Lockdown, along with the rest of the FBI, had been pretty upset when Nighttime had escaped. Still, as their involvement in New Oslo was still fresh, they were willing to accept a bumpy path on the way to taking care of the villains in the city. Lockdown now sat in a room at the central police station with Chief Wanda Meyers and Judgement Girl. It had been requested that Lady Justice, Nathan and Elsa all be there, but they'd all decline do to prior commitments and Lockdown didn't care so long as at least one person was there that could help get her fully up to speed. The three women were going through a stack of files.
“Okay, that covers Gorgun and Cold Fusion,” said Lockdown, saying the pointless observation so that it would be on record, making the recorded conversation easier to navigate. “Next are Tick and Tock,” continued the FBI agent. “You told me earlier you think they broke Nighttime out. Why?”
“Tick and Tock are supposedly the servants of the Norse God Loki,” explained Judgement Girl. “Few legends speak of them because they were like ghosts. They appear to literally be goblins, about as tall as toddlers and extremely skinny, plus green skin. We know that can create time-bubbles, which effectively mess up the flow of time in a certain area. We also believe they can turn invisible and hypnotize people, based on what we've seen. Their motivations appear to be chaos, probably according to the will of their master. We have no clue if they are the actual creatures of legend who still serve a supposed god or if they're some kind of horrible experiment gone wrong.”
“Either way they're a menace,” added Wanda. “We've knowingly encountered them three times, but it is possible they've done far more than we think.”
“I'll be glad when those two are caught then,” muttered Lockdown. “Okay, Nighttime we don't have a lot of information on, as she's new, so while we're looking into it we won't go into her file. Next is... Mister Mannequin?” Stephanie appeared to be extremely confused by the name.
“Yeah, it does sound hard to take him seriously, doesn't it?” chuckled Judgement Girl, a sad smile on her face. “Mister Mannequin is actually probably one of the more dangerous villains, worse than the goblins, Gorgun or Jason. We aren't entirely sure how, but with a mere touch of his skin he can turn a person into a plastic mannequin, like the ones you see in some stores. He also has the unpredictable ability to make his body grow and deform, but he does still seem to have the same flexibility of a normal person. His skin is yellow and he's got red eyes, though we don't know why. He's also insane, seemingly kidnapping women because he thinks of them as flowers in a garden. I'm not using a metaphor, as he's said that before during encounters.”
“Any clue on where he came from?” Lockdown asked next, a small chill going down her spine.
“We believe his powers originate from an accident involving Vernon Enterprises,” explained Wanda. “The company had come under fire by environmental protesters for certain chemicals they were using. One night their mannequin factory was set ablaze. Following this only one person was never accounted for, and his name was Lewis Maxwell, the janitor. Since the chemicals used by the company gave another odd abilities, and Mister Mannequin appeared shortly after this incident, we believe him to be Maxwell.”
“Not a bad theory,” admitted Lockdown as she went on to the next file. “This file has been classified by military intelligence? Okay, we'll cover it once we get clearance. That leaves this last guy you call Fire Eyes.”
“Fire Eyes is Trent Welski, the former Vice-President of Vernon Enterprises,” explained Judgement Girl, her voice starting to sound a little tired. “He actually explained what happened to him to James Anderson, the president of the company. He was responsible for those dangerous chemicals, and during a meeting with protesters at a chemical plant to try and pay them off a fire was started. Trent was exposed to the chemicals which altered his eyes visibly and gave him some odd powers. His eyes literally appear to be on fire, but they can also somehow turn people or objects into solid wood. Oddly enough despite his eyes being the ones that appear to be on fire his flame-thrower power is projected from his mouth.”
“Fire Eyes has been known for attacking Vernon Enterprises' buildings, though after he was caught in the Anderson home he vanished,” chimed in Wanda.
“Christ, it's like some just need some therapy or support groups, but these guys sound like they should just be locked away,” muttered Lockdown, feeling slightly disturbed by the villains. Still, she was with the FBI, and it wasn't going to phase her. “Alright, that wraps this briefing up. Thank you both for joining me.” The recorder was shut off and Lockdown moved to leave the room, Judgement Girl joining her.
“So what do you think?” asked Judgement Girl as she moved with Stephanie down the station's hallways.
“I think you guys are lucky to have managed to pull off so many wins,” admitted Lockdown. “I mean, you and Lady Justice are capable superheroes, and you have busted a bunch of crooks, but when it comes to these villains you always seem to barely get out of sticky situations. I mean, if I hadn't shown up when I had, Nighttime might of turned you to stone and ensured we could never reverse it.”
“We do have some shielding devices made,” explained Judgement Girl, feeling a bit low due to Lockdown and her truthful observations. “Unfortunately they can only really protect us from things like conventional knock-out gas, paralysis rays like the one you have, stasis fields... When it comes to the weapons and powers our real enemies like to use, the only way we could get a good defense is if we got an idea of how they worked.”
“You did capture Gorgun once,” noted Lockdown. “I bet if the information on that other fellow, Technomagus right? I bet if his files weren't so classified you could probably get an idea of how he does things.”
“I suppose, but I'm beginning to worry that if we don't stop these people soon we could be in serious danger,” replied Judgement Girl, voicing her fears.
* * *
Lady Justice really hadn't felt like sitting through a briefing with that FBI agent, so instead she'd decided to go with Lilly to visit her father at the Vernon Enterprises main office, where he supposedly had something to tell them. Jessica was of course curious as to what the company's president had that she didn't on something she'd care about, but all the same decided to go. Fortunately Lilly was less annoying, and effectively had been ever since her ordeal with Technomagus. She also wasn't wearing a halter-top for once, instead going with a traditional white T-shirt. The pair rode the elevator up to the top floor and exited.
The twentieth floor of the building was a small one, an addition to the originally eighteen story building. The two floors had been added to serve as the private offices for the president and vice-president of the company when it had bought the entire building. James Anderson's outer office considered of a large desk behind which sat two secretaries. Nearby was a door that lead to a security office where four armed private security guards waited, having direct access to the office and outer office from their room. Cameras were trained on all the doors and windows as well as the desk and elevator.
Lilly merely waved at the secretaries as she went to the office door. One of the secretaries hit a button at her desk which automatically opened the oak doors, swinging them wide open to reveal the president's office. Lady Justice and Lilly stepped inside.
James sat at his desk, a massive one made of dark wood. His executive balls were clinking together. “Ah, Lady Justice, thank you for coming,” greeted James, not bothering to rise though he did smile and wave. “Sorry for not getting up to greet you but I'm wearing my therapy pad so my back won't give out for another few years.”
“It's quite alright, sir,” offered Lady Justice as she moved to sit in one of the lounger chairs in front of the desk.
“Please call me James,” requested the president. “You've helped my family so many times, I'd like to think we can be a bit more informal.”
“Alright then, thank you,” replied Lady Justice, her face going just a slight shade of red.
“Now to business,” stated James, shifting in his seat slightly. “I'm afraid I received a threatening letter this morning from Lewis Maxwell.”
“What?!” exclaimed Lilly, suddenly scared.
“I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner,” James told his daughter before refocusing on the heroine. “As you know Maxwell was a janitor at the mannequin factory before it burned down. I know you think he may be this Mister Mannequin, but his letter appeared to be, well, sane. That is, aside from the threats.”
Lady Justice was going to say something but was cut-off by the shattering of glass as a white object came smashing through the large window to her left. Lilly and Lady Justice both leapt up from their seats, Lilly trying to retreat in fear while Lady Justice tried to move to the side of Mr. Anderson. However, before either woman had gotten very far a yellow finger with a black nail touched both of them, causing them to halt in place as their skin hardened and they were transformed into plastic dummies.
As the strange form that was Mister Mannequin stood up before his desk James, fearing for his daughter as he realized she'd been turned into a mannequin, hit the panic button under his desk, though security was already aware of the window breaking. Unfortunately for the four armed men they never got to enter the room through the secret door as the security office was infiltrated by an older man with gray hair, an unusual tuxedo and eyes that appeared to be on fire. Needless to say, Fire Eyes waisted no time turning all for men into wood. Before Mister Mannequin had even broken through the window he'd taken the elevator up to the floor and turned both secretaries into wooden statues as well. Fortunately he hadn't set anything on fire yet, though that could change.
“Hello there, Mr. Anderson!” cried Mister Mannequin. “I've come to make you pay, for making we unwelcome in your own world!” James tried to stand but Mister Mannequin lashed out and punched him in the face. Surprisingly he didn't turn into mannequin, just felt pain as he tumbled backwards, tipping his chair over.
“Oh no, I'm going to try and add you to my garden!” exclaimed Mister Mannequin as she almost slithered over to the president, pausing only briefly to stroke Lady Justice's hair. “You're going hurt lots and lots, just like what you did to me!”
“Dear god...” choked James as he lay on the floor, looking at the horrifying face of Mister Mannequin. “Maxwell... that's you, isn't it?”
As Mister Mannequin continued to beat James while Lady Justice and Lilly stood by and did nothing, no longer being human, Fire Eyes watched in great delight from the security office monitors. “Take that, you little prick,” muttered Trent as he watched James get slammed against the wall. “After that nut is done, I'll take over this company. A guy like you should really update your will, since if you die and your daughter is gone too I get all your stocks...” One would think that revealing their secret plan out loud is foolish, but the only ones that could hear Fire Eyes had been turned into wood carvings, so it didn't matter.
A minute later, however, Trent saw something that made him worry. Coming up in the elevator, the only one that could reach the floor, were two women and that martial artist that had beaten him the last time. “I don't think so,” muttered Fire Eyes, hitting a button on the security panel. Immediately the elevator stopped moving, caught between the nineteenth and twentieth floors. Not satisfied, Fire Eyes left the office and opened the shaft's doors, peering down on the box which contained possible threats if left alone.
Sure enough a moment later the emergency panel on the top of the elevator slid away and the redhead with glasses was trying to climb out. Peeking past her Fire Eyes could see a blond woman in a business suit. Trent's eyes flashed green and both were struck by his powerful gaze. Fire Eyes heard Nathan curse as both women, clothes and all, were turned into solid wood, effectively blocking his only escape route from the elevator. “Have fun, whelp,” called Fire Eyes as he closed the shaft doors.
Nathan cursed again as he moved to pull the wooden Elsa away from the statue of Claire. Claire had been pulling herself out of the box, her palms resting on top of the roof, her legs dangling freely with Elsa's hands on the woman's ass. Unfortunately Nathan discovered that when he tried to move Elsa Claire moved too. It seemed Elsa's hands had become stuck to Claire's rear, as if they were one big carving. “Dammit all,” muttered Nathan. He wouldn't be leaving the elevator anytime soon.
Fortunately for Nathan he wouldn't have to try and leave the shaft, for at that moment Lockdown and Judgement Girl were pulling themselves up into the security office through a hole in the floor. While Trent had been busy with the elevator Lockdown and Judgement Girl had decided to take the secret escape route in the floor of the security office. Shortly before Lady Justice and Lilly had met with James, the FBI had spotted Mister Mannequin on a rooftop in the city and started a hunt. When one helicopter chasing the mutant had been turned into wood it was realized Fire Eyes was also involved, and instinctively they decided to try and warn Vernon Enterprises. Nathan, Elsa and Claire had gone to do this since earlier on someone had created a literal cone of silence around the building, making it impossible to contact anyone inside. Elsa theorized Cold Fusion could create a device capable of this, though she didn't know that Fire Eyes had actually paid Jason to plant the device a few minutes before he and Mister Mannequin arrived.
By the time Nathan and the two women had arrived Fire Eyes had already snuck into the building the same was as Mister Mannequin, only entering through the outer office windows rather than those within. Trent had scaled the building using a grappling device also supplied by Cold Fusion while Mister Mannequin had merely used his stretching limbs to accomplish the feat. Lockdown and Judgement Girl had taken the second elevator to the eighteenth floor and gone the rest of the way via the secret passage.
“You check on Anderson, I'll look in the other room,” ordered Lockdown, and Judgement Girl agreed. Her raygun in hand, Lockdown opened the door to the outer office and rolled inside. She immediately spotted the large desk and the two female secretaries, both females in business attire with glasses and hair tied back Japanese-style. Both had been turned into wooden statues while standing up and facing the shattered window, their faces showing signs of alarm. Lockdown finished scanning the room when she spotted Fire Eyes near the elevator shaft, who'd just finished dealing with Nathan and the others.
“You're busted, slime!” shouted Lockdown as she fired her raygun. Unfortunately for her Cold Fusion had supplied Trent with the shielding technology he'd stolen from Elsa back when Nighttime had frozen over half the city, thus he was immune to the ray. Fire Eyes retaliated by burping, causing a stream of flame to shoot out at the FBI agent. Lockdown sprang back and sidestepped, fumbling her ray in the process. Trent, not one to be disappointed by his first attack failing, activated his special gaze and Lockdown was struck by the green beam as she tried to recover, turning her into solid wood like the other women in the room. Her legs were spread wide and her arms were raised by her sides, though her face remained neutral.
“It is a shame such a lovely woman had to be so foolish,” mused Trent as admired the wooden statue of Lockdown.
Meanwhile, back in the office, James was nearly unconscious, his face face smeared with blood, every bone in his body aching in pain. At one point Lilly had been knocked over, though her outstretched arms had propped her up so her face didn't hit the ground. Lady Justice, meanwhile, was now securely in Mister Mannequin's grip, the lunatic holding her in front of him as he looked down on James.
“Your precious protector can't help you now!” cackled Mister Mannequin. “Look at her! I was able to defeat her before she even realized I was here! How could you think you would get away with doing this to me?!” Mister Mannequin waved Lady Justice's face in front of James', the man groaning in response.
“Lewis, stop!” cried Judgement Girl as the ran towards the desk. “He isn't the one that made you what you are!”
This got the villain's attention. Mister Mannequin pulled Lady Justice back up and turned to face Judgement Girl. “Ah, the lovely bud that goes with this fine flower,” Mister Mannequin nearly seemed to sing. “Tell me my dear, if you know my former name why do you think what I became is not his fault? He is responsible for everything this company does...”
“No, he wasn't in charge of the factory!” shouted Judgement Girl, her anxiety making her want to make everything she says loud. She cautiously moved over to stand Lilly back up on her feet as she continued to talk. “James does run the company, but Trent Welski was the one who chose the chemicals!”
A sliver of sanity suddenly came alive in Mister Mannequin's head, and he realized Judgement Girl was right. He'd been fooled by Fire Eyes, who'd claimed James was the one responsible. “Of course, of course...” chattered Mister Mannequin, letting go of Lady Justice, who hit the desk before clattering to the floor. “Yes, Welski... he came to the factory every night. It makes sense...”
Fire Eyes had been so busy regretting his decision to turn Lockdown into wood that he hadn't gone back into the security office until right when Judgement Girl had spoken last. He stormed into the office as Mister Mannequin continued to digest what he'd heard. “Don't listen to her!” cried Trent. “She's trying to lie so you won't add her to your garden! Don't let her do that!”
Unfortunately for Fire Eyes Mister Mannequin was, at least for the moment, thinking with a sane mind. “Garden...?” muttered Lewis. “No... I was not like this... Welski made me like this...” Mister Mannequin looked up and glared at Fire Eyes, who suddenly became very nervous. “YOU MADE ME LIKE THIS!” roared Mister Mannequin. “You liar! You've been using me!”
“Well crap,” muttered Fire Eyes, diving aside as Mister Mannequin lashed out with one of his extended arms. Judgement Girl hid behind Lilly as she watched Fire Eyes jump through the other window and hear the sound of a grappling tool being fired. Mister Mannequin, completely forgetting about everything else, dove after Fire Eyes, leaving Judgement Girl alone in the office with a badly injured James and two of her friends who were now mannequins.
Thinking quickly, Judgement Girl entered the security office and restarted the elevator while hitting the button that would call emergency workers to the scene. Judgement Girl then drifted into the outer office as the elevator arrived and Nathan stepped out, leaving the combined statue of Elsa and Claire behind. “They gone?” asked Nathan.
Nodding, Judgement Girl walked over to Lockdown, who still stood in front of the office doors, also solid wood. “Funny thing is, she claimed she was never going to give the bad guys a chance to do this to her...” commented Judgement Girl as she rested her shoulder on the FBI agent. Both she and Nathan the proceeded to burst out laughing. It seemed Lockdown might fit in after all...
Continued in Advanced Buildings & Superheroes...