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The LaPorte Caves – Revised – Ch 08a – A Lesson in Differences

Written by circes_cup :: [Tuesday, 10 December 2019 23:23] Last updated by :: [Friday, 24 January 2020 12:19]

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CHAPTER 08a – A LESSON IN DIFFERENCES


SYNOPSIS UP TO THIS POINT
Julia and Howard took a wrong turn in a Kentucky cave and tumbled out into a world of amazon women.  Julia had promised to refrain from taking the elixir that transforms women to amazons, but later broke that promise and consumed the elixir.  Now an amazon, she has begun to explore the thrill of her new physical prowess, the sexual desires that reside in her new body, and the ways in which this world’s culture has molded itself around those desires.  But there is still the matter of getting home, on which Howard is entirely focused. And he has taken some solace in the fact that, despite his girlfriend’s physical power, he still possesses skills and analytical talents that she cannot match.

DISCLAIMER
This story contains adult sexual content.  If you are not of age to read this stuff, don't.  No resemblance between these characters and real people on Earth is implied or intended.


She arrived in the kitchen to find the family assembling for breakfast. Ruth’s husband was hard at work over the stove, while the younger children played at the kitchen table. Mindy, with her long powerful strides, thudded into the room a moment later. She was wearing a simple lemon chiffon-colored summer dress: crew-necked with wide straps over the shoulders, hemmed at the upper thigh, with a midriff of lace rather than solid fabric. It was a study in irony: colors delicate as a flower, lace as elegant as human hands could craft, and yet the lace provided a window through which the thick balls of her abdominal muscles could be seen. Pretty, but packing strength that was truly frightening.

Julia had to go as far as the home office to find Howard.

"Where'd you go?" Howard asked, not taking his eyes off the computer. On the desk was a stack of papers with scribbled notes. More pages were wadded up and forming a small hill inside the trash can. His wiry frame, which had conquered endless hiking trails with its long, exuberant stride, was now coiled tight. His eyes were bloodshot.

"Ruth and I went for a little swim at dawn. What are you doing?"

"Tried to figure out this cave system. I've been up since just after dawn."

"Did you figure it out?"

"Not at all. Lots of mapping has been done from this side, but many of the maps do not connect, and none identify a route to our world. What's worse, those parts of the system that have been mapped are highly complex. There appear to be hundreds of passages, criss-crossing each other in every which way. It's like trying to map a pile of spaghetti by slicing the pile in half and looking at it from the side."

Julia gazed over his shoulder at the screen. The monitor was huge: perhaps five feet by four feet. But only a small portion in the middle was illuminated. This section contained several maps of the caves, and they indeed looked incredibly complex. It would be a miracle if anyone could figure it out.

The observation came with an uninvited feeling of relief. Howard had made no progress, so there was no expectation that they would return to Earth in the next day or two. Maybe she could swim a coral reef tomorrow, she mused.

Howard leaned back into the plushness of the office chair and closed his eyes. “I’m actually a bit scared, Julia. I don’t know what’s going to happen to us.”

That made Julia pause. She got down on her knees, grasped him by his, and swiveled the chair around to face her. She ran her fingers over his knees and his thighs. “Do you remember that time when whe were crossing a river on a log, and I flipped out? Couldn’t move, thought I was going to fall in and drown? And do you remember what you did?”

“No.” Howard’s eyes sparkled. “Was it good?”

“It was great. You grabbed my belt from behind and said, ‘It’s all going to be ok, Julia. If we go in the water now, we go in together.’”

“I said that?”

“You did, and I’ll never forget it. We’re partners, Howard. I’m very, very strong now. And you’ve always been very, very smart. Maybe you’re scared, but I’m not. Because I know there’s nobody I’d rather have behind me on a wobbly log than the guy I’m already with.”

That softened his features. “OK.”

Julia sat in a chair alongside the desk. She plucked a rubber band off the surface of the desk and twirled it between her fingers. “How about this…” She licked her lips. “How about I put on a bikini — a really skimpy one — that lets you ogle everything my new body has to offer.” She stood two fingers up on his thigh, like little legs, and then stepped them into the rubber band. Then, she slid the rubber band up to the base of the fingers and twisted it, making a thong. “…and we go to the beach…” she walked the fingers up his thigh, a swagger in their step.

Howard chuckled.

“…we frolic in the waves. We relax. If we’re feeling ambitious, you teach me a little bit of the butterfly stroke…” Her fingers made an inept undulated kicking motion.

That made Howard laugh outright. “Your fingers suck at the butterfly.”

“Maybe my. real body will be better.” She shift her posture, allowing a heavy breast to scrape over his hand. “If you like, I’ll catch us some fresh fish for lunch and Andos can grill it for us. And then…” her fingers kept walking, until their footfalls caressed his manhood.

Howard gulped.

“… and we can go back to the room, you take my bikini off of me and then we play some more. Or we can just skip all the shit on the beach and you can just ravish me outright.” Her thumb joined the dance now, sliding gently up his cock as her other fingers held it steady, the rustle of his cotton pants filling the silence of the room. “And believe me, I’ll make sure my bikini is much easier to get off than the thing I was wearing yesterday.” With a flick of her thumb, the rubber band was severed.

Julia watched Howard glance cautiously at her hand, and then back at the screen, still riddled the squiggles of the cave map.

“You are in the care of a very powerful woman,” Julia purred. “Whatever you need today Howard, I’m going to get it. Whatever your heart desires, I’m going to fulfill it. You’re on vacation today, stud. You can to back to torturing yourself tomorrow.”

“What my heart desires is to return home, to undo everything that has happened here.”

Julia grimaced. Howard was much harder to please than those men on the boat, it appeared.

"Maybe it's time to get you some breakfast. You’ve never said no to a good meal.” She took him by the hand and lead him into the kitchen, facing away from him to hide her discouragement. If her fingers had done a thong dance on the boys from the boat, they would stumbled over themselves to spend time with her. But Howard, he was so negative…

"And this written language of theirs…" Howard pointed at the foreign characters on the jars of jelly and marmalade "… this language is incomprehensible to me. I've tried to learn it, and I can't. Becky's helped me translate a few things, but there are only so many times I can beg her to help."

Julia put a reassuring hand on his thigh. "Honey, you've done more before breakfast than some people do all day, as they used to say in the army. Give it a little rest."

Howard appeared to do so. He turned his attention to the TV, which was squacking in the background. Unlike the screen of an Earth TV, this one was divided up into sixteen different images, each tiny, each a separate broadcast. And it was emitting an unintelligible murmur rather than coherent sound. "What's going on with your TV?" Howard asked the family. "Is it working?"

Ruth didn't even look up from her plate. "Mindy, please set the TV to one channel at at time so that the men can watch it. Leaving it on Multi-view is rude."

"The men can see the TV just fine." She pouted.

"Don’t quibble with me young lady. Of course they can SEE the TV. What they can't see are the individual images. They're too small. And they can't understand the combined audio feed. It just sounds like mush to them. We've been over this before. You can't turn the thing on and then set it to a mode that only half the room can enjoy."

"But watching one channel at a time is BORING," Mindy groaned.

"That's enough. One channel. Now."

"WhatEVER," Mindy groaned jabbing the remote at the TV.

The TV replaced sixteen broadcasts with just one: the weather. The day at the beach would be balmy and humid, but a cold front was approaching. Humidity would give way to rain in the evening. And that same rain would become snow in the mountains. Today would be a good day for bathing suits, but tomorrow, skiing.

The weather forecast included charts and graphs, which reminded her of Howard's observation: their spoken language might be the same, but their written one is a mystery to us. It gave Julia an idea. "Does that TV have closed captioning?"

Mindy jabbed a button on the remote control. Text began to appear at the bottom of the screen-- the same incomprehensible writing Julia had seen since arriving in this land. Julia stared at it as she slid her fork through the six-deep stack of pancakes on her plate. "I think I'm starting to get it," she announced.

"Get what?" Howard asked.

"Shhh," Julia said. The characters were flashing on the screen as rapidly as the meteorologist spoke. "If I watch the closed captioning closely, I should be able to pair some of it with the sounds I am hearing." In the space of only a minute, dozens of characters sped by on the closed captioning. She found them unusually easy to remember. "They don't use a 26-character alphabet, like we do. They have more letters than that."

"We have 256!" the little girl, Becky, declared.

Julia beamed. She had never been a step ahead of Howard -- ever! But today, she felt unusually clever. She hoped he would be impressed.

But instead, she saw his jaw clench. "That doesn't make any sense. You arrived at that conclusion just from watching the closed captioning?"

"Sure! Let me show you." She grabbed the morning paper and flipped to the weather. She pointed at a pair of characters. "This means 'humidity'. This means 'rain'.

"Is she right?" Howard asked, showing the paper to Ruth.

The woman nodded.

"I think it's like Chinese". Julia was flushed with excitement. She put her fork down and stared intently at the screen, which had transitioned to an advertisement. "They use a single character to represent whole syllables, or even whole words or entire concepts.”

Several minutes passed. Ruth and her family ate. Howard picked at his food uncomfortably. Julia simply stared at the screen.

Hundreds of words were spoken, their pairings with written text sinking easily into her mind. So engrossed was she in the self administered lesson that she only came out of it when Howard cleared his throat in annoyance.

“Are you going to eat anything?” Howard finally prompted her.

Julia took a bit of omelet without taking her eyes from the screen. “You should try looking at the captions. It’s really easy.”

She could feel his attention shift to the screen for several moments, before turning back to the food. “I can’t make sense of the chicken scratch on the bottom. It’s going by so fast.”

“Seriously, you can’t pick up anything?”

“No, I can’t,” Howard replied, reddening.

“He’s kinda slow,” Mindy offered, helpfully.

“Here, let me know you.” Julia handed the remote control back to Mindy and slid the morning paper between her and Howard. She pointed at an ad for a small box-shaped case, ornately decorated. “Protect your jewelery from your harem’s…”

“… mischief,” Ruth offered.

“…mischief. Fortress of the Sea Jewelry Boxes. Only a five-hundred-pound lid. But infinite peace of mind.” She looked up at Ruth. “How’d I do?”

“Pretty much perfect!” Ruth beamed.

He stared at the paper in buffueddment, and then looked up again, the confusion. on his face only growing. She had never seen him befuddled before, and she had to admit, it was pretty cute.

“But nobody can learn language that fast,” he said with a tinge of fear in his voice. “Can they?”

That annoyed Julia. Never had she bested him at a mental challenge. Couldn’t he be a little happier for her? Julia forced herself to let it go.

She found a much simpler ad: water wings for men that had never learned to swim. It contained only a few words. “Here, start with this ad. Did you see anything on the TV that would help you decipher this?”

On one side of the ad, a man with water wings was floating happily, his feet dangling above the seabed, while his woman stood protectively as his side. A single character captioned the image. She watched Howard’s adorable brow furrow as he peered at the ad.

“I don’t know,” he conceded.

“That’s the character for smart. Now, try to deduce the other one.” A man without water wings, without a woman by his side, was slipping beneath the surface, arms up in desperation.

Howard stared for a while and then shook his head.

“It means stupid.”

A giggle escaped the women on the other side of the table.

Howard looked as though he had seen a ghost.

"I'm sorry, honey, I didn't meant to suggest anything. Those were just the words in the ad!"

"Real classy, Julia,” he said with a wobbly voice as he got up from the table. “I hope you're proud of yourself."

Howard walked out of the room.

"Howard, no, please! I’m still learning this stuff. It was an honest mistake!" Julia rose from the table as well.

But she was arrested by the touch of Ruth's hand.

"Let him go," Ruth said. "If he has a problem with who you are, it's his problem, not yours.“

"I've hurt his feelings," Julia said, crestfallen.

“No, he hurt his own feelings. He is comparing himself to you, and expecting to measure up. But he never will. You are vastly superior. Only when he accepts that, can he be happy for you and proud of your accomplishments.”

Julia shook her head slowly in lament. "We’ve loved each other since the moment we met, and yet when he looked at me just then, it… It was as if he barely recognized me anymore."

"So?" Mindy slopped another six pancakes on to her plate. "There are plenty of men to choose from."

"MINDY!" Ruth's nostrils flared. "There may be only one person in this household who is still capable of teaching you a lesson, but believe me, if I have to do it…"

"I'll clear the dishes," the husband, Andos, announced, rising from the table. He seemed eager to escape the possible eruption of the twin volcanoes that were his wife and daughter.

”I’m destroying the one love that I’ve ever had," Julia lamented, slipping out of the room.

-----------

She found Howard at the base of the stairs to the house, peering under it. "Hey," she said, hands in the pockets of her robe.

"Hey yourself." He said into the crawl space.

"I'm sorry, honey, really. I didn't mean it."

Howard didn't say anything. That meant he really was hurt.

"Honey…" She prodded.

"Are you smarter than me now, too?" he asked.

“There are moments when I feel smarter. When I was with Mindy yesterday, I did some math in my head that I’ve never been able to do before. But as quickly as the moments come, they disappear again. After you left the kitchen, they put the TV back on Multi-view: it sounded like gibberish to me, just like it did with you.”

Julia searched his expression for some a sign that his angst had eased, but she did not find any. “Like you said yesterday, my genetics are different than theirs,” she offered. “Some aspects of the Nourishment may not work as well on me. The intelligence seems to come only in flashes."

But he did not look relieved. “Even if its comes only in flashes, it’s still pretty scary. To think that you would be so much stronger than me, and so much smarter, too. I would be completely worthless here.”

“Don’t say that! You’ll never be worthless— here or anywhere else.” She squatted down and pecked her boyfriend on the cheek. “You make me happier than any man has ever made me, and please don’t forget that.”

That earned her a weary smile.

Julia then joined him in peering under the house. "What are you looking for?"

"The machinery that moves the house. I can tell it's in a different location than yesterday morning, but there's no track, no hydraulics."

A feeling of unease settled over her. Howard had been preoccupied on the beach when she and Mindy moved the house, so he hadn’t seen the actual event. But he should know enough about the capabilities of the Nourished by this point to guess how that building had wandered across the beach.

Part of him was in severe denial, Julia realized.

Arriving in a world of superwomen had been a rude awakening to him. But the way he was handling it, he surely had more rude awakenings yet to come.

She stroked that pads of her fingers over the backside of his hand. “Howard, how are you handling all this? Are you OK?”

He looked up at her, wordless. His skin was tanned and freckled, testimony to the countless outdoor challenges on which he had embarked and succeeded. The curls of his hair were as playful as ever. But his eyes -- the sharpness and confidence she had always seen there were gone. She wished she could build him back up a little. "I have an idea…Why don't you teach me the butterfly stroke?" She asked.

The suggestion was not a new one. It had been his best event in college. Howard had tried to teach her the stroke before, back in Kentucky. But her endurance and patience had sputtered out long before the had the stroke down, and she had never returned to the endeavor.

Howard ran a hand through the resilience of his curly hair and looked out at the ocean. "Well, the sun is behind some clouds, which is good. And the waves are light. It’s actually not a bad time to do a lesson.

“I’ll probably have the endurance for it this time.”

That triggered a chuckle from Howard. “No kidding. Well, if you’re up for learning, I’m up for teaching. Maybe I’m not so worthless, after all.”

That made Julia feel good. She stood, extended a hand, and brought Howard to his feet.

 

-----------

08a1 Perspective on Julia

She might be stronger than you, but you still possess skills that she does not.

That was what Howard told himself as he watched her emerge from the house. She wore a black string bikinI highlighted with bits of silver that hugged her extremely feminine curves. The wind was just strong enough to blow her hair across her face. Strands that had once been a duller shade of brown were now, since Nourishment, rich and shining, like copper. She tucked them behind her ear repeatedly, a shy and nervous motion she had been done on their very first their first date. It was probably the moment that he had first fallen in love with her, amd seeing it made him fall for her all over again.

However, the part of Julia that had not attended their first date -- namely, everything below the neck -- was also on display. Her v-shaped torso was a solid trunk of muscle, and her limbs were wide with their own swells of power. Her breasts were large and proud, ignoring gravity and forcing the tight suit to bend around their firmness. So large was her bust line that the sunlight distorted itself when it hit the reflective material of her suit, pooling into areas of light and dark. I am an entirely enhanced woman, that bust line seemed to remind him. I am built bigger than you. Faster than you. Stronger than you.

Better than you.

Stay in the zone, Howard, he told himself. The butterfly is your best stroke. She's never done it before. You're the teacher here. Stay in the zone!

He watched sand billow away from her footfalls, as if the beach were being crossed by a jackhammer rather than a woman. Hundreds of pounds heavier than me, Howard admitted, and all of it is muscle. Stay in the zone!

She tied the cooper glow of her hair back into a bun, descended into the water and swam out to him, surfacing nearby. Her face, perfectly proportioned, with rich, almond eyes, high cheekbones, newly pouty lips, lit up into a smile that seemed to warm the very water in which Howard floated.

"OK, ready, Professor!"

"It's Coach, not Professor!" Howard laughed. "OK. The stroke has three different motions -- your arms, your legs and your torso -- all of which have to be mastered and then integrated correctly. Be patient with yourself. You won't get it down during the first session but perhaps you can get some of the pieces."

"OK, Coach! How long did it take you?"

"A few weeks. The first thing to focus on is your arms. Start floating on your belly, arms straight over your head. Pull your arms towards you, palms facing down, your arms extending outward in a wide arc. Then, when you get to your stomach, push your arms down toward your kneecaps. All told, the path of your hands should be in the shape of a keyhole -- a wide circle up top, followed by a narrow slot below the waist. Try a few."

Julia dipped her head below the water, extended her hands above her head, and then snapped her arms downward, launching her body violently forward. Howard found himself scrambling to get out of the way, like he was dodging a torpedo. Her first stroke left her ten feet away from him.

"How was that?"

Better than it should have been, he thought. Even terrifying. The sheer power she possessed! It was only her clumsiness that held her back.

"That was a good start. Now the kick. You have to do two for every stroke: one little one as you are moving your arms, and one big one between arm strokes. That moment between arm strokes is critical. In addition to the big kick, you also have to move your entire torso in a wave motion. Doing all the things together will thrust your head out of the water just long enough for you to breathe. That's when you hurl your arms up and in front of you to begin the next stroke. Got it?"

"Uh, no."

“Watch the whole stroke together, then we can break it down piece by piece." Howard proceeded to swim a few strokes of butterfly, the complex rhythm of it instantly coming back to him. He was proud, actually, of his knack for it. “Now you try.”

Julia did. She fumbled the stroke, her overpowered limbs moving out of sync with each other, churning the water into a froth as her body went nowhere.

The less movement her body produced, the more Howard’s spirits soared. He was still better than her in at least this one aspect! She may be the braun, but a stroke like this took skill, too. And he had it. He had value in their relationship.

“Don’t get discouraged,” Howard offered. “You’ll get it.”

Julia's almond eyes narrowed in concentration. "Can you do it again while I watch you from underwater?"

Howard did so.

Julia surfaced with a smile on her face. "I got it!"

"Be patient with yourself," Howard reminded her.

She dipped below the water and then sprung forward — kick, kick, stroke — her limbs now working in smooth harmony.

Howard felt a sinking in his gut. She shouldn’t be that good yet. That should have taken her hours of practice. He searched for something to criticize. “Your little kick is a bit late,” he concluded.

“Hmmm.” Treading water, she closed her eyes for several moments.

“What are you doing?” Howard squished his arms through the cool water with growing apprehension.

“Re-playing your stroke in my mind. It’s working again — the photographic memory.” She took several deep breaths. The rise and fall of her ‘girls’ caused small waves to propagate across the water’s surface, slapping against Howard’s, as if to remind him of her great size. “I think I’ve got it now.”

She burrowed into the water again, for the briefest moment, before her head darted out. Kick, kick, stroke — her limbs completely synchronized, her body a sympohy of movement, perfectly tuned. It was a wonder to watch. A gut-wrenching, humiliating wonder. “How was that?”

Perfect, he thought. Absolutely perfect.

"Pretty good," he lied.

“Then I have room to improve. Maybe we swim together for a bit, and you show me where I can do better.”

“Sure.”

“Out to the buoy and back.”

Howard began a butterfly stroke and, out of the corner of his eye, could see Julia doing so as well. The WHAP-WHAP of Julia's arms hitting the water was audible even beneath the waves. Surrounded by such reverberations, his own stroke felt diminutive by comparison.

Kick, kick, stroke. Kick, kick, stroke. Howard paused to gauge his distance from her and found her to be four full body lengths ahead! Howard knew how to gauge speed in the water: She must have been swimming the butterfly at twice the pace any human had ever achieved!

He put everything he had into it. Every muscle strained. Every scrap of lung tissue begged for more air. Even without a clock he knew it would have been one of his best race times ever.

Julia, finally realizing that she was swimming alone, stopped and waited.

"You don't have to baby me, you know," she said lightly when he finally caught up to her. "I can take it."

That was the best pace I could ever produce, Howard wanted to scream. But he was so out of breath, he could only rasp a few words. “Go ahead. I’ll watch.”

“OK.”. She stared at the buoy. “I’ll give it my best shot.”

She dipped below the water and, with a quick snap of her legs, launched herself forward. When her torso came back up out of the water for a breath, it didn't just pop out of the water like a normal body. It exploded out, like a rapidly surfacing submarine, buckets of water sheeting off her solid, wide, powerful hull. Her arms, thick as guns on a battleship, shot out of the water with blinding speed as she threw them forward for the next stroke. The motion made her lats spreading wide like wings -- so much muscle that it would have made an Olympic swimmer look frail by comparison. Her arms would then smash back into the water with an audible SLAP, sending spray twenty feet into the air.

Her pace was inhuman — double or triple the world record pace she had already swum. SLAP-SLAP-SLAP went her body through the water at a pace to rapid it resembled applause.

“Ta-Da!” She rejoiced, reaching the buoy.

Howard raised his hands out of the water and clapped. But he was too winded to tread water with only his feet, so the clap was short. “Give that girl a trophy,” he obliged between breaths.

“Dum-da-dum!” She giggled, picking up the bouy. Its thousand or so pounds rose smoothly out of the water, seaweed draped from its frame like the hair of some mythical sea beast.

But it wasn’t the only beast out there. His girlfriend dropped the massive buoy back and climbed up on top, balancing on it, a playful look on her face.

“The crowd goes wild!” She announced and then adopted an “arnold” pose — front arm straight out, the other flexed behind her. Her body exploded into thick ellipsoids of inhumanly strong muscle. It was a sight that would have brought any body-building competition to a complete halt: her muscles were larger and more sculpted than any man’s could ever be.

Howard felt an urge to wretch into the ocean. It wasn’t fair! He could work out every hour of every day for his entire life and never achieve muscles that large, set aside ones so supernaturally powerful. He could swim competitively for a decade and never hit half her pace. And all because of a piece of fruit!

He wanted to be away from her. Turning toward the shore, he swam for it, freestyle.

But it wasn’t more than ten or twelve strokes before he heard felt the presence of her alongside him. She had closed the gap in no time, and now was using the horribly inefficient side stroke to keep pace with his crawl — a feat that should have been impossible!

But her voice betrayed no strain. “I had SO much fun out here today. We should do this all the time!”

Howard ignored her, continuing to swim.

“And I learned SO much. It’s all in the coaching, you know. And I couldn’t have asked for a better coach than you!”

Howard continued to give her the silent treatment as he swam. But she seemed to miss the signs of his darkening mood.

“So we’re racing to the shore, huh?” She asked, innocently. Well, OK then. You’re on?”

But blasted away from him effortlessly, her limbs smashing the water with superhuman ferocity. And that was ‘holding back’?

Howard swam with all his might, ignoring the pain of his limbs, the empty ache of his lungs, the black spots that slowly began to blur his vision. I should slow down, he told himself, catch my breath. But he just wanted the experience to be over.

His limbs clawed through the water, painful stroke after painful stroke, until he felt the warmth of the shallows. He saw that Julia was standing, and tried to do so himself. His feet found only water.

“Sorry, I thought you could swim faster.” Her voice was full of naivete.

Howard tried to reply but only could only cough and gulp for air. He shoved an armful of water at her with a little SPLASH.

“Oh, So that’s how you want to play, eh buster?” She giggled. “Well then take this!”

Her huge arm moved in a blur through the water. Howard felt himself slammed back by a tsunami-like volume of water, turning him head over heels, driving water into his lungs and forcing him to gasp desperately for air.

That did it. Howard swam for the shore now, with blind fury, barely able to contain his anger. He saw the tell tale splash of her resuming a butterfly stroke, but didn’t care where she was going. He just wanted to get out of there.

But then, WHAM. He had collided with something very solid.

Her. She had gotten out in front of him again, effortlessly.

Howard wasn't sure whether the body part with which he had collided was bone or muscle. They were both equally hard to him. It was like swimming straight into the sidewall of a pool -- and it hurt like hell.

He found himself eye-to-eye with her mini-cannonball abdominals.

“You silly guy, you swam right into me,” her voice admonished from above.

His lungs heaved for air. His heart pounded in his chest. His body was so exhasted that his lips went numb.

But she seemed entirely untaxed, the iron spheres of her midriff undulating with easy breaths.

“I had such an awesome time out there with you, coach!” She stretched her arms above the head, just like Howard had taught here, each hand pulling the opposite elbow inward. Her body exploded into an envy-producing column of pure muscle, her midriff entirely elongated and exposed. ”And that stroke — I can’t believe how easy was is to learn, and how much fun it it is to do! I feel like I could do it for days!”

THUD. Howard had punched her right in the gut. He didn't even realize what he was doing until the blow was over. It was like hitting a pile of stone. His hand screamed in pain. The look on her face was only confusion.

"Honey, honey, please no." She hugged him tight, pinning the top of his head between the bottoms of her titanic breasts.

THUD THUD THUD THUD. He was landing more useless blows on the amazonian body against which he was now pressed. Each punch sent a searing pain through his knuckles. The force of his blows soon lessened, and the sound of them was soon overtaken by the sound of his sobs. Her immensely powerful arms pulled his protesting body into her with inexorable force.

"I'm sorry honey," she was saying. "I just wanted you to have a good experience… to know that I still valued you… and respected you… did I outpace you too much? … learn to fast? … I thought I was doing such a good job of holding back … I’m sorry…"

But try as he did, Howard couldn't respond. She was hugging him tight. Breasts with all the softness of iron battering rams crushed in on him. They pinned his arms to his sides, bent his ribs inward as if they were made of no more than bailing wire. Howard tried to formulate a word, or even a thought. But his oxygen-starved mind was not up to the task. It was too busy blacking out.

-----------

Julia carried his limp body back to the guest bedroom. He felt like a rag doll in her arms. And he looked like one too: thighs narrower than her biceps. Hips narrower than her quads. There was nothing wrong with him: he was a normal man. But normalcy seemed so fragile to her now.

And fragility never seemed seemed so beautiful. The hard outline of his jaw seemed to suggest confidence, but underneath, she knew, his spirit was wounded. The hair on his chest seemed to reflect some sort of savage, animal-like dominance, but in this new world, he was a weakling. Strong on the outside, but vulnerable underneath -- nothing could have turned her on more. A small piece of her mind wondered when weakness had become a turn-on for her. She laid him on the bed and watched his head loll backward, just like it did during sex. It gave her a gushy feeling inside.

How could I have messed up so greatly so out there, Julia asked herself? All I wanted was for him to have a great time, feel great about himself. And yet somehow exactly the opposite happened. I thought I was holding back plenty. I men, I wasn’t even trying at all! And yet…. She remembered the blows he had landed on her midriff— not the feel of them, but the anger behind them.

Julia began to slip out of her bathing suit. It was a two-piece, with stretchy little strings rather than ties. Julia hooked a thumb under the strings of the top and carefully pulled it off, so as not to snap it. Belatedly, she realized that it was tensile rated, with little symbols stitched into the hem. Her thumbs had been applying three hundred pounds of force without her knowing it.

Would Howard be able to do that — even with both hands, even bracing a foot against me and lifting with his legs, even after a rant of grunting and profuse sweat. He would get nowhere with it, she thought as a few fingers slid the second strap off. The task seemed so simple to her now, and yet he was not man enough for it. Who could blame him for not wanting to be so weak? And yet…

The weakness was SO sexy. She watched the steady rise and fall of his chest: his overtaxed little body was trying to replenish itself with fresh air. He needed someone to protect him, to care for him, to make love to him. Julia wished that could be her, and now. She wanted him so badly that it made her knees unsteady.

But he was in no state for it, she knew.

Now naked, she climbed into bed with him, cradling his frail body against her far more substantial one. Her oversized nipples scraped delightfully against the coarseness of his chest stubble. Running her fingers through the playful curls of his salt-laden hair caused an ache inside of her. She buried his head in the deep valley of her cleavage, allowing the heft and warmth of her "girls" to surround him.

The smell of his sweat enlivened her senses. The faint sound of his breathing was a roar in Julia's mind. Her fingers danced with unspent energy. The place between her legs felt hollow. I need him the way a wound needs a balm, she realized.

"Howard, honey?"

There was no reply, apart from the soft wheeze of his labored breathing.

Later, Julia told herself. You made him black out; this is your punishment.

Unsated, Julia closed her eyes and lay next to Howard. The warmth of his skin, his soft breathing -- it settled her down and she slept. But at some point Howard must have regained consciousness, rose, and left the room. And oddly, his disappearance altered Julia’s sleep. She found herself uneasy, somewhere between rest and wakefulness.

Her mind passed into a fitful daydream.

-----------

She was approaching a large stone wall. A gate was right in front of her, a sliding panel that would move on vertical tracks, like a guillotine. It was perhaps eight feet across and twenty feet high, constructed of stone. Only a ton or two, Julia thought, her Nourishment-enhanced muscles brimming with energy.

Several men were already the gate, unaware of her approach, trying to peer through a peephole to the other side.

Something was happening in there. She could feel it.

When she approached the door, the men scattered and assessed her only with furtive glances. They are not supposed to be here, Julia could tell.

Her hand found the iron handle at the bottom of the gate. With one arm, she slid the mass smoothly upward. The air shook with the RUMBLE of the heavy stone mass as it rose. With her arm fully extended above her, she turned to face the men. Their unenhanced muscles seemed diminutive to her now: it would take forty of them just to budge the mass that she easily held aloft.

"What's inside?" she asked the men.

"Please don't get us in trouble," one of the men replied, shuffling toward the darkness of the surrounding woods. "We just wanted to see what the women were talking about."

“What’s happening in there?"

"Please don't tell us. We didn't touch anything." With his head down and eyes averted, the man disappeared into the surrounding woods.

Julia's unease grew. She released the door behind her. It hurdled to the ground with a BOOM that made even Julia's bones quiver.

She found herself in a grove of Diana trees. The rustle of their leaves seemed to fill the air with whispers. Julia put her hand on one of the trunks. Its bark seemed to shift away from her touch, almost as though it were recoiling.

As she progressed through the orchard, the trunks thickened. The air became heavier with the sweet smell of the fruit. The canopy of leaves grew more dense, making darker the path she walked.

The air was suffused the power that flowed through the trees. The power that makes women stronger than men. Faster. More perceptive. Impervious to harm. Everything. The power on which the entire civilization rests.

Another shift in the wind caused the leaves in the canopy to rustle again. Are the trees whispering to me, Julia wondered? She applied her enhanced ears to the task. The sound indeed had a coherence to it. But if there were words floating in this wind, she could not capture them. The sound had a desperate tone, almost like pleading.

Julia opened her eyes again and ran her hand along a lower branch. It was then that she observed the leaves up close.

At the edges, they were turning brown.

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