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The Phoenix Intiative – Chapter 16

Written by papayoya1 :: [Saturday, 02 January 2021 17:12] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 02 January 2021 18:47]

Chapter 16

Senator James McCullen could not take it anymore. He felt the glances of his colleagues as he stood up and headed for the door. He could sense how they had all lost their courage, but he would be damned if he was going to accept the orders of some oversized bimbos.

The two girls standing in his way when he reached the door at the end of his aisle looked insultingly young. He also had to acknowledge that they were good looking like every Phoenix girl had proved to be. In a way, it was as if whatever had transformed them had made the most out of their original anatomy to make them look alluring. Dressed in their ridiculous tight-fitting black two-pieces with a red phoenix painted on them, they left nothing to the imagination.

He hated the sarcastic look on the blonde girl to his right as he looked up at her eyes, which were a couple of feet higher than his.

“Can I do anything for you, Senator?” the girl asked, sounding mocking.

“We have been here for over an hour. This is getting ridiculous!”

“If you say so,” the blonde replied. Her tone made his blood boil.

He raised his voice, partly because of his anger, but partly trying to attract the attention of his colleagues.

“You cannot keep us here like cattle!”

“We can. You are here, aren’t you?” the blonde girl replied.

“I am a United States senator! I will not be told what to do by a stupid blonde bimbo! I demand to talk to whoever is in charge!”

The girl did not even change her expression. James barely had time to react as she reached out with her left hand and he felt her powerful fingers grabbing a fistful of his shirt. He immediately brought his hand to them, but there was nothing he could do to stop her from lifting him a couple of feet in the air and hold him right in front of her piercing gray-blue eyes. All his courage was gone in an instant as she narrowed them and smirked.

“I have a Ph.D. In Biology. Probably more relevant than that, I possess enough raw strength to toss you into the next county. When it comes to you, I am the one in charge. And if you were referring to whoever is above me, let me just mention that she was very explicit about the fact that we did not need to keep everyone alive. So, would you please accept that you are powerless and get back to your seat? Because if you keep breaking my balls, I will not simply kill you in one blow, as I did with some of the brave men you camped outside Congress to protect you while you bunkered here. I will start breaking bones one by one, and, at some point, I’m going to tear you in two.”

Senator McCullen did not realize that he had wet his suit pants until the girl set him back on the carpeted floor. Just at that moment, the floor started shaking noticeably.

“They are here,” the girl said in a soft tone. “Get back to your fucking seat!”

He obeyed, thankful that at least whatever it was that that was going on had diverted his colleague’s attention from him and to the podium.

If the blitzkrieg on Congress had been shocking and the experience with the blonde girl appalling, the next moments were simply mind-blowing.

The doors to the right of the podium opened. James had been through them several times and knew just how tall they were. So, seeing the redhead girl stooping to get through them was astonishing. He quickly recognized her, the only one of the oversized girls that he could associate with the Phoenix project back at Fort Exeter. She was Susan Simpson and he vaguely remembered her as the youngest and less likable member of the group of women transformed by the Flare. She was changed, though, and not only physically. She looked way less innocent and much more determined. And, in a way, she also looked fiercer.

Despite the distance, James understood that the redhead was in a different league than the blonde girl that had just scared the hell out of him. His mind was not ready to understand the magnitude of the difference though. It would soon have some assistance when a man walked into the vast chamber just behind her. He seemed reluctant, but the senator soon understood what had pushed him. It was no other than two other women, as large and magnificent as Susan Simpson, even if he did not recognize them.

He did recognize the man a moment later, though. His jaw dropped when he saw Adam Tatum, looking insecure for the first time in his life, dwarfed by three wondrous women.

There was no way Susan Simpson would fit into the tight space where the podium was located. She did not even try. Keeping her head high and her piercing green eyes fixed on the awestruck audience, the amazon walked to the front of the presidential area and stood proudly, speechless.

President Tatum looked way less regal as he was pushed forward by the second woman, a young blonde. He ended up immediately in front of the redhead. James McCullen’s jaw dropped when he could finally understand the sheer scale of the three women that had just stepped into the room. Adam Tatum was not a short man by any means and still, standing next to Susan Simpson, he could barely make it as high as her navel!

“Oh my God!” he muttered.

The blonde girl he had just faced had given him the creeps, but the women at the front of the hall were much more staggering. Tatum looked like a deer caught in the headlights as the other two towering women advanced, flanking the redhead on either side.

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

The old Susan would have been overwhelmed. After all, she was standing in front of five-hundred members of congress, their eyes glued to her, their attention undivided. But the old Susan was gone.

It had not happened overnight. It had been a long journey. But her destiny now appeared crystal clear to her, as if there had never been any other option. Her natural skepticism had been suspicious of Eva’s intentions almost right away. But, self-serving as the woman’s advice might have been, she had to acknowledge that the mysterious scientist had been true to her word.

Nicole had to die. She had known this almost since the moment she had joined her. Eva had resolved that for her. She had also given her a way out of the cul-de-sac her life had got into ever since her transformation. Susan had realized almost as soon as Nicole that the Initiative was deeply corrupt. She had not had the boldness of the Hawaiian to escape. She had decided to join her as a way to move things forward, but it had soon become evident that partnering with a psychopath was hardly a better option than being treated like a lab rat. Eva Roark had solved that for her. And she had then saved her life when she had fed her through her second transformation, the one that had made her realize that her destiny was in her own hands. A destiny she was now going to seize.

Susan looked up and saw the looks of puzzle and fear in the faces of the representatives and senators. She could also see the pride in her women’s expression. And she felt more determined than ever to do what she had to do.

President Tatum stood in front of her. She felt nothing but contempt for the man. Intolerant, misogynist, homophobe, and xenophobe, he represented everything she despised in person. And yet, Eva had been right that he could still serve a purpose.

They had known that the man’s initial acceptance of their request was no guarantee. They still had to try.

“President Tatum,” Susan said in a loud voice that reverberated in the vast room.

The man turned and looked up at her. She could see the hesitation in his eyes. What they had asked was simple, really. He only needed to publicly yield his power to her and he would be allowed to live. Over her last two very intense years, Susan had learned that things were seldom this easy when it came to people like Tatum. One thing was agreeing to the terms back in the safe room and the other was doing what he had to do in front of every member of Congress.

“It’s time,” Susan demanded.

Tatum met her gaze, then turned to look at the rest of the crowded room. She could feel his resolve crumbling, notice his pride fighting back, his arrogance rejecting the agreement they had made. All he had to do was kneel and accept her authority. And, as much as she hated his guts, she would respect the terms of their deal.

His fists were closed tightly, his teeth clenched. And finally, the man turned, spat on the carpeted floor, and let out a soft but audible:

“Fuck you!”

Susan had killed many people already. It was an unavoidable consequence of the path she had chosen. Different than Nicole, she had not enjoyed any of the deaths she had caused. Some had been easier to deal with than others, though. Tatum’s was going to be among the easiest ones.

Susan did not even reply to him. The amazon drew her arm slowly. She almost enjoyed it when she saw the look of terror in the President’s eyes. It was too late for him to mend his mistake, though. She barely held back as she backhanded him. There was no scream, the man was dead on impact. There was a sickening crunching sound as his guts exploded an instant before his body was sent violently across the room. Tatum’s corpse hit the wall thirty feet over the floor and splattered, turning into a crimson stain.

The reaction in the room was almost immediate. Susan could see Eva gesturing through the corner of her eye. The fifty women they had posted at the entrances of the large chamber stepped in and easily controlled the uproar in the crowd. For all their protests, none of the congressmen wanted to confront one of the girls openly. They now knew what was at stake. Susan kept her expression neutral, even if she could not prevent but being fascinated at the difference in power, at the ease with which her comrades were dealing with the politicians. If she had had any doubts, what she was seeing would have reinforced her beliefs.

Susan waited, as did Madison and Eva, while the rest of the Phoenix women contained the senators and representatives and ultimately drove them back to their seats. It took over twenty minutes to regain the necessary silence. The last murmurs were dying when Susan decided she had had enough and said:

“Listen to me!”

She had intentionally raised her voice to a volume close to the threshold of pain. She could see several congressmen bringing their hands to their ears. She suppressed a smile. It had been, of course, on purpose.

“Adam Tatum was given the chance to live. A chance he hardly deserved. Let this be proof of our generosity. And let his fate be a lesson for all of you,” she said.

Susan could feel the tension in the room, but at the same, there seemed to be no sympathy for the recently deceased President. She could understand it, of course. After all, the man was as despicable as it got.

It was time to let the five hundred men and women in the room know what they intended. The world would learn it at the same time. Every camera in the room was trained on her. With her shyness gone for good and her resolve stronger than ever, Susan prepared to change the course of history.

“Two years ago, a solar eruption hit the West Coast. You know it as the Flare. It killed half a million women. It did not kill me, though. To me, it did something else. The pain lasted three months. Excruciating pain, a pain most of you in the room would not be able to endure. And when the pain was gone, the old Susan Simpson was gone too. I was someone else. I was transformed. Only, at that time, I did not realize what it meant,” Susan started, telling a story most people in the room already knew.

“You locked me. You treated me like a glorified lab rat. And when the time for PR came, you brought me out like a trained dog to rescue people from the rubble. And all along, you were secretly looking for ways to get rid of me while you killed dozens of other women in an attempt to replicate what had happened to me,” the stated in an angry tone, feeling the tension rise in the room, as well as some surprise. She realized that many among her audience knew that what she was telling was the truth, though. It only made her angrier.

Susan took a deep breath and kept her eyes locked on the audience.

“If there is one thing that I regret is that I let you do this to me for way too long. I was confused. I was scared. And you took advantage of me,” she said, getting angrier. “You treated me like a freak, like something less than a human. You made me hate my life. But this is over. I have finally understood what I am. And I have finally understood my place in the world,” she said.

The murmurs in the room preceded the climax in her speech.

“I am the first generation of what new humans will be. I am better than you,” she finally said. Thuds and loud murmurs filled the room. She ignored then and simply raised her voice, forcing those in their seats to shut up.

“We are stronger, faster, more resilient. We are smarter. We are the seed of the new humanity. We are the future. And we will no longer be ashamed of our superiority. You tried to use us. You then tried to kill us. It is time for us to claim our rightful place in the world,” Susan said.

The chaos in the room started growing. Susan decided to change the pace.

“I wish there had been an easier way to make our claim. I wish we could have avoided the deaths on both sides. The last two years have taught me that you don’t understand anything other than overwhelming force, though. I sincerely hope that you have learned the futility of opposing us. It will make the coexistence easier. And believe me, we want to coexist. We have already learned what your approach to living together is, and it doesn’t work. So, now we are going to try ours. And we are ready to use any means necessary to impose it.”

Her last words generated some surprise in the room. Also quite a bit of anxiety.

“I can promise you one thing: we will treat you more fairly than you have treated us. But we will push our agenda forward. If you cooperate, I can promise you a fair deal. Please, don’t force us to look into the alternative.”

She ended there. She could see the satisfaction in the faces of the girls. The same could not be said of the congressmen and congresswomen.

“Now, Dr. Eva Roark is going to detail some of our first measures. I encourage you to listen to them with a spirit of collaboration.”

Susan stepped to the side and let Eva take the center. She felt proud. And she felt sure. Two years ago, she would have never been able to talk to anyone like she had, even less to the two houses of Congress. But a lot had changed in that time. And she had finally found her place in the world. She listened to Eva in the background while she imagined the future. A future that she would shape.

“…the Cabinet is dissolved. Susan Simpson will take full Presidential powers. I will be the new Secretary of Defense. United States Armed Forces are instructed to obey commands only from Susan Simpson and me. Local and State governments will remain in place, under the authority of the new Federal government,” Eva was saying.

Susan could see the puzzle in the faces of the congresspeople. They obviously did not like what they were hearing, but they also did not know what to do about it. It was probably the first time in their lives they felt like that.

“… in order to facilitate the necessary transition, the state of siege is declared across the country. It includes curfew from seven in the evening until seven in the morning for any non-Phoenix. We will try to keep this general restriction of individual freedom as short as possible. We will present a new constitution and new legislation within the week. They will differentiate the rights and obligations of humans and phoenix…”

Susan kept listening to Eva in the background as she focused on the evolution of the fear in the congresspeople’s faces. It evolved from something primal, very related to their own well-being into something quite more elaborate. Most of them were beginning to understand it. She almost felt sorry for them. Almost.

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

Colonel Raymond Beck had always been in good shape. Still, following the pace of the woman leading the way was proving to be hard, especially now that they were already walking up the slopes of Capitol Hill. The fact that he knew that she was not even forcing her pace made it even more frustrating.

“You should have let me carry you. We could have saved half an hour!” the young amazon complained.

As imposing as she was with her eight feet of height and her incredibly toned muscles, Naomi still sounded more cheerful than threatening when she addressed him. He knew that Eva’s former assistant was anything but dumb, but she had a way of talking that made her look shallower than she was.

Of course, letting the woman carry him like a package had never been an option. He had let her know as soon as Eva’s long address to both houses of Congress had finished and Naomi had informed him that he was expected there. Eva’s assistant had insisted a bit, but she had not forced the situation, so they had walked the two miles instead, attracting the glances of the shocked crowd as he followed the wake of the awe-inspiring woman.

“Is Eva in a hurry?” Beck let out, a bit upset.

“Raymond, darling, she just took over the country. And the next thing she wants to do is to talk to you. What does this tell you?” Naomi replied.

He did not reply, just kept following her tracks. What the fuck did Dr. Eva Roark want with him? For an instant, he wondered if she was only looking for some boasting, but it was not like her to do that. Besides, they had ended their relationship in good terms and had kept helping each other after that.

The idea that he was dangerous to them had crossed Raymond’s mind a few times. After all, he had spent the last months investigating what he now knew was a very elaborate plan to create an army of superwomen large enough to take the country by storm. But any threat he could have posed was gone once they had landed their strike. He was now as worthless as the rest of the army that had unsuccessfully tried to stop them. Besides, Eva was not the type to make his execution unnecessary long and ceremonial. If he had been too much of an issue in their plans, he would not have sent her cheerful assistant to pick him up. He would have met someone else, and he would already be dead.

But then, what?

His thoughts were taken away from the reasons behind his mysterious place in the spotlight when they reached the area where the bulk of the battle had been fought. Having been in the military for his entire adult life, Raymond had been considerably more appalled by the images he could see on TV than the average watcher. For most people, the scene felt taken out of a sci-fi movie, but Raymond was very aware of every death he could witness through the screen at his living room.

Still, seeing the aftermath live was even more shocking. Corpses littered the area, mostly dressed in army’s green camo, even if the oversized body of a scantily clad amazon could be seen every now and then. Upturned and crushed vehicles completed the macabre scene, including a few columns of smoke where the fight had led to some type of explosion.

Naomi seemed to feel his change in mood. She changed her usual lively tone by an almost apologetic one.

“I’m happy that I was sent to pick you up,” she said, shrugging.

Of course, he understood. Naomi was not relieved by not having had to face a life or death situation. She considered herself lucky because she had not had to kill anyone herself. Raymond had always liked the girl. And he knew she was being truthful. And still, he was feeling mean.

“So, you’re happy that someone else did the dirty work for you?”

Naomi narrowed her eyes and turned, silent. She pushed her pace a bit faster, forcing him to almost break into a trot to follow her. Raymond knew he might have been unnecessarily harsh, but he was too outraged by what he was seeing around him to care about anyone’s feelings. And to him, Naomi was part of the party responsible for the horror that had been unleashed around his country’s center of power.

She did not say anything else to him. She just led the way through Congress’ main entrance, exchanging some information with the girls that had been posted at the door. How many of them were there? The images on TV had been explicit enough to let him know that Eva had built an army, but they had also been shaky and narrow enough to hide the big picture of what was going on.

Raymond had already seen a few girls patrolling as Naomi guided him up, and now he could see that there were many more of them inside the building. Adding up the oversized corpses on his way, the figure was quickly adding up to more than a hundred. How in the hell had Eva managed to do it? And how was it possible that no one had had any type of warning?

A couple of girls were standing in front of about a hundred very defeated-looking soldiers in the corner of a large hall, in a grotesque picture of a prisoners of war scene. Naomi did not stop and just keep walking deeper into the building.

Now being here, Raymond’s mind shifted back to Susan’s speech and then to Eva’s long exposition of how things were going to work from now on. The woman he had seen during that speech reminded him much more of the woman he had been dating, but she had also scared him more than he had ever thought possible. Maybe both things were related.

Naomi stopped in front of a pair of massive wooden doors, even if she even managed to dwarf them with her imposing stature. She looked more serious than she had been most of the morning when she looked down at him, but she did not look upset. If anything, she felt a little hurt.

“We have arrived,” she said plainly.

“Naomi…” Raymond replied, suddenly feeling a little guilty, even if he also felt stupid for it.

“You’ll understand. I hope,” she said. And then, she simply turned and left, leaving him there.

She did not bring him inside. She did not even open the door. No one was looking at him. He could have fled and no one would have cared. But he was just too intrigued by what he would find to do that.

He had probably been standing motionless in front of the door for over a minute by the time he decided to reach out for the knob. No one had bothered him during that time, no one had asked him who he was. No one seemed to be concerned that he could be dangerous. Being who he was, this alone made Raymond understand the sheer magnitude of the change that was going on.

Raymond finally opened the door to the massive office. If he was not mistaken, it used to belong to the Speaker of the House. And, despite its sheer magnitude, it was practically dwarfed by the woman sitting on the far side.

Eva was sitting on the thickly carpeted floor, back rested on the wall, one leg stretched while the other was flexed, knee raised.

“You took your sweet time, Ray,” she said.

It was the same voice that he remembered, with the same hint at sarcasm that he remembered, talking with the exact same intonation that he remembered. There was no doubt that the woman he was now sharing a room with was Eva Roark. But she was incredibly different, at the same time.

It did not only have to do with the size, although her scale made a huge difference. But the change had gone further than that, starting by the fact that she looked like a twenty-years younger version of herself. Raymond had always found Eva Roark mysteriously beautiful. And there was no doubt that she took great care to keep in shape. But what he was seeing now was another league.

“Like what you see?” Eva said in a mischievous tone, running her hands along her torso.

Raymond finally reacted.

“Did you bring me here to flirt?” he asked.

Eva’s wholehearted laughter filled the room.

“Of course not. But I’ve been stuck with younger girls ever since this happened, and I’ve been dying to brag about my new boobs,” Eva said. “I thought that you, of all people, would appreciate them.”

“They match well with your new height,” Raymond said.

Eva laughed again.

“Why don’t you come closer? I don’t bite,” Eva said.

Raymond was about to let his rage about the dead soldiers out but managed to control himself at the last moment. If anything, self-control was one of his strong points. Both reluctantly but intrigued, he walked slowly across the room, stopping a couple of paces before reaching Eva’s stretched leg. He was awestruck when he noticed that she was practically as tall as him while sitting.

“Why did you ask Naomi to bring me here?” he finally asked. There was no point in delaying the real conversation.

“We had not seen each other since Fort Exeter, but I know you’ve been looking for me, so I thought we could catch up,” Eva said.

“Why?” Raymond insisted.

“I have an offer to make,” Eva finally said.

“What if I reject it?” Raymond asked.

“You still don’t know what it is… but answering to your implicit question, nothing. You are free to go anytime you want. No one will touch you. Today or ever,” she said.

“You used to be afraid of me,” Raymond said, sounding somewhat hurt.

“Oh, I was. You scared me as much as you turned me on,” she said.

“The feeling was mutual, I guess,” Raymond replied, shrugging.

“You almost got us, you know? You were the only one that got close enough. Cross wanted you removed. But I guess I have more feelings that people acknowledge.”

“I failed, though,” Raymond said. “I can’t do anything now, can I?”

“No. Today was the tipping point,” Eva said.

“To what?” Raymond asked.

“Intrigued, aren’t you?” Eva replied with a question.

Raymond nodded and she went on:

“About my offer… I value your talents. Very much.”

Raymond understood.

“I won’t work for you!” he replied, maybe a bit too harshly.

“A pity,” Eva said. “But I was not expecting you to switch sides.”

“Then what?”

“A common interest, I hope,” she said. He arched an eyebrow before she added: “Lindbergh.”

He had to admit that he had not been expecting that one.

“What about him?” he asked.

“I want him. Or to be more precise, I want Susan to have him. The girl deserves some closure,” she said.

“So you can keep pulling her strings?” Raymond asked.

Eva’s expression changed, but only for an instant. Raymond could see that he had hit a nerve.

“You’ll see the leader in her soon,” she simply answered.

“So, she’s calling the shots?” he came back, chuckling.

“I’m offering my advice, but I’m not running the show, Ray. I never did. You know that.”

“I also know that you always had a plan in the background,” Raymond said.

“That, I have,” she admitted.

“Care to tell me?” Raymond asked, sounding sarcastic.

Eva did not reply. Instead, she just folded her legs and then started standing up. It was a hell of a show, seeing such a large creature moving with the grace she did. By the time she was fully stretched, her head was practically scratching the ceiling. Raymond swallowed hard when he saw that he barely came level with her deep belly button.

He realized that it was all meant for the show when she moved down again, kneeling in front of him in a sensuous position and bringing their eyes level again. Her massive hand then reached out. Raymond’s first instinct was to jump back, to avoid contact. He managed to refrain from that, though. Her humongous palm was soon caressing his cheek with a delicacy that felt impossible.

“I could tell a business associate… but I’m not sure I should break my secrets simply to an ex-lover,” she said.

“You want Lindbergh that bad?” he asked.

“He deserves anything that happens to him. You know that.”

“I don’t know where he is,” Raymond finally admitted.

“But you can find him. If anyone can, that’s you. Naomi will help,” she said.

“I don’t need an oversized assistant looking over my shoulder. This would only close doors down,” he observed.

“Are you accepting the job, then?” Eva asked with a smile.

Raymond never replied. But for everything that mattered, they had a deal. This made him feel entitled to change gears:

“How long had you been planning this?”

Eva smiled, knowing what this meant.

“Can you believe that I improvised?”

“That would be a first,” Raymond said.

“Sometimes you have to play with the cards that are dealt. I realized what Nicole Keilani was after. And I had to make a choice.”

“What was she after, then?” he asked.

“This,” Eva replied, running her hands along her body again. “And she was very close to get it. Can you imagine the type of living hell the world would have become if she had become so unstoppable?”

“So, you took it for you instead? Kind of a self-serving way to save the world, don’t you think?” Raymond said.

“Well, even you will have to acknowledge that it’s better to have an unstoppable cold bitch than to face an unstoppable sadistic nymphomaniac. Did you ever know that Nicole was turned on by violence?”

Raymond just exhaled, so Eva continued.

“The thing is… I could not stop them both. I did not have a ton of time, and no matter how much I thought about it, I could not find a way to eliminate Nicole without at least the acquiescence of Susan. Sully’s chamber could weaken them, but never kill them off completely. And, at the rate they recover, I could not bring Susan down before Nicole would have been back on her feet again. I had to bet on Susan.”

“So, how did that go? You asked her to help you kill Nicole and you would give her an army instead?”

Eva chuckled.

“Nah… being faced with the choice suddenly opened my eyes,” she said.

“Open your eyes to what?”

“Nicole had to die. But, why Susan?”

“If I’m not mistaken, she had already killed over fifty people by then,” Raymond said.

“Let me ask you a question: if we had treated her fairly, how many people do you think Susan would have killed?”

Raymond swallowed hard.

“See?” Eva said, smiling. “The only reason we wanted to kill her was that she was not fond of being treated like shit. Not a very strong argument, in my opinion.”

“This would sound a whole lot like Stockholm’s Syndrome if it were not so self-serving,” he said.

“Would you believe me if I told you that by the time I made my bet for Susan I still did not know if I was compatible with the process to replicate the Flare?”

“I’ll admit it’s not the easiest thing to believe in the world,” Raymond said.

Eva ignored the answer and went on.

“By letting me kill Nicole, Susan proved to me that she had a moral compass. She could tell right from wrong. And she could think by herself. So, I knew right away that I had not made a mistake.”

“I’m curious…” Raymond said. “When did you decide that this made her worthy of an army so that she could unleash terror in her country’s capital?”

Eva chuckled.

“Shortly after, as a matter of fact.”

Raymond arched an eyebrow. She went on.

“You accuse me of being self-serving,” she said. “And you know, I think you are right. But you still cannot admit that your views here are highly biased by your own position,” she said.

“This is promising…” Raymond let out, every time more involved in the conversation, almost to the point of ignoring Eva’s threatening presence.

“You tend to forget that Susan Simpson is a person too. I am a person. We are human,” she said.

He was taken by surprise.

“What the fuck are you saying?” he let out.

“You judge us for what we are doing to humans that look like you, but you conveniently ignore what humans that look like you did to Susan and the other girls. Our system was doing it to her only because of what she was. She had the right to look for herself. You consider what was done to her normal only because you have the numbers, but, let me ask you: what would have happened if the Flare had turned half a million women into Phoenix in the first place? Would they deserve to have less rights than you?”

“So, since the Flare did not do it, you decided to even things out by yourself?”

Susan smiled arrogantly.

“Kind of.”

There were a few seconds of silence.

“I had had this idea in the back of my head for a few days. Then, as I faced Nicole and Susan, I realized that I could do what the Flare had not managed to do,” she finally added.

“It was always like you to play God,” Raymond said.

Unexpectedly, Eva let out a short burst of laughter.

“Oh, this would be more playing evolutionary event than God! I have no clue about what’s going to happen,” she said.

“But I’m sure you have a plan,” Raymond replied.

“What sort of well-intentioned megalomaniac would I be if I didn’t?”

“So, you decided to give Susan an army because you were feeling bad that she was all alone with all that raw strength and no friends,” Raymond said, recovering the storyline.

“Yeah, and because I realized that the world was pretty fucked up as it was. Fucked up enough that it was nearly impossible to fix.”

“So, you’ll make a new one,” Raymond said.

“We’ll make a new one,” Eva repeated, just changing the pronoun.

“How?”

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

The eighty-seven scientists working at the DARPA building we sitting uncomfortably in the briefing room, looking around to see the two accesses manned by an amazon each while the remaining nine women were gathered in a circle at the briefing area, discussing among themselves.

Suddenly, the circle broke and Dr. Cross, the woman in charge, faced the crowd. A few of the veterans in the room had worked with her. Others knew her by reputation. And everyone else had been quickly acquainted when they had seen what she and the women with her could do.

“Ok, time for an explanation. I know that you are looking for one,” she said, her powerful voice easily carrying her voice to every corner of the room without the need for a microphone.

The sound of chairs being rearranged took the room for a moment as the spooked scientists straightened up and faced the front of the large room. Dr. Cross had an arrogant smile on her face as she waited to address them.

“You are the largest congregation in the country of experts on us, so I’ll spare you the introduction on who we are. Let me just add, for those of you without the security clearance, that yes, the process can be replicated.”

She stopped and let the murmurs go on for a few seconds. She then went on.

“Anyway, we know that every single one of you has been working on ways to kill us ever since Susan freed Jennifer and Nathalie,” she said, purposefully cutting the sentence there.

Elsa Cross secretly enjoyed the brief moment of panic. She decided to play just a bit more.

“Of course, we can't have that, can we?” she said menacingly, even getting a couple of soft shrieks. “Now, it would be a waste of talent to just get rid of you, especially now that you are so well trained. Which is the reason why I will personally take over this lab and direct the research you are doing.”

The eighty-seven members of the audience exchanged looks, trying to see if any of their colleagues had figured out what she meant. She decided to clarify it for them:

“You were working hard to destroy life. From now on, you’ll work as hard to create it. You know more about our physiology than anyone. And my comrades here, are eager to get pregnant. So, time to get to work!”

There was an eruption of unintelligible reactions. Dr. Cross killed them by raising her voice:

“You will get help. By tomorrow you should have the cooperation of some of the best doctors in assisted reproduction in the country. In the meantime, we will organize you in teams. Do your job and I promise you we will treat you fairly and we will leave you alone once we are done.”

Five minutes later, the group was breaking. Everyone had been instructed to return to their main working area. Kip was trailing the main group as he moved through the door of the briefing room. He felt a shiver running down his spine when he found Erin was standing right outside, her right knee bent to rest her bare foot on the same wall where her back was.

Her eyes lit as she saw him. He felt a mix of thrill and discomfort as Erin moved from her position and headed to him, squatting to bring her face level with his. Kip had to prevent the urge to jump back as she reached with her right hand, the softness of her deadly fingers still amazing him as she gently caressed his cheek.

“Will you make me a baby, Kip?” she asked in a sensuous voice.

He nodded, even if his answer was essentially a reflex.

“You know, Kip? I’d love for it to be yours. I really hope you pass the test. I could even help you get the seed. As many times as you want!” she said in a naughty bedroom voice.

Kip had not paid attention to the last part of her proposal though. Instead, he asked:

“What test?”

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

Raymond Beck saw the brilliance in Eva’s plan. And he was disgusted by it.

“Your idea of coexistence is suspiciously similar to the concept of Indian reservations,” he finally said.

“Come on, this not a fair comparison. There are seven billion people in the world. We are hundreds,” she said.

“For the moment,” he said.

“I already told you that it is not our intention to make many new Phoenix. We will be selective,” she said.

“This is a very nice euphemism to describe genetic profiling,” Raymond replied.

“Is it that different from what colleges and top corporations are doing in their selection processes?” Eva asked.

“Colleges do not seek to enslave everyone that doesn’t make it to them,” Raymond replied.

“Neither do we, no matter how many times you repeat the contrary. We are offering you self-determination and freedom, based on a very short set of predefined agreements,” Eva said

“You mean impositions, don’t you?”

“And what if I do?” Eva replied, annoyed.

Raymond suppressed a smile. He enjoyed the fact that he had finally been able to push her buttons.

“I just thought it would be good to be precise when we discuss matters,” he said.

“You are a stuck-up bastard!” she let out.

“You called me here,” he replied, shrugging.

“Will you bring me Lindbergh?” she asked.

“I will bring you Lindbergh,” he said, getting a smile from her. “And just so you know, the second I deliver him to you I will start working in bringing this house of cards you have built down.”

“What you call house of cards is the brightest possible future for humanity,” Eva said. “And you are too smart not to see it.”

Raymond smiled sadly and said:

“Oh, I see it. And, you know what? The United States of America ended up being the greatest country in the world. But I’m an Indian. And I don’t like how it ended up for them.”

With that, he turned and headed for the door.

“Wait!” Eva said, her voice louder than it would have been needed.

Raymond looked at the oversized woman over his shoulder.

“Are you regretting your promise to keep me alive already?”

“Don’t be a smartass,” she said. “I admire your pride and sense of duty. I just wanted you to see something before you leave.”

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

“Susan wants to meet me?” Robin said excitedly. “Why?”

“They didn’t say,” the amazon standing in front of her replied with a shrug. “They just told me to come look for you.”

“Sure!” Robin replied as she followed her comrade.

She wore a permanent smile on her face all the way into Congress. It was not the first time she would talk to Susan Simpson. She had done it twice before. After all, their leader was more approachable than she initially seemed. But being called so shortly after their take over operation sparked all sorts of ideas in Robin’s head.

Was she going to get commended? After all, she had done a hell of a job with the highways, going above and beyond her initial assignment. Was she going to give her some higher profile assignment? Her heart fluttered as she got inside the Congress building, her imagination flying.

Robin had been expecting a private room with Susan, maybe a couple more girls. So, she was a bit overwhelmed when she was led into the large press briefing room in congress. Dozens of Phoenix lined up the walls, their attention suddenly grabbed by her entrance. Susan was waiting for her in front of the podium, flanked by Madison and Roark. Who was the little man standing next to the doctor?

A bit more unsure than she had been as she headed into the building, Robin stepped into the room. The flashes diverted her attention to the journalists standing at the back of the room. She could see plenty of them, and several TV cameras that were not missing any detail. The hair on Robin’s back stood on end, sensing that something was not right. The incredibly serious demeanor their three leaders had made her feel especially uncomfortable.

She did not notice the screens on the back of the room until she got closer to Susan. Every alarm in Robin’s head went off when she saw the smartphone recording of her antics on the highway playing in a loop.

Susan had never felt so threatening as the moment she stood in front of her, dwarfed by the enormity of their leader. She looked anything but happy.

“Robin Wainwright,” she said, sounding as serious as she looked. “Your actions in I-495 have been reported to us as a violation of your orders and of human rights.”

Robin panicked.

“I… I…”

Flashes at her back made her even more nervous.

“We have been able to verify at least seventeen deaths,” Susan said. “Seventeen very unnecessary deaths,” she repeated. “Witnesses have confirmed the videos.”

Robin noticed Jamie just then. She was standing closer to Susan, Madison, and Roark than the rest of the women. Her eyes locked on her comrade. She did not hold her gaze.

“Jamie!” she let out in a spike of rage.

The other woman reluctantly looked back at her. She was starting to regain her confidence after the initial shame, though.

“What you did… it is wrong, Robin!”

“I did what we were told to do!” she complained.

Another voice cut the exchange. She turned to see that Eva Roark was speaking.

“Your instructions were not to harm, much less kill innocent people. Jamie, would you care to repeat your instructions for the room?”

“We were to cut traffic out of the city. We were explicitly told not to hurt civilians in the process, except in self-defense.”

“I was shot at!” Robin replied loudly, her mind clinging to this in hope.

“It was a harmless attempt, but even so, the death of your attacker will not be taken into consideration,” Roark said. “Still, you killed at least sixteen more people.”

“You enjoyed it!” Jamie accused.

Robin was swamped by the situation.

“I… I was doing my job!” she repeated.

“Your job was not to kill people. We do not kill innocents.”

It had been Susan, this time. Before she could react, Susan Simpson reached out for her and curled her fingers around her throat, easily lifting her from the ground. Instinctively, Robin reached for her fingers, trying to pry them open. She could not move them even a fraction of an inch. Feeling powerless for the first time in a long time was depressing, but she could not focus on that feeling. She was too engulfed by fear to do that.

Her fear became sheer terror when she realized that Susan was not talking to her anymore. She was addressing the camera.

“I promised we would be ruthless, but that we would also be fair,” she said. “We will not shy away from any methods to achieve our goals, but we will not engage in torture or sadism. And I will personally enforce that.”

As she finished her words, Susan tightened her grip and Robin felt the air being cut from her lungs. It was anguishing, but it was still not immediately threatening. One of the perks of her new condition was the ability to run out for hours without oxygen, drawing only from her lung reserves. Susan knew too, of course. And this was the reason she did not stop there.

Fixing her stare with her fiery green eyes, Susan addressed her one last time:

“Every action has consequences,” she said.

Robin wanted to reply. Her neck snapped before she could even try.

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

“I told her I did not need you,” Colonel Raymond Beck said to Naomi as the amazon followed her down Capitol Hill.

“Yeah, that’s what you think,” Naomi said. “Last time I looked, we still were in a warzone, though.”

“You will slow me down,” Beck said, changing gears slightly.

Naomi stopped, which at its turn, made Raymond stop. She was looking down at him, and she did not look happy.

“Do you think I enjoy being your babysitter?”

Raymond was surprised by the sudden harshness in the otherwise gentle girl.

“I have a Ph.D. in Biology, I have been turned into an amazing woman and I’d rather be doing some conquering or world-shaping than following you around like a puppet. But Roark really wants Lindbergh, and she asked me to keep you safe until you get him for her. So, that is what I will do!”

Beck was silent for a couple of seconds. Naomi took a deep breath and resumed her talk, now calmer.

“You will be happy to know that she also instructed me to follow your orders. Within certain limits, of course. I will not get in the way. I won’t even talk to you, if you don’t want to. But I will be around, whether you like it or not,” she said.

“Ok,” was all Raymond managed to reply.

“You know I like you, Ray, but you can be the worst asshole, sometimes.”

This pushed his buttons.

“Have you really normalized genocide so much that you got to the point of getting upset when someone is bothered by it?”

The change in her expression was immediate. Raymond smirked slightly when he noticed that she had suddenly become defensive.

“This is for the greater good!”

“For YOUR greater good, sure,” Raymond said.

“We promised to be fair. And you have just seen that we meant it!” Naomi came back.

He had been expecting it. And so, he let the anger that had been building inside him out.

“Did you really expect to cheat anyone with that show you put together? Or have you believed your own lies and you really think that there was any trace of righteousness in what you did?”

Naomi was paralyzed like a deer caught in the headlights.

“So, you take a young girl who I bet was not even twenty, you give her an insane amount of power, let her out in the word and sentence her to death for behaving like she has seen her referents behave? Is discretionary justice supposed to reassure me about this little fascist society you are trying to build?”

The amazon could still not reply.

“You know? There was a time when a single person could decide what justice was, then execute the sentence. It was in the Dark Ages,” he said.

Raymond turned and kept walking. Naomi never replied as she followed. They arrived at Beck’s home forty minutes later.

“You can sleep on the couch. Or the floor,” he said.

Naomi looked down at him.

“You hate us, don’t you?” she asked.

“I hate what you are doing,” he admitted.

“Why the hell are you helping Roark to find Lindbergh, then?” she asked.

“Because in a way, all this is the old bastard’s fault,” Beck said. “He deserves whatever he gets a thousand times over.”

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

Adriana felt happy as she patrolled the streets of DC, enforcing the curfew Dr. Roark had declared earlier in Congress. The truth was that most Washingtonians knew better than to challenge the orders of the new women in charge, and not a lot of people seemed to be in a hurry to share the street with them, but there was still the occasional disoriented folk and a few annoying overconfident bastards.

The first, Adriana dealt with exquisitely, gently informing them about what was expected of them and walking them home. The latter, she enjoyed spooking, especially those that tried to hide from her taking advantage of the falling darkness and their smaller sizes. Adriana enjoyed their reactions when she surprised them, her exceedingly enhanced hearing and almost perfect night vision giving her an advantage as unfair as her own strength.

She loved it when her most recent victim jumped when he felt the gentle touch of her finger in his shoulder from his back. He had been hiding behind a corner in an alley, looking down the street she had been walking along before she had located him, and resolved to surprise him after jumping over a couple of buildings. Adriana knew better than to judge people for his appearance, but she had a hunch that he was up to no good.

She did not give him time to react before she grabbed him by the throat and lifted him a couple of feet off the ground, being purposefully harsh. She had every intention of teaching him a lesson.

“Did you hear about the curfew?” she asked cheerfully, even if her actions were much less reassuring to the man.

The man was scared. To his credit, he got his shit together soon enough.

“Set me down, you fucking bitch!”

“Be careful, squishy!” Adriana threatened.

“You cannot hurt me! I saw what the redhead bitch did to that girl!”

So, this was it? Adriana could not have more faith in Susan and the rest of the women calling the shots. And she knew that Robin had gone well beyond the line when she had killed those people on the highway. Rationally, she could not deny that she had got what she deserved. And still, deep inside, seeing one of them being executed by her own had had some troubling effect on her.

Worse than that, in her role as enforcer, she had feared that this would somehow make her job harder, and it was not because she had planned to obliterate innocent civilians. She had not had to wait too long to get her fears confirmed.

Bringing her hand to the man’s arm, Adriana closed her fingers around his forearm. The man was caught by surprise and looked up at her, as if questioning what she was doing. Adriana simply closed her hand with the force of a car compactor, turning every bone in the man’s forearm into powder. His scream could be heard for blocks.

He was sobbing in deep pain when she released his arm and said:

“My sisters and I happen to be the authority around these parts. You will recognize us for the red Phoenix symbols in our clothes or… well, because we are eight fucking feet tall!” Adriana said. “You are disobeying the law. I gave you a legitimate order and you refused to cooperate. I could rip you in half right now and I would be well within my rights. So consider yourself lucky that the worst consequence of our encounter will be that you will need help to open ketchup bottles for the rest of your life.”

The man was terrified as she set him on the ground with care.

“Now, get back into your fucking house. If I see you around one more time, I swear I will put you in orbit!”

The man was about to turn when the ground shook and he was sent off his feet. Adriana, with surer footing, did not have trouble remaining standing, but noticed the tremor as well. The man tried to recover, but the shakings continued. They went on for twenty full minutes.

“What the fuck is this?” the man cried, still in pain, from the ground. “A fucking earthquake on the East Coast?”

Adriana chuckled. She knew perfectly well it was no earthquake.

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

Susan was panting heavily as she rested her bulky frame on the grass. The moonlight filtered through the canopies of the trees, casting sensual lighting on Madison, who was sitting next to her, gently running a finger between her mammoth breasts.

“I don’t think I will ever get used to making earthquakes when I make love,” the blonde goddess said.

“I hope we did not do any permanent damage,” Susan said, still panting. “The orgasm was… wild,” she admitted, blushing slightly.

“Taking over the world can certainly be arousing,” Madison joked.

Susan looked genuinely concerned, so Madison tried to quiet her fears.

“This is the most secluded place in miles,” she offered.

There was little besides thick forest in the Martin National Wildlife Refuge. Right in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, they were as isolated as they could be while remaining at a convenient distance from DC.

“I know…” Susan replied. “Strange as it sounds, I’m still getting used to some stuff.”

“You’ll soon have to get used to being the world’s ruler,” Madison said cheerfully.

Susan did not feel as enthusiastic as Madison sounded. Her comrade and lover noticed. Having grown to know their redhead leader over the past year, she decided that today, of all days, she would not let her succumb to negativity or self-doubt.

“Come on, Suzie,” she said using a name that was only allowed to her. “Today exceeded our most optimistic expectations!”

“This is not over,” Susan said.

“We took the Government, we took the Pentagon, we took the nuclear arsenal, the major cities… what can they do?” Madison asked.

Their response came in the form of a whistle in the distance. It was so far away that it would have been imperceptible for anyone without their superhuman hearing, but both Susan and Madison turned in the direction it was coming from: up!

It all happened in seconds, the faint whistle quickly growing in intensity as the two amazons tried to focus their sight in the dark of the night. They saw the missile a second before it hit the forest, a few hundred yards north. The initial impact was not unlike that of any of the explosives they had faced before. The difference came an instant later, when a shockwave uprooted every tree on the island. The heat came shortly after. And, for the first time in two years, Susan realized that she was feeling pain.

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

Eva was awoken by the explosion, her oversensitive ears catching it way before the rest of the population in DC knew what was going on. Two of her women got into the room seconds later, while she hurriedly got dressed with her skimpy Phoenix outfit. At forty-five, she still got a bit uneasy every time she dressed in the skintight shorts and bra, a feeling that faded away when she rediscovered her astonishing figure.

“What happened? Are we under attack?”

Eva was a realist. She had known that their triumphal march the day before was far from the end of it. A country like the United States of America, the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation, would not yield so easily, even if the blow they had landed had been devastating. And still, Eva had not thought that the resistance would be so swift. If anything, she had guessed that it would take a couple of days for those that decided to oppose them to get their shit together.

“I… I think it will be best if you come to see for yourself,” one of the two women, who she identified as muscle, said.

Without time to arrange for accommodation, Eva had decided to use the Speaker’s office in Congress as her temporary sleeping quarters. It was more than spacious enough, and it lacked no comforts, once the girls had fetched her a few mattresses to pile up on the floor. They had planned to look for some more convenient place to dwell in their second day, but the sheer amount of work they had to do in their first one had been too staggering to get distracted. Taking over a country was no easy business.

Eva swiftly followed the two women, who looked more spooked than what she would have felt comfortable with. She understood the reason behind their unease as soon as she stepped through the main gate of the Congress building and saw the characteristic mushroom cloud, cast in orange light by the blazing forest fire under it.

“What the fuck?” she muttered.

Had they really gone so mad as to use nuclear weapons? And where the hell had they got them from? NORAD was theirs, they should have been able to spot and abort any nuclear launch, even one from a rogue submarine commander.

Of course, they had considered the military would be tempted to go nuclear once they realized the uselessness of conventional weapons against them. This was one of the reasons they had made a priority of taking over all strategic command posts across the country. Even more than that, Eva had relied on the fact that their initial push had mostly been focused on densely populated areas. Could this be the work of a foreign nation with fewer scruples? She needed answers!

“Find me Roberts!” she yelled to the increasing congregation of Phoenix around her.

Eva had known Irene Roberts back from her days at DARPA. Precisely because of this, she had been one of the first women she had called when she had started putting this plan together. A former colonel of the US Air Force, Roberts had decided to retire when she had reached the conclusion that she had to work twice as hard as her male colleagues to achieve half of what they got. Never one for the unnecessary show, she had decided to leave discreetly and try her luck in the private sector, where she had not had issues to get a much better-paid job at a weapons’ company C-suite.

Eva turned back and sneered at the rising column of smoke when she realized that there was something that was very wrong, leaving aside that someone had decided to use nuclear weaponry on US soil.

“Why the hell did they nuke the Chesapeake Bay?” she whispered aloud.

With her enhanced sight, she had no doubt about the origin of the smoke, and she had lived long enough in DC to know where she was looking. She would have bet anything that the location of the explosion was in the middle of the bay, somewhere in the south.

“Exactly my thoughts,” a voice said from behind.

Eva turned to look at the shorter but also impressive Irene Roberts. The former colonel responded to her questioning look with a:

“I figured out you would be looking for me. I came as fast as I could.”

“Was it the Russians?” Eva asked. Then she added: “Chinese?”

There were many more countries with a nuclear, but as far as Eva knew, very few with the ability to hit the States. Even less so with so little preparation time.

“This is not a strategic nuke. It’s a tactical one, probably from a fighter jet,” Roberts said.

Eva narrowed her eyes. She understood the implications of the piece of intelligence she had just been given. She spelled them out:

“It’s ours.”

Roberts nodded.

“I doubt whoever threw this has the feeling that we belong to the same community, but I guess that we can say that it’s ours, yes,” she said.

“Why?” Eva asked.

“I was hoping you could help me with that. Tactical nukes have a much lower yield than the big ones, but if there is something they don’t lack it is precision. Whoever shot that bomb was aiming specifically there. But I still don’t get why would anyone want to throw a nuke in the middle of a wildlife refuge,” Roberts said.

“Where?” Eva asked.

“The missile hit right in the center of the Martin National Wildlife Refuge, just north of Smith Island. And I would bet anything it was aimed there,” Roberts informed.

Eva felt a sudden chill. Turning to the group of puzzled amazons that had gathered around them, she started barking orders.

“Spread around. You need to find Susan. Now!”

“Dr. Roark?” a Phoenix girl she did not know called her from the threshold of the main door. She might have been too harsh as she turned to look at her, since she was momentarily spooked. Eva made a conscious effort to soften her features and question her with her yes. “I think you should come to see something.”

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

The White House had fallen. The Pentagon had fallen. NORAD had fallen. But General Zucker would be damned if he was going to let a collection of oversized women on steroids take over his country in fitness clothes.

It had taken him most of the afternoon to get in touch with every other unit commander at large. He was dismayed to learn that more bases had fallen than he had initially thought. He had not had any issues to convince any of the generals or colonels he had got in contact with, though. Each and every one of them was more than happy to exact retribution over the freakish women that had staged a coup against their country, and there had been little discussion about how to rebuild the chain of command.

Even without access to their strategic forces, the United States Military was a formidable war machine, and Zucker and the officers loyal to him still had access to most of it. The only hint at an argument in the entire revenge operation had been when General Andrews had advocated for a slower approach, one where they would regroup their forces and prepare them for battle with Phoenix-grade women. This did not work for Zucker. The country needed to see that they had not lost the battle against the oversized women, and it needed to see it right away.

So, when they had got verified intelligence about the location of two of their leaders, including the infamous Susan Simpson, and he saw that it was as isolated as it got, he had had no trouble to convince the others that the time to take the gloves off had come.

“We have a confirmed impact,” a lieutenant said when the screens momentarily turned into a white flash.

Someone then switched sources and the azimuthal view of the forest-covered island in the middle of Chesapeake Bay was replaced by imagery taken from a much lower angle.

“Eye 1 confirms impact,” another lieutenant said.

“Eye 2 also confirms,” a third officer said.

The images of the island had the characteristic hue of a night vision camera. It was easy enough to spot the spike of energy that the tactical bomb had released, in the form of a bright white spot that was becoming larger and larger. A second later, the island was no more. Or at least, he could not see it on the screen.

“Yield?” he asked.

“Preliminary reading is three-hundred and eleven kilotons,” the first lieutenant said, sounding satisfied.

This would not have been the first time that a nuclear device produced an explosion but failed to unleash the expected destructive power. Of course, the nuclear bombs they had available for F-16 delivery were not nearly as powerful as the missiles in the strategic arsenal, but the B61 bomb that had just detonated still has close to twenty times the destructive power of the bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima.

Zucker knew that Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia would get some of the fallout, but at least there would be no direct deaths from the device’s explosion. It was a sad but fair price to pay to free his country, he reasoned.

Cheers erupted around General Zucker as news of the success of the attack spread around the command center. He just let a sigh out, which was longer than what he had been expecting. He had been holding his breath for longer than he had thought.

Finally allowing himself a smile, he turned and said:

“The bitches are dead.”

He did not raise his voice. He did not need to. Used to command, his normal tone still carried his words to every corner of the room. They made the cheering go up a couple of notches.

Turning to his aide, Zucker then said in a lower tone:

“Get the camera crew ready. It’s time to address the nation.”

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

Eva felt the rest of the women behind her, but no one said a word while they watched General Carl Zucker on the screen. The clock on the top right corner of the news outlet told her that it was eight minutes past three in the morning, but the text on the screen that caught her attention was the one below the General, who was dressed in his Air Force uniform. Apparently, he had declared himself acting commander of the United States Armed Forces.

Eva had seen Zucker a couple of times, but other than mentally tagging him like a hawk, she did not know much about him. She would need to check with Roberts, but that would be once she listened to what the man had to say. He had a solemn look as he addressed the country from his office.

“…the people of our great country can rest assured that despite the unexpected coup attempt we have suffered, the United States Armed Forces are already working to restore peace and legality, and have started their retaliation against the monsters that are trying to subvert our peace. At this moment, I’m in a position to confirm that we have eliminated their leader, Susan Simpson, and are making preparations to…”

The General’s words dropped like a bomb in the large briefing room where Eva and the majority of her girls had gathered. She had been secretly fearing this since she had seen the nuclear explosion, but for most of the Phoenix in the room, this was the first time they were exposed to the notion that their God-like idol could have been harmed. There was a loud explosion of murmurs. Eva exhaled and turned:

“Shut up!” she said, the walls reverberating as six dozen women became silent in an instant. “He is making this up,” she then explained. “They want to confuse us, but they won’t achieve their objectives. We have been attacked. It’s time for retribution!”

She had not been expecting an explosion of jubilation, but Eva saw that she had managed to keep some of the initial doubts at bay.

“Where is Susan?” a young woman she believed was called Rose finally asked.

Years of training at hiding the truth kicked in in that precise moment and helped Eva keep a straight face as she said:

“She’s on a secret mission that will secure our victory. Will you let her down?”

There was a unanimous, although not explosive: “No!”

It would have to be enough. Eva turned to look at Roberts, who kept her gaze as if questioning her decision to cheat the women. She nodded at the former colonel and then said:

“Team gamma, you’ll stay in Congress and keep the congresspeople in place. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that no one leaves.”

A dozen women nodded as Eva turned to look at the rest of the room.

“Everyone else, we move to the Pentagon,” she said.

The women started getting out of the room. Roberts waited and walked beside the larger Eva.

“Is it a good idea to gather everyone together? There is nothing preventing Zucker from dropping another nuke on us,” the former colonel said.

“I know. My bet is he’ll have more qualms about killing his fellow soldiers than about sacrificing a few hundred politicians,” Eva replied.

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

“He used a fucking nuke!” Naomi said in a tone of disbelief.

Colonel Raymond Beck had stopped his work to watch General Zucker’s address to the country with the oversized girl. He had not yet gone to sleep, determined to put some order to any clue on Lindbergh’s location he could find. The sooner he got rid of the job he had been given, the sooner he would be able to start working on toppling Eva’s house of cards.

He laughed under his nose, attracting a very upset look from his supposed bodyguard, even if he knew that she was there for much more than that.

“What do you find so funny?” Naomi asked, looking angrier than he had ever seen her.

“Your incredulity,” Raymond said in a calm tone. “Did you girls really get so detached from reality that you did not think we would use anything we could get our hands on?”

Naomi clenched her teeth.

“He threw a fucking nuke in his country!” she then said.

“Naomi, dear, I honestly don’t know whether Zucker realizes this or not. I don’t know the man too well, but what I’ve heard does not make me think that he is especially gifted at higher thinking. But this is a fight for the survival of the species. I’d rather be king of the ashes than a footnote in a natural history book,” Beck said calmly.

“I never took you for a cynic,” Naomi said after a few seconds of silence.

“That’s alright. I never took you for a naïve supremacist either.”

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

Things were getting worse by the minute. Eva made a conscious effort to keep her cool, but she had got to a point where she dreaded any news she got.

“They are cornering us here,” Roberts said, simply reminding her of what had already become obvious. Twenty-three other Phoenix had died in three new nuclear explosions, letting them know that Zucker’s men had the ability to track them and enough airborne nukes to intercept them whenever they judged them to be isolated enough. The general had not yet risked any action that could end up in heavy collateral damage, but the army was getting more and more aggressive. And it had only been two hours since everything had started.

The colonel and she understood that Zucker’s tactics were limiting their options at a very high speed. No matter how much of an upper hand they had in DC, their rule would be short-lived if they simply could not move. They had started the night as conquerors, but they were quickly becoming glorified hijackers with hostages.

She looked at the map with all the bases that were supporting Zucker’s resistance. Unsurprisingly, they included every major military base they had not been able to include in their first attack. This had been, of course, one of the weaknesses of the plan.

It had already taken almost a miracle to be able to get a team of over three hundred women converted without anyone noticing. Roberts had always wanted more, but she had also understood their limitations. They had planned based on them, concentrating their efforts in taking the country’s center of power and crippling its key strategic defense resources. The plan was based on shock and awe, much like the German blitzkrieg in World War 2, and counted on the remainders of the web of power in the country to be so confused after the first wave that they would not be able to coordinate effectively before they could throw their second and third waves. Not even in their worst case scenario had they counted on the military to be able to find an effective response in hours.

“The more we wait, the slimmer our options. We need to cripple them,” Eva said. Of course, she was stating the obvious.

“Easier said than done,” Roberts replied with a sigh.

Eva remained silent. They both knew that the reason DC had been so easy had been that, despite Tatum’s parade in front of the Capitol, they had not really been expecting them, and certainly not in the numbers they had brought. Unfortunately, they would not have the element of surprise again.

Every base would now be on high alert, every railgun would be manned, gunships would be airborne, carrying even more powerful electromagnetic guns … and dozens of fighters armed with nukes would be patrolling the country’s airspace, waiting for a chance to unleash on them the same hell they had finished Susan in.

Their choices had become limited to three options, and none of them was too good. They could either try to hit multiple bases at once. Counting the women they would need to leave behind to keep their foothold in DC and other strategic assets they had captured, this meant thinning their forces so much that their victory in each battle was far from guaranteed, especially when one considered that the majority of them had been chosen because of their wits and not their fighting skills. They could also send an overwhelming force to Whiteman, the base where Zucker was operating from. This would increase their chances of victory, but that was only if they could make it there. No matter how fast they were, the thousand miles between DC and the Air Force Base would give Zucker’s men plenty of opportunities to catch them in the open and nuke the hell out of them.

The third option was more sound militarily. Counting with the fact that they were being observed, Roberts had proposed to smuggle a few of their best fighters out of the city, including two women with military experience, so that they would sneak as close to the main bases as possible. Once there, their mission would be to try to infiltrate and kill those in command, hoping that this would create the necessary confusion amongst the ranks of the resistance to let them regroup and retake the initiative.

Eva could see the merits of this third plan, but one thing it lacked was show, and the last two hours it had become obvious enough that their women needed something to raise their morale.

She felt like she was between a rock and a hard place. Her head told her to send the assassins, but her heart was pushing for an all-out attack, almost like the 7th cavalry charge. She was distracted from the dreaded decision when she heard some screams from the corridors outside.

Were they being attacked? Here? How the hell had Zucker managed to put an attack here together? Eva’s muscles tensed in alertness, but they relaxed a second later when she realized that the screams were not those of defenders getting ready to fight but actually yells of joy.

She shot a questioning glance at Roberts, but it was obvious that she was as lost when it came to the source of the commotion. They did not need to wait much to get an answer, though. The heavy metal doors that locked the situation room where they had been debating their options in private burst with a powerful kick, and the silhouette of one of them took the opening.

Eva’s heart filled with glee when the woman took a step inside the room and she saw Susan. An instant later, her mind started filling with questions.

She had never seen Susan look so furious, not even when she had learned that Nathalie and Jennifer were going to be executed. She was appalled when she understood the reason why. Susan had not come empty-handed. In fact, she had been carrying a corpse. A completely burnt corpse that she could only identify by its size and complexion. Unfortunately, but hints revealed that its identity could only be that of Madison.

Eva felt almost as if she had been punched in the stomach. Over the last few hours she had been entertaining a mental debate on whether a nuclear weapon would be able to kill someone like Susan… or her. Now she had her answer. Which, of course, raised another question.

A more careful look at Susan showed that she was not unscarred. Her thighs and calves still showed the effects of nasty burns, her skin gone and the tissue under it blistered and darkened. Her arms were not free of badly looking injuries either. Eva’s enhanced sight also let her see some abnormal reddening of the rest of the amazon’s skin. She was very much alive, though.

Susan did not say anything and just got deeper into the room. She bent to gently set Madison’s corpse on the oversized table, its weight making the heavy wood groan. There was fire in her eyes when she stood back up to look at them.

“Who was it?” she asked, spitting every word with a rage Eva had never seen before, much less in the young woman.

“What happened?” Eva asked. “Are you alright?”

There was a brief moment of weakness in Susan’s armor right then, a brief moment of hesitation. Her voice broke for an instant as she said:

“Madison… she rolled over me… protected me from the main blast.”

Eva understood and felt a chill in her stomach. Still, Susan was looking just in too good shape in contrast with her dead lover. She noticed as Eva looked down at her still injured legs.

“It was worse,” Susan said. “Much worse. I’ve been recovering.”

Eva never thought that they would have a chance to find out about the healing factor at their new condition. They were just too invulnerable to anything to ever need to recover from injury. But considering that Jennifer Watson had healed a broken leg in a day, she could only imagine what Susan’s metabolism had managed to achieve. Madison never had the chance though. Eva understood that the first blow had been too devastating, never giving her the opportunity to recover.

She felt for the girl, their leader, her friend. She could only imagine the physical pain she had just endured. And she could not even begin to understand the emotional torment she was going through. She walked to her, reaching out, trying to let her know that she was there for her. She stopped when she realized that she needed to reach up.

Susan was not a head taller than her, but almost. Eva’s stunned reaction did not go unnoticed.

“I’ve been bathing in radiation for hours. You are the nerd, you figure it out,” she said.

“Susan, you need to see a doctor,” Eva found herself saying.

“Who was it?” the redhead insisted.

Eva wondered what the right course of action was. Susan had to rest, she had to be looked after. But she realized that she would have nothing of that. Taking a deep breath, she finally said:

“An Air Force General. Zucker.”

Roberts and Eva briefed Susan on the rebellious generals, on their actions so far and on the deaths of the other twenty-three Phoenix. They showed her the map, shared with her the intelligence they had about their locations and their resources. Eva then shared the counterstrike plans they had been building.

Susan simply said:

“I will take care of them.”

Eva had feared that much.

“Susan, listen… I know you are hurting, but you need to calm down. We need cool heads now.”

For the first time since she had switched sides back at the secret base called The Hole, Susan scared her like hell when she looked back at her.

“I was not asking for permission.”

The floor crumbled as Susan flexed her toes to impulse herself. A moment later, her Amazonian body was breaking through the ceiling. It went through four more floors before disappearing into the night.

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

Calvin was sitting at the porch of his farmhouse, fifty miles out from Indianapolis, rifle in hand. The looters seemed to have been gone for the night, but he would be damned if he was going to lower his guard again. Shocked as he was by the events going on in his country, he had a more immediate concern in his mind.

He realized he had dozed off when his dog’s barks woke him up from his slumber. Shaking his head to make himself more alert and locate the source of the danger, he narrowed his eyes when he could not find any immediate threat. The distant whistling sound became noticeable a few seconds later, but Calvin failed to recognize the impending danger. A second later, the shockwave hit him, splattering his body and obliterating his farm, turning it into a million splinters.

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

Susan left a wake of destruction a mile wide as she sprinted across the country at five times the speed of sound, but she did not care anymore. By this point, her compassion only reached as far as avoiding major populated areas. Anything else did not even register as collateral damage as she rushed towards those that had dared to kill her partner.

She was still thirty miles out of Whiteman Air Force Base by the time she first set eyes on it. She had never felt so determined as when she flexed her legs and shot as high as she could into the sky.

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

“What is this?” General Zucker asked as he looked at the fast-moving blip on the screen.

“We don’t know,” the lieutenant manning the station replied. “It’s moving over MACH 5,” he then added, as if that explained anything.

In reality, the young officer had not told him what he was looking at, but he had confirmed what it was not: a plane. Nothing in the US Air Force or any other Air Force in the world could move that fast. The irregular trajectory and the incredibly low altitude did not hint at a missile either. Of course, there was one alternative. But it was also impossible. As freakish as the women they were fighting could be, none had ever been reported to be able to move nearly that fast.

There was no doubt of one thing, though: it was heading there. Its route was not regular, but it was undeniably moving from somewhere in Tennessee, where they had first caught it, to Whiteman Air Force Base.

“I guess we will know soon,” Zucker said, sounding much calmer than he felt. “Sound the general alert,” he added as the blip disappeared from the screen, way too close to their position for his comfort.

There was a minute of uneasy silence. And then the world was turned upside down as the most brutal explosion he had ever felt sent him flying across the room. It took Zucker an awful amount of time to recover. By the time he did, his men were already up and about, but that, of course, was the effect of age. His face was cut in two spots, the multiple shards of ice from the shattered windows having turned the floor of the command center into a trap. He stumbled to stand up and reach the window, one of his aides he could not immediately recognize helping him when he realized who he was.

His ears were whistling, and he was still very disoriented, but Zucker managed to hold his ground and hold himself in the frame of the ruined window. This was hardly the first time he witnessed destruction, but still, seeing a third of the base gone felt like a punch in the stomach. What the hell had happened here? Had the women got hold of any experimental weapon? He realized that he had never considered that they would counter with anything but brute force. Stupid! There was nothing preventing them from using missiles too!

And then, as his dizziness started to clear, Zucker realized what was wrong with the entire scene. The crater was obvious enough in the light of dawn. The three destroyed buildings were also more than evident. But there was something missing: fire!

“What the fuck?” he muttered. Then he heard the cracking sound of automatic fire in the distance.

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

Susan’s jump had taken her over fifteen miles high. Had she not had the ability to hold her breath for days, she realized that she would have died, suffocated. Her thermal resistance also helped her survive the freezing temperatures of the stratosphere. Her mind did not have long to linger on these thoughts though as her jump peaked soon enough, and she had to focus on her descent.

Susan’s superhuman eyes pierced the layers of clouds and easily located the vast grounds of the air force base. She could easily locate the hangars, the barracks and the administration and command buildings as her incredibly heavy body started gaining momentum, pulled by Earth’s gravity. It was easy enough to see that the base was going through a frenzied activity, floodlights lit the entire area allowing the large force guarding the perimeter to see everything around the base.

Susan could see dozens of planes, both large and small, sitting idly around the long airstrip, and guessed there would be more of them in the hangars, even if a considerable chunk of the base’s contingent was probably airborne. Spread farther from the aviation section there were multiple groups of tanks and other armored vehicles, and hundreds of soldiers ready for a fight. She smiled. A fight worked well for her.

The amazon still had some time to adjust her landing. She aimed for the far end of the airstrip. She did not want to give Zucker a quick death. And still, this was easier said than done. Susan’s kinetic energy was staggering by the time her feet landed on the precise point she had been targeting. Her impact sent her fifty feet into the tarmac. The ensuing shockwave obliterated two miles around her in every direction, disintegrating soldiers, vehicles, and planes and bringing several hangars and auxiliary buildings down.

She smirked at satisfaction at the results, but even more when she saw that the main building area in the base was relatively unscathed. Flexing her toes, she hopped two miles and landed just outside of the massive crater she had created, right in front of a group of troops that were trying hard to recover.

Susan could have ended the fight any second. The base could already be down, had she wanted to. But she was not out for a quick finish. She was out for revenge. And she wanted the men that had dared to challenge her, the men that had taken the person she cared the most in the world from her to suffer. She wanted them to feel impotence. She wanted them to be afraid. She wanted them to feel hopeless.

The searchlights soon found her and illuminated her path as she strutted slowly and menacingly toward the main congregation of troops. The sound of gunfire erupted soon after. Were they shooting regular automatic rifles at her? Really? Susan felt even a bit insulted.

Her footfalls trembled the base as she advanced, unperturbed by the hailstorm of bullets hitting her body and deflecting from it without even causing the slightest impression. She realized that she could not even feel them anymore. She did feel the kinetic rounds from the railguns a bit later, though, even if they were as ineffective when it came to causing damage.

Susan felt the impact of the heavy projectiles like tapping in her skin, her experience way different from those of “regular” Phoenix girls, who had proven to be vulnerable to it. Deformed tungsten shells started littering the ground around her, making the army boys increasingly nervous.

Tired of them already, Susan crouched and dug her fingers into the tarmac, ripping a football-sized chunk of concrete and asphalt with the ease of someone uprooting some weeds. The amazon then straightened back up and tightened her hand into a fist, pulverizing the ball into a thousand tiny pebbles.

The soldiers admirably kept firing at her, even if the fear started to be evident in their expressions by now. Susan offered them an evil smirk and then tossed the contents of her hand underarm. The cloud of gravel cut through the dense group of soldiers, shredding them to pieces.

Another flexing of her toes sent her into a new, shorter hop, making her land in the middle of a group of very disoriented survivors. Two of them died so that she could set her mass, now tens of thousands of pounds, into the ground. Two more followed their fate as Susan reached to either side and picked a soldier in each hand. She brought them together an instant later, making their bodies explode into each other. A soldier that had lost his footing as a result of her landing was turned into a bloody pulp when she stomped on him, and she then used the leverage of her firmly planted foot to launch a roundhouse kick that obliterated seven other soldiers.

There was a very obvious and very scared survivor that was too close to her left fist for his own good. Without further thought, Susan threw a vicious punch, turning him into a crimson cloud.

Never before had Susan been so cruel and violent, not even when she had had to kill people to accomplish her objectives. But in a way, the old Susan was gone. Her wild side had taken over, and she did not see a reason to try and get it out of the steering wheel.

Seeing a line of tanks approaching in the distance, Susan charged at them. They never saw her coming as she reached supersonic speeds in less than a second. Three tanks were sent into the next county as she checked them with her shoulder, leaving her in the middle of the armored group.

Digging her fingers in the supposedly strong armor plate of the tank to her left, Susan lifted it over her head as an inflatable and then hammered the tank to her right with it, repeating the operation a dozen times until all that was left of both vehicles were unrecognizable mangles of steel.

Spying a group of soldiers that were trying to retreat to one of the hangars that were still standing, Susan lifted another tank from the ground like a little girl picking a flower up and tossed it in the direction of the building, bringing it down in one precise blow.

She used her toes to flip a tank over itself like a cockroach while she punched another outside of the base’s grounds. It was so easy, and at the same time, it was so satisfying!

They all had to die. But they all had to feel fear first.

A bullet bounced harmlessly from her eyeball, directing Susan’s attention to a sniper team on the far end of the tarmac. Her superhuman eyes had no trouble zooming into the man and seeing him get ready for a second shot. Unconcerned about the effects the puny weapon could have on her, she just let him go on, curious. She was exhilarated when her senses coordinated with the muscles in her right arm to move fast enough to intercept the shot.

The look on the sniper’s face when he saw her holding the high-caliber bullet in her fingers through the scope of his rifle was priceless. He did not have too long to feel amazed, however. Susan swiftly rolled the projectile in her fingers and flicked it back at the man, his head disappearing in a red splash an instant later.

It was as good a moment as any to announce her arrival, even if she suspected that by now everyone was privy to it. Her voice was heard for miles as she said:

“I am Susan Simpson! Did you really think a nuke would kill me? Make peace with your maker, because you are all going to have painful deaths!”

The only response she got was the clanking of a metal can dropping some twenty feet away from her. It was promptly followed by a couple dozen more. Before Susan could wonder what the hell this was supposed to mean, the first can started releasing a yellowish gas.

“Chemicals? Really?” Susan muttered, wondering if any of those attacking her had read the reports coming from Fort Exeter beyond the point where someone had found that railguns seemed to work.

Susan was soon engulfed in a mustard cloud. She was no expert in chemical warfare, but she guessed that whatever it was they had tossed her was the powerful stuff. She did know it was supposed to be forbidden, in any case.

Unwilling to waste too much time, Susan started sucking, making the yellow cloud collapse, inhaling every single bit of an agent that was supposed to be deadly but that barely managed to produce some itching in her throat thanks to her enhanced metabolism.

Eager to learn whether the chemical was really deadly and more than happy at giving the soldiers a taste at their own medicine, Susan scanned the area and found a large enough group of infantrymen some half a mile to her left. Turning towards them, she exhaled the entire contents of her lungs, channeling them through puckered lips, blowing hard enough to carry them towards her chosen target. Fifty men dropped to the ground at once, white foam coming through their mouths as they spasmed, delivering what was probably her cruelest death so far, even if she shared responsibility with whoever had designed and stockpiled the wicked chemical weapon.

Susan advanced, swatting tanks and armored vehicles carelessly, heading towards the administration and command buildings. By now, the soldiers knew better than to try and stand a fight. This did not mean that she was going to let them live, of course. She headed towards a building that was still letting a few stragglers in, stopping when she was some fifty feet away. And then, without warning, she started inhaling.

It went on for over two minutes, the suction power of her lungs even dragging some abandoned jeeps towards her as she filled her chest with astronomical quantities of ultra-compressed air. The hundred and fifty soldiers bunkering in the barracks never knew what hit him as she pushed her lips out and let all that air out in one strong puff.

Like the wolf in the kids’ tale, Susan simply blew the building from the face of the Earth. Unlike the wolf, the building she had obliterated was not a mere straw hut, but a two-story concrete structure with steel girders.

What Susan had done so far had already been mind-blowing. What she had just done by blowing a building off the base was a whole new level. It sent shivers down the spines of even the boldest soldiers at Whiteman. And it made her blood boil with mad excitement.

“You thought you could defeat ME?” Susan bragged, her voice carrying for miles. “Compared to you, I am a goddess!”

She then charged another building, going through it in an instant. It barely held for a second after she emerged from the opposite side, the entire structure crumbling over the dozens of soldiers that had been hiding on it.

There were barely any soldiers outside, by now. A couple of groups that she found in the distance were taken care of by well-directed puffs that sent them to splatter into the walls of nearby buildings.

Whiteman Air Force Base was very quickly becoming a ruin, its fighting force reduced to shards. Susan could have mopped what was left in five minutes, but this was the time when she had to slow down. Heading with a steady pace to one of the few buildings still standing, Susan moved through the door without even bothering to push it open and surprised the dozen men camped inside.

One made the mistake of reaching for his weapon, a mistake she quickly punished by spitting at his sorry form, making his head burst before anyone could realize what had happened. Crouching, Susan reached out for one of the survivors and picked him up with a hand, her palm now wide enough to grab a man around his waist. Despite his strong built, the man felt smaller than any person she had handled so far. Of course, he was as weightless as she was used to when she lifted him to her face.

“Where can I get Zucker?” she asked, going straight to the point.

The man was as terrified as anyone Susan had ever seen. She was surprised when he asked:

“What… what do I get from telling you?”

“A faster death than them,” Susan replied.

“The command center is on the three-story building at the opposite side of the square. He will be there,” the man said.

“How do I know he has not fled?” Susan asked.

“Zucker… never abandons,” the man finally said.

She was satisfied, so, before the man could know, Susan closed her fingers, crushing his midsection and finishing instantaneously.

One of the survivors in the group took his sidearm and started the arching movement that would bring it to his head. No one had ever before seen a creature as large as Susan move so fast as she practically flashed from where she was to the position of the man, her humongous hand intercepting the smaller gun-holding hand of the man and closing around it, crushing bone, tissue, and metal into a single, unidentifiable bloody ball.

“It won’t be so easy,” Susan said cruelly.

The remaining men were backing up towards a corner. Susan was happy to follow them with a slow saunter. By the time they had no further room to retreat she was already upon them.

“Why are you doing this?” one of the soldiers asked.

It was a good question. What she was doing now was completely unnecessary, even from a strict revenge standpoint. She felt too good doing it to stop, though.

“Because the world has not learned the lesson yet. I am a veritable goddess compared to the rest of humanity. My power is beyond measure and it is hopeless to oppose me.” She then threw a punch that mowed through ten bodies.

Three minutes later, there was only one building standing in the complex. Susan headed to it with a confident strut, cracking the tarmac beneath her feet, sending violent tremors around the base. She chuckled when, for the first time in a long while, the inconsequential firing of automatic weapons rained down on her.

Two soldiers in body armor kept shooting at her from within the reception of the administration building as she walked in. Helmets and skulls popped like grapes as she grabbed them into her oversized hands and tightened her grip. Susan was then systematic in her scan of the ground floor, finishing the soldiers and admin personnel there with grim finality. She was about to reach the stairs to the second floor when a gray-haired man in a blue uniform walked down the steps. Susan immediately recognized him from the images.

“You are here for me. There is no need to kill the rest of my men,” the man said.

Susan had to suppress a chuckle. So, the guy had guts.

“So, you are looking for a civilized solution,” she said, turning to scan the slaughterhouse she had turned the ground floor into. “It is my understanding that civilized people don’t throw nukes at others, though,” she added.

She loved the discomfort in Zucker.

“Come here!” Susan then commanded. Zucker hesitated. “You have been dead from the moment I landed outside. Don’t spoil this last act of dignity just now.”

Zucker finally started walking towards her. She loved how he could not even come as high as her womanhood.

“I bet you never thought you would be dwarfed by a pussy,” Susan said, her joke coming in such a serious tone that it was hard to interpret it as such.

She did not give him any time to reply before she bent and grabbed him with one hand around his chest, bringing him up to her face like a rag doll.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

The man shot her a questioning look.

“I want to know how powerless you feel right now. Are you too proud to acknowledge it?”

“What do you want?” Zucker finally snapped.

“Right now, I only want to humiliate you while I come up with a really painful way of killing you,” Susan replied.

“You will never get what you are after!” Zucker let out in spite.

Susan scowled.

“Is it because I’m a woman?” she asked. “Is it because of my age?” she went on. “It beats me, honestly. Can’t you realize that I have the power of a god?”

“There is only one God, and he’s nothing like you!” Zucker yelled.

“Tell it to them,” Susan replied, using her free hand to point at the multiple corpses in the room.

“I’m just one man. This is just one base. But you cannot beat us all!” the General said in a forceful tone.

“The only reason it took me an hour to handle this base is that I was taking it slow for you. But you know, it was a good stretch. I feel like bringing every other military installation in the country down. Think I can get that accomplished by dinner time?”

“You will rot in hell!” Zucker yelled.

“You know, I doubt I’ll meet you there. I don’t think they will find enough of you to send you anywhere.”

A second later, Zucker’s anguished screams could be heard in every corner of the building.

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

Dr. Eva Roark was as astonished as the rest of the women in the situation room. They were the specialists former colonel Irene Roberts had assigned to use the vast resources of the Pentagon to track the situation in the country.

“Planes in the air?” she asked, trying to make sure that she was not overlooking any threat.

“Less than a third than there were in the morning. They cannot keep enough tankers up in the air to have all those fighters fueled, and they have less and less bases to fall back to,” Roberts said.

The sun was beginning to set in DC in what had been a day as weird as the previous one, even if for very different reasons. One of Roberts’ aides had devised a color coding to let them keep track of the fast evolution of the situation. Bases marked in green were the ones they had captured in the initial surprise attack. Bases marked in red were those that were still under the control of the rebels. Their number was dwindling at an incredible rate, replaced by the purple symbols that indicated that the base had been rendered useless. By now, Eva had seen enough satellite imagery of those bases to know that ‘rendered useless’ really meant that the bases had been utterly devastated, every building on them brought to the ground, every military asset destroyed, every soldier on them probably dead.

Susan was moving around the country like a random natural disaster, showing up at an arbitrary base without warning and laying it in ruins in a matter of minutes. They had been able to catch imagery of some of her raids and even Eva had been appalled by the level of violence their leader had unleashed on the soldiers.

“Second fleet, fourth fleet, and sixth fleet have turned. They are all heading for Europe. The third fleet is also changing course, and seems to be moving to regroup with the seventh fleet at Pearl Harbor,” one of the operators said.

“They are giving up,” Roberts said, even if her words did not sound as satisfied as they would have in any other circumstances.

“Soon, there won’t be much of them left to give up,” Eva said, trying to mask her disgust.

“Seymour has fallen,” another operator said. Eva looked back at the screen to see Susan’s path had taken a north after hitting Florida earlier in the afternoon.

“The country is ours,” another watcher said.

“Yeah, but at what cost?” Roberts muttered, even if everyone could hear it.

“This changes things. We need to plan,” Eva said, as she turned and led the way out of the room.

Soon, both women were in a private conference room in the building’s basement. As soon as the door shut, Roberts said:

“I did not sign up for this.”

“Twelve hours ago, we were desperate,” Eva said. “Susan won this for us,” she added, trying to convince Roberts as well as herself.

“What did she win?” Roberts asked. “Certainly not hearts and minds!”

“We can turn this around,” Eva said.

“Really?” Roberts inquired.

The abrupt cheering upstairs reached both women. There could only be a reason for it, so they just crossed a look and headed for the building’s main entrance. Susan was calmly strutting towards it, with a look of vicious satisfaction on her face. More and more women were pouring out of the building, joining the ovation of those that were already flanking her path.

She stopped when she was half the way, placing her hands on her hips and pushing her chest out.

“Yesterday, we took over this country, taking it from those that had set humanity into a course of decadence,” she said, her voice easily reaching every corner of the building. “We offered them a fair deal. And what did they do?”

There was a cacophony of screams from the group. Eva knew that they had been as scared as her when the military had started taking them down during the night.

“We are the future!” Susan said in a loud tone. “And we will prevail. If they don’t understand it, we will make them understand!”

Eva felt a chill running down her spine as the yells of ecstasy got louder.

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