I called Frank the next morning, and asked him to pick up some doughnuts and come to my place for breakfast.

“Hey,” he said when I let him in, “your hair!”

“Yeah, it’s growing back pretty fast.”  In fact, it had grown in more than an inch, and my eyebrows were almost normal.

“But… it’s red!” he exclaimed.

“I can live with it, or I can have it colored if I decide I can’t,” I replied.  “I just hope it slows down so I don’t turn into a red-headed Rapunzel.”

“Or go broke at the salon,” he replied, smiling.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I think I can get in for an emergency styling tomorrow; if I get another inch or so before then, I’ll be alright.  I haven’t had short hair since I was a kid.”

“The change will do you good,” he said.

Things went on more or less like normal for a couple of weeks.  My hair looked fine, and slowed down after about a week; I had to get it cut three times, at three different salons, so nobody would notice how fast it was growing.  Frank kept quiet, which I appreciated.  The hardest thing to learn was how much stronger I was… I had been the girl who always had to ask someone else to open the pickle jar.  Now I could lift my couch one-handed.  I had to be careful not to break things.

I kept myself on the schedule for a photo shoot about every other week; when I showed up at the rental house for a solo shoot the second week, Bill was pretty enthusiastic.  “You look great with red hair,” he said.  “You should have done it a long time ago.”

I planned to do a solo shoot.  I didn’t want to accidentally hurt someone, y’know?  But that day we were also shooting Zoe, a blonde, and Brooke, a brunette, and Bill said, “Hey, you should get in there too.  It’ll be really hot with a redhead!”  I tried to beg off, but Zoe jumped up from the bed and grabbed my hand.  I couldn’t let her know how much stronger I was, so I let her pull me in.  The next thing I knew, I was naked in a pile of girls.

When you are pleasuring someone else, you have to hold back.  I mean, usually you don’t want to really hurt your partner when you bite her.  Or him, whatever.  So this wasn’t new to me, though I had to hold back more than before.  But when someone is pleasuring you, you want to cut loose.  I couldn’t, though… I might really hurt someone.  It wasn’t as enjoyable a session as usual.

Later on back at the office, we had Chinese take-out in the employee lounge… kind of a late lunch.  I guess I should explain that my office used to be a doctor’s office; it was a little run-down when I rented it, but we renovated it one room at a time.  Each room is done to look like a different kind of room (bedroom, sauna, living room, etc.) and we change the rooms from time to time.  Or, like I said, sometimes we rent a house for a day, just to change things up.

Anyway, like I said, we were having lunch, and Tom (one of the models that day) had turned on the news, though we were mostly ignoring it.  That is, until they broke in with a special report.

“This just in… a man dressed as a fireman has set fire to some vehicles outside an office building in the downtown area.  Here’s Clark Henshaw, now on the scene.”

“Thanks, Connie,” said Clark.  “Behind me you can see the burning vehicles outside Zanetech, ignited by a man in a fireman’s suit.  Witnesses say he was carrying some sort of large flamethrower, and that he went inside the Zanetech offices after setting these fires.  The police have cordoned off the building, but I think our cameraman can give us a look inside.”

Clark stepped aside, and the camera zoomed in on the glass-fronted office building.  You could just make out a man in a high-visibility suit standing in the middle of the reception area.  Just then, he pointed the large-barreled weapon in his left hand at something and a burst of flame came out of it.

Zoe, the other model working that day, cried out.  “My Uncle Brian works at Zanetech!”  She started getting hysterical, and Tom and Bill turned to her, trying to calm her down.  “Where’s the Eagle?  Or the Troll?  Don’t they take care of freaks like him?”

I looked at Frank, and he looked back at me for a long moment.  I knew what he was thinking.

My personal office was clear in the back, across the hall from our prop room.  I hit the prop room first, grabbing a fetish mask (a black, head-covering mask with slits for the eyes and mouth), a pair of long black gloves, a pair of high black boots that I thought would fit me, and a black leotard.  (No, those aren’t the strangest things in my prop room.)  Checking the hallway first, I dashed across into my office, where I quickly changed clothes.  My new short hair made putting the mask on easier.  I stashed my regular clothes under my desk, checked the hallway again, then went out the back door.

Zanetech was several blocks away, and I didn’t want to drive my car; besides the fact that it might give my identity away, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get through traffic in time.  Fortunately, Bill came to work every day on a bicycle; I broke the cheap padlock one-handed and jumped on.  I made pretty good time, and didn’t hit any pedestrians either.

I ditched the bike well back from the police line and walked up.  A police officer raised his hand to stop me, then took note of my rather unusual style of dress.  Of course, in San Francisco, I might have been just another citizen.

“Officer, I have to get in there,” I said, trying to make my voice sound deeper and more forceful.

“Miss, I think you need to leave this to the police,” he said.

I pushed past him, obviously surprising him with my strength.  “Police aren’t fireproof.  I am.”

I walked in the front door with all the confidence I could fake.  The man in the fireproof suit was facing away from me, and two potted trees on either end of the reception desk were on fire; I could see several people, men and women both, cowering behind the various pieces of furniture in the room.  The arsonist was ranting, “NOW are you paying attention?  Get Mister Zane down here right now, or I’ll have to go up to his office, and I swear, anyone who gets in my way will get burned.”

“Why do you want to see him?” I asked, as boldly as I could.  He turned suddenly, waving the scary large barrel of the gun at me.

“He took my inventions, then he fired me.  He fired me!  Well, I’m going to return the favor!”  He laughed, harshly.  “Get it?  Fired!”

I took a step toward him.  “I don’t think so.  I’ll be taking that little gun of yours, and you’ll be visiting with the police.”

I took another step, and he unloaded on me.  Instinctively, I raised my hands to protect my face; the fire stung, but it didn’t really hurt.  After a moment the fire stopped.

Oops, I thought.  I’m fireproof, but my outfit wasn’t.  The fire had burned away my gloves, my leotard, and the tops of my boots; I was naked from mid-calf to neck.  Raising my hands did protect my mask, at least.

But I’ve been naked before, I thought.  I lowered my hands and saw him fiddling with the gun; it must have malfunctioned.  Before he could get it working again, I ran the rest of the way to him, put my left hand on his chest and grabbed the gun with my right.  He was nowhere near as strong as me, so I didn’t have any trouble taking it from him.  I was careful not to break it… I didn’t want it to explode or something.  I pushed him down for good measure.  “Stay down, firebug, so I don’t have to hurt you.”  Surprisingly, he did stay down… losing his gun seemed to take the fire out of him, so to speak.

Just then, I heard the door open.  Glancing behind me, I saw the Eagle walking in.  Blue and white uniform, red and white cape, blonde buzzcut and goggles, and that gold pinky ring on his left hand.  He smiled broadly at me.  “I came as soon as I could, but I guess you’ve taken care of things here.”

“Yeah,” I said, feeling a little out-of-place.

He came closer.  “First time, eh?  Invulnerable, and strong, but the costume was just what you could pick up on the street.  Only in San Francisco.”  His smile seemed a little oily, and though I couldn’t see his eyes behind the goggles, somehow I knew he was leering at me.

Policemen started coming in; one took the gun from me, while trying not to stare.  I wanted to smile at him, but he wouldn’t have been able to see it… stupid mask.  Another said, “Miss, you might want to put something on, the reporters are already taking pictures of you.”

I couldn’t tell him that there were already all sorts of naked pictures of me on the Internet.  But then I thought, no, I didn’t want any pictures of me right then; I was a mess, sooty and oily from the fire, not at all attractive.  For a moment my mind raced, and then the Eagle came to my rescue.  “Here, put this around you,” he said, handing me his cape.  I wrapped it around me like a towel.

“Thanks,” I said.  He nodded, still smiling.

Leaning close, he said quietly, “Do you have a plan for leaving here?”  My blood ran cold… how was I going to get away with all those reporters outside?  “Don’t worry,” he continued, “just trust me and I’ll get you clear of those vultures.”  Before I could reply, he swept me up into his arms like a baby and carried me outside; as soon as he was clear of the building, he took off flying.

He carried me up into the clouds.  “I’m going to take you to my hideout,” he said over the sound of the wind.  “I need to blindfold you… you understand, don’t you?”

I didn’t like the idea, but I could see his point, and I told him so.  “Glad you see it my way,” he said.  He dropped my legs, holding me under my arms, and pulled me close to him; this left him a hand free to cover my eyes.  It took a few minutes for him to fly us to his place.  We were inside what looked like a pretty average apartment when he uncovered my eyes.

“Thanks,” I said again.

“You’ll probably want a shower,” he said.  “Down the hall on the right.  Just throw the cape in the hamper.”

As secret hideouts go, the Eagle’s was pretty plain.  It looked like any bachelor pad I’d ever been in (and I’ve been in a few).  Clothes, ordinary clothes, strewn around the hamper in his bathroom; more clothes spread around his unmade bed, which I saw through the open door opposite the bathroom.

I locked the bathroom door, dropped the cape in the hamper, and took off my mask and boots.  The shower did feel good, though I still felt like I couldn’t get it hot.  As I turned off the water, the Eagle called from the hallway, “I’ve got something for you.”

I opened the door a crack and held out a hand, and he handed me a coat.  A trenchcoat, to be exact, a little big for me but obviously too small for him.  “Nice coat,” I said, closing the door.  “It’s not yours, is it?”

“It belonged to my ex-wife,” he replied.  “She left it when she left me.”

I put it on, then put on the mask and boots.  I wasn’t exactly dressed, but I was covered; with the mask off, I’d pass for normal.  Heck, in San Francisco, I’d pass for normal WITH the mask.

“Thank you again,” I said, stepping out into the hallway.  He seemed to fill up the small space, and something in his pose seemed almost predatory.  “Can you drop me off in town?  There’s an alley behind a department store where you could put me down.”

“Sure, sure,” he said.  “Say, you haven’t said… what do you call yourself?”

“I don’t,” I said.  “I haven’t thought of a name yet.  I didn’t plan to be a superhero.  But I have a… friend… with an interest in Zanetech.  I had to do something.”

“I see,” he said.  “You did pretty good, for a beginner.  You just need a seasoned hero to train you.  Someone who’s been fighting supervillains for a while.”

“You?” I said, getting the rather obvious hint.

“Well, I’m pretty busy,” he said, “but hey, you’ve got promise.  I’d be happy to do it for you, work closely with you, show you the ropes.  Maybe even help you with the name thing.  ‘Fireproof Girl?'”

“I don’t think so,” I replied, thinking that I knew what he meant by “working closely” with me.  It was strange… the Eagle was a big hero in a little pond, since at that time the only superheros in San Francisco were himself and the Troll.  He shouldn’t have had a problem getting a date.  But here he was, practically drooling over me.  I mean, sure, I’m sexy, but I know pretty well that I’m not the only sexy thing around.  How could he be so desperate?

One thing is universally true:  Even for a superhero, desperate isn’t sexy.  He was trying to say something else, but I interrupted him.  “Really, thanks for the help, but now I’d like to go.”  I grabbed a hand towel from the bathroom.  “You can use this as a blindfold.”  I told him where I wanted to be dropped, and he put the towel around my head and led me out.  He was muttering something, but I couldn’t quite hear it, and I didn’t really care to ask.

I handed him back the towel in the alleyway.  “Thanks for the lift,” I said, without much enthusiasm.

“You’re welcome, really.  If you change your mind, I’m available.”

I waved at him once, and walked in the back door.  In the elevator, out of the range of the camera, I took off the mask and put it in my pocket; I dawdled in the ladies’ underwear department for a while before I went down an escalator and headed for the front door.

“Hold on there, Miss,” said a man at the door.  He showed me a card.  “Store security.  We’d like to talk to you.”

I looked around, but I didn’t see anyone besides him.  We?  “What’s this about?” I asked brightly.

“Miss, I don’t think you want to go into this here.”

“Try me,” I said, getting impatient.

“Look,” he said, “oversized trenchcoat, no purse, and you apparently came in the back door.  You loiter in ladies’ underwear, then go straight for the door.”

“You think I stole your underwear?” I asked, smiling.  “I can prove I didn’t.”  With that, I flashed him.  “See?  No underwear.”  I walked past the dumbfounded security man and out the door.

Back at the office, I managed to slip in without being noticed.  Just as I got myself dressed again, someone knocked at the door.  It turned out to be Frank.

“Not a great first time,” I said as he came in.  He closed the door behind him.

“The first time is never as good as we’d like,” he said, grinning.  “You stopped him before he could hurt anyone,” he continued.  “I think that’s good enough.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“Whenever you are ready to get back to work, Sarah says she’d like to talk to you.”

I went to Sarah’s office; it was as big as mine, but she had so much computer equipment that there was hardly room for both of us to sit.  “What’s up?” I asked.

She turned to face me.  “How long have you been a superhero?” she asked.

I was dumbfounded.  “How did you recognize me?” I asked.

“Recognize you?  Girlfriend, I’ve been looking at cellphone pictures from the scene.  Yeah, they’re on the Internet already.  Practically all of you is showing… I don’t need to see your face, Polly.  I swear I could identify you from a closeup picture of your…”

“Enough, you!” I said.  “Point taken.”  I sat down.  “You remember a couple of weeks ago, when I was sick?  It started then.  But today is the first time I used my powers for good.”  That sounded, I don’t know, lame, but it was true.

I told her the whole story.  Frank came in partway through, standing by the door since there wasn’t room for him to sit, and he helped fill in some details.

“Wow, the Eagle doesn’t sound anything like I’d expect,” she said.

“To think I lusted after him,” replied Frank.

I laughed.  “You know, working in this business, I can tell you that I know a dick when I see one.”