“I want to get away. I want to fly awa-a-a-y. Yeah, yeah, yeah,” sang Stella, to herself. Not that anyone could have heard her. Stella O’Clare, better known to the world as All American Girl, was soaring through the skies over central Pennsylvania. Just below, she could see tiny little cars driving east and west on I-80. She loved flying. If it was for nothing but the fact that the cars looked like tiny little toys, she still would have loved flying. She was keeping an optimal altitude for looking at things on the ground—right around five thousand feet. Airline jets were well above her and birds, as it was not migration season, were well below her. The only thing she had to watch out for was the occasional small aircraft. She had passed one going in the same general direction that she was. She’d waved and the family inside; a man, a woman, and three children had all waved back. They probably didn’t know who she was. She had left her boots, gloves, and the rest of her star-spangled costume at home, wearing instead her little black dress and a sexy pair of black pumps.
It was almost nine when she landed in Manhattan, setting down on west 47th street: a short block from Ditko’s. Ten or twelve pedestrians whipped out their cell phones and snapped pictures of her. They might not be too sure who she was without her costume either, but they knew she was a super. Spying a hot-dog vender twenty feet away reminded Stella that flying always made her hungry. In fact, she was famished. She skipped over to the mustachioed vendor.
“Eight dogs, no onions,” she ordered. “Just mustard, relish, dill pickles, cucumbers, chili peppers, and celery salt.”
“I don’t got celery salt or cucumbers,” replied the man. “This ain’t Chicago, you know. Twenty-four dollars.”
Stella reached between her cleavage and pulled a wad of bills out of the little hidden pocket inside and just below the dress’s plunging neckline. She handed the man two twenties.
“Oh, and give me an extra large papaya juice.”
The man handed her back fourteen dollars, one of which she tossed into a large tip jar on top of the cart. Then she started down the street with a paper cup of papaya juice in one hand and a pyramid of hot dogs balanced in the other. By the time she reached Ditko’s, she had finished the entire meal and tossed the trash into a bin.
Half a dozen spotlights were shooting up into the sky in front of Ditko’s, the hottest superhero nightclub on the east coast. Dozens of paparazzi were out front shooting pictures of everything they could, which wasn’t much. It was way too early for anyone who was really anyone to show up. Stella cut across the street and then back the other direction to do a little shopping. It wouldn’t do to be one of those who arrived before eleven. When she did finally return to walk across the red carpet, past the throngs of rubber-neckers and photographers, she had purchased a very nice necklace and a dozen pairs of shoes, all of which she had ordered shipped home.
The bouncer at the door was nearly seven feet tall and five feet wide, and he looked like he was made of muscles and more muscles, with a few muscles thrown in. Stella could have crushed him with one finger and the look that passed across his face told her that he knew that too.
“Good evening, All American Girl,” he said, as he pulled the rope aside and let her pass. Casting a quick look over her left shoulder at the line of people waiting to get in, Stella could make out half a dozen C and D grade supers mixed in with the normals.
The throbbing music and flashing strobes made stepping into Ditko’s like stepping onto a spaceship. Stella threaded her way between those people who were trying to dance, those people who just wanted to be near the people who were trying to dance, and those people who were trying to hump the people who were trying to dance. It was tough going, and then some idiot stomped on her foot. And he was wearing his costume. Wearing his costume to a club. Lame, lame, lame. Stella grabbed him by the chin and pulled him close, squeezing his cheeks between her fingers.
“Stay off my foot, Maxipad.”
“That’s Maximan,” he said indignantly.
“Whatever.” She tossed him aside, not stopping to watch him crash through a table, and then she continued to the bar.
“What will it be?” asked the bartender when she got there.
“A Manhattan—and don’t overdo the vermouth.”
“Regular or super?”
“Me or the drink?” she asked.
“Either, um both.”
“Yeah, I figured.”
Stella looked the bartender over as he set about preparing her drink. He was a good-looking guy, no doubt about it, but she had always considered it too much trouble dating a normal. It might start out fine, but as soon as things moved into the bedroom… Who wanted to stay in control all the time? Clench your thighs together or thrust at the wrong moment and somebody was in the hospital, or worse. Of course supers always used the line “I don’t want my enemies to find you.” It wasn’t really true though. It just sounded better than “I might accidentally fracture your pelvis or break off your penis during foreplay.” Skyman had managed a relationship with Doris Drake for forty years, but that was the exception. Even so, they had never had a child, so who was to say just how intimate they were.
“Here you go,” said the good-looking bartender, setting a martini glass the size of a small sink on the bar. It had a dozen cherries and a whole orange at the bottom.
“Thanks,” said Stella, daintily picking it up and taking a drink.