"If you don't need me for anything else," the blond young man said as he picked up the small pile of folders off his boss's desk. "I'll put these away and take off."
"Of course Tim," Jacqueline Kirby smiled. "Enjoy the weekend."
As the 22-year-old assistant closed the door behind him, Jacqueline leaned back in her chair and pulled a magazine out from the top drawer of her desk. It was the latest issue of "The Adventures of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl", a book she'd looked forward all day to kicking back and reading.
At 26, Jacqueline had been reading comics for over 20 years. Not surprising since her Uncle, Michael Kirby, had founded Creative Comics in the mid 1960's. Since then, the company had enjoyed moderate success, but never came close to challenging the industry leaders. Not until four years ago that was.
Fresh out of college, Jacqueline or Jackie as her family called her, had gone to work for Creative. It seemed the natural thing to do at the time. After all, she'd been working there part time since she was 16 and had learned the business from the ground up.
Then, four months after she'd started, Mike Kirby had a major heart attack and decided to retire. As the majority stockholder, it was his decision that Jackie replace him. He'd worked too long and hard to hand 'his' company over to someone outside the family.
For the first year, Jackie made few real changes. After all, some of the people now working for her had been in the business when she was in kindergarten and didn't readily appreciate interference from a 21-year-old who inherited the job.
All that changed, however, the day Joanna Simon showed up in the outer office. Jackie remembered that day well.
In her ten years as the receptionist for Creative, Karen Wilson had seen too many young men and women like Joanna to take her too seriously. A portfolio under her arm, the 17-year-old had patiently waited all day for a chance to "show her stuff". Dozens of hopefuls showed up every year, especially towards the end of school. They made the rounds of the major comic companies, and then tried the smaller ones. Each was convinced that they held in their case the next Superman or X-Men.
One of the few changes Jackie had made when she took over was that these aspiring artists and writers not be given the bums rush that too many companies gave them. Even if their ideas were worthless, what could it hurt to take a few minutes to look them over and offer some advice. After all, these were the people who bought your product. Also, one day you might actually strike paydirt. You never know, she always reminded them.
The problem was that Joanna, or Jo as she liked to sign her work, had come by on the worst possible of days. A good part of the office had come down with some sort of virus and everyone who was left was scrambling to take up the slack against a rapidly approaching deadline.
Karen had suggested that she come back another day, but Jo insisted she would wait. She had used almost all of her savings for the bus trip to New York City and was sleeping on her cousin's couch. She couldn't afford to come back next week.
So she'd sat quietly in her chair, watching people rush in and out of the Editor In Chief's office. Mid-morning soon gave way to afternoon and then it wasn't long before the clock on the wall neared six. Karen began to pack up her things for the railroad ride home and then remembered the young girl.
"I'm afraid you're not going to be able to wait any longer," Karen said with as much sympathy as possible. "Maybe you could come back Monday when it's not so hectic?"
The look of disaster on the young girl's face touched a soft spot in the older woman's heart. She looked again at the wall clock and thought she could always catch the 07:10 train home. "Wait one more minute," she said. "I'm not promising anything, but I'll try."
Instantly, Jo's face lit up with a thankful smile.
Stepping into the inner office, Karen explained the situation to Jackie. How everyone was so busy today that she hadn't even been able to get the young girl ten minutes with any of the editors. She hated bringing the matter to Jackie but hated even more telling the girl to come back Monday. Especially if she did, only to be told that her work really wasn't as good as she thought it was.
"Well we can't have that, can we?" Jackie said as she signed her name to the last of the pile of papers on her desk. "Give me five minutes to clean up and I'll see her myself."
"Thank you, Ms. Kirby." The 46-year-old said. Karen had never been able to get used to calling her boss by her first name. Even though she had two daughters older than Jackie was.
Truth be told, Jackie was dead tired. Getting everything out before the 5 o'clock deadline had been a real struggle. Still, she agreed with Karen, they couldn't simply send the girl away. The thought that if her last name hadn't been Kirby, she wouldn't get past the front door was never far from Jackie's mind.
The five foot seven brunette took three of those five minutes to use the small private bathroom. It was one of the few luxuries that her Uncle had allowed himself. Running her hand through her long shoulder length hair and then across her neck, Jackie thought that running this place was a lot harder than Uncle Mike had made it look. Competition was fierce and some of their major titles were beginning to lose some of their popularity – with the resulting drop in sales.
At times it seemed like the job required a 20-hour workday. She was an attractive woman she reminded herself as she looked into the mirror. When was the last time she'd gone out on a date? Probably just a month less than the last time she'd been laid she answered herself.
"Hi, I'm Jacqueline Kirby," Jackie said with a smile as she reached out and shook Joanna's hand. "Why don't you have a seat and we'll take a look at what you've got." she added as she guided the younger girl to the conference table.
Joanna was a half-foot shorter than Jackie with short strawberry blond hair. She still carried some of the baby fat of her early teens as well as braces that showed when she smiled. She was dressed in what Jackie guessed was her very best dress.
"Joanna Simon," the young girl said. "My friends call me Jo."
Her nervousness evident, Jo sat down and emptied her portfolio out onto the table. Jackie had to hide a smile at the girl's awkwardness. In many ways in was like looking at a reflection of herself only a few years ago.
"Can I get you something to drink?" Jackie asked, trying to put her at ease. "Some tea, or maybe a Coke?"
"A Coke would be nice," Jo stammered, remembering that she hadn't eaten since breakfast.
Jackie produced two cans of Coke from the small refrigerator behind her desk and placed one in front of Jo. She also laid out some of the leftovers from lunch. Taking a sip of her own soda, she told Jo to help herself as she sat down and began to spread out the storyboards on the table. She really hoped the girl had enough talent that she could let her leave with some words of encouragement.
"Hmm," Jackie murmured as she looked at a few of the drawings. "Most of these are pretty good."
"You really think so?" Jo asked, her eyes lighting up.
"Yes I do," Jackie answered, surprised at the level of professionalism in Jo's work. The girl had definite talent — that was sure. If it wasn't for the fact that she might be faced with laying off staff in a few months if sales didn't improve, she might consider hiring Jo as a staff artist. She was certainly better than some of those she inherited from her Uncle.
"You are talented," Jackie repeated. "Didn't they tell you that when you went to any of the other comic companies?"
"Oh I haven't gone to any other companies," Jo replied with a new confidence in her voice. "I wanted to come here first."
"Why here?" Jackie asked out of curiosity. Usually the kids hit the big companies first.
"I grew up reading Creative Comics," Jo grinned. "I used to dream about writing and drawing my own and having them appear under the CC Logo."
"I guess we should be honored." Jackie smiled back. In her mind she was trying to think of the best way to let this talented girl down. "We're pretty well staffed here right now," Jackie lied as she looked at a few more drawings. "You might want to try some of the other companies and..."
Jackie paused in mid-sentence as she opened a thick sketchbook. Laid out throughout it was the equivalent of at least a half dozen completed issues of a comic. The title on the front page was "The Adventures of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl."
"What's this?" Jackie asked.
"That's just a strip that I created for fun." Jo said. "I forgot it was in there." She added a little embarrassed.
"I think this is very good." Jackie said as she flipped through the pages. "Very good indeed."
"It is?" Jo asked in surprise.
Jackie was indeed impressed. Every aspect of creation was there. Pencils, inks, coloring, lettering — all of it done professionally.
"How long does it take you to do a page?" Jackie asked.
"You mean doing everything?" Jo asked, to be answered by a nod of Jackie's head.
Her answer made up Jackie's mind. Even if it meant firing some of the useless jerks her Uncle had kept on staff, she was going to hire Jo Simon.
"Well I couldn't offer you a lot, at least at first." Jackie smiled. "But what would you think of this as a starting salary." She asked as she wrote down a figure on a blank piece of paper.
"Oh yes!" Jo gushed as she looked at the figure on the paper. It was more money that she was earning in Taylor's Dry Goods back home.
"It's really not a lot," Jackie admitted. "Especially if you plan to live here in the city. But you would gain a lot of experience and hopefully in time I'd be able to increase it."
"I'll take it." Jo said. "When can I start?"
She was eager all right, Jackie thought, almost as eager as Jackie herself was a few years back.
"How bout you come in Monday morning and we'll get you settled in." Jackie said. "I'll see what department I think you should start out in."
"Oh thank you, Ms. Kirby." Joanna said, her voice filled with the excitement of a dream come true.
"Do you mind if I keep this for the weekend?" Jackie asked as she held the homemade comic. "I'd like to read it and see if you're as good a writer you are an artist."
"Okay," Jo said a little hesitantly. It was obvious that she didn't really want Jackie to read the story but wasn't about to risk her new job.
"Fine, then I'll see you early Monday morning." Jackie said as she escorted her new employee out the door.
That had been four years ago. Over that weekend, after reading "The Adventures of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl" a dozen times, Jackie changed her mind about where she would put Jo.
Rather than make her an apprentice to one of the more experienced authors or artists, Jackie had decided to let her take on her own title. In fact, she had decided to publish the Adventures of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl.
That decision had been met with some derision from her staff. That she was out of her mind was one of the louder comments from the 'old hands'. That she was throwing away money the company could ill afford was another. The bottom line, however, was that it was her decision. One of the senior editors went so far as to call Mike Kirby and tell him what his crazy niece was doing to his company.
Mike Kirby had called his niece five minutes later and asked her one question. Did she really believe in this book? Then he wished her luck.
When the first issue of The Adventures of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl appeared on the stands, it was an instant sellout. For the first time in the history of Creative Comics, a book went into a second and then a third printing. With it came a storm of controversy, which only increased sales. People either loved or hated the book. There seemed to be no middle ground.
At first look, the series seemed to be an unlikely success — having almost none of the elements of any of the current popular titles. In an industry where publishers seemed to find hot concepts such as mutant superheroes and then work it to death, it seemed too risky to go out on a limb on something new and different.
First of all, the series was set in the late 1940's, a time few comic readers were familiar with. At first glance, the two main characters followed an old familiar formula. Ultra Woman was the secret identity of a policewoman who had tired of being delegated to traditional 1940's female roles. Mega Girl was a teenage girl she had saved from the streets. Neither had any special powers, relying instead on training and an assortment of gadgets.
The stories were pretty basic too, although they seemed to carry an underlining sexuality that you no longer found in Batman and Robin — the series they were most often compared to. In fact, just like the early years of Batman and Robin, there were complains from certain quarters that the underlining sexuality of the series was one of homosexuality. Or more appropriately in this case — lesbianism.
That accusation had made Jackie laugh. Aside from a single clothes-changing scene where you saw the two heroines in bra and panties, there wasn't a single slightly erotic scene in the book. In fact, unlike many of the costumes wore by present day heroines, Ultra Woman and Mega Girls were almost comical in the amount of clothing they wore.
No more amply endowed than Jackie or a vast majority of the women in the office; Ultra Woman hid it under a full double-breasted red tunic that resembled the police uniforms of that day. Mega Girl wore a simple long sleeve white pullover blouse with red trim and cape. The skirts both of them wore would do a catholic schoolgirl proud.
Of course the bad guy, or girl in this case, wore something a lot more daring. Yet even that was more than most girls wore on any public beach.
A year after the first issue hit the stands, Jackie was able to walk into the office with a pride in her decision. Each issue outsold the last and it wasn't long before the series went from a bi-monthly book to monthly and then just last week to a twice-monthly publication.
Today, Ultra Woman and Mega Girl topped the lists of favorite books. It was another source of self-satisfaction that four other Creative Comic series held places in the top ten. Of these, two were also Simon and Kirby productions.
With success came additional revenue in the form of Ultra Woman games, dolls and even lunch boxes. The final nail in the coffin in all those naysayers would come next month with the release of the live action film "The Adventures Of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl" in theaters across the country.
"Jackie, you have a minute?" said the voice from behind the tall brunette as she reached out to open her office door.
"Of course Jo," Jackie smiled as she turned and saw the bright face of her protege and partner "Just give me a few minutes to get organized and come right on in."
The confident young woman who stepped into Jackie's office five minutes later bore little resemblance to the nervous girl of a few years before. Jo Simon had lost the last of that baby fat as well as the braces. At 21 she still looked 17 but had lost all of her youthful awkwardness.
The nature of their relationship had changed over the years as well. The energy that Jo brought to Creative transformed the company. She proved a quick learner and took on more and more responsibility. Many of the old guard, irritated at having to work for Jackie in the first place, became positively livid at now having some kid give them orders. Many quit, to be replaced by much needed new blood.
The personal relationship between the two women changed as well. The sister-like bond that formed almost immediately grew and grew as the 5-year difference in their ages lessened with each passing year. At times, it now even seemed like Jo was the more mature of the two.
"What's up?" Jackie asked as she poured a cup of coffee for both of them.
"I was wondering if you had any plans for the weekend?" Jo replied.
"Just a good book and a bottle of wine," Jackie laughed. "Why?"
"Comic-Con is this weekend, down in D.C." Jo said. "I was thinking it would be fun if we went."
"I wasn't aware that we'd been invited to be on any of the panels this year." Jackie said.
"We weren't," Jo said. "I don't mean going as guests. I meant going as fans and really having some fun."
"Oh." Jackie simply said.
She knew what Jo was getting at. When she first started at Creative, they went to all the Conventions. It was a lot of fun, mixing with the fans and basically being a little crazy for a day or two. Unfortunately the price of success had put an end to those days.
It wasn't like the two of them were known to people they passed on the street. The fans, however were a different story. They'd appeared in many of the trade magazines and had appeared in countless discussion panels. When they'd tried to simply walk around after a panel last year they had to be rescued by security from adoring fans. This year, with the movie coming out, it would only be worse.
"You know what happened last year." Jackie reminded her friend.
"I know," she replied. "And I've got that all figured out."
"Do tell." Jackie smiled.
"We don't go as ourselves," Jo suggested. "We go as someone else."
"Such as... ?" an intrigued Jackie asked.
"Well a lot of people go to the Cons in costumes," Jo said. "As characters, so to speak."
"Costumes, characters..." Jackie repeated, guessing where this was going. "Any particular characters you have in mind?"
"Well you do have those costumes the studio sent over in your closet?" Jo said in a suggestive tone.
Sitting in the office closet were two costumes for Ultra Woman and Mega Girl. They had been sent over from the movie studio to be used in a publicity campaign. When the film opened, Creative would hire two actresses to play the parts and appear at various theaters. It was an old gimmick but the fans loved it.
At first thought, Jackie considered the idea of dressing up in a costume and going to the Con pretty ridiculous. After all, she was the head of a rising company and that wasn't the type of thing CEO's of companies did. Then she thought about how that was exactly the type of thing a younger Jackie Kirby would have done and how much fun she would've had doing it.
More importantly, she could see in Jo's eyes how important it seemed to be for her. It had been a rough year for her friend. The loss of her mother after a long illness had been followed two months later by Jo's sudden break-up with her boyfriend. That had taken Jackie by surprise as much as everyone else. She would've bet anything that Jo and Bill Thomas were going to announce their engagement at the office Christmas party. Instead, Jo had showed up alone and said that it was all over and that she didn't want to discuss it. To this day she hadn't mentioned it again.
"What the hell," Jackie laughed. "It's crazy enough to be fun. Okay, we'll go."
"Great!" Jo exclaimed. "I already got us two tickets on the Washington Shuttle flight tonight and a room at the hotel."
"Pretty sure of yourself, aren't you." Jackie said.
"Well we know who you have to blame for that." Jo smiled. "The flight leaves at 09:00 so you should plan to be at LaGuardia by 08:00."
"Aren't we leaving together?" Jackie asked.
"I promised Doctor Giordano that I'd stop by the children's ward and do some sketches for the kids." Jo explained. "So I'll meet you at the terminal."
The excitement on her friends face told Jackie she'd made the right decision. It would be an interesting weekend and probably a lot of fun as well.
"But if we're going to fly out of here tonight," Jackie thought to herself as the assistant Editor In Chief left. "I'd better get cracking on this paperwork.
The day passed quickly but the pile of papers on Jackie's desk didn't seem to shrink any. She considered asking Jo to stay a while and help but then discarded the idea. A few personal drawings for the kids at City Hospital were more important than anything she was doing right now. Whatever she didn't finish tonight could wait until Monday. She'd work until the last minute and then just leave it all.
The clock read 06:40 when Jackie finally pushed the last pile of folders into her side drawer. Enough was enough. She had sent the last of the office staff home an hour ago, not wanting to keep them for trivial stuff. There was enough of that during crunch time.
Jackie rubbed the ridge of her nose. Right behind it was a slowly growing headache. Too much paperwork. She'd have to have Tim make another appointment with the optometrist and get her eyes checked again. She'd been told to take it a little easier on her last visit, but of course she hadn't.
"I need some aspirin." Jackie thought. The last thing she wanted to do was get on an airplane with a headache.
A quick search of her desk produced only an empty bottle. A further search of Tim's desk in the outer office likewise came up empty. She recalled Tim mentioning that she'd wiped out the bottle of Tylenol he usually kept in his desk and he'd pick up more when he went shopping over the weekend.
"Well I know Jo keeps all kinds of emergency supplies in her desk." Jackie thought. "She even came up with a needle and thread the other day when one of the guys split his pants. Of course she just handed it to him and told him to fix it himself." "Let's see," Jackie said as she opened the large top drawer of Jo's combination desk and drawing table. "Batteries, pencils, oh here we are, extra strength Tylenol."
Downing the two gel caps with a glass of water from the cooler, Jackie noticed that Jo's bottom drawer was slightly open. That was unusual in that she was somewhat fanatical about locking up her storage drawers. Not that she thought anyone was going to steal anything, it was just that she hated anyone seeing works in progress.
"I guess she was in such a hurry to get to the hospital she forgot." Jackie said as she reached down to close the drawer.
After two tries it was obvious that something inside was jamming the drawer open. Jackie pulled the drawer all the way out and began to empty it to find the obstruction.
At the bottom of the drawer, Jackie came across a thick manila folder filled with so many drawings that it had to be held together with a couple of thick rubber bands. Curiosity got the better of her and she pulled off the bands and opened the folder on the large drawing table.
"Oh my God!" Jackie exclaimed to the empty room as she spread out a half dozen of the drawings she'd found.
The pictures were all of characters from the Ultra Woman comics, but not the type you'd ever find on the newsstands. She picked up the closest sketch, it was one of Mega Girl being held captive by their arch-enemy — the Black Cat. In this case, however, Mega Girl was stripped to the waist and had her face pressed between the legs of an equally semi-naked Black Cat. It was so detailed that you could even see the dark hairs of the Cat's pussy.
It suddenly occurred to Jackie that the picture was also familiar. She'd seen it a year ago when one of the editors had downloaded a half dozen erotic fan drawings off the Internet. He had attached them to a memorandum suggesting that they follow the lead of some of the larger companies and try to sue the artists for copyright infringement.
Jackie had tossed the memo into the trash. She looked at the pictures in the same light as fan-fiction. The artists weren't selling them, they were posting them to share with other fans. If anything, Jackie had said at the time, they should think about trying to hire a few of the amateur artists — some of the pictures had been quite good. In one case at least, the Editor In Chief now knew why.
The next picture showed the same two characters. Only this time, Mega Girl had on her full costume and was down on all fours, her skirt pushed up over her back — exposing her pussy. Buried deep inside it was a large strap on dildo, worn again by a semi-nude Black Cat. The look on Mega Girl's face was pure delight.
Ultra Woman appeared in the next three images. Twice with her younger sidekick in various stages of undress and then once by herself with her fingers buried deep within her pussy.
"Hmm, it's a pity we can't publish these," Jackie laughed to herself. "Might give some of those self-righteous assholes who complained about the book a few heart attacks."
Totally captivated, Jackie began to go through the rest of the pile. She found two more images she recognized from the Internet. It wasn't until she looked at about twenty-five more of the drawings that Jackie abruptly realized that there was something conspicuously absent from the collection. There were no men in any of them.
There was no shortage of male characters in the Ultra Woman series. In fact, at least half of those original Internet pictures that had been sent to her last year had been of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl being fucked or giving blow jobs to those characters. Of course none of those images had the quality of those she now knew had been drawn by Jo.
"Is Jo into women?" Jackie asked herself as she looked at another dozen images. "Is that why she broke it off with Bill Thomas?" The surprise Jackie felt when she first found the drawings was nothing compared to that she felt when she unwrapped the last bunch. More detailed than any of the others, these had been both inked and colored. All of the pictures were of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl, either nude or semi-nude and mute testaments to a lesbian relationship between the two. What was different from the previous drawings were the features of the two comic characters.
That long ago day when Jackie had first read Jo's home made version of Ultra Woman, she's noticed a certain semblance between the depiction of Mega Girl and the real life Joanna Simon. It was a likeness that had increased as Jo lost some of that baby fat and paid more attention to how she looked. It had also come to Jackie's attention that the version of Ultra Woman that appeared in the first 'real' issue differed slightly from that of the 'homemade' one.
The new Ultra Woman bore a passing resemblance to Jackie herself. At the time, Jackie took it as a sort of thank you for the chance she'd given Jo. Remembering her Uncle once telling her that the original Captain Marvel in the 1940's had been made to look like the actor Fred McMurray, Jackie took it as a form of flattery. After all, it was only a passing resemblance, one that wasn't even that apparent to some people who worked there.
These pictures, however, gave no doubt. The Ultra Woman and Mega Girl captured in numerous sexual acts were clearly Jacqueline Kirby and Joanna Simon. The depictions were as detailed as photographs, Jackie noted, even down to the small scar she had on her left breast from a childhood accident. In fact there was even a picture of Mega Girl (Jo) kissing Ultra Woman — (Jackie) on that scar.
Jackie sat there for long minutes, not knowing what exactly to make of her discovery. As much as she wished she'd never found it, she knew she couldn't simply put it all back and pretend it didn't exist. She had to do something — but what?
The beeping of her watch alarm broke her train of thought. Knowing her tendency to loose track of time when she was working late, she'd set it to remind her when to leave for the airport. By now the car service she's called earlier would be waiting downstairs.
Quickly she replaced all the material she'd taken out of the bottom drawer in the same order in which she'd removed it. Jackie let out a sigh of relief when the drawer slid shut smoothly and she pushed in the lock.
Everything she needed for the weekend trip had been packing hours earlier and was waiting by the outer doors. Jackie just had to grab the case and the garment bag with the costumes and be on her way. As she watched the floors pass by on the elevator display, she again wondered what she should do about her discovery.
"I was beginning to worry you weren't going to make it." Jo said as Jackie stepped out of the car at the entrance to the shuttle terminal.
"I lost track of time." Jackie apologized as she paid the driver both the fair and a generous tip. He had gotten her to the airport in near record time, making up for her late start. A quick glance at her watch told her she was still a half hour late.
"We'd better run for it if we're going to make that flight," Jackie said as she picked up her bags. "What gate are we at?"
"No need to run, we've got plenty of time," Jo said as she picked up her own bag. "We're on the 09:30 shuttle."
"You said we were on the 09:00 flight." Jackie said.
"And if I said we were on the 09:30 you'd still be at the office." Jo smiled. "I know you too well."
"But how well do I know you?" Jackie thought as she followed her friend into the terminal. "Obviously not as well as I thought I did."
Jackie closed her eyes on the short flight to Washington. Jo didn't seem to mind and it gave her another chance to think about what she perceived as a change in their relationship.
That Jo might be a lesbian, or at least bisexual she corrected herself as she added the failed romance with Bill Thomas, didn't bother her. She had no problem with gay people. While she'd never actually had a relationship with another woman, she'd had a good friend who came out to her a few years back.
Susan Wong and she had been friends since they were in the junior year of high school. Along with Debbie Mazowiecki they'd been a female version of the Three Musketeers. When Susan revealed that she was a lesbian, it didn't shock her as much as the fact that she further confessed that she and Debbie had been imitate a few times over the years. The fact that she hadn't realized it shocked Jackie, not that they'd been intimate but that she hadn't realized the special connection between the two. She then understand why Debbie's decision to move to the west coast after college had hurt Susan so much harder than it had her.
Mentally she made a note to give Susan a call when she could. They hadn't talked in a few months. The last time they'd chatted, Susan had moved in with a new love. It was a pity she couldn't talk to her now, Jackie mused, her advice might be helpful. No, the idea that Jo might be into women didn't bother her she decided. That part of the equation was easily settled. The hard part to consider now was the idea that if that were true — was she in love with Jackie? If so, how did she really feel about Jo?
After a quick cab ride to downtown Washington, Jo had another surprise for Jackie. She had called the people running the convention earlier in the day and told them that Creative was sending down a pair of actresses to play Ultra Woman and Mega Girl for the weekend. The organizers had been overjoyed at the news having had two of their 'stars' cancel at the last minute. They quickly arranged for the 'actresses' to appear as the finale to the Saturday afternoon panel groups.
At first, Jackie felt a little silly dressing up in the Ultra Woman costume Saturday morning. Jo on the other hand was full of enthusiasm. She couldn't wait to get downstairs and mix with the throngs of fans who had already filled the various exhibit rooms.
"Oh well," Jackie though as she adjusted the Ultra Woman mask on her face and combed back her hair. "At least no one's going to know it's me in this get-up."
"Time for action, Ultra Woman." Jo said as she tossed back her cape and assumed a heroic stance.
"Lead on, Mega Girl." Jackie laughed back, promise herself that she would make the best of it and have some fun.
With a sweep of her own cape, she followed the red and white crimefighter out the door.
It didn't take long for Jackie to genuinely find herself having a good time. It'd been a long time since she'd been to a Convention and been able to see it all from the perspective of the fans. There were so many people in costume that they drew few stares and even fewer comments. What few they got were usually restricted to 'nice costumes.' She found herself having so much fun that her concerns about Jo faded from her mind.
When Ultra Woman and Mega Girl appeared on the panel, the Convention organizers were horrified when the photo op turned into a question and answer session. Comic fans could be a funny bunch. If the 'actresses' couldn't answer questions about the characters they were playing, the fans would be more than insulted. One of the organizers remembered an incident a few years before when a costumed character proved so ignorant of his assumed identity that a near riot almost resulted.
Their worry turned to joy as Ultra Woman and Mega Girl fielded every question that was tossed at them. Even obscure references, the type that die-hard fans always seemed to come up with, proved no problem for the two masked marvels. The fans loved it. It was as if they really were the characters come to life.
Up on stage, Jackie and Jo were having the time of their life. It had become a kind of game between the two of them as they alternated answering questions, seeing who could come up with the best answers. It was a connection with the fans they had too long missed.
"I have a question for Mega Girl." the teenage girl said as she stepped up to the microphone, replacing the older man who had asked a question about the Black Cat.
Jackie could tell the girl was very nervous and smiled at her.
"Everyone knows that Ultra Woman has a crush on Sergeant Murphy in her civilian identify as Susan Warrington," the girl asked Jo as she took a deep breath. "What I want to know is ... doesn't Mega Girl love anyone? It seems such a shame that she's always alone." Even from a few feet away, Jackie could hear Jo exhale loudly. She turned her head just enough to see a small look of panic on her friend's face. It lasted just a moment, then she seemed in control once more.
"Well of course, everyone wants to have somebody that they can love," Jo began, a slight hesitation in her voice. "And I assure you that Mega Girl is no different. In fact there is someone that I love, but at this point I'd rather not say who it is."
The fact that Jo answered the question in the first person wasn't lost on Jackie. Jo was answering for herself as much as Mega Girl.
"Will we ever find out who you love?" the girl at the microphone asked.
"I guess we'll all have to keep reading and see." Jo replied with a grin, her expression quickly changing from serious to jovial.
The next half dozen questions were easily enough answered and the master of ceremonies reluctantly drew the Q and A to a close. Much to the loud groans of still waiting fans. As they left the stage, the Terrific Two got a standing ovation. Jackie almost hated to leave. It had been an incredible high.
Two security guards quickly guided them to a house elevator and up to their room. The door barely closed behind them when Jackie made a sudden decision. She was going to ask Jo.
"I was surprised at the answer you gave that girl," Jackie said as she lifted the face mask over her head. "The one who asked about Mega Girl having a secret love. I don't remember ever discussing an idea like that."
"It's something that I've been thinking about for a long, long time." Jo replied. "Almost, I guess, from the beginning."
"And am I suppose to guess who this secret love is?" Jackie said, stepping a little closer.
"I think you already know." Jo said.
"And if I do?" came the reply.
"I guess I'm wondering what you want to do about it?" Jo said. Jackie seemed loss in thought for a few moments, then reached out and lifted the small mask off Joanna's face. She dropped it to the floor and placed her gloved fingers on each side of Jo's now exposed face.
"I guess, I should do something like this." Jackie said as she bent forward and kissed Jo on her lips.
It took Jo a moment to realize what was happening, but only a moment. She threw her arms around Jackie and responded to the kiss with all the passion she felt inside herself. As she knew they would be, she found Jackie's soft lips warm, inviting, and oh so responsive. It was a forbidden dream become reality, one that she had wanted for so long.
"Oh God, Jackie," she said with tears in her eyes as they broke the kiss. "You don't know how long I've wanted you to do that."
Wiping away some of the wetness on the shorter woman's cheek, Jackie smiled. Until just a minute ago, she couldn't have imagined her kissing another woman the way she had just done.
"Jo, I've never done anything like that before." she said as she pulled off her red gloves to caress Jo's face with her bare hands. "And part of me still can't believe I did it."
That was the honest truth. Back when Susan Wong had first come out to her, Jackie had wondered for a while what it might be like having sex with another woman. The question didn't stay with her long because she couldn't imagine herself ever being sexually involved with someone without there being an emotional attachment as well. Something she didn't think likely to happen. At least until this moment. "I hope you meant it." Jo said as she finally finished crying.
"I meant it," Jackie replied as she traced the outline of Jo's lips with her outstretched finger. "I don't think I've ever meant a kiss more."
"And is there going to be anything more than a kiss?" Jo asked.
"I'm totally in the dark here," Jackie said as she smiled. "You're going to have to help me along."
"Jackie, I've never done it with a woman before either." Jo confessed. "I just know it wasn't right with Bill — that I didn't feel quite complete."
"Well, I guess it's too late for us to send out for an instruction manual?" Jackie laughed as she took Jo in her arms.
"I'm sure we'll figure it out." Jo giggled as she returned Jackie's embrace and buried her head against the taller woman's red covered breast.
Jackie took Jo's hand and led her into the bedroom. It was your typical hotel fare, two double beds and the mass-produced painting hanging overhead. Not exactly a romantic love nest, but she quickly reminded herself it was the company, not the location that mattered.
Seating Jo on the bottom edge of the bed, Jackie reached up and started to undo her Ultra Woman costume. She had just undone the first of the six golden buttons on her tunic when Jo reached up and stopped her.
"Please," she said. "Let me."
Jackie paused and saw the look of desire in her friend's eyes.
"Of course." Jackie smiled.