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 nine —

Wo-Man and Mauler flew side-by-side to the obscure prison complex that housed five hundred mutant aliens. Her 100 mile-per-hour top speed was a snail's pace compared to Mauler's full impulse drive, but he graciously let her keep up with him. (Not that his "impulse drive" looked like anything of the sort. Mauler flew like a comic-book super-hero, with no visible means of propulsion. He only called it that because of his insistence that he was a Romulan starship.)

After crossing miles of open desert, they arrived at a hastily-built community centered on an enormous concrete building. The sprawling compound was several blocks on each side, nearly featureless, and surrounded by two layers of fencing that curved inward at the top and ended in razor wire. Everything about it said "military prison." There was only one gate in the fence, flanked by a guardhouse; the two of them landed right next to it. The single guard swiveled a spotlight into both of their faces and, with an almost bored harshness, barked "Who goes there?"

Mauler shielded his eyes from the glare and looked at the guard. "Guess I don't come out here in the middle of the night very often; I haven't seen you here before. I'm Mauler, I'm the one who put your prisoners here. Well, metaphorically."

The guard squinted. "You look like the pictures of Mauler, but I can't let you inside unless you can prove it's really you."

Mauler levitated a meter off the ground. "I could get inside whether you let me in or not." He settled back to the pavement. "But call up warden Jadenson, or his understudy if he's not on duty. He'll vouch for me."

Without taking the searchlight off of them, the guard picked up a receiver and punched in five digits.

"Nighttime is outside of normal visiting hours," Mauler explained quietly to Wo-Man, "But I figured this was too urgent to wait until morning. It might take a little longer than normal before they let us in."

Wo-Man could hear the guard saying something into the phone, but couldn't make out the words. She asked Mauler in a hushed voice, "You've come here with other people before?"

Mauler shrugged. "Once or twice."

Wo-Man sneered. "Try not to do anything that'll get me arrested."

It took some waiting, but eventually a door opened some distance beyond the fence, and a disheveled, graying man in a police uniform strolled out, flanked by two much younger officers. He walked up to the gate, and Wo-Man could make out the tag above his shirt pocket that read "Warden." He stared through the fence's chainlinks, glancing Mauler quickly up-and-down. "Yep, that's you," he said. "What brings you and your ladyfriend out here at this time of night?"

Ladyfriend?, Wo-Man thought. She was a super-hero, not Mauler's date. Was Los Angeles news too local for these guys to have seen?

"We need to talk to Number One," Mauler said. "It's kind of urgent."

"Both of you?" the warden asked. He pointed a thumb at Wo-Man. "I don't think blondie here has been issued visitors clearance."

Wo-Man stepped up to the fence directly across from the warden. "I'm kind of the point of this whole visit. I've just encountered aliens that use the same weaponry as your prisoners did. I suspect they're the same aliens, and they're a threat. We need to get any details we can about what we're up against, the sooner the better."

The warden didn't reply. Instead, he stared narrowly at Mauler. "Do you vouch for her?"

"Yeah," Mauler said. "Besides, if she goes off the rails, I've always got my mauler beam."

Wo-Man glared at him. That wasn't terribly reassuring.

The warden nodded, and turned to the solitary guard. "Open the gate."

They were led across the courtyard inside, to a different door than the one the warden had come out of. This one had bars across it. As they unlocked the prison entrance, Wo-Man scanned the building up close. Its design seemed almost generic, like they had chosen a prison building out of a Sears catalog. It had probably been erected in as much haste as the surrounding community. Five hundred special-needs prisoners had all dropped into their laps at once, and they'd doubtlessly wanted to squirrel them away and forget about them with as little commotion as possible.

Inside the door, there was only a high-security foyer, and then row after row of cell blocks immediately beyond. The warden and his aides escorted the two super-heroes inside. "Most prisons have a visiting area, where prisoners and visitors can sit on opposite sides of bulletproof glass and talk. These aliens don't really get visitors, other than the occasional scientist or super-heroes like yourselves."

Wo-Man looked into the cells as they passed. The creatures within were hideous, at least by human standards. Grotesque stumps supported human-sized, misshapen torsos ensconced in chitin. Each being sprouted a different number of jointed arms. Or maybe they were forelegs. They didn't so much have heads atop their torsos, as swelled areas with multifaceted eyes and mandibles tacked on.

"We tried to be accomodating to 'em," the warden explained. "We even encouraged them to tell us their real names. But they just kept on referring to themselves by numbers, or staring at us blankly, even the ones that learned perfect English. The ungrateful losers."

"Real names are what humans would want," Mauler said. "These creatures are decidedly not human. You shouldn't expect 'em to have the same psychology as one of us. Heck, Larry Niven's novels have aliens called the Pierson's Puppeteers, who treat cowardice as a virtue."

The cell they wanted was all the way at the end, its barred door inset from the hallway a short distance. The five-armed lenticular mass of banded chitin inside the cell raised itself up on its three stumpy legs and shuffled up to the bars. "You," it said. Not only had it spoken in perfectly understandable english, despite having nothing resembling a human mouth, it even managed to put an edge of contempt into its voice.

Mauler turned to his companions. "Wo-Man, this is Number One. She was the leader in the 1985 attack."

The imprisoned creature known as Number One gestured toward Wo-Man with one of her arms, then continued speaking to Mauler: "I see you felt the need to bring a bodyguard along this time."

"I'm not a bodyguard," Wo-Man said. She walked up to the cell.

When Wo-Man got within two meters, Number One suddenly splayed her arms backwards and scampered to the back of her cage. She pointed at Wo-Man and yelled, "Get that golem away from me!"

Wo-Man held up her hands. "Golem? Wait, what?"

Number One pinned herself against the back of her cell, and uttered five short bursts of indecipherable chittering. Wo-Man simply stared in confusion. The creature then glared silently with her insect-like eyes for about four seconds. Finally, she almost seemed to . . . relax. She took a step forward from the back wall, and said "You're not a Normie, are you. Or one of us."

Wo-Man squinted as best as her triangular yellow eyes would allow. "What's a Normie?"

Number One ignored her question. "That artificial body of yours," she said, edging closer. "That golem. It's too well-engineered to have been made by the locals. It has to have been brought here by the Normies."

So that's what she means, Wo-Man thought. "Normies" must be the aliens who gave me this body.

"Every golem needs a pilot," Number One said, pointing at Wo-Man's head. "Who's in there?"

Uh oh. Was she talking about Steve? Wo-Man held up her hands again. "I can't talk about that."

Mauler looked at her. "Why not?"

Wo-Man turned to look at the mask covering Mauler's eyes. "You of all people should know how important it is to maintain a secret identity."

Mauler put a hand over his mouth.

Number One said, "I take it that means your golem pilot's a human. Hmph. A golem is really expensive. And it can't be re-used, the brain has to be custom-tailored to a single pilot. Why would the Normies waste something so valuable on a mere human host?"

"Not like they gave me a choice," Wo-Man muttered. "They ordered me to 'accept the body, that I may defend my world.' I didn't realize at the time that they only wanted me to defend my world from their enemies."

Number One grumbled. "It is just like the Normies to make someone else do their dirty work." She seemed to study Wo-Man a little more closely. "They also typically install some kind of weapon system into their golems."

Wo-Man gasped. "My eyes!"

"Mmmm, yes," Number One said, "Yes, I can see that. Burn force blasters, no doubt. They must have a hell of a recharge time."

"Y-yeah," Wo-Man said. She wasn't used to being analyzed this closely. "I can only fire my eye beams twice a day. Um, if this is a dedicated built-in weapon system, then why . . . why didn't they just give this body the same 'black phasers' that they have on their space ship?"

"We call those black weapons Negative Energy Beams. And the reason they wouldn't mount one on a golem is because they've never figured out how to scale them down. They need something the size of a space ship to mount and power them. At the same time, the burn force blasters in your eyes don't scale up very well, so there'd be no reason to install a bigger version of them on a ship."

"Um," Mauler said, "Back in 1985, one of your guys fired a hand-held beam weapon at me. The beam wasn't yellow, it was black."

"I said the Normies never figured out how to scale down a Negative Energy Beam," Number One said, and Wo-Man could swear she saw a twinkle in one of her multifaceted eyes. "I didn't say we didn't figure it out." Number One paused. "I see they also gave you flex armor, and a grav-thruster unit. I'm surprised the Normies didn't give you a fully articulated exoshell."

"Could you tell me more about these 'Normies'?" Wo-Man asked.

"I'd rather not." Though Number One had no face, and thus no facial expressions, Wo-Man could swear that she'd sneered when she said that.

"It would help," Wo-Man said, "If I knew more about what I'm up against."

In a low voice, Number One said "Up against." It almost looked as though she were talking to herself. She paused, seeming to contemplate this. Curiously, while she stood still, Wo-Man couldn't see her do any breathing. Did these aliens not need to breathe? Before she could ask, Number One spoke again, more intensely: "Are you saying that you actually intend to oppose them?"

Wo-Man nodded. "That's why I'm here. They wanted to reprogram me, turn me into their devoted slave." She glared. "I value my freedom way too much to let them do that."

"Enemy of my enemy," Number One said wistfully. "All right, then. We, and the Normies, share the same homeworld. They're beautiful creatures. They look like . . . well, the closest analog on your own planet would be human-sized, upright cockroaches. You can kind of see a vague resemblance in our own mutant bodies. They share our basic psychology too, the same fears, the same motivations, the same dreams. Much as I hate to admit it, they're the same species as the five hundred of us here." She glanced downward slightly. "Well . . . a bit less than five hundred now."

"Um," Wo-Man interjected, "What should we call all of you, collectively? Does your species have a name?"

"Yes," Number One said, "But it has no pronunciation."

"No pronunciation?" Mauler asked.

"Our language is semi-telepathic," Number One explained. "We only have spoken words for complicated concepts that can't be expressed telepathically. Emotions, basic needs, everyday items, personal names, even the name for our species — all of these are telepathic words with no accompanying sounds. Your human languages are so cumbersome by comparison. You need to sound out every single word."

"Still," Wo-Man interjected, "I'm impressed that you've learned to speak English as well as you do."

"I've been stuck in here for four years," Number One replied. "There wasn't much else to do. And I needed to make the guards understand our needs somehow — you humans can't directly exchange a single thought. That's how I figured out you weren't one of us a moment ago; you were telepathically dead. Our telepathy only works with other members of our species."

Mauler seemed a bit startled by this. "Now hold on," he said. "Back in 1985, when I was dealing with one of your operatives, he talked to me telepathically. He said he doubted that I could follow him through hyperspace."

Number One took a step back from the bars. "That would have been Number Seventy. His genetic enhancements were unique. He was the only one of us with the power to communicate telepathically with other species."

"Was?" asked Mauler.

"He died before our jailers figured out our nutritional needs," Number One said.

"Oh!" Wo-Man said, genuinely contrite. "I'm sorry."

"Spare me your human sympathies," Number One said. "Your species can't grasp the magnitude of what death means for one of us. You live for decades. We live for centuries. If he'd lived, Number Seventy could still have been alive after your great grandchildren turned to dust."

Mauler turned uncomfortably to Wo-Man, trying to change the subject, "We should still have some kind of name for their species."

"Octoplex and I have just been calling them 'the aliens'," Wo-Man said. "I can't speak for him, but that's worked well enough for me."

Mauler folded his arms. "The problem with that name is, they're not the only alien species that's visited Earth. The Calorians are also aliens."

"Oh, right!" Wo-Man realized. "I keep forgetting that Infra Man is from another planet."

"As are the Krakafonians that Infra Man fought back in 1984," Mauler said. "And that Empire, the ones with the slow six-tentacled aliens that had the war against the Armored Warriors."

"Armo— oh! Dang, it's been so long, I'd almost forgotten about Tracer. I wonder what he's up to these days."

Mauler put a hand to his chin. "In Star Fleet Battles, a lot of the alien species are named after the constellation that their home star system is in. The Hydrans, the Lyrans, the Orions . . . we could name these aliens using the same convention."

"Except," Wo-Man pointed out, "We don't know where their homeworld actually is."

"True," Mauler sighed, then he snapped his fingers. "But we do know what direction the point in space was where I first ran into their space ship, back in 1985. Those numbers are burned into my memory. I can still remember reading them off to the Scientist from his 3-D star chart. Right Ascension 16 hours 33 minutes 25 seconds, Declination 275.36 degrees."

Wo-Man wrinkled her brow, and asked, "Did he really say 275 point 36 degrees declination?"

"Yeah," Mauler said. "He said those coordinates don't point at any star in the known galax—"

"275.36 degrees Declination is nonsense," Wo-Man interrupted.

"What?" Mauler said.

"I've dabbled in amateur astronomy," Wo-Man said. "Declination goes from minus 90 degrees, to plus 90 degrees. Period. Why the Scientist's 3-D star chart would report such a ridiculous number to you, I have no idea. But it sure doesn't speak very highly of him."

"Maybe . . ." Mauler speculated, trying to save face for his group's mentor, "Maybe his chart was using his own coordinate system and just calling it 'declination'."

"In which case," Wo-Man replied, "We have no idea what that corresponds to on the real celestial sphere, and no way of turning those coordinates into a constellation."

Number One finally interjected. "You know," she said, "If you want to know where my home star system is, you could just ask."

"Oops," Mauler muttered.

"Um," Wo-Man began, "Where is your —"

Number One spoke without waiting for her to finish. "Using the Bayer astronomical designation that you humans have imposed upon your night skies, our homeworld orbits the star you call Upsilon Andromedae A."

"So it's in Andromeda, then," Wo-Man said. "That settles it. We'll call your species the Andromedans."

Mauler shook his head. "Uh, can't do that. The name's already taken."

Wo-Man frowned at him. "What are you talking about?"

"The Andromedans," Mauler said. "They're already an alien race in Star Fleet Battles."

Wo-Man folded her arms and glared at him. "Star Fleet Battles?!"

"It's a great game!" Mauler protested. "If I tell people I'm fighting the Andromedans, they're gonna think I'm shooting at starships from the Andromeda Galaxy, armed with power absorbers, tractor-repulsor beams, displacement devices —"

"Fine, fine," Wo-Man waved a hand at him, "We won't call 'em Andromedans. Sheesh. How about . . . uh . . . the Cockroach Aliens?"

Mauler rolled his eyes. "Just rolls of the tongue, doesn't it?" he said sarcastically.

"How about the Epsilonians?" Wo-Man suggested.

Number One quickly corrected her. "Not Epsilon Andromedae. Upsilon Andromedae. They're different Greek letters."

"Oops," Wo-Man said. "Yeah, I know they're different Greek letters, they just sound so similar when pronounced."

Mauler thought for a second. "Well, 'the Upsilonians' does have a nice, alien-species-sounding ring to it."

Wo-Man asked of the alien prisoner, "Um, there aren't any other spacefaring species living in the Upsilon Andromedae system, are there?"

Number One tried to imitate the human gesture of shaking her head, but as she lacked a neck the closest she could come was pivoting her whole body left and right. She gave up and said, "No. Just the Normies. They're more than enough on their own."

"The Upsilonians it is, then," Wo-Man declared. "Do their space ships have any vulnerabilities we could exploit?"

Number One grunted. "I'm sure your companion here could tell you about one of them."

"Huh?" Wo-Man turned to Mauler.

Mauler nodded in understanding. "She's probably talking about Magnetic Bottle. His fusion attacks seemed to hurt her ship, badly."

"Yes," Number One growled. "Our battle screens are pretty much worthless against nuclear fusion. That was why we were so interested in your civilization. At the dawn of this decade, you had just discovered how to make controlled nuclear fusion work. At the same time, your tech base wasn't so far along that we couldn't subjugate you. You would've been the perfect slaves. We could've used your labor to fashion our revenge against the Normies."

Wo-Man was taken aback. "You'd enslave all of the people of Earth?"

"We don't think of you as 'people'," Number One said with audible disdain, "Any more than you consider cattle to be people. We wouldn't think twice about harnessing your labor the same way you'd harness a team of oxen. And since it's pretty obvious that the Normies know about you too now, they doubtlessly feel the same way."

"It's worse than I thought," Wo-Man muttered.

"And you humans are so strange," Number One went on. "You listen to sounds to change or enhance your mood. And not just recognizable sounds, like ocean waves or a soothing speaking voice. You listen to organized, repetitive, artificial sounds. Usually several sounds at once all synchronized together, playing off each others' overtone series. You even worship the artists who make those sounds together."

"You're talking about music," Mauler said, feeling the tiniest twinge of envy. Inwardly, he wished his secret identity — a classical composer who'd taken the name Gustav Mahler in homage to the famous Austrian — was among those artists who were regularly "worshipped."

"Yeah, that stuff," Number One said dismissively.

"There's something else you should know," Wo-Man said. "Before the Upsilonians threatened to turn me into their slave, they told me there were, quote, 'forces infiltrating your societies, rogue elements from among us, posing as one of you.' They wanted me to kill these so-called rogue elements, one by one."

Mauler did a double-take. "You didn't tell me about this."

Wo-Man glanced at him and replied, "There was an awful lot for me to worry about, and not much time to chat about it. I didn't exactly have the opportunity to give you a full debriefing."

Mauler pointed accusingly at Number One, and said to Wo-Man, "Her plan involved having alien operatives, members of her own species, infiltrate our society disguised as humans. They have some kind of portable holographic technology or something. Number Seventy was one of those operatives. Those rogue elements might be more of her mutant allies!"

"No!" Number One yelped. Her voice almost sounded . . . pleading. "I swear to you, every single one of our operatives was accounted for. They're either here in this prison right now, or dead. The Normies must have been planting operatives of their own, using the same disguise technology. Perhaps some of them went off-program, for whatever reason. Or maybe all of the infiltrators were there against the Normies' wishes from the get-go. Regardless, the Normies put you in a golem, probably gave you time to get a feel for it, and then ordered you to neutralize them."

"Do," Wo-Man began, "Do you have any inkling as to what the Upsilonians might be up to?"

"I can only guess as to the Normies' motivation," Number One said. "We evolved from, and still are, predators — much like you humans."

"Whoa, whoa," Wo-Man held up her hands. "We humans aren't predators! Our diet is omnivorous. We —"

Number One interrupted her with her best imitation of a human laugh. "Have you seen how much of this planet you humans have conquered? You're the biggest, deadliest, most aggressive predators in your biosphere!"

Mauler looked sidelong at Wo-Man. "Alien's got a point."

Wo-Man shook her head, trying to get back to what was important. "Well, okay. So we know that fusion can get past their deflector shields. What about those paralysis beams of theirs? I got really lucky with —"

Number One held up a jointed forelimb, as though making a "hold up" gesture. "Paralysis beams?"

"Yeah," Wo-Man said. "They shined this bright white light on me, and suddenly I couldn't move. I managed to destroy the emitter with my eye beams, which was how I got away. I'm guessing they hadn't turned on those battle screens you mentioned. I don't know if I'll be able to get away with the same trick next time."

"Paralysis beam," Number One mulled over the words. "That's new. The Normies didn't have any tech like that a century ago, when we were exiled."

"Uh oh," Wo-Man muttered.

"Huh," Mauler interjected. "Son-of-a-bilge. Sounds like they've got tractor beams."

Wo-Man's triangular yellow eyes narrowed, and she grunted "Star Fleet Battles again?"

Mauler put his fists on his hips. "I have had tractor beam envy since I first got my powers. The Romulan War Falcon class Mauler doesn't have 'em, so neither do I. If I'd been based on the KR cruiser, or even the little Pelican class minesweeper, I could be tractoring everybody I meet! Plus I'd have type I phasers, which have a much better damage-point-to-energy ratio than the mauler beam. But nooooo!"

Number One tried to get the discussion back on track. "Since I know nothing about this new paralysis-beam tech, I can't even speculate as to whether it can be protected behind a battle screen while it's in operation."

"Tractor beams can work through shields," Mauler asserted.

"In Star Fleet Battles," Wo-Man pointed out. "This isn't Star Fleet Battles, it's real life."

Mauler's face took on a sardonic grin. "I don't understand the distinction," he said. No one could tell if he was being entirely facetious. Wo-Man would've rolled her eyes, if her eyes weren't featureless yellow triangles.

"One thing I can say," Number One added, "Is that if the Normies are footing this mission themselves, it's not very likely that they've sent more than one spacecraft. Remember how I said they like to have others do their dirty work for them? Unless some massive planet-wide social revolution has happened in the last century — which is vanishingly unlikely, given our species' long lifespans — they would be very hard-pressed to find volunteers. We're talking about a mission that involves crossing interstellar distances. They'd be leaving their support networks 44 light-years in their rear view mirror, as it were, and entering a star system whose only inhabited planet is covered with dangerous natives. If the hyperspace drive on their ship broke down, and none of them could fix it, they'd all be stranded here."

She grunted, and went on: "We mutants —" she made a sweeping gesture that encompassed the rest of the prison "— as I told Mauler here four years ago, we were created by a small cadre of rogue genetic engineers, who were trying to make a mutant army. These rogue engineers were basically trying to stage a coup. Obviously, Normie society at large wouldn't put up with anything like that. But crucially, genetic experimentation in general isn't frowned upon. In fact, it's encouraged. Most congenital diseases were wiped out centuries ago by genetic engineering. The average Normie a century ago was stronger, smarter, more resilient, and even longer-lived than the average Normie just five centuries earlier.

"But there's a darker side to even their most benevolent genetic engineering," she said. "It's an ethical issue that you Homo sapiens would probably refer to as 'human rights.'" She scoffed lightly at the term. "Any individual created through the use of genetic experimentation isn't considered a Normie citizen. They don't have the same rights as the naturally born. There was a time, not too many centuries ago, when they didn't have any rights at all. The Normies could use them as slave labor. Some were engineered to work and survive in conditions that would have been inhospitable to the population at large. And if an engineered mutant ended up being a genetic failure, or outlived the purpose it had been engineered for, it could be summarily disposed of. Were I and my mutant brethren born back in that era, the Normies wouldn't have exiled us, they would have simply vaporized us. It's only because Normie society at the time considered itself more 'enlightened' that our lives were spared."

"Jesus H. Christ," Wo-Man said, "That's horrible!"

"They did it," Number One said, "In part because it allowed the experimenters to take greater risks. Had they not been allowed to dispose of their failures, progress would have slowed to a crawl and the society at large would not be able to reap the benefits they have today. In any case, there is a chance — however small — that some or all of the individuals on board that Normie ship are mutant slaves. But don't think for a moment that they'll be willing to stage a slave uprising. Even a century ago, the Normies had gotten very good at . . . conditioning their mutants. They're probably super patriotic."

Wo-Man nodded. "I guess they use that brain surgery on them. The kind they were about to use on me, that alters their personality and makes them loyal."

"That?" Number One said. "Oh. No, they wouldn't stoop that low. By a century ago, brain reprogramming on Upsilonians was completely outlawed, even on mutants. They'd only do it on you because, well, you humans don't count as people."

Wo-Man turned somberly to Mauler. "I don't think the two of us together will be enough to bring down even this one Upsilonian flying saucer. If they have one weapon that Number One has never heard of, they might have others. We're going to need help."

Mauler sighed. "You're probably right. The best option would be Magnetic Bottle, with his fusion powers, but nobody's seen him in years." His face looked pained. "Every moment of his continued existence was a balancing act. His containment hardware might have . . . broken down by now, in which case he'd've lost cohesion and dispersed."

"What about your buddies? The other members of the League of 250 Point Characters?"

Mauler shook his head slightly. "The rest of the League's tied up with THEM at the moment."

"Them who?" Wo-Man asked.

"Oh. Sorry. T.H.E.M.. The Harbingers of Eternal Mankind. Their so-called 'Perpetual Army' is, in some ways, more dangerous than MACRON. They're the ones who made Tree, and she was tangling with 'em in New Mexico earlier today and needs help. The Leauge is planning to fly out there bright and early tomorrow morning, Infra Man and Wake included."

Wo-Man raised her eyebrows slightly. Or what passed for her eyebrows, anyway. So that's where Tree had gotten to.

"That Octoplex guy you mentioned," Mauler said. "If as you say his origin is tangled up with the Upsilonians, it sounds like he might be interested in lending a hand."

"If I can find him," Wo-Man said. "Last time I just happened to run into him by chance. I don't exactly know of an Octoplex Signal we can shine on the clouds."

Wo-Man thought of suggesting Anti-Projector, briefly — then thought better of it. Allison the Anti-Projector was driven by vengeance. She might not be as crazy as Projector, but in the thick of battle she could still end up shooting Wo-Man or Mauler in the back.

"Hrm," Mauler grunted. "Tracer hasn't been around in a while, either. Maybe we could call the FBI and ask if they have any ideas of how we might get in touch with him."

Wo-Man snorted. "Could you imagine that phone call? 'Um, yes, we're looking for Tracer. Why? Oh, there's a flying saucer that doesn't show up on radar. It shines a bright light on people to abduct them. Yes. And then they reprogram their victims' brains. Hello? Hello?' . . . At best we'd end up on an FBI watch list."

"There's also the problem," Mauler added, "That if we want to fight this flying saucer, we're going to have to find it again."

Wo-Man put a hand to her temple and closed her eyes, as though listening. Then: "Huh. That summoning signal that pointed me to their ship earlier is completely gone. The Upsilonians must've switched it off when they put me on their persona non grata list." She turned to Number One once more. "You . . . wouldn't happen to have any ideas as to how we could draw them out, would you?"

Number One raised herself up has high as she could on her stumpy legs, and glared at Wo-Man with her multifaceted eyes. It almost seemed as though she was trying to look down on the golem on the other side of the bars. "The Normies are trying," she said in the manner of a schoolteacher talking to a clueless pupil, "To hunt you down. You figure it out."

I Am Wo-Man is continued in chapter 10.

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