[This story is set in Paragon City, taken from the former MMO game City of Heroes. All place names, hero names and registered trademarks belong to their rightful legal owners and are not intended as copyright infringement in any way. This work is purely meant as a piece of entertainment, and not for commercial purposes in any way, shape or form.]
[The precursor to this series is entitled “Mom the Superheroine”.]
[Warning: please be aware this story contains references to occult practices. Here, they take place within the bounds of fantasy.]
[Also, trigger warnings may apply: self-harm]
Cindy’s powers were improving by leaps and bounds — literally.
With diligent application, she was now able to keep up with her mother, as they leaped from rooftop to rooftop, even atop high-rise buildings. Previously, she had had to rely on good old-fashioned running, though she could sprint at Olympic speeds for hours before having to slow down. It wasn’t quite Super Speed, though… just very fast running. She could leap over most obstacles, but not entire buildings.
Now she could, and Barbara’s heart leaped as well to see how joyously Cindy made use of her new travel method. She could jump almost a quarter of a mile, and control her landing successfully — she no longer left radial cracks wherever she landed, at least not all the time. At the moment, Barbara was standing on top of the King Garment Works building, while Cindy used Super Jump in a rough square around her, doing laps.
The last jump brought Cindy almost right in front of her mother, and then she leaped into her mother’s waiting arms.
“Almost as good as flying, isn’t it?” Barbara laughed.
“It’s wonderful!” Cindy exclaimed with girlish glee. “The view from up high… the wind against our faces and bodies… and the landing! Let’s go find some Skulls or Hellions, Mom — I can’t wait to see their faces when we land in front of them out of a clear sky!”
“Now, now, dearest,” Barbara laughed. “We don’t go making trouble — we only go where we’re needed.”
“Oh, I know, Mom — but there’s usually some place we’re needed, you know! While I was up there, I was looking over in the direction of the Gish, and I think I saw some of them gathering there for a bit of a gang dust-up. That’s not conducive to public safety, and disturbs the peace. We can go jump there, right now, and warn them against causing any trouble!”
“Well… if there’s no other trouble right now…” Barbara was about to give her assent, but then suddenly, Cindy’s cell phone rang.
“Oh… it’s Josh!”
She took the call. “Hey, Josh! What’s up? Apart from my mom and me, I mean — she’s taught me to do Super Jump, like her!”
Her face turned somber. “Oh… I see… why, yes of course we will meet her. Does she know about… well, I suppose we should go in costume anyway.”
She paused. “What do you mean? Just me? Well, Mom and I go everywhere as a pair, so… well, why don’t you check with her again and let me know? Ok… sure, any time, Josh. Bye!”
Cindy hung up, frowning. “That was Josh. He called, saying a friend of his wanted to meet us — that is, meet me, specifically, as Battleborn. Her name is Genevieve Sanders, and she works in the hospital as a pharmacist or something.”
“Genevieve Sanders? I’ve heard of her.” Barbara brightened up. “During the Rikti War, she opened up her pharmacy and distributed medicine for free, to anyone who needed it. I never met her, but we knew about what she was doing. These days, she’s with the hospital, but still does a lot of volunteer work, helping drug addicts and other people in rehabilitation. She seems like a genuinely good person,” Barbara mused. “It’s a good sign that she knows Josh as well. If she’s asking for you by name, dear, you should go see what she wants.”
Cindy was still frowning. “Well, she should ask for us both,” she said, peevishly. “We come as a matched pair.”
Barbara had to laugh. “It’s quite alright, love,” she said, embracing her daughter and ruffling her hair. “This just means you’ve come into your own now! You can go ahead and see her without me, honey.”
“Well I’ve asked Josh to ask her to see if she wants us both after all,” Cindy said. Her phone beeped — an incoming message. Cindy checked it. “Well… hm. She says she wouldn’t want to trouble you, so she’s still requesting just my presence. Whatever for!”
“Well, that’s fine, my love,” Barbara said placatingly. “Did he say what she wanted?”
“Apparently she needs my help to… counsel someone who’s fallen into bad company or something. A troubled young woman about my age.” She huffed irritably. “It’s rude of her to ask me without asking you, Mom. Could be some kind of trap, for all I know. I’ve half a mind to turn her down.”
“Dear, don’t. I’ve heard nothing but good things about her. If she thinks she needs a superheroine’s help, I’m sure she does. Besides, I can’t see Josh ever knowingly leading you into a trap,” Barbara said reasonably.
“That’s true. Sorry, antalya escort Mom, I’m just annoyed. We’re a team! And people ought to know it!”
Barbara kissed Cindy tenderly on the lips, and Cindy closed her eyes to receive the kiss, a look of bliss on her face. “We still are, my love. We always will be. You’re my daughter.”
“Always, Mom.” There was always such love and trust in her voice, when they spoke.
“I’ll go see to that gang ruckus you mentioned earlier,” Barbara told her. “You can go meet Josh and Genevieve. I’ll catch up with you later, honey.”
“Ok, Mom. I’m going to Super Jump there, right now! See you in a bit!”
Barbara smiled to see her strong, pretty daughter exuberantly leaping off into the distance… though she did feel a certain pang in her heart.
Perhaps it was already time for her beloved Cindy to leave the nest…
Cindy enjoyed the way Blue Steel started slightly, when she landed with a whoosh right in front of him and the blonde woman in the white lab coat.
“Cin- I mean, Battleborn!” he said, recovering and snapping a quick salute. “Good of you to come so quickly!”
“We happened to be nearby, Blue Steel, so it was no trouble for us!” Cindy said, subtly emphasizing “we” and “us”. She turned to the woman, putting on a bright smile and holding out a hand. “You must be Genevieve. My mother mentioned you — she told me about what you did during the Rikti War! Which she fought in, as you may know!”
Genevieve took the proffered hand. “It’s good to meet you, Battleborn! It’s very good of you to come. My… you really are as strong as you are pretty…” she murmured, even though Cindy was taking care to use her normal-people handshake.
“My mom and I are always at the beck and call of citizens in need,” Cindy stated, putting her hands on her hips. “What do you need, citizen?”
“Well… there’s this girl, Debbie Dinh. She’s about your age, and… she’s been in and out of the emergency ward recently. On the records, she engages in self-harm… cutting… but… Battleborn, it’s much more than that! I know for a fact she’s dabbling with the occult!”
Cindy’s eyes widened with concern, then narrowed. “How do you know this?” she asked, folding her arms across her formidable chest.
“I… I have my sources, Battleborn. And I have experience with this sort of thing — I know all the signs. She’s been contacted by the Circle of Thorns, and she wants to become an initiate in their foul order! I don’t want to involve the higher authorities at this point — besides, it seems like everyone has their hands full these days,” Genevieve observed, ruefully. “But, well, I want to help her, and I hope it can be discreet. I mean… she deserves better, Battleborn. I’ve known her for years, and… well… she’s been through some really tough times. She shouldn’t have her life ruined just because she’s being led astray.
“And that’s where you come in, Battleborn — you and your mother are among the most well-known heroes in our neighborhood. Just about every young woman around your age looks up to you. Plus, you’ve been through some tough times yourself. I think you’re someone she’ll listen to, if you try to talk her out of whatever she’s doing. I haven’t been able to get through to her, but maybe she’ll take your advice where she won’t take mine!”
Cindy hesitated. She’d never done this sort of thing before — didn’t you have to be a trained counselor to offer therapy like this? What if she messed it up?
Also, she had some inkling that their reputation was improving ever since the kidnapping incident — the net’s memory was long, but people’s attention spans and memories could be weirdly short in some cases, these days, and the shock value of their humiliation video had long since worn off. Still, she was doubtful that she commanded as much respect as Genevieve implied.
But Josh said earnestly, “She’s right, Battleborn. You’d be perfect for the job. When Genevieve approached me with her suggestion, I knew immediately she was onto something. Her instinct for doing good has never been wrong, in all these years that I’ve known her — take it from me, Battleborn. I vouch for her.”
Cindy turned to Genevieve. “Well, you don’t need Blue Steel to vouch for you, Ms. Sanders — my mother already told me, before I came here, about you and the good things you’ve been doing. You don’t have to prove anything to me. But I’m just not sure what I can do for your friend Debbie.”
“It would mean so much just to have you try. I feel sure she’ll come around, if she sees that people like you care about her! Will you help?”
Well, it would probably just be an hour or so of her time… Cindy supposed the streets of Kings Row, however rough, could manage without her patrolling and thug-punching for that long. She nodded her assent. “Alright, Genevieve,” she said, “I’ll see what I can do.”
Genevieve’s face broke out into a broad smile of relief. “Thank you, Ci- I mean, uh, Battleborn!” she said, blushing a little alanya escort at her slip.
“That’s alright,” Cindy sighed. “I suppose most people know anyway.”
As it happened, Debbie Dinh lived by herself in an apartment just a few blocks from Cindy and Barbara. She’d been discharged after a psychiatric assessment indicated there was no immediate need to put her on suicide watch, and despite Genevieve’s strenuous recommendations to the contrary, the hospital had to release Debbie as requested — they were short on space as it was.
“Her father died when she was quite young. Her mother passed away a few years ago, from cancer. It was all very sad… I tried to help however I could, but there was nothing anyone could do. She’s been troubled since then. Someone has to show her there’s still hope. I can’t think of anyone better, Battleborn!”
“Well, alright. I guess I’ll pay her a visit this evening. Let her know to expect me, ok?”
“Indeed! Thank you, Battleborn!”
“You’re welcome. And… call me Cindy.” Cindy flashed a smile, and turned to go.
“Hey, uh… Battleborn, wait up,” Josh called out.
Genevieve hastily retreated from the scene. “Well, I’ve got things to be doing. See you, Blue Steel! And you, Battleborn! It was very nice to meet you!” She went into the building, leaving the two Heroes by themselves.
“Yes, Josh? What is it?”
“So, I was wondering, um…” He seemed uncharacteristically tongue-tied. Cindy waited patiently. “I figure, even us heroes need some downtime, right? The Capes are playing this weekend, and, well, I happen to have a friend who can get us a couple of tickets…”
Cindy laughed. “I’m sorry, Josh, but I never really was into baseball. But let’s get together sometime, though! I’m sorry, I have to go — Mom’s waiting. See you around! Stay safe!”
She turned and leaped away, feeling a twinge of regret. Josh was quite a nice guy, as guys went, and if things were different she supposed they might have gotten along as more than friends and occasional crime-fighting partners.
But she had known she preferred women to men from quite a young age, and now that she and her mother were together… well, there was nothing for it but to stay friends with the guy. They were comrades in the fight against crime and anything else that threatened the safety of the city, and that was the way it had to stay.
Barbara looked on, bemused, at the scene unfolding before her eyes.
The street fight brewing in the Gish had turned out to be some kind of gangland initiation rite. Apparently they were holding tryouts, and two lean girls with rough-cut mohawks, wearing leather vests with strapless bras underneath, had been about to go at it with switchblades, while all around them the gang members hooted and catcalled and placed bets.
Barbara had readied herself to jump into the middle and interpose her body in between the two combatants, but someone beat her to the figurative punch.
“You all need to stop this nonsense right now!”
Barbara had turned at the sound of the voice — a woman was approaching the group. She was the most massively muscled woman Barbara had ever seen.
Among the heroes of Paragon, Barbara was known for her splendid physique and imposing stature, despite being only middling powerful at best, as she was the first to admit. Ms. Liberty had the lean, strong look of a gymnast; her mother Miss Liberty was moderately well-muscled; Valkyrie was much taller, but not as broad as Barbara across the shoulders. There were dozens of other female heroes with imposing builds, but Barbara packed more muscle mass than any of them on her frame, even if that didn’t translate directly to more power.
This one, Barbara had never seen before. She looked the spitting image of Michael White, a.k.a. the famed Back Alley Brawler. Like him, she sported a buzz cut, and wore a black tank-top with a sturdy belt holding up thick jeans. Unlike the Brawler, though, she wore a simple pair of black fingerless gloves in place of his trademark power gauntlets.
She was easily just as broad as Barbara, but she was a bit taller, and her muscles were more striated. Barbara had not known such a physical paragon could exist. It was frankly breathtaking.
This new arrival was now haranguing the pair of flustered girls, and the gathered gangsters as well. And amazingly, none of the tattooed chain-wielding knife-toting lead-pipe-wielding Skulls made any attempt to attack the Heroine (for that was what Barbara was sure she was). Instead, they were looking more shamefaced by the minute.
“Go on, get!” The stern lecturing finally concluded. “Get yourselves home. Think about what I’ve said. You’ve got lots to think about, sure enough.”
The two girls sheepishly shook hands, and the would-be spectators dispersed. There would be no street fight or bloodletting this day. This… ebon-skinned titaness had just defused the entire situation with words alone.
Then the alanya rus escort woman turned to where Barbara was standing and watching, and flashed a pearly grin. “Hey there. Battler Babe, right?” She approached with hand extended.
Barbara took the proffered hand and shook it. They held the handshake for some moments, a smidgeon longer than normal. Barbara could feel it — this woman was strong! Not as strong as her, but… this was a hand she would not be easily able to crush with her grip, all the same.
Not that there was any reason to do so. Barbara found herself wondering why she was even thinking about it.
“I’m afraid you have the advantage of me…?”
“Name’s Michelle, Michelle White. I’m new in town. And yep, before you ask, Michael White’s my cousin. You know him, of course — Back Alley Brawler.”
Not a single person in Paragon City could fail to know that name. Barbara’s eyes widened in surprise. “Well, uh, good to meet you! What brings you here?”
“Well, I’ve traipsed across half the country to do two things: one, fill in for my cousin while he’s absent, and two, find out the damn reason he’s absent in the first place.”
Barbara’s face clouded over. “I’m sorry, I should’ve known better than to ask. We’re all concerned for your cousin and the rest of the Phalanx. Everyone hopes they’ll return soon, safe and sound.”
“Aw, don’t worry about it,” Michelle said, waving dismissively. “He’d be happy to know Heroes like you are still patrolling the streets, fighting the good fight and that.”
“I’m just happy to be of some help again,” Barbara said modestly, “though I’ve only recently come out of retirement.”
“Yep. Heard all about it. You’ve been… on the news. And your daughter, too, a lot of people tuned in to watch her inauguration. You must be very proud of her.”
“I am indeed.” Why did she feel a sudden surge of possessiveness at the mention of Cindy? And she didn’t like the way Michelle’s mouth quirked in mild amusement when she said Barbara had been on the news.
Michelle squinted up into the sky. “Well, speaking of her…” she said, grinning again.
Cindy landed with a thump, leaving cracks in the cement where her feet landed. “Oops! Sorry, Mom!” she said, clearly flustered. “Need more practice landing! Uh, hi there!”
“Well hello, Battleborn. I’m Michelle, Michelle White.” She extended her hand.
Instead of taking it, Cindy’s eyes grew wide, as she looked Michelle up and down, and put two and two together. “White… as in…”
“I’m Michael’s cousin,” Michelle supplied, smiling indulgently. “From out of town.”
Cindy squealed, and grabbed Michelle’s hand with both of her own, pumping it enthusiastically. “Back Alley Brawler’s cousin! I’m so glad to meet you! And… and you’ve heard of me?”
“Damn right I have — fine young rookie Heroine joining the club, hey, we need every bit of good news we can get these days, and you, girl, are terrific news for the city.”
Barbara felt her usual rush of maternal pride, but as she watched how Cindy blushed and giggled girlishly, yes, girlishly, while she and Michelle bantered with natural chemistry, she couldn’t help feeling an unpleasant stab of jealousy. It was utterly irrational, and she mentally castigated herself for it, but… there it was.
Cindy had always gotten along well with people, but after being kidnapped by Valerie she had withdrawn from her previous social circles — understandable, of course. And this state of affairs had persisted after she put on the mantle of a trainee heroine following in her mother’s footsteps. For such a long time the both of them had had no one but each other to truly rely on, for companionship and… fulfillment. Barbara had gotten used to it. Their lifelong parent-child bond had only grown stronger with their sexual and romantic commitment to each other.
But of course Cindy would start making friends again. Her strong and pretty daughter would surely make friends wherever she went — that was part of why she was an attractive person in the first place. Surely, Barbara thought, as a mother, she ought not begrudge her daughter that.
For herself, though, she was probably past that time of life. Most of her old friends had drifted away, as people were wont to do with the passage of time, and most of her comrades-in-arms had lost their lives during the Rikti invasion, or had retired into seclusion afterwards. An active social life was probably not on the cards for her — but for Cindy, surely it would be different.
She berated herself silently. “Silly old bag!” she thought. “Jealous of your own daughter making friends!” Cindy was embarking on her heroic career — she would be making friends and allies left and right, which she would need to cultivate against the enemies she would be making as well. It was only the natural way of things!
So when Cindy asked about the incipient gang brawl that had been brewing, Barbara put on her best smile and described Michelle’s actions in glowing terms.
“Aw, shucks, ain’t nothing much. Sometimes these kids ain’t bad sorts, they just need a firm guiding hand, is all. Besides,” Michelle flashed another grin, and pumped her right arm in a quick flex, “they’ve seen me around, and they know I could do a number on them if I had a mind to.”