Prof. Atheos looked up at the canisters, his laboratory illuminated by the green light which reflected off the impenetrable glass casings. The re-engineering of moth and man to create these unique creatures had posed nearly insurmountable challenges, but the results of his efforts hung suspended before him, their bodies spinning fine threads into cocoons which would transmute them into their eventual winged forms.
He heard a sound of breaking glass, and looked around in alarm from his studies. The canisters all remained intact. He shook his head at his own nervousness; the vital aspect of this junction in the moth-men's development was doubtless making him jittery.
His rationalisations made it all the more startling to him when the door to his laboratory seemingly imploded.
A pair of women stood in its wake, clad in similarly designed patriotically-colored uniforms. "Your inventions defy God's providence," said one of the women. "You can not be allowed to continue."
Atheos fumbled backwards, sliding along the room in a stumbling fashion. "What ... who ... ?"
"It is Captain Britannia, here to do God's will," said the woman. "And her trusty sidekick, Captain UK" said the other, her ironic tone notably less stern than the first woman's.
The two women rose into the air, twinned sets of diamond hard-fists smashing through the canisters, nutrient-containing fluid draining out. Atheos screamed and lunged for Captain Britannia desperately, who kicked him off as if he were an annoying child. "And may the Lord have mercy on your soul," she continued.
In the high-rise Mys-Tech office of Bronwen Gryffn, Oonagh Mullarkey raged.
"Countless hours of research, wasted in minutes! Sarah Townsend finally developed a genetic mapping which would allow the moth-man entities to continuously evolve, and all Atheos has to do was implement it ... and then those sanctimonious patriotic bitches have to stick their noses in. Atheos was supposed to be in a safe house after his encounters with that otherdimensional Miracleman Junior ... I want to know how they found him, I want heads to roll in security, and I want Captain Britannia and Captain UK's heads on a platter."
Gryffn rose up from her desk and walked slowly to a small hardwood cabinet on which was set a silver tray. "Would you care for a drink, Oonagh?" She poured herself a snifter of brandy and turned to lean against the table, watching Mullarky calmly.
Mullarky stood for a moment, trembling. She clenched her fists, sharp fingernails piercing into the palm of her hand as she attempted to repress her rage. She chanted a silent mantra to herself, slowing her breathing with deliberation, and finally looked directly at Gryffn once again. "Yes. Thank you."
Gryffn smiled. "The interference of Merlin's scions in our operations has not gone unnoticed. I can assure you Gudrun Tyburn's department has already been notified."
A brief smile flitted across Mullarky's face. "The Sisters of Grace. I hope they're up to the job."
Perched atop Canary Wharf, Linda McQuillan slipped off her helmet, and shook her head at her friend. "I'm sure he wouldn't mind at all."
Elsbeth Braddock cradled her own helm in her lap, and looked down at it. "Good. I don't know what the rules are for you ... for us ... super-people. If your husband Rick felt that Prof. Atheos was his own arch-enemy ... that's what they're called, right? ... I wouldn't like him to feel like I was stepping on his toes."
"I can assure you we don't work that way," Linda chuckled, "and Rick certainly doesn't. Besides, we're just tourists here while I train you; any bad guys Rick catches are just something for him to while away the time."
"Praise the lord," Elsbeth said with a smile, relaxed more fully now.
Linda furrowed her brow. "That's something else I wanted to talk to you about. You're a supermodel in your civilian life, and your religious beliefs are publically known and high-profile. I worry that your constant references to your faith as Captain Britannia are going to get you noticed, and identified."
Elsbeth looked pensive. "My faith in God is as much a part of me as my powers are ... more so ... more than my career. I suppose I can try to, er, moderate my language when in uniform if you think it's important." She grinned. "It would probably shock you to hear that I use profanity sometimes, but I manage to moderate that out in public."
"You're right, I am shocked," Linda laughed. "By your standards I probably swear like a sailor. You're probably a good influence." Then her expression sobered. "In front of us, heading our way, at 10:00, don't turn your head, do you see it? do you hear it?"
Elsbeth focused. "I ... I think so ... I'm not sure ... what is it?"
"I don't know. But it's cloaked, which means non-standard tech. It's only due to Merlin's having enhanced our perceptions that we can see it at all, and even then I'd likely have missed it if I were on the street in my civilian garb. There's the barest disruption across the background, it's like a heat wave, do you see? Only it's a compact shape and moving consistently." She slipped her helmet back on. "Arm up, if it is a hostile they're looking to take us by surprise."
Elsbeth slipped her own helmet back on. The armor she wore augmented her own strength and endurance, but wearing her helmet completed some sort of circuit which generated a force field, turning her steel-hard skin into one like diamond. Nevertheless, she felt her muscles knot with tension as the hazed vehicle came closer. "Linda, this is scary."
"We've face worse in the Corps," Linda said softly. "As soon as they show themselves, we're going to reverse positions mid-air and make a pincer, right? If they are hostiles it ought to give them a few moments of disorientation, and we can use that. And even if they're faster than we think, they're still expecting us to be caught by surprise." She glanced upwards briefly as the vehicle came to hover over their heads. "Get your blow in first."
There was a brief sound of decompressing air, and a trio of silvery figures seemed to appear out of nowhere, descending onto the rooftop where the Captains sat. Like lightning, Captain Britannia and UK bolted into the air, paths crossing, and then swept back, hovering unevenly in the air to observe the new arrivals. "Vixen," Captain Britannia taunted, "I'm waiting."
One of the women, lean and blonde, spouted orders to the others. "Miranda - uptown, Anita - downtown."
Miranda reached out for Captain Britannia. "Abracadabra," she said with a leer. When Britannia attempted to kick her off, the woman seemed to swell with power, as if the kinetic energy of the impact only increased her strength. "The more you deny me, the more I demand you," she said as she tightened her grip, pulling the other woman down to her level.
Anita turned out like a jungle cheetah, leaping at Captain UK, her hands converting into razor-sharp elongated claws, her feet dangerous spikes. "Razor," she whispered to her as the living metal imbedded themselves into her armor.
Captain Britannia looked down up at her attacker. "I don't know who you are, woman, or why you chose to attack us, but you should have known better than to kidnap a psycho-blaster." Waves of psionic force swept out from her mind, and Miranda found herself being thrown backwards, buffeted by energy she could not assimilate.
Captain UK winced at the pain as Anita drew first blood. She sometimes envied those in the Corps who bore Star Sceptres with their more powerful force fields, or her husband Rick's own impenetrability. She sought to use her greater strength to overcome her opponent, though the woman's superior speed coupled with her flashing blades made that almost impossible.
Captain Britannia descended to approach Miranda, secure in her victory; she had forgotten there's another one that makes a trio, even though the third had not shown any signs of superhuman powers. Silent as a whisper the woman approached Captain Britannia from behind, and a quick double-blow to her exposed throat left her tumbling to the floor, reeling in pain.
Captain UK arced up into the air, looping upside and backwards to create enough centrifugal force to whip Anita off of her. The other woman went flying into the side of the skyscraper, howling like a mad cat, her speed and claws allowing her to catch hold of the concrete siding so she did not fall to her death. The Corpswoman bolted back upwards to rescue her friend.
The third woman stepped aside at the last minute with surprising speed, and her hand dealt a swift blow to the front of Captain UK's left shoulder, as if somehow sensing a weak point in her force field. Captain UK crashed to the ground in pain, breaking the ceiling. The woman followed after her, striking the shoulder repeatedly. Captain UK's powerful fingers sought out the other woman's throat, prying away the silver armor, revealing the woman's face.
Captain UK felt a searing pain through her heart, a pain worse than the woman's blows or Anita's claws. "Your name is Sally but they call you Cleo," she whispered hoarsely. "Sally Beano ... "
The other woman's face registered her surprise, and she broke off her attack. "Who are you?"
Captain UK remembered another Sally Beano from her own world, Earth-238, now long lost to her. She had first met her in the guise of the heroine Bash Street Bunty to defeat the villainous pairing of the Weeper and Dr. Riddle, soon after discovering they had known each other as children. They'd become inseparable. But she hadn't even been present when Bunty had been slain by the unstoppable creature known as the Fury, along with so many other of her comrades in that long-deceased world.
She felt again the pain of that dreadful loneliness as she saw her chosen sister borne anew. Quietly, she sang:
"St Lemons! St Lemons! Our battle cry.
St Lemons! St Lemons! Will never die."
Sally shuddered. "You were one of the 'belles' of St Lemons boarding school? Who are you?"
Linda McQuillan removed her helm. "I don't know if you would remember me," she said quietly. "My name's Linda."
"I'm sorry, I don't," Sally whispered, and then sang: "Maidens of St Lemons, gird your armour on." She turned as she saw Anita clamber back onto the rooftop. "Stand down, this battle's over," she called out to her, making a dismissive gesture.
"Thank you," Linda said.
"We need something to show for this assignment," Sally said. "You have to abandon the attacks against Mys-Tech."
Linda ground her teeth. "I can't promise anything, but I will see what I can do. We can talk this over again? Please, Sally?"
"I got a flat in Soho," Sally replied. "Yes, I'd like that."
Linda handed Sally her helm. "Here, take this as a souvenir. Hand it to your employers. I can always get another one from Otherworld. I'll try to hold off for a little while, at least."
Sally smiled, "I'll take it." Gathering up and using Anita to assist with the unconscious Miranda, she boarded the aircraft and headed off to report to her superiors.
Linda went to sit aside Captain Britannia, as the other stirred. "Linda, what happened? Where's your helm?"
"We won, Elsbeth. Don't worry about it."
She wondered what sort of relationship she could forge with this new Sally on this new world. Maybe the woman could even accompany her and Miracleman Junior in their travels, heroes without a world doing the bidding of Merlin. Sally, I miss you more than any other, she thought to herself.