Although Charm didn't like going into a confrontation alone, time was of the essence. An anonymous tip put the notorious identity thief Sammy "Dotcom" Dotweiller in the industrial district, and as much as he moved around, the time to strike was now.
Clad in her purple halter dress and white accessories, the masked avenger quietly tiptoed toward the doorway her quarry entered moments prior. The old piston factory was an odd choice for a hideout, but as long as Dotcom had electricity, he was a threat to the public.
Charm quietly picked the lock as Night Tiger had taught her, and she was inside. Listening carefully, she saw a light coming from an office at the end of a hallway. With no sign of any bodyguards or henchmen, this looked to be an easy collar.
The heroine approached the doorway and then stepped inside, declaring, "Dotcom, your site is now DOWN!"
Dotcom spun in his chair and looked at Charm. She reached out with her psychic powers to entrance the hacker...
...only there was no mind there for her to grab.
Dotcom's surprised look turned into a smile. Charm froze as she saw a vertical seam appear down the middle of Dotcom's face, then his skin folded down each side.
DOTCOM WAS A ROBOT!
Momentarily frozen in shock, Charm couldn't react quickly enough to dodge the rubber strips the flailed out of the robot and encircled her body. In seconds, she was wrapped from nose to ankles.
The robot shed the rest of the Dotcom "skin" and stepped forward to grab the immobilized heroine before she could topple over. The robot's head opened, and a small LCD screen lifted up and flashed on. Charm instantly recognized the face of Robo-Master.
"Hello, Charm," said Robo-Master. "The real Dotcom was unavailable, but as you can see, I fashioned a decent likeness."
Charm scanned the building for Robo-Master, hoping she could compel him to let her go.
"Don't bother trying to take control of me," he said. "I am fully aware of your talents and am miles away where your powers can't reach me. Remote-control has come a long way in recent years, hasn't it?"
Realizing there was no one within range, Charm began to panic and squirmed frantically to no avail.
Robo-Master continued, "While I've studied your abilities, I haven't come up with anything quite as powerful as you. What I have come up with, however, is a way to bring out the bad in everyone. Keep watching..."
The screen began flashing a variety of colors, and several high-pitch sounds emanated from the robot. Charm wanted to look away, but found herself enraptured by the display.
Is this what it's like? she thought before succumbing to the fog filling her mind.
Zap and Lady Crush looked up at the images on the computer screen. It was Charm encased in rubber and thrashing in the hands of a robot. Unfortunately, there was no sound to find out what was being said.
"Looks like Robo-Master is up to his old tricks," muttered Zap. "What I can't figure is why Charm would try to take him down alone. Her powers only work on humans."
Lady Crush shook her head. "I couldn't tell you," she replied. "Maybe she was tricked somehow. In any case, this looks like it was sent from an old piston factory in the industrial district."
"That seems like the ideal place for a trap," said Zap. "Who else were you able to get hold of?"
"It's just us," answered Lady Crush. "Summoner must be in another dimension or something, and tracking down Night Tiger is always tricky."
"Let's get over there," said Zap, snapping her fingers and causing sparks, "and hopefully we can make short work of Robo-Master's scheme."
"Any reason to be subtle?" asked Lady Crush as she looked at the door to the factory.
Zap shrugged. "We agreed this was a trap, didn't we?"
Lady Crush hit the door with a well-placed palm strike, and the steel door flew inward, crashing nearly twenty feet away.
The two heroines walked into the factory, staying close to back each other up in case of an ambush. Instead of an ambush, however, there was nothing.
"This is entirely too quiet," grunted Zap. "Are you sure you got the right address?"
Lady Crush nodded. "I'm certain of it. Hey, what's on that table over there?"
They walked toward a table and found it covered with rubber strips and cloths.
"Strange..." said Zap. "You would think that... Hey! What are you doing?!" She screamed as Lady Crush grabbed her and hammer-locked her right arm.
"I-I'm sorry," stammered Lady Crush.
Zap tried to leverage herself free, but Lady Crush could bench-press a loaded eighteen-wheeler, so she was no match for the powerhouse. She could see no other option, so she began building a charge to stun her friend, but suddenly she felt someone in her mind causing her to release the energy and allow Lady Crush to proceed uninterrupted.
"It-It's affecting me, too," cried Zap. "I can't use my powers!"
Seconds later, Lady Crush forced her onto the ground and pinned both of Zap's hands behind her back.
Lady Crush reached up and grabbed a rubber strip from the table. She wound it around Zap's wrists, knotting it tightly. Now that Zap's hands were secured, Lady Crush pulled her into a sitting position and began wrapping her arms and torso in more of the strips.
Suddenly, Zap put the pieces together. "It's Charm! Maybe we can... MMMPH!"
Before Zap could share her idea, Lady Crush stuffed one of the cloths into her mouth and followed up with another tied between her teeth and around her head.
Lady Crush continued her work by tying Zap's legs at the knees and ankles, effectively immobilizing the heroine.
The sound of clapping filled the space, and the heroines looked to see Charm and a humanoid robot with a screen sticking out of its split head walking toward them.
"That was fun!" cackled Charm.
Lady Crush stood up and faced Charm and the android like she was awaiting further instructions. "W-W-Why are you doing this?" she asked with much effort.
"Robo-Master showed me my bad side," bragged Charm, "and I think I like it! Don't look so down, though. He made you a present."
Charm tossed something to Lady Crush, and she caught it. Lady Crush looked down at what appeared to be a metal collar with a pulsing black stone in the middle of it.
"Negatorium!" cried Lady Crush as she recognized the element that canceled out the positronium radiation in her system granting her powers.
"Quit complaining and put it on," ordered Charm.
Despite her reluctance, Lady Crush couldn't fight Charm's mental powers and snapped the collar around her neck. In seconds, she could feel the stone's energy-draining properties reducing her strength to a normal human's.
"Now that you're one of us mere humans, let's fix you up like the spark plug there," said Charm as she went to work binding and gagging Lady Crush in the same fashion as Zap. Once secured, Charm helped sit Lady Crush on the floor next to her teammate.
Charm turned to the android. "What do we do with them now?" she asked.
Robo-Master replied, "Unfortunately, the hypnosis I administered to you earlier is about to wear off, and the way the human brain works, I won't be able to use it on you a second time. Therefore, there's really only one option..."
The android sprouted a second set of arms and grabbed Charm. With two of its arms, it pinned Charm's hands behind her back while it grabbed a rubber strip and tied them together with the other two.
Charm tried to fight, but she was no match for the robot's mechanical strength. Her complaining was quickly silenced when she got her own gag. Moments later, all three heroines were seated on the floor back-to-back, and Robo-Master bound them together with the last of the strips.
The android sat down across from them, and Robo-Master spoke. "I've just activated this unit's self-destruct sequence. In sixty seconds, there won't be enough left of the three of you to fill a dustpan."
Charm, now free from Robo-Master's hypnosis, fought back tears as she realized she was the catalyst who put the three of them in this peril.
Likewise, Lady Crush was equally frustrated as she tried to fight her way free, but the negatorium in the collar had neutralized her strength, making her struggles useless.
Zap's mind raced trying to figure out a solution. The rubber strips were insulated against attempts to burn her way free, and any discharge strong enough to disable the robot might electrocute her friends in the process!
The heroines' thoughts were distracted by the sound of metal on concrete as a round object bounced on the floor and landed next to the android. There was a bright flash, and when they got their vision back, they saw the robot in a powered-down state.
Seconds later, Night Tiger dashed into the room and began checking the robot for signs of activity. Seeing none, she turned to her allies.
"I guess Robo-Master must have been too focused on the plan as a whole to consider shielding his robots against E.M.P. attacks," she said. "Now let's get you three out of those bonds and have a talk about rushing into things without any prior reconnaissance."
The three captives nodded in agreement almost simultaneously as Night Tiger began cutting them loose. Charm, in particular, was wondering how she was ever going to make this up to her friends.