Revision: March 31, 2006
(Resuming where I left this story almost exactly a year ago... here's a quick synopsis of what came before:
Rob is a Sergeant in the Army approaching retirement who is asked to keep an eye on a wayward teenage girl. She turns the tables by saving his life in the most amazing of ways. In so doing, he learns a secret that is known to only a handful of ordinary humans: that the ancient Nordic myth about Valkyries is in fact a reality that continues in the year 2013. When Hana's dad, Bjork, is captured by the Iranians after the troubles in Iraq bubble over in a larger war, she enlists Rob to take her into the combat theater so she can rescue her father - a role a Valkyrie should be uniquely capable of fulfilling. The only problem with that is that Hana isn't really a Valkyrie yet.
Still, she manages to free her father, only to wind up being captured herself by the Iranians and turned over to a diabolical German who is really a member of the ancient Diaboli. Her father and some fellow soldiers attempt to go back in an rescue her, only to be captured a second time as they underestimate the Iranian military capability. Rob finds that he is the only person who understands the whole story.
When I left off the story, Hana was in the hands of the Diaboli, who are controlling her thoughts and perceptions, and her father Bjork and his fellow soldiers are in an Iranian prison. Out of desperation, Rob enlists Hana's mother, the icy cold and beautiful Bryn, a Valkyrie over two thousand years old, to bring her estranged husband and daughter back to safety. In so doing, Rob found himself suddenly immersed in the mysterious and hidden world of Valkyries and the Diaboli, discovering that these two races of superhumans have been fighting their own war since before the time of Christ. As the previous two parts ended, Hana has just undergone a explosive shock on the Diaboli test range, and the blow has washed away her conditioning, allowing her to remember who she is, and Rob has been introduced to some of Bryn's associates who have a permanent residence in the most exclusive hotel in Dubai.
Note: If you want to come back up to speed, you'll need to reread both parts 2 and 3 to find all the plot precursors to part 4.)
December 1, 2013: Western Iraq, near Hamadan
Despite his initial misgivings after his first encounter with the creepy Alex Coughlin and his voyeuristic Odinvision, Rob returned to the Valkyrie command center, only to have his worst fears confirmed when he saw a screen displaying an intimate view of a girl who was distinctly under age. He swallowed his disgust and asked Alex to search the largest military complex in Hamadan, Iran.
Unfortunately, the system had a very narrow focus and was ill-suited to searching such a large complex, looking for a single missing girl. What he discovered instead was a heavy stream of audio traffic coming out of Hamadan, all of it in Farsi. Alex’s fingers danced on the keyboard, and the Farsi magically became a stream of synthesized English, spoken in a woman’s voice. The first report they listened to detailed how an Iranian F-14 had just shot down two helicopters that had crossed the Iraqi/Iranian border: one troop carrier, one Apache. Two American officers were reported captured, one male, one female, along with some enlisted men.
“That’s gotta be Captain Nielsen’s team!” Rob said excitedly.
Alex nodded as his fingers flew across the keyboard again. "Looks like a Captain Sarah Brightwell has been reported as missing from her unit back in Baghdad. Along with her freakin' Apache helicopter." More information scrolled across his screen, images and text, some of which Rob recognized as highly classified US Army Intel reports. Apparently Alex's system was capable of tapping into every database in the region, restricted or not.
“Wow, things are hoppin’ up in old Baghdad," Alex said as he leaned closer to his screen. "The brass is up in arms about an unauthorized mission into Iran.”
“Shit!” Rob cursed. "So much for Bjork staying undercover."
“But nobody’s talkin’ about your girl," Alex shrugged. "Not us, and not the ragheads. You sure she didn't just go back to school or something?”
Rob ignored Alex's question as he paced back and forth. Hana was still here; he could feel it. Just as clearly, the Iranian and American reports weren't telling the story. So if the Iranian military didn't have her, who did? Who'd loaded her onto that truck after she'd been knocked unconscious? Some militia troops? Surely they'd report in to the regular military. Or maybe it had been some Jihadist radicals who were holding her for ransom? But if so, they hadn't asked for anything yet, which wasn't their style.
He smashed his fist into his palm in frustration. The only thing he knew for sure was that the truck had crossed the border into Iran and disappeared in the direction of Hamadan. “Damn it… so what do we do now? Stay here and wait for her to show, or you to find her, or go in after our troops?”
Alex swiveled around in his chair. “That's a no brainer, Sarge. Given the way the ragheads treat prisoners, if you think there's even a small chance they got her, then we gotta go get her. If not her, then Brightwell and Hana's dad."
"That's what I figured."
"On the other hand," Alex shrugged again, "Valkyries can take care of themselves like you would not fuckin’ believe. Can't believe anyone could hurt Hana.”
“She’s not a Valkyrie. Not yet anyway. And she was approaching her weaker time of month.”
Alex laughed. “Period or not, don’t go countin’ her out. She might look like an ordinary girl, but she's got all her mother’s instincts, and she's as strong as one of those four-color caped characters in the comic books.”
Rob didn't think Hana looked like an ordinary girl at all. And he'd already how Hana reacted when he compared her to Supergirl. “Yeah, I know, which is why I'm alive, Alex. But she doesn’t have her armor yet. And she hasn't been trained.”
“She’s still one tough little lady." Alex smiled broadly as he leaned back in his chair, a glow warming his cheeks. "I gotta tell you about the first time I met her. Back when she was a kid.”
Rob frowned, a sliver of misplaced jealously made him grit his teeth. He didn’t like the idea that Alex had even met Hana. That underage picture on the screen when he'd entered had told him all he needed to know about the slimy Alex Coughlin.
“She was eight years old, maybe nine, when I first met her," Alex continued. "I walked outside this compound we used to have near here, and this god-damn Mercedes S-Class flew over my head. I spun around and saw this little girl catch it like it was a beach ball. Turns out she and Kaahira were playing some Valkyrie game with three plus tons of German steel.”
“What the hell…?” Alex asked wonderingly, trying to envision that scene. "She and Kaahira are friends?"
“More of an aunt and niece thing. Hana and Kaahira have always been kind of wild together. Anyways, they was in the middle of their game, neither of them wearing a stitch of clothing, when this freakin’ Omani Sheik, Malwanana or some shit like that, comes out and just stares at ‘em. I thought he was just enjoying the view, but then his eyes grew as big as fucking fried eggs when he saw that little girl staggering around holding his S-class over her head, her little fingers crumpling the steel as she tried to keep her balance.”
Alex frowned as Alex started laughing, his eyes dancing.
“Oh, Sweet Jesus, let me tell you, that little four foot something girl was doing her best to impress Kaahira, who was about seven fucking feet tall and built like a brick shithouse. That's when Hana figures she’s gotta do something to throw Kaahira off, so she decides to throw the car so high over the Valkyrie’s head that she’d have to fly up to catch it. Guess Hana figures Kaahria was gonna drop it or something.
“Well, little Hana doesn’t know her own strength, and she launches that S-class so damn high that Kaahira misses it," Alex laughed. "Kaahira just turns back to shrug at Hana as the S-class starts falling a hundred yards behind her. Doesn't even try to catch it."
“That fucking raghead just stood there watching as his Merc did a couple of loops and then landed upside down, all the airbags firing off to blow the fucking windows out, right on top of some old mud-brick building.” He doubled over in laugher, unable to contain himself. "Flattened... flattened the whole god-damn place. Turns out his other car, a Hummer, was inside that building. Both his fucking cars, wiped out in one damn second, thanks to Hana.” Tears were streaming down his cheeks now. “Funniest goddamn expression I ever seen on one of those raghead’s faces. The bastard looked like he we was going to cry. He loved those stupid cars of his.”
Rob couldn’t help but smile as well as he tried to imagine the scene. The contrast of Kaahira in all her glory and Hana’s slender stature must have been startling, although Alex's comment about their state of undress bothered him. He also remembered Hana’s earlier comment about getting a lot stronger at puberty. That was saying something if she was tossing around cars at the age of eight.
He paused in that thought as he suddenly realized that was the point Alex was trying to make in his strange way: Hana didn’t need help from someone like him. She was more than strong enough to bust herself out of jail.
Except for she'd just entered her monthly period of weakness. He wondered how long that lasted. Same as a human?
"So maybe you don't think you need to go save her or anything after all," Alex finished. "Valkyries are supposed to save us."
Rob shook his head as he knew it wasn't really true. Hana had come to him for help. Strength of arm wasn’t everything. She had no experience at living. “Interesting,” he finally said with the forced casualness of a professional soldier. He wasn't going to let Alex know what he really thought of his story. ”So, can you download the rest of the Iranian data so I can review it? I'm going to go in and get the Captain and his friends out. Maybe by then you’ll actually find something interesting about Hana.”
“Bullshit. You think you can just fly in there?” Alex said with a shake of his head. “Guns blazing and that shit. You ever thought of asking Bryn first? She’s kind of used to running the show around here.”
“What is she? Some kind of commander?”
Alex shook his head. “Valkyries don’t have any chain of command, per se. They’re a damnably independent bunch. But Bryn is the one who helps keep everyone in line. Much as anyone can, anyways.”
“Well, Hana asked for my help,” Rob said. “One soldier to another. I'm not going to leave her behind."
"That's the kind of Army bullshit thinking that gets a lot of good men killed."
"Just generate the damn briefing,” Rob growled as he turned on his heel and headed out the door, frankly glad to be rid of Alex Coughlin’s arrogant sleaziness and his peeping Tom of a system. He worried about the less honorable uses that Alex put the system to when no one was around. Had he spied on Hana when she was back in Okinawa?
As usual once Rob had made a decision to act, he felt his confidence returning. So much so that he stopped in the Executive Lobby to brief Cassandra on what he wanted. He asked for the moon and the stars as well. Specifically, combat supplies for himself and Bryn and a fast jet to take them into Iran. One they could parachute from. She wrote it all down and started making phone calls without waiting for Bryn’s confirmation. He heard her talking to someone about ammo and assault rifles and even a supersonic jet.
Rob listened to her in amazement for a few moments, seeing how efficiently she worked, treating those requests like routine. He couldn't help but wonder what else he should have asked for... maybe a million dollars in expense money while he was at it?
He was still smiling at that thought when he returned to the shared suite and began to change into the combat fatigues he’d brought with him, enjoying the familiar feel of the crisply starched fabric against his skin. He’d had enough of the hotel’s silk pajamas and velvet-glove pampering. To his sensitivities, it came across as both intrusive and disquieting. He was used to a soldier’s life, and his his usual hotels didn’t have stars, let alone seven of them.
He began searching for his backpack, only to be surprised when he found Bryn sleeping in the bedroom he'd stored his gear in. The morning sun streaming in the windows to illuminate her like some kind of angel. She looked soft and feminine when she was asleep, definitely sexy, and not anything like a fearsome Valkyrie. He almost hated to wake her, enjoying this angelic look, but forced himself to gently shake her shoulder. Her brilliant eyes snapped open at the touch of his fingers and focused sharply on his. She seemed to be full awake in that instant.
“I’m setting up a mission," he said simply. "Looking for my pack."
"What are the parameters and target?" she said, sounding wide awake as well.
"To get your husband... we know where they've got him."
"Oh... that's all," she smirked. She slowly pulled her leg up, and began to stretch while still lying in the bed, the red lipstick from her earlier outing still looking fresh. "And what about Hana?"
"So sign of her," Rob said with a slow shake of his head. "Sorry."
"Alex will find her eventually. He always does." She looked up into Rob's reddened eyes. "Were you up all night, Sergeant?"
Rob nodded as he watched Bryn's stretch turn into some kind of exercise -- she used both of her arms to hug her leg to her body as she struggled to straighten it, tight muscles flexing astonishingly large. He tried to imagine the power that she must be expending, Tens of tons? Hundreds? Inhuman strength. Yet she'd looked so very human only seconds before.
"Pity you didn't come back. Kaahira could have used you a few hours ago -- Jorg is far too strong for her now. Or you could have kept me warm."
"More Valkyrie traditions? Sharing your bed with the soldiers you rescue?"
"There is no advantage in sleeping alone if you don't have to. Bodies are designed to fit together, in case you hadn't noticed." She floated upward to stand in front of him, her blue top covering one breast, leaving the other one bare, her smooth, slender look returning as her muscles relaxed. "And yes, sharing like that is an important part of our life. But only with those courageous enough to deserve it." She turned on her heel and walked out the door to awaken Kaahira and Jorg.
Rob heard the challenge in her last comment, and couldn't help but stare at the tantalizing image of her backside as she walked. Her calves flexed erotically into a diamond shape with every step, hard tendons moving under her tight skin like steel cables.
Sighing, he decided he would never get used to being around these Valkyries. He walked over to search through her closet, and found his pack, then piled it by the front door of the suite with the other equipment he'd grabbed.
When he turned around, the three immortals were standing behind him. Kaahira looked infinitely sexy now as she stood dressed in a frilly bit of negligee that was nearly falling off her smaller but still voluptuous body. Her hair was very blonde now and messed from her bedroom antics, her eyes pale blue and dreamy, giving that look of a woman in love. The transformation was so stunning that it was all Rob could do to take his eyes off her. Clearly her appearance changed to suit her mood.
In contrast, Bryn and Jorg were dressed in simple street clothes, jeans and t-shirts, yet they still cut dramatic figures, their eyes a steely blue, their bodies so tall and so strong. Seeing them standing there, it was easy for Rob to understand why the Norse had viewed them as gods. But of course they weren’t… just superhumans. They were the product of science, not theology.
Kaahira walked over to wrap her arms around Rob’s neck to give him an amazingly sexy kiss. Her lips were soft and moist, and her body was delicate and feminine now and an inch shorter than him. “Sorry I can’t go with you, but I wouldn’t be much use in a fight now. My weakness lasts for a few days.”
“So you’re… fully in it?” Rob asked awkwardly about her period.
Kaahira nodded. “Pretty much.” She lowered her voice as her lips brushed his ear. “About the only thing I’m good for right now is loving. Come back alive and celebrate with me.” His heart leaped as she brushed her lips against his again to further inflame his desires.
He was still so astounded that Kaahira could still be so passionate and seemingly needy despite Jorg’s attentions of the last hours. Maybe the more sex she had, the more she wanted, an exciting concept all on its own. Whatever it was, it took a real effort for him to slip from her willing arms and focus his thoughts on the upcoming fight. He couldn't afford to be thinking about anything but the operation now.
Kaahira seemed to understand and turned to walk back into the bedroom.
Bryn watched the way Rob stared longingly at Kaahira’s back, worrying that Kaahira's pheromones were overwhelming him, only to see him force his attentions away from her. His eyes quickly changed to the focused, determined look of a soldier. He started to gather up his gear. She approved of his show of discipline, and turned to lead the way up to the private exit and the Rolls limo.
Cassandra was sitting on the hood of the car as they came out, dressed also in simple jeans and a jacket, her 6'2" height towering over the car. Rob smiled at her, deciding he could really get used to working around these Valkyries and their staff.
Cassandra just gave him a funny look as he smiled at her. He figured she got a lot of stares, given her height and her looks, especially living here in a Arabic country. She wasn't exactly dressed per the local customs.
Once inside the Rolls, Jorg sat on one side of the facing seats, Rob and Bryn on the other, as Cassandra folded herself into the driver's seat and motored smoothly from the hotel and past the public entrance to the international airfield. They finally entered the airfield through a private gate that led to a decrepit-looking hangar situated in a remote, darkened corner of the field. The front doors started to open as they approached, and the Rolls purred into what was was in reality a thoroughly modern structure, despite the broken down exterior. Shining steel beams and an unblemished floor a hundred meters in length and width were enclosed by sparkling clean yellow painted walls. A row of brightly lit glassed in offices ringed the second floor level. A couple of women who looked exactly like Cassandra were working in the offices.
"Triplets," Bryn said before he asked.
Rob liked this place more and more.
He stepped out of the limo to examine a gleaming, black executive jet sitting in the exact middle of the huge floor. Cassandra was walking around the jet, inspecting it.
He recognized it in an instant as a Learjet S-2, the second generation of supersonic personal jets that Bombardier had designed. He'd read about them in Popular Mechanics. The S-2 used two high-bypass turbofans which were equipped with afterburners to push it through the sound barrier, after which it could stay in supercruise without the burners. Startlingly, the wings were swept sharply forward instead of backward as usual – a radical design the German’s had experimented with nearly a century before.
Rob gawked at the exotic three-hundred million dollar jet as he clambered aboard behind the Jorg, noting the auxiliary fuel tanks that were fitted against the fuselage under each wing. He suspected this plane was capable of cruising half the way around the world at Mach 2.2. A billionaire’s toy which could outmaneuver and outrun half of the front-line military jet fighters on the planet.
Cassandra clambered into the cockpit along with one of her identical sisters, and Jorg joined them. Cassandra's sister laughed at something he said, her bright eyes looking up at him with obvious interest. He was more or less a god after all, and he clearly had a dramatic effect on women. Cassandra ignored the two of them as she busied herself with spinning up the engines while still in the hangar, then doing her checks. Her sister turned away from Jorg and looked serious now, working with Cassandra to run down the long pre-takeoff checklist. Cassandra finally turned in her seat to give Bryn a thumbs up as her sister taxied the jet outdoors into the darkness of the unlit corner of the airfield. Moments later, they were airborne, having used an auxiliary runway that was reserved for light aircraft.
Rob was impressed that they hadn’t used the telltale afterburners on the takeoff run, yet the acceleration had been impressive. If anyone had noticed their lights or heard the sound of engines, they would assume it was an ordinary exec jet. There were dozens of them positioned on the ramps at Dubai at any given time. Sheiks and European millionaires.
Once out of the pattern and safely over the Gulf, Cassandra cut in the afterburners, and the acceleration slammed Rob back in his seat. The jet began to climb steeply. Jorg explained that they were hoping to intersect Iranian radar while at extreme altitude and trailing closely behind a scheduled commercial transport.
It took a little while to find their airliner - an Egypt Air 787 heading to Teheran at 42,000 feet, but Cassandra turned off their transponder and tucked the little jet in less than thirty meters below and behind the lumbering airliner. To Iranian radar, which like all commercial radars depended on transponder signals, their flight of two would appear as only a single blip.
Rob watched Bryn as she closed her eyes and slumped in her seat, seemingly relaxed despite the coming battle. Since meeting her, he’d seen her emotions tilt from vengeful warrior to worried mother, with her outward demeanor changing from cold steel to fiery anger. He wondered if that was due to her Valkyrie nature, or the fact that she’d experienced life for thousands of years. Whatever the answer, she didn't look anything like a warrior right now. Instead, she smiled softly behind closed eyes as she traced her fingers across her stomach,
"Are you OK?" he asked.
She opened her eyes to meet his. "I was remembering when Hana was inside me," she said wistfully. "I could at least keep her safe then." She reached out to hold his hand as she turned and gazed out the window at the bright stars. "We had such a wonderful relationship growing up. I was so thrilled that another Valkyrie had been born. That I was her mother." She paused. "Hana's childhood was so happy, but then, when she was fourteen, we… we seemed to lose each other."
“Not unusual for strong-willed mothers and daughters,” Rob shrugged. “But that strength often results in a unique kind of closeness later. From what I’ve seen of Hana, she’s going to grow up to be just like her mother.”
Bryn nodded. “I hope you’re right." She looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and sadness. "I swear you seem to know my daughter better than I do.”
“I know Hana’s heart is pure. I sense yours is as well.”
“Pure. A strange word. You have no idea of the things I’ve done.”
“All of which are for the good of humanity.”
Bryn shrugged. “Sometimes that gets confusing. What's good. Who's right, who's wrong.”
Rob wasn't ready of a discussion of philosophy. Not on his way to combat. "So, there aren't very many Valkyrie's being born, huh?"
Bryn shook her head. "Fertility has always been a problem for us. Its the one area where Freya had trouble merging her genetic legacy with that of humans. Hana was the first child born in a very long time, and all of us are always trying."
"Jorg's her father?"
Bryn laughed. "Good heavens no. He's as sterile as a bottle of bleach. Jorg is just for fun. No, a Valkyrie's father must always be human."
"So Bjork is Hana's natural father."
She nodded. "Which is why Valkyries have changed a bit over the years. Back when the fathers were Viking warriors, we were adding their fierceness to Freya's gift of strength and the resulting offspring were by far the finest warriors ever born. That's why we kept going into battle to save the strongest and bravest warriors. W needed those genes to keep strengthening our race."
"So these healed warriors, the fiercest of their race, were the fathers of all newborn Valkyrie?"
Bryn smiled. "We weren't just rewarding them for a life well lived and a battle well fought. We were on a mission; we needed their genes. But even then, a child was born only once every few centuries. Which is why, outside of our love for her, Hana's so valuable. She needs to take my place someday."
Rob was struggling for something to say to that when the small jet suddenly rolled over on its back and dove for the ground, G forces driving him down in his seat. The plane kept tilting steeper and steeper until the nose was pointed nearly straight down. He gripped Bryn's hand with all his strength as he stared white-faced out the window, hanging from his seatbelt. The only thing that kept him from screaming was the amused look on Bryn's face as the Lear dropped eight miles in only a minute, the Mach meter on the front bulkhead touching 1.7 before Cassandra pulled out with punishing G forces to skim just above the waves, outracing its own sound as the shockwaves sent a rooster tail of water rising behind the plane. She wasn't driving a Rolls now!
"You... you enjoyed that, didn't you?" Rob gasped.
Bryn smiled fiercely as the small jet bounced and shook as it raced toward the Iranian border, staying below the radar screen. She rose to float gracefully toward the back of the plane where she opened a large compartment and started to pull out enough combat gear to equip a Delta Force squad.
“Come back here and change,” she said over her shoulder as she worked. “We can’t waltz in looking like tourists.”
Rob glanced at the fatigues he wore - he didn't look like a tourist. He looked back over his shoulder just in time to see Bryn strip off her jeans, revealing those incredible muscles of hers again. She began pulling on a pair of Delta Force blacks, her brief nudity sending a thrill through his body. He had Kaahira waiting for him in Dubai, Cassandra and her twin in the cockpit, and now Bryn walking around the plane naked. This was way better than the US Army!
He waited politely until Bryn was dressed, his imagination racing as he stared at the front bulkhead, and then undid his belt and rose to stagger down the aisle. The plane was shaking so violently that he hit his head on the ceiling several times. Bryn kneeled in front of him to hold his legs steady as he changed into the blacks. He was embarrassed to find he had a huge erection as she pulled his pants off, dressed only in his military-issue skivvies now. She just smiled as she casually ran her fingers gently over the outline of his desire. "You lost your chance with Kaahira this morning. A warrior should always release such tension before going into combat."
Rob swallowed hard as she held him firmly for a brief moment, wondering if she was going to fix that oversight right here on the plane. Instead, she rose and walked back up the aisle, leaving him breathing hard. He struggled to pull the tight blacks on, and sat down with some discomfort to lace up his boots. He was still in the middle of doing that when he was thrown out of his seat as the turbulence suddenly became even more violent. He guessed they were over land now, and the rising thermals of the still warm desert sand were adding death-defying swoops and dives to the jet’s flight.
Bryn didn't seem to even notice the turbulence as she attached some webbing to military-grade strong points on the ceiling and along the left wall. Thankful for that, Rob used the webbing to secure himself as checked the contents of two packs he found fastened along the side wall. They contained desert camouflage outfits, along with enough ammunition and weapons to fight their way in and out of Iran. Everything looked new, unworn and unfired. He briefly wondered how many jobs Cassandra had?
Jorg stepped out of the cockpit a few minutes later, also dressed in blacks now. “We’re coming up on the drop point in ten minutes. Rob, you need to fasten into the hooks here by the door. It’s a Halo rig that we’ve modified for low level drops as well as high.”
Rob nodded, swallowing frequently as he tried to keep his bile down. He’d gone through airborne training early in his career, but he’d never done a jump at low level, nor at anything more than couple of hundred knots airspeed. He looked around for a parachute, only to see Bryn shaking her head.
“We don’t use anything that crude.”
Rob swallowed really hard as Jorg helped him strap on one of the backpacks. The bouncing grew even worse yet. “No chute. Did I hear that right?”
Jorg nodded and gave him the thumbs up. “Bryn has the Valkyrie gift of flight. I’m envious as hell.” He reached up and tied his blonde hair into a pony tail.
Bryn did the same with her longer hair, stuffing her pony tail under her blacks. “We’ll drop from a thousand feet. Just close your eyes and jump and don’t worry about anything. I’ll catch you.”
"Catch me?" Rob gasped. He didn't like the sound of that at all.
Before Bryn could answer, a yellow light started to flash over the door and the aircraft began to slow rapidly.
“Hang on, here we go!”
Rob was suddenly crushed to his knees as the jet surged upward, zooming from fifty feet altitude to a thousand, the roar of the air outside dropping to a whisper. “I have parachute training..." Rob tried to say, only to have his tongue stick to the roof of his dry mouth. “I know what to do.” In reality, jumping had always scared him silly, especially at night, and he didn’t even want to think about diving out the door without a parachute… that was distinctly outside Army regulations.
“Good,” Bryn nodded. "Then you won't be afraid."
Rob was scared shitless. “But never done low altitude. Obviously never jumped without a chute either.”
“It’s easy. The upper door will open from your knees upward. Just lean against the lower part and rotate into the slipstream as you try to dive straight for the ground. The rigging will hold you until you are in the exact position, and then it'll release you. We don't want you getting tangled up with the wing or engines.”
Rob definitely didn’t want that.
“I’ll be right behind you,” Jorg said reassuringly.
"But you can't fly either..."
Bryn interrupted him as she pushed down on the lever by the door, and the upper half of the door slid upward. A roaring hurricane of hot dessert air filled the plane. Rob glanced out the door to see that the sky was starting to lighten slightly along the eastern horizon. Still, the ground below was a well of inky blackness.
His heart raced and his stomach clenched at the mere thought of diving into that darkness. He wondered how long it would take him to hit the ground if Bryn couldn't find him in the dark. Maybe eight seconds. Ten if he was really unlucky. That unpleasant statistic was still crossing his mind when the red light over the door came on. Bryn instantly dove through the open door and disappeared. Rob closed his eyes, took a deep shuddering breath, thinking of the forward swept wing only a few feet behind them, and then closed off his worries the way he'd always done whenever he'd committed himself to an action. It was go or no go time. Commit or wimp out. Without another thought to his own safety, he put his trust in Bryn and dove out the open door.
The Halo outfit whipped him upside down and then launched him straight at the ground. The slipstream hit him like a wall of steel, spinning him around as his pack caught the air. He extended his arms and legs as he’d seen freefall jumpers do, but he still flipped upside down. He counted slowly to seven and was really starting to worry when he felt something crash against his chest. Strong fingers gripped the webbing of his pack, and he opened his eyes in the darkness to see Bryn’s blue eyes glowing only inches from his. She hugged him tightly, her ponytail painfully lashing his face. He sensed another body on the other side of her. Jorg.
He barely had time to absorb all those sensations when Bryn slowed rapidly, the roar of the wind dying away nearly instantly to be replaced by the absolute silence of the night desert. He still couldn’t see a thing when his feet brush the sand a half second later, the gentle impact feeling for all the world as if he'd just stepped off the bottom rung of a ladder.
Still, the rush of blood in his ears was so loud that he could barely hear Bryn ask: “You okay?”
He staggered and lost his balance, falling to one knee. “Having trouble… with up and down.” Rob couldn’t see his hand in front of his face it was so dark. “But hell, the guys back in Airborne are going to be really jealous when I tell them about this drop.”
“Which of course you won’t,” Jorg added from behind him.
“Best story in the damn Army, and I can’t tell it,” Rob quipped, feeling his heart gradually slowing. “My luck ever since I met Hana.”
“Keep your voice down,” Bryn whispered. “Sound carries a long ways in the desert at night. No wind. No insects.”
Rob adjusted his pack and uncovered the GPS on his wrist. It was the size of a large watch, but was fitted with a moving map display. It looked blindingly bright to his night adapted eyes. “We’re two kliks south of Hamadan,” he declared after a moment. “There’s a small creek about a hundred meters to our right.”
“I see it. Follow me,” Bryn replied.
Rob saw nothing, but he remembered Hana telling him that she could see better than a cat in the darkness. He grabbed blindly onto Jorg’s pack and followed behind, keeping his eyes closed. It was an old Delta Force trick; if you closed your eyes in total darkness, your other senses filled in the gaps.
He was suddenly very conscious of gravely dirt beneath his feet and the gentle slope of what he guessed was the dry stream bed. Jorg turned to the left and followed the gravel. The pounding of blood in Rob's ears gradually faded, allowing him to hear to soft crunch of his own feet and Jorg's in the gravel.
Bryn's feet didn't make a sound, her feet never touching the ground.
December 2, 2013: Hamadan
Rob was huddled behind a mud brick building twenty minutes later. For the first time since they'd landed, he could see Bryn and Jorg, the faint glow from Hamadan reflecting from their blonde hair, their bodies still invisible in the darkness. Using his GPS, he took the lead to guide them into the city, taking them down one long alley and into the next, working through the backstreets as they approached the military complex on the southeast side of the city.
The huge complex finally loomed before them, a mud-baked citadel of barbed wire and brilliant lights. Armored vehicles loaded with guards surrounded it.
“Shit,” Rob breathed as he saw guards everywhere. “We’ll never get in there undetected.”
"We go over the top."
"Won't work. Antipersonnel radar."
“It's designed to ignore birds. We just have to emulate their flight pattern sufficiently to fool the software.”
Rob looked at her, wondering what the hell a Valkyrie knew about radar and signal processing software. Before he could ask about that, Bryn wrapped her arms around him again, her firm breasts pressing against his chest, her body feeling angular and hard. Yet her voice was soft and feminine when she spoke. "I need you to work the periphery from ground level, Jorg. Create a distraction and clear us an exit path once we find the prisoners."
“Time to fly again? Already?” Rob swallowed hard as he felt Bryn's body grow even harder, and his feet suddenly lifted from the ground. They began to rise faster, slowly circling while climbing out of the narrow alley. Rob looked down, but didn’t see Jorg as they cleared the top of the four story building. Bryn kept circling upward like a hawk until the lighted complex began to shrink beneath them, the full breadth and width of Hamadan stretching out beneath them, illuminated by hundreds of street lamps. Rob guessed they were a half mile up.
"Flap your arms," Bryn said. "The signal processing algorithms are looking for that."
Rob felt ridiculous doing it, but he kept his arms moving as the complex rotated directly beneath his feet, and then they began to fall, only slightly faster than they’d risen, circling again with his arms flapping until they landed in a dark shadow inside the compound. Bryn’s blonde hair was again the only thing visible as she opened a doorway and led him down another dark stairwell.
"So the software distinguishes motion and flight pattern, not size?" he guessed. "How'd you guys...?"
"Alex is very useful."
"Your captive genius. Was he saved too? He's not exactly a..."
"Shhhh..." Bryn led the way into the darkened complex, leaving Rob feeling thoroughly lost. His GPS had stopped working inside due to signal loss, leaving them navigating through the many corridors by blind reckoning. Fortunately, no one was walking the halls just before dawn, and they'd penetrated a long ways into the lower levels of the building before they saw their first guard.
Rob started to slip his knife out of its scabbard, planning on taking the guard out, when he felt Bryn’s hand cover his to stop him. She silently pulled a pellet-sized steel ball out of her pocket, and crooked her finger behind it. Her finger snapped sharply, and the guard clenched his throat and fell silently forward. She quickly raced past the Iranian, her feet barely touching the ground.
Rob followed closely behind her, pausing to kneel beside the downed guard. The steel bearing had gone completely through his neck, severing his spinal cord, yet missing the major blood vessels. The man was paralyzed and unable to breath, his eyes wide open in horror. Rob watched as the man slowly died from asphyxiation right in front of him, the wound in his neck barely visible. Shuddering, he stood back up, realizing for the first time just how deadly this ancient Valkyrie really was.
He'd barely caught up to Bryn when she started descending a set of stone stairs that led to a sub-basement. He watched as she silently took out two more guards just as efficiently as the first. They finally came to the barred door to the jail complex.
“Going to get noisy for a moment,” she whispered. “Stay a ways behind me. I expect gunfire.”
Before he could answer, she reached out and grabbed the inch-thick bars in front of them, the tendons of her hands and wrists standing up like steel cables again as she pulled her hands powerfully outward. The bars gave off a shrieking groan as she easily bent them wide enough to slip her body through the opening. Rob had to take off his pack to squeeze through behind her.
She opened another inner door in the same way, leaving a trail of bent steel behind, and then disappeared around a corner. Rob struggled to slip through the second opening, and was running to catch up to her when a deafening rattle of automatic gunfire echoed just ahead of him. A man screamed a second later and the gunfire ceased.
Rob cautiously poked his head around the corner to see a man lying face down on the floor, a pool of blood spreading outward from his crushed head. He didn't want to even think how Bryn had done that. He dashed past the dead guard and through a door that opened into a stone hallway with steel doors set into the walls every few meters. Bryn ran the length of the cellblock, peaking through the tiny barred windows of each door before reaching the end. She turned to look back at him, the front of her blacks swiss-cheesed from the bullets, bare skin showing in the holes, her pony tail half undone. “She’s not here.”
“Damn it,” Rob cursed in frustration as he tried not to stare at the holes across her breasts. He turned and called out “HANA” as loudly as he could.
“Is that you, Sergeant York?” a distant voice came back a few seconds later. Rob instantly recognized Captain Bjork Nielson. Bryn’s husband. The voice was coming from behind a wooden door. He opened it and found a smaller cellblock. He raced down the hallway to see the Captain’s face pressing against the bars. Pausing, Rob grinned in relief. “Jesus, Captain. So nice to meet you again."
"Have you seen Hana?” Bjork asked urgently.
Rob shook his head. "You're the first prisoners we found."
“Damn it... we came looking for her but the ragheads were ready for us.”
Rob turned to see Bryn walking back down the hallway toward him, looking a bit unsettled now. "You got a visitor," Rob quipped.
Bryn seemed angry as she faced her husband. “So, you go to rescue our daughter and you get locked up yourself. That's not much help."
“Honey, it's really good to see you too," Bjork said sarcastically.
Bryn didn't reply, but instead jammed her fingertips into the frame around the door of his cell and ripped it open in a screech of tortured steel. Bjork and two soldiers stepped out, the men's eyes as big as saucers as they stared at the way Bryn was holding the mangled door in her hands. She set it down and spun around to stalk off, acting as if she was truly angry to find Bjork here.
Rob turned to see a woman’s face looking out from the barred window on the opposite side of the hallway, her eyes as wide in wonder as the soldiers. “Who is the hell is she?” the woman asked as Rob walked closer.
“And you are?”
“Captain Sarah Brightwell. Bjork and I were downed by an Iranian fighter as we came in looking for an American agent.”
“Hana?” Rob blurted out without thinking. “We’re looking for her too.”
“Is that her name? And who the hell was that... a GenEnhance?”
"It's goddess to you," Bryn replied haughtily from the entrance to the small cellblock.
The confused look on Captain Brightwell's face told Rob that she wasn’t in the loop on the Valkyrie thing.
“Sarah came in with me,” Bjork started to explain, turning to face his wife. "I needed someone quick on the trigger. She's a gunship pilot."
Bryn's expression softened slightly. She at least understood female warriors.
"Get her out of there, Bryn." Bjork gestured towards Sarah's cell. "God knows what the Iranians are planning to do with her."
Bryn turned and walked over to jam her fingers into the door frame of her high security cell, and wrenched the thick steel door off even more abruptly than the others. Her blacks tore open to fall off her right shoulder. She made no attempt to cover herself.
Rob smiled as he realized Bryn was showing off, and not only her muscles. The Valkyrie had a competitive side to her.
Sarah didn't help matters by running out to warmly embrace Bjork.
Bryn just looked at the two of them for a long moment before dropping the thousand pound door with a deafening clang to interrupt their tender moment.
“Sarah, this is Bryn, my wife," Bjork explained lamely, looking a bit embarrassed. "Bryn, Sarah Brightwell, Apache pilot.”
“She’s your wife?” Sarah gasped, staring at the way bullet holes decorated the lower half of Bryn's blacks, the right half of her top missing completely, baring one firm breast. “What the hell… who the hell is she? Superwoman?”
Bryn gave Sarah an arrogant glance over her shoulder as she stalked away.
“You ever heard of Valkyries?” Rob offered.
“Yeah. In the fucking comic books my kids…” Sarah started to say, only to pause in mid-sentence. Rob saw the light come on in her eyes as she connected the dots. She turned to stare into Bjork’s eyes. “Holy shit. The girl we’re trying to find, that agent, she’s her daughter?”
“Her name is Hana,” Bjork replied sheepishly. “And she's mine too."
"Shit..." Sarah gasped.
"Sorry for not leveling with you earlier, but she’s not exactly an agent. She skipped school to travel to Iraq to rescue me.”
Sarah looked up at him, and couldn’t help but laugh despite her shock. “Now that’s one I haven’t heard before.”
“It’s not funny. She got me out, but the Iranian’s somehow took her down. I’m pretty sure she’s alive… I saw some satellite recon that showed her being taken this way by truck.”
“Some family tree you have. You into bending steel with your bare hands too?”
Bjork shook his head. “I’m as mortal as you.”
"Like her mother."
"Wow. And we're trying to rescue her?"
“Look, Captains, sorry to break this up, but we gotta keep moving,” Rob interrupted his superiors. “Hana’s not on this level, but maybe there’s a more secure lower level.”
Bjork turned to his wife. “Bryn? What do you think?”
Bryn jammed her fingers into the steel door at the end of the hallway without answering him, her strong fingers once again creating handholds in the featureless steel as she folded it up, slowly ripping it off its hinges, portions of the torn hinges clattering metallically across the stone floor. She looked upset, although Rob wasn’t exactly sure why. Sarah's misplaced embrace maybe? Or just worried about Hana?
He ran after Bryn as she descended a steep staircase that was located fifty meters deeper into the complex. The others followed on his heels. They quickly discovered a pair of interrogation rooms, one of them containing two notebook computers and some medical equipment. A sheet and a saliva-soaked wood dowel lay on the floor next to an iron ring.
Bryn picked up the dowel and sniffed it, her eyes narrowing as she turned to look back at Bjork, a fierce look in her face. “Hana was here!”
“Maybe there’s something on these computers about where they took her,” Sarah said as she quickly sat down at the metal table. "I can't bend steel with these fingers, but I can type." She opened one of the notebooks, finding that it had only gone into Standby. It came up without asking for a password. She clicked on the menu bar to reactivate the last program it had been running. It appeared to be a video of a landscape that looked like the foothills of the European Alps.
“Grab those and let’s get out of here,” Bryn hissed as she brushed the hair from her ear and listened. “Soldiers coming.”
Rob didn’t hear anything, but he helped Sarah quickly stuff the computers into his pack. Bryn meanwhile leaped twenty feet up to grab the bars of a small window high overhead. She jerked the bars nosily out of the wall, showering them all with bits of broken stone and dust in the process, the bars falling clanging loudly to the floor. Rob heard boots running their way now.
Bryn dropped down to land lightly on the floor and jammed the steel door crudely back in place in the doorway. "It won't hold for long. Got to get out." She quickly grabbed Sarah and flew her up and stuffed her through the window opening. She then did the same with Rob and the two enlisted men and finally her husband.
Bjork had barely made it out the window, leaving Bryn inside, when the rattle of automatic rifle fire broke the early morning silence again, this time coming from inside the room they'd just left. Rob heard more than one weapon firing. Bryn burst through the hole a second later with dozens of new bullet holes stitched across her buttocks and legs, the fringe of each of hole smoking. A shimmer of chrome armor shone through the holes around her backside.
"Go, go!" she shouted.
They all started to run. Bryn circled behind to pull a nylon rope from Rob's pack as he ran and then tossed it to him. "Here. Tie yourselves together. We've gotta fly."
They quickly did that while still trying to run, tangling themselves up a scant second before Bryn grabbed the rope and hoisted them off the ground. She flew far faster than their feet could move, soaring vertically up and over the outer wall of the compound.
The air around them was suddenly stitched with the lightning-like tracers of heavy caliber anti-aircraft fire. Antipersonnel radar had them now and the weapons were slaved to it.
Bryn plummeted back to the ground to get under he radar beam and released the five of them, then leaped back up just in time to to block a stream of accurately aimed tracers that were heading their way. The heavy machine gun slugs slammed into her chest, tossing her backward ten feet, ripping what was left of her blacks off. She landed on her feet, her chest glowing white-hot. Rob didn’t have time to marvel at the fact that she was still alive as two armored vehicles roared around the corner of the complex, turrets swiveling toward them.
Bryn instantly flew toward the closest vehicle, deflecting a round from its 40mm gun with her shoulder before ducking low directly in front of the APC. The heavy vehicle seemed to explode from the ground to fly directly at Rob. He dove for the ground along with everyone else, and the APC passed a feet above them before crashing into the wall of the compound. It bounced back, armor crumpled, and landed upside down to burst into flames.
Rob looked up to see Bryn crouching under the burning vehicle’s center of gravity as she hoisted the thirty-ton monster back on her shoulders a second time. His jaw fell open as she tossed it directly into the path of the second APC. The throw would impressed an NFL quarterback... the two armored vehicles collided with a horrible din, the collision setting off a burst of sparks that ignited the spilling diesel from their tanks.
"Ammo going to cook off," Rob shouted as he got back to his feet, stunned at the realization that Bryn had many times her daughter’s strength.
She returned to grab the ropes to hoist them all onto her back and resumed her flight, this time flying just under the rooftops as they circled left to head back toward the dark side of the military complex.
Rob grimaced in pain as the ropes dug into his flesh. But pain was far better than being back in that compound. The hornets were mad now.
December 2, 2013: Outside Hamadan
The Iranian commander who’d earlier captured Hana, Colonel Mustafa, awakened as the intruder alarms went off. He raced outside just in time to see a blonde woman hoisting one of his APC’s on her back as she literally threw it against another APC, the two of them exploding.
He fell to his knees, gasping in horror as he realized that she was even stronger than the girl they'd captured. They had to be heathens, infidels, pagans… Mustafa had read something of Nordic history after Klaus claimed the Americans had more than one of the beings that he'd called a Valkyrie.
The Nordic history confirmed they were the worst kind of pagans!
In fact, they were listed among the infidels that Allah in his wisdom had supposedly wiped from the world. He was sure he'd read that in the Quran.
Shaking his head at the conflict between his faith and the evidence of his own eyes, he pushed those disquieting thoughts away, just like all soldiers do in battle. He'd lost sight of the blonde after she scooped up a group of soldiers, several of them dressed in fatigues, one in black, and flew off to disappear behind the closest buildings. The sky in that direction lit up a few seconds later as the AA batteries opened up.
Despite his lack of training in fighting such a foe, he was convinced that the pagan would not risk flying high enough to expose her passengers to the withering AA fire that would now be activated across the length and breadth of the country. She’d have to be on the ground or close to it, and that meant he could use his troops.
He grabbed the small radio in his pocket and began to shout into it. “<All points attack from west of Hamadan to coordinates 10 dot 17. American agents with flight assist packs. Bring them down, my brothers. Bring them down!>”
Flight assist packs were the only way Mustafa could explain what his men were about to see. He wasn’t going to tell them that they were fighting one of the ancient infidels; some kind of pagan goddess. He could not afford to have them lose faith or fear that they were facing an unconquerable foe. Instead, he kept that mortal fear inside himself as he leaped into a vehicle and raced after them. He'd fought against superior enemy forces many times before, and he'd always won.
The sky beyond the edge of Hamadan was filled with crisscrossing tracers, each of those visible paths denoting where a dozen more lethal but invisible rounds were boring through the sky. The AA was firing flat, the tracers traveling just above a platoon of armored vehicles, many of the tracers skipping off the flat desert beyond them like a rock skipping across a pond’s surface. He saw distant diesel smoke rising as his armor converged on the small flying target, coming from tens of miles in every direction, their main guns firing star shells to brilliantly punctuate the pre-dawn darkness. The sky gradually became a solid mesh of AA fire , with heavy machine guns firing wildly at each reported sighting of the infidel.
Bryn tried to swoop and jink just out of the reach of that massive firepower as she worked her way toward the south, trying to use some small hills and ravines for cover, but it was getting harder by the minute. The tracers probed at her from all directions.
Mustafa squinted into the glare with his binoculars and saw the infidel drop her passengers off in a ravine, and then emerge to fly directly toward the closest tank, the long storied golden hair of that ancient race of pagans reflecting the light from the star shells. Her body appeared to shimmer in the dim light, almost as if she was wearing silver armor.
She emerged from the ravine to try and draw the firepower away, dodging the shells and machine gun fire with amazing agility at first. But Mustafa's men were good. They concentrated their fire from all directions, each gunner trying to anticipate her movements, gradually boxing her in until one lucky gunner finally tagged with a heavy AA shell. Her body burst into a shower of sparks inside a black puff of smoke, obliterating her image. All the other gunners converged on the spot, and a hellish barrage zeroed in on her.
Mustafa put down his binoculars and threw his vehicle back into gear to race toward the location of the prisoners. He knew if he got them back, he'd draw the pagan back to him. He'd fight her on his own ground. e’d barely traveled two hundred meters when the T90 tank ahead of him miraculously sprouted wings, rising above the ground and began to spin around like a leaf caught in a tornado, and then race directly toward him. He dove for the floorboards of his truck as one tread of the flying tank tore off the windshield and roof of his command car. He slammed on the braces, skidding to the left just in time to look up and see the pagan holding the end of the tank’s long barrel as she started swinging the 60 ton tank as if it was a club.
He leaped from his truck as she swatted the five ton vehicle away as if it was but a dry leaf. She thenturned her to a seventy ton T98 tank, and used her sixty ton club to swat it on the side. The earthshaking blow ripped the turret halfway off the second tank and badly bent the barrel of the tank she was holding. Still, she kept swinging her gargantuan club, astoundingly using her levitation power to counterbalance its immense weight. She flattened several APC's the way a person might crush a Coke with a mallet, and then advanced on a second tank. She smote it in the side, knocking it clean off its treads.
Mustafa stared in horror as he saw his carefully trained mechanized armor reduced to the level of ancient clubs and stones. Why in Allah’s name hadn’t he destroyed these inhuman heathens a thousand years ago as Mohammed had promised?
He didn't have time to wonder as another tank exploded a mile behind the ones the pagan was destroying. He saw a distant APC spin wildly through the air to crash down in flames, and realized with even greater horror that this woman wasn’t alone. How many of these Valkyrie worked for the Americans? And why were they appearing now? In his jurisdiction? For the first time in more than a thousand years?
His distracted thoughts were jerked back to the fight when the Valkyrie delivered a third immense blow, killing yet another T98. She hit it so hard that the turret of the T90 she was using as a club ripped free and the tank body exploded into flames. Instead of wielding a 60 ton club, she swung the 10 ton turret as if it was weightless, swatting away a half dozen armored personnel vehicles that raced toward her. Some she knocked fifty yards backward, others she hammered from overhead with her turret, squashing like ants. She was moving so fast that her club kept shedding parts, the clanging blow of armor against armor sounding like a giant’s video arcade. She finished by throwing the mangled remains of the turret at the last T98, jamming it under that tank's barrel to bent it upward.
Mustafa slammed on the brakes as the pagan leaped from the ground and flew directly toward him, flashing just over his car to dive into the ravine where she'd hidden the soldiers. She emerged with the soldiers roped together. Mustafa frantically pulled his 9mm from its holster and fired at them as they flew nearly overhead. He fired and fired until his clip was empty, then sagged against the side of his truck. Looking around, all he saw was death. The pagans had taken out his finest armor with nothing more than their bare hands.
He dropped to his knees to thank Allah for his deliverance, only to find he could no longer pray. Allah had deserted him, sending instead these ancient pagans to haunt him. Rising as he felt a growing anger, he knew now that he had to get the young Valkyie back from Klaus. She alone could balance the equation with the Americans. If she could be conditioned to fight her own kind, she might tilt the battle to their side. Perhaps not here in the desert, but back on the heathen's own doorstep, back where they felt most secure. His brother’s had done it before during 9/11. If he had her under his control, he'd bring death the inner core of the American government.
He wouldn't topple a building this time... he'd topple a government by chopping off its head.
December 2, 2013: Hamadan area of Iran
Bryn had flown only a short distance through the hole in the encircling firepower that Jorg had helped create when she felt Rob go limp in her arms. She pulled her hand up from his waist and saw it was covered in blood.
“We’ve got a problem, Bjork,” she shouted over her own the slipstream. “Your sergeant’s been hit.”
“Me too,” Sarah gasped in the darkness. “Took a round through my thigh.”
"Same here," one of the enlisted men groaned. "Shoulder."
Bryn cursed that solitary Iranian officer with his handgun -- she should have taken him out before she retrieved the soldiers from the safety of their ravine, but she'd thought he was too confused to put up a fight. A critical mistake. Angry with herself, she dropped down into a dark, wooded area beside a small river. She was still too close to Hamadan for comfort, but it was clear that Rob had been hit badly and the others needed at least first aid. She hoped it was just first aid, otherwise healing the woman, Sarah, was going to be a problem. None of the thousands of warriors she'd saved since the time of Christ had been female. Odin had long ago forbidden using their healing powers to assist a woman.
She quickly searched Rob’s body, and found a hole in the small of his back. The exit wound was just beneath his diaphragm. She checked his pulse and found it fading. He was bleeding out fast, probably due to a punctured artery. “Not much time… he’s been hit hard.”
“Then heal him first. Sarah and the other sergeant can hang in for a bit.”
“Heal?” Sarah asked incredulously, her eyes wide again. “Don’t tell me… more magic?”
“Hardly,” Bryn said coldly. “Just science that you couldn’t possibly understand.”
“Hana healed him earlier,” Bjork added, trying to tone down his wife's arrogant outbursts. The two female warriors definitely weren't going to play nice, and he suspected he was the reason.
“That's a problem of its own," Bryn admitted. "Healing him twice in such a short time will cause visible side-effects.”
“You can’t let him die, Bryn. If not for his helping Hana find me, I’d be dead by now.”
“I know,” Bryn said sharply. “He's a good soldier. Why don’t you take care of your little friend while I work.”
"She's just a companion in arms."
"Whatever," Bryn said without looking at him. "Just get her out of here."
Bjork put his arm around Sarah’s waist and helped her hobble off a few meters in the darkness. She sat down wearily, and he tore her pant leg off and wrapped it around her thigh just above the wound and tightened it to stop the flow of blood.
Sarah gasped in pain, struggling to talk. “I’m... I'm really confused here, Bjork. Your wife, your daughter... both of them some kind of ancient warriors? Aliens or something. And now this... some kind of healing thing you talk about. What's all this about?"
“This isn’t the time,” Bjork replied tightly. “All I can say is that the healing is… unusual. Maybe a bit shocking.”
“I’ve had all the shock... can handle for one day.”
Bjork felt her fading in his arms. “Hang in there. If we can't wait to get you back to a hospital, then the strangest part of this mission is yet to come.”
"Bryn," he called out into the darkness. "I'm going to need you."
December 5, 2013: Lake Starnbeg, Bavaria, Germany
(Continued from Part 2...)
It took every ounce of Klaus’ Diaboli powers to submerge Hana beneath an illusion of overwhelming sleepiness after the explosion in the lab broke his mental control over her. He concentrated on keeping her asleep as Heinz drove them back from the test area to his house. Sophia, Haljik’s sister, was fortunately waiting for them, and her Diaboli powers were even greater than her brother’s. She took over as Klaus forced a huge dose of dopamine and memory suppression drugs into Hana’s system to block the connection between her short term and long term memories.
She was clearly growing resistant to both the drugs and his mental control, and Klaus already feared what would have happened if Sophia hadn’t been here at the house when they returned. He and Haljik were both mentally exhausted. Without Sophia, the girl's strong mind might have escaped him, and then they'd be helpless before her physical powers. She could have killed them all.
Instead, the Valkyrie girl woke up six hours later, once again convinced she was Sváva. Her memories had been truncated at the moment of the explosion back in the test lab, and everything after had been re-implanted.
Sophia and Haljik joined forces with Klaus to begin preparing her for a new mission. Haljik claimed he'd found a way to destabilize the western world with a single blow - he intended to take out the leadership of the European Union along with key members of the US government. Many of the European countries had formed thin alliances with the terrorists, hoping to avoid any further bloodshed on their soil. Al Qaeda had been wise enough to honor those agreements, and more countries had since signed non-aggression agreements with them, with Great Britain as the latest recruit to their unholy alliance. That left the US, Australia and Japan as the only uncompromising countries fighting terrorism, and the war was hardly popular there. The strident protests in the US were starting to turn violent.
Haljik wanted to shock everyone wide-awake, to widen the battle, to move Europe closer toward open warfare, to ultimately get them to join the American government. Once aroused, they would take on the Iranians, and that would most likely mean nuclear war. He needed the ashes of such a terrible war to build his new Order.
It all would start with his taking out the moderate leaders of the EU, but making everything think the Iranians had done it. Once the citizens of Europe and the US people realized their leaders had been killed by terrorists, the hastily elected replacements would be hawkish men. Men and women more than willing to support the Americans. The war between the West and the Middle East would flare quickly after that, especially given the way his people, including Klaus’ wife, had worked so hard to give the Iranians the bomb. Nuclear war was the only fire hot enough to burn away the old order, and the Diaboli had dug strongholds deep under the Alps so that the cleansing fire of Ragnarok would not harm them.
He was determined to use this young goddess named Sváva as the match to light the fuse.
December 7, 2013: Dubai
“No way. You look late twenties now.”
“Tell me about your leg?”
“Feels like I should be high-jumping again. I competed in track during college.”
“See. I'm sure the rest of you is better too.”
Sarah cupped herself. "Yeah. I've got a teenager's tits again."
Rob smiled but said nothing. He wasn't able to judge that -- Sarah hadn't had much of a figure in the first place.
Sarah was quiet for a long moment before asking: “Are they aliens? Like Kryptonians or something?”
“Aliens? Yeah, sort of. As I understand it, their progenitors were visitors to Earth who pretended to be the gods of several ancient religions, and they created some agents among the humans to help their cause. The Valkyries were one part of that.”
“So that thing about taking dying men from the battlefield to Valhalla isn’t a myth?”
“Except they didn’t die. They were healed like we were and became part of a colony of saved soldiers.” He wasn't going to tell her about the Faroe Islands or Iceland. Or the fact that the saved men's job was to give the Valkyries children.
“Fucking amazing. And they live in this seven star hotel?”
“Not really. This is just one of the places they go to ground.”
“You don’t look very happy about it all, Sergeant.”
“Hana’s still missing, and I was the one who brought her to Iraq.”
“And she can do what I saw her mother do?”
“She’s not quite that strong. Not yet anyway. But yeah, she took out a few tanks, although a bit less dramatically.”
“With her bare hands though?”
“Mother of Jesus,” Sarah breathed. "Fucking amazing."
"They lived right under our noses and we never knew they existed. I've known the Captain for a long time. Knew his wife was pretty hot looking, beautiful and strong. I figured she had great genetics, but I didn't dream of anything like this."
“So, I gather from Bryn’s reaction that my little embrace back in the prison didn’t go over well. Or my working with Bjork."
“They’ve been having their problems. Not your fault.”
"I was just so damn happy to get out of there.”
"Don't blame you, Captain."
“All I know now that if looks could kill, I’d be dead." She sighed. "So... what’s next?”
Rob shrugged. “Beats the hell outta me. Bryn’s downstairs with Alex, the guy with that surveillance system. So’s Bjork. So far they haven’t found Hana.”
“And we sit here until they do?”
“You got a better idea? Command has you and Bjork listed as missing in action, presumed dead. Not to mention up on charges for stealing aircraft and running an unauthorized mission assuming you do show up again. And I’m supposedly in the States on emergency leave. I gotta get back to Okinawa within the week.”
"Not sure Bjork and I can go back. Probably have to stay dead. Why don't you do the same?"
"If we find Hana, she has to go back and finish school. All part of the fiction that she's a normal kid."
"So until then, we get fat eating this hotel food and watching their damned fish eating each other. That's just grand.” She slumped in the chair next to him.
They were interrupted a few minutes later when the phone rang. It was Bjork. “We got a lead on that jet I saw. Bryn claims it belongs to one of the Valkyrie splinter groups, and it flew from Hamadan to Munich.”
"Some other Valkyries have Hana?"
"Doesn't make sense," Bryn said. "But somehow, the German clan is involved. They're a pretty radical bunch. Very hung up on some Aryan shit."
“So, we going in to get Hana?”
“Affirmative. Soon as Cassandra can have us airborne.”
December 8, 2013: Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Sophia and Klaus took Sváva to the Munich airport where they had a First Class ticket waiting for her on KLM going to Brussels. She’d responded to their combined mental conditioning and all the drugs by changing her form, assuming the tall, elegant figure of a famous model named Sylvia Norge. Haljik had used his connections and influence to get a copy of the scanner images from the famous fashion model, and they’d used a borrowed scanner to help Sváva imitate that woman down to the smallest detail. It had been 24 hours a day work for the last three days, but the pivotal meeting was coming up fast, and the real Sylvia Norge had been invited to attend the elite cocktail party that opened the EUC event.
Outside of a Haljik's inner circle, no one knew that the real Sylvia Norge was at the bottom of a Norwegian fjord, her head missing. Sváva would take her place.
Klaus snapped a black and white picture of Sváva, aka Sylvia, just before she went through Security, amused by her little joke of wearing a top with a comic book 'S' on her chest. It was an outfit that the real Sylvia Norge had been spotted wearing. He assumed Sylvia had intended the 'S' to mean Supermodel, although the name Supergirl applied far better to Sváva.
He caught a glimpse of her panties showing above the waistline of her low slung jeans, and felt himself quicken as he realized the destructive power that Haljik had hidden beneath them. Sváva looked so cute and sexy, slender and so very tall and desirable. Hers was a face that half the planet would recognize. Most importantly, she didn't look remotely like a deadly Arab sympathizing terrorist. Yet she was a walking bomb of a type the world had never seen.
Sváva graciously allowed a few fans to snap her picture as well before walking through Security to board her flight. As expected, the scanners failed to detect the special high explosives that Haljik had hidden on her person.
They two Diaboli were feeling very positive about the mission as they returned to their car, and were just leaving the airfield when an exotic executive jet with swept-forward wings swooped low over their car to land on a parallel runway. They both felt a strange chill, but had no idea why.
They drove back to Lake Starnberg where they joined a dozen other members of the Domina as they caravanned toward the closest of their safe houses. An old estate named Ragnok sat directly above an abandoned mine that slanted a mile under a granite mountain. The entrance to the tin mine had collapsed, but unknown to even the locals, a new shaft had been driven downward from the house to intersect the old one.
A swift elevator took them down to the original shaft, which was now brightly lit and clean, the rock walls clad in metal foil to keep any destructive electromagnetic pulses out. They rode golf carts a mile deeper into the mountain's heart, finally arriving at living quarters that were as elegant and modern as any five star hotel. A pair of fine restaurants were located in the center, with exercise, recreation and living quarters arrayed around the sandy shore of a large pond. Artificial light the color of sunlight lit the cavern as brightly as the outdoors. They had water, air purification systems and supplies sufficient to protect a community of a thousand souls for thirty years. If the world above them turned to war, the Diaboli were prepared to ride it out in comfort.
Then, when it was all over, radiation fading, their offspring would emerge to rule over the ashes of a world they had long considered their own.
December 9, 2013: Brussels, Belgium
“Stand as still as you can, ma’am,” Adam Anders said to the woman who stood on his BioLage scanner. “This will only take a moment.”
They were located on the 38th floor of the elegant Tour du Midi building, their room just down the hall from the exclusive Euro club, the finest place to dine and party the night away in all of Brussels. No amount of money could get you into this club, but political connections and stunning good looks could, and the most famous faces in Europe were regular visitors. Tonight, the club was reserved exclusively for a meeting of the Prime Ministers of each member country, along with a half dozen American Senators and senior government officials. Most of the diplomats and elected officials had brought their wives and guests.
Sylvia Norge was the most exotic and eagerly anticipated guest tonight. Yet even then, she wasn’t finding it any easier getting in than any other attendees had. The security for this event was the tightest possible.
A three-dimensional image of her body began to form on a life-sized screen as the scanner virtually peeled her clothing away, analyzing the materials as it pealed away her body, millimeter by millimeter. In her case, it confirmed that the fabric of her orange and gold colored dress was made of an exotic weave of materials trade-named Plasma. It was an outrageously expensive fabric that contained microscopic metal conductors that changed their color with temperature, making the dress a kaleidoscope that changed its appearance depending in mood and environment. Despite the cost, starting at a thousand dollars for even the tiniest dress, Sylvia Norge wasn’t the only woman at tonight’s party who wore a Plasma design. This was clearly a gathering of the elite.
The scanner continued its work, pealing away her skin and hair and finally penetrating muscles and ligaments, all the way down to the marrow of her bones. The operator found himself staring at a rotating three-dimensional image of startling perfection. The woman was completely natural, even her hair and breasts, and she’d never broken a bone or suffered any significant injuries. She was also profoundly fit. Most remarkably, she’d never seen the inside of a GenTecher’s office, which was almost unheard of for a pampered fashion model. She didn’t even have fillings in her teeth, which Adam Anders found suspicious. A quick reference to the master data base showed that was correct – she’d been vaccinated against tooth decay as part of a pilot program back in the late 20th century. Nothing but the best for Sylvia Norge.
He expanded the 3D image of her body until it showed a life-sized view of her without her clothing. Adam was even more impressed by the way her smooth, flawless skin was wrapped so tightly over toned muscles. Remarkably, her breasts were so firm that she didn’t need a bra, her dark nipples pointing slightly upward.
Despite his otherwise professional demeanor, he found his hand was trembling slightly as he swiped the woman’s ID through the reader. Another set of BioLage scans appeared on his screen, drawn from a secure data bank that contained verifiable images of hundreds of thousands of people. The second image rescaled itself to overlay the current scan, and the computer began making thousands of comparisons, mostly on her bones, judging the microscopic irregularities that made each person unique. In recent years, photographs, fingerprints, dental records, voiceprints and even retinal scans had been compromised by illegal BioTech methods, leaving the BioLage total body scan the sole method of absolutely guaranteeing the identity of an individual.
Her score came back at 99.98% correlation to the database, the slight discrepancy due to a single anomaly: the woman was wearing a tampon.
Anders briefly expanded his 3D view of her pelvis, and was slightly surprised to see that her ovaries weren’t swollen and there wasn’t excessive moisture in the tampon. He assumed she was at the tail end of her period. The tampon in any case look normal enough as he cross-sectioned it, constructed as usual from many fine layers of absorbent material. He panned to an outside view of her pelvis, only to be further impressed by her remarkable beauty. He’d never seen a woman’s labia that he considered beautiful, but this woman was a true work of art. No wonder she had so many fans out there. And lovers.
Distracted by his pounding heart, and
knowing full well that his examination was threatening to move beyond the
boundaries of mere
professionalism, he quickly filed the new scan away, and tried to exhale as he hit
the Enter button to open an inner door. The woman gave him a beautiful smile as she stepped off the scanner and walked through the door into the
interview room. His flushed face and racing heart were all the validation she
needed that she was looking fine tonight.
The agent on security detail in the second room, Daniel Smith, looked up to study Sylvia Norge closely as she entered to stand on the platform above him. She was a tall blonde in her late twenties, her eyes the brightest shade of blue he’d ever seen, their clarity like that of a young child's. She slowly turned around to let him study her from all angles -- she'd clearly been through one of these security scans before. Between her phenomenally long legs and the semi-transparency of her exotic dress, he found that his view under her skirt bordered on indecent. She glanced arrogantly back look over her shoulder as he studied her. He'd never seen such long legs.
Suddenly very aware that she was watching his eyes, he lowered his gaze back to his screen as her bio popped up.
Name: Sylvia Norge
Occupation: Fashion model
Age: 28 years
Weight: 51 kilos
Height: 185cm (6’1”)
Politics: Liberal Party
The last was as surprising to him as it had been to the other scanner, but the rest of her official bio matched what he already knew from newspapers and magazines: she was a wildly popular fashion model from Oslo. The bio didn’t say that she was arguably the most beautiful woman on the planet, but the cross-references on his screen, mostly from magazines and fashion news, were full of that claim. For once he realized that wasn't just marketing hype. He'd been a scanner for five years, and he'd never seen a woman this perfect.
"One more scan if you don't mind." he said as he guided his sniffing dog, King, out from behind the counter. "A biological one."
Sylvia Norge stiffened as King approached to give her the once over - but that wasn't unusual given that King was a huge Irish Wolfhound with bad breath. His claim to fame was his great nose. King gave her the once over, and then paused to run his nose firmly down the front of her short dress. Then, very unusually, he lifted the front of her dress with his nose to sniff strongly in the most embarrassing place possible.
Sylvia stepped back a half step as Daniel tugged gently on King’s leash, remembering the note on his screen that said the woman was having her period. King hadn’t given any sign that he'd detected any dangerous scents - he was just being a dog.
“Your dog is very rude,” Sylvia said in a strong Norwegian accent as he smoothed her dress back down.
"Off, King," Daniel commanded firmly as he led his huge dog back to his platform. “My apologies, ma’am. King was just doing his job. You understand the sensitivity these days, of course.”
Sylvia looked haughtily at him as he turned back to his display and reviewed her background check a final time. It revealed no dangerous associations, although she did travel extensively. The pattern analysis gave her travels a 96% correlation to the calculated profile of a fashion model. A very good score given that she obviously engaged in some personal travel. Satisfied, Daniel looked up into her eyes and relaxed. She was clean.
The woman was still glaring at King. “Can I please just go in now?” she said in her thick accent. “I'm late as it is.”
Daniel nodded as he pushed the button to open the innermost door, and the woman a billion men lusted for disappeared into the richly paneled interior of the Euro Club. Daniel heard the noisy conversation in the lounge subsiding even before the door closed behind her, everyone's eyes turning her way. Sylvia Norge definitely knew how to make an appearance.
Suddenly left with nothing to do until someone else arrived or left, Daniel scanned the guest list to find that Sylvia had been invited by the current occupant of 10 Downing Street, London. He knew all about Prime Minister Derek Smith, for he'd served on his staff before being seconded to EUC Security. The PM was single and early forties, a man whose athletic vitality and handsome face made him look far younger than his years. Many a magazine had declared him as the most eligible bachelor on the planet. He was also the luckiest man on Earth, at least in Daniel's eyes, if for no other reason than the fact that women like Sylvia Norge accepted invitations to visit him on a regular basis, either at home or while traveling like he was now.
If the PM operated per norm, this young lady wouldn’t be scanning out the back door until just before dawn. He smiled as he imagined the faint but delicious trail of perfume and pheromones she'd leave in her wake. The PM had a ravenous sexual appetite and an eye for extraordinary beauty and he was ever so fond of the tall, blonde women from the north country.
The woman who believed her real name was Sváva looked around the penthouse lounge on the 38th floor of the Tour du Midi building, the tallest skyscraper in Brussels. She was here on a mission to help save the world.
To do that, everyone here had to die.
Her imitation of Sylvia Norge had granted her easy access to the inner core of EUC diplomats and heads of state. They approached her now, clustered around her, wanted to talk to her. She smiled warmly, knowing that once she was surrounded by these important men and women, then she was going to do something remarkable.
That thought caught in Sváva's mind: Remarkable was the wrong word entirely.The right word is horrible.
As often happened lately, the two halves of her mind debated each other, with conscience on one side opposing ego on the other. It wasn't an unusual trait for someone who lived immersed in the rarified atmosphere of high fashion and high politics, except in her case, the debate was between her Valkyrie upbringing and the programming that the Diaboli has inserted into her brain. It was such a vigorous debate that a psychiatrist would have declared her schizophrenic.
"I am here to kill mortals. A sin," her Valkyrie side argued.
"It's acceptable to take lives in time of war," her Diaboli-conditioned side replied. "A simple case of furthering the cause of good over evil."
"We are not at war."
"We have been at war for two-thousand years. Diaboli versus humans. It is about time you fought on our side. We share the same progenitors."
"The people in this building are not bad people."
"This single event will change the course of history with the least cost in mortal lives. A necessary culling."
"Culling? No Valkyrie has ever..."
"We have. Remember Adolph Hitler? He didn't take his own life. We did."
Sváva's memories of the last days were like a dream, hazy and inconsistent, with edges she couldn't quite catch hold of. She clearly remembered one thing -- how Haljik had asked her to become someone else. She'd spent three days of painful effort to mimic the BioLage scan that Klaus’ friend had stolen from the government databases, slowly modifying nearly every cell in her body until Klaus’ stolen BioLage scanner had rated her at 100% correlation to the original scan of Sylvia Norge’s body.
Klaus had long ago learned that the only foreign object the PM’s security staff would tolerate inside the building was a tampon, for that was a necessary part of being a reproductive female that even birth control and the GenTechers hadn’t completely solved.
"But I'm on the good side of my period. I'm at my strongest now. And I don’t bleed anyway."
"We will need all of our invulnerability tonight."
"We? Who is this we?"
That question remained unanswered as Sváva's conditioning told her to smile brightly as faces turned to acknowledge her entrance. She'd studied the many video clips of Sylvia Norge's personal appearances, and found it amusing to act older and famous if only for the moment. Instead of an awkward teenage girl, she was now the epitome of beauty and class.
"I don't know how to act this way."
Sváva confidently proved otherwise as she selected a glass of white wine from an offered tray, and began to work her way across the room, very conscious of the way her high heels and short hemline accented her long legs, her body so much thinner than normal for her.
"I'm not old enough to drink."
The men’s reactions to her presence were predictable. She was the best-known supermodel on the planet, and was famous for her impossibly long legs. Conversations stopped as she approached, and all eyes turned towards her, hearts beating faster at her approach, the blood swishing louder in their veins. Her Valkyrie pheromones wafting about them in ways their primitive senses could never detect, yet a single whiff changed the entire mood of the room as she moved through it. Extreme beauty was a different kind of power than the raw strength Sváva usually wielded, but it was just as effective in taking these men to their doom.
"I was born to physical power. Not this."
This is a kind of physical power, her other half argued.
Sváva smiled sexily into each man’s eyes, exuding a sexual power that enthralled men such that she could have taken any one of them to her bed; her mere presence was seductive beyond their mortal abilities to resist. Yet when her eyes found Prime Minister Derek Smith’s, and his focused on hers, it became clear to everyone in the room who the PM was destined to sleep with that night. The otherwise lovely women who'd been trying to gain the PM's favor faded away like dried leaves at Sváva’s approach.
"Is that who I think it is? Derek Smith?"
Sváva fell the rest of the way into her programmed role, and drew upon the steely will that formed the core of every Valkyrie’s soul. She was about to enter combat, but instead of bearing a sword, she would fight with an entirely new kind of weapon today.
The tampon which had looked so innocent on the scan was in fact made of cloth impregnated with an exotic variant of PBX 9205, an RX-polystyrene plastic-bonded explosive. Extremely fast burning. Unlike C4 or Semtex or any of the myriad of other plastic explosives, PBX had but a single application - it was used in nuclear weapons to rapidly compress a uranium or plutonium core by propagating an intensely powerful shock wave.
Until today, that is. Now this PBX was about to find a new purpose.
"An explosive! Inside me?!"
Sváva struggled to push the second voice in her head away, focusing only on the things Klaus had told her. Yet the sudden intensity of her inner voice frightened her. Was she going crazy?
She focused instead on the technical details of her mission, remembering Klaus telling her how one of the members of the Domina, a chemical engineer, had further doped the PBX with an accelerating agent. Both the accelerant and the explosive were normally highly detectable by sniffing dogs, but the supernatural tension of her labia, combined with a flesh-like vapor seal an engineer had inserted inside, had proven sufficient to defeat the scanners. And while the male dog had sensed something, his British handler's sensitivity to where he was sniffing had caused him to pull the dog off before he made an identification. British politeness had worked in her favor.
Despite the disturbing voice in her head, Sváva had never felt so proud to have been born an immortal Valkyrie. This sacred mission would help sweep away the lesser races of Earth - the non-Aryan races. This was the only way to get the Europeans and the American to initiate a full-scale war against the Middle East. They would be determined to stop the Iranian nuclear effort before the terrorists got control of any of those devices, and the residual signature of the nuclear-capable PBX in this room would terrify them after they identified it as coming from a batch that the Iranians had purchased years before.
Sváva knew that Klaus was even now implanting falsified information in Sylvia Norge’s records that would tie her to the most powerful of recent Arab terrorist groups, the Iranian Abu-Ghan, forcing that shadowy organization to take full responsibility for this attack. Abu-Ghan would hardly deny they'd commissioned the attack after gaining immense recognition and praise from other radical Arabs for their brilliance and bravery. Their desire to show the world the power of Arab terrorism would be their downfall. By accepting responsibility, they would become the pariahs who would mobilize the rest of the world to renew its attack on terrorism. The call to war would echo from every corner of Europe, even from previously neutral countries, and this time, the cries of enraged citizens would sweep more hawkish leaders into office. Leaders who would be susceptible to the Diaboli message of racial war.
The only weapon needed to ensure that righteous war weighed but six ounces, and was safely nestled inside the most intimate folds of her body. The fact that she was going to use her sex to cleanse the world was appropriate, given that a Valkyrie's sexual relations were commonly used to heal mortals.
She would heal an entire world this time.
"Oh my God!"
The voice which belonged to an American Army brat from Okinawa named Hana cried out urgently as she finally understood Sváva's twisted logic. Hana's personality tried to assert itself, struggled to push away the terrible thoughts in her head, but she felt as if she was trapped in a waking dream, unable to move as much as a finger, unable to awaken. Meanwhile, the nightmare grew darker around her.
Sváva found it easy to act as charming and seductive as she imagined Sylvia Norge would have. She joined the piano player as the hundreds of people in the room gathered around her to begin singing Christmas carols, an old English tradition she felt would make the British PM feel at home. They were finishing the first verse of God Rest You Merry Gentleman, a song that was disturbingly prophetic, when Sváva felt the PM’s fingers brush the small of her back, then move down slightly over the rise of her right buttock, his hand hidden from other’s view. She smiled, knowing this intimate touch was the opening movement to a very discrete dance; one that he intended to finish in his bed.
"He's a letch! And so old."
Ignoring the increasingly strident inner voice, Sváva turned lithely in Derek Smith’s arms, resting her cheek on the PM’s shoulder as she softly sang the carol, her voice as lovely as her appearance. She looked out at the crowd behind him, her eyes ice blue, her blonde hair falling over Derek's shoulders, holding him possessively as envious eyes stared back at her. Moving softly in his arms now, dancing slowly to her own song, she felt his desire harden as she pressed herself gently against him. The moment was so special that she regretted having to ruin it, but this was the moment Haljik had told her to prepare for - the moment when everyone was closest to her.
She smiled dreamily as she leaned back in his arms, using her greater height to rest her arms on his shoulders, her lips moving closer to his. His fingers traced gently lower over her famous curves, his eyes opening wide with pleasant surprise as he sensed her firmness. Sváva saw her reflection in his smiling eyes as she slowly tensed herself, starting beneath his hands. Her back slowly transformed into tight curves of sensuous muscle, her shoulders and long legs following, her entire body transforming from softly feminine to pure Valkyrien steel.
The many admiring eyes opened wider as they observed the startling change, not understanding how any woman could be that slender and that tightly muscled at the same time. Especially not a supermodel.
"What are you doing!"
Concentrating on the isometric tensing of every muscle in her body, knowing from Klaus’ practice runs that she had to make herself vastly harder than any human-made substance to properly conduct the shockwave, Sváva's concentration came finally to her Kegel muscles, imbued along with the rest of her with a Valkyrie’s strength. She began to compress the unstable explosive inside.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING"
Sváva froze as the scream inside her head grew so loud that she could no longer ignore it.
Hana struggled with every ounce of her growing will to connect to her body, to awaken from her nightmare. Sváva’s eyes narrowed as she held her breath, concentrating with all her will on tightening her inner self.
"You can't fucking do it, can you?" Hana cried out triumphantly, suddenly finding her voice.
"It is something which must be, and which I must do."
"Because - "
"We’re a goddess, for Odin's sake! We don't need these mortals blood!"
"The true order must be restored."
"Bullshit! You know our history as well as I - Odin made no such pledge!"
"The time is at hand. We must act."
"You must not be much of a goddess - y'know, taking orders, and all . . . "
"No one commands me!"
"Then why are you doing someone else's bidding? Valkyrie's don't shed innocent mortal blood. You know that."
"Because - the sacrifice of a few enables the fortune of many!” Sváva screamed out loud at the voice in her head, repeating the phrase that Sophia had drilled into her psyche again and again. One that defeated a Valkyrie's conscience by giving her a higher goal.
The PM looked at Sváva in confusion as other people began to back away. She was obviously having some kind of fit. Sváva's blue eyes flitted nervously left and right, her body jerking like a puppet on a string, arms moving this way, lets that way. She spoke as if she was talking to herself, two different voices audible, one with an American accent, one Norwegian, acting like a woman possessed.
Yet Hana was winning! Ever so slowly, she gained control over her hands and feet. Feeling her foot move, she turned jerkily to the side, trying to pull free of the PM’s arms. He held her tighter, thinking he had to protect her from whatever fit she was having.
“NO!” Hana screamed. "I must go!"
“NO!” Sváva screamed. "I must stay!"
Hana's conscience was suddenly and brutally pushed aside as all of Sváva's conditioning focused her actions on this one act. A look of supreme arrogance lit Sváva's face as she continued tensing her body, her tight skin stretching over steel muscles. She reached out to grab the two closest women who were wearing Plasma designs, hoping to add their dress's lethal fragmentation to her own. Hugging them tightly enough to break their bones, crushing the air from their lungs so they couldn't scream. She closed her legs tightly, adding her strongest muscles to the coming battle to contain the explosion. The metal fabric of her exotic dress stretched against her body like a second skin.
"You're deaths will not be in vain," she said comfortingly to the uncomprehending eyes.
It was the last sound that ever reached their ears, for deep inside her, the PBX had reached its preset pressure point, and it detonated with immeasurable violence. Yet instead of her body exploding into a million pieces, the trapped explosive gases rose to hundreds of thousands of pounds per square inch of pressure in mere fractions of a millisecond, and her unyielding flesh served as a near perfect transducer to convert the brisant pressure of the gas into an expanding shockwave. The shockwave that reached her skin blasted apart the metallic fibers of her clinging dress along with those of the women she was crushing to her body, causing them to micro-fracture.
The shockwave made every strand of her hair stand on end, her eyeballs bulging from the sockets, the explosion driving a sharp, piercing pain into every cell of her body, including every neuron in her brain. Yet the explosion did not escape her body.
Instead, the women she held disappeared as the shockwave vaporized their bodies along with the Prime Minister. The others in the room were not as lucky. A billion lethal fragments of invisible Plasma wire raced outward at ten thousand meters per second, instantly perforating bodies. Clothing, flesh, bones, the walls of the building, nothing stopped the microscopic particles that sped outward, the expanding circle of death racing through the entire building and the bodies of everyone in it, along with everyone in adjacent buildings and on the street for a five block radius below.
Hana opened her eyes seconds later to find herself standing nude in the middle of the room, her pelvis glowing white hot, a horrible bubble of gas compressing her internal organs. She looked around the room at people she recognized as if out of a dream. They appeared frozen in place, yet unharmed. Puzzled, she stared back at them, discovering to her relief that the strange voice in her head was gone. Then, as if she was trapped in some horror movie, she saw the people's features slowly turning dark red. Within seconds, blood began to leak from millions of tiny holes in their bodies, and within seconds, their flesh began to sag and then sloughing off as if it was red jelly, their bones pulverizing as their bodies slumped to the floor, then spreading across it like melting jelly.
Hana was now the only person standing in the room.
She opened her mouth and screamed in horror as a flood of images tore at her sanity, all of them jumbled up and disorganized. It was all she could do to stagger stiff-legged toward the windows that no longer contained glass, only to see more of the red goop flowing down the sides of the adjacent building. She tasted the copper and iron of spilled blood on the night air as she fell out the window, tumbling and twisting helplessly until she slammed into the paving bricks 38 stories below, her body still so hard that she shattered the brick roadway. She rose shakily to her feet, looking around uncomprehendingly as ordinary citizens began to collapse on the pavement all around her, their bodies also punctured by secondary fragmentation from the top of the building. Then parts of the building began to fall as the upper floors collapsed.
She tried to take a step, only to double over in pain as the agony inside her pelvis grew unbearable. She tripped and fell on top of a bleeding body, clenching her teeth in horror as she rolled to her side, frantically wiping his blood from her skin. She struggled to invoke her healing powers to soothe the burning inside her, but nothing happened. Nothing except ever greater pain.
She was crying, not for herself or her pain but for the many lives that had just been lost, imagining the coming despair of their loved ones. Hundreds, thousands, tens-of-thousands, she had no idea how many she'd killed. All she knew was that she wanted to curl up and die with the rest of them. She wanted the horror to end.
But it didn't. Instead, she forced herself to her feet again, stumbling and falling to her knees again and again on the glass-strewn bricks, her long legs shaking so badly she couldn’t walk. She half crawled and half dragged her way to the intersection of another alley, barely escaping the falling debris behind her.
The sound of police and rescue sirens filled the air now, coming closer. She didn’t know why she was here, she didn't know why she'd just killed all those people, but whatever presence had taken control of her mind was thankfully gone now. She hadn't been herself... but if not herself, who had she been?
Confused and horrified by her actions, also by the internal battle of minds that she had initially lost, she knew only that the police couldn’t find her here. She had to get away. Far, far away. She had to understand what had happened to her, who had done this. She had to fix this terrible wrong if it took her the rest of her immortal life.
She grabbed the corner of the brick building next to hard enough to tear grooves in it as she pulled herself up, leaning heavily against the wall for support, and finally turned the corner to stumble crying into the darkness beyond.
To be continued...