugged on Diana's arm. "He's always like this when someone asks about Nuclear. But Percy is right. It's been a few months since Nuclear has bothered us."

"I'm sorry I bothered you Ms. Plazcyk. Can I ask one last question though?"

"Certainly!" said Joye, determined to be helpful.

"Where did Percy have his lab? If he's not been there for a while, Nuclear may be using it as a base."

Joye laughed. "Did you see the bluff behind the house?" Diana nodded.

"Percy's lab was on, or more precisely under the bluff. But it blew up about the time Nuclear left Percy alone. I always suspected that Nuclear blew it up in an effort to kill Percy."

Diana nodded, then clutched her purse and hat. "Well I should be checking in with a few more of your neighbors," she said. She pointed toward the door, and Joye escorted her to the verandah once more. Diana waved a cheerful goodbye and climbed into the rental Cougar.

Driving carefully down the former lumber trail that served as the roadway to the Plazcyks, Diana caught the reflection of the sunshine on bright brass. Suddenly, her car began shaking, then lifted from the roadway. Diana sat back in her seat, hands off the wheel as she felt the car rising into the air. She sensed the sideways motion, then felt the car drop over the ridge. The car tumbled into the trees, and rolled into a deep valley. Diana managed to climb out of the car, shaken. Looking up, she spotted the strange green armor of Nuclear as he laughed, then turned back toward the ocean.

Diana got to her feet then saw Nuclear had gone. She spread her arms and began the mystic spinning that would transform her from IADC agent to Amazon princess. With a flash of light, Diana Prince disappeared and Wonder Woman emerged. Wonder Woman leapt into the air and landed back on the roadway. She ran toward the ocean but saw no sign of Nuclear.

Wonder Woman scoured the bluff and made her way to a wide ledge. As she crawled along the ledge, she could see several small pockets and caves. She began looking into the caves, and could see that most were too small to hide much. But as she neared a crease in the cliffside, she noticed the scars and soot of an explosion. Wonder Woman drew near, and heard a harsh mocking laughter.

"Wasn't the lesson at the airfield enough for you woman?"

Nuclear pointed both both hands at Wonder Woman, and she threw both arms up to deflect whatever Nuclear would toss at her. "I'm ready for whatever you throw my way," she said.

Instead Wonder Woman felt her bracelets drawing together, and her own strength unable to break the attraction. As she struggled to pull the wristlets apart, Wonder Woman felt herself being drawn into the air, closer and closer to Nuclear.

"I see you have some attraction to me, Wonder Woman," laughed the metal clad menace. "I hope it's not fatal."

Wonder Woman soared upward, helpless against the magnetic onslaught of Nuclear's power. She was dashed without pity against the outcrops of granite that lined the cliff face, and the merciless rocks tore at her skin, her hair her costume.

Nuclear brought the hapless amazon parallel to himself. "Seeing you now," he chortled, "I'm repelled." With a wave of his arms, Wonder Woman shot skyward, her bracelets still locked together. At the apex of her trajectory, she felt the magnetic tension on her bracelets relaxing.

"Thank Hera," she began, but her praises turned to gasps of terror as she felt her golden belt twitching against her waist. The golden clasps pulled free and Wonder Woman's belt and lasso spiraled away from the falling heroine, landing in Nuclear's metal grasp.

Wonder Woman tried in vain to control her fall but, but crashed to the rocky abutment at Nuclear's feet. She struggled to regain her own balance, but without her belt, was no more powerful than a regular woman. Wonder Woman sprawled akimbo at Nuclear's feat, her costume tattered and her body bruised.

Steve Trevor hated making reports to Joe Atkinson, especially ones like these. "The test was sabotaged somehow, Joe. The plane was pulled apart, almost rivet by rivet. The dive and recovery teams are still pulling pieces from the water. Kalamaku is fine, though he's a little spooked. And General Hunter only has one prototype left. If that gets destroyed." Steve let the unfinished sentence hang in the air.

"What about Diana's mission, Steve. Has she turned anything up?"

Steve's stomach rumbled in anxiety, as he answered, "We're not sure, Joe. We found her car miles from her last reported position. It had been wrecked, almost like it had rolled down a cliffside. According to Joye Plascyk, Diana visited with her for a while, then left, shortly after noon. No one's seen her since."

Joe folded his hands on the desk, though Steve couldn't see him. Concern furrowed his brow. "I don't like it Steve. Diana wouldn't disappear without some word; not if she was doing deep reconnaissance. I'm afraid we may have to consider her MIA."

"I don't think that's the case Joe," Steve replied. "She's very resourceful; and Diana has a knack for turning up where we least expect her."

Begrudgingly, Joe agreed. "We'll give her another forty eight hours. That's standard procedure for an agent in the field. Either she'll make contact or we'll assume the worst. I don't like it any more than you do Steve, but that's why the agency has the procedures in place."

Steve nodded. "I'm going to insure the perimeter is safe from the seaside, Joe. "That's one area we almost overlooked. I'm going out in the morning to reconnoiter from the bay. Maybe I'll turn something up."

"Good luck Steve," Joe hung up the phone.

Steve stared grimly out the window of the hotel as he returned his own handset to the cradle.

Deep in the crevasse she'd spotted from the bluffs outside, Wonder Woman moaned softly. Cautiously, she eased her eyes open and blinked back tears from the bright light shining in her face. She was standing upright, or so she thought, with her hands outstretched and above her head. She tugged her hand forward and found it wouldn't move.

But her feet dangled loose below her. As Wonder Woman turned her head, she could see she was dangling from a thigh gauge fence, which surrounded a large electric generator. Her bracelets were still magnetized, and they seemed to be all that was keeping her suspended.

Beneath her, Wonder Woman could see Nuclear working on some device. His surprisingly small hands moved with a surgeon's precision as he carefully laid wire and welded it into place. His attention was entirely focused on his work. Nearby, on his workbench, Wonder Woman saw the gleaming gold of her amazonium belt and lasso, and realized once again that she had been made powerless by a man.

A soft bell chimed and behind her, Wonder Woman heard the sound of an elevator opening. Unseen feet clattered along the heavy metal gridded floor. Nuclear turned and snarled at the unseen intruder.

"I thought I told you I was not to be disturbed," he growled. His voice sounded distorted and almost mechanical.

"This is MY laboratory," said the voice, indignant. "And I wanted to see Wonder Woman!"

"Your laboratory, HAH! You have nothing of your own, it all came from your father, your sister. You're nothing but a scavenging parasite, and you'll do exactly what I tell you!" Nuclear stopped his tirade long enough to gesture to the hostage. "There's your precious Wonder Woman, pinned to the wall like a butterfly."

Percy Plazcyk came round to look at Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman squirmed uncomfortably; still unable to free herself.

"Nuclear is quite mad, you know," muttered Percy. "And he's out to destroy Jettech, using my scientific breakthroughs."

"That's quite enough, you sniveling coward," said Nuclear. "You've ogled your would be savior, now go back to simpering in the corners." Nuclear took a menacing step toward Plazcyk. He gasped and scurried back to the elevator. Wonder Woman heard the doors rumble open, then closed.

"I gather that the explosion didn't quite finish you off." said the captive Amazon.

"That fool tried to kill me," said Nuclear. "He thought he was protecting his sister and his scientific legacy. But all he did was succeed in angering me. Now he'll pay the rest of his miserable life for crossing me."

"Isn't that a little harsh? Most villains would be satisfied with just killing him." said Wonder Woman, trying to understand.

"I...I can't kill him. I need him as well."

"So there's a symbiosis in your relationship."

Nuclear remained quiet, then changed the subject. "You're being held in place by the magnogenerators. My research, and that of that insipid fool have discovered that all metals have an electromagnetic affinity; its merely a matter of discovering the precise calibration. For instance, your magnificent bracelets, made of...?"

"Feminum," Wonder Woman provided.

"Thank you. Made of Feminum are magnetic at a very high frequency, almost off the charts. Your belt and lasso are similarly, but not quite as high frequency."

"What are you going to do with me?" asked Wonder Woman.

"Well right now, you're merely a nuisance to me. If you were to break free before I complete my revenge on Jettech, then I suppose you could cause large problems to my schemes. I had contemplated keeping you as a hostage; to keep the IADC away; but I think I wish to experiment."

Nuclear picked up the device he'd been working on and set it on a pivot mount in front of the captive Amazon. "This device is another magnetic probe. But where most magnets have a very short range, this one is powerful over yards. It's calibrated to iron by the very simplest of lodestones."

Nuclear sighted the weapon on Wonder Woman's ample breasts. "What I am going to do is draw every molecule of iron in your body to one spot and extract it to the rod. I don't think the results will be pretty, especially for you, but I rather find the prospect fascinating."

"Your brother was correct, you are insane....Joye," said Wonder Woman.

"NEVER use that name. Joye Plazcyk is DEAD! She died the night her brother declared himself to be Nuclear; the night her father died a suspicious death."

She whirled toward Wonder Woman, her cape fluttering behind her. "The explosion in the lab was my doing. I wanted to keep Percy at bay. But I found Nuclear such a useful tool. Oh we both took turns at it, Wonder Woman. Percy was the mindless, destructive version of Nuclear, and I was in the suit when it required finesse, or an alibi for my brother. The explosion in the lab left Percy a babbling fool at best. But I'm able to provide for both of us, on the remains of Father's shipping and transportation business. It was losing the Skyhawk project to Jettech that pushed us to the brink of bankruptcy though. And so Hunter and his company shall pay, or they shall die."

Nuclear hooked the power cord into the diabolical device, then slipped it into a power source. A telephone buzzed. Nuclear looked at it quizzically, then removed the helmet and the voice distortion devices. Joye Plazcyk picked up the phone and purred sympathetically into it.

"Yes Percy dear?" Wonder Woman strained, but couldn't hear the other end of the conversation.

"Yes Percy, keep him occupied. I'll be up in a moment. All right." Joye set the telephone down and scowled at Wonder Woman.

"It appears the IADC doesn't know when to stop," she said as she slid the helmet back over her head. "With any luck, they've sent the Prince woman back. If not...well it's a big cave, and at least you won't have to die alone."

Nuclear then tripped the switch on the death device. A soft hum filled the cave and Wonder Woman thought she could feel the magnetic pulses touch her, caressing her like spiders inside her blood vessels. She shuddered as the device continued, drawing iron from all the outer edges of her body first.

Her body pulsed and rippled as the iron in her body began to magnetize and reverse its direction. Wonder Woman's fingers were beginning to tingle; her toes and feet were growing cold and numb.

Steve Trevor had always been a man of action, like his father. After deciding that sitting tight was for people like Joe, he'd gone out to retrace Diana's steps. Starting at the Plazcyk manor, he'd been met by a simpering man with mad, rounded eyes. "I'm Steve Trevor, with the IADC. I understand my associate Miss Prince was here today. Did you see her?"

The man looked blankly at the image on the photo. "I did see someone today. But I must say, my nerves aren't quite what they once were, and I'm afraid my memory isn't so good either. Perhaps my sister Joye would remember better."

"Is she here?"

"I believe she's in the cellar," said the man. "Allow me to call down and find out."

Steve studied the art on the walls as the man called down stairs. He was studying an exquisite Matisse when he felt a tap on the shoulder. Steve turned. "Hello Miss Plazcyk....UNNNNGGGGHH!!!" Steve suddenly felt himself hurled across the room, led by the zipper on his jacket. His IADC issued .45 flew out of the jacket's pocket as Steve slammed into the thick stone of the fireplace. The gun slammed him in the side of the head and Steve dropped to the floor, unconscious.

Percival studied the unconscious form of Trevor, then looked up at his sister. He shuddered, covering his eyes as he saw her standing in the Nuclear armor.

"Did you have to hit him so hard?" asked Percy, without a hint of fear in his voice.

"Of course I did, you fool," spat Joye. Do you honestly think either of us would have been a match for him without the element of surprise?" Joye knelt over the prone form of Trevor as he sprawled on the floor of the manor.

"Bring me something to restrain him," she snarled at Percy. A moment later, Percy returned with a short extension cord. Nuclear examined it and nodded. "It will have to do," she said.

Wonder Woman was writhing in pain. She could feel her heartbeat increasing as the iron broke its bonds in her hemoglobin. Her shoulders and thighs ached, and she was losing feeling in her extremities. She heard the elevator door ring again and with an effort, she lifted her head, shaking it slightly to drive the dark hair from her eyes.

Nuclear entered the room backwards, carrying something; Diana saw through misty eyes. As Nuclear's burden became more obvious, Wonder Woman felt her spirits drop. "Steve!" she thought.

The Plazcyks carried the unconscious IADC agent to a clear workbench and left him there. Percy spared a glance at Wonder Woman and shuddered.

"Go warm up the van, we have to spoil one last test," said Nuclear. Nuclear shoved Percy, and he scampered back to the elevator. Smirking, Nuclear returned to Wonder Woman.

"I'm afraid the Skyhawk project is doomed Wonder Woman. You won't be able to stop Nuclear this time, and the IADC is quickly running out of agents." Nuclear glanced at Trevor. "He's harmless for now, and may even be awake to see you die. A pity I won't be here, but even Nuclear can't be two places at once. Oh that's right, He CAN!" Joye stepped up to the captive Amazon, and ran a gloved hand over Wonder Woman's smooth thigh.

"Oh, you're cold. The iron must be breaking down as we speak. And I see that healthy Caribbean tan has faded as the oxygen is draining from your body. Soon, the iron will cluster here," she said, tapping Wonder Woman on her breasts. "And shoot through your skin, leaving you quite dead. But don't worry Wonder Woman, I'll have Percy clean you up when I get back. He'll like that."

She picked up the helmet she wore as Nuclear, and waved a cheerful goodbye. Wonder Woman pulled harder at the grid, but the magnetic field holding her bracelets was too powerful in her weakened state.

The elevator doors closed and the room grew silent with the Amazon's battle against death. Diana's eyes closed as she continued to battle, knowing all the while she was losing. But her ears heard the sound of motion, and she cracked her lids to see Steve sitting up on the workbench.

"I thought they'd never leave," said Trevor. Reaching into his jacket with his bound hands, Steve pulled out a Swiss army knife and began working on the extension cord. The flimsy appliance snapped easily under his sharp blade, and he smiled as he rubbed his wrists.

"Thank goodness I inherited Dad's hard head," he quipped as he raced toward the apparatus.

" careful...S. S..Steve," croaked Wonder Woman, her voice parched.

Steve studied it for a moment, and realized he was unable to find the off switch. So with his trusty knife, he cut through the cables of the beam first, then found the main for the magnetic grid.

Wonder Woman dropped from the magnetic grid with a lifeless thud. Steve raced to her, cupping her head in his arms. He could feel the cold of her body, and saw her lips were blue. Touching the sides of her throat, Steve felt for a pulse, and found none.

He gently lay Wonder Woman on the cave floor and tilted her neck back. Trevor then kissed those lips he'd always wanted and blew air into Wonder Woman's mouth. He saw her breast rise as he inflated her lungs. The air expelled as he removed his lips, then he repeated the rescue breathing.

Steve felt for a pulse again and still got none. He moved to Wonder Woman's chest, and felt along her breastbone to find the right spot. He clenched his hands together and pressed down on Wonder Woman's chest. "One...two...three...four" he counted. Then he leaned back over to breathe into Wonder Woman's mouth.

This time, Steve felt lips greedily accepting his. An arm wrapped around Steve's head, pulling him close. Flustered and not a little embarrassed, Steve sat back as Wonder Woman moved herself to a seated position.

"My hero," she murmurred. She stood, a bit shakily and made her way to the table where her belt and lasso lay. Jittery, Wonder Woman placed the belt around her trim waist and turned to face Steve with a hint of a smile.

"Hey you should take it easy," said Steve. "After all, you were just dead."

"Thank Hera I'm not." She paused a moment and thought again, "And thank you too, Steve."

"Well, I just..."

"But there's no time for this. Nuclear is going to destroy the Skyhawk. We have to stop them Steve."

"But how?" asked Trevor.

"Do you know the fire rangers in this area?" asked Wonder Woman.

"Well yes, but why?" Wonder Woman put a finger against his lips and explained her plan.

"The fools are actually planning on launching it," laughed Joye, still clad in the Nuclear armor. She set the binoculars down and opened the door of the van. In the driver's seat, Percy whimpered.

"You promised it would be MY turn," he said.

"It's my money, Percy, so I'm going to do them in," glowered Nuclear. Percy nodded, bowing his head in shame. With both sets of eyes focused on the airfield below, neither sibling saw or heard the silent approach of Wonder Woman's invisible jet.

Below, on Jettech's airstrip, the Skyhawk taxied, then leapt upward, climbing with remarkable ease. Joye growled as the plane shot overhead then banked north from her perspective. "It's out of range," she said. "But we'll get it when it returns."

"I don't think so Nuclear," said Wonder Woman. She stepped from the brush and stood with her legs apart and her hands on her hips. "Now would you two like to surrender?"

"YOU!" hissed Joye. "You're supposed to be DEAD!"

"Sorry, I wasn't dressed for a funeral," quipped Wonder Woman. The amazing Amazon unclipped her lasso, swung it and dropped it over Percy in one fluid movement. "Don't move," she said.

Percy stopped all movement and stood completely still. But Joye whirled and raised both hands at Wonder Woman. "You may have stopped my worthless brother," she said. "But I still can control your bracelets." She gestured at Wonder Woman's wrists and Diana felt her hands leap in reply.

The bracelets clanged together, setting off sparks in the dimming twilight sky. Behind Wonder Woman, the woods erupted in flames. Her plane dipped low, allowing Wonder Woman to jump onto the wing, dragging Percy with her.

On the floor below, the quick Napalm fire burned brightly around Nuclear. Joye screamed for mercy as the fire disrupted her magnetic abilities. Wonder Woman got Percy settled, then returned for Nuclear. She hovered the jet above Nuclear and dropped the lasso.

Joye grabbed at the lasso, and began to climb, when a tongue of flame licked at her cape. Joye panicked and dropped the lasso, falling to the ground once more. A flaming tree fell next to her and Wonder Woman lost sight. The Amazon could see the Rangers water bomber coming though and moved her jet out of the way.

"So the Skyhawk was a success?" asked Joe Atkinson as his formerly AWOL agents gave their reports.

"Yes Joe, the plane outperformed the required stats in every test and Jettech got a large order for them. It ought to keep the General and his business going for years," said Steve.

"What about the Plazcyks?" Joe asked, turning to Diana.

"Well, Percival suffered a complete breakdown, and was remanded to the Shady Rest Asylum. Joye's body wasn't recovered, though the Nuclear armor was badly burned and destroyed. I wouldn't believe anything or anyone could have survived the fall and the fire." Diana seemed very disturbed by this.

"Well I don't like having an open door like that," said Steve. "After all, Miss Plazcyk nearly killed you, me and Wonder Woman. The thought that she could return to work revenge isn't going to let me sleep easier at night."

"Speaking of missing, Diana," Joe interrupted. "Where were you? We had IADC scouring the whole of the forest."

"Believe it or not Joe, I was hiding in the woods, trying to figure out how to get back to the road and how to explain I'd lost another car. I was just glad Wonder Woman found me and brought me back to Jettech." Diana adjusted her glasses and looked at Steve.

"Wonder Woman told me one more thing, Steve."

"What's that?" he asked.

"Wonder Woman told me to tell how did she say it? Oh yes, Wonder Woman said to tell you that you're every bit as good at kissing as your father was." Steve's face turned beet red as Joe and Diana laughed.

The End

Wonder Woman: The Thinking Machine

Based on the Original Wonder Woman story from Comics Cavalcade #29 but updated for the 1970's TV show)

Diana Prince and Steve Trevor sat in leather chairs in Joe Atkinson's office at the IADC. All three of them were facing the large viewing screen, and listening intently as the President spoke to them.

"I don't need to tell you how important it is that we keep ahead of the world in terms of nuclear development. But there seems to be some sort of psychological sabotage going on in our biggest nuclear thinktank."

Diana peered through her large, fashionable glasses at the screen. She was demurely dressed in a yellow turtleneck sweater and a black skirt, with a matching vest. Calf high black boots outlined her shapely legs. Beside her, Steve Trevor was also casually dressed, in doubleknit trousers, a polo shirt and a windbreaker.

"What exactly are we discussing here, sir?" asked Diana, leaning forward.

"Sixty top nuclear scientists have been working day and night, trying to solve a vital problem in atomic energy, which could have vast military and civilian potential. So far, though, they've been unable to solve it. General Brinkley, who heads up the thinktank, thinks it might be some outside force coercing the scientists to "fail."

Diana sat up at that. "With all due respect, sir; I think General Brinkley is wrong. The human mind isn't a machine. In fact, it can only hold a complex thought for a few hours, before requiring rest. Even Einstein's great brain would go numb if he overworked it."

Joe shot Diana a curious look. "Even if that were so Diana, it still doesn't solve Brinkley's problem. We need to see if there's any way to assist him."

"Well, I can check out the efficiency at the thinktank," said Steve, rising.

"And you Diana?"

" have an idea I need to follow up on as well," she said, with a curious smile on her face.

An hour later, in the computer room of the IADC, Diana Prince entered the office of the famed mathematician, Professor Fife.

The professor was a young, bookish looking man, with thick glasses and a slender build. His suits were perpetually rumpled and his tie always askew, but his genius unparalleled. "Oh, Diana!" he said, practically jumping out of his skin at her greeting. "You startled me!"

Diana shot her dazzling smile at the professor. He was a kind man but somewhat timid, she knew. She explained the situation regarding the atomic energy question while Fife took notes. "If I understand correctly Agent Prince, the main issue is the fact that a mere human brain can't stay on task for more than a few hours without needing a break. What this task calls for is a device that can think without a pause."

"Is that possible?" asked Diana.

Fife nodded. "I believe it is. I have a friend who's written code for some of the great chess playing computers. He's assured me the only think that's kept his compuers in check so to speak is the amount of memory and power. And with IRAC here, we should be able to design something even more powerful."

Diana smiled. "I think I can provide a suitable power source, if you can provide the memory and the programming."

"I can do that," said Fife. "In fact, I was going over the program already. I had added a few thousand lines of code to it, expanding its processes from chess to a variety of tasks."

Within days, with the help of IRAC, Diana and Fife worked out and built a new device, unlike any computer ever built. "Well Diana, it appears ready," said Fife.

"Shall we give it a try?" asked Diana.

"What shall we ask it?" asked Fife.

"Here, let me program the first question," said Diana. Her skilled fingers danced across the keyboard and she hit "ENTER." The computer blinked and hummed, processing the information Diana had fed into it. Within fifteen minutes, it pinged and page after page of printouts began feeding into the tray.

"Well?" asked Fife, nervously.

Diana read the first page, then smiled back. "It works!" she said. "The computer solved in fifteen minutes what sixty experts couldn't solve in a year's time!"

The news of the the IADC's new computer was hushed up, though such information has a way of trickling into the world. And in a well appointed house belonging to a crime boss, the information was not well recieved.

"Boss, I'm telling you, this machine spells the end of crime in this country," said Lefty Dugan.

"How do you figure?" asked his employer, Michael, "Crime Brain" Doone.

"If this thing can out think anyone, then it can out think us, right?" said Dugan. "It stands to reason that the cops can use it to track us down. We might as well cut and run now."

Doone stared at his henchman. "You're out of your mind, Dugan. Sure the cops could use it to stop us, but only if they had it. And from what I've seen, the IADC aren't too anxious to share it with anyone. But what if..." Doone paused for a moment to take a large draw on his cigar. "What if WE had the machine. Think of it, we could plan perfect crimes and no one could stop us."

"That's only true in the short run, Boss. I mean Fife could always build another one, right?"

"You're not seeing the opportunity I'm seeing, Dugan," said Doone. "What if we were to put a snatch on both Fife and the machine? The way I understand it, the machine isn't on government property. The IADC is keeping it's location secret, but I think we can find it easily enough."

Doone spread a stack of photographs on the table. Most of them showed Professor Fife at various angles, but a few of them showed him in locations other than his home or the IADC building.

"Take a good look here," said Doone, pointing at a few buildings. "This is Miller Hall. It's a building on the outskirts of the university. It's isolated, and up until three weeks ago, empty. So why would the math guy be going there on a regular basis? I think that's where the machine is.

"My plan is to take a big truck, and steal that machine. And hopefully we can get Fife while we're at it. We'll bring them all back here, and use the machine to get stinking rich on crime."

Dugan rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, but nodded in agreement. "We'll have to act quick," he said. "How soon you plan on getting this together?"

Doone laughed. "Would you believe tomorrow night?"

The next night, well after midnight the large truck rolled quietly through the back part of the campus to Miller Hall. Doone's men lobbed in several sleeping gas grenades, putting to sleep any guards. As the gas masked men strolled through the hall and carted up the supercomputer. They found Professor Fife crumpled on the floor next to a striking woman.

"Guess she likes the brainy ones, huh boss?" said Dugan. He fondled the woman's breast through her silky blouse, then found her ID tag on a jacket draped over a chair. "Says here, her name's Diana Prince."

"Leave her here, she's not worth anything to us," said Doone. "But grab the prof and let's go." Without further ado, the men dragged the slumbering Professor Fife into the back of the truck along with the computer. The door closed and the truck drove off into the night.

Diana stretched, uncomfortable. "How careless of me to fall asleep on the floor," she mused. Suddenly it came to her where she was. She sat upright and studied the room. The computer was gone, along with Fife. Diana picked up the desk phone and called the IADC.

"Diana! Thank goodness! We've had a report the supercomputer was stolen." Joe's voice had more than a hint of anxiety, and Diana winced, wishing she had better news for him.

"I'm afraid it's true Joe," she said. "And the thieves also stole Professor Fife." There was a long silence.

"Get in here as quickly as possible, Diana. We're expecting more communication from the thieves soon." Diana replaced the phone.

Thirty minutes later Diana, Steve and Joe Atkinson sat in the communications room at the IADC. The light blinked, indicating an incoming call. "Go ahead caller," said Joe, with a grim voice.

"I am going to steal the entire reserve of US gold in the Fort Knox depository." said a garbled voice.

"That's impossible," siad Joe. "That vault is heavily guarded."

"Nevertheless, I am going to do it," said the voice. "I will steal the gold at midnight, and you can't do anything to stop me." The line went dead.

Diana stood, "I'll get a trace on it," she said.

"You can't," said Steve. "It was a radio phone. Probably bounced off three or four satellites."

Joe folded and unfolded his hands. "I'd like to believe it's a crank call," he said. "But I can't take the chance. Steve? Coordinate with the army and get that vault protected inside and out."

"You bet," said Steve, as he headed for the door.

"Do you have any ideas who did this Diana?" asked Joe.

"No sir. Though I suspect whoever called us just now is the same person who took the supercomputer."

"I agree. See what you can do toward finding them Agent Prince." He summarily dismissed Diana. She stepped into the hallway and crossed to her office. In the privacy of her office, Diana twirled once, twice...her skirt billowed up and her hair fell loose. There was a blinding flash where Diana Prince once stood, Wonder Woman had taken her place. Wonder Woman touched her tiara and belt to insure everything was in place then jumped out the open window of her office.

She lighted gently on the wing of her transparent plane and began winging her way to Kentucky.

By the dark of the moon, Wonder Woman circled the Army fort where the federal gold reserve lay. On the ground, Steve Trevor was commanding a cadre of 250 soldiers and federal agents in and around the vault. Steve took a position outside the safe door as he gave his final orders. "Shoot anyone, man or woman, who even touches a bar of that gold, men." He pulled his own automatic, and waited, checking his watch.

As the vaults automatic chronometers closed on midnight, everyone grew tense. The soldiers, facing out began to smile. "It's midnight and no one got in," said one.

"Holy Cow! Look at that," said another pointing. The well stacked bars of gold were dissolving, evaporating into mist and wafting out through the ventilations system. Steve got the vault door open in time to see the last of the gold disappear from the vault.

In Doone's hideout, Fife was sweating. Doone was looking at his watch and his men were casully playing with their guns. "Well, Prof? Where's the gold?" asked Doone. "If you don't produce it, you'll die a very unpleasant death, like I've told you."

Fife swallowed hard, but found his voice. " will arrive, as I promised. I've followed the computer's instructions in every detail. The electro-atomic current it set up should dematerialize the gold in the vault and rematerilaize it here. The computations are exact and the machine can't be wrong..."

BOP! Something hit Doone in the head. "All right which of you guys threw something at me?" he demanded of his gang.

"Honest boss, none of us threw anything!" As the goon spoke, more bars of gold began forming, dropping out of the sky with loud thuds.

"All right, what a way to go, buried in gold," laughed Doone.

The next morning, Steve and Joe were at the White House, debriefing the cabinet. "I swear that no one got past us," said Steve. "No one came in or out. The gold simply...disappeared."

The Secretary of the Treasury glowered. "This is a travesty. The market is already taking a major hit, the nation is in a panic."

"Trevor and the IADC were negligent," said the Secretary of Defense. "I say we court martial them!"

At that moment, Wonder Woman jumped through an open window in the hot confrence room. "Good morning, gentlemen. May I join this conference?"

"Good heavens! It's Wonder Woman!" blustered the Speaker of the House. "Of course! We'd be glad to have your help."

The statuesque beauty stood tall and smiled at the men leering at her. Wonder Woman was always aware of the effect her good looks had on all men, and in some ways she thrilled to it. Satisfied all eyes were on her, she said, "I wouldn't be too quick to blame Mr Trevor and Mr Atkinson, gentlemen. They were defeated by a supercomputer that stole that gold. It can devise an unbeatable method for committing any crime. But the machine was stolen. I've discovered who stole the machine and it was a scientific criminal named..."

At that moment, an aide rushed in and whispered into the Speaker's ear. His eyes grew round in surprise, and he nodded. The aide crossed to a large televison and switched on the sound. The garbled voice spoke again, "This is Crime Brain Doone calling all the so called leaders of America. The gold is very nice, and I thank you for it. You all were too stupid to stop me then and you'll never stop me. In fact, the only obstacle remaining to my developing my empire of crime is Wonder Woman herself. She will be eliminated permanently today at 3 pm." The machine went silent and the room was still for a moment.

"This is outrageous!" shouted one man. "Call in the marines!" said another. "We'll surround you with an armed guard! We can't let you be taken, Wonder Woman!"

Wonder Woman smiled. "You can TRY gentlemen. But if the machine has figured out an unbeatable way to capture me at three o'clock, then you can bet I'll be captured."

Wonder Woman grabbed Trevor by the arm. "I need to make some preparations before you put me under guard. Come on Steve," she said. They leaped out the window, Steve's heart jumping into his throat.

MEANWHILE...Doone had summoned all the crime leaders in the US to his secret lair to deliver an ultimatum. "You're all joining my crime trust," he said. "I'll plan all your crimes and you'll split the take with me 50-50. Otherwise, I'll have the machine plan your arrests."

The mob bosses laughed, and one of them, Knuckles Bonano, said, "I ain't agreein' until we see just what this thing can do. You prove it to me, an' I'm in. Ain't that right boys?"

The remaining bosses shouted agreement. Doone looked angry, but nodded. "All right, you got a deal. The machine has already planned for a way to bring Wonder Woman to my side of the law. I'll get her here, and have her join my Crime Trust. You stick around to watch, ok?"

BACK IN WASHINGTON...Wonder Woman fretted. She was locked in a tight metal cell completely surrounded by almost 1000 armed soldiers, heavy artillery, tanks and overhead, planes circled. An electonic clock counted the minutes, and Wonder Woman kept her eyes focused on the red LED lights. In the distance she could hear the chimes from the National Cathedral as it tolled the hours.

Three o'clock rolled by and Wonder Woman smiled. Nothing happened. Then all at once an almost transparent ray of pale blue light struck the amazing Amazon behind her ear and penetrated to her brain. Within her innmost mind, Wonder Woman felt a compelling command. "COME FORTH AND FOLLOW THE RAY!!!" Wonder Woman was unable to resist the compulsion, and stepped to the bars of her cell.

"Steve, it's past three. The danger is over. Let me out to look for the supercomputer."

Steve stopped. "I would beautiful, but I can't. My orders are to..."

Unable to resist the command of the ray, Wonder Woman grabbed the bars of the cell and bent them back with her fabled strength. She knocked Steve over, throwing him into the contingent of soldiers directly in front of her. The soldiers fell like bowling pins. Wonder Woman leaped over the wave of soldiers and into the path of an oncoming tank. She bent the barrel of the tank's gun back on itself, rendering the machine useless. "I'm sorry, but I haven't time to argue orders with you...I must obey."

She broke through the remaining barricades and chased at hisgh speed down the roadway. Tirelessly, the Maid from Paradise Island followed the compelling force in her mind, her only thought, obedience. Following the ray, Wonder Woman soon found herself inside Doone's headquarters. She stepped into the living room and bowed her head. She crossed her wrists in submission and spoke to Crime Brain, "I am here, and my brain commands me to obey you."

Doone laughed. "Ha ha! My thinking machine wins again! Follow me, Wonder Woman." Unable to resist, the Amazing Amazon followed the criminal into the next room. Doone grabbed the submissive heroine by the chin and forced her head up. "Take a look at what my Thinking Machine can do! The great Wonder Woman herself, our most dangerous enemy, helpless and obedient!" The room grew silent as the Amazon stood helpless and unresisting.

Mindlessly, Wonder Woman parroted Doone, "Yes, I am obedient to you Doone."

The gang bosses were impressed. "You got a deal Doone," said Bonano. "We're all joinin' your Crime Trust."

Nearby, Fife cowered. "This is all my fault," he thought. "Wonder Woman is powerless, and I'm too worried for my life to do anything about it. All I can do is keep myself alive and do as he says. I'm as helpless as Wonder Woman."

Doone smiled, and began thinking of titles for himself. "Emperor Doone has a nice ring to it, don't you think, Dugan?" He looked once more at his powerful prisoner, incapable of moving without his commands. He had plans for Wonder Woman. Big plans.

Doone turned to Fife. "I need you to plan another crime for me. Something really big. I've already got the gold. Now I want you to steal the launch codes for the US missle defense system. I can blackmail the US government into surrendering to me, or else I can blow up a city or two until they do. Or better still, sell the secrets to the enemies of the nation and retire fabulously wealthy."

"Bu..but that's barbaric!" said Fife, trembling. Doone whirled, slapping the mathematician on the side of his face. Fife tumbled to the floor.

"No more lip," he said. "Or your honey here," Doone pointed to Wonder Woman, "will buy the farm. Do you understand?" Fife nodded.

"I'll do it," he said. "But it will take the machine some time to plan it."

Doone glowered but nodded. "Then give it a quick program first." He whispered his intentions into Fife's ear. Fife grew incredibly red, but said nothing. He punched a few keys on the control panel and thirty seconds later, handed the printout to Doone.

Doone winked at the scientist. "Now get to work on the other plan. This will keep me busy all night long, but I'll want your answer to the other problem in the morning." He turned to Wonder Woman. "Right now, I have a little night music to make. Follow me, Wonder Woman." Without hesitation, Wonder Woman followed the crime boss up the stairs of his hideout. A few minutes later, Fife heard thumping and moaning coming down from the floor above. A loud feminine wail indicated one way Doone intended to use Wonder Woman.

"This is terrible," he muttered. He knew already that Doone was something of a mathematical genius himself; but Fife gambled he wouldn't check the math too closely for this program. Working furiously, he outlined the scheme for the computer, but he also added a few lines that would secretly allow the IADC to find them. Satisfied at his own duplicity, Fife ran the program, then fell asleep.

He woke early, the cries of Wonder Woman still resounding from the floor above. "I guess the first program was to Doone's satisfaction," he grumbled--ashamed of himself. The moaning grew softer, becoming sobs, and then ending entirely. Doone came down the stairs, wearing a thick brocade bathrobe and pajama pants. Behind him, Wonder Woman followed, her cotume torn, wrinkled and matted. Her eyes were puffy from crying and her once perfect hair disshivelled. She still had her head bowed in submission however and she stood behind Doone, her wrists still crossed.

"I have your answers here, Mr Doone," said Fife. Doone scanned the document, then grunted, satisfied.

"Go ahead and put it to work," he said. Fife pressed a few buttons on the machine and the supercomputer hummed to life. All across America, documents began disappearing from military bases--every code book, every key to launch panels began to disappear. A few minutes later, they began to appear on the table in Doone's hideout.

Doone nearly cackled with glee. "This is better than the all night sex formula you gave me last night! Now I control the entire free world! Can you get me on the TV to the government?"

Fife nodded, still defeated. A moment later, Doone appeared on the screen in the President's office, as well as in the IADC's communications room. "I am Crime Boss Doone," he began. "I am responsible for the theft of the supercomputer, the Ft Knox depository and your beloved Wonder Woman." The camera panned the room, showing each item in turn as Doone named it. "As of 10:30 this morning, I also took total control of this nations' defenses. I am ordering the government to surrender to me, or I shall sell these defensive secrets to the enemies of the United States. You will hear from me in 24 hours, at which point I will accept your unconditional surrender."

Doone cut the connection, then smiled. "That should do it," he said. He looked at Wonder Woman, then at Fife. "Doc, I think I need another pick me up," he said.

Back at IADC headquarters, Joe Atkinson was furious. "We cant stop him Steve; he's got control of our most potent weapons, the supercomputer, Fife and Wonder Woman too! And we haven't even got a clue as to where he is!"

At that moment, the little abulatory droid ROVER beep beeped its way into Joe's office. It dropped a note onto the director's desk than rolled out. Joe opened the note and handed it to Steve. "What do you make of this?" asked Joe.

Steve studied the note. "I'd say Fife figured out a way to communicate his location. I'd like to run this by IRAC, but I'm almost convinced these are the coordinates of the supercomputer. And if we find the supercomputer..."

"We find Doone and his cronies," finished Joe. "Sound thinking Steve. Get on it--take as many men as you need."

"Thanks Joe; but I think this is a case where less is more." Steve stood up and left the office.

Three hours, one helicopter and an IADC staff car later, Steve was approximately one mile from Doone's Pennsylvania headquarters. Located in a deep woods, Steve had no problem approaching it without being spotted. He lay on a hill nearby, watching the compound through binoculars. Ever since the device had been stolen, crime had increased and Steve was intent to stop it.

The document had not only indicated the address of the supercomputer, but had provided instructions to approach, away from the otherwise faultless protection. Steve soon found himself entering the compound through an open wine cellar door. He entered the cool dark cellar and waited, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

When his eyes were sufficiently adjusted, he stepped into the main cellar. As he crossed the floor, the lights suddenly blazed on and he found himself face to face with Wonder Woman.

"Angel!" he said. "I can't believe you're free. This will make my job easier."

In response, Wonder Woman grabbed Steve by the lapels of his jacket, and threw him into the heavy stome wall. Steve landed hard, sliding to the floor.

"I'm sorry I didn't bring you flowers," said Steve. "But don't you think that was a little harsh?"

Wonder Woman dove at Steve, grabbing for his neck. The nimlbe IADC agent rolled to his side, barely getting out of Wonder Woman's way. Her timing and superb skill seemed off somehow, and Steve believed she was still under the control of the machine. "The machine," he said. "That's got to be it." Wonder Woman punched at Steve and he barely avoided the fist. Instead, Wonder Woman's fist buried itself into the stone wall, crumbling it.

Steve studied the room and ran diving under Wonder Woman's boomerang tiara. He came up in front of the breaker panel. "You want me? Come and get me." Wonder Woman took a running start at Steve, then kicked up at him. Steve managed once again to get out of the way, and the amazing Amazon's boots landed in the circuit board. There was a flash of lightning, and Steve heard Wonder Woman howl in pain. The lights flickered, then the hideout went black.

Steve reached over to where his angel had fallen. "Wonder Woman?" he asked.

"Steve! Oh Steve!" Steve felt powerful arms around his neck and a deep kiss from Wonder Woman. He maintained his cool, though and managed to break the kiss.

"Are you all right?" he asked her.

"I think so," she said. "My mind is my own once again." She got to her feet. "And I have a lot of work left to do!"

Soon, the crime bosses who had remained with Doone were rounded up in short order, and tossed into the now locked cellar, with Steve standing guard. Wonder Woman caught up with Doone as he tried to slip away through a roof access. "I owe you BIG, mister," she said, cracking her knuckles.

Doone dropped to his knees begging for mercy. Wonder Woman grumbled, knowing she wouldn not be able to kill a surrendered foe, but tossed Doone extra hard down the stairs. The Crime Trust was broken up, but Wonder Woman still had one task left.

She picked up Professor Fife from the floor. The mathematician hung his head. "I'm terribly sorry for the things Doone had the machine do to you Wonder Woman. I'm so ashamed, how can I ever face my friends?"

"It's true, you were weak when faced with a chance to be courageous," said Wonder Woman. "But you put your life on the line to end this madness. I think you can be forgiven."

"But the horrible things Doone did to can I ever forget it?"

Wonder Woman studied the small man. "We grow from our mistakes, Professor Fife. Rather than forget, learn from this." She looked at the supercomputer. "But maybe the world isn't ready yet for a device that can solve man's problems. Perhaps I should destroy it."

Fife agreed, and Wonder Woman's mighty Amazon muscles made short work of the computer. "Bu-but I still remember how to make another one!" protested Fife. Wonder Woman nodded, then tossed her lasso over Fife's shoulders.

"You will forget how to make a thinking machine," she said. "But you will remember these events." She took the lasso from his shoulders and held the sobbing scientist. "I forgive you." she said.


"Good work Steve, on rescuing Wonder Woman, the gold and the national defense," said the President, though his filtered screen. "The Congress wants to award you a medal, privately of course. But it will be reflected in your jacket and your paycheck, as well. "

"Thank you sir," said Steve. "But I really didn't do that much."

"Are you kidding Steve?" asked Joe. "You singlehandedly rescued Wonder Woman and saved the nation's defense and economy, I'd hardly call that nothing."

"Well, technically, Wonder Woman did all that," said Steve.

"And you were a part of the biggest haul of wanted criminals in history," added Diana.

"It's just too bad we don't have that thinking machine to devise fitting punishments." said Joe.

"Oh I don't know," said Diana. "It seems to me, we're definitely smart enough to do THAT at least."

"How's Professor Fife doing?" asked the President.

"He's taking a leave from the agency for a while. He wanted to research and write a book on the Dynamics of an Asteroid. Under the circumstances, we felt a sabbatical was a good idea," said Joe.

"That's good," said the President. "As Diana said once, every human mind needs a rest once in a while."

"Well I could certainly use one," said Steve. "How about it Diana? Care for a trip to the Caribbean with me?"

"Oh no, Steve, I couldn't. I feel like I just stood around during your last mission. Someone has to be here in case the world falls apart while you're gone."

"I agree," said Joe. "Have a nice vacation Steve." Joe offered his arm and Diana took it. They left the communications room together.

"Sorry, Steve, I can't go either," said the President. "But maybe you could ask Wonder Woman."

"I would if I could find her."

"Well you found her once. I'm sure you could find her again. She has a way of showing up you know."

The End.