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The Phoenix Initiative – Chapter 10

Written by papayoya1 :: [Saturday, 06 July 2019 10:19] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 06 July 2019 15:17]

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Chapter 10

Susan had been wandering through the forest without too much sense by the time Nicole came back to her senses. Her new partner had blacked out soon after she had picked her up. Susan had never expected that a girl like her could take such a beating, but whatever the FRU agents had used on Nicole and had been close to use on her had had devastating effects.

The Hawaiian moaned as she looked up. Her eyes conveyed dozens of emotions at once. Susan could at least identify surprise, shame, thankfulness and rage.

“You… saved me,” the former lawyer finally said.

Susan did not know how to reply. She was still feeling very uncertain about the entire situation, even if the trek had reinforced her conviction that she had made the only possible choice, which meant that it had been the right one. She decided to resort to sarcasm.

“I could not let you get killed five minutes after I had decided to partner with you,” the redhead said without too much enthusiasm.

She saw that her casual reference to the possibility of her death was very painful for Nicole. Not knowing too well what to do, she just crouched and set her new colleague on the ground, resting her back on a wide tree trunk.

Nicole was obviously suffering the consequences of the attack. The two scorch marks in her torso, one in her stomach and the other one right under her stretched Kevlar top were nasty, but the most concerning part was the overall feeling of weakness about her. She must have felt it, since she reached out for a nearby stone and picked it up, sizing it mentally against her palm before closing her fingers and breaking it into small pebbles, in a gesture of self-assurance.

Susan realized and tried to reinforce it.

“You are recovering.”

“It… it hurt like hell,” Nicole then admitted. “I… I never thought I would feel pain like this again,” she finally acknowledged.

Susan thought that she understood the frustration.

“We always knew that we are not immortal,” she finally said.

Nicole chuckled, but it was not an expression of happiness.

“You’d be surprised how fast you can forget about that when you do some of the stuff I’ve done these last days,” she said, her voice sounding bitter. “I was overconfident,” she added, the regret clear in her voice.

There were a few seconds of silence. Then, Nicole moaned in pain again as she tried to stand up. It took more effort than she would have expected, but she finally stood on both feet, moaning once more when she reached out to feel the blackened marks in her stomach. Susan offered her arm for support, but the Hawaiian rejected it.

“I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to crush anyone so much as I do right now,” she finally said, her voice sounding gradually more recovered.

“Was it electricity?” Susan asked, changing gears to prevent the conversation that Nicole seemed to be heading to.

Nicole narrowed her eyes and nodded. They had been tested with electrical currents, back at Fort Exeter. All Nicole remembered about them was that they tickled, but their effect on her seemed to be as mild as that of every other source of potential pain she had been tested with. It had had nothing to do with the anguish she had felt a few hours ago, which told her that whatever she had been hit with had not been a normal electrical discharge.

“The damned eggheads must have been working on this for a while,” she said.

“They have someone new in charge,” Susan came back, catching Nicole’s attention. She went on: “Eva Roark. She came a few days ago, sent by someone at DC that was not happy with how things were going. She was put in charge of the program to find a weapon that could kill us.”

Nicole’s voice was icy when she replied:

“It seems that I have the first name on my list then.”

There was another extended silence.

“What… what do we do next?” Susan finally asked.

“I need to recover. And you and I need to talk,” Nicole said.

“They will be looking for us,” Susan observed.

“I know a place.”

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

“Where is she?” Nathalie asked as she hurriedly advanced through the corridors at Fort Exeter, Dr. Campos barely able to keep up with her even though she was practically running.

“The infirmary,” Campos replied between pants.

Nathalie did not say anything else as she turned right at the next corner and rushed the last few steps towards her destination. It had taken her six hours to walk across the bay’s bottom and emerge at Point Beach, only to startle an audience that had quickly evolved into fear as people remembered about Nicole’s actions from the previous day. She had felt depressed at first but ignored them when she realized that she had more pressing matters to attend to.

Finally out of the water, Nathalie was free to run, covering the slightly more than fifty miles to Fort Exeter in just fifteen minutes, only to find the bleak scene there. It took her some frustrating time to find someone that could fill her in on what had happened. Campos had finally shown up and let her know about Susan changing sides and helping Nicole to beat Jennifer badly, about the almost successful attempt on Nicole and about Susan saving her and killing the over twenty men that had confronted the pyscho-bitch.

The guard at the infirmary’s entrance had the good sense to step aside to let Nathalie push the door and dash into the spacious room. Jennifer’s powerful body was laying in the oversized metal table in the center of the chamber. She was unconscious and surrounded both by medical equipment and people. Lindbergh and Sully were among them. It was not until she took two more steps into the room that she noticed Kyle Jenkins and Mike Sigursson discreetly standing in one corner. Her eyes locked with Mike’s for an instant, his hard look dampening her mood even further.

She had more urgent concerns than Mike’s judgment, though.

“Is she alright?” she asked.

There was no answer. Her presence had been noticed, but no sooner than the door had closed behind her, the chattering among the people that had already been in the room resumed.

“Is she alright?” Nathalie repeated, this time so loud that her voice reverberated in the room and gave no other option to the people in it than to turn and pay attention to her.

“She is fine, all things considered,” a woman she quickly recognized as the newcomer Dr. Roark said. “She was in a lot of pain, so we sedated her. She took quite a beating; the worst part is her broken leg. She will recover.”

A broken leg was not so bad, was it? Nathalie had not thought that a girl like Jennifer could get hurt at this level anymore, but still, people recovered from broken limbs, right? Once her immediate concern for her friend was resolved, the amazon felt the rage at what had happened quickly raising.

“Where are they?”

“We don’t know,” Lindbergh said. From the look in his face, it would have seemed that he had taken a beating as bad as Jennifer’s.

“I’ll find them!” Nathalie came back, clenching her fists.

It made Lindbergh react.

“No, you won’t!” he yelled back, his powerful command voice making everyone stand at attention. Nathalie wanted to reply, but could not find the words, so Lindbergh went on. “It would be one against two. Look at what these odds did to Jennifer, and she was always the strongest fighter!”

Nathalie rationally understood what the General was saying but could still not accept it.

“We cannot let them go!”

“We won’t!” Lindbergh replied. He muttered his next words, but her super hearing let Nathalie hear them as clearly as if he had yelled them as loud as he could: “Today we almost got the bitch!”

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

Nicole was considerably recovered by the time they reached Petrenko’s estate. Both Campos and Sully had theorized that their enhanced bodies would recover much faster than normal because of the way their metabolism worked, but Nicole had never thought that the day where she would need to use that ability would come. Even if the accelerated healing was welcome, the fact that she had needed it was something she felt ashamed of to start with.

Susan had been quiet while she had followed Nicole at the leisurely pace she had used to get to their destination. It was over two hours before they could see the tall fence that circled the site, a ridiculously long time for two women of their capabilities but required by the physical condition of one of them.

“Where are we?” Susan asked, no doubt having seen the armed guards at the main gate.

“Have you ever heard of Andrey Petrenko?” Nicole replied with a question.

The redhead shook her head, so Nicole proceeded to explain.

“Petrenko is Ukrainian, probably the most important drug dealer in the West Coast. He is running quite an impressive operation. This is his house.”

“We are going to a mobster’s house?”

“How did you think I managed to lay so low the weeks after I escaped from Fort Exeter?” Nicole asked.

“So, he lets you stay here?” Susan asked.

“Yeah. He also makes sure that there is no unwanted attention. I must admit that the man runs a pretty tight organization.”

“What will he say when he sees me?” Susan asked, the news that she was heading into a drug dealer’s house having taken her by surprise.

“Who cares? You are my guest and, believe me, he’s already understood that there is no point in crossing me,” Nicole said in a matter of fact tone.

“Did you scare a gangster into helping you?” Susan asked, perplexed.

It made Nicole laugh, her first moment of fun since being attacked.

“Of course not! I seduced him into helping me! Or more precisely, my abilities did. He needs me. No matter what I ask of him, it will never be enough to repay what I’m going to do for him. So, don’t feel guilty. He should better treat you well!”

The two women had been able to see the entrance to Petrenko’s house and the two men at it from miles away, but the guards did not share their enhanced vision, so they did not realize about them until they were much closer.

Nicole was feeling much better by the time she was at the gates. The blackened areas around the spots where she had been hit were already receding and the strength seemed to be coming back to her muscles. After a long numbness, her mind was starting to feel sharp once more and her limp was almost gone.

And still, it was obvious that the goons manning the entrance realized about the fact that she had been beaten. She got mad when the man to her right hinted the trace of a smile. She was about to explode but managed to contain herself as she took her last steps towards the house. It was during those last seconds that she recognized the guard. It was one of the two bodyguards Petrenko had brought with him when he had last visited her at her quarters.

She could see the bruises in his face and noticed the bandage under his shirt. She remembered tossing him across the room, and even if she had tried to be as gentle as possible, it was obvious that the man was still suffering the consequences from her simple gesture.

“Damned bastard!” she thought, seeing his lips still slightly curled upwards. The man should have realized that she had been careful with him the last time they had met. After all, he had threatened her with a gun, so she would have been well within her rights to be much harsher.

Nicole’s mind quickly wondered whether her weakness was so evident when she realized that the man had most surely seen the images of her being attacked on TV and had drawn his own conclusions from there. And he would not be an exception when it came to Petrenko’s personnel. The idea of everyone at the house thinking her weak made her sick.

The man signed his death sentence when he addressed her, sounding way cockier than someone should when talking to a woman like her.

“Who is she?” he asked, nodding at Susan.

“A relative. Can’t you see the resemblance?” Nicole replied sarcastically. When the man remained silent, she added: “Haven’t you been watching TV, lately? I could have sworn you have, judging by the way you are looking at me.”

She never gave him time to reply. Instead, she reached out with her right hand and closed her oversized fingers around his skull, getting a loud groan of pain almost right away. Her sudden gesture caught everyone by surprise, starting by her victim. Susan and the other guard were also taken aback, but their reactions were quite different.

Nicole pushed her hand down, forcing her victim to his knees as she kept applying an unnatural amount of pressure on his skull, getting anguished screams in return. The man’s fingers clawed in despair to her impregnable skin, the attempt as ineffective as scratching steel would have been.

The second guard reacted soon enough, shaking as he nervously reached for his gun. Nicole fixed a deep stare on him and warned:

“This is between me and him, but I can easily make it something between me and both of you, if you want.”

She tightened her hold around the man’s head a bit more for added effect, getting a loud shriek in return. The second guard seemed to understand what was at stake and forgot about his weapon, taking a couple of nervous steps back as Nicole chuckled.

“You seem to be smarter than him,” she said with a smile. “He crossed me once already. I don’t think he realized how lucky he was to survive that one.”

She had a sadistic smile on her face as she moved her hand further down, pushing the man with it. A stronger push of her thumb was rewarded by the first crack in the man’s skull, and by his loudest scream yet.

“Nicole?” Susan asked from behind, obviously shocked at what she was seeing.

“Give me a minute, will you, Susan?” the Hawaiian replied in a cheerful tone. “I want him to have some time to reflect on his mistakes before this is over.”

The redhead did not reply, which suited Nicole well.

A somewhat stronger push with her index and middle fingers was followed by two additional cracks, which were in turn followed by the lamest sobs Nicole had ever heard. Changing her mind before moving forward with the final push, she ended up pulling the man up, lifting him from his kneeling position and bringing his battered head to her chest.

The amazon used her free hand to push her Kevlar top down, exposing a massive and impossibly firm left breast. She maneuvered her other hand so that the man’s mouth was soon in front of her swollen nipple.

“Suck!” she commanded.

The man resisted at first, but another crack convinced him of following her orders. It was then, with his mouth locked around her teat and her hand on the back of his skull, that Nicole passed the final sentence.

“Don’t be so gloomy. Darwin was right. I’m doing mankind a favor.”

She pushed mercilessly, crushing the man’s skull like a ripe melon in less than a second. The gore and the sound that came with it made the second guard throw up and Nicole chuckle. Behind her, Susan remained speechless.

Brushing part of the gore aside and moving the top back in place, Nicole looked at the sick guard as she addressed him:

“We will be in my room. We don’t want to be disturbed. Make sure everyone knows. I hope I made it clear that today I’m not feeling gentle with those that bother me.”

She enjoyed the terror in the man as she walked past him and recovered the usual grace of her movements as she entered in the estate. She was sure that no one would think her weak anymore.

She could not deny that crushing the man had felt satisfying beyond the practical objective she had been after. Exercising her overwhelming strength felt better than ever, after the pain she had endured. Still, the guard had been just a taste for what her body and her ego were demanding. Ever since she had recovered from the black-out, she had not been able to stop thinking about retribution. And when she had the chance, there would be no holding back!

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

“I don’t remember when the last time was I saw you at the base,” Owen Lindbergh said with sarcasm as Colonel Raymond Beck stood at ease beyond his desk.

“You did not inform me of the operation against the women,” Beck replied. His voice was cold, but his words revealed his irritation.

“There was no time,” Lindbergh replied with a shrug.

“You did not inform me of Roark’s modified weapon either.”

“You know, I had assumed she would have told you herself,” Lindbergh snapped back, raising his eyes to meet Beck’s.

Tension rose over the next few moments. Beck finally came back:

“I let people know whatever they need to know to make things happen. You know that. You have benefitted from that. There is no point in acting offended now.”

“I guess I should have known. And still, it is hard to internalize that an officer can have no loyalty,” Lindbergh said.

“I’m loyal. Only not to you,” Beck replied.

“To whom, then?” Lindbergh’s question came back in a sharp tone.

“That is the wrong question. The question is to what. And the answer is to my duty. I guess that will be difficult to internalize too.”

Lindbergh did not do anything to hide his disgust.

“So, what will it be? Relief? Suspension of duty? Court-martial?” Beck asked.

“Transfer. Morris initiated the process before I could squish your career under my boot’s sole. I guess you are a lucky bastard.”

“Will that be all, then?” Beck asked.

Lindbergh nodded, and Beck did not waste time to turn and head for the door. He stopped and turned one last time, before getting out.

“I would have neutralized them both, by the way. You’ll find my comments on the post-action assessment in the system. Too bad you decided to send amateurs to do the job of pros out of spite. There are twenty families that will never know that what killed their kids was your ego. I only hope that we do not need to add any more names to your pride’s victim list.”

Owen Lindbergh did not find the words to reply before Colonel Beck closed the door behind him. He was finished, and he knew it. The fact that Dunbar had not called him yet, more than eight hours after everything had gone to hell, proved as much.

The day before had been hard, with Nicole Keilani showing up and bringing the house of cards he had been carefully building down in a single stroke. He had still had one last ace up his sleeve, though. Admittedly, the chances of neutralizing Keilani and having Sully complete his investigation in less than twenty-four hours had been slim, but there had still been a scenario where he got out of the situation on top. This was not the case anymore.

Lindbergh clenched his teeth as he thought about Susan Simpson and her betrayal. This had been the last slap to his pride. The weirdo, the girl he had never paid any attention to other than to dislike her for her weakness had put the final nail on his coffin. By switching sides and getting Nathalie Baptiste out of the fight she had single-handedly crushed his plans to put an end to Keilani’s threat.

Knowing that Roark’s weapon had had better than expected effects made him even madder. If the damned teenager had not done what she did, Jennifer and Nathalie would have eventually restrained Nicole. Then, the super taser Roark had built would have had no problems to finish her or weaken her enough to kill her off with a railgun round. This would have put him back in the game. Now, everything was lost.

Lindbergh now realized that his judgment mistake with the darned college student had been as bad as the one he had made with the Hawaiian psycho lawyer. His dislike for her had made him forget about her power and had led him to mistake her shyness for mental weakness. And, as Beck had said, the result had been twenty lost lives and two ultra-strong women on the loose.

There would be no way of coming back from this one. And with Morris landing in a few hours, Lindbergh’s only doubt was how hard his fall would be. Knowing the man and guessing that Dunbar had given him a blank check when it came to dealing with him, he could expect the worst.

He was taken out of his trance by the insistent knocking on the door. He was not expecting anyone. He was about to open the intercom to his secretary when he remembered that she was not in there. After a few seconds of hesitation, he reluctantly asked whoever was behind his office’s door to come in.

Dr. Sully had been the last person he was expecting. His presence bothered him

“I know you are worried about your personal future, but honestly, there is nothing I can do about that now. And it is not a great moment.”

He realized that Sully looked way more excited than concerned about his career when he started to reply.

“I found it!”

“What?” Lindbergh replied, taken by surprise.

“I unlocked the secret, Owen. I did it! The tests on the girls… they accelerated our research beyond my wildest hopes. Combining the data we got from Susan Simpson with the testing on the candidates we had at the Hole we have been making amazing progress over the last twenty-four hours. I just got the latest update an hour ago. I could not believe it at first, but I reviewed it and it checks out. We have it, Owen. We know not only how to replicate the process but also how to identify compatible candidates ahead of it. I did it!” Dr. Sully said. To say that he looked proud of himself would have been an understatement.

General Lindbergh was trying to process the information. A day ago, this news would have been gold and a ticket out of the mess he was in. He was not so sure about what it meant today, after his attempts at sorting out the Keilani piece of the issue had blatantly failed. But it was much more than what he had had five minutes ago. Was there still a possibility to come out of this on top?

Lindbergh’s strategic mind started processing dozens of scenarios while the unscrupulous scientist he had put in charge of the most important piece of research since Project Manhattan waited with pride oozing from every inch of his scrawny figure.

There was no way he would be able to turn around the public’s hate for the girls and for the project he had lead. The massive backlash from the previous day had been followed by sheer panic once images of a second girl turning against the others and killing officers had broadcasted to every corner in the world. Sure, Jennifer and Nathalie had earned some points for trying to do what was right, but seeing Nicole prevail, Susan join her and realizing about the risk of the same happening with any of the other two had ended up firing back on them. So, at the moment people were not moved by hate towards the two girls that had remained on the good side, but their fear had led them to a brutal pragmatism where they would rather see them dead.

So, there was no way Lindbergh would be a hero after this. He might still be able to save his neck and keep a comfortable position in the army, though. It would not be easy, but if he found a way to convince everyone that he was the only one in a position to deliver the weapon they longed for, he would have some bargaining power.

His smile looked genuine when he looked back to the Doctor and replied in his warmest voice.

“This is excellent news, Jacob!”

Lindbergh stood up and crossed the room to offer his hand first and hug the bookish man later.

“I always knew I was not wrong about you. If there was a man that could have made this happen, that was you!”

Sully was overwhelmed.

“Tha… thanks, Owen. I could not have done it without your support,” the man said. Then, he seemed to remember something and his smile widened. “Oh, wait. I did not tell you the best part of it all.”

Lindbergh was now genuinely excited. He looked down at the scientist, trying to hide it. Sully went on:

“The Flare… was unique in intensity and radiation wavelength. It killed a million women out of the about ten million that were exposed and kicked off the transformation of only five. I found out that other combinations would have affected a different subset of the population. And I believe I know how to predict them.”

Lindbergh thought he knew what the Doctor was saying, but he wanted to make sure anyway.

“Are you implying that the probability of finding compatible women is higher than we thought?”

Sully smiled. It was hard to tell how, but there was a lot of arrogance in the expression.

“Much higher. Not every woman will be compatible. As a matter of fact, most will not. But if my projections are right, and there is no reason to think they are not, we should be able to find the right combination for at least ten percent of the adult female population.”

Lindbergh had to work hard to prevent his jaw from dropping. The implications were staggering. One out of ten was beyond his wildest dreams. In all his plans, he had counted on delivering the Army the necessary tools to create a few commandos with highly skilled, highly disciplined and incredibly strong super-soldiers. But if the doctor’s figures were correct, theoretically there was nothing preventing the creation of a full regiment! Images of a column of superwomen marching into an enemy’s city ran through her head as he realized that the kind of power he was in the position to create was way beyond what any country in the world, including the United States, possessed.

Suddenly, he had cards to play. Very good cards. He just had to make sure that he played them well.

“Jacob… who knows about this?” he asked, trying to hide the anxiety.

Sully looked disconcerted.

“No one. You are the first I tell, of course.”

“Does Roark suspect anything?” Lindbergh asked.

“Of course not!” Sully replied, sounding offended.

“Ok, ok. I just had to make sure. Look, Jacob, what you did is the greatest breakthrough since atomic energy. But you know this is not a standard research lab. And you know I’m not in a good position. If we are not careful, Roark and Morris will take the credit for all the work you have been doing over the last year.”

Sully’s face changed in an instant. It told Lindbergh that he had him.

“Are you ready to demonstrate the results to the DoD’s staff?” the General asked. If he was, the best thing he could do was to take a plane to DC right away.

Sully looked down and Lindbergh knew that it would not be so easy even before he replied.

“Not yet.”

There was silence. General Lindbergh was thinking fast, trying to find a suitable question to keep his plans going. Sully moved on before he could ask.

“I need forty-eight hours,” he said.

“Forty-eight hours?” the General asked, his newfound hope suddenly dropping.

“What I have right now is purely theoretical. Dunbar’s advisors would not be convinced. But I can have a working prototype of the screening test in two days, together with the first version of the algorithm that generates the right replica of the Flare for every case. I can have everything that’s needed to execute a successful test. They would not be able to deny that evidence.”

Forty-eight hours. Lindbergh did not have that much. General Morris would land anytime now, and he was not expecting his former colleague to be merciful enough to leave him around for two full days. Unless he found a way to force him to do so. He was thinking fast, but realized that there was no point in risking the doctor while he did so.

“I will give you forty-eight hours,” Lindbergh said, even if he still did not know how. “Go back to the Hole. Work on this non-stop. And do not talk to anyone under any circumstance. No one will take our names from their rightful place in History books.”

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

Susan had not made any comments about the guard Nicole had killed while her new partner led the way inside the estate and towards her quarters. She could see other thugs looking at them with obvious fear and realized that part of Nicole’s objective had been precisely that. What concerned her was the fact that it was obvious that there was more to the death than that, that she had done it as much to indulge as to send a message.

Susan realized that it was somewhat cynical to judge her new comrade for this when she had just killed over a dozen agents, but still it reminded her that the former lawyer was not shy at all when it came to use her newfound power.

They reached the room soon enough. Susan could only whistle when Nicole opened the door and revealed a suite that was even larger and more luxurious than the ones they had enjoyed at Fort Exeter.

“Wow, Petrenko is certainly treating you well,” she said.

“Don’t you think I’m worth it?” Nicole replied with a wink.

Susan changed gears right away.

“How are you feeling?”

Nicole touched the much less obvious blackened spots in her stomach and said:

“Almost recovered. It’s hard to think that I was about to die just a few hours ago.”

The blunt comment took Susan by surprise. It had obviously shown, since Nicole chuckled without too much excitement and went on.

“There is no point in denying what happened. I had thought that I was beyond pain, but I have obviously been proven wrong. Now that I know, I don’t plan on exposing myself like that again, but I was close to pay a very high price for my overconfidence. I don’t know what would have happened if you had not been there.”

Susan felt herself blushing. Pale as she was, there was no way it would not have shown. Nicole smiled before continuing.

“Which reminds me that I have a lot to thank you for.”

Susan’s blush increased when the Hawaiian reached out for her and slipped a powerful finger between her Kevlar top and her hard body. The bulletproof material ripped like wet tissue when Nicole pulled her finger back, exposing her massive chest and making her flushing increase.

“Oh, don’t be so shy!” Nicole said as she used her free hand to rip her own top away.

Her other hand was soon massaging Susan’s left breast. She felt both uncomfortable and excited as the neatly manicured fingers caressed her pale and freckled skin, her fingertips finally pushing. For the first time in a year, Susan’s skin reacted to someone else’s touch, dimpling first and sinking later under the pressure of her partner’s efforts.

“What?” she started to protest.

Nicole ignored her and took a step to the front, using her free hand to rip Susan’s Kevlar bottom in another dexterous move as she pushed herself into her chest.

“I know you like me,” the Hawaiian whispered.

“What?” Susan replied, shocked.

“Come on! You can throw armored vans down a street. Don’t you think it’s time to come out of the closet?”

“How?” Susan asked.

“How do I know you are a lesbian?” Nicole asked with a chuckle. “I’m a lawyer, Susan. Or I was. I made a living on memorizing law books and reading people. The only thing that shocks me is that no one found out before!”

“I never told anyone!” Susan said.

Nicole squeezed her breast a bit more, getting a moan in response.

“I noticed. And if anyone else at Fort Exeter had cared about you, they would have noticed too,” she said, reinforcing one of the reasons she knew was behind Susan’s change of sides at the same time she reached out for the redhead’s crotch with her free hand, getting another moan as she caressed her labia.

“Are you?” Susan asked, starting to pant.

Nicole chuckled.

“I never believed it was a good idea to restrict my options for sex partners to only fifty percent of the population!”

“Oh,” Susan replied, her panting increasing.

“It has got a bit harder lately, though. Especially when it comes to lasting relationships. You don’t know how happy I am to have someone so hot and, well, impervious around!”

Nicole’s fingers got into Susan’s cunt, making her lust finally overcome her initial concerns. Then, her fingers pushed up and she felt her feet leaving the ground. Susan had always known that the increase in their strength had been significantly higher than that on her weight and toughness. But still, being massaged and lifted felt weird, after a year of this having felt almost impossible. Nicole was using just a fraction of her strength to lift her three-thousand pounds enough so that her voluptuous chest would be level with her face. Then, her lips closed around her nipple as she started to suck, bringing the pleasure up to a level she would have never thought possible.

Susan had been incredibly shy about telling people of her sexual orientation. Coming from a very traditional family in a very small town, she had spent most of her adolescence feeling twisted. She had not fully accepted her condition until her senior year in High School, and her shyness and lack of popularity had moved her to hide it from others as much as she could. This had ended up reducing her changes to really explore her sexuality to a handful of occasions. The girl that had been there for the last few ones was now dead because of the Flare.

None of her previous experiences could compare with the pleasure Nicole was making her feel right now. The former lawyer certainly knew what she was doing, and her amplified strength opened up plenty of possibilities that she seemed skilled in using well.

They were soon rolling in the bed, the piece of furniture holding their exertion admirably. Susan stopped worrying about the volume of her moans after a while, when she realized that the entire estate would have heard them already and that there was no way she could hide her ecstasy.

Nicole was wild, and used every part of her augmented body with a dexterity that the much shier Susan would have thought impossible. She also seemed to have a skill to keep her close to climax without really bringing her there. Susan did not know how long she had spent moaning when she felt the other woman inserting a cold metallic object into her vagina.

“Trust me. You’ll love this!” Nicole said.

She lied on top of her and mashed their bodies against each other, hugging her with vice. A few seconds later the fireworks came to her cunt, making Susan yell so loudly that the ceiling cracked.

It took her almost a full minute to recover, her pants to heavy that were moving the bedsheets.

“What was that?”

Nicole, who was now sitting next to her in bed, replied with a grin:

“I told you that you would love it!”

“What did you do?”

Nicole reached to her side and produced a dark green, pineapple-shaped object. Susan’s eyes opened wide when she realized what it was.

“Did you just stick a grenade in my cunt?”

“Yeah. Didn’t you love it? Don’t worry, I have plenty of experience with them. They are lovely, but safe.”

“Oh my God!” Susan said, not knowing how to react.

Nicole chuckled and reached for the bedside table. She was soon holding a pack of cigarettes. Susan shook her head when she offered them to her, and then she took four cigarettes and placed them on their lips. Lighting them at the same time with a swift movement of a lighter, Nicole smiled and then inhaled. Susan knew she should have been ready for anything, but still, seeing the four cigarettes completely consumed at once was unexpected.

Nicole smiled as she brushed the remaining ashes out of the bedsheets and finally exhaled a long and dense puff of smoke.

“I hope it was so good for you as I wanted it to be!”

Susan blushed again, making Nicole let a wholehearted laugh out.

“So, this was thank you! Now, I’m going to take a nap if you don’t mind. I still have to recover a bit more. Don’t make plans for dinner.”

Nicole was soon snoring lightly, lying face up and with arms and legs spread into the massive bed. There was still plenty of room for Susan to sit. There was no way she was going to fall asleep. Not with everything that was running through her head.

The woman lying by her side was undeniably gorgeous. Part of it was the effect of the Flare, she knew. Susan herself had been quite skinny before it all and now boasted some of the best curves in the world. But it would have been unfair to give the solar eruption all the credit for Nicole’s beauty. Her Polynesian features, thick lips, tanned skin and long silky jet-black hair would have made her stand out even if they had not come together with an eight-foot tall body with the curves of a glamour model and the vigor of a fitness professional.

The sex had been wonderful. Part of it had to do with the fact that, for the first time in her life, she had not felt as if she had to hide something. But she could not stop thinking beyond the beauty and passion of the woman that had just made her enjoy more than she had ever done before. The woman she had decided to partner with.

In a way, Susan’s decision had been more out of discarding than out of being convinced of her choice.

She had clearly seen that she could not stay at Fort Exeter. It was hard to understand how Nathalie and Jennifer could not see it yet, but it was obvious that Lindbergh and Sully were both treating them like slaves and experimenting on them. Susan did not know what had finally made the click for her. In hindsight, it had probably been the discovery of the secret lab and the hints about what they were doing there. But at some point, it had become obvious that sooner or later, the General would order their deaths. She had known she needed to escape. The question had been how.

Being naturally shy and despised by most people at the base had helped her mask the fact that she had been thinking about her evasion for some time. At some point, she had understood that her only option was to partner with Nicole. There was no way Lindbergh would let her be if she left, so the obvious choice was to protect herself by working with another girl like her. And so, when the chance had come, she had taken it.

Susan had not planned further than this point. And it had not been because of the lack of time. She knew the reason for that had been the lack of bravery to face what would happen next.

There was no way things would come to an end once she met Nicole and escaped from the Phoenix Initiative. By joining forces with her, Susan knew that she would turn the former lawyer’s escape into a war. She knew that Nicole had plans. And that they involved her. And while she did not know the details, she could not fool herself into thinking that there was a happy path.

As long as Lindbergh, Sully and the rest were around, they would not be safe. Which meant that there was only one way this would end. There was no point in fooling herself. What had happened with the FRU agents earlier in the morning would happen again. Today’s would be far from the only blood in her hands. Realizing that she had not thought again about the men she had killed concerned her for an instant. She then thought it might be better not to review that reaction, considering what she would need to do in the future.

Judging from what she had seen, Susan was pretty sure that this was not something that concerned the woman lying in bed by her side. If anything, she was beginning to be sure that more than being shy about killing, Nicole enjoyed it to a point that made her uncomfortable. But this was the woman she had linked her fate to.

Susan had one last thought as she observed Nicole’s massive chest rhythmically bouncing up and down as she rested. Their survival depended on finishing the Phoenix Initiative. The question then was: what if they succeeded? In that scenario, Nicole and she would have not only guaranteed their own survival. Without Lindbergh, Sully and the rest around to try and stop them, the power they had got through the Flare would be practically uncontested. What would they do? The certainty that Nicole had probably already thought about that was somehow disturbing.

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

“It’s good to see you again, Arthur,” Dr. Eva Roark said as she stepped into the small office General Arthur Morris had taken in Fort Exeter’s Administration building.

At first glance, Morris and Lindbergh seemed tarred by the same brush. The same age, they had graduated first and second in their West Point promotion and their careers had constantly intertwined since then. To say that they did not get along would have been an understatement, even if Roark did not know whether the enmity had started in the Academy or later.

“It’s good to find a familiar face,” General Morris replied. “It does not look as if I will have too long to get up to speed, considering the situation.”

“Did you talk to Lindbergh yet?” Eva asked.

Arthur Morris shook his head.

“I wanted to figure out the state of things first,” he said. “Which is the reason I asked for you. You’ll forgive my bluntness, but I’m afraid I do not have time for small talk or catching up.”

“Of course,” Roark replied, seeing that the General had not changed much since the last time she had worked with him, back at DARPA.

“Dunbar made it crystal clear to me that my first and only priority is to get rid of the risk Nicole Keilani and now Susan Simpson pose to national security. Longer term considerations are secondary, although I expect this to change as soon as we accomplish our first mission. So, I need to know what I’m facing.”

“I guess you’ve read the reports,” Roark said coldly.

Morris nodded.

“It’s a long flight from Kabul.”

“What are you missing?” Eva asked bluntly.

“Reality,” Morris replied without changing his expression. It made Dr. Roark smirk.

“Ok. Here you have the crash course, then. I guess you’ve seen the images, so there’s no need to explain what they are capable of. The key, of course, is how they are capable of that. And the answer is simple enough. More of everything.”

General Morris raised an eyebrow, making Dr. Roark grin before she went on.

“The Flare gave cancer to a million women. Only it was a very special type of cancer, one that attempted to mutate the host in an accelerated way. Five of the women survived, even if one never made it to the end of the process. What the radiation did to them can basically be summarized by more of everything. The women had to be fed enormous quantities of nutrients during their transformation. What it did was basically enhance them at a cellular level. Their muscle fibers got stronger and more compact at first… until they started to grow more of them, making them larger, heavier and freakishly stronger. They are so compacted, and their skin has become so dense that they also became much more impervious. Same with their eyes and ears: many more receptors, so super enhanced hearing, smell and sight. Same with bone strength… it caught up so that the muscles would not break them when exerting their power. The one I find more curious, though, is how their nervous system adapted to the new needs of their bodies. This, of course, was the one I used to build my weapon.”

“A taser,” Morris said.

Eva Roark chuckled.

“Well, I’ll certainly have to find a better name for it, if I want the brilliant work we put together to make it to be recognized… but yes, that’s what it is, in essence. Only tuned to disrupt the very special frequency of the women’s nervous synapses. Which is what almost got Keilani killed.”

“Would she have died if Simpson had not intervened?”

“Not because of the taser. But she would have passed out, which would have opened up plenty of possibilities.”

“Like?”

“Poison. A railgun round. Suffocation. They are still living, breathing creatures, Arthur. Only much tougher. I made some numbers about just how much cyanide we would need to use to finish her, considering what we know of her metabolism… I had to triple check them before I got convinced that the number I was getting was right.”

“So, we tase them again?” Morris asked, clearly letting her speak to make his own mind up.

“Unless you can hit them with something strong enough without them getting out of the way first.”

Morris remained silent for a few seconds.

“It would have been easier if Lindbergh’s men had not screwed up and given them a heads up, wouldn’t it?”

Roark nodded.

“You don’t seem nervous, though,” she observed.

“There is no point in being nervous. All I can do is to make sure that we are as ready as possible.”

“You have a plan?”

“I’m starting to build one. You’ll see it’s not too elaborate: find them, overwhelm them with as many men and equipment as we can.”

“Lindbergh never kept a large force in Fort Exeter,” Roark observed.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. Dunbar let me hand pick as many units as I wanted. The bulk of them should be in Santa Isabel by tomorrow.”

“He is really desperate, isn’t he?” Roark asked.

Morris’ subtle change in expression was the closest thing to a smile she was ever going to get from the man.

“He doesn’t know it, but he is very much done. The question now is whether the President will make it out of this one or not,” he said as coldly as anything he had said before.

Roark understood. Being at Fort Exeter, where the action was taking place, had made her lose a bit of perspective, but even with the frenzy of the last twenty-four hours, the little coverage she had been able to pick had been devastating not only for the Initiative but for the entire government. People were demanding answers and solutions and she had already heard a few pundits openly talking about impeaching the President for having lied to the public and failed to take the necessary measures to protect them. Last news she had caught before being summoned by Morris showed the first traffic jams out of Santa Isabel, since several people had ended up concluding that they would be safer somewhere else.

Morris did not address her again and even if he did not dismiss her, it was obvious that she was expected to leave. She asked one last question before heading for the door, though.

“What will you do with Jennifer and Nathalie?”

Morris raised his glance and replied very softly.

“I agree with your assessment that they are important assets when it comes to neutralizing the other two girls.”

“And when all this is over?” Roark asked.

And then, General Arthur Morris let a laugh out, the first time anyone had ever seen that in more than ten years.

“Eva, really? Is age making you softer?”

“They are valuable research assets too, Arthur. I hope that once the danger is neutralized, you will not be so obtuse as to not see that.”

Dr. Roark then smiled back and turned, trying to prevent her anger from showing before she reached the door.

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

Charles Dunbar frowned when he saw the caller ID in his cellphone. He was on the back of his limo, heading back to the Pentagon after yet another roasting at the Oval Office. He pondered whether to reply. After all, he was done with the man. He finally slid his finger to take the call.

“Owen, yours was the last call I was expecting,” he said with as much disdain as he could muster.

“Well, since you did not have the guts to call me yourself, I guessed that I could make your job easier,” General Lindbergh replied on the other end of the line.

It was all that was needed to make Dunbar lose it.

“Shut the fuck up, you damned moron! You should be thankful I did not put you in front of a firing squad yet!”

“Well, that’s the issue with outsourcing the decision to Morris. You can never trust someone else to do your dirty work!” Lindbergh snapped.

“Oh, I trust him very much, when it comes to dirty work. I’m sure you’ll learn that soon enough,” Dunbar replied, his voice icy cold.

“Well, I wouldn’t grow too fond of him, Charles. If I were you, I would already start looking for the next in line, when Morris screws up. Because, you know, he will screw up. Nothing against the man; he almost managed to match my marks at West Point. But with Keilani on the loose, warned and with reinforcements, this is hardly going to end smoothly. I almost pity him, barely landing on the job and about to get the most backlash he has got in his career. I could brief him about it before he drops the axe on me, if you want.”

Secretary Dunbar was taken by surprise. These were the last words he would have expected from his former friend, the man who was about to end his career in politics. He wanted to send him to hell, to give him details of the punishment they had prepared for him. He did not.

“Will that be all, Owen?” he asked.

He did not give Lindbergh time to reply before hanging up.

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

Susan followed Nicole through the forest in silence. The dimming light of dusk was not a problem for the women, who could see almost as well at night as they could in the middle of the day. Nicole’s wardrobe had been well stuffed, and both women had chosen a more casual attire than the usual Kevlar two-piece they wore when on a mission. The gray cotton pants and jumpsuit had probably been tailored for a basketball player, but they felt way less loose than they were intended to around their large and incredibly fit bodies. Their feet, as usual, were bare.

A few paces ahead of her, Nicole moved with the grace of a feline and looked much better than a few hours before, when they had followed a similar track towards the house.

“You seem recovered,” Susan finally whispered, knowing that the Hawaiian amazon would have no problem to hear her.

Nicole turned and offered her a warm smile, reminding her of just how attractive she was.

“Campos was right all along. All I needed was some food and a few hours of sleep. My metabolism did the rest.”

To prove her point, Nicole pushed a small tree to her right as she walked by it, uprooting it in a swift movement.

“So, where are we going?” Susan finally asked.

“What’s the problem? Don’t you fancy a romantic walk under the moonlight?” Nicole replied sardonically, waiting for Susan to catch up before reaching with one hand to her ass. The feeling of fingers caving her skin took her by surprise once more, even if Nicole had done it enough so that she should have been used to it already.

Susan decided not to shy out and reached for one of Nicole’s amazing breasts, massaging it through the fabric. The Hawaiian’s lips were locked on hers before she could react, her tongue leading the charge as both amazons let go.

“I think we will enjoy this partnership,” Nicole said with a wink as they completed their passionate kiss.

“Will we?” Susan asked, her head having never left the train of thought that had kept her awake while Nicole recovered.

“Oh. It’s about time we have a chat,” Nicole replied, widening her smile and apparently unaffected by Susan’s demeanor.

“Yeah,” the redhead replied.

“It’s good that I took us out for a walk so that we could talk, then, don’t you think?” the Hawaiian winked back.

“What are your plans?” Susan asked unceremoniously, making Nicole chuckle.

“Well, I’d very much rather them be our plans. But first, I would need to know why you decided to join me,” the former lawyer asked, bringing the conversation where she wanted it.

Susan hesitated for an instant, then decided that there was no point in hiding the truth from the woman she had bet her future on.

“I learned about the second base. I saw them killing all those women. Then I learned that they were still testing on me and understood that I still was a guinea pig for them. A lab rat with no rights and without value once they had all they wanted from me.”

“I was in the base. I saw those women too,” Nicole admitted. “I already knew what Lindbergh and Sully were capable of, but I guess it came as a shock for you.”

“It shouldn’t have… but it still did. So, I decided to join you, even if you have been pretty shocking lately, too.”

“Least of two evils, then?” Nicole asked with a sarcastic smirk in her face.

Susan hesitated, then said:

“Why did you do it?” Susan asked.

Nicole then got serious and said:

“Look Susan, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Much more than you think. What I am going to tell you will come as a shock at first, but please listen to me before you judge, ok?”

She interpreted Susan’s half-hearted nod as acceptance.

“We never asked for this. It just happened. Every single day for three months I wished I would die. And then, one day the pain was gone, and we woke up, turned into something else. I don’t know how it was for you. My first days were hard. Very hard. Before all this, I was a twenty-nine-year-old lawyer, heading straight to become one of the youngest partners ever in my firm. I worked my ass out, but I was successful. Very successful. I wanted my life back. Only I couldn’t. It’s not as if I had lost my wits, mind me. I was as smart as before all this happened, if not smarter. But I was deemed too freakish to blend in. This is, of course, not what Lindbergh and the rest said. But that’s how they acted,” Nicole started.

Susan nodded, her own story having been quite similar.

“I did not even understand the extent of my change, at first. It was not until they started testing me that I realized that what had happened to me was massive. Then, I met you girls. It did not change much. I did not dislike you, but I’ve never been a too social person, so Campos’ intent to make us friends did not mean that much. Sure, I was polite. Sure, I tried to blend in. And of course, I was competitive when they tested us. But I hope you won’t be hurt if I tell you that I did not give a damn about you.”

Susan could not prevent a chuckle, but let Nicole go on.

“It did not take me long to figure out what was going on. I read Lindbergh from the first day. Sully was even easier. The only reason it took me so long to leave was that being at Fort Exeter helped me learn more about myself. And girl, what I learned was amazing! I have to admit that Lindbergh and his team made a good job of making us feel like tools, of attenuating our uniqueness. But lifting city buses? Feeling bullets bounce off my skin? I understood there was nothing common about what I was. And then, I accepted it.”

Nicole had Susan’s full attention.

“What was the point in crying for not being able to be one in thousands of lawyers when I was one of the most special people in the world? The possibilities of my condition were practically limitless, and there were only two reasons I was not enjoying them: the Initiative and society.”

“So, you escaped from both?” Susan asked.

“See, Susan. Here is where you fail to think big,” Nicole said.

The redhead raised her eyebrows as Nicole got ready to complete her tale.

“Lindbergh found the way to keep us under control. The combination of an indeterminate purpose, having each of us controlling each other and the fear of not fitting in outside of Fort Exeter were well thought out. He did not have to do too much regarding the last part, as you’ll have seen on TV these last couple of days. Everyone knows the last thing Lindbergh cares about is our wellbeing. All he wants is to find the way to replicate what happened to us. Once he does, he will get rid of every one of us and set himself to producing his own private army of obedient soldiers. Having four wildcards that had only got the abilities he so much longed for by chance was the last thing he wanted. Unfortunately, they have got way too much information about us during the nine months they have been testing us. And, as it became painfully evident earlier today, they have found ways of hurting us.”

“I’m not sure if I follow,” Susan said.

“I’m getting there. As a matter of fact, I’m there. Look, Susan, escaping from Fort Exeter was a first and very necessary step. We could have been dead by now if we had not fled. But it’s not enough. So long as we are at large, they won’t stop chasing us. And God knows that there is no way we will be able to blend in and disappear from their radar. Which, to be perfectly honest, is the last thing I want to do.”

“What do you want to do, then?” Susan asked.

“I want to be free. As free as my new power allows me to be. Freer than anyone else in the world. Free to do anything without having to fear the consequences.”

“That includes killing people?”

“Anything, Susan. Look at us! We are already halfway there, way closer than anyone else can ever dream to be!”

“So, what’s missing?”

“Easy. Finishing the Initiative. Once it’s gone, there will be no stopping us,” Nicole said.

“So you can do as you want?” Susan asked.

“So we can be free to do as we want,” Nicole amended.

“What about the people?” Susan asked.

“Wanna get a taste?” Nicole replied, reaching a clearing and pointing to a group of buildings in the distance.

Susan easily recognized them, the darkness and the distance being no issue for her enhanced green eyes.

“Why did you bring me here?” she asked.

“Don’t you think it’s time to get some closure?”

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

“It’s so kind of you to meet me only after everyone else in my staff!” General Lindbergh said as he got into Morris new and spartan office.

“You know, I was trying to postpone the moment for as long as I could. But sooner or later one must deal with the smelly stuff,” Morris replied, not investing an ounce of effort to try to be polite.

“So, tell me, how soon would you like me to leave? I don’t see any Military Police around, so I guess that you did not find a strong enough reason to throw me into the brig,” Lindbergh said.

“You are not leaving,” Morris replied.

Lindbergh raised an eyebrow, showing surprise.

“You will follow every single order I give, but for everything else, you are still in charge of the Initiative,” Morris added.

“What the fuck?” Lindbergh asked.

“You know, I love your press conferences so much that I would not be able to forgive myself if I suddenly got you out of the spotlight. Besides, the spotlight does not look like the type of place anyone will want to be in the coming couple of days,” Morris said, a smirk forming in his face. “Unless, of course, we end up neutralizing the two bitches. I’ll be happy to help you spread the news if that happens.”

“You are cowardly bastard, Arthur,” Lindbergh said in an angered tone.

“Why don’t you head back to your office? I will let you know if I need something of you. Oh, and that was an order,” Morris finished as he looked down, implying that Lindbergh was expected to leave.

He had to make an effort to hide his smile as he walked out of the office. He could hardly believe that Dunbar and Morris would have been so stupid as to fall for the trap he had set for them. But, then again, appealing to the men’s fear to public exposure in the current circumstances had been a well-played trick on his side.

Well, he was still in the game. Certainly not in the same conditions he had been when all this had started, but still with an ace up his sleeve. Now, it was a race against the clock. The sooner Sully could deliver the prototype, the better. He kept his fingers crossed that Nicole Keilani would not make too big of a mess in the meantime.

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

“How did you know?” Susan asked, sounding a bit upset as the first lampposts in campus revealed their prodigious figures to the scattered people around, generating the expected panic reaction.

Susan ignored it and just waited for Nicole’s reply. The confident, almost arrogant smile in the Polynesian’s face bothered Susan even more.

“I did not know. I guessed. Three years ago, one of the partenrs at my firm represented the son of one of our biggest clients. He was in college and had forced a girl after a party. His father was afraid that the girl’s accusations would ruin his son’s life, so he asked us to do anything that was needed. The girl had no money for a good lawyer, so we crushed her. I still remember her deposition at our conference room. We had implied that our client might be willing to discuss a settlement. I immediately realized that her accusation was true. It never mattered. I don’t know if she ever recovered. There was something in the way she looked at me, the last time I saw her. Every now and then, you look exactly the same,” Nicole said.

Susan kept walking. It was not until a dozen steps later that she came back.

“I never told anyone,” she finally said.

By now, news of their presence in campus had already spread. Susan did not mind the people’s reactions. Why should she? She frowned when she realized the direction she had been walking to ever since they had got in.

“What happened?” Nicole asked.

Susan chuckled and shrugged, as if saying “what the hell.”

“It was at the end of my Junior year. I woke up very early to jog. The boys were coming back from some serious partying. They were drunk. And not only. I never know who had the idea in the first place. They pulled the car over. It was horrible. They gang raped me. I thought it would never end.”

“How many?” Nicole asked.

Susan raised a hand with four extended fingers.

“Josh was the harshest of them all. It’s not as if the rest were gentle. As nasty as it was, the worst came later. I did not know what to do. I barely had any friends to go to. By the time I had cleaned myself and gathered the courage to report it, it was already too late. Any evidence of what they had done was gone. And still, the worst part came later. You can’t imagine what it is to cross your path with them in campus, see the smirks, the whispers…”

Nicole nodded, then chuckled.

“I don’t think they’ll enjoy crossing their paths with you in campus so much, this time.”

Nicole nodded.

“So, this is your master plan, then?” Susan asked. “Bringing me here and making me meet the people I hate so that I will let go as you are expecting?”

“Well, we are heading to the dorms, so I guess it’s working,” Nicole said, not sounding concerned at all.

“Oh, we are not going to the dorms. This time on a Thursday night, Josh and his friends are getting drunk at the White Fox.”

Susan led the way, ignoring the increasingly panicked population in campus and not bothering to look over her shoulder to see if Nicole was following. After all, her sensitive ears could hear the former lawyer’s steps, her weight making the tarmac crack slightly under her bare soles.

Susan knew she would have had the right to be upset with her new partner for having played tricks with her, but she decided to disregard it. She had always known that Nicole was the smartest of them, and in just one day she was learning just how true that statement was. But even with that considered, the simple truth was that the former lawyer had hit the bulls eye when she had brought her here. Manipulated or not, Susan could only think on meeting her tormentors in her new condition.

It was not long before they reached the pub. There was not a long line. There never was. The White Fox, named after the football team’s mascot, had never been a selective pub. The only mission of the bouncer at the door was to check IDs and to stop fights between drunk students when things got out of control.

So, even if their arrival was pretty much unannounced, it did not take long for the few waiting in front of the door to clear the area. It beat Susan why the bouncer held his ground.

She had never been a too frequent customer of the joint, so Susan did not recognize him. She guessed she would have, had she seen him before. After all, he was a beast of a man. Or at least, that’s how he must have looked to everyone else in the world. To Susan, he barely managed to make it as high as her chin, even if he was the tallest person she had met ever since her transformation, excluding the other girls at Fort Exeter.

She stopped in front of him and placed her hands on her hips, shooting him an icy look. She did not need to do much to look upset, since the expectation to find the boys inside had hardened her mood. The man seemed to realize about his mistake just then, his shivering suddenly becoming very noticeable to Susan.

“Out of my way,” Susan said softly.

The man was very obviously terrified. Still, he did not move. Whether he was trying to do his job or he was too paralyzed by fear, Susan did not know, but she was starting to get upset with him. She was going to threaten him about what would happen if he did not comply when Nicole caught up and simply shoved the man. His scream faded quickly as he flew over the roof of the building to their left. Only her super hearing let Susan pick up the thud of his landing, several hundred feet away.

Nicole simply shrugged when she shot her a questioning look. She then extended her arm, palm upwards, showing her the way in.

Susan did not know whether to get upset when she decided that there was no point and just crouched to get into the crowded and noisy bar. The noise died quickly enough, when most of the patrons realized about her first and Nicole just an instant later.

Susan could not help but enjoy the attention, the conversations dying to be replaced by whispers at the same time that the music seemed to fade away too. She secretly enjoyed the fact that she could perfectly understand everything the crowd was saying, even if they had brought their voice down dramatically precisely to avoid that. She was surprised by how many of the Fox’s clients recognized her as a former student, but quickly realized that her recent publicity on TV may have helped in this front.

Susan was able to identify the pattern of the conversations quickly enough. They oscillated from those that were wondering about what she would do to those that were directly afraid, mostly because of what they knew she was capable of.

For the first time in her life, Susan also enjoyed a few of the comments that referred to her new anatomy with praise. She had always been the opposite of a show off, but feeling inebriated by the situation, she reached for her loose cotton sweater and ripped it away, revealing a pale and incredibly powerful torso, barely covered by an overstretched sports bra. Without making it too obvious, Susan posed a bit so that her abs and biceps would bulge and become even a bit more noticeable. In a final impulse, she ripped her cotton pants too, making her amazingly fit legs visible, her modesty now only covered by her spandex panties.

Why she had done that, Susan did not know. But it felt good, especially when she caught the reactions of the mesmerized captive audience she had. Even Nicole’s chuckle felt good.

Susan was secretly and unexpectedly enjoying the situation and the attention, so building on that she placed her hands on her hips in a commanding pose and started scanning the crowd. She had been in the bar for close to a minute already, and there seemed to be some sort of strange stalemate where no one knew too well what to do. Her deep green eyes pierced the different groups of people as she scanned the dozens of students that had just seen their partying abruptly stopped. And then, she found them.

She doubted she had ever felt so good as in the moment when her eyes locked with Josh’s and she could feel his terror. For an instant, it felt as if her glance alone would melt him. Then, he looked away and the magic was gone. The good news was that she could easily put remedy to that.

Much as expected, her other three tormentors were with Josh, packed in one of the back corners of the White Fox, much like hyenas ready to attack some prey. The victims, this time, seemed to be two rather good-looking girls that she did not recognize.

She had not yet said a word, but when she removed her hands from her hips and took a first step that made the wooden floor crack, the scene abruptly changed. The stalemate was over, and the Fox’s patrons seemed to realize at once that they were in danger.

Screams erupted again, and college students started running around without too much purpose, sometimes crashing into each other or shoving tables and chairs around. They were moving in every direction but the one that made sense, that of the exit. The reason for that, of course, was the fact that Susan would have then been on their way. She peeked over her shoulder as she took a second step into the bar and saw Nicole standing right in front of the door, arms crossed. The Hawaiian nodded to her and winked, as if letting her know that she was taking care of the housekeeping while she got to enjoy this one. Susan nodded back and took a third step, enjoying how her bare feet made a mess of the weak wooden floor.

Her wade into the bar meant that there was less and less room for the rest of people in there to get, so sooner rather than later she started crossing with students. She resolved the encounters with simple shoves, trying to tune them down enough so that the recipients would not fly more than a few feet.

“Out of my way,” she repeated her last words, the ones she had said to the bouncer.

A scream at the back made her turn. Nicole was holding a girl. From the look of it, Susan guessed that the blonde had had a panic attack and had tried to run past her partner. Nicole’s smirk did not leave too many doubts about the fate of the girl, so Susan just turned and kept moving towards her destination. A blood freezing shriek at her back, followed by a sickening crunching sound and an increase in the overall level of panic told her that her new partner had already dealt with the would-be escaper.

She was upon Josh and his friends soon enough, their choice of hanging spot having left them no possible paths to escape. She stopped, placing her hands on her hips and looking down at her prey from her lofty stance. Nate, Simon and Larry cowered behind Josh, their expressions and body language easily showing the fear she inspired in them. Susan did not recall having felt so good about her new height and strength as she did in this precise moment, pushing her chest out a bit to make her presence even more commanding.

The screams of the two girls were starting to become annoying, and they distracted her from the task at hand. They were both good looking, even if too slutty for Susan’s taste. She guessed the one on the left was a Latina, her dark hair framing a tanned face with features that were cute and wild at the same time. The other was a stereotypical blonde, not much different than what Jennifer might have looked when she was in college, even if her chest was not so overdeveloped.

Stooping and reaching out to the front, Susan soon had an oversized hand around each of the screaming girl’s throats. She easily lifted them a couple of feet off the floor as she stood back up, enjoying their shock as well as the fear her simple gesture instilled in the boys.

“I’m making you girls a favor,” Susan said in a confident tone.

The blonde spat at her just then. At such close distance, there was no way she was going to miss, so Susan soon felt the girl’s spittle running down her cheek. Frowning, her first impulse was to crush the slut’s neck with a swift move. She managed to contain her reaction in the last moment.

“Stupid,” she muttered through clenched teeth.

And then, she just turned to toss her over the bar, sending her soaring a hundred feet across the room, landing on top of two boys and a table that could not resist the impact and splintered. There was no way the blonde had made it out of the flight without a few broken bones. Susan was reasonably certain that she was not dead, though. In any case, her little act of retribution rose the panic yet another notch, especially in the dark-haired girl she was holding in her left hand. Susan locked eyes with her and shrugged:

“I was just trying to help you.”

Without further notice, she set her down and gestured her to leave, which the girl did without wasting a second. Satisfied at her display of fair-mindedness, Susan turned to face the four boys once more, smiling evilly at them as she set her arms akimbo, in a gesture that was starting to become natural.

It was not until then that she realized that she did not know what she would do with them. When Nicole had tricked her into going to campus and brought back the memories of her rape, Susan had known that she wanted to meet her assaulters, even if she knew she was being manipulated by her new partner. Now that she finally was in the situation she had sought, though, she did not know too well what to do.

It was obvious what Nicole was after, of course. She wanted her to let go, to finish the boys, in a blatant attempt to bring her closer to her own morals. And still, part of her did not have a problem with that. After so long, the sight of the boys had broken the floodgates that had been containing the anguish, anger and hate that she had been holding at the back of her mind ever since the day her path had crossed with them.

The wall prevented the boy’s shaking bodies from getting farther back and Susan realized that it was the time to do or say something. Still undecided about how to proceed, she decided to gain some time.

“Like the new me?” she asked in a cold tone. It only made the boys shiver.

“Susan, please…”

It was Josh, and his voice was shaking as he addressed her. This only reinforced Susan’s eagerness to do what her body was asking her to do, the boy’s terror acting as a catalyst to her arousal.

“What’s the problem, Josh?” she pushed. “Don’t you like strong girls? Or you only go after those you can overpower?”

The noise was unmistakable, but just in case her overdeveloped sense of smell confirmed it a second later. He had wet himself.

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Susan said with a twitch of her nose. “That is disgusting!”

She did not have time to deride him for this, though, since Larry dashed to the table and took a rather large knife, the kind used to cut steaks, from the look of it. Susan had to contain a chuckle when she saw him brandishing it at her. She was about to tease the poor fucker when she decided that an action was worth a thousand words. So, winking at him, she took a step in his direction.

Larry panicked and backed up one step almost at the same time, but his back met the wall once again soon enough. Susan just smirked and moved closer, shrinking the boy’s personal space and making him as jumpy as she had ever seen anyone. It was only a matter of time before he tried to jab her. She suppressed a laugh as the knife’s tip met her pale skin and bent rather than pierce her. The look in Larry’s face was priceless.

The boy was close to a nervous breakdown, Susan just waited for his nervousness to come into play, which happened soon enough. The knife got in an even worse shape as Larry tried to stab her three more times, each as unsuccessful as the first as the blade was unable to even dimple her ultra-dense skin.

When she saw him get ready for a fifth attempt, Susan decided that she had had enough and caught his forearm as he was getting ready for the thrust. Larry desperately tried to move his arm back. Locked by her vicious grip, it could not move even a hairsbreadth. There were tears in his eyes when he look up and they locked with hers.

It was in that moment when Susan realized that she had no room for compassion for Larry or any of the other boys. All she could feel about them was contempt. And hate. And so, their fate was sealed.

Susan’s hand closed around Larry’s arm, easily breaking his bones like twigs at first, crushing them into fine powder as she kept pushing. Blood oozed through her pale fingers as Larry dropped to his knees and let out an anguished howl. Susan did not need to wait for her nipples to swell under her overstretched sports bra to know that she had enjoyed it.

She knew that she had crossed several lines in one simple gesture. It was not as if this was the first time she used her newfound strength to hurt others. Over a dozen FRU agents were dead because of her. The situation had been very different, though. It had been in self-defense. And she had been far from enjoying it. This was different. Very different. Larry was defenseless. The only point in hurting him was retribution. And pleasure, a lot of it.

The other three boys looked at her in terror. Her smile managed to unsettle them even further before she said:

“I had thought that you, of all people, would appreciate what I’m doing here. I’m stronger than you, I can physically force you to do as I please… so I’m doing it. Does it ring a bell?”

She opened her fingers from around Larry’s forearm. He dropped to his knees, close to passing out.

“Oh no, you won’t!” Susan said as she crouched to grab a fistful of the boy’s T-shirt and lift him like a rag doll. She was unceremonious as she tossed him towards his friends, who did not lose their footing at contact only because they were already as far back as possible.

Susan then turned and moved closer to them, practically trapping the four young men that had assaulted her between her new Amazonian body and the wall. They were screaming in panic, but Josh still managed to babble some comprehensible words.

“Please, we are sorry!”

“Sorry?” Susan said, chuckling. “You weren’t sorry all this time when you saw me in campus, were you?”

“Please…” Josh said.

“You know what? I have a certain suspicion that the only reason you have some regrets about what you did is that I’m no longer the skinny weirdo you guys raped. But who knows, maybe I’m being too paranoid!”

Susan did not give them the time to reply. Instead, she just widened both arms and moved them around the boys, reaching to the back of the group and pulling them closer to her. Her increased height had given her enough reach to be able to hold the four young men together in her embrace. Quite predictably, they wriggled fiercely, but once she had taken a hold on them, there was nothing their pathetic attempts could do to break her iron lock.

“What’s the problem?” she asked, her icy tone raising the terror in the boys even a notch further. “You don’t like me anymore?” she asked in mockery. “I would swear that I got hotter!”

She pulled them closer to her granite body, taking out any room that had already been left. The wriggling continued, even if she was giving the boys even less space to maneuver. The mumbles and the screams increased.

She realized about what she was going to do. She knew she was about to cross the final line. But retribution felt too good to have second thoughts about it.

“I’ll make this last,” she said with cold satisfaction. “I doubt I’ll have the patience to make this as long as your rape, but I want you to feel the helplessness. I want you to cry in pain and fear while someone is hurting you just because she is so much stronger than you. And only because she is enjoying it,” she added. “Because I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying it very much.

She pulled a bit more and got the first groans.

“You know what? You are really nothing next to me. Can you feel it?” she asked. She did not give them the time to reply before she tightened her embrace a bit more and got the first cracks, which were quickly followed by anguished screams. She could feel Josh wanted to address her again, but he simply lacked the air to be able to talk.

“Just the notion that you were once able to overpower me feels so ridiculous!” she added cheerfully as she pulled a bit more and got some more cracks.

Susan realized later that this was the moment when the floodgates finally burst open. She had been surfing the urge for some time now, but the sight of her tormentors at first and feeling them completely helpless against her later had finally made the decision for her. Deep inside, something told her that the notion was wrong, but it was hard to reject something that felt so good.

“Those days are over. I’m done with them!” she let out, her voice carrying across the pub. “I’m done with being ignored, done with being bullied, done with being abused. The tables have turned, and I’m neither forgetting nor forgiving!”

Susan pulled harder. The cracks were not minor this time. The sight of Josh passing out confirmed that she had pushed a bit too hard a bit too soon. With nothing else to do, she just finished the job, stopping when the corpses threatened to make too big of a mess. Opening her arms, Susan let the four very dead and very awkward looking bodies drop to the floor as everyone else in the pub sighed in terror.

 “Shocked?” she asked in defiance. “Don’t worry, I’ll show you the same compassion and understanding that you showed for me!”

Turning, she started walking back towards the door, where Nicole was waiting with the widest smile she had seen on her yet. Susan secretly enjoyed the sight of boys and girls getting out of her way, trying to get as far away from her as possible. She just ignored them, though.

“Was it fun?” Nicole asked with a wink.

“Is this what you were expecting the entire time?” Susan asked back.

“Oh, come on! You should be thanking me!” Nicole said.

“How did you know I would do it?” Susan asked with certain curiosity.

“Are you serious?” Nicole asked. “How would anyone in her right mind NOT do it?”

There was an instant of silence, only broken by the occasional sob at her back.

“So, what’s next?”

“We have a busy day tomorrow. I’ll fill you in. I think you deserve some rest. And, who knows, I may even think on something to cheer you up a bit more!” the Hawaiian replied with a naughty wink.

No one missed them once they walked out through the door.

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