by Dan Swanson
“Birds and bees, Hank!” Dollface was mad, but she just couldn’t bring herself to swear at her best friend — the friend who had busted the two of them out of prison again, only last month, the friend who continually found them such swanky places to live, rent-free, such as this penthouse apartment in the ritzy section of Gotham City. “You gotta get over Johnny Be Good, you know? You’re no fun at all anymore, Hank!” She did a couple of cartwheels and a flip, landing in front of her friend.
“I’ve told you to stop calling me that,” said Henrietta King, alias Savant. “Hank is my brother’s name.” (*) She was sitting in an office chair, staring blankly at a computer screen.
[(*) Editor’s note: Henrietta King’s half-brother is Hank King Jr., alias Brainwave II of Infinity Inc. They are both the offspring of the late Dr. Henry King, the super-villain known as the Brain Wave, though they have different mothers.]
There was more activity on the screen than in the room. The display, far more advanced than any contemporary computer gaming systems from the late 1980s, seemed to show a stylized city from directly above, and moving figures scurried around the screen while the city changed. Within minutes, it had grown from a small town to a bustling transportation hub of roads, railroads, airports, and seaports. As skyscrapers sprang up, along with power plants, shopping centers, suburbs, and slums, it was like watching hundreds of years of history in only minutes.
“Ah, Dolly — if only life was as easy as winning at this pointless simulation!” Savant responded sadly. “I saw all the terrible things men did to my mother — controlling her through her addiction, using and abusing her for their pleasure, never concerned about anything but their own gratification.”
Dollface was stunned to see tears on Henrietta’s face. Savant had always been the hard-as-nails tough girl, caring for nobody and nothing other than establishing her rep.
“I promised I’d get revenge on all men for what they did to her! That I’d never care for anyone other than myself, that no man would ever touch me. I’d be rich and famous, and they would all come crawling to me, begging me for a smile — and I’d use my powers to rob them blind and make them love it, and then at the end I’d give them back their real memories and release them with nothing! And then he came along and spoiled it all!”
Dollface awkwardly wrapped her friend in her arms. Like Savant, she was also pretty much a stranger to compassion. She wanted to help her friend, but she had no idea how. She thought about pointing out that Savant had searched out John Garrick, not the other way around, but she had a better idea.
“I can kill him if you want! Oops! That was… gasp! the wrong thing… gasp! to say… wasn’t it?”
There were gaps and gasps in her speech because Savant was using her power of telekinesis to hurl small objects from around the room at her, and Dollface was doing her superhuman best to dodge them. She fell bonelessly flat to the floor as a clock flashed through the space where her head had been, then sprang catlike into the air to avoid the long extension cord that was trying to wrap around her neck. Unfortunately, this put her right into the path of a whizzing alabaster egg, which bounced off her forehead, and she dropped to the carpet, stunned.
Savant laughed. “Serves you right, you nasty witch!” Then her face twisted in concern, and a large tumbler of whiskey rose from the sideboard and poured itself over Dollface’s face. The girl awoke, sputtering, as Savant broke into a full-fledged crying jag.
“Oh, Dolly! I’m sorry! What’s wrong with me? I’m acting like… like…”
“Like a lovesick teenage girl?” Dollface filled in for her. And she ducked again as the tumbler shot at her face. But it missed, and she sat up. “Geez, good thing I rolled with that shot.” She licked her lips. “Hey, good whiskey! But don’t you know it’s illegal to serve alcohol to a minor?” She was relieved to see Savant force a sickly smile to her face.
“Dolly, you need to learn to be less bloodthirsty. Once they’re dead, they’re not much use any more, you know — you can’t tease them anymore, and they can’t give you any more gifts. And you can’t make them suffer anymore, either.”
She actually shuddered. Dollface played with men the way cats played with mice, and Savant was willing to bet that most of her pets would have been happy to die. “Thanks for cheering me up. I’m OK now.”
“Why, Hank, you say the sweetest thing!” Dollface did a somersault, ending in a handstand, and hand-walked out of the room. “I’m going to order a pizza!”
“You pay the delivery boy with real money this time — and don’t invite him in!”
The last couple of times, Henrietta had needed to use her mental powers to straighten out the pizza-delivery situation. The kid with the counterfeit money was pretty easy — all she had to do was make him misremember where he got it, but as for the big, handsome guy Dolly had played with — she’d had to stage a phony car crash and alter his memories and those of a half-dozen other people as well. She’d actually considered changing Dolly’s personality to make her a little less cruel, but she was squeamish about using her powers on her friends.
What she needed was a hobby. And it had to be something a lot more complex and realistic than computer simulations of growing cities.
Actually, she had to admit that the city simulation was an interesting concept. It was just too simplistic, even if her simulation was still more advanced than anything available to the public. She thought about it for a while, then pulled up a software design program she had created, took out a couple of pads of paper from the desk drawer, and set to work.
A few hours later, she leaned back in her chair, filled with a glow of satisfaction. She had decided to create a real simulation, and it would be infinitely more complex than the feeble thing running on her computer. In fact, her computer was part of the problem. In order to be meaningfully complex, a good simulation needed a lot more computing power than she currently had available to her. She would have to start from scratch. She could see that she was going to have to develop new techniques and make significant improvements in the state of the art of nanonics — the technology of very small things.
Even though her new hobby was interesting, it still couldn’t keep her mind from wandering to thoughts of John Garrick. Well, that was all right; when she finished, she would invite him by to show him her new toy. She knew he would be totally impressed. One of the reasons she liked him was that he appreciated her intelligence, and she was sure that there was no one else who could have come up with this project.
She and Dolly had pretty much spent most of the fortune of her current benefactor, Senator Oldwealth Bigbucks. Of course, this was an alias — Henrietta always depersonalized her benefactors by referring to them by derisive nicknames. He’d paid the rent on this place for a year in advance just before he had assigned the lease to Henrietta, so she and her friends had a place to crash for the next year, unless they were rousted by some hero, but they were starting to run out of cash.
Bigbucks was still going to provide her with some fun, though, even though his run as benefactor was about played out. Under her mental influence, using his power as a Senator and his legendary reputation, as well as a little blackmail and extortion, he had managed to secretly gain control of much of his family’s wealth. And next week he was going to publicly donate every penny of that fortune to a group of charitable organizations who worked to prevent abuse of women and children. It should be a real treat, watching that family try to recover their money, as she had made sure they would have no legal recourse. The legal battle would go on for years.
Still, this simulation project would require lots of money — and she expected that it would be at least as interesting as the soap-opera saga of Senator Bigbucks and his family. Where was she going to get the money?