Extract from Jane’s Guide to Costumed Criminals, 2004 Revision
SLIDE, AKA LIEUTENANT COLONEL MAYA REEVES
Height: 5’ 9”
Confirmed Abilities: Animal empathy, variable meta-bilities drawn from nearby animals, trained martial artist
Unconfirmed Abilities: Retinal and vocal mimicry
Group Affiliation: United States Army, General Walters, The Symphony (briefly)
Year of First Activity: 1996
Locations: East Coast, Fort Bragg
Status: At large, inactive
This is not the place to reproduce Lt Col Reeves’ service record prior to her secondment to Project Wildmountain, or even the details of the experiments which granted her metahuman abilities. However, once that was complete, Wildmountain project head Dr Wang recommended her to General Walters, who requested her assignment to his Covert Action Squad.
Much of her record has been sealed at this time but after the Siege of Fort Bragg it became clear that Lt Col Reeves had committed many clandestine acts at General Walters’ instigation which have been ruled as criminal deeds. She became an expert covert operative and secured a number of resources for Walters’ attempted coup.
However, she was not involved in the later acts, which appear to have been the most visibly illegal actions. While this could be an argument in favour of her innocence, she had instead been assigned to infiltrate the Symphony. Over almost a year she earned the trust of each member of the team and developed countermeasures and plans to take each one of them down.
These were used during Walters’ coup, allowing Slide to defeat the entire team. However, her actions had drawn the attention of the Task Force, who freed the captive Symphony and began the Siege of Fort Bragg in 1998.
Slide escaped capture and disappeared from public view for some time. Over the next three years she would surface occasionally, always working as a gun for hire for a major villain, and would elude capture once each scheme was defeated. No motive for her radically different allegiances has been confirmed, and a mercenary sensibility would seem to be the only reasonable explanation.
Slide has not been observed in action since 2001.
It was hard to look away from the Doctor’s programming. Julieta’s head had started to fog almost immediately that Gigi had shoved her into the bathroom and she’d been firmly exposed to it. There were now three forces active in her head; the long-term brainwashing that General Walters had employed which had kept her a military drone for nearly five years, her own force of will, and the new personality which was shaping in response to the programming on the screen in front of her.
There was a time, both as La Bandera and as Samba, when she had developed a reputation as the stubbornest heroine on the scene. As powerful as her body was and as sharp as her mind had become, what made her a formidable force for good was the willpower and determination driving her.
But that side of her had been lost now for years. Her own personality was struggling to re-orient itself now that she was out of status but not under the influence of General Walters’ voice.
Julieta shook her head - not that it helped; every mirror from upstairs meant there was nowhere shouldn’t see the screens - and tried to close her eyes but found she couldn’t.
Instead she was caught; caught drinking in these teachings, these ideas, these attitudes. She was caught helplessly up and unable to help her team, knowing by now they would have arrived, sent by the man she had served faithfully for five years, who she now knew to have been her enemy all along.
She remembered, finally, the moment he had forbidden her, the moment Gigi had mentioned as they fought. She remembered her team, the Symphony, the women she had worked with and led and bled alongside, standing with her, as, arms folded, she looked General Walters in the eye and laid out how utterly defeated he was. She remembered the pride she and her team had taken. Remembered their private meeting with the President that followed. His thanks. His apologies that the majority of the public thanks would go instead to the Task Force, with their federal funding.
She’d smiled, shook his hand, and said “It doesn’t matter, Mr President. We know, and you know, and most of all, you’re safe. Those are the things that matter here.”
It was an inspiring moment, and by rights, as she drew on it, Julieta should be rewarded with the willpower to overcome what lay in front of her.
But, she told herself, she wasn’t used to having willpower of her own. The helmets they’d worn had not so much hypnotised them as suppressed their will. Perhaps, now, it had atrophied; would need to be trained before it could be used effectively.
She very much wanted that to be true. If it wasn’t, she had no excuse for succumbing, once again.
It felt different, though. This wasn’t suppression. It was reprogramming. Her thoughts weren’t overruled, they were redirected. Her passions, her beliefs, her emotions, her drives, they weren’t snuffed out - they were simply channels and reshaped, and a stray directive wandered through her mind after each change, tidying up the memory that it had been changed.
In aspect after aspect of her thoughts and outlook, Julieta felt the assault, then the change, then suddenly knew she had always felt this way. Only the fact the process was not complete allowed her to observe it at all.
And then the programming was complete, and the process was done, and Julieta had always been slave to Doctor Bimbeau.
Downstairs, Candace Kraft stared directly at the strange, pulsating purple crystal in which this new invader had effortlessly trapped the most powerful slave at Candace’s disposal. She heard a clatter on the stairs behind her, realising what was happening in time only to throw herself to the side as first a kitchen knife then Gigi hurtled past her at speed.
The kitchen knife had been thrown with the same confidence and skill that a knife thrower might typically achieve with something purpose built, but the former Foxtrot had been a weapons mistress throughout her career. The weight, the aerodynamics, and distance had all been calculated on an instinctive level. Left to its own devices, the tip of the blade would impact on the purple sorceress’ comms unit, hopefully cutting Walters off as a handler.
It was not left to its own devices. Seeming somehow to taper off into nothingness on its flight, it eventually disappeared from sight entirely in a flare of purple smoke.
But its secondary purpose was fulfilled; it occupied the sorceress’ powers for long enough for her teammate to get within reach. Dropping to one ankle and pivoting smoothly, effortlessly around it, Gigi swept the leg out from under the woman she’d been proud to fight alongside as Jazz. The purple crystal ball went flying.
Moving with practised efficiency, Gigi shifted position even as Jazz was falling, and as the woman landed she caught her neck between her thighs, clamping down hard on a chokehold. Gigi knew how powerful Jazz could be, and had to end this quickly - something made harder with a control helmet protecting her head from strikes.
Watching, Candace caught her breath. She’d been stunned by the precision of Gigi’s attack, but watching a body like that flow that way from tactic to tactic was stunning all on its own. All that capability, all that skill…
…all under her control. But would it be enough?
The crystal ball was still describing a slow arc through the air. It didn’t move at the speed it should have, released from the sorceress’ hands after that impact; it seemed to obey its own laws of physics that just moved much more slowly.
When it hit the ground, though, that slow effect dissipated. Conjured entirely from magic though it was, it shattered like any glass ball, sending shards of mystic enthralment scattering across the living room carpet. And where it had lain was, suddenly full-size again, Candace’s controlled speedster Sammi - albeit no use in a fight now.
No use in a fight now as she was wrapped in sixteen glistening amethyst bands. Thirteen of these clamped legs together and arms to her sides, beginning just below the shoulder and evenly spaced down to just below the knees. A fourteenth, some distance below, wrapped around both feet, ensnaring them in a solid block of magic.
The remaining two wrapped around her head, a gag that bulged at her mouth, clearly present all the way in, and one a blindfold, a thin band which expanded into large squares completely obscuring the eyes.
The gag - and the wider band around her hips, which extended down over her crotch and her rear - pulsed regularly, visibly jolting through the speedster’s captive body. Sammi was writhing, but unable to do more than squirm in captivity, hooked in more ways than one.
Gigi clamped down hard, trying to squeeze the air from her target, but the woman currently responding to ‘Gamma’ was already moving her hands through the strange dance of another spell sigil. Energy traces formed in the paths her fingers followed, then thickened into cords of mystic power.
And then, coming alive, those five cords shot upright, coiling around the light fitting in the ceiling only to fall again, dropping like ropes. One fell faster and further than the others; it touched Gigi at the bare ankle on the leg above Gamma’s throat. Gigi let out a breathy, excited whimper despite herself and the leg moved up of its own accord, straightening on puppet strings.
Gamma sat up, twitching the fingers from which the other cords trailed. They shot down, hitting Gigi in the other ankle, in both wrists, and then in the back of the neck. As each tendril caught a limb, it ceased moving with the easy precision of a highly trained martial artist and instead jerkily halted, but once all five were in place, Gigi went limp -and then rose up to stand as if hauled upright, moving in a way no human could make themselves move.
Gigi hung limply upright, a loose puppet dangling from the light fittings.
Gamma’s control helmet turned to regard Candace. With a twitch of her wrist, Gigi swivelled, too, dancing on her strings.
Candace’s stomach churned as the increased level of threat to her registered clearly.
She took a step back, even knowing it was useless. The Doctor had never given her the bodyguard training package he’d imprinted into Lulu’s mind; she was his for her brain and her body, not her body and her physical skills. The Doctor made a very clear divide between the two.
A small, fearful part of her mine insisted that she could escape if she turned and ran. It was so closely connected to her instincts that following its bidding felt inevitable - but she didn’t. She was bound here, to this house, by the fact Missy was there, by the orders the Doctor had given her.
She just didn’t have the skills she needed to achieve his wishes and to fulfil his orders. But she couldn’t turn away.
It was a horrible place to be.
She took another step backward, eyes glue to the sorceress, waiting for any hint of action so she could at least try to avoid it.
But the sorceress stayed seated, and as Candace watched, the control helmet tilted to one side, as if she was listening for something.
“Beta? How are you speaking to me? We aren’t permitted -”
“Stop, Gamma. We need to talk.”
This, Gamma knew, was not how their comms were supposed to work. Only Alpha was to instruct the rest of the unit in the field. Only Alpha was permitted.
Gamma had collected a lot of information her teammates had no access to over the course of her enslavement. She was a particular favourite trophy of Walters, who would sometimes take her to escort him while wearing only her control helmet - some point the old man felt he had to prove - and she had been a silent accompaniment to many discussions about the team. Walters believed Gamma to have an inherently submissive nature that made her perfect decoration as he strutted his stuff. He had been, of course, completely incorrect in this assessment.
On the other hand, if Beta had been privy to more of his conversations, she might have made her decision earlier.
She noticed, in the winking lights of her head-up display, that her helmet’s external speaker had been deactivated. She hadn’t done that, and there had been no reason for General Walters to. It must have been done by someone else.
Belatedly, it occurred to Gamma that Beta’s powers would be perfectly suited to redirecting helmet communications or overriding control settings.
“Beta, you disobey the General. That’s wrong.”
“Gamma Store,” Beta retorted. As soon as the second syllable reached her ears, the sorceress’ mind reverted to inactivity.
Candace watched the woman in purple sway for a moment, attempt to adopt a legs-wide-spread leaning-back posture, and topple backwards.
She blinked several times. “What the hell?”
Gigi hung thoughtlessly in the air, limbs slack, a puppet with cut strings, her head bowed. Sammi continued to thrash and writhe in the bonds stimulating her body, driving her into mindless distraction.
Neither one could answer her.
She took a step forward, then another, watching Gigi, waiting for this to be a trap, for the puppet to lash out.
It didn’t happen.
Another step forward and then she paused, thought things through, and went back into the kitchen first. When she came back she had a screwdriver in hand. She passed Gigi just as warily as the first time and knelt beside the sorceress.
The main thing keeping her going was her need to follow the Doctor’s commands, coupled with her knowledge she could not do so if she was converted by this Walters.
But close behind that was the practical, logic-driven attitude that had brought her success before her first conversion to worship her Master. There was no good reason for Gamma to try trapping her; she had the power just to capture her, and Candace didn’t present a challenge. Gamma even could know that, as Lulu would surely have been converted by now.
(Her jaw tightened just at the thought of that. Lulu was a friend, a fellow slave to the Doctor, and occupied a strange grey area between person and property that made Candace very possessive of her; after all, she was a possession.)
She unscrewed the connectors on the control helmet and lifted it clear, revealing a stunningly beautiful ebony face, eyes rolled back, lips parted, clearly in a state of deep hypnotic trance.
Candace frowned. This wasn’t how anyone else had been when the helmets came off. What was going on?
She became aware of a tinny voice from the control helmet’s internal speakers. Shutting off the comm was one of her priorities, but her big goal had been to stop Walters from talking to Gamma. She had plenty she needed to do herself, after all.
The voice was almost too quiet to make out, but Candace was fairly sure she caught “Doctor Bimbeau,” having spent the past year and change becoming more and more sensitive to the Doctor’s needs, requirements, and wishes. She tried to hold the helmet up where she could hear it.
“Hello?” she asked tentatively.
“Hello? Can you hear me, Doctor Bimbeau?”
Candace frowned slightly. An urge to declare not only that she wasn’t Doctor Bimbeau but that she was his intellectual inferior bubbled up from within, a legacy of one of the first beliefs he’d given her. If she hadn’t been so set on finding a way to recover Lulu, complete her mission, and present her various captives to him (if she could bring the magically affected to him safely) she might have done.
But today she needed every advantage she could get. “I hear you,” she said.
“We were told you’re a mind controller.”
She smiled slightly to herself. “Go on.”
“You don’t appear to be exerting much control.”
Candace frowned. Was that some kind of threat? If so, how? And about what? “Do I have to?” she returned cautiously.
“That’s what I’d like to understand. My name is Danielle, but you may have heard me called Beta.”
“I’ve heard of you, yes,” she said. “Are we the only people on this line, do you know?”
“Actually, I made sure of it,” Beta returned. “The device you’re holding and the device I’m inside are currently only talking to one another. The screens back at HQ are registering something completely different.”
“Mine is showing my current visual readout and returning mental readings indicating the system is starting to fail. Yours is showing the effect of some kind of shutdown field.”
Of course, she could be lying - but it was the same question all over again. Gamma could have captured her easily, so what would be the point of lying?
Candace wasn’t the kind of person who thought she understood people on an intuitive gut level - at least, not anymore. Being surprised into a hypnotic stupor and fucked over your office desk while your colleague brainwashed you, without you having even dreamed that might be coming, would cure you of that kind of mistaken belief in your own capabilities.
It wasn’t instinct that told her Beta was being honest. It was cold logic. “So what’s your point? You want to understand. Understand what?”
“Your attitude is… not what I’m used to. I have questions.” Candace wondered about the pause. What might she have picked up on if the woman had been in front of her? What was hidden by a crappy radio connection?
“Maybe you should come here for those,” she said slowly.
“Then you would have all five of us,” Beta pointed out. “Yes, I think that might be best. Have you left your last location?”
“No,” she said, and swallowed. “Right now, I don’t think I’ve got good options for that.”
“Then perhaps my General needs a distraction?”
The wording was so obviously a prompt that even over a terrible, staticky line, Candace could hear the neediness - or maybe she could imagine it. But that was something she understood. Something that she could use, when it wasn’t being used against her by the Doctor.
Candace smiled slowly. “Are you asking permission to do something?”
A pause. “Yes,” Beta said at last.
“Are you asking for an order to do something?” she continued with a grin.
“…Yes,” Beta admitted.
Candace decided to take a chance. “Good girl,” she purred, and while there wasn’t any way to be sure over the line, the crackle she heard she took for a contented exhalation. She waited a moment. “Do it.”
In his ‘war room’ sixty yards underground and half a mile from Arlington, Virginia, General Walters was red in the face and huffing and puffing in a way that deeply disquieted the former Army staffers around the old man. One had already sent a message to another console by private chat anticipating a potential heart attack.
Walters had been courtmartialled and sentenced, and as far as the nation at large was concerned, following his attempted coup, he had been imprisoned. A four-star general always has friends, though, and some of those had set wheels in motion for him.
He’d been placed into an underground prison first built in the 1960s, and those soldiers who’d been loyal to him had also been sentenced there. But a few months later, the guard was rotated out, and the new guard were, in fact, covert operatives. They had systematically converted the prison into a command centre, and later, had suppled Walters with the captured control helmets. After all, the United States government could not be officially seen to experiment with mind control, not after the LSD experiments in San Francisco had become public decades ago.
The Department of Defense had felt it better that General Walters continue to work for them. He was considered to have a sound tactical mind, a good strategic understanding of non-military threats to the country, and a willingness to make choices the Pentagon liked but the White House was unlikely to agree to. Setting him up as a covert factor, funding his operation off the books - this made him more directly useful.
But the centerpiece of this experiment had been the enslaved Symphony. With regular troops alone, he would never be able to execute with subtlety.
(And the lack of subtlety during this mission had led, when Gamma’s headset transmission failed, at least two of his inner circle quietly leaving the war room and heading for the vehicle pool.)
When the double doors flew wide open, the man making his entrance couldn’t actually make himself heard. He made his way further in and tried again, then, when he got no further response, he demonstrated initiative, moving in and taking one of the vacated console seats.
He switched the biggest monitor away from its static to a CNN live feed. The news anchor was speaking with the wrong voice, and her words didn’t perfectly synchronise to the way her lips were moving.
Someone else was saying “…not far south of the Pentagon. You may remember General Walters from the Fort Bragg Plot, which culminated in the Siege of Fort Bragg. How he escaped from military prison has not been made clear, but he is active and at large now. We can exclusively reveal that his covert operatives have been apprehended, and that his whereabouts has been communicated to federal law enforcement.”
As the new voice had continued talking, the war room had fallen to eventual silence. The strange transmission ended and, in her own voice, the anchor continued. “Moving on to sport, and-”
“Shut it off,” Walters said. His voice was hoarse, now, and suddenly small. The soldier at the console switched the feed off and the big screen was left blank.
Silence reigned for a while longer.
“What do we do, sir?” one aide asked. Another gave an opinion rather than seek one. “Sir, we need to go.”
As she waited for Beta, Candace made her way upstairs to check on what Gigi had been sent to handle before coming down. Pushing open the door to the bathroom to find a high-tier superhuman floating helplessly in place, eyes caught and captured by her Master’s indoctrination program, was a thrill she hadn’t realised she could enjoy so much; it was all she could do to keep her mind focused on the business at hand.
She was still concerned that there might be more of a threat to come, and she wanted something that could resolve it if needed.
She knelt down beside the heroine, keeping her eyes on the floor, the only exposed reflective surface. Using touch alone, she fitted her screwdriver into every socket for the helmet, unscrewing one by one, until the helmet came free.
Candace shifted across the bathroom floor until her body was up against the heroine’s, pressing close against the arms Gigi had bent back while manipulating her. Her own hands came around to cup Julieta’s breasts through her costume. She was listening very carefully for the reaction, and what she heard - the softest moan - sounded to her now-experienced ears like a programmed excitement, not just surprise.
Candace smiled, half-biting her lip, as she played. “Like that, do we?”
“I thought so. You’ve been enjoying your programming?”
Her thumbs lightly flicked across the material of the heroine’s catsuit where she imagined the nipples would be, hoping they were sensitive enough to pick it up. An intake of startled bliss gave Candace enough confidence in the pleasure conditioning to continue. “But you stopped resisting.”
“And your name is?”
“Do you know who I am?”
Being called Doctor had once been Candace’s goal, then something she prized as a signifier of the work she’d done. Now it was vaguely frustrating; the Doctor was the title she assigned to the man she thought of as her better.
“Are you ready to be a good girl for Doctor Bimbeau?”
“I…” Julieta faltered. “Yes, Doctor. I am.”
“You’re going to be standing by in case I need you when your friend Beta comes by,” she said. “Understand?”
Candace rewarded her with a long, slow squeeze, and then shifted slightly, dragging the heroine backward. “It’s going to be wonderful, Flores,” she told her. “You’re going to love being an obedient slave, this time.” Her voice gave it the weight of an order, the first order in Flores’s new life.
“Yes, Doctor.” The ache in the woman’s voice made Candace shiver as she pulled her out of sight of the screen. She wasn’t sure, wasn’t at all sure - but all the same, she was audibly hoping it would be true.
By the time Lulu followed Beta up the road to the target house, the van Gamma had come in was nowhere in sight, but the Jeep she’d seen before was parked a few doors down on the other side of the road.
Beta hadn’t answered Lulu at any point, and honestly the former thrall to Doctor Bimbeau was beginning to wonder whether following her had been the right idea. If she’d stayed in the van she’d been in originally, she would be just as useful, and would still have access to a radio.
The Jeep seemed like the right choice, therefore - that was where she might be able to serve her Master the General.
She broke away from Beta and crossed the road, eyes fixed on the figure behind the wheel. Baseball cap pulled down low, baggy hoodie drawn up over the back of the cap, hunched low; this was someone who didn’t want to be recognised. Not that it would matter to Lulu, who didn’t have any of the context she’d need to identify them.
The Jeep’s engine sprang to life. Lulu tensed for a moment, the possibility of being run down jumping through her head. It didn’t stop her; she had a job to do.
When the Jeep went into reverse, rather than racing toward her, Lulu was thrown for a moment. She’d been preparing herself to try to avoid impact without losing the vehicle; just how unlikely it was that she’d be able to do that didn’t matter, it was the goal ahead of her for her Master.
It didn’t occur to Lulu that this was the mindset Bimbeau had implanted, just with a new owner pulling her puppet strings.
She broke into a run as the Jeep skidded through it’s three-point turn. At its closest point, Lulu dived for it, her fingertips outstretched, just hoping she could catch hold and hang on…
Beta made her way in through the Pearsons’ front door, or rather, their front doorway. She heard the squeal of brakes behind her, but didn’t pay attention to them. The big problem would be when the police arrived, but there would be plenty of reports of superhuman activity by now. They might get the very bravest of the patrolmen out there, but SOP this close to D.C. was to call in a dedicated Superhuman Response Squad, and they took time to scramble.
Being part of one had given her a new level of understanding on how levels of organisation could increase response time.
Gamma was prone on her back in front of her. The women who had been Delta and Epsilon were still trapped in her mystic spells - just as Lulu was elsewhere.
Candace had settled into what had been Mr Pearson’s overpriced armchair, taking a position that commanded the room. Standing just to her side, eyes glassy, lips glistening slightly and parted in a hint of a smile, her body hovering three inches over the ground, was Alpha.
All four of her old teammates were missing their helmets. Beta hesitated, raising her hand to her own. There was no way for her to remove it, but it felt wrong.
Gamma and Gigi both had no expression whatsoever. Sammi was caught in a pleasure trap. But Julieta…
Julieta looked happy. Aside from those glassy eyes, that smile was one Beta had seen countless times, going back to when they were intermittent partners, well before the Symphony. It wasn’t true contentment, but it was certainly how she looked when she was enjoying the groundwork on a case.
Privately, Beta thought that had always been more important to Julieta than actual contentment. The woman was a workaholic.
…The woman was a workaholic, and this Candace Kraft had spoken directly to her sense of doing a job.
Was that coincidence, or was this something these people did?
“Take a seat,” Candace said. Her voice was quiet but in this room it seemed to hold all the authority. Beta’s control helmet swivelled to look at the sofa, and she made her way over to sit on it demurely.
When was the last time she’d been conscious and sitting? She’d spent five years being stored in a form-fitting case when she wasn’t in use.
“Good girl,” Candace offered. Her lips were curved into a grin. Not a cruel one but one sharing the joke. Beta felt something run down her spine and she wasn’t even under the woman’s influence yet.
(At least, that’s what she thought.)
“So,” Candace continued. “You want to get away from the General.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Beta offered.
Candace tilted her head to one side. “I think we should solve that before we negotiate anything else. Flores?”
“Yes, Doctor?” Julieta droned.
“Remove her helmet. Destroy it, but don’t hurt her.”
“Yes, Doctor,” Julieta agreed, but this time it was less an empty drone and more excited satisfaction in her voice.
She floated forward, still a few inches above the ground. Knowing her well, Beta knew she’d been instructed on how to present herself; Julieta would always walk if she had the option. At the moment, she didn’t; her own wishes had been set aside in favour of Kraft’s aesthetic preferences.
The heroine stopped just in front of where Beta sat. She bent at the waist, feet rising slightly as her legs folded upward together, but she leaned forward at the same time. The swell of her breasts had always been impressive, but seeing how they hung in her catsuit as she swayed over her really brought it home to Beta just how much that “superhuman effect” had blessed her friend. Not that Beta had been untouched by the phenomenon herself.
Beta was caught up in the power display of her friend, her scalp tingling under the helmet as she enjoyed the idea of being another powerful woman so firmly under Candace’s thumb. It didn’t occur to her that Julieta’s shift was also designed to tighten her catsuit over her rear and give Candace a better view, too.
Julieta reached around Beta’s head. She could just feel the contact of her powerful, gentle fingers against the helmet behind her. For a moment, the two former partners stayed frozen like that, Julieta’s hand cradling the back of her friend’s head.
A different kind of tingle swept over Beta.
Then there was a creak, the sound of metal under strain, and then a loud crack as the helmet plates began to tear apart. Julieta was making a fist behind Beta’s unmoving head, and the pressure of her power crumpled the back of the helmet, pulling it apart from the front.
The camera feeds for Beta’s eyes winked out, and a few moments later instead there was the bright glare of unfiltered electric light, circling her friend’s face like a halo.
Freed from the controlling influence of her helmet, Danielle’s power was no longer needed to hold Beta’s personality at bay. Fully herself again, she smiled up at Julieta.
“Hi,” she said.
Julieta didn’t answer, but the side of her mouth quirked upward, from a half-smile to a full smile.
“Kiss her, Flores,” Candace instructed. Danielle got to see the way her friend’s eyes changed as she registered the order.
“Yes, Doctor,” Julieta said, and, still hanging in the air, she floated forward, her eyes closing and her mouth opening. Danielle’s lips, suddenly dry, parted in response, and they met for the kiss. Danielle’s eyes closed and she enjoyed the sensation, but much more, she enjoyed the display of Candace’s power.
Julieta’s tongue flickered into Danielle’s waking mouth, brushing across her teeth and making almost electric contact with her own tongue before it retreated. The strength of her friend’s body and will were both utterly subjugated to this woman, and while La Bandera and Bolero had never been more than friends, Danielle knew the heat here was real and mutual. It was the heat of submission, the heat of being controlled.
Julieta should hate that, but here, she seemed perfectly comfortable with the idea. This was everything Danielle could dream of; a submission that came with love.
It wasn’t coincidence that Candace had given Julieta a duty. She was offering Danielle the opportunity to submit even before control was in place.
She clearly realised exactly who she was dealing with.
By the time they broke the kiss Danielle felt broken, too. “Can you take me?” she asked, her voice hoarse with anticipation. “This is what I want. I’ll submit. Just put me under.”
“Bring her through here, Flores,” Candace commanded. “We have a screen to put her in front of.”
“I apologise for the late hour, Senator Raines,” Candace said smoothly on the Pearsons’ phone. “As I’m sure you’ve already heard, there have been some disruptions in Annandale. I was wondering if you’d reached a decision on your wife’s future, ah… opinions?”
She held her breath. A second relocation wasn’t something she wanted to mess up here. But if the Senator answered yes…
“Miss Kraft,” the Senator replied, sounding surprised but jovial. “So good of you to call. I was going to have Roger reach out to you tomorrow. Am I to understand you want a decision early?”
“I’m afraid so, Senator.” Candace forced a smile to her lips, to be echoed in her voice. “My Master will wish me to relocate somewhere healthier following the disruption. If our further business does not begin, he will summon me home.”
Senator Raines chuckled. “And otherwise?”
“We will deliver Missy, of course - that happens either way - and then we’ll visit your wife at home in Montana. We’ll convert her in-residence, over the course of perhaps a month, during which we’ll put it out that she is unwell and not able to carry out her social calendar.”
There was another pause. “Well, I think that sounds perfectly reasonable to me,” Raines said. “But if you’re working from home, there are one or two neighbours I wouldn’t mind deciding they prefer me to their husbands, too.”
Candace had already calmed down, knowing she had somewhere to take her new conquests where she’d be able to finish their conversion before reporting to the Doctor. At this suggestion, she chuckled. “I think we might need to assess those questions first, Senator,” she said. “Besides, your wife and Missy will both have far more appetite for you. I suggest we raise the question of your neighbours again once you’ve had a year to assess your capacity.”
That same chuckle sounded again. She could well understand how his laugh had become a cornerstone of his political success. It was the kind of laugh that made you want to be on the same side. “You drive a hard bargain, Miss Kraft. And if your price lowers to four million, it’s acceptable.”
“That’s acceptable to me, too, Senator,” she said. “Missy will be with you tonight. It’s a thirty-hour drive to Billings; we’ll only be stopping for food and fuel. Your wife will be going under first thing in the morning, day after tomorrow.”
“I look forward to seeing the results,” Raines said, then hung up.
Candace hung up in her term and took a deep breath. She looked across to Julieta. “You know what you have to do?”
The heroine nodded. Her body language was back to something more powerful, something more confident. While that yellow bodysuit was hardly her old costume, she still looked like a heroine.
“Just while we have a minute,” Candace said with a smile, “I think you need a new name too.” Julieta nodded, accepting the opinion of her superior as more true than her own. She waited. “Julie and Jules don’t sound right to me,” Candace continued. “But Flores… flowers… yes, I think you’re going to be Daisy.”
Daisy nodded, accepting it as truth.
“Get on with it, then,” Candace directed.
Julieta moved across to where Danielle sat next to the vacant Gamma, who had been perched on a kitchen stool in front of the same screen Danielle was drinking in. “Gamma wake,” she instructed. “Look directly into the screen, soldier,” she commanded, riveting her teammate’s eyes to her programming. “Release any spells you have active,” she added.
Lulu had been as surprised as anyone when her dive had actually connected with the Jeep. She’d managed to clamp her fingers down tight enough, and had even hauled herself into the back, heedless of the bewilderment that a woman in a maid costume clinging to the back of a vehicle caused in the passers-on behind them.
From there, unfortunately, she’d found herself unsure what to do. She couldn’t reach the driver, and any attempt to climb into the cab would likely fail. She’d strapped herself in and now simply watched, waiting for the Jeep to need to come to a stop where she could confront the driver.
For the driver’s part, they’d realised early on they weren’t shaking Lulu, and therefore was more or less circling Annandale. Lulu got the sense they were trying to think of a way to break the deadlock.
She glowered at the back of the driver’s head, the amethyst energy of her enchantment flaring slightly in her eyes as her emotions ran high.
And then the energy flared again and disappeared. Lulu’s enchantment suddenly disappeared from deep within her.
Her eyes rolled back in her head and she slumped in the chair.
As the Superhuman Response Squad pulled up near the Pearsons’ residence, Candace, Missy, and the Pearsons loaded the Doctor’s proprietary technology into the van, ready for transit. Meanwhile, in their colour-coordinated jumpsuits, Sammi, Gigi and Daisy made their way out to meet the officers. Still just about recognisable as the Symphony even though they were unmasked, they made for an imposing sight.
Daisy raised a hand in greeting. “Good afternoon, Sergeant,” she said, then paused and frowned, as if trying to remember something. “Wait - Hanrahan?”
The sergeant’s eyebrows jumped up in shock. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, then hesitated. “Uh - Samba?”
Daisy nodded agreement. “You were the squad rookie last time we saw each other, I think,” she said. “Maybe you can help me with something. What year is this?”
Hanrahan and his squad exchanged confused glances, mouths open. Being recognised confirmed this was who they said they were, but they’d been gone a long time.
“It’s 2006,” Hanrahan said. “How come you don’t know that?”
“Has the news about Walters broken?” Gigi asked, as always taking the terse tone of the team enforcer. “Have you heard?”
“There was something coming out over the radio,” Hanrahan admitted. “Just not much, not yet. He’s not in prison?”
Daisy shook her head. “He was using us as slaves for his agenda,” she said. “Apparently for five years.” Her jaw hardened, and Hanrahan gestured to his men to lower their weaponry. This looked like an easy resolution, at least until they filled out the paperwork.
“And that brought you to this house?”
“Yeees,” Daisy conceded, looking like she wasn’t sure how much she should say. “Walters wanted something. I’m pretty sure the DoD wouldn’t want me telling you classified data about what it was, though.”
Hanrahan paused, then sighed and threw up his hands. “Alright,” he said. “We’ll put you guys down as handling it.”
“Thank you, Sergeant.” Daisy took a step forward and offered him her hand. “Congratulations on making Captain. You can tell your superiors we’ll be taking some time for ourselves, but I’m not done yet - we’ll drop by to be debriefed when we’re ready.”
Then, as their handshake completed, she saluted.
Twenty minutes after Hanrahan’s squad left, a Jeep pulled up by the Pearsons’ drive and Lulu’s unconscious body was deposited.
Ten minutes later, the enthralled heroines, Candace, and Missy drove out in the van, stopping for a moment to collect Lulu.
True to Candace’s word, a rotating roster of her slaves would only stop for fuel and cheap gas-stop snacks on the way to Billings and Senator Raines’ home residence.
Elsewhere, on the private island she’d helped him secure, Doctor Bimbeau admired one of the photos he’d had Candace pose for and wondered how soon she’d be ready to return. In the meantime, Mandi knelt mindlessly between his thighs, mouth open, head bobbing, keeping him contented.
Also contented, sucking happily at the tit of another of his father’s recently converted slaves, was tiny Alexander Bimbeau, the child Candace was not presently permitted to remember.