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Sapphire Angel – Beginnings (Chapters 34-35)

Written by CJS :: [Friday, 06 September 2019 21:22] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 08 September 2019 21:44]

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Chapter 34

Sapphire Angel had expected Dominick’s home to be larger. It was big, but not the sprawling mansion she had imagined. Brick, with four tall white pillars framing the front porch, the structure reminded her of fraternity houses that lined the streets of her college town.

The house was immaculate, with a crisply painted facade and pristine bricks devoid of ivy or other growth. The grounds around the structure were meticulously maintained, with neatly trimmed grass and bushes. Large copses of trees surrounded the home on three sides. In the front, a circular driveway ran past front wide steps, climbing up to a brick porch. A detached garage sat twenty yards off to one side.

The petite woman crouched on a thick tree branch in a wooded area to one side of the house, waiting for the darkness to deepen and for Stanley to finish hacking into the home’s security system. She watched the windows of the building for any signs of life. A single car, a late model Chevrolet sedan, sat in front of the home. Certainly not Dominick‘s, but whose?

She brushed her radiant blond hair over one shoulder and made sure her white gloves were pulled up her arms. Clad in her costume, a quiet confidence had settled over her.

As she studied the home, Sapphire Angel considered the name given her by the press. It was growing on her. In a way, it helped her make sense of her existence. It allowed her to see herself as someone else - as having a true alter ego. Beth Harper wouldn’t do what she was doing now. But Sapphire Angel would.

She couldn’t believe it had only been three days since she had donned the costume for the first time. It seemed like a lifetime ago. Then she had planned to wear the costume to a Halloween party. Now it was recognizable to everyone in the city, and allowed her to become something she wasn’t.

As she scanned the home again, Beth heard Stanley’s voice in a tiny earpiece hidden in her ear.

“You should be good,” he said. “The security system is down.”

Sapphire Angel dropped from the tree branch, her short skirt fluttering around her. She flexed her knees as she hit the ground, and darted off toward the side of the house.

A room extended from the right side of the home, looking like it had been added to the main structure after its initial construction. The room was constructed of brick like the rest of the home, but the bricks were slightly more vibrant in color, and the enclosure was only one story tall. An exterior door sat between two large windows. The heroine darted to the enclosure, stopping at one of the tall windows. She put her face to the glass and peered into a sitting area. A sofa and three chairs surrounded a coffee table, and paintings of nature scenes hung on the walls. Dim light from a nearby hallway cast shadows about the room.

Sapphire Angel crept to the door. She held Stanley’s cylindrical device to the lock, and moments later heard a quiet click as the lock disengaged. She put a gloved hand to the handle and turned it.

Holding her breath, she pushed the door inward. The costumed woman paused, waiting for the sound of an alarm countdown, but none came. She stepped inside, pulling the door closed behind her. She paused again before moving past the sofa and chairs, and stopping at the entrance to the hallway.

The floor of the hall was made of hardwood that gleamed even in the dim light provided by sconces along the wall. Beth pulled her hair back with a gloved hand and listened. A sound came from down the hall, but didn’t seem to be close. The hall ran the width of the home, with the spotless hardwood glinting the entire distance.

She crept down the hall, putting one slender leg forward at a time, taking care that her boots didn’t thump on the floor. The stealthy woman saw a bright light through an opening at the opposite end, and a shadow playing on the wall in the room beyond.

Someone was there. Probably the person whose car was in the driveway. A caregiver for Dominick’s daughter, perhaps.

Sapphire Angel wasn’t afraid, but didn’t want her presence to be discovered. She eyed two openings in the hall, halfway down, to the left and right. She made her way to them and glanced both ways. To her right sat another sitting area, even larger than the first, looking out over an expansive back yard of manicured grass.

To her left was a short hallway opening into a large foyer, containing the massive front door and a stairway winding upstairs. The floor of the foyer was made of light-colored tile, with handsome wood paneling extending halfway up the walls.

She crept into the foyer, passing two closed doors in the hall, and made her way to the stairs. The runner on the stairs muted her footfalls as she ascended. The stairs ended at the start of another hallway, with two closed doors midway down on either side, and one door open at the far end. A blue glow came from the far doorway.

Intrigued by the light, Sapphire Angel moved down the hall, again taking care with her steps. When she reached the doorway, her jaw dropped in surprise.

A young woman, or perhaps even a girl, lay in a bed. Beth was uncertain of the girl’s age because of the ventilator mask covering her mouth, but her condition was unmistakable. Even at a glance, it was obvious this girl was dying.

She was frail and skeletal, and her face was gaunt. Machines lined each side of the bed, and tubes ran from some of them into her body. Her eyes were closed, and her hair had either been cut thin, or large amounts of it had fallen out. In a way, the girl before her reminded the heroine of John in his final hours.

This had to be Dominick’s daughter. Sapphire Angel had come here to see her, but the girl’s appearance still surprised her. John at least had moments of lucidity before his death. This girl didn’t appear ready to speak with anyone.

Beth felt herself drawn to the girl. She moved to the bed and stared down at her. Standing there, looking down at the sickly figure, the costumed woman couldn’t help but feel a connection to Dominick. Beth had lost John, and Dominick was losing his daughter. What would Beth have done to save John? Would she have gone as far as Dominick had gone?

The blond woman shook her head and focused on the girl’s bony hands. No. She would never kill, not even to save a loved one. But the thought lingered.

As Sapphire Angel watched the girl's hands, they moved. One of them inched slowly to the respirator mask, fumbling for an edge, until it grabbed it and pulled it aside.

Sapphire Angel reached a gloved hand forward, to pull it back in place, when the girl’s mouth moved.

“You’re her,” the girl said in a raspy whisper.

Sapphire Angel froze. It seemed like a voice coming from the dead. The heroine stared at the girl.

“You’re Sapphire Angel,” the girl said, her voice weak but audible.

Beth took a step back. The girl’s eyes didn’t even look to be open.

“Yes, I am.”

“I’m Ashley. Ashley Dominick.”

Ashley took a long breath, inhaling and exhaling. Sapphire Angel waited, and didn’t reply.

“Sometimes my dad keeps the television on,” Ashley continued. Her words came in a halting, staccato manner, as if voicing each syllable took great effort. “I’ve seen the stories about you.”

“I’m sorry to be here like this,” Sapphire Angel replied, not sure what else to say.

“I didn’t think you were real.”

“I’m real,” the heroine replied with a grim smile. She doubted the girl could even see her expression.

“I’m glad,” the girl in the bed replied, pausing again to gulp in breaths of air. “People need someone like you to believe in. They need to believe there’s a hero to save the day.”

Sapphire Angel grimaced. She couldn’t explain to Ashley that she was no hero, that she was doing what she did for selfish reasons - first to try to save her boyfriend, and now to save her friend. She remained quiet.

“You’re here because of my father, aren’t you? Why else would a superhero be in our house?”

Sapphire Angel paused before nodding. “Yes. I’m here because of your father.”

Ashley remained silent for several moments, perhaps building up her strength, or perhaps thinking of her father. Finally she turned her head toward the costumed woman.

“What has he done?” Ashley asked.

The question felt like a weight dropped on the superheroine. Ashley Dominick was dying. Could Beth destroy the girl’s image of her father? Beth paused, weighing the options in her mind. In the end, it was easy.

“Your father is trying to save you,” she said, and her voice trailed off. She couldn’t finish.

“And?” Ashley pressed, as if sensing her visitor wasn’t telling her everything.

Sapphire Angel took a deep breath.

“And to save you, he’s doing something that might hurt others,” she replied, before quickly adding, “but I don’t think he realizes it.”

Perhaps the lie would soften the blow. Beth couldn’t bear bringing more pain to the dying girl.

“And you’re trying to stop him?”

“I need to find him, because someone with him might be in trouble.”

Ashley’s head barely moved, in what might have been a nod.

“He’s not here. Hasn’t been all day. Well, I think it’s been a day. He doesn’t put clocks in here, so I lose track sometimes.”

“Do you know where he might be?” Sapphire Angel asked, and held her breath. The superheroine’s gloved fists were clenched at her sides as tension built up inside her. She almost felt as if she were willing Ashley to know her father’s location.

“I do,” Ashely replied, and turned her head away.

The heroine exhaled, allowing a mix of tension and excitement to escape her body. It took all her willpower to remain quiet, so Ashley could continue at her own pace. After a moment, the sick girl turned back toward her.

“You don’t have to lie to me about my father. I know what he’s capable of.”

Sapphire Angel reached out, touching the girl’s arm softly with her gloved fingers. Even in the girl’s withered state, the heroine saw the pain in Ashley’s eyes. Not pain from her illness, but pain that comes from realizing the true nature of a loved one.

“I’m sorry,” the heroine said.

Ashely’s eyes were open now, and staring up at her visitor. “Promise me something,” she said, her voice sounding stronger than it had been.

Without thinking, the heroine nodded. “Promise you what?”

“Make this easy on my father. When I die, it will be hard enough. I can’t bear the thought of him spending the rest of his life in prison.”

Sapphire Angel nearly stepped back, and her fingers fell away from the girl’s arm. How much did this girl know? Clearly she knew something about what her father was doing. Or maybe Ashley knew her father well enough to sense it.

“I’ll . . . I’ll do what I can, but I probably won’t have any say in what happens to him. But if I don’t stop him, he’s only making things worse for himself. I need to discover where he is before it goes any further.”

The blond woman watched as an internal struggle took place in Ashley. The sick girl’s face twisted in a grimace, as if she fought to contain a pressure building inside her. Finally it erupted.

“I’ll tell you,” she said, her voice cracking, and she looked away. She paused again to catch her breath, or to compose herself, before turning back to face Sapphire Angel. “But please do what you can to help him. I’m sure he has to be at the facility north of the city. An old warehouse. Outside Irving, a town that’s a tiny speck on the map. Fizzure owns it through a shell company.”

“Do you know exactly where?

“I heard my dad give directions over the phone. It’s the first exit off I-81 over the county line. Left at the end of the ramp, and then your second left. It’s at the end of the dead end.”

With the words “dead end,” Ashley’s eyes closed. For a moment, Sapphire Angel thought she was asleep or even dead. But then they flickered open, and they were filled with tears, and perhaps guilt.

“Please do what you can for my dad, Sapphire Angel.”

Sapphire Angel nodded.

“I will. Is there anything else you can tell me?”

Ashley paused before shaking her head.

“I would tell you if I knew anything,” she said, her voice cracking. Tears flowed down the side of her face. “I really would. Just please go, before it’s too late.”

Sapphire Angel nodded and hesitated, before turning and retracing her steps back through the home. The image of Ashley Dominick, laying sick and dying in bed, seared her brain. And so did Ashley’s request. Make this easy on my father. Sapphire Angel didn’t know how she could both save Ethan, and spare Demarco Dominick.

Chapter 35

“Are we ready for him?” Demarco Dominick asked.

To his right stood a balding scientist in a white lab coat, and across from them stood two muscular guards in gray slacks and shirts. Ethan Moore hung between the two guards, held aloft by their viselike grip on his upper arms. Ethan struggled in their grasp, squirming and kicking his legs. A gag muffled his protests.

“We’re ready,” the scientist answered. “I’ve checked his vitals, and confirmed the settings and connections. We’ve backed off on the power flowing through line four, per the suggestion, and upped number three by 18 percent. All is good. I think this one might do it.”

“Any sign of visitors?” Dominick asked, turning to Joe Mathers, his security chief.

“No, sir,” Mathers replied. “All the surveillance feeds are quiet.”

“Let’s get started,” Dominick said, and nodded to the two guards holding Ethan.

The guards dragged their prisoner toward the tall glass cylinder in the middle of the room. Ethan pitched and bucked, but he was no match for the burly men. Another scientist held the door to the cylinder open, slamming it shut after the two guards shoved Ethan inside.

Dominick watched the young man jump to his feet and throw his body into the glass door. He bounced off and fell to the floor. After climbing to his feet, Ethan’s mouth moved, but no sounds escaped the container. They always protested like this, Dominick thought, like birds flying into glass windows. Here though, the collisions were silent.

“To the control room,” Dominick said, and marched out with his workers in tow.

Behind him, Ethan pounded on the walls of the cylinder, panic in his eyes.

 

Time was running out. Beth could feel it. Immediately after leaving Dominick's home, she had told Stanley of the warehouse’s location and he had called the police. But the police would assemble a strike team, and she couldn‘t wait for that. So she had left Dominick’s home and set out on the interstate, heading north.

After exiting the highway less than an hour later, she drove through the town of Irving and found the warehouse just where Ashley Dominick had placed it. She navigated to the end of the dead end road and spotted the foreboding structure, sitting in a short, low valley that opened ahead of her. Long and rectangular, the building looked older than the nearby town, with fading brick and tall windows covered partly with boards. Despite its age, it still somehow seemed sturdy. Rubble and uneven grass and weeds surrounded it.

Beth turned around and drove away, leaving the building behind her. She took a few minutes to find a discreet parking spot on a side road about a quarter mile from the warehouse. When she was sure she was alone, she removed her jacket, revealing her blue and white costume, and slipped on her gloves, boots, and necklace.

After exiting the vehicle, Sapphire Angel backtracked on foot, staying in the shadows and circling behind the warehouse until she reached the closest of two hills overlooking the building. From her vantage point, she could look down at the structure and stay out of sight. She saw light emanating from the large windows on the structure, but couldn’t discern what might be inside.

The old brick building presented a few points of entry for the heroine. She could go in through the garage door and work her way up until she found Ethan. She could also enter through the double door at the top of some stairs above the garage, which would put her on the middle floor of the structure. Her third option would be to enter through one of the many windows.

She would have preferred to start at the bottom and work her way up, but she imagined the large metal doors would make too much noise. The windows were also out of the question. She probably would need to break one to get in, and that would alert Dominick and his men of her presence.

That left the stairway door. She didn’t like entering the middle floor of the building and having to choose between going up or down to find Ethan. If she chose wrong, she would need to backtrack and waste time. She saw no other options, though. The stairway door it was.

Darkness had settled in, and clouds obscured the stars. It was time to move. Sapphire Angel rose, scanned the open ground between her and the building, and set off in a run.

 

From a room next to the cylinder room, Demarco Dominick looked down at a monitor, watching Ethan Moore kicking and pounding at the glass of the cylinder. Dominick had to hand it to the kid. Most of them gave up after a minute or two, realizing it was fruitless. This one was a fighter.

Next to Dominick, his lead scientist pecked away at a keyboard. Moments later, a familiar buzzing noise filled the air, like the sound of a massive clock alarm. The sound originated from the cylinder, but sounded like it came from a few feet away. Dominick watched as the prisoner cringed and threw his hands over his ears.

A moment later, the buzzing stopped and was replaced by a deep rumble, like a bulldozer rolling through the building. Anyone unfamiliar with the project might have mistaken it for an earthquake. Even here, thirty feet from the cylinder, the floor shook.

Dominick watched Ethan Moore intently, seeing the same behavior shown by the previous prisoners. The boy’s panic had grown to near hysteria, and a twinge of discomfort touched his face.

“Sir, we have company,” Dominick’s security chief announced, urgency in his voice. Dominick turned to look at a security monitor. It depicted several views of the exterior of the structure, one of which showed a beautiful woman approaching. Sapphire Angel. She sprinted toward the building.

“Damnit,” Dominick muttered.

“Should we abort the process?” Dominick’s scientist asked.

Dominick shook his head. “Not yet. There’s still time.”

He turned his gaze back to the view of the cylinder and watched as Ethan Moore dropped to his knees, his face twisted in pain.

 

Sapphire Angel approached the building with the speed of an Olympic sprinter. She darted under the stairs and paused, listening to see if anyone might have detected her arrival. A deep rumbling reached her ears, and she felt slight tremors underneath her feet. Her heart leapt into her throat as she remembered the first time she had heard the sound, three nights ago. The sound had also visited her in her dreams since then.

One thought dominated her mind. Ethan. She rushed to the foot of the stairs and leapt to the landing. The metal of the platform clattered under her feet, but it was too late for stealth.

The handles to double doors were wrapped in a large length of chain, secured at the ends with a thick padlock. Sapphire Angel wrinkled her nose in puzzlement. They had locked themselves in?

She put an ear to the door, but only for a moment. Hearing nothing but the rumble, she slid Stanley’s thin lock pick device from her boot and held it to the padlock. She had it unlocked in a matter of seconds. After returning the device to her boot, she unfastened the chain, opened the door, and looked down a dimly lit hall. She could hardly believe this place was being used by Dominick. Large holes pockmarked the ceiling and walls, and chunks of plaster created a minefield on the floor. Lights flickered from the ceiling, giving the place a haunted feeling.

The rumbling was louder here, and the sensation more pronounced. She rushed in, ignoring a pair of darkened doorways on either side of the hall, and focused her gaze on a light coming from a doorway at the end of the wall.

She hadn’t taken three steps down the hall when four men stepped into her path from openings on either side. She recognized two from the farm, including the man who had kidnapped her in the parking garage and discovered her identity in the barn. They looked right at her with smug looks, as if they had been waiting for her.

One of them was big, perhaps six foot four and muscled. Two were smaller, but still fit, while the fourth man, the one from the barn, was stocky and wore a skullcap.

“Time to fuck you up,” the large man said, before they all charged toward her.

 

Dominick altered his gaze between the screen showing the cylinder, and the one showing Sapphire Angel in the entrance hall. He needed to hope his men could hold off the superheroine long enough for this experiment to run its course. The kid in the cylinder would be useless to them for the foreseeable future if they had to restart the process. They needed to finish, and then Dominick could turn his full attention to Sapphire Angel, and take her down once and for all.

As his men stepped into the hall to intercept her, he glanced over at the screen showing the cylinder. The Moore kid looked to be an agony. They would know soon if this worked. Hopefully Moore wouldn’t drop dead before they consumed what they needed.

 

Because of the width of the hall, the guards could only come at Sapphire Angel two abreast. That worked to her advantage. She stood her ground until the last moment, before leaping off her feet.

Her feet lashed out with such speed the men didn't see the attack coming. The hard toes of her boots connected with the faces of the two smaller men, crushing bone, and they staggered back into the men behind them.

Sapphire Angel used the ensuing confusion and tangle of limbs to her advantage, leaping into the fray with a flurry of punches. She started with the two men in the back, her fists moving in a blur. Both men went down before they could throw a punch in return. She whirled to the first two men, finishing them with open-palmed blows to their chests, driving them to the floor.

Only seconds had passed, and all four men were down, groaning and clutching at various body parts. The heroine stood back, amazed at how quickly she had controlled the fight. It was time to find Ethan.

 

Dominick watched the screen in disbelief. He had been counting on his men to keep the superheroine busy for at least a minute or two, but the fight was over within seconds.

With a growl from deep within his throat, he glanced over at the screen showing the cylinder. The Moore kid was rolling on the floor of the cylinder, clutching his sides in agony. Dominick turned to his lead scientist.

“How much longer?” Dominick barked.

“Because we slowed the power through number four, we still have another minute or two until we know if it’s working.”

Dominick looked back at the other screen and saw Sapphire Angel advancing down the hall. They wouldn’t finish in time. The heroine had ruined their chances. For now, at least.

“Fuck!” he yelled. “Switch to the alternate reactor profile!”

As his scientist hammered away at the keyboard in front of him, Dominick’s eyes darted back to the view of the hallway. Sapphire Angel looked angry. He hoped this worked.

 

As Sapphire Angel moved past the fallen men, the sound at the end of the hall changed from a hum, to a lower-pitched mechanical groan. The light emanating from the doorway ahead changed from a dull yellow to a blue.

As she stepped forward, a wave of dizziness hit her and she put a gloved hand against the wall to steady herself. She looked to the ground and saw the floor move. Except it wasn’t the ground moving. It was her vision. Vertigo washed over the superheroine, and she raised both hands to the wall.

A blue glow caught her attention, but not from the room ahead. She looked down to see the glow coming from the diamond of her necklace. Before she could examine it further, a jolt of pain shot through her upper chest, directly underneath the necklace, like a hand stabbing into her chest and tugging at her heart.

“Unhhhhh…” she moaned.

Her knees quivered and she stumbled, her coltish legs turning and twisting like she was drunk and trying to walk in women’s heels for the first time. She leaned her back into the wall, as her arms dropped to her side and her head drooped. The sound of a fizzle and pop from her necklace startled her, and she watched in confusion as blue sparks flared out from the diamond of her necklace and fell to the floor.

She lifted her head as if guided by an invisible force, and looked toward the blue glow coming from the end of the hallway. The sounds of the building dropped away, disappearing from her hearing but remaining in the hallway, as if an unseen force sucked away the surrounding environment and left her standing on an island of solitary existence. Her view of the hall disappeared, too, replaced by a vision from her mind’s eye. Gone were the floor, the wall, and the light-filled doorway. Darkness dominated her view, except for a small circle of light in the distance.

The light grew larger and closer until Sapphire Angel was looking through a tunnel of light, at least in her mind. She saw through the tunnel and far into the distance - farther, she knew, than was humanly possible. At the end of the tunnel sat a room made of stone, with a statue of a woman standing in the middle. Beth studied the statue. Made of marble, the statue faced her, making her feel as if it were watching her. The woman was human-sized, with long, flowing hair. Beth found herself unable to focus on the face, and couldn’t determine if the woman was young or old. The woman stood erect, hands on her hips, and wore no clothes.

The statue, without making a sound, called to Beth’s necklace, as if summoning it. Beth sensed rather than felt that the statue was trying to take the necklace’s power from her, or perhaps the necklace itself, pulling it through the tunnel of light. The heroine clenched her teeth and balled her fists. She had to fight it.

As quickly as the vision came, it disappeared. Sapphire Angel was back in the hallway, with the blue glow at the end of the hall growing brighter. She knew, instinctively, what was happening to her. Something at the end of the hall was draining her powers. She had fought it off temporarily, but the force was like a vacuum, pulling her power’s essence from her. Sapphire Angel needed to reach the end of the hall and stop whatever was there.

The stunning super lady stepped forward, but stumbled again, bumping against the wall. She leaned against the wall with a shoulder, putting a hand to her head and closing her eyes. She felt the tunnel of light trying to return, so she clenched her eyes tighter, trying to fight it off.

“Looks like the little angel had her wings clipped,” a voice sounded from behind her. She forced her head up and saw the large man staggering to his feet, with anger flashing in his eyes. The other three men also rose, but more slowly.

She turned to face them, still using the wall for support. The dazed heroine pushed herself to an erect position and glared at them, putting on her bravest face. She could feel her powers draining from her, though. No, it was worse than that. Not only were her powers disappearing, but even her normal strength was fading.

As the large man closed the distance to her, she summoned a reserve of fortitude and lunged forward, swinging a punch at him. He smacked her fist aside with ease and crushed a roundhouse punch into the side of her face.

Sapphire Angel grunted as the force of the blow twirled her away from the attacker. She would have hit the floor, but somehow one of the smaller men had moved behind her. He met her in mid-spin with a punch of his own, connecting with her face and rotating her back toward the big man. The big man lashed out with a backhanded smack to her face. The sound of his hand hitting her cheek filled the hallway, accompanied by her cry of pain, and she spun again, her skirt twirling about her.

The other small man joined the attack, swinging up with a punch as she stumbled past him, drilling her in her trim stomach. She let out a sickening wheeze as the blow stopped her in her tracks, before the man came in with an uppercut to her jaw. His punch lifted her from her feet, flipping her hard onto her back.

As Sapphire Angel pawed at the ground, trying to push herself up, a massive hand seized her throat, jerking her into the air. Her feet left the ground, and her attacker slammed her against the wall, expelling the air from her lungs. The man pinned her in place against the wall, with his iron grip around her slender neck.

The shellshocked heroine grabbed at the hand around her throat, gasping as her feet pedaled in the air. In her weakened state, she couldn’t pry his hand free. Worse, his other hand flashed forward, smashing into the center of her face. The woman’s cry of pain was interrupted by the thud of her head into the wall behind her.

With a groan, Sapphire Angel’s head sagged toward her chest, her blond hair cascading around her breathtaking features. Another blow came, slamming her head back into the wall again. And again her head sagged forward, only to be drilled back into the wall once more.

The man pounded her face with anger and brutality, exacting revenge for the beating she had given him and his comrades. The sounds of the punishing blows, mixed with her cries of pain, echoed off the walls. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she choked back sobs with each blow. She sensed a distant but weak reserve of strength from her necklace, which was all that saved her from devastating injury.

Finally, after she had lost count of the blows, it became too much, and her arms dropped to her side. Her lissome body hung limply in his grasp, pinned against the wall with her head lolled to one side. She barely heard the cackles of glee coming from her attackers.

The man released his hold, and Sapphire Angel fell to the ground, collapsing onto her stomach. Still she struggled, putting her hands underneath her body and trying to push herself up. That’s when the kicks began.

One after another, the men drilled her in the ribs, the head, and the face, with the toes of their boots. The hallway spun more rapidly, and she cried out with feminine yelps and grunts as she tried to cover herself and curl into a fetal position. The whole time, she was aware of sizzling and popping noises coming from her necklace, and blue sparks spewing from it.

A boot caught her in the stomach, flipping her into the air and onto her back. She looked up at the men through hazy eyes, holding out a hand in a pleading gesture. She was sobbing now.

“Please, stop…“ she said, barely getting out the words.

“Not a chance, bitch,” the big man spat. “You’re ours, now. It’s payback time.”

“Enough!” a voice thundered from down the hall. Even in her weakened state Sapphire Angel recognized it. Demarco Dominick. Laying on her back, she turned her head toward the voice. Through hazy eyes she saw the immense man moving toward them, almost at a run. He emerged from the blue light at the end of the hall as if an apparition.

“I said I needed her alive and well!” he snapped at the other men.

“Boss, we couldn’t take a chance,” the large man protested. “You said she’d be weaker, but you saw what she did to us.”

“I did,” he said. “The timing of her arrival wasn’t ideal, so I had to wait to weaken her. You’ll have your chance for revenge later. When I’m done with her, she’s yours. But not now. Bring her.”

The men hesitated for a moment, their eyes traveling between Dominick and the stunning woman sprawled helpless below them, her limbs askew and her hair fanned out around her head. With a grumble, the largest attacker crouched next to the destroyed heroine. He slid one arm under her shoulders and another under her knees, and pulled her up with him as he stood. He cradled her petite body against his chest, causing her delicate neck to arch back over his arm and her hair to dangle below her. Her left arm hung limply, while her right arm lay bunched against the man’s chest.

She sensed him lean close and heard him whisper, “When the boss is done with you, if there’s anything left, you’re gonna be my superheroine fuck toy.”

The defeated heroine was only vaguely aware of being carried down the hall, her free arm and hair swaying gently as he moved. Through barely opened eyes, she saw the blue glow getting closer.

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