| Paragon vs. Plastica
by Cobalt Jade (email@example.com)
Chapter 9: Dim Sum and Diamonds
Lori and Darlene sat down to afternoon dim sum at the Dragon Pearl, the
largest restaurant in Chinatown. Waitresses wheeled heavy metal carts up
and down the aisles, announcing in sing-song voices the names of their
treats: sho mai, ban gow, dumplings, noodles, soups. Darlene looked at
everything with amazement. She'd clearly never eaten dim sum before.
"What's that?" she kept asking. "And that? And that?"
Lori finally warned her off when over a dozen dishes had accumulated in
front of her. "You don't have to eat everything they offer you, you know,"
she said gently. "I don't think you'd like the deep-fried chicken feet."
"Chicken feet? Yuck!"
But as Lori hoped the meal gave them time to relax and get to know each
other better. She found out the Fem-Fantastique team operated in a way
similar to her own, save their equipment was more high-tech. Besides
Darlene, there were four others: Flamestar, Shadow Lady, the Crimson
Sorceress, and Transparency Girl. Darlene had received her superhuman
strength and stamina on a space flight with Transparency Girl.
"You mean you were on the space shuttle together?" Lori asked.
"Well, no, it was a bit more complicated," Darlene said evasively,
nibbling on a barbecued rib. "Anyway, we made a good team. We all enjoyed
working together. Until recently, that is..."
"What happened?" Lori said.
"It all began three years ago, when we came into contact with a race of
reptilian aliens called the Mok'tn." She lowered her voice, though it was
doubtful the other diners would be able to understand the fantastic things
they were talking about. "Think of the creature from the black lagoon
crossed with a spitting cobra on a three-day bender, and you have the
Mok'tn. They had a device called the molecular transformer with them that
allowed them to transmute any substance into any other substance, including
living matter. They used it on us," she said matter-of-factly. "Shadow
Lady got turned into a platinum statue."
"That's horrible!" Lori said.
"Actually -- no," Darlene said with a secret smile. "But we -- I --
didn't find that out until later. Eventually we escaped, taking the device
with us back to earth. We kept it at HQ to study, thinking we'd eventually
be able to duplicate it. Imagine all the good it could do. We discovered
that it operated by thought waves, and that the interspecial differences
between human and Mok'tn were not too great for a human to learn how to use
it. But we never completely understood how it worked. "
"A device like that could be very dangerous if it fell into the wrong
hands," Lori remarked.
"That's what we found out later," Darlene said ruefully. "I don't know
why we were so naive in thinking we could protect such a thing from ever
being used for evil."
"Do you think it could help Cinnabar?" Lori asked.
"I don't know; that's part of the reason I'm here. The device works on
a different principle than Plastica's chemical-based formulas, but they may
be similar on a molecular level. We'll have to do some experimenting."
Relieved, Lori poured herself another cup of tea. As long as Cinnabar
could be freed... "You said that you've had some trouble," she said
conversationally. "With your teammates, I remember."
"Yes," Darlene said. Many shades of were in her voice. She
glanced down at her placemat, her dark brown eyes hooded. "It happened
about six months ago, I began to... well, realize that I was gay, or
bisexual. Working with my friends and living with them the way I did made
it very hard to hide it. They were all straight, they had no idea what was
going on with me. That was the first bombshell. There was another. " She
"In the Fem-Fantastique team we've fought more than our fair share of
villains who, like Plastica, are... fetishists, for want of a better word,
about transforming people into stone or gold or other substances. During
our crimefighting activities we were frequently transformed, and I... oh,
this is hard to admit... I found that I liked it. It was like a powerful
drug rush. After a while, I began to use the Mok'tn transforming device to
do it in private."
"Why?" Lori gasped. That someone could actually enjoy what Plastica did
to her victims surprised her so much she forgot to curb her shock.
A crooked grin appeared on Darlene's face. "Well, because it's
arousing. You become the ultimate sex toy. Touching yourself, then
freezing yourself just before you reach orgasm... it's fun, imagining what
you look like in that position, imagining what other people would think if
they saw you." Lori blushed. "Oh, come on. You have a cute boyfriend.
Haven't you ever posed for him, pretended you were a lingerie or
whatever? The principle is the same."
"I guess," stammered Lori.
"Each substance had its own flavor," Darlene continued. "Gold makes you
feel heavy and sensual and languorous, while marble is smooth to the touch,
but so hard and cold. Chrome is high-tech and wickedly sexy. Ice and
crystal are beautiful, but so fragile. One push, and you shatter into a
million pieces." She shook her head, sending her dark curls flying.
"Yes... that was part of the appeal too, the vulnerability and danger gave
me an *incredible* adrenaline rush. I became addicted. One of my
teammates had a younger who found out about my experimentation. We
began to use it together and became lovers. Around this time the Mok'tn
came back into the picture."
Her voice became even lower, as if whatever she was going to say pained
her incredibly. "The Mok'tn made an alliance with a villain who wanted a
personal on Fem-Fantastique... and especially on me. Together
they pooled their technology and turned me into a mind-controlled slave who
obeyed them completely. A slave with the same transformation powers the
Mok'tn device had." She made a choppy motion with her hand. "Sue, Dee,
Wanda, Angie -- all gone. I turned them into statues with my touch. By
making love to them... in effect, raping them... on the command of my
For the second time Lori gasped.
"I've never forgiven myself for that, that... that my secret desires
would be brought out into the open, that I would put my friends in such
danger because of them," Darlene continued quietly. "After I transformed
the Team the Mok'tn ordered me to make love to myself... masturbate. I
couldn't resist. I did, and turned myself into a white plaster statue
while the Mok'tn took my friends away... after destroying the
transformation device to make sure we all would remain statues forever.
"That adventure cut very close for us. If Tiff and ARTIE hadn't managed
to fix the transformation device I'd still be plaster and the others would
be decorating a Mok'tn trophy chamber back on their homeworld.
"But Tiff and ARTIE were able to transform me back, and together we went
to the Mok'tn moonbase to rescue the others. We blew up the place and
escaped by the skin of our teeth. Everyone came out of it unharmed...
except for me. The effects of my Mok'tn enslavement turned out to be
permanent. I still have the power to transform others... but have no
control over it."
Darlene's voice broke, and she momentarily covered her face with her
hands. "Even since then, I don't dare have a sexual thought, for fear of
what I'll do to my partner. And while we still have a safety net in the
Mok'tn device we can't rely on it completely, because what if it
malfunctioned or was taken away? I could turn someone into plaster or...
or... vanilla fudge and they could stay that way forever.
"I decided then to take a sabbatical from the team, because I felt I was
a danger to both to myself and to others. I felt an incredible guilt that
my weird addiction had gotten so out of control. Even if it hadn't been my
fault. What if someone found a way to control me again and forced me to
turn everyone I cared about into statues?
"The only way I can live a halfway normal life is to take a drug called
Xangine -- it's a sort of anti-Viagra -- that keeps me from getting aroused
and accidentally transforming people, but it makes everything feel so flat
and lifeless. They give it to rapists, pedophiles. Pleasant company." She
gave a bitter laugh. "I used to be a sensual person with a high sex drive,
but now I feel like a drone." She wearily rubbed her eyes. "Sue suggested
that I help you as a form of therapy, and I agreed. No one knows as much
about these villains or their devices than I do."
Lori found herself touched by Darlene's courage and honesty. "I'm glad
you decided to help us," she said. "I know it must have been a hard
decision, being as you have such painful memories about it."
"That's why I want to see Plastica put away," Darlene said. "I don't
want what happened to me and my friends happen to anyone else." She drained
the last of her tea. "You know, some fantasies are better off staying
It was almost midnight when they unloaded the trucks. The new
mannequins made two long rows across the factory floor, one of women, the
other of men. Plastica found herself admiring the male mannequins.
There'd been some real studs in that batch.
*Bet they'd look great bronzed,* she mused. *Like Greek statues.* She'd
been experimenting with different finishes lately, displaying some of her
gilded and pearlized creations in a Santa Monica art gallery. If they
sold, they'd bring her ten times as much as a normal mannequin would.
Perhaps she was in the wrong line of work.
She turned her attention to the Chrystar mannequin, which she had placed
in the center of the floor. Iza, Phanxine, and Tiger had gone back to the
agency to clean it out, giving her the privacy to play with her newest
prize. She moved Chrystar's left leg forward and placed one hand on her
hip, then bent her slightly forward at the waist in a classic 'come hither'
pose. She then placed Chrystar's other hand on the back of her neck so her
arm was bent.
"Perfect," she chuckled. She walked around the nude superheroine,
assuring herself the pose looked good from all angles, then tapped her
fingernail against one of those massive tits. "Now, what finish should I
spray you with? This requires thought." She had treated both Xenon and
Blue Cymbidium as puns on their identities: Xenon posed in the shape of an
X, Blue Cymbidium painted blue. Chrystar deserved no less. "I know. A
clear acrylic lacquer with glitter in it." She turned her back to mix the
"I don't think so."
Plastica froze, then turned to see what she thought was a lifeless
mannequin come to life and walk toward her, the even pink tone of her
plastic flesh slowly fading until she was nearly transparent, and hard as
the diamond of her namesake.
"How -- ?" Plastica blurted.
"Your gas didn't work on me because I turned *myself* into a mannequin,"
the superheroine said. "With practice, I can imitate substances other than
There was a gun lying on the paint table. Plastica grabbed it and
"Ouch. Ouch. Ouch," Chrystar said, grinning, as the bullets flattened
themselves on her torso and pinged to the floor. "Come on, Plastica. You
can do better than that."
Plastica threw the empty gun at her and ran. Though she was no stranger
when it came to fighting, she could never prevail against a being of solid
diamond. And the mannequin gas was no use at all against someone who had
their own way of transforming themselves. How could she have been so
stupid! Her heels clicked rapidly on the floor as she fled, a staccato
pace echoed by the heavier thuds of Chrystar's feet. "I want your
formulas, Plastica," Chrystar shouted. "Including the one to break down
the cube you trapped Cinnabar in. You're going to turn all those people
back to normal, and Xenon and Blue Cymbidium too!"
*Like hell I will,* Plastica thought. She kicked open the double doors
that led to her lab. A desperate plan took hold in her mind.
A bank of computers lined one wall, set five feet above the floor on a
metal platform. Plastica bounded up the stairs and posed herself by the
keyboard as Chrystar burst into the room.
"Stop!" Plastica shouted. "I have the antidotes right here." She tapped
the computer. "They're all yours -- but only if Team Paragons guarantees
Chystar folded her arms. She was a startling sight in the lab's
powerful worklights, which gleamed marvelously off her bald, transparent
head and melon-sized breasts. "No way," she laughed. "Who do you think we
"Then I'm going to erase them," Plastica said, moving her hand towards
Chrystar reacted with superhuman speed, taking the direct route across
the laboratory floor -- which cut across a square silver plate embedded in
The mechanism reacted with blinding speed. Steel rang out as the metal
plates sprang out of the floor and clashed together, forming a many-sided
pyramid that trapped the superheroine inside. There was a loud hiss, then
the plates unfolded like the petals of a flower.
Inside was revealed a multifaceted crystal that sparkled with all the
colors of the rainbow. Inside that, entombed, was Chrystar.
The process was a faster and more sophisticated one than the one that
trapped Cinnabar, but the chrysteel medium was the same. Chrystar had been
caught in mid-stride, an action pose that showed off her body to good
advantage. Her face was determined, her arms pumping like a runner's as
she sprinted ahead on the toes of one foot, her other leg raised before
her. Being nearly transparent herself she was only visible at certain
angles, which added an intriguing element of hide-and-seek to the piece...
the perfect complement to her name and nature.
*Nice,* Plastica thought. Chrystar may have been invulnerable as a
diamond, but trapped inside a diamond-hard prism-shaped prison, she was
She went to fetch a forklift, adding another check to the mental talley
in her head. Team Paragon: Three down, two to go.
Allison didn't know what to expect from talking to Cosmic on the
phone, but Cosmic in person wasn't it. Darlene was younger than she
thought and looked more like a co-ed than a hardened crimefighter. She
wore a short dress with a tight spandex t-shirt underneath and a pair of
black vinyl platform shoes that only lengthened her long, tanned legs. She
was bubbly and enthusiastic about settling in and putting her things away,
but when she saw what had been done to Cinnabar she grew very quiet.
"You've put her in a stasis field?" she said. She reached out her hand
as if she wanted to touch the shimmering bands, but drew it back at the
"ALOSH -- the American League of Superheroes -- lent it to us," Allison
said. "We had to use it. It's the only way to keep her alive."
Lori lifted the sheet from the Aubrey mannequin. She had dressed the
unfortunate in an leotard of hers and sat her in a chair, not
wanting to humiliate her by keeping her impaled on the mannequin stand.
Sadly, Aubrey was beyond caring what anyone thought of her. "Plastica
zapped her three days ago," Lori said. "We rescued her from the display
floor, but we couldn't analyze this kind of plastic."
"This looks like a job for ARTIE," Darlene said. She opened the heavy
crate she had brought in with her.
"Ar-what?" Allison said.
"ARTIE," Darlene repeated. She lifted a child-sized robot from the foam
cradle. "Or RT-10, rather. Our robot assistant."
The little droid looked like a cross between a turtle and a crab, with
two optic lenses at the end of a flexible gooseneck. They were covered by
metal shades that flicked up and down, making them look disconcertingly
like eyes with eyelashes. "Good-afternoon-mistress.
"What's he saying?" Lori said.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Darlene said. "We're used to him talking this way."
She flipped a switch on the robot's back. "There, is that better?"
"Thank you mistress," ARTIE said in a more normal tone.
"He also acts as a portable chem lab," Darlene said. "Do you have a
sample of the material?"
Allison gave her a piece of the plastic Dr. C'sungh had managed to chip
off the cube, and Lori pared off a thin shaving from the sole of Aubrey's
foot, where the skin was the thickest. Darlene fed them both into a slot
in ARTIE's back. "This will take a few hours. In the meantime, can he
borrow one of your phone jacks? He'll have to swap information with our
main computer and database on the east coast. We have an alien molecular
transformation device there -- long story, I'll tell you later -- that may
be of use in unplastifying your friends."
They made the necessary connections, then there was nothing to do but
Lori excused herself and went back into the apartment to answer the
phone. Allison knew she was probably talking to that boyfriend of hers.
Indeed, a few minutes later she came back with a dress and makeup on,
mentioning something about a movie. Allison let her go. There wasn't
anything more she could do here, and she was and vulnerable enough
that she needed the diversion.
The thought reminded her of Noelani. Where was she? She still hadn't
called in, and the calls to her apartment went unanswered. "Lori didn't
have any news about Blue Cee, did she?" Allison asked, wishing she had
asked her teammate about it earlier.
"No," Darlene said, engrossed in a printout that was now spooling out of
ARTIE's back. She looked up. "You really care about your teammates, don't
"The same way you do, I'm sure," Allison said.
"Yes," Darlene said, looking down and biting her lip. "Especially Tiff.
Heatwave. We were, um, lovers," she added, her shoulders hunching as if
she thought Allison was going to deride her.
But Allison only laughed. "Why are you so embarrassed?"
"I -- I'm not embarrassed," Darlene said, her blush betraying her. "Our
teammates don't know about it, that's all. We were trying to keep it a
"Because -- ?" Allison said, arching an eyebrow.
"You know," Darlene said helplessly. "Come on, we all live together!"
"Cinnabar and I were lovers," Allison said. "The Team thought no less
Darlene looked very surprised. Allison guessed that the thought
she didn't fit the -- or rather bisexual -- mold. But then neither
did she. "Of course, we didn't live together," she said with a laugh.
"And in no way did we let it affect our performance on the team."
"Lucky for you," Darlene muttered. "What happened? Are you still -- ?"
"No," Allison said, though she couldn't keep a note of sadness out of
her voice. "We both decided we preferred men, and ended it. Though, to be
frank, I was hoping it would go on longer than it did. It happened eight
years ago, after Cinn nearly died in a rough mission we'd had. It was her
way of seeking reassurance, I guess. The Team would tease us about it
sometimes. But they couldn't say anything more, because we kept our
private lives private." A light began to blink on ARTIE's back.
"It means the analysis is done," Darlene said. They both turned to the
monitors to see the results.
This work is copyrighted 2002-2003 by Cobalt Jade (Cobaltjade@aol.com).
This work may be be freely distributed over electronic media provided no
fee is charged for its use. Charging a fee for this story, or publishing
without author credit or this notice violates my copyright.