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Diosa – Chapter 8: "Vicious" (Part I)

Written by XionZeros :: [Saturday, 22 June 2024 07:45] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 22 June 2024 21:08]

Chapter Eight: “Vicious” (Part I)

Campus Tour

Zabrina Sawyer found herself in a trance of sorts after leaving her room and heading towards the Student Commons. Her mind kept returning to Helena Dumond’s gift. It wasn’t natural. It wouldn’t leave her mind after gazing her eyes upon it. By sheer force of will, she pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind as she climbed the staircase leading to the building.

Upon entering the double doors, Zabrina is stopped by not just a security detail but the university president himself, Dr. Bartholomew Whitmore. Zabrina glares at the security detail as she recognizes them as the officers that her own father hired to watch over her following her return to the university before beaming a smile at the president.

“Good morning, doctor. How could I be of service to you this fine afternoon?”

The older gentleman approaches her with a petite young woman following closely behind him surrounded by a security detail of her own.

Dr. Whitmore greeted Zabrina with a smile of his own and presented his guest, “Good afternoon, Zabrina. I am pleased that the head of Alpha Sigma Omega could find the time in her busy schedule to show one of our newest additions to the university around the campus this fine afternoon. I want you to meet Miss Lillian Moore, the heiress of the country of Concordia’s royal family. She is our first foreign exchange student to enroll in the university from the nation. I entrust you to roll out the red carpet for her.”

Lillian stepped forward and performed a curtsey for Zabrina.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Sawyer. If I may be so forward to ask, are you related to Jaxon and Virginia Sawyer?”

Zabrina mirrored the curtsey and said, “Yes, they are my parents. I’m sure you have met them on one of my mother’s many political trips abroad while my father is looking to continue expanding his bullet train business internationally. And no need for formalities, Lillian. You can call me Zabrina. Everyone else does around campus.”

Lillian clapped her hands, “Mr. Sawyer recently presented my father with some plans for a bullet train system throughout Concordia and to our neighboring countries. He’s still reviewing the possible security risks and concerns, but I’m optimistic that he is going to approve them.”

President Whitmore added, “Lillian, feel free to ask Miss Sawyer any other questions that you may have about our university. Are there any concerns that any of you have before we start the tour?”

Zabrina snaps her fingers, “Now that you mention it, I think it would be a good idea to keep the security detail here as well. It would draw too much attention around campus if we’re walking around with an angry mob of bouncers shoving the students, staff, and faculty out of our way at every turn.”

President Whitmore pondered her request and looked back at the two groups of officers and then back at the girls as he relented, “I suppose that you’re right.”

At that moment, Zabrina’s two cohorts, Imani Jacobs and Ericka Chen, rushed into the Student Commons. The two young women were stopped in their tracks by the two security details. Zabrina waved them off, rolling her eyes, which allowed both of them to come forward.

Ericka Chen apologized, bowing her head to the president, “It’s my fault that we’re late. Imani kept telling me to hurry up, but I thought I had more time to wrap up my phone call.”

President Whitmore reassured her, “As long as you two are here now to assist Miss Sawyer with the tour of the campus, it’s all that matters.”

Zabrina remarked under her breath, “Better late than never, I suppose…”

President Whitmore perked up, “What was that, Miss Sawyer?”

Zabrina put on her smile for the president and asked, “Oh I was merely wondering what could have been so important of a task that could have called them away from this honor…”

Ericka proudly spoke up, “I was having my follow-up interview for Tan Enterprises’ internship actually… and they hired me right on the spot.”

Imani looked surprised along with the president who commented, “Well congratulations are definitely in order, Miss Chen.”

Imani excitedly asked, “When do you start?”

Ericka replied, “This summer! I can’t wait!”

Zabrina feigned a smile and commented, “Oh my god, that’s wonderful news, Ericka! We’ll definitely have to discuss this properly later.” She purposely brushed past her while she forced her way between Ericka and Imani and walked towards the exit doors.

“I think we’ve made the newest acquisition to this establishment wait here long enough. Let’s get this tour on the road, shall we?”

President Whitmore nodded approvingly while the security detail looked back at him, “Have fun, ladies. And gentlemen, you’re more than welcome to make yourselves at home in the conference room down the hall where we’ve prepared some refreshments while you wait.”

One of the guards speaks up, “But Your Highness, your father gave us explicit orders to ensure your safety while you are here studying abroad…”

Lillian smiled brightly, “It’s alright. I promise not to venture too far away from the campus. Also, Miss Sawyer is right. We wouldn’t want to draw any unwanted attention. You guys don’t really blend in well here at all.”

Zabrina remarks, “That’s an understatement. Your bodyguards are dressed like extras for the upcoming production of The Nutcracker while the boys in blue that Daddy hired look like they are here to stop an armed robbery.”

Imani mumbled under her breath, “Not to mention how many students of color would be nervous seeing that many police officers of any capacity walking around without any rhyme or reason…”

President Whitmore coughed in a poor attempt to hide his chuckle before earning the piercing glares from both pairs of security details.

Zabrina could only smirk while Lillian gave one last nervous glance back at her personal guardians before following behind Zabrina with Imani and Ericka holding up the rear of their small touring party.

The four young women begin their tour by walking through the university’s courtyard, Zabrina clears her throat and begins the tour.

“I’ll start with letting you know that Alpha Sigma Omega is the Elysium Bay University’s most prestigious sorority at Elysium Bay University. All of the ladies who attend the university try to pledge with us, but most don’t make it through our rigorous trials to accept only the elite into our ranks.”

Imani added, “Heaven Industries’ CEO Helena Dumond personally donates and contributes to our cause since she’s both one of Elysium Bay University's many decorated alumni and a former Alpha Sigma Omega member. We appreciate her philanthropy towards our sorority.”

Ericka blurts out, “Let’s not forget that Vivianne Tan of Tan Enterprises is another significant philanthropist to the university and the sorority. We can’t give Miss Dumond all of the credit, despite doing so much for us lately.”

She could almost literally feel Zabrina’s ire and ice-cold glare stabbing through her very soul after that remark.

Lillian, who was completely oblivious to the building tension between Zabrina and Ericka, asked with genuine wonder, “What else did Miss Dumond do for you guys? Heaven Industries has its hands into everything around the world as is. We even have some of their products in Concordia.”

Imani cleared her throat nervously as she searched for what to say, but Zabrina spoke up for the three of them.

“It’s no secret that we got into scuffle while on Spring Break off-campus, but Miss Dumond heard about what transpired and personally covered all of our medical expenses since the incident in question occurred while we were staying at one of her resorts.”

Lillian is legitimately shocked, “That’s so kind of her!”

Zabrina added, “I thought so too, but I just don’t feel right about accepting her help as if I was some charity case. My family could and would have taken care of the expenses easily.”

She thought internally, “I can’t shake the notion that she was trying to cover her ass and hide something, but I still can’t piece together the details from that entire day. It’s still a total blur.”

Imani interjected, “What Zabrina is saying is that her charity was wasted on individuals like us when she could have done that for the needy instead. Regardless, we’re eternally grateful for everything that Miss Dumond has done and continues to do for not just us but for the entire university.”

Zabrina resumes the tour.

“The courtyard that we’re standing in is symbolic of your stay at Elysium Bay University. It’s where everyone starts and ends their journey at the university. It’s the first place that freshmen will see after coming through admissions and financial aid and this is typically the last place seniors will pass through since graduation ceremonies are usually held on this lawn. The residency halls are on both surrounding sides of the lawn to your left and right with most first year students living in on-campus student housing.”

Lillian: “Where do you three young ladies live?”

Ericka: “In the Alpha Sigma Omega sorority house. We’ll get to the Greek village towards the end of the tour, but since we’re second year students, we have the option to live off-campus if we wanted to. ASO members all live in the sorority housing provided while pledges have to find their own residency until their memberships are approved.”

Zabrina: “My family paid to add onto the sorority house for I could have my own private wing following my acceptance, so it wasn’t a problem to stay on-campus. I’m sure you won’t have any problems in that regard either.”

Lillian: “No, not at all. While I could stay at the Concordian embassy provided in town, I want to have the full college experience and live among the students.”

Zabrina grins, “That’s pretty brave of you, wanting the full college experience…”

Lillian frowns, “At least as much of the full college experience that my parents would allow…”

Zabrina pats her on the shoulder, “I’m sure we can convince them to cut the umbilical cord while you’re here. You deserve to live your life too instead of having others dictate it for you.”

Ericka’s eyes widened at Zabrina’s words, but she remained silent while Lillian enquired.

“If you don’t mind me asking, but what are you all studying? Or rather what are you majoring in would be the better question I suppose.”

Zabrina answered nonchalantly, “I’m double majoring in business administration and economics with a minor in statistics.”

Lillian exclaimed, “Wow that’s impressive! Double major with a minor. Good grief. I have so much to decide on. I can’t imagine how busy you must be.”

Zabrina shrugged, “I have a future company and business conglomerate waiting in the wings for me. It’s my responsibility to prime myself to have all of the skills necessary to take over when either my parents are forced to step down, retire, or God knows what else may happen to cause my parents to pass the reins over to me. I can safely assume that’s why you decided to study abroad to further your own education, am I correct, Your Highness?”

Lillian blushed before nodding slowly. “My parents weren’t keen on the idea of leaving our country but I insisted on seeing the outside world so I can better understand Concordia’s place in it.”

“What do ya’ know, our little princess has a good head on her shoulders. I think I like you already,” Zabrina teased.

The four young women continue walking and reach the Arts & Sciences building.

Customer Service

A few minutes prior…

Pollux addresses Tate and Nguyen as their INKAS Sentry APC pulls up to the parking lot of Heaven Industries.

“I want you both to let me do the talking. Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut. This situation could easily turn into a PR nightmare if we burst into Helena Dumond’s place of business with guns blazing. The last thing we need is to be slapped with a lawsuit on her private property, but we have to investigate what was going on here, especially from the reports of the commotion from the neighboring buildings. Do you both understand?”

Nguyen speaks up and Tate instantly groans, knowing it’s not going to be anything good.

“Why did we bring so many drones with us if we’re just scoping out the scene? If that’s the case, we could just send them in there to do a full sweep of the perimeter and entire building.”

Pollux snaps back, “Didn’t I just say that we’re trying to avoid a possible lawsuit on private property. There wasn’t any time to produce a proper search warrant and to our knowledge there weren’t any crimes committed on the premises, so we have nothing to go on outside of hearsay. The drones will be our backup if and only if this situation gets out of hand.”

Tate’s ears perk up, “Excuse me for speaking out of line, sir, but it seems like we’re not even trying to get much head way here. If there’s really something going on, shouldn’t we have authorization to investigate the premises regardless? Public safety should be paramount above all else, correct?”

Pollux sighs heavily and replies, “I’m going to let you boys both onto something and it doesn’t leave between us, okay? Our mission here is strictly to buy time. That’s it. That order came from Dr. Maxwell himself, so I’m not going to question his authority. We’re going to go in there and give the impression like we’re performing one of our routine investigations until we get the signal to pull out. No questions asked. Is that clear enough for you two?”

Nguyen and Tate look at each other briefly and back towards their superior officer before responding with a “Yes, sir!” in unison.

Back to the present…

Pollux walks through the main entrance of Heaven Industries with Private Tate and Nguyen following closely behind him. All of the employees and customers standing in the lobby immediately halt in their tracks at the sight of the Sentry Corps’ officers walking through this place of business. Pollux casually walks up to the front desk and addresses the secretary.

“Good afternoon. We got a few calls from the neighboring buildings about some sort of disturbance and we are here to investigate. Is the chairwoman in her office today so we can speak with her directly about what is going on? The sooner we speak to her, the sooner we will be out of your hair.”

The secretary smiles, “Of course, sir. I’ll buzz her office and get back to you in a moment. Do you mind waiting in the lobby until she’s able to come down?”

Pollux nods slowly and turns back to his men to have a seat. The personnel in the building were completely unaware that the three members of the Sentry Corps had been in constant communication with each other through their own private communication network from the moment they walked into the building.

Nguyen: “Real smooth, boss. You got these people shaking harder than a dog shittin’ peach seeds at the sight of us walking in here.”

Pollux: “It’s either us or the full force of the Elite Gaudermine busting through here without any questions asked. In comparison, what we’re doing is civil. Besides, keep the chatter to a minimum. I’m already detecting some interference in this building so I wouldn’t be surprised that Dumond’s eggheads have either some communications blockers or some sort of artificial interference to attempt to bypass and intercept any and all unauthorized communications.”

Tate: “In other words, let’s keep the comms chatter to a minimum as difficult as that’s going to be for Nguyen to keep his trap shut.”

Nguyen: “Whatever, man.”

Bless and Bliss walked into the lobby and spoke to the receptionist briefly before approaching the Sentry Corps officers standing in the lobby.

Bless and Bliss made a point to address the personnel and customers who were still frozen in place at the sight of officers standing in the lobby first.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no cause to be concerned. We have everything under control upstairs.”

Helena Dumond steps off the elevator and chimes in as well.

“There’s no reason to be alarmed, everyone. The crisis has been averted. I apologize for any confusion that this situation may have caused.”

The personnel and customers collectively breathe sighs of relief at the news, but the Sentry Corps’ own seem a little skeptical.

Diosa walks off the elevator reluctantly behind Helena in her poor attempt to be nonchalant, but her eyes meet with Tate’s simultaneously across the room. Her appearance doesn’t garner any glares nor lingering looks from the individuals in the hobby, but a voice enters her mind.

“Careful… I won’t be around forever to continue saving your ass, Ximena,” taunted Majestuosa telepathically. “Don’t worry. I’m masking your physical appearance to everyone in this room. Can’t share the deets of what you may or may not be wearing to them in their minds’ eye though.”

Diosa’s face immediately flushed red as she draped one hand down to cover her midsection and raised her arm in hopes of covering her breasts.

Majestuosa’s laughter echoed in her mind, “I was only KIDDING! God, you need to learn to have a sense of humor. I’m not going to expose you in front of all of these people, especially after you played a pivotal role in this hefty sum I received as payment for bringing you and your friends here… Don’t look now, but I think Soldier Boy has eyes for you… Aww, how sweet!”

Helena had noticed Private Nguyen was eyeing her from the moment when she walked off of the elevator, making no qualms about hiding his gawking at her body. She walks right up to Nguyen and pats him on the cheek.

“You look like a smart boy. Tell me what’s on your mind.”

If he was paying attention to what was going on, Private Tate would have nudged Nguyen to get his act together. Instead, his eyes were still following Diosa across the room as Nguyen spoke up to Pollux’s dismay.

“I-uhhh was just thinking that we could come upstairs and investigate.”

Helena laughed, “You know that this premises is private property, so I can’t let you nice boys do that.”

Pollux interrupted, “We could get a warrant from HQ to search the premises, but unfortunately, we wouldn’t be alone when we come back, Miss Dumond. I know you would hate for us to have to close down your place of business to perform a proper and thorough investigation.”

Helena snapped back, “Is that supposed to be a threat? Please don’t embarrass yourselves, gentlemen. I could make one phone call and have you all charged for trespassing and obstructing my business operations with your presence from how you three barged in here unannounced.”

Pollux’s mouth hung open agape while Helena continued.

“Fortunately for you three, I respect your initiative. I appreciate your speedy arrival into this matter, but my private security force has dealt with the thieves that thought they could muscle onto my property. A skirmish between the thieves and my security force damaged some property upstairs while gunfire was exchanged between both sides. I’ll admit that things got out of hand where it might have been beneficial to call on your forces in the area for support. Otherwise, the thieves might not have gotten away. Heaven Industries will gladly cover the damages to any of the neighboring buildings and individuals caught in the crossfire.”

Nguyen finds his voice and asks, “If the thieves got away, then maybe we could track it. What type of vehicle did the thieves escape in?”

Helena immediately replied, “It was an unmarked white van.”

Pollux’s eyes widened briefly, knowing that their AI-driven surveillance vans fit that description, specifically one that was scheduled to pick up Kanashimi as they were supposed to be keeping Dumond and her team preoccupied right now. Was she onto us?

Pollux looked to take control of the conversation.

“There’s countless amounts of those unmarked vans within the city, especially in this business district at the busiest time of the day. We would have to cut off traffic and place checkpoints throughout the entire city to narrow down the culprits. That could have been remedied if someone notified us immediately as soon as the thieves first arrived on the premises…”

Helena smirked again, almost as if she was acknowledging Pollux’s chess move to steer the conversation in a more favorable position to make up for Nguyen’s shortcoming.

“Once again, I apologize. I thought my team could have dealt with the matter personally and privately. It’s why I hire and pay them in the first place after all, but I can understand your frustration. You have to understand my position as CEO of Heaven Industries too. My company is attacked on a regular basis, not by just thieves, but by anyone who thinks they can slip in-between the cracks, steal any of our secrets, and sell them to the highest bidder on the black market. After all, Tan Enterprises aren’t the only big business in town.”

Here we go again. Is this bitch just toying with us? She has to know what is going on with a comment like that…

Pollux maintained his pokeface and calmly stated, “That is to be expected after all. Heaven Industries is one of the most prominent developers of the advancement of technology and medicine in the world right now…”

Helena Dumond interrupts, “Don’t be coy. We’re #2 behind Dr. Maxwell’s research. You and the rest of the Sentry Corps’ high ranking officers are walking advertisements for his expertise in cybernetics. And now that I’m seeing his work up close and in the flesh so to speak, I have to admit I’m impressed at the craftsmanship at least.”

Pollux took a step back and added, “I’m sure Doctor Maxwell would be flattered to hear you give your stamp of approval on his work. I would have to remind you that the Jupiter Foundation is exclusively financially backing all of his experiments and work that he does for the Sentry Corps.”

Helena nodded, “Of course. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Just admiring the competition, ‘tis all. If he ever wants to explore his financial options for the future, feel free to have him give me a call. I’m sure we could work something out that could be quite beneficial for all parties involved, including the Jupiter Foundation.”

Pollux replied, “Duly noted. Back on the task at hand… would it be a problem if we investigated the scene upstairs and got a visual confirmation for our records of the premises?”

Helena glances back at Bliss and Bless escorting Majestuosa, Taurus, and Diosa to the staff lounge wing and cuts her eyes back to Pollux before beaming back with a smile.

“Of course, gentlemen. Follow me. That wouldn’t be a problem at all. I would hate to send you scrapping boys home without proper documentation.”

Pollux, Nguyen, and Tate follow Helena’s lead back to the main elevator while Bliss and Bless spoke to Diosa, who couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the soldiers following Helena onto the elevator.

Bliss and Bless ask in unison, “What’s wrong, Diosa? You look troubled.”

Diosa snapped out of her stupor and responded, “It’s probably nothing, but I have seen those soldiers before.”

Majestuosa chimed in, “She saw them when she was fleeing the scene after beating one of your Venuses. One of them clearly recognized her through my cloaking in the lobby just now. It’s odd. He hasn’t told his friends there about his findings either.”

Bliss and Bless looked at each other briefly before turning back to Diosa, “Whatever they are planning, it’s no concern to us right now, especially with Miss Dumond taking care of them personally.”

Once on the elevator, Helena runs through a few messages on her tablet and approves Majestuosa’s payment to her account in a secure transaction. She doesn’t even look up from her device when she addresses Pollux.

“Y’know, it’s rather rude to try to peer into a lady’s secrets. You don’t see me trying to hack through that private communications network you boys are on.”

Pollux’s mouth hung open in shock while Nguyen and Tate looked equally shocked.

“Let’s cut the shit, shall we? I show you boys what you want to see upstairs and you’re going to walk out of here no questions asked. Deal?”

Pollux swallowed hard and reluctantly agreed, “Deal.”

Nguyen looks surprised, “But we have to follow our protocols. Otherwise, we’re going to get reprimanded for not running this through the proper channels.”

Helena looks to Tate who has been suspiciously quiet this entire time, “What about you? You haven’t said anything this entire time. Cat got your tongue or do you actually have some brains between those ears of yours?”

Tate took the time to soak in Helena’s intimidating beauty in the confined space of this elevator before he responded, “Good soldiers follow orders. I’m merely doing everything that our superior officer asks of me on this sortie. Nothing more, nothing less. That makes this job a lot less complicated than it needs to be.”

Helena continued to tap away at her tablet, “You got at least one good soldier with you, Pollux. He follows orders without question. Good help like that is hard to find these days. Trust me, I know that firsthand. Keep this one on lock and key and make sure he doesn’t get away from you.”

The elevator stops shortly thereafter and they follow Helena out the doors and into the ruined laboratory. Unknown to the three Sentry Corps officers, the containment units housing Oshun and the hybrid form of Oya and Priscilla Lennox were moved to another floor during their conversation downstairs. The only things that remained on this floor were the wounded soldiers that were being treated currently on the site by Heaven Industries’ in-house doctors and medical staff and the wreckage and debris littered throughout the floor from the earlier battle.

Pollux immediately approached the gaping hole in the wall and examined it.

“You said thieves did this? Whoever these guys were had to be packing some muscle… along with some heavy firepower to be able to deal this amount of damage.”

Helena remarks with her arms folded, “I didn’t have time to stand back and assess their combat capabilities and powers while my men were fighting for their lives. That amount of power and destructive capability could fit the bill for numerous renegade wildcards. I honestly don’t care who it was as they obviously got the point to not fuck around with my company. We sent them running with their tails between their legs.”

Tate walks around the open laboratory, taking care not to intrude nor step on the wounded soldiers around them. He notices something that Pollux doesn’t seem to notice while he stands in front of the gaping hole in the wall. The wall shows evidence of something being forced in as well as being forced out. That same something matches the trajectory of one of the adjacent buildings that was damaged in the attack.

Tate says, “Did your people happen to see what hit the other building in the attack?”

Helena immediately speaks up, “It was merely stray weapons fire and shrapnel from the explosions of the battle on this floor. Like I mentioned downstairs, I already contacted the neighboring buildings and guaranteed them that I will cover all damages personally. It’s the least I can do for allowing this matter to get out of hand.”

Pollux added, “You’re lucky that there weren’t any casualties or you would have a lot more than us coming here to investigate.”

Helena could only smirk, “Indeed. I can only count myself lucky on that one.”

Nguyen’s eyes widened at the sizable footprints in the steel plated floor. He blurts out, “What the hell could leave prints like those?”

Pollux rubbed his temples while Helena responded, “Like I said several times now, the thieves were wildcards.”

Pollux corrected her, “You mean, one singular thief. We got an early account and reports from eye witnesses in the area that saw some hulking monstrosity scaling the side of your building to get in here.”

Helena continues smiling, “Yes, that monstrosity was the one that burst in here and did the wealth of the damage that left this laboratory in its wake, but to clarify, I wasn’t lying when I said downstairs that there was more than one thief on my premises.”

If he wasn’t convinced earlier, Pollux was fully convinced now. There’s no doubt in his mind that Helena Dumond is well aware about Kanashimi infiltrating this building earlier.

Pollux looks at his HUD (heads-up display) display and reads an encrypted message. He addresses Nguyen and Tate directly.

“Let’s leave the lady and her personnel to clean up this mess on their own. We’ve seen enough, Miss Dumond. Have a good afternoon.”

Helena narrows her eyes and walks back towards the elevator they arrived on together.

“I wouldn’t be a gracious host if I didn’t at least see you out.”

They reluctantly follow her lead with Tate glazing back at the gaping hole at the wall one final time as he allows his mind to wander. Did she have a role in this crisis as well too?

Campus Tour (Continued)

Once the four young women arrived at the Arts & Sciences building, Ericka took the lead of their campus tour from here.

“The Arts & Sciences building is home to your arts, sciences, and music courses and organizations. Whether you’re just fulfilling your fine arts required credits or genuinely want to invest a deeper interest and understanding in the arts and sciences fields then you can’t go wrong here.”

Lillian asked, “What about the clubs? The campus brochure said something about the Dance and Theater department here having an annual performance piece that they put together. I would love to see that in person.”

Ericka smirked, “Well, you’re in luck. The Drama Club, under the supervision of the Department of Dance and Theater and support from the Music Department, have their annual Winter Solstice event that they perform for the university with Hollywood casting agents and starlets in attendance. The renowned actress, Cinthia Ocean, is booked to attend this year’s program.”

Lillian’s face lights up, “Oh my gosh. Cinthia Ocean is coming here!!?? I can’t wait to have a chance to meet her in person. I loved all of her movies.”

Imani added, “She hired a few students as extras right on the spot and provided some recommendations to a few of the graduating acting students that year during one of her other university visits. So who knows, she might be willing to offer the same courtesy here as well.”

Ericka continued, “I should mention that the AV (Audio Visual) Club works directly under the news and recording studios for anyone looking to get into that field. The AV Club also hosts a weekly podcast about the local ongoings on and off campus along with interviews with a who’s who of guests and celebrities on and off campus.”

The door to the AV Club happened to be wide open as the group of young women walked past with a few of the members excitedly waving at Zabrina and her cohorts while a taller bespectacled young man ran out to stop her in the hallway.

“You HAVE to stop by for an interview some time, Miss Sawyer! We’re dying to have you on our podcast!”

Zabrina laughed out loud, “You couldn’t pay me enough, Cooper. Stick to what you’re good at and stay out of my way. You’re lucky that I even took the time out of my day just now to even acknowledge you.”

Lillian watched Cooper hastily step out of the way and took note of her observation.

“You’re quite popular around here are you not, Miss Sawyer…err Zabrina?”

Imani immediately remarked, “Popular is an understatement. She’s essentially royalty around here. Uhh, no offense.”

Lillian waved her off with a smile. “None taken. I think I am beginning to understand your foreign customs and relations a little better.”

Ericka added, “Zabrina has the highest GPA among all of the enrolled students, the current acting president of our sorority as you know already, and was already pretty well known for her academics along with her pageanting and cheerleading prior to enrolling.”

Zabrina sneers at Ericka, “Way to give our guest the Cliff’s Notes version of my accolades, but I digress. I had to give up both pageanting and cheerleading since I just can’t find the time for it these days, y’know with double majoring and all of that jazz. It’s already bad enough I don’t have much time for Bajiquan practice as I would like…. My mother keeps getting upset that I won’t model for her fashion designer friends, despite all of the merchandise they keep flooding my way hoping that I would promote for them… I swear, there’s never enough time in the day for all that I would love to do, despite what I have to do on a regular basis.”

Cooper shot his shot one more time, this time directing his comments towards Imani. “How about you, Imani? I’m sure my subscribers would love to hear about a day in the life of one of our best track and field students.”

Zabrina opened her mouth ready to respond for Imani, but she spoke up for herself, “I got this Zabrina. Cooper, I’ll definitely take you up on that offer. Just let me get back to you whenever I can fit it in after practice one evening.”

Zabrina rolled her eyes and kept walking while shaking her head.

Ericka resumed listing off her peers' accolades to Lillian, “Imani is one of our university’s most decorated athletes. She’s on both our track and field along with the volleyball teams after excelling in her academics and sports in high school that she had her pick of the litter for any university in the country. It’s a blessing that she chose to enroll at Elysium Bay University.”

Imani chimed in, “I hope to play in the Olympics someday too.”

“You will be happy to know that the next Olympics is set to be held in Concordia in eight years, maybe you could fly over to visit after graduating. I would be more than happy to accommodate you there for anything that you may need,” informed Lillian.

Imani beamed, “That’s amazing! I will definitely take you up on that offer.”

Lillian quickly added, “Zabrina and Ericka, you are both more than welcome to join her for that trip. I’ll be sure to have my family roll out the red carpet just like the hospitality that you have shown me here.”

Zabrina shrugged nonchalantly, “Sure, why not? I could clear some things off my schedule and squeeze in a vacation in Concordia for the Olympics. Ericka, make sure to add that to my itinerary when we’re done this evening.”

Ericka stammers, “Yes, ma’am.”

No Need For Subtly

Back on the ground floor of Heaven Industries, Majestuosa’s phone beeps to notify her of a recent deposit to her bank account. She smiles wide like a cheshire cat and heads towards the nearest exit.

Bliss and Bless interjected, “Miss Mendoza, we will personally escort you off of the premises, especially with our unwanted guests upstairs…”

“That won’t be necessary, dolls. I’ll see myself out. C’mon, Taurus. Dumond finally wired our payment so we can leave this chicken stand. Later, losers. And when I say losers, I’m talking specifically to you, Diosa.”

Diosa stuck her tongue out at Majestuosa.

Majestuosa adds one more bit of wisdom, “I suggest you keep her out of sight since I’m dropping my psionic cloaks over her once I leave the building. I don’t think your adoring public are quite ready to see someone quite like her prancing around here right now, especially after all that’s transpired.”

Bliss and Bless nodded in agreement and led Diosa to one of the private, unoccupied break rooms to wait for Helena’s return.

Majestuosa and Taurus veered off through several of the winding corridors and hallways before returning to the parking garage without saying a word to each other until Taurus finally spoke up.

Taurus mused, "After all of that pageantry, we finally got paid - with interest no less. After this job, we definitely deserve a lot of R & R. How about we hit up that beach resort you liked?"

Majestuosa says nothing as she seems to be distracted or detached from the conversation. Taurus was about to query to see if something was bothering his mistress, but she immediately stopped in her tracks, spun around and flung something telekinetically against the garage wall.

She smirks, "I FINALLY caught my stalker. The desire to kill was so heavy in this building when that creature was running amok that it was hard to pinpoint where your mind was. Whoever you are, I have to give you credit for eluding me this long. There's not many in this world who can sneak up on a telepath. Even now, I can't infiltrate your mind nor read your thoughts. Enough of the games and reveal yourself to me properly."

Kanashimi struggles to free herself from the invisible force that Majestuosa is pinning her to the wall with, but it's to no avail. She sighs heavily and breaks the cloaking spell that was hiding her appearance from their view.

Taurus gasps, "A kunoichi? No wonder she was able to tail us for so long."

"One of the UnSeen's agents no less, given by her skillset. Like I said, not many people on this planet possess those unique skills. She's a long way from home too. I didn't know that their agents trekked this far out into the mainland."

Majestuosa applies a bit more telekinetic pressure as the stone wall behind Kanashimi cracks further from the force being applied to it. Kanashimi grits her teeth to stifle a cry of pain while Majestuosa sneers at her prey caught within her web.

"How much more do I have to squeeze to make you... no, force you to open your mind to me and let me know all of your secrets?"

Before Kanashimi could answer, Majestuosa found herself being struck from behind by... another Kanashimi? The surprise attack was enough to break Majestuosa's concentration, thus freeing the first Kanashimi from being pinned to the wall. The second Kanashimi drew her daggers and approached Majestuosa, who was down on all-fours. Taurus grabbed her by the wrist, only for Kanashimi to stab him in the midsection with her free hand. To her surprise, the dagger shatters upon contact with his impenetrable skin.

Kanashimi improvises on the fly and flips Taurus to the floor with an armbar combined with a leg scissors to bind his arms behind him while simultaneously using his strength against him in the hold. Taurus releases his grip on her but that was only because he was laying the groundwork for the pending soccer ball kick from Majestuosa. Kanashimi's body explodes into dust, leaving nothing more than a wooden log laying on top of Taurus' arm. Both of them look confused until the real Kanashimi reappears from the shadows with her katana drawn as she spins through the air. Taurus shoves Majestuosa out of the way and blocks the blade again with his bare arm. Once again, Kanashimi surprises him as he notices blood running down his arm at the point of contact with his flesh. He immediately punches her back with his armed fist.

Majestuosa shouts at him, "Don't do that again without thinking or you might lose that arm. I've heard about one of the UnSeen's agents who has wildcard abilities, specifically with the mastery over kinetic energy. I'm guessing that she's storing raw kinetic energy and using it to strengthen her attacks. It doesn't matter how strong or dense your skin is if she can coat her blade with enough kinetic energy to burn right through it like a hot knife through butter."

Kanashimi speaks for the first time, "Impressive. The telepath did her homework and didn't have to cheat to steal the answers from me either."

Majestuosa taunts back, "So does my stalker have a name, or are you fine with me just calling you 'Ninja Bitch'? And for the record, if you wanted to see me naked, you could've just asked."

"Kanashimi... I shall be the deliverer of your last rites this evening," she replied.

Majestuosa smirks, "You're welcome to try."

Taurus speaks up, "Hold it, Mami. I've heard of that name before. She's the wrong kind of trouble that we want to get mixed up with."

Majestuosa confidently strides forward, "I'm not afraid of some bitch cosplaying as a ninja. I'm not going to fall for that trick again either."

She motioned for another telekinetic gesture but Kanashimi was quicker this time, tossing a flash bang towards Majestuosa. Majestuosa stumbles back, confused and blinded from the dizzying lights. Kanashimi throws a smoke bomb at Taurus' feet, leaving them both disoriented. Taurus charges forward through the smoke looking to shield Majestuosa with his body but he's struck from behind by Kanashimi's blade. The cut isn't deep but she's gradually leaving her mark on him.

Kanashimi informs her prey, "I can use my powers for more than just attacking you with my blade. Improving my natural speed and strength is mere child's play as well."

Her voice seems to echo all around them in the parking garage as their visibility seems to lower the longer this battle peters out. Majestuosa stops rubbing her eyes and keeps them closed as she calms her nerves and searches for her mind instead. She uses Taurus as an extension of herself, using him to block Kanashimi's incoming attack with his armored sleeve and sweep her off her feet with a powerful lariat that would make the legendary professional wrestler Stan Hansen proud. Kanashimi slowly rose to her feet to slash at the incoming Majestuosa. Majestuosa vaults over the kunoichi and into Taurus' arms, who then launches her back into the air back towards Kanashimi as she spun around. Majestuosa's lucha libre background was in full display as she connected with a deadly Poison Rana to the kunoichi, slamming the back of her head and shoulders firmly into the pavement. Taurus doesn't stop there as he grabbed Kanashimi by her legs and hoisted her body onto his shoulders as he readied her into position for a powerbomb. Kanashimi jerked back to life and repeatedly stabbed Taurus with two of her kunai into his shoulders. This causes Taurus to drop her prematurely onto the pavement again, but Majestuosa leapfrogs over his back and lands on Kanashimi's midsection with a Double Foot Stomp.

Majestuosa sat on top of Kanashimi's chest and taunted her foe, "Had enough yet? I have to admit. I'm a little disappointed given your reputation, but then again, not many are in my league."

Kanashimi said nothing in response as her eyes shined brightly as her body illuminated with a bright light. Both Majestuosa and Taurus are blown back by the release of kinetic energy detonated from the kunoichi's body as a powerful explosion that ripples throughout the building.

At that very moment on the ground level of Heaven Industries, Helena Dumond steps off the elevator with Pollux, Tate, and Nguyen all following close behind her when a violent tremor shakes the building as they all feel the aftershocks from Kanashimi’s act of desperation.

Helena radios over her earpiece, “What the hell was that? I want a status and diagnostic check on all floors for any structural and systematic damage. I think we’ve had enough surprises for one day.”

Unbeknownst to Helena, Pollux is reviewing the message that he received earlier on his HUD (heads-up display) that displays the following message: “You are clear for extraction. The asset is in sight for pick-up.”

Pollux politely nudges Tate and Nguyen to follow his lead.

“If you need any further assistance in the investigation, don’t hesitate to give us a call, Miss Dumond. We wouldn’t want to impede on your business operations and recovery proceedings any further than we already have this afternoon. If we get any leads on those thieves, we’ll let you know. Have a nice afternoon, Miss Dumond.”

The trio salute and walk off as Helena makes one final remark, “Safe travels, gentlemen. And next time, tell Dr. Maxwell to swing by for a visit in person instead of sending his foot soldiers and errand boys to do his bidding. If he wanted a tour of Heaven Industries, all he had to do is ask. I don’t bite… much anyway.”

Pollux grits his teeth as while he doesn’t turn around to acknowledge her remark, Tate and Nguyen could almost literally feel him seething from it.

He merely states, “I’ll pass the message along.”

Back in the parking garage below, Kanashimi makes a quick inventory check to make sure she still has her goods, along with her weaponry before returning back to her feet.

A voice patches in through Kanashimi's earpiece, "Your ride is right outside, Kanashimi. We figured that was your signal the second that earthquake shook the building. You better hurry up before Dumond's private militia investigates."

Kanashimi takes stock of the fact that there is no sight of Majestuosa nor Taurus nearby.

Hostile threats have been neutralized… for the moment anyway. Getting out of here alive and delivering this data is my prime objective. As much as I would love to investigate Dumond’s place of business even further, the escalating levels of danger if I were to linger here any longer wouldn’t be very good for my well-being. She’s clearly hiding a lot more skeletons in her closet than she’s letting on. My findings feel like I was merely scratching the surface of what her operations are truly after and setting into motion.

After wincing in pain slightly and staggering back to her feet, the kunoichi ran straight for the nearest exit under the veil of smoke and debris from the result of this skirmish. What little soldiers remained of Heaven Industries’ security detail that weren’t being treated upstairs or were lower ranking security officers were coming down the stairs to investigate the scene, leaving a lone officer guarding the parking garage exit. Kanashimi made short work of the guard, striking him with a powerful strike between the base of his neck and shoulders, rendering him instantly unconscious.

Enjoy your dirt nap.

Between the cloud of dust concealing her approach and the unsuspecting blow from behind, he didn't have a chance.

An unmarked white van pulls up and the backdoors open up with Pollux, Nguyen and Tate sitting inside.

“Took you bastards long enough to get here…” she remarked after stepping inside.

Categories SWM Library | Diosa

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