A Magician's Secret

A Lady Justice and Judgement Girl Adventure
by Zero

This is another adventure in a series of illustrated superheroine tales. Some of the characters appear here, others are introduced in later stories.
[A 'Justice Heroes Personae' page has also been created so their images and histories (along with those of the super-villains the heroes confront) can be shown in one location. Ed.]

            With several major villains, namely Gorgun, Nighttime, Siren, Dungeon Master, Technomagus, Mister Mannequin, Cold Fusion, Fire Eyes and Mecha Kunoichi, all no longer on the active list, things in New Oslo were looking up. Aside from the Italian Mafia and Tick and Tock, the latter of which who were seemingly inactive at the moment, the past couple of weeks had flown by for the people of the city. Headlines now talked only about the positives, including the current progress on the construction of the new Justice Force HQ in the city and the upcoming wedding between Lady Justice and Silent Dragon. Times were now good enough that James Anderson decided to hold a charity ball, an event that in the past would invite a number of villains to cause chaos.

            Held in the massive lobby and ballroom of the local Hilton hotel, everyone from the social elite to the lower-middle-class seemed to be there. Guests included Police Chief Meyers, Lady Justice, Judgement Girl, Miss Ocean, Queen Pixie, Lockdown, Maria Chavez and even the Mayor herself. Lilly Anderson acted as a sort of hostess, greeting nearly everyone who entered. The evening included an auction on items donated by some of the city's wealthier crowd and of course a dance which included several preselected men and women offering dances to people in return for a donation to charity.

            “You should see her dress, it's gorgeous!” exclaimed Stephanie Walters as she stood with Jessica Wendell and Mayor Rushmore, the three enjoying glasses of wine. Not far away were Victoria Hamilburg along with Jenny Oliver and Lilly Anderson, the three flirting with some handsome young men. Miss Ocean was speaking with another man while Queen Pixie and Chief Meyers were raiding the buffet. It was at this time that the wolf in sheep's clothing decided to make his move.

            The Magnificent and Mysterious Rune, a local stage magician named Nicolas Pryce, had also been invited to the ball. Unknown to anyone he'd gained some real magic a few months ago which he planned to now employ. As a blond waitress in a white blouse walked by holding a tray for empty glasses Rune casually placed an hourglass on it and the sand began to flow. As the stream of sand began moving, everything else stopped, save Rune himself.

            Through unknown means Rune's hourglass could seemingly stop time so long as the sand flowed, which fortunately for him fell at an extremely slow rate. All around the magician, people stood frozen on the spot, liquids were like solid masses and objects hung in the air like they could levitate. “Time to go to work, no pun intended,” declared Rune as he casually stepped around the various frozen party-goers, occasionally stopping to search for a wallet and take out a couple of bills, not wanting to attract to much attention once time was no longer stopped.

            Rune first arrived at the buffet where Wanda stood up straight, her left hand holding a small piece of shrimp. The chief wore a red silk dress that nearly covered her entire torso, leaving only a little room around her neck and not a hint of cleavage. Rune casually plucked the seafood from her hand and ate it, examining the woman top to bottom. “You know, I don't think that necklace works,” decided the magician, moving to pluck an authentic pearl necklace from the chief's neck. “Much better,” smiled Rune as he pocketed the jewelry, then squeezing the Chief of Police's firm ass.

            Next was Queen Pixie, who stood with her mouth open, a finger sandwich touching her lips as she held it with both hands. The Japanese woman was wearing a traditional white and purple kimono, her hair tied back and held with two solid gold senbon needles. “Your hair looks better down,” Rune told the heroine as he plucked her sandwich away and removed the needles from her hair, though it did not spill down as time was still stopped. Rune gave her a quick peck on the cheek before moving on.

            Miss Ocean was next, who wore a white dress with little skirt and no straps as she stood with her right hand on her hip while her left arm hung at her side, looking particularly bored as the blond man in a cliché tuxedo stood with his mouth open, no doubt talking about why he was so great. Rune pulled out the man's wallet and promptly stuffed it in his mouth before addressing Miss Ocean's light blue leather purse, which hung off her left shoulder. Rune kissed her neck before moving on to the three young women and their many would-be suitors. Lilly wore a dress similar to Miss Ocean's except it was black with a red rose pattern, her left hand holding a freshly emptied wine glass while her right was raised, her index finger pointing at the smiling young man across from her, a somewhat intoxicated smile on her own face. Maria wore a dark blue full cocktail dress and looked very relaxed as a waiter refilled her own wine glass which was held in her left while her right was on her hip. Victoria had her arms behind her back as she stood smiling as another man was clearly trying to charm her, although she seemed to take more of a liking to it than Miss Ocean was. Her dress was a traditional one with basic straps and only a hint of back and cleavage. “This seems more appropriate,” chuckled Rune as he plucked the frozen wine bottle from the waiter and put it in the hands of the man across from Lilly, the wine now in her glass. Each woman wore a gold or silver necklace that Rune plucked away as he gave each woman a small memento on their lips.

            Finally Rune came to Jessica, Stephanie and Paula. Lady Justice was downing her wine with her left while her right hung at her side while Rushmore smiled a full-toothed smile, her right arm out to her side for no clear reason while her left held her own glass. The person Rune was most interested in however was Stephanie, who stood wearing her usual dress, her hands out in front of herself palms up, a smile on her face as her mouth hung open as if she were talking about something really entertaining. “Just as beautiful as ever,” breathed Rune, taking in the sight of Lockdown as he did a full circle of her frozen form, nearly knocking over Jessica in the process. Ultimately nearly half of Rune's precious moments of stopped time would be wasted drinking in the presence of Stephanie, feeling her hair, touching every inch of her body and kissing almost all of it as well. Finally Rune sighed and stepped away, not noticing that he'd knocked over the mayor, who now lay on her right side, the same smile frozen on her face.

            “I hate to rob and run, but I must,” Rune declared to the frozen crowd as he picked up his hourglass and strode for the exit. The magician had barely made it into his car when the sand ran out and time came back in a sudden burst of sound and movement. Few women immediately noticed that their jewelry was gone but soon there were screams and panic as Rune drove away from the hotel, joining the cesspool of New Oslo traffic. It was then that his cellphone rang.

            “What can I do for you, Mister Legardi?” asked Rune as he answered the phone, recognizing the number.

            “There's a matter I wish you to attend to,” came a voice on the other end. “The Justice Force membership is a big fly in my sauce. I want you to find a way to make it go away. If you can also get Lady Justice out of the picture, that would really help things.”

            “A shame you didn't call me earlier or I could have done it tonight,” snickered Rune. “Alright, I'll do it, but I'd like triple my usual fee. Getting her along with the other major players is going to require an elaborate plan on my part, Don Legardi sir.”

* * *

            “You're hired,” Rune told the woman sitting on the opposite end of his desk in his small rented office in the massive building in the east side of the city. “You've got some physical appeal, which is always important for an assistant, but you're also a scientist, which is what I really need right now.”

            “How so?” asked Ashley Cornell as she sat on the cheap fake leather couch.

            “You have experience with authentic hypnotics,” replied Rune, holding up the woman's resume. “In my act I do stage hypnosis, something I've mastered, but you can help me gain complete control over someone, guaranteed.”

            “Yes I can,” admitted Ashley. “I must say, it was a bit odd getting referred to you by a mobster, but now I can see why. I want you to know I'm comfortable with whatever you do, just so long as I get paid.”

            “Oh, I like you,” smiled Rune, completely sincere. “I'll give you a bonus if you whip me up something to hypnotize the next two candidates, as I'll need at least three extra sets of hands for my next performance and I'd like it if they could work for nothing.”

            “I have just the thing,” offered Ashley, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a plastic bottle containing several pills. “These dissolve in seconds and render people into a somnolent state as if they were hypnotized on stage. From there on they are completely under your control until you command them to be released. The effects do wear off after a week, however.”

            “No matter; the show is in a week anyhow,” Rune assured his new assistant. “Just go open the door and have them come in, I'll take it from there.” Ashley nodded, rose and placed the pills on the cheap particle board desk, promptly going back over to the door and opening it, allowing Maria Chavez and Jenny Oliver to enter, neither seeming to really care that they were familiar with Ashley.

            “Please, sit down,” Rune told the young women, who nodded and eagerly sat down on the couch, clearly overly excited. “Perfect,” smiled Rune as his right hand casually turned over the hourglass that sat on his desk, causing time to stop. Ashley stood near the door, her hands behind her back as if she were standing at ease, looking over at Rune as if waiting for something. Maria and Jenny sat on opposite sides of the three person couch, each taking full advantage of the arm rest, the bright smiles on their faces making them look like plastic dolls.

            Free to move without being noticed, Rune took two pills from the container and slid one into the mouth of each would-be candidate, making sure they went under their tongues before closing their mouths. When the deed was done Rune returned to his desk and turned over the hourglass, allowing time to resume. “So tell me, why do you want this job?” asked Rune, watching the two girls carefully. Right as he finished the sentence both of them went limp, their eyes closing as they tipped over sideways, their shoulders running into each other and preventing them from falling over, their hair spilling over their faces.

            “Impressive,” commented Ashley as Rune rose and walked over to the sleeping women. “Now you can tell them to do whatever you want or act however you'd like. So what's our goal?”

            “The same mobsters that directed you to me have hired me to convince the city that the Justice Force isn't needed anymore,” explained Rune as he dragged Jenny by her feet off the couch, leaving her on the floor while Maria tipped over and took up the rest of the couch. “We're going to do a show but use it as a cover to kidnap the mayor, the chief of police and Lady Justice herself. This is your last chance to back out.”

            “I just helped you drug two daughters of some of the wealthiest men in town,” pointed out Ashley. “Because I worked with Cold Fusion in the past my reputation is too far gone to allow me to do honest work. Anything short of killing someone is fine with me.”

* * *

            The magic show was the perfect cover for Rune. It was held at a local auditorium and staged as another charity event, thus drawing the attention of the three women Rune hoped. Also in the audience were Judgement Girl and Miss Ocean, but Rune had no interest in them. Ashley, Maria and Jenny all took to the stage as his lovely assistants, wearing black heels, black leotards and black top-hats. The first act of the show, consisting mainly of authentic stage magic save for a teleportation trick which required Rune to use his cane, lasted half an hour. Now it was time for the hypnosis.

            “And now ladies and gentlemen my lovely assistants will choose three of you for the opportunity to be a part of the show!” announced Rune as his three employees walked off stage into the crowd, each one pretending to consider others before going for their preselected targets. Lady Justice and Mayor Rushmore didn't need any convincing but Chief Meyers was hesitant. Fortunately with enough prodding all three found themselves on stage and were given seats in cheap plastic folding chairs.

            “The art of hypnosis has many varieties, but I will now perform what's known as rapid-induction,” explained Rune, producing a candle and placing it on the table in front of the three women, its wick lit. “I want all three of you to focus on the flame...” There probably was a way to properly do candle hypnosis, Rune knew, but he himself had no idea how. Once he was sure all three were staring at it he reached into his pocket and turned his hidden hourglass upside down, rendering the muttering crowd silent and immobile. Chuckling to himself Rune walked offstage, passing his frozen assistants and grabbing the bottle of hypnotic pills that were stashed in a cheap desk on stage right. Rune produced three pills and returned to the stage, opening each of his targets' mouths. Lady Justice was in the middle with Wanda on her left and Paula on her right. Once their mouths were open Rune slid a pill under each of their tongues and closed them, promptly returning to where he'd been standing initially and resuming time.

            “And... sleep!” ordered Rune once time was moving once again. Sure enough roughly a second after he said the command all three women closed their eyes, their heads tilting forwards, their arms slack at their sides. The crowd cheered and applauded. Ashley, who was backstage while Maria and Jenny came back to move the table and candle, knew that this was her signal and produced a device from inside the desk, pressing the large red button it. Around the four corners of the audience stasis field generators activated and the crowd, now alive with applause and the like, was once again frozen, though this time the people on stage and behind it were unaffected. Jenny and Maria were still fully under Rune's control and didn't seem to care, instead merely stopping and standing where they were with the table in their hands, waiting for the field to be deactivated.

            “Later tonight I will say release but you will not be free from my power,” Rune told the three hypnotized women that sat in the chairs. “You will act normally, unaware that you've been hypnotized, but obey my every command. After the show you three will insist on going home in a group, taking Wanda's car, but instead come back here and wait for me.” His instructions complete Rune nodded at Ashley who deactivated the stasis field, the audience not aware of Rune's special commands. The show resumed as normal.

            “How did it feel to be a chicken?” Victoria asked Jessica an hour later as they stood in the lobby after Rune's show. For twenty minutes Lady Justice, Mayor Rushmore and Chief Meyers were put through a typical hypnosis routine, with nothing sinister involved. This was followed by a final forty minutes where he used he magical items frequently to perform seemingly impossible tricks, including knowing the number of the driver's license in Miss Ocean's purse.

            “Felt normal to me,” admitted Jessica as she handed her side-kick her keys. “Here, you and Nicole take the SUV, Chief Meyers wanted to talk to me in private.” Victoria raised an eyebrow at that, as while the vehicle was insured for both of them Jessica had always insisted that she drive, even though she could fly.

            “Yeah, alright,” agreed Victoria, suspicious. After Jessica left Judgement Girl pulled Miss Ocean aside. “I think something is wrong with Jessica,” Vicky told her new friend. “Look there, the Mayor's heading back to the stage too,” Vicky added, pointing over to where the Mayor was telling off her escort, walking away with Chief Meyers. The pair had been constant targets by the city's villains so the move was very unusual.

            “Lets shadow them then,” decided Miss Ocean. Both heroines had worn their uniforms to the show as had Lady Justice thus they didn't feel the need to change as they warily followed the three VIPs.

            Back at the stage Rune stood alone, his cane in his hands as he waited for the three hypnotized women to arrive. Sure enough it wasn't long before Jessica, Wanda and Paula all arrived, stopping short a couple of feet away from him and standing at attention. “Good evening, ladies,” Rune said with a grin as he raised his cane and poked Jessica with the tip right below her breasts. Though it wasn't that noticeable because of how she'd been standing Lady Justice was now frozen in place by magic, similar to the kind used by Rune's hourglass. The Mayor and Chief of Police were also poked and then they too  were frozen rigid.

            “Take them,” Rune called over to stage right and immediately Ashley, Jenny and Maria came out with dollys, each one coming up behind a frozen woman. Ashley grabbed Lady Justice's shoulder and tipped her forward slightly, as if she were a pile of boxes, then sliding the dolly underneath her feet and pulling her back, lifting the woman off the ground and wheeling her away like a mannequin. Maria and Jenny promptly did the same with the other two women.

            “Alright, you've got some explaining to do,” snapped Judgement Girl from the opposite end of the stage a moment later as she and Miss Ocean came storming in. Rune wanted to sigh but thought better of it, knowing both were skilled heroines and would be all over him in a second. He needed to distract them.

            “Ladies, if you want to know how my tricks are done I'm afraid my magician's oath forbids me from doing so,” offered Rune, walking closer but in a non-threatening manner.

            “Can it mate,” snapped Miss Ocean, her fists clenched. “Where are Lady Justice, Mayor Rushmore and Chief Meyers?”

            “No idea,” Rune said, now close enough to reach them with his cane.

            “Liar!” shouted Judgement Girl, raising her right arm to punch the magician. Rune was ready, however, and his cane caught the heroine's left knee, freezing her in place. Her right arm was raised to near head level, a tight fight made that was pointing at Rune's head, her left foot forward, her right back and on her toes only, pure rage frozen on her lovely face. Miss Ocean wound up for a snap kick with her right but Rune's cane caught her thigh and she too was frozen, her arms pulled towards her chest with fists made, a serious look on her own face. Both looked like they belonged in the pages of a comic book, stuck in such outlandish poses in heroine costumes.

            “I hate to freeze and run, but my employer won't like it if you're on to me,” Rune told the heroines, though his taunts fell on deaf ears. Rune tapped his cane against the ground twice and vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving the two heroines frozen on the stage all alone. During this time a small spider decided that the space between Judgement Girl's raised arm would be ideal for a web and began to spin one, it soon being joined by many others, the auditorium having an infestation of sorts. It was the place where Tick and Tock had gotten the spiders for the time when they'd frozen the city's heroines in the police chief's office.

            Hours later Lockdown arrived at the scene with Queen Pixie and a few FBI agents who discovered both women covered in web. “What a mess,” sighed Queen Pixie as she waved her wand. Immediately the web that surrounded the women turned into water, soaking the pair as they were unfrozen by Pixie's wand.

            “Ugh... what did he do to us?” asked Miss Ocean, looking around in confusion. “What did he do, freeze us with cryogenics?”

            “No, just with ordinary time magic,” relied Queen Pixie. “Granted, its a rare form of magic, even as far as magic itself goes. I myself can only use it to a limited degree. So any idea where he took Lady Justice and the others?”

            “Nope,” Lockdown answered for the pair, reading their minds. “This Rune fellow was definitely the one that did it though. We need to find him right away.”

            “Good luck with that,” sighed Queen Pixie. “I mean, the only reason we found these two was because we knew they were here last night. Our rogue magician could be anywhere.”

            “I'll check his rented office,” declared Lockdown, leaving the other three heroines to decide what to do themselves as Lockdown sped off, driving to the office where Rune had interviewed his assistants. With no trace of Rune, Ashley, Jenny, Maria, Jessica, Paula or Wanda the city was now officially on full alert. Law enforcement and civilians alike were looking for Nicolas Pryce.

            The rented office wasn't too far away from the auditorium and Stephanie arrived there in roughly fifteen minutes. She stormed in expecting to find it empty but was surprised to see Rune sitting there waiting for her, standing in between the desk and couch. “About time you showed up,” the magician said, clearly a bit annoyed.

            “Alright, its time for some answers,” Lockdown declared, grabbing Rune by the collar and bringing her face close to his, making a powerful telepathic connection child's play. For several seconds the FBI agent probed Rune's mind, learning where he'd hidden his captives and who'd employed him. “Mobsters...” breathed Lockdown, suddenly discovering a surprising thought. Rune, at that moment in time, was picturing Lockdown with him on the beach having a romantic picnic. Stunned, Lockdown didn't sense Rune's intent to use his cane on her, the tip poking her in the right side of her waist. Instantly, she froze as stiff as a statue.

            “Ideally I'd like to both see and hear you, but I guess I'll settle for the former,” sighed Rune, his right hand coming up and stroking the beautiful Stephanie's face which was now rigid with embarrassment, her cheeks red and her hands fixed like stone as they clutched the magician's collar. Nicolas quickly slid out of Lockdown's grip and wrapped his right arm around her waist, his left tapping the cane twice and causing them both to vanish in a puff of smoke. A few moments later Silent Dragon and Elsa arrived but found no trace of either person.

* * *

            Two days of searching had turned up nothing. Rune had somehow masked the DNA signatures of his captives, his assistants and himself, making Elsa's advanced tracking system useless. Lockdown was among those kidnapped and thus not able to help them track him by his thoughts either thus they were forced to rely on Queen Pixie's own powers. Unfortunately the young heroine could only detect magic within the area of a small house, making the process a long and painful one. Not taking any chances the city's defenders moved in a group, which besides the young sorceress included Silent Dragon, Judgement Girl, Elsa, Claire, Miss Ocean and Lilly. The young law student, concerned about her friends, had once again decided to tag along despite lacking any useful abilities.

            The police were meanwhile investigating a possible mob connection to Rune as shortly after Lockdown had vanished a letter had arrived at City Hall threatening to have the Mayor killed if the Justice Force affiliation wasn't terminated. A few businesses also reported robberies for the first time in months. They needed to find Rune soon.

            “There,” Pixie finally said, indicating a nearby apartment complex. “There's a lot of magic in that building on the ground floor.”

            “Then lets get to it!” roared Judgement Girl, eager to save her mentor and the city's two biggest officials. The group, heedless of danger, charged into the building's lobby. This turned out to be a mistake, however, as no sooner did Judgement Girl and Silent Dragon pass through the doorway the doors suddenly closed, causing Miss Ocean and Lilly to run into it and fall to the ground stunned. They lobby was empty, the floor consisting only of white square tiles, except for a small wooden desk from behind which sprung Ashley who rolled a sphere towards them. The sphere, bowling-ball shaped, ejected a pink gas that Ashley herself had designed.

            Nathan, upon inhaling the gas, immediately lost consciousness. Victoria, meanwhile, was locked in place as she watched Nathan collapse, her left arm forward, her body turned at the waist, her right bent at her side, her face locked in an expression of shock. A moment later Judgement Girl's flesh and hair went from its usual self to that of marble, the gas made specifically to petrify organic matter and disable anyone resistant to transformations like Nathan was.

            By this time however Queen Pixie had turned the glass door into basic sand, causing it to cascade onto the ground. Ashley's gas had already dissipated, leaving the women free to deal with the scientist. Ashley raised her hands as if to ask them to not do anything but Queen Pixie paid no heed, waving her wand as Ashley attempted to step back. Immediately the woman was fixed in place, her skin becoming hard and very light-reflective, like that of a store mannequin. Jenny and Maria, both of whom had hidden under the floor, popped up from under the tiles, each bearing a pistol. Jenny fired on Miss Ocean, causing the woman immediately become a living ice sculpture, while Maria tagged Claire, her own weapon turning the woman into human wood carving. Queen Pixie, not wanting to be next, quickly zapped the hypnotized duo, turning them both into mannequins as well.

            Rune, watching from the air ducts, surveyed the scene. Ashley was a mannequin, stuck behind the desk with her legs tipped backwards, her hands in front of her with her fingers up and her palms out, fear on her face. Maria and Jenny stood in nearly identical shooting poses, holding their weapons with their right while their left steadied their arms, their faces serious, their legs slightly bent, both also plastic. Nathan was on the ground and buried in sand, Judgement Girl was petrified save for her clothing. Miss Ocean was frozen solid, her entire body now an icy blue, while in a casual walking pose, her left foot and right arm forward, her left having just touched the ground, a neutral expression on her face. Claire was a bit more interesting, being solid brown wood, her body twisted to her right, her arms raised in alarm, her mouth open and her eyebrows raised. They made a good collection of statues. Rune decided he'd have to strike now before Queen Pixie restored anyone.

            Teleporting in behind the heroines' magician, Rune quickly tagged Pixie's back with the tip of his cane, freezing her in place as she pointed her wand at Jenny and Maria, an odd smile on her face as if she'd seen something that aroused her. Rune spun around to touch Elsa with his cane but the scientist, acting surprisingly limber, ducked the attack. The magician panicked and produced his hourglass in his left hand right as Lilly kicked him, causing the magical artifact to tumble to the floor. Rune was falling forwards right after the hourglass as Elsa rose from her duck and Lilly retracted her foot, her arms raised and ready to punch. It was then that the hourglass shattered, scattering the sand across the floor. It was then that time stopped for everyone, even Rune.

            The entire planet was now frozen in time, as per the power of the hourglass. Rune hovered above the broken artifact while Lilly was frozen next to him, clearly ready to strike him again as she stood in a sort of martial arts pose with clenched fists, her face serious for once. Elsa also looked just as serious although she was only squatting slightly, her hands at her sides. Everything was silent. Pieces from the hourglass still hung in the air, fixed as if the air itself was solid.

            While for everyone else it was no time at all, it took Tick and Tock half an hour to get to the apartment from the docks where they'd been sleeping. The pair walked in on the scene and looked around in frustration. “The idiot broke his hourglass!” moaned Tock as he examined the wooden statue of Claire.

            “The sand has also been mixed with regular sand,” pointed out Tick, indicating the problem. “We need to gather it before time can start again.”

            “Want some help?” came Time Knight's voice as the hero strode into the building, his sword in his hands. With a wave of the blade specific specs of sand that belonged to the magic hourglass rose from the ground and spun around, forming a small orb which landed in Connor's hand, completely solid. Connor's sword, in addition to offering mind control, allowed him to use telekinesis, which was how he was able to fly in the first place.

            “Well done!” exclaimed Tick as Tock plucked the magic cane from Rune's grasp. “We'll return the orb to the Time Key and take the rest of his magic too. He can't serve our master's needs if he's stopped time like this...”

            “I can imagine,” sighed Time Knight, wishing Loki and his servants would know better than to trust such powerful magic to a mere mortal. “Alright, now get out of here. I'm getting tired of cleaning up your messes.” Giggling to themselves Tick and Tock departed and Time Knight quickly did the same. The planet remained frozen in time for another full hour before Tick and Tock finally returned the orb to where it belonged, allowing time to resume, the planet rotating once again.

            With time back to normal Rune hit the floor and groaned as Lilly and Elsa covered him. The magician was alarmed that his cane was now missing, and even worse was that Queen Pixie turned around and pointed her wand at him, the sorceress no longer frozen. “Crap,” muttered Rune.

* * *

            With his cane and hourglass gone everything Rune had done with his magic unraveled. His kidnapping victims were no longer frozen, though the original three remained under the effects of the hypnosis drug for another week. Queen Pixie restored everyone she'd transformed, even Maria and Jenny after they were disarmed. Everyone now stood in the building's lobby, Rune with his head bowed as Lady Justice and Lockdown flanked him. Nathan sat on the desk with an ice pack on his head while Judgement Girl, Lilly, and Miss Ocean spoke with the Mayor and Police Chief. Ashley was being chewed out by Elsa and Claire while Maria and Jenny stood near the desk as well, both still hypnotized and ordered to just stand there at attention for a bit so that they could stay out of the conversations. Queen Pixie watched over the pair for reasons she didn't discuss.

            “Lets bring him in,” Lady Justice said to Lockdown about Rune. “He did kidnap me and the others, not to mention yourself.”

            “His magic is gone, I know it,” Lockdown retorted. “I can read minds, remember? He's going to stop working for the mob and go legit again. He's reformed.”

            “That's way too convenient,” protested Jessica. “He could be tricking you somehow for all we know!”

            “Jessica, do me a favor and pose silently like a mannequin for a bit,” Lockdown ordered, causing the hypnotized heroine to suddenly put her left hand on her hip and lean in that direction, her other arm slack, her head turned slightly to the right, her entire body turning rigid.

            “It'll be a shame when that wears off,” sighed Lockdown before focusing on Rune again.

            “So I'm free to go?” asked Rune hopefully.

            “Yes, but I'm sorry to say that thought you had a moment ago isn't going to happen,” Lockdown told him sternly. “You're a great guy Nick, but I can't associate with a suddenly reformed criminal so quickly. Go home, get a real act going again and maybe we'll see each other again in the future.” Nicolas smiled and nodded, walking out of the building. Lilly, Judgement Girl and Miss Ocean moved to chase him but Pixie worked her magic and the trio collapsed to the floor, sound asleep. The magical girl then winked at Lockdown while Elsa merely shook her head and Nathan chuckled. Claire meanwhile told the police chief and mayor to both freeze so they wouldn't persue Rune either.

            “Nicolas, wait!” came a voice as Rune walked down the street. Turning, the magician saw Ashley coming up to him, out of breath and apparently cold due to being outside in her magician's costume. It was early November, after all. “I don't have any other job right now, so how about we use my scientific knowledge to make you some less sinister tricks?” suggested Ashley. Rune thought about it for a moment and then nodded, the pair then shaking hands.

            “Damn magician,” muttered an aged Italian man from a limo down the street, watching everything through his window.

            “I guess the Justice Force is here to stay, sir,” mused the man's companion, a younger man also of Italian descent. “This could make business hard.”

            “I'm aware of that, Frankie,” grunted the older man, rubbing his bald head. “We'd best lay low for a time, perhaps until the December holidays. Once the heat is off of us we can strike and take the city. Cold Fusion may be in jail but it is his invention that will still decide this plan of mine.”

            “As you say, Don Legardi,” nodded Frankie as the limo began to move.


to be continued in Going Like Clockwork ...

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