Peter's orders came as they always did, disguised as a Spam email from some company trying to peddle Viagra on the Net. The same junk that filled up everyone’s inboxes. The difference was that his email contained encrypted orders buried in a small encoded attachment that his virus checker thought was dangerous.
He bypassed the virus checker and loaded the attachment into a hidden program on his hard disk, along with his password. His screen displayed the contents of the message for exactly thirty seconds before deleting the file.
The message said he was to steal a folder of information from the personal safe of the previous Director of the CIA. It further said that he would be contacted by a woman named Tesa who was an expert in cracking safes.
Peter Kaufman watched as the message evaporated from his screen a half minute later. He wondered if Tesa's orders came disguised in a Viagra ad as well. Or were women targeted for different kinds of Spam? He doubted that, but it was another curiosity to check out. As an analyst at the CIA, not to mention a mole for the Mossad, his life was made up of curiosities.
Peter struggled to finish a normal day’s work, which was made all that much harder as ‘mission nerves’ started to creep up on him. He expected Tesa to call him per the mission brief, but no call had come in by his usual quitting time of 6:30pm. He left work at and headed out into the Virginia suburbs, keeping his mobile phone handy. Long experience with Mossad had taught him to continue on the mission regardless of what appeared to be setbacks. His companion would either show, and he’d do the job, or he’d abort it at the last moment.
Instead of going home, he stopped and ate dinner in Georgetown, and then went to a sports bar a few miles from the Director’s neighborhood. Watching the games and drinking some beers always steadied his nerves, although he had to watch the drinks just before a job.
He stayed until closing, and spent the last hour flirting with a pretty redhead dressed in a Nicks jersey and tight jeans. She told him that she was bored to death now that her husband had taken a traveling job. She also made it clear that she needed someone to keep her bed warm while he was away.
He bought her another beer, wondering as he did if his wife, Mary, was sitting in some bar playing the same game. He didn’t get home very often either.
The redhead kissed him after he walked her to her car. She gave him her number and he promised to call next week. Her husband would be traveling again then.
It was well after two now and his phone hadn’t rung. His mission nerves were really jangling now. He couldn’t do this alone. Was she going to be at the house?
He drove toward the Director's house, finally turning onto a broad, tree-lined street of expensive two and three-storey homes. He'd barely turned the corner when a woman stepped out of the trees and walk to the curb in front of him. She stuck out her thumb as he approached. He slowed as he stared at her. She had an incredible figure, very visible due to her tight jeans and sweater.
She flashed him a bright smile and stepped in front of his slowing car, startling him into slamming on the brakes. She quickly walked to the passenger door and opened it to slip inside.
“Hi. I’m Tesa.”
She folded her long legs and brushed long, black hair from her face as she looked across at him. Her eyes were startlingly bright, reflecting a hint of blue even in the darkened interior of the car. A faint scent of perfume filled the car. Honey and wildflower. Peter took a deep breath, and felt the same tingling rush of arousal he'd felt while kissing the redhead. He shifted uncomfortably behind the wheel.
She smiled brighter as his body awoke, silently accepting his unspoken compliment.
Peter found himself looking into a smile so bright it seemed to push away the late March cold and darkness. He quickly looked away, knowing that he had to keep wits about him. If she was Mossad, then she was far more dangerous than she looked.
“About time you showed up,” he forced himself to growl as he struggled to ignore the tingling in his body. “I thought you weren’t going to fucking show.”
She shrugged. “I’d taken a day off and didn’t get the email until a couple of hours ago. The name’s Tesa Scorpino, by the way.”
“What is that, Greek?” She looked like a woman he’d once known who lived near Athens.
“A bit further away than that. So where’s the house?”
“About a half-mile from here. Where are your tools?”
“Don’t need any. Makes it easier to get through the scanners.”
“This isn’t some rinky-dink 7-11 safe, Tesa. Abram’s box will have the highest security rating.”
“That’s my magic. I can open anything.”
Peter looked at her strangely. He’d been through every tradecraft school that Mossad had and he’d never heard of anyone opening a level nine safe without some exotic diamond-tipped drills and explosives. “This I gotta see.”
He slowed to stop across the street from a large, brick two-story home.
“Leave everything metal behind,” he said. “Scanners in the entrances. CIA standard policy for the top brass.” He put his gun and phone in the glove compartment, emptying the coins out of his pockets as well.
Tesa slipped off earrings and shoes before getting out to walk across the street toward the house.
Peter couldn’t help but notice that she walked like a dancer, every move controlled and purposeful. She moved as lithely as a cat.
He kept his sneakers on as he followed behind her, trying to scope out any surprises in the security system. He leaned over to check behind one of the bushes, only to be startled by a flash of reddish light behind him. He spun around to see Tesa looking up as a shower of sparks floated down from a camera control box that had been hidden beneath the gables.
“How in the hell…?”
“Alarms are down now, but scanners are still up. Check around the side to see if there’s an easier way in.”
Still startled by the glare of actinic light, Peter blinked away the daze to slip behind the bushes. He’d barely taken ten steps when he heard a sharp ping of steel hitting steel. That sound was followed by the tinkle of steel fragments hitting the stone floor. He quickly rushed back to see Tesa pushing the front door open. The locked looked like someone had drilled it out.
“How in the hell did you do that?”
She held up her index finger, her long nail perfectly manicured. "My universal skeleton key."
He stared at her hand, realizing for the first time that she looked very strong. The tendons on the back of her hand and wrist were pronounced.
"Roving guards will be by soon enough. We gotta move.” She entered the house and sprinted up the long staircase in the entranceway, moving so lightly that it looked as if the laws of gravity had been suspended just for her.
Peter stared back at the lock for a long moment before turning to follow her. Even with the best tools, he couldn’t have opened a lock like that in less than ten minutes.
He was breathing faster when he caught up with her. She was in the Director’s study, standing in the entrance to a walk-in closet.
“Shit. It’s a Baker 972.”
He walked up beside her to see a very large safe inside the closet. It was six feet tall and looked like it weighed tons. “Is that bad?”
“It uses an internal incendiary device to self-destruct if there are any impacts, explosions or vibrations from drilling.”
“So you have to pick the combo?”
She shook her head. “It uses a frequency-mobile secondary key that changes the combo five times a second.”
“O.K, you got me. We sure as hell aren’t taking it home to dissect it there.”
She sighed. “I guess I’m going to keep the CSI folks busy for a bit.”
“What do you mean?”
She turned to face him. “There are a few secrets that are so sensitive that only a half dozen senior agents in Mossad know them. You are about to learn one of those.”
He didn’t know what to say to that as she turned around to gently run her fingers around the narrow crack where the safe door fitted flush against the steel frame. She moved her fingers from one spot to another as she stared at some feature of the polished door that he couldn’t see. She finally found a spot she seemed to like and turned her hand to press her fingernails against the crack.
“If you see a flash of light, run like hell. I’m not sure how sensitive the incendiary trigger is.”
“Fake fingernails?” Peter guessed, still trying to figure out how she was going to open it. “Explosives? Like the front door?"
“Good guess, but wrong.”
Peter leaned closer, trying to see what she was doing.
“Lean your back against mine and wrap your arms around me to steady me. This is going to take a little effort and I need to make sure I stay absolutely still. The 972 uses a motion sensor to trigger the self-destruct in the event the safe is moved.”
He did as she asked, slipping his arms beneath hers to circle her body just beneath her breasts. She felt incredibly firm. “A lot of hours in the gym, huh?”
“Not exactly. But thanks anyway.”
He rested his head on her shoulder, she was nearly as tall as he was, as he watched her strange technique. She started wiggling her fingers back and forth, seemingly trying to work her fingernails into the crack. If not explosives, then what, he thought to himself. Micro-expanders?
She began to push her fingertips very hard against the edge of the door. “Keep me steady now.”
He held her very tight, only to be shocked as the muscles of her back suddenly turned as hard as steel, and her right shoulder flexed visibly larger beneath her sweater, the wool stretching over hard clefts that grew deeper every second. At the same time, he heard the steel give off a strange keening sound. He looked back down at her fingers, and was shocked to see that she'd inserted them to the first joint!
“What the devil… how can you…?” The words froze in his throat as he watched her working them back and forth, the steel mounding it up on either side of the crack around the door. The effect looked exactly like she was working her fingers into very stiff modeling clay. “How can anyone…” His voice trailed as she bent the steel further the the sides.
“By working damn hard,” she grunted between clenched teeth. “It’s hard to do this without causing vibration or heat.”
Peter’s eyes were round as saucers as he watched her work her fingers in to the second joint. Then she interleaved the long fingers of her other hand, working them in the same way until they too were bured. The crack was now a deep groove with indentations from the way her fingers had worked it along each side.
“Now for the moment of truth. If anything goes bang, run for it. You’ll have a few seconds.”
“I don’t fucking believe this,” Peter gasped. He held onto her as she leaned closer to the safe, pointing her elbows straight out to her sides. She started to pull her hands apart. Her slender body became a maze of tight curves now, her shoulders and back as hard as the steel she was bending. The safe door began to groan and keen loudly as she pulled slowly outward, the six-inch thick steel bending to create a large opening between door and frame. Her fingers dug deeply into the steel each time she paused to reposition her fingers deeper and repeat the feat.
She started to tilt to the right side. Remembering his role, Peter wrapped his arms more tightly around her and tried to straighten her. It was useless. He might as well have been trying to tilt one of those bronze statues down in the park.
Tesa was breathing deeply now and he could feel her heard pounding. Yet she continued to bend the steel with her fingers, the tendons standing out like steel cables on the backs of her hands and wrists.
Soon the opening was large enough to reach through the ragged gap. Tesa slipped to the side to give him access to the contents as she stretched her pumped-up arms over her head.
“Told you I had a special talent or two.”
“Who the fuck are you?" he gasped. "Supergirl?”
“My husband thinks so. But given that this isn’t the comics...” her voice drifted off as she looked down at her watch. “We’re down to five minutes, Peter. Took me longer to open that thing than I’d expected. Never done a Baker 972 before.”
Peter felt like he was in some kind of bizarre dream as he crouched down to reach through the hot, twisted steel to search for the encrypted document. He’d worked on this document years before. It described the way Mossad worked with double-agents inside various intelligence agencies in the Arab world. There were only two copies of this document, and the other one was in Tel Aviv.
He found it and turned around to see Tesa still stretching in the middle of the room. She was bending backward to place her palms on the floor behind her like some kid of contortionist. “Hazards of having my kind of muscles," she said from her upside down position. "I get stiff after I work out a bit.”
“That’s stiff?” Peter said in wonder. “Try Chinese acrobat limber.” He glanced back at the way the door of the safe was bent and mangled from her grip. “And working out no longer has the significance it used to. You must have a wicked handshake."
She ignored his comments as she straighted up and glanced at her watch again. “One minute. Gotta go.”
Peter stuffed the folder under his shirt as he glanced a final time at the safe. She was right about the CSI folks. The cops were going to go nuts. Hopefully she hadn’t left her fingerprints in the steel.
Three hours later, he was sitting in the kitchen of Tesa’s Maryland townhouse, downing some shots of brandy to steady his nerves. She was in the bathroom, taking a shower.
He downed his fifth shot to celebrate the first rays of sunlight as they rose over the horizon. The first sunrise after a mission was always special, reminding him of the wonder of life.
He rose to walk unsteadily into the living room to call through the half-open bedroom door. “You going to tell me about this before we go to work, Tesa?”
"The Supergirl thing."
“You wouldn’t understand if I did.”
“Understand? Shit, I watched you do something tonight that was completely, fucking impossible. You’d have to be hundreds of times stronger than me to do that.”
“Keep going. Baker safes use very high-grade steel. My hands are going to be sore as hell tomorrow.”
“Hundreds. Thousands. What the hell? That wasn't humanly possible.”
The phone rang before she could reply. He heard her answer it in the bedroom. He heard her say his name a couple of times. She talked for nearly five minutes, obviously to her husband, as she said she loved him before hanging up.
When she walked out of the bedroom, she was wearing only a tiny pair of shorts and a long blue scarf that hung across her chest, barely covering her. He just stared. She had an even better body than he’d expected. He caught himself in that thought. Of course she did, she was fucking Supergirl.
He struggled to keep from staring at her chest. “Your husband?”
She nodded. “He lives back in Tel Aviv.”
“Checking up on you?”
“He’s my control.”
“So he must be happy as hell. We got the file.”
She paced across the living room. “God, I’m so wired, Peter. It always hard for me to come down after a mission.”
He hoisted his bottle of brandy. “This works just fine.”
She shook her head. “Not for me. I need something a lot stronger.”
“Like what?” She was clearly one of those aliens he'd read about. Arions. By rumor, they were dangerous brutes. Homicidal. He'd never expected to meet an Arion who looked sexy.
“Just one thing really.” She kneeled on a white fur that covered one couch, and tugged the front of her shorts lower. “You interested, James?”
“As in Bond, huh?” he grinned. The old Ian Fleming books and movies had convinced most people that being a secret agent was exciting and sexy.
The unfortunate reality was that field work was composed of long periods of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror. But, every once in a while, a mission was memorable. He remembered a very cute German agent he’d worked with. They'd hit it off right from the start, fellow agents facing deadly dangers and all, and the mission had turned into one hot time.
His body flushed with heated desire at the memory as he inhaled her flowery scent again. She wore the most amazing perfume he’d ever smelled. And her body… god, what would it be like to make it with a woman as strong as her? A superhuman alien woman who might as well be from Krypton given what he’d seen today. His youthful fascination with comics, not to mention the rumors about Arions, hadn’t prepared him for this unlikely moment.
“What about your husband?”
“He knows how I am. We used to work together in the field.”
“Ah. So you’ve got a license to wander a bit right after a job. How very 007. Here’s hoping we’ll work together again.”
“We won’t. So let’s make this good.”
Peter's heart was racing as he started to undress. He already knew that this was going to be the best sex of his life.
“And one thing, Peter. Don’t be gentle. I like my fucking hard and rough. Hard as steel.”
Tesa lay on her back on the living room floor some time later, her legs widely spread as she encouraged Peter to take her in missionary style. This was easiest position for her to keep her body relaxed.
After his teasingly slow exploration of her body, a journey from head to toe where he’d been fascinated with her perfect physical condition and flawless skin, the firmness of her breasts, the silkiness of her hair, he’d finally settled down to some very athletic sex. He was good, definitely experienced with women, and well-endowed enough and strong to do the job. And he most definitely was trying to be rough. His powerful thrusts were slamming her head into the heavy teak coffee table hard enough to brain a normal woman. His face was red and his muscles were bunching, almost as if he was trying to prove he was strong too. In one way at least.
Her usual lovers were professional athletes, and she’d dated around a lot with the local teams when she was younger. She still did when she had time. Nothing serious. The men regarded her as another of the sports groupies who hung around the team, one who liked doing kinky things in the back of the locker room.
She chased after the athletes the other girls avoided, the ones who had a bad reputation for hurting women. She encouraged them to be bad with her, and she liked what they did to her when they let it all out. All the anger, all the power. Some of them were pretty scary, especially a couple of the pro wrestlers and a boxer she’d dated. Their idea of sex wasn’t a lot different than fighting in the ring. They’d been up on charges several times for busting up their girlfriends.
She found the little buttons that turned them into monsters, and then she let them do their worst to her. It was all just practice anyway. She had to fake things in the end to keep them alive, but at least they got her going enough so she could enjoy having sex with herself afterward. Hazards of living and working among Frails.
Peter wasn’t in that class of men, he was decent enough guy, but he was also enough of a beast when inspired by her pheromones to fire up that familiar magic deep inside her. She angled her hips backward, guiding him to her V-spot, one of the unique biological treasures that all Supremis shared. An incredibly sensitive erogenous zone that allowed an ordinary man to pleasure her.
She cried out in womanly pleasure and wrapped her arms and legs loosely around him, digging her heels into his ass to draw another half inch of penetration from him. A very dangerous position for him given her strength, but unlike her athlete boyfriends, she didn’t have to leave him in condition to play his game.
As often happened when her lovers were pumped up with adrenaline, the painful grind of her pubic bone against his groin seemed to drive him even harder, her teenage tightness driving him wild with primitive desire. He soon inhaled so many of her pheromones that he went into a sexual frenzy, pouring every ounce of strength in his body into hers as he went at it with more than human strength. She knew without false pride that he was having the best sex of his life. Sex that she now controlled, her labia gripping the base of his erection in the Arion way to keep him hard until she was ready.
The tingling rush built stronger and stronger inside her, accompanied as it was by that irresistible urge to let it all go. That urge grew from delicious tingles to blow into a gale, then a storm, and finally a hurricane of desire that seemed to explode from inside her with the force of a laser cannon. She didn’t try to hold it back as she usually did, but instead let it wash over her like a tsunami. She arched her and cried out, wrapping her legs around him as she encouaged him to expend the last of his strength inside her.
That was when the insanity came over her and her world exploding into shades of pink ecstasy that had no bounds. Her screams of ecstasy shattered the overhead chandelier to shower them with glass, her arms, legs and inner self closing with enough force to break half the bones in his body.
Tesa was still embracing his silent body when the pink haze began to drain from her body. She opened her eyes to feel his dead weight still on top of her. This was the part of the mission she didn’t like. Coming down from her climax, and having to deal with the result of her sexual excesses. But at least it was more satisfying for her than having to fake an orgasm and then go off and take care of herself.
The phone rang, and she reached one long arm out to grope under the cushions of the couch to find it. Peter’s body was still laying half over hers when she answered. “Hi, honey.”
“Are you O.K?” the concerned voice asked from the other end of the line.
“I’m fine, Job.” He could hear the breathlessness in her voice.
“I didn’t mean to catch you so quickly afterward. But it sounds as if it was good.” There was a hint of bitterness in his voice.
“He was strong enough.” She didn’t comment further. Then after a long moment, “I’m sorry, babe. I so wish you could make it with me this way. But your life isn’t worth trading for a single moments pleasure.”
“A pleasure I’ve never brought my own wife. How many men can say that?”
Neither of them said anything for a long moment.
“So what’s next?” she asked, trying to change the delicate subject.
She heard him clear his throat as he shuffled some papers. They both knew better than to continue this frustrating discussion. “Bill Cummings over in Section Five. He’s been getting a bit too close to our assets in California. We need to know what he knows. Then you need to sanction him.”
She rolled on her side as she pushed the dead weight off her. She curled up to savor the fading glow of her orgasm. She briefly wished she could just pleasure herself alone like most human women could. But like all other Arion women, without a strong man to get things going, or the rare man she finished with, lethally of course if they were human, that was impossible.
Her husband said nothing for a long moment, knowing what she was thinking. “At least it keeps you going, my dear. God knows what your mood would be without these kinds of releases. And you are helping our country.”
“I have to go, Job. There is one unpleasant task left to do.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, honey. Bye.”
Tesa hung up the phone.
Sighing, she rose to her feet to lift the body, holding it at arms length like a sack of potatoes. He was no longer Peter, now he was just, ‘the body’. She tried not to think about anything else as she propped the body up in a corner of the ceramic-tiled shower stall. She turned the exhaust fan on high and closed the door. Standing with her hands on her hips, she held her breath and stared pointedly at the floor tiles in the shower stall.
It took a moment before she could make the proper synaptic connections. Her heat vision had always been the least developed of her abilities, and it was hard to use it outside of the adrenaline rush of battle. But after a few sputtering attempts, two reddish beams finally lanced out from her eyes to strike the shower floor. She opened her eyes wide, straining to push the energy flow above the point where flesh would vaporize instead of burn. The inside of her eyeballs burned with a horrible aching heat as she slowly lifting her gaze along the floor and back of the shower stall, blinded now by her own heat. In reality, she was glad she couldn’t see what was happening to the body she was staring at.
A minute later, she blinked her eyes closed, sending a sizzle of steam rising from her eyes as her tears tried to wet her superheated corneas. Despite having phenomenally clear lenses and corneas, there was still some energy loss there. A few hundred degrees worth. Rubbing them as she tried to work the moisture back into her dry eyes, she blinked enough of the haze away to see that the shower stall was empty.
Thankful for that, she reached under the sink for the tile cleaner and began obsessively scrubbing the white, powdery residue from the shower walls. She cleaned the tile three times before she was satisfied that it was clean. Then she stepped inside to take her second shower of the morning. This time, there was far more than just sweat to wash from her skin.
“Good morning, Ms. Scorpino,” the Admin smiled as Tesa walked into outer office in Section Five. “Mr. Cummings was asking for you a half hour ago.”
“I had a problem this morning with my shower,” she said, smiling back at him. “A plumbing thing.”
“No problem. I filled in the hole in his schedule by pulling forward his next appointment. You’ve got him for the next half-hour.”
“Oh, by the way, I’ve got a reservation for four at Lloyds. Mr. Cummings has asked you to join Congressman Thomason for dinner. Business I’m afraid.”
“Of course,” Tesa smiled her brightest, realizing that she might learn more than she’d planned. Another man… now that would be nice.
The pleasures of the morning and the possibilities of an even better night made her feel warm and sensual, so much so that she wasn’t prepared for the woman who stepped out of the inner office. She was blonde and 5’11” tall, her eyes as crystalline blue as her own. The blonde stood confidently, hands on her hips, as she gave Tesa an appraising look.
Tesa’s heart leaped as she found herself facing the one woman on Earth she’d both dreamed and dreaded crossing paths with. A woman who’d been born as far away from this tiny planet as she had been.
“So, I understand you are joining us for dinner tonight, Ms. Scorpino. I look forward to it.”
“I, ah, I…” Tesa started to say, only to be interrupted as the Admin handed the blonde woman a card. A chill traced down her back. How in the hell did the Protector know her name?
“The address of the restaurant is on the back, Ms. Banks,” the Admin explained, clearly taken with her tall visitor. “May I call you Lisa?”
Lisa smiled faintly, her eyes wary as she focused back on Tesa.
“I think you’ll find the roast duck most agreeable.” The Admin glanced at Tesa and then back into Lisa's eyes, noticing the intensity in their faces. “Do you two know each other?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Lisa said softly. She offered her hand to Tesa. “But I haven’t actually had the pleasure.”
Tesa hesitated for a brief moment before taking the offered hand. Not that it mattered now. Her cover was blown. She angrily gripped Lisa Bank’s hand as tightly as he could, using all the strength she’d used on that safe and then some. Lisa returned the favor, and for a brief moment, more power was generated inside the outer office of Section Five than in the rest of Langley combined. Power that was contained entirely in the genetically-enhanced muscles of two young women.
Lisa finally relaxed her hand and turned to go, smiling at Tesa as if to say, “that’s all you have?”. She turned back to the Admin. “Give Bill my best.” Then to Tesa, “We have much to talk about tonight.”
Tesa opened and closed her hand to work the kinks out of it. It had been a long time since she'd tested herself against someone who was arguably stronger than she was. She stared through the brick wall to see the Velorian taking the elevator down to the lobby. Two men who looked like employees met her there.
Her thoughts began to race. Amazingly, she’d just learned that the Protector’s name was Banks!
No one else knew that. People who tried to track down the Protector of Earth had a bad habit of disappearing. Things had been very bad a year or so ago out in Northern California. Everyone on the project had been sanitized.
A wild surge of energy filed her body. She’d contact Job as quickly as she could and he’d assemble a team. They’d take the Protector down and then find her daughter. All she had to do was to stay alive until dinner tonight. Protectors liked to work alone and without witnesses, but she wouldn't try anything as long as she was inside Langley.
Tesa felt like she was floating on air as she walked into the inner office to take Bill Cummings offered hand. She remembered at the last instant to hold it gently, but her handshake was still overly firm.
“Mr. Cummings. I’m so glad to meet you. I’m Tesa Scorpino from Section Four. We’re preparing for a joint operation and I wanted to lay out the ground rules." She smiled broadly at him, knowing that this man was going to play a key role in the future of Earth. He was the human would earn the ultimate reward for revealing the identity of the Protector. A reward that was the Arion equivalent of the Velorian Kira’ling Obligation.
“Whatever is necessary, Ms. Scorpino. But this is a busy time, so you have to be brief.”
She realized at that moment that Cummings didn’t have a clue who the Banks woman was. This was even better than she'd dreamed. She was going to get the Protector, and she wouldn’t have to pay this bastard off for the pleasure. “Certainly. But first, your last visitor, Ms. Banks, is she Lisa Banks from NSA?”
“Hardly. Just the CIO of a pharmaceutical firm. Tyrell. Her people have been working on some performance enhancement drugs for our agents. Impressive stuff.”
“Tyrell. Of course, now I remember,” Tesa lied.
She turned and looked through the wall again, this time to see the Velorian getting into a limo. “You realize, Mr. Cummings, that Tyrell has been associated with several terrorist movements. Not directly implicated, but we think there are contacts between their lower ranking people.”
“No, I didn’t know that." Cummings looked startled. "I thought your people cleared her?”
“She's still under investigation. It’s possible that we aren’t the only folks Banks is trying to sell her drugs to.”
"I wish you would have told me this before I schedule dinner with her."
Tesa smiled warmly, her thoughts already on that dinner. “I’m sorry, but you weren’t cleared. Now, I’m going to need your agents to dig to the bottom of this. Four of your best men. Assigned to me personally.”
“That’s impossible. With our staffing, I can hardly…”
“What do you propose instead?” Tesa interrupted. “Let her poison our agents with drugs that might have been designed as weapons of terror? Or if they work, sell them to the opposition?”
Cummings stared at his visitor, suddenly aware that larger forces were at work here. “No, not at all. I was just… surprised I guess is the best word. She seemed so sincere.”
“Depends on your perspective. Al Quida is a humanitarian group in some people’s eyes."
Cummings clenched his jaw. "So what's next?"
Tesa smiled. The hook had been set. Now was the time to reel him in. “Well, first, I need you to position a global tracking satellite overhead for tonight. And then…”
Her voice droned on and on, laying out what could very well be the beginning of the final act of the conquest of Earth. A conquest only a few people even knew was being fought right under their noses.
Neil Sanducker carefully measured the float height of the carburetor on the old engine. He was halfway through rebuilding a big-block Chevy V8 engine, an antique from the last century.
His girlfriend, Dani Banks, was sitting on the counter watching him work. “Mom wants me to start taking her place in a lot of what she calls, ‘her official functions’.”
“You mean, kicking the collective butts of the Evil Empire.”
Neil was one of the few people who were privileged to know all the details of the Arion subversion of Earth governments and institutions. Given that he was living in the Banks house, not to mention his relationship with Dani, that wasn’t surprising. His dad had disappeared after the fracas at his high school involving an Arion attack, although Xara’s mom had done a great job of damage control. EarthFirst was still licking its wounds after the news got hold of information about alien involvement in the top ranks of the organization.
Still, things had gotten too hot for them in Big Sur. Lisa had relocated the family to Taos, New Mexico. Neil, still angry with his father for his association with EarthFirst, had decided to go with them. Amazingly, Dani’s parents had agreed. Apparently his role as Lisa’s Gentler was more important than he’d first thought.
“And she wants me to use my real name when I’m in public. Xara Zor’El.” She said Zor’El as if it was a bad word.
“Still sounds like something from the comics, doesn’t it?”
“So what do you think? Should I put on that red and blue uniform of hers and make a spectacle of myself?”
Neil looked up from his work to see Dani resting her elbows on her legs as she sat on the counter. She looked too young and far too slender to be duking it out with a bunch of muscle-bound Primes. They had muscles big enough to intimidate a pro bodybuilder, and Lisa had shown him pictures where one of them had torn the Army’s newest main battle tank apart with his bare hands. They were also tough enough to shrug off just about any assault or weapon, up to and including near misses by nuclear weapons.
All things, of course, that Dani could do as well, despite her fragile-looking appearance.
“I don’t think this is my call, Dani.”
“You get a vote. We’re practically living together.”
“In your mother’s home, in separate bedrooms at opposite ends of the house. I don’t think that’s what most people mean by ‘living together’.”
Neil was very aware that their relationship had developed along strange boundaries. Especially after that tumultuous affair Dani had had with Zalen, a Velorian man. Neil had accidentally witnessed enough of their lovemaking to know that anyone with lesser credentials than Superman wasn’t going to impress his girlfriend. Not in bed anyway.
Yet somehow, through it all, their friendship had grown, as had his role as her Gentler. Not exactly girlfriend and boyfriend, for Dani still occasionally dated other guys, but still something more than best friends, mostly because of the nature of what it meant to be her Gentler.
While the relationship definitely had its perks, Neil was convinced it was a role that human emotions were not prepared to handle. If he wasn't head over heels in love with Dani, he would have given it up long ago.
Dani kicked her bare legs in girlish frustration. “Still, this affects you too, Neil. I’ll probably be busy most of the time, like mom always is. There are more Arions on Earth now than ever before.”
Neil bent back down to continue his work on the fuel system. “Well, if you were born on Velor, then I’d say, go for it. That would be your destiny. To be a Protector.”
“But I wasn’t. Velor won’t even register me as a citizen.”
“Exactly. Which means you get to claim Earth as your home and the US as your country. And that means you were born with the most universal of human opportunities. Freedom of choice.”
“To either screw up my life, or make it count for something. Yeah, Mom’s already given me that lecture enough times.”
“Well, you do look good in her uniform.”
Dani snickered. “You just like it because it’s skintight and a molecule thick. I see the way you look at her when she wears it.”
“I think it looks a lot better on you.”
“A close save, but he scores,” Dani laughed.
Neil smiled as he kept working on the engine.
“Seriously, Neil, do you think I should step in and take over her job?”
“Not at all. We were just talking about uniforms with tiny skirts. I just like your legs.”
“You’re not going to help me with this decision, are you?”
“Nope,” he shook his head. “I’m just a Frail. Ask anyone. I decided long ago that messing with the fate of the universe should be in the hands of goddesses, not amateur car mechanics.” He set his tools aside and wiped off his hands.
“You need some help with that?”
“Yeah. Come over here and put some of those cute muscles to work.”
“What muscles?” she smiled as she floated off the counter to land beside him. “You said I was skinny.”
“Quality not quantity. Isn’t that what Zalen said?”
“We’re not talking about Zalen.”
“He wasn’t into rebuilding antique engines, huh?”
“You know what I mean. What do you need me to do?”
“Just hold the engine over the mounts while I go underneath and bolt it down.”
“No sweat.” Dani reached over and gathered up the chains that were attached to the engine hoist points. Her arm flexed visibly as she lifted it off its stand with a single hand.
“See, you do have muscles,” Neil deadpanned. The twelve-hundred pounds of engine was dangling effortlessly from her outstretched arm as she lowered it into the engine compartment. Her feet weren't even touching the floor.
“Not that anyone else would notice.”
Dani lay on the couch in Neil’s bedroom an hour later as she watched him getting dressed. She was wearing a red tank top with a starburst emblem on her chest and black leather pants. Neil had just gotten out of the shower and was wearing only his underpants.
“Zalen is coming to visit me this weekend, Neil.”
He paused, his jeans halfway up his legs as he struggled to pull them on. Dani saw him catch his breath. He recovered quickly, but not before giving himself away.
“Ge, that’s nice. I appreciate the warning to get out of Dodge.”
“It isn’t a competition, Neil. You’re my best friend and my Gentler. Zalen has another role.”
“He scratches a different kind of itch, huh.” Neil tried to keep the resentment out of his voice, but wasn’t successful. “Probably the one right below your tonsils.”
"You should try to be friends with him."
"He's a Velorian from a zillion light years away. What do I have in common with him?"
Dani stared back at him for a long moment. "Me."
"That's not the answer I was looking for," Neil growled.
“I’m mostly Velorian too, Neil. And the rest of me is Galen, which is even weirder. We can’t pretend that I don’t have two kinds of needs.”
“You’re barely seventeen, Dani. He’s ancient. Messengers live for centuries.”
“And your point is?”
“It’s… it’s like he’s robbing the cradle or something.”
“We Velorians grow up fast.”
“That isn’t my point. Why can’t he find a woman his own age?”
“I don’t think it's Zalen you dislike, Neil. You just don’t like the way he and I... exercise.”
Neil nearly tripped over his jeans as he filnally finished pulling them on. He staggered and sat down hard on the bed to stare back at Dani. “Excercise? That's what you call it?"
"It's what we do."
"The rest of the world calls it fucking, Dani."
Dani's eyes narrowed, and she tossed her long hair over her shoulder.
Neil continued. "Has it ever occurred to you that it’s just a bit intimidating to me that he’s hung like a horse and you two 'exercise' hard enough to create earthquakes out in the desert? Half of Taos was rattling and rolling the last time. I can’t imagine what you two were doing.”
“But you try to imagine it anyway.” She shrugged. “Come with us this time. I’d like to have you there.”
Neil’s eyes opened wide. “Watching you two?”
“Yes. Kinky, isn’t it?”
“Is that part of my role as Gentler now? Voyeur?” Neil asked sourly.
“No, but it is part of being my best friend. I don’t want to have any secrets from you.”
Neil cursed under his breath. “You know, we humans don’t have the emotions to deal with your Velorian ideas of sharing your friendship.”
“With you it's special, Neil. We talk. About everything. With Zalen, its just, you know, sex.”
“You can’t talk when you’re too busy to breathe, huh?”
Dani rose stiffly to her feet. “Look, I don’t know where you are going with this, Neil. I need you as my friend and my Gentler. And yes, I need you after Zalen and I are together, and after I exert myself. I know the timing sucks sometimes, but what you do for me is important. I’m sorry if it’s becoming too much for you to handle.” She spun around on her toe, and before Neil could say a word, she was gone.
“Shit, shit, shit…” he cursed as he flopped back on his bed.
Dani wasn’t in the kitchen when Neil arrived, but Lisa was busy making a salad. She was dressed in a pair of black slacks and a white silk blouse. She smiled warmly at him as he entered.
“She’s gone for the evening, Neil. She took on an assignment for me. Dealing with a Prime who’s infiltrated the CIA.”
“That’s nice,” he said glumly.
She smiled sympathetically. “You guys had a fight, huh?”
“Let me guess. About Zalen?”
Neil looked up. “How would you know that?”
“You always get a bit weird when he’s coming to Earth.”
“It shows, huh?”
“I’ve been married to Eric for a long time. I see it in his eyes too.”
“So you guys…? I mean, Eric has the same problem?”
"He thinks it's my problem."
"So you... I mean, with Zalen?"
She set the salad on the table and paused to face him. “That’s a very personal question.”
“I didn’t think we had secrets in this house.”
Lisa sighed. “So you’re asking if I need my... superman?”
“I’m just wondering if Dani’s problem and mine are unique.”
“No, they aren’t.” She turned to walk to the end of table and sat down. Neil sat at the other end. Eric was away on business, and of course Dani was out working, so it was just the two of them.
“What can you tell me about it,” Neil asked as he stuck his fork into a tomato.
She laughed. "You want to know about my my sex life?” Her eyes were dancing in amusement.
“Well, I mean, just about those extremes.”
Lisa's eyes were dancing in amusement. “I’m Velorian, born a P1, my body the product of Aphro’dite’s enhancement. Everything in my life is an extreme, Neil.”
He nodded. “So either the accelerator is floored or the engine’s off.”
“The engine is never off,” she said sexily. “Which essentially is Eric’s problem.”
“But he’s learned to deal with it?”
“Not always. You see, with Protectors and Primes, lethal combat and extreme sex are two sides to the same coin. And that coin is always being flipped in the air. We never know which side it’s going to land on at any moment. And sometimes it lands on edge, and then we do both at the same time.”
Neil nearly choked on his salad. “Jesus. I didn’t realize it was that bad.”
“It isn’t for Dani yet. Maybe her Galen genes will moderate things for her. She’s stronger than I am, so she might not have to resort as quickly to draining her enemies as I have to.”
“I’ve heard you and Eric talk about that. Draining. but I’ve never understood it.”
Lisa took a slow sip of her wine, looking up at him through her blonde hair. “Trust me, you don’t want to know.”
“I do. I want to know everything that Dani is going to face. Everything she has to do.”
Lisa laughed. “Remember later, you’re the one who asked.”
“I will,” Neil nodded stubbornly.
Lisa set her fork down. “O.K. You know how our bodies are energized by orgone?”
“Sure. It’s why you have to wear clothing that can stretch.”
“But what you don't know is that Primal males, the big ones, are as strong as I am. Destroyers. I can’t just take them on fist to fist.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“But men can be very vulnerable at times, Neil. In certain situations, I can draw the energy from their bodies by making them expend it... inside mine. But only if they are using every ounce of their strength and vitality.”
Neil’s eyes grew big as he suddenly realized where she was going. “You’re kidding me? You mean you... I mean, until he's... drained?”
She nodded. "Takes a long time with the biggest of those brutes."
"And that isn't... painful?"
Lisa winked at him. "Which is why practicing with a Messenger is part of the discipline, Neil.”
“And it has to be…?”
He nodded quickly.
“Yes. It’s the only way to ensure adequate wetted skin contact is maintained long enough. Once started, that degree of penetration puts me pretty much in control of how long it continues. I'm strong… in all ways.”
Neil's thoughts were leapfrogging from one erotic mental image to the next, his dinner forgotten. “And the Arion males, those Destroyers… they try to kill you. By…by…”
She nodded without saying the words. “Yeah. They are immensely strong in that way.”
Neil was suddenly sick to his stomach. He set his fork down and stared at his plate.
Lisa took a bite of her salad. “I told you it would be a difficult answer.”
“So...so when you come home, you know, after that… then it’s Eric’s job to, what, detune you?”
“I haven't heard it put that way," Lisa winked. "But, yeah, I guess. Otherwise, I’d be running around in overdrive all the time, driving half the population crazy with my pheromones, and doing unmentionable things to the other half.”
“And all Velorians are like this?”
“It doesn’t get written about or talked about much, but yes. And since that is the relationship you and Dani have chosen, being her Gentler, you have to understand why she comes to you that way.”
He closed his eyes. “So this weekend, with Zalen, that’s important. It’s how she trains. Not with swords, not with energy weapons, not with some martial arts razzle-dazzle. But instead with…” His words faded.
Lisa smiled sympathetically. “Both we and the Arions have lots of fancy names for it, but what it comes down to is a form of intimate combat. The difference is that Velorians use it only when facing an opponent of equal or greater strength. Arions are less discriminating. They kill Betans and humans that way.”
“Oh, that’s sick,” Neil groaned.
“I agree. But the Galen had strange plans for we Supremis. Making us procreators at first. When that failed, we did the best we could with the genetics and imperatives of our bodies that they’d built in.”
“The Galen are like gods, Dani told me. So I assume that means sex with them is rather… energetic?”
“Would my body be created the way it is if it wasn’t? Extreme attractiveness, extreme strength, and a love of heat, the closer to nuclear the better.”
Neil blushed as he looked up into her eyes. He felt a trace of his usual sense of humor returning. "No false modesty here."
"I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, Neil."
Lisa shook her head. “The fact that she has some Galen in her has moderated the imperatives of her Velorian half. She’s like a Kryp’Terran.”
“Which nobody knows anything about.”
“Exactly. So I guess we’re all going to have to discover Dani’s truths together, now aren’t we? You probably before me.”
Dani had refused to wear the uniform her mother offered her, and instead had packed her clothes in a heat-resistant bag to fly her usual way. She landed in a deserted alley in Georgetown fifteen minutes after leaving Taos, New Mexico. Her nude body was glowing from the re-entry heat, her chest and shoulders a brilliant cherry-red.
After waiting a few moments for her skin to cool, she pulled a fashionable white dress out of her bag and slipped it on. The hem was down to her ankles, the top deeply cut to show off her figure. She hid the flight bag and walked down the street and through the bar entrance of Lloyd’s. The soft lights of the bar illuminate her long blonde hair as she setting down in the darkest corner and ordered a drink.
At 5’10, blonde and very young, she drew a lot of attention. Including that of the bartender. He carded her, and then turned her Pink Lady into a Diet Coke. He began to eyeball her closely. He’d gotten in trouble with Vice for letting some high-class hookers hang out in his bar last year. One of them had turned out to be underage with a fake ID, and the cops had hassled him over that. He didn’t want any more of that kind of trouble.
Dani listened to the conversations in the bar, and even picked up bits and pieces of people's thoughts, especially the bartender’s.
“I’m not a hooker,” she said as he walked over to set her drink down.
He stared down at her. “Honey, the fact that you just volunteered that bit of wisdom says you are. You’ve got fifteen minutes to finish your Coke, and then I want you out of here.”
“I’m meeting people.”
“You can meet them in the alley. I’ve got a legitimate bar to run.”
“Important people.” In Washington, ‘important people’ meant an elected official.
He leaned closer. “You get my license busted, honey, and I’ll kick your ass right out of DC. Some sick politician and his underage fantasies notwithstanding.”
Dani lifted her drink and took a sip, looking away, not dignifying that absurd threat with a response.
Mercifully, the the congressman and a man who fit the description her mother had given of Bill Cummings entered the main restaurant a few minutes later. Dani stared through the wall at them, watching as the waitress seated them in a small, private room. The privileges of position, Dani thought sourly to herself. In her opinion, Washington was full of crooks and hucksters of every feather. Especially since her bid a year earlier to get NASA to stop chemical-fueled rockets from polluting the atmosphere. She’d offered to put their payloads into orbit herself, after which they were on their own. NASA had refused. She still didn’t understand that.
She waited for a few more minutes, and then saw the Arion woman arrive. She matched her mother’s description. She walked confidently through the restaurant and joined the men, shaking hands and laughing as she went. She was being gracious to the point of being flirtatious. A hungry lioness on the hunt, Dani decided.
Glancing around the room, she saw another female Prime. She was staring back at Dani, the wall between them no impediment to their Tachyon vision. Dressed in a black crocheted top, she was sitting with three men who were fawning all over her, clearly entranced by her pheromones. Dani shook her head. She couldn’t understand why humans didn’t single out the Primes. Their eyes were always too bright, a big too large and far too clear and too blue. But those were also the human signals for extreme healthiness. And then there was the sex. Arguably the most exotic in the universe. Never ending and athletic. Especially the Betans, who didn’t have to hold things back like the Primes.
Dani looked around the restaurant, but didn’t see anyone else interesting. If other Arions were nearby, they were probably waiting out in the alley. Cloaked in lead most likely.
She knew she was walking into a trap, but this was the kind of operation her mother said she had to learn to handle. Arions were always lying in wait, prepared to pounce in force. It was a tribute to a Protector’s skill and strength that she could walk into, and out of, their traps.
Dani waited until Tesa and the two men had finished their first drinks and were starting on their second before rising to carry her Coke out into the main restaurant. She became the focus of all eyes as she sauntered between the tables. She walked closely past the second Prime, radiating more than a little of her pheromones for dominance and fear, courtesy of her Galen genes. That would keep the Prime off-balance for a bit.
The congressman looked up at her in surprise as soon as she entered the small dining room. Tesa continued to look down, studying her drink.
“I’m Dani Banks. I’m sorry, but my mother couldn’t make it tonight. She asked me to fill in for her.”
Simmons held out his hand, and the congressman rose to his feet. Dani exuded a hint of her pheromones for dominance and sexuality, and saw the men’s eyes change as they breathed them. She quickly throttled that back. Too much of those two scents, and these men would be kneeling at her feet.
Tesa’s eyes rose slowly to focus on Dani. She saw the tiny hint of a smile at the corners of the Prime’s mouth. It would take a lot more than pheromones to impress her.
“I don’t understand,” the Congressman started to say. “Are you empowered to negotiate details of your latest research drugs and their field trials?”
“No, I’m just empowered.”
Dani sat down and crossed her legs. She leaned forward slightly to stare intently at Tesa, her arms relaxed as she rested them on her legs. “You will leave these people alone, Tesa.”
Cummings looked back and forth between the two women, sensing the hostility, but still confused from the sudden surge of hot desire that flooded his body. All he knew was that there was something about the blonde girl that scared the shit out of him.
“I have some private business with Ms. Scorpino,” Dani said. “Could you men excuse us for just a moment.”
The congressman snorted, his arrogance overcoming the command from her pheromones. “I will not. This is my meeting. You can handle your personal affairs later.”
Tesa smiled at Dani. Round one went to her.
“Then I must inform you, Congressman, that Tesa Scorpino is not the loyal member of the Agency that she appears to be. She in fact works for Mossad, and has been a mole in the CIA since the day she arrived.”
The congressman started sputtering and rose back to his feet. Cummins stared back at Dani, his eyes narrowing. “I presume you can prove your allegations, Ms. Banks.”
“But of course. If you look in her purse, you will find a recording…”
Tesa slammed her fist down on the table hard enough to shatter the thick hardwood, and screamed the word “Sha’Mir” so loud that the windows overhead shattered.
Dani leaped for her, but she was still in mid-air when the world around her erupted into flame and destruction. A huge bomb, more than two hundred pounds of C4, had been attached to the floor just beneath their dining room. The Arions had been known to blow up everything around them when their cover was about to be blown. They were invulnerable and could survive the blast, but no human witnesses would live to tell their tales.
A horrible pain lanced through Dani’s body as her world turned from white to black, a deathly silence filling her ears.
Tesa picked herself up a block away. She looked back toward the restaurant, only to see a crater now marked its former location, the adjacent buildings collapsed. Leaping over the debris, she began to search frantically for the Velorian. The x-ray burst device that had been attached to the bomb had been aimed at her body, and it should have multiplied the effects of the blast. Enough to keep the Velorian unconsciousness long enough to either get some gold around her, or to turn her over to the Destroyer.
She heard a man’s shout from the alley behind, and shouldered her way through the partially collapsed wall of the adjacent building, bringing half of it down on her. The bricks rained harmless on her head and shoulders as she emerged from the rubble to find the Destroyer standing over the Velorian’s body.
“What are you waiting for? Kill her.”
The giant smashed his fist into Dani’s face, the blow shattered the paving bricks behind her to half bury her head. He grabbed her hair and jerked her limp body upward to wrap his arms around her. His arms were massive, larger than most men’s legs, with every fiber of muscle Primal strong. Once a Velorian was in the grasp of one of these giants, they had very little chance of survival.
The Destroyer hugged her cruelly to his chest as he began the slow, python-like tensioning of his arms that would eventually collapse her chest against the steel of his own.
Dani woke up moments later to feel a horrible, constricting pain around her lower chest. She opened her mouth to lick her lips, and then forced one eye open. She wished she hadn’t. The horrible visage of a beastly Arion Prime loomed before her, the veins and tendons standing out on his neck and forehead as he gritted his teeth and crushed her in his arms.
Panicking, she hammered her fists against his shoulders, but his body was far harder than any steel. He grinned fiercely at her as she continued her struggle to break from his grasp, cruelly redoubling the strength of his lethal embrace until Dani cried out from the horrible pain.
A wave of helplessness washed over her as she heard a woman laugh behind her. Her ribs began to creak and then bend, a horrible, tearing pain stabbing into her sides. The Primal woman chortled her victory louder, knowing that Dani had only seconds to live.
Far from increasing her sense of helplessness, the woman’s arrogance sent a hot spear of anger through Dani’s body. She closed her eyes and summoned up all the pheromenic power she possessed, concentrating on releasing as much of the scent of arousal as she had in her. The giant was too engrossed in his mayhem to respond to her scents for fear or dominance, but Primal men were a quivering bucket of hormones, just waiting for the lighted match of a Velorian’s pheromones to ignite their violent passion.
She felt the brute’s chest swell as he inhaled the thick, cloying cloud of honey and wildflower that exuded from her scalp. She tightened every muscle in her upper body to fight back against his horrible embrace, trying to buy time for the pheromones to work. She wrapped her arms around the Prime’s neck and nearly gagged as she kissed his fat, foam-speckled lips. His hot tongue stabbed into her mouth as he struggled to find yet another way to assault her body.
Throwing every ounce of strength she had into her struggles, she wrapped her long legs around the trunk-like towers of his and tried to trip him. Twisting her body lithely, she used her flexibility and what flying power she could muster from her spasming volatai to unbalance him. He fell backward like a redwood tree, crashing onto the debris that covered the alleyway.
Dani sensed the change in his body as he tried to roll her over on her back, his blood rushing lower, weakening his arms as his body went from combat mode to arousal mode in two seconds flat. An incredible surge of heat exploded through his body to expand into an erection that stabbed at her like a giant’s spear.
“No, god-damn it no!” Tesa screamed as she realized what was happening. She threw herself at Dani. Grabbing her hair, she tried to twist her head to the side, hoping to break Dani’s neck.
Dani fought back by slamming her head back into Tesa’s face, the blow so powerful that the Prime went flying. She then let the Destroyer have his way and roll her on her back, his huge body now protecting her from the female Primes. The brute was oblivious to all thoughts except one now, and Dani opened her legs wide to encourage him to continue to think exactly that way.
The paving bricks shattered against her back as he pounded himself into her, her shoulders digging a deeper trough in the bricks with every one of his thrusts. Her own hormones had risen defensively just in time to let her handle him. She clenched her teeth and held back a scream as the fury of the Prime’s violent rape exceeded her wildest fears. He slammed himself into her, seemingly intent on gutting her belly open like a freshly caught trout. Or blowing the top of her head off.
It took her long seconds to control her emotions, to push away the fear, to find the opening to that sea of desire whose shore she spent so much time walking along. Pain gradually became sublime pleasure and then passion as she moved from resistance to willing enthusiasm. She dug her heels into his ass to trap him, her powerful hamstring muscles and inner strength ensuring that he wasn’t going to withdraw. He was huge, bigger than she was inside, her body stretching painfully as a wild, surging ripple of sensual strength began to travel up and down her vagina, the age-old rhythm of Supremis sex ensuring that he would now be bound to her passion for as long as he lived. Pain became pleasure as she gave herself up to the primitive rut that the Galen had so long ago programmed into every Velorian.
She was barely aware of Tesa and the other female Prime returning, pounding ineffectually on the Destroyer’s back, trying to pull her legs apart and him off of her. But he was hers now, and she was not about to let him go. All she had to do was to make him expend himself inside her enough times to drain him. To take his power to herself. Then to turn it back and end this threat forever.
Neil got up at first light, his rumbling stomach drawing him toward the kitchen. He was halfway there when he smelled cigarette smoke in the air. Nobody smoked in the Banks household.
He followed the smoke, and found Dani standing against the slate wall of the Great Room, puffing away. She looked different than she had yesterday. Her face looked a bit puffy, and her figure was fuller. She’d obviously absorbed a lot of energy and it made her look older.
“So, Neil, have you decided whether you still want to be my Gentler?”
“What happened to you last night, Dani? Your mom said you were on a mission on the east coast, and I saw the blurb on CNN about an explosion in Washington. A hundred people were killed, including a Congressman.”
“Those bastards from Aria. One of their cover ops. But they really screwed up this time.”
“What do you mean?”
“They were ready for my mom. They got me instead.”
“And that was a problem how?”
“You so don’t want to know.”
Neil sagged into the leather couch, his empty stomach momentarily forgotten. “Actually, I do. Your mom and I talked. I think I understand things a bit better now.”
“Good. But I was going to tell you that I’m not going to see Zalen this weekend.”
“That’s great. To what do I owe this honor?”
“You want the truth, or this really cool story I made up?”
Neil laughed. “You know the answer to that. Best friends, right? No secrets.”
“Let’s just that I’ve outgrown him.”
“That’s good news, right?” Neil asked, a funny feeling growing in the pit of his stomach.
She took a long drag on her cigarette. “I finally understand why my mom likes her job so much. It’s satisfying to be able to do the bad guys in.”
“What kind of bad guys?”
“A Destroyer and two Prime femmes.”
“You are shitting me,” Neil exclaimed. “I didn’t even know there were any Destroyers on Earth now.”
“There aren’t. Not as we speak. But there definitely was one last night. And I’ve got the bruises to prove it.”
His stomach clenched into a knot as he remembered what her mom had said about fighting Destroyers. “And that’s why you don’t want to see Zalen?”
Dani nodded as she took another draw to finish the cigarette. “Don’t need to is a better way to put it. I’ve had my workout for the week.”
Neil said nothing for a long moment. Then, “Your mother told me how you guys take down Destroyers.”
Dani looked sharply up at him. “Is that the kind of stuff you guys talk about when I’m gone? Jesus.”
“We talked about extremes. About Gentlers. About the beautiful women of the golden planet who fight each day to keep humanity safe.”
“And in the middle of all that, she told you exactly what about Destroyers?”
“Just the way that you can overcome their greater strength. I think that also explains the cigarette, and the way you look this morning.”
Dani laughed hollowly. “Shit. I’m still shaking inside, Neil. It was a very close thing. Now I’m all jazzed up, ready for a fight. But the fights gone.”
“I think this is where I come in.” He rose to walk over to her, opening his arms.
Dani slipped between them, wrapping her arms around him to hug him back. He was shocked to find that her body was hard, even her breasts unyielding, her skin stretched across her muscles like steel foil.
“Then you know what I had to do, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he murmured in her ear.
“And you aren’t intimidated any more?”
“I now understand that there are two halves to your sexuality. I also know that no man can satisfy both.” He paused, and leaned his head back to grin at her. “I’m just happy that I can enjoy the part that doesn’t end in lethal mayhem.”
She laughed, and he felt the first bit of tension leave her body. “Don’t be so sure of that this morning. I think you’ve got your work cut out for you this time, my friend.”
“Then first things first. We’ll start with a hot bath. Then I’ll wash your hair. Then a massage. That should keep us busy for a few hours.”
She turned her head and kissed his ear, whispering sexily. “It’s the getting busy part that I can’t wait for. That gentle loving that only you can bring me, my love.”
“In time, my dear. In time.”