Otaku LA, Los Angeles, California
Tucker Holmes couldn't help but sigh a bit from behind the register once the customer he'd just helped had left the store, leaving the place empty for the moment. In spite of recently having his girlfriend, fresh from being unfrozen after being trapped for about a month as a living mannequin, and his ex-girlfriend decide they both wanted to be with him and were – of all things – willing to share him, this day Tucker had no romantic plans on the horizon. As a man in a three-way relationship – Tucker of all people – though he certainly wasn't the same classic geek he'd been before – was doubtful he'd be getting any action that day, never mind the chance of having a date later. Instead Tucker was stuck at his work, helping two of his employees train a new hire.
“Okay, I think we've shown her the location of everything important,” Umiko Pine told Tucker as she and his other two employees returned to the front counter. Tucker liked Umiko, since she was very good at managing her own time, able to balance being a history major with working at the store and being a member of a sorority. Tucker's main issue with the Japanese-born girl was surprisingly not her accent, as she spoke perfect English, but just a bit of her attitude; she seemed to at times want to emulate how sorority girls acted in cliché college movies, and being haughty in front of customers wasn’t acceptable. Still, Umiko was cute, standing around five-foot-three with a tight, slim, figure and short brown hair, so Tucker was willing to cut her a little slack.
Krystal George, on the other hand, Tucker was less of a fan of; she always seemed a bit lazy but more or less had free reign since she was an old friend of Bianca, who was one of Tucker's business partners. Since Nathan Lancer, the other of the three owners, was now dating Bianca and was clearly happy to be so, he would go along with what she wanted; this meant any temptation Tucker had to fire Krystal would end up being pointless. Still, while annoying, given her refusal to do certain work and not work certain hours, Krystal was good when it came to working with customers. As a result, Tucker had only been tempted to try and get rid of her twice since she'd first been hired. Krystal was fairly short too, having just one inch in height on Umiko; both had blonde hair and blue eyes, though Tucker's favorite feature of Krystal’s was her cute smile.
The new girl, whom the other two were helping train, was named Kayla Eaton. Tucker had met Kayla indirectly several months ago, when she'd been, up until a few days ago, working at a clothing store for men near his old apartment. Tucker's memories of his first encounter with Kayla were apparently distorted as he'd remembered a somewhat tall brunette when in fact Kayla was almost the same height as Krystal. Kayla did still have the cobalt blue eyes Tucker had remembered however, along with those kissable lips, firm breasts, lissome figure, and nice alabaster skin. “This shop is a bit different than just selling clothes, well, the non-costume stuff is anyhow, but I think I've got the idea,” Kayla told Tucker with a confident smile. Tucker liked that she was sure of herself despite admitting her faults.
“Hey, you just kind of walked into this, I don't expect you to get everything overnight,” Tucker assured his new employee as Umiko and Krystal went off to do their usual duties, Umiko adjusting the items on shelves while Krystal took over the till. Tucker brought Kayla aside, where they could speak privately. “So you never did tell us why you were let go...”
“Weirdest thing; I blacked out or something and had missed half a day of work,” confessed Kayla, shaking her head. “I mean, I don't do drugs or anything... maybe someone drugged me? All I know is that I haven't seen Sally since the thing and, I gotta say, I'm worried.”
“Your old co-worker?” asked Tucker, recalling having encountered Sally once in the store as well when he'd first seen Kayla. “You file a police report?”
“Yes, but apparently her apartment manager indicated she had a vacation planned, so I'm wondering now if that incident is why we both got fired,” fumed Kayla, clearly upset at the sudden career change. “Sorry, its just... Transitions.”
“Hey I get it; at least you landed on your feet,” Tucker told Kayla, cautiously patting her on the shoulder in support. “I'm sure when Sally gets back from wherever she can explain it. For now, you've got your health, a job that pays the same as your old one, and a sympathetic boss. You'll be fine.”
“Thanks,” grinned Kayla, looking a bit flushed. “Okay, I'll go stick with Krystal, she was going to show me a few things about the register.” Tucker smiled and watched his new employee head over to the front counter. Kayla was very cute and Tucker was keen to stop time later and check out her curves again, having not done so since their first 'meeting'.
Business distracted Tucker from his wicked thoughts as the store's door opened and in walked a regular: Chrissy Pak. The cute Korean didn't have her usual dyed red hair, Tucker remember her saying she was saving that look for the soccer tournament that was happening in a bit over a week, right before finals started. Currently Chrissy was dressed in white shorts and a red polo, her hair tied up in a high ponytail. Looking at Chrissy reminded Tucker that perhaps the store might consider employee uniforms; while they all had buttons on their shirts with the store’s logo on it, which was the word 'Otaku' in red with a giant O, they were all dressed casually. Everyone, even Tucker, was wearing jeans, and he had on a white plaid shirt on over a black T-shirt while Krystal wore a brown tank top; Umiko a blue and white spaghetti-strap top and Kayla a blue T-shirt with medium-length sleeves. Their appearance almost blended in with their usual customers’.
“Hey Tucker, is the new Death Note DVD set in?” asked Chrissy, coming up to Tucker and flashing him a cute smile, probably to make sure he was paying attention since he'd been glancing at his employees and their clothes.
“Sorry, they pushed back the release a week; nothing I can do,” confessed Tucker. “The Naruto volume came out on schedule though, and we did get some other new merchandise.”
“Oh please, you know I'm going to be here for at least an hour even if you didn't get anything new in,” Chrissy told Tucker with a grin, giving him a playful tap on the cheek before starting to head towards the DVD shelves. “Oh, and a limo pulled up outside just a few moments ago, you might be getting a customer that could really keep this place afloat.”
“You'd better not be yanking my chain,” warned Tucker as he headed over to the window to glance outside. Sure enough, Chrissy wasn't lying; a sparkling white limo had pulled up and, surprisingly, the two alluring women that had exited the vehicle were headed right for the shop's door. Both looked familiar to Tucker, but he could only place the latter. The first woman was a brunette, who looked to be around forty or older, but she was striking as she had beautiful green eyes and shimmering brown hair that was in a half up-do. The older woman, who apparently owned the limo since the driver had tipped his hat to her, was clad in a black diagonally-cut skirt with the left side stopping at her knee while the right went down further; a purple sleeveless V-neck blouse revealed her chest as well as framing a jewel-encrusted necklace that was probably worth at least a grand. The gorgeous blonde that followed the older woman looked to be about five-eight, was in her late twenties, and she had to be a model since Tucker knew he'd seen her at a Models Inc show. The blonde's hair was styled short but looked really good in spite of being an obvious dye job. Purple eye shadow complimented her amber, or possibly dark green, eyes. The model's tanned body was resting snugly inside a black tube top and a gray skirt that really hugged her hips, white designer heels were on her feet.
“Welcome!” greeted Tucker, trying not to seem too excited as the two women entered the store. Luckily both women smiled warmly, looking happy that someone was there to help them.
“Do you have the latest Naruto DVD volume?” asked the dazzling blonde, Tucker picking up her Australian accent and placing her. The model was Michelle Foster, an Australian sensation that had worked with Models Inc in the past and the only Australian model, off the top of Tucker's head anyhow, able to compare physically with Audrey Burke, who'd just signed with the company.
“Yeah, its over in the DVD section; there's a woman over there already, so just go to her,” directed Tucker, indicating Chrissy.
“Thank you, so nice to find a store like this!” exclaimed Michelle, heading off to join Chrissy in the DVD section.
“Are you one of the owners?” asked the older woman, now that she and Tucker were alone.
“I am; Tucker Holmes,” offered Tucker, holding out a hand.
“Carol Wilford,” replied the woman, extending her own petite hand and offering a small but sultry smile as the pair shook hands. Tucker remembered hearing something about a Wilford family in Malibu that was really powerful; Tucker thought they had ties to media production but was not quite sure how.
“Is there something I can help you find, Miss Wilford?” asked Tucker, indicating the store.
“I was here yesterday; did your employee not tell you?” answered Carol, looking a bit surprised before looking around, before focusing on Umiko. “Carol is fine by the way, no need to be overly formal. Anyhow, I came by yesterday and that one said she'd let the owners know I wanted to talk to them about this store of yours.”
“I see... Umiko didn't tell me,” frowned Tucker, glancing over at his employee, who was continuing to fix the shelves of toys, unaware she was being looked at.
“Well, if you'd like to discuss that with her for a moment, I'll go have another look at your costumes; I'm not in any big rush,” Carol told Tucker, offering him a smile again before heading over to the clothing racks. Left alone, Tucker frowned and headed over to Umiko.
“Umiko, can you join me in the back for a moment?” Tucked asked the Japanese girl.
“Oh sure thing,” nodded Umiko, following Tucker as he led her behind the cashier counter and into one of the many back rooms. Tucker intentionally led her to the storeroom that had a bunch of mannequins covered in sheets, there being where Bianca kept her spare display dummies.
“Carol Wilford just showed up; said she spoke to you yesterday,” announced Tucker, trying his best to keep his face neutral.
“Oh crap, I forgot to tell you!” exclaimed Umiko, face-palming. “Sorry, when I got home my—” Umiko didn't get a chance to finish explaining; while she was clutching her face with her eyes closed, Tucker had pulled out his wand and waved it twice, freezing her in place. Tucker found the spontaneous pose quite cute, the frozen girl's left hand rested on her hip while her right did the face-palming. Still, Tucker thought someone might find a mannequin postured like that odd, even if Tucker hadn't intend to freeze Umiko for that long. He quickly moved her right hand to her hips and opened her eyes, making the time-stopped girl look just a little less alive by being put in an empty-looking pose. Leaving her to stand among the rest of the dummies, he walked back to the front.
“Okay, I think we can talk now,” declared Tucker a few moments later, returning to Carol's side as she checked out some costumes that were a bit more basic than anime-related. “So you wanted to talk about the store?”
“Yes,” nodded Carol, raising an eyebrow. “Tell me... Tucker, right, sorry; almost blanked there...”
“Kind of hurts the dramatic reveal you seem to have planned,” chuckled Tucker, Carol doing the same.
“Anyhow, I was going to ask you about investors,” continued Carol, a bit embarrassed to have nearly forgotten Tucker's name. “Do you have any?”
“The other two owners and I actually financed it ourselves,” revealed Tucker. “Why do you ask?”
“I was hoping to maybe provide you the money to expand... say, open a Malibu location?” announced Carol.
* * *
Phi Sigma Delta House, Decker State College, Malibu
Susie Kim was just wrapping up her final assignment for the semester, which had been to design some uniforms. The young Korean girl had her hair back in low ponytail and was currently wearing a black casual dress, simple and clean looking, more like single-strap top and an A-line skirt. Since she was having her own room cleaned, Susie had asked to borrow the room of her best friend, Angel Matthews; her roommate was currently out of the house. The Wiccan was wearing a gray T-shirt and army green cargo pants, her black hair tucked behind her ears but had been combed back so it wasn't the only thing keeping her hair from getting in her face. While Susie worked with her models, Angel was typing away on her laptop while sitting on her bed.
“I think this will about do it,” announced Susie, adjusting the pose of one of her ‘volunteer’ mannequins. As with all of the projects that required a dress model, Susie had just recruited two housemates, using the Royal Momju necklace and the rings they wore to turn them into immobile statues. As Angel really did know how to hypnotize people, Susie had implanted a belief in everyone's mind that Angel had used her mesmerizing power on everyone; thus when they heard their name and a command to “freeze”, they would. Made it easier to explain odd things that happened around the sorority house, other than having to constantly change people's memories.
Angel stopped typing and looked at Susie's work. Rose Mazza, a cute brunette, was standing with her left leg on a chair, her right hand on her hip while her left hand rested on her matching knee, a big toothless smile on her lips. Rose's hair had been put up into a bun; she was wearing a pink police officer's hat on top of her head. As Susie's project had been to design women’s uniforms, she'd gone with a pink motif and a traditional cut, thinking they'd really stand out for police use. The blouse was pretty basic, aside from the color, being short-sleeved with a radio clipped on one shoulder, the usual badge over the left breast pocket. The bicycle shorts were a dark purple; Susie wanted to avoid too much black as she felt it would make the pink look cheap. Posed next to Rose with her hands on her hips and a big and bright smile held on her face was Hannah Kai; the Chinese mannequin was dressed like Rose but with her hair in twin ponytails, both resting on her shoulders. “Maybe tilt Hannah's hat,” suggested Angel.
“Like this?” asked Susie, angling Hannah's hat so t was more on the left side of her head.
“That should work, helps show that the hats can still be fashionable,” remarked Angel, Susie nodding in agreement. Pulling out her camera after studying the tableau for a few moments, Susie snapped a few photos from different angles.
“Well, aside from exams, I'd say we're free!” cheered Susie, jumping up and down with Angel joining in to give her a hug. Once an anti-social bitch who'd only joined the sorority house due to her family’s insistence, Susie's little personality alternations had turned Angel into one of the most likeable girls in the house, that being why the Wiccan was now her best friend.
“Liberating, really liberating,” smiled Angel, taking Susie's hand and leading her out of the room, leaving the two display models frozen as they were, at least for now. “Lets have fun!”
“Reminds me of the day we first met Lola,” chuckled Susie, Angel echoing the emotion thanks to the influence Susie's magic necklace had on Angel through the ring she wore. “I think we should visit her to celebrate.”
“Stone-face won't like it,” mused Angel, thinking about their housemate and her unsmiling bodyguard. Lola Guzman, daughter of the president of Mexico, was a member of the sorority and also under the control of Susie's Royal Momju Necklace, just like everyone else who lived there. Chata De La Toro was Lola's bodyguard and while she too wore a ring that bound her mind to Susie's power, Susie had never bothered altering her personality like she'd done with Angel’s, deciding that having a non-surly bodyguard would be weird.
Arriving at the second-floor's ninth room, Susie happily knocked, really eager to have a little fun and glad she'd come up with a way to explain the freezing of anyone who wore a ring when Susie put them in stasis. “This isn't a good time; Miss Lola is studying,” announced Chata as she opened the door for the pair. The bodyguard's attractive body was currently wearing a red long-sleeved collarless V-neck shirt, her hair spun into a low business bun, with black denim jeans on her legs. Just past Chata, Susie could see Lola sitting at her desk, currently wearing a white bathrobe with her hair spilling around the left side of her neck. Lola had a pencil in her hand and she was writing in a notebook, mostly likely manually practicing math problems, though political science was her major.
“Chata, freeze,” Angel immediately ordered. “Lola, freeze.” As Angel spoke, Susie mentally carried out the command, putting both the bodyguard and the first daughter into instantaneous stasis. Chata froze in place, holding the door open with her right hand and a blank look caught on her face, it being why Angel had given the 'stone-face' nickname to her. Lola meanwhile had stopped in the middle of writing, her gaze focused on her work with her left hand on her notes.
“Aw, don't like being a statue?” chuckled Angel, focusing on the unmoving Chata as the two friends entered the room and closed the door. “Come on, you should lie down.” Angel put her arms around Chata's waist and dragged the frozen bodyguard over to her bed, then tipping her over so she laid on her back, her right hand still extended to hold the door open even though it was no longer there.
“She's so cute when she studies,” commented Susie, removing the pencil from Lola's stiff hand and turning the girl in her chair.
“Hey, come on, stand up,” cooed Angel, moving over and standing Lola up, then promptly putting her right arm around her shoulders while the left went around Susie's.
“We're the best of friends!” chuckled Susie, rocking back and forth with Angel, with Lola frozen between them. After a few seconds of that the mobile pair broke the connection and left Lola standing like she was leaning on two invisible people.
“So what do you want to do?” Angel asked Susie, the friends facing each other with Angel putting her hands on her hips. “Statue day? Be fun to pose everyone in front of the TV and watch something...” Susie frowned a bit at the suggestion, it being exactly what she wanted to do, but that had become a bit of a boring idea; while she still enjoyed doing statues, she had been hoping Angel had a more unique idea. Angel's predictable suggestion was perhaps a sign that Susie had molded her best friend to be too much like herself.
“I like it, but I'll need to check something first,” Susie told Angel, then instinctively freezing her friend where she stood. Angel had a smile on her lips as she stood with her hips swayed to the left, her hands resting on them. Liking the pose, Susie couldn't help but move up and give her friend a big kiss on the lips, then taking a moment to run her hands down the sides of the pale girl's chest before focusing. A statue day meant they'd freeze everyone and they’d have some fun, ideally just the two of them; but before Susie could really consider doing it she'd need to check in on everyone who lived in the house. Susie knew a decent amount of the girls were home studying or finishing up assignments, but there were some away and Susie would need to plan for them.
“Okay, lets see what everyone is doing,” announced Susie as she sat on Lola's bed, having gotten very used to talking to herself. Crossing her legs and closing her eyes, Susie let her mind wander, mentally searching for the sorority girls who weren't in the house. A few were sensed around campus, at least two in the library, but Susie then discovered four minds outside of Malibu.
The first one was Jaki Newborn, whom Susie sensed was shopping at a stylish place apparently called the Balfour Boutique, which Susie made a note to visit at some point. Elsewhere Amber Prescott and Phoebe Monroe, the president and vice-president of the sorority chapter, were shopping for more mundane things at a Super Senter. Oddly though, the final girl she located, whom Susie was fairly sure was Umiko, was giving her nothing. Susie couldn't sense Umiko's thoughts or anything, though she was certain the girl was there. Baffled, Susie decided she should leap into Umiko's body and see what was going on. She concentrated and felt an odd sense of displacement.
* * *
Susie found her gaze focused on several sheet-covered mannequins; at least that's what Susie thought they were since she could see peripherally circular stands beneath them and molded plastic forms to one side. The floor was gray, the walls were white-painted brick, and there was a black chain-link fence to her right, but that was all that Susie, her mind in Umiko's body, could really see. Susie tried to move but found herself unable to, feeling as if she was in someone's body after they'd been put into stasis but she’d forgotten to release them. Then as Susie realized there was only the smallest of hints of Umiko's own consciousness lingering, even within her own body, that meant the Japanese girl had to be frozen; it was the only explanation. Nonetheless it didn't make sense as Susie hadn't frozen her, nor could she unfreeze her. She was stuck.
Susie began to panic a bit upon realizing that while she could see clearly, Umiko's other senses felt dulled. Sounds seemed muffled, there was little feeling from the air around her if any, and it was all too clear she wasn't breathing, though in a frozen body that wasn't important. Slowly Susie came to understand that it wasn't natural, what she was feeling, it was the result of entering a body that wasn't normally conscious. Umiko's mind had become locked away but Susie's wasn't, she being an intruder, thus she was certain whatever had frozen Umiko didn't normally make people mindless, it was Susie's own interactions with whatever was affecting her immobilized sorority sister.
Footsteps were suddenly heard. Susie wanted to glance to the side, but she could only use Umiko's peripheral vision; her own eyes even starting feel strained with no way to blink. A short blonde in a brown tank-top and blue jeans then came into view, followed by a brown-haired man wearing two shirts. “Look, I really need you to help the other customers right now, I've got a potential investor; that older lady,” the man told the woman. Susie realized both looked familiar. The Korean wasn't sure where she knew the brown-haired guy from, but it wasn't just the one or two times she'd jumped into Umiko's mind while she was working. The sexy blonde, meanwhile, Susie suddenly remembered was named Krystal; Umiko had actually brought her by the sorority house once.
“Come on Tucker, you asked me to help Kayla and Umiko can handle the others!” insisted Krystal, crossing her arms. Susie then remembered who this Tucker was, recalling Umiko had mentioned him as being her boss as well as a student at Decker State College. Susie wasn't sure she'd ever talked with Tucker or anything, but now could recall seeing him on campus at least once.
“Alright, tell you what, take a break,” offered Tucker, pointing behind Krystal. Susie wanted to widen her stationary eyes as she saw what happened next: Krystal turned to look behind her and Tucker quickly pulled something from his pocket, something that looked like a paint brush or maybe a baton. Tucker waved his object at Krystal and suddenly she froze in place, as if turned to stone by a magic spell.
“Ugh... if Kayla causes problems I'm really going to be short-handed,” groaned Tucker, pocketing the weird object, which Susie decided had to be a magic wand. Susie was no skeptic of magic, given that she owned a magic necklace that let her control people like puppets, but it was shocking to see someone else exploit it. Susie barely paid attention as she witnessed Tucker pose Krystal to stand at attention, thinking more about what this meant. Susie now knew of someone else with magical powers, a true kindred spirit... but was Tucker really the good guy that Umiko had claimed he was?
“There we go,” remarked Tucker as he carried Krystal’s rigid body by her waist, standing her in front of Umiko with her back to the Japanese girl, effectively blocking Susie's view. “I'm sorry, both of you, but I really don't need distractions right now. Good news is that you're still getting paid to stand around and do nothing...” Hearing those words, Susie then wanted to smile before recalling she couldn’t move a muscle. It sounded, at least to Susie, like Tucker was at least for the moment was being fairly kind, apparently only freezing his employees to get them out of his hair so he could deal with something else. Tucker's frivolous action did demonstrate poor stress management, at least to Susie, but she figured if he had the power to just put his problems aside with the wave of a wand, it made some sense to do so. As Susie heard Tucker walk away, a plan began to formulate in her mind; she knew that now she'd need to meet Tucker face to face.
* * *
“Okay, I'll talk to you tomorrow with the others and we'll see where this goes, but I think we've got something,” Carol Wilford told Tucker, the pair smiling and shaking hands. “I should go though, I do have plans with my husband shortly.”
“Alright, I look forward to seeing you tomorrow,” offered Tucker, pleased with the progress he'd made with Carol. She was unemployed, her husband having provided for her so she could focus on their kids, but now Carol was apparently looking for something more than charity work to do and, thanks to one of her kids liking anime, had gotten into it herself. While Carol's interest in the store had seemingly been more about costumes than anything else, she was keen to help them expand, specifically wanting a store like this in Malibu as it was closer to home for her. Tucker, Lance and Bianca had talked about expanding; they were already in the process of trying to pick up Bianca's old store as a second location, but Carol's investment meant a lot more potential growth. What worried Tucker was the training process for new employees, as while Kayla was so far working out okay he doubted every new hire would be as good as her.
“It's okay, I'll take a cab back to the hotel, thanks for bringing me here!” came Michelle's voice, Tucker noticing she'd been talking with Carol. The pair had arrived together but now were departing separately, which was a good sign for Tucker since Michelle and Chrissy seemed to be hitting it off. The idea of an Australian super-model hitting it off with one of his friends and possibly endorsing his store really excited Tucker.
“Have a good day!” called Kayla from the till as Carol left, Tucker moving to join the new staffer by the register. “She seemed nice.”
“She's hoping to invest, so I hope she really is nice,” chuckled Tucker, Kayla smiling a bit in response. “Sorry to pull Krystal away like that.”
“No problem, she's great, but really unless someone has a question about a specific item, I should be okay,” replied Kayla. “Your scanner and all the payment stuff is working fine, the POS register is nice and simple. Cash is probably ideal for me until I can build up my knowledge base.”
“Yeah, I think you've about nailed it,” agreed Tucker. Umiko and Krystal were still in the back, frozen and posed with the mannequins just to keep them out of the way. Tucker was now considering going and unfreezing them since Carol had left; Umiko had only been frozen as she'd made a mistake and Krystal just because she was being a pain, even if only by not doing what Tucker had asked. With no one to help them, with Tucker talking to Carol and Krystal standing by Kayla at the till, a customer had walked out earlier after looking at some swords, but it was probably Tucker's own fault for freezing Umiko.
The door to the store opened again, causing the bell to jingle and distracting Tucker from his thoughts. A green-eyed redhead walked into the store, Tucker recognizing her and racked his brain for a name. The redhead was wearing a yellow blouse and a red plaid knee-length skirt, a tan straw fedora on her head with her hair behind her ears. As the woman got closer to the counter, Tucker remembered her name was Jaki and that she was another member of Umiko's sorority. Tucker was blanking on her surname but recalled using her back in the fall as a model for a calendar contest he'd participated in along with Julie and the Lady Raptors. “Hello Tucker,” greeted Jaki as she walked up to the counter, surprising Tucker as he wasn't even sure how she knew his name.
“Hi,” managed Tucker, not sure why Jaki was there, except maybe to see Umiko. Kayla was a short distance away but she didn't seem to be paying attention, having moved over to look at a few items on display inside the glass counters.
“I was hoping to talk to you about your... magical qualities,” revealed Jaki, leaning down on the counter, putting her chin in her hands and smiling sweetly at Tucker. “I saw what you did to Umiko and Krystal and I'm very interested in how...”
Tucker's blood ran cold, simply stunned with how blatant Jaki was talking about, apparently, his wand, not even going into the fact that she even knew about it seemed impossible. In a panic, Tucker went into damage control, pulling his wand and waving it like a man possessed, stopping time before starting to freeze everyone individually. Jaki, the closest, was frozen first, still smiling from in between her hands. Kayla was frozen next, standing with her right hand on the counter while her left was gesturing towards Tucker with her index finger extended, the brunette looking at Tucker as if about to ask a question. Michelle and Chrissy were last, the pair still standing by the DVD shelves. Chrissy's mouth was wide open and she was smiling, holding a DVD box in both hands as she looked at Michelle. Michelle meanwhile had a smirk of sorts on her lips and was reaching up, her left hand touching a DVD on the top shelf while looking at it, her right hand resting on a lower shelf. With everyone securely frozen, Tucker let time resume, certain he'd need to make a phone call.
“Ugh... what the hell, what the hell,” muttered Tucker, still reeling from Jaki's sudden arrival and probing questions. Heading into the back, Tucker checked and saw that Umiko and Krystal were still frozen and placed as he had left them among the extra mannequins, and since that particular room had no windows it didn't seem possible for Jaki to have witnessed him freezing them. Considering calling Julie to see if she knew anything, Tucker wandered back into the storefront, only to then jump when he saw two more women had just entered the store, though their hands were up.
“Wait a minute please, don’t freeze us; we can explain,” insisted the blonde of the pair who had entered. Tucker remembered her as being Amber Prescott, the current president of Umiko's sorority. The girl's hair was curly and she had sharp blue eyes, wearing a maroon V-cut sweater and jean shorts with a large purse over her shoulder, having sandals on her feet. With Amber was a girl Tucker didn't know but knew she was with Phi Sigma Delta; an auburn redhead with green eyes. Amber's companion was clad in denim, shirt and pants, her hair loose and spilling down her shoulders, with blue heels on her feet. Both girls had their hands up as if to show they weren't a threat, so Tucker decided to relent for the moment before freezing them in place. Something odd was clearly going on, so Tucker needed answers.
“Okay, I take it you're here with Jaki, who just I gave a little time-out, so care to explain what the hell is doing on?” asked Tucker, crossing his arms.
“It's complicated,” stated Amber, who then slowly pointed to herself and her companion. “I'm Amber, this is Phoebe, but right now we're both not exactly who we say we are.”
“What do you mean?” questioned Tucker, not getting what they meant. Tucker did however now remember the redhead, placing her as a vice-president of the sorority, Phoebe Monroe.
“Both Phoebe and Amber here, as well as Jaki until you froze her, are under the control of someone who, like you, has the gift of magic,” explained Amber. “Well, to be more specific, she is I...” As Amber spoke the last sentence Tucker noted a change in voice, Amber didn’t sound at all like she had moments before.
“What the hell?!” exclaimed Tucker, now more tempted than before to just freeze them both and call it a day.
“My name is Susie Kim,” announced the new voice from within Amber's body, Phoebe meanwhile continued to stand with her hands raised like nothing was wrong. “I can control the girls of Phi Sigma Delta, even possess their bodies like I am doing now. Earlier when I was in Umiko's body, I saw you freeze Krystal. Since I'm still, at least physically, in Malibu I decided to use Amber, Phoebe and Jaki to try and talk to you. I'm very interested in this power of yours...”
“Interested how?” asked Tucker, relaxing his guard, but only a bit. Tucker noted Phoebe seemed to be frozen, having not blinked or anything, but he hadn't frozen her; however if someone had magical control over another, they could ideally probably do that to them as well.
“Kindred spirits I suppose,” shrugged Amber, or rather Susie, though Tucker felt it easier to currently just think of her as Amber. “I've never met anyone else with that kind of power... Be nice to have someone I could share my secret with. Seems only fair, since I stumbled onto yours.”
“So... what do you want to do?” inquired Tucker, trying to get a good idea of just what this surprise visitor wanted.
“Well if you wouldn't mind coming by the Phi Sigma Delta house back at DSC the next chance you'd get, I'd love to talk properly in person; swap stories, compare magic, that kind of thing,” explained Susie/Amber. “When works for you?”
“I could easily be there in a few minutes if I wanted, I've got a trick for getting to places fast,” revealed Tucker, deciding the chance to meet someone with some interesting-looking magic was worth closing the store for a short time. “I'll just lock up the store and be right over... You want me to keep Phoebe and Amber here for you with Jaki and the rest?”
“As long as I get them back, I'll just freeze them myself,” decided Susie/Amber, nodding. “See you when you get here!” With that Amber suddenly went stiff and ‘empty’, she now stood with her hands on her hips and a smile frozen on her face. Tucker cautiously moved over to Amber and Phoebe from behind the counter, used to seeing frozen people but checking to see if this kind of freeze was like when he used his wand. After waving a his hands in front of the pair's faces and poking them in gradually more personal areas it seemed clear to Tucker it would be hard to tell them apart from someone frozen by his own magic. Jaki continued to stare at where he’d been.
“Well this day just got really interesting,” whistled Tucker, moving to lock the front door and put up the 'CLOSED' sign.
* * *
Having stopped time after temporarily closing Otaku LA, Tucker then proceeded to unfreeze his Ford Focus and drive to Malibu, wanting to keep the store closed for as little actual time as possible while still meeting with Susie Kim, sooner rather than later. Tucker did recall Susie had been amongst the girls he used for the calendar back in autumn but didn't remember much else other than she was Korean, a freshman, and she had a cute face.
Arriving on campus and pulling in near the sorority house, Tucker unfroze time before getting out of the car, deciding it was as good of a place as any to do so. The sizeable house looked almost Victorian, a sort of sand-like reddish orange in color with architecture Tucker would have imagined was popular around the time of the Civil War and now in modern times was considered retro. Taking a breath, as he wasn't sure what to expect, Tucker approached the front door and rang the doorbell.
“Welcome, Mr. Holmes,” greeted a woman’s voice as the door opened, revealing quite a surprise to Tucker. Standing in the doorway, holding the door open, was a woman who looked a bit past forty years of age and had both attractive blue eyes and nice blonde hair. What was surprising was the woman was wearing a classic French maid outfit, fishnets and all, her hair in a Dutch braid.
“Hi?” replied Tucker, glancing around in confusion.
“Please follow me, I'll take you to Mistress Susie,” explained the maid, beckoning for Tucker to follow as she began to walk away, Tucker slipped in before the door closed. The maid led Tucker out of the lobby into a decent-sized kitchen where several young women seemed occupied. One of Tucker's classmates, Leslie Chun, was in a white low-cut sweater and red shorts while barefoot, slicing tomatoes on a cutting board with her effectively black hair spilling down around her. Nina Nichols, another of Tucker's classmates whom he'd actually gone on a date with once, was in all black: black vest, black halter top and black knee-length shorts with pantyhose and black slippers, peeling cheese over a bowl. Angel Mathews, whom Tucker had seen in one of history classes with no prerequisites, was in gray and green, straining some boiled noodles into the sink.
The odd one out of the group was the one Tucker had come to see: Susie Kim. Tucker didn't know the girl, though she'd also been in that calendar from back in the fall, but smiled as the Korean approached him in a simple black dress.
“Okay Beatrice, you have chores to do,” Susie told the maid, who promptly walked off. “So... Tucker...”
“So... Susie...” echoed Tucker, not any clearer on how to proceed. “Should we be talking here?”
“It's okay, none of them are currently aware of what's going on,” Susie assured Tucker, turning to look at the three in the kitchen. “You girls don't mind if the two of us talk about magic, like the kind I'm using to get you make us a meal right now, do you?” None of the three women with Susie and Tucker so much as batted an eye; Leslie went to wash a knife in a sink while Angel poured the strained pasta into a bowl and Nina put the block of cheese back in the fridge.
“So how exactly are you controlling them?” asked Tucker, amazed at how natural everyone moved. Tucker was familiar with Type-7 Chips; Haley was using one to control her personal assistant Jennifer Yates, but there was always something unnatural about their movements, plus unless well-programmed, when speaking they came off as stiff and robotic. While the lack of reaction from the three kitchen workers was a bit machine-like, they moved naturally and fluidly, their eyes still seemingly full of life in spite of currently being puppets.
“This little beauty,” revealed Susie, facing Tucker again and indicating the chain around her neck. “The Royal Momju Necklace is its official name. A supposedly lost treasure from a family that once ruled the Korean peninsula.”
“Supposedly as in anyone who knows about it now thinks it was lost but you in fact have it?” questioned Tucker, wanting some clarification.
“Exactly,” confirmed Susie. Nina then suddenly moved away from the fridge and came to stand beside Susie at attention, her right hand raised up with her fingers spread. “Legend goes the king and queen gave the necklace to their female heir on her eighteenth birthday. Bound by blood of the family line, the wearer can control anyone who wears a ring it creates.”
“Creates?” asked Tucker, noting the gold ring on Nina's finger.
“The box that the necklace and original rings came in seems to always have more if they're needed,” explained Susie. “I'm not sure if the box itself does it or if just a ring in there is some kind of master ring that creates more when they're needed... there's just never been a limit to the supply. For my mother, it was a fancy jewelry case and for me its a cardboard box; still haven't run out of them. The necklace has been passed down for generations within my family, typically the oldest daughter getting it on their eighteenth birthday. Its our oldest heirloom.”
“So, that makes you a princess?” concluded Tucker with a smile, noticing Susie went a bit pink. “You're royalty!”
“It's not exactly a recognized throne anymore,” muttered Susie, looking away for a moment before her color returned to normal. “Anyhow the idea is a person who accepts one of the rings, usually by willingly putting it on or not rejecting it when it is forced on, becomes linked to the wearer of the necklace. I can influence the ring-wearers minds in a variety of ways, so long as they wear them. Blank out or alter memories, change their personalities, make them do what I want, see what they're thinking... even give them whole new personalities if I wanted. These changes even last after a ring is removed, though without the physical connection no more control can be made.”
“That's a lot of power in your hands,” breathed Tucker, looking specifically at Nina. “Read minds huh?”
“Yes, and I happen to know about the date the two of you went on, that's why I had her come down to help me, I thought she'd be useful,” confirmed Susie, putting an arm around Nina. “I was hoping we could have lunch and had started preparing it, but you did get here really fast... but we'll talk about that when its your turn to share. Right now why don't we hear about what Nina thought of that date you had with her a few months ago?”
“He was nice, a perfect gentleman, but we just didn't click,” announced Nina, Tucker more surprised that the woman talked naturally and even gestured a bit before returning to her original pose rather than what her thoughts were.
“That sounds about right,” nodded Tucker, shrugging. “You said something about personalities? Because I remember Angel from early in the fall, and she really changed.”
“Exactly. I made her go from your typical Goth and Wiccan chick to someone people could actually like in spite of her lifestyle,” acknowledged Susie, now having Angel and Leslie move to stand in the center of the kitchen as their work was apparently done for the moment. “There's all kinds of levels to my control. For example...” As Tucker watched, with Susie just looking at him rather than behind, Leslie and Angel suddenly locked hands and began to tango. There were twirls, quick steps and everything, the dance ending a minute later with Angel dipping Leslie before the pair stood right back up at attention.
“Yeah I doubt you planned something that intricate just to make me believe you have magical powers; never mind the French maid,” chuckled Tucker, even clapping. “What's up with the maid anyhow?”
“House mother; decided it was good to have a servant, no one wearing a ring even sees her, I've made them think she's invisible,” explained Susie. “I still let her live her life when she needs to. What's nice is the ring can let me put someone in stasis, freezing them similarly to how you can.”
“Well then, my dear princess, I suppose I should share my own story,” decided Tucker, smiling as she saw Susie go a bit red again and turn away. “It was about a year ago now that I bought a magic wand online. Your typical what-the-hell impulse. To my surprise, it was authentic.” As he spoke Tucker pulled out the Wand of Kronos, holding it aloft so Susie could get a good look.
“Doesn't look to special,” nodded Susie, then focusing on Tucker. “So you're like me a bit, in that you got your hands on a magical item and you're not some kind of wizard.”
“No, it seems like however magic really works; back whenever it was more common and not just fairy tales, it seems like items like these were enchanted with spells to make it easier to do things,” noted Tucker. “I have seen some other magic since I stumbled onto this... you're not the first person I've met to have a magic item like me, though to be fair yours is the first I've seen with such a potential for mind control.”
“So I am unique after all!” cheered Susie, seemingly in jest. “Can I meet these other people?”
“One step a time. I do respect the idea that secrets like these should be shared in the first person,” chided Tucker. “Still, maybe later I can at least introduce you. Anyhow, this is the Wand of Kronos...”
“Who is Kronos?” asked Susie.
“Greek Titan of myth, or possibly a real guy whose achievements are a bit larger than life,” shrugged Tucker. “Either way, the legend goes he controlled the changing of seasons, thus being sort of like a god of time. He had a scythe, and this wand was supposedly made from it. It allows me to manipulate time.”
“Wow, that explains how you got here so fast!” realized Susie, now engrossed in Tucker's wand. “How does it work?”
“Mostly taps and waves,” explained Tucker, holding it aloft. “Basic idea is you tap something to unfreeze it, or wave at it to freeze it. Multiple taps of the wand can cause time itself to stop though.”
“All of time?!” gasped Susie, her eyes going wide. “Okay, I've seen you freeze someone already, you've got to show me what stopping time is like! Please?!”
“Oh course, fair is fair,” nodded Tucker, leading Susie away from Nina and towards the kitchen island, figuring it would work as a surface. “I'm thinking that I’ll stop time, unfreeze you and we take a little tour of campus?”
“Oh, hang on, hang on!” insisted Susie, holding up her hands for a moment. Susie then suddenly seemed to go stiff, her hands still up in front of her with her face bearing a wry smile.
“Here we go!” exclaimed Susie a moment later, but Tucker noticed her voice wasn't coming from her, or at least from her body. Glancing around, Tucker saw Leslie was now moving and had moved to stand next to Susie's motionless body.
“Someone just got a bit taller,” observed Tucker with a smile.
“I like being taller, and Leslie's the tallest girl who is still at least part Asian in this house,” shrugged Leslie/Susie, Tucker deciding to just think of her as Susie to keep his mind straight. “I also want to experiment a bit. When you stop time my body will be frozen, but my mind will be here in Leslie's. When you froze Jaki earlier, I got kicked out of her head but could come back in, only to not be able move, only see. Be interesting to find out what happens now.”
“You sure?” asked Tucker, getting the wand ready.
“Oh, before you do, a couple of quick things,” added Susie, glancing at her original body for a moment. “One, don't try to remove the necklace. If the necklace comes off my body, my mind would be stuck in the body I'm in until its returned and anyone else wearing a ring would freeze, pretty much leaving my powerless. Also, don't try to remove a ring from anyone, it’s not possible unless its allowed by the necklace so you'd pretty much need to cut their finger off.”
“Yeah, won't be doing either of those things then,” nodded Tucker, vowing to be careful around Susie's body now that he knew about what could happen if the necklace came off.
“So I think we're good to see what happens when you stop time,” decided Leslie/Susie, leaning against the island counter.
“Okay, lets find out,” accepted Tucker, holding the wand aloft. “Watch carefully!” Making a bit more of a spectacle of his gesture than usual, Tucker tapped the wand against the island counter five times. It was on the fifth tap that Susie went completely rigid, before that Leslie's body clearly was shifting a bit on her feet with a big toothy smile on her face, her elbows on the counter.
“This should be a fun day,” Tucker muttered to himself, curious to see how Susie would react to everything. Discovering so many women linked to her meant Tucker might have a hard time of cleaning up if, for some reason, he had to deal with Susie, but so far things seemed fine. Shrugging to himself, Tucker tapped Leslie twice on the head.
“Huh, well you're standing differently,” noted Susie in Leslie's body, standing up straight and then suddenly looking around before focusing on her own body. “Wow! I can't sense anyone! I can't even feel their presence, and I could when Umiko was frozen!”
“So I guess now we know,” observed Tucker, glancing at Susie's body rather than her. “If time stops when you're outside of your body, your mind stays in that body. Can you even try going back to your own?”
“I already did – I can't,” revealed Susie, shaking a bit, but grinning in spite of everything. “This is so cool! Freaky, but cool!”
“Now before we go exploring, you want to try me freezing you in Leslie's body but then unfreezing your own body?” suggested Tucker.
“Yeah, be a good idea to know what kind of restrictions we're dealing with,” nodded Susie, putting her hands on her hips. “Okay, freeze me.” Taking the invitation, Tucker waved his wand and Leslie's body once again froze. Tucker then directed the tip of his wand to Susie's proper body, tapping it twice. There was no movement, and in face Susie's body seemed to remain rigid.
“Better check to make sure,” muttered Tucker, moving around the island to Susie's body. Tucker liked the cute smile on Susie's face so he left it alone, instead moving her hands from up in front of her to on her hips, mirroring the pose Leslie's body held. Another test was tickling Susie's armpits, which resulted in no reaction.
“One last test,” decided Tucker, smiling as he leaned in and kissed Susie's apparently frozen form on the lips. Getting no response, Tucker was now certain Susie's body was still frozen and thus she wasn't just messing with him.
“Alright, now lets see what this does,” continued Tucker, tapping Leslie with his wand to unfreeze her. The half-Chinese girl blinked and lowered her arms.
“Doesn't look like anything happened,” noted Susie, glancing over at her own body. “Here's the thing though... I can now sense the other girls. I don't think I can jump into their bodies, even just to look through their eyes... but I can now tell where they are, and still see what they see, I just can't do it directly. I could probably go back into my own body too.”
“Not going to?” asked Tucker, not necessarily complaining as while Susie was cute, no question; Leslie was more of just a flat-out hottie, at least in his eyes.
“I think I'm fine like this, feels good being taller,” giggled Susie, moving her arms over her body and feeling a few nooks and crannies. “It's funny, I usually just control Amber, Phoebe, Kelsey, Jaki and Nina directly, since they're the most dominant girls in the sorority. Well, Lola too, but that's something else. My point is, I kind of feel at home in Leslie's body...”
“Like finding that perfect pair of shoes,” suggested Tucker as he held out an arm. “Now then, my dear princess, shall we visit the commoners?”
“Well if a living titan is offering, I simply must!” laughed Susie, it being Tucker's turn to turn a bit red, though he was just glad she hadn't called him a god. “Oh, lemme just grab one thing.” Reaching into the Susie body's dress, the girl now in Leslie's body pulled out a silver ring and pocketed it, then wrapped her arm around Tucker's. With their arms interlocked, Tucker and Susie headed out of the kitchen and soon out of the door of the sorority house, out into the frozen campus of Decker State College.
The silence didn't seem to bother Susie too much, as Tucker observed, and neither did the motionless trees and birds suspended in mid-flight. Susie immediately focused on all the frozen people locked in place around campus. “It's really amazing the poses you can capture when you freeze everyone in such a natural state,” chuckled Susie as the pair walked down the quad.
“Hey, check it out,” remarked Tucker, indicating a pair of women on the quad that he wanted to single out. Two blonde students were standing alone, one holding a video camera while the other had a wireless microphone. Decker State College had a campus newspaper run by journalism students, the Raptor Weekly, which included a weekly web-cast. Currently the star of the web-cast, Laura Blair, stood frozen in front of her camera operator.
“Nice!” exclaimed Susie as they approached the two blondes. Laura was just above average height for a woman and had light skin as well as blue eyes. Laura's smile, a big bright one that was very cute, reminded Tucker a bit of Erika Stone, their main differences besides one of height being the flatness of eyes and a bit less natural color in Laura's cheeks. Laura's camera operator, whom Tucker recalled was Cassidy Rivers, was around the news anchor's height, looking more or less even, and also possessed blue eyes and an even complexion. Cassidy however had a tanner skin and a deeper shade of blue to her eyes, her body having a bit more curves to it as well. Laura was in a dark red trapeze-cut top and black knee pants, her hair styled straight and perfectly framing her ears. The anchor stood with the microphone held in her right hand, her left on her hip with that big grin on her face. Cassidy was in jeans and a brown T-shirt with the Global News Agency logo on it in white, the compact camera held up in front of her face with the side-screen open, her right hand holding the camera proper while her left hand steadied it. Cassidy's face was neutral aside from a small curl upwards on the corner of her lips.
“Been hoping to run into Laura here for a while,” commented Tucker, standing next to the web-cast host. “Always had a hard time tracking her down...”
“You know she's on Twitter now?” asked Susie as she focused on Cassidy, carefully removing the video camera from her hands and chuckling all the while.
“Ah, I should follow her,” muttered Tucker with a sigh, removing the microphone from Laura's hand. “So I don't think we ever nailed this down, but when it comes to what you're into...”
“Could really go either way, though for a proper relationships I'd probably go for a guy,” admitted Susie, putting a hand on Cassidy's hip. “It's funny... Laura looks like a made-up doll, and this one-”
“Cassidy,” interjected Tucker.
“-Cassidy looks like a mannequin,” finished Susie, glancing back and forth. “Amazing what a complexion can do.” There was a pause, Tucker taking in Laura’s appearance as he contemplated, then he started to grope her. “I've been meaning to ask,” Susie suddenly said, “You ever... mess with me when I was frozen?”
“I... well... a bit,” confessed Tucker, stopping from playing with Laura to look at Susie. “I only ever visited your place a couple of times though, to visit a classmate. Today was the first day I saw the kitchen.”
“It's alright; it's actually kind of hot,” shrugged Susie, putting an arm around Cassidy and giving him a grin. “I've had a body messed with before while I was possessing it and it was something else. Earlier when I was in Umiko's body, watching you, a part of me actually wanted to see what it would be like if you played with her a bit while I was still in there.”
“Well... food for thought,” Tucker awkwardly laughed off, returning his attention to the frozen blondes as Susie let go of Cassidy. “So you feel like playing with one of them?”
“I dunno, this is all still new to me,” mused Susie, glancing at the pair before down at Leslie's chest. “I mean, I'm not myself so ideally I shouldn't be that shy, but I'm really not sure...”
“No problem,” Tucker quickly said as he pulled out his wand while Susie wasn't looking at him, instead focusing apparently on her borrowed body's feet. With a quick wave Susie was just as frozen as the rest around them, arms crossed just below her chest and a few locks of dark hair spilling down the left side of her head as she gazed at her feet. Putting the wand aside, Tucker quickly moved up and lifted Leslie's body up from under her armpits, moving her from the stone walkway to just under a tree.
“Sorry, but you won't miss anything and I still get to check out those two,” offered Tucker to the frozen girl, lifting up Leslie's face. The half-Chinese girl's lips bore a hint of a smile but her eyes were a bit sad-looking, though Tucker was more just enamored with her appearance. “I guess if you're technically Leslie and just Susie on the inside, this isn't such a bit deal,” decided Tucker as he planted a large kiss on the girl's lips before letting her drop onto her back, thus leaving her on the grass with her hair sprawled around her like a shampoo model.
Upon returning to the blonde journalists, Tucker decided to start with Laura in spite of Cassidy also being very attractive, more keen to check out the woman he'd seen online for months rather than an unexpected delight. Tucker started by raising the blonde's arms in front of her, then bending her over slightly so he could pull off her top. As Tucker stood Laura back upright he realized, much to his delight, that she wasn't wearing a bra, her well-proportioned pink nipples already on full display as he put his arms behind her. Getting into the swing of things, Tucker dropped his pants and fell on top of her, not bothering to strip her lower half but instead go in through the zipper area of her pants, discovering she had indeed gone full commando. In spite of his excitement at nailing Laura, however, Tucker then looked over at Cassidy and was incredibly keen to see her naked as well, if in part for how evenly tanned she was but also in spite of having a sort of mannequin look to her she didn't seem vacuous at all.
Very much aroused but not finished yet, Tucker moved over to Cassidy and manage to yank her T-shirt off with little effort, not even having to repose her hands. Next came the bra, a basic black sports one, which revealed two lovely and well-tanned orbs with brown nipples on them. The jeans went next, revealing a black thong, and finally when they were gone Tucker knew that Cassidy was an amazing groomer, having only the faintest hints of hair on her groin as she stood naked and as evenly tanned as Tucker had hoped. There were no moles or rough areas on Cassidy's skin, it was perfectly smooth, further reinforcing Susie's earlier remark about reminding her of a mannequin. Cassidy, though, still looked very much alive even when frozen in place.
“I think we need some soft ground,” declared Tucker, putting Cassidy up on his right shoulder and carrying her a short distance so she was on the grass, under a tree different from the one where Leslie's body was currently residing. Deciding to go on the bottom, Tucker laid back and slipped his partner into place on top, thrusting with his hips while holding her shoulders and kissing her face. This went on for a few minutes before Tucker finished, gasping happily as he rolled over and rested his head on Cassidy's chest.
After taking a few minutes to rest, Tucker cleaned up, putting the two blondes in position as they were and returning to Leslie's body, standing it up before unfreezing it and the Susie mind inside. “So, little princess, shall we move on?” suggested Tucker.
“Yeah... lead on, Kronos,” nodded Susie, looking a bit confused. Nothing else was said however as Tucker took her hand and led her further around campus. The pair passed a few more frozen people but it was a duo that were sitting under a tree that Tucker ended up leading Susie towards.
“Got someone I'd like you to meet over here,” announced Tucker, bringing Susie up to two girls that were leaning against a tree, reading textbooks. The closer one was Tucker's girlfriend Julie Vaughn, who was in an olive green low-cut sweater and red shorts, her hair in a ponytail as she sat cross-legged with a book on chemistry open. Stretched out nearby, laying on her side was Stephanie Kinloch, glancing down at a business textbook with her left hand propping up the side of her head while her right hand’s fingers touched the lip of the page she was on. Stephanie's lush hair was hanging freely and she was wearing a white camouflage tank top and a light purple skirt, big looped earrings also visible. The motionless pair looked posed, almost like waxworks in a museum diorama.
“Wow, they're both gorgeous!” exclaimed Susie, kneeling down as Tucker meanwhile sat next to Julie. “I remember seeing her before, dunno about the other one...”
“This one's Julie, one of my girlfriends,” revealed Tucker, putting his arm around Julie. “She's got a magical secret of her own, but I think I'll let her explain it. Isn't really fair to just blab about something like that...”
“So you're going to unfreeze her?” asked Susie as she moved to look at Stephanie.
“Better not right now; she wanted some time today to catch up on some classes, its a long story,” explained Tucker, while rubbing Julie's shoulder. “That's Stephanie Kinloch, a cheerleader.”
“She looks great!” insisted Susie, laying down behind Stephanie and moving her right hands over the frozen girl's body. “Nice hair... great skin... really beautiful eyes... how is she not the captain?!”
“She is a freshman, plus I've heard leadership isn't her thing,” commented Tucker, now stroking the side of Julie's face as he got a little closer, cuddling. “Dating Chet Powers though.”
“Wow, good for her; he's really handsome,” whistled Susie, her hands now pushing the right side of Stephanie's hair behind her ear. Leaning over to look at Stephanie's face, Tucker watched Susie slowly drift closer before finally kissing the girl. Susie then pulled back for just a moment before moving in again.
“Those are really soft lips,” giggled Susie a few moments later, sparing just a moment to feel the frozen blonde's breasts. “I'm going to say... 36c.”
“Her chest?” asked Tucker, thinking Susie was talking about bra size.
“Yeah,” nodded Susie, then ducking down behind Stephanie to check her back. “Ah, I was close! 38!”
“Not bad, but then you're a fashion major aren't you?” noted Tucker as Susie now moved lower, fiddling with Stephanie's skirt.
“Yeah, I've been working on trying to figure out someone's measurements just by looking at them,” revealed Susie, lifting Stephanie's skirt and glancing underneath. “You know at first I was weirded out by this, even though my necklace lets me do this kind of thing to people wearing the rings, but I think that initial shock is starting to wear off...”
“I noticed,” grinned Tucker, giving Julie a quick peck before getting up. “So you want to head towards the art studios, maybe see if one of your professors is around?”
“Yeah, that sounds fun!” agreed Susie, stopping just long enough to kiss Stephanie's thigh before fully standing up. Once again Tucker took Susie's hand and led her around DSC's campus, now headed for the Beachside Studio building.
“Oh hello there,” Tucker suddenly said as the pair neared the building, spotting three brown-eyed women sitting on a bench on the edge of the path. The first one was Rae Sullivan, a cute brunette with big eyebrows that had a sort of girl next-door vibe to her despite being an immigrant from New Zealand. Tucker knew Rae through his Lady Raptor friends as Rae was on the soccer team's B-squad, and according to a couple of the players, a prime candidate to move up the A-squad next year. Rae was currently seated looking at the girl next to her, her left arm behind the bench while her right was gesturing away from her, her hand up and fingers slightly curled. Rae's mouth was hanging open and her knees were both arched towards her companions. For clothing Rae was wearing a denim vest with a red tube top, black knee-length shorts on her legs while tennis shoes were on her feet, her hair was hanging loose but very straight. Justine Zimmerman, an A-squad member, was sitting with Rae, grinning brightly as she looked at the B-squad member, her own hair straight against her shoulders. Justine's outfit was a bit more formal, being a white blouse and black skirt with pantyhose and black heels, almost making the soccer player look like a restaurant hostess. Beyond Justine, who was sitting with her hands in her lap, was a woman Tucker didn't recognize but she was a blonde who looked a little like Justine. Justine's apparent older sister, who looked to easily have nine years on her, was leaning past the younger Zimmerman, also focused on Rae but with a mild toothless smile on her face, her elbows in her knees and her hands up in loose fists. The oldest of the trio was wearing a blue baseball cap with no logo on it, a pink T-shirt with the word 'SHINE' on it in white, jean-shorts and black stiletto boots. A brown leather purse was sitting at the mystery blonde's feet, so Tucker moved to pick it up.
“Okay, those two are soccer players, but who is the hot one?” asked Susie, indicating the woman Tucker was trying to identify.
“According to this, Shelly Zimmerman,” revealed Tucker, having found the older Zimmerman's driver's license. “Turning twenty-eight in May. Justine's older sister by the looks of things, maybe cousin but they resemble each other too much I think.”
“Yeah, actually I think I remember seeing her during a class presentation now,” realized Susie, pulling the hat off of Shelly's head, causing the blonde to wobble slightly. “A student did a project on wrestlers and the attire they wore both in and outside of the ring. I'm pretty sure she was used as an example.”
“Nice; she does look decently fit,” observed Tucker, then watching as Susie sat her up straight. “You wanna play with her?”
“That's putting it mildly,” chuckled Susie, then glancing around. “You know what, I've kind of been kicking myself already for not checking out the other two we were by earlier. Now that I'm looking at this lovely girl...”
“Go for it, I'm not shy,” insisted Tucker. “There's no limit on how long time will be frozen for. Princesses get first dibs on the prizes...”
“I guess since this isn't my real body no harm in letting you see it naked either,” added Susie, glancing down as she ran her fingers down the sides of Leslie's form. “What about you?”
“Fair is fair,” grinned Tucker, pulling his shirt off. Susie in turn dropped Leslie's shorts before pulling off her sweater, and soon the pair were both naked. Susie pulled Shelly from the bench and moved behind it, laying her down on the grass and getting to work removing the rest of her clothes while the blonde was stretched out like a starfish. Tucker meanwhile moved Justine over and focused on Rae, standing on the bench so that his member would perfectly slide into her mouth. Soon enough Susie was naked in a 69 position on an equally naked Shelly while Tucker was moving Rae's head back and forth. Tucker did sneak a few glances at what Susie was doing in Leslie's body with Shelly but quickly closed his eyes, Rae's mouth starting to really get him stimulated.
“Whew... its really nice down there,” commented Susie a few minutes later, getting up off of Shelly and rubbing her lips. “I gotta say I'm glad you convinced me to do this. We should do it again... I could even introduce you to a couple of my girls.”
“Lets, um, wait on that, not sure how into that idea I am,” replied Tucker, getting down from the bench and tipping Rae's head over so her mouth dripped clean. “Well, maybe if they're frozen, but controlled...”
“Well if your girlfriend knows your secret, she probably knows you do this too, so I'm guessing she's fine with it so long as it’s only with frozen people?” asked Susie, starting to pull Leslie's clothes back on.
“Pretty much true, for both of them actually,” confirmed Tucker, working on his own clothes. “We'll see though, I could explain it to them. If nothing else we can always just freeze your girls.”
“Very true,” nodded Susie, finishing dressing. “Okay, lets finish cleaning up and go professor hunting...”
* * *
“There's my lovely lady,” remarked Susie as she stopped in front of two women in the hall of the Beachside Studio building, empty aside from the pair. Oriana Donnelly, fashion professor, stood motionless before her. Oriana was in her late forties but still quite attractive, possessing effectively black brown hair and dark green eyes that had a sort of amber tint to them. Oriana stood in mid-step, her hair straight with the left half behind her shoulder, a diamond earring visible. For clothes, Oriana had on tight dark navy pants with a matching long jacket, a cyan-colored top underneath and black heels on her feet. Also around Oriana's neck was a leopard scarf while her right hand held a large stainless steel handle-free coffee mug, a white smile on her face. Susie didn't recognize the person next to her professor, at least off the top of her head.
“Oh nice, the soccer coach!” exclaimed Tucker, helping Susie piece together who the other person was. Looking around forty, Glenda Peyton currently had her blonde hair tied in a low bun and was grinning just as brightly as Oriana, though her red lips helped make the color look about the same. Glenda was wearing a yellow blouse that wasn't tucked in, her initials on the breast pocket, and had white shorts on that only went halfway down her thigh. Like Oriana, Glenda was frozen in mid-step, left foot forward with both her hands slightly in front of her.
“Okay, I think I know what I want to do,” announced Susie, taking a moment to push the other side of Oriana's hair behind her shoulder. “I'll remove a piece of clothing, we'll hide, you unfreeze time for a moment, then stop it again, repeat until she's naked.”
“Works for me,” nodded Tucker, Susie glad he was going for it. After removing the scarf Susie joined Tucker going around the corner behind the frozen teachers, having checked if anyone else would be coming before unfreezing time. Susie watched as the wand was tapped five times and then, in a flash, sounds returned and both Oriana and Glenda started moving.
“Didn't you have a scarf?” Glenda suddenly asked, the teachers stopping as Oriana looked down, with Susie watching from behind.
“I swear I just did too,” noted Oriana right as Tucker tapped the wand again, the teachers froze with Glenda's arms crossed; Oriana meanwhile was looking down with her arms up. Susie ran over and took away the coffee cup from Oriana's outstretched hand before returning and letting Tucker unfreeze time.
“Okay, now I know you were holding your mug just now,” Glenda insisted, raising her right index finger while her left hand went to her hip. Time then froze again as Oriana brought her hands in to look at them with perplexity, Susie rushing over. The next item Susie removed was the jacket, then running back to continue and watch the prank's results unfold.
“Oh my god the jacket's gone too!” exclaimed Glenda.
“What's-” began Oriana, then freezing as Tucker once again stopped time. Running over to the teachers, Susie saw Oriana was still looking at her hands, her lips forming an oval. Stealing a kiss, Susie then pushed her professor onto her back and pulled off her shoes, standing her upright before returning to Tucker.
“-going on... my feet!” finished Oriana, looking down in surprise, Glenda following her gaze. With both women looking down and time frozen again, Susie decided the top was next, raising Oriana's arms temporarily above her head to do it.
“Your shirt!” cried out Glenda after Tucker unfroze time once more, Oriana was now just standing in her pants and green wraparound bra. Glenda had covered her eyes when time stopped once more; Susie deciding to drop Oriana's pants next and reveal a thong that matched the bra.
“Oh God my pants now too...” whispered Oriana, now using one arm to cover her chest while the other went for her crotch.
“That's cheating,” joked Tucker after he'd stopped time again.
“Yeah, I'm just going to take them both off if she wants to be like that,” scoffed Susie, running over and making quick work of the bra and thong. To Susie's delight she found Oriana did have very black hair around her crotch, though it was well trimmed, being little more than stubble.
“A plus,” giggled Susie, giving Oriana's groin a quick kiss before running back to Tucker, letting him unfreeze time once more.
“No...” moaned Oriana, now looking on the verge of tears as she stood naked in a public hallway, Glenda luckily covering her eyes. “How is this happening?!”
“I don't know, lets-” began Glenda, suddenly freezing in mid-sentence with her hands still covering her eyes. Oriana was hunched over with her arms strategically covering her naughty bits.
“Prank successful methinks,” commented Tucker, Susie nodding in agreement before feeling a light bulb go off in her head.
“Yeah, and I just thought of something,” revealed Susie, glancing around. “Okay, I'll dump her clothes at her feet but I wanna test something after.” Grabbing up Oriana's clothes, Susie quickly ran back to her professor and left the clothes in a pile on the floor. Oriana wasn't a bad teacher but the prank had been too much fun for Susie to resist.
“Any direction in particular?” asked Tucker as Susie returned to him.
“No, I was hoping to run this test on one of them but they're not wearing rings right now,” explained Susie, deciding to lead Tucker down the curve in the hall they'd been hiding behind. “I want to try putting a ring on someone while they're frozen and then have you unfreeze time, see what happens. I want to play it safe though so I'm only going to do it on someone wearing a ring...”
“Not a bad plan,” commented Tucker as the pair began walking the halls, passing a few students but, to Susie's disappointment, most of them male. Finally near the girls’ bathroom, Susie spotted someone worth ringing and who was wearing one similar to those Susie had visibly on her right index finger.
“She'll do,” declared Susie, quickly recognizing the girl they approached, who was a short blonde, under five feet, Susie was sure. The diminutive girl was nicknamed 'Pocket Barbie' around the school campus due to her height and her blonde hair, though her real name was Rita Hemp. The short cheerleader was currently wearing a black frilled skirt that left little to the imagination and a white tank top with the logo of a band Susie didn't know on it, her hair pinned up and a pair of books tucked to her side as she stood in mid-step, right foot forward. It was Rita's pulled back right hand that Susie had focused on, pulling out the ring she'd remembered to take with her earlier before leaving the sorority house with Tucker.
“If this works she'll make a great addition to your collection,” commented Tucker. “She's gotta be one of the shortest girls on campus. Really gives you a range of heights to work with.”
“Oh I wasn't going to keep her, I just wanted to show you how it works,” insisted Susie, being honest as the sorority was currently full.
“Why not keep her if it works?” questioned Tucker, shrugging in the corner of Susie's eye as she made the ring switch. “Having a cheerleader should be new for you, and again, a bit more variety.”
“I was hoping to avoid having another girl pledge, especially this late in the semester...” muttered Susie, aware there were only three bedrooms left in the house.
“She doesn't need to pledge, you don't have to constantly keep her nearby right?” pointed out Tucker. “Go on; having an in with the cheerleading squad might come in handy... though of course I'll ask you now not to ring Julie.”
“... You're right, and of course, I won't,” decided Susie, stepping back from Rita, leaning against the hallway wall with Tucker coming up beside her, both just out of Rita's line of sight, with no one else in that stretch of the hallway. “Okay, unfreeze time, lets see what happens.”
“Got it,” responded Tucker, Susie not seeing it but hearing the wand tap five times. In a flash Rita started walking, heading to her left away from the bathroom, but then she suddenly stopped. Rita stood in mid-step, looking to her left, and a moment later Susie got all the confirmation she needed. Susie could sense Rita, sense her mind and knew that the cheerleader had accepted the ring, feeling her finger seemed a bit off but accepting it as just being the ring having slid or something.
“It worked...” hissed Susie, trying very hard not to yell in case anyone was in the bathroom. Rita suddenly turned around and walked over to the pair, putting her right hand on Susie's shoulder.
“You are Susie Kim, and I am yours,” declared Rita, as Susie grinning ear to ear while she played with the cheerleader's mind.
“That is amazing,” chuckled Tucker, glancing around as Susie turned to look at him. “So now that we've seen what you can do and seen your place... wanna come see my collection?”
* * *
Tucker & Haley Leone's House
Tucker pulled up to his house, Susie in the car with him. After deciding to head back to his place, Tucker had stopped time again but unfrozen Leslie's body and they'd returned to the sorority house with Rita, leaving her in Susie's room and having her return to her own body. Tucker had also advised Susie to bring a couple of new rings she had. During the drive the pair had traded stories, Susie in particular bringing up what she'd done to Angel’s behavior and how now the girl’s persona was starting to feel a bit too artificial. “Maybe let a bit of her own personality bleed back in, or at least give her a some imagination not based on your own?” suggested Tucker as he parked the car.
“Something to think about,” nodded Susie as the pair exited the vehicle. “Wow, that's a really nice house!”
“Should be; cost an arm and a leg,” chuckled Tucker, leading Susie up and into the house amid the muffled tranquility of an unmoving world. Glancing through the ground floor windows, Tucker saw that Haley was in the living room with two other people, all of them frozen of course since time was stopped, but Tucker couldn't tell who they were at a glance.
“How much space have you got?” asked Susie as they headed inside, she kicking off the sandals she'd put on for the trip over while still wearing her simple dress, her rings hidden in pouch on the inside of the outfit.
“Technically we've got five bedrooms, plus an office space that could be converted into another bedroom, but right now only four rooms have beds in them while the other has our exercise equipment,” explained Tucker, leading Susie into the living room as he spoke, to begin the tour.
Haley was in a red one shoulder T-shirt, her black halter-top visible underneath, with a long white skirt decorated by yellow and orange pedal designs covering her legs. Haley's hair was down and loose, the picture-perfect model leaning back against one of the three black leather couches in the living room. Across from Haley sat Amy Spring, a fellow model, who was holding a glass to her lips with her right hand while her left rested on the back of the couch she’d had to herself. Amy's brown hair was in a rolled ponytail and she was wearing a black floral dress having full white lilies printed on it from around its spaghetti-strap style of top down to the circle skirt base. Finally, on the middle couch was Sunny Pierce, one of the neighbors, who had been frozen while talking and leaning forward in her seat with her right elbow resting on her knee, her index finger extended and gesturing at Amy. Sunny was half-Korean, so she had striking large eyes and was very attractive; her brown eyes seemed to shimmer even as she sat immobilized. Her left hand was resting on her leg; she had a big grin on her face with her teeth slightly parted. Sunny's long brown hair was done up in a tight French twist; by the looks of it and she was dressed primarily in red, wearing pants and a jacket that were both that color while her tube top underneath had a zebra pattern.
“So which one's this other girlfriend of yours?” questioned Susie, looking again at all three waxwork-like still figures. “They're all really pretty, I have to say.”
“The blonde, Haley,” answered Tucker, pointing at his roommate. “The half-Korean is Sunny, a neighbor. I think she works at a magazine but don't remember the details; only met her twice since we moved in. The other one is Amy, she's a model too.”
“Dating two blondes... not much of a sense of adventure,” laughed Susie, glancing around after getting one final look at Amy. “So where's this collection of yours?”
“First, I want to find Jennifer,” revealed Tucker, glancing around the house. Looking down the connecting hallway, Tucker spotted Jennifer Yates; the cute redhead was frozen in mid-step. She had her hair up in chopsticks and was dressed in a white hooded sweatshirt and jeans, with the sweatshirt having a red maple leaf logo on it. The former criminal, now programmed to be Haley's assistant thanks to the Type-7 Chip on the back on her neck, had been walking towards the living room while holding a folder, which Tucker quickly discovered contained some of Haley's photo-shoot favorites.
“This her?” inquired Susie as she joined Tucker, indicating Jennifer.
“Yeah; I wanted to see if maybe you could help with her,” explained Tucker, taking the folder from between Jennifer’s rigid fingers and putting it aside. “She's controlled by one of those Type-7 Chips I told you about. Doesn't always work the way I’d like, so I wanna see if we can ring her, maybe get her off of the Chip entirely and instead have you do to her attitude sort of what you did with Angel.”
“Well, I don't see a reason I couldn't, we'd probably just need to unfreeze her and remove the Chip,” commented Susie, not seeming to be bothered by the suggestion. “I would recommend we keep my control ring on her though. Never know when something might come up and it’s easier in case you want some kind of tweak to her new personality. Angel's a good example of that too.”
“Fair enough; let’s see if this will work,” decided Tucker, reaching around behind Jennifer's neck and plucking the postage-stamp-sized device from it. Susie meanwhile slipped a ring on the frozen redhead's right finger and, once they stepped back, was handed the Chip that Jen had worn.
“Gonna have to watch out for these,” muttered Susie, looking at the thing. “We only covered them briefly. So you can program a person who’s wearing one like a machine, but you can't read someone's mind and unless you're really good at it they may come off as unnatural?”
“That about sums it up, though I hear with a rig set up you could control someone directly one-on-one kind of like you do, but its far less efficient,” added Tucker, raising his wand. “Okay, lets unfreeze her, see if she takes. Her memory will be all screwed up, but her accepting it just has to mean she know the ring is on their finger and are fine with it?”
“Pretty much,” nodded Susie. “Either way I'm already having a good day. I'm really glad you talked me into keeping Rita...”
“No problem,” grinned Tucker, tapping Jennifer with the wand from behind. The redhead finished taking her last step forward and then stopped, suddenly looking down in confusion. Jennifer then raised her right hand to her face, looking at the ring that to her had just appeared there.
“The hell is this thing?” hissed Jennifer. “Whatever, it’s pretty. I gotta figure out-” Jennifer abruptly stopped, which Tucker took to mean Susie had control.
“Oh yeah; she's all ours,” chuckled Susie, nodding at Tucker as the pair then moved to inspect the controlled redhead. There was frown on Jennifer's face and her hands were held slightly away from her sides, her neck craning towards the living room. A moment later Jennifer blinked and her gaze focused on Tucker.
“Boo!” exclaimed Jennifer, though her voice was blatantly Susie's. Tucker however jumped a bit as Susie, in Jennifer's body, chuckled before breaking into full laughter, her real body standing idly next to Tucker with her arms crossed and eyes closed.
“Whew; you got me,” breathed Tucker, grinning in spite of the scare.
“You'll get used to it,” Susie assured Tucker, instantly now back in her own – well, Leslie’s –
body while Jennifer now stood at attention, her face blank. “So you got some basics for a personality I can inject?”
“For now focus on making her loyal to Haley and I,” suggested Tucker. “Obedient, willing to do whatever we ask. Maybe also make her aware of the wand while knowing she never talks about it. When she isn't needed we should ideally just be able to freeze her on command and store her and she'll always be fine with that; it will keep a bed open and food costs down. Can you make someone enter stasis on command?”
“I could implant the idea that when told to ‘freeze’ by you or Haley she more or less does,” confirmed Susie. “She needs a little bit more though... I'll give her the dream of someday owning a big boat, and give her a few different things to like from TV, music and all that.” Tucker watched as Susie closed her eyes and waved her hands in the air like a conductor with an orchestra. “I don't need to do the hand thing by the way; it just helps me focus,” added Susie as she apparently 'worked' on crafting a new persona. A few moments later Susie lowered her arms and nodded, opening her eyes.
“Okay, lets leave her here for now; I wanna show you my office,” suggested Tucker, indicating past Jennifer down the hallway.
“Lead on!” giggled Susie, taking Tucker's arm as he led her a short distance and into the side room. Besides his computer, desk, a shelf for computer games and other software the main things in the room were several cardboard boxes containing some costumes Tucker had collected over the past year, ones he didn't just keep at the store. Additionally a wax mannequin of Kim Corrigan that he'd received as a birthday gift stood on display in a corner, with two other women posed rigidly around it. The mannequin possessed a salmon V-cut dress and stood with its hands on its hips, right foot forward. Two members of Tucker's collection flanked the mannequin, holding the exact same pose and wearing dresses that were of the same design, though one was a dark purple and the other a tan. On the mannequin's right was Angela Schwarz, the redhead in the dark purple outfit with her hair down like the Kim statue’s, while on the other side of the mannequin was Leslie Schulz, who was clad in the tan dress and had straight blonde hair.
“Meet Angela Schwarz and Leslie Schulz; once considered dangerous criminals and now more or less permanent Kim Corrigan impersonators,” introduced Tucker. Susie meanwhile practically ran up to check all three out. The two humans of the trio of mannequins were mirroring the wax one's expression, a stone-faced slight smirk with a hint of confidence in the eyes.
“I really need to get a wax statue like this!” exclaimed Susie before focusing on the human women. “These two are great, Angela's got a kind of cute yet sultry look to her... Leslie looks a bit more like an adult valley girl.”
“Was originally a bounty hunter though, so I wouldn't say that to her face if she weren't frozen,” remarked Tucker with a smile. “The rest are in the basement. Shall we?”
“We're not going to see your room?” pouted Susie, Tucker surprised that she seemed disappointed.
“Well I'll give you a full tour later, for now I wanted to introduce you to the rest and then maybe unfreeze Haley so you can meet her and then we can finish up with Jennifer,” offered Tucker, happy to show Susie around but wanting to prioritize a bit, even though with time frozen they didn't need to really follow a specific plan.
“Okay, lets see what else you've got!” giggled Susie, following Tucker as he led her out of the room and, shortly after, downstairs. As Tucker wasn't worried about the cost, he constantly left the lights in the basement on; in particular the two spotlights focused on the pedestal one of his prizes stood on.
Having decided to make the basement Greek-themed, in part due having seen his onetime lover Tasia back during his birthday, Tucker had all six women that were downstairs costumed in togas. Each toga had a single strap and was white, the strap going over the right shoulder with the draping of the toga still covering the left breast. On one side of the pedestal stood two statuesque women, Tatiana Lebedev and Lara Zarilla. Tatiana's hair was down, as was the case with everyone else, and she was holding a cheap orange vase in between her hands out in front of her, her gaze fixed straight ahead and her face neutral. Lara was down on her left knee, a lyre held in her right hand while her left hand's fingers hovered over the strings. Lara, like the rest, held a blank look on her face. On the other side of the pedestal, Annika Ostergard was mirroring Tatiana's pose while Anastasia Stephanos mirrored Lara's, though instead of a lyre Anastasia held a fake wooden flute to her lips. Up on the pedestal was Zoe Hollander, the famous model posed looking up and to the left, with her matching left hand raised up in front of her while her right was raised only to her waist. Zoe was also the only woman in the basement display wearing headgear: a laurel wreath rested around her blonde head.
“Tatiana, Lara, Annika, Anastasia, and I believe you as a fashion major should know Miss Zoe,” indicated Tucker, but Susie was already focusing on the famed model, though as Tucker noted she was pretty much glancing in awe all around the collection.
“I've got over a dozen girls under my control, but that can't amount to having a legend of the modeling world standing here in your basement!” exclaimed Susie, then focusing on Anastasia. “Anastasia Stephanos! I remember her... poor girl never recovered from that kidnapping incident.”
“That's why she ended up here, seemed better than letting her work embarrassing fourth-rate shows before losing her looks and being forced to do something else she wasn't trained for,” observed Tucker obliquely, shaking his head a bit. “Still, there's a reason I asked you to bring two rings... and the second reason is over there.” Tucker pointed, directing Susie towards the mannequin he hadn't introduced yet: Candice Robins. The stunning African-American girl was posed by the side wall, standing in a toga like the rest, and held an amphora in each hand.
“Who is this, aside from someone you decided to let me ring?” asked Susie, moving over to Candice and touching her all over, clearly trying to get a feel for the dimensions of the girl she would soon, if the ring worked, be controlling.
“Candice Robins. I've always felt a little guilty about taking her,” admitted Tucker, rubbing the back of his neck at the memory. “Unfortunately, I froze two of her friends in front of her and she saw me right before I froze her, so I couldn't take the risk of having her identify me. A while back, I managed to get her family to stop searching for her by creating a note, but I'd like to, if possible, have her call them and say things are okay.”
“Not going to have her go back?” questioned Susie in surprise, her hands all the while fondling Candy's full breasts.
“Been too long; I don't see the point,” shrugged Tucker. “Still, I was thinking we could keep her ringed and you can just leave her in stasis, but if you ever need to talk to me privately, you can just hop into her and we can chat more directly than by phone.”
“Right, and since she's not usually active like Jennifer that's why stasis will work; plus she'll always be here, and Umiko will usually be at your workplace,” nodded Susie, now seeming to understand. “Okay, so how do you want to do this?”
“I'll unfreeze her, you grab her and, keeping her focused on you, explain you're helping her escape and that new ring on her finger is the only think preventing her from becoming a statue again, like the rest here,” explained Tucker. “If she thinks the ring will save her, she'll accept it, right?”
“Yeah; that should work,” confirmed Susie, pulling out her other ring. “Okay, lets get in position...” With that Tucker moved to stand behind Candice, out of sight but with his wand at the ready. Susie meanwhile succeeded in sliding the ring onto the frozen girl's left ring finger. With an exchange of nods, Susie grasped Candice's head, while Tucker tapped the African-American girl twice with the wand.
“What-” began Candice in surprise, immediately dropping the cheap plastic amphora jugs she was holding, though neither broke.
“No time, you need to listen!” insisted Susie, Tucker noting she'd even gotten her eyes a bit wet and was speaking in panicked tones. “I know this sounds crazy, but a warlock had turned you into a statue! The ring on your finger freed you, but you can't take it off! You need to get out of here, right away!”
“Statue?” gasped out Candice. “Warlock? What?”
“Look at those!” hissed Susie, pointing Candice's head at the rest of Tucker's collection in the basement. “You were frozen just like them! You need to get out of here, just don't take off the ring!”
“This?” asked Candice, raising up her hand. “Look, this is crazy, but—”
“No time, please go!” Susie now screamed, heedless of any noise since time was frozen.
“I...” began Candice, then she suddenly turned silent. Susie was still holding Candice's head, back to facing the Korean at the moment, her hands slightly parted from her hips. Moments passed and Susie stopped the fake tears, grinning as she let go of Candice, who remained motionless.
“Was too busy thinking if the rest of the story was fake to worry about the ring,” revealed Susie, rubbing her eyes. “So... Impressed by my acting?”
“Five stars,” chuckled Tucker, looking at Candice's unmoving face as he came around to her front and saw it was frozen in a look of puzzlement. “How's her memories?”
“She remembers seeing her friends go stiff and seeing you with a magic wand, so I think we can definitely be sure it was a good thing, for your sake, that you nabbed her,” replied Susie, taking Tucker's hand as he started to lead Susie back upstairs. “There's enough in there that I'm pretty sure if she talks to her parents they'll let her go, or at least from what I've seen in her head they should be okay with it. What's this about test-driving a car?”
“Another long story,” grinned Tucker as they reached the top of the stairs. “Well I think its time you met Haley... After that we can probably finish up with Jennifer and then make a quick stop by the store to pick up your girls, then go back to the college?”
“Works, but I’ve been meaning to say something about your store,” chimed in Susie as the pair now headed down the hallway to return to the living room. “I've got a bunch of girls staying around for the summer but they don't have jobs... what if I loaned a few to you to help with this shop expansion, or at least until you get some real staff?”
“That would be a huge help!” exclaimed Tucker, liking Susie's idea with every step as they reached the trio of couches. “Okay, time to meet Haley...” Susie stood in front of Tucker's model girlfriend as he did, only she stood by while he reached out with the wand and tapped her twice with it.
“... Oh hey Tucker-who's... this?” greeted Haley before suddenly sounding almost instantly jealous, pulling her arms down from the back of the couch to her lap.
“Haley, I'd like you to meet my new friend Susie, and trust me, you're going to love this,” introduced Tucker, grinning ear to ear as Susie offered Haley her hand.
* * *
Watching from an alley between buildings, a lone figure observed two people stepping out of Otaku LA. One was a target, the other just happened to be attractive and worth snatching as well. A tall blonde, Michelle Foster, and a shorter Korean, Chrissy Pak. “I swear that hour went by super fast,” commented the sleek Australian supermodel as she stood to the right of Chrissy.
“The second half-hour, definitely,” agreed Chrissy, putting her hands on her hips as she glanced around. “I gotta say, it was amazing to meet you. You should come see a game sometime or something...”
“Thanks, I do enjoy watching soccer,” replied Michelle. “I am going to be in town for a while... My friend Audrey just signed with Models Inc and I was invited in to speak with them about joining more officially. Negotiations could take over a week, which is why I met up with Carol.”
“There's an exhibition match in a few days against UCLA before we head off to the championship tourna-” Chrissy began to reveal, only to end up cut off as the person watching them stopped time. Chrissy froze with her right hand raised, pointing at her unusual companion. Michelle meanwhile was resting her hands on the small of her back, looking over at Chrissy with a soft smile on her face.
Smiling to herself, the woman who'd just stopped time emerged from the alley and stood in front of the unmoving pair.
“Chrissy... I think its time you became a part of my palace,” Maggie Yen told the frozen Korean girl as she flicked one of the bells on her magic clock. “Michelle... Wasn't expecting to see you here, but I think you'll fit right in...”
The End - until justice doesn't mind...
CAST (in Order of Appearance)
Tucker Holmes – Drake Bell
Umiko Pine – Maki Horikita
Krystal George – Gabrielle Christian
Kayla Eaton – Anna Kendrick
Chrissy Pak – Jenna Ushkowitz
Michelle Foster – Holly Valance
Carol Wilford – Melinda Clarke
Susie Kim – Kim Hyuna
Angel Mathews – Kristen Stewart
Rose Mazza – Lucy Hale
Hannah Kai – Brenda Song
Chata De La Toro – Tia Texada
Lola Guzman – Natalie Martinez
Jaki Newborn – Emma Stone
Amber Prescott – Brittany Snow
Phoebe Monroe – Lindsay Lohan
Beatrice Weiner – Peta Wilson
Leslie Chun – Shay Mitchell
Nina Nichols – Sasha Grey
Laura Blair – Ashley Hinshaw
Cassidy Rivers – Jennifer Lawrence
Julie Vaughn – Katrina Bowden
Stephanie Kinloch – Cassie Scerbo
Rae Sullivan – Jessica Lee Rose
Justine Zimmerman – Jamie-Lynn Spears
Shelly Zimmerman – Britney Spears
Oriana Donnelly – Demi Moore
Glenda Peyton – Julie Benz
Rita Hemp – Shawn Johnson
Haley Leone – Kaley Cuoco
Amy Spring – Emily Blunt
Sunny Pierce – Lindsay Price
Jennifer Yates – Isla Fisher
Angela Schwarz – Lauren Ambrose
Leslie Schulz – Katherine Heigl
Tatiana Lebedev – Mila Jovovich
Lara Zanella – Deborah Secco
Annika Ostergard – Valeria Mazza
Anastasia Stephanos – Rachel Bilson
Zoe Hollander – Ellen Barkin
Candice Robins – Naturi Naughton
Maggie Yen – Yin Chang