Lily DeLuna, KyLynn McKenna and Betsy Blake in: Women of Journalism

(Creative Consultant: CJ Burke)

December 1, 1948

J-School Senior Elective

"One lesson that most young reporters don't learn right away — a very important lesson that some unfortunately never learn at all — is how much power a reporter really has. Power for good, certainly, which is probably why most of you are here; you want to make a positive difference in the world. Still, the reporter's power, like any other kind of power, can be misused. You have the ability to help innumerable people by good and accurate reporting. But it's even easier to cause damage and hurt people if you're careless and sloppy." Betsy Blake was on a roll. "Next slide, please!"

That slide showed a familiar headline: "Dewey Beats Truman!" in the November 3rd, 1948 morning edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune. "This only happened a month ago, but it's probably the single most famous reporting error in history. You may not have thought about the damage this headline caused, but at the minimum there were people who lost their jobs, not to mention how Dewey and his supporters must have felt." She sounded sad; she told me later that day that one of her J-school classmates had been a copy editor at the Tribune. He was a good man who had been fired over this story, a scapegoat for the editors and publisher who should have taken responsibility for the error. She hoped that her highest recommendation might convince her own boss to give the man a job at her paper, the New York Daily Bell.

She continued, "But I'm talking more about the smaller, more personal injuries that poor reporting can cause. A story calling the wrong person a suspect in a theft, an article on embezzlement that names the wrong bookkeeper — these can seriously damage someone's reputation, and it's almost impossible to fully restore a damaged reputation. You could put someone out of a job, cause a person's family and friends to view that person with suspicion, make someone into a laughingstock. In some cases, a story can even betray your own friends..."

Her voice faded as if she had something on her mind. It was her last slide, and she quickly wrapped up her presentation.

Professor Flanner (who insisted we call her Janice) took the microphone. "Fifteen minute break, and then we'll split up for the panel session. Group 1 will meet in Jewel Auditorium, with myself, Betsy, and KyLynn as the panel; Group 2 will meet in Kresge, with a panel of Julia, Shauna and Anna."

Janice Flanner was teaching a special elective course called "Women of Journalism" at Marble City University this spring, and had arranged a special seminar with Betsy Blake, KyLynn McKenna, Julia Bridgeman, Shauna Alexander, and Anna Landers. All of us students were awed that our instructor was casual friends with so many famous women, and we were thrilled to meet the most respected women in our field.

If you're from New York and you read newspapers, you know Betsy Blake. She's the Daily Bell reporter whose story introduced Major Power to the world. Since then she's written more news stories about him than any other reporter, as well as three books. She's also acknowledged as the woman who first broke through both the color and gender barriers to become a nationally famous newspaper reporter. And to top it off, she's beautiful. Lucky girl!

KyLynn McKenna, the other member of our panel, is even more famous than Betsy, known coast-to-coast as the first and still most famous TV newswoman. With her short red hair, stunning figure, beautiful face, and deep voice, she seems like a Hollywood star rather than a respected news reporter, but she worked her way up through the newsreels and last year won the esteemed DuPont prize for TV journalism for her special report on the retirement of San Francisco's famous mystery heroine, Red Lynx.

And who am I? It's about time you asked! I'm Lily DeLuna, former left fielder for the South Bend Blue Sox, senior in journalism at Marble City University, oldest girl in the class and breathless admirer of these two famous women. I've been writing articles for my hometown's local paper since I was 14, and I've wanted to be an investigative reporter all my life. I'm due to graduate soon; and by this time next year, I plan to be the top reporter for the Marble City Register. I'm half-Korean and half-Spanish, and a lot of men find me very attractive, in an exotic kind of way. That's an objective opinion, by the way, based on how often I get asked out!

In our panel session, each student asked a scripted question that Janice had approved in advance, and once those were done, we were on our own. Ours was a pretty lively session, but I was glad when it was over, as that meant that it was time for the cocktail reception — and a chance to actually talk to these famed members of our chosen profession in person!

With all the famous women in the room, you can imagine how stunned I was when Betsy Blake and KyLynn McKenna came up to me and wanted to talk about baseball! Not a lot of people know that Lily DeLuna was also Tedi Vilmas from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, and I don't make a habit of telling them. But KyLynn was a big baseball fan, and she had actually recognized me. Who woulda thunk it, a famous, glamorous reporter recognizing a lowly college student? As it turned out, the two of them were already good friends, even though one was from San Francisco and the other from New York. Maybe that was my first clue to one of the day's mysteries…

A Knockout of a Party

The three of us got on well, so we snagged some drinks and some of those little sandwiches and a corner table, and talked a lot. We were bothered for a while as most of my classmates dropped by to ask for autographs, but eventually, they left us alone. As I got to know these two a little better, my questions got a little bolder (maybe helped along by a cocktail... or two). "Betsy, what was bothering you earlier when you were talking about reporters maybe hurting their friends?"

"I guess I didn't hide that very well, did I?" She didn't even try to dodge the question. No wonder this woman was famous! "Once, during the war, I wrote a scathing story about cowardly men who were avoiding military service by pretending to have disabilities. There was a reporter who worked for the Daily Bell with an obscure condition that almost nobody has ever heard of, called a heart murmur. He was a big, strong guy, but the military doctors downchecked him in his draft physical. After people read my story, his friends, including me, I'm ashamed to say, started to shun him. Finally, ashamed, he enlisted, and found some way to sneak around the heart exam during his physical. He had a stroke during boot camp. I might as well have just shot him..." She paused, and a stricken expression crossed her face. Her next words were strong and flat: "I damn well hope I learned a lesson from that one!"

KyLynn hadn't heard the story before, and we were both too stunned to speak. Should I express horror? Tell her how stupid she had been? Tell her it wasn't her fault? From the expression on her face, she had already thought all those things, and heard them many times, and none of them was satisfactory. She didn't wait for us to recover, though; it was obvious she had told this story before and gotten the same sort of reaction, and knew she was going to have to carry the conversation herself for a few moments.

"So, whenever I get the chance, I warn youngsters about misusing their power as a reporter. Most of them don't believe me, and have to learn their own lessons the hard way. I hope some of you got the message. Now, let's talk about something else."

So we swapped yarns. Turns out they both knew all the heroes and heroines of the Alliance of Mystery Heroes, and they'd had some pretty exciting adventures. I was kind of glum, though, when they didn't ooh and ahh over my encounter with the Oculist. After all, hadn't I done really well, for a girl? I expected at least a little bit of praise. But of course, from the moment I started the story, they had both been sure that it would end well. I realized they didn't go for the "that was pretty good — for a girl" attitude. They expected to hold their own (and a little bit more, besides!) with the guys, and they already expected no less from me! Now I had to hide my pride, just as I had, only seconds earlier, tried to hide my disappointment. They had accepted me!

It was unusual for me to talk about the Oculist; but other than baseball, I didn't think I had any stories to match theirs. Later on (much later), I realized that they would have enjoyed hearing about my work in the airplane factory in Cleveland just as much. I had worked on some of the bombers that helped win the war, and as reporters, they both appreciated a good human-interest story. And they also appreciated how the role of women was changing in everyday life, and how all of us "Rosie the Riveter" types had helped bring about those changes.

Suddenly it got quieter — and then someone started screaming. From our corner table, we could see my fellow students, our guests, and the wait staff falling bonelessly to the floor. A wave of some kind was sweeping across the room towards us, and there were none left standing where it had passed! The wave would reach Betsy first, then me and finally KyLynn. I'm pretty fast; but sitting in a corner, where could I go?

Then KyLynn grabbed my hand. "Don't move!" Right — what other choice did I have? With her other hand, she seemed to be reaching for her purse under the table. Then I heard, far away and faintly, but absolutely clearly, the roar of a big cat. Betsy collapsed to the floor, but KyLynn and I were unaffected by the wave, whatever it might have been. She slid from her chair to the floor, pulling me with her.

"I had no idea if that would work — never tried it before!" she said, very softly.

Funny what you notice at times like that! KyLynn had changed, and yet she hadn't. Her voice sounded more resonant, more powerful, and even though she was unchanged physically, there was an aura of power around her that I could sense, as if she were suddenly charged with a barely contained energy. I realized that I felt different as well, like I had just finished a light workout, and now was prepared for a match: energetic, fluid, powerful and confident. I wasn't crackling with energy as KyLynn clearly was, but I felt as if I were suddenly at my physical peak.

"Whatever you did, it sure is nifty!" I whispered back. "So, what did you do?" Then the situation crashed back in on me, and I remembered that we were both hiding under a table in a private dining room, filled with women who might be dead. "More to the point, what do we do now?"

Betsy had collapsed near the table, so I reached out carefully and grabbed her wrist.

There was a pulse! KyLynn must have seen that I was about to tell her so, as she held her finger in front of her lips, motioning me to silence. She pointed out that the women nearest us were breathing...and then she mouthed the name "The Oculist," and raised her shoulders to show it was a question.

I just gaped at her.

Later, both Betsy and KyLynn told me that once a normal human has come into contact with super-beings, whether heroes or villains, the laws of probability seem to go out the window. Preposterous coincidences, such as talking about a mystery villain you last saw over five years ago a thousand miles away, and then being attacked by that self-same villain only minutes later, become commonplace. All I could do at the time was shrug helplessly. Could it really be Biff? The results certainly resembled the effects of his power. But what had saved the two of us? I hadn't been immune to him before; as far as I could remember, nobody had been. If it really was Biff, KyLynn had done something extraordinary.

Of course, that aura of power surrounding her right now is anything but ordinary, I thought. Except I guess I accidentally whispered that, because KyLynn smiled. She whispered in my ear, "Thanks! If we live through this, I'll explain."

That was a bucket of ice-cold water! It was hard to believe that I could die at a school function, but this ever-so-competent woman had just thrown it onto the table so matter-of-factly that I realized she was serious — dead serious.

"So, let's assume that this is the work of the Oculist," KyLynn whispered urgently. "What happens next?"

I was thinking fast, but I had no idea what this was all about. Biff did have a grudge against me, sure enough, but why show up today...? Then I realized we couldn't sit around and figure it out; we needed to do something about it, right now!

"His range used to be about 200 yards," I told her, "but he was getting stronger, and that was years ago. My guess is that he would walk to the center of the main courtyard, take off his eye patch, and spin in a circle to knock out everyone on campus. For whatever reason, we seem to be immune to his power. He won't be expecting anyone to be awake, so we can probably surprise him."

KyLynn nodded, looked around carefully, and crawled out from under the table. I followed suit, and watched in astonishment as she picked up the unconscious Betsy Blake with one hand and slung her friend over her shoulder. "Let's get out of this dead end, then, and see what we can do about this mess," she said, and I just nodded. I could probably have carried Betsy, but not nearly so easily. KyLynn had super-strength!

Suddenly it all came together: a big cat roaring, a beautiful redhead, San Francisco, action-oriented and with super-strength — and I suddenly realized that KyLynn McKenna must be the Red Lynx! She saw the surprise in my eyes and winked. "The Red Lynx is retired," she noted. "Besides, that's classified information." So I dropped the subject. No wonder she was the one who broke the Red Lynx retirement story!

We stopped long enough to take off our heels, so we wouldn't click when we walked. After that, I went first, and peered cautiously out the door of the banquet room; nobody in the hall either way. I turned back to KyLynn. "Okay, I'm heading for the center of campus. But why are you taking Betsy? If this really is Biff's doing, he's probably looking for me."

I Hope it’s Not Magic!”

KyLynn smiled. "The best defense, eh? A surprise attack sounds like fun. But don't make assumptions about what's going on here, Lil! My guess is that someone has plans for Major Power's daughter, here." My jaw dropped. Betsy Blake was Major Power's daughter? No wonder she got all the best Major Power stories. I sure hope I won't need private access to my very own mystery hero to become as famous as these two are!

KyLynn waited for me to adjust to this shocking news, then continued. "Whenever Betsy's around and bad guys show up, it's a sucker's bet that they want her. It's why most of us 'mystery' types keep our private lives private."

We headed down the corridor, with me scouting ahead. I let KyLynn catch up to me as I peeked around a corner. "If these guys are after Betsy, they must think they're prepared to deal with Major Power."

She gave an approving nod. "Good thinking! I hope it's not magic! I really, really hate dealing with magic! Carbonado would be ever so much easier." Everybody knows that Major Power is invulnerable to everything except magic and Carbonado. Lucky for him and the world he protects, Carbonado is an incredibly rare type of black diamond found only in a meteorite that landed in Africa. But somehow, mystery villains keep coming up with pieces of it. Maybe they're scouring other meteor craters throughout the world; who knows?

I pulled my head back and whispered urgently, "KyLynn, there's someone in the next corridor. Quick, up the stairs!"

At the top of the stairs, we hid ourselves as well as we could and watched about half a dozen armed men, including one with a walkie-talkie, stroll around the corner. The radio man seemed to be updating someone on the other end. They looked like stereotypical gangsters — mean-looking guys in cheap suits, carrying pistols and Tommy guns. You've seen them in any number of gangster movies — the extras who don't have speaking parts, and get gunned down in battles with the other mob or the police. These mooks weren't exactly being quiet, and they weren't too alert, either; they never even looked up the stairs. I guess they were sure Biff had knocked us all out.

Well, their mistake!

"We need to take out the guy with the radio first," I suggested. "We can take them pretty easily. And we should save one for questioning!" I'm a pretty fair fighter, but it's crazy to even think about fighting six men with guns. The 'lynx power' supercharging me was making me pretty frisky!

KyLynn looked at me skeptically. "Are you sure you want to fight these guys? Guns change things, you know, and it's not your job. I can help you get off campus, and then take care of them myself."

"Ky, I worked for weeks to help set up today's events, and these guys, whoever they are, ruined everything. Of course I'm going to fight!" I hadn't realized just how angry I was; I'd have to be careful with that. "Don't try to keep me out of this!" She started to protest, but I interrupted her. "Okay, then, why haven't you already called some of your teammates from the Alliance of Mystery Heroes? Flux could have been here five minutes ago!"

She smiled. "Okay, I get your point. These guys are our problem, and we'll take care of it ourselves." She put Betsy down. "We'd better wake up sleeping beauty, here. If they're after her, she won't be safe no matter where we stash her, and besides, she's a pretty tough lady. We can use her help."

"Does she know?" I asked. "I don't want to give away any classified secrets!"

KyLynn chuckled. "She must, but if she doesn't, she'll figure it out soon, I'm sure. Don't worry about it; we need our full attention on the bad guys."

She took one of Betsy's hands in one of hers, and rubbed her belt buckle with the other. Because I was prepared, I could faintly hear a cat roaring, a big cat, a long way off.

Betsy sighed, and then spoke dreamily. "Ah, Tony, that was nice!"

"Hey! Who the heck is Tony?" KyLynn chuckled gleefully. "You must have been dreaming! Wait 'till I tell Jack!" I had to guess that Jack was her boyfriend.

Betsy was clearly puzzled about where she was and how she'd gotten there, and why she'd been asleep and dreaming. But that could wait; this was important. "You say one word to anyone, McKenna," she warned, "and you're toast — crispy toast."

"Yeah, like that's anything to worry about," KyLynn teased her back. "Now are we gonna sit here and bicker, or do you want to help us beat up the bad guys?"

Betsy was immediately interested. "There's bad guys? Shouldn't we call..."

"NO!" KyLynn and I responded at the same time.

Betsy ignored us. "…in the story?" We should have known, I guess. Betsy wasn't any more interested in getting outside help than we were, even though she had no idea what was going on. Now, that's self confidence!

"Betsy, we don't know the story yet," I told her. "We think my old friend the Oculist is trying to kidnap you, and there's a bunch of thugs with heaters running around the halls too." I was pretty sure I was giving her the full story, but then KyLynn added some details.

"We saw seven guys, one of 'em with a walkie-talkie, so there's at least one other group. They didn't know exactly where they were going to find you," she nodded at Betsy, "and had only a general idea of where they were going. They're supposed to meet another team near the dining room, and they don't expect to find anybody still awake. From their conversation, I think they're working with the Oculist. I doubt if he's the boss, but just another hired hand. And they've got a tight schedule; Biff is going to make another sweep in 15 minutes!" She winked at me. "Oh, yeah, we figure their boss, whoever it is, has some way of dealing with Major Power."

Boy, was I impressed. I had tried to listen in on those mugs, but it just sounded like gabble to me. "How'd you hear all that?" I asked.

"Ears of a cat, love," KyLynn replied with a smile.

Betsy didn't even question our assumption that the bad guys were after her. I've since tried to imagine what her life must be like, and I don't like it! Just as cool as she had been over cocktails, she responded to KyLynn, "I sure hope it's Carbonado!"

KyLynn nodded. "Yeah, me too. So I suggest we take out the boss, whoever it is, and worry about the hired help later. Let's go!" She's quite a take-charge gal, that KyLynn. I could see why she'd become world famous, in both her identities!

The Oculist – and Friends! Well, maybe..

Three people were standing in the shade of the clock tower in the Marble City U quad. One of the men was wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt, and had a patch over one eye. The other two, a man and a woman, were both wearing costumes, though hers was much more exotic than his. The big guy in the costume was listening to a walkie-talkie. "Boss, we found the sleeping beauties, but dat Blake dame ain't one of 'em. Are we in a hurry? Some of the boys could use a little R&R."

The black-haired woman snatched the walkie-talkie from the hands of the boss. She actually hissed at him. It wasn't a humorous sound, it was a very dangerous sound... and the danger was real. "Haston, you slimy weasel! If you or any of your boys touch even one of those women, I'll rip your guts out and laugh while I watch you bleed to death! Or maybe I'll get a little R&R myself, first. Rrrroowwwlll!"

That growl might have sounded funny coming from an ordinary woman, but this woman was far from ordinary. Statuesque, lithe, beautiful and deadly, she was wearing an outfit of leopard skin, which included gloves with long, nasty claws. Her growl, rather than her attire, convinced everyone listening that she actually was part big cat, and not just playing a role. Not that there were many doubts before.

She turned back to the bigger man. He was dressed as a construction worker, wearing a hard hat and machinist's goggles. He had a sledgehammer resting on his shoulder and was carrying a toolbox. Anyone who read the newspapers would probably recognize them immediately as ToolMaster and the Ocelot, both members of the Affiliation of Mystery Villains and deadly enemies of the Alliance of Mystery Heroes.

"So, big shot, yet another of your plans goes to Hell!" Ocelot snarled. "It was going to be so easy — we'd just march right in, your new lackey would put everyone to sleep, and we'd snatch Blake before anyone knew what happened! Right! I should know better than to follow your lead by now! Oh, and did I ever tell you just how stupid you look wearing that hat and mask together?"

"In fact you have, probably a thousand times since yesterday. Shut it, will ya?" ToolMaster turned to the third person. "Okay, Redondo, what's the deal? You said Blake was going to be here!"

"And she is — I saw her myself earlier. I've been watching DeLuna a long time, waiting for a chance like this. If you had let me act alone, I would have already caught Blake for you — and DeLuna for myself as well. And I'm no lackey!" He drew himself up. He was a big man and well-built, an ex-high school football star who kept in shape, but he looked like a boy next to the ToolMaster. "You couldn't have pulled this off without the power of the Oculist!"

The Ocelot sneered at him. "Then it looks like maybe Blake wasn't affected by your precious power, little boy. Buck?" she turned back to the big man. "I say we get out of here now, and leave Dr. Occult here behind!"

"Agreed!" He turned back to Redondo. "Your try-out for the Affiliation of Mystery Villains is over, pal, and you failed."

The two turned and headed towards the main parking lot. The Oculist reached for his eye patch, but chilling words from the Ocelot stopped him cold. "Try it and you'll die with your entrails stuffed in your mouth, punk! Remember, I'm immune to your power, even if tall, dark, and ugly here," and she jabbed ToolMaster with her elbow, "absolutely swoons over you!"

"I know you've always wanted a Cord, sweetheart," ToolMaster said to the Ocelot as if they hadn't just been screaming at each other. "There's a really nice one in the parking lot — I guess they're paying some professor too much!"

Lily and the Cat

I don't know how she could possibly have known, but I guess she wasn't called "the Ocelot" for nothing. Somehow, she sensed the ambush KyLynn and I had set up. "Look out!"

She pushed her partner aside with surprising strength, then leaped the other way just as I dropped on her from the arched exit. KyLynn rushed them from the side; she smashed into ToolMaster, and they fell in a tangle. He dropped his hammer and his toolbox flew open, scattering tools all around.

The Ocelot took a swipe at me as I landed where she'd just been. I was able to avoid it, but the landing was awkward and I lost my balance. I managed to use my momentum to roll away from her, though, and came to my feet a good 15 feet away. Unfortunately, the passage through the wall is floored with cobblestones, so I was a little battered already, and the fight hadn't even started! I was more than a little nervous, considering that I was fighting a super-villainess. This might be just a little out of my league.

"Ah, dearie! You must be that DeLuna witch that poor Biff hates so much? Slapped him down for getting too frisky, did you? I sympathize; he's really a worm. Claims you're some kind of great fighter. Do you think you're a match for the Ocelot?"

Actually, without surprise on my side, I wasn't sure. What had I been thinking, just three minutes ago when we'd made our plans?!

We had been cautiously circling throughout this exchange. From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Betsy tackling Biff out on the green, and KyLynn was squaring off with the ToolMaster. We had hoped to end this in a hurry, but it looked like we weren't going to be that lucky. In fact, the six of us were pretty busy for the next 15 minutes. I didn't see the whole thing, so I had to piece together the story later, from what the other girls told me.

Still, I think Betsy's encounter went pretty much this way…

Betsy and the KO Artist

Betsy had argued when KyLynn had assigned their opponents. "Geez, Ky — he's the weakest one of 'em. What fun is that?"

KyLynn shook her head. "After you take out the kid, I want you available to help whoever needs it!" No doubt whatever that Betsy would win. The flattery worked, and Betsy subsided.

Biff was bigger than Betsy, and according to Lily, he had been through Army boot camp, so he was trained to fight. Still, when working on some of her Major Power stories in the past, Betsy had unflinchingly faced the most dangerous beings on Earth, human and otherwise, and she wasn't about to be intimidated by this thug! (Well, okay, maybe she had flinched, just a little — but Biff didn't know that.)

She was glad she was carrying the small purse with the long straps today. She dumped everything out and filled it up with gravel from a flowerbed. About four pounds, she decided, just about perfect. She rushed Biff when he turned to watch Lily and KyLynn attack his ex- partners. She must have made some kind of noise at the last second, and he managed to turn, so that her shoulder smashed into his stomach rather than the small of his back. Still, he flew backward and crashed to the lawn. Betsy landed on top of him, and she wished the two of them were on the cobblestones rather than the grass.

She reached for her purse to club him on the head, but it was missing! Irritated, she looked around and realized she'd dropped it during the tackle.

Biff had practice recovering from tackles and he reacted much more quickly than Betsy had expected. He threw her off and managed to whack her in the head with his elbow while doing so. Betsy was somewhat stunned, but she shook it off and dropped into a martial arts stance.

"Geez, how come nobody just boxes anymore these days?" Biff was disgusted. "Well, it won't do you any good!"

He lowered his head and rushed at her, arms outstretched. Betsy didn't know any martial arts, actually, but she had hoped to intimidate him. No such luck! But she remembered something she had seen the Volunteer do once, back in the early years of the war. She started to fall backwards, and when Biff reached her, she grabbed his shirt and pulled him towards her, falling backwards the whole time. He was already off balance, and with the added momentum she gave him, he flew over her. She added her own twist, a kick between the legs, and Biff was screaming as he hit the grass and rolled several times.

Betsy felt her jacket tear, and she had time for an irrelevant thought: How do the mystery types keep their costumes in one piece? She scrambled to her feet to face Biff, who had already gotten up but was moving gingerly indeed — almost as if he were trying to limp on both feet at the same time. Snarling, he pulled aside his eye patch and glared at Betsy...but there was no effect.

He didn't seem totally surprised that his power didn't work on her; after all, it apparently hadn't worked on the Ocelot either, or the redhead or Lil. He moved back to the attack, but this time he was more careful: he went into a boxing stance, both arms up in front of himself, on guard, and stalked Betsy. She had one trick left, and it had better do the job, so she needed to set it up perfectly. She backed onto the gravel, which hurt her feet (and of course, wrecked a brand new pair of silk stockings — something he would pay for!), so she changed direction.

She risked a quick glance behind her, and Biff used the chance to rush her. When Betsy turned and saw him leaping forward, she tried to run backwards, but instead she stumbled and fell. Biff roared with triumph — he had her now! But as she had planned, her right hand fell on the purse strap. She had time to whip her arm around once and she threw the purse, almost like a stone from a sling.

"Just like David and Goliath!" she yelled in satisfaction as it hit Biff smack in the middle of the forehead. There was a sickening thud, and he fell to the ground unconscious. His momentum, added to the force of her throw, had done the trick.

She hoped she hadn't cracked his skull...but that was his problem, not hers. He was the one who'd decided to play hardball, so he had to accept the consequences. The strap from her purse doubled as a rope to tie up the unconscious villain. She tore up his shirt and used some strips to bind his eye patch in place; enough people had taken unexpected naps already today! She thought about kicking him in revenge for her stockings, but she wanted him conscious for that.

After the Oculist was safely handled, she finally started shaking in reaction — and realized that she ought to get some formal training in self-defense. Maybe her father knew some tricks he could show her, or she could talk to the Volunteer.

Back to Lily

Lily was physically overmatched by the Ocelot, who was stronger, more savage, and wearing gloves with razor-sharp claws attached. She moved like a cat, of course.

Fortunately, she also fought like a cat: savagely but with no science. Using all her martial arts skill, Lily still had to fall back or be torn to shreds. She needed a weapon of some sort to offset the advantage of those claws.

The Ocelot drew back after a blocked attack, and instead of counterattacking, Lily jumped backwards and quickly scanned the nearby cobblestones.

Behind the Ocelot, out of reach, she glimpsed what looked like a garden rake; and off to her left, a pipe wrench that had fallen from the Slammer's equipment bag. She looked at the wrench for a split instant too long, and barely escaped being gutted by a lunge. She managed to block the claws down and away, and returned her full attention to the fight. She was still retreating, but she altered her direction a little bit. The Ocelot sensed that Lily was tiring, eagerly pressed the attack, and left herself open. Lily launched a desperate counter- attack, battering aside the Ocelot's defense and actually managing to land a blow to the head. She couldn't keep this up long, but she wasn't planning to.

She suddenly broke off and ran for the wrench.

The Ocelot had seen Lily notice the tool, and was expecting this move. She launched herself forward, faster than Lily was moving, and landed between Lily and her target, hissing like an angry cat. She expected Lily to run right into her attack, putting a quick end to this fight; but Lily DeLuna was smarter than that. She darted aside, and before the Ocelot could change directions, she had the rake in her hands! She held it in front of her two-handed, like a quarterstaff. Now she had a little more confidence than before. The rake increased her effective striking range and speed, and any blows she landed would hurt a lot more!

The Ocelot leaped forwards and then dodged to Lily's right, slashing as she flashed past. Lily rotated the top of the rake handle quickly to the right, and it smashed into the top of the villain's right arm. Lily turned easily, keeping her foe in front of her. The Ocelot spun completely around, and as she did, her leg came up in a sort of backhand sweep. Lily barely pulled the handle back in line in time to block the kick.

She realized that the Ocelot had claws in her shoes as well, and that kick had been aimed at her throat! Although she managed to block, Lily was knocked backwards a bit. She turned her stumble into a leap, and put another few feet between herself and her foe.

"You can't win, little mouse, even with your stick!" the Ocelot crowed. "I was trained to fight by the Volunteer, the greatest fighter ever, and that was before I got my powers!"

Ocelot launched another attack, spinning, slashing, kicking and snarling, and Lily was hard-pressed to block everything. One slash would have ripped across her throat, but she managed to twist barely in time and took the blow on her shoulder instead; it reduced the cloth of her blouse to a few tattered shreds. She'd never liked the padded-shoulders look for women, but just now that shoulder pad had reduced a potentially deadly wound to an irritating scratch. Lily hoped that the Ocelot kept her claws clean!

"What happened to you?" she shouted. "When you were the Volunteer's partner, Ocelot, you were one of my heroes!" Lily needed a break. Betsy and KyLynn had told her earlier that for some reason, many mystery villains felt the need to talk to their opponents during a fight. It's tough to talk and fight your best at the same time.

The Ocelot screamed and leaped. Lily was astonished; she would have needed a run and a springboard to duplicate a leap like that! The villain was coming at her like a missile, claws outstretched. With no time to counter, Lily simply collapsed to the ground, then rolled quickly to one side and used her momentum to spring to her feet. As she turned to face the Ocelot, her skirt tangled around her legs and she stumbled, making her wish she'd said to hell with convention that morning and worn a pantsuit. This outfit, one of her best, was already ruined — and that stumble was probably going to get her killed!

She was astonished when she recovered and the Ocelot still hadn't attacked again. The villainess was standing there, shaking, spitting out words in a rapid-fire staccato. "You don't know what I've been through since then!" she hissed. "I got hit by some kind of ray in a battle with Dr. Daytona and afterward, the doctors declared me brain-dead. Some government agency stole my body from the hospital"

Lily was dumbfounded. "Why would they do that?"

"Some 'researchers' decided that a living body without a mind was a perfect subject for their experiments, little mouse. They wanted to make me into a super-powered living robot. But my brain wasn't dead, Daytona's ray just cut me off from my body. I could feel, see and hear, but I was unable to move a muscle, unable to communicate." She snarled, sounding more like an angry cat than ever, and rapped out her next words. "Operations without anesthetics were bad, but worse was they way some of those 'scientific researchers' amused themselves with my 'mindless' female body."

This break was helping Lily get her second wind. "Not everyone in the agency was like that, surely?" she asked, to keep the conversation going.

"Isn't that how all men are?" The Ocelot whirled into another attack. This time she feinted a leap, then rushed forward along the ground instead. Lily swung the rake two- handed like a baseball bat, forcing the Ocelot to duck under it. The villainess leaped again, and Lily spun to the side. She went the same way as she had rolled before, and the Ocelot anticipated her move. Her claw slashed out and shredded the front of Lily's oh-so-expensive blouse.

Lily wondered why she wasn't dead.

"You're right, though," the Ocelot continued, just as if she hadn't just tried to kill her opponent. "Some didn't take part in the amusements, no, they like women who actually move. They figured that once their work was done, they could order their robot to submit to whatever they wanted. But I submit to NO ONE!"

Without warning, the Ocelot charged, and when Lily blocked, the cat grabbed the rake with both hands and twisted, then swept her foot out in a kick. The claws struck Lily at waist level, tearing through her leather belt and slicing through the material of her skirt.

Once again she wondered why she wasn't dead. Then she realized: a cat plays with its prey before killing it.

"Nor do I, ghost! And I am no one's prey!" Lily was furious.

She began an angry, determined attack. She made a wide sweep with the rake, and the Ocelot jumped straight up to avoid it. As she whirled, Lily swept a back kick at the villainess, who tried to roll with the kick, but was still knocked sideways. Lily kept whirling, and the head of the rake struck the Ocelot in the ribs with an audible crack while she was still in the air. The Ocelot yowled in pain, but managed to grab the wooden handle; her momentum ripped it out of Lily's hands. She tossed it into the air and slashed twice, cutting the handle into pieces.

"Enough! No more games, no more toys!" the Ocelot roared in rage, and prepared to pounce.

What looked like a can of 3-in-1 Oil fell to the ground between the two women and exploded, releasing a gas of some kind. Lily's eyes were irritated immediately; it must be tear gas. She quickly backed away and tore a patch from her shredded blouse to hold over her mouth and nose. That effectively put an end to her battle with the Ocelot, which was what ToolMaster had intended. He had his toolbox in his left hand, and a mallet in the right.

You Promised me a Cord!”

"Hey, doll!" he yelled at the Ocelot. "This dame," he threw the mallet at KyLynn, who dodged lithely, "has some connection with the Alliance!" The mallet hit the courtyard wall and exploded, blasting a hole through it. "I think she's just called 'em in... We better beat it." He looked over where Betsy had Biff tied up. "Too bad the punk got captured, but he'd never make it in the AMV anyway!"

The two ducked through the hole in the wall, with ToolMaster providing cover by throwing various exploding tools he pulled from his box. They hopped into a very fast- looking sports car that instantly surged to life. The Ocelot was complaining loudly as they roared off: "I thought you were going to get that Cord for me!"

And that was the last they heard from ToolMaster and the Ocelot.

KyLynn came up to Lily with a sly smile on her face. "Wow, hon, where do you shop for lingerie? My boyfriend would absolutely kill to see me dressed like that! Nice color combination, too. But I don't suppose you planned to let the whole school see your unmentionables, did you?"

Lily looked down and gasped in shock. Her blouse was in tatters and her skirt had fallen in shreds, no doubt exactly as the Ocelot had intended. "That witch! To think, she used to be one of my heroes!"

Betsy ran up with the blazers that the women had discarded earlier. "Here, these will help — but there really isn't anyone else to see you, right now. Biff put them all to sleep, and I put him to sleep myself." She looked Lily over critically. "I think I want to know where you do your shopping, too!" She grinned at KyLynn.

"Okay, you guys, it isn't funny anymore! KyLynn, is the rest of the Alliance really about to show up?"

Ky just smiled. Lily grabbed the blazers from Betsy and put her own on, then tried to figure out how to tie the other two together to make a skirt. "Betsy, I have a duffel bag with some workout gear in my car — do you think you could go get it for me?" She handed Betsy the key. "The gold Cord in the main lot, on the passenger seat. I'll meet you in the little girls' room right inside the entrance." She turned and ran, while Betsy headed for the parking lot.

Meanwhile, KyLynn found a phone in the main administrative office and called in the story.

In Summary...

Once Lily had changed and KyLynn had notified the police (as well as her news bureau), the ladies had a short wait before the authorities arrived. They quickly agreed on an edited version of the events that had taken place, one that left out the details of their battles with the Ocelot, ToolMaster and the Oculist. It was several hours before they could sit down in a quiet corner table at Giovanni's Ristorante in town and fill each other in on all that had happened.

"...and she took off with the ToolMaster, berating him for leaving the fight too early. So, what did you do to him, Ky? It looked like he'd been through the wringer."

"I should hope so, after what he pulled on me," the famed TV reported answered. "Which was just about everything he had in that gimmicked toolbox. When we started in on them, I didn't see him at first. Then a roll of twine landed at my feet and exploded. I didn't consciously see it coming at me, but must have sensed it because I was already jumping when it struck. Something else came from above and to the right, and I looked up to see him on a small terrace. There was a long drape near it, so I jumped at it and swung up there. He was just pulling a hammer from the bag when I caught him with a spinning kick and knocked it out of his hands."

KyLynn paused as the waiter came with their drinks. Sipping from her wine glass, she continued. "I'd heard about him from Dr. Lambda and Flux, but I don't think I ever believed their stories about his souped-up tools. I mean, come on, a rocket-sledgehammer? Or a plunger with a shotgun in one end, and a grenade launcher in the other? Exploding oil cans?" The three women shared a hearty laugh before KyLynn got on with her story.

"It was the oil can that blew away the railing on that terrace, and when I tackled ToolMaster we both rolled over the edge and dropped to the ground below. He's muscular, but he still makes a good cushion for landing."

"What happened after that?"

"I jumped up, but he seemed stunned. He still had some sense, though, and pulled a tire iron from his belt, pointed it at me like a pistol. Believe it or not, he actually made some remark about how he was tired of me."

"Lame," echoed both Betsy and Lily.

"You get used to it. There was a potted tree there, and I grabbed the trunk and brought it down between us. I heard the gun go off as I slipped under the tree, and then he was running towards you and the Ocelot. I took off after him, scooping up a couple of chunks of stone as I ran. But he made it past you guys and blew the hole in the wall before I could catch up."

Betsy laughed. "So you never did call the boys? You beat him up so badly he lied to his partner to get away?" The others laughed as well.

Lily held her wine glass by the stem and twirled it between her fingers. "Whew. I wanted a shot at him, but I had trouble enough with the Ocelot! I don't think I could have stood up to him."

"What are you talking about, girl? Are you saying the Ocelot was easier, just because she's a woman?" Betsy' eyes flashed as she spoke. "What was I telling you in the lecture today? The only thing holding a woman back from being just as smart, just as strong, just as tough as any man is her attitude. I know members of the AMH who will attest that the Ocelot is far more dangerous in a fight than the ToolMaster and his gimmicks. With your martial arts training, it made more sense for you to go up against her, while KyLynn took on his gimmicks with her, umm, special abilities."

"Amen to that, Betsy." KyLynn raised her glass. "Here's to us, ladies. Let nothing hold us back."

The three raised their glasses and touched them over the center of the table, Betsy and Lily echoing KyLynn's toast.