Inside Federal Office Building, day
“Oi don’t like it; the whole concept sounds bodgy,” Rita stated, tossing the handful of sparkling sheer flesh-colored nylon fabric onto the conference table, where the metallic collar made a noticeable ‘thump’. A strikingly tall, lovely woman, she looked radiantly beautiful, even frowning, with her blonde hair styled in a loose cascade to her shoulders. Today she had dressed in an off-the-rack pantsuit that fit her shapely figure perfectly as if custom-tailored. Having a brilliant mind as well as dazzling looks, she often planned the duo’s complicated capers. “This one’s off; we’re outta here,” she decided.
Johnny, her handsome partner, confidant, and co-conspirator, remained seated while the government ‘suit’ that had summoned them here sprang up to stand between Rita and the door, holding up his hands. “Not so fast, you two!” Agent Shue cautioned. “This isn’t your choice to make; remember the alternative: back behind bars…”
“How could I forget? You throw that in our faces every time you fancy us to do some dirty work for your agency. Well, bugger all! Send us to prison then,” she declared, turning back to face Shue.
“Now, honey, Rita; wait a moment…” Johnny finally said, swiveling his chair to face the two. “Let’s not make any hasty decisions with long-term consequences. Think about it for a minute, please.”
“I have thought on it; the whole plan stinks like a week-old corpse. You’re not the one being asked to put that thing on and be turned into some mindless automaton,” she shot back, glancing down at the table and pointing at the innocent-looking heap of fabric.
Shue tried evenly to defuse the situation. “That’s not what this does; the automata restraint is simply the latest passive security device, like an anklet, to make sure the wearer doesn’t attempt to escape,” he explained, picking up the fabric. “Besides, this one’s been specially modified and programmed so you can accomplish your surveillance mission.”
“It has?” Rita asked; her curiosity slightly piqued.
“Sure has; it’s got a timer circuit added so that once you’re inside, you’ll be set free to do what you need to and get out of there once you have the lowdown on this Chadwick’s dealings. All you have to do is make a simple information grab, head out, then we’ll do the rest,” Shue went over the objectives. “But, no souvenirs!”
“Oh? Not even a little one – a trifling bauble to make this whole venture worthwhile to me?” she smiled slyly. Agent Shue would never know, and Chadwick could never raise a ruckus, she thought to herself. Thieves always played all the angles.
“Don’t forget who you’re working for,” Shue prodded. Rita sighed in exasperation. Their deal had seemed so straightforward at first for the two convicted felons: help out the Feds and stay out of the slammer. Johnny was so eager to avoid jail time that he’d forgotten to ask one very important question: namely, how long they’d have to do the agency’s bidding. It had so far been a year; Shue always seemed to come up with ‘one more mission’ for the pair; it didn’t seem like he was about to let them off the hook anytime soon.
“So, you’ll do it?” Johnny asked. “Gets us one job more into his good graces,” he angled his head towards Shue, who had the sense not to say anything more.
“WE’ll do it; you’re part of this skeevy plan as well, mate.” Rita pushed back, but with a smile. Looking back at Shue, she concluded, “Need a pair of days to prep; then we go in. You take care of lining up things with the mark.”
Johnny looked relieved.
Shue smiled too, for the first time this meeting. “Of course, of course. Only, one last thing – your restraint? You should put it on right now, under your clothes, to make sure it’s sized properly...” he suggested, handing her the collared fabric.
“Would rather not, if it’s all the same to you; not until I must, that is. These things aren’t one size fits all? Looks like it.” she speculated, taking the stretchy garment. The delicate mesh felt cool, like the sheer nylon of her stockings before she slipped them on.
“I’m sure it will be fine later; you are slightly more – athletic? – than our typical detainee,” Shue suggested.
“Then we’re orf; no more time to waste,” she concluded, stuffing the restraint into her handbag. “Go, Johnny, you too!” Rita quickly made for the door; he jumped up and followed.
Shue started to object then decided it wasn’t worth the effort right now; he’d expected she was going to put the restraint on, she’d taken the other meaning. He silently fumed as the pair of thieves left; things never went exactly as he had planned with them.
Less than a minute later, the door to the observation room opened and a slight, graying man emerged; he was dressed in an expensive tailored suit and radiated an air of upper-class snobbishness. “Everything went well, I see,” he commented, making it not a question.
“As well as can be expected, Mister Heinrich, especially when those two are concerned. Are your preparations complete at the ‘Chadwick Estate’?” Shue questioned.
“Not to worry, my good man; not to worry,” Heinrich assured him grandiosely, reaching out to shake hands with the agent. As their hands touched, Shue seemed to freeze up for a few seconds, long enough for Mr. Heinrich to touch a silver ring with an inset opalescent stone on the agent’s middle finger. In those brief seconds, volumes of data were transferred. Heinrich ended the handshake.
Shue blinked and reacted a second later, looking slightly disoriented. “Can I help you?” he asked, suddenly not recognizing the elderly gentleman standing in front of him.
“Not to worry, you already have!” Heinrich chuckled, making his way out of the room and building, while Shue wondered briefly about the man before erasing the meeting out of his mind and getting to work on the upcoming mission once more.
* - * - *
Chadwick Estate, two days later
Driving the panel van up the long, curving, driveway Johnny let out a whistle of admiration at the vast estate spread out before him. The main mansion was a three-story sprawling granite edifice with pretensions of a medieval castle. Off to one side was a multi-car garage, while separate smaller dwellings huddled at the edge of the landscaped forest; servant’s quarters, he concluded. Guests would stay in the main house.
Parking the car in a marked location, he made his way to the entrance. Today he was dressed in a workman’s coverall and wore a faded company ball cap along with zero-prescription glasses and a bushy fake mustache. It wasn’t much of a disguise, but there was little chance he’d be recognized during this alias; Rita’s role was far more memorable.
The door opened after three rings; he was met by a stoic-looking butler in a high-collared servant’s livery who asked about ‘the nature of’ his business.
“Here to take care of a malf in one of your systems; ya called earlier?” Johnny stated glibly, taking on the persona of a bored overworked technician. “So, if you show me to it, I’ll fix the tech and be on my way.”
The butler seemed slow on the uptake; it took several seconds before he replied, “Very well, sir; this way,” and led Johnny through the enormous mansion.
Gawking like a rubbernecked tourist, Johnny expertly noted the locations of security cameras and alarm keypads as well as where he’d put laser tripwires if he was rigging this place. Chadwick, according to the bio furnished by Shue and supplemented by Wikipedia, was a multi-millionaire who made his fortune in some sort of medical neuro-electronic-something technology.
It didn’t matter; the catalog of art objects and other valuables here was far more interesting to the experienced thief. Many of them were too big to make off with easily, for instance the many life-sized sculptures – some in pale bare marble, others that looked to have been painted with flesh tones – placed along the corridors or the murals and ornate tapestries on the walls, but other smaller items were just about tool-bag- or pocket-sized. They passed several other servants milling about on their duties; all seemed curiously aloof, even the several enticingly costumed young women who wore traditionally kinky French Maid outfits, complete with deep cleavage, short skirts, and black seamed hosiery held up by frilly garters. Rita must be loving that getup, he thought sarcastically.
Finally they reach a library/museum, a large vaulted room, decorated in dark wood paneling with floor-to-ceiling stacks of shelves, filled with leather-bound volumes. The floors were covered by ornate rugs; there were a few tables and armchairs scattered about, but the majority of the floor space was open. However, a number of abstract sculptures as well as additional life-sized statues occupied several locations around the vast gallery. The butler pointed ahead across the expanse of carpet and said, quite redundantly, "There is the defective unit; just like it has been for the past hour. Stuck."
They approached the curvaceous backside of a very shapely woman, dressed incongruously for the formal setting in lacy red lingerie (a tight satin bustier along with ruby-hued gartered nylons) and matching high-heeled shoes. She was frozen in place, reaching with a feather duster towards a high knick-knack shelf. At first it seems she might be yet another of the decorative artworks placed throughout the room. As they walk up to her, Johnny confirms his that the ‘it’ is Rita, posed there motionlessly and dressed in this very sexy manner. Completing her revealing disguise is a short dark-haired wig that completely hides her normal flowing blonde tresses.
Johnny doesn't hide his admiration of her luscious figure and pose, wolf whistling as part of his alias. Another thing that became clear is that Rita's body was completely covered by a sheer nylon body stocking in a nearly transparent flesh tone, with small sparkling flecks of metal embedded at regular intervals in the mesh. In anything but direct light the flimsy fabric is all but invisible although the form-hugging cat-suit gives her skin a slightly shiny appearance, like a leg encased in pantyhose. The mesh stops at the base of her neck, where it wraps into with a wide rhinestone-encrusted choker necklace. He realizes he’s seeing the automata restraint in action; he marvels again at the advanced technology created to allow criminals to serve out their sentences. Shue’s explanation came back to him; an AI program in the collar intercepted and conditioned nerve impulses within the subject's – Rita’s – body, effectively turning her into a living machine. Thus totally controlled, she could be programmed for a variety of menial tasks, such as working as a cleaning lady. No wonder she didn’t want to get near that thing before, he mused. He knew also that the special programming had caused this restraint to ‘malfunction’, allowing Johnny an excuse to arrive to ‘repair’ the unit. All part of the mission plan, the details of which Shue hadn’t told Rita entirely about for good reason. Johnny knew she was going to be even more upset with the government agent when this mission was over. Right now, she was unable to say, or do, anything at all.
"Well, I certainly see there's a problem, babe’s takin’ an extra long break, huh," Johnny observes redundantly, letting his voice carry the country accent. "Let me just plug in this here diagnostic pod and see if I can track a glitch down. Worst case is we’ll have to replace this unit; you'll get a new one by the morning."
The butler looked nonplussed; at that moment a handsome older gentleman walked up, waving a lit cigarette in a golden holder. Chadwick. Johnny recognized the man from the mission briefing.
"I do hope you can fix it. This one is rather appealing to me," he offhandedly commented, circling Rita’s motionless figure. "Though there may have been trouble with the unit from the start. Several times it had difficulty carrying out simple orders, particularly regarding the uniform I have chosen for it to wear." Chadwick looks into Rita’s vacantly staring eyes, exhaling a puff of smoke. She does not blink at all.
Meanwhile, Johnny has opened up his kitbag and pulled out what looks like a multi-meter, festooned with dials and buttons, and a long silvery cable. This he affixes to the back of the 'necklace' under Rita’s false hair, where there is a hidden socket. He taps in a combination of numbers and watches the dials. There is no change in his partner’s stiff pose or frozen expression.
"Hmm; diagnostics aren't giving me anything straight away,” he covered, wasting time, “Let me run a full series, if you would, maybe fifteen minutes and we'll know for sure. You don't have to stay here for the full thing, y’know," Johnny broadly hints.
"Oh, all right. Ring 47 on the phone here when you're finished and Jarvis will inform me," Chadwick agreed reluctantly, then walked off with the butler following him.
After waiting until they are gone, spending the time looking for (and finding) additional hidden surveillance cameras, Johnny finally pressed the one button on the control box he knew was functional and spoke in a whisper to the still-motionless Rita.
"You picked an interesting position to chew gum on the job."
She whispered back, "I had no idear it would hoppen so faast," her voice obscured by trying to hide her words while her face remained frozen. Even so, her broad Australian twang was obvious, along with an overtone of irritation. "Wonted to look loike an accident," Rita concluded. “Too right!”
"You’re doing fine; Chadwick doesn’t suspect anything. I’ve relaxed the hold, but stay in character, there are cameras everyplace," Johnny whispered back. A few moments later, he mimed pushing another combination of buttons and then whispered, “OK, now you can move again, so stand up straight; slowly.” Un-stretching, Rita lowers her arms in a mechanical, robotic fashion, before standing stiffly at attention. She’s overdoing this robot bit a little, Johnny thinks as he continues his 'diagnostics' while continuing the conversation with her sotto-voce.
"Where's the jackpot?" he asks while appearing to examine her jeweled collar closely. Even while impersonating an indentured servant, Rita's strong independent personality was apparent by the light perfume and earrings she had chosen to wear, despite the fact no normal detainee would have such discretion.
"Eyes roight, unnerneath that fake Rodin staatue." She mutters, glancing quickly in one direction first, then the other way, making it look like a programmed response.
"Got it. Security? Oh, and bend your right elbow up and hold it there."
Rita raises her duster, doing her best to appear robotic in motion. "None on the ground. Old boy favors those monitors, thoough. Has them spotted 'round everywhaare."
"I think he likes to keep an eye on things. Speaking of, you're showing a lot of cheek," he jibed, referring to her exposed derriere. Tracing the slightly lighter line of restraint mesh that covered her spine, he had a good opportunity to take a look at her shapely backside as well.
"Bostard." Her eyes flashed anger before she recalled her role as an automaton and she assumed a blank stare once more. "Chadwick is lecherous voyeur. Nearly threw this kinky kit back in his face," she continued, referring to her skimpy costume. “That maid getup would have been bad enough.”
"Forget Chadwick. After tonight, we'll be out of here. By the way, I think you look really nice, too. The red satin brings out your eyes." Johnny quipped, continuing to feign work on the pad and her collar while glancing around the ornate room.
"Bostard," she replied with a slight smile that softened the curse.
"OK. I’ve seen what I need to here. You'll be ready to disarm the alarms later, and open the servant's entry. I'll take care of neutralizing the video system beforehand. For the next few hours, though, you have to appear like the perfect involuntary servant."
"Unnderstood," Rita agrees, lowering her arm robotically. She now stands with her arms at her sides.
"That's why I'm going to put you back on full automatic for that time. Don't worry; the programmed delay will release you later on with plenty of leeway. Ready?"
"Don't re-activate the collar, please!" She objected, dropping the duster along with her act and turning quickly to face him. "I know that was part of original plan, but I cannot staand being controlled by this… gadget… for another second. You don’t know how helpless it feels. Like being turned into a doll or a puppet without strings…”
“Hey, you’re over-reacting. I know you hate wearing the restraint, but Chadwick’s got to accept you being here without question for the next few hours, so be a trooper and stick with the plan, OK?”
Rita isn’t convinced. “Think about it; Shue probably had this all planned out. We're not going back to prison, or be set free; he's going to do away with both of us! Chadwick’s in on it – Listen to me?"
"I hear what you’re saying; but calm down, let’s get through this mission first, then worry about Shue. You just 'malfunctioned' again, with big brother watching, remember." He glanced up at the unblinking eye of the security cam. "You’re going to have to be the perfect domestic for the next few hours, no time to go off script again, and that means full automatic," he concluded, pressing a final sequence of controls, then stepping back a little. 'Trust me' he mouthed silently so only Rita could see as he pressed the ‘activation’ button once more.
Her eyebrows arched as she began to say something else, then her words faded as she resumed her at-attention pose, this time involuntarily as the restraint collar asserted its full authority over her actions. Rita's eyes glazed over and her posture subtly changed, becoming more rigid, indicating she was no longer in control of her body anymore. Even though her mind appeared 'disconnected' she remained fully conscious and aware of being controlled. "Service Unit BZ-483641, CS systems initialization complete," her voice stated after a few seconds, but there was no trace of her usual accent in the flat mechanical tones of the AI program. "How may this unit serve you?" she asked automatically, staring blankly ahead. You’re playing into their hands, Johnny! Don’t leave me like this! Rita wanted to plead, but she can only think it.
Johnny's mind raced as he considered a few possibilities that would really get him in more trouble with her later. Something simple, then: "Straighten my collar, wench," he commanded.
She took half a step forward and responded to the request, all the while holding a pleasant expression. Ah, yew complete bostaad, you're loving this, her thoughts echo.
"Freeze!" He commanded unexpectedly. She instantly becomes rigidly fixed in position once more, hands raised, in mid-action, a living mannequin. Johnny nodded, confirming the restraint was working properly, taking the opportunity to remove the service cable from the back of Rita’s jeweled collar and smooth her wig into position. She remained standing stiffly, arms held up in front of her, facing where he used to be standing. "Unfreeze," he orders.
The AI program continued directing her movements from the previous command for a moment, then after noticing he was no longer where expected, canceled the response and placed her into ‘neutral’ mode, standing once again at blank attention, her arms at her sides. Rita’s robotic-sounding voice queried: "How may this unit serve you?" Rita-as-programmed-servant then awaited a response, as long as that might take. This isn’t funny anymore!
“Unit, remain here and await further instructions from Chadwick,” Johnny commands, resuming his repairman alias for the time being. Rita had no choice; she was being forced by the restraint to remain in character. “Very well, sir,” she replies, then froze back in place. Don’t leave me like this even for a few hours – I do not like being made a robot! she pleas uselessly. Outwardly, she remains stoic, lovely, and unchanging.
Johnny took part of a minute to put the pad and cable into his kitbag, and then filled out a service report form after dialing the phone and speaking for a few seconds. By the time he was done with the paperwork, Chadwick has returned, accompanied by one of the lovely French Maids. This girl is of Asian descent, very petite but well proportioned, standing on tall heels only to Chadwick’s shoulders. Her cute wide-eyed face was framed by her jet-black hair styled into another pageboy cut, the tips of which reached to the bottom of her jaw line. Almost unnoticeable at the base of her slim neck was a thin, jeweled, necklace: the restraint collar. The maid mindlessly stood motionlessly after arriving in the same neutral-mode stance as Rita held.
"Everything sorted out?" Chadwick asks, seeing Rita posed unmoving.
"Yep," Johnny replies, looking back at his partner. "All checked out; fully functional again. Had to reset the primary matrix and ran some tests. The unit appears OK now. Give it an order…"
"All right." Chadwick turned to Rita. "Complete the cleaning of this room, then dust within the inner gallery. After that, go to the kitchens to aid in preparations for dinner."
“Understood, sir” Rita replied without inflection, picking up the duster to resume her task, completely ignoring the two men who watched her movements salaciously for a few seconds.
“Gorgeous, isn’t she?” Chadwick remarked idly, “almost a work of art, wouldn’t you say?”
Johnny doesn’t say, not wanting to get into any more hot water than he already is in. "Any more problems, give us a ring. We're on 24-hour call," he concluded, turning his back to Rita, who had already completed the shelf she had been working on earlier and was now carefully dusting a Rodin statuette of a ballerina that was one of their possible prizes for later tonight.
"Very Well,” Chadwick agreed with a slight smile as he watched her work. Nodding towards the maid, he continued absently, “Yumi will show you out – I wish to remain here briefly to make sure that unit is… functioning properly." He turned back to leer at Rita, who was making quick work of her dusting.
Her partner turns back to look at Rita one last time and managed to catch her gazing blankly at him. He winked. Oh, Johnny, you are soooo gonna get it… echoed Rita’s acidic thoughts as her restraint-controlled body mindlessly performed its programmed tasks.
The cute maid was already a few steps down the hall as Johnny hurried to catch up. His concentration was quickly distracted by the sight of Yumi’s shapely backside and the ribbon bow on her apron swaying in syncopated rhythm to her movements with every step. She walked down a different path back through the huge mansion as he continued to mentally catalogue the artworks and other valuables that would easily fit into his kit bag. He didn’t notice that he’d been led to another door, where Yumi paused and stated in an unexpected lilting Gallic accent: “You are to wait here, m’sieu, s’vou’plait.” With a quick curtsy, she reached the end of her orders and stiffened into neutral mode, looking very doll-like while utterly remaining motionless.
“I don’t understand, honey, I’ve got other appointments to keep. How long is this….? Aaahhh!” Johnny’s grumbling was interrupted by a sharp pain in his back, followed by a spreading numbness that left his muscles locked solid, freezing him in position. Moments later the butler, Jarvis, emerged from the shadows, lowering an odd-looking large-bore NIM gun. He then stood next to Johnny and also went into neutral mode. The three living statues formed a comically mismatched tableau by the doorway, but there was nothing funny about the hopeless situation Johnny had again gotten into. Well, isn’t this a peachy turn of events! Johnny thinks sarcastically. Now I know why Rita was so against this gizmo he realizes, too late.
Back in the library, Rita has finished up her dusting and reached the locked door to the next gallery. Since she is unable to open it, a program override takes control and she’s compelled to enter neutral mode once more. Standing nearby, out of her eye-line, Chadwick nods to himself with approval as he walks up to her, thinking what a very nice addition this one will make.
“My dear, I think it’s time for you to meet the family,” he says obscurely while holding his thumb to a reader plate by the side of the inner gallery door. Seconds later, his fingerprint is recognized and the latch clicks. As he opens the door, the interior lights come on automatically. Unlike the ornate library, this room is very sparsely furnished, with wood flooring and gray-toned walls. This, along with the brilliant overhead lighting, concentrates ones’ attention on the many stunning life-like figures that stand on low pedestals throughout the room. “Please, enter, and resume your cleaning within,” Chadwick commands, despite his urbane manner, stepping to one side. Rita’s programming takes over once more and she feels her controlled body springing into action again, stepping through the doorway to the inner gallery.
What the..? Rita thinks, flabbergasted, at spotting the first of the statues as she resumes her dusting. This artwork is of a handsome athletic-looking man in a 70’s-styled business suit that sports the wide lapels and light plaid pattern of the period. He’s standing upright, with one arm raised like he’s about to shake hands. As she dusts the statue’s shoulders, recognition flickers at the edges of her memories while her body continues working on its own, leaving her time to think. Handsome bloke; from some Yank show on the telly, maybe? she muses.
Out of the corner of one eye, she glimpses a familiar face on one of the statues placed towards the side of the room, where the lighting isn’t as distinct. No; caahn’t be him? she thinks in alarm, before her body turns away and she can’t see it anymore.
The next figure is more iconic: a tall, spectacularly proportioned woman, clad in a revealing costume having a red satin bodice with a golden eagle embroidered into the garment, blue star-spangled briefs that are cut high on the figure’s long legs, red and white boots, and a golden tiara with matching wrist bracelets. She embodied a super-heroine recognized the world ‘round: Wonder Woman.
Rita’s programming drove her actions; she raised the duster to begin her task just as Chadwick ordered, “Halt!” Instantly, Rita froze up once more, the plume of the duster only a foot or so from the Wonder Woman statue’s bare shoulders. From this distance, she could see the figure was slightly older than the comic book representation, with a few wrinkles around the edges of her pale blue eyes.
“Command Override, unit Rita: enable unrestricted speech; inhibit voluntary bodily movement, initiate neutral mode. Execute,” Chadwick spoke quickly, as Rita’s body relaxed into the at-attention pose. “There; that’s better. I’m sure by this point you have many questions..”
Rita suddenly found her tongue responding to her will once more. “What sort of game are you up to, Chadwick, and why am I here?” she demanded, not knowing how much longer she’d be allowed to speak by this madman.
“All will become clear as crystal, very shortly.” A soft knock at the door grabbed his attention; turning away briefly, he ordered, “Ah, very well; excellent timing. Place him here,” Chadwick indicated a spot about six feet away. Rita could not turn to look at whom it was, but she had a sinking suspicion. Turning back to Rita, Chadwick continued, “And now, let’s meet the rest of your family.”
Stepping alongside the two motionless women, Chadwick looked from one to the other with a sly smile on his face; he’d been waiting for this moment for a long time and he took the time to savor the rewards of careful planning and good fortune. “However, I’m forgetting my manners, ladies, and gentleman. A few introductions are in order. Rita – yes, I know your name – meet Diana Prince: your true mother.”
“Bollocks! Of all the outlandish harebrained idears!” Rita blurted, while remaining outwardly still. “You can’t think…?” she trailed off.
Chadwick looked smug. “Believe me, it took a great amount of work to track down the trail of adoption papers, stretching across three continents and many decades; however a DNA test using a blood sample graciously contributed by Agent Shue has finally confirmed your connection to the great Wonder Woman. My apologies that she’s unable to greet you properly; in fact she’s unable to do much of anything right now,” he summarized, looking over to where the hyper-realistic statue of Wonder Woman gazed eternally into infinity, her arms placed akimbo on her slim waist in the classic super heroine pose. She wore her iconic singlet from the comics, complete with gold tiara, belt, and wrist bracelets. A thin rope of woven gold was clipped to her waist: the Lasso of Truth.
“By now, Rita, you’ve probably surmised that my name isn’t really Chadwick, either, and the whole circumstance of your being here is part of my ingeniously conceived plan, one your government has only played a minor role in. Allow me to introduce myself properly: I am Robert Heinrich, a brilliant, fortunate, yet humble medical researcher who some time ago discovered a very unique neurological effect; but you are more likely to have heard of me by the name Henry Roberts.”
“The… fake sculptor?” Rita grasped at hazy threads of her memory. “That was simply a fantasy tale, from an old yank television show? I watched some reruns when growing up.”
“True events made to appear fictional, as a cover story, actually. I can assure you that I am quite genuine, as are my unique artistic creations, among them the exquisite statue of Wonder Woman here,” Chadwick continued.
“She’s not real – you’ve gone daft!” Rita shot back.
“The eminent lady is very real, but for several reasons I’m sure you can deduce, she must remain in her electronically induced state of suspended animation indefinitely, as will the others. The process is completely painless, as you shall soon find out.”
“You’re not turning me into a statue!” she insisted, not having much confidence, given her condition.
“Events will prove otherwise, I believe,” he smiled knowingly.
“What are you talking about?”
“Command Override, unit Rita: enable subject self-control, range of movement one meter from current position. Execute,” he stated.
Rita felt her body relaxing as she found she could move by herself. Her first action was to look over at the statue of Wonder Woman, then to Chadwick’s left where now stood: “Johnny?” she wondered. He was standing stiffly at attention in neutral mode, not showing any sign that he’d recognized her. Flanking him are one of the maids, a pretty Asian girl, and one of the burly butlers, both also in immobilized neutral state.
“He’s no more able to answer than you were previously. While it’s not nearly as stylish as yours, I’ve had him fitted with a control band as well, so he can participate more fully. Command override, unit Johnny, enable subject self-control, range of movement one meter from current position. Execute,” he repeated. Seconds later, Johnny also relaxed.
“Rita, what’s going on? Are you OK? I was on my way out when Mongo over there zapped me with some kind of trank dart and I just woke up here.”
“I’m fine, for the nonce, thanks for asking. But you’re not going to believe what’s going on!” Rita replied. They were too far apart to reach each other, but that didn’t stop Johnny from trying. He reached the limit and looked like a mime hitting an invisible wall.
“Ooof!” he grunted, then turned to Chadwick. “You let her go. Right now!” he squinted in anger at their captor, raising his arms to fight, even though he knew it would be futile.
“How predictable, noble; what more could I expect from the offspring of two heroes: Stefan Trevi and Diana the Amazon princess?” Chadwick revealed, regaining their attention.
Both Rita and Johnny turned to him and simultaneously demanded: “What?”
“You of course would know them as Colonel Steve Trevor and Diana Prince, but I have uncovered the true events of your origin. Diana’s awkward pregnancy caused quite a stir of course; she had to disappear from public view, the child was put up for adoption, and the unfortunate Colonel was given a quiet discharge from government service. But your remarkable story doesn’t end there, for while in seclusion on Themiscyra, the princess chose to bear another child, a girl, employing the Amazons’ spiritual and naturalistic techniques of reproduction. That second child was also given up to a foster family in Australia, and Diana – Wonder Woman – resumed her super-heroine duties for many years. That is, until I secured my release from prison and soon afterward secured her in person for my reconstituted collection of living artworks. So, now I can offer: There She Stands…” he concluded, turning to look at the amazing Wonder Woman statue.
“That’s absurd!” Rita shot back. “There’s no way that could have happened and… I’m his sister? Ewwww…”
“Well, imagine that,” Johnny mused, seeming less amazed, but still dumbfounded. “I’m descended from royalty…”
“A right royal boss-tard, you mean to say,” Rita blurted out, still coming to terms with the villain’s claims.
“As are you, Princess Ariadne Reetarah of Themiscyra,” Chadwick supplied. “Since you seem unable to contain your language, I’ll have to do that for you… Command Override, unit Rita: inhibit vocal speech immediately. Execute,” he continued calmly.
“How—?” was all she was able to say before her voice cut off, as if someone had pressed the ‘mute’ button on a remote. Her mouth moved, but no words came out. This made Rita even more upset.
Johnny winced; he’d long before learned to read lips and some of the things she was trying to say were extremely un-princess-like. She’ll wind down eventually… He turned to his captor and decided to try a different tack. “So, Chadwick, or whoever your really are, you’ve taken a lot of time and expense to bring us both here; it must have been difficult to plan.”
Chadwick brightened, “Ah, yes, and an amazingly inspired plan it is; you might call it my second life’s work. As you can see, it’s unfolding precisely as expected.”
“Except that in your haste, you left a trail; Agent Shue knows we were coming here, and he’s not about to let either of us just walk away.”
“Oh, yes, how predictable,” Chadwick smiled smugly. “Please, direct your gaze over there to my recent sculpture of the Keystone Kop,” he pointed, while addressing the maid, “Yumi, full lighting, now.” As the overhead spotlights brightened, Johnny and Rita could make out Shue’s face on the comically posed statue. “Yes, unfortunately for you, Agent Shue recently came into an inheritance, quit his government job, and is now touring the world on his yacht, or so the news media were led to believe. You can see that he’s actually joined my collection and won’t be doing anything other than standing in place from now on. As for yourselves, you’d be happy to know the media have been informed that you’ve escaped as well and are currently at large. However, I doubt that any sign of your whereabouts will ever be discovered.” Chadwick inspected his fingernails idly. “I do so dislike loose ends…”
“What do you want with us!” Johnny demanded, losing patience.
“What do I want? Simply, to put an end to Diana’s reign and bloodline. Forever. She thwarted me once, but time and my genius have rewarded me with the ultimate victory. You two.”
“You’ll never get away with it…”
“I have already gotten away with it; you both are under my complete control, everyone else who might possibly intervene is a sculpture in my gallery, including Wonder Woman herself. As you soon will be. Observe…” Chadwick turned to Rita and commanded: “Rita: select random lingerie pose, then freeze.”
Her eyes only had a moment to register surprise before the control collar took over, guiding her body into a sexy stance, with one hand on her hip and the other held behind her head. Then she became very still, almost like a living mannequin, even though her slow breathing was visible.
“You see; complete control,” Chadwick said with delight. “Ironically, you helped make that possible. However, I have more enduring plans for this lovely lady, as well as for yourself. Rita: unfreeze; go the preparation room and change into the garments you will find there after undressing, then return here.”
She complied instantly with the new order, relaxing her pose and stepping away towards the far side of the gallery, passing near to the Shue statue but unable to look at him directly.
Chadwick turned to Johnny with a commanding tone in his voice. “Joh—” he began.
“Wait!” Johnny interrupted, “how about Diana’s sister: Drusilla; she’s a superhero too, Wondergirl, that’s what she called herself, right?” he countered.
“Not a concern of yours,” Chadwick replied dismissively, “in the meantime, I have secured a more than adequate stand-in, as you’ll see. Johnny: go to the locker room, then run program butler-five,” Chadwick commanded before Johnny could get another word in edgewise.
The captive, controlled, thief felt himself compelled to carry out the orders, as much as he wanted to help his partner, his sister, get away from this fiend, not to mention the deranged man’s other victims. Something in the collar guided him through the mansion to the dressing room where he found a servant’s uniform. His last memories were of starting to unzip his workman’s coveralls, and then completely different thoughts flooded into his mind as the override program activated.
* - * - *
One hour later
“Isn’t she delightful?” Chadwick, aka Robert Heinrich, asked rhetorically, gazing at his latest statue.
Rita, clad in the signature skin-tight star-spangled red jumpsuit and tall black boots of Wondergirl, her dark-wigged hair styled into a gleaming raven cascade over her shoulders, stood stiffly posed on a low platform nearby Wonder Woman. A wide golden belt circled her hips; she also wore golden earrings and gunmetal-gray armbands and bracelets. The medallion of her eagle necklace now decorated a black neckband that might have also concealed a restraint collar. She was completely rigid, frozen in mid-step, her arms raised in a shielding stance. Unlike before, there were no signs of movement or breathing; she could have been cast from wax as she remained as still as stone, just like the other living statues around her. The resemblance to her mother was even more apparent now that both had been put on display as showpieces in Heinrich’s collection of diabolically crafted objects d’art.
“Yes, she is, Sir,” replied Johnny after a few seconds. “Will there be anything else, Sir?”
“Not here, Jinkes. Resume your normal duties and send Yumi to see me. I must add this latest statue to her dusting duties. Oh, yes, one last thing: reduce gallery lighting to standby as you leave,” Chadwick ordered.
“Very well, Sir,” Johnny, aka Jinkes, replied as he turned to go about his new duties.
Chadwick remained, gazing up at the two beautiful statues of Diana and Rita as the lighting dimmed. “One more to go…” he said to himself.
End of Series “Thieves”