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Part 4 – Fun in the Sun
Sunday morning, after brunch, La Sola sent her date home and started cleaning up. After finishing the paper and flipping channels for a while she took out her GP communicator and checked her messages. She listened to the one from Maple Leaf about a mission at Lone Pine Mall and waited for the inevitable message saying they’d succeeded and were safe at home. But there was no other message. Worried, she signaled Maple Leaf, then Rising Sun, then Tigress, and got no answer from any of them. Valkyrie did not answer either but she was supposed to be upstate at the university, out of range. Digging through her address book La Sola finally found Val’s phone number up there and dialed.
Valkyrie hung up the phone and broke the sound barrier flying back to Megapolis.
At their office the two listened to the original call Rising Sun got and to Maple Leaf’s message. Valkyrie had the smart idea of checking Kristen’s WEEP membership and calling her home. Her parents reported she was still out, probably staying at a friend’s house but the two heroines doubted it.
"Que lastima! Val what can we do?"
"There’s no choice. We have to check out the mall ourselves."
"Shouldn’t we call the cops or the Justice Alliance or something?"
"We have to assume that our friends are prisoners, along with those poor innocent cheerleaders. If we show up in force they might be harmed."
"But if they see us…"
"They won’t, don’t worry."
The new swimwear display attracted quite a bit of attention from the Sunday shoppers. More than one guy stopped to stare at the incredibly realistic mannequins Macy’s had put out. The skin, the hair, the eyes, (the tits), all of it looked so real. A helpful sticker explained they had been created using the latest 3D scanning technology from the Virtual eXpressions company. The amazing thing was the facial expressions, you could really believe the brown-haired girl was humiliated.
Helpless, Maple Leaf thought again and again about the leering doctor and his genius. Somehow he had built a helmet that could electronically amplify the electrical impulses of the human mind and write them onto someone else’s brain. That was obvious. But there had to be some way to beat it. Every weapon had a weakness. She just had to find it. At least she had plenty of time to think.
"Say doc, what if someone recognizes them?"
"Bah! In those outfits, who will even look at their faces?"
Wearing skimpy sundresses La Sola and Valkyrie arrived in early afternoon. The dresses covered their costumes and their masks and gloves were in their handbags. After some debate they’d realized that was just no way to transport the thigh-high boots or put them on if they had to go into action so they’d left them behind. If they had to go into action they would just fight VX in sandals.
Scouting around, they found nothing out of the ordinary (though La Sola did find a really nice shoe sale she would have to check out later). Pausing under a swimwear display they tried to rethink their plans.
"We have to get out of retail areas, if there is a VX base here it will be under the mall."
"But we don’t know if this really is their base, what if it was just an ambush, they could be anywhere now!"
"That’s true. It seems unlikely VX would put their base in the mall. Don’t they usually put their bases underwater or on top of mountains?"
"That seems more likely."
"Still we should check out the utility corridors, just in case. La Sola? Did you hear me?"
"Oh sorry Val I was looking at this sale, I need some more swimsuits you know. How about you?"
Val shuddered for a second as she thought of La Sola’s ripe body in a string bikini like the one that black mannequin wore. She thought of herself rubbing suntan oil on her teammate’s back, and other places. She turned red. She’d been having thoughts like that for a while and couldn’t understand these strange feelings she had towards her teammates.
"I-I really don’t go to the beach…"
"Oh Val you must come next weekend, it is so much fun…"
They walked away making plans for a beach trip.
Above them, Maple Leaf wanted to scream. She had read it was almost impossible to recognize superheroes out of costume but this was too much! They had looked right at her and not even blinked!
Thinking of blinking made her eyes hurt. Although her powers made her body stronger and increased her endurance, hours without blinking or moving were taking their toll. Her legs and arms were feeling cramped from staying in the same unnatural position for so long. Could that free her? If her body could no longer obey the commands she had been given would be able to break free? Or would she just lie here twitching trying to get back in position? She might find out soon.
She thought again about Doctor Ratcliff. That sick little man was nothing. Just a spiteful old geezer who had made a lucky discovery. Maple Leaf had worked hard all her life; she was smarter than him, tougher than him and had more willpower. That helmet might be able to increase his mental power and impose it on her but it couldn’t make him stronger than her. Damn it, she woke up every morning at 6 for aerobics and jogging. She stayed up every night researching grants and trying to keep the team afloat financially. She had fought criminals and madmen and aliens and taught five strong-willed women to work as a team. She was Maple Leaf damnit! Canada’s greatest heroine, was she going to let some bald pervert take that away from her?
Maple Leaf blinked.
She moved her eyes from left to right.
She still could not move her body but it was start.
She started thinking again about the doctor’s ‘genius’ and how she was not going to let it defeat her.
"So doc, what next?"
"Villainy eXtreme is very interested in Doctor Boyd’s process are they not? Even though it is far inferior to my own achievements as you have seen. Who’s laughing now Boyd! Who’s laughing now! A-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!"
"Oh yes, sorry. Where was I? I think I shall dissect one of them tonight, perhaps the brown-haired one. Her brain should provide interesting insights into that idiot Boyd’s flawed process. Perhaps I will make her two friends assist, wouldn’t that be delightful!"
"Yeah, I guess, but wouldn’t it be better to have one of the techs help out, I mean they actually know what they’re doing."
"Yes, excellent point. The techs will assist with the dissection while the girls service us sexually."
"Um, maybe they can service you after you’re done, y’know so there are no mistakes."
"Are you questioning my orders!"
"Um, no, no doc, dissection and sex, got it." Hogan made a note on his pad. "How about the other GPs? I think there’s two more of them, Brazil Girl and Blond Girl."
"Hrm. Tonight we can call them and lure them into another trap, and at last that imbecile Boyd’s life work will be crushed by my superior genius! A-HA-HA-HA-HA!"
"Right, got it. Say how come that helmet works on them anyway? I saw one of them take a blaster rifle shot and keep going, why does the helmet work?"
"Ah, like so many lesser minds you confuse the body and the brain! Each human being has a small amount of psychic energy, you might feel it sometimes when you look in someone’s eyes and know what they are thinking or when you reach for something and it comes right to your hand. I have found a way to enhance the telepathic element of the human mind while that arrogant fool Boyd found a way to enhance the physical aspects of that energy. But by going to an extreme with one, he left the other even more vulnerable. These girls are not immune to my helmet, I believe they are even more vulnerable to it! A-HA-"
"A-ha-ha-ha, right, got it. Now what about the cheerleaders?" Hogan pointed to the monitor where the reprogrammed cheerleaders were working in the base laundry. "Their parents are gonna start looking for them, and people will remember seeing them in the shoe store. These aren’t the sort of girls they’ll forget."
"Hmm, I will miss sweet, sweet Kristen and her friends but with the Glorified Prostitutes under my power I think we can spare them. I will make them forget this incident and return them unharmed. Return them… for now! I will also include instructions that will bring them back to me to serve my every whim, A-HA-HA-HA!"
Hogan rolled his eyes.
Maple Leaf rolled her eyes and took a breath. She twitched her fingers and wiggled her toes. So far no one seemed to have noticed, but she knew they would as soon as she managed anything significant. So she gathered her will power for one, all-or-nothing, attempt to break free.
Across from her, Rising Sun thought about Doctor Ratcliff’s genius. Obviously the helmet had to read the users thoughts, perhaps some sort of miniaturized CAT scan? But how did he overcome the need for a powerful magnetic field? And then how did it translate them into ultra-high frequency radio waves that could be broadcast into someone's mind and take control? However he did it to fit all that in one helmet required incredible genius. She was really impressed. She would have to ask Ratcliff about it later.
Next to Rising Sun, Tigress thought about Doctor Rafcliff’s genius. That puny little man had dared to touch her without permission. Not a genius at all. She would crush that idiot into red paste for his presumption. She saw Maple Leaf’s eyebrow twitch. She was doing it, she was breaking free. Tigress tried to focus her mind to do the same.
Valkyrie rolled her eyes as La Sola exchanged phone numbers with some guy named Manuel. She wanted to smack her teammate and remind her why they were here but held off for the moment.
Finally the flirting finished and they slipped through an ‘employees only’ door. "Manuel said there is a locked door here with a staircase behind it. He has seen many strange men coming and going through them, men who do not work in any of the stores and who are fond of black spandex."
Valkyrie blinked. She had underestimated her friend.
The Argentine led them to one of the doors, marked with a sign ‘Do not use: Door is Alarmed at All Times’. "Someone calm the door, it’s alarmed" the Latina chuckled.
"So now what?"
"Perhaps Rising Sun could deactivate the alarm but I cannot. I think the time for subtly is past, we must move quickly and decisively against them." The statuesque Swede started peeling off her sundress, La Sola followed her lead.
Down below, Hogan scratched his head. Watching the two heroines change clothes on the monitor, he had to wonder what they were thinking. Did they just assume VX didn’t have security cameras? Whatever. He punched some commands into the computer.
Valkyrie applied some spirit gum and put her mask on as La Sola pulled on her gloves. Then La Sola put on a fresh application of lipstick. And some mascara. And powered her nose. And checked her hair. Finally Valkyrie had to yank away her compact and demand "ARE YOU READY?" The Argentine scowled but nodded, so Val walked up to the door and kicked it with her sandal.
And hurt her foot.
"Que?" La Sola asked and tried pushing on the door with all her strength. It didn’t budge. In fact her arms felt really weak and tired. She yawned. Next to her Val was already slumped down against the wall, her eyes half closed. "Must... be… gas…" she muttered as she fell to the floor. La Sola managed to stumble a few steps back towards the ‘employees only’ door before she too fell to her knees and collapsed.
VX goons in gas masks came up to collect the fallen heroines.
Maple Leaf took a deep breath; there was no way VX could have missed that unless they were totally distracted. But she had to take the risk. She moved her neck a few millimeters and her shoulders twitched. This was it… All or nothing! Her legs bent slightly, and she leapt into the air!
"ALRIGHT!" she yelled, scaring many of the shoppers but arousing others as they spotted her bare breasts.
"Payback time!" She cried streaking (in more sense than one) towards the door the doctor had gone through. The door disintegrated into splinters as she passed through it. The next door was metal but it barely slowed down the enraged Canadian. An alarm started going off as she flew down the stairs.
"What are you guys doing?" Hogan demanded.
"We’re um… uh…" Phil stammered.
"Checking them for weapons!" Parker threw in.
The blond and brunette’s costumes had been pulled off of them and the goons hands were on their bare breasts. The two drugged heroines moaned softly as their sensitive nipples rose to attention.
"Me gusta" the brunette moaned.
Hogan was still tired but he felt a bit of life in lil’ Hogan when he saw them. He had to admit these two were smoking hot. But he was a professional and knew a dumb idea when he saw it.
"Geeze guys, can we at least hit them with the helmet before you start this shit. If these bimbos wake up they’ll rip you in half. Besides, you both got fucked a dozen times last night, what do you need to do this for anyhow?"
Then the alarm started. The three just had time to look up before Maple Leaf reached them.
"GET AWAY FROM MY FRIENDS!" She yelled as she grabbed Phil.
She tossed him halfway up the stair case till he hit the bottom of a landing with a crunch and then fell back down to the concrete floor. Parker ran ten feet down the hall before she caught him and tossed him into a cinderblock wall. His VX armor absorbed some of the impact but the sound of breaking bones was clear. Hogan tossed a smoke bomb and ran for the main hall, he needed a gun!
Fucking Ratcliff, why had he even listened to that guy? This was stupid, they weren’t even supposed to use the helmet, it was supposed to…
It was supposed to go to VX central for Operation Burning Bush! He suddenly remembered everything; the fucking doc had used the helmet on him! No wonder he’d been running around fulfilling his fantasies like some cheesy fanfic writer! He was a trained professional; he should never have allowed any of those stupid plans to go through.
Well now he was ready for the doc, and he’d make sure the doc never humiliated him again.
In the main hall Doctor Ratcliff had the helmet on and was instructing the brainwashed cheerleaders. "You will forget everything that happened here, you will remember you were up in the woods smoking dope and having lesbian sex, or whatever it is you oafish pubescents do." The girls blinked a few times, "Huh? Tofu with presents?"
Ratcliff grit his teeth in frustration "YOU WILL FORGET ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED SINCE I CAPTURED YOU!"
Helpless, the cheerleaders nodded and forgot.
"Like where are we?"
"Uh-oh black spandex, fashion victim alert!"
Then the alarm started.
Everyone looked up for a second hoping it was a false alarm or something but then they clearly heard Maple Leaf screaming "GET AWAY FROM MY FRIENDS!" Everyone knew what that meant.
Exhausted guards ran everywhere looking for weapons, trying to remember where they’d left them during last nights festivities. The equally exhausted techs threw off their lab coats, donned civilian jackets and headed for the exits.
Still wearing the helmet Ratcliff ran for his office, he had to secure his research and escape!
Maple Leaf burst through the smoke but immediately got hit with VX blaster rifles. She felt the impacts even through her body’s biokinetic field. Still she pushed on reaching two of the guards and quickly dispatching them.
Hogan picked up a fallen blaster pistol and grabbed a fleeing tech. Screaming into his face he demanded "Where’s Ratcliff! Where’s the helmet!" The frightened scientist pointed at the office then ran for the secret tunnel into Sears Auto Care. Cursing, Hogan let him go and ran for the office ignoring how sore his legs and pelvis were. He had to find the helmet; it was the only thing that could stop these girls before it was too late.
La Sola and Valkyrie were woken up by the noise and managed to shake off the effects of the gas and join their leader. Together they mopped up the scattered pockets of resistance and captured most of the guards and a few of the techs. La Sola comforted the cheerleaders who seemed to have no idea where they were and what was happening, while Val secured the few prisoners they had left conscious. Maple Leaf headed for the only place left, Ratcliff’s office. She knew the risk she was taking, it had taken hours to beat the helmet’s commands, she might fall under its control again. But she knew in her heart she was ready for it, her will was just too strong to be dominated again.
In the office, Hogan pushed a button slamming closed the blast doors. The reinforced titanium barriers would keep the GP out for a minute or two. He pulled out his pistol and trained it on Rafcliff’s back. The doctor had taken off the restrictive helmet to find all of his disks and folders and cram them into a beat-up leather case. The secret door to the Toys R Us tunnel was open.
"What’s up doc?"
"Eh? What? Oh it’s you Hogan, help me find last night’s videos I need them to document the helmet’s capabilities."
"I don’t take orders from you any more doc."
"What? Impossible!" He began to reach for the helmet but stopped when Hogan fired a shot into the desk.
"You had me for a while didn’t you? Making me run around with all your stupid plans, well I’m a free man now, an angry free man."
"Please, wait, I was… I mean I didn’t…"
"So tell me doc, is this all your research in the bag? Everything we need to copy the helmet?"
"Well yes I suppose it is but…"
"Then we don’t need you anymore do we?" He raised the blaster pistol.
At that moment Maple Leaf’s fist struck the titanium door denting it significantly. More dents followed, the force of the impacts deafening Ratcliff and Hogan. Ratcliff dove for the helmet and Hogan missed his shot frying a monkey instead. The doc threw his helmet on backwards and he ducked behind the desk. Two more shots hit the wall over his head as he turned it around. But it was too late. Ratcliff hit the on switch and stuck his head up.
"You will obey me Hogan."
Deaf, the mercenary ignored the command and put a shot right between Ratcliff’s eyes.
The door finally fell after more than a dozen blows and Maple Leaf, sweaty, panting and topless entered. In the corner she found Ratcliff’s body, the helmet and his head were melted slag, nothing remained. There was no one else inside and no other exit. Had the helmet overloaded on his head? Did he commit suicide? She realized she might never know the answer. But the important thing is that with Ratcliff gone, the threat of the Mind Control Helmet was over forever.
Upstairs, Rent-a-cops and shoppers were mobbing the swimwear display. After the topless mannequin had suddenly come to life the black one had started twitching. A paramedic climbed up on the display and tried to move her arms but they were like steel bars. Then she suddenly moved her head, grabbed him and tossed him into a mob of teenagers. Blinking a few times Tigress realized what was going on and muttered a quick 'sorry'.
She walked in front of Rising Sun and tried to talk to her but the Japanese girl didn’t even blink. She slapped her teammate, knocking her from her feet but the fall forced her to reflexively move her arms. After a few seconds the girl blinked and finally began to move and speak. "…that’s it! The helmet opens the subject’s mind to be more receptive to vocal commands, that would explain why he had to speak, but then…"
Tigress slapped her again and she came back to herself. "Oh thank you Tora-san I, I just couldn’t stop thinking about Ratcliff, it was terrible. But I think I figured out how the helmet works."
"Forget it Rising Sun, it is better if we never see such a terrible device again."
The crowd below parted as Detective Mulligan and the Paranormal Crimes Unit entered, reporters followed behind them.
"Well ladies, what’s the meaning of this-" the detective began but the reporters drowned him out.
"Are you really the Global Guardians?"
"Rising Sun is this your new costume?"
"Any connection to the missing cheerleaders?"
"Is the mall really a VX base?"
Suddenly embarrassed, the two heroines stammered for a few seconds until Maple Leaf emerged from an ‘employees only’ door and flew over the crowd. She hovered there with her hands on her hips and her legs apart as the photographers and cameramen took pictures.
"Attention everyone, I am Maple Leaf, leader of the Global Protectors and I will be glad to answer any of your questions."
The crowd was silent for several seconds until finally a skate rat called out "Nice tits!"
The crowd laughed as Maple Leaf realized she was topless and reached for the bikini top hanging near her.
Epilogue 1 - Victory
Despite Maple Leaf’s ‘revealing’ press conference, the Global Protectors got a lot of great press from that adventure. Exposing a VX base right in the middle of Megapolis established their reputations as heavy hitters. The fact that heroes like Captain Liberty and Ultra Woman had never found it made them seem even better. Freeing the five innocent cheerleaders before they could be defiled (as far as the girls could remember anyway) won them the hearts of parents and teens across America. For a few weeks the Global Protectors were America’s hottest superhero team and the donations poured in.
Then the video hit the internet. No one could find out where it came from, but it seemed to show the GP indulging in all sorts of erotic activities right in the middle of Lone Pine Mall. The GP denied it, claiming it was obviously a fake created with look-alike models and image manipulating software. But despite the denials and lawsuits, Global Protectors - Strip Mall quickly became the top-selling adult video of 2001, easily beating Kris & Her Friends Bring It On.
But, like they say, any publicity is good publicity. When the line of Global Protectors tee shirts and action figures came out in August they became top sellers. La Sola’s swimsuit calendar sold over a million copies before the end of the year. The Global Protectors were here to stay.
"And so thanks to the information we found at Lone Pine Mall the FBI has shut down VX operations at Springfield Mall, Oakdale Mall, Roosevelt Field, the Galleria and the Mall of America. You’ll be happy to hear there were no signs that VX is working on another mind control helmet."
Tigress and Rising Sun gave sighs of relief.
"The Bureau thanks us for our help and the President has asked me to appear at the White House Conference on Super Villainy."
The other heroines applauded.
"Now then, next week Valkyrie will be leaving for Australia to join Doctor Boyd, he says he might have located a potential new recruit. She’ll be using our new jet by the way. La Sola, you’re going to LA to film a Fanta commercial right?"
"Si. And don’t worry, the check already cleared and the team got their 25% cut."
"Oh Carmen, you know I don’t worry about that stuff. Now let’s look at tee shirt sales…"
Valkyrie studied her teammates closely. It had been months since the ‘Strip Mall’ case (as the media kept calling it) and she still had unanswered questions. Maple Leaf had insisted they could not remember anything that had happened while under the helmets’ control and Rising Sun and Tigress had agreed. But Valkyrie had watched their body language and suspected they actually remembered everything. And that the memories were far from pleasant.
She worried a lot about this. As superheroines they had to be prepared for all sorts of unpleasant experiences, even injury, death or humiliation. Although the Global Protectors were all brave and strong-willed, there was a limit to what they could endure. Over time the memories of past defeats could overwhelm them. She decided to study the problem and try to find a solution before it was urgent.
Epilogue 2 - Defeat
Hogan delivered the research to VX central, located beneath Wonderland Amusement Park in Anaheim California, but the scientists there soon found that the notes were woefully incomplete. Doctor Ratcliff had left out several key steps and many of his notes were incomprehensible. It would take them more than a year to recreate the helmet.
Normally Hogan would have been dropped in the shark tank for that, but the videos he brought with him made VX a lot of money. Besides, everyone agreed Ratcliff was a dick anyway. So Hogan was simply demoted and transferred to the Mongolian base in the Gobi Desert.
After losing several other mall bases Villainy eXtreme decided to make the humiliation and defeat of the Global Protectors a top priority. They found rumors of an ancient wizard, famous for capturing and torturing heroines. So a team was assembled to find this ‘Wraith Lord’ and enlist him to destroy those Glorified Prostitutes.
But that is another story…