With a grin on her face and the California sun beating down on her, Lora ran past the houses in her neighborhood toward her own, where her friends, Andy Frost and Cindy Richards had sat waiting for her. She rounded the street lined with Spanish roof tiled houses to see her own home backed by eucalyptus trees; revealed by a heightened wall and yard.
Cindy floated a couple feet above the driveway.
"Okay, here she comes." She said to Andy. "Like, grab the bag."
Andy nodded and rushed back into the garage to grab a standing punching bag. Cindy swooped over and her arms stretched several feet out like rubber to grab the bag. She lowered to the ground for leverage, and flung the bag out to the sidewalk. Andy shrugged.
"That works too."
Cindy leapt into the air again and pointed at Andy and the pink bottle he was holding.
"Quick, Lora, knock it down and get a lemonade!"
Lora noticed the torso shaped bag and that it had a headshot of the US president from when she was a villain taped over the normally masculine face. Lora smiled, stopped at the bag to give it a jab, an uppercut punch and a swinging kick to the head, which she brought to her feet.
Cindy and Andy applauded and Lora plucked the picture of the heavily make-up cladded president from the dummy.
"I don't think it's fair to demonize Bianca Candace. I mean, why not elect a president who quit the villainous life to eliminate the effects of meta mutations gone wrong?"
"Because a villain with charisma is going to win a popularity vote by a landslide out of both fear and admiration, regardless of a Nocens cure." Andy said. He shrugged. "Hey, Bianca is a better president than bad guy anyway."
Cindy floated up to Lora and Andy materialized a few cubes of ice from his hand for the lemonade bottle.
"Lora, it was Bianca's idea when I talked to her. Like, Auntie President is not so stuck up as to think that her evil days were her glory days."
"I guess that's okay then."
Andy handed Lora her drink.
"Rose petal lemonade; your favorite."
Lora thanked him and gave him a hug. Andy returned it and Cindy giggled.
"You guys are cute. Can you tell me why haven't you gotten together yet?"
The smiles fell from Lora and Andy and they looked at each other with faces the same color as the lemonade bottle. Cindy snorted and let out a guffaw. Lora and Andy chuckled with a discomfited breakoff.
Lora giggled, some spark coming back.
"Well, maybe?" Lora said, bringing Andy back to her.
"I think he's scared. Frozen solid anyway."
Lora's sister walked out from the garage; her swagger cool and eyes uninterested. Lora dug a little deeper into Andy.
"Hi Sarra. What are you up to?" Lora said with a hushed voice.
Sarra shrugged and threw her brown hair behind her.
"Gonna see Redbird, I owe him a hospital visit."
"Did he get in a fight again?" Lora asked.
Sarra shook her head.
"No. Same deal at the mall. Apparently Slade’s laser screwed him up more than he thought."
Sarra tossed her car keys into the air and caught them as she headed for her car.
Cindy's elongated waist stretched over to Sarra.
"Like, how long were you back there?"
"You're quick to the uptake. I was unpacking my soda into the fridge and overheard. So what? On that note, don't you have Nocens, president’s niece?"
"Yeah, but I'm being held together by string and bubblegum. My stretchy body is letting my powerful heart pump all that extra blood, and my nerve endings are shot too, so that helps."
"Sounds inhuman. Pain tells us that we're alive. Tells us to work and push and break the wall that keeps us lazy." Sarra looked away in thought. "I need to write that down. Sounds like a song."
"Are you talking about your four-a-day migraines again, Sarra?" Lora asked.
Sarra glared at her sister. Lora's lips tightened.
Sarra rolled her eyes with a sigh and got in her Goon SUV. The engine turned over and her radio sprayed music that kept at the same tempo as her footsteps.
"Bye-bye, brat. Man." Cindy said and folded her arms as Sarra left.
Cindy turned around.
"Okay Lora, I've noticed that when you're around Sarra, you lose your nerve. I mean, sure, Sarra can be intimidating and downright mean sometimes because she's a musician with headaches," Cindy mocked Sarra's low croak, "but that does not mean that you break down and whimper when you interact with her. What's the matter with you, huh? I mean, you're older than all of us combined."
"Combined?" Andy asked.
Lora shook her head.
"Sarra is… a very interesting person. I feel that she, well…" Lora pressed her lips together and curled her golden short flipped hair between her fingers.
"Grow up with someone like that and it kinda gets to you, even if they aren’t doing anything." Andy said.
Lora pressed her lips together and nodded. Andy shrugged again.
"Hey, I've dated Sarra for a couple of months in high school about, what was it, six years ago? Seven, that was it. She hasn't changed."
Cindy made a noise.
"I'll say. I was there."
Andy walked over to Lora and hugged her.
"Although what I discovered in that relationship and breakup is that while Sarra has a lot of soul, Lora has just as much spirit, if not more."
Cindy walked up.
"Okay, like, what does that make you then?"
Andy gave a lopsided grin.
"Well, in my coolness Cindy, there's warmth. That's all there is to it. Ready for more, Lora?"
Lora smiled and walked back to the garage.
"You bet. I just need some sweatbands first."
“Alright. No powers; more glory.” Andy said.
Cindy stretched out to grab the standing punching bag with one arm and backhanded Andy's chest with the other.
"Hm?" He asked.
Cindy just grinned wide and nodded at him as she dragged the bag. Andy waved his hand to dismiss her.
Lora opened a gym bag
"Did you guys see where they went?" Lora asked.
Andy walked up.
"Did they get lost in the car?"
Lora's posture stiffened as she thought.
"Oh! Oh yeah. It’s a disaster in there, they would get lost."
Lora jogged out to her yellow Bajila compact parked on the curb, got in and searched the back seat. Plastic cups from premium juice bars and teahouses, and paper bags rustled from the backseat among sun visors, makeup kits and a five-year-old tablet computer.
"Umm, Lora?" Cindy asked as she fully absorbed the amount of junk in the car.
Lora exited the car with two silver bands. She squished them and they collapsed like foam.
"EnWol gauntlets?" Andy asked.
"Like, they're not real dude." Cindy said with a snort.
Lora shook her head, packed them under her armpit and threw the dislodged trash back into the car.
"Where did they come from is what I want to know. I know that my car is a bit dirty, but still." Lora said.
Lora looked up for an answer that no one had. She shut the car door and squeezed the gauntlets.
"They don't feel that absorbent, but hey, they'll work in a pinch." Lora said.
They all started back toward the garage.
"Alright," Andy said. "We should probably spar together. Cindy will join the two of us after we’ve gone head to head for a while. I think that if anyone is going to pick on our non-meta Lora, she should be prepared."
"Uh-huh." Lora said as she pulled the gauntlets on over her forearms.
"Anyone who messes with me is going to get a sore rear end anyway, that's for… sure."
Lora stopped short in the middle of the garage and watched as the gauntlets started to glow as bright as the sun.
"Lora, what is the…?" Cindy said.
Lora jumped with a shriek; her wrists burned. She attempted to remove the gauntlets and then went quiet. Andy and Cindy moved to help, but the glow had encompassed their friend and turned them away. Lora’s wrists rose above her head and brought her body into the air. An inhuman whine came from the gauntlets accompanied by several deep and pulsating tones.
Lora awoke suddenly with a gasp. She felt the gauntlets squeeze her wrists to the point of going numb. Bouts of electricity ran up and down her body. The whine peaked before letting out a burst of sound sending Andy and Cindy onto the ground.
Lora’s torment disappeared as suddenly as it had come. She hovered in the air with new, bright clothing. As soon as Lora had regained control, she worked to rip the gauntlets from her arms. Cindy jumped up.
"What are you doing?" Andy yelled.
Cindy’s arms flowed like water and wrapped around her friend. A panic-stricken Lora looked back at a grinning Cindy. She exhaled with sharp mewls.
"Okay, like, stop right there and think about what has just happened here." Cindy said.
Lora's breathing increased and she had a thought about how she was glad that neither her parents nor her sister were home. Lora's breathing started to feature some sniveling.
Andy stepped up.
"Are you okay, Lora?"
Lora slowed her breathing and nodded.
"Probably; I'm just really startled." Lora took a moment to breathe. "Okay… Let me go; let's see what happened."
Cindy reeled her arms in to let Lora go and they assessed their friend's situation.
Lora remained suspended in midair and wore a two-tone one-piece suit, her former clothing sitting in a pile under her feet. The represented bodice, short sleeves, elbow length gloves, and pants were pink, while the elbows and wide belt were yellow. Along with the suit, there was a pair of flat-heeled pink boots.
Lora smiled and pulled her legs up to tumble backwards in midair.
"Oh cool." She said with a giggle.
Lora looked at her friends; Andy smiled and Cindy was ready to burst.
"I guess the gauntlets are real. Welcome to the meta club, Lora." Andy said.
Lora shook her head with a smile."
"Andy, I'm not meta."
Cindy threw her arms into the air. They sailed past the rafters.
"That is true! You are not Meta; you are flipping better than any Meta on Earth! Lora, you're EnWol now!"
Lora shook her fists with glee and snow rained from them.
"Yay! Oo!" Lora shook her fists again and giggled as snow fell and then melted under her feet.
Cindy paced back and forth.
"Great Gaia and an apple pie! We should really tell someone that Lora has gotten the next set of EnWol gauntlets. This is big, big, big guys! I mean, man, Florence Sanders, old Pink Lemon herself, wore those gauntlets when fighting in the Second World War, when she dealt with that Nazi guy, Augustus Aachen. Oh! And, like, she had them when she gave the famous speech that shed the human races prejudice against metas when the war was won!
Lora, you're in that lineage now! You're a hero and a new icon for everyone! This is so flipping awesome!"
Cindy quivered like jelly. Lora laughed and floated over to grab Cindy.
"Whoa, easy girl. I already know what this is. Calm down, okay?"
"Well, I'm excited. I majored in modern Colombian history because I want to be a hero too. Andy's a hero, you're a hero now by default and where's that leave me?"
"A girl with her nose in the wrong books." Andy said. "I think that more than just Lora and I have mentioned how you more fall in love with the action and victory of days gone by than focus on how you can eventually be a part."
Cindy drooped to the floor and whined.
"I know, but I just want to jump in and kick some tooshie. Hey, I'm made of rubber, kinda. I can survive most things, Nocens or not. I mean Lora is icy and stretchy now too and—"
Andy held his hands up.
"Hold up, just a minute. I just realized something."
Andy pointed at Lora, his face twisted with confusion.
"Guys, what happens when an EnWol transforms? What are the steps during transformation?"
Lora and Cindy exchanged glances.
"Umm," Lora said. "They, or I should say we, glow as the gauntlets assess us and..." Lora looked at Cindy for a tradeoff. Cindy cocked her head.
"Why do you ask? Everyone knows." Cindy said.
Andy flicked his hands.
"Just run through the steps. This doesn’t feel right."
"After they glow, they melt down into a watery silvery ball…" Cindy's eyes widened and she looked back up at Lora. "And stay like that for a few minutes as they figure out how to reform."
Lora frowned and pulled on her finger, but it did not deform. Her glove squeaked.
Andy walked up.
"Yep, that's it. That's what doesn’t feel right. Lora, you're still solid. EnWol are a thick, silver goop. Even if you have ice powers and the ability to fly, you didn't change."
"I know about that, Andy. But I… wow, I really didn't change, did I?" Lora said.
Cindy squeezed Loras arm; the only give she received was from the firmness of a normal human bone and muscle. She shook her head.
"This is not right. This is so very not right. Okay, okay. We need to go through a rundown of what she has because something that should have happened, like, crapped out and died. Okay, Lora, can you fly?" Cindy asked.
Andy laughed and a hovering Lora stared at Cindy.
"I think that Lora can fly." Andy said.
Cindy waved her hands.
"Well, okay, duh. She can't stretch herself so far that I look like an old hair tie, but can she use her powers accurately?"
Lora frowned and shook her hand to watch snow fall from it.
"I guess. I don’t know if it’s just ice though. The three in the set were ice, fire and lightning manifestation, ice is what Andy has."
Andy smiled and twinkled his fingers as ice crystals formed in between them.
"And proud of it."
"Yeah. Most EnWol learn to control it by… It’s different from meta powers equivalents and…" Cindy frowned and searched the floor for an answer. "Oh crap nuggets, I forgot."
"Look," Andy said. "Why don't we fly out to Huntington Beach. Helena Christophers was EnWol and is your mentor, right Cindy?"
"Hey yeah; the Dazzling Blaze, that's right. Old H.C. in the H.B.”
“Alright then,” Andy said. “Everything is on hold, we need to go do this now. Ready Lora?"
Lora nodded and drifted back toward the house.
"I'll get my car keys." She said.
Cindy laughed and reached out for Lora.
"Umm, Lora, where are you going? You can fly now." She said.
Lora looked back and chuckled.
"Well, I don't know how to do it properly."
Andy walked up and clapped his hand on Lora's shoulder.
"Hey, it's easy come on, we'll show you."