The Phoenix Initiative – Chapter 7

Written by papayoya1 :: [Saturday, 23 February 2019 17:53] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 24 February 2019 09:38]

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Chapter 7

Nicole was in the back of the same delivery truck Petrenko had used to get her closer to Vanderbilt. Once more, the Ukrainian mobster had taken the ride with her.

“Are we there?” Nicole asked when she noticed that the engine had stopped.

She received a confirmation from one of the men in the front and smiled, taking a deep breath. She was about to cross another line, but at the same time she was in front of a new milestone in her plan. No risk, no glory, she thought.

“We are in the heart of Downtown,” Andrey observed.

Nicole smiled in the way that she knew made the Ukrainian nervous and said:

“You have good observation skills.”

“When will you take care of my father?” the mobster asked, in what was becoming a recurrent and annoying question.

“I told you already. I’m doing this for you. And also, for him. There are a few things I need to take care of before it’s safe to get him out of prison.”

“Like going public,” Andrey said.

“Like going public.”

Nicole was fed up with the man’s complaints, so she did not say anything else before moving to the back of the truck and opening the door. She did not have to shield her eyes from the intense sunlight. Somehow, this was another minor but useful ability in her list of enhancements.

Her impact in her surroundings was soon noticeable. Nicole heard the truck’s engine starting again as Petrenko and his men drove to the safety of their estate, but at the same time her ultra-sensitive ears could catch the whispers and comments her presence was causing.

She had chosen a similar attire to the one she had worn in her assault to the Triad’s base, the two-piece Kevlar outfit skimpy enough and tight enough to show her Amazonian figure in all its magnificence.

People got out of her way as she ambled down the sidewalk with feline grace, looking down at the chest-high people with a mix of disdain and curiosity. Nicole reveled in the knowledge that she was utterly superior to them, their mesmerized looks as she kept advancing towards her target fueling her ego.

Of course, everyone knew about the Phoenix girls by now, even if most people had not seen one live. It wouldn’t be hard for the crowd to associate her with them, but most likely the question going through most of their minds was who the hell was she. After all, they knew about the redhead, the African-American and the blonde bimbo, but no one had told them about a Polynesian before. She was tempted to show them more about herself, the experience she already had having taught her just how satisfactory physical violence was in her new condition, but she refrained herself. She would have ample chance to let go as soon as she reached her destination.

She had asked Petrenko to stop a couple of blocks away on purpose. Nicole did not know just how soon the situation would get out of control and she needed the impatient Ukrainian alive and kicking, at least for a while more. It turned out that her caution had been unnecessary. For all the looks and comment that she got, Nicole was not disturbed before she reached her objective.

She stopped at the tall glass doors she knew too well. It was ironic, she thought, that her destiny would end up bringing her to the place she had worked at the five years prior to the unexpected solar eruption that had turned her into a super-woman. But when Zhao had mentioned Neil Kavanaugh, at Gibson-Kavanaugh, she had not had any problems to believe that the partner at her former firm was both good enough and unscrupulous enough to manage the Triad’s front in Santa Isabel.

Of course, this represented no problem at all to Nicole in her quest to get Petrenko rid of the Chinese competition. If anything, it was an incentive. Nicole had learned a lot in the ultra-competitive environment of Gibson-Kavanaugh, but like most other associates, she had little love for the firm and the people managing it. Pitched against her colleagues from day one, Nicole had soon proven that she was smarter and more ruthless than any of them, which had helped her climb through the ranks faster than usual. But other than showing her a path to fulfill her immense ambition, the way the firm treated her had not been thought to grow her appreciation of her bosses.

She would enjoy showing them her new self. And she was pretty sure that the memories of her former job would also help her to let go. After all, this was the place where she had learned to channel her aggressiveness for her own benefit.

The lobby was rather full as she stooped to get through one of the main doors. She smiled as conversations suddenly died and she became the center of everyone’s attention. Nicole stood there, hands on her hips, smirking at the nicely suited businessmen and lawyers, relishing the shock her mere presence caused.

“I guess you are all wondering who the hell I am,” she said in a loud tone, one that she could only achieve thanks to her superhuman lungs.

The eerie silence was all the confirmation Nicole needed. She did not give anyone time to react before she stooped and reached out for a woman that had remained too close to her, considering her vast reach. She looked like a screaming child when Nicole stood back up, lifting her petite figure with one hand and holding her at eye level for everyone to see.

The muttering intensified, and Nicole’s super-hearing let her enjoy the different conversations, many of them wondering whether she was related to the Phoenix. She smiled, seeing as everything was panning out exactly as expected.

“So, let me introduce myself,” she said the audience.

She then tossed the woman against the wall at the opposite end of the lobby. Nicole had not used all her strength. She had not restrained a lot either. The woman’s body flew across the vast space and crashed with the wall at some fifteen feet in height. The splashing sound was sickening as the woman’s body exploded and started sliding down, leaving a wide red streak as it did.

She barely registered the death as any different from any of the multiple ones she had already caused. Deep inside, Nicole knew that those she had killed so far were either workers at Fort Exeter that she had had the right to hate or guns-for-hire of a very violent mafia group. For all she knew, the woman she had just brutally finished was a lawyer or a worker of the financial sector, working at the building or visiting someone who did. A year ago, it could have been her. And still, her death did not feel bad. It served a purpose. And it felt so fucking well to exercise her physical supremacy!

Needless to say, her little display of violence had triggered the panic. Soon, everyone at the lobby was either screaming or running or both. Nicole mostly ignored the crowd as she headed towards the main counter with a strut. She still shoved a few people out of the way, sending them flying across the room, but she did not look for        lethal force as she did.

The security guards needed their time to react. To be fair with them, their line of sight was mostly filled with panicked people for a while. Eventually, they started shooting at her. Nicole was not at all concerned. She was already used to the feeling of the useless slugs ricocheting from her harder-than-armor skin and after finishing over sixty well trained mercenaries, three security guards in white shirts that couldn’t do much to hide their prominent bellies were hardly a challenge.

The guards admirably kept shooting at her, emptying their clips as she closed the distance to the counter. Her hand moved too fast for the closest one to react as she reached for his gun, engulfing it and his shooting hand in her quite larger fist. The security guard tried to pull his hand back; he might as well been trying to move a glacier out of its course, since Nicole’s arm did not move even a fraction of an inch. His two colleagues had stopped shooting and soon joined him in unsuccessfully trying to pry Nicole’s fingers open. Bored with them, she just tightened her fist, feeling bones, muscle and the gun break with ease, as she turned it all into a mangle of gore and steel. The guard’s shriek was heartbreaking for everyone but Nicole, who relished as she opened her hand to show everyone that the man’s arm now finished in a stump. It was not as if this was going to be a long-term problem for him.

Nicole kept a permanent smirk in her face as she moved her gory hand from the man’s arm to his head, grabbing him with ease by the skull and lifting him from behind the counter.

“Shooting people is not nice!” she said before closing her fingers and popping the man’s head like a grape.

The other two guards had lost any will to fight her. Unfortunately for them, they were trapped behind the counter, while mostly everyone else in the lobby had already found a way out. The most they could do was to corner themselves at the back of the security area, but it was obvious that this was not going to stop the Asian amazon for too long.

Keen to prove it to them, Nicole just stepped forward, her leg easily breaking through the heavy mahogany counter as she kept walking as if the piece of expensive furniture had never been there.

She reached the guards soon enough, crouching and placing a finger under each of their chins to lift them up as she rose. To say that they were terrified would have been an understatement. Nicole loved it, but she found it disgusting when one of the men ended up wetting himself. She twitched her nose before flicking the finger holding his chin upwards, snapping his neck before he could notice.

Letting him drop, she focused on the lone survivor. Her smile was mischievous as she used her now free hand to remove a tear from his cheek with an unnatural gentleness.

“Can you do me a favor?” she asked in a soft tone.

The man nodded as he sobbed.

“I want the fire alarm on. Can you do that for me?”

He nodded once more, so she guided him to the main console and even crouched to bring a random chair back on its legs so that he could sit as he operated the computer. The sound of the alarm across the building made her smile soon enough.

“Can you make it silent?” she asked.

The man nodded again, and she was rewarded by the annoying sound dying while every other signal that the alarm was on still showing.

“You have been useful,” Nicole said as she fondled the hair of the crying man. “Next time, think twice before shooting someone, though.”

She just pulled his hair back with violence, cracking his neck in the process. There was no way she was going to let the man live after having attacked her, but she thought he deserved a less messy death for his services.

Nicole took a deep breath and scanned her surroundings. The lobby was now empty, save for herself and a few corpses of her own making. With the fire alarm on, none of the sixteen elevators in the fifty-two floors tall Miller Page building would work, making the task of evacuating it almost impossible. Things would be especially tough for those working at Gibson-Kavanaugh since her former firm occupied the last eight floors of the skyscraper.

Nicole had seen the images her former colleague Nathalie climbing the elevator shaft at the Walden Tower. She got tired just to think on how cumbersome that would be. Instead, she flexed her legs and shot herself upwards. Her head broke through the thirty-foot high ceiling with ease and kept going, her super-dense and super-strong body not having any issues to tear through bricks, concrete and other sturdy construction materials. Some spongier feelings as she rose through the high-rise told her that this was not the only thing she had been breaking, as proven by the gore she found in her chest when she finally landed to a stunned audience in the fifth floor.

She had pushed herself only mildly on purpose. After all, she did not want to overshoot her target, so it was easier to get to the top floor through a series of smaller hops than with one big leap.

“You seem surprised!” Nicole mocked the startled crowd. “Have you never seen a superwoman bursting through the floor before?”

The structure around her was weakened enough not to withstand any more torturing from Nicole’s super-strength and she knew that, so she just shashayed through the office she had landed in, smiling evilly at the people as she tossed furniture and workers aside.

“So, what do you guys do, here?” she asked cheerfully.

None of the fleeing employees seemed to be interested to reply, which made her frown. Getting closer to a wall, she broke through it with both hands and brought back a woman she had seen getting through the door to that office just a few seconds before.

“I asked you a question!” she barked as she held the screaming woman over her head with one hand.

“Taxes!” a man finally screamed.

Nicole raised an eyebrow and tossed the woman to the side.

“Can it get any more boring than that?”

These were her last words before pushing herself up once more. This time both the floor and the ceiling broke as she shot five more floors to land in the middle of a board meeting. She had to love the look in the big fishes at Orson Inc., according to the sign in the wall.

“Didn’t you get the alarm?” Nicole mocked as she moved around the large table with threatening elegance, looking at the boy-sized men with mischief. The members of the board quickly stood up and moved away of her, placing the heavy ebony table between the woman and them as they muttered in uncertainty.

Nicole kept moving like a huntress as the members of the board gathered themselves opposite to her and by the tall windows.

Nicole reached down for the massive table and easily ripped it off the floor, overturning it with a flick of her wrists.

“I think it’s time for you to get out!” she added with an evil smile as she placed the ball of her foot on the bottom of the table and pushed, shooting the heavy piece of furniture forward and sending it breaking through the windows, carrying the eleven members of the board with it.

Nicole was perfectly aware that she was overdoing it. Her main mission objective did not include killing innocent people at random, but this would help her with her side plans. And it was so much fun!

She kicked the door to the boardroom out of the way, inadvertently killing two more people as it shot through the open office space beyond. This time she did not even stoop as she let her head break through the door frame as she stepped through it to face a terrified crowd of consultants.

Nicole’s introduction had been frightful enough to send everyone into a run without the need to wonder who the impossibly tall and incredibly fit woman standing at the boardroom’s door was. As usual, Nicole was starting to become aroused with her dominance and felt her lust asking her for more. She did want to waste too much time, but she did not see any reason not to indulge a little. Spying the spot where most of the crowd seemed to be going, Nicole just changed her direction and broke through a wall, surprising a couple dozen people in a coffee area.

“Hi there!” she said as the dust from her casual demolition work was still settling.

The screams intensified at her unexpected arrival. Nicole smirked evilly at them just before resuming her ramble. People tried to desperately get out of the way. Most were successful. Three were not and were soon caught between the wall and thirty-six hundred pounds of merciless woman. She pretended to ignore them as she went on, the resistance of the soft bodies barely a challenge for her super-dense muscles. The screams soon became sickening as the battle between Nicole, the three-trapped people and the wall was first lost by the office workers and then by the brick divider. She was soon on the next room, the dust and gore stuck to her towering figure being the only indication of the obstacles she had found on her way.

Nicole knew that she was upping the ante fast enough, but a quick touch at her drenched pussy reminded her that there was nothing wrong with it, as far as she was concerned.

With the room she was now standing on basically empty, Nicole flexed her calves and jumped once more, pushing the jump a little more than in previous occasions and climbing ten floors in one go as an entire section of the floor she had been in caved.

“They are finally learning,” she muttered as she looked at the almost deserted office space. Nicole could hear people heading to the emergency exits and even saw a straggler or two, but she was not in the mood to chase individual people.

She had some time to reflect as she sauntered around the office, the floor shaking as she looked for a robust enough spot to take the next jump. She was soiled once more, which seemed to be her natural state when dealing with regular people. Dust and gore covered her tanned skin like some sort of macabre make-up and while Nicole couldn’t have cared less, she thought on being presentable when she reached her former firm. She was proud of the idea she had to resolve the problem.

Reaching into the wall with one hand, the amazon quickly broke through the plaster with her fingers and was holding a mangle of ripped power cables. The tickled, even if only a little, but this was not what she was looking for. Her objective was no other than to get the necessary sparks to set the fabric separators between cubicles on fire, a result she achieved with ease.

It was then only a matter of waiting before the smoke detectors activated and the fire suppression system turned on. Every sprinkler in the floor went on at once, and Nicole moaned as the cool water caressed her body and cleansed it while she resumed her walk around the deserted office under the artificial rain.

It was during those rare moments of quiet during her self-created storm that she had the time to reflect a bit more calmly about what she was doing and about just how much her life had changed in one year.

She realized that she could have been in the position of any of the people she had so ruthlessly killed over the last minutes and imagined how terrified she would have felt if she had been in her office and an eight-foot tall woman had suddenly broken through and started to finish her co-workers with her own hands. Far from raising any sympathy for the victims, the thought stirred Nicole, these flashes of her old life being the only remaining link she had to understand her new reality from the people’s perspective.

For Nicole was not a weak and defenseless plain woman anymore, barely standing out because of a slightly superior intellect and ambition, trapped in the world’s wheel like a hamster. She was something else now, she had gone through a painful but amazing transformation and she now had the power to make her own life, to make her own rules. Of course, this was not what Lindbergh, Sully and the rest had had in mind. If anything, they had wanted to put her into an even smaller wheel, where she would become their superstrong maid while they looked for ways of using her amazing abilities for their benefit with one hand while they tried to get rid of her will and herself with the other.

Nicole had seen it early enough, the men’s kind words and manners not deceiving her well-honed mind. She had seen soon enough that Campos had been the only one with pure interests, and it had been evident that she did not have any power or influence.

It still beat her that the other girls could not see. Or that they could not act upon what they suspected. Nicole thought she knew what their problem was. For all their physical transformation, Jennifer and Nathalie were still looking at the world through the same small keyhole they had before the Flare. To them, people and what they thought of them were still important. And this limited them, caged them into a narrow space where Lindbergh could control them, since he had the key for them to fit into society.

Not for the first time, Nicole thanked her lack of empathy for having allowed her an unclouded judgment. Different than the others, she could see the truth. She could see that people did not matter anymore. How could they, when she was so vastly superior? Superior enough to be truly free, unbound from the rules and morals society had given itself to trap those that stood out.

The Flare had transformed her through suffering, but now she knew that freedom had been waiting at the end of the agony. All she had to do was take it, being bold enough to break the last chains, those laid out by Lindbergh and his men. And now, finally, she had the power to do as she pleased, without fear of retaliation… almost.

Lindbergh was still a threat, as was Sully. And unless she found a way of making them see the truth, the other girls were too. The plan was so simple and yet so hard. She had to learn what the FRU guys were up to, get rid of them and neutralize the menace of the other Phoenix one way or another. Once she did, true freedom would be hers.

She was on her way to reach yet another milestone in her path, the visit to her former employer, designed both to help Petrenko and to help her in her real mission. Feeling that she was clean enough, Nicole just flexed her legs and broke through nine new stories before landing in front of the elevators of the twenty-ninth floor. She was surprised not to find anyone there, but it was not hard for her to find the source of the background noise.

Nicole was still fifteen floors away from the lowest one occupied by Gibson-Kavanaugh, twenty-three from the top floors where the offices of the main partners were. A couple additional hops would bring her there, but apparently the combination of the alarm and the confusing news about her menacing presence had finally got most of those working on the building into an evacuation. With the elevators down, this left a single possible path: the stairs.       

Of course, no one ever used the stairs in a building such as the Miller Page, but Nicole had seen to it that the crowd would have no other option. Despite her murderous path through the building, Nicole had been fast enough in her climb, so she was reasonably certain that no one from her former firm would have had the time to climb down the fifteen stories that separated them from the floor where she was at now.

So, by the time she kicked the access door out of the way and stooped to get into the wide stairs, none of her ex-colleagues had yet reached her position. Several other people had, but they had now stopped dead on their tracks as her oversized and impossibly fit body stood on their way, arms akimbo.

The crowd looked at her with a mix of fear and uncertainty. Nicole understood that, to them, she was as new as she had been to the people in the lobby. She had no time for explanations, so she just drew her arm back as she closed her hand into a fist. A second later, the two people closest to her had turned into a splash of crimson, unleashing the chaos she had been seeking.

Nicole calmly chased the crowd as it desperately tried to make its way back up the stairs, noticing the blood streaming down her tight body. So much for her intent to look presentable for a while! She did not rush or force the situation, but more often than not, a person or two ended up dropping from the group, tumbling as they tried to flee from her. Nicole relished in crushing them under her humongous feet, the combination of her supernatural weight and the force from her calves enough to squish the bodies of those that had been unfortunate enough without slowing her pace.

It felt almost like wading through bodies, her arms soon joining the fest as they tossed people to the sides, frequently to die as they smashed against the walls. Nicole realized how inhumanly cruel her actions would look to anyone who did not understand just how easy this was for her. Easy enough to make it feel natural.

Sooner or later they had to learn. She was not worried, since this was what she had been seeking from the beginning. The crowds started moving out of the stairs and getting back to the deceiving safety of their offices, emptying the slaughterhouse that the emergency stairs had become. When she completed her first flight of stairs without victims, Nicole decided that she had what she wanted and hopped one more, smiling when she saw that she had landed exactly on the forty-fourth floor. A large Gibson-Kavanaugh sign welcomed her as soon as she broke through the door and into the office space.

Her heart filled with glee when she saw that the welcome committee also included several her ex-colleagues, now in utter panic. She savored the situation when she saw the understanding in the eyes of some of them and realized that they had recognized her.

“This is going to be such a rush!” Nicole said as she run her tongue through her lips and took a first step towards her terrified former co-workers.

They tried everything to get away from her. Some ran. Others were smarter and locked themselves in their offices. A few more tried to hide in the most unsuspecting places. It did not matter, Nicole thought as she strutted her way into the firm, making sure to give everyone who still dared to look the best possible view of what she had turned into.

Well-suited men and women kept flying around like headless chicken as Nicole moved slowly into the office. It looked familiar, but also different. She had found that this happened to her when she visited a place she had known in her new form. It had to do with the scale, of course. But she thought it also had to do with her attitude as she looked at the world with new eyes, with the eyes of someone who knew that was above.

She had to find the first stragglers sooner or later. They had holed up in a conference room that was too much on her way, so eager to meet some of them already, Nicole diverted her path enough to break through the door and smirk at the half a dozen terrified lawyers.

She did not address them right away. They were not going anywhere, so the amazon took her time to look at their features and recognize two of them, a man and a woman. Like most lawyers, Nicole had an outstanding memory, a memory that had been considerably enhanced with the rest of her body. So, she did not need to ask to know that they were Clint Hutton and Martha Lawson.

She was surprised to see Martha still worked in the firm. Nicole had always considered her as cannon fodder, someone who would not make it past the first promotions. Clint was different. Sharp and without scruples, the man had competed with her for cases and notoriety. He had also hit on her twice at company parties.

“Nicole, is that you?” he asked before she had the chance to say anything.

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked, moving her hands along her body to show herself.

“What happened to you?” he asked, his voice shaking.

“Come and find out,” Nicole offered in a deceptively silky voice.

The man did not make any attempt at moving, so Nicole smashed her fist through the wall and raised her voice to an unnatural volume.

“I said come!”

The man hesitated, but her look offered no doubt that the alternative would be worse. Nicole could see some of the other people in the room sob as they looked at Clint with pity. She had to concede that he looked dignified enough as she crossed the room and stood in front of her, only to see that his head could barely make it to the bottom of her breasts.

Nicole did not crouch. She just reached out and grabbed a fistful of the man’s shirt, raising him like rag doll so that she could look into his eyes. It was only a casual gesture, but it was enough to sow the terror inside the man’s heart once more.

“You know what I am,” she said in a soft voice.

“You never… they never talked about you. They only mentioned the other three!” Clint said.

“Do you ever believe everything you are told, Clint?” Nicole asked, smirking.

“Nicole… they said.. they said that you killed people,” the man said nervously.

“I never was a girl scout,” she replied coldly.

“Oh my God…” the man said, now sobbing. “What are you going to do to me?” he asked with fear.

“I reconsidered your proposals,” Nicole finally said, bringing the man closer and locking her thick lips around his.

Clint tried to fight it, but there was no way he could break the amazon’s kiss. His feet started kicking wildly as soon as she started sucking. Clint had always taken good care of himself. Details like his perfume or his minted breath witnessed to that. So, Nicole’s forced smooch tasted fresh, at least until she started noticing the saltiness of the man’s blood. His useless kicking became even wilder as he felt the life being sucked out of him while his face turned purple. On the other end of the exchange, Nicole felt her cunt getting wet once more as she relished the sheer superiority her little act implied. She kept going on for a while after the man’s arms and legs went limp, dropping his corpse to the floor with a thud when she was done. Her tongue circled her lips to remove the barely visible traces of blood. Her smile was evil as she looked back at the petrified group on the other side of the room.

“You guys don’t last,” she observed in a cruel tone.

“Why did you do this?” Martha asked, almost in a shriek.

“Because I can,” Nicole replied, shrugging as she headed towards her.

To everyone’s surprise, Nicole ignored the five people as they scattered to the sides as soon as she was about to reach them. Instead, she just stepped through the wall and broke it as if it had been made of paper. Martha was worthless as a woman and as a lawyer, but it had never struck to Nicole as someone despicable. The rest, she did not know and looked young enough to be first or second year associates. Meaningless people. People she did not care if she ended up killing or not. And having a few witnesses to tell about the horror she’d unleashed was part of the plan, after all.

The man in the office she had broken into was not so lucky in Nicole’s random decision-making process. She had not known him, but she sent her fist through his skull anyway without even slowing down in her path to the south-east corner of the building. Seven offices and seven corpses later, Nicole was standing in front of a woman in her forties and that seemed not to be afraid.

“Cynthia,” she said softly, addressing the first partner at Gibson-Kavanaugh she had ever worked with.

“Nicole,” the woman replied coldly. Cynthia Carmichael was the best poker player Nicole had ever seen, so there was no telling if she was genuinely not scared or if she was doing an admirable exercise at containing her emotions.

“I never expected they would send you down to forty-four,” the amazon said.

“Eventually, I pissed off the wrong guy,” the partner replied.

“You still got the biggest office,” Nicole observed.

“Earned rights, I guess.”

There was a moment of silence. Then, the middle-aged lawyer asked:

“Will you kill me?”

“I could,” Nicole replied softly. “One of the first things I learned from you was not to respect weakness.”

“You were never weak,” Cynthia observed.

“That’s because you cannot see who I was through my new eyes.”

“Why are you here?” Cynthia finally asked.

Nicole chuckled.

“Business. You know I’m better than getting back to my old work just to go postal,” Nicole said. “You and the rest are nothing to me now.”

“So, do it and let’s get over this already,” Cynthia said, still not flinching.

Nicole chuckled again.

“I won’t. You polished my ruthlessness, shaped me into what I later became. It was not as if you were trying to teach me, but I learned anyway,” she said. “You might not be so lucky next time, though,” she added before flexing her calves and pushing herself through the ceiling.

Cynthia had not time to reflect on her former associate’s words as the floor around her caved in under the enormous pressure Nicole’s feet had exercised, sending her dropping into the floor below along with hundreds of pounds of rubble and office furniture. She was badly bruised by the time the dust settled. But she was alive.

 

*=*=*=*=*=*=*

 

Neil Kavanaugh was sitting in his office’s luxurious chair as he observed the chaos outside through the glass walls. The situation had been confusing at first. Neil was not the only one to think that the fire alarm was a drill, so he went on with his business meeting, like many of his colleagues.

When the tremors and random explosions came, panic rose quickly. His north-east corner office in the fifty-second floor of the Miller Page building was one of the best locations in the city. He had never thought before about the risks he faced if the elevators ever stopped working, since this had never been a risk.

Neil’s first reaction, as some of his workers and colleagues chaotically moved around, was to remain calm and wait for the situation to clarify. If things came to worst, they could always bring a chopper in and exit through the roof. Then, the news about the woman started trickling, moving from hoax to rumor and then to accepted truth remarkably quickly. He refused to believe what he’d heard until the videos started coming. Their sheer brutality was disgusting, even for someone with as little scruples as him. His hair stood on end when he could finally recognize the face of the monstrous woman rampaging the lower-floor offices in his building.

Nicole Keilani. Neil remembered her name. He could always remember all the names. They had done a short and emotionless ceremony to pay respects the two workers at the firm who had died in the Flare. A secretary and Keilani, a fifth-year associate. He remembered having thought that they had been rather lucky. Other firms had lost some of their top partners, and no matter how promising the Hawaiian girl had been, the impact of her loss in the business would be negligible.

This was his last thought before the explosion made his chair, with him sitting on it, topple. His head hit the floor hard, but despite the momentary moment of dizziness, Neil remained conscious. Then, he managed to precariously sit down on the floor and saw the towering figure behind the cloud of dust.

She did not seem to be in a hurry, waiting with her hands on her hips as the dust settled. Neil could guess an evil smirk in her blurry face, an observation that was confirmed once the effects of the explosion faded away. When he finally gathered enough strength to stand up, Neil Kavanaugh was standing face to face with Nicole Keilani, even if face to chest would have been a more precise observation.

“Hello Neil,” the woman said in a sensual tone, even if her deep voice still sounded way more powerful than it had the right to do.

“Miss… Keilani,” he finally said, getting a laugh as response.

“I like the show of respect,” the woman said as she removed her hands from her hips and started walking towards him.

He looked at both sides, trying to find a way past her. She seemed to notice and adjusted her strut so that he would not have ideas. Soon, he was facing the leather-like fabric of her overstretched bra.

“I’m up here,” the woman said with a trace of mockery as she reached down with one finger and forced his chin up, moving his sight from her mammoth breasts to her exotic and visibly satisfied face. Even through a single fingertip, Neil could feel the young woman’s overwhelming strength. It sent a chill down his spine. He had not dealt much directly with the young lawyer, but he vaguely remembered her: hard-worker, cold-thinker, ambitious, aggressive. While this description would have matched many of the young employees at Gibson-Kavanaugh, the idea that one of them now possessed the strength that the towering Nicole Keilani hinted was uncomfortable.

“We thought you were dead,” he finally managed to say when he recovered enough from the initial shock.

“Really? Did you mourn me?” the woman asked sarcastically.

“The government never talked about you,” Neil managed to babble.

“I guess they did not like the fact that I decided to go freelance.”

He was trying to find some words that could improve the situation. It was hard. He finally managed to let out:

“We treated you well.”

It made Nicole laugh wholeheartedly. Her finger left his chin and soon he found her oversized hand grabbing the back of his skull, her fingers threatening to burst it like a ripe melon. It hurt when he was pulled upward, his former employee holding him a couple of feet off the ground apparently with no effort. He groaned in pain.

“You are a smart man, Neil, so let’s cut the crap. You treated me like shit,” she said.

The fear must have been obvious in his eyes, since she laughed once more.

“I know it was not personal. You treated every other associate equal or worse. And I don’t blame you for that. I understand how power works. I did back then and believe me, I understand it way better now.”

She set him down again. There was relief, both physical when her fingers stopped compressing his head and emotional.

“What are you here for?” Neil finally managed to ask, dreading the answer.

Nicole only smiled as she got ready to reply:

“Why does everyone seem to think that I’m here for revenge?”

Neil was taken by surprise, so he did not know what to reply. She just went on.

“You are a hellish place to work for a young woman, but I knew what I was signing for. I knew what I wanted. I would have made a partner. And this would have only been the start. Of course, back then I did not know that things would get so much better!”

“You killed a lot of people,” Neil said.

Her answer froze his blood when it came.

“I was only indulging. And I have to admit that showing off in front of those I know feels better.”

He could not reply, which made her chuckle.

“Shocked? I was not expecting that from you. After all, you must be the most heartless person I’ve met, and believe me, I’ve met some very bad people lately.”

“I never killed anyone!” Neil defended himself.

“With your own hands? Probably not. But you’ve done worse,” she said. It made him scowl. “Don’t worry. I’m not the one to judge you. And that’s not why I’m here, anyway.”

“What are you here for, then?” Neil snapped, his frustration starting to match his fear.

Her words came softly.

“I recently made the acquaintance of a man named Zhao. I learned a lot of interesting stuff from him.”

Neil felt his heart stopping.

“You will tell me every single detail about the set up you built. And then, we are going to make some of that stuff conveniently become public.”

Every single alarm was ringing inside his head.

“This would be my end!” he let out, without thinking too much.

Keilani’s hand reached back for him and he felt her prodigious fingers closing on the side of his ribcage, getting enough of a grip to lift him like a balloon once more. Her dark brown eyes locked on his and then he felt the most intense pain he had ever experienced when her thumb pushed a bit more, snapping one of his ribs like a toothpick. Neil shrieked in pain. Her deep voice overshadowed him.

“I do not think you have understood just how much things have changed,” she said. “Not doing what I told you will be your end. And that of your family. I will leave you for the end, as a matter of fact.”

Neil realized that he was sobbing, the terror mixing with the intense pain.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked, sounding desperate.

“I told you. I understand power. And now I have it.”

Twenty minutes later, Neil looked up from the screen as he was about to push the “Send” button. He knew that this click would determine his future. He would most certainly be disbarred, and there was no telling what the Triads would do once every single front they had in the country came down. He dreaded the alternative more. A cheerful sound followed the click of the mouse and indicated that his life was now in his e-mail’s outbox.

Nicole Keilani had followed his explanations remarkably well, proving that she still kept a sharp legal mind despite the first impression her brute force transmitted. Neil had realized soon enough that it would not be possible to trick her and that he was effectively facing a choice between his professional future and his family’s wellbeing.

“That will be enough,” Nicole said. Then, she twitched her ears and smiled. “It was about time!”

Neil did not know what she was referring to when the massive woman walked to the floor-to-ceiling windows and looked down at the stream of squad cars and armored vans converging on the plaza with their sirens blaring.

“Let’s give them some time to get ready. There are a couple other things I need from you in the meantime,” the woman said with a confidence one would not expect from someone who was about to face half the cops in the city.

 

*=*=*=*=*=*=*

 

Sergeant Dante let out a deep breath as he adjusted his vest and looked at the imposing Miller Page building right in front of him.

It had been a frenzied week for the Santa Isabel Police Department. The day of the earthquake had been chaotic. The days that followed were exhausting, as they had to multiply their presence to enable the reconstruction work. The girls, the Phoenix, had been amazing… but for all their incredible impact, most of the work had still been done by the city’s emergency services. Cops, firemen, healthcare personnel… they had had a week they would remember for the rest of their lives.

With their minds having switched to recovery and rebuilding, no one was emotionally ready to face another crisis. And still, their response was admirable when the need arose.

The blockade around the Miller Page building was impressive, probably the largest concentrated effort he had ever seen the department doing. Two dozen squad cars and several SWAT vans circled the plaza as agents got ready. The briefing had been confusing at best, so other than the fact that they had to surround the area and help any survivors out of the building, they did not know much.

It was not as if the rumor mill had not been working. He had heard everything from plausible situations like a terrorist attack to ludicrous suggestions about one of the Phoenix girls rampaging the building. His men asked him once more for any news from the headquarters. He was about to send the request through the radio one more time when the answer fell from the sky.

Dante did not know who had pointed to the section of broken glass in the building’s last floor, but most of his comrades’ attention was soon directed there. This was what allowed him to see the comparatively small figure of a woman take the jump and follow her fall until she hit the ground. He was not ready for what happened then.

The road sank as the woman landed on her feet, the shockwave rippling the asphalt and sending some of his colleagues off his feet. Jack Dante was also pushed backward, but he managed to stay standing after his back hit his squad car. For all he knew, the woman should have been a splash in the asphalt, but this was far from what his eyes saw. She was very alive. More than that, she had landed gracefully on a knee and a foot, resting her right fist on the ground for balance. It had been so natural that it almost felt rehearsed and looking at the arrogant look on the woman’s face as she observed them with a sneer, it might have as well been.

The woman stood up and Jack felt a shiver running down his spine when he realized what she was. Only she could not be it. By now, everyone knew the Phoenix girls. Jennifer, Nathalie and Susan had become the most popular people in the world, and while their feats of strength still managed to awe everyone, the admiration they aroused prevented anyone from being afraid from them.

It was different with this one. Jack realized that she was giving him the creeps as his mind processed the situation. She was not one of the Phoenix girls… but she had to be one of them. There was no other explanation for her towering height and for incredibly defined muscles. Her tanned Asian features did not leave any room for confusing her with any of the known Phoenix, though. It was obvious that she was neither Jennifer nor Nathalie, even less Susan.

It was in that moment, when Jack felt her look of disdain, that he understood how little he knew about the Phoenix. And about how little anyone had thought about the flip side of the coin they represented.

Jack felt some guns cocking. He quickly followed. Before long, dozens of weapons were trained on the amazon. Her obvious unconcern raised all the alarms inside him.

“Attention woman!” the voice of one of the superior officers came through the loudspeaker. “Stay where you are and wait to be apprehended.”

Her lip curled.

“Or what?” her voice came, sounding way louder than it had the right to do and making Jack shiver.

“We are authorized to use lethal force!” the loudspeaker came back.

“Sounds fair,” her thundering voice came back.

She did not wait to take the first step, making Jack’s heart pound faster as he noticed his gun shaking. The silence was absolute. She took another step, looking both sensuous and incredibly dangerous as she did so. The tension could have been cut with a knife. The command finally came by the time she was about to complete her fourth step.

Jack was not amongst the first ones to discharge his weapon. He guessed the better-trained SWAT men had been the fastest to obey. He joined the barrage as soon as he managed to steady his weapon enough.

His comrade’s shots had been scarce at first. Jack understood that they had tried to bring her down possibly without killing her. She seemed unaffected as she took a fifth and sixth step, making Jack’s blood freeze when he realized that the SWAT agents were not missing. It was just that bullets were not hurting her.

Everyone was shooting at will by the time Jack started to. It was then, while aiming his regulations nine-millimeter to get the best possible shot, that he noticed the bullets ricocheting from her skin.

It was curious, Jack thought, that over all the coverage the Phoenix girls had got no one had really addressed in detail the effect of weapons on them. In hindsight, he understood that everyone had taken for granted that they could be hurt, just as any other person. After all, they were human, were they not? Everyone knew that the Flare had overdeveloped their muscles so that they could lift tones with ease and jump amazing distances, but no one was invulnerable to bullets, right?

The world was realizing about the mistake right now, and it had caught Jack in the front lines.

The shooting continued long after his first clip was empty. Jack never recharged, but some of his comrades did. Eventually, the barrage died as the Santa Isabel Police Department collectively understood that their weapons were useless against the woman they were facing. By then, thousands of deformed slugs littered the entire Miller Page plaza.

The super-woman didn’t seem interested in communicating further with them other than by the changes in her sneers. Still, she seemed satisfied when the shooting stopped. The flexing of her toes and knees was almost imperceptible the instant before she pushed herself out of sight. Jack did not have time to guess her trajectory before she landed right behind him, crushing his squad car as if it had been made of tinfoil as she reached out for him.

Her fingers closed around his skull with the force of a car compactor. A second later, her felt weightless. His last reflection before smashing into the façade of a building three-blocks down was how did one stop a woman with such strength and that could apparently not be hurt.

 

*=*=*=*=*=*=*

 

Nicole loved Neil Kavanaugh’s sobbing as she made time in his office while the cops got ready. She observed them lining up the cars, unloading weapons from the vans and taking positions. And, more importantly, she observed the constant streaming of the much brighter colored vans belonging to several news stations.

Lindbergh had had his publicity stunt. It was time for hers. The time to force the situation had arrived.

It was easy to break a large enough section of the window by the time she decided was right. She could have just jumped through it, but the attention she got as she let herself drop the six hundred feet that separated Kavanaugh’s corner office from the ground was invaluable.

Having had the vantage point of view from the tall building’s last floor, Nicole had the location of every element in the blockade well mapped out. She had also determined where her actions would have more visibility for the nervous journalists gathering just behind the precarious perimeter the Police Department was trying to enforce.

Nicole gave the cops enough time to recover. Then allowed some more time for the news crews to figure out what she was. From there, it was only a matter of pushing the cops limits a little to get them shooting at her. Nicole had never received so many impacts in such a short span of time, not even in the training, back at Fort Exeter. Beyond the intellectual pleasure of knowing herself invulnerable to bullets, this time there was some physical stimulation too. The concatenation of impacts, even if individually meaningless, ended up creating a massage-like effect that was very welcome.

She had to love the look of perplexity in the police officers’ faces as they gradually stopped shooting at her, realizing that it was useless. How, after almost a week, no one had thought to question the real danger the girls from the Phoenix Initiative represented, still beat Nicole. Especially the fact that no one seemed to have questioned how to stop them if needed or no one had wondered if standard weapons would work. Nicole was going to enjoy showing the world the answers to the questions they had not dared to ask. And once she did, the good life for Lindbergh and the other three girls would stop. Once she was done, everyone would see them for what they were. And there would not be cheering anymore.

Nicole did not have anything against Susan, Nathalie or Jennifer. Sure, the cheerleader was shallow and smug, and Nathalie’s permanent do-gooder attitude was tiring. But, without being dear friends, they had got along just well. The redhead girl was different, so introverted than most of what Nicole knew about her was basically guessing. Her objective was not to make their life miserable for the sake of it. If anyone, the only other three people in the world she could empathize with were them.

But the three girls were both a risk and an opportunity, and by forcing the situation, Nicole was also forcing them to choose. If anything, she needed to know who she would have in front and who she would have beside in her quest for the total freedom she had earned.

Nicole’s actions inside the Miller Plaza had already been thought to look for impact. Now she was live on TV, though. It was showtime.

She only needed to use a fraction of the strength of her legs and toes to jump a hundred feet and land precisely on the closest police car. A second later, she was holding the cop at hand, keeping him in place for one second before tossing him over her shoulder and making him fly three city blocks before he crashed in another tall office building.

“How’s that for a start?” Nicole thought, looking at the shocked journalists through the corner of her eye.

A roundhouse kick took care of two more cops, their bodies bursting at impact before being tossed a couple hundred feet back. Three more followed their fate as she took a step to the side she swept them with her arm.

That was all it took for the rest of cops to break. In hindsight, Nicole realized that it was natural. It was still disappointing. She was facing the largest concentration of police officers she had ever seen, and barely half a dozen deaths were enough to send them into a flee?

Of course, not everyone was running. Some had decided to stand their ground and fight, even if they did not know exactly how. Bullets started hitting her soon, the cops shooting at her acting as if something had changed and she was suddenly not invulnerable to them. Their efforts were still too weak to be considered resistance.

So, what followed was less of a fight and more of a slaughter, as Nicole advanced through the ranks of confused and shattered police officers and unleashed her superiority on them. Some she punched. Some she kicked. Some she just shoved. It did not matter. She was so much stronger than them that any mere gesture had the ability to be fatal.

She spied a group of three cops hiding behind a squad car and she toppled it on them. Another group was reaching the limits of the perimeter, so she picked up a second car, lifted it over her head and tossed it at them, turning them into a red streak in the asphalt as the car landed precisely where she had been aiming and then rolled on itself.

Two more she just crushed against each other, after grabbing each of the cops by the back of their heads as she advanced. The two-hundred and fifty-pound iron cover of a manhole became an improvised frisbee that sliced five cops before bringing a section of a building’s first floor down. Passing by a parking meter, Nicole ripped it off the sidewalk and started batting it around, sending cops flying to and fro.

It was so easy. It was so damn easy. Here they were, Santa Isabel’s finest, and she was obliterating them with the ease of a little girl playing with toys.

A casual kick sent a SWAT van sliding before it started rolling over itself for a block, its trajectory unavoidably ending with several more lives. She looked for her next victim, but it was not readily available. It was not as if there were no cops still alive. There were plenty. But they were mostly trying to flee on their own, now very scattered around all the area.

Nicole had no doubts that she would be able to catch them all, if needed. After all, she was also so much faster than them. But she was not in the mood to. She had done the job she had come to do. And she had had her fun, as witnessed by the mounting wetness in her womanhood. She was horny enough to do something about it, but it was not the time and place. The image she wanted to show the world through the dozens of cameras trained on her was not that one.

The journalists were still mostly in position despite the carnage. One could always count on their curiosity. Standing at a respectable distance with her hands on her hips, Nicole bellowed:

“My name is Nicole Keilani. You know what I am. It was time for you to learn what you are. I’ll be back!”

And with that, Nicole pushed herself to the limit of her leg’s muscles, feeling gratefully surprised when she landed past the city limits, two minutes later. She had left an eight-foot deep crater behind, along with a shockwave that had sent every single reporter off their feet at the time it shattered every single window in the area.