And now, an excerpt from Dw Dunphy’s novella The Last Stand For Jasmine Jett, available as an Amazon Kindle ebook.

Jasmine_Jett_coverSpecial Education – Local governments all across the country are in control, every single one of them, of laboratories purposed for the development of brand new forms of class warfare. They are called public high schools. This knowledge only came to Lisa after the fact but served her well during her criminal life. Whereas those awkward adolescent years were devoted to the pursuit of popularity, reverse-engineering behaviors offered insight into how to be undetected, unseen, and invisible, and when you are trying to relieve institutions of their money, invisibility is a handy tool.

Perhaps more important than going unseen by targets, to move about disregarded, was the quality of being unwanted by competitors, a state of complete protection. Everyone in an illicit enterprise seeks out unhindered autonomy, from the average back-alley mugger to a nuclear-powered miscreant holding a country for ransom. None really want the attention and cameras trained on them. They want the money or the power to be exchanged, and then be on their way. The only reason why they would adopt far-fetched names and wear ridiculously flashy outfits was to scare others with the same intentions.

The English language is an elegant, living being in all it’s expressive variation. For example, take the word “crazy.”

A potter would tell you that when a glazed piece is subjected to too much heat or instability in the kiln, the glaze fractures, sometimes into hairline-thin divisions and sometimes into clear and obvious separations. The condition is regarded as “crazing,” and thus when a mind is cracked in the heat and pressure of difficult times, it can be said to go crazy. It can also be said that no one who elects to purchase boots that can hide daggers, or dye underwear a blinding shade of fuchsia, and then wear said neon undergarments on the outside isn’t in some way, regardless of intentions, crazy. Yet, much like ancient vases from bygone cultures that have suffered all manner of environmental abuse and strain, there are degrees to their specific fracturing.

In her first few attempts Lisa, only beginning to develop the Jasmine Jett persona, learned that it wasn’t the guards at the bank (which were, by now, nonexistent) or the armed police she needed to worry about. It was the other super-villains who would see her doing her thing, and then would beat the crap out of her after the fact, thus having scored the cash without actually having to do the dirty work. The whole of the propaganda about honor among thieves was based in myth.

Therefore, creating the aura of insanity and instability and utter uncoolness was key to Lisa’s future of success. She was reminded of the special education kids during school days, cloistered in classrooms off to the far left or the far right of the building. When school assemblies forced the whole of the student body into a single space, the special-eds would be ushered in last, seated at the back of the auditorium, and moved out before the program was complete. The rest of the classes barely knew they were there. That was the point.

And even when they were in the way and unavoidable, the other students disregarded them, didn’t make eye contact, didn’t initiate conversations, and thus created that state of invisibility in plain sight. It was a brilliant revelation to Lisa.

In the coming weeks, the blank masks, normal wigs, and baggy, shabby clothes went out in the trash. The electric-purple wig was employed. A ritual of shouting incoherent platitudes about the bourgeoisie and the increasingly difficult price of Gatorade caused people to shy away. The inordinately sexy clothing meant the males were too busy looking at her cleavage and not her face, and the females were too busy staring at their partners, in condemnation of their embarrassing fixation. The more uncomfortable Lisa could make the populace, the more they actively tried to avoid her, which was exactly what she was aiming for.

That was for the regulars, though. The regulars weren’t the biggest problem, and so she also embarked on a campaign to out her brethren in crime, making sure that the clues left behind pointed to still other super-villains. In this sea of betrayal and in-fighting the prime targets were being neglected, as their main focus was steadfastly fixed on destroying each other. Jasmine Jett had the run of the town with no fear of being rolled by her own. It seemed that everything she really needed to know, she learned in high school.

In the big world, in the deep and troubled and conflicted world, motivations change. That which you want becomes that which you are beholden to, and suddenly you want what you had before, yet tossed away. They call it growing up, but it’s more complicated than that.

The most damaging weapon against anyone who chooses this lifestyle of altered identity is to have their true identity exposed, and that is true, to a point. Individuals take extraordinary measures to separate their extraordinary circumstances from their ordinary ones. It requires no small amount of subterfuge, the mind of a publicity agent, and the will to dive face-first into situations the human ego can barely withstand. That is an extremely difficult proposition for an individual who can hold a city, or a nation, hostage. For some who have been born with the power of the split atom coursing through their hearts, lungs, and veins, resuming existence with no personal glory, no regard from the outside world, can be harrowing.

It is not that exposing the secret identity will put the individual at more risk, although it might, that causes the deep concern. It is that exposure destroys the carefully crafted, preferred persona. They will never be seen again as a mighty figure of virtue or terror, but only as another very ordinary person with serious life issues they cannot adequately cope with.

That is why there are few second acts for former heroes or villains. For most, nothing can compete with the absolute high of so much control, so much influence. For some, the shame of their former lives can be unbearable, and old excuses concerning doing what they had to do, or having no choice or say in the matter, crumbles like dried clay under the heat and pressure of scrutiny. Their psyches, like those pottery glazes, get crazed. This is something every one of them must eventually deal with.

A fair amount go into consulting, or go on tours of speaking engagements, and their once-tight and mighty physiques have sagged into jowls, wattles, and rounded, distended guts that creep ever-so-obviously over waistbands. They write books, lots of them. Some become best-sellers, but most become dollar store fodder. During post-Christmas stock purges, they fill up dumpsters and, at the end of their lifecycles, burn well in metal garbage cans in the centers of homeless encampments and shack cities.

One or two become Hollywood stars, as they provide their own special effects. More than a few attempt suicide. Some succeed, mostly because suicide prevention hotlines simply aren’t equipped to handle those parameters.

Lisa DiVincenzo, having once become the most powerful woman in the city through supreme acts of strategy, threats of violence, and keen observation of all her potential adversaries had to be the one who killed Jasmine Jett, and succeeded for the most part. She dreamed of one day killing the specter of Sheila Starr too, but for now, that particular mask was another necessary evil. Jasmine Jett, for all the harm she caused and all the hurt she may have inflicted was, at least, someone Lisa could begrudgingly respect. Sheila Starr was nothing more than a vessel that gladly, willingly accepted whatever she was made to carry. She did it smilingly, subserviently. She was not in command of her own sexuality. She was barely in command of her own PR.

Lisa is a woman trying to blend in. She’s trying to stay on the right side of the law. She wants to be good. She really wants the superhero that keeps hounding her to leave her alone, but that’s something else — for Lisa once was the notorious, bank-robbing super-villain Jasmine Jett.

Trying your hardest not to be seen is difficult, especially in a world where everyone wants to be seen so badly. It’s also a lonely world, where you have to keep family at a distance, where meeting people is virtually impossible, and even if it was possible, having the social skills of dryer lint doesn’t help much.

And yet Lisa is about to meet someone as awkward and socially inept as she, and pent-up sparks are going to fly.

The Last Stand For Jasmine Jett is a comic tale about people trying to change in a landscape that doesn’t readily accept it; where heroes exist only because there are foes, and when the foes choose to turn their lives around those heroes cannot accept the possibility of redemption; where love blossoms even among the most isolated and geekish among us; and where we learn that extraterrestrial erotica is one of the silliest genres that has ever existed.

The complete story is available at Amazon for $1.99: The Last Stand For Jasmine Jett