Lola’s words still caused me no end of heartache even three days after our argument. She seems to be keeping what happened to herself so far. I haven’t gotten any concerned calls or texts from anyone I know. How long that’s going to be, I have no idea. When I’m not in class or doing work, I just look out at the city from my window.
Why can’t Lola see what I can? Why can’t she see that Hypnoman saved who knows how many people by getting rid of Enrico’s gang? Why can’t she just admit that even though he probably wasn’t interested in looking the part, he actually did something you can call heroic?
Why can’t she see what he means to me?
I know he’s a supervillain. I also know that Hypnoman is worthy of my respect. My admiration.
I gasped when I had that last thought and I felt like a key was unlocking a door in my mind that had been shut only moments before. A sequence of numbers flashed into my mind followed by a single phrase. I reached for my phone, all my sadness shoved to the wayside.
I didn’t have time to fret, I had orders to follow. I typed a number into my phone and sent a text message.
“I follow the string that binds me to you.”
There were three dots before a reply came in.
“And I will look forward to you reaching your destination.” The message was followed by a street address as well as instructions to delete these messages once I arrived. I memorized the address and prepared to head out..
On some level, I knew who I was talking to, who I was on my way to meet. And I could hardly wait.
Ten minutes later, I stood in a very familiar alley where a young woman in a black beanie, jeans and a tank top was looking at me.
“Nichole Braddock?” She asked. I nodded and took out my phone to show her the texts. She gestured for me to follow after I deleted them, guiding me through the passageways before she knocked on an iron door.
“She is here, master.”
“Enter.” a male voice replied. The girl opened the door and I walked into a room filled with electronic equipment. There were chairs that looked like they came from a barber shop sitting in front of blank wall mounted TV screens.
There was a man inside who wore a somewhat skintight suit with a utility belt. On his gloves and goggles were what looked like small lights. Like the TV screens, they appeared to be off. I’d seen them lit up before though. I’ve seen them used on me. All of a sudden, I was back in that alleyway, staring into a rainbow vortex while this man whispered his commands into my mind.
“Hmm. Honey colored hair, rosy complexion, well endowed. It seems you truly do grace us with your presence, Miss Braddock. It is good to see you again.” I blushed and smiled, bowing.
“Thank you.” I replied shakily. “I think the feeling might’ve been mutual, even if I wasn’t aware of it.”
“One of a few seeds I planted in the rich soil of your subconscious mind the last time we met. Tell me, did you enjoy the visions?”
I nodded. I was in awe. Hypnoman was making me see them?
“After a while I did, yes.”
“And how have you come to see me?” I felt like I was in front of my idol. Well, I guess I kinda was actually.
“At first I thought you would make life more interesting. But after what happened with the Barzini family, I feel like having you is a blessing for Engine City. Your schemes are works of art and I would be honored to be involved in them.”
I swallowed my nervousness.
“Hypnoman, may I ask one question before…what we’re both sure is about to happen?”
“Of course, me dear.”
“Why am I still…me?”
“I still have all my memories, my fears, everything. I still love my family, I still care about my friends. I can look in a mirror, say ‘I am Nichole Braddock’ and know exactly what that means.”
Hypnoman chuckled again.
“Simple. Having you be a mindless zombie would’ve gotten dull so quickly. Doing that to you would be like dumping bleach onto a colorful, ornate quilt. Why ruin that majestic design when I can simply add another part to it? It will all be clear to you in a few moments. Sit. It is time for those seeds I planted in your mind to reach full bloom.”
I took a seat in the closest chair and Hypnoman stood in front of me. He raised one of his gloves to my face and clicked something. In seconds, my vision was taken up by a spiraling maelstrom of rainbow light and I let calmness wash over me. I was in a state of utter bliss.
“Can you hear me?” Hypnoman asked. His voice sounded as clear as a bell.
“Yes…I can hear you.”
“Good. Nichole Braddock, you are now under my total control.”
“I am under your total control.” I said back. It felt so…right just to say.
“You have no choice but to obey my commands.”
“I have no choice but to obey.”
“Now listen closely, my dear. It thrills you to do my bidding. Even though you yourself are not evil, helping me carry out my plans brings you pure joy. You need not worry yourself over being punished. You are my slave, my hypnotized henchwoman. You follow my commands because you must. You cannot help being compelled to do my bidding. You cannot help that my commands supersede your sense of right and wrong. You cannot help holding an innate desire to enslave other women for me, because it is my command that you have such a want. You will be innocent. I am the only supervillain you will ever admire, ever feel the innate desire to serve. All others are worthy only of your contempt. In all other things, the values you hold dear will remain unchanged. Do you understand?”
I sighed contentedly. Hypnoman was beyond kind. He did not wish to destroy my sense of morality, he was simply above the standards I held for myself and others. He was my master. Should he have wished to corrupt me, I would have allowed him to do so. I would have allowed him to warp my sense of right and wrong until I became truly diabolical. But he chose not to. He could have wiped my memories clean and made my mind a blank canvas to paint his will onto. But he chose not to.
I am his loyal, devoted henchgirl but I am still Nichole Braddock as well. Although my mind is his to control and I wish to help ensure that his evil plans succeed, I will always be true to myself.
“Yes master, I understand. I am your obedient, purehearted henchgirl. I need not betray myself in order to serve you, I need not turn my back on who I am at my core. Such things are choices. I have no choice. I have no say. I cannot help but do what you command of me. And as such, I don’t need to be afraid of losing myself.”
Hypnoman began to cackle.
“And with that, you are fully mine.” He turned off the light and the spiral faded away.
“How do you feel?”
“Peaceful, master.” I replied. “If you desire, I already know of a woman I could bring under your control as early as tomorrow.”
“One of my friends spoke ill of you, master. Her name’s Lola Saldana and I’d…I’d like the chance to…”
“Rehabilitate her?” Hypnoman asked.
“Yes master. Please.” Hypnoman started to clap.
“Why of course my dear! I won’t be so cruel as to deny you a sister in slavery! Fret not, I will give you means to open her eyes.”
“Thank you so much, master. She’ll be singing your praises by the time I’m finished.”
“Interesting. You said her last name was Saldana, correct?”
“Yes master, she is the daughter of Valeria Saldana and heir to the Saldana family fortune.” Lola’s family were among the wealthiest in the country, having emigrated to Engine City from Colombia in the 1870s with almost nothing. Almost a hundred years later, they were running a banking empire, overcoming countless attempts to topple them by the more xenophobic members of Engine City’s high society.
My family were actually friends of theirs since the 1920s, seeing the racial beliefs of the Saldana’s rivals as handicaps to be exploited. What Lola and I have is simply the next generation to be part of that friendship.
And serving Hypnoman would only bring us closer together.
"Excellent. I could always use another member of high society among my slavegirls. Proceed."
"I obey, master. She will see the glory of service to Hypnoman."