Freya's Story

Written by shadar :: [Monday, 21 December 2015 20:37] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 10 January 2016 11:55]

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Freya’s Story

by Shadar


Written for the SWM Winter 2016 story contest


 

Prologue

The young woman stood silently with her fists clenched as she stared up at the massive door. The purplish metal shimmered from the forcefield surrounding the ship and the air was filled with the scream of engines as the armored warship prepared for take-off. But they were too late this time. Despite her adoptive parents’ advice, Freya had decided she could no longer hide. The enemy was becoming too brave, and thanks to a bit of delicate politics ten-thousand light-years away, Earth currently had no Protector.

The Army had detailed a platoon of M1A5 Abrams tank crews and a StrykerII Brigade to defend the Bangor Submarine Base on Hood Canal just west of Seattle. They’d also brought in anti-aircraft batteries, but the missiles had burst harmlessly against the ship’s hull as it descended. The tanks had opened fire once the ship was on the ground, but their depleted-uranium penetrators had merely bounced off the alien warship. Their HEAT rounds left no more than a faintly glowing spot of soot on the purplish hull. In contrast, several blindingly bright energy blasts from the ship had reduced three of the tanks to molten lumps before their ammo cooked off in a devastating explosion, sending molten metal flying for hundreds of meters. Dozens of eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles had been destroyed as well by the time Freya arrived.

But still she waited. More important than the ship were the infiltrators they’d come to retrieve. They wouldn’t take off without their agents. She wanted them all captured.

The attack on the sub base had started when a docked Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine blew up and sank. Minutes later, a series of micro-nukes had collapsed all the support buildings along the docks, rendering the base temporarily useless. Then the alien ship had appeared in the sky to land and scoop up their agents, who she knew would shrug off the withering small and medium arms fire they were throwing at the ship. If the aliens remained true to form, their warship would then strafe the bunkers in the woods along the east side of the base with those energy beams and more micro-nukes, destroying most of them. Bunkers that were filled with nuclear warheads.

Not this time. Now that President Pickford had announced to all Americans, and the world, that ships of extraterrestrial origin were probing our defenses, Freya could no longer remain hidden. She knew more than anyone how dangerous their enemy was.

The President claimed that the enemy aliens were indistinguishable from ordinary people, and said they’d infiltrated key government, military and civilian locations in at least a dozen countries across the planet, and had done great damage to the infrastructure. Yet for all the frankness and vigor of his speech, he hadn’t named their enemy. For he did not yet know their name.

Freya unfortunately did. Her mother had tried to bring her to Earth for safety, given it was the one world the Arion Empire had left alone. No more.

In the days after the President’s announcement, nuclear-armed missiles in silos had been destroyed and several American and one British ballistic missile submarines went missing. The Russians, Chinese, French and every other nuclear power had also sustained devastating attacks on their nuclear forces. The Israeli’s had suffered attacks at two of their bases. Iranians and Pakistanis and Indians as well. A large area in North Korea was now a crater. Clearly the attackers knew where the nukes were located and were intent on destroying the one class of weapon they feared.

The reaction to the President’s speech had been swift. People forgot their political, racial and cultural differences and came together, pledging to defeat this attack from the stars. The whole world began to rise up as one. The problem was that no one could identify or stop the infiltrators, and then they always escaped. Like their ships, the enemy on the ground had proved invulnerable to conventional counter-attack.

Staring up at the huge warship in front of her, Freya felt small and terrified. She’d never been trained to fight. She’d only met a single Supremis, an Arion Prime to be exact, and that had been the worst day of her life.

Chapter One

Freya’s journey to Earth had begun as such journey’s must, on a major spacefaring planet. Thanks to previous generations of Kecklavians who had created havoc across most of the known universe, her home-world of Kecklava was strictly off-limits to all Guild ships. Other than a rare visit from the Scalantrans, they had no legal trading partners. But thanks to privateers, the right amount of money can get you anywhere.

Her mother used her family money to get them to Andros 2, a hot, steamy, tropical planet. Once there, they’d quickly hidden their natural three-legged furry form lest they were arrested, not only for illegal immigration, but also for simply being Kecklavian. Her mother’s first step was to solve that last problem.

She worked through the privateers to make a purchase of black market genetic samples. She chose something expensive and human called a Kidman — guaranteed to be high-grade DNA from the late 20th century Earth. Given that humans were everywhere, there was no better way to fit in than to shape-shift into one.

Being Kecklavian isn’t easy. Mother and daughter spent the next two months in a wet, bug-infested cave tucked into their chrysalis form as they manifested this new and strange DNA. Neither of them had done human before, so it was a struggle. Yet when they finally emerged, they were identical young redheads with blue eyes. The Kidman brand had indeed been worth the money.

Once they had a hotel and suitable clothing to wear, albeit with outrageous human-style hats, they began mixing with the others. After all, Andros wasn't their final destination. They were going to Earth. Which was officially impossible to do.

And that’s when the trouble started. Men seemed to be insanely attracted to them. Not only for their remarkable beauty, but because they were obviously identical twins. After a few misadventures, young Freya learned how to flirt and share a few kisses while her mother made more substantial connections, often changing roles with Freya as things progressed. The men never knew the difference.

Her mother reported that human sex was uniquely enjoyable, even if Freya was too young to enjoy it. According to her her, the best thing about humans was their strong and continuous mating instinct. A gift or an affliction, depending on how you looked at it, that no other species could match.

And of course, their Kidman genes proved perfect for exploiting that.

The following months were great fun for both of them, and for the many men they came to know. Right up to the point where Freya became infatuated with the most beautiful and powerful man she’d ever seen. Her mother tried to come to her rescue, for she knew what a Prime was, but Freya was too far gone under the influence of his pheromones. What followed is almost too horrible to describe, what with the Prime raping them in the violent way of men with black hearts and the steely strength of thousands. Both of their bodies were torn, bones crushed and their heads mostly blown off from the Prime’s final moments of ecstasy. They both died that night, at least by any measure of human life.

But deep inside young Freya’s brain stem, the portion of her brain that had allowed her to take human form in the first place went to work rebuilding her. Knitting together brain cells and bone, muscles and vessels, organs and skin. She spent twice as long in chrysalis as compared to last time, for she had not only the Kidman pattern to deal with, but thanks to the Prime’s exertions, a significant sample of Supremis DNA. Her brain stem, being a primitive, unconscious organ, combined the two samples.

While her mother had been too badly injured to survive the shocking transformation, Freya emerged tall and fantastically fit with red hair and piercing blue eyes and the perfect beauty of the Supremis. Her face was broader than the Kidman model, her eyes larger, her body formed of sleek, sensuous muscle, her skin completely flawless and golden-tanned. Thanks to the dominance of Supremis DNA, she also had the fantastic strength and toughness of a Prime. She was still female, which was unusual given the source of her Supremis DNA, although Kecklavians in general have no preference.

Freya wasn’t thinking about any of that. Staring in the mirror, she saw a total abomination. Part her mother’s killer, part some unknown human, but beneath it all, a Kecklavian who was banned from all civilized worlds. It wasn’t until she walked into the hotel bar that she realized that men saw her differently. As cute as she’d been as a Kidman, she was now otherworldly beautiful. The kind of beauty than can open any door.

Which she did. For she was determined to complete the journey her mother had begun.

Chapter Two

Freya’s heart was racing as she floated up from behind the small hill that hid her from the Arion landing ship. Her cheerleading costume was smoking and torn from her rapid flight to the Bangor sub base, but she could hardly help it if the Arions decided to arrive during the Friday night game. Likely she’d be kicked off the squad. There was no way she could explain leaving in the midst of a game and losing her uniform at the same time.

After all, everyone at school thought she was just a Dutch exchange student. She’d lived with her human family for more than two years now, benefitting each day from their generosity. They understood her alien origin and skills, yet had accepted her as one of their own. Now it was time to pay them back by keeping them safe.

She started by turning away from the ship to fly back over the tops of the remaining tanks. Behind them were soldiers, many of them treating casualties from the burned Stryker vehicles. They looked up at her with astonishment in their eyes. Whatever they’d been expecting, a red-haired high school cheerleader was unlikely to be on their lists, not the least for floating on thin air. She smiled. They were going to be even more amazed in a few moments.

At five miles out, she spun around and accelerated back toward the ship, tensing every muscle in her body as she extended her arms over her head, fists clenched. She was flew so fast that the only evidence of her flight was the shockwave that slashed through the tank platoon, kicking up a thin line of dust mixed with some brightly colored bits of fabric. She closed her eyes as she hit the Arion ship, her impact sending a million bright sparks flying, the shock wave of her supersonic impact flattening trees for two hundred meters in every direction.

Freya ricocheted off the super-steel to land on her back directly in front of the lead Abrams tank. She lay wide-eyed and stunned, her long red hair splayed out around her head. Lifting her head, she saw that the steel door of the ship had barely dimpled. All her impact had done was to lift the front of the ship a few degrees off the ground.

That was enough for the tank commander to order the remaining tanks to fire on the ship. HEAT rounds exploded along the exposed bottom of the ship to tilt it further, yet without damaging anything.

That gave Freya an idea. She rose shakily to her feet, her clothing completely disintegrated, and flew back to the ship to wrap herself around one of the four landing thrusters. The white-hot exhaust blasted her legs as she tried to wrestle the pivoting thruster free of its mounts. But it was made of V-steel as well. Desperate, she flipped herself up and dove into the engine intake, her long, red hair tangling in the turbine blades of the augmented fusion engine, which jerked her the rest of the way in. The engine exploded a moment later, sending flaming shrapnel outward to ping off the hard armor of the tanks. One softer piece of debris crashed into the windshield of an already burning Stryker vehicle.

Dizzy and disoriented, Freya crawled back through the windshield. She climbed on top of the vehicle as fuel-fed flames enveloping her. Ammunition began cooking off beneath her feet, but she didn’t move. Every part of her hurt, but her eyes were on the Arion ship as it started to rise very slowly, its grav engine shrieking as it compensated for the missing thruster. It was nearly too heavy for its remaining engines.

She wasn’t going to rip any more thrusters off that way. Hurt too much. But that wasn’t the only way to keep it on the ground — she could also make it heavier.

Ahead of her, she watched as the crew of one of the Abrams tanks abandoned ship. She leaped down to run through them, very conscious of her nudity as she disappeared feet first under the tank, sliding like a football quarterback. Reaching up, she dug her strong fingers into the steel belly armor, working them into it as if was merely modeling clay, and then slowly put her abs to work, sitting up with the weight of the entire tank on her arms.

The crew who’d abandoned it stared in disbelief as she converted raw strength into flight power and seventy tons of tank began to rise, climbing higher and faster as she flew her tank after the Arion ship. She was a hundred feet directly above the ship when she dropped her seventy ton load directly onto it’s flat upper hull. The massive weight drove the struggling spaceship back to the ground, its engines kicking up huge clouds of dust as it landed hard, pinned to the Earth.

Freya floated down to land lightly in front of that same steel door. She was about to deliver the first Arion ship and crew to the US government. Turning around, she saw a hundred soldiers staring at her in amazement. She blushed, suddenly very aware of her nudity. She was just starting to bend her legs to leap into the sky when she was blinded by a horrific white light that filled her body with a awful prickling heat. The bright light disappeared as darkness overwhelmed her.

Detonating only a dozen feet from where she stood, the steel-hard shockwave from the Arion micro-nuke flipped four of the Abrams tanks on their back before flattening every tree for a half mile radius, collapsing buildings for half that distance. Nuclear heat ignited paint and melted away antennas and tank periscopes as a tornado formed out of every shade of glowing orange and red began to rise. It spiraled upward to form a small mushroom cloud, leaving behind a small glassy crater where the Arion ship and the alien girl named Freya had just stood.

Chapter Three

Port Townsend, Washington

Morning, December 8, 2029

“Where the hell is my tennis racket?” Scotty Jeppesen hollered as he raced around the cluttered house, looking under every pillow and casually thrown blanket. “I left it right here by the front door. I’m going to be late for practice.”

A tall girl wearing an oversized athletic jersey walked sleepily out of the end bedroom, heading for the bathroom. She paused in the dim hallway, her long legs looking fantastically toned. A maze of tangled, red hair covering her face. Large blue eyes briefly appeared beneath the hair, glittering in the dim hallway as if she was looking into sunshine. She stared off into space, turning her head from left to right, then downward.

“Under the couch down in the basement, dummy,” she said in a sleepy voice.

“Thanks, sis,” Scotty shouted back as he dashed down the stairs and dove under the family room couch to retrieve his racket. He then pounded out the front door, closing it with a bang behind him.

The girl paused at the door of the bathroom, eyes flashing again. She didn’t bother knocking. “I’m going to be late, Adam. Hurry up.”

Scotty’s older brother, Adam, opened the door, toothbrush still in his mouth.

“Jesus, what happened to you, Freya? You look totally fried.”

“Nuke,” she mumbled. “Up close and personal.”

“Somebody actually kicked your ass! Cool.”

“Ah, Adam …” she said slowly, looking down at him as she seemed to be deciding what to say. “It was an Arion self-destruct. It’s not funny. People died. Lots of people.”

“I heard. Attack down at Bangor. Supposedly the aliens again, although the Navy isn’t talking yet. But it’s still a little funny. You told me nothing could ever hurt you.”

She rolled her eyes. “I was exaggerating. And as far as asses, I’ll kick yours if you don’t hurry. I gotta get my shower and fix this up before school.”

He opened the door wider. “Come on in then. I’m almost done. I won’t look.”

“In your dreams. Out!” She gave him a shove that propelled him face-first down the hallway as she slammed the bathroom door behind him.

Adam picked himself back up.“You know, just because you claim to be from Amsterdam,” he shouted, “you don’t have to be a bitch all the time.”

Only the Jeppesen family knew that Freya had never set foot in Holland. Instead, she’d arrived in the the small town of Port Townsend, Washington like a hormonal bomb. Gorgeous and tall and ridiculously fit, she was also equipped with the unique pheromones of a Supremis. Things were never the same after she walked through the doors of the high school with her adoptive brothers. Even the teachers had trouble keeping from staring at her. No one had ever seen a girl who looked half as awesome as Freya.

Adam and Scotty quickly conspired to start a rumor that she was a lesbian. They figured it would keep the jocks from hitting on her all the time. Surprisingly, their new sister went with the flow, and Adam’s girlfriend Kristi helped feed the rumor mill with little bits of acting from time to time where someone could see them. An act that was gradually becoming less of an act every time. Freya’s pheromones did not discriminate by gender.

“Hey, so it’s OK for you to look under our clothes with those x-ray eyes and see us naked,” Adam shouted through the door, “but we can’t look at you?”

“I don’t look,” she said from behind the bathroom room door. “I can only handle so much ugliness at one time.”

“Ha, ha,” Adam replied, unsure if he should take her seriously. Despite the sexual aura she radiated, she seemingly had no interest in it. But then he remembered the awful things that had happened to her on her way to Earth. She’d only met one Supremis male, that Prime, and that had definitely not gone well. He often wondered what she would do if she met that Arion again, but was afraid to ask her. There are scars that should remain safely under scabs.

He paused in his bedroom to toss his toothbrush on his desk before stuffing his books and iHolo into his school bag. A quick brush of his hair and he headed toward the kitchen to grab a bite of breakfast before school.

The sliding wall of the Jeppesen’s large kitchen had been opened to merge the inner space with their covered patio, allowing them to enjoy the unusually mild weather. The changing climate had so far been good to the Pacific Northwest, warming and drying its infamously wet climate.

His mother, Abigail, was waving her hands inside a glowing hologram, selecting this, rejecting that, expanding interesting stories as she caught up on events overnight. His dad, John, had his head in the local newspaper. He liked the archaic pleasure of paper in his hands.

“Did you guys notice that Freya looks a bit beat up this morning,” Adam said. “Kind of fried too. Did you see her come in last night?”

“Beat up? Impossible,” his dad, John, said without looking up. “Your sister’s totally unhurtable. Remember when she came home with that great suntan and a bit more … oomph? She flew through the corona of the sun.”

“Oomph? They’re called breasts, dad.”

“I was trying to be polite.”

“Well, you’ll see when she comes downstairs. She said something about an Arion self-destruct. A nuke or something?”

Abigail pulled her attention from her iHolo. “That’s what everyone on the news is screaming about. Some kind of attack down in Bangor. A lot of people saw some really bright flashes that lit up half of Kitsap county last night. Some people say it had to be nuclear to be that bright, but the Navy denies that, thank goodness. Good thing they evacuated Seabeck and Vinland and other places along the canal, what with all the alien attacks. People also heard cannon fire from deep inside the base along with something that sounded like a rocket taking off. People are really scared.”

John closed his eyes for a long moment. He’d done the calculation last night when he saw the flash from the kitchen, and then felt the ground jump a few seconds later. He’d gone outside to stand behind the large Douglas firs in his yard to judge the shock wave. It never came. No sound either. Thankfully Abigail and the kids had been at an away game over in Oak Bay, an additional twenty some miles to the north on Whidbey Island. Oak Bay was another Navy town, so if things got bad people would take care of them.

Abigail had grown worried when Freya disappeared during the game, and even more when she wasn’t on the team bus coming home. Her absence caused a huge stir. A disappearing cheerleader on a road game is never taken lightly. But Abigail was smart enough to tell everyone that Freya had gotten sick and had gone home with a friend. It wasn’t like anyone could actually hurt her, she told herself. No one from Earth anyway.

That last thought kept John and Abigail awake until very late, watching the News as it buzzed about the strange events at Bangor. The Navy was trying to cover it up, but it was clear that massive damage had been done and that many sailors had died. Nobody would confirm that it was an alien attack, but given recent events it was the only explanation. They worried about Freya’s disappearance until they heard the soft sounds of her moving around in her bedroom. She’d come in through her window which meant only one thing: she was using her Supremis powers.

Abigail wanted to go to her room and question her, but John said to just wait until she was willing to talk about it. Likely she’d been involved in some way. Freya had become such a part of their family over the last two and and a half years that they’d fallen into the bad habit of thinking of her more in human than Supremis terms. The boys too, for Freya stood as tall as them and appeared to be roughly the same age. They were all part of the conspiracy to conceal her true identity.

Now they wondered if everything was about to change.

Freya arrived in the kitchen still dressed in her fuzzy white bath coat, her red hair covering the left half of her face. Between her baby-white teeth, intensely blue eyes, her long red hair and all that perfectly tanned golden skin, she was a stunner. She tilted her head slightly to look into John’s eyes as he stared curiously back at her.

Abigail looked even more closely. “Adam said you looked burned, honey, but from what I can see, you look your usual gorgeous self to me.”

John rose and walked over to gently ease his adoptive daughter’s hair from her face, revealing a large patch of badly sunburned skin. “How did, how could that happen?” he asked in surprise. “Does it hurt?”

“Not now,” she shrugged. “I healed most of it in the bathroom. I’ll have the rest fixed up by the time I finish breakfast.”

“You already look a hell of a lot better than you did ten minutes ago,” Adam said, trying not to stare at the larger than normal mounds that rose beneath her robe. She’d blown his mind a year ago when she shorted out a high-tension power line to suck up its power. She’d hung there, bare legs wrapped around one thick wire, hands grabbing another, surrounded by sparks until the substation tripped, shutting down power to the entire Quimper Penninsula. Yet other than some frizzed-up hair, the only effect of her sucking down all that high-voltage was that her bust sized increased by two sizes. Stored energy she said. She called it Orgone.

“No swearing at the table,” Abigail scolded him.

Adam jerked his thoughts back from that day.

“It wasn’t a big deal for me,” Freya shrugged, “but the Navy base is fried. The burst was too quick for me to absorb much of it, thank goodness. Just got a bad sunburn out of it.” She looked pointedly at Adam, seeing him staring wide-eyed at her chest. “My clothes still fit, more or less.”

She turned toward her adoptive mother. “It was an Arion self-destruct, mom,” she said offhandedly while putting a piece of multigrain bread in the toaster. “One of those antimatter augmented micro-nukes or whatever.” She turned to open the fridge to dig out the butter and strawberry jam.

“I heard from a friend on base,” her father added, “that an Ohio class sub was broken in half by an explosion, despite being mostly submerged. One of those nukes?”

Freya shrugged as she nodded. “Probably. They seem to toss them around like grenades. They also took down several of the big buildings along the docks. The place is a wreck.”

“And you were how close to the burst?” John asked. He was still angry at her for her flight through the sun’s corona. Her dark suntan and enhanced figure had drawn far too much attention at the time.

She shrugged again. “I don’t know, maybe ten feet or so. I was standing next to an Arion ship when it self-destructed. Not even V-steel can contain that kind of blast.”

“Why would they do that?” Abigail asked worriedly. “Blow themselves up. Couldn’t they just fly off?”

“Not really. I kind of dropped this Army tank on them,” Freya smiled. “Right after I blew one of the ship’s thrusters. The Arions are tough, but I had them.”

“And they never surrender,” John nodded. He and Abigail had learned a lot from Freya. They figured that the more they knew about her and her abilities, the better they could protect her.

Abigail shook her head to signal her displeasure. “We talked about this, honey.”

“I know, I know,” Freya said as she poured some orange juice. “I’m not supposed to engage the Arions, like never, but this was too close to home, mom. Do you know how many nukes they have on Bangor? Thousands. The Plutonium contamination if they were destroyed would ruin this entire corner of the country like forever. And unlike those tiny Arion anti-matter nukes, every one of those Navy weapons is a city killer.”

John grimaced. The thought of the Arions having cleaner more tactical weapons was a sore point with him. He also knew it wasn’t a matter of Arion charity. They were conquerers and they didn’t want to poison their newly acquired planets.

“Did you get a feel for the casualties on the base?” John asked, deliberating dodging the issue of whether Freya had broken her agreement.

She shrugged. “The Army guys I was with were buttoned up in tanks, but some of those were melted and blown up by some kind of energy beam from the ship. A lot of Strykers burned too. We were up near the bunkers on the east side of the base. But thanks to the ship’s V-steel hull and the tank I’d dropped on top of it, the nuke fireball was small. But things looked really bad over by the docks.”

“Were you inside the nuclear fireball?” Abigail asked, concerned.

“Ah … yeah,” Freya said, looking blankly at her adoptive mother. “These burns … you know.”

“That’s not a good place to be, even for you, honey.”

“I just got a little sunburned. Easy to fix.” Freya said with her usual shrug.

John sighed as he looked pointedly at his wife. “We all knew this day would come, Freya honey. We’ve been trying to keep you in reserve as long as we could. Once the Arions know you’re here, they’ll send in a team to neutralize you. That means Primes. Being that you’re part human, you don’t want to face a pure-blood.”

“You don’t know that I’m weaker than them,” Freya protested. “I’ve been working to optimize my strength. Unlike them, I can tweak myself. And if I have to hide, I can always change appearance. They’ll be looking for a girl, but I can become a boy if I have to. I’m far more worried about you guys if they track me here.”

Adam’s jaw hit the table. “You can do what? Turn into a guy?”

She turned to stare at him. “Penises aren’t that complicated.” She stuck her finger down her throat and made a gagging sound. “But I’m not nearly that desperate.”

Their game of sibling insults was obviously going to continue.

“Just think of all the hearts that would break if you did,” Adam chuckled. “Other than Jamie and Darren of course.”

Jamie and Darren were two openly gay friends of Adam’s. Homophobia had pretty much evaporated by 2029, at least outside a handful of ultra-fundamentalist religious groups. Gender had become a very flexible issue.

Freya pulled the hot toast out of the toaster and buttered it with her finger, then spread jam the same way. She licked her finger clean. “On the other hand, it might be fun to see things from the other side. Pretending that I’m gay didn’t stop the jocks from hitting on me. But then, they do that to all the cheerleaders. But they’re not going to hit on a guy, no matter how good he looks. Football is the last bastion of straight guys.”

She was kidding, and Adam knew it. About turning into a guy, that is. The reality is that she’d become very fond of being a female among other humans. She’d openly traded on her phenomenal looks after arriving on Earth, seeking out scientists who were working on human genetic enhancement programs. Abigail and John Strang were both genetic scientists specializing in human enhancement. She’d blown their minds by proving how incredibly far the human genome could be stretched. Together with the Witness Relocation office, they’d set up the fiction of her being an exchange student, changing their name to Jeppesen and moving from North Carolina to Port Townsend, Washington. Together with their two boys, the Jepessen’s had introduced her to life on Earth. She soon threw herself into the insanity of teenage life, embracing everything 21st century Earth had to offer. Kecklavians are nothing if not adaptable.

She’d felt bad when she had to reveal to these two ardent scientists that she wasn’t actually human at her core. While her cells were currently arranged to mimic a Supremis, she could just as easily become a giraffe. Or a Wookie.

The Jeppesen’s had decided early on to give Freya advice, whether she wanted it or not, but to also respect whatever choices she made. It was vital that she learned to be far more responsible and mature than other kids her age. No safety net could contain her in any case. She had enough power within her slender body to devastate an army. It was their hope that she’d someday protect the entire Earth like Superman in the comics. But they’d carefully avoided putting that kind of heavy pressure on her, hoping she’d decide to do it on her own.

When she finished eating her toast, Freya tossed the hair from the hidden side of her face to smile at her dad. The burns were gone and she was once again an insanely healthy eighteen-year-old. “See, told you. Completely fixed.”

Turning, she grabbed Adam’s sleeve to pull him toward the door. “Come on, bro. If we run, we’ll make the bell with two and half seconds to spare.”

Adam’s half-eaten yoghurt cup flew into the air as he sprinted out the front door behind her.

Adam was on the football team, a wide receiver, and he’d also made State running the 440 in Track this Spring. But despite being in superb shape, he knew he’d be gasping for air before he got to school. Freya always challenged him to run just a little faster than he thought he could. Which is why he was a star athlete. In return, he’d once challenged her to run as fast as she could. Her sneakers had melted and caught fire during her nighttime dash down the empty highway south of town, her feet looking like streaks of horizontal lightning. She turned around and ran back his way, only to have her sonic boom throw him face-first into the ditch and leave his ears ringing for days.

If Freya had a fault, it was that she couldn’t turn down a dare. Which is a dangerous thing when dealing with a shape-shifting super-girl.

She’d certainly learned that message the hard way with Matt.

Chapter Four

Three months earlier …

Matt Tattinger was driving by the brightly lit football stadium in Port Townsend when his Tesla detector started to beep. It wasn’t supposed to do that.

He’d just finished a meeting with two eminent scientists who he’d asked to support his request for further funding for the device. After hearing him out, the scientists had glanced at each other, seemingly deciding who was going to give him the bad news. They wound up speaking together, both of the concluding that his science was unsound.

He’d seen that look before. They thought he was just as crazy as old Nikolas Tesla, who’d invented this variant of his famous coil a hundred years ago. Everyone had laughed at him too, thanks to Tesla insisting that he was receiving signals from extraterrestrial aliens. That had been the final nail in the coffin of Tesla’s declining respect among his peers. Crackpot Tesla was what they said behind his back. Now it was Matt’s turn to hear the same accusations.

He’d succeeded in creating a miniature version of Tesla’s resonant coil, and had augmented it using cutting-edge electronics to detect what he called Q-energy fields, a type of radiation most scientists didn’t believe even existed. Like Tesla had a hundred years earlier, he claimed it could be used to scan an entirely different range of frequencies during the search for alien intelligences.

Nobody was buying it, and this evening’s pitch to the guys from Paul Allard’s technology group had been his last chance to get the funding to continue development. The Microsoft billionaire funded Tesla Instruments, Inc, his employer. The meeting had been a spectacular wreck. Allard’s people gave him thirty days to pitch his device to SETI, but if they didn’t show interest, then he was to put it into the archive and move on to something else. Westinghouse had done something similar to Tesla more than a century earlier.

Matt was heartbroken and angry. This was his life’s work, or at least as much as could be said for a man in his mid-twenties. He’d been fascinated with Tesla technology since age twelve when he’d sent a lightning bolt flashing from his bedroom window to a power pole fifty feet away, blacking out the entire neighborhood. No one appreciated that he’d powered his coil from an ordinary 120v outlet, shooting a hundred-million volt spark from the same socket that charged his XboxHolo3. He’d been immersed in everything Tesla from that day forward.

So, when his supersensitive detector started beeping in front of the Port Townsend High School stadium, he slammed on the brakes and swerved crookedly into an open parking stall. He left his ancient VW E-Dyne half up on the curb as he rushed over to buy a game ticket from a pretty blonde at the entrance. His device beeped faster and faster the further he walked into the stadium. He scanned the bleachers, the support buildings, all the power lines and cables he could see — nothing. It wasn’t until he scanned the field that it beeped loudly. He focused on the players, immersed as they were in a close game in the third quarter, but got nothing. It wasn’t until he accidentally passed over the cheerleading squad that the device went completely crazy. He worked his way along the fence to get closer to the girls, drawing attention from the stands as he kept aiming his strange-looking device at the squad. When he got as close to the girls as he could, he set it into narrow beam mode and discovered that it was only one of the cheerleaders who made it beep. A very tall, phenomenally cute red head with long hair.

A couple of parents yelled at him as he pointed his strange device at the girls, and two rather burley looking guys started to approach him, but he was so lost in wonder that he didn’t notice until one of them grabbed his arm and jerked the detector from his hands. That’s when it finally dawned on him how this must look. Given a small town school and such a pretty girl, it was natural that the community would be over-protective of her.

Turning, he chased after the guy who’d taken his detector and managed to wrest it back at the edge of the bleachers. He thought he was going to get beaten up at that point, but the guys just pushed him toward the gate, delivering a final kick in his butt as they told him to leave.

Unknown to him, they’d seen strange men geek out on their favorite cheerleader before. Modeling agents and even the Seattle Seahawks cheerleading coordinator had come to their games. They’d all been unceremoniously shown the exit in very similar fashion.

Matt waited on the street as the game loudly continued, not knowing what to do now. He wasn’t going to leave, that was for damn sure. Something was going on here. He could only think of Tesla’s original claim — that it could detect aliens — as screwy as that sounded. But what was an extraterrestrial doing cheering a small-town high school football team? Especially one who looked THAT human!

But the more he thought about it, the more sense it made, at least in his current state of mind. The joint he’d smoked after the meeting to calm his nerves was doing a number on his head. He’s always assumed that hiding in plain sight was the the most plausible way for an alien to learn the details about humans. But judging Earth and its level of intelligence from the perspective of a high school student? That would be an epic fail.

He remained in the shadows in front of the stadium as night came fully upon the town. The game finally ended, and the despondent looks on many faces as the stadium emptied said the local team had lost. Eventually the players left too, the cheerleaders trying to console them. All except for the tall red-head who appeared to walk alone at the back of the crowd. Several people called for her to join them, something about “a party at Sven’s”, but she declined, turning to walk the opposite way down the street. Which fortunately was in Matt’s direction.

He kept the detector under his coat and muted as she approached, glancing down to watch the numbers soaring on his screen. Whatever was setting it off, it was located on her chest. Tearing his eyes from the screen, he watched her moving with the litheness of an athlete or dancer. She had remarkably firm, high breasts, and her ultra-short cheerleading skirt revealing very fit, shapely legs. He couldn’t remember seeing a woman quite this fit. His first thought was that she’d had some very expensive work done. But that made no sense given her age.

She was ten feet away when he stepped out of the shadows to point his device at her. The amplitude display hit 100%. Looking up, he boldly said: “You are not what you appear to be.”

She paused, her eyes briefly sparkling as if they’d caught a ray of sunshine that shone only on her. “What did you just say?” she asked. She didn’t sound scared or even concerned, despite being alone on the dark street. Just curious.

Matt was the nervous one as he suddenly realized how awkward his greeting was. His legs began to shake, but he forced himself to walk closer to her, knowing at that instant that this was the most important moment of his life. “You’re emitting energy of a type that’s not normally detectable. Many don’t even believe it exists, but I’ve invented a device that can detect it.” He lifted his small box to show her the flashing lights and display.

“Are there other devices like this?” she asked.

His fear jumped up a notch. If he and his device disappeared, nobody would likely ever build another. But something about her told him she wasn’t going to hurt him. She looked kind, her eyes warm as she smiled softly. “No,” he said with a quick shake of his head. “This is my prototype. It’s based on an old Tesla design from early in the 20th century.”

She smiled brighter. “Wasn’t he the man who claimed he had a way to detect alien signals,” she said.

“You’ve read about Tesla?”

“I’m read everything related to alien claims,” she said. “Well, the scientific stuff, what there is of that anyway. Tesla was considered a crackpot.”

“Well, that crackpot’s invention says you’re giving off a previously unknown form of radiation.” Something about the man put Freya at ease. He certainly wasn’t an Arion, and based on his geekiness, he was likely an innocent. Yet he’d made a startling discovery and he knew it. After years of hiding, here was someone who knew she wasn’t exactly the girl next door. Someone who might be able to help her. She made a decision without thinking.

“It’s called Orgone,” she said as she walked closer, standing only inches from him now, their eyes level. “So tell me, exactly who are you and what are your intentions?”

Matt’s jaw dropped as he stared into her astoundingly beautiful face. The closer she got the better she looked. Yet the note of challenge in her voice said this was not a good time to geek on her. He stood as straight as he could, his eyes fixed on hers. “Name’s Matt Tattinger. I’m an electronics engineer working for Tesla Instruments. My invention, well, mostly Tesla’s, was something I was just told would never work. But it went off as I drove past your stadium.”

She nodded as if she’d expected to hear that. She had no idea about Q-energy or whatever he’d called it, but she understood Orgone. She knew she stored and used it to support her superhuman energy needs. “Do you have a place we can go to talk? Privately.”

A shiver of excitement and a stab of fear lanced through Matt at the same time. He was very aware that he was getting in way over his head. But after the crappy way his day had gone, his last ten years of work up in smoke, and not just the smoke of his joint, he was ready to grasp at any straw. And she was one hell of a straw. “Ah, yeah, my lab. Nobody else will be there on a Friday night.”

“Where’s that?”

“Bremerton. Next to the Navy base.” He remembered as he said that how lonely that industrial area was on a night like this. He had no idea who or even what this girl was, and he wasn’t normally a brave person, but something told him he could put his life in her hands. She wore her heart on the outside.

“Good … then lets go there.” She reached out to take his arm and pull him into the shadows. The strength of her grip was scary. “I presume you can locate your lab from the air?”

“Yeah … but why would we? My cars over ther …” His words ended as she wrapped her arm around him, crushing the air from his lungs.

His eyes bugged out of his head as the ground magically fell away beneath them. They floated upward, hidden inside a trio of huge Doug Fir trees. His stomach flip-flopped as they shot above the trees into the night, the lights of the stadium shrinking and then fading away completely as they were swallowed by a cold, wet cloud.

Chapter Five

Arion battlecruiser Zeleton

“We’ve got a problem ground-side, ma’am,” the Duty Officer said as he called the captain to the Bridge.

Captain Petra Highgrown walked out of her day cabin into the control room. Standing tall and imposing in her black uniform and long raven hair, her oversized blue eyes sparkled with their own light. She was slender but profoundly fit, and like all Primes, she appeared to have been carved from a single block of steel, her strong, broad face reflecting a rare beauty. Thanks to her recent promotion after the General purged any officers who refused to swear fealty to him, including the prior captain of theZelaton, Petra had become the youngest female to ever command a capital warship of the Empire.

Unfortunately, given her age, she was viewed with suspicion by most of the other officers. Her personal relationship with the General was no secret. He’d passed over a dozen more experienced candidates, including the Executive Officer of theZelaton. But then, she was a Prime, just like the General, and everyone knew they stuck together.

The view screen at the front of the Bridge showed the entire ball of blue Earth beneath them. Overlaid on that was an immersive holo-field that showed the position of every satellite. The tactical team’s stations were inside the holo field given it allowed them to see things in three dimensions. The ship was orbiting well above the geosynchronous plane, out where their stealth technology allowed them to remain undetected, invisible even to the powerful ground-based radars the Earthlings possessed.

The battlecruiser had been sent here to support the General’s Project FangPull, the effort to rid Earth of its most dangerous weapons. It was a most delicate and dangerous operation given the Galen mandate to stay away from Earth. The Galen had long insisted that Earth be kept untainted and pure — a reservoir of raw material for the Galen’s human genetic engineering program. Or as the General described it, to keep Earthlings mushroomed — kept in the dark and fed shit.

Only a handful of Terrans knew that the Empire and the Enlightenment had been inserting operatives among them for centuries. The Empire had long attempted to influence events, but neither side was allowed to publicly show themselves. The Arion goal was to break down the authority of Earth’s governments by provoking political infighting, warfare, terrorism and economic collapse. Their greatest effort to directly manipulate the Terrans into enslaving themselves had ended with the fall of the Nazis in the 1940’s. The nine decades that followed had proven frustrating for the Empire. Despite repeated efforts to goad the Russians and Americans and their allies into global conflict, they had failed. The wars they helped start were regional and contained, with terrorism being the only truly global influence they had, acting as they did through mostly clueless intermediaries. Religious and cultural differences had served as pressure points to drive the process.

General Adelton had grown weary of watching it all, and had decided to act on his own authority. He’d directed Near Earth Command (NEC) to take an active role for the first time since the mid-1940’s. They would no longer disguise the fact that they were extraterrestrials, and began open military operations to rid the Earth of its most dangerous weapons.

Adelton was a highly decorated leader, responsible for many victories over Supremis and human forces during his nearly three hundred years of command. But it took the collapse of the Pandat17 wormhole to free him to act of his own accord. Without the Pandat hole, communications between NEC and the Empire required several years travel each way using alternate routes. By the time news of the General’s campaign and conquest reached the Emperor, Earth would be the newest member of his Empire. And the Empire never gave up a world they’d won.

Petra was one of a handful of senior officers who knew that Pandat17 hadn’t collapsed on its own. A science ship under the General’s command had detonated their largest weapon inside the hole. As he explained to Petra and the other officers who had sworn loyalty to him, the Empire had gone soft, worrying more about Galen boogeymen and ancient commandments than winning the war. He felt that the Galen had abandoned both their creations, the Sapiens and Supremis, and it was now up to the Supremis to battle it out for galactic supremacy. He was determined to win that war, no matter what the method.

Earth was obviously a unique prize, and it was perfectly located and resourced to become his base. He was convinced that neither the Emperor nor the Enlightenment would send troops to engage in open warfare on Earth given they still feared the Galen. Earth’s defense, their Protector, had been recalled to Velor, leaving only the ancient Galen commandments to keep Earth undisclosed and primitive.

He’d purged any officers loyal to the Emperor from his ships, and now the only thing standing in the General’s way was Earth’s inventory of nuclear weapons and their launch platforms. Operation FangPull would ensure that they were destroyed. Earth’s other weapons were of little concern to the Arions.

The vital importance and terrible risk of their mission was foremost on Petra’s mind as she sat in her command chair.

“Take me through it, Commander Siffert.”

“Per your orders, ma’am, 17th Marines landed agents at a submarine base in the northwest corner of the United States to destroy their nuclear weapons. The operation started normally, with one of the submersible ships and the base’s dockside support structures destroyed. But when we landed a DDJ to pick up our agents and begin the bombardment of their stored weapons, they were opposed by a Protector. Our ship was disabled and grounded, which led to the crew resorting to self-destruct to prevent capture.”

“Casualties?” she asked, her body language and expression remaining deliberately calm. Inside, she was seething. The mere mention of a Protector sent her adrenaline soaring.

“The ship’s company of sixteen plus two agents. The ship was attacked before the final agent could rendezvous. She’s on the ground awaiting extraction, temporarily hiding among the humans.”

“I don’t understand, Commander. Intel made it very clear that their Protector had been recalled. None of our other missions have been opposed. Why now? Why there?”

“Unknown, Captain. Intel continues to claim they tracked the Protector back to Velor. No others were assigned to Earth.”

“This wouldn’t be the first time Intel had their heads up their collective asses, Commander.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m working on an alternate hypothesis. Perhaps it’s all a ruse. About withdrawing their Protector that is. Or perhaps the Velorians snuck another in before withdrawing the old one. Perhaps more than one, hoping to get us to overcommit and reveal ourselves.”

“The blondies aren’t usually that clever. But if you’re right, then we’ve just taken their bait. Hook, line and sinker.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“How are we setup for counter-Protector operations?”

“We aren’t. As you know, given their loyalties to the Emperor, the General sent the Prime contingent home, except of course for you and his son. The Aerie Detachment is currently making for the Levint231 hole now that Pandat17 is closed. They would be running at 0.4c by now. We couldn’t get a transmission to them before they jumped even if we wanted to.”

Petra smiled wryly. “No way the blondies are good enough to plan a fuck up this perfect. They think in straight lines. We did this to ourselves.”

“Yes, ma’am. What are your orders?”

“Given that Ensign Adelton and I are the only effective Primes in the area now — the General is hardly going to lead an away team at his age — we’ll deal with this personally. Contact the Ensign and inform him that I’m asking for his temporary assignment to the Zelaton under my authority. Also make contact with the agent we left on the ground and have her communicate a safe landing location near the location of the failed attack. In the meantime, I’ll meet with the General to solidify our plans. Please prepare a shuttle. You’re in command until I return.”

Siffert stood straighter. This was a great honor and a key step in his career. Assuming he still had one given the rebellion. “Yes, ma’am. Immediately.”

“FlightOps,” Petra said to one of the men manning consoles behind Siffert, “when I return the Ensign and I are going to do a covert drop. Commander Siffert will provide the coordinates and timing.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Lieutenant Cresseda replied as he sent the order on.

Petra’s shuttle accelerated away from the Zelaton, her kilometer-long battlecruiser fading out of view as they exited the stealth field. She hung in mid-air behind the pilot’s seats, watching as the Betan crewmen struggled to breathe during the 12G acceleration. She was in a hurry and providing gravity compensation to the crew would only slow them down. Besides, it was a chance for her to practice her own flight powers, which she’d used too rarely lately.

They coasted briefly at the turn-around point and then decelerated at the same 12G’s as they approached the LaGrange point where the General’s flagship waited. L5 was one of those uniquely stable points in space where the gravity of Earth, Moon and Sun were all balanced. A very convenient place to park a large warship.

Petra saw nothing but the background star field until the shuttle penetrated the stealth shield, and then the huge warship shimmered and appeared as if by magic ahead of them. The General’s battlecruiser was the sister ship to her own, its hull of V-steel glimmering purplish in the sunlight, polished as it was to mirror brightness to reflect thermal weapons. Two fighters joined up with them to escort them to one of the shuttle bays.

The General was there to personally greet Petra as she exited her shuttle, fully anticipating a warm greeting some time alone with him in his chambers, as had been the case the previous times they’d met on his ship. They clasped forearms in the traditional greeting of two Primes. Despite his advanced age of 307 years, he looked much like a well-preserved human athlete of sixty years. But that was still a startling contrast to Petra’s youth, for she had yet to celebrate her thirtyith year.

He gripped her forearm until his grip trembled, but Petra restrained her own strength, which given her age was considerably greater than the General’s.

“So good to see you again, Commander,” he smiled. “I need to speak privately with you about a new development.”

“The Protector who defeated your team? I’ve already been briefed, Captain.” He turned to walk with her beside him, leaning his head closer to her. “That was sloppy, Petra. You’ve barely taken over as Captain and you lose a crew and ship? You need to prove yourself, not look like a fool.”

“It was your Intel people who said the Protector was gone, General,” she whispered back in protest.

He turned to face her, his face stern. “You created this mess, Petra. You fix it.”

His message was clear. This was to be her test. If she failed, the Zelatonwould be given to someone else. It was the way the Empire worked.

She stood at attention to speak loudly enough for all to hear. “I’ve asked to have Ensign Adelton’s assigned to my command, General. Together we will take down the Protector.”

The General paused to look her, very aware that everyone had overhead, as she’d intended. Normally he would not risk his son on such a mission, given his relative inexperience. But she wasn’t giving him that choice. “Certainly, Captain. Please try to return him in better shape than your other crewmen.”

He turned and walked away, his staff closing ranks behind him.

Petra stared at his back. This was not the meeting she’d anticipated. Clearly the General’s attraction to her was less than his desire for power. She’d miscalculated her influence over three century old man, who at his age was less swayed by sexual attractiveness than a younger man. A mistake in judgement she would not make a second time.

She spun on her toe and marched back to her shuttle.

“Pilot, can you get me back to my ship faster than you got me here?”

The young pilot swallowed hard. 12G’s had been hard on him. “Yes, ma’am. I think there were a few more G’s in the gravity engine.” He glanced at his even younger co-pilot, who was looking at him wide-eyed.

“More than 12 G’s,” the copilot whispered. “How are we supposed to breathe? We’re not fucking Primes.”

The pilot hit the Undock button, and quickly backed from the landing bay. As soon as he was away from the battlecruiser, he punched up 100% acceleration on the gravity engine, and as before, with 0% gravity compensation. The G meter rose smoothly to fifteen and then hovered there, the incredible acceleration crushing them painfully into their seats. The pilots struggled to breathe as they watched their young Captain floating in mid-air, legs crossed. If not for the way her bound hair started to come undone to stream straight out behind her, she might as well have been floating in zero G.

Commander Siffert met Petra as she walked lightly out the door of the shuttle. The pilots remained in their seats, faces gray and exhausted. He quickly briefed her on the upcoming drop window as he led the way briskly toward the drop station. She looked at the satellite photos of the landing site, both large and small scale, absorbing every detail into her photographic memory as she started to remove her uniform.

Sweeping through the entrance to the drop station, she found Ensign Janas Adelton standing naked in his transparent drop tube. Her pulse quickened. The General had been 280 years old when he fathered Janas with his young mother, an impressive accomplishment for a man of his age. Petra tore her eyes from his son’s perfection as she peeled the last of her clothing off. There was no fabric made that could survive a tactical descent from orbit.

She entered her tube and closed the door, and then pointed her finger toward the floor. Seconds later a powerful burst of air at the top of their tubes ejected them from the bottom of the ship. The sudden decompression exerted its usual effects, causing her breasts to balloon slightly, air escaping uncomfortably from every orifice.

As was the case for all men, the sudden exit into hard vacuum gave him a extraordinary erection. She smiled as she grabbed ahold of his long handle to put her flight power to work. Like all Primal males, his power of flight was only a fraction as powerful as hers. Embracing him, chest to chest, his erection gripped comfortably between her thighs, she drove them toward the atmosphere below, holding the fifteen degree angle below the horizon that the Commander had briefed her on. Descending naked, their bodies would not show on radar, but their thermal signature inside the atmosphere needed to look like a large meteorite.

They were almost to the outer fringes of the atmosphere when Janas shifted in her arms, and pressed himself against her sex. Petra smiled. Like father like son. She opened her legs wider and invited him in, pressing her heels to his buttocks as she took all of him. Like all Primes, she’d been trained to use her inner strength in waves that allowed the two of them to enjoy sex without actually moving, hugging each other with all their strength as they streamlined their bodies.

White heat enveloped them as they aerobraked, all attempts to fly abandoned now as Petra gave herself up to the ballistics of a meteorite.

She spent her time instead on having a pleasant moment with the Ensign, the two of them crying out in increasing ecstasy that lasted all the way down until they plunged into the cold, deep waters of Puget Sound.

It had been a textbook tactical drop.

Chapter Six

Near the Bangor Navy Base

Corporal Margo Stas walked down road, feeling strange in her borrowed clothes. She’d scanned dozens of passing cars before finding an occupant wearing clothing that might fit her. She needed to fit in if she was going to stay alive until the Captain came. She was supposed to join her and one other Prime to take on the Protector who’d interrupted their raid on the Navy base.

She dreaded that mission. As a Betan among Primes, she was a sheep among lions, and the sheep always got it in the end. But orders were orders. To refuse was to die.

Finally a car came with a very tall, slender woman inside. Margo stepped out in front of it to stop it, and the high-speed collision sent her flying. She used her training to somersault to a stop on her feet. Ahead of her, the car’s front had been caved in and some large bags had exploded in front of the occupants. Steam was rising from the engine compartment. She quickly ran over to grab the pilot as he staggered out his door.

He looked horrified as he cried out: “God, I’m so sorry … you came out of nowhere, your jumped in front …”

She ended his pitiful life with a punch to his chest that send him flying out of sight into the woods, a blow she knew from experience would burst his heart. A fast mostly painless death, but quickness was more important than technique. Other cars would soon come by.

Margo was a mere Betan, the lowest genetic class in the Empire, but she was more than strong enough to rip the locked passenger door from its hinges, then the seatbelt from its attachments, as she extracted the terrified woman sitting opposite the pilot. She didn’t want to get blood on her clothing, so she carefully twisted the woman’s head around backwards while holding her hand over the doomed woman’s mouth. The crunch of her neck bones and tearing of her spinal cord put her out of her misery with even less pain than her companion.

Margo threw the limp body over her shoulder to leap across a ditch and disappear into the woods. There she peeled out of her black uniform before dressing in the dead woman’s still warm clothing. She’d guessed right. Almost a perfect fit other than being too tight on the top. She especially liked the high boots. Amazingly, they felt like natural animal skin.

She returned to the road to pick the car up — it was almost too heavy for her Betan strength — but she managed to dump it down an incline and into a deep ditch. She pulled on the leather gloves she’d taken from the woman and turned to walk along the left side, waiting for another vehicle to come.

She’d been told to meet the Captain at this place called Starbuck, but had no idea where that was. Fortunately, Intel had brought her up to speed on other Earth customs, just in case. She remembered something called “hitch-hike”.

A large vehicle approached from behind, so Margo turned and stuck her thumb out as she’d been taught, making sure she took a deep breath to swell her bosom. Between leaving her hair down and smiling a lot, she’d been told to reveal her bosom whenever possible.

Intel claimed that Terran men would trade almost anything for sex with a stunningly beautiful woman. Apparently sex was now one of her special powers, at least when living among Terrans. Which made no sense. Did Terrans trade things for food and air as well? Sex, preferably each morning and night, was a basic biological function. It’s what kept everything working smoothly.

Obviously it was different for Terrans, who apparently rationed it. Even stranger, she’d never considered herself attractive — she was just a soldier and fairly average looking — but Earth standards were apparently set much lower than Arion.

She remembered at the last moment to smile at the vehicle’s pilot, and his eyes opened wide as he saw her thumb out and slammed on his brakes, air hissing as the wheels skidded and squealed to a stop. She walked in front of the thrumming, thumping, hissing machine to jump lightly up to open the passenger door, remembering to use the handle this time.

Surely the pilot would know the way to Starbuck. She would decide when they got there if she would reward him with sex or just a quick death. She’d been told Terrans liked something called a blow job, which as far as she was concerned was a wasted opportunity for forn’la. But Intel claimed that most Terrans had weak penises and probably function anyway, as ridiculous as that sounded. Who’d ever heard of a man who couldn’t forn’lacate?

Port Townsend

Freya sat on the floor of her bedroom as Matt’s team sat on her chairs and bed while immersed in their holo-displays. Since their first meeting three months ago, Matt had hired a group of expert hackers and surveillance experts to become Freya’s extended eyes and ears. Sitting cross-legged while wearing a pair of jeans and a black zip top, she watched them with growing frustration.

“It’s taking too long to located their agent,” she told Matt.

“We’re doing what we can, Freya,” he said, his head still stuck in cyberspace. “But their agent is staying off the grid.”

Freya dropped her head in her lap and sighed.

“Guys, you got anything at all?” Matt asked. “Freya needs to get ahead of those bastards this time.”

“I got a vehicle accident report from the Kitsap Sheriff’s office just south of Bangor,” one of the guys offered. “Somebody found a car in a ditch that was apparently in a collision. A hit and run they say.”

Freya lifted her head to glare at him. “My dad says they’ll be sending down a strike team of Primes to take me out. I think they might do a bit more damage than a hit and run.”

“They just updated the report,” he continued. “The driver was found with his chest caved in, and a female passenger was found naked with her head mostly twisted off. She had a black uniform of some kind lying next to her.”

“That’s her!” Freya shouted, leaping to her feet to float in mid-air. “Where?”

“Five miles from Bangor. Route 305.”

One of the other guys lifted his hand. “Hold on … someone just called Kitsap 911. Call’s coming from the shopping center near there, next to a Starbucks. Someone found a semi with the driver slumped over the wheel. Caller think’s he’s dead.”

“The agent we’re looking for would be a Betan,” Freya said excitedly. “They can’t fly and aren’t very strong, at least compared to me. She’d need to secure local transportation.”

Matt flashed up a satellite view of the area, the map filling the air in the middle of the room. The location of the 911 call was blinking red. “Here’s an overview of the area.”

Freya took a couple of seconds to memorize it. “The Arions know a lot about our customs. Where do we go when we want to meet someone who might not know the area very well? Starbucks. I’m betting that’s where they’re supposed to meet up.”

Matt stared at her. “You gotta be shitting me? A Primal strike force meeting in Starbucks?”

“Sure. It’s a place they can all find without local knowledge. Our agent stole that woman’s clothing and then hitched a ride in that truck before killing the driver. It adds up.”

≠“So we wait until a bunch of obviously Arion looking types start sipping lattes and then take them out?” Matt asked.

“WE don’t do anything with the Arions,” Freya said with a shake of her head. “I do. And just to make sure they don’t have some way to identify me or trace me back to you guys, I’m going to change my look a little. If they’re looking for a Protector, then I’ll give them one.”

Everyone stared at Freya as golden color began radiating outward from the roots of her hair, washing away all traces of red before ending up platinum. At the same time, her face changed slightly, making her look about ten years older, and her chest swelled enough to force the zipper of her top to open, revealing magnificent breasts straining against a sexy black bra. She clenched her fists, feeling the power coursing through her as she grew several inches taller.

Everyone just stared, mouths gaping. Matt most of all.

“You told me you could change your look, but damn, I thought you said something about it taking days or weeks?” he gasped.

“Hair and face and boob size are all easy,” she shrugged. “Becoming a Supremis … now that was hard.”

What she didn’t say was that she’d never actually seen a Protector, but she’d heard enough about them and seen pictures back on her home planet. She was aping a poster she’d once seen on a friend’s bedroom wall. She struggled with the zipper as she managed to work it back up without tearing anything. Just as long as she didn’t take a deep breath.

Matt walked closer to hold her face gently in his hands. He leaned in to kiss his girlfriend, but she smiled and backed away.

“Don’t you think I’m a little old for you?” she kidded him. “Besides, I need to keep your blood in your big head if we’re going to get through all this. I’ve got my earpiece in, so keep me updated. If anyone can tap into the real time surveillance of that area, then warn me if any Arion types show up. I’m going to give that Betan a chance to rethink her career choices.”

With that, she picked up Matt’s Orgone detector and lifted off the floor to flash through the open skylight high overhead, and was gone, a few stray pieces of paper swirling in her wake.

“Jesus …” Jeremy sighed as they all stared enviously at Matt. He was blushing brightly as he responded dramatically to Freya’s sudden change in appearance and the cloud of pheromones she left behind. Yet no one else said a word before they plunged back into their holo fields and went virtual.

They had to save the Earth.

Freya enjoyed the flow of cool air across her skin as she flew just above the trees. Her heart was racing with excitement, but she concentrated on flying slow enough to keep from tearing her clothing off, but still fast enough to avoid giving anyone a chance to photograph her. She powered up Matt’s device as she scanned the air ahead of her. Nothing.

The brightly painted Starbucks shop soon appeared ahead, sitting as it did at the edge of a small shopping center just north of Bangor. Amazingly given everything that had happened less than ten miles further south at the Navy base, there were a half dozen cars parked in front of the store. Coffee addiction had no cure. She opened her eyes wide to scan the customers, and it didn’t take long to spot the attractive brunette sitting uncomfortably in the back of the seating area. She was over six feet tall and expensively dressed as if on her way to the theater, a long scarf wrapped fashionably around her neck. Like all Supremis, she had a fantastic figure.

Tellingly, she didn’t have a drink in front of her. What would an Arion know about coffee? Likely they drank something more akin to battery acid.

She paused to hover just above the roof of the building as she aimed Matt’s detector downward. To her relief, it only beeped slowly. A Betan would only carry a fraction of the Orgone load of a Prime. She debated crashing through the roof to scoop the woman up and fly high into the sky with her, but she remembered the old stories of Arion soldiers who carried suicide devices to avoid capture. Probably the same class of mini-nuke that she’d suffered during the battle at Bangor.

A half kiloton air burst would turn this entire shopping center into a big hole in the ground, and she wasn’t looking forward to another bad sunburn. Arion soldiers also carried weapons that were astoundingly similar to a Star Wars lightsaber, a class of weapon that the long-dead George Lucas must have learned about from some undercover Arion agent. Which was probably where he got most of his supposedly original ideas. The device on the table next to the Arion most certainly wasn’t the holo-phone it appeared to be.

She dropped down to set Matt’s detector on the roof of the Starbucks and then flipped over the edge to land lightly in the bushes beside the building. She brushed herself off and ran her fingers through her long platinum hair before walking around to the front door. Tugging on the ring of her zipper, she pulled it down just enough to reveal the swell of her chest. If anything would intimidate a Betan female, it would be her surplus of Orgone. She’d once read that the Supremis pecking order was largely based on how much Orgone they could carry. In some ways, Sapiens and Supremis were too much alike.

Every eye turned to stare at her as she walked through the front door. The Arion’s eyes were the largest of all. Freya swayed her hips lithely as she walked through the tables to sit down across the table from the alien warrior.

The brunette’s hand moved to rest on her fake phone, and Freya could hear the woman’s superhumanly strong heart pounding, yet to her credit her eyes didn’t show fear.

Margo suddenly understood why she’d been told to come to this place. She was the bait. Even now, the Primes would be closing in. Yet she wasn’t exactly helpless. She had her Frisian sword, and while it might not cut a Protector in half, it would slice through humans without the slightest resistance. She’d been trained to use Terrans as hostages. Protectors would do almost anything to avoid civilian casualties. More to that point, the Spar’lans that pressed comfortably against her cervix could be detonated with just the right clench of inner muscle. As long as there were enough Terrans within its lethal blast radius, nearly a kilometer, she’d be safe. Like all Arion soldiers, she lived with the knowledge that her life would likely end in such a suicide. Her family would be honored by her sacrifice.

The Protector looked vaguely familiar, but then, all the blondies looked like washed-out, anemic Primes. There was no limit to the ugliness of blonde hair. But this one strangely wasn’t giving off that insufferable aura of confidence and superiority that she’d heard so much about. The Velorians considered themselves goddesses, thanks to the helpless Terrans who bowed to kiss their feet.

“My name’s Jana,” Freya said, inventing what she hoped was a Velorian name as she spoke it. “Seems your people have abandoned you. You need a lift to get somewhere? Like off this planet.”

“I didn’t realize the Enlightenment provided taxi service these days.” “Anything to get you off my planet,” Freya said, trying to behave like she thought a Protector might.

“My people would blast us both to atoms before we made it to my ship.”

“So why is the Empire is so eager to kill its own soldiers?”

“My life means nothing if yours ends with it,” Margo said tightly, noticing as she did that the people at the table around them were listening to their conversation with great interest.

Freya laughed softly. “OK, how about we quit growling at each other and get down to business. You want to get home. I want you and your kin off my planet. Seems there’s a deal to be had.”

Margo’s heart leaped. The Protector wanted to bargain? Unexpected. Maybe she could buy additional time for the Captain to get here. “What’s the hurry?” she said as she watched two more people walk through the front door. Definitely not Primes. “This is a pleasant place to talk.”

“That dead truck driver out there your doing?” Freya asked.

“The pilot?” Margo asked. “Yes. He was bad at forn’la. I put him out of his misery.”

Freya hadn’t heard the word forn’la before, but she could guess the meaning. Arion females were known to kill males who failed to satisfy them. And as she’d learned so painfully years ago, their males made that the point of it all.

Her body began to burned with anger as she thought of that. She wanted to reach out and strangle the woman. Tear her to pieces. Something she was pretty sure she could actually do.

Margo saw the Protector’s eyes narrow. “You know of course about my Spar’lans.”

“Leave it to an Arion to threaten innocents with her cunt,” Freya said disgustedly.

Given the damage the Spar’lans on that super-armored Arion ship had caused, she had no doubt it would be far worse if it was contained only by Betan flesh. She was also suddenly aware that everyone in the store was paying very close attention to their little talk. She wished she could just tell them to all get up and leave. To run for their lives. But likely that would trigger the suicidal maniac in front of her.

Freya realized she was in way over her head. She had no training for this. She’d assumed she could bluster her way through the encounter, or just put her superior strength to work. But Arions like this one had been facing down the more powerful Protectors for centuries. She glanced around the room at the innocents. Given all the people who’d died on Bangor, exactly what was the right ratio of Terran casualties to Arion deaths? How did Protectors do this? This Arion had killed how many people already? She couldn’t let her walk out of here to kill more. To link up with her people and continue their quest to conquer Earth.

Her eyes began to burn as she wondered if she had the power to vaporize this Betan and the self-destruct device inside her before it could detonate. Surely she’d wasn’t the first Protector to think of that. The Arions would have taken precautions. She considered how far could she get her above the ground before it went off? Unfortunately an air burst would be far more dangerous than that exploding ship on the ground.

She had to do something.

“OK, here’s the deal,” Freya said, the words coming before she could think them through. “You renounce and join me and I’ll protect you. No longer will the Empire exploit you. I can offer you life and happiness here on Earth.”

“With these weak and useless Terrans?” Margo laughed. “These soft men with their frail bodies and limp dicks. I’d rather die.”

Freya angrily leaped across the table at her, barely aware that her device up on the roof was beeping wildly. “If that’s what you really want …” she started to say.

 

Janas watched from his position just over the trees as Petra crashed through the roof of the target building at high Mach, landing directly on top of the disgusting blondie. One moment she was sitting across from their agent, acting all civilized, and the next moment the building bulged outward as Petra’s shock wave tore it apart like a bomb. He flew quickly to catch the Betan, who was tumbling through the air, clothing shredded. He dropped her into the center of the parking lot as her Frisian flared, the meter-long green blade growling and crackling as she began to hack her way through the survivors. She was only a Betan, but she was good, cutting one car and its occupant completely in half with a sweep of her weapon.

He joined her by turning his heat vision on those further away. His job was to sanitize the scene while Petra dealt with the Protector. Hopefully she’d leave enough of her for him to finish off. An honor that senior officers normally gave to those more junior. His father would be so proud of him.

The ground shook violently as the far side of the paved area exploded upward, vehicles flying like toys as the two females rose into the air, locked in a battle of raw strength. One would live, one would die. Janas planned to tap into whatever Orgone the survivor had left and suck them dry. By the end of the day, he’d be captain of theZelaton. His father had grown weary of Captain Petra and her embarrassing arrogance. She was no starship captain.

It was time for the son to fix the father’s mistake. Assuming the Protector didn’t do it first.

Chapter Seven

Freya had no idea what had hit her until she felt fingers stabbing into her neck, probing for pressure points. Fingers carved from solid steel. It was suddenly obvious — the Betan had just been the bait. The strike team that John had worried about had arrived.

She fought back, kicking, punching, tearing among the rocks, dirt and water fifty feet underground. But the fingers kept probing, finding a spot that suddenly made her left arm go numb. She realized she was fighting a Prime who’d been trained to fight a stronger Protector. Steel fingers stabbed into her lower back, finding yet another spot, sending a wave of prickling numbness down her legs. She realized as her body began to fail her that she had only one hope — her opponent had no idea she was Kecklavian.

Instead of fighting back, Freya closed her eyes and concentrated on changing anything she could, moving pressure points and flesh around in response to every blow, every stabbing finger, caring nothing about what she might look like. She had to confuse her opponent, make them expend their energy and strength in the wrong places. She suddenly found her face crushed between a large pair of breasts and realized her opponent was female. The woman’s breasts flared with the incredible heat of an orgone flare, nearly cooking Freya’s brain before she drew the power into herself, channeling it toward her own chest. She concentrated on sucking power from her attacker, imagining that her body was some kind of magnet for Orgone.

The breasts that crushed her head suddenly went cold, and went berserk, delivering a flurry of blows that launched Freya from deep underground to crash through the pavement and up into the air. She saw the woman now, long raven black hair with a hint of purple, a Prime of high birth. Freya had no idea how good her own genetics were — she’d hardly chosen the Prime who’d raped her long ago to share his genetics — but she launched herself at the woman anyway, wrapping her arms and legs around her to try and contain her. People were dying down below.

The Prime knocked her away like a rag doll. Freya caught herself in mid-air to flash forward and deliver a blow like the one she’d used to disable that Arion landing ship. The Prime flew backward to crush a half dozen cars in the parking lot of the adjacent shopping center, only to leap back to her feet, eyes blazing. Her long hair flew wildly as she picked up a pickup truck and threw it at Freya. Freya blunted it away with her shoulder as she lashed out with her heat vision, catching the Prime’s midsection. Heat that could vaporize steel only drew a smile from that dark abomination. The Arion rested her hands on her hips and seemed to relish the heat, sucking it in to strengthen herself.

Freya cursed as she blinked her smoking eyes closed. That was stupid. The Supremis fought for Orgone dominance and she’d just given her enemy more fuel to fight with. Instead she concentrated on making herself stronger, steel-hard muscle forming across her body from the mere thought. She had no idea how to fight with energy, but she knew something about raw strength. She focused on an exaggerated comic book image she’d once seen of the female Hulk. She could look like that too.

She’d barely gotten started when a second Prime hit her from the back, this one a male based on the steel rod that slammed between her legs. The horror of that long-ago rape filled her with repulsion, sending even more strength to her limbs. The woman slammed into her front, the two of them hugging her between them, trying to crush her. Primes were thousands of times stronger than ordinary humans, males most of all. She felt the woman trying to suck energy from her as the man tried to rape her. Freya saw in an instant how this was going to end. An orgasm, hers, theres, all of them, it didn’t matter. It was at that moment that she would lose control of her own Orgone. These Prime’s were trained to suck it from and then crush her weakened body.

But only if she played by their rules. Instead of trying to get away, she slammed herself down on that superhuman erection, taking the man to his root as she created new bands of muscle to augment her inner strength. Bearing down on him until she heard him gasp in pain, she focused all the Orgone in her body on the singular task of creating more Supremis muscle. Her body swelled with naked power as she crushed the woman to herself with arms and legs, allowing the man to continue his assault as she used the horror of his rape to focus her power further. The woman’s eyes grew wide in terror as Freya’s strength soared beyond that of any Prime, her attacker’s ribs bending against the harder steel of Freya’s until something gave with a sickening wet crunch, and the fearsome light in the Prime’s eyes went out.

She bore down on the man with inner strength no Supremis female had ever possessed, and he screamed in pain. Feeling him trapped so deeply inside her, she focused on sucking all his power, using his crude penetration against him. The pitiful fool accommodated her by losing all control, his wild cries filling the air as he came, a wild rush of heat stabbed deep inside her, her body flaring as brightly as a star. She wasn’t getting her head blown off this time.

In seconds it was over, the man falling limb. Freya looked like some kind of hulking monster as she dropped the male’s drained and crushed body to splat onto the parking lot. She had only the Betan to deal with now, and she hardly needed all this muscle to do that. She concentrated on resuming her previous form as she floated down to stand before the terrified soldier of the Empire, her seven feet of height shrinking to her usual 5’10.

Margo’s eyes were as big as saucers. She’d just watched in horror as two magnificent Primes were defeated by the most muscular woman she’d ever seen, a woman who was even now changing back into her previous svelte and slender form before her very eyes. She realized in that moment that she wasn’t facing a Protector, but something far more dangerous — the only explanation she could think of was that she was facing a Galen. They were the master race who’d created the Supremis and sparked the humans of Earth from the great apes. A goddess to many eyes.

Margo began to feel for the right inner muscles, determined not to die the horrible way they had, but then she saw the smile on the goddess’s face. Her hair darkened from blonde to red as she seemed to grow much younger.

“My earlier offer stands,” Freya said as she became her usual self. “Renounce the Empire and join me in defending Earth. Those who died here were not your leaders, they were your suppressors. Your enemies are Primal, just as mine are. With your help, we can push the Empire back where it belongs — and out of this system.

“How … how can I help?” Margo said, struggling to resist the urge to bow and kiss the goddesses feet. “I’m just a simple soldier. You are Galen. I’m not worthy.” She bowed her head.

Freya watched the look in the Betan’s eyes, and realized she wasn’t seeing her as a Protector, but as something more. She’d said Galen? It suddenly struck her what this soldier thought she’d seen. While Freya had seen herself as some kind of overly muscular abomination, a form she’d quickly and thankfully changed away from, th Arion had seen something very different. It was a start. She could use it.

“You know how your ships work,” Freya continued. “You know something of your people’s plan for Earth. Despite what your leaders say, we Galen will always ensure that Earth is protected and invincible. With your help, fewer will die on both sides. And I will personally protect you.”

Margo nodded in defeat. She’d long hated the Primes for their arrogance, for the way they used women like her for sport. The way she’d been little more than bait in this failed attack, an acceptable casualty of war. Yet this goddess had saved her.

“Good,” Freya said, struggling not to smile as she saw the look in the Arion’s face. Pretending to be a goddess was kind of cool. “I need that little nuke you carry, along with your saber thingy. I know some guys who’ll love playing with that. Matter of fact, I’m sure they will really enjoy meeting you.”

“Terran males?” Freya winced.

“They aren’t as bad as you think. Hurt them, or any Terran, and you’ll wish you died here today. Help them, and you will earn my respect. Do I have your promise? Will you swear it?”

Margo could no longer resist. She threw herself on the ground to kiss her goddess’s feet. “Yes, my lady. Anything for you.”