Karen’s head was spinning. Enmascarada having heard her was something she hadn’t planned for. The villainess offering to help her, even more of a curve ball.
She felt worried, panicky, almost sick. But in short order her training began to reassert itself.
Meeting Enmascarada’s eyes in the rear view mirror, she put her fingers to her lips and silenced the villainess.
Instead of dropping her super-powered slave off at home, she turned off a little ways ahead of Cannon Beach and threaded her route back toward the destination her handler had set her. It turned out that feeling her training reassert didn’t override the need to follow her handler’s instructions.
She could feel the eyes of her powerful passenger on her, evaluating her. Training said to keep it from her. Instinct said that training was clearly wrong.
It didn’t matter either way. This wasn’t a specific briefing room in C.A.L.I.B.R.E. headquarters. And she wasn’t on the burner phone. She didn’t have the option to discuss it; she’d told the woman to be silent just so she wouldn’t be given away.
And part of her head still insisted this was necessary to resolve the corruption in C.A.L.I.B.R.E.
Could it really be that people were going to have to be mentally adjusted before the organisation was safe from infiltration? It seemed hard to believe. After all, the agency routinely screened its operatives for mental control. She’d been for a screening herself, just after the same operation where she’d rescued Enmascarada from being enslaved by a secret, villainous organisation.
When you got right down to it, it was hard for Karen not to trust the agency she’d given a decade of her life to. And yet - either it was compromised and she was part of the counter-initiative, or she was part of what was compromising it.
Should she be fighting her compulsions or embracing them as a necessary step in freeing her agency?
Karen became aware, as she neared the dropoff point, that her mind had just started looping on this question. That was a bad sign; she knew from her training that it indicated that mental manipulation was starting to conflict with independent thought in a way that could cause long-term damage, especially if something strong was anchoring the manipulation.
She should, at that point, have concluded this meant that it was likely that her re-programming had been a bad thing, was making her a threat to her agency.
But she couldn’t. That conclusion was beyond the scope of her programming, and so it didn’t occur to her. The most she had was a vague disquiet at the back of her head, a feeling that she was missing something important.
Still in the countryside outside town and a couple of turns before they reached her dropoff rendezvous, she pulled over to the side of the road, got out, and opened the villainess’ door into the bargain. While waiting for Enmascarada to emerge, she took her burner phone out from her pocket and tossed it onto the front passenger seat.
She didn’t speak until both of them had closed their doors. The villainess looked at her, eyes obviously troubled, but also - nervous?
Yes, she definitely seemed nervous. It was probably bad that Karen actually found herself excited by that; having someone with this level of power concerned about Karen’s power over her was intoxicating.
She could certainly see now how mind controllers and other corruptors seemed to get addicted to it. The defeats that superhumans or C.A.L.I.B.R.E. handed them all seemed to come down to one of two things. Either someone got a lucky break, or the controller overreached beyond what they could control, and - combined with the apparent impossibility of keeping a controlled state of mind on someone forever without a constant renewal - it all collapsed in an escalating crisis series.
That kind of overreach had never made sense to Karen - controllers were cerebral types, mostly, or they gave that impression; made scientists and the like. Now she felt the rush of power the human brain seemed only too happy to supply in these situations, she felt like she understood a lot better.
“Enmascarada, maidslut,” Karen said quickly. She told herself she was just making sure the villainess couldn’t escape, but she definitely enjoyed the change in the woman’s eyes, the clouds of concern replaced with a glassy emptiness.
According to Rossum’s research, she might own the super in front of her - with the body so many times more powerful than her own - for another five months. She was trying not to think about how often she’d have a chance to give into temptation in that time.
Karen pointed at a pair of trees near the turning. “Wait there,” she instructed. “Don’t move from that spot until I pull up again. No matter what. Understand?”
Carmen’s limbs came lazily back to life. She put her open palms together just below her breasts, fingers extended upward, and bowed her head. But she didn’t speak; for a moment, Karen wondered if that was how this was meant to work or if this was the first indication it had failed. Then she turned and walked steadily toward the trees, her body rigid, and Karen was left to wonder if that was how she normally walked or a protest in body language as clear as she could make it.
Either way, her own compulsion was boiling up inside her. She slid back into the car and made a turn across the road, heading back to the rendezvous.
Her first intent had been to drop Enmascarada Verde at home, then go on to drop off the items. Then she’d been asked a question, and she’d…
She’d panicked. In the face of having no answers, she’d freaked out. And Karen didn’t believe that was indecision; field agents were selected, not just for their psychological confidence, but for their ability to assess the situation quickly and make snap decisions which were, most of the time, the right call.
She didn’t want to face the decision, she told herself. That was the problem, she told herself. And it was probably just that being wrong here had greater consequences than most field decisions, she told herself.
But deep down, she knew she was lying.
Maybe a quarter of a mile down the road was her rendezvous, at a small home probably a hundred years old, built well at the time even if it had gone to seed now, on a quiet road. As Karen pulled up to it she could see a tall whip aerial extending from the chimney, wired into a large transmitter that had been strapped in place with heavy iron bands. The chimney looked like the only anchor point on the house high enough and guaranteed to be strong enough for what had to be a pretty powerful transmitter.
She looked up at it from the drivers’ side window and frowned. This wasn’t the C.A.L.I.B.R.E. way. She knew it couldn’t be, not if her handler was telling the truth, but it didn’t feel like proof he had been. It felt more like an argument against him.
The front door of the house was open and two people had emerged. One - well, she hadn’t seen her handler, but she’d spoken to him, been groped by him, been fucked by him. Her instincts were that he was the tall one in polo shirt and slacks, walking confidently toward the car. At any rate, he was the right height, the right build.
Karen was good at estimation, but the confidence she felt that she’d recognised his body type just from being used by him was a little disquieting. She honestly hoped there might be more to it than that. Hoped that maybe she’d seen him somewhere before, heard his voice, and her mind had put it together?
The other figure was short, squat, older (old, really) and grumpy. She was nobody Karen recognised, but there was a definite familiarity to her. Something about the cheekbones and the jawline, both angular, almost blocky, stood out to her. It felt like something she’d seen before, in another context.
The short woman was hanging back behind her handler, though, so Karen didn’t get much time to work things out. Her handler was at the door, opening it. “Out you come,” he instructed, and she spilled out of the car as fast as her retracting seatbelt would let her.
She stood awkwardly in the open door for a moment, looking at her handler uncertainly. She had that same sensation as earlier, the disquiet, the faint conviction that she was missing something important, something obvious that just wasn’t crystallising as a thought.
She heard the trunk click open behind her.
“Any issues?” her handler asked.
Wordlessly, Karen shook her head. She remembered Carmen, her wordless acknowledgement, her stiff, uncomfortable body language. Karen’s own silence hid her discomfort and uncertainty. She needed to know if Carmen’s did too.
She wanted to speak up, to ask him a question about the wider corruption, not just her mission. Maybe if she said something, his answer would tell her if she could trust him or not…
But this wasn’t the right place, and he hadn’t called her on the phone. She could open her mouth, but she couldn’t speak about it.
“Good,” her handler informed her, his brusque tone cutting across her thoughts, disturbing her concerns. “On your knees.”
Karen complied. Her handler’s instructions were all for the benefit of C.A.L.I.B.R.E. Karen knew that to be true. It was fundamental to her thoughts now.
She didn’t understand how fucking her in the debrief room benefited C.A.L.I.B.R.E. She only knew it did, or he wouldn’t have given the order. As she watched him unbuckle his belt, she kneeling before him, she realised what order was coming. She didn’t know how this could help, either. But she couldn’t ask that, not here, not without the phone call.
She faltered, not sure how to protest, but his pants were coming open, his cock tip showing through his boxers. She opened her mouth to make herself heard, but he was already speaking. “Suck.”
So straightforward, so blunt, almost crude; but, her brain insisted, not crude. Crude was the Rossum technicians including ‘slut’ in every single one of the triggers they’d built into Enmascarada Verde. Her handler didn’t deserve comparison to that, did he?
It didn’t matter. Even as she was thinking this, her hands had risen to tease his shaft free of his boxers, she had leaned forward, opened wide, and taken him in her mouth. Her tongue slowly teased along the underside of his cock. A good agent did her job thoroughly.
Her eyes stayed open, but she didn’t make eye contact. That would make it weird, she told herself. So she stared at the hair above his cock, the imprint of a too-tight waistband visible in dented flesh, as her mouth pumped up and down, a passionate mechanism, and her gaze went cross-eyed as focus continued to shift, over and over.
Behind her, the woman went back into the house with the stolen helmet and most of the stolen money, and Karen missed her chance to see that frustratingly familiar face close up.
When her maidslut program was active, it was hard for Carmen to think deeply.
Processing the world around her, responding to changes in her situation, following commands, all of these were simple. At one point when testing her, Rodriguez had put her in a kitchen as the maidslut and told her to make him sfogliatella riccia.
Carmen still had no idea what those where, but she’d certainly learned that the information was buried in her hindbrain somewhere, part of the programming the Rossum assholes had imprinted. She’d made the flaky pastry herself, flavoured the ricotta with orange zest, candied the citron peel, rolled, shaped, filled, and baked the dish.
It was honestly one of the most complex things she’d done, but it broke down into a simple procedure, step by step, with an order and with timings. She remembered it had come out right first time. Rodriguez had ‘rewarded’ her by fucking her tits, and at the time it had felt like a reward.
All these things were simple. They didn’t need you to think deeply.
But Carmen was trying, now, and the effort had her stock-still, her body unnaturally rigid. As always as a maidslut, she stood straight, back arched to show off her chest, hands clasped in the small of her back, legs straight. It was Rodriguez’ favourite pose for groping women.
Usually she stood as loosely and casually as one could in that pose; now she looked not just decorative but somehow unnatural, the tension in her limbs not meant to be sustained by a human.
Carmen was trying to think through what was happening. She would, though she’d not be happy to admit it to another, enjoy what Wainwright was having her do under other circumstances; there was pleasure conditioning in what the helmet had done to her, and it had an impact.
At least, Carmen hoped that was all there was to it. When she’d first gained her powers, when she’d realised she was now above the majority of the human race, she’d sworn she would never again be beneath another. And while that obviously hadn’t been true for the last while, she still wanted to hold to it as a general principle.
The idea that there was some traitorous turncoat part of her that wanted to kneel before another, take orders, be used instead of use…
Carmen didn’t have a programmed mental absence preventing her from thinking certain things, not like Karen did, but her thoughts didn’t like going there; she shied away from contemplating it. As long as she hadn’t followed the thought through to the end, it could still be wrong.
But Wainwright wasn’t in charge. Wainwright was under someone else’s control; Carmen wasn’t blind enough not to have seen that. Someone was pulling her strings and didn’t want her to know who it was.
While Karen was helplessly committed to sucking her handler’s cock, the thoughts formed slowly and painfully in the mind of Enmascarada Verde; did Wainwright’s puppet master know Carmen? Was that why he was hiding? Or was he simply scared of the vengeance that could be coming if a woman with powers got free and knew who he was?
Karen’s behaviour in the car had been confusing, too. But she hadn’t told Carmen not to ask; she’d just told her to be quiet. The phone had stayed in the car while Wainwright gave Carmen her instructions. She hadn’t wanted to be heard if someone was listening in.
That told Carmen that this wasn’t a complete submission. There wasn’t a command word as effective as the triggers Wainwright was using on her. The personality of the woman who’d rescued her was still there.
But there were more questions. Was Wainwright already like this before rescuing her? Had that been the motivation behind the rescue? Or was this new, and - if it was - was Wainwright controlled to get to Carmen? Either way, were there safeties in Wainwright’s head that would make her take action if Carmen tried anything on her puppet master, or even pushed the conversation too far?
As Karen Wainwright pulled clear of her handler’s cock, his cum arcing behind her mouth to splatter across her face, Carmen Alonso decided that she needed to figure out a few tests so she could find out which buttons were safe to push and which were a danger.
She just didn’t know enough to figure things out. Yet.
Three hundred yards from where she stood, frozen themselves as they stared in disbelief, their bikes forgotten, four teenage boys wondered what to make of the woman standing in shredded, blackened, barely-hanging on jeans and hoodie, unnaturally still, not far from their favourite playing spot.
They would never get a clear answer, and each of them would remember her, on and off, for years, well into adulthood. One of them would even work out her identity, not long after graduating college and joining the FBI. But that is another story.
It began to rain, but Carmen did not move.
Karen pulled up near the trees where Enmascarada was waiting and sounded her horn. The villainess’ disturbing rigidity dropped immediately and she walked across, looking suddenly much more human.
Agent Wainwright’s mind had been whirling since she got back in the car. She was starting to form, not a plan, but building blocks she could build one from.
She pulled open the glove compartment, rummaging quickly, and pulled the Sharpie out. As Carmen climbed into the back seat, Karen was scribbling on her palm. She held it up, the writing visible to her passenger: DON’T ASK ANYTHING IN THE CAR.
Carmen’s eyes were still glassy as they took it in; there was still time to go before she’d emerge from the maidslut trance. Her hands came together under her bust in encouragement, just as before, and she bowed her head, just as before.
Having satisfied herself that they shouldn’t be eavesdropped on, Karen set off for home.
“You should have waited,” her handler told his houseguest. “She’s seen you now.”
“Is she under your control?” The Russian accent made her all but unintelligible, unlike her brother. He’d worked with her brother for the best part of two decades, still a threat long after the Cold War cooled down entirely, and had heard that rough accent sanded down into a neutral Midwestern accent with no trace of his upbringing.
But, of course, that had all ended two years earlier, when C.A.L.I.B.R.E. agents had killed him; killed Commander Pytki. Not his first death, but the first which had stuck.
“You told her to suck your cock, yes?” There was contempt in her tone. He bristled, but she didn’t care. “You would do no such thing if she was not under your control, surely? I am paying you good money for this, am I not, Fantasio?”
“You are,” he assured her, wanting to avoid another tirade on this subject.
“Then you would not risk anything for your own gratification. Not until the job is done.”
He hadn’t believed Pytki was dead, of course. Why would he? Pytki had been reported dead once a decade or so starting in 1979, when the West had first heard of him. He’d come back from the dead three times before they ever worked together. And this had been a C.A.L.I.B.R.E. operation; it hadn’t even been the One Man Army or La Bandera, his most frequent sparring partners. It didn’t make any sense that he’d died to that.
So he’d just waited, expecting the old man to be back in touch before too long. When someone mentioned, offhandedly, that it had been over a year since his death, he’d begun to worry.
He’d gone to Pytki’s home - he owned a ranch just outside a rural Vermont town, which he’d also owned most of, part of a scheme he’d got halfway through setting up and then realised had a key flaw, and abandoned - and bypassed the security systems, just to see.
It had been realising they still responded to recognition phrases a year and a half old that confirmed for him the Commander was gone. He’d never have been that lazy.
Pytki had had all the schemes. All the drive. All the determination. He’d been a great employer. And with Armagezmo in exile, that left him without any easy get-rich quick opportunities. Yes, he could keep fleecing desperate housewives with some hypnotic gas and his usual razzmatazz, but that kind of money ran out fast.
He’d been surprised to discover Pytki had a sister, and even more surprised when the mad plan which popped into his head wouldn’t go away, but it was worth a try.
He’d found her in the family dacha outside Vladivostok, where she turned out to be a surprisingly cheerful old woman, enthusiastic about her gardening.
She wasn’t at all what he needed, and she wasn’t even upset about the death of her brother; a little sad, but she said she’d done her mourning decades ago, and that he’d brought it on himself.
So he’d done what he had to; dosed her with the gas and primed her to be a second Commander Pytki.
He wasn’t surprised she was good at plans - her brother had had the knack, too. But now he was beginning to wonder if he’d lost control of this situation.
“I guess you’re right,” he conceded.
“So if she sees my face, who cares?” she snapped. “She is - what was the phrase you used? Too far along the spiral path to come back?”
He nodded, struck silent by concern. This old woman wasn’t like Pytki at all. She listened. To everything. And worse, she remembered.
She gave the laugh of a robust, hearty woman of the land. “I like that,” she said. “The Spiral Path. It is a good name. A name my brother’s enemies will learn to fear, or to serve.”
In C.A.L.I.B.R.E. HQ, almost everyone was going about their day - well, not quite as usual; they were about an hour and a half removed from the news that one of their storage courier deliveries had been robbed - but certainly, if not as usual, as they should be.
One woman was not, however. The ‘mole’. The initial contact Fantasio had used to get the information Commander Pytki had needed for her scheme.
Sandy Ruyter was a desk analyst. She’d been dosed for the first time a little over two months ago having been grabbed off the street. And little by little, as she told Fantasio anything he asked, the two villains had put their plans together.
Sandy had described the agency’s storage protocols. She’d explained how C.A.L.I.B.R.E. screened field agents against brainwashing. She’d identified Dr Hendricks and betrayed her current working arrangements, given her street address. Then she’d been told to watch out for any field agent who was assigned for an early de-conditioning session, and had betrayed Karen Wainwright to Fantasio.
After that, Fantasio had given her more active tasks to perform. She’d had to get him a uniform and an ID with high access privileges. He’d given her a cylinder of his gas, and she’d been the one to connect it to the briefing room’s air conditioning for him.
She’d altered Wainwright’s appointment time so that Hendricks wouldn’t see the agent, and then she’d let Fantasio in. She’d altered the dispatch that concerned what Wainwright should do with her captive super, having her keep the woman around rather than send her for trial.
And that morning, she’d adjusted the timing for the van delivering certain items from recent C.A.L.I.B.R.E. operations.
Now, sat in her locked office, she had the wreck of the van up on her monitor screen. Her slacks were off, hung over the edge of an open filing cabinet drawer. Her feet were braced against the edge of the desk. Staring at the proof of her service, staring at proof of her value to her controller, her fingers worked frantically beneath her sopping panties, her free hand inside her partially-open blouse, groping at her chest.
Sandy was desperate for reward now her service and submission had begun to bear fruit. Her controller hadn’t told her anything, but she knew she’d done well, knew she’d been a good girl. And her frantic desire was more than she could handle now. More than she could think through.
There was a knock at the door, and Sandy ignored it. Her doorknob rattled, and Sandy ignored it. She was so close now, and she needed this…
Staring at the proof she had pleased her controller, Sandy brought herself right to the edge, panting and gasping. She rode the wave for a long, long moment, vision swimming, all unseeing, before her eyes rolled back into her head as she came, a screaming, wet, sticky mess unaware of the world around her.
When her awareness started to filter back to reality, the first thing she noticed was the presence standing over her, arms folded, lips thin, his suit and hairline immaculate, and the second thing was the two presences behind him in rather more conventional C.A.L.I.B.R.E. security garb - the standard-issue figure-hugging jumpsuit their field agents were famous for, with some strategically-placed strapped on padding.
Agent Colby had broken the lock fitting on her door and made his way into the room, and he’d brought friends.
There was no good way for Sandy to explain this, even if she’d had her wits about her enough to do so.
Colby sighed. “Alright, Ruyter,” he said. “You’ve done the paperwork for this often enough. You know what’s coming.”
The two security guards moved forward. Nobody said the word ‘arrest’, not least because it would have been untrue. C.A.L.I.B.R.E. made full use of its charter right to detain for long periods without charge.
Sandy was saddened, not so much because she was about to be locked up; more because she wasn’t going to be able to fulfil the next few steps in Fantasio’s plan.
She’d have to just hope that someone else was already primed to be her safety measure.
“Don’t worry,” Colby said as she was led past him. “Dr Hendricks is very good at undoing this kind of programming. You’ll be better off this way.”
After they got out of the car, Karen paused to hide her phone once again. She reached out to stop Carmen making her way back into the condo.
“I’m going to sweep for bugs,” she told her. “We say nothing until I’ve got it clear. Understand?”
Carmen’s hands came together in salute once again. Cradling them under her chest - and making it all the more prominent by doing so - she half-bowed her acquiescence.
Karen told herself again the only part of this that thrilled her was the power under her control.
“Put your soaps back on when we get in, too. I need cover noise.”
Another half-bow. Karen reflected again just how unfair it was that supers didn’t just get powers beyond the reach of mortal women, but bodies beyond their reach too. If she had looks like that…
She recovered the phone and the two of them walked in.
The first thing she did was stash her burner phone at one of the furthest corners of the condo, then cue up her stereo.
With the stereo playing and the telenovela playing, there was plenty of background noise to cover her search. She went over her condo inch by inch, checking everything. Carmen loitered just in view, still silent (that seemed to be something about the maidslut instruction, Karen mused. And after that morning, she found something strangely satisfying in the woman’s shows playing while she paid them no attention.)
Neither her gadgets nor her training turned up anything. Karen exhaled slowly, relieved, and sat down. “Turn that noise off,” she directed, her voice raised to be clear over their ambient audio.
She watched the sway of her maidslut’s rear as the woman went to obey. “And get changed!” she called after her, properly taking in the near-total destruction which crashing into a truck then flying through a forest at breakneck speed had wrought on the woman’s clothing - even before being compelled to stand for some while in the rain before being collected added to it.
Karen crossed back into the kitchen, where she took down a glass and filled it with water. She opened a drawer, rooted out a small blue packet, and added two Alka-Seltzer to her water.
Standing with both hands on the countertop, she bowed her head and closed her eyes, attempting to make a peace for herself within her head, where the struggle Enmascarada’s question had begun was still raging.
She was interrupted by a touch, a hand resting lightly on her shoulder. Strange, Karen thought, that someone so powerful was so gentle.
Enmascarada had been having to make do with what clothes were available to her in the condo. Karen had bought a couple, but was used to the villainess wearing - and often stretching to the point she’d get to keep them - her own clothes.
But this time, she’d chosen another approach to fashion. In what Karen had bought as a loose halter top, but on Enmascarada was a largely-unsupportive bright sports bra, a pair of baby blue running shorts which had become booty shorts, and a pair of fishnet stockings which were stretched almost beyond endurance, she stood there demure and poised, upright, back arched out, chest on display, legs together and straight, and the hand that wasn’t on Karen’s shoulder tucked behind her, resting in the small of her back.
Her hair had been brushed back and she’d stolen one of Karen’s Alice bands to give it some minimal styling, the white band resting in her hair like the world’s laziest tiara design.
Scarlet lipstick adorned her lips.
She’d even taken the apron hanging on the back of the kitchen door, folded it down, and wrapped it around her waist.
Karen was abruptly very aware of the ‘maid’ part of the maidslut programming.
Her lips were dry. Her throat was dry.
She swallowed, running her tongue over her lips nervously. She took a drink of her glass of water.
“Sit down,” she said, moving across to one of the stools by the kitchen table. The villainess moved with her, padding silently along before settling to her knees on the vinyl flooring rather than park herself on the chair.
It finally sank in for Karen that the villainess couldn’t speak in this programming. She was going to have to be careful, she told herself, to pick out anything that was Carmen Alonso communicating through body language, and separate it from the maidslut programming.
Despite telling herself this, she completely messed the message Carmen had tried to send.
“Uh… maidslut off,” she said. Carmen blinked, and settled from her alert kneeling posture to one which looked much more relaxed. She was still looking directly up at Karen.
That seemed… wrong. “Did that work?” Karen asked.
“Yes,” Carmen acknowledged. “Thank you.”
“Right,” Karen said. She took a deep breath, then swallowed again. Another drink of her water. “Right,” she said again. “We need to talk…”