Gwen stretched as she felt light stream across her face. She sat up slowly and tried to get her bearings. She was of course in Mark’s bed but Mark himself seemed to be missing. In his place was a handwritten note sitting upright against the lamp on his bedside table. She picked it up and read it.
Went into work, Don’t worry about coming in. Your boss already knows that you’re taking the day off.
Help yourself to anything in the fridge. I’ll get off at five. I’ve got a surprise waiting for you went I get home.
Gwen smirked at that last part. It could have been a cheap innuendo but Mark wasn’t nearly that presumptuous. She got up and realized that she didn’t have any clothes other than the ones she’d worn last night. She’d have to go to the hotel and hope that they hadn’t throw out everything in her room. She cringed inwardly at the thought of the housekeeping staff seeing the piles of pizza boxes on her bed.
She pilfered a button up shirt from Mark’s closet and put it on. It completely covered her breasts but only made it halfway down her belly. She didn’t let it bother her. Wearing her boy-toy’s shirt was part of the fun of conquest and she wasn’t going to let her size ruin that for her, especially not after how well it had served her the night before. A shiver ran down her back and she purposefully pushed the memory aside for later. She grabbed a pair of sweatpants from Mark’s drawer, somehow managed to fit them over her behind and then went for a jog.
Without her costume she couldn’t run at full speed without risking notice. Still, she was in such a good mood that several times she found herself keeping pace with passing traffic and had to force herself to slow down. By some miracle the hotel had held onto her luggage and she thanked the bellhop profusely as her returned her suitcases and desperately tried to avoid staring at Gwen’s bare midriff and substantial cleavage.
She gave him a wink on the way out and the poor man turned a ghostly pale and turned away. She wasn’t sure if his ogling earlier had been out of morbid curiosity or romantic interest but for the sake of her good mood she chose the latter. Half an hour later she was back at Mark’s condo and it was…
She checked the clock on the microwave.
… Eleven in the morning. She still had six hours before Mark got home. She opened her suitcase, threw some dirty clothes into Mark’s washing machine and then pulled out a tiny bag of cosmetics.
She’d never been much for makeup especially these past few months, but now she had someone to impress. She pulled out a bottle of pink nail polish, laid a towel down on the floor of the living room, turned on the TV and got to work.
Her fingernails were easy enough, but she ran into some trouble when she started on her toes. She could reach just fine but dexterity was a bit of a problem. Her breasts and her belly tended to get in the way and she did a sloppy job on her right foot. By the time she got to her left she’d found a better strategy: Brute force. The flesh was in the way but it was yielding and with some effort she could muscle her way through the process. She was nearly done with her right foot when a voice on the news caught her attention.
“And now we go live to Valiant City for a special report on a ceremony in honor of the city’s top rated hero!” She looked up in naive excitement but what she saw on the news wasn’t what she’d expected. There was a crowd gathered in the park where Lancelot’s statue was located, only her statue was covered in a giant velvet sheet. Standing in front of the sheet was an older man that Gwen recognized as the mayor and next to him was Kaptain Kazap.
“Kaptain, it’s an honor to have you here today. In honor of your years of service and your recent victory against the alien invasion squad that would have otherwise destroyed the city It is my esteemed pleasure to dedicate this statue to you as my last official act as this city’s mayor.”
The sheet fell and where the giant statue of Lancelot once stood there was now a giant golden depiction of Kaptain Kazap. The Kaptain shook the mayor's hand. Gwen's mouth fell open. She grabbed her phone and in her haste accidentally smeared a bit of nail polish in the back of the case. She looked up the BSD hero rankings. Kaptain Kazap was at the top of the List. Lancelot was at number four.
“God damn it!” She yelled and resisted the urge to toss her phone across the room. She didn’t have time for a suspension right now. She had to get back out there and earn back her place at the top. That’s when the Kaptain took the Microphone.
“I’d like to thank the people of this city and my good friend Lancelot.” He looked directly into the camera and Gwen got the distinct impression that he was looking at her through the television. “Lance, I’ve been blessed with this honor but I could never take your place. Wherever you are I just hope you’re doing okay.” And Gwen was surprised to find that she was.
She had just lost her position in both rank and as a hero in general but she was happy. In fact she was under far less stress than she’d been in months. What if she didn’t go back? She pondered this until she was interrupted by the sound of a key turning in the door lock. Mark was home. She grabbed the remote and turned off the television not sure why the thought of him seeing the statue made her feel so upset. She shut it off just as Kaptain Kazap was announcing which candidate he'd be endorsing for the election that week but Gwen barely noticed. By the time he was inside the towel had been put away, the nail polish had dried and she was sitting on the couch reading a book looking to all the world as if she’d been there for hours.
“Oh, Mark!” She exclaimed in feigned surprise. “You’re home early.”
“Slow day.” he shrugged. “Is that one of my shirts? It looks better on you.” She rolled her eyes and sauntered over. She noted the way his uncanny blue eyes followed her belly as it bounced with each purposeful step. “Oh gosh!” He slapped his forehead snapping himself out of the hypnotic quality that her body seemed to have over him. “I almost forgot.” He ran out to his car and came back with a square flat box wrapped in red foil. He Held it out to her in excitement, “Surprise!”
And just like that Gwen forgot all about the statue and the ranking and even her reluctantly thickened body. She decided that she had her answer.
“What is it?” Gwen asked incredulously; doing her best to hide her smile. The package was too small to be food. Jewelry, maybe? That wasn’t really her style. She took it from him and lifted off the small foil wrapped lid. Her smile faltered. “What is it?” She asked as she pulled out a tiny black square of plastic with a button in the center. He didn’t answer. She pushed the button and it started blinking. Her eyes widened. “Mark, you didn’t!” She nearly screeched. Quickly she pressed the device to the face of her watch and it immediately began downloading the schematic that was being transmitted.
“I pulled some strings, got some guys in requisitions to put something together for me. Hope you like the color.” The download finished and she set the transmitter on the coffee table.
“Trust me. After green anything’s an improvement.” She tapped a button on her watch and was surrounded by a familiar pink light. Gwen’s new suit materialized around her body. She hadn’t tried summoning her suit since the accident. Her old one would have simply burst off of her again. This one fit like a glove. It had no seams zippers or snaps. One benefit of having a costume materialize on your body was not worrying how you’d fit into the damn thing. As the light faded she looked up at Mark expectantly.
“Well! Have a look at yourself!” He insisted.” Before the words were out of his mouth she had disappeared leaving only a blue streak in her wake as she ran toward the master bedroom. She positioned herself in front of a standing mirror and turned admiring the figure she cut.
The suit was blue of course though she only had to look down to see a large jagged lightning bolt emblazoned on the front in familiar pink. The body of the suit was a single piece of material and she rejoiced at the thought of not having to tug down her front in order to cover her belly. Gone was the domino mask as well. In it’s place was a cowl which covered her whole face except her chin. Her hair streamed over it and her bangs splashed in front of two round pink lenses that hid her eyes. Mark had obviously paid close attention to each of her complaints It was only missing one thing.
She ran to her suitcase and pulled out a scrap of her previous uniform and tied it around her forearm. There. Now it was perfect. Mark came up behind her and placed his arms around her shoulders.
“Do you like it?” He asked. She turned and kissed him deeply.
“I love it.” She pressed herself against him tightly. “What possessed you to do it?” He only shrugged.
“You need a suit to do hero work. Now you’ve got one for when you’re back on your feet.” She pursed her lips and stepped away from him.
“Actually I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”She pulled down her cowl to better look at him. “With Augustus gone and Valiant City safe maybe it’s time I took a break.”
“A break?” Mark asked incredulously. “That doesn’t sound like you.”
“Come on!” She insisted. “We could spend a year abroad, on tropical beaches without having to worry about supervillains or disasters or evil plots. Just us, the beach and more food than you’ve ever seen in your life” He crossed his arms.
“Doesn’t sound like a good way to get back into shape.” He reminded her. And she gave him a mocking sneer.
“Not that you’d mind.” She remembered the way he’d touched her the night before. She lifted her belly and dropped it letting it bounce and watched as he struggled to maintain eye contact. He failed and she laughed.
“Sounds like more than we can afford.” his eyes were still on her tummy as he said this. And Gwen was glad he didn’t see her smile falter. This was going to be the scary part.
“Well, that would be true if I was working at the coffee shop…” She admitted. “But not if I went back to being an architect.” That got his full attention. They both knew what that implied.
“That would blow your identity, wouldn’t it?” She shrugged again.
“Not if Lancelot never came back.” They were both quiet for what felt like a long time. For Mark the seconds felt like minutes but Gwen agonized over every moment searching Marks face for the beginning of expressions that might indicate his reaction to her news. For her the seconds stretched into hours.
“Are you sure?” He finally asked. She nodded.
“I’ve left my mark.” she assured “Kaptain Kazap has big shoes to fill. I figure I deserve a retirement and…” She pressed another button on her watch and the suit dissolved away. “...Someone to share it with.” She could have let her old clothes replace her uniform but she relinquished them as well. She stood there naked in front of him drinking in the way he looked at her. This had been a calculated move. Distract him from the hard questions she knew that he wanted to ask and let him get a taste of what was in store for him if he came with her. Still, it wasn’t without it’s own risk.
Last night had been amazing. For the first time in months she’d felt sexy and powerful and in control of her own fate. Those feelings hadn’t completely faded but as she pressed the button to remove her suit and reveal herself to him she couldn’t help but doubt. Had it been a mistake? Maybe a trick of the light or misunderstanding. Surely he couldn’t want this? The microseconds passed. This time Mark’s face betrayed him. There’d been no mistake. From the moment the corners of his mouth began to turn up and that same excited glint appeared in his eye she knew exactly how much he wanted her. Before he could consciously register what he was seeing he found himself lying on the bed with her straddling him on all fours.
“So,” She started. “Care for round two?”
Gwen still hated traveling by air, and yet she was taking her third plane ride in just as many days. She supposed she’d have to get used to it if she was going to go on this vacation. 400 miles per hour was far too slow for a transatlantic run… if she could still run on water. She pondered this as the plane landed. She didn’t have any luggage to pick up. This was strictly a business trip.
She reminded herself of that over and over again on the cab ride downtown. Despite her being in the city legitimately she found herself more nervous than she’d been on her clandestine mission with Pockets two days ago. The driver was giving his thoughts on the upcoming mayoral election but she was barely listening. Her discomfort came to a head as her cab pulled to a stop. It had been months since she’d seen her old building. The view had changed slightly. Her old statue had been replaced with a giant, gleaming depiction of Kaptain Kazap. She grimaced and pushed her way inside ignoring a woman outside the door who was passing out fliers and proselytizing about some political candidate.
It was as busy as one might expect on a Friday afternoon, Gwen even saw some people she recognized though they appeared to be too busy to recognize her. She took the elevator to her floor, and made her way down the hall and only paused for a moment to peer into her old office. She half expected to see her desk covered in dust and cobwebs or worse see someone new sitting there in her place, but no. The room was pristine. The nameplate on the desk had her name emblazoned on the front and a small note underneath it read “leave of absence”.
She removed the note and for the first time since she arrived allowed herself to feel excited. Things certainly weren't back to normal. She wasn’t a hero anymore and she’d likely never get her figure back but the prospect of working at a real job again seemed like such a relief. She walked with new purpose down the rest of the hall and knocked on the door at the end.
“Come in!” a woman’s voice said cheerily from the other side. Gwen cautiously opened it.. Her boss sat behind a heavy mahogany desk covered in paperwork. She looked up at Gwen, first in confusion and then in surprise.
“Gwen? God, it’s been months. Christ, we’ve been worried about you.” She kept taking conspicuous glances at Gwen’s body as if she was coming to terms with the fact that this was the same woman who’d worked for her four months ago.
“Sorry.” Gwen grinned as best she could hoping to dispel the woman’s fears without giving any real explanation. “It’s been a crazy couple of months, but I’m ready to start working again, I think. How do we get the ball rolling on that?” The other woman was still flustered by Gwen's unexpected entrance not to mention her size. She tried desperately not to draw attention to it.
“Um… paperwork mostly I’d expect. Judy in HR won’t be back until Monday but there’s no reason you can’t get a head start.” She opened a drawer on her desk and pulled out a pile of rolled blueprints. “These are the properties we’re working on if you want to have a look over the weekend. Gwen scooped up the documents.
“Thanks, Sandy. I’ll see you on Monday then?” She was already making her way to the door.
“Absolutely. And Gwen” She called after the woman who was nearly halfway out the door. “I’m glad you’re back.” Gwen smiled.
“Glad to be back.” she responded with honest enthusiasm. She practically skipped back down the hall. That hadn’t been nearly as bad as she had worried. She had her old job back and now that she was no longer obsessing over Augustus a weight had been lifted. It was an especially satisfying feeling for someone who was over twice as heavy as they used to be. On her way out she was in a much better mood than when she entered. This time she actually gave some attention to the woman passing out fliers by the entrance.
“Vote Charles Franks for Mayor! A candidate for the people!” Gwen found it odd that this woman was being so vocal. Local elections weren't exactly a hot topic in Valliant city. She made her way over.
“Hey.” she raised her voice to get the woman’s attention. “Tell me more about Charles Franks.” The woman smiled brightly.
“He’s a candidate for the people! He’s the one who’s going to turn this city around.” She beamed as if this answered all of Gwen's questions. Even for a politics that was pretty vague.
“Anything else?” Gwen asked. The woman nodded aggressively.
“Just this!” The woman reached into a box at her feet and pulled something out which she handed to Gwen. “Vote for Franks and things will be just ducky.” Gwen barely registered the pun. She was too focused on the thing in her hands. The girl had handed her a rubber duck. Her mind raced as she tried to make sense of it. Part of her thought it was just a coincidence but a bigger part of her knew that she had stumbled on something important. The toy was small and brown. It was made of cheap rubber and it was a perfect match for the ones that she’d seen at the truck stop.
It’s a common misconception that someone with super speed can accomplish any task a normal person could but in a fraction of the time. Even for someone capable of moving faster than the speed of thought one is often limited by day to day inconvenience. For example mobile network speeds.
Gwen wanted to go speeding off to find this “Charles Franks” and demand just why in the hell he was connected to a group of supervillains but that required knowing where to go and without BSD intelligence that meant looking him up on her phone. From what she could surmise, Charles Franks was a wealthy businessman who’d only appeared on the radar a few months ago. His political platform was unusually vague without so much as a political party listed and he was extremely dominant in the polls.
A little digging indicated that his headquarters was located in a downtown highrise. That was as good a place as any to start. Gwen disappeared leaving documents and blueprints fluttering to the ground in her wake. She pressed a button on her watch and her suit seemed to materialize from the ether replacing her old clothing. Something else came with it. Gwen’s wrath flowed back into her from whatever recess it had retreated to.
The building wasn’t hard to find. It was gaudy, ostentatious and massive. The Ego certainly fit the bill but Gwen refused to let herself believe it was him until she was looking at his face under the heel of her boot. She burst into the lobby and up the staircase. She was a whirlwind of blue and yellow that wound around and around nearly knocking over an unsuspecting intern. She found the right floor and crashed through the reception area and straight into Charles Franks’ Office. She didn’t expect to see a man with a raised gun on the other side of the door.
He fired and she skidded to a halt plucking the projectile from the air.
“Still fast enough to catch a bullet.” The man said. His voice was flat with the barest hint of approval. “I thought you were moving slower than the speed of sound these days?”
“Running slower than the speed of sound.” she corrected. “And I wouldn’t call this a bullet.” She held up a yellow syringe full of the same liquid she’d been injected with all those months ago.
Franks sat behind a desk at the end of a long hallway. He was big. Dressed in a suit and tie he cut an imposing figure. His brown hair was touched with grey at the temples that she’d never seen before but she recognized his face.
“To what do I owe the pleasure, Gwen?”
His walls were lined with flags and patriotic fixtures alongside decorations more fitting to his temperament. There was a suit of Roman armor and several spears and shields. One item stood out. It was a life-sized marble statue of himself in the attire of a Roman emperor.
“Charlemagne?” Lancelot asked. Ignoring the fact that he’d called her by name. “I always figured you fancied yourself as Caesar Augustus.” He stood up and approached her. He appraised the statue with affection.
“You know your history, Lance. Augustus was the first emperor of Rome. Charlemagne, also known as Charles, King of the Franks, was the last.” He grinned down at her. “I thought it was fitting.” He flinched slightly as she met his gaze.
“So you’re giving up crime, going straight, and running for mayor?
“Oh, I’d hardly say going straight.” he crossed back to his desk and sat on top of it casually. “It took a lot of work to get here.” God, he was big. Even sitting down his eyes met her’s evenly.
“You had to get rid of anyone who would recognize you.” She continued. She thought of how Atomic automaton's mind had been wiped and how expertly she’d been maneuvered out of the city. “That’s why you didn’t bother with the Commodore.” Franks shrugged.
“He’d never seen my face. He may have been a nuisance when I was a villain but he’d be no threat to a politician.”
“And Brainchild? She’d never seen you either.” He sneered in disappointment.
“Oh come now, Gwen. A psychic? She obviously couldn’t go unchecked. I sent a colleague to recruit her. It didn’t go well.”
“A magic user?” He nodded and she couldn’t help but smile. There was a certain satisfaction in learning that Krystal had been wrong about something even if it was something so petty.
“And the Ducks?” She asked, holding the rubber duck out in one hand. “What are they, some kind of mind control?” He laughed at that.
“Nothing so insidious. They’re coated in a chemical of my own design. They don’t control the mind but they do render anyone who touches them more susceptible to suggestion for an hour or two. It wouldn’t be enough to drastically alter one's perspective but really how much thought do people put into a local election?”
“So people hand these out while singing your praises and suddenly you’re the most popular guy in town?”
“Exactly! Or…” his eyes were full of witchlight and he smirked at her from across his desk. “Getting a meddlesome superhero off your back after she carelessly dug through a box of them.” Gwen’s eyes widened as she thought about how easily she’d given up on looking for Augustus after being told he was dead. How could she have given up so easily?
“It didn’t work though.” She reminded him. “You’d have been better off just killing me.” He smiled again.
“Oh, Lance! Do you think I would have let you off so easily if I’d known how to kill you? I’ve fought you dozens of time with no success. This was the best way to get you out of my hair.” Her fist clenched.
“So this…” She gestured to her body “...was just to distract me?” Something about that made her even more upset. He shrugged.
“It worked didn’t it?” She rushed him and pressed him against the desk firmly.
“Not quite,” she growled. He let out a wheezing laugh.
“Lance. I said I didn’t know how to kill you before. Do you think I’d honestly have any trouble now?” For a heartbeat she considered this. She had him. There was no way he could get out of this… unless… she dove to the side just as a bolt of black lightning struck the floor where she had been standing.Augustus pulled his legs up from the ground to avoid being singed himself.
“Sorry boss.” a sultry voice purred from the other end of the hall. Gwen turned to see Krystal approaching. “Couldn't resist.”
Augustus took the opportunity to run out of his office and Krystal put a hex on the door behind him.
“I’m going to enjoy this.” she purred as she made figure eights in the air with her wand.
“You don’t have to do this Krystal.” Lance assured as she got to her feet and entered a fighting stance.
“Oh please. Save the hero talk for a villain. As far as the world is concerned you went rogue and attacked a civilian. Do you honestly believe anyone is going to trust some fat bitch that had to be put on suspension? You couldn’t be trusted at a taco bar.” Lance rushed her. With a flick of her wand the carpet under Lancelot’s feet turned into a treadmill that kept her in place.
“Yeah, girl! Burn those carbs!” Krystal laughed at her own joke. Lance leapt and kicked off the wall propelling herself forward and delivering a dropkick into Krystal’s chest. She wasn’t moving at full speed but the weight behind the kick was enough to make the impact significant. The witch staggered backward crashing hard into a display of Roman weapons. “You bitch.” She spat. Another flick of her wand and the weapons in the display came to life flying through the air straight at Gwen.
There were enough of them that she was unsure she could simply dodge between them, especially considering her increased girth and the limited space in the room. Instead, she grabbed a shield from the wall next to her and charged forward knocking a gladius and spear aside in the process. Krystal tried her treadmill trick again but Gwen flung the shield at her like a frisbee. Knocking her wand from her hand.
Krystal gritted her teeth and reached her arms out at the speedster with splayed fingers. A cascade of black lightning nipped at Gwen’s heels. Without her wand, Krystal was less precise but just as destructive. If even one of those bolts hit her it would be the end. But Gwen didn’t have any intention of letting that happen.
With practiced agility Gwen maneuvered her way through the thunderclaps. She could see each one as it formed and even at her reduced speed could predict where it was going to land. She was only a few feet from Krystal now and she could see her face change from hatred to horror as she closed the distance. In a last-ditch effort, the magician created an especially large bolt that made contact between the two women. Gwen didn’t skip a beat.
She flipped into the air above it, her hair cascading behind her. The bolt crashed below her and had dissipated before her feet hit the ground. With a final lunge she propelled a fist forward and straight into Krystal’s waiting jaw... Except the fist never connected.
Krystal evaporated into smoke and Gwen crashed through the empty air and into the wall. She groggily forced herself off the ground only for a stiletto heel to press into her back and force her back down.
“Don’t bother getting up, tubby. You put up more of a fight than I gave you credit for. That flip at the end there was especially impressive, but I’m afraid that fat girls don’t make the cheer squad.” Gwen’s hands curled into fists as she tried to think of her next move. She scanned the ground for a weapon that might turn the tide when she noticed Augustus’ syringe of calorie serum lying on the other side of the room.
That’s when she heard a window shatter and the distinctive crack of a whip. She felt the heel leave her back and turned to see Pockets dragging Krystal across the room. His whip was coiled around her forearm.
“Ms. Lancelot!” He called in his distinctive Southern twang. “I’m at your service.” Gwen dove for the syringe while Krystal was busy with Pockets. The witch turned the whip into a snake and Pockets jumped back in disgust just as a bolt of lightning struck right where he’d been standing.
“Well that’s just impolite” He chided as he pulled a half dozen swords from his coat and plunged them into the floor at different points around the room. Krystal struck again with another blast of lightning but it was redirected into the ground as the nearest sword acted as a makeshift lightning rod. Pockets withdrew a wooden baseball bat and charged at her. She frantically shot bolt after bolt at him but each was redirected before it even came close. He hit her in the ribs and she stumbled back toward Lance. Gwen raised the syringe like a dagger and Krystal's eyes went wide. She thrust her hands forward and suddenly there was a pane of glass between the two women dividing the room in half.
“Pockets!” Gwen shouted, her voice muffled by the barrier. The vigilante came up behind the sorceress and grabbed her by the neck using the baseball bat to pull her up toward his chest. With Krystal momentarily out of the way Gwen kicked at the glass barrier. It wouldn’t so much as crack. Krystal struggled to keep from choking and struck at the cowboy with her elbows as lightning crackled around them.
Lancelot took a few steps back, pressed a button on her watch and felt the familiar cold metal form around her hand. She charged at the glass lance outstretched and it shattered into millions of tiny fragments. She ran at the two of them and the lance melted away revealing the syringe in her hand. She plunged it into Krystal's stomach and suddenly everything stopped. The room was silent for a moment as everyone waited.
There was a gurgle from Krystal’s belly and then the quiet was broken by an ear splitting shriek. Krystal's feet drummed on the floor pushing Pockets back against the wall as her belly lurched forward. Her hands stayed on the baseball bat though it was no longer choking her and she didn’t even attempt to pull the needle from her belly. Her tits expanded outward nearly bursting from the confines of her leotard and her garters and stockings cut into her thighs as they started to fill with more and more soft wobbling fat.
Pockets let go and she staggered forward. Her hands shot to her belly as if trying to push it back in. her breasts spilled from her top and each dropped like ripe fruits as they expanded out in front of her. She sunk to her knees and did her best to cover them up as her now enormous belly burst from her top.
“You think you can handle this from here?” Gwen asked Pockets. He nodded and smiled.
“I’m from North Carolina.” He assured her as if that was pertinent information. “Down there we know how to tie a hog.” Gwen tried to shoot him a disapproving glare but couldn’t help but snicker.
“I-I’ll Kill you for this you… you fat bitch” Krystal yelled after Lance. She was still trying to contain her ever-expanding flesh and nearing Gwen in size as she sped out the room. Lance grinned to herself, Krystal would learn soon enough that she was going to need a new insult.
Augustus ran down the hallway. He trusted Krystal to handle the former speedster out of hand but that was no excuse not to play things safe. At the end of the hallway was a bookshelf. He pushed it aside with one powerful sweep of his arm. Behind it was the large steel door to Charles Franks’ panic room. He’d felt foolish having it installed but the possibility of just such an altercation had ultimately convinced him. Evidently, that paranoia had paid off.
He typed in his code, jumped inside and slammed his fist down on the button to close the door. He spun around just in time to see a powder blue streak swerve down the hall. Lancelot stopped just inside the door as it closed with a metallic thud. She glowered at him. Despite being significantly shorter than Augustus Gwen cut an imposing figure. The muscles in her arms tensed in barely contained rage. The ones in her legs coiled and ready to strike at any moment. Despite the enhancements to her figure the look on her face proved that she was still, at her very core, a superhero.
Augustus put up his arms up in fisticuffs. There was a satisfied smirk on his face and Lance could see why. Shimmering in front of him, just barely out of the visible spectrum was the telltale hexagonal pattern of Augustus’ force field.
“Come on, Gwen. You know how this plays out. You attack me, I either hold you off until help arrives or you take me out in exchange for letting me get a hit in.” He produced another syringe concealed in his palm. “Let’s see what shape you’re in to capture me when you can’t even stand.” Lance stepped into the forcefield and raised her fists. The look on her face was impassive.
Augustus swung at her. She dodged. She swung at him but couldn’t hit with enough force to do any real damage. She wound up for a more powerful swing and Augustus saw his opening. He jabbed at her thigh with the needle but she feinted backward and grabbed him by the tie while he was off balance. She gritted her teeth and drove her forehead into Augustus’ face putting all of her substantial weight into the blow. There was a satisfying crack as her forehead connected with his mouth and the would-be mayor went sprawling on the ground. His shield flicked out as he placed both hands over his mouth.
“How did you--” He mumbled through a mesh of interlaced fingers.
“I’ve been thinking about our last fight for months. I didn’t think you’d be dumb enough to try the same trick twice.” She looked at the door. Other than the button to close it she didn’t see any other mechanism. “How were you planning on getting out of here?”
“We wait for help to arrive.” He managed to sit up but couldn’t take his hands away from his mouth.
“The police?” Gwen asked. There was a loud crash from outside the room as if to answer her question. Two more crashes resounded and a section of the wall was pulled away to reveal Kaptain Kazap hovinger outside. He did not look amused.
“Lance? I assume you have a good reason to be here.” Gwen faced the human monolith before her.
“Kap, It’s Franks. He was Augustus all along. He’s been getting superheroes out of the way so they couldn’t affect his political campaign.” Kazap squinted at the man lying on the floor in front of him. His eyes went wide.
“You’re right! I’ll secure him. You need to get back to BSD headquarters and debrief them. As far as they're concerned You’re a renegade hero in the city.” Lance balked at that.
“How do they even know I’m here.” The Kaptain landed in the room kneeling down next to Augustus. He acted as though he hadn’t even heard her. Lance cocked her head in confusion. “You’ve fought him as many times as I have. You didn’t recognize him?” He shrugged.
“I guess not. Guess that’s why you’re number one.” He smiled up at her. She only narrowed her eyes and nodded at the man on the floor.
“He’s not the kind to leave loose ends like that.” The would-be mayor laughed through broken teeth as Kaptain Kazap got back to his feet.
“Of course you’d notice that Lance. You always have to be the hero don’t you?” Lance took a few steps backward but found only a steel door behind her. “You do realize that superspeed is a pretty blasé power, right? I’m just as fast as you are, not to mention invulnerable, and strong enough to crack a planet in half.” She tried to run past him but his arm shot out and grabbed her by the neck. “But no! You were always the top hero. No matter what I did I was always second best. And why? Because you were better, smarter?” He scoffed. “Well look who’s on top now that no one wants to see you in a skin-tight outfit.”
His eyes blazed a blinding white as his neutron vision powered up. In a desperate gambit she launched a flurry of punches into his face with as much force as she could manage without her feet on the ground to follow through. The machine gun speed wasn’t enough to hurt him but did startle the hulking hero into dropping her. She ran past him and leaped out the window to the roof of the next building. A fire escape and a flagpole facilitated the rest of her descent and she bled as much speed as she dared out of her legs to get away from the building.
Kaptain Kazap was well out of her league, especially at her reduced speed. She needed help. More help than Pockets could provide. If she could get to BSD headquarters she could let them know what was happening and maybe assemble a team. There was a loud crash overhead and she looked up just in time to see the sonic boom created as Kazap rocketed past her. He crashed to the ground in front of her and his eyes burned with light as the opaque white lamps of his neutron vision tore up the street in front of her.
Gwen skidded to a stop. She’d been moving faster than she’d thought and despite her best efforts her movement wasn’t immediately halted. She fell backward onto her palms and narrowly avoided one of the bright white neutron beams. In moments Kaptain Kazap was upon her. A backhanded strike sent her careening into a building. Gwen was naturally adapted to high-speed collisions. Hitting the wall had done relatively little damage compared to the gnawing ache where the Kaptain’s hand had made contact with her shoulder. She staggered to her feet and blinked a few times to regain her senses. She was greeted by the silhouette of her former ally, and he was closing in on her.
Gwen ran. She pushed herself hard but fought to maintain a manageable speed trying not to let her adrenaline get the best of her. With a grunt she grabbed her forearm and shoved her shoulder back into place. Obviously Kazap was faster than her now, though she doubted he was as maneuverable. She deliberately took turns down side streets and alleyways. The speed she was moving at required she grab onto something as an anchor in order to complete her turns, and she left a trail of bent street signs and lamps posts in her wake.
She was beginning to feel cautiously optimistic about escaping when something crashed in front of her. The force of the impact was enough to cancel out all of her forward momentum and she tumbled to a stop at the other hero’s feet.
“Slow.” He spat at her. His foot shot out to kick her and this time she narrowly managed to avoid it. She ran again. Unsure where to go or what to do. He was going to catch her. He was going to kill her, but for now he was toying with her. He would land in front of her or block her path with his neutron vision, but he wasn’t actually trying to do any damage. If he were she’d have been out of the fight after that first hit connected. She dodged a falling billboard that forced her to change direction yet again. She didn’t realize what had been happening until she saw the bay looming ahead of her. He’d been herding her. Leading her away from the city, and now there was nowhere to go but out to sea.
Gwen wasn’t even sure she could run on water anymore. Logistically she was fast enough but right now balance was her enemy more than anything and water wasn't known for its traction. A blast behind her forced her to put those concerns aside and she darted out into the surf. The water did slow her down more but she found that she could maintain a speed in the mid-three hundreds fairly safely. A couple of times she lost her balance and found herself skiing on one foot and pinwheeling her arms before regaining her composure. The Kaptain lowered to her altitude and flew alongside her. He clicked his tongue disapprovingly.
“So slow, Gwen. We can do better than that.” He fell back behind her and for a moment she was alone running toward the horizon. Then she felt something crash into her from behind. The other hero’s strong hands grabbed her by the shoulders and pressed her forward. Her first impulse was to try to stop but she realized that the pressure he was exerting on her would send her cartwheeling into the water where she’d never be able to get enough speed to get moving again. He pressed harder and she was forced to run faster to compensate.
“There we go! Much better!” The Kaptain maniacally insisted. “Oh but you’ve gone faster before haven’t you? Let's try that.” He pushed again. And she ran faster. Her feet skidded across the surface and sweat ran down her forehead under her mask. One wrong move and she’d crash. God, he was going to make her crash and leave her to drown out here. The curtain of water that cascaded along either side of them was blown backward by a loud crash as they broke the sound barrier.
This was faster than she should be going. Faster than she could go. Faster than she’d ever gone before…
...And yet that wasn’t quite right. This hadn’t even been Lancelot's cruising speed half a year ago. She’d gone much faster than this. In fact, at her peak she’d often wondered if she was faster than Kazap. The amount of effort he seemed to be putting into pushing her seemed to indicate that she had been. Much faster in fact. Suddenly it occurred to her that running didn’t feel nearly as difficult as it had a moment ago. And why should it? She’d been breaking the sound barrier since she was a kid. There was no way a little weight was going to slow her down.
There was another crack, this one much louder than the first. The Kaptain could feel Lance’s muscles tense under his grip and then just like that she was gone. Only a corridor of falling water and the resounding thunderclap to indicate that she’d ever been there at all.
Lancelot hadn’t gone this fast in months. Each footfall made contact with the surface of the water and the resounding shockwave told her everything she needed to know about the next. The world was frozen in a moment as she made landfall. She weaved effortlessly between cars that were stationary despite traveling at high speed. She leapt into the air and flipped. She landed on one hand and righted herself with a flick of her wrist. She upped the pace and the landscape ahead took on a bluish tint.
The energy necessary to move an object these sorts of speeds neared infinite, Who cared if she had a bit more mass to deal with? She was ephemeral, she was free and she had a job to do. She covered plains, deserts, and tundras. She passed through Vaillant city in a space in time so brief that it was her solitary joy to experience. A tap of her finger against Kaptain Kazap’s statue imparted enough force to reduce the structure to a fine golden mist, which followed in her wake out to sea.
She approached the Kaptain from behind. He was as she had left him. If she had to guess she’d say that at the moment he wasn’t yet aware that she’d disappeared. The moment her hands made contact with his shoulders he became aware that somehow their positions as hunter and prey had been reversed. Kazaps face contorted into an expression of fury as he attempted to reach behind him to grab at his would-be victim.
He certainly was fast. At these speeds, Lance was used to being the sole inhabitant of this world. The Kaptain intruded with a sluggish determination. The veins on his forehead stood out as he forced his body to keep up with her and forced his mind to exist on the same plane as hers. He had never had a physical struggle in his life. Moving at these speeds and experiencing time at this scale was agony. The speed of his eye turning to glimpse her behind him caused it to scrape painfully along his eyelid as it dragged itself into position. At these speeds, his punches would be meaningless, but if he could grab her his superior strength would prevent her from--
Gwen’s knee connected with the small of Kazap’s back and he was sent hurtling forward far faster than he could compensate with flight. Pain was a rare experience for him and the agony caught him off balance as he tumbled forward for thousands of miles skipping along the water like a stone. He was dimly aware that his cape had disintegrated with the impact and he fired blindly with his neutron vision. It burst forth with a blind force that opened troughs in the ocean below him and tore up the sky.
Lance cartwheeled and pirouetted through the beams and approached the hero as he tumbled along ahead of her. She thought about the way he’d pretended to help her, how she’d trusted him and treated him like an ally. She leapt onto his chest as he slid along the water and delivered a deluge of punches into his jaw before the pillars of death spilling from his eyes could reach her.
She was hitting him with enough force to ignite a star and yet he did not yield. His chin slowly rose into the punches, those columns growing nearer and nearer. They were approaching the coastline. England judging by the alabaster cliffs ahead. She lifted the Kaptain by the remains of his collar and shoved his face into the rock. She changed direction in an instant dragging the man’s forehead against the cliff-face as she went trying to buy herself some more time to think.
His fist beat ineffectually against her chest and in moments they had run out of wall. The Kaptain had been blinded by the assault of his face and as such his neutron vision was temporarily not an option. Instead the Kaptain tried to mitigate their speed. He took in a deep breath with an air of conscious determination lent to him by his comparable slowness and then blew out through pursed lips. Lance nearly lost balance as the incredible wind pushed back against her in hopes that it could slow her relentless speed.
She pushed harder and held him out in front of her as far from herself as she could manage and let the air around the Kaptain ignite due to their sheer friction. Kaptain Kazap felt his hair and costume burn and the oxygen in his lungs was sucked out and combusted upon his lips. He screamed and the sound was dragged along behind them shattering windows and setting off car alarms for thousands of miles
Lance beat about his head with kicks and punches that would send him tumbling ahead of her only for her to catch up to him and hit him again. He was like a rubber ball on an elastic cord bounced against a paddle, but much like that rubber ball, no matter how hard the paddle struck Gwen couldn’t seem to do any permanent damage. If she couldn’t end this eventually she would be too tired to fight and the Kaptain would get his second wind.
As if on cue the hero’s eyes snapped open, bloodshot and unfocused as they were they had healed enough to bleed out sputtering bursts of lethal neutron vision. Gwen had to act fast. She had already hit him at close to the speed limit of the universe. There was only one way she could hit him harder. She shifted her grip from the larger man’s shoulders to his ankles. She twisted sideways turning her forward momentum into angular momentum and let go sending the other hero careening away from her at close to her full speed.
Without losing any time to slow down she turned around and ran in the opposite direction. She thrust an arm to her side and her lance began to form around it at a pace that felt painfully slow. Circumnavigating the globe took very little time and she now approached the Kaptain as he hurtled toward her through the air and she poured every ounce of speed that she had at her disposal into a final all-out sprint. She held the lance in front of her and it took on its full shape just as she made impact.
They were two objects colliding and each traveling at nearly the speed of light. There was no exaggeration in saying that the force was beyond anything that their combined matter has ever experienced since the pressure of its own weight had explosively birthed our universe into existence.
Despite the curious hold Lance seemed to have on physics her weapon shattered under the strain and a small part of the energy that had been meant to be fully imparted to her enemy bust like a supernova throwing the two of them backward. Neither hero could retain consciousness from such a blast.
Lance awoke first. It had been only seconds but for a moment she had no idea where she was. She was disoriented and underwater but very much alive. Ahead of her, she could make out the other hero’s body as it slowly sunk into the depths. With several powerful strokes, she intercepted him and then with a series of supersonic kicks she rocketed out of the water like a missile and landed on the surface with the Kapain’s body draped across her shoulders.
She ran west since she seemed to be in the Indian ocean and that was the quickest way home. The journey felt painfully slow. She was no longer limited by her weight but she was exhausted. Each step was painful but she pressed on knowing that if she didn’t get home Augustus could very likely get away without anyone even knowing what he had done. She crossed the ocean in relatively good time but was barely moving fast enough to stay above water as she approached the coast.
The city grew in front of her even as her vision faded. She was so close, but as she approached the home stretch her foot slipped and both her and her unconscious prisoner tumbled into the bay. She grabbed his arm and tried to pull him back to the surface with her but could tell it was a losing battle. Just before she faded into darkness she was aware of something incredibly large moving toward them in the dark water.
Before she could see what it was Lance quietly slipped away...
Gwen woke up in a hospital bed in a room she didn’t recognize. Behind her was a large window that looked out at a seascape she assumed was under the Valliant city bay. She sat up and felt something tug on her arm. A rubber tube snaked up to a bag of saline at the end of her bed. She looked down at herself and took inventory. Still fat. She sighed. A part of her had imagined that if when she got her speed back she’d also get back her physique, maybe as a side effect of the sudden calorie burn. No such luck.
Her chest and shoulder had been bandaged and she could make out bruising underneath the gauze, likely from a combination of the hit she’d taken from Kazap and the impact of hitting him with her lance. Her hand had also been burned by the explosive force of the impact and was similarly wrapped in gauze. She hopped off the bed and grabbed the IV stand pushing it along beside her.
She recognized this as the Commodore's Sub now that she was out of sickbay. Six months of dating the guy and years of working alongside him as a hero and apparently she’d never been injured badly enough to need it. She followed the sound of voices down the hall until she reached the submarine’s command center. Gathered around a table there were the Commodore, The Atomic Automaton, and a greying man in a military uniform. Pockets was Handcuffed to a chair at the other end of the table.
“Lance.” said the Military man noticing her first. “You’re awake.” The others turned and the Commodore approached gently helping to remove the IV from her arm.
“Commander.” Gwen shot back “Would someone get him out of those cuffs” she demanded, gesturing at pockets with her burnt hand. “For god sake, he helped save the city” The Greying man nodded and the Atomic Automaton obliged helping Pockets out of his seat. The vigilante ran over in excitement and threw his arms around Lance pushing the Commodore away in the process.
“I can’t believe you’re alive. I saw that flying guy go after you and I thought you’d been up and caught for sure.”
“Believe me, I would have been had he been interested in catching me. Where are Krystal and Agustus?”
“In custody.” The Commander interrupted. “Your friend here tells a version of events that came off as highly suspicious. Judging by your greeting I’ll take it you’d corroborate his version of events.”
“I’ll debrief you on this whole mess once I’m sure I know what’s going on. How did you find me?”
“Your Communicator watch.” The Automaton spoke up. “Augustus fitted it with a tracking device before Kaptain Kazap gave it back to you. After we apprehended him we used it to monitor your battle… as best we could.” Gwen thought she could detect a hint of shame in the android’s voice.
“Didn’t do us a fat lot of good until after the fight was over and done with.” the commander scoffed. For the majority of it, the two of you looked like you were in fifteen different places at once. We have protocol for if a hero of Kazap’s caliber goes rogue. I’m impressed you handled him on your own.”
“Where is he being held? I’ve still got questions for him.” The men exchanged uncomfortable glances. Gwen’s features hardened. “Where?” She demanded.
“We don’t know.” the commander finally admitted. Gwen stared at him speechless.
“The watch only tracked you, Lance.” the Commodore cut in. “He could be at the bottom of the ocean for all we know.” Gwen might have said something but the Android did first.
“As far as we know he does need to breathe. Lance, I’m sorry. We know you did all you could to save him.” She scowled but didn’t move to argue.
“The important thing is that the crisis was averted.” The commander barked. “Who knows what sort of mischief Agustus could have gotten up to if he’d been given control over the entire super and economic power of Vaillant City.”
“And if the BSD had listened to me in the first place this whole thing might not have happened.” Gwen’s words hung in the air and all of the other supers looked at the commander waiting for the inevitable explosion. It never came.
“Lance and I need to speak in private, the rest of you leave the room.” The other heroes filed out. Pockets did so with a bit of resistance but the Commodore put a hand on his shoulder and led him out dismissing his concerns with a shake of his head. The room was silent and Gwen and the Commander stared each other down from opposite ends of the table. She broke first.
“I’d warned you he was up to something from the second he escaped.” The commander nodded.
“You did. You also immediately tried to handle the situation yourself rather than passing it up the chain of command. That was quite a stunt you pulled today. Be glad it paid off.”
“To be fair…” Gwen managed between clenched teeth. “The chain of command was working for the enemy.” The commander nodded again.
“Which leads us to our next point. Vaillant City is down four heroes. Someone with your skill would go a long way to making up that deficit.” Gwen was taken aback.
“Are you offering me my job back?” The commander nodded. “I thought I had to get back into shape first.” She indicated the excess around her middle and behind that had been her companion for the past few months. The military man shrugged.
“You took out a top tier super with no trouble. You seem pretty in shape to me.” Lance was giddy with excitement. She could have her life back. She could help rebuild her old city and start making a real difference again. A thought occurred to her.
“What about Nol’sville?” She asked with a touch of sadness. The commander frowned.
“We need you in Valliant city, Gwen. I can’t authorize bringing you back in a town like Reynoldsville. It would be a waste of your talents.” she shook her head. He was right of course. Nol’sville didn’t need her. But it did need somebody.
“Alright commander. I’ll take the job, but on three conditions.” He raised an eyebrow.
“I’m not a big fan of negotiations, Lancelot.” She continued unperturbed and held up a finger.
“I regain my status as top hero.” The commander nodded. After what she’d pulled today it’d be hard to argue that anyone outclassed her. She held up a second finger. “I retain my Original identity. The public is just going to have to deal with a fat Lancelot.” The commander scowled.
“It’s going to be a nightmare for the Identity protection crews. Might even have to do some mind wipes. Fine. And your third request?” Lancelot smiled.
Lance and Pockets stood on one of Reynoldsville’s rooftops. The small city stretched out below them. Technically as a new hero pockets needed a formal chaperone during his first week for training. Gwen had eagerly volunteered though both of them knew that he was much more experienced with this city than she was.
Pockets cut a clean silhouette in his new uniform. He had a blue trench coat and hat much like the old one but they were now a deeper midnight blue and a bold “P” was emblazoned on the front of the coat.
“So what’s the word on the official BSD channels?” Lance asked as they surveyed the street below.
“Nothing.” Pockets spat. “But a driver just spotted an armed robbery down on 15th street.”
“You do know you’re going to have to use the official intelligence sometime?” She asked.
“I will” he smiled at her. “As soon as they can keep up. You ready to take out a robber?” She laughed.
“I’ll sit this one out. We both know you can handle it on your own.”
“I see, big talk?” He asked. She gulped and nodded.
“Best of luck, mon freir” He saluted and leapt off the building and into the night. Lance envied him. Tackling an armed robbery sounded pretty easy compared to what she had planned.
Mark was having a tough night. The coffee shop was understaffed and the customers were demanding. He was in the middle of one order when he turned to face the next person in line and was left speechless by who he saw in front of him.
“Hi Mark, got a minute?” Gwen asked more than a little nervous.
“Andre,” Mark yelled, not taking his eyes off of her. “Cover the line. I’m taking fifteen.”
Gwen and Mark took a booth at the far end of the shop. Gwen did her best to ignore the ever growing line of customers a few feet away. She paused for a moment unsure how to start. It was Mark who jumped in to save her.
“I saw you on the news. Lancelot’s back in action. Saved the city.” he smiled warmly. “I told you you were still fast.” He had a way of disarming her.
“I’m moving back to Valliant city.” She finally said. He nodded.
“I get it. I’m not mad.” He ran a hand through his hair and his fingers traced over the scar that cut into his hairline. “So are we…”
“Done?” She asked “Oh please. It’s not a three hour run into town anymore, babe. No such thing as long distance with me.”
“Or humility?” he asked with a wry grin.
“Never heard of it. Sounds unflattering.”
“So Lancelot is back? Like officially. What about your secret identity?” Lance shrugged.
“I’ve been gone long enough that mostly it’s not a problem though Lancelot and me both reappearing supersized might raise some eyebrows. I haven’t been explicitly forbidden from losing weight but I was told that me and Lancelot both dropping the pounds together might look a bit suspicious to anyone paying attention.” She cocked an eyebrow at him as if daring him to put in his two cents. He didn’t.
“And that’s an option? I was under the impression that if you could move at full speed you’d shed the pounds without trying.” She dismissed that with a wave of her hand.
“Well I didn’t say it’d be easy. It takes a serious diet plan to maintain a figure like mine… but I figured you might be able to help with that.” Mark didn’t answer. “What’s wrong?” she finally asked.
“I’m not sure I like the idea of long distance.” he admitted rubbing the back of his head. “I mean sure you can come see me whenever but I can’t exactly go to you without a plane ticket and eight hours to kill.” She frowned but accepted that he did have a point. Their relationship was in its infancy and she couldn't expect him to agree to something he wasn’t completely comfortable with.
“You could always move out to Valliant city with me.” She offered. He laughed.
“I’m not sure my coffee shop could compete in the big city, Gwen.”
“So get a new job.”
“Easier said than done.” She shrugged.
“I know one that’s got an opening.” She suggested. He looked puzzled. “Vaillant city’s down three heroes, and I’ve heard that you have experience in that field.” Mark smiled. Cautiously at first but by the time that smile reached his eyes she knew that she’d won him over.
“Are there benefits?” He asked. She leaned across the table and kissed him on the cheek.
“You’re looking at her.”