TG Universes & Series:
On his way back home for Christmas, Larry Danvers is about to receive a really big surprise!
This a fanfic of Lilith Langtree's Retcon Universe. All the Characters within belongs to someone else such as DC or Marvel comics. With that in mind this story still belongs to me and I reserve all rights to repost. It is not for profit, simply for fun. Insert standard disclaimer! A big thanks goes to djkauf for looking this over for mistakes.
Part One of Three
A Retcon fanfic
And his ADHD afflicted muse
Finally, I breathed out relieved. Normally I didn’t have a problem flying, but these were hardly the usual circumstances. Okay it wasn’t the end of the world, but it sure felt like it. Since this was the middle of the Christmas Holiday traveling crush that epitaph would do very nicely.
I’d been relatively lucky all considered. So far only five hours had been wasted fighting my way past all the screaming children, short tempered adults, and completely unsympathetic airline employees. Having the chance to upgrade to first class instead of waiting for only Gawd knows how long till the next flight, I’d leaped at the opportunity to get off the ground and into the air.
The weather was trying to turn nasty and my instincts told me it was now or never. No way did I want to spend Christmas snowed in at Logan International. The turbulence as we climbed to cruising attitude shook us up real good. It’s was a relief when the fasten seat belt sign blinked off and the Captain announced everyone could bring out their toys. Plugging in the power supply that first class had, I opened up my laptop, but then stared in dismay at the desktop background that came up. That was not supposed to be there. Damn him!
At least the thing was family friendly because even first class was packed with rug rats.
The first time he’d done this, it’d been funny. The second round was annoying. This one was downright agitating.
A little girl, in the seat behind mine, eyes grew large as she saw the picture, “Supergirl!”
I hung my head in misery. Alex was going to die very, very slowly.
Professor Otto Swan’s classes were very difficult to get into, and had a reputation for being very tough. However, I was looking forward to each and every minute. The old professor was teaching only one class a semester now, all that his health would allow. That made all the hard work I’d put in to make the cut here at MIT worthwhile since this one would be one of his last. Unlike many with his prestige, he’d never become famous because of contributing discoveries or inventions.
Instead he turned the adage of “Those who can, do and those who can’t teach,” on its head. Professor Swan did have his share of achievements, but what he had mostly were pictures. Books and books were filled with all the snapshots and pictures of those who were inspired by his unconventional off the wall teaching methods. He often said, the successes of his students were all he needed. While his own accomplishments were modest, the number of Nobel winners and other very successful scientists who credited him for their own accomplishments was legion.
To say I was happy to be here didn’t even come close. I’ve always been the proverbial science geek. Not your Star Trek or whatever other science-fiction fanboy, but real world science. In a lot of ways, I’ve always been too smart for my own good. My school years were pure hell since half the time I understood the subjects better than my teachers. Add in my being the runt of my class and you have the classic nerd syndrome. Let me tell you; being the peaceable sort, I worked very hard at blending in and being invisible in that high threat environment.
While most teenage boys were eying girls, mine were glued skyward. What was out there beyond the Earth had always fascinated me. It wasn’t that I lacked interest in girls, but rather that I was simply clueless on how to approach them. Somehow I always ended up being that ‘nice’ guy friend. Asking my parents for help with my dating dilemma was an exercise in futility with their advice, ‘Just be yourself.’
Sometimes I think both of them were bigger geeks than even I. Mom was one of those mothers who’d bombarded me with Mozart while I was still in the womb. Instead of a baseball mitt or a football, I got telescopes and science kits from Dad. On the other hand, my parents had me taking Aikido almost from the time I could walk. I think this was a hold over from their own bullied school days. Sure I could defend myself, but like I said, I’ve always been the peaceable sort. I’d rather avoid trouble if I can. Besides only an idiot, which I’m not, picks a fight with Neanderthal jocks double their size.
So being practical, I concentrated on the things I could do something about. I’d always had this thing about flying. First it was my Dad buying me these foam gliders, but soon I was making and designing my own. When I got that aforementioned telescope, my interest went further to beyond the atmosphere into space. Let me tell you that I’d launched more than my share of model rockets, many of them products of my creativity. Space might be my passion, but everything interested me. Sure, I dreamed of going out into space, but there was also this insatiable intellectual curiosity. Everything of science interested me. I was like the baseball trivia nut, but instead of sports statistics, I was a sponge for scientific facts from every conceivable field, which made deciding which college courses to take a problem.
I solved the problem by taking as many different science classes as was allowed. My major might be astrophysics, but I had at least a ground floor understanding of everything from biology to aeronautics.
Turns out that was exactly what Professor Swan was looking for this semester. The rest of my classmates were just as interdisciplinary, which was a good thing. Professor Swan, living up to his reputation, threw all of us a curve ball. Old, but still walking under his own power, he presented us with a challenge. “Get mankind off planet Earth.”
His voice, still strong, commanded our attention. “Current thinking puts warp drive and whatever other fictional Faster-Than-Light transportation you can name centuries away and perhaps even in the realm of the completely impossible. Although, what is impossible today might be an everyday occurrence tomorrow,” he added with a humorous smile.
“Currently, there’re many different proposals of how to get to orbit cheaper and more efficiently. Space elevators, improved rockets and a host of other ideas are in the works as we speak. Space tourism is literally just around the corner with Spaceship Two and Bigelow Aerospace’s orbital hotel modules that are in development.
“However, what about beyond Earth orbit? The moon is the closet chunk of rock to us, but even there, relatively close to Mother Earth, it’ll be difficult to support a colony. The light gravity and the extremely fine dust will make any long term settlement problematic. The long gestating manned mission to Mars suffers its own problems. Yes, gravity isn’t as much of a dilemma, but crews and prospective colonists will have months of travel to withstand. Additionally, environmental conditions will require considerable material support which will be very costly because again of the distance.
“Being able to terraform the Red Planet would solve many problems, but we’re far from that goal given the failure of the Biosphere project. We couldn’t maintain an already stable environment much less design one. Which incidentally doesn’t bode well for any of the projects for cleaning up our home world’s debatably damaged biosphere.”
He paused looking at us, his students. “And that’s simply Mars. We haven’t considered Venus or any of the moons of our system’s gas giants which are even further away and present even greater challenges.
“Without terraforming, that leaves modifying man to fit the environment. It’s not a new idea. The science fiction writer Fredrick Pohl wrote ‘Man Plus’ over forty years ago describing the use of cybernetics to enable a man to live on Mars. However today’s advances in genetics as well as the cybernetics Mr. Pohl envisioned suggests we might very well be capable of bringing his concepts to life.”
Professor Swan gave them all an intense examination. “We’re going to explore what kind of alterations are necessary not only for survival, but for colonists to thrive on various planetary bodies in our solar system.”
He gave a wryly smile, “And yes for the purposes of this class, Pluto will be considered a planet. Think of it as humoring your eccentric old professor who’s grading your efforts.”
That got a polite round of laughs since we’d all had teachers in the past who’d only wanted their own words regurgitated back at them, right or wrong.
Raising his hands, the Professor called for quiet. “There’re any number of factors and considerations that will have to be taken into account. Environment and biology are most certainly factors, but also how to sustain a long term settlement growth. Which means that unlike Fredrick Pohl’s cyborg, we will need to include reproduction.
“As I’m sure you see, our task is not going to be an easy one. Each week we will focus on one to two planets. Please check your syllabus for details. Each planetary investigation will begin with individual papers outlining what each you see as the greatest challenges and your solution. Then we’ll group those with similar methods together to polish it for a joint discussion of what is the best solution given our present circumstances and technology.
“Our first line of inquiry will be Mars since it’s our most likely destination for mankind’s first colony on another world,” he said smiling. “Be prepared ladies and gentlemen to work hard.”
From the very beginning of the class, Alex Thurol and I were thrown together. He was my opposite it seemed in every single way. While I’m your atypical skinny Caucasian nerd at five feet seven, African-American Alex towered over me by a half foot. My shaggy mane of brown hair always looked unkempt no matter what I did with it, in stark contrast to Alex’s shiny baldness. What we had in common were our ideas and creativity in responding to the Professor’s challenge.
Both of us had similar thoughts for dealing with the environmental hardships each planet presented. On Mars for instance, both of us came up with the idea of using organically boosted fuel cells since any number of bacteria produces hydrogen. I used as many of the same solutions that Earth’s evolution of biological diversity had come up with as I could. So did Alex, but he also didn’t hesitate to include cybernetics when necessary to overcome similar technical quandaries.
With us working together so much it take long for us to become friends despite our differences. Very quickly I learned my new friend was an incurable prankster. He just couldn’t turn down a dare of tweaking someone’s nose. I learned the hard way not even his friends were safe one morning around mid-terms.
Like many science geeks, I know my way around a computer. I guarded my laptop like my life depended on it. Much of my academic work was in its hard drive as well as my personal stuff. Sure I took all the usual precautions and more such as backing up everything regularly, but Alex got me anyways. Running late and booting up for the first time that morning I found a very different and embarrassing desktop background from my usual Soul Nebula courtesy of NASA/JPL.
The half-undressed Robert Pattinson and his brooding stare did absolutely nothing for me. Everyone else got a big laugh out of it at my expense. I did my best to take it in good humor. After all Alex hadn’t touched anything else. Just the same, the breach of privacy bothered the hell out of me.
I wasn’t the only one who fell victim to his pranks. Alana Langston was a cute red head who also spent a lot of time in our study group. Maybe I should say usually a red head since she changed her hair color so often. Like Alex and I, Alana studied the natural world for revelations. In her case it was the insect world, Entomology. Considering insects had been around for some 400 million years, under some very diverse conditions, there was a lot to learn from them, and our friend was an apt student.
She was also a casualty to Alex’s debatable sense of humor. However, unlike me who did their best to just blow it off, the fiery little red head did not. She retaliated with one of her own. She had the big guy squeaking like he was breathing helium for an entire class.
Strangely, Alex took it well enough although no one ever did figure out how Alana managed it. The three of us bonded together as friends although I kinda wished for more from her. My social skills were a lot better than they were in high school, but that wasn’t saying very much. I still ended up the ‘nice’ guy friend to my dismay.
I kept dropping clues I wanted more, but she never seemed to get it. Our relationship was confusing, because she kept at me to stand up for myself more. That was because I was usually content to let Alex speak for our group. What made her mad was that more than once our friend seemed to try to take credit for everyone in the work group’s ideas.
Then came The Event that changed everything, at least for us space science geeks. That was the day Jade of the Green Lantern Corps made her announcement to the world. Yeah, sure this Metagene would change the world, but for those of us in Professor Swan’s class it was much more.
First of all we weren’t alone in the Universe! That age old question had finally been answered. The second was just as important. FTL was real, possible and practical. Knowing that someone else had bypassed Einstein meant it could be done again. The rest was just details.
Some among my classmates wondered about the chances of their winning the galactic lottery and having the metagene, while others believed the whole thing was a hoax. I didn’t worry about the first. As matter of fact I considered it a little silly. We were all mathematicians. The odds of being so endowed were so slim, they were ridiculous. On the other hand, I wanted to believe her news for other reasons. Jade’s information made all of my dreams of traveling ‘out there’ so much closer to being reality.
All of us grew quiet as the Professor entered that morning after the news broke. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to describe the look on his face.
He stood there a moment looking out at all of us before speaking. “Ladies and gentlemen, you should know that other sources are confirming what that amazing young lady announced yesterday. As far we can determine, she’s telling the truth.”
Professor Swan paused still staring at all of us. “Quite frankly, I’m insanely jealous of each and every one of you. A new age has arisen and mankind is poised to take the greatest leap of all. I want each of you to remember this day and the opportunity your generation has been given. You are among our best and brightest. I fully expect all of you to be at the forefront for I will not.”
There was complete silence in the room. We heard how his voice shook with his emotions and his regrets. Not a one of us dared make a sound.
He lifted his bowed head. “However, that is not going to happen today or even tomorrow. This news doesn’t invalidate this class's investigations. Now, I do believe it is time to deliver your workgroups’ synopsis. Mister Thurol, your group will begin.”
By the time the semester was coming to an end, it seemed it was all anyone could talk about, the meta-gene. Terra manifested during Halloween and there were rumors of others popping up all over the place. A lot of people were still thinking it was all some kind of hoax, but I trusted the Professor. With the kind of contacts he had with his past students, if he said he believed it, then so did I.
Alex was also a believer, but Alana was harder to convince. Even with the footage of Jade and Terra dealing with that volcano in Japan, she still had her doubts. Giving us both a hard stare, she scoffed, "You really expect me to believe superheroes are real? I can buy that this Green Lantern bimbo might be of extra-solar origins, but that she can fly around in space without a spacesuit with a magic ring no less? Get real!"
Frankly, I let Alex and her argue it out. I was hard at work on my end of term project. The Professor had us working on individual projects picking sites we hadn’t a chance to cover in class. There were many planetary bodies still left out there for us to tackle. Several moons of the gas giants and even the outer planets were available. However, I wanted to really push myself.
Since we had to get approval from the Professor, he gave me this questioning stare over the top of his glasses, “Are you sure you want to attempt this one?”
Earnestly, I answered, “Well sir, it’s very possible we’ll have the capability to terraform Mars before we’ll have the tools necessary to do what I’m envisioning. But, there are those who have already considered mining the gas giants. Additionally, with the possibility of life on Titan and Europa we could very well have settlements there. I’m simply taking the next step.”
“Very well,” He said, looking out over the top of his glasses at me. “I look forward to your report, my boy.”
That’s right a gas giant. Maybe I should say the gas giant, Jupiter the largest planet in our solar system at 318 times the mass of Earth. First of all since it doesn’t have a surface, I had in mind cloud cities like in that movie ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ In the upper reaches the atmospheric pressures that crushed the Galileo and its probe would be much less.
In no way did that make my task any easier. The extremely hostile conditions would be very difficult to overcome. Jupiter actually produces more heat than it receives from the sun. As a matter of fact, the remains of the Galileo probably were vaporized by the heat long before it reached the area most considered the de facto surface.
Along with the gases in the cloud layer and the atmospheric pressures, living on Jupiter would be far more hazardous than traveling the long months there in the vacuum of space. Yeah, I know space isn’t really empty, but you know what I mean.
I decided to keep the outside form as close to human as I could. Given that my colonist would be, for all practical purposes, a self-contained life support system, really small spacecraft themselves, it didn’t matter what they looked like. Nevertheless, I believed keeping them human in form would help maintain links with humanity at large.
Next, the body itself would be very dense. Despite Jupiter’s huge mass, its standard gravity is only about 2.5 G given its rotation. That still meant even my skinny white bod would weigh 325 pounds there. Muscles would have to be made of materials able to function under such stresses.
The major organs would be separated into protective chambers much like that of a submarine. Each one could survive for a time on their own, but together they worked like individual symbiotes cooperating together for the common good. The circulatory system I saw being composed almost entirely of nano-machines. They would act as the blood of my Jovians, but would be much more versatile than organic blood cells. It would be like a superhighway trucking needed materials where they needed to go. They would also serve as damage control in case of injuries doing much more than clotting like normal blood. In such extreme conditions, any breach could be fatal so they would actually repair and rebuild. Further more the nanites would be factories tearing apart molecules for whatever materials and resources the colonist needed.
I could see the need for an active infrared vision system above and beyond possible thermographic sensors. In the cloud layer where our city would float, normal sight would be nearly useless. For that matter all the senses would need to be keen to survive the hostile conditions and help keep our colonist from stumbling around blind.
Additionally some kind of anti-gravity would be necessary if for no other reason than to give protection on the way to the colony from orbit as well as to help shield the human tissue from the effects of two and half times more gravity than they were designed by evolution to withstand. That’s not even considering that being able to at least float would be a very nice extra, since falling out of the cloud layer would mean death.
It would take one hell of an energy source to power all of this. At the very least a fusion plant or perhaps even more exotic, Zero Point energy. In any event, it would all have to be miniaturized to fit inside our colonist. They would no doubt be larger and I dare say heroic sized given all the things I needed to stuff inside them.
All science and engineering geek talk aside, my Jovians would be extremely tough, strong, and scarcely very human in anything, but appearance. In all except name, my colonists would be a Nano-Borg spaceship the general shape and size of a human being. I added more details in my report including the cloud city and even clothing for them.
I must say I was rather proud of what I came up with. That is until I presented it to my classmates. Most simply thought that by the time we had this level of technology the human race would have better things to do than colonize gas giants.
Alex simply smirked the whole time while I talked, but Alana was in those better-things to do camp. The only person who did like it was the Professor. He noted my use of engineering solutions and the total picture that included clothing and cultural adjustments.
After the class I had to know just why Alex had spent the entire class grinning at me.
His grin got even larger. “Let me give you a summary of your would be colonist shall we,” he said making fun of Professor Swan. “First they’re from a heavy gee world and so stronger than an organic home grown human. Next because of their density they would be all but bullet proof here. Now you also included active infrared vision which mean in a normal environment they could probably melt steel like a laser beam. You added antigravity that in a standard gee would allow them to fly. And to cap it all off you had to give them capes.”
Alex stared at me challengingly. “Do you get it now?”
I gave him a blank look. “They were cloaks and they've long been practical garments. For Jovians they would extremely useful not for warmth, but to keep them cool just like the robes of dessert dwellers here on Earth.”
He gave Alana a shy glance. Whatever he was getting at, she got his references. I honestly hadn’t a clue.
After he left for another class, I asked her, “What was he talking about?”
Then she looked at me like I was from Mars or somewhere much further away. “Didn’t you ever read comic books or see 'Smallville?'”
Still baffled, I shook my head. My parents disapproved of that media given all the inaccuracies they presented. When I watched TV at all it was usually the Discovery channel or one of its spin offs. Bewildered, I replied, “No.”
Alana rolled her eyes. “Go Google ‘Kryptonians.’ That’ll answer your questions.”
Then she took off too. I really can’t blame her since it gets so crazy around here during finals. For that matter I really meant to follow her advice, but I had other classes to study for.
I had to find out the hard way the next day. Opening up my desktop once again my colorful remains of a supernova provided by NASA/JPL was gone. In its place was a comic book style picture featuring seven blond women, six of them in different versions of the same costume. The odd one out was dressed in a white one piece swimsuit thing, but with a cutout revealing her considerable cleavage. Judging from the Superman figure standing in the back, they were supposed to be relatives.
A quick Google search of the artist, Ed Benes, his signature was at the bottom, yielded the title, ‘6.5 Supergirls.’
Then it hit me. This was what Alex was talking about. He’d thought my ideas for Jovian colonists were the same as these comic book characters. Reading a little for the description of these Kryptonians, I could see some similarities. On the other hand, I’d put in a lot of work into working out how to survive and thrive on Jupiter. This DC comics simply said Kryptonian blood cells absorb energy allowing them to do many of the same things my Jovians could do in theory. They completely left out for the most part why these aliens needed those abilities.
I didn’t have too much time to waste with this, but I couldn’t help myself from looking some more. I did find one version of the many stories about Krypton that stated that the fictional planet was a failed star with extreme environmental conditions although how a failed star ended up with glacial properties was beyond me. It could be like Uranus and Neptune, ice giants, but they lack the right chemical composition to have been failed stars. Anyways, at least part of that made more sense than trying to foster off our yellow sun as what gave these Kryptonians who were born under a red giant their superpowers. Then I was off running to class.
Catching up with my friends for lunch afterwards, I gave Alex a baleful glare, “Okay, I got it. My Jovians are somewhat similar to this Superman character. Now would you please tell me how you keep breaking into my computer? Violating my privacy is rude.”
He looked up from the deli sandwich he was munching on. “I can’t do that. How are you going to learn to protect your property if I do it for you?”
Then pausing to chew, he added, “Not Superman. Nope, you’re far too skinny to be him. You’re more like Super-girl. Her secret Identity was Linda Danvers, of course would make Alana, Lana Lang,” he said with a not so nice smile.
Alana sputtered spraying me with Diet-Pepsi.
Coughing and eyes-watering, she tried to keep from laughing. Alex didn’t. Shooting him an evil stare she replied, “So would that make you an evil genius like the Ultra-Humanite?”
Rubbing his bald head, he shot back laughing, “Could be.”
There I was covered in carbonated soda while my friends rolled on the floor.
Using a hand full of napkins, I did my best to limit the damage. I admit I didn’t take it well. How the hell was I suppose to know my work was similar to some damn comic book? Now, my masculinity was also being called into question. Worse it was by two of the only people on Planet Earth I considered friends.
Standing, I took my uneaten food to the waste receptacle, dumping it without a word. For some reason my appetite deserted me.
I’d gotten though high school without any friends. With yet more finals to take, I did not need this crap. With friends like these, well you know the rest of the quote.
What I did do was overhaul the hell out of my laptop’s security. I ran multiple anti-virus and malware scans just to be sure Alex hadn’t left any surprises. Then I changed all my passwords using a randomizer. Hell, I even physically locked up my laptop before calling it a night. Normally I don’t, but for all I knew he’d been sneaking into my dorm room to do his mischief.
“Ouch! Damn it!” Half asleep and failing to wake up I hopped on one foot trying to see what damage the corner of the dresser inflicted to my poor big toe. My dreams weren’t pleasant. No way would I be up at this ungodly time in the morning otherwise. I can honestly say I didn’t want to remember them.
The flashes of buxom comic-book characters with my face pasted on them were extremely disturbing. Even worse, my so-called friends were cast as the villains. I didn’t remember much of the details of the hows and whys we were fighting, but their taunts and jeers describing my dream’s overly feminine developed features hurt.
Despite my academic successes, the lack of romance in my life was a sore spot. Yeah, even a flaw and weakness affecting my self-confidence big time. I was not feminine or even androgynous, but I wasn't six-four bulging with muscles either. Yesterday’s catastrophe didn’t help at all. Alex, the bigger than life guy, who was everything a man was suppose to be, and Alana the one girl I had interest in, laughing at 98 pound weakling me, hurt.
Judging, me and my big toe was going to live, I checked my cell’s messages. Next week I was going to be on my way home after finals for winter break. Dad was supposed to let me know what the family’s plans were for the holidays. However, there was nothing from him, although Alana did send me an apology. Predictably there was nothing from Alex.
He might be my friend, but I was discovering a meanness to his humor. Opening my laptop, I moaned. There in front of me was once again Ed Benes’s art work, 6.5 Supergirls. Part of me wanted to throw it across the room, but reason prevailed. That would only hurt me, not Alex.
Okay, maybe he wasn’t my friend.
While part of me wanted to report him, I didn’t have any evidence. Besides that, the point was that after a careful examination, none of my files were touched. Once again, only my desktop background was altered. Just how he’d broken my security baffled the hell out of me. He had to have physical access to it since I’d turned the damn thing off before locking it up and going to bed. I finally decided there was nothing I could do except to tell him it wasn’t funny any more and ask him to stop.
What it did do was throw off my entire day. Not a good thing for taking end of term exams at MIT. Even still I think I did well. I was just out of sorts. That continued as I went to Professor Swan’s to get my grades for my Jovian report that served as the final for his class.
The good news was I got my A. The bad was the Professor had a visitor. I recognized her at once, the Green Lantern, Jade.
“My dear, I can assure you nothing my students have written poses any danger to anyone. It’s simply research into how technology and genetics might be able to adapt humans to colonize the planets in our Solar System. No actually technologies or actual techniques for developing such were mentioned. Many science fiction writers have done the same and more since many were at one time scientists themselves.” He said opening his hands frankly.
“I understand, Professor Swan,” Jade said. “As a matter of fact what data I’ve found confirms that. However, some technologies could be harmful as well as things that mankind isn’t quite ready for yet. I’m simply making sure.”
I stopped startled and turned to leave.
“Larry Danvers?” she asked.
“Huh, yes,” I replied surprised she knew me.
The Professor smiled gesturing for me to come in. “Yes, he’s one of my more promising students.”
Close up she was cute, but that paled beside what she could do and knew. Jade could fly to the other planets as easily as I could drive to Mickey Dees down the street.
“You’re the one who worked on the characteristics for Jovians?” Jade inquired.
I blushed red. When was I going to get over being so shy around women? “Yes, and yeah I know a lot I came up with is a lot like a comic book character. I didn’t know that at the time, but since the world he came from shares a lot of the same qualities of Jupiter it kind of a form and function equation.”
Smiling, she relied, “Indeed.”
Still trying to fight my red face, I added, “However, like a lot of my classmates pointed out for us to achieve this requires a very high level of technology. We’re a hundred years or further away from my Jovians. By that time we very might have our own methods of FTL. No need to risk such extreme conditions as those on gas giants like Jupiter.”
Jade inclined her head. “So why pick it as your thesis?”
“Well,” I said thinking about it. “First, I wanted a challenge. You have to go a long ways to find conditions more hostile than Jupiter. Second, because it is a gas giant it offers elements that are nothing more than theories such as metallic hydrogen and other perhaps even more exotic materials.
“At any rate I don’t see how my or anyone else’s work is any threat to you or this Green Lantern Corps of yours.” I told her.
Amused she responded, “How so?”
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” I quoted. “Yours are eons above ours. What takes us the resources of entire nations such as sending a manned mission to the moon, you do with a ‘magic’ ring.”
“Besides you can’t stuff knowledge back into the bottle. Discoveries are usually made by building upon the work of others. One person might put all the pieces together first, but there are always others who were looking too. Except in the rare circumstances where some genius or idiot savant stumbles across something completely revolutionary it’s only a matter of time till it’s duplicated.
“Even then such breakthroughs are usually ridiculed and ignored,” I explained.
Jade raised an eyebrow marking my point, but replied, “If it was only myself that was threaten, perhaps. Don’t ever underestimate the ability of man to find ways of evening the odds. But in this case it’s not. There are those like Terra who are just coming into their powers. They are vulnerable to those will try take advantage of them.
“Additionally there is the concern of once seeing meta-humans using their powers others begin figuring out how it is done,” She said.
I nodded. “The Professor has said that before, too. Once you know something is possible, that’s half the research.”
He cut in. “Larry, I’ve told Jade, that being old fashioned, all of this class’s reports are in hardcopy. I know that you’ve probably have plans for the holiday, but how would you like to help me organize them into a single report? Not just for the Green Lantern Corps, but for future posterity as well?”
She shook her head, “I don’t really believe that’s going to be necessary Professor Swan. There’s nothing I’ve seen that makes me think your students are researching anything hazardous.”
Inclining her head at me, she said, “I’m more concerned about actual development rather than ideas. Moreover, if discoveries and inventions are hard to stuff back into that bottle, ideas are even harder.”
The Professor looked at her from over the top of his glasses. “Are sure my dear? Larry and I are as mad a pair of scientists as you’ll ever find. Further it’ll give me more time to try and pick your brain about what’s out there!”
She laughed, “I’m sure you would.”
He laughed along with her. “You can’t blame us for trying.”
Jade turned to leave. “I might be back to take a look at that report when it’s finished, Goodbye.”
Then she was enveloped in a green glow and was gone.
The Professor and I simply stood there in silence for a long moment.
“Well, that answers the question if she’s for real or not. Seeing is believing,” I said.
“That it is, my boy,” He said studying me. “However that doesn’t answer my question. Would you be willing to work with me pulling together all of this classes’ work into one report?”
Okay, there were the pros and cons to consider. On the positive side was the opportunity to work directly with Professor Swan. Additionally perhaps even more contact with Jade. Magic ring or not she was still a star traveler.
On the other hand, I would lose much of my free time over the holiday break. It could push me back into the ranks of the last minute Holiday travelers, not a good thing.
It really wasn’t much of a decision. I had nothing planned, and I wasn’t a fool. “Sure, Professor, I’ll be glad to help you.”
So while the rest of the campus emptied itself for Winter Break, I was left behind and wasn’t a bit sorry about it. I loved the work. Spending time with the Professor was a real experience. Jade did show back up which was cool, too. It was funny watching the Professor trying to get information from her about how her ship functioned and other information about life ‘out there.’
She took it in good humor, but of course didn’t say anything useful. I did get the feeling she was interested in me for some reason. And no, I didn’t fool myself into thinking it was my good looks either. After all, Alex and Alana did such a great job of humbling any thoughts I had in that direction.
The Professor also noticed it. He asked, “Have you had any strange, unusual, or unexplained experiences of some sort? Perhaps you have this Meta-gene everyone is talking about.”
“No sir,” I replied shaking my head. “The only unexplained thing I’ve had happen is Alex keeps pranking my desktop’s background. Nothing Meta about that at all except I wish he would stop.”
The Professor pulled off his glasses, “Alex Thorul is brilliant, and I’ve no doubt he’ll go far in the world. However, he has an ambitious streak that is perhaps more than a little worrying. He was entirely too willing to take credit for your work group’s efforts for my peace of mind. And now you tell me he is an able enough hacker to crack your system which I’m sure you provided with more than adequate protection.”
He gave me a very serious stare. “You should know by now that academics and the sciences are as vicious as any other field of endeavor. The theft of work and ideas are something you have to guard against. So while Mr. Thorul might not have done anything obvious other than alter the desktop, he very well might have looked at or copied your files.
“Don’t try and be modest my boy. You’re one of my best and most creative students. That was why I gave the okay to develop your Jovians. Others made fun of your efforts, but you came up with some novel ideas of how to deal with the hostile conditions. You called your colonists nanoborgs, but in truth they’re much more given the symbiotic relationship between your biological and mechanical components. In fact since they can in theory reproduce, they’re a whole new species!”
I stammered a replied, “It’s not that big a deal, Professor. Reproduction after all was part of the criteria necessary for growth of the colonies.”
Cleaning his glasses the Professor said, “That is so, my boy, but few of the others managed to integrate such diverse systems that your Jovians have in ways that aimed at keeping their humanity in the process. That is as much a part of science as the research. Taking responsibility for the changes your discoveries might have is very commendable. How many of your fellows do you think included that as part of their proposed colonists?”
I thought back to our thesis presentations. Many of the moons of the gas giants had been tackled as well as even Mercury. Form and function adaptations covered the entire spectrum. Wings and dragon-like features of the Mercury colonists for solar power and to radiate heat, to huge polar bear-like centaur cyborgs on Saturn’s moon of Rhea.
Shrugging I answered, “I don’t know Professor. I can’t think of any off hand, but I’m sure someone must have.”
Putting his glasses back on, he smiled. “Then you would be wrong. Not a single one, although your Jovians internally are much less human than most of theirs. Now there were a few that was implied, such as Ms. Langston’s Tritons, but not a one made that one of their primary design criteria except for you.
“That’s something that is very important to remember, the human element. Since before the day of Nobel, scientists have found their work and discoveries used for other purposes than the ones they intended. Consider your Jovians. You saw them as scientists, explorers and miners. However your friends could only remark over how powerful they would be in comparison with a normal earthling. Think about it, Lawrence,” he said leaving me alone with my thoughts.
And think about it I did, but perhaps not in the way he intended. I couldn’t help but look at those fictional Kryptonians again. Worse, I thought about ways to further simulate what they could do with technology. Okay, blue sky sci-fi tech, but still better than, ‘Hey, it works because I say it does.’
One of the biggest differences between my Jovians and Kryptonians were their flight and so-called super speed. With their anti-gravity Jovians could easily fly in Jupiter’s cloud layer which I saw as their home. However although they could survive in space for a number of hours, no way could they reach the gas giant’s escape velocity of 133,018 mph. That’s about Mach 173 give or take. Compare that to Earth’s of only being around Mach 25.
However, I had what I thought an elegant solution. Jupiter has an extremely powerful magnetic field. If my Jovian colonists had a skeleton made of materials able to interact with it they could use it for propulsion. What was neat, because in Earth’s lesser field it should also be enough to achieve orbit because of its lesser mass. Which opened up the problem of traveling where there wasn’t a magnetic field such as Mars. There was the fact the whole antigravity thing was pure speculation that no one knew how or if it would work. Perhaps it would only be effective near a planetary gravity well or could be it would work within the confines of the solar system pushing against the Sun. I’d wanted it for my Jovians to provide protection from Jupiter’s gravity more than as a flight system. That was also why I thought using the magnetic fields would work better. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
I finally decided to go for broke. My thesis had already been turned in so all of this was for my own amusement anyways. Rather than simply cancel out gravity and use a separate system for propulsion. Why not simply control it all by projecting gravity fields as necessary?
By placing a stronger one in front, a Jovian would be effectively ‘falling’ forward. Also this method would ignore all effects of inertial since the protector would be in a perceived state of free fall. Velocity would depend upon the strength of the gravity field being produced. Going really blue sky, if the field was strong enough it could possibly form Wormholes which was one of maybe-could-be methods of FTL.
All of this was well and good since all this stuff would have to be once again stuffed into a human being sized package somehow. I was back to the one person spacecraft where you were the spaceship.
Some problems were still beyond me like how to fit a power plant powerful enough for all of this or how do you protect yourself from the particles and heat generated from the friction of moving at such speeds. Those were just a few of the many I had no solution for.
Despite my time-wasting mental exercise with comic book characters, I got the Professor’s report finished on time. Both the Professor and Jade seemed happy with it, but she didn’t stay long before she zipped away. Since she started visiting us, if irregularly, I’d begun keeping track of her activities via the internet. For one woman she sure gets around. Did she ever sleep?
As for me, just like I thought, I was left traveling with the rest of the last minute holiday crowd. However, even that didn’t keep Alex from bedeviling me.
That was how I found myself at 30,000 feet with a little girl staring at the Supergirls 6.5 picture on my laptop.
It wasn’t her fault, but Alex’s. To her it was just a character from the comics. Sighing, I nodded, “Yes it is.”
Right then the plane jolted. Reflexively I grabbed the armrests. This high up at cruising attitude, we should be well above the bad weather. I was already refastening my seat belt as the sign came on. I’d just closed my laptop when the plane bumped again.
However, this time there was this long low moan like the sound of metal creaking.
That’s not good!
As the mother in front me got her daughter turned around and strapped in I tried to give the little girl a cheerful smile because of her fright.
Just then the whole plane kind of trembled. I was realizing that First Class was in the front of the plane and generally not the best place to be in case of trouble. That was my last thought before a tremendous roar of tearing metal ripped me, seat and all into the void.
I may have screamed, but the freezing cold froze everything. Refusing to panic, I tried to remember what the handful of people who’d survived falls like this did right. Most of it was number one, not panicking. Number two was going to be a hell of a lot harder. Pick out someplace to help break as much of your fall as possible.
I and most of the row of seats I’d been in were tumbling end over end in a whirling blizzard of ice in near complete blackness. I’d no idea of my orientation. It was amazing I was still conscious, but that couldn’t last long. Instead of the icy cold, I felt unbearably hot which wasn’t a good sign at all. That probably meant frost bite.
If I didn’t pass out, I had two minutes before a very sudden stop. Terminal velocity would be around 120 mph. I’d never sky dived, but I was going to get pardon the pun, a crash course.
First, I had to stabilize myself and that means leaving this pin wheeling roll of seats. My seatbelt snapped open, and I was free. Strangely I could see the wreckage of seats and their occupants fall away from me. Throwing out my arms, I tried to imitate the many sky divers I’d seen on TV and in the movies.
Finally I had some sense of up and down, and remarkably still hadn’t passed out. Had our plane somehow drifted below 15,000 where there was breathable air and incidentally bad weather? If so I’d only one minute instead of two and who knew how much of that had already passed.
I was still hot, and the possibility of frostbite continued to worry me. I didn’t want to lose any fingers, toes or worse. On the other hand, if I didn’t do this just right, nothing else mattered because I would be dead. If there was a thick accumulation of snow on the ground beneath me, I just might survive this. Not likely, but it had happened before.
What bothered me was I could still see my fellow travelers falling while I couldn’t see the ground yet. It’s night in an Arctic air mass, so how the hell was I able to see anything? Additionally, they were for some reason falling faster. True I was in that classic free fall pose to maximize air friction and minimize acceleration, but it shouldn’t make this much difference!
While I pondered acceleration rates and vainly looked for some sign of the approaching stop from hell, something else grabbed my attention. As if being torn from an airliner in flight in the middle of a winter storm trying not to think of a certain little girl falling below me, I felt the seat of my jeans rip.
It wasn’t just a little tear either, but the whole damn bottom splitting wide open. Resisting the urge to grope back there to find the cause, because that could send me spinning again, I tucked myself tighter so I could glance and see what was happening. Had a piece of wreckage hit me, and I hadn‘t felt it because of frostbite?
What I did not expect was, well, buns of steel? I didn’t know how else to describe it, them, me? Me? Hey wait a minute! What the hell is going on?
Mostly managing not to turn my fall into an out of control tumble again, my equipment and status check turned up some very critical components that were missing in action. There were even a few extras that I know I didn’t get on the plane with. The long blond hair streaming from my head most definitely was a recent addition. The other things, well, I was trying not to think about them for the sake of my sanity. That included the one piece I was really going to miss, as well the usual additions that go along with ‘buns of steel.’
I could only surmise the only way I could’ve changed so radically and quickly was the meta-gene. Extreme stress was said to be an activator. Certainly before I’d begun trying to reason my way to life, I’d been frightened out of my wits.
Still not thinking about the wider implications, I also had a good idea what I looked liked. Blond, very curvy, and a lot like a certain comic book character I’d just been looking at.
Now if I only had her abilities. That was easy enough to test. All this time my thoughts were centered on slowing my fall. Now I ordered, stop!
To my shock I did!
There I was hovering in midair.
A split second later, I was racing faster than ever before for the ground, before my brains could catch up with rest of me. Oh my gawd, that row of seats and that little girl.
I chided myself. That was how I was able to see all this time. The active infrared worked just fine in these conditions.
There they were!
In a bizarre surrealistic moment I saw the poor people trapped in their seats screaming as they rotated in slow motion. It sure as hell didn’t seem that slow as I tried to duck in and grab it. The situation was way too much like judging when to jump onto a moving merry go-round except let’s add another axis of rotation just for fun.
Finally I saw my chance, one of the support struts. Trying to stop the spin it nearly threw me off. Once again I was working with multiple axes. I don’t recommend trying to learn to fly and trying to rescue falling people at the same time, a sure recipe for disaster.
Getting the spin under control, I got another surprise. Oh look! So that’s where the ground is!
I put serious effort into stopping the fall, but I was fighting inertial momentum as well gravity. It was a losing battle. The strut was bending in my hands, and I feared losing it altogether.
“Hang on and brace yourselves! It’s going to be rough!” I shouted.
The ground was coming up fast, too fast. Desperate, I recalled my Jovian’s flight worked because of an antigravity field. As we got to the final few seconds of our fall I tried to will that AG field around my burden.
Either it worked or luck was with us as we impacted. My best guess we hit at about five mph because it shook everyone up pretty good, but no lasting harm.
While everyone else was moving about, I was bent over nauseous and heaving. That’d been too damn close. If I’d been a fraction slower these people would’ve died right in front of me.
Oh Gawd, I was a girl. My new additions hung from my chest. If my inflated ‘buns’ were made of steel what were these? The melons of titanium or were they the boobs of tungsten? I took a deep breath to try and calm my gibbering thoughts, but that didn’t work too well. It only showcased my new additions even more plainly showing that whatever the meta-gene had done to me, cold affected my nipples like it did any woman.
That curious little girl was crying, but I heard her gasp out between sobs, “Supergirl.”
Her near hysterical mother was trying to calm her daughter, but another shaken passenger was pointing at me accusingly. “You did this!”
My once loose fitting blue sweat shirt now snugly revealed a full figured woman’s breasts. My jeans were almost completely gone leaving only the waist band and belt resting loosely on my enlarged hips. Tattered remains of the legs hanging down did kinda look like a torn dress.
Crap, the plane! I looked up into the falling snow. There didn’t appear to be anymore falling wreckage. Was the plane still airworthy, but damaged?
I turned to those I’d saved who were looking at me like I was responsible. Oh isn’t this just great. “No, I didn’t. Do any of you still have your cell phones?” Crap was that soft high voice me?
Mr. Paranoid held up his. “Yeah I do, but you’re not going to get it!”
Still glancing up trying to see which way our original ride flew off to, I asked, “Do you have a signal?”
The nut trying to watch me and look at his phone at the same would’ve been comical if this wasn’t so serious.
Another guy answered, “I’ve got mine too, and I’ve got 911 on the line.”
I breathed out, “Great, get help out here. I’ve got to see what happened to the plane.”
Okay, that’s if I can figure out how to take off. In a whoosh of swirling snow in my contrail, cool, that wasn’t too hard. Pushing my new talent hard, I urged myself faster, and higher.
The sensation of being cold faded despite flying into the middle of blizzard. Even standing on the ground mostly naked from the waist down, I’d been only uncomfortably cold and not freezing. What did that all mean? I hadn’t a clue. Whatever doctor I got to examine me was going to have an interesting time. It was too damn bad that the Professor’s doctorate wasn’t in medicine.
In a flash of blue, I cleared the clouds into the night sky. Now where was that plane? Come on infrared and thermograph, I prayed.
A blurry trail of bluish pointed the way.
Winging over, I zoomed back into the clouds. Now this was where flying without instruments was going to get tricky. If the pilots kept control, they would try to get to 10,000 where there was breathable air and the cabin didn’t need to be pressurized. Unfortunately, I’d no damn idea of my altitude. Breasts and buns of steel, yes, but flight instruments would've been more useful.
However luck was with me again. There was enough of a heat trail to point me in the right direction, and they hadn’t deviated from their flight path. Coming into sight of the plane, the heat thundering from its engines nearly blinded me. Blinking, I had a weird kind of focusing thing going on until I could see clearly again.
Any doubts I had about if this was the right plane vanished as I saw the huge wound in the airliners forward third. Flying in closer, I checked for further damage. I found it on the starboard wing and engine. Carefully focusing my vision so I wasn’t blinded again, I saw it wasn’t producing heat and therefore was out.
Okay, this wasn’t good. Severe structural damage and flying on one engine were a bad thing. It looked like when me and the rest of first class went on our ride into the wild blue yonder, some of the debris hit the wing.
Pondering what to do next I saw frightened faces inside with their orange cap like air masks on, staring out at me.
In one of the porthole like windows that still had its shade shut I saw my reflection. My long blond hair flew behind me easily reaching below my shoulders almost to the center of my back. Somehow my blue sweat shirt stayed with me, but as I observed before was much tighter now. The same couldn’t be said for my poor jeans. The legs were completely missing, torn away as the wind finished what my buns of steel had begun. What remained did kind of, sort of did look like a skirt.
My face blushed as I saw my red holiday themed briefs. Forcing myself to look further down, both my shoes were gone too leaving only the matching red holiday socks which by some miracle had also stayed with me.
No wonder that kid called me Supergirl. All I lacked was the damn cape. Making myself concentrate, I knew I had to be in mild shock. The problem concentrating was proof of that, too much happening too soon. However, an entire plane load of people depended on me making the right decisions.
Carefully I maneuvered myself back into the plane I’d recently left the hard way. Inside it was if a giant hand had ripped the section out. The good news was whatever happened missed the control and avionics wiring. The cockpit door was still shut. The last thing I wanted to do was distract those guys right now as much as I needed to talk to them.
Cautiously, I floated into the main cabin. If the stares I’d gotten flying outside were un-nerving, these took it to an all new level. “Please remain calm. I’m trying to help.” I had to keep from wincing again at my softer higher tone voice.
Some were crying while others were near hysterical. I can’t say I was doing a whole lot better. Somehow being near them made me more emotional too. Forcing myself to be calm, I moved to the rear of the plane. Finally I saw what I was looking for, the stewardess section. Hoping none of them had been forward during whatever had occurred, I hovered near them.
One reminded me of Halle Berry while the other had sassy, short-cut blond hair. Both were giving me the same stares everyone else had, just freaking wonderful.
“I’m a recently transformed meta-human. I’m trying to help. Are you in communication with the Captain? I need to talk with him.”
Still in disbelief, the blond removed her headset, saying, “Captain, she wants to speak to you.”
Taking it, I got it over my wild mane of hair. “Captain, I’m a recent victim of that meta-gene thing that’s been in the news. I saved some of those who were in first class, but I don’t know if I got them all or not. I hope I did. They’re on the ground and in contact with 911.”
He replied, “Thank Gawd. This is Captain Henderson. Who, may I ask, are you?”
I sighed. It would be really nice to have more time to think about how I wanted to handle all this. Okay an interim solution. “Captain I really don’t want to expose myself and my family to a lot of publicity. Right now, call me Kara.”
“Okay Kara, we’re about a half hour out of Cleveland. They’ve got snow removal equipment working to clear us a hole, but conditions aren't good. What can you do for me?”
“Not much Captain. Just getting that section of seats down in one piece was a challenge. However, I did do a survey on my way in. You’ve got major structural damage in the front upper section and have additional damage to your starboard wing and engine. The control surfaces look good, but that’s just what I can see. If I can scrounge up a camera, I can go back out and film it for you, if we dare force open the cockpit door so I can give it to you.”
“As for what else I can do, I can fly and the cold doesn’t seem to bother me much. I’m pretty strong too, but not enough to carry the whole aircraft.” I apologized, “Sorry, still really new at this.”
“I think we’re going to have to risk it.” He replied. “I have to know how bad that structural damage is. It does us no good to get to Cleveland and then crack up on the runway. I also need to know if that starboard wing is icing up because of the damage. With that engine out we don’t have a lot of power to spare.” He said.
Handing the headset back to the cute blond, I asked, “Do either of you have a digital camera? The Captain wants me to get pictures of the damage.”
The blond smiled, “I’m Janice and this is Beatrice. You’re Kara, right? I have my camera in my bag.”
She looked doubtful at un-belting given the hole in the plane.
It was my turn to smile. “Don’t worry. If you fly out, I’ll catch you.”
Beatrice laughed, “If you were male, I might be tempted to test you on that one.
From the looks she gave me that didn’t matter as much as she said it did.
That did not make me feel better. On the other hand, neither one knew of my recent change of hmmm…. circumstances.
Janice carefully made her way forward. “I had my stuff in the closet of the forward galley. Usually mine would be in first class like the rest of the flight crew because it’s closer to the exit. However, I had an extra bag this trip,” she said having to shout because of the roar of wind and engine coming from the gaping hole further in front of us.
“It’s alright,” the stewardess assured the packed plane load of passengers as we made our way up. “We have somebody who can help us.”
Some looked at me with hope while others were very doubtful. I simply smiled trying to put on an air of confidence. Apollo 13’s infamous bland understatement, “Mission control, we have a problem” came to mind. Putting on a calm professional face would help keep everyone from panicking and causing problems we didn’t need.
Personally, my transformation and waltzing about mostly undressed while being stared at by what seemed like hundreds of people made me feel anything, but that. I forced my thoughts away from that. I could fall apart after we were all on the ground safely, but not now.
Reaching the galley, Janice found her bags. While she dug into them, I ducked into the first class area. The forward two rows were the ones that had been ripped out, but the last row of six still remained. By some act of Gawd they were still alive but frightened out of their wits by the huge hole just inches from sucking them out too.
I felt embarrassed that I’d somehow missed seeing them on my way back in. However I had to give myself some slack too. I was in just as much shock as they.
Going back to Janice I yelled over the howling noise. “There’re still six people in first class.”
She nodded and pushed a black bundle into my arms.
Expecting a camera, I held up the obviously women’s black coverall garment up confused. With the zippers and buttons, it reminded of something Scarlett Johansson had worn in that movie with Robert Downey.
Janice yelled, “Thought you would want something to wear. Yours are torn to ribbons! I was going skiing this weekend and we’re about the same size.”
Then grinning she added, “I’m going to want it back, girlfriend. That’s a Bogner. It cost me a pretty penny, but boy isn’t it sexy!”
Then she stood there obviously expecting me to change clothes right here. “We’re hidden here. Go ahead and put it on.”
Oh boy! Feeling more self-conscious than I ever had before in my life, I removed what was left of my jeans. My wallet had gone bye-bye, but I had to check my pockets anyways. Like I expected they were ripped and empty.
It didn’t help having Janice giggling at my holiday themed boxer briefs. Pulling up the ski suit, it quickly became apparent this was going to be tight, but it was better than being nearly nude.
Since it was bad enough having to deal with my ‘missing’ equipment as I pulled them to my waist, I was determined not to deal with my new additions. I wasn’t going to pull off my blue sweatshirt.
Despite that the top was snug and while the damn things might very well be like they were made of titanium, they were extremely sensitive.
Janice came to my rescue causing me to blush even redder. She boldly reached in and shifted my new ‘assets’ about until they fit a bit better. “Damn girl did you pick the wrong day not to wear a bra! Wanted to give your boyfriend a thrill too with you wearing his underwear huh!” She exclaimed, winking.
Me? Boyfriend? Twitch, twitch. Feeling like she broke something in my head, I dumbly nodded.
“Wow you really fill it out. I’m sooo, jealous! Remember you’re only borrowing!” Janice handed me the camera.
Taking it, I pushed though the fog clouding my poor overloaded brains. This I understood. Not just a camera, but Sony camcorder that had enough video memory to record hours of video.
While I examined the camera, she’d found another headset.
“Do you need me to get you back to your seat?” I asked.
“No, I’ll be fine here.” She waved at the people seated just the other side of the galley, “They need me here.”
I nodded and adjusted the screen so I could see what was being recorded. After doing a 360 of the inside of the tear, I carefully made my way out with my body shielding the screen. The rush of the air grabbed me, but I was prepared for it and was able to keep pace with the airliner.
I filmed the inside and the outside of the rip, and moved to the wing. Like the Captain feared ice was forming on the leading edge. As an experiment, I very lightly focused my eyes on the ice willing the infrared. Recalling being blinded by the heat exhaust I didn’t want to burn a hole in the already damaged wing. On the other hand, icing could bring us down just as surely as more damage could.
As the first chunks fell away I backed off a little and worked my way down to the engine. More of the ice fell away, but I was afraid to use my active infra vision close to what I knew might be leaking fuel.
Getting pictures of the engine, I headed back inside again. If not for the emergency I might’ve enjoyed this. The flying was a rush and aviation had been a stepping stone in my love of space.
Unfortunately, I kept being reminded that not only were hundreds of lives were at stake, but at what it’d cost me. The figure hugging black didn’t let me keep any illusions that the new me matched my old self-image. Once again I had to push all that away. Now was not the time!
Knocking on the cockpit door, I yelled, “It’s Kara. I have the camera.”
The door opened and I slipped inside handing the camera over. “I didn’t see any signs of more damage, but that wing is icing up like you thought. I experimented a little to see if I could de-ice it and it worked. What I don’t know is how long I can keep it up.”
The gray haired man in the dark blue airline uniform nodded as he fast forwarded the camera’s footage to the important parts. “If you can keep that wing clear that’ll certainly help. I don’t suppose you can do anything about shoring up the supports?” He asked pointing at the images of the hole.
“This has never happened to this model before. It shouldn’t have happen, but if the structural supports give during the stress of landing the entire front third of the plane will break off.” The Captain said with a calmness that wasn’t in his eyes.
Looking about, I saw the flight engineer glaring at me as if I’d caused this. I was starting to get the feeling no matter what happened I would be blamed for causing this by someone. It was a chicken and egg kind of question. Did my changing into a Meta damage the plane? In reality I was reasonably certain that it was the stress of being ripped out of the plane at 30,000 feet that’d done the trick, and I was innocent of any wrong doing.
Sighing, I tried, “I don’t know what caused this either. It’s a good thing I’m a quick learner, because as of a half-hour ago, I didn’t know I could fly. Falling at night in the middle of a blizzard isn’t the best conditions for your first parachute jump. I did get everyone who was still seated in that section down in more or less one piece. Let’s be real, I have no idea what I can really do. However, I’m here and want to help.”
The Captain shot his engineer a glare. “Shut up Tom. This is not the time. After we get this bird back on the ground then you can start pointing. Until then anything, but that doesn’t matter. You copy me, mister?”
The younger man nodded, but he didn’t take his eyes off of me.
“Miss, you say you can keep that wing de-iced, correct?” He asked.
I nodded, “That I can do, at least for a while. I am strong, but I’m afraid I could do more harm than good.”
He rolled his eyes. “For Gawd’s sake don’t get creative. We need that wing just where it is. Keep it ice free, and we’ll do the rest, understand?”
I replied, “Yes sir.”
About to go back outside, the Captain leaned next to me. “If you see things going south, and this bird starts to go down, you save who you can, got me?”
The torture of the responsibility in his eyes brought tears to my own. Not trusting my voice I could only nod. In a flash, I was out the cockpit helping pull the door shut.
Once again I flew out of the hole wondering if I would ever get a chance to exit this damn plane though the door. Bouncing in the turbulent airflow, I soared to the starboard wing. A thick rim of ice covered the leading edge.
Carefully, I focused my eyes like I had before. As the partially melted ice crystals were whipped away I played my vision all along the length of the wing. The last thing I wanted was to melt holes in this thing. Thankfully, my strategy seemed to be working. Staying in front of the wing, flying backwards, let me get most of the leading edge, where the ice was building, in my field of vision.
Just like when you’re driving and following a car in front of you, I lost track of exactly where I was except in relation to that wing I was concentrating on. I guessed we were descending because the visibility got even worse as the snow and sleet screamed by.
With my active infra-vision, I had no problem seeing the airliner clearly or even the crew in the cockpit. I very much doubted they could see me. Glancing to the front, I couldn’t make out a damn thing.
I could only guess we were getting close to touch down. The ice was building up even faster now, forcing me to gingerly up the ‘power’ I was using. I honestly hadn’t clue about what I was doing, but could only play it by ear.
It didn’t take me long to figure out the problem with having ‘eye-beams.’ Sure I could ‘target exactly what I was looking at, but what if I had to look at other things?
After what seemed like forever in the icy hurricane, finally one of my quick peeks let me see runway lights, yay! That was very short lived. Have you every ever been bowling and the ball starts to drift into the gutter? Okay I’ve never been bowling in my life, but I’ve seen the scene many times on TV where the bowler desperately leans over trying to will the rolling orb to correct its path.
I did the same thing as slowly the wing started dripping. No, no, no! I cut the cockpit a desperate glance, but the blurry images I got of the crew’s heat patterns showed they were trying their best to correct the aircraft’s list to starboard.
My thoughts racing, I knew I didn’t dare try to grab the wing. It would simply just tear in my hands. The engine mount! That area was designed for this kind of stress. Swooping over the wing, I ducked underneath forcing myself as close as I could to where the engine hanged.
Then using my whole body to distribute the weight, I pushed. Come on, move! The wing stopped its dip, but the bank caused us to lose altitude we couldn’t afford to lose. All too slowly we were wing level again.
The ground was coming up far too soon. I ignored the creaking and squeak of bending metal as I gave it my all. It was all too much. Too many forces were working against me. The plane’s momentum, mass, and gravity were an equation that spelled the death of those in this fragile metal shell. All I had to do was change the calculation.
Before, I’d somehow extended my anti-gravity field over that section of seats keeping it and those passengers from spattering into the ground. But a piece of wreckage the size of a SUV is a damn sight smaller than a Boeing airliner.
I might simply tear the plane apart or any number of other unwanted outcomes. It wasn’t fair, but I knew life rarely was. Newly transformed and yet I was these people’s only hope. Muttering a prayer, I tried to spread my field.
It’s like having a muscle you never used before, trying to make it move. Taking a deep breath disregarding the onrushing snow covered surface, I exhaled attempting to widen my awareness.
I couldn’t explain how it felt, but we didn’t hit where we would’ve. Like magic we floated so damn close over the top of the outer markers I could see the filaments burning in the lights.
The flashes of yellow chevons startled me as we barely made the runway’s overrun area. Like a juggler with too many balls in the air, whatever I’d managed to do went away.
Tumbling out of control onto the concrete, I saw my ride bounce once, twice and even a third time, but finally the wheels stayed on the ground. There was a long moment as the front gear slowly descended to join the others, because I feared the weaken front section might collapse, but to my relief it held.
“Thank you Gawd,” I whispered lowering my head exhausted. In the distance emergency vehicles raced for the stricken plane in a wave of flashing red and blue lights.
My long hair whipped about me in the winter storm. What in the world was I going to do? My ID was lost somewhere between Boston and Cleveland. No one would recognize me now. Hell, I couldn’t even claim my luggage.
My meta-human vision let me see the frightened, but relieved passengers as they slid down the inflatable emergency slides.
“Merry Christmas,” I said standing awkwardly in the snow. My new body wanted to go in every direction except the one I wanted. The snow fell even heavier and turned different colors by the runway lights, yellow, blue and green.
Hey wait a minute, green?
Looking up, green tinted everything as Jade gracefully set down beside me.
“I’m Jade. Nice job getting that plane down.” She introduced herself obviously not recognizing me.
Somehow, I nodded, too overwhelmed to even think.
Softer, she asked, “Are you all right?” Jade touched my arm concerned.
Out of nowhere I started crying. It wasn’t that I was all macho and didn’t cry. It was more I couldn’t stop. We stood there in the snow, as she held me.
Between sobs I told her about those passengers, I’d set down in that field. I was afraid some dumb-ass 911 operator wouldn’t believe their story. Looking at the airport, I was hit by more crying thinking about my parents waiting to hear about me. Oh yeah sorry, but your son was sucked out of the plane at 30,000 feet, oops!
Calming down a little, I asked, “You don’t recognize me do you?”
She was obviously a bit uncomfortable with my breakdown, but I saw her eyes get that distant look when her ring was talking to her.
“Larry,” she asked. “Larry Danvers?”
“Found the flight manifest, right,” I said trying to regain my sense of self.
Jade gave me a sideways smile, “Figure that out have you?”
I shrugged, “The Professor and I worked it out. For you to control the ring the way you do, there has to be the equivalent of a neural-interface. We already knew you have access to extremely advanced computers from the way you found out about his class. Must be very handy for a Galactic cop to have all that information at their fingertips.”
Done with my explanation, I sighed, “There is something you can help with though.”
I looked at the airport terminal. “Any time now my name is going to come up missing. It there someway you could let my parents know I’m alright? Perhaps a text message?”
Jade replied, “Under the circumstances I think we can do that. Can you tell me what happened?”
Taking a deep breath, I told her. Finally having a little post crisis melt down time, I added another request. “Would you mind another favor? I was a last minute add-on to the passenger manifest. Could you change that too? I don’t want attention right now.”
All the while we’d been walking towards the crippled plane. Emergency crews were working to get the runway clear. Looking at the hole, it was if some giant monster took a huge bite out of the upper fuselage. Boeing did build them tough because by all rights the entire forward section should’ve sheered off upon the stress of landing. Thank Gawd it didn’t.
Startled, I watched her face turn hard. “Yes, I can do that, Larry. In fact I think it’s a very good idea. This wasn’t an accident.”
Staring at her, I stuttered, “It wasn’t? But how?”
“It was meant to look like a combination of metal fatigue and the composites shattering. My ring however has identified traces of nano-scaled robots from their tracks in and about every primary stress point which failed. This was deliberate and planned. More importantly it was done using advanced alien technology unavailable on this planet.” She said as if it was a personal affront. Seeing how this was her ’beat’ it very well might be.
“Aliens sabotaged an airliner?” I asked in disbelief.
“Either that or a Meta-human. There are talents and abilities that would let one manufacture such devices.” She explained.
I guess I was still in shock after all. “But why?”
She stared at me questioningly.
Swallowing, I blinked. “Me? I’m just a student! My only claim to fame is working with the Professor organizing term papers.”
Then it hit me, he could be in danger, too!
My thoughts must‘ve been plain. “Don’t worry. I just pinged the campus police to go and check on him. I’m thinking this could be my fault. I’ve already made enemies. This could be a way of reaching me. I didn’t make a secret of my visits.
“It could also be something else. MIT does have a reputation of being on technology’s cutting edge. However, first I need to get you to my ship and get you checked out. How about I text your parents and tell them that you’re fine, but you’re not with the plane. Because of that you’re going to be checked out and will let them know when you’re on the way home. I’ll add on that you’re borrowing a phone to buy us some time.” She suggested.
I nodded wiggling my red socked toes on the icy tarmac. It was very uncomfortable. I felt the cold, but it didn’t hurt if you know what I mean. It was still unpleasant. “I don’t like misleading them, but I do need to know what the meta-gene did to me.”
Jade smiled, “We know you can fly, so I’ll lead. Considering who you look like, we’ll see how far you can go on your own. If you run into trouble, I’ll catch you.”
With that she lifted off like a green rocket! Whoa!
Really hoping not to embarrass myself, I jumped upwards to follow. In a rush, I found myself in the clouds and climbing fast! Can I explain how it felt? It was good! Twisting myself about in a series of climbing barrel rolls, I loved it.
I could see Jade in front of me still leading. Just to see if I could overtake her I willed myself to cut loose. Suddenly, I was past her and still accelerating, yee-hah!
Like a swimmer I turned onto my back to see behind me. There was that magic moment where my ‘down’ became irrelevant. I could see Mother Earth below me. Some part of me knew that, WTF, I was in orbit, but it was so beautiful for just a timeless instant I was lost in it.
I could see the lights of cities that weren't covered by the winter storm. Then the sun appeared over the terminator. I don’t know if I was breathing or not this high up, but it took my breath away just the same.
A hand touched my shoulder. Jade motioned me to come on.
Of course we couldn’t talk, but a thumb-up worked just fine. Giving that amazing sight one last look, I followed her as she arrowed towards the Moon.
This is where she out paced me. I guess I wasn’t doing too badly since she didn’t start pulling me along. Luna grew astonishingly quickly. Without having some way of telling exactly how long it took, I couldn’t estimate just how fast we were traveling. However even subjectively it wasn’t any more than a quarter hour or so. Scientifically speaking, we were blistering, hot fast!
Reaching her ship, I found myself gawking like a kid again. Entering my first spaceship, seemed a little anticlimactic seeing how I’d just flew to the Moon under my own power no less!
Inside, I took a deep breath, wondering just how long I could last ‘outside’.
“You want a Coke?” Jade asked. “The previous GL laid in a serious supply of the old stuff.”
Half expecting something like out of one of those bad Sci-Fi movies, I was wrong. She had me lie down on a bed like thing for a few minutes and that was it.
To condense a whole lot of information, I’m healthy and in great condition. That is for a Homo-sapiens-Jovian. I weigh 360 lbs and can bench 400 without a real problem. That kind of scared me. Jade’s AI informed me that my strange biology was kind of a combination of Nano-scale robots and organic cells. Call them cyber-bio-nanites.
That alone was very bizarre because according to its database, while the Meta-genes may do almost anything to you, turning one into a robot was beyond it. Quasi-robot maybe and you could even look like one, but still you would really be organic. However, it’d happened somehow it worked.
I was very tough, and healed up from injuries quickly. However, where it still mattered I was human. As for my flight, and strength, I can create gravity fields just like I thought. The short form was I was very much like the Jovians I designed, but there were differences too, that not even the Ring’s AI could puzzle out. Just what some of those organs inside me did or what it meant to me long term was anyone’s guess.
None of that reassured me. Modeling something this radical a modification as an intellectual exercise was one thing. Test piloting personally with my life at stake was another.
I’d never been one to cry, but I did so now again. Damn tears! Did that Meta-gene turn me into an unstoppable waterfall?
That’s when a miracle occurred. Her AI magic ring admitted it’d been wrong!
“Our initial survey of the data from your papers as well as those from Professor Swan’s Exobiology class did not indicate any items of immediate danger for emerging Meta-humans. However, upon your examination we conclude we were mistaken.
“Your entire biology could be described as an incredibly efficient series of interconnecting symbiotic relationships. It’s the biological equivalent of the architectural arch where the forces acting upon it strengthens the structure. It is the method you devised that is important not the details.
Your earlier papers as well as the group projects you were part of began the development of the idea. In your term paper you clearly defined them.”
“Using existing technology with that methodology could aid in the development of systems and equipment that could prove dangerous to emerging meta-humans.” The ring explained.
“Oops,” I whispered. Looking at the image the AI had provided, it was all too clear I was female. Even in a ski suit, my curves couldn’t be concealed. I remembered while researching the whole Kryptonian thing that one early version of Supergirl was patterned on Marilyn Monroe.
“You never did answer me if you were alright,” Jade reminded me with gentle smile.
Trying not to notice how my chest rose when I breathed, I replied, “It’s starting to hit me that not only am I a girl, but there’s no way to hide it either.”
“You know you’re not the first gender switch?” She smiled, “And I might be able to help with that disguise thing.”
“That stuff about Terra once being a teenage boy was right? I thought it was only the usual Inquirer trash.” I said shaking my head.
“No,” The woman in green shook her head. “They got that part right. It might do you good for the two of you to meet. By the way, I offered her the disguise too, but she stopped using it. Said it was better for her to get accustomed to being who she was going to spend the rest of her life as then to keep pretending to be someone she wasn't anymore.”
Jade shrugged, “I could see her point.”
Internally, I winced just thinking about what duplicating that maneuver would do to my new body. It wasn’t that I was freaking out. It was more wondering what in the world was I going to do now sort of thing. Starting to work it out, I pointed out trying to get off the current subject. “So I could’ve been the target of this all along or it still could be an attempt to attack you.”
Her eye brows rose signaling she knew exactly what I was doing. “That sums it up.”
“Okay, let’s try this for a plan. Let’s try your disguise. It’ll give me the chance to break this to my parents at a better time and hopefully throw off whoever tried this. If they try again, well I’m pretty hard to hurt now. Maybe, I can adopt another not only one of those secret identities like out the comic books, but a female one too. I kept mostly to myself at school anyways. It should be manageable for me to do both.
“I know you’re trying to put together a team to take care of the big threats, but I want and need to finish my education. This way I can go kind of undercover and find out just who has this technology. Not that I won’t help those I see in trouble, I’m just not going looking for it.
“Plus if you really need me, I’ll be there. How does that sound?” I asked her.
Jade held out her hand. In it was this ring ….
Ed Benes's Supergirls 6.5 is at this link!
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