Mirage muttered softly and turned over in her sleep. She was rising slowly from dreams of unconnected things, from the past, the present, and perhaps even the future. She blinked and opened her eyes, wondering what had woken her, and slowly she made out the shape in the doorway, hard to make out in the soft ambient light of her room. She jumped and said "Who's there?"

"It's me." said a familiar voice.

"Buddy?" Silence. "Syndrome?"


"Come here." she said, holding her arms out. He came towards her across the huge room, too big for a bedroom really. He was wearing a silk dressing gown; it made him look faintly absurd. She smiled.

"I've missed you." she murmured. "You were away a long time."

"I'm just back. Business took longer than it should have." he said nonchalantly, but with an exhausted air he couldn't quite hide.

"You sound tired. Come here." she repeated. He shed the robe and quickly got under the covers. He had never seemed comfortable being naked in front of her, for all his day-to-day wear was skin-tight and left little to the imagination. Even so, she could make out those parts of him she loved, his soft, pale, freckled skin, his slightly rounded stomach, his gingery pubic hair.

He slid closer to her and took her in his arms, at the same time almost snapping "Lights off!" plunging them into darkness. She felt him pressing up against her, almost holding her down as he moved in to kiss her, roughly thrusting his tongue into her mouth. She moaned and wrapped her arms around his bulky frame, feeling the difference between them, she lithe and fragile and graceful, dark, sinuous, he broad shouldered and awkward, boyish, pale and freckled and red-headed to boot.

His crotch was pressed tightly against her leg, and she could feel that he was still soft. When he broke away from the kiss, she said:

"You know, if you're too tired, we don't have to-"

"Oh no." he said hungrily in her ear. "Oh no sweetheart. You are gonna get it, and it's gonna be tonight." His head moved and she felt his mouth on her neck, first his lips and tongue and then his teeth, biting and sucking.

She moaned again, and she could feel him hardening against her leg, and she reached for him…

Now she felt sick. All her fluid doubts, solidified. All the night-time worries and little whispering voices in the dark had stepped into the glare and they were every bit as ugly as she had suspected.

She tried to concentrate on the data she was working on. She was seething inside, but her face didn't show it. Her face was calm. She could do that much, even if she couldn't make it extend very far inwards.

What have I been doing? She thought. All the people she had had a hand in hurting…in killing… and it had taken a brush with her own death to realise just what she'd done. She'd feared Hell in that moment.

And for what? For power? She'd found out that one at a young age: power in a man was sexy. She'd had a string of them, doctors, lawyers, even a politician; rich men, men who were only too glad to be seen with a slim, attractive young woman on their arm. But that brought its own problems: powerful men were used to getting what they wanted, and she found that after a while she got sick of it, being the trophy girl. The piece of tail.

Buddy had been…different, at least in the beginning. Sure, he was powerful, and his IQ was close to twice that of more than one of her past boyfriends', but still, he didn't have that same arrogance, that same assurance that every whim would be granted, and on a silver plate with a thank-you note and a complementary kiss on the ass. He'd built machines that used technology people hadn't even heard of before; he could fly, for God's sake!

And so what if he was a little obsessed with Supers? She had no love for any of them, she and her father had been made homeless by a misaimed blast from Dynaguy when she was 15 (their landlord had jumped on the bandwagon of the times and sued for damages for a record amount), and that was when she had started frequenting nightclubs, hooking up with men sometimes twice her age or older. The fact that Buddy was actually a few years younger than her had been something else that had attracted her. She'd met him at a fancy function; she'd been the arm-candy of some bigshot arms-dealer at the time, and his youth -he was easily the youngest man present-, his lack of pretension and obvious dislike of the social aspect of his job had intrigued her, and while she'd gone home with the arms-dealer that night, she'd had Buddy Pine's telephone number in her handbag.

When she called him, she'd expected him to arrange a date. Instead he'd offered her a job.

He's changed since those days. she thought. And you couldn't even see it. He's not Buddy anymore, he's Syndrome. She sighed and sipped her coffee. She had to make a decision, but not yet. She wished she could just switch off her brain, stop thinking about all those Supers, and their families. She'd never thought about them as people, but now she had heard the voice of Mr Incredible's wife pleading for her children, and… they, Syndrome and Mirage, had destroyed them anyway.

She found herself, for the first time, regretting her decision to take the job as his assistant. She'd known very soon that she'd be involved in some shady dealings and even outright murder, but somehow it had been easy not to think of it that way. If only she could hang on to that oblivion! It had been good to be treated like she had a brain, and not just like a pretty bimbo only fit for modelling sparkly dresses at corporate dinners. She'd made her attraction to him very clear and demonstrated that she was able to strike a balance between professionalism during the working day and urgent, passionate intimacy after hours. He was a powerful lover, dominant and demanding, but he gave as good as he got and never seemed to take her willing submission for granted. His almost boyish enthusiasm was a surprising and welcome change from the older men that had made up so many of her earlier experiences, most of them selfish lovers from a lifetime of being allowed to take and take and take.

The sex hadn't changed much in the years she'd been with him, but he sure had. God, what did that say about their relationship, if good sex was all they had in common and she hadn't even noticed?

She could hear him clomping around by the observation window. She hoped he'd have the good sense to stay away from her, in her current state she might just turn around and slap the mask right off his freckled face. She was angry, but she was scared as well. Now that she knew just how much she meant to him these days, what might he do to her if she tried to leave? But then, why should she sit here in silence, seething inwardly? If he was going to kill her, or lock her up or otherwise hinder her, why not start it on her terms?

"He's not weak, you know." she said, before she was even sure what she was going to say.

"What?" he replied, turning.

"Valuing life is not weakness." she said. You hypocrite. her mind was whispering.

"Oh, hey, hey…" he began in his conciliatory tone, the one that was meant to say "Don't worry your pretty head about it." His patronising waffle was just another sign of how he had changed, and how everything she had liked about Buddy was gone, replaced with arrogance and pig-headedness.

"And disregarding it is not strength!" she cut in, getting angrier as his tone got more wheedling.

"I called his bluff, sweetheart, that's all!" he said, putting his face close to hers. He made as if to pull her into a kiss, but his touch made her feel ill. "I knew he wouldn't have it in him to actually-"

She shoved him away and stood up angrily. "Next time you gamble, bet your own life!" she snapped, shoving her clipboard and papers into his chest. She stalked away, fuming, meaning to leave, meaning to just pack up her shit and go, and half expecting an immobilising blast of zero-point energy from behind her. None came. She left the room and strode down the hallway, not really knowing where she would go from here.

Then the alarms went off. She rushed to the observation room. Kids! There were two kids on the island, and they were Supers! That could only mean one thing. And then she knew what she would do. She would begin her atonement now, and give one desperate man his family back, to try to make up for the dozens whose fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters she had helped to steal.