Ahem. Once again, this is a rough draft. This story is… odd in that I never put in chapter breaks, just scene breaks, which is going to make it somewhat more difficult to give a proper teaser for. It needs heavy revisions to get to a state I’d be comfortable publishing it, but it’s essentially done. This is the first story of what may be a trilogy.
May, 2017 Update: This is going to be the book I publish after Ancient Dreams is done, so it’s going through revisions. Consider this the rough draft of the book, as I whip it into a reasonable shape.
Born A Queen
By Benjamin Medrano
Monday, January 7th 2030
Shadowmind Antarctic Lair Delta-Seven, Antarctic Ocean
Yet another siren began to scream as the shriek of destroyed metal echoed through the facility. Amber looked upward and savagely hit a key to cut off the siren, muttering under her breath. “I know. Crimson Bull my ass…he should be named Bull in the China Shop. Damned idiot. But not enough of one to come without Warden.”
The chamber was a fair-sized affair in the shape of a hexagon. There was a single hatch on one wall, while the opposite held an elaborate array of equipment that had once hooked up to a tube that would have been eight feet tall and about four feet across. The tube was missing, though, a gaping lack that would be readily apparent to anyone. The walls to the left side of the room held a large workbench with monitors and keyboards. The right one had the crumpled remains of at least four mechanical suits scattered across it, looking as though someone had been trying to put together a single working suit from them. The center of the room had a platform with a ramp leading up to it, a broad circle in the center of the room with a pylon jutting from the ceiling to mirror it. And next to the ramp was the control panel where Amber was working.
“Power reserves at 10%. Insufficient power for teleportation. Primary, secondary, and tertiary power plants offline. Capacitor banks One, Two, Four, Five, and Six offline. Warning: Critical damage sustained. Recommend immediate evacuation.” The computer console spoke in a silky, sexy female voice, making Amber just look up at the ceiling in disgust.
“I know, Circe! But you forget that they took out the escape pods and subs first.” Amber muttered, sighing as she leaned backward in her chair, taking a moment to work through the situation and make a final decision. After a few moments she pressed a key and spoke firmly. “Protocol Delta. Confirmation code seven-four-nine-alpha-nine.”
“Command accepted. Data wipe initiated. Goddess bless, Mistress.” The voice replied, then shut down again. Amber simply smiled and patted the console, turning to look at the doorway and waiting patiently.
The occasional sound of rending metal could be heard in the distance, but the creaking sounds that were more constant were far more ominous. The base was at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, and while it had been built to withstand the pressure easily, that hadn’t been built in mind with a superhero with superstrength ripping his way through vital structural members. Even if the computer hadn’t told her as much before, the groaning sounds echoing through the structure were more than enough to tell her that the lair was going to slowly collapse over the next few hours.
“I suppose this is the end of the line. But I’ll go out with at least a bit of pride.” Amber murmured to herself.
The sounds slowly grew closer, until she finally heard footsteps outside of the hatch. The entrance suddenly bent with a loud clang that made Amber cringe, before a single fist in crimson gloves punched through. A second hand joined it, then the two slowly ripped the hatch in two.
Standing in the entrance was a man in a crimson suit trimmed in yellow. He wore a cape and had a full helmet with elaborate bull’s horns protruding from it. He was built like a bodybuilder, and many women would probably swoon at the mere sight of him. His eyes were hidden behind yellow lenses, so she couldn’t tell where he was looking, but Amber sighed as he stopped, obviously startled by the sight of her. She knew what he was seeing. He was seeing a pretty but painfully thin woman with modest breasts, piercing blue eyes, and golden hair to the middle of her back, who was currently in a motorized wheelchair. It was a pain in the ass to maintain her figure at all, given she couldn’t move or feel anything below her lower back. Only a carefully designed brace that functioned as a second spine even let her sit up properly.
“Did you leave your brain at home, Mr. Bullshit? Did you not see all of the ’emergency override’ panels that would let you open the doors? Instead you decided to rip through every damned hatch and door that might have helped keep the structure intact a bit longer.” Amber opened with a tone fit to strip paint from the walls. “And all that after you destroyed enough main supports to make certain that it’ll implode. Excellent job, Hero! Let’s hear the applause!”
“Who the hell are you? Are you supposed to be some kind of body double?” Crimson Bull rumbled, his deep voice echoing as he stepped into the room. “’cause you have Shadowmind’s taunts and voice down, but she can walk, ya know. Where is she, girlie?”
“I thought you were dumb before.” Amber muttered, shaking her head and sighing. Crimson Bull frowned in irritation, putting his fist in his other hand and cracking his knuckles threateningly.
“Slow down, CB. She’s probably not Shadowmind, but we’ll know soon enough.” A woman’s serene soprano echoed through the room. Warden floated into the room a good two feet off the ground, a wise decision, given the shrapnel from the door that would endanger the feet of most people. The woman had a figure to die for, one which she sheathed in a white bodysuit with a tracery of gold throughout it. Her head was covered in a hood, and all Amber could see of her was her mouth, nose, and blue eyes through her gold mask. It’d been a pain to get a genetic sample from the mage, but she’d managed it eventually, though not in a manner that Amber would have preferred. Amber couldn’t help but wonder what the woman looked like under her outfit. Warden continued smoothly, a frown crossing her crimson lips. “Who are you?”
Amber felt the power in Warden’s voice trying to compel her to tell the truth, but she shrugged it off with a laugh, waving her hand and sending a mental barb back at the heroine. The barb bounced off the heroine’s shields painfully, but Amber ignored it as she replied, grinning at her. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m Shadowmind. Unfortunately, you caught me at a bad time. Most days I’d be ready for a visit, but I’ve had a bad month.”
“…Obviously. Did Dawning Bolt actually manage to put you in that chair? You feel rather…weak.” Warden asked, gesturing to Crimson Bull. “CB? Mind getting a little closer? I don’t want her running off.”
“Sure, I can deal with that?” The hero laughed, stepping forward and ripping a wheel off her chair without any pause. The action caused the wheelchair to fall to the ground with a sudden, painful jolt.
“Ow! That hurt, you gigantic pile of feces!” Amber shot at him, glowering as she used her arms to adjust her position, wincing slightly. “Not that I expect you care in the slightest. And I’ll have you know that I’ve been stuck in a wheelchair since I was quite young. It actually made for an excellent disguise at other points, given that everyone knows that Shadowmind can walk. That’s what the power armor is for. It also amplifies my abilities, but unfortunately I got all four sets shredded this month. If I’d had one, I could’ve actually punched through your wards, Warden. Instead, the two of you imbeciles managed to do what no one else has managed. Congratulations, you’ve caught me. Not that I’m going to last much longer at this rate. An hour, maybe, given the sounds the base is making.”
“…you must be joking. That’s a teleportation platform behind you. If that was the case, why are you even still here?” Warden demanded suspiciously, glancing first at the shattered armor on the table on her right, then at the large spot where a piece of equipment had obviously been removed. “You’ve always gotten out every other time someone’s found one of your bases.”
“Yes, well, this time you two severed access to the three geothermal power plants seemingly by accident, which was startling enough. And then Bull Genius here smashed five of my capacitor banks before I managed to get here. Thanks a lot, asshole. That gave me barely enough power to use a single teleport before running out of energy. So if that’s your way out, you’re screwed right along with me.” Amber retorted, not caring that Crimson Bull was grinding his teeth angrily. “Not that I’d mind seeing what you looked like under that suit of yours, Warden. I’ve always been partial to women.”
“What did you send out of here?” Warden floated closer, gold light slowly forming around her hands, seemingly unphased by Amber’s comments. “You’ve spent the last several years collecting blood samples from heroes and villains alike. If you sent it out instead of yourself…what was more important than you?”
“Not telling you. And you don’t have the power to compel me, now do you?” Amber replied with bared teeth, grinning at the other woman. “At least…not in the time you have. I can put up enough of a fight to ensure that. So get on with…whatever you’re going to do to me.”
“I say we just leave her.” Crimson Bull rumbled, glowering down at Amber angrily. “Let her die with her base.”
“Imbecile.” Amber muttered under her breath at his words.
“No. We need to know what it is she’s been doing.” Warden contradicted him, shaking her head and frowning more. “Knock her out and carry her. We’ll get it out of her, then she can spend the rest of her life in the ‘Max.”
“Fine.” He growled.
“Heh, some intelligence aft-” Amber began to chortle, only to be cut off when the hero’s hand hit her, making her slump over almost instantly. Warden quickly floated over to the panel and began looking over the readings.
“Hope you didn’t give her a concussion, we might need her brain intact. Damn. It looks like she already wiped the data.” Warden murmured, looking over the panel and shaking her head. “But it does look like she was telling the truth about the teleporter. The power levels are incredibly low. Let’s grab what we can of her armor and get out of here.”
“Fine, fine…damned bitch.” Crimson Bull growled, slinging the villain over his shoulder with only a modicum of care.
“Perhaps, but at least we know she’s not going to be doing anything from lockup.” Warden replied absently, shaking her head. “That’s something, at least.”
“And how do we know that’s not what she has planned?”
Warden paused at the angry demand and shrugged. “We don’t. But I should be able to break her defenses with the help of Morgan, so…let’s go. We’ll learn soon enough.”
It was an hour later, well after a stealthy submarine carrying the heroes and their captive had left, that the water pressure did the inevitable and crushed the base. All that was left was a pile of wreckage on the ocean floor, and three distant geothermal plants generating energy for a base that was no longer there.
And an hour after that, a tiny installation not far from the geothermal plants opened and a small submarine left on its own, but on a markedly different course.
Friday, January 11th 2030
Shadowmind Utah Lair Alpha-Three
She woke up.
It was a strange sensation, waking up. After all, she’d never been awake before, but she knew what it was. The knowledge of it was there, just like the knowledge that the ceiling was white. But that immediately made her ask herself the most important question. Who was she? The information came to mind just as easily, fortunately.
Her name was Lilith Carpenter. Her creator, who hoped to be viewed as her mother, was a supervillain known as Shadowmind, but was also known as Amber Fisher. Amber apparently was a university professor that taught physics via online courses, and was disabled from the middle of her back down due to an injury during her childhood caused by a supposed hero. An odd woman who-
“Excuse me, Miss Lilith. Are you awake?” A melodious female voice broke the silence of the room and her train of thought. The voice was Circe, Amber’s assistant and artificial intelligence. She was a class seven AI, not capable of intuition or dealing with issues that weren’t programmed in, but extensively programmed nonetheless. Which meant that the computer would keep inquiring until she responded.
“Y-yes.” Lilith coughed a bit, frowning at the rasp to her voice as she cleared her throat, sitting up and looking around. Then she inquired quietly, her voice marginally more stable. “What’s wrong with my voice?”
The room she was in was a small medical lab. She was in a large clear tube nearly eight feet long and was entirely naked. It didn’t bother her too much, and frowned a little more as she noted that her skin was slightly damp. The top of the tube had slid to the side to let her out, and she reached up and easily pulled herself out of the tube. The floor had a slight amount of give to it, but was somewhat cold against her feet.
“You have just been decanted from your growth capsule. A breathing and feeding tube was inserted down your throat, which is the source of your discomfort. It should heal within a few hours, according to my files.” Circe replied promptly, her voice seeming slightly relieved. “As the Mistress is presumed captured, it is left to me to assist you in coming to terms with your situation. How may I assist you?”
“I would first like something to wear. Also, what happened to Amber?” Lilith asked, folding her arms. The air moving through the chamber was cold against her skin due to the moisture, causing a bit of mild discomfort.
“Certainly. Exit the room and follow the guide line on the floor, please.” Circe responded. As Lilith followed the orders, she found herself in a hallway walled with soft green wallpaper and warm yellow lights. The center of the floor lit up with a line that began guiding her down the hallway as the AI continued. “There was one week remaining in your growth period when the Mistress’s Arctic Base was attacked. The two attackers have been identified as Crimson Bull and Warden, both noted and powerful superheroes. The attack was unexpected and cut off power sources save for one bank of power reserves before the Mistress reached your growth chamber. She chose to teleport you out rather than herself, then initiated protocol to delete all information save vital system data from the Arctic Base. News feeds indicate that she was captured, the Arctic Base was destroyed, and that she has been sentenced to the Nevada SuperMax. Secondary systems evacuated vital material and data via an uninhabitable mini-sub to an undisclosed location.”
As she explained the series of events, Lilith’s path led to a door. The door opened at her touch to reveal a sparely furnished room. It was plain, obviously needing a number of touches to personalize it. Opening the closet, Lilith found a large number of outfits, but on the back of the door was a mirror. Seeing the mirror, she stepped in front of it and stopped, looking at herself for the first time with only a hint of surprise.
She was gorgeous. Pale skin glistened with remnants of whatever liquid had coated her body in the growth capsule. She had a perfect, heart-shaped face with large eyes that glittered the brightest emerald green and a pair of beautiful crimson lips, full and ready to kiss. Long arms and legs, along with an hourglass figure and large, full breasts and hips. And her hair would reach the middle of the back, she thought. It was damp and tangled, but it was black with faint red highlights, and she thought it would be slightly curly when she brushed it out.
Breaking out of her trance, Lilith shook her head and took out a simple white bathrobe. Tying it in place, she closed the door and took a seat on the bed, then asked. “Circe. What am I?”