Time was something that Lady Justice, Silent Dragon, Lockdown, Lilly Anderson and Jenny Oliver were hoping to save as they embarked on their brave but foolish mission. Elsa Louiselle, Claire Greenfield, Chloe Davis, Maria Chavez, Ashley Cornell and even Judgement Girl had all been turned into mannequins by the aptly named Mister Mannequin, a transformation that Cold Fusion had made irreversible through normal means. Elsa's lab had been turned to stone and also couldn't be restored until one month had passed, and even then Jason had expressed doubts on the groups being able to use the lab's contents to restore those that were transformed. Desperate, Lady Justice suggested that they search for the only beings they knew of capable of getting them out of the pickle they were in. The group was now on a hunt for Tick and Tock.
“I just called my dad, he says the vault is secure,” Lilly told the others as they entered New Oslo's central mall. James Anderson had agreed to use his private vault to store the six mannequinized women until the group succeeded in finding the two goblins and convinced them to help. The vault was located under the Anderson Estate and protected by several security guards and a system that was sensitive to nineteen different kinds of triggers. The were as protected as could be.
“Are you sure they're here?” Nathan asked Lockdown as the group wandered the mall. It was a typical building, featuring plain white walls and a square black tile floor. Benches and potted plants were everywhere, as were people. Lockdown herself had offered to take on the task of finding the two time-manipulating goblins using her telepathy. By concentrating hard the FBI agent could vaguely hear the thoughts of the two and use the sounds as a way of tracking them, though it was giving her a massive headache.
“Positive,” Lockdown assured the martial artist as she stopped and rubbed her temple. “Their heads are filled with a lot of humor right now, so I'm picking up a lot of giggles. They're very close...” At these words the other four members of the group began scanning the nearby area with their eyes, failing to recall that Tick and Tock could also make themselves invisible. The goblins weren't interested in the city's defenders but since they were being sought out they decided to act. Lockdown was unable to sense that the two goblins were about to create a time bubble around the entire mall, which they promptly did, freezing time within it. The mall had been full of echoing footsteps and conversation but was now silent as everyone within the building was completely still, stuck between ticks of the clock.
“Today will be fun after all!” exclaimed Tick as he and his other half materialized before the frozen group of five. Lockdown stood with her eyes shut, her hands on her temples, her knees slightly bent. Nathan stood on Lockdown's left, his face shaped sternly as he looked over his left shoulder, his fingers loose. Lady Justice was on Lockdown's right, her hands on her hip as she looked straight ahead, her face serious. Lilly had pulled out her cellphone once again and was looking down at it as her right finger hovered above the numbers, her own mouth open as if she was about to speak. Jenny was clutching her elbows and glancing to her right with a look of worry stuck on her face.
“Lets teach them to try and capture us!” giggled Tock as he admired the frozen women, ignoring their male companion. Tick agreed and the two went to work climbing the five and forcing eye contact once they sat in front of the person's face. Tick naturally started with Lilly, being his favorite of the five, while Tock started with Lockdown, making sure to open her eyes. Once eye contact was made the two were unfrozen only to be immediately hypnotized. Tick and Tock jumped off their victims and repeated the process with Jenny and Lady Justice while the previous two changed to standing at attention, their eyes unfocused, Lilly's cellphone turned off and returned to her shorts pocket. Jenny, Jessica and Nathan were also hypnotized into doing this. Next the goblins had the five enter a nearby JC Penney and quickly found a window display which featured only one female mannequin with a curly brown wig, a red tank top and brand name jeans. The mannequin had white 'skin', red lipstick and blue eyes, its hands on its hips. Tock had Lady Justice go change into a civilian outfit while Tick ordered Lilly to stand on the mannequin's left with her right arm around its shoulders while her left rested at her side, her left knee bent with her heel raised, a neutral expression on her face. Jenny mirrored the same pose on the mannequin's right, her arm on top of Lilly's. Tick promptly refroze the two young women as Lady Justice returned wearing a red dress similar to Lockdown's though she still wore her old shoes. Lockdown stood near Jenny, Lilly and the mannequin on the right side of the window, facing across with her arms stretched out in front of her as if she were in a conversation, though her face remained neutral like the others. Lady Justice then took a similar pose across from Lockdown with her right hand on her hip and her left bent forwards with her palm facing up. Finally Nathan was added to the group, standing in between the two heroines though more towards the back, his hands in his pockets. The three were then frozen as well and Tick and Tock promptly vanished from sight, leaving Lady Justice's uniform in the store changing room with the utility belt. The time bubble then faded from around the mall and all save those added with the window display were unfrozen as time resumed.
It would be three days before people finally realized that there were real people in the window display at the mall. During the time in between this realization and the initial occurrence two major events would occur in the city. The first was Technomagus, having determined that the city's defenders were at a serious disadvantage, taking over a local computer development factory that was owned by a branch of Vernon Enterprises. Over eighty people had their minds taken over by one of the robot's many rays and began redesigning the factory to produce robotic drones instead of computers. To prevent people from becoming suspicious, Technomagus had the captured people work their regular hours and implanted false memories so that anyone who interrogated them would believe what they were saying to be the truth. The second major event was the official welcoming of the local heroes into the Justice Force.
On the third day a plane arrived carrying Miss Ocean and Queen Pixie, two representatives from the Justice Force who were going to officially welcome Lady Justice and Judgement Girl as members of the organization and begun the construction of a new base of operations right in New Oslo. Unfortunately Chief Meyers and Mayor Rushmore were unable to find the city's heroines in order to have them greet the new arrivals, which is when a manhunt began for both Tick and Tock and the missing people.
Miss Ocean was older of the two new heroines, twenty-three year old Australian named Nicole Dorian. Nicole was about average height and possessed white hair with liquid blue eyes. Her costume consisted of a blue spandex bikini with a white utility belt, white leather heeled boots and blue lipstick that matched the bikini. A former swimming champion who at the age of 18 had discovered her genetic mutation that allowed her to breathe underwater, Miss Ocean soon immigrated to the United States and joined the national superhero program, having her latent powers enhanced to make her able to swim faster than Mach 2 underwater and even possess a limited psychic manipulation of the liquid, a sort of hydromancy. Unfortunately these advanced gifts caused her hair to change to the color it was. Despite dating all sorts of famous men including Prince William there were rumors that she was bisexual.
Queen Pixie was another heroine who was born outside the United States, a twenty-year old Japanese girl named Eiko Tamura. A slightly shorter girl, her uniform consisted of a flowing black, blue and black dress resembling something from the beginning of the 20th century as well as pink flat-heeled shoes. Her hair was short and reddish-brown while her eyes were pink in color, though this was due to her abilities. Years ago Eiko had found a lost shrine dedicated to Hosokawa Gracia, a famous woman in Japanese history. In the shrine was an old pair of straw sandals and a bracelet that granted her a great deal of magical powers. Queen Pixie transformed the bracelet into a wand and the sandals into her shoes to give them a more modern look and decided to go fight crime in the United States. The wand allowed Eiko to cast several kinds of spells, allowing her to various things to people such as to freeze them, turn them to stone, put them to sleep, render them mute and even dispel other magic that ailed them. The shoes meanwhile allowed Pixie to fly, walk up walls and even walk on water. In recent tabloids it was revealed she was an open lesbian. Naturally since this many people assumed she and Miss Ocean were a couple, though this was not true.
After a few hours of searching someone reported the location of Lady Justice, Lilly, Jenny, Lockdown and Silent Dragon and Queen Pixie arrived on the scene with Chief Meyers. The first thing Pixie did was use her magic to scan the area for Tick and Tock but could not find them nearby. Pixie then went to work weaving a spell which quickly released the five from the enchantment and freed their minds from the hypnosis. “How long have we been missing?” asked Lady Justice as she and the others stepped down from their window display.
“Three days,” Chief Meyers informed them. “This is Queen Pixie, who's here to be welcomed by you to the Justice Force officially.”
“It's a pleasure to meet you at last!” exclaimed Eiko, eagerly shaking hands with all five. “I've already been told what's happening and I'm sorry to say I haven't been able to restore your friends. My magic can only dispel other magic, I can't counter science. I can't help restore your lab to normal either, I'm afraid.”
“Then what good are you?” muttered Lilly, rolling her eyes. Queen Pixie glared angrily at Lilly and quickly waved her wand, immediately causing Lilly to be teleported back into the window where she had been before standing again in the exact same pose, frozen stiff.
“I can do that and more,” giggled Queen Pixie. After a quick introduction to the others, she released Lilly and the group headed back to the police precinct where they met Miss Ocean and gathered in the Chief's office.
“Alright, we need to redouble our efforts to find Tick and Tock and get them to restore Louiselle's lab,” Wanda announced as she sat at her desk, her seven visitors standing in front of her. “Lady Justice, I want you, Lockdown, Dragon and Miss Ocean to continue the search. Miss Anderson and Miss Oliver, I want you two to keep out of this, as your fathers would kill me if something happened to you. Pixie, I'd like you to remain here and continue to try and see if you can't restore our other mannequin victims to normal. We'll also keep you on back-up in case we lose contact with those in the field and need you to—”
Neither the telepathic Lockdown or the magical Queen Pixie detected Tick and Tock, who'd actually never left the mall. The pair had followed them to the precinct and, before Meyers could finish her instructions, covered the building with the a time bubble and frozen everyone and everything inside it. Meyers sat with her left index finger pointing at Queen Pixie, her mouth hanging open as her other arm rested on her desk. Lockdown stood with her arms crossed while Nathan leaned against the back wall doing the same. Lady Justice was standing in a cliché heroic pose, her hands on her hips with her elbows sticking out like elephant ears. Miss Ocean clutched her hands together behind her back, her focus not on Meyers but gazing at Lockdown. Queen Pixie was standing at attention, holding her wand like a French Maid held a feather duster, her eyes wandering to look at Jenny. The two college girls each stood with their right hand on their hip while their left handa hung normally, almost looking like twins with different hairstyles.
“Get to work little ones!” giggled Tick as Tock opened the glass cage they'd snuck into the building and then dozens of harmless orb spiders spilled into the office, immediately spinning webs. The two goblins then dragged Lilly out of the office, tipping her over and lifting her up from underneath her ass and head and placing her on the ground outside, closing the door.
“A shame that my lovely Claire is a mannequin now,” sighed Tock as Tick ran his fingers around Lilly's cleavage.
“We could always reverse time and make her human again,” Tick reminded his twin right before he shoved his small head in between Lilly's breasts.
“But Master Loki wants mischief and trickery; that's neither,” moaned Tock sadly.
“So you two are forces to obey your boss to the letter, huh?” muttered a voice, causing both goblins to jump. Time Knight, the fellow chrono-kinetic that they'd encountered a while back when they'd teamed up with Gorgun, appeared from behind a motionless Mary Davies, Carl Davies's younger sister, who was pouring herself a cup of coffee from the pot, the hot liquid frozen like an icicle. The superhero wore his sword on his back and smiled as he looked down at the two goblins. “Don't worry little guys, I'm not here to ruin your fun, at least not yet,” Time Knight assured the two. “Since you guys can't do the moral thing and save those women from being stuck as human statues I'll do it. Just don't stop them from unfreezing this place once they're back in the loop. That robot Technomagus is causing too much trouble and the city's defenders need to take care of it, not us.”
“Thank you!” exclaimed Tock, happy to hear Time Knight's plan. The hero nodded and his feet suddenly lifted off the floor, allowing him to fly out a nearby window and into the city.
True to his word Time Knight arrived at the Anderson Estate and promptly trapped it inside a time bubble, freezing the several guards and house staff as well as all the security measures. Time Knight then used one of his other powers granted by his sword, the ability to phase through solid matter, to enter the vault without having to try and pry it open while it was frozen in time. The six mannequins stood inside, each still in the same pose they'd been caught in when they'd been touched by Mister Mannequin. Working his magic Time Knight created a smaller time bubble around the six women and reversed time, causing them to, after passing the equivalent of four days, to return to flesh, captured in the same poses as when they'd been transformed, thanks to Cold Fusion's freezing gas, but now able to recover. Satisfied with his work Time Knight exited the mansion and released the time bubble, causing everyone to resume as if nothing had happened.
Hours later Chloe, Elsa, Claire, Judgement Girl, Maria and Ashley finally recovered from the effects of the freezing gas and quickly alerted James Anderson and his people so they could be let out of the vault. After being briefed on the situation by the millionaire the women, minus Chloe, who went back home to rest, hurried over to Elsa's lab, which Time Knight had also restored by reversing time. Elsa quickly went back to work finishing her special device with some help from Ashley and Claire while Judgement Girl and Maria headed over to the precinct with a device to counter the time bubble. The two women arrived at the station and quickly saw that everyone inside was frozen in time and promptly disabled the bubble, causing everyone in the Chief's office to scream and shout in surprise.
“That was disgusting,” shuddered Lady Justice as everyone, minus the three female scientists, sat in a meeting room in the precinct a short time later. The spiders had coated the entire room with webs, making everyone feel like Rip Van Winkle when they were unfrozen. The spiders were quickly turned into flowers by a startled Queen Pixie and the webs became water, soaking the Chief's office.
“Lets stop talking about it then and move on to the next big problem,” Meyers told everyone. “We've just received word from Alice and Carl that Technomagus has taken over a Vernon Enterprises computer production factory and is using it to produce robots. Lilly's father was suspicious since the shipments that were supposed to be made failed to occur. Unfortunately the two officers failed to report in yesterday and we suspect they've been captured. Since we now have access to Elsa's lab again as well as Justice Force resources I'd like it if we could rid ourselves of that nightmare once and for all.”
“Elsa's finishing a device that should shut him down for good, but we should be able to handle it,” Lady Justice declared, nodding at the many heroines and Nathan. Lilly, Jenny and Maria had agreed to stay out of it this time, especially since no one wanted Cyberlady to appear again. The three young women elected instead to go shopping for shoes while Lady Justice, Judgement Girl, Silent Dragon, Lockdown, Queen Pixie and Miss Ocean all went to combat the robotic menace. Lady Justice and Queen Pixie flew while Miss Ocean used the sewers and Lockdown, Nathan and Judgement Girl all took Lockdown's FBI Land Cruiser.
“Everything looks normal out here,” observed Miss Ocean, the first to arrive, as the others showed up. Sure enough the factory looked the same outside, employee cars parked where they should be with no signs of disturbance. The group knew, however, that looks were deceiving. Judgement Girl and Nathan carefully snuck around to the trash area, which was sealed by a chain-link fence. Judgement Girl used a pair of bolt-cutters to get the pair inside and they promptly examined the dumpster, discovering something startling.
“We found Alice and Carl,” Nathan told the others over a short-range radio as he examined the two officers. The pair were laying flat on top of a bunch of black garbage bags, their eyes wide and their mouths open as if they'd been shouting. Their arms and legs were pressed tight against their bodies as if they were standing at attention, thus only their faces and their location seemed odd. A quick check confirmed the pair seemed to be paralyzed on some level.
“It's kind of cute seeing them like that,” chuckled Judgement Girl as Nathan lifted up the other lid section of the disposal unit. Unknown to the two city heroes the being that watched them from an open window had chosen that moment to act. A yellow ray beam lanced out from above and struck the unsuspecting Judgement Girl as she clung to the side of the dumpster, looking in with a smile on her face, her body slightly off-balance. Immediately the heroine was once again turned from flesh into a solid material, this time a glittering statue of solid gold, her new weight causing her to tip backwards, her immobile hands tearing off a small section of the dumpster. Nathan was struck a moment later with a different ray that made him lose consciousness, causing him to fall to the ground and lay still. It was fortunate for the pair that Technomagus was not armed with lethal abilities, as per Claire's designs.
Lady Justice, Lockdown, Miss Ocean and Queen Pixie didn't seem bothered by Nathan's news and decided to enter the factory all the same. Upon opening the doors they were greeted to the sight of several men and women going about their business, none even noticing the heroines as they entered. Construction lines moved as machines worked hard to assemble the devices on them, workers maintained the machines and others did some welding in the back. Standing in one corner where what looked like giant chrome and steel marionettes that stood idle, clearly some form of humanoid robot.
“They've been brainwashed by Technomagus and his hypnotic ray,” declared Lockdown. “Queen Pixie, immobilize them or something so we can find our target.”
The young Japanese heroine raised her wand in her right hand, her left on her hips, but was cut short as Technomagus, on the catwalk above the women, fired a ray on the four. Lady Justice looked to her left, her hands shaped into fists, while Miss Ocean looked right, her palms open and outstretched roughly ninety degrees from her wrists at her sides as she'd been looking for a water source beneath her. Lockdown had her weapon in her hand and had it pointed straight ahead, both hands bracing it. Pixie looked overjoyed at the chance to use her magic while the other three looked deadly serious. All as one each one, clothing, equipment and all, became transparent as their insides became similar to air, their outer shells becoming indestructible glass.
Not one factory worker looked up as Technomagus casually picked up each heroine statue and placed it in a vacant office. Moments later the robot did the same with Nathan and Judgement Girl, leaving all six inside the office and promptly locking the door. Nothing disrupted the productivity, and if the rogue machine had its way two hundred of his android children would be completed by the night and he could begin his attack on the city after arming them and activating them.
Fortunately an hour later another group arrived with plans to crush Technomagus and his grand designs. Elsa, Claire and Ashley all approached on foot after parking further away and calling the police in. With the other two helping Elsa had managed to complete her ultimate anti-machine bomb, called the AI Blaster, which used a variation of an electro-magnetic pulse and sound to circumvent the robot's defenses and disable him indefinitely. The three scientists arrived at the factory and opted to use the back entrance.
“Alright, we need to plant the device and let it warm up for sixty seconds,” Ashley reminded the other two in a low voice as they stood behind a stack of crates containing machine parts. “Once its done we can trigger the device and say goodbye to this nightmare.”
“Amen to that,” whispered Claire as Elsa planted the device and flicked the activation switch. In another sixty seconds the green button would light up and then with one push Techomagus would be destroyed. What the three hadn't counted on, however, was that Technomagus had upgraded his audio sensors, allowing him to 'hear' even the quietest whisper. Elsa's finger hovered over the green button while Ashley and Claire stood as lookouts, neither counting on Technomagus to be directly on the other side of the crates where he could not be seen. Deciding to surprise the three the machine opened a canister of freeze gas he'd purchased from Cold Fusion before his incarceration and it float over to the three. Right as the button lit up Elsa found herself unable to move or even register the light, once again becoming paralyzed. Ashley and Claire, both standing ready with stasis field pistol-style emitters, both stood as still as statues as the large machine lumbered past them and examined the device.
“Shielded against my tampering,” noted Technomagus, failing to disable the AI Blaster. “I'd better evacuate then. You three, however, will remain here.” With efficiency that only a machine could produce Technomagus used his claws to turn the three women into glass, well-aware that it would be difficult for others to reverse. The three were then transported into the same office as the others. While this occurred however, the factory received yet another three visitors.
“Wow, its like a zombie factory now,” remarked Jenny as she, Lilly and Maria strode into the factory from the back doors. The trio had picked up Elsa's call to the New Oslo PD via a police scanner Jenny possessed and decided to go help despite logic being against the idea.
“Hey, there's that machine the scientist woman was building,” pointed out Maria, indicating the idle AI Blaster.
“Uh oh, where are Elsa and the others?” worried Lilly as the three young women hurried over to the device. By this point if he possessed any Technomagus would of raised his eyebrows in panic. The robot bolted from the office to secret location as Lilly bent over and pressed the button. Right as the AI Blaster unleashed its payload Technomagus succeeded in firing off another freeze gas canister, locking the three women in place as they bent over to examine the device, Lilly's finger on the button. Technomagus was struck by the AI Blaster's shockwave and immediately toppled over, his core processor fried. The many androids he'd constructed would of done the same were they active, but instead they merely stood still and smoked. The hypnotized work force also stopped, the effects of the ray dying with Technomagus. Inside the office everyone who was turned into glass or gold was restored to flesh and Nathan slowly stirred.
The threat of Technomagus was gone forever.
* * *
The robots from the factory were melted down by the army, their remains to be used for more practical purposes such as body armor and weapon materials. For their bravery Lilly, Maria and Jenny were featured in the newspaper as being the city's newest heroines, though the three were still frozen by the gas and the resulting picture showed a very ample amount of cleavage. Shortly afterwards Lady Justice and Judgement Girl were officially welcomed to the Justice Force by Miss Ocean and Queen Pixie in a public outdoor ceremony. Elsa and Claire would be employed by the organization as civilian contractor scientists while Nathan would act as a basic hand to hand combat trainer. Lockdown remained with the FBI but would act as their contact and collaborator with the Bureau.
Ashley, meanwhile, paid a visit to Jason's cell. “Jason, it's alright,” Ashley told her lover from the other side of the bars. “Mister Mannequin has been sealed away, Technomagus is destroyed... you've got a chance at redemption! Why not take it?” Jason said nothing, refusing to even look at the woman he loved. “What's wrong?” asked Ashley, almost pleading.
“I don't deserve someone like you,” whispered Jason. “Guard, we're through!” The officer watching the cells pulled Ashley away as she battled tears. She'd been offered a job with Elsa and Claire working for the Justice Force but that was the least of her priorities at the moment.
to be continued in A Magician's Secret...