UCLA Campus, Los Angeles, a week later
Kitja Best walked out of the Chancellor’s office to stand in front of a gathering crowd, her hands on her hips. She been nursing her bruised feelings ever since Kerry had rejected her, and she’d decided on a path of action to heel her wounded pride. One that would not only put Kerry in his proper place, but also advance the scientific knowledge of Velorians. It promised to be the typical win-win scenario that her mother had always told her to look for.
Ever since the encounter with Eric, she'd felt more confident and assertive. Like she really was a woman now.
The result was that she’d worked all night to assume the most outrageously Velorian appearance she could imagine, and then donned a white gold-embroidered vest and golden g-string that she’d borrowed from Andrea’s closet. She added her own touches by donning her favorite bracelets and necklace, and finished with an elaborately crafted belly chain.
She’d added a lot of muscle to her frame, along with a bust that exceeded most men’s fantasies of a Virago. Her hair was long and golden, her eyes large and blue, her skin a dark, golden tan, her height 190cm. The only thing that hadn’t come out right was her lips, but she’d lost patience with trying to perfect her look and had decided to live with them.
It was a look Kerry couldn’t ignore, not now, not after the Chancellor had agreed that she could participate in any university research project that she felt could benefit from a Velorian’s presence. She used a mild mixture of arousal pheromone combined with the ones for command and fear on him to extract that promise. Only a tiny bit of the last, to be honest, but the Chancellor had still startled her by bowing down and kissing her feet.
She left him in an agitated but infinitely agreeable state to walk back down the steps of the Admin building. She strolled slowly across the campus, using her flight power to hold herself firmly enough against the ground so that her powerful legs flexed sensually with every step the way she figured a muscle-bound Virago’s would. A growing crowd of excitedly jabbering students began to travel with her, but she paid them no attention, not even when the breeze caught her vest to reveal more of her than she’d planned to show them.
Her mixture of catwalk and strip tease ended at the entrance to the Medical Arts building. She turned and acknowledged the crowd for the first time, giving them a smile and a tiny curtsy, finishing with a flourishing bow that left nothing to the imagination before finally walking through the front door. Turning to grab the stainless handles on the doors, she bent them together and twisted, squeezing the steel with enough force to make a contact weld. That would keep the crowd outside where it belonged. She then headed directly down the hallway and into Kerry’s lab.
Professor Kerry Patterson was standing in the middle of the huge lab, surrounded by a half dozen graduate students and research assistants. Their heads jerked up as she entered.
“I don’t believe we had a chance last month to complete our research into the power of the Velorian orgasm, Dr. Patterson, but I’ve got some free time now if you’d like to continue.”
“What the hell… who are you?” Kerry sputtered.
She rolled her eyes at him, and then winked at one of the two women grad students. “How soon you men forget such things. Especially after you exhausted yourself in trying to get me going, you poor dear.” She made a show of looking around the room. “But I see you have assistants today who look young and strong. Even better, some of you will at least recognize one if by some unlikely chance it happens to come over me.”
The older of the two female grad students snickered while the guys just stared back at her with huge eyes. Kitja saw Kerry’s eyes narrowing. He walked close to her, his voice barely a whisper. “Is this your idea of a game, Kitja?”
“I can’t be Kitja,” she said in a singsong voice. “She’s just a mere student, not to mention a young and foolish girl with a silly crush on you, so she can’t possibly participate in any of this research.”
“God damn it, Kitja, you’re embarrassing me and endangering the credibility of our research programs. Half these students are from Stanford, down for a symposium.”
Kitja stepped around him. “Stanford, huh? You guys are smart. You know anything about the female orgasm.”
The handsome hunk in the back tentatively raised his hand.
“O.K. You have the job. What’s your name?”
“Pete. Pete Sondersom.”
“You’re in charge of inspiration. Now, who’s good at metrology, specifically metabolic output and energy consumption?”
Two of the students raised their hands. “I’m Helen Tramel from Stanford. This is Carey Wickstrom.”
Kitja nodded to them both. She knew Wickstrom. He was the lab instructor in one of her courses.
Fifteen minutes later, she was laying on her back on a gurney, covered in sensors, wires attached to her nearly everywhere. Her clothes had been replaced by a white sheet that covered her. She still wore her gold. Everyone was going about their business except Peter Sondersom, who stood by her side looking very nervous. “So what’s this inspirational job all about?”
Kitja looked at him as if he was daft. “I thought you said you knew how to give a girl an orgasm?”
His face turned white. “I mean, sure, but here? In front of everyone?”
“Well, Dr. Patterson couldn’t manage it either, and that was in private. So I thought, you know, what with you being younger and obviously a bit of a ladies man, you’d be more helpful.”
Peter looked around the room to see several of the other students snickering even louder now. He took a deep breath. “Well, I guess I could always do my best.” He rested his hand on her thigh. Kitja reached up to take his hand in hers. “I was just kidding, Peter. I’ll do all the work. But you were at least willing to try. That’s more than some men would do for me. Right Dr. Patterson?”
Kerry stood on the far side of the lab, cursing under his breath. He wasn’t going to answer her. In fact, if not for being worried about what she might do to his students, he would have left as soon as he realized who she was. But his students’ enthusiasm was undeniable, and they were all studying genetic enhancement, not to mention Supremis physiology, what little was known of it, so this was an opportunity he couldn't pass by. The energetic Velorian orgasm, much fabled, both in scientific and erotic circles, was poorly understood. There had never been a scientific and clinical observation of one, at least not one that was documented in any Terran literature. And whatever it was that he and Kitja had shared that one night, an encounter that seemed to still anger her, it hadn’t included her enthusiasm in this area.
He took a deep breath and walked back into the center of the lab, telling himself it was only science. That in the end, nothing else mattered.
An hour later, Kerry’s lab looked like something out of a disaster movie. Everyone's clothing was charred, hair frizzed up to stand straight out from their heads. The students looked dazed, as much from the pheromones in the air as from watching Kitja have sex with herself. Not just once, but she seemed to ride the crest of some tsunami wave of passion that took the better part of that hour to finally crash onto the shore. Every screaming crest had filled the air with sparks, her arms and legs tearing apart equipment as she crashed from wall to wall.
Kerry had left sometime during the ‘experiment’, and hadn’t been seen since.
The dazzled students walked around the gurney, trying to salvage the burned out instrument leads that lay strewn across her body. Most of the attached instruments looked beyond hope – smoke was still rising from them.
Kitja had let herself go completely, releasing as much orgone into the air as she could manage, all for effect, which succeeded in melting down most of the lab electronics.
Of course, only she knew that no Vel would ever release that kind of energy willingly, but the students didn’t know that. She’d wanted to make her orgasm into an event that would not only dazzle her onlookers, but would cause Kerry to publish some truly bizarre research findings. Once more credible research was done, his work would look extremist and exploitive.
Rising from the shattered concrete floor to float weightlessly around the room, she found her clothes stuffed into a corner behind Kerry’s desk. She got dressed before returning to land in front of the small gathering of students.
They looked like they’d just been through a war, what with faces and clothing blackened, wisps of smoke still filling the air with the stench of ozone. They stared at her as if she was a goddess, especially the two women. “So, you’ve got the first first-hand data on a Supremis orgasm. I hope it makes you and your professor famous.”
Before anyone could utter a word, Kitja spun around on her heel and walked back out the door, then down the hallway to unbend the handles a and exit the building. The crowd, several hundred strong now, applauded wildly as she walked into the midst of them.
They'd stared in fascination for the last hour at what had looked like lightning flashing inside the building, the whole effect reminding many of them of those old Frankenstein movies.
Now that her anger was defused, the ridiculousness of what she’d just done hit her like a runaway train. She blushed visibly at the thought of those students watching her have sex with herself. Cursing her unstable emotions, she turned to walk across campus, the crowd following her, everyone shouting questions. Mostly the usual who, what and whys, but sprinkled with a few questions that were less charitable.
She was suddenly glad that her hearing and vision were little better than human. Given the way she looked, like some kind of fitness centerfold, and what she’d done, not everyone was going to be enthralled with her.
That thought made her want to leap into the air and fly away – an act that wouldn’t surprise anyone in the crowd. But something held her back. This was her campus and a lot of these kids were in her classes. They had no idea who she really was, not in this skin, but she knew they were getting off on her being here. And that strangely made her feel warm and cozy. Clearly some of her mother’s Velorian exhibitionism coming out, but still, she liked the feeling of being the object of everyone’s desire. She decided to bask in it for a little while longer and return to the Admin building to thank the Chancellor for his support.
Mandalas Resort, San Diego, California
Major Ara Col’yar found the gym equipment on Terra hopelessly deficient, despite the fact that it had been designed for use by Primes. She’d already suffered the minimum spec equipment on the Arion starship Drogennes for the last six months, and now the problem had followed her here to Mandalas, the third of five Arion strongholds on Earth. Scourge of the 'lowest bidder' syndrome.
Mandalas had been a popular human fitness retreat before Command took it over in 2041 and made it into one of their Command centers. They still maintained enough legitimate Fitness Camp business to provide a decent cover for Terran eyes, but most of the resort was now exclusive and private. Unknown to the Terrans, it was one of the most important Arion command centers.
None of which helped solve Ara’s problem. She was one of the last Tset’lar born before the Kryp’terrans sabotaged the birthing facility and its cache of genetic material. Given her phenomenal strength, even by Supremis standards, it was unlikely she’d ever find adequate gym equipment outside of the massive machines that had been installed back in her Aerie.
Still, the machines in Mandalas were slightly better than those on the ship. Built out of purplish Vendorian steel, the bars a solid three inches thick, they could absorb the full strength of even a Destroyer. The same Destroyers she’d resorted to using for exercise during the long journey, pitting her small but immensely efficient muscles against the massive bulk of theirs. It was better than isometrics, although the fixation with sexual combat that inevitably ensued during a workout was a distraction. The Destroyers instinctively tried to drain her energies, forcing her to concentrate on stopping them instead of pushing her muscles to the limit. But such absorption was a Destroyer’s inborn trait. They couldn’t help themselves, and it was good training for them.
Tucking her elbows inward in perfect form as she concentrated on the pec machine, she began building her strength. General Bickford Laksin, the site commander, was standing in front of her, also dressed for his workout. He claimed to have never met a Tset before, and given the way he was staring at her, she believed it.
He pressed his tiny earpiece against his ear and listened for a long moment. He was always plugged into the Arion net. “We’ve just gotten reports about a Velorian up in LA, Major. We don’t have an ID on her, but she appears to be a Virago.”
Ara exhaled slowly as she continued her workout. “A Virago? Didn’t think there were any in this sector. What’s intel have to say about her?”
“Nothing, as usual,” the General frowned. “The Protector has been focusing her efforts on taking out our intelligence resources, and we’re having to rely more and more on deep implant agents to get any new data.”
“Fortunately you have lots of those. The advance team that came a century ago was a piece of brilliance on the part of the Empire.”
The General listened to his earpiece for another moment. “What I’m hearing is that the Virago is on a university campus, and she’s operating in the open. I repeat, in the open.” His eyes focused on Ara's. “This is one of the most flagrant PD violations yet.”
Ara’s pecs were flexing at nearly full strength when the thick Vendorian steel began to groan and bend inward. She knew she should stop to save the machine, but it felt so incredibly good to just let herself go for once. No partners to worry about hurting, just her birthright pitted against alien steel. Supersteel that began to groan and then scream as its internal friction made it glow red hot. Ara gasped for breath and grunted, “So, you want me to take her out, General?”
General Laksin stared in disbelief at her. The Vendorian steel was beginning to bend. It would take twice the strength of a Destroyer to do that! Her tore his eyes from her chest and looked back up at her. “I don’t have enough Destroyers available in Southern California at the moment to guarantee success against a Virago. Just the two you brought with you.”
Ara relaxed her body as the softening steel finally failed completely. She lowered her arms to shake the strain out of them. “I don’t want to give my presence away here, General. Can I take her out covertly?”
“We won’t know until you get into position.”
“Then I want to take someone with me to front the job. A female. Maybe one of the young faces from my ship. A girl who could learn a thing or two from me.”
The General looked down at the bioterm he held, pushing the buttons. “What about Elle Zol?”
Ara remembered her well from the long space flight. “A YIP. Young, inexperienced and pretty. She’ll be perfect.” She didn't mention her most important characteristic: expendable.
The General turned to give the orders to his aide. He paused to look back at Ara before leaving the gym. “Will you need a shuttle? It’s about 80 miles up to the UCLA campus and you should be there as quickly as possible to catch her.”
“I was born in an Aerie, General. Just show me some aerial photos and fetch the girl.”
Ara was dressed in skin-tight leather when she landed on the UCLA campus fifteen minutes later, her short skirt and plunging neckline a magnet to every man’s eyes. A choker wrapped tightly around her neck, the leather adorned with the silver emblem of her Aerie. Her hair was red and very long, a tribute to her Kryp’terran mother, and her eyes were unusually large and greenish blue, courtesy of the unique genetic enhancements of the Tset’lar. While the power of the Tsets had diminished since they’d first emerged from the bio-labs, Ara was still very powerful. Something the ruined gym equipment in San Diego bore mute testimony to.
Unfortunately, she was also the last born of the dwindling pool of Tsets. While they had all been born to power, the Tsets had not been endowed with a long lifespan. Fifty years was the maximum, and Ara was already thirty-two. The last and youngest of her line. Her goal in life was to die in battle, and not to merely waste away as her genetics came unwound after her fifth decade.
Her short lifespan created a sense of impatience that showed in every thing she did. The Velorian/Arion war had gone on for far too long, in her estimation. Her dream was to have it end in Arion victory while she was still alive. And while Earth had no strategic significance, a victory on the Origin Planet would have immense propaganda value.
She watched the Primal femme she’d brought with her to LA. Her name was Elle Zol and this was her first trip off the Arion homeworld following her training. The young woman opened her eyes to stare through the buildings and across the open area of the campus, her blue eyes sparkling as she searched eagerly for the Virago. Elle was dressed in a transparent white top that overlaid a print top of organic blue and brown, her skirt Arion short. Both women wore heels, a concession to Terran fashion. They certainly had the legs for them.
Elle, unfortunately, was still finding the Terran shoes difficult to walk in, and she stumbled and nearly fell as one heel sunk into a soft spot in the grass. Ara grabbed her arm to steady her.
“Once you lure her away from her crowd, Elle, I’ll scoop her up at high speed and land over there behind that glass building.” She pointed behind them. “Anybody who sees me will think I’m another Vel, what with my flying and this wig.” She pulled a blonde wig from her bag and pulled it on, the high-technology fabric inside it gripping her natural hair with incredible force.
Elle’s eyes opened wide in alarm. “What if she decides to kill me before you get there?”
“Then put your training to use.”
“I don’t know about this, Ara,” Elle said sourly. “She’s a Virago. She has five times my strength. I thought I was just here to learn from you, not to be dangled in front of the Velorian like fish bait.” More than ever now, Elle regretted signing up for the Marines on her sixteenth birthday. Unfortunately, the Zol’s were a military family, and she was expected to hold up the long family tradition. Her older brothers and her father had come home from the war with stories of conquest and glory, their words making it sound glamorous and exciting.
She’d found military life to be neither. Instead, she’d found that young Primal femmes started their military career as Bats, the name derived from their role as living batteries for male Primes during tactical operations. Her job was to tank up on all the energy she could hold, and then transfer it to the males during battle. Recharging.
She didn’t really mind that part of the job. The recharging. She simply looked upon it as sex, which it technically was, and tried to enjoy it. Being a Prime, that wasn’t so hard. But the thought of getting hot and bothered in the middle of a lethal battlefield was something else. Fortunately, the soldiers had promised to keep her safe, for without her abundant energy reserves, they knew their combat endurance would be severely limited. But given that she’d never been in combat, it was all theoretical anyway.
Her real problem was that she still had five years to go on her enlistment before she could return to her first love. Veterinary school. She’d wanted to become an exo-veterinarian since she was a girl, working on distant worlds, learning to treat the strange and exotic native animals she found. Her friends would be eighteen next summer and entering the University, while she was stuck here on this primitive and dangerous planet, fighting the blondies.
If not for the incredible zoo in San Diego, filled with alien creatures, she knew she’d go insane. The Zoo was the first place she’d gone after getting her feet on the ground.
Ara smiled as she saw the doubt and anxiety in Elle’s face. “Don’t worry. The Virago won’t have much fight left when I’m done with her. I want you to finish her off. Your first kill.”
Elle’s stomach lurched. She didn’t want to kill anyone. All she wanted to do was go home. “Why can’t you…”
“Shhh,” Ara said urgently as she snapped her head to the side, eyes glowing. “She comes. You must distract her so I can focus on my kill.”
Elle’s gaze followed the Tset’lar’s. The building in front of her shimmered and then faded to transparency as she activated her tachyon vision. She saw an outrageously endowed blonde walking across the grassy lawn, a large mob of Terrans surrounding her, most of them men.
“Strange. I would have expected that she’d avoid publicity,” Ara said to herself. Then to Elle. “Get around on the other side of the building and draw her away.”
Elle did as she was told, walking across a wide balcony to the far side. She stood there, gripping the stone railing that surrounded it, nervously pressing her fingertips against the granite. The Virago was coming closer, which made her grip the railing tighter. The native rock began to crack under her grip. That gave her an idea. She dug her fingers deeper into the stone, shattering a section of the railing, then hefting a hand-sized piece of granite, carefully judging the distance to the Virago.
Given that she’d been born on a farm, her siblings all brothers, she’d grown up as a tomboy. She and her brothers’ favorite sport had been to go fishing for Stagtails. They’d throw stones at the leaping Stag fish, catching them in mid-flight as they raced across the surface of the water on their tail fins. She’d been better at it than her brothers.
Empowered now that she was outside of a gold field, she leaned back and threw the pound-sized rock at the Virago as hard as she could. The loud crack of its sonic boom echoed from the buildings, and the rock blazed from the air friction as it flew toward the Velorian at several times the speed of sound.
Kitja never saw it coming. The kinetic explosion of twenty-thousand foot-pounds of force impacted her chest to sent her flying backwards and into \the tree trunk she'd just passed. A cloud of leaves showered down around her as the tree vibrated, but far more dangerously, a spray of shattered rock ricocheted from her invulnerable body to cut down several of the students closest to her. She regained her balance and glanced down to see blood everywhere. Two of the students were badly injured, one of them bleeding from lacerated eyes.
Looking around angrily for her attacker, she saw a woman with long, black hair standing on the balcony of the Admin building, her eyes blazing brilliant blue in the mid-day sunshine. She was tossing a second rock up and down in her hand.
Kitja reacted without thinking. She leaped into the air and flew directly toward the murderous Prime, the same tactic she'd used on Eric.
Unfortunately, this Prime was trained to stop such an attack. Kitja was barely halfway there when she lifted a GAR in her other hand and fired. The actinic beam seared its way across Kitja’s eyes, dazzling her vision and sending her tumbling out of control. She crashed through a window and into a darkened room. Blinking furiously to clear her vision, she got shakily back to her feet and flew back toward the last location she’d seen the Prime standing.
A powerful blow exploded against the back of her head to send her flying even faster, propelling her face first through the glass windows. She caught herself in mid-air, and snapped around to launch herself back along the same path, traveling even faster. The Prime was there, standing in the middle of the room, holding her GAR in both hands. She fired, and the annihilating ray splashed across Kitja's upper body, heating her clothing and skin to thousands of degrees. Andrea's outfit miraculously remained intact, but Kitja's skin burned agonizingly hot where the nuclear flame touched her. Despite her form, she had only her native resistance to injury, which wasn't up to her mother's standards.
Kitja staggered and fell, the beam following her to the floor. The marble around her began to soften the GAR beat down on her with the heat of a star's corona, the half molten rock growing slippery to send Kitja slipping across the floor as she tried to get to her feet. She tried to fly instead, but her chest was too hot. Instead, she raised her hands and deflected the beam, her palms burning horribly as she struggled to walk into the beam. She could endure it for a few seconds more... and seconds were all she needed.
Elle wasn't stupid. She tossed the GAR to the side and leaped at Kitja, the two of them meeting in mid-air. They twisted and turned as they tried to get a killing hold on each other, fingers groping for pressure points. Kitja put her larger muscles to work, wrapping her powerful legs around Elle and squeezing for all she was worth. The girl gasped in pain, her ribs bending inward dangerously, but fought back bravely by jamming her thumbs into Kitja's neck, succeeding at finding the pressure point over her carotid artery. A wave of blackness came over Kitja, and her legs went limp, and the Elle tore herself free, which also loosened her hold on Kitja's neck.
Kitja recovered quickly enough to grab for the Prime's long hair and swung her around her head, finally releasing Elle to fly at nearly supersonic speed toward the granite wall that formed the back of the building. Elle acrobatically flipped herself around and hit the wall feet first, her powerful legs thrusting her back toward Kitja at far greater than the Mach. They collided in a shower of sparks and blazing kinetic energy.
The two of them kicked and punched at each other now, neither of them wanting to get within wrestling distance again. The outcome was simply too uncertain once arms and legs encircled bodies, and fingers began groping for pressure points.
Elle was clearly stronger, but Kitja was faster, and she could fly. They danced around, hitting each other with blows that would have dented a battleship, crumbling the structure of the building around them. Elle's blows to Kitja just sent her volatai into spasm, and that more than evened the odds, turning it into a contest of strength. Advantage Elle.
However, instead of going for a kill, she disengaged and dove out a window, leaving Kitja standing alone.
Confused and disoriented, Kitja ran her hands through her hair to straighten it, and pulled her vest closed as she walked out onto the empty balcony. She blinked her eyes to try to get rid of the spots that still filled her vision, but instead of dissipating, one of the spots grew larger, suddenly ballooning into the form of a blonde woman who was flying directly toward her. She smiled, wondering what Kara was doing here.
Ara accelerated with every ounce of her Tset strength, aiming her body for the Velorian. She was moving on the high side of Mach 3 when she collided with her, a blinding flash of light lighting the inside of the building like a gigantic camera flash. The kinetic energy of one invulnerable body hitting another turned to friction, and the powerful explosion sent Kitja crashing backward through the building, her steel-hard body shattered both walls and supporting I-beams with equal ease. She finally came to a crashing stop face down in Chancellor’s office, only inches away from where she’d been standing two hours earlier. Her attacker, a very tall woman with blonde hair and huge eyes, grabbed her hair and jerked Kitja from the floor, her fist impacting Kitja’s face at supersonic speed.
The impact of diamond-hard knuckles against steely flesh sent supersonic shock waves radiating outward, blowing every window in the building out, the shock wave tearing the Chancellor's aorta apart as he rose to stare at her in astonishment, instantly killing him. Sparks as brilliant as fireworks clouded Kitja’s vision as the woman began raining blows rained down on her faster and faster, driving her feet through the marble floor, bending her forward. Kitja crossed her arms in front of her face and went completely defensive.
“You are no Virago,” Ara hissed as she kneeled down to her Kitja off the floor.
"And you are no Velorian," Kitja spit back at her, spots of blood speckling Ara's face.
Ara threw herself at Kitja, wrapping her long legs around the cowering blonde’s hips. “You are an imposter.”
Kitja struggled with all her strength to pull away, only to be crushed in the taller woman's arms like a little child. Looking up, she saw her attacker’s enlarged, almost feral eyes, and sensed her terrible strength. Impossibly, she was fighting a deadly Tset'lar, a race of warriors who were allegedly extinct!
"You know what I am, don't you?" Ara hissed as she saw the terrified look in Kitja's eyes. "Then you know you are already dead."
Kitja twisted and turned frantically, but she couldn't budge the red-head's arms. The sliver of fear inside her turned to panic, and she began to shake and push and shove so fast that her body blurred.
Ara smiled cruelly, a cat with her captured mouse, and ever so slowly tightened her embrace. The air whooshed from the Kitja’s lungs as her ribs began to bend inward. Ara felt a thrilling surge of erotic power wash over her as she felt the Velorian's body yielding, finding for the first time in months a worthy outlet for her overwhelming muscular power. It would take all her strength to kill the Velorian.
Kitja's panicky, adrenalized thoughts seemed to freeze, and were replaced by a numb hopelessness. "Oh, God, no, don't..." she gasped, and then could say no more, her lungs emptied. Her eyes were wide in fear, her mouth pleading silently for mercy when her spine mercifully snapped in half to prevent her from feeling any more pain. She heard but did not feel the horrible crunch of her pelvis as it collapsed between her attacker's powerful legs.
Kitja tried to cried out for help one final desperately time, but she coughed up only blood. A broken rib had punctured her lung, tearing a long, fatal gash inside her body. She stared up, blue eyes wide open, as the woman kissed her on the lips... and then her attacker was gone, leaving Kitja to fall limply to the stone floor of the balcony. She tried to move, even to fly, but all she could do was turn her head to stare into the eyes of the young woman who’d thrown the first stone at her.
Elle returned to kneel over the dying Velorian, both confused and horrified that Ara hadn't just finished her off. Like a cat teaching her kittens to hunt, she had left her mortally wounded for Elle to finish off. She saw that the trunk of the Velorian's body was crushed from her shoulders down to her pelvis, broken bones poking against her invulnerable skin, blood flowing from her nose and ears. She was doomed. The only merciful thing to do was to put her out of her misery as fast as possible.
She remembered her training, and reached down again to lock her fingers around the Velorian’s neck, once again searching with her thumbs to find the pressure point that would occlude her carotid artery, hoping to render her unconscious before she crushed her heart The Velorian coughed, and Elle felt like vomiting as the Virago’s lips bubbled with red blood. She’d never realized that killing another human being could be so easy, or so messy.
Closing her eyes, Elle pressed her thumbs into the Velorian’s neck with all her strength, praying it would be over quickly.
A dead calm came over Kitja as the young Arion occluded the flow of blood to her brain. She knew with certainty that this girl, barely past her mid-teens, intended to finish killing her. Her only hope was to force herself to change shape before she died, to mend her broken ribs and torn organs in a violent burst of transforming energy. She stared up into the eyes of her killer, and used the last of her strength to lift her head and brush her lips against the Prime’s, her tongue reaching out to taste her DNA. Then she collapsed, her heart skipping and then stopping.
Like other Supremis, Kitja was still alive despite her lack of heartbeat, her brain capable of functioning for some time without blood flow even if she couldn't see or hear anything. Calling upon the Galen genes that she’d been born with, she focused solely on that last taste of Supremis DNA, and her flesh began to dissolve into what looked like raw, red meat.
She had begun the most urgent transformation of her life.
Elle was horrified to feel the Velorian’s body squishing through her fingers as her firm flesh turned to jelly. She released her neck and jumped backwards hard enough to smash up against the far wall. She stared with gagging horror as the Velorian dissolved into a pulsating blob of jelly-like flesh before starting to solidify again. The first thing that appeared was a head, the face forming into an exact duplicate of her own!
Elle tried to stand back up, then to back away, only to have the half-formed abomination reach out to grab her ankle, holding on to her with a horrible strength, pulling her body into the pulsating jelly. The most horrible pain imagination enveloped Elle's legs as she looked down to see them dissolving as well.
In that last moment of consciousness, she knew that she’d never see the exotic animals on all those worlds she’d so wanted to visit. She saw her mother’s face swim into view. She was crying, staring at a plaque over the fireplace in their home back on Aria.
A plaque with her own face on it.
Kitja stood up and stretched, the pain gone, her thoughts strangely confused. She remembered what had happened, the Tset's attack, her mortal wounds, but she saw other images too. She saw the Tset's back as she crushed her body in her arms. Shaking her head to clear that strangely displaced image, she collected the Prime's clothing, and quickly got dressed. The Tset’lar would still be close by. She knew that her only hope of surviving was to pretend she was now the Prime.
She searched and found a small ID chip in a fold of the girl’s clothing. A life saver.
It was time to go. She glanced around the balcony one last time to make sure she hadn't left anything behind, and then strolled off in the direction the Tset'lar had flown. She found her standing in a shadow near the modern glass-walled building beyond. Walking rapidly across the gap between the buildings, Kitja stared at her reflection in the glass, hoping that she’d copied the Arion’s DNA well enough.
The woman who looked back at her was stunningly beautiful. With her eyes Arion bright, her black hair nearly waist length, and her permatan skin tone and figure, she was definitely Primal.
“Is she dead?” Ara asked as she swooped down to lift Kitja into the air.
“Of course,” Kitja shouted over the violent slipstream, barely getting the words out before a riot of shockwaves assaulted her body, ripping the air from her lungs as the Tset’lar went supersonic.
Kitja was shocked by how fast the woman accelerated, a blinding corona of ionized air surrounding them as she flew them from LA to the south side of San Diego in only a few minutes, their flight path over water and barely above the waves. Slowing as they passed south of the Naval yards and a few miles off shore, the Tset dove through the face of a large wave to head for the ocean floor.
The crushing weight of water three thousand feet deep threatened to collapse Kitja’s lungs, for she was still holding her breath, when a wide metal pipe appeared in the darkness. Kitja squinted her eyes, and could suddenly see as well as if she was standing outside under a clear sun. Shocked, she realized that she was seeing with tachyons and neutrinos, a Supremis trait that she’d never possessed!
The Tset held her tightly to her body as she floated into the pipe and began to accelerate again. The sides rushed by faster and faster until the water tore at Kitja’s hair and skin. They were traveling at hundreds of miles per hour in the restricted space of the water-filled tunnel.
She didn't think about that. Instead, Kitja thought back to her frantic transformation. Clearly, she’d utilized far too much of the Arion’s DNA during her uncontrolled shape-change. In the past, no matter what her form, her abilities had remained unchanged.
Kitja didn’t have time to consider the consequences of that as the pipe suddenly angled upward. The Tset slowed down as the surge of water ahead of them was shunted off down a series of adjoining pipes. They made a few more turns before finally floating through a hole in the bottom of a very large swimming pool.
The Tset released her and Kitja stroked over to the base of one of the ladders and climbed out of the pool. There were Arions all around her, a least four of which looked like Primes and one hulking brute was definitely a Destroyer. None of them as much as said hello to her.
Glad that she didn't have to reply, for she didn't know Arion, she let her wet hair cover her face as she walked over to sit on a chair beneath a palm tree. The Tset was drawing everyone’s attention as she talked to an older woman on the far side of the pool. Remarkably, Kitja could hear every word. Primal senses, she realized again. They were speaking unaccented English.
“Elle finished the Virago off, although I didn’t leave her much for the killing. Not bad for a newly landed. She’s got blood on her hands now.”
“Just as well, Ara,” the older woman nodded. “We’ve got a crisis starting. We’re picking up indications of some alliance between that renegade, Mandi Olson, and a group of Terrans. I need someone on the inside of whatever that turns out to be. We need to get enough intel to run an op within the next few weeks.” The two of them walked off, their conversation eventually fading below the level Kitja could overhear.
Kitja smiled to herself. So, the Tset’lar was named Ara, and her own name was Elle. And if ‘newly landed’ meant what she hoped it did, then perhaps she didn’t have any friends here yet. She could still play the newby role. Beyond that, she’d have to find a reader for her ID chip.
She laid on her lounge chair for several hours, feigning sleep, but in reality watching the rest of people in the pool with one eye. The sun finally set, leaving just a single couple at the far end. Startlingly, they began making love under the cover of only darkness. Darkness was no impediment to her eyes.
Kitja tried to remember what her mom had told her about Arion culture, but the only thing she could remember was that horrible thing about ‘recharging’. She’d thought it was obscene the way Arion men exploited females that way. Yet these two were making love with both tenderness and passion.
Rising, Kitja walked down a sloping tunnel into a series of underground corridors. A bulletin board was located at the intersection of three tunnels. She saw notices both in English and in a language that she assumed was Arion. It looked more like hieroglyphics than cursive characters. The English language notice welcomed the newcomers from the starship Drogennes. She found the name Elle Zol, the only Elle on the ship. That had to be her. Now she had a last name and a room number. 153. This was easy.
The signs said room 153 was to the right, so she trudged down the empty corridor to find her door. It was locked. She debated breaking the flimsy lock, it clearly wasn’t intended to keep a Prime out, and then thought of the ID chip in her pocket. She fished it out and pressed it against a glowing square on the doorframe. The door gave off a tiny beep and opened.
The room was surprisingly large, a suite, with the bed as hard as stone. Clearly a Prime’s room. There were a variety of bottles in the refrigerator, most of them looking like booze. Probably Arion in origin. There was nothing else to eat or drink.
She scanned the two rooms carefully with her newfound tachyon vision, but found no cameras or listening devices. She tried to look beyond the room , but found her view blocked. Shielded walls?
Satisfied that she was alone and unobserved, Kitja peeled off her damp clothing and walked over to study herself in the mirror. She had a very good body. Her skin was flawless as expected, and she was about 180cm tall. Well muscled but not bulky. Cute smile. She practiced that for a moment, but found it came naturally. Muscle memory. She definitely looked younger than her own biological age. Seventeen, maybe eighteen. She guessed that Elle must have been considered attractive even by Primal standards.
That would make some things difficult. Given her remarkable endowment, her breasts as large as she’d made them while pretending to be that Virago, she was probably what the Arions called a Bat. Her role in combat would involve using her energy reserves, not her fists.
It was the one thing she'd found most abhorrent about Arion culture!
She pushed that disconcerting thought away, and concentrated on her next move. She could just go up to the surface and fly away. On the other hand, she could learn a lot about what the Arions were up to if they thought she was one of them. Which she technically was at the moment.
That made her think again of her enhanced senses. She’d clearly copied a great deal of the DNA from the Arion girl, more than she ever had before during a shape change. She wondered what else worked.
She started in the bathroom. Filling the sink with water, she stared at it. Nothing. She tried again, this time forming a mental image of powerful red beams shining from her eyes. A painful riot of pinpricks filled her eyes, and her vision turned that same shade of red. Quickly blinking her eyes closed to stop the beams, she opened them a moment later to see that the basin was nearly empty and the bathroom was full of steam. “O.K, eyes beam, check,” she said to herself. "Just like mom."
That left one more thing to check on. She felt a strange sense of foreboding as she concentrated on making herself light. Nothing happened. She remained rooted to the floor. She tried again, and once again, the usual tingling in her chest was absent. She tried a third time, rising up on her tip toes to encourage the process. Still nothing!
Horrified now, she realized that she must have copied every single gene pair in the Arion’s body. In her haste, she had allowed her own genetics to get left behind!
There was only one thing left to check. She wiped off the mirror and stared into her blue eyes, willing them to turn green. Nothing happened.
Devastated, she sat down hard on the toilet commode, a knot of cold fear clenching her stomach.
Not only had she left her Velorian genetics behind, but her Galen heritage as well.
She was now an Arion Prime.
And nothing more.