The walls of the large hallway were made of grey stone and stood nearly ten feet high. The floor was stone as well, but fine lavender instead of grey, arranged in bricks. Every few yards or so, a hydraulic door stood ready on each side, each one as identical to the previous as the next. Decorating the walls was a huge painting image of a purple mushroom with a skull on its cap, underneath the bold purple letters "GO"; this display repeated over the length of the hallway.
This is what she saw as they walked down the long hallway. "She" was a dark-bluish cat-like creature with turquoise markings and large ears and tuft of hair of the same color and large green eyes, with long brown humanesque hair dropping all the way down to her waist, a pair of gold rings splitting her hair in two at chest height. Speaking of chest, she was actually fairly well endowed for a thirteen-year-old, probably around an A-cup. They were covered with a one-piece light purple dress with dark purple lining, which matched the color of her striped shoes. A dark-blue tail, tipped with white, ran behind her; light purple gloves with turquoise tips covered her hands. Topping it all off was a silver oval ring on a black necklace of material hanging from her neck.
She looked over at her companion. He was only a few inches taller than she was, about half a head. He was a fox with, strangely enough, pink fur. He had humanesque brown hair as well, but was much shorter and didn't even reach his neck, with a tuft of pink hair hanging from his forehead. His eyes were also green, but unlike her sad expression, his was more... indescribable, as if confident and not confident at the same time. He wore a black T-shirt with the same purple mushroom on the front, white gloves with purple cuffs, tan pants that completely covered his legs, and white sneakers with grey soles. She had to jog to keep up with his long paces.
Only a few days ago had Lucy been left in a room with an orange hedgehog named Tamany Hall and triggered by a post-hypnotic suggestion she never knew she had. She wound up tied to a chair and to Tamany, who was tied to the wall. It had taken a few days for SC, the fox, and his employees to regain her trust after that, even though she had been informed of that well beforehand. The details were made clear enough; whenever Lucy heard anybody say the word "helpless," she would (after a brief phase of emptiness) become somebody else entirely that tied up and down as well as gagged any attractive girl nearby before proceeding to tie up herself. Once she was properly trapped in whatever method of bondage was used (rope and duct tape were particularly common), she would turn back into her normal self, the shy naive girl that broke into tears when she found she couldn't move.
It was in one of these situations that SC and some of his employees broke her out from and took her to what they called Mt. Majesty, a massive series of caverns that supposedly ran through an entire mountain made of a purple-colored variation of granite, which resided in a separate dimension from her own. Here, she had learned of her plights of blanks in her memory and participated in the experiment that helped SC research it. During the in-between time, she stayed in one of the guest rooms two levels down from SC's room at the very top; when there were dozens, maybe hundreds of different floors, it wasn't all that much. She wasn't allowed to leave the room without escorts and a blindfold on, since SC was a stickler concerning the security of his organization, although it wasn't much of a problem since it had its own private bathroom and her meals were brought to her fresh and tasty three times a day, so leaving was generally unnecessary. Whenever she needed something, she scratched against the sealed hydraulic door to get the attention of the guard, which wasn't easy since she was declawed when she was young.
And only this morning had SC come in, saying he finally had a solution to the problem ready, and this time she wouldn't need to be blindfolded on the way there.
This brought her to now. SC seemed to have some set destination in mind, not that Lucy could tell; every door looked very nearly the same.
"Where are we going?" Lucy asked.
SC gave an exasperated sigh. The clueless cat had asked that at least three times now since he fetched her. "As I keep saying, we're going to use my latest invention to take care of your Zoe problem."
"...'Zoe?' I don't know any Zoe, nya..."
"Not that name exactly. That's the name I gave your, ahem, other self, after my least favorite character on Sesame Street."
"Because I'm with Elmo on the entire Rocko bit. It's a bleepin' rock, for cryin' out loud! I wouldn't sing that stupid song if you paid me!"
Seeing as how she didn't really know what Sesame Street was (it being an Earth television show and all), Lucy decided to remain quiet.
They were in silence after that until SC stopped her at one particular door. "Ah. Here we are."
The door hissed open and, holding her shoulder, SC guided Lucy into the room beyond. It was one of the mountain's many laboratories, one of the bigger ones. Several computers and machines, one of which resembled a bird-shaped walker robot, lined the walls as they walked down.
"You see, Lucy," SC explained as they walked through the machines, "originally Zoe was basically you, or a part of you at least. A part that apparently refuses to surface before. Your trigger triggered this part and it took control. However, since the trigger has been used at least three dozen times or so by now, Zoe's evolved into her own consciousness, a consciousness that remains dormant in the back of your mind until your trigger is used. It's almost like split personality disorder. However, it's also perfect for you; since Zoe is now a completely separate entity, we can use my latest invention to remove her without harming you."
Eventually, they reached the end of the laboratory, where several small creatures in blue and white uniforms all known as X-Naut PhDs were preparing a machine that look up a large chunk of the wall. The main body was rectangular and dark grey, three times as wide as Lucy and twice as tall. At the bottom center was a computer screen and dashboard with many multi-colored buttons, none of which had labels (typical of Game Over machinery). On the left, a small tray-like platform, colored a lighter shade of grey, attached to the machine with a mechanical brace below it; sitting on the trey was a large jar with a narrow neck. Along the top of the central prism was a large slot from which stuck a mechanical arm with a strange three-pronged claw that looked vaguely like a drill. A slab of the machine extended to the right, beneath which was a large metal table on an axis like Frankenstein's laboratory.
"Behold, if you will!" SC said dramatically as he gestured to the gigantic machine. "The Conso-Extractor! With this, Zoe's soul will be removed from your body and safely contained in this Soul Jar I got as a souvenir from the Lost World! OK, not so much 'souvenir' as much as 'stolen at great risk' but what's it matter? Love to see anybody, much less Gregory Mama, try to get out of that dimension! Hah!"
Lucy looked nervously at the table, or more specifically the leather belt straps on it for her head, torso, wrists, and ankles. "Um... You know I don't like being tied up. Or down, for that matter, nya."
"Extracting whole consciousnesses is no easy task, my dear," SC replied. "Odds are the process will cause several body spasms in similar effect to seizures. The straps are there to make sure the spasms are kept under control so they don't damage the machine, and trust me, you do not want a damaged machine working with your brain."
This really didn't do much to lift Lucy's spirits.
"Oh relax, it's perfectly safe," SC said after seeing that Lucy's fears didn't leave. "Sure, I had to jury-rig half of everything and I haven't had the chance to fully test it, definitely not my best work, but it'll do the job, no problem! And you'll be anathe... anathesi... sleeping during the entire operation, so it won't hurt a bit!"
"I still dunno, nya..."
"Hm... I suppose a demonstration is in order." With that, SC dived behind another large machine and after some shifting about emerged carrying an old fashioned bug sprayer. "This sprayer contains a relatively harmless pesticide. Normally, souls are made of more along the lines of plasma than gas, but this will do for a substitute." He turned to the X-Naut PhD at the controls. "Everything set up?"
"All systems go," the PhD replied. He pressed a few buttons and the table pivoted up so it was flat.
SC aimed above the table and pumped the sprayer twice, releasing a just-off-barely-visible yellow cloud to where Lucy's head would be were she on the metal slab. The claw whirred to live and its three prongs began to spin rapidly as the arm moved it over the cloud. Lucy watched in amazement as over time every single particle of pesticide was sucked and compressed into a little yellow gas ball trapped in the cage of claw prongs. The prongs still spinning, the arm rose up and slid across the large slot in the machine to the other side, where it placed the claw facing down into the jar. The pesticide than began to release itself into the jar. Once all the yellow gas was swirling inside, the claw stopped spinning and the arm returned to its original position.
"Of course, I'll be there to cork it once Zoe's soul is inside, lest she escape," SC explained as he put away the sprayer and pulled out a large cork, just the right size for the jar. "This cork is also a souvenir from the Lost World and has the same soul-restraining properties as the jar. Once Zoe's inside, she won't escape until I let her. Not that I ever will, of course." He said this last line with an unnerving chuckle.
By now, two other PhDs had taken the bottle off the tray and turned it upside down to knock the pesticides out of the jar before replacing it, and the table had returned to its original position.
Lucy was of course impressed by how the machine worked, but she still felt reluctant to strap herself in. Apparently this was very visible on her face.
"Aw c'mon, when haven't I done something that wasn't in your best interests, hm?" he reassured her. "Five minutes, seven at most, and your troubles are over. At least, concerning Zoe."
After several moments, Lucy made up her mind. "Alright... I trust you... But please, be gentle."
"Don't worry about a thing," he said as he guided her over to the table. "I have no intentions whatsoever of harming you."
Especially if I want to turn you into my servant girl, he thought as he helped Lucy get onto the table and put the straps on her. No use in cuddling and rubbing against a bruised body. But now I'm questioning myself... Do I really want to put her through it? I mean, once Zoe's out, Lucy won't turn into her when triggered and I'll be able to morph her as I wish. She's a bit on the young side though. Only thirteen... And she has a mother and an older sister that'll be worried about her if they're not worried right now. And both Mt. Majesty's and her world's time streams are synched, so I can't count on accelerating her age to make her grow faster. Hm... We'll just have to see if I can get Zoe out first and see how it turns out from there. Maybe if the stars are right, I'll get a chance to add her to my currently empty collection.
He made sure the straps were firm but not too tight. "Feeling comfortable, Miss O'Conner?"
"Not really, nyar..." It was obvious she was scared from her tone.
"Just relax, my dear," SC said. "It'll all be over soon." With his free hand he gestured to one of the PhDs, who was pulling a sedative from a glass bottle into a syringe. At the gesture, the PhD walked over.
"I'm going to administer the sedative now," the PhD said to Lucy. "There's enough her to put you out for about ten minutes. It might sting a little."
Lucy was even more scared. First tied down and now she was going to get pricked by a needle! She was about to cry out when she felt a hand rest against hers. He turned her eyeballs (her head was strapped down) to see it was SC.
"Hush, little catgirl, don't say a word," he sung softly. "Momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird, and if that mockingbird don't sing, Momma's gonna buy you a diamond ring..."
A sting in her other arm. She looked back to see the PhD pulling the needle away and applying a bandage over the small puncture in her arm. It resembled a children's band-aid, only Poison Mushrooms on a grey background decorated it.
It took another minute or so for the sedative to take effect. To her credit, Lucy fought it as long as she could, but eventually her mind was so clouded she just closed her eyes drifted off into a deep sleep.
"Subject ready," SC said in a loud whisper (even though it was unnecessary) as he withdrew his hand. "Let's get to work."
"All systems are preparing, ready to begin extraction of Zoe's consciousness in thirty seconds," the PhD at the console reported. "Zoe's brainwave pattern located and isolated."
SC took this time to get a few steps away from the machine. He wanted to really see it all in action. He watched as the table with the sleeping Lucy shifted into its horizontal position. Ye Jiggies, for her sake... I hope this works...
"Beginning extraction in four... three... two... one."
The arm whirred to life again and positioned its claw just a few centimeters above Lucy's forehead before it started to spin. After a few moments, parts of her body started to shake and squirm, but the straps succeeded in keeping her in more or less the same place. As he watched how much pain she was in, SC was glad she was asleep.
Something dark purple began to emerge from Lucy's forehead, almost like a glowing lump. It seemed to be actively resisting getting extracted from the catgirl's body and was barely giving way.
"Zoe is resisting!" the PhD at the controls reported. "We can't extract her!"
"Up the power!" SC ordered.
The PhD twisted a few knobs and the claw started spinning faster. While the glowing lump did shift a little towards the small hole made of the claw's ends, it still held fast. "She's a fighter, this one!"
"Pour everything we got!" SC barked. "We gotta get this right the first time!"
"Wha-? Sir, the claw can't spin any faster! We don't have the proper parts for it!"
"What did I just tell you?! If we stop now, Zoe will be ready for when we try again! Pour. In. Everything!!"
As the machine whirred even faster, the lights flickered and dimmed as electricity was drawn away from them. Lucy's thrashing intensified as the craw spun at mach force speeds, but the glowing dark purple substance barely bulged from its spot.
Before SC could start directing more power from outside the laboratory, there was a small explosion. A corner of the machine began to spew smoke and steam hissed from several spots on the main body. Alarms all over the laboratory went off, bathing the room in red light every other second.
"Sir, the machine's overloading!" the PhD screamed. "I can't control it! It's gonna blow!!"
SC decided better alive and a failure than dead and a failure. "All personnel evacuate immediately!" he shouted over the mechanical cacophony. In an instant, the PhDs scrambled for the door. SC was following them and was just out the door when he remembered something.
"Lucy! We forgot Lucy!!" He quickly looked back and saw a dot of dark blue in the sea of red and grey.
"Sir, you have to get out now!" a PhD called from the door.
"You don't tell me what to do!" he shouted back as he darted back.
He thought quickly. He only had a few seconds until the machine would reach critical and explode, taking the catgirl with it. He considered using Time Halt, but he was too unfocused to hold it long enough to get over there, unstrap Lucy, and then get back carrying her, especially considering his subpar physical strength. They wouldn't make it that way.
A brush of a large object in his pocket against his leg, and he remembered. He quickly extracted a red yo-yo with a Poison Mushroom logo on the sides from his right pocket. "Barrier Beam!" he shouted as he threw the yo-yo like a Frisbee at the extraction claw, which in spite of the malfunction machine was still spinning at high speed above Lucy's forehead. Everything seemed to slow down as the yo-yo flew through the air, a small field of blue energy sparking around it. Hoping it would make its target, SC quickly formed another Barrier Beam around himself, a sphere of blue energy materializing around him.
From behind his shield he watched as the yo-yo flew over Lucy and the claw.
There was an explosion of blue energy that umbrella'd over them.
Followed milliseconds later by an explosion of red flame and flying grey electronic shrapnel.
Instinctively, SC closed his eyes and turned away in a defensive position even though he was behind an impenetrable energy wall. Although the flames themselves couldn't get through, he felt the searing heat and heard the large whooshing sound of the fire licking away at everything it could around him.
After a few seconds, SC opened his eyes, the Cell Shades filtering out the fog of the smoke so he could see. The main structure of the laboratory seemed intact, but most of the wall coverings that cloaked the mountain's purple stone had been burned off and become badly scorched. A part of the ceiling some distance from the Conso-Extractor seemed to have caved in, its support column destroyed by the blast. The machine itself seemed to have been vaporized and left nothing but a large smothering crater to mark its place, with the exception of Lucy, the table, and the parts of the axle and claw that were currently inside a blue shield similar to his own. The damage to the other devices in the room varied greatly; the ones that were closest to the Conso-Extractor seemed to have been vaporized as well, while the ones of the other side of the room seemed completely undamaged at a glance. A few had even been set on fire; he was glad that none of them would contain anything else dangerously flammable.
The sound of whirring; SC looked up to see the fans near the top of the walls spinning and the smoke flowing into them. The fox knew the smoke would be extracted from the chamber and vented outside into collection tanks, where they stood until their contents were launched off into the infinite expense of outer space.
It took several seconds for the fans to do their work and extract enough smoke to regain a breathable atmosphere; it was then SC noticed his difficulty breathing. He let down the shield to let fresh air in, and then quickly hurried over to Lucy to drop her shield before she could suffocate. The claw fragment that survived bounced harmlessly off her heads and tumbled to the floor.
Wait... Sc thought. Heads?! Doing a double-take, he saw that on the table were now two Lucys! One of them was still strapped to the table while the other lay more or less on top of her. The unbound one seemed to have a slightly darker shade of fur.
How did this happen...? he wondered. There was a hiss as the hydraulic door on the far wall slid open and Chargin' Chucks wearing firefighter uniforms and carrying fire hoses hurried into the room. Most went to work spraying down the fires on the waterproof material such as the walls and floor, while others armed instead with fire extinguishers sprayed down the computers and other machinery.
"You two, take both of our guests back to her guest room," SC commanded two nearby Chargin' Chucks that weren't really doing much of anything. As they untied one of the Lucys and carried both out, SC silently reflected on what had happened. The machine didn't release any detectable amount of radiation during the explosion; otherwise the Cell Shades would've picked it up. He just hoped the records of the incident weren't destroyed along with the machine.
Lucy's head was spinning as her consciousness returned to her. Her eyes craned open as she looked and saw the red velvet ceiling she had seen every time she had woken up in the morning while staying at the mount. She was back in her room! How'd she get there? Last she remembered she was in that laboratory...
Suddenly, Lucy felt a feeling she felt many other times: trouble breathing through her mouth. She looked down her body and found out that a liberal amount of duct tape had very nearly mummified her. Everywhere from her mouth down except her tail was coated in the long sticky silver bands. The tears came as she tried to wriggle herself loose, but it did pretty much nothing, as usual.
A voice. "I would've finished the job, y'know, but I ran out of tape."
Lucy turned to look and see... herself?! No, not quite; this Lucy's fur was a slightly darker shade, and the expression had easily visible hints of malignance. She was absentmindingly playing with a roll core, presumably the one that formally held the duct tape, in her right hand.
"I'll never know why that stupid girly fox kept a roll of duct tape in your nightstand drawer," the other Lucy continued, "but oh wasn't it convenient?"
"Mmm mmm mmmm?!" Lucy cried out. Roughly translated from damsel-in-distressese, she had said "Who are you?!"
"Me?" the other Lucy replied, guessing the first Lucy's question. "I believe it was your friend that came up with the name Zoe. Personally, I like it, so I think I'll keep it. For some reason when that machine exploded, it extracted me from your mind but instead of putting me in that stuffy jar it created a nearly perfect clone of you and put me in that. I seriously doubt that it was designed to do that. Aww too bad. That's what he gets for cutting corners."
Zoe paused and watched with great pleasure as Lucy vainly redoubled her escape efforts.
"Y'know, I just thought of something," Zoe continued. "Now that I have my own body, I think I don't need to answer to 'Master' anymore. Before I knew I would have to tie up myself, that is you, so I needed someone to tie you up for, someone to enjoy all my hard work. But now I can tie you up just for my own pleasure. Not like I ever knew who 'Master' was anyways. My memories are yours, except for the parts that are completely mine; if you didn't have a clue who created me, there's no way I would have one."
Her monologue was interrupted by a pounding on the hydraulic door. "Zoe! I know that's you in there!" SC's voice came in, muffled slightly by the metal portal. "I'm coming in, and you better have your hands up when I do!"
When the door opened, she did. However, he had failed to anticipate they'd be up in a pouncing position. SC barely had time to register and figure out how she had cleared the bed in a single bound. "Bound" also described the situation SC found himself in; in a flash, Zoe was behind him, her left hand over his mouth and her right arm around his torso, holding his arms to the side. SC was quickly reminded of how Zoe had grabbed Tamany during the experiment.
Lucy watched in horror as Zoe started to drag SC out of the doorway and down the corridor. "You're coming with me," the evil "twin" told her new captive. "At least until I find some more duct tape."
The fox was definitely more a fighter than Lucy; even though Zoe had been trained to read and block her opponent's struggles in a lock to prevent their escape, she found it difficult to hold him against his thrashing. However, when she got halfway down the hall to the elevator down, SC managed to twist his head around to look at her hands and the Cell Shades fired a short burst of red heat laser at the center of her right hand. In pain, Zoe released his mouth to rub the wound, loosening her grip enough to allow him to elbow her in the stomach. He quickly hopped away a few feet and whipped around to face her as she recoiled from the blow.
"*cough* What kind of man are you, attacking a lady like that?!" she angrly demanded as she started to right herself.
"You're quite mistaken, Zoe," SC retorted calmly as he pulled out the GO-yo, the ring attaching itself to his right hand's middle finger. "I never attack a lady. Yo-Yo Swipe!" SC swung his arm and the GO-yo, spinning rapidly, lashed out at Zoe, who dodged to the side.
"That was so funny I forgot to laugh," Zoe heckled as the GO-yo stopped and whipped back to SC, who caught it.
"Figured it was worth a shot," he said plainly.
Zoe wisely decided not to stick around and ran down the corridor.
"Oh no you don't!" SC said as he flung the yo-yo at her again. "Barrier Beam!" However, at that point the evil catgirl had rounded the corner and the GO-yo hit the wall, creating a small spherical energy field Zoe's size.
Growling at his miss, SC instictively put his right hand against his temple after calling the yo-yo back. It wasn't necessary with the new Cell Shades model, but it felt confortable. "Attention, Game Over!" he shouted to seemingly nobody. "Zoe has escaped! Apprehend her on sight! I repeat, Zoe has escaped! Apprehend her on sight!"
Seconds later, there was the sound of an alarm and pulsing red lights filled the corridor; SC figured 666 had decided to sound the alarm at his announcement.
Decided he'd leave the operatives to tend to Zoe, SC hurried back into Lucy's room, locking the door behind him in case the twin had decided to double back. The good catgirl had apparently continued her struggling while SC was out, but sadly it only resulted in her falling out of the bed. Rolling his eyes at the sight, the fox (with some effort) had gotten her back on the bed.
"Lucy, relax," he said to her once she was lying on the bed. "Keep calm; I'll get you out as quick as I can."
"Mm mm mmm! Mm mm mmm!!" Lucy pleaded. Or at least tried to.
It took several long minutes to work away the masking tape. SC started by using the Cell Shades' heat lasers to cut vertical lines along the length of the silver cocoon so that there were several columns of tape each about three to four inches long. Next, he ran his hand underneath the tape carefully to pry it off. The dress was fairly stickproof so those pieces came off easily enough (and allowed SC to avoid copping a feel when removing the tape over her chest). The rest of her, however, was not so easy, and SC had to go slowly to avoid hurting Lucy or her fur.
It took what seemed like hours before SC finally managed to dispose of all the duct tape in a nearby trash bin. "All done," he announced, dusting his hands off, "although you might want to consider taking a shower at your earliest convience to get any adhesive left over out of your fur- ACK!"
Given who his girlfriend was, one would think SC would be used to getting tackle-hugged from behind by now. But that didn't stop him from falling foward when Lucy did just that.
"Nyar thank you so much! Nya!" she said, a slight tone of adoration in her voice.
"OK, you appreciate my help! I get it! Please let go now!" he cried, a heavy tone of annoyance in his.
It took another few moments for both SC and Lucy to get back to their feet. It was here SC noticed that the alarms had stopped. Strange... Did they catch Zoe already? "Lucy, can you wait here for a few moments while I check on something?"
"And keep the door closed till I get back, just in case." SC headed into the bathroom and closed the door behind him before she could ask "In case of what?" He was fairly sure Zoe would be caught if she hadn't already. Zoe got out of a tight spot by turning back into Lucy, something no longer possible. Confident he wouldn't be disturbed for a while, SC again put his hand up against his temple (dang habits) and got an audio link to 666 the Fire Brother.
"666, come in. This is SC. Do you read me? Over," the fox said over the audio-only linkup.
"Divison Head 666, reporting f'duty, boss!" the Fire Bro's voice boomed back.
"Has the Game Over reaccquired Zoe yet?" SC asked.
"Um... Sorry to report, boss, that Zoe has managed to evade capture."
"What?! Tell me what happened while I was busy getting her captive loose."
"According to intel, the target had fled into the Interdimensional Warp Pipe chamber. Miss Hall was on break at the time, so it was left unattended. She somehow managed to work the controls enough to open a pipe to Miss O'Conner's home dimension and got in just as we arrived at the scene. I sent a few Koopa Troopas after her; so far, they have not reported finding her."
SC let off a combination of an exasperated sigh and a growl. "666, as long as Zoe as loose, I cannot safely release Lucy, but I can't let her stay here for the rest of her life either! What do you intend to do about it?!"
"I assure you, boss, I'm doing everything I can to track the target down, but as far as my troops can tell, she's just vanished!"
SC willed himself to calm down and think clearly about this. "It's alright, 666. It's not your fault; it's sorta mine for being so shortsighted and letting her escape the room. Resume the search for the next fourty-eight hours and then recall the troops. I got another idea that'll help me keep an eye on our guest..."
This time as Lucy awoke again, she found herself in her own room in her own house. The sun streaming through the windows indicated that it was morning, and she was dressed in a cute lavender nightshirt that very much resembled her normal dress.
What am I doing here, nya? she wondered. Last she remembered, she was lying on an operating table back at Mt. Majesty. SC had explained that because Zoe got away, they were going to embed a tracking chip in the back of her skull so that he would know if she was in trouble and come help her. Then he put one of those breathing masks things over her mouth and small snout and told her to breathe deeply.
Did I... Did I dream the entire thing, nyar?
She sat up and felt the back of her head. She quietly gasped when she felt something.
Right in the middle of the back of her head was a very small scar, just big enough for a microchip.