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Dark Supergirl Part 06-07

Written by shadar :: [Thursday, 28 February 2013 14:32] Last updated by :: [Friday, 01 March 2013 13:20]

Dark SuperGirl Arises

Part Six and Seven

By Sharon Best and Tex Beethoven

(Revision: 8)

 

Los Angeles…

 Tom found the IT tech on duty and managed to talk his way into the hospital's data center. He claimed he'd installed some of their latest gear and wanted to check on it. Which was true. The tech shrugged and left him alone -- he had more than his share of work to do thanks to some kind of disturbance down in the ER. 

Ten years as computer forensic tech in the CIA's Covert Ops division had left Tom with some unusual skills. He accessed the archival system and copied saved video and images over the latest ones, hoping no one would notice the switch. That eliminated any evidence of Sharon’s arrival and admission. He’d forgotten how easy it was to hack systems like this. 

Sometimes he longed for his CIA days. Back then, he’d been in love and he and his wife had a beautiful daughter. Next to his family, he loved working with the best computer tech on the planet. Inserting bogus info or viruses into the bad guy's computers or stealing their data. As terrorists increasingly embraced technology, and cyberwarfare began to emerge, his skills were more and more in demand. 

Then an aging logger who was driving drunk in his Ford F-350 ended it all. Tom had been working undercover and overseas when his wife Nancy came around a curve on a dark night and found the F-350 weaving into her lane. Given the rock wall on her right, she had no chance. 

She lived for a week, full of tubes and on a respirator. A week during which the CIA failed to notify Tom of his wife’s accident. The Director had decided that his mission was more important than his family. 

They finally pulled him out after Nancy died. He arrived home just in time to rush from the airport to the funeral that Nancy's parents had arranged for her. Only there did he learn that their daughter Sara was in a coma and not expected to ever wake up. 

He went a little crazy for a while, drowning his pain with too much booze. It took him a month to decide the pain wasn’t going away. He had to live with it. Or die like Nancy. In the end, it was Sara who gave him the will to live. But not like he had before. He had Sara to take care of now and that meant staying close to her. 

He resigned from the CIA and turned some of the things they'd taught him into a new career designing computer forensic and image recognition systems.

He was in a hurry as he left the hospital server room, ticking off items in his head. He was certain he’d erased all evidence of her admission, including her electronic medical records, something that was reputed to be impossible. 

Tom had made his career on doing the impossible. He took a detour on his way to the exit to visit Sharon. She was such an amazing woman that he found it exciting and uplifting just to be in the same room with her. Not only was she an alien with superpowers, but he was convinced she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. He swore she was somehow made of sunlight, which explained why her honey hair glowed so brightly, shafts of sunlight beaming from her too-blue eyes and bright smile. 

He instead found her room full of maintenance and security people along with a couple of local cops. The huge Security bolts that maintenance had driven into the concrete floor and attached to her restraints had been stretched until the hardened steel had fractured. Several of the case-hardened chains they’d wrapped her in had been similarly snapped, and the gurney was crushed flat. 

The maintenance team was angry at the mess they had to clean up, and the cops were talking urgently on their phones and radios. Tom couldn't help but grin as he looked in through a corner of her window. Sharon had checked herself out of the hospital in typical Velorian fashion -- using a burst of fantastic strength. He was sorry to have missed the show. There was something wickedly sexy about extreme, Earth-shattering raw strength. Otherworldly and unimaginable strength that belonged in the steel-hewn limbs of some ultra-musclebound male superhero on the cover of a comic book, but instead channeled through the slender arms and legs of this woman who looked like she belonged on the cover of some swimsuit publication. A woman he was proud to call his friend, a woman who shared forbidden secrets with him that no one else on Earth knew.

No other humans, that is.

Thankfully he'd eliminated any evidence of her visit, and he hoped the FBI couldn't trace her through her fingerprints. He couldn’t physically wipe her room down. He realized as he considered that, that he had no idea if Velorians even had fingerprints, or if they were unique. Sharon had told him how they were all “created" in-vitro using something called a Maternity Engine. Did that make them clones?  

He further hoped she hadn't left enough biological material behind for a medical forensics lab to analyze and sequence the DNA. Assuming, of course, that any lab had been successful in gene sequencing Supremis tissue. All the sequencers he knew about dissolved the bio sample before analyzing its DNA -- and he doubted that a fleck of cast-off Supremis skin, a drop of saliva or a cheek scraping was going to dissolve in any chemical made on Earth. He was reassured when he saw the burned remains of the Bio Hazard Waste bucket in the corner. Sharon was a very smart lady and she had smoking hot eyes. Literally. 

 He left the cops to puzzle things out as he dashed toward the parking lot to grab his rental car. He quickly drove to the Monterey Regional Airport where he hopped on the American Airlines flight down to LA. No matter what was going on with Sharon, he had his day job to do. One of their biggest clients, Channel 13 News, had purchased a new imaging system and he was the expert in his company. When the normal tech support folks and field engineers were stumped or were having trouble convincing a client what the system could do for them, he would fly him in to save the day. 

Channel 13 had always been their most difficult customer. But they were a huge customer and they paid their bills. That said, he thought their approach to News was disgusting. But it wasn't his job to decide how their equipment was used. 

Their crews were infamous for racing to the scene of any tragedy, often arriving before paramedic or ambulance crews so they could capture the bloody images. They’d once infamously filmed a man drowning when they could have easily dropped their cameras and gone to save him. They put a sensationalist spin on everything, and their resulting broadcasts full of murder, rape, scandal and blood and guts of whatever kind they could get on camera. Their evening News Hour was disgustingly crude and exploitive, but they had more viewers than any other station in LA.

Michael Larkin, the local resident field engineer, was waiting for Tom when he arrived at LAX. They drove together to the TV station while reviewing the account and the issues he was having with the new equipment. 

They'd barely entered the parking lot when Tom saw something moving soundlessly overhead. He had Michael stop the car and jumped out to squint into the gray sky. An object the size of a very large refrigerator was descending slowly toward the station. He had no idea why it wasn't falling like a rock until fell low enough for him to see a slender woman standing on top of it, a maze of steel cables wrapped around her hands and strung under the device. She had long, raven hair and wore the wind-frayed remains of what appeared to have been a black catsuit. The sleeves and most of the pants were gone and the catsuit's zipper was torn open down to her waist. Between the ragged outfit and her windblown black hair, she looked like she belonged in a GoDaddy commercial that had gone wrong.  

Tom's heart skipped a few beats as he realized the danger. This had to be one of the lethal Arion Primes that Sharon had told him about. He grabbed Michael and pulled him down behind his minivan. This was likely the same mysterious woman who'd beaten Sharon up. She'd also killed a dozen cops and a reportedly a bunch of drug smugglers up in SF. But what was she doing here?

He and Michael stared out from under the van's bumper as the flying woman set what was now obviously a very high tech device on the sidewalk. Startlingly, it had the universal warning symbol of a nuclear device on each side, and numerous wires and metal tubes covered its surface. Based on the robust connectors, expensive cables and stainless-steel tubing, it looked like a piece of military avionics. 

Tom whispered to the field engineer. "Jesus, Mikey, that's the woman who attacked Shar... I mean, that woman up in Monterey yesterday. You know, the blonde with the superpowers. Supposedly she also killed a lot of people before getting to the super-blonde. There is also a rumor out there that she caused that Shuttle explosion at Vandenberg.”

“So what the hell is she doing here, with an RTG no less?” Michael asked. "Was that part of the shuttle payload?"

“Don’t know what an RTG is, Mikey, but I need you to call 911. Tell them what you see and what I just said. After that, get your ass as far away from here as possible."

Michael was staring at the device. "I used to be a nuclear propulsion tech back in the Navy, Tom. I swear that’s a really big Russian RTG."

"What the hell is a…?" Tom started to ask.

"Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator," Michael interrupted. "Used in space probes and military sats. The Soviets even put them in remote lighthouses, for Christ's Sake. They are fueled with plutonium 238. Very dangerous stuff if they become damaged. A single microscopic particle, if inhaled, is a certain death sentence."

Tom grabbed his arm. "All the more reason to get the fuck out of here, Mikey. I'll deal with this."

Michael looked at him with eyes big. "You? What the hell are you going to do? From what you said, that woman is like Superfemme or something, but all dark-side and lethal. I saw the CNN feed too. She kills with her fucking eyes or some shit like that. She kicks holes all the way through men’s chests, and that's the ones who are wearing bulletproof body armor. People without armor are exploded into pink slime.”

Tom stared back at Michael as he felt his own panic rising now. If that kind of stuff was out there on the networks, then Sharon’s job just became all that much harder. He fervently wished she was here now. 

"Look, Mikey, you just make the call while I try to figure out what she's up to. The cops can't handle this. We gotta get some heavier artillery in here. The kind that flies around in red and blue costumes. I think I know how to reach them.”

Michael swallowed hard as crawled further behind the van and punched 911 on his iPhone. 

Tom looked back across the parking lot to see that the flying woman had gone inside, apparently taking the RTG with her. He rose from behind the van and dashed toward the front steps of the station. He found the glass door shattered, the doorframe wrenched off its hinges. Inside the lobby, he saw a pair of smoking black shoes lying next to a gun and a pair of handcuffs, the metal of both glowing red hot. The reception desk was empty except for a woman's purse and a charred swivel chair that was spinning around and around. Two plumes of black smoke were slowly merging as they hovered against the ceiling. His nose wrinkled from the horrible stench of charred meat and burned hair. 

The bile rose in his stomach as he recognized the stench of burned human flesh. He’d smelled that enough times in the field. 

The door across the lobby had been wrenched off its hinges, so he went that way. He was just stepping through the mangled opening when a loud shout and some screams came from the far end of the hallway. That was followed by a blinding flash of flickering blue light that suggested an arc welder at work. The screams turned into a horrible warbling sound that rose in pitch before they suddenly stopped.  Then more screams and more flashes of blinding light and more warbling screams and then silence again. The smell of burnt meat and hair grew stronger.   

Any reasonable person would have run like hell, but Tom was strangely drawn forward. He knew he was being incredibly stupid. He wasn't some kind of fighter or cop, he’d had only basic self-defense training at the Farm. More than that, this woman had nearly killed Sharon, and she’d once told him that she’d survived inside the fireball of a nuke. Naked. Something this woman could probably do as well. Even worse, he didn't have a thousandth of Sharon’s strength. But still he was irresistibly drawn forward, his legs shaking as every fiber of his being wanted to turn and run like hell.  

His thoughts were racing wildly as he found himself unable to do what his rational mind commanded. 

Had some stupid macho part of himself taken over? 

Was this what heroes felt like just before they died? 

An old agent had once told him that heroics and stupidity were usually two sides of the same coin. But still he kept moving forward. 

What the hell was he doing?

Still, he walked forward, overcome by thoughts that seemed like someone else’s. He turned a corner to find himself standing outside the large, soundproofed window of a broadcast studio. The place was a wreck. Most of the cameras were on their sides and several terrified women were huddled in one corner sobbing. A half dozen men were sprawled unconscious or dead across the floor, their arms and legs bent in strange ways. One man's head was pointing in the wrong direction, his glazed eyes wide open and staring at infinity. Greasy smoke drifted from further down the corridor as the smell of burnt meat grew ever more nauseating.

He heard a voice coming from the far end of the smoky hallway. Ducking low, he crawled to the window of a second, smaller studio. The cat-suited ubergirl was standing there with a dozen lights focused on her, the torn and smoking fabric of her outfit revealing most of her left boob. The RTG was resting lightly on her right shoulder as she talked into a camera that was being held by a terrified-looking operator. 

Slipping closer to the open doorway, he tried to hear what she was saying.

"…and SuperFemme, the supposed Protector of Earth, if you can hear me, come to Los Angeles to face me. You alone can save the lives of your little human pets. You alone can decide the fate of this pathetic city. I give you one hour, after which I will tear this reactor open and spread enough plutonium dust across this city to poison it for a hundred years. Millions of your precious humans will die slowly and inexorably from the most horrible of lung cancers. Do you want their blood on your hands, little blondie?"

Tom shook his head as he suddenly felt as if he was on the set of some low-budget B-movie. It was absurd but he was actually watching it happen, but the dead bodies and the burnt meat smell in the air made it way too real.

The woman finally stopped speaking as she lifted the RTG from her shoulder, her arm muscles flexing more dramatically than seemed possible given her slender build — looking just like Sharon had that one time she’d shown him her strength — and lowered it to the floor. She appeared to set it down gently, yet Tom felt the floor sag and then shudder beneath his feet. 

His body was still trembling as one part of him wanted to run, yet another part of him was drawn strongly forward. His feet seemed to have a mind of their own as he rose to walk directly into the room to face the woman. His stomach knotted painfully as the deadly alien turned to focus her shimmering blue eyes on him. 

Shockingly, he recognized the same ultra-clear blue eyes that had looked up at him from that hospital gurney in Monterey. The same crystalline irises. This woman had Sharon's eyes!

"So, how do you know our lovely little Scribe?" the woman asked Tom. "I could hear you thinking about her a block away." 

Tom was paralyzed with fear as he remembered how small and hurt Sharon had looked lying on that hospital bed. Could she truly also listen to his thoughts? 

A tiny smile forming on Mandi's face."Ah, you not only know her, but you are fond of her. Better yet. What’s your name?"

Tom's brain felt as if it was made of molasses as he tried to answer. His mouth moved but at first nothing came out. It was all he could do to glance to the side. A glimmer of hope sparked inside him as he saw that the camera was still on. Whatever was happening here, whatever was being said, it was being seen and heard across the planet by now. He had to somehow take advantage of that. He had to get her to reveal things that would help Sharon or Superfemme or even the military.  Swallowing hard, he managed to clear his throat and lick his dry lips enough to move his mouth.

"Ah… I'm Tom, and yes, I was in Monterey earlier. I’m afraid that you have me at a disadvantage. My friend never told me your name."

"My name?" the woman mused. “I was born Mandilarin Zukan'ara. But here you can call meme Mandi. I'm here to save  your planet from being sold into slavery by the rest of my people."

Tom swallowed hard. Sharon had told him a few things about the Arion's attempted conquest of Earth. How they were trying to screw things up until things were so hopeless that the people of Earth would beg to join the Empire. The Arions would promise to fix things. Mandi was obviously one of those Arions, so why was she talking as if she didn't work for them?

"Because I don't," she answered as if he'd voiced his last question. "But this is a pretty planet. I've decided to make it my own. Once I get rid of all the meddlers."

Meddlers? The Velorians and the Arions? Was that possible? If this woman could do that, she was far more powerful than Sharon. Tom’s long-suppressed desire to run for his life finally overcome the sick compulsion that had drawn him here. He started to turn, but Mandi suddenly moved faster than his eyes could track. The next thing he knew he was jerked off the floor to dangle on the end of her arm. She held him as if he was nothing more than a bag of feathers. Her grip on his jacket pulled the hairs on his chest to make him wince. Reaching down to grab her arm, he found that her flesh was seemingly carved from a block of living steel. He choked, gasping for air as her fingers closed around his throat.

"N, no, I'm… not here… to hurt you."

She laughed as her grip on his throat softened. "Hurt me? That's the funniest thing I've heard recently. You and what army?”

Tom gasped for air. "I mean… I know… I couldn't hurt you… even if I wanted to… you know that."

Mandi's grip loosened, allowing him to take a deep, gasping breath.  "You see, ah, I know all about you Homo Supremis. I can help you to communicate with the rest of the people around here. They do not understand you as I do. You need me."

Mandi's eyes were sparkling in amusement as she lowered him to the floor. "Homo Supremis? My, my, you have been talking to that chatty little Scribe. What does she tell you of us?"

"She's trying to warn us. About you. The Arions." He prayed the broadcast was still on the air.

"Velorians like her are useless," Mandi snickered. "Their silly rules bind them. They waste time pretending to be human. Living like the mice-men they imagine they protect. Superfemme and her daughter will soon be the personal slaves of my former commander. His newest concubines. Fucking is the only thing Velorians were ever any good at. They were created to be the harlots of the..." 

Mandi paused in mid-sentence to jerk her head to the side, her movements as quick as a snake. Tom was nearly blinded when her eyes flared with an actinic, violet light that started from deep inside her pupils before racing around her blue irises like a laser firing up. Two thin beams flashed over his shoulder. Twisting his head around, he saw the beams transfix a young woman who was dashing for the doorway. Her blonde hair instantly burst into flames as she stumbled and fell to curl up in fetal position, her muscles spasming in pain. The blinding incandescent glow spread from the point of impact of Mandi's eye-beams, rapidly enveloping all of her before her body exploded into a riot of bright sparks. And then she was gone, vaporized,  leaving behind nothing but a cloud of greasy smoke. 

Tom's stomach heaved as he sagged to his knees on the stage, praying that the poor woman hadn't felt any pain. Mandi had killed her without showing the slightest trace of emotion.

She looked back at Tom, her eyes still bright. "Nobody else comes in or out of here, OK, Tom? That's your first job. Otherwise, they get the same treatment as that former anchorwoman. Since you claim to understand my people, you are now my spokesman. You will live only as long as you are useful to me. Not a second longer. Is that understood?"

Tom felt his body shaking as the adrenaline rush of the previous minutes combined with her threat, his fears catching up to him. He got slowly back to his feet before collapsing into one of the chairs that the news anchors normally used, wondering as he did if SuperFemme was already on her way here. Would she bring her daughter Xara? Or even Sharon? When they got here, things were going to get seriously violent. He didn't want to be anywhere near Mandi when that happened.

Yet, bizarrely, she claimed he was now her spokesman. Did that mean Superfemme would take him out as well? Sharon said she sometimes killed Arion sympathizers.  He had to use his brain and play for time, and hope like hell that Sharon came along with the heavy hitters.

He had to play for time. If he refused, Mandi would kill him long before they arrived. Mandi could obviously read  his mind if she wanted to, but presumably she had to focus to do that. She was soon going to have other things to worry about. 

The unknown was how he was going to keep his thoughts private until then. They'd never taught him how to do THAT back on the Farm. 

 

Big Sur…

Lisa and Crystal lay in each others arms, luxuriating in front of the crackling fire as they enjoyed the feel of the ultra soft white fur. The fur came from a very dangerous polar bear that had developed a taste for human flesh. It had eluded hunters as it killed and ate two-dozen men, women and children in the native communities that bordered on Hudson Bay, Canada. /Word had come south during that time (the late 19th century), the tales describing a supremely dangerous bear, which the natives regarded as an evil spirit. A bear that had eluded or killed all its hunters.  She was young and newly arrived on Earth, so she flew up north to hunt it in a blinding blizzard in mid-winter. When she found it, she landed in the snow to face it down, hand to claw. 

The oversized male bear had been supremely confident of its claws and teeth and the twelve-hundred pounds of muscle behind them, and he'd seen her as a welcome meal. Nothing in its DNA and its inherited memories nor its living experience had prepared it to face a Velorian girl of seventeen years. The bear had done his best as it savaged her with fangs and claws, swiping hard enough with its paws to have killed a human with a single blow, but in the end, her long, bare legs had wrapped around its chest to crush its life away.  

By the time Kara had removed the bear's skin with her bare hands, her torn, leather clothing had been smeared with bright blood. She broke through the ice of Hudson's Bay to wash off in the icy water, and then flew her prize across the length of Canada to drop it off in the middle of the night at a taxidermist in the crude mining settlement of Yellowknife. She left cash and a note signed Kara that described how she wanted the fur prepared. 

When she returned two months later, still in the dead of the long, white winter, she created a stir in Yellowknife that the old-timers still talked about today. The only road in had been drifted over and closed for months, the winter had been a terrible one, but she somehow arrived to walk into the Gold Dust Saloon, looking like an angel from Heaven itself. If the oft-told tales of that visit were to be believed, she was more than merely friendly with several of the young miners who were hunkered down in town for the winter. 

Until Superfemme surfaced in the public eye more than a hundred years later, everyone had attributed the oft-told tales to the drunken blathering of the town's old-timers, passed on from generation to generation. Now that Superfemme was flying around in occasional view of cameras, the old timer's tales had been polished off and retold with great relish. Then someone noted that the mysterious girl, captured as she was on the faded drawing pinned to the wall behind the bar, looked remarkably like Superfemme. That started tongues wagging. Was this so-called Superfemme an immortal?  

The white fur had been a fixture of Kara's homes for more than a century now, but it was still amazingly plush and soft. The two women, one alien and the other something halfway between human and Velorian, were cuddled together when the second red alert in three hours chimed. Lifting their blonde heads, Lisa and Crystal attention stared at the red-lit screen as Mandi's arrogant challenge saturated the airwaves. They saw a man stumble reluctantly onto the stage after her little speech, and listened as the two of them conversed as if they had completely forgotten that the whole world was watching them. They were talking about things that only a Velorian or an Arion would know. They heard the reference to a "Scribe".  

Crystal rose to dash across the room to make a phone call as Kara played back the broadcast to study it in more detail. Crystal returned in a few moments, her face white.

"You wouldn't believe what Sharon just told me."

Lisa rolled her eyes. "That this guy is one of her confidants?"

"Worse than that. Way worse. She said this Mandi person is a Betan who put her in a trance or something. The Betan then enhanced herself at Kara's expense. She's now more or less a Prime, or whatever the right word is for an enhanced Betan."

Lisa cursed. "They're called Kella-Primes, but they can't fly. This woman obviously can. If this is all true, I'll get Sharon deported and locked up back on Velor. They'll throw away the key. Betan enhancement is the worst thing she ever could ever have…"

Crystal held up her hand to stop her boss before she got too far into her tirade. "Sharon claims it's not her fault. She says Mandi has a power she's never encountered before. That she can read and even influence minds. Anyone's mind. She's afraid that Mandi would do the same to you or Xara."

"Bullshit. Whatever Sharon's excuse, she should be cleaning her own messes up. She's responsible for this woman threatening millions of lives. But this is so typically Sharon. She likes to write her chronicles and send her reports and muck around living her fake life here on Earth, but she doesn't like to get her hands dirty. Just like all the rest of those damnable Scribes."

"I thought that was the goal for Scribes?" Crystal said, trying to keep Lisa cool. "To promote peace and cooperation. To stay under the radar while leaving all the fighting to you guys.”

"Are you lecturing me on my home planet and our rules?" Lisa asked through clenched teeth.

"I'm just trying to…"

 Lisa cut her off with a wave of her hand. She was no longer her lover, but had once again become Crystal’s boss.  "Look, just contact Xara and have her meet me there," Lisa commanded as she pointed to the image of the TV studio on the screen. “And I don't buy the mind control thing -- not even a Diaboli can compel someone who actively resists -- but it'll be nice to have Xara backing me up. Good experience for her in case this woman turns out to be a Diaboli. But odds are this is just Sharon wigging out on us again. Blaming her faults on someone else."

Crystal said nothing. She didn't fully understand why Lisa disliked Sharon so much, but she accepted that it was above her pay grade to understand it. Velor obviously had its own brand of politics. God knows she’d seen that in the way Kara treated the Messengers that came by from time to time. 

Crystal felt a growing tingle of warmth as she watched Lisa change from businesswoman to the mighty SuperFemme. Her startlingly blue eyes glowed brighter as she shimmied out of her white gown to float naked in mid-air. Lisa Banks was no more -- now it was just Kara, the Protector Earth. 

Kara took her red and blue uniform from Crystal's outstretched arm and began to pull it on. It was tiny and outdated, the miniskirt and boots and skintight top with that big rune reflecting a Terran's idea of a super-heroine, but it was the only truly invulnerable fabric that Kara owned. Despite being well into her second century of life, Kara still looked like she was in her early thirties, thanks to her very slow aging.  

The fabric stretched like a second skin across her firm body, the invulnerable fabric looking like elasticized silk. She combed her fingers through her long, pale golden strands to free them, and then tossed her head to allow every strand settle back into its proper place. She looked down to give Crystal a dazzling smile; her ivory-white teeth, dimpled cheeks and sparkling blue eyes were enough to make her friend's knees grow weak with desire.

 

 

"Well, am I Superfemme again?"

"God, you are such a babe in that outfit, Kara." Crystal stepped closer to run her finger over the iconic "S" on her chest, and then leaned forward to brush her lips against Kara's. Kara returned the kiss as she tensed the muscles that justified the word 'Super' at the front of her public name. Crushing Crystal to her as their kiss deepened, she was rewarded with a soft sigh of contentment from her friend and lover as the softness of their breasts melted together. 

The force of her embrace was more than ordinary fabric could endure. When Kara broke her embrace, Crystal looked down to see two round areas of fabric smoking from where her blouse had been compressed between their bodies. One of her golden nipples was poking through the charred fabric. Kara winked at her before flipping backwards like an acrobat to dive out the open door of the deck. 

Looking longingly after her as she followed her to the doorway, Crystal strained her enhanced eyes to track Kara's hurtling form. As always, a thick circle of mist formed around her lover's hips as she went supersonic. Kara was twenty miles south and flying at hypersonic speed by the time her sharp sonic boom returned to startle the gulls who were flying along the bluffs. 

Crystal hugged herself as she suddenly felt very alone. Even worse, she had a really bad feeling about this Mandi person after talking to Sharon. The Scribe clearly was afraid of her, and she'd never known Sharon to be afraid of anyone or anything. Lamenting her own inability to do more than hop and skip -- she hadn't inherited Kara's flight abilities -- she worried that Kara was ignoring Sharon's advice just to spite the Scribe. Like all Protectors, she instantly killed any Arions she found, but she’d taken to ejecting their Terran sympathizers from Earth, depositing them in the airlocks of orbiting Arion ships. 

It was questionable whether her treatment of enemy sympathizers was cruel or sympathetic. According to Sharon, Kara's actions were actually worse than killing them, for humans were treated little better than vermin on Arion ships. They would likely die alone and in wretched pain and suffering, millions of miles from Earth. They would die betrayed, without hope, without compassion. 

Crystal sighed. Perhaps that's what traitors deserved. Perhaps not. Either way, it was nothing she had control over. Kara was a most forceful woman, and when it came to Arions, she held her own council.

Turning from the window, Crystal walked back into Lisa's office. She could at least ensure that Xara would be standing beside her mother.

"Computer. Page Xara and have her give me a call on Lisa's private number. Highest priority."

 

Big Sur High School 

Dani Banks leaned against a corner of the gym doorway, watching the senior girls taking their turns preparing for the strenuous physical tests that had been recently added to the California graduation requirements. Standing six feet tall and dressed in very conservative street clothes -- a long skirt decorated with ancient Scandinavian art and a long-sleeve brown top that tied about her waist -- Dani was the only person in the gym who wasn't wearing shorts and t-shirts. By any standard, she was overdressed. When questioned about her school clothing, she claimed her mother was part of a New Age religious movement. God knew there were plenty of those around these days.

The California Republic had become obsessed with both alternate religious beliefs and physical culture, a cultural fall-back that was almost Roman in its manifestations.  The Board of Education had gone so far as to pass a rule that required every student who wanted a First Class Diploma to meet very specific physical requirements prior to getting their diploma.  Unfortunately that wasn't going well for many of her classmates. For the girls, a hundred sit-ups in less than two minutes, thirty two-armed pull-ups, then three one-armed pull-ups with each arm, a hundred pushups in less than a minute, a twenty kilometer run in less than an hour, a three kilometer swim in the ocean. The U.S. Marines Basic Training was easier than this. 

The guys had it worse. They had to do fifty percent more in every category than the girls. The result was that two-thirds of the current students were destined to graduate with only a Second Class Diploma.

Fortunately, Dani didn’t look like the pictures that had been captured and broadcast of her exotic alter-ego. Even more than her mother, Xara had the ability to reshape her face to make herself look older or younger or just different. Given that Velorians mature more quickly than humans at first -- and then slow down to less than a tenth the rate of Terrans when in their mid-teens -- Dani had learned to make herself look like she'd just turned sixteen. However, as Xara, she generally looked her natural age, which most Terrans would conclude was early twenties. She found it amusing that while most of her classmates were trying so hard to look older, she had to make herself look younger just to fit in. 

Even stranger, she'd gone the other way when she'd appeared in front of NASA in Washington. For that meeting, she'd she'd pushed her apparent age closer to thirty, hoping they'd take her more seriously. It hadn't worked. 

While sixteen versus twenty-two didn't sound like much of a difference to many older persons, her classmates were hyper-aware of the vast gulf in appearance and experience which lay between those ages. 

She turned her attention back to the new laws that were bedeviling her classmates, and especially to the debate between individual freedom versus group prosperity. Countless studies had shown that the state's health care costs could be greatly reduced if the population was universally fit. The Physical Fitness Party, the PFP, had made that opportunity central to their campaign. They promised to rein in the ruinously high health care costs in California. 

They won, both the governorship and a majority in the state assembly. Governor Constance Davis soon signed bills that turned the weak and the fat and the infirm into second-class citizens. They also championed legislation that allowed companies to turn down applicants for employment based on physical fitness (or the lack thereof). 

The elderly were treated even worse. The government might not be able to cut off their medical care or pensions, but they could convince the younger population that the elderly should voluntarily move out of the way to give young people a chance. That didn't sound so bad until the Suicide is a Blessing campaign was launched along with a dramatic liberalization of the state's Assisted Suicide law. Together they cemented the idea in the public's eye that the elderly should voluntary pull the plug so as to pass on their "blessing" to the next generation.  

Dani thought it was all disgusting. She really liked some of the old people she'd talked to. They seemed more real than kids her age. It was kind of cool that she could flirt outrageously with them, and they could toss it back at her in spades, all without either party taking it seriously. That was a new and heady kind of freedom for a girl who was just learning to use her sexual powers.

As far as the rest of the population, she thought it was obvious to anyone with eyes that Terrans weren't a uniformly robust species. They were "weedy" as many Supremis would say, with a wide variation in body types. But despite that, the rule was made that anyone who didn't pass the tests got a Second Class diploma. That limited a person to second-rate colleges and made them less desirable to employers. 

Thanks to her medical exemption -- something fanciful about genetic connective tissue disease that her mother had arranged for a doctor to write -- Dani was relegated to a Third Class Degree. But it had kept her out of gym class and out of the compulsary athletic participation in team events.  For unlike her mother, who wore gold most of the time, Dani always felt a bit high on gold, almost like she'd taken a couple of good hits on a joint. That in turn kicked up her pheromones which distracted all the males who shared the same airspace as her. 

The one time she'd tried wearing her gold choker to school, hoping to dampen herself enough so she could play sports without accidently injuring her teammates, every guy had started fawning over her, even the male teacherts, all of them joustling to get close to her, to talk to her, to get her attention. By the end of third period she was exhausted by it all, and she had to leave school during the class break. She stayed out of school for a weak after that, claiming sickness, waiting for everyone's hormonal systems to settle down.

When she came back to school, the gold stayed home. Permanently. But people remembered that day, and that led to some awkward conversations. Some strange apologies too. Other people just avoided her, mostly out of embarrassement. They couldn't explain why they'd acted so weird that one day.

Turning her head to check out the other end of the gym, she watched as the boys test got underway. Her eyes could see far more than her classmates as the boys took their tests, four of them at a time. The new laws did have one good aspect, Dani thought, smiling -- she'd never seen so many guys in such good shape. They'd trained incredibly hard to do one-handed pull-ups, and their arms and backs were mazes of hard-cut muscles. The endless hours of sprinting had done wonders for their legs and butts too. 

And then there was their gym teacher, Mr. Kanada. He was in his early thirties, and he'd won a silver medal for freestyle swimming in the Singaporean Olympics. After he retired from swimming, he did some modeling work, with most of his images selling to athletic magazines and fitness websites. She thought Mr. Kanada was way hotter than those sexy Calvin Klein models. 

Mr. Kanada's girlfriend obviously felt the same way. She was a former Miss California and a professional surfer who often appeared on sports-related magazine covers. The two of them graced the sea of posters that the government was sending out to promote their new physical standards.

In a strange twist of Terran logic that Dani didn't understand, many of her classmates measured Mr. Kanada's ultimate worth by judging the hotness of his girlfriend. Dani couldn't care less about that. She instead dreamed about Mr. Kanada's tight body, fixating on that time she'd watched he and his girlfriend making love in his office. Their wildly athletic sexual performance had since formed the core of Dani's fantasies and filled her dreams.

Unfortunately, dreams were all that Dani had, although for different reasons than the other girls. Reasons that came from the fact that every muscle in her body was thousands of times stronger than a Terran woman. As a result, the only men who had the power to be her lover were the Messengers who visited Earth (who her mother had naturally put strictly off-limits)  and the various Arion men, who were disgustingly crude and violent -- all of them UberNazis as far as she was concerned. 

While her mother was authorized to kill Arions, Kara didn't yet trust Xara to get involved in battles on Earth -- that took skill and training that Xara lacked. Instead, it was her job to damage their shuttles and starships wherever she found them in space, whether they were hiding in the rings of Saturn or on the back side of the Moon. Her mother had taught her to damage their engines and then push their ships out of the Sol system. She would send them tumbling on a slow, centuries-long drift toward the ends of the universe. 

Supposedly that was better than killing them because it forced the Arion Near Earth Command to use its remaining resources to search for its damaged ships and rescue the crews before they starved. Hopefully also before they started eating the Terran sympathizers they had on board.

Per the Velorian Council, only a Protector had a license to kill, and Xara could never become one of them. Not with her illegal off-planet birth. Especially not given the questionable background of her birth-father. A man she'd never met. But Xara knew is was just a matter of time before she had to permanently cancel someone. After that, it would be no different if she'd eliminated one person or ten-thousand. She would be guilty of capital murder if she ever returned to Velor. The government of Velor reportedly had disintegration tubes that could bring justice to anyone, even a Protector. Possibly even to her.  

Dani pushed that scary thought away as she watched Mr. Kanada encouraging her classmates. He'd pulled his shirt off and was ripping off one-handed pull-ups. She drooled along with the rest of the girls as they watched his amazing muscles work. She could watch him all day. 

If only he was as strong as he looked…

Her sexy reverie was interrupted by the high-pitched alarm from her modified phone. A sound that usually set any nearby dogs to howling. This was her mother's Urgent alarm. Reluctantly tearing her eyes from the pumped-up gym teacher, she hurried out the door and down a long hallway, scanning through the walls for a place to hide while she changed. 

The first empty room without a window was Mr. Kanada's office. Ducking through the doorway into the cool, darkened interior, she scanned the room with her Tachyon vision to ensure there were no cameras or audio bugs. Satisfied it was clean, she undid her dress and blouse, dropping both to the floor before starting to gather them up. At the same time, she began relaxing her face so it could return to her natural early twenties look. A quick flick of her fingers removed the dulling, gray contact lenses that she wore to cover her unique irises.

Her mother had gone out of her way to ensure Dani could live a fairly normal life, and as a result she’d rarely called her out of school for emergencies. Dani hadn't yet come up with a good scheme for stashing her street clothes at school, but she quickly decided that a lower cabinet in Mr. Kanada's office would do given the emergency.  She was bending over, completely nude, moving a couple of boxes out of the way when the office lights suddenly blazed. 

Startled, she look backward between her long, spread legs to see a very sweaty Mr. Kanada staring down at her from the doorway. He looked startled for a moment, and then smiled sexily as he calmly closed and locked the door behind him. His grin turned predatory as his blood rushed low and hot and hard. 

Dani's head began to spin as she felt herself falling into her hottest teenage fantasy -- Mr. Kanada making it with her in his office.  In her dreams, he had proven to be some kind of superman. Far from being uncomfortable finding herself behind a locked door with this older man, the locked door made Dani comfortable. One on one, she could deny anything, and obviously no one was going to force her to do anything she didn't want to do. She was more worried about somebody else wandering in to discover her secrets. 

Still, her fantasies fueled a wild tingling that seemed to fill her entire body. Her nipples stiffened as she slowly rose and turned to face him. While a Terran girl's first instinct might have been to cover herself, Dani placed her hands on her hips and let his eyes devour her. She’d completed her facial transformation, and her tall, strong body and high, perfectly rounded boobs looked statuesque. After working so long to hide her dramatic figure beneath long dresses and fluffy tops and maker her face look so young, it felt awesome to just be herself. So much so that she could seemingly feel the touch of his eyes as they traced along her flesh, slowly tracing down to her tiny waist, and then back to her chest. She was flawless, lacking even the minor scars on her knees or elbows that most girls had from the hazards of growing up. 

Mr. Kanada's eyes opened wider as he glanced down to study the nearly invisible slit of her sex, her labial lips turned inward and devoid of pubic hair, looking almost prepubescent in that one way. While a lot of young women aspired to this look, obviously driven by the early 21st century porn industry portayals, Xara was mature-looking, phenomenally fit and and sexy beyond her years in all other respects. She shivered with delicious longing as she looked through his clothing to see him coming fully alive as he drank in her beauty. He was a man among men. 

"My, my," he grinned at he leaned against a column in the middle of the large office. "This is quite a surprise. You look familiar… a former student? Year before last, perhaps?"

Xara tried not to laugh. Obviously she wasn't the first girl to take her clothes off in Mr. Kanada's office. She walked slowly toward him as she lifted her arms confidently from her sides. She loved the feel of his eyes on her. 

"I'm surprised you forgot so quickly," she said, confusing him further. "I will never forget that time right here in your office."

"If you are a former student, then you've just paid me the ultimate compliment, as your physical education teacher that is. I don't think I've ever seen a young woman who is as fit as you are."

"And here I was going to say the same about you," Xara smiled seductively. "But you really don't remember me?"

"Kaylee?" he blurted out. "No way. You look better now. Hotter. Way hotter."

Xara tried not to laugh. So, the rumors about him and Kaylee Robbins were true. She'd been the school's top athlete, not to mention Homecoming Queen, a blonde beauty who had dazzled all the boys, and obviously a few teachers as well, just as her reputation had claimed. She’d been a senior the year Dani first arrived here at Big Sur High. 

Knowing that she had him now, Xara rushed forward to leap up and wrap her long legs tightly around his hips as she began kissing him wildly. She didn't mind pretending to be Kaylee for a few moments. "You always said I'd look great if I got into aerobics and dance," she whispered into his ear. “Weights too. Now I'm a professional dancer."

Mr. Kanada groaned in pleasure as his erection pressed hard against her sex. He thrust upward, trying to take her as she clung to him, and if not for her extreme tightness he would have. She was so very ready. All she had to do was to concentrate on relaxing herself… 

And then her Urgent alarm went off again. She cursed under her breath.  This could have been her moment. Except for her mother's summons, damn it. She angrily began vibrating her fingertips against his carotid artery -- something she should have done thirty seconds earlier. She had to press surprisingly hard to stop the blood flow to his brain, but once she did, his eyes rolled up in his head and he passed out. 

She held his limp body weightlessly in her arms as she floated a foot off the floor, sadly watching his magnificent erection fading away. Her mother's warning echoed in her head, telling her that she was too close to her first Ples'tathy to be intimate around a human. Her mother had frankly described how sex with a Terran could push her over the edge, and that could be very dangerous for anyone else within scent range of her pheromones.

Frustrated that this encounter was turning out to be as much of a bust as her earlier disasters, she gently laid Mr. Kanada on his office couch. He’d wake up soon, and his thoughts would likely be filled with confused memories about her wild kisses. That and his memories of her naked body. He'd be disoriented and more than a little worried that he'd done something indiscrete. Given he'd apparently made it with Kaylee a couple of years ago, in this very office no less, Xara had no problem with him feeling worried. He needed to be taught a lesson in any case. 

Flitting back across the room, she grabbed her clothing. There was no chance to hide them now. Instead, she used a blast of heat vision to vaporize them, leaving behind only a tiny wisp of smoke. 

Looking around, she satisfied herself that she'd eliminated any evidence of her visit. Mr. Kanada was thankfully still out. Turning her back to him, she reached inside herself to retrieve that moist packet she sometimes carried this privately. It contained her compressed flight outfit. Pulling it free, she grasped a corner of the packet tightly and snapped her hand downward at super-speed to expand the micro-thin fabric into a briefer version of her mother's red and blues. She'd always thought it weird that her mother had modeled her flight outfit on that Terran comic-book character, claiming it was part of her cognitive dissonance campaign. According to her, people were less fearful of things that they'd seen before, even if that had been in a movie or a comic book or some bit of local mythology. Apparently that was the kind of stuff they trained Protectors to do. 

All Xara knew was that unlike her mother's tiny skirt, her own red hot-pants was a comic-character style that had gone out of date way back in the 1980s. Her flight uniform fit her like body paint, with her blue top revealing a wide band of bare midriff. Her top rose from the base of her rib cage to stretch skintight across her chest and then back and down her arms. The big "S" on her chest was one of the most classic icons from all of Terran mythology, as was the short cape that fell to her thighs. She remained barefooted as usual. 

Combing her fingers through her long, blonde hair, she unleashed enough pheromones to ensure that Mr. Kanada would wake up fully aroused. Velorian pheromic arousal could not be wished away or ignored, but only embraced until a person burned it off in the obvious way. It was a good thing Mr. Kanada's door was locked. The last thing she wanted on her conscience was for another girl to walk in here while he was drunk on her pheromones. He was going to have to call his girlfriend or deal with this on his own.

Her phone tweeted loudly again to galvanize her into action. The third Urgent page. No time to procrastinate any further. Snapping her head sharply upward, she leaped from the floor as her powerful legs propelled her through the open skylight and high into the sky. From there she poured on the flight power to break the Mach a half second later, leaving behind a very loud BANG and a brief tornado of wind that set papers swirling through his office. 

 

Xara has five miles high and flying at Mach 8 when Mr. Kanada cautiously opened his eyes while rubbing the sore spot on his neck. He was so ridiculously aroused that his pants had torn open, and his erection rose like a flag pole in front of him. Beyond being mindboglingly turned on, he felt relieved, thankful he was still alive. The moment he'd felt the steel of her long legs around him and had looked into the depths of those crystalline eyes, he'd known she was Velorian. Thankfully he'd been quick enough to pretend to recognize her from a previous class. Even more to fake unconsciousness when he felt her fingers vibrating on his carotid the way all Velorians are trained to do. 

The blonde was obviously a Protector and that made her very, very dangerous for a man like him. He could still feel the steel of those perfect legs around his hips, and he knew full-well that despite his own superhuman strength and durability, those legs could have effortlessly crushed him to death.

His hands were shaking from the overwhelming combination of arousal, adrenaline, anger and relief.  It was all he could do to walk stiffly across his office to reach into a desk drawer to retrieve what appeared to be an ordinary cellphone. He punched in a secret number. 

It was answered a very, very long ways away.

"I just had a very close encounter with a blondie," he said. "I thought this sector was clear."

"Upload an image of her," a distant voice replied after a pause. There was a pronounced echo on the line.

"Didn't get one. I told you, it was a very close encounter. Unplanned and unexpected. No time for the usual data gathering, but she was clearly one of those fucking witches."

“Then find who she's pretending to be. Most of those blondies try to hide in plain sight. The Frails are too stupid to see the obvious. Maybe this is the Protector who's been wrecking our ships. Nobody has seen her planet-side.”

Mr. Kanada shook his head. "She looked vaguely familiar somehow, but I can't place her."

"Figure it out, Sergeant Kanada. Once you get an ID on her, we'll send down a KT to deal with her."

Kanada swallowed hard. A Kill Team was composed of Primal Destroyers, specialists who had been trained to kill Velorians. They had much of Protector's strength and equal invulnerability and they were infamous for their extreme cruelty. 

He didn't want to be anywhere near them when they dropped in. Those insufferably arrogant Primes had little regard for the hard work and sacrifice of loyal Betans like himself.

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