“I’m going to miss you, girls!” Slurred Beth as she slumped forward and pulled the other girls into a hug.
“Oh gosh, you are wasted,” giggled Alicia as she rubbed Beth’s back.
“It is only summer break, we’re not going to Mars,” sighed Katie, joining in the back rubbing as she did.
“But like, you’re going to be in your hometowns,” continued Beth, sounding drunker and drunker by the second.
“You can come to visit,” chuckled Katie. “Road trip!”
“But Alicia is like miles away, she is on the other side of the country!” Continued Beth, putting her head on the table as she did.
“Really?” Asked Katie, rubbing Beth’s hair with her free hand. “I didn’t know you lived that far away!”
“I’ve told you in the past,” giggled Alicia.
“I was drunk!” Smiled Katie.
“I think it was when we met in class?”
“How do you think I get through classes?” Replied Katie, sticking her tongue out.
“I live in Ruby City,” laughed Alicia, shaking her head at Katie’s terrible joke.
“Oh on the west coast! Nice!”
“And the cool heroes!” Interjected Beth, her voice muffled by the table.
“Right!” Nodded Katie. “It is all you ever hear about!”
“It really isn’t that bad,” replied Alicia. “People make a big deal out of it, but it is really rare, once every few years someone in a costume will turn up, but they disappear after six months.”
“Still, cooler than Arlington, our claim to fame is the third biggest barn in the state.” Nodded Katie.
“But it is still so cool!” Added Beth, still sprawled out on the table.
“I guess, you get used to it after a bit,” shrugged Alicia.
“We should road trip to Ruby City!” Gasped Beth, sitting up quickly, her unfocused eyes staring through Alicia and Katie.
“Maybe!” Nodded Katie. “But we should decide that when you are sober,” she added, her voice taking on an almost maternal tone.
“Sure! We should get more drinks,” smiled Beth, swaying slightly as she did.
“One more,” chuckles Katie, getting up and helping Beth to the bar.
“My brain,” groaned Beth as she leaned against a wall.
“Yeah, this hangover sucks,” sighed Katie.
“I did warn you both,” giggled Alicia before letting out a little groan. “Thankfully I can just sleep on the train,” she said with a little smile.
“We can sleep in the airport,” nodded Katie.
As the train rattled into the station Beth dived at Alicia. “I’m going to miss you so much!” She shouted, only to flinch as her own volume made her head hurt.
“I’ll miss you too,” smiled Alicia softly. “I’ll miss you quietly.”
Alicia boarded the train, waving to her friends as it slowly pulled out of the station. The clacking of the train actually helped soothe her head a little bit, her thoughts wandering as the city faded away into the unending countryside.
She spent the journey fading in and out of sleep, to the point she wasn’t sure what scenery was real and what was a creation of her hungover mind.
After several hours of drifting slumber, Alicia sat up in her seat and looked out of the window. The trees seemed more familiar to her, the landscape looked much more like her home state.
She pulled out her phone and checked the map. She only had another few hours on this train, and then she would be home. Alicia had to admit it, she was going to miss the girls, but spending time with her Mom was going to be nice. She hadn’t had many chances to go home during the semester, one thing always led to another, and by the time she had realized it was too late to make the trip.
She was also excited to see Ruby city again. Despite its reputation as a “superhero hotspot,” it was your average small city. She made a note to herself to try and call some of her old friends, sure they hadn’t talked in months, but she couldn’t go to the bowling alley without them, it just wouldn’t feel right.
Alicia stretched as the train pulled into the station. She grabbed her bag from the overhead rack and wandered into the station building, ducking into the first bathroom she came across.
Once in there she pulled out her hairbrush and started to fix her hair. The static from the seat fabric had made it into a tangled mess, and she knew that her Mom would instantly pick up on that if she didn’t fix it before they met up.
Once her hair was under control Alicia walked out of the station and hopped onto a bus, starting the quick ride to her house. Ruby city was both different and the same as ever. While certain shop signs came and went, the skyline was pretty much the same as it was when Alicia was a girl. It was boring in a strangely comforting way.
The city slowly faded away, the buildings getting shorter and shorter until they became nothing more than normal suburban houses. Alicia took a deep breath as she got off the bus and walked towards one of the houses.
Before Alicia could get to the door, it swung open and a woman ran out. “Alicia!” Shouted the woman, grabbing Alicia and hugging her tightly.
“Hi Mom,” giggled Alicia, hugging back.
“Oh I’ve missed you,” smiled Sharon as she broke the hug and grabbed Alicia’s hand, pulling her into the house. “Do you need anything? Something to drink?” Rambled Sharon, her happiness radiating off her.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” giggled Alicia.
“Are you sure?” Continued Sharon, guiding Alicia onto the couch.
“Mom, I’m sure,” nodded Alicia.
“Okay,” smiled Sharon, hugging Alicia once more.
“So, what's been up around here?”
“Oh, the usual. The usual costumed weirdos popping up trying to make the news and then inevitably failing.”
“What they called this time? Everyone at school always asks about it whenever I tell them where I am from.”
“Oh I have no idea, the news didn’t name them, honestly I think people are just a little bit fed up with all this hero nonsense. Bright spandex is just so passé these days, you know?”
“Tell me about it,” nodded Alicia. “Mom I’ve missed you so much, but do you mind if I go get some sleep? The train wasn’t the most comfortable ride.”
“Oh not at all!” Grinned Sharon, jumping up from the couch. “Let me grab you a fan as your room might be a little hot right now.” She said as she quickly started to walk up the stairs.
Alicia quickly settled back into the familiar rhythm of life with her Mom. Not being in classes meant she had plenty of time to catch up on reading and TV as well as getting some time to explore the new things that had popped up while she had been away.
Sharon was as busy as ever. For as long as Alicia could remember Sharon had always had five to ten things on the go at once. From the PTA to her book club, Sharon always had something to do. Yet despite all of this she had always had time for Alicia’s needs and activities. Alicia wished she could juggle as many things as effortlessly as her Mom seemed to, alas while her Mom was a pool of zen, Alicia’s life was more like a jacuzzi, a chaos of forever bursting bubbles.
Alicia sat at the table, tapping away on her phone with a faint smile on her face. “Morning darling,” smiled Sharon, putting a plate in front of Alicia and kissing her on the cheek.
“Hi, Mom!” Grinned Alicia. “Let me just finish this message and then I’ll be right with you.”
“No rush,” replied Sharon as she put the second plate on the table and sat down. “Friends from school?”
“From high school actually,” grinned Alicia. “We’re trying to arrange a bowling night.”
“As is tradition,” nodded Sharon, slowly starting to eat her breakfast. “You girls used to always hang out there.”
“We did,” replied Alicia as she typed.
“Place is under new ownership, apparently it has gone a little downhill over the last year, though it wasn’t the fanciest place, to begin with.”
“Which is lucky, we wouldn’t have been able to afford a fancy place,” replied Alicia. “Still hope they haven’t totally ruined it.”
“When are you thinking of going?” Asked Sharon as she put some egg into her mouth.
“Wednesday night looks the best,” replied Alicia, only for Sharon’s eyes to go wide.
“You shouldn’t go on Wednesday night.” She said quickly.
“It is youth group night,” replied Sharon. “Full of little kids. Not fun at all.”
“I’m sure it can’t be that bad,” giggled Alicia.
“No, it is terrible. You should go on another day.”
“I don’t think there is another day when we are all free,” said Alicia, looking at her phone. “How do you know about that anyway? Is it your youth group?”
“No, I don’t run youth groups,” smiled Sharon, only to suddenly stop, obviously trying to think of a good answer. “I just hear stories you know?”
“Well, Kaylee can only do Wednesday so I guess little kids it is,” shrugged Alicia.
“Right right,” nodded Sharon. “If you get the chance to change it, you certainly should though.” Alicia raised her eyebrows at her mother, it was really unlike her to be acting like this.
“Why? Scared we will be a bad influence on them? Show them forbidden bowling techniques?” Asked Alicia, trying to make a joke to cover her genuine curiosity.
“I just want you all to have the best time you can,” smiled Sharon, going back to her breakfast.
The breakfast conversation quickly left Alicia’s memory as she got ready and headed out into the city. Once again her Mom was off volunteering with some charity and that meant that Alicia had the day to herself.
She didn’t really have a plan in the city, she just intended to wander around and see what caught her attention, to re-visit some old haunts and look at some of the new things.
She walked past the newsagent and smiled to herself. The store had been open for as long as she could remember, she had fond memories of buying comics and candy from it when she was a kid.
Alicia decided to go in and get some gum. Sure she didn’t need it, but it didn’t hurt to indulge the past. The bell rang softly as Alicia walked inside. It was like stepping back in time, this place hadn’t changed at all since she was young, to the point she could navigate the building by muscle memory.
As she walked past the old rack of newspapers a headline caught her attention. “Mesmera strikes again!” It read, complete with a blurry picture of a figure running out of the local bank.
Alicia picked the paper up and looked at it. It seemed that her Mom was wrong, people were very interested in this new figure. Alicia folded the paper up and went towards the gum, quickly picking up the brand she always brought.
She put the gum and paper on the counter and fished her wallet out of her bag, quickly paying for both items before carrying them out of the store.
She briskly walked to the park and sat on a bench, popping a stick of gum in her mouth as she opened the paper.
“Mesmera struck again on Thursday evening,” read the story. “Mesmera and her gang broke into the Fifth National bank and stole the contents of several safe deposit boxes. The bank has not released exactly what was stolen but says the owners of the boxes have been informed.”
Alicia leaned forward as her eyes darted across the text. Maybe it was absence making the heart grow fonder, but this story was pretty engaging.
“Several tellers who were seen aiding the gang during the robbery plead innocence, saying that they have no memory of the events. Several witnesses described the tellers as being in a “trance-like state” during the robbery. Police are appealing for information and remind the public that their tip line is open 24/7 and anonymous.” Added the story, ending with yet another blurry picture of Mesmera running out of the bank.
Alicia smiled to herself as she closed the paper. It was quite an exciting story. Unfortunately, if history was any indication it would likely end up being much more mundane. Bank tellers were not paid very much and it wouldn’t be the first time one of them had arranged a robbery and then made up some crazy story to cover for it.
Alicia continued to wander around the city, just going from place to place, seeing what caught her eye. Thus by the time she got home she was carrying several bags containing comic books and other various sundries.
As she pushed the door open she heard the shower running. “Hey Mom,” she shouted. “I got you a Pop Bar.”
Suddenly the shower turned off as Sharon shouted from behind the door. “Oh my, thank you, dear! I will be with you in a little bit, it was so hot today I just had to wash a little bit before I started on dinner!”
“Take your time,” smiled Alicia, going and sitting on the couch.
Eventually, Sharon came down from the shower and made her way into the kitchen. “Have a nice day?” She asked as she started to slice a load of vegetables.
“Really nice, I didn’t do much,” chuckled Alicia. “I just wandered around, I also saw stuff about Mesmera.”
Sharon chuckled and nodded her head. “Is that what they are calling her? It was obviously the tellers, they were clearly in on it.”
“Right?!” Smiled Alicia, walking over and grabbing a knife to help with the chopping.
The week continued in the same rhythm, with Alicia splitting her time between wandering around and helping her Mom with the various chores around the house.
On Wednesday Alicia and Sharon had an early dinner. “Still going bowling tonight?” Asked Sharon between mouthfuls.
“Yeah,” nodded Alicia. “We couldn’t find any other workable days.”
“Ah, well I’m sure it will be okay,” nodded Sharon, sounding more like she was trying to convince herself.
“What are you doing tonight?” Asked Alicia.
“Oh, just my book club,” smiled Sharon.
“What are you reading?”
“Umm,” started Sharon, her eyes darting left and right for a quick moment. “Frankenstein.” Blurted Sharon.
“Really? I didn’t know you liked horror,” smiled Alicia. “I presumed it would be something more romantic.”
“Well it is a classic,” nodded Sharon, quickly starting to eat once more.
“When does your group end?” Added Alicia, slightly confused by Sharon’s tone.
“Late, very late,” replied Sharon. “We tend to overrun.”
“Ah, I think we’ll likely go somewhere else after bowling, find a bar or something.” Smiled Alicia. “So don’t wait up. But hey if you want to join us after the group I wouldn’t say no.”
“Oh, I doubt I’ll have the time.”
When the food was done, Alicia and Sharon quickly got to work on the dishes before splitting up and heading to their rooms to get ready. Alicia pondered her outfit for a while, despite it being years since high school she still felt a need to impress the other girls, to prove that she had her life together.
Once she had picked an outfit Alicia grabbed her stuff and walked out of her room, only to find that her Mom was still getting ready. “Doing okay in there?” She shouted.
“Oh I’m fine dear, just taking a while,” replied Sharon with a soft laugh.
“For book club, must be fancy!” Smirked Alicia.
“Very fancy, have a nice night dear, I love you,” shouted Sharon.
“Love you more, Mom,” replied Alicia as she walked downstairs and out of the house.
The bowling alley was the same as it had always been. The faded walls and the dated decor, mixed with the yellowed lighting to give everything a strange and dream-like feeling. If there were new owners, they certainly hadn’t changed the ambiance of the place.
To Alicia’s surprise, the place was mostly empty, no sign of the youth horde that her Mother had warned her about. Not that Alicia thought anything of it, it was likely that her Mother had misunderstood something that someone had told her.
Alicia’s friends soon filtered into the alley, they all looked so different than they had a few years prior. Though it was obvious from their outfits that they had had the same desire as Alicia, a determination to show their old friends that they had everything together, whatever the actual reality may be.
After a few minutes of greetings and silent judgments, the girls started to bowl. The price for a game hadn’t changed since when they were kids, a fact that likely explained the place’s fading and dated wallpaper. Very quickly the girls realized the same thing they always realized when they had these meet-ups. None of them could bowl.
Again and again, the ball clattered into the gutter leaving the pins unscathed. It almost felt like the pins were mocking their ineptitude, however, the girls had no idea how to fix that aside from trying to throw the ball even harder.
The girls bowled for several frames, no one able to get a decent score. They all looked at each other for a while. Bowling was always a fun concept, but they were quickly remembering how fast it became stale and dull.
Suddenly there was a loud crash near the entrance. The girls all turned to see a group of people in bright costumes and masks dashing into the building.
“Everyone get down!” Shouted the leader. Her bright yellow costume clinging to her body like a second skin.
“No one moves, no one gets hurt, we don’t care about any of you! We’re here to claim a debt from the owners!” Shouted a second person with a mask covering half of their face and a long flowing cape billowing down their back.
Alicia and her friends ducked down, taking cover behind the ball return, unsure of how to act. Despite living in Ruby City for years, none of them had been in a situation like this before.
The yellow costumed woman and the person in the cape stood in the center of the room, watching as their underlings searched the place and made sure that everyone was complying with the group’s demands.
At the back of the group was a lady in a purple outfit that seemed to resemble a cross between a business suit and 1980s workout attire, she wore a dark purple cowl with small spiral patterns engraved around the eyes. Alicia recognized the figure from the picture in the newspaper, could this be the Mesmera character they had been talking about?
One of the other costumed people dragged a guy along the floor, dumping him in front of the yellow-costumed woman. The woman smirked and bent down, grabbing the guy by his collar.
“Where is your boss?” Shouted the woman. “Black Hand screwed us and I ain’t happy about, so you tell me where your boss is right now before we raise hell in here!”
“I don’t know! I don’t know!” Shouted the man, trying to squirm out of the woman’s grasp. “They don’t tell me anything, I just run the alley!”
“You think I’m dumb? You really think I’m dumb? What, did the stork drop me out of the sky yesterday?” Growled the woman before standing up, a smirk forming on her face. “Mesmera, get the truth out of him.”
“Of course,” replied the woman in purple, walking forwards and leaning down in front of the man. “Now,” she said in a soft voice. “I think it is time for you to stop being so silly.”
“I told you! I don’t know anything!” Shouted the man.
“Now now,” laughed Mesmera, tapping her finger near her eye. “Eye contact when speaking please.” She cooed as a faint silver glow filled her eyes.
Alicia watched in awe as the woman quietly talked to the man, the glow from her eyes illuminating the area around them. Slowly the man grew limp, his movements slowing to a complete stop until he was just a crumpled mess on the floor.
After a few minutes, Mesmera stood up. “Now, be good and tell us where your boss is.”
“I don’t know,” said the man softly. “They don’t trust me with information,” he continued, almost sounding like he was asleep.
“Damn it!” Shouted the woman in yellow.
“I see,” nodded Mesmera. “Return to your office and sit in your chair until the police arrive and then turn yourself in.” She said firmly before turning to the woman in yellow. “Well that is the end of that Burst, we need a new lead.” She said as the man slowly pulled himself up and started to stumble towards a staff door.
“No leads,” said the woman with half a mask. “Let’s send them a message.”
“What do you have in mind Specter?” Asked Mesmera.
“They have surveillance in here, no one leaves a nice front like this totally unguarded. So why don’t we wreck up the joint?” replied Specter, throwing her hands out theatrically as she did.
“I like it! Show Black Hand we aren’t going to take it,” nodded Burst, obviously liking the idea. After a short pause Burst smiled to herself. “Get the hostages into the middle here, I want to keep track of all of them!” She shouted.
The group of people started to fan out, walking around the alley and moving people into the center. Alicia watched as Mesmera came closer towards her and her friends. Something about her seemed familiar, but Alicia couldn’t put her finger on it.
“Come on, move into the middle,” demanded Mesmera firmly, only for her to suddenly stop as she saw Alicia and her friends behind the ball return.
Alicia stood up, nodding to her friends. She realized that it was in her best interests to do what these people wanted, no good would come from fighting them. As her friends followed her lead Mesmera turned back towards Burst.
“Hey Burst,” she shouted. “I’ve got an idea.”
“What’s that?” Replied Burst.
“Why don’t we let this area go, show Black Hand we mean business?”
“How does letting hostages go show that we mean business?”
“Well,” said Mesmera, her voice sounding suddenly unsure. “It shows we are above their petty mafia tactics!”
“We want to beat the crap out of them. Not win ideological battles about the nature of criminal morality,” replied Burst firmly, obviously not impressed by Mesmera’s suggestion.
“They can spread the message!” Interjected Mesmera.
“The message of how we totally took this place over and made the Black Hand look stupid!” Nodded Mesmera.
“Did you accidentally swap brains with that idiot?” Asked Burst, looking obviously annoyed at Mesmera and her constant interruption.
“No, I just think letting some hostages go might be a good idea, be a good look for us, you know?”
“Bring them to the center. No one goes until we’ve got what we’re owed!” Shouted Burst.
Mesmera jumped a little bit before nodding. “Right, you heard her, get up and move!”
Alicia nodded, waving to her friends as they slowly started to make their way into the middle of the room. Out of the corner of her eye, Alicia saw Mesmera walk over to a fire escape and push it open.
Alicia continued to walk only to feel a hand on the back of her shirt that suddenly yanked her backward. She went to make a noise, only for a hand to quickly cover her mouth.
Alicia struggled as she was dragged back towards the fire door. She turned her head a little bit only to realize that Mesmera was the one dragging her. “I’m going to sweep the back alley,” shouted Mesmera as she pulled Alicia outside and closed the door behind them both.
As Mesmera closed the door Alicia broke free of her grasp. “What are you doing?” She panted as she looked around, looking for a way to escape.
“Run!” Said Mesmera firmly. “Quickly, get out of here!”
“What are you doing, what's going on? My friends!” Shouted Alicia, unsure if she wanted to try and tackle Mesmera or run away from her.
“Alicia! Do not be stubborn, run when I tell you to run!” Replied Mesmera, her voice changing a little as she did. Suddenly it clicked together in Alicia’s head, the voice, the build, even the fashion sense.
“Mom?!” Gasped Alicia.
“Crap.” Replied Mesmera. “I told you coming on Wednesday was a bad idea.”
“Mom, what is going on?” Asked Alicia, her brain spinning due to just how confusing this night had become.
“Long story, I’ll tell you later,” replied Mesmera. Suddenly a load of cars screeched to a halt in front of the bowling alley. “Black Hand!” She shouted.
“What?!” Shouted Alicia. By the time she had got the words out Mesmera had opened the door once more.
“Black Hand goons incoming,” she screamed. “Everyone in the middle, run!” The other customers of the bowling alley didn’t wait and quickly started to run out of the exit as several masked men crashed through the front door.
“Well, this is going to be a blast!” Shouted Burst, clenching her fists and charging towards the men.
“Alicia, run!” Shouted Mesmera, grabbing Alicia by the wrist and pulling her down the alley, away from the crowd of people. As they turned the corner a loud explosion rang out from inside the alley.
“What was that?” Screamed Alicia, trying to keep up with her Mom.
“Burst just did her energetic discharge,” shouted Mesmera as she started to kick at another building’s door. “Things are going to get very explosive very quickly.”
With a loud thud, the door gave way and revealed a large corridor that Mesmera dragged Alicia into, breaking into another sprint.
“We need to get to the roof,” shouted Mesmera, continuing to drag Alicia behind her.
“Why the roof?!” Gasped Alicia, starting to regret skipping the gym for the last year.
“Cleanup team will be at street level,” continued Mesmera, tugging Alicia left and right as they ran through the halls of what was obviously an apartment building.
“I’ll explain later!” Shouted Mesmera as she pushed a door open and entered a stairwell and started to ascend up the building. The girls continued to run, their footsteps echoing off the concrete steps.
Both girls were breathing heavily as they reached the top of the stairs. Mesmera put her head down and ran into the door shoulder-first, causing it to crunch open.
Mesmera and Alicia stepped out onto the roof. Alicia stopped for a moment to try and get her breath back. “I’ve never run this far before,” she panted.
“We’re safe for now,” sighed Mesmera, looking over the edge of the roof. “The cleanup team are going to take a while, likely a mess in there.”
“Cleanup team?” Gasped Alicia, walking over to Mesmera and looking over the edge. Several white vans were swarming around the bowling alley, with people in suits dashing in and out of them.
“Ruby City is a hot spot for superheroes. So, the government tries to keep it under wraps, they don’t want people to know just how common they are,” smiled Mesmera before looking towards Alicia. “Got your breath back sweetie?”
“Most of it,” nodded Alicia. “Why?”
“We’re about to do some more running,” grinned Mesmera, pointing to a fire escape. “Jump onto that, then sprint right home, I’ll meet you in an hour or so. Ready?”
“Well that is a shame,” replied Mesmera, pushing Alicia forward as she started to run, jumping off the edge of the building and hitting the fire escape with a thud.
Alicia obeyed her Mom’s orders and started to run as fast as she could. Her head spun as she headed towards her house, what was going on? This summer had started so normally, and now she finds her Mom was a supervillain?
Once she got into the house Alicia closed the door and flopped onto the couch, trying to get her breath back and make sense of her thoughts.
After an hour Sharon walked in, a load of takeout containers in her arms. “I got Chinese food!” She grinned as she dropped the containers onto the table and started to open them up.
Alicia sat up and looked over the food, starting to giggle as she did. “So we’re not going to talk about what just happened?” She said as her giggles got worse and worse.
“We are, but I’m hungry! I did a lot of running,” smiled Sharon, throwing a pair of chopsticks at Alicia before grabbing a lump of chicken out of one of the boxes.
“That was a lot of running,” nodded Alicia, pulling herself together as she opened up her chopsticks. “So, what is going on?”
“Well,” smiled Sharon. “I’m Mesmera, but I think you already got that part.”
“Oh gosh, since you were three or four?” Smiled Sharon between mouthfuls. “I discovered my powers in college, I would get annoyed at a professor and suddenly he would start doing the can-can.”
“So you were born with them?” Asked Alicia, missing her mouth as she did.
“Yes and no, I will admit I don’t fully get all of it. But like any skill, it took time to develop and hone. I’ve also used it as a jumping-off point for my own personal research into the human mind.”
“So, when you focus you can hypnotize people?”
“Mesmeraize,” interjected Sharon with a smile.
“Mesmeraize? How is that different from hypnosis?”
“Mesmeraize is my power to put people into a trance where they do what I say,” nodded Sharon.
“Right, but how is that different from hypnosis?”
Alicia sighed and shook her head, still fighting the urge to laugh. Half due to her Mom’s wit and half as a coping mechanism to deal with the strange and sudden change in her life. “So how did you become a villain?”
“Money mostly,” replied Sharon. “I was allowing my powers to be studied by a lab. The guy running the experiment asked if I wanted to make some quick cash on the side. And well, one thing led to another.”
“So, you just fell into being a supervillain?” Blinked Alicia.
“I guess you could say that.”
“Wow, I presumed there would be more to it,” mumbled Alicia.
“I understand,” smiled Sharon. “But that is most of the villains I know. Especially ones who just work freelance.”
“You can be a freelance Supervillain?” Said Alicia, almost choking on her rice as she did.
“Of course you can” Grinned Sharon in response. “Sticking with one leader is overrated unless you are down with their plan or are getting really good terms. It is best to jump from employer to employer.”
“So what about you and those guys tonight? You are not aiming for world domination?”
“Oh gosh no, I can hardly keep my houseplants alive, let alone the world. We’re all freelance. Black Hand hired us and then screwed us out of our money, and well, you can’t take that kind of thing lying down.”
“I see,” nodded Alicia.
“Don’t worry, ask any questions that pop into your head. I really don’t mind,” smiled Sharon, obviously trying to put Alicia at ease.
“Well,” mumbled Alicia, moving a little in her seat as she did. “I do have one big question.”
“Have you ever, hypnotized me?” Asked Alicia, her voice wobbling.
“Well,” replied Sharon gently. “I did once.”
“I knew it!” Shouted Alicia. “I knew I always felt weird when eating broccoli, I don’t really like it but I keep eating it!”
Sharon burst out laughing, covering her mouth as she did. “Oh, darling.”
“What? It is true! Why else would I keep putting it in stuff?”
“Oh my,” replied Sharon, struggling to breathe through her laughter. “No, no, I didn’t hypnotize you into loving broccoli, no.” She said as she took a deep breath. “Remember when we took the road trip to see Auntie Susan?”
“Yeah,” nodded Alicia, smiling to herself as the memories came flooding back.
“Remember how ill you were on the way back?”
“I was really car sick on the first bit of the journey, yeah.” Replied Alicia.
“I think it was a little food poisoning as well,” nodded Sharon. “Well, it was obvious you wouldn’t cope in the car the whole way as you were very uncomfortable. But I also knew that staying in a ratty motel when you felt sick wouldn’t do much to make you feel better. So I used my powers to help you sleep the whole way.”
“Oh,” blushed Alicia. “Right, that.” Alicia sat in silence for a few minutes before she let out a little gasp. “Are powers heredity?”
“They can be,” smiled Sharon. “But you don’t wake up one morning and start breathing fire. You need to work on your power, learn how to use it.”
“But is there a test or something?” Asked Alicia.
“Well there are lots of ways to spot certain kinds of power, but there are different types of powers.”
“So I might have powers?” Replied Alicia, looking at her hands as she did.
“You might, I’ve never really given it much thought,” nodded Sharon, returning to her food.
“You were happy and you never showed any major outward signs, seemed silly to uproot everything and subject you to tests on the off chance you had a power.”
“I get that,” nodded Alicia. “This feels like a dream.”
“I understand, it isn’t every day something like this comes up.” Smiled Sharon.
“Hey Mom,” asked Alicia, her voice wavering a little bit. “Could I come do stuff with you, maybe look into me having powers?”
“Well, it is risky darling.” Sighed Sharon. “It isn’t easy either, the supervillain community has its own internal rules that can be tricky to follow.”
“I get it, I’m just curious.”
Suddenly, Sharon threw down her chopsticks and smiled. “You know what. I had the chance. Why not you? Here is the deal, you promise to stay in college and follow my lead and we’ll test you and I’ll bring you with me when it is safe. Seem fair?”
“Totally fair! I promise!” Smiled Alicia, diving forward and hugging her Mom tightly.
“I’m so going to regret this when the MSG wears off,” chuckled Sharon, hugging Alicia tight.
“You really are, but then it will be too late,” giggled Alicia.
“Alright!” Smiled Sharon walking through the front door and into the living room. “I’ve got you booked up for some testing and I brought you a gift!” She said as she dropped her gym bag down in front of Alicia. The bag hit the floor with a massive crash, making Alicia jump a little bit.
“What is it?” Asked Alicia, leaning down and opening the bag, only to reveal a massive pile of thick plates and some heavy-duty fabric.
“Protection vest and a basic mask,” smiled Sharon. “Should protect against most things, I wanted heavier armor but the guy said you likely wouldn’t be able to walk in it.”
“This is heavy,” grunted Alicia as she pulled the costume out of the bag bit by bit.
“I also have a mission for you.”
“A mission!” Shouted Alicia, excitement instantly filling her eyes.
“So,” said Sharon, sitting opposite Alicia. “After the incident at the bowling alley, Burst and Spectre are on the warpath because the Black Hand still hasn’t given us our loot. They are looking for one of the safe houses where Black Hand stash their stuff.”
“Right, right,” nodded Alicia.
“Due to me running off at the bowling alley, I’ve been put forward to scout some locations, they are hoping my powers can get me into some restricted areas as well.”
“Okay, where do I come in?” Asked Alicia, trying to take this all in.
“We are going to stay undercover. Just a Mom and Daughter on a tour, seeing the sights!” Grinned Sharon.
“I like it, I like it!” Smiled Alicia. “I can totally play dumb tourist!”
“Great! As there might be a slight kink in the plan.”
“The incident at the alley was big, it could have made national news if the cleanup team hadn’t been so efficient at their jobs.” Explained Sharon. “The word on the street is that local authorities have had enough of Black Hand, so we can expect to find a few superheroes looking for them as well.”
“Right,” nodded Alicia. “Hey Mom, can I ask a weird question?”
“Go right ahead,” smiled Sharon.
“Can you use your power on me?” Replied Alicia as she rubbed the back of her head.
“Why would you want that?” Asked Sharon with confusion.
“I’m just curious about what it is like, you know?” Shrugged Alicia, suddenly feeling slightly awkward.
“I can try,” nodded Sharon. “I guess it is best you get a feeling for superpowers.” Sharon took a deep breath and gently walked across to Alicia, sitting next to her and gently rubbing her back. “Could you look me in the eyes?”
“Okay,” smiled Alicia, turning to face her mother, staring directly into her eyes. Suddenly Sharon started to laugh.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it is strange doing this to you, I want to impress you!”
“I’m already impressed,” giggled Alicia. “Now you’ve got me laughing. Come on, I want to see it first hand!”
“Okay, okay!” Nodded Sharon, taking a deep breath. “Focus on my eyes, just on my eyes.” She said, her voice taking on a very warm tone.
As she spoke, her eyes slowly morphed from a deep green to a bright shimmering silver. Alicia was instantly fascinated by them, they seemed to move and change with each and every second. Alicia’s thoughts started to slow down, the world was falling away from her.
“Just relax,” said Sharon. It was like her voice was echoing around inside Alicia’s head like her words were somehow appearing directly inside Alicia’s brain. She felt so calm, so relaxed, it was almost like she was in a dream, the silver light just growing more and more beautiful by the second.
“Sinking down under my control,” added Sharon softly. “Body melting through the floor,” she continued. Alicia felt it, waves of warmth washing over her body. It felt like she was an extension of the couch like she was a fluid just flowing out into a vague shape.
“Now lift your left arm,” commanded Sharon. At first, Alicia thought nothing was happening, but then she saw her arm rising up. It slowly lifted as if it was being pulled by a string.
Alicia didn’t feel like she was in control of herself but at the same time, she couldn’t seem to care about it. In fact, she couldn’t seem to find any emotion at all, all she wanted to do was stare at the pretty silver patterns.
“Wake up now dear,” smiled Sharon as her eyes returned to their original green. Alicia felt a rush as her thoughts quickly flew back into her brain, her muscles all quickly tensing as they remembered their purpose.
“That was,” started Alicia, trying to pull her thoughts together. “Amazing, I’ve never felt anything like it.”
“Well I’m glad you enjoyed it,” grinned Sharon, falling back into giggles once more. “I’m so sorry, it feels so weird doing it to you.”
“It's okay, I did ask for it,” nodded Alicia, leaning in and hugging Sharon tight.
“Right, we should change,” smiled Sharon, hugging Alicia tightly as she did.
The girl’s headed upstairs and started to get changed. Alicia followed Sharon’s advice and wore the armor under normal street clothes. Her Mom hadn’t been joking, it was extremely heavy, thankfully she was able to find some large t-shirts that fit over it without making it too obvious to the casual observer.
“Ready to see the sights?” Smiled Sharon as she looked over Alicia.
“I think so, we drove all the way from Nallaville so we ain’t going to miss a thing,” replied Alicia, putting on a fake accent as she spoke.
“Well, of course, my little girl wanted a taste of the big city, but it is mighty different from the cows back home.” Nodded Sharon, copying Alicia’s fake accent as best she could.
The girls giggled at each other before heading out into the city, doing their best to look like tourists. Every so often Sharon would pull a scrap of paper out of her pocket and check a few addresses before gently guiding Alicia towards them.
Most of the places were quite clearly fronts, various stores that were full of horribly outdated and horrifically dusty stock.
The worst by far was the computer store. The dust was so thick that Alicia could hardly breathe, and the shelves were full of outdated software, a whole unit was dedicated to floppy disks, still in their original wrapper.
“They are not good at hiding this,” mumbled Alicia.
“Easy to hide when no one is looking,” nodded Sharon. “This place is a dud, but I’ve got one more place on my list, an ice factory.”
“Right,” smiled Alicia, following Sharon out of the store.
Alicia and Sharon made small talk as they walked towards the final address. “My English literature class was great as it mostly focused on horror, which made a nice change.”
“That is good,” smiled Sharon. “So, what about the parties? Any good ones?”
“I don’t go to parties! I focus on my studies,” scoffed Alicia.
“Sweetie, I’m your mother, I know full well you go to parties. Met any nice boys? Or girls?”
“There have been some really fun costume parties, including one where I ended up as a,” started Alicia, only to squeak as Sharon pushed her against a wall and covered her mouth.
“Into here,” whispered Sharon, grabbing Alicia by the arm and dragging her into a nearby alleyway and pushing her behind a dumpster.
“What’s wrong?” Whispered Alicia, her heart starting to beat faster and faster.
“You’re about to see a type of hero,” whispered Sharon, pointing across the street towards the large ice factory. A woman was walking towards it, she had long flowing brown hair and was wearing a light grey trench-coat.
“She looks normal?” Replied Alicia, slightly confused by how someone so unassuming could be a hero.
“I would recognize that face anywhere, she is a system user.”
“A system user?” Asked Alicia, totally perplexed by the situation.
“Watch this,” grinned Sharon.
As the woman approached the factory she pulled a badge out of her coat. “MIST officer, leave the building right this second.”
“MIST?” Asked Alicia, trying to see just who the woman was shouting at.
“Major Imperium Special Taskforce, basically what the cleanup team calls themselves when they put on a tie.” Replied Sharon, her disdain obvious in her voice.
From their hiding spot, Alicia was able to see that several men with bats had come out to confront the woman in the coat.
“Surrender immediately,” said the woman firmly.
“I don’t think so,” replied one of the men. “It is ten against one, I don’t think you are the one calling the shots around here.”
“The numbers are in my favor,” smirked the woman.
“Let’s rough her up,” shouted another man.
“Yeah, I think little miss nosey needs to learn some manners,” replied the first man, moving towards the woman.
“We need to help her!” Gasped Alicia, only to be held back by Sharon.
“She doesn’t need it,” replied Sharon bluntly.
“But she is outnumbered, they have bats!” Growled Alicia.
“Just watch,” nodded Sharon.
As the men moved closer the woman pulled her coat open, revealing that she was wearing a business suit as well as a strange belt around her waist.
“I’ve got a schedule to stick to,” smiled the woman, pulling a card out of her pocket. “So I would clear the line.”
In a flowing movement, the woman pushed the card into a slot on the top of the belt before pulling a switch across the front. A bright light enveloped her as a loud voice came out of nowhere.
“Now inbound on platform one!” Shouted the voice as the glowing around the woman grew more and more intense. Alicia had to squint to even look in her general direction. Despite this, Alicia was able to watch as the woman’s clothes morphed into a yellow jumpsuit that covered every inch of her.
“What in the world?” Mumbled Alicia, only to go wide-eyed as a train appeared out of thin air, dashing towards the woman. A few seconds before impact, the train rose off the ground, forming into a more human shape that wrapped around her, giving her armor as well as a helmet.
With a flash the light faded, revealing the woman was now in a large suit of armor that was seemingly covered in rail track, complete with a helmet that looked like the front of a bullet train.
“Please stand behind the yellow line!” Shouted the woman as she posed. “Express Knight Ulla is here!”
Half of the men fled, obviously confused about what they just saw. However, Ulla’s theatrics only served to enrage the remaining men. They all ran towards her, swinging their bats wildly.
The woman wasn’t phased and easily avoided the bats, quickly disarming each of the men before throwing them to the floor like they were nothing but paper.
“What was that?” Mumbled Alicia.
“System users,” stated Sharon. “Are a fusion of magic and technology, not everyone can handle a system, it requires very special biology and a lot of willpower.”
“Power from trains?” Asked Alicia trying to confirm what she had just seen wasn’t some weird hallucination.
“Not all of them are trains. All systems tend to pull from a thing or concept the user believes in and embodies. It is a symbol.”
“I see,” nodded Alicia, watching in awe as the woman handcuffed the men.
“We should move,” said Sharon firmly. “MIST trucks are likely to turn up soon to take those guys to jail, we can use this time to search unhindered.”
“Right behind you,” smiled Alicia, crouching down and scampering behind her mother.
The pair quickly dashed across the street before ducking into another alleyway out of sight of the woman, running towards the back of the building.
As they came to the back of the factory they saw people running out of the back door, obviously terrified by the scene that had occurred out front.
“Cheap labor has no loyalty,” nodded Sharon as she reached into her bag and pulled out the Mesmera mask. “Mask up. At the first sign of trouble, run, okay?”
“Right,” nodded Alicia as she pulled out her mask. It was a simple black thing that looked closer to a balaclava than a superhero’s mask. They waited for a break in the line of people before quickly running into the factory.
The ice factory was a mess, it was obvious that this place hadn’t be used to make ice for many years. All of the machinery was dusty and rusted over and the crates scattered around the place bore labels that were several years old.
Alicia’s heart pounded in her chest as she looked around furiously, keen to make sure no one got the jump on her or her mother. Sharon quickly moved through the building, looking for any signs of a hidden storeroom.
“This way,” whispered Sharon, pulling on Alicia’s arm as she gestured towards a man running out of a basement door. The girls quickly dashed towards it, ducking inside and heading down the stairs.
As they reached the bottom of the stairs they could hear yelling. Sharon nodded to Alicia and pointed to the wall. Alicia didn’t need to be asked twice and pressed herself up against it.
“Look, we need to get out of here!” Shouted a voice from inside the room.
“The boss is going to destroy us if we disobey her!” Shouted another.
“MIST is outside, if they get us then we are going to prison,” replied the first, obviously frustrated. “Who cares about the boss, I don’t want to be in jail!”
“Don’t you leave!” Growled the second.
“Are you going to stop me?”
Sharon took a deep breath and marched into the room. “I think I can solve your debate,” she said putting on her Mesmera voice.
“Who are you?!” Shouted the one man.
Alicia gently peeked around the door frame, watching as the two men turned to face Sharon.
“I’m Mesmera. And Black Hand owes me some money, so why don’t you both go away and let me take whatever it is you are guarding?”
“We’re never going to do that!” Shouted the one man, pulling a gun from his pocket. “I’m not scared of you!”
“I don’t want you to be scared of me,” giggled Sharon. “I want you to listen to me, to understand me.”
“I’m not going to listen to,” started the man, only to trail off as a faint silver glow radiated out of Sharon’s eyes.
Both men slumped forward slightly, their eyes going wide as they stared into the silver glow. “That’s it, just relax,” cooed Sharon. “Focus on my eyes, my silvery, shimmering eyes.” She continued.
The man continued to stare, his hands dropping to his sides as all of the emotion drained from his face, his eyes slowly glazing over as he continued to listen to Sharon.
“It is okay,” smiled Sharon. “I know you are confused and lost, so confused, so unsure what to do, you are just so unsure,” she said as she nodded her head gently, watching as the men nodded in response, following each movement of her head so they could continue to gaze into her eyes.
“Unsure,” mumbled one of the men as he slumped forward even more.
“Exactly,” smiled Sharon, nodding more as she did. “I know why you are unsure. It is because you lack leadership because your leaders have abandoned you. Left you without guidance. This is why you were arguing. Because you needed someone to tell you what to do.”
“Tell us, what to do?” Mumbled the one man, a puddle of drool forming at his feet.
“Yes, you’re not leaders, you’re followers!” Cooed Sharon in an almost patronizing tone. “You work best when someone comes and tells you what to do, that is why you were all so stressed when your leaders ran off!”
“Oh,” replied the man, a hint of acceptance in his voice.
“But today is your lucky day! I’m here to help you! I’m here to take charge! To tell you exactly what to do!” Smiled Sharon. “Isn’t that just fantastic? Nod your heads.”
Both of the men nodded their heads as the silver glow filled their eyes, their minds no longer functioning independently, their bodies swaying gently.
“Now, listen closely, I want both of you to run out the back and escape. Why don’t you two go to your homes, have a nice cup of tea, and reconsider your lives and affiliations? Isn’t that lovely?”
The men nodded again, their dumb expressions growing more and more gormless with each and every second.
“Now now!” Mocked Sharon. “Don’t just nod, say “yes Mesmera!” Make it nice and loud and happy, this is a great idea, you love it!”
The second Sharon spoke a big dumb smile grew on each man’s face. “Yes, Mesmera!” They slurred, nodding their heads furiously as they did.
“Great, now get to it!” Smiled Sharon, clapping her hands and watching as the men stumbled out of the basement.
“Now, let’s see what you’ve got down here,” muttered Sharon, waving Alicia into the room.
“That was amazing!” Grinned Alicia as Sharon started to look around the basement. “You had them so quickly! Oh man, I hope I have your powers!” Rambled Alicia, only to be cut off by Sharon.
“What is this?” She said as she pushed a crate over, revealing a large machine that seemed to be hastily assembled from various random parts. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“What is this?” Asked Alicia as she looked over Sharon’s shoulder.
“I have no idea,” replied Sharon as she ran her hands along the machine. “This part is what I was hired to steal from the bank,” she said as she pointed to a strange green gemstone that was embedded in the side of the contraption.
“What did they say it was?” Asked Alicia, trying to make heads or tails of the machine.
“Some rich woman’s jewels,” mumbled Sharon. “Just a valuable trinket, a perfectly ordinary bank job.”
“Well, it is ours now!” Grinned Alicia, yanking the gem out of the machine with a loud scraping noise. Just as she did, the ceiling above them dented.
“I know you’re here, give up now, or face the consequences!” Shouted a familiar voice.
“Ulla,” groaned Sharon before turning to Alicia. “You need to get this out of here. On three, you run out the back and don’t stop running, I’ll hold Ulla off.”
“Right,” nodded Alicia, taking a deep breath.
“One, two three!” Screamed Sharon, running up the stairs and back onto the main floor of the factory. Alicia kept her head down, doing her best to keep up her pace.
“Stop!” Shouted Ulla, getting ready to follow Alicia.
“I don’t think so!” Shouted Sharon, emerging from behind one of the rusted machines.
“Mesmera,” growled Ulla. “It is going to be a pleasure to take you down.”
“Do your best!” Laughed Mesmera, leaning against the machine. “I think we just need to see eye to eye!” She added as her eyes started to glow silver. “I think you just need to look me in the eyes, look deep into my eyes.”
“Your mind tricks don’t work on me,” chuckled Ulla, holding out her arm. As she did a train rushed to her side, quickly forming into a sword. She produced another card from her hand and inserted it into the hilt. “Full steam!” She shouted as jets of steam started to billow from the sword as its blade got wider.
“You always have to have the biggest toys, don’t you Ulla?” Snarked Mesmera. “What, Mommy didn’t hug you enough?”
“You have no respect!” Shouted Ulla, dashing forward and swinging her sword. Mesmera ducked quickly, watching as the sword carved straight through the rusted the machine and went a few millimeters above her head.
Mesmera rolled backward and started to run around the destroyed machine, pulling Ulla back towards the front of the factory.
“Running will not help you, it only delays your defeat!” Shouted Ulla, quickly turning and diving at Mesmera who nimbly dodged out of the way once more.
“I don’t think so, I quite like running,” added Mesmera, dashing behind one of the other machines. “It is good for the heart.”
Ulla didn’t respond and continued to try and chase Mesmera, swinging her sword whenever the other woman got in range. Each time the sword missed Mesmera by mere centimeters, leaving massive scrapes on anything it came into contact with.
Mesmera continued to repeatedly run off, hiding behind machine after machine. After a few minutes of frenzied chasing, Mesmera dashed behind the final undamaged machine.
“Nowhere to hide now,” grinned Ulla as she looked at the machine. She leaned forward a little bit as a jet of steam burst out of the vents on the back of her armor, propelling her forward at great speed. “Express finish!” She screamed as rails appeared in front of her, guiding her towards the machine.
Seconds before the blade impacted with the device Mesmera climbed on top of it. Ulla didn’t have a chance to react as Mesmera jumped from the machine and onto Ulla. Mesmera held on tight as they both collided with the machine, causing it to explode into a cloud of rusty shrapnel.
The sudden change in weight threw off Ulla’s balance, causing her steam jets to propel her into the floor, her armor scraping on several shards of metal as it did.
Ulla tried to pull her thoughts together. However, before she could do so, she was turned over. She saw Mesmera above her with a smirk on her face. “Wasn’t that silly? Someone could get hurt waving that around!” She said with a smile, her eyes starting to glow sliver once more.
“Your mind tricks won’t work on me,” grunted Ulla, only for Mesmera to elbow her in the helmet.
“Now now,” cooed Mesmera. “You know that isn’t true, you know they work, you just need to look and appreciate them. Look into my eyes,” smiled Mesmera.
Ulla, suddenly felt very dizzy, as if the floor was wobbling under her, something about the silver glow from Mesmera’s eyes was very disorienting.
She blinked her eyes several times, trying to refocus her eyes and break away from Mesmera’s gaze. She had thought that her helmet would block out whatever weird power Mesmera’s eyes had, but she felt herself slipping, she had to do something to stop this, but it was hard, it was almost like her body was ignoring her.
“Just look and relax, it is okay, you are starting to feel sleepy, so very sleepy,” cooed Mesmera, the silver glow in her eyes growing more and more intense with every second.
Ulla fought back a yawn, the sudden feeling of drowsiness filled her with dread, she started to claw her hand along the concrete floor, trying to think of a way to escape from Mesmera.
She felt the hilt of her sword under her hand and channeled all of her willpower to grab it and swing it towards Mesmera. However, Mesmera saw the swing coming and rolled off Ulla, causing the sword to smash into her own armor.
Sparks flew as the blade clashed with the metal, Ulla’s helmet flashed up warning after warning. Ulla went to move, to try and struggle up, however before she could Mesmera mounted her once again, pushing down on Ulla’s wrist to force the blade to repeatedly scrape against her chest plate, sending sparks everywhere.
“Just look into my eyes,” continued Mesmera, pressing her face against Ulla’s helmet. Ulla tried to struggle underneath Mesmera, the warning beeps growing more and more insistent.
“I won’t,” moaned Ulla, trying to push Mesmera off so she could remove her sword. However, she felt her head starting to spin, she couldn’t pull her eyes away from the silver glow, something about it was just so entrancing.
Slowly the warning beeps faded into the background, like static or the noise of a faraway car. All she could hear was Mesmera’s voice. The voice seemed to echo in her mind, each word made her brain tingle like it was being massaged by angels.
“That is it, just relax, you are just draining your energy, making yourself weaker,” purred Mesmera. “Growing so weak, and so heavy,” she continued.
Ulla kept trying to fight, but she could feel her muscles failing her, her hand was trembling, even continuing to grip the sword was becoming difficult.
“It is too hard to fight,” smiled Mesmera, watching as Ulla’s armor started to fail and short circuit. “You’re growing so weak, so helpless, you’ve come off the rails.”
“Off the rails,” mumbled Ulla. The whole room was nothing but a bright silver glow, it was like she was trapped in an infinitely refracting disco ball and in the center of it all was Mesmera and her wonderful eyes and her soft silky voice. “I,” she mumbled, part of her knew this was wrong, but she couldn’t stop it, she couldn’t fight it, she was growing weaker by the second.
“Relax,” purred Mesmera. “You can’t do anything anymore, you are so weak. So very helpless,” she continued, her eyes glowing more intensely with every word.
“I’m not,” started Ulla.
“You are too weak,” smiled Mesmera, pushing Ulla’s wrist down again, causing the sword to cut deeper into her armor. “So weak, your muscles are tired and heavy, just give in, so utterly weak, unable to fight back.”
Ulla wanted to push back, she knew that normally she could throw someone as light as Mesmera off of her. But her muscles refused to respond, she couldn’t even bend a finger, let alone throw someone or fight back. She was exhausted, both mentally and physically.
“Just give in,” added Mesmera. Ulla could feel herself being dragged deeper and deeper into Mesmera’s eyes. It was like she was walking into a warm blanket of silver light, almost like she was totally disconnected from her body.
Ulla lost track of the time, she had no idea how long she had been staring into Mesmera’s eyes, but it felt too good to resist. After the fighting and the running, being this calm felt wonderful, too wonderful to resist.
Mesmera smirked as she saw Ulla’s armor start to fall away, the sword fading into a puff of steam. Ulla’s arms fell limply to her sides as her face uncovered. Without her helmet, Ulla was subjected to the full power of Mesmera’s eyes, she felt her mind spiraling away like water down a drain.
Mesmera placed a finger under Ulla’s chin and lifted her head softly, making sure she had the perfect view of the silver glow. “Fade away, just fade away,” purred Mesmera as the world slowly grew dark. Ulla tried to keep herself awake but she couldn’t, it was like she was trying to climb up a waterslide, it was just too steep and far too slippery and the call of the dark void at the bottom was just too tempting.
Sharon pushed the door open only to be hit by a cloud of smoke and a horrific smell of burning. Her eyes went wide as she ran into the house. “Alicia! Alicia!” She screamed, looking left and right, only to see Alicia in the corner of the living room, trembling softly.
Sharon ran over and grabbed her tight. “Alicia, what happened, did someone follow you?”
“No,” replied Alicia, shaking her head as she panted a little. “I don’t know what happened,” she mumbled. “I put the gem down and suddenly it started to vibrate and everything exploded.”
“Everything exploded?” Blinked Sharon before grabbing Alicia and holding her tight. “It’s okay, Mommy is here,” she said gently as she rubbed Alicia’s back.
“Why did this happen?” Replied Alicia softly.
“I have no idea,” replied Sharon, helping Alicia up. “The gem didn’t blow anything up when we stole it from the bank, that machine must have charged it somehow.” She said, pondering the situation. “I’ll go put the kettle on.”
Alicia followed Sharon into the kitchen and leaned against the counter. “So,” she said, a hint of confidence coming back to her voice. “What happened with Ulla.”
“Oh I don’t think she will bother me again,” smirked Sharon as the kettle boiled.
“Wow, did you kneecap her?” Grinned Alicia.
“I did not kneecap her!” Shouted Sharon.
“Smacked her with a brick?”
“Alicia, I’m a supervillain, not a psychopath!” Huffed Sharon theatrically.
“I know I know, " giggled Alicia. “I’m just teasing.”
“I’m actually quite impressed with myself,” smiled Sharon as she ruffled Alicia’s hair and poured water onto the tea. “System users can be very hard to hypnotize, systems interact weirdly with other powers.”
“Makes sense,” smiled Alicia as she grabbed some milk from the fridge. “Thanks for protecting me,” she added as she placed the carton next to Sharon.
“Don’t worry about it sweetie, you always come first.” Grinned Sharon as she finished the tea and carried it over to the table.
“So what do we do now?” Asked Alicia between sips.
“We’re not giving that gem over, not until I know what Black Hand wanted with it,” explained Sharon. “Though we’ll need to make sure it doesn’t make anything else explode, so I’ll buy some safe storage for it.”
“That is a good plan.”
“And we have to prepare for your tests,” smiled Sharon.
“Really? After the chaos of today?”
“You did very well, you got the gem out and followed my orders. Sure I’m not going to put you against a MIST agent just yet. But you made an impressive start.”
“You stored it in an ice factory?!” Screamed the woman, smashing her fist into the desk. “An ice factory? Are you kidding me?!”
“It is our secure storage area,” whimpered the other woman, pressing herself up against the wall. “We keep all our stuff there.”
“No one wants your junk, but something valuable should be kept safe, isn’t that what I paid you for?” Screamed the woman as scratched her nails along the wood of the desk.
“You did, yes.” Nodded the woman, shaking furiously.
“And despite this, you let MIST run off with my things.”
“I didn’t know they would come! I didn’t know!” Screamed the woman. “They left half of it!”
“Half of it? You think it is acceptable to have half of my machine stolen? I presume you won’t mind when I break half of your bones then?!”
“I won’t enjoy that!” Shouted the woman. “You didn’t tell me MIST would be all over this! You told me it was a valuables heist!”
“I want it back!” Shouted the woman as she flipped the desk towards the wall. “You bring it to me within a week or I destroy the Black Hand!” She yelled as she walked out of the room.