On Borrowed Time

by Jukebox

Tags: #brainwashing #comic_book #dom:female #memory_play #pov:bottom #sub:female #brainwash #brainwashed #enslavement

Adventure Girl fights as hard as she can against the combined power of Veena, Professor Psyche, and all their brainwashed minions… but she’s running out of time. Literally.

This is part of an ongoing story arc within my superhero universe, and is best read after "Zzzonked", "S.O.S.", "Kiss and Control", "Q.U.E.E.N.", "Vessel", "Jailbreak", "You and Me Against the World", and "Kiss Me While I'm Down".

Adventure Girl's head ached. It had plenty of company in that regard--her alabaster skin was peppered with bruises, she was nursing a deep cut on her right leg that she wouldn't have even imagined possible just a few days ago, and her left arm hung limp and useless at her side. She'd been trying to pop the dislocated shoulder back into place for almost twenty minutes, but everything she tried to brace herself against had simply crumbled under the pressure she brought to bear on it. It was the most impressive collection of injuries her nearly invulnerable body had sustained in her career as a superhero, but nothing matched the throbbing sensation of pressure in her brain.

The part of her that had once been Samantha Steele, pampered socialite and full-time wealthy hedonist, couldn't help reminding her that all she needed to do was give into that pressure and all her other aches and pains would go away. She could return to the Liberty Squad's satellite headquarters and take advantage of the full suite of advanced medical technology, or simply accept the boons of sorcerers and shamans alike who had joined in the new, entirely united superheroic community. All her problems would be over if she only gave up and stopped resisting. She wouldn't have to hide in a limestone cavern in the Philippines, praying her hastily arranged gap in the global surveillance system would hold long enough to recover her strength. It would all be so easy if she only ceased fighting.

But she knew. Adventure Girl knew what awaited the world if she gave in, if she let the telepathic tendrils of Professor Psyche into her brain and accepted the numbing cessation of her free will. She was the last hero left, now; everyone from the Rescuer to Doctor Phobos to Venus Ascendant to even the supposedly indomitable will of WildRose had fallen to Veena's machinations now. Even Captain Patriot, who should have been filled with inconceivable power by the threat Veena's plan posed to the freedom of the human race, surrendered as meekly as a kitten to her seductive melodies. Adventure Girl was the last line of defense between Earth and a thousand years of darkness.

It had never been this bad... but that didn't mean it was over. Adventure Girl tried once again to reset her dislocated shoulder. "come on come on come on SHIT!" she shouted, her voice rising from a whisper to a crescendo of frustration as another limestone pillar shattered against her indestructible skin. She didn't know how much longer she had left before they found her... but Samantha was certain she was running out of time.

Only moments later, it ran out. The roof of the cavern dented inward as though smashed by the hammer of a god, and Adventure Girl glanced up with her venture-vision to see a collection of her former allies and long-time enemies waiting for her on the other side of the solid rock. They'd sent all the heavy hitters this time--the Rescuer's implacable fists hammered at a cylinder of pure force created by Captain Tomorrow, distributing the impact widely enough to crack an entire section of limestone ceiling instead of merely punching into the rock. Beside him, Venus Ascendant waited, Girdle of Minerva at the ready to ensnare Adventure Girl in its unbreakable coils.

There were others there too, all waiting for their chance to finish what the Rescuer started. Beatdown, leader of the Freak Parade, stood side by side with the heroes he'd once sworn eternal enmity against with a beatific smile on his radiation-scarred face. Adventure Girl knew for a fact that he considered superheroes to be nothing more than tools of capitalist oppression, but there he was, eager to help them end the very concept of free will. The combined might of Veena and Professor Psyche was too much even for his twisted mind.

It might have been for Adventure Girl as well, if not for her encounter with Professor Psycho, the mirror-universe counterpart to the leader of the Utopians. Something about the conflict with the sinister telepath... along with a half-dozen other mind-controlling supervillains... had left a lingering resistance to even the most powerful mental influence. Veena's music failed against her as well; apparently it operated on the same magical wavelengths as Glamour's faerie magic, and Samantha could overcome it with sufficient motivation. Even mind control rays had a limited effect on her toughened brain, it seemed, thanks to her exposure to Doctor Darke's Mentalizer Cannon. That was why she eventually remembered--

Adventure Girl's train of thought broke off in sudden terror as she saw a small black dot appear over the Rescuer's shoulder. It grew bigger with every passing second, gaining clarity in her venture-vision as it fell faster and faster and faster toward the force cylinder. Within moments, Samantha could make out the outline of a massive humanoid figure covered in iridescent scales, plummeting to earth with its taloned hands outstretched and its spiked tail flowing behind it. She took in the wild gleam of devotion in its yellow eyes, the power in its rippling muscles, and she desperately flew as fast as she could away from the zone of impact as the Broot slammed full force into the cavern's ceiling.

The roof caved in with a thunderous roar, and Adventure Girl's pursuers poured through the hole with superhuman speed. Samantha knew there was no chance of losing them now; the Rescuer's power-vision could see through the limestone walls just as easily as her venture-vision, and her trick with the hacked teleporter bracelet wouldn't work again. Any one of her opponents would have been a challenging battle--together, they spelled her doom. She turned, her torn cape rippling in the breeze caused by the sudden opening. Her leg throbbed dully where the Muramasa blade had cut her, but her improvised bandage stopped the bleeding. Her left arm still hung limp.

This was the end, then. So be it. She'd go down fighting, at least. Samantha let out a roar of frustration and flew straight at her charging enemies... only to find that they had stopped. And so had everything else.

The massive waves caused by tons of tumbling limestone crashing into subterranean lakes hung frozen in mid-air. The streams of sand that trickled down at the edges of the jagged hole in the cavern's ceiling paused in their fall, ignoring gravity with insouciant disdain. Samantha's venture-vision traced individual particles of dust, unaffected by Brownian motion and suspended in perfect, impossible stillness in what should have been a swirling breeze. The world filled with a total silence that the young heroine had never experienced before, the silence of sound waves everywhere stopped mid-pulse.

And then a voice broke it. "I know you're not *trying* to destroy the uberverse," Jenee Mon-Elle observed wearily, floating down from the surface on a rainbow haze of energy generated by the boots of her ice-blue jumpsuit. "But believe me when I say that what you're doing is imperiling reality on a scale that the worst supervillain you've ever met can only dream of." She had a bleary look in her deep brown eyes, a vivid contrast to the imperturbable confidence that Adventure Girl remembered from their previous encounter. Time may have been meaningless to the agents of Q.U.E.E.N., the secret organization that maintained the structure of history, but Jenee definitely looked like she'd been pulling a few all-nighters lately.

Adventure Girl looked around, still somehow expecting a trap. "Assuming I believed you, which I don't, why bother telling me this now? It's not like I even have a hope in hell of getting out of this alive, let alone stopping whatever scheme Veena and her thralls have cooked up to plunge the world into chaos and destruction." She glared at the other woman, physically forcing herself not to sear Jenee's warm brown skin with the force of her anger. She needed to prolong this talk as long as possible. Samantha had no doubt that if she tried to flee, the Q.U.E.E.N. agent would simply end the temporal suspension; the best she could hope for was a chance to rest.

Jenee sighed. "This? Right here? This is why I wanted to just wipe your memory and be done with it," she grumbled, irritation suffusing every syllable. "Do you know how dangerous a predestination paradox can be? Especially when you combine it with a dimensional concordance the likes of which only happen one in every ten thousand years. Just telling you what you need to do risks cracking the space-time continuum like a sheet of old glass, let alone explaining why you need to do it. Tesla, Curie and Lovelace, girl, you're a pain in the fucking ass."

Adventure Girl winced as she tried for a moment to shrug before remembering that one of her arms hung dead at her side. "Then why stop time?" she asked. "Why freeze the people who are going to stop me in their tracks just to tell me that history needs to go with the flow no matter how many lives it destroys? Is it just, what, professional jealousy? You're mad that your mindwipe didn't take and you needed to just spend a few moments bitching me out for trying to save the world from a thousand years of darkness?"

Jenee rolled her eyes. "Okay, first, I didn't stop time. I merely imbalanced the local relationship in causality, borrowing a little bit of time from your surroundings and giving it to you so that we could talk. There's a big difference. Second, history works on a scale and a scope you can't imagine. One person's 'thousand years of darkness' is another person's diaspora, and yet another person's cultural renaissance. The Great Collapse--" Jenee sighed, smacking herself in the forehead so hard that one of her braids popped out of her upswept bun. "You didn't fucking hear that, okay? You did not just fucking hear that. Rosalind fucking Franklin, I'm an idiot."

"The Great Collapse." A chill ran down Samantha's spine, despite her immunity to the extremes of temperature. "That's what's about to happen. That's what Veena is doing. And I still have a chance to stop it, don't I? That's why you arrived at this exact second, because there's still a chance--a one in a million, one in a billion chance that I can get out of this and find Veena and stop this Grand Concordance she's been preparing for. And you can't let that happen, right? History's got to just steamroller over a few billion people to get to its destination, and you don't have the guts to stop it." Despite her anger, Adventure Girl felt a wild surge of hope threatening to burst free at the back of her brain. One in a billion was still a chance. And she was pretty sure she'd faced worse odds before.

But Jenee's slow, sorrowful head shake stopped hope dead in its tracks. "No. I'm here because if you keep fighting, you'll be dead within the next minute. There are a billion possible outcomes to this fight, and all of them are lethal for you. Every second you continue to resist, physically and mentally, brings you closer to an inevitable, fatal turn of events that ultimately results from your recollection of Jace Andron's original disruption to the timestream. You've already changed history just by struggling as much as you have. Which reminds me--"

Jenee tapped a few buttons on the display screen on her wrist, and Adventure Girl felt the damage to her body from her previous battles with Veena's minions simply... unhappen. It was a strange sensation, not like healing or repair but more like an unwinding of the flow of entropy. Bruises imploded on her skin, cuts sealed themselves, and her shoulder popped back into her joint as if the film of its dislocation was being rewound. Within instants--if such a thing had meaning in this little pocket of borrowed time--Samantha felt as good as new.

"There," the other woman said. "Don't say I never did anything for you." She rubbed her face, a calculating expression in her weary eyes. "I don't suppose you're going to take this as a sign of good faith that I'm doing what's best for the sum totality of existence and you should just let me mindwipe you again so that you won't inadvertently damage the timestream with your paradoxically gained knowledge?"

Samantha clenched her fists in frustration. "Why can't you just tell me? What is so bad that you can't even trust me to keep it a secret? What is so terrible about the future that I can't be allowed to know it under any circumstances? If, if it's just a matter of giving up, I... I can do that." It was a lie and she knew it, but she had to at least pretend she was willing to let this 'Grand Collapse' happen. She'd won plenty of battles before by playing along until the critical moment. "But the way you're talking... do I do it? Do I cause something awful? Is that why I can't be allowed to find out, because I'd rather die than be responsible?"

"No!" Jenee snapped, her voice cracking with exhausted irritation. "I can't tell you because then you'd do what you're going to do because of my direct intervention! Because there are telepaths involved who'd read your mind, who'd learn about the future you're going to cause and might decide to steer things in a different direction! Because reality is immensely fragile, and if you tried to do what you're going to do because a time traveler told you to do it that way it might not happen! Predestination is one of the most dangerous paradoxes of all. I can't risk it, not with this much at stake."

Adventure Girl shrugged. "Then we're at an impasse. Try to mindwipe me against my will, and I'll make a break for it. I'll force you to restart time to keep me from escaping, and then I'll die fighting. Keep me in this little pocket of borrowed time, and whatever I have to do out there in the real world won't ever happen. Or help me stop this... and maybe I can help you mitigate the damage to the timestream." Samantha held her breath, waiting for Jenee's response.

It wasn't what she wanted, but it was better than nothing. "There's another option," Jenee said, her voice leaden with defeated consternation. "I can tell you the truth. All of it, everything that's going to happen if you surrender to Veena and Professor Psyche and allow yourself to be brainwashed into obedience to their will. I can tell you everything they're planning, and all of the consequences if you don't do exactly what history says you're going to do. And then, once you finally understand why it has to happen, I can mindwipe you. Because you won't want to stop me."

"Tell me first," Adventure Girl replied. "Then we'll see whether I want to stop you or not." She already knew it wouldn't sway her--she'd rather die than participate in the end of the world, no matter what history promised lay at the end of that millennium of devastation. But she had to play along. She had to hope for that one in a billion, one in a trillion, one in a quintillion chance that there would still be a tomorrow to fight for. She was a hero, after all. And heroes never, ever gave up, not even when the struggle was futile. And if that meant opposing destiny, then at least she would go down swinging.

"Okay," Jenee said, smiling a weary grin and projecting a holographic screen into the space between them. She began to speak. And five minutes later, Adventure Girl willingly submitted to the warm, purple glow of the memory eraser.

*    *    *    *    *

They found Adventure Girl in the cavern, frozen in perfect, silent immobility. They had no way of knowing that she was repaying all her borrowed moments, rebalancing local causality with her own time while the world moved around her. They only knew that it was the work of a moment for Venus Ascendant to practically mummify her with the Girdle of Minerva before Captain Tomorrow imprisoned her in one of his inescapable prisons of the future. Then they took her to Veena and Professor Psyche, waiting at an otherwise unremarkable site in North Dakota that had been mystically prepared during the five minutes when the Liberty Squad was distracted by a battle with the Criminal Element. To the place of the Grand Concordance.

Even when time resumed for Samantha, she felt sluggish and drowsy, her thoughts unaccountably weak and foggy at exactly the wrong moment to resist the full force that two of the most powerful mind controllers in the known universe brought to bear. Within seconds, Adventure Girl was smiling dreamily, her eyes bright with devotion to her new cause. "Thank you," she murmured, reverence in her voice as she finally understood the true and perfect devotion of obedience. She was joined by every other person on Earth, she realized. The combined power of so many potent telepaths, all yoked to Professor Psyche's will, had blanketed the entire human race in unbreakable surrender to Veena. At long last, humanity was united in a single faith, a single cause, a single purpose.

The Opening of the Way.

And none too soon, Adventure Girl realized, the knowledge flowing into her brain through the conduit of Professor Psyche's telepathic powers. Her resistance had nearly derailed their timetable, nearly diverted key assets away from the site of the Grand Concordance at the critical moment, but now that foolishness was over. Now the end could begin. And Samantha Steele would be there for it. Her smile widened, anticipation filling every fiber of her being as reality itself tore wide open to reveal another dimension, another existence. Veena watched calmly; if she was excited by the final culmination of all her plans, her expression didn't betray it. She waited for the bridge between realities to open, for those she awaited to cross over.

And at long last, the way opened.

TO BE CONTINUED....

(If you enjoyed this story and want to see more like it, please think about heading to http://patreon.com/Jukebox and becoming one of my patrons. For less than $5 a month, you can make sure that every single update contains a Jukebox story! Thank you in advance for your support.)

x4

Show the comments section (1 comment)

Back to top


Register / Log In

Stories
Authors
Tags

About
Search