After all of the chaos, Sharon found a small return to normalcy to be a delightful mercy. For a short time, she was just Alicia’s mother, enjoying a rare summer with her daughter.
Though that didn’t quell her curiosity. What could Red Right Hand want with all those job requests? It wasn’t like they would struggle to hire people, one of their members stood firm against three MIST agents and they seemed to have funding.
Sharon’s mind wandered to sinister plans designed to bring down Ruby City, or a strange double-cross by MIST to round up every superpowered person in the city, but she quickly shook herself out of her thoughts. She wasn’t getting involved. She couldn’t get involved, Alicia needed to learn to pick her battles and Sharon had to be a good influence.
Alicia struggled to focus on her gem research. Sure the gem was interesting, but it wasn’t a quickly unfolding mystery like the Red Right Hand was. Alicia daydreamed about finding the Pit and applying for a job with the Red Right Hand so she could scout them out, but even she knew that wandering in without a power was a terrible idea.
She sighed and picked up the next book on her pile. “Miss Gina Ologist’s guide to rocks and trees!” Read the title as Alicia rolled her eyes. She had spent ages looking for a book that featured the words “gem” and “explodes” and this seemed to be the only one the internet could turn up. Unfortunately, it seemed to be aimed at very young children, hence the cartoony geologist on the cover.
Alicia started to skim through the pages, trying to spot the keywords she had been looking for. Eventually, she stumbled upon them, sat in a little speech-bubble coming from a tiny cartoon Gina. “Did you know that Quartz gems can explode when it is removed from the ground?!” She asked. Alicia shook her head, this was very much not what she needed right now.
After flicking through some more pages, Alicia closed the book with a heavy sigh. She wasn’t going to find anything of use in this book. She shoved it back into the children’s section and started to head out of the library.
The city was full of its usual action and bustle. Alicia’s eyes looked over the headlines on the local paper. “Faulty wiring leads to large fires,” it declared in massive type. Alicia recognized one of the buildings depicted on the front cover, it was the ice factory that she and her Mother had snuck into a few weeks ago.
Alicia threw some money into the slot and pulled the paper out, starting to flick through the story. It explained how a wiring fault in several brands of air conditioner had caused a few unexplained fires. The article featured a statement from city hall that said there was nothing to worry about, but anyone concerned should call them and they would arrange a free home wiring safety inspection.
Alicia rolled her eyes, it was pretty clear that this was a cover-up. If that ice factory could survive Ulla crashing around inside it then it would take more than lackluster wiring to bring it down.
She pushed the paper under her arm and started to walk towards her house, drifting deeper into her thoughts as she did. She turned into a few alleyways, keen to get home as quickly as possible. As she walked into an alley between a grocery store and an electronics store she saw someone’s legs sticking out from behind a dumpster.
Alicia crept forward, unsure if this person needed help or not. Their well-kept pantyhose and their black pumps suggested that they were not the type of person to hang around alleyways.
As she moved closer, Alicia was able to get a better view of the woman. She was clad in a sitcom’s idea of a nurse’s uniform, one that was far too low cut to be used in an actual hospital. Alicia was unsure what to do, her whole body tingled as she stepped a little closer to the woman. After a few moments of pondering Alicia took a deep breath, she couldn’t just ignore this without feeling guilty for the rest of the week.
Alicia reached forward and gently wrapped her hand around the woman’s wrist, doing her best to feel for a pulse. She very quickly found one and let out a sigh of relief. “Ma’am? Can you hear me, Ma’am?” Whispered Alicia quietly, trying to avoid scaring the woman just in case this was merely a nurse who was only suffering from a hangover.
The woman let out a low groan as her eyes fluttered open. “What happened,” she moaned as she put her hand on her head and rubbed it softly.
“I don’t know,” replied Alicia. “I just found you here and wanted to make sure you were doing okay?”
“I,” started the woman, only to blink and look around. “Where am I?”
“You’re in an alleyway, next to the Low Frills grocery?” Said Alicia, doing her best to sound friendly. “Do I need to call you an ambulance?”
“No! I’ll be fine!” Shouted the woman as she pushed herself up using the wall.
“You sure?” Asked Alicia. “I can help you to a clinic, you should at least get a check-up or something!”
“No! Never!” Shouted the woman as she shoved Alicia aside and started to run off down the alley.
By the time Alicia had recovered from the shove, the nurse was already out of sight. “Some people,” sighed Alicia, shaking her head. After a few minutes Alicia shrugged and continued her walk home, she couldn’t help anyone who didn’t want help.
As Alicia pushed the door open she was instantly hit by the smell of cooking and the noise of the shower. She dumped her bag onto the table and wandered into the kitchen, keen to see what her mother had planned for dinner.
She pulled open the oven and peeked into the pot. “Stew, nice,” smiled Alicia, pulling her head out of the oven, only to see Sharon behind her.
“I’m glad you like it,” chuckled Sharon, her hair dripping water onto the towel that was expertly wrapped around her body. “I’m going out this evening.”
“Oh? Some villainy afoot?” Grinned Alicia.
“You’re not coming.” Replied Sharon before shaking her head. “Wait, no, I mispredicted your question. No villainy, but I’m dropping into the Pit tonight.”
“Why go if there is no villainy?” Asked Alicia with a smirk, happy to have thrown her Mom off for once.
“I have to keep up appearances,” replied Sharon. “Suddenly vanishing from the community will make it obvious something is up.”
“So, we’re not getting involved via getting involved?” Replied Alicia sarcastically.
“We’re not getting involved.” Replied Sharon firmly. “Then after that, I’ve got my book group.”
“The real one? What are you reading?”
“Yes, the real one. And I don’t know yet, we are starting a new book and we need to pick it.”
“So you’re going to go drink wine with the other Moms, got it,” grinned Alicia.
“You are very sarcastic this evening.” Replied Sharon.
“It has been a weird day,” giggled Alicia. “And you keep walking into it.”
“True, and you wouldn’t be you if you were not constantly sarcastic,” smiled Sharon. “Now, I’m going to go change. Stew should be done in about forty minutes!” She said as she wandered back up the stairs, leaving a trail of water behind herself.
Once Sharon was dry and dressed she headed out into the city, navigating the various back alleys until she found the door for the Pit. If you had no idea about the city’s hidden economy you would just presume the rusted metal door was an old back entrance or fire escape for the office that was on the other side of the building.
Sharon pulled her mask on before knocking softly on the metal door, watching as a small metal panel slid away revealing a set of eyes. “We’re closed,” shouted a gruff voice from inside the building.
“I’m delivering printer paper,” replied Mesmera with a smile.
“Come in,” replied the man, pulling the door open so Mesmera could step inside. Just inside the door was a room that seemed to be made of rusted metal. It was also swarming with heavily armed people.
“Onto the prints,” said the man at the door, pointing towards two foot-shaped decals in the middle of the floor. Mesmera nodded and walked onto them, already knowing that she would pass any weapons check.
The lights in the room dimmed as the man tapped on a tablet computer. After a few seconds, the lights came back up and the man waved his hand. “Proceed, welcome to the pit,” he grunted.
“Thanks!” Smiled Mesmera, walking down the corridor and pushing through another metal door. The second the door opened Mesmera was hit by the sounds of conversation and partying.
The inner part of the Pit was surprisingly warm and welcoming, it looked like an old-school European pub, in fact, if you ignored the bright outfits and all the masks, the Pit could be mistaken for a completely normal bar.
Mesmera wandered around a bit, mingling and socializing as she normally did. After a little bit, she felt a tap on her shoulder.
“Mesmera,” said Burst, pushing a bottle of beer into Mesmera’s hand.
“Burst,” smiled Mesmera. “Let me guess, payment for the favor?”
“Yeah,” nodded Burst. “I pay my debts.”
“Well thank you,” grinned Mesmera, gently clinking her bottle against the one Burst was holding. “How is life?”
“Same old, same old,” nodded Burst, sipping from her beer. “Looking for a new employer.”
“Right, no Black Hand.”
“You doing the same?” Asked Burst.
“Nah, I’ve got a day job!” Smiled Mesmera.
“Well that is pretty damn nice,” nodded Burst. “I’m glad you’ve got stuff going on.”
“Thanks,” replied Mesmera. Part of her really wanted to warn Burst about the fake jobs, but she didn’t want to let on that she knew something was afoot.
“Yeah, hoping there is something good out there,” continued Burst, obviously oblivious to Mesmera’s internal argument.
“Maybe go for a day job,” smiled Mesmera.
“Nah, I don’t think I could handle that,” waved Burst. “Not got the skills for it.”
“Nonsense,” interrupted Mesmera, sliding into her motherly voice. “You have a lot of skills. I don’t know about your formal schooling, but you’ve got a lot of skills.”
“Well that is sweet of you to say,” said Burst.
“I’ve seen you play pool, your grasp of mechanics and physics is really outstanding, and you are very good with tactics. You could very easily turn those skills into some form of a normal job, you don’t need to feel stuck in the villain community. Because,” added Mesmera, turning to face Burst. “You’re pretty great.”
“Wow,” mumbled Burst, looking down at her shoes. “That is really sweet Mesmera.”
“I’m just honest,” replied Mesmera as she took a sip of her beer. “Just look at all your options.”
“Sure,” nodded Burst. “I’ll have a look, maybe it is time for a change.”
“Wonderful,” grinned Mesmera. “Gosh this has been fun, but I really should be heading off, the world demands me.”
“Sure,” replied Burst, watching as Mesmera downed the rest of the beer. “See ya around.”
Mesmera put the bottle onto the bar and walked over to the massive noticeboard that filled one corner of the room. She glanced over the various slips of paper, seeing all of the things she would expect, people needing stuff stolen, items run across state lines and all of the other small-time jobs that people tended to outsource.
Mesmera recognized some of the ads instantly. They were the ones that the runner had altered to include the contact details for the Red Right Hand. Mesmera was unsure about the rest of the ads, some of them could have been altered as well, while the runner had said she was working alone, Mesmera would have put money on the gang hiring more than one runner to do their dirty work.
After a few moments of thought, Mesmera sighed and started to head out of the bar, she wasn’t exactly sure what to do, and standing around staring at the notice board wouldn’t help and she didn’t want to be late for her book group.
As Mesmera stepped out into the alley behind the Pit she let the cool evening air blow through her hair and wash her troubles away. She started to walk, looking for a secluded spot where she could remove her mask. She turned into an alcove, only to spot someone further down the alley.
Mesmera leaned up against the wall, waiting for the person to pass, presuming it was just another patron for the Pit. However, as the figure moved closer Mesmera started to recognize it. The figure was Spectre, but something seemed off about her, it was almost like she was walking with a limp.
“Spectre?” Said Mesmera softly, walking towards the figure. “Is everything okay?”
“I’m,” started Spectre, only to suddenly stop, her mouth half-open. After a few seconds, Spectre started to speak again. “Everything is fine. Mesmera. Everything is fine,” she said, her voice sounding slightly deeper than it usually did, her whole body slumping forward as she spoke.
“Are you sure?” Asked Mesmera, clenching her fist as alarm bells rang in her head.
“Everything fine,” growled Spectre. “Come with me, I have something to show you,” added Spectre, starting to stumble towards another building.
Mesmera looked around, this felt like a trap. In fact, it could only be more obvious if the trap erected a large neon sign and had a small marching band following it around singing its praises. However, Mesmera’s curiosity worked against her, she was keen to find out just what was wrong with Spectre.
Spectre stumbled back up the alley, Mesmera followed a few steps behind, trying to spot anything that would help her work out what was going on. Spectre’s lumbering gait made it look like she was heavily sedated or that she had broken both of her knees in some horrific accident.
As they walked into a small loading bay Spectre turned and faced Mesmera. “A mind controller,” she growled, her voice sounding like metal scraping on a chalkboard. “Delicious.”
“What’s wrong?” Asked Mesmera.
“I am!” Cackled a low voice. Mesmera’s eyes went wide as a shiny black cocoon appeared around Spectre. The black mass stretched like it was rubber, forming a new head as it did. “You’re going to be my new host!”
“Who are you?!” Shouted Mesmera as she backed up, trying to work out just what was going on.
“Parasite!” Growled the head as the strange black cocoon melted off of Spectre and formed a puddle at her feet.
“Spectre?” Shouted Mesmera, watching as Spectre collapsed onto the floor in a heap.
Suddenly the puddle started to bubble and form into a female figure. The woman shimmered like she was made out of latex and her hair was made out of long plastic-like tendrils that trickled down her back.
“She is a little tired,” laughed the woman as she ran towards Mesmera. “But you’ll do perfectly as a replacement!”
Mesmera swung for the woman, however, her fist went right through the assailant. The woman’s body felt strange, it was almost like Mesmera had smashed her hand into a bucket of warm oatmeal.
“Thanks for the help,” smirked the woman as her body expanded into a black latex blanket that wrapped around Mesmera’s whole body. She tried to struggle, thrashing, and kicking as hard as she could. However, it was in vain, slowly but surely the woman entombed her totally, leaving her in total darkness.
“Don’t fight me,” came the woman’s voice from just beside Mesmera. “Give in to me.”
“I don’t give in!” Screamed Mesmera, doing her best to break through the strange substance that had enveloped her. However, it seemed like the harder Mesmera struggled the tighter the latex got, almost like it was forming a hard shell around her.
Suddenly the cocoon became transparent allowing Mesmera to see the world once more. As she tried to work out what was going on Mesmera saw her arm raise up into the air.
“Yes! Yes!” Cackled the voice in Mesmera’s ear as her body slowly started to get up. Mesmera tried to resist the movement, however as she did, she realized that it wasn’t her body that was moving, it was the shell surrounding her body.
The shell pulled itself up off the floor and moved around a little bit, almost as if it was trying to test out its new form, trying to work out how to move the Mesmera shaped blob around.
“You are so wonderful,” said the voice, “I like being you, you are going to be so useful.”
“Oh? You seem stronger than me.” Replied Mesmera, trying to think of a good way to escape from this latex prison.
“Spectre told me a lot about you. You control minds, so you know so much about so many people, you know their secrets.” Said the voice as Mesmera felt something long and slick tickle at her ear.
“I keep my secrets,” said Mesmera as her eyes went wide. Suddenly the slick thing pushed into her ear, making her scream.
“Not from me,” added the voice as Mesmera felt the thing moving around inside her ear. It felt strangely warm and yet oddly fluid, almost like she had gone swimming in a pool full of pudding. As the strange things danced in her ear Mesmera felt her brain tingle, almost as if the strange creature was trying to get into her mind.
Mesmera summoned up all of her willpower and tried to block the creature out, blanking her mind as best as she could.
“Let me in,” growled the voice as the tendrils pushed harder in Mesmera’s ears.
“Why should I?” Replied Mesmera.
“It will only get worse for you if you don’t let me know everything.”
“Oh I’ll give you everything,” smirked Mesmera. “I’ll give you every last thing.”
“Perfect,” replied the voice as the tendril’s throbbed and pulsed. Mesmera could feel the creature in her mind, searching around for information linked to her civilian identity and the identities of those she worked with.
Mesmera continued to focus, imaging herself stood at a massive podium before a large conference room that had only one chair. “Good evening everyone,” said Mesmera, letting her voice echo around the hall. “I’m, Mesmera.”
“Yes,” laughed the voice, pushing deeper and deeper into Mesmera’s mind, the tendrils allowing her to see and feel the imaginary world that Mesmera had created for herself. “Who are you! Who do you know!”
“My name is Mesmera.” Restated Mesmera as her smile grew wider. “And I am the most boring woman in the world.”
“This is no time for games!” Screamed Parasite as the tendrils throbbed.
“The Eccles cake is named after the small English town of Eccles and is similar in form to the Chorley cake, though the Chorley cake is less popular in the modern age, likely due to having less sugar than its Eccles counterpart.” Said Mesmera, her voice taking on a very business-like tone. “To make a batch of eight Eccles cakes you will require seventeen and a half ounces of puff pastry, two tablespoons of butter,”
“This is useless!” Shouted Parasite, doing her best to interrupt Mesmera. “I will have what I want!”
“Melt the butter in a small saucepan, making sure to keep stirring it so as to avoid burning it, then stir in the currants, peel, and the demerara sugar. If you lack demerara sugar and let’s face it, which of us doesn’t in this busy modern world, regular brown sugar can be used as a substitute,” continued Mesmera, totally ignoring Parasite’s shouts of frustration.
“I will break you!” Screamed Parasite, started to walk Mesmera down the alleyway and away from the city. “I can hold you here forever! You will break!” She continued to shout, the tendrils rhythmically pulsing in Mesmera’s ears as they continued to try and probe her brain.
As she was pulled out of the city Mesmera continued to focus on her conference room and her baking lecture, going through as many recipes as she could, each one in excruciating detail.
The tendrils continued to twist and turn in Mesmera’s ears, she could feel Parasite trying to find a crack in her mind, but Mesmera held firm, doing all she could to block out the mental assault.
In her little conference room, she could see black latex starting to encroach and coat the walls, throbbing and pulsing with each breath that Parasite took.
Mesmera glanced at the latex before returning to her talk. “The Madeira cake does not hail from the Madeira Islands but instead is named after the delightful Portuguese wine that it was traditionally served with. Frankly, that is quite a shame, as the Madeira Islands are wonderfully charming! I went there with my daughter, and I must say she looked quite the picture, the wonderful yellow sand really brought out her blonde hair!” Chuckled Mesmera, her tone growing more patronizing by the second.
Mesmera had no idea how long she had been focused on this talk, but her legs throbbed like she had walked for miles and miles, she wanted to try and work out where she was, however, she knew that she couldn’t break focus for more than a couple of seconds, as even a moment of weakness could let Parasite into her brain.
“Two and a half cups of all-purpose flour. Of course, you can use cake flour, but that is so expensive! So I use all-purpose to keep my cupboards nice and tidy! You’ll also need a quarter of a teaspoon of Kosher salt, make sure it is Kosher, nothing against your regular salt, but if it isn’t Kosher it will ruin the texture!” Chuckled Mesmera, continuing to list every recipe she knew, making sure to obsess over each and every detail.
After what felt like hours Mesmera felt her body come to a stop. Before she could work out what was happening she felt an electrical shock run through the latex tendrils and directly into her brain.
The shock made Mesmera’s whole body spasm and twitch, all of her muscles tensed and smashed against the plastic prison as she felt a wave of pain rush across her brain. As Mesmera tried to pull herself back together she realized that she wasn’t in the city anymore, she was stood on a beach, looking out at the sunset.
“It is beautiful,” mumbled Mesmera as the tentacles throbbed in her ears. She felt a thought push into her head as the world seemed to shimmer around her. “I love Madeira,” said Mesmera with a soft nod, a second voice echoing her words.
Mesmera swayed gently as she looked out at the pretty sunset. After a few moments, she heard a voice calling to her. “Mommy! Mommy!” Shouted the voice as Mesmera turned to see who was calling her.
“Oh, sweetie!” Gasped Mesmera as she saw a little blonde girl running towards her. Mesmera crouched down and threw her arms open, catching the little girl in a hug.
“Mommy!” Said the girl, smiling up at Mesmera as she did. “I’m so happy we got to come here!”
“I am as well darling, I am as well,” smiled Mesmera, running her hands through the girl’s hair. “Though I think it is time for us to head back to our hotel.”
“Okay Mommy,” nodded the little girl. “We can come back tomorrow right?”
“Of course we can,” replied Mesmera, taking the girl’s hand and starting to walk to their hotel.
Once they arrived back in the hotel room, Mesmera guided the little girl to a dresser and pulled out a hairbrush. “Let’s get the sand out of your hair,” she cooed as she started to run the brush through the girl’s hair.
“Mommy, tell me a story,” said the little girl.
“About what sweetie?” Asked Mesmera, continuing to slowly brush the girl’s hair.
“About you being cool! About work!” replied the little girl.
“Really? You wouldn’t prefer something about a magical princess and a big scary dragon?”
“No,” said the little girl. shaking her head as she did. “I like stories about you!”
“Okay, okay!” Giggled Mesmera. “Hold your head still though, okay? I don’t want to pull your hair. Just look into the mirror and I’ll tell you about my last mission.”
“Yay!” Cheered the little girl, turning to face the mirror.
“So, it was me and Rocket Lass,” smiled Mesmera as she continued to rub the brush through the girl’s hair. “We were on the run from the police after we stole a diamond from the city museum. We had to hide in the desert for a few days, and it was so hot.”
“Hotter than here?” Asked the little girl.
“Much hotter!” Nodded Mesmera.
“What is Rocket Lass like?”
“Well, she is very pretty, a redhead. She is a college student and an expert in rocketry, but she gets worn out easily. Her rockets would fizzle out after a little bit, leaving her floating freely, needing some guidance.” Grinned Mesmera as her eyes started to glow silver.
“What do you mean Mommy?” Asked the little girl as her eyes started to grow wide. “How do her rockets work?”
“They don’t,” smirked Mesmera. “They sparkle so brightly, so mesmerizingly wonderfully for a few seconds before they tire and wear themselves out. And when they get tired and exhausted they become open to suggestion, open to guidance, needing a strong and firm hand to drag them back down to Earth.”
“What are you,” blinked the little girl, the silver dancing in her eyes as her form started to distort and change, her body taking on a black latex sheen as she slowly turned into Parasite.
“You’re not my daughter,” whispered Mesmera. “I’ve never been to the Madeira Islands, I was talking rubbish. My daughter isn’t even blonde.” Laughed Mesmera. “But in your attempt to manipulate my thoughts, you’ve left yourself open, mind-probing is a two-way street.”
“No, you won’t! I’m in control!” Growled Parasite, the world falling away around the pair as the silver glow in Mesmera’s eyes grew more and more intense.
“Really? You don’t seem in control to me,” smiled Mesmera. “I think that posing as my daughter was projection. Almost like you desire to be controlled like you need someone to guide you. You need limits and boundaries to keep you in line. It is like you are begging for someone to tell you no. Craving the nurturing discipline that comes with a mother figure.”
“I won’t!” Growled Parasite, her voice growing louder and louder in Mesmera’s head. “I will take you, I will destroy you!”
“Of course you will,” teased Mesmera. “You’ll kick and fuss until I put you over my knee and spank you because that is what you want!”
“I do not!” Screamed Parasite, moving closer to Mesmera. In the real world, the tendrils in Mesmera’s ears started to throb and pulse, shooting electricity through Mesmera’s body.
In her mind, Mesmera crumpled to the floor. Parasite stood over Mesmera’s fallen body and laughed. “I’m going to get inside your mind, and when I do, I will destroy everything and everyone you’ve ever loved and I’ll do all of it while you watch helplessly.”
“So edgy,” laughed Mesmera. “You really are a bratty teen.” Mesmera lifted herself up off the floor and gazed directly at Parasite, her eyes illuminating the whole area with a bright silver glow.
“You can’t, I exist to take people over.” Growled Parasite, Mesmera’s silver glow flickering in her eyes.
“And you don’t know how to defend yourself, how to deal with someone who is stronger than you and better than you,” smiled Mesmera, grabbing Parasite’s cheeks and pulling her face closer. “You can’t keep this up forever, but I can. Look into my eyes, feel my will washing over you.”
“I,” mumbled Parasite, trying to pull away from Mesmera’s gaze. However, the harder she pulled the harder Mesmera’s grip grew, the silver light felt like it was pushing into her mind.
“Feel me, feel my power washing over you. You know you want this, you want someone to command you, you need and crave my control, you are growing heavier and weaker, you’ve expended too much energy and now it is time to surrender.” Cooed Mesmera gently.
“I don’t surrender!” Screamed Parasite.
“But you do get overly involved,” grinned Mesmera. “Two-way street,” she added as she stamped on Parasite’s foot as hard as she could.
Parasite screamed as electricity pulsed through the tendrils once more. Mesmera stiffened and thrashed as the shock ran through her muscles, however as she spasmed she felt the strange goo flowing off of her body, allowing her to move freely once more.
Parasite crumpled to the floor, her body starting to melt slightly as she shook her head. Mesmera smirked and looked down on the girl, pinching herself to confirm that she was back in the real world.
“You got so angry you lost your focus. No focus means no form,” explained Mesmera, watching as Parasite pulled herself up off the floor.
“I won’t let you do this!” Screamed Parasite.
“You don’t get a choice,” smiled Mesmera, focusing her power again. “You’ve lost in your world, now it is time to lose in mine,” she smirked as her eyes went silver.
“I won’t! I can’t!” Shouted Parasite, moving closer, her body stretching and growing, obviously getting ready to engulf Mesmera once more.
“You will listen to me young lady” chastized Mesmera, quickly moving forward, ramming into the soft latex mass that was Parasite’s body.
Parasite instantly wrapped around Mesmera, doing her best to force her tendrils back into Mesmera’s ears, their faces pressed firmly together as they struggled.
“I did warn you,” explained Mesmera as she pushed her nose into Parasite’s latex one. “You act without thinking, and now you are stuck gazing into my eyes with no hope of escape, your mind spiraling into the silver glow of my wonderful gaze,” cooed Mesmera.
“No, I won’t,” struggled Parasite, doing her to get Mesmera back under control.
“You don’t get a say young lady,” smiled Mesmera, gently swaying and rocking her head, watching as the silver glow reflected off the plastic cocoon that surrounded her. “You are too tired, we’ve been fighting for so long, you can’t maintain your form, you don’t have the energy, you are far too tired. Sleepy even.”
“I’m not,” mumbled Parasite, blinking a little bit as the silver started to fill her eyes, her head moving to follow to Mesmera’s eyes, the reflected glow making Mesmera’s eyes seem even more intense than usual.
“You are, I can feel you growing weak,” purred Mesmera. “You are growing weaker and everything drains you further, and further, fighting me, talking to me, gazing at me, accepting me, resisting me, breathing, existing. It all drains your finite resources, it all leaves you tired and vulnerable.”
“But,” said Parasite, starting to slur her words, her body starting to resemble a human once more.
“Shhh,” smiled Mesmera. “Just relax now, just sleep, so heavy and so tired, such a sleepy, sleepy little darling, just relax.” Continued Mesmera as she gently rubbed Parasite’s plastic hair.
Parasite’s eyes fluttered as the silver totally filled her eyes, her mind slowly and totally grinding to a halt.
Mesmera pulled herself up off of Parasite and looked over the girl. “Now sweetie, can you do something for me?”
“Do something,” mumbled Parasite.
“That’s a good girl!” Smiled Mesmera. “I want you to put all of those thoughts you have stolen into my nice big box, just gather them all up, be a good girl.” Cooed Mesmera, watching as Parasite wiggled and squirmed on the floor.
“Done it,” mumbled Parasite, a small puddle of drool forming underneath her head.
“Good, now I’m going to seal that box up nice and tight and then stick a big shipping label on it.” Explained Mesmera as she clapped her hands together. “I’m shipping them all miles and miles away, taking them off your hands.”
“Off my,” started Parasite, only to be interrupted by Mesmera.
“Yes, just loaded into the nice big plane and flown far far away from you, you don’t need them, it has all been shipped off.” Nodded Mesmera. “Wave bye-bye to the nice big package.”
“Bye,” slurred Parasite, her head slumping to the side, her hand flopping around in a strange facsimile of a wave.
“Good, good,” nodded Mesmera. “Now Parasite, why don’t you tell me why you have been wrapping around all those people. You can be honest with me, you can trust me.”
“Was told to, need to do it,” grumbled Parasite, her eyes rolling up into her head.
“Who told you to do it?” Asked Mesmera.
“I,” slurred Parasite, only to suddenly start spasming and twitching. “Can’t, can’t, can’t!” Screamed Parasite, starting to thrash wildly on the floor, her body slowly dissolving into a liquid that trickled and drained through the sand.
“Parasite?!” Shouted Mesmera, running towards the quickly dissolving girl. However, before Mesmera could do anything Parasite had totally vanished leaving only a small black stain on the sand.
Mesmera sighed and looked around, slowly realizing where she was. Parasite had walked her to the beach, obviously hoping to use the real beach as the basis for the illusion of the Madeira Islands. While she was impressed by Parasite’s dedication, this did mean that she was at least two hours away from home.
As Mesmera looked around the beach she pondered how Parasite could have broken out of her trance so easily, something about revealing her current employer had obviously caused her to panic.
“Halt, you’re under arrest,” shouted a voice from behind Mesmera. Mesmera slowly turned, only to see a familiar woman stood behind her.
“Ulla,” sighed Mesmera, rubbing the bridge of her nose.
“No funny business! I’m taking you in!” Shouted Ulla, pulling open her coat and producing a card.
“I get it, I get it, Express Knight, clear the line, all who resist shall be beaten” Nodded Mesmera. “Look tonight has been busy, mind if we skip this?”
“I’m not going to fall for your tricks,” smirked Ulla.
“Okay,” nodded Mesmera. “Ulla, there are leaves on the line.”
“Leaves on the line,” blinked Ulla, her eyes instantly glazing over as her arm fell limply to her side. “How may I serve you?”
“Well at least that worked,” smiled Mesmera. “Ulla, did you come alone? How did you find me here?”
“I came alone, wanted to get you myself as you escaped last time,” slurred the girl, gently swaying from left to right as she stared off into infinity. “People saw two figures fighting, had reports about a weird liquid creature, and recognized you from the description,” continued Ulla.
“Right, right,” nodded Mesmera. “So you brought a car?”
“Brought a van,” replied Ulla.
“Well, aren’t you a clever girl!” Cooed Mesmera. “Because when I wake you up, you are going to be convinced that you are moonlighting as a cab driver! And I’m your first client! You won’t have any idea who I am but will be keen to tell me anything I ask, because you desperately want a five-star rating for your service, just like a perfect little train. Right?”
“Right!” Replied Ulla in a slurred cheer.
“Great,” nodded Mesmera, clapping her hands as she did. Instantly the glaze fell away from Ulla’s eyes as she stopped swaying.
“Are you my fare?” Asked Ulla with a smile.
“Yes I am,” nodded Mesmera. “Please lead the way.”
“Of course Madam!” Nodded Ulla, leading Mesmera towards the large white van. Mesmera climbed into the passenger seat and looked around the inside. Surprisingly the van was pretty normal, with only a few weapons racks distinguishing it from a regular builder’s van.
“How was your day?” Asked Ulla as she revved the engine. “And where to?”
“Oh pretty busy, yours?” Smirked Mesmera. “And take me to the suburbs please, I’ll guide you.”
“Yes, Madam!” Nodded Ulla as she pulled away from the beach. “I’ve had a busy day, just finished my day job actually.”
“Oh, what is it?” Asked Mesmera.
“Well, I shouldn’t say,” mumbled Ulla before she sat bolt upright and smiled. “But that would be very rude. I work for MIST, keeping superpowered people in check!”
“Wonderful!” Giggled Mesmera. “And what did you do today?”
“Well, today was spent tracking down why villains keep being found out cold in alleyways. We keep finding them just lay there, they all have massive gaps in their memories.” Explained Ulla as she continued to drive. “Some people have reported seeing a strange black plastic figure moving around, so I was sent out here to track them down and bring them in for testing.”
“None at all Madam,” smiled Ulla. “We’ve been on the back foot the last few days due to a new gang forming.”
“Know anything about them?”
“Not much, unfortunately. We presume they are behind the knocked out Supervillains, however, until these people get their memories back we’re not going to be able to work out the details.”
“Well that is a shame,” nodded Mesmera, leaning back into the seat and taking a few moments to recover her energy, only opening her mouth to give Ulla directions.
As they turned onto the main road, a phone started to ring. Ulla glanced at the display before looking towards Mesmera. “Do you mind if I take this call, Madam?”
“Is it your day job?” Asked Mesmera, starting to panic a little.
“No, my sister, we’ve not been getting on recently.” Said Ulla softly.
Ulla nodded and pressed a button on the steering wheel, causing the speakers in the van to crackle. “Hey sis,” she smiled.
“I’ve got it! I know what to do!” Came a voice over the van’s speakers.
“About what?” Replied Ulla.
“To work my system! I’m going to do it!”
“No, Hitomi, you can’t! There is no way for you to support one. We’ve tried this!” Shouted Ulla. “I know you want to, but you can help in other ways.”
“I’ve found some research that will let me handle it. It makes me compatible!” Shouted the voice from the other end of the phone.
“Please Hitomi,” sighed Ulla. “I love your dedication but I can’t see you heartbroken again. Maybe it is time to look for a new dream.”
“Why won’t you support me?” Screamed Hitomi. “This is my chance to work with you, for us to be a team! I can do this! Why won’t you let me try!”
“Because you could get hurt, I’ve seen you fail the tests in the past. There is too much risk. Hitomi I couldn’t live with myself if,”
“If you didn’t have all the glory!” Interrupted Hitomi. “Everyone has to praise Ulla! No one else can do well, only Ulla gets her dreams! I’m doing this and you can’t stop me!”
“Hitomi,” started Ulla, only to be cut off by the phone beeping.
Mesmera looked at Ulla, she couldn’t help but feel upset for her, despite their differences it was obvious that she and Ulla were in a similar situation. “Need to talk?”
“I’m okay, thank you, Madam,” replied Ulla, faking a smile.
“I would prefer it if you talked. It is good to get it out,” replied Mesmera, her voice growing softer as she did.
“Well,” sighed Ulla. “Hitomi is my sister, she was meant to have the other system my Mother designed, but she can’t handle it. It doesn’t agree with her.”
“But she still wants to?”
“She wants to help people. But doesn’t understand she could get damaged in the process. Her desire to help is blinding her to the harm she could do to herself.”
“And the harm she could do to you?” Asked Mesmera softly.
“I want her by my side, but I don’t want to lose her. She is all I have.” Nodded Ulla.
“I understand that,” nodded Mesmera. “Sometimes you’ve got to find a middle ground though. Have you told her about your fear?”
“I can’t find a way to bring it up.” Replied Ulla, shaking her head.
“Well, you should.” Smiled Mesmera. “Pull up here, this is my stop.”
“I will,” smiled Ulla, pulling into a parking spot. “Thank you for traveling with me, Madam. I hope your service was five stars.”
“It was amazing,” nodded Mesmera. “This talk has been wonderful, almost a shame I have to do this.”
“This,” smiled Mesmera as her eyes turned a deep shade of silver. “Look into my eyes Ulla, deep into my eyes, you can’t resist me, you can never resist me. I’m too powerful, my eyes too beautiful. You can already feel yourself sinking down into my eyes, spiraling down into the infinite silver pool of my eyes.”
Ulla gasped as her mind was taken in by the silver glow of Mesmera’s eyes. She quickly started to sway and drool, her mind already weakened due to the suggestion that had been bouncing around it for the last few hours.
“Sleep now, deep asleep.” Cooed Mesmera, pulling Ulla’s head close to her. As Ulla’s head touched Mesmera’s shoulder her whole body went limp as her mind spiraled off into sleep. “Good girl,” purred Mesmera as she rubbed Ulla’s hair. “Now when I close the car door, you’re going to sit up and drive for five blocks and as you drive you are going to totally forget about being a cab driver, you’ll remember your call with your sister, but I was never here.”
“Yes,” slurred Ulla, drooling softly on Mesmera’s shoulder, letting the woman’s words slide into her mind.
“But make sure to get some rest, you need to look after yourself,” said Mesmera gently as she moved Ulla back into her seat. Once Ulla was settled Mesmera pulled her mask off and climbed out of the van, making sure to close the door heavily behind her.
Alicia put a forkful of stew into her mouth as the TV blared. Alicia wasn’t exactly sure what she was watching, it looked like it should be a sitcom and the laugh track seemed to believe it was, however, Alicia couldn’t seem to find anything to laugh at.
As the episode ended Alicia’s phone went off. She picked it up only to see that the caller display declared that the call was coming from the gym. “Hello?” Said, Alicia, as she answered the phone, slightly curious why a gym would be calling her.
“Alicia!” Came a familiar voice.
“Ivanna,” replied Alicia. “What is going on?”
“Want to come in and train?” Asked Ivanna, sounding surprisingly excited.
“Ivanna, I know I signed up for the gym, but it is like six in the evening, why now?”
“One of my other students has returned to town she is the perfect size to spar with you!” Replied Ivanna. “You should come over and work with her, it will be excellent for you.”
“You know what,” said Alicia, shrugging slightly as she did. “Sure, I’ll head over.”
“See you soon then!” Replied Ivanna before she hung up.
Alicia quickly got changed into workout clothes and grabbed her gym bag before heading off into the city. As she pushed through the gym’s door Alicia looked around, instantly spotting Ivanna standing in one of the rings.
“Alicia!” Shouted Ivanna, leaning on the rope as she turned to face Alicia. “I’m so glad you could make it.”
“Thanks,” smiled Alicia. She didn’t want to admit it, but she was still slightly intimidated by Ivanna and her immense size. “So where is this other student?”
“She is on her way. Get warmed up and then we can begin.” Nodded Ivanna, pointing towards one of the punching bags.
Alicia nodded and got to work, stretching and punching the bag a little bit. She wasn’t exactly sure how she should warm-up for this type of exercise, but she didn’t want to go against what Ivanna told her.
After a short period, the gym doors swung open. Alicia turned and faced the door, only to see a shorter girl walking in. At least Alicia presumed it was a girl, while she certainly had the figure, her face was covered with a blue mask that seemed to have little scales on it. The mask also had a long tail that ran past the girl’s shoulders and down the middle of her back.
“Dragón!” Shouted Ivanna, moving towards the girl and hugging her.
“Ivanna,” replied the girl, her voice was surprisingly soft for someone who wandered around wearing a wrestling mask.
“This is my new student!” Said Ivanna, pointing towards Alicia. “She will be your sparring partner tonight.”
“Very well,” nodded Dragón, throwing her bag to the floor and marching into the ring. Alicia gulped and climbed into the ring, unsure what exactly what was about to happen, her whole body tingled with anxiety, it seemed that this girl knew what she was doing.
“Let us begin!” Shouted Ivanna, moving to the side of the ring and slapping the apron.
What followed was Ivanna running Alicia and Dragón through various drills, having both girls throw themselves around the ring as well as having both girls try and lift each other.
Alicia struggled with the lifting, however, Dragón was able to lift Alicia with ease. In fact, Dragón didn’t seem to tire, no matter how hard Ivanna pushed them.
After an hour of training, Alicia slumped in the corner, trying to get her breath back.
“Very good!” Clapped Ivanna. “Very good both of you!”
“Thank you,” gasped Alicia, her muscles burning.
“Let us end the evening by putting all of that into a small sequence.” Said Ivanna. “Alicia will run at Dragón, and Dragón will take her to the ground before finishing with some flair. Understood?”
“Understood,” nodded Dragón as Alicia let out a small groan.
When Ivana told her to, Alicia ran towards Dragón and allowed the girl to throw her down onto the mat. Alicia did her best to act hurt, groaning, and rolling around a little.
“Now the flair!” Shouted Ivanna.
Dragón jumped into the air, however, rather than jumping a normal height, she seemed to keep ascending, going higher and higher with every second, her body spinning and rotating the whole time. Alicia’s eyes went wide, she couldn’t believe what she was watching.
“Dragón!” Screamed Ivanna. Dragón stopped mid-rotation, staring at Ivanna for a few seconds before she fell back down towards the ring, crashing into the mat with immense force.
Alicia did her best to hide her confusion by acting pained, just like Ivanna had taught her. After a few seconds of acting Alicia got up off the mat and smiled.
“I think that went pretty well,” she said, doing her best to act like nothing was wrong.
“You did well,” nodded Ivanna, obviously doing her best to suppress her anger. “You can go now, get some rest.” Said Ivanna, her voice polite yet demanding.
Alicia nodded and went to grab her bag. As she did Ivanna marched over to Dragón. Alicia did her best to overhear the conversation but was unable to make out much, all she could grasp was that Ivanna was very unhappy and that this wasn’t the first time they had had this conversation.
As Alicia walked out of the gym Ivanna was still lecturing Dragón about things, even though Dragón didn’t seem too worried or upset about the situation.
After a few detours, Alicia arrived home and threw her bag onto the floor. Before she could work out what she wanted to do, Sharon walked through the front door, letting out a heavy sigh as she wandered into the living room.
Alicia instantly spotted that Sharon was still in her Mesmera costume. “Guessing book group didn’t go well?” Asked Alicia.
“I didn’t get there, tonight became utter chaos,” sighed Sharon.
“So you’re not wine drunk?” Smiled Alicia.
“No, I’m not,” grumbled Sharon.
“Want to be?” Asked Alicia, walking over to her gym bag and pulling out a bottle of wine.
“Oh Alicia you are a godsend,” smiled Sharon. “I’m going to go change and then I’ll be with you.”
“Great!” Grinned Alicia.
Sharon quickly headed up the stairs, tapping out a message on her phone as she did. “Hey Mara,” she typed. “Can we have a chat in your professional capacity? I saw something and I want your opinion on it.”
“You don’t look cute like this,” sighed Momo, throwing a towel at Parasite. “Stand on that, don’t mess up my floor with your drippy bits!”
“I don’t know what happened,” groaned Parasite, obediently stepping onto the towel. Her body was covered in small holes and she was leaving a trail of liquid latex behind herself.
“Well did you learn anything?” Asked Momo, tapping her foot. “The boss sent you out to learn things!”
“I,” started Parasite, racking her brains. “I don’t know,” she groaned. “I controlled a lot of people but I can’t recall their memories, it is just a blank.”
“Then how did you end up all holey-lowly?”
“I tried to grab a woman, she had a purple hood. I tried to steal her memories but she was able to kick me out of her head. I can’t remember much of it,” groaned Parasite, doubling over as her arm started to melt. “Gumball?”
“Really?” Huffed Momo. “You think you can let the boss down, mess up my cute carpet and then just demand a gumball?”
“Please, I won’t do it again,” groaned Parasite, her whole body starting to melt as her eyes rolled up into her head.
“Awww,” giggled Momo, “you don’t need to worry about me, I’m not going to let a friend down!” Momo wandered over to one of her tables and grabbed a small candy jar. She pulled a yellow gumball out of the jar and walked up to Parasite and offered it to her.
Parasite instantly grabbed the ball and shoved it into her mouth, furiously chewing on it. As she chewed the melting started to slow before coming to a complete halt, her body slowly starting to repair itself.
“Now you go get some rest,” smiled Momo. “My show is on!”
“Okay,” nodded Parasite, stumbling out of the lab. Once she was out of sight Momo smirked to herself and grabbed a stuffed toy off of a shelf. “Well ready to watch Miss Mittens?”
Momo skipped towards a door and pressed a few buttons on a keypad, causing the door to slowly slide open. The room beyond the door was illuminated by a bright strobing light that made the whole room look like some weird rave.
At the far end of the room was a large metal machine that had a transparent door on the front. Inside the machine was a figure that was thrashing and twitching in time with the strobing light. They were heavily restrained and there was a pair of goggles firmly strapped to their face.
Momo wandered to the far corner and grabbed a bright pink beanbag that she quickly dragged in front of the strange machine. Once the bag was in position Momo dropped down onto the bag and giggled to herself. “I love this show, but just you wait until next season, it is going to be a blast!”