Zeroman vs. Ecdysia: The Temptress Strikes
Night in Empire City, when the children of the day give way to the creatures of the night.
The screams from the street below drew Zeroman’s attention. Following the sound, he spotted its source: a young woman, under attack by three street punks. Confidently, he stepped off the roof of the five-story building he’d been using as a lookout point.
Two seconds later, he hit the pavement—not with a loud thud, as might have been expected, but almost noiselessly, as his body absorbed the energy of the impact. He felt strength roar through him. It wouldn’t last long, he knew—but it should last long enough.
He was on them in an instant. He didn’t bother ordering them to stop; instead, his powered fists slammed into them, one by one, knocking them unconscious. A couple of them landed punches of their own, but the blows only made him stronger. He felt a rib break in one of the toughs as he hammered away; too bad for him, Zeroman thought grimly. When he was finished, he turned to their intended victim.
“Are you all right, miss?” he asked.
“Oh my God,” the girl said. Her wide eyes took in her rescuer’s appearance: blue-black skin, so dark it seemed to blend with the shadows; eyes which were red, reflective ovals, with no visible pupil or iris; snow-white hair; red leather bands forming an X across the muscular chest, a wide red belt with a round buckle, black trunks and pirate-style cuffed boots; red metal wristbands. For a moment, she seemed as afraid of him as she’d been of her assailants.
Zeroman sighed. His uncanny looks, a side effect of the illegal experiment which had given him his powers, put a lot of people off.
Then, suddenly, she was thanking him. “Oh, my God,” she repeated. “I thought I was done for! They just came out of nowhere, grabbed my purse—and then they wouldn’t let me go! I thought they were going to—if you hadn’t come, they might’ve—oh, thank you, thank you!”
Finally, she calmed down. “You know, a lot of people think you’re an urban legend.” Zeroman smiled. Then, curiously: “How come you don’t wear a mask?”
He smiled again, waving a hand at himself. “I’m pretty conspicuous. Somehow, I don’t think a mask would do much to hide my identity, do you?” They both laughed.
Finally, she assured him she was all right, and walked off. Tapping the comm button on his right wristband, he contacted the police dispatcher to request pickup for the three thugs, then waited patiently for the cops to arrive.
From an alley across the street, hidden in shadow, a figure in a gray fedora and bulky overcoat watched. The coat did a good job of concealing the magnificent female curves of the watcher, who observed carefully as Zeroman assisted the police in loading the would-be muggers and rapists into the back of a patrol car.
They’d done their job. The three dupes had drawn out Zeroman, just as she had planned, and he was everything she had hoped for. She studied the small instrument one of her slaves had made for her, and smiled. Its readings confirmed what the slave had suggested about the way Zeroman’s abilities worked. That information would be very useful when the time came—soon!—for the two of them to meet. As for her three human tools, they knew nothing the police could use, and she herself had no more use for them.
She walked through the alley, unconcerned that she might be attacked. There were few predators on this planet more dangerous than she. At the passageway’s end waited an expensive late-model car. She got into the back, removing the hat and coat, and ordered the driver to move on. Smiling, silent, he obeyed.
After finishing his patrol, Zeroman headed out of the city, towards the League of Virtue headquarters on Freedom Island which was his home these days. He kept thinking about the girl’s question. Even after all this time, he had to admit it bothered him that unlike many of the other Leaguers and lone-wolf super-heroes around, he couldn’t have a normal life—a day job, non-costumed friends, girlfriends, a family. But what he’d said to her was true: he was too conspicuous, too—well, freakish—for that.
It hadn’t always been so. He kept a few pictures from his former life, to remind him of how things had been before he’d been kidnapped along with hundreds of others by the high-tech criminal organization called ASP—Advanced Science Projects—to become a human guinea pig for their experiments in bio-augmentation. He’d been one of the lucky ones, he supposed. He’d survived, he’d gotten super-powers—and he still looked at least more or less human, unlike some of ASP’s other “successes.”
He shuddered. The League had done what it could for them, but a cure remained out of reach—and without one, too many of them simply couldn’t walk the streets. Even the ones who could still walk.
Arriving at her current base of operations, a penthouse condominium provided by one of the several billionaires under her control, the mystery woman pondered her next move.
Now that she knew Zeroman met her requirements, she needed to set the hook and reel him in. And she’d have to make sure it was he who showed up to take the bait—not someone immune to her powers like the android Soldier X or the Spook, and certainly not the whole League. She wasn’t ready for that just yet. No, it wouldn’t do for the notorious Ecdysia to make her first public move since escaping Blackhole only to be captured and sent back immediately.
She laughed. She knew just what to do. All she had to do was make a few simple preparations.
Ecdysia shrugged out of the bulky overcoat she’d worn on her surveillance outing and took off the battered hat which had helped hide her features. She shook out the honey-blonde hair she had stuffed up under the fedora; freed, it cascaded down her back nearly to her waist.
Underneath, she’d been wearing one of her less revealing costumes, a form-fitting body suit in silver and blue with Velcro closures at the sides and a neckline which plunged to her navel. Unlike most other costumed figures on both sides of the law, she had a number of outfits. All were designed to emphasize her stunning proportions, to show off the movement of the muscles beneath her flawless skin—and to come off easily. Besides catering to her vanity, the garments were part of the modus operandi from which she’d taken her costumed name so long ago, the hypnotic striptease she most often used to put victims under her power. She didn’t actually need the dance—her voice, gestures and eyes all could put a person under—but trance came faster and went deeper that way, especially with men. Besides, she enjoyed it.
Now, to business. . . .
The e-mail had warned of a planned robbery of the First City Bank on Center Street. Unusually, it had come in not to the League’s mail site but to his personal account. The message appeared to have been sent from a public terminal at a branch of the city library, and its sender identified herself as the woman he’d saved from muggers a couple of days before. She claimed to have overheard a couple of men boasting about the scheme in a bar.
Under other circumstances, Zeroman might have ignored the message, at the most sending back the a polite “thank you for your concern” reply. There’d been a rash of odd robberies lately, however, in which money had seemed to simply disappear from supposedly secure banks. Given the strained relations between the city government and the LOV after the damage caused by one too many super-battles—one reason the League had been “invited” to move its headquarters from its founder’s Powhattan mansion to Freedom Island—League policy was to wait for a formal request for help unless the threat was clearly overwhelming. But this message hadn’t come to the League. It had come to him, and apparently from someone he’d helped recently. He felt a certain sense of personal responsibility.
Zeroman checked out a car from the LOV motor pool and drove into Powhattan. The car he’d picked was unmarked; no sense in drawing attention before he had to. As he made his way through traffic, he wished for what seemed like the thousandth time that he could fly. Eventually, though, he arrived.
The bank seemed quiet as he parked across the street. If the message was right, though, the would-be thieves should be inside already. If they didn’t come out within the next ten minutes, though, he’d enter the bank and wait for them there. Suddenly, several people came out: a woman with honey-blonde hair and a startling figure and four burly men carrying large bags marked with the bank’s emblem. It didn’t look as if they’d made a regular withdrawal.
Zeroman bolted from his car and ran across the street. This would be tricky: unlike the other night, he’d had no opportunity to charge up with extra energy beforehand. He’d have to make the most of what he had.
“Stop!” he shouted as he reached the sidewalk on the bank’s side of the street. “Put down those bags! You’re under arrest!”
The woman looked him over calmly. “You’re the one they call Zeroman, aren’t you?” she asked.
“I am,” he responded. “Are you in charge here? Order your goons to put down the bags and raise their hands.”
“Load up, boys,” she said instead. “Why don’t we go inside and discuss this, Zeroman?”
Involuntarily, Zeroman glanced through the bank’s revolving door. The people inside seemed frozen. The men among them wore dreamy expressions, as if lost in some private fantasy.
Alarmed, he forgot about the woman bank robber and ran indoors to check the people out more carefully. A few moments’ inspection revealed that they all seemed physically unhurt; they simply didn’t respond.
“They’ll be fine,” came from behind them. “In a half-hour or so, the women will start waking up. The men’ll take an hour, maybe a little more. They’ll be the same as always after that.”
Zeroman whirled. The female robber had followed him in.
“What’d you do to them?”
“I’m so glad you asked,” the woman cooed. She had a small CD player strapped to one hip; she took it off and pressed a button, and seductive music began to play as she set it carefully on the floor. Then she began to dance.
“W-what—!” Against his will, Zeroman followed her sinuous movements with his eyes.
“You wanted to know what I’d done to the nice folks here,” Ecdysia responded in a teasing tone, still writhing seductively. “Just keep watching and you’ll find out. Keep watching, that’s right, watch me dance, forget about everything but watching me dance, yes, relax, watch me dance, yes. . . .”
She undulated before Zeroman, slowly peeling off her clothes to the music as he watched. Bracelets, right arm, then left. Gloves, first one, then the other, dangled before his eyes, swaying. She spun the tassels on the brassiere she was wearing, gleeful as his eyes followed the motion helplessly; then the bra joined the gloves. She swayed her naked breasts before him, letting the emerald pendant attached to her necklace flash at him from where it dangled below her cleavage.
When the first wisp of drool began to run from the corner of her target’s mouth, she decided he was ready.
“Can you hear me, Zeroman?’ she asked softly.
“Yes. . . .” he murmured, eyes still locked on the emerald pendant, following it, following it.
“You feel so good, don’t you?”
“Yes. . . .” His body confirmed that; his tight trunks didn’t hide the fact that he’d grown a massive erection.
She pressed one finger gently under his chin. “You’d do anything to go on feeling this way, wouldn’t you, Zeroman?”
“Yes,” he moaned. “Do . . . anything.”
“Then come along with me,” she instructed him. “Yes, follow me and do as I say.”
It took only a minute to put her discarded clothes back on. Then, taking Zeroman by the hand, Ecdysia led the now thoroughly hypnotized hero by the hand outside and down the street to the waiting van her henchmen had already loaded with their loot.
“Get inside,” she commanded. Zeroman obeyed. “Now lie down and go to sleep until I awaken you.” The hero’s eyes, dulled in trance from their usual scarlet to a dark reddish-violet, closed as he sank to the floor of the van. He relaxed, and his breathing shifted into a sleeper’s rhythm.
“That’ll hold him for a while,” the villainess observed, satisfied. Her specific order to stay asleep until she woke him would keep him from coming out of it the way the people in the bank would.
He’d been perfect for her needs. A genuine super-hero, but one whose powers only worked if he were physically attacked. Shot, punched, dropped off a building, he just grew stronger, but he was helpless against her hypnotic allure—and too inexperienced to avoid it. And he had full access to all the secrets of the League of Virtues.
Zeroman woke feeling relaxed and peaceful. The feeling didn’t last long.
He was tied to a chair in the middle of a spacious room. From what he could see, the room appeared to be part of a large apartment; one wall admitted sunlight through a pair of large windows which looked out on a view high above street level. It could have been worse, he supposed; he could have awakened chained upside down in a dungeon, or hooked up to some mad scientist’s latest invention. Still, it was embarrassing to have been trapped like this.
The woman who’d captured him was standing in front of him. “Awake, are we?” she asked rhetorically. “Good boy. There are things I want to do with you that aren’t nearly as much fun if you’re asleep.”
“Who are you?” Zeroman asked.
The woman pouted. “My, how fleeting is fame.” She struck a dramatic pose, feet apart, hands on hips, and declared, “I’m Ecdysia, Zeroman! The Temptress, the Sinister Seductress, and so on.” She chuckled. “Seventy years of media exposure can saddle a woman with a lot of nicknames.”
Seventy years! But it was true. Ecdysia had been in prison up in Blackhole when he’d gained his powers and joined the LOV, but he’d read her file. It was vague about her origin, but she’d been around since the 1930s. Supposedly, she called herself the Goddess of Desire; if she were that old, she certainly seemed to have the immortality part of goddesshood down.
“I heard you’d escaped,” the captive hero responded. “But you’re supposed to be a world-class super-villainess. Isn’t simple bank robbery a bit of a step down for you?”
Ecdysia threw back her head and laughed. Then, smiling, she said, “Silly boy. The bank was just to draw you out. And thanks to the little note I sent you, it worked like a charm.” She smiled wider. “Of course, the money’s welcome too.”
A dreadful suspicion rose in Zeroman. “That mugging. You set it up, didn’t you?”
“Of course.” Ecdysia came closer and caressed her prisoner’s cheek. “Oh, the girl was innocent enough. I had my male pawns pull her off the street beforehand and bring her to me so I could program her for our little scenario, then set it in motion when I knew you’d be nearby. I’d studied your patrol routine beforehand, so I knew just when and where to act it out. The girl still thinks nothing happened but you saving her from a bunch of thugs.”
“But why me?” Zeroman strained against the ropes as her spoke, but it was useless. Without an energy input, he had only normal human strength.
“Let’s just say I find you . . . appealing.” Reaching behind the chair, Ecdysia began untying the ropes. As she bent over him, Zeroman felt her gorgeous bosom pressing against his face. Against his will, he felt himself becoming aroused. “My little test was just to see what you were capable of.” And confirm your weaknesses, she added to herself.
She stood up, pulling him to his feet, and began to sway seductively, murmuring words he couldn’t seem to make out. Zeroman felt his eyes begin to follow the motion, follow the motion, follow the . . .
“No!” he shouted. Covering his eyes with one arm, he lunged across the room and threw himself through one of the picture windows. It turned out to be a thirty-story drop. Just the same, he hit the ground gently, feeling the energy of impact rush into him as power, just as had happened the other night. As always, it felt wonderful. This time, though, the sensation was tinged with bitterness.
Well, that was humiliating, he thought. Snatched up like an amateur, turned into a plaything for that bitch, forced to run away—run away!—from someone who can’t even physically hurt me! The fact that he knew she would have put him under again if he’d stayed didn’t help. The whole thing was too embarrassing even to mention to the rest of the team.
But next time, he promised himself, it would be different. Next time, he’d show her who was in charge!
Still fuming, he headed across town to retrieve his borrowed car.
Looking at the smashed window and feeling the cool fall breeze it let in, Ecdysia sighed. Ah, well, she thought, you can’t make an omelette . . . !
Zeroman, of course, thought he’d escaped. He had no idea of the commands she’d implanted in him after untying him. As far as he knew, only seconds had passed between the moment she’d brought him erect—and to his feet, as well—and his dash for the window. Actually, it had been nearly two hours.
Much of that had been playtime. Zeroman was a handsome young man indeed, his exotic looks only adding to his appeal as far as she was concerned. He’d been an eager and energetic stallion under her control. From his intensity, she suspected he was rather sexually frustrated; however attractive she might find him, his appearance would surely be too bizarre for a lot of women. She giggled at the thought that she might actually have done him a favor by kidnapping him. In any case, both of them had enjoyed themselves, even if only one of them remembered it.
But there’d been business involved as well. While he was under, she had completed his enslavement, forging the mental links which would bind him to her forever and planting the suggestions she wanted. As she’d planned, she now had a mole within the League of Virtue. They’d never suspect him; she’d played on his existing emotions with a suggestion that he was “too embarrassed” to reveal their encounter to the other Leaguers. From now on, Zeroman would carry out her orders without question, and without ever realizing that she was still controlling him. And now that they were fully bonded, she could give him further commands mentally as well.
She’d had enough of being sent to prison. The next time she faced the League, she would show them who was in charge.