Salem was hard at work, a revelation that would have come as a surprise to a host of friends, relatives, teachers, and parole officers. It came as a surprise to Salem herself, for the few moments she could hold onto anything at all. Mostly, she worked. She was wearing sweatpants she had found somewhere, and a black T shirt falling apart not from the stylish rips she might have been seen in a few months ago, but simple disintegration. Her body was trending from slim towards gaunt, her large breasts looking even more improbably on the thin frame. Her bra was not cute. Her pink mohawk hung limp before her eyes, idly tossed out of the way when she needed to focus on building... whatever she was building. Whatever she was doing. Nothing about this was okay, but trying to focus on the problem was... difficult. That seemed to be the new in thing, since everyone around her was doing the exact same project, with the same zombie gaze. Salem had no way to know it, but the entire city was doing much the same. Few came here, to a half abandoned industrial city in the Midwest, least of all the kind of super heroes who so often spoiled the best laid plans. It was the perfect location for the H.I.V.E Queen, and the people populating it were her workers now.
It was the Queen Bee's visit to supervise the project that awoke Salem from her daze. As the door slammed open, Salem stood blinking dumbly at the figure striding her direction, and imperious smirk across her face. Though Salem not easily intimidated, the woman striding towards her was an impressive figure, and Salem unconsciously stepped out of her view. Tall, graceful and lean, the woman had the physique of a runway model, long honey blonde hair, an easy athleticism that was enmeshed in black and gold armor, eschewing her usual gray for the bee pattern she had named herself after. A silver crest encircled her head, amplifying her mind control abilities and ensuring the teeming hordes of the small city continued to slave for her. A procession of armed men walked alongside her, well muscled and attractive males tending to her every need and ensuring she was always well protected. Her hand flew over a tablet, feeding it reams of data and allowing her to keep in contact with every part of the city she controlled. A device would soon be ready that would allow her to spread her control hugely farther, expanding her hoard of drones into an unconquerable army. It was on the very cusp of her finest triumph that it all went wrong – she walked into a building, like a hundred others. The Queen paused, her eyes flashing with rage as her tablet crashed, the unnoticed workers around her shaking their heads groggily. Salem though, Salem was smiling. Unfortunately, things were about to go very wrong for the Queen Bee.
The sunrise slowly lit a scene of unbridled hedonism. The Queen lay passed out in stained bee themed lingerie, her horde of protectors laying sated in piles around her and Salem. Desserts and fine dining lay strewn around the room, the finest room in the finest hotel in the entire shithole city. Some of the men had brought Salem's entire wardrobe and apartment furnishing and strewn them about the room, and the woman of the hour was licking the icing off her fingers, after devouring a cupcake baked by perhaps the finest baker in the city. Elsewhere, the Bee woman's projects burned. Salem was feeling more like herself by the minute, but even better, she was feeling more like a supervillain by the minute. She had arranged the finest in dominatrix chic for herself, fishnets and boots, vinyl corset and skirt. Looking the part had never been her problem to begin with – but the power, there was the problem. Now she could feel it, flowing through her... the woman who had provided it kneeling at her feet. Queen Bee was learning what it meant to serve, and she didn't like it one bit.
Salem had always felt some kind of connection to those around her. She knew she was stronger than them, and she knew she deserved to be. Even as a kid she had known, from the first ant she stepped on, the first kid she kicked. Something in her fed on these little people, their little fears. But when true power had walked in range, she knew immediately what was only a hint, a fancy, among the little people around her. She had felt that power flow into her and fill her, before the Goddess before her had even an inkling she had been dethroned. Salem had a city dancing to her whims, and a goddess as her slave, her own mind control usurped and turned on her. Even now she could hear the enraged woman in her mind, stronger than the others. Salem had let the Bee keep control of her mind, if not her body. The woman raged helplessly over the indignities Salem had forced her to endure, over the collapse of her plans, over her helplessness, and over the “small minded and petty” uses to which Salem was putting her power. Salem told the Bee woman to start slapping herself. Small minded and petty could be mighty satisfying.
The problem with being a goddess is, in the end, it is a little boring. Salem had never been a good person, and absolute power was not improving her moral fiber. She'd been doing this for a week now, and frankly it didn't offer much challenge. The first day had been a soaring flight of hedonism and pleasure, a parade of the choicest men and women of the city, doing whatever pleased her moment to moment. By day three she was using them as toys in whatever scenario amused her, depraved or hilarious by turns. By day five she didn't mind when one of her toys broke beyond repair. By day six she summoned her most hated enemies and lined them up before her. Tom, the ex boyfriend who had cheated on her. The wide eyed little goth girl he had done it with. Sandy, a blonde cheerleader who had got her kicked out of school after calling Salem a slut and getting the bitch slap she deserved for it. Her parole officer, a stocky brunette woman Salem had always half suspected wanted to sleep with her, but had reacted with rage when she suggested it. The father who had molested and beat her until she left. The mother who had let him, mousy and sad. Kim, the best friend who had fallen into heroin and stolen nearly everything Salem owned – painfully thin and terrified. She had simply ordered them all to stop breathing, and she had a separate slave film each of them in loving detail as they thrashed, then jerked, then slowed. Her only regret was she couldn't record the thoughts she read as each one died... she luxuriated in them, enjoying every moment. There was something amazing there, something she could feel from her head to her toes, an electric buzz. Even bumble (the ex Queen's new pet name) was horrified, and Bumble didn't horrify easy. So what? Bumble was a smart girl, and after Salem ordered her to explain what was going on, she had all kinds of technical information she couldn't help but share about what Salem's power was and how it functioned – siphoning off the power of any mutant who is close enough and stealing for herself. Salem didn't ask about what she felt when someone died. It was her mystery to work out, and she would with time.
By week three, Bumble was getting annoying. She was loud in Salem's mind, she was constantly enraged, and she was constantly trying to manipulate Salem into some scheme or other. Workers were for conquest and production, not games and debauchery. Salem knew better though. She knew something deep and pure flowed through her when she took her toys over that final edge. What use is building for the future when the end sits so close, every second? The only mystery left was death, and Bumble was no use there. Frankly, Bumble wasn't even good in the sack. Not a giver by nature. It was that Salem couldn't shut her out that was worrying. She could shut out anyone else in the city, but Bumble just stayed in her head, yammering away. Salem could shut her up for awhile with threats or whatever wildly shameful performance she could send her off to do, but she always came creeping back. Bumble might just be hiding a sting. A glint of power remaining. It was, really, long past time to squash her. Salem considered this for awhile, then came back to the game, sending her Bishop to remove an annoying pawn. It was hard to tell who was more horrified, the bishop (a real clergyman of some sort) or the shivering cashier serving as the pawn, a young African immigrant, all wide eyes and dark skin. Their combined terrors played through salem's mind like a shadow play as he approached the hyperventilating woman. The bishop arrived, then drove a dagger into the frozen woman's heart. Everyone had their part to play, and they played them precisely as Salem wished. She watched as the young woman's eyes rolled up, feeling the rush fill her; but the mystery remained unsolved.
A week later, it was Bumble who was screaming in Salem's mind. She looked perfectly calm, carried on a platform by four of her favorite lovers, towards a specially made car crusher in the local dump. But oh boy was she going nuts inside, demanding she be freed, raging that Salem had conquered only a fraction of her abilities, that she would come back and destroy Salem, on and on. She was nude now, deeply beautiful, as she had been since the day Salem first saw her. The hint of fear, the sheen of sweat, only made the blonde beauty more alluring. It was almost enough to make Salem pause the enterprise... but that game had passed. By the time they were setting her down in the crusher, she was getting hysterical. You can keep panic out of your voice, but not your mind... the fear of the woman was delicious. She had used Salem like a nail in a toolbox, and now she was about to get what she deserved. “Wait!” the woman cried in her head, razor focused on the message“If I die, we don't know what could happen to your powers! We need to do more research!”. Ha! Another six months of research, no doubt. Six months to try and pick at Salem's defenses. Salem herself rode her own platform, carried by dozens, imperious in a head to toe black leather dress, stitched to fit her body by the finest tailors, as tight and supple as a glove, her makeup done by the best in the city, hair a post apocalyptic shock of pink aggression.
“Sorry Bumble, No more buzzing in my ear. It's been swell watching you ride your ponies though, hon.” Salem allowed the soon to be dead woman a blush, enjoying the rush of blood to the H.I.V.E. Queens features. Salem had ordered the crusher specially constructed from hard, clear plastic, allowing her to view and film the entire process. Salem kneeled before the crusher, peering in at the supervillainess as she turned the machine on, listening to the jumble of screams and begging rushing into her head, so chaotic compared to Bumble's usual crisp, clear thoughts. “You shouldn't have tried to command ME, Bumble.” Salem grinned at the trapped woman, allowing her control of Bumble's body to drop for the first time since she gained the woman's powers. The Queen leaped at the locking roof of the crusher, but it was too late. The top of the box was already pushing down, slowly forcing the Queen to her knees, her hands above her head, trembling as they pressed against the roof. Did the Queen have super strength? Salem had honestly never thought to ask, but she was pretty sure she would have stolen that power too. Bumble was still rambling on about research being needed in Salem's head, mixed in with whatever other pleas and random thoughts flowed through her had – memories of triumphs, near misses she had escaped, a whole history of conquest and villainy. Salem rocked back on her heels, thrilling at the parade of thoughts and feeling. More research probably was a good idea, but this was just too fun to stop! The Queen was on all fours now, her eyes wild as she was pressed tight to the floor, then further still, her breasts pressed flat on the floor. It was pure panic, and Salem was lost in pleasure as she felt her enemies fear flow through her. It was so clear, clearer than any normal humans. The side walls began to close in, and the Queen screamed out loud now. Salem watched hungrily as Bumble's arm snapped, the chaos of her thoughts turning into a sort of panicky, overwhelming static. For the first time, Salem could feel the certainty of death in the Queen, the real terror. It was going too fast now... she could distantly feel the Queen's bones snapping, see the way her body twisted and shifted under the growing pressure, then begin to split, painting the clear plastic red and the screams turned to shrieks, then died in a series of crunches and pops. The voice in her head rose in pitch, becoming a wordless, thoughtless cry, then shut off forever.
Salem collapses onto her back, gasping. Nothing she had ever experienced had been better, nothing closer. She moaned softly, processing the experience, running a hand through her pink shock of hair. She would absolutely have to do that again... it had been a thousand times better than killing her childhood enemies. The power of these supers made them hit like missiles when they died. Like absorbing a lightning bolt. She opened her eyes as she lay, and found herself looking at a crowd of workers, gathered close around her. She looked from face to face, taking in their grim expressions, the rage in their eyes. Gathering her powers around her, she found herself...unarmed. The mutant power had died with the Queen, and with no power to siphon off, her control had died with her. Whatever the Queens death had granted Salem, her power was not included. She sat up, her face suddenly nervous as she looked between the men. She watched as one of the men drew a wrench from his pants, his grin mirroring the one she herself had as she took her own revenge on the ex Queen. Salem gathered her legs beneath her, raising her arms in supplication. “Hey now – why don't we talk about this?” She said, suddenly very nervous indeed. She was pretty sure a few of these guys had survived her last chess game. Not many had.
She smiled to the crowd reassuringly, almost rising to her feet. “I killed the Queen for you, and now I can reward you all...” she began, then the wrench smashed down on her leg, and it was her own turn to scream. She fell with a howl, feeling the kicks beginning to slam into her sides, her broken leg, her breast. She tasted her own blood as the wrench cracked down on her jaw, and she felt her own thoughts begin to fragment into the familiar screams and cries and begging as something else popped in her back. Frantically, she reached out as hard as she ever had, looking for some kind of power, some kind of healing, groping in the darkness as another scream was wrenched from her, her shoulder snapping with a blow as she felt herself lifted, hair pulled, dress clawed, and then thrown. She slid through a pile of gore, gasping and crying out in pain. It took her a moment to realize where she was.
They had opened the crusher again. She tried to stand, her tight leather dress restricting her motion as she slipped on the gore of her predecessor, then her broken leg gave way and she hot the floor hard. She watched the roof snap into place, a soft gasp escaping her. She could feel the desperation filling her as the roof slowly approached, her breasts heaving as she squirmed uselessly, trying to find purchase in the slick remains of the Queen. This shit is NOT to plan! It's not FAIR! She screamed as the top rested on her breasts, pressing her flat as it had the Queen before, and the walls began to close. NO! She screamed in rage at the crowd, then felt the walls hit her, felt her own arms begin to crush into herself, the first of her ribs snap. It was with that howl of pain that her still seeking power found what it was after. Healing! She was saved! Nothing could stop her now!
Everything was drowned out as the pain overtook her, her bones grinding then popping, the screams filled her head. Why wasn't she healing? She couldn't die now, like this! Bones ground through her flesh, plowing rivers of pain, and she felt again what the Queen had felt, so close now, inescapable and overwhelming and beyond horror, beyond unendurable. She felt her mind start to wink out in a blaze od panic and screaming nerves, and one last shriek of rage and pain...
They threw her body in a shallow grave, and if the existence of a body at all was a surprise after being crushed into a paste, no one commented. She healed slowly, but she healed nonetheless. It was days before she could think again, a week before she could drag herself free of her shallow grave, her rotted dress flapping ragged against her body. It wasn't until every face she could remember in the crowd was dead that she started to feel her mind was healed. She understood now. So long as she treated death well, death would treat her the same. All it asked was she feed it. She laughed to the uncaring moon, wiping a bloody wrench against her naked body. 'I am become death, destroyer of worlds” she whispered. Then she reached out, seeking another power to steal, another life to offer her new goddess.