TESLA GIRLS is the first story set in Convergence City, and it’s the first of several serials born out of my love of music. Go! Go! Go!
Part One (of Five)
Wardenclyffe Tower rose above him, a giant electric power transmitter a century ahead of its time. Moved to Convergence City back in the 1950’s, Nikola Tesla’s proof-of-concept facility now served as the headquarters for his most dynamic legacy, Convergence’s own Tesla Girls.
His heart racing, Cliffhanger moved into position. The payload was gripped tight in his gloved right hand, his left hand ready for action. Only one thing stood between him and his objective. Cliff thrust his finger forward, depressing the embossed brass doorbell. From inside Wardenclyffe Tower, a tone more akin to a theremin than a chime signaled his presence.
A screen next to the front door flickered to life.
“Yeah?” asked a girl wearing protective goggles. Her black hair was curly and short and there was a heart-shaped birthmark on her cheek. Cliff recognized her as the newest of the Tesla Girls, Marina.
“Cliffhanger here to see Emilie Tesla,” he said. After an awkward moment when neither of them said anything, he added, “We, ah, had a team-up planned?”
The head on the screen turned to the side. “Emmmmmmilie!” she yelled, then walked away.
Cliff watched the empty room on the screen for a few minutes before pressing the doorbell again. After a moment, a second figure moved into the frame of the screen, stopping at the middle as if she had forgotten what she had come into the room to do.
“Uh, hello?” Cliff asked.
The new girl looked up at the screen surprised to hear a voice out of nowhere. Smiling, she walked over. “Hi!” she said. “I’m Kate. Can I help you?”
“Yes,” Cliff said. “I’m Cliffhanger, I had a… planned team-up with Emilie?”
“Oh! Cool!” Kate’s face lit up, which was impressive considering how cheerful it had been without any interaction. “Come on in!”
With a whoosh that put Star Trek door opening noises to shame, the metal door slid up into the doorframe. As if reading his mind, Kate said, “Isn’t that cool? Vertical things are always better than horizontal things, if you ask me. In an emergency we can also drop it on people’s heads. You know… if they’re standing in the doorway. Hm. I should see if we can make it drop on people’s heads other places. Security measure.”
“Is, ah, Emilie in?” Cliff asked, holding the bouquet of flowers behind his back.
Kate lolled her head to the side. “I… don’t have an answer for that. I should check.”
Without a second though, she was rushing off down the concrete hallway towards a pneumatic tube lift at the end. Cliff stepped forward, out of the doorway, just seconds before the front door closed behind him.
He had met Emilie Tesla only briefly, two nights ago. They were both on scene when one of Cliffhanger’s rogues, a small time thief who went by the nom du guerre ATM-Ant, made a severely illegal withdrawal from the bank machine on the corner of Bates and Novick. Cliff had been happy just to barrel in, fists doing what fists did best. Despite ATM-Ant’s size changing powers, it usually just took one or two good pummels to take him down.
That’s why it had been so surprising to Cliff when his leather-bound punches of justice were blocked by some kind of force field, apparently a new addition to the Ant’s techno-arsenal.
ATM-Ant laughed in glee, his pot belly and red uniform making him look not unlike Santa Claus for a moment. “Would you like your receipt emailed to your home account?” he taunted. Cliff hated bad banter, and ATM-Ant’s was the worse.
“What does that even mean?” Cliff asked, fumbling at his belt for the titanium grappling hook that was his trademark.
“I think he’s trying to start an internet meme,” a dulcet voice came from above. Cliff looked up to see the most beautiful creature he had ever seen wear a jetpack. She was lithe and pale with long blonde hair in an electric nimbus around her head. Aviator goggles rested on her forehead just over her wide blue eyes and her white lab coat fluttered in the air like a cape. In one hand, she held a silver raygun. Her jetpack didn’t even seem to produce any exhaust.
“Like Grumpy Catman?” Cliff asked, unable not to smile at the vision in laboratory white.
“Or that guy who only speaks in movie titles when you fight him? What’s his name?”
“Cinevile,” Cliff said.
“Cinevile,” she agreed. “So, force field?”
Cliff swung at ATM-Ant’s head with his grappling hook. Whatever it was protecting the villain deflected the metal as well as it had Cliff’s fist.
“Feels like it,” Cliff said.
“This machine is protected by security cameras!” ATM-Ant cried. “A record of this transaction will be recorded!”
The girl in the air turned a dial on her raygun and aimed it at the nonsensical criminal. A marvelous bolt of lightning arced from the round tip of the weapon through the ATM-Ant and into the pavement below him. The bank machine he was standing next to, which was still dispensing twenties, went black and stopped.
Cliff knew a cue when he got one. Right fist, left fist, and the guy was down.
“P-please remove card,” ATM-Ant mumbled as he fell to the sidewalk insensate.
Cliff pulled a pair of handcuffs from his belt and cuffed the ATM-Ant to a parking meter as the flying rocketgirl landed. “Good work,” she said.
“Thanks, couldn’t have done it without you…” Cliff let the sentence trail off like a mad lib ending with a blank labeled “your name.”
“Emilie. Emilie Tesla.” Her outstretched hand had fingerless leather driving gloves on it, which squeaked against Cliff’s as he shook it.
“Cliffhanger. Local hero. I’m kinda new.”
“Well, Cliffhanger,” she smiled. “Drop by sometime if you’d ever like to team up.”
Without a burst of fire or smoke, she took to the air at incredible but no less graceful speed.
Wow, Cliff thought. The Tesla Girls.
And now, here he was, flowers in hand, ready to fight crime side by side with one.
“Cliffy? Are you flashbacking? You’ve got that look.” Kate had returned and was waving one rubber-gloved hand in front of his face.
“Sorry, just, um, yeah.”
“You know, I bet there’s some way of measuring pupil dilation to detect that. I could make something like that. A… reminiscimeter. Rememberator? No, reminiscimeter is better.”
Cliff realized this was why people thought of the Tesla Girls as mad science heroines. “Emilie,” he reminded.
“Couldn’t find her. I think she’s out. Her flightpack wasn’t on the rack.”
Behind Kate, Marina walked in, frowning at a folded piece of paper in her hand.
“Captured,” she said, holding the note out. “Asylum’s got her again.”
“I’ll get the flightpacks!” Kate said, the potential energy barely held back in her body converting immediately to kinetic.
“We could take the Cliffmobile,” Cliff offered.
For the first time since he met her, Marina looked up in interest, her doe eyes wide.
“You’ve got a car?”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.