BHM Bombshell and Big Tech in: The Chimera Conspiracy

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stevita

like the pancake
***
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A/n: So, this was originally a collaborative piece, but in the end my cowriter decided he wanted no further part in this series and yeilded it to me, so here's my rewrite. Consider this a prequel to Spark.

----------

BOMBSHELL AND BIG TECH IN:
THE CHIMERA CONSPIRACY

ISSUE ONE:
THE PUSHOVER

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"The streets run rampant with gossip--"


"What is this woman thinking?"


"She calls herself a superhero?"


"The rogue vigilante operating under the name of Bombshell--"


"Can you believe this?"


"This just in, another five criminals fattened to immense proportions--!"


"I mean, look at this, Gerry. It's ludicrous."


"IT'S INSANE!"


"What gives one woman the right to play God with the criminal justice system--"


"The name on everybody's lips is Bombshell, Blackwater City, and we have one question about the fattening femme fatale: is she a hero? Or menace?"


***


Car horns honked aggressively, drivers shouted and rain pitter-patterned on the street below the generic gray, asbestos-ridden office building. Pedestrians fought for space, fought for cover, fought for taxis. And yet...the outdoors held an enviable, dewey bliss, not to be smelled or touched.


Everyone hated Mondays. Oriana didn't get it. Mondays were when she got to come back to Cyber Security, Inc. well-rested, with fresh eyes for her work, maybe a little hungover--blame her best friend, Scarlet Flame.


It was Tuesdays she detested. Tuesdays tended to drag, every hour reminding her of just how far away the following weekend was. It wasn't the work she minded. She actually found penetration testing exciting. It was like solving a puzzle in code, until you finally found the solution and slipped past the firewall protecting a major retailer's online user interface, or a medical billing company's records. Writing the report on how she'd done it was a bit of a snore, but she got those done fast.


She just despised working at a desk.


She was the kind of person who wanted to be on her feet, running around and doing things.


That was why she had tricked out the radio app on her laptop to pick up signals from the police radio.


It was Tuesday. She was listening in on the city's activity--a drunk driver here, a drug bust there--while she worked on her latest report at that horrid little desk when Tom Delancey, the chief technological officer, approached her station. "Oriana, the credit union is extending their deadline on that report. They want you to test their internal security in addition to the user login you've already done. You have until Friday now."


"Bet," she said reflexively and continued working.


"I'm sorry, what's that mean again?"


For the third damn time this week.


She held up a flash drive. "Here's what I got done, send me the deets via email on what you need, and I'm not staying late." She had a lot more she wanted to say, but she bit her tongue. She had her pride, but she liked being able to pay the rent.


But she could still indulge in a little trash talk. DeAndre in the cubicle across from hers, another analyst a few shades darker than she was who could talk to the boss like he went to Yale but dropped the act whenever it was just the two of them conversating, poked his head above the gray partition--it wasn't very tall, in fact, you could easily have a chat face to face with your neighbor if you stood up--and said, "Man, is he a piece a shit or what?"


"Can't kill us without a badge no more so they gotta assert dominance somehow," Oriana agreed.


The little redhead in the cubicle next to her stood up and said, "Maybe he genuinely needed an honest translation. Not all white people are like that."


"Oh, I know, Melissa, I know. My mama's white--or 'anglo-saxon', if you prefer--and I love her very much. See, I could never be racist against white folks," said Oriana with a saccharine smile. She tried. Oh, she tried to be unerringly polite. But once in a while, work pushed her over the edge and she got vicious.


"But you literally just said--"


"Look, sweetie. Talk to me once I'm done getting my degree in second grade education."


DeAndre chuckled and sunk back into his cubicle.


Just as Oriana was finishing her report, something of interest came on the radio: "...Three gunmen with eleven hostages and counting...we need backup, do you copy?"


"The hell y'all do," said Oriana, closing her laptop. She stood and peeked into DeAndre's cubicle. "Tell Dan I'm going on my lunch break. I'll be back in an hour."


During the workday, Oriana left her costume in the car she kept parked on an otherwise unused floor of the office tower next door, which the owner of the building let her do because what was he going to do, say no to Bombshell? She was down the stairs of her own building and up the steps to 'the Fatmobile', as the press of Blackwater City had nicknamed it, in record time. It was a whippy little sports car done up in a white and orange paint job reminiscent of America's most beloved breastaurant. She slid into the driver's seat, peeled off her pink sweater set and khakis, and squeezed into the white and orange latex catsuit that the city had come to recognize as the garb of Bombshell.


With a bit of concentration, she slimmed her waist and slightly adjusted her muscle tone. At the office and at home, she looked how she wanted to look: soft, comfortable, approachable. She had great T and A, but allowing herself a slight tummy that formed a roll when she sat made her look less intimidating.


On the battlefield, though, intimidating was exactly what she was going for. That, and she needed to reduce herself a little for the damn suit to fit. She'd first put it together in college, and it had been a couple years.


The T and A were staying, though. They were of practical use as a distraction to the enemy.


Biomanipulation--that was the name of the power she had to control her own body and that of every living thing around her. For a while, she had no idea she had powers. It never struck her as weird that she never got sick and anytime her parents or cousins got sick, they didn't stay that way longer than an hour after she found out. Then she started dating in her senior year of high school, and every boy she went out with put on about forty pounds within a week.


What could she say? She could appreciate a nice big thickie.


What happened with her boyfriends was bizarre enough that her dad took her to get tested. Apparently, something like this had happened to her little cousin, too. Sure enough, when they got to the special clinic, she received a diagnosis of Genetic Deviant and was marked for super university.


In theory, she could have been a full shapeshifter, but she'd never studied up that much in school. Things like eye color, skin color--you needed to know how to rewrite DNA for that. Body composition, though? That was easy.


Cowl and aviator goggles in place over her eyes and her short, tight curls, she reversed out of the parking space and sped out of the lot.


Nobody could negotiate Blackwater City traffic like Bombshell. She wove effortlessly between cars at 30 above the speed limit, but no one dared pull her over. They knew what she could do to them.


8 minutes had her at the bank where the hostage situation was taking place. The number of hostages had grown to exceed twenty. The three masked gunmen had them, customers and tellers alike, on their knees, gagged, with their hands bound behind their backs. Seven police cars surrounded the building from the front. Ugh. She didn't feel like letting them slow her down. She pulled up around back and slipped inside through the back door. There was always a service entrance, and it was mercifully unlocked this time. One of the employees had probably used it to escape before things had gotten nasty.
 

stevita

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The ringleader of the robbers was shouting through a megaphone that if the police didn't leave in five minutes, they were going to start shooting hostages. Bombshell sauntered right up behind the oblivious crook and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, recognized her from the tabloids, and immediately froze in terror, dropping his megaphone.


In seconds, he and his two goons had dropped their weapons and swelled to immense proportions, tearing out of their clothes and collapsing onto the tile floor as they became too fat for their legs to support them. The police rushed in as she was cutting the hostages out of their zip ties with the pocket knife she kept at her belt. "Thank you, Bombshell!" said a woman as Bombshell removed her gag.


"Yeah, nice save," said an officer. "Now, mind changing them back so we can put them in cuffs?"


"Who said I could do that? You ever seen me do that?" She could...she just wouldn't. Not after last time. She freed another hostage and said, "Sides, you don't gotta worry. They ain't going nowhere."


"And how are we supposed to transport 800-pound suspects?"


"Rent a truck?" Bombshell suggested.


"That's it!" one of the cops suddenly exclaimed. "A non-cooperative superhero is no good to us at all!"


"I wouldn't do that," said one of his cop buddies.


"Come on, dude, don't waste your ammo," agreed Bombshell.


But the jumpy lawman cocked his weapon anyway. "You're no hero! You're nothing but a perverted freak!" With that, he shot her.


Blackwater's Finest indeed.


The bullet tore a small gash in her suit where it hit her in the stomach, but it ricocheted off her skin and hit the ground with a disappointing ping. Of course she had thought to make her skin bulletproof before walking into a gunfight with a knife. She wasn't an idiot.


"That all?"


"I...I…"


It only took a little concentration on her part to get his fat cells swelling.


The officer looked down at his fattening body in horror. "Please, Bombshell--!"


"What?"


The growth stopped right before his uniform buttons could pop off, but they were close. "Hmm...I finally get the appeal of the sexy cop fetish," said Bombshell. With a sardonic laugh, she pushed him and let him fall onto his side, flailing, before glaring at his buddies in turn.


"Imma head to Taco Shack. Y'all want me to bring you back anything?"


Silence.


Crickets.


"Didn't think so."


***


Returning to her desk, Oriana said, "There's donuts in the break room. I brought them for the department. D, feel free to help yourself." She always brought snacks for the analytics department when she left the building for lunch to make up for leaving them as crippled as they were when she was gone--only two years into this job and she was already the most competent one on the team. DeAndre was smart, but tended to struggle when conventional methods failed him. Melissa was sloppy in her work. Dan, the department head, was definitely more of a manager than an expert in testing. He had been promoted into his position about ten years back and his knowledge of the technical side of the work was outdated. As for Tom, he saw himself above the commoner's task of examining code.


"Girl, you're never gonna believe what happened while you was out!" DeAndre reached over the partition to hand her his phone. Onscreen was a Twitter thread where someone had Tweeted @BombshellOfficial: "YAAAAS QUEEN," with a link to an article whose headline read, "Bombshell Rescues Hostages, Fattens Officer who Opened Fire On Her"


BombshellOfficial had ReTweeted it with the caption, "Thanks for the mad props but don't do as I do, kids. If you do not have bulletproof skin do not agitate the cops, because they will shoot you, and you will die. #acab"


She'd hashed that out while waiting at the drive-thru window.


"Oh, I saw that, when I was at China Harbor," she said, making a point to drop the name of the Chinese buffet since everyone had seen the Fatmobile pull up at Taco Shack.


"I don't know about this Bombshell character," said Melissa, standing up to join the conversation. "Shouldn't superheroes cooperate with the cops?"


Oriana rolled her eyes. "Lemme ask you a sincere question, Melissa: what is your favorite flavor of boot?"


"Look, all I'm saying is that there can't just be anarchy in the streets!"


"There's already anarchy in the streets! The question is, where do we stand?"


"Look, I just think it's gross, okay? Running around the city making people fat."


"And rescuing people!" Dammit! She told herself she wasn't going to engage with Melissa.


"Wait a minute, Ori," DeAndre interjected with a wide, white-toothed grin. "Spitfire personality...you obviously like feeding us...and I ain't never seen you and Bombshell in a room together…" He could hardly contain his laughter, but he had no idea how spot-on his little joke was.


"You ain't never seen me and Senator Burgess in a room together, but that don't make me the Miami Impaler." Of course, the senator from Florida probably wasn't the Miami Impaler, but the off-the-wall conspiracy theory had become a meme in popular culture. "Besides," said Oriana, giving the side of her starter belly a soft pat, "I don't got the body to be squeezing into a suit like that."
 

stevita

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Joined
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ISSUE 2: HEELS ON WHEELS

----------

"Magnifique!"


By warm yellow restaurant lighting, Scarlet Flame refilled the pair of flutes from the bottle of champagne, handing it off to a passing waitress after shaking out the last drops. "Another, sil vous plait? And, Bombshell, you want anything to eat?"


Bombshell and Scarlet Flame were an unlikely pair. They didn't even know each others' first names, and Flame worked a few towns over--on a government payroll no less. But whenever she was in the neighborhood, she made a point to grab a drink with her favorite rogue vigilante.


They drew plenty of stares from other bar guests, Bombshell in her full costume while Flame wore her own marketably sexy getup comprised of only a red masquerade mask, a satin sash, and lacy lingerie. Apparently, her handlers thought the best way to make her popular with the public was to put as much of her tight little body on display as possible. Bombshell wished they could've just met in plainclothes...but this way, they could discuss superhero business without compromising their identities.


"Actually, yeah, the oysters here good?" Bombshell asked the waitress.


"Only the best in town!"


"Then we'll do a dozen--"


Flame shook her head. "The boss has me on a strict diet."


"Still?"


Flame gave her a sigh and a sheepish smile. She handed the menu back to the waitress. "Half dozen oysters, please and thank," she said, followed by, "It's a damn good thing you're not my boyfriend."


"But tell me about that brute in the uniform! Did he scream?!"


Bombshell chuckled. "Someone's jealous that she don't get to smack the authorities."


Flame fixed her with a dead stare. "I'm easily the most powerful compulse in America. They should be at my mercy. But instead, I'm wrapped up in a million contractual conditions."


The food came then. Bombshell loaded an oyster up with horseradish and lemon juice and used her pinky nail to help scoop it from the shell and into her mouth.


"B? Listen to me!"


Bombshell sat up, pulled to attention by the veteran hero's power of mind control. "Sorry! It's been a long day. Biomanipulation takes a lot out of a bitch. But I'm listening," she said. "Anyway, why not just ask for some concessions? Maybe a raise? You worked for the Heroics Division for what, twenty years now?"


"B! Don't remind me of my age!" Flame pulled an ice cube out of her water and threw it at Bombshell. Try as she might to dodge, it hit her in the face; the other woman had deadly aim.


"Sorry, sorry! Honestly, when we met, I thought you was my age!"


"Well, thanks for that, at least…" Flame downed the rest of her champagne in one. "It won't be as easy as asking, though. You don't know what it's like, working for the government."


"Thanks to you. You're the one what told me to stay rogue."


"Just looking out." Flame raised her empty glass. "But what about fun things? Have you heard about this new guy, Big Tech?"


"Nope."


Flame could have forced the truth out of Bombshell if she wanted, but it didn't occur to her.


***


ONE YEAR AGO


“I guess what I’m saying is… I like you Eddie. In that way.”


This couldn’t be happening. Tegan liked him. In that way.


It’d been six months since Eddie had told her about his crush on her. Six months, he supposed, wasn’t that long to have to wait for a response, but it was long enough for him to give up all hope of ever hearing any. Well, all rational hope: decade old crushes didn’t die that easily. But all the same, dating Tegan, being loved by Tegan, had felt impossible. She was perfect, and he was a pervert. She was a goddess, and he was the basest of beasts; a mudfish, clumsily flopping about too far from the shore, and begging to be splatted out of existence by her divine boot. Instead, she was lifting him up, taking him home, granting him the honor of forever basking in her glory. Tegan had saved him.


“I know I’ve been fickle, I know it’s been awkward, but like… I’m kinda hoping you still like me."


Did it even need to be asked? How could she ever assume anyone who loved her could ever get over her? She was a bubble-bath in human form, her laugh a cascade of coins. She was a plushie of a person, not in that she was fat, although her curves were to die for. Rather, she seemed to belong among blankets and the downiest of pillows, seemed to radiate some comfy warmth that would only increase were she cuddled. In his darkest moments, the depths of his depression, it was always the thought of hugging Tegan – merely hugging her – that brought him back from the brink. Imagining more immediate contact with her was reserved for happier nights.


“Do you still like me, Eddie?”


“I… Yes. I always have.”


“Oh, Eddie!”


She wrapped her stubby arms around him, and he tentatively returned the gesture. She felt different to how he assumed she would: electric, almost. She didn’t just radiate joy, he realised, but fizzled with it, seethed with it, popped pure overwhelming pleasure from every pore. It all felt so heightened, so hyperbolic, but against all odds every aspect of it, every aspect of her, was viscerally real. Eddie would have a life now: no more self-loathing, no more self-harm. Her love would sustain him as his would her. With her strength, he would shake up Silicon Valley until it shattered, and she would bathe in the innards of its piggy bank. With the upgrades she’d provide, he would expand into his ultimate self, and thanks to his success, she could become whatever she decided to be. The future was as uncertain as it was certain, but one thing was sure: things would be different now.


***


TODAY


Tonight, the end began. All the preparations were in place. After months of scavenging tech from the wreckage of superhero fights, Eddie finally had all he needed to begin his life of crime. Retro-looking ray guns, repurposed from the remains of Mr Roboto’s reactor. A rocket belt, built with thrusters once mounted on Chimera’s feet. A helmet, hollowed out of the head of one of Biocide’s bionic henchmen. These gadgets all looked very ramshackle, defined by so many disparate aesthetics, but with a classic brown bomber jacket Eddie’s outfit at least looked somewhat coherent. And, he hoped, menacing. Fear, ultimately, was the key to what he wanted.


It wasn’t an honorable way to obtain anything, that he knew. But his goal wasn’t exactly honorable either. It was deceptive, even intrusive: Bombshell might have openly been a chubby chaser, but she couldn’t consent to her role in Eddie’s disgusting desires, as necessary as she was to them. She’d just see a supervillain and do what she always did to evil doers: fatten him up.


In her rage Eddie would finally know euphoria. His skeletal stomach would swell with supple fat until it became a true belly. At first it would merely cause his tops to ride up towards his rapidly widening moobs, but eventually it’d pull his zip down to his deepening navel before ripping through the fabric of his jacket altogether. Then the sleeves would come loose and fall apart as his arms thickened with flab, the button of his pants would fly into the horizon, and, his lardy legs having lost all ability to support himself, he’d collapse onto his blubbery behind. Immense and immobile, he’d be powerless before the curvaceous crusader, and with cruel glee she’d plant her foot in his pudgy belly and lean in close to his face, smiling sadistically…


Fuck.


Truly, Eddie was loathsome. That was why he’d never made it in Silicon Valley, why he was stuck in cybersecurity instead of Imagineering the future. That was why he lived in such a shitty apartment, ate so sparingly, earned so little. That was why he had no friends.


That was why Tegan wouldn’t talk to him anymore.


That was why he needed this.


He’d try to minimize his immorality as much he could. All money he stole would be donated to charity. Property damage would be contained to the best of his ability, and human casualties outright avoided. The friendly thief act was solely for his own peace of mind: he’d get life one way or another. It wasn’t so much corrupt as it was welcome.


Igniting his rockets, Eddie flew from the window of the cluttered closet he called an apartment and soared into the sky. His first target, and hopefully last, would be Milken Brothers, a Blackwater-based investment bank that catered to a variety of multinationals. Their headquarters was the tallest building in the city’s skyline, but in all other respects it was scarcely distinguishable from any other building in the finance district. It was strikingly angular, yet unremarkably so, and clad in blinding black glass that grew superheated in sunlight. Infiltrating it as he was during a brutally brisk and foggy night, Eddie didn’t imagine touching the skyscraper’s surface to prove especially challenging, especially in gloves; the real difficulty would prove to be breaking the glass. Repeated punches didn’t so much as dent the windows, which, Eddie realized bitterly, he really should’ve been smart enough to expect. As such, he was forced to fumble through his briefcase of gadgets, anxious not to send any lethal weaponry falling a thousand feet to the ground. A few smoke bombs might have been flung by accident, but thankfully Eddie was able to keep the really deadly stuff somewhat stationary until he found his laser cutter, at which point he slammed the case shut.


One quick exercise in glass cutting later, and Eddie was inside the building. All the lights were off, but the sea of dark glass left the floor bathed in a cruel, crepuscular light. There was no sound besides the gentle hum of industrial generators and...some pattering sound, somehow? Soft, distant, but definitely on this floor.


A computer keyboard.


Eddie was not alone.


Quietly, he crept through the corridor of cubicles, across the patchwork of carpet and tiles, until, in the shadows, he saw the stranger, silhouetted against the blue glow of a monitor.
 

stevita

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"Halt, citizen!” Eddie cried, mustering his most villainous voice. “Your building is under siege, by the greatest criminal mind of the century: Big Tech!”


“Who?” replied the stranger, seemingly more puzzled than petrified.


“I’m new,” Eddie sighed. “Now,” he raised his raygun, “get on your knees!”


“Sure thing,” the stranger replied. “Care to help?”


“What?” Eddie strode closer, and as he did he saw a slim woman hunched over a keyboard, smiling at him like a newsreader through thick, dry lips. Her face, though plump, somehow seemed hollow; her eyes were bleak and baggy, her hazelnut hair a bushy mess of tangles and curls. She wore a wrinkled button up above stained tracksuit bottoms, and she sat in a wheelchair. “Oh.”


“I’m happy to lie face down if that works!”


“No, no,” Eddie stammered, “you can… you can stay in the chair.”


“Seriously dude,” she replied bluntly, “I’d rather you didn’t make special allowances for me or anything. Like, just treat me as you would any other hostage.”


“You’re not a hostage, I’m just here to steal, that’s all.”


“Oh,” the woman laughed breezily, “that’s alright then. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some spreadsheets to complete.”


“But… I’m robbing you.”


“Correction: you’re robbing this company. And I won’t stop you.”


This was not how the night was supposed to go. He’d expected the building to be empty at this hour, but here was this woman, making him look like a fool. Then again, he supposed, having a hostage might make Bombshell arrive sooner, as well as saving him the trouble of finding a silent alarm to trip. All he had to do was convince the girl to call the cops, or better yet, message Bombshell directly through the feeder fatale’s hotline. Eddie wasn’t willing to threaten her (whether that was because he feared becoming even more evil or because he knew it would detract from his erotic experience he wasn’t sure), so he decided to see if he could scare into action indirectly instead. Raising his chin beneath his blue-and-white cyclopic helmet, he strolled towards a private office.


“I’m walking into this bigwig’s office!” he yelled, assertively.


“His name’s Hank,” the woman replied, “and he’s a total hardass.”


“Now I’m sitting in his chair!”


“How nice for you. I bet it’s comfier than anyone else’s.” The woman hadn’t even stopped working on her spreadsheets, but Eddie was determined to make her crack.


“I am hacking into his computer!”


“Try Stacey.”


"That worked! He fist-pumped triumphantly. “Nice! I mean, uh—”


“No problem,” the stranger shrugged, “everybody knows he’s fucking her. Womanizing pig…"


Eddie ignored her.


“I am now about to transfer millions of funds from the company’s accounts to mine!”
 

stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
466
Location
Texas
"Magnifique!"


By warm yellow restaurant lighting, Scarlet Flame refilled the pair of flutes from the bottle of champagne, handing it off to a passing waitress after shaking out the last drops. "Another, sil vous plait? And, Bombshell, you want anything to eat?"


Bombshell and Scarlet Flame were an unlikely pair. They didn't even know each others' first names, and Flame worked a few towns over--on a government payroll no less. But whenever she was in the neighborhood, she made a point to grab a drink with her favorite rogue vigilante.


They drew plenty of stares from other bar guests, Bombshell in her full costume while Flame wore her own marketably sexy getup comprised of only a red masquerade mask, a satin sash, and lacy lingerie. Apparently, her handlers thought the best way to make her popular with the public was to put as much of her tight little body on display as possible. Bombshell wished they could've just met in plainclothes...but this way, they could discuss superhero business without compromising their identities.


"Actually, yeah, the oysters here good?" Bombshell asked the waitress.


"Only the best in town!"


"Then we'll do a dozen--"


Flame shook her head. "The boss has me on a strict diet."


"Still?"


Flame gave her a sigh and a sheepish smile. She handed the menu back to the waitress. "Half dozen oysters, please and thank," she said, followed by, "It's a damn good thing you're not my boyfriend."


"But tell me about that brute in the uniform! Did he scream?!"


Bombshell chuckled. "Someone's jealous that she don't get to smack the authorities."


Flame fixed her with a dead stare. "I'm easily the most powerful compulse in America. They should be at my mercy. But instead, I'm wrapped up in a million contractual conditions."


The food came then. Bombshell loaded an oyster up with horseradish and lemon juice and used her pinky nail to help scoop it from the shell and into her mouth.


"B? Listen to me!"


Bombshell sat up, pulled to attention by the veteran hero's power of mind control. "Sorry! It's been a long day. Biomanipulation takes a lot out of a bitch. But I'm listening," she said. "Anyway, why not just ask for some concessions? Maybe a raise? You worked for the Heroics Division for what, twenty years now?"


"B! Don't remind me of my age!" Flame pulled an ice cube out of her water and threw it at Bombshell. Try as she might to dodge, it hit her in the face; the other woman had deadly aim.


"Sorry, sorry! Honestly, when we met, I thought you was my age!"


"Well, thanks for that, at least…" Flame downed the rest of her champagne in one. "It won't be as easy as asking, though. You don't know what it's like, working for the government."


"Thanks to you. You're the one what told me to stay rogue."


"Just looking out." Flame raised her empty glass. "But what about fun things? Have you heard about this new guy, Big Tech?"


"Nope."


Flame could have forced the truth out of Bombshell if she wanted, but it didn't occur to her.


***


ONE YEAR AGO


“I guess what I’m saying is… I like you Eddie. In that way.”


This couldn’t be happening. Tegan liked him. In that way.


It’d been six months since Eddie had told her about his crush on her. Six months, he supposed, wasn’t that long to have to wait for a response, but it was long enough for him to give up all hope of ever hearing any. Well, all rational hope: decade old crushes didn’t die that easily. But all the same, dating Tegan, being loved by Tegan, had felt impossible. She was perfect, and he was a pervert. She was a goddess, and he was the basest of beasts; a mudfish, clumsily flopping about too far from the shore, and begging to be splatted out of existence by her divine boot. Instead, she was lifting him up, taking him home, granting him the honor of forever basking in her glory. Tegan had saved him.


“I know I’ve been fickle, I know it’s been awkward, but like… I’m kinda hoping you still like me."


Did it even need to be asked? How could she ever assume anyone who loved her could ever get over her? She was a bubble-bath in human form, her laugh a cascade of coins. She was a plushie of a person, not in that she was fat, although her curves were to die for. Rather, she seemed to belong among blankets and the downiest of pillows, seemed to radiate some comfy warmth that would only increase were she cuddled. In his darkest moments, the depths of his depression, it was always the thought of hugging Tegan – merely hugging her – that brought him back from the brink. Imagining more immediate contact with her was reserved for happier nights.


“Do you still like me, Eddie?”


“I… Yes. I always have.”


“Oh, Eddie!”


She wrapped her stubby arms around him, and he tentatively returned the gesture. She felt different to how he assumed she would: electric, almost. She didn’t just radiate joy, he realised, but fizzled with it, seethed with it, popped pure overwhelming pleasure from every pore. It all felt so heightened, so hyperbolic, but against all odds every aspect of it, every aspect of her, was viscerally real. Eddie would have a life now: no more self-loathing, no more self-harm. Her love would sustain him as his would her. With her strength, he would shake up Silicon Valley until it shattered, and she would bathe in the innards of its piggy bank. With the upgrades she’d provide, he would expand into his ultimate self, and thanks to his success, she could become whatever she decided to be. The future was as uncertain as it was certain, but one thing was sure: things would be different now.


***


TODAY


Tonight, the end began. All the preparations were in place. After months of scavenging tech from the wreckage of superhero fights, Eddie finally had all he needed to begin his life of crime. Retro-looking ray guns, repurposed from the remains of Mr Roboto’s reactor. A rocket belt, built with thrusters once mounted on Chimera’s feet. A helmet, hollowed out of the head of one of Biocide’s bionic henchmen. These gadgets all looked very ramshackle, defined by so many disparate aesthetics, but with a classic brown bomber jacket Eddie’s outfit at least looked somewhat coherent. And, he hoped, menacing. Fear, ultimately, was the key to what he wanted.


It wasn’t an honorable way to obtain anything, that he knew. But his goal wasn’t exactly honorable either. It was deceptive, even intrusive: Bombshell might have openly been a chubby chaser, but she couldn’t consent to her role in Eddie’s disgusting desires, as necessary as she was to them. She’d just see a supervillain and do what she always did to evil doers: fatten him up.


In her rage Eddie would finally know euphoria. His skeletal stomach would swell with supple fat until it became a true belly. At first it would merely cause his tops to ride up towards his rapidly widening moobs, but eventually it’d pull his zip down to his deepening navel before ripping through the fabric of his jacket altogether. Then the sleeves would come loose and fall apart as his arms thickened with flab, the button of his pants would fly into the horizon, and, his lardy legs having lost all ability to support himself, he’d collapse onto his blubbery behind. Immense and immobile, he’d be powerless before the curvaceous crusader, and with cruel glee she’d plant her foot in his pudgy belly and lean in close to his face, smiling sadistically…


Fuck.


Truly, Eddie was loathsome. That was why he’d never made it in Silicon Valley, why he was stuck in cybersecurity instead of Imagineering the future. That was why he lived in such a shitty apartment, ate so sparingly, earned so little. That was why he had no friends.


That was why Tegan wouldn’t talk to him anymore.


That was why he needed this.


He’d try to minimize his immorality as much he could. All money he stole would be donated to charity. Property damage would be contained to the best of his ability, and human casualties outright avoided. The friendly thief act was solely for his own peace of mind: he’d get life one way or another. It wasn’t so much corrupt as it was welcome.


Igniting his rockets, Eddie flew from the window of the cluttered closet he called an apartment and soared into the sky. His first target, and hopefully last, would be Milken Brothers, a Blackwater-based investment bank that catered to a variety of multinationals. Their headquarters was the tallest building in the city’s skyline, but in all other respects it was scarcely distinguishable from any other building in the finance district. It was strikingly angular, yet unremarkably so, and clad in blinding black glass that grew superheated in sunlight. Infiltrating it as he was during a brutally brisk and foggy night, Eddie didn’t imagine touching the skyscraper’s surface to prove especially challenging, especially in gloves; the real difficulty would prove to be breaking the glass. Repeated punches didn’t so much as dent the windows, which, Eddie realized bitterly, he really should’ve been smart enough to expect. As such, he was forced to fumble through his briefcase of gadgets, anxious not to send any lethal weaponry falling a thousand feet to the ground. A few smoke bombs might have been flung by accident, but thankfully Eddie was able to keep the really deadly stuff somewhat stationary until he found his laser cutter, at which point he slammed the case shut.


One quick exercise in glass cutting later, and Eddie was inside the building. All the lights were off, but the sea of dark glass left the floor bathed in a cruel, crepuscular light. There was no sound besides the gentle hum of industrial generators and...some pattering sound, somehow? Soft, distant, but definitely on this floor.


A computer keyboard.


Eddie was not alone.


Quietly, he crept through the corridor of cubicles, across the patchwork of carpet and tiles, until, in the shadows, he saw the stranger, silhouetted against the blue glow of a monitor.


"Halt, citizen!” Eddie cried, mustering his most villainous voice. “Your building is under siege, by the greatest criminal mind of the century: Big Tech!”


“Who?” replied the stranger, seemingly more puzzled than petrified.


“I’m new,” Eddie sighed. “Now,” he raised his raygun, “get on your knees!”


“Sure thing,” the stranger replied. “Care to help?”


“What?” Eddie strode closer, and as he did he saw a slim woman hunched over a keyboard, smiling at him like a newsreader through thick, dry lips. Her face, though plump, somehow seemed hollow; her eyes were bleak and baggy, her hazelnut hair a bushy mess of tangles and curls. She wore a wrinkled button up above stained tracksuit bottoms, and she sat in a wheelchair. “Oh.”


“I’m happy to lie face down if that works!”


“No, no,” Eddie stammered, “you can… you can stay in the chair.”


“Seriously dude,” she replied bluntly, “I’d rather you didn’t make special allowances for me or anything. Like, just treat me as you would any other hostage.”


“You’re not a hostage, I’m just here to steal, that’s all.”


“Oh,” the woman laughed breezily, “that’s alright then. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some spreadsheets to complete.”


“But… I’m robbing you.”


“Correction: you’re robbing this company. And I won’t stop you.”


This was not how the night was supposed to go. He’d expected the building to be empty at this hour, but here was this woman, making him look like a fool. Then again, he supposed, having a hostage might make Bombshell arrive sooner, as well as saving him the trouble of finding a silent alarm to trip. All he had to do was convince the girl to call the cops, or better yet, message Bombshell directly through the feeder fatale’s hotline. Eddie wasn’t willing to threaten her (whether that was because he feared becoming even more evil or because he knew it would detract from his erotic experience he wasn’t sure), so he decided to see if he could scare into action indirectly instead. Raising his chin beneath his blue-and-white cyclopic helmet, he strolled towards a private office.


“I’m walking into this bigwig’s office!” he yelled, assertively.


“His name’s Hank,” the woman replied, “and he’s a total hardass.”


“Now I’m sitting in his chair!”


“How nice for you. I bet it’s comfier than anyone else’s.” The woman hadn’t even stopped working on her spreadsheets, but Eddie was determined to make her crack.


“I am hacking into his computer!”


“Try Stacey.”


"That worked! He fist-pumped triumphantly. “Nice! I mean, uh—”


“No problem,” the stranger shrugged, “everybody knows he’s fucking her. Womanizing pig…"


Eddie ignored her.


“I am now about to transfer millions of funds from the company’s accounts to mine!”


“Cool."


“I said, I’m stealing millions from this company!”


No reaction whatsoever this time.


“Muwahahahaha!” Eddie coughed. “That was me laughing, maniacally! You know, because I just stole millions from your company.”


“I understood, don’t worry. As you were.”


“But I--"


“Like I said, as you were.”


“And you don’t care?”


“They won’t pay me overtime either way,” the stranger sighed. These subtle tactics weren’t working: bluntness was required.


“Are you sure you don’t want to call the cops?” asked Eddie, in the same patronizing sing-song tones his mother used so seditiously. “Or perhaps put out a cry for help on social media? One that a superhero might see…”


“As long as you don’t lay a finger on me, I don’t give a fuck what you do.”


Time to get blunter still. Slamming his hands on the desk, Eddie marched towards her.


“So that’s how it is, huh!” He thrust his head towards her until her face was bathed in his helmet’s cool-blue eye. “I suppose you think you’re so smart, you… you…” He struggled for the right words. “You… smart person! Smart aleck!” In retrospect, Eddie realized he should’ve led with the latter remark.


“I’m definitely smarter when it comes to trash-talk, you rip-off Rocketeer.”


“Oh really?” If Eddie had had a mustache, he would have been twirling it. “Then what would you say to my… death ray?!” He drew the cobbled-together contraption from a deep inside pocket.


“I’d say somebody call Sam J. Jones, he’s been asking around where his gun went.”


“This can fire deadly rays, lethal to all known life!”


“Dude, there’s like a dozen super villains with lasers like that, and none of them look as corny as yours.”


“Then perhaps my rocket belt will impress you?” Eddie purred, defiantly placing his hands onto it.


Once again, the stranger was too confused to speak for a moment. Then...


“How exactly are you going to hurt me with that?” she replied finally.


“I mean,” Eddie murmured, “it’s more a mode of transport than a weapon…”


“I suppose you could tie it around my waist and leave me floating above a thousand-foot drop.”


“I suppose I could—and I will!” Eddie unbuckled his belt and handed it to the woman. “Now, you’ll learn to regret giving ideas to a villain as devious as—I?”


With a whoosh, the woman activated the rocket belt and sent herself rolling to the other end of the hallway.


“Hey!” Eddie whined, “that’s not what you were supposed to do! You were supposed to—”


“Let you threaten me? No thanks!”


“I wasn’t really threatening you—”


“No, just irritating me. Now, if you’ll excuse me…


From his briefcase, Eddie pulled out his anti-grav ray, and fired a wave of dilating green rings towards his fleeing hostage. As the first rings passed around her, the woman, her chair, and a nearby potted plant were all lifted into the air, and floated around weightlessly even after the blast had stopped.


“Dude,” the woman said, completely unflummoxed, “does this thing wear off? Because I’m gonna need—"


“Oh god, I completely forgot, wait a minute…” Eddie rushed towards her and fired another ray to reverse the anti-gravity effect. The poor woman would’ve landed painfully on her head had Eddie not caught her.


“My hero!” she grinned, planting a kiss on his helmet.


“I’m not a hero!” Eddie insisted, setting her down in her chair. “I’m a villain! A dastardly villain!”


“The real villains are the corporations. Anyone who takes them down a peg is a friend of mine.”


“Look, that’s not why I’m here…”


“I don’t care why you’re here, you wanna hurt this hellhole of a company I’m with you, 100%. I’m gonna be your sidekick now, capice?”


“Um…” She seemed so sincere, Eddie would’ve felt awful turning her down, but all the same he barely knew her… he decided to change the subject. “Shall we get out of here?”


“Sure! But you’ll have to help me with the stairs, management still won’t pay to fix the fucking elevator…"


Eddie could do better than stairs.


“WHOOOOOOOOOOOO!”


Her chair cradled in Eddie’s arms, the woman screamed with sheer joy as Eddie rocketed towards the ground, before flipping upwards for a sharp, yet gentle landing. He earned another kiss for his efforts.


“Thank you, mysterious vigilante.”


“I told you,” Eddie groaned, “I’m Big Tech, the greatest genius—”


“Yeah, yadda yadda yadda. Dude, I love the whole Robin Hood operation you got going on here but you gotta update your aesthetic. I mean, the helmet looks modern, if a little dorky, but the gun? The belts? Christ, it’s like you stole them straight from a Republic Pictures backlot.”


“Republic?”


“I’m a big movie buff, okay?”


“I mean, so am I,” Eddie shrugged, “but Republic was quite a bit before my time. I’m not one of those immortal supervillains.”


"Ah, but you gotta love the classics. Elegant movies from a more civilized age, back when special effects meant stop-motion and spaceships on strings, back when all us women had to worry about was whether we looked glamourous while screaming. Sure the racism is appalling, honestly, but if you can look past that, and I won’t begrudge you if you can’t...but there’s nothing quite like it. Undersea Kingdom, Radar Men from the Moon, all the Dick Tracey flicks that didn’t have Morgan Conway, pure unfiltered cheese, I love it!”


The girl had barely breathed for the entirety of that statement.


“Come over to my place Friday night,” she added, panting. “We can have a movie night, maybe sort out that costume of yours.”


“I don’t know if that’s…”


“Me and Mickey could use the company. I’m Marion, by the way.” She extended her hand to him.


“Um… Eddie.”


They shook hands. Marion smirked.


“I have a feeling this will be the beginning of a great partnership…”


***


"--resulting in the theft of millions of dollars--"


"The jury's still out on a motive, but as you can see--"


"What is this thing? A Man? A machine?"


"Well, Brenda, if this is a man, it's apparent that he is not okay. These high-flying acrobatics and blase handling of dangerous equipment seem to indicate a suicidal degree of recklessness--"


"Ladies and gentlemen of the northwest coast, in-betweens and neithers, this is Fredo Flores with a breaking story and a spicy take that some folks might find hard to swallow. The name to fear on the streets is Big Tech. That's right: there's a new supervillain in town. But does that mean we bend over backwards and give up? I say, no way! Hear me out here: whether you love her or hate her, I think it's about time we all come together and double-down on our lovely local Bombshell."
 

stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
466
Location
Texas
ISSUE 3:

I WON'T TELL IF YOU WON'T

----------

Oriana was at her desk, hacking into the mainframe of a major clothing chain and feeling awkward. Earlier in the day, DeAndre had asked her if she might want to grab a spot of coffee, possibly as eventual-more-than-friends. She'd had to give him a heartfelt apology and tell him that she valued their friendship too much to risk it over a romantic entanglement, and now, they worked in uncomfortable silence. But what could she have done?


DeAndre was cool, and funny, and, if she was honest with herself, very pretty in the face department, too. But he brought his gym bag to work with him and kept his membership card on hand so he could race over to Fitness Zone every day immediately after leaving the office. He would never fulfill certain needs she had. Any man of hers had to like being spoiled and doted on, and embrace putting on a few pounds (or a lot) as a result.


She'd prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, too, with her cooking rather than her powers. But she didn't think it was a fantasy that would ever come to fruition. Though she received dozens of propositions online weekly from men hoping she'd be their feeder, she simply couldn't risk dating a civilian. What if word of their relationship spread? What if she made enemies with some villain and they kidnapped and tortured her hypothetical sweetheart for information about her? Oh god...what if they starved him?


It could never happen. The life of a vigilante crimefighter was a solitary one. At least, hers was. She had heard of some heroes finding love with one another, but what were the odds of her finding someone in the hero scene with whom she genuinely shared an intellectual attraction, who wanted to double his weight for both of their pleasure?


Until she retired from crimefighting, she would have to get used to being alone with her vibrator, which she had affectionately named James after her favorite chubby talk-show host.


She was snapped out of her monotonous work at the keyboard when that old theme song from The Splice Sisters started playing in her cubicle. Her stomach dropped. There were three phones she carried in her handbag: her work phone provided by the company, her personal phone, and the phone she used for her vigilantism, its number displayed on the trunk of her car and on her Twitter in case someone had an emergency and needed rescue. But you didn't call the FatPhone during working hours. She had expressly specified that on her page. Nevertheless, an emergency was an emergency…


"Hey, is that Splice Sisters? I miss that show, man!" said DeAndre. Oriana was glad the silence was broken, but she had urgent matters to attend to.


"I have to take this...back in a little bit!"


She missed the first two calls on her way to the family restroom two floors up, but the persistent caller rang her a third time just as she was locking the door. "You've reached Bombshell, what's your emergency?"


"Good afternoon. This is Jasmine Freeman with the Blackwater City Council--"


Oriana groaned. "I know about the speeding tickets, I already told the court Imma pay them eventually, I'm just a little out of pocket right now! Anyway, nobody pays me for the whole day-saving thing, so maybe we can talk about skimming fifteen percent off the top?" Well, she had a few corporate sponsorships: free tacos from Taco Shack, free car repairs from the Go Fork Yourself forklift company, free cell service from Horizon Wireless. And hacking was fine, but it was no way to pay a mortgage--not in this city.


"That's not really my jurisdiction," said the councilor. "I actually wanted to talk politics."


Oriana winced. "Yeah, I don't really do politics. No offense to you or your work, but everybody knows how heavy it is on the kickbacks and bribes."


"I want to demilitarize the police!" the councilor blurted. "I just thought...well, what with you undergoing a bit of friendly fire recently…"


Oh. That changed things.


"I guess this city could use some reforms. Give me a time and a place where we can talk."


"Tonight, if you can. Eight o'clock at my room at the Hotel Calypso? I'll DM you the address and room number."


"It's a date, Ms. Freeman. But for future reference, this line is only for emergencies, and only between the hours of 5 PM and 9 AM."


***


Brittney from the marketing department always stopped to make small talk with Oriana on the elevator down to the ground floor whenever they happened to leave work at the same time. Oriana didn't know an awful lot about her other than she had a soft voice and an understated dress sense. Put her in a lineup of other bespectacled blondes, and Oriana wouldn't have been able to pick her out. It was appropriate, then, that they only ever spoke in the elevator. To Oriana, Brittney was something of a human equivalent of elevator music: inoffensive, even kind of pleasant, but without terribly much to say.


"So I heard you turned down DeAndre Jones," said Brittney unprovoked.


Damn. Apparently, word traveled fast.


"Yeah, I guess I think we're better off friends," said Oriana.


"Really? But I hear you always talk to him…"


"I always talk to you in the elevator. So where you thinkin' we should take our honeymoon? Maybe Cabo?"


Brittney blushed bright pink. "Don't get me wrong, Oriana. You're quite attractive. But I'm, uh, strictly dick-ly."


"Me too, me too. I was proving a point."


A silence passed.


"So DeAndre is still on the market?"


Ah. There was the hidden motivation.


"He likes girls who wear colorful makeup and platform heels. Big fan of that show Paranormal, despite all its flaws. Total gymbro. Has a sensitive side, but you'd never know it. Listens to country music, of all things. Ask him about his Space Trek fan fiction. He's also really passionate about the environment. Good luck, girl."


As they reached the ground floor, Brittney darted out of the elevator, presumably to try and catch DeAndre in the parking lot, leaving Oriana to sneak next door, suit up, and embark downtown. She had given thought, briefly, to showing up in plainclothes, but decided ultimately against meeting a stranger as herself. So she turned up as Bombshell, every driver on the road making way so she could parallel park next to the hotel.


The Hotel Calypso was a lavish establishment across the packed city grid from the opera house and the city court. Bombshell strode past the automatic revolving doors, overhead chandeliers, and central lobby fountain (all nice touches) into the elevator that would take her to the councilwoman's floor. Once she arrived at the room, she knocked twice and waited until the politician answered the door.


Councilwoman Freeman was a slim, dark-skinned woman a few inches short of Oriana's own frame. She wore her jet black hair relaxed in a neat bob that fell to just above her shoulders and had on a navy blue double-breasted jacket over a matching skirt that landed below the knee. Very stately, very ambitious. Presidential, almost. Oriana suddenly felt underdressed, overexposed--while repairing the tear in her costume from when she got shot, she'd decided on a whim to give herself an underboob window instead of stitching it up. Now, she was hoping the pristine and polished councilwoman didn't see her as some sort of skank. She wasn't normally one to care about what others thought, but Ms. Freeman had an air about her that commanded respect. "Ah, Bombshell, you're early. I admire that. Punctuality is a sign of commitment to duty. Please, come in. Can I offer you a glass of pinot noir?" She led the way into the room, where Oriana saw that she had set a bottle of wine and two glasses on the coffee table between a flat screen television and a set of armchairs. The television was playing the news with the volume off. The headlining story was about the ongoing investigation of the break-in at Milken Brothers the other day. Oriana had known about that as long as the police had, but she hadn't bothered investigating it. Yeah, it was weird that a window had been cut so high from the ground when there was no scaffold to support an intruder, but as far as her tricked-out radio had been able to tell her, no one had been hurt in the robbery, so it wasn't Bombshell's scene. Now, they were saying that a supervillain had done it. That tracked, as far as the method of entry went. It was still none of her business.
 
Last edited:

stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
466
Location
Texas
She took a seat. This was the nicest hotel armchair she'd ever had under her ass.


"Wow," she mumbled, "I feel bad now for not bringing anything." Her mom had raised her never to show up at someone's house empty-handed, but Ms. Freeman had called her on such short notice. And did the rule still apply to hotel rooms? Nevertheless, she was self-conscious.


"Nonsense, I asked you to come here. You've done enough simply by honoring my request. Wine?" Ms. Freeman asked again, unscrewing the bottle.


"I guess one glass couldn't hurt."


Ms. Freeman poured them each a glass. "I've taken the liberty of ordering room service; I hope you're hungry."


"I appreciate you taking the time. And I ain't eaten dinner yet. You didn't have to on my behalf, though."


"I wanted to. You're one of the heroes I admire most for your nonviolent approach to crimefighting."


"I don't know that I'd call fattening people to immobility nonviolent," said Oriana. Sexy? Sure. A forbidden fantasy weaponized for a good cause. But still violent in her eyes. She thought once more on her ideal life: a loving husband staying adorably plump on her cooking. Maybe a promotion in her future, so she could afford to take him out to fancy restaurants on the weekly. Once in a while talking dirty in the bedroom about stuffing him into tremendous weights: the six-hundreds, seven-hundreds, eight-hundreds, but always solely for titillation in the moment, and always followed by gentle cuddles and reassurances that she loved him just the way he was. Sinking against his impossibly comfortable and warm, pudgy frame...the excitement of knowing she'd get to do it all again tomorrow…


But today wasn't the day. Today, all she had was the next hostage situation to look forward to. Violence for the sake of justice and something nice to look at in the meantime.


"Non-lethal," Ms. Freeman corrected herself. "I hope you'll enjoy surf-and-turf."


That sounded fancy. Too fancy. "You didn't have to do that to impress me," said Oriana, humbled. "I don't know who you think I am...but to be quite honest, I'm not one of those billionaire playboys doing the superhero thing for fun. To put things into perspective, I work in a cube."


"On the contrary, it's the least I can do after that heinous attack on you by a member of the police force. I can't begin to apologize on behalf of Blackwater City."


"Yeah, well, I was bulletproof at the time."


"Not every Genetic Deviant can say that. Remember what happened to Voltage?"


"How could I forget?" Oriana had been a college freshman at the time when the most beloved rogue heroine on the coast was martyred. It was still unclear whether the cops or the Heroics Division had done it, but despite the outroar it had caused at the time, the investigation had been quickly dropped. "Nobody likes an independent Deviant."


"They wouldn't feel so threatened if you weren't so competent. And I'm sure the fatphobic public zeitgeist doesn't help. But I guarantee you, at the root of it all is this: there isn't a cop in the country or a contractor in the Division who isn't scared Bombshell will take their job."


"I dunno. Scarlet Flame's okay."


"Has it ever occured to you that Scarlet Flame only extended her friendship to you to disincline you from forcing her into irrelevance?"


"Hey, don't talk about Flame like that," said Bombshell, softly but firmly. "She's been nothing but a mentor to me."


Jasmine bit her lip. "Of course. I shouldn't presume to understand…"


Soon, there was a knock at the door. Ms. Freeman answered and received the server in the hallway with his cart. She took two plates off his hands, handed him a tip, and returned to the table to set Oriana's plate in front of her along with a roll of silverware.


Lobster tail over a ribeye with cheddar grits and spiralized carrots, zucchini, and squash sauteed in what smelled like a lemon butter sauce...it looked delicious. And expensive. Ms. Freeman clearly wanted something, and yet, Oriana was still impressed by her hospitality. "Speaking of the police--feel free to dig in, by the way," she said as she cut into her own steak, "let's get down to business.


"Back when I was young and idealistic, I thought I could do some real good on the force. So I went to the police academy, made it out and onto the line of duty, but barely. Did you know that they administer an IQ test, and they won't let you be a cop if you score too high? They want trained dogs, not inquisitive minds who are more likely to challenge authority. I had to fudge my score to even get through the screening process."


"I didn't know that," said Oriana in between sips of wine. The steak was done to perfection, the lobster decadent with a firm but pleasant bite, and the vegetables just the right amount of soft. "They might have covered it when I was majoring in Crimefighting at the Rivington Hero Academy, but I didn't retain it." Incidentally, she had been thrown out of Rivington for her poor grades in ethics. Rivington had a heavy focus on following the letter of the law and didn't appreciate a student who pointed out that 'legal' and 'moral' were not always synonymous. She had finished her education at the Bellvue School for the Gifted, this time majoring in computer science, which came naturally to her, and minoring in Creative Power Use.


"As soon as I got to work, I realized it was a broken system," Ms. Freeman continued. "So, I quit. Now, you're right: politics isn't much better. But at least I can have control. Maybe even enough control to change things--really improve the relationship between Deviants and authority."


"So where does disarmament come in?" asked Bombshell. Fancy food would not distract her from the point.


"Think about it: who needs a gun when we could have a guy with laser vision, or a super strong woman, or someone who can literally incapacitate criminals with a single glance?"


"Hold on, Councilwoman," said Oriana. "You're not suggesting superheroes work on a city payroll…?" She couldn't see herself doing it. Bombshell worked on Bombshell time. She picked the crimes she wanted to address and she dealt her punishments as she saw fit.


"On a voluntary basis. Ideally as part of a Deviant-run program, with all participants vetted by a psychological team. I won't ask you to participate if you'd rather make your own agenda. All I'm asking of you is a public endorsement on social media. I'm running for police commissioner. The campaign is already underway, but if I could have a little help from you...even something as simple as a Tweet..."


Oriana had finished most of her dinner by this point--and her wine--and, feeling safe with the councilwoman, blurted out, "Can we do more than disarmament?"


Ms. Freeman sighed. "I can't, in all good faith, let you fatten up any more cops without a very good reason."


"Sorry. You're right, I know you're right. This last thing just ain't been my first bad experience, is all."


Like a mom or a therapist, Ms. Freeman opened the floor. "Would you like to talk about it?"


"You must not been following the story when I got my name. I was still a student at hero school," said Oriana. "I'd been working on my costume and decided I would go out and try to save some folks. So I turned up at this What-A-Chicken in the middle of a robbery. The perp had the cashier at gunpoint, and it only took me one second to make him too fat to hold his gun. We're talking maybe 900 pounds? And then...then, Blackwater's Finest show up. They tell me to change the perp back so they can transport him, and I thought I could. So I reduce him a little, but he starts letting out these screams of pain...so I stopped." She drew a tense breath. This was the part of the story that got really hard to tell, but if she and the councilwoman were going to share a common agenda, it felt right to lay it all bare. "The cops were all, 'What are you doing?' And I just froze...I guess an intestine had wrapped around a vital organ or something…I still don't know. And this was before I knew I could make myself bulletproof. Before I got as good as I am with my powers. And they threatened me. You gotta understand, as far as I knew, I didn't have no choice!" Dammit, her eyes were moist now. She forced herself to get it together. "I tried to slim the poor fucker down a bit more, but something was wrong, and before I knew it…" She made a gesture with both hands to approximate a mushroom cloud. "Ka-splat. I still dream about it." She wasn't proud of how she had earned the moniker 'Bombshell,' but it had stuck.


Ms. Freeman put a hand on her shoulder. "It wasn't your fault. And if I have my way, nothing like that will ever happen again."


"Thanks," said Oriana. "But I'm still confused."


"Whatever about?"


"Why you care." She'd never told that story before--not to the media, not Twitter, and certainly not to the current commissioner. Nobody cared.


"Bombshell, look at me?"


She gazed into Jasmine's eyes and watched them flash electric blue before returning to their original shade of brown. "We have to stick together, don't we?"


Oriana raised the last drops of wine in her glass: "Here, here."


That night, when she got home, she got on Twitter and posted:


"Cleaning up the city starts with cleaning up the police force. That's why Jasmine Freeman has my vote for police commissioner in the coming election."
 

stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
466
Location
Texas
Bombshell was loved and hated in equal parts in Blackwater City. There were some, like Jasmine Freeman, who thought that she was doing the good Lord's work, saving innocent lives and stopping would-be and could-be killers in a way that left them alive and with their minds intact. (There were times, even, when she and her Twitter supporters even sympathized with a robber or two. Everyone had bills to pay. What a shame that some were so desperate that they would consider taking human life...but in those cases, maybe she'd done them a favor, fattening them up like she did. They could always get a job as a fat fetish cam model, or at the circus, once the law was done with them.)


Then there were those who saw her as a pervert, a monster, and a disgrace to the name of vigilantism.


Ms. Freeman wholeheartedly believed that Bombshell's endorsement would secure her tons of votes. So far, it had proven polarizing. For every person who saw Bombshell as a force of good, there was another who viewed the fattening as an unjust sentence without due process of the law. But what was Oriana supposed to do? Let people shoot each other?


Her unconventional methods were motivated ultimately by the optimism at her soft, bleeding-heart core.


That and her desire to see a great big fatty jiggle, jiggle, jiggle.


Ms. Freeman was leading the polls, but only barely.


There were also those longtime supporters of Bombshell who were quirking an eyebrow at her latest move. One follower had Tweeted @ her over the weekend: "We communist now?" To which she had responded, "I'm not a communist, I just agree with the candidate that justice is better left in the hands of people who actually care about justice." She still didn't see herself answering to a city authority, but maybe Earthquake Gal or The Flying Missile or that Catboy fellow would step up to the plate.


And, of course, the police department was up in arms, but what were they going to do, arrest her, risking their waistlines in the process? Besides, the last time she had checked, free speech was still a thing, even if they didn't like it.


Oriana tried to put all thoughts of politics aside as she pulled up at her aunt and uncle's house. It was the Fourth of July, and cookouts in the Taylor-Moore household were a big deal, despite rising family tensions in the recent years. Already, she saw her cousin D'von's sleek black Audi parked in the street, along with her parents' humble green SUV.


She let herself into the backyard to find D'von barbecuing by the pool while his younger brother, Ben, about to be a sophomore at Bellvue, drank a beer he was definitely too young to be drinking...but they were on private property.


And what private property it was. Uncle Jerome, the boys' father, made a stressed but lucrative living as a neurosurgeon, while Aunt Bedelia designed expensive women's shoes. The house was a sprawling five-bedroom behemoth with an immaculate white brick wall enclosing its equally spacious yard. Oriana was jarred every time she came here; her father was a switchboard operator turned freight driver once the telecom market crashed, her mother a receptionist for a shipping and receiving company. Oriana herself lived alone in a third-floor shoebox a fifteen minute drive from work. Fire escape, pay-to-play laundry machines, the works.


"Well, look who it is," said D'von as she approached with her tray of hastily-prepared but expertly seasoned deviled eggs, which she set down on a table. "Blackwater's own Bombshell gone political. Next thing we know you'll be running for Congress!"


"Keep your voice down, you'll blow my cover!"


"What? Even if our parents do find out, I can just make 'em forget."


D'von and Ben were the only ones who knew of Oriana's double life. Her parents and relatives, of course, knew about her biomanipulation, but they hadn't put two and two together about her and Bombshell and she wasn't about to spell it out for them. Even if someone she pissed off found out who she was and kidnapped her parents, there was a chance, however small, that they'd be released if they knew nothing. But the boys weren't defenseless.


If D'von had direct eye contact with someone, he was, by Oriana's guess, a mind controller powerful enough to rival Scarlet Flame, despite having never been trained. A lot of folks with these 'invisible powers' were never found out by their families, and as a result, never tested or marked for hero school. He could have been the next president if he wanted to, despite only being 26, but he was content to work as a bar manager and finesse extravagant tips out of his customers to hold down a mortgage on a medium-sized two story house he shared with Ben, because Aunt Bedelia was too scared of her younger son to let him live at home.


Ben's powers had manifested right before Oriana's, despite her being four years his senior. It had started with an eighty pound weight gain despite him never feeling hungry and rarely eating, which the doctor had initially written off as caused by a thyroid issue, until one night at dinner he regurgitated a white-hot ball of lightning.


As it turned out, he was feeding off of the emotional energy of the people around him and had the ability to channel it into electrical energy, which was unprecedented as far as superpowers went. They'd had to coin a new term for him: "electro-empath." If he didn't use the energy, though, his body converted it into blood glucose. He was probably pushing 300 now, if Oriana's eye was as good as she thought it was.


"True, I've seen you work your magic," said Oriana as she watched D'von remove a pair of beef skewers from the grill that still looked raw. "What are you doing?" She winced. "They're dripping!"


"Yeah, well, you know Mom. She'd order a live cow at a restaurant if she could."


D'von cooked up more skewers of both the shrimp and beef variety (Oriana asked for hers done at least medium well; as vicious as she could be in a fight against bad guys, she wasn't literally thirsty for blood), while she shot the breeze with Ben.


"When does school start back up?"


"The eighteenth of next month. I think I'm gonna join the robotics club."


"Following my footsteps into computer science, huh? Color me flattered."


"Yeah, I'm still working on controlling the lightning thing, but if I can get a grip on these powers, they might even help me with the robot building."


"That's the spirit!" She turned to D'von now. "How's work at the restaurant?"


"Great! I just hired a new barback. She's great. She's one of us, too."


"You mean she has powers? Or that she's a you-know-what?"


"Senior attending Bellvue starting this year. She's transferring in from Rivington. Badass telepath. Between her reading minds and me controlling them, we're an unstoppable force down at Antonio's. But yeah, she's also, you know, that other thing. You might get along, she needs a good female role model to talk about this stuff with."


Ben chugged the rest of his beer. "How do you people find each other?"
 

stevita

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Oriana felt for Ben. It had to be awkward--he'd been uncomfortable with his body ever since the extra weight came on, and here he was living with D'von, an obvious chubby chaser with a long and illustrious history of bringing home SSBBWs, as they were called in the community, and he had Bombshell, the notorious fattening femme fatale, for a cousin. And now D'von had a partner in crime at work...and Oriana knew, just from talking so much shop herself with D'von about hypothetically picking up thick cuties, that feeders tended to encourage one another to pursue their particular brand of debauchery…it probably wouldn't have been so bad for Ben if not for the fact that he could taste feelings.


"You good?" she asked Ben, but she never got an answer. Uncle Jerome and Aunt Bedelia had come over to see how lunch was progressing.


"D'von, this all looks delicious! You got a real talent," said Jerome, while Bedelia helped herself, with a stumble in her step, to a skewer of borderline raw meat, which she dropped clumsily onto her plate.


Great, so she was already drunk. This didn't bode well.


"Oriana, dear, how's work?" she said, slurring as she threw her free arm around her niece's shoulders.


"It's good, I guess."


"Your mother was just telling me that that manager of yours might be moving on soon. In that case, can I see a p-r-o-motion in your future?"


"Don't know why we have to spell it like that, but yeah, if Dan leaves I'm the one's gonna take his job." She had mentioned it in passing to her mom over the phone, but it wasn't a big deal. Dan might not even leave.


"And I suppose they'll pay for you to get that cyber security certification and fly you all over the country!"


"Yeah, I'll have to take my CISSP, which they'll reimburse me for, and I'll have to go to Defcon and the Gartner conference," Oriana nodded. To be honest, she was kind of hoping Dan didn't quit. She had yet to work out the logistics of a job that required her to travel. Yes, she wanted a promotion...but she would rather take Tom's job. He got to stay put. She knew it was unlikely for anyone to notice that Bombshell was only active when Oriana Taylor-Moore was in town and put two and two together, but there was a non-zero chance. Besides, taking Dan's job would mean having to deal with Tom more.


"How glamorous!" said Bedelia with a pointed look at D'von. "See, this is why you need to get a real job, like your cousin! She's moving up in life, while you're still working at that cheap bar."


"Hey, let's not forget, I'm a whole manager."


"A bar manager," said Bedelia. "Which is basically a bartender with a set of keys."


"And where would you be without your bartenders?" Jerome muttered under his breath, but she didn't hear him. Yeah, that relationship was strained. Oriana would give them another two years tops. In fact, she'd put money on it.


"If my job ain't a 'real job,' how you explain how I pay my fake mortgage with my fake checks?" asked D'von.


"And Ben!" Bedelia rounded now on her nineteen-year-old. "Don't you get too comfortable at that shoddy convenience store. Ori, back me up!"


"It's just a summer job for him. In fact, Ben was just now telling me how he's interested in computer science, like his big cousin," said Oriana, trying her best to mitigate while she worked herself out from under her aunt's pale, spindly arm. "But how is work for you, Aunt B? Must be sweet, life of a designer and all."


"Oh, it's awful." Bedelia bent down and helped herself to another beer. "All the fashion world wants to talk about is how that fat-loving freak show gave herself a costume upgrade."


"Her name's Bombshell, and I say, if you got it, flaunt it," said D'von, as if she wasn't his cousin and standing right in front of him. She thanked him with her eyes for the small effort to maintain her cover.


"She's a menace!" exclaimed Bedelia. "And now she's getting into politics? Politics! I agree about the police brutality...someone needs to keep them from going on killing sprees. But the solution is NOT to let superpowered nut jobs run the streets! I'll give that trollop this, though, at least she can control her powers." She gave Ben a hard poke in the shoulder and glared at him.


Oriana fought to contain the rage boiling in her on her little cousin's behalf. She couldn't blow up her aunt Harry Potter style and say goodbye to her cover. Besides, Ben was practically gagging on her rage over there. She took a deep breath in...out…


"I need to talk to the boys over there," she said, and led them away from the pool.


"Look," she told them, "None of us need to take this abuse. What do you say we go back to mine? I got a bottle of Remy with our names on it…"


Oriana's mother waved from the other side of the yard. "Leaving already? We haven't even gotten to talk!"


"Yeah, well...Aunt B needs to be cut off!" Oriana shouted.


She glanced over her shoulder. Aunt B and Uncle Jerome were arguing. She turned back to the cousins. "What'll it be?"


"Sounds good...you're not gonna run off on us and be like 'duty calls,' though?"


Oriana sighed. "Can't rule it out."


The boys got into their own car.


It was a quiet night. Oriana kept the police radio running, but nothing happened, and she eventually fell asleep on her couch after pleasuring herself to the local news replay of the national hot dog eating contest.
 

stevita

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ISSUE 4: HOLLYWOOD'S DEAD

----------

"Look, cherí, all I'm saying is, how much can you really trust some politician you've just met?"


It was Bombshell and Scarlet Flame drinking at the bar at the Oregon Museum of Neuroscience, of all places. Of course, the venue didn't matter. The point was to be seen together, so as to stick it to anybody who thought contractors and rogues shouldn't mix.


"It's funny, the councilor seemed a little distrusting of you, too," Bombshell mused into her cocktail. "Is there some beef between y'all that I should know about?"


"Nothing. Forget about it."


Forget about it. The words reverberated in Bombshell's head like she was in an echo chamber. She'd been grasping to the thread of a thought...and then, somehow, it was gone.


"Sorry, S. Just spaced out there for a second. What were we talking about again?"


"Girls. Boys." Flame smirked. "So tell me about this guy at work who asked you out?"


Bombshell shrugged. "Too skinny. Too vain. Too easy to bleed. I'll think about dating when they start making bulletproof guys in a 6XL."


"Or...or, you can find a bulletproof guy, period, and then just take care of the rest yourself?" Flame pointed out, tilting her glass in Bombshell's direction. Bombshell yelped as a handful of ice cubes spilled into her lap.


"You gotta stop gesticulating while you drink, S. Sides, where the fuck am I s'posed to find a guy who wants me to make him fat? The feedee store?!"


"Bebe, who says he has to start out willing? If I tell this hypothetical man that he wants to be as big as a house, that will become his truth…and he'll throw himself at your feet. And before you say that that's not right, it's basically the same thing you do, except I work on people's minds instead of their bodies."


"How the fuck did you ever make it through the Rivington ethics program?"


"Because, ma coeur," said Flame, "I know how to keep my opinions to myself."


"Fair enough," said Bombshell. "Still...I could never use my powers on some innocent guy."


"Well...what about a bad guy?" Flame slurped up one of her remaining ice cubes and crunched on it. "The last I checked, your city does have a supervillain running amok."


"Not an option," Bombshell shut her down. "At least, not til he actually does something, y'know, supervillain-y."


***


ONE YEAR AGO


It’d been 18 hours and 11 minutes since Tegan had said those wonderful words. Those seven incredible words.


“I like you Eddie. In that way.”


16 of those hours had been spent in blissful anticipation of the last two. Their first date. It wasn’t much, wasn’t any different from the kinds of things they did as friends really: only a simple stroll around the city park. As the summer sun set, they would skip along the pristine paths and compete to kick gravel the highest. They’d point out cute dogs, buy ice cream cones: maybe, if Eddie was lucky, they’d hold hands.


“You remember when we had drama together?” said Tegan, turning to her boyfriend.


Her boyfriend. Eddie tried to play it cool.


“In that old church basement?” he chuckled, his voice cracking. “I could never forget…” That had been how he’d met her, after all. Back then he’d been only a hopelessly anxious twelve-year old, as opposed to the hopelessly anxious twenty-one year old he was now. Despite the prodigal intelligence he possessed, talking to others had never come naturally to him; his mother’s homeschooling regimen, for all its expansiveness, had never quite prepared him for such a strenuous task. But Eddie had been determined to make something, something of his own, something others could see, so after convincing his parents to pay for it (on the grounds that it was “valuable educational enrichment”) Eddie began youth theatre. He’d been a terrible actor, even when he wasn’t immobilized by stage-fright, but he kept going, remained resolute under Tegan’s decadent green eyes, even more so once she finally approached him. Even all these years later Eddie’s astonishment at that moment hadn’t diminished: somebody wanted to talk to him! And often!


For the first time, Eddie had found a friend.


“You remember that time I snuck up on you in the graveyard outside?” Tegan continued. “I mean, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you, I just wanted to say hi because your parents hadn’t arrived yet and mine hadn’t either—”


“I don’t remember.” Fuck. Too blunt.


“Really? But I scared the shit out of you!” Tegan giggled, her laugh like sparkling wine exploding from a badly-uncorked bottle. “You jumped so high you slipped in the mud and fell face first in the grass. Not ringing any bells?”


“It was a long time ago.” Eddie shook his head.


“I laugh,” Tegan sighed, “but I still feel bad about it.”


“You don't have to.”


“But I want to.”


How could he tell her? How to explain that only his happiest memories of her had ever mattered? For fear of sounding as insanely enamored as he was, Eddie simply shrugged.


“It’s nothing, Tegan. You really think I’d still hold a grudge after all these years?”


“It’d make me feel better if you let me apologize.”


“I mean, I should be sorry, I made you feel bad.”


“Stop apologizing! How many times do I have to remind you—”


“But you’re literally trying to apologize to me! And for something I don’t even remember!”


“You sure you didn’t repress the memory?”


“Repressed memories don’t actually exist, it’s just another fucking fabrication of Freud’s.”


“All the same, I think it was awful for you. You looked so sad!”


“I don’t—”


“Can I say sorry?”


“I can’t stop you.”


“Sorry.”


The pair burst out laughing. Had either of them ever had a more meaningful conversation, Eddie wondered? And then came the ultimate epilogue.


“God, I love you.”


It’d come so much sooner than Eddie had expected. She loved him. She loved him, as he loved her. They loved each other. Eddie’s stomach seemed to swell with sheer rapture.


If the seven-word phrase had been fantastic, those four words felt unreal. Ostentatious, almost, in their perfection. Grotesque, yet so divine.


***


TODAY


Eddie wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but it certainly wasn’t this. As exhausted as she’d been when they’d met, Marion had an undeniable glamour to her, for which this filthy bungalow was entirely unfitting. White plaster peeled off its walls like scabs as strange inky stains seeped down the rough surface. Several of the windows had been sealed shut with cheap balsa, and the thin front door hung on by only one hinge. All the same, the building seemed luxurious to Eddie. It had ample floor space, after all.


Shyly, Eddie rang the doorbell, and was promptly greeted by an enormous woman in a loose lime-coloured dress. Despite its looseness, it clung tightly to her hips, for they splayed out so far as to form flabby shelves on which the dress’ waist could rest. The dress was similarly stretched in its middle, as the woman’s pillowy double-belly bulged forth into the threshold. Through the sheer green fabric, that dark decadent expanse of dough seemed to glow with a hazy emerald hue. She looked so beautiful in that dress, the dress looked so beautiful on her, and the combination of their complimentary effects was disarming, even to someone like Eddie who preferred his ladies “thick” rather than “fat”. He couldn’t let himself be overshadowed, after all.


“Um… Does a Marion live here?”


“Some criminal you are!” The woman laughed loudly, her tummy threatening to tear through the front of her dress as she bent backwards with delight. “You look less like a villain and more like a member of Vampire Weekend. Tell me, is the turtleneck part of the costume? Because it’s despicable, really!”


Anxiously, Eddie tugged at his collar.


“So Marion—”


“—is my partner. I’m Mickey, nice to meet you.” Mickey took Eddie by the hand and led him indoors. Despite their plumpness, her palms were coated in a thick layer of hard, chapped skin; her strong yet squishy grip reminded Eddie of his bug-bitten spring mattress at home, only it felt far more comfortable.


Despite the bungalow’s awful exterior, its insides were remarkably tidy, almost oppressively so; every vintage poster, every overpriced ornament, every item of flea-market furniture seemed to have been positioned with pathological preciseness. Whoever saw to their situation, however, hadn’t been so stringent with dusting: a dull grey fuzz coated every surface like plaster. Worst affected was the waxwork that greeted Eddie as he entered the living room: Marilyn Monroe might have looked magnificent once upon a time, but the dusty veneer it had since acquired left it looking deathly. Her mouth, locked in an iconic laugh, now spewed moths instead of sweet nothings. With the seductive starlet rendered repulsive by the ravages of time, it was left to Marion to bring Hollywood glitz to the drably-decorated room. Clad in a thin-yet-tight scarlet sundress and caked in an indulgent amount of creamy make-up, the bubbly beauty Eddie was sure her job had buried now bounced to the surface. Her hair looked fuller, her face less pale.


“Aha, my man of mystery!”


“You can call me Eddie.” The wannabe-supervillain shrugged shyly. “Eddie Salvidar.”


“Exotic,” Marion cried gleefully, “I like it!”


“Excuse me?”


“She’s like that sometimes,” Mickey groaned, “still stuck in a century she wasn’t alive for.”


“Hey,” Marion laughed, strangely sharply. “Technically I was born in the 1990s!”


“But you should’ve been born in the 1890s.”


“But then I’d never have met you!”


“Aww!” Marion gestured towards her lover with a slender finger, and on cue Mickey bent forth, her many soft rolls all squishing into each other, to receive a lingering kiss on the cheek.


“So”, Marion asked, once Mickey had heaved herself upright, “I expect you’ll be joining us for dinner, Eddie?"
 

stevita

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Dinner, it turned out, was overcooked coq au vin with undercooked new potatoes, laid elegantly on a bed of cold lettuce. By its chef’s own admission it wasn’t great, but at least, Marion added, it reminded her of home.


“It’s the sort of thing Vincent Price would serve,” she explained.


“Wasn’t rotting meat more to his taste?” Eddie asked. “Or whatever it is flies eat.”


“He was an excellent cook, as a matter of fact. Released four cookbooks, two of which I own.”


“Wow, you really love classic Hollywood huh?”


“What gave you that impression?” she giggled. “I love the stars, the sets, the costumes, the elegance of it all. They really did make dreams back then, in magnificent monochrome. I only wish I could believe in them.”


“Jaded?”


“More like choking. You could afford to be innocent back then; not anymore.”


“It wasn’t all His Girl Friday,” said Mickey, “don’t forget how shitty the 30s and 40s were.”


“Back then when rich white guys whined about invisible invasions we shot them stone dead,” said Marion, “what’s so shitty about that?”


“The fact they treated us even worse.”


“So we stopped it,” she snapped, “as soon as Japan tugged the isolationists’ heads out their asses. We stamped out the sickness and we swore it’d never happen again, and we were still so stubborn about our standards we never noticed we’d already been infected, long ago. They won, you realize? Blame it all on exceptionalism. They control this country now, and they don’t even know it. Fucking morons.”


“Mari, just because you’re underpaid—”


“And underappreciated too, it seems like.” Her plump lips formed a sulky pout; its sheer prominence would’ve been cartoonish were it not for the raging heat she radiated.


“Look, I love those movies too Mari—”


“You don’t need to pretend—”


“Don’t make this about race. I love those movies as much as you do, you know that, but don’t pretend the world was ever perfect, don’t get angry about the end of an age that never existed!”


“I know it never existed! But we can’t even dream anymore and we’ll never be able to again and the world’s only ever going to get worse…”


“Mari—”


“Just let me dream!” Fuming, Marion charged out the room, the rims of her wheels slipping slightly under her sweaty palms.


“I’m sorry,” said Mickey. “She doesn’t mean to be so… spoilt. She’ll see sense eventually. She’s just under a lot of stress right now.” Suddenly, the bloated beauty began chuckling. “You wanna know how bad things are? I’ve lost weight. Always know times are tough when I start slimming.”


“I’m sorry?”


“Do you know what a feedee is, hon?”


“Um…” The blush of Eddie’s cheeks was all the answer she needed.


“Well, unlike you I was innocent once. Didn’t have much time to myself with two brothers to care for. But then I met Marion, and she taught me all these terrible truths about myself, and before I knew it she was fattening me up to 350lbs and I was loving every second. We never had much money for fancy food, but we got by. My belly got us by. So I gotta keep it nice and chunky, for both our sakes. Besides, I gotta have plenty of fat round back, I’m lying on asphalt most of the day!”


“What?”


“I’m a mechanic. A lady mechanic. We exist, believe it or not. Can’t promise we aren’t all lesbians, though.”


“Awesome!” Eddie grinned, “I’m a bit of an engineer myself in my spare time.”


“Clearly; I hear you built a rocket belt for Christ’s sake. Bet you’re a real genius in your day job, huh?”


“Naw, I work in cybersecurity; it’s as dull as it sounds. Not nearly as well paid as you’d expect either.”


Mickey shook her head, her two chubby chins wobbling.


“All the white collars are shit-stained these days,” she muttered. “Just as filthy as my overalls.”


“Too true.”


“Me?” Mickey shrugged. “This is all I’ve known. Had to toughen up quick; mom was too pissed too often to teach me jack shit. Mari, meanwhile? She used to have it good, real good. Old news-baron blood, the yellow kind. Honestly I think the feedism would’ve disgusted them as much as the lesbianism had they ever found out. And that’s saying something.”


“I can imagine…”


“You really can’t; folks like that ain’t normal, I swear. They have their own rules, and when you talk to them you know you’re breaking several but you can never know which ones. When those bastards finally found out about Mari and me, well…” Mickey sighed, and rested her head on one hand, her stony knuckles sinking upwards into her pillowy cheeks. “Well, it would’ve been fine. We would’ve had enough to last both of us for years were it not for Mari’s accident.”


“Can I ask—”


“Mugging, real nasty. She was lucky the paralysis was the worst of it.”


“I’m so sorry…”


“Don’t be. She’s made peace with it, or as much as she can. The real blow was the cost. We didn’t have healthcare insurance; still don’t as a matter of fact. Didn’t seem to matter back then, doesn’t seem obtainable right now. And I doubt it ever will be.”


“Looks the same for me. Thank god I’ve never needed it…”


“What’s your tragic backstory then? Was it some science experiment gone-wrong or are you just plain evil?”


“I’d… I’d rather not talk about it.”


“Embarrassing?”


“Yes, but more so hurtful. Annihilating, even.”


“And I thought Mari was melodramatic…” Mickey muttered, smirking. “Speaking of Mari, you should probably go check on her in her workshop. Who knows, you might help her get her spark back.”


“I don’t know if I could do that on my own.”


“Dude, you have no idea of the effect you’ve had on her already. Now, shoo!”


Following Mickey’s directions, Eddie wandered down the hallway until he found the workshop she was referring to. The room was long and narrow, so much so that Eddie doubted Mickey could fit inside it. Then again, he realized, Marion would probably enjoy watching her try. Her humongous hips would sweep plenty of movie posters clean off the wall as their blubbery breadth brushed against it, and before Marion could stop it Clark Gable’s face would be crushed under the supersized servicewoman’s stumbling soles. If, by some miracle, Mickey managed to wiggle her way to the low desk at the room’s far end, her enormous overhanging gut would splash onto the surface, scattering scraps of fabric everywhere with its wobbling. As it oozed around the sturdy sewing machine and under the sloping ceiling, that jiggly belly would become jammed, its pudge packed too tightly into too small a space to be prised free easily. And, even if she could somehow free her titanic tummy from its tiny prison, how could Mickey ever turn around to escape? Without a doubt, her massiveness had to cause her countless issues every day.


Eddie envied those issues so badly.


However, Marion’s excited squeals snapped him out of his daydreaming.


“You’re here, you’re here!” she cried. “I’ve already drawn up a few quick sketches, nothing too detailed but there is such a thing as overdesign anyway, what I’m really aiming for is a classic look, classic and classy—”


“Woah, woah, woah,” Eddie interrupted. “Let me guess this straight: you’re going to make me a costume?”


“I prefer the term outfit, but yes!”


“And you’re going to just give it to me.”


“Yes…” Marion rolled her eyes.


“And I’ll need to pay…”


“Nothing!” She crossed her arms and smiled sweetly. “Nothing at all!”


“But you’re—”


“A morally upstanding citizen, who happens to be a skilled tailor! Was that not clear?”


“No, I understand, it’s just…” Eddie shook himself. “You’re awfully kind.”


“Kind? I’ve never had an opportunity like this, you’re the generous one! Designing a supersuit, holy moly—!” Her enthusiasm was electric; it felt almost awkward to be around.


“In terms of design, I love, love, looooove the helmet.”


“I mean, it’s only an old android head I found in the wreckage of the Hexaco plant. All I did was hollow it out and repaint it; I figured it was insensitive to wear Biocide’s colors.”


“Don’t discredit yourself: it looks amazing, and the colors you chose? Perfect. Oppressively technocratic yet undeniably stylish, and, dare I say, sexy. So I thought we’d run with that, really lean into the Big Tech name: I’m making you a tux.”


“What?”


“It’ll look great on you, I promise—”


“I don’t know…”


“You’ll also need a button-up—”


“Sold.” Eddie wasn’t sure if a smart suit really said “supervillain”, but it would definitely be an incredible outfit to be fattened in.


In his mind’s eye, he saw Bombshell standing over him as his expanding belly erupted out of his shirt, out of jacket, sending buttons flying like bullets before flopping heavily over a ripped rocket-belt… Eddie knew that, now he had imagined that moment that way, he’d never see it any other way again.


“Ideally the jacket will be lined with Kevlar,” Marion continued, “if you can get your hands on any, can you get your hands on any?”


“Assuming anyone’s thrown some in the dumpster recently, yes.”


“Great! In that case you can also be on the look-out for more of these robot heads—”


“How many robot parts have you seen lying around in trash cans?”


“Fair point. If you can’t get any don’t worry, but more armor pieces would be nice. I’d really like to redesign the shell of your ray gun if you’ll let me. Can’t promise Mickey won’t go to town on the techie-bits though.”


Logically, Eddie should’ve been more hesitant. He barely knew either of these women, and his own history had taught him to be skeptical of the sort of interest they’d taken in him. Yet, somehow, for all their arguing, the love they seemed to share felt so timeless, so cozy: it was impossible for Eddie to imagine either of them lying. So, Eddie would trust the pair with everything; perhaps, eventually, even his erotic interests. In any case, he would do whatever it took to achieve his goal, anything at all, anything that brought him closer to his metamorphosis into a massive mushy mound of lard, unable to stop his squishy stomach wobbling, unable even to move…


Anything for Bombshell’s attention.
 

stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
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Messages
466
Location
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ISSUE 5: WELCOME TO THE INTERNET

----------

ONE YEAR AGO


“It was a mistake, Eddie.”


This couldn’t be happening. Tegan loved him yesterday. What had changed? What had he done?


“How do you know?” Eddie quivered down the phone. “It’s only been three days.”


“Call it a gut feeling.”


She hadn’t had that feeling yesterday. Unless she was lying? Could she lie? Was she lying now? Was this all an elaborate prank?


“I’m sorry, Eddie. I know I’ve let you down.”


“No, no, that’s my line.”


“I’m sick of lines. I’m sick of acting.”


So it was real, it was happening, but it couldn’t be, Tegan loved acting, acting was her life, it was going to be their life, she’d be in blockbusters and he’d be big in blockchain and they’d be happy and he’d do whatever she needed—


“I know. I should’ve told you sooner.”


“You weren’t obligated, but I’d like to have known—”


“It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, I love it. But it ain’t happening.”


“But it has to, you’re brilliant—”


“In your eyes. And your eyes… they’re too big, I think.”


“What do you—”


“Nothing.”


That second syllable shook him like a sniper’s bullet. It hit him, shot through him, and erupted out the other side as quickly as it came. Eddie slumped to his bedroom floor. Finally he’d found his future, and it’d left him so swiftly. All in three days.


It couldn’t be happening.


“What did I do?” Eddie sobbed. “Was I too depressing?”


“It’s not your fault Eddie,” came the reply, so compassionate, so tender, so cruelly calm.


“But I know I’ve taken you for granted, used you as a crutch—”


“And I don’t mind, I encourage it, even. But I was dumb to ever think I needed this. Call it hormonal.”


“I’d rather not.”


“Eddie, please don’t make a big deal out of this. We’re still friends. We’ll just pretend it never happened.”


“But what was the problem?”


“There wasn’t a problem, okay? It’s just… we’re different people. You need something I could never give to you. And don’t ask me what it is. You already know.”


Eddie didn’t know what something was. But he wasn’t going to ask.


***


TODAY


The speed of Eddie’s sensuous self-destruction was its most torturous aspect. How many more fatcats did he have to fleece? How many more millions would he have to steal? How long until Bombshell finally took notice? He only hoped she wouldn’t realize he was donating all his proceeds to charitable causes – erasing Blackwater’s medical debt, funding homeless shelters, that sort of thing. He didn’t want to be seen as a Robin Hood, he wanted to be hated, despised – most of all by her. For her, he’d play the insufferable egotist, the self-serving sociopath, and for his only-half-feigned corruption she would destroy him. She would demolish his knees with the fat she’d force onto him, have him collapse under the blubbery burden she’d so gleefully toss upon him. He’d be left prostrate atop a pillowy belly, billowing out more and more until its immensity swallowed him, but that wouldn’t stop Bombshell; she’d have seen too much of him to restrain herself. She’d continue inflating him, continuing crushing his corrupted soul until his heart turned limp, and he would lapse into incomparable ecstasy as he closed his eyes…


And that was the clock. Time to go home.


Eddie hardly paid attention at work anymore. Money, though he lacked it, wasn’t something he especially needed, and he didn’t enjoy the company Cybersecurity Inc. provided either. Sure, there were a few friendly faces – Oriana in pentesting sprung to mind – but Eddie didn’t really know any of them, which was how he liked it; it was obvious none of them ever needed him. He would nod when given assignments, or mumble a quick “hi” when bumping into a colleague at the water cooler, but on the whole Eddie was quite content keeping as quiet as he could in his cubicle, cramped in the corner of the office basement. Software development was no longer a means to any end, only an obstacle, something he needed to periodically remind himself to work on in between designing gadgets, planning heists and fantasizing of forced-fattening. It didn’t even matter how many times he’d been passed over for promotion any more; with his priorities elsewhere, Eddie appreciated his only tasks being ones his obsessively-sculpted intellect could handle in minutes. He supposed he could thank his mother for that much at least.


Sighing, Eddie rose to his feet and zipped up his bomber jacket. Grimacing, he trudged up the stairs past the lockers he’d never had any keys to and towards the back doors…


“Eddie Salvidar?”


Eddie jerked around with a start, and saw a tall, lanky man in a musty grey hoodie. His face felt charming in a juvenile sense, his smile awkward yet electric, but his messy brown mullet and backwards-Knicks cap suggested those youthful looks hadn’t gifted him any awareness of 21st Century fashion. Not that he seemed to have any interest in fashion, considering his slippers and mismatched socks; Eddie would’ve suspected him homeless had he not exuded such intoxicating cockiness. This was not a man who couldn’t afford to dress himself, this was a man who took pride in refusing to.


“Who’s asking?” Eddie asked the man.


“I am,” he replied, flatly. “I think you meant to ask, who are you?”


“The question was rhetorical.”


“People only use rhetoric to sound smarter than they are, so I don’t bother with it.”


“Because you don’t need to sound smart?”


“Because I know I shouldn’t need to. I’m Leo Caprisky.”


“THE Leo Caprisky?”


“I’m CEO of Mybrid, bitch.”


Leo Caprisky, who went from college dropout to billionaire within three years. Leo Caprisky, who wrote all the software for Mybrid from scratch in less a month, whilst balancing seminars and term papers. Leo Caprisky, sole creator and owner of the world’s largest social network.


“Woah, okay…” Eddie was stunned. “What do you want from me?”


“Something to occupy my mind.”


“I don’t see what I could possibly offer you.”


“Potential.”


“Is this a hackathon invitation?”


Caprisky laughed, a weird, alien snort that felt endearing in its awkwardness.


“An invitation, yes,” he said. “I want you Eddie. I want you in our family.”


“Wow, okay. I’m flattered Mr—”


“Call me Leo.”


“But I don’t see why—”


“You were accepted into MENSA at five. You represented the US in the Mathematics Olympiad when you were twelve. You got 1600 in your SATs. And now you’ve built a super-suit out of scrap-metal.


“Wait, you know I’m—?"


“You covered your tracks well, but there’s only so much cybersecurity a developer salary will get you.” He placed a soft, slender hand on Eddie’s shoulder; it was cold and smelt of fizzy candy. “Don’t worry,” he said warmly, “your secret’s safe. Because I respect you. Humans, they’re just animals, farm animals, following predictable patterns of behavior in accordance with ideologies and technologies they’ve never taken time to understand. But not you, you think outside the box; you’re a revolutionary, and that makes you… that makes you a farmer. Like me. So join me. Join the Mybrid family.”


“And what do I get from you?”


“5 million a month.”


“Woah.” ‘Woah’ didn’t really cover it, but it was the only word Eddie’s addled brain could think of. Five million dollars. Five million dollars! For all the contests and developmental programs he’d been entered into, for all the passports to success he’d supposedly won, he’d never stepped within a mile of that kind of money. Five million dollars! Every month! Even after the initial shock had worn off, the only words Eddie could stutter in response were…


“Woah, you’re serious?


“Sure I am,” Leo shrugged, “5 million plus benefits—”


“Benefits being…” There had to be a catch.


“We trick out your tech for you, we cover your tracks for you, we’ll get whatever you want.”


“I don’t know if you can get me everything…”


“So it’s politics is it? I never had much time for party bureaucracy myself, but what you’re doing, giving all that money away? That I can get behind. One man, alone, not just destroying the system but reshaping, reengineering it, an inspiration to so many… You say you want a revolution? Hans, booby, I can get you one!”


“It’s more than that.”


“It always is, true altruism’s a myth. So what do you want?”


“It’s a girl.”


“It always is,” Leo shrugged, “fifty percent of homicides in the US are motivated by love. Am I callous, or is that romantic?”


“I’d call it desperately tragic.”


“And I’d say you’re simply using a long-winded synonym you’ve no need for. I built my first video game at three, trust me, I know this stuff. Love, lust, it’s all the same when you look at the data; all the same patterns of behavior, all easily algorithmized. You know we own Pornexus?”


Eddie rolled his eyes.


“It doesn’t surprise me.”


“What can I say,” Leo smirked, “I’m only human. Mybrid only started because – well, I was being stupid. But I am stupid, when I’m not smart. What I’m getting at is, regardless of what’s been said, Mybrid is human, Eddie. We’re just people. But we’re changing things and people don’t always like that.”


Eddie knew that fact all too well.


***


Another big decision, another mealtime meeting for the Bowery Boys, as Marion had insisted on dubbing them.


The three of them always met over a meal to discuss the Big Tech project, be it designing gadgets or planning heists. The meal was never very good, but Marion felt the need to point out every time how inevitably it was, to which Mickey would laughingly remind her that she had yet to put her money where her mouth was. The joke was, Eddie later discovered, that the couple's kitchen wasn't especially wheelchair accessible, so until they could afford a new one (which would be a while considering their joint refusal to take stolen money), the gang would be making do with Mickey's lesser imitations of Marion's supposedly legendary recipes. Tonight, it was ravioli that Mickey had ill-advisedly made from scratch: the pasta was rather too dry, and the filling too bland, but it was better than beef stew again at least.


“So?” asked Mickey, repeatedly stabbing through undercooked dough. “Are you gonna say yes?”
 
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stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
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(A/n: trigger warning in the following post for allusions toward death-feedist themes. Eddie's gonna be fine. He's just not in a great place right now.)

----------

“Well, gosh,” interrupted Marion, sarcastically, “let me think, it's 5 million dollars a month, you think it's a good idea?”


“I just think it's wise to beware of geeks bearing gifts—"


“I'm a geek!”


“She has a point,” Eddie added, twirling his fork through the sludgy bolognaise. “You and Marion showed me so much generosity.”


“But we aren’t billionaires,” said Mickey, “why would he care?”


“You came onboard for the politics.”


“And your winning personality!” Marion added.


“But mostly the politics,” Eddie continued. “Hell, you guys helped shape them!” Eliminating Blackwater’s medical debt had been Marion’s idea originally, after all, and silly, sheltered Eddie would never have known the extent of the city’s drug problem had Mickey not let him know and suggested some charities to him. “What’s to say Leo doesn’t too? He sure seemed like it.”


“Maybe he is,” said Mickey, “it wouldn’t surprise me, but that doesn’t stop him being a hypocrite. Regardless of intent, the dude robbed the world of its privacy.”


“You don't seriously believe that shit, do you?” Marion lowered her fork.


“I know it, you can read the whole story on their website. It's weaved within the terms and conditions but you don't notice because you can't be assed to read it, you just click and BAM! Human CentiPad.”


“Sure, but you can’t hate the player, just the game.”


“And you seriously stand by that?”


“For five million a month I will!”


“But think about what we represent,” said Eddie, sternly. “If we just went for the money, what would that make us?”


“Rich.” With a snarl, Marion wheeled her way out of the living room.


Mickey sighed.


“I'm sorry she's so—”


“Don't worry,” said Eddie, “I'm used to it by now.”


There was a pause.


“So are you gonna go for it?”


“I don't know... He seems like a nice guy. Really nice, really passionate about the politics of what we're doing.”


“But why?”


“Ain't that the million dollar question. I know the guy's resume, but he's always been about sticking it to the man, hasn't he? The Web was rebellious once.”


“Until he came along.”


“Maybe he's just single-minded. Wants rebellion his way. And I don't see a problem with that."


“Farm animals, Eddie.”


“Yeah. I know.”


“Look dude, I'm not gonna stop you, whatever you choose.”


***


It’d been a boring board meeting at Milken Brothers. Despite the recent midnight robbery, profits were rising, as ever; markets were being deregulated, as ever. At this point, even the company’s largest shareholders were a little tired of its upward trajectory.


Then Big Tech returned.


Crashing through a window with his jetpack, the thief of the future slammed onto the table with smart leather shoes and smugly smudged dirt into the pristine surface. From his jacket pocket, he drew a weapon of some sort, shaped like a long and slender spearhead, with a narrow blue shaft in its middle. With a swift, flamboyant gesture, he raised the weapon to the ceiling and pulled its trigger. In an instant,the shaft flashed, and a bright blue beam tore through several floors and into the smoky skies.


If the board members panicked when Big Tech entered the room, they were petrified now. Their dry cleaners would be dealing with some nasty stains tomorrow. Clearly they were too terrified to speak, clearly they were waiting in dread for the thief’s first words…


And yet, Big Tech said nothing.


It was a while before any of the fear-stricken financiers had the courage to speak for themselves.


“You want our wallets? I can give you mine, we all can, right guys?”


After some careful conferral, the members off the board all removed their wallets and slid them across the table to the sophisticated supervillain. Eagerly, desperately, they looked to see what their cyclopic assailant would do.


He merely nodded.


“Please, you can have my watch, you can have all our watches, it’s no trouble!”


The other board members mumbled in agreement, and slid their watches across the table to Big Tech.


Big Tech merely nodded.


“Here,” one man piped up, “I’ve got 6 pounds of cocaine in this briefcase, I don’t need it, my wife wants me to quit!”


Big Tech remained silent. The air itself seemed to dampen with the board members’ sweat.


“Look, I’m tired,” Eddie finally announced. “Which one of you is Max Milken?”


There was an awed murmur.


“I am,” came a trembling reply.


“Max,” Eddie begun, “Leo Caprisky says ‘Fuck You’.”


And with that, the thief of the future flew free from the building, leaving behind a room of traumatized bankers, a stunned silence and…


A pile of watches and wallets.


The entire board burst out laughing.


"Well," offered one.


"That was something," replied another.


"I can't believe he'd do all this,” exclaimed the esteemed Max Milken, “just because we pulled out of investing in his start-up!”


The board laughed again, louder this time. Well, all but a lowly assistant.


"Sir-”


Max ignored him.


"Sure,” he continued, “maybe we were stupid not to grab a piece of Mybrid when we had the chance, but at least we weren’t stupid enough to leave behind the money at a robbery!”


"But sir-”


"Fucking hell Stuart, what is wrong with you?”


Stuart shuffled, awkwardly.


"It's what's wrong with our records, sir."


"What?”


"Well, he must've uploaded some sort of virus over our wi-fi…”


"Stuart, what the fuck is wrong with our records?


"They're gone, sir. All incoming debt's been wiped."


And so the silence resumed.


***


“Muwahahaha!”


There was nobody around to hear Eddie’s evil laugh as he rocketed through the air, but the moment felt good regardless. Little had those fatcats suspected that while he stood speechless on that table he’d been uploading a virus of the penetration test department's design into their servers via his helmet interface. His colleagues at his depressing day job had built the code to demonstrate precisely these vulnerabilities to big businesses, but they'd never stopped to consider the possibility of internal theft. Now, he was using his employers' product to destroy the same interests he was contracted to protect.


Meanwhile, should Mr. Milken ever have the courage to tell of his embarrassing ordeal, Mybrid could simply deny all involvement. Sure, insulting him on Leo’s behalf had been petty, but considering all the entrepreneur was doing for Eddie, it was the least he could do. Besides, it wasn’t as if the banker didn’t deserve it: it was impossible to estimate how many millions a bank as large as Milken Brothers had in their debt. In his own way, Eddie supposed, Leo really was tearing down the system; more than that, he was teaching it, teaching it the error of having ever underestimated him – rubbing its nose in its own proverbial shit. As to whether it would learn from his lessons - well, Eddie doubted it could ever learn any more, but what mattered was that he and Leo had tried.


Suddenly, a notification appeared on Eddie’s helmet interface; he was receiving a call. Voice chat; one of so many things he’d never have been able to implement into his suit without Mybrid’s help.


“Eddie!” Leo’s voice sounded giddy with excitement.


“The mission was a success,” Eddie reported in reply, “there’s no knowing how people we’ve just rescued from poverty.”


“That’s fantastic!” Leo cried. “But tell me about Milken. Did he scream?”


“He certainly squirmed. Seemed too afraid to make any noise.”


“Ha! That’s Max; too tentative, too cowardly. No right to have any part in running the world.”


“I can’t argue with that.”


“We’re doing good work here, Eddie. These old-money assholes have got it coming, and they’re too blind to see it. And speaking of seeing,” Leo coughed, “make sure you watch Fredo Flores tomorrow.”


“Um…” Trashy daytime TV wasn’t really in Eddie’s wheelhouse; he much preferred space operas to those of the soap variety. He had no interest in a newscaster who insisted on milking controversial topics for woke points.


“Because I pulled a few strings,” Leo continued, “and Bombshell’s gonna be there. I’ll make sure Fredo asks her about you.”


“A-a-about me?”


“Big Tech’s big news now. She’ll start chasing you soon enough. And your new suit will be ready for her by the time she does.”


Ah. The new suit. Not something Eddie had ever asked for, but something Leo insisted on providing. All Eddie knew about it was that it’d keep the blue-and-white color scheme, which Big Tech conveniently shared with Mybrid, and that it’d be much more heavily armored than he current costume, Leo having completely misunderstood the nature of Eddie’s interest in Bombshell.


“I don’t know what this woman did to you,” Leo continued, “but once we’re done running data there’s no way she’ll be able to do it again. You’ll be equipped to counter any move she’s ever used. I’ll leave the rest to you.”


Eddie still wasn’t very keen on the idea of wearing a weapon; regardless of the ethics of it all, it just didn’t sound as hot as a tuxedo to burst out of, if he’d even be able to burst out of it at all. But then again, he supposed, if he really was capable of shattering solid steel with sheer squishiness, if Bombshell really was capable of blowing him up with that much blubber, then in the moment he’d feel so much fatter, so much sexier. Of course, that was all hypothetical, and in any case the climax wasn’t Eddie’s biggest priority; what mattered to him most was getting to it. All of this, all these heists, all these contracts with technocrats, it was all in the aim of achieving that glorious goal. To realize that the time had come, to be able brace himself for the barrage of blubber, to know that in mere moments he would be marmalised by his massiveness, destroyed by his own doughiness…


The calm before the corpulence. Then, the rapturous wobbliness. Then, the after.


The after was irrelevant.
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Joined
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ISSUE 6: (IT'S MIND OVER) YOU DON'T MATTER

----------

If Oriana had to choose one word to sum up her opinion of Big Tech, it would be 'amused'.


If a little underwhelmed.


On Wednesday, reports reached her ears over the police radio that a man had been seen breaking into a chain jewelry store, but evaded arrest by means of rocket belt--so, in warrant terms, by vehicle, she supposed? She wasn't worried about the profit loss to a major corporation. After having a hearty chuckle at her desk and finishing her coffee, she headed to the printer room to take care of some faxes Tom had asked her to send to a client. What an antiquated setup. Who used a fax machine anymore?


On Friday, security footage was released to the news of presumably the same man, blasting his way out of the headquarters of a medical billing agency, decked out in a whole tuxedo and robot gear with a metallic helmet completing the look, practically gloating to the camera: "You've been struck by Big Tech, the most dangerous criminal menace to ever plague this city!"


Wow. Villain mistake number one: talking to the camera. Was this fool drunk, or just plain stupid?


She turned off her living room TV, nipped into the kitchen for a glass of wine, sauntered to the bedroom, curled up on the mattress, and queued up a video called 'Huge Yoga Ball Belly Inflation.' Now that she'd had her dose of comedy for the night, it was time to get off.


On Saturday, she was called into work to put out some fire Melissa had caused the previous day with her careless coding, and her morning commute's radio playlist was interrupted by news that a sizable portion of the city's medical debt had been erased. The billing agency was beside itself...good news for everyone who had been paying in installments for the fact that they were alive, though.


Maybe Big Tech was actually kind of a nice guy.


She wasn't catching feelings. Absolutely not.


Sunday Funday rolled around. Oriana had exchanged numbers earlier in the month with Brittney from work, and just before lunchtime the sales professional nervously called Oriana up asking for more DeAndre advice: they'd had a first date, but Britt wasn't sure where they stood or how to read the signals. So, Oriana agreed to meet her for mimosas. Too many mimosas. Sure, putting aside the stress of leading a dangerous double life so you could have an inane conversation about boys was possible without getting inebriated enough to forget your own name, but where was the fun in that? Come Monday morning, she couldn't remember what she'd said to her, but she felt like ass. Too bad, even, to put her biomanipulation to work and rehydrate herself hands-free. She called in sick to work, and Dan conceded that she had earned it for coming in on Saturday. By the time she awoke in the mid-afternoon on her couch, she had three news alerts on her phone. Big Tech cleared out a vault at another local bank, once again letting himself be caught on camera declaring his nefarious intent. Hours later, millions in funds had been transferred to the Blackwater City food bank. Coincidence? Maybe. But if not? You know what? Good for him.


She found the whole thing almost as comforting as a warm bowl of soup would have been, if she'd had the energy to get up and make it. Who was this masked stranger? Would he have taken pity on her in her hungover state and made her soup?


Ugh. Shut up, Oriana.


Then it was Tuesday.


Fuck Tuesday.


She was sitting in rush hour traffic--and how was it already rush hour? She was on her way back to the office at 3 PM after a late lunch, with takeout for the whole team in the passenger's seat. She had thought rush hour would be at the end of the workday, but more and more she was finding the roads backed up earlier. Was this a phenomenon unique to Blackwater, or was this just everywhere?


I-39 was so congested, she was practically parked. She cranked up the AC and the volume. At least the radio was being good to her. Letting herself succumb to the lull of highway standstill, she began to half-sing, half-mutter along: "It's raining men...hallelujah, it's raining--"


CRASH!


She was barely jarred by the sudden flurry of sound and the shaking of her vehicle. She handled bigger shocks on the battlefield day to day. Her car alarm did go off, though. That was unpleasant. But as soon as she got used to the noise, she regained her focus and assessed the situation before her.


A grown ass man wearing a tuxedo and a metal helmet had just fallen out of the sky and onto the hood of her car.


He rolled over with a groan audible through her windshield, and they had a moment of eye-to-robot-eye contact.


He was a slip of a thing, she would guess a buck forty soaking wet, but having a whole person fall on your car, no matter how lithe of frame, was bound to do some damage.


Despite his face being concealed, once the pain subsided, he appeared by his movements to be startled. He reloaded something at his belt and flew off again in a panic.


Her hood was dented, and she was worried about her engine block.


She took out her phone and looked up the number for Proactive. After dealing with automated responses for a few minutes, she finally reached a human being.


"Yes, hello, this is Oriana Taylor-Moore, policy holder number 2859-B-9. I need to file a claim."


One tow truck and one taxi ride later, she walked into the all-department meeting at work late. "Sorry, Tom. Car troubles. Anyway, I brought pizza, since y'all said you was tired of donuts last time."


If there was still one empty chair remaining after she sat down, she didn't notice.


***


Oriana was used to being a public figure, so it was with a natural ease that she sat on talk-show host Fredo Flores' seafoam-green vinyl couch in full Bombshell regalia under stage lights before a live studio audience--at least, at first.


Fredo had asked her--well, asked Bombshell--to appear on his show after the news broke of her support of candidate Jasmine Freeman. For the last three quarters of an hour, he had been interviewing her about her experiences as a superhero and the tension between vigilantes, herself in particular, and the police force. During their time, she had recounted her exploits saving people, the thick stack of warrants she'd accrued in the process (though nobody nowadays was foolhardy enough to arrest her), and the fateful day when she got her name.


She was now backstage during a brief commercial break, sitting in a makeup artist's chair, shaking.


"Are you sure you don't want to take off your goggles, dear? I have something for those puffy eyes."


"Please, just leave me alone a hot second."


The makeup girl retreated. For a moment, Oriana was left to sit with her breakdown.


Then, a hand clasped onto her shoulder. She looked up to see a young...someone, clad in shiny dark armor and dramatic black grease around the eyes, with smooth skin dusted with powder as if to conceal rosy undertones and blue-black hair spiked up high in a faux-hawk that drooped stylishly to one side. "You did really good out there," said the stranger. "Anyone can talk, but it takes courage to cry on the air. I've always admired you, Bombshell. It's an honor to have you warm up the hot seat before I go on. I'm Ember, by the way." With a snap of a finger, the stranger's hand turned into a bright, blazing tongue of flame. Another flourish later, fire became ash that slowly broke and gave way to pale, unburned skin. "Or Valor Madison, if you prefer."


Wait...Oriana remembered the name Ember. Originally from Texas, they were a new contractor with the Division, currently on a tour across national news networks to talk about being a hero while nonbinary. Every once in a while, the Division rolled out their 'first openly queer superhero', as if a pride sticker made it okay for them to expense their gays first on the battlefield. Scarlet Flame had gotten off easy in that regard, and so many others. She was Black, but could play at soft-spoken. She was sexy, but slim enough to objectify. And though she was an absolute turbo-lesbian, she could be convinced to keep it under wraps, lest she alienate the men in her thirsty fanbase.


Whatever got ratings and sold merch.


Ember, on the other hand…


With their angular face, androgynous haircut, and biceps bulging with muscle despite an otherwise petite frame, they were the Division's perfect material for representation.


"I thought y'all contractors wasn't supposed to compromise your real names," said Oriana.


"Oh, it's not my name. Not on paper, anyway." Ember--Valor?--laughed. "Can I buy you a drink after this?"


"You even old enough?" Ever since Bombshell had begun her vigilante career as a student, the Division had been starting their heroes younger and younger. If she had to guess, Valor was nineteen at the oldest.


"Again: I don't exist on paper."
 

stevita

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Commercial ended, and the cameraman announced, "Rolling again in five, four, three…"


Bombshell ran back onset and sat on the couch. Fredo adjusted his tie. The cameraman held up two fingers. One finger. Then, after a short pause:


"Ladies and gentleman, in-betweens and neithers, welcome back to Fredo Flores in the Morning! We're live with Bombshell, who's been telling us a little about intersectionality in the American hero scene. Bombshell, how are you feeling?"


"Pretty good, Fredo," she responded. "You know, don't laugh, but talking about all this stuff has made me feel like I've had a weight lifted off of me."


The studio audience gave a collective chuckle.


"For those of you just now joining us at home," said Fredo from behind his wooden desk, "before the break, Bombshell had shared her most personal dark moment, which inspires her today in her support of Councilor Freeman. Bombshell, thanks for your bravery in bringing all this to light. Now, to wrap things up, I wanted to ask you about more current topics as they might pertain to your presence on the crimefighting scene: what do you think of Big Tech?"


Shit. She hadn't anticipated this question. It wasn't on the list of questions Fredo had emailed her to prepare to answer. Maybe he had wanted her unscripted response? Or maybe he'd decided to throw in the question on the fly. Big Tech had hit Milken again yesterday, though was it really hitting a lick if you didn't steal any money?


"Who?" she asked, feigning oblivion for now.


"You know, Blackwater City's newest self-proclaimed supervillain. Flies around in the tuxedo with the robot parts, has already committed several counts of robbery in his short run?"


Oriana scowled, then emoted a sudden moment of realization. "Oh, yeah! Tuxedo guy! He a whole thing now, I guess."


"What do you plan to do about him?"


"Do about him? Why would I get in his way? It's not like he hurting anyone, not I've heard of, anyway. I'm not following the story real close. But if he had hurt someone I think I'd been known. All they'd have to do is Tweet me or call my phone."


"But he steals from companies--"


"So what? Biff Jenkins doesn't need another billion dollars, he's set. Jay Jewelers done made enough money on diamonds produced by slave labor. I'm not worried about the companies. This guy...well, I don't know if I'd even call his ass a villain."


The audience gasped.


"He calls himself a villain," Fredo pointed out.


"Maybe for extra protection? If you're a legit supervillain, the cops usually leave you alone, let folks like us deal with you. But in my book, he just some guy, until proven guilty," said Oriana. "Maybe this cat has a family to take care of. Little sister with cancer or something. Hell, maybe more thieves should walk around wearin' suits of robot armor. Protect 'emselves from getting shot without no trial. Least until we as a city address that problem too."


"So it's safe to say you aren't intimidated by the appearance of this potential new threat?"


"Please. Have you met me?"


"Well, you heard her! Folks of Blackwater, that's all the time I have with Bombshell. Now, please welcome our next guest, you know them, you love them, the enigmatic Ember!"


To the applause of the crowd, Oriana passed Valor on their respective ways to and from the couch. Once the contractor sat down, Fredo began, "Ember, I want you to start. What do you have to say about the intersection of your job and your identity?"


"Thanks so much, Fredo!" Valor announced to the camera, all smiles. "I actually wanted to talk about how, just as there's no right or wrong way to be a hero, there's no right or wrong way to be a person. I think that's applicable to gender, sexuality, methods, powers, and sexual preference. In fact, Bombshell, who was just in here, is someone who I really admire for her refusal to conform…"


***


The next day, Oriana was startled out of her work flow when her fourth phone, which she had purchased for the express purpose of communicating with the councilwoman, rang on her desk, a tinny ringtone rendition of the National Anthem. "What have you got for me?" she asked as she picked up.


"How do you expect me to disarm the police if you're going to go live on Fredo Flores and blatantly encourage crime?!"


Oriana had never in their talks so far heard Jasmine get angry. She was beginning to wonder if she lacked the capacity. There was a lot she had to say, and not much time to get to the private restroom. She dismissed herself from her desk, ducked into the nearest supply closet instead, and closed the door; it would have to do.


"Hang on, Councilwoman. I never said people should go out and do crimes. Just that if they were going to, they shouldn't leave themselves undefended. This is shit they should know already." Of course, she knew not every thief could afford robot armor...but that was why you kept on your grind, and you know, she respected that. She considered it a blessing that she had a regular job, but everyone making a living out there in those streets was just as valid to her.


"How is that not the same thing?"


"Look, Councilwoman. I don't know if you checked Twitter, but me going on the show been surprisingly good for you."


"...Really?"


"I did a little research on my own time, and it looks like until you teamed up with me, you was a one-issue candidate. People thought you was a centrist, or at best, a left-leaning moderate who cared about police brutality...but then what? People want someone in office who's gonna do something about community outreach. About homelessness. You been completely silent about all that. But with my endorsement, you might as well be the champion of all the folks who gotta steal to eat, and a good number of them still got a residential address for their voter registration card. You go online right now and see what I just got you as of yesterday: the inner city vote. The radical vote. The ex-con vote. I mean, polite society mad as fuck right now, but they also a statistical minority. There's power in numbers."


There was a pause on the line. Then: "Mother of God, you're right."


"You see? Now I'm glad we got to the same page. And you might want to consider the whole homelessness thing on your ticket, while we're at it."


"You know, I think I can work that in."


Once the call ended, she rushed back to her desk to catch up on her code. Who knew being the mind behind a politician could cut so much into workplace productivity?


It was a boring day at the office. Nothing urgent on the police radio, but that was all very well. It gave Oriana a chance to work on a side project she had started alongside her usual white-hat hacking. At five on the dot, she rushed home, intent on continuing her research.


Between the parking lot and her unit, she heard a commotion between two of the buildings. Glancing quickly into the alley showed her a woman pinned helplessly facing the wall, her arm held behind her by a tall man in an overcoat who looked a second away from pulling out a glock.


"Where's my fucking money, bitch?"


"Is it your fucking money? What business I do on my time without you is mine."


"What the fuck did you just say to me, you skank?"


Oriana ducked out of view. She was pretty sure the pimp hadn't spotted her. She called out, "Hey!" into the falling night. It must have had the desired effect of startling that scumbag into letting the girl go, because she quickly ran out of the alleyway.


It was risky, using her powers without a direct line of sight to her target, but not as risky as compromising her identity. She concentrated on the task at hand as best she could…


There was a scream from the alleyway. The telltale sound of fabric splitting along seams. She chanced a quick poke of her head into the alleyway to find an expanse of pale flesh wedged stuck between the buildings, fat quivering as the man kicked and struggled, ass facing out. On the ground by his feet lay a pistol--Oriana had been right.


She ducked out and returned to the girl, who she recognized as her neighbor from across the parking lot. "You might not want to look in there," she said. "You might also want to look into getting a new manager."


"What--?"


"I can't explain, but that guy won't be roughing you up no more," said Oriana. "Do you want a walk back to your unit?"


"I'll be fine," said the girl, and she ran obediently back to her own apartment without looking back. Security would find the fattened pimp before the night was over, but by then, Bombshell could be anywhere. She did, after all, have a hotline. She had probably been answering a distress call. There was no proof she lived here. If the story made news and her neighbor put two and two together, her knowing wouldn't be a problem. After all, the girl had her own secrets to keep. But it probably wouldn't make news outside of some obscure feminist publication. Polite society wanted to read about the Bombshell who stopped violent robberies and kept the public feeling safe, if in a rather unconventional way, not the Bombshell who protected prostitutes. They loved her as the People's Superhero, so long as those people were heavy-air-quotes 'worthy' of being saved. Most days, she wished things were different. She wished everyone could just think with their heads and live by a few simple rules. Don't hurt others. Don't do things to them they don't want done. Doesn't matter who they are.


But tonight, things worked out for her.


She made the rest of the walk to her unit and breathed a sigh of relief as she crossed the threshold and let the door fall shut behind her.


What a day.
 

stevita

like the pancake
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She had planned to dive right into her research upon coming home from work, but after that nasty business outside, she needed a little culinary therapy. Plus, she was hungry, having mindlessly worked through her lunch break without leaving the office. (DeAndre had noticed the lack of donuts; he didn't say anything, but she could tell by the disappointed look on his face when he returned from a trip to the break room.)


She pulled some butter, garlic, celery, carrots, onions and bell peppers out of the fridge, chopped everything up, and threw it in a stockpot over medium heat. Pinch of salt. Pinch of sugar to get the onions and peppers those nice brown edges. Pinch of flour to thicken the mix. Fifteen seconds. Stir, stir, stir. Just before the flour could start to burn, she threw in a cup of water, then some stock she'd prepared the day before. Then she started chopping beef and tossing that in, too.


While the stew was going, she put some rice on to boil over another burner. Once it reached that nice rolling boil, she lowered the heat to a simmer, put on the lid, and returned to the stew, seasoning it with a hearty shake of paprika, cumin, basil, and rosemary. Some black pepper. A bay leaf. Just for fun, a dash of cinnamon, a star anise, and ground cloves. Unconventional, she knew. But it worked for her dad in his cooking, the last time she had bothered to visit home. She really ought to go see her parents again soon, she thought to herself. She had just been so busy lately.


While she was waiting for dinner to finish, she broke out her handwritten notes, saved news clippings, and a map of the city marked with the locations of incidents over the kitchen table.


She knew much more than she let on on Fredo Flores in the Morning about the man stylizing himself as the villain Big Tech.


Ever since he had dropped in on her in traffic, she had been following his story and had him pinned down to a certain radius in town, which had a significant overlap with her own block. She had scoured the county's criminal record database for anyone who matched his approximate physical description and had priors in corporate burglary. So far, she had a few leads, but none felt right.


She had shared none of this on Twitter. Normally one to keep her followers in the loop with regards to her activity, she had decided early on to keep her investigation a tightly kept secret. If Big Tech got word that she was watching every one of his moves that she could, he might try to slip under her radar.


She didn't know why she was so obsessed with someone who she had seen exactly once, and just yesterday had told all of America she was content to leave alone. Actually, that was a lie. She had a suspicious, morbid fascination. Who in the world turned up to commit a run-of-the-mill burglary decked out in a rocket belt with a laser gun? Big Tech hadn't done anything that warranted her attention...yet. But the measures that he took indicated that he might. He definitely had a vain side. He wanted people to know who he was. But why? What did he want? Besides money, even if she was pretty sure he wasn't keeping any of it. But money wasn't hard to come by. You could get a job, or turn a trick, or walk into any store with one gun, although that last one in particular was the kind of crime she aimed to stop. Part of her wished this fledgeling villain would just do that, so she'd have an excuse to pick him off quick. And yet, she knew she should wish the opposite: that he kept to his victimless crimes against corporations who could afford the setback, aided along by his inexplicable arsenal of gadgets, and that no innocents find themselves caught in his crosshairs…


And another part of her still imagined what she'd be at liberty to do if he ever used that robot suit as a true and present threat...


She had never fought a supervillain before. All the big names had been taken out by heroes with more experience before she'd had a chance to come into her name. Biocide sprung to mind; she didn't even know how she would have handled that one. How exciting would it be to take on an opponent who could match her for power?


Maybe she'd even play with him, let him get a couple licks in to see what she was dealing with. The anticipation would be delicious when she finally threw down her winning hand. She'd do it slow, too. Ten or twenty pounds around the middle, not enough for the crowd around them to notice at first, but enough to send a message. A warm, heavy push of fat to put him slightly off balance. 'Consider this your warning…'


But of course, he wouldn't listen. He'd turn the laser gun on her and she would have no choice but to unleash the full force of her power, blowing him up so enormous and so quickly that not even NASA could keep him airborne. He'd fall out of the sky and crash-land, fattened clean out of his costume a good two hundred pounds ago, limbs splayed, but mostly unharmed--the soft, jiggly expanse of his ass would have cushioned the impact. And he'd still be swelling, naked and vulnerable, staring up at her with a glint of not-quite-horror in his eyes that at first she would only be able to imagine behind the mask. And something else, too. She wouldn't be able to see his cock jump to attention against the flabby underside of his spilling belly hang, but she'd know by the flutter in his labored breathing that he was enjoying this, too...


She'd place the toe of one boot under his chin where it had doubled to tilt his head up so he had to look at her, face to face, mask to mask...


'That's it. Don't struggle. It doesn't hurt, does it?


'Feels kinda good, don't it?


'Mama's gonna take good care of you.


'If anything, I'm saving you from getting into any more trouble.'


Then with a flick of her toe, she'd unmask him, just in time to see the look of pure orgasmic bliss overtake his features...


God, why was she getting so into this?


She needed to get this out of her system, stat.


The rice still had about ten minutes to go. So, she busted out her laptop and opened YouTube.


'Stuffed by my Curvy GF Until I Can't Breathe' was an oldie but a goodie, a 40-minute video from eight years ago featuring a plump, shirtless man groaning and whimpering about how achingly full he was while his voluptuous lady friend straddled his hips and spoon-fed him a pot of macaroni and half a sheet cake, alternatively teasing him, marveling at how round his gut was getting as she filled him up, and kneading his plush middle to coax out a deep, wet belch. Oriana had a hand in her panties, rocking her hips against it in her kitchen chair, when a loud rapping sounded from her front door.


"FBI, OPEN UP!"


Oh, she was so not in the mood.
 

stevita

like the pancake
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She snapped her laptop shut and shouted back, "I recognize your voice, D'von!"


Sighing, she rose to go and wash her hands in the kitchen sink before answering the door.


D'von had brought Ben along with him, and both boys looked concerned at the sight of her. "Ori, are...are you okay?" asked Ben. "You look like you haven't slept in days."


"Yeah, well…crime never sleeps, either."


She'd been doing some midnight patrolling on foot lately, trying to see if she would run into a certain someone. She hadn't, but she had managed to save three innocent pedestrians from would-be muggings. That, and incurred a couple thousand dollars worth of damage to city property, but she already gave ten percent of her income back to the government for things like that, so she didn't feel bad.


"Anyway, D'von, d'you know how bad it woulda been for all of us if I'd have fell for your little prank?"


"How bad, pray tell?"


Oriana gave the front patio of her third-story apartment a demonstrative stomp, causing the railings to shake.


"Well, for one thing, I'd have lost my whole security deposit. But come inside and tell me, to what I owe the pleasure?"


"We was worried about you!" said D'von as he and his brother followed her inside. "Family poker night at my place, you never showed up!"


"I didn't RSVP."


"You never RSVP! But you always show up!"


"I just didn't want to deal with Aunt B." In truth, she had completely forgotten about poker night, but she didn't want to hurt D'von's feelings. He always went all out when the party was at his house and took such pride in showing everybody a good time. Being forgotten about would destroy him.


"You think we invited Mom after what happened at the cookout?" said D'von.


"She and Dad are really on the rocks right now, we're letting them figure it out," added Ben. "Dad keeps bringing up the D word, then going back on it because he's worried about what'll happen to Mom if she's left alone and her alcoholism gets worse."


"I know you two came out of her, but I say, just throw that whole woman out," said Oriana. "Anyway, I wasn't expecting company, but now that you're here, you may well stay for dinner." She had been planning on taking leftovers to work for the next few days, but she was probably going to get tired of beef stew before she ran out.


"Bet! Whatever that is, it smells delicious!" said D'von.


"Let me just clear the table. Ben, should I set you a place?"


"It's aight, your vibe right now is pretty filling enough. It's like you're on edge, but like, not in a bad way?"


"Ugh, don't talk to me about 'edge' right now." If only the boys had been two minutes later to arrive…


Oriana set her papers down on her home bar counter so she could set the table. D'von picked them up. "What's all this now? I thought you just said on Fredo Flores in the Mo--"


"Put yourself in my shoes, here," said Oriana, putting down a plate and silverware for her cousin. "You're a vigilante crimefighter active on social media, and all the sudden some guy decides to be a supervillain and shows up on your block. Do you really want him to have his guard up, even if he might not be a real threat?"


"Good point," D'von conceded. "This an awful lot of paper, though, Ori. You sure this amount of stalking this dude is healthy?"


"I'm not stalking him! I'm just keeping myself in the loop."


"Uh-huh. Sure." D'von looked to Ben, who narrowed his eyes in contemplation.


"Let's see here...there's apprehension for sure. Inner conflict. An antsy anticipation towards action," he rattled off as if he was tasting a wine. "And...oh. Oh. Well, you know what, Ori, this the first time you've let yourself have a crush in years. Happy for you!"


"I do NOT have a crush on Big Tech! I just think it's weird! If all he wants is to steal from big companies, why is he so conspicuous? Why the name? Why the robot equipment? Why the fucking tuxedo? I'm a problem-solver, Ben. When things don't make sense, I need to make them make sense. And right now, nothing makes sense!"


Least of all her maybe feeder crush on a man she'd never met.


"D'von, did you take him here just so he could try and taste my feelings?"


"He wanted to come. He was concerned. Rightfully so."


"You're stressed. Here, lemme get the food."


Ben served dinner family style, rice and stew in the middle of the table. He brought a plate for Oriana and she loaded it up with a hearty portion of each, her overtaxed body relaxing in relief as she took her first few bites and finally quelled the appetite she'd been working up with all of her extracurricular activities lately. D'von fixed himself a smaller plate than hers, but enjoyed the food immensely nonetheless. "Damn, Ori! You ever get bored of computers, I can set you up as a chef at the restaurant!"


"No offense, but Antonio's Mex-Italian Cantina don't deserve me." If she could toot her own horn, the stew was Michelin star quality. The beef, though cooked through, was tender, the broth hearty but smooth, the whole thing seasoned to perfection, and the white rice was the perfect accompaniment, fluffy and moist but not wet.


"Fair enough. Listen, though, Ori," said D'von. "This part time stalker thing obviously taking its toll."


"For the last time--"


"I could help you with it, if you want. Ask around the city, see what intel I can squeeze out of people."


"And I might be able to find out where he's getting all his stuff," Ben offered. "If we can find out who he knows, maybe we can find out who he is."


"For a price," D'von was quick to add.


"That being?" asked Oriana.


"A little quality time. Come bowling with us. We were gonna go Saturday before Ben starts up school again, and God knows you need to do something fun. You always let this hero stuff eat you up, but it's never been this bad."


"That's a lie! Last Sunday I went out with my friend Brittney."


"What's her last name?"


Oriana sighed. She didn't like crowds and she didn't like mindless self indulgence when she could be doing something useful. But she supposed having the boys help her with her research would help take a load off. Maybe she'd catch a few hours of sleep.


"Fine. But don't whine when I kick your ass like I always do."
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Joined
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466
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(A/n: this chapter is a recent addition, not included in the original version, but I thought it necessary to tie everything together. Arguably I think it's the best part of the whole story so I hope y'all enjoy!)

ISSUE 7: AN INVISIBLE TOUCH

----------

Eddie worked early mornings, so catching the Fredo show live wasn't going to be a possibility. He had no choice but to watch the nighttime rerun later in the week.


It was now later in the week. Bombshell's take on Big Tech was all he could think of as he sat at his uncomfortable desk, in his too-roomy chair, daydreaming of spilling over the armrests instead of perfecting the build for CSI's latest malware-blocking software…


Until he was no longer just daydreaming.


***


Gasping, flailing--or at least giving it his best attempt, but finding each doughy, inflated limb too heavy to move--he fought for a view of her over his quivering dome of a belly, but to no avail. There was her voice, and only her voice: "Wow, even I didn't know I could make 'em this big. But I guess the punishment fits the crime: you racked up quite a laundry list, didn't ya?" She sat down on his naked lower belly, leaning her full, but comparatively insubstantial weight into him. "Dang! It's like a waterbed, but with blubber instead!" She pushed backwards into him, gripping a roll of fat with her hands. "Cops won't be here for a hot minute--let's have some fun, huh?"


She was so much more playful than he'd always imagined. Maybe that was why this felt far more real than any of his fantasies to date.


If only he could move his hips, even an inch. He just needed a little more friction...


"Eddie?" came a new voice, this one hauntingly familiar. Its source bent over him and he was forced to look up into her eyes, flashing green as a neon sign surrounded by a halo of blonde hair against the backdrop of an impressively overcast sky…


Oh no. Tegan.


"Is this what everything has been about?"


Shame burned him from within, radiating outward from a tight knot at his core. It ate away at him and yet somehow elevated the rush that rolled through his massive form in waves. There was a satisfying ache, a damning deliciousness, in at last having his most secret sins lain bare.


"If you're gonna psychoanalyze the boy, you might as well grab a seat," said Bombshell. "C'mon, plenty of room!"


"Yeah, Tegan." A new figure bent over, and Leo's smirking face joined Tegan's concerned one above Eddie. "Have a seat. Stay a while. After all, you're the reason we're all here…"


***


"Eddie? Eddie!"


"Whu--?"


Eddie blinked against the harsh fluorescent light as he was shaken awake at his desk. He pulled out his ear buds and looked around for the source of his salvation: it was the head of the analytics team, whose name he had learned once but promptly forgotten.


"Tom expected that code in his inbox an hour ago, and he's pissed. I came down here so he wouldn't do it himself--I know you engineers don't do well with the yelling. I won't tell him you fell asleep at your desk. But unless you have a good explanation--"


"Sorry, sorry," Eddie mumbled.


Even now, he could hear his mother's soft, yet stern admonitions: 'Now, now, I know you're more articulate than that, dear.'


"This machine's just been giving me trouble. I think it's compromised. I've been messing with it all morning, and I guess I crashed waiting for the malware scan to finish," he lied.


The department head nodded. "I see. Well, if you think you've been hacked, I'll send one of my guys down here to check it out."


Eddie turned beet red, the panic alarms in his brain going off rapid-fire. "Y-you don't have to do that! No sense in slowing down your team, right?"


He was met with a cold, incredulous stare. "Eddie, if you've got a virus, it could potentially spread and take our whole company offline. I'll have someone down here shortly."


Of course, the analyst was this broad, muscle-bound gym-bro type--a guy named DeAndre who Eddie had met once at the company's mandatory 'team-building' dodgeball match. At the time, Eddie had all but walked into the path of a ball clumsily tossed by a little blonde girl from sales just to spare himself from this guy's heavy hits. In the months that had passed since then, the analyst had put on even more muscle, and it only made Eddie all the more self-conscious about his own fat-filled fantasies.


He yielded his chair to the other man and stood in the corner, wallowing in his anxiety like a puppy pissing the carpet, knowing he'd done wrong, waiting to be exposed in his lie.


"I dunno how long this is gonna take," said DeAndre, clacking away at the keyboard. "If you want, you can take a walk or something. Oh! Oriana made these little cupcakes for the whole office. They're in the break room. I'm doing Paleo right now myself, but everyone else says they're fire. Even Melissa! And you know Melissa."


Eddie actually didn't know Melissa, and in any case, he'd rather be present at the moment of his exposition, rather than wandering around upstairs wondering whether or not his head was already on the chopping block.


"It's okay, I'll just stay here."


Would losing this job really be so bad?


At this point, it was more of an alibi than anything else.


That, and something to occupy his days and keep him from doing anything too stupid. Well, stupider than he had already.


"A-ha! I found the malware!"


Eddie blinked. "Wait, what, really?"


"Yeah, this'll be an easy de-install," said DeAndre.


"What was it?"


"Well, it's not a virus, exactly," DeAndre explained. "You just had a program dropped in here via a backdoor Trojan."


"What kind of program?"


"Let's take a look!"


DeAndre's next words made Eddie sorry he'd asked.


"It runs a binaural audio file in the background of whatever you're doing--a hypno file, if you will. Looks like it's open source, too. Let's see if we can figure out who made this...huh. Wouldja look at that. It's supposed to put you out and make you have freaky sex dreams. You been looking at porn on the company machine? It's okay to say yes, we all do it. Ori's the worst. She thinks she's slick, but you can hear all the moaning through her cheap, shitty headphones. Eddie? You still with me, bro?"


Eddie was stunned speechless.


***


"All good down there?" asked Oriana once DeAndre had returned to his cube.


"Yeah, one of the developers downloaded a Trojan off a porn site. No big."


"Ouch. You gotta use a VPN."


"Gotta have that VPN," DeAndre agreed.


"Flowers for Oriana Taylor-Moore!" It was this harried unpaid intern at the opening of her cube, holding a huge bouquet of flowers, so tall he could barely see over it, in an ornate glass vase.


"For me?" she said, eyes wide with surprise. DeAndre flashed her a wide smile over their cubicle wall.


"Look at you, finally with a boyfriend!"


"But I don't have a boyfriend."


"Girlfriend, then? Look, I don't judge. Love who you love."


Nevermind that there was no one she talked to, either at work or otherwise, on a regular basis. Sure, there was her favorite cashier at Taco Shack and her auto mechanic, but they had no reason to know where she worked. Even Scarlet Flame, whose unrequited crush was more than a little obvious, didn't have that information.


But Oriana couldn't very well leave the intern in her--well, it wasn't exactly a doorway if the company hadn't given her a door, was it?


"Thank you," she said, accepting the bouquet and sliding a five dollar bill into his Oxford pocket.


"You know you don't have to tip them, right?" said Melissa, who had popped up to see what all the fuss was about. Oriana decided to ignore her this time.


The flowers, despite the inexplicability of their arrival, really were gorgeous. Sprigs of delicate white wisteria accented a billowing arrangement of elegant orange lilies and fat blue hydrangeas. Setting the vase down on her desk, she noticed an envelope attached. She tore it open and examined the card, only for a chill to shoot up her spine as she read the inky black scrawl:


HUGE fan of your work!

Kisses!

-Big Tech.


Well, fuck. It seemed the man she'd become obsessed with had decided to do a little stalking on his own time.


Only he was better at it than she was.


But how had he found her?


Did he know she'd been tailing him?


And what did this mean for Bombshell?
 

stevita

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"Leo? Leo, this is serious," Eddie hissed into the phone as he parked his car and made a beeline for his apartment. "I think someone else knows about Big Tech." More terrifyingly, whoever it was knew his motivations.


"Everyone knows about Big Tech," said Leo. "You're something of a celebrity, after all."


"You know that's not what I mean," said Eddie. "I think I was the victim of a targeted cyber attack today."


"What makes you think that?"


With shaky hands, he entered the six-digit pin that opened the SmartLock on his front door. It had set him back a decent chunk of a paycheck, but you needed more than a deadbolt to keep out burglars in the crime-addled westside slum. "I don't want to get into the details, okay?" As he entered the sad, neglected unit, with its flickering lights and arrangement of cardboard boxes serving as a coffee table between moth-eaten second-hand couches, he heard a small, faint echo of his own voice. "Leo...where are you?"


"Guess."


Tentatively, Eddie crept toward the bedroom, nudged the door open, and turned on the light.


"Surprise!" cried Leo, laying on one side of the bed and opening one palm with a flourish to mime throwing confetti.


"No shoes on the bed!" Eddie screeched as a knee-jerk reflex.


Wow, for a second, he thought he sounded exactly like his mother.


"Fine, fine." Leo rolled himself off the bed and plodded out into the living room, past a small partition, and into the kitchen. Eddie followed a few steps behind, struggling to process what the hell was going on…


Then again, this wasn't even the strangest thing that had happened today.


"What are you doing here?"


"They're about to re-air the Fredo show. I figured we could have ourselves a little watch party. Oh!" said Leo, bending down to rummage in the fridge. "I took the liberty of picking up takeout. You had nothing in your kitchen except baking soda, lemon juice, and for some reason, aquarium tubing." He gasped and popped up, staring at Eddie over the bar counter that separated the kitchen and living space. "Do you have an aquarium in here?" He tilted his head, grinned widely, and blinked his eyes slowly, theatrically, and, perhaps most unnervingly, out of sync with one another. "Will you show me your fish?"


"I, uh...it's a plan in the works." In truth, the equipment, along with the reactive kitchen staples, were reserved for nights when Eddie lost the battle with his most shameful sexual cravings. But he'd be damned if he told Leo, or anyone else, what they were for.


"Fair enough. Anyway, sit down, sit down!"


Too disoriented to question the irony of being invited to sit in his own home, Eddie took a seat on the edge of the sofa while Leo sauntered in with armfuls of greasy bags. He set them down on the makeshift table, causing the cardboard to bow slightly under their weight. "Jeez, with five million dollars I'd have thought you'd invest in decent furniture. Anyway, I got all your favorites: there's Thai, Chinese, enchiladas, some Burger Queen--"


"Leo, I've never tried any of this in my life."


"I know, but your personality matrix indicates you'll love 'em once you do!"


Maybe if he hadn't been so overwhelmed, he would have noticed when Leo turned on the TV without the use of the remote.


And there they were, Fredo Flores and the voluptuous vigilante herself. Eddie leaned in, elbows resting on his knees as he waited for Bombshell to reveal her plans for Big Tech: how she would pin him in place under pillowy piles of flab, repay his crimes with an outright onslaught of obesity, and then? Even as he struggled to move, as he fought to so much as breathe, she would force another couple hundred pounds onto his helplessly blubbery body, for no other reason than her own personal viewing pleasure…


But that monologue never came. Instead…


No. This was impossible. This was a downright disaster!


Not only did she have no plans to end Big Tech's reign of terror...as a matter of fact, she endorsed it!


"Aren't you hungry?" asked Leo, gesturing toward the mountain of untouched food.


"I don't like eating in front of other people." Rather, he liked the idea far too much to trust himself. Letting his head fall into his hands, he swallowed a dry sob. "I can't believe she doesn't want to fight me."


"Right? What a bitch."


***


ONE YEAR AGO


“She’s a bitch, Eddie. A bitch.”


Cecilia Salvidar, a short, dumpy woman currently clad in frumpy faux-denim shorts and a flowy floral top fresh from Dillard's, sashayed into her living room, teacups in hand. Nearly tripping over the neatly arranged shoes she left beside her front door, she made her way to her couch, and carefully placed the cups atop coasters on the coffee table. The cups actually contained bubble tea, or rather some low-calorie chemical approximation of it, but Cecilia (and she would only ever be called Cecilia, never Cece) placed great importance upon looking fancy. Even if she sometimes struggled to afford it.


“I don’t want to sound bitter,” Eddie sighed, taking his cup, “but… you never knew her.”


“I know enough." Cecilia frowned worriedly. “Look at you. She’s a bitch.”


“You know we’re still friends, right?”


“That’s good.” She placed a wrinkled hand on her son’s shoulder, her long red nails gently scratching his skin beneath his shirt. “Hold on to that.”


“But you said…”


“I say a lot of things, it’s all nonsense, really. You know I’m nowhere near as bright as you.”


“Yes, mom,” Eddie nodded like a good boy or a model student or an indoctrinee to the latest, hottest cult.


“The thing is Eddie…” Cecilia continued, “Tegan’s not bright either, not like you are.”


“What the hell does that matter?” Eddie’s voice quivered. He wanted to be angrier, more violent, but it was his mother he was talking to after all.


“Honey… you know it does. It’s just the way the world works.”


“It doesn’t have to be that way.”


“Then stop sulking and change it. You’ve got the power to.”


“Mom, that’s…” Eddie stopped himself, biting his cheek in the process.


“Didn’t I always tell you you could be anything you want to be? The world’s your oyster, Eddie.”


“I loved her, okay?” Eddie blurted out, finally. “I loved her.”


“Oh honey…” Cecilia stared into Eddie’s eyes as only she could, radiating some strange, familiar cocktail of weariness and raw love. “I know it feels… but there’s plenty more fish in the sea.”


Eddie couldn’t restrain himself this time.


“Mom, that’s bulls--”


“Don’t finish that,” she snapped. “You know we don’t have that sort of language in this house.”


“Yes, mom.” Eddie’s chin sank down, too depressed to call her out on her hypocrisy.


“Just do your best to forget about her, okay? Hold on to her, but forget about her. And whenever you’re feeling down in the dumps, just remember: I’ll always love you. No matter what.”


She took his head against her breast and said it so tenderly, as she always did, her tongue dripping with sincerity. So why did it always sound like a threat?


***


TODAY


After the end of Bombshell's segment, Leo let himself out unceremoniously, leaving Eddie alone with the TV, his misery, and a veritable buffet.


He didn't want to open the bags...but he kind of had to. All he'd eaten all day was half of a tuna salad sandwich he'd bought from the discount section of the gas station store on his way to work, and he was running on fumes.


As a new hero commandeered Fredo's couch and went off on a spiel about gender inclusivity in the super scene, Eddie pulled one of the boxes of Chinese out of its bag and cracked apart a pair of cheap takeout chopsticks.


As it turned out, chopsticks weren't his forte, but he still managed to shovel down his throat a few heaping, sloppy bites of salty, brownish noodles and vegetables sauteed in an amount of oil that ought to have been against the law.


And yet, for all its fatty, oversalted excess, the dish was immaculate, cold as it was. The decadent flavors and textures were everything that he craved. Mouth watering with need, he inhaled half the container mindlessly, letting the influx of carbs almost fill him up…


Almost.


There was a good reason he kept the kitchen understocked. If he had food on hand, what was to stop him from gorging himself to his rotten little heart's content every night? If he thought he could control himself, keep the stuffing sessions to once in a blue moon, things would be different. But he already knew if he started, he'd be powerless against the urges compelling him to force himself ever fuller and fuller until he was ready to explode in his underpants, and who wouldn't notice that? Even though he only talked to his co-workers on an as-needed basis, it wouldn't escape them if he steadily began to outgrow his secondhand work shirts and khakis. And what about his neighbors?


Good God...what about his mother?


There was only so much that carelessness could excuse, and after that...


If he were to truly live like he wanted to, nobody wouldn't know he was a dirty little fat-obsessed degenerate.


Better to let Bombshell finish him quickly.


Better that she dig him a fifteen foot hole in the dirt. He'd lay in a coffin as wide and deep as it was long, decaying as the years went by, his secrets buried with him.


If only she would notice him.


He willed himself to stop eating, and, walking out onto his patio, chucked the takeout container over the railing.


"What the fuck!?" exclaimed a passing pedestrian. Eddie ducked back behind the door, smacked it shut, and, head spinning from his utterly exhaustive day, fainted facefirst onto the carpet.
 

stevita

like the pancake
***
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
466
Location
Texas
ISSUE 8: BRICK BY BORING BRICK

----------

"And this is why you should rue the day you crossed Big Tech!"


Another board meeting broken up. Another fortune sent straight from the pockets of fat cats to Blackwater's most vulnerable. Another day rued.


As many times as he'd used the word at this point, Eddie still didn't know what "ruing" involved, but as he jetted out of the office building, taking care not to fly through the window he'd broken on his way in, he didn't especially care. Truth be told his mind hadn't even been on the heist at any point; these smash and grabs were getting stale by now. No, what obsessed Eddie at that particular moment, and every moment since he'd seen her in all her high-res, televised glamor, was Bombshell, calling him unworthy of her basest of efforts.


It wasn't damn fair.


But in retrospect, Eddie shouldn't have been surprised. Bombshell had always been an outspoken agitator like himself, more than willing to bend the law in pursuit of a more genuine justice. Still, he would've hoped that she'd have disapproved of some of his actions, or at the very least, taken interest in them: why, oh why, did she have to share so much with him?


Eddie supposed he liked her. In another life, he could have 'like'-liked her, in that way. Clearly, irrespective of whatever a fiercely fatphobic media said, Bombshell was a true hero, always with one eye on the people and the other on a plump belly.


But Eddie didn't need a hero.


He needed an executioner.


As he passed above the bridge, Eddie's helmet com buzzed. It was Leo.


"Eddie, my man! You ready for our brunch at 11?


"I don't remember us arranging brunch." But as usual, Leo just had to surprise him. Such systems as schedules, he argued, should never be allowed to limit human ingenuity; not even linear time.


"Well, we just did," Leo explained, "we're having brunch at 11, just you and me. I sent you the location 23 minutes ago." A pin flashed up on Eddie's inbuilt minimap.


"But that doesn't look like--"


"Just be there, buddy," Leo groaned,"okay?"


And so, Eddie set a new course to this destination.


***


"Well? What do you think?"


For one thing, Leo's choice of meeting spot was devoid of brunch bars. Indeed, the closest thing the secluded spot had to any sort of construct was the remains of a tiny wooden dock, rapidly rotting away for an audience of overgrown greenery. Nothing was here, nothing at all: nothing but Leo.


"I think," said Eddie, "this was never really about brunch."


Leo loosened his outstretched arms and lazily slapped his supervillain on the shoulder.


"70% of the time brunch isn't about brunch either," he explained. "You just gotta learn to roll with the lingo, I did."


"Still, I'd expect food at the very least."


"The last time I tried to feed you, you turned up your nose like an ingrate. Besides!" Leo grinned, and gestured once again to his surroundings. "This is the hottest new joint in town! It's so fresh, nobody but you and I know about it yet. Just wait, in a few months this place will be swarming with wannabes." His tone turned more sullen. "They'll watch every move we make."


"Well," Eddie frowned, "clearly it's hip, the portions here leave a lot to be desired."


"If you're really that hungry, I have a protein bar."


"Thanks." Eddie took the snack. "I skipped breakfast."


What else was new?


"I wouldn't recommend it for you: an active supervillain needs his carbs, eh? But a while back I moved to a fully liquid diet. I feel like an animal, man, a machine, some sort of fucking mechanical panther… it's changed my life, man."


"Sure."


"Don't think I don't detect your cynicism…"


"I guess I'm lucky you like it."


"And you're lucky I take so well to flattery. But enough of that: we've got an assignment to discuss."


"Who's on the chopping block this time?"


“Jasmine Freeman: candidate for police commissioner, but of course you already know that. Don't worry, you won't be handling that part of the operation."


“Wait, you're not thinking of--”


“Mybrid? Assassinate the woman who would eliminate our chances of selling facial recognition tech and state-of-the-art drones to the police force? My guy...it's kill or be killed out here. I thought you knew that."


"Kill--?" Eddie was suddenly thankful he'd only taken a nibble of the protein bar. Even that small bite was threatening to come back up. "Police? I thought we were anti-state."


"But we're pro-Mybrid. Big picture! Come on, Eddie! We've already done such good work together. We've done more for this country in a month than the government has in nearly 250 years. Debt records, tax sheets, they ain't gonna wipe themselves! That's all we want at Mybrid, all we've ever wanted: an independent, interconnected world. But in order to do that, we need the right people in our pocket. We can't let anything jeopardize our ambitions. But of course," he smiled slyly, "people might misconstrue conversations like these. Anyway, your role is the easy part."


Eddie gulped. "That being?"


"You're the decoy," Leo explained."Ever since she recruited Bombshell to her side nobody's dared make a move on Freeman. It was a smart move on her part; she's pissed plenty of people off but none of them wanna risk morbid obesity. Except you, of course. She doesn't scare you. So when I realized we'd need a way to occupy Bombshell, I knew right away who to call. You're our X factor, Eddie."


It was surreal hearing Leo say such things; his commanding presence seemed to lend every word he uttered a definitive authority. And yet, Eddie could still scarcely believe that the chance to meet Bombshell had at last presented itself; he’d struggled so hard for her, fought for so long that he’d begun to accept that it would destroy him, not the feedist femme-fatale. Instead, it seemed he was not destined to be ground down to bones, but instead swallowed in softness, smothered in squishiness, blissfully buried beneath his own blubbery body...


But then, Leo opened his mouth once again, and Eddie's self-flagellating fantasy came crashing down.


"Just one catch: you'll need to take a hostage."


"What?” Eddie almost choked. “Why?"


“You heard her on Fredo. Why's she's been ignoring you? Because you don't look like enough of a threat. If you really wanna meet her, that's gotta change.”


He made good points, as ever. But as ever Eddie’s heart wasn’t really in supervillainy; he’d never hurt anybody in all his time “terrorizing” Blackwater City, and the thought of doing so now sickened him. He’d been so selfish already, bringing the Bowery Boys into his once-lonely life; involving another innocent felt callous, especially under such circumstances. But then, if this was his only chance to know justice, the only way his cowardly mind would accept its due punishment, then the risk had to be worth it; the world would be so much better with him removed from it.


"I'll do it. No sweat."


What difference could it make? He was already damned.
 

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