The Super One (The Story)

1

"Hi, Andrew!" the girl said brightly, pausing a moment on her walk while she stretched out the syllables of his name. She had turned halfway, waiting for his reply, the bold profile of her body displayed in sharp outline.

"Hi, Shari," he answered. He smiled at her, turning his head but continuing on his way. What a body she had. Maybe she was a tad short, but she was so sexy, built with generous curves, firm legs and striking red hair. She paused a moment, let out a little purr in reply and moved on. She had such a graceful walk, the movement of her butt exaggerated for his benefit, he was sure. He had always had enough success with girls, but if this had been a year ago he would never have let her walk away. Lately though, if he had the time and the strength he could have bedded a different girl every hour of every day. Every hour of the night too. After all, there would be only one chosen, that had been made clear from the start. And there was a good chance now that he would be the One. And if it was him ... well, even girls ten times as attractive as Shari would be throwing themselves at him. Still, it didn't hurt to smile back. No, it didn't hurt one bit. He was smiling all the time now anyway.

When it had first started, Andrew had never imagined it would come to this. Now the day was nearly here. The day when it would all be decided. And he was STILL in the running. After so many had been eliminated, he STILL had a chance.

Another girl walked by, her eyes on the ground, her petite body withdrawn and tense, always on guard, her shoulders pushed forward, minimizing the profile of her pert breasts, which her waitress uniform emphasized as much as it could. Andrew was in such a good mood he greeted even her. "Hi, Andra." She turned her head and hurried away. Andrew shrugged. She still takes it so personally, he said to himself. She shouldn't. But that's her problem, not his. The little thing they had together had ended so long ago that it hardly seemed real to him now. He didn't hold grudges. She shouldn't either.

He walked on and returned to his thoughts, which were the reason for his good mood. He had thought of little else for the past six weeks, other than the Super One Competition run by The Power Source.

Their name, The Power Source, was all anyone knew about them. No one had been able to learn their address, their membership, even their nationality. No government, no company, no individual had been able to penetrate the safeguards they had put in place. No one had even developed a plausible theory about their power. It humbled the world's greatest scientists, suggesting a technology far beyond anything they had developed. Who could possess such power? What ends would it be used for? Governments everywhere were scrambling for the answer. Before it was too late. Before their rivals, or even worse, terrorists and other evildoers, discovered the secret or kidnapped the Power Source and made their armies or, even worse, their shadowy terrorist forces unconquerable.

The other question was why? Their statement, published simultaneously through an internet mass mailing in the ten languages used by the largest number of persons worldwide, said only this:

"On 2005 30 June, the year of the (Christian) Lord, one will become the Super One. Will YOU be the one chosen?"

At first no one took them seriously. It was a virus. A worm. A hacker from Russia. Or China. Or Silicon Valley.

And then the second message came, in the same way, in the same languages:

"Guido Rito from Vail will have a small sample of the power of the Super One during the European 2004 Weightlifting Championships. Watch what he can do. What can YOU do, what WILL you do, to be chosen to be the Super One? And THEN what will you do IF you are chosen, if you find yourself with ALL the powers the Super One will have."

The announcement was quickly greeted with derision. For all the surprising sophistication and power of this group's spamming techniques, there was no such person enrolled in the Championship. If they wanted so badly to APPEAR credible, HOW could they have gotten THAT wrong? Of course, Vail, Colorado, wasn't even IN Europe! But then, as the message had otherwise predicted, Guido Barieto, from Avila, Spain, won the gold medal for the heavyweight Clean & Jerk by lifting over one thousand kilos above his head with just one hand. From the ease with which he did it he could have lifted ten times more if more weights had fit on the bar. His powers lasted just 85 minutes and were as much a surprise to him as everyone else, beginning with a needle-thin beam of white light slicing through the arena and striking his chest for a fraction of a second as the competition began and ending with a similar beam emanating from his chest as he descended from the medals platform. He had never before won an international competition. It is unlikely that he would win another one afterwards. Unless, of course, he became the Super One.

That demonstration changed everything. Even before the Championships ceremony ended there was a third Power Source email announcing the first competition. The response was a flood of entries, over one and a half billion. And then, every two weeks there was a new competition. Some seemed logical, others absurd. There were tests of Bravery. Resistance to Pain. Speaking Ability. Singing Ability. Hair Color. The Mathematical Purity of the Ratio of the Circumference of the Thigh and the Upper Arm. No one competition had a clear connection to the others. No one knew how The Power Source judged the results or even verified them. And yet, every two weeks there was a list of names of those who could join the next competition, alphabetized in each of the ten languages, and a list, in no alphabetical order in any language but the same in each language, of names whose new entries would no longer be accepted. From nearly 1.6 billion entries submitted in the first, 200 million were left for the fifth, 165,000 for the tenth, 187 names left after the 13th and now there were just ten.

Thanks to a few websites, everyone who hadn't made the grade now had a number based on the order in which their name was listed as "new entries not accepted", and the games played with "Power Source Numbers" became more widespread than all the "Google" games put together. Shari's number, for example, was 558,378,904. Andrew's older sister Karen's was 21,905,222. His best friend Mark's was 742,742. Guido Barieto's was 1,000,000,000 -- he was clearly given a special number even though he would not be the Super One. Obviously, someone at The Power Source had a sense of humor. Andra Clarken, the sullen, waiflike waitress who wouldn't say hello, had 1,572,573,574, the seventh highest of all, which was kind of a distinction too. Only George W. Bush's twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, Britney Spears, her husband Kevin Federline, Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein had higher numbers. For many, including Andrew's friends, your power source number was used as much as your given name. These days, Andrew's friends were calling Andrew, "One of Ten."

Ten were left, six male and four female. Two from America, one from the Ivory Coast, three from China, one from India, one from France, and two from Venezuela, all between 16 and 26. All were healthy. All had shown leadership and had performed some community service. There the resemblance ended. Some were athletic. One was definitely not. The other American, Jessie van Arken, was extremely wealthy. Two were lower middle class at best and one of the Chinese had never left his remote village. The rest were in between. But they were all famous now, with sleuths uncovering and posting information about them on the internet, updated daily, hourly. For all Andrew knew, there were hidden cameras filming him now, waiting for something of interest to rush to one of the two hundred websites tracking him. Of the males he was one of the most closely followed, but the interest in him on the internet was nothing compared to the interest in the four females. Jessie and Luisa, one of the two Venezuelans, each had over ten thousand sites. They were much prettier of course. Especially Luisa, whose main site updates Andrew checked at least twice a day.

The final competition was different. It was to be a statement, between ten words and five hundred, discussing how you would change if you became the Super One. Unlike the other competitions there was a statement describing how the essays would be graded: "You will be evaluated on what you say and how honest you are but not on your style or your grammar." They had two weeks to write it, until June 2nd. The results would be announced on June 29th. And then June 30th would be the day. Andrew worked hard on his, taking time to talk to his parents (101,452,944 and 1,377,509), to Mark, to his minister (798,295,622) and to a high school girlfriend, Beth (72,101,845), about what they thought of him and how he would react before collecting his thoughts and writing 287 words. He slept on it, read it twice more, added another paragraph and then sent it off four days early. It was all in their hands now.

Which is why he felt so light on his feet. There was nothing more to do. Only to wait and find out whether he would soon be the most powerful being in the entire world.

One week later Jessie invited him and the other eight to meet and talk about the experience. She would fly them all to her family's house in Barbados, since US visas were too difficult to get in the short time period, and they would be welcome to stay three nights. Word of the invitation quickly leaked onto the internet and warnings followed about a plot to kill those attending. Immediately The Power Source emailed a statement. "The Chosen will be protected for as long as protection is needed." That statement dissolved the sudden fear and instead a benevolent spirit seemed to descend upon the planet. Stock markets soared. Tentative truces emerged in most of the world's trouble spots. Good would triumph. Evildoers would never again prevail. The Power Source would see to that for the rest of the month, and after that, the Super One would.

The whole island welcomed them with a party, bands playing as each emerged from the private planes Jessie had dispatched for them. Andrew was the fourth to arrive, after Jessie and the Venezuelans. Arturo greeted him right away with a firm handshake and a Latin abrazo, and Luisa was even more beautiful than her pictures had led him to expect.

In Andrew's eyes Luisa was super already. It would be hard for Andrew to say exactly what made her so beautiful. All her parts were perfect, but there was something more to her that was impossible for him to define, yet easy to perceive. Her breasts were round and full but not too large, a small "D" cup, Andrew guessed, if there were such a thing. Her skin was flawless and her green eyes and full, red lips drew him in as soon as she looked his way. Her teeth were straight and white, their dazzling brightness contrasting wonderfully with the darker tone of her skin. Just a hint of those top front teeth visible as her rich, full lips sensuously parted in a shy smile of greeting almost made his heart explode. Her hair was blonde, but a dark blonde that had tones of red and brown in too. He'd never seen such richness of color. But above all that, there was a certain way about her, a way she moved, a way she stood still, a way she listened and a way she talked that made his whole body tingle. Even the way she noticed him, the way she registered his interest immediately and, without leading him on or putting him off, without taking him for granted or accepting his admiration as if it was what the world owed her, she let him know with a twinkle of her eyes that what he felt for her, what he saw in her, was good and right for each of them. It was what a man should feel for a woman like her, and her enjoyment of his admiration and of anything that might follow from that was what she had every right to feel as well.

The next to arrive was Neil, an Anglicized Indian whose accent was so crisply English that Andrew was baffled until he learned Neil had been educated at Eton and Cambridge. Francoise, who, contrary to all his expectations of French style, aloofness and superiority was slightly overweight, dressed in blue jeans and genuinely charming and friendly. Nguma, from the Ivory Coast, spoke little English but communicated volubly in French through Francoise. The three from China had the most difficult trip, and except for Lin, from Shanghai, had too much trouble with language to make many individual impressions. But through Lin they readily agreed to all that the others decided, which was that whoever of the Ten became the Super One, the others would pledge their help and cooperation and would be an informal council of advice and friendship. It was Jessie's idea originally, but all voiced the same opinion. That this would be a new era for the world; all of the Ten, from every continent, every type of country, male and female, Moslem, Christian, Hindu, Jew and Atheist, would help unite the world through brotherhood and wisdom, backed by the power of the Super One. It would be a way to ensure that all would be winners. Not just the Ten, but the whole world. The statement was published on a quickly created website -- www.voice-of-ten.com. Andrew was happy in the knowledge that he and the other nine would and could make the world what it was always meant to be.

And then followed the best part of all. After publishing their statement, after all the tension of the past months, the competition and the travel, they had two days of complete luxury and freedom. Nothing to do but eat, swim, play and talk. Very quickly Andrew paired up with Luisa, his high school Spanish turning out to be the decisive advantage over Lin and Neil. In the end, each of the ten found someone; two of the males were gay. Jessie's house was large enough for privacy, and Andrew happily confirmed that the less Luisa wore, the more beautiful she became. By the second night he found total ecstasy, again and again, and from the sounds she made before they made love, during and after, he guessed she had too.

But with all the thinking he had been doing lately, or perhaps because he no longer needed to think, he couldn't stop wondering what it was that made him fall for her so quickly? Was it simply Luisa and her winning smile, her musical voice and laughter, the athletic grace with which she danced and moved her amazing body? Was it being with her in Jessie's incredible house and private beach? Was it just the release of tension after the months of anticipation? Or was it excitement about the future, the possibilities for him, for her, for all of them? Or the exhilarating feeling that with this sudden trip to Barbados he, and all of the Ten, had suddenly entered a new world in which they had been marked out for greater things?

Whatever it was, Andrew felt more with Luisa than with any girl he had ever been with before, as if already, somehow, all his senses had been enhanced. That when he touched her, not only was it he, Andrew, the person who he was now, touching her, but also the person he might soon be. And he felt the same about Luisa. She was not only the passionate, exotic girl he was with, but also, potentially, a supergirl. It was unimaginable to him how this soft, sexy girl might in a little more than twenty days have unfathomable strength and who knew what other powers. Today she was yielding to his touch, his body provoking and answering her passion, penetrating and holding her. Next month she might be so strong that her most gentle squeeze could turn his bones to dust. Or his own thrusts, or even his ejaculation, would be powerful enough to perforate her body. For each of them it was as much an end as a beginning, the end of life as they knew it. The passion they felt could be one they would never dare feel again, or perhaps even worse, to feel but never to express. And so each made sure they would feel and express and enjoy it again and again until their merely human bodies could do it no more.

2

Andrew felt a natural letdown after he returned home, but the days managed to pass until it was at last it was the day. "Announcement Day", screamed the newspapers. Andrew spent the first hour of the day checking the Power Source website, refreshing it over and over for the result, then decided waiting for the news would just as likely kill him as thrill him, so instead he went out for a run. He finished and was about to pick up a take out lunch when he ran into Mark who was walking with his voluptuous girlfriend, Jill (392,236, a number that when properly hyphenated also described her spectacular vital measurements). They nearly fell over when they saw him.

Mark grabbed Andrew and shook him. "What are YOU doing here? Have you heard yet? What if the results are out?" he exclaimed.

Andrew grinned. "Well, someone will tell me then, right?"

"You're crazy! I'd be at my computer, dying!"

"That's just what I was doing, which is why I'm here now."

Meanwhile, Jill had pulled her pocket PC out from her purse and was checking the website. "It's really slow," she said, by way of explanation. "That could mean --" Her jaw dropped. "I don't believe it."

"What?!" Mark said.

Andrew was trying to look cool but his heart was pounding.

"He did it. Look! Andrew Clark, then Luisa Falcon, Neil Madanappi, Chin Binyong ...

"Let me see!" Andrew said, his voice shaking. His hands were shaking too. Jill turned the screen around and Andrew saw the list of names. Nguma was fifth, Jessie eighth, Lin ninth. "It's me," he said quietly, unbelievingly. "I'M the one. Tomorrow I'll have super-powers."

"Hey you did it!" Mark laughed and slapped him hard on the shoulder. "Just remember how THAT feels, buddy. You're never going to feel any pain again."

"Mark!" Jill said, smiling. "Don't do that! You're bigger than him!" Mark just grinned.

"It's ok, Jill," Andrew said, rubbing his shoulder and looking up at his taller friend. "Let him get me while he still can! Gosh. I can't believe it. It feels so weird. I don't know what to say."

"You've said enough, obviously. Jeez, I helped you write that thing you gave them. Least you could do is give me one super-power."

"Only if I get to choose it," Jill interjected enthusiastically. "Give him super-hearing, so Mark can't pretend he didn't hear what I said, or super-vision, so he can't say he didn't see the crumbs he left on the table."

"What she really wants is for me to have a super-tongue that never gets tired and that can flick faster than --

"Mark!" Jill said, hitting him very hard twice with her fist and then covering his mouth. "I can't believe you SAID that!"

"Ouch!" Mark said into her hand and started licking it. She pulled it away and he rubbed his shoulder. "You know, Andrew, Jill may have the sexiest body in Nutley, but she's pretty strong too!" He grabbed Jill's hands and they wrestled playfully for a few seconds before he pinned her arms to her side and pulled her against him. "Truce?"

She laughed. "IF you behave!" She turned her attention back to Andrew while Mark wrapped his arms around her waist. "My god! You must be in tenth heaven!"

"I don't know what to say or think. What ... what am I going to do?" They grinned, waiting for his thoughts. "I guess I should start reading all the philosophers and all the religious books I've always ignored. I'm really feeling kind of overwhelmed." His hands were shaking and he looked down at them, suddenly not the least bit hungry.

Mark shook his head. "Come on, Andrew. They CHOSE you. You're meant to have these powers! You don't need to LEARN what to do. You've already told them what you're going to do and now you'll just DO it."

"What do you think, Jill?" Andrew asked.

"I agree with Mark. It's not like you should suddenly change and start out with a lot of new ideas you're not used to. They've tested you and like your instincts. They didn't pick some philosopher or saint or international statesman. They picked a solid, good-hearted guy. Are you expecting some book to tell you what's right and wrong that you didn't know already? Life's not all black and white like that. You know that. Jeez, Andrew. Don't let this thing change you! Don't suddenly convert to some fundamentalist religion that will tell you what's right and wrong and make you use your powers to kill or threaten everyone who isn't that kind of believer. That CAN'T be what The Power Source intended. Otherwise they would have chosen someone from Al Queda or the people who wrote those kinds of books. But they didn't. They chose you, because of who YOU are."

Andrew nodded slowly. "But there's so much I don't know. I mean, there are conflicts all over the world, among people I know nothing about. How will I know who's right and who's wrong?"

Jill answered quickly. "You won't! Usually nobody's wholly right or wrong. And who says you have to decide everything right away anyway? You'll have the other nine in that council you made, and of course Mark and me and all your friends to talk to. If you don't know what's right, then don't act until you do. But I'm sure this will become easier as you get used to it."

Andrew looked at her gratefully. "Yeah. I guess you're right. It's not like I already know everything I have to know for life. There's plenty to learn, but there'll be plenty of time to learn it. I guess I'll have to trust myself, and not hand off the job to some philosopher or prophet. It'll be my responsibility to decide what's right, not theirs." He smiled at the two of them and put one arm around each of them. "Our responsibility."

Mark put his hand on Andrew's shoulder. "Yeah, and don't get the idea that you're going to start making ALL the decisions for ALL of us. If I had to listen to that country music you like, I'd kill myself right now."

Andrew laughed and tried unsuccessfully to free himself from Mark's arm, which was now curled around his neck. "You just watch. I'm going move at super-speed and switch my CD's for yours every time you put on one of your jazz albums." With Jill's help he finally loosened Mark's chokehold. He looked at his watch. "Maybe I should head over to my parents' house. If they haven't heard yet it would be great to give my mom the news."

"You think she hasn't been checking too? But sure. We'll walk with you up to Centre. Then Jill and I have to go to Paramus for some shopping nonsense." Jill gave him a look. "Hey, will we see you before you go Super?"

"I don't know. I don't even know how or when it's going to happen."

Jill was looking at her IPAQ. "It says here: The One will become the Super One at noon on the 30th of the Sixth, wherever in Nutley, New Jersey the One may be.'"

Andrew shook his head. "It's so impersonal and mysterious. Why don't they just say 'Andrew', instead of 'The One'? But, hey, that's their style. I wonder if I'll find out tomorrow who they are and why they're doing this."

"Who cares? All I know is my best buddy is going to become Superman at 12:00 tomorrow."

They began to walk down the street. The news must have just been announced on the radio, because very quickly cars started honking at Andrew and people he knew stopped him on the street to congratulate him. People he'd known all his life were running over to clap him on the back. Girls looked at him carefully and shyly. Soon there was a knot of twenty people following him down the street, attracting even more notice. Andrew was beaming, happily acknowledging the attention, giving each a personal word or a thanks. He was feeling dizzy with excitement, almost breathless. He saw his favorite high school teacher wave from a car and stepped toward her to say hello when he heard a yell and a girl nearly ran into him, her bicycle miraculously stopping just before they collided. Her package flew out of the basket in front and he tried to grab it, but he couldn't hold on and it fell to the pavement. Whatever was inside shattered. He looked up to apologize.

"I'm sorry -- oh, Andra. Jeez. I'm really sorry. I didn't see you."

She just glared at him. Of course you didn't see me!" she said angrily. "Too full of yourself, as usual, to notice ME!"

"Andra, come on, that's not fair. It was an accident."

"You're talking to me about fair?"

"Hey, if I broke something expensive, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I'll pay for it, ok?" He picked up the package and felt the pieces move inside. "Come on, how much was it?"

"I don't want your money!"

The crowd of people backed away a bit, not wanting to be part of a scene.

"Andra, calm down. Don't go all ballistic over this. He said he was sorry. He can't do anything else about it now. He's got a lot on his mind. You know he's going get super tomorrow." Mark said, sticking up for his friend.

Andra's eyes widened at the last remark and she started shouting. "You shut up! I don't want to HEAR about it! Making HIM super! It's the stupidest thing that's ever happened, but that's all you care about. It's all ANYONE cares about!"

"Andra!" Mark said, amazed at her outburst. "Do you know who you're talking to?"

"Just shut UP! You always take his side, just like you did before! I hate you! I hate ALL of you!" She looked around at the group, her eyes blazing, her face red.

Some boys in the back of the crowd started saying,

Her tits are so small.
She's not tall at all.
She has no real ass.
She's last in her class.
Leave home your durex, she's
Completely unsexy.
If she's had a drop,
Then she'll let you on top.
But like Andy said,
She fucks like she's dead.

She whirled around. "Who's saying that?"

There were a few snickers in the crowd. No one owned up to it.

"Hey guys, cut it out, okay?" Andrew said. There was respectful silence. He turned to her. "Just ignore them."

"Easy for you to say, 'Andy'. You haven't had to listen to that crap song you made up for like your whole life," she blinked her eyes to keep the tears out.

Andrew stamped his foot. "Not that again! Andra, it wasn't me, I swear it. How many times do I have to tell you! I had nothing to do with it."

"Yeah, like I believe you! Like anyone should ever believe you! Just give it back to me, ok?" She tried to grab the package out of his hand but it slipped and dropped into the street again. "Oh, what's the point?! It was a present but it's garbage now. Just leave me alone and let me go!" She got on her bicycle and pedaled away. The group dispersed, the mood of celebration broken.

"What a bitch," Mark said.

"I feel sorry for her. She's so miserable," Jill said.

"I know." Andrew shook his head. "But it's not my fault."

"Of course it isn't, Andrew. Just because you went out with her a few times at the start of high school doesn't make you responsible for what happened," Jill said. "It's just the way she is. But it's still sad."

"I always told you not to get involved with her, Andrew, but you wouldn't listen to me until it was too late. She was such an oddball, spending all her time between classes by herself, juggling stuff. Tennis balls, pens, rocks, hair clips? Remember?" Mark said.

"I don't know. I really don't know," Andrew said, looking down.

Mark laughed. "Yeah, sure. It all started when you started referring to her as 'juicy apple tits' in eight grade, when they sprouted all of a sudden. You just figured that being so awkward and unpopular she'd be kind of an easy -- hey, you didn't have to kick me, Jill." He looked at her and rubbed his shin. "At least not so hard. I guess we better get going. What are you going to do about tomorrow, Andrew?"

Jill spoke up. "I was thinking, guys, if it's going to happen anywhere in town where Andrew is, why not meet up at the park? It's supposed to be a good day. I can take some picnic stuff and we can hang out until it's time, and then Andrew will be able to show off his new powers outside, you know, show everyone what he can do."

"Great idea! How about it, Andrew?"

"Sure. That'll be fun. I'll see you at the War Memorial near the cannons at, like eleven?"

"Fine."

Jill gave him a kiss. "Bye, Andrew."

"Bye, Jill."

Mark hit him again. "Yeah, bye, Super One." He stood there, grinning. "Come on, come on, give me your best shot. I don't want you to do it tomorrow."

"Yeah? You better watch yourself, Mark. All your muscle won't do you a bit of good once the Super One gets hold of you!"

Jill rolled her eyes, tapped her foot and looked at her watch. "Mark, come on!"

Andrew laughed and clapped Mark on the back. "Sorry, Jill. See you guys tomorrow."

3

It was a perfect early summer day. The temperature hovered around eighty degrees. The sky was deep blue and there was just a hint of a breeze. But as calm as the weather was, Nutley was all abuzz. A mob of nearly one hundred had surrounded Andrew's apartment building from the early morning and when he left at a quarter to eleven they followed him, keeping a respectful distance, but calling out congratulations, encouragement, and a few requests for help once he became super. Word quickly spread through town about where he was headed, and by the time Mark, Jill and he had met, hugged each other and found a place to stand together, there were thousands with them, along with television cameras, the mayor, the governor, representatives of local charities and churches and many others. Everyone wanted to share in the historic moment. In full sight of the cameras, Andrew waved a hello to his minister, kissed his parents and his sister, gave his young niece a quick ride around on his shoulders and a short interview to the reporters. At a quarter to twelve a large limo pulled up and Jessie and Luisa emerged. Andrew stared at her in amazement. How did Jessie get her into the country?! His heart leapt and he waved to her vigorously, and the crowd parted to let the two girls through. Luisa seemed very shy around the large crowd of English-speaking strangers, but Andrew went right up to her and embraced her and she clung to him gratefully and affectionately for ten seconds before withdrawing slightly to chat with Karen, who spoke excellent Spanish. Andrew was moved and so impressed by her. What a large heart she had, coming here to share in his success, even though were it not for him she would be the one gaining super-powers today. He wondered whether he would have had the strength and courage to go to Venezuela to do the same for her.

It was now ten to twelve, and Andrew felt himself getting more and more nervous. He tried to calm himself by closing his eyes, and then decided the opposite would be a better distraction and went back to looking around at the people, first at Luisa, thinking about her luscious body underneath the slightly formal clothes she was wearing today, and then wondering whether X-ray vision would be one of his new powers. Would they ever have sex again? He noticed her blushing Under his gaze and, not wanting to make her uncomfortable, smiled at her and then looked away. Shari was there with her friends. They had noticed him with Luisa and were talking and pointing at her. He turned another way. Why, there was Andra, alone, pushing determinedly through the crowd toward him, muttering to herself. She walked as though she held something in her hand. What was it? Andrew looked down at his watch. Five minutes! What should he do? What if she had a gun? He wanted to run, but he knew he couldn't, so instead he started walking toward her. He couldn't let her hurt anyone. Whether he had powers yet or not, he had to take responsibility. It was his responsibility.

The crowd murmured. Where was he going? Who was he looking for?

He neared her and looked down. She had a knife!

"I CAN'T let this HAPPEN. I CAN'T let YOU be super!" she said loudly and raised her hand to stab him.

"No, Andra! Put that down!" He moved back quickly as she swung her arm and managed to avoid the blade while grabbing her wrist, twisting her arm behind her back and immobilizing her, then squeezing her wrist painfully until the knife fell from her hand. Fortunately she was very weak, with little muscle even for a girl, and with just one hand free he was able to hold her firmly until two of his larger friends from high school days took hold of her and carried her away from him. He stepped back shakily and put the knife away in his back pocket while the crowd cheered him.

"He's so brave."

"Even without super-powers."

"She must be nuts."

"Always has been."

"Call the police. Take her away! We all saw it!"

"No, not now. It's going to start any second."

"Let Andrew take care of her. He'll be the Super One before we know it."

"Yes, he can do it."

"Yeah, keep her there. Let HIM decide what to do with her."

Andrew's heart was beating even harder now. His friends were holding Andra just a few feet away; he wished they'd taken her out of his sight completely. She was struggling in their arms, kicking their shins, trying to get free. Their football-training enhanced muscle was more than equal to the task of keeping her, but her kicks were still painful and annoying, and his friends were obviously getting annoyed. He looked at her in disbelief. What was wrong with her? How could she do a thing like this? How could she hate him so much that even now, in front of everyone, even without her weapon, when he was just about to become super, she would still be trying to get at him. He shivered to think how sick she must be, how close she had come to reaching him, and what might have happened. At least now he was safe. He looked back in the crowd for Luisa but couldn't find her. Or Mark. Well, it was about to happen now anyway. He'd see them soon enough when it was time for all of them to celebrate together.

There was less than a minute to go now. In moments his life would change forever. He looked around, wondering how it would happen. The noon firehouse sirens sounded. It was time! He waited for it, the burst of light, the explosion of power. Nothing happened. Everyone was looking at him, murmuring. Waiting for him to do something. But it wasn't up to him! The first stirrings of disappointment began. He looked around. They were two minutes late, at least. Then he heard the sound, almost a whistling at first, then slowly increasing in power to a roar. The crowd heard it too and became silent. The brightness of the day seemed to change. It was above them all, a white beam moving along the sky from the north, like a slow bolt of lightning or a fast-moving jet trail. There was a gasp from the crowd. As it neared the park it began curving and descending toward him and then and narrowing until it was the shape of the spine of a large coffee table book, but still far larger than the beam that had hit the weightlifter, Guido Barieto. He watched it approach until it was just a few feet away. He was shivering with excitement. Already he could feel a warm energy, a static in his ears, a tingling in his fingers, all of which were growing stronger and stronger as the beam grew nearer. He braced himself for contact. The flash of light filled his eyes, blinding him. He cried out just as the roaring sound suddenly ended, and he heard the sound of the crowd echoing his and another louder, higher-pitched sound. Andra's, he figured -- her final cry of defeat. He felt nothing ... yet. But why should he? His eyes cleared. Now he could see the beam coming toward him and ... why, it missed him!! It streamed inches away from his right shoulder and then passed him right by and struck someone else, a girl standing just a few feet away. Andra!! The Power Source beam was going to Andra, not to him.

He was white with shock. "NOOO!" he cried out. "NOOOOO!" He couldn't believe this was happening. All eyes in the crowd were on him. They were whispering, nudging each other. He clenched his fists and struggled to control his emotions, to think clearly. Was there nothing he could do to stop it? No way to prevent this terrible mistake from happening? He had to act. He moved boldly to the right to intercept the beam, but it deftly shifted further to avoid him and then slanted right back to the center of Andra's body. He moved closer toward her, standing directly in front of her to block it. The beam simply split into two branches, curving around to the left and the right to circle within an inch of his waist and then reversing course and rejoining into one beam in the narrow space between Andra and him, and then continued its steady flow into the middle of her chest. It seemed to have a mind of its own, stupidly determined to do the wrong thing, and he was completely helpless to stop it from giving HER the power it was supposed to be giving HIM. Angrily, he moved still closer to cut off any space for the beam to reach her, but before their bodies touched, he felt a barrier resisting his further movement toward her. He pushed harder and the beam dug painfully into his stomach, as though to him it were as solid as a steel bar, while on the opposite side, just an inch away, it simply melted into Andra's chest.

Andra stood calmly, staring impassively through him as if he didn't exist, oblivious to his increasingly desperate attempts to capture the beam. She was so still that she could have been asleep or in another world. He stared at her, trying to understand what was happening. Was the beam doing anything? Her face was the same. Her expression was vacant, her body still thin and frail-looking. But he felt that something was different. It could only be the way she was standing, no longer slightly hunched over, but instead with her shoulders were pulled back and her chest thrust out to meet the beam. Since she had grown her apple-sized breasts in practically overnight in eighth grade she had never worn a bra, and now her faded pink t-shirt, pushed by the wind that swirled hard around them, clung tightly to her chest, and her nipples, quite erect now, left sharp outlines against it. The swirling wind kicked up dirt from the nearby baseball diamond, and he blinked his eyes to get a bit of dust out but otherwise couldn’t tear his eyes away from her and what was happening. Meanwhile, she was staring straight ahead, not blinking, perhaps not even seeing him. Unlike her shirt, her dark, shoulder-length hair moved only slightly in the wind and then after a couple of minutes it stopped moving at all, although the wind continued to gust around them.

Of course he had no idea what the beam was doing to her. Maybe it was doing nothing, her strange expression merely a hypnotic trance it was inducing. It could be a mere programming mistake or part of the Power Source's "show", a dramatic ruse to heighten the tension of the true gift of power that would yet come to him. Still, he could not deny the way she leaned forward slightly into the beam, as if by doing so she were taking it in a fraction of an instant more quickly than she otherwise would. That certainly made it seem she was conscious of the beam and what it was doing to her. And deep down, Andrew felt he knew somehow, even though she hadn't even cracked a smile, that she was enjoying it, LOVING it, REVELING in being the beam's target, the recipient of the powers that everyone knew was meant for him. The powers that HE DESERVED. While he was getting NOTHING. FEELING nothing. No! NO, the truth was he was feeling much worse than nothing. His whole being, his essence, his future, his life, was being taken away from him right before his eyes, before EVERYONE'S eyes, and handed over to Andra. To a complete non-entity. A NOBODY! A WAITRESS at a cheap restaurant. How DARE they! He had won. HE had. NOT her. SHE was nearly LAST. She was unworthy. She was Subnormal. A HORRIBLE person. She COULDN'T be getting his powers. Not ANDRA. ANYBODY but ANDRA!! He raged inside, but there was nothing, NOTHING he could do.

Almost ten minutes had passed and the beam, which had hit Guido Barieto with a needle-sized pulse for just a fraction of a second at the weightlifting championship, showed no sign of ending. In fact, after the first few minutes the beam had slowly brightened and expanded until it had more than tripled in size and was difficult to look at. It was now focused on a rectangular area extending from the middle of Andra's neck to her navel, and, just like the Sun, left after images in his vision each time he glanced at it. Andrew could not help think that whatever it had done to Guido Barieto, it had to be doing a lot more to Andra. Exponentially more.

Andrew was suddenly distracted from his angry thoughts by a sudden "OOOOOOH" from the crowd. He looked up and followed their eyes into the sky to see that alongside the white beam a green one was approaching the point at which the white one descended toward them. Further back, like a set of streamers, were a red beam, a blue beam, and an orange one. As they watched, each one followed the same path as the white beam, curving downward past Andrew, finding its first home in Andra's chest and then expanding as it seemed to establish itself. More beams followed: sky blue, maroon, brown, navy blue, peach, orange, chocolate, straw, fuchsia, chartreuse, pale yellow, deep purple, cream, pink, simply red, mellow yellow, and so on, until it became too difficult for Andrew to distinguish all of the colors shooting through the sky and descending to converge on the thin girl standing next to him. As each new colored beam struck Andra she shuddered and her expression changed slightly, her eyes growing sharper and her mouth forming a small grin. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Andrew, they began to drop off. First the red, then the orange and the blue and one by one each of the others until only the pink and white were left. Then once again, only the white. Fifty-seven minutes after it started the white beam ended too, with a final, blinding blaze of light just as the town clock loudly struck One.

Once again the sky was pure blue. The wind stopped and the summer air became still, sticky, sultry, stifling, too hot to breathe. Everyone waited. Andra opened her eyes and stretched lazily, thrusting out her perky apple-sized breasts even more for a moment before her hands settled on her narrow hips, her fingers slipped casually through the belt loops of her shorts. The crowd, which had been murmuring to each other while the beams were slicing through the air, quieted again. Continuing to stretch, as if after a nap, she pivoted her upper body right and then left and looked around slowly, alert to the attention the crowd was paying to her. Some of them looked back at Andrew, keen to catch his reaction to the shocking turn of events, but mostly their eyes were glued on Andra, wondering whether it was really true, that she was the one who was super, the Super One, and waiting to see what she would do.

She showed no sign of any change. She blinked her eyes twice but stood quietly observing the scene around her, listening to the quiet talking of the crowd, her only movement a slightly impatient bouncing on the front of her sneakers, then kicked them off and wriggled her toes, happy for them to be free and lifted herself onto her toes twice, stretching her feet.

Then she fixed her gaze on Andrew. She took in his angry, pained expression and looked him up and down. Something came alive in her. Her eyes sparkled. A small smile curled her lips and they parted, showing the tip of her tongue touching the bottom of her front teeth. Her lips closed again, except that her front teeth stuck out slightly, biting her front lip. She stayed rooted in the same spot, thinking, and then suddenly, impulsively, she again lifted herself on her toes slightly, leaned toward Andrew and whispered to him slowly, so quietly that only he could hear, and even then just barely, "That was cool, really cool. Even better from the inside than just watching, you know?” Her eyes ranged over his face. "I bet this is just KILLING you, wondering what happened, huh?"

He looked back at her, wordlessly amazed at her nerve, his face red and his jaw tightly clenched.

She turned away abruptly and walked over to the middle of the four cast iron cannons at the War Memorial, a sign from the early history of the town. They had been there longer than anyone living, dating from just after the Civil War. A young boy and a girl had been sitting on the closest one to get a better view of the current day's events, their bare legs atop a baby blue blanket protecting them from the heat the dark, aged metal absorbed from the summer sun, but as she approached they jumped off and ran to their mother, who gathered them into her arms while the blanket slipped to the ground.

"Blankee! Blankee!" the little girl cried out, her arm stretched toward the cannons. The mother looked beseechingly at Andra to return her daughter's favourite comfort toy, then more insistently when Andra gave them a baleful look and wrinkled her nose. She strode across the blanket, her toes purposely piercing the soft fabric, to a large pyramid of cannonballs standing near the cannons. The cannonballs, dark with age and fused together by welding or rust, had lain there as long as the cannons. She walked up to the pile and with both hands and a grunt she somehow pushed off the cannonball on top. It clanked against the others on the way down and landed heavily on the ground. She bent over it, positioning her legs on either side and pushed it towards him, again using both hands. The cannonball rolled until it stopped directly in front of Andrew.

"Are YOU strong enough to pick it up?" she said. "They're eighteen pounders. I remember that from 8th grade. Come on. Try."

Andrew looked at her sceptically, unwilling to let her set his agenda on what was supposed to be HIS day. He looked down at the cannonball and moved it around with his foot, then rested it on top of it, as though he had conquered it.

She crossed her arms in front of her chest, waiting. "It's just a regular cannonball. You're a man, aren't you? It can't be that hard for you to lift it. Go on. Show your 'fans' what you can do." She tapped her toes on the ground. "Show me!"

Andrew wanted to ignore her. He felt sure she was setting him up. But the truth was, for all the lights and beams, she hadn't seemed terribly strong just now when SHE pushed the cannonball, certainly not "super" strong. He could hear the murmuring in the crowd, wanting him to do something. It was still up to him, wasn't it? He was still their hero, even if the Power Source seemed to have gotten things so wrong. And then an idea occurred to him. What if they hadn't actually made a mistake? What if Andra wasn’t super at all? What if this were something they had set up, some kind of show, a scenario in which Andra, as strange at it might seem, consciously or unconsciously, was just playing a role? He couldn't shrink back. He had a destiny. This was still HIS day. The Power Source had said so, practically. He would play along. It would just be a matter of time before he would get what he deserved.

Newly determined and encouraged, he lifted the cannonball up. It was like a bowling ball, smaller, though a bit heavier, but not impossibly so. He looked at her triumphantly and lifted it above his head. She watched him impassively, refusing to look impressed, and then went back to the cannonballs and pushed another one off, again letting the loose cannonball clank down the pile and roll a few feet away. She walked after it and stood facing him, the cannonball in front of her, at her feet.

"Feeling heavy?" she asked.

"Not so bad," he replied. It wasn’t more than he could manage.

"Yeah, you can do it. But you're getting tired, aren't you," she observed. She didn't wait for him to answer. She bent down, flexed her knees and raised the cannonball to her chest, cradling it with both hands. Still holding it with both hands, she shifted it slightly from one side to the other, testing its weight. She looked up again at Andrew holding it above his head. "I bet it's getting really heavy for you," she said. "Hea-vy," she repeated, her mouth forming a thin smile. "Hea-ea-vy," she said again and laughed.

It was in fact beginning to feel heavy to Andrew. His arm was starting to shake and he was fiercely repenting having hoisted it above his head to show off. Very soon he would have no choice but to hold the cannonball the way she was doing. In fact, he had no choice. The time had come sooner than he would have liked, and he lowered the cannonball to his chest, cradling it.

She looked at him, the two of them holding their cannonballs in the same way. "It’s getting so-o-oo heav-vy, isn't it," she said. "How long do you think you can hold it there, even with two hands?" She tapped her toes on the ground, like she was counting time.

He clutched the cannonball tightly. "You started later," he said defensively.

"Ha ha. I know. But I’m not supposed to be strong, like you. I'm a girl," she replied, her smile slightly larger. "Just a girl. Remember?" She twisted her body from the waist up, displaying her waiflike but still clearly female profile.

Andrew grit his teeth. Nothing was happening, holding the cannonball was starting to hurt, and she was so annoying. They stood there, silently, glaring at each other, a stalemate in a surprising, strange contest of wills. And what would it prove?

Suddenly, without warning, she raised hers above her head without hesitation. There was a surprised and admiring gasp from the crowd, that a girl with such a thin, scarcely muscled arm could manage it. She had seemed so weak before, so easily subdued and held down by Andrew and then his two large friends. Now she held the cannonball above her head, an impressive feat for any girl, and done so modestly, a slight smile on her lips, ignoring the crowd, her eyes locked on Andrew.

Sure that he was watching her, she bent her arm slightly. It was just an inch or two, but more than enough to unlock her elbow so that her triceps muscles, rather than her bones, were all that was supporting the weight of the cannonball. Yet she held it without wavering, without trembling, keeping it perfectly steady in the air above her head.

"Whaddya think?" she said, smiling. Slowly, fluidly, she bent her arm a few inches further and straightened it four times. "YOUR arms are shaking. Look at them. Both of 'em. They're getting so, so tired, you know? How much more of this can you take?" She bent her arm again and this time when she straightened it she popped the cannonball into the air a few inches and caught it, not on her hand but instead balanced on the tips of her fingers, the way an experienced waitress carries a tray of dishes. The crowd gasped.

"Heh," she chuckled. “Will ya look at that!” She turned from side to side, keeping the cannonball on her fingers and then started to spin the cannonball, balancing it on her forefinger, while she folded down her thumb, index and ring fingers and extended her pinkie daintily. "Like the basketball guys, huh? It’s really not so hard. Dontcha wanna try?”

Andrew stared at her angrily, hopelessly. His arms trembled, clutching at the cannonball, squeezing it against his chest, trying as hard as he could not to drop it. By now, there was no way he could lift it even a couple of inches higher, much less raise it back above his head, even with both hands. Even his breathing was becoming labored.

“You know,” she said brightly, “I could do it on my pinkie. Yeah, but that one's got my longest nail. What if this big, heavy ball broke my nail?" she taunted and spun it still more rapidly on the tip of her forefinger. She lowered her forefinger and then straightened it, tossing the spinning cannonball three feet into the air. It landed right on top of her long pinkie fingernail. With her free hand she balanced it and then spun it faster and faster, producing an odd, high pitched sound. The cannonball started dropping closer and closer to Andra’s finger and then seemed to swallow it up.

"Ugh!" Andrew grunted and dropped his cannonball, using his last reserve of energy to push it away from him clumsily so that it didn't land on his foot. It rolled a third of the way toward Andra. His arms hung twitching at his sides, so tired that he couldn't lift them or stop them from shaking.

"Awww, you dropped it! I THOUGHT it was gonna be too heavy for you." She stopped spinning the cannonball but it remained on her hand with her finger almost entirely embedded into the cannonball. She put her hands on her narrow hips, seemingly oblivious to the cannonball waving back and forth as she wiggled her little finger and walked toward him. She stopped when she reached the cannonball he had dropped. She bent down and pushed her other pinkie inside it, like it was a ball of dough, and stood up with it stuck on her finger. She held out her hands toward Andrew, palms face down, fingers extended and wiggled both pinkies again. “Here, you want to take one and try again? Maybe it’ll be easier if you hold it like I’m doing?” He shook his head. She moved closer and pushed her pinkie-encased-cannonballs against his stomach, forcing him backwards.

"C'mon, Andrew. Stop me. The cannonballs'r flyin'! Defend yourself." Using just her pinkies she was punching him with the cannonballs, using them like they were boxing gloves. Try as might, he couldn’t even lift his hands to protect himself.

“You CAN’T stop me THIS time! You can’t even try," she taunted, her cannonball-gloved pinkies peppering his stomach. "But you see, these aren't even a BIT heavy for ME, Andrew, not at all! You think maybe I’m a LITTLE stronger than you? Oooooh, that’s BAD news, isn’t it! These cannonballs that are pushing into your soft tummy, they could fly right THROUGH you, but they don’t even feel hard to me. Not compared to my little fingers. Did you see how my little pinkie fingernail WASN'T smashed by the cannonball? Uh uh, it went right THROUGH the it and made a little hole inside? Like a DRILL. Like my little nail was harden than steel. Like it’s even HARDER than diamonds. Is any part of YOU hard enough for THAT? And how I pushed my pinkie right through the other one?" She stopped hitting him and held her pinkies straight up in the air. "It's so easy! My superized body’s so MUCH harder than these dirty old metal balls.” She curled her finger up, cupping the cannonballs in her hands and then squeezed them together into one piece like they were bread dough. "See? These balls are all soft and squishy in MY hands!" She grinned. "Bet you wish YOU could do that! Or this!" More quickly than he could perceive, she removed her t-shirt, leaving her waist and shoulders bare, and had pressed to her chest to conceal her breasts within the mass of metal she had tortured. She pushed it harder against her bust and rubbed up and down with her hands so that it spread like putty evenly up to her shoulders and down to her waist until only a thin layer to cover her breasts like a bikini top. "OOOOOOHHH, that feels SO GOOOOOD!" she squealed, still pressing it against her. “Remember the time I let YOU touch my breasts, Andrew? When they were brand new? Oh, this is making me so hot, Andrew. Do you remember what happens to me when I got hot?” She pulled her hands away, and the smooth metal had small bumps in the middle of her breasts, bumps which grew and grew as her excited nipples pushed the metal into small bullets pointed at him, as if the metal were no harder than cotton.

Andrew gaped unbelievingly at her overmatched iron bra. His knees nearly buckled. A wave of nausea and fear washed through him, making him feel even weaker, as the pain from the blows of the cannonballs mixed with his shock of the full extent of her sudden superiority.

"My BLANKEE! She bwoke my BLANKEE!" the little girl screamed, breaking the mood.

Andra scowled at the little girl and her mother.

"She won't give it back! And she got it all DIRTY!" the little girl wailed. "She's a meanie!"

"Will you shut that brat UP!" Andra roared at the mother. "I MEAN it!" She looked threateningly at the little girl, and her mother bundled her up in her arms and hurriedly pushed through the crowd away from Andra, her son running beside her in tears.

Andra stared at the young family as they retreated, her eyes narrow and her fists clenched. She stormed back toward the pile of cannonballs, plucking one and than another off the pile as easily now as if she were taking apples off a supermarket display, and tossed them high into the air. The crowd gasped and moved backwards, fearful of being hit, but they soon saw that each cannonball was falling in a tight circle around Andra. Before each landed she moved slightly and flawlessly caught it and tossed it back into the air. Soon she was juggling fifty cannonballs, each rising several hundred yards into the sky, falling back only to be thrown back into the air, miraculously missing the others. The balls filled the air and flew closer and closer together as the circle in which they fell tightened. It was dizzying to watch them come so close without hitting.

The longer Andra continued the more relaxed she seemed. Finally, after several minutes she changed the trajectories of the cannonballs so that they converged in a column several hundred feet high. Andra now stood directly beneath the plummeting cannonballs. As each dropped, she plucked it out of the air one-handed and pressed it into a growing mass of metal in her other hand, as if she were building a large snowball. In less than a minute the air had cleared and Andra was holding the mass of fifty combined cannonballs, nearly two feet in diameter, balanced casually between her hand and her thigh. A smile had returned to her face and she took a long look at Andrew before returning to her project. Now she rolled the mass of metal against the skin of her thigh, its rough edges collapsing until the metal regained a spherical shape. She rubbed it more quickly and the metal began to shine and before long the surface looked bright and new. Pleased with her work, she held the massive ball in her palm, her arm outstretched towards Andrew.

"All rested now? Here. Try this one? I made it all nice and shiny." She walked closer to him and tossed it a few inches in the air several times, her feet sinking slightly in the ground from the weight of the ball each time it landed on her hand. Andrew shook his head and backed away.

"Heh, heh. Too heavy for YOU!" She rolled it onto the edge of her hand so that it balanced on the tips of the fingers. "But not for ME!" She tossed it above her head, and then looked upward. The ball stopped, magically suspended a few inches above her. Through pursed lips she was blowing a stream of air at it, supporting nearly a thousand pounds of metal with her breath. She walked toward the cannons, pushing the ball along with her, slowly pushing it higher and higher, whistling while she did, the pitch of the tone getting higher as the ball floated upwards.

The crowd was whispering.

"How can she do that?"

"I am SOO glad I came! This is so cool!"

"She's super, really super!"

She reached the cannon and with one hand pushed the end of the barrel so that it pointed straight upwards. She looked back at Andrew, letting the ball fall, and then blew it higher again while running her hand along the cannon, stroking it gently. She looked at Andrew briefly again and stroked the cannon harder and faster, in a very sexual sort of way. As the ball fell and rose up again her whistling became more elaborate too. It was Ravel's Bolero, repeating over and over, getting louder, faster, more elaborate and more sensually insistent each time she whistled the theme, while the ball rose up and down, each time falling further, closer to her face and then rising even higher than before. And all the while her hand tickled the cannon playfully.

She cut the theme suddenly, just one note short of its conclusion and looked at Andrew again, her lips slightly curled, one hand resting on her hip, which was slightly bent, the other stroking the cannon more quickly again. "Jealous, Andrew? Don't you wish it were you?" she asked, swivelling her narrow hips back and forth, letting the cannonball fall further and faster and then whistled the last note like a thunder blast, forcing the huge cannonball higher than ever before, more than a thousand feet in the air this time. She watched it slowly peak and then stepped away as it fell, gathering speed, whistling noisily like the projectile of a massive cannonade or a bomb. The crowd screamed, certain it would hit someone, but instead it landed squarely on the upturned cannon in a hellishly loud collision, making the ground shake and crushing the phallus-like structure into a crumpled smoking mass of metal. The crowd was silenced, more than one man unconsciously checking his member to make sure it too had not been squashed into oblivion.

Andrew stared at the remains of the weapon, the top of the huge cannonball still round and shining, the bottom enmeshed in the twisted remains of the historic cannon. He looked questioningly, then challengingly at Andra's mocking face. "What are you DOING?" he exclaimed.

Andra stared back at him. The last two cannonballs lay at her feet. She dug her toes under one of them and popped it into the air, just above her head and then, as if she were serving a volleyball, slammed it with her fist. The cannonball flew screaming into the air, knocked down a metal flagpole at the other end of the park with a loud clang and then continued into a building on the main street several blocks from the park, Andra's apartment building, blasting a hole in it like a wrecking ball and disappearing in the structure. A cloud of dust rose into the air. She picked up the other and tossed it up and down a few times, considering what to do with it and then hurled it at the same building, turning more of it into rubble. Finally, she walked around to the crushed cannon. She found the center of the massive ball and with her bare foot kicked the ball and cannon high above the crowd. Nearly a minute later it came down on top of the remains of the building, producing a huge explosion and shower of debris, filling the park with splinters of brick, glass, stone and metal. The crowd dived onto the ground, covering themselves with their arms to protect themselves while Andra stood by, laughing, heedless and uncaring.

"I'm being SUPER!" she shouted with glee. "And who's going to stop me? YOU?"

She turned away, ignoring any further reaction he might have. Catlike in her quickness, she slipped past Andrew and reached out for his two friends who had been holding her before, each one nearly twice her size. They had dropped their grip and moved aside when the beams had first struck her, but like everyone else they had remained, riveted in place, too curious about what was happening to think of or do anything but watch. Now she took hold of their arms and pulled them toward her so that the three of them stood in the same position as they were before, only now she was holding them, each of her small hands gripping one of the muscular upper arms of the men.

It looked comical, nonsensical, a slightly built young girl holding two large grown men, like an unimaginative special effects scene, cheaply made, unreal, unconvincing. But then the action started, and the scene became more focused. Expressions of pain appeared on the men's faces and sounds began, cries for her to let go, she was hurting them, crushing their arms. And motion, hapless struggles to break her grip, the straining of their muscles, the reddening and contortion of their faces, balanced by Andra's calm, unchanging posture, her only tiny movements being first that small smile again, her lip curling under her front teeth and then a slight tightening of her grip on their arms accompanied by new cries of pain as her small fingers crushed their biceps to the bone. And the emotion, the men's fear, their panic, contrasting with the growing look of triumph evident on Andra's face, the pleasure of turning the tables on them so completely, so quickly. All that looked very real. And then Andra pushed one of the men to the ground and rested her foot on his chest while she lifted the other above her head and held him there, balancing him with the tips of her fingers on his chest and stomach as if he weighed just a few pounds.

The man in the air looked astonished and then terrified. His arms were free, and he started pounding on her shoulders, arms, head and face with his fists. His blows had absolutely no effect on her. Her arms held him steady, not even vibrating when he connected. Her face was unmarked. Not a hair moved out of place. Andra didn't even blink when his fist struck her eye. But she did look annoyed. With a sudden scowl and barely a flick of her wrist she threw the man into the air. There was no audible cry, no further sound at all. He disappeared too quickly for that. No one in the crowd saw where he went. No one saw him come down -- if he ever came down. She looked to the sky for a few seconds before a grim smile appeared on her face. Then she turned to the other man who had been trying for several minutes to lift her small foot off his chest. She did it herself and immediately he was on his feet, clutching his chest but pushing his way through the crowd. She let him go for ten seconds and then jumped over the crowd twenty feet into the air and glided over to him, arms crossed in front of her chest, until she descended and landed directly in front of him, blocking his escape. The crowd drew back, leaving the man to face her alone. Once again he searched the sky in vain for his friend, swallowed and turned his eyes to each side, but the crowd was packed too thickly here for him even to think of getting through. She looked up at him cockily and put her hands on her narrow hips, wiggling them suggestively. The effect was probably not exactly what she had intended; with her slight build she looked comical again, resembling nothing more terrifying than a pre-teen Britney Spears wannabee copying a saucy dance from a music video.

"Jus looka ya, ya big stupit, shakin in ya big stupit lookin boots," she said in her high-pitched voice, in an accent jarring and harsh. She spat at him, spewing a glob of liquid up into each of his eyes.

Angry but still seemingly abashed at fighting a slight girl he rubbed his eyes clean and snarled, "You think you can -- NOBODY spits at me!" He grabbed her shoulders and tried to pull her out of the way, but she stood still, immovable as a statue, and instead he stumbled, off balance, and she slapped his hands away.

"Wha wa DAT? Ya mus be sucha WEAKLIN. Nuttin morna big PUSSY meeyan!" she whined. She pushed her chin forward and stuck out her tongue and moved her shoulders back and forth, again looking like a young girl doing a pale imitation of Janet Jackson, her small, firm breasts moving a lot less than Janet's.

He was red with rage, beyond all inhibition. "Why, you fucking little bitch!" he roared and swung his fist at her face at full force. Some in the crowd gasped at the sight of his full out attack, which Andra made no effort to block. He connected with her cheek and the loud crack of the bones of his knuckles breaking and his wrist snapping, followed by his gruesome howl of pain, made the whole crowd shudder, while Andra stood unmoved, her chin in exactly the same position.

"Awwww. I tink ya musta bwoken id! Paw widdle baybee meeyan! Mebbee yauda wet Andwa see id. Andwa's god weawy weawy good ayuhs!" She held his arm by the forearm and stared at it. Suddenly the man began screaming and the sickening smell of burning flesh filled the park.

"No! No! Stop! Please!" he begged, falling to his knees, his hand and his wrist remaining in Andra's hand, while the portion between his wrist and his shoulder vaporized and vanished.

"I tink mebbee dissis yaws," she said, offering it to him.

He recoiled in horror and started sobbing. "Please ... please ... let me --

She looked down at him, putting her hand on her chin as if considering it, but then shook her head firmly. Her eyes narrowed and roamed over the rest of his body. His screams became louder as his clothing and then his whole body burst into flames, and with a slight rise of her eyebrows her eyes emitted a final blast that briefly made him glow white before he was no more than a small pile of ashes, which she scattered to the winds with one mighty breath. A hush fell over the crowd, except for the wailing of a few women and the cries of children too small to see but who heard and understood the meaning of a man's screams of terror and pain.

She looked at Andrew out of the corner of her eye, her gaze lingering long enough to make him and the rest of the crowd wonder whether she was about to incinerate him as well, but just said, loudly and clearly, "See what I can do? Isn't this just gonna KILL you!""

Andrew turned away and pushed through the crowd to find his friends, easy enough because everyone else was now focused on Andra. This couldn't be happening. It had to be a mistake. A stupid mistake, like getting Guillermo's last name wrong in their demonstration. The Power Source would correct it. They had to.

He voiced his thoughts the moment he reached his friends. "This is insane. She's not fit to have superpowers. They're for me, not her!" Mark and Jill nodded, while Luisa looked on, looking earnest and sympathetic but confused until Andrew translated. "They've GOT to stop her," Andrew continued.

Jill pursed her lips in frustration. "While those beams were going into her I sent an email to the address on the website to tell them, but it just bounced back as undeliverable. And the site itself. It's so stupid. Look at it! Now it says, 'Congraduation Andraw Clarke. Hour work her is doome. We halve choken you Andre. What wont yous todo nowwwww.'" She held it up to Andrew and Mark. "Look at how it's written!"

"Damnit! Look at all the mistakes. How can they be so sloppy? Don't they know the difference between Andrew Clark and Andra Clarken!" Andrew said angrily. "'Our work is done.' Damn it, it's not! 'We have chosen you, Andrew.' Sure, but why the fuck did they give Andra my powers? 'What do you want to do now?' Jesus!"

Mark stared at it. "If this weren't so horrible it would be funny. I mean, you could read it the way you're doing, but you could also read it like ... 'Congratulations Andra Clarken.' Well, that's obvious. They would have misspelled either your names. 'An hour's work' which is what it took. 'Her is doom!' Well, is Andra doom for all of us? For the whole world? Maybe that was their whole plan. What do you think? 'We've half choked you Andrew' or something like that, meaning they've screwed you over. And then, 'What you won't do now?' meaning, like, 'Think about what you won't be able to do now.' I mean, if they were evil or something, that would be a real taunt to get at you, wouldn't it?"

"No! I can't believe that. These things don't happen. People don't act like that. Don't you agree Jill?"

Jill looked at Mark and Andrew and then Luisa. "I don't know. We don't know anything about The Power Source, do we. This is all so strange, so out of the ordinary that I don't know what to think. All I know is, suddenly it's all become so ... so horrible!"

Andrew looked at Luisa for more support, and she smiled sympathetically but couldn't understand a word of what they were saying.

"Well I'm telling you. It's just the same as the Guillermo Prieto mistake," Andrew affirmed "except it's a million times worse. The thought of all that power in a high school dropout waitress with all the emotional maturity of a two year old!" He stamped his foot. "Not, it's just impossible that this was their plan! I can't believe ANYONE could be so STUPID as to give ANDRA CLARKEN super-powers! All I know is if they don't do something, then we'll have to!" Andrew concluded.

"Sure thing, Mr. Hero, but how?" Mark answered. "Let's see. She has super-strength, she's invulnerable to punches at least and probably lots more, she can leap twenty feet in the air and float around, and she can burn us to a crisp in a blink of an eye. So far it looks like she's got all the powers of Superman. And I haven't seen any kryptonite around, have you? Yeah, fighting her sounds like a good move!"

"Oh yeah! Goodie-goodie. I'd really just LOVE to see you try!" It was Andra, who had suddenly appeared next to them. With blinding speed she reached inside Jill's purse, grabbed her IPAQ and crushed it with her thumb and forefinger into a useless ball of scrap. "No more emails to The Power Source!" she ordered, and dropped it onto the ground.

"Hey!" Jill said, angrily. "I've got my whole LIFE on that thing!"

Andra clenched her fists and looked up at Jill. "Your whole life? Do you think I care?" She stomped on it and compressed the ball into a thin pancake. "There! Maybe you should start thinking about just how much MORE of your life I'll LET you have!"

"So this is what you're going to do with your powers, Andra? Kill her? Kill us all?" Andrew said.

"Andrew!" Jill said, alarmed. "Did you see what she can do? Don't make things worse than they are!"

"Oh, it would be so easy. I could do it quick or very, very slowly." She looked hard at Jill and then at the rest of them one, at a time, until she turned back to Andrew. "Mark here said I have the powers of Superman? -- Yeah, I heard everything all of you said. No secrets from me! -- Well, you have no idea just how MUCH powers I got, and what I can do with 'em. You still think you can ignore me, talk about me behind my back, treat me like I'm a nobody, a loser. But I'm NOT! I'm special. I'll show you. I'll show all of you, 'cause I'M the ONE now! The Super One!"

"You're a MISTAKE, that's what YOU are! I'M the real Super One. Everybody knows that. Even you know. You know it so well you were going to kill me before I could get my powers!" Andrew said. "Any second now, the SAME thing will happen to you that happened to Guido Barieto. The Power Source will take BACK your powers and give them to ME, where everybody knows they belong!"

"Yeah? Just because YOU say so? You act like you know everything. How YOU do know what they intended to do?"

"Their website said so! I finished first. You were nearly last."

"Maybe not! What if I was fourth and YOU were last? Huh?"

"Fourth? What the hell does that .... So you ACTUALLY think what you got was FOURTH prize? I mean ...."

Andrew looked at his friends, making sure they all knew just how STUPID Andra sounded.

Andra's face reddened and her lips pressed tightly together. "Well, anyway, that message Jill read before, it didn't say 'Andrew Clark', did it? Like your friend here said, it could have been about me!"

"Mark always says things like that, just to be clever, but it's just talk. The words in that message, they're all just typos. Somebody's finger slipped, that's all. Why would they have all these competitions and then award the prize to someone who was eliminated in the very first round? It makes no sense. Even YOU have to be able to see THAT! It's just a matter of time before they --"

Suddenly a rectangular area on Andra's chest started to glow white, even where the metal bikini covered her skin, and around the white glow other colors, the same colors that were in the additional beams, appeared in small dots around it.

"Look! Look at that! It's happening. I KNEW it would!" Andrew said triumphantly to his friends, ignoring Andra. "Just like I just said, they realized their mistake. They're taking her powers away, just like they did with Barieto! They HAD to, and now they are!"

The lights grew brighter and slowly extended outward toward Andrew. The crowd gasped. Andra shook her head anxiously and shouted. "No! NO! You CAN'T! I won't LET you!" She put her hands up, palms outward, as if to ward off whatever was happening, but it was to no avail. The beam was becoming too bright to look at. It extended further from her chest and was now nearly three inches long. Slowly it began to curve toward Andrew, who looked excitedly at each of his friends and stepped closer, although not right into the beam, recalling how it had repulsed him before when he might have been too aggressive. Andra looked from side to side, her expression becoming more and more anxious. She tried to move away but even with all the power she had just demonstrated she seemed rooted in place, even paralyzed. The beam was now two-thirds of the way toward Andrew and inching closer and closer, while the colored parts organised themselves around it like a rainbow.

"Holy Shit!" Mark said.

"It's beautiful!" Jill murmured, and Luisa echoed, "Cómo es bonita!"

Andrew turned to them to acknowledge their comments and share his burgeoning excitement, but he was too keyed up to speak. It was finally happening; his dream, briefly denied but now fully confirmed. He turned back, heart pounding, preparing himself for the beam to reach him. He felt the tingling of its energy, electric, much more than electric. And then it hit and the feelings became orgasmic. All of the exhaustion and pain from lifting the cannonball vanished in an instant; he was filled with limitless energy and strength and felt ready to leap in the air and soar forever. Strangely, he could not move from the spot -- the beam must temporarily remove his muscular control -- but his mind was whirling with connections, sensations, long-forgotten memories and insights. His vision was transformed, as if he could see in thirty dimensions, so vivid were the colors, the details, the intensity of his power to focus, and every object he saw was fixed in his mind in relation to all the others. Yes, he was becoming super! He WAS super! He saw Andra's expression of dismay and his joy became even more intense, if that were possible. He would have to deal with her. She had already killed two men in front of everyone, and countless others must have been killed or injured when she had destroyed the apartment building. He would rescue as many as he could and then arrest her -- his first act as the Super One would be to correct HER wrongs! And then onward to glory, to making the world --

Abruptly, his exultant feelings faded, his new energy was draining away. The feeling of utter freedom was vanishing. Gravity reasserted itself, as though lines of force were wrapping themselves around each muscle in his body, tethering him in place, demanding his strength, calling on his once again limited energy. The voices of the crowd, which moments earlier were individually distinguishable fell back into a dull roar, and his whirling thoughts became as senseless as the images that filled his brain just before sleep.

The beam still connected Andra and him but the rainbow colors around it were merging together, darkening to an ugly, muddy brown. Then they disappeared. Dark spots appeared around the white center, like sunspots, and then the whole beam lost its coherence, became rougher, jagged and then began to disintegrate, the portions close to Andrew fading away, the brighter portion between them getting smaller and duller. Soon the beam was again no more than a glowing spot on Andra's torso. Then it vanished completely. Andrew stared at her chest, the metal bikini once again its original color, its smooth surface still punctuated by the shape her aroused nipples had imprinted on it.

"Andrew! Andrew! Are you all right?" he heard Jill's voice ask, but he was still frozen in place, unable to answer or even to turn his head to look at her. What he could see was Andra, a vibrant, mocking smile on her face. He wanted to lash out at that face, to scream, or to flee. Anything but to see that smile and those smug, stupid, eyes that saw and understood nothing except the one thing that mattered more than anything in the world: that she was super, still super, that he was not, and that nothing had changed.

Andra stretched her arms, able to move again. "Oh yeah! I'M all right! I'm so fucking powerful. Yeah. You saw. They tried but they CAN'T take 'em away!"

Andrew's eyes were still locked on Andra, forced to gaze at her chest in dismay, unable to accept what had just happened ... again.

She looked up at the sky where the first beams had originated. Her forehead furrowed. A bright red beam shone from her eyes and a searing blast of heat thawed Andrew's muscles and forced him to step back several feet. After several seconds she stopped but continued to look in the same direction, watching and listening with her super-senses. Then she smiled and put her hands on her narrow hips. "Yeah, that'll teach 'em! HA! Oh yeah. That's that! Hey, whatcha looking at, 'Andy'? Didn't anyone ever tell you it's not nice to stare at a girl's tits?" She pulled at the metal bikini, modestly reshaping it slightly around her breast as if it were made of putty. She giggled with pleasure and swayed her chest from side to side.

Andrew's eyes followed her movements, still focused on the spot where the beam had emerged, trying to will it back into existence. He gave no sign of having heard her. "My powers. I can't believe it. I can't believe it," he finally said, softly. "What about my powers?"

He turned to his friends, beseeching them for an answer, which Andra supplied instead.

"Powers? You think YOU had POWERS?" she said, laughing. "That was NOTHING! All you had was a tiny taste of what I have. I know, cause all the time they were trying to take 'em away, I still had practically EVERYTHING they'd given me. And now -- well you can just forget about EVER getting them. The REAL powers are NEVER going to be yours. Not even the little, teeny tiny bits you just had."

"You can't know that! They nearly did it just now, and they WILL find a way to get them to me. The Power Source will --

"The 'Power Source' -- HA! I'M the power source now. They're not POWERFUL enough to get their power back, not against ME. Didn't you think of THAT -- that the powers they gave me protect me against they're taking them back? And anyway, most of those people are dead now."

"Of course they can!" Andrew said, even though he was losing confidence within. He looked up into the sky, but he could see nothing. "They gave the powers to you. They have to be able to take them back."

"Take my word for it, 'Andy'," she sang out, looking again in the same direction. "They don't know WHAT they're doing. They made me so powerful they can't stop me. Anyway I just blew up their little power machine with my hot vision and killed a bunch of 'em and now they're running around like idiots, more scared about what I'm gonna do to 'em next than what they're gonna do to me. Ha ha. One of 'em just fell right into the fire. They're practically trippin' over themselves getting out of there, they're so worried about what I'm gonna do to 'em next!"

"I don't believe you," Andrew said, with even less conviction.

"Well, since YOU can't see far enough, what choice do ya have? You shouldn't be trusting them so you oughta take my word for it. Their whole Power Source thing always seemed pretty stupid to me. I mean, why would ANYONE give these fanTAStic super-powers I have to somebody ELSE? I'd of kept them for myself if I could do what they did, not give 'em to some stranger."

Andrew was stumped for a second. He opened his mouth but nothing came out.

"Ha! Can't think of anything to say? See, these powers make me smarter too, smarter than you. I'm so much BETTER than you now in EVERY way!" She looked up at him triumphantly, smirking, and shook her hips back and forth.

"You are NOT!" Andrew said hotly. "You say that EXACTLY because of the kind of person you are, completely selfish. Without these powers you're nothing and you KNOW it!" His face was red and his muscles clenched as he stared down at Andra who shrank back hurt for a brief moment at his remark but then held her ground and pushed her chest out as far as it would go.

"Andrew, take it easy," Mark cautioned. "Whatever should have happened didn't. You have to remember: she's super now and you're not."

"Cuidado, querido," Luisa said, putting her arm lightly on Andrew's.

Andra smiled at Mark's statement but frowned threateningly at Luisa. "What's SHE calling me?" Andra said, glaring at Luisa, who shrunk back behind Andrew.

"She ... she's just telling me to be careful," Andrew said, positioning himself to protect her. "That's all."

"I don't believe you! You can't hide, 'señorita'. Not behind him, not anywhere. I could put my hand right THROUGH him to get you if you get in MY way!" Andrew looked down at her, defiantly shielding Luisa. "What, you think you could stop me? Just because you're bigger?"

Andrew's urge to protect Luisa took over. "You are so small, Andra, in EVERY way. Not only your body, but also in your heart and your spirit. You won't hurt us. I'm still going to trust that the Power Source knows what it's doing. They made a mistake but they're going to fix it. They said the Ten would be protected as long as we needed it. Well, maybe we still need it, from you now instead of from some crazy terrorists. I still have faith. They won't let you hurt us. Threatening us in your small-minded way is just more evidence of how unsuited YOU are for these powers. And I'll bet my life that they'll move heaven and earth to make things right." He took a step closer. He puffed out his chest, unconsciously trying to intimidate Andra.

"You're being so stupid. They can't do anything to me and you can't either. Just get used to it! Your muscles mean nothing! I'm SUPER! Like your friend said, I'm super and you're NOT!" Andra extended her arm and flexed. There was an almost imperceptible tightening, an infinitesimal rise in the surface of her slender upper arm revealing the extent of her musculature. "Heh heh. You say I'm small, huh? Oh yeah, sure I am. For now! But it doesn't matter. Not anymore. Not one little bit!" In a flash she took Andrew's wrist in her hand and stopped for a moment, feeling it, testing its solidity and the feel of his skin. She looked at him and unconsciously massaged the corner of her mouth with her tongue. Then she set her lip and twisted his arm behind his back using as much effort as it would take to twist a strand of cooked spaghetti. "See? That hurts you, huh? It hurt me when you did it before I got super." She pushed down a little further and Andrew groaned. "Yeah, that must really hurt, huh? See what I can do? Just look at your whole body straining to get free, and meanwhile I'm not even trying, not even using a tiny little bit of my strength." She laughed, "I mean, do I need muscles? I've got superpowers!" she crowed.

Andrew's face showed his pain. He looked up at his friends and their worried faces drained his confidence even more. But he couldn't lose heart or let them despair. They were depending on him. The whole world depended on him. Why, of course! Why hadn't he seen it before. Everything else was just a ruse. THIS was his final test! To determine whether he would see it through to the end, to risk everything for what he knew was right. Only then would the Power Source find him worthy and give him the powers.

"Back off, I tell you, you little demon!" he exclaimed through his pain. "You've killed two people right here already, and who knows how many more in town. Don't make things any worse for yourself playing your stupid little power games. Any moment now, the person who deserves these powers will get them, and I swear that then you'll find that being on the receiving end of MY super-powers will be VERY unpleasant."

Andra looked stunned by the violence of his words. She let go of him and shoved him to the ground. "You STILL think you can boss me around. You think you're being some kind of 'hero', but you're just ... you're just being a jerk! When are you going to get it into your head that I'm the one who matters, that -- yeah, well let's see you protect HER!"

She flew over the heads of a dozen people and grabbed Jessie from the crowd and then hopped back with her in hand. Two hulking body guards pushed forward to protect her. "You've GOT to be kidding!!" She looked up at the men and jumped above their heads and dropped down onto them, corralling their necks with her legs, and sat on top of them. She looked right at Andrew. "You know what's the opposite of flying power?" she asked. The men staggered unsteadily, then their legs started to buckle until they collapsed onto the ground, their bones shattered under the surprising weight of Andra's body. The ground trembled and the earth started compressing beneath her. The crowd, including Andrew and his friends, quickly backed away from the sinkhole developing under Andra and the crushed remains of Jessie's bodyguards until it was thirty feet around and sixty feet below the surface.

Jessie peered down over the edge but uttered an anguished cry and turned away in horror, while Andrew shook his head in shock and put his arms around her. Both of them pulled back to get out of the way when Andra leapt back out of the hole and settled back onto the ground in front of them, grinning. She pulled her gore-stained track pants down and kicked them off, leaving her thin legs bare up to her pink cotton panties. She pointed at Andrew. "That was because of what you said, Andrew! Their deaths are YOUR fault!" She whirled around and snarled at Jessie. "Now you're on your own, Jessie. Do you think Andrew's going to save YOU?" she said, teasing her in a threatening sort of way.

Jessie turned back to Andrew. "Stay where you are, Andrew. Either I will protect myself or the Power Source will. You stay with Luisa!" She faced Andra uncertainly, her voice much shakier than Andrew's. "C-come on. This is pointless, isn't it? "W-why are you hurting people like this?"

Andra put her hands on her narrow hips. "Why shouldn't I? Like I owe them or YOU ANYTHING? Somebody like you would never've even noticed me before. You didn't care about me, so I don't care about you!" She looked down at Jessie's legs. "Those are nice pants. I want them. Now!"

"M-my trousers? B-but ... well, ok, I mean, if it'd make you happy, sure!" She started unbuttoning them but her hands were trembling. "P-please!" she cried. "I -- I'm t-trying but my fingers won't --" She finally undid three of the buttons, pulled the pants down over her hips and wriggled out of them. "H-here!" she said, holding them out to Andra, her hand shaking. The crowd complimented Jessie's silk thong panties and her tanned and well-toned legs and butt with a few whistles.

Andra snatched the pants and pulled them on. They were three quarter's length on Jessie but came down to Andra's ankles and fit loosely on her hips until Andra tightened the belt. "Nice stuff. What is it?"

"S-silk. They're from Paris." Jessie gave a thin, nervous smile. "I have more. At home. If you want them." She blinked, trying to look brave without challenging Andra, but also to break down her hostile attitude.

"I'll bet you do. You have tons of this kind of stuff I bet. Tons of money too. Right?"

"Well, uh, yeah. My family's very, uh, well off." Jessie nodded.

"Well off! Oh I bet! Give me ALL of yours then. Not just the pants. The money too. And maybe I'll let you live. It'd be fun to see what you'd act like without any of your money!"

"M-my money?" Jessie said, horrified. "But ... but if you're super, what do you need my money for? I mean ...." Andra stepped closer and Jessie took a half step backwards. "You don't understand. It's n-n-not mine really. Not yet. It's tied up ... in trust. I don't even really know what's mine exactly. I can find out ... but ...."

Andra glared. "You're bullshitting me. Who pays for all the things you do? You just fly down here in a helicopter, with bodyguards and stuff. You fly people to your house in Barbus or whatever. What do you mean you don't have it?"

"Barbados, you mean? I get an income. From my trust fund. But my father and the trustees control the principal. Until I'm 25. And then I get some of it, but mostly it's still tied up with other family money. I don't even understand all of it. I could get our investment manager to explain it to you. Or my father. He'd --

Andra put her hands over her ears in frustration. "What do you mean? They don't trust you? Who is the principal and what does he have to do with it? Is it yours or not?"

"No, no. Not that kind of principal. The money, I mean. It's --" Jessie started to explain.

"Forget it! Your father has your money? Then I'll kill HIM if he doesn't give it to me. ALL of it!" Jessie's lips were quivering. "I'll make it simple. We switch houses, clothes and everything. I'll take all of yours and you can have mine. Yeah, my one room apartment, which used to be above the dry cleaners and now is a pile of dust. Oh yeah, I'd LOVE to see that! A real Trading Places, like the TV show! And I'll take your planes, your cars, your clothes. All of them. Your mother's, your father's. Your aunts' and uncles'. Do you have any brothers? Any sisters? They can ALL live on the street! Nice and cosy! Or they die. I can start with Mom!"

"You wouldn't do that!" Jessie said. "They haven't done anything to YOU!"

"So what!" Andra smiled. "Why should I care? Who's going to stop me? Andrew here? It'll be fun to watch what happens. I can make the TV people put it all on TV, like Big Brother!"

Jessie was shaking her head in horror. "No! Please! You can't do that to them! They've never done anything to you."

"Stop it! You're playing with her! Torturing her!" Andrew said. He took a few steps toward them.

"No, Andrew! Stay where you are! I don't want you to get involved!" Jessie said, her voice almost a screech. She reached into her purse and pulled out a can of concentrated Mace her father made her carry for protection and pointed it at Andra as best as she could with her hands shaking. "You're a devil! THAT'S what you are! A devil!!" she shouted and sprayed Andra at point blank range. The crowd backed off as the noxious liquid spewed out in a cloud around Andra. Andra laughed loudly. Small droplets formed on her face and dripped down, and Andra lapped it up and then pursed her lips, began inhaling and drew the cloud of vapour into her lungs. Jessie, her face ugly and contorted in anger, kept spraying until the can was nearly exhausted. "No!" she said, despairing, dropping the can onto the ground, sobbing, "It didn't affect her at all! What am I going to do!"

Andra rubbed the excess drops from her face onto her fingers, licked them clean and smacked her lips. "What did you expect?" She pointed to her chest with her thumb. "Super! Remember? You can't hurt me! But ... let's see what it does to YOU!" She pursed her lips and blew a narrow concentrated stream of the Mace she'd breathed in up Jessie's perfect nose. Jessie screamed at first contact and started convulsing. In just seconds she was on the ground shaking and after a minute she stopped, dead.

There was silence in the crowd.

"WOW. Didja see THAT? You're definitely NOT protected. Hmmmm?" Andra grinned happily. "Just like I said. The Power Source's deserted you and you're gonna HAFTA pay attention and listen to ME! I'M the one who matters. I'M in charge!"

Andrew was furious. "This is unbelievable! I was going to use those powers for good. To help all the people of the world! And you ... in half an hour you've KILLED all these people!" Luisa was weeping and Andrew held her. "Luisa, Luisa, no te preocupe, Luisa!" he said.

"What, you're going to HER again? What IS it with you and all these girls!" Andra turned red with anger and roared at him, her high pitched voice painfully loud. "Who are YOU to lecture ME about HELPING people! What did you ever do for ME? HUH? I LOVED you and you USED me! You USED me for PRACTICE and then LEFT me! IGNORED me! HUMILIATED me! And that RYHME, that STUPID RHYME. EVERYBODY KNOWS IT! I heard it EVERYWHERE! Even yesterday!"

Andrew turned back to her. "Not THAT again. It would have been forgotten the next day if you had just ignored it the first time. It's your reaction that keeps it alive five years later."

"NO! It's NOT my fault! Everybody said it was because it was TRUE. My tits WERE SMALL. I'm twenty years old and I'm STILL as small and as ... sexy as ... as a TWELVE year old. THAT's why!" She leapt closer and pushed her finger into Jill's generous bosom. "Just like SHE said. That's how I was back then and I STILL am NOW!" She glared at Andrew. "UNTIL now! Ha! Listen to you, you and your stupid talk about what YOU'D do with super-powers! You're good at competitions and making people think you're good, but what have you EVER done for anyone else but yourself and your stupid so-called cool friends. You run around in your expensive cars at your stupid parties and all you do is make fun of everyone else. What's so great about YOU?"

"I never said I was great, and I'm NOT rich! But even if I were, I'd still just be a normal guy. Yes, sure I have friends and go to parties, but I work hard too, trying to make something of myself. And I worked hard to get the powers! I deserve them. I WON them! Maybe it's because I'm not always going around feeling sorry for myself, feeling like everybody is against me, like the whole world owes me! That's what's different about us!"

Andra stared at him and then laughed bitterly. "Oh you are SO FULL of SHIT! You think THAT'S how we're different? All I hear you saying is that this isn't FAIR! How YOU'RE the one who's supposed to have the powers. You worked SO hard for them! AWWWWWWW! Poor widdle BABY! Wrote his report and the teacher didn't give him the "A" grade he deserved!"

Andrew tried to control his anger. "That's not what I meant!"

"Yes it IS. And anyway, who CARES? YOU think YOU won? HA!!! It doesn't MATTER! DIDN'T you just SEE what I DID? DIDN'T you just get a little FEEL of how POWERFUL I am? Doesn't THAT make you FEEL different? You have no IDEA what I can do! What power I have! THEN you'll see. Yeah, I'll SHOW you! I'll show you powers you never even IMAGINED! Not in your wildest dreams." She waved her hand over Jill from her chest down to her hips and in a matter of seconds the wonderful curves Jill had enjoyed since she was only thirteen began to deflate. Her breasts grew smaller and smaller until there was nothing to them but the puffy nipples of a prepubescent girl. Her magnificent body was completely flat and featureless, much more so than Andra's. Her shirt flapped loosely on her frame. Her pants hung baggily on narrow hips barely wider than her waist and, after searching unsuccessfully for a butt to hold them up, sagged down in back.

Jill put her hands to her cheeks and screamed "No-o-o-o! My BODY!" and the sudden motion caused her pants to drop to her knees.

Andra smiled cruelly and then made the same motions to herself. Breasts the size of Jill's sprouted on her chest, her super-flesh stretching the metal bra so that it threatened to snap, until Andra reshaped it into two bars that fit over her shoulders and expanded over the ends of her breasts. Her waist narrowed and her hips widened, straining the fabric of Jessie's silken trousers. "HAHA! I've got SUPER-curves now. Aren't they fanTAStic! Just what I've always wanted." She twirled around happily. "Now, what was that line about not being 'tall at all'? I'll get some height too!"

She turned to Mark, who backed away. "No! Don't!" he begged, holding his hands up. "I've never done anything to you!"

"You've always been on Andrew's side. Now you can take the bad side with the good!" She waved her hands the length of his body and his natural endowment of muscle faded away, along with the conditioning and enhancement that years of training had given him, until his arms were as thin and soft as Andra's. Then he started shrinking until he was barely five feet tall.

He looked up at Andrew and Jill beseechingly.

"What can THEY do? THEY don't have any super-powers! I'M the One, not Andrew!" She put her hands on her curvy hips and did a little shimmy. "Ooooh! Look how everything MOVES when I do that! How do you like being MY size? Looking up to everyone. Feeling like a child no matter how old you are! Weak, defenseless, disregarded. It feels horrible, doesn't it, especially when you DON'T have super-powers! HA! I forgot! THIS isn't MY size any MORE!"

She ran her hands along her body and immediately started growing taller, broader, more muscular until she was the same height Mark used to be, four inches taller than Andrew. Bulging biceps popped out of her bared arms, which she flexed with pleasure. "Yes! Not that I NEED muscles, not the way you ORDINARY people do! But I LIKE them! I LIKE being BIG and SEXY!" "Yeah! Look at these big tits I have now. I never needed a bra before when I was small, and these supertits don't need one either. What do you think of 'em now, huh, Andrew?" she said as he looked up at her in dismay. She cupped her breasts with her hands and shook her shoulders. "Just look at them!" she said, turning her eyes briefly to Mark and then back to Andrew, as their eyes were irresistibly drawn to her large and amazingly firm breasts. "Wouldn't you just DIE to touch my tits now? And you know, you just MAY if you DO!" she said, laughing at the threat.

Jill went to Mark protectively, putting her hands around him, pulling his head against her flat chest.

Hey, watch you don't hurt your head, Mark!" Andra said, jeering. "Nothing soft THERE!" She laughed again. "Come on, Andrew. Can't you protect your friends? Go on! Help them! Make me behave! Beat me up! Take away my powers! What? Don't know how? Awww, too bad! But shouldn't you be trying anyway, Mr. Helpful? Mr. Perfect Citizen?"

"I'm not talking about beating anyone up," he growled.

"Oh, that's good! Anyway, now that I have your friend's muscles you couldn't take me even if I wasn't super!" She flexed her arm and admired the large biceps that bulged round and high. "I look more super than Superman. And I AM! I have powers he never even DREAMED of! And NOW I'm STRONG and SEXY! NOBODY can do ANYTHING to STOP ME!"

Luisa stepped toward Andra, her face dark with anger. "Eres una mujer malvada! Podrás tener súper poderes. Podrás tener grandes senos. Pero tu nunca tendrás lo que le da a una mujer su verdadero poder!" Luisa said.

"Luisa!" Andrew said, frightened for her. "No hables así a su!"

Andra's eyes flashed. "What did she say?"

"I ... I don't know." Andrew said.

Andra pulled Andrew away from Luisa and lifted him in the air. "You know her language! Tell me. Don't think I don't have powers that are even more frightening than the ones I've used so far!"

Andrew looked fearfully at Luisa.

"And you can be sure I've memorized the sounds she made." She repeated the words, mimicking Luisa's voice perfectly. "I can ask someone else too. And if you don't get ALL of it right she dies, RIGHT here. RIGHT now!"

Andrew mouthed a sorry to Luisa. "I ... I can't translate it exactly. She said something like, 'You are very bad. You may have super-powers. You may have big breasts. But you will never have what gives a woman her true power".

The words stopped Andra cold. Andra looked at Luisa's eyes and saw in her the truth of her own inferiority. Luisa knew and so did Andrew! Her bravado vanished, and all the insecurities of the girl she had been not many moments ago rose to the surface. She blinked a few times and saw Luisa as if for the first time: the way she stood, one hand on her hip, one leg slightly bent, showing the curve of a hip caught in the middle of a movement, a movement that effortlessly had the beauty of a dance; the way her eyes flashed her emotion, her long lashes fluttering, one eyebrow raised, her green eyes almost dizzying; the way her lip curled, the deep red vivid against her white teeth; the way she dressed, her simple clothes perfectly arranged, the bright colors balancing her honey toned skin and the tones in her hair; her voice, which Andra played back in her head, conveying a symphony of expression even in an unknown language. Her breasts were smaller than Andra's. Why did they seem so much rounder, softer, sweeter?

Andra's eyes narrowed, and for a moment Andrew thought she would incinerate Luisa with her dreadful 'hot' vision, but Andra shook her head. "No. I won't let you win! I won't let him think of you that way for even one second more!" Andra cried. She closed her eyes and waved her hands at Luisa.

Luisa looked frightened and tried to run away but it happening already. "No" she cried. "No lo hagas!" But even as she spoke something was changing within her. Her final words sounded flattened. Her expression went flaccid. Her shoulders slumped and she stood at an awkward angle, her blouse no longer hanging properly. The color drained from her lips. Her eyes seemed dull, her skin rough. "No puede ... Yo no soy así," she said in a lifeless monotone.

Andra opened her eyes and looked up and down at Luisa. She grinned broadly. "You sure look different now, Louise! Now let's see what that 'womanpower' you had does for me!" Andra ran her hands up her own body and as she did so it was as if her whole being came into extra sharp focus. She pulled Mark's shirt off his shrunken body, tucking one side in to part of Jessie's pants and it seemed to become a designer top. Her hair deepened to a lustrous brown. Her lips glowed red and curled in a frightening but alluring sneer. And although her measurements were unchanged, her six foot tall, amazonic hourglass figure went from imposing voluptuousness to dazzling splendor, a goddess of sex, a supernova of beauty.

"Yes, THAT'S what I was missing! Imagine! I didn't even know it was there," she sang out breathily. "But now that I do, I'm sure that if some is good, then a whole lot more will be even better!" She looked through the crowd, finding the small group of women who also had that special allure, drawing from them to add to what she'd taken from Luisa, then expanding her search, until she'd absorbed the feminine powers of the hundred most beautiful women in the world. "It's really SO easy when you know how," she said, looking down at Andrew through half-closed eyes, her rich, musical voice giving her perfectly chosen words the astounding beauty of a Mozart aria. Mark and Andrew, who were closest to her, groaned in response to the devastating explosion of her femininity.

Andrew looked at Luisa and then quickly turned away, unable to bear the vision of what she was now compared with what she had been. "You monster!" he shouted at Andra and rushed at her, but she stopped him with a look, a slight tilt of her head, a flare of her nostrils and a quick blast of superbreath, warm, fragrant and utterly impassable.

"Ooooh, what's wrong, honey? Is there something you want to say to me?" she sang, able to hone the pitch of her voice even while the force of her breath held him at bay. Andrew stared at her, his fists clenched, his organ engorged, his desire overwhelming him as though he were a mere animal in heat. "Oh, it must be so hard for you, isn't it? My being so very, very pretty," she laughed at her understatement. "And yet so very, very powerful! Just when you thought everyone and everything was going to revolve around you. Hmmmm?" She smiled, showing her white teeth and swiveling her hips a fraction. "Instead, it's ALL about me!" She put her hands on her waist and undulated her hips. "Awwwww, don't you like it when I move like that? You look like you're having such a difficult time. Being a man and being around me, why, you must be feeling so many things, all at once. Don't you want to tell Andra, Super Andra, ALL about it?" she teased, her voice a symphony that could outtrill a thousand trained nightingales. She raised and lowered her eyes and then shifted her shoulders flirtatiously.

"No ... you can't be ... so beautiful. You can't ...." His eyes were locked on her, moving insatiably up and down her body and side to side. She was just standing, waiting, and yet still seemed to move in countless subtle ways, each position revealing a new vision of irresistible splendor.

"Can't? As if there were ANYTHING I didn't have the power to do?" She smiled, dazzling him with her bright, perfect teeth, the shape of her ruby lips, the scent of her breath, the dangling possibility of her kindness, her attention. "Poor, pathetic, weakling Andrew. You can't do anything about your feelings for me, and you can't do anything to stop me."

Andra quickly reappeared with two teenage boys, the ones who had sung the rhyme about her just yesterday. Now with her growth they were several inches shorter than she was, and she carried them carelessly, the way a three year old carries a doll. "Hey little boys, I bet YOU'RE sorry now you learned that song, aren't you?" she said sweetly. "How one little song can change your life!" Nothing the boys could do could wrest her fingers from their necks. "Do you think, maybe, I'm going to kill you?" They were crying, pleading for their lives. "Well, do you think that depends on you?" she said. "On how good YOU are?" she smiled. "Look at me now! Think hard. Does ANYTHING in that little song STILL seem right?" She dropped them and they stood next to her, dwarfed by her size and power.

The two eagerly turned their attention to her body and gazed at it hungrily. "N-no ma'am. No. You're so beautiful now," one said. The other nodded vigorously.

"Isn't that sweet! So you like my tits now?" she said, and lifted Mark's shirt up part way and peeled back her metal bra to show off one large, firm breast, its skin creamy and flawless, its shape perfectly round and unaffected by gravity, its nipple as pink and erect as the eraser tip of a fresh number 2 pencil. The boys, and all of the men nearby, involuntarily opened their mouths, fantasizing about the opportunity to wrap their lips around a sex object of such perfection. Why? Wasn't it just a breast? Was it the size, as if her perfect body was overflowing into this one, accessible, softly inviting appendage? Or a fragrance, calling to the boys as the beginnings of a mother's milk awakens the appetite of her child? Or the prospect of absorbing somehow the essence of her super-being, her warmth, her strength, her love, nourishment offered to them, unworthy as they may be, as a gift from a goddess who first threatened to take their life and now offered to bless it instead?

"COME!" she said and lifted her shirt higher. Her engorged nipple pushed the sphere up off her other breast, exposing that one too. Seen for the first time it seemed even lovelier than the first. A vision of heaven, a pleasure to end all pleasures. "I said you could COME, boys. Whatever are you waiting for?" She raised her arms invitingly and tensed her pecs and her lats slightly. Mouths open even more widely in astonishment they approached her and then as her hands gathered their heads to her marvelous chest, their lips found her rich areoles and latched on to her already tightening nipples, accompanied by the sounds of the jealous sighs of the men watching, voicing the abject yearning for her they all felt to the very core of the souls. The color in Andra's face rose, her lips turned an even deeper shade of red, her eyes and nostrils opened slightly. "Harder boys, can't you suck harder," she said, urging them on. Her hands tightened against their heads, the boys' knees seemed to buckle slightly. "Harder, boys. Don't stop now! I expected more from you. More enthusiasm, more excitement, more life!" she teased. Strangely, her breasts, rather than flattening under the pressure of her hand pulling the boys' worshiping mouths closer, were as round and full as ever. But the boys' legs were completely still now, bent at the knees. In fact their legs hardly seemed to be supporting them.

"They're not moving!" someone in the crowd said.

"Yes, I noticed that too!" Andra replied. "They're not doing anything for me. Guess why?"

She removed her hands and the boys fell to the ground, completely still.

"They're dead!" someone said.

Andra smiled and nodded. "I think they stopped breathing! Suffocated. By a tit!" She laughed, the heaving of her chest only now sending her breasts into motion. "And they didn't even make me come. Selfish boys!" She laughed again and began massaging her own breasts. "Ooooh, now THAT feels better! Mmmmmmmmm."

The men stared at her, overcome by her beauty, but several women spoke out in anger.

"You killed them!" someone shouted.

"She's a monster!"

"Won't ANYBODY DO something?!"

The crowd surged forward and Andra laughed. As each man approached she swung her upper body, letting her full breasts fly into the heads, arms or shoulders of her attackers, the impacts breaking their body parts or sending them flying into the air. "Come on little boys! All of you want to fight me? Let's see you prove your manliness against me! Who's next!" She called out. "Who wants my breasts!"

The crowd shrunk back, their conflicting emotions of anger, desire and fear confusing them. Many were crying as their wounded or dead friends and family lay moaning, scattered around Andra. She stood with her shirt resting above her breasts, her hands squeezing them, flaunting them. "They're so beautiful aren't they? But NONE of you even have the strength and stamina to caress them, to suck them, to touch them as they're MEANT to be touched." She fingered her nipples so that they became fully erect, extended, engorged with her super-powered blood. The fragrance of her arousal permeated the air and most of the crowd felt their own desires run out of control. One man ran at her, arms outstretched. Andra bent slightly and then pressed her chest into him as they collided, shattering his body. She quickly burned his remains off her skin and massaged her warm breasts again. "Anyone else?"

The men shuddered and then in front of their friends and family dropped to the ground, arms outstretched to her, humping the earth to relieve their rampant desires.

"Look at them! Look at you all! And YOU, Andrew, no different from the rest of them! Admit it. You're nothing special, just one of the helpless male mob." She curled a finger around his belt and lifted him slowly in the air, letting him look down at her loveliness while feeling his own helplessness against her immense power. "You would do ANYTHING for me now, wouldn't you? Mmmmmmmm hmmmmmm? A real woman knows that sort of thing without having to be told. And I ALSO know it absolutely KILLS you to feel that way! Doesn't it, Andrew?"

He gazed at her body, the curves of her hips angling into the curve of her mighty bust, which melted into the round power of her shoulders, which framed into the perfect bulges of her upper arms.

"Heh heh. I THOUGHT so. Even though I MIGHT have enjoyed killing you like the rest of them, or taking your fragile body in my hands and crushing it to the size of the pea, it's MUCH nicer this way. I only have to let you look at me and think about yet one MORE thing you DON'T have!" She bounced him up and down just by curling her finger. " I have SO many ideas for you. See that girl there watching us? Her name is Clarissa, and she's nine years old. Silly little girl she is, yes, but very domineering. A spoiled little brat who's used to getting everything she wants and does anything she has to in order to make sure she does. She lives in the apartment next to mine. You should hear the way she bosses her parents around and bullies her little brother! I've been listening to whining about plastering pictures of you on her wall for months, ever since you became 'famous'? Wouldn't it be funny to put the two of you together in one of those hidden places on the planet, a little island in the South Pacific where no one would ever find you and you could never leave. I'm sure you'd take good care of her, good man that you are, and teach her all the things a girl should learn! But before you go off together, I'd want to make sure you wouldn't take advantage of her feelings for you. So I'd have to make her at least four times as strong as you are. Then she'd be completely safe in case you had any improper ideas, or were inclined to do anything she might consider 'yucky' -- you should see what she does to her little brother when she catches him playing with himself -- or if you didn't attend to her needs as quickly as her parents do! Of course, she's only nine. Just like any nine year old, she'll get stronger and stronger as she grows up. Who knows? Maybe what she'll want from you will change. Oh, but what if she outgrows her crush on you? What if she figures out that you were responsible for condemning her to live on that little island with you forever and began to resent you? Wouldn't that be fun? From crush to boredom to sadism and CRUSH! Ha HA!"

"Or Greta. Remember her from high school? Big and fat, a glutton for pleasure and attention, but with her strong 'moral' values. She'd be a good partner for you! The two of you, in that safe, secure island place, where no one could find you or help you. Remember what she was like in class. Her strong opinions, her strong sense of right and wrong, mostly about being wronged by other people! What would Greta be like if she were twice as strong as you and healthy as a horse? Especially if she were convinced her health and strength was proof of her rightness. Her blessedness. Imagine trying to argue with her against it! You'd have to be on your very best behaviour and keep her satisfied that you agree. All the time! Or else I'm sure she'd feel she'd have to punish you and explain why you're wrong, and to hear you explain to her again and again how you'll never make the same mistake ever again.

"Either way, you'd never, ever see me or my loveliness ever again?" She smiled a dazzling, devastating smile and ran her fluttering fingers down her shirt, opening it just a fraction, her dancing fingers promising more.

Andrew looked down, desperate to see more. "No! Please, Andra! Not that!"

She pulled him closer so that her scent filled him and spoke in a quiet voice just for him, a voice like soft velvet that felt like a teasing caress, that made his whole body tingle. "You're begging me now, like a little puppy! Don't worry, little boy! It just kills you to see me like this. And it will, every second of every day. To see 'your' powers make me so perfect. Because they ARE your powers, Andrew. I know now that it takes nothing away from me to admit it, but it kills you even more to know, to KNOW ABSOLUTELY that they WERE supposed to be yours. I saw what happened. I was watching them from the moment I first got my super-vision. A typo in their programming, just as you guessed. Those little Power Source people were all in a panic, trying to stop it and then to make it "right". But they couldn’t stop the process in the middle and now they can't take them back. They tried, but they'd given me TOO much power to do it. Not just strength, like that weightlifter. I'm invincible. All powerful. And now, completely irresistible too." She flashed another smile. "So, does it make you feel better, Andrew, to know all of these amazing powers really and truly should have been yours?" She smiled and looked into his eyes deeply. "Oh dear, I can see it's no consolation to you at all!" She took a little breath of air, just to make her juicy apple-sized breasts shift slightly under her metal bra. "So yes, look all you want, at all that you can never have. I can keep you around, as long as you live, just to watch and serve me. Just as long as it's killing you to be with me!" Her eyes sparkled. "And, if you ever lose interest, or I get bored, it's Greta or Clarissa for you! Or something even worse!" She flicked her finger so he flopped onto the ground on his hands and knees, and she walked away into the crowd, her perfect butt shaking side to side.

Andrew reached for her, her sudden absence even more painful than her words and the humiliation of his unsatisfied desire for her.

"Now, to 'kill' you, Andrew, I suppose I don't even need what I took from Jill and Mark, do I? I know now that a girl doesn't need large breasts and round hips to be beautiful, just like I don't need these muscles to be strong. Even a man doesn't need to be as tall and muscular as Mark to be a man, right? After all, you're not, are you?"

He shook his head, and looked up at her.

"No, you certainly aren't. I knew you'd think so. Because, Andrew, I understand now that a woman is most beautiful when she is most herself. I can see myself, the REAL me already, and it makes ME shiver with excitement. Oh my, how your feeble, helpless male mind is racing. Your heart is pounding, your blood is boiling and your, heh heh, we'll talk about that later. Now that I've mentioned it to you you're 'dying' with curiosity to see just how I'd look, the old Andra, with what I know now, what I AM now. So, Andrew, think about it. You can decide with all of the brainpower you have to spare. Shall I give up the curves I took from Jill and the muscle I took from Mark? You know how Mark just loved Jill's curves? And don't you think Jill just loved Mark's muscles? Just look at your poor friends now."

Andrew did as Andra asked and so Mark, shrunken, feeble and so miserable. Jill, still tall and athletic, but her once curvy body now as flat as Olive Oyl's.

"You see, Andrew? Now, listen carefully. Just say the word and I'll let them have what they love, AND you can see me as I really am. Would you like that, Andrew? It's ALL up to you."

He was speechless, but managed to croak a "Please?"

She laughed and said, more loudly, "Awwww, so polite! Your wish, Andrew, is granted!"

She waved her hands over herself and her body instantly returned to its previous size and shape, but although her figure and her features were the same as they had been earlier that day, her sudden beauty hit Andrew as a body blow, and he staggered, his legs weak, his brain forgetting to breathe. She had made her femininity a superpower. Her smallness only increased Andrew's hunger for her, as if it were a way of depriving Andrew of her splendor, denying his eyes of the sight of as much of her as he craved. Her slender body moved free from any constraint, her lithe muscles infinitely powerful, with perfect control and complete flexibility. Her hair was infused with color and was now a lush, golden brown, arrayed around her head like an aura of light. Her green eyes sparkled, and her red lips danced sensuously with each tiny movement. The metal bra shrunk as she did and still clung to her skin, showing every curve of the apple-sized breasts perched on her chest, handfuls of small, firm, forbidden fruit that dared any man to pluck them, while the bumps made by her hard, erect nipples still threatened to burst through the metal bra's comparatively fragile material. She laughed, her high flute-like voice expressing her own pleasure in a shivering glissando while wickedly promising and denying Andrew's.

Through the haze of his desire he heard loud groans. At first he assumed they were simply the chorus of others trapped in the same hopeless need for Andra, but then he recognized the particular sounds of Mark's and Jill's voices. With great effort he turned his eyes from Andra and stared at their bodies, changed once again, but not as he had intended. Jill's breasts remained completely flat and she was still narrow hipped, but now her body had added another nine inches of height as well as Mark's enviable muscular development and superb fitness. Unlike Andra, her clothing did not adapt to the changes in her body and her expanded body burst through her cotton dress. With her new height, her broad chest and muscular pectorals were visible to everyone. She squealed in shock and embarrassment and succeeded only in attracting even more attention to herself.

Andrew searched for Mark, who must still be Andra's height. And then he saw him, even more miserable than Jill, dwarfed by his now amazonic girlfriend, nearly hidden behind her, his arms crossed in front of his bare chest trying in vain to hide Jill's enormous breasts, which burst from his chest and wobbled with each tormented breath.

"What did you TELL her," he hissed at Andrew. "Are you STUPID?"

"No ... I"

"She TRICKED you! You must be an utter IDIOT -- to be fooled by Andra Clarken!" he screeched, his loud, plaintive voice high like a young girl's.

Andrew's eyes turned to Luisa, her body unchanged but looking like a shape without a soul, her face a mask of ghoulish misery. And then Jessie, her lifeless body askew on the ground.

He was paralyzed, not knowing whether to follow her or just stand by his friends and let her do her worst. What was he to do?

"This is so cute, seeing Andrew having SUCH a good time with his little friends!" She turned to Andrew and tapped her hip twice. "What about it? Come on, doggie! Here, boy! Don't you want a closer look?" Andrew looked at her uncertainly, fighting his urges, but when he looked back and saw Jill's unwanted but dangerously threatening strength, Mark's hatred and Luisa's empty shell, he walked slowly toward her, trying to control himself. "DON'T make me wait for you again. It's dangerous. Not EVER again!" she said, tapping her toes on a rock and crushing it into powder. "You are my toy and you will do EXACTLY as I say, without delay. There's Clarissa, and Greta, just waiting for you. Or shall I let my imagination run wild again? My SUPER-imagination?"

Andrew shook his head. "No, please!"

"Now, slave, for your first task, you will tell me who wrote that little ditty. The name of every one who contributed as much as a word. Now! I want to see just how long it takes you to betray them, as you betrayed me."

Andrew glanced at his friends.

"Heh heh heh. What's taking so long? Aren't you just a little bit afraid of what I might do to you yet? You KNOW I have amazing powers. So far you've seen ONLY a few of them. Do you how many I have? How many should have been yours? I'll tell you. The beam from the Power Source, that is, the beams that looked like one, long beam to you, was actually made of a series of pulses one fifty-seventh of a second long. Each colored beam that you saw as one, was actually made up of five thousand seven hundred fifty-seven separate colors. Each separate pulse of color transferred fifty-seven powers to me during each 1/57th of a second it lasted. Think about it. Do the math. Awww, you're looking a bit lost, Andrew. I'll make it easy for you. There were thirty-eight colors according to your eyes -- two hundred eighteen thousand seven hundred and sixty-six in reality. They lasted an average of 45 minutes, which means there were eight million, seven hundred seventy-two thousand three hundred pulses of each color. And each of them gave me 57 different powers. And that adds up to ... I'm waiting." She tapped her toe on the ground impatiently, harder than before. The vibrations registered on seismographs all over the world. "Do I have to do it for you? It's 1,919,080,981,800 powers, Andrew. One trillion, nine hundred nineteen billion, eighty million, nine hundred eighty-one thousand, eight hundred powers. And I know how to use every one. I'd tell you about them all, except that if I described each one in a second, it would take nearly 61,000 years, and you'd be dead by then, poor mortal Andrew."

She crossed her arms in front of her chest and leered at him. "You didn't KNOW I was a math genius? Oh, but what about the white beam? Whatever did IT do? During the fifty-seven minutes the white beam was shining on me, evading your laughable, hopeless attempts to block it -- oh yes, I saw you! I saw it and laughed SO HARD inside -- each fifty-seventh of a second it struck me doubled the power of the abilities I had at the beginning of that fraction of a second, whether they were my original human abilities or the powers I’d just gained."

"Think about my strength, the strength I added in the first ten minutes, when the pitiful strength of my girlish muscles doubled thirty-four thousand two hundred times. Two, to the power of thirty-four thousand two hundred. Why, that’s more than a googolplex, Andrew! You know what that is, right? And that’s just the strength I had BEFORE I got super-strength as a power, a power that amplified the strength I then possessed billions of times, and then which itself was doubled, redoubled and doubled again and again, one hundred fifty-two thousand seven hundred three times over the next forty-seven minutes. I'd tell you the number, but it's so long I'd get bored saying it. But I'm sure you've figured that out already, so there's no need, right? Come on, think about those numbers, Andrew. I never used to be very good at math, but you were. I'm sure your non-amplified brain has the mental power to do it. Maybe not. My mental abilities have been enhanced, just like my strength. They'd have to be, just to use my powers, to walk without the power of my pinkie toe destroying the world, to speak without deafening you all, to perceive the trillions of colors and other electromagnetic radiation streaming around me, to see everything at once, to distinguish the billions of conversations going on around me in this little world, and to remember them all. So much to know. So EASY to know it."

Andrew looked at her mutely.

"Do you begin to understand the power I have, the powers YOU lack! Do you THINK I can't simply look into the past and find out myself? Or look into your mind and simply TAKE what I want to know?" She waved her hand at him and he groaned and looked at her even more hungrily. "I've just doubled the level of your sex drive. Uncomfortable? Want to see what else I can do? Here's a couple. What if every time Mark exercises he only makes Jill more muscular? What if everything Jill even thinks about having breasts again, Mark's just get bigger? Do you think I can't do it? Want to try to imagine the terrible things I can do to YOU if you won't give me the pleasure of watching you betray your friends? If you don't do it RIGHT NOW!!" She raised her hand.

"No! Wait! I'll tell you! Don't!" he said quickly, his hands shaking, his eyes locked on Andra.

"Andrew, don't!" Mark said. "Don't do it!"

"It WAS me," he confessed, "And Jason Olsen." He looked down at the ground and then at his friends. "And Mark and Jill," he added in a lower voice, his defeat complete. "Please don't hurt us. None of that matters now, does it?"

Andra beamed. "Oh you little doggie!" she said, her mouth a red glow of pleasure. "You worthless piece of you know what!" She wriggled her body and Andrew groaned with desire. She winked and a purple beam shot out from one eye and ricocheted between Mark and Jill. "Tee-hee. I've done it to them anyway. Now Jill, don't you dare think about how you looked in that dress this morning, when you had breasts. Weren't you just so fetching and -- Whooops! Look at Mark's tits grow! My, my, what a surprise, it worked!" Mark hunched over. "Oooooh, are they feeling a bit heavy there Markie? Think you better firm up those back muscles? Go right ahead. I'm sure JILL could use a little more definition there! Isn't it just SO unfair that YOU won't get it."

Mark was staring at Andrew in disbelief. "Why did you DO that?" he asked angrily.

"What's the difference! She'd have found out anyway."

"You're just encouraging her, making her enjoy it more. Or -- hey, where is she?" Andra was gone but she returned a minute later, landing next to them with a bewildered Jason in tow. He was six feet tall with broad shoulders, muscular arms and sandy blond hair and had been playing tennis on his university's courts in California. "Who are you?" he said to Andra. "What are you doing to me? Why am I here?" He looked around. "Andrew! Hey! Mr. Super One! But who's she? Why is she super too?"

Andra laughed. "Tell him, puppy dog. Tell him ALL about YOUR powers. Tell him what happened and why he's here."

"That's Andra, Jason. Andra Clarken. Yeah, believe it or not. There was a mix-up and she got the powers, Jason, not me. She's ... she's got more power than anyone ever imagined. She can do anything. And now she's made me tell her who wrote the song about her."

"Andra Clarken has super-powers? And you told her who wrote the song about her? I always thought you were a dipshit for staying around Nutley after high school, but now I know you're a total fucking asshole!"

Andra laughed. So many people hated Andrew now. Andrew clenched his fists in anger and was about to respond when a woman ran up to Andra. "Please Miss Andra, please. I just got a phone call from my husband. He's on a plane that's supposed to land at Newark Airport in 30 minutes but there's a fire and they've lost all power. They'll crash. Won't you help?" She went down on her knees. "Please, with all your wonderful powers, please help! I can't bear the thought of living without him."

Andra rolled her eyes. "Hey! Don't you see I'm busy with something else?" She sighed and looked skyward. "I see it. It's nearly overhead. It's coming down quickly. I wonder ...." She raised herself on her toes, pursed her lips, extended her chin and a tight spiral of air like a tornado emerged from her mouth and snaked through the sky, making a whistling sound that caused dogs to howl and more sensitive members of the crowd to cover their ears in pain.

The woman was talking to her husband on her cell phone. "Yes. Hang on, honey. She's helping. You can see it?" She turned to the crowd. "She's doing it. The fire's out. The plane stopped falling!" A cautious cheer rose from the crowd.

"Look! There it is!" someone shouted.

"She's landing the plane right here!"

"How can she DO that! It's amazing!"

"Incredible!"

"Maybe she's good after all!"

There were more cheers as the plane softly kissed the earth. The spiral of air around the plane dissipated and the hull fell apart neatly, letting the passengers clamber out onto the grass. The woman ran toward Andra and hugged her and then bounded off to the plane to find her husband. The passengers huddled together as the wife and other nearby members of the crowd explained what had happened and pointed to Andra.

Jason let out a loud guffaw. "Hey, neat trick," he said in his booming baritone and clapped along with the rest of the crowd.

Andra seemed surprised by the quick change in the mood. She smiled tentatively and looked carefully at Jason. He was kind of cute actually and, in one particular way that made her blush to have checked, quite impressive. He could be useful. Very useful.

"It was ... nothing," she said, a bit bashfully.

The pilot of the plane was threading through the crowd and reached her. "I don't know who or what you are ma'am, but you just saved hundreds of lives, more if we'd hit the ground in a populated area. We're all so grateful. We owe you everything." He bowed his head "May the Lord bless you, protect you and give you strength. Always." There were more cheers, although the ones from those closer to the earlier carnage were somewhat quieter.

Andra noticed Andrew's jealous reaction to the cheers and smirked. Ha! He wishes HE was getting the cheers! And that gave her another idea. She put her hands on her hips and thrust out her chest. While the pilot and Jason stared up at her in lust and amazement she spoke out in a loud voice. "I'm Super Andra, and I'm glad to help all who treat me with the respect I deserve. But I don't have any patience for mean and snotty people or dishonest people or people who make fun of small and weak people, like I used to be. THIS boy," she said, pointing at Andrew, "who all of you thought was going to be your super-hero, made my old life hell. He used me and then he and his friends wrote a crude song about me. They made everyone in school sing it, again and again. He and the other two boys were even doing it yesterday! The day before he was going to be the Super One he was STILL grinding me down, making me the laughing stock." She sniffed theatrically. "Is THAT the kind of boy who should have super-powers? Who should rule over you? NO! THAT'S why the Power Source made ME the Super One. INSTEAD of him. Think about it. What would he have done to you? To your sisters, daughters or girlfriends, if HE had the power that I now have? Would any of you have EVER been safe?"

There were scattered cries of "No!" throughout the crowd.

"I didn't know that!"

"It's different when you hear her side."

"I'd be mad too!"

"She's pretty cool!"

"Fuck cool. She's super-incredible!"

"Hey! How can anyone who looks like THAT be bad! I mean, big tits aren't EVERYTHING!"

"Yes! She's beautiful and strong and good! We're so lucky to have her!"

The crowd was hissing at Andrew now, who moved toward Jill and Mark, but Mark backed away from him with the word, "traitor!" and Jill stayed close to her diminished but still loyal boyfriend.

Andra floated several feet into the air. "Tell me, would any of you NOT want revenge against somebody SO cruel? Would any of you NOT hate such a boy and everyone who worked with him to hurt and humiliate me? Someone who betrayed you. Someone who just minutes ago, betrayed THESE people here, who thought they were his friends, when I asked him if anyone ELSE had helped write his song."

"That's not fair!" Andrew shouted, struggling with his normal voice to be heard. "She's twisting everything. She threatened us. You saw what she did!"

"He says this isn't FAIR!" she shouted, mocking him, her powerful voice easily drowning out his. She took one hand off her hips and swiveled them back and forth, repeating "Not fair?" each time she shook her ass. She knew how to use her ass now, and she laughed as the crowd stared at it with rapt attention. All the men had erections, but Andra pointed at Andrew and used her heat vision to burn a hole in his pants so that his penis poked through the weakened fabric, then lifted him in the air with her super-breath so that everyone could see. "He says it's not fair, but just LOOK at him. Shameless! I'm just a girl, and I can't believe what I'm seeing! What do YOU think he would have done with his powers, if HE had been the Super One? Who do YOU think would've been screwed?" She paused a moment.

Shari was in the crowd and she shouted out, "He was acting like such a big shot, coming on to all the girls, all the time, like he was 'God's gift' or something!" There were several murmurs of agreement.

"We'd ALL've been screwed!"

"What a creep."

"A total pervert!"

"He deserves whatever Super Andra does to him!"

"She HAD to get back at the people who hurt her!"

"We'd all have done the same! It's only natural!"

"I saw Andrew knock her down just yesterday! Pushed her right off her bike and broke what she was carrying, just for fun! He thought he was going to be super and he STILL had it in for her!"

"He even attacked her with a knife just before! We all saw it, remember? And then got his friends to hold her down!"

"I don't even want to THINK about what HE would've done to her next!"

"To ALL of us!"

"That's not what happened!" Andrew shouted.

"Liar!"

"Bully"

"Creep!"

"Pervert!"

Andra altered the stream of air she was blowing so that it massaged Andrew's exposed prick, very quickly making him come.

"Look at that! No self control!"

"So disgusting!"

"What a pig!"

"And with children here!"

"Pervert!"

"Wait!" he cried. "Don't you see? SHE'S MAKING me do all this!"

"Now he's blaming his own disgusting behavior on me!" she cried out. She lifted her arms in despair, the nipples on her breasts rising, pushing harder against her metal bikini in all their glory. "WHAT can we DO with someone like this?"

"Kill him!"

"Torture him!"

"Make him pay!"

"He's evil! Kill him! Destroy him!"

The crowd closed in on Andrew and were about to pull him out of the air and tear him apart when Andra threw her head back. "NO! He's not THAT important for you, my people, to have his blood on your hands. He's my responsibility. He has to learn his place. He has to learn the difference between right and wrong. And act on it. Like all of us do!"

A murmur of self-satisfaction rippled through the crowd.

"Yes! That's why SHE'S the one who's super."

"Those Power Source people knew what they were doing all along!"

"I love her! She's like a goddess!"

"Down with Andrew!"

"Hooray for Super Andra!"

"Hooray! Hooray!"

Andra looked at Jason, who looked right back at her, admiring her. It felt good. Yes! She knew just what to do. She winked at him and he winked back. She addressed the crowd. "Andrew tried to blame the song on his friends and on THIS man, Jason, who was always good to me."

"No! That's not true!" Andrew shouted. "He's such a jerk!" But no one was listening.

"Another lie. Andrew can't help it, can he? All he can do is scheme to try to force me to hurt someone good. It seems only fair to punish Andrew and help Jason. Don't you agree?" The crowd cheered and Andra waved her hand over Andrew and he shrunk several inches and became as thin and weak as Mark. Andra released Andrew from the airstream that was supporting him and let him drift slowly down until he stood next to Jason, who towered over him, a foot taller and far stronger. But Andra wasn't finished. Now she waved her hands at Jason, giving him the height and muscle she had taken from Andrew. He zoomed upward in height until he was as tall as Jill and just as muscular. She landed softly on the ground beside him and he put his arm around her shoulder, as if protecting her. They stood side by side, Jason looking down at Andrew, whose head barely reached his chest, while Andra looked him directly in the eye.

Jason burst out laughing. "Just look at Mr. 'Super One' now! What a measly little runt!" He picked him up and held him nearly at arm's length, watching with amusement as the swings of Andrew's shortened arms fell far short of Jason's head.

"What are you doing to me?" Andrew protested. "Hey! What about what she just said about protecting the weak? I can't believe this! Andra! Stop him! Don't you know, Andra? He's the one who started the whole song thing! He's the one who wrote the first version making fun of you. It was worse than the one everyone sang!"

Andra ignored him. "Let me help you a little with that, Jason," Andra said in a sultry voice. She held her palm up and two flashes of light, one white and one red, shot into his chest.

Jason straightened his arm and his hold grew rock-steady. His face lit up. "What did you DO?! He feels like he weighs almost nothing now!"

"To you he does, darling. I've given you some super-strength. Just a fraction of mine, along with some invulnerability. If you and I are going to 'play' together, then you'll need a little protection, along with enough strength to keep me interested." She looked up at him and batted her eyes. "I can't wait to see how you use it. Why don't you take little Andy home? Make sure he gets there safely. I have a few outfits to pick up in Paris and then I'll pick you up. Dinner on Mount Everest? Dessert in a volcano in Maui? And then ... I've always wanted to see the pyramids. Don't worry about clothes. You won't need any." She raised herself on her tiptoes to kiss him and then flew away to the gasps and cheers of the crowd.

As soon as she was out of sight, Jason dropped Andrew on the ground. His weakened legs bowed on landing and he tumbled to the dirt to the jeering of the crowd. "No, no," Jason said, as Andrew slowly pushed himself onto his feet. "You heard what Super Andra said. We all know the kind of person he is, but it's not your job to punish him. Andra and I will take care of everything. You can go home now. It's over, for now. But we will be with you, always."

There was a buzz of satisfaction as they dispersed. They had seen a great show, far more than they had ever expected. Sure a few people got hurt, but they'd learned the truth about Andrew Clark. Earth had a new hero now. She was strong and beautiful, sexy and good, an example to them all. And generous too. She even shared her powers. Who knows whom she might share them with next?! Maybe she had a temper, but she was human too! It was natural. They all felt the same way about Andrew, after all. He'd fooled them all, but not the Power Source. Not Super Andra! The important thing was, it was a new era. A new life. They felt the excitement, the electricity. Life would never be the same!

"Come on, 'Andy'. Time to go home. You live on Walnut, right?" Andrew looked around, but Mark and Jill were gone. They had probably taken Luisa with them. Luisa! They'd all abandoned him! He'd lost everything today! Jason's strong hand gripped his arm. "Let's go! I have a date tonight. A hot date!" He pushed Andrew forward. Andrew stumbled but Jason caught him. "Come on, clumsy!"

"Hey!" Andrew said. "It's not so easy. I have like half my normal strength, you know."

"That much?" Jason teased. "You wouldn't know it, to look at you!" He watched Andrew walk a few halting steps then picked him up on his shoulder and started running toward Andrew's apartment, covering the ground in twenty foot leaps. "This would take all day if you walked!" Jason laughed in his deep voice. "Ha ha! Life's sure funny!"

In just a few minutes they arrived. Andrew opened the door with difficulty and Jason took the keys and pushed inside, climbing the steps five at a time while Andrew slowly trudged upstairs. By the time he got to his apartment, papers were scattered all over the floor and Jason was holding up one piece. "I had a feeling you'd kept it!" He took a match out of his pocket and burned it. "No evidence now."

Andrew put his face against the door frame and started to cry.

"Sorry bud. I don't know just how Andra would react if she saw 'her' song in my handwriting. Best to be safe!" He looked down at Andrew. "You know, I DO feel a little bit sorry for you, really." He shrugged with a smile. "But hey! Nothing I can do about it. Now, I've got places to go and one very special super-girl to see. Maybe she'll give me even more powers! And you ...." Jason pulled Andrew's soft, thin arm up and flexed his own massive one next to it. "Hey, will you just look at that muscle! It's huge! You ought to be really proud of it, since it's partly yours!" He laughed heartily, his big muscular chest shaking. "You should join one of those health clubs, buddy. Hmmmm? Let me know if you want a few recommendations!" He laughed and sauntered out of the room.

Andrew closed the door, turned the lock with some difficulty and lay down on his sofa, sobbing. Soon he fell asleep, and when he awoke it was past seven. He was groggy and hungry. There was little food in the house -- just some breakfast cereal and crackers. Only yesterday he had thought he would never need to eat again. He carried the milk to the table, needing both hands to manage the half gallon, and sat down on the kitchen chair. He looked down with horror at his thin arms, his feet dangling above the floor. At least Mark had Jill. Andrew had nothing. Nothing and no one.

Just as he was getting ready to pour the milk he heard a sound in his bedroom, a creaking on the floorboards. Oh great! Somebody was here, some fool taken in by Andra's lies. Someone to finish him off. Briefly he considered just letting them do it. Living the rest of his life like this couldn't really be worth it. But he dismissed that thought. No! If he went down he'd go down fighting. He looked around for a weapon. He picked up a hammer. He hardly had the strength to swing it. It would have to be a knife. He found Andra's knife in his pocket and turned out the kitchen light, waited until his eyes got used to the dark and then quietly stole into the living room. There WAS someone in the bedroom. But he was at the computer typing quickly. He crept silently through the hall, avoiding the noisy spots he knew well. He got through the door when the figure turned around. It wasn't human! He jumped.

"Andrew Clark. A pleasure to meet you. At last." He extended his hand, which had a bluish tinge and nine fingers of equal length. "I am Paar Saus. An honor. But you know me by another name. The Power Source. Paar Saus. Get it?" He laughed strangely.

Andrew gripped the knife more tightly, not responding to the offer to shake hands.

"Oh, you should put your weapon down. You cannot kill me. I have protection like we gave to you and the other ten, until today. Ah, poor Jessica. Very sad. But it shows why we have to be careful, you know, in this work, among aliens. I will explain. You will want to hear, I know. Please sit on your bed."

Andrew let the knife fall to the floor and complied, exhausted already, too tired from the day's ordeal even to stay angry. "You've ruined my life. Everything! Why did you do it? Why?" Andrew asked in a sad voice. He looked at his computer screen. It was a letter to him. "What is that, an apology? Was it really just a dumb mistake?"

Paar Saus pushed a few buttons and deleted the letter, and then turned off the monitor. "I had not yet finished my letter. It is much better to talk about it. Really." He looked upward and grinned strangely. "They will enjoy it more."

He turned the chair around and sat down, breathing heavily. "It is hard for me to stand. Too much gravity. I am from the planet Krypton. Yes, really! That is what it is called. As you can see we do not become super when we come to Earth. Quite the opposite. But we like stories of super-powers. It is a fad for us. For some even a fetish. For many years. Just over seventy five of your years ago my grandfather, Haaat Saus, gave an Earthling a story about imaginary people, from Krypton, who come to planet Earth. A fantasy for us, that we, from a small planet slightly larger than your moon, would become super when we came here. It was wonderful for us to see how he and then many other Earthlings took to the story and made up their own. We enjoyed all of them. And the plays and radio shows and movies and books. And all of the internet sites. We planted a seed and watched it grow. And we have been eating the fruit from that seed for years and years. We like to look at Earthlings with super-powers. They are very handsome with their muscles. Male and female. And Kryptonian females do not have such large breasts as Earthlings. Too bad about Christopher Reeve. He was very popular on Krypton. Did you like him?" Andrew nodded. "A great actor. We also watch your reality shows. Very entertaining. Do you?" Andrew shook his head. "Oh, too bad, too bad." He sighed. "No matter."

"You were explaining what went wrong," Andrew said.

"Yes. Yes. Our company president, my father, Speh Shull Saus, wanted to do something as great as his father. He would have a competition, on Earth, to give one Earthling super-powers. Real super-powers. Even more power than Superman. And people on our planet would watch the competition. And vote for the winner. Choose the winner. It has been very successful. The highest ratings ever. We are very rich now. Very."

"Good for you." Andrew said sarcastically. "So, what happened? They chose Andra instead of me?"

"No, no! They chose YOU! You are the chosen one! The Super One!" He beamed at Andrew and clapped. "Hooray for you!"

"Are we being filmed or something?"

"We do not use film. But yes. They will be watching you soon. This is part of the show. A very important part. Where you learn the truth!"

Andrew shook his head. "Well, it may be a surprise to you, but I'm not super. You made Andra super. Not me."

Paar Saus grinned. "Oh yes, well said! We Kryptonians like plot twists. Very much. Surprises. Right turned into wrong and then made right again. Fighting injustice. Love and hate. Betrayal, jealousy and then love again. It makes the highest ratings. It is the secret of our success! You saw Superman II? When Superman loses his powers for love and then gets them back? The best ratings!"

"But, uh, won't your viewers be disappointed that Andra is super instead of the one they chose? Me?"

Paar clapped his hands together. "Not at all! They expected a surprise. They will approve!"

Andrew leaned back on his bed. "I don't understand you Kryptonians at all."

"Yes. Yes. That is clear. They approve, but only because it is not the end. They want more. They will DEMAND more. The show does not end yet. This is just the first season. Now you must take your powers back. They are supposed to be yours and The Power Source 'made a mistake.' Now you must get them by your own means, even though you are weak, like us. Now they love you even more than before!"

Andrew smiled. "How nice. And all I have to do is invent the machine Superman used in Superman II, convince Andra to step into it, zap her and then zap myself while she watches." He snapped his fingers, but too weakly to make a sound. "Piece of cake."

Paar clapped again. "Oh that would be splendid! If only you could. You would be even more popular. But no, my father and I do not expect you, an Earthling, to do that. Much too difficult even for your scientists. And you are not even a scientist. No. We would help you. She does not know we can. She has great powers, yes. She thinks she is watching you now, but she is not. We can fool her too. It is very easy. We set up everything. Those beams in the sky -- very pretty, right? And those little men running around a room, pushing buttons, trying to stop the beams, failing, and then when it was done, trying to take her powers away, and failing once again. We are experts in making good shows. But to take her powers away, yes, of course, we can do that at any time. But you must first accomplish the task."

"The task? What task? I went through all those competitions. I won! I was supposed to be super! And this is what I get! What more do you expect me to do?"

Paar smiled and rubbed his hands together. "Well said! Well said!! We will use that many, many times. Yes, you 'won'. You 'deserved' it. Just listen to you! You are such a good player. This is exactly the formula for our show. Right turned into wrong and then made right again. Love and hate and then love and hate and love. Betrayal, revenge, and forgiveness or possibly even more revenge. But first the task. First season there is the competition. And then the 'mistake.' Second season. You make Andra love you again, like she did before. You have sex with her. We like watching Earth sex. It is you see what she has always wanted. Even now it is her wish. For you to want her. For her to have you back again. And at the moment when she comes and she sighs and is happy and at last is with the man she loves, she will have a 'moment of vulnerability' and then you get her powers. All of them. In a blink of an eye. And we on Krypton will be watching you all year. We will see how you do it. How you overcome all odds. And then you have all the power and she is nothing. And you can do whatever you want. She is at your mercy, while you do justice!" He beamed and sighed happily. "This was my idea. My father approves. We will enjoy that very much and then we will be even more successful. And then YOU will be super!"

"But she hates me! How will I even get close to her? And she has Jason, who's practically super too, while I have this weak, pathetic body. I can hardly walk. Everyone here hates me now. They love her and hate me! And what do you think SHE thinks of me?"

"She says she hates you but does she really?" There was a twinkle in his eye. "You know what girls are like. Hate is close to love. I will leave a few scenes on your computer from your movies to remind you. Video files. You know how to use them, right? You just 'double-click'. Watch and decide if I am right. But for our viewers you put the whole situation very clearly. Our viewers will like that. You are very popular with them. Yes. This is just what we will have you say when we do the previews for the second season." He slid down from the chair and pressed a few buttons on a small, black rectangular device. Instantly he was surrounded in a white light. "Think about it. You have much to do. The rewards will be great. The triumph even greater because of the struggle. And we will be watching you. With pleasure. Good-bye Andrew Clark! Good-bye!"

THE END. WELL, NOT QUITE _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Several hours later, a young man and a woman were doing a slow backstroke around a lava pool inside a volcano.

"He was small and kind of shriveled with lots of fingers. Ewwww! DEFINITELY not from this planet, although he wouldn't tell me where exactly he was from."

"You probably weren't trying hard enough. With your powers --

"Shut UP!" she said and splashed some lava at him. "Let me finish. He had some protection device that looked like a TV remote so I couldn't MAKE him tell me. But I wanted to hear what he said. It was interesting."

"Yeah, sure," he said, staring at the powdery coating the lava gave her breasts, wondering how her erect, pink nipples stayed clean.

"He works for an interplanetary superhuman, or maybe superTHING league, which MAY let me join, if my powers are big enough. They have to observe me for a year at least before they let me know. He wanted me to know that in case I sense someone watching me. Which I DO."

"You mean, even now?" He looked down briefly at his prick and submerged slightly so it was hidden by the lava.

"They're not interested in YOU! He said I shouldn't worry about being good. They decide based on how MUCH power you have, not on how you use it. They don’t care if you're good or evil. Which is really good because all I want to do is have fun."

"Me too." She pushed him far under and waited until he was able to paddle to the surface. "Hey! What was THAT for?"

"For interrupting me. This isn't about YOU. And then he gave me some neat tips. Things I can do with super-powers. Things I hadn't even thought of yet. Not that HE has any. But he's seen a lot of supermen and superwomen so he knows stuff." She smiled. "He told me something funny. That a lot of otherwise invulnerable superwomen have what he kept calling a 'moment of vulnerability' when they have sex with a man they love, right when she comes. If she's really in love, it can actually make her lose her powers to the guy who makes her come."

"What?" he asked, suddenly very interested.

"Don't YOU get all excited. I'm not in love with YOU, Jason" She looked at him with narrowed eyes and then quickly blew the lava around him solid. He tried to get free, but his strength wasn't nearly enough even to wriggle in the rock. "I know you wrote the song about me. I suspected it and then Andrew said it and you found the evidence and then you burned it. I saw everything! You think I wouldn't be watching you two when you took Andrew home?" She blew again, making the rock which had been melting in the volcanic heat freeze around him even more tightly. "No, I'm not in love with you. Just so you're clear about THAT." She let it sink in. "Anyway, he told me just what I have to do in case it happened, so that I could take my powers back. He said if I did it right, gradually and sneakily, I'd be even more powerful after than I was before. A lot of the superwomen even let it happen, just for that reason, and then get it back, and that trick makes the most powerful superwomen MUCH more powerful than any superman. I could end up being the most powerful superwoman in the universe."

Andra used her heat vision to melt the rock again so he could swim free. "You're probably wondering what that means for you, Jason."

He nodded, looking very insecure.

"I've never come with a man. I'm going to use you for practice. Are you good?"

He looked surprised for a moment, but decided, 'no harm done.' "Well I ... of course I am!"

"Let's hope so." She leaned back into the lava, her breasts rising above the glowing fluid. "Now, get going. Do me."

Ten and a half hours later ....

"So, that's IT?" Andra said, annoyed. She floated above the lava, while Jason paddled below to keep above the surface.

"Hey, you came about fifteen times, if I counted right. I'd say that was pretty good."

Andra made a face. "It was nothing I couldn't do for myself. It wasn't special at ALL!"

"I don't know about that. It felt good to me."

"You wouldn't know. Maybe ... maybe you really DO have to be in love." She looked off into the distance and stared for awhile. Then she giggled. "He's so small now!" She flew slightly higher.

"What are you looking at? Hey, what about me?"

Andra ignored him, intent on what she was watching. She swayed her hips slightly, back and forth and absentmindedly fingered a nipple. "I wonder ...." she said out loud. "I mean, how could he resist me?" She frowned. "True, he probably hates me now. But still ... I AM super. Everyone thinks I'm gorgeous, and, besides, I can do anything. He's gotta see the advantages in that."

"What are you TALKING about?"

Andra stopped talking.

"You're talking about Andrew, aren't you? Don't tell me after all that you STILL have a crush on him."

Andra turned slowly and looked at Jason. "You shut up. It's none of your business."

Jason was pointing at her. "Yeah, but you DO! Right? After all the things he said, and the way he treated you! Am I right?"

Andra was biting her lower lip. "I REALLY don't like you. Not even a little bit! Practice is over. Really over." She held up her palm and a white flash of light burst out of Jason and back into Andra.

"Hey, what was that?" he said, suddenly struggling in the molten rock.

"THAT was your super-strength." She waved her hands. "And THAT was Andrew's height and muscle too!"

Jason was paddling desperately now trying not to slip below the surface.

"I'll let you keep your invulnerability, so the lava won't burn you up. You won't need to breathe either. Not much air down there, below all the lava." She flew higher, closer to the hole at the top of the dome. "But then, you won't be able to get out. You’re not strong enough any more even to stay on top, much less climb up to the surface, or tunnel through the rock when it gets hard. So when you get tired, and bored, down there at the bottom, five or ten or twenty thousand million years from now, you'll still be thinking of me, right? Wondering if maybe you'd said or done something differently, it wouldn’t have ended like this? Do you think it could’ve been different?" She smiled, pursed her lips and blew him below the surface, then spread a blast of frigid air around the lava, solidifying the entire lava pool into impenetrable rock. "That'll give him something to think about," she concluded and she flew out of the volcano.

"I mean, making Andrew fall in love with me NOW CAN'T be THAT hard. Not for ME! How can he fight it? Now I'm really sexy AND I have experience. So who else could compare to me? Right? And who else knows what I know? And then, who else would want him?" she said to herself, flying off into the sunset. She was already planning what to wear, and what to say.

THE END

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Comments

Nice story, Mark.

I always admire the plotting of your story. Having the protagonist lose his powers to bad spelling, Jill getting stronger and Mark growing breasts and the whole reality show angle at the end of the story was some of the most imaginative stuff I believe I've seen in this genre in quite awhile.

As one-sided as your stories often are (once the female lead gets super-powered), this one seemed to raise the bar. Andrew and the others really had NO chance against Andra. Sure, for a moment, the powers seemed to revert to their rightful owner, Andrew. But once this moment of hope passed, there seemed no way to stop/challenge Andra. I'm used to your male leads ultimately losing but in your other stories they seemed to have more of a fighting chance that seemed lacking in this story. And finding out the whole thing was set up by aliens didn't alleviate the hopelessness as much as I liked. It came a little too close to the story's end.

I do like how you foreshadowed potential sequels to this story in the story's narrative. Having the aliens set up Andrew's triumph and eventual failure to Andra as season arcs to their reality show was genius. It also was a nice wink to the whole "moment of vulernabilty" scenario that shows up in these kind of stories; a technique Lingster has employed in some of his stories.

What was up with Andra's accented dialogue? It seemed to come out of nowhere.

Liked how you gave certain questionable celebrities numbers worse than Andra's.

I thought how you subtly mentioned Andra's oddball juggling and then had her super-powered self juggling cannon balls was a cool plant.

And finally, If Andrew couldn't have defended himself from Andra's knife attack does that mean this story would've never happened?

I do enjoy your questions and comments.

I'm not sure that it's as hopeless as you say.
What the Kryptonians give they can also take away.
It all depends on the ratings game.
To keep them high nothing stays the same.

The accented dialogue was Andra having fun against the local lugs.

And remember, the Power Source gave protection to the Ten for as long as they needed it. They would have saved Andrew had he not saved himself -- only to put him in even more jeopardy moments later when they gave superpowers to his attacker.

I'm glad you enjoy my questions and comments, since I'm such a fan of your work.

The hopelessness of the situation was before you revealed the Kryptonians and their agenda. In that context, you're right the situation isn't very hopeless. But we don't find out about the Kryptonians until the story's end. Prior to that point, Andra with her ridiculous amount of power is systematically wiping out anyone who crosses her path. For a moment, I thought she was going to take out the kid whining about his blankie.

Thinking about the reality show element, on my first read, did sort of reduce the feeling of hopelessness I initially felt. But as I reflect on the nature of the Kryptonians, I'm actually seeing things in a much darker light.

Andra, ratings-getter or not is unstable. Her indiscriminately killing the residents of her old apartment, incinerating people, throwing them in space, and the like really elevated the stakes a whole lot higher than just mindless entertainment via a reality show.

If the Kryptonians mentioned that her victims were secreted to a neutral/safe planet, okay...no harm, no foul. But these were real deaths. It's almost like you took a Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" (in which off-world aliens cause a community to self-destruct by inducing paranoia using simple psychological tricks like giving electrical power to one household while denying it to the others), and Marknewed it. How far are the Kryptonians going to go for ratings? What's their track record with other planets? Will they leave Earth a desolate wasteland ala Marvel's Galactus?

I see shock entertainment as a sort of tug-o-war in which the entertainer raises the bar and the audience demands MORE! Based on what Andra has done in her initial Kryptonian debut, MORE can't be good for the citizens of Earth even if Andrew gets a chance to undo all the bad stuff she's done.

The Kryptonians aren't much help on this issue, either. On one hand they're fans of our "heroic" works of fiction; on the other hand Paar Saus talks about becoming very rich off "this show" and how his people get off watching Earth Sex.

Oh, how I long for the simple days of Marknew when a woman just tortured the jerk who wanted to look like Schwarzenegger in his Olympian days by stealing his muscles and strength; now you got me thinking about super-powered crazies like Andra and the ratings-obsessed aliens who created her. And what's Earth's salvation: a Vulcan-like species that find the notion of entertainment, Kryptonian-style illogical?

Great comment on the reality show industry, though. But sheesh, they haven't killed anyone on these shows...yet! ;-)

Heh, heh. I DID want you to wonder what she was going to do to the kid with the blanket!

You're absolutely right. Real fictional people have been harmed in this story, and Andra doesn't care.

The Kryptonians aren't angels for sure, but they like the idea of reversals and plot twists, much the way I do. They won't want to let Andra destroy all of Earth. It's been a popular stage for their shows. Also it's a reality show, not Freddy Kruger.

Now in the second season Andrew will be the underdog and Paar Saus will want to give him his chance, before sweeping the rug out from under his feet yet again in the season ending finale.

When can we hope to enjoy season 2?

Whennnnnn... :-(

I'm not planning to write Season 2.

But I will give you the highlights.

While Andra was toasted by all the world's leaders and celebrities and, in addition to having fun, cured cancer, AIDS, poverty and poor wireless and WIFI coverage, Andrew was miserably alone and barely made ends meet as a cashier at Costco.

It was surprisingly difficult for Andra to seduce Andrew. She used many of her powers and her new beauty and intelligence, but he was resistant to them all until a chance encounter at the end of a long work day changed his feelings.

Their sex scene, taking place not in Hawaii, Paris or Bali, but in a corner of an employee bathroom at Costco, was the highest rated show ever in Kryptonian television. During Andra's climax, she experienced her "moment of vulnerability" and Andrew at last took her powers and became the Super One. But, in a surprising plot twist, one of Andra's many fans, Cheryl, a busty, amazonic, 6'1", 190 lb. 20 year old Costco cashier who all year had enjoyed "continuing Andra's work" by bullying poor, weak Andrew, burst in on them and, as she shook in rage, disappointment and moral disapproval of her erstwhile heroine, all of the fantastic powers transferred to her!

Now, the former Power Couple was at Cheryl's mercy.

Thus setting the scene for Season 3.

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