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 four —

She managed to duck the next sweep of Projector's beam, but it nearly singed her hair. And she was barely any closer. This wasn't going to —

From somewhere in the crowd below, a rock roughly the size of a fist flew up and smacked the madman in the side of his head. "GAH!" he yelped, then glared down and where the rock had come from. A man in a skin-tight body suit with a mask covering his face, and a logo on his chest that looked like an 8-ball from a billiards table, stood a few meters apart from the rest of the crowd and was standing like a pitcher who'd just thrown a fastball. The flying madman snarled, and started pointing his beam downward toward this new annoyance.

The newcomer had jeopardized both himself and the crowd standing near him, but he'd given Wo-Man just the opening she needed. She angled herself directly toward Projector, head-first, and kicked her rocket pack up to full power. She was going at least 50 miles an hour when she reached him an instant later. Despite her speed, her alien-bestowed combat instincts timed her punch perfectly, and her right fist impacted him with devastating force. (And despite its delicate, feminine appearance, her hand didn't feel even slightly hurt.) The madman in the business suit fell limp, the white beams ceased, and he plummeted toward the ground.

She caught him from behind before he hit the pavement, but made sure to hold his arms behind his back. He groaned back to consciousness a moment later. Wo-Man put her mouth next to his left ear, and spoke quietly but deliberately: "Your fingertips are pointed directly at your spine. I wouldn't turn on those beams of yours if I were you."

"Let go of me!" he snarled. He tried to pry his hands free, but they wouldn't budge.

Calmly, she said, "You'll find my grip is very, very strong."

He seethed, and glared at her over his shoulder. "You're next on my list to die."

"I'll take that chance," Wo-Man said. She lowered the two of them gently to the ground, then clacked her elbows against her sides to turn off her rocket-and-gravity-control.

An astonished crowd stood its distance, surrounding them from every direction. A few took a couple of timid steps closer — but the 8-ball man sprinted out from among them and got to Wo-Man first. "Um, nice job!" he said.

"You too!" she replied.

"I don't recognize the costume," he said, "Are you new in town?"

"Yes," she said, "And it's not a costume, it's body armor. Aliens gave it to me, along with —"

"You too?" he asked, somewhat astonished. "Did they come in a flying saucer, and paralyze you with a bright light?"

Her yellow triangular eyes opened wide. "Yeah!" she said. "Oh my god, were you given your powers by the same aliens as I was?"

"Maybe!" he said. "I —"

They both jerked their heads to one side. A streak of light in the sky just caught both their attentions. It was the same bright white as Projector's beams, but narrower. At the top of the all-too-thin column rode a woman, dressed in street clothes and appearing to support all her weight on the tip of one index finger. She swooped down, her supporting beam doing the same kind of damage to the pavement that Projector's had been, and landed right in front of them. "You got him!" she barked, a wild sparkle in her eye.

Projector, arms still pinned behind, gasped. "Allison!"

Allison pointed right at Projector, with the same finger she'd been using to fly, and addressed Wo-Man. "Hold him just like that!" The tip of her finger flared into white brilliance.

Wo-Man managed to twist her charge aside just in time, as a thin bright beam lanced out from Allison's finger and nicked the left edge of Wo-Man's torso armor. As with Projector's beam, the armor didn't do much to keep her safe from harm, and she grunted with pain. "What the hell are you doing?!"

"That man killed my best friend!" Allison stammered. "Janice Moornick may not have been a very nice person, but she didn't deserve to be murdered by her husband!"

Wo-Man blinked, glancing at the madman still in her grip. "So this guy really is wanted for murder?"

"Oh, sure," Allison sneered, "Arthur Moornick is wanted for murder. There's an arrest warrant out for him. But are they ever gonna actually arrest him?" Then, mockingly: "No, he's too dangerous! No, we don't want to go near him! Let's just wait for him to turn himself in!" She spat viciously on the ground. "Those snivelling bastards don't protect or serve anybody!" She levelled her gaze. "That's why I duplicated the accident that gave Projector his beams. Only I did it with just one finger. It was hugely risky, but it was worth it to be able to get him. That's why I call myself Anti-Projector. One finger is all I need to finish him off!"

Her pointing fingertip glowed again, menacingly. Wo-Man whirled around, still holding onto Projector's arms, so that her back would be between the madman under attack and the madwoman doing the attacking. She hoped the beam would hit the rocket on her back, and that her rocket pack would be thick enough to stop the beam from piercing her torso.

But the 8-ball man stepped up next to her, shaking his head and pleading with Allison the Anti-Projector. "Vigilante justice is how feuds get started!"

Rage burned in Allison's face, but . . . she didn't fire. She just stood there, her hand shaking, her fingertip on the brink of erupting again.

Wo-Man looked at her over her shoulder. "I'm going to turn him in, to the police. The L.A.P.D. have special facilities for holding criminals with super powers. But I won't let you kill him."

Allison looked away, and sighed angrily — more a growl than a sigh. "I guess that'll have to do. For now."

"Good," Wo-Man replied. She clacked her elbows to her flanks, turning her rocket pack and antigrav back on. "You can follow from the air, if you like. Just try not to hit anyone with your beam along the way."

Allison snorted. "Unlike Projector, I know how to keep my collateral damage to a minimum."

They took off and headed east over a major expressway, staying within a couple meters of the ground. Surprisingly, the 8-ball man was able to keep up with both of them — on foot.

"Whoa!" Wo-Man said to him. "We must be going fifty miles an hour right now. How are you running this fast?"

"Surprised you haven't heard of me," he said as he sprinted alongside her. "I've been operating for over a year now."

Wo-Man shrugged. "Nope, sorry. I guess I only know about the big name super-heroes."

The sprinting man in black half-grunted, half sighed. "I have eight times the abilities of a normal man," he explained. "I'm eight times as strong as average. And eight times as fast, eight times as agile, eight times as tough, eight times as smart, and . . . well, though you can't tell it through this mask, I like to think I'm eight times as handsome as average too."

"So that's what the flying saucer aliens gave you, then?" asked Wo-Man.

His mask covered his face, but Wo-Man could swear he was wrinkling his nose. "Not exactly," he said. "They gave me a super-power harness. It basically made me into a standard four-color hero. I had super duper strength, I could bounce bullets off my chest, I could fly, I had freeze vision — or maybe it was heat vision. I couldn't be sure, because I could barely control any of the powers it gave me. I'd push myself into the sky, and break the pavement underfoot from the takeoff. I'd angle toward some destination, and instantly hit the sound barrier, and rupture every window and eardrum on the way past. I was like a drunken bull in a china shop, except the shelves and walls of the shop were made of tissue paper."

He went on: "And it turned out, that super harness also had a heads-up display for the aliens to send me instructions. They told me I had to go to thus-and-such locale, and take out one of their kind who'd gone rogue. When I got there, the rogue alien looked exactly like an ordinary human being. There was nothing alien about him. But he ran, so I chased him as best I could. I'll tell you, super speed isn't very useful if you keep smashing into walls by mistake. But I still managed to corner him. That's when he took out a bizarre-looking gizmo and shot some kind of beam at me.

"Turns out, the beam was supposed to make all my cells explode. It couldn't, though — for all I knew, nothing could hurt me when I had that harness on — but instead of just deflecting the beam harmlessly away, the harness absorbed all the beam's energy. And it funneled it back into me. It amplified all of my abilities eightfold. Suddenly, I couldn't control my powers at all. I came damn close to destroying myself. The only thing I could think of to do was rip the super-power harness off. I guess my wild amped-up super strength was too much for even the alien harness to withstand, because it crumpled into a ball of scrap metal just from my grabbing it. Now, my comic-book super powers were gone — but the eightfold amplification was still there on my normal human abilities."

He grinned as broadly as he could under his mask. "I guess the rogue alien's cell-explosion beam was still recharging, because he didn't try to use it on me again. Eight times my normal strength and speed turned out to be more than enough to take him down. And in all the time since then, the effect has never worn off."

"So now," Wo-Man said, pointing at the logo on his chest, "You fight for truth, justice, and the American Way as Eight Ball Man!"

The man slapped his palm to his masked face. "Oh, come on. You can do better than that!"

"Um," Wo-Man said with a grin, "Doctor Octopus?"

The man grunted. "I'm called Octoplex."

Wo-Man chuckled. "Octoplex? Really? That sounds like a movie theater with eight screens!"

Octoplex glared sidelong at her. "And what's your super-hero name, Miss Chrome Legs?"

"I'm —" she hesitated, realizing just how absurd her own name sounded now that she actually had to tell it to somebody else. "I'm Wo-Man."

Octoplex just stared right at her, his mask an unreadable . . . well . . . mask. "Wo-Man?"

"Y-yeah," she said.

"Wo-Man?! Like what a surfer says when he sees a big wave? 'Whoa, man!'?"

"No no," Wo-Man said, "Like how super-heroes can have names that end in Man, except I'm a woman, see?"

"And you're making fun of my name?!" Octoplex said, shaking his head and chuckling derisively.

"I," Wo-Man stammered, "I haven't had this body for very long, okay?"

"You," Octoplex began, then shook his head. "Wait, what?"

"The aliens didn't just give me this armor and this rocket pack," Wo-Man said. "They gave me the whole package. The blonde hair, the curves, the yellow eyes, the super vision, the super strength, the combat reflexes — all of it. Before that, I was . . . ordinary."

"Oh," Octoplex said, in a more delicate voice. "So . . . what did you call yourself back then?"

Wo-Man clicked her tongue and tried to smirk. "A girl's gotta have her secret identity."

Now Octoplex glared at her, more puzzled. "You mean, you still . . . uh, how do you hide those triangular yellow eyes when you're not super-heroing?"

"I, uh . . ." Wo-Man began. She didn't want to tell this guy, or anyone, that she started out as a he. Mercifully, the landscape intervened. "Oh, look! There's the turnoff for the police station!"

She started slowing down to take the sharp right-angle turn. Allison kept pace with her — but Octoplex didn't. "Nice meeting you," the masked man said without any ceremony, and kept speeding off down the road.

Wo-Man blinked. That was a rather abrupt departure. Then again, she supposed super-heroes weren't in the habit of handing each other their business cards, so she shrugged and turned down the side street. Less than a block from the police station, Projector whispered ominously, "Secret identity, eh? I'll see about that."

She sneered, and landed right in front of a cop who was standing next to the station. "This is Projector. He's the guy who was causing the disturbance out near the El Segundo Towers by PCH. He fires dangerously destructive beams; he's going to to need to be held in a hardened cell that can withstand his powers."

The cop blinked, obviously not prepared for something like this. "Uh, lemme get the sarge." He ducked in through the main entrance before Wo-Man could say another word.

Allison, meanwhile, had landed right next to her. "You're not gonna turn me in for attempted murder?"

Wo-Man gave her a sidelong glance. "One problem at a time."

I Am Wo-Man is continued in chapter 5.

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

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