It had only been two days since she'd agreed to marry Nathan but already Lady Justice has finding it hard to keep a secret. The same night Nathan had proposed he'd gotten a call from an old friend who'd gotten himself behind bars. Being the good friend that he was, Nathan had flown to San Francisco to take care of the bail issue and would be back tomorrow. Due to the horrible timing of this the couple had agreed to keep their engagement secret until he got back, Jessica even hiding the ring in one of her drawers at home. Now the heroine sat with a living legend in Elsa's lab being interviewed for a chance to join the Justice Force.
“It's really an honor to even be considered,” chuckled Lady Justice as she sat with one of the Justice Force founders, the powerful hero known as Hyper Man. The Justice Force was founded five years ago by superheroes and was based in New York City due to the the increasing threat of villains in the area as well as for its airports, allowing the heroes to get anywhere across the globe with ease. The organization was founded by Hyper Man, Patriot Woman, The Blue Gentleman, Buster Knight and Miss Enchanter. Hyper Man, Patriot Woman and Buster Knight were all genetic mutants who'd volunteered to have their latent genetic abilities enhanced by military scientists, giving them each at least two abilities as opposed the typical one but also risking their lives in the process. The Blue Gentleman was an unnatural mutant, like the villains Mister Mannequin and Fire Eyes, his powers supposedly coming from exposure to radiation. Finally Miss Enchanter was a stage magician / chemist who fought crime using her own concoctions from her lab with incredible showmanship.
“We do have over fifty members nation-wide now,” pointed out Hyper Man, flashing a handsome smile. Also known as Trey Clifton, Hyper Man was only a couple of years older than Nathan and, in Jessica's books, nearly as good-looking. He possessed feathered brown hair which parted down the middle and slightly tanned skin complexion which made his muscles really stand out. Unfortunately his eyes were a solid gold color, always glowing thanks to his enhanced vision. As a trade-off, however, he could see everything around him for up to one hundred meters, even if there was material in the way. For a costume Trey merely wore a long-sleeved shirt and stretch pants, both featuring a golden color similar to his eyes. Hyper Man did not, however, wear shoes, merely a pair of transparent socks designed by Miss Enchanter to protect him from the friction caused by his other power: time-shifting. Hyper Man could shift her personal perception of time to make it appear slower or faster, effectively making his molecules move faster or slower to achieve this. Finally Hyper Man carried a pair of Desert Eagle pistols which were tucked into the back of his waistband, seeing as his powers offered no direct combat capabilities.
“I will admit we could use some nation-wide support,” confessed Lady Justice as Claire brought them some tea. “We captured one of our most obnoxious villains, this girl Gorgun who could turn things — people, mostly — to stone with her ray, just recently, but many more are still around.”
“I've seen the list,” sighed Hyper Man as he took a sip of his drink. “New Oslo has the third-most super villains in the entire country, behind only Las Vegas and Los Angeles. New York, our headquarters, recently tested to be seventh, so we're taking this chance to branch out more. Unfortunately a few of our common villains are doing the same, or so it seems. Are you familiar with the Super Villain Cable Network?”
“I've heard rumors, but that's all,” admitted Lady Justice as she emptied her own cup while Claire and Elsa worked in the background, once more attempting to design a field that could cancel out certain villains' powers.
“It was founded by villains and effectively takes already existing shows and gives them a twist,” explained Hyper Man. “For example, your friend Gorgun appeared on the program called 'It's the Arts' once after you had a battle with her and lost, you and your companions all turned to stone and put on display. In the end she even turned on the hostess, and it was the network executives that shipped you to the central precinct for restoration. We're currently trying to have some of our people infiltrate the network so we can track their movements, as with their help we could probably locate over sixty percent of our country's villains.”
“Yes, I can see how taking down an organization like that would be helpful,” observed Lady Justice.
“I'd like to go into further detail, but your sidekick should be here for it,” continued Hyper Man, glancing around. “You said she was out, but perhaps you should call her?”
“Won't be a problem,” Lady Justice assured the Justice Force representative. “She's just spending some time with her friends but it's nothing major. I'll call her and tell her to come right away...”
* * *
Unfortunately for Lady Justice, what she didn't know was that certain events had unfolded three hours earlier. It began with Victoria and Jenny going to visit Lilly at home. The three had then proceeded to lounge around the Anderson Estate's pool, gossiping and the like. While this was going on, the maid had gone to fetch the three some martinis as ordered. Right after mixing the drinks the curly-haired Mexican woman, and illegal immigrant James Anderson had taken pity on, decided to have a drink of water from the fridge. The maid gulped down some bottled water and then picked up the tray holding the three drinks. As the woman walked towards the open door, however, her legs suddenly went rigid and she found herself unable to move them, her feet frozen in place with her left one forward. By the time the woman had finished glancing down in alarm and back up at the door ahead of her the stiffness had swept up her body and frozen everything below her throat. Her attempts to call for help failed when her head froze too, her mouth open slightly with her eyes wide in fear.
Stepping out from the pantry was the villain known cryptically as Mecha Kunoichi. Many years ago the girl, named Namoko, had been adopted from a Japanese orphanage by Ando Masakura, the president of Masakura Technologies. Masakura had adopted the girl to use her as a test subject for cybernetic enhancements and as a result she became a cyborg assassin trained in the ways of the ninja. A few years back she'd rebelled her adoptive father, fleeing Japan and traveling the world in hopes of finding a way to go back in time and stop Ando from adopting her. This would have been a pipe dream a few years back, but scientists had made great strides, creating several forms of non-lethal weaponry as well as all sorts of robots. Kunoichi's plan was to make money and then donate it time-travel research, hoping to take advantage of it once the technology was complete. Namoko wore a blue ninja suit with white boots as well as a blue helmet with a special visor and a pair of wrist gauntlets that gave her access to many of her cyborg parts. A double-barreled ray projector was mounted on her right forearm.
Showing no sign of satisfaction, Kunoichi walked up to the motionless maid and touched her forehead with her left gauntlet. Kunoichi had drugged all the contents of the fridge and liquor cabinet with special pills that caused those who consumed them to freeze in place and lose consciousness. The pills also erased any memories from before they began to take affect, ensuring they wouldn't recall what happened as they froze. Already the mansion's butler, driver, guards and gardener were frozen, all having had a drink at some point. James Anderson had also just recently been frozen in his office, the maid having given him a drink before going to check on the three girls.
Kunoichi activated the cybernetic doppleganger device in her left arm and immediately a field was projected around her, changing her appearance so to the casual eye so she looked like the maid. The device also analyzed vocal cords, allowing Kunoichi to imitate any voice with ease. The change done, Namoko plucked the tray of refreshments from the frozen maid's hands and headed to the pool.
“Ah, our drinks!” called Lilly when she saw who she thought was the maid returning. Jenny and Vicky both got up from their chairs and each took a glass while Lilly stepped off of the diving board and hurried over. By the time Lilly snatched up her own glass Jenny and Vicky had both already taken a sip from their own drinks. “Hey, lets have a toast!” declared Lilly, raising her glass. “To days like this, may they last forever!”
Jenny and Vicky both raised their glasses and clanged them together with Lilly's. Lilly then proceeded to take a long sip of her drink, but it was right then that the drug kicked in for the other two girls, they were both still standing with their glasses raised, smiles frozen on their faces as they looked straight ahead.
Kunoichi thought they looked like a pair of mannequins, standing there with their hair down in matching red bikinis that flattered their sexy figures.
“Huh?” muttered Lilly as she licked her lips, savoring the martini. “What's up? You want to toast again?” Lilly looked at her two friends, her right hand holding her glass at head level while her left rested on her hip, her face somewhat bemused as she looked at her two friends. It was right then that her own drink took effect, happening faster as she'd drank more than the other two. Before she'd even noticed, Lilly was frozen in place, just like Vicky and Jenny.
“Now I get where the jokes about her come from,” muttered Kunoichi as she deactivated her illusion and set aside the tray. Now everyone within the residence was frozen in place, thanks to the 'stiff' drinks Kunoichi had provided all of them with. Namoko pulled a cellphone from her waistband and dialed the number of her employer. “Everyone's neutralized,” she told the man on the other end of the line. “What do you require?”
“If he's in his office then he's logged onto his computer,” replied the contact. “He's got several bank accounts, some to the Cayman Islands, others in Switzerland and the like. He's probably got access to at least one of his back accounts open right now, since that computer's only for stock market stuff. Drain the open accounts, sending the money to the one I gave you. Feel free to nab whatever loose cash there is around for yourself, as that's the other half of your fee. Oh, and one more thing. Bring his daughter with you, keeping her incapacitated until you deliver her here. Feel free to steal a limo or something if you need to, just don't plan on keeping it.” With that the call ended, and Kunoichi smiled slightly. The drug would last a full day, giving Namoko plenty of time to do what was asked of her.
* * *
“Why do you we always come in late on these things?” Lady Justice asked Lockdown as the pair stood with Hyper Man beside the Anderson Estate pool while Elsa and Claire adjusted their devices so they could unfreeze Jenny and Victoria. Lady Justice's call to Vicky had gone unanswered six times before they decided to go over in person, sure enough finding a crime scene like they'd feared. The limo was gone as was Lilly and quite a few valuables. Police were now investigating the inside of the mansion.
“I don't know, but at least it wasn't us this time,” sighed Lockdown. “Whoever it was edited the security footage to make it show one constant loop of what we saw when we got here. We have no idea when this went down, since the entire footage is looped, not even showing when Vicky and her friend arrived.” Despite staying professional as she spoke, Lady Justice noticed the FBI agent was glancing at Hyper Man's ass, much to the heroine's amusement.
“We know it wasn't caused by those time-stopping goblins of yours,” continued Hyper Man. “There's no signs of temporal distortion, nor have we picked up any signs of gas or beam emissions. If it was a stasis field our two companions wouldn't be moving right now, so that narrows it down to a few possibilities.”
“And what exactly are those?” asked Lockdown, acting more interested than she actually was.
“Dissolving paralysis darts and magic-based freezing spells that don't cause time distortions are possibilities,” declared Hyper Man, smiling as Lockdown shifted slightly, giving him a better view of her cleavage. “I suppose it could be a drug too, but it would have had to of been ingested somehow...” It was right then that all three superheroes realized what had frozen everyone, as did Claire and Elsa. Unfortunately the two scientists had removed the martinis from the frozen girls moments ago to allow for better scans, even going as far as having a sip.
“Oops,” sighed Claire as she put down her equipment, Elsa doing the same. Sure enough as the two stood up they found their legs rooted to the spot. “Well, I might as well have some fun with this,” moaned Claire as she smiled and raised her forearms, her fingers loose. Both arms were bent at the elbow, the right more than the left, and as Claire froze completely her small and toothless smile also became fixed, making her look like a mannequin in a boutique, more so than Jenny and Vicky due to the pose. Elsa had decided to merely rest her hands on her hips, leaving her face neutral as she too froze completely.
“Lets just hope the city's entire water supply isn't infected or anything,” sighed Lockdown as she picked up the two martinis while Lady Justice attended to the scanning equipment and other devices. “I'll have the FBI lab analyze these since our more trusted source is currently unavailable.”
“It gets worse,” groaned Hyper Man, indicating something behind Lockdown and Lady Justice. They turned and saw Chief Meyers was walking towards them, or had been a moment ago. Now the chief stood frozen in mid-stride, an open bottle of water in her left hand with its contents depleted. “You know what, lets just call Anderson's car company and find out if he got a tracking device installed when he bought insurance for the limo. Considering his old one was also stolen, I'd say its a high possibility, not to mention that they come free of charge now.” The hero walked over to Elsa and reached into her coat pocket, producing her cellphone. “I'll call them now,” he told the others.
“You know, this is the third time in a row I've had to deal with a villain without Vicky,” complained Lady Justice. “I mean, I took a sidekick to help me, not be a constant victim because of who she associated with. When was the last time we've even needed her to tell us if she can sense a lie?”
“Not since we've been working closer together,” replied Lockdown, sensing that Lady Justice meant what she said, but also sensing something else. “My telepathy does make her power pretty much second-rate, but she's been with you for a while, and I can tell you think of her like a little sister. She admires you, and maybe someday she'll be able to return the favor. Heck, remember when Fire Eyes attacked Anderson at his company office? She saved the day while you were being a fashion plate for the heroine look and I was totem pole.”
“Wait a second, that's it!” exclaimed Lady Justice as Hyper Man looked up from Elsa's cellphone. “Fire Eyes! He must of hired someone to kidnap Lilly and rob him blind! I bet if we look around more we'll find that a vault or something has been raided!”
“Anderson's former business partner?” asked Hyper Man. “Okay, we have a suspect, so we'd better be prepared if we run into him. He's a fire-breather and can turn things into wood using his gaze, right?”
“Yeah,” acknowledged Lockdown as she glanced at the frozen people around them. “Well, I guess we can ask the police to watch this place while we go looking for him and his associates. What's the worst that could happen?”
As the heroines departed the remaining police officers on the scene were dragging or carrying the people frozen outside into the building so it would be easier to keep an eye on them. In addition to the initial victims of the freezing drug, the Chief, Elsa, Claire, and three other officers including Alice Tilly all now sat or stood in the mansion's lobby. Four male officers including Carl Davies now stood around and decided how to pass the time. Carl himself was stroking his partner's frozen face when an accidental application of force caused her head to tilt forward. “Hey, they're pose-able!” exclaimed Carl, and immediately all the other officers gave into temptation and began to make their own fun.
* * *
It had taken a surprisingly short amount of time for the three superheroes to find out where Fire Eyes would be meeting the kidnapper since the villain was currently in contact with members of the local Italian Mafia. In an effort to finance his vendetta against the Anderson family Welski had done a few favors for the mob in exchange for a hideout and some sending money. With Lockdown's telepathy helping the trio to quickly find the truth from thugs after Hyper Man ran them down and Lady Justice pinned them, they soon found themselves at a local nightclub. According to information obtained from a man with minor connections named Frank Delgado, there was a secret access tunnel in the back of the club that led into an old section of the sewers where Fire Eyes now lived.
“Three bouncers at the door aren't a problem,” declared Lady Justice as stood in an alley near the club with the other two heroes. “However, we don't know how many more are inside, or what will happen if we force our way in. It's business hours no there could be a hundred people in there.” The club was called the Level and featured a massive bar on the second floor with the first being reserved primarily for dancing. Three massive men stood outside, one managing the line of people that stood outside waiting to get in.
“I can see the entrance to the sewers, but I'm having trouble penetrating past the grate,” announced Hyper Man, making full use of his super-vision. “That doesn't usually happen unless there's an optical scrambler or something set up. I doubt even infrared goggles could see clearly through whatever they have protecting that.”
“I can't be sure if he's there either,” added Lockdown, her hands on her temples with her eyes closed. “I have enough trouble trying to sift through so many minds, but getting to one buried underneath them all? I might as well just use my eyes and ears.”
“Alright then, lets get a closer look,” decided Hyper Man. Lady Justice was going to ask the Justice Force founder what his plan was, but right then he activated his time-shifting power, making the world around appear to slow to a halt almost instantly. Lockdown still stood in her concentration pose while Lady Justice stood beside him, her head turned to the left with her left eyebrow raised, her lips parted and her right arm raised while directing towards him as well. Both stood as still as statues, or at least that was how Hyper Man saw it. In the street cars looked like they were parked despite having been going several miles per hour only a few moments ago. The well-dressed club patrons looked more like mannequins on display than regular people.
Smiling, Hyper Man wrapped one arm around each woman's waist and lifted, pulling them against his waists as he walked forward, his legs unable to move without gently grazing theirs. Trey had to be careful since if he was too rough with objects he interacted with while moving at high speed they would suffer from severe friction burns. Once when time had appeared to be frozen Trey had tried running as fast as he could, resulting in the streets behind him exploding with heat. Since then the supersonic hero had kept his movements to casual walking while in a state of super-acceleration.
The bouncers did nothing to stop Hyper Man and his two companions from entering the club, none of them even seeing them pass by. Once inside Trey had a bit more trouble carrying the two women to the grate without bumping into anyone, since the hero wanted to avoid detection and possible damage. Ultimately Hyper Man was forced to take them one at a time by lifting them up over his head as he made his way to the back room. After arriving in the small space, little more than an empty storage room, Hyper Man set both heroines down carefully and walked up to the one guard in the room, casually flicking him in the forehead with his left hand. That done, Trey concentrated for a moment and time was back to normal in his eyes.
As Lady Justice and Lockdown looked around in confusion, having suddenly found themselves at their destination, the large guard, another bouncer, teetered backwards, his eyes having fluttered closed while a burn mark smoked from his forehead. “Wow, I feel really warm!” muttered Lady Justice.
“Friction,” explained Hyper Man, gesturing to the fallen bouncer. “If I hadn't been gentle you fight of ended up like Knuckles here. Now then...” Lockdown didn't comment on Hyper Man's demonstration as she pulled out her ray gun while the Justice Force hero drew his pair of Desert Eagle AE pistols from his waistband.
“Should we really be using lethal force now?” questioned Lockdown, eying Hyper Man's guns with concern.
“Unlike most of your other villains, Fire Eyes is a known killer,” replied Hyper Man as he cocked his weapons and ensured rounds were chambered. “Justice Force members have been given the right to use lethal force when fighting villains of such a nature. I shame you at the FBI have been banned from using regular firearms except in high crisis situations...”
“Bleeding heart liberals,” muttered Lady Justice with a chuckle.
“I have to correct that,” piped up Lockdown. “The president himself signed the bill into law restricting the use of conventional firearms, and he's a Republican.”
“Who cares?” sighed Lady Justice, cracking her knuckles. “Lets get him!” By focusing a great deal of mass into her right fist, Jessica was able to punch through the steel door that sealed the secret sewer grate, allowing the three superheroes to leap down into the unknown.
Right as Hyper Man landed and his eyes adjusted to the darkness the lights came on and his two companions, Lockdown having performed a roll and coming to her feet while Lady Justice merely floated to the ground, were both momentarily blinded. It was at this time that Hyper Man spotted a familiar face. “Mecha Kunoichi!” shouted the hero as he dove forwards, narrowly avoiding a beam from her wrist blaster. The beam instead struck the ground near the two heroines, causing a cryo-kinetic reaction that generated a large block of ice two meters on a side with the duo trapped inside. Both had recovered from the flash just in time to show surprise as this happened, now they were again rendered immobile within the clear block of ice, with fear quite literally frozen on their faces.
“Welcome to your doom, heroes!” boasted a voice. Looking around, Hyper Man got his bearings straight. Kunoichi was a short distance in front of him, her arm weapon trained on him. To his left was a concrete slab and the foundation for the club, while to his left was a metal wall that stretched out horizontally a short distance up to reveal a platform, on which stood an older man around fifty in a tuxedo with orange circles on it and eyes that glowed like flames. Not far behind him stood Lilly Anderson in her bikini, still frozen, her right hand in the air near her head, her left on her hip, a bemused expression on her face. As Trent stood with his arms crossed and a superior smile on his face, Kunoichi's right arm outstretched towards him, Hyper Man activated his time-shifting powers once again, time seemingly stopping right as the beam began to lance out from Kunoichi's blaster.
Wasting no time (literally), Hyper Man zipped over to Kunoichi and turned her right arm so that it faced herself, thus the beam would strike her instead of him. Next Hyper Man found a bare-bones ladder and quickly scaled it, reaching the top and hurrying over to Lilly's side, then training his guns on Fire Eyes. That done Hyper Man returned his perception of time back to normal and pulled the triggers, two fifty-caliber bullets flying into the back of a surprised Trent Welski as Kunoichi became engulfed in a massive ice cube down below. “What...” gasped Fire Eyes as he fell forward and felt the life leaving his body.
“Enjoy hell, I'm sure you'll feel right at home,” taunted Hyper Man.
* * *
Fire Eyes was dead; few mourned his loss. The media had planned to have a field day, blaming the villain's death on Lady Justice and/or Lockdown, but the Justice Force had good lawyers on retainer thus the story was kept accurate when it went to press. Mecha Kunoichi was also wanted for murder but since they'd been able to take her alive, she was being sent back to Japan where she'd be tried for the wrongful death of her adoptive father. Everything Kunoichi had stolen, including the bank funds and Lilly, was returned, and fortunately for them the New Oslo cops had never done anything too explicit while waiting for the superheroes to save the day. It was fortunate that the freezing drug only lasted for twenty-four hours, as the police scientists had made no progress in the analysis of the chemicals.
Cold Fusion was suspected of being the mastermind behind the drug and having supplied both Kunoichi and the Mafia with it, but there was no solid proof.
* * *
“I kind of feel inadequate,” sighed Lockdown as she lay in the hotel bed, naked under the sheets.
“Why?” asked Hyper Man as he lay next to her, also nude. “Quite frankly that was some of the best love-making I've ever been involved with, and I'm a guy who can be way too honest.”
“I mean that you were here for less than week and you already managed to take down one of our more notorious villains,” replied Stephanie as she kissed Trey's torso, her hands massaging his back. “Do you really think the Justice Force will accept Jessica's application to join?”
“Considering you've managed to last so long against villains like him, absolutely,” Trey assured Stephanie. “Now lets get our minds off of business and start getting down to business... again.”
to be continued in 'Gold is a Girl's Best Friend'...