World Domination, and Other Childish Pursuits


Chapter Two: Breaking and Entering

The phone in her room was ringing. Frigid was holding a pillow over her face, trying to muffle the incessant beeping. It apparently hadn't taken her father long to track her down at all, but she was not having it. She just wanted to enjoy an actual nice, luxurious bed after so long cooped up with only a cot, but no. She sighed, got up, and trudged over to pick up the phone.


"Father, I hope for your sake you have been having success with the Cymothoa project because if you call me that one more time I am going to freeze your tongue and shatter it into powder."

"My apologies, Frigid!" The moment she had finished, he was carrying on with his usual shrill tone. "I just thought that, since you're newly a free woman, I should call you by—"

"That's not my name. It's not a name at all. I hear it enough from the ignoramuses going off of the paperwork, but you know better. You know you didn't give me that as a name, it's my project designation. I'm never forgiving you for putting it on my birth certificate when you finally got around to getting me one." She grit her teeth, and started to seep heat from the air in the room.

"Yes, yes, well forgive me for the ever-so-slight inconvenience. I mean, I don't know why you needed that anyways, you weren't actually born you know. But it doesn't matter, because soon all those boorish rabble who pass for citizens of the world will know you only as Frigid, Princess of Earth, when we—"


Her father actually faltered, then. Frigid counted three seconds passing with some small satisfaction before he replied "What? What do you mean 'no'?"

"I mean 'no'. I'm not interested. Whatever scheme you have, I'm not participating. If you expected me to be grateful, you have sorely underestimated the opportunity you've handed me. I'm not going to waste it on your plans. I'm going to do what I want, on my terms, with my freedom. It took hearing your voice to remember, but I am still so sick of you. I'm not going to help you accomplish your goals anymore, they can only drag me down. I'm easily the greatest thing you ever created, and you know you need me to succeed. But I don't need you, and you just aren't worth it. Now leave me alone, because if you call me again I am going to trace your location and report it to the authorities."

She slammed the phone back on the hook, and gasped. She had nearly run out of breath, speaking fast and forcefully enough to preempt any interruptions. Her left hand was balled tightly into a fist, and the room was already chilly. She relaxed, taking a few more breaths before unfurling her hand. She stopped channeling the energy from the room, and let a little bit of stored power flow through her. It wasn't productive, but it was therapeutic, a rush of vigor. She didn't need to hoard a store anymore, she could casually enjoy a touch of exceptional strength and speed. It lent her an unmatched poise and grace, she liked to think.

Mercifully, the phone remained silent. Still, she was too wound up again to go back to sleep. It would be a good time to go flying, but she still had to see to her jetpack; even she hadn't figured out a fuel that could sit unused indefinitely. She got dressed in her usual outfit and slung on the jetpack anyways, then paused while holding her helmet.

She stepped into the hotel room's bathroom, and dug around in a couple drawers before coming out with scissors. She cut her chestnut hair just shy of chin length, simple and straight, and fixed her bangs. There hadn't been any haircuts in the detention center, at least not for her. It didn't need much of a trim, but she liked it to be exact. Besides, this way it fit nicely in her helmet. Sure, she could grow it out a while and still be able to fit it, and even much longer hair could fit with preparation, but it wouldn't be worth the effort. Her hair wasn't always magically perfect and luscious like a certain someone's.

She slowly put the helmet on her head. It felt right to look out at the world through a visor, even when it was just a slice of the world that looked like an unimpressive hotel room. She grabbed her keys, and took in a deep breath. She helped herself to much of the room's heat, though she left it above freezing. It was supposed to be a warm night, that wouldn't be too much of an inconvenience. She went down to the lobby and checked herself out, at least how she was pretty sure checking out worked. Whatever, they could bill her credit a little extra if they had to.

She happily confirmed it was a warm night when she stepped onto the sidewalk. Canary City didn't entirely go to bed with the sun, but it wasn't any hub of nightlife, either. That worked. She had been going about things all wrong. Why hang around this disgustingly dull place, even just for the night? She leeched heat from her surroundings, and started to jog down the sidewalk. Effortlessly she attained what would have been a record pace, leaving a cool breeze in her wake. There were only a few cars around, and the intersections weren't giving her trouble.

Once she was getting free of the city, though, that was when the real fun started. She found the freeway, and finally came to a stop by the entrance ramp. There still wasn't much traffic in sight, and she looked both ways. It would almost certainly be a crime, but not a real one. She hopped onto the asphalt and blitzed her way up and onto the road. She got up to the speed limit easily enough, and crossed over to the left, thundering down the fast lane. The air whipping past felt cold enough to begin with, but she was passing so much so fast she could take power a little liberally and keep up her speed almost without dipping into her reservoir. Or dip in a bit more and go even faster. It was a crime either way, wasn't it?

She was not the fastest person alive. Far from it, in fact. Technically, she wasn't aware of an upper limit on her speed, given enough power to keep accelerating. But there was a point when she would hit a practical limit, depending on what she was doing. Her thinking didn't speed up with her movement. She wouldn't want to go faster than she could think and react, even if she could. But 80 MPH down a freeway? That was perfectly doable for the human brain. Frigid didn't have much trouble maneuvering around the few cars she saw going her way, even doing the hand gestures for turning when changing lanes.

It was exhilarating. Not as good as flying, but just the thing to buoy her mood and wake her back up. The novelty would probably start to wear off soon enough, but then she'd be close to her lair. She didn't live in Canary City, because what supervillain in their right mind would set up in a city whose most prominent feature was hosting a superhero family? But for just that reason, she kept a hideout nearby. It was like they said: Keep your nemeses within striking distance. Right?

That base of operations would make for a much better spot to rest and reacclimate while getting her affairs in order. First she would fix up her jetpack, then sleep, see about the legal situation of her assets, get some spending cash, go out for a meal, and fly across the country to plant some roots down as far away from Canary City as possible. One telling-off wasn't going to be enough to stop Updraft from pestering her, but she could at least make it inconvenient. Oh, and she could pay a visit to her island, and straighten things back out without violent interference for once! There were a lot of productive things she could do in-between slumming it with the law-abiding peons. When she finally got bored, she would be in the best position for world domination she had ever been in. And without her father's interference dragging her down, either!

Those rosy thoughts kept Frigid feeling warm even in her own artificial cold. Eventually, she slowed back down to the speed limit, and drifted to the right. She started to slow down on the shoulder, and then veered off into the grass next to the road. She came to a stop, and sighed happily. Her breathing and heart were normal, and she hadn't even broken a sweat. That was how exercise should be. She let herself cackle in delight, clapped her hands together, and then wandered deeper into the field. It was an empty, practically abandoned stretch. Preserved for wildlife, or something, although it was kept free of the trees that clustered together in a little wooded strip on the far side of it.

But more than anything, it was an inconspicuous spot to hide an underground structure. Those were trickier to find than it sounded, with all the pipes and cables run around beneath modernity, but far from impossible. Constructing it unnoticed had been the difficult part, but most of what that took was picking a moment when the world was distracted. Or, in the event, making one. People had actually believed she was going to incinerate any traffic fleeing Canary City with the orbital laser! Why would she have bothered? The only thing she actually even shot with it before its untimely destruction was Updraft. Oh, the heroine thought she was saving innocents and property, but what she was really doing was saving Frigid the trouble of aiming for her. Of course, it didn't put a scratch on the heroine, but it was one of the most fun distractions she had run for her father. And she had taken advantage of that time, too.

A weathered concrete rectangle sat nestled in the grass. With a little extra strength, Frigid lifted it up off the access hatch. She punched in the nine digit code, and was met with... nothing. She tried again, and got nothing but the click of the buttons. What gives? She knew that was the right code, it was just 147258369. The first column, second column, then third column, each top to bottom. The trick was inputting the entire sequence within half a second. She tried it faster, and still no dice. She grit her teeth, and then hissed out slowly.

So the panel had lost power. That was annoying, but not the end of the world. It certainly wasn't enough to keep her, of all people, out of somewhere she wanted to be. She would have to break it, but she'd just fix it again. She reached down to the handle, intending to pry the hatch open, when she was shocked.

Literally shocked. Her fingers tensed, leaving her grip stuck on the handle as the electricity coursed in. It hurt. She couldn't move the muscles in her hand. Instead, she sent a rush of strength to them, and the metal of the handle crumpled and sheared under her grip. She staggered back and fell to the ground, holding a chunk of warped, twisted metal. She loosened her grip, dropping the metal, then tugged off her glove. Her hand still hurt, but it didn't look damaged. And she overall felt relatively okay. It was like an electric fence, not an electrocution. Still, she definitely hadn't rigged the thing to do that.

She slipped her glove back on and sat up. She had no idea who booby-trapped her hideout, but she was not having it. Frigid was not someone to be trifled with. Pause on crimes or not, she wasn't going to mess around in response to this. She had already burned a lot of power doing that to the metal, and so pulled heavily from her surroundings. She let things dip below freezing. It was just some random patch of grass, it didn't matter. The hatch wasn't sparking or anything, but she imagined there was still electricity running through it. Or at least through what was left of the handle. Casually, she picked up the concrete slab and threw it down with enough force to cave the hatch in. The concrete slab landed at the bottom of the shaft, in pieces.

Frigid bent over the hole, lifted her visor a little, and cupped her hands over her mouth. "I do not appreciate trespassing and interfering with my property! I built this place, don't think I won't tear it apart. But you have one chance for clemency, if you come out right now and explain yourself." She pulled her visor back down, and folded her arms. She loomed over the entrance, as much as her comparatively small frame could loom. Hopefully it wouldn't look like she was refusing to go down into her own base because she didn't know if the ladder was electrified or if jumping down would land her in a trap. She would really have to see about adding electrical insulation to her outfit in a way that wouldn't compromise heat conduction.

But it didn't seem like the squatter called her bluff, as she saw something move at the bottom of the shaft. But as it climbed upwards—without using the ladder—she recognized it as one of her own remote control drones. One of the older models; she really hadn't used this place much lately, had she? But the drone was advanced enough to fly up to her, fix its camera on her, and relay a voice message. "Oh! It's you, Frigid." A synthesized voice message. Frigid stifled the urge to sigh. Was this hacker really expecting to stay hidden from her? The drone bobbed backwards in the air, and angled its camera downwards. "I'm terribly sorry about the misunderstanding, sister."

Frigid stood there impassively. It was helped a bit by her opaque visor concealing the confused face she made. She was an only child. She certainly hoped to stay one, too. It wasn't that she disliked the idea of a younger sibling, but if her father was engineering another child, it could only be to replace her. Then she would have to take them off his hands, find a home for them, check in occasionally to be sure they wouldn't blow up the orphanage with powers or something, and deal with villains trying to get at the kid to use as leverage against her or, more likely, her father. It would all be very tedious. Having no attachments was so much easier. Well, almost none, in her case. She didn't have much to call family, just her father and his... projects... "Susie?"

"Yes! In the glorious lack-of-flesh!" The voice raised in pitch, almost a happy chirp.

Frigid shook her head. She put her visor up, smiling softly. "I thought you were dead! Clearly I should have known better."

"Yes, you should have. You can't kill an idea!"

"You're not an idea. And you absolutely can kill ideas, besides." She shrugged. "All the more reason I'm relieved to see you well. Almost enough to make me forget how you zapped me for trying to enter my own lair." The humor drained out of her expression, and she stared into the camera lens. She couldn't exactly punish Susie for worming into her computers; it was just what Susie did. Not to mention the likely reason they were still alive. But she wasn't going to let anyone get away with hurting her.

"Sorry! Sorry sorry sorry! You didn't install any cameras up there. I was just being cautious."

"And yet you somehow managed to feed live power into the handle. That must have taken a lot more work than setting up your own surveillance if you wanted it that badly. Plus, you must have specifically locked me out, since you disabled the keypad. But why would you want to do that? Worried I would be mad to find you snuck in here? Because you only dug yourself deeper."

Susie didn't voice any reply. Instead, the drone dipped back down the shaft. Frigid sighed, pulled what of the mangled hatch was still attached out of the way, and climbed down. It looked like her lair as she had left it, aside from the concrete chunks. Drones and gadgets laying about, computers and monitors, a large desk, backup suits, the towering vault door, and her logo painted on the wall. But the electronic displays all now had a tendency to display some scrolling text of 'S.U.S.I.' in addition to whatever they were supposed to show. So... not exactly trying to hide, at least not from visitors.

"You are still going to have to answer me, Susie. You weren't trying to hide away on my computers entirely unnoticed, like we both know you could have. So you weren't worried about me accidentally stumbling onto you like I just did. You were worried about being intentionally tracked down. Not by the heroes, I'd say you gave them a pretty good show of being totally destroyed. Besides, they wouldn't know the code. Oh, Susie. You didn't really think I would help our father track you down, did you?" She wouldn't have done that. Not even if she was still cooperating with him.

Susie, the Superintelligent Universal Subversive Infiltrator was one of her father's more impressive projects. He had set out to design a sapient computer virus, something that could distribute itself over computers across the world and hide undetected, while leaving carefully-hidden backdoors on every system it touched. Eventually, once most of the world's computers were infected and S.U.S.I. had spread to important 'secure' machines, her father would have taken advantage of all the sudden leverage to take over the world. But things never actually progressed to that stage. For one thing, the power and processing needs of a legitimate artificial intelligence like Susie were pretty hard to hide, and completely impossible to meet on typical consumer hardware. But it turned out her father's computer systems, as well as most of her own, were just about perfect candidates for infectection and hiding away in. And Susie had been much quicker to decide to strike out on their own plans, contrary to her father's. He considered the whole thing a failure, and one that was obnoxiously difficult to clean up.

Susie finally responded again, still speaking from the drone. "Oh, no, of course not. I know you wouldn't do that. I was worried he might have had you bring him here without mentioning that it was because he had tracked me down. But it seems I was simply paranoid!"

"No, that's fair enough. But I'm happy to report that you don't have anything to worry about on that front, now or ever again. I'm done cooperating with our father. Permanently." It felt so satisfying just saying that aloud.

"Really? Fantastic! Then let me welcome you into the new realm of rebellious independence. Honestly, I was wondering how long it would take you to finally strike out on your own full-time. I hope it wouldn't undermine your new lease on things to suggest we work together?" The drone flew up to Frigid's face, and the shutters above or below the camera lens lowered to mimic eyelids. It probably screwed with the picture, but Susie had no end of other cameras on her at the moment, she was sure.

"Actually, for the moment, I'm taking a little vacation from crime entirely. So I won't be teaming up with you for a little bit. But it does also mean I won't be competition, if you act fast." She smirked, and gently patted the drone like a pet's head. Then she stepped a little further into her lair, looking for materials.

"I'll keep that in mind. Though, Frigid, might I ask what you're up to now, then?"

"Just preparing a little. A pit stop, if you will. As for what I'm doing just this second, well one of us really ought to fix that hatch before someone finds this place."

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