Extract from Jane’s Guide to Costumed Heroes, 2002 Revision
FOXTROT, REAL NAME UNKNOWN
Age: Unknown, presumed 25-29
Height: 5’ 3”
Confirmed Abilities: Expert martial artist, crack shot, weapons master
Unconfirmed Abilities: Possible shapeshifter/possible disguise expert, appears able to bypass security systems
Group Affiliation: The Symphony
Year of First Activity: 1995
Locations: Portland, Oregon (early career), East Coast (with the Symphony)
Known Nemeses: The Bad Piper, General Walters
Foxtrot first appears in newspaper and police reports in 1995, when she came to the aid of the Huntsman as he investigated a Chosen Army stronghold recruiting from Portland State University. At this time she was believed simply to be a martial artist. It’s less clear whether certain other skills developed in the interim or whether she always had certain key abilities.
Within a year she was established as Portland’s resident heroine. It was during this time that her rivalry with the Bad Piper took off. Their final battle made national papers.
One year later she joined the Symphony, who patrolled the East Coast. This is also when Foxtrot shifted from the black trenchcoat, biker leathers, and bandana to the heavy red leather catsuit and domino mask shown in the page image.
In 1998, the Symphony uncovered a major plot to subvert the United States Army and launch a coup led by General Walters. This was eventually prevented by the Symphony, aided by the Task Force in the final showdown. Foxtrot was out of action for three months afterward, but returned to aid the Symphony when they were betrayed by new member Slide.
It later transpired that Slide had been sent into action by General Walters to infiltrate and bring down the team.
Like the rest of the team, Foxtrot was last seen helping other heroes in the defence of Fort Bragg against the Millennium Bug during his return in late 2001. Her status since is unknown.
For more detail on the Symphony’s activities, consult their group entry in this book.
It was hard to be away from the Doctor, and Candace wasn’t at all sure she liked it. Even though it was on his order.
A little over a year ago now, Doctor Candace Kraft had enjoyed a husband, a brilliant career, and a teenage daughter less rebellious and more friendly than most. The only blot on her mental landscape had been the researcher who shared a lab and an office with her at the university where they both worked, a former friend turned sour and insular over time. Retreating into himself after the death of his wife, he had gone from a close colleague to a sullen presence lurking in the back of her professional life. His own work had suffered as he focused elsewhere, until one day, she found out what he’d been working on, when she became his first subject.
Doctor Alphonse Bimbeau had taken her mind away, a process which had taken weeks, turning her own talents to his service, twisting and changing her until she was eager and enthusiastic enough to change herself. She had set aside her husband and her teenage daughter, stolen from them, stolen from the university where both worked, helped her master fake their deaths.
She knew her happiness, her drive, her desire to make his wishes real were all fabricated. But the new reality was more vivid, more vibrant, and endlessly more enjoyable than her contented existence beforehand.
Formerly a leader in her field, Candace was now whatever the Doctor needed her to be. She could be an extra mind, a silver tongue, a gifted and eager pleasure puppet, a masseuse, or an emissary. What tasks she had not been trained in belonged to Lulu, a Chinese beauty. Like Candace, Lulu was now long-legged, curvy, and tailored mind and body to the Doctor’s preferences. Her pale, red-headed form was a clear contrast to her fellow slave.
Like Lulu, Candace was a tool as much as a person, and that was how she’d come to be away from the Doctor and staying in a hotel in Annandale, Virginia.
Annandale largely seemed to exist to provide Washington DC with another satellite town. It was far enough away from the capitol itself that it was less well-monitored, though, which made it a good place to meet a Senator whose wife had refused to come to town with him, and who was keen to buy more malleable companionship.
In their hotel room, Lulu was currently running checks on a large white box full of electronic life support systems in which just such a flexible friend had been shipped from the island. Out on the streets of Annandale, Candace was preparing to make first contact with the client.
The Doctor had given her explicit orders, during discussion, to upsell him if at all possible. Candace didn’t have him with her, and she hated that, but she had his orders, his will, and that was, she would concede, almost as good.
She was aware that there were also things she had not been permitted to remember. Things which she had almost argued with the Doctor about when she was given this task; things he had responded by ordering her into the Tiara and sealing away her memories of them.
She felt no attachment to them, but she was all the same naturally curious to remember when she returned.
Staring idly out of the taxi, she watched the streets go by. So many people. How few of them had fulfilment? And did any of them deserve fulfilment?
Candace was very aware that you didn’t need to deserve fulfilment to achieve it. Without the Doctor, Candace would not be fulfilled. Without the Doctor, her potential would be squandered on research to improve the health of humanity, not focused on improving the lot of her master.
And her own impatience had caught Lulu in the Doctor’s web, and that woman - found and recruited completely by chance - had been remade so deeply, so thoroughly, and so effectively that she now deserved the fulfilment she found in her service. She was a useful tool of the Doctor. Both of them were tools of the Doctor. They followed his commands. Worked toward his plans. And since Doctor Bimbeau was always right, that gave them the greatest fulfilment, the clearest purpose, of anyone on the planet.
With that thought, she turned her attention away from the idle question of whether there was any woman walking down the street who might be plucked out and turned to the Doctor’s benefit - impossible to say - and looked back to the road. As she did, she saw, for a second, a flash of red in the cabbie’s wing mirror. Looking back over her shoulder, she thought she caught the red again; a lithe figure in vibrant, skintight red, leaping from one rooftop to another.
Candace turned her attention back to the road. A costume was always a gift the Doctor appreciated, but it wasn’t something to investigate now. Maybe if they ended up with a free time window…
But that would depend on the meeting she was about to have. The taxicab pulled up to a security gate, and a guard approached her window. She wound it down.
“Candace Kraft,” she said simply. After all, her name wasn’t on half the watchlists her master’s was. Removing her title from her name was a simple way to add to her submission to him.
The guard glanced down the clipboard on his list, then nodded. “Alright, miss,” he said. She read the disapproval on his face, but she had an appointment; what could he do?
And why did he disapprove? It would be interesting, she couldn’t deny, to waylay him, to entrance him, and tease the information out of his mind. Maybe have a bodyguard for the rest of their time in America. Doctor Bimbeau is always right, but she still doubted the modifications to Lulu could make her an effective combatant.
But that was a fleeting thought, too, and she had the Doctor’s work to begin.
Candace had seen Senator Raines’ photograph, of course, before she and Lulu flew out - before the Doctor had even selected a candidate for his order. She hadn’t quite been prepared for the man’s presence once she met him in the flesh. Like many politicians, he came across as a friend and an authority at the same time, tall, not quite slim but not running to fat, immaculately groomed, with that rare smile that made perfect, even, square teeth seem natural, not the dentist’s art. Things were slightly complicated by the presence of another man in the room.
Raines had probably spent upwards of ten thousand dollars on his suit. “My assistant, Roger,” as the man was introduced, wore a suit that undoubtedly had cost more. Which made him an assistant for Raines in much the same way Candace was for the Doctor. His own presentation, like hers, was a way for the person they served to flaunt their power, and his actions were all taken to benefit them.
Roger had been the initial contact. He’d heard the complaints from Raines. He’d done the research. He’d contacted the Doctor. He’d arranged the downpayment. All of it remained at one remove from Raines.
Candace was supposed to be daunted. She was supposed to feel she was on the back foot, perhaps even threatened. Roger was intended to give Raines an edge with his mere presence, in case the Senator needed it.
Of course, Candace was here to serve Doctor Bimbeau, and since first succumbing to his control, there was nothing more important to her. And in any event, Roger’s eyes had been glued to her chest since she walked in. His loyalty, unlike her own, might be compromisable. She remained sunnily unfazed as she shook Raines’ hand and as she glanced to the polished walnut table and the two high-backed, elegant chairs of the same material that sat around it.
A deep, self-satisfied southern accent wrapped Raines’ first question in honey. “I imagine you prefer tea to coffee, being English and all?”
Before the Doctor, if she’d found herself in a room with this man and she’d heard that too-cocky, too-silky question, Candace would have snapped a firm and clear correction that she was Scottish. Even afterward, if it was irrelevant to the Doctor, she would likely have done the same.
But here, rudeness could affect her instructions, so she smiled politely. “I do enjoy coffee, but as I’m sure you’ve already prepared tea, thank you.”
Raines nodded to Roger, who silently moved into another room. Tea would follow shortly.
Candace took advantage of the time by setting her slim brown-leather briefcase on the table and entering the code. “Your hospitality is much appreciated,” she said. “Especially as your wife is not present to provide it for you.”
“A sadly inconvenient absence,” he agreed. “But there are consolations to be had in such an absence.”
Roger was now wheeling in a trolley, atop which sat a teapot and two cups and saucers. Milk in a jug and a small silver bowl containing a silver tong and sugar cubes was also present.
“That could bring us to our business here, Senator,” she agreed. “Shall I pour?”
He acquiesced with a flourish of his hand. Candace chose a cup and poured from the communal pot. She watched him add a sugar cube with the tongs, not appearing to care which one, then pour a small dash of milk.
Safest, therefore, to follow suit. Raines was unlikely to accept any plan to drug her that also involved himself passing out, and any antidote would have to be in an additive.
Paranoia about her mission had been the Doctor’s order. She was not to accidentally abandon herself to others.
Her tea poured, she sat back, looked Raines in the eye, and raised both eyebrows, inviting him to begin if he wanted.
“Yes, to business,” he agreed. Clearly he loved the sound of his own voice, but she felt he had good reason. He’d worked hard, she was sure, to get that effect.
She flipped open her briefcase - the standard opening, not the hidden compartment - and took out two thin manila folders which she placed on the table. “First, I’d like to update you on our current progress.”
Opening the upper folder, she removed the top sheet, a glossy photograph. It showed a woman standing ramrod-straight, hands clasped behind her head, a mane of golden hair cascading down her back, some spilling forward over her shoulders. She had been dressed only in a soft green bra and panty set, the bra struggling with the size of her chest, the panties highlighting and accentuating curvaceous hips. That there were visible abs between the two was a credit to the Doctor’s designs.
(That part of the technology had required Candace’s expertise, but she would always credit the Doctor. As she was well programmed to know, he was smarter than she.)
Long legs showed the same muscle as her arms. This was a very capable woman, if one whose curves would mean she could never blend into a crowd.
But the smile on her lips as she’d held that ridiculous pose for a photographer really told the story. She was delighted to do it. Happy to follow any suggestion she was given. And it showed.
Candace slid the photograph across the table and Raines picked it up to inspect it. She watched Roger, standing behind the Senator some discreet distance away, cock his head for a better view. But she didn’t smile; she wasn’t allowed to give away her thoughts.
“Well, she’s beautiful,” the Senator said. “Who is she?”
“You haven’t given us a name yet,” Candace supplied briskly. “Or what you want her history to be.” She picked up the second sheet, a printed list of notes. “And who she was has been erased, of course. We can leave her with no past - my master has had great success with that model - or instil in her the belief she’s loved you from afar since childhood and has finally had the opportunity to serve you with the devotion and lust you deserve. That’s your choice. We took the liberty of overwriting her accent with one from your own state. It might make her feel more like a homely touch.” She smiled.
“Choosing a name?” Raines seemed very taken with this. “That’s a wrinkle I hadn’t considered. I like the touch with the accent, though.”
Candace nodded. “We don’t have to imprint a name yet,” she said, then frowned thoughtfully. “I suppose we don’t have to imprint one at all. We’ve chiefly been calling her ‘Missy’ around the lab, during tests. She’d probably respond to that, but then she’ll respond to you anyway.” A pause. “We can have her respond to Roger, too, but obviously it’s harder to find images of his face and voice recordings which haven’t been run through a distorter.”
Roger made his approximation of a smile, in that his lips became a thin line that didn’t visibly point downwards.
Raines, meanwhile, laughed, a belly laugh hearty enough to have come from a man much larger than himself. “That probably won’t be necessary, ma’am, but I’ll thank you for the thought. Roger requires his privacy. I understand you’re familiar with that idea?”
Candace simply smiled and nodded.
“So, she’ll be nice and obedient. What can she do?”
“The Doctor went to some lengths to capture brain patterns from a cordon bleu chef,” Candace said. “While she likely won’t have all of your favourite recipes in her head to begin, she’s got the skills, and she’s eager to learn. I have to imagine you could do some useful things with that.”
Raines smiled, but it was Roger who nodded appreciatively. Candace could imagine that a fixer without induced devotion would find being required to arrange meals deeply frustrating. She continued.
“We have the habits of a maid in there. As for her sexual proclivities, without knowing your own, we felt it was wiser to allow you to drive her new preferences yourself.”
Raines beamed appreciatively. “Marvellous.”
“She’s undergoing final checks at the moment. We can install her name while we finish that, and we could deliver by tomorrow afternoon,” Candace continued. She let that news hang in the air for a moment, then audibly cleared her throat. “But I wonder if you might be interested in another, more… bespoke service.”
She could see Roger frown at this. After all, she hadn’t cleared this with him. It couldn’t be presented as his idea. And rightly so; nobody should take credit for the Doctor’s ideas. But now the fixer felt threatened. Somehow that made Candace feel more powerful, more confident.
Knowing you must be right, because your master is always right, gives a confidence that nothing else can match. She waited a moment, then pitched a warm smile between the two men, so both would think she was smiling at them. If Roger was smart, he wouldn’t take the bait. If he wasn’t…
The security guard sat slumped, unconscious, in his chair. The intruder who’d knocked him out looked through his clipboard, then activated her headset communicator.
She listened for a few moments.
“She’s meeting with Senator Raines, Master.”
The other end of the call was briefly audible in the room, a muffled and incomprehensible roar of annoyance.
“I will resolve the problem, Master.”
The figure replaced the clipboard and left.
“I understand, Master. The Senator will not know what has happened.”
“Senator, I’m not sure about this,” Roger blurted out. Raines, not looking at him, just raised a single finger, and Roger paused.
Candace coughed politely. “Discretion can be important, Senator. You may want the absolute minimum number of people to know you’ve considered this.”
She opened the second folder, took out a sheet, and slid it across the table.
Raines picked it up and started to read. After a few moments he lowered it again. “Roger,” he said, “would you do me a favour and check our perimeter?”
He opened his mouth - he clearly wanted to protest - but he knew better than to contradict his boss in his boss’ presence.
Candace couldn’t help thinking she would simply have found a way around the letter of his orders to achieve its spirit. Instead, Roger temporarily left the room.
Senator Raines lowered his voice in any case. “You’re proposing to brainwash my wife.”
“Senator, I’m proposing to perfect your wife,” Candace said simply. “You know I’m a messenger. I’m also the Doctor’s personal - and personalised - slave. Look at me, and you see what can be done.”
He frowned. He might be interested, but that hadn’t been the approach. She decided to try and push past his objections before that could be a problem. Picking up the second sheet from the folder, she passed across a photograph she’d pulled from the internet; her appearance at a faculty party a few months before Bimbeau doctored her monitor so he could use her while he brainwashed her.
Candace looked younger and happier now. She looked no less intelligent. And while she’d been fit for a woman just entering her forties, she hadn’t had the silhouette she did now. Roger had been the one staring at her chest, but Raines was a politician. You only got so far in that line of work if you couldn’t disguise what you were looking at.
He looked from the photo to her and back again. “How long ago was this?” he asked.
“Not quite two years ago,” she answered easily. “We provide full-service work, Senator. Obviously your wife will need to remember her old life to function as a political hostess. But that’s fine; unlike your current purchase, I remember mine. And I can tell you I was once,” she paused to cough, her throat tight with a sudden embarrassment that could be heard in her voice, “utterly disgusted with my master. His presence in my life is half the reason my smile in that photo looks fake, and he wasn’t even there.”
“Now I know I was wrong.” She shrugged. “And I know you’re thinking, that doesn’t sound like much, everyone has moments like that. No, Senator. Most people believed a thing, and now they believe otherwise. I believed the Doctor needed help, but might be too far gone for it. Now I know - truly know - that he is the most marvellous man in the world. My submission to his wishes is a pleasure and an honour.
“Your wife will feel the same way about you. I imagine, if there was ever a mutual spark between you, you’ll be almost as glad of that as she will be. But she’ll be ecstatic.”
Raines laughed, not the booming belly laugh but something more bitter, somehow curdled. “I rather doubt that.”
“Would you like to be proved wrong?”
He frowned, staring hard at her from under furrowed brow. Candace met his gaze, unflinching, open, her soft eyes showing no dishonesty.
She would have lied, of course, if the Doctor had wanted. But she’d never been good at that, and she didn’t think the Doctor would have improved that side of her. It was better to keep her honest. After all, she was here to do business.
“Let’s say for the time being that I believe you,” the Senator said. “I imagine this wouldn’t be so cheap as our current deal.”
“Of course not, Senator. We were able to choose our candidate for the first. Operate in secret. Dispose of her on a different continent. The security arrangements could be much, much simpler.”
“So the price…”
“My master will guarantee she’ll be adjusted to your satisfaction for five million dollars.”
Raines smiled thinly. “Do you think I earn so much, as a Senator?”
“No, of course not. But we also know five million dollars can be found. And that it will save you as much or more in expense, even if no divorce were to take place.” She smiled in her turn. “In this business, Senator, it’s supply that drives the prices. I’m sure you’re familiar with the model.”
The belly laugh was back. Candace was actually surprised to realise it was the man’s own genuine, amused laughter. She had a mental image of Raines rehearsing hearty amusement for so long, it became the laugh his body reached for when amused.
“So what would I need to do if I wanted to make this happen?” he asked. “For the sake of argument, you understand.”
Candace smiled in her turn, and passed him a third sheet of paper. “I imagine Roger can make the arrangements.”
Roger was delegated to drive her back to her hotel, and so Candace was driven to the other respectable hotel in town. She want into the hotel, up two floors in the elevator, forced a fire escape door open and left through the rear parking lot, leaving Roger (she hoped) with a false sense of where they were staying. Raines seemed to be in the mood to be reasonable, but there was no sense taking chances.
It had absolutely nothing, she told herself firmly, to do with seeing Roger as Raines’ inferior version of her. She thought again of the Doctor’s instructed upsell - convert the Senator’s wife Evelyn - and pictured her replacing Roger, becoming a more reliable, more dependable bagman who could be completely counted on to take the fall rather than implicate her Master.
Evelyn would be a Candace for the Senator. Not as intelligent, perhaps. Not as effective. But that was only reasonable. After all, the Senator was very likable, but he was no Doctor Bimbeau. Why would his slave be as useful?
It was going to be such a good change for Evelyn. Candace loved being the Doctor’s. She loved fulfilling his orders. And she loved watching the faces and the mental scans of other women following her own path, seeing them changed, adapted, reshaped to a higher purpose.
She had thought of it for a long time as their evolution from independent woman to obedient, happy slave, but her biology training meant that she always twitched at least a little when she used ‘evolution’ to describe a single individual changing.
Regardless, the Doctor’s creation, the Tiara, had been her chrysalis. And helping others through that process was a purpose worthy of a lifetime’s devotion, even if it didn’t help the Doctor.
Just following this line of speculation left Candace in a haze of heat. She made her way through the streets of Annandale and walked across the parking lot of her own hotel, completely unaware of the discreet grey towncar following her.
She made her way into the suite she and Lulu had taken. Lulu was, as Candace had instructed, still wearing the maid’s outfit, short skirt puffed out with lace petticoat, stiff white apron, tight and revealing black bodice, and perched atop her short bob of hair, a crisp white headpiece.
The Doctor’s second slave had become an excellent technician, but Candace would never get tired of reminding her of the pecking order between them. When the Doctor showed this little war of attitudes amused him, both of them doubled down into their roles to please him. He might not be there, but now? Now it was habit.
“Is Missy ready?”
Lulu pivoted on the spot to face Candace. “Almost. Is that the chosen name?”
Candace shrugged, tossing her briefcase onto the sofa. “It probably will be. He doesn’t care too much. But we’re going to be here a little longer.”
Lulu’s face registered a strange combination of satisfaction and regret. Candace couldn’t blame her; she felt the same. Fulfilment of their master’s orders would keep them away from him.
It was a good job they’d designed the slaves looking after him instead. The Doctor deserved to be in the best hands they could provide.
Behind Candace, the auto-locking door to the suite clicked open.
Candace turned to face the intruder. It wasn’t what she’d expected. A woman in red leather, slim but visibly muscled in the upper arms, broad hips showing a lot of power in the legs, high boots with flat heels, and a busy belt with two or three small sheaths and several pouches.
On her head was some kind of full-face helmet; twin red LEDs burned softly where Candace would expect eyes. Three green telltales burned over her right temple, next to a short, stubby antenna.
She kicked the door shut behind her as Candace, the Scots brogue coming out over the refined finishing-school accent as it so often did when she was surprised or threatened, asked “Who the hell are you?”
There was a moment of stillness, and then the figure was moving fluidly forward toward Candace, a dagger drawn from one sheath.
Candace took a step back in concern, but the figure just seemed to be moving so much faster. The knife was raised. Candace’s eyes transfixed against the tip. She saw it rise up, hang for a moment at the apex, then begin to come down, directly toward her - and then suddenly fly to one side.
Whatever Lulu had thrown, she’d thrown it with the aim the Doctor had imprinted when he assigned them to this mission. A total accuracy that had caught the attacker just beyond the elbow, deflecting the blow.
Candace was worried as much about the helmet as the attacker. She’d definitely run into rivals to the Doctor who used helmets like that.
Almost all mind control methods she was aware of were temporary. Sometimes very temporary. Even the Doctor’s initial control over her had needed to be refreshed every day. Binding a control system to a head by fixing it in place had become a common technological way around it.
To her knowledge, the Doctor’s Tiara was the only thing that imprinted permanently. Which might say something about the source of this attack.
A lot of information could process through Candace’s brain in a few moments. That was how she put it now. She knew, in the level of information imprinted into her mind, that Doctor Bimbeau was smarter, Doctor Bimbeau was always right. So she no longer considered the quick thoughts in her mind to be her own quick thinking.
(Which was only fair - she belonged to the Doctor, so her thinking did too.)
All of this flashed through her mind before the figure corrected her stance and got ready for another swing. But Lulu was already moving, coming in low in something like a tackle to the midsection. They careened off each other, both crashlanding, sprawled, before beginning to scramble back up.
Candace doubled back in a hurry, trusting that wherever the Doctor had pulled the combat indoctrination package from, it would make Lulu the woman’s equal.
Which made her own job here applying her brain to the problem.
That helmet needed neutralising.
She dived into the secondary bedroom, where they’d been keeping Missy in her shipping container, and hit the release catch. The door hissed upward pneumatically, then slid off to the side.
“Test persona online!” she yelped, glancing back to the main room in the suite. The attacker had countered another charge by Lulu and backed her into the wall. Lulu was desperately trying to keep the blades from her.
Missy sat up out of the container. “Yes, Mistress,” she said in what Candace still felt was an overly bright, overly cheery mode. “What is your desire?”
Candace grabbed Lulu’s toolkit in her hand. “Come with me.”
She swept back into the main room, where Lulu had broken free from her pin and was pirouetting along the wall, staying just ahead of knife strikes that repeatedly perforated the wall.
When she was just far enough ahead, Lulu aimed a kick at her opponent. She took the kick on her arm, dropped the knife from that hand, and seized Lulu by the leg, twisting into a takedown. She scrambled for position, staying on top of Lulu, and resisted an attempt to kick her loose. An arm went against Lulu’s throat.
Candace stretched up on tiptoe to Missy’s ear. “Hold that woman!”
Missy darted forward and grabbed the intruder by the upper arms as she reached back for her blade. There was a shift and a twitch of her shoulders as the intruder rolled her body in a way that should have sent Missy flying, but without being instructed to release, her fingers were locked in place even as she hit the floor with a loud smack.
Lulu scrambled to add her own grip to the hold, and between the two precision-designed women, the better fighter was - sort of - restrained.
Candace came closer, setting Lulu’s toolkit down on the padding of a fallen armchair.
Up close she could see EPSILON stencilled into the woman’s helmet, and what looked like a military serial number next to it. “Alright,” she said firmly. “I’ve no idea who you are or who you work for, but that’s fine.” She grinned. “I’m going to change both.”