Meet Mighty-Woman, the world’s greatest superhero!

It’s easy to say Mighty-Woman is the world’s greatest protector, but the challenge of actually being the best and living up to ever-growing expectations never ends for Miranda Thomas. When her former mentor returns to Earth after a long, self-imposed exile and steals the world’s sunlight, Miranda reunites with her old teammates—and even older friends—as they band together in an adventure that forces her to confront not only her self-centered past but the reasons she continues to serve in the present.

I’m excited to begin talking about my current work-in-progress, Terrific, which will give us a world’s greatest superhero who happens to be a 30-something fully clothed woman. That’s something pop culture needs, but it would be counterproductive if her gender was the book’s defining quality. This is a story about perseverance, friendship, and striving to do right by those who consider you a role model.

So, here’s the first full chapter. It’s still a work-in-progress, so plenty of polishing remains to be done, but I hope you enjoy.

*****

Copyright 2015 Daniel R. Sherrier. Do not reproduce without permission.

Terrific

By Daniel Sherrier

Issue #1: Perfect

“I asked nicely, but the dummies insisted on being evil,” Miranda told the police while she stood atop a pile of clobbered super-villains who had apparently competed to see who could design the most garish costume.

Miranda wasn’t Miranda in that moment, not as far as anyone present knew. To all concerned, she was Mighty-Woman, and her costume did not offend any eyeballs, perhaps because the vast majority of the law-abiding populace was biased in her favor. The gentle breeze animated the yellow cape, which matched her thin belt, fashionable boots, and large letter “M” imprinted on her shirt in a stylish calligraphy that the best graphic designers wished they had thought of. The insignia and cape complemented the magenta spandex, blending everything into a distinctive streak of scarlet whenever she’d fly off at impossible speeds.

Right now, though, the costume was in less than perfect condition. Several minor tears dotted the long pants and sleeves, and the cape had been hole-punched by unconventional fists. Scorch marks tarnished portions of the insignia, and her golden brown hair was a disaster. A careful observer might have thought a bomb had blown up in her face and subsequent action had swept away most of the ashy residue—and such an observation wouldn’t have been too far off the mark.

A crowd of pedestrians began gathering the moment Miranda deposited the unsuccessful super-villains on the sidewalk outside the police precinct in Airfield City, a major West Coast metropolis not too far from Los Angeles. The cheers commenced at once, even though not a single person here had witnessed the actual struggle. That was typical. Even in full daylight, most probably didn’t even notice the blemishes on her costume, or they’d forget them as soon as their memories could whitewash the image into the unattainable ideal of super-heroic perfection.

In their mind, Mighty-Woman was the world’s greatest superhero. Several prominent magazines had named her such for five years running—and that was an honor they had only been doing for, well, about five years, though she had already been an experienced pro well before that.

Saying she’s the world’s greatest superhero, that was the easy part. Being the world’s greatest superhero was a skosh more challenging.

From atop the heap of bad guys, smiling and waving at her appreciative audience, Miranda had but one thought: She really needed a shower.

Within the crowd—kept at a safe distance by police “caution” tape—a little girl, no older than six, slipped between the adults to reach the front. She waved a colorful piece of paper and shouted, “Mighty-Woman! I made this for you!”

Miranda glided onto the sidewalk and bent down to look the girl in the eye. She didn’t have to bend too far, as Miranda was smaller than the average woman in her mid-thirties. Hers was not a physique that suggested she could throw a tank down the block, but that sure as heck didn’t change the fact that she could. Physics went out of style years ago, or at least had become more flexible. And Miranda wasn’t looking at the girl through a mask. She discarded that impractical nuisance years ago after acquiring a more effective means of concealing her identity—fancy illusion-casting contact lenses that tweaked the shape of her face and altered the color of her hair and eyes.

“Hi, sweetie!” Big smile, she reminded herself in her post-battle fatigue, even though a grin had emerged naturally. “What’ve you got there?”

The girl handed her a crude crayon drawing of Mighty-Woman, posed quite heroically, with the words “thank you” scribbled below.

Definitely no need to force a smile. “Wow, this is perfect. Thanks!”

“You’re my favorite superhero,” the girl said, oblivious to the stench of a gazillion bad guys as Miranda gave her a quick hug.

“You are too precious,” she said in a neutral American accent. She never liked the idea of adopting some deep superhero voice, as she preferred to maintain a natural feminine tone. So as Miranda, she’d let her mild Southeastern U.S. accent roam free, while Mighty-Woman’s voice betrayed no regional origins and was an octave higher. Acting classes were useful indeed, but she would’ve sounded sincere even without them. “Now go tell your parents I said thanks for raising such an awesome young lady.”

Miranda stood back up and tossed another cheerful wave at the crowd. Just enough time to shower before work, she realized. If only water could flow at super-speed, too. However, it would’ve been impolite not to give a hand to the city’s finest who were cleaning up her mess, even if the bad guys were the ones truly responsible for the mess. So she tucked the “thank you” note securely in her belt and hoisted a too-beefy, unconscious villain over her shoulder while officers escorted the non-slumbering ones inside to issue charges.

“Mighty-Woman!” a police captain said, rushing out of the precinct. “Got a report of a situation developing in Los Angeles. It’s…unusual.”

Miranda plopped the hefty villain back onto the pavement. “Tell me how I can help.”

Alas, poor shower…

*****

Eleven years ago…

Miranda stood atop a pile of crushed robots, and she had not a scratch on her. Not even her mask or blonde wig were askew.

Flanking her on this clean Olympus City rooftop were the other two-thirds of the Terrific Trio.

“Leaping luminosity! That was terrific work, team!” Fantastic-Man said, literally glowing. His specialty was control over light, or “photonic manipulation” as he liked to call it in his authoritative TV dad voice. He could also transform his entire body into a beam of light, which was always nifty to watch.

Fantastic-Man was the world’s first superhero, predating his teammates by several weeks, and he was older than his youthful compatriots, who often got mistaken for his teen sidekicks. That was so annoying to Miranda. She was well past her teenage years—she was twenty-three, darn it! But she looked much younger next to his graying temples. He must have been thirty-five, at least. Probably older.

Amazing-Man was close to her age, she estimated, but he never enjoyed the work as much as she did. He had in the early months, but not anymore. The gray costume only accentuated his dour mood. Ditto with the full-face mask…and his slight slouch…and his stiff, crossed arms. He needed to cheer up.

“C’mon, buddy, we beat Dr. Death. Again,” Miranda told him, nudging him with her elbow. “Smile!”

He barely budged, and his tone was difficult to read without visible facial expressions. “How do you know I’m not?”

“Must be my Mighty-Vision I don’t have. You’re the one and only Amazing-Man! You move things with your brain! Enjoy it!”

Someone else was on the roof, though this guy wasn’t standing, and he wasn’t a superhero, as he had proven time and again, beginning with his choice of nickname. Dr. Death lay bound within scrap metal that had been ripped from his own robots. Yet another plot to dominate Olympus City had ended in defeat.

“Confound it,” the villain snarled through his black-and-gold helmet. “I was so close!”

“Close only counts in horseshoes, old foe,” Fantastic-Man said, ably pulling off the cheese factor as usual.

“My day will come! I merely need to find your weakest link and exploit it to the fullest!”

Fantastic-Man shone a blinding glare on the evil doctor’s face, forcing the villain to turn away. “You’ll never touch the Terrific Trio, Death.”

*****

Now…

But Dr. Death eventually did destroy the Terrific Trio, not that it did him any good, Miranda recalled as she soared through the sky on her way to further craziness. And he did it by using her best friend from high school—Kent’s friend, too. Alyssa brought about the end of the world’s first and only super-team—with the best of intentions, yeah, but good intentions didn’t improve the outcome.

No, focus on now, Miranda told herself. Not past glory days, not future relaxation, just present nuttiness.

The present nuttiness was courtesy of long-time C-list super-villain, the Puppeteer.

Four hostages were strung up like marionettes in an oversized puppetry apparatus situated on a hill behind the Hollywood sign. They were tied at the wrists, which were pulled high enough to lift their heels off the ground, and the cables were connected to a giant wooden crossbar overhead. Columns of ambiguous material propped up the crossbar, and a special lever jutted out from a column labeled “Puppet Activator!” Yes, with the exclamation mark. The Puppeteer was enthusiastic about his work…usually.

Today, however, he was brooding, which frankly looked ridiculous in his Geppetto-on-steroids costume. That thing had always failed to intimidate.

“Excuse me,” a hostage dared to say, “Mister, ah, Puppeteer…?”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Okay, um, just wondering…What are you planning on doing to us?”

The Puppeteer gazed out at Los Angeles. Somehow, he managed to refrain from blaring out his standard villainous laugh. “The last thing you’d ever expect.”

A gust of wind heralded the arrival of Mighty-Woman. Miranda was abruptly standing beside the Puppeteer, mirroring and mocking his self-important body language as she gazed out in the same direction.

“So what’re we brooding about?” she asked.

“Let me tell you a story…”

Anticipating the imminent recitation of a melodramatic speech, Miranda signaled “cut” and said, “In a hurry. Raincheck on the monologue?” She pointed back at the hostages. “You’re putting people in puppet traps again. We’ve talked about this, Puppeteer.”

The Puppeteer shook his head. “I’m not the Puppeteer.”

“Puppet trap says otherwise.”

“If you had let me give my speech…”

Miranda pointed a stern, teacherly finger at him. “I’ll allow it only if you skip to the end.”

“When I was a boy…”

“I said the end.”

The Puppeteer turned sharply toward his arch-nemesis, who never considered him her arch anything. His delivery catapulted from dead flat to hyper intense. “The Puppeteer—that joke of a villain—he may have kidnapped those poor, unsuspecting people…”

He ripped apart his gaudy carnival costume, revealing…

Oh, dear. Miranda missed the Geppetto-on-steroids look already.

“…but Mighty-Man, the world’s newest and greatest superhero, will save them!”

Miranda face-palmed. Now she really needed a shower to rinse from her eyes the image of an out-of-shape man floating in a version of her magenta and yellow tights. No, the shoulder pads did not make it more masculine. No, no.

The Puppeteer—nope, she would not think of him as Mighty-Man, no way—he rose into the air without any apparent means of propulsion. This was a new trick for a guy who had always relied on creative uses of puppet strings, but he’d probably explain in a sec. Come to think of it, maybe she shouldn’t have interrupted the monologue after all.

“I’m wearing a special costume that duplicates your powers,” he said. “I’m all the hero the people need now.”

“Save us, Mighty-Woman!”

“Quiet, hostage!” the Puppeteer barked.

Miranda rubbed the bridge of her nose. “About those hostages…”

“They’re simply bait so I can defeat you and then symbolically save them from my former self.”

“Yeah, not helping your case. Know how many hostages I’ve ever taken?” Miranda raised a fist and smirked. “This many.”

Miranda launched herself and her ridiculously strong fist at the puppet trap. She knew exactly how to handle the machine, having seen it in action several times over the years. It once turned Kent into a marionette, which was kind of adorable, even if Kent didn’t agree at the time. One good punch to the crossbar would break apart the beams and prevent the person-to-puppet energy from flowing through the “strings,” ensuring no one would experience traumatic puppetification.

But she needed to actually reach the apparatus without getting clobbered by a wannabe who was corrupting her image with every second he wore that hideous knockoff.

Mighty-Woman’s longevity had a funny side-effect. See, when you’re the only superhero with over twelve consecutive years of do-goodery, your powers get crazy embellished in the public’s mind. A scientist once went out of his way to warn her she should never move the moon from its orbit. The moon! So when someone talks about trying to “duplicate” her powers, well…she wished it was mere duplication.

The Puppeteer effortlessly intercepted Miranda’s path and clocked her across the face. The force sent her crashing into the Hollywood “D,” which then collapsed and buried her. As if she wasn’t enough of a mess already.

She pulled herself out of the wreckage and brushed the dust off her costume. The child’s drawing remained intact except for a minor tear at the edge. The Puppeteer was lucky.

“I’ll see you in my office now, Geppetto,” Miranda said as she took to the sky.

“Mighty-Man! It’s Mighty-Man!” the Puppeteer yelled as he pursued her into the clouds. “I possess—”

“I know, I know. So does my evil twin from the mirror dimension. Hasn’t improved her character any.”

He would inevitably catch up, Miranda was well aware. Something in that suit enabled him to move at even faster speeds than she could—and she could break the friggin’ sound barrier. Whatever that something was, the tights hid it surprisingly well. A shame they couldn’t hide more. (Mighty-Fact #424: Yes, kids, that’s the real reason superheroes wore capes.) Micro-circuitry woven into the fabric? Must’ve been. Anyway…A super-faster bad guy barreling straight at her? Easy one.

Miranda swerved to the side, and the Puppeteer zoomed on ahead. Maneuverability at such speeds required years of practice and muscle memory. No way those were built into the tights.

“See, you say you’re a hero,” Miranda said as the Puppeteer finally got around to reversing course, “and yet you’re acting like some medieval jouster thinking you just gotta knock me off and suddenly you’re the most fabulous one of all.”

A gust smacked Miranda in the face, and the Puppeteer was hovering inches in front of her, showing a disrespect for personal space that was too common among legally-challenged eccentrics. A cocky gleam overtook him. “Isn’t that basically what you did to Fantastic-Man?”

*****

Nine years ago…

Fantastic-Man had never done that before. Though his powers remained fully operational, he had opted not to use them now. His blue-and-amber tights and sun-shaped mask looked foolish without his usual radiance. Worse, the dullness revealed how much he had aged in the past few years as he strangled Dr. Death.

“Do you realize what you and your kind have cost me?” he raged. “Do you?”

Dr. Death collapsed onto the floor of Terrific Trio Headquarters, dead. Fantastic-Man had killed their most persistent foe in full view of his younger teammates.

The world’s first superhero had violated the unbreakable rule, and Miranda would never forget it.

*****

Now…

Miranda jabbed her knuckles into the Puppeteer’s eyes. That sure popped the bubble of his newfound cockiness.

“Ow!”

“No,” she answered. “Facts asserted on the Internet aren’t necessarily facts.”

The Puppeteer blinked several times, staring at his own hands in disbelief. “That hurt. She said I wouldn’t hurt!”

He flew away, a sonic boom assaulting Miranda’s ears, and she could no longer deny she was going to be late to work.

The hostages, meanwhile, remained strung up in the disconcerting puppet machine.

“So,” one uncomfortable lady said, “does anyone know what this thing would actually do to us?”

Miranda swooped down and severed the cables with a single swipe of her flat hand. “Turn you into tiny wooden marionettes. Painless, just…inconvenient. But hey, just think how wonderful the rest of your day will seem after all this.”

“Thank you, Mighty-Woman!”

“And thank you for your patience.”

The former hostages shook out their arms to restore circulation. They stepped aside as Miranda crumpled the apparatus with a few mighty punches. But one recently saved individual was not content to stand idly by after the indignity of being nearly turned into a puppet.

“How could you let him get away?” the irritable gentleman said, directing his full belligerence at Mighty-Woman.

No matter how powerful people thought she was, they knew she’d never hurt a fly—not unless it was an evil, evil fly, of course.

“Sir, if you’ll please calm down…”

“I will not calm down!” He sure liked to wag that finger. “Especially not after what you did to a national landmark! Hollywoo? Hollywoo?”

Miranda wanted to say so many things to this oh-so-charming fellow. But she was supposed to be perfect.

So she pumped her fist in mock excitement. “Holly-WOO!”

(Mighty-Fact #1: She was never perfect.)

“The right inflection makes everything better,” Miranda said, drifting into the air. “Hang tight, folks. Police and EMS are on the way.”

And off she flew in search of the unflattering imitation. Seeking out a newly super-strong nutjob was sure to be a real stumper, but perhaps by employing careful deductive reasoning, she just might’ve been able to suss it out. One promising lead was the stopped traffic honking at the roughly Puppeteer-sized hole in the street.

Wherever could it have led?

The sewer, obviously. And yeah, something else, too. Miranda, much to her regret over the years, knew to look below the sewer. And even if she didn’t, the stormwater spilling down that second Puppeteer-sized hole would’ve clued her in.

Miranda descended into a system of tunnels that probably hadn’t received the review of county planners. She arrived at an intersection that offered her a choice among four paths, but no reckless damage pointed the way this time. There were, however, voices, and they were plenty audible even over the pooling water she was hovering above. Plus, light was coming from only one direction. Finding the bad guys was always the easy part.

“How did she hurt me?” the Puppeteer yelled.

“Never promised invincibility,” said the flat, disinterested voice of a young woman.

“You promised I’d be every bit her equal!”

“She look invincible to you?”

“She’s Mighty-Woman!”

“Yeah. And you’re the idiot who’s forcing the premature advancement of my timetable. You were supposed to dilute the ‘Mighty’ brand over the course of weeks in preparation for my coup de grace.”

“I was supposed to be a superhero!”

“Yeah, an incompetent one, but you’ve exceeded expectations.”

Miranda floated down the tunnel, opposite the current of trickling stormwater. Everything was dry at the far end, where she found a circular gate that allowed a partial view of a derivative super-villain lair full of undecorated brick walls, depressing fluorescent lights, and all sorts of gadgets and doodads, like the comically large laser rifle that probably didn’t shoot rays of sunshine. The sink over there was labeled as a brain-scanner. The bathtub wasn’t a tub either—the sign identified it as a time machine. (It really needed to be called a Time Tub, Miranda felt strongly.) And even though that tall rectangular box looked exactly like a shower stall, complete with a handheld showerhead, no, it was in fact a miniaturization chamber.

Clearly, the stench of subterranean stormwater was not taking Miranda’s mind off her present lack of cleanliness. She hoped the stench was the sewer.

The Puppeteer was standing near the ray gun, and he was hoppin’ mad. The magenta did not do his rant any favors.

An arm in a black sleeve entered the edge of Miranda’s sightlines, and the opposite hand injected a needle into this person’s own upper biceps.

The Puppeteer brandished his mighty fist. “I wouldn’t be so disrespectful to someone who can—” As he pounded that fist onto the hard oak table, he recoiled and cried in pain. “Ow, what?”

“Deactivated,” the young lady said as she strolled onto a metal platform bolted to the floor. Miranda still couldn’t see her face, just the back of her unnaturally black hair, which had a gold streak running down the middle, a streak that continued down her cape. Even as she turned back around and fat iron shackles slammed over her boots, everything above the young lady’s black jeans was cut from view, but the familiar color scheme unsettled Miranda.

“What did I do to deserve that?” the Puppeteer whined.

Miranda ripped out the gate and zoomed into the lair in a burst of extraordinary speed—and she did so, as usual, with a great big smile on her face. “I hereby challenge the next bad guy to build a lair in the clouds.” And then she saw her new nemesis’s full costume. Yeah, familiar. “Oh, you’re kidding me.”

“Not a kidder,” the pale young woman said as she stood shackled to a humongous platform, one Miranda might have been able to rip from the ground after considerable effort. Maybe the underground fluorescents contributed to her lack of color, but makeup took it the rest of the way. This kid could’ve started yawning at any moment. “Dr. Death the Third. Hello.”

The color scheme wasn’t a coincidence then. The costume matched the original Dr. Death’s, except this new player decided to forgo the helmet or any mask. She just didn’t give a darn, clearly. And she looked so young. Was she even twenty?

“Third generation already?” Miranda said. “Really? What happened to Junior? Now that was a cute kid. For a preteen sociopath.”

“I’ll be concise,” Dr. Death III said. “I’ve injected myself with nanotechnology. Microscopic machinery is presently attaching itself to my heart. This will end in one of two ways.” An almost imperceptible smirk appeared on her face. “In eighty-three seconds, my heartbeat starts broadcasting a unique frequency that will siphon the bioelectric power of every human heart in a hundred-mile radius, giving me the power of a goddess. Or…you kill me.”

The Puppeteer grabbed the large ray gun from the table and struggled to get the right grip. “I’ll kill her. I’ll show you I’m a hero!”

Miranda ran over and bopped him on the head. “Superheroes don’t kill.” She should’ve said that before she knocked him out, she realized a second too late.

“A lie,” Dr. Death III said, her smirk growing in self-righteousness. “Your mentor killed the greatest scientific mind of the epoch.”

Aside from the description of her mentor and choice of mentor, the young villain wasn’t completely wrong. Fantastic-Man, he really did, he…

*****

Nine years ago…

“…killed him,” Fantastic-Man said as he collapsed to his knees beside Dr. Death’s fresh corpse. “I actually…”

Miranda was there with Kent and Alyssa, less than an hour after they had revealed their identities to each other. They were in costume but without their masks—something Fantastic-Man considered blasphemous, especially in their headquarters, but he had more on his mind, so much more than she or Kent had realized in more than three years of working together, more than they had ever bothered to learn.

“Fantastic-Man…?” Miranda tried.

“Don’t call me that.” Fantastic-Man draped Dr. Death’s cape over the body, using it like a funeral shroud. “The world saw us as the perfect people. We’d save everyone, and they would love us for it. But we’re not perfect. I’ve neglected my wife and son, and now…”

Fantastic-Man kneeled over the remains, and he squeezed his eyes shut, as if fighting back tears. But then his eyes popped right back open, and he turned to his team with renewed determination. His fake smile appeared almost cartoonish.

“No. I am Fantastic-Man,” he said, his glow returning. “I’ve messed up here, but I can go elsewhere. I can change into light and travel the void of space unprotected. And nothing will ever touch me again.”

His form dissolved into light so intense, Miranda had to turn away. When her eyes recovered, Fantastic-Man was gone.

*****

Now…

“Fantastic-Man was an awful superhero,” Miranda said.

She needed options fast. Fortunately, she had a lair of super-weapons at her disposal, as well as the swiftness to take inventory in less than two seconds.

A mind-swapping helmet? Useless, as was the brain-scanner. She wasn’t sure how to use the Time Tub. The giant magnet wouldn’t have worked any faster than her own super-strength, and relocating a metal platform that dense would’ve taken at least a few minutes. She could shrink this new Dr. Death with the miniaturization chamber, but there was no guarantee that would neutralize the threat…unless…

Miranda cringed at her own idea. Ew. Did she have to? Ugh, just fantastic.

But she’d need one other piece of equipment for this plan to work. She could hold her breath for that long, sure, but there was another consideration. After scouring the lair at super-speed, she didn’t find the solution.

“How do you not have a flashlight?” Miranda yelled at the smug young lady.

“I anticipated you might attempt that,” she said, her voice lapsing into a boastful tone, “so I destroyed all my flashlights.”

Miranda knew of other options for illumination. She zipped out the lair and over to a nearby movie studio. Spotting an equipment truck, she slipped inside past the crew, grabbed a headlamp, and slipped out, issuing a quick promise: “I’ll buy you a new one!”

Returning to the lair, Miranda placed the thank-you note on the floor before ducking into the miniaturization chamber. She hit the control panel, and the faucet spilled out a stream of sparkling energy that caused her skin to itch and tighten. As the chamber appeared to swell around her, she attempted to tally the number of times she had been a size other than her own, but the number quickly became too absurd. Nevertheless, experience had taught her that smaller was much less awkward than bigger. So…plus side there.

The shrinking energy cut off, leaving Miranda smaller than a gnat. She leapt into the air and flew toward the relatively massive Dr. Death III, and she tried her best not to dwell on the cavernous nose she was about to enter.

Her headlamp lighting the way, Miranda slipped down between arteries and organs until she found the beating heart, which sure looked weird and strangely fascinating at this scale, especially with the numerous techno-germs clinging to it. They vaguely resembled robotic puppies, and each one was twice Miranda’s current size.

So she went smaller than she needed to. Ah, well. More to love.

Miranda dove through the first robo-pup that was poking its snout at the muscle and releasing a charge of crackling lightning…until the critter got ripped in half, of course. The next robo-pup immediately directed its full attention to Miranda, intending to go all anti-body on her, but one punch to its face rattled the internal microcircuits, shorting them out.

Nanotech wasn’t all that durable, was it? But it was plentiful, as Miranda saw when she spun her headlamp around a full revolution. The robo-pups were converging on her, and the pack extended beyond the range of her light, even as the heart beneath their legs continued to rise and fall in one continuous earthquake.

She better get started.

While Miranda tore through robo-pup after robo-pup, she heard—and felt the vibrations of—Dr. Death III’s all-encompassing, rumbling voice: “Ten. Nine. Eight…”

The heartbeat sped up more than Miranda expected, and a beat bumped her aside, sparing the existence of a robo-pup…for another half-second.

“Seven. Six. Five. Four…”

Robo-pup number fifty-something perished, but a whole bunch remained available to pile onto her. And really, why did they have to look like puppies? Couldn’t they have had a more suitably evil appearance? Like sharks maybe? Or clowns? Shark clowns?

Despite their inconvenient puppy-ness, Miranda proceeded to demolish the whole lot. Fate of the world, and all that.

Dr. Death III concluded her countdown: “Three. Two. And one.”

The villain’s smirk evaporated when nothing happened. Well, not nothing. A miniaturized mighty-mite emerged from her nose, zipped over to hit the chamber’s gigantic buttons, and returned to her normal petite size, appearing roughly five times the mess she had before her visit to a super-villain’s interior.

The little girl’s thank-you note was undamaged. Miranda reclaimed it from the floor and tucked it away.

“Hey, look,” Miranda told the disappointed villain while masking her own fatigue. “You’re still alive. And so is everyone else. Now let me tell you about a nice little place called jail…”

*****

Shortly later…

James Smalley was an important movie director in this town, and he was displeased.

“Call her again,” he shouted at his assistant as they stood outside their star’s empty trailer. “I don’t care how a big a star she is. Even Miranda Thomas has to bother to actually show up!”

A freak gust displaced Smalley’s toupee, and a door slammed.

“Did you hear something?”

“Over your yelling?” his assistant said. “I mean…what?”

The trailer door opened, and Miranda appeared—as Miranda. Casual yet trendy clothes had replaced the costume, and no special contact lenses disguised her natural auburn hair and internationally adored facial structure. She could even allow herself to speak in her normal register. But something else required tweaking for public consumption—her personality.

“I am so sorry,” she said, appearing ridiculously embarrassed. “I had a headache, so I took some medicine, but I accidentally took the drowsy kind. How long was I asleep?”

Box office giant Miranda Thomas was no diva. America’s Leading Lady, as the entertainment media liked to call her, was a fairly decent role model to fans of all ages. She maintained a clean lifestyle, contributed to numerous charities, and logged an impressive number of volunteer hours by visiting children’s hospitals, working in food banks, cleaning up parks, and more. However, she had earned a reputation for being a teensy bit flighty.

The director stuttered. “How—when—?” But he recovered. “On the set! Now!”

Miranda hoped she didn’t smell like super-villain innards. That would’ve been embarrassing. She had taken a quick rinse, but that did not qualify as a shower.

*****

That was a shower. Well worth the wait of several hours.

Now dressed in the comfiest pajamas she ever owned, Miranda lounged on her couch and snuggled with her cat, which she named Cat as a nod to one of her favorite old films, and she watched an even older black-and-white movie. She did so within the confines of her mansion, of which she and Cat were the only inhabitants. Plenty of expensive artwork from various eras filled the space, but never enough of the space. The place met the public’s expectations of a millionaire actress’s home. Otherwise, it exceeded her needs as a person.

Miranda had enjoyed those minutes of bliss the hot shower provided. They were grand. But now what did she have?

She had a hand-made thank-you note from a grateful child who looked up to her. That was worth infinitely more than the mansion. Miranda locked it away in a chest full of similar mementos she had accumulated over the years, which had kept her going even in the toughest times. And there were lots of toughest times, especially after Fantastic-Man…

Perhaps she should check in with Kent, she decided. Ex-Terrifics Amazing-Man and Mighty-Woman were past due for another team-up, and old buddies Kent Shield and Miranda Thomas were past due to hang out. They had so much more fun without Fantastic-Man around making it all seem so…artificial.

But what Miranda didn’t know at that moment was that a beam of light was headed toward the Earth—a sentient beam of light.

*********** (End of excerpt)

If you read all the way through — thank you!

So how can you help bring this novel into the world? Simple. By supporting my current books. It’s like the original Kickstarter.

And coming after Terrific…more RIP! I’m not done with that series of Earths in Space yet. I’ve got a lot of worlds stuck in my head, but this is the one that felt like it needed to come out at this particular point in time.