She tapped on her briefcase with the frequency of wombat chewing on bark. She was not used to the literal extra baggage but it proved convenient for holding a cache of evidence for a necessary argument. Her bare thighs chafed against the fine leather of the chair, and she could hardly guess where it came from. She missed the hard wooden and iron chairs on her island. She also missed clothes. Specifically armor that covered her ass, in more ways than one. She tried not to look at the receptionist more than once, every time she did she met the young woman’s curious eyes and forced a smile on her face. Then looked away, and sighed. And then looked at her phone for the time.
Things were also simpler with a sun-dial, she thought.
“Miss Wonder Woman?” The receptionist said. “Miss Carlyle will see you now.”
“Excellent,” she said, wincing as her skin unstuck from the leather. She took long, awkward strides into the office and closed the door more abruptly behind herself than she needed. A framed picture fell down just outside, and the receptionist discreetly tweeted her opinion of mannish women who acted rude to receptionists and dressed like sluts.
“Dubya!” Fox Carlyle grinned, opening her arms. “What a pleasure! I was just thinking about you the other day.”
“Fox,” Wonder Woman said more curtly than she intended. “I’m sure I’m on your mind, often.” At a holiday party at the agency, her truth lasso once revealed more than she wanted to know about Fox’s corrupted mind. Still, she was a good P.R. agent; if Batman could handle her, so could Diana. She was effective and in the end, results were what mattered. Even the virtuous Diana could wrap her mind around that in this world she was consistently surprised by.
“Dubby, Dubby, Dubby… so fiesty today! Me likey. Seriously, what can I do for you?” Fox sat down in her enlarged leather executive’s chair and swirled around in it. “My number one client, my super heroine to the stars. The bang-bang in female representation in comics since 1940… something. Seriously, you’re amazing. I can’t get over it.”
Diana ignored her babbling. She was unfortunately used to it. “We need to talk, seriously.”
Fox got somber, quick. “Diana, whatever anyone has offered you in percentage, or said about me, I can refute and also cut in half.”
Diana opened her briefcase and got out some print outs from the internet. “Stop being a fool. This is serious business. I want to change my outfit.”
Fox held up her hands. “Hey, woah, what. Change your outfit? Heh, come on! This is coming out of left field, Dubby.”
“Stop calling me that. Look at this, I’ve thought a lot about it. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to fight crime in a mini-skirt? And not just any mini-skirt but one that has pleats. I look like a school girl, for Minerva’s sake!”
“… I’m sorry, I’m just not seeing why this would hurt you. Your fans love your skirt! I love your skirt! Even your enemies love your skirt! The world can’t stop talking about your skirt!”
“You’re not listening.”
“No, of course, keep going. I’m sorry.”
Diana held up a print-out of her in a skin tight swimsuit that somehow had the nerve to call itself a battle uniform. “This one is the worst. See how terrible it looks?”
Fox stared studiously at the print-out. “Yes, terrible, hmm, I see.” But she didn’t, not really. Why would someone want to cover up a bod like that?, she thought.
As Diana handed out a succession of print outs of her in different outfits, her in combinations of red-blue-white and spangled stars, an American hero, a princess, everything wrapped up in a gorgeous package – it became a blur of perfection, sexual absolution that she felt absolutely strangled by. Skirts, swimsuits, sheer robes, tight catsuits and leggings – Fox held onto all of them like a large poker hand, eyes sliding over her reincarnated forms, nodding her head absentmindedly as Diana went on.
“It’s just not doing it for me, anymore. I don’t want to wear anything that shows off my ass, my chest, my legs… I want real armor. I want what Batman has, what Green Lantern has, what every man out there has. I want protection. I get cut up on a daily basis and even though I can heal, it’s just not the point of it. Even Pepper Potts has armor-”
“Power suit,” Fox corrected while holding out a few print-outs like centerfolds in front of her eyes, inspecting it like fine transparent film. “And she’s not a real super hero, not really. Nowhere near your level.”
“Whatever. It’s just not fair. I’ve let parts of me hang out for way too long. I was a good sport. I paid my dues. When I was first got into this line of work, it wasn’t like it is now. Now women have come such a long way, and there are so many of us working against evil that … are you listening?”
“Uh huh.” Fox spread out the print-outs in front of her and looked up at Diana. “I hear you. You want armor like the big boys.” At Diana’s smile, Fox went in for the kill, “You want to cover up one of your biggest attractors, your biggest money maker, and I gotta warn you, that’s a mistake, Dubster.”
Diana crossed her legs, wincing at her skin sticking to the leather and unsticking suddenly. “Don’t call me that, either.”
“Noted.” She took time to write down on a small pad another nickname she couldn’t call her favorite superhero. “Ahem, anyway, one of the reasons you’re so popular is that you’re so wholesome. I love that about you, by the way. You’re honestly too modest. America loves you, the world loves you, even alternate-universes love you… and they love the way you look! They have for decades! Your swimsuit outfit is iconic. ICONIC! It’s an American staple! As American as daisy dukes and bubble gum!”
“It rides up my crack and I really don’t want to keep shaving. The stubble itches for days.”
“… Alright, besides that, I really see nothing wrong with it. I hate to burst your bubble, Diana, but the rest of the women out there, superhero or not, know that their sexuality is what keeps them relevant. Name one super heroine that doesn’t show off something in a skintight whatever – a corset here, leggings here, lingerie wherever – it’s all the same if they want to get somewhere. Sex sells, baby.”
“You can’t mean that.”
“Of course I mean that. It’s the way the world works. Go ahead, name any superheroine. Any.”
Fox started to count with her fingers. “One outfit has her in some sexy push up bra with corset to show off her nice rack. Another has this hot little crop top thing that shows off her tight abs. Tight pants to show off her ass. Next.”
“Don’t make me laugh. She may be covered head to toe, but it doesn’t leave anything to the imagination, does it? Her huge breasts, Diana. Her. Huge. Breasts. There’s no kevlar bullet-proof vest covering those suckers.”
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that her chest and ass are barely covered everytime she gets a little pissy and green, if you know what I mean.”
She saw the look on Diana’s face and tried to backpedal, “But if you really want to risk everything you’ve worked so hard to get, if you really want to de-feminize yourself-”
“I never said anything about that. I don’t want to not be a woman. All I want are some pants that don’t give me a wedgie! And shoes that don’t pinch my feet! I don’t want to be sexy – that’s not why I started to do this! I’m tired of my ass getting cold every time there’s a draft. How can I protect the world if I’m busy shivering?” She put a finger to her temple, not recalling ever having a headache before (not without being banged around the head a good lot.) “Suffering Sappho!”
“I’m telling it to you how it is.”
“Yes, but why does it have to be a choice between being who I am and what the world expects me to be?”
Fox’s eyes turned soft. Diana seemed like a child, suddenly, to her, and she felt very bad for her. It was the tough truths of life that really knocked around the kids at heart.
“Hey, hey, look… if you’re serious about this, I’m serious, too. I’m with you, 100%. You want to change? You want to re-brand yourself as tough lady, no sexy thoughts allowed, you got it.” Already Fox was thinking of many things: how to persuade her to see reason, how to contain this hot mess of a situation, and the silver linings. Thankfully, there was a good market of fans who were into the power-enhanced ladies who covered their lovely curves with unsightly square armor. Not many, but Wonder Woman’s reputation and history could make this work. Everyone loves a change, right? She could build a campaign around this… yes, brand it as the new age of female superheroes, picking their own outfits for once! It would rub some people the wrong way, but then again, you couldn’t please everybody… she just hoped it would please enough people to make the bottom line.
Fox noticed Diana’s face was still downcast and troubled, and felt bad for bringing it on. Poor kid, she thought, gotta cheer her up. “Alright, alright, name it, name whatever you want, and I’ll make it happen. I’ll get you armor that’ll shame Power Lord – not that I really know who that is.” It was one of Fox’s poor jokes that did break the tension in the room instead of creating it, and the energy shifted away from the brewing conflict.
“I’m really with you, Diana. Let me help you.” Fox was eager to please, especially someone as stony as WW. Diana let her frown lift a little. She didn’t sense that Fox was trying to deceive her. She took out one last print-out and handed it to Fox, enjoying the look of awe that befell her agent’s face.
Elsewhere, at D.C. HQ, someone handed a drawing to their supervisor. Many looked at it, passing it around in reverence.
A well-known woman of tall stature, lean and fit, stood upright, her gaze commanding and even daring opposition. Her long black hair was pushed back into a tight ponytail, and a little bit of it peaked out in the back. Where she formerly had a tiara, there was a red-painted helmet with stripes of traditional gold. It framed her face, letting her cheekbones, straight nose, and full lips show but offered protection on the sides of her face where she might be blindsided – and with good reason: her gaze was so forward and focused, no one in the room could imagine her looking to the side in time to prevent such an attack. Her neck was no longer exposed, now covered by blue, lightweight hyper-small and intricate chainmail with a single white star in the middle of the clavicle. Below was a red boxy shaped metal vest that expanded into short shoulder cuffs, wrapping around them and continuing until her wrists. She was gloved, with tough black teflon padding her palms, giving the impression of muscular, strong abilities. The vest covered her chest well, lithe and slim like the wearer but as deceptively powerful as she was to her enemies. Her waist was covered by the same blue chainmail and it led down her legs to her boots, which were red but flat heeled and more heavy-duty in their military appeal. In the middle of her where her skirt or panties used to be wrapped around like a modesty panel, was the biggest surprise: her gold utility belt, bespeckled with stars, was enlarged to act as a “focal” point to the center of her being. It all worked together to appease every party: Wonder Woman as a true warrior was still attractive because they could see her femininity and her beauty, and they marveled at her strength. She looked like she could take down a world, single-handedly, with enough energy left over to whip them all with her lasso.
Yes, this was the new era, and some changes had to be accepted. The drawing got its signature and was sent off to the presses.
She knew that she wouldn’t have been able to escape what they all wanted from her; they wanted to own her, all in their own, small, petty way. She forgave them that. Aphrodite blessed her with that ability to look past what some could not, and she also appreciated the goddess’s other gifts… she was one of the lucky ones; not every superhero, or even woman, had the ability to change their fortunes and force the world to accept her as she is. On her island, where women answered only to other women, this issue did not exist – but she did not blame men. No, it was deeper than that, deeper than an arbitrary executive decision that demanded women be on their knees and hold up their identities for others to pick and choose what they liked. It was chronic and ingrained in what she saw in their eyes, all their eyes, the same tiredness that was looped and chained to an idea that was simple to change but hard to leave. A habit that divided and conquered and fell and rose. Diana knew even if she made it her life’s work to shout out the nonsense, very few would listen. It would get lost in the noise that those addicted to the habit would buzz, and trampled on to spite her effort and care.
It was better this way to be one of the few for those later on. She would set a precedent, she would be the pillar that would not sway. Soon, she knew, others would follow her, others that let go of the popularity contest and the simpering to please the masses – they would live for themselves, however they liked, however much they wanted. It would not be up to another to paint them in a skin they couldn’t breathe in. They would stand as proud as she, and soon those that thought they were ordinary would look up, perhaps in the middle of their addictive habits to please what is invisible and ephemeral, and be struck with the inspiration as well. No one would be ruled by another.
Plus, now she actually looked like she could kick some ass for once. Wonder Woman through her hands up in the air and let out a loud whoop of victory, smiling large and triumphant. “One small step for Diana Prince, one giant leap for super heroine kind!”