The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive

Cinematic Debut

by J. Darksong & Second Chair


Morgan Cross took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down. Thirsty, she stuck out a hand to grab a bottle of water, only to wince as her hand shook. Cursing slightly, she grabbed her hands, clenching into fists, struggling to contain her anxiety. She closed her eyes and took another deep breath, counting to ten, trying desperately to contain her rising anxiety which was becoming a full-blown panic attack—

“Morgan,” a familiar voice said, a hand clasping her shoulder gently from behind.

Glancing behind her, Morgan let out a soft sigh. As always, the sight and presence of her dear friend Anastasia Albinn calmed her down. More than that, the psychic was purposely flooding her with feelings of calming reassurance, using her empathy to offset the dark-haired lawyer’s nervousness. Grateful, she took Ana’s offered hand, squeezing it gently. “Thanks, Ana,” she said quietly.

“Anytime, hon,” the blonde replied with a smile. “Seriously, you don’t need to be this nervous,” she said, sitting back in her seat. “I know that we’re technically going to meet with the Governor and her team, but she’s still Patty Grimalde, from River City, and a personal friend of mine. Trust me, it’s going to be okay.” She sighed. “At worst, she just says no, and we’re no worse off than we are right now. At best, she says yes, and we go and get your daughter released.“

Morgan let out another sigh. “Well, I’m hoping for the latter. It’s been... so long now,” she said quietly, glancing down at her lap. “When I think of Sabrina being locked up there all this time... it’s just...” she shook her head again. “I’m just grateful Mrs. Grimalde is willing to meet with us. She at least is being helpful,” she said with a scowl, “unlike SOME people that I could name...”

Ana sighed deeply as well. “Now, Morgan,” she chided gently, “I’m sure Eugene Frasier had a perfectly valid reason for missing the parole hearing yesterday.”

The anxious mother merely scoffed, muttering under her breath. In fact, the errant inventor had contacted her at the end of the meeting to apologize, stating that he’d been held up... an unexpected call from a colleague in Valley City requesting his aid. Furious, she’d lambasted the billionaire, expressing her frustration, saying that her issues should have taken priority, and accusing him of neglecting his promise to help her efforts to free Sabrina. Nonplussed, he’d assured her that he was still working on her behalf, but that he was doing so in his own way.

“Trust me, lass, I’ve already taken steps to free yer dearest daughter,” he’d told her at the time. “Yer doing the best ye can, and using all of yer resources and contacts... well, so am I. So even if it doesnae seem as if I’m doing much, rest assured I’m working on your behalf. Indeed, your actions are actually hindering mine in a lot of ways. Well, I’ll not ask ye to stop trying to free yer daughter. But I would ask ye to be careful in how ye go about it. Please, try and show a wee bit of discretion... and perhaps some patience.”

Which of course, had pissed her off. Patience?!? She’d been patient for nearly three years while her precious daughter had sat locked up in a prison for violent criminals! A prison that HE had sent her to in the first place! Needless to say, she’d cursed him out for several minutes before hanging up and throwing her phone into a wall in anger. Which had only made her angrier at having to replace her cell phone on top of everything else. It was at that point that she’d decided to skip all of the red tape and simply go to the very top, meeting with the newly appointed Governor to discuss her daughter’s case with her directly.

A decision she’d immediately regretted, afterward, descending into a ball of nerves upon getting the woman’s reply. She’d half expected to be denied, turned away, or told to go through proper channels at the very least. Patricia Grimalde’s easy acceptance and offer to meet with her the very next day shortly before two p.m. had caught her off guard. Indeed, it was the first thing that had gone right since she’d begun working to get Sabrina released. Hanging up, she’d scrambled to prepare for the meeting, gathering up all the information that she’d obtained over the years on her daughter’s case. Now, sitting in the cabin of their chartered plane, awaiting arrival at the capitol, she’d been nearly paralyzed with doubt and indecision.

Thank goodness for Ana, she thought to herself for possibly the millionth time. The blonde psychic had been a veritable godsend to her. There was no doubt in her mind that she would have never survived the past three years if not for her dear friend’s steadfast help and encouragement. In the aftermath of everything that had happened, Morgan had been on the verge of an emotional collapse. Rather than head back to her home in New York, Ana had insisted on staying behind to make sure she was okay. Eventually, she’d moved in, staying with her in the guest bedroom, helping and counseling her through the toughest of times.

After three years, she’d even started to think of Ana as... more than just a friend. A closeness had formed between them, ripe with a sexual tension that continued to grow day by day. Which confused her, as Morgan wasn’t even slightly gay! Yet... her feelings for the sexy confident blonde only continued to grow. Thus far, neither one had spoken about what was obviously occurring between them, nor acted on those feelings, but it was clear that things were quickly approaching a climax of some kind. Morgan only hoped and prayed that whatever happened between them, they would continue to be friends the way they were now. It had been such a short time... but now she couldn’t imagine not having Anastasia Albinn in her life.

“Looks like we’ll be landing shortly,” Ana called out, drawing her out of her thoughts. Glancing out the window, Morgan got her first look at the cityscape from above. It was a fairly nice-sized city, looking a lot like River City from the air. They were coming in on a standard flight line, moving into a holding pattern. They would likely be landing in the next ten minutes or so. Patting the small briefcase lying on the seat next to her, she let out a steadying breath. She was prepared for this. She was ready.

I just need to stay calm and composed, she told herself. Just state the facts and plead my case. Governor Grimalde will listen. She has to! She nodded to herself. This time, Sabrina, she promised silently. This time, I will find a way to set you free!

* * *

Eugene Frasier let out a soft sigh, waiting idly as the grey-haired man before him paced back and forth, mumbling occasionally. He paused, turning to face him again, scowling, holding the papers clutched tightly in his hand up like a club. “You... you CAN’T be serious about this!” he said for the fifth time since the conversation started. “Have you lost your mind? Seriously! Have you taken complete leave of your senses?”

“Nae, Warden,” Eugene replied calmly. “I assure you that I have not.”

The Warden grunted, pacing a few steps again before turning back to face him. “You CAN’T be serious! You want that... that... menace—”

“That girl, Charles,” Gene cut in, correcting him. “Dinnae forget, despite her power and strength, the lass is just a wee girl, barely old enough to drink. Aye, she went a bit berserk, and got a bit lost in her newly obtained powers... but she’s a good and decent girl at heart. The purpose for having her incarcerated here was to rehabilitate her, after all.” He glanced at the Warden sidelong. “That IS yer job as the Warden, is it not? The verra idea that any prisoner has the chance to put their past behind them and start over fresh is the purpose of prison after all.“

The Warden had the good grace to look abashed. “Uh, er, yes, well,” he stammered, before sighing. “Very well. Your paperwork is all in order,” he stated, handing him the override keycard to the prisoner’s cell. “And, well, to be honest, I will probably sleep easier with her out of this facility. Even your power-dampening technology has had trouble keeping the inmate’s powers under control. Are you sure you’ll be able to handle her once she’s released?”

Gene shrugged. “Nothing in this life is guaranteed, Warden,” he remarked, walking to the door, “except death itself. And even then, there are sometimes... other options. But aye, I believe we have an understanding. I’m just hopeful that she chooses to follow through.”

The Warden winced at that, watching the old Scotsman leave. “Yeah,” he muttered, returning to his desk. “You and me, both.”

Walking down the long hallway with a pair of armed guards in tow, Gene chuckled ruefully. He’d worked and prepared for this day for nearly four years now, and now that it was here, he found himself actually a bit nervous. As if he were some rookie. The truth was, he’d already discussed the situation with Sabrina herself in VR before arriving. She’d requested him, sending him a wireless message that she’d considered his offer and was willing to accept. He’d been surprised but in a pleasant way; he’d known all along that the girl was smart, and once she’d had a chance to think calmly and consider his offer, she’d see that it was sincere.

Still, even with her agreeing to allow her mind to be altered and her powers restrained, it was all still very much up in the air. Though he had a pretty good grasp on Sabrina’s powers now, he still wasn’t absolutely sure the brainwashing his technology would implant in her would actually stick. For that matter, he wasn’t absolutely sure he could train her in controlling and using her vast psionic abilities properly for that matter. He was operating on assumptions, based on massive careful research and study, but still only assumptions.

Aye... I could be setting us all up for failure, he thought ruefully, as he inserted his card into the door’s power slot, but I owe it to the lass to try. Aye... and walking into the lion’s den without knowing that the programming stuck will be my verra first test, he added, as the red light turned green and the locks disengaged.

Stepping inside, he turned and approached the figure held within. At first glance, Sabrina Cross seemed a normal ordinary girl. A svelte, somewhat curvy redhead, her skin, normally sporting at least a slight tan, had grown pale from nearly four years stuck inside. Her hair, normally about shoulder length, had grown much longer, nearly halfway down her back now, and her stunning emerald green eyes were closed, hidden behind the helmet and facemask adorning her head. She wore the standard orange prison jumpsuit, which did little to hide her curves and impressive bust size. Her feet were bare, her long slender toes painted a vivid red from before her incarceration, like her fingernails, though both were in need of a trim. She was, besides the high-tech helmet, completely unrestrained, though there were small silver bands placed around her arms and legs at various points.

Aye, just a normal twenty-two-year-old lass, he thought dimly, walking over to the computer console her helmet was tied into. A wee lass... capable of destroying this entire complex without breaking a sweat, if she had the mind to, he added silently. He paused, hand hovering over the switch, contemplating his choices, wondering for the hundredth time if he was making yet another mistake. Nae, he told himself, shaking off his doubts. It’s time. The girl’s ready. And so am I. It doesnae matter that she’s just as strong as my wee Lacie girl. Heck, she’s actually a wee bit older than Lacie when she first came out as a heroine... to rather limited success. Even if Ms. Cross accidentally destroys half the city, it won’t be as bad as Lacie’s first stint as a heroine. Chuckling softly, resolved to follow through with his choice, he flipped the switch, shutting down the program.

For several seconds, there was nothing but silence. Then... a twitch. An inhale of breath. Then, a pale soft hand rose, reaching out gently, tentatively, finding the helmet around her head, reaching up to unstrap it and lift it away. Finally, the girl sat up, blinking, as she took in her surroundings, viewing the world for the first time with her own eyes in nearly four years. Spying Eugene standing nearby, she frowned, and opened her mouth, letting out a dry strangled gasp. Responding quickly, Eugene stepped forward, handing her the small bottle of water he’d brought with him.

“Here, lass, drink this,” he offered. “Aye, but slowly,” he cautioned as she turned up the bottle. “I thought yer throat might be a bit dry, not having actually spoken aloud in quite a while.” Sabrina finished the bottle, then nodded, handing it back to him. “So... how do ye feel?”

Rising up from the bed, testing her mouth a few times, she nodded at him. “I feel just fine now, Master,” she said formally, before dropping to her knees before the stunned Scotsman. “I am fit and ready to serve you. How may I please you, Master?” she asked, peering up at him.

Eugene stared down at her, wide-eyed, his jaw nearly on the floor. He took a step back, sputtering, unsure what to think let alone say, just as Sabrina suddenly burst into laughter. “Aahahahahahahahahahaa! Oohh... oh my gawwdd!” she chortled, as the old man scowled deeply. “Oh, man... I didn’t think I could pull that off with a straight face,” she laughed, getting back to her feet. “But the look on your face just now—totally worth it!”

“You... you...” Eugene sputtered in outrage. “Ye wretched wee nipper! Tormenting an old man in such a way! Ye made me think that programming scrambled yer brains or something!” he accused. Sabrina merely chuckled, unphased.

“It was merely a test,” she replied calmly. “I did consent to have you forcibly implant unshakable commands inside my mind while I was hooked up to your machine, after all. Even if that was just a bad joke just now, I wanted to see your reaction. To see in your face whether a part of you DID have any aspirations for making me into your obedient servant...”

“And I trust I passed your little ‘test’?” he snapped, still scowling. “I told ye before, lass—I dinnae operate that way. I’ve been upfront and honest with ye about my plans. Aye, I messed with yer brain a wee bit while ye were under, but only to implant the three suggestions we agreed upon, nothing more.” He sighed, heavily. “I cannae state it more plainly than I already have. I have neither a desire nor need to turn ye into my slave. I’m nae trying to trick or deceive ye. Hell, lass, I already had ye locked away, hooked into a machine with direct access to yer bloody mind for all these years! If I truly wanted to brainwash ye, I’ve had more than enough time and opportunity to do so!”

Sabrina replied with a sigh of her own. “Fine. You have a point. I just find it difficult to trust you, all things considered. But... I did agree to your terms. For good or for ill, I’m committed to your little project now. And you did arrange for me to be released from prison and have my record cleaned up, so there’s that...” She frowned slightly, glancing down at herself. “What’s with these metal bands strapped to my arms and legs?”

“Those? They’re Stimulators,” he replied. “You’ve basically been bedridden for nearly four years. Yer body might be superhuman, but it still suffers the same effects from non-use as any other long-term invalid. Those bands routinely stimulated yer nerves, exercising yer muscles while ye were there to keep them from wasting away.”

Sabrina nodded in approval. “Clever. I was a bit surprised I was able to stand and move around like normal after all this time. And I’ll assume you had a guard to regularly rotate or move my position so I didn’t end up with bedsores as well.”

“Aye, precisely,” Eugene replied with a nod. “But enough of that... let’s get out of here. We need to stop by the warden’s office and get you processed,” he said, walking to the door with her following. “After that, I suppose you’re probably hungry. We can stop by and get you something to eat on the way home...”

* * *

“Constance! It’s so good to see you again!” Ana greeted the young assistant as they entered the Governor’s mansion. “And you too as well, Delores,” she added, hugging the dark-haired matronly woman. “Thank you both for arranging this for us. We’re both very grateful.”

“Oh, think nothing of it, dear,” Delores Gutierrez replied with a smile. “The Governor has been so busy the past few days, trying to get this new legislation passed, and it just worked out that she had an opening in her schedule for today. I’m happy that she was able to meet with you. How was the flight in?”

“It was fine,” Morgan replied, somewhat stiffly, glancing around. “A bit bumpy from the weather, but overall just fine. Is the Governor on her way? Do you know how much longer it will be?” she asked anxiously.

Ana sighed softly. “Just relax, sweetie, it’s going to be okay. We’re here, and Patricia’s already agreed to meet with you. Okay?” Morgan nodded, letting out a soft sigh. “Ah, sorry,” Ana replied sheepishly to the others. “My friend Morgan is understandably nervous. This has all been a nightmare for her, and she’s been trying for so long to help her daughter.”

“We understand,” Connie replied, nodding. “And it’s okay. The Governor is just finishing up a meeting and will be down to greet you in about two or three minutes. If you follow me, I can lead you to the study.”

“Thank you, Constance,” Ana replied, nodding, while she and Morgan followed her down the hallways. Silently, she focused her mind, sending her thoughts directly to the young Asian secretary.

::So, Connie, any idea on what Patty plans to do?:: she asked her former student.

::I have something of an idea,:: Constance replied back, managing to keep her expression serene and stoic as always despite their conversation. ::Nigel has been in contact with Eugene pretty regularly, so he is aware of the situation. I believe he is currently working to have the girl released as we speak.::

::Yeah, I thought as much,:: Ana admitted. ::Eva has been a bit evasive as to what exactly Gene is doing, but that it should all come to fruition in the next day or so.:: She sighed mentally. ::Honestly, I felt from the beginning that this might be a wasted trip, but Morgan insisted on coming, and Gene said to go ahead and meet.::

Constance’s mental chuckle came through clearly. ::Yes, Eugene Frasier tends to play his cards close to the chest, so to speak. Just like Nigel. I swear, the two of them were cut from the same cloth...:: Her amusement died out, however, a moment later, and though her expression and tone didn’t change, Ana could feel the change in her emotions.

::Connie? Is something wrong?:: she asked. ::Between you and Nigel, I mean?::

Constance suddenly stiffened, faltering in her step briefly before resuming. ::Did... are you reading my thoughts?:: she asked, sudden apprehension in voicespeak. Ana shook her head.

::Connie, you know me better than that. I’d never poke into your thoughts uninvited. But I’m an empath, remember? Feelings and emotions come through clear as day, and I felt that sudden shift in your mood when you mentioned Nigel just now.:: Ana sent her a feeling of intense serenity and security. ::I’m not your teacher anymore, but I’m still your friend. You know if you are having trouble you can talk to me. And you know me, I won’t judge.::

But Constance simply sighed. ::Thank you for the offer, Ana. It means a lot. But... it’s nothing. It is something I just need to work through. I recently discovered something about Nigel that made me... well, question the way I’ve always thought of him. I mean... obviously, the man isn’t perfect. No one is. But... he did something I would have never imagined him capable of. And it... kind of shook my worldview somewhat.::

::Ah. I think I understand,:: Ana replied after a moment. ::Well, I do know Nigel, and I know he truly loves and cares for you and the others. Whatever happened between you, I am sure it’ll be okay. And, as you said, it’s just something you need to work through on your own. Just don’t let this one incident turn you away from all the good between you two, okay?::

::I won’t,:: Connie thought back, a mental smile flowing through their link. ::Thanks, Ana.::

Oblivious to the mental conversation, Morgan followed the two along the hall silently, mentally reviewing what she intended to say to the Governor. This was her last chance, her BEST chance, to help free her daughter. She had to get this right. No matter what it took, she HAD to get Governor Grimalde to understand the situation. Stepping into the study, she found herself staring into the face of the woman herself.

Patty Grimalde was fairly short, standing a mere five foot six, perhaps a bit taller in the black three-inch Prada heels clad on her feet. The brunette’s dark brown hair was cut short in a simple style, barely shoulder length, and a pair of glasses sat atop her cute pert nose, bringing her vivid green eyes into focus. Her face was adorned with only the barest hint of makeup, yet her beauty shone through clearly. Her nails were painted with a clear acrylic, and her stylish black power suit was impeccably pressed and straightened, without even a speck of lint. She looked every bit the consummate professional, just as she had during her term with the State Prosecutor’s office. Moreso, her clothing was unable to hide just how fit and toned her magnificent body was underneath, her short skirt ending in a pair of toned, sculpted, powerful legs.

During the election, it had come to light that Patricia Grimalde had had a stint as a costumed superheroine, a member of the ever-rotating team of Flying Angels that protected River City. Rather than deny the allegation, she had embraced it, holding nothing back about her career as Seraph, and later Sunshine Angel, proudly declaring that she had served the city and its citizens as a costumed hero and intended to serve them with the same dedication in public office as well. Her opponent’s attempt to slander her had backfired, resulting in a landslide victory for the young woman. And though she no longer carried the magical Tear that had given her her powers, she maintained the same strenuous routine, working out in her downtime to maintain her body.

“Ah, Ana, Miss Cross.” she greeted them both, shaking hands briskly. “Please, come in and have a seat,” she said, gesturing to the seats in front of her desk. They did so, and she took her place back in her leather recliner. “I took the liberty of studying the information you sent me earlier, Miss Cross,” she began, “and I have to say, this is a most unusual case you’ve presented to me. You’re basically requesting a full pardon for your daughter,” she stated, glancing down at the file, “on the basis of a number of extenuating circumstances... that she is not responsible for the actions she took involving the capture, enslavement, and mental domination of no less than...” scanning the file again, “twelve people, yourself included?”

Morgan blushed slightly. “Yes, Your Honor... I mean, G-governor, um—” she stammered.

Only to calm as Patty placed a hand gently atop her own. “Relax, Ms. Cross,” she said gently. “It’s okay. In private it’s just Patricia... or ‘Patty’ to my friends,” she added with a grin. “Let’s just talk plainly, shall we? This case... it’s really complicated,” she admitted. “On the one hand, your daughter caused quite a bit of damage, and had a knock-down, drag-out fight with Ultra Girl in the middle of the city, in front of witnesses and the police. She got into another brawl with another group of Supers outside a local restaurant, again in front of many witnesses. And finally had what comes down to an all-out war in the middle of the desert between her brainwashed army and another group of the city’s superheroes.” She sighed heavily. “Simply brushing all that aside and pretending like it never happened is simply impossible.”

“But... but it’s like I said!” Morgan protested. “Sabrina didn’t mean for any of that to happen! She’s a good girl, really! Her entire life, up to this point, she’d been a good, honest, law-abiding citizen. What happened to her... it not her fault!” She sighed, forcing herself to calm down. “She was sitting with me in our living room, just a nice normal day when she got a sudden splitting headache. She basically collapsed, screaming and crying out in pain. I ran to her, and...” She sighed, trailing off. Honestly, she wasn’t sure exactly what happened after that. Her mind was a big blank before waking up in Eugene Frasier’s lab, along with the other ‘victims’ of her daughter’s power. She sighed again. “That is when my daughter’s power manifested,” she concluded.

Ana took up the story from there. “Patty, there is a precedent for this kind of thing,” she pointed out. “In most cases, when a person becomes a Super, when their powers first manifest, it happens in puberty, or in some cases, even at birth. It’s a very strenuous and traumatic experience either way and is usually accompanied by some significant physical or emotional change. And while it’s rare to happen to a person in their late teens, there have been reported cases of a person suddenly gaining powers as late as their early twenties. But in each case, the trauma caused a major change in the person.”

“Yes, I’m familiar with that study,” Patty replied, frowning slightly. “We dealt with several cases in the DA’s office, people claiming ‘temporary insanity’ as an excuse after suddenly gaining their powers.” She glanced archly at Morgan. “I trust that is not your excuse in your daughter’s case, Ms. Cross? That Sabrina went ‘temporarily insane’ when she suddenly got mind control powers? Because that would hardly justify enslaving twelve people and pitting them against their fellow heroes.”

“No, I’m not saying Sabrina lost her mind!” Morgan shot back tersely. “Look, I know how this sounds, okay? But Sabrina, my Sabrina, would NEVER do something like this! Whatever happened to give her mind powers affected HER mind as well!” She shook her head, her frustration building again. “No one understands... no one believes me. They all just see her as... as just another power-hungry madwoman out to try and take over the city! But my daughter is not like that! She never had any inclination for this kind of thing! She was a scholar... a genius! She was eighteen and about to finish her Master’s degree! And she was a gentle person—definitely not the kind of girl who would get into a fistfight with another Superhero in the middle of the city!”

“Morgan, please,” Ana began, only for the brunette lawyer to brush her aside, standing up.

“NO, Ana!” she yelled, frustration boiling over. “I came here... I flew all the way out here because I thought you would listen to me! That you would hear my side of the story and give it a fair chance! But... you’ve already made up your mind!” she accused, causing Patty to frown. “You said it yourself, you were a former prosecutor... you’re a former hero... so of course, you’d side with the police, seeing my girl as just another villain, needing to be locked away to protect the city—”

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Patty snapped, slamming a hand down hard on her desk. Stunned, wide-eyed, Morgan went silent. “Look, Ms. Cross,” Patty continued, calmly but forcefully, “I appreciate how you feel. But you will NOT bark at me like some rabid dog in my own home!” Morgan swallowed, taking another step back. “Now then,” Patty continued, calm once again, “please... sit down, and let us continue to talk about this calmly. I promise to hear you out, and weigh all the evidence before I make a decision, Okay?”

Morgan nodded softly. “Yes, ma’am,” she said quietly. “And... I’m sorry. I... I just...”

Again, Patty placed a hand atop hers. “It’s okay, Morgan. Really. I do understand. I’m a mom as well, you know,” she said, giving the troubled lawyer a sad smile. “Believe me, if my Justine were in your daughter’s place, if she were locked up in prison, I’d be just as frantic and desperate to get her out as you are.” She sighed softly. “I am sorry if my words earlier came across as harsh. I am just trying to be realistic with you. I have read your file, spoken to Eugene Frasier, read the reports of the police involved, of the judge that did the sentencing... I’d looked at this entire case from a bunch of different angles... and honestly, it’s all very complicated.”

“So... that means you are going to refuse?” Morgan asked, dejected.

But Patty shook her head. “It means I’m going to have to think long and hard on this before I make my decision,” she replied instead. “I agree with what you said—from everything I’d read, your daughter does not seem to be the kind of person to do all of this for megalomaniacal reasons. Even Mr. Frasier, the one who had her imprisoned, agrees with that sentiment. The issue here is not simply whether or not she deserves to be in prison... it’s more of whether she is a threat to those around her, and what she will do if she is released.”

“I can assure you, Gov... Patty,” Morgan replied, “that Sabrina is no threat. Yes, she might have gotten superpowers, and perhaps went a bit overboard with them... but she is a smart girl. And she has a good heart. If you give her this chance, I swear to you... I will do everything in my power to help guide her through this and help her get a handle on her powers. She won’t cause anyone any more trouble!”

Ana sighed softly. “And I can guarantee that as well, Governor Grimalde,” she stated. “I intend to offer my services as a counselor for Sabrina once she is released for as long as needed. We reiterate that the incidents that happened were a result of a misunderstanding that blew out of proportion and went out of control. With her mother and me to guide her, there won’t be a repeat of this happening.”

Patty nodded. “I certainly hope you are both right about that.” She closed the folder, then nodded. “Very well. I will deeply consider this matter, and get back to you both in a couple of days.” She rose to her feet, as did Morgan and Ana. “I’m sorry to cut this short, but I do have several more meetings this afternoon. Morgan, I promise you I will do everything I can to help your daughter. And I wish you and her the best,” she added, shaking her hand. “Ana, it’s been a pleasure to see you again, though I wish the circumstances were different.”

“Same here, Patty dear,” she said, forgoing the handshake and hugging her instead. “And thank you again for taking the time to see us.”

Patty nodded, again wishing them both well, and let out a soft sigh as they departed. “Well, that went about as well as expected,” a male voice spoke from behind her. Turning, she spotted her husband, Nigel, stepping in from the back room. Opening her arms, she welcomed him with a tight hug, all the tension leaving her body at the touch of her beloved Master. “All in all, I think you handled that quite admirably, though at one point I was sure she was about to leap over the table and strangle you.”

Patty managed a small laugh. “Yes, she did get rather upset there for a bit, didn’t she?” she mused aloud. “Gene did warn us that she was emotionally unstable. And Constance said that she could sense that Ana was pretty much the only thing keeping her in check.” She shook her head. “Poor woman. In her shoes, I’d be just as much of a basketcase as she is.”

“I rather doubt that my dear one,” Nigel replied. “You forget, I know just how strong you are, mentally, emotionally, as well as physically. Nothing truly gets to you, my dear. You’re still every bit my indomitable hero that you were when we first met.”

Patty smiled, melting a bit inside. “Flatterer,” she teased, kissing him. “But seriously... I pity her. She lost her daughter, the most important person in her life, and she doesn’t remember, or even understand fully, how or why it happened.” She shuddered softly. “If I’d lost you... or Robbie, or Justine... if someone that important to me was taken away... believe me, Nigel, I wouldn’t handle it well at all...”

* * *

“And, here, on the fridge, are all the emergency numbers,” Veronica Albinn stated, gesturing to the appliance as her husband groaned aloud, retrieving his car keys. “Chloe and Rosella are both out on patrol tonight, but they should be back around midnight. And, of course, Venus is upstairs in her room. If anything happens, just knock on her door... or, well, maybe not knock, since the baby might be sleeping... just, well, you know, use your own judgment.”

Parker groaned again, rolling his eyes. “Roni, c’mon. Justine is a big girl. I’m sure she can handle this.” He shook his head, grinning at the teenager. “More importantly, the icebox is full, help yourself to anything you want to eat. And the wifi password is ‘SonicX’, with a capital S and a capital X.”

Justine nodded. “Thanks, Mr. Albinn. And, Mrs. Albinn, he’s right. I’ve totally got this. Mom and Dad have me watch after the kids all the time when Lucy comes to visit.”

The dark-haired former ninja assassin merely sighed. “I know, Justine. I’m just... nervous about leaving John. I mean, I just barely have him weaned!” She sighed again... then shook her head. “You know what? I’ve changed my mind. I can’t do this. It’s too soon—I’m staying home.”

Her husband gaped at her. “What? You’re staying home?”

“Parker, it’s too soon!” she insisted. “What if he gets hungry while we’re gone?”

In response, he opened the fridge. “Baby, you have two shelves full of milk you pumped and stored for the kid. I know he’s got a pretty good appetite like his old man, but even HE can’t go through twelve bags in two days! We’re only going away for the weekend—we’ll be back Sunday afternoon.” He shrugged. “It’s fine. Venus is looking after Baby John, and Justine is keeping an eye on Lucy and Robbie. And Chloe and Rose will be here as well in a few hours. Trust me—everything is handled.”

Regardless, Roni looked unconvinced. “What if he gets sick? He has been really warm lately,” she pointed out.

Parker rubbed his temples, a headache starting to form. “Roni...”

“And, and... that rash? He had a bad rash on his upper thighs just this morning!”

“Veronica! Enough!” he cut in, his frustration showing. “The baby is FINE! You know he is always warm when he first wakes up from a nap. And that rash was just diaper rash, which cleared up almost immediately after rubbing him down with some cream.” Seeing her expression, he softened. “Baby, you always do this when I try and suggest we go away for some alone time. I know you don’t like being separated from the baby. But he’s in good hands! He has more experienced and talented people looking out for him than Lucy did when you left her alone for the first time, and she turned out fine. And... we NEED some time away from the baby. BOTH of us. You’re getting burnt out... and I am about to go nuts!” He handed her her purse and then kissed her. “We have hotel reservations for the weekend, and we’re keeping them. Everything is fine, and if anything happens, we are a phone call away.” He smirked. “And remember, I can get us back here faster than any car.“

Nodding, Roni managed a small smile. “You’re right. You’re... right. Okay. Let’s go.”

Shaking her head ruefully, Justine watched the two grown-ups depart, waving as they finally left the house. Truthfully, she found it kind of funny. She was quite a bit younger back then, but she recalled her mom and dad having almost the same exact conversation about leaving Robbie and her alone for the first time. Chuckling aloud, she decided to head upstairs to check up on the kids, who were playing in Lucy’s room.

“...don’t know, I kinda like ‘Puppet Girl’ as your hero name,” Robbie was saying. “If anything, we should pick a new name for me.”

“Huh? Why?” Lucy asked. “What’s wrong with ‘Wonder Boy’?”

Robbie made a face. “Meh... it’s okay, I guess. But it doesn’t describe me at all! I mean, Puppet Girl... you can control people like puppets. What does Wonder Boy even mean? It’s not like I have any special powers or anything.”

Lucy considered. “Yeah, I guess you have a point. But still... Puppet Girl isn’t really that cool, either. I mean, I use my stuffed bear to control people, not a puppet.”

Justine sighed inwardly, shaking her head at the conversation. In any other situation, it would have been simply the talk of two young kids talking about some fantasy game, but in the case of these two particular children, it was much more. A few months ago, Justine’s family had gone to a school performance where a notorious supervillain known as the Piper had infiltrated, brainwashed the audience, and began robbing the entranced patrons of their valuables. Luckily, Robbie had been in the bathroom at the time, and returning to find the robbery in progress, he woke Lucy, and the two of them hid, donned colorful disguises, and proceeded to defeat the villain. Calling themselves Puppet Girl and Wonder Boy, the two children managed not only to take down the adult supervillain but all of the brainwashed teachers the villain was controlling. And ever since, the two of them had become obsessed with continuing their crime-fighting personas, despite both of their parents refusing to even consider it until they were both much older!

Justine herself had missed the performance, only hearing about it afterward when they all returned home, but she couldn’t help but feel a bit envious of her little brother. Like him, she too had once dreamed of following in their mother’s footsteps and taking on the role of hero, protecting the citizens and taking down bad guys. And yet, meeting with Katie Frasier, becoming her friend, and learning a bit more about exactly what kind of dangers and trials a hero faced, seeing the way her friend had suffered, had caused her enthusiasm to wane considerably.

“Hey, snot goblins,” she called out, causing both of the youngsters to glance at the doorway. “It’s getting late. I need to make something for dinner. What do you two want?”

With only the slightest of pauses, both kids responded simultaneously. “Mac ‘n cheese!”

Rolling her eyes, Justine sighed. “Yeah, yeah. Of course you’d say that. Tell me, do you two little monsters ever eat anything else BESIDES macaroni and cheese?”

“Why? Are you offering to order us a pizza?” Robbie asked, smirking.

“Of course not!” Justine replied, scowling. “Every time we order pizza at home you ask for something weird!”

“I do not! I just like some ‘rietitty’,” Robbie protested.

“You mean variety,” Justine shot back, hands on her hips. “And meatball and spaghetti pizza is not variety, it’s just weird!” She shook her head again. “Ugh... why am I even bothering talking to you about this? I’m just making you two some mac n’ cheese. You can eat it or not, I don’t care,” she muttered, heading back downstairs.

Lucy glanced after her for a few minutes in silence before speaking again. “Man, Robbie... your big sister is kinda scary sometimes.”

Robbie just shrugged. “Meh. She’s not so bad, most of the time,” he admitted. “She and Mom have been arguing a lot, though. I don’t know why, but Tawnya said she’s just going through something called ‘Growing Pains’.”

Lucy nodded sagely. “Well, she is kinda tall. Maybe growing up hurts? I heard Auntie Chloe and Auntie Rose talking about how they start bleeding sometimes for no reason every month!”

Robbie blinked. “Whoa... really? Just bleeding for no reason? Like... a nosebleed or something?”

“No, it’s like... down there, between your legs,” Lucy replied, gesturing to her crotch. Robbie’s eyes went wide.

“Ouch! That’s kinda freaky,” he said with a shudder. “Yanno... come to think of it, Justine DOES get really really upset like once a month, and acts like she is hurting a lot. I used to think she was upset about school stuff or something... but now I wonder if it’s that Growing Pains stuff.”

Lucy frowned. “Man... I sure hope we don’t have to go through that kind of thing when WE get older.”

“Yeah, me too,” Robbie replied, nodding. “When I get home, I’m asking my dad what to do when I start bleeding between my legs that way...”

The sound of a baby crying caught their attention. Glancing through the open door, they heard the door to the room across from them open, followed by muffled footsteps. A moment later, a familiar redheaded woman stepped into view, clad in a red silken chemise, holding a very fussy infant. “There, there, little John,” she murmured softly, patting the baby’s back gently. “It’s okay. We’re just going to take a little trip downstairs to grab a bottle for you. It’ll just take a second, I promise.”

“Hi, Auntie Venus,” Lucy called out, waving. “Johnny pitching a fit again?”

The redhead flashed the girl a dazzling smile. “Oh, well, you know babies,” she said with a chuckle, “always hungry, and always after attention. I’m going down to make him a bottle. Are you kids coming down as well? It’s getting pretty late... and I can smell food cooking. Justine must be about done with your food.”

“Cool! I’m starving!” Robbie announced, getting up and going to the door, with Lucy following behind her.

The three arrived in the kitchen shortly thereafter, just as Justine was about to yell for the kids to come down. “Ah! Perfect timing,” she announced, setting two large bowls of macaroni and cheese on the table, and a Caesar salad for herself. “Oh, um, Miss Venus? Can I get you something as well?” she asked as the redhead began warming up a bottle for the baby.

“No thank you, dear,” she said with a soft smile. “I’m fine. My friends Chloe and Rosella are bringing food back with them when they finish their shift, and I am fine to wait until then.”

“Ah, okay,” the teenager remarked, nodding, watching the redhead as she worked. A strange unsettling feel fluttered in the pit of her stomach as she stared at the beauty. It was actually a bit surreal to be in the same room as a woman that she’d grown up hearing was ‘the devil incarnate’, an immortal goddess older than time, a wicked, evil woman that had enslaved and tormented her mother and Angela in their youth for her own amusement. Yet the being across from her, cooing and talking baby talk to the infant in her arms was as far from the image she’d held of the woman as one could possibly be.

Granted, a lot had changed for her family in the past few years, things that had seemed impossible and unthinkable a few months back were now just accepted and considered mundane and normal. Yeah... it’s so weird, really. Eugene Frasier, the only man that my dad ever seemed to be afraid of is now his best friend. And the same with Lacie and my mom. Heck, I’m staying the weekend with Robbie here at Parker Albinn’s house, and two years ago, he was public enemy number one according to my parents! She sighed inwardly. Just goes to show you... nothing in this world ever stays the same. Everything changes in time...

Properly fed and burped, baby John settled down and drifted back off to sleep. Satisfied, Venus bid the youngsters good night and headed back up to her room, leaving them alone. The three kids ate in silence for a few minutes, before Lucy spoke up. “Um... Justine? Can I ask you a question?”

The dark-haired teen shrugged. “Sure, squirt. What’s up?”

“What’s it like being a big sister?”

Justine blinked. “Huh? What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re Robbie’s big sister. And, I guess I’m Johnny’s big sister, ‘cause I’m older,” she stated. “He’s just a baby now, so mom and dad, and my aunts kinda look after him... but I’m not sure what I’m s’posed to do as his big sister.”

“Hmmm... interesting question,” Justine answered, giving the question some thought. “Being the older sibling... well, it kind of sucks, really,” she admitted. “Especially if your little brother is an irritating little PEST that always gets in trouble and you get blamed for it,” she added, smirking at Robbie.

“HEY!” he yelled in response, annoyed at the accusation. “I’m NOT a pest!”

“Oh, hush, you KNOW I’m right,” Justine retorted. “You’re ALWAYS doing naughty stuff and getting away with it. But let ME miss curfew by thirty seconds, and you’d think I committed a hate crime or something!” She sighed, shaking her head. “When you’re the oldest, you’re expected to set an example, so even though it’s not fair, anything your younger brother does becomes your fault.”

Lucy frowned. “So... you’re saying I’m gonna get blamed every time Johnny does something bad? Even though I didn’t do anything myself?”

Justine nodded. “Pretty much. Still... it’s not ALL bad,” she admitted, softening a bit. “Even though he is an annoying little bugger, I have to admit, Robbie does have his moments.” The young boy blinked, looking at his sister in surprise. “I mean... I still think he’s a pest and a little con artist who manipulates our parents onto his side... but he can sometimes be... kind of cool. Like the time he covered for me with Mom when I was late getting home the other week. And, the time he took the blame for me when I accidentally broke the lamp in Dad’s office.”

Robbie glanced away, blushing slightly. “Um, well... it was kind of my fault, with the lamp. I was playing in Dad’s office, and you came in to tell me to get out when you bumped the desk...”

“Still, you took the blame for me,” Justine insisted. “You didn’t have to do it, but you did.” She gave him a sidelong grin. “You’re actually not that bad of a brother when you try.” Robbie grumbled softly, and Lucy giggled.

The conversation shifted to lighter topics as they ate until finally all three were sated. Heading back to the living room, Justine took a seat on the couch. “I wonder what they have on TV tonight,” she mused aloud, switching on the remote. “Ooh! Gretel and Hansel! Cool! I wanted to see this last year when it came out!” she enthused, bouncing slightly in her seat.

“Hansel and Gretel?” Lucy perked up. “Hey, I wanna watch it too!”

“Yeah, me too!” Robbie chimed in. “I remember that fairy tale. A movie about it should be pretty cool!”

But Justine shook her head. “Uh uh. No way, kiddos. This movie is PG-13. It’s way too hardcore for a couple of rugrats like you two. It’s too scary.”

“Is not!” Robbie insisted, frowning. “We can handle it! Can’t we, Lucy?”

“Uh, y-yeah! Sure can!” the young heroine replied after a slight hesitation. “I like watching scary stuff with Auntie Venus all the time. ‘Sides, I’m a hero, remember? Scary movies don’t bother me none!”

Justine frowned, considering. On one hand, they were both quite a bit more mature than most kids their age. On the other hand... “I’m pretty sure if Mr. and Mrs. Albinn knew I let you watch a PG-13 movie, they would skin me alive,” she muttered. “And I know my mom and dad would kill me if knew I let Robbie watch this movie.”

“Aw, c’mon, Justine!” Robbie pleaded. “I won’t tell! And neither will Lucy, will you?”

“No way, I won’t say a word, I promise!” Lucy promised.

Sighing deeply, rolling her eyes, Justine finally nodded. “Fine, fine, you guys can watch with me,” she grumbled, sliding over as they moved over to the couch as well. “But I swear, you’d better not come crying to me later on about being scared...”

* * *

High over the night skies, the lone blonde heroine floated aimlessly, staring down at the city below. A soft melancholy sigh escaped her lips; the cityscape was beautiful, a familiar sight she knew well, yet as much as she loved River City, right now she wished she were somewhere else. Specifically, in Salem, the state capital, at the governor’s mansion, where her loving husband, Darryl, was waiting.

Damn. I’d hoped this would all be over by now, Ultra Girl mused to herself. It’s been more than a month now that I’ve been searching, but I haven’t been able to find hide or hair of Elise. It’s like she vanished off the face of the Earth. She grunted, hovering over the nearby Grimalde Towers building, where she used to reside. The trail has gone completely cold. I’ve checked everywhere I can think of... looked up all her old friends and family, but... nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. She sighed deeply... then straightened up, extending her arms, flying once more.

There’s only one choice now, Karen thought to herself, streaking across the sky like a comet, and only one person that can help me find her. I know Eugene has been busy lately with his own little project, but I need his help with this. His tech should be able to track her down wherever she’s hiding.

Confident that she had a plan firmly in mind, she relaxed a bit, nearing her destination, only to sigh deeply, her enhanced hearing picking up the sound of a loud crash. Sighing inwardly, she turned, heading towards the source of the disturbance, spotting a large tanker truck that had collided with a Ford pickup truck. Worse, the contents of the tanker were leaking, and smoke was billowing from the Ford. Okay, looks like my visit to Gene Frasier will be delayed for a while, she mused, as she swooped down toward the accident scene...