Purple Pufferfish, The

Inflation Types:
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As a grad student of Marine Biology at the University, Azura was for the most part a normal 23-year-old young woman with good grades and a positive work attitude. But for as long as she could remember, Azura also had a secret dream of becoming a superhero, one she had ever since she was a little girl, with an innate desire to fight crime and look out for the public good.

So, after she was bitten by a radioactive pufferfish as she was scuba diving out near the nuclear power plant, her first thought wasn’t “Holy shit…I’m going to die a slow and painful death!” No, her first thought was “Holy shit…this is my chance to be a real live superhero!” And thus began Azura's career as a super-powered vigilante in her home city of San Pacifica.

Subsequently, her transformation into a human pufferfish, while outwardly unnoticeable to everyone including Azura herself, was almost immediate. The first time she realized she actually had superpowers was purely by accident. One evening a few days following her radioactive pufferfish bite, she and her two best friends, Lisa and Sarah, snuck into the university pool after hours to go swimming.

In the midst of horsing around, the other girls grabbed Azura by the arms and legs with the intent to throw her into the deep end. As the flailing Azura flew through the air toward the water, her pufferfish abilities kicked in almost instantaneously.

Her body immediately expanded and inflated like a balloon as she flew high above the pool, allowing her to land like a giant ball in the water. When she resurfaced a moment later, her swollen form bobbed up and down as her two friends stood by slack jawed and amazed.

The initial shock of it wore off, giving way to laughter and applause from the girls as Azura floated gently back to the edge of the pool and deflated herself. From that day forward, all the budding superhero wanted to do was to use her newfound abilities to help people.

Not only did she have the ability to inflate and deflate her body in an instant, but Azura soon became aware of an increased resilience of the skin on her arms, legs and body…so much so that bullets rebounded harmlessly off of her. Her skin also became more elastic and supple, allowing her to run and jump effortlessly, and she could now easily outswim even the fastest of Olympic athletes and breath underwater as natural as breathing fresh air.

All Azura needed now to be a superhero was a costume in the form of a full-body Lycra bodysuit (mostly for its elastic nature) and a matching mask to protect her identity. Unfortunately, the only bodysuit the girl could find in her size that was stretchy enough came solely in dark purple. Beset with impatience to get herself out on the streets, Azura decided to give the outfit a chance.

The first time she modeled the bodysuit in her apartment in front of Lisa and Sarah (the only two other people who were in on her secret), they both looked at her dubiously, neither convinced in the least that the color looked good on her; when she activated her superpower and swelled up big and round, Lisa smirked uncontrollably, making an off-handed comment comparing Azura to a giant grape, while Sarah tried desperately to keep from laughing.

Azura almost gave up on her dream right then and there, had Lisa and Sarah not relented and apologized profusely for their behavior and convinced her to follow her heart. To celebrate, the three of them pulled out a bottle of vodka and made a drinking game of coming up with absurd superhero names for Azura. Sarah won hands down when she pitched ‘The Grape of Wrath’ as Azura’s new nickname.

As it happened, the first time Azura used her superpowers to actually fight crime was completely unintentional on her part. She had been walking across the college campus late at night after spending most of the evening studying for midterms at the library. The path was poorly lit and isolated; two large men stepped out of the shadows to rob Azura, and possibly do even worse to the young girl.

By pure instinct, Azura’s powers kicked in and her body inflated to immense proportions as soon her attackers moved in close to grab her. They were thrown back violently against a concrete wall before falling over onto the ground unconscious. Thankfully, by pure chance she had been wearing her purple Lycra bodysuit on under her regular clothes, which were now left completely shredded by her transformation.

She checked to make sure her assailants weren’t seriously hurt and was glad that neither seemed to sustain any major injuries. As the two criminals lay there groaning on the sidewalk, Azura called 911 and waited for the authorities to arrive on the scene.

Before the police showed up, Azura stripped off her ruined outer layer of clothes and hid the tattered remains with her backpack in the nearby bushes. She had just donned her mask when law enforcement arrived on the scene.

As the policemen took her two attackers away in cuffs, one of the officers commented to Azura that there had been a string of violent robberies in the area, all with the same MO, and it was very likely she just put an end to that particular crime spree. Azura couldn’t wait to share the news with Lisa and Sarah, and called them as soon as she was able.

The second time she used her superpowers to fight crime was far more deliberate; Azura foiled a bank robbery by inflating herself like a balloon until she filled an entire hallway, effectively blocking the bank robbers’ escape from the vault and allowing the authorities to safely evacuate the hostages in the lobby before moving in to make an arrest. While successful in thwarting the bad guys’ plot, it was still strange and slightly embarrassing to be casually talking with SWAT while at the same time the criminals were pounding on her back end in an effort to get out.

After the bank robbery incident Azura received the superhero moniker ‘The Purple Pufferfish’ which stuck with her from that day forward. She didn’t mind it too much, since it was far better than being referred to as a crime-fighting piece of fruit or something even more awkward. But she remained curious who gave her the Purple Pufferfish appellation in the first place.

As luck would have it, it didn’t take long for her to get an answer. At the time Azura was inside preserving the safety of the hostages, as it turned out both Lisa and Sarah had lingered in the gathering crowd outside the bank, and had begun stealthily circulating the name to help it gain traction. It seemed, unofficially at least, Azura had a couple of sidekicks to aid her in her crime-fighting.

Still, Azura was shocked to hear that she was being credited for saving people’s lives and making such a positive impact in the community. Sure, she wasn’t anywhere near as prestigious as Lady Starstrike or the Quantum Avenger, but at the same time it was flattering to think that others looked up to her in this way and considered her a superhero in her own right.

Not all of her superhero exploits involved fighting crime though.

One time, as she swimming in the ocean, she helped rescue the crew of a catamaran that had flipped over in high waves. She puffed her body up enough to gather up the crew and then, when all hands were safe and accounted for, swam under the catamaran and inflated her body to gigantic proportions, flipping the vessel back over and righting it, allowing the crew to safely return to the docks.

Azura’s favorite rescue to date was a few weeks after she started using her superpowers for good. A woman, dressed only in a thin silk nightgown, was trapped on the fourth floor a burning building; smoke billowed up into the air like dark storm clouds while flames erupted from broken windows all around the woman’s apartment. Azura swelled up big and round and made herself into a living trampoline, allowing the woman to leap from her window to land unharmed on Azura’s stomach, sliding off her body to safety.

The woman thanked Azura profusely as first responders wrapped her in a blanket and placed the woman in the back of an ambulance to be treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation. Azura took this opportunity to slip away in the crowd before people starting asking too many questions.

The news crews arrived shortly after, and were quick to credit The Purple Pufferfish for her heroic actions. The woman’s account of her plummet from the burning building went far to cement the superhero’s standing in the community. The rescued woman even had the chance to be interviewed later for the evening news.

It seemed everyone wanted to know more about The Purple Pufferfish, especially because no one had the slightest notion of who she was, where she came from, or how she developed her powers. She was, in effect, an unknown person with an unknown past…just what most superheroes needed to maintain an element of mystique.

Between her crime-fighting activities at night and her full-time college career during the day, Azura used what little free time she had to experiment with her newfound abilities. By now, she knew quite a bit about how to control her powers; she could make her body bigger, inflating herself to ridiculous proportions, but aside from growing rounder she couldn’t change any more of her basic size.

She tried to focus her inflation abilities on specific body parts (Lisa walked in on her in the bedroom one time as she was trying to make just her breasts swell up) but despite her best efforts it always ended up affecting her entire body, causing her to become completely spherical.

“I don’t know,” she admitted to Lisa and Sarah one night over drinks. “I know it isn’t part of the job, but I think it would be fun if I was able to make my boobs really big or maybe my butt. You know, just to play around.”

Sarah raised an eyebrow at the thought, then shook her head. “You’re not serious, right?”

Azura shrugged. “Not really. It was just a passing thought.”

Lisa took another drink of her beer before weighing in. “I wouldn’t take the risk, if I were you. What if someone saw you? How hard would it be to figure out you were the Purple Pufferfish? Besides, giving yourself big breasts would not be using your powers for the greater good.”

Azura considered Lisa’s points seriously. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right,” she conceded after a moment. “It is probably best I stick to what I can handle.”

Still, later that evening when she thought neither of her friends were paying attention, Azura relaxed and focused on just her belly, receiving a small glimmer of satisfaction when her belt tightened imperceptibly and the front of her jeans gradually stretched across her now-fuller looking abdomen.

“I saw that,” said Sarah with a disapproving glance.

As the weeks passed, Azura could hardly believe the small following her superhero alter-ego had developed; it was a little difficult to keep it from going straight to her head, but she did have Lisa and Sarah to keep her grounded in reality.

Still, when the three of them went incognito to the San Pacifica Annual Comic Book Convention, Azura was surprised discover that a few women had actually dressed up all in purple as her superhero persona; one or two of the women even stuffed pillows into their spandex Cosplay outfits for effect.

When the three friends wandered over to the artists’ tables, Azura noticed that some of the artists had drawn depictions of The Purple Pufferfish, most of which featured her wearing a skimpy purple outfit with a hyper-exaggerated figure. Her real-life chest was nowhere close to the size they drew, nor was her waist so narrow. Azura wasn’t even sure how the women in the illustrations were supposed to stand up straight, much less fight crime.

“I’m not sure I like these,” Lisa said, holding up one portrayal of the superhero wearing a very revealing costume and thigh-high boots. “They seem kind of slutty.”

“You’ve got to do something,” Sarah encouraged her, “to set the record straight, or at least get them to draw you as you actually are.” Consequently, Azura ducked into a ladies’ room to don her Purple Pufferfish outfit as Lisa and Sarah stood watch outside.

At first, people mistook her for one of the Cosplayers but as word spread, she found herself being stopped and asked for autographs or to pose with fans for selfies. As she wandered up and down the artists’ aisles…with her friends hanging back a discrete distance from the crime-fighting champion…Azura eventually came across one artist who had taken the time to depict her accurately based on photographs culled from the news and social media.

The panels were tastefully drawn, with the only artistic license being, he colored her hair a deep purple and emblazoned the initials ‘PP’ across her chest. These two inconsistencies aside, the artist managed to capture the exact look of Azura, down to the freckled skin around her nose, and the slightly uncomfortable smile she usually wore when posing for photos.

As a small crowd gathered around herself and the artist’s table, Azura agreed to pose for a couple of quick sketches. After he completed some initial likenesses, she had the crowd stand back and inflated herself big enough that she wobbled back and forth slightly, holding her rounded form for the artist as he drew furiously. Her unmitigated support of his artwork went far to give credibility to the young man’s talents, and before departing she tucked his business card in her boot.

Afterward, Azura signed a few more autographs and posed for a couple of pictures before disappearing back into the crowd, quickly changing into her regular clothes as soon as she was able under the protective watch of her friends.

“How’d it go?” Sarah asked, looking genuinely impressed.

“Better than expected,” Azura replied with a grin, slipping another of the artist’s business cards into her back pocket. As the two girls looked about for their friend, Lisa trotted around the corner.

“I bought this, as a souvenir,” Lisa said, proudly holding up one of the pieces from the artist’s booth they’d just visited. She handed it over to Azura, who still found herself admiring his handiwork.

“I wonder how I’d actually look with purple hair,” she idly mused to her friends.


Azura had been a superhero for only a couple of months now, but with each passing day she learned more about her powers and how to control them. So when Lisa and Sarah both received an animated phone call from Azura late one afternoon telling them to come over right away, the excitement in the fledgling superhero’s voice told them something was up.

Both girls arrived at the same time, and let themselves into Azura’s apartment with a spare key that Lisa held on to for emergencies.

“Hello?” Sarah called out, a little uneasy that Azura was not waiting for them. “Anybody home?”

“Be right out!” Azura exclaimed from the bedroom, allaying any concerns the girls may have had that something was amiss.

“What’s going on?” Lisa yelled back, her voice tinged with mild annoyance at talking through a closed bedroom door. A moment later the door opened and Azura stepped into the living room wearing nothing but a matching red bra and panties set.

“Ta da!” Azura announced without a hint of explanation.

“Crap, you aren’t trying to make your boobs bigger again, are you?” Lisa asked, exasperated.

“No, no, no,” Azura reassured them. “I’ve been reading up on the pufferfish in my Marine Bio books, and I came across something interesting a while back. I’ve just recently figured out how to make it work.”

“What?” Sarah asked, genuinely curious.

Azura sidestepped out of the doorway, placing herself against the bluish-grey wall of her apartment. She closed her eyes, concentrating, and slowly her skin started to darken and change hue until it matched the color perfectly. Even though the two girls had witnessed it and knew what was going on, both Lisa and Sarah were a little freaked out by the sight of what appeared to be a disembodied set of women’s underwear with a slightly unruly mop of light brown hair floating above it. When Azura opened her eyes and smiled, it made the effect all the more creepy. If the girls stared hard enough, only a vague outline of the superhero could be made out.

“Camouflage!” declared a nearly invisible Azura. “The pufferfish has the ability to change colors and camouflage itself, and I’ve finally been able to do it also!”

Sarah and Lisa both gasped, impressed at the feat. They watched the superhero gradually return to normal, her skin coming back to its usual tone.

“Okay, okay, that was awesome,” Lisa conceded.

“But what about your clothes?” Sarah added, confused. “Won’t people see those?”

“Oh God,” Lisa said, suddenly aware of Sarah’s point. “You’re not going to start fighting crime naked, are you?”

“Oh, hell no!” Azura stated, her face turning beet red at the thought. “This was just an experiment. Besides, I’m the Purple Pufferfish...not Crazy Naked Chick...”

“Although...” Sarah began in her sing-song voice, “that’d be a good way to distract the criminals...”

“Yeah, but the point is to fight crime,” Lisa interjected, “not get herself arrested for public indecency.”

Azura rolled her eyes before continuing. “Anyway...I know I can’t disappear while wearing my Purple Pufferfish costume, but I did figure something else out.” She closed her eyes again, concentrating. Her hair began to darken now, starting at the roots before spreading to the very tips. In a matter of moments, Azura’s hair turned a deep, vibrant purple, like the sketch Lisa purchased at the Comic Book Convention. “What do you think?” Azura asked, turning her head back and forth to make her hair swish and bob about.

Lisa and Sarah both stared at their friend in awe, completely mesmerized.

“That’s so cool!” Sarah blurted out first. “How long does it last? Does it stay that way until you pick another color? How many shades do you have?”

“It’s not permanent,” Azura replied, clearly proud of her discovery. “If I leave it be for long enough, usually it goes back to my regular color on its own, although I can change it back at will. And I guess I could make it anything I want, although purple is my signature color.”

“I like it,” Lisa said, nodding her approval. “Plus, as soon as the Purple Pufferfish is spotted with actual purple hair, people will be looking for that and it’ll help you keep your true identity a secret.”

“Exactly,” Azura agreed.

“So, when are you debuting the new Pufferfish image?” Sarah asked excitedly.

“Not sure yet,” Azura answered honestly. “I want to try this out some more. It works better than I expected, but there’s always a chance it might fade away when I’m not paying attention.”

“Do you have any other abilities we don’t know about?” asked Lisa.

“Nothing else I’ve come across so far,” replied Azura. “Just the regular pufferfish stuff.”

“Wait, aren’t puffers also poisonous?” Lisa pressed. “I thought they were really dangerous because of some kind of toxin.”

“Yeah, they normally secrete tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin. It’s like a thousand times more dangerous than cyanide,” explained Azura, impressed that Lisa had been reading up as well. “But the one that bit me was a Southern Rough Puffer, from the species, Takifugu Obscurus; it’s one of the few nontoxic pufferfish out there, so I think we’re all safe.”

At this, Lisa and Sarah visibly relaxed, neither girl realizing they had been holding their breath for the past several seconds at the thought of their friend being highly poisonous. For the time being, all of Azura’s recent discoveries seemed to culminate in just a minor appearance upgrade. But over the next few weeks, the new and improved Purple Pufferfish garnered a lot of recognition during her heroic efforts with the inclusion of her recent shock of violet hair.

Meanwhile, across town in the seedy criminal underbelly of San Pacifica, the Purple Pufferfish was also the unknowing object of someone else’s less-than-pure attentions. At one time, he was a normal criminal with a normal name but he had left that all behind him. The subject of a mad scientist’s experimentation, he had emerged from the wreckage of the lab having his DNA fused with that of a tiger shark, his predatory drive fueled strongly by his new-found desire to wreak havoc on the city.

He wanted to make a name for himself, to be known and feared, and to do so, he had to do something big. He thought, what better way of striking terror in the heart of the average citizen than by utterly annihilating one of the city’s champions for all to see? Any of San Pacifica’s more seasoned guardians could prove too much a challenge, but one of its newer protectors should be an easy target. That’s when he started reading about the exploits of the Purple Pufferfish, and that’s where he set his sights. And all he had to do was find a way to draw her out.

The three girls sat in the corner booth of a local coffee shop, talking quietly so as to not be overheard. They were discussing the positive reception of The Purple Pufferfish’s new hair color, and how everyone was now looking for a woman with purple hair. As small as a change as it was, it did make it easier for Azura to maintain her secret identity. It was then that Lisa steered to conversation to the artist they met at the Comic Book Convention.

“So, I’ve been following the artist online, the one you let sketch you as the Purple Pufferfish,” Lisa began as she opened up her laptop. “Y’know, the one you think is cute…”

“What? No!” Azura blurted out suddenly before dropping her volume again to something more hushed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about…I don’t think he’s cute.”

“Really? You didn’t think Jacob-“

“Jason,” Azura corrected.

“A-ha!” proclaimed Lisa. “So you are interested in him.”

“Anyway,” a flushed Azura tried diverting the conversation, “what about him?”

“Well, I’ve been following his web comic about you. It’s pretty good, by the way,” Lisa continued. “I wanted to show you the latest…wait, this is weird.”

“What?” Sarah asked, peeking over Lisa’s shoulder at the screen.

“He’s been pretty regular about posting new stuff about your exploits,” Lisa said absently as she paged through his web site. “He was supposed to upload the next installment today.”

“Yeah, so?” replied Sarah. “So, he’s running behind. Happens to everyone.”

“But he’s really good about keeping up on social media, keeping his followers informed,” Lisa explained. “If he wasn’t able to put something out on time, he always says something so people know what’s going on.”

“Huh, that is weird then,” Azura ventured as Lisa began typing on her keyboard, her look of concern deepening as Azura and Sarah looked on.

“Oh, crap,” Lisa expressed softly.

“What?” both girls uttered as all three gathered around the computer screen. Lisa had logged on to the San Pacifica Daily Journal and was looking at the day’s articles from the crime beat section. In a small blurb located halfway down the page, she had found an article about a local artist whose apartment had been broken into the night before last. The door had been smashed in off of its frame and the dwelling thoroughly ransacked. Of the occupant, no trace remained; the police were calling it an abduction, although as yet no demands had been made.

The three girls looked at each other gravely. It was Sarah who finally spoke up.

“You don’t think this has anything to do with his Purple Pufferfish comic, do you?” she asked hesitantly. “I mean, if they tossed his place, they were looking for something.”

“I don’t know,” Azura responded in a low voice, unable to hide her unease at the thought.

“We have to do something,” Lisa asserted before her tone wavered. “What do we do?”

“I don’t know,” Azura repeated, feeling helpless for the first time since becoming a superhero. Lisa’s computer chimed, and a notification popped up on her screen.

“Wait, he just posted something,” Lisa said excitedly. What they saw when she opened his site made none of them feel any better. A new sketch had been posted, but one clearly not done by Jason. The picture was crude and haphazard, the characters barely better than stick figures.

The left side of the rudimentary drawing depicted a person, apparently Jason, tied up hanging over a pool of sharks. Center to the picture was a rendition of a round figure with the initials ‘PP’ on her chest…obviously the Purple Pufferfish…being popped by a character with a shark’s head. The ‘X’s drawn for the Purple Pufferfish’s eyes made the child-like comic all the darker.

The right side of the drawing held a clock on the wall whose hands were straight up at midnight, beneath which was a sign reading, ‘Pier 8’.

“That’s an invitation,” Sarah declared, “to you…”

Before anyone could say anything else, ominous music emanated from the computer speakers, starting slow at first but picking up tempo. It took only a moment for the girls to recognize the song.

“That’s the theme…” Azura spoke in a voice barely above a whisper, “…from ‘Jaws’.”

“You can’t go,” Lisa spoke firmly. “I mean, the cliches would be funny at this point if the whole thing didn’t seem so messed up, but this person clearly has it out for you.”

“But I have to go,” Azura insisted. “This whack-job has Jason, and it’s all because of me. I’ve got to rescue him.”

“What about the police?” ventured Sarah. “Maybe this is better suited for them to handle.”

“We don’t know what we’re up against,” replied Azura. “Besides, the police are following physical leads in the kidnapping. I’m not sure if they are tracking Jason’s online presence close enough to see this.”

“We could tell them,” interjected Lisa. “If we don’t, I’m sure one of his other online followers will notify them.”

“I have to try though,” Azura announced.

The clock tower chimed the quarter hour as Azura crept along in the darkness of Pier 8 dressed as the Purple Pufferfish. True, it was 11:45pm and not yet midnight, but Azura didn’t feel compelled to follow the timeline of an obviously deranged person. If everything started fifteen minutes early, so be it.

As she approached a large, open area between warehouses, Azura spotted the bound figure of Jason, tied to a chair directly under one of the pier’s few working streetlamps. He appeared unharmed and, more importantly, he wasn’t hanging over a pool of sharks.

Knowing the risk she was taking, Azura darted forward, keeping low and in the shadows for as long as she possibly could. She crept up to Jason and placed her finger to her lips, indicating for him to keep silent before she went to work on the knots securing him.

She had just loosened his bonds enough for him to pull free his wrists when they heard heavy, deliberate footsteps approaching and picking up speed. Azura quickly turned, her eyes growing wide at the sight of a hulking, eight-foot-tall giant closing the gap between her and him. Naked from the waist up, he was broad and heavily muscled with mottled grey skin and, most disturbing of all, the head of a shark. Row upon row of teeth flashed at Azura as he smiled viciously.

“Run!” Azura called out over her shoulder to Jason, unable to hide the fear in her voice. She rolled to the side as the colossal monstrosity barreled by her, missing Azura by a hair’s breadth. She leapt nimbly to her feet as the creature turned, grabbing the empty chair in the process and chomping down on it with his razor-sharp teeth; the wood splintered like balsa into a thousand little pieces.

“You’re early,” the creature growled, flexing his giant hands as he moved closer to Azura.

“Sorry,” retorted Azura in a mock-apologetic tone as she held up her own hands, palms outward. “No watch.”

“Where are my manners…?” the shark head grinned coldly as the two slowly circled each other. “I’m the Tiger Shark. I just thought you should know…”

“Tell me one thing. Why are you-“ Azura never finished her question though as the Tiger Shark suddenly whipped around. She could see the giant fin sprouting from between his shoulder blades, as well as the shark tail coming straight at her. The appendage slammed into her, knocking the wind from her and sending the Purple Pufferfish hurtling through the air.

A moment before Azura hit the wall of a warehouse she inflated herself, rebounding harmlessly off of the structure. She deflated herself just as fast, ending up on her hands and knees, stunned but unscathed. She heard the Tiger Shark’s heavy footsteps charging her again, the tread of his weighty boots thumping along the solid wood dock.

Without looking she rolled to the side again as he steamrollered by, his abrupt impact with the nearby building powerful enough to shake the joists and rattle the windows. He shook his head once then grab a barrel that was close at hand, throwing it at Azura. Unable to react quick enough, it clipped her shoulder, knocking her flat on her back. Only her pufferfish resiliency kept her from receiving a dislocated shoulder or worse, a broken arm.

She could hear him charging again and knew if he caught her prone like this, she was done for. She inflated herself like a ball, the force of which sent her high into the air, safely out of reach while the Tiger Shark passed beneath her. She deflated herself mid-bounce, landing lightly on her feet before the enormous mutant had a chance to come about yet again.

She ducked into a poorly-lit alleyway and crouched down close to a dumpster. Heart pounding and out of breath, Azura darkened her skin to blend into the background, her Purple Pufferfish costume shaded enough to allow her to momentarily conceal herself in the shadows.

A small noise made Azura glance back; her eyes went wide when she saw Jason holed up behind the dumpster, clearly out of his depths. She motioned for him to stay put. She knew the Tiger Shark was after her and her alone; he should be safe as long as he didn’t move from that spot.

As the sound of clomping boots made the circuit of the open area, blocking any means of escape, the Tiger Shark called out in a gravelly voice, “I can smell your fear, little girl…”

Azura closed her eyes, knowing she couldn’t stay hidden for much longer, that he was going to sniff her out. That’s when it dawned on her: there was no way she could take him in a straight-up battle, he was simply too strong. That part was abundantly clear. She realized though that, while the tiger shark was a powerful and savage predator, the pufferfish was smaller, smarter and more agile, and Azura decided to stop fighting on his terms and start using her innate abilities to her advantage.

Her marine biology education taught her that a tiger shark may have a preternatural sense of smell and, to a slightly lesser degree, hearing, but his eyesight would be exceedingly poor and while he would be incredibly strong he was also extremely slow-moving and clumsy. As a plan formed in her mind, Azura thought, ‘I can work with that’.

She cautiously peered out of the alleyway to see him several paces away with his back turned to her. She launched forward, striking him squarely in the small of his back with the ball of her foot. As he staggered forward, Azura knelt down and waited for him to turn. She inflated herself completely round, again bouncing up into the air and landing behind him as he stumbled in the direction she was a moment before.

She struck him again, this time behind his knee, causing his leg to buckle as he fell unceremoniously. With a guttural howl he spun about, but Azura had already bounced up like a giant ball, descending once again into his prodigious blind spot. She leapt up, using his fin for leverage, and struck the Tiger Shark in the back of the neck. But he was ready for her this time, swinging about with a beefy forearm, sending her flying once again.

While the Tiger Shark shook off the disorienting effects of her last attack, Azura struggled to her feet, reaching out and grasping something cold and metallic to use as leverage. She looked over to see her hand resting on a fire extinguisher, one of many placed strategically around the docks in case of fire. Without thinking, she grabbed the metal cylinder around the middle and smashed the valve assembly against a brick wall.

The handle cracked and a cloud of flame retardant billowed from the opening. Azura threw the extinguisher at the Tiger Shark’s feet, enveloping him in a heavy white fog, effectively blinding him in the process. She padded quickly and quietly into his blind spot, staying there while he turned this way and that, floundering around in an attempt to locate her.

Azura held her body tense and activated her pufferfish abilities, building up pressure but not allowing her body to inflate. She stepped lightly from side to side, staying behind him as he turned, feeling the strain growing and growing until she could barely hold on. She knew what she was doing had to be dangerous, but Azura felt she didn’t have a choice.

When the pressure got to be too great and she felt like she couldn’t possibly hold it in any more, Azura called out to him, “hey, big boy.” He turned and lunged just as she let go. All of the pent-up pressure caused her to inflate explosively, slamming him with super force and creating a shock-wave that completely overwhelmed him, overloading his heightened sense of hearing and knocking him out cold; the percussive force also shattered all of the windows in the surrounding buildings, raining shards of glass away from Azura like a blast radius.

Standing over the prostrate form of the Tiger Shark, a massively spherical Azura flapped her hands and shuffled awkwardly about. Suddenly realizing she was so full and over-pressurized, she found herself stuck inflated big and round, unable to deflate at will. To make matters worse, she could hear sirens approaching, indicating that law enforcement was about to arrive on the scene.

Looking about desperately over the curved hemisphere of her body, Azura felt intensely full and tight, like a precariously over-inflated balloon surrounded by a ring of sharp glass littered all over the ground. She had just about given up hope of getting to safety when Jason stepped out from behind the dumpster, shaking his head vigorously to lessen the ringing in his ears.

“Let me get you someplace out of the way,” he offered a little too loudly as he realized her predicament, “to give you time to deflate.” Azura smiled that same uncomfortable smile he had sketched, and was only able to quietly say the words, “thank you.” Jason carefully pushed her over onto her back and opened a path through the broken glass with his feet. Once the way was clear, he rolled her further down the dock, almost to the end where she could remain safe from prying eyes.

“You should get back,” Azura said quietly, “to make a statement to the police.” But before he had a chance to turn away, Azura kicked off, rolling forward onto her stomach just enough that her lips were able to brush up against his. He paused for just a moment before she rolled herself backward again, breaking the kiss.

“By the way,” he remarked in an off-handed fashion, “I like the purple hair.”

As he turned and jogged back up to where the police would soon be arriving, Azura found herself blushing furiously beneath her mask.

A little time later, Azura was finally able to deflate herself, leaving her sore and exhausted but otherwise okay from the ordeal. She climbed to the top of one of the warehouses just in time to see the authorities take the Tiger Shark into custody, loading him into the back of a specially-made containment van to be transported to a Super Max holding facility.

She knew the city was safe for the time being, but Azura didn’t allow herself to be fooled. With increased recognition, the danger to her and those she cared for became all the more perilous, and she had to be far more careful from here on out. For the time being though she was happy; the day was over, and all she wanted to do was to call Lisa and Sarah to tell them she was okay, take a shower, and go to sleep.

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