A Glow in the Darkness part 1

Hapsburgh, Michigan. Friday evening, Aug 10th, 2007

Glow crouched down on the hilltop, trying to avoid being seen, though it wasn’t easy. Her eyes and shoulder length hair were not only electric blue in color, but also glowed in the dark. Since the sun had just set a short time ago, her eyes and hair stood out all the more obviously, making it impossible for her to hide in the shadows. Fortunately, none of her quarry were looking in her direction.

The hill overlooked a small park, one that was surrounded by trees so as to give it privacy. However, it was not the park that Glow was watching, but the small parking lot beside it. Currently, there were only two vehicles in the parking lot, an old muscle car, and a relatively new pickup truck. And of course, there were the three teenage boys who were hanging out next to their vehicles.

Todd was the tallest of the group, and the owner of the truck, which his father had bought for him when he turned sixteen. Mike, who was short and stocky, owned the other car, and he was famously proud of the vehicle, often challenging other people to race, though so far none had accepted. Steve was the last of the group, and was usually considered to be Todd’s sidekick and hanger-on more than a person of his own.

“I never thought I’d say this,” Todd announced with a grin. “But I’m actually looking forward to school starting up again…”

“Why the hell would you look forward to that?” Mike asked, digging into his car and pulling out a few bottles of beer, which he immediately passed around.

“Not bad,” Steve announced after taking a drink. “But can’t you ever get the good stuff?”

“My dad never buys the good stuff,” Mike reminded him.

Todd nodded, then continued what he’d just been saying. “We’re seniors now. When we go back to school, we’re gonna be the top dogs. This is gonna be an awesome year…”

“Damn right,” Steve agreed, quickly adding, “My dad always said that his senior year of high school was the best of his life…”

Todd just snorted at that. “Bullshit. This year is gonna be fucking awesome, and things are only gonna get better…”

Glow silently watched the three friends celebrate, though she kept careful watch to make sure no one else was in the park or parking lot. She didn’t want any additional witnesses, though she already knew that there wouldn’t be any. Those three boys had claimed this as their territory, and they were quick to chase anyone else away from it. This territorial aggression had only grown worse over time, as had their brutish hostility in general, until they’d finally gone too far.

Deciding that it was time, Glow stood up from where she’d been crouching, and suddenly vanished in a flash of blue light. An instant later, Glow reappeared in another flash of blue light, in the parking lot below. A faint blue glow surrounded her body for several seconds before fading away.

“What the hell?” Mike blurted out as he jumped in surprise at the sight of Glow’s sudden appearance.

Glow just stood still, without saying a word. She knew her appearance was a little odd, and that because of this, it could also be a little unnerving. She wanted the three boys to get a good look at her, because she didn’t want them to forget who it was who came after them.

For a moment, the boys just stared at the teenage girl who’d suddenly appeared. She was 5 foot 6, and she was quite pretty, even with the oddly colored hair and eyes. Her clothes consisted of a tight fitting blue and gray outfit, which resembled spandex and left little of her lean and athletic figure to the imagination.

“It’s a mutant,” Steve gasped, backing away from Glow.

Todd glared at Steve, contemptuous of the other boy for being afraid of this glowing girl. Even if she was a mutant, she was just a girl. He turned his attention to the girl and demanded, “Who are you?”

“I am Glow,” she stated simply. “And I have come to deliver an ultimatum.”

Todd stared at Glow for a moment in surprise, then burst out laughing. “What kind of ultimatum?” He moved towards her, trying to use his much larger size to intimidate the girl.

Glow looked up at him, though she didn’t seem the least bit afraid of him. “You will leave James Merrick alone,” she told him in an even tone. “James is under my protection.”

“Who?” Steve asked blankly.

“Wimpy Jimmy,” Mike pointed out with a smirk. “You know, that wimp we left bleeding in the ditch this morning?”

“Oh yeah,” Steve responded with a chuckle. “Him.”

Todd smirked, then quickly grabbed the girl by the shoulder. “How about we teach you a lesson instead…” However, before he could get a firm grip, she suddenly vanished in a flash of blue light, only to reappear a short distance away.

“Holy shit,” Steve exclaimed.

This time, Glow smiled faintly, feeling a certain pleasure in the knowledge that they had chosen to do this the hard way. She teleported again, momentarily passing through another dimension and absorbing some of the energies of that place into her body. She remained where she was just long enough for the boys to register where she’d gone, then teleported again. With each teleport, she absorbed more of the energies, becoming stronger, faster, and more powerful.

Suddenly, Glow appeared in front of Mike, punching him in the stomach and making him double over with a grunt of pain. She grabbed him by the shoulders and flung him back a short distance. Still glowing blue from the charge of energy, she appeared behind Steve, kicking his feet out from beneath him and driving his face into the asphalt below.

Glow turned and saw that Todd had grabbed a crow bar from the back of his truck, and was running right at her. Without saying a word, she teleported again, though when she appeared on top of the hood of Todd’s truck, she held a sword made of glowing blue energies. The blade had the recognizable curved shape of a katana, and the sight of it was enough to make Todd pause.

“Oh shit,” Todd whispered, feeling a cold dread in the pit of his stomach as he realized that he was in over his head.

Glow stared at him with her eerie glowing eyes, then drove the blade straight down through the hood of his truck and into the engine block beneath. A moment later, she appeared in front of him, swinging the blade. It sliced through the crow bar and cut it in two, then she immediately teleported again, this time appearing beside Mike’s card.

“No,” Mike cried out in horror as he realized what she was about to do. However, before he’d even finished uttering that word, the glowing blade sliced through not only the tire, but the wheel itself. “NOT MY CAR!”

“You will forget James Merrick exists,” Glow stated, dropping the sword which immediately vanished. Her firm gaze went to Steve, who cringed and scampered back, then to Mike who was still staring at his ruined car. Finally, she looked to Todd. “Should any of you ever harm him again, or even suggest a threat, I will return for you.”

Glow took one more look at the three terrified boys and their wrecked vehicles, satisfied that her message had been delivered. Since her task was now complete, she teleported one more time, vanishing from their sight.

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Hapsburgh, Michigan. Saturday, Aug 11th, 2007

James Merrick stood on the back porch of his suburban house, staring at the bicycle that was currently sitting upside down in front of him. The chain was missing, having snapped off yesterday morning during his ‘accident’, and he had just removed the front wheel a short time earlier. Of course, several spokes were gone and the wheel itself was now bent and useless, so it might have been easier if he’d lost that along with the chain.

“Just great,” James grumbled in disgust. “What am I supposed to do now?”

This bike was his main form of transportation, and now it was ruined. He’d have to replace both the chain and wheel, and he couldn’t afford to buy new parts, at least not until he found a new job. Unfortunately, without the bike, he wouldn’t be able to get to and from any job he did find.

“Just great,” James repeated bitterly, silently cursing the jerks who’d caused this.

Yesterday, he had been out looking for a summer job, and had been submitting applications to a couple fast food places, when Todd, Steve, and Mike had shown up and ruined everything. Those three were well known as local bullies, but they’d become much worse over the last year, and especially over the last couple months. And then, yesterday, they’d definitely gone too far.

While James had been riding his bike, Todd had shown up in his truck, and had swerved to hit him, driving him off the road. James had smashed into the low guardrail, and had been flung over it and into the ditch below. His bike had been smashed up from the crash, while he himself had been left with a bloody lip and bruises over half his body. And then, to make it even worse, Todd had stopped his truck, just so the three of them could laugh at James. They’d nearly killed him…and had then laughed about it.

James picked up the bent wheel, staring at it for a moment before sadly shaking his head. As he tossed the wheel into the corner, he let out a long sigh. “I guess I can ask Dad for the money…”

However, James hated the idea of having to do that. After all, he was sixteen, which was old enough to earn his own money. Of course, he was also old enough to be driving a car instead of riding around on his bike. Unfortunately, that meant he would have to actually save up enough money to buy the car first, which was the entire reason he’d been looking for a job in the first place. So far, none of it had been working out very well for him.

Suddenly, a familiar voice called out, “Hey, there you are…”

James turned and smiled at the welcome sight of Melissa ‘Mel’ Terrance, who had been his neighbor and best friend for the last two years, ever since his family had moved in. She was a cute girl, slender with naturally bronzed skin, and short dark hair that she always kept in a pixie cut. Mel’s features hinted at her well mixed ethnic heritage, though James wasn’t sure what the mix contained since she gave a different answer every time someone asked.

“Hey, Mel,” James greeted her with a nod.

Mel came up and paused, looking over the bike with a disapproving expression. “Can you fix it?”

“Once I get a new chain and wheel,” James answered with a scowl.

“Those guys are assholes,” Mel stated firmly while James nodded his complete agreement. Then she began to grin and asked, “Did you hear what happened to them?”

“They got arrested for reckless driving?” James asked hopefully.

Mel just laughed. “No. Even better.”

James gave her a curious look. “Better than that?”

“You know how my dad is a deputy,” Mel started, but before James could respond, she quickly continued, “Well, last night, they called in reporting that some mutant supervillain attacked them and cut up their cars.”

“What?” James blurted out in surprise. “Where they drinking?”

“Probably,” Mel agreed with a snicker. “Anyway, my dad said that when he checked it out, someone really had cut up their cars, and both had to get towed…” She grinned cheerfully as she described what her dad had told her, adding, “Apparently, they didn’t tell the police anything about why some mutant supervillain would attack their cars…but get this. They said she had glowing blue hair.”

“Glowing blue hair?” James asked skeptically. “Those bozos probably just got drunk and messed up their own cars, and are just too embarrassed to tell anyone…”

“Maybe,” Mel responded with a shrug, not looking as though she believed it. “But you remember that biker gang last month? They said they were attacked by a girl with glowing blue hair too.”

“”Of course I remember the biker gang,” James responded in disgust. “They busted up the restaurant where I worked and put the place out of business. I lost my last job because of those assholes. But this is the first I’ve heard about a blue haired girl…”

“Oh, come on,” Mel exclaimed, giving James a look of disbelief. “I told you all about it last month.” When James gave her a skeptical look, she let out an exasperated sigh. ”Okay. So, after the bikers busted up Harry’s Burgers, the cops find them with their bikes all busted up. They told my dad and everyone else at the station that some girl with glowing blue hair attacked them.”

“Really?” James asked in surprise. Then he gave Mel a suspicious look and added, “I think I would have remembered you telling me about that.”

Mel picked up the bent bike wheel and looked at it for a moment, then looked back at James with a thoughtful look. “You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think you had a guardian angel.”

James gave her a curious look. “And why is that?”

“Well,” she pointed out rather smugly, pleased with herself for having caught the connection. “This blue haired girl beats the crap out of the guys who cost you your job, then she shows up again to go after the assholes who ran you off the road.”

“That’s ridiculous,” James started to say, then paused with a cold chill running down his spine.

If he really did have some kind of super powered bodyguard that he didn’t know about, then it could only mean one thing. His mom must have sent her to look after him. James hadn’t even seen his mother in over a year, but that sounded like the kind of thing she might do.

Suddenly feeling extremely uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, James abruptly asked, “You want to play a game of HORSE?”

“Sure,” Mel responded with a grin. “This time, I’m gonna cream your scrawny behind.”

A minute later, they in the driveway in front of the house, focusing on the basketball hoop that had been set up right above the garage. James grinned as he bounced the basketball, taking his time, and then making the shot. As soon as the ball went through the hoop, he announced, “That’s an H for me. Now, who is gonna get creamed today?”

Mel cheerfully flipped James off, then took a shot of her own. When the ball missed, she glared at James, silently daring him to laugh. “I threw it too hard,” she announced a moment later. “Sometimes, I just don’t know my own strength…”

“Is that what it is?” James teased. “I just thought you had bad aim.”

“Oh no,” Mel responded, shifting into a bad Scottish accent. “Ya see lad, I’m used ta tossin cabers instead of these wee little balls. This wee ball is just too light for me…”

James chuckled at that, then reminded her, “Too bad you’re not Scottish…”

“Then why does my dad like wearing kilts?” she replied with a smirk.

James took the ball, bounced it a few times, then took aim and made another shot. Once the ball was through the hoop, he finally responded, “Those aren’t kilts he’s wearing. They’re skirts. And that’s an O for me.”

A few rounds later, and James won the game, not having missed a single throw. As they began a second game, Mel pointed out, “You know, you should try out for the basketball team this year. You’d kill at the free throws.”

James shuddered at the idea, quickly reminding her, “I’m not exactly the tallest guy in school…”

“You’re five nine,” Mel replied, looking James over. “You’re not exactly the shortest guy either.”

James scowled at that, knowing that there was absolutely no way he was going to try out for the team. He’d learned a long time ago that he didn’t do well with any kind of competitive sport, because the more competitive it was, the more likely he was to freeze up. In fact, he was bad with any kind of confrontation, and had even been known to have panic attacks. There was a reason that half the guys in school called him Wimpy Jimmy behind his back.

“Look,” Mel said, giving him a concerned look. “You’re gonna have to get over this thing someday. You just need to get involved in something and push through it. I mean, you don’t have a problem playing out here with me.”

“It’s not the same thing,” he snapped in annoyance. Even after all this time as friends, she still didn’t understand that this wasn’t something he could just get over.

“It’s your turn,” Mel reminded James, easily changing the subject.

James nodded at that, taking a deep breath and then preparing to make another shot. However, just as he was releasing the ball, someone yelled out, “MISS!” He jumped in surprise, just enough so that the ball went off course and hit the garage instead of the hoop.

“You brat,” James exclaimed, turning to glare at his sister Dinah, who stood next the parking pad with a smirk on her face.

Dinah was fourteen, two years younger than James, though they’d always been very close. She had dirty blonde hair, the same color as his, though hers was shoulder length, while his was much shorter. She’d inherited much of their mother’s looks, and James knew that most of the boys she went to school with, considered her to be very pretty.

“And you suck,” Dinah teased James, though she was grinning as she said it.

James just grinned at that and gestured for to come over. “Wanna play? We can start a new game.”

Dinah recovered the ball from where it had rolled to after James’ miss, then went to find a good starting position for the game. “I’m gonna kick both your butts,” she promised.

After throwing the ball and cheering at the results, Dinah paused for a moment to watch James as he went to recover the ball. Without saying a word, she reached up for her hair, grabbing the single lock that she’d dyed blue, and absently twirled it around her finger while she stared at her brother in concern. But as soon as James looked back at her, she flashed a broad grin and continued the friendly taunting.

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Hapsburgh, Michigan. Sunday, Aug 12th, 2007

Mel stood in the living room of her neighbor’s house, watching patiently as James and Dinah talked to their dad. Their father, John Merrick, was a stocky man who was only 5 foot 8, yet he somehow managed to look much larger and more imposing than he actually was. Mel wasn’t quite sure how the man did it, but she wished that he’d teach the trick to his son. James could really use a bit of that presence. If nothing else, it would keep people from messing with him at school.

“Thanks Dad,” James told his father, looking more than a little self-conscious. “I appreciate you giving me the money to fix my bike, but I don’t want to ask…”

“You didn’t ask,” John responded gruffly. “I offered it. Big difference. And if it still bothers you, then once you earn the money, you can pay me back.”

“Thanks,” James said, giving his dad an awkward hug.

“Hey,” Mel asked, getting their attention. She held up a set of car keys, borrowed from her parents, and shook them in the air. “You guys coming?”

“Of course,” Dinah exclaimed with a broad grin.

John chuckled at that, then told Dinah, “Keep your brother out of trouble.”

“Always,” Dinah responded before running out the door with a squeal of delight. “We’re going shopping. We’re going shopping…”

“We’re just going to the bike shop,” James pointed out, amused by her excitement.

Mel just grinned at that. “I don’t know,” she mused with a smirk. “Who said we only have to make one stop? I mean, I talked my folks into letting me borrow the car, so we might as well get some use out of it.”

Dinah gave her brother a smug look, then exclaimed, “I get shotgun…”

Half an hour later, the three of them stepped out of the bicycle shop, with James satisfied that he had what he needed to get his bike working again. He’d just bought a replacement chain and a new wheel, though they’d cost him more than he liked.

“Don’t worry,” Dinah told him. “Dad is the one paying for it, not you…”

“If you ask me,” Mel commented with a scowl, “Todd Perkins should be the one paying for it. After all, he’s the asshole who ran you off the road…”

“Well, your dad is a cop,” Dinah pointed out. “So, why doesn’t he arrest those assholes?”

Mel scowled at that, then admitted, “I wish he could, but they can’t do anything until James files a complaint… I asked him Friday.”

With that, Mel gave James a meaningful look, though she knew that he’d never do this. After all, if he filed a complaint, it would be his word against Todd’s…and Todd had two other boys to back up whatever claims he made. And even worse, she knew that kind of confrontation would just make James collapse like a house of cards. James was her friend, but she knew quite well, that he was also a bit of a wimp.

“You’ve got to learn to stand up for yourself,” Mel insisted. “If you keep backing down from jerks like that, they’ll just keep pushing…”

“So you’ve told me,” James muttered self-consciously.

“Look,” Dinah abruptly blurted out, pointing to the shop they were about to walk past. “Ice cream…” And with that, she rushed into the ice cream shop.

“Hey, wait for me,” Mel exclaimed before grabbing James’ hand and pulling him into the shop too.

When they emerged from the shop a short time later, each licking a cone, the mood was much improved. Mel grinned at James with a gleam in her eyes, saying, “I’ll have to thank your dad for buying us ice cream.”

“But I have to pay him back,” James pointed out as he stared at the scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream sitting atop his cone. “That means I’m the one buying the ice cream.”

“Not until you pay Dad back,” Dinah pointed out with a smirk. “We’ll thank you then…”

“If we remember,” Mel added cheerfully.

James rolled his eyes, then reached up to adjust an imaginary tie, and did his best Rodney Dangerfield impression. “No respect. No respect at all…”

Suddenly, Mel came to a stop and blurted out, “Shit…”

James was about to ask why she’d done this, when he noticed Todd and Steve walking down the sidewalk towards them. At first, the other boys didn’t seem to notice them, but then he caught the flash of recognition in their eyes. But oddly enough, Steve suddenly looked nervous.

“You owe James a new bike,” Mel accused, glaring up at the boy.

Dinah gave Mel a worried look, then stepped in front of James, as though to protect him. “Yeah. You should pay for the repairs.”

Todd gave a sneer of contempt, responding, “I don’t owe Wimpy Jimmy nothing but a busted lip…”

“Todd,” Steve warned him with a worried look. “Remember what SHE said…”

For a moment, Todd quickly glanced around with a nervous expression, though it was quickly covered back up with one of distain. “What a fucking pussy, having chicks fight your battles for you. You aren’t worth the effort.”

“What?” Mel asked in surprise.

Todd sneered at James, though Mel noticed that he looked around again before he quickly hurried off. Steve followed right behind his friend, not bothering to make any parting comments.

“That was weird,” Mel commented, just a little confused by how they’d been acting.

“Yeah,” Dinah agreed, watching Todd leave with a narrow eyed glare. “Weird.”

James just stared at the ground, feeling ashamed for the way he’d just stood there, letting Mel and his little sister both defend him while he remained silent. That hadn’t been anything new, and he had long since gotten used to the feelings of helplessness, but that didn’t make him feel any better. That only made it worse.

“Hey,” Dinah abruptly said, her voice turning serious. “I think we need to get going. NOW.”

“But they’re not coming back,” Mel said, only to notice the worried look on Dinah’s face.

“They aren’t the ones I’m worried about,” Dinah responded, giving a nervous look across the street. “That car is following us. I saw it across our house before we left.”

“She’s right,” James added with a grimace. “I saw them at the house…and when we stopped for gas.”

Mel stared at James and Dinah for a moment, sure that they were messing with her, but she vaguely remembered seeing that same care before too. She scowled and looked across the street, to where the car they were talking about was parked. To her surprise, someone was staring out the window, right at them. A moment later, the doors opened and four young men climbed out, all of whom were dressed like punks. Seconds later, all four started running straight towards them.

“Oh shit,” Mel exclaimed, suddenly realizing that this wasn’t some kind of joke.

“Run,” James ordered, grabbing his sister’s hand and half pulling her with as he began to do just that.

Mel immediately began running as well, demanding, “Who the hell are these guys?”

“How should I know?” Dinah responded, though Mel gave her a quick glance, sure that she knew more than she was saying.

However, James gave a frantic, almost desperate look back and blurted out, “It’s because of Mom… They’re coming because of Mom…again.”

“James,” Dina exclaimed, seeing the look of fear on her brother’s face, the one that was on the verge of crossing over to panic. “We’re gonna get away…”

A moment later, a gruff voice said, “I don’t think so…,” right as one of the men leapt forward and grabbed James.

James flailed and struggled to get away, enough so that the man’s grip slipped. However, he continued grabbing at James, getting a firm grip on his shirt and shoving him towards the ground. In desperation, James slipped out of his shirt, getting free from the man for a second before a second man tackled him, knocking him to the ground.

“JAMES,” Mel screamed frantically, caught between the need to help her friend, and the screaming voice of self-preservation that demanded she run away.

Then, Mel caught sight James’ bare back and gasped in shock. She suddenly realized that in all the time she’d known him, she’d never seen him without his shirt on. Not even in the hottest days of summer. And in that instant, she suddenly knew why. His entire back was covered with scars, the most notable being a large one that was shaped like a hand print.

For a brief moment, Mel froze and stared at James’ scared back with a mixture of confusion and horror. That delay allowed the two remaining men to catch up and surround them. As soon as she realized this, she gasped, shaking in fear.

Without warning, Dinah screamed, “LEAVE HIM ALONE,” as she charged into the man who was holding her brother, ramming him with her shoulders and knocking him back a little, enough for the panicking James to get loose and run.

“HELP,” Mel yelled as loud as she could, knowing that there were plenty of people nearby, but none of them were doing anything. “Damn chicken shits.”

Dinah kicked the man who’d been holding her brother between the legs, and as he doubled over, she told Mel, “Run…” Mel didn’t need to be told again.

“Get them,” one of the men yelled, though a second one immediately followed that up with, “He’ll kill us if we come back without HER kids…”

Mel ran as hard as she could out of fear and desperation though when she glanced back, she saw that one of the men was chasing after her. It wasn’t until that moment, she realized that James and Dinah had run in other directions, and she no longer had any idea where they were. However, as worried as he was about her friends, at that moment, she was truly terrified for her own life so continued running as fast as she could.

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Hapsburgh, Michigan. Sunday, Aug 12th, 2007

Glow stared down at the man, who was sprawled out unconscious on the ground in front of her. He had a broken nose, a broken arm, and probably some seriously bruised or broken ribs. This was no less than the man deserved. In fact, he deserved far worse punishment for his transgression.

“You will not touch James,” Glow stated, having stopped this man before he could capture her charge.

For a brief moment, she was tempted to finish the man, to ensure he would never again be a threat to James. However, she knew that was a line she could not cross lightly. At the moment, he was no longer a threat, and the injuries she’d given him would ensure he thought twice before coming after James again.

“But if I ever see you again,” she started, silently finishing the promise that the next time, she wouldn’t be so merciful.

Glow was about to turn and leave, but instead, she took one more look at the unconscious man, eyeing the black leather jacket he was wearing. It was a very nice jacket. Without a word, she relieved him of the jacket and put it on.

“Now for the rest,” Glow mused. She’d saved James from this man, but there were still three more looking for him. She would have to make sure that they never got close.

Glow turned to go look for the rest of those men, then paused as something occurred to her. James had escaped this man, thanks to her intervention, and was no longer in any immediate danger. However, he wasn’t the only one they had been chasing.

“Mel,” Glow said, remembering that James’ friend had been panicking, and she doubted the other girl had the clarity of mind to escape. That thought would have been amusing, since Mel always put on such a tough act, if the girl hadn’t been in real danger.

Her purpose was to protect James, and she had successfully fulfilled that purpose for twelve years. Mel was not her responsibility, and she owed nothing to the other girl. However, Glow knew that James would be devastated if anything happened to Mel, and she could not allow that.

Without saying a word, Glow turned and started to run, though vanished in a flash of light a moment later. She hurried in the direction she’d seen Mel running, hoping she could get there in time. In order to get a better view, she teleported to the top of the nearby building, then again to the far edge. A second later, she saw Mel, being grabbed by one of the men and thrown to the ground.

Glow couldn’t teleport very far, so it took her two teleports to reach Mel. She appeared in a flash of blue, using the energy she’d gathered to form a sword. An instant after appearing, she kicked the man in the face, sending him flying back, then she leapt at him, bringing the sword to his throat.

“Who sent you?” Glow demanded of the man. “Why did you come?”

“What the fuck?” the man exclaimed, staring up at Glow with a look of confusion and fear.

“Answer my questions,” she told him in a cold tone.

The man just stared at her with a defiant expression, and she was considering how much she could justify hurting him in order to make him talk. However, Mel blurted out, “Holy shit. You’re the one who went after Todd…”

“Yes,” Glow responded, turning to look at Mel, who was staring at her in shock. “I am called Glow.”

“Glow,” Mel repeated, as though testing the name. She smiled nervously and responded, “It seems appropriate.”

Glow turned away from Mel, focusing on the man again. She had questions, and he was going to answer them, one way or another. Since he’d already refused to answer her twice, it seemed she would need to encourage him. With that, she lowered her blade, then pushed the tip about an inch into his upper thigh. He screamed.

“Answer my questions,” Glow repeated in a cold tone. “Who sent you and why?”

“Look out,” Mel suddenly yelled, drawing Glow’s attention back to her. Then she saw what Mel had been warning her about. The two remaining men were running straight at them, and both appeared to be armed. “Not good…”

Glow frowned at the interruption and teleported again, appearing right in front of one of the men. She punched him in the face, and his nose exploded in a spurt of blood. Then, she swung her sword at his gun, slicing the metal in half. For a moment, she had considered taking his hand, though she didn’t want to traumatize Mel, who was watching.

“Who the hell are you?” the last man demanded, though Glow saw no point in answering him.

The last man froze and stared at Glow for a second, before abruptly turning and running the other way. Though she could have teleported ahead of him, she didn’t see any purpose in giving chase. Instead, she swung her sword, and released it. The sword immediately broke apart, with the glowing energy taking a new form as four glowing blue shuriken flew towards the man. One of them struck him in the back of the leg, slicing through the flesh, and causing him to fall face first into the concrete sidewalk.

A moment later, the man whose nose she had just broken, leapt at her from behind. Glow saw him coming from the corner of her eye and teleported to the side, then kicked him in the ribs had enough to crack them. He yelled in pain, but she silenced him with a punch to his solar plexus.

“Holy shit,” Mel exclaimed. “You’re a total badass…”

Glow didn’t acknowledge the compliment, and instead, looked back to the man she’d been attempting to question. She could hear police sirens quickly approaching, and she knew she didn’t have long at all.

“Oh my God,” Mel blurted out. “James and Dinah…”

“They are safe,” Glow assured her.

“Who are you?” Mel demanded, staring at Glow with burning curiosity in her eyes. “Why are you doing all this?”

“I protect James,” Glow answered her.

Mel gave her a look of surprise. “What? So, you’re his bodyguard?”

Glow just stared back for a second before agreeing, “Yes.”

Mel looked as though she was about to ask another question, but two police cars arrived, coming to a quick stop. Glow glanced towards the police, feeling annoyed at their interruption. Then, after giving one more glance to the man she had been questioning, she vanished in a flash of blue.

Glow hurried away from the scene of the police and would-be kidnappers, knowing that Mel was no longer in any danger. She teleported several times until she found an empty alley, just a short distance from where she’d fought the first man. Once she saw that she was alone and unobserved, she decided that this would be a good spot.

“I am done for now,” Glow said, releasing all the energy she had stored inside of herself in a flash of blue. Once she was empty, she was ready to leave.

With that, Glow closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, then her body began to change. The blue glow in her hair faded, as the hair pulled into her scalp, shortening and turning to a dirty blonde color. At the same time, her chest flattened and the rest of her body stretched and grew. Seconds later, James opened his eyes.

--------------------

Hapsburgh, Michigan. Monday, Aug 13th, 2007

Mel rang the doorbell on her neighbor’s house, though she nervously watched the street, looking for any sign of an unfamiliar car or the men who had attacked her yesterday. Of course, those men were all either in jail or the hospital, and no longer an immediate threat, but she still didn’t even know why they’d attacked.

“Probably a bunch of perverts,” Mel muttered to herself.

Yesterday, after those men had jumped her and her friends, Glow had come to their rescue, kicking those men’s butts and saving them. However, Glow had vanished immediately afterwards, and then Mel had been forced to spend the rest of the day telling the police what happened, then being ‘comforted’ by her mom. This was the first chance that she’d had to get away.

“Come on,” Mel muttered, impatiently ringing the doorbell again. She had a lot of questions, and after what Glow had said about being James’ bodyguard, she suspected that he knew some of the answers. “I’m not getting any younger out here…”

Seconds later, Dinah opened the door and immediately grabbed Mel in a hug. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Mel responded as she went inside. “Just a bit shaken up. And confused.”

“Yeah, that was pretty freaky,” Dinah agreed.

“But I want to know why those guys jumped us,” Mel told her with a scowl

Dinah suddenly looked a little worried. “Why don’t you ask your dad. I mean, he’s a cop…”

“He doesn’t really know yet,” Mel admitted with a frustrated shake of her head. “Apparently, all of them have police records, but none of them are talking yet.”

“Yet is the important part,” Dinah pointed out.

“Maybe,” Mel said. “But I need to talk to James. I think he knows something about this too…”

A look of fear flashed across Dinah’s face, and she quickly asked, “Why would you think that?”

Mel paused, looking Dinah over and realizing that something was definitely up with her. Suddenly, she was pretty sure that James wasn’t the only one who knew something about what was going on.

“That girl who saved me,” Mel said carefully. “She said that her name was Glow…and that she was James’ bodyguard. Why in the world would James have some mutant girl acting as his bodyguard?”

“Oh,” Dinah gulped, her eyes going wide.

“I need to ask James about her,” Mel stated, glancing around, then starting towards James’s bedroom. Since she didn’t see him in the living room, she was pretty sure that was where she’d find him.

“He’s resting,” Dinah blurted out, jumping in Mel’s path to stop her. “You know how he deals with stress. He’s totally freaking out in there and just needs time to relax…”

Mel glared at Dinah and accused, “You know about this Glow girl too, don’t you…?”

“No,” Dinah protested, though not very effectively. “Please, just leave James alone…”

“I need to talk to him about Glow and those guys,” Mel started towards James’ room again. “I nearly got killed, and then she showed up out of nowhere and saved me. I think I deserve to know why.”

“No,” Dinah blurted out. “You can’t.” Then she stared at Mel with trembling eyes, begging, “Please… You can’t tell him about Glow. Please...”

Mel froze, stunned by the way Dinah was acting. For as long as she’d known Dinah, the younger girl had always been trying to protect her older brother, and now she was on the verge of freaking out over this. It was almost like she was trying to protect James from Mel.

Suddenly, the pieces snapped into place. “You’re her,” Mel blurted out. “You’re Glow…”

Yesterday, Glow had been very exotic looking, but something about her had seemed familiar. Now Mel knew what it was. Glow had a strong resemblance to Dinah. Of course, Glow had the glowing hair and eyes…and looked a little older and more developed, but the resemblance was definitely there. They even had the same hair style.

“You’re a mutant,” Mel accused her. “You turn into Glow…”

“I’m not Glow,” Dinah protested. “Please, forget about Glow. Please, just let this be…”

“What’s going on then?” Mel demanded, getting angry with getting the runaround. Her friends obviously knew something, and it hurt that they were keeping her in the dark about it.

When Mel started towards James’ room again, Dinah blurted out, “I’m not Glow. James is.”

“What?” Mel gasped, staring at Dinah in surprise and confusion.

“He has DID,” Dinah said quietly, her voice shaking. “Dissociative Identity Disorder.” Then at Mel’s blank look, she added, “Multiple personalities.”

Mel’s eyes widened at that. She gave Dinah a suspicious look, wondering if Dinah really thought she was stupid enough to buy something like that. That sounded like something out of a soap opera, not real life. Then again, being jumped by thugs and rescued by some girl with mutant powers was like something out of a movie.

“James,” Dinah said in a shaky voice, tears starting to run down her cheeks. “He… Please, just leave him alone and I’ll tell you everything. Please…”

Mel stared at Dinah, stunned and confused by the way the girl was acting. She gulped, realizing that whatever was going on, Dinah definitely wasn’t pulling some kind of joke. She was serious…very serious.

“What’s going on?” Mel asked her, a bit more gently. “Why are you protecting James so hard?”

Dinah went and sat down on the living room couch, though it was more like collapsing. She was silent for a moment staring at the floor, then at Mel with a desperate look.

“It’s because of our mom,” Dinah finally said, her voice tired and filled with emotion. “It’s all because our mom…”

“Your mom?” Mel asked as she sat down in the chair beside the couch.

Dinah nodded. “Mom is…she’s a superhero.”

“Wait,” Mel gasped. “Your mom is a superhero?”

Dinah nodded again, though her expression wasn’t a proud one like Mel might have expected. “When we were little,” she explained quietly. “I mean, really little. I was a toddler, and James was four… A supervillain found out my mom’s identity…and he came after us. He…he kidnapped James.”

“Shit,” Mel gasped, suddenly remembering something she’d seen the day before. “James’ back…”

Dinah winced. “Yeah.” She gulped, looking even more shaky. “Sinsear kidnapped James…and hurt him. He did horrible…aweful things to him…and broke him.”

“Oh my God,” Mel whispered, thinking about all the scars, and wondering who could possibly do something like that to a little kid…to a four year old.

“He BROKE James,” Dinah blurted out, rage filling her voice and mixing with the grief and desperation. “His mind broke…”

Mel just sat there, feeling stunned, horrified, and to her guilt…curious. She wanted to know more about what had happened to her friend, no matter how horrible.

“Mom found them and rescued James,” Dinah continued quietly. “A healer fixed James’ body…or at least most of it…but didn’t realize how bad his mind had been broken too. We found that out later.”

Dinah wiped the tears from her eyes and stared at the far wall, not looking at Mel. She looked haunted, not at all like the vibrant and energetic girl Mel was used to seeing.

“The doctors said,” Dinah continued, “that when a kid is really young, and their minds are still really flexible, that sometimes…if they experience something traumatic enough…they can create a new personality to deal with it. That’s what James did. The doctors said that he created a new personality to protect him from Sinsear.”

“Glow,” Mel whispered in realization.

Dinah nodded at that, but added, “She didn’t call herself that at first. For a long time, she wouldn’t tell anyone her name. In fact, for a long time, no one even knew she was there.”

Mel blinked at that. “How can you not have known she was there? She has glowing blue hair.”

This time, Dinah shook her head. “After Sinsear, James couldn’t handle confrontation. Anytime someone pushed him too hard, he’d just panic and freeze…” She paused at that and licked her lips, giving Mel an odd look. “But sometime, when bullies pushed too hard…he’d snap. He’d beat the crap out of the bullies, and afterwards, he didn’t remember doing it. Eventually, the shrinks realized that he had another personality, one that only came out to protect him.”

“That must have been pretty weird for him,” Mel said sympathetically. She’d known James for several years, and never would have guessed he had another personality. She felt a little hurt that he’d never even shared that fact with her. Didn’t he trust her? “It must be freaky, knowing you have someone else living in your head.”

“James doesn’t know,” Dinah said with a sigh. “We told him…and his shrink spent years trying to work with him about it. But…” She paused again and shook her head. “He doesn’t remember. He never remembers. Glow… She makes him forget. She makes him forget about her, and about anything else bad…like she’s protecting him from bad memories too. In just a week, he probably won’t even remember that he was there yesterday.”

Mel stared at Dinah before whispering, “Damn…”

“Yeah,” Dinah agreed. “We found out that if we keep everything nice, calm and safe for James, then Glow doesn’t have any reason to come out. As long as he feels safe, he can live a normal life.”

“So, that’s why you’re always so protective of him,” Mel said in understanding.

Dinah nodded at that. “Then about three years ago, things changed a little. They manifested as a mutant…but for some reason, Glow was the one who got all the powers. Now, whenever she takes over, James’ body changes and transforms into hers, and when she goes away, she changes back to him.”

“So,” Mel mused, “James is a mutant, but he can’t use his powers…”

“He doesn’t even know he has them,” Dinah responded with a wry smile. “The doctors think that the reason Glow has all the powers but he doesn’t, is all psychosomatic. Maybe Glow has the powers because they both see her as the powerful one…as the protector…or maybe, she intentionally hijacked them to protect him from being a mutant too. I don’t really understand how that works, but as far as James is concerned, he’s a baseline.”

“My God,” Mel whispered, trying to absorb everything she’d just been told.

It all sounded so far-fetched and unbelievable, but she knew James, and could see the evidence of it as well. That explained why he was the way he was, why he froze whenever a bully pushed him too hard. And of course, it explained the attacks on the bike gang, Todd, and those men from yesterday.

“Have you,” Mel started awkwardly, not sure how to continue. “Have you ever talked with Glow?”

“Sometimes,” Dinah admitted. “Sometimes she’ll talk to me and Dad, but usually not for very long. She’s kind of intense, and just about the only thing she cares about is protecting James.”

“I can’t even imagine what it must be like,” Mel admitted. “Living like this...” She shook her head sadly, wishing there was something she could do to help her friend. “Poor James…”

They were both silent for several long seconds, but then a new voice asked, “Is that all true?”

Mel and Dinah snapped around, only to see James standing in the hall doorway, staring at them with a haunted and horrified look on his face. He slowly stepped into the living room, looking shaky and on the verge of a panic attack, the kind he had when the stress became too much.

“Is that really true?” James repeated with a pleading note in his voice. “Do I really have someone else in my head?”

Dinah jumped to her feet, and she was already crying. “I’m sorry,” she blurted out, rushing over to her brother and grabbing him in a hug. “We didn’t want you to find out… I didn’t want you to have to go through this again…”

Mel just stared at James, unable to think of what she could possibly say to him now. After a few seconds, she stood up, then slowly went over and gave him a hug as well. It was the only thing she could think to do.

After they were done with the hugs, James staggered to the couch and collapsed into it, in almost exactly the same way that Dinah had earlier. He put his face in his hands, and silently remained in that position for nearly a minute. No one dared to speak.

Finally, James looked up, revealing his red and teary eyes, pleading to Dinah, “Tell me about Glow…”

--------------------

Hapsburgh, Michigan. Wednesday morning, Aug 15th, 2007

James sat at the breakfast nook in the kitchen, staring down at the bowl of soggy cereal in front of him. He’d eaten about half the bowl, but had then become distracted and lost in his own thoughts, leaving the reset of the cereal virtually forgotten.

He was still stunned by what he’d learned the other day, about having another personality who lived in his head without his even knowing. The very idea seemed ludicrous, but at the same time, it explained some of the strange things in his life. It explained so much.

Just a few days ago, those men had jumped him, Dinah, and Mel, and one of them had chased him into an alley. After that, the next thing James remembered, was that he was standing in a different alley, wearing a leather jacket that reeked of cigarette smoke. He’d immediately thrown the smelly thing away, though that hadn’t answered any of his questions.

“And my shoes,” he muttered, remembering that he’d also been barefoot. At the time, he’d had no idea of what had happened to his shoes, but now, he realized that it was because Glow had smaller feet than him, and must have gotten rid of them after she took over.

Of course, that was only the most recent event. Now that James knew about Glow, he realized that there had been a lot of similar events in his life, times that he had no memories of, or things that other people had accused him of saying or doing, when he knew quite well he hadn’t.

In elementary school, his best friend Tyler used to joke around about how James had beaten up Billy Jones, which was why Billy never picked on him. James had always laughed that off, because he knew he’d never be able to beat up someone as tough as Billy. All he’d known was that Billy had been bullying him really badly one day, and then suddenly, Billy left him alone after that and never bothered him again.

“She beat up Billy for me,” James whispered, wondering how many other fights she’d gotten into in his place. How many other times had Glow protected him?

Then James thought of Sinsear, and his heart momentarily felt as though it was freezing in terror. James could remember Sinsear, at least a little. He remembered the supervillain who’d come into his home and kidnapped him, and he had a few vague memories of what had happened after that. However, he’d never been able to remember most of what Sinsear had done to him. He’d always thought this was a good thing, that his mind had blocked out the memories because they were too horrific. But now, now he knew that it had been a little more complicated than that.

“I haven’t forgotten about you yet,” James said, not sure if Glow could hear him or not. Dinah said that Glow seemed to be aware of everything that happened to him, so maybe she was listening through his ears.

James was afraid that he would forget about Glow again, and that she could simply take away any of his memories she wanted. How many things had he forgotten because of her? How much of his own life had been erased?

But at the same time, James had to reluctantly admit that he almost wished she would take away that memory. If he forgot about her, then he wouldn’t have to worry about her being in his head, and about what she’d done. He suspected that in this case, ignorance would be bliss. However, just because he didn’t remember Glow, that wouldn’t mean she was gone.

For the last two nights, James had written himself a letter and left it beside his bed. He’d written down everything Dinah had told him about Glow, so even if she did make him forget, he could still remind himself. But then, this morning, James had found something else sitting beside his bed. It was his dad’s camcorder.

James looked over at the camcorder that was sitting on the breakfast nook beside him, knowing that Glow had left him a message. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to look at it yet, but he had a strange certainty that she was the one who’d put it there.

“Glow,” James said her name, feeling an odd mixture of emotions when he thought of this girl, who was supposed to be a part of him. He felt grateful to her, yet afraid of her at the same time.

James finally decided that it was time. He picked up the camcorder, then got up and left the breakfast nook, the soggy cereal completely forgotten about. He went over to the computer, which sat in the corner, and plugged the camcorder into it.

Once James played the recording from the camcorder, an image appeared on the monitor of a girl. She was a very pretty girl, with glowing blue irises, and with glowing blue hair that went down to her shoulders, in a style that was very similar to what Dinah wore. In fact, the girl on the screen looked a great deal like an older version of his sister.

“Hello James,” the girl said. “I am Glow. Dinah has already told you much about me, and I know that you fear I will steal your body and life. I wish to assure you that I would never do anything like that. I would never do anything to harm you. My purpose in life is to protect you. That is the reason I exist.”

“Holy shit,” James gasped, staring intently at the monitor. He couldn’t believe that girl was really him…or a part of him.

“Kind of weird, isn’t it?” Dinah asked as she came up and stood beside him. “It’s even weirder to watch you actually turn into her.”

James gulped at that. “I imagine…”

Glow continued speaking. “In the past, I have removed my existence from your awareness in order to protect you. You were greatly troubled by my existence, and I had hoped that by removing knowledge of me, you could be happy and live a normal life. But now, as you have chosen to remember me, I will abide by your wishes.”

Dinah put a hand on James’ shoulder and offered, “It looks like you won’t have to worry about forgetting this again…”

“Lucky me,” James muttered in response, trying to make sense of his confused emotions.

“Remember,” Glow said from the monitor, “I am always with you, and I will do anything in my power to keep you safe.” With that, Glow bowed her head and the video ended.

James just started at the screen for several long seconds, then weakly joked, “I’m like Jekyll and Hyde.”

“More like Bruce Banner and the Hulk,” Dinah joked. “I mean, Glow is a total badass…”

“That she is,” their dad said as he came into the room.

He scowled a little as he looked at the computer screen, reminding James that his dad hadn’t been happy about Glow’s public appearances lately, or that Dinah had told him about her. However, instead of being angry, he seemed more worried than anything.

“Glow means well,” he carefully said, “but she does complicate things.”

James stared at the floor, not sure what to say to that. After a few seconds, he cautiously asked, “What does Mom think about Glow?”

James noticed his dad and sister sharing an awkward look, before his dad admitted, “She doesn’t know.”

“What?” James asked in surprise. “Why not?”

“It’s not like Mom has ever been around,” Dinah reminded him in a bitter tone.

James nodded at that, knowing exactly what Dinah meant. His parents had divorced when he was young, just months after he’d been rescued from Sinsear. Ever since then, James barely ever saw his mother, who usually only showed up once or twice a year. She had never really been part of his life.

“Sarah,” their dad started with a grim expression. “Your mother wasn’t around when you were growing up. For the first few years, I kept her appraised of your situation, of the odd behavioral issues…”

“But Mom would rather be a superhero than a mother,” Dina pointed out with a deep scowl that hinted at the old anger and frustrations.

Their dad scowled at that as well, but calmly continued, “We didn’t realize that you had another personality until you were nearly ten, and by then, we had very little contact with your mother.”

“And Glow insisted that we don’t tell Mom about her,” Dinah added. “She doesn’t trust Mom.” Her tone indicated that she thought this a good thing.

James stared at his sad, who had a somewhat guilty expression, and then at Dinah. “But if I’m a mutant, then shouldn’t Mom know? I mean, if anyone could help me…or Glow learn about our powers…”

“She’d probably take you away,” Dinah stated with a flash of anger. “Then we’d never get to see you either.”

“James is right,” their dad said, much to Dinah’s surprise. He looked to James and added, “Your mother does need to know, but not because you’re a mutant too. I’m pretty damn sure those men tried to kidnap you two because of her.”

James was about to ask more questions, when the doorbell began to ring. Their dad got up and answered the door, revealing Mel and her dad. Her dad was tall, lean, and had dark skin and hair. He was also dressed up in his deputy uniform, which suggested this wasn’t a social visit.

“Hey, John,” Phil Terrance greeted James’ dad. “I saw your car in the driveway and figured you skipped work today…”

“Yeah,” John Merrick agreed, glancing towards James and Dinah. “The kids were pretty shaken up by what happened Sunday, so I figured I’d stay close for a few days.”

“Good idea,” Phil responded, looking to Melissa, who’d hurried over to stand next to James and Dinah. “I wish I could do that myself, but the whole department is busy investigating those would-be kidnappers.”

“Did you find anything out?” John asked.

“That’s what I came to talk to you about,” Phil explained. “All four have records, and they admitted that someone hired them to grab your kids, though they refused to say anything more than that. Would you know of any reason why they’d be interested in you and your family?”

There was a long pause before John answered. “They’re probably here because of my ex…”

Phil suddenly looked even more intent. “Your ex?”

“Their mother,” John said, gesturing back to him and Dinah. “She…” He paused with a scowl, then carefully continued, “She sometimes works with law enforcement, so this may be because of that. I was just about to give her a call about all this…”

James watched his father, feeling a little worried because of the topic. Though his dad hadn’t said anything about his mom being a superhero, he might have given Phil enough to figure it out on his own. James wasn’t very happy with his mom, but he didn’t want to risk her being outed as a superhero.

“There is one more thing,” Phil announced. “That mutant girl who showed up…”

Phil scowled at that, and James knew that this was because the police were confused by Glow and what she was doing. This was the third time in the last month that she’d shown up and caused a bit of a scene. The police didn’t know anything about her, and were worried that they had a new superhero or vigilante in town.

“That mutant was questioning one of the men,” Phil continued, “and unlike the others, that one has said a couple things, not that they mean much.”

“What did he say?” Dinah blurted out, glancing to Melissa who had a grim look on her face.

“Well,” Phil answered with a deep scowl. “He keeps repeating two things over and over. They are, and I quote, he is sincere, and he wants the boy back.”

Everyone in the room suddenly went silent at that, though James was sure he couldn’t speak if he’d tried. He felt as though a hand had just clutched his heart and was starting to squeeze. A cold dread filled him down to his very soul.

“Are you sure that’s what he said?” John asked grimly.

“That’s what he said,” Phil agreed. “He keeps repeating them.”

John gulped, then gave a forced smile. “Thanks for keeping me in the loop.”

As soon as Phil left, a cold firm voice announced, “He has returned.”

John, Dinah, and Mel all looked to James since the words had come from his mouth, though the voice that spoke them had definitely been female. Then he lifted his head and they saw the glowing blue eyes.

“Glow?” Mel blurted out in surprise.

James’ features shifted and changed, softening and becoming more feminine. His hair lengthened, losing pigmentation and becoming clear, right before each strand began to glow, as though each was a fiber optic cable. At the same time, his body shrank, losing three inches of height while his chest began to push out into two B cup breasts. Mere seconds after the transformation had begun, James was gone, replaced with Glow.

“Sinsear has returned,” Glow snarled, her glowing eyes burning with fury. “This time, he will not touch us.”

--------------------

Hapsburgh, Michigan. Wednesday late afternoon, Aug 15th, 2007

Glow stared out the window, her eyes darting back and forth as she looked for any sign of a threat. So far, she’d been keeping watch for hours and hadn’t seen any, but she couldn’t afford to lower her guard, not if Sinsear was back.

Though Glow hated to admit it, even to herself, she was scared. This wasn’t an emotion she was used to feeling, at least not since THEN, but Sinsear terrified her. He was the only thing that she was truly afraid of, but in spite of that, there was absolutely no way that she was going to let him touch James again. NONE.

“This is so weird,” Mel said, watching Glow in fascination. “I can’t believe she’s really James…”

“I am not James,” Glow said with a note of annoyance in her voice as she turned and gave Mel a flat look.

“Okay,” Mel responded, holding her hands up. “But you do share headspace with him…”

Glow just continued giving her a flat look, then finally turned away and looked out the window again. She frowned, tempted to teleport around the neighborhood for a better look, but John had warned her to keep a low profile, and she had to agree that this would be in James’ best interest, since it was easier to protect him if she had the element of surprise.

Mel continued to stare at her, as she’d done since Glow had appeared. Glow did her best to ignore the other girl, though Mel made this difficult.

“So,” Mel abruptly asked. “What was your name before you got your powers? I mean, you probably weren’t called Glow before you started glowing…”

“That is none of your concern,” Glow answered.

“Jane,” Dinah supplied with a smirk, only to earn a flat look from Glow.

“My name has never been Jane,” Glow stated.

Dinah grinned, then told Mel, “She’s NEVER told us her name… After she finally started coming out where we could actually SEE her, I named her Glow.”

“It is an appropriate name,” Glow admitted. Her real name was not their business, and was one she had never even uttered aloud. If she needed a name, Glow was more than suitable.

“Glow,” Dinah said carefully. “You’ve been out for hours. Shouldn’t you let James come back?”

Glow turned her attention to Dinah. “I am protecting him.”

“I know Sinsear might be back,” Dinah said awkwardly, trying to keep her expression even so as not to show just how afraid she was of Sinsear. She didn’t remember the supervillain, but she’d seen what he’d done to her brother, and that terrified her. However, it would be a bad idea to let Glow see that, at least at the moment. “But you can’t keep James locked up for the rest of his life.”

“She’s right,” Mel quickly added.

“If Sinsear or any of those men come back,” Dinah told her, almost pleasing, “you can come back out then. Please, let James come back…”

Glow stared at Dinah for a moment, considering her words. Admittedly, she’d been keeping watch all day, and had yet to see any signs of danger. Though she wanted to remain on watch, making sure that no threats came near, she couldn’t let James asleep forever…especially not after she’d promised him that she wouldn’t.

“Very well,” Glow reluctantly agreed.

Glow closed her eyes, steadied her breathing and allowed herself to feel James. She was always aware of James, whether he was awake and in control, or she was. With a small act of will, she pushed herself back, allowing herself to sink back to where she normally waited while James rose to the surface in order to exchange places with her.

While this occurred, Glow’s body began to shift and change, in a way that was uncomfortable for her, yet appropriate for James. The glow faded from her hair and eyes, while her body began to grow both taller and flatter of chest.

James opened his eyes and looked around, feeling a moment of confusion. Mel and his sister were sitting in different places than they had been a moment earlier, as was he. And there was no sign of his dad in the room.

With a nervous gulp, James asked, “Did Glow…?”

“She took over,” Dinah said, giving him a look of pity.

“That was…weird,” Mel admitted. “Did it hurt?”

“Did what hurt?” James asked, feeling confused until he realized that she meant the changes.

He shook his head, not sure how to answer her. Changing into Glow didn’t hurt, or at least he didn’t think it did. He didn’t remember changing, so for all he knew, Glow had just erased his memory of that too.

“How long was she here?” James asked with a sinking feeling. Then he saw the clock in the corner and his eyes widened. “No way…”

“About six or seven hours,” Dinah answered awkwardly, unable to meet her brother’s eyes.

James was stunned at the realization of just how long Glow had taken over for, and he felt a chill of fear at just how easily she’d done it. He hadn’t even been aware of it until she’d gone. For all he knew, she could take over anytime she wanted and for as long as she wanted, and there seemed to be absolutely nothing he could do about it.

After a few more seconds, James discovered another surprise. He looked down at the clothes he was wearing, a blue and gray outfit that covered everything from his neck down, and which fit his body very closely. He gasped in surprise before blurting out, “What am I wearing?”

“Glow’s costume,” Dinah answered with a wry grin. “I think she bought it from some devisor online…”

“Oh my God,” Mel exclaimed, rushing over and touching James’ arm. “This is awesome…”

“Awesome?” James gasped, staring at her in confusion, and with a little sense of betrayal.

“I mean, this stuff fit Glow perfectly,” Mel rushed out as she ran a hand over the costume material on James’ arm. “And now, it fits you too…”

“One size fits all,” Dinah agreed. “And when Glow first got it, she told me that it’s sort of bulletproof too…”

“Sort of bulletproof?” James asked skeptically, though Dinah just shrugged.

Just then, James’ dad came back into the living room and paused to give him a look of relief. “You’re back…”

“Um…yeah,” James responded awkwardly. He stared at the ground in shame. Not only was he crazy, but he had been for most of his life and hadn’t even known it. Compared to Glow, his cowardice was absolutely nothing.

Dinah was suddenly by his side, wrapping her arms around him and insisting, “This isn’t your fault.” Tears started running down her cheeks as she told him, “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Then James realized that his dad was standing in front of him too. He expected to see shame on his dad’s face, but instead, he only saw concern. Without a word, his dad grabbed him in a tight hug and just held him.

Once the family hug ended, Dinah tearfully whispered, “I wish you hadn’t found out about Glow again…”

“Ignorance is bliss,” James quietly responded, feeling a little better for their obvious concern. Then, he took a deep breath and looked Dinah in the eyes. “But it would be a lie…and I think…I’d rather know the truth.”

His dad put a firm hand on his shoulder and nodded in approval. There was even a look of pride on his face as he said, “You can’t fix your problems by running away from them.”

James nodded at that, still feeling self-conscious from the fact that everyone was watching him. Then, he suddenly remembered what they’d been talking about right before Glow had taken over. Again, he felt the cold hand of terror gripping his heart and squeezing, and for a moment, he desperately wanted Glow to protect him. And to his surprise, he could almost feel her presence, prepared to come forward and do that very thing. However, he remembered what his dad had just told him and mentally assured her that he was fine…for now.

“Sinsear,” James gasped, barely able to get the name out. Though James couldn’t remember most of what Sinsear had done to him, the supervillain was still his boogeyman, the terror that haunted his worst nightmares.

“We don’t know that he’s the one who sent those men,” his dad told him, looking worried. “We don’t know that he’s involved. Hell, after what your mother did to him, it would be a miracle if he was even still alive…”

“You’re safe,” Dinah promised, grabbing hold of James and trying to reassure him. “If you weren’t, Glow wouldn’t have backed off. And even if something does happen, you can bet your butt that she’ll be back out to protect you in an instant.”

“She does seem pretty protective of you,” Mel offered, looking a little awkward as she watched them.

“And I called your mother,” his dad added with a deep scowl. “Just in case.”

“You called Mom?” James blurted out, staring at his dad in surprise.

“Yeah, he called her this morning,” Dinah told him with a grimace, clearly not happy about that. Of course, that was no surprise, since Dinah resented their mother even more than he did.

Mel laughed, and at James’ curious look, she explained, “Glow really wasn’t happy about it either.”

James just nodded, not trusting himself to say anything. The truth was, he wasn’t sure how he felt about calling his mom. Sure, she was a superhero, but when it came to protecting him, she didn’t have a very good track record at all. And even though he had a problem with someone else living inside his head, at least Glow had always been there for him.

“Mel,” James started uncomfortably. He hesitated a few seconds, not sure how to say this, then just blurting it out, “It might not be safe around us…”

“What?” Mel responded in surprise. “Are you telling me to leave…?”

“No,” he quickly told her, wincing and taking a nervous step back. “I mean, if Sin…if those guys come back…” James paused, shaking a little and unable to bring himself to look at Mel as he added, “I just don’t want you to get hurt because of this…”

Mel smiled faintly at that, then told him, “I’m not about to abandon my bestie… Besides, if anyone does come after you guys again, you’ve got a secret weapon.”

“Yeah,” Dinah added with a broad grin. “If anyone comes after us, Glow will kick their butts.”

James looked to his dad, who gave a forced smile and asked, “I was about to get dinner started. What does everyone think of burgers?”

“Do you have tofu burgers?” Mel asked, trying to keep a straight face. “I’m vegan.”

“Vegan?” James’ dad responded with a look of surprise. “I didn’t know…”

Mel just grinned and added, “And can you put extra bacon in it?”

James snickered at the look on his dad’s face, then had to point out, “She’s messing with you, Dad…”

“I figured that much,” his dad responded with a grumble as he hurried away.

“Did you see the look on his face?” Dinah blurted out before she burst into giggles.

James watched Mel and his sister, feeling a little better for this distraction. The fear of Sinsear was still knawing away at his guts, but it was a bit more tolerable now. Still, he was eager for anything that would help distract him from it even more, and this talk of food stirred some questions.

“Does Glow like hamburgers?” James abruptly asked, earning looks of surprise from Mel and Dinah.

It was freaky enough to learn that he had another personality living in his head, and stranger still to realize that he knew almost nothing about her. Apparently, Glow had been with him for twelve years, yet she was a complete and total stranger.

“I don’t know,” Dinah admitted after a moment. She gave James an apologetic look and explained, “I’ve only seen Glow eat a couple times, and she never really said if she liked something or not.”

James let out a sigh of disappointment. “Oh…”

But then, Dinah suddenly brightened up and blurted out, “Snickerdoodles.”

“What?” James and Mel asked simultaneously.

“She likes snickerdoodles,” Dinah announced rather proudly. “One time when she was out, she ate half a plate of snickerdoodles. She never said that she liked them or anything, but it was kind of obvious…”

“Snickerdoodles,” James mused. He’d never particularly liked or disliked that type of cookie, so it was interesting to learn that Glow did like them. It somehow made her seem a little more human to him. “Thank you.”

Mel had a thoughtful look on her face, then suggested, “You know, we should leave some snickerdoodles out for Glow. You know, to thank her for saving our butts the other day.”

Dinah nodded enthusiastically at that, cheerfully exclaiming, “Like leaving cookies out for Santa…”

“My mom has a good recipe,” Mel added, clearly liking the idea.

A short time later, they sat down around the dinner table. James looked at the hamburgers that were fresh off the grill, knowing that they would be juicy and delicious. No fast food place could ever match the ones his dad cooked, not even the ones from Harry’s Burgers, where he’d briefly worked.

Normally, James would be delighted by this dinner, but this time, he was far too distracted to enjoy it. He still had the knot of fear in his stomach, and even without the threat of Sinsear, he still would have felt overwhelmed. Learning about Glow was more than stressful enough.

“Thanks for inviting me for dinner,” Mel announced.

James smiled faintly at that since it would have been more accurate to say that Mel had invited herself. Of course, that was nothing new since she tended to do that about once a week, so his dad always made sure to have enough food ready, just in case.

Suddenly, the sound of shattering glass came from the living room, making everyone jump to their feet. James felt his heart leap into his throat, and he could feel Glow starting to come, much to his relief.

An instant later, there was an explosion of force and James was flung across the room where he slammed into the wall. The impact stunned him, and seemed to interrupt Glow, because she was no longer coming, leaving him to deal with whatever was happening.

“JAMES,” Dinah cried out, staring at him in worry, then relief when he sat up.

“I’m fine,” James said, fearfully looking around.

Then a new voice called out from the living room. A mocking female voice. “Come out, come out, wherever you are…”

“Run,” James’ dad ordered, holding up a shotgun that he must have hidden nearby. He had a grim look on his face and gestured to the back door. “Go. Now.”

“Helloooo,” the woman’s voice called out again, right before she stepped into the dining room.

The woman had tanned skin and long black hair, that was tied up in numerous tight braids, some of which had metal rings woven into the ends. She had a green and black costume that covered her entire body from the neck down, all except for her hands which were clawed and vicious looking.

“I FOUND you,” she teased, right before grinning broadly, revealing that her mouth was twice as wide as it should be, and all her teeth were sharp and vicious looking. “I win.”

James froze, staring at this woman in terror, unable to bring himself to move. Dinah grabbed his arm and yanked him towards the door, snapping himself out of it

“I don’t think so,” James’ dad announced as he pulled the trigger.

The woman was knocked back as her chest exploded in red. However, she didn’t go down. Instead, she grinned and began to laugh.

“That tickles,” she announced in a gleeful tone. “I do so love it when they play rough…”

“Oh shit,” John Merrick exclaimed, shooting her again and starting to back away.

The woman lunged forward, and an instant later, John was sent flying with blood exploding from his side. James saw his dad to down and screamed in horror.

“No, no, no,” James cried out.

The woman crouched down beside his dad and giggled. “Oh, I would so love to kill you right now, but that is against the rules. HE wants you all alive and well…at least for the moment.” Then she suddenly looked at Mel and added, “Except for you. I can play with you…”

“Run,” John ordered the kids.

“Come on,” Mel yelled, grabbing James and Dinah and yanking their arms.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” James cried out, feeling Glow in the background, wanting to come forth. However, he couldn’t afford to stop long enough for her to take over. He ran out the back door with the others, silently pleading to Glow to come rescue them.

“It’s PLAYTIME,” the insane woman yelled as she exploded out the back door. “Run all you want kiddies. I’m COMING!”

Then, the woman held out her hands and laughed maniacally, releasing a blast of force. An instant later, James, Dinah, and Mel were thrown away from her, and James hit the ground with a painful impact.

“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” he gasped, his heart racing with terror.

James’ eyes began to burn with blue energy as Glow switched places with him. Her body immediately began to shift and change, transforming back into the one she was comfortable and familiar with. Seconds later, she jumped back to her feet, her attention focused on the threat to James.

“Oooooh,” the intruder exclaimed, clapping her hands gleefully. “We have a new player. And since I wasn’t told to bring you in alive, I can play as rough as I want.”

Glow watched the woman warily, knowing that at the moment, she didn’t have any energy stored and was no stronger or faster than a normal girl. However, she also felt a strange sense of relief since the current threat wasn’t Sinsear, like she’d feared. It was just some insane woman, who happened to have powers. That was something Glow was prepared to handle.

Her eyes darted to the ruined back door, and she scowled as she thought of John. He was injured and had been left bleeding on the dining room floor. Fortunately, this woman had said she needed him alive, so he didn’t appear to have been hurt too bad. That was a very good thing, as James would never forgive her if she’d allowed his father to die.

A moment later, Glow glanced at Dinah and Mel, who were taking advantage of the distraction to run away. Or at least, Dinah was taking advantage of the opportunity and nearly dragging a stunned Mel along with her. Glow smiled faintly at that, not at all surprised. Dinah was good at thinking on her feet and quite capable of taking care of herself. And more than that, she was also good at taking care of James. She’d often protected him, keeping Glow from having to do that. Not only was Dinah her ally, but the closest thing she had to a friend besides James. Glow would keep this intruder distracted so that Dinah and Mel could get away and find help.

“Who are you?” Glow demanded of the intruder. “Why have you come to this place?”

“I’m Bombastic,” the woman stated with ridiculously broad grin. She gave an exaggerated bow, announcing, “And I am here to have a little fun…”

An instant later, Bombastic lunged at Glow with an impressive speed, and Glow just barely managed to teleport before the villain’s claws tore through where she’d been standing. Glow reappeared twenty feet away, staying just long enough to get Bombastic’s attention before teleporting again.

“Ooooh,” Bombastic exclaimed, licking her lips excitedly. “You want to play tag… That’s one of my favorite games. I’m it.”

With that, Bombastic flung out her hands and fired a blast of explosive force, which knocked down the fence to the neighbor’s yard. Glow easily teleported out of the way, smiling faintly as she had gathered enough energy to begin fighting back.

“I am called Glow,” she stated, right before teleporting again. The moment she reappeared, she formed all the glowing blue energy that she’d gathered into a half dozen shuriken, and flung them all at Bombastic. Bombastic leapt aside, though not quite fast enough. One of the throwing stars sliced right through her side before vanishing.

Instead of going down, Bombastic just laughed, as though her injury was amusing. She touched her bleeding side, then licked the blood from her fingers. “This is going to be a fun game…” Her eyes lit with a malevolent glee before she launched herself at Glow.

“Then come get me,” Glow announced as she turned and ran, leading Bombastic away from the others.

Bombastic ran close behind, moving with incredible speed. Every time she got close, Glow would dodge away or teleport, then retaliate just enough to keep the woman interested. Once they were far enough away from the others, by nearly two blocks, Glow decided that it was time to end this. She snapped around, forming her energy blade and slashing at Bombastic. Bombastic jumped back enough so that the blade just grazed her, leaving a thin slice across her stomach.

“My turn,” Bombastic called out in a sing-song tone , right before firing another concussion blast at Glow.

“No,” Glow responded, glaring at the woman who had attacked James in his own home, who had injured James’ father. That would not be allowed. “It is my turn.”

With that, Glow teleported again and again, passing through the other dimension half a dozen times in rapid succession so she could gather enough energy. Then, she came to an abrupt stop, her entire body covered with a blue glow. A moment later, she released all the energy she’d gathered at one time, pushing it out at Bombastic as a blast of blue energy that caught the woman in the chest. Bombastic was sent flying back where she smashed into a tree. The front of her uniform was burned off, and her chest was a charred ruin.

Glow stared at her defeated enemy for a moment, noticing that Bombastic’s clawed fingers were twitching, proving that she was still alive. Glow took mental note of that fact and briefly considered ending Bombastic completely. She deserved no less for attacking James and his family. However, Glow knew that James would disapprove, so instead, she turned and started back for the house. John had been injured, and she needed to make sure he received medical attention.

Glow was halfway back to her destination, when something suddenly slammed into her from the side and threw her to the ground. She hit with a painful thud that left her momentarily dazed, but seconds later, she realized that she was covered in some kind of metallic wire net, which seemed to cling to her and prevented her from moving much.

“You shall not be going anywhere,” a woman announced in what Glow thought of as a posh British accent.

Glow shifted her body as much as the net allowed her to, and stared at the woman who spoke. She was attractive, in a prim and proper way, with auburn hair that was tied up in a bun, and she was even wearing a very old fashioned purple dress. However, her outfit included a belt that appeared to be made out of bronze, along with matching wrist bracers and a shoulder pad. To finish off the odd ensemble, she wore a pair bronze framed goggles, and wielded a large rifle, that also seemed to be made of bronze. As Glow looked over the woman, a word came to mind that described the woman’s odd fashion style. Steampunk.

“You are my prisoner,” the unknown woman stated calmly. “Struggling will only cause you harm.”

For a brief moment, Glow wondered if this woman was stupid or merely arrogant. Did she really think that Glow would simply surrender? Glow decided to prove the woman wrong by teleporting out of the net, but as soon as she activated her powers, a surge of pain shot through her entire body, then everything went dark.

--------------------

Hapsburgh, Michigan. Wednesday late afternoon, Aug 15th, 2007

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Mel blurted out as she ran, her heart racing in terror. She came to a stop and pointed back the way they’d just come, exclaiming, “That was a damn supervillain…”

“I know,” Dinah responded, stopping alongside her and looking back with tear filled eyes.

Mel gasped for breath, staring at Dinah in shock. “We left your dad… I can’t believe we left your dad…”

“I KNOW,” Dinah repeated with an angry snarl that covered her guilt. “He’s my dad…” She paused at that, looking back in the direction of the house and adding, “But we couldn’t do anything… I mean, we can’t fight a supervillain…”

“But James,” Mel protested with a look of horror. “We left him too… Oh God, he can’t even stand up to Todd without freezing…”

Dinah looked to the older girl and grimly reminded her, “Glow will protect him…and my dad too…” Her voice shook a little, hinting at how much she was praying for that to be true.

Mel hesitated for a moment, then nodded agreement. Once she’d calmed down enough to think, she reached into her pocket for her cell phone, then called 911. She shook a little as she reported the attack along with Mr. Merrick’s injury, thinking about what would happen if her dad was the one to respond. Her dad was a cop, but there was no way he’d stand a chance against someone like that woman. She closed her eyes, silently praying that she wasn’t sending her dad there to get hurt.

“How convenient,” a deep voice commented from behind them. “We retrieve one prize, only to find two more…”

Mel and Dinah snapped around, and both gasped in fear at the costumed man who’d spoken. He was dressed in a red and dark gray costume, which included a long cape and a full head mask. Pieces of golden armor decorated his belt, shoulders, and wrists, but there were also rings of glowing golden energy around his waist and ankles. This figure floated five feet above the ground, and he was not alone.

“DAD,” Dinah blurted out, staring at her father, who floated in the air beside the costumed figure. Like the costumed man, her father had a glowing ring around his waist, which seemed to be holding him in the air, in spite of the fact that he appeared completely unconscious.

“Ironworks,” the man spoke, looking to the side and making the girls jump as they saw another figure appear. “Do you know which of these two is the girl we seek?”

Ironworks was a massive metal figure that stood over eight feet tall, and was entirely encased in armor. The armor bore a vague resemblance to that of a medieval knight, though it seemed crude and brutish. In one hand, the armored figure held a massive war hammer that was seven feet in length. He took several slow steps forward, as if trying to get a better look at the girls, then he shook his armored head.

“Then I suppose we shall take them both,” the floating man stated with dismissive gesture. “Sinsear can have them both for all I care, so long as he fulfils his part of our bargain.”

Dinah’s eyes widened in terror at the mention of Sinsear, though she bit her lip to keep from saying anything. She glanced to Mel, knowing just how much danger they were both in. Dinah was tempted to tell these men that Mel wasn’t involved in this, and beg for them to let her go. However, she was pretty sure that this would only result in them killing Mel instead.

The floating man settled to the ground, and the glowing rings around his waist and ankles vanished. A moment later, two new rings appeared in the air in front of him, looking almost like a pair of halos. Then with a gesture, the rings suddenly flew at the two girls.

“Watch out,” Dinah cried as she leapt to the side.

Mel didn’t move fast enough, and the ring dropped down over her head, then shrink in size until it snapped firmly around her neck. She grabbed at the collar, then began tugging at it, but as soon as she realized that it wouldn’t budge, she became even more desperate in her attempts. Suddenly, the collar tightened again and she let out a gasp, unable to breath. That only lasted for several seconds before the collar loosened enough for her to breathe again.

“As you can see,” the mysterious man stated, sounding rather smug, “your life is in my hands.”

“MEL,” Dinah cried out in terror, alternately staring at the older girl and warily glancing to the ring that had come after her, and which was now floating in the air a short distance away.

“Make no mistake,” the costumed man told them. “You are both coming with us.” The massive Ironworks didn’t utter a word, but he nodded his head and lifted his hammer, making his position extremely clear.

Mel frantically looked back and forth between the costumed man and the massive armored figure, realizing just how much trouble she was in. James had warned her that it might be dangerous to remain with them, but she hadn’t believed him. “Oh God,” she whispered in a shaky voice. “Help…”

Before Mel could finish her plea for help, a shadow settled over her…over all of them. Her eyes were drawn to the figure that had appeared behind Ironworks, one that towered over his armored form. Mel let out a gasp of shock, looking up…and up…and up, only to a giant woman, who stood forty feet tall. The giantess was dressed in a tight fitting red and white costume, which included a mask over the top part of her face.

“Fee. Fi. Fo. Fum,” the giant woman called out, right before stomping on Ironworks and driving him straight into the ground.

“She’s enormous,” Mel blurted out with a mixture of awe and fear.

Dinah just glared up at the giant woman, and in a grim voice, responded, “No. She’s Ginormous.”

Ginormous bent over and slapped at the costumed man, who was sent flying back until he hit the side of the house next door, then collapsed on the ground. She straightened up and looked around, then to Mel’s surprise, she began to shrink. The giantess dwindled in size, reaching thirty feet tall, then twenty. In mere seconds, she had slipped below the ten foot height, stopping at eight feet tall, still towering over the girls.

“No way,” Mel gasped in stunned amazement.

Dinah was much less impressed and just continued to glare at the woman for a moment before saying, “Hi Mom.”

“Mom?” Mel blurted out in surprise.

If Ginormous was upset about this revelation of her secret identity, she didn’t show it. Instead, she rushed forward and crouched down to grab Dinah in a hug. However, Dinah wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about it.

“You always do this,” Dinah accused angrily. She pointed up at her mother, who was nearly three feet taller than her. “You always have to make yourself bigger than everyone else, just so you can intimidate them and make them feel small…”

Ginormous looked a little hurt at the accusation and shrank a little more, stopping at six feet tall, which was still larger than her natural size. “It isn’t like that,” she tried to explain awkwardly. “I have an image to keep…”

“Whatever,” Dinah grumbled. Then she suddenly snapped around, “Dad…” Her dad was still floating in the air where the costumed man had left him, and still appeared to be unconscious. Her eyes widened and she called out to him again, hoping he would hear her and snap out of it.

“John,” Ginormous said, her voice filled with concern. “He’s hurt…”

“Some crazy woman broke into our house and attacked him,” Dinah said, her voice filled with her own worry. Then she quickly added, “But she said they wanted us all alive, so I don’t think she hurt him too bad.” This was said more hopefully than anything.

“And James?” she asked, looking around with a worried look. “Where is he…”

“That crazy lady chased him,” Mel offered nervously, wincing a little when Ginormous looked at her.

“What?” Ginormous demanded.

Dinah grabbed her mom’s arm and quickly assured her, “He got away… He’s safe” Or at least, she desperately hoped he was. She had no doubt that Glow would do everything she possibly could to protect him, and she had a lot of faith in Glow’s abilities. A moment later, she looked to Mel, adding, “This is Mel…our neighbor.”

“Um…hi,” Mel squeaked out awkwardly.

“I need to find James,” Ginormous stated, then gently reached for her ex-husband. “And get your father to the hospital…” But just as she was about to try picking John up, he suddenly flew back out of her reach. “What…?”

The man in the costume stood there with his hand out, gesturing towards John who now hovered in the air near him. “I am not so easily defeated as that, Ginormous…”

“Ringleader,” Ginormous snarled. “I’ve heard of you…”

Ringleader just laughed. “I do have quite a reputation…” Ginormous snarled and took a step towards him, growing larger as she did so. However, Ringleader held up his hand and said, “If you take another step, he dies…”

“YOU,” she snarled again, her eyes blazing with fury. “Why are you after my family? We’ve never even met before…”

“I have nothing personal against you,” Ringleader said, forming glowing rings around his own waist and ankles and then lifting several inches off the ground, where he just hovered. “However, Sinsear does.”

“SINSEAR?” she demanded, growing another foot larger, her eyes flashing not just rage but fear. “He’s still alive?”

“Oh yes,” Ringleader responded with a laugh. “And he bears you and yours quite a grudge…”

Mel looked back and forth between the hero and the villain, seriously thinking about running. However, as scared as she was, she was also extremely curious and couldn’t bring herself to look away.

“MOM,” Dinah suddenly called out, though the warning was too late. A massive hammer slammed into Ginormous and sent her flying back. “MOM!”

Ironworks started walking towards Ginormous, who was getting back to her feet. At that moment, she wasn’t much larger than he was, so she was vulnerable to his power. That didn’t last long though, as she immediately began growing.

A second later, the ring around Mel’s throat tightened, cutting off her air. She gasped and frantically grabbed at the ring again, but it did little good. Then, the ring yanked her back, pulling her towards the Ringleaders.

“I may only have acquired one of the three targets I was after,” Ringleader said as he began rising up. “But this one should offer some additional leverage…” With that, two more rings snapped around Mel’s wrists and began lifting her up into the air by her arms.

“Help,” she screamed, too terrified to feel relief over the fact that she could breathe again.

“No,” Ginormous exclaimed, reaching twenty feet tall and bracing herself as Ironworks swung his hammer at her again. She lashed out, kicking him and knocking him back, though he was far too sturdy to be damaged so easily.

Ringleader rose up into the air with his two prisoners, with Mel screaming in frantic desperation. Ginormous leapt at them, only to have Ironworks slam into her and knock her aside. She turned to kick Ironworks again, growing larger as he did so. However, the armored figure stepped back and suddenly began to levitate as well. Without saying a word, Ironwork went up into the air, using his hammer to smack Ginormous’ hand when she tried to grab him. A few seconds later, both villains were gone.

“DAD,” Dinah cried out desperately, tears pouring down her cheeks. “MEL!” Then, she turned and glared at her mother, who’d failed them yet again.



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