Steel City

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Author: Jon Buck
Heroines story universe

Pittsburgh, 1983

It was one of the worst recessions since the Depression, or so Kevin's father told him. Bethlehem Steel had laid off both of them. His father had had over thirty years of experience at the plant before they'd closed it. Kevin had followed in his father's footsteps, making sure huge vats of molten metal were poured into the correct molds, then pulling the newly-shaped steel out of the sand to cool on a hanging conveyer belt. He had burn scars on his hands and face, and a complexion reddened by years of work.

But then came stagflation, the Iranian Revolution, gas shortages, and the alien invasion that seemed to happen every five years. Oh, the planet's heroes always won. But there were still the nuisance villains. Superpowered muggers, occult gangbangers, mutant government bureaucrats, the odd Portal to the Nether Planes in the alley. It was hard being a regular person when you had to make sure there wasn't Something Evil in your toilet.

But today, the City Unemployment Office had something for him. Just a day job, doing some kind of simple work. Demolition, construction, a farmhand. He flipped up the collar on his trenchcoat against the freezing wind and hot-footed it down the street. I'll take anything. Anything at all. And I'm gonna be late...

He risked breaking into a run on the icy sidewalk. Stupid, stupid... stupid broken alarm clock!

Surprisingly, there were two buses in front of the Unemployment Office. One had a rather gorgeous woman waving people into it. She was Playboy-perfect, even bundled up in winter clothing. "Come on, everyone! Come on! Only a few seats left on the bus!" She waved people into the ancient Greyhound. "Hurry up if you want an exciting, well-paying job!"

How can I possibly refuse? Kevin thought, pondering the last two dollars in his pocket. He practically leapt on board, and the doors were closed behind him.

Surprisingly, the woman who had waved them in hopped right into the driver's seat. The diesel engine started with a rumbling clatter, then she turned to face everyone.

Wearing a vintage gas mask.

Giggling, she pushed a button behind her on the dashboard.

Before anyone could react, a purple gas flooded into the bus with a hiss. There was an instant of clarity before he started choking on the knockout gas. Evil Geniuses had to get their cannon fodder from somewhere. And he'd walked right into it. Oh... oh crap. Dizziness overcame him just before the world went totally black.

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Kevin floated back into semi-consciousness, opening his eyes a crack, and realized that he was physically floating. Somewhere along the line the bus had sprouted wings. He moved his head a little and saw a cloudscape heavy with thunderstorms, the flying bus carefully winging between the white towers. Turbulence rattled the still-unconscious group of men.

The driver/pilot spoke into a microphone as the whine of the jet engines pitched downwards. "Golf-niner-niner now on descent to Processing Center. Got a full bus this time, girls. All men. Yes, they're cute. But enjoy 'em while it lasts, which won't be long. We're short of uniforms? Aw, hell. Roger that."

The air inside the bus warmed up, the humidity increasing sharply as the bumpy descent continued. Kevin dare not let on that he was awake. The way his stomach was clenching, then rising and dropping in the choppy air, made it hard. He thought of his Grandfather again, who had been literally roped into serving some Mad Scientist up north somewhere around the turn of the century.

It was the worst descent Kevin had ever experienced. The flying bus came down and bounced a total of three times before it settled firmly on the runway. The other men around him started to awaken, too. There was a chorus of groans, and a few started to remove their winter jackets, before they finally got a look outside.

The Processing Center was a concrete blockhouse at the end of the runway, nestled in tropical foliage. There were three other buses--well, sort of buses, with those wings and jets, looking roughly like a DC-9--sitting next to a barbed wire and chain link fence.

With a second hisssss a pink gas flooded the bus. A cloud of happiness descended on Kevin's thoughts. He repressed an urge to giggle.

The bus finally came to a stop with the sound of airbrakes. The mask-wearing driver recycled the air and removed it again. She had removed her own winter jacket, revealing a lot of skin and cleavage. What fabric that actually covered her was some kind of twisted version of World War II SS uniform--except there was an XX on the lapel instead of lightning bolts. "Greetings, ladies. You are privileged to be inducted into the service of Feminazi. You will be given a body similar to mine, and you will follow orders. Do well, and you will be treated well. Do poorly, and there are worse things to be than a beautiful woman.

"The process has already started. This gas removed your Y chromosome for good and made a second copy of your X. So there's no use fighting it. Get used to the idea of tampons and PMS, ladies. Now, march on in like good girls."

Crap, crap, crap!'' Kevin thought, rising out of his seat. The second gas made his skin feel like it was literally crawling. He was one of the last ones on, so was first off the bus. The vehicle had indeed sprouted wings--though from where, he couldn't say. Things like the conservation of mass, which made perfect sense to him, did not apply to Heroes or Villains

The Processing Center was staffed by women just as beautiful as the one who had brought them here. Each man was brought inside, then told to strip. Kevin's three-days of beard growth was already gone by then, replaced by silky-smooth skin. Certainly no man over thirteen had a chin that felt like that!

The inside of the Processing Center reminded Kevin of the decontamination scene in that Bond film, Dr. No. And he expected a long, drawn out transformation, slowly inching away from manhood, a slow change to agonize over through several hours. Did they want him to squirm?

After the shower on the conveyer belt, which washed off his remaining body hair, he entered a room. Doors closed behind him.

The pink gas flooded in again. It smelled of sugar, spice, and everything nice. Kevin felt smothered, swaddled inside of a pink, feminine cloud. His body writhed, twitched, flowed. It felt...

"Don't just stand there, Schütz! Put on your uniform and proceed to Final Processing!" a gravelly voice commanded.

Dazed, Kevin looked at a diagram that showed the step-by-step instructions for putting on the "uniform". She looked down at herself. Bountiful breasts and nice curves, and by the feel of things, a perfect ass. Her luxurious long blond hair tickled her back. Her blue-eyed face was pure, fair-complexioned feminine flawlessness. Just like every other woman in this crazy place. Er... okay. I guess that's me now. Guess I don't have any choice.

She struggled a bit with the blood-red bra, hooking it in front with fumble-fingers and nails that were too long. Over that went a skin-tight gray shirt that buttoned in front, but didn't even cover her navel and she had to stretch it over her breasts to button it. And over that went a silly jacket that exposed just as much skin. Surprisingly, there weren't any skirts. Just a pair of tiny Daisy Duke khaki shorts. All the while, her mind felt like it was in a pink, fuzzy cloud. She automatically followed any order given.

The very last Processing Station, she sat down in front of another uniformed woman. "Forget your old name," she said. "You are now called Karla. You are a proud Stormtroopess in the Feminazi Army. You have been given the honor of being cleansed of your manhood for this purpose, and will feel grateful for it. Your former male existence has been erased. Now, go up to your assigned quarters and prepare for Review. Long live Der Furher's Face!" she struck the Nazi salute.

Karla's body robotically responded in kind. But inside, her mind was still free of the gas. Stories from her grandfather about serving the Dark Mage of Manitoba played in her mind. Crap!

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Tropical Pacific, 1985

Despite Orders, Karla never forgot where she'd come from or who she had been. Orders were everything here. You followed Orders without question and immediately. If you were over the level of Schütz, as Karla was, you could tentatively give them. Unlike any of the other recruits, she found she'd quickly developed an immunity to the mind control gas. But she knew she had to keep this fact a secret, though it took quite a lot of ingenuity, and more than a little luck to keep from being discovered.

Two years after being inducted, Karla made sure her bunk was made before taking her allotted Leisure Time. Today she had a scheduled swim, and so put on the allotted string bikini before taking the allotted towel, walking barefoot up the cold concrete stairs towards the island resort's Olympic-sized swimming pool. She did this every Tuesday after Duty Hours, standing at attention in front of the entrance to the Artifacts Lab. It was incredibly boring work, but she'd had to hide her feelings. So she occupied her thoughts with imagining her revenge.

And finding cracks in the facility's surveillance network.

Grandfather said, find 'em and stick a crowbar in 'em, she thought. The Feminazi Army's goal was the eradication of all mankind. That is, of all males. Feminazi herself claimed to be a female clone of Adolph Hitler, though Karla had more than a few doubts on that score. Find the cracks, make 'em wide enough for a Hero to get through.

A loose bolt here, a slippery hallway there causing injury, a malfunctioning sensor someplace else. Cameras that had fixed arcs and R&D staff with absolutely rigid work schedules. The system thought it knew where she was during her swim hours, but she knew how to avoid it. The other girls were not so fortunate, but some minor--and undetected--adjustments to the mind control gas delivery schedule was making the entire army restless. A few were even starting to remember that they were supposed to be men.

There was a lot you could do with a window of ten minutes over the course of two years.

The facility was almost entirely belowground. Above, it was just a standard expensive tropical resort, somewhere in the South Pacific, from what Karla could divine. It was the only place where the Feminazis tolerated men. Karla gathered that they had once kidnapped various guests and inducted them as recruits, but the authorities had almost gotten wise. But there was a huge population of out of unemployed out there to tap.

Her "crowbar rounds" done, Karla arrived in the resort's main pool area and started to relax. Only here were the overt mind control restrictions mostly lifted, aside from the Super Secret stuff. It was actually okay to let go and have fun up here. She spread her towel out on a lounge chair, and let herself be the Male Attractor she was.

"Good afternoon, Miss." The voice was a handsome one, and dripped a kind of self confidence that only went with having bedded with dozens of beautiful girls. "Am I intruding?"

Secret Agent Number Two. Has to be. She opened her eyes and motioned at the empty lounge chair next to her. He was dark-haired and had a blue towel over his shoulders. A Connery or a Moore he wasn't, not with that somewhat effeminate face, but it was all in the suave manner. And the six-pack helped, too. "Not at all. I could use the company today."

Karla glanced towards her commanding officer, who gave a suggestive hand signal that could only mean one thing: seduce him. It's about time, she thought. The real purpose was simple. Collect the sperm. While it was possible to make more women by doing what had been done to her, Der Furher still preferred it be done the "natural" way. She had some kind of implant that would result only in female births.

She suspected that The Plan involved keeping a few men alive as breeders. At least until they figured out how to reliably clone people.

Of course, all that had to be stopped.

"Janus. Albert Janus," the Secret Agent introduced himself.

"Karla von Braun," she replied extending her hand. Like a perfect gentleman he kissed the back of it. She smiled at him like a femme fatale. There was a fine line to walk here. If she became merely a Mole, then the result would be her death, like that girl in Moonraker. But Turncoats usually ended up alive at the end of it all.

"Enchanted. I would be honored if you would have dinner with me tonight, Miss Braun," Janus smarmed. "Your island is an amazing place, and I would like to ask you more about it, if I could."

"Delighted to," she replied. Her voice had a slight German accent, of course. "So, where are you from, Mister Janus? Vhat do you do for a living?"

"I import all sorts of exotic things," he said in that same smarmy tone. "Perhaps..."

After thirty minutes of thinly-disguised innuendo between them, including references to "fine cigars" that made Karla groan, Janus begged off to go prepare for the meal. She sighed and longingly looked at the pool. I'd been hoping for a swim. Oh well.

Her commanding officer approached her once the Secret Agent left. "Very well done, Frauline. His seed will be an asset to us. Surely we will get a line of strong women out of him!"

"Yes, ma'am," Karla replied. But there were alternatives to getting pregnant the natural way. The island had a massive sperm bank and IVF facilities. "Standard milking kit?"

"Mm. No, not for him. I think motherhood will agree with you. In fact, you have been with us long enough that you'll soon become too valuable to use as merely a guard. Consider yourself promoted, Untersturmführer von Braun. Congratulations on attaining the Officer Corps. You are... f-f-f-free to choose how to go about your duty on this one." She choked on the word.

"After tonight, report to the Crèche Unit. The Motherland requires your womb." Her dark-haired CO did not salute. Not when there were still tourists about. She normally stood behind the wet bar where she could observe all the girls and get information out of intoxicated tourists.

So unless Karla did something now, tonight, all her best-laid plans would come to naught. She'd have to start over and worry about getting her future children out. "Ja. Understood, ma'am. I will perform my duties as required."

A hair stylist, a strapless red evening gown, and some detailed makeup work later, and she was walking beside Janus into the resort's standard high class restaurant/casino. Holding on to his elbow, even. My last day on Earth is not going to be as some guy's arm candy. Secret Agent or not.

They entered the casino side, making a grand entrance. Karla teetered on her high heels, so she really needed Janus to keep her steady. Her hair had been done up in an elaborate single braid with ribbons woven in. A pair of diamond earrings and gold jewelry adorned her. She'd been primped up within an inch of her life by members of the Army who had it as their specialty. This island attracted wealthy men, and their money, like flies to honey.

The Secret Agent's eyes were on the baccarat table, but Karla tugged him over towards the restaurant. "Darling, I'm hungry. I'd prefer to eat first before you lose any money here."

"Of course, of course. This way, my dear." His eyes returned to her chest, where they had otherwise been.

Once they sat down, the thinly-veiled foreplay began in earnest. Karla ordered a dainty dish that could be eaten with a fork, the better not to mess up her makeup. The dress was as much a uniform as anything else here. And a dozen of the other girls were likewise escorting men themselves. But from the look on a few faces, Karla saw, they felt like something was wrong. Despite the fact they had done just the same thing more than a dozen times already. The mind control gas was nearly spent. No doubt Command was getting very worried by now.

"I have a gift for you, Miss Braun," Janus said, gesturing a waitress to bring him something. He opened a black velvet case. Inside was a black pearl necklace. "A gesture of good faith."

"It's wonderful!" Karla squealed. Unfortunately there were a few things the mind control gas had done to her. The way she wallowed in female things was one of them. And jewelry was a particular weakness. "Well, Mr. Janus, I'm waiting."

"Perhaps a nightcap in my suite?" he said, sounding endearingly penitent as he put the necklace on her. "And, perhaps, a dance?"

"Delighted." The necklace dangling down into her exposed cleavage, Karla extended her bejeweled hand. The Secret Agent reached out and gently took it.

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The former steel foundry worker stared up at her nude reflection in the mirror above the bed, body-full of soothing afterglow and a little alcoholic buzz. Janus was attempting to quietly re-dress himself, by the sound of things. I sang like a canary. He put something in that drink, she thought. But if it was supposed to knock her out for a few hours, it wasn't working. Whatever it was it made her mouth taste like old gym socks. She levered herself up.

Only to see another naked woman in the room. "Whoa. Wait," Karla said. "You're a super-powered superspy? Shapeshifter?"

"And you sound like you're from Pittsburgh instead of Frankfurt," the woman replied. She was very nearly a body copy of Karla, though her hair was a darker shade of blond. And she was dressing up in one of the laughable Army uniforms. "Somehow I doubt you told me everything about yourself."

Karla frowned. She didn't care if the room was bugged. "You know, you didn't have to slip me a Mickey, you mook! The only thing you got out of me was what 'Der Fuhrer' wanted you to. That's why your idiot predecessor got nabbed!"

Janus pulled on the shirt. "Yes, what happened to him?"

"Not a 'him' any more to begin with. You see, my given name is Kevin Humboldt. Your agent is now Feminazi's Most Trusted Lieutenant, Eva."

Janus rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "I see. Well, that makes sense. I knew about the mind control gas, but not that so many of you had been men..."

Karla shrugged. It was very much water under the bridge at this point. "And what about you? You don't talk like your male counterpart at all."

The beautiful woman smiled. "That's my husband. He and I were fused in a matter transporter accident about five years ago. We're about as close a team as we can get. I'm Marcia Janus."

The faux German rolled her eyes. That was why the male superspy had known what buttons to push, and why he was so good in bed. "'Janus', I get it. The two-faced Roman god. Feh. Look, as I said, there's a trap laid. At least you're going to blend in, but let me give you a heads up on what's going on inside. I've planted some useful things. And there's more than one hole on this island you can use to get into the base."

"Spill," Marcia said, finishing up her clothes. "You have five minutes until the bug jammer runs out of juice. It's been running all night."

An hour later, Marcia was long gone and Karla was still trying to pull herself together. This was hardly the first time she'd had sex with a man, but it was the first without any sort of protection, or the so-called "milking kit" that saved sperm for the frozen bank. The fact it had been an immensely pleasurable experience still made her tingle. All this shit about women being superior, naturally suited to rule, and being the 'only' necessary gender, and Feminazi still can't figure out how to have children without men. Ha!

With her one-night-stand gone, she was still waiting for Orders to return to her barracks, or her new position in the Crèche. Maybe they're just preoccupied with something? she thought, smirking to herself. She pondered the events of the past day. I wonder if this makes me the Bond Girl...

For a split second, the world around her glowed blue. Everything washed out, the walls and furniture vanishing, as if Karla had entered a blue cloud. The next second, the soft down bedspread beneath her was replaced by a stone cold concrete and a dark, empty space. No longer leaning against the bedboard, she pitched backwards and almost barked her head against the floor. "Scheisse!"

"Indeed," came a humorless voice from a speaker somewhere. "You are a Traitor to the Motherland, Karla von Braun! You will pay the price, just as your cohort already has! Get up!"

Still naked, Karla struggled to her feet, dizzy from the abrupt teleportation. We have a matter transporter? That can't be good!

"I know what you're thinking, and it's short range only. Highly experimental," the gravelly female voice said. It sounded like it came from someone who'd been chain smoking for twenty years. "But we have already achieved much! Witness the heralds of our future success!"

A huge Plexiglas window with a series of holes drilled in the top separated Karla from freedom. But on the other side, there was a cage. Inside there was a fuzzy creature with orange eyes, white fur, and a long tail with black-and-white rings. It looked at her with a lonely, forlorn expression. It made a sound she could only describe as "frink!"

"Our alliance with DEVO has already borne fruit," the voice continued triumphantly. "Behold, the male half of your secret agent has already rejoined the primordial ooze!"

You've gotta be kidding me! she thought. "What happened to Marcia?"

"Our teleporter was able to separate the two of them, as you have figured out. As for yourself, traitor, your fate is already sealed! Bring forth the Drache-Stein!"

Drache-Stein? Dragon stone? What were they... "Oh... you're not going to..."

"We are, we are! Do you think your Fuhrer is a foolish woman? We've been tracking your sorry attempts at sabotage from the very beginning! I do not wish to kill you, though. At least not yet. But you will either come into the fold and guard this island as you have before, or you will die."

A panel in the ceiling opened, and a large metal box was lowered down on a steel wire. The clamps on the bottom of the box opened, and the top was withdrawn. What remained was a half-fossilized egg, about two feet tall. It sat on a velvet pad, and there was a tiny box with a blinking light on it, presumably some kind of explosive.

"We've been conserving our mind control gas for just this occasion. Frau Docktor, flood the room!"

Karla covered her nose as the holes in the Plexiglas closed, and the green gas flooded in so thickly she started choking just from not getting enough air. She could feel it beating on her mind like a wrecking ball tearing down the Old Foundry.

The squib on the egg went off, shattering it and pelting Karla with shards of rock. A glowing mist, quite separate from the green gas, floated up and looked around the room. There was the suggestion of horns, a long neck, and leathery wings. A new Presence scanned the room.

Just as she felt herself start to fade into unquestioning obedience, that Presence plunged into her.

The effect of the gas burned away in a flux of barely-contained magic, clearing Karla's mind as the dragon's ghost bonded to her. She flexed her fingers... her blunt, clawless fingers. Vast, ancient knowledge flooded her merely human mind.

The gas obscured everything, like a thick London fog. Karla crouched down on all-fours. And the dragoness now in her took control. Her bones flexed, cracked, and shifted. Change, change, CHANGE!

It was likely that the cell was equipped with some kind of infrared, because there was no way to hide the fire building in her belly. Karla bellowed angrily, the sound so strong that the Plexiglas cracked. The new dragoness flexed her claws, smiling like only an ancient reptile could. This was no ancient evil lizard! The Presence was friendly, wanted to help her escape. In an instant, it was as if it had always been. The only thing that felt odd was the thought that she'd just had an Origin.

"Dragon, you will obey my commands!" came the gravelly voice from the grille in the wall. "Dragon, you will..."

Karla used an elbow spike to silence the nuisance.

The gas was starting to clear a little now. That was when she saw gunports open. She was showered with automatic weapons fire from all sides. Point-blank bullets impacted her hide like so many mosquitoes, not even scratching her skin or more than a minor annoyance. With the thick smell of cordite and gun oil, she finally got a look at herself.

"The Hell? I'm a dragoness with breasts?" Karla exclaimed incredulously. Her shape was not quite human, and not quite dragon. Her skin was amazingly free of scales, and instead was colored a smooth sky-blue, with a white belly. As the bullets piled up around her she made a show of feeling horns, elongated ears, and looking back at her wings and tail. She spread her wings, stretching them. The bullets just bounced off the membranes as if it was a trampoline.

The ancient draconian knowledge settled gently into place like an old friend. The Presence told her what to do. She didn't want to hurt anyone. All the girls on the island were victims--slaves of the Fuhrer, really. She had to take the operation apart without hurting them. And she had to rescue Albert and Marcia to boot. She looked at her hands.

Then she willed them into the fiercest talons she could think of. Five fingers fused into three. She arched her back, now comfortable on all fours. Her breasts shrank away as a true scaley hide took shape, and she almost completely filled the sizable cell. Now she was truly a dragoness! All right! Look out, Feminazi! I'm your worst nightmare!

The blue dragoness tore away the front of the cage, slicing through the tough acrylic as if it was made of butter. Bellowing anger, she grabbed the cage that contained the male half of the superspy, then took a deep breath... No, wait. I don't want flame! What about...

She expelled a purple gas exactly like the kind that had knocked her out on the bus, making the half-dozen armored women faint into unconsciousness. Inside the cage, the fuzzy creature frinked in panic. "All right!"

At just that moment, still in uniform, Marcia opened the door. She yelped in surprise, but amazingly did not turn to run, instead holding the gun shakily pointed at the dragon. "Don't move!"

"Marcia!" Karla bellowed. She put the ringtailed thing's cage down on the ground. "I have your husband!"

Marcia blinked. "Um... husband? Who are you?"

"Karla... er... Kevin. Look, I'll explain later. We need to do something about Albert."

"That's not my husband," she replied, tapping her left temple. Her tone of voice changed. "I'm right in here, darling. Eva was trying to put one over on you. What, she tell you that lemur was me?"

"Well... um... yes," the blue dragoness replied sheepishly. There had always been threats about being turned into some kind of exotic pet if you didn't toe the line.

There was a flash, the acrid scent of ozone, and Albert was standing there in an army uniform. Just as quickly he flashed back again. "How much of you are you?"

She was, perhaps, twenty feet of dragon. From the look of the corridor, there was no way to fit. "Too much of me. Um, hold on." She shut her eyes and thought hard. Human, human...

"Neat trick, but you should probably put some clothes on. Nice tail, by the way. And the horns? They're you, darling."

She opened her eyes. She was, maybe, about ninety percent human. But it'd have to do. Karla folded her winglets to her back and blushed. "Just... um... give me one more minute." Center, center... She went back to where she was when the dragon ghost had first fused with her.

"A dragon with breasts? Hokay..." Secret Agent Janus said. "Enough time wasting. Let's take this operation down! Don't worry, I've got reinforcements on the way."

Feminazi and Eva didn't stand a chance. The Heroine always wins.

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Home again. She couldn't hide the backwards-curving horns. She couldn't hide the yard of thick reptilian tail, or the mottled blue skin and irregular patches of scales. She needed expensive special shoes, so did without. And keeping her nails filed blunt was a tiresome but necessary chore. But Karla Humboldt was just happy to be home. Even if it meant she got a few stares, and a greater number of propositions. She strolled through the streets of Pittsburgh, noting that the local economy was as bad as ever. Boarded up storefronts were everywhere. So many people had moved out of this part of town even the Unemployment Office had closed up shop for lack of clients.

She didn't even feel the cold, and even in the middle of winter wore a tank top, which freed her winglets, and a long skirt. The landlord who walked beside her gave the dragon lady nervous looks. Karla made sure not to smile. "I got one of them secret bases in the basement in this here building," he said nervously, stopping in front of a century-old brownstone that had seen much better days. "Equipment's a little outdated, but it should get you started, Miss. Um... what're you calling yourself?"

"Dragongirl, Blue Dragoness, Dragon Lady? I haven't settled on anything yet," she replied with a shrug and a flip of her winglets.

"Well, Pittsburgh needs somebody. Steelclaw moved out a year ago, you know. Everybody's abandoning us..."

Karla let a little smoke come out of her nose. "Oh, don't you worry, Mister Pitts. I'm not going anywhere."

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Author's Comments

A good reference for Karla's "middle" form can be found here.