tagMind ControlPussy Liquor

Pussy Liquor

byJukeboxEMCSA©

Eris tapped the magnification lenses on her mask to zoom in on the grounds of the old mansion, carefully noting the location and patrol patterns of the guards. They were pretty spread out--the estate had seen better days, but it still sprawled across nearly fifteen acres of overgrown, tangled thickets and encroaching forest. They had a lot of ground to cover, which was good for Eris. She didn't have any margin of error tonight; if even a single guard managed to raise an alarm, the best-case scenario was that she was potentially signing her best friend's death warrant. The worst-case scenario involved the end of free will as humanity knew it. But hey, no pressure, right? She slipped down from the weeping willow she'd been using as a perch and began to move in.

Eris wished she could call for backup, but she hadn't heard from Doctor Phobos in over a week now, and his sidekick Deimos had his hands full keeping order in San Delfino in his absence. She wasn't worried about Doctor Phobos--a few years of dealing with superheroic weirdness had made her almost distressingly casual about friends who vanished in fiery explosions while fighting genocidal madmen--but she couldn't take the chance to wait for him. The longer she waited, the worse things could get for Julia, from torture to brainwashing to...Eris clamped down on that train of thought hard. It didn't do any good to lose herself in worry like that.

And calling in an outside superhero was out of the question. They were all...Eris squirmed uncomfortably away from the thought, glad there were no telepaths in the vicinity. But it was true. They were careless. They were brash and loud and they relied on their superpowers to keep them safe and they didn't train and they blew things up and they were always impossible to get in touch with and they disappeared for days or weeks without warning and they came up with crazy plans on the fly and they took ridiculous chances and and and...Eris let out a tiny sigh of frustration, careful not to make a sound that could be heard by the guard she was approaching but unable to fully suppress her annoyance with the community she'd joined. It wasn't that she thought she was better than other superheroes, it was just...she really thought they could improve their results with a little more diligence. But the only person who seemed to agree with her was Sharpe, and most of the other heroes out there didn't even know she existed.

So even though Eris knew that in a lot of ways she was the absolute worst person for the job, she made herself continue toward the mansion. Doctor Zoltanus (her mind seamlessly inserted the disclaimer, 'Not a real doctor') had forced her hand by kidnapping Julia; she couldn't take the risk that even a relatively competent hero like WildRose or Adventure Girl would make a mistake that could endanger her friend, let alone calling in a loose cannon like Harrier or Azure. She knew Zoltanus was laying a trap for her, and she knew she was walking right into it, but all the alternatives were even worse. Eris couldn't take the chance of leaving her childhood friend to become one of Zoltanus's drugged slaves...or tortured, or brutalized, or--CLAMP. Eris had to do this on her own, that was all there was to it.

Especially since it was Eris's fault that Julia had gotten involved in this whole mess. Julia didn't even know that Tara Tate was secretly Eris, partner and confidante to San Delfino's protector of the night. She probably had no idea why the Blood Cult of Doctor Zoltanus kidnapped her. (Okay, he didn't actually call it 'The Blood Cult of Doctor Zoltanus'. People didn't tend to sign up for anything involving the words 'blood cult'. But Eris was the one writing the casefile, and she didn't see any reason to mince words.) Julia was probably terrified right now, and that was assuming she could think at all.

Eris slipped in behind the first guard, drifting as lightly as a cloud through the unkempt grass, and dropped him with a swift chop to the cluster of nerves at the base of his head. She couldn't afford to use her fear gas, not tonight; if one of Zoltanus's men got twitchy, they might sound a full-scale alert. Eris couldn't afford that. She'd already slipped up once, the last time she put Zoltanus behind bars, and it had disastrous consequences. She couldn't let herself make another error, not with so much at stake.

Not that she was wound a little tightly or anything, she thought ruefully. Eris pulled the guard into the underbrush and secured his hands and feet with zip ties, then gagged him just in case he woke up. One down, five to go. Perhaps another six more inside at most--if Zoltanus stuck to his usual M.O., he probably chose three or four of those for the wealth they brought, not for their physical prowess. He probably had one that was purely there to use for his pleasure, too. Eris hoped that wasn't Julia. That left no more than two or three that could handle themselves in a fight.

Of course, it didn't take much skill to put a knife to Julia's throat. Dammit, she should have been more careful! But Eris had underestimated Zoltanus--she hadn't thought that her casual comment about 'neutralizing' Zoltanus's mind control toxins would have sent his twisted mind down the path it did. She was normally more careful about describing her power as an immunity to toxins around anyone who might pick up on the implications of her abilities; if anyone ever realized she produced the counter-agents to harmful drugs and poisons in her own body, they might decide that Tara Tate was more valuable as a living pharmaceutical lab than as a human being. But she always thought of Doctor Zoltanus as a jumped-up quack who used his mutant power to drug starlets and heiresses, not as an actual threat. He was making her pay for that now.

He must have been planning this for months before he made his move, indoctrinating people in San Delfino and commanding them to secretly observe her nightly activities. Anybody could have been under his spell--the thugs she fought down at the docks, the soccer mom she saved from the Harrison Park Killer, even the police who normally helped her clean up after the criminal rings she and Doctor Phobos busted. Sooner or later he must have found something that led him back to her. And then...

Eris dropped the next guard with a kidney punch that was probably a little bit harder than strictly necessary, but she had some stress to work off. Two down. She consoled herself with the knowledge that she didn't have to beat Zoltanus; she only needed to find Julia, get her safely out of the mansion Zoltanus was using as a base of operations, and then she could call down the entire Liberty Squad on the oily little jerk. Without Julia, he had nothing to hold over her, and she could instinctively neutralize his mind-control drugs without even needing to try. She just needed to do things carefully, that was all. Stealth and silence, just like the Monks of New Sheduo had taught her. Be at one with the night, strike from the shadows, and--

The stillness of the night was broken by a stuttering drone, the sound of the very air itself being whipped to near supersonic speeds. Eris turned to see the vegetation swaying violently back and forth as it was pulled in the direction of a vast, erratically moving dust devil that shredded the foliage into a whirling cloud of splinters as it approached. High above it, floating on the breeze, she could see a figure dressed all in white, sparkling like a gem in the dark sky.

Oh, Eris thought, her heart dropping into the pit of her stomach. Oh shit. She broke into a run, all thoughts of stealth forgotten as she moved to intercept the last people she expected to see tonight.

She half-expected them to simply charge right past her--this particular duo was known for their subtlety, caution and delicate handling of tense situations like Victor Frankenstein was known for his ethics and deference to laboratory protocol. But thankfully, the dust cloud subsided to reveal a person slowly spinning to a halt, a person wearing a tuxedo top decorated in red sequins and a pair of fishnet stockings that went all the way up to zir waist and all the way down to a pair of black leather tap shoes. "Airy!" ze chirped, in a Brooklyn-accented squeal. "Well, fancy meeting you here!" Ze snickered derisively. "We didn't expect to see any Girl Scouts tonight!"

The other person descended partway to earth, although Eris had heard that ze never truly let zir feet touch the ground. "We are surprised by the presence of royalty, indeed," ze said, affecting the plummy tones of a Cambridge don. Zir eyes gleamed with a cruel beauty that seemed to chisel all zir pale features in icy majesty. Eris was really glad she wore a mask that hid most of her face; she didn't like to admit it, but that callous and indifferent sensuality always made her blush a little.

"The Sequined Ragestorm," Eris said, trying to keep her voice light and friendly. "And Iridescent Killing Machine. I...really didn't expect to see you here tonight, either." She felt herself wanting to babble nervously, her usual response to stress, and bit back a thousand things she wanted to say. "Um, could we maybe take this conversation somewhere else? Maybe somewhere out of sight?"

She knew she was probably wasting her breath--this particular duo absolutely did not do 'out of sight'. They literally made their living livestreaming their assaults on society's most infamous supervillains, treating the fight against evil as a kind of avant-garde performance art and themselves as proud, pansexual, non-binary social justice vigilantes who defied the staid conventions of the superhero scene and embraced their cult celebrity status. They even had their own Patreon page.

Eris didn't really mind them, although she knew more than a few superheroes who did, and she at least respected them and the good they frequently did in the course of their 'art'...but they were the absolute worst people to show up here, at the absolute worst time. Even if Eris could get them to restrain their lackadaisical attitude toward collateral damage, a show of force could lead to Zoltanus bugging out the back with Julia in tow. Or worse.

Sure enough, Ragestorm let out a cackle that probably carried all the way to the mansion. "Out of sight!" ze said, zir voice filled with scorn. "Do I look like a church mouse to you, girlie? Did you see whiskers on this pretty face?" Zir mouth tightened into a rictus grin, making zir broad cheeks and squared-off jaw look disconcertingly like ze was about to go for Eris's jugular. "Out of sight, she says. Like she's ashamed of us."

"She's one of the nobility," Iridescent Killing Machine said, zir body radiating a gentle coruscation even when at rest. "You can't expect her to be thrilled by the prospect of the nouveau riche showing up at her private party." Ze tossed back zir head, allowing zir mane of platinum hair to swirl haughtily. "The hoi palloi are unwelcome at these private soirees of silent brutality."

"Now, wait, I didn't mean it like that," Eris said, her hands out in a gesture that she wasn't sure counted as placation or warding. "I just mean that there's a hostage in there, and she's someone who means a lot to me, and I need you to tread lightly here--"

But it was no good. They ignored her, continuing their banter as if she wasn't even there. "Oh, so it's a party!" Ragestorm said, twirling around before moving into a mocking curtsy. "Well, you should have said, sweetie-pie! Because you know there's only one thing I like to do to parties..."

Eris winced, already beginning to feel the shape of how very badly this could go for her and for Julia. "Now wait, please, let's just talk about this for a second..."

Ragestorm only smiled even tighter, zir jaw muscles pulsing with manic excitement. Ze began to spin again, even faster this time, zir constant anger fueling the whirling revolutions of zir super-speed until zir feet raised a tornado of dust despite the thickness of the humid summer air. "When I see a party," ze shouted over the rising din of the rapidly increasing wind, "I just gotta...CRASH IT!"

With that, ze was off, moving past Eris in a wash of blowing debris that smacked her right onto her butt. By the time she staggered to her feet, the duo was already three-quarters of the way to the mansion, Iridescent Killing Machine swooping along in zir partner's wake like a drunken hummingbird. Eris had barely covered ten steps before they reduced the double doors to a shower of splinters with the combined force of their attack.

Eris's heart sank. She knew the disaster was already well underway, now. All she could do now was try to limit the catastrophe. She sprinted through the track of barren earth left behind by the Sequined Ragestorm's tornadic progress, passing chunks of wood dotted with razor-sharp discs smaller than her fingernail. She tried not to think about them, but every single one stood out like a dagger in her mind. Eris knew from watching the duo's exploits that those same sequins, hurled by gale force winds, could penetrate flesh and bone just as easily as they did the mansion's doors, and she tried not to think of Julia caught in the middle of one of the Ragestorm's destructive whirlwinds. Of all the ways her friend could go, somehow Eris never thought it would be death by self-replicating sequined jacket technology.

She burst into the foyer to see the two vigilantes easily mopping up Zoltanus's guards. Iridescent Killing Machine blasted one of them with a rainbow bolt of light that left him frantically slapping at his own clothing in an attempt to put out a sudden blaze, while Ragestorm spun around the room like a whirling dervish, knocking men over like bowling pins. Eris didn't see Julia, thankfully, but she didn't see Zoltanus either. The mansion was huge, they could be anywhere, and that was if they weren't already making for a getaway van. She had to find them quickly before this got out of hand.

The guards from the mansion grounds burst into the room, leveling sub-machine guns at all three of them. Eris made a leap for the banister of the massive staircase that led to the upper level, then pushed off of it and dropped onto a guard with an axe kick that sent him crumpling to the floor with a shattered collarbone. She felt a little bad about beating up someone who was probably mind-controlled, but he'd probably be fine after a few weeks in the hospital and she had to incapacitate them to keep them from getting back into the fight. Zoltanus's control made them virtually impervious to pain.

She took out a second guard with a throw that dislocated his shoulder and a kick that broke his leg, and just past him she saw the Sequined Ragestorm grab one another one of the guards for a few moments and then let him go. At the speeds ze was spinning, centrifugal force did the rest. That left only two, and Iridescent Killing Machine finished them off--ze swooped between them, aiming a blinding flash of light directly into their eyes, then made for the rafters as the disoriented men fired at the threat they could no longer see. Eris winced, hoping the bullet wounds weren't as lethal as they seemed to the casual eye.

Still, she couldn't argue with results. With the guards out of the way, perhaps there was still a chance to salvage something from this disaster. Zoltanus couldn't have that many men left; his powers were limited, and there was no way he could be enslaving more than a dozen or so people without draining--

The doors that led deeper into the mansion burst open. Dozens of men came out, each of them wearing body armor and holding a sub-machine gun. They had the hardened look of professional mercenaries, and Eris had a moment of horror as she realized what would have happened to her if she had come alone. This was the trap Zoltanus must have been ready to spring. He'd supplemented his mind-controlled slaves with guns for hire, more than she could possibly fight off. If the Sequined Ragestorm and Iridescent Killing Machine hadn't arrived when they did...she glanced over at them, suddenly grateful for their presence.

That gratitude lasted all of a tenth of a second, right up until the Sequined Ragestorm shouted, "Incoming, Killer! Time to put 'em down for the count! Hit me with a Hypnostorm!"

Before Eris could say anything, Iridescent Killing Machine directed a beam of blinding light directly onto the Sequined Ragestorm's spinning form. The sequined jacket caught the light, breaking it up into a million rainbow pulses that swirled across the vision of Eris and the guards faster than their minds could process. Eris tried to reach for her goggles, hoping to activate her polarizing filter and block out at least some of the overwhelming light show, but her hand lost momentum midway to her head and she found herself tottering to a stop without even realizing it. Her mind felt like all her thoughts were breaking up into fragments before they could even finish forming, the dazzling light so intense that her senses simply couldn't handle it.

She tried to close her eyes, but the rainbow patterns simply strobed across her eyelids in a dizzying whirl that threatened to topple her. She tried to turn, to look away from the vision of scattered light that was pounding her thoughts to mush, but she felt sickeningly off-balance. "Stop!" she shouted, desperate to escape the waves of sensory overload, but if either the Sequined Ragestorm or Iridescent Killing Machine heard her, they didn't respond. If anything, they seemed to intensify the hypnotic dance of colored light. Eris thought she heard the sound of the guards' guns clattering to the floor, but she couldn't see anything. Moments later, she forgot even what she was thinking about looking for.

She knew she was drifting into a fugue state, and she struggled to make herself speak. "Got to...stop," she mumbled, unsure whether the duo could hear her over the roaring wind. "Julia, Zoltanus...getting away..." She trailed off into silence, the effort of moving her lips too much in the face of the sensory assault. Her mind retreated into numbness, silence, a haze of confusion as her brain simply shut down from the intensity of the mesmerizing light show that played over her. She closed her eyes again, this time from simple mental fatigue, but the strobing patterns were too much for her exhausted brain. She fell to her knees, helpless to even move. All she could do was whisper one last time. "...getting...away..."

"Of course I'm not, dear," a voice behind her said. Even as her blood ran cold at the sound of it, Eris couldn't escape the artificial calm the hypnotic strobes brought. "Why would I go anywhere when I finally have everything I need right here?" She felt a hand peel away her mask with trembling fingers, then caress her cheek. She knew exactly who it belonged to.

"Zoltanus," Iridescent Killing Machine said, zir voice filled with an erotic reverence that Eris recognized all too well. Zoltanus must have slipped zir some of his mind-control drugs at some point, ze and the Sequined Ragestorm both. That had been his plan all along, Eris realized distantly. The trap within a trap. He knew he couldn't coerce her, not even with Julia as a hostage, but she was just as vulnerable as anyone else to this kind of brainwashing. He had her in his power, now, and that meant he could do the same to anyone else. Everyone else.

"You can open your eyes," Zoltanus said, his voice sweet like poisoned honey. "I want you to see this." Eris fluttered her eyelids open to see the world through a rainbow-washed haze--Iridescent Killing Machine was glowing with a gentle swirl of rainbow hues, and zir beams of light continued to play over Eris's face. It lulled her into an obedient stupor, one no less irresistible than the pounding assault that had ensnared her. Through the sparkling patterns, she could see both the Ragestorm and Iridescent Killing Machine kneeling in front of a frail bald man with a long, salt-and-pepper beard who wore only an indigo cloak. His arms, legs and chest were a map of scars.

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