Suanne: Birth of a Supergirl, By Moxie
4 a.m. The maternity ward was always quiet this time of night, despite the amount of University of Miami students that buzzed its halls during the day. The night staff, although periodically hurrying around the halls to perform their duties, primarily stayed at the nurses' station reviewing charts and chatting. The white noise of the ventilation system caused a stilled hush in the corridor, and, when coupled with the lighting that was dimmed by turning off all but just a few of the overhead neon panels, the ward had an eerie, timeless quality.
The door to the stairwell at the dark end of the hall clicked and slowly opened just a crack, as if someone was moving furtively trying to avoid detection. Then, the door opening slightly, a lone figure dressed in dark clothes tiptoed in and shut the door behind him, being careful that the latch spring would close without a sound.
Just then, a warning tone could be heard from the nurses' station in the middle of the ward. "Oh damn, Laura, there goes that monitor in 7004 again." A nurse's voice answered loudly from the other end of the nurses' station, "Alright, I'll go check it out." The prowler froze for a moment as if undecided whether to run, as well as if and where, to hide, as he heard her come towards his end of the darkened hallway.
Then, the alarm was silenced as quickly as it sounded. "Wait, Laura...wait...it's normalized," a different voice shouted from the nurses' station, "and there's a phone call for you. Come on back. You can go check out the monitor later." The intruder patiently waited, his heart pounding. Then, satisfied the nurse would not venture down the hallway right now, he smoothly stalked down the hall, finally opening the door to patient's room #7002.
Once again, the door was eased open and shut to maintain the necessary silence. It was dark inside, but the starlight coming in from the window provided faint illumination. Allowing his eyes a few moments to adjust, the prowler eventually could see a mother with her newborn lying in the bed. They were motionless and appeared to be sleeping, bonding. The tubing from an intravenous bag could be seen draping down from the hanger towards the bedside, and connected with the infant's foot at a ball of tape.
Quietly, the intruder took the protective cap off a large syringe, reached up and stabbed the dangling intravenous pouch. Emptying the contents of the syringe, he silently exited the room and began a stealthy departure. Before leaving, he noted the nameplate outside #7002. The patient's names were handwritten with a marks-a-lot on a masking tape sign: LANEY, MARGARET (SUANNE).
Retreating back to an old VW bug parked at the far end of the hospital parking lot, the mysterious figure started the car and left the hospital, the "putt-putt" of the old VW gradually muffled by the velvety darkness of the night.
Later that night, the child mysteriously developed a terrible fever, eventually reaching 105 degrees, much to the dismay of the nurses and doctors. Despite all their attempts, the fever would not break. The poor baby cried incessantly, and fidgeted and shook constantly. At one point, the baby kicked out her legs and cracked the side of the Plexiglas bassinet, much to the surprise of the nursery staff. Then, around midday, when the fever finally subsided so quickly, the medical staff wondered if it was at all due to their efforts. And they still remained clueless as to its cause, or cure.
Around 5 p.m. later that day, mother and child had received a clean bill of health, and the parents were ready to check out. The mother sat in a wheelchair and cradled the tiny child as the father wheeled them downstairs. Mother and child waited in the wheelchair at the entrance while the father went to pull up their new SUV.
"Well, I'm glad everything's okay now," the mother heard announced from behind her. She saw the affable emergency room doctor was walking towards her in scrubs.
"Yeah, I guess we still don't know what happened, but at least it's over now," the mother replied.
The doctor leaned over to get a better look at the newborn, peeling the blanket open just a bit. "Hey, you are a pretty one, aren't you, darlin'? You gave us quite a scare, you know," he said as he stroked the back of baby's hand with his index finger. The baby cooed and wrapped her tiny hand around his large index finger. "Oooh, so want to show me how strong you are, do you cutie?" he said as they both chuckled.
The baby began to squeeze his finger all right, and the pressure quickly began to build. In just a few moments, it was becoming intolerable, and the doctor began to wince, "Geez!" He tried to pull his finger back, but she held onto his finger tightly. He tried to shake it free, but his hand was held in place and could not be shaken. His face began to turn red. The baby's mother looked confused and frightened. Was he trying to hurt her new baby? Or, was it the other way around? Her newborn's face didn't show any signs of strain, or concern.
"SHIT! LET GO!....ARRRGH...DAMMIT!" the doctor said, falling down onto his knees and crying, "PLEASE MAKE HER LET GO!...SHE'S CRUSHING MY FINGER..."
The mother was mortified, what was happening? She tried to pry the baby's hand from around the doctor's finger, but it wouldn't budge. She looked more closely to see that the baby's hand wasn't straining, but it was clearly exerting a tremendous amount of pressure on his hand. She saw red and white marks building on the doctor's finger as if a lot of pressure was being applied. Then, she heard a sickening CRUNCH as the doctor wailed, "...AAAAAIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!" The baby then cooed and let go of the doctor's hand, as he fell to the floor and passed out.
The doctor was rushed back into the ER just as the father pulled up. He wife was screaming, and jumped out of the wheelchair. "What's going on?" he asked.
"Just get us out of here... right NOW!" she cried as she jumped in the Ford Expedition.
As the SUV sped away from the hospital, an old VW turned to follow it down the road.
Larry Collins had followed a discrete distance behind the SUV as it made the short return trip into a toney neighborhood of Coconut Grove. Parking the little VW bug under a banyan tree just a few houses up the street from the Laney's, Larry began his clandestine stakeout.
As a bio-genetics grad student at UM, Larry was performing research into the very building blocks of humanity. His research project, the one he had been working on "on the side" since beginning grad school, dealt with improving the body's auto-immune system. Larry's studies indicated that the needless use of antibiotics was actually degrading the human gene pool, and weakening our species. Indeed, Larry was convinced that the application of Darwin's law about the "survival of the fittest" pointed to one of the freakish outcomes of modern medical science: by treating the sick and weak among us instead of allowing them to die, society allowed those defective genes to perpetuate and pollute the gene pool, and thereby, degraded our species. This actually made the demand for medical care greater in the long run, as the species became more dependent on it for survival.
Larry's project was designed to reverse all that. He had discovered the genetic sequences that controlled the body's immune system, and identified the genome combinations that, when present, allowed the body to succumb to diseases of all kinds. Larry was convinced that his research would be revolutionary. His goal was to improve the human species at the genetic level. Drastically. Just imagine the eradication of all sicknesses, all cancers, all defects. It would even provide the cure for the common cold. However, due to the controversial nature of his work, he could not find any funding. After all, if his theories proved true, the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors, the hospitals, indeed, most of the medical industry would be put out of business. So, he had to continue his work in secret during his spare time. This made it difficult to find any volunteers to test his serum.
One of the developments Larry was most proud of was the retro-virus that would introduce the serum into the subject's body. One of the most vexing issues in gene therapy was delivering the new genetic sequence throughout the body and introducing the recombinant DNA material to the right portion of the subject's DNA strand. This was an incredibly specific process, which required the identification and replacement of specific defective genes in each cell of the body. The retro-virus, which had been delivered to the Laney's baby through the intravenous bag, was the vehicle that would accomplish just that. If all went according to plan, within 6-8 hours, the retro-virus would deliver the serum throughout the subject's body, and begin the process of genetic replacement. The virus utilized the principles of artificial intelligence in completing it's task of rewriting the subject's genetic code, but there was still considerable risk in the possibility that it would misinterpret information and perform the task incorrectly. This virulent process necessitated the systematic tearing down and rebuilding of every cell in the body. As a result, Larry expected his serum to make the subject appear seriously ill for a short period of time. In fact, the retro-virus should cause the subject to have a very high fever for a few hours as it attacked the subject's basic genetic code. But Larry knew that if the subject survived the retro-virus, their resulting DNA would be far superior to anyone on the planet.
Larry felt he was on the precipice of greatness, one of the greatest breakthroughs in science. All he needed was someone to try his serum on. But volunteers for unfunded, unapproved genetic research projects were hard to find. So Larry decided long ago it was necessary to volunteer someone, preferably a child. As he sat in the darkness in his VW bug, he spied on the Laney's house just down the street, and tried to convince himself that, in this case, the ends would justify the means. What Larry did not know, is that in the baby's crib in the Laney's house down the street, his retro-virus was making far more significant and dramatic genetic changes than he had ever anticipated.
Margaret and Bill Laney always knew there was something ... well, special ... about Suanne. She was obviously a sweet and very bright little girl, but there was something else different about her, drastically different. She was so different, that Bill and Margaret didn't like to talk about it much, and weren't quite sure how to deal with their "little" girl.
Suanne was a naturally-born baby with the normal amount of baby fat. But after Collins' retrovirus had performed its genetic transformation, the baby began to develop a lean and firm look. Compared to a normal chubby baby, Suanne looked odd, firm, and strong. And strong she was, impossibly strong. Her dad estimated that she had 50 times his strength. Yet Suanne didn't realize how much stronger she was than her family, or how fragile they were compared to her powerful young body. In fact, she was so strong that her family had to be careful around her, lest they get caught in the vice-like grip of their toddler, who just didn't know her own strength. Her four older brothers were dismayed to find that they weren't in the strength class of their new baby sister!
Suanne quickly earned the right to sleep wherever she wanted, especially since the one-inch wooden bars of her crib quickly snapped easily in her grasp. And Suanne seemed to almost gloat at her ability to pulverize wooden building blocks to splinters in her powerful little hands, practically getting giddy while her parents offered in return a proud, but wary, smile.
Margaret tried to breast feed the baby, but she was forced to stop due to the Suanne's unbelievable suction power when she latched on. Margaret's large breasts showed the bruises of her breastfeeding attempts. They tried giving Suanne pacifiers, but those didn't fare much better in her powerful, toothless mouth. One night, out of sheer desperation, Bill offered the baby a pewter pacifier, one that was actually a Christmas ornament. To their amazement, even this metal pacifier was quickly mangled by the baby's strong jaws.
Bill and Margaret were confused, but their concern was overshadowed by their love for this new little baby, no matter how strong she was. And for the most part, they didn't care how she got that way, or why. Since their four sons were all adopted, Suanne was like an unexpected gift from heaven, and they didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth. Still, they individually shared private questions about her condition and capabilities.
In addition, the her mother had grown accustomed to having their toddler help in cleaning the house by lifting the beds and couches, with one hand, so they could be vacuumed underneath. Once, when they were redecorating, she even helped move a spinet piano with one hand - probably 800 lbs. - that two large movers had originally placed only with the help of a dolly. However, as she became stronger, these activities represented a smaller and smaller percentage of her strength.
Suanne grew and developed quickly, walking and looking much like a toddler after just 3 months. Suanne's pediatricians were as amazed at her development as they were at her body and strength, but they could offer no explanations. All their tests indicated that she was as healthy as - and stronger than - an ox. In fact, the antibodies in her immune system were particularly strong, and the doctors wondered if it were even possible for her to ever become ill. Her pediatrician simply couldn't explain it.
By the time Suanne was 3 years old, her body was beginning to show signs of muscularity and her strength had steadily increased. Suanne's body was lean, but when she exerted herself, it was possible to see small muscles bunching up. Her father thought that her strength had just about doubled since she was born: his cute three-year old daughter now had the strength of 100 full grown men! And while he dearly loved his daughter, this also worried Bill. Would his daughter grow up a sideshow freak, unable to blend in with normal society? Worse yet, would her gains in strength continue? Could she possibly become stronger? His little toddler's arm was already as strong as those of a hundred grown men. If she became even stronger, how could his sweet young toddler continue to live among the weak frail humans that were her family. Would she begin to believe her family and the rest of society were inferior, that she was better than they were? Widening the gap between her capabilities and her brothers would only make the situation worsen.
In actuality, Suanne did continue to get stronger. Much stronger. Like a frog that sits contented in water that only gradually gets hotter, the family hardly noticed her steadily-increasing strength. Actually, Suanne had learned to be gentle when necessary, and never revealed even to them the true level of her strength. As a result, Suanne's family had lost track of just how strong she had become. And since she made a point of never using the full extent of her strength, even Suanne didn't know how strong she had become compared to the rest of her family.
Larry Collins tried to monitor Suanne's growth, and the changes in her development, from a distance. He had noted the oddness of her firm body, but had not seen her perform any feats of strength, since Suanne's parents had drilled into her head the need to keep her strength a secret.
One day she was playing at a local park on the swing set, when Larry approached her.
"Hello sweetheart," he said, smiling, " is your mommy around?"
"My brother there," she said pointing to Joe, who was at a pavilion showing off for some girls with a football. Larry peered over his shoulder and saw that Joe was preoccupied with the babes. (Little did he know that Joe could afford to be so confident because he knew Suanne could take care of herself.)
Larry wanted to get Suanne back to his lab, where he could perform some basic genetic tests to verify the changes he had initiated. "Darlin', could you come with me over to my car? I've got some candy?"
"No. Stay here...want to swing... go weeee!" was all Suanne could say.
Larry looked nervously over his shoulder at the brother. Joe had still not noticed that he was talking to Suanne, but that could quickly change. "I'm sorry, sweetie," Collins said as he yanked her off the swing seat and onto the ground. "I don't have time to debate this with you," he said as he bent over to talk to her face-to-face.
Suanne quickly understood with his show of force that something was going on, and she didn't like it. He grabbed her arm and gave a tug, but she hardly moved at all. Larry looked at her confused and gave another yank on her arm, but it was like she was screwed to the ground. She took her other hand and gave Larry a back-handed slap across the face. She only used only about a quarter of her strength, but this was more than enough as Larry flew up and back about 20 feet, laying on the ground unconscious in a rumpled heap.
Not realizing that he would be unconscious for quite some time, she wanted to run but was worried that he might follow her. So she grabbed the handlebars from her tricycle that she had ridden to the park and ripped it off the tricycle frame with her bare hands. Then, she wrapped it around his ankle and the leg of the swing set in a make-shift handcuff. With her strong hands, she easily curled the tubular chrome steel around both the swings and his leg until it was tight around his ankle, and then twisted the free ends like a trash bag twisty-tie. The steel creaked and groaned as it succumbed to the overwhelming strength of the toddler supergirl's hands. Then she picked up her disabled tricycle and ran home.
Her brother Joe, who was 12 years old, has seen none of this take place - it had happened so quickly - but saw his little sister pick up the trike and run home. Joe estimated that she was running at approximately 20 miles per hour.
Suanne's strength continued to grow impressively, and by the time she was 5 years old, she was approximately 250 times as strong as the typical adult - over two and a half times stronger than the entire Miami Dolphins football team. When she went to kindergarten, she found it hard to conceal her strength around the other kids and the teacher. Everyone around her just seemed so weak and frail in comparison.
It was obvious that Suanne was going to grow into a beautiful young girl. Her golden hair and beautiful eyes and face, ensuring that she'd break a few hearts when she got older. In addition, her firm body was beginning to show some signs of muscularity. In fact, when she flexed her biceps - which she liked to do in private as she looked at her self in the mirror - little golf ball sized muscles appeared. She was becoming very proud of her strength and muscles, and it was confusing to her to have to keep that a secret. After all, that was who she was, and she sometimes felt mad and embarrassed that she had to hide who she was. She thought to herself once more as she flexed both her biceps, "I shouldn't be embarrassed at being strong...if I couldn't even lift Dad's car off the ground with one hand, then THAT'S something I should be embarrassed about."
((Editors note: Missing the picture valk0071.jpg))
But her mother and father encouraged her to keep her fast-increasing strength a secret from everyone outside the family, and Suanne herself decided to keep her growing muscles a secret from everyone, including her family.
Still, she felt like she was denying an essential part of who she was. She was upset and confused, so she decided to go for a bike ride.
Larry Collins desperately wanted to get close enough to get some skin or hair samples from Suanne so he could test her DNA. He simply had to know how his retrovirus had worked. So he followed her to a local playground where she was riding her bike around the large parking lot. This was his big chance. He started to get out of his car when she recognized him and turned her bike to ride away from him. Collins jumped back into the car and chased after her. He quickly caught up with her and pulled along side shouting, "Hey, slow down, I just want to talk to you."
Suanne just smiled and started pedaling her bike faster. In just a moment, her legs were a blur, and the bicycle was traveling too fast for Collins' car to keep up. He floored it in an attempt to catch up, but she was still pulling away from him. He glanced at the speedometer and saw he was now going 60 miles per hour and accelerating, yet the young girl was pulling away from him like his car was standing still. When they reached the end of the parking lot, Suanne used a pile of sand from a construction project as a ramp and jumped over the chain-linked fence, landing safely far on the other side. Collins slammed on the brakes as his tires screamed and the car skidded to a stop just this side of the fence. She smiled and waved at Collins, and turned to go towards home. He could only stare in disbelief. There was definitely something very different about this little girl, and he just had to find out more about it.
When she returned home, her adrenaline was still pumping from the ease with which she had outrun his car, and she was only riding a bicycle. Maybe it wasn't any big deal if she used her strength sometimes. After all, in this case, it helped her escape from that weird guy that keeps chasing her, so that was a good thing.
Suanne was thinking this all over as she entered the back door of the house that lead into the kitchen. There, she saw her for brothers Ted (8), Scott (9), Bobbie (11), and Joe (14) having armwrestling contests. Joe and Bobbie had started to play organized football, so the idea of proving one's strength was becoming important to them. Ted and Scott were still young, and idolized their older brothers almost as much as the pro players on the Dolphins. They both hoped that one day they could be big and strong football players like their brothers.
Suanne's brothers knew she was pretty strong, but they didn't know just how much stronger than them she actually was. And likewise, Suanne also didn't have any idea how big the gap was between herself and her much bigger brothers. Everyone had made a point of not talking about her strength in order to help her live a normal life.
"Hi guys, whatcha' doin'?" she asked as the screen door banged behind her. They couldn't answer her since they were straining against each other's arms. To Suanne, this looked like fun, so she said, "Hey, can I play, too?"
The brothers stopped their contests and just laughed uncomfortable laughs, because she was still their little sister, and the thought of losing an armwrestling contest to your 5-year old sister just wouldn't do. But, they also knew she was stronger than she looked.
After she begged them and begged them, they finally agreed to let her compete. They lined up at the butcher block table with Joe on one arm, and Bobbie on the other. Suanne's hands were tiny in comparison to theirs.
Ted did the countdown, "One...two...three...GO!"
Joe and Bobbie immediately leaned into her arms and strained for all they were worth. Suanne smiled curiously, it hardly seemed like they were pushing against her. Were they just kidding her?
"Come on guys, stop playing around, OK?" she said.
But Joe and Bobbie weren't kidding, they were honestly trying as hard as they could, but coming up far short of their 5-year old sister's overwhelming strength. They were heaving and sighing, and couldn't answer her. Ted and Scott laughed nervously at first, until they realized they weren't kidding. "Suanne, I think they're really trying," Ted said.
Suanne's eyes opened wide, "No, they can't be. Come on guys, try harder...try harder. Use both hands." And her two big brothers reached up with their free hands, trying desperately to wrench her little hands down to the table. Still, Suanne barely felt their efforts.
"Come on guys, give them a hand," Suanne said to Ted and Scott after a few moments. Still, her arms didn't budge an inch. Suanne's four big brothers tried to overpower her, but again came up way short. The brothers were angry and embarrassed that she was that much stronger than they were. And Suanne was proud and shocked that she could overpower them with such ease. No one had realized the extent of her might, even at this young age.
Just then there was a knock on the screen door. It was some of Joe's friends from the football team. "Hey Joe, you gonna make practice today," one of them asked.
"Come here, guys, give me a hand here," Joe answered with noticeable strain in his voice. Eight 14-year old boys came in the kitchen and encircled the table. They couldn't believe their eyes, this little kindergarten girl was easily beating her four big brothers at armwrestling. This couldn't be happening! She looked like she was beating them with such ease, as she smiled casually at them, while they grunted and wheezed from the strain.
Four of the boys joined each of Suanne's arms, and they all used both hands. They tugged and strained and wheezed until sweat was beading on their faces. This just couldn't be happening, this little girl is beating us, each thought silently with a fright.
Suanne couldn't believe how much weaker these big boys were than her, but she was beginning to enjoy the feeling of superiority.
"OK, I'm getting ready to start now," Suanne announced. First, I'll do the right hand. One...two...three...GO!" She slammed her hand down on the butcher block, and all six boys flew across the room to land in a pile on the floor.
"Now, you guys come join everyone else on the left hand. It's my weaker hand, maybe all twelve of you can win against me," she boasted. They scrambled up and positioned their hands, and started to push with all their might. All twelve boys, fought the young girls left arm. A pile of twenty-four hands were wrapped in layers around the young girls one hand, trying desperately to force it down to the table.
Unfortunately, the boys didn't know that they needed the additional help of several hundred of their classmates just to hold her strong arm to a standstill. She flexed the bicep on her free hand and a golf ball sized bicep appeared. More than one of the young boys started to feel aroused at the muscular strength of this little girl, so decisively overpowering them all. They were embarrassed to feel like that about such a young girl.
"Nope, don't think so. Oh well, here goes," she said, "one...two...three...GO!" and once again she slammed her hand down on the table. This time, all twelve boys flew across the floor and landed in one big heap in the middle of the kitchen.
"Girl power," she said as she walked out the screen door, leaving them there in a pile of tangled arms and legs on the kitchen floor.