Chapter 3 - Things couldn't be clearer....or murkier
Bonnie glanced at her watch as she sat aboard the company jet that was winging its way to France and figured she had another 30 minutes or so before landing. Glancing through the folder given to her by Jack, her boss at Deltox, she had seen that it contained a fairly detailed representation for Frois Vrai, the company she was visiting. The information was, by all accounts, fairly routine though there was no listing of officers for the company. Figuring that most of them had left upon the company's acquisition by Deltox, Bonnie dismissed the incongruity and leafed through the rest of the papers rather quickly before settling back in her chair. She glanced out the window at the clear blue sky and wondered to herself if she might be able to finagle a job in the North American division. After all, she had her career to keep in mind...........
Speaking of North America...............
The Carson Family Amusements factory stood deserted and padlocked in the industrial park of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Once an employer of nearly 500 people responsible for the assembling and packaging of a wide variety of board games, the company's fortunes had taken a marked downturn corresponding with the rise of computer software. The company's downfall was complete when it tried to form a partnership with one computer manufacturer that ultimately led to both firms filing for bankruptcy. As a result, the factory stood padlocked with the employees laid off and rumors spreading that it would be tore down in the near future. When people drove by it at night, they sometimes saw a light bobbing near the windows which they assumed was a night watchman.
In truth, however, the person walking in the building wasn't garbed in a dark blue and black uniform but rather a colorful outfit that would attract the attention of any onlooker. As it was, the person stepped into an elevator and disappeared from sight as the car descended into the lower levels of the building.
"Geez, where is the darned light switch? I thought Mr. J would have told me where everything was in this place before he took off on his big caper and.... snifff.... and..... mmmm... sniff.... NEVER CAME BACK!!! " a lithe woman dressed in what looked like a jester's outfit from the Middle Ages said before tearing up and openly wailing. Known to the police and general population as Harley Quinn, she was a frequent associate of the master criminal Joker, the long time foe of Batman. When Batman disappeared in the event that seemed to claim most of the heroes, the Joker threw a huge party that lasted three days and nights with many well known criminals invited to attend. The clown prince of crime had even arranged to have an invitation delivered to Police Commissioner Gordon for the party though the invite arrived two days after the party occurred. After the party wrapped up, Harley was told by the Joker that he and a few of the boys were 'paying a long delayed visit to Gotham's financial district'. However, the caper resulted in the cops arresting the Joker's henchman, who they found unconscious, and the Joker nowhere to be found. Harley found out from sources in the local jail that 'her pudding' ( a pet name she called Joker affectionately) walked around the corner of a bank hallway and vanished. Harley frantically searched the city and contacted everyone she knew in the underworld but there was no sign of him anywhere.
"It's a good thing Mr. J told me about this place before he.... sniff.... he went away. I just wish he told me who he agreed to work with," Harley muttered before blowing her nose with an oversized handkerchief that was decorated with tiny images of herself. After tucking away the cloth, she managed to find the light switch that had eluded her and after a moment or two, the entire room Harley was in became fully visible and it bore little semblance to anything in a factory producing novelties or similar items.
The left side of the room was lined with what appeared to be a series of tubes that sat atop a vast array of electronic equipment that quietly hummed as they operated. The front of the tubes, some of which showed condensation from cold, were see through and inside most of them were what appeared to be an array of heroines. The heroines were all in some sort of suspended animation though what that entailed varied from tube to tube.
"Oooohhh, this looks pretty sharp. I should have a look at who's who in these glass containers for the next time I swing by. Mr. J never left me any kind of inventory sheet for these broads," Harley said as she skipped over to where the machinery was sitting.
"Hmmmm, lemme see, this babe goes by the name Firestar. I never heard of her before but judging by the ice dripping off her, she must have powers like that lame name she has....." Harley murmured as she stared at the first tube. Inside the glass and steel capsule, a woman in her mid 20's and dressed in a tight fitting yellow and red lycra outfit stood in suspended animation. Tiny icicles could be seen on her chin and clinging to her fingers as well as her pert breasts. Judging by the surprised look on Firestar's face, she was caught somewhat unaware by an attack and fell quickly to her current captors. Her right hand was extended out in front of her as if she was trying to stop the cold that must have rapidly spread over her lithe frame.
"Doo...dee..doo........ hmmmm..... this one is.... oh cool!...... its the Huntress! Geez, it was just a few months ago that me and Mr. J ran into her and Robin when we were intercepting that armored car shipment on the outskirts of the city. She certainly gave me a kick in the keester when I had her friend in my sights. Somehow, though, I don't think you'll be doing kicks of any type in the near future. Hee hee!!!" Harley murmured as she slapped her right thigh in delight upon seeing the contents of the next tube. The Huntress, dressed in her usual purple and black costume with thigh-high boots and a crossbow hanging loosely off her right shoulder, stared straight ahead with no movement visible whatsoever in her face or the rest of her body. The only indication that the heroine wouldn't jump out of the tube and attack Harley in an instant were the small metal discs located on her body that appeared to have some sort of current going through them. Two discs could be seen on the left and right sides of the Huntress' face with a third one located just above the cleavage in her uniform's top.
"Lemme see..... contestant # 3......... she likes to practice magic, entertain kiddies at shows and stare longingly at the Bats. Let's hear it for Zatanna!!!" Harley crowed mockingly as she glanced at the data for the third tube before staring upwards at what was inside. Zatanna, dressed in her usual stage outfit of a top hat, tuxedo, fishnet stockings and high heels, appeared to have been turned into a statue made of silver or some similar material. Judging by the small, silver pigeon perched on the statue's right shoulder, it appeared that the heroine had been taken while in the midst of performing one of her magic tricks for an audience. Scratching her head with the boxing glove handgun that was her trademark weapon, Harley didn't recall any newspaper articles or TV reports that mentioned Zatanna's disappearance.
"Mr. J did mention that the people he agreed to do this for seemed a bit odd, from what he could sense. Consider my pudding has seen a lot of strange stuff since he first electrocuted a crime boss who got in his way, he wouldn't say that without some thought..... sniff...... the way he cocked his head in amusement. Gee, I miss the way he'd..... he'd laugh as he plotted to get Bat boy one more time...... WAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!" Harley sputtered before breaking down and crying again. The deranged villainess ran over to a nearby box of tissue and grabbed some to wipe her eyes clear of the tears pouring out of them. As she did, Harley noticed the box's sides depicted not the usual generic pictures of flowers or solid colors but rather a cartoon scene showing Batman and Robin dangling over a pool full of sharks with the Joker and Harley busy torturing a tied-up Batgirl. Gazing at the drawing for several seconds, Harley's tears quickly dried up and a smile returned to her face as she glanced once again at the tubes.
"The fourth member of the frozen........... lemme see........ can absorb another person's abilities and memories temporarily by touching them briefly with the effect becoming permanent if contact is maintained. Rogue is her name according to what's written here.... sounds pretty dumb..... still, I like the white streak in her hair. I wonder if it's natural or a dye job," Harley muttered as she gazed up at the next tube in the machinery. Rogue, dressed in what appeared to be a skintight green outfit that covered her from the neck down, had the same blank look on her face that the other imprisoned heroines had. However, there was a marked difference for Rogue in comparison to the others as, when Harley gazed closer at the heroine, she had been apparently transformed into a plastic mannequin. Her skin had a plastic sheen to it and there was joint lines faintly visible on her wrists and shoulders. Rogue's eyes, tinged slightly in fear and apprehension, were clearly nothing more than colored glass from Harley's perspective.
"Golly, this is just plain weird. It's kinda like being back in Arkham on the other side of the glass," Harley said wistfully as she recalled what she, and a few other criminals in Gotham, knew the mental asylum as looking like. With her inspection of the immobilized heroines completed, the red and white costume-clad woman headed over to the lone computer in the room to see what the Joker had agreed to for compensation in return for caretaking the quartet of heroines. As she did, Harley was unaware that the elevator she had taken to the basement was humming once again.
"Let's see, Mr. J was contacted about three weeks before he disappeared with a proposal from....." Harley said out loud as she recited the text she saw on the screen before stopping as a frown crossed her painted face. Tapping the sides of her face with her fingers, she stared at the screen for several long seconds as she scrolled down through the text.
"There's nothing here about the guys my pudding was dealing with in terms of names and locations. It just refers to them as 'The Group' with all contacts to be done in the future over the internet or by cell phone text messages. There's another folder here marked 'SECURITY'...... I wonder what it....... HEYYY!!!!!!!!!!" Harley said out loud before jumping to one side awkwardly as a bolt of electrical energy hit the desk to her right.
Harley turned around and saw a woman emerge out of a darkened corner in the room. Dressed in tight fitting black leather from the neck down with silver and gold gauntlets visible on her wrists, the red haired woman was known to many in the world as Black Widow, a crimefighting heroine who was known to associate with figures such as Daredevil and the heroic group known as the Avengers. Formerly a phenomenally successful spy for the communist rulers in Russia, she left them to fight crime in North America. With formidable fighting skills as well as the ability to deliver a powerful electrical blast from her wrist gauntlets, the golden spider logo above her right breast was often the last thing Black Widow's opponents saw before a swift defeat at her hands.
"Harley Quinn!! I don't know what role you have in the abduction of the women here or if you have any part in the disappearance of my friends and colleagues but when I have defeated....... OOOOFFFF!!!!" Black Widow started to proclaim before spinning backward from the impact of an oversized boxing glove striking her jaw. The heroine crumpled back into the corner that she had been secretly been hiding in even as the glove retracted back to the gun Harley was holding in her hand.
"Blah, blah, blah, ya know, I'm always amazed by you superhero types. I thought the shrinks at my old home, Arkham Asylum, talked a lot but you spandex clad idiots always make a statement when things are just getting started!!" Harley said with a derisive snort. As she skipped and pranced over in the direction of Black Widow, the red and white clad villainess seemed oblivious to the fact that two metallic objects had emerged from the ceiling and were tracking her movements.
"The itsy, bitsy spider crawled up the waterspout...... down came the rain and washed the spider out...... up came the sun and dried the spider out... here comes little Harley to knock the spider about!!!" Harley chirped in a voice mimicking a little girl she had met once when she was younger. As she got within arm's length of her opponent, she wondered what she should do with her and if she might be able to use her as a way to get information about the location of her beloved Mr. J.
However, when Harley bent over to make sure Black Widow was unconscious, she found herself the victim of a powerful kick from the heroine that sent her spiraling backwards and slamming into a nearby wall. Recovering quickly, the two quickly engaged in hand to hand fighting with Black Widow's superior fighting skills neutralized by Harley's unorthodox combat tactics as well as a better knowledge of the area around them.
As the fight dragged on for minutes, there was considerable damage to the walls and furniture in the room as well as a lesser amount to the machinery around the inactive heroines. It was when the latter occurred that the overhead cameras focusing on the duo locked in fierce battle started to hum softly with long, black tubes appearing at the bottom of them.
"HIYAHHHH!!!" Black Widow cried out as she delivered a solid roundhouse kick that sent her red and white clad opponent spinning to the floor semi conscious. Harley tried to pull herself back up but the effect of the blow, in combination with the other physical and electrical attacks from before, had drained her strength to continue and she fell back to the floor in a heap.
"Well, my female jokester foe, I think it is time for you to tell me everything you know about this operation here. After that, I have some friends who might........ MMMMMPPPHHHHHH!!!!!!" Black Widow started to say in Russian accented english before she was cut off by a stream of black fluid that flowed over her from a tube attached to one of the surveillance cameras overhead.
The heroine tried to extricate herself from the black goo but found her ability to move, as well as her strength, rapidly draining from her limbs. Within seconds, her arms, flaying upwards in a frantic attempt to escape the substance coating her, were moving noticeably slower by the second and the same applied to her legs. Even worse, Black Widow sensed that the substance was soaking through her costume and absorbing into her body. She had encountered many substances in her lengthy career of fighting crime but this material was unlike anything she had encountered before.
As Black Widow fought a seemingly hopeless battle against the substance enveloping her, Harley stood still and watched the fight with a bemused look on her face. "I think I need some cherry flavored bubble gum to chew on while, ouch, the spider lady is taken care of by the security forces," the villainess chirped as she turned and ambled back towards another desk in the room. Clutching her ribs with her left hand, Harley retrieved a pack of gum from one of the desk drawers and popped a stick into her mouth with little attention being paid to what was happening behind her.
If the villainess had looked, she would have seen the struggle was nearing its conclusion rapidly. Black Widow's blows against the goo were becoming weaker by the second with the substance changing from black to bright red in color. The heroine's legs and arms started to draw tight to her sides and the energy seemed to be rapidly draining from her eyes to be replaced by a spark not of her own.
"Geez, this reminds me of the day me and Mr. J took on Batty Man and the Boy Blunder at the site of the Toys Not for Tots factory. My pudding grabbed a rack of shiny catsuits and....... MMMMPPPPHHHH!!!!!!!" Harley started to say happily as she turned to witness her opponent's final seconds of struggle before suddenly going silent. The villainess' silence was caused by one of the overhead cameras exuding a gooey substance that was similar in nature to the one currently enveloping Black Widow.
Twenty or so minutes later, the room was silent once again save for the humming of the electronic equipment surrounding the immobilized women in the glass tubes. The only difference in the room from before, besides an overturned chair and messed up desk, was the sight of two female figures, garbed in red and blue material individually, standing on opposite sides of the elevator entrance. The only signs, aside from the barely visible nipples and pussies, that these latex (or something similar) coated figures were actually women were the eyes that flickered every now and then.
Other than that, the room was silent............
Elsewhere........at an airport in France..........
"......right this way, Ms. Dobson. Frois Vrai has sent me, Gilles Dubont, and a company limousine to drive you pour the plant pres d'ici," a thin man said, with a mixture of French and English in his words, while gesturing towards a black limousine parked to the right of a nearby entrance.
Bonnie nodded and followed the chauffeur to the waiting vehicle with her eyes still reading through the briefing material she had been given about the company she was visiting. Five or so minutes later, Bonnie, seated in the back of what was a very sumptuous limousine, was on the road for a 45 minute trip according to the chauffeur.
Ten or so minutes into the trip, Bonnie finished reading the material about Frois Vrai and decided to watch a little television on the TV mounted opposite her in the car. After clicking through a few channels that were showing Jerry Lewis movies, she came across the WNN (World News Network) channel and the hosts were speaking English in what appeared to be an international feed.
".......go to Washington where there was a press conference held that was rather unusual to say the least. Our reporter Melissa Browning is there to give us a full report. Melissa?" the studio host intoned before the screen shifted to show a brunette standing before a red brick building and the usual text showing at the bottom.
"Thanks, Gordon. There was a press conference held today by U.S. National Defense officials that introduced their newest agent to combat super powered criminals in the nation and around the world. However, just as they were about to introduce the agent, a heroine known as Comet Queen, a reporter interrupted the opening statement to say he had a tape showing that Comet Queen had recently collaborated with a villain who goes by the name of Shape Shifter in the theft of a large amount of electronic parts and equipment from a southern California warehouse. With that, the news conference quickly erupted into pandemonium with reporters shouting out questions to the obviously stunned Defense officials. As for the reporter responsible for the chaos, he was quickly hustled out of the room by several men who looked to be Secret Service men. The only thing we can tell you about the reporter in question is that he was affiliated with WCGS, a TV station based in St. Martin, Louisiana and goes by the name Gary McLaughlin. We'll try and find out more about Gary and the tape he alleged to possess as the day progresses here in Washington. Back to you, Carlo," the female reporter intoned as several other media types moved around in the background behind her.
"Sheesh....the government is getting involved with this hero stuff now.... the conspiracy kooks are going to have a field day with all this crap......." Bonnie thought to herself as she leaned forward and clicked off the television before settling back in her seat and waiting for the drive to finish.
If Bonnie had bothered to look closer at the tray she had gotten her drink from, she might have noticed the presence of tiny camera attached to the underside of it. On the other side of the camera, a figure wrapped in darkness that was not natural made notes on an electronic tablet as the image of the limousine's interior played on a nearby monitor. Behind them, two figures watched and gestured towards other monitors throughout the room before returning their focus to the limousine.
"This woman could prove to be an invaluable tool in our day to day operations. According to the file sent to us, she's ambitious, eager and ruthless to a certain degree. I'm sure that, given an appropriate amount of financial compensation, she will agree to perform tasks for us that will further out plans," one of the figures intoned solemnly.
"Oh, that is certain. By the way, we've had some problems at the work encouragement station once again. It seems the Kryptonian was involved once again in an attempted escape," the other figure replied as he handed a tablet to the other individual.
After scanning over the tablet, the individual let out a soft sigh. "I guess we'll have to enact punishment protocol once again. When the Kryptonian tried to lead an insurrection before, we used a green kryptonite ray for punishment that was set at, hmm, 90 % potency, understood? Increase the ray to 92 % strength and increase the duration by 8 terracycles this time!" the figure snapped with an odd sounding noise heard at the end.
"Your instructions are understood and will be carried out. A suggestion, though, about an alternative path that could be used. Why not use the ray at 100 % potency for as long as it takes to kill the Kryptonian? That way, the attempts to leave without permission will decrease significantly," the other individual replied with a tone that sounded like he was discussing a business affair.
"An admirable sentiment but flawed. If we dispose of the Kryptonian on a permanent basis, the death would merely serve as a martyr for the remaining workers and could result in more attempted escapes as well as an increasingly agitated worker population. However, by returning the Kryptonian in a weakened, helpless state to the populace, it saps their desire to resist upon seeing what some might consider their mightiest symbol reduced to a husk barely able to stand," the figure said decisively with a mocking laugh echoing from the speaker after the last few words.
"You're a sage leader. It's little wonder you'll be in charge of this planet after the master plan has been completed," the second individual murmured in awe as the two walked out of the room and down the hallway to their next important meeting.
For the remaining heroines on Earth, if they didn't discover the individuals who attended these meetings soon, their futures would soon be severely limited in scope.... not to mention any remaining degree of movement.
To be continued.............