The Quality of Mercy
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Jarod was sleeping soundly when the loud pounding on his door woke him. He glanced at the bedside clock and groaned. What the hell were the neighbors up to now?
"Dr. Jennings. This is the FBI. Open up."
Jarod sat bolt upright in his bed. Two simple phrases, ones he'd heard on TV enough times, but this time directed at him. Oh God, not now! He was so close.
His legs were shaking and his heart was pounding as he stumbled toward the front door, pulling on a pair of gym shorts at the same time. He unbolted the door, and two burly men in suits entered. The taller of the two flashed a badge.
"Are you Dr. Jarod Jennings?"
"What's this all about? It's 4:30am for Christ's sake." Despite his pounding heart, Jarod tried not to show any fear. Especially now, after the Homeland Security Act had been amended to focus on aliens. And not the Al Qaeda kind. He'd been working for the last year for a little research outfit in Santa Clara, and had only recently discovered that the outfit was just a front for Arion infiltrators. Abrahamson and his daughter, to be exact.
Jarod's specialty was the directed application of high current electrical sources, and seemingly the Arions were interested in the potential to create a weapon from his life's research.
"We need you at the lab. A briefing by some key executives."
The lab? The agents talked as if they worked there too. "You'll have to talk to my boss. Mr. Abrahamson," Jarod said with a shake of his head. "I don't have after hours clearance."
"There have been some changes in management. Abrahamson is no longer in charge. We've got some people flying in who need to see the capability of the StarLens."
Jarod swallowed hard. Nobody but he and Abrahamson had known the code name of his project. Now some FBI field grunt was spouting it off as if it was a household word. That alone gave the management change some credibility. After all, Abrahamson had been an Arion Prime.
"Can I get dressed first?"
"Two minutes," the agent grunted, clearly unhappy with even that delay.
Jarod's thoughts raced as he returned to the bedroom to throw on some jeans and a shirt. He debated slipping out a window and making a run for it, but figured the agents would anticipate that. Assuming they were agents of the US Government that is. He wasn't sure if it was good news or bad that they didn't look nearly fit enough to be Arions. Arions would protect him and his information, at least until the point when he no longer had any value to them. At that point he was fairly certain he'd been terminated. If he didn't get away first. He'd long ago decided that it was all a matter of timing.
On the other hand, falling into the clutches of the FBI wasn't a lot better. He'd likely be charged with treason. His only hope was that his efforts to secretly contact the FBI had born fruit. He didn't want to be a traitor. But Abrahamson's daughter had threatened his son.
Of course, if he'd known about the Arions when he hired on, he'd have run the other way as fast as he could. Not that he was an innocent. He'd known that his research could be used for weapons technology, but he figured that the company's funding must come from DOD. A year ago, few people would have suspected that some alien Empire that was trying to conquer Earth, and looking for aliens behind every funding source wasn't exactly the norm in Silicon Valley.
Still, he should have done his homework on the company. He knew that, but after he'd melted down that power plant generator in Florida, he wasn't going to get another job in the power industry. Beggers can't be choosey, or so he rationalized. And after he found out about the Arions, he consoled himself with trying to learn something about Arion technology that he could pass on to the the government. Unfortunately, the only technology he saw was Abrahamson's daughter, and of her technology was all in her DNA. Abrahamson talked about her as if she was some special kind of warrior.
This whole mess had had started with his desire to find an alternative to transmitting energy with power lines, something that was of great interest to Florida Power given the shortage of transmission lines. But Florida Power hadn't been prepared for that transmission to take the form of lightning bolts. Neither had he, to be honest.
When his experiment went wrong, Florida Power had fired him and his boss refused to give him a decent reference, effectively blacklisting him from the close-knit public utilities sector. Working on technologies that were lethal to humans an obvious no-no for a public utility. Nor was shorting out fifty millions dollars worth of generators.
He'd never intended for his power transmission project to turn into such a lethal weapon. Transmitting electricity without wires had always been a risk, and atmospheric transmission had seemed promising. He used a laser and fine metal particles to create a conduction path from source to target. Unfortunately, the unpredictable quantity of metallic dust particles in the atmosphere hadn't been part of his calculation.
Now he had this job working for Abrahamson in Santa Clara, and he had access to some extremely high energy power sources. He'd first assumed they were DOD, but the technology was hard to believe even for them. He just assumed that DOD had all the money in the world. He also had access to some micro-fine dust that was made from some kind of incredibly conductive metal. They wouldn't tell him where that metal had come from, and the SEM-EDX in the lab came up with a bizarre spectrum that made no sense. Whatever the powder was, it was just what he needed to to perfect the magnetic lens. He'd recently proven that he could deliver a million amps of high voltage to any place within a thousand yards. His invention involved focusing a weak laser on the target, and then allowing a skin of incredibly fine metal particles to travel down it. The coherent photons aligned the particles so that most of them stayed in the laser beam. The superconductive metal created a path that ensured the lightning bolt went that way. Well, most of the time.
"Should I bring anything else with me?" Jarod asked as he walked back out into the living room.
"Any notes you have, pictures, data... anything from work."
Jarod shook his head. "Nothing here. Security was too tight."
"Let's go then."
Two Chevy Suburbans waited downstairs. Just like in the movies. It was almost funny. First Schwarzenegger becomes governor, and now he was caught between some evil aliens with futuristic technology and the darker parts of the US government. A tingle of excitement laced with fear raced through his body. He'd never wanted an ordinary job, but this wasn't exactly the alternative he'd expected. On the other hand, his years of watching X-Files, Terminator movies, Roswell, Dark Angel, Smallville, you name it, had prepared him for this day. Although that stuff was supposed to be all fiction, he'd never thought of it that way. He believed that science fiction was the source of most of the ideas that became legitimate science, and that the Earth could not be alone in the universe. Recent events were proving him right.
He sat back in his seat as the Suburban raced through the darkened streets. So far he'd met only two of the aliens. Abrahamson first. He'd made it clear he wasn't your average corporate hack the day he'd opened that troublesome high security vault in the lab. The one which had a bad habit of losing its electronic combination. Instead of bringing in a safe expert to open it, Abrahamson cursed in some language Jarod had never heard of and tore the thing open with his bare hands. Mangled steel, much of it with the imprint of his boss's fingers in it, had littered the floor of the lab when he was done. Abrahamson strode off with the papers from the safe in his hand after making it clear to Jarod that he'd do even worse things to him if he said a word about what he'd just seen.
Jarod wasn't about to question that. He'd followed enough of the secret whisperings on the Net to know that Arions were a reality. He'd even had suspicions that Abrahamson was one of them. He was extremely tall and athletic and immensely attractive to women. Rumor had it that he'd been dating a number of movie stars. He'd personally seen Abrahamson walk into a bar and become surrounded by beautiful women who seemed intent on seducing him. He'd chalked it up to his boss' charisma until he read an article that speculated about alien pheromones. He decided that Abrahamson was probably some kind of superman in bed. A lot of women were looking for that kind of thing today.
All Jarod knew for sure was that he had to find a way out of this job and away from that asshole, but he had no idea how well entrenched the aliens were. That and the fact that Abrahamson's daughter had made it clear that she'd kill his son, Peter, if he didn't cooperate. Peter lived with his ex-wife. The daughter was a real piece of work. He'd only seen her once, but she'd had the same effect on the men in the office, himself included, that Abrahamson did in those clubs.
What Jarod found most fascinating was that people had been writing openly about Arions for years, yet the government had not officially admitted they existed. On the other hand, after reading most of the Supremis fiction on the Net, he decided he wouldn't have believed a word of it either if he hadn't seen what he'd seen with that safe. It was all so very clever. Fill the Internet search engines up with information that looked like outrageous fantasy, all to hide the fact that the people they were writing about were very real and living among us. Nobody was going to march into their local FBI field office and complain about seeing real-life Arions or Velorians, not unless they wanted to wind up in a padded room somewhere.
Still, he had to do something. He went to an Internet Cafe and sent two anonymous emails to the FBI. He described the firm, the unique nature of his boss, and the fact that Abrahamson was an Arion. Two weeks passed and no response. He figured somebody at the FBI had tossed his emails in the Crank folder. He kept going to work, although he tried to slow his work, avoiding giving Abrahamson what he wanted. He explained that he'd run into unexpected problems. His days now began with threats from Abrahamson. Threats to finish the project or else.
Seemingly 'or else' was now happening. These agents were taking him back to the lab. To confront Abrahamson? Maybe he'd be asked to testify that Abrahamson was an alien. He hoped the hell not. If that guy could tear steel apart with his bare hands, he probably wasn't going to be stopped by some bullets. He thought of a bloody scene from the Kill Bill movies and imagined that it was his body parts all over the wall. Maybe the FBI had been infiltrated and they now worked for the Arions. They'd reported his emails to his boss. If that was the case, he was also a dead man.
The other option was that the FBI was going to charge him with treason. He had only those two anonymous emails to use as his defense.
He struggled to come up with a positive outcome. That's when he remembered the Velorians, and his heart leaped. If they were real, then maybe they'd busted the place and he was going to meet one of them. They probably worked with the government anyway. Meeting one of them would be seriously cool. They were not only cute as hell, but friendly too. They were the protectors of humanity.
He was comforting himself with that thought when the Suburban reached the parking lot at work, and the two agents bracketed him as they marched him through the lobby and into the lab. The place was full of agents who were taking samples of this and that. So that put at least one theory to rest. The place had been busted.
The men marched him out to the old warehouse that was attached to the lab. The first thing he saw was a body laying under a white sheet. Only the head was visible: it was his boss. Former boss based on the bluish color of his skin. He swallowed hard and looked across the room, and saw one of the most beautiful women in the world standing there. He knew who it was instantly. Apparently his boss had dated his way up to the Hollywood A-list.
"What the hell is Mercy..." he started to say, only to have the agent beside him grip his shoulder hard enough to make him wince.
"We're still searching for bugs, Sir. Warehouse isn't secure yet."
He called him sir? Maybe he wasn't a suspect after all. The actress stared back at him as he returned the favor. She was wearing a tiny pair of black hot pants and a halter top, with a ton of gold chain draped around her neck. That and some kind of leather gloves on her hands. He noticed that her eyes were blue. That was weird. Mercy Beringer didn't have blue eyes.
"Are you Dr. Jarod Jennings?" she asked. He knew the voice. It really was her. Maybe she normally wore dark contacts or something. He swallowed hard as a very dark thought found him. She definitely wasn't a Velorian.
"You don't have to be afraid. Not everything you read on the Net is accurate."
"What do you know about what I..." he paused. Could she read minds?
"We've been watching your queries for some time. Clearly the Arions think you're a sympathizer. We can use that to figure out who this guy was working for."
"Then you're not an Arion?"
She laughed, short and sharp and without amusement. "Those lily-white Supremis would have terminated someone with my skin color at birth."
"And obviously you're not Velorian," Jarod blurted out.
She smiled. "I wore an blonde wig in a couple of movies. Does that count?"
The X-Men movies, Jarod remembered. She'd played Storm. He'd gotten the inspiration for his scientific work from watching the way she sent lightning bolts flashing around. His thoughts began to spin again. Was he losing his mind? Where the hell was the boundary between reality and fantasy anyway?
"A mutant? The Galen would hardly appreciate such a negative term. No, I was born on Kryp'Terra. I work with the Velorians sometimes."
Jarod glanced down at the body on the floor, noticing for the first time that the sheet lay strangely flat over his boss's chest. Like he'd been crushed. He quickly looked back up at her. "You didn't..."
"There aren't all that many ways to stop a Prime. Fortunately they have a weakness for beautiful women. And a libido that's as big as their ego."
No false modesty, Jarod noted. A flood of thoughts came back to him from the Net stories about the ways that a Protector might kill a Primal man. Energy depletion during some very athletic sexual intercourse that allowed one combatant to drain the other's energies. That was followed by the stronger and more energetic party taking advantage of the weakened physique of the other, generally by putting their strongest muscles to work. He blushed as he found himself staring at Mercy's legs. They were even more beautiful in the flesh than on the screen. He jerked his eyes back up to see that she was clearly empowered. He finally met her eyes again. "Am I next then?"
She laughed. A beautiful, cute laugh. "I think I'll leave you to Kirstin to deal with. Terrans are her thing. Besides, with all this gold on, I'm in the mood to be hunting Arions."
Jarod swallowed hard again. Was she talking about what he thought she was? "I thought gold made you weak?" Despite her beautiful smile and her cute laugh, there was a threat behind her words that terrified him.
"Krypts and Supremis have grown apart in many ways. Some things work the opposite way now. Your boss was a very powerful Prime. He might have killed Kirstin."
"And Kirstin is?"
"She's the one who's interested in your technology." Mercy motioned back toward the lab door. "She's been playing around with your device and she wants to talk to you about it."
Those words were barely out of her mouth when a blinding flash lit the doorway to the lab. It was instantly followed by a deafening blast of thunder so strong it nearly blew Jarod off his feat. Someone was firing his Starlens!
"A very noisy device," Mercy said as she shook her head, "but beyond making my ears hurt, I'm not sure what it's good for."
Jarod really felt like he was in a dream now as he turned to walk toward the doorway. He heard the Arion generator whining as it prepared for another discharge. Mercy appeared next to him, handing him a pair of hearing protectors and goggles. "Don't forget these, doctor."
Jarod put them on as he stepped through the doorway. Despite everything he'd just learned, he wasn't prepared to find a scantily clad blonde sitting on the grounding plate of the StarLens. She turned to look over her shoulder at him just as a second blinding discharge flashed from the emitter. The thick bolt of electricity struck her chest and then exploded into a thousand smaller bolts that splayed out behind her. The violent thunder of the bolt's passage through the air slammed him back against the wall.
Jarod was seeing spots and his ears were ringing despite the protective gear. His heart felt like it was missing beats. He felt weak and disoriented as the blonde stood up and walked toward him. He couldn't help but notice that the right side of her bikini top was glowing white hot. He tried not stare down at her and instead looked at the dials on the electronics cabinet behind her. He couldn't believe what he'd saw. Someone had turned the power up all the way!
"The StarLens has never been fired at more than half power."
"It's quite safe," the blonde said with a Californian's coolness. "Nice design, actually."
"Safe?" Jarod said as if in a daze. "It's the least safe thing..." he stopped talking as he stared into the clearest, bluest eyes he'd ever seen. Without a doubt, this was a fabled Velorian. Her eyes were level with his at 5'11", and the most delightful perfume seemed to surround her. Its pungency was like that of wildflowers after a rain, and sweetened with clover honey. Her eyes looked soft and warm, like she was turned on or something. Bedroom eyes. Despite his state of shock and racing emotions, a strange thought managed to bring a smile to his lips. By God, she even acted like the women in those stories.
He heard Mercy giggle beside him as she held his arm tighter. "Go easy on him with the pheromones, Kirstin. He's the one who blew the whistle here, as well as being the inventor of that thing. No need to embarrass him further."
Kirstin rotated weighlessly in mid-air to settle onto one of the lab benches. She stretched as agilely as a cat before resting on one elbow to comb her fingers through her hair. He stared as her right breast quickly faded from a blinding glow back to normal skin tone, growing visibly larger at the same time. Her biceps flexed large as she raised her hand to smooth her hair. She looked incredibly fit. She was the most stunningly physical woman he'd even seen.
"Except it's not a weapon at all," she shrugged.
"Sure looks like one to me," Mercy shrugged. "That bolt would definitely fry a Terran."
Kirstin looked to the side, and two blinding beams of light came from her eyes. A metal chair heated red hot and slumped to the floor, half molten. The blaze of heat hit him like a wall, causing him to stagger backward. She blinked and ooked back up at him. "There are already too many ways to kill your people. The Arions don't need more."
"O.K, so what is it then?" Mercy asked impatiently.
"Try it and you tell me."
"Ah... yeah, sure," Mercy said doubtfully. She walked over to stand on the metal plate. She looked nervous. "I don't like electricity."
"You will in a moment."
A technician Jarod had never seen before began to push the buttons on the console, and the sequencing software loaded. He watched him jealously as he keyed in commands and toggled switches. He was the only person who should know how to run his equipment. He'd never trained anyone else. "How did you learn..."
He was interrupted when a bolt as thick as his fist caught Mercy in the middle of her chest. Her eyes opened wide and then closed as she squeezed her hands into fists. Yet when the electricity ended, her eyes were soft and bright, her hand erotically massaging her glowing breast. She was walking funny, her inner thighs glowing like they were on fire.
"Wow," was all she said.
Jarod stared at both of them. He knew he shouldn't be believing any of this. That he had to be insane to just take it in stride like any other bit of science. But he was. He was in denial, he knew that much, and he realized he wasn't acting anything like the men in those Net stories did. Well, except for one way.
"So, all I get is a 'Wow'? I mean, hell, this is one of the most powerful energy weapons on Earth."
"Most powerful that you know about. Watch this," Kirstin said with a wink. She walked over to whisper something to the technician. He didn't seem to understand what she wanted until she touched her fingers to both breasts. Then he smiled and typed something on the control keyboard. Kirstin walked back to stand under the emitter.
Jarod stared dumfounded as the generator discharged again. This time the bolt forked into two paths to strike both breasts. It fired again and again, the bolts following the same paths each time, just as he'd designed it to do. Only a small flurry of secondaries traveled down her body. Jarod looked down, and his mouth fell open as he saw that the majority of the current was traveling inside her body, then arcing to the ground plate from between her legs!
"What the hell..." he gasped as Kirstin leaned back against the wall, seemingly overwhelmed. Her eyes closed and she smiled softly.
Mercy laughed at his astonished look. She leaned close to whisper in his ear. "You really don't know what this thing is, do you?"
"Of course I do," he sputtered between thunder bursts. "I invented it."
The generator stopped firing. Kirstin blinked her eyes opened and stood back up. Mercy winked at her. "Should I tell him or do you want to?"
Kirstin sighed. "That's my job." She straightened up to walk over and face Jarod, standing so close that her glowing chest felt very hot against his skin. "What you have created, my friend, is not a weapon. More likely it was intended to become a sex toy for Arions."
"A what?" Jarod fairly shouted at her.
Mercy giggled again. Kirstin turned to glare at her, then smiled back at Jarod, trying to look serious. "It seems your boss had a little business going on the side, Dr. Jennings. Making toys for the girls and boys back on their ships. Just a pleasant amusement." She turned to wave her hand toward the generator. "I suspect the idea was for the man to connect himself to the generator, and the woman to the ground plate. You can imagine where the lightning bolt would exit his body and enter hers."
Jarod's eyes were big as saucers as he tried to imagine it. Staring at Kirstin's strong back and all that blonde hair, not to mention what he'd just observed, he found he could suddenly imagine anything. Anything except the truth about what his weapon was. Or wasn't. He wasn't sure if he should feel relieved or angry.
Kirstin turned back to extend her hand to shake his. Her handshake was as strong as a man's. "Congratulations, Dr. Jennings. Since the laws on sexual toys are very liberal in California, you have committed no crime. You can go."
Jarod stared from one woman to the other. The most beautiful blue eyes in the world stared back into his. "That's it? I just walk away?"
"Unless you want to sell me the intellectual property rights," Kirstin deadpanned. "Your machine is very amusing."
It took Jarod a few seconds to realize she was joking. Or was she? "Only if I set it up. Your bedroom I presume?"
"And where is that?" He could play along with the joke too. A Velorian would hardly tell him where she lived.
"12573 Oceanside Drive. South of Santa Cruz. Can you deliver it tonight?" Kirstin didn't wait for a reply as she turned to walk toward the door. The glow between her thighs nearly gave Jarod a heart attack. He'd never seen an ass as perfect as hers. Nor legs that flexed as sensually.
"Wait for me," Mercy called. She ran lithely across the floor to take Kirstin's arm in hers. Two pairs of perfect behinds now. He blinked, and they were gone.
The technician looked up at him and grinning. "Impressive, aren't they? So sexy they make my teeth ache."
Jarod didn't get it about the teeth. That wasn't the part of him that was aching. He turned to look at the technician. "Who in the hell are you?" he demanded.
"FBI. TechOps. We've been watching over your shoulder for a bit, trying to figure out what Abrahamson was up to." He turned to look toward the warehouse door.
Jarod followed his gaze. Two men were struggling to carry a stretcher with Abrahamson's body on it.
"If you think this was exciting, you should have seen the fight. Mercy is awesome when she's aroused."
"Aroused? You mean she..."
The technician nodded. "Fucked him to death, more or less. The dude was hung like a horse too. I think she enjoyed putting on a show for us."
Jarod didn't need to hear that. He'd read all kinds of different accounts on the Net of Supremis combat, and the physical descriptions of Arion men were damned intimidating. But that said, he'd always thought the erotic combat thing was just a wild fantasy of a couple of writers. "That's really how they fight each other?" he asked incredulously.
"Yup. Energy depletion from repeated orgasm followed by some physical mayhem. They're indestructible otherwise." The technician powered the StarLens down and started to go. He was nearly to the door when he paused to turn around. "The Velorian was serious, you know. About installing it at her place. It's a cliffside home, about a dozen miles south of Santa Cruz. Very isolated."
"You've been there?"
"Installed a bunch of telecom there once. Wait till you meet her daughter."
"She's got a daughter?" She'd looked too young to have a daughter.
"Vels don't age very fast. Daughter's in her teens. Damned cute. If I was a few years younger..." He let that thought trail off as he walked out the door.
How could anybody be sexier and more beautiful than the two women he'd just met? All he knew was that if he wanted to see them again, he had a ticket to do so. Deliver the StarLens. He went down to the warehouse and got a hoist and dolly along with a few crates. What did he have to lose by delivering it? He was out of job but also out of jail. And alive. Two out of three wasn't bad. And having the home address of a Velorian was pretty cool.
He wandered around the building to get some help, but was surprised to find himself alone. Most of the file cabinets were gone, and both safes had been opened the hard way. He traced his fingers across the deep depressions in the twisted metal. Very slender fingers this time, yet impossibly strong. Kirstin or Mercy? He was startled by a very misplaced mental image of their long fingers wrapped around his manhood. He pushed that insane thought away as he looked at the mangled steel. Yeah, maybe if he was Superman. Unfortunately, he didn't wear tights under his jeans.
Which also meant he needed some help to load the gear. He called his ex-wife in San Jose, hoping that Peter, his son, would be home. He was in luck. Peter drove over and the two of them made quick work of the equipment. The Arion power source, wasn't as heavy as one would expect, barely a ton and a half.
Three hours later and they were driving down a narrow lane near the ocean. Jarod had just finished telling his son everything he knew about Velorians. Well, almost. He left out some of the kinkier sexual stuff.
He parked the truck in front of a modern home of glass and stone. It had to be worth millions. The two of them walked up to the door and rang the doorbell. A massive chime bonged inside. The latch promptly clicked and the door began to open. Jarod said a little prayer that it wasn't going to be some short, fat Mexican housekeeper. He wanted to see Kirstin again. When he opened his eyes, he found himself staring into the eyes of the most singularly beautiful young woman he'd ever seen.
"You must be Dr. Jennings. My mom said you might come by. And this is?"
"My son," Jarod said, trying not to stare. The girl looked in her mid-teens, very tall, and like her mother, she wasn't wearing much. Her body was very slender and incredibly lean. Flawless skin, perfect face. Hair that looked like spun gold. He briefly pondered if Velorians always wore next to nothing bikinis, and said a little prayer that it was so. They sure looked good in them. Yet just like back in the lab, he found that it was her hair and crystalline eyes that truly mesmerized him. He found himself staring.
His son saved the moment. He stuck out his hand. "Hi. I'm Peter Jennings."
The girl laughed. "Like the TV reporter? I'm Sara."
"No, like Peter from Santa Clara. My dad says you're a Velorian or something."
Nothing like being forward, Jarod decided. His son was only sixteen, but most of his friends were girls, many of them very attractive. Peter was still too young to understand how a truly beautiful woman could tongue-tie some men. Maybe he was one of the lucky ones who never became overly impressed with beauty.
Sara raised one eyebrow. "Guilty as charged. And what do you know about Vels?"
"Just what my dad told me. He said you're like Supergirl from the comic books. The old one, way back from the 70's or so."
"Doesn't get any simpler than that," she laughed. "And not too far from the truth. Come on in."
"Ah, we've got this thing to deliver for your mom."
"Cool. What is it?"
Jarod started to open his mouth to explain, but Peter beat him to it. "A lightning machine."
"Cooler yet. What's it used for?"
The two of them bounced down the sidewalk, jabbering like old friends. Jarod was amazed once again at how easy it was for Peter to make friends with girls. He was reminded of the song about how teenagers became friends first and lovers second. That made a lot more sense than the sexually charged atmosphere of the dating scene he'd struggled through when in his 30's and then 40's. He suddenly felt old.
Sara didn't help matters by bounding back up the sidewalk with the Arion generator over her head. Her body was flexing with some truly amazing muscles, especially considering how slender she was. Peter trailed behind, carrying just the thick power cord. "Hey, she's got the muscles, not me," he shrugged sheepishly to Jarod as he followed her into the house.
"Is your mother home?" Jarod called after her.
"Nope. She's out tracking down some new Arion group. Hope she kicks their butts this time."
He watched as Sara set the generator lightly on the polished marble floor.
"Where's it supposed to go?" she asked.
"Bedroom I think," Jarod replied.
"Oh, God, not another of those things."
"What kind of thing would that be?" Peter asked innocently.
"Toys," she shrugged girlishly. "My mom collects them. It's her substitute for a man, I guess."
"So only a superman will do, huh," Peter said.
"Your dad told you that too?"
"Well, I am strong." Sara made a fist and flexed her arm. An astoundingly large biceps rose from her slender arm.
"He said you guys were invulnerable as in inviolate," Peter continued. "Kind of dangerous to be a few thousand times stronger than someone else."
"That's why they invented gold," Sara tossed back over her shoulder as she grabbed the generator, effortlessly lifting it. "Follow me." She floated off the floor to soar up the center of a huge spiral staircase. Peter scampered up the steps, trying to keep up with her. Jarod followed further behind while trying not to stare. Sara's legs looked incredibly cute when she flew.
"You tighten your muscles to fly, don't you?" Peter asked as he caught up to her. "My dad said that generates energy or something?"
"Just a way of channeling it. The levitation comes from my volatai." Sara explained as she exited the stairway on the third level.
Jarod caught up to them inside the largest bedroom he'd ever seen. A bed that was easily three times that of a king size was the main feature, along with a Jacuzzi that was at boiling temperature. The bed was built on top of a huge foundation of native granite. A number of other gadgets decorated the far wall, all of which appeared to involve high-energy components. Sara floated down to set the StarLens among them. She and Peter were talking avidly about the mechanics of Velorian flight.
"The volatai are in my chest, one on each side just under the ribs. You can feel this kind of glow around them when I fly."
Peter said something Jarod couldn't hear, and she laughed. Then, before he knew what was happening, Sara was topless and bobbing around in mid-air. She circled Peter playfully before catching his hands in hers and guiding them to her small breasts. She wrapped her legs around his hips and lifted him off the floor to circle the room, laughing as she encouraged him to steer them with his hands. They bounced off the wall as he struggled to get control.
"Kind of like a video game, except neater controllers."
Jarod gaped at their youthful game, and then smiled as a strange thought came to him. It had taken him half the summer to get MaryJoe Thompson to take off her top when he was that age, yet it had taken Peter all of five minutes. Of course, MaryJoe hadn't been a Vel.
When his eyes blinked back into focus, he found Sara looking over his son's shoulder and directly into his eyes. Peter seemed intent on things other than merely flying. Jarod got the message and turned to head back toward the stairway. His body was tingling wildly. She was young, but damn it but she was beautiful.
He was walking wearily by the time he reached the ground floor. Last night's interrupted sleep was starting to catch up with him. He was nearly to the front door when it opened. He looked up to find himself staring into the eyes of the woman he most feared.
She put one fingers to her lips to tell him to be quiet. Moving as lithely and silently as a cat, she covered the distance to the spiral staircase in a second, then flitted up the steps so fast and silently that she seemed like a ghost.
Too stunned to react at first, Jarod barely had time to call out his son's name before a terrible ruckus began over his head. The house shook violently to the screams of two women fighting. His tiredness was forgotten as he flew back up the steps to burst back into the bedroom. The first thing he saw was his son, standing just inside the doorway, his clothing torn. He looked really shook up. The second thing was Sara lying face down, cracks in the marble floor radiating outward from where the Prime was pressing her face into it. Sara's arms and legs were trapped behind her back in a complex hold. A few fragments of torn scraps were all that was left of the Arion's clothing. Her back and arms were alive with ripples of hard-edged muscle.
"Concede, blondie, or should I bury your face deeper?"
"Never!" Sara grunted. She struggled like a trapped wildcat. The Arion twisted her powerful body to slam one booted foot down on the back of Sara's head. Bits and pieces of shattered marble flew everywhere as Sara's chin dug into it. The Arion twisted Sara's arms and legs into a position that should have popped them out of joint.
"I give, I give," Sara suddenly cried out, clearly in pain.
The Arion let go of her and stepped back, shaking her arms out. Sara stood up, the torn fabric of her bikini bottom falling away. He felt himself flush as he looked down at absolute perfection, unhidden and revealed as was a Velorian's nature. She looked so fresh, so untouched that she had to be a virgin. Was it his son's destiny to spoil that? It seemed dirty somehow. He caught himself in that thought. She was invulnerable. A Velorian. If anyone was in jeopardy, it was Peter. His eyes focused on her face as Sara laughed and embraced the older woman. A slender ripple of fantastic strength coursed through her body. Future perfection of humanity or twisted mutant, he suddenly wasn't sure.
"Kayla, my God its been months," Sara bubbled. "Where on Earth have you been?'
Kayla smiled. "Who said I was on Earth?" She turned back to face the gawking Jarod as if she'd never seen him before. "Are you going to introduce me?"
"This is Dr. Jarod Jennings and his son, Peter. Guys, this is Kayla." She glanced a the raven-haired woman. "I was showing Peter how to fly."
"Show off. Or do you just like having your tits held?"
"You two are friends?" Jarod asked in astonishment.
"She and my mom tried to kill each other once, but when that didn't work, they became... friends." She said friend as if it meant something very different. Sara laughed at the puzzled look on his face. "Actually, Kayla came over to our side. She's keeping us informed on what Near Earth Command is up to."
Jarod glanced at the bed again. The jewelry that was laying casually on the opposite night tables was made of very different styles. None of it was made of gold. He suddenly realized the dimensions of her mother's friendship. But how did that make sense? Kayla was also Abrahamson's daughter. She was also the woman whose death threat had kept Jarod working these last months.
Kayla winked meaningfully at Jarod as she hugged Sara even tighter. "Let's just say that I've grown attached to Earth."
"Typical non-committal Arion BS," Sara smirked at her.
"So, are your friends staying the night?" Kayla asked.
Sara shrugged. "Haven't a clue. But they did deliver mom's latest gadget. Or maybe this one's for you."
"And it is?" Kayla asked Jarod, feigning ignorance.
"A... it's a, ah, it's a focused lightning generator." It was all Jarod could do to talk. His thoughts were racing as he tried to adjust to yet another slice of reality. How could Sara be so trustful of her sworn enemy?
"Oh, you are so very wicked," Kayla chortled. "Your mom knows how much I like playing in storms. Very hard to manage to get hit by lightning though, so I bet its a surprise for me."
"So, what did you bring me?" Sara asked, suddenly sounding her age again.
"Groceries. In the car. You have to eat once in a while. For the taste if not for anything else."
"Kayla's a chef in a French restaurant in San Francisco," Sara explained. "At least she is when she's not cavorting around with the rest of the Arions. They think she's under deep cover."
Kayla laughed. "Depends on what kind of covers you're talking about."
"She's sleeping with the enemy," Sara whispered dramatically. She mouthed the words, "My mom."
"Better than sleeping with nobody, like you do."
Sara tossed her hair over shoulder. "I just haven't found the right guy. I'm too young anyway, at least according to mom."
Kayla winked at Peter this time. "By her age, Peter, most Velorians have undergone their Rites and have had a dozen lovers. Sara is saving herself for... something. Damned if I know what. You maybe?"
Peter looked shocked and off-balance for the first time since they'd arrived, his face reddening. The casual nudity, the alien women's perfection, Sara's teasing and now the suggestion of sleeping with her, it finally caught up to him, blowing through his teenage coolness. "We... ah, we just met."
"So? Your father and I just met and he's going to sleep with me tonight. What's wrong with you two?"
Jarod lost his balance and nearly fell over his own feet. Sleeping with Kayla? As she slept with Kirstin? An undidden image of the ultimate threesome made his legs weak. He was simultaneously excited, wildly turned on and scared to death. The way Arions and Vels talked about sex was unnerving for a man his age. It had been a long time since he'd been with a woman.
"That's not how its done on Earth," Sara said disapprovingly. "You have to ask first, not just tell men to sleep with you. Better yet, get him to ask."
"Damn. I keep forgetting that part," Kayla teased. "But nobody's complained yet."
"Be nice," Sara said, sounding very grown up all of a sudden. "You can show me how to cook."
"My second favorite thing," Kayla admitted. "You go on ahead. "I want to talk to Jarod here for a moment."
Kayla sat against the stone wall as Sara led Peter down the hallway. She watched them until they were too far away to hear her. "He's going to be a fine man, Jarod, at least as far as Frails go. It would be a shame if I had to kill him now."
Jarod just stared at her, his eyes narrowing.
"Thank you for not saying anything back there. I can't believe these idiots think I'd turn my back on my own people."
"About Peter, what are you going..."
"They are weak," Kayla continued. "Always believing in the inherent goodness of man. In mercy. It's why we're going to destroy them eventually. But we need you Frails. Some of you anyway."
"You leave my son the fuck alone," Jarod snarled as it all became deadly clear.
"Fucking him? That might be fun. But I think Sara has that one covered."
Kayla rose to walk over and rest her arms on Jarod's shoulders, her piercing blue eyes looking levelly into his. His heart was pounding as he looked at the perfection of her skin. Up close, there was no mistaking her for human. Where humans had visible pores and tiny hairs on their skin, a Supremis did not. She might be an invulnerable woman, yet she had the softest skin he'd ever felt.
"How much do you know about me, Jarod?"
"Just what your father told me. And obviously the way you're coercing me into working for you."
"Coercing? I think you came to my father willingly. You sold out your own people. You have only us now."
"I didn't know..." Jarod started to say, and then thought better of it. Better to let her think she was right.
"You Terrans try to make everything so simple. Black and white. Dwelling on hair color and cultural differences just like our elders did. But the universe isn't so simple anymore." Her arms suddenly pressed down so hard on his shoulders that his knees buckled. He found himself staring at her navel. She rose on her toes as she pushed his head lower. The exciting fragrance of her sex filled his senses. "Pleasure me."
Jarod struggled to pull his head back but she held his lips against her tight skin. He felt her getting wet just from the anticipation, her scent growing stronger. "You slut," he wanted to say. "I don't understand?" he did say as he tried to resist her. But she was horribly strong. "How could you be here, living with a Protector of all things."
"Ask yourself that, Jarod. You're good at working both sides, but mostly you're good at saving your son's skin." She lifted herself on tip toes, pressing her wetness against his lips as she held his head in place. "Well, I'll make it easy. I'll tell you. I'm going to kill Sara."
"But why... why tell me?" Jarod was terrified as her fragrance began to overwhelm him. Only his fear kept him sane. He knew how easy it would be for her to crush him against her unyielding body if he did manage to excite her.
"Because you are going to help me do it, Jarod. Just like you helped my father until that Krp'Terran bitch screwed everything up. If you do exactly as I say, then your son will live. Otherwise, he'll die the most horrible death imaginable. Imagine me slowly tearing his arms and legs from their sockets, gristle twisting inside each joint as I rip him apart. I'll keep him conscious with my pheromones, extending his agony."
Jarod felt like throwing up from the horrific image that came to mind. He knew full well that this was something Kayla was was capable of. She'd likely do it in front of him to complete the torture. "But, but why do you need me? Why don't you and the Velorian just fight it out?"
"That's no fun," she laughed. "I want Kirsten to know that I made her fall in love with me, and that I used her trust to kill her daughter."
"Do you Arions hate Velorians that much?"
"Do the Al Queda hate the Jews? Of course. Besides, even if I can't kill Kirstin, I can destroy her will to live. I'll render her ineffective at opposing our cause." She shrugged. "Besides, she's really good in bed, a Velorian gift. Someday she'll find out just how much I've been fucking her."
Jarod was stunned, and not just at the duplicity or the cruelty. Kayla really thought he was on her side. She was so totally confident that he'd do anything to protect his son that she could tell him her darkest secrets. It was something no human would do, trusting someone with detailed knowledge of her plans.
His body soared as her pheromones reached the center of his being, inflaming his libido, making him little more than her slave. He focused his skills and strength on pleasing her as all other thoughts flew from his mind.
A warm, birth light seemed to fill his thoughts, chasing away the last of his dark thoughts. Thoughts of finding a way to use her overconfidence to bring Kayla down. Of keeping Peter safe.
Then even those thoughts faded to unimportance as her body compelled his. He kissed her deeply, all his thoughts and strength turning to the simple mandate of pleasing her.
--- more to come ---