Mike was watching TV on his day off. Turns out that being the manager of the sexiest woman alive was 24/7 job, so he decreed that he would have at least one day a week with no phone calls, no e-mails, no nothing. So each Saturday he sat on his couch with a bowl of ice cream and watched sitcoms or something that was on Discovery Channel about weird animals. Usually Layla flew half the globe to join him, since becoming close friends. Once in about two weeks was also how long Layla could go without sex, and she hadn't tried having sex with other men yet.
“Whatcha whatchin'?” she asked, walking inside the room from the kitchen, with her bowl of ice cream.
“Something about the civil wars in Africa.”
“Jesus dude, that's horrible.” she commented when she saw a kid being shot. “Why are you watching this?”
“I could... fix that.”
Layla absorbed the information in silence, while several men with ragged clothes and machine guns fired against government officials. “In theory, I guess.” she said, finally.
“I mean, you and Holly are doing good, obviously. And you have no obligation whatsoever to... I dunno, end poverty and stuff like that. But, what if someone had?”
“Look, dude, this is really dangerous.”
“You were at no fault with what happened to Holly. But then you let yourself slip by having sex with me, and-”
“Ahm, excuse me? Holly forced me. You and her, in fact. I tried to stop you, and I couldn't.”
“Hey this wouldn't have happened if your weren't looking for it. You should have shunned me away or something. What if I was some evil crazy bitch who would go on a murderous spree as soon as I realized I have superpowers?”
“You didn't. I checked on you. You were nice. And people don't randomly go on murderous spree.”
“They don't because they can't, Mike. But I could. Holly could. We don't because we're good people, because we wanna help. People lie, Mike.”
“You're worrying too much.”
“I'm not, you know I'm not. You lucked out twice. The third time, something bad is bound to happen.”
Mike stared at the television for some seconds, not really watching the show. He knew she was right. But still, he could do some actual good for the world. That was an idea that would never leave his head.
“Look, this will happen. I'm set on it. But I know I can screw up so I really am gonna do a background check on the girl this time.”
“Fine. You are one stubborn dude. But I'll go with you. In case you screw up.”
“That's probably a good idea.”
They watched some more of the show. Even talking about it, and discussing how to change the situation, they were still completely alienated to the suffering of those people. Layla realized that with a shiver. She agreed internally that it was a risk worth taking.
Mike asked for vacation. Holly decided she had way too much money to not allow that, so he got a whole two months off.
“Two months? We should start planning after this whole scheme. Maybe end the war on the Gaza strip.” Layla said when he told him, on the lobby of the airport.
“Yeah, Holly's doing pretty great, she can lay off the publicity for a couple months. She makes more in a month than I ever made in my life. Why are we taking the plane again?”
“My identity is still secret, remember? I still earn two minimum wages back in Aussie.”
“I wonder why.”
“Sometimes, me too.”
“No, seriously. You don't even need to expose your identity. Just take some modeling jobs as Ultragirl. Do some commercials.”
“No way. The more high definition photos there are of me on the internet, the higher the chance someone will figure out who I am. I work hard on the whole mousy, finicky, shy waitress thing. I like my life normal.”
They sat on their economic seats. A feminine voice announced that the flight would be delayed for half an hour because of technical issues on the plane.
“We could already be there, y'know.”
Half a day later, they were landing on Nairobi, Nigeria. They stepped out of the plane. They stepped out of the airport. They looked at each other.
“The hell do we do now?” Layla asked.
Mike went for his pocket and slipped out a golden credit card. “We do some good.”
He took a cab, who got the best tip of his whole life. They went to the branch of the UN of the country, where Mike entered the room and directed himself to the closest employee he could find. Layla just followed her, confused.
“Mike what the fuck are you-”
“How may I help you?” the old man said as Mike approached.
“Hi. We would like to make a donation.”
“Most certainly. Please accompany me.”
They stopped at a counter, where a lady took notes of donations. “And what is the value of the donation?”
“One million dollars in food and medicine to the nearest needing village. And I would like to buy a helicopter.”
Time seemingly stopped for a minute, as Layla and the two employees looked at him, waiting for him to explain his practical joke. Mike just stood there, adamant, stoical, the credit card on his hand.
“I'm sorry, I didn't quite follow that. What was the value again?” the lady at the counter said, finally.
“One million dollars. Cash. I'm serious.”
“We can't just-”
“Look, take this.” He handed the card to her. “Read the name on it.”
“Holly Daniels. The Bombshell herself.”
“How did you-”
“I'm her manager. I can show the documentation in a minute. She asked me to do this. She's too busy back in New York but she figured she could assist a bit on other places.” He handed her a briefcase full of files and documents. “Take your time.”
While the two dumb folded employees skimmed through the papers, Layla pulled Mike away from them. “Dude, what the fuck are you doing?”
“Relax she won't even notice. It's just a million dollars.”
Layla was in shock. “How much does she even make anyways?”
“Way more than any human being needs. I'm serious, you should really consider some publicity.”
“It checks, apparently.” said the woman handling the paperwork. “He has an authorization for this transaction.”
“How do you even have that?” Layla asked.
“I pay for all the eventual destruction Holly causes when she goes over the top trying to save people.”
“Like the time she exploded a firework deposit with her heat vision?”
“Yeah, stuff like that.”
“I will take you to our coordinator of donations. I believe she would like to speak to you.” said the man. The followed him up a flight of stairs to the first floor, and into a room. It was a small office, fit only for one, where a young woman was working through paperwork. She had ebony skin, like the vast majority of the people in Nigeria. She stood up as soon as they both entered her office with a wide smile on her face. She was good looking and tall, taller than Mike and Layla.
“Are you two the ones representing Ms. Daniels?” she asked.
“Yes, that's-” Mike was interrupted when she lunged at him, hugging him like he gave her the best Christmas present.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” she almost cried. Layla already liked her.
“You're welcome.” Mike said as he politely pushed her away.
“I'm sorry. It's just that... Donations are growing scarce these days. I'm Nala. Nala Abiola. It's such a pleasure to meet you.”
“It's nice to meet you too. Layla Briar. I'm Ms. Daniels assistant, and this is Mike, her manager.”
“So, it's true? One million? And a helicopter?”
“Yeah so you can carry around the supplies.” Layla answered.
“Not that we really need it.” Mike said, in a low voice.
“Excuse me?” Nala asked.
“Oh, nothing. Listen, we wanna get to these kids as soon as possible. We can monitor the distribution ourselves.”
“Marvelous!” Nala was radiant. “It's nice to see people actually worried about the situation here, for once. Almost everybody here has a story, that's why I'm so emotional.”
They sat, and Mike started signing papers. “I assume you also have one?” Layla asked.
“Yes, sadly. Father died trying to get tuberculosis medicine for my mother. He didn't get the drugs, so she also died.”
“Died from tuberculosis?” Layla covered her mouth with her hands. “That's terrible! And almost ridiculous, with all due respect. You can get these drugs for change in America!”
“Life is tough here, Ms. Briar. A cure from a simple illness is worth either your lifetime savings or a bullet in the head. I'm lucky I managed to get a job on the capital, away from the guerrilla.”
“Well, that's why we came here. We wanna help.”
Nala dropped the cheery attitude as she talked. Memories of dead relatives and friends came rushing to her, and she fought to hold the tears back. “Why isn't Ms. Daniels here?” she asked.
“Well, she's... Busy.” Mike answered, distracted.
“Busy. Figures.” she rolled her eyes. Layla noticed.
“Look, I know what you're thinking, Nala, but-”
“If you know it, than you know this is wrong!” she had anger in her voice. “The Bombshell is practically a goddess among mortals. The other new superheroine, Ultragirl, is also. They have the power to stop the conflict here for good! All they had to do is fly over here! Don't take me wrong, the donations are... most welcome. But... I fear that they just won't do.”
Layla was silent, with guilt crushing her heart. She knew all that Nala was saying was true, and yet she wasted her time rescuing kittens on trees or doing the policemen job on a first world country. She suddenly felt selfish, almost filthy.
“I really hear you, Nala. But you have to put yourself in their shoes also.” Mike intervened. “They may look like goddesses, but they are every bit as human as you and me. Believe me, I know them. Their powers have limits, Nala. There's only so much weight they can lift, and only so much bullets they can take. They take way longer than you and me, but they tire. Ms. Daniels is sending you this money because she knows she should be doing more, but she can't. We don't have as bad a situation back in NY as you do here in Nigeria, but it's though nevertheless.”
Nala averted her eyes from her two guests. “I'm sorry. I guess I haven't thought about it. It just seems so unfair.”
“I know it does.”
“If only I could do something. To help them, or to help my people.”
Mike met the corner of Layla's eyes with his own. “Well, that was pretty easy” he said to himself.
“Mike, can I talk to you? In private?”
They both exited the room, away from Nala's ears. “What?” Mike exclaimed.
“Dude she's perfect!”
“She looks perfect. But we don't know!”
“This is bullshit, Layla. Nala will be a fine superheroine.”
Layla crossed her arms, worried. “We need more time to verify that.”
“Fine. Whatever you want. One more day.”
“Why just one day we can't possibly-”
“One more day! I'm being stubborn about this!”
“God damn it.” she cursed as she stormed back in the room. “Nala, can we do this tomorrow? The supplies. Can they be delivered soon?”
“Yes, of course! We can obtain the stock right now and the planes with the products should be here by this time tomorrow.”
“Don't worry about the plane. Ms. Daniels has a special plane that is probably faster. Just give me the address in which we can pick it up.”
In one hour, Mike and Layla had spent about one and a half million dollars of Holly's money. On the hotel room, after having said the proper goodbyes to Nala, Mike expressed his doubt. “We don't have a special plane.”
“Nah, we don't. I'll pick up the stuff myself. Just warn the dudes that if the product suddenly vanishes, it was not robbed.”
“Oh, when are you-” Mike was interrupted by the massive gust of wind that Layla left in the wake of her takeoff. Recovering his balance, he observed as she got smaller and smaller, and then vanished in the afternoon sky.
The morning after, Mike took a cab to a secluded part of town. In a barren field, several UN officers stood guard for a mountain of medications and food. He approached, and Nala stood out from the crowd to greet him.
“Hello, Mr.... sorry, I didn't quite catch your last name.”
“Just Mike, please. You look nice today.”
That catch Nala off guard. “Thank you.” she blushed slightly.
“Layla should be arriving at any moment. She was working all night.”
“It's ok. The helicopter isn't here yet anyways.”
“Listen, ahm... Can we... talk? I really need to talk to you.”
“Yes. In private.”
“Okay...?” confused, Nala accompanied Mike to a secluded spot of the field, away from the guards. “What's going on?”
“Geez, I don't even know where to start. But we can't talk here. We have to go to my hotel room or your house or whatever. It has to be a really private place.”
Nala frowned her brows. “You're confusing me, Mike.”
“I know this sounds weird, but you have to trust me. It's about Bombshell.”
“Is she coming here?”
“No. Even better. But seriously.”
Nala sighed. “Ok, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. We'll go to my place.”
Nala and Mike took a cab back downtown. Nala lived in a small apartment, on the 12th floor of a building. The place was scarcely decorated, but what she had was in good taste. She had photos of relatives and friends all over, and several ceremonial masks and paintings from ancient tribal rituals.
“Mike. If you came here to hit on me, I will be angry.”
He blushed. In a way, that's exactly what he was doing. “I know how Bombshell and Ultragirl got their powers.”
“I... gave it to them.”
Nala looked confused. “You... gave it to them? What are you, a scientist?”
“No, I'm not. I found a vial. Of... stuff. A yellow-ish liquid. When I was working in my old job. As a scientist.” Mike sucked at lying on the fly.
“You just said you're not a scientist.”
“I'm not... no I was. Just not anymore. Look I'm serious, just please pay attention.”
“So I found this weird bottle of something. Unlabeled. Nobody knew what it was. I smelled, and it smelled like banana.”
“Yes, like banana. So I thought 'sweet, banana juice.' and then I went home and put it on my fridge.”
“Yes I know it's irresponsible and unhygienic. I have strange habits. Anyways, the following day I got fired. My wife had left me. So I did the natural thing.”
“You drank the juice.”
“No. I called a hooker.”
“Don't be mad! This is going somewhere, I swear! The hooker was Holly. Bombshell.”
She sighed. “Ok, go on.”
“So, Holly. We spend the night together. When we finished... doing it. I offered her some juice. She drank, I drank.”
“Wait, juice got her superpowers.”
“It obviously wasn't juice.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“I know! I know everything in my life is borderline ridiculous and preposterous. But it's true. Whatever the hell that thing was, it gives superpowers to girls.”
“Just to girls?”
“I have no idea how it works. I studied it, but got nowhere.”
Nala sat down on her couch. “How do you expect me to believe this crap?”
“I don't. But I can prove it.” He went for his briefcase, and took out a thermos.
“Look, this is the stuff. Two sips and you are a superheroine. I'm dead serious.”
Nala got up and took the bottle. She opened it and smelled what was inside.
“This is banana juice.”
It was banana juice. With Mike's jizz from the lonely night before. He could not believe he was about to do what he was about to do. “It's not banana juice.”
“I won't drink this.”
“What do you have to lose? Nala, if you drink this, and it's just juice, then I look like a crazy fool, and that's it. But I'm telling you, if you drink this, you're gonna be the next Ultragirl. You can save your people.”
Nala stared at the bottle suspiciously. This whole scheme stunk. Still, Mike hit a spot. She could save thousands of lives if she had the same powers as Bombshell. She drank the whole bottle in a single gulp.
“Hope you have more of this at home.” she said, grabbing her cellphone. “Brandon?
Yeah, Nala. Listen, I need you to come to my place in twenty minutes. If there's someone in here other than me, you're authorized to shoot them. No, it's nothing. Really, I just have a bad feeling.”
“That was unnecessary.” Mike said when she hung up.
“Really, Mike? Someone I don't know offering me a drink. A strange banana juice. I'm a woman. Is it really strange that I'm cautious?”
“Well, when you put it that way...”
“Now tell me what you are really planning with-” in the middle of the sentence, she passed out.
“Oh man, it works. Oh man I just made someone drink my jizz. Holy shit.” He nervously grabbed her and put her on her bed, and then ran for his life before her bodyguard got to her. In half an hour, he was back at the field. Layla was already there.
“Where were you?” she asked when she saw him.
“It's really hot here.”
Layla looked at him suspiciously. “Please tell me you didn't do it.”
“Look, I'm sorry, ok? But you saw her. She was nice. And besides she was willing to take some strange liquid from a stranger for just a sliver of hope in fixing this mess.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I didn't try to seduce her. I kinda… put my… stuff. In some juice.”
“You! Fucking! Sick! Psycho!” she punctuated every word with an angry slap.
“Hey watch out you're gonna break my arm!”
“You would deserve it!” she crossed her arms and refused to look at him. “Did it work?”
“She drank the whole bottle and passed out, so I think so. I couldn't stay there because she thought I would rape her and called a guard.”
“Honestly I have no idea which one is worse.”
“I'm really really-” he was interrupted by a gunshot far away. He and Layla turned around, only to see several men coming out of hiding from behind bushes and trees, all of them armed to the teeth with machine guns, pistols and grenades.
“Hands in the air right now!” the man walking in front of the group shouted. Intimidated by his massive gun, the workers loading the supplies dropped their packages and raised their hands. Not really worried, Mike and Layla did the same.
“Now, we'll be taking all of this. You think you can come here, to my territory, and just distribute merchandising for free?” The leader said, walking towards the helicopter.
“Please, sir, there are sick children that need these-” one of the workers said trying to reason with him, but he promptly hit her with the stock of his gun, knocking her down, her mouth full of blood.
“No back talk!” he yelled. His fellow gunmen closed in, making sure everyone in the place had a barrel pointed at their faces. “Next one to say something stupid like that gets a bullet in their fucking heads!”
Layla wanted to punch all of them out of there, but Mike held her arm as she went for it. “You can't. Everyone's watching, your identity would go public. Just let them take it, we can retrieve it later.”
“Oy, hands in the air, you two! Don't try anything funny!” one of the henchmen shouted. Frustrated, Layla put her hands in the air again.
“Alright, people, take this stuff out of here.” the leader ordered, and his men obeyed. He scanned his victims, and his eyes found Layla. He walked towards her, a scary grin on his face.
“Well, well, well. Look what we have here.” standing in front of her, he was at least a foot taller than Layla. His body was covered in small scars, and stunk of sweat and blood. He touched Layla's thigh with the barrel of his gun. Any other woman in the world would be absolutely terrified of him, but Layla was just deeply annoyed she couldn't beat the shit out of him. “I've seen my fair share of beautiful tourists in these parts, but you… your in a different league.” Layla rolled her eyes.
He rose his weapon following her body, so the barrel would lift up her shirt. Layla slapped the gun away with as little strength as she could, still managing to knock it off his hands. “Oh, kitty has claws, doesn't she?” he smiled. “C'mon, we're out.” he said to his men. “And we'll be taking this one with us.” he violently grabbed Layla's arm, and pulled her away from Mike. She had to consciously not smile. This was the perfect opportunity for defeating all of them and recovering the stolen supplies. Mike sighed in relief, thinking the same as her.
“Stop!” a thunderous voice roared across the fields. Looking around, no one found the source. But Mike realized immediately whose voice was that with a chill in his spine. He looked up, and saw Nala floating above them.
After searching for some seconds, the leader found Nala above him. “What the fuck is going on?” he said, puzzled.
Nala darted to the ground, landing with a mighty boom. Rubble dust rose and covered the crater she made in her wake. “You will cease this abomination this instant!” she shouted from inside the dust cloud, making every terrorist shake on their feet.
“Shoot her down!” the leader cried, unloading all his bullets blindly at the silhouette of the mighty woman. His henchmen followed his command, and the helipad became a cacophony of gunfire and bullets hitting a steel wall. The innocents dropped to the ground with their hands on their heads, screaming in panic.
Nala emerged from the cloud, fists clenched, and a furious glare. Whereas Holly's and Layla's transformation had highlighted the features of their body types and turned them up to eleven, Nala's transformation had radically changed her body. Once a mousy, thin and small government worker, she was now a real Amazon. Standing at least two feet taller than everybody else in sight, her body was the perfect midpoint between pornstar and bodybuilder. Clad in a small yellow top shredded by the bullets, now barely covering her new assets, and skintight black lycra shorts, it was possible to see every muscle line in her body. The wide shoulders, rock hard abs, monumental legs and strong arms invoked the image of a war goddess, which she helped maintain with her stance. Arms open, one leg in front of the other and an enraged expression indicated she was not only ready for a fight, she was searching for one.
The noise of the guns subsided when the terrorists noticed that the bullets were completely ineffective against the feminine titan standing before them. Desperate, one of the men threw a grenade at her. Nala took the grenade from the ground and covered it with both hands. A muffled noise came from inside her hands, accompanied by a flash that escaped from between her fingers. Making sure everybody could see, she dropped the grenade dust to the ground. Her hands didn't have a single scratch from subduing an explosion.
“I will give you all a single chance. Surrender, and face trial for your sins. Fight, and you will die by my hand.”
Noticing the fear in their eyes, the leader sentenced: “Die here or die later, you cowards! I will personally kill anyone who doesn't try to put this bitch down!”
Nala closed her eyes and lowered her head, mourning the dead men standing before her. “Such unnecessary bloodlust...”
Confused and scared, the henchmen raised their guns again. With a final war scream, they opened fire at Nala again.
She vanished with a superspeed burst. In a millisecond, she reappeared in front of one of the terrorists. She grabbed his weapon, and bent the steel body just by squeezing it in her fist. She threw the useless weapon at two other gunners. The impact to the stomach knocked one out cold, and threw him on top of the other, making him lose his balance and fall with an unconscious body above him. In similar fashion, she used lightning fast movements to approach the terrorists and disarm them with violent blows and feats of inhuman strength, bending and breaking their guns as if they were made of butter.
She saved the leader of the terrorists for last. Seeing that Nala was an unstoppable force, he let go of Layla and ran for his dear life. Nala effortlessly flew to him, grabbing him by his neck and floating upwards a few meters above the ground. Even as scared as he was of the height she was lifting him, he was more fearful of her. Her brown eyes gazed right into his soul, and made him instantly regret any bad deeds he had ever done, and they were many.
“Your men were willing to surrender and face their judgment, but your ultimatum drove them to perpetuate more violence. You are the only one that deserves to die.” With a flick of her thumb, she snapped his neck, killing him instantly. With no respect for that despicable creature, she let go of the lifeless body, which hit the ground with a sad thump.
Nala slowly floated down towards the innocents watching the fight. “Are any of you hurt?” she asked imposingly.
“We're fine. Thank you, Ms. ….” Layla said after some moments of awkward, stupefied silence.
“Orisha. I am a direct manifestation of the higher gods, sent to punish the pettiness and greed of humankind.” Layla had to suppress a laugh. She was really good at playing the part, Layla had to admit, but it sounded ridiculous when she knew the truth. Layla wondered if she actually believed what she was saying.
“Orisha! As in, a real orisha?”
“Yes. My power is divine, and limitless.”
Hearing that, everyone hearing Nala's statement bowed to her, in respect of the living goddess before her. Layla and Mike were confused about what to do, but ended reluctantly bowing in the end.
“You do not bow for me, good souls. The only ones below me are the bodies of my enemies.”
They got up, and they applauded her. Stoic, Nala didn't move a single face muscle as she bent her legs and flew up, eventually vanishing in the horizon.
“Damn, she's a good actress.” Layla commented.
“Hope she doesn't actually believe she's a goddess and start demanding offerings and sacrifices.”
“You have a very prejudiced view on pagan religions, Mike.”“Jokes aside, we should really find and talk to her"