“Have you found her yet?” asked Nathan Goldwin as he lay in his hospital bed, bandages and casts covering nearly half his body. A week ago he'd fallen several feet onto a cement floor during a fight with the villain Nighttime and naturally his body had really been shaken up. While his legs weren't too bad, suffering mainly bruises and minor sprains, two ribs were cracked and his right shoulder had been dislocated. Thanks to the latest miracles of science it was expected that Nathan would be able to leave the hospital in another week more or less back to normal, but currently it was considered physically impossible for him to walk. As a result the Silent Dragon was now forced to merely sit back and do nothing while his fiancée was missing, having been so for the last two days.
“Nothing, I'm sorry,” apologized Lockdown as she stood next to his bed. Judgement Girl was off with her friends Lilly, Jenny and Maria doing a search while Elsa and Claire used the lab's tracking system. Unfortunately no trace of Lady Justice's unique genetic marker could be found within the city limits. Even more was there were no disturbances, be they time-bubbles or otherwise. Elsa was at a loss.
“Well cripes, who the heck could of done it?!” roared Nathan, eager to punch something but knowing it would be a bad idea. “We've taken down four major villains in the last few weeks, so who does that leave?!”
“Well, Nighttime and Gorgun are both statues in a storage basement,” began Lockdown, listing off possible suspects. “Fire Eyes is dead, Mecha Kunoichi and Dungeon Master are in jail... that leaves Technomagus, Cold Fusion, Mister Mannequin and Tick and Tock, plus the usual criminal element. It couldn't be Mister Mannequin because we could trace him, the same with Tick and Tock and Jason. We know Technomagus has turned people into statues before and when he has they've been undetectable by normal means... my money's on him.”
“Well, then the only good news is she's alive,” sighed Nathan. “He's not carrying anything lethal, he was created to be as deadly as a lobotomized gnat. Get out there, probe some minds, and come back with some good news, will you Steph?” Patting Nathan gently on the shoulder Lockdown left the hospital room.
Unknown to Lockdown, Nathan and the others, Lady Justice had not, in fact, been kidnapped by Technomagus or any of the other usual suspects. The day of her disappearance Jessica Wendell, who was for once dressed casually in a blouse and jeans, was visiting various fashion boutiques in hopes of finding a dress for her wedding. Her final stop for that day would be the Marlowe Boutique. “Hello?” called Jessica as she strolled into the shop that was on the corner of the street. The store had nearly as many displays as it did clothing items, dozens of mannequins located throughout the store, all wearing impressive dresses and other expensive clothing items. Despite the number of human-like dummies, there appeared to only be one employee currently working.
“Yes, how can I help you?” asked an attractive woman in her late twenties as she appeared beside Jessica. She had long curly hair that was a natural brown and wore a white long-sleeved blouse with black caprice pants and blue heels. Her named tag indicated that her name was Melody.
“Hi, I'm looking for a wedding dress,” greeted Jessica, trying not to act surprised by the sudden appearance of the clerk.
“Ah, congratulations!” offered Melody, showing no signs of recognizing the heroine. “We happen to have a gorgeous dress that I'm sure you'll never want to take off! Let me just go get it...” In less than two minutes Melody left and returned carrying a large box.
“Where's your changing room?” inquired Jessica, glancing around but finding it hard to spot the door with all the mannequins obstructing her field of vision.
“Down on your left,” replied Melody, indicating where the heroine should go with her fingers. “It really is a lovely dress and I think you'd look smashing in it. I don't suppose you could show me how it looks after you've but it on...?” Jessica smiled and, out of the corner of her mind, wondered if the woman was just being really friendly or was actually into women. As of late every person Lady Justice had met that was connected with fashion appeared to be either homosexual or bisexual, though she tried not to assume these things. Nodding, Jessica headed into the change room and began to swap her clothes for the dress.
This may be perfect! Thought Jessica as she looked at herself in the mirror. The dress was white silk and was strapless, the shirt coming down to her knees. It featured a lace outline and had what looked like pearls (which were most likely fake) dotting the pattern. It wasn't traditional, effectively looking like an evening gown modified for a wedding, but Jessica loved it. “I think you were right!” exclaimed Jessica as she opened the door to the fitting room, allowing Melody to see how the heroine looked.
“Yes, I think so,” agreed Melody, smiling. Jessica smiled too and placed her her left hand on her hip while her right was turned away from it it, her palm facing down, her knees slightly bent. “Oh yes, hold it right there!” exclaimed Melody, her right thumb pressing down on the opal on the ring on her right hand. Immediately there was a ringing sound that filled the entire boutique, though it originated from Melody's ring. At the speed of sound the ringing entered Lady Justice's ears and before she could even register Melody's odd remark her mind and body became paralyzed, freezing the heroine in place as she no longer processed thoughts.
“Oh, Lady Justice, how foolish you are,” laughed Melody. The ring, really a sonic immobilizer, had no affected her as, thanks to a genetic mutation, she could seal off her ears from sound, blocking the device's effect. Melody was in reality Charissa Marlowe, owner of the boutique and a member of the Legardi mafia family of New Oslo. “Ohhh... not just foolish, but very sexy too,” gasped Charissa as she circled the frozen heroine. “I'm sure the Don will be happy to learn that you've been added to our little collection. Not only will you be out of our way, but once the device is complete you'll make an excellent slave...”
* * *
Not long after Lockdown had met with Nathan, three young women were walking down that same street that Lady Justice had been walking down shortly before her disappearance. The girl leading the group was a brunette wearing a brown halter top and shorts. The woman in the back, a Latino, wore a similar outfit save that it was yellow and had darker brown hair. The middle woman had black hair and wore a halter top with a short skirt, both items red. “That makes four stores we've checked along this block,” announced Jenny Oliver, saying what Lilly and Maria already knew. “All we've managed to learn is that LJ left all these places. She could have been jumped on the street, you know.”
“We have to keep looking, all the same,” replied Lilly from in front of Jenny, determined to help Victoria find her missing mentor. “I mean, the woman just got engaged, to a very sexy man, no less! We need to help them!”
“Bah, muscle men are so boring,” muttered Maria from behind the other two. “Give me something humble, like a big-hearted cartoonist or a charming janitor...”
“A janitor?” scoffed Jenny. “You must be joking. I'm holding out for a doctor or district attorney. Something noble, you know?”
“Some janitors are noble,” retorted Maria, annoyed at how cliché Jenny's idea of the perfect husband was.
“We can discuss this later,” snapped Lilly, breaking up the argument. “Lets check out this boutique and see if Jessica came in here. She was looking at wedding dresses, after all.” Maria and Jenny promptly stopped their debate as the trio entered the Marlowe Boutique.
“Hello, how can I help you girls today?” asked a dyed-blonde dressed in a white blouse and black pants as soon as the three women walked in. She appeared to be in her mid-twenties and her name tag said her name was Sebastiana. None of the three needed to see her name to tell the woman was Italian.
“Maria, Jenny, why don't you go browse?” suggested Lilly, prompting the two girls to leave their companion and circle the floor, admiring the many dresses displayed on several mannequins within the store. “Tell me, did Lady Justice come here recently?”
“Ah, the city heroine?!” exclaimed Sebastiana before her face fell. “No, not for some time. Melody, who was working alone a few days ago says she'd gotten a call from her about a dress but she never came.”
“Hmm... thank you,” sighed Lilly, then glancing around the store some more. Another clerk with long curly hair was speaking with a woman by the window, probably about a dress that was on display. Maria and Jenny were admiring one dress in particular that was worn by a mannequin near the dressing room. “Say, could we see the dress she was going to look at?” asked Lilly, deciding there was little else she could do. “I'm just curious, really.”
“Certainly,” allowed Sebastiana, her wording perfect but her pronunciation once again giving away her original nationality. Coincidentally the clerk led Lilly to the same mannequin that Maria and Jenny were standing in front of. The plastic statue stood with one arm on its hip and the other away from it with its palm facing down, its legs slightly bent. The mannequin wore a white dress lined with lace and what looked like miniature pearls, making Lilly think it would be perfect for Lady Justice. As she looked closer at the mannequin itself, however, Lilly noticed something odd.
“Huh, even this dummy looks like her,” muttered Lilly, noting the mannequin's face. Lilly had rarely seen the heroine out of her costume, which also consisted of yellow lipstick, so the mannequin's smiling pink lips looked a bit different, but other than that it was almost the spitting image of Lady Justice. Something else rang false in Lilly's mind, and she then realized that she'd never seen a mannequin without a neutral expression on its face. Curious, she turned to ask Sebastiana, her left arm at her side while her right was raised palm-up to ask a question. Before she could, however, a loud ringing sound echoed through the store and Lilly was instantly frozen as stiff as the mannequin she'd just been inspecting, her mouth even hanging open. Sebastiana stood stiffly too, with her palms together down past her waist, an attentive look on her face. Maria was glancing down the back of the familiar-looking mannequin, her arms crossed with a neutral expression on her own face, much like the kind Lilly was used to seeing on the display dummies. Jenny's attention had shifted to a dress on a nearby hanger and her arms were outstretched in front of her as had been attempting to reach out and pull it down for a better look.
“It looks like he's going to have a lot more work today,” groaned Charissa Marlowe as she stepped away from the store's other customer, a short-haired brunette who'd been asking about evening wear when she was immobilized. “Well well, the three daughters of New Oslo's biggest millionaires,” noted Charissa as she examined the three still women Sebastiana had been helping. “Adding you three to our collection will really make it impressive!” Pulling a measuring cord from her pocket, Charissa began inspecting the frozen trio. “I don't know why you're supposedly in law school,” the mobster told an non-hearing Lilly after she was finished measuring her. “All three of you would make great models. In fact, you most certainly will now...”
When her work with the three was done, Charissa retrieved an MP3 player from her other pocket and put its headphones into Sebastiana's ears. The woman was also a part of the mob, as were all the store's employees, but unlike the one called Siren had no way of resisting the effects of the sonic device within the ring. Shortly after pressing play Charissa saw Sebastiana blink and slowly remove the earphones from her head. “I was wondering if you'd noticed,” observed the Italian woman as she handed the music player back to Siren. “Just the three of them then, or do you want the other to be taken as well?”
“No, we'll just let that one go,” decided Siren, glancing over at the fourth customer. “Go get Alphonse and send these three to meet our special guest. I need to get a veil or something for our fashionable heroine.” Sebastiana nodded and left the front area of the store, returning a few moments later with a male mobster in a Hickey Freeman wool suit and a pair of trolleys.
“Just take two of them, I'll carry the other myself,” Siren declared as she placed a wedding veil on the head of Lady Justice, effectively hiding her face. Nodding silently Alphonse and Sebastiana carefully picked up Lilly and Maria by their waists from the front, lifting them up vertically and then placing them on the trolleys. As the pair leaned their loads back they used the frozen girls' shoulders to steady them an ensure they wouldn't fall off. Siren quickly locked the store's front door and then followed then after wrapping her own arms around Jenny's waist and lifting her like the other two had. The different, of course, was that Charissa carried the woman the entire way into the store's back room while the others had carted their own prizes away.
If customers thought the front of the store contained quite a few mannequins, they had not seen the back. Over four dozen figures, almost all of them female ones, stood in rows of six near the back door of the store, dressed in nothing but underwear. One dozen of them were kept apart from the others as they were real mannequins while the rest where citizens of the city who had shared the same fate as Lady Justice. Out front in the store there was currently two dozen mannequins, half of whom were actually humans who'd been transformed. Naturally to avoid suspicion, the ones in the windows were all authentic. It was all an elaborate scheme set up by Charissa to allow for the mob to secretly move possible slaves without being noticed.
“Put them in the closet and let's let him have them,” ordered Charissa, indicating the large doors that led to another separate room of the building. One featured an air-lock like door that could only be opened by remote while the other featured reinforced doors equipped with various safeguards. For safety reasons only one set of the doors could be open at once, considering who the mob had managed to lock away.
The three frozen young women were placed in the center of the outer room and both Sebastiana and Alphonse quickly exited with their carts. Siren, however, lingered long enough to adjust the poses of a couple of the captives, shutting Lilly's mouth and placing Jenny's hands on her hips. Once that was done Charissa exited the room and the doors were shut, allowing for the other ones to be opened. “Okay Mr. Maxwell,” called Siren through a radio/remote as she pressed the button to open the second set of doors, allowing the caged mutant on the other side into the room where Lilly, Maria and Jenny now sat helpless. The three mobsters watched via live-feed as Mister Mannequin slid into the outer room and rapidly touched all three women, instantly transforming them into plastic mannequins, just like he had with many others.
“Alright, Alphonse here can finish up so why don't we unlock the store before we lose business?” suggested Sebastiana, winking at the male goon who merely sighed as Charissa handed him the remote.
“Oh perk up, Al,” Siren chided her underling. “You're making triple what you were when you were with the police force, and you get to spend more time around beautiful women.”
“Yeah, but none of them ever let me take them out for dinner,” shot back Alphonse.
“But I'm far too busy tonight,” Sebastiana quickly declared, practically sprinting back into the front of the store.
“Don't worry Al, you'll get her,” Charissa chuckled as she followed the blond woman back into the front of the store.
* * *
It wasn't half an hour later when another surprise guest arrived. Judgement Girl was now trying to find her three friends as well as her mentor when she stepped into the boutique. Victoria was dressed in civilian attire but kept the recently-modified gorgon ray in her purse. Elsa had examined the weapon after it had been taken from Lilly and managed to re-adjust it so that its effects would only last one month once again. By this time Al had managed to get Mister Mannequin back into his cell and retrieved the three new mannequins, leaving them in the back for now. Charissa, under the guise of Melody, immediately approached the heroine when she entered the store, Sebastiana was helping other customers, namely two teenage girls looking for gowns for their high school prom.
“Hello and welcome to the Marlow Boutique!” greeted Charissa, a different approach forming in her mind. “Say, we have the perfect dress for you! Come with me!” Vicky was given no time to respond as Siren immediately dragged her by the arm to a particular rack where sat a black satin evening dress.
“It is beautiful,” agreed Victoria, giving into temptation. “I think I'll try it on!” Reasoning that should interrogate the clerk after she tried on the dress, Judgement Girl began to change while Sebastiana told the two girls she was helping she needed to retrieve something from the back of the store. Siren waited into she could hear Victoria was finished changing and no doubt looking at herself in the mirror before pressing down the opal on her ring, letting out the familiar sonic ring. Sebastiana and Alphonse were in the sound-proof back room of the store and thus unaffected, while the two teenagers and Vicky immediately became rigid and silent.
“This is way too easy,” chuckled Siren as she once again locked the door to the boutique and then went to check on Victoria. The heroine stood in front of the multiple mirrors in the changing room with one hand on the back of her head and the other behind her back, a very sexy and provocative pose, almost perfect for a mannequin. She also already wore a dress carried by the store, though she wore no shoes. She was also smiling, her black lips parted to reveal nearly perfect teeth. Remembering the mistake with Lady Justice, Siren fixed the woman's lips so that they were neutral, though the appearance of her teeth made no difference. By this time Sebastiana had arrived with a trolley. “Yes, it's her for sure,” said Siren, pointing her finger at Victoria. “I'll grab her belongings. What about the two girls you were helping?”
“They're too young,” replied Sebastiana, shaking her head. Siren shrugged and snatched up Victoria's discarded clothes and purse. Don Legardi had made it clear that the markets they dealt with would not accept underage boys or girls as, despite the fact that they were selling people, they refused to sell children. The reasoning behind this was that more often than not the slaves were used for sexual purposes and everyone in the market agreed that pedophilia was just wrong. Were she merely in need of more mannequins for the store, Siren probably won't of cared, but this was not the case.
Victoria was taken into the back of the store and soon suffered the same fate as her mentor and friends before her. Once Mister Mannequin was back in his special room, Alphonse retrieved the latest mannequin while Sebastiana and Charissa swapped three older human mannequins with Lilly, Jenny and Maria, the older ones being prepared for shipment. Ultimately the day ended with no more new acquisitions and the three mobsters locked up the store, leaving the new mannequin Victoria standing near the back door to the store, her belongings dumped behind the cashier's counter.
* * *
Early the next morning it was Claire Greenfield who was the next one tasked with searching for the increasingly large number of disappearing women in the area around the Marlow Boutique. Lockdown and Elsa were roaming another part of town while Nathan was still stuck in the hospital. Business was slow so while Charissa had lunch in the back and Alphonse was off getting a truck for the transportation of the new collection of soon-to-be slaves Sebastiana decided to adjust Lady Justice, forgetting why the mannequin was wearing a veil in the first place. To add to this Sebastiana also decided that wedding attire wasn't best for the mannequin and proceeded to strip it down right there in the store, removing Jessica's dress as well and leaving her standing in only her underwear. Claire entered the store right as Sebastiana put the dress aside.
“Welcome to the boutique, how can I help you?” called the Italian woman as she stood next to Lady Justice. Now, Claire could be stupid at times but, unlike Lilly, when she saw a mannequin that looked like one of her friends she immediately put the pieces together and acted. The smiling Sebastiana, who stood with her arms resting on Jessica's plastic shoulders, became glued on the spot when Claire pulled out her portable stasis field generator and trained it on the mobster. It was a newer model and as a result would be able to sustain the field for several hours. Claire quickly found a mannequin that could hold the device and keep it trained on Sebastiana, then realizing she'd chosen Lilly, who's right arm was still outstretched for when she'd been asking a question the other day, though now instead of being frozen in place she was now a store mannequin. Claire did a quick sweep of the mannequins that dotted the floor and identified a few others, including Maria, Jenny and Deputy Mayor Wilson's daughter Sarah.
Claire glanced around worriedly as she pulled out her cell phone and dialed the number for Elsa's lab. The scientist picked up a few seconds later as the worried assistant examined the area behind the cashier's counter, discovering some of the items left behind from recent victims. “Elsa, get Lockdown and some cops down to the Marlowe Boutique right away!” exclaimed Claire as she found the gorgon ray that Judgement Girl had recently inherited. “I've found everyone, but they've been turned into mannequins!”
“That's odd,” muttered Elsa on the other end of the call. “Normally when that happens we can still detect them using our special genetic code detector. Could they just be doubles?”
“Come see for yourself!” exclaimed Claire, ending the call. This was a wise decision as right then both Alphonse and Charissa emerged from the back, curious as to the source of the sudden shouting. Both Italians were in the middle of taking a step forward, both focused on the energy field surrounding Sebastiana, when Claire fired the recovered ray weapon, causing them to freeze in place with concern showing on their faces. The pair's texture immediately became that of stony marble as they were turned into human statues. Claire then stepped out from behind the counter and fired the weapon at the other Italian woman in the store, turning Sebastiana into a statue as well. With her incapacitated, Claire was free to deactivate her stasis field device.
Five minutes later Elsa arrived with Lockdown, greeted by a panicked Claire who was standing guard by the door with the gorgon ray. The frantic scientist nearly fired upon her two allies when they entered the boutique. “Woah, easy there!” cried Lockdown, raising her hands. “I don't want to become a permanent statue like the previous owner of that weapon.”
“I fixed the weapon so that the petrification only lasted for a month again, remember?” reminded Elsa. The two new arrivals were then shown the collection of familiar mannequins within the store while the familiar cops Carl and Alice also arrived on the scene alongside Chief Meyers.
“Oh yeah, these are definitely them,” concluded Elsa after she finished scanning Lady Justice, Lilly, Maria, Jenny and many others. “Whoever is running this place must have had it shielded against my scans, because the problem definitely wasn't at my end.”
“I hate to sound prejudiced, but since the people that work here appeared to be Italian, could they be with the mafia?” suggested Lockdown as she examined Sebastiana.
“They must be,” agreed Meyers, standing in front of Siren and Alphonse. “This bitch in particular I remember. She was sent to convince me they weren't doing anything illegal. I think we've proven that bit to be a lie...”
The group of six moved into the back of the store, an area Claire had avoided until back-up had arrived. Many other mannequins were quickly identified as being real humans, including Victoria. “Good thing I put in a call to the Bureau to have then send over a team with molecule restorers,” observed Lockdown as she noted how many mannequins there were. “I doubt the devices we've brought with us could restore that many before running out of power...”
“What do you suppose is behind those doors?” asked Meyers, examining the massive gates.
“I don't know, but this remote has a button labeled 'open doors',” offered Alice, holding the remote to the special room Siren had left on a table. Not worried, the policewoman pressed the button, causing mechanical sounds to be heard from behind the big set of doors.
“Oh hey, here's a lever,” called Carl from where he stood beside the door. The other officer had discovered the manual override that would open the outer doors of the containment room even if the inner doors was open. Not knowing what the room contained, Carl pushed the metal bar and the heavy doors slowly swung open.
“Thank you!” exclaimed a yellow blur as it zipped out through the opening doors, laughing all the way. By the time the doors finished moving the six people in the room that were still flesh and blood were changed into plastic mannequins, just like the countless ones before them. Carl stood with his hand still on the lever, his eyes wide as his other hand grasped at his belt. Alice stood not far away with her right hand holding the remote, her left raised with her fingers arched forward, her mouth hanging open, sunglasses hiding her eyes. Meyers didn't even have time to register the yellow menace's presence, standing with her arms crossed, her head tilted slightly to the left as she studied the now-open doors. Elsa had managed to step backwards in fear, her arms raised in a failed attempt to shield herself, her own mouth hanging open. Lockdown's left hand was lifting the skirt of her dress as her right grasped her hidden ray gun, the FBI agent not having had enough time to finish drawing her signature weapon. Mister Mannequin now stood beside Claire, who'd dropped her own ray in alarm, her arms raised at her sides in fear, her face locked in a scream.
“What's this?” muttered Mister Mannequin, picking up the fallen gorgon ray. “Ah, the weapon that lovely flower used to turn people into rocks!” Glancing into the front section of the store, Lewis Maxwell saw Siren, Sebastiana and Alphonse, all three still statues. “Ah, rocks are so ugly compared to flowers,” moaned Mister Mannequin as he strode into the front area, stopping in front of the two statues that stood next to each other. “Flowers should be preserved as they are, yes...” rasped the mutant as he found the reverse switch on the ray and trained it on the duo. One flash of blue light later the two mobsters were restored to flesh and blood and finished taking their step forward, only to then reel back in surprise when they saw who was in front of them.
“What the hell happened?” demanded Charissa, glancing around and then seeing that Mister Mannequin held the gorgon ray. “You, give me that!” Siren raised her right hand, palm up, her left resting on her hip, her brow furrowed as she glared at Mister Mannequin with a look that could kill. Alphonse was more sensible and stepped aside.
“Here you go!” laughed Mister Mannequin as his knuckle, which held the weapon firmly, grazed Siren's palm, seemingly by accident. Immediately Charissa Marlowe was stuck in place once more, thus time a creation of plastic instead of stone. The new mannequin wobbled on its feet and tipped backwards, clattering onto the floor but its pose remaining intact. As the other mobster bent to pick up his rigid partner Mister Mannequin spun around and restored Sebastiana with the ray only to touch her right afterwards. As a result of the quick change the Italian woman went from stone to flesh to plastic in less than one second, resulting in no change in pose at all.
“Ah, if I only I could stay...” sighed Mister Mannequin as he admired the collection of mannequins in the store while Alphonse finished propping up Siren. “Unfortunately I am long overdue. Take care of my flowers, they're yours now!”
“Wait, what?” asked Alphonse, but Mister Mannequin flew through the boutique's front door like a yellow bolt of lightning, off into the streets of New Oslo, leaving only screams in his wake.
* * *
The FBI restoration unit arrived shortly after Mister Mannequin had left and managed to restore everyone present who'd been transformed. Dozens of people, some not even reported missing, were free to return home while the boutique was shut down permanently. Unfortunately no employees were present so no connection could be made between the business and organized crime.
“It seems Charissa's plans have come apart,” mused an older Italian man in a suit that matched his ethnicity as he sat in a lounger. It was a few hours after Mister Mannequin escaped and Alphonse now stood before the man with his two plastic associates at his side. The group as in a private room inside a massive mansion, a sort of study with a fireplace, bookshelves and the like. The older man possessed a shaved head but did have a finely-groomed mustache.
“I'm afraid so, Don,” admitted Alphonse nervously. “Due to our failure to deliver the shipment the slave traders will no longer work with us. Aside from the few mannequins we managed to save and the clothing we actually sold, we're looking at a major loss.”
“Bah, her plan was good, but her execution was poor,” sighed the mafia boss. “Unfortunately for her, I don't tolerate failure. You were assigned to be the muscle, so I won't punish you. In fact, since she managed to get herself caught, I'll let you keep Sebastiana as a reward. Take her to our scientists if you want her restored. They can also use those hypnotic devices of theirs to make her your slave if that's what you'd prefer. All that matters is, as far as we're concerned, she belongs to you.”
“What about Siren?” asked Alphonse, trying to contain his excitement as he looked over at the other mannequin.
“I've been needing a new rack for my coat,” chuckled the Don. “She stays like that, at least for a while. She is useful, but she needs to learn to avoid failure. Now go, and take your prize with you.” Bowing, Alphonse left with the mannequin Sebastiana in tow, carrying her under his left arm.
Once he was alone the Don spun his chair around to face his desk and pressed a button on his laptop keyboard, lighting up the dark screen to the smiling face of a blond scientist. “Sorry to interrupt our conversation, Mister Fusion,” offered the Don.
“Not a problem, sir,” replied Cold Fusion, adjusting his glasses. “So I take it I was right about Maxwell?”
“Unfortunately,” sighed the Don. “He can't be contained. If he's to better serve us, we need to unleash him like a berserker instead of keeping him caged like a lion. Did he come to see you?”
“As a matter of fact, he's napping on the couch in the next room,” chuckled Jason. “I made him promise not to turn my lovely assistant into one of his 'flowers'. Still, he did bring me something I've been hoping to get back. When I was fired by Elsa I lost some valuable data on a weapon I'd designed but Lewis brought it back here for me. With any luck we should be able to compensate you for the loss of all those would-be slaves you'd collected very shortly...”
to be continued in 'Being Fashionable Requires Plastic'...