Chapter 3 - A Magical Evening
"That shrub goes over there next to the wall. Hey, you! Put the fern over here next to the statue! I'm not paying you guys to gawk!" Jill barked at the workers shuffling back and forth from the mansion bringing in an assortment of potted plants and other items for her new project. She wanted the area which was being filled with all this fauna to be a showcase for her talents as a decorator as well it's newly placed centerpiece.
Running her hands over the edges of the marble display that stood in the center of the room, she couldn't help but be amazed by the fact that just yesterday the two women erotically etched in cold marble had been living breathing people. Jill wondered to herself if they could still hear or feel anything in their current state of immobilization. Judging by the amount of "persuasion" Puppet Master had used to make her accept this job, it was something she could do without finding out personally any time soon. She had no desire to become another of the statues, or a blow-up sex doll. For now, Jill decided to concentrate on the room's look and keeping her benefactor happy... until she could figure a way out of this nightmare.
Just then, Puppet Master walked in the front doorway followed by his aide, Shapeshifter, who looked a little bent out of shape by the expression on her face. They seemed to be quarreling about something that seemed far more important to Shapeshifter than to her boss.
"You just up and move her out of my room without telling me? Why the hell would you do that without telling me first?" Shapeshifter snarled at her employer.
Puppet Master looked at her with a slight look of amusement on her face. "My dear, I am well aware of the relationship you two have. That is why I had her moved to a more than secure location in case our work delays our return here for a length of time. Rest assured, she won't be causing any problems before the conclusion of our plan," he said in a smooth manner.
Shapeshifter eyed her employer coldly. "You know the history we share. If Shimmer comes knocking on my door in the morning, I'll know who to be talking to..!" she said in a very nasty way.
The villain waved at her dismissively. "You forget, Shapeshifter, I plan for everything in this affair. Everything has gone as expected so far. Now, why don't you run along upstairs and relax? You look a little haggard," he said, pointing in the direction of the bannister leading upstairs.
Shapeshifter sighed. "All right - for now. I am feeling a little worn out from the last few days. Maybe a few hours rest will help me feel better for what's ahead. Wake me when we go out for your next acquisition," she said as she ascended up the stairs, completely ignoring Jill and the workers.
Puppet Master followed her up with his eyes. "A shame, really...oh well.." he muttered softly to himself. After a few seconds of silence, he turned his attention to Jill, who was standing in the middle of the waiting area adjusting a plant next to the erotic statuary.
"Jill, this piece looks great! I have one more addition to make this area really stand out, if they're displayed right," Puppet Master crowed as he handed her two large plastic bags.
When Jill looked in, she could see clearly by the colors of the fabric that these were the costumes and undergarments belonging to superheroines Invisible Woman and Crystal, who now composed the erotic embrace in stone that was exhibited in the room's center.
She looked up into the beaming face of the man she was growing to hate more every minute she was coerced into working for him.
"You see, what I think would really add to this room is if you could find a way to display my lovely statues' former clothing to really make it stand out who they really are," Puppet Master crowed. "Perhaps draping the costumes like this.." he said, laying the blue leotard of Invisible Woman over Sue's rigid white marble arm while doing the same with Crystal's uniform and lingerie.
Jill walked over and pulled the clothing off the statue, not wanting to say how garish and crude that looked. "I have a better... a different idea. Why don't you set up two display cases on the walls to contain your ..uh.. subjects' clothing? A gold name plate underneath each with the name and date they came to be part of your collection," she said, hoping to get Puppet Master on her good side.
Puppet Master nodded, which gave her a sigh of relief. "Good.. very good! It seems I made a wise choice of bringing you in to aide me instead of letting Shapeshifter have her way with you, as she wanted. Well, order the appropriate materials from a framing shop and have them delivered by tomorrow for installation. I'll need your expertise in a day or so as well for decorating my game room theme around my latest acquisitions," he concluded quietly.
Jill was about to say how difficult that might be when a noise emanated from the study room next to where they were. "You've got mail ..you've got mail..." echoed the familiar voice repeatedly from an unattended pc in the room. Puppet Master walked over and glanced briefly at the screen. "Sender's name is..Phillip.." he murmured before his head snapped up. "Jill, I have to attend to this; please make those calls right away and give me some peace and quiet till then," he snapped at the woman in the doorway.
She would have inquired why, but discretion told Jill to give the man what he wanted so she closed the door as she walked away musing how she was going to keep this crazy man happy and avoid Shapeshifter's transforming hands until she could figure a way out of this predicament.
It was a dark and quiet night around the town that night, especially around the older part of the city where several abandoned buildings and closed factories stood. Moving quickly and with great stealth towards one of the buildings were two hooded figures dressed in dark green from head to toe. Stopping in front of a building marked Carl and Carla's Ice Treats, the two strolled past the Closed sign on the front lawn and silently opened the front door. They then walked to the back of the deserted plant where they paused, standing in front of a walk-in freezer door. One of them reached out with a clenched fist and pressed the ring on one of his fingers into an indentation shaped like a snake. After several seconds, there was a clicking sound followed by the silent retraction of the door.
Stepping through the threshold that was shrouded in cold mist and ice crystals, they walked towards the back of the freezer that looked far bigger inside than from outside. There were several huge blocks of ice resting together in the formation of a chair or throne; sitting atop these cubes was a beautiful ice sculpture of a nude woman. The painstaking details in it, right down to where the legs ended just above the ankles, would have wowed any sculpture expert observing it. However, the fact that it was moving of its own accord as she turned to meet the new arrivals indicated that this was no ordinary piece of nicely shaped ice.
"Mistress Viper, we are hear to report on our mission," the first man said as he assumed a semi rigid military pose in preparation for his speech.
"Go ahead, number 17, tell me quickly of your success. It's getting rather too warm in here for my comfort," Viper replied as she dumped another bag of ice into her frigid lap. Although Viper could talk and move, her face was still mostly frozen in an expression of extreme pleasure that she had felt when she had her private encounter with Shapeshifter and had been turned into ice. She was found by her agents shortly after her foe escaped but not before her feet and lower legs had already melted into a puddle of water. They had brought her here to preserve what remained.
"Ummm... well, we have determined Shapeshifter is now employed by the Puppet Master. We have sent an agent to infiltrate Puppet Master's organization and assassinate her, but we have yet to hear back from her," the man reported with his voice noticeably shaky in tone. He was shivering uncontrollably while trying to remain at attention.
"Continue.." the icy villainess replied, a tad impatiently.
"Well, our scientists have been able to stabilize your condition as it is now but have yet figure out how to revert you to human form. They have a few theories so far, but nothing more," the man said with his voice growing fainter by the end.
If the men weren't aware of the fact that the Viper's face was for the most part static, they would have sworn that a glint of intense anger was briefly visible in her eyes. She tapped her fingers so hard on the sides of the ice blocks she sat upon that small chips of ice flew off it in all directions.
Viper looked at the speaker icily. "They can do nothing more.. am I to be in this form forever? " she inquired of her aide.
"Umm, nothing yet. You'll just have to learn to, well, live with it for now," the aide replied flippantly. He craved his next cup of hot coffee.
"Number twenty-six, is there anything you wish to add to this report?" Viper asked the other aide, never taking her eye off the first.
"Other than I fully expect our scientists will achieve a breakthrough soon...that's all for now, Mistress Viper," the man said, mentally wishing he were somewhere else right about now.
Viper nodded. "Very well. Number twenty-six, dispose of your compatriot now," she said coldly.
Before number seventeen could react or try and change the icy Viper's wishes, there was a quiet CHUFF! followed by a slowly spreading patch of crimson spreading across his chest. He toppled to the floor, dead, with a small trickle of blood emanating from his mouth and a look of surprise still visible in his lifeless eyes. Already, ice crystals were forming in his hair.
Viper glared at the remaining man. "Contrary to the old adage, I do wish to kill the messenger who bears me bad news. Tell those scientists I want a report from them in person by the end of the week and they better have a cure for me by then. Do you understand, number twenty-five?" she inquired. "I do hope you will not bring me more bad news..."
The henchman nodded, backing out of the room quickly after she dismissed him with a flick of her frozen hand. As he was leaving the freezer, he could hear Viper yelling into her cell phone for someone to make it colder in there immediately. The newly promoted man made a mental note to find out the ranking in the organization of the scientists who would have to make the report Viper requested. "After all, it could mean another promotion for me if today was any indication ... " he thought to himself as he scurried out, shivering, into the night air.
audience laughed and applauded loudly at the sight of the chubby man on the
stage wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts. Next to him, a woman
wearing a blue and black magician's outfit, complete with top hat and fishnet
stockings, was gesturing towards a cage where a bear cub paced back and forth
wearing a T-shirt and pants.
"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you all enjoyed tonight's show of magic and mystery. I think Bernie here might be looking to borrow some clothing from some of you as the current wearer might be unwilling to give them up," the woman said to great laughter from the audience.
"Thanks again and I hope the rest of your evening is as magical as it has been here!" she said with a flourish before uttering several unintelligible words. There was a brilliant flash of light and smoke around the magician and when it dissipated after a few seconds, the woman was nowhere to be seen. The crowd roared in approval once more and applauded for several minutes before filing out towards the exits.
Backstage, the magician walked through the work area, accepting kudos from various stage hands and fans. "Congratulations, Zatanna! Another great show! The crowds get bigger and more every time you perform," exulted a thin man with a blue cape and graying hair at the temples. "You really should join me at my next meeting with Clea. She's always wanted to see how she compares to you in style and grace."
Zatanna shook her head. "Sorry, Steven, but between my stage work and the occasional dimensional travel to fight assorted demons in other realms, my plate's pretty full. Some other time, my good friend. Have a good night!" she said, giving the man a big hug before he strolled off.
After the staff, custodians, and fans had all gone home for the night, Zatanna wandered out onto the stage musing over her life to date. Few people knew that outside of her magic act, Zatanna was a powerful sorceress whose unique spells spoken backwards made her a formidable combat in any battle. Despite her many adventures combating evil around the world as well as in foreboding realms of demons and devils, she still preferred the simple task as making someone happy with the pulling of a rabbit from a hat.
Zatanna's private musings were interrupted by the approach of two figures who were mounting the stairs from the audience area onto the stage . One was a brunette garbed in a long tan raincoat and dark sunglasses, which was rather odd for this time of night. The other was a plump red haired man in an expensive tuxedo who seemed extremely happy judging by his expression.
"Congratulations, young woman, on a fantastic performance. Me and my wife thought we'd wait till after everyone was gone to congratulate you and also inquire about your availability for, um, private performances," the man said while extending his hand in gratitude.
Zatanna was about to accept the man's outstretched hand when her eyes narrowed for a second as though she had suddenly recognized something about these two. Without warning, she inhaled deeply and stepped back a step or two with her arms raised in front of the pair.
"Sdnab fo ygrene parw dnoura ym seof dna peek meht ta yab! intoned the sorceress, using her unique brand of magic. Energy crackled from her fingertips and shot forward around the two people in front of her. They fell to the ground wriggling against the binding rings of crackling electricity. In his struggle, the man's wig fell off revealing himself to be the villainous Puppet Master.
"Did you really think I would be fooled by such a cheesy disguise, Puppet Master? My father told me all about his encounters with both your father and you. Now, while you and whoever your friend is are tied up, I'll be calling the appropriate authorities," Zatanna said as she started to walk off the stage towards a nearby pay phone.
"There's no need to call anyone, my dear. Why don't you come over here instead?" a different voice called out from the shadows in a husky timbre.
Zatanna stepped towards the shadows with arms clenched at her sides, ready for trouble. "Who's there? Come out and show yourself, mister," she called out.
The figure stepped out to reveal himself. He looked like a mixture of baboon and man with a large nose and claw like hands. His dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail; with his attire of a bright green uniform and red boots he looked quite garish, to say the least.
"I am The Mandrill, my dear, and I love all women especially you, my dear. Don't you love me as well, dear Zatanna?" he said beguilingly, looking deep into her eyes.
"I... I don't want to.." Zatanna struggled to say at the same time a smell of something powerful was overwhelming her senses and affecting her ability to think clearly. She raised her hands weakly in preparation to cast a defensive spell.
"You don't fear me. In fact, you only wish to serve and obey me, don't you?" Mandrill intoned as he gently grasped her left hand.
"I...can't... I...won't..." stammered Zatanna as she felt her force of will being washed away from her. She wanted to turn away, but her very being was overwhelmed by the garish man standing in front of her.
Zatanna closed her eyes for a few seconds and then opened them again with a vacant stare. "I serve The Mandrill's cause," she intoned, without a shred of resistance in her dazed voice. She let her free hand fall to her side as she prepared to carry out Mandrill's every desire.
Mandrill laughed softly as he leaned forward to whisper a few words in Zatanna's ear. Wordlessly, she turned around and with a slight gesture of her hands the energy surrounding Puppet Master and Shapeshifter dissipated immediately. Zatana continued to stare blankly at them.
Puppet Master stood up and brushed himself off. "Very good, Mandrill. You have her completely enthralled. Do you remember the second part of our agreement?" he prodded the man-beast, who was running his large hands over the immobile heroine.
Mandrill nodded slowly and leaned over near Zatanna's left ear once again. After several seconds of talk and a few gestures, he stood up and said softly, "Go ahead, my dear. Prove your love to me now..."
Zatanna nodded happily and, raising her forearms, began to chant:
" ekam ym ydob worg niht dna thgil
erusaelP lliw llif em nehw I ma delnah,
ydoB lliw won eb edam of letam dna citsalp
teY I lliw eb hsawa ni ysatce yltnatsnoc. "
When she finished intoning her spell, a
glow surrounded her almost immediately. She found her own body becoming
slimmer and lighter by the second. She couldn't move a single limb at
all, yet she felt extremely happy. As she found herself becoming thinner,
she literally toppled back onto the floor with a loud CLANG!!. She couldn't
move or talk in the slightest yet was extremely happy as she was making her
love Mandrill happy. All she thought of as her mind faded with the completion
of her self-transformation was of looking great and feeling so good. She
now resembled a neon sign such as one would see in the local pool halls or as
over motel signage.
Puppet Master looked down on what now was a life-sized sheet of bronze with Zatanna's image embossed on it. He nodded to Shapeshifter, who was still pulling herself to her feet with a great deal of effort, "My dear, could you please finish up with my newest acquistion?" he said a tad impatiently.
Shapeshifter nodded slowly as she pulled out a piece of iron with a wire attached to it. She used her raw strength to merge it with the living sign that was Zatanna. After she had finished it, she plugged in the sign to see the desired effect.
The neon flickered on as the electricity coursed through it. As the word GREAT lit up, Zatanna's face lit up too with a bright glow of energy. When the word FEATS lit up, the rest of her shapely body lit up, creating quite a pleasant sight of a profiled look to the sexy magician. Finally, when the part of MAGIC became illumunated, the sign flickered for several seconds and as it did, the clothes on Zatanna literally disappeared revealing the nude form of Zatanna from her bare breasts with visible left nipple down to her bare thigh and foot.
Puppet Master clasped his hands in happiness. "Excellent! This will look spectacular in my game room! Gather it up, Shapeshifter, while I conclude my business with Mandrill," he said happily.
Shapeshifter bent down and unplugged the sign but then fell to one knee with a loud sigh of exhaustion. Mandrill moved over next to her. "I can help you if you want, my dear. Help you to love me..." he said, softly.
"URRKKK!!! " Mandrill struggled to talk as a firm hand grappled him around his neck. As Shapeshifter held him, she looked him square in the eyes. "Never try that crap with me, buster !!" she hissed menacingly. She then threw the villain back towards the stunned Puppet Master, who nodded as if he had expected all this.
Once he recovered his composure, Mandrill quickly took his payment from Puppet Master and disappeared without a backward glance. Puppet Master watched him go and then turned his attention to his employee and his latest artwork.
"Shapeshifter, we need to talk.." he intoned in an urgent manner. "You need to know a few things about yourself and your current condition. Let's take my newest acquisition back to the mansion and then we'll talk there."
Puppet Master took one final chance to run his hand over the living neon sign, noting how the figure was raised ever so slightly outward so he could almost feel the living person trapped within it. Smiling, he walked off the stage cradling the sign in his hands thinking how Jill would display it back home. Shapeshifter followed a few seconds afterward, unsteady on her feet but resolved to get answers from the smug and arrogant Puppet Master..one way or another...
Next : Somewhere in the night...