Shackles

Chapter 11

by Kallie

Tags: #cw:noncon #comic_book #dom:female #f/f #pov:bottom #pov:top #sub:female

Disclaimer: If you are under age wherever you happen to be accessing this story, please refrain from reading it. Please note that all characters depicted in this story are of legal age, and that the use of 'girl' in the story does not indicate otherwise. This story is a work of fantasy: in real life, hypnosis and sex without consent are deeply unethical and examples of such in this story does not constitute support or approval of such acts. This work is copyright of Kallie 2022, do not repost without explicit permission

“My name is Shimmer,” Trinity announced, with her hands rested proudly on her hips. “And I’m here to bring you to justice!”

Delivering a line like that to a criminal’s face, as corny as it was, made Trinity’s heart swell with pride. It made her feel like a real hero. The mugger she’d cornered, though, didn’t seem so impressed. Her face was doing an odd little dance, caught between fear and amusement.

“Are… you serious?” Candace asked cautiously.

Trinity couldn’t resist pouting a little. This wasn’t the first time she’d been met with a reaction like that tonight. She’d been trying to find people in need of help, but had mostly only succeeding on confusing everyone she came across. This was the first real crime she’d discovered.

“Yes!” she insisted. “Why does everyone keep asking that? I’m a hero!”

The corner of Candace’s mouth twitched. “Have you seen yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s… uh…”

Candace threw a meaningful glance down at Trinity’s outfit. The costume she’d borrowed from Radiance was far too small for her, in all the most unfortunate and embarrassing places. A few hours running across the city hadn’t done it any favors. The stretchy material was struggling to contain Trinity’s impressive hips, and the way it clung desperately to her tits and her thighs didn’t leave much to the imagination. It wasn’t a dignified look.

Not that Trinity, in her current, brainwashed state, was aware of that.

“Let’s just say you might need to give that another pass,” Candace commented dryly.

Trinity glanced down at herself. She didn’t see that she was dressed more like a stripper than a superhero. She couldn’t. The lingering effects of her own shimmer were warping her mind, filling her with fantasies and desires that were far more potent than mere reality. Candace’s comments did little to either enlighten or dissuade the brainwashed supervillain. On the contrary, she was a little pleased to be engaged in hostile banter with a villain - albeit a very petty one.

“Wait,” Candace said abruptly. “What did you call yourself?”

“Shimmer!” Trinity repeated proudly.

The mugger squinted at her. “That sounds kinda familiar.”

Trinity blushed a little, embarrassed. “I-I doubt it.”

“No, it does,” Candace insisted. “I’ve definitely heard of a Shimmer online. I guess she got her ass kicked by Radiance a couple days ago, or something. And before that? I’m sure I can remember a bunch of other times she’s been in the news.”

Trinity turned a deeper shade of red. She hadn’t prepared for this.

Candace’s face registered a growing certainty. “You even look like the photo that was going around on social media yesterday.”

“Shit,” Trinity spat unhappily, under her breath. She’d been hoping she could simply turn over a new leaf and start afresh. After all, she was now horrified by her former, villainous escapades. Perhaps she should choose a new name. It simply hadn’t occurred to her that anyone would recognize her.

“But,” Candace continued. “You sure as hell weren’t dressed like that.”

“That’s not important!” Trinity insisted. She needed to regain control of the situation. “What’s important is that I saw you rob that poor woman. As a hero, I can’t stand by and do nothing in the face of a crime like that! Put down your knife, and we can do this the easy way.”

She smiled, satisfied that she sounded suitably heroic.

“Hold up,” Candace replied. She lowered her knife a little, but didn’t drop it. “Aren’t you actually a villain, though?”

Trinity tried her best not to look too ashamed or too crestfallen. “No!”

“No, you totally are!” Candace retorted. “That’s why you were fighting with Radiance!”

Trinity almost flinched. That fight felt like forever ago. A lifetime ago. It wasn’t pleasant to be reminded of what she’d done. Her feelings towards Eleanor Quinn and her ilk of billionaire hadn’t changed, exactly, but she couldn’t stand the thought that she’d set out to rob her of her money. Radiance had forcefully impressed on her that her previous way of doing things was selfish and foolish. She needed to change. She couldn’t just break the law whenever she pleased, or take money from whoever she thought deserved it.

That was against the rules.

“What is this, some kind of joke?” Candace demanded incredulously, now certain who she was dealing with. “C’mon, Shimmer! I thought you were cool! Stealing from the rich, y’know, all that.”

“It’s… not cool!” Trinity shot back, slightly desperately. “Stealing is wrong!”

Candace just snorted. “What the hell happened to you? How did you go from pulling off robberies to dressing like a bimbo and coming out here to fuck with me?”

“I…”

Trinity didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t possibly explain what had happened, could she? There was no way she could just tell this person that Radiance had captured her and forced her to use her own mind-control powers against herself, twisting her values and turning her from a career villain into some kind of goody-two-shoes. Or, that she’d then incapacitated Radiance and escaped from her, wearing one of her old, prototype uniforms, solely so that she could try her own hand at being a superhero. Even to Trinity, it sounded insane. Her own actions weren’t even slightly rational.

But that was far less important to her than the desires and values Radiance had implanted into her mind. They beat at the inside of her head like a drum; a rhythm that couldn’t be delayed or denied. The words Radiance had used to brainwash herself were her faith and her god. They were more important to her than food or water or air. And far, far more important than dignity or rationality.

She loved to obey the law.

She loved to follow the rules.

She wanted to be good.

She wanted to be a good girl.

She needed to protect people.

She needed to make people feel good.

Trinity took a deep, calming breath. With those all-important principles fixed firmly in her mind, she knew what she had to do. She couldn’t let this criminal lead her astray, nor could she let herself succumb to embarrassment or taunting.

She was a hero now. And she was going to do what heroes do.

Trinity fixed Candace with a serious, righteous glare. “Put the knife down and come with me,” she demanded. “Last chance.”

Candace glanced nervously from side to side. She seemed to sense the change in Trinity’s demeanor, and was obviously trying to judge how afraid of her she should be, and how far there was between her and the entrance of the alleyway they were standing in. After a few moments, and another derisive look at Trinity’s ridiculous, whorish costume, she made her choice.

“This is a joke,” Candace scoffed. “Get lost.”

She glanced at the entrance to the alley again. And by the time she looked back, Trinity was right there in front of her.

Usually, given the nature of her powers, Trinity did her best to avoid any kind of physical confrontation. It didn’t play to her strengths, especially not in a city full of heroes strong enough to crush a car between their hands. But in part because of that, Trinity had taught herself how to move. When she needed to, she could move a lot faster than most people expected of her. Normally, that skill was reserved exclusively for running away.

But it was just as effective for closing the distance between her and Candace.

Candace’s eyes went wide as, before she really knew what was happening, Trinity’s hand fastened around her wrist. With strength bolstered by righteous fervor, Trinity jerked her hand to one side, pulling her knife harmlessly out of the way.

And with the other hand, she reached for Candace’s head.

“F-fuck!” Candace shrieked, in the instant before Trinity pressed her thumb, shimmer flaring, against the center of her head.

“Drop it,” Trinity ordered, as she saw her power surging through the mugger.

Candace didn’t hesitate. She couldn’t. Before she could protest, before she could even process what had just happened, her fingers relaxed and allowed her knife to slip through her fingers and clatter uselessly against the ground. She stared at Trinity with uncomprehending eyes that rapidly changed color to the familiar, vibrant purple that indicated she was under Trinity’s control.

Trinity breathed a sigh of joy and relief. She had defused the situation. Candace no longer posed any threat to her. Like most people, she was utterly incapable of putting up any real resistance to her shimmer. Controlling Radiance had felt like trying to swim through treacle; compared to that, getting into Candace’s head was child’s play. She couldn’t so much as blink of Trinity didn’t want her to.

But much, much more important than that was the fact that Trinity had finally done it.

She’d been a hero!

The warm sense of reward and satisfaction that flooded the brainwashed villain was like nothing she’d ever felt before in her life. It was better than sex. The all-consuming urges Radiance had inflicted on her were finally being sated. She was being a hero. She had stopped a criminal and saved the day! She could even give that woman her purse back, if she managed to catch up with her. Trinity was upholding the rules. She was enforcing the law. She was keeping innocent people safe, and making them feel good. She was being an obedient servant of the people.

Trinity had done it!

So, what next?

The importance of that question dawned on her as she looked at the entranced girl twitching helplessly in her grip. What was Trinity going to do with her? She felt slightly embarrassed upon realizing she hadn’t bothered to think that far ahead. Trinity’s brow furrowed as she considered the issue, drawing upon her new mantra as she did so.

WWRD: what would Radiance do?

Take the mugger to the cops, probably. That seemed like the most lawful option, and for that reason alone, Trinity felt a powerful pull towards it. But equally, she couldn’t ignore that it presented numerous issues. She wasn’t an official hero - not yet, anyway - which meant that the police were likely to be very skeptical of her and her intentions. Licensed heroes got a pass. Vigilantes were objects of suspicion, or even sanction. That went doubly for someone who was using mind-control powers. Trinity could have the girl confess her crimes, certainly, but given that she could also just as easily make her say anything else, that didn’t count for much.

Furthermore, in light of what Candace had told her, it seemed like there was every chance the cops would recognize her. And if they did, that would bring untold complications upon her and Radiance both.

So, the police? Not an option.

Trinity considered letting the girl off with a stern warning. That might work. She didn’t exactly seem like a hardened criminal, and a scary encounter with a hero was likely to keep her straight from now on. But was that what a hero would do? Was that what Radiance would do?

Suddenly, it occurred to her that there was something else Radiance might do.

She might use her power to turn Candace into a good girl.

It was a real lightbulb moment, but it took Trinity a few more moments to sort through all the ethical wrangling involved. On the one hand, using her shimmer to permanently brainwash someone seemed like a real no-no. It was exactly the kind of thing Radiance had objected to her doing. But on the other hand, it was exactly what Radiance had done to her. Radiance was a hero. She did the right thing. If she had done that to Trinity, it had to have been for a good reason. And besides, now Trinity couldn’t help but be thankful for it. If it was in the name of the good and the law, wasn’t that the most important thing?

Trinity nodded to herself, feeling very proud at having figured it out all on her own.

“Tell me,” Trinity began, addressing Candace, “what’s your name?”

“Candace,” she replied at once.

Trinity couldn’t help but shiver. Despite it all, it felt good to be in control. Hearing a girl speak to her in that distant, placid tone of voice was a pleasure too deep to ever be uprooted.

“Good,” Trinity said gently. “And why are you out here, doing this?” She gestured to the knife.

“I… I didn’t have a choice.” Candace sounded a little more uncertain this time.

Trinity nodded. “I see.”

She really did. Trinity understood all too well what it felt like to have no other choices, in a place like Future City. Her heart went out to Candace.

Just one more reason she wanted to save her. To show her the light.

“But,” she continued, “don’t you know that it’s wrong?”

Candace’s eyelids flitted. Even when they were closed, Trinity’s purple shimmer-light could be seen, shining through. “It’s… it’s…”

Clearly, that question was a little too much for the hypnotized girl. Trinity decided to try something else. “Don’t you know it’s against the rules?”

At that, Candace stilled. “Yes.”

Trinity couldn’t suppress an eager smile. She knew exactly what to do. “Going against the rules is bad, Candace.”

Candace’s eyes went wide as Trinity added a little extra push to her shimmer. She could see the weight of that suggestion settle across Candace, smothering and heavy, bringing with it guilt and shame.

“Going against the rules is bad,” Trinity repeated. “But following the rules is good.”

Candace nodded, eyes shimmering. She was little more than a helpless puppet, with Trinity pulling the strings inside her mind. Trinity, for her part, was feeling equally swept away by the encounter. For all that Radiance had done to her, nothing she’d said stopped Trinity from drawing intense, dizzying pleasure from being in control of a girl like Candace. She felt righteous. She felt powerful. Trinity was finding her rhythm again, and letting her words carry her away as she altered Candace to her own liking.

“So, you see,” she explained. “You’ve been a bad girl. You want to be a good girl instead.”

Her words made Candace quiver as they ran through the poor girl’s mind, flattening her values and her priorities into one, simple paradigm.

Bad girl.

Good girl.

A plaintive need started to shine through in her eyes. She wanted to be a good girl. Trinity could see it, as clear as day.

“You need to be a good girl,” Trinity pressed. “Being a good girl is more important than anything. Everyone wants to be good, don’t they? Good things are good. Bad things are bad. It only makes sense. You want to be a good girl. Right?”

Candace nodded faster and faster as Trinity continued to speak. “Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I want to be a good girl.”

“And following the rules is good,” Trinity reminded her. “Good girls follow the rules.”

“Oh.” Candace’s mood sank. “Yes. Good girls follow the rules.”

“It’s OK,” Trinity said softly. She couldn’t resist reaching out with her free hand, to stroke a gentle, comforting finger across Candace’s cheek. “You can still be a good girl. I’ll make you a good girl. Just like me!”

Candace kept nodding eagerly. She was as helpless as a doll. She was like a little clockwork trinket, all stuck and stalled out. Trinity couldn’t wait to wind her back up again. She tried to remember what Radiance had said to her, but eagerness carried her onward before she could consider the weight of her own words.

“Good girls follow the rules,” Trinity told her again. “And good girls love to help people.”

A nod.

“Good girls love to make people feel good.” Trinity did her best to repeat what Radiance had said, but she was starting to lose focus. The feeling of doing this to Candace was filling her with feverish arousal. “Good girls love to be helpful. Good girls love to do what they’re told. That’s why they follow the rules.”

There was more nodding, as Candace absorbed each and every word. She felt so pliable. So easy to change.

“And you love those things too,” Trinity continued. She knew she was going too far. She knew she should pull back. It wasn’t right. But she couldn’t help it. “Because you’re a good girl, Candace. You’re going to be a good girl from now on.”

“I…” Candace was mouthing feeble little half-protests, but nodding at the same time. Trinity could see in her eyes that immense inner conflict that came with having the very core of your being rewritten. Being a good girl was now the absolute center of her identity, and everything else was shifting to orbit around it. “I’m a…”

“You’re a good girl,” Trinity pushed. “Being a good girl is the most important thing in the world.”

Finally, Candace nodded again. Her eyes were blazing pools of shimmer. She couldn’t resist. Trinity was so very tempted to keep going, because of how divine it felt to be inside of the poor girl’s head, but she couldn’t bring herself to. Instead, she slowly took her hands away from Candace, and watched her slowly return to her senses.

“W-wha,” the girl bleated, as the daze of Trinity’s shimmer slowly receded from her.

“Hey.” Trinity was smiling and swelling with pride. She reached out to rest a hand on Candace’s shoulder, to help steady her. “It’s OK. Just take a moment.”

Candace nodded gratefully. Her eyes were wide as she looked up at Trinity. “You… saved me?”

Trinity wanted to jump up and down with excitement, but she managed to restrain herself to a stoic nod. She was entirely unprepared for the girl to throw her arms around her in a tight, passionate embrace.

“My hero!” Candace cried. “I… I didn’t even realize… thank you so much for redeeming me.”

Trinity tried to stop herself from blushing, and tried to keep herself from noticing how good Candace’s hair smelled. As she hugged her back, she felt on uncertain footing. What was a hero supposed to do in this situation?

“Oh, you know,” she said bashfully, as Candace drew back from her. “It’s all in a day’s work.”

“No, no way!” Candace argued, her eyes burning with earnest enthusiasm. “You’re amazing! You’re… you’re perfect! You save people, you follow the law, you make everyone feel good. You’re everything I want to be!”

Now, Trinity couldn’t stop her cheeks turning red. “Hold on, that’s a little-”

“You’re such a good girl,” Candace finished, shivering rapturously.

Hearing those words stopped Trinity in her tracks. Her mind simply went blank for a moment. She had to struggle to remain standing. “W-well, maybe-”

“And you were a villain so recently too,” Candace muttered to herself. She was too caught up in her own little world to notice how Trinity was reacting to her. “You switched sides? Just like that? Just to follow the rules? That’s amazing. That’s… that’s what I need to do too!”

Trinity still wasn’t sure what was happening, but the hairs on the back of her neck were starting to stand on end. Maybe this wasn’t going how she’d planned. Maybe she should have reined herself in. “Look-”

Candace cut her off yet again, clutching at Trinity’s chest and looking up at her with pleading eyes. “Won’t you show me how to be a good girl?”

Trinity let out a very, very tiny whimper.

She couldn’t help it. Nothing could stop her from being moved by a cute girl saying that to her, in that tone of voice.

Not that she was going to take advantage. That would be wrong. It wouldn’t be heroic at all.

“Please?” Candace begged. “I’ll do anything.”

Immediately, Trinity forgot what she had been saying to herself. For a moment, she forgot almost everything. Probably even her own name.

“I…” she babbled, very un-heroically. “Uh… that’s… um…”

Candace just waited, big eyes blinking. Trinity cursed herself. Why couldn’t she think?

It really didn’t help that Candace was standing so close to her. Now that there was no longer any danger or tension in the situation - at least, not that kind of tension - it was impossible for Trinity not to notice how pretty the girl was. She had this lovely, wavy, sideswept hair that was dyed a deep blue, and her plump, full lips, slightly parted, inspired all kinds of wicked thoughts. She was wearing a big coat over a baggy hoodie and loose-fitting jeans, but now that Trinity had felt Candace hug her, it was clear that underneath all that, the girl had an incredible body. In particular, the way her large chest squished as she pressed it up against Trinity was one of the reasons the newly-turned hero had been blushing.

Unfortunately for her, Candace wasn’t oblivious to the way Trinity was looking at her.

“Hey,” the brainwashed girl said, tilting her head curiously. “Are you a lesbian?”

“Y-yeah,” Trinity replied thoughtlessly. “Wait, um, what?”

A coy smile spread across Candace’s face. “That’s perfect. Now I know exactly how to make you feel good.”

Trinity was thunderstruck. It was impossible to mistake Candace’s meaning, but this wasn’t what Trinity had intended. “N-n-no!” she protested. “No way, that’s-”

“Aw, c’mon.” Candace was affecting a light, playful, girlish tone of her voice, but her eyes reflected a deep, growing hunger. “Why not? I can make you feel good. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“F-fuck no!” Trinity tried to insist, but her confusion and indecision came through in her voice. What did she want? It was so confusing. Her own, natural desires were at war with Radiance’s brainwashing, and with Candace trying to seduce her, neither the angel nor the devil on her shoulder had time to catch their breath. “T-that’s not… I’m a hero! It isn’t right! It’d… it’d be bad.”

She’d hoped that would get Candace to back off, but the girl seemed to sense that Trinity was struggling to believe her own words.

“I think it’s perfect,” Candace countered. “The hero gets the girl, don’t they? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go? Don’t you deserve some kind of a reward for being so brave and heroic and good?”

There was that word again, sending shivers down the spines of both brainwashed women.

“I… I…” Was that how it was supposed to go? Trinity had no idea. She didn’t know the first thing about being a superhero. Not really. She tried to think it through properly. What would Radiance do? Radiance would refuse… right? She’d refused Trinity, after all. But when Trinity thought about all the other things Radiance had done to her, it started to get much, much more murky.

And didn’t heroism deserve a reward? That seemed only natural. To Trinity, it was the most important thing in the world. The summit of all that was good. Heroes enforced the rules and the laws. They protected and saved people. What felt better than being saved? So, heroes should be rewarded. Of course they should.

“And,” Candace added, giving Trinity a practiced, adorable pout as she pressed her advantage, “don’t I deserve it? You made me a good girl, Shimmer. You saved me. Now let me be your good girl. Won’t you let me be a good girl for you? Won’t you let me make you feel good? It would be so very mean not to, you know. What else am I supposed to do? I need it. I need it.”

Her plea struck a chord with Trinity. She remembered what it had been like, when Radiance had refused to let her act on her new desires. The denial of her new calling had hit so hard it was almost painful. Could she really do that to Candace? No. No, of course not. There was nothing good or heroic about that. She wanted to make people feel good.

This was what Candace needed to feel good.

“O-OK,” Trinity agreed. It was all starting to click into place in her head, though she had no idea if she was reasoning it through properly or merely talking herself into sin. Everything was so scrambled. But she wasn’t sure how much she even cared anymore. Her body was growing hot. It wanted this, even if Trinity didn’t. Still, though, she decided to try and end this as quickly as possible. “Yeah. Um. Kiss me.”

“A kiss?” Candace tilted her head again, and giggled. “Of course, hero.”

And just like that, Candace was kissing her. Trinity didn’t get the moment to steel herself she’d been hoping for. Instead, she found herself staggering backwards a step or two as Candace threw her arms around her in a deep, fierce, passionate kiss. Her lips tasted incredible, and they felt just as hungry as her eyes. It was the kind of kiss it was easy to get lost in - and so Trinity did. After everything she’d been through, her arousal was on a hair trigger, and a girl like Candace grabbing her and making out with her in an alleyway was like a match to gasoline. When Candace finally drew back, Trinity was seeing stars.

“W-wow,” Trinity breathed. Candace looked more than just pleased at her response. She was glowing with a fervent, religious, inner light. “OK, um… I think I should maybe take you somewhere. Like…maybe a hospital.”

Candace just giggled again. “What do you mean?” she asked. “We’re not done.”

Trinity paled. How did she feel so out of her depth, so powerless? She was supposed to be the one in control of this situation! She had superpowers, for Christ’s sake. Instead, she felt like a deer in headlights. “Yes we are,” she said, as firmly as she could muster. “You kissed me. That’s my reward.”

“Yes, I kissed you,” Candace mused. She reached out and ran a hand down Trinity’s side, making the would-be hero shiver. “But I can tell you’re not the kind of hero to be satisfied with just a kiss.”

She glanced meaningfully at Trinity’s outfit.

Trinity’s heart was pounded. She felt like she was being torn in half. “B-but,” she attempted weakly. Her mind was grasping at straws as she searched for any reason she shouldn’t give in. “But I made you like this! Isn’t that, you know, kind of fucked up?”

“I don’t care,” Candace replied immediately. It was obvious from the look in her eyes that it was true. “I just want to be a good girl.” She licked her lips. “C’mon, if you didn’t want me this way, why did you make me this way? I’m saying yes. I’m begging you, even.”

“God…” Trinity panted. She was at her limit. Candace was throwing herself at her. What was she supposed to do? She was too wet to resist.

“Look, I get it,” Candace whispered, working her lips ever closer to Trinity’s ear. “It’s your pride as a hero, or something? Or maybe you just don’t want to be in control. It doesn’t matter.  I’ll make it easy. I’ll be a good girl. Just let me touch you, and when you want more, all you have to do is nod.”

Trinity couldn’t bring herself to mount any protest, and so, after a second or two had passed, Candace reached out and stroked a hand down Trinity’s cheek.

“Here?” Candace teased, drawing her thumb over Trinity’s lips. “Or… here?” Her hand moved down to Trinity’s neck, caressing her like a lover.

Trinity shivered, but she didn’t make a noise. She didn’t nod.

“Here?” Candace started feeling at the curves of Trinity’s tits with her hand, feeling their shape before rubbing at her nipples. It was desperately hard for Trinity to keep herself from moaning. “Or…”

Suddenly her hand darted downwards, and her fingers started to pry Trinity’s thighs apart.

The moment her fingertips touched Trinity’s crotch, she felt her head start to move in involuntary agreement.

But an all-too-familiar voice broke the moment in two.

“Trinity?” yelled Radiance, from nearby. “Trinity! Where are you?”

***

For all the action she’d seen in her time as a legendary superhero, Radiance was approaching blind panic as she ran through the streets and back alleys of Future City, in a growing search area around her safehouse. She’d considered flying, but she didn’t want to miss anything from high up. And moreover, she didn’t want anyone to see her like this.

How had she fucked everything up this much? That was the one question she kept coming back to. Radiance had made insane decision after insane decision, and now her whole life was unraveling. She couldn’t explain any of it. It was like something was possessing her - but in her heart, the superhero knew that wasn’t true. It was just that, whenever she saw Shimmer’s face - Trinity’s face - she stopped thinking straight.

Somehow, she had to fix this. Radiance didn’t know how. She wasn’t sure how to fix the mess she’d already made, and she didn’t dare to think about the mess Trinity might be out there making right now. Not that Radiance could blame her for it. Not this time. It was all her own fault.

And most of all, Radiance needed to make sure Trinity didn’t get hurt.

Radiance was pretty sure she was in the right area. Trinity probably hadn’t gone far, and ever since coming back to her senses, Radiance had been tracking rumors and potential sightings on social media. Mercifully, whatever Trinity had done to her had only lasted for a few hours. Radiance’s head still felt like a cracked egg, but she was relatively confident she was in her right mind. All she had to do was find Trinity, shut her down, and then maybe everything would be OK.

That was what Radiance was telling herself as she rounded a corner, and found herself face-to-face with someone she absolutely didn’t want to see.

As a fellow member of the Apex League, the two of them had worked together in a professional capacity dozens of times, but that didn’t make the woman standing before Radiance any less intimidating. Normally, Radiance was always grateful for her ruthless determination and razor-sharp intelligence, but now that it might be turned against her, she was beginning to understand why her comrade was so feared by Future City’s villains. Everyone recognized her gray, armored costume, with its iconic, beaked mask, and even though she didn’t have any superpowers, everyone respected what she was capable of.

The Peregrine.

“Radiance.” The Peregrine greeted her with a nod. “Looking for something?”

Radiance grit her teeth. She didn’t have time for this, but she also knew that acting suspicious would only attract the other hero’s curiosity. “Just patrolling.”

“Is that so?” There was a faint whirring noise, as the sophisticated lenses built into The Peregrine’s mask adjusted and narrowed. “Where have you been?”

“That’s… my business,” Radiance replied. “It’s personal.”

“Not if it affects the city,” The Peregrine retorted. “Something’s off with you.”

“What do you mean?” Though she was trying not to show it, Radiance’s skin was itching under her fellow hero’s intense, inscrutable gaze.

“The charity heist, the other day. It’s not like you to let a villain like Shimmer slip through your fingers. Not like you at all. And then suddenly, I can’t seem to get you to take my calls.”

Radiance clenched a fist at her side. “Is that meant to be some kind of accusation?”

“Accusation?” The moment the word left Radiance’s mouth, she knew it was poorly chosen. “What would I be accusing you of?” The Peregrine asked. Then, her voice brightened. “We’re friends, aren’t we? I’m worried about you.”

Radiance sighed. Now she was making an even bigger mess. She’d handled this all wrong. “Right. Sorry. I’ve just… been feeling a little under the weather. Haven’t been sleeping right.”

“I see.” It was impossible for her to tell if The Peregrine believed her or not. Calling the two of them ‘friends’ was a distinct overstatement. They knew each others’ identities, yes, and they’d fought alongside each other dozens of times. But that didn’t make The Peregrine any less of a mystery to Radiance. “And what about Shimmer?”

A chill ran down Radiance’s spine. “What about her?”

“I figured you’d have been looking for her. It’s the reason I’m here.” The Peregrine’s lips curled into a smile. “A little bird told me she might be in the area.”

The Peregrine often made reference to her ‘little birds’. She never explained what she meant by that, but whatever they were, they were rarely wrong. Radiance was, for once, too distracted to question her.

“Leave her to me,” she demanded immediately.

“Oh?” The Peregrine sounded faintly amused.

“She’s mine.” Radiance tried to smile. She thought she might have succeeded. “She got away from me once. You know how it is. It’s a matter of pride.”

The Peregrine seemed to accept that. “Just make sure you get the money back soon.”

“Huh?” Radiance was more than a little taken aback. For one thing, she hadn’t given so much as a single thought to the money Trinity had stolen. And for another, it was a strange request, coming from her  fellow superhero. “The money?”

The Peregrine nodded. She seemed a little tense, somehow. “It was for a good cause, after all. It’s very important that it’s all recovered.”

“Well, sure, but…” As much as Radiance wanted to get back to hunting for Trinity, her instincts were telling her something was off. “Why do you care? Surely getting Shimmer off the streets should be our priority.”

The armored superhero’s face twitched slightly beneath her mask. “I know what I’m talking about.”

“I’m just concerned that-”

“Radiance,” The Peregrine said, interrupting her firmly. “Let’s just do it my way, OK?”

Radiance blinked slightly, before nodding automatically. “Right.”

“Good.” The Peregrine stepped past her, hefting her grappling hook, and fired it, letting it latch to a suitable anchor point on the building next to them. “I’m sure Future City can count on you.”

An instant later, she was gone, her platinum hair and flowing cape billowing out behind her as she was launched gracefully into the air. Radiance blinked a few more times. The Peregrine being on her back was another headache she didn’t need. She had better deal with this all as quickly as possible. Once she was sure The Peregrine was out of earshot, she started sprinting through the night, calling out her prey’s name in the faint hope that she might come running.

“Trinity? Trinity! Where are you?”

She needed to find her.

And she needed to get all that stolen money back.

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