Jane couldn't help but snicker at the situation. Moments ago another would-be arch criminal, in this case a sad little man named "Molecular Master", was waving a weapon around, threatening a small gathering of rich trouser-stains with death and dismemberment if he wasn't given some ridiculous sum of money. To prove his point to the first group of officers arriving at the scene he used his fancy rod (whether it was science or magic really didn't matter to Jane then or now) to transform their guns into jagged lumps of glass. See, the real point of this guys issue wasn't that he needed money-he could have turned avocado into diamonds if he wanted to apparently-his problem was his ego. Super-villains in this city all essentially want the same thing: respect and a superhero kill to amplify their street cred. Not every meta-powered motherfucker who shows up in Angel Falls is automatically a Twisted Savant, Ultrawoman or Invictus. They have to earn it and today, less than five minutes ago, the Molecular Master had made his play and failed miserably. Not because his plan wasn't brazen enough or his weapon not deadly enough, but because Prodigy had gotten to him first. There wasn't any banter, no monologuing, no prepared speeches recited before he tried to twist her flesh and bones inside out or turn her to solid gold. Oh he had tried, and managed to get out "Now witness what my rod can do as I..." right before Jane had bum-rushed him, snapping his arm like a dry stick before flipping him over and dislocating his shoulder as easily as an over-cooked chicken wing. His all-powerful rod cracked in half under her boot with nothing but a tiny crackle and a whiff of something like ozone to mark it's passing. Now she had him up on the roof, giving him a spectacular view of the pavement several stories below.
...I'm beaten...you can't..." the bespectacled man blurted out through his trembling lips, his body racked with pain as she held him aloft by only his ankle.
"Can't what? I can do anything I want Sugah." Jane said coyly, swaying him back and forth with the breeze. "Your bad luck I showed up instead of one of those other capes...they might have tried to negotiate with you and that would have been fatal wouldn't it?"
"I wasn't going to hurt anyone...I just wanted to show off how powerful I am!" he exclaimed
." She corrected him, ""You were
powerful, and when it comes to you not hurting anyone I don't believe you at all. You assholes think you can just come here to this city and fuck with the people here, however you like. Try to kill the heroes who protect them to get some kind of merit badge or ‘street cred,’ as the ghetto filth says. Well this is Angel Falls, and you haven't got any wings dip-shit....so what am I going to do with you?"
"You will put him down Jane Smith!" bellowed a voice from behind her. Jane's eyes closed and her lips stiffened as she clenched her teeth. She knew this moment was going to happen eventually and had all but resigned herself to it. Still it didn't make accepting it any easier. She opened her eyes, made sapphire blue by her contact lens and turned around smiling.
"Why Olga, seems like you just missed all the fun ins..."
"Put him down. I will not repeat myself." the tall Russian growled as she hovered nearby, her ordinarily blue eyes smoldering with a deep red light. She was ready...almost anticipating a fight. Jane sighed and casually tossed the injured man back onto the rooftop like he was a sack of potatoes. He curled into a fetal position, trying his best to hide his urine soaked pants and cradle his limp, useless arm. Prodigy threw her arms out to the side and shrugged.
"There he is, little worse for wear considering what he could have done."
Olga landed on the roof and thrust an angry finger in her direction. "Sadist
! I heard what you did to BlastWave and his partner. You are the one who should be in prison!”
“Yeah I’m all broken up about what happened to that psychopath and his budding psychopath buddy. I hear he’s got his own nurse to handle wiping his ass though so it worked out better for him than I would've hoped. Weren’t you the one that put him away the first time so he could get out and pull that stunt? How many people died again, or are you writing that off as a statistic since it was more than one? You do
subscribe to that philosophy about one death being a tragedy, but a million just being a statistic, right? All good little communist girls do.”
“This is not about me Jane,” The Soviet Superwoman barked, “this is about you and your bloodthirsty actions. What about Joey Zilco and his men? What about Doctor Mayhem?”
Jane did her best to remain calm, adjusting the hair out of her eyes as her nostrils flared. “Zilco’s alive and doing fine I hear, ask American Mom if you don’t believe me since she was there...for that matter the other two you mentioned are alive as well, and so is this piece of shit over here...and Mayhem? That masochist bought a Halloween costume and a gun so he could get his rocks off when a costumed, muscular woman slapped him around. He just ran into the wrong gal this time out.”
“You tossed him into oncoming traffic!”
Prodigy shrugged. “There was no way I was going to put my hands on him and beat him til he came in his pants. I let that car do it for me. He didn’t get what he wanted and that hostage was safe...just like all those grateful folks downstairs right now.”
Olga remained defiant, shaking her head, “Ms. Bltizen told me how you wanted to handle the Siege as well. Something about killing him and stuffing his body as a trophy.”
This time Jane really did laugh. “The Siege
? That monster that took four of us on at the same time like we were nothing? You’re damn right I wanted to snap that fuckers neck! When he comes back, and I know he will, that moron Blitzen will realize just how right I was...which reminds me, where the fuck were you when the Siege was trying to skip rope with our intestines? Oh...that’s right. You were having...issues
. Let’s just cut the bullshit already Olga. You’re here because you can’t accept the fact that I’ve changed and I’m making a difference in this city. I already heard this speech from Walkiria and to be really honest, it was presented better when she did it. At least I know she hasn’t been a supporter of state-sponsored genocide.”
“You cannot change Jane and you never will. Matthew Dougherty was only too late to see what kind of a monster you are deep down. It took me some time, but I put that together as well and though I cannot prove it, I know you murdered him.”
“You don’t know anything...” Jane said, looking away and dismissing it with a flip of her hand.
“Then what about Cecilia Crane?”
“Who?” Jane turned and said, genuinely stretching her brain to think of who that was. For a moment she marveled at how long the list of people she had injured or killed had grown in such a short time, and it seemed like something--something small and weak, but there nonetheless--in her stomach wriggled unpleasantly at the thought.
“Damn you, she is the little child that you almost had killed when you orchestrated King Snake against his partners. A casualty of your collateral damage and twisted scheming, I managed to save her just before the flames licked at her crib.”
Prodigy looked genuinely stricken for a moment, casting her gaze down before finally meeting Olga’s again. Though she hated the woman‘s thick Russian accent, the Soviet Superwoman‘s words had painted a chilling image in Smith‘s mind. “I didn’t know...”
“You did not care Jane Smith, just like when you threatened the innocent people who just have the misfortune and pain of being related to criminals or when you destroyed a city block to catch one super-villain! I tried to warn Steven about you and I tried to warn Connie about you. I have warned the Guardians about the kind of person you are. You blame me for the death of your father and I have come to accept that nothing will change your mind to the fact that he killed himself. Through your own words you abandoned our home-world to the death the aliens brought for it just so you come seek revenge on me here. Well here is your chance Jane! I am giving you the opportunity right now, so that no others need be hurt by you! If you want to channel out all of your hatred on me, I gladly welcome it if for no other reason than to keep this city safe from the likes of you!”
Prodigy stared at her old foe for a long time, her hands curling into tight fists. She was trembling all over. Part of her wanted so badly to hit that shrill, Communist bitch right in the face, to smash the teeth out of her fucking Soviet mouth. The woman she had hated her entire life, with every fiber of her being was right there, only a few feet away and begging her for it. The woman that may or may not have killed her father in cold-blood. How many nights had she spent dreaming about a moment like this, when she could finally rid America...any America of that terrible woman? The other part of her knew that to do that would be to throw away all the progress she was making and to bring final dishonor to herself and to her father. If she threw that punch at Olga, she would never be the American Hero again and her father’s dreams and desires for her would disappear forever. It was a fight she couldn’t win. Even if she defeated Olga and cast her broken body into the street, she would forever be a pariah here. The people would hate and never accept her and the other heroes and so-called defenders would never trust her. The irony wasn't lost on her and in part it make her almost chuckle. And the fact that she‘s risked her own life time and time again to save countless innocents,
Smith thought, the words in her mind unwelcome but true.
Slowly her hands unclenched and she wet her dry lips with a sand-papery tongue.
“I’m not like that anymore Olga and I don’t have to explain myself to you of all people, but I’m going to try anyway. This America is fraught with it's own problems and turmoils and I...I let my thirst for vengeance against you cloud my emotions to all the good I could have done. So many lives I could have saved. So many people I hurt...I want the people here to love and respect me in time just like they loved and respected my father in our dimension...I just couldn’t see past my own grief and rage, until now. Connie and Steven have helped open my eyes...helped me on the path to being the person I want to be. So has American Mom...so have a lot of people I never expected to. I’m still rough around the edges and I still have a great deal to learn about what it really means to be a hero...but I’m willing to try because I want my father’s memory to live on. I want his uniform to mean something again. Despite every Stalinist, evil thing I think you stand for...I respect what you do here for these people. You give them something to aspire to, something to believe in. You never hesitate to face any foe, even ones like Concussion or Ultrawoman head on and full-force, knowing they could kill you. Selflessly...”
Jane suddenly got quiet and turned around. She didn’t know why she was telling her
of all people the thoughts that kept her up at night. The thought of what she did to Matt still haunted her, and she suspected it always would for the rest of her life. She hadn’t known about any child until now and it stiffened her resolve to want to change.
“I’m sorry about the baby...” she suddenly heard herself say in a quiet tone, “Is she alright?”
“Da,” Olga said in a low voice behind her, “She has been adopted by a loving family and is well cared for.”
“Good.” Jane nodded before turning around to face her bitter enemy again, “Thank you for saving her life.”
There was an awkward silence that followed before Olga finally broke it.
“I truly hope you are sincere with what you say Jane, truly I do despite my own feelings, but I will still be watching you. Understand that I can never fully trust you and I disagree with your methods completely. I think you are a dangerous unbalanced woman, nothing more than a super-villain with delusions of grandeur hiding behind your warped sense of national duty. If you slip up...when you slip up, I will be there to personally take you back to Tartarus.”
Jane nodded slowly, “Just like I still think you’re anathema to everything American and good. You wear a symbol of an evil empire proudly emblazoned on your chest to this day and served one of the most vile men in history willingly. You led a campaign of terror against the US...I’ll never trust you either Olga, regardless of what happened with my father and regardless of what the people here think.”
The Soviet Superwoman seemed to accept that answer and nodded as well. “Then we are agreed. I wish you the best of luck then Jane Smith. You have a lot of demons to put to bed and it would seem that I am the least of your problems...for now.”
Olga waited a moment more as the police finally flooded onto the roof before taking off into the night sky. Jane watched her as she soared off into the night sky as the officers hauled the "Master" to his feet behind her. The tall blonde exhaled loudly and bent over, holding her knees and shaking. She had always envisioned their next meeting to be completely physical and she had been prepared for it, mentally and physically. This had been far too...emotional...nothing like she had anticipated. Jane took a few deep breaths to keep herself from vomiting all over in front of these cops before standing back up. She felt like she had made real progress in spite of the toll it had taken on her. She had faced the person she hated most in all the world and come away better for it. Whether or not Olga believed her was irrelevant. She was beginning to believe that she could make a difference and that she was truly changing...becoming the hero she was always destined to become. Jane contemplated going to see Mom and having a cup of coffee over it...or maybe even Connie. The Crimson Conservative had somehow managed to find a way to be civil with Olga that the, albeit liberal-biased, media seemed to eat up. Jane herself would love to know what Connie's secret was for not wanting to slam that dykes head into the pavement over and over again. That could prove to be a useful skill to have in the weeks and months to come. The city was never as large as she would have hoped and deep down she knew this was not going to be their only encounter.
You knew it was bound to happen sooner or later! What do you think? Is Jane really trying to take up the mantle of being American Hero in the right way, or is she always doomed to fail due to her own attitude? Is Olga just being a bully who is never going to forgive and forget? Should she forgive and forget?
Who should Jane go see next? Mom? Connie? Idol? A super-powered villain to beat down and have her costume ripped open in the process?
BIG thanks to my buddy
for being a helluva guy and commissioning this piece of artwork and thus, making this story a reality (which he also helped to edit!) I hope you enjoyed it!
The art was done by the incredibly skilled
who is a master craftsman!
LOTS of AF references with this one whose characters belong to their respective owners.
The story, Soviet Superwoman and Prodigy/American Hero II are all my property and creations.
This of course takes place in