Cape City Chronicles
v1: Today the City, Tomorrow...
#4: The Olympian Menace!
by Jennifer Kohl
Alvarez sat in the gondola that connected Masters’ suite to his towers and tried not to fume at the time it was wasting. Like most of what Masters did, it was all a show, a power play: he lived and worked in a five-story glass cube suspended on heavy steel cables between the two identical, 60-story towers that served as his company’s headquarters. He claimed this was to symbolize transparency—he literally lived in a glass house, and therefore could neither throw stones nor keep secrets, or so he liked to say.
Many people saw it as a gesture of defiance, too: in a city where supercriminals could sever steel cables with a glance, Masters chose to spend the bulk of his time in a glass box dangling over a lethal drop. Alvarez suspected it had more to do with the way this caused his headquarters to look like a giant M, not to mention the effect that the clear glass floor of his meeting room, and the more than 300-meter drop to the pavement below, had on most visitors. There was some defiance in there, too, she knew, but more arrogance: Masters simply did not believe that any Special would dare attack him so directly.
So far, he was right.
Alvarez walked the short distance from the gondola to Masters’ office, on the top floor of the cube. She was glad they were meeting there: she had mostly learned not to look at the drop from the bottom-floor meeting room, but she didn’t have to worry about that on the top floor—the intervening floors distorted the image into a gray blur, so it didn’t look like she was about to plummet hundreds of feet to her death.
As she entered, Masters was standing by the far wall, behind his desk, looking out over the city with his hands clasped behind his back. Masters was always looking out over the city with his clasped behind his back when Alvarez entered his office; it was a wonder he ever got any work done. He was a large man, well over six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders, with the wedge-shaped back and sculpted physique of a bodybuilder. He would be quite handsome in his tailored suit, Alvarez had observed before, if not for his complete hairlessness: his head was as white, smooth, and round as a cue ball, without even eyelashes. Nobody was quite sure if he did it deliberately or had lost his hair; Alvarez suspected the latter.
“Alessandra,” he said as she entered, his voice smooth, low, and cultured. “Thank you for joining me.” He turned away from the window to face her.
She didn’t correct his use of her first name. She’d learned by now it wouldn’t accomplish anything. “Jay,” she said.
He smiled, but it remained resolutely in the bottom half of his face; it didn’t touch his cold gray eyes at all. “You know, few people in this city call me by my first name. I do believe you are the only one to call me by less than my full first name.“
“Am I?” she asked neutrally.
He laughed. “Oh, I do enjoy you, Alessandra. I wish our schedules permitted us more than just these brief chats. But alas, we must address business: I am afraid that someone’s been hitting my dockside warehouses. My security team has reason to believe it may be Tarantula.”
“So call it in to Organized Crime,” said Alvarez. “Unless you happen to know something we don’t about this city’s biggest crime boss?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Masters. “It’s common knowledge Tarantula employs Specials. Additionally, I thought this might be an opportunity to demonstrate the new sonic cannons to your officers.”
Sure, thought Alvarez. That’s what it is, not that you don’t want to get anywhere near DeMatiss’ unit. It was a more-or-less open secret that Masters had mob ties. He had come up through construction and real estate, after all, building an empire in the wreckage left by Pheromona’s rampage. Nobody got anywhere in big-city construction and real estate without some kind of deal with the mob. That was probably why Tarantula was raiding him, as revenge for some deal gone south or broken promise. But she did want her officers to get a taste for how those sonic cannons worked, to decide whether to get a few for her unit.
With a sigh, she sat down in front of Masters’ desk. “All right,” she said. “Give me the details and I’ll see what I can do.” It wasn’t worth lecturing him about summoning the head of the unit for a meeting instead of calling in a crime report; last time she’d done that, he’d called the mayor to submit his crime report, and Alvarez had gotten a lecture of her own.
Masters laid out the situation while Alvarez took notes: he was getting a shipment of high-end computer parts from his factories in China on Saturday, and expected Tarantula’s lackeys to hit the warehouse that night. He would loan five sonic cannons to the SCI unit, for five officers positioned inside the warehouse. Alvarez agreed, while also making private plans of her own for other officers to wait nearby, plus snipers on adjacent buildings.
All told, the meeting took about half an hour, and then she was finally able to get out of there and head southeast. She met up with Deshawn a solid hour later than she’d wanted, but he assured her there’d been no movement since they spoke. “There’s definitely someone holed up in there,” he said, “but they’re laying low. They have to know we’d seek them out pretty quickly once Pheromona got loose.”
“Yeah,” said Alvarez. “Us or some Special vigilante. If I were Olympia, I’d be real jumpy right now, watching for an attack. We’re going to have to be careful not to spook her into running.” She laid out some quick plans, with Deshawn communicated to the rest of the team, and then they were ready to go.
Alvarez led her team through the front door of the burnt-out old sporting goods store, while Deshawn’s team came in the back and snipers covered the roof and windows. It only took her a moment to realize something was wrong: a large, beefy man of the type Olympia liked to surround herself with was lying unconscious on the floor—and his hands and feet were bound.
“Shit!” Alvarez shouted.
Deshawn spoke from her radio. “Someone’s been here ahead of us, boss. We’ve got two unconscious men, part Olympia’s gang from the looks of it.”
“Are they tied up?” Alvarez asked.
“’fraid so,” Deshawn answered.
Dammit! she thought. A rival gang or Special criminal would have just knocked them out or killed them. Knocking them out and tying them up, though? That’s a vigilante. “Somebody got past you, Sergeant Dawson,” she told Deshawn over the radio. “Come on, let’s find Olympia before this vigilante does.“
But it was too late. Alvarez reached the top floor just in time to see a dark figure half-leap, half-climb the ladder to the roof. She radioed the snipers while climbing up herself. “Remember! If you see Pheromona, shoot to kill! But anybody else, I want you to scare them, slow them down, but do not kill them! We want Olympia for questioning!“
She pulled herself up onto the roof to see a petite woman in a longsleeved, dark purple leotard with a light purple O on the chest, her blonde pigtails bobbing as she raced in zigzags across the roof—Olympia. Close behind her was another figure, a somewhat taller redhead in black and red—the Cardinal.
“Police business!” Alvarez shouted, raising her gun. “Get out of the way!” She raised it, trying to get a clear shot at Olympia’s leg. There was a crack of sniper fire, and bullets kicked up little puffs ahead of Olympia. She tried to change direction, giving Alvarez the opening she needed. She sighted carefully, let out a breath, squeezed the trigger—
Fwoof. A massive cloud of black smoke suddenly billowed across the roof. From inside, Alvarez heard a rapid succession of punches, and then something like a muffled gunshot, and a grappling hook shot out of the cloud, trailing a rope behind it. Then the Cardinal was swinging away into the sunset, Olympia’s limp form under her arm.
“Well, fuck,” said Alvarez.
Jayden Masters reclined in the plush seat of his limo as the long, dark car navigated the dark back alleys of Cape City, and reflected, as he often did, on power.
Specials, such as the one he was about to meet, liked to believe they had power. In a sense they did; certainly their unique abilities placed them above the mere mortals who populated the streets below them. But the power of even an extraordinary individual was still only the power of one individual, while Masters’ wealth gave him access to the combined power of the entire city, and beyond. A Special might be able to destroy a building in a blow; but Masters owned eight weapons factories that could, in a day, make enough munitions to level a small country.
His predecessors—the men of Cape City’s twin business communities, above-board and underworld—had believed that was all the power they needed. Pheromona had proved them wrong. She’d understood that real power was neither wealth nor force nor superhuman ability. Real power was control.
But even she had fallen, because she controlled others, but never herself, and so in the end controlled nothing at all. Masters had learned the lesson well, as he rose in her place. So he was the city’s main employer, and therefore controlled what many of its citizens did for much of the day. And he owned most of the buildings, so he controlled where they could live. And he owned key levers of power in the underworld through its twin currencies of favors and, well, actual currency, and he owned the mayor, and most of the city council, and the police—and hardly any of them realized they were owned at all.
Because Masters exercised restraint. He controlled himself, which meant his control over the city remained subtle enough, and grew slowly enough, that hardly anyone noticed and fewer cared. They said that if you put a frog in a pot of water on a low flame, so that the temperature increased slowly enough, it would sit there calmly until it boiled; Masters liked to think of himself as the stove in that scenario.
The limo slowed as it neared its destination. Masters popped a pill and swallowed with a mouthful of mineral water. It would need a few minutes to take effect, just long enough to reach the individual he was meeting.
The car pulled up in the loading dock of a building Masters owned—luxury condos, just finished construction and awaiting the city’s inspection before they could go on sale. Anyone following would have had no reason to suspect anything; why shouldn’t he check up on a building about to be inspected?
He watched through his tinted windows as a figure emerged from the shadows: tall, leggy, redheaded and green-clad. He nodded to his driver, who rolled down the weird window. “Desdemona,” he said in greeting.
Pheromona laughed. “Well, well, the bigshot CEO himself. I guess I must be important.”
“I trust the accommodations I’ve arranged meet your requirements?”
“Yeah, sure,” said Pheromona, leaning down to the window and not-at-all-accidentally giving Masters an eyeful of cleavage. “Why don’t I show you how much I appreciate them?” Her sultry smile could have melted steel even without her powers.
But Masters was made of stronger stuff, and temporarily immune thanks to his pill. “Another time, perhaps,” he said drily. “We have business to discuss.”
“I already did what you wanted,” Pheromona replied, with a hint of a pout. “Now you get to pretend you don’t still have the things I stole from that store, and I get out of Miskatonic and a nice apartment. That was the deal.”
“Indeed. But I find that after one successful deal, it is often worthwhile to discuss further opportunities with the same party. I have something you want; you do what I want, and I’ll help you get it.”
“Yeah?” said Pheromona. “I know how you operate. I’m not going to be taken for a ride.” She paused, still smiling, and lightly bit her lower lip. “Well... unless you want to take me for a ride, I’d definitely be up for that.“
“I think you’ll be pleased with what I have to offer,” said Masters. “You get me what I want, and I can get you someone you want: Lieutenant Alessandra Alvarez.”
Pheromona’s face darkened for a moment, and then her smile returned, now savage and predatory. “I’m listening.”
Laura was confused. She’d arrived at the electronics store to find it being held up by an ordinary criminal. He’d shot at her, as they always this—you’d think word would have gotten down that a handgun couldn’t even scratch the Iron Lady armor, but somehow it never did—and she’d taken the gun out of his hand and crushed it. He’d tried to run, and she’d fired a tranq dart from the variable-ammo mag-gun built into the suit’s left wrist. He went down before he even left the store.
That was all pretty typical. It was what happened after that confused her. While the grateful store clerk weepily thanked her, she’d walked into the rear of the store, to a display of replacement parts and hobbyist kits, grabbed as many as she could carry, and flown off.
Now she was headed for the outskirts of the city, on the west side, nowhere near Olympia or anything else she knew of, and she had no idea why. She just knew that she was doing it, so she had to have some reason, right?
She landed on the roof of a small apartment building just outside the city proper, in the run-down urban-sprawl-dominated suburb of Weston. A man was waiting there for her—a man she recognized, but hadn’t seen in half a decade. Is that Chip Carpenter? I haven’t seen him since he dropped out of school... She landed in front of him, dropped the packages of spare cabling, transistors and capacitors, and micro-batteries at his feet, and waited.
“It worked!” he crowed. “Oh, I knew it would, but I can’t believe you’re really here!” He touched her armored chest and grinned. “You’re really real!”
Visibly collecting himself, he tapped at the tablet computer in his hand. Laura opened her faceplate. It was a very, very strange thing for her to do—she never did it for risk of revealing her secret identity, and here she was doing it right in front of someone who could recognize Laura Ferris—but she did it anyway.
“Laura!?” Chip said in shock. “Laura Ferris? You’re Iron Lady? But your—” He looked down at her legs. Then, realization dawning, he smacked himself on the forehead. “Of course! A mind-machine interface, that’s what I’ve been picking up! Which means...” He looked down at his tablet. “Oh wow, which means that other system, the one with all the feedback loops... is you?”
She didn’t say anything. She didn’t really have anything to say, at least not that she could think of at the moment. Actually, she couldn’t think of much of anything at the moment.
Chip was grinning at her. “Well, this changes everything! With the tech you’ve got here... oh, I am going to have fun with this, Laura.” He tapped at the tablet a bit more. “Follow me,” he said, unnecessarily, and she did, all the way downstairs to his apartment.
Alicia finished binding the struggling Olympia into the chair, then lowered Master’s device—which looked like an innocuous VR set with built-in headphones, but, as Alicia had learned firsthand, was really far more—over her head. Once it was secure, Alicia stepped back and smiled brightly at her Master. “She’s ready.”
“Good,” said Master. “Would you like to watch?”
“Oooh, yes please!” Alicia replied eagerly. All she’d ever wanted for her enemies was for them to see the light, to turn away from the path of villainy. Now that she knew there was a higher light, the light of servitude, it was sheer joy to be able to bring one of her oldest foes into that light.
“Good girl,” said Master, and Alicia shivered in pleasure.
Then he started the process. “Special criminals are a bit different than the so-called ‘superheroes,’” he explained, “and require a slightly different approach. Helena does not have the dual identity you do, and therefore does not have the internal contradictions I exploited to break you. But she does have her weaknesses, and the first is that she lacks your training in resisting hypnosis.”
Inside the headset, lights swirled in Olympia’s eyes and distracting sounds echoed in her ears. Every time she tried to look away, tried to think, another wave of color and noise swept it away. I’m being hypnotized, she thought, or heard, or read. They’re trying to— she started to think, but that was swept away by something else she thought, heard, read: Confusion induction.
She tried to struggle against her bonds. It won’t wor— But again her thought was interrupted. Highly effective on someone with my profile.
She shook her head. No, they’re trying to— Another interruption: Keep my thoughts scrambled and I have no choice but to latch onto the thoughts they give me.
And it was working. It was getting harder to tell whether thoughts like I’m being hypnotized were what they wanted her to think, or what she thought, or both. Confusion induction. Highly effective. I’m being hypnotized. Can’t fight it. It’s working... I’m being hypnotized...
Alicia watched as the reading’s on Master’s computer showed Olympia’s thoughts slowing and stopping, her muscles relaxing, the trance state slowly pulling her down.
“Without your defenses, a brute force approach would be the fastest, I think,” said Master. “But she is an intelligent woman with training in psychology; that could be useful to us. I’ll want her psyche fully intact, just redirected, like you.”
Alicia beamed. Like me! Master wants more like me!
“This will be,” he said, “rather slow, delicate work, I’m afraid.” He pulled out his cock, already half-hard. “Why don’t you get down there and make yourself useful?”
Eagerly, Alicia crawled under the table knelt between his legs. Serving the city was good. Serving Master by recruiting for him was better. Serving Master’s cock was best of all.
She couldn’t wait until Olympia finished learning that lesson.