Mindshadow looked on with satisfaction as the crowd of affluent people entered the main building's lobby. She was really beginning to like the New York Athletic Club; it was richly furnished and offered a wide variety of services. Tonight it would be providing its services to a high-powered political fundraiser. She had been looking forward to this party for weeks. The attendees would include many of the most powerful and wealthiest people in the city along with local representatives of national government and business conglomerates.
For herself, Mindshadow had not made any appreciable changes. Levitating behind Peter Bateman, she mingled freely with the crowds, willing them not to notice her costume or powers. As far as anyone here was concerned, she was wearing a chic designer gown she pulled from the mind of Julien Macdonald, one of the most prominent designers in Europe. She had considered wearing it for real; it would have been trivially easy to make the gown by manipulating the molecules around her into the proper patterns. The nostalgic part of her practically begged to do it; when she was still Angelina, she loved wearing and shopping for dresses as much as the next girl her age. But no, that would have also been succumbing to societal pressures of normalcy. She loved her costume and what it represented. So she decided that she'd wear it here and anywhere she damn well pleased. And people would accept it because she willed them to.
"May I have your attention please?" the concierge requested. "The rooms are ready. We're ready to begin."
We are indeed, Mindshadow thought and smiled.
The main dining room was the jewel of the eleventh floor of the NYAC. To the side, a cocktail lounge plays sophisticated melodies and offered a sidewalk view of south Central Park. From her vantage point near the ceiling, Mindshadow scanned the room both visually and psychically. It was a well-dressed crowd, and in many ways, quite a savvy bunch of people. Most of them were veterans in the New York social scene. They included several of the most important members of local and national politics, high-powered businessmen, and other independently wealthy socialites. Ostensibly, they were here to promote the Democratic Party's local candidates to capture some more seats in the US House of Representatives, but Mindshadow knew this supposed loyalty was a sham. Over half of them would be going to a similar party sometime next month to promote their Republican rivals attempt to retake the New York Senate seats. Smart investors invested in both sides of the coin to ensure their influence would remain, regardless of the whims of a fickle public. Mindshadow's only minor annoyance was that everyone here was so old; there couldn't have been anyone here younger than forty. Oh well, she sighed. She supposed it took normal people that many years to build wealth and influence at this level, Bill Gates and the rest the pirates of Silicon Valley being the exception, rather than the rule. And she wasn't here to pick up dates -- only servants in her plan for world domination.
She floated down to a foot above the ground and gestured for the maitre d'. "Which one of these is Maximillian Powers?"
"Mr. Powers sends his regrets, but apparently flight delays in Europe have kept him from attending tonight."
Mindshadow pouted for a second before dismissing the setback. She had really wanted Maximillian Powers under her control, but apparently he would have to wait. Oh well, she could bide her time and quietly count the days of mental freedom he had left -- not many if she could help it. In the meantime, there were other candidates here tonight. She looked around and noted an old man being addressed by several other people. He must be someone of importance. She adjusted her psychic focus, and shifted her perceptions from visual to mental, and took a few minutes to eavesdrop on his thoughts. Ah okay, she realized, Brad Powell, commissioner of police in New York City. He would do for starters.
She levitated herself through the ceilings to the twentieth floor, which housed the opulent Presidential suite. As she phased through the floor of the suite, she saw a man and a woman rolling over each other in the large king-sized bed. Oops, she realized; the suite was occupied. She took a moment to watch the normally private activity with amusement and curiosity. The sensations she experienced from the couple were enjoyable and sensual. She hadn't actually ever experienced intercourse before. Although the other students of her junior high and high schools were far from puritan, she never did it with the boys. By the time she was actually old enough to understand it, she was already feeling increasingly distant from her classmates. Even as far back as the orphanage, she regarded those around her more as toys than people, and it was hard for her to get intimate with fleshy dolls. Hovering over this couple, she thought about how much of life's pleasures she was missing. Under different circumstances, she'd have some fun with them, but right now, their sensations of pleasure would be a distraction to her primary mission. She whispered into both of their minds, causing them both to fall instantly into deep sleep. Nothing would wake either one now until she permitted it. Perhaps after the party was over, she'd take the time to enjoy herself with these two.
Once she had some privacy, she came to a hover and assumed a lotus position. As she did so, her mind expanded its perceptions, feeling the thoughts of the partygoers below and the racquetball players above. Although she could mass-hypnotize the crowd below, she couldn't do that and do a proper enslavement of her pawns, and she wanted to do these people right. Once she was ready, she issued a command: "Mr. Brad Powell, come..."
Below, Commissioner Powell's face went blank and he quietly put his drink down.
"Are you alright, Commissioner?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I just remembered something I had to do. I'll be right back." He then turned and headed towards the elevator.
Powell got off the elevator and entered the suite. Mindshadow willed him to sit down in a comfortable chair in the living room, as a mesmerized waiter brought up a tray of light treats and fruit juices. Dismissing the waiter, Mindshadow then turned her attention to Powell, and entered his mind. She took the time to study his personality, memories, and basic structure of his subconscious mind. Although this level of detail and care took more time, she knew that it was possible, though remote, that other mentalists might examine his mind, and she wanted Powell to be her slave indefinitely. As she sifted through, she regarded him with a cocked expression. The man was cheating on his wife! She sighed and shook her head; talk about a hypocrite. But if his infidelity came to light, it might jeopardize his position with the police. She reached out and summoned Powell's wife; she would have to ensure that Mrs. Powell would remain complacent and obedient to her husband. Although Mrs. Powell would be enslaved as well, Mindshadow was annoyed all the same. Mrs. Powell was essentially useless; a common housewife who happened to have a politically powerful husband. And doing the job right meant that she was wasting time up here, instead of pulling more important people. As it stood, she was only going to have time to do a few people, instead of most of the partygoers as she had planned. Once Mrs. Powell arrived, Mindshadow got started and carefully inserted obedience clauses into the Powells' minds, along with control over their memories and perceptions. Once she confirmed that the Powells were now her slaves, she went back over both of their minds and carefully reconstructed their surface personalities and thought patterns exactly as before. Even if another telepath tried to look into their minds, it would look as if there was nothing amiss. The exercise took less than twenty minutes, but she needed to return the Powells to the party. Small talk wasn't going to last much longer and dinner was about to start.
Dinner was exquisite as befitting a meal that cost its patrons $10,000 per plate. Beef tenderloin with a Texas-Southwest flair and corn pudding, cooked so expertly the pieces melted in one's mouth. To the side were crispy oysters served on taro root chips with habanero aioli and pico do gallo. Mindshadow helped herself to a seat near several members of the popular media. As other people ate, she allowed her mind to roam in and out of the thoughts of the people throughout the room. More enjoyable than simple physical taste, each person's mind supplied its own interpretations of the same meal.
Midway through the meal, the conversations came to a pause as the candidates took their turns at the podium to address the crowd, but Mindshadow tuned them out. She wasn't interested in what their stance was in law-enforcement, abortion, tax policy or other meaningless drivel. Although she was familiar with the major issues and had her opinion as much as anyone else, she could care less what other people thought about them. Regardless what they really thought, they would vote as she directed them to vote, and the people sitting here would make sure that the public would see things her way.
Going through their minds one by one, she finally decided on one person. Miles Fisher, who was by far one of the most powerful media moguls in the country. His conglomerate included newspapers, magazines and television studios up and down the East Coast. He was negotiating with several large cable and satellite companies to broaden his empire; if successful, his companies would shape the views of most of the country and parts of the Western world. But the FTC and the FCC were holding up his plans in court. They had expressed their concerns about the conglomerate's monopolistic practices. Well, she would take care of that for him. Of course, he wasn't likely to appreciate her solution, but that wasn't her concern either. That decided, she willed herself up and through the ceiling and mentally commanded "Mr. Miles Fisher, come upstairs...." As she was leaving, dessert was bring brought out. Chocolate intemperance -- best described as an extremely rich brownie wrapped around a chocolate mousse and covered in a chocolate glaze. It looked and smelled superb; a shame Mr. Fisher was going to miss it.
The party had migrated to the ninth and tenth floors when Mindshadow returned Mr. Fisher, where groups of individuals participated in high-stakes card games and billiards. The political figures hovered between groups like vultures, shaking hands and making empty promises they had little intentions on keeping. Her newly acquired slave, Mr. Fisher, was almost immediately beset upon by two Congressional candidates seeking his favors in an editorial or opinion column. Ordinarily, Fisher would have probably given it to them since he was a lifelong Democrat, but Mindshadow willed him to demure for the moment. She wanted someone to check up on their backgrounds before she had him endorsing anyone. If they were suitable, she wanted the chance to enslave the candidates first while they still presented easy targets out of the public eye.
Seeking her next target, her eyes were drawn to the tenth floor library where an informal group had gathered. It must have been something important, she realized. Two sitting Congressmen and the New York senior Senator were both listening to someone discuss the situation in Europe. Her eyes lit up when stray thoughts revealed the speaker; none other than Michael Musselman himself. Now what was the muscleman doing here, she mused. Well, no matter. An outstanding intellect with a physique to match, the CEO of Biocorp would easily make up for losing Powers tonight.
But as she approached him, she hesitated. Something about the man's mind didn't seem right. He wasn't a telepath, she was sure of it. But he must have been a paranormal, which meant she needed to exercise more caution. She didn't know he was a metahuman, despite her studies of the phenomenon; he must have made an effort to keep his special abilities a low profile. Part of her wanted to enslave him anyway, but no, she had already been burned once underestimating Generallisimo Juan Hernandez. For all she knew, he might have had the ability to sense and detect mental powers, and her plan tonight needed absolute discretion or these people would have been useless to her. She'd do a little reading on Musselman first, then file him down under her list to revisit. For now, she simply listened to what the man had to say.
Mindshadow frowned as she leaned against the ninth floor lounge balcony. Her plan was going well. The dinner was winding down and two very important people would obey her every command. Their thoughts were hers to tap whenever she desired. It would fall on her to make use of them intelligently, but she wasn't concerned about that. Her budding connections to the Columbian Cartel would provide all the money she needed to buy conventional influence and she could recruit the best business and media expertise needed to handle the mundane matters of her plan.
What concerned her now was the discussion she overheard between Musselman and the members of Congress. According to the minds of the Congressmen, Autocrat had already met with the world leaders and declared that Ireland was now under the command of the Royal Elite. He then issued a statement that any attempt to liberate Ireland would be met with the harshest of reprisals and that any nation that made such an attempt would suffer grievously. Rumors were flying on the situation in Ireland; the stories ranged from everything being under control and the Protectorate had things secured, all the way to Ireland being a total loss and the Royal Elite was ready to invade Europe. Communications were spotty; even the usually reliable CNN and MNN were blank in terms of coverage.
So where did it leave her? If the Royal Elite took over the world, well, that'd put a crimp in her plans, wouldn't it? At the same time, the Protectorate would normally oppose her efforts as well, so perhaps it suited her purposes to have them fighting each other. But the battle would have to end eventually, and one would be the winner. If the Protectorate were defeated, then the Elite would probably surge forward and build their power even more. Perhaps she should subtly lend a helping hand? Wouldn't that be ironic, she mused. But doing so added its own risks; the Protectorate wasn't likely to be grateful enough to leave her to continue her plans of world domination and tipping her hand openly would expose her plans to the general public.
What really bothered her was not knowing the whole story. Ordinarily, she could mentally reach out across the globe and scan the locals' thoughts to get the full story, or just fly there on her own power to see for herself. With her powers, she could fly across the Atlantic in under twenty minutes; less time that most people spent getting to their local grocery store. Unfortunately, the Royal Elite was probably there and their power and reputation was something that concerned her. And while there were very few known telepaths in the world she respected as peers, Harbringer and Brainchild were two of them and both of them were known members or allies of the Elite. If she tried a long-range mind scan, one of them would probably counter-detect it and try and trace it back to her. Based on their reputations, she felt that she might be able to defeat either one of them in psionic combat, though having to do both would be a challenge. And the concentration it would take would preclude her from being able to deal with or defend against the other members of the Elite.
She frowned at the idea of losing; it was a concept that was almost foreign to her. Well, at least it was until that last trip to Columbia, she corrected herself. Perhaps she should step up her telepathic training. She had had such an easy time enslaving people, the idea of strenuous formalized training of her powers seemed almost redundant, but recent events were changing that idea. Heroes trained themselves in what was popularly dubbed "danger rooms". For her powers, she would have to train against other psionics to practice multiple-on-one scenarios, as well as the ability to focus on multiple tasks at once. Since psionic sparring partners weren't exactly available on the streets, she'd have to build some. Fortunately, she knew how.
In the end, it was simple conservative thinking that made up her mind. She had too many things to do here; behind her, there were still dozens of people she intended to enslave over the coming weeks and months, her overall plan to execute, and victory against the Elite was too uncertain to risk. She would quietly root for the Protectorate to settle things back to status quo, and leave it at that. With a little luck, they might even capture a few members of the Elite and dump them into Purgatory Prime, which would suit her just fine. Heck if they captured Autocrat, she'd even send their organization a charity check. But if things changed or if the situation worsened, she'd take a more active role in correcting things.
For now, she needed better information and she knew just how. Her eyes focused onto the night skyline and her mind reached out and ensnared two homeless people -- people who would not be missed. As a special precaution, she implanted a contingency command; if they were about to be mind-probed, or if their mind link with her got cut off by some outside interference, both of them would suffer immediate and complete brain wipe. With a nudge, both of them stood up and walked towards a certain warehouse near New York Harbor. She then issued a mental command to the slaves she had placed there to prepare a shower, some decent clothes, and some pocket money. Finally, she shifted her thoughts to LaGuardia Airport, and commanded an enslaved airline clerk to enter two tickets to England for her prepared lackeys. Flights into Ireland were cancelled, she had been told, but a flight over the island might prove useful. She would have to make sure to issue a hypnotic suggestion to the pilot to ensure that he would pass somewhat closer than normal so her lackeys would have a good view, but she wouldn't be able to do that until the next morning when the pilot's names were known.
Mindshadow smiled as she watched John Milton heading towards the exit. The senior partner at one of New York's most powerful and prestigious law firms, he would give her access to some of the most experienced and skillful lawyers in the world, not to mention an entire staff of paralegals to handle the minor trivialities that would undoubtedly crop up from time to time. She willed him to file work to be assigned under the name "Angelina Bateman", and to handle her needs personally. Normally he charged $1,000 per hour for his time, and she decided she'd go ahead and have Peter set up a legitimate paying account. No sense setting off the alarm flags from their accounting department.
Her thoughts shifted as she felt Peter Bateman getting off the elevator onto the twentieth floor and entering the suite. A look of confusion crossed his face.
"Aren't we leaving? The party's over."
"Yes, I know. There's something I wanted to know before we left."
Peter nodded, then turned towards the occupied bed. "Who's that?"
Mindshadow's eyes glanced at the comatose couple, and then willed the molecules to shift around the bed, transforming the couple into a pair of chocolate mints, while restoring the bed into pristine condition. She then nudged Peter's mind ever so slightly and casually replied, "No one of consequence."
Peter nodded complacently as the memories of the couple disappeared from his mind. "So what did you want to know?"
"What do you know about sexual intercourse?"
Peter blinked and blushed slightly at the directness of the inquiry. "Well, um...it's something we all do from time to time."
Mindshadow drifted towards the bed, altering her
clothing into a delicate silk nightgown before coming to rest on the bed.
She then reached into Peter's mind and began activating various endorphins
in his brain, causing him to tremble and pant. Pulling him into bed with
her, she commanded, "Show me."
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