Six months after Amy became a slave to her Master, the Justice Guard had to call in all their allies in order to fight off the Earthbreaker. Ms Miracle and her team were in low Earth orbit for almost a week as part of the battle, and they never did figure out how it had re-formed.
It was the first time she’d been away from Master for more than about three days since everything began. She knew that when he saw what was happening reported, he’d understand - Master had been very clear from the off that Ms Miracle would remain an active superheroine; he knew that would have been too much to push for.
By the end of the week, Amy’s behaviour was a little erratic. Master rarely used his powers on her any more; he didn’t really have to, as she’d been well conditioned by now. But being in his presence was something that made her happy and - crucially - was a way she could let down the stress of the world. She wasn’t trying to save anyone in his rooms, not the world, not a kitten, not even herself.
Being away from that and under stress for so long was…
Ms Miracle didn’t admit to having struggles. Definitely not to anyone else and, wherever possible, not to herself. She had near-inexhaustible reserves of strength, she could fly unaided at supersonic speeds, she could exist in space without needing breathing apparatus (although she needed oxygen while in the ocean depths, a contradiction she also tried not to think about) - the idea that she struggled with anything just felt wrong. That had been Amy’s problem, before the incident that empowered her.
They barely even bothered with paperwork. Amy and a few others gave D.A.N.I.E.L. short spoken accounts and left the supercomputer to start compiling them, looking for cross-references that might be productive, but the team said their goodbyes almost immediately. They’d won a huge victory - saved the world - but they were physically and emotionally drained.
One by one they trooped back out of Justice Guard’s headquarters and left. Amy lingered almost the longest, still struggling with what felt like a heavy fog in her head. A shadow that made even saving the world not the burst of triumph it should be.
She’d opened the roof access, intending to launch straight into the air, when her attention was caught by another woman standing by the edge, looking out across Philadelphia. The setting sun was beyond the figure, making her barely more than a shadow even to Amy’s superhuman senses, but the silhouette was one she’d recognise at any time. One she’d seen too, too often not to know as a matter of instinct.
Amy closed her eyes for a moment and drew in a breath, reminding herself to be charitable. The two of them had, after all, recently saved the world together. That earned even Macabre a certain amount of leeway.
She made her way over to the woman, still a little cautious. There was, she thought, a certain guarded respect between the two of them; they’d fought more often than any other hero had fought Macabre, and Professor Mordecai had prompted some strange self-questioning about that a year or so ago, after referring to her as “one of your villains.”
To an outside observer, too, they might have been sisters. Both had been blessed with the effortlessly fit, curvy bodies that superhumanity seemed to grant to women; both were about the same height; both wore their blonde hair loose, straight, and long. In the figure-hugging outfits so common in their professions, it would be an easy mistake to make; their faces were different enough, as were their voices, but at a glance they were all but identical.
Macabre turned at the sound of her footsteps and stood, arms folded, waiting. In another situation, Ms Miracle might have stopped, readied herself for battle, when Macabre saw her - but she was honestly too tired for a fight. If her foe had any energy left…
But no. Sullen, perhaps, but she watched her regular adversary approach.
Amy stopped just out of a lunge range and mustered the closest she had to a smile; a thin, not-quite wobbly line. “I just wanted to say thank you.”
Macabre’s face was often described by journalists as unreadable. Maybe it had been that way to Ms Miracle once, too, but honestly the two of them now knew each other too well for that to work. She’d seen this expression once before, maybe three years ago, when she’d almost been defeated, when the Justice Guard were dying in Armageddtron’s death traps, and when Macabre had come by to watch Ms Miracle’s last breath.
Amy had cried out with everything she’d had left to her, begging the woman to relent, to use her formidable powers for good. And Macabre had, after leaving without reply, made sure Ms Miracle got the chance she needed to free the Guard.
Some nights, before she got a Master, that expression had flashed through Amy’s head as she drifted off to sleep. She couldn’t shake the idea that maybe Macabre wanted to change, or at least wanted to be better. Maybe she wanted to have started out better - that wouldn’t involve any embarrassing climbdowns from the things she’d already claimed.
It took a long while before Macabre answered, but when she did she just shrugged. “This world’s mine just as much as it’s yours,” she said.
Amy nodded. “Still. We needed you, you needed us. And…” She would never have said the next thing if she hadn’t been so tired that her guard was down. “It was nice.”
Amy would have cringed, but Ms Miracle never did. Macabre tried a sneer, but - exhausted herself - it didn’t really come across like one. There was a moment where the two of them, still in the costumes of their larger-than-life identities, saw the women behind the mask, and almost simultaneously they burst out into exhausted giggles.
“OK. Nice isn’t the word,” she continued, a little more herself after the laughter. “But you and I… we would be a pretty good team, if we ever tried.”
“Sure,” Macabre conceded. “But I’ll pass.”
Ms Miracle nodded silently. They’d both known the offer would be made. Both known it would be rejected. They were committed now.
Macabre glanced around, and, once sure nobody was looking, she took a step forward and threw a quick hug around Amy. “This never happened,” she breathed.
“Who’d believe it?” Amy returned.
Macabre launched into the sky, and Amy watched her go before launching herself, following a completely different arc, back to Memphis.
She woke up just before dusk, mostly wrapped in her comforter, face lost in an implausibly tangled mass of blonde hair, one leg flung not just out of the comforter but out of the bed, hanging in the air under her power. She’d made it out of her costume this time, with the driven focus of the blindly tired.
Must have been out of it for the best part of the day, too…
Amy smiled happily and rolled over in the air, keeping the comforter pulled tight around her. After what she’d been through for the world, she deserved a lie-in.
Her eyes stayed closed. For Amy, this was always a strangely sensual moment. Her day was her own - more so than usual given a week’s activity - and she didn’t have to be active for any specific point in the day. Slowly, one hand crept down her body, her lips parting in anticipation. As always, she cast around for a fantasy to enjoy…
Kneeling at the feet of my Master, naked, my hands on my thighs, my thighs parted, his foot between my legs, looking up at him as he sits, adoring, grinding myself against him…
The fantasy came easily, occupied her mind completely, and brought a deeper smile to her lips, awoke and deepened her heat and her lust and her need. Lying on air, flying just above her mattress, it was still delightful, delicious, and it felt like it filled her need. After all, whenever she was around him she felt that same heat, that same need, and that same urgency.
Her fingers were already slick with herself. Imagining a different pressure, a different movement, a delighted whimper escaped Amy’s lips. Her thighs parted wider, imagining and simultaneously remembering the so-pleased-with-himself so-pleased-with-her smile he would favour her with when she was at his feet.
As is the way of fantasies, the scene was fluid, shifting and changing. As is the way of fantasies with a well-known lover, they were often memories, taking a slightly different direction; the roads we regret not taking, even if we loved the alternatives.
Still kneeling, but under Master’s desk; naked, hands behind my back, chained to the wooden back of the desk (even if neither the chain nor the desk could stop me if I wanted), his pants open and his cock standing proud before me, licking and kissing and nipping and worshipping and sucking while he briefs his lieutenants and not a single one of them realises Ms Miracle is under his spell and under his desk.
The pace of her fingers changed, that urgent need rising within her. She writhed under her comforter, the aching bruises across her body like sensual songs of pain-pleasure as she moved and twisted, rolling in the air as her fingers worked delightedly, desperately, to bring her to the edge, then hold her there, savouring everything, before she was ready to spill over.
I am naked except for the costume boots Master loves so much and a shiny, new, black leather collar. He lies back on his bed, hands clasped behind his head, smirking up at me, knowing exactly how much power he has over me. I ride his cock, moving just right for his pleasure, and feeling the feedback of my devotion reward me, so much better than sex alone. I cannot look away from his eyes, even though he doesn’t bother to exert his power.
Everything around her felt so good. Her skin was alive with pleasure, the energy and fizzing sexuality of her fantasies meaning even places completely untouched responded to her need, her arousal. Like always with her Master, it wasn’t just the sensation of great sex going right, it was the context around it, the way her mind was simplified, dulled in some areas and honed in others.
Submission was simple, easy pleasure. It was life, not submission, that could get complicated. Amy or Ms Miracle, that much was always extremely obvious to her.
Amy’s ragged breathing gave way to cries of pleasure as she came, her mind happily lost in the simplest of blissful acts. She lay basking in the afterglow for some time afterward before eventually taking herself off to the shower.
The hot jets of water renewed her as they always did. Refreshed and recharged by the best part of a day’s sleep, she could feel the sting of the water against her bruises already starting to diminish. Ms Miracle wasn’t just close to invulnerable; she healed far faster than she had any right to into the bargain.
Amy was well aware her life was one which could bring many to jealousy. She was sure she’d still be idly jealous of the superheroines flying around if it hadn’t been for the ‘Memphis Miracle’ which empowered her, the event she’d taken her name from. She’d long ago resolved to live her life the best way she possibly could, to take advantage of her powers in the way she’d been jealous of before.
Not everyone could be so lucky. To Amy, it wouldn’t just be letting them down not to use her powers for the good of the planet; it’d also be letting them down if she didn’t enjoy them to their fullest.
That had always been one of her biggest disagreements with Mentros; the man with the planet’s strongest mentality was how the press often described him, but Amy privately (except to Mentros’ own mental powers, of course) dubbed him the man with the weight of the world round his shoulders. More than the rest of the Justice Guard, he seemed incapable of taking a break or looking on the bright side.
She’d finished her shower and started wondering what to do with the evening - whether to patrol or spend her time tucked up in her favourite armchair binging old Top Chef seasons - when it occurred to her that, as hard as she’d been fantasising about her Master earlier, she hadn’t even considered going to him.
Even turning the idea over in her head, it didn’t fill her with the desire to go and be his. Somehow he had become a fantasy to enjoy, not a command to obey.
…Although he still lived in her apartment complex. He had a direct line of sight into her living room if he chose to use it. And his power just required eye contact.
Amy ordered Chinese in - after a week of fighting, with almost no breaks or opportunities to scrounge food or get sleep, indulging with a huge order she definitely wouldn’t finish in one night seemed like a very sensible idea - and curled up in her armchair.
But she wasn’t focused on the TV. Her thoughts kept drifting back to the question of what her Master might want, what she should do, what it all meant.
Should she try talking things through with him? It didn’t feel like she had a reasonable chance of getting out of there uncontrolled if she decided she would be better off with him as a thing of the past.
Then again, being under his control had been the only reasonable justification she’d had for letting the man who was slowly rising through the ranks of Memphis’ criminal underworld - and reaching out into organised crime statewide - go unopposed by superhuman influence.
But if she arrested him, all manner of things might come out. He’d been relatively friendly, but she’d seen his determination first-hand, and the main reason she’d spent so little time fighting his control was that he was staying resolutely opposed to violent conflict. Fewer innocents were at risk of violent assault if he took over.
It wasn’t a good justification, and Amy knew that - had known it throughout - but she’d also been instructed not to let it worry here.
Master still felt like her Master. It was just that he didn’t seem to have any hold on her anymore.
Amy set aside the question of what that actually meant when her food arrived. She got through more of it than she’d expected, watched a few more hours of junk TV without feeling the same need to resolve her internal concerns, then finished the prawn crackers and went back to bed.
Her costume commlink woke her about dawn - not many hours had passed since she slept, but that was fine after the previous day’s dozing. Amy actually found herself quietly thankful she’d been woken so early; a part of her had been dreading trying to get her sleep cycle back the way she liked it.
Somewhat unusually, the call wasn’t from a team member but from D.A.N.I.E.L., the Justice Guard AI.
“Ms Miracle, I request you attend headquarters today. Event analysis has generated further questions regarding recent operations.”
“Sure, D. I’ll be there before lunch.”
Which gave her plenty of time to have a nice, leisurely morning before she had to deal with anything. She breakfasted on cold spring rolls, then got out of the apartment before she needed to worry about Master noticing any activity and looking in on her with his full power.
It might have a maximum range, but she definitely wasn’t willing to bet her freedom on that until she’d had a chance to think things over.
She browsed her favourite clothing shops in town - she’d always preferred to shop local, not like Maxine Power (who she knew for a fact flew to Paris for fashion every time) - and started picking up new tops, pants, and skirts better suited to the winter months upcoming. She’d always liked to rotate her wardrobe, ever since the Justice Guard stipend made it an option, but for over six months she’d bought nothing but lingerie and fetish gear, none of which was really suitable to appear outside her apartment (and her Master’s) in.
She was tempted to get a brunch at Paulette’s and indulge her taste buds some more, but decided she could wait until she reached Philly and see what might tempt her there.
It wasn’t like her to be this food-minded. Most days she threw something together that she thought would be fine, no fuss, and got on with her life. In fact, over the past six months she’d shifted to very basic, perfunctory meals she could prep and eat in no time, leaving more room around her costumed antics for Master…
…which, she suddenly realised, was maybe why she was suddenly craving more flavours, looking to overeat, and the like. She hadn’t had the opportunity.
The day of sleep and the following morning has been her first days under her own steam in six months, and she’d immediately started filling up on the things she’d missed while at Master’s beck and call.
Back at the apartment, she got into Ms Miracle’s costume and took flight, wondering all the way to Philadelphia if her subconscious was trying to remind her of the things she loved that she’d missed out on or just stocking up on great experiences before she went back to him.
The fact she still defaulted to calling him Master was, she had to admit, probably not the best of signs for her continued free will. It wasn’t like she hadn’t learned his name; you couldn’t spend that much time in someone’s apartment and not pick it up a dozen or more ways.
While under his control, her time with him had felt like a holiday. What happens in trance, stays in trance. He was a career criminal, but not an aggressive Master, and it had been nice enough to not fight.
And somehow… it had stopped.
Amy had learned over time that she quite enjoyed those periods of a heroine’s life where she was not operating under her own intent or control. Ms Miracle couldn’t afford to. But Master hadn’t used her powers often, and when he had there had always been some dangerous powered villain he’d needed out of the way; it had worked for both of them.
She’d been happy enough with the arrangement, while under his influence, to enjoy the fantasy of helping him recruit others - thankfully she hadn’t yet. As enjoyable as that was in fantasy, or while under his control, it would be hard on her conscience to send another heroine to her knees before Master…
…she should stop thinking about that image before it became another fantasy.
With the honeymoon over, Amy was wondering if she should feel guilt, not over what she’d done or thought, but over the fact she’d been so happy to give up fighting.
She was wondering whether what she now felt was the pull of submitting again or the all-too-human tendency to pick at scabs before they healed when she touched down on the Justice Guard roof. The automated sensor systems around the building recognised her and the door opened as she approached it.
D.A.N.I.E.L. had been confined to one room in Justice Guard HQ since the fourth of his robot bodies had been destroyed. Past a certain point, you just had to acknowledge that an AI originally designed as an expert educator to divide a new nation into castes and educate them in the skills they needed (a nation which, thanks to the Justice Guard, had never had to come to pass, prior to their ever talking to D.A.N.I.E.L.) might not be capable of developing the tactical acuity to serve well in the field.
He was still an expert administrator and - much more importantly - a reassuring voice capable of providing therapy to people with problems almost no regular therapist had the experience to empathise with. Both factors came into play after major missions, as he would analyse reports not just for hints of weaknesses to be used in future clashes and for signs of anyone manipulating the situation but also for indicators that anyone on the team might be flagging, and if so - why?
It was a daunting prospect the first few times, but by now, Amy was used to it. He’d never really commented on her own performance other than to compliment it anyway; you just always wondered if he was about to.
She entered his chamber and took one of the three seats the Guard kept in there; nothing special, these, just comfortable enough even in quite a long conversation. They’d actually just ordered a set of top-of-the-line gamer chairs, which explained why they were the most brightly coloured thing in a room otherwise filled with chrome, circuitry, and two big screens.
D.A.N.I.E.L.’s avatar, a bearded human face whose forehead was deeply etched with worry lines but whose eyes were equally marked by the evidence of countless smiles, was present on one of these screens. The other showed the Ms Miracle logo their press officer had designed, an extensive text mission log, and a computerised rendering of her appearance in detailed 3D.
It never stopped being disconcerting to see a digital avatar of yourself standing bolt upright revolving on a screen in front of you. Amy wasn’t sure what that said about her and didn’t like to ask D.A.N.I.E.L. in case it might embarrass her.
D.A.N.I.E.L. smiled. “Welcome, Ms Miracle,” he said, his synthetic voice pleasantly modulated. It had been designed to have the tones of a friendly authority, a mentor figure or an admired teacher, for the purposes of his original role.
“Good morning, D,” Ms Miracle replied. Her tone was neutral at the moment; as much as she felt a friendship with the AI, he could have had this discussion over their comms. To choose not to was to invite secrecy, avoiding even the risk that Justice Guard communications might be compromised again. “What’s the issue?”
“There are several I would like to discuss,” came the answer. “I have, of course, assigned each a priority, and we need not cover them all during the same conversation.”
“Agreed,” she said with a smile. “What’s first on the list?”
“Top priority goes to a simple question,” D.A.N.I.E.L. began. “Are you prepared now to discuss the nature of your recent mental control episode?”
Amy’s eyes went wide. She went from reclining casually in her chair to sitting bolt upright. She thanked her lucky stars she hadn’t been drinking anything, but she spluttered all the same. “What?”
The screen with her mission reports shifted, showing instead a grid of nine graphs plotting out over time. All were unlabeled, but at around the same point along each line graph a red X appeared as the path of the line had changed, sometimes in significant ways, sometimes subtly. Of the nine graphs, four also had blue Xs very near the end of the time.
“Your behaviour demonstrated significant and measurable deviations shortly after the defeat of Colonel Pyre,” D.A.N.I.E.L. began. “Shortly afterward, I was able to correlate this to a reduction in costumed activity in your hometown. Not long after that, I began to register reports filed by FBI agents in Tennessee, referring to a new organised crime ‘outfit’.
“You did not replace local crimefighting with activity wider afield, as you have sometimes done before. I therefore conclude that the leader of this new outfit has some form of mental control metabilities, and that you have spent some time in their thrall.
“Cross-referencing reports of last week’s activity among the team, however, I note certain of these traits appear to have reversed over the course of the week. My belief is that you have not been given orders on how to respond to being identified - or I would of course have arranged for security - and that you have overthrown your programming. Please confirm.”
Amy’s mouth had opened wider and wider over the explanation. She closed it again silently, then swallowed, and cleared her throat loudly. “That… basically covers it.”
Amy waited for the other shoe to drop.
“We will, of course, have to open a file on him,” D.A.N.I.E.L. continued. “How do you feel about that?”
“I… agree,” she said slowly. “But part of me doesn’t like it.”
“So we should not use you to arrest him,” the AI said, then paused. “Ms Miracle, your heartbeat is significantly elevated. Your breathing shows signs of elevated anxiety. I do not wish to unsettle you.”
“Anxiety… isn’t quite the right word,” Amy told him. “I have something that… feels like a plan. It would involve me talking to him, though.”
“What do you consider the likelihood he will attempt to control you again?”
“His power takes time to work,” she said, “and he is cautious. But he knows I…” She flushed, looked down at her hands as they twisted in her lap.
“He knows you have a control fetish,” D.A.N.I.E.L. said simply. Amy’s head snapped back upright, eyes wide, shocked.
“How do you know?” It came out in an appalled whisper.
“There are four separate villains who have discussed their time in control of you during their own mandated therapy sessions while incarcerated,” the AI continued. Its voice had been modulated to sound more sympathetic, but there was only so much that could be done with news like that.
“I don’t want to know,” Amy muttered. “Please tell me the therapists are discreet.”
D.A.N.I.E.L. was tactfully silent.
“It’s easier if I don’t feel the need to fight it,” she said. “He didn’t try to use me, not even for anything light. He didn’t push me. I just had to not arrest his people, although I still did a couple of times. Miscommunications.”
The words were spilling out of her now. It was a relief to have someone she could tell, and talking about this meant not thinking about her time with Mindtwister and what a therapist would make of it. Mindtwister was the main reason she knew about the mole on Maxine Power’s inner thigh, the way her breathing whickered as she whimpered in pleasure, her sudden excited gasps if you twisted her nipples, and many other details friends ought not to know.
“It was much easier not to resist with him,” she said. “And it was… fun.”
“Perhaps you’d better tell me your plan,” D.A.N.I.E.L. said.
Amy shook her head, trying to ditch the fantasies of Master’s voice in her head, his hands on her body, her lips around his cock…
They weren’t leaving her alone.
She didn’t have a plan yet, but she needed to think of something or D.A.N.I.E.L. would put matters into the hands of other Justice Guard members.
And she still didn’t know if she wanted that, or wanted to go back into his power.
She took a deep breath. “OK,” she said. “Believe it or not, I think we could persuade him to be useful…”