"No, no, no, no, no, no, no
," Sophie said, clutching her head. "They didn't wait
"No," Nereid said, watching her girlfriend worriedly. "It was a big thing. Lots of people involved. All the police who'd gone in went silent, and no one knew exactly what was happening."
"But you could plainly see it was Phil the Pheromoaner," Sophie said, gesturing angrily to the big screen that showed an aerial still photo of a dirty-blond man in his thirties, sitting partly unclothed on the front steps of the Wonder City University library, surrounded by mostly-unclothed college women. She scowled. "And it looks like he found a power booster somewhere."
Nereid blinked. "I don't know this guy."
Sophie sighed and rubbed her face. "That's because he's been in jail. He's a serial rapist. The worst sort of rapist: the sort where circumstances convince juries that his victims are consenting. His para power is producing roofie-like pheromones. His victims lose most of their inhibitions and willpower."
Nereid's eyes got big. She clenched her jaw and firmly put aside a sick memory of her very bad relationship of two years before, focusing on the screen. "So how many people can he usually do that to?"
Sophie grimaced. "That's the thing: he's a Class 2 or 3 at best, only able to really affect a single person at any given time. He's got something bigger going on here. I wish there weren't so damn many trees in the quad so we could see just how many people there are. Who did you say went in?"
"Mercury, Wire, Vector, and Mercury's new boyfriend, that guy Gemini? The one who can multiply his extremities or something?"
Nereid glanced at Sophie's face, and the half-appalled, half-intrigued look she saw there brought images to mind that made her blush furiously.
Sophie coughed, then said, "You mean they didn't even call in Citizen Pain? The one person who is likely
to be immune to this?"
"They signaled him, just like they signaled you," Nereid said.
Just then, as if summoned, Citizen Pain burst into the room, his long white hair romantically windblown, beautifully sculpted face distressed. Nereid regretted, for just a second, that he "wasn't attracted to biological lifeforms." "Indeed, I have only just received the signal!" he exclaimed. "What is the matter, Brainchild?"
Sophie heaved a massive sigh. "Oh, the team just went in without either of their two heavy hitters OR their brain."
"I'm not allowed out, you told them," Nereid said in a small voice. "And they didn't think it would be that difficult."
"I know, I know," Sophie said, rubbing the bridge of her prominent nose. "But that's because Mercury really takes this whole 'hotheaded impulsive leader' schtick too seriously."
"I do indeed agree with you there, Brainchild," Citizen Pain said, resettling his white-and-black uniform tunic on his shoulders. "I wish that he would step down from his position and allow someone else to try leading for a change. Indeed I do."
"Like you, Pay?" Sophie said with a grin. "I can't help but think you'd be better at it than he is."
"I was thinking of you, in fact, Brainchild," he said seriously.
"Thanks, that's very flattering, Pay," Sophie said, and Nereid could see that had flustered her a bit. "Let's talk about it later. While we talk, our teammates are most likely getting naked."
"Oh! You don't really think so, do you?" Nereid said, chewing her lower lip. "Mercury thought he could run fast enough to get to him and stop him."
"Mercury still has to breathe while he runs," Sophie said, turning to the screen and trying to request another aerial shot from the police flyer. "What Mercury actually
thinks is that Phil's roofies only work on women. And he would be wrong." An error message rolled across the screen, asserting that the flyer was busy at this time. She cursed.
Nereid said, "Should we go then?"
"Yes," Sophie said, turning to her two eager minions and stalking past them into the elevator. They followed her. "Nereid, you'll need to stay in water form until I tell you it's safe to turn back. Pay, I'll need you to patch into Cosmic Flyer 2 and give me flyover visuals."
"I will indeed be pleased to do so," Pay said, and when the elevator disgorged them onto the flight deck, he immediately went to the flyer's external computer port and pushed his fingers into the custom dock Sophie had built for him. The secondary flyer's engines came online immediately and Nereid could see the systems inside beginning their diagnostics, screens flickering information faster than anyone but Pay or Brainchild could process.
"Wait here while I get my containment suit," Sophie said, and she trotted into her armory.
Nereid said to Pay, "Where were you when they signaled? They got a message that your receiver was out of range."
"I was not out of range," Pay said, removing his hand from the port and sliding the port cover into place. He turned tragic blue eyes toward her. "Indeed, I was only in a place that does not get good reception. I was seeking to speak to my boyfriend."
"Oh, Pay," Nereid said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "But he broke up with you months ago!"
"I know," Pay said, and his lower lip quivered. "But I found that I desired nothing more than to hear him call me a 'toy boy' again." He rubbed at his eyes, which were, human-like, producing some tears. "I found, indeed, that Mr. Hammer seems to have forgotten who I am."
Nereid thought about that, and then thought about the fact that when she called Megan and asked to talk to Simon a month ago, Megan had chided her, reminding her that Simon "didn't do that any more," and yesterday had spoken as though Simon were no more than her pet dog. Sophie was right that something really bizarre was going on out there. "Oh, Pay," she said again, hugging him. "I'm sure
he hasn't forgotten you."
Sophie emerged from the armory at that point, dressed in her sleek humanoid-mecha-armor, which was stylishly painted in dark blue and gold. Her apparently-blank faceplate was still open, revealing her face. "Come on, you two, let's move along. Nereid, what did I tell you?"
"Oh, right," Nereid said, and shifted into her water form. It was still a weird experience, this new trick of hers, but she tried very hard not to wonder how she continued to think if her brain had turned to water.
The roof opened and Pay rose up into the sky. Sophie took the pilot's seat while Nereid carefully squished into a passenger seat.
"Cosmic 2, you have clearance for your flight plan," a bored woman's voice said from the speaker. "Please to not deviate more than 10% from your plot except for evasive maneuvers without clearance."
"Affirmative, Flight Control," Sophie said into the microphone. She switched to internal mic and said, "Thanks for filing the plan, Pay."
Since he was wirelessly patched into the flyer's systems, he responded, via speaker, "I am glad indeed to be of service."
The flyer, under Sophie's expert guidance, rose up smoothly, pivoted to face the Wonder City University campus, and, clearing the top of the nearest skyscraper, moved forward.
"What is the plan, Brainchild?" Pay said, easily keeping pace with the flyer.
Sophie pursed her lips in thought for a moment, then said, "You're gonna fly over and give us aerial visuals. Then Nereid is going to bring in a full-on monsoon for the quad and anywhere else we see activity."
"That's going to mess up weather patterns for weeks
," Nereid said, trying to facepalm and forgetting that she was in water form. There was a splash as her "hand" passed through her "forehead" and out the back of her "head". GOD that was WEIRD.
"Tough shit," Sophie said. "That's what paras do: mess stuff up." There was a strange, strained, bitter tone to her voice, but Nereid only noted it and didn't pursue it. "While she's washing people down and knocking as much pheromone out of the air as possible, Pay, you're going to go in and deck the sucker. Try not to hurt anyone else in doing it; I'm hoping the rain will break up some of the scrum so he won't have anyone to hide behind. I'll come in with a containment unit for him."
"Visuals commencing," Pay said, and Sophie put the screen up.
The entire quad was full of naked or mostly-naked humans engaging in acts not normally seen in public. Nereid immediately looked away, feeling sick, and was sure she'd be blushing if she currently had blood or skin. Sophie's face turned red with something other than embarrassment as she stared at the screen.
"A lot of people worked hard for almost four years to put that waste of flesh behind bars," Sophie said in a low voice. "It took a shitload of work to get a jury that would agree to put him away. And now someone has let him out and taken off his power repressor. In fact, someone may have given
him a power enhancer of some sort." She stared a moment longer, then said, "I may need to invent something that will cut his dick off from the inside out."
"You shouldn't joke about that," Nereid said.
"Who's joking?" Sophie said, cocking her head to the side as she watched the visuals updating. "Besides, I have to either laugh or explode from homicidal rage at this point. Castration jokes are the least of it." She snorted. "Though I guess guys wouldn't agree with me."
"I find castration jokes somewhat uncomfortable," Pay said over the loudspeaker, "even though my apparatus is technically detachable."
"Pay!" Nereid said, clapping her hands over her ears with a useless sploosh. "I didn't want to know that!"
"Why not?" Pay said, and Nereid suspected that he was only playing innocent this time. It had taken her a while to discover that her android friend actually could have a wicked sense of humor. "Indeed, I think it is a distinct perk of my design. I have, in fact, had my apparatus remodeled several times for the pleasure of my partners..." And he was obviously going along with Sophie's laugh-or-cry idea.
"PLEASE tell me that you weren't involved in the design," Nereid exclaimed, letting her hands dissolve and turning to Sophie.
"Of course I was," said Sophie, adjusting the visual display. "Do you think Pay would trust anyone else with his apparatus?"
Nereid said plaintively, "I don't know whether to count that as you cheating on me or not."
Sophie snorted. "Honey, there are people who do that for a living."
"There are?" Nereid said, trying to imagine a market for redesigning... apparatus.
"They're either called 'surgeons'," Sophie said, giving her a sly glance, "or 'toy designers'."
"Indeed," Pay said, "I count myself extremely fortunate that I can modify my apparatus in ways not normally available to biological lifeforms."
"Nooooooo lalalalalalala!" Nereid bellowed.
"All right, y'all," Sophie said, absently patting at Nereid's watery knee, "I think I've got a grasp on the scope of this thing." She picked up an electronic stylus and drew several quick lines on the screen map of the university and environs. "Nereid, start bringing in the water over this space."
"I need radar," Nereid said.
"Right," Sophie said, flipping the appropriate switch. "Pay, are you experiencing any abnormalities in your biomechanical systems that could be Phil's roofies?"
"Negative, Brainchild," Pay said. "Indeed, I am fully functional."
"Yes, you are, indeed," Sophie muttered under her breath.
Nereid concentrated on the radar screen, the map, and the environment beyond. She could certainly feel everything that was going on in the atmosphere -- she could sense where their own flight disturbed water vapor, and she could even sense approximately where Pay was, but she had only a vague connection between what she could feel and actual geography if she wasn't in the middle of things.
And she really didn't want to be in the middle of those
"Oh, there's Vector," Sophie said.
Nereid glanced at the screen without thinking, and her attention was arrested. "Wait, is that a girl
she's with?" she said.
"Oh, yeah," Sophie said dismissively. "I know she says she's our 'token straight' but she so
isn't. We don't have
a token straight."
Nereid blinked at the screen and said, "Huh," deciding to think about it later. She went back to cloudgathering.
"I don't see Mercury," Sophie said. "I can only hope he's found someone invulnerable."
Nereid tried to do a mental "lalalala" to stop thinking, but she gave in and said, "Do you think Gemini can really multiply his... his..."
"Apparatus?" Sophie said with a wicked grin. "I don't know, why don't you ask him?"
Nereid would have blushed again, she was sure, and turned back to the radar. The water vapor began to show as blue on the radar, then green, and Nereid knew that it would begin raining soon on most of the university campus. Now she redoubled her efforts to pull together water vapor, trying not to carelessly evaporate reservoirs and ponds as she had sometimes done when pressed for time.
The radar slowly, slowly turned yellow and orange, and finally Sophie said from behind her faceplate, "That's enough, Pacifica."
Nereid looked out the windscreen at the dense downpour that had engulfed the campus. Apparently, the flyer had landed while she was working. She couldn't actually see through the rain (though then she was left wondering how she was "seeing" at all since everything was water, etc).
Pay's voice came over the loudspeaker. "I have obtained my target, Brainchild." He paused. "I am afraid I may have damaged him a little."
"I'll be there in a moment with the containment unit," Sophie said. "Do I need a backboard?"
Pay made a thoughtful noise. "Perhaps. I believe his jaw is broken, so that may be a wise precaution, indeed."
"On my way," Sophie said. "Nereid, stay in here, no matter what. And is there anything you can do about the temperature? It only just occurred to me that having a lot of wet, naked people in the springtime is kind of a prescription for hypothermia."
Nereid gave Sophie's faceplate a pained look. "I'll... try. But heating is mostly transfer from the sun or an air mass."
"Try, that's all I ask. And stay here
," Sophie said, before departing with the required emergency equipment.
Nereid stared at the rain, feeling the water bouncing off Sophie's suit, sensing all the people in the quad near them starting to stand and move around. She didn't want to see them, the people who had been violated during this... thing that had happened to them. She didn't want to think about them too much, but couldn't help it. Could the university's counseling program cope with this? Did they even have a plan for dealing with a supervillain attack like this one? How many of them had considered themselves virgins? Would any of them have to deal with family repercussions because of it? How many of them had been raped before and would have nightmares for weeks or months? What about pregnancy?
She shook her head in a vain attempt to clear it, as the last thoughts were too close to home, and turned her powers toward trying to warm the area.
Sophie and Pay came in, dripping water, and carrying a transparent capsule between them. The semiconscious man inside was strapped to a backboard with his neck efficiently immobilized. The left side of his face was starting to swell and a bruise over one eye was darkening rapidly. He was one of those men who ooze unattractiveness, skinny and pallid and mean-looking.
"Keep up the rain for a bit longer," Sophie said, lifting her faceplate. "There's still going to be some around where he was holding court."
"Brainchild, you said to look for anything odd. In addition to that," Pay said, nodding to a black collar with a canister attached to it that Sophie was idly bouncing in her hand, "he was wearing this ring." Pay said, holding up something that looked very much like the ring Nereid had been given the week before. "Indeed, this looks familiar."
"Crap," Sophie said, taking it from him and shoving it into one of her many armor compartments.
"Sophie, was that...?" Nereid began, but Sophie cut her off with a gesture.
"We'll talk about it later," Sophie said.
Phil the Pheromoaner made a face at them and paid for it in pain, his yelp resounding out of the containment unit. Sophie raised an eyebrow and said, "Pay, please take him to Fort Wilson. They have holding cells for his type there."
"Indeed, Brainchild," Pay said, taking a firmer grip on the man's container. "What will you do?"
"I'm going to go back out and find our teammates," Sophie said with a sigh, flipping her faceplate back down and tucking the collar into another armor compartment. "And their costumes."
In case you're wondering, yes, I do have issues with characters who use pheromones to convince people to have sex, a la Marvel's Starfox, the Purple Man, and the Mandrill, as well as other characters. And while the whole sexual assault thing is sometimes explored (as with Starfox), mostly it's passed off as being just another power effect. What if one has to actually deal with the aftermath?
Don't forget to vote for Wonder City Stories at Top Webfiction!