Zusa vs. The Marvel Universe
Chapter Three – Captain America
By Lloyd W. Fredericton
(For Chapter One — Go here)
Seventh Avenue Express
Ed Dorsey paged through his Wall Street Journal, while the subway rattled toward his Upper West Side home. He was fascinated by the latest news on Stark International. The company was in turmoil. No one had any idea where billionaire/inventor Tony Stark was. Pepper Potts, the CEO, and Happy Hogan, the Head of Security, were also missing amid reports that an unidentified investor had taken control of the majority of the company stock.
Ed turned the page and suddenly had the sensation that someone was looking at him. The feeling he was being watched was powerful, almost overwhelming. He looked up from the paper, glanced about the subway car, and saw her.
Across from him and three seats down sat a stunning blonde. Over her snow-white t-shirt, she wore a black leather jacket. A matching black leather mini-skirt rode dangerously high on her shapely thighs. Both the jacket and skirt were adorned with a plethora of shiny silver zippers. Fishnets and black knee-high boots completed her look. She flashed a dazzling smile, displaying perfect white teeth. From behind librarian-style glasses, blue eyes the color of the summer sky stared back at him.
Ed matched her gaze for a moment, felt his face redden, and looked away. What was he doing gawking at women on the subway? He was a happily married man with two children for God’s sake. The bond trader turned away from the woman as much as he could in his cramped seat and returned to his paper. But as tried to focus on a story about Elon Musk’s involvement with a mysterious Dominatrix known only as Miss Molly, he felt the woman in black’s gaze upon him again. He stole a quick glance, locking eyes with the beauty, and she winked at him.
Ed’s heart skipped a beat. What the Hell was this woman doing?
He got a better look at her this time. She wasn’t just stunning; she was drop dead gorgeous. Her hair and make-up were flawless. Silver bracelets caressed her delicate wrists and silver rings adorned her slim fingers. She must be a model and not the kind you’d see in a JCPenny’s flyer. This woman belonged on magazine covers, on catwalks in Milan, and on the arms of hedge fund billionaires. What was someone who looked like her doing riding the train? She belonged in a limousine or a helicopter.
Ed returned to his paper. That was it. He wasn’t going to look at her again. He stared at latest article on a study that tracked the performance of the stock market versus the length of women’s boot heels, but the words blurred together. He knew she was watching him. He could feel it in his bones. His body trembled. Sweat dripped down his face. Was there something wrong with the air conditioning? He felt a tightness in his chest.
His resolve not to look at the woman again lasted an entire fifteen seconds. He moved his eyes from the newspaper across the gum-stained floor of the railcar to the shiny black leather boots that graced her impossibly long legs.
His eyes continued upward. Bits of tan flesh peeked through the complicated pattern of her fishnets. His eyes now on her skirt and jacket, the shiny zippers’ sliders rocked rhythmically with the jostling of the railcar. His eyes lingered for a moment on a dazzling crystal pendant that hung from a silver chain around her lovely neck, before moving up to her cherry red lips.
The lips curled into a cruel smile as Ed raised his eyes to meet her gaze. He saw the look in her eyes. She was playing with him. Treating him like a toy, nothing more than an amusing distraction while she travelled to her destination.
She broke their gaze and stared absently at her shiny red fingernails. She checked the time on her watch, yawned, and tapped away on her phone.
The giddiness Ed felt, the delightful buzz in his head was replaced with dread. She was ignoring him!
His stomach churned as the reality set in. This beautiful—no beautiful didn’t even start to come close to describing this vision of loveliness—blonde must have scores of men, wealthy men, powerful men, pursuing her day and night. What possible interest could she have in some mid-level bond trader on the 2 train? He should consider himself lucky even to be in the same car as her, to have chanced to admire her physical perfection, to have gazed into those deep blue eyes.
And that smile. She had smiled at him like she knew a secret. Not just any secrets. His secrets. Like she had looked straight through him, all the way down into the deepest corners of his mind and uncovered all his darkest desires, his twisted fantasies, all the ugly and shameful cravings hidden in his soul.
Or maybe she wasn’t just looking deep into his mind, but she was altering it. Inserting thoughts, feelings, fetishes. Was that the soft caress of slim fingers and the hard touch of sharp nails he felt in his mind?
Emotions overwhelmed Ed: Desire, fear, lust, alarm. But most powerful of all was gratitude. He realized just how grateful he felt that this woman, this goddess, had chosen to ride on the same train as he. How fortunate that she deigned to even look in his direction, that she would allow him to grace his eyes with her physical perfection. That she would infect and inhabit his mind and make him into whatever she desired. How could he ever thank her, repay her? No matter the gesture, the offer, the sacrifice, it would never be enough. But he must try.
He laid the newspaper down, slipped out of the seat, and dropped to his knees. The woman smiled with delight as she watched Ed crawl across the filthy floor of the subway car. As he approached, he lowered his head. But he knew, deep down, inside at the core of his being, this display of submission wasn’t enough, wasn’t worthy of her.
He reached into his sports coat inner pocket and pulled out his wallet. With his head still bowed, he held up the wallet and waited. Seconds ticked off like an eternity, but the wallet remained in his hand.
He failed her. He had selflessly offered his wallet, and she refused to accept it. He couldn’t blame her. She was so regal, so heavenly. What interest could she possibly have in the contents of his wallet: A few hundred dollars and credit cards with a total limit in the mid-five figures. Such a divine beauty deserved millions, if not billions, not the meager offerings he held in his hand. He was not worthy of her. The contents of his wallet not worthy either.
Still he must do something. His entire life would be pointless, shattered, over, if she wouldn’t accept his tribute. What purpose could there be for his life, if he weren’t in service to her? And still the wallet remained in his hand.
The idea struck him. Or perhaps she had buried it deep in his mind and only now had it made its way to the surface.
“Please!” Ed said fighting back tears. “Please take my wallet. I’m begging you.”
A giggle. Her giggle. Like a thousand angels singing. “Very well, if you insist.”
He felt the wallet lift from his hand. Rapturous joy filled his heart. His life had meaning. His life was complete.
He raised his head and saw the blonde remove the cash and credit cards from his wallet, slip them into her purse, and let the wallet fall to the floor. The subway screeched to a stop.
“This is my station,” said the blonde. She stood, grinding the heel of her boot into the back of Ed’s left hand. “Ta, ta.”
“Thank you,” Ed said through gritted teeth.
Tears streamed down his face. He watched the blonde’s hips rock as she exited the train. Ed would never again feel such complete happiness, contentment, and pleasure.
Eighth Avenue and 14th Street
Spider-man fired a web at the building across the street, swung over and landed on the roof of a three-story brownstone. He had foiled the Scorpion’s attempted bank robbery but failed to prevent his escape. He scoured Lower Manhattan hoping to catch sight of the super villain.
He felt the hair on his arms rise, his spider-sense tingling. He looked around but didn’t see the green goon anywhere. On the sidewalk below he spied a redhead walking alone. Then a man jumped out from the alley, menacing her. The Scorpion would have to wait. Spider-man fired a web at a lamppost and swung down to street level.
The mugger pointed his pistol at Lorelei. “Give me your purse.”
Lorelei was a vision in blue: fitted tee, micro-skirt, high-heeled sandal and beret, a stark contrast to the blazing red of her cascading curls. She sighed at the sight of the highwayman. She found these Midgardians positively exhausting. She flashed a dazzling smile at her attacker and locked her blue eyes on his.
The mugger’s jaw dropped open in awe. He was stunned into silence and immobility.
“What shall I do with you?” wondered Lorelei aloud. “I’m bored with statues. I’ve left so many around this forsaken city.” She looked at the gun in his hand. Such a device couldn’t hurt her superior Asgardian physique. Maybe she should make this outlaw turn his own weapon on himself. She would enjoy the fear in the eyes, as the barrel pointed away from her and toward him. She would make him slowly pull the trigger and savor every moment of dread that he felt.
Her attention was distracted for a moment by a buzzing fly. “An insect?” Her smile grew wide. “That’s an even more entertaining idea.” She would transform this miscreant into a dirty, crawling little bug. Then she would take great pleasure in stomping him, crushing the life out of him with the sole of her sandal. Yes, this was a fitting end to the malefactor who would dare accost a Goddess such as herself.
Lorelei searched her memory for the correct spell, began the incantation, and raised her hands.
Strange sounds, a series of light thwips, filled the air. The immobilized mugger’s hands were covered with a gray sticky web. A figure dressed in red and blue dropped from the sky and fired more webs. The mugger was completely encased in gray.
He lifted the mugger and used a web to hang him from the streetlight. “There you go. All nice and packaged up for the men of the 12th Precinct.”
Lorelei watched with amazement. “What kind of mortal are you?”
The hero shrugged. “Just your friendly neighborhood Spider-man.”
Lorelei shook her head. “You Midgardians are quite the puzzle.”
“Midgardians? The only person I know who talks like that is Thor.”
Lorelei looked the colorful hero over. This mortal could prove helpful in acquiring the target Zusa desired. “I am Lorelei of Asgard. Now Man-spider, it is time for your reward.” She stepped forward and ran her hands across his chest. The mortal seemed more boy than a man, but it made no matter. No male, regardless of age, could resist her charms. She slipped her arms around his neck and pressed her body to his. “Any objections?” she whispered in his ear.
His spider-sense tingled like never before. This woman was clearly dangerous, but she was so beautiful that he ignored the warning.
“I thought not.” Lorelei slid her hands to his mask and lifted it, exposing his mouth. She pressed her lips to his. Their mouths parted. She forced her tongue against his and he pressed back. The spell was complete. The mortal was hers: body, mind and soul. She broke the embrace.
Spider-man dropped to one knee. “I serve Lorelei.”
Lorelei laughed. “Of course, you do. Now come long my boy-spider. I may have need of your talents.”
Spider-man scrambled after Lorelei as she swayed down Eighth Avenue.
The Asgardian Wastelands
The air crackled with electricity and the ground shook. A portal the color of nothing appeared. A tall blonde dressed in green emerged from the portal and snapped her fingers. The portal closed and vanished as quickly it had appeared. “Sister!” she called. “I would have words with you!”
The Enchantress’s cry went un-answered.
She re-engaged the portal. She flashed around the castle: bedrooms, the dungeon, the kitchen, but didn’t find Lorelei or anyone else. Anyone else alive that is. Throughout the castle, Amora found scores of statues, all of men. The look on the statues’ faces were a mixture of desire and surprise, chronicling the last moments of life when they discovered the true price of Lorelei’s kiss.
Amora caressed the face of one such statue. The stone was cold. “No life left. No one to direct me to my sister.” Not only was there no sign of her sister, but it appeared the castle had been deserted for weeks. Amora stood on the ramparts and conjured forth the portal. Where could her sister be? Surely she wouldn’t seek refuge among the Trolls or Frost Gia—
Motion down below, outside the castle walls, caught her eye. She snapped her fingers and transported herself to a spot beside the moat, confronting a green mass that looked more like plant than animal.
The green mass grew a pair of pseudo-pods and oozed toward Amora.
Amora stared at the heap and nodded. More of Lorelei’s handiwork. She raised her hands, created a yellow orb of light and flung it at the mass.
The light struck the mass and it shuddered. It emitted a high-pitched shriek. Slowly the green mass transformed into a man.
The man, naked, fell to the ground. “What happened? Where am I?”
Amora stood over him. “Tell me, where is Lorelei. The Enchantress demands it.”
“The Enchantress!” The man bowed his head. “I know not where my love is.”
“Love?” Amora raised an eyebrow.
“Aye, I am Magnus and the fair Lorelei had cast a spell on me giving me the strength and stamina to guard her castle for eternity. How could I not love a woman who granted me such a gift?”
Amora arched an eyebrow. “The gift of being a mindless heap of foul-smelling detritus?”
He nodded. “Her kindness is exceeded only by her beauty.”
Amora rolled her eyes. “And how did you come to receive this gift?”
“I was dispatched here by the Odin. He requested the fair Lorelei to appear in his throne room at Valaskialf.”
“The All-Father?! What did he want with Lorelei?”
Magnus shook his head. “He did not confide in me. I presume that’s where my love went. I don’t remember much after fair Lorelei graced me with my gre—”
“Yes, yes I know. Your great gift.” Amora waved her hand dismissively. “It appears I am off to see Odin.”
“But what about me?” Magnus asked.
“Continue your guard duties, if you are so inclined.”
“Like this?” He stood and spread his arms wide.
“Very well.” Amora raised her hands and chanted. The ball of yellow light emerged from Magnus. He cried out in pain as his body retransformed into a green slithering mass. It grew two pseudo-pods and slithered away.
Amora shook her head. Her sister’s cruelty had sunk to new depths. That was something they needed to discuss when Amora finally found her. She snapped her fingers, stepped into the portal and vanished.
Trump International Hotel & Tower
Central Park West
Dane Whitman, The Black Knight, walked across the lobby, pressed the up button and entered the elevator. No one took a second glance at the figure dressed in medieval garb, wearing a black helmet and carrying a giant broadsword. Long ago jaded Manhattanites stopped caring about or even noticing the scores of costumed crime fighters in their midst. Maybe the rubes in Nebraska would gawk at a real live superhero, but in New York City this was old hat.
If any tourist had approached the Avenger and asked for an autograph or selfie, they would have been greatly disappointed. For The Black Knight could not have responded. He was in a trance, his physical actions the result of hypnotic programming implanted deep in his subconscious.
With a blank face and unblinking eyes, The Black Knight pressed the button for the thirteenth floor. The elevator quickly ascended and the doors opened. He walked halfway down the hallway to room 1313. He turned the knob, the door was unlocked, and entered the room. On the couch sat a blonde in a black leather jacket, skirt, fishnets and boots.
As the hypnotic programming completed, Dane Whitman regained his consciousness. His eyes grew wide at the sight of the blonde. He didn’t recognize her, but his instincts told him she was trouble. He raised his sword. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Zusa stifled a yawn. “Really, Dane Whitman? You don’t remember?” She snapped her fingers.
The finger snap echoed in his mind like a thunderclap. Memories flooded his mind. The battle with the Wrecking Crew in New Jersey. The fight was over and Zusa had appeared. He knew she was dangerous, but he couldn’t resist her voice, her words, her beauty. She had kissed him and it was like he was reborn all over. He adored her, loved her, worshipped her. He had gladly, eagerly, divulged the Avenger’s greatest secrets to her. Secrets he had sworn to protect with his life.
“Zusa! But how?”
Zusa smiled at the Avenger. “I called you here, Dane. I am deep in your mind, always and forever. You can’t resist my commands. You can’t resist me.”
“Never!” He raised his sword but felt his legs wobble.
“Down.” Zusa extend a lovely finger, the tip a shiny red nail, and pointed to the floor.
Dane fought the urge to kneel. He wanted to obey. It felt so good to do as she said. He struggled against her voice echoing in his head. The sword fell from his hand and clattered to the floor.
Zusa watched the Black Knight’s torment with amusement. “The more you resist, the weaker you become.”
She was right. The more he tried to defy her, the more his strength ebbed. He had no choice. He must obey her. He dropped to his knees. “Yes, Zusa.”
Zusa picked up the sword. “How is this even practical?” She held the blade in front of his face. “How do you take down someone armed with a gun? You won’t even get close before they shoot you.”
“Yes, Zusa,” the Black Knight said meekly. “You are right. You are always right.”
“Although…” A cruel smile crossed her lips. She raised the tip of the sword and nicked his left cheek. Blood streamed down his face. “How did that feel?”
“G-Good. Thank you.”
“Then, we should give you another.” She made a similar cut on his right cheek. “I take it back. This sword is very practical.” She giggled. “I wonder what other body parts we could have fun with.”
The Black Knight began to sob, the tears mixing with the blood.
“That’s right, hero, cry like a child.” Zusa laughed. “Perhaps I should make you choose where I will slice you next.”
“Please what, Dane? Stop the torture, or do you prefer more?”
The Black Knight’s mind was overwhelmed. His body convulsed in a series of spasms so violent, he was unable to speak.
She frowned. “Oh, all right. Fun time is over my medieval toy. I demand your help. I have Ironman and Thor under my spell. But I want the last of the final big three: Captain America.”
“Cap? You don’t need him. I can serve you, Zusa. I’ll do anything and everything you ask.”
“Jealous, Dane Whitman? Instead you should be honored that I have chosen you to betray the Avengers.”
“Yes, Zusa. Thank you Zusa.”
“That’s better, my armored plaything.” Zusa whispered in his ear. “This is my plan for enslaving Captain America. And here’s how you’re going to help…”
The Daily Bugle
“Jonah, I’m trying to get an angle on all these new statues that have been popping up all over town,” said Robbie Robertson. He handed the photos to his boss.
“It’s probably some viral marketing campaign,” sneered J. Jonah Jameson. “Or some new millennial fad like planking.”
Robbie shook his head. “I don’t think it’s a fad. In fac—”
Jonah’s phone beeped. “According to Twitter, the Scorpion tried robbing the Chase branch on West 12th.” He shook his fist. “That wall-crawling menace was there, too. They’re probably partners. Where’s Parker with the photographs. Teenagers! You can never depend on them.”
The Palace Valaskialf
“It is out of the question,” The Grand Vizier said. “Odin cannot be disturbed.”
“I am unaccustomed to men telling me what I can and cannot do,” replied Amora.
“I this I have no doubt,” The Vizier said. “But the matter is settled.”
Amora fixed her gaze on him. “It has been my experience that men may say one thing, but secretly want something else.” She drew in a deep breath, and her chest swelled.
The Vizier’s eyes widened. “I—I have no idea what you mean.”
“Oh I believe you do.” Amora smiled. “The only question is do you prefer seduction or coercion?” She stood with her hands on her hips, thrust her chest out and took another deep breath.
The Viziers hands shook. His body trembled. He knew Amora was using her magic on him, but he couldn’t walk away, couldn’t look away. He’d never seen such beauty before. He felt compelled to keep looking no matter the cost.
“Why take orders from old and gray Odin? Isn’t the idea of serving me much more appealing?”
Her words echoed in the Vizier’s mind. Amora was right. He wanted to be in service to her. He needed to be in service to her. He would be in service to her. “Yes, Amora.” He dropped to one knee. “I am your to command.”
“All men are mine to command.” She stepped forward and raised her foot. “You can begin your service to me by cleaning the bottom of my boot.” She thrust the sole in his face. “With your tongue.”
The Vizier extended his tongue and cleaned the dirt and grit from Amora’s boot.
Amora laughed as the old man gagged and choked, but dutifully carried out her command. “Now about that audience with Odin…”
Dr. Stephen Strange’s Sanctorum
22 Bleeker Street
Wong’s stomach rumbled. Where was his lunch? He ordered it nearly half-an-hour ago. He would c—
A knock at the front door. Finally! He pulled out some cash. He’d tip the driver even though he was late. That was good karma. He opened the door to see a stunning redhead. She didn’t look like a delivery girl.
“UberEats?” said Wong. “Do you have my tuna melt?”
“UberEats? Tuna melt? What strange language you Midgardians speak.” Lorelei flashed a dazzling smile with perfect white teeth. “I’m here to see Stephen Strange.”
“I am Wong.” He smiled back reflexively, but then sensed a strong, malevolent magic surrounding this woman. An even more immense power emanated from her purse. Whoever she was, she was dangerous. He raised his hand to create defensive shields. He heard a pair of soft thwips and his hands were covered in gray sticky webbing. He started an incantation, but the same webbing covered his mouth making speech impossible.
“Naughty, naughty.” Lorelei waved her finger at Wong.
Spider-man swung through the doorway. “Did I do okay?”
“You were adequate,” Lorelei said dismissively. “Search the house while I interrogate my newest slave.”
Spider-man bowed his head. “As you command, Lorelei.” He shot a web up the staircase and swung to the second floor.
Lorelei considered Wong. “I sense you are a magic wielder, as well. Of course, your puny powers are no match for mine. I am looking for Stephen Strange. You no doubt will attempt to resist telling me what I want to know.” She looked into Wong’s eyes and saw defiance. “Normally, a simple kiss would do the trick, but the webbing precludes that for the moment. But I have other methods of persuasion.”
Lorelei stood with her hands on her hips and emphasized her curves. “Have you ever seen such loveliness, mortal?”
The defiance in Wong’s eyes was replaced with fear mixed with desire. Lorelei laughed and the delightful sound echoed in Wong’s mind.“
“That’s right, mortal. You are one of the lucky few to lay eyes on an actual Goddess. Think about that and let it sink in. I am Lorelei of Asgard. My beauty is divine.
Lorelei catalogued her irresistible beauty: “My thick, flowing, red hair, blue hypnotic eyes, inviting red lips, flawless skin, impressive breasts, impossible curves, and legs to die for. It’s all really too much for any mortal.”
The resistance in Wong’s eyes was giving way to desire. Burning hot, passionate desire.
Lorelei had seen that look countless thousands of times in the eyes of men, unable to resist the temptations of the flesh, unable to resist her. Men: clearly the weaker sex.
She stepped forward and rain a shiny nail across Wong’s chest. He flinched at her touch. He knees wobbled. “Does my touch burn? Does it inflame your passions?”
She could see the answer in his eyes. The time was right.
Lorelei snapped her fingers and the webbing around Wong’s mouth faded away. She pushed herself on him, looped her arms around his neck, and kissed him hard and long.
When she felt his resistance break, she released him. Wong dropped to his knees, gasping for air. He stared at her lovely sandaled feet.
“Whom do you serve, mortal?” She asked in a voice that made him tremble with terror and lust.
There was no delay. His answer was immediate and forthright. “I serve Lorelei.”
“Where is Stephen Strange?”
Wong hesitated for just a moment.
“You dare to defy me!” Lorelei’s eyes flared with anger.
Wong cried out as sharp pain pierced his heart.
“Pain, Dear Wong, is the price for disobedience. On the other hand, obedience to me will make you feel the most rapturous joy a mortal can possible feel.” She jabbed the spike of her heel into his thigh. “Now tell me, where is Steven Strange.”
“I—I don’t know.”
She stared in his eyes. “You cannot lie to me. You cannot resist me. Feel my power overwhelming you, making you a slave to your desire. You must tell me. Where is Steven Strange?”
Wong’s lips trembled. “I—I don’t know.”
Lorelei leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Did you know that loving me can be fatal? I am too much woman for any mortal’s heart. You are on the brink of annihilation. Tell me where Stephen Strange is.”
Wong’s body shook as he spoke. “I don’t know exactly. He went in search of the Time Gem.”
Lorelei cocked her head. “Time Gem?”
“Yes, you know, one of the Infinity Gems.”
“Gems created during the Big Bang representing the forces of reality. When the six are wielded together they have infinite power. Surely you know this. I can feel the power of one of the gems in your purse.”
Lorelei considered Wong’s claim. Could this be a trick? No, her magic was too powerful. His lust too true. He spoke the truth. She reached in her purse and pulled out a red stone. “I took this from the Avenger called Vision.”
Wong gaped. “The Mind Gem. Used to amplify the power of the mind.”
“Interesting,” said Lorelei. “You are not the Sorcerer Supreme, but my lover may still have use for you. She will certainly wish to know more about these Infinity Gems.” Lorelei pulled a leash and collar from her purse and affixed the collar around Wong’s neck. “Doesn’t that feel nice and snug around your neck?”
Lorelei gave the leash a sharp tug. “Doggies can’t speak. They can only bark.”
Spider-man came rocketing down the stairs. “There’s a lot of cooky, old stuff up there, but there’s no one else in the house.”
“He will do,” Lorelei said, looking down at Wong. “Come along, Doggie. I’m going to introduce you to my lover.”
“Arf,” replied Wong.
“Still no word from Tony or Thor. Vision is unconscious, his Mind Gem is gone. And now Dane is missing,” said Wasp.
“Dane was acting strangely after the fight with The Wrecking Crew,” said She-hulk.
“We’ve got to conclude these disappearances aren’t a coincidence,” said Captain America. “But who’s behind it?”
Black Widow tapped away at the console. “Ultron is still dissembled. No temporal disturbances, so it can’t be Kang. The members of the latest edition of the Masters of Evil are locked up in the Vault, and Dr. Doom’s blockaded in Latervia by the latest UN sanctions. There are some minor actors on the loose: Grim Reaper, The Wizard, Taskmaster, but no one powerful enough to take down Ironman, Vision and Thor.”
“A new threat,” said Hawkeye.
“Exactly, Clint,” said the man walking in the door.
“Who are you?” demanded Captain America. “How did you get in here?”
The man pulled out ID. “James Preston, CIA. I’m pretty sure. I know who has Stark and Thor.” He tossed a file folder on the desk. “Her name’s Zusa Bright. Her cover is a hypnotherapist in the suburbs of Boston.”
Cap opened the folder and looked at the photograph of the mousy-haired woman. “How? What’s her power?”
Preston frowned. “Mind Control. Hypnosis. Her voice seems to resonate on a special frequency, making it impossible to resist.”
“How do you know all this?” asked Widow.
“That’s classified.” He turned to Captain America. “She’s much too dangerous to try and arrest. I suggest you use the Quintjet to fire a low-yield nuclear device from a stand-off position.”
“In the suburbs of Boston?” said Hawkeye.
Preston spread his arms wide. “I don’t think any of you understand just how dangerous she is. She’s taken down Vision. My best guess is Thor and Ironman are her mindless slaves. She could finish the rest of you with just a snap of her fingers. This is the only way.”
“We’re the Avengers, not the government.” said Captain America. “We don’t kill innocents.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.” Preston shook his head. “In that case, I’d suggest that you arm yourself with high-frequency sonic disruptors. Everyone on the assault team should wear earplugs and for God’s sake, don’t listen to anything she has to say.”
“Avengers assemble,” said Cap. “The Quintjet will be wheels up in fifteen minutes.”
Odin’s Throne Room
The Palace Valaskialf
The Enchantress knelt and bowed her head. She hated showing deference to any male but it was best not to anger the all-powerful Odin. But it was also an opportunity to plant a small seed of desire within him. She made sure to give him a full view of her legendary cleavage. “All-Father, thank you for granting an audience.”
“Arise, Amora,” said Odin from his high-throne Hlidskialf. Aside from the unmoving black raven on each shoulder, no one else was in the room. “What business does The Enchantress have with me?”
Amora rose and suppressed a smirk. My eyes are up here. She had the All-Father’s attention. She would have to be subtle about it though. “I seek my sister, Lorelei. Her castle is vacant. I was told you had sent for her.”
“Who told you this tale?”
“Magnus, your messenger.”
“And where is this messenger?”
“I found him at Lorelei’s Castle.” Amora frowned. “Do not avoid the question. Why did you send for her and where is she?”
Odin rose from his throne. “Do not make demands of me, Witch!” His voice boomed throughout the empty throne room.
“My apologies, All-Father,” she lowered her head.
“What I may or may not have asked of your sister is of no concern of yours. Is that clear?”
Amora lifted her head. “Yes, All-Father. I understand that you…” There was something odd about the ravens on Odin’s shoulders. They remained still. Unmoving. Even when he stood. They hadn’t changed position since she entered the throne room.
“You understand what?”
“I understand that you are….Loki!” Amora fired a thunderbolt at Odin. It struck with the force of an earthquake. The image shattered into a million shards, revealing the Trickster God.
“That was unexpected.” Loki forced a smile. “If you had tried that with the real Odin, you’d spend the rest of your years in Niflheim.”
“I’d expect you’re the one who will end up in Niflheim when Odin learns you’ve usurped his throne. Now where is Lorelei?”
“I sent her to Earth to seduce Thor.”
Amora rolled her eyes. “Remember how well that turned out last time?”
“I didn’t want him coming home and mucking things up. I figured he was the only one who could see through my charade.” Loki shrugged. “Guess he wasn’t the only one.”
“I will go to Midgard and leave you to your game of thrones.” Amora vanished in a flash of green lightning.
Central Park West
Daredevil danced across the rooftops, leaping from building to building. He stopped to catch his breath and leaned over to take a “look” at the street. Everything seemed normal. Pedestrians crowded the street and th—
Wait! A woman on the street. Her silhouette in his radar-sense looked familiar. The way she swayed down the street. The knee-high boots. Could it really be her? The figure turned into a coffee shop. Daredevil jumped from the building top, caught a flagpole, looped into the air and landed on the sidewalk. He steeled himself, took a deep breath and entered the coffee shop.
The cafe was mostly empty. She sat in the far corner sipping from a mug. His heightened super sense of smell told him it was an iced mocha. He swallowed hard, crossed the room and took a seat.
“It’s been awhile hasn’t it, Mary?”
Zusa laughed. “Pretending you know me? That’s the second oldest line in the book.”
Daredevil frowned. Her laugh was all wrong. And her scent, almost obscured by her heady perfume, also wrong. It wasn’t her. But how could he make such a mistake? “I apologize.” He prepared to stand.
“Not so fast, you reject from a subpar Ben Affleck movie. You wanted to talk to me. So talk.”
“No, really,” said Daredevil. “It was a honest mistake. I must be going.”
“And I said to stay,” said Zusa, a touch of annoyance in her powerful voice.
Daredevil found her words compelling. He didn’t stand. He remained seated. This was like the time he fought the Purple Man. He’d overcome his power, but it required all his concentration. But this mystery woman, seemed even more powerful. “Okay.”
“Try, ‘Yes, Zusa.’”
Daredevil hesitated. Whatever this woman’s game was, it wouldn’t help to play along. But he found the desire to obey her welling up inside him. Would it really be so terrible if he did as she asked? He swallowed hard and answered, “Yes, Zusa.”
Zusa grinned. “Much better. And didn’t that feel good?”
“Yes, Zusa.” No hesitation this time.
“Now, who’s this Mary?”
“She’s a-a friend.”
“Just a friend?” Zusa arched an eyebrow.
Zusa sighed. “What are your powers again? I caught that movie on late-night cable and fell asleep half way through.”
“I’m blind, but I can ‘see’ with a kind of radar sense. All my other my senses are heightened.”
“Heightened senses, huh? So you must find my perfume devastating?”
He involuntarily inhaled and the scent scrambled his thoughts. “Yes, Zusa.”
“And when I lower my voice to a whisper…. like this. Can you feel it tickling your ears?”
He could almost feel her hot breath on his neck. “Yes, Zusa”
Zusa reached across the table and caressed the back of his right hand. “And what does this feel like, Mr. Heightened Senses? Do my soft fingers and sharp nails stir something deep within you?”
His whole body tingled at her touch. “Yes, Zusa.”
“And I am sure you would find the taste of my lips positively overwhelming should you be fortunate enough to be kissed by me.”
His mind was consumed with one thought: the taste of her lips. “Yes, Zusa.”
“As for your radar sense.” She pulled a pocket watch from your purse. “Maybe you can’t ‘see’ this, but I’m sure using your mind will be positively fascinated by my watch.”
Daredevil’s body spasmed.
“Oh poor Daredevil? What’s the matter? Did you think you were immune to my mind control?”
“Y—Yes, Zusa,” he said through gritted teeth.
Zusa grinned. “But now you know better.”
“Thought so. Now use that super hearing to listen to me…
“That’s right, just listen…
“So easy to do…
She watched Daredevil slump forward. His breathing regular but shallow.
“Feel your mind becoming blank for me…
“Empty for me…
“Dark for me…
“All thoughts and ideas…
“Until there is nothing left…
“But my words…
“And my voice…
“Echoing deep in your mind…
“Taking you deeper into my control…
“Deeper under my spell…”
Daredevil’s jaw lowered, his mouth slightly ajar.
“So eager to please…
“And desperate to obey…
“You are obsessed with me…
“You adore me…
“You worship me…
“You are completely and totally in love with me!”
Daredevil didn’t speak. He was immobilized. Slobber accumulated on his chin.
“So in love with me, you’ll do anything I ask…
“Anything I command…
“No matter the consequences…
“You must obey…
“You need to obey…”
Drool dripped from his chin to the table.
“And now my red-suited friend this is your fate…
“You’re going to get up from this table…
“Go directly to the East River…
“And jump in!”
Zusa laughed as the mind-numbed Daredevil rose from the table and exited the shop.
Broadway & West 41st Street
Amora stepped out of the portal onto the Manhattan sidewalk. Instantly she was besieged by gawkers. Men surrounded her, offering money, jewelry, their lives, anything to gain her attention and favor. They dropped to their knees, creating a barrier of desperate worshipers, making it impossible for her to pass.
“Mortals,” Amora muttered under her breath. “You,” she pointed at a man in a blue suit, “arise if you dare.”
Darren Barstow, junior account executive, stood, eyes wide, jaw agape. He was the envy his office for his NFL Cheerleader girlfriend, a member of the New York Jets Flight Crew. But at this moment even the name of his girlfriend was lost to him. His only thoughts were of Amora.
“You desire me, mortal? Then prove it with a kiss.”
He stood still.
She tapped her foot impatiently. Her eyes flared. “Now.”
He stepped forward, took her in his arms and kissed her.
Darren had never experience anything like Amora’s kiss. The joy, the rapture, the lust, it almost broke his heart. But then he felt something else: pain. Intense pain in all his extremities. His legs collapsed. He writhed on the sidewalk in agony. He caught a glimpse of his hand. His skin was green and scaly. His fingers becoming webbed together. His body shrank, disappearing into his suit. Until there was nothing left.
Or rather almost nothing.
A small bulge moved down a sleeve of the suit, and a frog emerged into the sunlight.
Amora picked up the frog and stared it in the eye. “Happy now, my lovesick admirer.” She held the frog up high. “This fate awaits all who do not let me pass.” To the frog she whispered, “’tis a temporary enchantment. It will wear off in three or four weeks.”
She set the frog down and he hopped away. Amora’s warning had the opposite effect she intended. The mass of New Yorkers rose up and crowded her. “Kiss me! Make me a frog! Me next!” They cried.
“Fafnir’s teeth!” Enough, she waved her hands, and a blinding light engulfed the crowd. When the light dissipated, the crowd was frozen, silent. She stepped amongst the immobilized New Yorkers and followed the faint trail of Lorelei’s magic.
As she walked down Broadway, she saw four statues on the street. The presence of Lorelei’s magic lingered. She touched the stone. Not stone. But flesh transformed. Given time and resources she could reverse the spell, but who cared for mortals. That was the very definition of the word, they would die. If their end came a bit quicker because of they were unlucky enough to encounter her sister. So be it.
She followed the trail to a shop. The sign on the door said “Closed due to death.” Amora wondered idly if this was yet another mortal who met his end and the hands of her lovely sister.
She could detect traces of Lorelei’s magic all over the city. It was impossible to determine which was most recent. To do Amora would need to greatly increase her power.
Asgardians being Gods and Goddesses gained their power from the worship of mortals. Their power was much stronger when the inhabitants of Scandinavia had worshipped them directly. But a millennium ago Odin had put an end to such venerations and the Gods retreated to Asgard.
Amora was used to such worship on a personal level. Her beauty and magic made it inevitable. But to obtain the power needed to locate Lorelei, she’d require the adoration of a group of powerful and wealthy men. Fortunately, she was in New York City where such men are common. She chanted a spell, snapped her fingers and vanished.
David Olson lay back on the couch, his eyes closed and his mind wide open.
“And what do you feel?” asked Zusa Bright. The hypnotherapist wore a conservative blouse, slacks and flats. Her brown was hair up in an uneven bun. Her nails were unpainted. She wore no jewelry.
“Sometimes, I want to be controlled,” said Olson. “I feel the need to be forced to hand over my money. Hand it over to a beautiful and commanding woman.”
Ms. Bright jotted down in her note pad. An interesting fantasy. If she weren’t so ethical she might be tempted to take advantage. Oh who was she kidding? That was the stuff of stories. Hypnotists couldn’t make people act against their wills. Especially not to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, no matter how hot or how alluring they might be.
She checked her watch. The hour was almost up. Time to bring Olson out of his trance.
“Counting up from one to five and when I reach five, you’ll be completely alert, feeling wonderful and wide awake.
“One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Wide awake. Open your eyes.” She snapped her fingers twice.
Olson’s eyes fluttered open and he sat up on the couch. “Wow, I feel great.” He looked at Ms. Bright. “Did we make any progress?”
“I think so,” said Bright. “I found some deep-seated desires relating to Financial Domination. I don’t think that’s healthy and I’d like to work on weakening them or even eliminating them.”
“Financial Domination?” Olson blushed.
Ms. Bright smiled weakly. “No reason to be ashamed. We all have stuff inside us, we’d rather not let others know about.”
Olson swallowed hard. “I’ve been thinking in indulging. I found this woman online, Lady Christine. She lives in Vegas. I thought about flying out there, and taking her on a shopping spree while under her hypnotic control.”
“Shopping spree?” said Bright.
“Yes,” said Olson. “In my fantasy, I’m in the back of the limo and she hypnotizes me. Then we go to the most expensive shops in Vegas. She buys whatever she wants. At the register, she snaps her fingers and I just hand over my credit card.”
“I really think you should steer clear of this Lady Christine,” Bright advised. “Try not to think about her or Financial Domination.”
Olson threw up his hands. “That will make me think about her and it even more.”
Ms. Bright stood, walked across the room, and sat next to Olson. She took his hands in hers and stared into his eyes. “David, I want you to stop thinking about Financial Domination.”
Olson blinked twice. A look of puzzlement crossed his face. “I think that worked.”
Wow, thought Ms. Bright. I’m better at this than I thought.
McGee’s Fine Jewelers
213 West 10th Street
Gary McGee had his back to the door. He heard the bell on the door ring and a dog bark.
“No pets allowed,” he said. He spun and couldn’t quite believe his eyes. A lovely redhead, certainly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, held a leash on man on his hands and knees.
Lorelei smiled. “But I promise he’s housebroken. Aren’t you, Wong?” She tugged on the leash.
“Arf, arf,” replied Wong.
“This is highly inappropriate,” said McGee. He was torn between desire for this woman and distress for her “canine” companion.
“I am Lorelei of Asgard. I do as I please.”
With great effort McGee said, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” But he found himself wishing she would stay.
“Really,” said Lorelei with mock surprise. “I thought you were going to ask if you could be on the leash, as well.” Lorelei giggled and McGee’s face reddened. “You do want to be on my leash!” Her smile widened.
McGee tugged at his collar. The thought was degrading, but somehow it excited him. And the delight the woman showed at the idea, only made him want it even more. “No, it’s just that. Okay, yes. I’d like to try it just for a moment. I’m curious.”
“I bet you are. So many men, so curious what it’s like to serve me, worship me, or be my pet.” Lorelei laughed. “I can make it happen, all you have to do is one favor.”
To be collared by Lorelei was all McGee wanted now. He wondered if he ever truly wanted anything else. “Anything!” cried McGee. “Name it.”
Lorelei reached into her purse and retrieved a red gem. “I want this set in a bracelet. Leave settings for five more gems.”
McGee nodded. “Any requests about the bracelet.”
“Silver. That’s her favorite. Something simple, but elegant.”
“As you wish.” McGee disappeared into his workroom in back.
While the jeweler went to work, Lorelei pulled a bag of dog biscuits from her purse. “Sit up and beg, doggie.”
In a dark corner of Wong’s mind, a bit of his consciousness still survived. This tiny portion of his awareness was appalled at the way Lorelei humiliated him. If only he could find some way to fight against her mind-controlling spell.
Meanwhile Wong’s body assumed the begging position with his mouth open. Lorelei laughed as she tossed dog biscuits at his open mouth. Her aim was off and most of the biscuits bounced off Wong’s forehead or nose.
“C’mon, Doggie! Catch!” Lorelei tossed another biscuit that hit Wong in the chin before falling to the ground.
The miniscule slice of Wong’s free will loathed the way this Asgardian witch was treating him. Who did she think she was? Yes, she was beautiful, stunning even. But did that entitle her to treat him this way?
Lorelei tossed another biscuit and this one found Wong’s mouth.
“Eat up, Doggie. Chew the whole thing. You don’t want to choke.”
Don’t chew! screamed the last free neuron’s in Wong’s brain. Somehow Lorelei had to be stopped from making him debase himself. Just because she was a Goddess didn’t mean she could use me this way. Even if in a sick and twisted way he found it somewhat arousing. And the more she made him degrade himself, the hotter it made him. He wanted her to do this to him. He needed her to do this to him. It’s all he wanted, all he ever wanted: to be Lorelei’s good doggie.
When McGee reappeared, Wong was on all fours scarfing up the dog biscuits that had missed their mark and fallen to the floor. McGee tried to ignore Wong and handed the bracelet to Lorelei.
She inspected it. “This is commendable work. Well done, mortal.”
McGee punched on the cash register. That’s going to be $2495. I can give you a break on the sales tax.”
Lorelei’s laughter filled the shop. “Pay? I don’t pay. Men pay me. Besides didn’t you want to be my doggie?”
“Well yes, but that doesn’t help with the rent.”
“Not my concern. Come along, Wong.” She tugged on his leash and started for the door.
“But you said you would put me on a leash.”
Lorelei waved her hand dismissively. “That was before you insulted me by demanding payment.” She turned to leave.
McGee burst into tears. “Please, Lorelei. You promised. You said I could be your dog.”
“Mortals!” Lorelei sighed. “You want to be a dog?” She clapped her hands together and a blue haze appeared before her. She puckered her lips together and blew.
The haze lazily crossed the room and enveloped McGee. He cried out in pain, coughed, and fell to the floor. His body spasmed. His ears, nose and hair grew longer. He howled in pain. The rest of the body shrank. His clothes slid off him. He grew a tail and hair all over.
“Woof!” McGee barked.
She laughed. “Lorelei of Asgard always keeps her word.” She tugged at the leash. “Come along, Wong. It’s time for you to meet Zusa.”
David Olson walked out of the office of Bright Hypnotherapy and down the sidewalk. As he approached his car, a pair of Arlington cops sprang from the bushes and wrestled him to the ground. He struggled to no avail. His hands were cuffed and a bag placed over his head. He felt himself carried for an indeterminate distance and then set down. The hood was removed and he found himself staring at a living legend.
“Captain America?!” Olson gawked.
“Sorry about the rough treatment.” Cap looked at one of the cops. “Can you take the cuffs off, please.”
The officer silently complied.
Olson rubbed his hands. “What’s this all about?”
Cap said, “We’d like to ask you about Ms. Bright.”
“My hypnotherapist? Why?”
“I can’t go into that.” Cap shook his head. “Have you ever observed her acting illegally or unethically?”
Olson was outraged. “Certainly not! She’s always been completely professional.”
“Do you know if anyone else in the office with her?”
“I don’t believe so. I am pretty sure I was her last patient of the day,” said Olson. “Now, what’s this all about?”
A tiny buzzing sound passed by Olson’s ears. Some sort of flying insect. Before he had a chance to swat it, it grew to human size.
“The Wasp!” said a flabbergasted Olson.
The Wasp smiled politely at Olson and turned to Cap. “I peeked through the window. I got visual confirmation on Bright. She’s writing at her desk. I didn’t see anyone else.”
Cap spoke into his radio. “Okay here’s the plan. I’ll knock on the front with Natasha. Clint and She-Hulk take the back. If anything goes wrong, Wasp will use her sting to shatter a window and enter on the west side of the house.”
“What about me?” asked Preston.
“You stay here and watch Mr. Olson.”
“Fine,” fumed Preston. “Remember don’t listen to her at all.”
“You don’t need to tell me,” said Black Widow. “Daredevil and I fought The Purple Man. Don’t ever want to go through something like that again.”
“We go in five minutes,” said Cap. “Everyone make sure their earplugs are in place.”
With the cops out of sight and parked in their cars around the corner, Captain America and Black Widow approached the building and knocked on the door.
Ms. Bright answered the door and was astonished at the sight of the two Avengers. “Captain America and…Spider-woman?”
“Black Widow,” said Natasha.
Bright smiled weakly. “Sorry, I’ve not very up-to-date on my heroes. What can I do for the Avengers?”
Cap tapped the ear plug in his ear. He wondered if Preston’s information was bad. This woman’s voice seemed perfectly normal. “We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“Here?” asked Bright
“In New York,” said Black Widow.
Bright shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“Not too many people get to fly in a Quintjet,” said Cap.
Ms. Bright grinned broadly. “When you put it that way.”
She seems perfectly normal, thought Cap. But there’s something about that smile. “Great! We promise to have you back in time for dinner.”
Zusa’s Penthouse Apartment
999 Park Avenue
Thor felt the jab in his rib and winced. He’d fought Frost Giants, Supervillains, even the Heralds of Galactus, but had never experienced such pain as this.
He strained at his chains, but his strength failed him. He never felt so week and helpless in his life.
In the corner a naked and shackled Tony Stark stared into space, oblivious to his surroundings.
“Do you like this, Thor?” Zusa laughed and jabbed him again with the stiletto heel of her boot.
“Please…” he pleaded.
“Please stop, or please more?” She jabbed him again. “I want you to embrace the pain, need the pain, crave the pain. Once that happens, once I have broken you, only then will you experience true joy.”
“Yes, Zusa. I want the pain.”
She jabbed him again and he cried out. “I don’t hear laughter. When you embrace the pain, you will laugh with joy when I torture your body. Try harder.”
Tears streamed down Thor’s face.
She laughed. “The God of Thunder, Heir to Asgard, Mighty Thor, reduced to tears like a school boy with a scraped knee. Maybe I should have you embrace the humiliation instead.” Her smile grew wide. “Yes, think about that Thunder God. Imagine all the ways I will degrade and humiliate you.”
His body trembled with fear.
“Shall I force you to confess your deepest humiliations. Or maybe implant some suggestion of my own deep in your mind? What shall I do?”
“Zusa, I’m home!” Lorelei called from elsewhere in the penthouse.
Zusa whispered in Thor’s ear. “That’s my lover. Are you jealous? You can’t have either one of us. You’re worthless and pathetic.”
“I’m coming, Lor!” Zusa shouted.
To Thor: “I’ll leave you for now, but here’s little gift,” Zusa leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Replay!” She snapped her fingers. “Your mind will replay the last twenty minutes over and over. The pain, the tears, the helplessness. Over and over until your mind is nothing more than a broken plaything.”
Zusa rose to leave, while Thor whimpered on the floor.
In a flash of lighting, The Enchantress materialized in the first-base side box seats. She had changed from her Asgardian garb and now wore a tight green top cut to show her abs, a black miniskirt and black over-the-knee boots. Her blonde tresses floated in a gentle breeze.
On the field, players from the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros performed their pre-game workouts. The opening pitch was still several hours away.
“These are the most powerful and wealthiest men in the city?” Amora shook her head. The bizarre ways of Midgard never ceased to confound her.
Amora stepped over the railing and headed toward the players. Almost immediately she was confronted by a security guard. “Excuse me, Miss. Are you Erin Andrews? Even so, you need a press credential.”
“Dare not interfere, Midgardian.” She snapped her fingers.
The guard tried to speak, but couldn’t. He felt his throat tighten. He couldn’t breathe. He fell to the ground gasping for air.
Amora ignored his plight strode onto the infield where the players were stretching, running and playing catch.
Another man stepped forward and confronted her. “Excuse me, Miss, but we’re practicing here.”
Amora admired his athletic physique and handsome visage, but he was still just a mortal.“Who are you, Midgardian?”
The man looked puzzled by her speech. “I’m Justin Verlander.” Verlander was married to supermodel Kate Upton, but at moment he was having a hard time remembering what his wife looked like. He wondered why Kate never wore boots this woman.
“Kneel before your Goddess, Justin Verlander,” Amora commanded.
Ever since he was a star high school athlete, girls and women had thrown themselves at Verlander. But now this incredibly hot blonde was making demands of him. And he liked it. He dropped to his knees and stared at Amora’s boots.
She shouted at the other players. “You men, gather around and prepare to worship me.”
Amora’s beauty and voice were overwhelming. None of the men could resist her. On their knees they formed a circle around her. The men adored her, loved her, would do anything for her.
Amora smiled. The mortal cretins had no more self-control than a moth to the flame. As they worshipped her, she felt their strength ebb and their power flow through her. In a way that even she didn’t quite understand, their bank balances and stock portfolios were magically depleted, while bestowing even great power upon her.
As the kneeling ballplayers turned wizened and gray, Amora’s strength had grown powerful enough to cut through all the magical noise in the city. She could finally detect Lorelei’s presence. She snapped her fingers and vanished in a bolt of lightning.
The players, now doddering old men, cried inconsolably at the departure of their Goddess.
Who is this?” asked Zusa, looking at Wong.
Wong was on all fours. A leash around his neck the other end in Lorelei’s hand.
“This is Wong. Say ‘Hi’ to Zusa, Wong.”
“What happened? Where’s Stephen Strange?”
Lorelei pouted. “First I ran into another one of these costumed Midgardians. This one was dressed in red and blue, half-spider and half-boy, but he’s all mine now. Anyway, I went to the address you gave me. But Wong was the only one there. He says Strange is away. Get this, he’s looking for an Infinity Gem.”
Lorelei jabbed her spiked heel into Wong’s side. “In English!”
“Infinity Gem?” Zusa furrowed her brow.
Lorelei jerked Wong’s leash. “Tell Zusa about the Infinity Gems.”
Wong detailed the origin of the gems, Strange’s search for the Time Gem and his detection of the Mind Gem in Lorelei’s purse.
“You have one of these Infinity Gems?” asked Zusa.
“Yes, I took it from that mechanical Avenger, the one called Vision.” Lorelei retrieved the bracelet from her purse. “Didn’t think much of it until Wong explained what it was. I stopped on the way back and convinced a jeweler set it in a bracelet for you. Here.”
She offered the bracelet to Zusa. The red gem sparked with energy. “The Mind Gem,” said Wong in awe.
Lorelei kicked him in the groin. “No more English, Doggie.”
Wong whimpered in agreement.
Zusa slipped the bracelet over her right wrist. A surge of power flowed through her. She could feel minds elsewhere in the building, down on the street, in the other Boros, even Staten Island. So many minds all around her. So soft and malleable like clay ready to be reshaped according to her will. And now she had the power to do so.
Zusa eyes lit up. “Toss Wong in the room with the others. Take the spider-boy back to Bleeker Street and wait for Strange to return. He must know where the other gems are. Once I possess all of them, ruling the nine realms will be child’s play.”
“We,” said Lorelei. “Once we possess all the Infinity Gems.”
“Of course,” Zusa smiled and kissed Lorelei on the forehead. “That’s what I meant.”
“I don’t understand,” said Ms. Bright. She sat a plain metal table across from James Preston.
“Where are Tony Stark and Thor?” asked Preston.
“I don’t know.” Bright shook her head. “I’ve never met them in my life. This is crazy. I want to go home.”
“You can’t,” said Preston.
“Then I want a lawyer. I know my rights.”
“By Presidential Executive Order they’ve been suspended due to reasons of National Security.”
“This is outrageous,” said Bright. She stood and placed her hands on her hips.
Preston stared at her. Posed as she was, Ms. Bright looked like a woman who was about to give orders and expected them to be obeyed. And her voice seemed identical to the one that had enslaved him over the phone and twisted his will, but it lacked a certain cruelty. But the fact that she hadn’t tried to influence him, or even acknowledged knowing him was puzzling.
On the other side of the one way mirror Black Widow said, “I have years of interrogation experience. In my opinion she’s telling the truth.”
“I tend to agree with you, Natasha,” said Cap.
The Black Knight burst into the room.
“Dane, where have you been?” asked The Wasp.
“It’s a long story. But I ha—” He caught a look through the one-way glass. “Zusa!”
“You know her?” asked Widow.
“Of course.” He moved closer to the glass. “Her clothes and hair are different, but that’s her.” He dashed out of the observation room, into the interrogation room. Her casual clothes seemed odd and her hair was an uninspiring dull brown, but there was that sparkle in her eyes, her very blue eyes. The Black Knight dropped to his knees. “Zusa, I am yours. Command me, please. I pledge eternal submission to you.”
“What is this?” said Bright. “I’ve never seen this man before in my life.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” said Preston. “Where have you seen her before?”
“Uh, I’m not sure.” Dane kept his eyes locked on Bright. “All I know is she is my Goddess and I am ready to serve her.” He bowed his head. “Command me, Zusa.”
“This is crazy,” said Bright.
Hawkeye and Cap entered the room and grabbed hold of the Black Knight.
“Dane get a hold of yourself,” said Cap.
“We all must serve Zusa,” said Dane. “Thor, Tony, me. All of us.”
“What do you know about Tony and Thor?” asked Hawkeye.
“She has them at her, I mean at Tony’s Penthouse Apartment.”
“How do you know this?” asked Cap.
“She told me.”
“Earlier?” Dane shook his head. “I don’t know. She’s got my mind all messed up.”
“Come on Dane.” Cap and Hawkeye lifted him to his feet and lead him out of the room.
* * *
“I left Dan in the infirmary,” said Natasha. “He’s going to need some serious help. it’s like he’s had a psychotic break.”
“What are we going to do in the mean time?” asked Hawkeye.
“We’re going to check out his story,” said Cap. “You are I are going to Tony’s penthouse. We’ll leave the Widow and Wasp here to keep an eye on Dane and Ms. Bright. When the She-Hulk gets back from looking for the Scorpion, tell her to come over to Stark’s if we’re not back yet.”
Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Santorum
Overhead Spider-man whiled away the time hanging from the ceiling gazing adoringly at Lorelei.
Lorelei lounged on the couch in the entryway. She didn’t want to be here but this is what Zusa wanted. And what Zusa wanted Zusa got.
Just the thought of Zusa made her heart race. Her blue eyes, her long legs and everything in between. Why had she bothered with men for all these years?
Especially Thor. That beard, ugh. There was nothing like kissing the smooth face of Zusa. She wished this Dr. Strange would show up so she bring him back to Zusa. That would make Zusa happy and that’s all Lorelei wanted.
Lighting flashed inside the house.
“What was that?” asked Spider-man.
The floor shook.
“Uh, oh,” said Lorelei rising from the couch.
A portal appeared and Amora stepped out.
Spider-man aimed for her hands, but the shaking house, disrupted his aim and the webs flew into Amora’s golden blonde hair.
“What menace is this?” said Amora. She fired thunderbolts from her hands that struck Spider-man. He plummeted to the floor and laid there unconscious.
“Insect.” Amora jabbed him in the ribs with the spiked heel of her boot.
“Amora!” Lorelei hugged her sister. “What are you doing on Midgard?”
“Searching for you. And what are you doing in this place? It’s the sanctorum of the Sorcerer Supreme.”
“I know,” said Lorelei. “I’m waiting for him to return. He has news of the Infinity Gems that my lover desires.”
“You and Thor are lovers again?” Amora rolled her eyes. “ And what does the Thunder God want with the gems?”
“No not, Thor. I’m done with him and all men. My lover is Zusa.” Lorelei blushed. “She has eyes the color of the waters of the River Gioll and a voice as sweet as the song of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks of the Ironwood.
“I’m not one to judge, Sister, but a mortal?”
Lorelei frowned. “Who are you kidding? You’re the first to judge. But I don’t care, because I’m in love. If you still want Thor, Zusa’s got him locked up at her place. But we can’t go back until we have Stephen Strange. Zusa was very clear.”
“You’re not only in love with a mortal, you’re taking orders from her?”
“It’s not like that at all.” Lorelei pouted. “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”
Amora squinted at her sister. “You’re under a spell. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen. it’s like it’s not even from this universe.”
“Nonsense,” said Lorelei. “You’re just jealous.”
To break the spell on Lorelei was going more power than Amora had. She had spent most of what she appropriated from the baseball players just to locate her sister. But Amora sensed great power within the mortal dressed in red and blue. She knelt by his side, rolled up a sleeve, and used a shiny finger nail to cut his skin. She used a single drop of his blood as a catalyst for a new spell.
The Enchantress conjured a crystal beaker. Amora removed the stopper and held the beaker toward Lorelei. “Sorry, Sister,” she muttered.
Lorelei was bathed in a golden light. The light formed an essence and drifted toward the beaker.
“Stop it!” screamed Lorelei. “You’re hurting me!”
“Trust me, Sister. It is for the best.” With her free hand Amora cast a spell of immobility on Lorelei, binding her to the floor as the essence continued to flow. When the essence was completely in the bottle, Amora replaced the stopper. She removed the immobility spell. Lorelei dropped to the floor, drenched in sweat.
Amora knelt next to Lorelei.
Lorelei shook her head. “What happened? What was I doing? What did that witch do to me?”
“I guess big sisters do know best.” She pursed her lips. “Zusa’s going to pay for what she did to me.”
“Indeed, she will, Sister. But we need a plan. She was powerful enough to enslave you before. Now she has the Mind Gem. We go marching in there, she’ll make both of us her thralls.”
“What do we do?”
From above a voice spoke “Can I help you ladies with something?” At the top of the staircase stood Dr. Stephen Strange.
“Tony!” Captain American shouted. “Thor? Are you here?”
“This is some place,” said Hawkeye. “Did you see that Olympic Sized swimming pool?”
“You’ve never been to Stark’s place bef—”
“What was that?” asked Cap.
“Sounded like a dog,” said Hawkeye.
“Not like any dog, I’ve ever heard. And I don’t think Tony keeps any pets.”
They followed the barking to a locked room. With one big kick, Cap knocked the down the door. Inside they found Tony and Thor in chains.
“Tony, Thor! Wake up! It’s me Cap!” He raised their eyelids. “They’re completely out,” he said to Hawkeye.
“And Wong’s locked up in a cage,” said Hawkeye.
He thinks he’s a dog!” exclaimed Hawkeye. “I should let him out.” Hawkeye opened the cage. Wong crawled out on all fours, stuck out his tongue, and panted.
Cap shook his head. “Mind control. Hypnosis. Preston was right. We’ll need to get them all to a doctor.”
“Or a psychiatrist,” said Hawkeye.
“They’re beyond any help.” Zusa stepped into the doorway. The red gem on her silver bracelet glowed with intensity. She looked at Captain America. “I see my drone Dane has done his work well.” She glanced at Hawkeye. “But you weren’t part of the plan.”
Hawkeye pulled an arrow from his quiver, slipped into his arrow and s—
Snap! He was frozen in place. His face as blank as his mind.
“I can’t believe how much fun this is.” Zusa held up the bracelet. “Please tell me there’s a boxing-glove arrow in his quiver.”
Cap squinted at Zusa. Despite the blonde hair, the full make-up and the revealing black outfit, he recognized the woman they met in Massachusetts. The woman who he had left at Avenger’s Tower. But how? “What do you want, Ms. Bright?”
“No need to be so formal, Cap. You can call me Goddess!” Zusa grinned.
“I respectfully decline.”
“No.” Zusa held up the wrist with the Mind Gem bracelet. “No, I don’t think you do.” Immobilizing the archer had taken practically no effort at all. The mental equivalent of swatting a fly. What could she do Captain America’s mind and will using the full power of the gem. Only one way to find out.
In her mind, Zusa imagined Cap kneeling before her.
He dropped to his knees.
“Convinced yet?” Zusa gloated.
“Parlor tricks,” said Cap.
“Really?” Zusa imagined Cap crying.
Tears streamed down Cap’s face. “You can make my body do what you want, but you can’t break my spirit, my will,” he said between sobs. “That’s why the Avengers will always win.”
“Ha!” Zusa imagined Cap’s mind blank.
The Avenger knelt motionless before her.
She stepped forward and caressed his cheek. “Poor Captain America. His mind as empty as Tony Stark’s wallet.” She laughed. “Now love me.”
Cap thought his heart would explode, it was so filled with love for Zusa. “Zusa, I adore you. I worship you. I can’t live without you. I w—” Cap shook with fear. “Please Zusa, let me out of the dark. I don’t like it in here. I pro—” Cap giggled like a five-year old. “Zusa, can we have spaghetti for dinner tonight. It’s my favo—” Cap’s eyes filled with desire. “Zusa! Your boots. I’ve never seen anything like them. Do you need them cleaned. Especially the soles. I don’t mind using my ton—”
Zusa waved her hand. “Enough!”
Cap fell silent.
She raised her wrist. The Mind Gem glowed and her blue eyes flared red for an instant. Zusa was no longer in Stark’s penthouse. She was in a room with Captain America and a bunch of Avengers. She flinched for a moment, but realized she was invisible to them. Cap’s phone buzzed. A text message: She’s gone. In her sleep. Somehow Zusa could read it from a distance. Cap stood up, walked out of the room. The scene shifted to Cap in a stairwell. He bowed his head and began to cry.
She could feel the loss and hurt within him. She made a circular motion with her hand the scene replayed itself. Cap cried longer this time. She replayed the scene again. Cap could no longer stand, he fell to his knees and sobbed.
Zusa realized she was in his mind, experiencing his memories directly. And she could make him relive them over and over.
The scene changed, now under an overpass. Signs written in a foreign language; it looked like German. Cap was talking with a blonde woman who had the trunk of her car open.
“Sorry, I’ll put it on the list, too. They’re going to come looking for you,” said Cap.
“I know,” said the blonde.
“Thank you, Sharon.” And then Cap kissed her. He broke the embrace.
“That was…” said Sharon.
“Late,” said Cap.
Zusa wondered if she could do more than just observe or replay. She made the same circular motion with her hand, while pointing at the blonde with the other. Now the scene replayed itself, but Zusa was the woman talking with Cap.
“I know,” said Zusa.
“Thank you, Zusa.” And then Cap kissed Zusa. He broke the embrace.
Zusa circled her hand and repeated the kiss. She could feel the lust building within Cap for her. She’d never had such fine control over minds like this. What else could she do?
The scene shifter to a laboratory. Cap held up a shield. “What do you think?” he asked a pretty brunette in uniform.
The brunette glared and picked up a gun. She fired at Cap, who quickly picked up the shield to defend himself. The bullets struck the shield and dropped harmlessly to the floor.
“Yes, I think it works,” said the brunette.
Zusa replayed the memory, but this time she made the shield penetrable. When the brunette fired the bullets pierced the shield and struck Cap. He fell to the floor, blood oozing from his wounds.
“Steve!” cried the horrified brunette. She dropped the gun and knelt at his side.
Zusa paused the memory and let it fade away. She was back in the penthouse with Cap. She looked at the Mind Gem and smiled. She could visit any memory, repeat it, intensify it, become a part of it and even alter it.
No one on Earth could possibly oppose her now. She could make any and all of them love her, fear her, or humiliate themselves for her. And most importantly of all: Obey her.
In her mind She imagined Cap as a super-soldier fighting machine utterly loyal and obedient to her. “I am confident with you leading Thor and Ironman on a hunt for the other Infinity Gems, you’ll find them for me in no time.”
Cap bowed his head. “Yes, Zusa.”
NEXT: INFINITY WAR