Lamp bulbs flickered at either end of the alley, the wan tendrils of light snaking down its length leaving more than a few shadowy crevices. Courtney walked fearlessly through the side street, this part of town was generally safe even in the wee hours of the morning. Ahead of her another figure slipped into the alleyway walking in her direction. A heartbeat of panic pulsed through her, her solitary stroll so suddenly interrupted, but she calmed immediately; the woman walking towards her seemed to be absorbed with her phone, only briefly glancing up to watch where she was walking. As they neared each other Courtney could see her more clearly: copper hair bobbing over a pale face. The other woman looked up as she passed Courtney by, a smile forming between her cheeks.
“Hey there,” the other woman greeted her in passing.
“Oh uh hi,” Courtney returned awkwardly. They walked past each other a few steps before the other woman spoke again.
“Hey sorry to bother you, but I think something’s wrong with my phone. Is this the right time?”
Courtney turned around and advanced towards her, the other woman turning the phone to face her. When Courtney was five feet away she clicked the side of it. The screen lit up and for a brief second the thought ran through Courtney’s mind that something was indeed wrong with the phone, that the device she was being shown wasn’t actually even a phone. Her concerns were quickly alleviated by the pulsing light flooding her vision, scattering her thoughts and leaving her searching for instruction. The light pulsed again and her pupils dilated, her breathing slowed. The other woman put a friendly hand on her back, giving Courtney a little half-hug and guiding her down the alley.
“What’s your name?” Courtney’s new friend asked.
“Courtney,” she dreamily replied, her mind floating on streams of light.
“Nice to meet you Courtney, my name’s Stephanie,” the other woman said cheerfully, “Don’t worry, we don’t have to go too far.”
Three quick knocks on the door and it swung open, a pair of silver arms welcoming Stephanie and her guest inside. The office was small and windowless, only two desks set up within it, whiteboards covered in diagrams; the sure signs of a start-up. Joelle had offered the space for field testing, her coworker only worked in the office once a week and there was a nice, shady alley nearby for acquiring a subject. Courtney stared wide-eyed at the three silver-suited women and then to the one wearing a crown, the fantastical sight seeming silly to her dulled mind. Stephanie guided her over to a chair alongside a desk with a number of devices on it.
“Okay Courtney,” Stephanie prompted her, “Strip off your clothes and put on the suit.”
“Okay…” she giggled out, the whole situation was so laughable. The floaty feeling in her head, the women in silver catsuits, the one who looked like a cartoon villain; she had to be dreaming. She tossed off her jacket, shirt, shoes, socks, and jeans before picking up the suit.
“Hey Courtney,” Stephanie chimed in, “You’ll have to take off your bra and panties too.”
“Ohh…” she paused at that, eyes squinting off into the distance. Something about that was concerning, even in a dream. More concerning was the festering thought that maybe this wasn’t a dream, that maybe she was being taken advantage of somehow. The hazy, floaty feeling started to recede as she tried to think about what was happening. Stephanie noticed her hesitance and flashed the phone-that-was-not-a-phone in her face once more.
“Look at the pretty lights Courtney, see how wonderful they are?” She pulsed the lights again and then again, “You only need to strip for a minute and then you can put the suit on, it’s okay.”
“Ohhhh… it’s okay….” Courtney slurred out, mind obliterated again. The bra and panties were thrown in a pile with the rest of her clothes. Her hands felt so far away as they tugged the legs of the suit on and up to her hips, her head tilting in confusion at finding a small lump of plastic in the crotch.
“It’s okay Courtney, just slide it in and the rest of the suit will go on easy”
“Okay… Courtney…” she nodded absently as she pushed the crotch of the suit and the dildo inside of it into place. Her face twitched in pleasure at the slight friction of the lightly-lubed toy as it entered her, “Slide in… suit easy…”
True to Stephanie’s words the rest of the suit did go on easy, her arms slipping into the gloved sleeves and sliding them on. The fabric felt so soft as it stretched to accommodate her, the little chills of metal stitching arousing excitement as they laid against her naked body. Stephanie zipped the suit shut from behind; Courtney standing by the desk idly, hands drooped at her sides.
“Sit down Courtney. Metal Maidens, prepare her for conversion,” Stephanie’s voice was colder now, more commanding.
“Affirmative Command Unit,” Joelle, Lucy, and Nicky droned out in unison. Lucy placed the headset over the stunned woman’s head, Nicky moving quickly after her to place bulky headphones over her ears. Joelle unlocked the computer and ran the startup diagnostics, turning around with a grin to Stephanie.
“Devices are online and ready to proceed Command Unit,” she reported, excitement breaking through the monotone.
Stephanie gave a curt nod and turned to Mechania, steelily watching the whole endeavor.
“Conversion Field Test ready, Mistress,.
“Good work Metal Maidens,” Mechania paced over to Joelle’s laptop, “I will initiate the field test, Joelle-bot. Prepare the command.”
“Yes Mistress!” Joelle replied with some enthusiasm, fingers typing in the start command before moving back to offer the keyboard to Mechania. Mechania looked at the woman Stephanie had brought in, grinning wickedly as she heavily tapped the enter key. The diagnostics and readouts on the laptop screen started as Courtney oohed at the lights pulsing to life as far as she could see.
Courtney watched with wonder as patterns played out prettily in front of her, stretching on for eternity, inescapable. They moved in such graceful ways, dancing invitingly before her eyes, compelling them to follow. Binaural beats and gently whispered words filled her ears, all other noises blotted out from the noise cancellation of the headphones. Taken together it was so easy, so nice, to just let them flow through her. To let them relax her and subdue her, to let them melt away all her worries and thoughts. The patterns changed before too long, followed shortly by the audio, but Courtney found the new set all the more enthralling; her back sagging into the chair, her jaw dropping in a relaxed smile. Her face rounded into an “O” as a pleasant thrum started between her legs, her voice cooing out the sweet sounds of pleasure as the program tested it’s reward function. She let the patterns and their hidden words flow into her mind, the pleasure radiating through her brain keeping her open to their instructions and commands.
Mechania and her Metal Maidens watched with eager anticipation as Courtney let the program probe her many weak points to determine how most efficiently to convert her. After they were sure she’d brook no resistance, they began talking about other improvements and adaptations they could make to the process. To them the constant strive for perfection was the meaning of their existence, a goal worthy of every means by which it was pursued.
“We were poking around at the interface Nicky had created earlier and discovered something,” Lucy was brimming with energy, sure she was on to something, “Care to explain, Nicky?”
“Affirmative,” Nicky replied mechanically, her formerly rebellious personality reordered and reprogrammed into one more suitable for a Metal Maiden, “This unit discovered that the hardware engineers who worked on the suit created the sensor not only as an input device but as an output device as well. The only use of this in the current iteration was for testing connectivity during development, but there did exist longer-term ideas for using it as corrective electrical stimulation of muscle and nerves. Things like correcting heartbeats for people with palpitations or helping someone maintain posture.”
Mechania raised an interested eyebrow as Lucy stole the conversation back, “We, of course, could use it in ways better suited to our goals. My first thought was of using it as just another stimulus for the person in the conversion chair. We could test a person’s reactions to various magnitudes of current in different places on their body and determine which to classify as reward stimuli and which to classify as punishment stimuli for the sake of programming them. Then Joelle brought up the idea of… well I think she should say.”
Lucy passed the conversation off to Joelle with a cute wink, “Oh right, I said that we could use the suit as an emergency restraint device in case we get any more fighters like Nicky used to be,” she looked over to Nicky who stared emotionlessly back.
Nicky’s stubbornness and rebelliousness had defined her right down to the core of her being and the new conversion tech had apparently scrubbed large parts of that away. While the rest of them had found something enriching in their conversion, with Nicky it seemed to have simply helped smooth over her roughest edges. They had since gathered she didn’t have many friends and that her sourness as a person had left her feeling alone in the world, adrift in voids and rifts often of her own making. In the few days since she had truly been converted she was actually a somewhat pleasant person to be around; her blind, stubborn fury at those around her had been subsumed by a growing desire for fellowship and connection with others, which the Metal Maidens had gladly provided. Stephanie and Joelle were living out sexual fantasies, Lucy was able to finally focus and organize the torrent of thoughts in her head, and Nicky, they were learning, had been saved from a self-sabotage cycle that had ingrained itself so deeply that it had formed a cancerous growth of repulsion in her mind. Now they had made her better, clearing the festering misanthropy to allow her room to grow, to allow her the ability to one day enjoy the collective effort and experience of being a Metal Maiden. In time the deadpan obedience would become joyful servitude like the rest of them had attained, in time she would understand the gift they’d given her.
“Basically if we detect an attempt to escape we could shock the muscles into either maintaining a sitting position or locking up or anything else we wanted really,” Joelle continued, “Although I think Nicky mentioned we’d need a greater power source attached to the suit to actually maintain that.”
“Affirmative,” Nicky droned out in confirmation.
Mechania nodded her head as Stephanie spoke up, “Would it be possible to control the movements more precisely? Make a person move in programmed patterns before conversion had fully finished?”
“Theoretically yes,” Joelle answered, “But we’d need a lot of movement and muscle data to be able to really string together anything useful…”
“Which…” dawning realization was coming to Lucy’s eyes, her face lit up ecstatically, “Which we can easily gather in spades with the suit itself! That’s the whole point of the thing, right? To gather the signals and impulses that a body gives off while performing quite literally any action? We just need to group and process that data from recorded outputs to purposeful inputs.”
“And the more people we convert,” Joelle nodded along furiously, a manic smile on her face, “The better of a master data set we can collect. And as that improves we can introduce mechanical overrides earlier and earlier in the process meaning-”
“Drones ready to follow orders before the conversion process is fully completed,” Stephanie finished for her.
“Aaaaaaa!” a throaty moan emanated from Courtney as her body writhed with pleasure. They all turned to look at the woman panting and squirming in the chair as their program blazed obedience into her mind. A second later they laughed in unison at the interruption, even Nicky managing to crack a smile with her new comrades. They turned their gaze away from Courtney cumming away the last of her free thoughts and back to Mechania.
“Good work Maidens!” Mechania praised, the bliss of approval evident on the other women’s faces, “Once we’re past field testing with the current iteration of conversion tech Nicky and I will work on getting the suit ready for use as a control device while Stephanie will lead the rest of you on preparing the data collection and processing components. Once complete we’ll begin exponentially increasing our conversion efforts so --”
The door to the office exploded inward on a jet of flame cutting off Mechania’s speech, a sweet stink of sulphur and singe wafted through the office. Soft thunks against the laminate floor announced the arrival of three metal spheres, a curiosity that drew the attention of the Metal Maidens. Lucy almost squealed with excitement as thin legs shot out of the spheres and sent them scrambling along the ground, the possibility of danger being overridden by her interest in the technology. Stephanie retreated from the metallic crawlers; pressing towards the back of the office, eyes flashing to the door where a large woman in a skintight, olive-green leotard charged towards Nicky.
Green combat boots pounded the floor as Nicky grabbed the first thing she could find to defend herself. Nicky swung the hammer hard at her attacker, astonished as the hammer head broke on the other woman’s skin, spinning to the ground five feet away. The lady in green knocked her out with a single punch, Nicky’s body slumping to the floor. The victor turned her head back towards the door, calling out.
“I don’t think they’re supers, so go easy on them. Artificer, any chance of more of those metal bugs?”
“It’ll be a minute Panzer,” a hurried voice called from around the doorframe, “I’ll have to make them on the fly.”
Across the room, Joelle was weakly fighting one of the many-legged spheres as it’s legs elongated and wrapped around her appendages. Once it had wrapped itself firmly around her ankles and wrists it pulsed green for a second before the metal bindings began retracting back into the sphere. Joelle was panting with arousal when it finally stopped it’s retraction; squirming with pleasure at being hogtied by the strange device.
“Don’t make me hurt you,” Panzer growled out as she approached Lucy, “Down on your knees, hands behind your head and--”
Lucy snapped her arm forward and sent a bevy of flashing lights into Panzer’s face, the superheroine’s pupils dilating in response. Panzer took a step backwards and turned her head to the side, squeezing her eyes shut. Unlike the hapless Courtney this foe seemed to know what to do when faced with disorienting and possible mesmerizing lights. She swatted a rapid pattern blindly in front of her, sending the device flying from Lucy’s hands. With the threat neutralized, she popped her eyes open again and tackled Lucy, a soft “oof” spilling from the smaller woman’s lips as she hit the ground.
Stephanie ran to Mechania in a last-ditch effort to find a way to save her Mistress from the green-clad superheroine and the last of the scuttling metal restraint drones. Joelle’s office space had offered many practical advantages, but few tactical ones; the only way out was past Panzer and then out the door where another superheroine waited. Mechania gave a calculating look at Panzer pinning down Lucy, then to the metal sphere scuttling it’s way over to subdue Lucy more effectively, then to the remaining crawler slowly, almost tauntingly, making its way towards the two of them.
“We need to act hastily, Steph-bot,” Mechania said, turning to her, “You run down the right side of the room, I’ll take the left. If one of us doesn’t make it, the other must escape to plot and plan to free all our fallen sisters.”
Stephanie nodded, her orders received. Mechania leaned in and kissed her lovingly-but-quickly before turning and running down the perimeter of the room. Stephanie only lagged behind for a second before running along the office’s opposite wall. Panzer snapped her head back and forth between the two of them as she continued to pin a struggling Lucy.
“You’ve got two incoming!” The superheroine roared over her shoulder, glaring at the restraint drone two feet away. Her scowl did not make the little machine move any faster toward the pinned minion trying to break free of her grasp.
The other drone was moving to intercept Stephanie, picking up just enough speed to meet her three-quarters of the way to the door. It’s little legs lashed out at her, growing longer by the moment. Stephanie jumped awkwardly in her boots, the accidental twist-and-stumble of a bungled leap perhaps being what foiled the drone’s predictive grasp. Metal tendrils bounced off the office wall in a short series of dull thuds as Stephanie looked over to check Mechania’s progress. Stephanie felt relieved to see the metal mistress almost to the door shooting Stephanie a smile and a hand signal to regroup and charge out the door together. Stephanie beelined for the door, ready to burst out side-by-side with her girlfriend, lover, and supervillain mistress when a hand snaked out of the shadows and grabbed Mechania’s cloak.
The supervillainess’s legs kept trying to move forward as her upper body pitched backwards, the cloak clotheslining her as it was pulled taught by the shadowy hand. Stephanie looked on in shock and horror as Mechania’s feet kicked out from under her. She hit the ground hard and before she could recover a patch of shadow grabbed her wrists and pinned them to the floor. The shadows fell away in wisps as a human figure emerged from the darkness. Stephanie thought briefly about trying to fight off the shadowy woman, but her orders were to escape and establish a rescue squad. Mournfully she left Mechania behind and darted out the door, right into the confinement of cold, steel constricting coils.
The coils were still surrounded by an aura of green light, the source of which became apparent as Stephanie followed the encoiling, snaking metal backwards to the hands of one of the two women standing outside. With dark-brown hair and maybe five-foot-four, the woman was whispering hurried incantations of seeming gibberish to the articulated metal, green symbols briefly hanging in the air in front of her mouth before joining the aura as an undifferentiated part. Nearby, the other woman’s blond hair shone in the streetlight, her demeanor looking almost bored as she leaned against the building.
“I think that’s enough Je-” she stopped herself with a smirk, “Artificer. I don’t think she’s going anywhere.”
Stephanie wriggled against the coils with all her might, but the blonde, bored heroine was right: she couldn’t move a muscle. Artificer said another rush of words as a yellow tint mixed itself into the green aura, flowing gently over the metal wrappings. Stephanie felt her muscles relax as the steely bands lowered her to the ground. The yellow tint began overtaking the green as her body went numb and her eyes fluttered shut. She tried to stay awake, to fulfill her final order; but the yellowish magic was so warm over her muscles and her mind so weary. She dreamed of Mechania and the robotic bliss of obedience.
“Nice of you to join us Cinder,” Panzer mocked as the blonde woman strolled into the office. The Metal Maidens and Mechania were all sitting with arms and legs shackled together by Artificer’s devices: Nicky still out cold, Stephanie asleep, and the rest silently and emotionlessly staring at the wall.
“You said go easy on them,” the other woman said explanatorily, “Fire powers don’t really have a ‘gentle’ setting.”
“Fair enough I guess,” Panzer looked over to the woman partially shrouded in shadow, “Thanks for the tip. If you ever want to join the League of Superheroines I’m sure we’d all be glad to put in a good word for you… uh… sorry, I don’t think I got your name.”
“Shadow Lass,” she whispered back, the edges of her shadow vibrating mysteriously against the floor, wisps of smokey shadow flittering impossibly through the air.
“Really?” Panzer stifled a chuckle.
“What? What’s wrong with Shadow Lass?” She said indignantly, her tone no longer a whisper. The shadows surrounding her returned to normal, leaving her looking much less impressive.
“I don’t know, it just sounds kind of lame. What about Shadow Cat? That sounds cool. Kind of like a panther or something.”
“I… I...” Shadow Lass stammered, clearly taken aback by the judgement over her name. She looked at Cinder, eyes pleading for some sort of help. Cinder however was too preoccupied with staring at the women bound on the floor, a puzzled look on her face.
“Or Shadowfax,” Artificer piped up, “It’s a cool sounding name, keeps the shadow aspect, and it’s a reference to the lord of horses from Tolkein, which is pretty neat.”
“We get it Artificer,” Panzer grumbled, rolling her eyes, “You’re smart and read books. Anyway, just my opinion. As I said, they’re looking to open another division of the League in a few weeks and I’m sure they’d be glad to have you.”
“No thanks,” Shadow Lass whispered, melding back into the shadows, the air of mystery returning to her voice and shimmering shadow, “I prefer to work on my own schedule.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Panzer agreed, “Well the offer’s open if you ever want to take us up on it. May even be able to work out some sort of independent contractor deal. Feel free to head out when you want, we’ll take care of things from here.”
Shadow Lass disappeared back into the darkness. Whether she had actually left or merely wanted to watch the rest of the night’s events from the comfort of the shadows was unknown to the other three.
“Do you need me for any more of this?” Cinder asked, casting odd glances at the silver-suited minions bound on the floor, “I’ve got patrol duty the next two nights and would like to get a little rest in. Besides, something about this bunch gives me the creeps.”
“I think we’ve got it handled, Cinder,” Artificer replied, “Sorry you got dragged in right before your night patrol. I don’t think Bullseye knows what she’s supposed to do when running operations quite yet.”
“You can’t be that tired, Cinder,” Panzer chided, a malicious smirk dancing on her face, “You didn’t really do anything besides blow the door open.”
“Fuck off Panzer,” Cinder said, middle finger flipping upwards in emphasis. She turned on her heel and strode out of the office, exasperation palpable.
“Do you have to instigate her?” Artificer sighed, “She already thinks you’re an ass.”
“It’s all in good fun. Besides, she’s so cute when she’s angry,” Panzer cocked her ear towards the door at the sound of Cinder’s motorcycle revving up, then pointed at the subdued Metal Maidens on the ground, “Now what do you suppose happened here?”
“Well if I’m not mistaken,” Artificer began, walking over to where Mechania was sullenly sitting bound on the floor, “This symbol on her cape is from the TV show Surgeon of the Stars. One of the villains in the show is called Mistress Mechania and converts people into robots, which I guess is what they were doing to the abductee… in their own weird way.” Artificer looked over at Courtney who was still seated in the chair, program still running through her headset. “We should probably shut off whatever they were doing to her.”
“Good point.” Panzer walked over to the laptop and looked it over for a second before ripping the cables leading to the brainwashing device out. She walked over to Courtney’s still figure and flipped the headset off of her carelessly, the device clattering to the floor with the slight tinkling of broken glass. Courtney stared blankly past her, eyes unblinking.
“She seems pretty out of it,” Panzer said, turning her head to look at Artificer, “Must be--”
“Protection protocols activated,” Courtney droned as she kicked forward, knocking Panzer off balance. Both women fell to the floor and Courtney managed to briefly pin Panzer until the shock wore off. Then the brainwashed woman found their positions suddenly reversed as Panzer swept out from under her and rolled her body around.
Artificer fumbled in her satchel and brought out a few scraps of metal, hurriedly whispering words of power and life to them. She ran over to where Panzer was easily holding down the woman they had come to rescue and dumped the awkward device onto Courtney. It rollicked over her downed form, it’s movements much less graceful than the spherical drones that had taken down Joelle and Lucy. It began wrapping itself around Courtney’s arm when Artificer noticed the suit, speaking a few words of magical gibberish to it. A green light flowed through the silver lining and Artificer breathed a sigh of relief. She whispered again and the lights faded to yellow as Courtney’s struggles slowed and then stopped. Panzer hopped back to her feet.
“Hell of a way to thank us,” she grumbled, looking down at Courtney’s sleeping form, “This sort of thing has the Crimson Codex written all over it.”
Artificer shot her a look. “You’ve got to get over your obsession with them Panzer, you’re grasping at straws.” She shook her head. “There’s only been one actual reported and proven crime attributed to the Crimson Codex and that was a break in a corporate research facility. And they left a clear calling card behind in that case. I don’t see any blazing, red lettering on the walls here.”
“My sources tell me that they’re responsible for the uptick in criminal activities involving mind control and coercion in the past few months,” Panzer shot back, finger tapping her palm in an attempt to emphasize her point, “And this lot was obviously using mind control of some sort. Shadow Lass said the woman in the chair looked dazed after one of them showed her some sort of device outside and then she attacked me after we rescued her. That’s Crimson-Codex-type shit.”
“I’m not saying it’s definitely not Crimson Codex related, just that even if the modus operandi fits with what your…” Artificer made a face as she briefly paused, heaping derision upon the next word she was going to say, “sources claim, the Crimson Codex is doing we have no hard evidence here that they were involved. I know you want to solve the biggest puzzle plaguing the league right now, we all do; but Scrylocke is working on it and we haven’t heard anything verifiable about the Crimson Codex for weeks.”
Panzer tried to say something but Artificer was already walking away from her to kneel beside Mechania.
“Why did you brainwash these other women?”
Mechania glared at her, but stayed silent.
“Why are you pretending to be a TV character?”
“I am not pretending to be a TV character,” Mechania spat back furiously, “I am Mistress Mechania! You lowly humans fail to understand how much improvement can be done, how wonderful the universe would be if everything moved in time together. You superheroines and that damned Surgeon keep trying to resist cybernetic perfection, but it is inevitable. It is the future. It is our only hope to bring order to the chaos of the universe, to avert the disasters of unchecked free will!”
Artificer stood back up and walked back towards Panzer, a confused look on her face.
“That speech is a mashup of lines from a Season 3 episode and a Season 7 episode. So unless she’s a demented fan, I don’t think she’s in full control of her faculties either…”
“See? That’s just like the Codex!” Panzer blurted out, “Making a lackey to do more brainwashing for them!”
“Once again, we have only unverifiable rumors and hearsay about that.”
“So what, you think she watched the show so much that she started thinking she was a supervillain?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Artificer shook her head, a little laugh escaping at the notion, “All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions. We can hold these six for the next week until Doctor Klock can take a look at them, and then we’ll have a better idea of what happened.”
Panzer snorted. “Alright, alright; I can wait... Where the hell is the prisoner transport?”
Artificer shrugged as if she was actually expected to answer the question as Panzer pulled a phone from the holster around her waist. She dialed a number and the other end picked up immediately.
“Bullseye, what’s the ETA on the paddywagon?,” She growled into the phone, the answer seemingly upsetting her, “What do you mean what paddywagon? The one I asked for ten minutes ago! Fine, whatever just get it here as soon as possible.”
She hung up and shook her head.
“Bullseye said she got distracted and forgot. It’ll be here in five.”
Artificer sat down in a rolly-chair looking around at the restrained Metal Maidens sitting on the floor. She chuckled to herself. “Kind of odd isn’t it?”
“How shows like Surgeon of the Stars have all these weird kinky characters and episodes despite being so mainstream. Like at least a quarter of the episodes are about some sort of mind control or transformation; hell they named their character Mistress Mechania. Just strikes me as odd that topics deemed as deviant and taboo can find such common purchase in our culture as long as every episode in between them is about a generic doomsday laser or a Christmas special.”
Panzer rolled her eyes. “Yeah sure.”
“You don’t agree?”
“Nah, it’s just that I don’t watch that nerd shit. I’ve got a real life to live.”
They sat in awkward silence until the prisoner transport showed up, Artificer a bit miffed at having one of her favorite shows derided as “nerd shit” and Panzer still upset at the dismissal of her Crimson Codex theory. Mistress Mechania and her Metal Maidens awaited the transport van in their shackles, thoroughly defeated.