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The Phoenix Initiative – Chapter 6

Written by papayoya1 :: [Saturday, 19 January 2019 17:44] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 20 January 2019 09:34]

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Chapter 6

Kyle sat across Jennifer in the spacious cargo compartment of one of the Chinook helicopters the FRU used to move the girls around. It was obvious that they had taken their time adapting it. The seat she was using would have been oversized for anyone but Jennifer, but it looked comfortable to her. Kyle’s was too.

The rest of the men sharing the chopper with them aside from the pilots were distractedly minding their own business as Jennifer smiled at him and pointed at the headphones they were wearing to isolate themselves from the noise of the rotors. Kyle understood and switched them on.

“You look nervous again,” she said.

“Please, don’t strip!” Kyle replied, smirking in the weird intimacy of the private headphone conversation.

“Oh, you know I can do better than that!” Jennifer said, winking naughtily and making Kyle blush.

“Well, you could do that live on TV. I bet the ratings would skyrocket!” Kyle replied, trying to keep up with the tone of the conversation and making the young woman laugh.

Of course, Jennifer’s approach has been blunt, but somehow it had worked. They had built common trust over the last few hours and Kyle had been happy to find out the multiple layers that hid below the amazon’s physical appearance and seemingly shallow character.

Her voice was naughty when it came back through the radio link.

“You know, we’re finishing kind of late. I’d be too worried if you had to drive back to Santa Isabel from the base. I’d feel so much better if you stayed the night.”

Kyle had not been expecting that. He swallowed hard before replying.

“What do you mean? Where is this going?” he asked, as encouraged as nervous.

“I don’t know, but… isn’t it wonderful?”

An hour later Kyle was starting to become nervous once more as he waited, checking the messages on his phone. His make-up and dressing session had been kind of short, but he loved the gray suit and tie-less white shirt they had wrapped him with. When the door opened, and Jennifer stooped to get through his jaw dropped.

“Oh, my goodness!” was all he said, causing her to laugh wholeheartedly.

“And I thought I looked better in my birthday suit!” she said cheerfully.

He did not know where they had got clothes that fit from, but Jennifer looked gorgeous. Whoever had chosen the long white party dress had definitely been looking for an attire that would highlight her beauty at the same time as it would hide her physical power. Aside from her arms, every other bulging muscle in her tight body was conveniently concealed under the silky fabric, the cut covering her legs and giving only a glimpse at her magnificent cleavage. Jennifer’s tanned skin highlighted the shininess of the dress, the combination making her look both sensual and approachable. The amazon’s long blonde locks flowed freely, but had been appropriately teased to make the most out of their natural silky aspect.

“Are you wearing heels?” Kyle suddenly asked, noticing her sandals.

“Titanium,” Jennifer said, answering the unasked question. “You don’t want to know how many attempts we had to go through before they found the way to make them fit and last.”

By comparison, Jim Hagen looked quite unremarkable when he stepped into the room, despite being one of America’s top TV celebrities.

“Wow! You are tall, Miss Watson!” was the first thing he said as he looked up at the Phoenix.

“Jennifer, please,” she replied with a smile.

“Of course, of course, Jennifer. Should I call you Kyle too?” he asked, noticing the cop for the first time.

Kyle nodded, and that was the last time the showman looked at him before leaving to get started with the program.

“This will be very easy, OK? The idea is to have fun while we get the audience to know you a bit better. Did you get the script with the tests we proposed?” Hagen asked.

Jennifer nodded as she smiled.

“Of course. I’m looking forward to starting, Jim! I’m a big fan!”

There were a few more minutes of mutual praise and finally Hagen left. Kyle had not liked him. He was about to tell Jennifer when he saw how focused she was. They did not utter another word before they were called onto the set.

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

“Don’t misunderstand me, I appreciate the dinner, but my office’s door is always open,” Elena Campos said to the woman sitting across from her at the table in the fancy restaurant.

“I know, I know,” Dr. Eva Roark replied. “I wanted my first meeting with you to be in a more informal set up, though. After all, my objective is to earn your trust.”

“And why would you need to do that?” Campos asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Oh, come on! You know what I’ve come to do. There’s no point in pretending that you don’t hate my rolejob. I wanted to give you a bit of context. And, well, I also wanted to make sure that you didn’t hate me as well.”

Dr. Campos was taken by surprise. She had not been expecting such a blunt approach. Everything she had heard about Eva Roark before suggested someone very well versed in politicking.

“Ok,” she said before swallowing. “So, why do you think I should hate you?”

“You were the first to find out the girls. From what I’ve read, you saved their lives as well. And judging by the scarce notes, I can’t help but admire your intuition when it came to guessing what was going on with them. You care deeply about them. And you despise the fact that we’re making such an effort to find ways of hurting them.”

“Killing them,” Elena corrected.

“But you understand we need to do it,” Dr. Roark added.

Elena sighed.

“I saw thousands of women die,” Elena started. “I worked hard to become one of the best oncologists in the country and still, I couldn’t do anything to prevent it. I don’t think you can sympathize with the type of pain that causes. And then I found Susan. She was in even more pain than any of the other patients I had seen. By the time I had the hunch about her abnormal consumption of nutrients she was on the point of starvation. I was too slow to pass the message around. We barely managed to save Jennifer, Nathalie and Nicole. No one ever talks about the fifth girl, as if she had never existed. But Keira was real, and she died because we could not feed her body as it transformed,” Dr. Campos said in a sad tone.

Roark had read about Keira Jackson but had never felt the pain of her loss that she was feeling now. Elena Campos went on:

“A million women died. Four survived. And where I see a miracle, everyone else just sees a threat that needs to be eliminated or a weapon that can be duplicated. It says quite a lot about our mindset, don’t you think? These girls are living proof of where mankind can go. But rather than seeing it, we take refuge in our lizard brain and think of them purely in terms of a threat or an opportunity for aggression!”

Eva Roark nodded as she listened. Dr. Campos made one last remark.

“Everyone keeps forgetting that they are people too. But then, we get surprised when one of them decides to leave!”

“Tell me, Elena. Did you know Colonel Rhodes?” Roark asked.

Campos nodded.

“They found his body earlier this afternoon. Had to use his DNA to identify him, since his head was completely crushed. Allison Stone’ body was easier to recognize. Nicole Keilani killed them both two days ago.”

Dr. Campos was shocked. The news left her speechless for a few seconds. Nicole had been, by far, the most difficult of the girls. Cold and arrogant, she had started questioning her situation and authority soon enough. Elena had only been mildly surprised when she had heard about her escape. She would have never thought her capable of killing, though, even less someone that she knew.

“How?” she babbled. “Why?”

“Lindbergh doesn’t know I know, of course, but I have my sources. By the way, this is the part where I show my trust with you. Rhodes and Stone were having an affair. For all we know, Keilani followed them and killed them in cold blood.”

“I never thought…” Campos started.

“Elena, Nicole finished over sixty more people last night. They found the bodies this morning in what looked like an Asian mafia base,” Roark let out.

“I don’t understand…”

“Of course, you do. Because the problem, of course, is that it’s so damn easy for her. Do I think Jennifer, Nathalie or Susan would do that? Of course not! But no one would have suspected Nicole either, and now we have a massive issue in our hands.”

Dr. Campos was speechless.

“Look Elena. I won’t lie to you. I want to find out what made the girls what they are. I see the possibilities for healthcare and wellness too. I see the possibilities for mankind’s evolution. But I will not hesitate to use that knowledge for military purposes, either. I’m not a monster, though. I have nothing against Susan, Jennifer or Nathalie. Even less, after seeing them work their asses out to save lives. But you must understand the threat they pose. And Nicole has proven that this threat is unacceptable. I’ve been in DC for too long. I know how people there think. And believe me, finding the girls’ weakness is the only way to save them. They are not invulnerable. You know. I know. And the brass knows. And if they conclude that we don’t have effective means to stop them in case they decide to follow in Nicole’s steps, they won’t hesitate to sacrifice them.”

There was an awkward silence.

“You make it sound almost as if you’re doing them a favor,” Campos finally said between clenched teeth.

“I am. Don’t you want to see them conducting as normal a life as their condition allows?”

“Of course. But I doubt that’s what motivates you,” Elena said.

“It’s not. I’m in this both to serve my country and for my personal benefit,” Roark admitted bluntly.

Again, more silence. Dr. Campos broke it a few seconds later.

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“So that you know which side to choose when things get ugly,” Roark said.

“You don’t trust Lindbergh and Sully,” Elena said.

“Who does?” Roark replied, getting Dr. Campos to nod.

“I’m not going to spy for you,” Campos finally said.

“That’s not what I’m asking. I only wanted to put my cards on the table. You’re a noble person. You deserve that.”

“How do you know I won’t go to Lindbergh with this?” Elena asked when the thought crossed her mind.

“Because you hate him more than I do. And, deep down inside, you know you and the girls will be much better off with me calling the shots.”

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

It took Jennifer two minutes to get the audience fall in love with her. Kyle had barely opened his mouth to introduce himself as he sat in the corner of the massive couch they had brought to the stage so that his partner would be comfortable. Now that he knew her better, Kyle noticed her forced smiles and laughs, as well as her rehearsed answers. She was nothing but perfect in every single interaction, and the faces of every single man and woman in the stalls showed the captivation she caused.

Hearing his name brought him back from his thoughts and into reality. He tried to catch up with what was going on in the interview and saw that the screens were playing the scene that had become the icon of what Jennifer and her two comrades had become.

Kyle had seen the images of the blonde woman sitting next to him lifting the school bus hundreds of times by now, but he pretended to follow them again with interest as the audience cheered and clapped when the sequence reached its end when Jennifer set the bus on the road.

“So, Kyle, what did you think when you saw Jennifer heading towards you for the first time?” Jim Hagen asked, his tone suggesting that the question was addressed at him but was a mere tool to continue praising her.

“Well, you know… the situation was a bit chaoticconfusing,” he started, thanking Jennifer for having had the foresight to script some answers. “We were trying to save the bus, everyone was very nervous. And suddenly, we saw her heading towards us. I remember the first thing I thought was that she was very tall!”

The audience giggled, but this was not an answer meant to get any cheering.

“True!” Jim Hagen said. “Now that you are saying this… how tall are you, Jennifer?”

Jennifer blushed slightly, as if she had not rehearsed this question too.

“Well, I’m a tall girl,” she said in a cute tone.

Hagen stood up and invited both Jennifer and Kyle to follow, only to show the audience how he could hardly make it to her chest.

“Very tall, I would say!”

“Well, I’m 8’3” Jim,” she finally said, almost reluctantly.

“Wow! Tell me, do you date shorter guys?” the showman said, causing Jennifer and the entire audience to laugh.

“Well, I might have fancied tall strong guys in the past, but I guess you could say that that’s not something I’m not looking for this in a man anymore,” Jennifer replied. There was mild laughter as she smiled cutely.

“You must certainly be aware that there has been some speculation about you twoguys,” Jim said, getting to the point Kyle had been dreading.

Jennifer took it, as she had said she would. She blushed again.

“I guess it’s normal. Let me say this: Kyle here is a great guy. I’m so happy I met him thate first day, back in Santa Isabel. It was my first public appearance, I had no clue about what to do and he was so nice and helpful. I love working with him, I think we make a great team.”

“So, Kyle, how is working with Jennifer?”

He had this one rehearsed too, but he sounded way less natural than she had.

“It’s great, really. I have to admit I was very puzzled by her at first, but I got to know her quickly enough. Jennifer is really a great person, one of those people that only thinks about how to help others. And you have all seen the stuff she is capable of. More than once I caught myself cursing for not being able to do something that could help or save someone, only to realize a second later that now we can. Jennifer can.”

The conversation turned easy for a while. They were back at the couch and Hagen asked for some more details about the earthquake day. Jennifer took it, going through the story and recognizing him often enough to make him feel a bit uncomfortable. After all, he knew his contribution had been marginal. At some point Jim asked Jennifer if she would be so kind as to show the audience how strong she really was.

She wore her perpetual smile as she followed him to an area at the side of the stage and they uncovered a large SUV.

“So, Jennifer, could you lift this car?”

Jennifer frowned, and Kyle was puzzled for a second. Then, she said:

“Sure, this one feels easy enough. But… don’t you have anything sturdier? I mean, something American?”

The audience cheered and clapped as Jim Hagen laughed and walked her to another covered car. This time it was a full-American pick-up truck.

“Now, that’s a real challenge!” Jennifer said cheerfully, getting more cheers.

She walked around the pick-up with interest, in a pattern that Kyle realized was also rehearsed. Kyle had not been aware of this particular scene, but it was obvious that it had been agreed beforehand. After a few seconds, Jennifer crouched in front of the bonnet and reached for the car’s underside. Her arm’s muscles did not even bulge as she stood up and started to lift the heavy-looking truck with her.

Of course, Kyle had seen her live lifting a bus as if it had been made of paper, so he should not have been surprised. He found it impossible not to have goosebumps as he looked at the woman that had had oral sex with him just a few hours ago bring her arms upwards and pull the entire vehicle from the floor. A couple seconds later, she turned it in her hands so that the car would stand almost vertical as she held it.

Jennifer got a few “Ooohs” from the audience, followed by some crazy cheering as she performed her feat of strength. Once she felt she had held it for long enough, she reversed the movement and crouched to gently set the pick-up down.

Kyle could tell that Jim Hagen was genuinely shocked, despite the fact that he had known what would happen.

“How strong are you?” he asked, the excitement showing.

“I guess I’m very strong, Jim,” Jennifer replied cutely.

“Can you fly?” he then asked, making her laugh.

“No, of course I can’t fly!” she replied with a giggle.

“Well, you are the closest thing to Superman I’ve ever seen!” the showman said. “You won’t deflect bullets, by any chance?”

The question had not been in the script, nor in the list that the Fort Exeter PR guys had prepared as potential follow-ups. Kyle knew Jennifer well enough to tell that she had been caught off-guard. She recovered admirably quickly.

“Why? You’re are not planning on shooting me, are you?” she asked. “Do you want to get rid of me already, Jim?” she added in a mocked scolding tone. The showman was laughing, but Jennifer took the chance to look at the audience and ask: “So, what do you guys think?”

There was a loud “Noooo” as Jennifer laughed and clapped and Jim Hagen smiled and got ready to change subject.

When the interview finished, less than five minutes later, Jennifer Watson was America’s new girlfriend.

 *=*=*=*=*=*=*

Dr. Elena Campos was usually an early riser, but she arrived at her office earlier than ever that day. She had not slept much, Roark’s words still echoing in her head. One thing she had to admit: the woman had been straight forward with her. She was still debating how far she could trust her, but she could not deny that the recently-arrived scientist had taken the first step.

After the initial shock at her bluntness, Elena’s mind had kept wandering until it got stuck in Roark’s most shocking revelation: either they found a “convenient” way to hurt or kill the girls while at large, a weapon of sorts, or someone would eventually decide to kill them preemptively.

Of course, for all their amazing strength and resilience, the girls were not immortal. There were powerful enough weapons… but there were also other methods. Suffocation, poison (even if she knew the dose would need to be massive), heat, and many others. After all, the girls were human, even if incredibly enhanced.

Elena had been concerned for them for a long time. She had already been convinced that Lindbergh and Sully were as fishy as anyone could get. But for the first time she was worried for their lives, and her concern had a countdown attached. She did not know how long the girls had before whoever was in charge decided that he did not accept the risk anymore, but she feared that it wasn’t long. Roark’s revelations about Nicole’s killings had been a devastating blow. She would have never thought that the former lawyer would cross the line, but now that she had even Elena could understand that her actions had painted a target on the other girls.

The loud noises coming from the corridor took Dr. Campos out of her trance. And then, the heavy door to her office was pushed off of its hinges with such violence that it splintered when it hit the wall.

Elena’s first reaction was to cover herself. Susan’s enraged figure was looming over her the moment she dared look up again.

“What the hell did you do to me?” she shouted, her voice so loud that the windows rattled.

“Susan…” Dr. Campos started. She had no clue about what was going on. “What… what is this about?”

“I’m asking what the fuck you damned eggheads did to me!” Susan repeated, yelling even louder and forcing Elena to cover her ears.

A security guard showed behind Susan just then. Dr. Campos understood that he had been unsuccessfully chasing her down the corridor, but she also knew that the most he would do is to make the tense situation worse. She signaled him to leave as she tried to calm down.

Susan was obviously furious. Elena had no clue about the reason why. She had been looking forward to her first conversation with the redhead this morning, since she owed her after she had got her the permission to jog outside, but it was obvious that the situation had changed dramatically overnight.

Her first reaction was to scold the girl, but something told her that it would not work this time. Susan had been childish lately, but this felt different. There was something that had made her incredibly upset, and Elena had no clue what it was.

“Susan, I have no idea about what you’re talking about,” she replied calmly.

“You’re full of shit!” the young amazon replied, still in an angry tone. Her voice was a little less loud, so Elena interpreted that as progress.

“I may be. I don’t know. But why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you,” she said.

“Look at your fucking dashboard!” Susan snapped back.

Elena was about to push back but decided that there was no problem in humoring the girl. So, switching her attention to her console, she brought up the performance dashboard of the Phoenix program and browsed for Susan’s results. Her jaw dropped when she saw the numbers.

“There must be some explanation,” she said.

“Of course, there is!” Susan came back, Elena’s realization of the issue emboldening her again. “You messed with me. And you’re going to tell me how!”

Susan had been training early. With Jennifer doing PR and Nathalie strengthening the bonds with the SIPD cop that had been working with her, it had fallen in her to do the hard work that day. She had asked to get done early so that she could jog, which had ended up pulling her daily training routine to very early in the morning. Every single figure in the dashboard was incredibly messed up, but the one that stood out the most was that for maximum speed. Over the last nine months, Susan had managed to increase her top speed from her initial two-hundred and eighty-eight miles per hour to the two-hundred and ninety-nine she had reached the day before. This morning she had topped off at three-hundred and forty-two.

“We’ll check the test equipment for speed…” Elena Campos started saying.

“Do you think I’m stupid, doc? Do you think I’ll swallow every single piece of test equipment suddenly getting faulty?” Susan barked.

“Look, I promise you I have no clue about what may have driven these results. But I will find out.”

“I need to visit Sully, then!” Susan said, raising her tone again.

“Susan, please… don’t do it. Trust me in this. I will find out and I won’t hide anything from you.”

Susan hesitated. She was about to tell Dr. Campos about last evening’s jog and what she had found out at the secondary base. It still made her feel chilly. She had barely been able to sleep. There was no doubt in Susan’s mind that her sudden enhancement was related to what she had seen, and she was sure that someone was messing with her. Instinctively, she decided not to tell Campos at the last moment. She felt the information was too important and after all, everyone knew that the whole of Fort Exeter was bugged.

The redhead amazon breathed in hard. The office remained silent for a few very uncomfortable seconds. Then, Susan changed her tone to an icy one:

“You have until I’m back from forced labor. Otherwise I’ll do whatever I need to in order to get the truth from Sully and Lindbergh.”

Susan did not give Dr. Campos the chance to reply as she turned and got out of her office as quickly as she had burst in.

Elena needed a few seconds to recover. For all her appreciation for the young girl, she had to admit that she had been afraid for a while. Soon, she was digging back into the dashboard, taking handwritten notes of the results as she went. Somehow, she suspected that the numbers would not stay in the system for long.

The three-hundred and forty-two miles per hour kept looking impressive. Susan had been a fast runner before the Flare, having finished very highly in several half-marathons, but the fact that she had beaten the three-hundred mile per hour mark by so much kept being impressive and serving as proof that something had indeed happened to her overnight other than the expected gradual improvement.

The other indicators were equally stunning. Elena found herself looking for backed-up data for the other girls; her jaw dropped when she realized that Susan’s last check had beaten every other Phoenix in every single test, and not by little. The redhead had usually ranked third in strength and was now considerably ahead of Jennifer, while the agility and responsiveness test put Nicole’s best results to shame.

Dr. Campos felt the rage that Susan had expressed raise inside her, along with the certainty that Jacob Sully and Owen Lindbergh were behind those results. The fact that they had messed with one of her girls infuriated her beyond limits. Having been left aside made things worse. She was about to stomp all the way to Sully’s office to settle the matter when she realized how useless that would be. Instead, she took her cellphone and browsed for the recently added number of Eva Roark. Her fingers danced around the screen as she composed the short message:

“Great dinner. Fancy breakfast? I have so much to share!”

 *=*=*=*=*=*=*

“Good morning, lover,” Jennifer’s sweet voice woke Kyle up.

She was stark naked, bending over him as he started stretching out of sleep in the massive couch. Her smile was warm and genuine as her humongous breasts hung like mountains.

Jennifer had insisted on him sleeping in the couch. The bed was more than spacious enough for the two of them, even considering her oversized frame, but she had been just too concerned about crushing him in her sleep.

Kyle was also nude, and he soon regretted that when his erection came unannounced, making him blush. Jennifer only laughed and said:

“Look who’s looking for attention!”

“I… I don’t know…” Kyle started.

Jennifer ignored his babbling and crouched lower, bringing her hands to his back with incredible gentleness and lifting him off the couch as if he were a little child. She crossed the room towards her bed as she said cheerfully:

“The brass is incredibly happy with the show yesterday. I have a free day. Let’s take care of our little common friend here, and then we can talk about what to do!”

She set him with care on the comfortable mattress and climbed gracefully next to him, fondling his super hard penis with oversized but otherwise incredibly gentle fingers. Her mouth soon found his, locking it in a soft wet kiss as she played around with the utmost care with her tongue. Kyle was already panting by the time she moved down to his hard on. There was nothing he could do or say as she got started once again, her skill only getting better and better the more she tried. To Kyle if felt like being on cloud nine, even if the situation was still overwhelming. A week ago, he was a lonely, single cop and now he was suddenly having sex with the most amazing creature on Earth!

He let out a final pleasured scream as she got him to climax, lifting her face with a naughty smile as he panted and sweated heavily.

It took a minute for Kyle to recover. When he did, he sat down, still panting, and said:

“Jen… you are amazing!”

Her smile was the most genuine he had ever seen as she processed the words.

“You know… you are doing… I feel bad for you!” he finally babbled.

She raised an eyebrow as she replied.

“Kyle, I already told you. It is… impossible. There is no way… I’m too tight for you, down there,” she finally said, blushing for real also for the first time since he had met her.

He looked beaten, so she quickly continued.

“You were amazing last night!”

“I could not even dimple your skin!” he protested. Feeling his fingers not being able to even dig a fraction of an inch into her apparently soft breasts had been frustrating.

“I felt it! That’s what counts! I love being with you. You treat me so well! You make me feel alive!” she said, her voice growing in excitement as she went.

Kyle remained silent for a second. Then, he said:

“Let’s see if I can make you feel more alive!”

He dived, head first, into her womanhood. Jennifer was about to warn him again, but then felt something and opened her legs wide instead. It took Kyle some time to find the way to reach her clit with his tongue. By the time he did, the blonde amazon started moaning at a regularly increasing pace.

“Oh my God!” she said when the cop had already been at it for a while. It would not get her to climax, but this was by far the most she had felt a human being since her transformation. She doubted whether to fake the orgasm. After all, Kyle was making her feel the best since the transformation and she wanted to make him feel good too. She decided against it. For the first time, she felt that she had the chance to have a relationship based on trust and she did not want to ruin it from the start.

The man had considerable stamina. He had to tire sooner or later, though. Jennifer was the happiest she had been since waking up as an amazon when she cuddled with him for the aftermath, fondling his hair as she kissed his neck.

“What do you say about breakfast in bed?” she asked in a whisper.

 *=*=*=*=*=*=*

 

Mike Sigursson was stunned when he opened the door to his house and found Nathalie stooping to wave at him with a warm smile. She was carrying a box in her left hand, the two coffees and several doughnuts easy enough to see.

“Fancy a breakfast in the park?” she asked.

“You never replied about my invitation for dinner,” Mike said, trying to recover from the surprise.

“The guys at Fort Exeter couldn’t make their minds up about the challenges of me being at your house and the implications in security, logistics and what not. So, I pushed for a simpler solution. I had some guys call your precinct to learn about your schedule. I hope you don’t mind.”

“So, how is walking in the park easier for logistics than being at my house?” Mike asked.

“Easy. They can follow me,” Nathalie said, pointing upwards at the hovering helicopter.

“I see,” Mike said looking at both sides of the street.

“Don’t worry, No-one’s eavesdropping. I made sure of that,” Nathalie said. “Shall we go?”

“Sure… give me a few minutes to change clothes,” Mike nervously replied.

Nathalie was signing autographs and taking pictures with fans by the time Mike stepped out of the house. She had rejected his invitation to wait inside, since it would go against the agreement she had with the guys in charge.

One more time, Mike observed how natural the girl was around people, how genuine her will to help and to please was, and thanked God for having put such a heart in a woman of such strength. She was kind and polite as she bid her admirers farewell and invited Mike to follow. He realized soon enough that the SIPD had cleared the way to the park, which had been closed for their benefit.

Nathalie had chosen a simple cotton dress to cover her impressive figure, the clothes loose enough that her tight muscles were not too evident. As usual, the young woman walked barefoot and kept a slow enough pace for him to follow. Mike noticed that she insisted in small talk as they walked down the street, catching everyone’s attention as they did. Her attitude changed as soon as they reached the park.

“I need to thank you,” she said as soon as they were a hundred yards inside the deserted lawn.

“Why?”

“For trusting me,” she replied simply.

“Nathalie… I’ve seen you save hundreds of people. The least you deserve is the benefit of the doubt,” Mike said.

“Are you scared of me?” she asked bluntly.

It made Mike think. He knew he was telling the truth when he replied:

“I could never fear you. You are too good a person. But the stuff I’ve seen you do… the stuff you are capable of… I hope you will not take it bad, but it’s unnatural.”

He felt guilty when Nathalie sighed.

“See? That’s the reason everything would go to hell if people learned about what happened with the bullet that was shot at me,” she said. She sounded a bit depressed.

“I can see the risk. But people have seen what you’ve done for this city…”

“Mike, don’t be a fool. People are grateful now, but how quick do you think they would change their minds if they thought that we can’t be easily stopped? Or if they felt that we have our own agenda? Jennifer and I have discussed it at length. We didn’t need Lindbergh to insist. What we have become… people will like it as long as we do their heavy lifting and as long as they think that’s as much as we’ll do. The moment they believe we are making our own decisions or the moment they fear what may happen if we do, things are going to evolve into a witch hunt quickly enough. And you know that’s true.”

Mike could only nod.

“We’ve accepted what we have become. It wasn’t easy, at the beginning. Believe me, no matter how impressive the stuff that we do looks, it’s hard for a girl to accept that she has become what we’ve become. It’s hard to realize that your life will never be normal again, that you will be permanently in the spotlight. We finally came to terms with it. Jennifer even embraced the possibilities. Me… I’m simpler. I know I will never have a normal life again, go to the cinema with friends, date boys or do my own shopping. But I learned that I can be helpful to society in a way no one has been before, and I decided to make the most out of it.”

“You already did more than anyone else I’ve heard about, Nathalie,” Mike said, trying to comfort her.

“But, if people knew everything about me… all this would be over. And believe me, the rest of my life sucks.”

Mike looked up at her in surprise.

“I promised I would be straight with you. You deserve to know what you’ve got into.”

Her words suddenly raised every alarm in Mike’s head. Nathalie noticed.

“Don’t worry. You’re not in danger. But you need to know what you can’t yet see,” she said.

“What’s going on, Nathalie?” Mike asked, his tone more concerned than it had been so far.

“You know everything about the Flare. You know that three of us survived, after thirteen weeks of incredible pain. And you’ve seen how strong I’ve become. Everyone knows that. Not everyone knows what you know, though. My skin and muscles are incredibly tough. Bullets and blades can’t hurt me. I can jump incredibly high and run at very high speed. I can hold my breath for hours. I can see and hear for miles, many more than we’ve led the people to believe. I’m not immortal, though. I’m a human being and I can die. But not easily,” she said, making Mike, who already knew, swallow hard.

“You’ve seen what Jennifer, Susan and I can do for people. I guess you can also imagine what we could do for ourselves if we decided to. And it’s not hard to figure what an unscrupulous military man like Lindbergh might have in his head. They let us help people to keep us entertained and to get enough publicity so that the public won’t ask for his hidden agenda as they keep funding his research. But you’re not naïve enough not to see what he might be after.”

“Honestly, I don’t see you as soldiers,” Mike said.

“Us? Of course not. And Lindbergh knows it. We wouldn’t fit the role, and even if we did, as long as we don’t want to, he can’t force us to do some stuff. But he can try to learn how we got so strong,” Nathalie said.

“Oh my God!” Mike said, suddenly understanding.

“The earthquake was dreadful, but in a way, it was a blessing for us, as hard as it may sound. It forced Lindbergh’s hand. He knew he couldn’t keep us in the dark forever, not for our sakes, but for the people he reports to. The earthquake was too good an opportunity, and it worked well enough for him. But it also gave us a chance. Jen and I have discussed this privately. Our only chance is to make the most of this opportunity, to become so popular that the chance to break free from Fort Exeter and be able to blend into society presents itself. Otherwise, we will continue being what we are.”

“Nathalie, this is… terrible!” Mike finally said.

“Sorry for the bluntness, but we don’t have all the time in the world.”

“There must be something you can do…” Mike started.

“We’re doing what needs to be done. Lindbergh has everything too well under control. But Jen is convinced that we’ll have our opportunity. And so am I,” Nathalie said.

Just then, Mike realized something.

“What about Susan? You never talk about her,” he pointed out.

Nathalie sighed.

“The girl… is confused. But she is a good girl. We’ve tried to make her see, but she’s not easy to reach. We asked to be nice… but it’s beyond her ability, it would seem. Still, we owe her. We’ll take care of her.”

“Can… can I do something?”

Nathalie quickly shook her head.

“You deserved to know all this, but now that you understand you have to promise me that you won’t do anything stupid. We have a plan. We’ll take the chance when it presents itself. But you shouldn’t get involved. Lindbergh won’t hesitate if he thought you stood between him and his objective.”

Mike swallowed hard once more.

“So, the bullet…” he said.

“You’d ruin our chance. But you’d also ruin Lindbergh’s plans.”

Mike understood. He had been overwhelmed by the entire thing since he had first met Nathalie and had later on learned about the three girls. But now, he finally realized that he was in over his head in a much more dangerous situation than he had thought.

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

As usual, the workers tried to stay as far away from Susan as possible as she worked in yet another section of Santa Isabel’s damaged subway. The city was gradually going back to normal, but the infrastructure in some of the poorest neighborhoods was still not fully operational.

She wasn’t even sweating as she moved ten-ton boulders out of the way, showing off a little when it was time to get them out of the tunnel and her path unavoidably crossed that of the rest of operators. But the work was as boring as it got.

She would have loved to daydream of another day of jogging, but her mind was swamped by something else. Knowing that Sully and his eggheads had been tampering with her made her mad at such a level that she was tempted to run back to Fort Exeter a few times just to squeeze the truth out of the little man’s throat. She managed to calm down enough to go on with her stupid work, even if she didn’t trust that Dr. Campos would shed any light on the matter.

It was not that she didn’t trust the woman. Elena Campos had been the nicest person Susan had found since the Flare. And she was probably also among the nicest she had ever met. But she was sure that she wasn’t close enough to Sully’s inner circle to know what the slimy bastard was up to. It felt that they kept her at Fort Exeter both as decoration and to work as a shrink for Susan and the other girls.

Susan needed to learn what the hell had happened. That morning she had been close to fifteen percent faster than ever before! And every other test had also shown an impossible improvement. Susan had no clue about biology, but she was smart enough to know that what had happened to her was impossible without being messed with. And she knew Sully was perfectly capable of messing with her if that served his purposes.

A heavy looking boulder turned into rubble as she squeezed it too hard while her mind wandered around this thought.

“Fuck!” she muttered, realizing that this would make her cleaning task way more tedious.

That was when her ultra-sensitive ears caught the girl’s screams.

The rest of the workers were on their breakfast break when Susan stomped her way out of the tunnel, her face even less friendly than usual. She wasn’t carrying any heavy piece of rubble this time, though. When she changed her path from the usual one to the edge of the area that had been cordoned off, the security team from Fort Exeter reacted with nervousness.

“Susan…” the captain in charge said.

She didn’t listen and just jumped, the workers’ jaws dropping as she rose three-hundred feet into the sky to land on the road beyond the construction area. The situation turned into chaos quickly enough, security guards rushing to their vehicles as others called in for air support. Susan ignored all this and forced her pace as she walked down a crowded road, people getting out of her way when they saw her determined and unfriendly look. She reached the alley soon enough. Much as expected, she quickly found the two thugs and the young woman they were holding between them.

The girl had to be in her early twenties, not much older than Susan, and was in utter panic. Susan could sympathize, the thought of being completely powerless to stop two bigger and stronger men from abusing her sexually probably being the worst nightmare a woman could go through. Her shirt was torn, and her panties were already at her ankles as one of the men held her arms while the other was trying to force his way inside her.

“Stop!” Susan barked, her voice so loud that it made every window in the alley rattle.

The two thugs turned in surprise and opened their eyes wide as they met Susan, looking as mad as she had ever been while standing with arms akimbo at the entrance of the alley. She could see that their first reaction had been to scare her away, but that realizing who they were dealing with had made them change their minds.

The girl kept screaming as the first man maintained his hold on her. The second was not trying to force her anymore. Instead, he had turned, holding a gun in his hand. That made Susan lose it.

She did not have second thoughts as she started her march towards the two men, the hatred for them burning inside her. She was vaguely conscious of the nervous warning from the man holding the gun, but just kept moving forward.

The two shots reverberated in the narrow alley but did not even slow her down. She barely felt the bullets hit her and bounce off her impregnable skin as she kept moving forward. A third shot hit her in the forehead before she reached the man and shoved him, containing her hatred enough not to instantly kill him.

He was still thrown thirty feet backwards, hitting the back wall of the alley so hard that he was out of air by the time he dropped to the floor.

The second man was looking at her with terror as he kept holding the young woman. She was skinny, dirty blonde and good looking. And as scared as Susan had ever seen anyone. The thug instinctively tried to protect himself by pulling the young woman closer. Susan just reached for his head and pushed her fingers, instantly getting a yell of pain. It was then a piece of cake to lift him two feet off the ground and force him to release the girl, who was now as shocked as she was scared.

“Go!” Susan commanded. Her tone had not left room for doubt and the woman did not hesitate as she ran to the entrance of the alley, leaving her high-heeled shoes behind.

Susan forgot about her as soon as she was gone and just moved to the end of the cul-de-sac while keeping her hold on the second assailant. It only took a crouch to reach for the second man and lift him by the throat.

“Susan, stop!” a voice from the entrance to the alley said.

She sneered as she turned to see Captain Wallace and two of his men standing there, their FRU uniforms making them look significantly different from regular cops.

“They were raping her!” Susan barked back.

“We know. You saved the girl. We’ll take it from here,” the officer said.

Every inch of her body was asking her to close the fingers of both hands and finish these men she loathed. They had tried to use their strength to rape a defenseless woman; using hers to put an end to their lives felt like poetic justice.

“They are scum,” she said, eyes narrowed.

“We know Susan. We’ll bring them to justice,” Wallace said.

“They didn’t get to do it. I didn’t let them. They’ll walk away with tiny sentences!” Susan replied.

“We’ll make sure that’s not the case!” Wallace said.

“They deserve to die!” Susan yelled.

There were a few seconds of silence. Captain Wallace was very careful as he replied:

“Susan, that’s not up to you to decide.”

Her first reaction was to wonder why not. There she was, holding two loathsome men that had tried to rape a weaker woman. She wanted them dead. And all she would need to do to get what she wanted was to close her fingers. She could do it. She wanted to do it. And there was nothing Wallace could do to stop her or punish her.

The Captain must have felt her hesitation, since he insisted:

“Susan, you’re not a judge or executioner. Please, let us handle this. They’ll get what they deserve, I promise.”

It was not the man’s words that convinced her. It was Dr. Campos, or more precisely, the flash Susan had of the kind woman’s face of disappointment when hearing what she had done. She beat one last impulse to crush the men and turned to Captain Wallace. There was no reason to be kind to the thugs, so she tossed both men over seventy feet so that they would land in front of the tense security officer.

“Have them!”

Wallace’s men moved quickly to the thugs, who were moving in ostensible pain.

“I think it will be better if we head back to Fort Exeter,” the officer said.

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

The black van moved past Fort Exeter and took the small dirt path. It shook as the pavement became as irregular as it got, but the driver was already used to that, so he was considerably less concerned than the unwilling passengers in the back. He ignored them, knowing that they still had half an hour to go.

Guards were waiting for them as soon as they reached the small, secluded base. They wore no designations or unit numbers on their black uniforms but based on their disposition it was obvious who was the man in charge.

The two thugs were pushed out of the van’s cargo compartment first. They were quite obviously hurt.

“The bitch tossed them across a street. I bet they have several broken bones,” one of the men exiting the van with them said.

“Well, it’s not as if it matters anymore. I never would’ve expected the redhead to become so violent, though,” the man in charge replied.

“I don’t know. That girl gives me the creeps,” the man from the van replied.

The two thugs recovered from being tossed and looked up at the half-dozen heavily armed men. The man in charge, who had to be in his forties despite the fact that his hair was graying, smiled at them and then reached for his sidearm. A minute later, he had put a bullet inside each of their heads.

“Bring them to the incinerator,” he commanded plainly.

The men were moving another body out of the back of the van. It belonged to a petite, dirty blonde woman, and it was not moving.

“We had to sedate her. She didn’t fancy the prospect of travelling next to the men that had just tried to rape her,” one of the men that had come with the van said.

“I can imagine,” the guard in charge said.

“A pity she saw too much. She’s cute.”

“Yeah, that she is. Santos, Michaels, bring her inside with the others. Room two, bed fourteen,” the guard in charge said.

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

Susan ignored the attempts at chatting from Captain Wallace all the way back to Fort Exeter. Instead, her mind was focused on the situation she had just lived. She knew she had done the right thing… mostly. And still, she did not feel good about it. The men she had held were the scum of the Earth and for an instant she had had the power of getting humanity rid of them. She knew she was not supposed to take on that task, but the more she thought about it, the more she felt that trusting others to handle what she could have resolved so easily had been a mistake.

Dr. Elena Campos was waiting at the gate to Fort Exeter when she arrived. Somehow, the sight of her made Susan both uncomfortable and upset.

“Susan, what the hell was that supposed to be?” Elena asked as soon as she stepped out of the van.

Susan looked at her with a sneer and said:

“Did you find out more about what we discussed this morning?”

Dr. Campos looked puzzled, which Susan took advantage of to continue:

“No? Then, get the fuck out of my way!”

She moved before anyone could say anything or try to stop her. She did not turn to any of the calls before she reached her room and locked the door behind her.

Susan’s mind was about to explode as it went through the avalanche of information of the last twenty-four hours. The scene at the smaller base in the forest, her test results in the morning, the situation with the rapists…

Not knowing what to do, she logged onto her computer and looked for the test results dashboard the science team kept so that Jennifer, Nathalie and she could establish come competition among themselves. Winning had become easier now that Nicole was not around. Her permanent scowl was accentuated when she found out that someone had removed her results from the morning, confirming what she had already known.

They thought they could mess with her. Maybe it was time for her to start messing with them!

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