Celeste sighed as she pressed down on the keys with her long fingernails. Typing was taking far too long when you had to worry about breaking them. She pressed the intercom button. “Why did you have to give me long fingernails?”
“Because they are sexy, especially when painted.”
“Yeah, well they aren’t painted, and more importantly they are too long to be useful! They are getting in the way of typing!”
“They aren’t painted?”
Celeste blinked. “Um, yeah, that’s just what I said.”
“Oh, well since typing is too annoying for you, start painting your nails. I provided Mandi with an expensive manicure kit. Should be in the bottom drawer on the right.”
“What? Hell no!”
“Paint your nails. That’s an order.”
The BABE-chip sprung to life. Celeste felt a need deep within her mind to get her nails painted. She wished to string him up by his tie. “Ugh, I can practically see you smirking through the intercom.”
“Hopefully this will teach you a lesson about complaining about your body. Don’t worry, we’ll be sure to clip them back before we go on a raid or something. I wouldn’t want you to have to worry about breaking nails when we’re out on a mission.”
Trying to sate her need to paint her nails, she opened the bottom drawer on the right. She perfunctorily checked her outfit: pastel purple top and yellow skirt. “Hmm, tough matches. French tips will be safe.”
Paragon’s voice squawked over the intercom. “Okay, I need to come clean. I was going to order you to paint your nails anyway. I have some high ticket clients from the government coming in. I need you to look as vapid as possible. If my secretary looks too smart they’ll start to suspect that something is up.”
She started filing her left pinky. “Why would your clients give if your secretary looked too smart.”
“My clients are Special Agent Bennion Richten and Jenny Sparks, also known as Cirquette. They’re coming to discuss some sensitive materials I’ve been working on with them. Little Jenny is hoping to decrease the power to weight ratio of her supply on the back. The reason they would be worried about my secretary looking too smart is I have very sensitive materials that could get heroes killed. If my secretary wasn’t a bimbo, they’d worry that you were a spy for the Villains’ Union ready to pass on the secrets of DEVO.”
She growled, “But you are the Villains’ Union spy! I’m the actual DEVO member! And once DEVO figures out that one of their own is missing, and that they work for you, you’re sunk! You couldn’t have tied up every loose end to me.”
“Indeed, and that’s why we’re going to be faking the death of Daniel Erie tomorrow night.”
“Don’t yell at me, baby. Anyway, I had enough foresight to save some of your male DNA thankfully. I stored it in a giant DNA bank that my company has for its genetic experiments. Anyway, my scientists have been working on a way to clone human organs for transplants. We’ve hit a snag though. For all intents and purposes the organs we’ve cloned should work, but they just refuse to. They have a 100% rejection rate.”
“What does this have to do with me?”
“Well, in my secret lab I have a cloning vat. Since the beginning of this morning, it has been churning out dead Daniel Erie organs. Once it’s done, the machine will then basically sew together a fake Daniel Erie that will fool any autopsy into thinking you just simply died of heart attack.”
“I was in my late twenties, nobody will believe I died of a heart attack.”
“People in their twenties die of heart attacks all the time. Sure they are a small number but it happens. The human body is a fickle thing that we just don’t understand enough about.”
Done filing her left pinky, she moved onto her ring finger. “So let me get this straight, you can completely rearrange my DNA to turn me into a full blown red-headed hottie but you can’t clone working organ? That makes no sense.”
“It makes sense when you pause and consider they are completely different processes. I transformed you by getting my nano-machines to interrupt the DNA duplication process, transcribing the code of your smoking’ hot bod over the code that your DNA had been using for a few decades. I never created new DNA, I just tricked your duplicating the wrong amino acids. Making a working organ from scratch? That requires completely different concepts that I don’t have a grasp on yet.”
She blew the granules of sanded fingernails away. His know-it-all attitude was so annoying. “So you need me to act like your normal girlfriends so they don’t think I’m a spy?”
“Yeah, that’s the long and short of it. There is a pack of gum in your desk. Be sure to start chewing and don’t stop until they leave. Be sure to be really giggly and act all amazed by Jenny as she‘s a celebrity super hero and all. Ask for an autograph. That‘s an order.” She groaned as she felt a need to get a stick of gum in her mouth. Opening the drawer, she ripped out a piece of cinnamon gum and began masticating. “You know, I never heard a, ‘Yes Mr. Paragon,’ from you.”
She grumbled. “Yes, Mr. Paragon.”
She wanted to reach through the intercom and strangle him. “Oh that I could blow the whistle on you and protect DEVO. Instead I’m stuck just sitting here like a loser as you just sell out to the Villains’ Union.”
“Hey, I don’t sell out! I keep these secrets for myself! I don’t have anything like super-strength, sonokinesis, or empathic manipulation. I only have my technology and intel. I’m not sharing my intel!”
“That’s good to hear at least.”
“Anyway, they’ll be here in fifteen minutes. Just be sure to…”
“Act like a ditz. I get it.” Paragon chuckled. Unable to do much else she sat at the desk, chewing gum and shaping her nails. After she finished shaping, she began to attend to her cuticles. “Psh, cuticles.” Once done with that she began applying the base coat to each nail. That’s when the phone rang.
Her fingernails were still wet with the base coat so she had to pick up the phone by awkwardly gripping it between her palms. She pushed the phone to her shoulder, careful to not accidentally brush a fingernail against her blouse. “Mr. Paragon’s office,” she cheerfully projected into the speaker. It was right then she realized she could have just hit the speakerphone button. She cursed herself for her stupidity.
The voice on the other side belonged to Rogers, the security guard at the bottom of the elevator. “Special Agent Richten and Ms. Sparks are here to see Mr. Paragon.”
“Send them right up! He’s expecting them.” As soon as she heard the other side hang up she let the phone drop off her shoulder, clunking loudly on her desk. Using both palms again, she put the phone back on the receiver. “Man, I’m an idiot.”
As she was told, she went back to her nails. As she began to apply the white tip coat, the elevator doors. She glanced up and saw a clean shaven man who looked to be in his early thirties. He was tall, dressed in a black business suit with white pinstripes. His eyes were hidden behind Blockley’s polarized sunglasses, which she found herself thinking were very in fashion.
She stood up with an enthusiastic smile. The special agent‘s eyes immediately locked onto Celeste’s cleavage. This was not going as she had hoped. “Good afternoon, sir! Welcome to Mr. Paragon’s office.” She pressed the intercom button. “Mr. Paragon, your guests are here.”
“I’ll be right out, Celeste. Just give me one minute.”
Celeste plastered on a grin as she walked forward. She tossed her head to the side, her fake blue hair gliding over her shoulder. “Forgive me for not shaking your hand. My nails are still wet.” She threw in a giggle to sell the point. She wanted to scream and reveal everything, but Dr. Faded told her she was never to do it. And with the BABE-chip screaming signals up and down her spine, she just felt like betraying his order was something she could never do.
Agent Richten swallowed a lump in his throat as he approached. “Ah, a pleasure to meet you Miss…” He still couldn’t move his eyes upwards.
A short teenage girl dressed in a simple, yellow softball shirt and overalls stepped out from behind Richten. Her brown hair was pulled into a simple ponytail. She rolled her eyes and the teenager chided the special agent with a voice full of spunk, “Geez, Bennion. At least try to keep your tongue in your head.”
“Ahehe, sorry Miss Sparks.”
This was Celeste’s cue to act all awestruck. “Oh my god! Jenny Sparks? The Cirquette!? Like, I am a big fan! If it’s not too much trouble, could I get your autograph!?”
The seventeen year old took a step back. Celeste had heard rumors about Cirquette. That she was much older than her age, and that she had never really gotten used to her fame. Seemed they were all true. “Um, sure. I guess so.”
The executive doors burst open and Maxwell Paragon strode in. “Celeste quit badgering the poor girl. She gets enough of that attention from the paparazzi. Miss Sparks. Agent Richten. Why don’t you both step into my office and we can get right to business. I’m sure you guys are on a tight schedule.”
Jenny looked relieved. “Sounds great, Max.” She hurried past Celeste and immediately started talking shop. Celeste couldn’t help but feel a slight tinge of sadness. She was Spook, a hero like Cirquette. The Techno-Teenager was supposed to be hanging out with Celeste, not a villain in disguise!
Richten finally was able to pull his eyes to the secretary’s face. “Ma’am.” He quickly filed in behind the Cirquette and Maxwell.
As the doors shut Celeste groaned. How was she going to get out of this. With a pout she plopped back into her seat and went back to work on her French manicure.
As the door shut to his limo, the villain smiled. “See, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?”
“Oh, come on. It wasn’t that bad. You not only got paid to basically sit and do your nails, which look great by the way, but you got the autograph of Cirquette. Bonus!”
The bluenette just kept her eyes affixed to the window. “Let’s just get this over with. Where are we stashing your fake body of mine?”
“Fake body? Oh no, you forget that’s not tonight. That’s tomorrow night. No, tonight I have something much more special in mind!”
She didn’t like where this was going. “Special how?”
He just smirked. “Vehicle, take us to Sessions on Seventh.”
She glared. “What the hell is Sessions on Seventh?”
“Oh, just a little formalwear boutique.”
“Formalwear!? You are not getting me in a dress!”
As the car started moving, Paragon just grinned. “On the contrary, I will. You see, although the Mandi incident was rather embarrassing…”
“Embarrassing? It was a bona fide disaster on your part.”
“At any rate, it was useful in that it reminded me that I was due at a charity event on Friday. As my girlfriend you will be there as my lovely arm candy and you absolutely must look ravishing.”
Silence hung in the air like the stench of rancid milk.
“You know, when we go on a heist, I hope we run into Crater and he punches your face so hard that people will confuse it for a dessert bowl.”
“Hey, that was pretty good! Your repartee is improving already!”
“Aaaand I see it still needs work.”
Celeste winced as the store clerk cinched up the laces in the back of the dress. She had to admit she thought it would hurt more. But mostly the thing just made breathing slightly uncomfortable, which wouldn‘t have been such a big deal if she didn‘t have to take a breath so often. “I just think the last one was fine.”
“But buttercup, we can’t have you looking just fine for the first event with you in the public. You want to look dazzling, don’t you?”
Under orders to act the part of the doting girlfriend being treated to a shopping spree any normal girl would die for, Celeste giddily chirped, “Of course pumpkin! I’m just saying that I really liked that last dress.”
“Well pudding-pie–” Celeste cursed him under her breath. He was enjoying this far too much. “–it was a nice dress but it wasn’t quite you. I just don’t think it was as flattering as another could be. Don’t you agree, Antonia?”
The clerk nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, most definitely sir. On most other girls I’d say that dress would have been great but you, with your body, I know we can do better. With you we don’t just want people thinking you’re another pretty face. We want jaws to drop. You will be the envy of every girl at that dinner once we get the right dress.”
“There.” Antonia pulls the curtain back. “What do you think, Mr. Paragon?”
Celeste stepped forward, the dress hinting at her luscious legs with each step. She had learned if she didn’t pose that her supposed boyfriend would drag it all out so she pushed her shoulders back thrust her hips to the side. The silvery satin hugged all her curves and wasn’t afraid to put her boobs on display.
“Oh my! Celeste I do believe I’ll be having to beat every other man at the dinner away from you. I think that’s the winner.”
She blushed and giggled like a gold digger. “You really think this is the one?”
Antonio slid into the conversation. “I must say this would make an excellent choice. First of all, the dress is designed by Monina Gheraler. Obviously a woman of your tastes doesn’t need to be told how big she what with all the red carpet dresses she’s designed for the big names in Hollywood.”
The woman seemed to expect a reaction with that name drop. “Oh my! This is a Monina Gheraler? I knew it looked good but why didn’t you tell me!?”
The clerk seemed pleased to hear the response. “I didn’t want the name to influence your opinion on the dress. But now you see why she’s such a big name. Her dresses are impeccable.”
Celeste gushed. “I’ll say!” Every moment she spent in this store she felt like she died a little more inside.
“And, if that wasn’t enough, it’s just you! The silver satin compliments your blue locks fabulously. It displays your enviable bust proudly, but not so much that it’s trashy. And it just hugs your body like a blanket by the fireplace.”
Paragon was eating all this up. “I couldn’t have put it any better, Antonia. Seeing you in this dress, dear… it’s just a treasure.”
“Oooooh Maxie,” Celeste did her best to not glare a hole into his face, “I just don’t know what to say to that.”
“Antonia, here is my card. Ring us up.”
The young woman happily accepted the card. “Will do, sir. Will you require any fitting for this?”
“Well, normally I’d say yes, but… well it’s almost like the dress was made for her!”
“I must agree. It’s so odd for a dress to fit so well without any tailoring. And wouldn’t you know it, the dress came in just yesterday. And by accident! We had requested a different dress from Ms. Gheraler but this one showed up with it.”
“Wow! How fortuitous! Dear, wouldn’t you say that’s fortuitous?”
Damn this man. He had arranged for this dress to be here! The two hours of trying on other dresses was just to torture her! “I guess so.”
“Also, for a Gheraler this dress is quite the bargain. Only $8,759! Most of her other dresses start at ten-G’s!”
“Well this night just keeps getting better and better.”
Antonia, no doubt paid on some kind of commission, seemed to full heartedly agree. “Well I’ll be right back with your receipt.” She sped off to the counter to ring up her lucrative sale.
Out of sight and earshot of any prying eyes, Celeste’s hands balled up into fists. “You had the dress sent here yesterday by ‘accident?’ How much did that cost you?”
“To commission the dress on such short notice? A little over seventeen-thousand.”
“And you just paid almost nine-thousand more? Just to play dress-up with me for two hours and have me wear it at a stupid charity dinner?”
He gripped his chest, as if wounded. “Celeste! Honey muffin! It’s not stupid! That charity dinner is going to help fund research for the cure to cerebral palsy! There is nothing stupid about that. Really I expect more from a former hero!”
She growled. “You spent almost twenty-six-thousand dollars, just to humiliate me!? You actually think that was worth that much money?”
He smirked. “Tell me, gorgeous. If I had said that if you paid me twenty-five-grand I wouldn’t force you to do two hours of dress-up and you wouldn’t have to go to this dinner with me, would you have paid it.”
She scoffed. “Like I have that kind of spending money… but if I did I would at least be tempted.”
“Then, it was worth it.”