Catch-as-Cat Can

Catch-as-Cat Can

 

By Maid Joy

A thesis on metahuman abilites lands the author in trouble with the Green Lantern Corps. When thinking up a way to copy metahuman abilities can have a lot of long reaching consequences, who caves and who stands righteously?

 

Author's Note: A Retroactive Continuity, or Retcon if you will, is the altering of previously known facts in order for the universe to conform to new story lines. This is mine. The first attempt to write in this universe, this is allied with Lilith Langtree's series. This is a retcon of the story of Catwoman and her origins. Detective Comics owns the character of Catwoman, and Lilith owns the copyright to American Dream and Jade of the Green Lantern Corps. The pic credit is J. Scott Campbell.

Professor Steven Kyle looked out at his students and wondered how many theses he was going to have to read on “Building a Better Bridge” or “Redesigning the Circuit Board”. It is not as if this batch of students were going to come up with anything new in those fields, anything that could have been thought up had already been. Smaller, lighter, suspension, cross braces and more had been designed and were in full implementation. There were only so many ways to hang a deck off a pillar to span empty space.

The challenges of the past, the real glory was long gone. Iconic structures like the Golden Gate, the Brooklyn Bridge, or Hoover Damn, would never come again. The minuscule, the ordinary, that was the arena to utilize their skills.

Most students decided to focus on the little stuff. Microcircuits, silicon wafers and electron microscopes were the items where there was room to grow now. Engineering had certainly gone downhill since the middle of the 20th Century.

“Don't forget, today is the deadline for your Master's Thesis title and for you to choose your faculty advisor. You've had the sheets for about a week now, you should have made your first, second, and third choices you hope will agree to mentor you. Terry is over near the door to collect the completed sheets.”

The bell rang soon after that announcement signaling the end of the class period. He saw Terry Franks, his research assistant, waiting to collect the sheets.

“Professor Kyle,” came a tentative query. Stephen looked at the speaker, Jon Cho, one of the shining students in his Advanced Engineering 305. Stephen knew that Jon would be a name in the years to come as well.

“Yes, Jon, what can I help you with?”

“Professor, I know that you said that you didn't want all of us putting you down as our faculty advisor for the thesis, but I really can't think of anyone else to help me with this. If you could advise me as to whom I should request, I would really appreciate the help.”

Stephen thought for a second. “Let me see your title and we can go from there.” Class was emptying fast around them as Jon pulled out the sheet he needed. Stephen scanned down it fast until he got to the title; “Mimicking Metahuman Powers Using Next Generation Technology”.

Stephen stared at the title for a few seconds in silence. “Jon, what prompted you to write a thesis on this subject?”

For once, Jon seemed nervous. “Well, sir, with the emergence of the metahumans in America, and the sudden appearance of “The Samurai” in Tokyo, I started wondering if the powers could be duplicated for those of us who do not have the metahuman gene, and that led to my thinking of this topic. It seems to me that if reports are accurate and only about 6000 people worldwide are going to have these powers, it ought to be possible to use technology to give the normal humans the same powers, if only on a shorter time frame.”

Stephen thought about it. This was a ground-breaking field and he was unaware of any other research in the field. This could be a field of discovery of epic proportions, and it could make Jon's career, and his too if he was careful.

“Jon, I'll go ahead and be your faculty advisor on this. Don't worry about putting any other people on your wish list. I'll do it.”

Jon's reaction was what Stephen would call typical for one of the stoic Japanese. He bowed from the waist and simply said “Thank you Professor.” He took back the sheet, wrote Stephen’s name in the proper blank space, and handed it to the RA as he left.

Maybe this school year wouldn't be so terrible.

Class continued as it had done all the years before. Stephen could almost teach the classes in his sleep. It was the same material that he had taught repeatedly, and it took very little of his concentration to present the same information.

It was after class, in the hours he was in his lab, which consumed his time now. Jon had an absolutely brilliant thesis topic and Stephen was rapidly becoming almost as consumed in researching it as Jon was. They spent time searching on the Internet, looking at old magazines and articles in the professional journals, finding how technology could be used to mimic powers of the metahumans.

Flight was relatively easy, just use the magnetic field of the Earth. If they could create a set of magnets that could overcome gravity without creating too great a weight ratio, and you could skate along the waves of the field, instant flying, without flying out of the Earth’s gravity well they both hoped.

Invulnerability was a bit trickier, although the advances in Spider Silk impact armor were impressive. Telepathy was simply another form of radio communication; sensory enhancements were also simply combining a lot of existent tech into one form.

The problem came when trying to miniaturize this tech and fit it onto a person. A magnetic field generator could be made to repel a person from the Earth and to move along the magnetic field, but it would take a pair of electromagnets the size of manhole covers to do so. When you add in the required power source to generate the electricity to make the magnetic field, it wasn't practical anymore to mount it on a person.

The problem with duration effect time was immense. You could rig up a system that sprayed liquid oxygen and formed sheets of ice, instantly cooling things and making them fragile just as a few superheroes could do, but you couldn't physically carry enough LOX in a tank to make it practical for sustained bursts as shown in the comics. You might be able to find a substance that was ultra cold when in liquid form, colder than liquid Nitrogen even, and use very short bursts to generate the same effects, but then you might have the problem of the equipment containing and spraying that substance not being able to handle the ultra-cold either.

Stephen couldn't even begin to imagine the amount of technology needed to actually assemble chains of atoms and molecules together instantaneously to create physical items as demonstrated by the recent super heroine Jade. Sure, there were super sophisticated computers that could take raw materials and from that create finished objects of very complex molecules, but, once again, that took huge resources and massive amounts of time to get very small amounts of finished products.

It was just the kind of challenges that two engineers could relish tackling.

Stephen let Jon do most of the slogging through the available research regarding the tech. This was, after all, his Master's Thesis. Stephen would content himself with taking the research to the next level. He would work on the practical application of Jon's theory, to make dreams into reality and give a normal human the powers Jon had researched so well.

His lab seemed to develop into a mad scientist's laboratory. I guess that's actually a fair statement, I'm a scientist and this is my lab. Whether or not I'm mad, I'll leave to others to decide.

More and more items were appearing on benches, super miniaturized tools, high powered magnification devices, plastics and rocks and exotic minerals were slowly being shuffled into all in their proper places yet not so well organized that someone could casually deduce their purpose. He was still trying to keep this a secret from everyone else.

He kept his own notes in code that he had been writing in for some time. It was a simple substitution cipher, offsetting the alphabet by one vowel, so that A became E, B became F, C became G and so on. He had been writing like this for so long that he no longer needed to have the chart on which letter went where. His fluency with this script was nearly as fast as it was using regular English. He knew that it wasn't secure, but it would keep someone from reading what it was by glancing at the page. Like door locks, it kept honest people honest.

He made note of all the powers that were apparent in the current population of metahumans and what might be usable substitutions for those powers, no matter how outrageous. Then he noted the powers that many comic books showed their superheroes having. It was interesting that so far, it looked like several of the metahumans stepped right out of the comics, powers, vulnerabilities and all.

In one of their frequent discussions regarding the progress of Jon’s thesis, they agreed that it might be more practical for Jon to focus his efforts on one set of powers and theoretically replicate them. The narrowing of the focus led to the decision to attempt proof that replicating enhanced senses through technology currently available. Even that limitation left a lot of room to research.

It took time, it took computing power, it took looking in a lot of obscure places and web-conferencing with of other specialists, but eventually the thesis began to come together. Jon was thrilled and Stephen was pleased with it as well.

Jon needed to print out the first draft of the thesis to give to the second reader, for another independent opinion of the work. He was still a good five weeks under the deadline of when that needed to be in the hands of new reader, so Jon was thrilled. Jon went to the print shop in the bowels of the college and printed up three copies of the document (all 100+ pages) on the new digital printer.

Once they were printed and bound, Stephen received his copy, solemnly shook hands with Jon agreeing to meet in three days.

That's when the trouble started.

Stephen took his copy of the thesis home and went through it with a fine toothed comb. He read through it and carefully examined each section meticulously for mistakes and inaccuracies. He opened up his own database of information on his laptop to double check all his information finally deciding it was as good as they could make it. It was all Jon's work; Stephen had simply suggested several areas of exploration when Jon got lost.

Stephen was just about to close everything down and go to bed, when suddenly there was a girl in green and black standing in his study.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Calm yourself Steven Kyle. I am not here to injure you. However, you do have some information of interest to me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your student in Master's Studies, Jon Cho, has written a thesis on the use of technology to mimic metahuman powers. Having seen the completed paper, I have determined it is too far in advance of the current level of technology on Earth and needs to be expunged.”

“How the hell do you know that?”

“I have a very advanced supercomputer which went through the available information on the Internet. I had it mark several publications and articles as ‘potential to be abused’. Your student accessed 18 of them in one 24 hour period. When my computer informed me of this, I decided to investigate.”

“Your that new metahuman, Jade or whatever. Why would you come here looking for and expecting to take my student's thesis?”

She sat down on one of his chairs. “As you have surmised, I am Jade of the Green Lantern Corps. It is my duty to protect this planet from threats, both natural and man-made. I have examined the research that you and your student have been doing and decided that the trend represented by this research is dangerous to you and other humans, as well as being far in advance of what you should be capable of at this time in history. I'm concerned that there might be some contamination from alien cultures, but that doesn't concern you. What does concern you is the information you have on your desk right now.”

Stephen thought quickly. There was one copy of the thesis on his desk, and Jon had two more. If Jade wanted to get this information out of here, then those three documents would have to disappear.

“What about Jon's thesis? This is for his Master's of Engineering Degree and I don't think he will be too pleased that three months worth of work and research is being taken by someone in green tights, no matter how much of a threat it looks like to them.”

“That's true, and I have already talked to Jon about this. He has agreed to turn over all this information to me.”

“He has? How do I know that?”

She raised her hand and soon the air was filled with the sound of Jon's voice. “I, Jon Cho, voluntarily surrender all my research, notes and thesis entitled Mimicking Metahuman Powers Using Next Generation Technology to Jade of the Green Lantern Corps. I have been informed that compiling this information in one place could constitute a threat to this planet if it fell into the wrong hands. I further promise that I shall not pursue this research line for the period of at least two decades.”

Stephen was skeptical. “I don't know what you think you are pulling, but that's not going to convince me. He's worked too hard and too long to have someone come along and just decide that it's too dangerous. I won't give it to you.”

Jade sighed. “Call your student up on his cell phone. You have his number. Ask him yourself. This is his paper, not yours. If he surrenders it to me, you have no right to keep it.”

Stephen pulled out his cell phone and called Jon. Shockingly, he had surrendered all rights to his discoveries.

“Jon, what were you thinking? This is censorship, as bad as anything done in Nazi Germany during World War II.”

“Professor Kyle, I do understand that. However, Jade explained what kind of consequences this paper could have. She asked me to imagine what might happen if someone who didn't care about anything but power decided to make and actually use the tech I've been writing about. That person could use it all to become super powered and be a real threat to not only regular humans, but to the metahumans as well. They could start doing things that could cause all kinds of problems. I don't want that on my conscience. If someone else comes up with this same tech, fine, let them be the one who opened Pandora's Box, but I won't do it.”

He tried to talk Jon out of his decision. In the ten minutes they spoke, Stephen worked to get him to change his mind, but it was no use. Jon had made up his mind and there wasn't anything else to say. Yet Stephen was concerned by the robotic tones and inflections of Jon’s speech.

At least there are other copies of the thesis. It won't all be gone. “Fine, take it.” He held out the printed copy of the thesis.

Jade stood. “Thank you. I appreciate your cooperation in this matter. You've made the right decision and the world is safer because of this.”

Stephen smiled. “Well, you are right, it's not really my decision.”

Jade nodded. She took the document and slowly faded from view.

Stephen smiled and opened up his laptop. There, on the desktop, Mimicking Metahuman Powers Using Next Generation Technology. Stephen smiled and opened up the document.

The only thing in the document was “Erased by the authority of the Green Lantern Corps.”

Stephen tried for two hours, every way he could think of to restore the data. He tried the backups of the information, even the CDs that had been burned were ruined. He tried the USB keys that they had used, and those were corrupted and erased as well.

Fearing the worst, he grabbed his jacket and headed to the college.

He stood in the ruins of his lab, although most people wouldn't call his lab “ruined”. In fact, the cleaning crew might say that it was looking much better.

All the metahuman projects were gone. The experiments had just vanished. The notes were piles of tree pulp, his documents and instructions were gone as well. All his careful work was gone. None of the other experiments were affected, just the ones that were based on Jon's research.

He spent two full minutes cursing.

He checked his office computer. It would probably have copies of the documents. Once again, when he booted the computer up, those were gone. He then verified the College network backups weren’t any more. In desperation, he took a chance, grabbed all of the other USB keys, and checked each one methodically. They were empty as well.

Damn it, that bitch is thorough. When she decides to get rid of something, she doesn't screw around. He tried to think of other options. If she removed the documents off the hard-drives, she probably would go through the trouble to remove them totally, but I can't be sure. Let me get some utilities to work on this tomorrow.

Mad as a wet rooster, he went home and went looking for hard drive recovery tools. There were a lot out there, and he picked a couple to try out.

Since he couldn't sleep, he spent the rest of the night trying out the computer tools on his home system. Steve was hoping to see if he could recover the deleted data. It was hopeless from the beginning. He tried every way to recover it given the tools he had, but he still couldn't restore the data. He supposed that it was conceivable that the NSA had some tools that could read sectors next to the data track and still find the document, but those kinds of tools were out of his reach.

He went in to the college to be there for his standard office hours and tried it all on that system, with the same results. The data wasn’t just gone; it was like it had never existed. He called down to the technicians who maintained the servers and asked them to look in the backup tapes to see if it was still on them, but when they responded to him, those copies were gone too. One tech accused him of trying to pull a fast one on the staff.

Disgusted with himself for caving in so quickly, he took a long shot and talked to some of the computer geeks to see if they had any suggestions.

The one suggestion they could come up with was to look in the “print spool” folder to see if it remained. He understood that when the computer started formatting the document to print it, it had to put it into that spool folder in preparation for sending it to the printer. It was possible that it might have been overlooked.

Soon he was in the printing shop looking at the computer that was used to send requests to the digital printer. The story was similar to the same that he had lived with all the other copies. They were just gone.

His last possible hope so that he could honestly tell himself everything had been tried, was going to the digital printer and seeing if it was still in memory. The moment he got near the machine, a tech stopped him. His name plate read Phillips and he addressed Stephen, “I’m sorry sir, but no one is allowed to touch the printer’s setting. May I help you instead?” Stephen’s temper was a hair short of boiling over. Teeth gritted he explained, “I just want to see the print queue for the last 3 hours yesterday. Could you let me at least look over your shoulder while you scroll through it?” Baring his teeth in an attempt to smile made the tech gulp and step back a pace. “Uh, sure, sure no problem Professor!” Steve watched the print queue like a hawk as the orders started scrolling backward.

His heart skipped a beat as he saw the entry from yesterday at 20:44:18. He ordered, “Stop!” Print that one!” Phillips face paled and he jumped at the Roaring in his ears. A few taps of the keys and sure enough, the first page came out saying “Mimicking Metahuman Powers Using Next Generation Technology”. Stephen couldn't believe it and watched avidly as page after page appeared from oblivion until the entire document was back in his hands.

Not trusting things to chance, he pulled out a flash drive he kept on himself, and asked the kid to copy the entry just printed to that USB key. It took a few moments, but finally he had another digital copy in his possession. His heart pounding Stephen thought he smiled gratefully at Phillips but the tech only seemed more terrified and backed away slowly.

Stephen’s first order of business when he got back to his office was disconnecting his computer from the network. Next was making several copies of the document and the file, and planning where he’d hide them. One set would go in his safety deposit box at the bank, another copy locked in his safe at home. He was not going to put them back on any computer that had network access. He reasoned that Jade was probably monitoring his system somehow and would see that he had recovered the data.

Now that he had the data back, wanted to ensure discovery would be virtually impossible. He used the 128 bit code then encrypted the digital copy several times using different algorithms to make sure it was obscured. No more simple substitution cipher to take his notes in, he was going to make sure that this information was protected.

Shortly thereafter, he held a brand new netbook he was dedicating solely to this project and nothing else. It was not going to be hooked up to any other computer. He had the people at the computer store go in and disable the wireless network adapter and the infrared adapter as well. He wanted this to be completely isolated.

He was going to keep this information if it killed him.

Months of paranoia really wears on a person. It was nearly over. He only had a few more components to put together and he would be done with the ultimate non-government stealth suit.

He had been existing on four hours of sleep a night. His nutritional health had gone to hell. He was worried about being poisoned or drugged, so he began eating like he was a starving college student again. Never going to any market on a regular basis, buying only what he would eat that day and picking canned food from the back of the shelf instead of what was presented on the front. He made his own meals from raw components and didn't trust that the fast food joints hadn't be compromised. As such, he tended to opt for simple meals like sandwiches or soup.

He had lost nearly 60 lbs of middle-aged flab and his muscle mass began their transformation with the loss of nutrients; he was emaciated now instead of overweight and flabby.

He existed only for this project now. His research assistant was teaching most of his classes and doing all of the work grading papers. His only participation had been things he couldn't foist off on others. He nearly lived in his lab.

He had entirely eschewed using the computer for communications or research. No more emails to colleagues, he sent them letters through the postal system. It forced him to go slower, but he was able to take some time and really think of problems and their solutions.

Everyone had noticed a change. A few people even dropped by to make sure he was alright and to check that he was still among the living. He grudgingly did the minimum necessary to participate in life and grumbled about every “wasted” moment.

He finished putting the pads on the foot and then sealed it with the titanium screws, and that was it. It was a work of art.

Dark as the night, it actually absorbed light directed at it. It had no reflective surfaces anywhere on it and could blend into almost any background with subtle shifts in the surface coloration. He had discovered in the process of making the suit that while true black didn't blend very well with shadows, a very dark gray did blend in well. So the color 95% gray that would shift chromatically in areas to make the camouflage even better, varying between 92% and 99.8% gray. Not enough of a shift to be noticed, and more than enough to blend into the background.

Just under the surface, the second layer of the suit was spider silk woven as a very fine mesh. Yet it was strong enough to stop a 50 cal bullet, he’d tested it himself. The bullet wouldn't penetrate the final layer, but it couldn't stop all the impact. The final layer was his own design to help dissipate the force of the bullet (since he didn't relish the idea of having broken bones again). It was a material similar to Lycra in function, but very different in manufacture. It was a springy inner surface that channeled force directed at it away from itself and around a large surface area, letting a bullet that struck the surface dissipate its force in a one square meter area, totally negating the impact.

The goggles were made of polymers that could stop a bullet as well, but their function was to act as low light vision goggles. Using technology like the low light vision use by the military, he had managed to miniaturize the lens that gathered the light in and turn the area where it was enhanced from a TV tube into an LCD screen, making it much thinner, lighter and more efficient. They looked a bit strange, almost like a set of horned rim glasses, but they were effective in their function.

He had added small fingertip spikes to the gloves intended to allow for climbing on most surfaces. This design was one of his proudest accomplishments of the whole suit, allowing the wearer to literally poke their fingertips into a crack, where the ends of claws would expand on a molecular level, making them instant chocks to hold on the cracks and give a sure grip to allow for climbing. The boots had a similar set up, allowing for a sure footing no matter the surface. A simple push and tug would make the chocks retract and then you could move to another area. Free climbers the world over would be wild to get this technology.

He had added shotgun mikes to the suit; unfortunately, they looked like cat's ears. He couldn't figure how to make the parabolic dish that collected sound look like anything but a huge satellite dish on the head, and this was the best he could do instead. Thankfully, they could be swiveled or flattened out in different directions to gather the sounds the wearer wanted.

Balance was going to be very important to the wearer of this suit. Taking inspiration from the cheetah who could run at faster than human speeds, and also make turns very quickly using its tail as a counterbalance, he created a similar system. At will a tail could grow out just above the highest point on the backside and extend from the lower back all the way to the ground. Articulated, it acted as a gyroscopic counterbalance, allowing the wearer to maintain stability no matter the surface.

Finally there was the climbing aid. There would be times when it would be very hard to get from one area to another without a rope, so he added a thin strong whip-like rope that could be used to swing on, or to pull the user from one area to another with the flick of a switch. He used the principles of diminishing force and made it tapered down its length, so that swinging force from the hand would multiply down the length of the whip, until the tip could move faster than the speed of sound. Microscopic spikes on the very tip similar to the gloves and boots would allow a Velcro-like adhesion to a surface it hit or to itself if it wrapped around something. With the micro-chocks in the gloves, a solid connection to the handle was assured.

There was a host of minor improvements as well. A wide-band micro-circuitry radio scanner and transmitter, a set of high absorption gel pads in the shoes, on the knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and buttocks would allow for silence when moving and force dissipation of impacts from climbing and falling. It masked the entire face except the eyes. The goggles, keeping the flesh from being seen, handled them.

The control unit was a set of EEG contacts on the back of the neck, the jaw, and the forehead. He followed a lead in the prosthetics industry. Prosthetics used nerve impulses to control servos in hands, but he had improved on that design. When he unconsciously thought of moving, hearing, smelling in the suit the impulse would be intercepted by the contacts and translated into action. All someone had to do was wear it.

He couldn't wait anymore; he had to give it a test. Quickly he stripped down to skin and pulled the suit on. He carefully pulled it up, making sure things where they should be. He slid his arms into the sleeves and pulled the hood up and over his head careful to settle the goggles over his eyes. He then zipped up the closure and activated everything.

The goggles sprang to life and gave him information on the built in HUD, telling him the status of the suit, power remaining and other self-diagnostics. He looked at himself in the mirror in his office and had a shock.

Standing there was a woman who looked like a cat, except for the lack of breasts. He turned this way and that, with his genitalia hidden by a shield which protected them, his crotch looked smooth and without a bump. With the padding on his hips and buttocks and his own emaciated state, the resemblance was uncanny.

He grinned and decided to make the illusion complete. He took some of the remaining padding gel and fashioned breasts and slid them into the suit, securing them to the suit with some duct tape. He could add them permanently later.

Finally, he re-zipped the suit and looked at the reflection again. With the suit closed up completely, he did look like a catwoman. He extended the tail, picked up the whip, and smiled.

The world needed to look out now.

He stepped over to the computers and placed his left pinkie fingernail into the USB port and completed an uplink to the computer, then made sure that the contents that he had been using were totally encrypted again, carefully hid the journals he had been using and then hid the netbook. He wrapped the whip around his waist then climbed out the window. It was time for a full systems test.

She spent several hours testing out the climbing abilities of the suit, from the adhesion to the walls and climbing up sheer building fronts to the swinging with the whip, her balance on wires with the tail extended and retracted and more.

She discovered that the material to dissipate the force of a bullet in the suit helped her in other ways. As they acted as a supplementary musculature for any athletic feats she decided to undertake. Scaling a 45 story building using only her hands and feet to climb was not a chore of hours, only 15 minutes. She found that she had a vertical speed of nearly 10 miles per hour if she exerted herself. It was incredible.

She tried jumping from various heights to test the shock absorption of the pads. Soon she realized that a fall of 30 or 40 feet was no problem as long as she landed on her feet and knees. The padding absorbed most of the shock, and the third suit layer dissipated the rest. It was incredible.

She tested the stealth capability of the suit as well. She tried climbing while being visible in some heavily trafficked areas like Main Street, and no one noticed her hanging on the side of the building. She climbed up to a billboard people would look at as they drove through the city, and there were no calls on the police band saying someone was going to jump off that billboard. She knew several drivers saw her, or at least a section of shadow on the billboard, even if they didn't realize that the shape was human.

Mistakes were still made. That's only natural when testing something new. Acrobatic stunts she tried sometimes went wrong, not because she couldn't do them, but simply because the suit had her overcompensating due to the enhancements. Spectacular smashes on her face once or twice taught her that gymnastics would have to be learned or programmed into the suit.

But for the first test of a set of new technology, she was very pleased with what had been done. Too bad Jon would never know what his brilliance had been parent to.

On the way back to her lab, she spent her time walking and crawling along the power lines, to practice balance and slack-rope walking. She was extremely careful to touch only one line at a time. Power lines were like the third rail in a subway. You could touch one, but touch two simultaneously and you were dead.

She was passing the gem district and saw a flash of light inside one of the closed stores. Her curiosity peaked so she decided to investigate.

It was only a few moments until she was looking in one of the windows. She saw three people with flashlights in a very large showroom of Chaney Brothers. They were very obviously robbing the place.

She couldn't see how they got in from the ground level, so she scaled the wall to the roof and made her way around to the skylight they had been wired to not set off the alarm. Instead of just pulling the wires and letting the silent alarm sound and summon the cops, instead she followed them in, carefully scaling the wall without touching their equipment.

Finally, she was in a gallery above them, looking down at their slow and careful attempts to open the display cases. She watched for a little while, not trying to hide from them at all. She just lounged with her elbow on the railing, ankles crossed and observing what they did and how they did it. With a thought, she increased the magnification of her goggles so she could see them very clearly.

They were using old tech, lock picks and electronic combination crackers. There was a large tangle of wires where they had bypassed the various alarm systems on the cases themselves.

She waited for about five minutes, long enough to see them actually get the case open and empty it, and then she sighed loudly.

She was very gratified to watch as they started and then looked around to find who had made that noise. She simply stood there, waiting to be discovered. While the flashlight had played across her a couple times, they never seemed to see her. Well, chalk up one for the stealth properties of this suit, apparently they work beautifully.

She sighed again, louder and smiled when they looked near panic. “You boys sure to take your time. What's the hold up?”

Finally they spotted her as she jumped down from the gallery into the store itself. They pulled out guns and pointed them at her. The computer wired into the suit identified them as snub-nosed .38 pistols. Smart, take the shell casings with them, and six bullets are about all they should reasonably need.

She sauntered over to the nearest, exaggerating the wiggle in her hips as she did so. The tail moved smoothly behind her, going opposite of how she moved her hips, looking like it was alive. She smiled sweetly to the guy who had his gun on her and reached out with one claw, touched the hammer portion of the pistol, and had the micro-chocks go into the microscopic cracks and then expand to break the firing pin off the hammer, rendering it useless.

He seemed mesmerized by her actions, he didn't make any attempt to stop her or even move out of the way. “So,” she purred, “are you going to give me some of this, or are you going to risk discovery by shooting me and leaving me for dead?”

One of his partners, much brighter than the others, decided for them. He pulled the trigger.

A small explosion momentarily deafened her (Automatic noise level cutout, have to remember to add that.) and she felt the bullet slam into her liver area. It would have been a fatal shot, but the force just threw her into the guy in front of her, knocking him down.

She went down on top of him, shoving his head into the floor to ensure that he was out cold. Then she waited for the smart-guy to come up to her to make sure she was dead.

She couldn't hear him coming with her ears ringing as they were, but she could feel the vibrations of his tread on the floor through her hands. She waited until he stopped near her, making a guess as to his exact position, and her hand lashed out, grabbing his ankle and pulling, hard.

Once again, she had mis-judged her own strength, for she pulled him totally off his feet and slung him over herself and into the case on her opposite side. He hit with a solid thud that said he wouldn't be standing up again anytime soon, and she turned her attention to the last would-be robber.

He had moved to a flanking position to cover his buddy while she was playing with the first guy, and as she rose, she used the suit's enhancements to propel her a long distance to the wall behind him. When her hands grabbed onto the sheet-rock, she lashed out with her foot and caught him in the chin. His head snapped back and he went down like a ton of bricks.

She dropped off the wall, standing near the third guy to make sure he was also unconscious. She used her ears to make sure his heart was still beating, it was, so she wasn't a murderer just yet then directed her hearing to the other two discovering they were still alive, just unconscious.

Grinning evilly to herself, she used the necklaces to wrap their hands in some complex knots, using multiple strands to ensure they weren't going anywhere. She collected the guns and grabbed one of their messenger bag satchels, put them in the bag and climbed back out how she had entered. On the roof, she placed the pistols near the skylight, and then pulled the bypasses they’d attached to the security system.

She waited a few moments until she heard the call go out on the police band that there was a silent alarm going off at this location, then she made herself scarce.

Having an on-board computer with solid state hard-drives had a lot of advantages, it made diagnostics and downloading data really easy. Thank goodness he had the foresight to make one of the claws contain contact points for USB uplinks.

Back at the lab, he pulled out the netbook and downloaded the entire set of data from tonight's excursion, including a full recording of the attempted robbery. He had already come up with multiple improvements to the suit, and he couldn't wait to get them on the suit.

But, it was very late and he was really tired. Modifications could wait until tomorrow.

He took off the messenger bag which was still looped around his shoulder and dropped it on the table. There was a 'thunk' as it hit. He hadn't noticed any extra weight, but given the extra strength that the suit imparted, that wasn't surprising.

He opened the bag and froze when he saw light being reflected from the facets of gemstones and precious metals. Apparently, he had taken part of the robber's bounty.

Oh my, what in Heaven's name am I going to do with all this?

Finally, after pawing through the loot for a while, he decided to store the jewelry in the same place he hid the netbook and his suit.

Fairly quickly, he shucked the suit and had it folded up and in the messenger bag along with the netbook and everything else that needed to be hidden. He’d made a few entries on the netbook regarding additions to the suit. Then he headed home.

It took him hours to get to sleep. Thankfully, he didn’t have any classes to teach, so he took his time waking and eating. He was still confused and concerned about the inadvertent robbery he committed. Perhaps he could simply return the jewelry.

When he finally got into the lab again, he started to work on the upgrades to the suit.

First thing, he was going to move the micro-chocks from the claws to the pads of the fingers and the palms of the gloves. It would give him more surface area to grip the wall. Similarly, he added them to the entire sole of the boot, not just to the toes. The addition of a steel cap inside would protect his toes and give him something more to hit people with when kicking them in the face or balls.

More gel padding went into the crotch and under the hood. He thought about what would have happened if he had fallen on the back of his head with no helmet. So the shock absorption gel would act as a helmet. It wouldn't keep his brain from being sloshed around, but it would prevent impact pretty well. In addition, if one of those thugs had used their pistol as a club instead of as a slug-thrower, Catwoman might have been in serious trouble last night. Getting a flash of inspiration, he added some more padding to the face area, the cheeks, nose, and chin specifically to foil any facial recognition that might be working against him.

He made sure to add in the noise level and light level cutouts for the ears and eyes. Right now Catwoman was terribly vulnerable to flash-bangs. Just one could cripple her, and you didn’t want that during a confrontation.

He rethought the claws. Their form and function could change shape with a thought now that he had perfected the processes, now that he didn't need the claws to climb with anymore. He decided to make them retractable and to repurpose them. One was already an uplink to a computer, so he thought of what he could do with the rest. Lock picks, tension bar and lock pick all in one.

He made the thumb and first two fingers of each hand into a set of lock picks. It would be simplicity to insert the thumb claw into a standard pin-and-tumbler lock and have the micro circuitry push the tumblers around until they aligned properly, then a twist of the thumb, and open comes the lock.

He added a lot more solid-state memory to the computer system in the suit. He already had an idea about using the suit to do some computer information borrowing. If that were the case, he would need a lot of memory to download the contents of a computer

Oooh, Maybe I could also get some of the kids studying for a BA in Information Technology to create a computer virus, I could put it into a special section of the memory and upload that to the computer once I've gotten the information I want and need to ruin their originals. That should keep them busy enough not to notice what I grabbed.

That thought set off another; if he could keep people slack-jawed and slowed reflexes it would be a huge advantage. Thinking about it led to adding a pheromone/perfume pump of some sort to one of the useless breasts. It wouldn't be too hard to have a small vial or bladder of those chemicals and have them released on command. The trick would be insulating the wearer of the suit from the effects. Nose filters could do that, as well as protecting her from the knockout and CS gases. They wouldn’t work on her.

The sheer rush of blood from one head to the other should be enough to keep most men too busy trying to stay conscious and allow me to have a real advantage.

One last improvement; breasts. I have two big sacks on my chest and only one is occupied. I remember seeing that honeycomb structure that could be flattened out with the application of some electricity to it, so if I run a micro-current to it, the breasts can flatten so I can keep the suit on all the time, and then shut the current off to let them re-expand. Coupled with the collapsible design structure, she could use the boobs to carry any thing she might want to keep. That way she didn't have to carrying around a sack or a purse all the time. Just slide whatever into that section of the boob, the structure will hold it still while getting it out of his hands. As things were put in, the breasts could partially collapse to accommodate those items.

It would take more time to collect and manufacture the improvements to the suit, but he had time.

He kept a running list of what he wanted to do to improve the suit. Some of it would have to wait a bit. A fiber optic wire housed in a large bangle bracelet with a pinhole camera at the end. Use the micro-chocks to attach the camera where I want, spool out the fiber, and hook it up to the goggles, and I’m able to see what I want to see without exposing myself too much.

He tweaked the color range of the costume. If he lowered the bottom end of the color range to 50% gray, then he could hide in a lot more places, and the mottling effect would be enhanced. Really good camo, an adaptive camouflage that reacted as the wearer moved around. He smiled; it was nearly chameleon in nature.

He made a note to work on a voice masker. A male voice coming out of a female’s body shape was too incongruous. Some sort of widget resting against the throat changing the geometry of his vocal chords and voice pattern would be a very good thing.

This is getting expensive. How in the name of all that is good and holy am I going to be able to pay for all this tech? I can make some of this myself, but George at Pinnacle is asking either for the stuff back or some form of payment. I don’t have the money to give to him right now, and how do I keep stalling him?

He mentally went down a list of things he could do to raise funds. There was gambling, getting investors, selling some of the tech that was developed, trying to find a rich relative to fund him and more. None of the schemes seemed practical.

Then his eye fell on the messenger bag sitting on the desk.

I could sell the jewelry. It was already stolen, I could find someone to take it off my hands and I won’t get in trouble for stealing it. The crooks who were taking it in the first place can take the rap. I could earn a lot of money that way. After all, it’s not like I was being a criminal or anything, I did stop the robbery. I could do this for a living, and maybe even be hailed as a hero.

He thought the plan through as he added some cell phone technology to the miniaturized radio equipment. It could work.

A few weeks of remote computer searches led her to her quarry. She knew he wouldn’t agree to meet a complete stranger, so she located some of the best people he knew.

When she called him, she dropped names like rain before arranging the meeting. It was simplicity itself to intercept his call to the same people and arrange to confirm her bona fides.

Billy Maddison stood in the chill air waiting for the person he was supposed to meet. Some chick had called him out of the blue and arranged a meet with him to fence some expensive rocks. It didn't bother him none, but he wished that she would hurry up and show. Don’t know why this bitch can’t do this in a nice office, damned drama-llama; have to do things the hard way.

“Thank you for meeting me here at this hour.” The voice coming from behind him shocked Billy so badly that he drew his gun as he turned his bladder threatening his dignity, something he hadn't done since he was a baby.

“Damn, baby, don't freak a guy out like that. You almost got ventilated.”

She smiled a lop-sided grin and said, “I'll remember that next time.”

Billy looked her over. Damn fine body, but it was hard to see her. She had the shape of a looker though. When she stepped into the light, Billy nearly lost his bladder again. He had been hearing rumors for a couple weeks now of a Cat Woman who appeared, fucked up a second story job and left with part of the take before leaving the robbers for the cops. He never thought he would actually see her in the flesh.

“So, let's see the bling you’d like to... uh... sell.”

She unzipped her suit some and Billy found breathing a difficult proposition. She reached into the chest area and pulled out some nice necklaces. She had a string of five different glims and Billy knew that he was going to have some problems.

“Lady, you got some hot shit there.” He put up his gun and pulled out a jeweler’s loupe examining the stones closely. He spent some time going over them in the light of a street lamp. He wasn't worried about her jumping him; he knew that Ken was up on the fire escape covering him with a rifle.

“Man, bitch, you get some good shit. I'll give you 10K for them all.”

She laughed long and loud. “You have a very good sense of humor Mr. Maddison. I want 500K for them. Once each of the necklaces has had the stones removed and the gold melted down the rocks in different settings they will be worth easily three times that.”

“You get what I offer you. I can go as high as 100K for the lot, but it's going to be hard to dump these. You know as well as I do that the gems are probably carrying a serial number, and that makes them traceable. The people I work with aren't going to like that, and getting those numbers off is a pain in the ass.”

He couldn't see anything behind her mask, but she even stood pretty. Just looking at her was giving him a raging hard-on. He wanted to teach that pussy to come when he called, and spent a few minutes fantasizing about that while she thought.

“Four hundred thousand.”

“In your dreams. One fifty.”

“Three hundred thousand.”

“Split the difference with you, two hundred fifty K. That's the best offer I can give you.”

She froze for a few moments. “Deal.”

Billy smiled and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a credit card, one of those disposable card you load with money before the next shopping spree. The one he plucked out of the stack had 250K on it. He passed the card over to her.

“It's a pleasure doing business with you lady. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing each other again.”

She slid the card into the same place she got the rocks from. “Most likely, you are only one of a couple people who will fence this level of bling. I won't double-cross you if you don't do it to me. We can both get rich off this arrangement, if you play it smart. If not, then I'll have to leave you with your friend.”

She zipped up her suit and sprang into the air, vanishing almost as quickly as she had appeared.

It took him a few minutes to realize what she had said. When he climbed up the fire escape Ken’s location, he noticed that he was out cold, the rifle was broken in two pieces, and he had “Meow” scratched into his naked chest.

“Damn, that's a fine bitch there. Style AND class. Nice”.

It took her a little while to get back to the train station and to secret herself in an area to catch the train back to New York. She would have been five kinds of fool to fence the jewels in the same place she acquired them.

She didn’t see it as stealing as much as her fee for preventing a larger disaster. Imagine the loss if the crooks got away with several million in the jewelry. She figured that one necklace worth about 50 thousand was reasonable given that they faced losses of several million.

Besides, she found that she liked the sparklies.

With a lot of noise and a squeal of brakes, the train came in. This was the last one to the city until tomorrow. She leapt from the roof of the train station and landed lightly on one of the cars, then swiftly and silently ran back down the length of the train to a position where she could hide easily for the ride back to the City. It was a decent arrangement since it wouldn’t do for her “mundane” identity compromised, and frequent trips south to DC coinciding with a bunch of liberated gems showing up would eventually be noticed.

That is, if someone was watching the Professor.

She knew that Jade was still interested in Professor Kyle. That was apparent when she showed up again and tried to intimidate him into confessing that the criminal had gotten her technology from him. Catwoman just hoped that he had passed the test and that the heat was now off. It wouldn’t do for them to go to jail.

As the train pulled out and the diesel fumes spewed their toxins into the night, she settled down for the two-hour trip back to ‘her’ city. She couldn’t fly, but there were other ways for her to get around the city.

Gloriously every night there was something happening.

The police were fighting a losing battle against the crooks. She was to help balance the scales a bit. It didn’t take anything to catch criminals in the act and leave them for the cops. She knew that the cops were confused and frustrated by the cat theme that was carved into the flesh of the crooks, but as long as she didn’t get caught, that was nothing.

“Meow” was just one thing she carved. There was a silhouette of a cat, done in a stylized format, there was just the cat’s head, but her favorite icon was the eye of a cat. Just two curving lines for the eyelids, then two swooping parentheses inside those lines to denote the iris, then finally a vertical slash to make the cat pupil. It was easy and fast.

She knew the crooks were pretty wound up. They knew someone was targeting them and leaving them for the cops. She was enjoying their paranoia.

She may not have metahumans powers, but the suit gave her everything that metahumans had. All for the inexpensive price of just one or two necklaces or a pendant or two every night. Simple service and payment.

Once she had arrived in New York again, she went to the gym. She’d located a rigorous gymnastics training center that prepared the athletes for competitions and more. She “borrowed” one to practice her skills.

Balance beam, parallel bars, climbing area, vaults and foam block pit, trampoline and more, she knew how the body was supposed to move and she did all of her self-imposed regimen after hours. Three in the morning was an interesting time for gymnastics. In the pitch dark tumbling, running, jumping and leaping, every day raised her athletic abilities and skill. All it took was practice.

Once she stopped planting her face into the floor, she found that it was relatively easy to do the most difficult she’d ever seen in the movies. The third layer of the suit was acting as like a set of Sheer Energy Pantyhose on steroids, actually adding energy to her movements. It was an unlooked for advantage that really made everything else possible.

Every night she found more ways to improve the suit. More padding here, another tweak to the third layer there, an additional color added to the camo layer that night. She was very happy that the gel had proved out so well, it protected vital areas from any number of problems.

She had given serious thought to a belt with various little pouches and things for stuff like knock out gas or escape flash-bangs like the ninjas use. It seemed in the comics that every costumed hero had a utility belt. Ultimately she decided against it, after all, the suit did enough as it was. There wasn’t a lot more that could do to increase the utility of the suit without compromising the benefits it already had. The fiber optic camera was about the limit. When she continued thinking about it, she realized that a belt with pouches and compartment sticking out all over could get hooked on something. If she left the belt behind to make a quick escape she’d be located easily by the fingerprints on the contents.

She might add a belt simply for style, but that would be all.

Her Professor half had been consciously working to maintain the illusion of femininity, having electrolysis on his face to get rid of the beard. It would take a plastic surgeon to do more and to give a more feminine appearance to his jaw and cheeks, if he wanted to do that, Catwoman would be happy to let him.

Having warmed up sufficiently, she left the gym, carefully closing the window and resetting the alarm system, and she left to find trouble.

She had her first commissioned job. She had been hired by a private investigator to break in and get some information off a computer of the guy he was tailing. It was a very quick snatch and grab. Break in download his PC, simple.

She was getting paid $5000 to for it. Apparently, the wife thought that he was cheating on her, and she wanted evidence. A minor issue arose when she was told target had three different apartments in and around the city. There was no telling which computer had the data on it.

She was going after them all along with his PDA and his Blackberry.

The PI had a very inventive means of contacting her by newspaper. He put an ad in asking her to contact him. “Kitten, please contact me at (315) 555-3038”. Nothing else, just a plea that he hear from her.

When she contacted him, he asked her what the last “icon” she left on the crooks was, and she correctly identified it. Given the information wasn’t public knowledge; it was an excellent way to identify her.

He explained the task, told her the reward, and she gave him the number of the Cayman Island bank account that Catwoman was using to hold her money. They arranged to transfer the cash and the info to each other and a more secure means of contact. That was the last that she had contact with him.

It could be a trap, and Catwoman’s paranoid brain screamed it must be, but this was a step forward for her. This education would help her start taking down the real scum, all those men who thought they owned everything.

She reached into her thigh pocket and pulled out some cat treats. She ate one and tossed another to a stray she saw crossing just under her. She contemplated how she was going to get into the apartment. It was a straight forward B&E, but she wanted to make sure any external cameras didn’t catch her on film. She was methodically scanning the buildings nearby for cameras.

As she found them, she would go over to it, recorded about five minutes of nothing happening, and then instruct her computer to program the image to loop through the camera indefinitely. Once the circuitry of the camera was set, she would go to the next and do the same thing.

It took time, but it was time worth taking. The Police didn’t understand her, so she didn’t involve them at all. She was the real crime fighter, they just picked up her trash.

Finally done, she scaled the wall of the first apartment building until she got to the balcony of his apartment. After that, it was easy to gently lift the sliding glass door and slide it aside. Almost no one above the second floor used a charley bar or anything more sophisticated that the lock that came with it. A quick glance around and then she downloaded the entire hard drive to her storage system.

As she reset everything and wiping all trace of her intrusion, she considered frying the entire computer with her viruses, undid the loops on the cameras, and move on to the next location. Her one fear was finding the scum at one of his apartments. She hadn’t decided how firmly she’d quell his objections.

Five hours later, everything was done. She took a brand new USB flash drive, downloaded the entire set of data, put it into a mailer, and dropped it into the mail. The US Postal System is very security conscious and takes a very dim view of anyone attempting to intercept the mail.

As she bounced off to the rooftops again, she thought about how much the improvements to the computer system helped. It wasn’t huge or bulky like a desktop PC, and it didn’t run Windows at all, but it was able to interface with every operating system she could find. It did everything she needed. Powered by the motion of her own body, the kinetic generators in her feet fed electricity to the batteries in her calves, using the printable micro circuitry that created batteries no thicker than a sheet of paper. That in turn went to the printed circuit boards just around and underneath the skull cap energizing them and running the whole suit. Inputs were voice and thought, once again controlled by the EEG contacts in the hood. It could have surfed the Internet, but why would she want to? She had a clean dedicated computer for that at home. The storage for all this was between her shoulder blades and the padding to protect that area, sandwiched on another layer of the suit. It was incredible how a modified inkjet printer could be used to print out a computer system.

She toyed with the idea of making another suit, and selling the technology on the open market to the highest bidder. Not complete, mind you, but in pieces to maximize profit.

She wondered what Jade and the fledgling “Alliance of Superheroes would think if they saw this rig.

She headed “home” to get ready for tomorrow.

Professor Kyle was shorting himself on sleep, but it was well worth it. The whole of New York knew about Catwoman and there was even some speculation in class about how she did what she did. Jon didn’t talk about that topic at all, and when he turned in his next thesis, “Can micro circuitry make a one micron-thick CPU?” he gave the Professor a hard look.

As Jon left, the Professor wasn’t totally convinced that he didn’t know that his hard theoretical work was now a reality. Stephen refused to let it bother him.

He was doodling on a piece of paper, trying to come up with an idea to change the shape of his face so that he could drop the lower half of Catwoman’s mask. It was hard to breathe through when she was exerting herself. Some day soon she wanted to be able to expose a completely different face to the world. It would add another layer of insulation between Cat and the professor.

At least he was now able to pay for the components he needed to make and improve the suit. He didn’t have to rely on his reputation and his friendship with other engineers to get components to replicate. The money might be “gray” money, no professor that wasn’t a millionaire several times over could afford all the cutting edge pieces and parts.

Wearing the suit was fantastic. He had it on now under his street clothes, with the breasts collapsed and the hood flattened out. It didn’t bulge anywhere under his suit, and did a lot to keep him cool, since it wicked the heat away from his body. He kept the gloves tucked away in the suit, it was a good thing to have nearby.

The last two months had been a smashing success, allowing him to do things that he only dreamed about. While Jade was still somewhat suspicious of him, he hoped that she was still fooled by the fact that he was a man and Catwoman was a female. He really expected a confrontation with her any day ending with him unmasked. He still didn’t know what he would do when that happened.

This day was different there were a pair of young men in suits and good shoes sitting on the back row of the classroom. Once class was over they both came down.

“Professor Kyle, I’m Special Agent Gunderson and this is Agent Jackson. We are with the FBI.” They both flashed their badges at him.

Before they could proceed, Stephen held up his hand. “One moment gentlemen, I want to verify your identity. Please leave your Identification with me here, and have a seat in the front row while I check.”

“As you wish sir, but please don’t try to leave.” They walked back and sat down in the designated seats. They both had their coats open and he could see their firearms plainly.

Stephen picked up the phone and looked in the phone book for the local New York field office of the FBI. Several minutes later he had confirmation of their identity and a general description that matched them. The final check was a password. The agent he was speaking to on the phone told him to ask them what the day’s animal was. When he did so, Agent Jackson responded with Jackrabbit. He passed this on to the agent on the other end of the phone and she confirmed that it was the correct response.

He thanked her sincerely and waved the men over and handed them their identification again. “I’m sorry about that, but I feel that it’s better being safe than sorry, you never know who is trying to pull a fast one on the professors. What can I do for you to Agents?”

Special Agent Gunderson took their identification back and put his into his pocket again. “Professor Kyle, we are here to talk to you about a research paper one of your students was working on at one time. Do you know anything about Jon Cho’s Master’s thesis?”

Stephen’s heart skipped a beat. “He just turned one in about one micron thick CPUs if that is what you are talking about.”

“No sir, we are talking about his first one, Mimicking Metahuman Powers Using Next Generation Technology. I must state that we have already spoken to Mr. Cho about this which is how we came to talk to you. Could you please tell us what happened to his research paper?”

Stephen nodded and started spilling the story, starting with Jade and ending with all the copies being gone, off his PC and all the other computers he had ever had the document on as well as all of his USB drives. He didn’t tell them about the document’s resurrection.

The agents nodded as he got to the end of his tale. SA Gunderson said “That squares with what Mr. Cho told us. Do you happen to know if there was ANY other copy of this document anyplace that might still be there?”

“No, I’m afraid I don’t. I checked the backups that the College made, but as far as I know, they were all erased. You might want to ask the techs if there’s another backup tape they have that might still contain the information you are looking for.”

The Special Agent made notes. “One last question, do you know anything about this person called ‘Catwoman’?”

It took all his control not to jerk at the name. “The thief that’s in the papers lately?” He shrugged, “Just what I’ve read. She apparently stopped some robberies in progress and then took some of the stuff herself leaving the crooks for the cops. Personally I think she’s doing a decent job.”

“It seems this Catwoman has been exhibiting abilities that are consistent with some of the research in that thesis. Are you sure that there isn’t another copy floating around?”

Stephen got a bit nervous and took a moment and lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “Special Agent, exactly what are you asking? I gave my only copy of the printed report to that woman, Jade, she certainly can confirm that and the fact that every single computer used was wiped clean by her. I only know what is in the report because I read the draft copy. I certainly couldn’t reproduce the thesis from memory.”

The agents stood. “Sir, we were hoping to get a copy of the thesis if it was still in existence. Do you think you could work with some of our people and possibly recover the contents? It would really help and the FBI is under pressure from the Department of Homeland Security.”

Stephen was still nervous. “I probably wouldn’t make much headway, it’s Jon’s research and it might be a better to work with the author.”

“We asked him and he categorically refused, saying that he gave his word to Jade.”

“Then I’m afraid I can’t help you gentlemen. If I find another copy, however, I’ll make sure to get it to you.”

“Please make sure you do sir. There is a reward for this information.” They both handed over business cards to him. He took them and smiled.

“I will. Thank you for coming by.” He turned and deliberately continued to pack his stuff up as the Agents left.

It wasn’t until he got back to his office that he was over taken by the shakes.

Jade stood invisibly in the classroom while Professor Kyle was being interviewed by the FBI. The supercomputer that was the ring had gotten wind of the suspicion that there was another copy of the thesis out there and that they intended to interview both the student and the professor.

The professor is lying. His heart rate is up and his pupils are dilating.

Jade thought, “So, he does know something about Catwoman and the thesis.”

Affirmative.

“I think I’ll follow him for a little while.”

I must inform you again that this is a technical violation of the Liberty of Professor Kyle. Invisible spying is a blatant invasion of privacy and Green Lantern Corps will not approve your actions.

Jade had a very rude thought. “I understand that,” she subvocalized “but you have told me that the information in that thesis could constitute a threat to this planet. Ergo, I frightened a student my age into handing it over, probably ruining his career, and then terrorized his professor into doing the same. So which is it? Am I supposed to censor the information or keep their privacy in tact?”

It is a dilemma.

With no further advice coming from her ring, she felt like cursing roundly, refraining only through a huge effort of willpower. Instead she thought “Screw it, if he is Catwoman, or if Jon is Catwoman, I don’t care. They aren’t doing anything on a planetary scale that is dangerous to humanity. Catwoman is stealing some jewels and selling them to the criminal element. Not anything that can cause the human race to end. I’ve got other things to worry about.”

Affirmative. Reasonable decision.

Jade flew back up through the floors and into space. There were other major criminals to catch. She asked the ring “Did you notice anything else?”

Affirmative.

She rolled her eyes. “Please tell me what else you noticed.”

Professor Kyle is a metahuman.

Jade nearly fell out of the sky. “What?” she shrieked at the ring.

Professor Kyle is a metahuman.

“I got that,” she said tightly “I mean how did he become a metahuman?”

A certain percentage of the population has mutated...

“Yeah, skip the biology lesson. He’s got the metahuman gene. Is it active?”

Affirmative.

She rubbed her forehead. “Do you know what form his powers are manifesting as?”

Affirmative.

Deep sigh. “Tell me how Professor Kyle’s metahuman powers are manifesting.”

He is a gadgeteer.

“Since they didn’t cover that in Green Lantern Basic Training, would you please explain it?”

Professor Kyle’s metahuman mutation has given him the power to manipulate machinery and to think of creative uses of existing technology that far surpasses even my abilities. It is conceivable that he could create a proximity masker from a pencil, an AM transistor radio, duck tape, and time. His apparent ability measured on the Li-Kirbee Scale manifests at a level 98. Most scientists and engineers rate at between 40 to 50 maximum. My own abilities in this area are rated at 65 on the same scale. This is a metahuman power, just as Terra’s geo-kinesis and American Dream’s body density are.

“So his metahuman ability is to build things?”

Affirmative.

“Just terrific! That’s just what I needed to hear.” She continued her trip to the star cruiser.



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