This poem came out of the February 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from siliconshaman and dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "odd couple" square in my 1-23-16 card for the Valentine's Day Bingo fest, the "dangerous territory" square in my 1-1-16 card for the Spies, Secret Agents, and Noir fest, and the "Pre-Slash/Femslash/Het" square in my 10-2-15 card for the ladiesbingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It begins with a serious nuclear emergency, then moves into awkward negotiations for aid, even more awkward revelations about relationships, lots of work fixing the reactor, identity strain, embarrassing conversations about relationship status, deep discussions about intimacy, and other challenges. Socket has been in love with Fortressa for a long time, and when Fortressa finds out, it really shakes things up. But they're still adorable together, and it's honestly one of the healthiest relationships in my cast list, especially among supervillains. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward. It's a major change for Fortressa, though, so skipping it would be confusing later.

"Overheating Elements"

When a stranger came pounding
on the door of Fortressa's garage,
everyone thought it was an error --
just another broke-down idiot
mistaking them for car repair.

It wasn't. It was a muscular woman with
gray skin inside some kind of protective suit that
made Fortressa's fingers itch to take it apart
and figure out how the thing worked.

Beside her stood a slim girl with aquamarine hair
thinly clad in a speedster's skin-tight bodysuit,
and everyone recognized her as Blue Blaze
because the superhera had been in the news.

"RAID!" yelled Actuator, slamming
her hand down on the big red button.

Alarms blared throughout the lair.

"Turn that off!" barked the gray woman.
"This is not raid on supervillain lair.
This is request for emergency assistance.
I am Ilyana Cherenkov, this is Blue Blaze,
we are with Atomic Disaster Response Team."

Fortressa scrambled down from
her two-storey toolbox, reached past
Actuator to turn off the alarm and said,
"Then what do you want with us?"

"You are having very fine battlesuit
shielded against radiation," Ilyana said.

"How do you even know about that?"
Fortressa demanded. If someone was blabbing --

"My business is knowing everything nuclear,
especially safety equipment for team
to commandeer in crisis," Ilyana said.

"I don't do emergency response," Fortressa said.

"Local reactor is overheating, so nary crew
have already evacuated whole complex,"
Ilyana said, striding into the garage.
"Still time to prevent meltdown, but requires
four hands in hot zone. I am radioactive already
but need assistant with super protection --
too hot for ordinary gear by now."

"I'm not a superhera!" Fortressa exclaimed,
throwing up her hands. "I'm a supervillain."

"Will pay extra for damaged pride,"
Ilyana assured her in a solemn tone.

Fortressa looked at the battlesuit
hanging in its support harness so that
Socket could work on the feet, which
still had sewage clinging to them from
last night's mishap with the manhole.

Of course it was radiation-proof, it was

"Is that job done enough that I can
take the suit out?" Fortressa asked Socket.

"I can have it on the floor and ready to go
in five minutes," Socket said. "Will you
need garage support for this mission?
Communication is no problem, but
do we even have the equipment for
cleanup after nuclear exposure?"

"Was only expecting Fortressa because
mission needs assistant with mechanical skill,"
said Ilyana. "Will pay double if whole team
included for mission support."

"I don't know," Fortressa said.
She curled and uncurled her fists.
"I'm really not a superhera, I have
no experience with this kind of thing.
I just hit men who like to hurt women.
I'd rather not get involved at all."

"Handsome garage is in yellow zone,"
Ilyana said. "Nuclear reactor melts down,
bend over and kiss goodbye."

Fortressa looked around at
the spacious, well-stocked garage
that she had remodeled from a farm building.

It had a whole machine shop with a patch room
in one corner that said "Body Shop" on the door.
It had a garage with an office suite in the back,
and another big space for machine storage.
Upstairs was the living space, fitness gym,
combat gym, and attic storage space.
One of the cupolas even contained
a landing pad for teleporters.

She really didn't want to lose this place.

"Fine," Fortressa said through her teeth.
She stalked over to help Socket
bring down the battlesuit.

Socket brushed a gentle finger
over Fortressa's wrist. "I know that
you don't want to do this, and they
sure are an odd couple, but we can't
just let the reactor melt down."

"I know, I know," Fortressa said,
unsnapping the latches as fast as she could.

"I'll go brush up on first aid for
radiation exposure, just in case,"
Joint grumbled, slamming the door
to the Body Shop room.

Primer banged around in a supply cabinet
and plunked two cans of paint at Ilyana's feet.
"This is our best brush-on shielding," she said.
"It dries almost instantly on contact with metal."

"Go paint chopper," Ilyana said, passing the cans
to Blue Blaze. "Can get much closer that way."

Blue Blaze vanished in a blur.

Fortressa shucked off the coveralls
that she wore in the garage, then
climbed into her battlesuit.

Socket helped her strap in,
fastening the connections with
familiar care, her fingers avoiding
places that still made Fortressa flinch.

"Come home safe," Socket said,
her triangular face pinched with worry.

"Do my best," Fortressa said.

"Hey do you need a hand with that?
I can get it done faster and wow
your girlfriend is hot," Blue Blaze
said all in one breath as she
reappeared beside them and
snapped all the catches left.

Fortressa hid a wince. She had
built the damn suit so that people
couldn't paw her all the time.

Socket shooed Blue Blaze away.
"We're not girlfriends," she said quietly.

"Oh! Sorry!" Blue Blaze exclaimed,
clapping a hand over her mouth.
"I didn't mean -- you just seemed
so attached to each other."

"We're friends," Socket said
in a firm voice. "Purely platonic."

But Fortressa could see her clear gray eyes,
deep as the ocean, and something in them
went a lot farther down than friendship.

Fortressa had no idea what to do about that,
so she powered up the battlesuit and said,
"Let's go fix the fucking reactor."

"Come," said Ilyana with a wave.

She led the way to a huge Chinook helicopter
sporting a fresh coat of glossy paint, with
Fortressa clomping along behind her.

The massive vehicle rocked on its wheels
as Ilyana hiked up the loading ramp, which
made Fortressa realize just how heavy
the other woman must be.

It rocked again as Fortressa climbed in,
but that was because of the battlesuit.
Blue Blaze didn't even budge it.

The ride to the reactor was tense,
and looking down, Fortressa could see
traffic jams along the evacuation routes.

She kept a wary eye on the radiation meter
in her suit, too. The external level was
still in the green, but above normal
for background radiation here.

Sweat trickled between her shoulderblades
until her absorbent undersuit wicked it away.

"So what do we have to do to stop this?"
Fortressa asked. "I'm a super-gizmologist,
and I can I learn fast, but I don't specialize
in nuclear anything. The closest I've come
to stopping a meltdown is playing Three Mile Ice
at the arcade. You're pretty much relying on
the fact that I know what machines look like
and I can follow clear directions."

"Meltdown is caused by nuclear reaction
running out of control. Too much heat
overloads cooling system and then burns
through containment facility," said Ilyana.
"So to stop meltdown, we must cool reactor.
First job, get power back on. Second job,
make sure coolant goes where it should.
Third job, check solid regulators like
control rods and shielding."

"The power's out?" Fortressa said.
"I may not know nuclear stuff, but
I do know electricity. That I can fix."

"Electric company was having problems
all day -- power surges, blackouts,
half-blackouts," Ilyana said.

"Brownouts," Fortressa supplied,
"when the power drops but doesn't
cut out completely, and the lights dim."

"Da, brownouts. Main power went out,
and some durak at plant made mistakes
so backup power failed," Ilyana said.
"You will be fixing power while I check
nuclear controls. Blue Blaze guards
perimeter -- there is outbuilding,
farther back and bit safer."

Fortressa glanced at Blue Blaze,
who ran a nervous hand through
her aquamarine hair and muttered,
"I'm not sure I'll ever get used to this."

"Better than alternative," Ilyana said,
and everyone had to agree with that.

The helicopter touched down briefly
to let Blue Blaze off at the outbuilding,
then hovered outside the reactor to let
Ilyana slide down a cargo cable --
which snapped under her weight,
leaving a shallow crater under her feet
when she landed in the parking lot.

Fortressa simply stepped out and
allowed the thrusters in her boots
to set her gently on the ground.

The distinctive dragon logo glared at her from
the side of the round reactor tower, emblematic
of a line that originated in the 1960s and spawned
today's much more advanced and safer models --
but "safer" was not the same as "safe."

"Services building and control block have
power and controls for whole facility. You
get busy fixing electricity," said Ilyana.
"Cooler block and reactor tower have
hot things that need to be cold things.
I will be working on those."

Blue Blaze chattered at them over the comm,
guiding them to the relevant locations as
they ventured into dangerous territory.

Fortressa found her way to the first building
and set about repairing the most obvious damage
to the things she actually recognized. Then she
moved to the control center and had to ask
Ilyana what was wrong and how to fix it.

Fortunately the facility's communication system
was designed to withstand some radiation; what Ilyana
and Fortressa had in their own gear was much better.
So they could see and hear each other working, which
meant that Fortressa noticed the eerie blue light that
flared around Ilyana after she stripped off her suit
because adding more radiation to a hot reactor
was well and truly a cry in the ocean.

"Um, you're glowing," Fortressa pointed out.

"Cherenkov radiation," said Ilyana. "Will not
get through shielding, and is much easier
to work on machines without clumsy suit."

Fortressa stared a moment longer
at the sight of Ilyana hustling around
the secondary coolant control valves in
her skivvies, and just asked for instructions
on how to reset the jammed console
in front of herself. It wasn't too hard.

"That bitch is cobra-slapping crazy,"
Fortressa muttered as she worked.

Once Fortressa had the power back on
and Ilyana had confirmed that the cooling system
was good to go, Blue Blaze steered them to meet up
in the control block to take over the reactor.

That involved a lot more fussy teamwork,
because many of the functions were protected
with two-key solutions as a precaution.

"Bozhe moi, were they sleeping on the wheel?"
Ilyana complained as she worked on the console.

"Or screwing in the janitor's closet,"
Fortressa said, shaking her head.
"Sex makes people stupid."

"Ah, but it makes life so much more satisfying,"
Ilyana said. "I went without for many years,
did not miss it, but then met Blue Blaze.
In Russia we do not speak of this so often,
we would rather touch; but she says people
go crazy without it, so I am trying to learn.
Capitalist indulgence has ... up sides."

Fortressa cast a sidelong glance at
the gray woman, now back in her suit,
wondering how it worked between her
and the blue-haired girl who followed
Ilyana like a slim azure shadow.

Maybe they never touched skin to skin, or
then again, maybe Blue Blaze had some kind
of invulnerable or regenerative ability
in addition to her super-speed.

In any case, their relationship
was none of Fortressa's business.

Except she couldn't stop thinking about it,
and worse, couldn't stop remembering what
Blue Blaze has said about her and Socket.

They weren't girlfriends. They were not.
This wasn't the first time someone had
made that mistake about them, but it was
the first time Fortressa had been looking
right at Socket when it happened, and
seen that odd flash of ... something.

Whatever. She'd ask about it
after they got home, assuming that
the reactor didn't explode and render
worries over anyone's love life utterly moot.

It took an uncomfortably long time
to untangle the mess some idiots had made
of the control system, which served to remind
Fortressa why she was not a superhera.

It was downright nerve-wracking.
In comparison, hunting chauvinists
posed no serious risk to her.

Finally they got the reactor running right,
and Ilyana deployed an impressive array of
Kobayashi robots to monitor and maintain it
until the cleanup and repair crews could arrive.

The ride back to the garage was a little calmer,
but Fortressa didn't escape entirely unscathed.

"Should talk to not-girlfriend," Ilyana said.
"Make sure you are reading from same page
on relationship. Broken reactor is being
much easier to fix than broken heart."

"Or if you need to talk about your sexuality
with someone, you know, more experienced
then I'd be happy to help," Blue Blaze said.
"I'm sorry if I stirred up things that you didn't
want raised, but well, it's not the kind of thing
that can stay hidden forever."

"I don't want to talk about it," Fortressa said,
her voice tightening. "I don't have a sexuality.
I threw it away a while back when it became
more trouble than it was worth to maintain."

"Oh," Blue Blaze said. "If you're celibate
by choice, then I'll just shut up now."

When they arrived at the garage,
they found a large tent emblazoned
with the SPAZMAT logo on all sides,
a matching truck in the parking lot.

"Check out what SPAZMAT loaned us,"
Primer said happily. "This tent contains
a whole portable decontamination center.
You run through there, it makes everything
totally spic-and-span again. They even
let me borrow the truck, so nobody else
knows the location of our lair."

"Nice," Fortressa admitted
as she stepped into the tent.

First she ran the battlesuit through
the decontamination routine.
Then she climbed out of it to go
through again on her own.

Checking the dosimeter clipped
to her undersuit, Fortressa found
that she'd gotten no more radiation
than a mammogram, which was
pretty awesome considering that
she'd gone inside a nuclear plant
that was cooking off today.

She came out the other side
technically clean but very much
in want of her own bathroom
with its luxurious spa tub
and indulgent supplies.

"Mind if we borrow your shower?"
Blue Blaze asked, jerking a thumb
at the expansive decon tent.

"Go ahead," Fortressa said.

"Payment in cash, or in account?"
Ilyana asked. "Can put money in
account now. If you are wanting
cash, will take longer to arrive."

"Oh, just put it in the account for
the machine shop that we use to buy
supplies," Fortressa said. If they could
find her garage, they could find that.

She trudged upstairs, leaving
the superheras behind, her Pit Group
milling around her and acting worried.
Fortressa did not really want
to deal with them either.

As soon as she opened
the door to her ensuite bathroom,
a rich spicy scent poured out.

Fortressa recognized the smell of
amber, sandalwood, and bergamot
even before she saw Socket lighting
another Pacifica Spanish Amber Soy Candle.

"What are you in the mood for today?
Origins Ginger Float Cream Bubble Bath,
California Baby Overtired and Cranky Bubble Bath
with Roman chamomile, or Nip+Fab Detox Blend Bath Soak
with green tea and jasmine?" Socket asked quietly.

"Make it the jasmine," Fortressa said, stripping
off the flimsy cotton scrubs that had been
stocked in the SPAZMAT tent. "I have
soap and lotion that match it, and I'm
going to need the whole shebang."

The decontamination hadn't been intolerable,
but it had been unpleasant, and harsher
on her skin than her usual products.
The last thing she needed after
today's adventure was a rash.

"Coming right up," Socket said as she
poured the oil into a tub of steamy water.
Then she set out the Rodin Bath Bar,
its pure jasmine accented with neroli,
the Sonia Kashuk Satin-Silk Loofah,
and Le Labo Body Lotion in Jasmin 17.
Finally she turned on the gizmotronic tub.

With a sigh of relief, Fortressa sank into
the sanctuary of her bath, its sleek black embrace
and soothing array of blue and purple lights
a different kind of fortress than her suit.

"Thank you," Fortressa said to Socket.
"I would be utterly lost without you."

"You're welcome," Socket said,
the sigh in her voice almost hidden
by the gurgle of the spa nozzles.

"I'm sorry that Blue Blaze misread us,"
Fortressa said. "That keeps happening,
and I don't know why. I mean, if you were
interested in me, you'd say something."

"No, I wouldn't," Socket said. She tucked
a strand of electric blue hair behind her ear
and reached for the silk loofah. "Do you
want me to wash your back for you?"

"Oh god yes," said Fortressa.
"But why wouldn't you say anything?"

"Because making an unwelcome pass
at anyone is not just rude, it's harassment,"
said Socket. "I don't do that."

The silk loofah glided over Fortressa's skin,
dripping with luxurious foam. It felt heavenly.
"You lost me there," she admitted.

This time Socket's sigh was heavy enough
to blow her long bangs out of her face.
"Fortressa, you took yourself off the market,"
she said. "You say it all the time, you're through
with men and you've sworn off love. So if someone
loved you, the best way to show that would
be to shut the hell up about it."

Fortressa had once owned a pair of
six-inch platform shoes for stomping
around on a crowded dance floor.
The purely mental THUD she felt
was like one of those shoes dropping.

Socket was in love with her.

Socket had been in love with her
for who knows how long, and said nothing,
and done nothing, because she thought that
Fortressa didn't want her -- and well, she
wasn't wrong about that, exactly.

Love had not been kind to Fortressa,
so she'd been unkind right back, and then
stormed off in a huff, never to return.
Or at least that had been the plan.

Now here she was, with one of her minions
head over heels, and it was no longer
possible for her just to ignore that.

"Hello, elephant in my bathroom,"
Fortressa muttered. "Fancy seeing you here."

"Just let it go," Socket said. "I had
a crush on you. I've been working on it.
Most of it has worn away by now."

Fortressa lolled her head against
the cradling edge of the tub and said,
"How can you make a crush go away?"

"You don't want a lover," Socket said.
"You do need a friend. So I'm working
on being the best friend I can for you."

She was, in fact, the best friend
that Fortressa ever had.

"Why would you do that?"
Fortressa whispered.

"Because that's what love is,"
Socket said, stroking the silk loofah
down her arms and making her melt.
"It means that I can't be happy unless
you're happy, so I do whatever I can
to cheer you up and make you feel better.
You need someone who makes you smile
and helps you relax, not someone who
pesters you for something that you
can't or don't want to give."

Fortressa felt like something was
overheating, and it had nothing to do
with the temperature of the bathwater.

It had been so long since she'd let anyone
touch her like this, but Socket had been different
from the beginning; Fortressa could see that now.

She was afraid of what it could become,
but she didn't want to lose what they had.

"I don't know how to do this," Fortressa said.

"Then don't try to do anything," Socket said.
"Just let it be, Fortressa. Just be."

The water was warm and velvety with oil
as it caressed her skin, and Socket's hands
were tender as she washed the places
that Fortressa couldn't reach or was
just too relaxed to move.

The scent of jasmine and amber
hung heavy in the steamy air,
like a jungle at sunset.

Sure enough, the light from
the windows was turning peach
and pink, blending with the glow
of violet lights in the bathtub.

"Okay," Fortressa said. "I can do that."

* * *


(Character by Siliconshaman)
Ilyana Cherenkov
Born 1981 in Voronezh Oblast in Russia.
Father Alexey Cherenkov, son of the nobel prize winner Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov
Mother Suzan Cherenkova nee Ivonva.
Ilyana was named after her grandfather's lab partner Ilya Frank who acted as her godfather and later mentor and surrogate father.
When Ilyana was five, in 1986, her father left to oversee the emergency work at Chernobyl … he did not expect to survive. 8 months later Alexey Cherenkov was cleared to return home. To this date it is not known why his exposure to over 20 Greys of radiation did not kill him like the rest of his team.
Alexey Cherenkov finally died of a traffic accident in 1991 when Ilyana was 10... one year after her grandfather. Her god-father and mentor Ilya died in 2003 of advanced lymphatic cancer, thought to be caused by radiation exposure during his early work.
Like her father and grandfather Ilyana studied at the Voronezh state university, graduating in Nuclear Engineering and Applied nuclear physics, unlike her father and grandfather, she then went onto a job with the U.N Commission for Atomic Safety. Her stated motivation on her application was simple: No more accidents.
Ilyana proved to be a very focused individual, and while that earned her commendations for her work, it did not earn her many friends. In addition she was one of the youngest members of the inspectorate team, having graduated a full year early. The closest relationships she has is with her Mother, her younger sister [Olga], and her cat Mishka [russian for bear] who resides at the family home.
In 2008 while inspecting a nuclear waste and reclamation facility in the Ukraine, Ilyana discovered that the facility was illegal handling high-level waste, something they were not cleared for, and disposing of it by storing it in an old abandoned salt mine. The radioactive waste was already beginning to contaminate the ground water.
The facilities management, who were being paid to store the waste, decided to 'dispose' of Ilyana before she could report them, and blame it on local rebels. Ilyana was shot while trying to drive out of the area, injured and captured. The mercenaries hired to deal with her decided that the easiest way of disposing of her and any evidence was to dump her into the mine along with the waste. As it was unlikely she'd survive.
Ilyana did survive however.
She had been shot at close range through the back between the shoulder blades, the bullet exiting through her sternum. However, although hydrostatic shockwaves caused trauma and swelling to her spinal column, producing temporary paralysis, the bullet itself missed both heart and lungs. The mercenaries dumped her down the mine among the leaky barrels of waste, and bolted the heavy steel hatch over the shaft, and then walked away and forgot about her.
Although the gunshot was survivable, the radiation level in the mine would've killed her with 4-6 days, had it not been for an inherited Superior DNA repair enzyme inherited from her father. However, this had a side effect...
Unknown to anyone, the mine was badly contaminated with C. neoformans a type of fungus able to metabolise high levels of radiation in a similar fashion to photosynthesis in plants. The fungus contaminated her wound and got into Ilyana's blood, where her immune system attacked it, and in the process chopping up it's genome... the fragmentary sequences of which her DNA repair system mistakenly started to integrate into her own mitochondrial DNA.
4 days after she was shot Ilyana found herself healing, rapidly... 1 week afterwards she was no longer hungry, her modified metabolism was utilising the hard radiation to manufacture blood sugars and Adinosine Triphosphate [metabolic fuel] directly.
1 month later, Ilyana calculated that she should've died weeks ago...and she felt fine. In order to combat boredom, and to increase her chances of escape, Ilyana began to work out in the near dark, using barrels of fuel rods as weights lit by the eerie blue glow that carries her grandfathers name.
Although she couldn't see it, her skin was taking on a dark grey hue, as the symbiotic fungi sequestrated heavy metals, mostly enriched uranium and decay products thereof into her skin and bones.The radiation from this was fuelling her metabolism.
After 4 months Ilyana's mass had increased from a healthy 70Kg [at 5ft 9inches] to just over 180Kg... without increasing her size. This was entirely due to the mass of the heavy metals incorporated into her body. This increased her skin and tissue density ten-fold and bone density more. However the increased metabolic efficiency boosted her muscle strength by a factor of twenty, allowing her to move faster, punch harder than would be humanly possible.
At 6 months of confinement the amount of uranium in her bones passed criticality, and began to fission in a controlled, moderated, chain reaction. Her tissue fluids, perfused with boron salts, acted as moderating and coolant... Ilyana essentially became a living nuclear reactor.
Ilyana's journal, which she started in case her body was ever found, but continued with observations of her condition, records that she felt a flush of heat, like a fever and then a feeling of boundless energy. She found that she could run without limit, her strength had increased somewhat but her endurance had shot up beyond the point where she could measure it.
Initially she thought her eyes had also adapted to the dim conditions, but later she concluded that she was emitting her own Chrenekov radiation. From this she deduced what had happened to her, and for a while sank into depression due to the realisation that by now she was emitting lethal levels of radiation herself.
14 months after her attempted murder, another load of illegal high level radioactive waste was shipped out to the mine to be dumped. There were no survivors among the mercenaries sent to guard the workers, and although one truck was stolen, and the other wrecked, only one worker suffered mild radiation burns.
In early 2010 Ilyana turned up in Pripyat near Chernobyl, and surrendered to the authorities there. After 6 months of study it was determined that she could not be cured, however, with the aid of a team from the Moscow Joint Institute for Nuclear research, a gizmotronic containment suit utilising a magnetic nano-weave cloth, was devised for her, that keeps the radiation she naturally emits down to sub-lethal doses. She took up semi-permanent residence in Pripyat as her presence there poses no further radiological hazard.
In 2011 Ilyana became an active member of the Atomic Disaster Response team, hastily thrown together in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. It's her actions in entering and stabilising the #3 reactor core that are credited with preventing a catastrophic meltdown as it had failed to SCRAM properly and all coolant systems had failed.
Subsequent to her actions it was discovered that extended durations of high levels of activity cause heat build up in her body as her natural reactor core operates at a increased level. Her containment suit was modified with a microchannel passive cooling system to overcome the problem of heat exhaustion.
In Jan 2012, after repelling an attack on the Fukushima Daiichi facility by Haboob during clean-up operations, Ilyana was gifted by the parent corporation a set of ultra-miniaturised synchrotron accelerator bracelets that utilised her natural neutron radiation emissions to produce a focused directional beam of relativistic positrons around 5mm diameter. This beam has a clear air penetration distance of ~50ft, 24-26 inches through most light materials such as plastic or organics, 18-24 inches through ceramics and concrete and less than 8 inches through most structural metals such as steel.
The beam is not intended as a weapon, but as a cutting torch. The accelerated positrons slow down and are captured by electrons in materials, where they undergo mutual annihilation [positron = antimatter electron] producing plasma and disrupting covalent chemical bonds, thus ablating materials in their path, cutting through solid matter like a hyper-plasma cutter. The visual effect is like a pale beam of violet light which produces a brilliant actinic spot where it encounters solid matter. The beam emits soft x-rays and high levels of hard UV when used and is therefore not safe for unprotected eyes or skin for prolonged periods. [I.E, like an arc welder.]
Ilyana Chrenekov's condition is the subject of on-going study, however it is known that in addition to Superior resistance to radiation and energy damage, she has Excellent resistance to disease [actually, very little can live in her system] and Excellent resistance to Penetrative and Concussive Damage due to her enhanced tissue and bone density. She also has Good strength, Superior Endurance and Excellent cold resistance, coupled with Poor resistance to heat.
Physically she is 5ft 9 inches tall, has a pronounced muscular frame [as she still keeps up her training] and short black hair. Before her transformation she was pale skinned and blond, but the symbiotic fungi produces a modified form of melanin pigment which accumulates in her hair. In addition the uranium and other heavy metals has turned her skin a dark grey colour, with a metallic sheen to it. Her eyes are still a pale blue colour, although there is faint blue glow of chrenekov radiation noticeable in them in the dark.
Typically her body temperature is 45 to 50 degrees Celsius, unless she's exerting herself in which case it can rise to 75 C, but only for short periods. Her body weight has stabilised at 195kg. She can bench press around 2,500Lbs. Although she drinks roughly 50% more water than would be normal as a daily average, she rarely eats. She also has a reduced oxygen requirement, typically surviving for 75% longer on a single breath. She derives most of her metabolic energy from nuclear reactions, only needing vitamin supplements normally and actual ordinary food only in order to heal. [replace lost organic matter] Although she will eat semi-infrequently out of habit and for the taste. She has a long-standing fondness for spicy food and/or junk food to snack on when watching movies.
Personality wise, Ilyana was always an introvert, and her isolation both during and after her transformation has enhanced this. She has Poor Social skills, and Poor Anger management skills, although generally she only expresses her anger/frustration verbally. She manages to communicate with her family [and her cat!] via Skype and email, although she seldom initiates communication with anyone else unless it's work related.
Ilyana still suffers from PTSD and PDSD flash backs which she is receiving counselling for. If triggered she will react violently to perceived aggression, forgetting her altered state. Dimly lit and/or confined conditions will also make her uneasy.
Her preferred means of recovery from trigging is running or training in the open air, preferably along a beach or river bank. For some reason she's unaware of, she finds open water calming. Her second favourite means of calming down is soaking in a tub of cold water... she is an honorary member of the Polar Bears club [Russian under-ice swimmers] after video of her swimming in the frozen river running through Pripyat was posted to Utube in 2012.
There will be second part to this, where I'll discuss the importance of origin stories in character development, and why I made the choices I did in developing this exemplar.

She also has Good (+2) I Endure under Qualities.

Image by Siliconshaman
Created some art of her working out, just prior to her escaping from the illegal nuclear waste dump in a disused mine.

Second Image by Siliconshaman

Introduced in "Atomic" by Siliconshaman

[Character created by Siliconshaman]
Blue Blaze [Chelsea McMasters] Age 21. 5' 4”

Acquired SuperSpeed[Expert] when someone's lab experiment blew up at college and she was one of those exposed to unknown chemicals. Also has Regeneration[Average].
Her father was a Marine corps Drill Sargent for most of her childhood, and treated her and her younger brother like recruits, [borderline abuse] training them to enter the military. As a result she has an almost pavlovian response to displays of authority/domination: Resist Authority[Poor] or Free Autonomy[Poor].
Motivation: Semper Fi!

Illustration by Siliconshaman

Introduced in "Atomic."

Fortressa -- Corrigan Pierce bounced off the glass ceiling in her engineering major, and dropped out of college as a result. Her sturdy, muscular build and plain face mean that many people overlook her, but she cleans up nice. She wears her brown hair in a short, practical cut. Her eyes are green and her skin is olive. She has a history of horrible breakups with boyfriends and has sworn off love. Corrigan is a talented mechanic and super-gizmologist. She has a particular hatred of "boobplate" and "chainmail bikini" armor. She drives a jeep painted in gray camo. If she can convince people to work on a car together, they can talk through and solve almost any other problem in the process.
Origin: Corrigan's natural intelligence gradually built up, with Gizmology manifesting in high school and Super-Gizmology in college. Frustration with the sexism in her field led her to build a suit of Power-Armor and become Fortressa. Periodically she flies out to smash some college, corporation, or individual who has come to her attention due to sexist offenses. Fortressa is not terribly concerned about due process or collateral damage.
Uniform: Power-Armor, with a practical gray flightsuit under it.
Qualities: Good (+2) Battlesuit Pilot, Good (+2) Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Working on the Car Together
Poor (-2) Unlucky in Love
Powers: Expert (+4) Super-Gizmology, Average (0) Minions
Minions: The Pit Group consists of seven women, all with different skills in science and/or mechanics. Together the Pit Group can repair (but not improve) Fortressa's power-armor. Their leader, Socket, is secretly in love with Fortressa.
Expert (+4) Power-Armor: Expert Invulnerability, Good Energy Beam, Good Flight, Average Sensors, Average Tools & Supplies. It has Hollaback on permanent scroll in the heads-up display.
Motivation: No one breaches my walls.

This is Fortressa's toolbox. It is two storeys tall and comes with its own staircase.

Actuator (Bree Miller) -- She has fair skin with extensive freckles, sherry-brown eyes, and straight auburn hair to her shoulders. She loves playing pranks and teasing people about things that go wrong. She is bisexual and has a lot of wild flings, but little interest in long-term relationships. Fortressa has to keep repeating, "Don't bring your one-night-stands back to a secret lair so you can bang them over the battlesuit."
Origin: She learned about engines from her grandfather and grew up working on cars with him. As a tween, an accident with a car battery activated her superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes. She likes neutral colors.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Mischief, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Working with Engines
Poor (-2) Tempestuous Love Affairs
Powers: Average (0) Electrical Control
Motivation: To make the sparks fly.

Socket -- She is a high school graduate with an excellent trade school education as a mechanic. Fortressa enticed her out of a dead-end job at a lube joint to come lead the Pit Group maintaining Fortressa's power-armor. Socket is short and curvy with electric blue hair and gray eyes. She is a lesbian with a strong competence kink on mechanical matters, and she soon fell in love with Fortressa. Given that Fortressa has sworn off love, Socket remains silent about this, merely staying close at hand to do whatever Fortressa needs to make her happier.
Origin: She flickered through her tween and teen years, mostly different colors of hair. It seems to have settled on blue with some black still showing.
Uniform: On duty, Socket usually wears shop overalls. Off duty, she likes a variety of girlish fashions.
Qualities: Master (+6) Gizmologist, Expert (+4) Boundary Awareness, Good Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Flexible, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence
Poor (-2) Crush on Fortressa
Powers: Good (+2) Blue Hair
Motivation: To make Fortressa happy.

Joint (Joan Summerlin) -- She has fair skin, green eyes, and short brown hair often covered with a bandana. Her parents sent her to college in a premed program, but she always had more interest in mechanical hobbies. T-American colleges often offer premed majors and minors that can be customized to suit many different careers such as paramedic, nurse, or veterinarian; although the minors and 2-year programs are more aimed at basic jobs, while the majors and 4-year programs are intended for more advanced professions. Joint didn't stay in college long enough to decide more than "I fucking hate this" and dropped out when Fortressa offered her a job as a mechanic. Since Joint is the only person in the Pit Group with real medical training, however, she still gets stuck as the meat mechanic too.
Origin: Her power grew in slowly during her late teens.
Uniform: Street clothes. She favors earth tones.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) First Aid, Good (+2) Household Skills, Good (+2) Mechanic
Poor (-2) Disappointment to Her Family
Powers: Average (0) Healing
Motivation: To do as much mechanical work as possible, and as little medical work as possible.

Primer (Rae Lyn Robertson) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and wavy brown hair to her shoulders. She often gets into trouble by overlooking danger signs. Her superpower allows her to stick things together or peel them apart.
Origin: Her father worked in a car factory using the paint sprayers. An accident with the new "washless" paint left him with dermal scars and DNA damage -- the latter of which he didn't realize until his daughter was born with superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes. She likes bold color combinations such as black and blue.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cleaner, Good (+2) Gunplay, Good (+2) Painter, Good (+2) Persuasive, Good (+2) Sassy
Poor (-2) Risk Assessment
Powers: Average (0) Adhesion
Motivation: To color outside the lines.

* * *

Supervillain lairs are very popular, but subject to raids from superheroes or the police. T-American law in many places discourages impromptu confrontations with supervillains -- outside of stopping a major crime -- because preplanned raids are safer and more effective. Police are obligated to secure civilian safety to the best of their ability before launching a raid. The objective is to capture the supervillain(s) and/or contraband materials with no permanent damage to anyone. Supervillains have their own ways of handling this ever-present threat.

This is exterior of Fortressa's garage lair. It has a one-two-three layout of machine shop, garage, machine storage although the layout of the machine room is different than shown. Fortressa has the 48x56' version as shown in the upper right corner of this set. The 10x12' office is the patch room that says "Body Shop" on the door. Fortressa also has the 16x24' office suite as shown in the upper right corner of this set, located in the upper right corner of the garage area. These are some of the important garage elements.

This is the conference room in the office suite. The popcorn machine was installed as a joke because of all the drama. But it actually makes excellent popcorn and the Pit Group have come to enjoy making some in all different flavors.

Fortressa's garage apartment is located above the machine shop. This is her gizmotronic spa tub, unlit and lit. She also has a fitness gym and a combat gym.

The cupolas are functional. The center one is a tiny room with a teleport pad and a spiral staircase leading down. The outer two are air vents. The interior of the vent cupolas looks like this. Here is part of the finished attic and stairs from the teleport cupola. That cupola has a compass rose inlaid in the corner.

Nuclear reactors can experience problems which require large-scale evacuation, sometimes permanent. Local laws typically call for a 10-mile evacuation plan, despite previous disasters of much larger scale. Terramagne has a more sensible plan with staged evacuations based on the footprint of the disaster, typically with zones for the immediate compound, 10 miles, 25 miles, and 50 miles. This map shows 10 and 50 mile rings along with color-coded radiation zones. Here's a look at New England's reactor zones. This article shows different types of damage zones if a bomb were dropped on Sydney or Melbourne. Here is a gauge of radiation exposure and its typical effects on humans. Understand how to cope with nuclear exposure hazards.

Statements that people are not girlfriends may overlap with mistaken for romance and mistaken for gay tropes. It is frustrating in everyday life when people misread platonic relationships or sexual orientation. Fortressa and Socket really aren't girlfriends and have not agreed to any romantic relationship; the fact that Socket has been in love with Fortressa is a completely different issue.

The Chinook is a heavy-duty cargo helicopter.

A nuclear meltdown poses a major threat. Stopping one typically requires restoring power. This is a great deal easier with superpowers. There is an arcade in L-London where you can play with a nuclear simulator; T-America has an arcade game called Three Mile Ice in which the goal is to stop a meltdown.

idiot {noun} (also: fool, cuddy, jackass, tomfool)
дурак [дура́к] {m}
-- English-Russian Dictionary

The Dragon Reactor is one of several models, as shown in this image. Later models are more advanced, but I wanted to have some kind of visual reference for what the ladies were working with.

"Cobra-slapping" is Indian slang for someone extremely macho, aggressive, and fearless. It's often phrased as "cobra-slapping crazy," meaning so outrageous he gets away with it and nobody else would be nuts enough to try. Similar to badass motherfucker in English. It has carried over from Indian to English.

Luxurious bath products come in a wide variety. This is Fortressa's big feminine indulgence and favorite coping skill.

Relationships come in many types. Often they change from one form to another, which can cause problems. Maintaining healthy relationships requires effective communication skills. While Fortressa is not great at interpersonal skills, Socket is.

A crush is an intense, usually one-sided romantic attachment. Dealing with unrequited love poses many challenges, whether you have a crush on someone or they have a crush on you. This is especially rough when it's a friend and you want to maintain the friendship as such. The advice runs to extremes -- try to get the person into a romantic relationship, or break off all contact -- which is neither constructive nor mature.

Harassment is unwanted sexual attention. If someone is asexual or celibate, and you know this, then making a pass would constitute harassment because you know it would be unwelcome. Understand how to reject unwanted advances safely. Also make sure your attention is not unwelcome before you start flirting with someone.

Love raises many questions. When you love someone who doesn't love you back, you have two basic options. You can try to stop loving them. Or you can muster the courage to love them anyway. True love means doing what is best for your partner, not just yourself, and it doesn't have to be sexual. Socket loves Fortressa. As often expressed, Fortressa is not interested in sex/romance but does need friends. So Socket has chosen to work on adapting her romantic crush into philia, the love between friends -- without ever bothering Fortressa with the unwanted romantic aspect. Socket considered that to be her own problem to deal with, until Blue Blaze blabbed it. Aaaaand that's why it is a bad idea to read out loud with your gaydar, but speedsters often have a problem with filters because their processing speed is so different.

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