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The Phoenix Initiative – Chapter 14

Written by papayoya1 :: [Friday, 20 December 2019 11:16] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 21 December 2019 12:55]

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Chapter 14

The glow of the first light of the Sun was peeking through the tall canopy of the forest as Jennifer and Nathalie followed Kohler’s men, just a few steps behind Morris and Beck. They had not seen any trace of activity in The Hole when they had flown over it, but after having been outwitted so badly by Nicole, it paid to take every possible precaution.

“Fuck.”

Jennifer’s sensitive ears had no trouble catching General Morris’ whisper as the man set foot in the courtyard of the small base and saw the scene there for the first time. Jennifer spotted the same setting a second later. She was appalled.

The former cheerleader had already seen Nicole’s antics on TV. She had seen her kill cops on TV and had been shown pictures of the aftermath of her attack on the Triad base. And still, she was not ready for what her enhanced eyes showed her.

It was the aftermath of hell. Heavy overturned vehicles decorated an area that was littered with bodies. Or parts of them, in some cases. Jennifer could feel her blood begin to boil. She wanted to get Nicole more badly than ever, to make her pay for what she had done. There was no doubt in her mind that this was the Hawaiian’s work. Susan might have betrayed them, but there was no way the young redhead would have been able to do what she was witnessing.

The SpecOps team seemed unaffected by the sight and just kept advancing towards the main building, closely followed by the Colonel and the General who had led them there.

“What is this place?” Nathalie whispered next to her, her tone barely audible to Jennifer and way too soft for anyone else to notice that she had addressed her.

Jennifer looked to the side to see that her colleague was as horrified at the situation as she was. She was going one step beyond, though.

“I have no idea,” Jennifer whispered back. “It must be what Susan was talking about.”

Nathalie was about to reply when Jennifer brought a finger to her lips first and then to her ear. Nathalie nodded when she heard Morris start questioning Beck.

“Lindbergh had a small army stationed here. Why?” the General asked.

The Colonel shrugged.

“I told you everything I know. I guess we’ll find out about the rest soon enough.”

Jennifer was surprised that the two men were apparently unaffected by the carnage around them.

“I want him arrested,” Morris said.

“Sure,” Beck came back before taking a phone-looking device from his pocket and whispering the right instructions to the microphone.

“Dunbar… did he know?” Morris finally asked. Jennifer thought that his words sounded like those of someone who felt betrayed.

“I’m not sure he knew the details. He didn’t need to.”

“Plausible deniability, I guess,” Morris came back.

The conversation was interrupted by a sudden commotion coming from within the building. Jennifer tensed. For an instant, she thought that Nicole had finally shown up, having ambushed the men inside what seemed to be the main building of the complex.

It was soon evident that that was not the case. There was a sense of urgency in the men’s yells, but not one of immediate danger. They were calling for them to make haste to the basement.

When Morris and Beck broke into a trot, Jennifer glanced at Nathalie and they both followed. They had to stop when they got through the main door and into was undoubtedly a lab. The scene outside felt mild in comparison to the slaughter that had happened there. Equipment and walls were painted red and a collection of deformed bodies filled the area. Oversized red footprints led to an open door and to the stairs beyond.

Jennifer sighed in disgust and followed the men, hurrying down the metallic steps until Nathalie and she reached the landing, deeper underground than they would have expected for the substructure.

They were welcomed by the sight of more bloodied corpses, which was starting to become disturbingly usual. And then, her eyes settled on the body that stood out.

Its bulky frame, the definition of its muscles and the voluptuousness of its curves, the dark tan of its skin… they left no doubt. And yet, it was so hard to believe.

Jennifer could see that Morris and Beck were in a similar state of shock, ignoring the rest of the butchery and focusing on the hulking dead woman that was lying face down in the center of the room. The soldiers were standing in a circle around her, none of them getting any closer, almost as if expecting all of this to be an elaborate trick to ambush them. And yet, the pool of fresh blood around her frame left no doubt.

Jennifer did not ask for permission as she got beyond the General and Colonel and their men and knelt by the body. Along with Nathalie, she was the only one in the room really able to check the corpse out, so she did, bringing a hand under its chest to turn it over and make it lie on its back.

There was a collective gasp when everyone saw Nicole’s face, considerably disfigured by the wide orifice in her forehead.

“Fuck,” Jennifer muttered.

She knew she should probably feel happy. If anything, Nicole had had this coming. And there was no doubt in Jennifer’s mind that the world would be a much better place without her around. And still, she could not prevent feeling somewhat disgusted at the sight.

“How?” she then asked.

Colonel Beck was standing next to her, holding some sort of weird rifle in his hands, inspecting it with curiosity. It felt heavy, at least to him.

“Rail gun,” he said.

“Did they kill her with that?” Jennifer asked.

Beck shrugged.

“Looks like it.”

She then asked the key question:

“Who?”

There was silence. Nathalie broke it, a few seconds later.

“Where’s Susan?”

Jennifer felt a coldness rising inside her. Her mind was trying to catch up with the events, helping her understand why she had not felt instantly happy at the sight of Nicole’s dead body. Because, after all, the former lawyer’s death meant much more than just that. It meant that they could all be killed. And it meant that Susan was in danger.

She stood up, suddenly fueled by a sense of urgency.

“Let’s go find her,” she said to Nathalie, who turned, starting to head towards the stairs.

“Ladies!” a commanding voice snapped, making them both turn around. It had been Morris.

Jennifer threw a questioning look at him.

“We’ll explore the premises as a team,” Morris said in the same way he would have addressed any of his soldiers.

It may have worked with Jennifer the day before. Not anymore. She narrowed her eyes as she replied:

“You do whatever the fuck you want. We’ll do the same.”

“You will obey orders, young lady!” the General snapped back.

Jennifer looked straight into his eyes, locking her gaze on his.

“Or what?” she asked.

The stalemate lasted for what felt like forever. The General finally looked to the side, to see that none of his men was ready to act.

“Thought so,” Jennifer said before turning away. “Nat, let’s go!”

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

General Arthur Morris was furious. How dare the fucking oversized bitch challenge him like that? Of course, the worst of it all was the fact that he was perfectly aware that he could do nothing about it, at least not immediately. The fact that she seemed to know it too made the entire situation even more humiliating.

This mission had already started on the wrong foot, and even when he was standing next to the proof of its success, he could not prevent but feeling cheated and overwhelmed. He now knew that no one had told him the truth ever since he had got the first call from Secretary Dunbar. And even without knowing everything, it was evident that they had fed him to the lions.

Even the corpse of Nicole Keilani failed to lighten his mood. Twelve hours ago, this would have been all he would have needed to consider his mission accomplished, but things felt very different now. Something did not add up. And he desperately needed to find out what.

A hand on his shoulder took him out of his train of thought and made him look to the side. Colonel Beck seemed to be signaling him to calm down.

“They can’t do any harm,” he said in a calm tone.

Arthur Morris took a step back and looked down at the shorter man, questioningly. The man smiled wryly and went on.

“Either Susan Simpson is dead somewhere else in the building or she is already hundreds of miles away. What’s the harm in them finding out on their own?”

“You seem very sure,” Morris asked, hating Beck’s mysteriousness.

“I am. There is something missing in here: Keilani’s killer. A railgun is one of the few things that are effective against the girls, but it is hardly an easy weapon to handle. Whoever killed Nicole either caught her off-guard or had help. But there is no way they would have been able to take care of Nicole and Susan at the same time.”

“So?” Morris asked.

“So, unless the attackers ambushed Susan somewhere else at the same time as they killed Nicole, the only other option is that Susan helped them.”

Morris quickly got it. The understanding only managed to make him more wary. Nicole was certainly their main target, but the fact that her death remained a mystery could be an even bigger issue than the bitch herself. One thing was clear: it had not been Lindbergh’s men. They were all dead.

Morris thought it was unlikely that Susan Simpson would not have been with Nicole Keilani when the Hawaiian stormed the lab, but if that was true, then Beck’s theory seemed to be the only one that made sense. And still, it was hard to swallow. Having the nerdy redhead join Keilani had been a major blow, but even after that, no one had really considered her a real threat beyond executing the former lawyer’s plans. Everyone had been certain that Nicole was the brains of the duo.

But unless they found Susan dead somewhere else in the small base, Beck was right that the only other option that made sense was that Susan had helped whoever it was that had downed the monstrous Polynesian.

Morris did not like surprises. He did not like having Susan Simpson suddenly become his main target. And he did not like the mysterious appearance of a new player in the game.

“You seem to have made your mind up already,” Morris said to Beck.

“Look around,” the smaller man said, opening his arms as he moved them in a circle, showing the lab to him. Morris noticed just then.

“There’s equipment missing,” Morris said.

Beck nodded.

And then, the General understood. He felt a cold shiver run down his spine.

“Roark?”

“It’s the only possibility,” Beck replied dryly.

“Fuck!”

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

Jennifer hurried up the stairs first and crossed the bloody lab an instant later, ignoring the corpses there as she pushed a metallic door out of the way and climbed another flight of stairs, getting to the second floor. Nathalie was right behind her.

The fact that Nicole was dead was starting to sink in, but she could not focus on it in the way the news deserved. Not when Susan might be hurt. Jennifer wished with all her heart that that wouldn’t be the case. The teen was certainly troubled, but she knew that she was not bad. Without Nicole’s influence, she could be reasoned with.

Her sensitive ears caught the muffled moans almost as quickly soon as she reached the landing of the second floor. She stopped, looking at Nathalie, who shrugged and pointed to a door at the end of the corridor. Both women hurried there, the floor shaking as they moved their heavy frames down the aisle.

Jennifer pushed the door off of its hinges and rushed into the room, almost expecting to find Susan there. She did not. The momentarily relief faded away quickly as she realized what she was looking at.

“Oh my God!” Nathalie whispered behind her as she got into the room and was faced with the same scene that she had seen an instant before.

The room was long and extended all the way to Jennifer’s left, ending in wide windows. They were strangely open. Beds lined up on both sides of the space, sixteen in total. There was a woman lying in each of them. They had been the source of the pained moans, even if some were in such a bad state that they could not even produce a noise.

Jennifer did not need to be a doctor to know that they were all dying. She turned to look at Nathalie, who was in a better position than her to judge the situation. She was clearly appalled.

“Oh my God!” the nurse repeated.

Nathalie pushed Jennifer gently aside and crouched over the first bed, taking a closer look at the woman lying in there. She had to be in her late twenties, but it was hard to make a good guess. The woman looked like a corpse, the skin sunk to her bones, the muscle practically gone.

She opened her mouth, but even with her enhanced hearing, Nathalie could not hear a sound. She reached out for the metallic folder at the feet of the bed and opened it. Her eyes opened wide as she read through it.

Jennifer was getting increasingly shocked at the situation. Nathalie then read out loud.

“Subject 214-f. Female, Caucasian, 28-years old. They didn’t even bother with a name…”

Jennifer was beginning to understand what was going on here, but she refused to accept it. Nathalie kept reading to herself until she found what she was looking for.

“The subject responded well to radiation package Alpha-26. Package Beta-32 caused an accelerated rejection reaction, faster and more virulent than any other patient so far. Recommend analysis on cancer evolution. Potential insights into how to accelerate the Phoenix process in successful subjects. Jacob Sully.”

Jennifer felt her blood begin to boil. She took a look down the room, to the sixteen women dying in there. She noticed that one of the beds was empty, the one tagged 214, but this hardly made a difference. There were fifteen human beings in there, fifteen women that had been used like guinea pigs by Sully to try and replicate the process that had enhanced her and the other girls. Jennifer had known that the slimy scientist was amoral, but she would have never thought him capable of what she was witnessing.

She was charging down the stairs before she knew what was going through her head. The Spec Ops soldiers raised their rifles as she pushed her way into the basement once more, closely followed by Nathalie. General Morris looked at her and arched an eyebrow.

“Where is Sully?” she demanded.

It was Beck who replied. He pointed to a headless corpse to his left.

“There.”

The realization that the person responsible for what she had just seen was dead calmed her down, but only a bit.

“And Susan?” she asked, suddenly realizing that the officers seemed to know what was going on.

“Gone, for all that we know.”

So, she was safe? This was a relief for Jennifer, but also helped her focus even more on the events that had shocked her so much.

“Lindbergh!” she then muttered.

Colonel Beck seemed to understand. The man always seemed to be a step ahead of everyone.

“I know, Jennifer. We’ll take care of him.”

It should have been enough. Knowing that General Lindbergh would finally face judgment for what he had done should have been enough. It was not. Not for someone that had been capable of sanctioning the horror she had just witnessed.

“No!” she replied, her voice so loud that it forced the men in the room to cover their ears. “I’ll take care of him!”

And then, Jennifer turned and rushed back to the ground floor, Nathalie following behind. She did not exchange a word with any of the surprised soldiers in the courtyard before she broke into a sprint. She was heading back to Fort Exeter. Back to Lindbergh.

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

Susan woke up when the first rays of sun filtered through the tall windows of the barn. Memories of the previous night immediately came to mind and made her rush into an alert position, clenching her fists.

The voice at her back was both serene and strong.

“Calm down. We’re as safe as we can be.”

She turned to see the relatively small figure of Doctor Eva Roark, sitting in an old armchair, legs crossed in a calm demeanor.

Susan stood up, feeling heavier than ever as she did so.

“How… how long I was out?” she asked, afraid of the answer.

“Don’t worry. It was barely a couple hours. We’re at least five hundred miles away from Fort Exeter and there’s no living thing within ten miles of us. Relax. We’re safe.”

“I feel tired,” Susan admitted. It was the first time in a long time that she’d felt like that.

“It’s an effect of the extra dose. Or at least, I think it is. There is no way to know, really. Not until we set up the lab, at least.”

Memories of the night after The Hole started becoming clearer. Susan finally stood up and walked to the half open door of the barn, finding the military truck she had carried outside. She then remembered something else.

“Where is she?”

“In the house. She’s stable. Getting stronger by the minute.”

“Awake?”

Dr. Roark shook her head.

“It’ll be some days before that happens. But she’s going to make it, Susan. Thanks to you.”

Susan felt a moment of relief. And then, she realized something else.

“You could’ve killed me. You could’ve killed us both,” she said.

Dr. Roark finally stood up from the battered armchair and headed in her direction. It was weird to see the woman in Spec Ops gear rather than her usual two-piece and white coat. She looked slimmer. And stronger.

“How many more times do I need to tell you that hurting you is the last thing I want?”

“What do you want, then?” Susan asked, her question making her realize that she had chosen her without really knowing her intentions.

It had all seemed clear, once Dr. Roark had put her between a rock and a hard place and had forced her to choose between Nicole and her. Her brief conversations back at Fort Exeter suddenly made sense, the scientist having taken the few chances she had had to show herself to her. Susan had also got to know Nicole’s true self. She wanted to be thankful to her for having freed her, but deep inside she knew that she was merely a tool for her ambitions. And it was precisely Nicole’s ambitions that scared the hell out of her. It had only taken her a couple of days to conclude that the former lawyer wanted to see the world burn.

She did not know Dr. Roark well, but it was obvious she was not a psycho. She did not know what she was, though.

The scientist smiled warmly and said:

“Come. Let’s go visit our guest. We can have a chat later.”

She stood up and headed to the door. Susan followed. Her muscles felt stiff, the same way they felt the day after running a half-marathon before the Flare. Dr. Roark seemed to notice.

“Your body is changing. It already has, in the two hours you were sleeping. I guess the pain is normal.”

“You didn’t sleep?” Susan asked.

“Someone had to stand watch,” the smaller woman replied with a shrug.

Susan had never realized that she looked so sharp before. The woman had to be in her forties but was in an amazing physical condition. At least, for a normal human.

They walked the path to the old farmhouse in silence. It was obvious it had been abandoned for a long time.

“Where are we?” Susan asked.

“Wyoming.”

Susan remembered running, carrying the military truck they had loaded with the equipment and supplies the scientist had selected. They had avoided roads, but that had barely been an issue. Dr. Roark always seemed to know the way.

“How did we end up here?” Susan inquired.

“I grew up around these parts. There’s a lot of places like this one.”

“Won’t they know that?” Susan asked, suddenly wary of the ability of the military to track them.

“Come on, I’m not that stupid!” Roark replied with a smirk. “My hometown is two hundred miles east. Even if they think about looking, there’s no way they’ll link it with this place. I did my homework.”

As with Nicole, Susan felt a moment of stupidity, realizing that the other woman seemed to have everything planned and she seemed to be there only to do as she was told.

Dr. Roark pushed the door to the house open and stepped in. The old wooden floor groaned as Susan followed, the planks cracking under her enormous weight. The floor seemed to hold, in any case, so she went on. They reached the living room soon enough. The girl was lying on an old couch. An IV connected her right arm to a large bag of transparent liquid that was sitting on the table. Susan could see several similar bags on the floor.

She walked towards her, feeling relieved when she noticed that she looked quite a bit healthier than just a few hours before. Of course, she remembered the girl. She had saved her from being raped what felt like ages ago, even if it hadn’t even been a week.

“Do you know her name?” Susan asked, realizing that she’d never learned it.

Dr. Roark shook her head.

“Sully didn’t keep anything that could link the patients to who they had been. I checked the Santa Isabel police records for the day you saved her, but her case was never reported. My guess is that Dennis’ men took her directly to The Hole.”

Susan clenched her fists, feeling her blood boil at what Lindbergh, Sully and their men had been able to do for months. Sully was dead. But Lindbergh was not.

“She looks good,” she said, trying to move her mind away from the thought.

“She’s consuming nutrients at a pace I’ve never seen,” Roark replied. She already went through a full bag. Her body is gaining mass at an accelerated pace.”

Of course, Susan understood what was going on.

“Will she become like me?”

Roark nodded.

“She doesn’t seem to be suffering,” Susan finally said, remembering the thirteen weeks of hell she had gone through.

The scientist shook her head.

“I’ve been going through Sully’s notes, even if I still have a lot to read. As far as I got, you girls seemed to develop several different types of cancer at the same time you were going through the Phoenix mutation. It was that mutation which saved you from dying. Sully seems to have found the exact type of radiation that resonates on ready patients. As long as we keep her fed, she’ll be alright.”

Susan felt good for the girl. She didn’t wish the type of suffering she had gone through on anyone. She looked at her again. She couldn’t be much older than she was. Her girlish face was attractive, framed nicely by long dark blonde hair. She was slender, the loose lab gown barely hinting at some curves. Of course, that was going to change in a big way. Susan found herself trying to guess her name. The fact that they had tried to erase it from all the documentation was just further proof of how inhuman Sully and his team had been. She was happy he was dead, even if she wished she had killed him herself.

She should have killed the girl’s rapists too. If she had, instead of delivering them to the men from Fort Exeter, the girl might now be living a normal life back home.

Dizziness overcame Susan suddenly. She found herself dropping to a knee, her kneecap breaking through the wooden floor as she tried to hold herself steady with her hands.

“Susan?”

“I… I…” she tried to say. “I’m… hungry.”

She collapsed to the floor, the world suddenly turning dark.

 *=*=*=*=*=*=*

Most people at Fort Exeter had been wary of the girls ever since Nicole’s first appearance on TV. But even if they hadn’t, they would have moved out of Jennifer’s way when they saw her rushing through the main gate first and then through the wide corridors of the main building, heading straight towards General Lindbergh’s new office. She was closely followed by Nathalie, and the expressions of neither of the two gave anyone good vibes.

They stopped in front of the door, a couple of guards separating them from it. They looked up at them, the one to their right swallowing hard as they realized that things had suddenly become very fucked up for them.

Never before had Jennifer been so rough when addressing someone, using her physical appearance to intimidate.

“Get out of the way. Or else.”

Deep inside, she knew that the poor bastards had nothing to do with Lindbergh, that they were just grunts carrying out orders. But she was too furious to reason. They gave her the ultimate excuse when one of the men, close to a nervous breakdown, reached for his side arm.

Jennifer reached out, setting a hand on each men’s shoulder. She pushed with her fingers, getting pained screams from both and preventing the soldier that had reached for his gun unholstering it. Still, she was mindful not to be harsh enough to break anything. A second later, she pushed them down on their knees, dominating them with the same ease with which she had forced the guards at the Petrenko estate to submit.

“Jen,” Nathalie whispered, worried about her roughness.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”

The men were kneeling, and not precisely of their own volition. Jennifer enjoyed her superiority for a couple more seconds. Then she pushed them to either side, sending each guard flying for over thirty feet before they landed, bruised but not seriously hurt.

Nathalie sighed, relieved. Jennifer nodded to her, as if to tell her that she was still cold minded enough not to hurt those that did not deserve it. Lindbergh, of course, was not in this group.

Jennifer kicked the door, breaking it off of its hinges with ease, and crouched to move through the door frame, entering the considerably small office and surprising Lindbergh behind his desk.

“Watson?” he asked, trying to make some sense out of the situation. She had not imagined that he would not know what was going on, but it seemed that Morris had really kept him out of the loop.

“We’ve been to The Hole. We’ve seen what you’ve been doing in there!” Jennifer bellowed; her voice was so loud that it forced Lindbergh to cover his ears.

There were a few seconds of uncomfortable silence. Then, General Lindbergh shrugged and replied with a simple:

“Oh, that.”

Jennifer was taken aback by his reaction. Then, she observed the man’s expression and realized what it was. He did not give a shit! She understood there were many layers to this. He did not give a shit about the girls he had tortured and killed. But he also did not give a shit about her finding out and being mad about it. And then, she got it. He thought he was above everything. He thought he was untouchable. He had discarded her reaction as a temper tantrum from one of the girls he had been cheating for over nine months. And Jennifer could not take it anymore.

She took a step towards the oak desk and, without warning, slammed her fist down on it, breaking through the heavy wood spectacularly and splintering the apparently robust piece of furniture into a thousand pieces.

The change in Lindbergh’s expression showed her that he had finally got it. Fear was building up. She did not let it peak before she reached out and closed her fingers around the man’s throat, lifting him a couple of feet off the ground as if she were holding a rag doll.

She brought the now panicked man closer to her, her deep blue eyes locking into his from a distance of mere inches. Jennifer did not remember ever having felt a rage like this in her life, not even when she had confronted Nicole. The Hawaiian had been a monster, but in her eyes, Lindbergh was worse.

“You cheated us, used us, tested on us. But that wasn’t enough, was it? You needed more subjects, didn’t you? Who the hell do you think you are? God?”

Lindbergh was clearly terrified now. It was the first time Jennifer ever saw him like this. It suited her well. And reinforced her in her purpose. She saw that he tried to reply, but his voice was barely a faint whisper, since her fingers were squeezing his windpipe way too much.

“Su… Sully?” he finally managed to say.

“Dead!” Jennifer snapped back. “The son of a bitch was already missing a head by the time we got there. Too bad I couldn’t do it myself. Fortunately, I have you!”

“You … don’t understand,” Lindbergh managed to let out. Jennifer unconsciously released her vicious grip a bit to let him talk.

“Oh, I think I finally understand now. Nicole was the worst kind of bitch, but she was right about you!”

“Progress… requires sacrifice…”

“How come people who think like that never sacrifice themselves, though?” Jennifer barked back.

“The country…”

“No country is worth an innocent life!” Jennifer yelled, causing the windows in the office rattle and making Lindbergh lose the hearing in his left ear.

“Stop!”

A yell in Jennifer’s back made her turn, holding Lindbergh’s body with ease. There were four armed men at the door, their automatic rifles aimed at her. Could they really be that stupid?

“Is this a joke?” she asked.

“Please, ma’am. Set the General down.”

“Get out of here before you get hurt!” Jennifer snapped.

“Ma’am, we must insist. Please, set the General down. General Morris is on his way. He’ll deal with him appropriately.”

Jennifer was noticeably upset.

“Nat?” she asked.

Her friend moved from her position, on one side of the office, and stood directly between the men and her.

“Please, go away,” Nathalie asked politely.

Jennifer could feel the tension but could not see the details, her friend’s titanic body blocking her view. Nathalie then took a step to the front. The deafening sound of a rifle’s burst filled the room. She was not the least concerned about Nat. She was perfectly aware of the effect conventional weapons had on them. Still, Jennifer could not understand how the men could be so dumb.

Nathalie moved faster this time. She saw her taking care as she pushed the men out of the way, sending them flying out of the office with way less force than she was capable of. Fifteen seconds later, it was over. The guns were bent into unnatural shapes and the men unconscious.

Nathalie then turned, shrugged and arched an eyebrow.

“What are you going to do?” she asked, nodding in the direction of Lindbergh.

Jennifer sighed.

“You know, I hadn’t thought about it. All I could think of, coming here, was that I wanted to get my hands on him. But now that I have, I’m convinced that he needs to die.”

“Are you going to do it?” Nathalie asked, sounding moderately surprised.

“Who else?” Jennifer replied. “I’ve never met anyone that deserved to die so much. Not even Nicole.”

“That’s not what I asked,” Nathalie said.

Jennifer felt her friend judging her.

“We can’t let him go, Nat,” she tried to justify herself.

“So, you’re an executioner, now?”

Jennifer felt stabbed by the comment.

“Are you going to stop me?” she asked, sounding nervous.

“You’re a grown girl, Jennifer. And you’re right, he deserves to die. It’s not him I want to save. It’s you.”

“Jennifer!” a new voice caught her attention.

Lindbergh tried to say something as she turned, but Jennifer fixed that by simply closing her fingers a bit tighter around his throat. She found herself facing Dr. Elena Campos, who judging by her panting, had ran all the way to the spot.

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Jennifer protested.

“I know what you want to do,” Dr. Campos said.

“You don’t know what he did,” Jennifer replied.

“I do. Beck called me. He filled me in. You know I despise him, but even I could never imagine that he would go so far as to do what he did.”

“What’s the problem then?” Jennifer asked in a defiant tone.

“This isn’t you,” Campos said.

“Someone needs to do it,” Jennifer replied, shrugging.

“Morris knows what he did. He’ll be court martialed. He’ll be punished.”

“That’s not good enough. No punishment will ever be able to compensate for a fraction of what he did,” the amazon replied.

“So, what do you want to do?” Campos asked.

“Well, if everyone stopped interrupting me, I’d be able to make my mind up!”

“You can’t do this!” Campos protested.

“You’t stop me!” Jennifer yelled back, sending the doctor to her knees with her hands on her ears.

“Jennifer!” a new voice joined the conversation. She was about to lose her nerve when she recognized it. A second later, Kyle showed up at the door, behind the now pained Elena Campos.

Suddenly, all the rage, all the boldness, all the certainty faded away. Jennifer felt judged. And she felt mean. She hadn’t remembered that her lover was at Fort Exeter. The sight of him was powerful enough to take her out of the mad trance she had got into.

“Kyle,” she said, unsure.

“What are you doing?” he asked, looking appalled.

Jennifer suddenly found the need to explain herself, to justify her actions.

“Lindbergh… he and Sully had kidnapped dozens of girls and were testing on them. They were killing them!”

Kyle’s expression changed, but only momentarily.

“He deserves to pay for that,” he said.

His comment reinforced Jennifer in her belief, but only for an instant, as Kyle went on:

“But you’re not the one that needs to make him pay.”

“He’ll get away with it if I don’t do it!” she tried to come back.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t. Everyone knows what he did now. There’s no way he can sweep this under the carpet,” Kyle said.

Jennifer could not reply. She could feel tears starting to well behind her eyes. She was confused.

“You’re not a killer, Jen. You’re not a vigilante, or an executioner. That isn’t the girl I fell in love with. The girl I love wouldn’t be able to kill someone and live with it afterwards. I can’t stand here and watch you doing this to yourself.”

Jennifer was on the brink of crying.

“He can’t get away with it!” she said.

Dr. Campos had already recovered from her previous outburst and was standing next to Kyle.

“He won’t. I promise,” she said.

Jennifer was about to break.

“Promise me!” she pleaded.

“Jennifer, I promise you that he won’t get away with it,” Kyle said. “If he does, I’ll kill him myself. But not you. You’re better than me.”

She finally burst into tears, dropping to her knees and releasing Lindbergh, who immediately collapsed to the floor.

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

“Beck is working to bury all this underground. The secondary base was very secluded. The women made a fine mess, but we should be able to keep that hidden from the public. All they’ll know is that Watson and Baptiste helped us in an operation to hunt Keilani down and that they restrained her for long enough to have one of the weapons we had ready for events like this kill her. With the bitch’s corpse to show, no one will think about sniffing for hidden bases or secret research projects,” General Morris said to his interlocutor on the phone.

“You will not do that,” Secretary of Defense Dunbar said on the other side of the line.

“What?” Morris asked, genuinely surprised.

“It’s time to put all this to rest,” Dunbar said.

Morris understood what he meant.

“Sir, you know my opinion on the women, but Jennifer Watson and Nathalie Baptiste were instrumental in saving the lives of my men in the assault on Petrenko’s estate. They’ve put themselves in the line of fire for us.”

“They didn’t kill Keilani,” Dunbar said.

“Of course not, but we thought about reinstating their reputations…”

“The President wants to end this. And he wants to end it now. We won’t show a corpse. We’ll show three. And the message that we can kill these women, so that Susan Simpson will soon no longer be a threat.”

“I understand,” Morris said.

“Arthur, they cannot be controlled,” Dunbar said.

“If it had been me, I would’ve killed Lindbergh. The son of a bitch never had any moral compass, but what he did this time crossed every line!”

Dunbar did not reply for a few seconds. And then, Morris understood. Lindbergh’s actions had been sanctioned. He had to exert all his self-control not to explode.

“Where is Lindbergh?” Dunbar finally asked.

“In the infirmary, heavily guarded. The girl didn’t kill him, but he’s certainly hurt. And shocked.”

“I’ll send a military police team to bring him to DC,” Dunbar simply said.

Morris could not believe what he was hearing.

“You’re not going to save him, are you?” he asked.

“He’ll answer for his actions,” was Dunbar’s response.

“I see,” Morris said, knowing that he was not going to get anything else from the man.

“The President wants them dead in twenty-four hours, Arthur,” Dunbar said, changing topic. “Please, keep me posted on progress.”

And then, the Secretary of Defense hung up.

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

They did not allow Kyle to stay, but it was a small price to pay for having almost crushed Lindbergh. Jennifer was still incredibly confused, but the hour she had spent alone with her new official boyfriend in her room had worked wonders on her.

It was curious, but in twenty-four hours her life had changed even more than in the year after The Flare. Nicole was gone. Sully was gone. Lindbergh was out of the picture. And by extension, this meant that the Initiative as she had known it would be gone. She still did not know what would become of her life, but she now knew who she was. And she now knew what she wanted.

She wanted to be with Kyle. She wanted to live a normal life, whatever that meant for a woman like her. She wanted to use her new strength to help. But she also wanted to be respected. She knew she had a long way to go, especially after the way Nicole’s actions had shocked the world and turned everyone against them, but she was more than willing to work her way out of that pit.

And she had Kyle. He was easily the best thing that had happened to her in her entire life, pre and post-Flare. And even if it had been barely a week since he had met him for the first time, after all they had gone through, she knew he would always be there for her.

Before the Flare, men had only seen her as a pair of boobs and a round ass. She had become a popular freak after the Sun had decided to change her forever. Kyle saw her differently, though. He understood her. He knew who she was deep inside. And he made her a better person.

There was no way Jennifer was going to sleep. There was so much she had to think about! Like what to do with the rest of her life. So, even if it was four in the morning, the faint hissing sound found her awake. It would have probably gone unnoticed by someone else, but her hearing was way too keen to miss it.

She was surprised. It did not take her long to identify its source in the small ventilation shafts above the door. She had never noticed they were there until now. She thought about standing up and checking them out, but her limbs suddenly felt incredibly heavy. Two seconds later, Jennifer’s eyes closed, and she was put into a deep and dreamless sleep. 

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

Susan woke up to the sound of a fly. She didn’t even have to open her eyes to move her left hand swiftly and capture the insect between two fingers. She opened her eyes to find it batting its wings frantically. Somehow, she had managed to find the right balance between catching the fly and not crushing it.

“Good morning,” a deep voice said. Susan didn’t need to turn to identify the heartbeat and breathing three steps behind and slightly to the left.

She opened her fingers, letting the panicked insect fly away and turned, her eyes opening wide when they set on the fresh-looking figure of Eva Roark. She was dressed in the same dark, tight-fitting clothes, but she looked refreshed.

“I figured I would take a shower and sleep too. After all, with you out, there wasn’t much I would have been able to do if they had managed to find us,” the older woman said. Susan wondered, once again, how she had managed to guess her thoughts and provide an answer in advance to her question.

“How long?” Susan asked.

“Twenty-four hours,” the scientist said. “You went through more bags than I would have ever thought possible too.”

Susan looked around her to find what looked like two dozen transparent IV bags scattered around her. They were empty. That wasn’t the only thing she found out, though. What surprised her the most was how the wooden tiles of the floor seemed to have sunk around her. She then looked back at Roark and realized that she looked different.

“Oh my God!” Susan said.

Roark chuckled.

“My exact first words,” she said.

Susan didn’t know why, but she stood up in a rush. It was a bad idea. Her head went through the ceiling even before she noticed it was fast approaching. By the time she was standing at her full height, her eyes were looking at an abandoned bed on the second floor. She crouched right away, getting back to the first floor, a thin cloud of dust raining from the new hole.

“Fuck!” Susan said, her eyes setting on Roark. She was sitting on an old couch, biting an apple and chuckling.

“Easy girl!” she said in a mocking tone.

“What the fuck?”

“Why don’t you follow me outside, and I’ll fill you in? Watch out; the house is abandoned but I’d love to stay here for a few days,” Roark said.

Susan remained crouched as she followed the scientist outside. The wooden floor sank noticeably as she moved her heavier body with care. She had to drop to her knees by the time she reached the door, breaking through more of the planks before finally getting to the courtyard. Being able to stretch to her full height was certainly welcome.

It was not until then that Susan realized that her attire had suffered the consequences of her transformation as badly as the house. Her tight-fitting shorts had become nothing more than a thong while her top was now merely a very skimpy push up bra. Her heart accelerated at the realization. By now, what had happened to her was already obvious. Still, she turned abruptly, gazing down to find Eva Roark standing next to her. Her head was barely level with her encroaching thong!

“Oh my God!” she said again.

“Surprise” Roark said.

Susan could not believe it. She had listened to everything Sully had told Nicole before getting into the X-ray-like device. And she had asked Roark to explain it again to her after she had fixed the machine. They both had said that by the time she was done, her previous amazon self would look as different as her formerly scrawny body had looked to her after waking up at Fort Exeter.  But she had not been ready for it. Now she knew what they had meant.

She had been fit before, each of her muscles highlighted in a fat-less body. It was even more extreme now. Her build was still more that of a fitness model than a bodybuilder, but it would have been hard to find any imperfection in her towering figure. Her breasts had moved from practically non-existing before the Flare to amazing to basically impossible. Susan could not believe that they stood out so much from her chest, and that they stood so erect. Realizing that she seemed to have total control over her body, she flexed her chest muscles, moving each massive tit in a separate direction. More of the bulletproof fabric her top had been made of shredded as she did so.

It was not until then that Susan noticed that the changes were not limited to her physique. Her sight and hearing, which had been outstanding already were at a different level now. She noticed that she could sense everything that happened around her, her mind filtering the parts that were less interesting.

“How is this possible?” Susan asked, looking down at Dr. Roark.

“How was your previous condition possible?” the scientist asked. “You girls are revealing aspects of human nature that we couldn’t even dream about. As far as I know, this isn’t your limit. Your body is ready for more. Sully simply didn’t have the right equipment to put any more juice into you.”

Susan knelt with care, bringing her face closer to Dr. Roark, even if she still towered over her. She used a soft tone.

“How strong have I got?”

“I don’t know. To the point where it’s hard to imagine, I guess.”

“It feels weird,” Susan admitted.

“Of course it does. Turning into a Phoenix was weird too, wasn’t it?”

“Why?” Susan then asked.

Strangely enough, Eva Roark didn’t seem to know what she was referring to. She shrugged, so Susan completed her question.

“You could’ve tried the same stuff you used with Nicole. At the very least, you didn’t need to make me into this. Why?”

“I have a plan,” Roark finally admitted.

“You never asked for anything in exchange,” Susan said, in a tone that suggested that there was nothing Dr. Roark would be able to do to force something out of her.

“What’s the point in extorting you when I can convince you?”

The conversation was interrupted by a strong vibration. Susan had no problem finding its source in Eva Roark’s pocket. The scientist reached inside and produced a cell phone.

“A phone?” Susan asked.

“Untraceable,” Dr. Roark replied as she guessed, once more, what was going through her head. “One of the perks of my previous job.”

Roark did not waste time in sliding her finger over the screen of the phone. Susan immediately recognized the nervous voice on the other side of the line. What the hell was Elena Campos doing calling Roark?

“Elena,” Eva Roark said. “Have you reconsidered my proposal?”

What proposal? This was the first news Susan had received that both women got along with each other and had discussed a potential agreement. What was going on?

It turned out that Dr. Campos was not calling regarding whatever proposal Eva Roark had made to her. Her words came out rushed. She was practically stuttering.

“They… they’re going to kill them!” the doctor that had saved Susan’s life finally said.

“What?” Roark replied, genuinely surprised.

“Morris gave the order. As far as I know, it came from the top. They knocked them out with gas. They’re bringing them to the lab now. They’re going to execute by midday!”

“Why?” Roark asked. “They led the assault on Petrenko’s!”

“I don’t know. You have to do something, Eva. They have less than two hours!”

“I’ll go!” Susan said, not realizing how powerful her voice had been until Eva Roark dropped the phone and brought her hands to her ears.

Dr. Campos’ voice came out of the terminal.

“Susan?”

She was more careful with her tone, this time. She still sounded powerful as she said:

“Yes.”

“Morris has mobilized all his men. They have railguns and tasers. They’re ready for you, Susan!”

“Believe me, they’re not!”

And with that, Susan stood up.

“Susan, stop!” Dr. Roark said, making her turn.

“Don’t waste your time,” Susan replied.

“Don’t worry, I know better than to try and convince you not to go. But since you’re heading to Fort Exeter, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you for a minute.”

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

“Why is it taking so long?” Secretary Dunbar asked. It was obvious that he was upset. And nervous. General Morris imagined that the man was receiving a similar type of pressure from the President.

“They’re not easy to move around, in case you hadn’t noticed,” he replied more sharply than would be advisable when talking to a direct boss. He didn’t care anymore. He would carry his orders out, no matter how much he disagreed with them. But once this was over, he was done. He couldn’t find a reason to keep serving after everything he had learned over the last twenty-four hours. Executing the two girls while he had had to witness how Owen Lindbergh was escorted to an unknown location where he would probably escape the consequences of his actions had been too much. Arthur Morris was a not a saint. He had demonstrated his fair share of ruthlessness over his career. But there were still some lines he would not cross.

“The President’s speech in Congress is in two hours!” Dunbar said.

“Don’t worry. You’ll have the pictures you’re looking for by then.”

“Very good,” the Secretary of Defense came back sharply.

Just then, a loud alarm started blaring.

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

The guards on the main gate were momentarily stunned by the sonic boom. Susan had easily doubled the speed of sound as she rushed towards Fort Exeter, covering over a thousand miles in barely forty-five minutes. She stopped dead in her tracks, the shockwave sending the feeble guards flying backwards as the guardhouse was shred into pieces. Susan realized that she had already caused her first victims. She did not give a shit.

Her heavy, sculptural body made the ground shake mildly as she advanced towards the base, the first line of defense now lying scattered around. More soldiers soon came out of the main building and rushed towards her. Susan saw them hesitate when they realized how she’d changed, but they resumed their charge soon enough. She just advanced, quickly inspecting the dozen or so men as they finally stopped and got ready to fire.

Their weapons looked conventional enough, and Susan soon felt the barely noticeable taps along her anatomy as bullets bounced off her harder than diamond skin. How was it possible that they were still shooting at her with mere automatic rifles? That wouldn’t have worked against her even before her latest change!

She stopped, placing her hands on her hips as she let the men shoot at her with everything they had. A few more soldiers joined the fight while she remained idle, proving to be as sorry and unsuccessful as the first group.

A loud whooshing sound filled the area a few seconds later. It took the soldiers some time to realize that Susan was inhaling deeply through her nose. The branches and leaves in nearby trees started waving as a result of Susan’s effort. She just kept going. Soon, birds started dropping from the sky, the abrupt change in pressure having left them without enough pull. Susan simply continued, bringing hundreds of thousands of gallons of air into her superhuman lungs, compressing it with their unfathomable strength.

Then, she stopped and pushed her lips out. No one was ready for what came next. The Phoenix girls had been public knowledge for some time already. By now, everyone was ready to see them shrug bullets off or to accomplish amazing feats of strength. No one could have ever imagined that one of them would be able to unleash a hurricane from her mouth.

Susan’s breath came out harder than any wind that had ever been recorded on Earth. It caught the soldiers an instant later. They were not simply pushed back. Their bodies were sent flying with such force that a few even cleared the grounds of the base. Some were not so fortunate and were pushed into buildings with such force that their bodies splattered. By the time she cut her breath, her path towards the main building was clear.

Susan could not deny that finding out just how damned powerful she had become was a thrill. She felt no remorse for the soldiers she had killed. Not when they were all working together to end the only two lives she cared about.

She resumed her walk towards the entrance. Soon, higher caliber bullets hit her again. As far as Susan cared, they could have been showering her with daisies. She stopped when she felt something different hitting her in the forehead. Susan narrowed her eyes as whatever she had been hit with bounced off her skull, its impact way more noticeable than anything else she had felt before.

She quickly found the projectile and crouched to pick the deformed metal rod up. A second one hit her in her temple an instant later, making her turn in the direction of her attacker. She immediately found a team of two men holding a heavy-looking and bulky gun and aiming to get a third shot. The weapon reminded Susan of the one Eva Roark had used to kill Nicole, but this one was larger.

Dr. Roark had warned her about the type of weaponry she would find. She had also been positive that none of the gadgets her team had produced would be effective on her after her latest transformation. She had been right on both counts.

Susan did not have time to waste, so she simply diverted her path to a nearby tree and dug her fingers in its heavy trunk. It only took her a slight pull of her ultra-fit arm to uproot the bulky oak, lifting it over her head as if it had been a balloon.

The men on the roof realized her intentions right away. There was nothing they could do before she tossed the fifty-foot tall tree in their direction. It obliterated them before it kept going.

Susan had been special before. And she was so much more than that now! The world presented to her in a different way as her eyes, ears and nose captured every subtle detail, zeroed in the faintest sound, sniffed the mildest trace of a smell. Her muscles felt so powerful that she could not imagine where their limit would be. The coordination between her limbs and her senses was so accurate that she felt as if she would be able to hit a fly a mile away with a pebble.

The enhancement had come with a massive physical change, in many ways even more pronounced than her first transformation after the Flare. Susan could feel the ground shaking as she moved, could see how she now dwarfed the world with her new imposing stature. She didn’t mind. Not anymore. Her doubts, her anxiety after she had first woken up were gone. She had already accepted what she was. And she now knew that she was not a freak. How could anyone call her that when she was so utterly superior?

Susan now knew what she was. She had not asked for it, but she was the next stage in humanity’s evolution, a leap so massive that she was now convinced that it had the potential to change the fate of the world. And she was not going to apologize for it. Quite the contrary.

She reached the main gate in no time. Either because there were no more men left or because they had already learned their lesson, she was not interrupted. The heavy blast doors looked way less impressive than the last time she had stood in front of them. Almost as a game, Susan extended a finger and set it on one of the thick metal plates. She only had to flex the last segment on it to rip the armored door off its hinges, opening a wide enough path for her to enter the building.

A platoon of soldiers was waiting for her on the other side. To Susan they barely looked like toddlers disguised as infantrymen.

“Get out of my way and I’ll leave you alone,” she offered with her hands on her hips.

She got her answer almost right away, when a dozen taser-like guns shot in unison, the projectiles they shot impacting several spots of her enlarged anatomy. Of course, Susan knew what they were. The weapons looked exactly the same as the ones Nicole had been hit with when she had joined her, not even an evolved version of them. She could soon feel the currents coming from the tips of the thin cables, but they didn’t even come close to being annoying.

“I gave you a chance,” Susan said sadly before puckering her lips and unleashing another hurricane. The change in the corridor’s pressure was so brutal that the men were not only thrown backwards at high speed. Their bodies were obliterated in the process. Susan merely registered them as another group of necessary victims to accomplish her mission.

She was not bothered before she finally reached the lab. Its door couldn’t even resist for a fraction of a second as Susan kicked it out of the way and crouched to get into the spacious room. Her eyes quickly scanned it, finding what she had come for.

Jennifer and Nathalie were lying on heavy-looking motorized stretchers. A mask was over their mouth and nose, connected to a large cannister that was attached to a pole on the side of the carrying bed.

There was a group of white coated men standing around each of the girls. Susan recognized a few of them, but none seemed to be important enough for her to associate a name to them.

It was easy enough to see the monitors showing that both of the girls were alive and had a steady pulse, so Susan gave herself enough time to scan the rest of the room and set her eyes on the group at the back. The tall man in the General’s uniform could only be Morris. She was surprised that Lindbergh was not there, but as far as she knew he had been kicked out of command by the man she was now setting her eyes on. He had a couple of panicked-looking aides. And then, there was Campos. She was not scared. But she was clearly in shock.

“Elena,” Susan called, taking her out of her trance. The doctor looked up at her. “Come here.”

Dr. Campos needed a few seconds to react. When she finally did it was to ask:

“What happened to you?”

“I told you Sully was still testing on us. This is it,” she said, running her hands along her semi-naked anatomy.

“Are you alright?” Campos asked.

“I’m better than alright. Now, come here,” Susan insisted.

“She’s a freak!” one of the white coats said.

Susan was deeply annoyed by the comment. Then, she realized that she didn’t have to tolerate it. Not anymore. She turned in the direction of the offending man and spat. Her dense saliva covered the distance in less than a second and pierced through the man’s skull, making it explode and sending his headless body to the floor.

Screams erupted around the lab. Susan just shrugged.

“Silence!” she said, raising her voice enough to make everyone cover their ears. When she was happy with the results, she added: “Elena, come here!”

There was a combination of challenge and fear in Dr. Campos’ eyes when she looked up at her.

“Or what?”

Susan sighed.

“I’m not going to hurt you, Elena. No matter what. You know that. It’s for your own good.”

“The Susan I knew would never have killed anyone,” Dr. Campos protested.

“The Susan you knew had not seen how these men here had used hundreds of women as guinea pigs for their experiments. Including herself.”

She could tell from Campos’ look that she knew what she was talking about.

“What are you going to do?” the doctor asked.

“I’m here to save Jennifer and Nathalie. And to put an end to this hellish place once and for all. Are you going to help me?”

Elena Campos kept her gaze fixed on Susan’s. And then, she took a step to the front.

“Campos!” the man in the General’s uniform said.

Susan quickly stepped between the doctor and the man. Elena looked up when she was at her side, dwarfed by Susan’s new towering body. She was both amazed and spooked.

“Wake them up!” she then commanded to the white coated men now cowering as far away from her as possible.

“Don’t do it!” the General commanded.

Susan twitched her nose and moved towards him. To his credit, the man remained still. So, it was easy for her to crouch and reach for his armpit with her massive hand, lifting him like a rag doll as she stood back up. His deep blue eyes met hers without flinching.

“Whatever type of authority you think you have, you don’t,” Susan said.

He simply keep meeting her gaze.

“Are you really so eager to die?” she asked.

“I don’t care,” the man said with a steady voice.

“Susan, don’t,” Campos said behind her.

She turned and looked down at the little woman.

“He gave the order to kill them,” she said.

“He’s not Lindbergh. He didn’t want to do it,” Campos said.

Susan arched an eyebrow and looked back at the man.

“Whose order was it, then?” she inquired.

It was obvious that the man was debating whether to respond or not. He finally snapped back:

“Go to hell!”

Susan narrowed her eyes and said:

“No, you do.”

The man’s screams filled the room a second later as she started closing her fingers around his chest, shattering ribs into powder with the ease of a little girl bursting bubble wrap.

“I’ll find out, anyway,” Susan said an instant before the life extinguished from his eyes.

“Susan!” Campos screamed.

She looked down once more and said:

“After all I’ve seen, I can’t find it in me to be merciful. Not anymore.”

Then, she turned to the white coated men as she tossed the mangled remains of General Morris to the side and said:

“Now, wake them up. Or that will look gentle in comparison with what I’ll do to you.”

Susan was happy to see them hurrying to do as they were told. Crossing the room to an empty stretch of wall, the amazon sat down, resting her back on the metallic wall and making it groan. Looking at Campos, she beckoned and said:

“Come, we have some catching up to do.”

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

Jennifer’s body felt as if it was going to explode when she finally started to regain consciousness. Not even her wildest hangovers had felt so bad. It took her some time to adjust to the light and realize that she was not alone. Three different pairs of eyes were looking at her.

“Nat,” she whispered as she saw her comrade’s gentle face. Nathalie looked anything but relaxed. She pointed to the source of her unrest with a movement of her pupils. Jennifer followed the queue to see a wary Dr. Campos and… Susan.

The sight of the redhead pumped adrenaline into her bloodstream and helped her react, sitting down abruptly. She was in a lab. As far as she knew, it was a lab at Fort Exeter. And there was no one else but the three women that had been looking at her while she transitioned from unconsciousness.

It took her a couple of seconds to realize what was wrong. And then, all she could see was Susan’s massive figure.

“What… the fuck?”

“You’re welcome,” Susan said, sounding both sarcastic and way more secure than she had ever sounded before.

“She saved us, Jen,” Nathalie hurriedly filled her in.

Jennifer looked around and immediately found the two dozen corpses. Judging by their state, there was no doubt about who had killed them.

“It was needed,” Susan said, noticing what she was thinking.

“They were going to kill us,” Nathalie said.

“What?”

“They drugged us. They were getting ready to poison us,” Nathalie said.

“How… Why?” Jennifer asked, her attention suddenly diverted from the burst bodies in the room.

“Orders,” Dr. Campos jumped in.

“Whose orders?”

“As far as I know, the President,” Campos replied.

Jennifer felt the headache building up again. This was too much information to process in such a short time.

“What happened to you?” she finally asked, looking at Susan.

“I told you Sully was still testing on us,” the redhead said.

“You… you didn’t need to kill them!” Jennifer finally said

“Yes I did,” Susan replied with a shrug. “This place needs to be shut down.”

“You can’t kill any more people!” Jennifer protested.

“I can. And I will.”

“I won’t let you!” Jennifer let out.

“You can’t stop me Jen. I’d rather you didn’t try.”

“What the fuck is going on here?” Jennifer finally let out.

“I called her,” Campos finally admitted.

“I wasn’t going to let them kill you,” Susan said.

“I’m not going to join you,” Jennifer said.

“You don’t need to. You only need to get off the radar for a while,” Susan said.

“For a while? Then what?” Jennifer inquired.

“You’ll know.”

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