I Am Wo-Man


Roger M. Wilcox

Copyright © 1984, 2023 by Roger M. Wilcox. All rights reserved.

chapter 1 | chapter 2 | chapter 3 | chapter 4
chapter 5 | chapter 6 | chapter 7 | chapter 8
chapter 9 | chapter 10 | chapter 11

— Chapter three —

Steve met up with Georgina that night. He pushed aside all his swirling thoughts about his new alter ego, and let himself just be with the woman he loved. His desires and affection for her were as strong as ever, and they danced the dance of lovers into the night.

But lying there quietly with Georgina in his arms, as sleep settled upon her, he also knew he needed to build more time into his schedule to play super-hero. With great power, and all that, right? He needed to test the limits of what Wo-Man could do. How strong? How quick? Were there other powers the aliens had given her, which she hadn't discovered yet? Just what did the aliens have in mind when they'd told him "That you may help defend your world"?

And who knew, maybe there were other car thefts to thwart, or kittens that needed rescuing from trees.

So, bright and early the next morning, he snuck off into the alleyway to change identities. He still felt flushed from the last night's coital festivities, still smelled Georgina's heady perfume on his fingertips, still felt the tingle of his tender feelings for his lady. What a wonderful way to start the day. He looked up at a sky full of promise, sang his brief "I am woman!", and clapped his now-glowing hands together above his head.

But the moment Steve turned into Wo-Man, her feelings for Georgina . . . vanished. She had no romantic interest in Georgina whatsoever. It alarmed her. She wasn't distracted by the newness of her alien body, like last time; she didn't have that excuse any more. Did the transformation mess with her emotions? She needed to find out. She smacked her fists together and said "I'm a man," and once again became Steve.

And the instant he did so, his feelings for Georgina surged forth again.

He blinked. He had desires for Georgina, but she didn't. Why not? Wo-Man had the same mind as him. She had the same memories as him. By all rights, she was him. So why the on-off switch for his romantic desires? Was there a hormonal difference? Was her brain different from his somehow? Did other differences lie in store?

If he wanted to find out more about what Wo-Man was and what Wo-Man could do, he'd better change back. "I am woman!" <clap> <ker-flash>. She clacked her elbows to her sides and rocketed into the sky.

It took a few days of experimenting, but she got some answers:

Not only could she lift one side of Steve's car, she could lift the whole car. All the way over her head. Then she bench-pressed successively bigger and heavier vehicles to zero in on her lifting capacity. (She drew a few onlookers, too, and got scattered applause when she managed to lift a full-sized UPS delivery truck. When one of them asked her how she got so strong, she replied coyly, "I was bitten by a radioactive spider.") She topped out at a whopping six-and-a-half tons. That was more than the Six Million Dollar Man on TV could lift, even if he'd had two bionic arms. It made her nearly as strong as Spider-Man in the comic books, though it was still nowhere near the hundred-ton-benchpress of a behemoth like Brick One.

Her reactions were quick, but not quick enough to dodge a bullet, or to deflect a bullet with her forearm armor like Wonder Woman. Her combat reflexes resembled the kind of moves that Bruce Lee could make. Or maybe Chuck Norris. She didn't know enough about the martial arts to tell karate from kung-fu, but she was pretty sure she could do a roundhouse kick or a judo throw if she had to.

She timed her flight speed by flying over the freeway and counting the seconds between exits a mile apart. It was actually a bit disappointing. Her top speed in level flight, with her rocket pack on full blast, worked out to only about a hundred miles per hour. A plain old propeller-engine Cessna could outpace her. She'd tried climbing to a higher altitude for less air resistance, but that just made it harder to breathe. At least her rocket didn't seem to need refuelling.

Her body armor could take quite a pounding, and couldn't be punctured even when she stabbed it with a railroad spike at her full strength. She was in no particular hurry to test its limits, though; she didn't want to put herself in the hospital. (Could a regular hospital even do anything for an injured alien body?)

She also felt a little . . . embarrassed about the tune Steve had to sing to turn into her. Georgina had said he'd gotten the melody wrong, so he went by a record store and picked up a copy of Helen Reddy's I Don't Know How to Love Him album, then listened to "I Am Woman" over and over until he had the song memorized. It had been the anthem of feminism in the 1970s, and still had emotional power.

In fact, the song made her feel a bit . . . guilty. She hadn't grown into womanhood, and lived through the experience of growing up female. Womanhood had been thrust upon him fully formed, with super powers as an added benefit. (Heck, she didn't even have to style her hair, or shave her legs or armpits. It all came for free.) She never had to experience the trials and tribulations that Helen Reddy had hinted at in her song. Even the people who'd grown up male and gotten a sex change (what did the newspapers call them? transsexuals?) probably alienated most of their friends and family when they switched — and they certainly didn't have her option of changing back-and-forth on a whim.

But when Steve tried to transform into Wo-Man by singing the actual, correct melody to "I Am Woman", nothing happened. Frustratingly, after all his effort to get the music right, he still had to sing the words "I am woman" to that incorrect, Roto-Rooter-commercial tune to change into her.

And then she discovered something else she could do, totally by accident, while testing out her telescopic vision.

She was staring at a concrete wall from a block away, that had some small writing spray-painted on it. She willed her vision to zoom in on it. Even at this distance, though, the tiny writing was hard to make out. She focused harder. Harder. Then she felt her eyes start to buzz. Maybe she was overstraining them. Would they burn out if she tried too hard? It felt risky, but she needed to know her limits. She kept concentrating, pushing even harder.

Suddenly, a bright yellow light sprang from her eyes and tore the air like thunder. For a split-second, the world looked yellow. Then it stopped, and a block away where a smooth concrete wall had been, there was now a charred crater in the side of the building.

She gasped. Her eyes must have fired some kind of intense beam at the wall. She'd blasted it. Alarmed, she rocketed over to the wall to get a better look at how badly she'd demolished it. The building's owner was not going to be happy about this. The crater was a full meter across and dug into the stone over a foot deep. If this wall hadn't been so thick, she'd have blasted clean through it. Just to make sure the damage was real, she reached out and touched it — then yanked her hand back. It was hot. Just that split-second of contact had given her a first-degree burn on one fingertip. (So alien flesh burns, just like human flesh does, she thought.)

Whatever that beam was, it was impressive and dangerous. She'd better learn to control it. Could she fire it again? She stared skyward, making sure she wasn't looking at any hapless planes flying by, and tried to remember how she'd triggered the beam the first time. Let's see . . . full zoom, then try harder. Harder. Push. Her eyes started buzzing again. Maybe that was the signal. Keep it up . . . and within a second, the thunder and the yellow returned. It was strenuous, even — no, especially — after the beam erupted; and as before, the effect vanished less than a second later.

Good. With a little effort, she could fire her eye-blast at will.

She blinked a couple times and shook off the fatigue. The effort wasn't so much exhausting as it was a nice vigorous workout. In fact, she felt ready to go again. She gazed lower toward the horizon, and tried to fire the eye-beam a third time. Zoom to full. Focus. Harder. Push. Push. . . . but this time, there was no buzzing. The best she could do was give herself a bit of a headache.

Uh oh. Was her alien body only carrying enough "ammo" for two shots? Had she burned out the system already? Well . . . maybe . . . maybe it just needed time to recharge. She could try it again tomorrow, and maybe then she could shoot destructo rays from her eyes again. Maybe. She could hope. . . .

Her hopes were met. Her eye blasts did recharge. Apparently, she could use this power twice a day. Given how destructive the beams were, she doubted she'd find herself in a situation where she'd have to use them more than once anyway. Unless a war broke out.

And now that she'd figured out just what she could and couldn't do, she decided it was time to fly around high above Los Angeles and look for trouble. That was what super-heroes did, wasn't it? Or at least, that made as good an excuse as any to fly around unfettered.

Downtown Los Angeles would have been the logical choice, but she'd remembered seeing her fair share of seedy characters in El Segundo back when Steve had done some odd jobs there. The fact that some of those seedy characters had been the ones Steve had been working for didn't exactly help her opinion of the area. She soared high over the twin triangular towers next to the Pacific Coast Highway and gazed downward. Normal eyes would barely be able to make out the people below as tiny dots, but her telescopic vision showed her far more. She could make out the hats and hairstyles and colors of the shirts and jackets worn over the shoulders. She could see the people getting in and out of their cars. But for all the hustle and bustle going on down below, none of it looked like street crime or distress or —

Wait, what was that?

There was somebody else hovering in mid-air, down among the buildings. He looked to be wearing a business suit — even at this distance, she could see hints of a necktie flapping in the wind. But instead of a rocket pack or some invisible means keeping him aloft, he seemed to be suspended on a column of white light stretching from his hands all the way down to the ground. She followed it down with her eyes. It looked pretty impressive, actually . . . until she noticed what it was doing to the ground. Deep furrows were gouged into the pavement, glowing with heat. As the beam moved ever-so-slightly, fresh pavement was getting torn apart. A crowd had gathered at some distance from the contact point, and those few people nearer to it were clearly scampering away.

This . . . was a problem.

She swooped around toward him. From different angles, she could see that the light beam holding him up was actually a flat plane, about a foot wide but so thin it turned invisible when seen edge-on. She positioned herself in front of him, at his altitude, close enough to be heard. "Uh, sir?" she said. "Your flying is doing a lot of damage to the pave—"

"Go to hell!" he screamed. The tips of all his fingers, except for the pinky of his left hand, flashed forward, and the beam of light traversed along with them until it was aimed squarely at her. Only a tiny separate beam from his pinky kept him in the air. She was caught off-guard by just how fast the beam could move. It slammed into her right flank and punched straight through her armor. Impact lasted only a fraction of a second, but it was enough. She reeled backward in agony. Her mental control over her rocket pack — and her weightlessness — faltered, and she started falling.

She fought back the pain and shook herself back into control before she lost much altitude. She looked down at her flank; a paper-thin seam now ran sideways across her armor for about four inches, going all the way to her right edge. Thankfully, there was no blood, but whatever was inside her alien abdomen had doubtlessly gotten sliced and cauterized. This man was trouble. She looked back up at her adversary, who glared at her with a mad fury in his eyes.

"You're just like all of 'em, aren't you!" he yelled. "No power for you, Arthur! Lie down and get walked on, Arthur! Well, how does it feel to be on the receiving end!!" He traversed the flat, bright beam toward Wo-Man again, but this time she was ready. Her alien muscle-memory knew just how to fly out of the way of something like this. The beam sliced through the air right below her, missing her completely — but in the process it hit a parked car and detonated its fuel tank, starting a blaze.

"Stand still!" he stammered. He swept the beam toward her again, missing her head by only centimeters but catching one of the triangular skyscrapers beyond her. An entire row of 14th floor windows shattered, sending glass slabs tumbling toward the ground.

She'd have to neutralize this rampaging madman. A quick jab with her superhuman strength should be more than enough to knock the wind out of him, but to do that she'd need to close the gap between them, and he'd be trying to slice her in half the whole way. It felt too risky. Well . . . there was one other alternative, one other weapon in her arsenal. He'd already used deadly force on her, more than once, and if one of them was going to die she'd rather it be him. She zoomed in on him with her telescopic vision, pushed it to maximum, and focused hard. Her triangular yellow eyes glowed and hummed. A second later, the now-familiar yellow light engulfed the world and her deadly, thundering eye beam scorched the air between them.

Then he did something completely unexpected. His hands flashed up, then down, and the beam they emitted made a kind of zig-zag in the air. The far end of the beam pointed upward, seeming to come from a point below both of them, and the sideways plane formed by this bent beam blocked Wo-Man's eye blast completely! It was as though his beam had formed a temporary wall, capable of deflecting even a blast that could smash though concrete.

The snarl on his face twisted into a sickening grin. He growled, "Why do you think they call me Projector!"

Wait, "Projector"? Steve had heard that name before. There was a sensational article about this guy in the Daily Planetary Bugle just last week. Something about a disgruntled, poorly educated electrical worker who got his hands caught in a freak 4-dimensional something-or-other, which turned the leading edges of his fingers into white holes to another universe. And a murder. The Bugle had a tendency to paint everyone with super powers as some psychotic menace, but in this case they might have accidentally been correct.

So. She couldn't shoot him. Taking him down up-close-and-personal was her only option. As the next beam came arcing toward her, she jinked and dodged randomly, all while inching slightly closer. She managed to sidestep his assault this time, but just barlely. Damn. She wished she could charge straight toward him, but that would make her too easy a target. Maybe he'd be unlucky enough to miss her the whole way in.

Maybe. But not likely.

And his beam was coming toward her again.

I Am Wo-Man is continued in chapter 4.

Here is Projector's character sheet for 5th Edition Champions™.

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