Ultrahuman 01 - Ugly, page 1
An Ultrahuman Novel
By Niall Teasdale
Copyright 2014 Niall Teasdale
Amazon Kindle Edition
Part One: Cygnus Rising
Part Two: Twilight
Part Three: Fire, Light, and Bullets
Part Four: For Ever
Part Five: Falling
Part Six: The New Protector of New Millennium
Part One: Cygnus Rising
New Millennium City, MD, 19th December 2012.
Ultranova flew past the office window, his signature white cape streaming behind him, arms outstretched in a power-pose which suggested he was on his way to some crime in progress. Penny caught a brief glimpse of his short, blonde hair and chiselled features as he rocketed by, gave a sigh, adjusted her glasses, and went back to eating her baloney on rye.
A lot of women entertained dreams of spending a night with the flying hero. He was known for his roguish charm, his way with the ladies, and his habit of dating some of the most beautiful women in the city. Penny did not waste her time with thoughts of rapture between the sheets with New Millennium City’s most famous Ultra; the man was simply not going to be interested in her, end of story.
‘Did you see him?’ Penny looked up to see June standing over her clutching a stack of reports.
‘I saw him,’ she replied, smiling.
‘Dreamy,’ June said, dreamily. June was the kind of woman Ultranova would be interested in. Tall, stacked, model-attractive, slim in the waist and with shapely, wide hips, she had a mass of long, black hair and gorgeous blue eyes. Even in December June had a tan, and no tan lines either. She was working in the office while she organised her modelling career, and Penny had no doubt that June would make it either. There had already been a few jobs and the feedback had been good. The money kept the pretty PA in designer clothes.
‘I prefer dreams I can have some chance of realising,’ Penny stated. ‘I’m quite happy with Sean. I thought your dreams were set on that Russian Ultra anyway. What’s her name?’
‘Svetilo. Yeah, she’s dreamier. But I’ll make an exception to my female-only diet for Ultranova. Aside from anything else, being seen with him would be a good career move.’
‘That’s cold, girl.’
June wrinkled her nose. ‘No colder than him. Everyone thinks it’s cute that he picks up women, sweeps them off their feet…’
June giggled. ‘Literally. Then he’s on to the next one the following day. If he didn’t have powers the press would be all over behaviour like that. If he was a woman they’d be calling him a slut.’
‘Yeah… You didn’t come down here just to chat about him, did you?’
‘Oh, no. Mister Leighton wants these typed up by end of day.’ June put the reports down in Penny’s in-tray. ‘Sorry.’
Penny shrugged. ‘This is the crap I get paid for.’
June sagged a little and frowned at her. ‘You are far too nice for your own good, Pen.’
‘I know. See you later.’
Giving a nod, June turned and walked out, her hips swinging as she went. She was, of course, right and Penny should have been annoyed that June, a less skilled secretary than Penny, was on her way up to Leighton’s office while she was stuck down here typing and answering phones. The excuse was that Penny had a lovely telephone voice. Actually, she had a lovely voice, full stop, but that was the only lovely thing about her and the misogynistic bastards on the fifth floor liked their personal assistants to be easy on the eye. It should have made Penny sick; she knew it annoyed the Hell out of June, even if the would-be model used it to get a better job. Penny was used to it. She ignored the inequality just as she was ignored. That was how she was.
The apartment Penny shared with June, in a building above an acupuncture clinic in Friendship, was just about big enough for the two of them. They had a bedroom each, and there was a kitchen which had the great advantage that you could reach everything in it while standing in one spot. The bathroom was similarly compact, and the lounge was just about big enough for the sofa and TV. On the other hand it was a new-build, it had a balcony outside the lounge, and the rent was easy enough to cover with both of them working.
And they liked it there. The neighbours were nice, even if they described the two girls as ‘that odd couple in number six.’ The local crime rate was fairly low, largely thanks to the Walter Knights, a group of low-powered Ultra martial artists, named for the street the apartment was on, who worked closely with the local precinct. They also got a discount at the acupuncture place, though Penny had tried it once and vowed never to do it again. It was nice and quiet, and the O, New Millennium’s monorail, was not too far away.
‘Are you sure you don’t want to come with?’ June asked, again, as she bounced through the lounge wearing only a pair of black lace boy-shorts.
Penny grinned at her. ‘Me at a club?’
‘Why not? You should get out of this place more often.’
‘I’ll be out Friday night.’
‘Sure. At the office Christmas party. Lots of drunk executives trying to grope the secretaries. All the faces you see every day. You need to see some new faces, girl.’
‘I’m happy with seeing Sean’s face.’
June paused. ‘You… just be careful with that man. He’s only after one thing.’
‘God I hope so.’
The raven-haired girl looked as though she was about to say something else, but she just turned and stepped through into her room. Her voice carried through the open door. ‘So what are you going to do with yourself?’
‘There’s a documentary on the latest research into Ultrahuman origins on Discovery followed by another on exoplanet discovery, and then Ultra! is showing an omnibus of the last three episodes of True Power.’
June giggled. ‘Boobs and superpowers. That stuff’ll have you coming over to my side, y’know?’
‘In your dreams.’
Walking out into the lounge in a black mini-dress and carrying a pair of outrageously high-heeled slingbacks, June gave her a grin. ‘Yes, and you know it.’
They had played the game since moving in together two years earlier. June was technically not a lesbian; she dated men, sometimes. She tended to not have serious relationships because she was focussed on her career, but the few people she had let into her life for longer than a couple of days were women. Despite the disparity in their looks and Penny’s firmly heterosexual leanings, June continued to make passes at her housemate and what stopped Penny getting irritated about it was that her friend seemed genuine about it.
‘Anyway, Sally’s banging Red Hunter this season. I’m more likely to get urges to go give Sean a treat. Go out, have a good time, leave me to my cable.’
June slipped her shoes on and grabbed her coat. There was snow on the ground outside and her dress was not exactly warm. Then she let out a little gasp, as though she had forgotten something, rushed back, and kissed Penny on the cheek. Then she dashed for the door, giggling.
Penny shook her head and changed the channel on the TV. June’s attraction to her was a mystery rather like the origin of the Ultras. Ultrahumans had begun appearing in the fifties with no explanation, and had remained unexplainable despite a lot of study and all the advances in science since then. June seemed determined to turn their relationship into something more, and no advancement in science was going to explain that either. Penny was short, had almost no chest or waist, a round, slightly pudgy face, and short, brown hair which defied brushing. She had rather nice blue eyes, but they were too close together and she always looked like she was squinting. Her mother had read her The Ugly Duckl
Pouring herself a slightly more generous glass of wine, since it was almost Christmas and all, Penny settled back to watch her shows.
It was six-thirty and the party had been in full swing for an hour. Penny was waiting patiently at the printer four floors below it while the last few pages of a sixty page report for Sean emerged at what seemed like an unusually slow pace. Well, Sean would be grateful.
Looking forward to a few drinks and maybe a fumbled kiss or two, Penny collected the papers into a folder, dropped it, sighed at her own clumsiness, spent five minutes sorting the pages again, and then started for the elevator to the fourth floor where Sean’s office was. Someone had decided that piping Christmas tunes through the elevator’s speakers would be a great idea and it had been irritating Penny since the third. Now she found herself humming along to the vaguely identifiable tune.
The fourth floor was silent aside from a few stray sounds from the party above, which was why she heard the voices as she stepped out of the elevator. They were indistinct, but a man and a woman, and she decided that ‘voices’ was the wrong term as she got closer since the sounds they were making were more grunts and moans.
Penny slowed down as she moved further through the office, her stomach sinking more and more as she went. By the time she got to Sean’s office she was sure that the sounds were coming from there, but she kept telling herself that that did not mean the man was Sean.
The blinds were drawn over the windows, but there was a gap at one side and she could peek through. The woman lying on the office desk with her knees pulled up was largely unidentifiable. She was naked aside from a pair of five-inch high-heels which she still had on. The man was still wearing a shirt, and since all she could really see of him was a pair of thrusting buttocks, that was useful. Penny had bought the shirt two months earlier for Sean’s birthday.
Putting the file down beside the door, Penny turned and walked toward the elevator. Suddenly the party was the last place she wanted to be. Home. She needed to be at home. There was a bottle of wine there and when she had finished drinking it she would feel a lot better. Also she would be unconscious, which would be a plus.
Outside, wrapped in her coat with the cold air biting at her nose, she was thankful for her sensible shoes. Sensible shoes. She had worn sensible, flat shoes to a Christmas party. Okay, so she had worn her shortest skirt and some hold-ups that June had bought her, and a sweater… No, the sweater had not been such a great idea, but it matched the rest of the outfit. It was frumpy. That was what it was, frumpy. No wonder Sean had been banging one of the other girls. It was all her own fault. She had always known he could do better than her, and now she had practically driven him away with her frumpy clothes and…
A sound made her pause and look around. It was a weird keening noise, like something screaming. She was beside a fenced-in park on 17th Street, a block from the monorail, and there was no one around right now. No one was screaming, that was for sure, but the sound was coming from…
She looked up just in time to see what looked like a meteorite, a blazing ball of light coming right at her. She had a fraction of a second to wonder if it would hurt, and then the world exploded around her.
‘Sean? Have you seen Penny?’
The blonde-haired man turned and looked, upward, at June. His expression shifted to lascivious. ‘No. She left a report outside my office earlier.’
‘Uh-huh. That was while you were banging Tina, right?’
‘What?’ His face straightened like it was on elastic.
‘She’s been bragging. You should have stuck with Pen, at least she’d keep her mouth shut.’ Turning on her booted heel, she strutted away making sure that Sean got a good view of what he was never going to get.
There was no crying Penny in her office, and no sign of Penny’s coat or bag. Yeah, she had seen Sean with Tina and gone home rather than face the humiliation. Knowing Penny she had figured out how to blame herself for Sean’s treachery before she had made it to the O.
‘Not tonight, Pen,’ June muttered. ‘You are not going to spend Christmas moping over that fucker.’
She started for her own office to get her coat. She had had enough of the poisonous bastards of Leighton and Thorpe for one year anyway.
Penny groaned and opened her eyes. The night seemed brighter around her, though the colours seemed odd, both brighter and somehow more muted. What the Hell had happened? She had left the office because… She was in the park on 17th Street because…
She shook her head and stood up. She was obviously disoriented, because the ground seemed further away than usual. The air was cold on her bare skin. Fuck! She was naked! She was standing naked in the snow and…
Where had the long, white hair come from? And the legs? And the breasts? Her body was not her body, and she was naked in the snow in New Millennium’s business district! There was an iron fence between her and the rest of the world, and she had no clue how she was going to get over that. She spotted her bag lying a couple of yards away and walked over to grab it. The shoulder strap was now two strips of heavy-weave cloth, the middle section having gone missing. Now she looked, she could see other bits of cloth littered around the playground. Shreds of wool and linen, the sole of one shoe. Whatever had happened had reduced her clothing and even the strap of her bag to scraps.
She walked over to the fence with its high, iron spikes, though it looked shorter now. She had to be close to six feet in height, she would be eyeball to eyeball with June, but that was not getting her over the top and she could hear voices coming down the street. She had to get out of here and home, somehow. The voices were getting louder.
Panicking, she tried jumping, and apparently that was a good idea. She went up and kept on going up, vanishing into the black sky with her bag clutched firmly in her hands. Okay, so she was clear of the park. Which way was Friendship?
June opened the apartment door and stepped through, reaching for the light switch. She had expected the lights to be on, and Penny to be sitting in front of the TV, or lying in bed. Had something happened to her on the way home? That would be just perfect. She would personally nail Sean’s hide to…
‘Don’t turn the lights on.’
The voice came from the sofa, and it was Penny’s voice, but all June could see was a shadowy shape sitting there in the darkness.
June pushed the door closed. ‘Oh Pen… I know what Sean did. I’m sorry. I tried to tell you, sort of. He had a bet with Walter Winscott that he wouldn’t stick with you for three months, but he blew it. He’s been sleeping with two other…’ She shook her head; that was not helping. ‘You can’t let him spoil your Christmas…’
‘Oh, that’s what happened,’ Penny said, her voice distant. ‘Right, I remember.’
June frowned. What had happened to the little brunette? Had she been attacked? Or was it shock? The discovery had blanked her memory. Okay, so Sean’s betrayal was likely to have been a shock, but not that bad.
‘Pen? You’re scaring your housemate.’
‘Sorry. Something happened. I was coming home and something happened.’
June walked around the sofa. There was something off about the figure sitting there, but she could not quite put her finger on what it was. ‘What happened, Pen?’ June knelt down on the floor. Somehow she felt that Penny wanted some distance between them. She looked at where the shadow’s head was, and that was too high…
Penny’s shadow leaned over and turned on the lamp beside the couch. June let out a gasp and fell over backward, sprawling on the carpet as Penny straightened up and looked back at her timidly.
‘This happened,’ Penny whispered. The figure sitting there was not Penny. Well, it was her, but not the same her. The voice was the same, and the eyes. Now that
‘H-how?’ June swallowed hard and pulled herself back upright.
Penny shook her head. ‘I remember seeing something. I thought it was a meteor. I thought I was dead… And then…’
‘Oh… You, err, you’re naked.’
Penny managed a timid giggle. ‘You noticed that?’
‘Well… Yes, because… Well, you don’t have any clothes on and… Pen, you’re better looking than me! How did you get home like that? How did you get in here without being seen?!’
‘We’re four storeys up, Pen.’
‘I, uh, I can fly.’
‘You’re an Ultra?!’
‘Keep your voice down,’ Penny hissed. ‘I don’t know. I mean, I guess, but all the studies say it’s most likely genetic and I should have had it emerge before now. And Ultras don’t suddenly change into…’
‘Totally gorgeous super-femmes?’
‘I am not…’
‘Have you even looked at yourself?’
June jumped to her feet, grabbed Penny’s hand and pulled. There was a moment of resistance and then Penny jerked out of the seat. June stopped pulling for a second as she looked at the hovering shape in front of her. ‘You really can fly,’ she said, and then started dragging Penny through the air.
Penny touched down as they entered June’s room, where there was, of course, a full-length mirror. There was also an unmade bed, a table with a sewing machine on it, and three wardrobes. In truth there was not much space for them to be in there together, but June steered Penny in front of the mirror after turning the lights on. Penny looked at herself in the mirror. Her jaw slowly fell open.
‘I, uh, I’m still not prettier than…’
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