By Shadar with edits by JH
Models: Crystal (Trina Gillis), Kara (Daniela Pestova), Lucia (Lucia Tovar), Mandi (Kim Smith)
Matador County Beach, Los Angeles Country
“Hey, Joe, my big brother. How are things hanging?” Crystal chatted happily as she tilted her head to hold the cellphone against her shoulder. She was struggling to change out of her work clothes while sitting in her rented Honda, the Pacific Ocean filling the windshield in front of her. She’d managed to escape the zoo-like atmosphere of the public relations event in Burbank to drive over to the coast. Secluded and often deserted, Matador had always been her favorite LA beach.
“Crystal?" the deep voice on the other end of the phone nearly shouted. "Jesus girl, I thought you were dead or something. Haven’t heard from you in years.”
Crystal smiled. Joe Allen had more or less raised her from the age of fourteen after her father had drunk himself to death and her mother had died in a car crash. Someone had taught him how to live on the street long before her, and he'd been kind enough to return the favor. Ever since the wars in the 2020's, there had been too damn many kids on the street.
“Been working up in San Francisco, bro. Things kind of went to hell here in LA if you remember. Needed some distance.”
Joe was silent, but Crystal knew he remembered it as well as she did. The two of them had been like brother and sister, inseparable until she started dating his friend Karl. That turned into all kinds of grief after Karl flipped out when he discovered that she was also seeing this woman who lived over in Hermosa Beach. Crystal's bisexuality had been exotic and exciting for Karl at first, but when she made it clear that her femme side was her true passion, and Karl saw the woman he was competing with, a curvy blonde supermodel, he’d trashed her apartment and left some threatening messages on her answering machine. She called the cops, and Karl spent some cooling-off time in the county slammer before being served a restraining order. Crystal left town the next weekend.
“You still working out?” he asked.
“More than you could imagine.”
“I’ve got a hell of an imagination, Crystal. I’m getting some serious exposure now.” Joe was a bit of a legend, mostly for having the biggest biceps in the heavyweight bodybuilding division.
“Yeah, I saw your pict on the cover of Muscle and Fitness a couple of months ago.”
“So what brings you back to town, baby sister?” Joe had never liked talking about himself.
“Some PR stuff for Tyrell. You probably saw my boss, Lisa Banks, on the holovision. The launch of those orbital labs.”
Joe whistled appreciatively. “Don't remember her, but I sure as hell remember the cute blonde who launched that thing. What's the deal with the fire over there?"
"Five alarm at the Burbank Airport."
"Got me, Joe." She wasn't going to worry. Lisa had been there.
"You're hanging with those management types now?"
“I'm Lisa Bank's executive assistant. She's the CIO of Tyrell.”
“Not bad for a girl who dropped out of Anaheim High. And that boss of yours is just unreal. You must be soaking your chair every day.”
“You don’t know the half of it, bro. But, listen, you got some free time? Can you meet me at Matador?”
“Sure. Take me, oh I don’t know, maybe forty-five to get there. That O.K?”
“Great. I’ll be down the cliff by the rocks.”
“Cool. See ‘ya.”
Joe was still smiling as he pushed his way through the heavy LA traffic, heading north on PCH through Malibu. Crystal had been this wiry little girl with enough attitude to back off the perves and pimps along Sunset Boulevard. She was hustling for a living when he found her, but to her credit, she'd stayed clean from the drugs. But he knew it was only time before she was seduced by the easy money of hooking. She was pretty and fit and that counted for something down there.
He offered her another option. Work in the front office of the food supplements company he'd founded, and sleep in the back bedroom of his house up in Venice Beach. He was training hard for the Arnold Classic at the time, and didn't have time to run the office.
She'd taken over running his business as if it was her own. She dressed older than she was, fifteen going on thirty he used to say, and his clients, mostly serious builders like himself, had taken her under their collective wings. They taught her how to get strong, and a stuntwoman from the movies who worked out at Gold's had taught Crystal how to fight. She was just starting to build some serious muscle when the thing with Karl went bad and she disappeared.
Which had bothered him at the time, was that she was the only person who'd figured out his secret. That he was really a Betan 'sleeper'. Once he reported it, NEC had told him to hunt her down and 'clean her', but he hadn't worked very hard at it. Eventually even Command figured she'd met with an untimely end and had closed the case.
Crystal stood in the shadow behind one of the boulders that formed the shoreline of Matador beach, and watched Joe clambering down the wooden steps from the parking lot up on the bluff. A shiver of excitement raced through her body as she saw that he looked even more massive in person than his photos. He’d been working hard these last few years. And given that he'd started life with Arion genetics, he probably had fifty times the strength of a normal man now.
He was going to be perfect.
She waited in the shadows until he passed, and then walked out to stand behind him.
He spun around to look at her, a broad smile lighting his face as he took in her red ‘Roots' halter top and bikini bottom. She was incredibly muscular.
“Holy shit, Crystal? Is that really you?”
“Have I changed that much?”
“Yeah, I'm not that skinny little brunette you saved off the street anymore."
“Awesome. I mean, what the hell, you can change hair color with a bottle, but, Jesus, the rest of you is killer. Nothing but a zillion hours in the gym can build a body like that.”
She smiled as she leaned forward against a large boulder. “I had a little help."
“Well, one thing's for sure," he laughed, "there is no way I'm calling you my baby sister anymore. Not with those guns. And check out those shoulders. Totally killer.”
“Guess I fell in with bad company, huh,” she smirked. “I found a couple of guys who liked to lift, and a lovely blue-eyed lady who inspired me.”
“Not that kick-ass blonde from Hermosa Beach?”
She nodded. “And you haven't done so bad yourself, bro. You’re huge now.”
He grinned. “I'm just glad you're still alive and kicking and hadn't forgotten about your old friends."
"But I remember some things too well, Joe," she said, her smile fading. "Most of all, I remember that pier at Manhattan Beach. You were there with Jennifer, and she was wearing a blonde wig and a rented costume. It was after a Halloween party.”
His smile vanished too.
“A costume just like a Protector, Joe. Must have driven you crazy with desire. Being Arion and all.”
His eyes narrowed.
“I never told anyone what happened to her, Joe, because I was really into the fact that you were an Arion at the time. I was the only one who knew. I wanted you so much, but you were into all those blonde bodybuilding chicks back then.”
Joe looked deadly serious now. He didn't know what to say about her comment on wanting him. He'd had no idea. "That's not the worst of it, Crystal. Command put out a contract on you. They said you knew too much." He stepped closer. "I never looked very hard for you, knowing you'd keep my secret, and they eventually closed it out. But you're still on their shit list. Killing you would look good on any operative's record. It's damn dangerous for you down here."
Crystal bent her right arm, tensing it. “You wouldn't hurt me. Not the girl who kept your secret all these years.” She looked down at her arm. "Especially not since I got these cute little muscles."
He stared at her arm, uncomprehending the dramatic curves that came to life. There was nothing little about her. He knew everything there was to know about building bulk, but her muscular expansion was freaky big.
“Do you still have a thing for Velorians, Joe?”
“What? I mean, that’s none of your…”
“I am one now. A Velorian. More or less. Would you like to see how strong I really am?”
Without waiting for a reply, Crystal knelt, dug her hands into the sand under the car-sized boulder beside her, and lifted. Her arms flexing into naked steel as she slowly rolled the huge boulder onto its side. Struggling to work her arms deeper beneath it, she finally got a good enough grip near the center of gravity to lift the massive rock from the sand. She was straining, but she managed to get it up over her head.
“Holy shit!” he gasped, taking a step back to stare up at the massive rock. It had to weigh twenty tons, easy.
Crystal grinned as she saw him swallowing hard, his breath coming in gasps, his heart racing. She remembered how tongue-tied he'd always gotten around really buffed women, but figured that shyness had passed, what with him being a celebrity and all. But then, being an Arion, he wasn't exactly compatible with human women, no matter how much muscle they carried. So maybe he hadn't had that many good experiences.
She was the only one who knew his biggest fantasy, one that most Arions carried around in their heads. He dreamed of making it with a Velorian, with those blonde Protectors who could have kicked the comic-book Supergirl's ass.
Crystal steadied the boulder over her head. “Sometimes, Joe, fantasies can become reality. For both of us.”
“This just isn’t possible,” he mumbled, gawking up at the huge rock as it wobbled back and forth over her head. “Only a real Velorian or a Prime could…”
“Lift this little thing? Guess that means I’m the woman of your dreams," she said sourly. "Now who'd have guessed that?”
Joe was breathing hard as he paced around the huge rock, looking for cables or something. Anything to explain the impossibility of Crystal’s holding it over her head. He found nothing. She was still kneeling on the hard sand when he came back around to face her.
“You can't be a Velorian. I raised you. You didn't use to be blonde.”
She laughed. “Of course not, I’m just a Terran. But you’ve heard of genetic enhancement haven't you? Something Vels can do with that retrovirus of theirs, sometimes even Primes. Mine’s pretty good.”
“No fucking way it could be that good,” he said in a hushed tone, shaking his head. "Your DNA would have to be nearly pure..." His voice trailed off as she momentarily balanced the boulder on one hand.
“Come here and check me out. Then you decide.”
Joe did exactly that, kneeling uncomfortably beside her, very aware of the massive rock hovering over his head. He closed his hand over her arm and squeezed her very hard -- harder than a dozens of strong men could, the tendons standing out powerfully on his huge hand. Yet for all his power, her body might as well have been sculpted out of solid steel.
Crystal heard the wild rush of blood in his veins, like a roaring waterfall, and the sound of his heart pounding like jungle drums. She inhaled the musky scent of his hormones, and knew she had him now. He might be a dangerous Arion Betan to anyone else, working undercover assignments for Command, but she was confident he hadn’t killed anyone since her friend Jennifer. She had always told herself that Jennifer's death was an accident, a moment when Joe’s sexual passion and athletic ability combined for the first time and unrestrained desire became lethal to an ordinary woman.
His face was flushed bright red now as he traced his eyes across every inch of her body, his hands following behind, fingers tracing the wonder of her steely muscles. She enjoyed his touch until his fingers returned to trace the deep clefts of her hard shoulders, and then slowly leaned back, letting the huge boulder unbalance her. He saw it falling, and leaped back, trying to get clear of it. Crystal spun around faster than his eyes could follow and kicked upward, the impact of her bare toes sounding like thunder as they impacted the center of the boulder. The huge rock split in half, the two ends spinning off to the side to hit the sand with a pair of earthshaking thuds, sand flying everywhere.
It was still raining grit when their eyes met again, Joe's as big as saucers, Crystal's smoky and aroused. Seeing that his body was fully awakened in the ways of an Arion, a superman by human standards for sure, she crossed her arms and pulled her red top off in a single movement. The last thing she wanted him to think was that she was still his ‘little sister’.
“There’s more muscle where that came from. Check this out.” Crystal turned her back to him, flexing her left arm. He stood closely behind her, running his hands those steel curves again, using his superhuman strength to find a weakness, a softness, in her body. he found none.
She closed her eyes and luxuriated in his touch, his fingers gentle one moment, then gripping her with his Arion strength the next. She made herself as hard as she could, her muscles coming alive wherever his hands traveled. Muscles far harder than mere steel.
It wasn't until his hands found the softness of her breasts that she relaxed and turned to face him. Leaping upwards to wrap her legs around his hips, she pushed him backwards to land on his back on the hard-packed sand. Straddling him as she held him tightly with her knees, she felt his Arion blood-passion rising beneath her.
Seeing the excitement in his eyes, she made herself very hard again as she guided his superhuman manhood to her own burning desire. Far from being intimidated by his size as she knew other women were, she smiled sexily as she eagerly lowered herself over his magnificence, arching her hips upward and crying out with little gasps of pleasure as she took him deeply into the tight, wetness that had been Kara's gift.
Despite her long preparation for this moment, she was shocked by the pulsating heat that throbbed inside her, his Arion hardness filling her in a way she’d never felt before. It felt so wonderful, so terrible, so incredible… she gasped for air, suddenly unsure what she was feeling.
Yet mere seconds passed before her unpracticed instincts in loving a man, so foreign to a lesbian woman but built into the genes of every Velorian, awakened to guide her. Holding him tightly with her inner strength, she began moving her hips in the time-honored ways of man and woman. Taking him faster and faster, she slowly leaned forward to guide his hands to her breasts, covering his face with her blonde hair as she whispered sexily in his ear.
“Make me a baby, Joe. A super-baby.”
San Francisco PD
“Hopefully we’ll get this sorted out soon, honey,” Detective Fred Durst said into the phone. “Until then, just do as the agents tell you… yeah, I love you too, baby. Bye.” He hung up the phone and slumped back in his chair. He looked exhausted.
“They get settled into the safe house?” Detective Patrick Thomas asked as he sat across the desk from Fred.
Fred nodded. “FBI counterintelligence is handling them. Hopefully Olson’s network doesn’t extend into the FBI.”
“Speaking of that, where the hell were you these last few days, boss? The Chief was looking for you, especially after that alien demonstration and attack down in Burbank. He was calling out all the dogs here in San Francisco, and you’re supposed to be top dog.”
“I heard what you did, Pat. Covering for me. Would you believe I was stuck in a blizzard in the Rockies and only got back today?”
“I’m not even going to ask why you were that far outside our jurisdiction,” Pat said. “But the Chief damn sure as hell wasn’t happy when he couldn’t find you. He seems to think you should be driving a desk instead of doing undercover work.” Pat was one of the few people Fred had confided to about his encounter with Mandi Olson.
“Screw the Chief. My real problem is how to deal with Olson when she finds out I don’t have the list and…” The phone rang to interrupt him. “Durst here.”
“Meet me next door,” a woman’s voice said. “Back patio of the Chinese restaurant.” Her voice was rich with overtones, almost smoky. It reminded him of his favorite jazz singer when he was back in college; Diana Krall.
“Who is this?”
“A friend of Sharon’s.” The phone clicked dead.
Fred slowly hung up his phone, his thoughts racing as he recognized the same insane mix of French and Swedish accents that laced Sharon's speech. “Gotta go… Chief wants to see me,” he lied.
Pat Thomas grabbed the files he’d come in with. “Then I’m outta here. That is going to be one ugly meeting.”
"Yeah. Don't wait up for me." Fred waited until Pat was back in his own office, and then walked the opposite way from the Chief’s office. He paused at the interrogation area. “I need you to release John Adams into my custody.”
The sergeant in charge handed Fred a form which he signed, and then unlocked one of the interrogation rooms to drag a handcuffed man out. “He’s all yours. Fucking Arion lover. Ought to shoot the fucker dead right here.”
Fred said nothing as he pushed Adams down the hall and through the door into the staircase at the end. “You said you wanted to meet Superfemme. Now’s your big chance.”
“Here?” Adams asked, his eyes opening wide. “In the station?”
“Down the steps. No talking.”
The two men clambered down four flights of stairs to the ground floor. Fred grabbed Adams arm and walked him briskly out the front door and down the street. The sign on the neighboring restaurant, the Shining Rose, said they started serving at six. Fred led the way around the back to find a small patio that wrapped around one corner of the building. It was shaded by oak trees. Fallen leaves covered most of the ground.
No one was in sight. He was about to head back, wondering what the hell was going on, when he saw a flash of red just around the corner of the patio. Walking that way, he found an exotically costumed blonde standing against the side of the building, her arms crossed.
“Ms. Zor’El, I presume,” Fred said as he walked up to her, his heart racing. He’d seen the Protector in many pictures, but never in person. She was taller than he’d expected, taller than him, and her shoulders were broader than they looked on the holo-TV. Her eyes were the same amazing shade of blue as Sharon’s, yet unlike Sharon’s seductiveness, she looked coldly beautiful and immensely powerful at the same time. He chalked that up to her uniform, something he assumed had been borrowed from a graphic novel of the last century. “I’m Detective Durst. The man beside me tells me he had a close encounter with you in the Alps. Name’s John Adams. Claims he wants to help our side now.”
Kara looked at Adams and nodded as she remembered him. “Whatever else he is, he’s a damn good snowboarder.”
“Claims he went to work with the Arions after you killed his daughter.”
Kara looked at Durst and then at Adams, clearly startled. “I did what?”
“A fight in LA,” Adams said, the bitterness still clear in his voice. “You and this Prime were fighting. My daughter was there, part of a school field trip. The Prime threw a fire hydrant at you and it shattered against your body. Pieces of shrapnel tore into my daughter, rupturing an artery. She was dead before they could get her to a hospital.”
Kara remembered a girl being rushed to the hospital after a street fight. The Prime had thrown everything he could rip out of the ground at her, including that fire hydrant. “I’m sorry. But I can’t protect everyone.”
“Can't or don't give a damn? You didn’t even fucking look to see who was getting hurt around you. You didn’t care enough to save my daughter or anyone else. All you wanted to do was to kill the Arion.”
Kara sighed as she turned her back to them. Most Terrans still had no idea of the danger their world was facing. More than just their freedom was at stake. Arions always depopulated conquered planets of what they considered undesirable races. Genocide on a global scale, keeping only those who were useful to them. “I wasn’t the one who started that fight, Adams. And since you’ve been working for them, you know their agenda as well as I do.”
“Fuck you and that patronizing bullshit, Superfemme. You Supremis have turned this planet into your private battlefield. So what if the natives get trampled once in a while. Nobody on Velor or Aria gives a shit about us.”
Kara turned slowly back around to face him. “Do you have any idea what I was fighting for that day? Why all my concentration was on that Prime? Why I couldn’t help anyone else?”
“You were just feeding that god-damned Supremis bloodlust that’s going to destroy this planet.”
Kara worked to keep her voice low. “That Prime had a small nuclear device on him. Smaller than a baseball, but with enough power to destroy a square mile of LA. If I didn’t put him down before he could trigger it, a million people could have died with your daughter that day.”
“You expect me to believe that?” Adams snorted. “I saw what you did to that lab in the Alps. Heard that you burned them all to death. Trapped like rats in the basement. As far as I’m concerned, if you take away your pretty hair and costume, and you’re no different than those Arion bastards.”
“The Arions know the rules, Adams. If they bring advanced weapons down, or they kill a Terran, then they are marked for the same.”
“Along with anyone who gets in the way."
"That doesn't happen very often."
"Tell that to my wife. Or my son. They miss her every day.”
“So tell me. How many Terrans died that day in the Alps, Adams?”
“Too damn many,” Adams snapped back at her.
“There were a hundred of you there. Ninety-eight of them survived. Yet I killed every single Arion."
"You want a fucking medal for homicide or something?"
Kara's voice remained low and calm. "My point is that I don’t kill Terrans unless there is no other way to take out the Arions.”
“Is that what I’m supposed to put on my daughter’s gravestone? ‘Killed because there was no other way’.”
“This is a war, damn it. We can all get hurt.”
“You?” Adams said despairingly. “You’re fucking invulnerable. You know what they say: ‘Body of steel, heart of stone’.”
Kara turned to look at Fred. “What was the purpose of bringing him here, Detective? To insult me?”
Fred shrugged, a bit embarrassed by the argument. “He claimed to know something of what happened down in Burbank. Thought he could help.”
“It doesn’t take a detective to figure that one out. Mandi took advantage of my daughter’s offer to help. She killed all the members of the Tyrell launch team, along with the chairman of their company. The cops think one of Tyrell's bodyguards did it, but I can taste the stink of Mandi Olson all over it.”
“She had also set up that weapons lab in the Alps. I heard Tyrell is down hard after Burbank.”
Kara shrugged, trying to distance herself from the worries that haunted her as Lisa Banks. “A year’s setback, or so I heard. Without those ZeroG manufactured drugs, a lot of people are going to die before Tyrell gets back into operation.”
Fred nodded. “Adams here claims he heard some Arions who were working for Olson say that she was trying to shut down all space launches. She wants to control access to space.”
“Shit,” Kara cursed. “I was afraid of that after those other launch failures.”
“Maybe your daughter can help get payloads up some other way. You too.”
Kara wrapped her cape around herself as she sighed. “Sometimes I wonder why the hell I’m even here. It's bad enough to fight the Arion Command, let alone Olson. And half of you Terrans think I’m the enemy.”
“Don’t look for pity here, lady,” Adams said coldly. “At least your daughter’s still alive.”
Kara took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she focused back on her original reason for coming. She looked into Fred’s eyes. “Sharon said you needed my help, Detective. That's why I came.”
“The name’s Fred.”
“Kara.” She held out her hand. Her skin was incredibly soft and slightly warm to the touch, almost like she’d been sitting in the sun for a while. She held his hand for a few seconds before reaching down to pick up an envelope that was lying on the table next to her. She didn’t offer to shake Adams’ hand.
Fred hesitated for a moment, and then took the envelope. Inside was a list of twenty names and addresses, none of which he recognized. He looked up at her. “Do you know what Mandi’s going to do to the men on this list?”
“This was Sharon’s idea.”
“Then you know that by giving her this list, we're signing their death warrants.”
“They’re all Betans who have contributed to the death of Terrans. They’re deeply dug into various police departments from San Diego to Seattle.”
“How did you…?”
“Omega Directorate has many resources, but until recently they weren’t focusing on cops. I guess they shouldn’t have been surprised to find a lot of Arions turning up in the various police forces.”
“They’re that good at blending in?”
“They have families and kids and a mortgage," Kara nodded. "The whole deal. I’ve found deep covers that went back seventy years. Grandchildren even.”
“And if I give Mandi this list, she’ll think these are my dirty cops?”
Kara nodded. “I presume you don’t have a problem with aliens on the police force being dealt with by forces outside the law?”
Fred considered that for a moment. “Arions combatants aren’t subject to our laws. DOJ ruling two months ago.” He glanced up at her. “Neither are you.”
“Good. This will get you off the hook. Plus I may get a shot at Mandi when she goes after them.”
“You don’t need these names to find her. I know exactly where she lives. A tunnel complex under Donagans. I’ve been there, and Adams has been filling me in on other details.”
Kara nodded. “We've been well aware of "Donagans for some time. Unfortunately, it has a small Arion nuclear device embedded in the tunnel complex that would be triggered if I or any other Supremis entered.”
“Three square miles of total destruction.”
“Shit," Fred cursed. Then he remembered Sharon. “Wait a minute. Sharon’s been in there. How come it didn’t trigger?”
“Mandi can code DNA sequences for people she allows to enter. Sharon has been useful to her.”
“And you allow that?”
Kara sighed and sat down on one of the chairs, crossing her legs. The skirt of her red and blue uniform was disconcertingly short, leaving both men staring at the most incredible pair of legs they'd ever seen. “There are limits to what even I can do with Mandi Olson. I can’t take her out without touching her, and she’s been inside my head enough times to know exactly where my vulnerabilities are.”
“Which means, if you touch her, she takes control?”
Kara nodded. “Just like with Sharon.”
“Your daughter too?" Fred added. "That scene with the mayor?”
“So how are we going to take her out?”
“As long as she’s conscious, I can’t. Which is why I need your help, Detective. You too, Adams. I need people on the inside.”
“Ah, sure…” Fred said, pausing. “But I’m not exactly an insider.” He looked pointedly at Adams,. "He is. With the confusion at the lab in the Alps, they'll figure he was just out of it for a bit."
Kara shook her head. “Maybe he can help. But Mandi’s recruiting you. I need you to play her game as well.”
Fred waived the envelope. “And this list buys me time.”
“Right. Make Mandi believes you are reluctantly supporting her campaign to get rid of dirty cops, the pimps, whomever she wants to hit. Make her believe you are playing along to stay close to Sharon. Once you have Mandi's confidence, I need you to find the location of the Arion nuke and get me some photographs of it. I can then tell you how to disarm it.”
Fred shook his head. “She can read minds. She’ll know what my real motivations are.”
“Not if you bury these thoughts deeply. Just make sure your surface thoughts are focused on your infatuation with Sharon.” She paused to smile at him. “That shouldn’t be hard given how you two met.”
Fred wasn’t going to acknowledge that. Instead, “She won’t push through that and find my real thoughts?”
Kara shook her head. “Mandi knows that the act of coercing you, even of reading your mind deeply, will limit your imagination and creativity. A person is always slightly confused after a deep mental probe, their thoughts soft, their mental edge rounded off, their thoughts focus more on her needs than their own. That’s good for people who are going to execute some task for her, but useless for someone who she expects to be creative. Like you.”
“Why doesn't she just off me after I give her this list? What’s she need me for after that?”
“There are more than twenty bad cops in all of the US. She’ll want you to dig out more of them. I have Omega focusing on finding more Arions who are infiltrating the various police forces. Early estimates put the number in the high hundreds.”
The number shocked Fred. “I don’t know about this, Kara. All Arions?"
She nodded. "Unfortunately. They were making more inroads forty or fifty years ago than any of us knew. Their kids are everywhere now."
"But will Mandi buy my cooperation? The last time we met, I told her I would never help her. I can’t just do a 180 degree and volunteer information.”
“That’s the beauty of her sending Sharon after you. She seduced you, right?”
He glanced over at Abrams, and saw his eyes open wide. He suddenly regretted bringing him. “That’s nobody’s business but…”
Kara waved his protest away. “Mandi will of course assume you are now infatuated with Sharon, addicted to her hormones, obsessed with her Velorian perfection, and blown away by the best sex in your life. That’s the way it always is with a Vel. She'll know you tracked Sharon all the way out to Boulder and stayed at her house. Make her think that your infatuation is turning to love, whatever. It’s a common enough human reaction, especially for men your age.”
Fred felt himself getting angry. “Don’t fucking patronize me now, Kara. That isn’t the way it is at all.”
She smiled softly. “Maybe not all those things, but you did have the best sex of your life, and you did have a really hard time resisting her while you were snowed in at her house in Boulder, didn’t you? Knowing that she’d be willing to share her bed with you.”
“I slept alone,” Fred growled.
“Sharon told me. She was as impressed as I am. But Mandi will never believe that. She doesn’t often deal with Terrans who have as much self-discipline as you.”
“I’m married,” Fred offered, as if that explained it all.
“Fortunately, you didn’t act like it when Sharon was at your house, or we’d never have this chance.”
Fred stood up angrily. “What happened that night is none of your damned business.”
Kara just smiled. “Relax, Fred. I’m very aware of how she seduced you with her pheromones. This may not be very reassuring, but falling under the sexual influence of a Velorian is nothing to be ashamed of… we don’t give men much of a choice in the matter.”
“That’s not an excuse.”
“Actually it is. You should cut yourself a little slack here, Fred.”
He glared at her angrily, not sure what to say to that.
Kara said nothing for a long moment, then, “Despite how you feel right now, I could repeat Sharon’s little escapade in five minutes flat. Right here in this patio. With Adams watching. Trust me, your responses are hard-wired. Especially now that you’ve experienced a Velorian’s pheromones.”
Fred took a step back from her, horrified. He glanced uncomfortably at Adams, wishing again that he hadn’t brought him with him, and then back at Kara. “What is it… some kind of… addiction?”
“It’s more complicated than that. More like nerve pathways to your hormonal triggers are aligned with hers. It means it’s going to get harder to keep your composure around her. Sort of like a Pavlovian response, but stronger and ever growing.”
“Shit. I’ll never be able to explain any of this to my wife.”
“We don’t keep secrets.”
“And now you feel guilty about that. That just says you’re a good man, Fred. But for the moment, you can’t let Mandi know that you feel either guilt or remorse. You have to play up the infatuation thing. When you’re around Mandi, you need to make yourself believe you’re obsessed with Sharon. She’ll pick up those thoughts, and then she’ll truly believe that you’d do anything to stay in Sharon’s good graces, including helping her deal with your dirty cops. Anything to get Sharon back into your bed again.”
Fred just stared at her for a long moment, envisioning his role, knowing it would be all too easy to do. Still, it wasn’t a comfortable one.
Kara rose lightly to her feet as she smoothed her skirt. “So, are you in, Fred?”
“I have a choice?”
Kara sighed. “No good ones, I’m afraid. Facing Mandi empty-handed would be fatal. You already know that she’s an exceedingly dangerous and violent woman. She doesn’t tolerate fools or anyone opposing her plans.”
Fred nodded. That much had been clear from the start.
“And never forget that you are nothing more than a means to an end for her. A tool. Part of her effort to expunge the demons of her past.”
Fred’s eyebrow rose. “I don’t understand. Demons?”
“Before she absorbed Sharon’s DNA, something we call enhancement, she was an Arion Betan. She’d grown up from an early age as a comfort girl on the Arion ships. A bedwarmer and a child prostitute from a very early age. Passed from one Prime to another. It wasn’t until her mental powers surfaced that she was able to stop from being a victim. But those memories still haunt her every waking moment.”
For the first time in days, Fred felt a sliver of hope. He’d never understood why Mandi had involved herself in the affairs of such small and unimportant men as these vice cops. “So, we’re hoping the black widow spider is going to get tangled in her own web.”
“It’s a long shot, but you’re the only angle I’ve got on Mandi.”
“Then I’ll help you. I’ll go in.”
Kara stepped closer, lifting her arms to rest them on his shoulders, her eyes bright. Before he realized what was happening, her lips, soft, moist and fragrant with honey and wildflower, were melting into his to send a wave of knee-weakening arousal racing through his body. His passion rose so fast that he was thankful when Kara smiled and stepped back to end the kiss before he embarrassed himself. Even then, he was panting with desire as she handed him a packet of small, clear pills.
“Take one of these if you need this kind inspiration. When you have to fool Mandi. You’ll feel just like you do now.”
Then, without another word of explanation, she turned her back, her cape swishing as rose a few inches off the ground. She looked back over her shoulder. “Someone will contact you daily. Myself, Sharon or possibly someone named Crystal. Get us the photos and location of the device, and we’ll put an end to Mandi once and for all.”
Fred tried to smile, but he was so turned on that he didn’t trust his reactions. Instead, he just stared at her as she flashed upward in a streak of red and blue, leaving behind a gust of wind that sent the leaves swirling around his feet. Seconds later, a distant sound like a gunshot echoed from building to building.
He clutched the envelope and turned to walk Adams back toward the holding cell, realizing as he did that playing Kara’s game was going to be both the easiest and hardest thing he’d ever done.
“She’s not as cold as I’d expected,” Adams said with a note of wonder in his voice. “Almost human."
"I don't want to talk about her."
"All I know is that you're in deep shit, Detective. But I can help you. I’ve been there before. To Donagans.”
Outside Donagan's Bar
Fred called the number that Sharon had given him back when she was under Mandi’s control, and gave the codeword. “Elatia.” He waited until the phone rang back, and then got out of his car to walk toward the brightly lit entrance of Donagans. The doorman was a mountain of a man, all muscle, looking like a pro wrestler. Fred mentioned the codeword again, and the mountain ushered him into the garish red light of the interior. He unlocked a side door in the atrium, and Fred walked through the doorway into an ordinary-looking hallway.
A young woman dressed in a very short leather skirt, a mesh halter-top and what looked like a jacket from one of the local high schools was walking down the hallway ahead of him. She wore a pair of high heels that belonged on a dominatrix. Pausing to look back at him as she took off her jacket, he decided she was in her late teens, maybe early twenties, and had a terrific figure. Given the way she was dressed, she probably pretended to be a cheerleader. A common enough fantasy for older men.
“So, Detective Fred Durst returns. Took you longer than we expected.”
“Who are you?” he asked brusquely.
“Just one of the girls,” she smiled. “Name’s Lucia. I’ll take you down to see Mandi.”
“Playing schoolgirl fantasies with your clients, huh?”
“It’s not an act.”
“You really are still in school?” Fred asked, disbelieving.
She smiled at him. “Bayside University. A Sophomore. Fashion design.”
“And you… you work for Mandi? Escorting… clients.”
“Of course. It’s a good way to meet influential men who can be useful to our cause. Our clients are all wealthy and important men.”
Fred stared at her, taking in the perfection of her unblemished skin and perfectly toned figure, and his worst fear came home to roost. “You’re an Arion?”
She smiled brightly. “My parents were Betans who were assigned here, working as producers for CNN. Deep cover; part of the misinformation campaign. I was born and grew up right here in the city. When they were reassigned off planet, I disappeared. I have no desire to be dumped on another dirtball with my parents.”
“The others too?”
She nodded. “All of us Earth-born. You can do a lot with wigs, hair dye and colored contacts.”
Fred shook his head. “Why in the hell would a bunch of Betans get involved in Mandi’s business?”
“If you knew more about the Empire and what they do with foreign-born Betans,” she said, her eyes flashing, “you wouldn’t ask such a dumb question.”
“I’m sorry… I’m not exactly…”
“Most of us would have this same job on an Arion ship,” she interrupted. “The difference is that our clients would be brutes, as interested in violence and pain as they would be in pursuing pleasure. Primes think nothing of injuring or even killing a Betan during their degenerate kind of sex.” She paused, and the angry look on her face faded to a funny little smile. “But you Terrans are like teddy bears. Soft and snugly and so very appreciative of our perfection. Even more, you guys get totally infatuated with our enhanced sexual abilities.”
Fred wasn’t sure he liked being called soft and snuggly, especially not by some teenage hooker, and he was anything but infatuated, but he could easily imagine the enthusiasm of her clients; she was beautiful and young. With her Arion strength and endurance, she’d be incredible in bed. Not to mention immune to disease. Never tiring, never sore. But also dangerous. She would have enough strength in her legs to crush a man if she lost control of her passion. The ultimate assassins. He pushed that disquieting thought away. “But there must be severe penalties for staying on Earth, deserting your cause, whatever they call it.”
Lucia shook her head as she led the way down the stone stairway to the underground complex. “Mandi makes sure that doesn’t happen.”
“But why don’t the Arions, their Command or whatever, just take Olson out? Send in some Primes or Destroyers.”
“Mandi has them by the balls. She planted a sub-hypnotic command in many of their leaders’ minds years ago. One that would activate if she were killed or imprisoned by them.“
“Commands to do what?” Fred asked as he followed her through the narrow rock tunnels.
She smiled. “The beauty of it is that nobody knows. But they’ve seen Mandi drive men insane – they get phobias that nothing can drive from their minds. The lucky ones commit suicide.”
It was brilliant, Fred had to admit. Whether Mandi had done it or not, the Arions wouldn’t risk having any time bombs triggered in their heads. “So, they leave you alone?”
“They do,” Lucia nodded as she squeezed through the narrow underground corridor and into the warmly lit area where the huge block of granite blocked the way. Fred sucked in his chest and followed her, trying not to stare at the way her legs moved so sensuously as she walked.
He looked around the small room, and then back at the granite block. “So how do we open this? Call for Mandi?”
“I need the exercise.”
Fred stared at her back as she leaned down to grab the handholds, her leather skirt lifting enough to reveal that she wore nothing under it. His thoughts started to race again. She’d said she was a Betan, which meant she had maybe half a dozen times his strength. Sharon had a thousand times his power, and she’d worked to lift this block.
Lucia began struggling with the weight, her legs and back tightening with a ripple of hard muscle. He heard her groan as she threw everything she had into the effort, and astoundingly, the huge block began to scrape its way upward in its grooves. Moments later, she was holding the block over her head and smiling back at him, her mesh top clearly revealing her engorged nipples.
“You can call me Supergirl if you want. It's one of my favorite acts.”
“That’s… that’s impossible,” he gasped.
Ducking down to look into the darkness beyond, Fred saw a second pair of feminine legs rising to blend into trim hips and a tiny stomach and finally a magnificent chest. Long black hair cascading over strong shoulders. The second woman was wearing a zebra-striped leather top that was unzipped to her waist. He couldn’t see her face in the darkness, but he recognized her remarkable breasts. Mandi Olson.
“Had you going for a minute there, didn’t I?” Lucia winked as she released the block. It remained hanging over her head, a testament to Mandi's borrowed Velorian strength.
Fred’s stomach clenched as he ducked uncomfortably under the huge block once again, and Lucia followed. He’d barely straightened up on the far side when the block crashed down behind him, a powerful blast of air and the heave of the floor knocking him off his feet. He found himself kneeling in total darkness. A hand grabbed his to jerk him to his feet, dragging him down the corridor. He walked in darkness for a minute before the walls began to glow softly. Lucia released him to walk ahead and whisper something to Mandi. She laughed as the two of them disappeared through the same carved and varnished hardwood door that he remembered from the last visit. He followed them unsteadily through the doorway.
Mandi stood just inside, her eyes glowing like blue diamonds as she stared intently into his. Eyes he knew could vaporize him where he stood.
“You have my list?”
Fred stared back at her in fascination, terrified by her beautiful eyes, his heart freezing. Despite having anticipated this moment, he had to force himself to pull the envelope from his suit pocket and hand it over. It was all he could do to push his fears back enough to focus his thoughts on Sharon, embracing his well-rehearsed fantasy of being her lover. He let his imagination run wild, dreaming he had the power to please her as well, hoping the outrageous fantasy would deflect Mandi’s mental probes.
She merely glanced at the envelope, her eyes sparkling even brighter as she read it without opening it. “Only twenty names. I’d expected better.”
“I wanted to make sure they’re guilty,” Fred said honestly, his mouth so dry he had trouble talking.
Mandi handed the envelope to Lucia, then walked very close to Fred, her fingers interlacing with his. “So how is Sharon these days? Besides being out of my control, that is.”
“Sharon has... has nothing to do with this anymore,” Fred said defensively.
She laughed. “You’re defending a Velorian in front of me?”
Fred felt a tingling, numbness spreading beneath under his skull as he stared back into her eyes. He concentrated all his energy on amplifying the erotic fantasy, imagining he was one of those fabled Messengers. He let that thought mingle with a contrived and forbidden fantasy of making it with both Sharon and Mandi at the same time. Both of them begging him to make love to them.
Mandi smiled after a few moments, seemingly amused by the mental images she was sharing. “The ridiculous arrogance of a human male. Thinking you could handle even one let alone two Supremis women.”
Fred felt his fantasy fading away as she made fun of him. He closed his eyes and struggled harder to maintain his focus.
“But at least I see that Sharon’s infamous powers of persuasion haven’t dimmed.” She released both his hands and his mind. “I hope you don’t mind working with Lucia instead for a while. Help her take care of the men on this list, and then get me more names.”
She turned her back and walked over to pick up a thick document from the table behind her. He saw the labels TOP SECRET and DOD Intelligence Summary across the top. She began reading it.
It took Fred a full minute to realize that he’d been dismissed. Looking back at Lucia as she smiled at him, he felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. He’d been handed over to this teenage girl to execute sentence on the Arion cops.
An hour later, the two of them were standing in a very clean garage that Fred had been renting for the last few years. His hobby was restoring antique cars, and his current project was a Ford Mustang from the last century, a car nearly 90 years old. Lucia walked inside the garage to look around, eventually picking up an oversized box-end wrench.
Fred cleared off one of the work benches and began to organize the list of names and the files he'd brought from his car. It would be far safer to work out of this garage than from his office.
Lucia leaned casually against the hood of his old car, wrench still in hand. She was dressed in a denim shirt, tied off at the bottom to reveal her midriff, and a pair of skintight white slacks. “You know what I think, Fred? For all your denials, I think you’re getting off on the fact that I’m able and willing to fuck your brains out just like your little blonde friend did.”
“You’re just a Betan,” Fred said with a little laugh as he organized the names by police department. "She was a Velorian. No comparison." Despite the casual way he'd tossed that out, he was finding it hard to maintain his composure with her in the room. Mandi had passed on a whiff of her pheromones as he left, and the excited arousal was still making him hard.
Lucia glowered at his back. “And exactly where does a Frail get off on calling a Supremis ‘just’ anything?”
He kept his back to her as he talked. “I thought the term Supremis referred only to Primes and Vels?”
“We were all like Vels once. Now some of us are stronger than others.”
He turned to face her. “Right. Somebody seriously fucked with your genes. Making the Betans like you into weaklings.” Fred was trying to remember what he’d learned from Omega. They’d translated a bunch of captured Arion documents which had in turn been part of his reading assignment. He regretted only skimming over most of them.
Lucia flipped the big wrench around in mid-air, catching it like a baton right in front of her face. “Weak, huh. Can you do this?” Gripping the ends, she gritted her teeth and tried to bend the wrench. Nothing happened.
“Ah, do exactly what? Make grunting sounds?”
Biting her lip as a flush of embarrassment colored her cheeks, Lucia tried again, this time bracing the center of the wrench against her knee. A ripple of surprisingly powerful muscles and strong tendons reshaped her slender arms, her biceps peaking. This time the huge chrome-moly wrench gave off a muted scream and began to bend.
Lucia was gasping for breath as she forced it into a U-shape, and then walked across the garage to hang it around Fred’s neck, then pulling his face close to hers. “That enough Supremis muscle for you, big boy?”
Fred jerked back from her while frantically reaching up to lift the ruined wrench from around his neck. The steel was hot enough to burn him. He tossed it toward the workbench where it clanged down among the other wrenches. Every fiber in his body was screaming for him to turn and run, but he knew that would be his death. Lucia and her gang of beautiful thugs would kill him in a heartbeat. Instead, he dug deep into his resolve, and came up with some more attitude. He forced himself to shrug nonchalantly, a cold certainty coming over him. “I guess I’d be fucking impressed if I hadn’t seen what Sharon can do. She could tear that thing into little pieces with her fingers.”
Lucia glared angrily at him, hands on her hips. “You keep talking about the Velorian whore that you fucked for the one and only time in your life. She doesn’t give a shit about you, Fred. And what about that little wife of yours?” She stepped closer to him. “What is she like? Old or fat? Both I’m guessing.”
“Leave my wife the fuck out of this,” he growled.
“Or else you’ll do exactly what?”
“Your boss came to me, Lucia. She needs names, and you both know that these twenty cops are just the tip of the iceberg.”
Lucia turned around to walk over and sit on the car fender, shaking the strain out of her hands. "Mandi told me I could handle you any way I wanted."
“You hurt my wife, and you’ll leave me with no reason for living. You could both go to hell then.”
Lucia laughed. “Your sense of honor is beyond stupidity, Fred. Hanging out with a flabby old Frail when you could have me instead. Or any of the girls at Donagans. You’re one of us now.”
Fred forced himself to laugh. He found Lucia’s mix of naiveté and arrogance sad. “You mean hanging out with a girl young enough to be my daughter? What the hell does that make you?”
Fred smirked at her, remembering where that term had come from. An ancient but popular show and series of movies called Firefly. “You mean, a whore?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Does insulting me make you feel better about working for the enemy?”
“Any time, any place.” She patted the hood of the old Mustang.
“Like I said,” Fred glared at her.
“Best piece of ass you’ll ever get in your fucked up life.”
They both glared at each other for a long minute. Then Lucia sighed and stood back up.
“O.K, look, we have to work together. Mandi will kill us both if we don’t get this done.”
Fred saw the momentary softness in her eyes, and realized for the first time that he might not be the only one Mandi was forcing into her service. She saw him looking curiously at her, and the look vanished as quickly as it had come.
“So how do we take out your crooked cops, Fred?"
"Most of them are Betans, like you."
Her eyes opened wide. "I don't believe it."
"You think running teenage hookers would send a ripple through a Betan's morals? They've become corrupt."
"I know," she said softly. "I've met some of those bastards."
"Then lets get rid of them."
"I don't know. Ordinary guns don’t work well against my kind. You need something very high-powered.”
“I thought you were going to do them in?” Fred said, alarmed now. "Fuck them to death or something." It was one thing to turn in a bunch of aliens who were pretending to be cops, dirty ones at that, but another to execute them himself.
She took his comment in stride, convincing him that she'd be more than happy to do that if she could. “Unfortunately, they’re stronger than I am, and probably better fighters. We need a weapon. Something that can punch through a Betan’s hide.”
Fred remembered more of his briefings with Omega. Taking out a Betan required a high-powered hunting rifle. That would be hard to use in the city. The only other option was a specialized handgun called a .270 Glovener Special. It had been developed in the 2020’s by a South African named Glovener, and most of them had fallen into the hands of terrorists and criminals who used them to take out light armor. Their round could penetrate an engine block, or go right through the walls of an armored car or military APC. The weapon was illegal, but like a lot of cops, he’d picked up his share of strange weapons over the years.
“I’ve got something that might work.”
Lucia looked at him expectantly.
“It’s in a floor safe, under the right front tire.”
“So, start the car up and move it.”
“Transmission’s jammed. And I don’t have a hoist here.”
“What kind of a dumb garage is this?”
“I wasn’t expecting to open the safe.”
“Oh, so you do need my help?”
“Dream on,” he laughed. “You’re just a Betan. These old cars weighed a couple of tons.”
“That ‘just’ word again, huh.” She pulled open the knot that held her top closed, and let her shirt fall open while she rested her hands on her hips. “I think you’re underestimating me again.”
Fred tried not to stare at her, and instead turned to walk over to the workbench to search for a floor jack. When he turned back, Lucia had tossed her denim shirt to the side and had peeled off her white slacks. She was naked as she looked back at him over her shoulder while bending down to undo the straps of her high heels.
“You don’t need any tools when you’ve got Supergirl on your side.”
Fred tried not to stare at her nudity. "You're little act, huh?" He searched around instead for a pry bar.
“Not just an act. How old do you think I am?”
“What’s your age got to do with…”
“I’m nineteen. I just thought you’d like to know that.”
“What the hell does that have to do with anything.”
“Same age as your son. I bet he’d love to meet me. His father’s little concubine.”
“You stay the fuck away from him,” Fred growled. “And you aren’t my anything.”
Lucia smiled at his outburst as she reached under the bumper to get a good grip on the frame. “If your wife saw a picture of me, here with you at your private little garage, naked and all, she might have another opinion.”
Her back and shoulders turned into a maze of hard curves as she heaved upward. The antique vehicle gave off a cacophony of pops and creaks as the suspension unloaded. Fred couldn’t help but stare at her in shock as her long legs straightened, a ton of Detroit iron rising with her. This time, it wasn't an act...
Fred’s mouth went dry and his heart pounded painfully in his chest as ripples of powerful muscle shaping her slender body. He hadn’t realized until this moment what it meant to have the strength of a half dozen men. Men that were probably pro-wrestlers, he realized. Memories of Sharon’s hard body flooded back, vastly stronger than even Lucia, yet the mere thought of her made him even harder. Mandi's pheromones were starting to take over again.
He angrily pushed those misplaced feelings away as Lucia lifted the right front tire a foot off the floor. He kneeled down and quickly busied himself prying open the metal plate that was set in the floor beneath it. Freeing the plate, he tossed it aside as he wormed himself further under the tire to look down inside the hole to find the combination dial. It took him three tries to work it. Withdrawing the plug-type door, he lay down on the floor a second time, this time to reach deeply inside the safe, groping around in the darkness until his fingers found the old .270 Glovener Special and its ammunition.
He piled the gun and ammunition on the floor before putting the plug door and cover back, then stood back up to see that Lucia was working very hard to hold the bumper at waist height, her breathing coming in deep gasps. Her legs were erotically spread, biceps bulging shockingly large as she held a ton of dead weight, her arms shaking slightly. Shockingly, he saw that she was very wet, the musky scent of arousal hanging in the air.
He snapped a clip into the heavy automatic and cycled the action, his thoughts racing wildly. The .270 Glovener was one of the few weapons that Omega Directorate claimed would kill a Betan. A friend had taken this one off a perp and 'forgot' to check it in at the evidence locker. Fred had covered his ass by locking it here in his safe. He hadn’t taken it out in the four years since that day.
His gun hand shook slightly as he aimed the weapon at Lucia’s back while she slowly lowered the car, its springs creaking as they took up the weight again. He knew enough from the Omega briefings to avoid shooting her when her body was tensed. Betan or not, her Arion muscles made her a girl of steel. The ricochets could be lethal.
Lucia finally turned around, only to freeze when she saw the muzzle aiming at her chest. A long moment passed before her arrogant little smile returned.
“You’re not going to shoot me, Fred. Mandi would kill you and your family, probably tearing your wife and son apart with her bare hands while she made you watch.”
Fred’s hand began to shake wildly now as he tried to push away that horrific image. “Shit,” he cursed as he finally lowered the gun.
She amplified his confusion by tracing one finger across the wetness of her labia, then lifting her hand to suck that digit clean as she leaned against the hood and opened her legs invitingly. Her body was softening now, hard muscles turning back into her slender figure. “So, did you like watching me working out that way, Fred? Staring at my ass, my legs, imagining what it would be like fuck me while I leaned me over the hood. Maybe even taking me right here.”
Fred took a deep breath to compose himself before answering. “I’ll leave worshipping your body to your paying clients.”
“You don't know what you're missing. My Supergirl act is a real favorite,” Lucia smiled. “Almost as popular as my cheerleader one. I've even got a costume.”
“I can do without both.”
She laughed. “You’ll be begging me for it before long. They all do you know.”