She was frigid. The air conditioning unit was running noisily, constantly blasting her with chilling air. Sometimes she would hear a clunk and the cooling would cycle off, but the fan never stopped. It felt like the air was freezing cold, though she knew all too well that it wasn't. The temperature in the room was kept constant, within a couple of degrees of precision. It was uncomfortably cold, but safe. Not freezing, only frigid. Maybe it was supposed to be ironic, but it was mostly just smart. Any colder and it would be dangerous, but as it was she could stay healthy in her cell indefinitely. Speaking of staying healthy, she was doing jumping jacks.
She huffed and puffed as she awkwardly jumped in place, flaring out her legs and swinging her arms over her head. She was sure it was terrible form, but that wasn't what mattered. She didn't actually know the health benefits of jumping jacks. Mostly, she just knew that she hated them. But they also warmed her up, and as she kept them up, she broke into a sweat. Of course, the cold air would wick away the warmth that rose up to the surface of her skin. It would, if she hadn't been sapping it away first. It was obnoxiously slow-going, but she was building up a store of power. Even now she could feel it practically begging to be released, to grace her struggling form with the strength and speed to make the exercise trivial. But that would defeat the point, and worse yet show her hand, so she pressed on. How did the normal people bear to do exercise?
She was Frigid. A supervillain. One of the big-name ones, in fact. Big enough that everyone knew her powers, superstrength, heightened speed, and creating cold. Except cold wasn't a thing. It wasn't the absence of a thing, either. There was only heat, the transfer of thermal energy between systems. Receive that energy, and it would feel hot; lose it, and that would feel cold. Her power let her steal thermal energy from her surroundings, not as heat, but as something else that could fuel her physical abilities. Leaving those surroundings at low temperatures was more of a useful side effect. She had been happy to let everyone go on misunderstanding it, but it seemed they had finally figured it out. The chilled cell was clever, even she had to admit that. But it wasn't perfect. They still had to feed her, and her body transformed that into energy. All she had to do was save enough to get through a door or two, and then she would have higher temperatures within her reach.
And then she could put this miserable stint behind her. She deserved better. She had a top-class education. She stood to inherit controlling shares in several major tech corporations. She had amassed an independent personal fortune. In any sensible system of international law, she would be the leader of her own sovereign state. Even in the current flawed world order, she was recognized as owning the island. She had come so close to ruling the world on more than one occasion. And yet here she was, unceremoniously incarcerated in the Canary City Youth Detention Center. She didn't even live in Canary City! She would ask what she was doing in there, but she already knew the reason. In the end, there was only one person she could blame for her current situation.
Updraft. It was all that insufferable hero's fault. She was the one who had put her behind bars, she was the one who thwarted her latest master plan, she was the one who always had a way of getting in the way of every scheme and endeavor, she was the one who actually lived in Canary City. Out of every superpowered goodie-two-shoes to put on a costume and enforce society's morality, she was the most insufferable, and the biggest setback by far. Which didn't even make any sense! Updraft's powers were flight, extremely high durability, and creating blasts of heat. Her own powers were made to counter those. Literally, her father engineered her for that purpose!
She stopped doing the jumping jacks, taking in deep breaths. She was getting mad just thinking about her. Her face was flushed, but at least that shed a little extra heat to take. She hadn't beaten Updraft once in her life. Which was made all the more frustrating because the girl's father, Cometman? The adult hero with the same powers, only stronger, with an impressive track record? She had beaten him, and soundly, on no less than four occasions. She was made to counter him, and always did so excellently. But each time his daughter was there to somehow prevail and save the day: once as Updraft, twice earlier as Kid Comet, and once before she had even become a superhero. More often, though, Updraft would manage to foil her before Cometman could enter the picture, or keep her busy as their respective fathers squared off. And it was always her, somehow, never some other caped meddler. She couldn't avoid Updraft if she tried to, and even trying to felt disgustingly close to admitting defeat. She should have been able to beat her. Figuratively speaking, although a literal beating would be her method of choice...
The cathartic thought was interrupted by the crackle of the loudspeaker in the wall. It was a cheap, shoddy piece of equipment, but then so was the air conditioning unit. It wasn't a very high-tech facility she was stuck in. "Attention miss, uh... R-784 Duval?" She sighed, and fixed the speaker with a glare, not that there was a camera. "You have a visit from a member of staff. They'll be in shortly." Well, that was new. Sure enough, a minute later, she heard the antechamber door open and close. Then came a knock.
"Do come in." She was just standing in the middle of her cell, but she could still play along like it was a cordial visit.
"Thank you." The door opened, and a short man with a bald head and grey suit stepped inside. He gave her a plastic smile. "Miss R-784—"
"Frigid." Twice in a row, really? At least he had stopped talking when she interrupted.
He smiled again, a little wider this time. "Sorry, miss Frigid Duval—"
"Just Frigid." She glared at him. What was so hard about that?
"My apologies." He didn't bother smiling this time. "I have good news for you, Frigid." He paused and made a face that looked like he didn't think it was very good news at all. "You've received a full pardon."
Frigid canted her head, thinking. He certainly didn't look like he'd been hit by a mind control ray. And if he was being held at figurative gunpoint, they may as well have broken her out... "Wow. How much did my father bribe you for this?"
That brought a scowl to his face. "He didn't pay me anything. I can't be bought. And even if I could, that's not how pardons work. They're granted by chief executives of whatever place's laws you were convicted for violating. You've received full pardons from the President and the governors of three provinces. Don't ask me why or how, but I can show you the letters." He pulled out a manila folder and handed it over. "If you ask me, you certainly don't deserve to get let out, but my hands are tied. You're free to go. Maybe consider taking this clean slate, unless you want to end up here again and have it actually stick. Got that?"
Frigid didn't respond. She wasn't really listening to the man drone on, and took the folder more by instinct than anything. She heard 'full pardons', 'the President', and 'governors of three provinces', and that was enough. At first she had been a little annoyed that anyone thought she needed assistance breaking out, but this? This was different. Being free, that was one thing. But this? Not even being wanted, a chance to participate in society without an alias or the demands of an ongoing scheme? Whatever her father had arranged her release for could wait. She was going to enjoy this.
"I said, got that?"
That jarred her out of her reverie. The man didn't look like he was used to being ignored. She smiled and nodded. "Oh, yes. Don't you worry. This is just the ticket I needed to finally settle down as a productive member of society. Be proud, your fine establishment helped rehabilitate me." She grinned wide as he scowled worse. She was eminently pleased with herself as she waltzed out of her cell, even doing a silly little spin. She felt ecstatic even just walking down the hall. Maybe the feeling of warm air after so long helped. She let it seep into her, and actually warm her up, not just store it away with her power.
Of course, it was also good to get her things back. Clothes to wear that weren't a jumpsuit, for a start. To the utter chagrin of the... warden or whatever (he didn't really seem like he generally dealt with the kids, with his attitude) she had dressed herself back up in her proper regalia. Her 'costume'. She'd always thought a young lady should never be without a jetpack, although hers wasn't going to be operational until she could make sure it was all in good order and refuel it. Until then, it would be a jaunty accessory sticking halfway out from her miniature cape. Her outfit was made of heavy-duty materials, especially the boots and gloves; if she was anyone else, it might have been uncomfortably warm to wear. It was all in a nice silver-white with a light blue accent that looked lovely on the gloves and boots. A little snowflake design graced the back of the cape. She had her helmet tucked under one arm, not a concession to social norms, but simply because she wanted the whole world to see her smug grin. It was only slightly awkward to hold it there along with the manila folder.
When she stepped out into public, rather than the slightly frightened passersby she expected, there was a crowd of reporters. She apparently hadn't been the first one to get the news, then. They were clamoring to ask her trite questions, talking over each other and pointing microphones in her direction. She stood there, watching the little people make fools of themselves for her attention, before she noticed the cameras. That made her eyes light up, and she smiled wide again. A chance to address the public, and they were giving it to her for free?
"Hello, citizens of Canary City, and the world." That wasn't an answer to the last question thrown her way, but she went on as if it was. "These are considerably different circumstances than the last time any of you have seen or heard about me, I'm sure. But I for one am quite glad for this opportunity to contribute to society. I think I have a lot to offer, and it's my dearest hope you'll all look back on this day as positively as I feel right now." She almost felt like she meant it, too, even though it was indisputably a lie. Getting caught up in the moment, clearly.
The sudden, confident address had taken the swarm of reporters by surprise, but they rallied afterwards. She was going to have to actually answer questions now, or leave. A man who somehow looked bookish despite sporting the squarest jaw she had ever seen beat the rest to the punch with a response. "Do you regret your past crimes?"
Frigid took care not to let her smile flicker. She really wanted to sell her reformation, if for no other reason than to see if she could. It wasn't every day one got the opportunity to hoodwink the whole wide world. "Regret? I'd say so. After all, I don't have very much to show for them." She laughed. Nobody else did.
A peppy woman with a smart suit broke the silence this time. "Miss Duval—"
"Frigid." Her tone managed to actually stop the woman in her tracks, as a stern expression settled over her face. "My name is Frigid. That's not a title, or an alias, and it isn't going away with my new lease on life." She forced herself to smile again. "Sorry, sorry. I just wanted to make that clear."
"Okay, Frigid. About your father—"
"I don't know, I don't care, next question please."
The woman didn't seem satisfied by that answer, but another reporter apparently was, leaping in. "Do you have anything you want to say to other young people with superpowers out there?"
That question made Frigid pause. She thought it over for a moment, legitimately. "I suppose I do. Don't do crime. It's not that it doesn't pay, but it doesn't pay enough." She got a couple bad looks, but kept going. "Even if you want to be selfish, there are almost certainly better ways to use your power for profit legally. Honestly, that goes for any aspiring criminal, super- or not. Take it from me." She meant it, too. It didn't apply to herself of course, she had what it took to overturn the world order and impose her own, with the monumental gains that would follow. But most superpowered people, and certainly most of the kids? No. Anyone in supervillainy for mere monetary gain was in the wrong business. "And please don't get it into your head to be a superhero. Leave it to adults who decide to throw their lives away for the common good. And if you feel like you're the only one who can stop something? Yeah, no. Just tell one of the big names there's a plot to foil, I'm sure they'll be all over it."
A fat man piped up next. How many news outlets were there in this city? "Are you going to become a superhero?"
Frigid started to cackle, and managed to shake her head for the camera before making her exit. There were more questions being asked, but she didn't have much trouble tuning it out long enough for them to get the hint. That just left her the question of what she was actually going to do next. Or where she was going.
She settled on finding an ice cream place. This time people seemed worried by the sight of her, but nobody said anything as she stepped into line. After this she would get a real meal, book a room in some hotel, and plan her next steps. At least she was emancipated, and didn't have to run right to her father for approval of financial matters. One of the few good things to come out of all the courtroom nonsense that went on every time she was caught. And now there were the pardons... Maybe the legal system wasn't so bad. Or maybe she was just feeling unrelentingly positive. She was almost suspicious about her own mood, but that was just a silly thought.
She was halfway through a sundae when a distressingly familiar voice reached her ears. Sigh. Of course, there was Updraft, standing imperiously in the middle of a Dairy Paradise lobby. If Frigid looked silly, eating at a table in costume, Updraft looked absurd. Red spandex everywhere, a silky white full-size cape, long boots with slight heels built-in, a tiny skirt over the leggings, and a pair of fancy goggles. And a whole head of long, wavy blonde hair that she kept intact somehow. Her perfect stereotypical cheerleader face was drawn into that stern, menacing look she was just so bad at. "Frigid, I don't know what you think you're up to, but—"
"Eating a sundae. I am 'up to' eating a sundae. I know you aren't the brightest, but I thought even you would be able to recognize that much."
Updraft looked a little annoyed, which was a good start. "Obviously. I mean— You break out, and you're just getting ice cream? I'm not stupid. We both know you're up to something."
"I didn't break out. I was pardoned. Four times, actually."
Updraft furrowed her brow. "That can't have been legitimate."
"Oh, I'm sure it was crooked." Frigid shrugged. "That doesn't mean they aren't legitimate pardons. Here." She handed Updraft the manila folder. That was really the only reason she had brought it with her. "Whatever plan I'm sure my father pulled these strings in service of, he hasn't even told me yet. I just want to take some time to enjoy myself, alright? Can you, for just once in my entire life, get out of my hair?" Looking at her, Frigid felt more aware of the potential power available. She hadn't been seriously stockpiling since her release, but she had enough to start a good fight. But no, that wouldn't be worth it. Besides, what would even be the point of finally beating Updraft if there was no actual gain to be had in that victory?
Updraft practically squirmed as she looked over the pardon papers. Neither of them actually knew how to verify that sort of notice as legitimate or not, but they certainly looked convincing. Eventually, Updraft sighed. "Okay." But then she stepped closer, her expression softening. She spoke again, quite quietly. "I think this is a good opportunity, Freya. You could put the supervillainy behind you. I could help you readjust. We could..."
Frigid looked at Updraft with an incredulous expression. Then her brows furrowed. Really, she was going to drag that up? Frigid stood up and got in Updraft's face. She spoke in a harsh whisper, almost a hiss. "You know that's not my name, Sally. I made it up. It was a lie, the whole thing was a lie, get over it already. Whatever ideas you have about me are wrong. And I'm not going to take life advice from my archenemy!" She wasn't able to keep her voice hushed anymore. "You've practically dedicated your life to ruining everything I ever do, don't you dare act compassionate! I mean, didn't you just come here expecting to arrest me or something? All my new innocent life means is that I'm not going to try to pummel you into the ground, so I have nothing to gain from your existence. Now get out of my face and let me eat." Her hands were balled into fists at her side, and the temperature started to dip. She took in a deep breath and tried to calm down a bit.
Updraft's eyes were wide behind her goggles, and she took two steps back. She looked simultaneously confused and indignant, and clearly wanted to say something back. But she apparently couldn't think of anything, as she turned around and left the building. That left everyone's eyes on Frigid, but she just ignored them.
She settled back into her chair, and turned back to her sundae. It was still in perfect condition, of course, aside from its missing half. A silly use for her power, but not a bad one. Unfortunately, even that didn't help her savor the treat. It still tasted fine, but she just didn't want to eat it anymore. She finished it regardless, and felt worse for it. Why did Updraft have to do that? Why must she always be there to make her life worse? It was so unfair.
She left the ice cream place behind, and went to go find a hotel to stay at.