Cape City Chronicles
v1: Today the City, Tomorrow...
#18: An Error of Trust!
by Jennifer Kohl
Tina yawned. It was late, and she yearned to go home. But there was a mystery afoot, and she needed to solve it.
Even if it meant a deeply uncomfortable conversation. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on Lieutenant Alvarez’ door.
“What!?” Alex barked irritably.
Slowly, Tina opened the door. “Um—”
“The fuck are you doing here?” Alex demanded. “Shouldn’t you be—”
“Psych cleared me,” Tina said. “I wasn’t mind-controlled. Anyway, the messages are actually on my phone, I proved it, and that they came from the tower with the right headers to be from you.”
Alex’s eyes narrowed. She checked her computer, and sure enough, the notice was there in Tina’s file: reported to Psych by Alex, and cleared two hours ago. “That was fast,” she said. “So what does that leave?”
“Um, either someone with physical access to your phone, or someone breaking into the SMS Center and inserting the message there.”
“Hmm,” said Alex. “I was home alone when you got the messages, and I had a phone call that night. Nobody else touched my phone.”
Tina nodded and shuffled her feet. “So that just leaves the SMS Center, or...”
“Or I really did send it?”
“Um,” Tina said. “I mean—”
Alex waved her hand. “No, a good investigator accepts the possibilities. We’ve been chasing down mind-controllers ever since Pheremona broke out, I could be compromised without knowing it. That’s exactly what I thought happened to you, and there’s no reason to think I’m immune.” Tina looked surprised, and Alex laughed bitterly. “Except to Pheremona herself, of course.“
“So it’s not... all..?” Tina asked.
“I don’t like advertising it... but no. Not all mind control.”
Huh, thought Tina. Wonder why she’s—oh. She’s ace.
She must have looked disappointed, because Alex said, “Sorry. Guess the rumor mill’s kind of exaggerated things since the Reign.”
“Oh!” Tina squeaked, and blushed. “That’s not—I mean—” She fell silent and stared at her shoes. Don’t mind me, just a dumb girl with the hots for her coworker.
Alex eyed her curiously for a moment. “Like I said, don’t worry about it. We’ve got more important things going on. How long will it take you to determine if the SMS Center was broken into?”
“A couple of hours probably?” Tina said. “It’s late but they’re 24/7.” And I guess so am I this week.
“Hmm,” said Alex. “No, give it to the night shift to do, then go home and get some rest.”
“But—” Tina started.
“It’s what they’re there for. Go home.” Alex was firm. But once Tina was gone, she rotated her chair and leaned back to stare at the wall. This is why I hate mind-controllers. How do you know who to trust when you can’t even trust yourself?
But there was one person she knew she could always trust. She picked up her phone and dialed her sister.
Hex waited anxiously in the crowded, noisy hospital cafeteria. She hated meeting in her civilian identity for cape business, but since she and Panacea worked in the same building—Hex in the hospital pharmacy, Panacea in the research wing—it made sense for them to meet here. And she and Panacea—or, rather, Kylie McCulloch and Janelle Johnson—were old friends, college roommates, who met for lunch frequently. It was a good cover, and in this crowd they wouldn’t be overheard.
But it still made her nervous.
“Hey Kylie,” said Janelle as she sat down with her tray. “What’s up?”
“Some strange business,” said Kylie. That was code. “I had a visit from a... friend.”
Janelle arched an eyebrow. “A... practicing friend?”
“Freelancer,” Kylie replied. It was all code. Vigilantism was still illegal, and technically the Protectors and their affiliates were deputized by the local government. Independent operators like Brainwave, and Hex herself for that matter, were technically criminals, though Kylie preferred the term and she and Janelle used. Panacea occasionally tried to convince Hex to sign on with the Protectors, but the truth was, they didn’t need her—compared to a magical powerhouse like Athena, she was a small fry. Mostly they just ignored her—and it was useful to have some people on the ground who were on the same side as the Protectors but not actually recognized as members.
“Which one?” Janelle asked.
Kylie lowered her voice. There really wasn’t a good way to say this in code without it sounding like code, so better just to trust in the room’s noisiness. “Brainwave. She got in the room with Masters and his new bodyguard, and the bodyguard’s mind was scrambled.”
“You’re suggesting Masters is using MC tech?”
“Or has a friend with tech—or powers. Word on the street is, a lot of people like that are around lately.”
Janelle tapped her chin thoughtfully. “We’ve seen some hints of that.”
“If Masters is connected, this could be big,” said Hex. “He doesn’t get involved if it isn’t.”
Janelle nodded. “Thanks for passing it on. I’ll talk to the team—definitely worth checking out, if we can find a way to do it quietly.”
“Thanks,” said Kylie. “This shit’s way over my head.”
“Hey, I’m just a healer, you think it’s not over mine?” It was true. Among the many things Janelle and Kylie had in common was being trained scientists from families with long traditions of magic. Kylie had inherited a facility with, well, hexes, along with charms and talismans; Janelle had inherited healing powers. Beyond that, they were both ordinary mundane humans, not Specials.
“I know,” Kylie answered. “I don’t know how you keep up with freaking demigods.” She shook her head. “I worry.”
“I appreciate it. But it has to be done. You get that.”
Kylie nodded. She did. Her family tree was full of examples of a simple truth: there were only two things you could do with power. Use it to serve, or use it to dominate and destroy. If you didn’t choose for yourself, life would choose for you—and it rarely chose the good one.
Veronica stood patiently by her Master’s side as he worked on a slim, sleek laptop computer. She was alert, of course, her finely honed senses monitoring every second for any potential threat to him, but she was also deeply, fully content. She was serving him, and that made her every nerve ending sing with delight. She was programmed well; obedience was pleasure, and to please him was her ultimate delight.
Masters leaned back in his chair and stretched. “There,” he said. “That was all for today.”
Veronica nodded. “Yes, Master.”
“Well, except for one bit of business involving you, Ms. Viers.”
Veronica perked. An opportunity to please him!
“An associate of mine has contacted me, the same one that produced the tech that snared you. It seems he’s made further improvements to the process and believes he can cement your loyalty to me even more strongly.”
“If you say so, Master, although I cannot imagine how I could be more loyal to you than I already am. I am your complete, willing slave.” In the back of her mind, Viper tensed. She’d been caught by surprise by the tech Masters had sprung on her. It was fast, efficient, insidious, corrupting the failsafes and psychic shields she’d developed over years of training with the Assassins’ Guild and turning them against her. It was all she’d been able to do to retreat to a safe zone within her own mind, watching, waiting for opportunities to subtly influence her thoroughly ensnared surface persona. And here was that opportunity, a thought she could inject in the window Masters had just opened. Once he ordered her to go see this individual and be programmed, she’d have no choice. But here, between him telling her about it and outright commanding it, a stray thought could be inserted and—“You must trust him very much, Master,” Veronica said.
“What do you mean?” Masters asked, tensing.
“Just, I am by your side at all times.” Veronica was the picture of innocence and concern, because that was all she felt—she had no awareness of the Viper underneath. “I would never harm my beloved Master, but if my mind were twisted to trick me into doing it, I could easily kill you before any of your other guards entered the room. You must trust this associate very much to let him program me.”
“Hmm,” said Masters. “You raise a good point, Ms. Viers. And truth be told, I do not trust him to that degree. I do not believe I will send you to him until I have received additional assurances.”
Veronica flushed with pleasure at even the mild praise. “Thank you, Master.”
“Come to bed,” he said. “If you’re going to be here tonight after all, that seems a good time to try out that body of yours.”
“Oh, yes, Master!” Veronica replied eagerly. Viper would have rolled her eyes if she had any direct access to motor functions. But still, as gross as being used by that man would be, the surface her would love every second of it. More importantly, she’d avoided being found out or eliminated, and that meant more chances to get free—eventually.
Starfury cried out in pleasure, her back arching as orgasm after orgasm ripped through her, her hips rolling against Tantra’s as she road him. She collapsed down next to him, panting, her blue skin gleaming with a sheen of sweat and her red hair wild.
Tantra rolled on his side to face her and grinned. “Liked it even better that time, didn’t you, slut?”
“Don’t call me that,” answered Starfury.
He ran a finger down her side and she squirmed. “I think you like it.”
She pulled away. “I’ll end the dream,” she warned. “You can’t manipulate me in here.”
“Right, right,” said Tantra. “You’re in charge.” He stroked her breast.
“Annh...” she whimpered. “I mean it.”
“Okay,” he replied, still stroking her. “If you want to, you can.” She moaned, and his grin widened. “Well?”
“I... I don’t want to,” she gasped.
“I didn’t think you would.” He rolled her onto her back, rising on top of her. He liked this dreamspace a lot, but one of the best parts was that he could stay hard no matter how many times they fucked.
“Fuck...” she moaned as he penetrated her yet again. She wrapped her legs around his waist, and cried out in another orgasm as he reached down for her breasts.
“Isn’t being a slut more fun?” he asked.
“Yes!” she gasped, her voice high and breathy, squeaking out every time he thrust. She was barely aware of what he was saying; she just felt so good and it was so easy to agree.
“That’s right, slut! You love me fucking you!”
“Yes! Yes!” Her voice heightened into a shriek as she came again.
“You want to be my slut! You are my slut!“
“Ye—NO!” She shoved him off of her, her mind recoiling violently, and even as she finished the action she was waking up in her own bed, tangled in the sheets, covered in sweat and out of breath. She sat, panting in the dark for a moment, but was startled by a knock.
“You okay in there, Michelle?” asked Stephanie.
Michelle took a moment to catch her breath. “Just a nightmare.”
“This isn’t some kind of psychic threat approaching, is it?” Stephanie asked. “If something’s coming—”
“No, it’s—I don’t think so. Just, um...” Just dream-fucking someone you called “a disgusting sleazeball” and worse, because I can’t get him out of my head. “Just some memories.“
“Okay,” said Stephanie. “Well, don’t hesitate to wake me back up if you need to talk.”
“Thanks,” said Michelle. Then she lay back down and tried to shut down the non-critical parts of her brain for the night. There was just one problem—she didn’t want to. She wanted to go back to him. No, she told herself. It’s too dangerous. But the idea was very hard to shake.