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The Secret Return of Alex Mack is a fanfic by Diane Castle, based on the lead character from Nickelodeon's The Secret World of Alex Mack, and a sequel to Diane's The League of Extraordinary Women. After returning to her home universe after the events of The League of Extraordinary Women Alex applies what she's learned to becoming a real superhero and putting together her own team. This kicks off a Massive Multiplayer Crossover story as Alex recruits new members for her team, some from her world's counterparts to the extraordinary women she met from other universes, and others that she meets along the way. And then someone recruits her. It then adds in just about every B movie monster and bad guy, ever, and a massive global conspiracy for them to fight.

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It has also provided the basis for a Shared Universe to which other authors are contributing stories.


This story provides example of:

  • Action Girl: Several, including Alex, Hanna (whose code name is "Action Girl"), and Jo Lupo.
  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: Willow Rosenberg's parents are described as being Ashkenazi Jews, but she has known from a very early age that she was adopted, because she quite clearly isn't.
  • Alternate Universe: Alex's experience meeting people from multiple universes helps her track down the local universe equivalents, and gives her some insights into their characters, and pasts, but there are many major differences between them, as well.
    • Jaime Sommers exists in Alex's world, but she never had the skydiving accident that led to her gaining bionic parts.
    • Bruce Wayne is now Bruce Paine.
    • Selina Kyle is apparently the trophy wife of a Greek shipping magnate. She's really a member of the Collective, and suspected of using her burglary skills for industrial espionage.
    • Hermione Granger is an analyst working for MI-6. She gets her own backstory in Hermione Granger and the Boy Who Lived, a Darker and Edgier Hogwarts-by-way of James Bond fic.
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    • Buffy Summers had some success as a figure skater, and is now staring in a reality TV show, and the girlfriend of an NFL football star.
    • Willow Rosenberg is CEO of a small computer database and security company.
    • Jack O'Neill's wife, instead of his son, was killed in an accident involving his gun.
    • Samantha Carter is a NASA astronaut.
  • Amazon Brigade: Most of the people Alex recruits for her team are female.
  • And a Diet Coke: Alex has to eat a lot to keep her energy levels up, but she prefers the taste of Diet Coke, so she often makes food orders that have a lot of calories, and then asks for a Diet Coke.
  • An Ice Person: Sato Yuki, AKA Tsurara ('Icicle"), who gained her power during Gojira's attack on Sendai, Japan. In a cruel twist of fate, "Yuki" is Japanese for "snow".
  • The Assimilator: One of the North Korean supers is this, and steals the powers of both freind and foe. Post battle, the SRI team discuses how he could do that, as even Terawatt dosn't see how "power leach" makes sense as a power.
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  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Action Girl's default combat style
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The result of exposure to Deemer's Solution.
    • This results in a 250-foot spider, with baby spiders the size of a horse.
    • One of the North Korean supers is a ninety foot tall woman. Klar uses the trope name in his report, referring to her as "attack of the fifty-foot woman".
  • Attack Reflector: Sufficiently powerful telekinetics and metal-controllers can return bullets to sender. Attempting to fire missiles at such a meta will get you killed when your missiles come back and hit you.
    • A Collective telekinetic trys throwing metal scraps at Major Carter, only to be Swiss-cheesed himself when she fires back with her much stronger blast.
  • Badass Adorable: Shar, AKA Pyre. An eight year old cute kid, capable of taking out Gojira. or setting off a thermonuclear explosion.
  • Badass Bystander: The second time the Macks are kidnapped, the kidnappers end up facing down the all the neighbors...seven of whom have powers of their own.
  • Badass Crew:
    • The Superpowers Research Initiative, a collection of of Badass Normals, Empowered Badass Normals, and Badass Bookworms who fight all manner of Nuclear Nasty, zombies, and Blob Monsters. Perhaps best exemplified in the Silicate arc, where the SRI is the only team to not lose containment.
    • STARS is supposed to be this, being a team of the best SWAT officers in four states and containing several Special Forces veterans. Unfortunately, they weren't prepared for zombies and being sabotaged by The Mole didn't help either.
  • Ballroom Blitz: Poison Ivy, Bane, and some henchman crash a museum gala, sparking a massive brawl with Batman and the SRI.
  • Bare Your Midriff:
    • Crush's idea of a "combat uniform" for the Korea op is a sports bra and short shorts. Given she is completely invulnerable, she can get away with it.
    • Alex works out in a sports bra and shorts.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Thanks to her morph ability and a specially treated stain-resistant costume, Terawatt manages to emerge from massive fights without a hair out of place and still clean. However, she does end up bruised, and after flying through a Mark 77 explosion, she is all bruise.
    Sergeant Meadows: “Is there anywhere on you that isn’t bruised?”
    Alex: “My hair.”
    • Averted by everyone else, who get appropriately bloody and dirty in combat.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Alex is one of the nicest, kindest people you'll ever meet. She's also Terawatt, the world's most powerful superheroine, and will hand you your ass if if try anything.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence:
    • The Korean DMZ Battle, pitting most of the SRI against an entire squad of North Korean supers.
    • The final story arc, which sees every single superhero strut their stuff in an all-out attack on the Collective's base.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Terawatt, Action Girl, and Klar storm the museum gala just in time to save a badly outmatched Batman from Bane and Poison Ivy.
    • Ultraman arrives at the prom just in time to open the gym doors, which Hanna and Jo couldn't open, thus saving pretty much everyone at prom.
  • Blood Knight: Action Girl, who regards Bane as a Worthy Opponent, regards fighting a Cat Girl as great fun, and is disappointed that she doesn't get to fight raptors in the final battle.
    Alex: "Hanna thinks everything dangerous is extremely cool. She had fun fighting that North Korean catgirl who clawed her to shreds and just about killed her."
  • Boxing Lessons for Superman: Several super-powered characters receive additional martial arts training.
    • Terawatt gets MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) training, one of her main training priorities after getting back from her multiverse trip.
    • Pyre receives training in Kung Fu after watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and asking if she can learn Firebending. This is important, since as General O'Neil notes, her sole other means of self-defense is "tactical nuke"
    • Batman later takes Azure Crush under his wing and teaches her martial arts as well.
  • Bullet-Proof Fashion Plate: Terawatt's uniform is treated to resist stains.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dozens of them
    • Jack O'Neill is the world's least mature Colonel, despite being a complete badass leading a team that has saved the world numerous times.
  • Busman's Holiday: Multiple times.
    • Alex and Willow go to Comic-Con...and a parahuman attacks a bank truck.
    • Alex goes to Paris as a graduation gift...just in time for a bioweapon to be released.
    • Deliberately invoked during the Davenport cleanup arc. Alex goes to report on the cleanup, but brings her Terawatt bag just in case.
  • The Cape: Terawatt, naturally. A heroine in perfect white, who comes out of the sky to save the day.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Numerous well-executed examples.
    • Jack suggests a potentially dangerous telekinetic move that Squicks Alex out, but she later uses on a lightning-proof bad guy. It soon becomes her default attack.
    • Pyre's ability to go nuclear.
    • Alex accurately describes her electrokinesis over a 100 chapters before it becomes relevant.
    • The little old lady down the street who always wears dark glasses? She has Eye Beams.
  • Child Soldiers: Jack O'Neill is not happy that Alex, and many of the others that she works, with are just kids under the age of 18. He really doesn't like it when eight year old Shar gets involved.
  • Choke Holds: Terawatt frequently telekinetically squeezes an opponent's carotid artery shut, dropping them in seconds.
  • Clark Kenting: Alex goes to a lot of effort to physically distinguish herself from Terawatt. Terawatt wears high heeled boots, and usually floats a bit off the ground to appear taller, while Alex always wears flats. Terawatt wears a long blond wig, while Alex has cut her hair short. The Terawatt costume includes a padded bra…
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Hanna is this, having been raised completly alone by her father above the Arctic Circle. She slowly gets better.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Jo Lupo is prone to these, though as Alex is the viewpoint character, we never see much more that "and then Jo said a very interesting combination of swearwords"
    Jo had some different words. Most of them involved words Alex was not allowed to say, put together in some ways Alex had hardly ever heard before.
  • Combat Medic: Riley Finn serves as this, being both a highly skilled soldier and a medic. His wife, Samantha Finn, might also count, being a Peace Corp doctor who always carries a gun.
  • Colonel Badass: Col. Jack O'Neill of course. Also Col. Watanabe, the Japanese officer in charge of Japanese meta-response.
  • Cool Big Sis: Debbie Thornberry, who despite trying to act like she doesn't care, really does try to watch out for Eliza.
  • Cool Plane: The SRI has a couple of SR-71s that they use to move Alex around the world in a hurry, when they have to.
  • Cosplay: During the Comic-Con arc Alex cosplays as Kitty Pryde and Willow goes as Jean Gray. There's a surprising number of Terawatt cosplayers as well, and Terawatt offers to (and does) judge the Terawatt Cosplay contest.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: The SRI is, at first, officially the Hazardous Waste Abatement and Amelioration Agency. While they do help clean up hazardous waste spills, such "clean-up" generally involves killing whatever mutant monster the waste created.
  • Covert Pervert: Grover and his friends first and only use for the invisibility formula? Watching the cheerleaders shower.
  • The Cracker: William Robert Halsey, aka P$ychon4ut, a notorious hacker who works for the Collective. He's also a Serial Killer who was arrested and sent to prison before the story starts, though the Collective freed him.
  • Creepy Physical: Alex worries about this trope before getting a full exam (including gynecological) from Dr. Fraiser, thanks to hearing about gyno exams from a friend.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Buffy Summers, who spends the entire story a brainless but pretty reality-TV star...until she lures a Collective snatch team onto an ice rink and Curb Stomps them with ease.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Jo Lupo, as Alex notes, is implied to have one. She routinely carries far more weapons than normal, sleeps with a gun, and is pretty quick to suggest that Hanna was abused by her father.
  • David vs. Goliath: 5'6" Action Girl versus 7' Bane.
  • Defictionalization: After watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, Shar asks if she can learn Firebending, and gets Kung Fu lessons. After this, she always refers to her pyrokinesis as "firebending".
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Late in the story, GC-161 grenades are used against Orphans by both sides. Danielle's Booby Trap in the Collective's main base is just lots of GC-161 with a dispersal mechanism. Not only is it instantly fatal to Orphans, regular humans end up with various powers, which they either can't control or have no idea how to use
  • Doorstopper: Over one million words long, with 234 chapters.
  • Disability Immunity: Hanna's inability to feel fear allows her to resist The Midwich Cuckoos Mind Rape. She doesn't get angry watching her mother's murder, she's thrilled to finally see her mother.
  • Discard and Draw: Given sufficient GC-161 and antidote, you can cycle through powers until you get what you want. Danielle Atron is the first to use this technique, using it to gain the same TK/morph/electricity trio that Alex has. The method is later used to stabilize both Victor Cready and Ray
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": After gaining powers, Joelle Harriet Baker rejects her name and adopts "Azure Crush" as her new name.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Alex spends time reminding herself not to fall victim to this when she initially meets her world's version of Jack O'Neill, even if he swiftly proves himself trustworthy, and this also contributes to her establishing a friendship with the 'local' Willow and Hermione.
  • Dynamic Entry: Action Girl makes her public debut by parachuting though a glass ceiling to engage Bane.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: By the time the Collective is crushed at the Battle of Christakos Tepui, four cites, several towns, and numerous building are destroyed, millions of civilians are dead, and at least seven nuclear weapons have detonated.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Azure Crush's boyfriend calls her "Smurfette" for her blue skin. He is the only person she lets call her that.
  • Emergency Transformation: Mr. and Mrs. Mack, along with Ray, take GC-161 to gain powers in order to survive a kidnapping attempt.
  • Enemy Mine: The alien bio-organism in the "Mission" arc is so dangerous, Maggie Walsh orders a captured Collective agents to cooperate with the SRI to prevent its release.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The Collective's main base has numerous dinosaurs living around the area, presumably because Maggie Walsh got bored.
  • Evil Genius: Maggie Walsh, widely acknowledged as the smartest person in history and the brains behind the Collective's various horrors.
  • Expy
    • Terawatt and Riley Finn both cover aspects of Superman. Terawatt is the world's greatest hero and symbol of hope. Word of God is that Finn is Clark Kent, both being wholesome Mid-West adopted farm boys whose cover identities are newspaper reporters.
    • After a incident with bracers, Willow may be set to be a Wonder Woman expy, though a Texas Ranger later takes the Spanish version of the name
  • Fearless Fool: Hanna/Action Girl, due to her genetic engineering completly removing her ability to feel fear. Alex and Jack slowly teach her that just because she can't feel fear doesn't mean she's invincible.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: During the Silicate Crisis, Terawatt watches Italian soldiers pouring gunfire into the silicates long after they've discovered that bullets don't work, promting her to wonder if there is some military rule about shooting stuff even after you know it won't work.
  • Freak Lab Accident: The origin stories for Ultraman and Tsurara.
  • Free-Range Children: The Thornberrys are completly fine with letting Eliza wander around the Congo by herself. Admittedly she can talk to animals, but still.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: One of many way to get superpowers. The results include the Breslynn Orphans, proto-Orphans, and Action Girl.
  • Genius Bruiser: Alex becomes this over time. She already has a decent understanding of chemistry thanks to her father, and fighting an unending stream of Mad Science results in her learning a great deal.
  • Get a Room!: After the final battle, Alex considers telling Jack and Willow this when they start smooching in the ruins of the Collective's base,. but realizes that they would find somewhere to have sex and decides not to.
  • Gone Horribly Right: GC-161 was supposed to be a diet drug. You will loose weight with it, but only because your metabolism is supercharged to the point starvation is a real threat.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Terawatt and Batman won't kill you. That does not mean they aren't willing to squeeze your arteries shut, zap you unconscious, or sever your tendons with a baterang.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Alex, in keeping with her PG-rated Nickelodeon origins, swears this way. Jack trys (and largely fails) to do this around Shar as well.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Action Girl's favorite way of getting around. She got them from Batman.
  • Grenade Launcher: The M4/M203 combo is the SRI's standard weapon, and they break out M32 revolver launchers sometimes as well.
  • Grey Goo: A Collective branch in Xymos, Nevada develops some, only to be killed by them when the nanites breach containment.
  • Guns Akimbo: Sergeant Carlson is large enough use both a M240G and a M32 at the same time.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Hanna/Action Girl is part human part...something else.
  • Handicapped Badass: Sgt. Carlson's wife Corine is missing a leg and has a lot of metal reinforcements in her due to a car accident. Turns out a prosthetic leg works real good to kick people, and a metal-reinforced hand lets her punch a lot harder.
  • Harmful Healing: Carter manages to kill the alien goo infecting her...by denaturing(boiling) it with the maser's radiation. The result is horrific agony and first-degree burns inside her.
  • Hate Plague: The Collective develops a prion disease that turns the affected into mindless berserkers. The plague sufficiently horrible that nuclear weapons are the appropriate response to an unchecked outbreak, and Lebanon asked Israel to nuke Beruit. The Ogden's Marsh incident turns Iowa into a war zone with the National Guard fighting berserker hogs and mortaring farmhouses.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Alex and Willow mock this trope while watching Doctor Who. Later, Claire asks Alex this when confronted at a computer conference. Alex, after briefly wondering if that sort of question really worked, responds that she'd already texted everyone.
  • Healing Factor: Riley gains one after surviving exposure to the T-Virus. It is noted as being "somewhere between Wolverine and Spiderman"
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Shaman's 'talk to animals" power sounds weak. However, talking to animals gives her massive recon abilities, and she brings two hundred peccaries and howler monkeys to the final showdown.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Pyre suicide-nukes Nevada to kill the out-off-control Grey Goo infestation.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Alex hides her backup Terawatt suit by hanging it up in her closet with her cosplay outfits.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Terawatt wears bright white.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Little 5'2" Buffy is dating 6'4" NFL quarterback Freddie.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: After Maggie Walsh is crippled by an explosion during the Final Battle, she has her pet velociraptors finish the job.
  • Identity Impersonator:
    • Jo Lupo sometimes dons a Terawatt costume to provide cover for Alex.
    • On another occasion Jo adopts Alex's Annie Farrel identity while Terawatt is appearing at a NATO conference to discuss Superhero issues.
    • Willow pretends to be Alex, cosplaying as Kitty Pryde, in the audience when Terawatt makes an appearance at Comic-Con.
  • Improbable Weapon User: In an attempt to slow down the rampaging Birkin monster, Jack spreads surfactant on a water-slick stone floor, making it ever slipperier.
    Jack: “How’s your Jackie Chan fu?”
  • Intoxication Ensues: Willow gets completly smashed at her bachelorette party after a cousin has the bartender switch the vodka (80 proof) in her Cosmopolitans for Everclear (190 proof) and ends up with triple the alcohol.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Alex's collage mentor Frank West is one, and Alex is working on being one as well, and already has a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.
    • Over the course of the story, Alex has (from an in-universe perspective), run into a shootout to get the world's first footage of a superhero after monitoring the police scanner for months, ninjaed her way into a meat-packing plant to do an expose, filmed at least two of Terawatt's battles, and produced some of the best footage of the Davenport Building cleanup, all before she even gets to college.
  • Invisible Streaker: Klar, at least until he manages to make some invisible sheep from which he can obtain invisible wool.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: GC-Divide forces this, splitting the target into two people, one of whom is the original's moral opposite. Having been exposed to the chemical before, Alex uses the chemical on Danielle Atron and leaves her to fight her "good" side.
  • Kaiju: Godzilla itself shows up as a Collective creation that proceeds to rampage along the Russian and Japanese coasts before Pyre stops it. Tsurara dubs it "Gojira", a portmanteau of the Japanese words for "gorilla" and "whale", after Alex notes that "oversized amphibious Tyrannosaurus-Iguanodon thing with a ginormous alligator tail" really doesn't work.
  • Kill It with Fire: Aside from being various pyrokinetic's default combat use, the SRI calls on the Air Force to drop Mark 77 incendiary bombs on various nasties.
  • Leg Cannon: The SRI builds Sgt, Carlsons's wife Corine a prosthetic leg with a single-shot .50cal gun inside.
  • Leotard of Power: Terawatt's costume is just a slightly modified leotard.
  • MacGyvering: Sam Carter improvises a Maser using random stuff lying around the International Space Station. It helps that she has Terawatt to power it.
  • Made of Iron: By the time Hanna is rescued by the SRI, she is dying of an infection, has a bullet in her abdomen, and is working on very little sleep. Despite this, Hanna manages to return to Finland from Germany, and is awake, alert, and combat-ready
  • Woman of Steel, Man of Kleenex : When Charlie O'Neill manually stimulates Hanna to orgasm, she injures his hand when her legs clench up.
    • This prompts Alex to wonder how Azure Crush manages to have sex without killing her boyfriend Sergi. A later side story reveals that Crush has indeed broken some ribs.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Too many to list them all. The main crossover 'verses involved are:
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event:
    • North Korea tries to create an army of metas by giving 680,000 of their soldiers the various different power-giving substances. The treatments kill 99.9% of the soldiers, give six powers, and mutate the rest.
    • On a less morbid note, Paradise Valley's massive GC-161 contamination has resulted in dozens of citizens getting superpowers. In the side stories, at least three metahumans gained their powers while passing through. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue reveals that over six thousand Paradise Valley inhabitants had superpowers.
  • Magic Antidote: Averted. The GC-161 antidote must be taken almost immediately after exposure to counteract the drug's effect. Waiting too long results in the GC-161 altering your DNA, forcing regular doses of antidote to suppress powers. And after a year or so, the antidote doesn't work at all.
  • Magnetism Manipulation: One of the North Korean supers has this power, and Terawatt refers to her as a "Magneto type" when warning the others.
  • Medals for Everyone: Following the Korean DMZ Battle, all military SRI personnel receive the Congressional Medal of Honor and the civilians receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom-Terawatt's is "With Distinction". Those are the highest honor a soldier or civilian can receive.
    • It is later noted that Britain, France, Ireland and Italy are all racing to give Terawatt medals first, and Finland is trying to decide. Italy later gives her their highest honor, Knight Grand Cross with Grand Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
  • Meta Origin: Alex's father hypothesizes the existence of a master "can acquire powers" gene the regulates if you can get powers and what that power is.
  • Military Superhero: Action Girl's "costume" suggests this, she just wears regular military fatigues with a mask.
  • Mind over Matter: Telekinesis is Terawatt's main power, and Sam Carter later theorizes that electrokinesis and the morph are just telekinesis being applied at a subatomic level.
  • Mind Rape: The Midwich Cuckoos force the entire team to view their worse memories...on repeat.
  • Missing Steps Plan: The Collective's sales pitch to recruit the Orphans consists solely of an e-mail telling said orphan that they're a genetically engineered superhuman.
  • The Mole: Clare Tobias is an NID mole in the Collective.
  • Moment Killer: Alex and Ray might have had sex at Comic-Con...if Willow hadn't brutally murdered the mood by giving Alex a graphic pep talk plus a bag of condoms, lube, and wet wipes.
    Alex: "I’m totally un-sexy after Willow’s whole ‘get down and dirty’ talk."
    Ray: “Umm, I’m pretty un-sexy just from looking in that bag. I don’t think I could’ve handled the talk too."
  • Mood Whiplash: An absolute brutal example in Chapter 219. What starts as a light-hearted road trip Breather Episode becomes a battle that ends with Pyre's death via suicide-nuke. Reader reviews were...mixed
  • Mundane Utility: Pretty much everyone has found non-combat uses for their powers.
    • Alex uses her telekinesis to dry her hair, dust multiple rooms at once, and help her eat more food. Her electrokinesis allows her to charge batteries, as well as light welding/cutting.
    • Shar uses her pyrokenesis to cook meat, a use Terawatt suggests before even meeting her.
    • Tsurara gets a job as a nuclear power plant's cooling unit.
  • The Neidermeyer: Colonel Leonetti of the Italian Army, who totally mishandles the silicates situation and gets his own men eaten for it. Alex promptly dubs him "Colonel Stupidetti" for it and makes sure he isn't responsible for any more supervillian situations.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Some Orphans have a high tolerance for alcohol, with tiny little Buffy drinking margaritas by the pitcher. Willow, on the other hand, is described as "a cheap date," who gets drunk the first time she goes out to dinner with Jack, and then at her bachelorette party gets wasted when her cousin spikes her cosmopolitans with Everclear.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The location of Collective's base is a secret for most of the story. Then they try snatching every unaligned Orphan, at which point Batman foils the attempt of Bruce Paine and finds a clue. And there's only one location in the area that is always covered in fog.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Several characters have it
    • Terawatt is invulnerable to all attack while morphed, although she can still feel pain.
    • Azure Crush is completly bullet-proof, the the point that it takes an anti-tank railgun to break her skin.
    • Silicate monsters can shrug off gunfire, incendiary devices, explosives, and impacts. They can only be killed by injecting them with radium-228 or stromium-90.
    • Gojira manages to ignore the massed fire of entire Russian tank brigades, ships, and multiple nuclear anti-submarine weapons.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: The Collective attempts to determine Terawatt's identity by stealing blood samples and hospital records fom medical offices in Paradise Valley. However, it turns out that a good 8% of Paradise valley inhabitants had noticeable amounts of GC-161 exposure, not to mention people too poor to visit, those passing through (the origin story of at least three superheroes in the series at large), or those who-like Alex-avoided the doctor due to their exposure.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The Nevada Spiders Battle leaves hardened Special Forces soldiers arachnophobes and is a in-universe case of You Do NOT Want to Know.
    • Chapter 65 is notably the only chapter with a content warning.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: The US Marshals assigned to Azure Crush are rude, crude, sexist jerks. Despite this, they stand their ground in the face of a supervillain attack and are among the only casualties.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: Invoked by Marsha when she and Louis foil a kidnap attempt by telekinetically flipping a fire-control switch from "fire" to "safe". The gunman drops the gun and pulls a knife
  • Nuke 'em: Nuclear weapons (euphemistically referred to as Operation Failsafe by the SRI) have been used multiple times. No less than four cities have been nuked after being hit with a Hate Plague, Gojira was stuck by two nuclear anti-sub weapons, and the Xymos Event was officially a nuclear self-destruct.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Alex is incredibly grossed out when her mother mentions using a diaphragm during sex.
  • Phlebotinum Bomb: Distrusting the rest of the Collective, Danielle Atron plants GC-161 bombs all over the main base.
  • Police Code for Everything: Paradise Valley PD refers to superpowered incidents as "10-9000". Justified, given they've been dealing with GC metas for years.
  • Powered Armor: The Collective develops a set, only to run into power supply issues. They end up giving it to Danielle, who foolishly tries to use it against Terawatt.
  • Power Incontinence: Several times, as GC-161 powers are often beyond the user's control.
    • The Macks and Ray lack any control of their powers during their Emergency Transformation.
    • Victor Cready lacks any control over his powers, resulting in him being permanently on fire and stuck in his morph state.
    • Pyre looses control when she takes out The Shop, and boils away a lake before she get it back under control.
    • Alex's friend Marsha is telekinetic, but she doesn't even know she has powers due to her relatively weak powers. She does learn to control it after finding out she has powers.
  • Powers Do the Fighting: Alex and Shar fight exclusively with their powers-Terawatt's MCMAP training is never used, and Shar's kung fu training is for civilian self-defense.
  • Promotion to Parent: Alex after the Macks adopt Shar. As a result, Alex is completly devastated be Shar's death
  • Psycho Serum: A major side effect of GC-161 is mental instability, though Alex managed to avoid this.
  • One Steve Limit: Played with. Charlie McGee's name change is as much to prevent confusion with Charlie O'Neill as it is to protect her identity. Samantha Carter and Samantha Finn are still present without name changes, though they have yet to meet.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Pyre, a massively powerful pyrokinetic capable of killing Gorjira. Diane explicitly refers to her as such at one point.
  • Retired Badass: Batman's butler Alfred is a former 006 agent. Not only that, but he was retired for being too old (Double-Oh agents are required to retire at 45), not due to injury.
  • Revealing Cover Up: The Collective uses fog machines to hide their base from being photographed by satellites. However, this just means that there is one tepui which is always covered by clouds, which stick out like sore thumb.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Klar carries a Ruger Redhawk in .44 Magnum as his personal weapon.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Played with.
    • GC-161 pyros lack any protection from their own fire, forcing them to burn themselves whenever they activate their power. However, Shar is immune to her own powers.
    • Tsurara's ice powers work via sucking up all the heat around her. Without a constant supply of heat, she freezes everything around her, becomes painfully cold, and might actually freeze to death.
    • It is eventually established that Alex is immune to eye damage from her searingly bright lighting.
  • Running Gag:
    • Alex's "Yay, SAT words!"
    • Shar keeps asking if she can firebend the bad guys.
  • Secret Identity: Deconstructed. Alex has the advice of a professional super heroine, the support of family and friends, and is backed by a government agency providing super-fast transportation and a Body Double. Despite this, her identity is deduced by more main villains and several minor characters.
    • Alex also has a separate "Annie Farrell" identity, in which she is either Lt. Farrell, Jack's Hyper-Competent Sidekick hacker and adjutant, or just a "not Alex Mack" incognito identity.
  • Secret Public Identity: Azure Crush, Victor Cready, and Tsurara are all publicly known as metas, due to either their criminal activities or the impossibility of disguise. Crush is permanently blue, and Tsurara requires a constant source of heat to avoid freezing to death.
  • Seen It All:
    • Alex has fought enough mad science horrors that she casually refers to the silicates-a Nigh Invulnerable world-ending threat-as "a headache".
    • Rabbi Sol has plenty of stories of wedding disasters, and as a result is Crazy-Prepared for anything.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism:
    • The Spencer Mansion has one that automatically actives if all the staff die. Given that they're researching various zombie viruses, this actually makes sense. Surprisingly, it actually works, killing everything on site.
    • The Xymos Nuclear Event is officially this, to cover up Pyre's Heroic Sacrifice
  • Self-Surgery: Played realistically.
    • Hanna attempts this after being shot, but is unable to find the bullet and settles for sewing herself up and injecting penicillin.
    • Samantha Finn treats her own pneumothorax after being shot and left for dead, though she is only able to aspirate the wound while waiting for rescue.
  • Sexy Whatever Outfit: Alex complains about this around Halloween, noting that "sexy" in a costume name really means "slutty", and taking offense to a Terawatt Cosplay that has a large cutout over the breasts.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Alex has her father make her an GC-161 anti-antidote in case she ever has to fight someone with antidote. She takes it before rescuing her family, knowing that Danielle Atron will have some antidote ready. The anti-antidote makes her incredibly sick, results in minor liver damage, and any further doses could be fatal. She's already immune to the antidote, since her exposure was years ago.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Azure Crush, who spends the vast majority of her time in skimpy clothes and posed nude for Hustler.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The SRI, at least in the beginning. Despite saving the world from a variety of a monsters, it isn't until the Korean DMZ battle that they come out of the shadows.
    • Pyre is this even more than anyone else. She has only been publicly seen once, during Gojira's rampage, and then is reported as killed in action at Xymos. This despite being the most powerful meta the SRI has ever encountered who killed Gojira single-handed.
  • Shout-Out:
    Alex: "I’m Rainbow Dash, the flyer with the powers. Riley’s Applejack, the tough one. Willow’s Twilight Sparkle, who’s the super-brainy one. Hanna’s Spike, who’s a dragon. And he tagged Hermione Granger as Fluttershy.”
  • Story-Breaker Power: Pyre is the strongest, most powerful meta in the entire series, and has minor telekinesis, precognition, mind-reading, and mental domination on top of throwing house-size fireballs. This is why she's killed off.
  • Split Personality: There is such a large difference between Alex's shy, slightly insecure self and Terawatt's brave, self-assured personality that at least one person has suggested that Alex has this.
  • Spoiler Title: Chapter 227's title, "Where Raptors Dare", spoils a twist about The Mole.
  • Superpower Lottery: The result of getting hit with GC-161, which grants varying powers. Terawatt "won" the "jackpot", getting TK, Morph, and Electrokinesis without any side effects. Powers gained from GC-161 include:
  • Super Speed: Ultraman's main power, he can run at about 280kmh/160mph. He could run faster, but he's currently limited by his shoes catching fire due to friction.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: Lampshaded. While searching the Spencer Mansion, Alex notes that she's finding bazooka ammo in odd places, and wonders why it is there.
    She [Alex] couldn’t figure out what all the bazooka ammo was for, unless Wesker knew she had that guy’s bazooka and was playing some sort of creepy game with her, or leading her into a trap.
  • Taking You with Me: Tsurara, realizing she cannot live long when she suck up all the heat around her, attempts this on Gojira. Fortunately, Terawatt manages to talk her down, and Pyre's fireballs warm her, and she realizes that life as a biochemical heat sink is possible.
  • Theme Naming: The chapters in each story arc tends to be a pun on the arc's theme. There's the "Desert" arc (Desert Flower, Lion of the Desert,etc), the "Residence" arc (dealing with the T-virus from the Resident Evil series, Residence, Residential, etc).
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Terawatt doesn't kill other humans.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eliza Thornberry is very much a tomboy, while her sister Debbie is much more laddylike.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Grover Dun, aka Klar. When first introduced he's a scared kid who's stuck invisible. A hundred chapter later, he's a revolver-wielding Badass Bookworm who impresses STARS officer Jill Valentine in combat.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Hanna's lack of fear makes her this, forcing Alex and Jack to keep from from, say, knife-fighting sharks in waist-deep water.
    • During the Chamberlain Incident, the two surviving pranksters try to run Carrie down...after seeing her torch the school and in front of multiple superheroes.
  • Transformation Sequence: Played with. Alex tends to turn into Terawatt by diving into her costume gymbag and switching outfits.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Everyone is required to talk to a therapist regularly, usually via phone for security reasons.
  • There Is a God!: Terawatt tells Shar that, with everything she's seen, there is a higher power out there somewhere
    Charlie: “Do you believe in God?”
    Alex: “Charlie, I’ve been in other dimensions and other universes. I’ve met someone who was in Heaven for a while. I’ve been in a hell dimension and seen a gateway to another one. I’ve fought a hellgoddess and met an Earth goddess. After all that, I think I pretty much have to believe there’s a Higher Power out there.”
  • The Talk: Alex gets a particular graphic version of it from Willow at Comic-Con, and Shar ends up getting both The Talk and The Other Talk at the age of eight (AND A HALF) due to her psychic mind-reading.
  • Tied-Together-Shoelace Trip: Marsha does this to Vince when she and Louis foil the Mack's kidnapping.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Terawatt actually says this as she and Danielle face off in the Final Battle after pulling an Unflinching Walk through a hail of (telikinetically blocked) gunfire. Given Alex's Gosh Dang It to Heck! tendencies, this is basically a Precision F-Strike.
    Alex: “Let’s dance… bitch.”
  • Threat Backfire: After Alex busts Claire Tobias's attack on a computer confrence, Claire tries to theaten her. Alex's response?
    Alex: "Get in line. I’m A.L. Mack. I’ve already been targeted twice by Danielle Atron and once by Azure Crush. Someone who’s extra-strong? I’ve seen scarier. In my own high school."
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Several
    • Azure Crush has zero training, but is completly invulnerable and can lift over 20 tons
    • Carrie White has no training, but manages to easily keep Action Girl, Jo Lupo, and Ultraman at bay, and even Terawatt is forced to attempt Talking the Monster to Death. Her telekinesis is far too strong for Terawatt to effect her, and she block lighting with giant chunks of road.
  • The Unmasqued World: Terawatt isn't the first meta. She's just the first to go public. While not stated in Secret Return, it is implied by the various super-soldier and genetic engineering programs, and is explored in various side stories.
  • Utility Belt: Terawatt get one partway through the story. While mostly a convenient way to carry more energy bars, it also holds a wire saw and mini circular saw blade, both with diamond dust on the edges.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Willow/Acid Burn, who acts as Alex's Mission Control, with Jack frequently chiming in as well.
  • Walking Spoiler: Shar/Pyre, due to the nature of her death
  • Walking Swimsuit Scene: Azure Crush spends the entire battle with mutant clams in a bikini.
  • War Is Hell: The constant brutal combat against horrific enemies is not pretty or glamorized, and Terawatt notes that, having experienced war herself, she understands The Red Badge of Courage.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Terawatt is one of the weakest characters power-wise, but more than makes up for it with years of experience, incredible levels of control and zero issues fighting dirty.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Orphans are fatally allergic to GC-161 and instantly dissolve into silvery goo upon exposure.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Nearly everyone involved in the story is either too savvy to ever ask this or learns why you don't say this.
    • Alex learns the hard way not to ask this, and then apologizes to the ceiling:
    Alex: “What else can go wrong today?” And her Terawatt phone went off. Oh crud.
    Alex: “I’m really, really sorry I said it, and I’ll never say it again, okay? Don’t make it be something bad!”
    • Azure Crush makes a similar error:
    Azure Crush: What can go wrong?
    Didi: Oh come on, Az, even I know not to say that. What happens as soon as the guy says that in a movie?
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: Terawatt, and all other GC-161 cases, eat far more than normal most of the time, and using powers drives appetites Up to Eleven.
  • You Cloned Hitler!: Howard Locke turns out to be one of (several) Hitler clones made after World War 2.
  • Younger than She Looks: Alex deliberately crafts her Terawatt costume to make her look older than she is.
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