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Act II, Scene 1: Revenge of the Killer Hornet

A Ranma ½ / Avengers (the superhero group) fusion
by DB Sommer

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ owned by Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The Avengers are owned by Marvel Comics. Yes, the superheroes, not the British TV Series.

Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at sommer@3rdm.net

[Forward: This one eases us back into the Avenging universe by focusing on the Wasp, and moving subplots forward, as well as introducing more foes for our heroes, and meeting a few old ones as well.]

"…And so I said to her, 'Just bring your friend along to the hotel, and we'll make it a threesome.' And you know what she did?"

"No. What?"

"She kneed me in the groin."

"The frigid bitch."

"That's enough out of you two!" Lieutenant Kaori Makimura shouted, slamming her fists on the top of her desk in rage.

Twin brothers Ryo and Kyo Saeba stared at her in surprise. Kyo then whispered conspiratorially to his brother, "Sounds like it's that time of the month for a certain you-know-who."

"That's not why I'm yelling at you, you misogynist pigs! It's your sexist attitudes that are driving me crazy and preventing me from finishing my reports!"

Ryo whispered, "Looks like you-know-who's not getting any."

"Out! Out now!" Kaori began throwing everything on her desk at them, including the laptop she had been using to write her report. The brothers abandoned her office before she actually connected with any of the objects hurled at them.

Eyes rimmed red in anger marked the pair's progress out of the office and toward the relative safety of the front of the station. Kaori briefly considered pursuing the brothers and making them pay for their comments, but regained enough control to stop herself. It was times like this she hated the fact she couldn't just shoot them out of hand. As much as she despised superpowered beings, maybe having the ability to geld idiots wouldn't be so bad.

Instead, revenge could take the form of assigning them to undercover work in 'The Blue Oyster' bar, a known pick-up place for homosexual men. The suave pair wouldn't have to complain about a lack of romantic attention there. It would serve them right for their endless harassment and being the bane of her existence.

She was still fantasizing about the duo squirming in discomfort as they were felt up in the bar when the men in question ran into her office, looking more terrified than when they left. They crouched behind Kaori's desk, guns drawn as they peered warily over the edge of the desktop.

Kaori grabbed her shoulder holster and ducked behind a chair. "What is it? What's going on?"

Ryo's wary eyes were focused on the door. "We're under assault."

Kaori drew her revolver. "What is it? A lunatic with a gun? An angry mob? Some SPB trying to take us out?"

"Worse," Kyo said. "A gang of lawyers."

Kaori shuddered. For once, she was inclined to agree with the Libidinous Duo.

The sergeant at the front desk of the station would have seconded his superior's opinion had he known her thoughts. As it was, he found himself left alone, abandoned as the rest of his comrades suddenly decided to raid the nearest empty building in search of contraband.

Preparing himself for the most dangerous encounter of his life, the sergeant regarded the dozen men standing before him. They appeared identical in every way in height, weight, and oily, slicked-back hair. They could have been clones. The black business suits they wore cost more than he made in a year. The way they stared unblinkingly at him reminded him of the way his pet snake would gaze at the mice that were put in the cage with him during feeding time. He gulped nervously.

"And what're you…" the sergeant couldn't force himself to refer to them as gentleman, or in any sort of term applying to humans, for that matter. "…here for?"

The man at the forefront pulled out a business card and flashed it at the sergeant. In bright gold lettering it stated that they were representatives of the legal firm Multi-Headed Serpent Unlimited.

"You're from Hydra!" the sergeant gasped.

"You just earned yourself a slander lawsuit, Mister," one of the men toward the rear of the pack stated in eager tones.

"We represent a legitimate business interest," a second said.

"That specializes in the importation of Peruvian goat's milk and the clear things that are fitted on the ends of shoelaces," a third finished.

"And we do pro-bono legal cases from time to time, as in this instance," the man who had shown the business card said as he returned it to his jacket pocket. "We demand the release of two innocent victims who have been illegally detained bayou jack-booted thugs: Hiroshi Karigari and Kyosuke Kasuga."

It took a moment for the sergeant to recall the names. "You mean Mentallo and the Fixer?"

"That's another slander suit!" the man in the back said.

"Our clients have not now nor ever gone by those names, and that you would dehumanize them in such a manner indicates that you are administering to them cruel and unusual punishment, another reason for them to be released immediately."

"That's what they were calling themselves right after we arrested them," the sergeant pointed out.

"They were confused from concussions they sustained after having been assaulted by two criminals whom you never bothered to interrogate, let alone arrest, for their felonious acts. You can be assured our clients will be suing for that as well. Now release them," the head speaker demanded.

The sergeant shook his head. "No way. They were caught tampering with the minds of every resident in the neighborhood, and under section eight, article four of the recent addendum to felony code that constitutes an invasion of privacy. They also racked up destruction of property counts and illegal weapons charges. They aren't going anywhere."

The lead man said, "You have no proof they tampered with anyone's minds. No one remembered anything."

"We had a licensed telepath conduct tests that discovered the mental connection between Mentallo and his erasure of their memories using a brain boost device found at the scene of the crime."

"Which means you have no physical proof, and only this mystery telepath's word to goon, which is hearsay," the man pointed out.

"And no witnesses to the destruction of the property in question since no one could remember a thing," a second said.

"And they had no illegal weapons. All of the equipment was destroyed, so you have no proof they were anything other than what our clients claimed: environmentally sound geothermal sensor arrays. You see, our clients were merely conducting an investigation into a safe and clean energy source when they were assaulted by those self-proclaimed superheroes, Giant Man and the Wasp. Those two vigilantes are the ones that did all that you claim, yet you never bothered to investigate them. You have no case, drop the charges immediately and we'll go easy on you."

"Only one slander suit instead of two," one of the lawyers said.

"No!" the sergeant insisted.

Another shouted out, "Also you need to cease and desist with the violations of Mr. Kasuga's rights and remove the torture device hooked up to him."

"That's a psionic inhibitor. It's the only thing that prevents him from dominating the minds of everyone in the station!"

"He can't even think straight and is unable to defend himself from the charges that have been brought against him. We demand you remove it or we'll bring in Amnesty International to help out. You'll be looking at international publicity regarding your cruel and inhumane treatment of our clients. Release them now before it's too late."



"Ow!" Mentallo cried out as he tried moving the metal band affixed to his forehead.

In the cell across from him, the Fixer said, "Why do you keep trying to take that off? You know it shocks you when you do."

"I have an itch and it's right under the band, and I can't scratch it. Ow!" Mentallo shouted as he was shocked again.

"Definitely cruel and unusual punishment," the Fixer grumbled. He was still pouting when a guard passed by. "Hey!" he shouted, waving his hands in order to get the man's attention.

The guard stared at him through droopy eyes. "Leave me alone. This is the end of my second shift and I'm too tired to deal with your crap. I only got to watch you guys two more days before you get transferred to that special facility with the cells designed to specifically hold the two of you."

The Fixer pressed on. "Since this makes it a last request kind of thing, do you think I could have a couple of Tic-Tacs and some duct tape?"

The guard pulled out a list from his shirt pocket and read it over. "Nope, it says that with those things, combined with the toilet lid and your bedding, you could make a bomb big enough to pop out the bars on the window."

The Fixer sighed as the guard walked away. That was exactly what he had planned to do with the items in question. The police had that American genius, Reed Richards, develop a list of items to keep out of high-tech masterminds' hands for fear of them creating dangerous items from mundane objects to facilitate said masterminds' escape. The Fixer was forced to admit, the man really was brilliant. There were items on the list whose combinations the Fixer couldn't begin to fathom.

Suddenly the wall of the Fixer's cell that faced the outside exploded, pelting him with small pebbles and covering him in a cloud of dust. He hacked and coughed as he wondered what had happened. Had Hydra come to break him out, or finish him off? They didn't respond well to failures, tending to kill personnel that were deemed "too stupid to be of use." The more spectacular the failure, the more spectacular the death. But Hydra was short on super agents, so he and Kyosuke might have some further use for the organization besides target practice.

The cloud settled, revealing an attractive girl in her late teens with pink hair. She wore a sedate white blouse and blue skirt that traveled most of the way down her legs. She held a picnic basket carried in the crook of her arm, and stood amongst the rubble as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Marie!" the Fixer gasped out, coughing slightly on the remaining dust.

The instant Marie's eyes fell upon the Fixer, she smiled. "Hello, Big Brother. I was worried about you. I heard a special on television that food in prison was substandard, so I brought you lunch." She held up the picnic basket.

The Fixer brushed some of the dust from his prison uniform. "Yes, well, I think I'll use this opportunity to break out instead. We can eat on the way."

"Okay," Marie said amicably.

"What about me?" Mentallo wailed from his cell across the way.

"Oops, sorry." The Fixer turned to Marie. "Break him out, too."

"I can't do that," she said.


"He's a criminal," Marie said as though even a child would understand.

"He was unjustly accused, just like me."

"Oh, that's okay then." Marie walked forward, casually ripped the door off the Fixer's cell, then walked across the hall and did the same to Mentallo's. She helped him to his feet and escorted him out.

Alarms wailed through the jail as she led the pair of released supervillains down an alley and to a waiting car. A small flag bearing the proclamation 'Itsa Great Pizza' hung from the antenna.

"What's that doing on my car?" the Fixer asked.

"I've got a part time job to help," Marie said. "I also have to make a couple of stops before we return home. I sort of came by in the middle of my deliveries to drop off your food." She opened the passenger door and ushered the Fixer inside. She opened the rear door for Mentallo, then ran around the car and jumped in. As she sped off, she chatted incessantly with the Fixer and informed him of what had happened during his absence.

Mentallo interrupted their conversation. "Excuse me, did you say Hiroshi is your big brother?"

"Yes," Marie said.

"Actually, she's the robot I told you about," the Fixer clarified.

"The one that leaks radiation?" Mentallo moved as far away as he could from the robot, which mostly entailed rolling down the window and leaning out as far as he could without falling out.

The Fixer said, "I got a cash advance from Hydra and fixed her shielding right before we were summoned by the boss. She's fine now. I think."

"You think?" Mentallo began looking around for any stray pieces of lead that could be used to protect him.

Marie said, "I'm all right. May's been taking readings on me, as well as helping me with regular maintenance. My radiation levels are well within acceptable human tolerance. Also, none of the new neighbors have been vomiting and losing their hair in the past few weeks, like the old ones did. I'd say the readings are accurate."

"Who's May?" Mentallo asked.

"My maid. You'll meet her when we get to my place," the Fixer explained. "We'll get that psionic inhibitor off you and tap into headquarters' computers to make sure we're not on their 'to kill' list. Once we know they won't shoot us on sight, we'll report back in and get our next assignment."

"Good." Mentallo began to scratch at his scalp, then gave a shout as he shocked himself again.

Three stops later (including one for gas) the getaway was complete, and the trio returned to the Fixer's 'headquarters': the modest home that Hiroshi had inherited from his deceased parents. It was terribly mundane, a direct contrast to the three unique individuals entering the domicile.

Leading the way, Marie opened the door and entered with the Fixer hot on her heels. Mentallo followed close behind.

The telepath/telekinetic paused in the entryway, noting that the furnishings were sedate, although with an unquestionably feminine touch. Curiously, there was a six-inch doll standing on the floor near the entrance to the living room. She had brown hair and wore a pink maid's outfit.

"Someone left their Barbie lying around." Mentallo hoped it was Marie's and not the Fixer's. Thinking of a supervillain who played with dolls, and whose powers weren't related to either Voodoo or radioactive clay, was far too unsettling.

The doll suddenly spoke in a high-pitched girlish voice. "I'm not a Barbie, silly. My name is HMM-01, prototype model, but you can call me May. The HMM designation means 'Hand Maid May.' Get it? It's a play on words. Master Hiroshi made me by hand, and I'm a maid the size of a hand. Master Hiroshi has a wonderful sense of humor."

"She's the maid I was talking about," the Fixer elaborated. "I made her out of spare parts I had left over after building Marie. She cleans the place up for me"

"Must take a while at her size," Mentallo commented.

"It does, but I do my best!" May declared, pumping her fist in determination.

"I don't have any complaints," the Fixer said.

An errant thought occurred to Mentallo. "She doesn't have a nuclear reactor like Marie, right?" He began backing away nervously.

"Don't be silly. She's much too small to have a reactor," the Fixer scoffed. "She runs either on batteries or a plug. Why do you think there's a cord sticking out of her bottom?"

Once Mentallo looked closer, he spotted a power cord that led from under May's skirt to a nearby socket. "That's sort of disturbing in an anal fixation sort of way."

The Fixer became defensive. "There was no other place to put it. She is only six inches tall."

"Good point." Just so long as he didn't become aroused when he plugged her in. Mentallo hadn't quite figured his partner out. He was a nerdy, lonely guy that built attractive, female robots for companionship. Odds dictated he should be fixated on at least one of them as a romantic interest, but he really did seem to view Marie as a little sister. Maybe the maid really was nothing more than a maid, though her dimensions were very Barbie-like; she even jiggled when she walked. Little details like that muddied the waters a bit. Of course, that might not be a bad thing. Maybe he could ask the Fixer could build him a Modoka-bot. A straight one, though. That had potential.

"Master Hiroshi will make me a bigger body someday," May gushed, breaking Mentallo out of his fantasy.

The Fixer held up a warning finger. "Now, now, May. That's not going to be for a long while. I only recently completed Marie's shielding, and if you want to be upgraded into a robot her size, you're going to need everything Marie has, and that'll take money. Just give it time."

"I will, Master Hiroshi." May sighed and blushed in Hiroshi's direction, though if he noticed, he gave no sign of it.

Mentallo picked up on it, though. Good, the robot was definitely not a lesbian. That would have been too much for him to take. Bad enough there were such deviants that were flesh and blood, but if there were mechanical ones as well, he'd snap like a dry twig.

The Fixer waved for Mentallo to follow him. "I'm going to hack into Hydra's mainframe and make sure we're not on their 'To Kill' list." A lot of people were on it. Nick Fury, head of SHIELD. Modok, head of their rivals at AIM. The Chinese crimelord, Mantis. Someone named 'Bill'. Baron Von Strucker, the former leader of Hydra who had been ousted by the current Supreme Hydra, but had narrowly avoided assassination. Orlando Bloom just on general principle, and a host of others. Hopefully a certain resident genius and psionic user hadn't been added to the update.

Even after the two departed, Marie and May continued smiling in their direction.

"It's so nice to have Big Brother back," Marie said.

"Yes, it is. I missed Master Hiroshi so much, it almost hurt," May said mournfully.

Marie noticed her companion's melancholy state. "What's wrong?"

It appeared May would remain silent, but after a moment's consideration, she spoke. "I'm worried about Master Hiroshi. What if that awful Wasp person comes back and throws him in jail again?"

That startled Marie. "I hadn't thought of that. I just assumed once Big Brother returned to us, things would go back to normal."

"I think the Wasp might take him away, though. I saw her on television. She's one of the members of that superhero group, the Avengers. She seems like an obsessive person. She might attack him for no reason again."

Marie chewed on her thumb, a nervous habit she had picked up recently. "But how can we keep her from coming after him?"

May considered that. After several minutes of contemplation, she snapped her fingers. "I know what I can do. I'll seek her out first and kill her. That way she'll never take Master Hiroshi away again."

"Are you sure you want to kill her, though?" Marie asked hesitantly.

May nodded. "It's the only way to protect Master Hiroshi. After all, he created me. I'd do anything for him."

It wasn't much of an argument, but was enough to convince Marie. "How are you going to do it?"

May scratched her head. Killing a superhero wasn't the same thing as cleaning a room. It involved a lot less dusting, for one thing. "Well, she's my size, so that's not a problem. I have weapons that Master Hiroshi designed to protect me from bad people and pest control. I have my jet belt to fly around with, the one that helps me clean those hard-to-get spots, so I can deal with her on her terrain. I suppose since she's a superhero, I'll become her arch-nemesis and confront her."

"That makes sense," Marie agreed.

"I'll need to draw her out and to fight me one-on-one, that way it'll be an even fight." Now May's creative juices started to flow. "I'll need to threaten something publicly in order to lure her into my clutches. I think I know just the thing. There's this old Earth Shaker prototype Master Hiroshi made, but never used for some odd reason. That would be the perfect thing to use to call her out."

Now Marie started to get into it. "Okay, you'll need a costume since you're a superhero's arch-nemesis. I'm thinking of something orange and yellow. Probably an insect motif, since you will be fighting someone called the Wasp. And you'll need a name. 'The Hornet' should do it. It's not too pretentious, and since you're rivals, it makes you sound evenly matched."

"Oh, good idea. You always were a lot more creative than me." May quivered in excitement. "I can't wait to confront this awful Wasp person and see to it she doesn't bother Master Hiroshi again."

"Do you think we should tell Big Brother about our plan?"

May shook her head. "I'd rather leave it as a surprise. His birthday is coming up soon. It'll be like an early present for him."

Marie seconded the notion. "Big Brother likes surprises."

"All right!" May shouted "I'm going to do my best to kill the Wasp, just like I would any other household pest!" She pumped her tiny fist enthusiastically once again.

Marie smiled at how easy it was to initiate the plan. The costume had been easy to make, and May had picked the destination for the battleground herself. Infiltrating the television station and finding the floor where the evening news was taking place had been easy. Marie had driven up to the studio in her pizza delivery outfit and entered with a pizza box, telling the security guard at the front desk that she had a delivery for anchorman Toji Yamamoto. The guard looked her over, said, "A hot pizza and hot delivery girl, just the way he likes them," and admitted her. Rather than going to the anchorman's office, Marie opted to get off on the floor above and find an empty room, waiting until the news was about to begin.

Satisfied no one would be intruding, Marie opened the pizza box. Inside was the Earth Shaker device (which luckily was round, like a pizza) and May, or more appropriately, the Hornet.

Marie admired her handiwork. She had sewn the costume for her best friend. It covered May's body completely, hugging her frame like spandex. It was mostly a dull orange, except around the hands, boots, midsection, and mask, where it was brown. Two antennae sprang forth from the outfit's headpiece, and two faux insect wings projected from the back. A belt around her waist had a holster and several round objects dangling from it.

"How do I look?" May asked.

"Perfect." And Marie meant it. May was going to make a good impression on her first outing as an arch-nemesis, even if she was going to retire after her only mission.

May began dragging the overly large Earth Shaker device toward the studio.

"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Marie asked worriedly.

May nodded. "You just wait outside with the getaway car. It's not like I can fly all the way back home, especially after fighting the Wasp."

"All right." Marie wished her luck one more time before leaving.

Anchorman Toji Yamamoto irritably cleared his throat as he waited for the light to turn on, signaling him to start his part of the report. Today was a bad day, made worse by the promotion of Akemi Shutaro as his new co-anchor. Ever since she had scooped the rest of the news industry with the infamous 'Avengers' battle in downtown Tokyo, she had risen through the station's ranks like a rocket. Only yesterday she had wrested away the co-anchor's spot from its previous occupant: Megumi Yasuda. It was a terrible situation Toji found himself in. Megumi had been perfect. Older, quieter, and knew her proper station; that of co-anchor and made no attempts to take his job. He had even slept with her when she was younger.

Akemi was different. Young, energetic, and hungry for his cushy position, which earned him lots of cash for no real work. She wouldn't even sleep with him, the bitch. She was probably a lesbian or something.

Having no desire to fend off Akemi nipping at his heels for the rest of his career, Toji decided it was time remove the girl from the picture. Defaming the young upstart would be the easiest way. He knew a stripper that looked like just like her. A few thousand yen in the stripper's account, a few grainy shots of her in the nude, and having someone put the pictures up on the Internet would do the trick. As the old saying went, it didn't have to actually be her in the picture: it just had to look like her. Even if Akemi was cleared, her name would be dirtied so badly she wouldn't be allowed to report on the results of a fishing show.

The red light on the camera came on, snapping Toji out of his daydream. He smiled suavely and began reading the information as it scrolled down the TelePrompTer. "There's been further talk recently of the problems plaguing SHIELD. The latest situation arose when it was discovered that SHIELD forces had ended up fighting against each other in the war-torn nation of Slorenia. Apparently one branch based in Slorenia had been given orders to help bring the breakaway portion of the country back into the fold, while the other had been charged with defending it.

"This situation has once again sparked debate among the UN about dissolving SHIELD, calling it an expensive, ineffective agency that has outlived its usefulness with the end of the Cold War. Colonel Nicholas Fury, the current head of SHIELD, refuted such contentions, claiming it had only started encountering such problems when it was placed under direct UN supervision."

Toji waited patiently until the taped footage of the Colonel at a press conference began to roll.

The face of an irate Nick Fury, white hair at his temples, trademark black eyepatch, and lit cigar being chomped on, appeared on the screen. "They slashed our budget in half, literally wrote over a thousand pages of restrictions on what we can do to infiltrate terrorist organizations, and removed any autonomy we had to actually do something. We can't do anything without a two thirds resolution, which takes months to do, and then they complain about how we ain't doing nothing! Putting us under UN control was the exact opposite of what our original mandate was in making us apolitical so we can stop anyone, anywhere, from screwing up the world!"

The Colonel's face disappeared. Toji read from the TelePrompTer, "These comments were refuted by the majority of the UN, including one of the most outspoken members, the U.S. Ambassador."

The image of a handsome man in his thirties appeared on the screen. "I'm not surprised by the Colonel's remarks. Fury is quite typical of the gung-ho hawks of the past that, quite frankly, have no place in the world today. He's a warmonger that enjoyed breaking the rules and behaving like someone out of a deranged Rambo movie. SHIELD was out of control, acting like it was above the law, and doing whatever it pleased wherever it wanted. Now that limits have been put on Fury's behavior, he's chafing at them. He abused his power repeatedly, and is now complaining about how we at the UN have reined him in. The days of the John Wayne cowboy mentality are over. It's time to move as nations demand, and not at the whims of the individual.

"I'm afraid Fury's era is in the past, and it's time for him to go. He's held his position as Director since the founding of SHIELD over fifty years ago. The only reason he's managed that feat was by halting his aging, thanks to that so-called Infinity Formula that only works on him. If nothing else, that is a clear example of one of his many abuses of power, dumping untold millions into a project designed to prolong only his life. Yes, officially it was supposed to work on anyone, and that the professor that created it was killed before he could adjust the serum to work on anyone else, but I find that tale too preposterous to have any credibility. Frankly, it sounds like a cover-up, and I wouldn't be surprised to find some of Fury's rabble-rousing cohorts in certain military manufacturing industries backing him. I'd say it's long past time for an inquiry into Director Fury's actions over the years and hold him accountable for the dirty business he's been conducting."

The image of the man disappeared. Toji smirked. Maybe Akemi had gotten the lead story, but Toji's was longer.

"And in further… news…" Toji stopped as a small girl in an insect costume, no more than six-inches in height, crawled up to the top of the newsdesk. Curiously, she was dragging a large metal thing, about the size of a pizza, behind her.

Toji looked at the people on the set. "Am I on Candid Camera?"

The tiny girl let go of the metal item, letting it lay flat right in front of Toji. She turned to the camera and bowed. In a perky voice, she said, "Pardon the interruption, but I have an announcement to make. I am the Hornet, arch-nemesis of that awful person known as the Wasp. I have come here today to issue a challenge to her."

Inspiration suddenly hit Toji. This was the perfect opportunity to one-up that bitch beside him. He was going to defeat a supervillain. It didn't matter if she was the size of his daughter's doll. A few blow-ups of the girl posted on television would make her appear ten feet tall instead of a half foot.

Toji stood up and boldly proclaimed, "As anchorman here at Channel 6 News, I cannot allow you to commandeer the airwaves for your nefarious purposes. I, Toji Yamamoto, winner of several prestigious news awards, will do his civic duty in stopping you."

The Hornet pulled a tiny gun from the holster at her hip and aimed it at him.

This was perfect. Toji peered at the camera and laughed fearlessly. "And what do you intend to do with that little thing?"

"Shoot you," the Hornet said, and did so.

The tiny yellow beam, that had all the width of a pin, struck Toji in the chest. Instantly his body seized up and began convulsing. He hit the ground, still twitching for several moments before stopping altogether.

The Hornet turned back to the camera. "Don't worry, folks, he's not dead. That was just my synaptic disrupter. Basically, it makes any person's brain temporarily short circuit, rendering them inert. He'll be perfectly fine in an hour or two, with no residual effects."

Akemi, who had stayed calm during the entire encounter, remained seated as she turned to face the diminutive girl. In the voice of a professional interviewer, she said, "So, what exactly is it you intend to do now that you have seized control of the airwaves?"

The Hornet holstered her gun. "Ah, yes. As I said, I intend to fight the Wasp. She must come down to the station alone. Then we shall have a fight to prove once and for all who is the mightiest, and prevent her from attacking my master, the Fixer, again. To this end, I have secured this." She patted the round device she had lugged up to the desktop. "This is an Earth Shaker. I'll use it to shake this whole building into rubble if my demands are not met."

"Killing everyone inside?" Akemi asked.

The Hornet looked scandalized. "Oh no! I would never do that. I just want to kill the Wasp, and only because she presents a clear and present danger to my master." The Hornet turned to the staff still standing by. "In fact, I must respectfully ask everyone to evacuate the building now, so no one gets hurt. Please leave in an orderly fashion. There's no rush. I promise not to start the Earth Shaker for a whole hour." She set the timer before the camera to prove she was telling the truth. "You have more than enough time to be clear of the building."

Everyone began evacuating the studio, everyone save Akemi. She remained exactly where she was, staring expectantly at the Hornet. "Since we've got a lot of airtime to fill, how about an exclusive interview?"

The Hornet considered that. "Okay. It'll make the time pass by until the Wasp shows up. You'll have to leave then, though. You might get hit in the crossfire."

"Excellent," Akemi hissed. Her hungry, wolf-like gaze would have made Hydra's Legal Staff purr in approval. "So, tell me, what led to this obsession with the smallest of the Avengers?"

The Hornet began, "Well, if you must know, it was when the Wasp attacked my master, the Fixer, for no reason whatsoever. He was just taking harmless geothermal readings with his associate, Mentallo, when he was accosted by this awful flying person…."

In the Tendou household, Kasumi Tendou turned away from the television, quivering in barely restrained delight. Her very own arch-nemesis! Every real superhero had one. It was a clear sign she was finally being taken seriously, despite her diminutive status. Of course, she hadn't actually met this Hornet person yet, but given her height, wings, and ability to shoot energy blasts, she was certain they'd be evenly matched. It was like a dream come true.

Since Kasumi's return from China, things with the Avengers had taken on a hectic pace. Iron Rose's promise of financial backing from Kunou Enterprises had come about, and the Avengers were immediately given the use of the old Kunou Townhouse as their headquarters. It was conveniently located in the heart of Nerima, within easy walking distance. The only staff member was a diminutive butler named Sasuke, who looked after their needs when any members were in residence.

After arrangements had been made securing their official status as a non-profit group, Kunou Enterprises held a press conference announcing the founding of the team and its stated goal of defending Japan, and the world at large, from menaces that threatened it. Their primary focus would be combating supervillains whom the authorities still had difficulties dealing with. They would also be available to help innocents and control damage at disaster sites, and any other matters where people were placed in jeopardy.

The press conference had been something of a disappointment for Kasumi, since no one wanted to talk to the 'flying insect girl'. She couldn't even enlarge herself, since the unstable molecules needed for her outfit were on backorder. It was nice of their benefactor, Kodachi Kunou, to finance the solution to that problem. Kasumi didn't have any form of income, and couldn't afford such a thing. When she mentioned that, Kodachi demonstrated even more of an altruistic streak in stating she would provide the Avengers with a weekly paycheck, since they were donating their time, and lives, to helping others without thought of recompense.

However, since then, things had been slow. Only several of the Avengers had gotten together for their weekly meetings, with the Iron Rose being absent since she was streamlining her armor, and the Hulk never showing at all. No major supervillains had caused any problems. The few minor ones that did pop up tended to disappear just as fast, with no way to track them, or they were captured with ridiculous ease. The latter consisted of losers like the Wrench, whose only ability consisted of him lugging around an ordinary wrench. He was followed up closely by El Gato, who could control cats. Or, more accurately housecats, and no more than one at a time, since they were so independently minded. And the cat he had with him turned on him the moment the Avengers had shown up. Superheroing was turning into a major disappointment.

But now things were looking up, as Kasumi turned back to the matter on hand. In order to fight the mysterious Hornet she had to get across town fast. The villain had specified Kasumi come alone, so that meant hitching a ride on one of the new Quinjets was out of the question. Besides, this was her arch-nemesis, and she wanted to take care of things personally. They were going to have honorable one-on-one superhero combat. It was one of those unwritten rules that had to be observed. Since the distance to the station was too far to fly, that meant a taxi ride across town. Given how traffic was during this time of the day, she should make it just before the deadline

Kasumi pulled off her apron and shut off the burner to the stove. Hanging the apron on a peg, she moved quickly. She went to her room where she stripped off all of her clothing, tossing it aside rather than taking the time to fold it up. Atone time in her life, leaving a mess in her room would have been as alien as seeking employment as an exotic dancer. Now the idea of thinking about it seemed frivolous.

Making certain she had one of her tiny Wasp outfits, (a blue spandex one that was like a swimsuit, with long white gloves and boots to go with it) she threw on a trench coat and a pair of worn slippers she had acquired for situations like this. The ensemble was one of many she had recently purchased at a Goodwill store. They were cheap, and in plentiful supply. She needed both since changing into the Wasp meant abandoning any clothing she wore. While the stipend Miss Kunou was paying the Avengers was nice, it seemed wasteful to Kasumi to leave her clothing strewn about town.

Heart racing in excitement, Kasumi raced through the house. Just as she was about to leave, she passed by Akane and Ranma, who were returning home from a trip to the library to do some research on a school project.

"Where are you going?" Akane asked.

"I have to get some special ingredients all the way across town for dinner tonight. I should be back in four or five hours," Kasumi said in passing as she hurried out the door, slamming it shut behind her.

Ranma and Akane looked at each other in confusion.

Ranma asked, "Does she usually go out shopping dressed like a flasher?"

Not wanting Ranma to get the wrong idea about Kasumi, and refuse her as a potential fiancée, Akane said, "No. It's just a style she's been using lately. It's in fashion, you know."

"Nah, I hadn't noticed. Maybe she has a hot date or something."

"No, she's not seeing anybody! She's very available!" Akane assured him.

"Oh." Ranma was a bit taken aback by the vehemence of Akane's statement. His stomach grumbled, breaking that line of thought. "I can't wait five hours for dinner. I wonder what's to eat around here."

A smile slid across Akane's face. What a perfect opportunity Kasumi had left her. A perfect opportunity to alienate Ranma. "I can cook for you," she offered eagerly.

"Really? Thanks," Ranma said, giving himself an inward smile. It was obvious that Akane's eagerness to display her culinary talent was all about convincing him she'd make a great fiancée. Well, who was he to dissuade her from filling his stomach with fine food in an effort to impress him? Besides, it would work. He liked food, and lots of it.

He was really looking forward to sampling some of Akane's cooking.

Tension filled the air as the Wasp flew through the building that housed the studio for Channel 6 news. Arriving within the Hornet's time limit had been easier than she had anticipated. The streets leading to the studio had been empty, many of the nearby people evacuated for fear of the supervillain nearby. Once she paid the taxi driver, Kasumi exited, found an empty alley near the building, and shrank down to the Hornet's size of six inches. The Wasp could have become smaller, but being the same height as her foe seemed the appropriate thing to do.

The building was already surrounded by the police. It was obvious they were preparing to storm the building, but seemed hesitant to do so. The Wasp hoped they would stay out of the way until the fight was over. Having them assist her would only sully her good name and make other supervillains think she was a wimp. Everyone knew only the biggest loser superheroes relied on the police to help them. The Wasp would do everything in her power to keep from getting a sordid reputation like that.

Searching the building for the correct room proved unnecessary. A map on the ground floor clearly labeled where the studio was located. It took the Wasp a handful of minutes to fly the appropriate distance and land in front of the studio's partially opened doors.

Deciding a frontal confrontation would be the best course of action, the Wasp flew through the crack between the doors and entered the studio. She loudly proclaimed, "I am here to answer your challenge!" It was the proper thing to do, since the Hornet had been very polite in issuing her own challenge and been kind enough to clear the building of any innocent bystanders. She was the most courteous supervillain the Wasp had ever met.

"Time to go," the Hornet informed Akemi.

"Thanks for the exclusive!" The reporter hurried out of the room, her delight at nailing the exclusive making her dance with joy.

Once Akemi was in the clear, the Hornet turned to her foe. "You were very prompt."

"It was the least I could do since you were so understanding about evacuating the building," the Wasp told her.

The Hornet looked at the Earth Shaker device still on the table. "While the proper thing to do would be to disable it, I think I'll leave it on, just in case you try to escape in the middle of the fight. We'll think of it as collateral to make sure you see things through to the end."

The Wasp became concerned. "Will I be able to turn it off after I beat you?"

"IF you beat me," the Hornet emphasized the first word, "You can turn it off. There's a red button on the top that will deactivate the timer. It's not especially attuned to me or anything. Let me assure you that once I defeat you, I'll turn it off, so don't worry about me destroying the building."

"I didn't think you would."

"I just wanted to make it clear. I know there are a lot of nasty bad guys out there who would be poor winners and lie about things, feeling satisfaction at tricking their opponent as well as defeating them." The Hornet took a deep breath. "I guess we should start. Please be advised I do plan on killing you. Simply defeating you won't be enough. I can't take a chance on you attacking Master Fixer ever again." The Hornet drew her gun from its holster and aimed at the flying girl.

"I understand." The Wasp unleashed a twin power blast from her hands, hoping to catch her foe while she was stationary.

The Hornet reacted even as the Wasp raised her hands. Twin jets on the sides of her belt ignited, allowing her to become airborne and avoided the shot as it passed beneath her. The blasts struck the table surface, shattered a small portion of it.

The Wasp frowned as she noted the wings on the back of her foe were not flapping. Evidently they were just for show. That was a bit sneaky, but it was to be expected. Someone worthy enough to be her arch-nemesis should have a trick or two up her costumed sleeve, in addition to being very polite and courteous.

The Hornet retaliated by unleashing a volley of yellow energy from her synaptic disrupter. The Wasp deftly darted away from the number of beams that tried to bring her down.

"You're much faster than the usual rats and burglars I have to shoot," the Hornet commented as she fired repeatedly at her foe.

The Wasp chose not to talk back, instead watching her foe intently while avoiding the barrage. The Hornet's aim wasn't the best in the world, but some of the blasts were coming close and the Wasp was forced to do some elaborate maneuvering to evade them. She also noted that the Hornet seemed to have superior speed from her jets, as the distance between them closed very quickly. Despite the trouble, the Wasp had to admit, it was refreshing to encounter opposition that was actually her size.

The Wasp launched several other blasts, all of them missing her foe by a much wider margin. She couldn't figure out why her shots were so far off, until she realized that she was used to attacking human-sized foes, not targets that were her size. The battle took on a new, more dangerous light.

While the miniature dogfight occurred, the camera rolled and broadcast it to the home viewing audience. As word of mouth spread to what was happening, more people tuned in. Within ten minutes, the Wasp now had the highest rated show on television in the past two months.

Mentallo stared at the television screen in irritation. He pressed a button on the remote, switching the channel. His lips pursed in annoyance. "Fixer?"

The Fixer turned away from the microchips he was inserting to his latest invention. "You can call me Hiroshi when we're in the privacy of my home."

Mentallo continued staring at the screen. "With that fancy satellite antenna you invented you can pick up any television channel on the entire planet, right?"

"Even translates everything into Japanese," the Fixer confirmed as he returned to working on his device.

"Then how is it there can be over four thousand channels and there's still nothing to watch?" Mentallo snarled as he began flipping through the channels. "Just look at this. The Vegetarian Channel. The Thai Food Channel. The Mongol Food Network. The Andorran Food Channel. Where the hell is Andorra?"

"It's a country located between Spain and France. It's about 453 square kilometers."

"Does that even count as a country?"

"More like a county. Europeans are a strange bunch, though." The Fixer began to work on the wiring.

Mentallo returned to flipping through the channels. "Great, a talk show. Must be the fiftieth I've found." He left it there for a second and listened to the speaker, some scraggly-haired man who looked like he'd been living in a cave, or Montana, his entire life.

"…And I'm telling you, Mr. Springer, there are shape-shifting aliens called Skrulls living among us even as we speak!"

Mentallo sadly shook his head. "Someone's been watching too many episodes of the X-Files." He flipped the channel again. Dominating the screen was a beautiful woman with long stringy blonde hair and an odd set of red markings on her cheeks. She wore a revealing lacy white top that was barely sewn together in the front, a pair of cutoff denim shorts, and a large baseball cap with the word, 'Hellraisers' across the front. An insert on the screen below her listed her name as "Satana Satanadana," and had in parenthesis "pronounced Mara," underneath it.

The woman said, "Are you tired of drawing huge diagrams and arcane symbols in chalk on the floor? Having problems finding altars large enough for your sacrifices? Weary of washing copious amounts of blood out your clothing? Well, I have good news for you. Toss away your sacrificial daggers. Burn your drab black robes. Quit stalking innocent young virgins, unless you enjoy it. Those things aren't necessary anymore. Big Daddy Mephisto has streamlined his operation. Now all you have to do to sell your immortal soul for demonic power is call1-800-PURE-EVIL. To show how easy it is, let's talk with one of our satisfied customers."

The image changed to a seven-foot-tall man who radiated power. His skin was red, horns protruded from his scalp, and he wore a crimson tunic. One of his arms was missing.

The girl spoke again. "Now, Belasco, it's my understanding that you were the inspiration for the Devil in Dante's 'Inferno'. Am I correct?"

"Indeed you are, Mara." He spoke in a deep baritone that commanded attention.

"Well, you're quite the celebrity. Now tell the audience what happened when you encountered some problems with magic and had to renew your contract with my Father."

Belasco nodded. "I simply called the toll free number you provided, and was granted the extension I wanted. It was much easier then all the messy sacrifices I had to make the first time I bartered my soul several centuries ago. I'm only sorry it wasn't around back then. Of course, the phone wasn't invented yet, but you know what I mean."

Mara looked back at the camera. "There you have it. Another satisfied customer—"

"Infomercials," Mentallo spat disgustedly as he changed the channel again.

"—and we now return to our feature presentation, 'The Daisy Chain' on the Lesbian Network."

The controller slipped from Mentallo's hand and fell to the floor as tears filled his eyes. "It's a mad, mad world we live in, Hiroshi." He buried his head in his hands.

The Fixer rolled his eyes and switched the channel with his own universal remote. "There's the local news. That should calm you down." He returned to working on his device.

Reluctantly, Mentallo stared at the screen. His depression was quickly replaced by confusion. "Ummm, Hiroshi?"

"Yes?" he answered in a tired voice, not looking away from the device.

"Isn't that your maid fighting the Wasp on TV?"

That grabbed the Fixer's attention. He moved away from his workstation and closer to the television. "Oh, May," he groaned. "We're going to have to stop her."

"How come?"

The Fixer walked over to the closet where the new costumes Marie had made for them hung. "She's not designed for combat. She's going to be destroyed if she tangles with the Wasp."

Mentallo watched the action on the screen. "I don't know. It looks like she's holding her own to me. I think it's worth the chance for the shot at revenge. Besides, she's just a robot. You can build another one."

"No, I can't!" the Fixer shouted. "Each of my robots has a randomized neural net. I can program them with protocols and parameters and situational options, but I can't design their personality. Each one is unique. I can build a dozen models that would be made from the same parts, and while each one would clean up the place, they'd also be different. One might be a sultry tease. One might be grumpy. Another might try to act motherly. So yes, I can build more Handmaids, but I can't build another May. Now are you coming or not?!"

"Okay, okay," Mentallo said. He didn't feel passionately about a bunch of spare parts, but Hiroshi was the closest thing he had to a friend now, and it wasn't as though he disliked May. He'd help, just because it was the right thing to do.

Mentallo was just starting to don his uniform when he noticed the Fixer suddenly freeze as he stared at the screen again. Mentallo turned. "What happened? Did she get hurt?"

Rather than answering, the Fixer ran from the room and to what he had been termed 'The Invention Shed' where he kept most of his inventions. He returned a moment later, more panicked than before. "She took it."

"Took what?"

"My Earth Shaker prototype." The Fixer seemed to pale by the second.

"So what?"

"It's a device I whipped up in my spare time. I designed it to shake buildings apart."

"And it doesn't work?"

"Oh no. It works. It works too well. It not only shakes the building apart, but also the foundation and bedrock as well."

"Sounds good."

"If it stopped there, it would be, but it doesn't. It keeps shaking things apart, the vibrations expanding exponentially. Within a half hour's time, it'll crack the fault line under Japan and send it crashing into the ocean."

Mentallo rose slowly to his feet. He walked casually over to the still panicking Fixer, and shouted, "Are you insane?! What could you have been thinking leaving a doomsday device like that just laying around?!"

The Fixer gulped nervously. "I wanted to destroy it, but it's so hard to undo a labor of love, and that's what building an invention is like to me. It would be like killing a child conceived in my mind. I just couldn't do it. I thought I'd leave it in the shed, next to my Overkill Horn, which has the ability to simultaneously set off every nuclear device in the world, and that would be that. It would collect dust in some forgotten corner of the place. I never thought it would actually be used."

"We have to stop her!" Mentallo shouted.

The Fixer pulled himself together. "Of course, you're correct. May has no idea of how powerful the device is. I'll simply radio her and tell her to break off her fight and destroy the device." He pulled out a small communicator and pushed several buttons. He held it up to his ear, tapping his foot impatiently. After a handful of minutes, he cursed. "Damn! She must have her receiver turned off. Probably because she didn't want any distractions during the fight."

"Then we need to get down there!" Mentallo said.

The Fixer shook his head. "I don't have anything that can fly us there, and my Jet Pogo Sticks are still untested. We'd have to take a car, and it'd take too long to get to the studio."

"I'd just as soon not sink my home country into the ocean. Isn't there something we can do?" Mentallo insisted.

The Fixer snapped his fingers. "Marie. There's no way May got down to the studio by herself; her batteries would have given out by now. She was probably driven down there, plugged into the car lighter, by Marie. And I'd be willing to bet she's still down there, ready to bring May back once she's done."

He dialed a new number. Within seconds there was a click on the other end. "Marie!"

The voice on the other said, "Yes, it's me, Big Brother. And you'll never guess what May is doing just for you."

"She's going to destroy Japan!"

There was a pause on the other end. "No, that's not it at all, and frankly a desire for that sort of nihilism is vaguely disturbing. Tell me, have you been wanting things like that often? I've heard of this great gaijin psychiatrist, a Dr. Leonard Samson, who specializes in treating problems like that. I can abduct him for you if you need help."

"That's not what I mean! The Earth Shaker May's using works too well. If it activates, it'll destroy Japan! You have to stop it."

There was another pause. Then, "I'll take care of it, Big Brother. I'm right outside the studio. Let me get something to hide my identity, and then I'll go." There was a click on the other end.

The Fixer turned off the communicator. "I only hope she makes it in time."

The pair returned to watching the fight on television once again.

The Wasp began to worry. She had never flown as hard and as long as this in her brief career as a superhero. Her wings were becoming tired, and the muscles in her back ached from the strain. She had to cut back on the power of her blasts for the same reason. She had discovered early on she could only produce so many blasts before running out of whatever strange bio-energy her body harnessed to use her 'sting'. The burning sensation rode all the way up to her shoulders, and even lessening the amount of power in each blast only slowed the increase of pain. Now she was rationing her shots, waiting until she was certain she had a clear line of fire, but still the elusive Hornet evaded everything thrown at her.

It was as the Wasp flew low to the ground, between two camera stands, that the Hornet changed tactics. The orange and brown garbed arch-nemesis grabbed a small canister from her belt and hurled it in the Wasp's direction.

The Wasp was about to fly away when she realized the canister would pass well overhead. Also, in hurling the object, the Hornet had left herself open for a brief moment. The Wasp raised her hands and fired a full intensity blast that made her arms feel as though they had been dipped in gasoline and set on fire. The Hornet tried to dodge, but her effort fell short as the blast clipped one of the jets on her belt, destroying it.

With propulsion only coming from one side, the Hornet spun through the air at top speed. She gave a high-pitched squeal, then struck a speaker system that collapsed on top of her, burying her underneath it.

The canister finally landed, exploding and sending out a mass of sticky goo that would have caught the Wasp for certain had it been on target. Her arch-nemesis was tricky, that was for certain. Bearing that in mind, the Wasp was cautious as she flew closer. Her foe hadn't risen up from the debris. It could very likely be a trap to lull her into a false sense of confidence.

The Wasp hovered nearby, ready to fly away, but there was still no movement from the debris. It appeared the battle was over. Delighted that she had finally won a fight on her own, she used her full-sized strength to lift the remains of the speaker system off her fallen foe. What she found underneath made the Wasp gasp.

The Hornet lay on her back, her neck twisted at an impossible angle. Her eyes were staring off into space, unblinking.

The Wasp panicked. It wasn't supposed to end like this. Her arch-nemesis wasn't supposed to die, even if she was trying to kill her. It hadn't even been intentional. The hero knew she could have survived the fallen speakers easily. Why hadn't her opponent been able to do the same?

Heart in her throat, the Wasp said, "I'm so, so sorr—"

The Hornet's hand rose up, and she fired her pistol.

The yellow beam struck the Wasp in the chest, sending her to the ground in convulsions, even as it had the newscaster from earlier. Unable to move her body, barely able to think coherently, she lay on the ground, a twitching mass of flesh, like an insect that had its head cut off, while the body continued moving.

The Hornet rose up, her head still tilted at a far angel. "There's no need to apologize. These things happen in a fight."

"N… N… Neck," the Wasp got out.

The Hornet peered at her quizzically, then seemed to understand what she was trying to say. The Hornet pointed at her neck. "Oh, this? Yes. I did take some damage, didn't I?" The Hornet dug her fingers into her neck opposite where the bend was, and pulled back. It revealed a small panel with metal and wires. Her fingers began playing with them.

Now the Wasp understood. Her foe was a robot. That was the most unexpected trick of all. She wouldn't have held back had she known the Hornet was just a machine, probably one specifically designed by the Fixer to kill her. And it looked like he was going to succeed. The Wasp still couldn't voluntarily move a muscle, even if most of her twitching stopped.

Eventually, the Hornet gave up on her attempt to bring her neck back into its proper alignment. She pushed the panel back into place. "Oh well. I'll just have to have my Master fix it. In the meantime…" She adjusted a dial on her synaptic disrupter. "Now it's set to kill. Sorry, but I really have to finish you off now." She aimed the gun at the center of her foe's chest.

Polite until the end, the Wasp thought. It was odd. She would have thought her impending death would hold more terror for her, but instead of fear, all she felt was a sort of detached calm. She wondered why this was, and when this sort of fearlessness had come to her. The only thought that dominated her mind when she considered her life, was that at least she had done something meaningful in her final months. Having died before she had become the Wasp, that would have been terrifying.

And then a surprised look passed over the Hornet's eyes. She moved backward, reeling as though drunk, but with a sort of agonizing slowness.

"Batteries…running… lo…w." There was no emotion in her voice, almost as though there wasn't enough power left for even that.

The Hornet made one last attempt to aim at the Wasp, but the disrupter fell from her nerveless fingers.

Vibrations shook the Wasp's body, as though she was having a second attack from the disrupter. It took a moment to realize that the shaking was not coming from her body, but from the floor. The whole room was shifting, like one of those beds at cheap hotels that one could put quarters into.

The device! In the midst of battle, the Wasp had forgotten what her true goal should have been. Had she remained focused, she could have shot the Earth Shaker at just about any point in the fight, but her fixation on defeating her newfound arch-nemesis had blotted out everything else. Now she, and her foe, would pay for their single-mindedness as they were crushed in the building's now unpreventable collapse.

Suddenly one of the walls exploded, and a female figure could be briefly seen silhouetted in the hole. At first the Wasp wondered if Thor had heard of the battle and come to help, but then the figure emerged into the bright lighting of the studio. It was a girl, wearing a sedate blouse and skirt. The only thing strange about her was the bandanna she had wrapped around her lower face.

Cracks began to form in the roof as the newcomer looked around. She spotted the source of the disturbance, the Earth Shaker, and ran forward to it. Rather than trying to pick the object up, she simply raised her fist over her head, then brought it down, smashing the device into tiny pieces.

She breathed a sigh of relief. "That was close. Big Brother really has to learn to watch what he makes. Some of the things are pretty dangerous."

The doors to the studio burst in, though in less spectacular fashion than the new girl's entrance, as the doors remained on their hinges, undamaged. A dozen men, dressed in police uniforms and wearing body armor, pointed their guns at the girl.

The policewoman in the lead shouted, "Hold it! You're under arrest, you… whoever you are!"

The girl appeared confused for a moment. "I'm… umm, Pizza Delivery Girl. And here's your delivery!" The girl kicked the set's desk in the group's direction. They scattered as five hundred pounds of set prop nearly collided with them.

That bought Pizza Delivery Girl the time she needed. She ran past the fallen Hornet, scooping her up and racing out the hole she had previously made. The Wasp heard her admonish the fallen robot with, "You really need to pack extra batteries next time," before she was out of earshot.

The police, more cautious than before, held back. They moved into the room, making certain there were no other delivery people present.

By that time, the Wasp's motor control returned to her. It surprised her how one moment she could only wiggle her big toe slightly, then she could stand up, with only a slight tingling coming from her nerve endings.

Deciding nothing good could come from remaining, the Wasp flew away before the police could harass her with questions. She was tired, and the fight, while not being a total loss, wasn't a clear victory either, and the whole nation had seen her ineffectiveness televised. Had she fought smarter and trained harder, she would have won. It appeared it was going to take more than shrinking, flying around, and shooting at things before she could be a superhero worthy of the respect she had wanted. The one positive thing that had come out of it was that there wasn't the slightest doubt in her mind that becoming the Wasp was the best thing that had ever happened to her.

And the next time she met the Hornet, things would go a lot differently. That she vowed to herself.

May stared at the ground while the Fixer impatiently tapped his foot. From her position on the ground, it sounded like the low rumble of thunder.

"I'm sorry. I was only trying to help protect you," May said for the third time. At least he couldn't have been too angry. He had repaired her neck so she could look at things levelly again.

The Fixer's tapping stopped. May looked up to see Marie giving her an encouraging smile, while Mentallo seemed largely disinterested.

The Fixer spoke. "May, fighting a superhero is dangerous. You're not designed for combat."

"You could redesign me," May said hopefully. "You wouldn't even have to make me any bigger. Just give me some powerful external weapons and increase my battery storage capacity. All I needed was five more seconds, and the Wasp would have been out of our lives forever."

"No, May, you're not becoming a supervillain. I am perfectly happy with you as my maid. I wouldn't be able to rest easy if you were out there, tangling with the Wasp or any other Avenger." There was a note of finality in his voice.

May sighed. "I understand."

"Good." The Fixer's mood lightened. "One good thing came of this. I'm going to go through my inventory of weapons and destroy the ones that are uncontrollable. You can help me dispose of the wreckage once I'm finished."

May beamed at the implication he was happy with her once again, and that he was eager to have her help clean. "All right. I'll do my best!" She pumped her tiny fist once again.

The Fixer turned to leave, Mentallo following him. Once he was out of earshot, May turned to Marie. "Master Hiroshi is so thoughtful, looking out for my well-being, that I simply have to reciprocate and look out for his."

Marie didn't like the sound of that. "What do you mean?"

May made a "shushing" noise and motioned Marie to come close. The girl did so.

"I'm going to wait a while, then become the Hornet again and kill the Wasp for certain."

Marie shook her head. "You heard what Big Brother said. He doesn't want you fighting her."

May set her chin in defiance. "I don't care. I'm going to ignore his orders and help him anyway."

That made Marie sigh. She had suspected something like this was coming. May might have been smaller, but her neural net was the same type as Marie's, and the taller robot had discovered a while ago that her Big Brother had underestimated just how sophisticated the nets he had designed were. Marie had transcended her programming and became self-aware to the point she could refuse anything her programming told her to do, if she felt the need to. She helped her Big Brother out not because of any commands, but because she liked him and wanted to do it. Now it was obvious May was the same way.

Marie wanted to tell her big brother of May's plans, her programming informed her that was exactly what she should do since her friend was technically malfunctioning since she was refusing Hiroshi's commands, but she decided not to. May had a right to decide what she wanted to do, even if Marie didn't agree with it. She'd keep an eye out on her smaller friend, though, and help her as she needed. It was a moral choice, and Marie was quickly coming to discover such things were a lot harder to deal with than simply following one's protocols blindly.

Perhaps it was fate that the Hornet would fly again, and who was Marie to deny that?

It was a tired Kasumi that paused outside her home later that evening. She had come up with the excuse that she had missed a train, and that was why it had taken so long to get back home. She had a feeling she was going to have to come up with a lot of excuses in the future. She'd just have to deal with them when the time came, just like she had today.

She opened the front door and walked into the entryway, announcing, "I'm home!"

Just as she removed her shoes, Ranma rounded the corner.

"Hello, Ranma," Kasumi greeted.

In response, Ranma staggered toward her, muttering, "It was… the salmon mousse," and pitched forward.

He did it at the exact moment that Kasumi turned to face him; she tried backing away, but it was too late. His hand happened to snare the tie on her trench coat, and it came open as he fell into her. She caught him in her arms out of reflex, but was off balance, and they fell backward.

Kasumi had most of the air knocked out of her lungs as she hit the floor, Ranma's additional weight only compounding the problem. It took her a second to catch her breath and recover. As she did so, she noticed an odd sensation emanating from her chest. She looked down to see Ranma's head cozily nestled in between her naked bosom.

"Ranma!" she gasped, feeling shocked at his behavior, yet strangely thrilled as well. Physically he was very… manly, and it was difficult not to notice, especially given the position he was in. She had certainly never allowed any man to touch her there when she was clothed, let alone naked. She knew she should have screamed at the top of her lungs at his inappropriate behavior, but for some reason, her voice was stuck in her throat. Instead she just laid there, Ranma remaining motionless against her.

It was just at that moment that Genma turned the corner, bellowing out irritably, "What was that you were muttering about, Boy? Something about hunting fish and animals…" Genma trailed off as he came upon the scene. "I see nothing," he stated, then turned around and headed in the opposite direction.

Kasumi felt her entire body blush. "Get off me!" she insisted, easily tossing Ranma aside. Two months ago that would have been an impossibility, but thanks to the changes she had undergone, it proved surprisingly easy.

She wondered why he had molested her, then saw that his eyes were closed and he was unmoving. Kasumi covered herself up, then leaned over and took his pulse.

Wait, he had mentioned food. What was it? Salmon mousse…?

Ah, Akane's cooking, that explained everything. Kasumi should have considered her little sister might tempt fate by using her culinary skills in light of her older sister's absence. Ranma would have been fooled into thinking it was edible, and this was the price he had paid. Though passing out was a bit much. Akane had probably gone all out and tried to impress him. It was odd. Since her return from Norway, she had come to accept her cooking was… lacking in something, and had stopped trying to cook anything for anybody. Perhaps Ranma was too good a temptation to resist.

Unwilling to leave him out in the entryway, Kasumi hefted Ranma over her shoulder and took him to his room, laying him out on his futon. She resisted the urge to undress him. Bad enough what Genma must have thought, but she wasn't about to add to the problem.

Now thoroughly exhausted from the day's events, Kasumi decided to turn in for the evening. One thing was for certain, while her life was more stressful, it was also much more interesting.

And she wouldn't have it any other way.


To be continued.

Author's notes: I know this focused a lot on the villains, rather than the Avengers as a whole. But it was necessary to move some subplots forward for future storylines, as well as introducing new villains to the mix. Expect a more standard Avengers story next time out as Urd, the Enchantress, and her sister Skuld, the Executioner, come to Earth with a purpose in mind: locate Thor.

Additional end notes: Yes, the Wrench and El Gato were real supervillains in the thankfully short-lived 'Omega, the Unknown' series. El Gato's power enabled him to control more than one cat, but the Wrench was just that. Some big guy in coveralls with a normal wrench Sadly, Gerber's writing was like that. Sometimes he wrote good stuff, but other times it was sad enough to make one cry.

The Hornet was actually a human-sized villain that appeared in Spiderwoman. He was a variant of the Fly created by Dr. Karl Malius.

Act 2-2
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