Diary of a Super Seamstress
Thursday, July 17
The Tip Top Three's costumes are almost finished and I can finally take a break.

The past few days have been spent in this nearby town where The Tip Top Three were the most popular superheroes. They're not as big as The Fantastic Fantasy (with his six types of action figures, breakfast cereal, energy drink and fat burners) but they're getting there. Next week, they'll launch the first Tip Top Three action figures (with voice and remote controlled movements) as well as their new costumes (care of me).

I've been watching them in action for a few days now and they're pretty good. And pretty busy. Last Saturday, they rescued a bunch of endangered animals from a very cruel zoo-keeper and sent the animals on their way to a better zoo. Sunday, they stopped a series of purse-snatchers from a local market. That was pretty cool. They had stationed themselves separately in different areas in the market and looked out for purse-snatchers and caught them the moment someone yelled "Stop, thief! My purse!". It was a bad day for purse-snatchers in the market and those who were dumb enough not to realise that were easily apprehended and sent to the local jail.

Monday was a big day. The group stopped a hostage situation that happened at a local bank. It went on for hours, with the local authorities not wanting to let the Tip Top Three meddling in the case, so they had negotiators sent to try to work out what the hostage-takers wanted. When the negotiators were also taken into hostage, the Tip Top Three were finally allowed to step-in. That took about 15 minutes. Three opened the door with his super-human strength, and before the villains could do so much as to say "What the-", Top was inside, spinning and knocking everyone out. Tip stayed outside to catch any
hostage-taker who managed to get away from the mini-tornado happening inside the bank, while Three assisted the hostages.

Tuesday was kind of dull. The group had a press conference about the previous day's rescue op. Wednesday night, they captured a group of house thieves who were victimising one of the residential areas. They turned out to be a bunch of drugged out teenagers, so they didn't put up much of a fight. Top didn't even have to use his spinning powers on that one.

Tip, with her spiky red hair and arrow-shooting phalanges, is the leader of the group. Top, who could give The Fantastic Fantasy a run for his money in the looks department (both are blond and have killer grins on top of their impressive jaws), played the part of the "secret weapon" with his spinning powers. Although, he really doesn't use that as much. I guess because once his mini-tornados start, no one is safe. That is why Three comes in pretty handy. He usually does the search and rescue stuff during Top's mini-tornados. He flies in, scoops people up away from harm and blasts debris with his laser beams.

I've kept to their original colours (silver and yellow) in designing their new costumes. For Tip, it's a simple silver unitard with a yellow belt, wrist cuffs and boots. I've also done a simple full-face mask for her, plain silver with three yellow stripes. Her spiky red hair is enough to liven up her costume. For Top, it's a silver unitard as well, but I've added small yellow diagonal stripes, which will create a really cool effect when he does his spinning thingie. He also gets a mask: big silver goggles which covers half of his face but leaves his impressive jaw and grin bare. For Three, it's a yellow unitard with a full-length silver cape. His unitard extends to the lower half of his face and he gets a pair of silver goggles as well (so he can see better for his search and rescue bit).

They've already approved the costumes and I'm almost done with all of them. I expect to be done with their first set and send that to them by tomorrow. That will give them enough time to get used to their new costumes, and for the action figure manufacturers to make mini-copies of the new costumes in time for next week's launch. They had wanted me to mass produce the action figure costumes as well, but I do have my limits: I only do costumes for superheroes, not their girlfriends, not their action figures.

The Tip Top Three were quite pleased with my job and I'm quite pleased with myself for that. They told me that they'll tell other superheroes in their town about my work and send them to me.

Today, I got a message from another superhero from another town: Dolly Lamb A (Female. Super Powers: Can create 25 her clones at will, all with super human strength and speed). She said she heard about me from The Tip Top Three and that wants something "simple and sweet" for her costume because just because she can kick ass doesn't mean she has to "lose her femininity".

I'm thinking of making a bubble-gum pink lace costume for her.

Wednesday, July 9
Phase Two of the investigation done.

I went to The Funny Farm today to check if what He-Borg said about Sue Mo being confined there was true. Today's disguise is one of my best ones. I put on a heavier body suit so I looked like a mini Sumo wrestler, painted my skin really pale, put on a salt and pepper wig and wore prosthetics to make my eye look really small. I looked like Mun Ching, the woman who owns the Chinese restaurant that served, according to Eric and Rupert, the best noodles in the whole world. I looked harmless. Motherly. Non-threatening.

I brought a basket of sweets and magazines, telling the nurses and the orderlies that I was part of the Mommy Brigade, a large group of women who went around giving food and magazines to hospitals, orphanages and prisons. I also pretended to be the nosy type (alright, I am the nosy type, otherwise, I wouldn't have gone to such lengths to find out information about Sue Mo).

Unlike the interview with He-Borg, I didn't have to think so hard about what questions to ask. All I needed to say was "So how are things at The Funny Farm? Anything interesting going on?" and they spilled. After all, who could help but want to tell all to an elderly woman bearing gifts for mental patience.

They told me that, except for that weird incident a few weeks ago, the place was just as boring as always (The Funny Farm kept most of its patients under heavy medication, so most of them did nothing all day but stare at the ceiling. Management refused to tie up the patients, claiming that it was inhumane and cruel, believing that being drugged out on sedatives was the kind thing to do).

So I said, "Oh?" and they told me that a few weeks back, a woman was left by the doorstep of The Funny Farm, bound, gagged and unconscious. When she woke up, however, she started attacking everyone, shouting "I'll get you, seamstress, I'll get you". It took 5 nurses and 4 orderlies to finally pin her down and sedate her with a really huge syringe. Oh and that before they were able to knock her out, she gave 3 nurses and 2 orderlies broken bones and nearly tore the front desk apart.

So she really hates my guts. It's a scary thought but I am trying to keep calm by reminding myself that No One, not even The Clown (a deranged super villain who killed his victims by emitting laughing gas from his mouth), has been able to escape from the place. They sure use some pretty strong drugs in that place.

So the only question left unanswered now is the who my rescuers are. I'm quite curious about them but at this point, I know I can't answer that question. A part of me doesn't even want to. If what He-Borg said is true, then they'll eventually show up in town again and do their heroic deeds in secret. I want to respect that by not delving too much.

And so I get on with the rest of my life.

Tomorrow, I have to go away for a few days to do meet some superheroes from a nearby town. When I got home from The Funny Farm, there was a message from the Tip Top Three, a group of superheroes from the next town. The group's made up of Tip (Female, Super Powers: can shoot arrows from his fingers, super human strength and speed), Top (Male, Super Powers: can spin really fast and create mini-tornadoes), and Three (Male, Super Powers: super human strength, flight and can shoot laser beams from a gash on his forehead -- no clue why he's called Three though).

Anyway, they informed me that they wanted a new set of costumes because they wanted to have action figures made and their current costumes didn't look impressive enough. They wanted me to send them a few design specs to look over. So I have to go to that town to watch them in action (there's a scheduled rescue op day after tomorrow) and eventually meet up with them to get their measurements. They want their new costumes in soon so the next few days will be hectic.

Another reason why the investigation on the vigilante couple will have to take a backseat for now.

Tuesday, July 8
The investigation is well underway.

Yesterday, I went over to the Daily Globe to talk to He-Borg Crux in full disguise: brunette wig, horse-y false teeth, fake eyebrows and inner body suit to add a few "pounds". Scheduling an appointment with the mysterious He-Borg Crux was quite a challenge. First, they told me that he didn't do face-to-face interviews, so I asked if I could just call him/her/it up. Then they told me He-Borg was a busy person and was not available, so I asked if I could schedule the interview for another time. They gave me so many reasons why I couldn't see the reporter, that I eventually threw a tantrum and made a really long speech about the importance of giving the aspiring journalists the opportunity TO BE journalists and that for all they knew, I could be the next star reporter in town and they would all be sorry they didn't help me out when I was just starting. Yes, I said all that in the middle of the Daily Globe lobby. It was quite impressive really. Even I was moved by what I said. Everyone stood still in quiet shock for a few seconds after my passionate speech.

Then they called security.

Before I was dragged away and forever banned from the building, the phone at the receptionist's booth rang and the receptionist nodded to the guards. The receptionist, a pretty blonde woman (yes, this town is nothing if not stereotypical), informed me that He-Borg Crux was available after all and would see me.

I was then led to a small room with nothing but a chair, a table and a computer. I was told that He-Borg would conduct the interview through the computer in order to protect his/her/its privacy and identity (damn, everyone in this town has a secret identity, I think). Here's the transcript of that interview.

He-Borg Crux: Hello. Impressive speech.

Guest: Thank you.

He-Borg Crux: You want to ask me some questions?

Guest: Yes

He-Borg Crux: Very well. But I want a few questions answered first.

Guest: OK

He-Borg Crux: Why are you here?

Guest: Because I want to interview you about vigilante superheroes and their implications on the superhero culture here and in other towns.

He-Borg Crux: Yes. But why?

Guest: I read your article last Sunday about The Fantastic Fool's foiled rescue op and thought that you would be a good source of information on the topic. You seem to be well-versed in the superhero culture.

He-Borg Crux: Not a fan of The Fantastic Fathead, are you. Good. But why?

Guest: Well I think that while his appearance has certainly helped the Super Hero Industry in town, he has also made it worse by being too media-savvy. There's something fake about his act. Plus he's too pretty to be taken seriously.

He-Borg Crux: Yes. You are an observer of the super hero phenomenon as well. But that wasn't what why I'm asking for.

Guest: Huh?

He-Borg Crux: I wanted to know why you were doing this article.

Guest: It's for school. I need to turn it in soon, too.

He-Borg Crux: Yes, but why, out of all the possible stories you can write about this town, did you choose that?

Guest: Like you said, I am an observer of the superhero culture.

He-Borg Crux: Touché. Very well. What are your questions?

Guest: First, can I take down notes?

He-Borg Crux: You can do more than that. There's a diskette in drive and you can store the transcript of our conversation there. But you can only ask me three questions, excluding the one you just asked. So be very careful about the questions you ask. After the third question is answered, I will log off and I don't think the security guards will allow you access to this building again. Would you like a minute or two to formulate your questions?

Guest: Thank you. Yes, I would like some time to gather my thoughts.

He-Borg Crux: Very well. You have five minutes.

[At that point, I had to think fast. Do I ask him direct questions about the Racer Dude and Super Model and the fate of Sue Mo? If I did that, he/she/it would know for sure that I wasn't a journ student and he/she/it might dig deeper on who I really am. So I had to be careful. After all, the moment he/she/it realises that I'm a fake, he/she/it could have me arrested or worse, keep me in the building until I told him who I was and why I was so interested in the couple and Sue Mo. So I decided to ask more general questions, but make sure he/she/it gave specific examples.]

He-Borg Crux: Ready?

Guest: Yes. But first you have to promise to not be vague when you answer. I'd like to ask that of you, please.

He-Borg Crux: Alright. I will try to give as specific examples as possible.


Guest: OK, thanks. First question: Do you think the sudden appearance of vigilante superheroes is a statement against the current superhero culture in town?

He-Borg Crux: I really don't know the real answer to that though I have some theories. For one, I think these vigilante superheroes are not out to make a statement against the current superhero culture in this town (or in neighbouring towns), although that's how the media plays it up. No, I think these vigilante superheroes have more practical agendas than that. For instance, Sue Shi probably showed up that day not because the ship was a drug den but because it was polluting the water. I don't think she meant to upstage Sue Mo, but she just wanted to solve the problem. In the case of what recently happened with The Fantastic Fantasy, I think it wasn't a personal attack on him but an attack on the criminals. Think about it, they were car thieves and the vigilantes had a race car. The connection is clear. Those two vigilantes were probably eyeing that car theft ring for a long time and just struck before The Fantastic Fantasy did. The thing about these "vigilante superheroes" though is that they're too practical to play the superhero game (publicity, costumes, the SH Agency) and they just want to get things done. Did that answer your question?

Guest: Yes, it did. Thank you. Granted that those "vigilantes" are not really out to foil any of the superheroes' plans as some sort of statement, it can't be denied that the superheroes are taking it personally, as seen from The Fantastic Fantasy's reaction to his missed rescue op. How do you think this will affect our town's superheroes and the superhero culture here in the long term?

He-Borg Crux: Well. On one hand, it might improve the culture. While the "vigilantes" are not out to make a deliberate, concerted statement against the mainstreem superheroes, I do think they're setting an example for future superheroes. Who knows? Maybe in a few years, not all superheroes will be so caught up in the media and publicity stunts. But on the other hand, the more immediate effect is that our superheroes are getting pissed off. My informers have let me know that Sue Mo is currently undergoing psychiatric treatment as a result of Sue Shi's actions. They told me that she was found at the doorstep of The Funny Farm a few weeks ago, babbling about her re-launch, some seamstress and her revenge on the town. Such a shame really. She had such potential. I was hoping she'd be a good alternative to the stereotypical lithe and lovely female superheroes but now she's never going to be that. Not only is she the town laughingstock, she's gone insane. Does that answer your question?

[Ding! Ding! Ding!]

Guest: Yes, it does. Thank you again.

He-Borg Crux: Last question.

Guest: Yes. You said that the "vigilantes" had specific agendas for their actions. Sue Shi against the pollution being caused by the ship, and the couple being against a particular car theft ring. Does that mean we won't be seeing more of them and that their appearance is a one-shot deal?

He-Borg Crux: That's two questions but I'll let it slide. I do think it won't be the last that we will be seeing of them. I know less about what motivates Sue Shi so I can't approximate when and where she'll appear next, but as for The Couple, you read my article, right? They've made appearances in other towns. I do believe that they are following the racing circuit and that they encounter criminals there and just deal with them when they do so. So I expect that they'll do something in the next racing event. It probably won't be caught by the media, but I don't think that's their agenda anyway. What happened this weekend was a special case because they got in the way of The Fantastic Fantasy and he's one big walking publicity event. If he wasn't after the same crooks, I doubt the couples' acts would have been mentioned at all. The same is true for Sue Shi. If she hadn't gotten in the way of Sue Mo's launch, her deeds would have gone unnoticed. I suspect there are more "vigilantes" out there than what has been covered so far. I, for one, plan to be more vigilant (excuse the pun) about keeping an eye out for heroic deeds by unknown characters. Does that answer your question?

Guest: Yes, thank you.

He-Borg Crux: Well you've ran out of questions. I hope I was able to help.

Guest: Yes, you have. Thank you.

He-Borg Crux: Good. I have a final question for you.

Guest: Yes?

He-Borg Crux: You're not a journ student, are you? I want an honest answer.

Guest: Yes.

He-Borg Crux: I thought so. Now leave before I change my mind and call security on you, whoever you are. Don't forget to take the disk. Good-bye.

As soon as I got the disc out, the computer shut down and the door opened.

I got out of there as fast as I could.

Sunday, July 6
The Fantastic Fantasy is pissed off and the whole town knows about it.

He was on tv today, cursing. I swear, if he had clenched his massive jaw a little more, his teeth would have cracked. (And where will the town be without The Fantastic Fantasy's fantastic smile? What a git.)

According to him and the news reports, he was planning a major rescue operation in the mountains (that's why he asked for new gloves, which I worked on and delivered to him this morning). But when he got to the site, all he found was a group of criminals tied up and babbling about some guy in a race car and his kick-ass girlfriend.

Yep, my would-be rescuers, The Racer Dude and the Super Model, got to the rescue operation before The Fantastic Fantasy did and ruined another great publicity hype (the new Fantastic Fantasy cereal is supposed to have been launched together with reports on his successful rescue op).

The news reports said nothing more about the couple, mostly focusing on The Fantastic Fool's ranting and raving about "vigilante superheroes that are ruining the superhero culture and tradition in our town". There was some information about the criminals: they were members of a car-theft ring that had been victimising a lot of citizens. The reports said that The Fantastic Fantasy was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to catch them (right, he was waiting for his gloves to be finished) but his plans were foiled by the mysterious couple.

The Super Hero Agency released another statement, criticising the couple and other "fly by night superheroes" like Sue Shi, who ruined the plans of legitimate superheroes (right, more like wasted good media prepwork).

Only He-Borg Crux wrote anything about the mysterious couple. In his report, he linked the appearance of the two to a series of mysterious rescue operations in other towns. He said that those operations left the criminals tied up for the legitimate superheroes to find, and that the criminals also talked about a dark-haired man and beautiful woman with a race car. Another interesting fact that He-Borg presented was that those rescue ops happened during a time when there were race car events in those towns, which leads him to believe that those two were on the racing circuit. What he couldn't explain is how this rescue op happened here when the last car race happened months ago.

Which leads me to believe that those two are locals.

In any case, I need to talk to He-Borg Crux and ask him for more information. I've decided to go to the Daily Globe in the guise of doing a feature on the effects of vigilante superheroes on the various superhero cultures in town and in other nearby towns.

That's the plan.

Now all I need to do is finish Rocket Chick's jacket and Billy Bob's costume. I'll work all night until I finish it so I can start my investigation on Monday.

Friday, July 4
I met my neighbours today.

I was installing the outdoor security system for the townhouse this morning and the man next door stepped out to get the mail. He introduced himself: Mark. He offered to help and when I told him I got everything under control, he stayed to chat. He said he was a businessman and that his work requires a lot of travelling. I told him I was an aspiring writer. I figured that being a "writer" by profession would explain the hours I spend indoors when I'm working on costumes. Plus, "writer" is vague enough that if I have to do some weird errands, I can just say it's for research, and if they ask for my work, I can always say it's still in progress or that I have writer's block.

His partner, Emily, joined us eventually. She reminded me of my kindergarten teacher: a little mousey with her brown hair and thick glasses, sweet-looking in her summer dress and with her nice smile. She was friendly too, she even brought sandwiches and juice when she stepped out.

A few minutes after that, Eric and Rupert joined us. They were the gay couple living next to the retired couple living accross from my townhouse. They were lovely. Literally. Tall, buff and with great hair. Eric owns a flower shop near-by and Rupert taught Physics at the uni. They were walking their dog, Snoopy, when they saw Mark, Emily and I chatting and decided to join in.

We stayed and chatted for a while. Small talk, mostly. I was bit surprised that I was still good at it -- I haven't really engaged in the sport eversince I got into this seamstress business. It was good to talk about mundane stuff: the best supermarket in the area, the weird mailman all the dogs in the neighbourhood were afraid of, Mun Ching's Chinese Take Out (which Eric and Rupert swore served the best noodles in the whole wide world; I also recall He-Borg Crux mention that restaurant a few times in his column), Emily's herb garden,and how the teenagers who lived accross me loved to play loud music on Friday nights.

I almost felt normal. Chatting with the neighbours about everyday stuff made me forget that inside my house, I had a closet-ful of super heroes' costumes and that about a week ago, I was tied up in a crate because a superhero snapped.

All in all, today was a good day. I'm done with fixing up my new place and I'm all set to work on my current orders tomorrow. After that, I'm off to finding out more about Sue Mo and those two rescuers: The Racer Dude and The Super Model (their names until I find out who they are).

I'm beat. I'm calling it a night.

Thursday, July 3
The past 24 hours have been pretty hectic, to say the least.

I've finally managed to:
1. Find a new base of operations
2. Get all my stuff from my old warehouse
3. Transfer all my money to a new anonymous bank account
4. Cover my tracks

All done secretly and as quietly as possible. Which was fairly easy, given that no one knew me. I was glad to have no personal ties whatsoever because it saved me from having to make numerous phonecalls to explain my hasty disappearance.

But that has to change, I believe.

I don't ever want to feel that helpless as I did in that crate, knowing that there would be no one to notice my absence, look for me and get me out of it.

But first things, first.

I have to deal with more practical issues before I do anything drastic as modifying my lifestyle:

1. Fix my new place. I was able to find a big townhouse in a quiet community. It's quite different from the warehouse as I now have neighbours. The real estate agent told me that it was a friendly community and that my next-door neighbours were a couple who just moved into town. I was also informed, by the talkative agent, that the couple will not be in town a lot since the townhouse was just one of their several properties all over the world (I swear, the agent's eyes lit up with dollar signs when he talked about the couple). I got the gist on the rest of my neighbours too: across from me were a retired gay couple, and next to them were a a couple with three teenaged kids. To my right is a wall.

2. Fill in current orders: Billy Bob needs three more sets of his current costume; Rocket Chick lost the chiong-sam style jacket I recently made for her and wants two more; and the Fantastic Fantasy wants gloves because he's going to the mountains on a rescue mission.

Once those are done, I'll have to make a trip to the Daily Globe and the Super Hero Agency to find out if there's news on Sue Mo and on my would-be rescuers. There's still nothing on the news about what happened. And it bothers me. Not that I want to be in the news, but I really would sleep better at night if I knew what happened to Sue Mo and who those two are.

I'm thinking of going to the Daily Globe and Super Hero Agency incognito. I have to plan my disguise as well. Posing as a journalism student doing an assignment on Sue Mo seems to be the best option. I'm thinking I'll show up with prosthetics (fake horsey teeth and bushy eyebrows), thick glasses and a blonde wig. Hmm scratch the blonde wig. I'll use the brunette wig. Blonde's just too attractive -- even with the horse-y teeth.

I'm well aware that all this is just distracting me from the real issue: fear. I am seriously afraid for my life just as I was seriously scared in that crate. There are far too many unanswered questions for me to feel safe -- if I can ever feel safe again. The incident with Sue Mo made me realise just how flimsy my personal security in this business is. I thought I had it all figured out -- encrypted emails, secret deliveries, working alone, living alone, disguises, the virtual tape measure. I thought I was at a safe distance from my job and my clients.

I wasn't.

And I suspect that no matter how much I cover my tracks, I'll never feel that distant again.

Enough of that. No time for whining and wailing and overanalysing things. For now, I've got a To Do list that needs to be ticked off and I better get started.

Tuesday, July 1
For a while there, I thought I'd never write in this journal again.

The message in the bottle I left adrift in the sea for Sue Shi fell into the wrong hands. Two weeks ago,I received a message with coordinates on where to meet up with Sue Shi. The message said that she had heard of my work and that she would be honoured to have her costume made by the same person responsible for the costumes of the most popular superheroes in town.

I was pretty flattered. Sue Shi struck me, for some reason, as the type who wasn't easily impressed -- especially not by popularity and fashion sense. Maybe it was her confidence during the Sue Mo fiasco. She confidently walked in on another superhero's gig and took over and saved the day. In white sneakers.

Yeah, it was those white sneakers that made her threatening. She was so confident in her own power that she didn't even bother with costumes, with proper footwear, with an image. Only someone with real inner confidence would take over another hero's launch wearing sneakers.

And her silence. Not a word from her out of the whole thing. She came, she conquered, she left.

I was very flattered she responded, so I set out to impress her with my skill. I worked three full days on costume specs and ideas for her. I eventually came up with three costume proposals, complete with mock-ups and cloth swatches for her approval.

All that is lost now.

We were scheduled to meet at the docks. There was an abandoned ship near the site of Sue Shi's first appearance, and that's where she said we should meet. When I got there, it was empty. I thought about doing a final check of my briefcase to see if I brought everything I needed for Sue Shi.

There was a sharp pain in my nape and I opened my eyes in a dark place. So dark, that for a second, I thought my eyes were still closed. My hands and feet were bound. I couldn't move, but I tried and all that did was nearly dislocate my shoulders. Damn, of all the kidnappers in the world, I had to end up with a freaking Girl Scout who knew her knots.

Then she spoke. She told me that it was pointless to try to move and that I shouldn't waste my energy and time.

Then she started crying. Wailing, actually. Between her sobs and hiccups, I was able to get the gist of what she was saying: She wanted to teach the world a lesson through me. That it was fitting that I would be the symbol of her wrath, of her anger... because I embodied everything that was wrong in the world... that I represented everything that was pretentious and shallow in our town... The point was that she hated this town and she was going to prove it by killing me.

I started babbling then, telling her that the town would hardly notice my demise, that I was lowly seamstress, that she should try to kill someone bigger and more popular than I am.

She went wild then. She grabbed my neck from behind and started squeezing. I passed out again after that.

When I woke up, I was in a crate. Still bound, but this time, I was gagged as well. And this time, I was really scared. My entire body felt like one big bruise, and I was so thirsty.

There was no way out of it. No one knew where I was. No one knew where I was going that night. No one was going to come looking for me -- not even if The Fantastic Fantasy suddenly decided to have a complete costume revamp (which was not possible because his current costume is still pretty fashionable), there was no way he could find me.

No one knew me.

I arranged it that way. No one was supposed to know who I was. I lived alone. I worked alone. And I liked it.

For the first time in my life, I hated being alone.

I was in that crate for three days, I later found out. But at that time it felt like an eternity. I passed the time wondering what was going to happen to me. Worst case scenario was that I was going to be left there to die of hunger and thirst. Best case was that the crate was just a temporary storage facility and that my captor would eventually let me out to feed me to the sharks or kill me with her bare hands. That would at least give me a chance to stretch my legs a bit before I died.

After an eternity of waiting, the crate was finally opened one night. A pair of beefy hands reached into the crate and grabbed me like a rag doll. My captor had a mask on but there was no mistaking who she was.

She must have seen the recognition in my eyes because she asked me why I was so surprised. After all, now that her launch was a flop, there was no way that Super Hero Agency was going to take her publicity on anymore and that no one was going to take her seriously as a super hero in town.

She then told me what she was planning to do to me: She was going to take me on top of the tallest building in town and push me off it for the whole city to see. She said that it took a few days to convince the media to be at the site for her re-launch, but she eventually pulled it off when she told them that she was going to kill the person responsible for the superheroes' costumes. The media took the bait after that and agreed to be there.

I was going to be in the headlines.

I never knew until then that people in town wondered about who was behind what the superheroes wore.

She had a mask prepared for me. She said that she wanted to make my unveiling as dramatic as possible. After she put the mask on me, she pushed me back inside the crate.

She must've carried the crate because it started to move and I could hear grunts from her. She must've dropped the crate at some point because I hit my head and passed out again.

The next time the crate was opened, it was another masked face that greeted me. This time it was a dark-haired man. I didn't know where I was. It was definitely not the town's tallest building. It was a parking lot, I later found out.

The man was obviously as superhero, he was in costume: a pair of one-way mirror wrap-around shades, a checkered black and white body suit and a red leather jacket. But I didn't know who he was. He was definitely not a local.

Sue Mo was lying in an unconscious heap in front of a racing car, and she was being tied up by a good-looking brunette. She didn't look like a local either. In fact, she looked like one of those women on the covers of fancy international fashion magazines.

The man untied my hands and feet and made a move to uncover my face but I stopped him. I lifted the mask just enough to take off my gag and put it back in place. He frowned at me and I had to explain to him that it was necessary to hide my identity. I didn't tell him who I was and what I did for a living. I didn't know who he was and how was I to know that he wouldn't pick up where Sue Mo left off once he found out who I was?

They loaded Sue Mo in the trunk of their sportscar while I got my bearings. It was then that I realised I was in a parking lot. I also started to panic at that point so I started running.

I didn't stop running until I got home. Once I got there, I packed everything I could pack: my notebook computer, my virtual measuring tape, my portfolio, a few articles of clothing and all my personal documents. Then I left for a hotel far from where I live.

I've been here for the past week, recuperating, thinking, and keeping an eye out for news about what happened to Sue Mo.

Nothing. Not even He-Borg Crux wrote anything about it. Sometimes I think it was all just a bad dream. That the crazed-out Sue Mo, the masked man and the beautiful brunette were all just figments of my imagination. But the bruises on my neck and all over my body tell me otherwise.

Trees fall even if no one hears them fall.

Thursday, June 19
Sue Mo's launch was a success. But not for her.

Everything was ready for her big rescue op. I had her costume delivered to her a week ago, and she liked it. Even the Super Hero Agency approved. They had the media all primed to cover her big launch. All they needed was the rescue mission, and the Super Hero Agency was monitoring the news for any criminal activities worthy of Sue Mo's launch.

On Saturday, He-Borg Crux, the anonymous reporter for the Daily Globe, wrote about a mysterious tanker that was docked in the bay. Not much is known about He-Borg. Some say he's also a superhero who disguises himself as a reporter (quite a silly speculation, really. the other way around would have made much more sense). There are rumours that he's really a 13-year old boy with too much time in his hands and a way with words. Some say he's female.

Anyway, He-Borg was supposed to do a report on the environmentalists who were camped at the dock, protesting the presence of the ship because it polluted the water. He-Borg wrote that when he went to the site to interview some demonstrators, he noticed something odd about the ship: it was unmarked, and there were a lot of men in suits coming and going. So he went to investigate further and discovered that the ship was being used to manufacture and distribute illegal drugs. So he wrote a report about that instead.

And the Super Hero Agency found a perfect opportunity for Sue Mo's launch.

So Sue Mo, with a group of reporters in disguise not far behind, went to the dock to close down the drug factory and to catch the criminals. She had destroyed most of the factory and had most of the workers tied up when the guys with big guns arrived. The guns failed against her but then they also had a big net, which they used to capture her.

So there she was, caught in a big net, trying to wrestle her way out of it, with men in suits (nice, black suits, mind you) pointing rocket launchers at her. She was definitely going to die.

Then the dolphins arrived with a woman riding on their backs.

No one actually saw what happened because they all said it happened so fast. The girl jumped off the dolphins and started kicking ass. Reports say that the only sounds that could be heard in the flurry of arms and legs flying all over the place the men in suits screaming in pain and the splash of water as she eventually threw all of them overboard where a few white sharks were waiting for dinner.

He-Borg published a picture of her the next day. He said that he managed to take that shot after all the ass-kicking was done and before she jumped on the dolphins for her getaway. She was small and thin. Definitely Oriental. She had on a simple, white, one-piece bathing suit and a pair of white sneakers.

He tagged the picture, "Who's She? Who's She? Sue Shi!"

Sue Mo and the Super Hero Agency weren't too happy with that picture because it showed Sue Mo in the background, still trying to get out of the net -- and looking like she wasn't having much success.

Now everyone wants to know who Sue Shi is and no one's talking about Sue Mo. The SH Agency sent out press releases about Sue Mo's part in the matter, detailing how she trashed the drug factory and how she was almost free to knock the men in suits down when "that girl" started meddling. They also sent out a statement criticising Sue Shi for breaking the Super Hero code: never meddle in another superhero's rescue op.

True enough. Super Hero Code is taken quite seriously around here. Even The Fantastic Fantasy never got involved in another hero's scene no matter how good a media op it might be. The only way there could be more than one superhero in one rescue op is if they had planned and agreed on it in advance. Like that time when Rocket Chick and Billy Bob the Bounty Hunter went after a group of high-tech bank robbers. The mission required Rocket Chick's high-tech skills to scramble the robbers' communication devices and to blow up their getaway helicopter, while Billy Bob engaged them in hand-to-hand combat (which really wasn't such a big deal since those robbers were nothing more than geeks with really cool toys).

I think it would have been better if the SH Agency just said that Sue Shi's appearance was part of the plan: Sue Mo's mission was to capture the workers and demolish the factory , and that she deliberately got caught in order to distract the men in suits as Sue Shi made her move. That would have been a more graceful way of saving media face.

Good thing I don't work for the SH Agency.

All I'm really interested in is doing a costume for Sue Shi. So today, I went to the docks with a message in the bottle with instructions on how to reach me if she needed better clothes (which I think she does). I already have some ideas on her costume. I'm thinking stay with white, she looks good in it. Perhaps a white unitard with sea green piping, padded in all the right places for better protection. And those white sneakers will have to go.

Tuesday, June 10
The Fantastic Fantasy is a stupid git.

I've known him since his early days as a super-hero (Super Powers: flight, super strength, speed, ultra-healing abilities, shiny blond hair and a killer grin. Vital Stats: 168cm, 42-32-40) and I accidentally met him. At that time, I was working for Holly's Halloween Costumes as lead designer. One night, a group of really violent criminals went to the shop to get costumes for a bank robbery they had been planning. I was working overtime and they caught me there alone. But before things could turn nasty, The Fantastic Fantasy turned up and saved the day. Saved my life. As payment, I sent him a replacement for his awful hospital green spandex costume. I worked days designing and making his costume: a lime green and cobalt blue set (lime green long-sleeved top and cobalt blue bottom and boots) made from spandex-rubber blend with built in shin, abdominal and crotch guards.

When he was asked about his new costume, he replied, "It's from one of my many fans. Next to the sports car that was given to me by the mayor as a gift for saving City Hall from the Purple Dinosaur, and to my statue in front of St. Mary's School, given to me by the St. Mary nuns for saving the students from the crazy boys with big guns, this is the best fan gift I'v received so far. I would like to thank that loyal fan for this gift, but it would really be nicer if you sent extra sets with this one. It's been a pain having to wash this everyday." Then he winked.

I knew then that he was dolt. A dolt with super powers.

I sent him a message the next day that said:
"The first one's free, the next one isn't. If you want more, it will be 500 bucks per set. -- Your loyal fan"

Thus began our professional relationship. In the past five years, he has had 7 costume re-designs. Currently, he has three costume themes: one for everyday use; an underwater version for underwater rescues; and a gala costume for formal events. I expect that he'll be asking for a re-design of his everyday-use costume. Not that I'm complaining. He remains to be one of my biggest clients to date. He has 10 sets of each costume theme. And my rates have gone up (way up) from the 500 / set five years ago.

Plus, he's referred a lot of other heroes to me.

Not bad, for someone vain, pompous and stupid.

And truth be told, the dolt does have impressive super powers and is quite talented in dealing with the media and publicity. His apprearance in the superhero scene changed the landscape quite drastically. He captured the imagination of a cynical and dreary city, and turned its people into hopeful and believing kids once again. He has to be given credit for that.

But just when I begin to think that he isn't such a dolt after all, he does something that proves just how unbelievably stupid he is. Like that time when he sent me a message to meet a new client he had referred me to. He gave the co-ordinates and I went to meet this new client, wearing a wig and a mask (I keep my real identity to myself for safety reasons). It turned out to be The Malevolent Menace (Super Powers: ability to release explosive balls of fire from his hands, super strength, speed and flight) -- one of the city's biggest super villains. To the Fantastic Flop's credit, he did show up for the meeting to provide me with a bit of protection. When I asked him what the hell was going on, he said: "Well it doesn't look good for me to be fighting against someone as badly dressed as this guy is, so I told him that he needed your services. It would make for better battle pictures, wouldn't it?"

I was too floored to actually say anything else but "Take me out of here and if you ever pull anything like this on me again, I'll line your crotch guard with itching powder."

There have been other instances of stupidity before and after that incident. Like the time when he requested for a bullet proof crotch guard to protect "future generations of Fantastic Fantasies". Or like the time when he considered promoting genetic manipulation among kids because he thought that it would improve their chances of being superheroes. Or like that time when he almost attacked a bunch of drunken teenagers for attempting to deface his statue.

Like today.

When I checked my secret mailbox, there was a message from him. Here's what it said after I decoded it:

"Dear Ms. Seamstress,

I have a special request and I'd like to get straight to the point.

I'm sure you have read about the lady from Hanoi that I've been rumoured to be rescuing a lot these past few weeks. I know I've neither denied nor confirmed anything about that in the press, but I trust your discretion so I will tell you right now that the rumours are true. I have been involved with this lady for the past few months and I have been rescuing her a lot.

It's not that she's clumsy or likes to get into trouble. I think the Super Hero Agency have learned of my involvement with her and have staged some of the messes she's been getting into. I think these things are happening with her consent. But still, the trouble she has been finding herself involved in in the past few weeks have been real. I do not want you to think that I would willingly be involved in a staged rescue operation.

In any case, I expect that in the next few weeks or so, the press will be playing up my involvement with this lady and that she will probably find herself in the middle of public attention as a result of it.

I have spoken to her about the wonderful work that you have been doing for me and for other superheroes, and we have agreed to ask you to be her fashion consultant. What we need is for her to have her own 'look'. We were thinking that it would be good if you could come up with clothes for her that will bring out her cultural heritage, make her look more Asian, make her look fragile and soft. I do think that it would complement well with my own image of strength and power. Also, keep in mind that since she would be getting into dangerous situations, it would be a good idea to have protective inner-wear for her clothes. One of the things that I like about your work is how you take into account the dangers of being a superhero and come up with costumes that are both functional and stylish. I hope you keep true to this standard for my Hanoi lady.

You will, of course, be compensated, should you decide to take this project on. I do hope you accept this request.

I will be waiting eagerly for your response.

The Fanstastic Fantasy"

Yep, still a dolt after all these years.

I can feel myself getting agitated about this matter again. I need to calm down and step outside for a bit.

Then I'll deal with the Fantastic Fool.

Friday, June 6
She decided on Sue-Mo.

I was hoping for Giantess, but she said it was too obvious and she wanted to have a tongue-in-cheek name. Giantess seemed too serious for her, and she wanted to let her sense of humour "shine through the seriousness of heroic deed" (her exact words).

I suspect the Super Hero Agency found a way to contact her before or during her hike and convinced her to take Sue-Mo instead of Giantess. A few weeks back, there was an article in the newspaper about the lack of Asian superheroes around here. Then on tv the other day, they featured Sam-Wry, one of the most popular superheroes in the next town. He's half-Japanese, uses an ancient samurai with mystical powers and his Zen-like wit to battle his enemies. Sam-Wry was born and bred in his town and as Japanese as the Irish woman who runs the sushi place on Main St.

I guess this is the Super Hero Agency's contribution to political correctness and cultural diversity: put a caucasian superhero with black hair in Oriental garb, cover her face with a mask and call her Sue-Mo. I won't be surprised if they convince her to say "Ni Hao" when she greets the press, her fans and her rescue victims.

Everyone wants to be Oriental these days. Or at least possess some knowledge of or link to it. I hear The Fantastic Fantasy has begun taking Martial Arts lessons and has been rumoured to be always rescuing a certain Vietnamese woman. Just a week ago, Rocket Chick left a secret message for me, asking if I could do her costume and if I would consider putting a Asian spin on it. She just got her rocket launchers marked with Korean characters, she said, and it would be good if I could make her new costume to match. It's surprising to receive such a request from Rocket Chick. As far as I know, she isn't from the Super Hero Agency and has never bothered to play the image game too much.

Quite disappointing, really. I'd have expected something like that from The Fantastic Fantasy, Mr. Golden Boy of SuperHerodom himself, but not from Rocket Chick. She's got a better head on her shoulders than that blond behemoth. Or maybe not.

I have half the mind to make her a Han Bok costume just to see how easy it would be for her to launch her rockets in a traditional Korean dress.

But professionalism must prevail and the client is always right. I'm thinking of making her a chiongsam-style jacket to go with her trademark cargo pants and her rocket launchers.

As for Sue-Mo, I've scrapped the original design of streamlined black suede and am working on making her a black, mid-thigh length Judo robe over a black spandex suit. I've ordered industrial strength spandex from China (I'll probably let her know where the material is from so she'll feel more Oriental). She still needs all the support and control she can get.

Once she approves the final design and the materials arrive, I'll start doing the actual sewing and production. Then I send the finished costume to her for a final test.

I expect she'll like it and that it will pass the test.

I am not without my own powers.

Monday, June 2
Got a new client today. A 20-year old woman who wants to be the next big thing in this town.

Super Powers: Impenetrable body which can be used as a human shield against anything (even a nuclear blast, she said. doubt if she's tried THAT already). Can lift sixteen-wheelers with a single hand. Can cause earthquakes when she runs fast enough.

Vital Stats: 50-48-55. 192 cm.

Ack. There'll be no peek-a-boo tops for this one. Scratch making her wear one of those sexy bicycle short type thingies, too. Think extra control and support. Hmmm, maybe leather. Suede to defract light and make her smaller. Black. With perhaps tiny diagonal pinstripes to create a thinner effect. Possibly a short skirt to hide her monster thighs. And a cape. Maybe.

Will also have to talk to her about proper underwear for her costume. Something that moves as she moves but controls as well. Maybe industrial strength support pantyhose and full body girdle.

She wants to be called Giantess. Or Sue-Mo. If she opts for the second one, make sure the costume has a Japanese theme. Will have to think about that once she makes her decisions.

Negotiations are currently underway. We've talked a bit about what she wants to do and how she wants to be a super hero. I think she's consulted Super Hero Agency for her publicity and public launch.

She's decided to go on a hiking trip to think about what she wants to be, what her super hero handle will be and how she wants to project herself. (Doesn't anyone ever think about the real work that goes into the super hero business these days?). But her heart's in the right place, I guess. She wants to help this town. She wants to contribute.

But she also wants to be in the media. She also wants publicity. And for that, she needs me. I have make her look good enough for the press to want to eat her up. It sucks but image is everything these days. It's not enough to have super powers anymore. Not with super heroes popping up like mosquitoes in the summer around here.

(I remember Billy Bob the Bounty Hunter when he first started. He thought he could be a super hero in a new pair of jeans, his doc martens and a plaid flannel shirt. Well he could be, but no one wanted to pay attention to him and he was referred to as "that guy who looks like my dad" in the newspapers after a good deed. He fell into major depression because of he felt he wasn't being acknowledged enough for his work and he started drinking. Good thing The Fantastic Fantasy caught him trying to start a fight in a bar. They talked and Fantasy told him how to get in touch with me for help. We worked on his costume for weeks and it paid off. Billy Bob's re-launch into stardom was a hit: he caught a nasty criminal wearing his Stetson, butt-hugging brown stretch-leather pants, his brown eye mask and a burnt sienna leather vest with metal buckles... I think he was voted in the Top 5 Sexiest Super Heroes shortly after that.)

But back to Giantess / Sue-Mo. It's going to take a lot of hard work to make her costume -- not to mention a lot of fabric. But it's a good challenge.

But I won't meet it if I sit around writing about it.

Right. On to the drawing board.

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