Chapter 2: Acceptance
Penelope stared down at the backpack in her hands. It wasn’t heavy, or especially large, but it held the last thing she had that felt important. She could have sold it. Someone would have paid a hefty price for the final costume of a heroine like Penny Punchup, but she’d had too much self-respect to do that.
Now, it was in her hands for a very different reason.
“Miss Porter?” Penelope looked up towards the secretary sitting behind the large, rounded desk. She was serving as the last line of defense, the one to let people in to see Salinas and Murillo. “They will see you now.”
Standing, the heroine gave the secretary a nod and dragged the bag as she walked to the indicated door.
Don’t be rude to her. She’s just doing her job. No one believes any of the hard work you did to uncover the truth behind this organization. When you were framed everyone started believing you’d made it up to spite a pair of philanthropists who were on to you being a renegade…Her hand hovered over the doorknob, but she couldn’t bring herself to open it.
Come on. We both know that Punchup isn’t coming out of this room. Make the last thing you do with someone else that will be your choice into something that you won’t regret!
Clearing her throat, Penelope nodded again. “Thank you… Uhm… Have a great day?”
“You too, Miss Porter!” The secretary was already busy typing away, completely unconcerned with the heroine as though she didn’t even exist. If she’d taken any offense at Penelope’s briskness, she certainly wasn’t showing it.
With a heavy sigh, Penelope pushed open the door, pulled it closed behind herself, and stared down at the floor as she made her way towards the long, large, double-sized desk. She unzipped her bag, and tossed it down onto the desk. Once it was down on the hard wood, she deflated. Her shoulders sunk low. Her eyes quivered.
Her lips moved, but the sound that came out was too quiet for anyone to hear.
Two women stood behind the desk. Standing to Penelope’s left was a tall woman with short red hair, pale skin dotted with freckles, and a sharp, crisp, black power suit complete with a pair of slacks. To her right, was a woman with long blonde hair tied back in a long braid. Gray eyes scanned over Penelope from behind thick black frames. Though she too wore a power suit, this one was gray, dipping low to show off a hint of her curves underneath, and her skirt showed off as much leg as it could without being too extreme.
“Excuse me, Miss…” The woman on the left smirked. “Porter, was it…? But I don’t know why you’re offering us to inspect your garbage. I couldn’t hear what you said.”
Penelope recoiled as though she’d been struck, but she still whispered so quiet the words were meaningless. The sound could at least be heard by all three women, but that the sound consisted of several blurred syllables was all any of them could tell besides the woman speaking. Tears threatened to spill over from her eyes.
“Oh, be nice, Charlotte. Our dear Penelope is offering us such a wonderful present and you’re going to spit in her face? That’s not very polite.” The blonde pulled the bag closer, reaching inside until she pulled out a small pink domino mask. It wasn’t much, and Penny Punchup had worn it more for the looks as an accessory and the ease she could modify it to suit different situations more than any attempt at anonymity. Looking through the mask, the blonde woman offered Penelope a soft smile. “Does this mean what I think it means? You’ll need to repeat that… I’m sorry, but I couldn’t hear you… Penny for your thoughts?”
Charlotte snorted quietly. “And you’re telling me to be nice, Miranda… Now who is twisting the knife—”
Miranda rose a hand, holding the palm towards Charlotte. “Hush. Let her speak. This is very hard for her, Char. We’ll need to be very patient with her, possibly even need to let her stumble over her words until she can find the right ones to share what she means—”
“—You win!” Penelope sobbed, her body shaking as she started to openly cry. “I can’t take it anymore! No one is there to support me, just like you said… B-but you said, if I ever… when I… when I hit rock bottom… if I came to you, if I… if I gave you my costume, gave the two of you Penny Punchup, then… then…” She rubbed the back of her hand into her eyes. “And I did! It’s all there… No wires, no… No one trusts me anymore to have me investigate you on their behalf. Take me. Do whatever you want with me… just… wipe away the debts. Make it so I don’t need to beg on the street. Make it so I don’t have… nothing anymore, and I’ll… I’ll do… whatever you want.”
Charlotte grinned ear to ear, her dark eyes hooding as they slowly scanned over the broken woman. Penelope’s face fell into her hands, the ugly sounds of her crying anything but melodious.
Sighing, Miranda moved around the desk until she was standing behind Penelope. With a hand at the small of the heroine’s back, the blonde guided her down into the closest chair and then slowly stroked her hair while quietly whispering soft, kind, meaningless words that the crying woman could barely hear. All she could hear was the tone, and the gentleness of the sounds themselves.
Any meaning they held was completely lost on her.
When Penelope’s hands fell limply into her lap, Miranda placed the pink mask over her face. Her lips rested just beside Penelope’s ear. “We already have the contract drawn up. You sign it… and the debt instantly becomes our property. We could pay it with a flick of our wrist. Once that’s done… We’ll make it so you don’t even need to worry about what comes next.”
Penelope sniffed, nodding slowly. Her face didn’t look calmed by the gentle voice, but her resignation didn’t grow any more desperate.
“You’ll sign… and then… we begin the formal process of taking you, and making you a useful, contributing part of this company.” Charlotte reached underneath the desk, pulling out a laptop that she sat in front of Penelope before slowly opening it. “You were quite the thorn in our side, Penny. I really don’t want to take any chances on you. So, if you accept this offer… you’ll need to consent to being hypnotized.”
“H-hypnotized…” Penelope quivered. “You mean like… opening my mind, letting you… letting you both…”
“Uh-huh…” Miranda whispered sweetly into Penelope’s other ear, her fingers slowly running through Penelope’s curls with an intimate familiarity that made the heroine shudder. “Letting us in… letting us take control of your mind. Letting us change you. You’d never be content working for us without a little help… and wouldn’t you rather be happy?”
She laughed under her breath, sad uncertainty tainting the sound. “Happy…” Abandoned by her allies, by her family, by her friends, by the public, by every single person she’d come to count on or expect to have her back had taken its toll.
Penelope still couldn’t stop herself from crying. That had been happening a lot lately. She’d had no idea how to fix any of her problems.
The only option was the one she was now staring down like the barrel of a gun.
Charlotte sighed, motioning over the currently blank screen before reaching down to lift a hefty contract and set it beside the laptop’s keyboard along with a pen emblazoned with the company’s logo. “It’s simple. Sign. Initial. Date. Then we turn on the special little program we made just to turn your mind into a puddle. Then, we make use of you, and get back all of the money you cost us before, and all of the money your debt will cost us now.
“Don’t worry. We don’t want to use your powers. We don’t want you to hurt anyone, or break open the vault of a bank. If we wanted that…” Charlotte hooded her eyes, grinning darkly. “You know we have others we could make do that already.”
Now she admits it!
Penelope sobbed again, shaking her head but not in refusal. She couldn’t believe it. There had been a time when both women had maintained their innocence even with Penelope being alone with them, showing them the proof of their connections and wrongdoing. Now that Penelope was ruined, cast to the wolves, they were all too happy to confess.
When it didn’t matter, they were so happy to be open about everything with Penelope.
“F-fine…” Penelope lifted up the pen as Miranda excitedly clapped her hands together. “Hypnotize me. Brainwash me. It’s not like I have any self-respect anymore. I’ve been dumpster diving for a week.”
“Now, now, we all know that being poor, needing to scrounge isn’t a sign of any personal failing…” Miranda reached over Penelope once she was done signing the documents, tapping the spacebar on the laptop as her eyes slowly hooded. “You shouldn’t have any self respect not because of your class, or your financial situation… but because you lost, we won, and now you’ve been reduced to a possession… and I’m about to reduce you even more.”
Penelope whimpered, trying to shake her head, but Miranda grasped it and aimed her eyes at the center of the screen where a series of concentric rings began to move out from the very center.
“Be a good girl now, Penny.” Charlotte licked her lips, popping open a button on her suit as she watched Penelope’s eyes slowly glaze and hood. “No talking for you. Let the program work.”
“Let us take over your mind.” Miranda gave Penelope’s ear a soft, slow kiss before she pulled away and moved back around to the other side of her desk. “You don’t really have any other choice. Regular hypnosis sessions are in your contract. Well… Technically it’s ‘mental health evaluation and adjustment’ but we all know there’s one way to make and keep you happy…”
The two business women looked to each other. Charlotte grinned, her eyes hooding dangerously. Miranda smiled brightly, warmly, looking almost as though she were a proud supporter rather than a merciless villain.
When the two spoke again, they spoke as one.