I came to with the feeling of having my face slapped about. With an embarrassing little snort, I jolted into a sitting position. “Hwuh—what?” I shook my head and forced myself to roll to my feet.
Blinking, I saw Max-Out shaking Strider and Shoggoth. The former teleported into a standing position a hundred feet down the sidewalk as soon as her eyes snapped open. Shoggoth likewise roused quickly, leaping to his feet.
I glanced around until I saw the denim-clad woman with her chest exploded outward in the road. Shoggoth went over to her, kneeling down and touching her arm. After a moment, he scowled and stood back up.
“Was that necessary?” he said. “You had to know she was too tough for me to save.”
“You’ve been out of the game way too long, Doctress,” said Max. “I tried not to kill her, but you know how skewed our powers can be. If I hadn’t taken her down, she would have taken me down, gotten James, and then we might all be dead.”
Shoggoth made a grunt. “I wouldn’t,” he muttered.
“Pretty sure those lightning bolts could cook even your body to a crisp,” said Max.
Shoggoth looked like he was about to say something else, but settled for a scowl.
Strider popped up next to us. “Well, now what?” she said.
“Now, I’m going to back up Max as best I can. I need you three to take care of La Luste. Think can you manage that?”
Strider shrugged. “She and her minions haven’t gone anywhere.”
“Well, try to do what you can to snap them out of it and keep La Luste isolated.” With that, Max vanished into her speed power.
Strider and Shoggoth glanced at each other, then at me. I shrugged. “Not sure just what you all expect me to do in this situation.”
“There are plenty of men among La Luste’s thralls,” said Strider.
I glanced up to where the purple lightning show continued in the sky. “I’m not convinced any of them could give me the proper boost for something like that.”
“No, but they might have a power to let you take out La Luste without killing her.”
“If she isn’t super tough, I could do it,” said Shoggoth. “Just teleport me right next to her.”
Strider frowned. “I’m hesitant to do that. If she is super tough and you fall into her influence, that could be a problem.”
He sighed, frustrated, and looked to me. “We really are the fifth fucking wheels here, huh?”
I shrugged again. “I’m not sure how I’m any less likely to fall under her spell.”
“Easy. You can track us without seeing us. I’ve seen you watch us moving when we’re out of eyesight. So however you do that, just keep your eyes closed when I send you in there.”
I blinked in surprise. I had been careful not to reveal that tidbit of information, but it seemed she’d been watching me just as I had been watching her. What a clever young lady. “Well, only when I’m not possessing someone,” I said. “But I’ll make do, I suppose.”
“Alright. I have them trapped in one large room, but they are focused on trying to pull down the barricades I placed. I can teleport you into a back corner in the shadows. There are a few men standing about near the corner.”
“Ready when you—” I popped into a darkened room. “—are.” I clamped my lips shut and glared at the floor.
The lighting in the room was dim compared to the bright daylight and the intense flashes of lightning. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust. The area was a wide open gallery, with various artifacts themed around the
westward expansion. The two main entrances to the room had been blocked off by
several huge platforms with larger displays of wagons and steamboats on them,
keeping the hundred or so civilians locked inside. They were stubbornly attempting
to push against the barricades, in some cases taking them apart, but every time
they managed a little bit of progress, Strider teleported more stuff back into
the entrance. United States
Under other circumstances, I might have taken the time to peruse the displays and make disparaging commentary about the
oppression, but business came before pleasure. I glanced around quickly to try
and spot my target. It took only a second to pick out the naked skin of a
rather plain-looking woman. She was sitting cross-legged upon a platform, at
the feet of a grizzly bear statue posed in a roar. US
The instant I saw her, all I wanted to do was keep staring. She looked fit, but she was not especially shapely, with narrow hips and small, flat breasts. She had what could be described as a pleasant face, but not one you’d notice in a crowd. She didn’t even wear make up to accentuate her features. Her hair was cut boyishly short. Overall she struck me as being in her late-thirties.
“Hurry it up, minions!” she hollered, thrusting a finger out to point at her civilian slaves. Her voice was rough, with some heavy vocal fry.
“Yes Mistress!” several dozen voices said at once.
If I were crude, I would say this woman was maybe a 3 or 4 out of 10. And yet, I was entranced. To me, she seemed the most beautiful creature in all existence. Her body was a perfect temple of the human form, her voice the sweetest song. I wanted nothing more than to kneel at her feet and offer my eternal devotion. I felt a powerful compulsion of love, arousal, awe, and submission. I felt—
I had to stifle a pained cry as I tore my gaze away from her, squeezing my eyes tightly shut and crouching down, practically burying myself in the corner. I bit down on my thumb and focused on the pain, fighting the overwhelming urge to turn back around and gaze upon the divine creature I had seen. It felt like hours of mental struggle, but was only a couple of minutes, before the fever trance started to wear off. I had only glimpsed her for a couple moments, but if I had kept staring for even a second longer, I don’t think I would have been able to turn away until she commanded it.
Her power was immense, but I realized it had to be limited by some means. All it had taken was a glance, and I was almost her slave. I had to assume her power had some kind of limited range, otherwise the cops and fleeing civilians we saw would have all been enthralled by her by now. So it wasn’t just her nudity that triggered the effect, it was a matter of being within her field of influence. In fact, it might not even be her nudity at all, she just chose to go buck naked as her villain costume. Either way, seeing her was definitely the trigger, so the best way to stop her threat was to cover her up. It might be as simple as locking her in a closet, but of course, if I acted against her directly, she’d call her thralls over to stop me.
Well, this seemed simple enough. I opened my eyes a bit and whispered at the floor, “Strider, is there a closet or other enclosed area you can send her to?”
A few moments later, a little piece of paper appeared on the floor. The note said, “She’s off the ground, I can’t move her directly. The stand she’s on is too large to put in a room that small. Either way, we need to find some way to knock her out and restrain her.”
She had pretty neat handwriting, especially for doing it so quick.
“Fine,” I whispered back. “Gimme a couple minutes.”
It was still hard to put her image out of my mind, but I closed my eyes again and managed to keep them shut as I turned back around. This time, I focused on the auras of the people around me. From her positioning a few feet higher than the others, I was able to pick her out from the crowd. From here, I could come up from behind and try to knock her unconscious, but I didn’t know if she had any other enhancements. Many superhumans had some level of superhuman durability or enhanced recovery and no one had been able to test hers out yet.
I glanced around me. There were mostly women, but some men milling about near me, as not all of them could fit around the entrances to attack the barriers. I took a minute to weigh my options. I could see from the auras that several would give me some kind of blast power, a few would grant me some kind of psychic ability, one would give me some kind of shape shifting. Well, there was no way to know for certain exactly what until I possessed them.
Keeping my eyes closed, I stood and sort of casually shuffled over to one of the men who was standing a bit behind La Luste’s position. Hoping that she was focused on the efforts against the door, I touched the man’s arm and entered him.
Immediately, I felt my physical power double in all areas, but the “energy blast” power I had discerned turned out to just be a sort of “stun gun” effect with his hands. I guess I could try to use that, but I felt like I could do better.
I kept my gaze constantly away from where I knew La Luste was, and went over to where the clusters of men were attacking the barricades, working relentlessly at them despite their constant reconstruction. Fortunately, I could directly transfer from one body to the next, and as I bumped into another man in the crowd, I leapt into him.
Hmm… my speed was tripled, but his power was some kind of psychometry. No good. Another leap. Quadruple strength, and that was it. Another leap. Some kind of spider-web generator, potentially useful, but the ability was fast enough to tie her up before she could sic her minions on me. Another leap. Double durability and strength, with invisibility.
I went through about twenty more options, until finally, I found a man who didn’t boost my physical powers at all, but possessed a rather potent “stun ram” power. An energy beam that hit like a battering ram, but could also briefly paralyze those it touched.
This guy would have been useful against Knock-Out, that’s for sure. I stepped my host backwards through the throng of men, letting another minion take my place. I shuffled backwards a bit, edging closer to the bear-bedecked platform my target was on.
“You there!” La Luste suddenly hollered. “What are you doing? Assist with the barricade! I shan’t stay cooped up in here a second longer than I have to!”
I frowned and froze in place.
“Hey! I’m ordering you to get back to work! Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
I stayed in place, as though I hadn’t heard anything. I was about ten feet away. The stun beams this guy had were a straight-line shot, so I had to make sure I didn’t miss. I tensed myself to turn and close my eyes as soon as I caught her in my peripheral vision, then fire in that direction.
“HEY!” she shouted again, this time jumping down and heading over to me. I grinned. Even better.
I closed my eyes as I felt her grasp my shoulders and pull me around to face her. I reached out and grabbed her head and put a hand on her chest. I let loose a burst of power before she could say anything.
“Aaack!” She went flying back, slamming into the base of the display she had just been sitting on, knocking over a couple people in the process.
I still didn’t dare open my eyes, but listened intently for her reaction. Around us, however, several people let out panicked yells. I felt several hands grab me, and dozens of footsteps rushing over.
And then they were gone, their yells becoming distant and muffled as Strider teleported them all to another part of the museum.
Still in my host, I turned around and opened my eyes. “Strider, can you—”
She popped up right in front of me, and I resisted the urge to jump back. She had way too much fun with that ability.
“I put her in a broom closet, like you suggested. She’s unconscious.”
I nodded. “Good. Now let’s see if we can get Shoggoth to snap her out of it.”
A few moments later, the three of us were standing outside the door of a janitor’s closet. Shoggoth had slipped a tendril of his flesh inside, and was feeling about for her.
“Alright,” he said. “Your little stun power just kept her from moving, but I’ve put her to sleep. I don’t think she has any durability or strength enhancements.”
I crossed my host’s arms. “So, anything you do about her?”
He sighed, giving me an annoyed look. “I really don’t know. I’m trying to read her brain’s synapses, but it’s been a long time since I even attempted this kind of thing.” He waved us off. “This could take a few minutes. You’re better off backing up the other two.”
“Alright,” said Strider. She turned to me. “You want to keep that one or switch out?”
I shrugged. “I think this is as good as I’m gunna get with this batch.”
“Fair enough,” she said, and we teleported back outside.