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Mercuria, Rising

Like the secret-identitied men beneath the masks of all
the great Golden Age superheroes, Linda Herman had two
first names. She felt especially proud that her last name, her
second first name, was a man's first name, just like that of
her great childhood heroine, Diana Duke, A.K.A., Amazing
Woman. Like that glorious Amazon princess who left her
island of women warriors to purify the man-corrupted
outside world, Linda Herman had escaped her family in
tiny Paradise, New Mexico, to bring her own brand of
justice to the corrupt city of men and machinery, of
skyscrapers and mall-lights that all her young life had
glistened on the horizon of her dry small town landscape
like a beckoning dewdrop: Albuquerque. And though she'd
been born Linda Ballwin, a decidedly unempowering name
by her reckoning, her marriage to big city lawyer Steve
Herman had been more than her one way ticket out of
Paradise - it had, by chance or by fate, granted her a secret
identity worthy of the epic pantheon she now counted
herself among.
By day she was Linda Herman, mild mannered cashier
at the Mobile Gas & Wash on Highway 25. By night she
was Mercuria, shape-shifter extraordinaire - and this very
night, Mercuria would face the greatest challenge of her
"Forget it. I'm out." She tried to squeeze a note of
sympathy into her voice, but her anticipation of the coming
showdown blocked its path like an icy lump behind her
tongue. Poor Sid. So worked up over a game.
"This makes three weeks running." Sid's voice burned
through the telephone. "Keep this up and we'll have to kill
off your character. Just to keep the game going." He
sounded more hurt than angry. Such whiners, her role-