Cape City Chronicles
v1: Today the City, Tomorrow...
#22: The Good(e) Doctor!
by Jennifer Kohl
Stephanie pinched her nose and sighed while her three sorority mates shifted uncomfortably. “So let me get this straight. The reason we’ve apparently all been having sex dreams for the past few days is because you, Michelle, have been dreaming about fucking Groper?”
“Well, that’s not exactly—” Michelle cut off as Candice gave her an exhausted-seeming death glare. “...Basically, yes,” she admitted, hanging her head.
“And when Candice and Cara confronted you about it,” Stephanie continued, “you tried to addict them to it to?”
“I wasn’t trying to—” Michelle sighed. “No, you’re right. I did.”
“And that somehow unleashed a demon that you, Cara, have been keeping hidden in your shadow?”
“My mother sealed it there, not me, and it sort of is me in a—” It was Cara’s turn to receive a death glare, and Stephanie’s to give it. “Yes, more or less.“
“And then it took over your body and tried to eat Candice and Michelle’s souls.”
“Yes,” said Cara. “Along with everyone else’s if Athena and J—if Athena and Devildancer hadn’t stepped in.”
“If this were the Protectors,” said Stephanie, “all three of you would be grounded until you got an all-clear from the deprogrammers at Miskatonic. Since this isn’t the Protectors, we’re going to do the next best thing: you are barred from all missions and sorority activities until you’ve been thoroughly checked out and gotten whatever treatment you need.”
“You’re sending us to Miskatonic!?” Candice protested. “That place is—“
“No,” said Stephanie. “That’s if we were Protectors. It’s strictly government-run and we don’t actually have a charter from the city like the big kids do.“
“Then what?” asked Cara. “We can’t exactly go to a normal therapist. It’d only be a matter of time before some villain or another went after them to find out what secrets they could know.”
“Plus there aren’t that many trained deprogrammers,” said Michelle. “That’s why I’ve always handled it for us.”
“But you’re compromised,” said Stephanie. “By, directly or indirectly, Grouper. So you’ll go to the same person who’s always handled deprogramming his victims, Dr. Goode.”
“Professor Goode?” Cara asked. “I can’t go to my teacher for therapy!“
“Why not?” replied Stephanie. “You and Michelle both like her, and she knows you. And that relationship with your civilian identities makes a good cover for seeing her without potentially tipping off any villains that a hero has a new therapist.”
“What about me?” asked Candice.
“You’re a direct victim of Grouper, you’re technically supposed to be seeing her already.”
The others tried to protest, but Stephanie held firm: they needed professional deprogramming, and she wasn’t going to allow them to participate in anything until they got it. Eventually, they gave in.
“Good,” said Stephanie finally. “I’m glad you finally see the necessity of this. Because you all have appointments with her this afternoon.”
Cara walked up to Dr. Goode’s office wearing a nondescript gray hoodie with the school’s logo on it, with the hood up. I don’t know why I went along with this, she thought. I’ve held the Orev at bay my whole life. I only slipped because Michelle made me slip. She knocked on the office door, beneath the small placard that read “Dr. Felicia Goode, Assistant Professor of Psychology.“
“Come in,” her professor called, so Cara did, and took a seat when Dr. Goode gestured at one.
After a long silence, Dr. Goode said, “So, Ms. Kraehe, I must say I was surprised to see you request this meeting. I wasn’t aware that you had been... targeted by our campus’ troublemaker.”
“I, uh, wasn’t, exactly,” Cara admitted. “It’s... more complicated. This is, uh, all completely confidential, right?”
Dr. Goode nodded. “People often ask me about that. It’s basically true, but a little more complex. If you give me written permission, I can share information, for example if I need to confer with another doctor. There are also two exceptions that could apply to our conversations, depending on where they go: I’m required to inform the authorities if I believe you are in imminent danger of harming yourself or others, or if I find evidence of past or present child abuse. But anything else you tell me is protected.”
“OK,” said Cara. “Well, for starters... I’m not from this plane. My mother was a powerful sorceress from another realm of existence, and my father was a princess of the succubi, and as a result I was born with powers of chaos and shadow. And before you mark me down as having delusions, comma, grandiose, comma, bizarre...” She gestured, and the lighting in the room turned eerie as all the shadows flowed into her outstretched hand.
“I see you’ve been paying attention in class,” said Dr. Goode. “That is precisely the symptom I would have described, if not for this demonstration.”
Cara dropped her hand, and the room’s lighting returned to normal. “I’m part of a... well, a superhero team, here on campus. Two of our members were compromised by Grouper and one of them... well, she has psychic powers. And she projected into me... shared...” Cara trailed off.
“Her experiences with Grouper.”
Cara nodded, mutely.
“And now you feel ‘compromised’ by him as well?”
“I know I am,” said Cara. “There’s... well, it’s kind of like my sister, but also kind of like another side of me? It’s... well, a demon, sealed in my shadow. It’s always trying to take over, and Michelle, she just kept pushing, and all that sexual energy was like catnip to a succubus, and it broke out. If my father hadn’t come so fast, who knows how many people it could have... well.”
Dr. Goode nodded. “A demon side of you sealed in your shadow. How very Jungian,” she quipped lightly, but neither she nor Cara smiled. “Well, the good news is, I have had experience rooting out and removing traces of Grouper’s brainwashing, both in his prior rampage on campus and this most recent incident. The unusual circumstances surrounding how that programming was introduced to your psyche should not impact the process. I may even be able to give you some tools to help deal with this demon side. Would you like that?”
“I guess it can’t hurt,” said Cara.
“That’s the spirit,” said Dr. Goode. “Now, in either case, we will need to do something of a deep dive into your psyche. I’m going to need to talk to your subconscious.”
Cara remembered that from class, too. “You mean hypnosis?”
“Yes,” said Dr. Goode. “Do you consent?”
Cara took a deep breath. “OK.”
“Then let’s begin.” Dr. Goode removed a pair of glasses from inside her jacket and put them on.
“What’s that forrrrrrrr...” asked Cara, trailing off as Dr. Goode pulled something else out, a glittering cube that filled the room with strange, dancing lights, drawing her eyes.
Felicia smiled. She’d developed this device years ago, and her successes with it were precisely why she’d been the one the university hired to help with the fallout of the Grouper incident. “Deprogramming” was, after all, a misnomer; you couldn’t simply erase mind control from someone’s memories. At least, I can’t, she thought. But if what Cara’s saying about her psychic friend is true, then at least one person can insert programming that way. Maybe they can delete it too.
The point was, what Felicia did wasn’t so much deprogramming as reprogramming, overwriting victims’ conditioning and brainwashing with new conditioning to think and behave as they had before. With time, as they continued to follow the new conditioning, the old unused conditioning would fade and the new would become ingrained behavior, restoring the victim fully.
The light was a vital tool for this. Hypnosis alone couldn’t match what people like Grouper did, not without months or even years of work. But the light patterns she’d developed didn’t just trigger near-instantaneous trances; they also increased suggestibility enormously, allowing her access to do what needed to be done.
Felicia smiled as Cara drooped. She loved seeing people relaxing, their eyes focused on the light as the rest of the room faded away. She loved seeing their limbs and faces go slack, loved seeing a tense expression melting away into blissful blank sleepiness. People’s faces were just so much prettier like that—and Cara had been quite pretty to begin with.
“That’s right,” said Felicia. “Just look at the light and relax. Let yourself go. Let it fill your vision and your thoughts while you sink nice and deep.” She didn’t need to do much to trance Cara—this wasn’t the first time she’d seen the light, after all. It might not be precisely strictly, ethical, but Felicia had seen the difference in how students performed when she mixed just a little bit of the light in with her lecture slides. Even well below the threshold to induce trance, they paid closer attention, retained the information better, and enjoyed the classes more. It was worth bending the rules for that.
And here was another chance to help a student. “You need this relaxation, don’t you, Cara? It must be so exhausting having to stay on top of school while also fighting crime and your own shadow, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Cara slurred, her voice muffled and soft.
“And it feels so good to relax, to escape all that for a moment, doesn’t it?” I can’t believe this... this child feels the need to go out and fight crime. That can’t be healthy! But don’t worry, Cara, we’ll get to the root of that, and help you be normal.
Cara smiled slightly as she sank deeper into her chair. “’scape...” she slurred.
“That’s right. It feels so good to listen to my voice, so good to just let the light fill your mind. You want to go deeper for me, don’t you? Deeper and deeper, feeling better and better, letting that pleasure fill you. The deeper you go the more aroused you become, and the more aroused you become, the deeper you go...” She’d learned the power of arousal working with Grouper’s victims. It was key to his control, and therefore to overcoming it: sexual arousal was an unusual sensation in that it was both pleasurable in itself and a craving for more. Nobody enjoyed being hungry or thirsty, but horny? That could feel very good—and thus could function both as a reward in the classical conditioning sense and as an impetus to seek more reward immediately. Felicia could see it in Cara’s face as she began to squirm slightly: that mix of deep relaxation, pleasure, and hunger Felicia loved to see on her clients.
“That’s right. Any thoughts of resistance, any questions, they can just float away on these waves of pleasure and arousal. You want more, and that means letting go and going deeper...”
Masters slammed his desk with his fist. “Damn them!”
Veronica stood by, the dutiful bodyguard and assistant, not showing any of the surprise she felt—but it was there. This wasn’t like him. He was usually so composed, always calm, always in control. Mmmm, control... she thought, tumbling happily into programmed pathways about how much she enjoyed his control over her, how much she craved to obey, how easy it was and how good it felt...
Underneath, the shell personality of Veronica, the Viper watched carefully. This was a moment of weakness, and perhaps it could be exploited.
“Five of my most profitable operations in one day,” he said angrily. “Two by Tarantula and three by the goddamn Protectors.” He jabbed a button on the desk. “Bring my car around,” he barked. “And send messages to the good doctor and our guest. I’m done waiting. I need results now.“
He turned and saw Veronica standing quietly. For a moment he looked surprised, as if he’d forgotten she was there, but then he regathered himself. “Ms. Viers. I’m afraid I don’t quite trust your programming where the doctor’s concerned. Take the remainder of the afternoon off; I’ll be going alone to this meeting and it may take some time.”
“Yes, Mr. Masters,” she said obediently. Inside, the Viper coiled tightly. It was time. He was walking out the door, leaving her alone in his office. His computer was locked, but physical access was all she needed—she just needed to convince her shell-self to do it.
All I need to do is outsmart myself, she thought. Cracking open the doors of her mental safe room, she began to work.