Cape City Chronicles
v1: Today the City, Tomorrow...
#25: Moving Parts
by Jennifer Kohl
“You sure about this?” Hex asked. “They’re cops, and everyone knows Alvarez has it out for us.”
“I said the same thing, but Tina’s really worried,” Brainwave replied. “And I do trust her, even if she is a cop. She could have blown my secret identity when we broke up, but she never did.”
“Hrmm,” Hex replied. “All right. I do have something that can help, possibly. But I can’t be sure. It’s a potion that cures most forms of magical mind control, but I’ve never heard of anyone trying it for non-magical.” As she spoke, she was already at work, mixing substances with the practiced ease of a witch and a pharmacist.
“It can’t hurt, right?” Brainwave replied.
“Ehh... probably not. But I can’t be completely certain of that, either. Especially because, well...”
“Well, like I said, it works on most magical mind control. You can get around it, though, with spells that go dormant until activated.” Hex frowned. “The potion only works on those if the spell’s activated when the person takes it. So if her programming’s behind a trigger...“
“We need to figure it out and use it.” Brainwave sighed. “It’s better than nothing, though. Thank you, I owe you for this.”
“Hey, you saved my butt when the Pharmacy Board was gonna revoke my license. If it weren’t for that story you wrote...” Hex shook her head. “Anyway, call it even.”
Brainwave nodded. I just hope Tina is right, she thought, and was very glad that she was the mindreader, not Hex. “I have to get back to them. Thank you, again.“
She hurried out through the pharmacy’s back door, and made her way quickly through back streets to the alley where Tina waited impatiently by her car. “I’ve got it,” she told her.
“Good,” said Tina. “This is taking ages, I thought she was supposed to call us?”
“Sorry,” said Brianna. “She doesn’t trust cops, and especially not SCI. The important thing is, she gave me something that might work.”
“Might?” asked Tina.
“It’s the best we can do.” She repeated what Hex had told her.
“Great,” said Tina. “So we need to find out her trigger? How are we going to do that?”
“I have an idea,” said Brianna. “I’m going to try to... extract it.”
“What?” asked Tina. “You can do that?”
“Don’t know,” Brianna replied. “But the reason I can only read surface thoughts is because there’s too much noise below that. But she’s sedated; that should quiet things down enough for me to hopefully get more.”
“There’s a lot of shoulds and hopefullys in that sentence.“
“It’s our best chance in the time we got,” said Brianna. “Unless you’ve got a better idea.”
Tina sighed. “OK, try it.”
Pheromona slid into the limo and draped herself across the backseat. “Hello, Mr. Masters,” she purred.
“Ms. Ferris,” he replied tersely. Veronica sat next to him, the wheel gripped in her hand, staring straight ahead. She’d been ordered to hear nothing of this conversation, and would be a Good Girl and hear nothing.
Inside her head, Viper fumed. Come on, she thought. This has to be important if he doesn’t even trust his brainwashed puppet to hear it! She was just going to have to take another risk. She cracked the door of her mental safe room, and immediately it filled with fragmented whispers, disjointed words and phrases leaking through, words like “obedience,” “pleasure,” “service,” “good girl.“
Viper shoved them back out through the door, and then pushed out some ideas of her own to mix in with them—questions and worries to circulate in Veronica’s mind and undermine her programming. What if Master misses something important? What if she threatens him? What if she hurts him before I can respond because I can’t hear her? Then she slammed the door again.
Her anxiety rising, Veronica decided she just had to listen in. Even though those weren’t her orders, for some reason she just felt like it was the best way to be a good girl for her Master. Good girl, thought Viper. She was pleased.
“That’s quite a bold move,” Pheromona was saying. “You’re asking quite a lot.”
“We’re accelerating our timetables. The good doctor agrees with the necessity. You have everything you need, do you not?” Masters replied.
“I suppose so,” Pheromona answered. “Still, it’s a risky move. How accelerated are we talking?”
“This afternoon,” Masters responded.
“That’s ridiculous. I couldn’t possibly put together a team that quickly.”
“I’m sorry, am I talking to the woman who singlehandedly brought this city to its knees and eliminated three-fourths of the Protectors? What do you need with a team?”
“Hmph,” Pheromona replied. “Trying to goad me, Mr. Masters?”
“Not at all,” he replied. “Simply reminding you what you are demonstably capable of.”
“Smooth,” she admitted. “All right. I’ll do it.”
Alex woke up groggy. The inside of her mouth felt like dirty leather, and her head was pounding. I know this feeling, she thought muzzily. Did someone sedate me? Faces were swimming in her vision, two of them. One was familiar, the other not. “Tina?” she managed. “Wuz goin’ on?“
“Shh,” Tina replied. “We’ll explain everything in a minute.”
Fuzzy as she was, Alex could feel anxiety rising. Something was very wrong, very bad. I need to—the other face said something, a short phrase—relax, listen, learn, and obey... I smile spread across Alex’s face as the rising anxiety melted away.
Tina and Brianna glanced at each other. “It worked?” Tina asked quietly.
“Okay.” Tina took a deep breath. “Alex? I need you to drink this.” She handed Alex a small vial of a pale-green liquid.
Still wearing the same soft, happy smile, Alex obediently drank the liquid. A moment later, her face slackened completely, her smile fading as her eyes closed.
“Did... did it work?” Tina whispered.
“I have no idea,” Brianna whispered back. “I guess we wait and see.”
Deshawn happily drove up to the Miskatonic gate. This was a very good day. He’d somewhat lost track of time in his Mistresses’ apartment, time blurring into a haze of sex and service, but he was pretty sure it had been several days at least since he last got to wear his uniform. Even better, he got to do something for his Mistresses that was, in Mistress Pheromona’s words, “very important.”
He pulled up to the gate and showed his police badge to the guard, who waved him through. Mistress Olympia had been right—nobody expected Pheromona to be interested in anything here, so nobody had bothered to warn the staff about the officer under her control. As long as nobody actually looked him up in the system, he’d be treated like any other medium-ranked visiting cop.
He circled the parking lot, looking for a space positioned how he needed it—next to a van that was parked near the line. He pulled into it just right—with enough space between car and van to open the door, but close enough that the van blocked the parking lot security cameras from seeing that side of the car.
Then he walked up to the main entrance, where he again showed his police ID. This was the most critical point; there was nowhere between him and his target that he was likely to be stopped by anyone who would actually bother to look him up—but it might happen here, if they were still feeling antsy about Pheromona’s escape.
“Dawson, huh?” the guard asked him after checking his idea. “Sounds familiar. You look familiar—what unit are you?”
“SCI,” he answered. “I’ve questioned a lot of your inmates, you’ve probably scanned me through before.”
“Hmm,” the guard said, clearly hesitating. “Haven’t I seen you on the news recently?”
Fuck. Deshawn smiled. “You know reporters, they love when we’re hunting a supervillain. I’ve done my share of interviews.“
“Yeah, that makes sense,” the guard said. “All right, head on in.”
Deshawn did just that, not wanting to give the guard any further opportunity to ask questions or remember just what news story he saw Deshawn in. Hopefully he wouldn’t figure it out until Deshawn was in place.
After that, he made it through two more checkpoints on flashing his badge alone, until he finally arrived at his destination: the guard station for monitoring the security feeds. His escort, picked up at the second checkpoint, let him in, and then left him with the guard on monitor duty.
“So what do you want to see?” the guard asked.
“The day of Pheromona’s escape,” Deshawn answered. “I know somebody disabled the feeds in her cell block and along her escape route, but I’m hoping if we look at other feeds we can spot whoever did it.”
The guard shrugged. “All right, but—”
The door clicked shut, leaving Deshawn and the guard alone. It was time. He drew his gun, pressed it to the nape of the guard’s neck, and said, “Keep quiet and stay still if you want to live.”
Just in time. On one of the monitor feeds, he could see Olympia drop out of an air vent in the physical plant. She’d come out of her hiding place in Deshawn’s back seatwell, partially opened the car door, as far as the van would let her, slipped out through the gap, then crawled into an air conditioning intake watched by a security camera the staff still hadn’t figured out had been getting a false feed since the day Pheremona escaped.
He watched as Olympia pulled out the canister she’d carried with her through the vents, plugged it into the air system, and began to flood the building with her pheromones. Happy anticipation tingled through Deshawn as he began to imagine how his Mistresses might reward him for his success. Everything was going according to plan, and by the time anyone noticed that something was off, they’d all be—
Then the alarm sounded. “Dammit!” Deshawn shouted. That guard figured it out too fast! OK, gotta give Olympia as much time as possible, we can still salvage this. “Lock and barricade the door,” he told his captive guard. “Now!“
Amanita Tekar didn’t spend much time in her penthouse. In two very different senses, she was one of the most powerful women in the world. As CEO and primary shareholder of Teknos Industries, she oversaw one of the world’s largest manufacturers of everything from aerospace equipment to pharmaceuticals to computers. Just about the only thing Teknos didn’t build was weapons, despite the repeated rumblings from the board on the subject, but that was a hard line for Amanita.
In part, that was because she’d seen more than enough superscience weapons turned on herself and her friends, in the other way she was one of the world’s most powerful women: as the superhero Gloriana, the Living Aurora.
But right now, she was neither. She was just Amanita, in a rare moment of being able to relax and read a—
She heard the front door open, and close shortly after. A moment later her ward’s voice echoed through the house. “Amanita?”
She sighed and put the book aside. Another role, no less important than the other two, was calling to her: mentor and surrogate mother-figure to Stephanie Holtzmann—her sidekick, Glory Girl. Not that I’d call her that to her face. Never making that mistake again. Amanita walked out of her sitting room and down the stairs to the foyer, where to her surprise she could see two people waiting for her—Stephanie, and a woman around Amanita’s own age.
Stephanie smiled up at her. “Amanita, I want you to meet my professor. She’s been dying to meet you.”
“Dr. Felicia Goode,” the woman said with a tight smile. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise, I’m sure,” Amanita replied. “Stephanie, what’s going on. Why didn’t you call ahead?”
“Sorry, but this couldn’t wait, and I couldn’t explain it over the phone. You need to see it.” Stephanie’s smile widened. “Show her, Doctor.”
“Show me whaaaa..?” Gloriana’s voice trailed off as Goode raised her device and it began to sparkle and shimmer, lights dancing, like Gloriana’s aura but so different, so hard to look away from, so alluring, so easy to just fall into.
Doctor Feelgood smiled. “Now, Gloriana. Let’s talk about what you’re going to do for me.”