Enhancegirl: A Christmas in Seacouver

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Enhancegirl: A Christmas in Seacouver

Post by Damselbinder »

"Mgghhmphh!" An exceedingly pretty, lightly freckled young redhead had found herself, not for the first time, in something of a bind. The green-eyed, slender damsel was caught fast in an interlinking network of straps and buckles. There were thick, strong plastic straps above and below her breasts, pinning her forearms against her sides, biting into the fabric of her loose, white crop-top. Her forearms were held in place by powerful leather buckles around each of her wrists, hooked to the straps at the redhead's waist, making sure that she could only shake her hands vainly: she didn't stand a chance of breaking them.

A strap ran down from the mesh binding her arms, over her taut, bare midriff, to her pelvis. Here too were there straps, pressing into the redhead's tiny, pleated blue skirt. These straps connected to the ones binding her arms - and also to the ones binding her soft, caressable thighs, which were hemmed tightly against each other, rubbing together as the maiden struggled and writhed, but inseparable. Her calves too were inextricably united, with two sets of straps - still linked to the main body of the mesh - just under her smooth knees, keeping the young woman's long, pale legs entirely bound. Almost redundantly, cuffs identical to the ones around her wrists entrapped her slim ankles, hooked onto the straps tying her legs. This meant that while the lovely girl could wriggle her bare feet, she couldn't do anything useful with them.

"Mmmmphhh!" the redhead cried out, her sweet lips sealed with a piece of white medical tape, a single strip from cheek to cheek muffling her voice. This was, perhaps, the most significant component of her bondage. For this redhead's attractiveness was not the only notable thing about her. This was Sophie Scott: better known to most as the superhero 'Enhancegirl' - but without her voice, she was helpless to activate her wondrous powers.

"Ummmphh!" Sophie intoned, turning her head to look at her wrists again. "Fuck, I'm totally caught!" She writhed again, but the straps were far, far stronger than the young student could possibly hope to be. She was sat on an admittedly comfortable couch, but that didn't improve her situation at all. She thrust out and twisted her shapely, naked legs, feeling her soft skin caressing itself as she writhed, but she found no weakness there. Sophie wriggled her fingers, trying to reach something she could undo, but her hands were positioned precisely to prevent this.

"I can't believe this..." Sophie thought, astonished by the extent and security of her bondage. "I'm completely helpless! My arms...my legs...damn it!" She threw her long, red hair back as she strained, her supple bosom pushed out as she strained with every useful muscle at once. "Mmmmmhghh!" she groaned, trying as hard as she possibly could to find any weakness whatever in her bonds - but none were found. "Mhhhh..." she gasped, slumping back. "All I can do is sit here..." She looked down at herself - in her low cut, midriff-baring blouse and her tiny skirt, she was well aware of just how uncovered her delectably pretty body was. She blushed a little at her vulnerability, red appearing beneath the brown dusting of her light freckles.

"Mmh?" Sophie bleated, as the door to the room in which she was imprisoned opened. Her green eyes widened as her captor entered, walking slowly and confidently towards the defeated, helpless beauty who whimpered and struggled before them. Her capture had been laughably easy. From the moment Sophie had felt the first cuffs snag her wrists, and the white tape slapped down over her mouth, she'd been powerless, her lithe form pushed down and strapped up in less than two minutes. For the formidable, capable superheroine, such a thing should not have been possible - not quite so easily as that, at any rate. But against this particular enemy, Enhancegirl was entirely powerless...

"In nomini patri, et fili et spiritu santi..." Gravely were the ancient words pronounced over the table of the Cierra household, at precisely the same time that Sophie found herself strapped and bound. The gathered family, all twelve of them, crossed themselves, though some did so with a little more sincerity than others. Juán, the paterfamilias, began to carve the vast bird that lay in front of them - when the knife first pierced the goose's flesh, it was time for jollity to recommence.

Though Juán Cierra, a grateful and successful immigrant to America, thanked his adopted country by adopting in his turn its traditions over the Navidad of the nation of his birth, there was nonetheless a decidedly latin flavour to the festivities. Arroz con dulce had decisively defeated bread sauce, tembleque festooned the table instead of mince pies, and the music blaring in the background was not the usual litany of crooning lounge lizards with their well worn swing-hymns, but what Juán assured his family was 'traditional' Christmas music for Puerto Ricans, despite the fact that not a song on the playlist had been written before 1998.

His three sons - two tall and strapping, one portly but vastly more intelligent - laughed raucously with each other.
"And she - ahehehehe! - she said..." Lucas, one of the strapping brothers giggled, "she said - ahhhhhhhehehehhehe! - 'that's not...not my...AAAHHHH-HEHEHEHEHE!" The others laughed along with him - and the joke was certainly not made funny by its content, but because Lucas himself seemed to find it so amusing that he couldn't get through it, and his high-pitched machine-gun of a laugh was irritating but ingratiatingly infectious at one and the same time.

Slightly less raucously, but still with great energy, Juán's wife Angelica spoke in a rapid mélange of Spanish and English with her father Pavél, the withered old man being the brothers' generation's only surviving grandparent.
"Angelica, my dear, being Christian does not make this question any easier - for one you have not been a sincere believer since you were five, and for another - on what does it rest? If a thing is good whether God says it is or not, then God did not create goodness and nothing is solved! If a thing is good because God says it, then morality is arbitrary, and we obey it only out of fear!" Though his body had withered, his mind had not: he was the great intellectual of the family, and he was more than capable of keeping up with his daughter who, though very bright, had not inherited what little of genius Pavél had.

"How you prattle, Papa!" Angelica snorted. Though by now over fifty, and having produced four now adult children, Angelica was still a great beauty. Tall, curvaceous, and toned, she had a proud femininity, a haughty grace to her that the years had not dimmed. Of course, she did not have the almost dangerous sensuality that came with the suppleness of youth, but the fire that was her chief attraction was still strong as ever. "A real man doesn't umm and ahh about what a good man is - he is one!" Her father cackled slowly, his voice cracking with age. He had fathered his one child quite late in his life - he was ninety-two.
"Whether you know it or not, you almost quoted Marcus Aurelius."
"Good. He's someone who knew when to dream and when to be a man." Pavél smiled. His daughter was too impatient ever to be a good debater.
"Maybe he should have thought about what it is to be a good man a little more often." He tapped the bridge of his nose, and Angelica tensed - he always did that before checkmating an opponent. "Aurelius had hundreds of Christians executed."

"Ay, grandpa!" Filipe, the portly son interjected. "No philosophy at the dinner table! Especially not with mama."
"Hey, hey," Pavél wagged his finger weakly at the young financier. "Respect your elders!"
"That was grandma's rule," Filipe said. "And she was older than you, so..." Grinning, he tapped the bridge of his pudgy nose. His mother gave him a scolding look from which he recoiled - she didn't tolerate cheek - but she smiled on the side of her face that he couldn't see. She loved seeing her old man put out.

Indeed, at the entire table, there were only two people who were not enjoying themselves. One was Lucy, daughter of Pietro, the eldest of Angelica and Juán's children. The infant was bearing the pain of the emergence of her teeth with admirable resilience, but she was glum nonetheless. The other was Lucy's aunt, the young and beautiful Maya. She loved Navidad, and loved her family - particularly her boisterous, but adoring older brothers. But whenever her eyes and her mother's met, she felt intense, almost burning shame.

Maya, like her mother, and her mother before her, possessed incredible supernatural powers. She, like them, could control the air - hence her nom de plume: Aerogirl. The power was not genetic - each firstborn girl in their bloodline would make a pact with what the family knew only as 'our patron spirits', being given their power in exchange for...well, not apparently in exchange for anything. The only condition was that if the quality of the wind - freedom, elusiveness, strength - did not imbue them, their powers would instantly be withdrawn, returning only when the bearer returned to that state.

In practice, what this meant was that they would lose their powers when bound. To Angelica, in her entire career as a superheroine, this had happened to her four times, and she had been active for nearly eighteen years. Maya had been active for a little over two and a half years, and she had been captured and bound no less than fifty times - possibly more. She had, therefore, acquired a reputation for being the weakest and most ridiculous superhuman in a city brimming with them. This was especially the case given that, in terms of raw power, she was much stronger than most. Yet still, Maya was much more often pretty, whimpering damsel than mighty warrior of justice.

Pavél happened to catch sight of his granddaughter. She had on an expression of relative jollity: she was smiling, even. Yet the half-blind nonagenarian wasn't fooled. He looked at her, not trying to initiate a conversation, but peering like a scientist looking through a microscope. Maya blushed when she saw that she was being examined.
"Excuse me." She mumbled an excuse, and left her family's din. No-one noticed her burning red cheeks.
"Little one," Pavél said, tapping his daughter on the shoulder.
"Don't call me that, Papa," she growled. "I've been taller than you since I was fifteen!"
"Talk to your girl."
"Hmm? Maya? What's wrong with her?"
"No questions. Be obedient for once!" Angelica raised an eyebrow, but semi-reluctantly obeyed.

She found Maya standing over the sink, her hand on her chest. Her pastel-red dress was modest, but she had inherited her mother's beautiful, feminine figure, and her smooth, light-brown calves were quite enough to draw the eye. Her medium-length, dark hair ran partly down her back, and partly covered her face.
"Little one," Angelica said. She'd transferred the epithet to her daughter. Maya turned around with a start. Rather unconvincingly, she turned her smile back on.
"Hi, Mother," the young heroine said. "I was just, uh..."
"What is it?" Maya blinked. "You've been looking depressed all day. What's going on? Boyfriend break up with you?"
"N-no," Maya said quietly. "I don't have a -"
"Well what, then?" Angelica came forward a few steps. "Out with it!"

Maya stood still for a few moments. She opened her mouth to speak several times before words actually came out. Her legs shifted, the pretty latina going pigeon-toed.
"Mother..." she half-whispered. "Are...are you ashamed of me?"

There was a long silence.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything..." Maya said, turning away again. "Please go back to the others. It's Christmas, I -"
"What the hell is this?" Angelica crossed her arms, her lips curling. "The bowing and the scraping, the apologising for everything."
"I - I don't mean to..."
"Don't respond like that!" Maya's mother snapped. "Tell me to get lost! Throw a plate at me and call me a bitch! Slap me down with your powers, I don't care, do something!" Maya gaped. The sweet, shy young lady had no idea how to react to this.
"You asked me if I was ashamed of you. Of you. What the fuck do I have to be ashamed of, apart from what you're doing right now?"

Maya looked at her quizzically. It seemed so obvious.
"My...getting captured all the time...all those pictures on the Internet...I thought it would embarrass you..."
"Embarrass me? You..." If there was one thing that mother and daughter shared, it was that neither of them were the most effective communicators. "When you held up an entire 747 and saved a hundred people, you think I was embarrassed? When you flew 200 miles in an hour and a half to stop a tornado, you think I was embarrassed? When you slapped the shit out of that psycho businessman and Nucleon, you think I was embarrassed? When people catch you, and do that perverted..." She stopped speaking. Her fist was clenched in anger. "Those bastards are lucky I don't have my powers anymore, I am god-damned telling you..." More than once she'd had to upbraid Juán and her boys for threatening bloody vengeance on those who'd humiliated their beloved Maya, reminding them that they did not have the power to fight Aerogirl's battles for her.

She collected herself, trying to focus on what she thought her daughter needed. "I love you, little one. We all love you. We all cheer for you. Just have some damned pride!" She grabbed her daughter, kissed her on the forehead, and embraced her.
"Mama..." Maya said, gingerly returning the hug. "Th-thank - ow!"

Angelica had slapped her on the back of the head.
"I shouldn't have to say it!" she barked. "I'll say it as often as you need to hear it. But don't think it won't come with a little reminder that you shouldn't need to hear it. Go back to the others now, girl." Maya, not quite sure what to do with herself, clutched her arms against her chest. She smiled, nodded, and returned to her family, for once a little pleased that she was Aerogirl, as well as Maya Cierra.

In somewhat less traditionally festive surroundings, another heroine was laughing and drinking with a large group of people. The assembled party were artists, musicians, writers - all young, all achingly fashionable - and all wanting a piece of the newest, most exciting thing to hit Seacouver's 'scene' in quite some time - a certain young lady named Yumi Tae-Yeong.

Yumi, better known by her stage name 'Stellar', would not have been part of such a trendy scene in her native Korea. While she was better thought of than some of the more obviously commercial K-Pop darlings, she was hardly Scott Walker - her music, and her image were quite mainstream.

Yet the novelty of someone in her position upping sticks and moving to America, and the Bowie-esque charm of the way she performed, with all her personae, made her fascinating to Seacouver's more fashionable elements. Clad in a shimmering, silver mini-dress that had something of the space age in it, her light brown, long hair flying about her, she danced with the grace and lightness of a butterfly. She was dancing with a tall, beautiful woman a little older than herself: a gorgeous, African-American dancer, whose voluptuous figure was a thrilling contrast with the fae slenderness of the gorgeous musician. In a white vest, tiny denim shorts and red heels, she looked casually sexy in a delightful way.

As the two danced closely, Yumi felt a rush of exhilaration. The process of moving from one country to another had been an exhausting one, however strongly she may have felt that America was where the next paving stone in the road of her destiny lay. This party, which she herself was hosting in her sickeningly fashionable penthouse at not inconsiderable expense, was the first opportunity she'd had to cut loose in this country.

"Miss Tae-Yeong! Miss Tae-Yeong!" Yumi gritted her teeth as she heard the voice, calling to her in her native tongue.
"Sorry," she said, smiling sweetly at her dance partner. She turned around to see a fusty, young-ish man in an expensive, but not quite sharp suit, who looked so close to impeccably neat that the few spots of untidiness - namely in his unruly hair - were agonising to look at. This was Hyuk-Woo Lee, Stellar's manager.

"What's wrong, Mr Lee?" she said, patiently. She was expecting a long answer.
"This crowd, Miss Tae-Yeong!" Even his voice was fusty: pinched and brusque, but without authority.
"What's the matter with them?"
"Nothing. Well, not exactly." He checked a clipboard - what possibly he could have on it, Yumi did not know. "This plays well, I suppose. People expect America to be, well, a bit weird." By 'people' he meant 'Stellar's Korean fans'. Sometimes it seemed to Yumi that Lee was not quite aware that people who didn't fall into this category were human beings at all. "So these...eccentric ladies and gentlemen are fine. Under the circumstances, I mean." He had not been very supportive of Stellar's move, considering that it somehow was sending a message of disloyalty, that she was abandoning her country as soon as it had made her famous.

"Great!" Stellar said. "So it's fine. Mr Lee, let's all have fun, okay?" She beamed, and he shuddered slightly. He had no revulsion to her smile, far from it: he was head over heels in love with her. The way his affection manifested, however, was not always pleasant for the object of his devotion, despite the fact that he had sworn an oath to himself never romantically to pursue her.
"It's not all fine!" Lee insisted. "Since this started, you've only -" He eyed the photographers, pressing his thumb to his nose, a relic of a habit he'd developed as a boy when he'd had to wear glasses. "You've only danced with other women!"
"So?" Stellar replied, quite innocently.
"So? People want to see Stellar as available - our male audiences would halve if they couldn't imagine you as their girlfriend."
"Lee." Again, Stellar's tone was patient. "I'm a musician, not a - a virtual girlfriend. You need to be confident in the music."
"You can be as confident in your music as you want. It's my job to worry about everything else." He got closer. "Stellar and Yumi Tae-Yeong are not the same thing. Yumi Tae-Yeong is a musician. Stellar is a brand. You have a responsibility to the company to maintain it."

Yumi opened her mouth to speak. She was not, it had to be said, particularly moved by the plight of the rich men - and it was almost entirely men - who owned Sunfire Records. Yet, it was not just the board members and shareholders to think of - it was the technicians, the low level administrative staff, the event planners, the recording booth operators, the stagehands - all of whom would be out of a job without Stellar.

The heroine's mood grew despondent. After a frightening encounter with a villain named Adrienne which had made Stellar deeply question herself, she'd decided to move to America as an act of self-discovery. Yet the weight of expectation had followed her across the Pacific. And this specific request of Lee's, as well. Yumi wasn't sure why, but it gave her a particular frustration.
"Alright, Lee," she said, her smile dimming. "I'll -"

It was at that particular moment that the great, thick bay windows of Stellar's penthouse shattered. They did not burst inwards, or outwards, but simply crumbled. As it was, though there was a shocked outcry, there was not the screaming that one might have expected. That happened when the black-suited men leapt through the empty space left by the window, and one of them fired a blast of lightning from his fingers.

That was when panic settled in.
"Nobody move!" one of them cried out. He sounded about thirty. "I have enough power to fry every single one of you!" Another blast tore through the ceiling above them, settling the point. The crowd settled into a terrified silence. "That's better." He turned to his companion. "Find her."

There was something almost dreamlike about the whole thing. The music was still playing, the festive lights still shining. Yet here was a superpowered criminal threatening all their lives. The two men were dressed in full combat gear, with black balaclavas over their heads. This was a thoroughly mercenary operation. Yumi, of course, was about to step forward, but Lee put his hand on her shoulder. She turned back, and he shook his head. "Too dangerous," he mouthed. Frustratingly, this time he was right. Stellar couldn't risk fighting in such a crowded space against someone with such an obviously deadly power.

As his partner searched, the first man sent an arc of electricity flowing from one hand to the other in a circuit. Yet this was not as fantastical to the frightened revellers as it might have been. For, as it happened, electrical generation was possibly the single-most common superpower on the planet. This was vaguely supposed to be because it was a relatively natural extension of what the human body could already do. This was no comfort to Yumi's guests, though. This man was clearly in the stronger range - he surely could make good on his threat, at least in part.

"There you are, Miss Jones!" The second man, the one without an ability - as far as the crowd knew - had found the curvy beauty that Stellar had been dancing with, and grabbed her by the arm.
"Hey, let go of me you asshole!" Fear gave the lovely dancer enough adrenaline to mask itself with courage, but not any greater strength. Her arms were pulled roughly behind her back, and she heard a low growl as thick, silver duct tape was torn from a roll and messily - but quite effectively - used to bind her wrists together.

"Beatrice, no! Get off her!" A brave young man leapt forward, and made an earnest attempt to get the dancer free. However, the assailant may not have been a superhuman, but he was no civilian either. He delivered a devastatingly accurate palm strike to the man's throat, closing his airways. He fell to the floor, gasping and wheezing.
"Jared!" The dancer called out. The valiant young fellow was a dear friend of hers. In her distraction, her captor hooked both of her arms with one of his, pulling her back. "No! No, help me, I - MMPHHH!!" Her full, pouting lips were covered suddenly by a strip of duct tape. "HHLLLPHHH!!" To the crowd's credit, many of them did try to step forward, but each was cut off by an arc of lightning from the powered assailant. One was even shocked, and she fell spasming to the ground, her boyfriend screaming as she collapsed into his arms in convulsions.

Stellar watched this, and allowed anger to creep into her psyche. Her guests were being assaulted - one even captured - and there was at that moment nothing she could do about it. Her powers were no secret, and many of the revellers were looking at her, pleading with her to do something. This cut her more than anything: they didn't understand why she wasn't acting, and thought her stupid or cowardly.

"Nobody move!" the powered man repeated several times. When his companion had dragged the wriggling, struggling young woman near enough to him, he quickly placed his hand on her buxom, soft chest.
"Mmmgghhmmphhh!" the dancer cried out in fear. She thought he was simply groping her, and as his hands clutched rapaciously at her bosom, it became clear that that was part of what he was doing - but not all. From his hand, electricity flowed, seeping into Beatrice's nervous system. "Mmmhh?!" The young dancer felt very, very odd. It was not painful, but intensely disturbing. Her knees began to shake, and she felt a debilitating weakness running through her.

"What's happening to me?" Beatrice thought, becoming afraid now, rather than merely shocked. She tried to wriggle her bound hands, but she couldn't. She tried to turn her head round to look for Stellar who - surely - should have been using her powers to help her, but she couldn't. In fact, her chin flopped down onto her chest. With horror, Beatrice realised what was happening. "I'm paralysed!!"

She was quite correct. Her nervous system overwhelmed by her captor's power, it had lost control completely, and Beatrice had gone limp. Once he was sure that his partner had completed this task, the unpowered man seized Beatrice tightly by her bare thighs, and hoisted her over his shoulder.
"Mmph..." the limp, now terrified captive whimpered, feeling her curvy thighs gripped and squeezed by her captor. "What do I do? I'm...I can't move a muscle! Why isn't anyone saving me?!"

"Anyone gets any bright ideas," the powered man said as he and his ally approached the point of their ingress, "we've got another friend waiting outside. I've ordered him to stay there for twenty minutes. Anyone tries anything -" For the first time, he locked eyes with Stellar. He, too, knew who she was. "Anyone tries anything, he levels this building, and crushes you all." He grinned. "Merry Christmas." With that, he leapt out, followed closely by his ally, with the moaning, limp damsel over his shoulder.

When they were gone, the music kept pumping away, but nobody moved.
"Wh-what do we do?" someone said.
"We've gotta call the cops!"
"No, we can't do anything! Their other guy'll kill us!"
"There probably is no other guy! It's just a bluff so they can get away!"
"Well you go after them, then!"
"Why doesn't Stellar do something?"
"Don't be unfair!"
"This is bullshit!"
"What the fuck is going on?!"

This decidedly unhelpful bickering went on, and on and on until it was drowning out the music itself. It took on a more and more panicked aspect, until they had descended back into a kind of panic of paralysis - no-one knew what to do, and everyone was afraid. Well - almost everyone.

"A Blue Star!" the cry did not silence the crowd, but what followed it did. A wave of cold burst from her, and a pale, frosty light radiated from the now blue-haired, chiffon-clad damsel. Her skin was a frosty, pale cerulean, her eyes deepest blue, and her aspect one of mystery, distant, untouchable sensuality - the unreachable and admirable: she was Stellar - The Blue Star.

"Do not be afraid," she said. Already her English was far stronger than it had been when she'd first visited America. "I will save her, and I will protect all of you." Saying this, she raised herself up on a platform of ice, before sliding down with ethereal grace a slide that she created for herself, the parts she passed collapsing as she went, making it seem as if she were floating. All watched her, transfixed. Even Lee was taken aback - he had seen the Blue Star many a-time...but it always caught him off guard just how beautiful Yumi really was.

"D'you think they bought it, Garrick?" the powered man said, as they ran desperately down the hill that separated this more affluent portion of Seacouver from the less developed area that surrounded it. They would have parked their getaway vehicle closer, but they couldn't find a parking space.

"You'd better fucking hope so. This was your plan!" He pulled off his balaclava, revealing a very plain face, and a shaved head. He had, once, been a soldier, hence his martial arts knowledge - but he hadn't been very good. Indeed, close-quarters combat was just about the only area of soldiery in which he showed any promise at all, hence his rather swift departure from the profession. "Why couldn't we just grab someone of the street? With your powers, Chuck, we -"
"No!" Chuck insisted. "Hades wouldn't accept just anybody as tribute! Beatrice Jones is the least we can do! I've heard people bringing him superheroines and getting turned away."
"Then why didn't we go after Stellar?"
"Because what if she froze my ass solid?"

As Beatrice lay helplessly slung over Garrick's shoulder, her soft bosom bouncing constantly against his back as he ran, she became afraid, confused, and nonplussed all at once. Afraid at the idea of being 'tribute', confused at what the hell they were talking about, and nonplussed at how unintimidating these men had become. Though even that was relative. Even Garrick had been able to reduce her into a whimpering, helpless damsel in seconds. However laughable they were, she was still nothing but a gorgeous, scantily-clad captive: theirs to do with whatever they liked. That they were clearly so low on the criminal ladder only made Beatrice feel weaker.

"Damn, is it getting cold?" Garrick said. Indeed, on her nude legs, Beatrice felt sharp pinpricks of frost. "It never gets this cold in Seacouver. We - oh shit!" Chuck had the same thought, turning up to the sky, and firing a powerful arc of electricity. It hit nothing, however. As the two criminals looked up, they saw that it had, in fact, started hailing - and quite naturally.
"Mmh!" Beatrice squeaked, feeling the ice hitting her skin.
"Keep quiet," Garrick growled, smacking his captive on her round, feminine rear to chastise her. This only made the limp maiden cry out more loudly - but the next one quietened her considerably. Cheeks red, she settled down, tamed.

"Come on, we're worrying about nothing. They bought the bluff," Chuck said, and they started up again. It wasn't long, however, before they were stopped short. A startlingly pretty young woman in a white, lycra dress, knee high boots and with long, blonde hair stood in their path.

Both men skidded to a halt.
"I'll be nice!" the petite blonde said, chirpily. "You get one chance to just put her down and go away. Good deal?" The two kidnappers looked at each other.
"Chuck, this is our chance. Let's take her too!" Garrick whispered. "You can do it! You've been getting stronger and stronger...this is your big debut."
"You think?"
"Damn right! In fact, you know what they're gonna call you after this?"
"W-what?!" Chuck had been longing for a good supervillain name. Garrick had him on tenterhooks.
"They're gonna call you H-"

Alas, it wouldn't have been a very good name. All Garrick could think of was 'High Voltage' - which was not only obvious, but also taken, several times over. At last count there were ten active superheroes calling themselves 'High Voltage', three of whom worked in California. But the point was moot. Before Garrick could finish he was bowled over by a powerful soundwave that not only knocked him for six, but reverberated over and over into him, as if it had attached to his body, pummelling him senseless.

"Mmghhmph!" Beatrice cried out, as her captor was knocked out from under her, and she fell into a heap on the ground, landing first on her knees, then slumping limply onto her side.
"Right!" Chuck said, squaring himself. "Now begins the real fight!" He raised his hand, charging his powers. Even as he did, Yumi was already transforming herself back into the Blue Star. As the electric blast came, it bounced off a cleverly angled wall of ice. Even as it cracked from the force of the impact, Stellar created another one, and another, bouncing Chuck's bolt of lightning - which was quite powerful enough to kill her - right round...until it hit him in the back.
"HNNGGHHAAHHH!!" he screamed, as he fell, fizzing, to the floor. His ability offered him a measure of resistance to itself...but that was nothing close to full immunity.

Stellar smiled. It was nice, every once in a while, to be reminded just how powerful she was. She approached her fallen foes, and froze them in place, shackling them to the ground for the police to find. She then turned her attention to Beatrice.
"Mmmhhh...whhmphh?" she mewed, facing the wrong way to see what Stellar had done. She felt, however, a leather gloved hand turning her over, and looked up to see a woman with black hair, a tiny, black-leather miniskirt, leather gloves, and a white vest-top.
"Hey there," the Black Star said. This was Stellar as a more forward, physically and sexually aggressive state, but still with that touch of endearing vulnerability that made the oppas want her so much. "Come on; it's time to get you back safely." Her English was much better, but still a trifle unidiomatic.

With her fantastic strength, Stellar lifted Beatrice to her feet. She carefully peeled off the tape from her mouth, then roughly snapped the tape binding her wrists.
"Can't...move..." Beatrice whimpered, still utterly limp.
"No problems. I've got you!" Stellar said, not so much confidently as comfortingly. She slipped her hand under Beatrice's thighs, put one just underneath her shoulders, and then lifted the maiden carefully into her arms.
"Ooh!" Beatrice gasped, as she found the lovely, petite heroine scooping her up like a bride. She was significantly taller and less slight than Stellar, yet she was the one helpless in the singer's arms, gently cradled - rescued from peril, but still in need of a guardian...of a hero. Stellar smiled at her, and with what little strength she possessed, Beatrice found herself smiling back.

When the heroine returned, laden with the lovely, paralysed dancer she'd saved, there was a murmur of confusion, then a great cheer in the heroine's honour.
"Nobody stop!" Stellar said. "A broken window doesn't mean a bad party!" More cheers were uttered, and exhilarated by the drama, now that it had had a happy conclusion, the revellers went right back to it. Only Lee was still panicked.

"Miss Tae-Yeong! Miss Tae-Yeong!" he shouted, pushing himself to the front of the crowd. "Are you alright? Is she?" Stellar nodded. "Oh, thank God!" He put his hands on his hips, and breathed out in relief. "Hey, where are you going?!" The heroine began carrying Beatrice's still-limp body to the back of her apartment. "What are you doing?" He - and a couple of photographers, followed as the damsel carried the helpless dancer to one of the bedrooms. She kicked open the door, took her inside, and gently laid her down.

"Th...thank you..." the young woman said, almost tearful with relief and gratitude.
"A Star Fades," Stellar pronounced, transforming herself back to her ordinary, powerless state. Feeling simply Yumi again, she smiled warmly at Beatrice, and stroked her hair. "You're safe now. You just rest here until you're okay. Yes?" Beatrice nodded. "Good." She leaned forward, and kissed her on the forehead, before giggling slightly, and getting up.

As she left the room, Lee was there, clutching his hair in distress.
"Miss Tae-Yeong! Y-you just carried a woman into your bedroom!"
"I know, Mr Lee."
"There's still press here! Don't you know how that will -" Stellar interrupted him with a finger to his lips. Despite himself, he was silenced.
"Shush!" Yumi said, emphatically. "Stop worrying!"
"But -"
"No! It's not a big deal. Now turn around, mingle, and go meet someone!" She turned him around herself and, defeated, he allowed himself to be pushed into the crowd. As for Yumi, she felt triumphant, but strangely...unsettled. She looked back into the room where the curvaceous, feminine young woman she'd rescued lay, helpless and vulnerable, her sumptuous breasts heaving, her fine legs naked and moist. She wondered why she was still looking back a minute later.

At that same time, there was one heroine who was not spending Christmas with family, nor with friends, nor with a lover. It didn't even occur to her so to do. This was Valora: the curvaceous blonde bombshell, formerly of Maine. On the cool evening of a mild, Seacouver December, Valora felt no great sadness at being 'on the job'. Someone had to be, after all.

As she patrolled the streets, using her great strength to leap from vantage point to vantage point, surveying the city that she'd made her home. The mighty maiden felt no particular love for Seacouver: she had not, indeed, had the best experiences of her crime-fighting career in this town. Yet the city, which had never seemed to have quite the energy to be a high-towered metropolis, or the working-class gumption to be a fully-committed port town, still had a certain charm to it.

"Aaahhhh!" Valora sighed as she heard the scream. She'd been about to call it a night. Looking down, she saw three figures on the street below her.
"Duty calls, Valerie," she muttered, before dropping down.

"Aaahhh! Heeeeeelp!!" A woman cried out, being dragged out of a shop by two men. She was about thirty, tall, faintly good looking and very well dressed.
"Shut up, lady!" One of the men barked. "We really don't want to have to hurt you!"
"HEEELLP!" she continued to scream. "I'm being kidnapped, HHHEEEEELLP!!"
"You've got some real nerve to -" the other said, before he heard a loud thud behind him.

He turned. Illuminated by the streetlights was the tall, buxom, beautiful form of the shapely, and extremely powerful Valora. The heroine notice him eye her quite confidently for a moment - before suddenly a look of fear appeared in his eyes.
"Wait a minute, you don't understand!" he said.
"I understand fine," Valora said, before - with a meager fraction of the physical strength at her beck and call - she knocked the man unconscious with a tap to the head. "You're scum, and I'm stopping you."

The other man released his victim, and promptly ran full tilt in the opposite direction from Valora. She considered pursuing him, perhaps by throwing something to disable him. But he was fast on his feet, and one weakness the leotard-clad heroine had was that, while she could throw things very far, her aim was poor. She decided to leave it.

"Ma'am, are you alright?" Valora said, turning to the well-dressed woman.
"Oh, I'm fine, thank you so much - they grabbed me and - oh, I don't know what they were going to do, so I...well thank God you came along!"
"Don't thank me ma'am," Valora said. "But what were you doing out here at night on Christmas anyway? Shouldn't you be at home?"
"I was working," she said. Valora was momentarily confused. She looked again at her outfit.
"You don't look like a...working girl..."
"Ahahaha! Oh, you're awful!" the woman laughed. She opened her purse. "Oh, is everything still in here?" She seemed to be looking for something.
"Did they rob you?" Valora asked, as the woman fished out a bottle of perfume.
"What? Oh, no, no, I was robbing them." Valora was, needless to say, perturbed by this revelation.
"You were what?"

No further elucidation was given. The woman pointed the bottle of perfume at Valora, and squeezed the pump, releasing a thick, pink cloud into the blonde's face.
"What?! Oh!" Valora tried to waft the mist away, but it clung to her, forcing its way into her nostrils and airways. "No! I...I...ooohh..."

The effect was quick. Valora felt her supple, strong legs begin to shake. Her arms, strong enough to crush steel, flopped to her sides. "So fast...getting weak...oh...not again..." the heroine thought, her mind very rapidly becoming groggy and confused.
"Ha! This stuff is good," the apparent thief laughed, spraying Valora again.
"Aaahh!" she cried out, feeling another potent wave of weakness hit her. "No...my...my strength..." she moaned.
"Or lack thereof," the thief giggled. She pushed Valora in the chest, and like a great oak she fell, landing flat on her back. Valora's blue eyes blinked sleepily behind her blue mask, her tights-clad legs shifting against each other.
"Uunnhhh..." she sighed, barely conscious, aware of her awful feebleness, and embarrassment at her sudden, rapid defeat, but little else.

"You enjoy your sleep, honey," the woman said. She stood over the fallen damsel, helpless in her tight, skimpy leotard and knee-high boots. "Buh-bye now!"
"No! No...nooooo..." Valora mewed, as her breathing slowed, and her legs became still. In a few seconds, she'd forgotten how she'd been defeated. A few seconds after that, the busty blonde had sunk into drugged slumber, lying vulnerable and defenceless on the street.

"Mmhh..." Valora sighed, just beginning to awaken. She felt hands on her legs, felt her arms trailing limply - someone was carrying her. "Drugged...carried...have I been...kidnapped again?" she thought. Certainly, whoever held her was very strong: it took no effort at all to carry her. A strong breeze blew past her legs.

"Ah. You're awake," a low, calm voice pronounced. Valora felt the breeze decrease, and as her fluttering eyes opened, she realised that she - or rather the man carrying her - was flying.
"Oh!" she gasped, instinctively clutching onto her carrier a little tighter.
"Don't worry," he said. His voice was soothing. "You'll be down in a moment."

He was true to his word. He flew her down to the roof of an apartment building, and lay Valora down, sitting her against a wall.
"It's Valora, isn't it?" She nodded. "Are you alright?"
"I...uhh, I think so..." She shook her head. "Can't believe some two-bit thief got -" She looked properly at her rescuer for the first time, and gaped. He was not that tall for a man, about Spectra's height. He had closely shaved black hair, very dark, quite beautiful skin, and an almost noble countenance. He wore a simple, white bodysuit with purple accents, and a small logo on his chest: the letters 'I.T.'. One thing, too. His eyes, and even his mouth, burned with indigo light.

"The...the Titan!" Valora gasped. It was indeed he: Valora had been plucked up by, arguably, the single most powerful being on the planet. He didn't look it, but this man had enough power to eliminate the entire population of North America in an hour. When the Fifty Fractals had pooled their power to shatter the dark side of the Moon, only the Titan's vast array of abilities had not only allowed him to slay the Fractals, but to hold the Moon itself together, preventing devastating environmental disasters from the loss of its mass.

"I don't mean to alarm you," he said. Despite his deep voice, he was very soft spoken. He had an odd accent, mostly American, but with a tinge of something else to it as well. "I know that encounters with me can be a little intimidating, even for someone as powerful and as heroic as you." He said this quite simply, as if Valora would of course agree that she was very heroic.
"I'm...alright." She tried to stand, but she was too weak, and slumped back down. She looked up at him. From what she knew, he had to be at least forty-five, but he looked younger. She wondered if he physically aged at all.

"If you'll forgive me, I must be off," he said. "It was a pleasure meeting you. I can't thank you enough for your hand in stopping the Supremacist." He bowed slightly, and turned around.
"Wait!" Valora found herself calling out. He turned, with a slightly raised eyebrow. Valora hesitated. She looked at him again, realised that the strongest hands in the world had, a few moments earlier, been gently cradling her helpless body. She breathed a little harder. She was not used to feeling frail, but next to the Titan...? "I..."
"What is it?" he said, sounding quite worried. "Is something the matter, Valora? Can I assist?" With an effort, Valora raised herself to her feet. She looked him up and down.
"Strong, polite, handsome...hmmm..." She smiled. "Yes, you can," she said. "You can have dinner with me." He cocked an eyebrow, and Valora was rather charmed to see the light in his eyes change colour to fuschia.
"Well, er..." Valora almost burst out laughing. The light in his eyes - he was blushing.
"I'll take that as a yes."

"Oh, shit!" A cry came up from the kitchen of the house of Nazarov. It was not an unfamiliar cry exactly, but it was unfamiliar in its cause. Dolores Nazarov, mother to Natalya, Ivan, and Elizabeta, was cooking a Christmas dinner. "Why aren't the fucking potatoes boiling?!"
"Dolores, language!" A great boum of proclamation issued from the mouth of her husband, Gregor Nazarov, the great diplomat. With his shock of ebony hair and long, curled ebony beard, he was a formidable sight. One could easily imagine him in passionate, yet rational and civilised debate with Great Men, either extolling the virtues of, or tearing to pieces, the socialist ideal. He reclined in a stately fashion in his armchair, puffing on a great cigar. "It was your idea, Dolores, to send the staff home for Christmas. It therefore falls upon you to deal with the consequences, without being vulgar." He knew perfectly well that he didn't have to shout for his wife to hear, but he did it anyway.

Natalya Nazarov, the raven-haired, pale, thrillingly proportioned architect who sat in a much less stately chair across from her father, sensed his emotions with some displeasure. There was a poisonous mix of overweening self-confidence, a smug 'I told you so' self-satisfaction, and too great a pleasure in the idea that his wife couldn't cope without the servants - that he was the practical, self-reliant one. She crossed her legs, awkwardly, her white stockings flashing briefly beneath her long, velveteen green dress.

The heroine, for she too had a pseudonym: Insyte, instead turned her eyes - and therefore her telepathic mind - to a far more pleasant source of emotions. This was her youngest sibling, the waiflike Elizabeta. Extremely slender, with long, almost bushy, mousy-brown hair, she had only just come into her beauty, so to speak. Natalya's loveliness had been obvious from early childhood - Elizabeta had been gangly and awkward until she was about fifteen, at which point the boys in her class at school suddenly looked again at her sweet, yet intense features, her slender legs, and her pretty, full lips. As the aspiring, eighteen year-old designer finished applying labels to the gifts she was giving, there was not an unkind thought anywhere in her.
"It is a shame," Elizabeta thought, "that Father is so curt - but we all have our faults, I suppose."

There was a suppressed tinge of irritation at her father for being so patronising to her mother, but it was badly suppressed. Having been very close to her beloved sister when she was born - closer in many ways than she'd been to her own mother - Elizabeta had spent the first three years of her life thinking that everyone could see her thoughts, not just Natalya. For this reason, she was incredibly psychologically unguarded. She would have made a faintly interesting point of study for a psycho-analyst, even: she never lied, for one thing. For another, she had the rather unusual quality of being able to block utterly the passage of ultra-violet light through her body. She, like Natalya and Ivan, was a superhuman, though she was by far the least potent of the three. This meant that she was even paler than her siblings - she was positively alabaster.

"Is that boy ever going to make an appearance?" Gregor huffed. "I don't know why he's always late." Elizabeta quickly turned to Natalya, who shook her head slightly. Elizabeta had an instinct that this might be the wrong time to say: "Because he hates you and he delights in irritating you". However, this instinct was so underdeveloped that she still felt the need to check with her sister.
"I'm sure he'll be along," Natalya offered. "H-he's probably just hungover from Djordje's Christmas party."
"That fatuous oaf? I can't believe even Ivan would debase himself to that fool's level."

"Does Ivan still have his job?" Elizabeta asked. "I thought people were afraid of him now, because he almost killed everyone."
"He didn't -" Natalya said, too quickly. She winced at herself, thinking that she sounded childish. "He was fighting an incredibly p-powerful man, and..." She caught her father's glare.
"You're making excuses for him," he said. Then he thought, quite deliberately: "You coddle him." Natalya looked down, not convinced, but chastened and silenced.

"Natalya!" came a shout from the kitchen. "Your mother is an abject failure! Get in here at once and help me spread the blame." Natalya smiled slightly, and went into the kitchen. She was being rescued.
"Did you -" she began, but was swiftly interrupted.
"You were about to ask me the question again, weren't you?" Dolores said in a sing-song voice.
"Sorry, mother..." Natalya replied. The question was going to have been 'did you hear?', referring to her conversation with her father and sister. This was a stupid question, in context, because she knew perfectly well that her mother had hearing as sharp as the vision of Falcona - which was very, very sharp. She could hear people's blood rushing in their veins, could distinguish a peanut from a walnut at a thousand paces simply by the sound they made when dropped. To sum up: she could hear very, very well.

It was to her that Ivan, Natalya and Elizabeta owed their remarkable abilities. It was unusual, though not unheard of, for parents to pass a capacity for superhuman power to all of their children - but to have produced three such different children, power-wise - was faintly remarkable. Deirdre, however, had never used this power to help anyone, other than in the most mundane ways. She considered it quite unseemly to go prancing about in tights, and rather resented the implication that everyone with a supernatural power ought to become a crime-fighter.

"So, what's the matter this time?" Deirdre asked, as she shoved a row of parsnips into the oven. "The young dandy, I take it?"
"Of course," Natalya replied. She tried not to look at her mother, to get some practice conducting a conversation normally, but she happened to put her hand within Natalya's eye line, and so felt a mixture of concern, annoyance at both father and son, and a rather self-pitying 'oh, woe is me!' attitude that prevented her from engaging with the problem completely. She wasn't stupid, exactly, but...simple. Wilfully simple, a kind of intellectual coward.

"That was a nasty business, with that awful man," Deirdre said, perhaps disingenuously. "Dear Ivanhoe does get a bit carried away, doesn't he?"
"That's an understatement..." Natalya said, grimly, rather than sarcastically, as she helped to prepare the bread sauce. There wasn't actually that much left to do, but Deirdre had affected a matronly aspect this year, and so assumed that what that entailed was making a great fuss about everything, hence her earlier bout of vulgarity.

As such, all was prepared within the next ten minutes. As Natalya brought in the first trimmings, she was struck by a powerful emotion from her father. It was love for Elizabeta. Natalya smiled until she dug a little deeper: Gregor, it seemed, saw her as an almost holy fool of sorts, which was outrageously patronising. He turned his eyes to Natalya, and immediately unconscious comparisons occurred, a tinge of disappointment that Ivan, and not she, had followed him into a diplomatic career, a touch of sympathy for her troubles with her power which he really did recognise was a difficult thing to deal with, and a kind of affection. In a way, Natalya felt, she was better off than Elizabeta. Her father's love for her was terribly qualified, but quite honest, whereas his love for Elizabeta was nine-tenths sentimentality.

This was not new information, by any means, but she'd never quite felt the contrast so keenly. She realised how guarded Gregor really was around her, and wondered what she had not yet seen. For someone quite willing to be perceived thinking all kinds of unkind things, it was fearful to imagine what he did want to suppress.

In Ivan's absence, the four decided to start anyway. At this point, he really was intolerably late. However, despite the rather clashing personalities of all involved, the dinner settled into quite a nice conversation. Gregor was complimentary about most of the meal: that is, he pronounced it 'satisfactory'. Elizabeta told a rather odd anecdote about a man who'd given her his shoes, and though Natalya didn't add much - or really anything - to the conversation, she felt relatively included.

It was only when - at last - the eldest sibling did appear that things went as Natalya had feared they would. Not everything met her expectations, though. Natalya expected Ivan to arrive casually, or at least faux-casually, acting as if arriving three hours late was perfectly au fait. However, they heard him coming quite a while before he arrived. He had flown to his father's vast property, all the way from Seacouver and clearly very quickly. When he entered, he rushed in, in a dishevelled, anxious state. There was stubble on his chin, he smelt of booze - though he wasn't still drunk - and his normally sharp suit was in a terrible mess.

"Sorry I'm late," he mumbled. "I...er..." He couldn't think of an excuse, and just sat down. "Sorry," he repeated.
"Ivan, you are not merely late," his father said, his voice taking on its grave, sagely aspect, "you are three and one quarter hours late. We've almost finished the meal!"
"I'm sorry, dad," he said. Natalya could feel his apology was mostly sincere. "I really didn't mean to be -"
"Elizabeta, your mother and I only see you three or four times a year. Twice in this case, since you missed Thanksgiving! On the pretence that we are still a loving family, don't you think you might spare enough effort to drag yourself away from your floozies and -"
"I said, I'm sorry." On the last word, there was just a tiny flash of orange in his eyes. This was not a deliberate attempt to intimidate, and Natalya felt him suppressing it the moment it arose. However, deliberate or not, it had gained him the floor, and he took it. "I really, really did not mean to be late, I..." He looked at Natalya, and summoned the energy for his trademark flick-knife grin. "I suppose you already know, dear sister."

That she did.
"Oh, Ivan," she whispered, covering her mouth. He had been at Djordje's the previous night, but not at a party. He had been explaining that his diplomatic rights had been withdrawn. Essentially, he had been fired by the American government, labelled an unstable element. Natalya felt his shame and fury at the fact that he had been told, more or less, that he was barred for life from diplomatic work. He was now seen as too much of a potential risk to be posted anywhere, given the possible consequences if he lost control of his power. He had gone home afterwards, opened a bottle of whiskey...and just drank until he passed out. He'd only woken up twenty-five minutes before arriving.

Seeing Natalya's expression, Deirdre demanded an explanation, which - with all sorts of elaborations designed by Ivan to make himself seem more heroic and hard done by - was given.
"Oh, Ivanhoe," his mother said. "I am sorry. I know how much it meant to you, my dear." This definitely was disingenuous. She had no idea how much it meant to him.
"Ivan, you'll be okay," Natalya said. "You can get another job." Her father snorted.
"Who is going to hire someone who might blow up a city when he sneezes?" He tapped the table with his knuckles. "Sorry, my boy. 'Twas you who chose not to protect your identity as Natalya has done. You - have - to deal - with - the consequences," he said, punctuating every pause with another tap on the table. "I have told you -"
"Father," Natalya interrupted.
"Not now, Natalya. I have told you, Ivan, that you went about this business in -"
"Father," Natalya said, with very pointed emphasis. "You need to -"
"Nonsense! What I need to do is to tell this recalcitrant dandy how he can -"
"F-father, you're making him lose control of his power!"

This was quite true. Ivan's fist was clenched so tightly that it could not be seen, but there was a ball of nuclear energy crushed into his palm. Released, it would have been quite enough to explode most of the house. There was a terrified silence, even from Elizabeta. Ivan finally broke it.
"Excuse me, family," he said. "Perhaps another time." With that, he stood up, and walked out of the house again. Natalya knew, even before she actually decided to, that she was going to be the one who went after him. She looked around, hoping the others might spring forward instead, but no. Her father was stewing in his self-importance, her mother was being childishly frightened and baffled, and Elizabeta was genuinely confused and afraid.
"Fine..." Natalya muttered, rising to follow him.

She joined Ivan outside, in the beautiful but austere gardens of her family home. He seemed to be about to fly. Certainly he was positioned how he liked to take off: straight legged with his arms folded. But something seemed wrong.
"I can't do it Nat," he said, his voice cracking. "I can't fly..."
"Why not?"
"I can't...I mean, I could, but I'd blow up the house. I can't...restrain it, keep it small." He looked at her, and his eyes were wild, chaotic orange. "Every since that day...since Hosenfluss...I've been getting stronger."
"Stronger?!" Natalya didn't want to conscience the thought of what that might entail.
"It's getting too much...and after yesterday I - I was really going to blow! Hahaha! Tara, Djordje! Oh, that would have been a really stupid reason for the Big Dogs to start coming after me..."
"That's why you were drinking. You were trying to suppress it," Natalya said. She looked hard at him, focusing. In his distressed state, his thoughts were easy to flick through at Natalya's leisure. "But...this has nothing to do with you getting stronger." Natalya looked askance at him. "To be honest, I doubt that you are getting stronger, at least not in the last few weeks."
"This is the first time you've been afraid of your power."

Ivan looked like he'd just been hit by a rock.
"Afraid...?" It was worse than Natalya had realised. It had been weeks since the battle with Hosenfluss, but he was in shock. It was quite acute. It had something of an attack of conscience and something of genuine terror in it.
"The last time you used your powers to that extent, you were...well, you weren't exactly being heroic. This time, you tried to use your powers to help people, or at least to defeat a dangerous enemy, yet you yourself ended up being as much of a risk as him." Ivan looked at her for a moment. There was a slight note of relief, but it was mostly guilt. Natalya saw a memory of him in the full heat of battle with Hosenfluss, as he howled with laughter into the fury of the inferno he wielded. He seemed to remember a childlike - or perhaps an animalistic - joy, but his current emotion was one of embarrassment and self-chastisement.
"I'm..." he grinned, briefly. "I'm not a good man, am I?" Natalya didn't say anything. "Let's go back inside, Leelee. It only comes once a year, eh?" He straightened his tie, and walked inside, his composure regained.

Natalya followed him, and watched as he resuscitated his suaverie, embracing and kissing his little sister, making an affectionate joke at the expense of his mother, and awkwardly shaking hands with Gregor. As she watched, she realised that part of her hated him. Hated his carelessness, his self-centredness. She knew that if she'd been born with a different power, Ivan would never once have bothered with the shy girl. He wouldn't have cared tuppence halfpenny for Natalya, would have thought her unbearably dull. But as it was she was his precious Leelee, 'the only who understands'. Well, she had to understand. She couldn't help understanding. She hated knowing so much about her family's inner worlds - it was an almost revolting intimacy. She'd only want to know so much about someone with whom she was desperately in love, the way Mariko loved Sophie Scott - and so she found them all repugnant, even her innocent sister.

She gritted her teeth, as that feeling of loathing grew. She realised that she'd never hated anyone as much as she hated her family at that moment: not Hypnotra, not the Sin Eater, not Ocelot - no-one. She was almost on the point of tears, not of sadness, but of pain and disgust at having to share the same air with these horrible people.

And then her mother looked at her, and happened to remember a tiny girl with huge eyes and a frightened countenance smiling and laughing, as her ludicrously ostentatious brother read her some marvellous little story of his own concoction. She couldn't remember the details, but it was such a genuinely affectionate, unpretentious memory of her daughter that Natalya could find no evil in it. She wondered at the mind's capacity to beef up the emotional significance of happy memories, and smiled slightly. She disengaged as much as she could from her family's thoughts, and sat down with them.
"Here is humanity," she thought. "I suppose I might as well join in."

"Mmmphh!" Sophie cried out, as the limber maiden was hauled up to her feet. She thrashed, but was acutely aware of her own weakness. "I can't get away..." she thought, shivering.
"So helpless..." her captor said, stroking Sophie's freckled cheek with one finger.
"Mhhhghhmphh!" Sophie replied, pulling uselessly on her restraints, throwing her hair from side to side.
"There's no point doing that," her captor said. "In fact, I'd say it only makes you look weaker."

"Mh!" Sophie gasped, as her captor pulled at the sleeves of her loose top, baring her pale, yet warm shoulders. She then began lightly stroking them.
"You have such fine skin...it's so very soft..." The strokes became squeezes, as Sophie felt herself being massaged, her lovely body played with, teased.
"Mmhhh! Mmmhhh..." Sophie sighed, turning her head away as her captor began kissing her shoulders, her neck, and the tops of her breasts, a pair of fine lips pressing against her skin. "Mmmphhh..." Sophie's head fell back. "Oh...I can't do anything..."

"Mmh..." her captor moaned softly, as they knelt down, and began kissing Sophie's bare, flat midriff, stroking the sensitive skin of Sophie's stomach. "You want this, don't you?"
"Mmhh...mmphh..." the redhead whimpered. "Mh!" she gasped, as she felt her captor's tongue teasing her navel. It felt like there was a wire between it and another spot between her legs. She shuddered.

"Those straps may bind your body - and it is a fine, sensual body - but it's your lust that binds you. You can't escape because you don't have the will, you -" Sophie's captor stood up, and Sophie's emerald eyes met jades looking back at them, with a furrowed brow.
"Sophie," Mariko whispered, "is this alright?" The tall, willowy, spectacularly beautiful maiden looked just a little embarrassed.

Beneath her gag, Sophie smiled. She and her slender, delicate-looking, Japanese lover had made little forays into this sort of territory now and again, but this was their first real attempt at what Sophie called 'the actual whips and chains shit.' She had made several intimations to the proud, yet deeply sensitive heroine, that she would be comfortable with Mariko going further. Sophie had been delighted that afternoon with a first edition of Mardi and a Voyage Thither - and she had been very excited indeed when Mariko had given her another gift when the two were alone. "You get me home," she'd said, "you strap me up, you do whatever you want to me..."

And that had almost exactly happened. Almost as soon as they'd got through the door, Mariko had seized her, and bound her in the strong, plastic mesh. Sophie could feel her lover's excitement, hear her panting almost as she took her red-haired girlfriend captive.
"Mhh gghhg..."
"Mhhy ghhg," Sophie repeated, carefully. Mariko understood, and ungagged Sophie.

"You want to know if this is okay?" Sophie said.
"That is what I asked, yes," Mariko replied, slightly curtly.
"I..." the redhead looked down. She saw Mariko's slender body, her tight, burgundy dress, her long, stocking-clad legs. She saw that next to her own trussed-up body, and she bit her bottom lip. "I know it might sound stupid with how often I've actually been captured, but...the idea of you doing it. The idea of you capturing me..." Her voice quavered on the word 'capturing', and she let out a little sigh. "I want you to have me...I want you to really have me, to control me...just for a little while."

"Why?" Mariko said, very intently. "Tell me why you want me to dominate you." She took Sophie closer to her, and the redhead felt the power shift from her to her lover. It was a shift that excited her quite strongly.
"Because...I love you," Sophie said, quietly. "Because I trust you to take care of me..." Mariko's eyes had been piercing, but they softened as she listened to what the redhead said. She leaned in, and very gently kissed her beloved Sophie, their tongues just slightly caressing, but lingeringly so.

"Mmhh..." Sophie sighed into Mariko's mouth. She could hardly believe that this gentle, overflowingly affectionate young woman was the same caustic warrior who'd seemed to hate her so much at first. "Mariko...sweetie, I - oh!" She felt Mariko's fingers slowly rubbing her inner thighs, applying just a little more pressure than the word 'caress' might imply. The sensitive redhead smiled and shivered.
"I know why you want me to do it. I want to know why you want this." She stared deeply into Sophie's eyes. There were several sides to this: one was that there was a genuinely erotic quality to having Sophie lay out exactly why she liked being tied up; another was that it was something that Mariko did not yet fully understand. It was part of Sophie, and she wanted to understand it in its entirety; to absorb it fully into herself by analysis. This did not, however, make it an entirely intellectual exercise, as Sophie felt from Mariko's fingers stroking her soft skin.

"I...I like surrendering control sometimes," Sophie said. "It's thrilling, and it's - ah!" Mariko's hand had moved a little higher. Sophie's legs quivered.
"Go on," Mariko said, quietly. Sophie obeyed.
"It's...thrilling to be p-powerless..." Sophie said, as her lover's hand moved back and forth. "I really am in your control...you could do anything you wanted to me, and I'd be...fuck, I'd be helpless to stop you..."
"You like that?" Mariko asked. "You like knowing that you're subject to my whims, my...desires?"
"Mmmhh..." Sophie assented.
"So, it's the idea, then?" Mariko said. She moved closer, rubbing her leg against her girlfriend's. "The concept of helplessness, more than the fact of it?"

Sophie thought - which was not easy under her present circumstances. She tried to move, and felt the tight restraints hemming her in, reducing every movement to sensuous, bound writhing.
"No..." Sophie finally replied. "It's like...mmmhh...when you tie me up, it's like...everything I feel gets reflected. You touch me, I try to move...but it gets held in...it shakes around like...like an echo chamber."
"Oh, is that so?" Mariko said. She pressed a little harder, and Sophie cried out. "Is that echoing loudly enough, my love?"
"N-no..." Sophie said. Her cheeks were red, her skin moist with pleasure, but she managed a thoroughly naughty smile. "I think you need to turn up the volume..."

Mariko was the one to shiver this time. Sophie was by no means her first sexual partner, but she was the first to make her feel quite like this. There was electricity in her eyes, magnetism in her moans, and fire in every touch. "She's such a...coquette!" It might have been Sophie bound and wriggling in her grip, but Mariko felt decidedly powerless herself to resist her enticing lover. She still writhed in the mesh of straps which bound her, despite being well aware that she couldn't escape it, as if continually reminding Mariko of the extent of her control over her.

"Turn up the volume, was it?" Mariko said. "Very well." She knelt down, slowly, running her hands down Sophie's curves, lightly taking hold of her hips, reaching round a little to feel her behind, which was a little rounder and more prominent than the rest of the redhead's slender frame would suggest. "I suppose," she said, feeling the maiden's tender flesh, "I can be a...magnanimous captor..." She kissed Sophie's thighs, her legs bound so tightly that Mariko could easily kiss both at the same time.

"Oh..." Sophie let her head fall back as Mariko kissed her long, sensitive legs. "Ah!" she gasped as, when Mariko pulled away, her tongue flicked against Sophie's skin. She looked down, seeing Mariko kiss her again, and then again, with a kind of precision that someone who didn't know her might have taken for coldness, or at least dispassion: but Sophie knew it for focus, and attention on the object of her adoration.

There was suddenly a pang of guilt. Sophie imagined a kind of external critic asking her a pointed question: "Are you just forcing her to do what Rachel did?" Sophie gulped. Indeed, her sexual experiences with her last lover, the woman she now regarded with an especial loathing above all other people, had been almost exclusively of this sort.

And then Sophie realised why Mariko had been asking her those questions: the same possibility had occurred to her as well: that Sophie was retreading bad ground. She'd been checking. Yet it was not, Sophie knew straightaway, out of jealousy, but out of concern - was this side of Sophie, her willingness to submit herself, healthy?

"Oooh!" Sophie, who had tensed as the unpleasant possibility had occurred to her, felt herself both tightening and relaxing at the same time, as Mariko began to kiss her through her short, blue skirt. It was a buffer to the full intensity of being kissed in that spot, but by no means a total one. Yet as Mariko did this, stimulating her helpless, bound lover, Sophie also felt her hands gently stroking the outside of her thighs, heard the softest of moans from her as she kissed Sophie. Whatever she had found, Sophie realised, she had accepted. Sophie felt liberated - and was well aware of the irony.

Mariko stood. She took Sophie by the small of the back, pulling her in while running her other hand through the maiden's hair. She pulled her close, and kissed her - not forcefully, exactly, but in a way that suggested that she expected Sophie to allow herself to be kissed however Mariko liked. She withdrew, locking eyes with her captive. Sophie was breathing heavily, a bead of sweat trickling down her neck, down her chest and between her heaving breasts. Her legs shook: if Mariko hadn't been holding her, she'd have fallen to her knees. She felt pleasantly weakened by Mariko's kisses.
"I'm going to take you now." Translation: "Would you like me to?"
"It's...not like I can do anything about it..." Translation: "Of course, sweetie. I'm all yours."

Mariko was moving her hands down to Sophie's legs, and from the way she was doing it, Sophie realised that she was about to pick her up, to cradle her in her arms like a bride. This was no bad thing - but Sophie felt a certain preference come over her. Giggling, the sensuous vixen leaned in close to her lover and whispered in her ear.
"You want to know another reason why I like it when you tie me up?"
"Because you're Spectra...because you're so powerful..." she sighed. "Can you imagine if we actually fought? I'd be collapsing at your feet in five seconds..." Mariko took her by the chin, turned her face towards her own. She was almost panting.
"You...you're manipulating me, aren't you?"
"Whaaat?" Sophie said, brushing Mariko's nose with her own. "Me? Hey, I'm the one who's all strapped up. What can poor little me do to the mighty Spectra?" Mariko would have thought this entirely mockery, but for the lascivious flash in Sophie's eyes when she said 'Spectra'.

"Oh..." Mariko realised what Sophie wanted, why she'd said what she'd said at that particular moment. "Not a bride...but a conquest..." With this realisation, she bent down, and seized her lover by the thighs.
"Ooh!" Sophie gasped, as Mariko threw her over her shoulder, keeping one hand on her thighs, and another slipping under her mini-skirt to explore her captive further. Sophie, her supple, soft legs draped down her girlfriend's front, writhed sinuously in her grip. Mariko had grasped her mentality precisely: there was an ecstasy in being so completely conquered. "Where are you taking me?" she asked, as Mariko began walking off, squeezing her firm, round behind.
"You know where," Mariko replied, her voice shaking with anticipation. Sophie had an odd way of making sex seem both wholesome and illicit, and it was a heady mixture.

"You didn't gag me again...what if I scream?" Sophie asked, quite deliberately rubbing her legs against Mariko's hand.
"Then I'll do this," Mariko said, before giving Sophie a sharp slap to her rear.
"OH!" Sophie cried out, feeling a throbbing between her legs. "Holy shit..." she thought, quivering and almost laughing. "I just got Spectra to spank me..." She went limp.
"Good girl," Mariko said, giving her a lighter pat in the same spot, before beginning to carry her off. It was patronising in the extreme...but under the circumstances, Sophie couldn't help but find Mariko's condescending little pat just a little sexy.

Mariko carried her lover up to her bedroom, feeling Sophie's pert breasts bouncing against her back. She ran her hand up and down her pale legs constantly, feeling an almost addictive quality in the intensity of her longing for the maiden she'd bound. Increasing her pace, she marched into her room, kicking the door open. She hissed as she entered, and a small tomcat hurled itself from the bed, bounding to a place of safety.

Mariko, with some effort - she was no stronger than her slender frame suggested - swung Sophie's svelte body off her shoulder, and onto her feet. She wobbled a little, in an almost trance-like state of submissive pleasure as Mariko casually controlled her body. Mariko held her by the shoulders. She was about to kiss her, but hesitated. For the same reason, Sophie - about to speak - hesitated when she saw that Mariko was moving in.
"Speak," Mariko said, softly. But she didn't speak immediately.

Sophie looked at Mariko. She looked into her. Not only at her eyes, but at her cheeks, her lips, her stylish, short black hair. She looked at her neck, her narrow shoulders, her slender figure. She was drinking her in, trying to feel the totality of Mariko in that moment: her warmth, her coolness, her strength, her vulnerability, her intellect and her sudden passions.
"Only you..." she said. "Only you get this part of me now..." Catlike, she rubbed Mariko's cheek with her own, and continued in a half-whisper: "Only you get to take me, to possess me, to have me. I'll only submit to you..." She looked Mariko in the eye. "But I'll do it whenever you tell me to. I belong to you. I belong to you."

Mariko squeezed her lover's shoulders, pressing her hips closer, feeling her hot breath. She was set aflame by Sophie's words: tender, romantic and thrillingly submissive all at the same time. How, Mariko thought, could someone seem so vital and strong at the same time as allowing another to dominate them? Often such contradictions frustrated her. This time it merely made her wonder at the beautiful paradox that was her lover.
"I -" Mariko was about to speak, but she stopped herself, smiling wryly. Some things which could be expressed through words, weren't always best expressed thus. For that reason, she pushed Sophie back, where the lithe redhead fell, now lying on Mariko's bed.

"Spectrum is Green," Mariko said. There was a bright flash, and her dress was replaced with the silver leotard, half-skirt, mask and boots of her superheroine identity: Spectra. "You asked me once," she said, approaching her lover, "whether my powers had any - oh, how did you put it? Extra-curricular? - uses. Well, Sophie," she continued, igniting a small blade of light on her index finger, "I've just thought of one."

She sat one the bed, straddling Sophie. The redhead now felt Mariko's bare thighs against hers, and she gasped slightly. She gasped rather more loudly when she realised what Mariko was doing: with exquisite care, and precision, she used her blade of light to cut away - not at Sophie's bonds, which she left quite intact - but at her clothes.

Sophie stared as her blouse was sliced away in sections, gradually revealing more and more of her bosom, before the last scraps were pulled away. Mariko moved down, pausing to kiss Sophie's breasts, making the heroine sigh, before turning her attention to her tiny skirt.
"Imagine wearing something like this on Christmas day," Mariko said, shaking her head. "I couldn't keep my eyes off you all afternoon...I could barely keep my hands from you."
"That was kinda the idea," Sophie said. "Oh!" She felt a slight tremor as Mariko began slicing away her skirt as well. Her vulnerability now was all the more clear: Mariko was stripping her naked, and there was nothing she could do - not that she wanted to, of course.

As her skirt came away, Sophie gave a kind of cry: part surprise, part moan and part begging for Mariko not to leave her waiting too long. Mariko moved back a little, however, drinking in the sight of her pale, sumptuously sexy partner. She had a sensually passive look about her, all strapped-up and stripped down to her underwear. She barely moved, just looking up at Mariko with her mouth partly open. As the Japanese beauty looked down at her, she realised that in all her time as Spectra, she had never felt more powerful than she did then - nor had she felt more strongly the duty to use her power rightly.

Turning Sophie over, she cut away the last two items protecting her modesty, her cream-coloured underwear. She embraced the damsel from behind, pressing her hips into Sophie's round, tight ass, and entwining her legs with her, fondling her breasts and kissing her neck. Stripped naked, Sophie moaned in pleasure as Mariko caressed her. She turned her head, and kissed her lover, her mistress on the lips.
"Take me," she said, panting like a tigress in heat. "Take me, Mariko...please...I need you..." She arched her back. "Oh, fuck, I need you, Mariko..."
"You'll have me," the maiden replied, turning Sophie towards her. "You'll always have me." She kissed her, the two passionately pressing their lips together, feeling the wetness of the other's tongue, the heat of their mouth. As they did, Mariko's hand began sliding first towards, and then between Sophie's bound thighs. "I intend to find something out tonight, Sophie."
"Wh-what?" Sophie said, shivering. Mariko took her head in her hands, and smiled slowly.
"How loud you can scream."

A few hours later, the two supple, gorgeous damsels lay entwined in each other's arms, their legs slowly, sinuously rubbing together. The mesh that had bound Sophie was discarded, as was Spectra's outfit. Their first full experiment into this realm had been a successful one, but it had ended before the girls' sexual appetite had. Sophie had her head on Mariko's chest, the Japanese beauty stroking her long, wavy red hair. She was positively purring as Mariko caressed her.

"Mmmm..." the redhead hummed. "You're...hot...and I like you..." She was in a sort of daze. "I like your legs too...they feel like...caramel..."
"I take it...that's a compliment?" Mariko replied, flicking Sophie a little.
"Shh..." Sophie said, touching Mariko on the cheek. "Don't worry about it." She looked up and giggled. "Hey, Koko?"
"I loved that. All of it." Mariko smiled.
"I did as well. I didn't realise it before."
"Didn't realise what?"

Mariko paused, trying to find the right expression.
"Power is erotic...and loss of power is erotic," she said. "It's a duality I...found thrilling to explore with you."
"Really? Thrilling?" Mariko nodded. "Okay, good...I was a little nervous about...well..."
"Showing that side of me to yourself?"
"Yeah, right. I thought you might think it was like...whimsical? When we first had sex it was amazing but...kinda serious. I didn't know if it'd feel too much like playing for you."
"There was certainly a playful aspect to it, but I wouldn't call it whimsical," Mariko said. "It was...fun."
"I guess I didn't need to worry, actually," Sophie said, smiling.
"You're kinky. You're like, super-kinky."
"Where's that coming from?"

Sophie extricated herself from Mariko's limbs, and sidled up next to her.
"Okay, so I wanted to get tied up, and everything...but the straps? The cuffs? That was, like, serious fucking bondage. I thought you were gonna whip me."
"If you keep making fun of me, perhaps I will next time," Mariko replied, twitching an eyebrow to emphasise her point.
"Oh, you know how to keep a girl happy..." Sophie sighed. "Seriously...you keep me really happy." She felt Mariko gasp a little. "I love you."
"I love you too..." Mariko said. She reflected back on the day the two had spent together - Sophie's parents hadn't been able to get to town for the day, so they'd shared much of the day with a couple of Sophie's friends in similar positions. It had been very fun, but there was no question that both of them had been waiting to be alone with each other.

Mariko relaxed against her lover. She idly wondered about her family, reminding herself to call at least her dear uncle the following day. Most of her thoughts, however, were about the day, and about Sophie. Sometimes, this overflowing happiness she felt at being united with her beloved was too much. She felt guilty, almost, or some odd species of internal embarrassment would take hold of her. But if Christmas was anything, it was an excuse to be happy.

Sophie found herself looking within as well, but less idly. She still felt the relief of one who had escaped from drowning whenever she thought about Rachel. She felt like this experience, just now, with Mariko had rescued a part of her that - perhaps - Ocelot still had her claws into. She had never considered herself a complicated person, but that year had taught her otherwise. Her experience with Rachel, the strange difficulty she'd faced in realising that she loved Mariko - and this alarming mystery about the origins of her powers...

"It's so difficult...just leading a life, even a normal one..." she thought. "Let alone if you run around in mini-dresses kicking people in the face all night..." She looked again at Mariko, and was struck by how fortunate she was. Yes, she felt that she and Mariko had earned each other - but not everyone would get the chance that they had. She wondered about Yumi, pulled between a half dozen different versions of herself. About Valora - who'd shared her awful humiliation at the hands of Nyx. Maya - the sweet, shy young woman who fought so hard at something she disliked so much. Natalya - who seemed to find existing so painful and frustrating, despite her good nature. And of course, her proud, beautiful, beloved Mariko, who was so intelligent, but who failed to understand so much.

These, she thought, were people who'd chosen a life of...of what? Helping others, fighting against evil? It all sounded so naff when put like that.
"We struggle," she thought. She looked at Mariko, and her lover seemed to exemplify what she meant. She struggled to be something worthwhile. To be strong. To be heroic. To be good. She wondered if that was why so many of those who found themselves with powers went into the 'business' of superheroics. It was the best way - perhaps the easiest way - to be good. She took Mariko's hand, and kissed it.
"You're a wonderful person, Mariko," she said.
"Oh, I am, am I?" she replied, with the gentlest irony. "Where did that come from?"
"From my heart, dumbass," Sophie replied. "Where else?" She looked up at her. She smiled, slowly and sweetly, very aware in that moment of the depth of her love. "Merry Christmas, Koko," she said.
"Merry Christmas, Sophie," her partner replied.

The two settled against each other, and within half an hour, they were both asleep. Arthur the tomcat joined them later, keeping very deliberately to the side of the bed Mariko was on, but they were otherwise undisturbed. Christmas had not brought happiness to all of Sophie's allies and friends. Nor indeed to her and Mariko - 'twas they who brought their well-earned happiness to Christmas. But to each it had brought something. For that day, for that time, as in all times and on all days - that would have to do.
A full list of my stories can be found here, with summaries to boot: viewtopic.php?f=70&t=32027
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