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Crimson

Written by shadar :: [Tuesday, 29 November 2011 19:16] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 02 April 2013 10:39]

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Crimson

by Shadar

November 29, 2011

Prepared for the Superwomenmania Fall 2011 writing contest

 

This is a work of speculative fan-fiction, extending the 2010 movie, Salt, starring Angelina Jolie. 

I am assuming that the reader has some familiarity with the movie and the Evelyn Salt and Peabody characters, although its not strictly necessary, given this story starts after the last scenes in the movie.

#

 

Private Residence of Vice President Michael Jarvis

Charlotte, North Carolina

 The ancient plantation-style mansion on the outskirts of Charlotte had once been the big house of a pre-Civil war plantation. A famous reminder of a world that no longer existed. 

The white-columned front veranda had been featured in political ads during the last election as the opposition tried to portray Senator Michael Jarvis as a southern bigot. They’d emphasized that his house had been in his family since the days when Jarvis’ great-great-grandfather had indeed owned slaves under this very roof. 

The fact that Michael Jarvis had campaigned for civil rights as a young man back in the 60’s, long before he began his elected political career, was conveniently left out of the ads.  

Since the election, this majestic home and its tree-shaded acreage had become Vice President Jarvis’ respite from the insanity of Washington, DC. The back yard with its modern swimming pool was very private, thanks to layers of thick trees and dense bushes that surrounded it. The Security Service ensured it stayed that way by installing a fence that surrounded the property, complete with the latest in intrusion sensors.

Inside the mansion, in a small room that used to be the quarters for one of the household slaves, Secret Service Agent Katy Sinclair sat in front of an array of video monitors and ground sensors. Which was ironic given that Sinclair was a descendent of slaves from the Charlotte area, one of whom might have actually lived in this room long ago.

“Ok, she’s in the pool with him now,” Sinclair said as she keyed the secure comm-link that her security staff shared.  “Looks like she’s going to be number three.” 

Agent Jacob Miller turned to look at the middle-aged agent sitting next to him, one eyebrow lifting. He’d been sent down here by the Director to monitor Sinclair’s performance. “His third?”

“I’ve been on Jarvis’ detail since the beginning,” Sinclair explained with a sigh. “He was different before his wife died. Focused. Private. Intense. Decent. Now he’s selling access in return for sex.”

“And President Lewis knows all this?” Miller asked. 

“Lewis isn’t stupid,” she replied, her brown eyes flashing. “After the first time I briefed him, a very unpleasant moment as you might imagine, he made it very clear that it’s my job is to keep Jarvis from embarrassing his administration. To that end, we don’t let phones or any other recording devices in, and we’ve got a no-fly zone overhead.”

“And what’s to stop his lovelies from telling all?”

“That would put them out in the cold. Cut off from the oxygen that is fueling their careers. Access is the name of the game in Washington. Jarvis is smart enough to limit his girlfriends to ambitious young reporters who are trying to make a professional reputation for themselves.”

Miller looked down at the file folder on his desk. “And damn pretty ones. This new girl, Anna Kettering, a reporter for the Post, she’s half Thai and half Danish. Parents were professional journalists, always on the move, but Anna was born here in the US. But given that her deep background check is still ongoing, she shouldn’t be here. Who cleared her?”

“Jarvis,” Sinclair said disgustedly. “Against my strongest objections. But after he took one look into those golden eyes, he said to clear her while we did the work-up.”

“He doesn’t get that choice.”

“You tell him that. He doesn’t like the word no when he’s thinking with his dick.”

“Who else knows this?”

“We keep some things in the family.” She turned to see the sour look on Miller’s face. “Don’t worry. He’s just horny, not dumb enough to give away the candy store.” 

She looked up at the video screen and keyed her mike again. “OK…Kettering is in the pool with him, wearing nothing but a bikini. We know how this is going to end. Lets pull the eyes back, boys. Give him some space, but keep the usual cordon around the pool area.”

She looked over at Miller, who looked surprised by the violation of protocol. 

“Keeping eyes on him is rule one…” Miller started to say.

Sinclair shook her head to interrupt him. She turned off the monitor that was aimed at the pool. “The camera is still recording if we need it later. The way I see it, Jarvis is trying to put his personal life back together. He loved his wife very much and he doesn’t know how to handle these ambitious young barracudas. But he’s still young enough for some pretty hot sex, or so he thinks.” 

“You sound like his pimp.”

“Frankly, Miller, this is all damned embarrassing. But just because we’re Secret Service doesn’t mean we have to be voyeurs. Nobody is getting in or out of that pool area without us knowing, and the only weapon in Kettering’s arsenal are those amazing eyes of hers.”

Miller rose to walk stiffly to the door of security room. “He’s not Jarvis, Agent Sinclair. He’s the Vice President of the United States. His code name is Sundance.”

“I’ve been working for him for a long time, Miller.”

Too long, he thought to himself. “So, how long do you plan on staying dark?”

“We do ten minute checks. Unobtrusively.”

Miller opened the door. He already knew what he was going to report when he got back to Washington: Sinclair was far too close to Jarvis. They were going to have to replace her.

“I’ll take the first check.”

Sinclair smiled knowingly. “Yeah. She is pretty hot isn’t she.”

#

Vice President Michael Jarvis stood in his pool, his eyes fixed on his lovely visitor. Behind her, he saw the Secret Service agents melting back into the landscaping. That was the signal he’d arranged with his head Secret Service agent, Katy Sinclair, to signal that he was no longer being closely watched. 

He gave his guest, Anna Kettering, the smile that had made him famous on the campaign circuit. “Ah, alone at last, my dear.”

“I really want to thank you for inviting me down here, Mr. Vice President,” Anna purred as she sipped her drink. “You have a lovely home.”

“Its been in my family for nearly two-hundred years.”

“Impressive. But what I’ve enjoyed even more are your insights into the administration’s discussions around the Keystone III pipeline environmental assessment.”

“Well, I’m just happy I could help. And I’m even happier that our work is done for the day.” 

He stared into her golden eyes, mesmerized by the way the light from the water reflected in them. “And please, call me Michael.” 

“Isn’t there a rule that says I have to stay a certain distance from you, Mr. Vice…Michael?” 

“Far from it,” he smiled. “In fact, I’d like to declare the opposite. Executive Privilege and all.”

“Good,” she smiled as walked closer to him. “I really like to swim au naturale. I hope you don’t mind.”

“As do I. But there is a price for that, my dear. A kiss.”

“I was hoping I might be worth more than merely a kiss.” 

She watched Jarvis’ famous smile grow broad once again, and boldly ducked down under the water to pull his swim trunks down, removing her own bikini bottom as well. When she came up, she started to undo her top, her bright eyes staring into his.

anna

“You my dear,” Jarvis gushed as he stared back at her, “are a prize beyond any measure. I have never seen anyone as beautiful as you.”

“And you never will,” she said strangely as she took him in her arms, her warm lips finding his. “I’ve always wondered what its like to make it with a true man of power. A man who can show me what it means to be strong and vital.”

Jarvis registered the invitation in her words. She was a young, athletic woman. Obviously she was used to her lovers being assertive. He could be that too. 

He turned her around to press her back against the side of the pool. She lifted her long legs to wrap them lightly around his waist, resting a portion of her buoyant weight on his hips to make it easier for him to lift her higher up against the side of the pool. 

There was no need to establish any pretense of romance, not even any foreplay. Like all long-term Washington politicians, Jarvis knew that power was the ultimate turn-on for ambitious women like her. 

Politics had never been a gentle game. 

Nor was his lovemaking. 

He slammed her back against the side of the pool as he thrust himself into her, thrilling to find that he didn’t need his Viagra around a woman this lovely. He went to work trying to prove that he was still as virile as the young men he imagined she normally slept with.  

She cried out softly and clutched at him, her eyes closing as she seemed to enjoy his savage raw power.

“Now I know everything there is to know about the most powerful man in the world,” she whispered in his ear. “And now you are mine.”

He slammed her even harder against the side of the pool and went crazy on her, caring little if he caused her pain. 

“Second…” he gasped as he felt the powerful rush of pleasure beginning, signaling that he was very close. “Second… second most powerful.”

“Actually, given that President Lewis is dead,” she whispered in his ear, “you are wrong, kind sir. Dead wrong.”

His eyes opened wide in shocked surprise, his hair literally standing on end as a rush of adrenaline augmented his strength. He suddenly got bigger and harder inside her. 

Anna smiled. As she’d expected, the thought of his becoming President gave Jarvis a hard on. 

“The Pres… Lewis…dead?!” he gasped.

Her smile faded. Whatever her earlier feelings had been, he realized now that they hadn’t been sexual. 

Her voice was low and smooth. “Yes. The transfer of power protocols to make you President have already been initiated. They will be here soon to take you to Washington. To swear you in.”

“I haven’t… he hasn’t…” Jarvis gasped as his body grew harder yet. 

“Isn’t that the ultimate turn on?” she whispered in his ear when tensing her strong inner muscles to hold him deep inside herself, trapping him in the act of passion. “What will history say about you becoming President while fucking the most beautiful woman you’ve ever been with.”

“That’s not what I…” he started to say, only to have the air whoosh from his lungs as Anna hugged him with unnatural strength. Her foot swept under his, tripping him, and she fell on top of him to shove him under the water. Her strong legs gripped him with the power of a python, their strength holding him under the water. 

He grabbed desperately at her hair as he tried to push her away. He grabbed for the edge of the pool, but she reached down to grab a submerged rung of the nearby ladder and began to pull the two of them downward, rung by rung. 

Jarvis flailed beneath her, his passion turning to terror. He punched, clawed and tore wildly at her, his lungs aching for air.  He was about to be President, damn it. Nobody could treat him like this!

She continued to grip him with fearsome strength, bearing down painfully on his now surging erection. He began to scream and choke on the water. His wild sexual exertions had put him deep in oxygen deficit, and it took only moments before he took that fatal gasp, drawing in water instead of air, and went limp in Anna’s arms. 

She closed her eyes and arched her back as a wave of indescribable pleasure raced through her, its power nearly the equal of an orgasm. The death of a hated enemy was always a big turn-on. So beautiful. She wished she could have truly come in his arms before he died, but alas, he wasn’t that good of a lover.

 Together they sank to the bottom of the pool. Once there, she opened her legs to release him. Yet instead of stroking for the surface for a breath of air, Anna sat down peacefully beside his body, her legs crossed, her dark hair floating around her head like a cloud, savoring the passing of his spirit to the next life.

 

“Miller, you got a visual on them?” Sinclair asked at the required ten minute check-in time.

Miller stuck his head through the bushes to scan the area. “Negative. Pool appears empty. Swimsuits are piled on the side.”

Sinclair rose from her chair, hackles rising on the back of her neck. “He has to be in there, Miller. Nobody has come in or out of there.”

Miller pushed the rest of the way through the bushes to emerge into the pool area. He moved quickly to the edge of the water, looking down into it. It was hard to see through the rippled surface given the glare of the sun. 

“He’s not here…” he started to say, only to gasp: “Oh Christ, he’s at the bottom of the pool. Both of them are. He looks unconscious.”

Miller kicked off his shoes and dove into the pool to stroke powerfully toward the bottom. The girl was calmly sitting next to Jarvis, eyes closed, seemingly unconcerned. He’d nearly reached Jarvis when those golden eyes snapped open and she quickly moved in front of Jarvis, protecting his body like a lioness with her prey.

Miller tried to push past her, but the girl grabbed his wrists to hold him. He tried to pull away, but she was unnaturally strong. He kicked at her, and managed to connect with his right foot. He was able to tear his right arm free of her grip, and started punching at her, but she deflected his blows while holding onto him with her other hand. 

Precious seconds were passing and Miller was getting no closer to Jarvis. He desperately jerked his Glock from its holster and jammed the barrel up against Kettering’s chest to  fire it.  A huge bubble of steam exploded between them, and he was suddenly free. 

He dropped his gun and stroked downward toward Jarvis. His hands were only inches away from the Vice President when someone grabbed his legs and pulled him back. Kettering was on him again. 

They wrestled for a few moments as he used up the last of the air in his lungs. She managed to get her legs around him  and squeezed him so hard that he cried out in pain, the stale air in his lungs exploding from his lips to rise in a huge bubble to the surface. 

He made one last feeble attempt to push away, only to feel the girl pulling him deeper into the pool. His vision dimmed as he started to pass out.

He never heard the splashes overhead as two other agents dove into the water.  They both headed for Jarvis. 

Kettering released Miller’s stilled body to intercept the two new agents. She wrapped her legs around one of them while hugging the other to her chest. 

She needed but to hold them to herself for a couple of minutes and they would become quiet as well.

 

“Miller. Patrick. Soloman,” Sinclair shouted into her mike. “Somebody answer me.”

Silence. She turned the video monitor back on to reveal an empty pool area.

“Does anyone have  a visual on Jarvis?”

More silence.

Truly alarmed now, Sinclair started to rise from her monitoring station, only to see hear the Hot Line ring. A critical call was coming in from the White House office. She stared at the flashing red light, and then at the empty pool, and dashed out the door to run the hundred feet toward the pool. The surface of the water was disturbed from the growing breeze. Standing at the edge, she peered down through the reflections, and her heart froze as she saw five bodies lying on the bottom. 

She tore her jacket off, preparing to dive into the pool, when one of the bodies, the girl, rose smoothly back to the surface. She was smiling.

“Where’s Jarvis?” Sinclair screamed at her, gripping her Glock tightly in her hand. 

“Come here and I’ll show you,” Kettering replied.

Sinclair stepped closer to the edge, and Kettering’s hand flashed upward to grab her ankle, jerking it out from under her. Sinclair fell hard onto the concrete lip of the pool, the impact dazing her. She struggled to fight back as Kettering slowly dragged her into the water with the others. Twisting herself, she turned her gun on Kettering and managed to fire into her face. The bullet simply bounced off. Sinclair fired again, this time directly into Kettering’s left eye from point-blank range.

Instead of dying, the girl with the golden eyes just smiled as she pulled the African-American agent toward the peace at the bottom of the pool.  

#

The woods near Arlington, Virginia

I awoke to the sensation of water flowing over me. Blinking my eyes open, I found one eye was below the water, the other above it but crusted in ice. I blinked away the crystals and raised my head. 

I was laying in an small creek, the banks white with new snow. I had no idea how I’d gotten here.

Pushing aside my confusion, I struggled to connect nerves to muscles and then to bone. I slowly rose from the frozen creek, finding as I did that my back was crusted with ice. It cracked and fell away as I stood. 

Looking around, I realized I’d spent at least part of the night sleeping face-down in this icy creek. By all rights, I shouldn’t be alive. Hypothermia should have taken me as soon as I passed out. 

The events of the last day were foggy, but I clearly remembered the long fall from the helicopter into the Potomac River. It had seemingly taken forever to hit the water. Clearly an unsurvivable distance. Yet I’d felt no fear when I jumped. I somehow knew I’d survive.

How could I have known that?

I began to swing my arms and legs, stretching my body. Other than some stiffness, I was surprised to find that I felt fine.  Good even.

More memories of yesterday began to echo through my skull like images from a bad movie. Sliding down the elevator shaft. Taking out all those men with my bare hands, overpowering them, soaking up their hardest blows without injury. Things I wasn’t remotely capable of doing, yet somehow it had been easy, even instinctual.  

Then there was the bullet wound.

I pulled my wet top up to examine the bandage I’d applied in that bathroom, but there was no longer any evidence of a bullet wound. The cold water had washed everything clean. Yet I clearly remembered the burning pain and the bleeding. 

Could it have healed overnight? 

No. I had to be delusional. The question was, delusional then or now?

Despite my confusion, the disorientation, I decided to trust my favorite mottos, just like I always did when things got bad: 

“If in doubt, move.” 

“Doing anything is better than doing nothing.”

“Survival is its own reward.” 

No reason to change those now. 

I threw the bandage into the water as I waded across the creek and climbed the other side. 

Despite my long immersion in the freezing water, I didn’t feel chilled. I didn’t feel sore either. Instead, a strange kind of glowing warmth filled me. I felt strong and energetic, but in a way I’d never felt before.

No, that was wrong. I did vaguely remember feeling this way. Sometime long ago. I struggled to remember when and where, only to have a sudden flood of memories explode inside my head. Something about my sisters, huddling together, keeping each other warm, everyone holding me, drawing pleasure from me, giving me back power.  

Sisters? I didn’t have a sister. Or a brother for that matter.

 More strange images that couldn’t be mine filled my head. Memories of Orlov when he was a younger man. Of him talking to me, training me, teaching me. 

Despite their strangeness, I somehow knew those images weren’t from my dreams. 

I pushed my mind harder, and memories began assaulting me from every direction. I recalled living until eight years old as part of a group named Crimson. There had been a half dozen other girls in the group. My sisters. I remembered the treatments I’d endured. Fire and Ice. Soaked in ice-water like this for hours and then connected to live voltage, my body shaking painfully until that sublime feeling came over me: the Power. I remembered my sisters huddling around me, sharing it.  

I staggered and fell to the snowy ground as my entire world turned upside down. I held my head in my hands as the flood of old memories became completely disorienting. I felt like I was going insane. Where had these memories been all these years? 

I’d grown up without being able to remember anything before my ninth birthday. My parents had told me that I’d suffered a traumatic accident while traveling in Europe with them. 

The doctors said I was blocking out bad memories in self-defense. That it was OK.

Clearly it wasn’t OK. I knew enough about hypnotic blocks from my CIA training to know that someone had laid a big one on me. When Orlov had walked into the Agency yesterday to implicate me, my block must have begun to release. 

I forced myself to my feet as I tried to push those confusing memories away.  

I was a CIA agent. Clandestine service. I’d been born in America. It was the only way I could have gained my current position.

But it was all a dream.

The truth was that I really was what Orlov had claimed. A Russian sleeper. The worst kind of deep agent -- an agent who didn’t even know she was one.

Disoriented and horrified by that realization, I tried to push those thoughts and fears away and focus on the reality immediately surrounding me. The trees, the snow, the quiet. But as the minutes passed, my thoughts began to drift again, back to my youth. 

I gradually came to realize that I’d just suffered the Ice. Now I had to quickly find the Fire. Just as I had been taught so many years ago.

Looking up, I saw power lines. I began to follow them. These weren’t high-tension transmission lines, but rather a distribution feeder. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew it was a 115kv line. Far too powerful. I needed to find a sub-distribution feeder. The kind that carried 3.3kv into neighborhood transformers. 

The power lines eventually led to a substation at the edge of a residential neighborhood. The barb-wire topped fence was no obstacle for me, and  amazingly, the barbs tore only my clothing, not my skin. Clearly I was partially quickened after having been forced into overdrive by the demands of saving the President yesterday. That and the long fall from that chopper. 

Quickened? Overdrive? Those strange words just came to me, yet I knew what they meant. It was why I’d been able to do all the things I did yesterday.  The way I’d known I would survive the fall from the helicopter.

I instinctively ran my hands close to the huge wires coming out of the transformers, sensing for the right voltage until I found it. How I knew it was right, I didn’t know. Only that I had to connect myself to it. 

Looking around, I found some rolls of heavy wire. I didn’t have a way to cut the half-inch thick stranded aluminum wire, and I wasn’t strong enough to tear them apart, so I used my fingernails to strip the insulation from the last ten feet of each end of the rolls. Fingernails that should have broken but didn’t. I wrapped one wire around my ankles, trying my legs together. I wrapped the other wire around my chest, twisting it to hold the aluminum wire tightly against my breasts. Then I stood up to grab the free ends of the cables, bending them into large hooks. Looking up, I knew I was supposed to toss the bare ends up and over the exposed connections of the 3.3kv transformer. 

As ridiculous as that sounded, I remembered doing something like this many times when I was a girl. I felt like I had when I’d jumped from the helicopter — confident that I was doing the right thing. That it wouldn’t hurt me.

I said a little prayer that my memories weren’t just nightmares, and tossed the loops upward. I connected on the first toss, and a horrible surge of electricity flashed through my body. I began to shake violently, falling on my back in the snow as sparks flashed up my legs and across my belly to end at the wire around my chest. My hair stood straight out and I was unable to move. Unable to even breathe as I gritted my teeth, every muscle in my body cramping.  

And then…slowly… the pain of being electrocuted began to fade, replaced by a growing sensation of warmth and vitality. My heart was still beating. My muscles were no longer shaking although they remained clenched and rigid as steel. 

I clearly remembered feeling this way when I was a young girl, but the sensation seemed stronger now, and it was centered lower on my body than before. I could feel the massive current running up my legs to tease me, my body growing so tingly, so ready. 

For sex? 

That was really crazy. There was nothing sexy about being electrocuted.

Except I wasn’t being electrocuted. I was using the power. I was somehow drawing it into myself. And somehow that was making me horny.

I struggled to move my hand, to touch myself to relieve the need, only to be distracted as my wet clothing began to smoke and then burst into flames. 

I’d burned like this before, I remembered it clearly. That wild tingling began to grew more urgent. I struggled harder to move my arm, and after a few attempts, I managed to lower my hand to my pelvis. Small bolts of lightning flashed from my finger tips to my sex as I struggled to touch myself. 

When I did, the pleasure was incredible, exploding outward like a bomb. Pleasure so overwhelming that everything went black. 

 

I woke up in a puddle of melted snow. I had no idea how much time had passed, but I could hear the rattle of an idling diesel engine just outside the fence. Lifting my head from the melt water to see a work truck with ladders on top. 

The power was clearly off now — apparently I’d shorted out the transformer and electricians were coming to repair it. 

I quickly unbraided the partially melted wires from my chest and then my ankles. There were no burn marks. I slowly rose from the blackened depression in the ground, only to find that my body felt so light that I might as well have been weightless. I moved  toward one of the small buildings, and everything around me blurred. Suddenly I was there, having moved as fast as thought. 

My body felt completely different now. Stronger and lighter and infinitely faster. 

I peered around the corner of the building as the men unlocked a gate and drove inside. They dumped the air brakes with a hiss and casually got out of their truck as the engine rattled to a stop. One of them was chewing tobacco, and he spit a foul-looking blob of yellow liquid on the ground. 

“Jesus H. Christ, would you look at this,” his companion said as he walked over to survey the remains of my ad-hoc charging apparatus. “Somebody done this on purpose. Shorted out the fucking number seven 3.3kva transformer.”

“Yup,” his companion said. “Secondary winding is smoked.”

“You better call it in, Gus. We’re gonna need the cops on this one. Might be a terrorist.”

The tobacco chewing man stood silently beside his partner for a long moment, staring at the charred wires and the melted hole in the snow before returning to the truck to use the radio. 

I cursed silently. These men weren’t going to leave before the cops came, but I couldn’t be seen here. My certain death after falling from the FBI’s chopper was one of my key assets right now. They’d be looking for a body. 

I had to silence these men and escape before they saw me.  

I thought back to my youth, and recalled running so fast that people saw me only as a blur. Sometimes they didn’t see me at all.

Perhaps I could still do that.

I waited until the first man walked around a corner of the maintenance building, out of view of the one in the truck, and then I leaped. Startlingly, my leap was so powerful that I flew more than eighty feet to overshoot my intended landing point. I crashed face-first into the concrete wall about ten feet behind the man. 

I saw cracks in the concrete, yet the blow barely dazed me. I slipped and lost my footing on some ice and fell into the snow, but I was back on my feet before the man could even turn his head. I leaped at him from behind to deliver a blow to the base of his neck that should have knocked him out. 

Instead, I heard a wet crack as his body flew twenty feet to the side. He landed upside down, his neck bent at an impossible angle. 

Cursing silently, I realized I’d hit him way too hard. I looked at my hand, then back at his crumpled body. I wasn’t only faster, but I was obviously stronger. I’d have to try harder to keep his partner alive. 

I crept around the building to find the other man still talking on his radio, his back toward me. I tensed myself and leaped again, traveling over seventy feet in a single bound. I leaped again, this time aiming for the driver’s side window of the truck. The glass shattered as I blasted through the window to fly all the way through the truck’s cab. I collided with the man to knock him to the ground. I punched the back of his head and he lay silent. 

A quick check revealed he was alive. Satisfied with that, and the fact that he hadn’t seen me, I turned and ran out the gate and back into the woods. 

 

Running was too weak a word for what I was doing now. The trees came at me in blurs. I dodged a hundred of them before I tripped and crashed into a big one. I bounced off the trunk to land half buried on my back in a pile of bark and broken branches. My face felt numb from the impact, yet it was clearly the tree that had taken the worst of it. The trunk was shattered, nearly cut in half.  

I got back up to run again, only to hit another tree soon after. Bark exploded from it once again. More damaged wood.

A part of me realized that either of those collisions should have killed me, but they didn’t even hurt. 

I focused on speeding up my perceptions, shifting my brain into overdrive the way I’d been trained long ago, and soon I was running at full speed while dodging the trees, jerking my body left and right at fantastic speed to slide around them, ducking under limbs, jumping over others. I had no idea how fast I was going, but the visuals reminded me of that old Star Wars movie where flying motorcycles were racing through the forest world of Endor.  I was going at least that fast. 

I came to a wide stream and leaped entirely across it, flying at least two hundred feet, only to to catch my foot on an old stump as I landed. I skidded face-first over snow-covered pine needles. Picking myself up, I shook the needles and snow off and began to run again.   

Soon after, I came to a different edge of the forest. It bordered another housing subdivision. Crouching naked in the bushes, breathing hard, I studied the houses. The closest house to the trees was dark despite the gloomy, cloud-shrouded morning. 

The lack of lights at this time of a work day meant no people. 

I stayed low and ran toward that house, crossing the hundred foot gap of small trees and bushes in a blink of an eye, moving too fast to be seen. 

A dog in the next yard started to bark as I pried open the back door with my fingers, trying to make it look like someone had used a crowbar on it. I don’t know how I knew my fingers would be hard enough to behave like a crow bar, but I did. 

The lock broke and I entered, listening. I knew from my earlier training that my ears would be sensitive enough to hear heartbeats now. 

I heard none. 

The bedroom closet was filled with a woman’s clothing. I was in luck. The owner of the clothing was tall and slender like me. As expected, a lot of what I found were exercise outfits. 

I grabbed a duffel bag and filled it with a dozen outfits, everything from exercise gear to formal wear, and then grabbed bras and panties and a pair of sneakers and a couple pairs of working shoes, plus a pair of heels. 

A locked drawer revealed a passport and several credit cards. The height and weight listed on the passport was close to mine, and the picture even looked a bit like me with my dyed hair. What luck.

Of course, the credit cards would leave tracks that could easily be followed. That would be useful. I’d go in one direction, making a number of purchases, and then lose the credit cards before reversing direction to lose myself again. The CIA had trained me well.

The woman’s bedroom computer was sleeping, but fortunately it didn’t need a password to wake it up. I brought up her mail program and found that her last email had been to a friend. It said she was traveling to Chicago on business and wouldn’t be home until Friday. That was tomorrow. 

I also found an angry email from her ex-husband who was now living in New York, demanding some of his stuff back and resenting the restraining order she’d placed on him.  

I relaxed. I had the house to myself for a time. 

I suddenly felt ravenous, but decided to take a shower first. My quickening was fading and I was starting to shiver. I turned on the hot water in the shower, but didn’t bother with the cold tap. The spray head was soon spitting scalding water. I stepped under it, but it didn’t feel overly hot. Just warm and pleasant. I washed my hair and and body, and then stood in the spray until the hot water began to give out. 

After vigorously toweling myself dry, I dressed in one of the running outfits I’d found and headed for the kitchen. I ate two oranges and a half dozen bananas. That was followed by a loaf of bread and a quart of orange juice. Bacon and a dozen eggs were next. I was starving for protein. 

I realized as I ate that the electrical shock had pushed me fully into my quickening, and from my memories of my girlhood, I knew I’d stay that way only as long as my body needed to protect itself. Once the threat was gone, once I got comfortable, it would fade.

I remembered how my body would adapt to just about anything that threatened to injure me… if given enough time, that is.  As the fights of the previous day had proven, I would get as strong and unhurtable as I needed to be to overcome any challenge. 

I recalled now the way Orlov had forced me to the edge of my quickened abilities when I was eight years old, making me fight my fellow Crimsons. He said I was one of his best students. That made me happy. At least until I fought Tala. She was far too strong, even for me.

I also remembered him touching me in ways that no man should touch a young girl, and was suddenly very glad that I’d killed him yesterday.

My problem now was to recalibrate my abilities for my adult body. To understand what I was capable of now. 

I stuck my hand in the toaster and turned it on, hoping to stress myself enough to stay quickened, but only managed to trip the GFI. So much for that idea.

I left the kitchen to enter the woman’s improvised gym room. Military pushups quickly proved to be a joke. I knocked off six hundred of them at the rate of ten per second and didn’t feel the slightest burning or tiredness in my muscles. Clearly I needed something a lot heavier than my body to stress myself. 

I found a Ford Explorer parked in the garage. It probably weight something like three tons, or so I guessed. I grabbed the trailer hitch with my strong right hand and managed to lift both rear wheels off the ground. It felt strangely good to exert myself that way, what with that lovely tingling sensation returning to make me squirm with pleasure. I stared down at my arm, and was shocked by the dramatic definition. I’d always been fit, but I’d never been this muscular. 

I released the SUV and cupped my biceps as I tensed my arm, marveling at how big and hard the muscle was now. One moment my arm was slender, the next it was bulging with hard-cut muscle, revealing a level of muscular expansion that wasn’t humanly possible. 

Obviously, the bounds of the possible had changed during  the last day. Or else… well, I didn’t want to think the or-else.

Walking around to the heavier front end of the Ford, I grabbed the bottom of the bumper with the same hand and lifted. It felt heavier than the back of the SUV, but still doable.    

I held it there as long as I could, the front wheels spinning slowly, my arm bent halfway as that strange tingling burning itchiness grew. I kept fondling my amazing biceps with my other hand, amazed by what it felt like to be so strong. 

That crazy tingling slowly spread upward to make my nipples engorge as they itched pleasantly. The more my muscles worked, the more turned on I was going to get, or so it seemed. 

I slipped my other hand down over my stomach, my fingers drawn ever lower. I tried to resist the urge to play with myself, but the desire was too powerful this time. As soon as I touched myself, a new surge of power radiated outward from my center, and the Explorer flew up to crash into the ceiling.  

I barely caught on the way down. Juggling most of the weight of the SUV now, I had a wicked thought. I sat down on the oil-stained concrete, still holding the front corner of the SUV, which scarcely felt heavier than a child’s toy wagon, and gently lowered one tire until it rested in my lap. I felt pressure but it didn’t hurt. Leaning back, I shifted the SUV’s weight, rolling it downward until a ton of Detroit steel was resting directly over my pubic bone. 

That felt wonderful. 

Leaning back, I lifted my hands to my breasts, my fingers working my nipples. I began to wiggle my pelvis, forcing the tire to roll slightly back and forth on my pubic bone, using it as a bizarre sex toy.  

Closing my eyes, I suddenly found myself thinking of my husband, Michael. Of the way we’d made love. Whatever I was feeling now, it was so different than it had been with Michael. My orgasms with him had always been brief and gentle, leaving me feeling cozy and snuggly and exhausted and safe. I missed feeling safe.

Instead, I felt sexy and wickedly turned on and incredibly alive. Most of all, strong.

And then the realization that Michael was dead crashed back in to smother any good feelings I had. I forced myself to stop, pushing the SUV back hard enough to smash it into the garage door. I’d killed Orlov, but there were others who had yet to pay for killing Michael. 

I leaped back to my feet, feeling weightless, more convinced than ever that arousal somehow gave me strength. 

I had to figure out what I could do with this new strength. to discover what this quickening was all about.

I grabbed a large crowbar from the workbench and gripped it tightly between my thighs. Holding it rigidly between my quads, I bent the hardened steel ninety degrees with my hands. I released my legs to grab the bar with both hands and managed to bend it completely into a U-shape. 

More wild tingles seemed to rise within me. So much so that it was hard to stand. I gasped for air, my entire body flushed with desire.

And then I laughed. A loud, hearty, deep laugh. This was ridiculous. 

How could anything be more impractical than using sexual arousal as a combat skill? Fighting was always fast and dirty. What kind of crazy combat scenario provided time out for masturbation? 

I began to question my sanity again. 

Yet how could anything that felt this insanely good be wrong?

I had to go on. To test myself further. 

Looking around, I found a propane torch on the workbench. I lit it and and tried to burn my hair. The dark dye burned away to reveal my natural blonde hair, but that was it. I played the flame over my hand and it barely felt  warm. I debated aiming it between my legs to see how hot I could really become, but resisted that insane urge. 

I aimed it instead at a block of wood and it immediately caught fire. At least that proved the torch was real.

I quickly set it down and found a razor box cutter and tried to cut my hand. I couldn’t even make a mark. 

For some reason, that made me feel really freaky. 

No living tissue that had evolved on Earth could withstand the electricity I’d hungrily sucked into my body earlier. No flesh could resist burning. And humans didn’t go around lifting cars over their heads, let alone use them as sex toys.

I began to recall some of the wild rumors that had floated around me and my sisters. Stories that said we’d been conceived using not only human DNA, but something more potent. Something alien. 

That thought was scary but exciting, at least until I reminded myself that our genetic donors must still be out there, and with unfathomable intentions toward our Earth. Then it was just scary.

But that wasn’t my immediate concern. My companions in Crimson had all been imbued with the same alien DNA. I had no idea if they were alive or dead, but if they were alive they were undoubtably buried deeply within the US. And like myself, they were probably in sensitive positions. 

Had Orlov released their hypnotic blocks as well? 

Crimson was clearly a carry-over from the Cold War. An artifact of an earlier more desperate time. But Orlov’s legacy could still wreck havoc today. It went without saying that my sisters hadn’t all received my broad experience as a CIA agent. They might still hold to their initial Soviet indoctrination, which said that America must be destroyed. At any cost.

I had to find my sisters and neutralize them before they did something even worse than what had almost happened yesterday — the barely aborted nuclear attack on Tehran and Mecca. 

Ted Winters had nearly defeated me before my powers manifested, and he hadn’t been Crimson. Yet he’d come within seconds of starting a nuclear Armageddon. 

Stopping my super-sisters was going to be harder. 

Much harder.

 #

National Command Center

Washington, DC

Agent Peabody showed his badge at the bottom of the elevator, and after screening was allowed to walk down the corridor to the National Command Center. Entering, he glancing around the large, circular room. Everyone he saw was either FBI, CIA, military or from one of the cabinet offices. No elected officials. 

This wasn’t good. Technocrats and the military shouldn’t be running the country at a time like this.

“We have confirmation that the President’s injuries are serious,” the FBI Director, Darren Collins, announced to the room. “He’s in a coma. His physicians have no idea when he’ll awaken, assuming he ever does. Secret Service is retrieving the Vice President from his vacation home in Charlotte. He should be in…”

He paused as the Secret Service Director, Scott Abrams, waved his arm. Abrams stood up to face the room. “We’ve got a problem in Charlotte. The transport team just arrived and is reporting that the Vice President is dead, along with our four person detail. Everyone’s been drowned in his pool.”

Dozens of people began to speak at once. 

Collins raised his voice and asked for silence. “I know this is unprecedented, but I want everyone focused on securing the Speaker of the House. He’s next in line.”

His men began speaking urgently into their headsets. 

Peabody closed his eyes, guessing what was coming next. He stood up and cleared his throat to gain their attention. 

“I suspect you will find that the entire line of succession is under attack, Director Collins. I believe a group of deeply implanted former Soviet agents have been triggered. Sleepers, all of them brainwashed via hypnotic suggestion.”

Everyone turned to stare at Peabody. 

“What kind of crazy…” Collins started to say, only to be interrupted by one of his men.

“The Speaker has just been confirmed dead. Our men found him in his office. Neck’s broken.”

Peabody said nothing. It was all unfolding as he’d feared.

“Whose got the succession plan?” Collins asked, the first hint of panic audible in his voice.

Director Abrams began to recite from memory. “After the Speaker, its the President pro tempore of the Senate, then Secretary of State,  Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Defense. Not sure after that. We never planned that deep.”

“Get a team on every one on them,” Collins growled.

“The National Command Authority for nuclear release is in disarray,” General Fred Marshall of the Joint Chief’s added. “We don’t know where to kick the Football.” 

The Football was the name of the special authentication equipment that was activated by the President to release nuclear weapons. 

“If this is a Russian or Chinese attack, they could take us all out before we could react.”

“Yet NORAD doesn’t report anything unusual,” General Jim Jones of the Air Force reported. “Or the Navy. Even a sub launch would give us fifteen minutes.”

“Then we’ve got some breathing room,” Collins sighed. “Get the next half dozen people in the line of succession here. Pronto.”

“We’ve launched Looking Glass,” General Jones announced. “The airborne command has a Football, but nobody on board is authorized to use it. We’re toothless.”

Peabody’s thoughts raced as he saw the government falling apart around him.  What a difference a day made. 

Yesterday has started with order. With the government firmly in control. 

Now this. 

The destruction had all started with Evelyn Salt. Or rather, with Orlov’s supposed defection.

His phone rang to interrupt his thoughts.

“Peabody here,” he answered.

“We’ve got to meet.” 

Peabody stiffened as he recognized the voice of Evelyn Salt. Unlike everyone else who’d written her off as dead after her long fall from the helicopter, he’d been expecting her call. He had no idea how she could have survived, but he’d seen the confidence in her eyes as she dove out the door of the chopper.

“Where are you?” he asked unemotionally.

“Charlottesville-Albemarie Airport. Meet me at the safe house closest to the airport.”  

The phone clicked dead.

Peabody rose to head out the door, only to see a very tall, attractive blonde standing at the security station. She was dressed in an expensive, tailored suit, and she looked trim and athletic, her long hair windblown as if she’d been hurrying to the meeting. But more than that, it was her eyes that drew his attention. They were the same golden shade as Evelyn Salt’s. So-called Wolf’s Eyes. A very rare eye color.

The MP’s at the checkpoint ran her through the whole body x-ray. Then the explosives-sniffing dog approached her. The dog began to sniff her crotch with great interest, jamming his nose up under the short hem of her skirt. 

The woman looked up to glare angrily at the dog’s handler. “Your dog is very rude.” 

“Sorry, Ma’am,” the soldier said as he struggled to pull his dog off her. He glanced at the whole-body x-ray scan to see that she wore a large tampon. “Some dogs are distracted during that time of the month.”

The woman gave the guard a withering look, clearly resenting having her privacy invaded this way.  The soldier held his dog back despite the fact that he was clearly signaling that he’d smelled an explosive. 

“Well…?” she asked. “Are you going to start sniffing my crotch as well?”

The soldier stared back at her in confusion, her glaring eyes intimidating him. Other than asking her to remove her tampon, a ridiculous violation of protocol given that the woman was otherwise cleared at the highest levels, there was nothing for him to do except say: “You’re clear.”

“Please get a dog in here that’s less horny next time,” she said as she gathered up her purse and phone from the scanning tray.  She stalked toward the command post, glaring at Peabody as she passed. 

He paused as she brushed past him, turning to stare at her back. He couldn’t shake off the feeling that something wasn’t right. What were the odds on meeting two agents with that same rare golden eye color in less than a day? 

But Salt’s call was urgent. She was the key to whatever was going on. Despite the dog’s strange reaction and those odd eyes, he had nothing to confirm his feelings. 

He turned and headed down the hallway to the elevator.

#

FBI Special Agent Tala Forrest smiled as she reached the door of the Command Center. As she’d expected, the dog had detected the advanced explosive she carried in her vagina, but she’d been able to fluster the dog’s handler. 

Now it was game time, as the Americans say.

She took a deep breath as another MP opened the door for her, and entered the most secure command post in Washington, DC. Walking down the aisle between the circular rows of desks and control stations, she was very aware of everyone’s eyes turning her way as she approached Director Collins. He stood in the exact center of heavily fortified, bombproof room. 

She paused to stand behind him while scanning the room. This was even better than she’d hoped. The heads of most government agencies were here, as well as the Joint Chiefs, along with their second in commands. Perfect.

“We’ve just got confirmation that the President pro tempore of the Senate is down,” Abrams announced, his eyes wide with fear. “Someone’s killing them all.”

“Who?” Collins demanded. “Who the fuck is killing them? Are we under attack?”

“Yes you are,” Tala said from behind Collins. “And we’re the ones doing it.”

Collins spun around to face the tall, attractive blonde. He found himself staring into startlingly golden eyes. “Who in the fuck are you?”

“Tala Ivanova. And you are a dead man. All of you are.”

“What are you…?” he started to ask, only to stop as she closed her eyes. He stared as she began to tighten her body, working her way upward from her calves, tensing hamstrings and quads and glutes and abs. 

He wasn’t the only one staring open-mouthed as the beautiful woman began to turn herself into a maze of hard-edged muscle. It was as if she was turning her flesh into some kind of metal.

Tala could feel the immense pressure building inside her pelvis, but knew she needed far more strength to compress the explosive enough to detonate it. She focused on her Kegel muscles while crossing her arms over her chest and clenching her fists. A wild, racing surge of impossible pleasure surged inside her as she felt her muscles starting to burn. The familiar tingling warmth that always came over her when she used her full strength. It grew so intense that she had to shift her weight slightly as her inner muscles started to squirm pleasantly.

“A Russian? Here?” Collins demanded as he stared dumbfounded at Tala’s fantastic definition, her smooth, body flexing into a maze of tight clefts and hard curves that defied believability. He’d never imagined a slender woman like her could become this defined, yet still look so incredibly hot. But he knew danger when he saw it. 

“Remove her,” he shouted to the closest agents.

Tala opened her eyes as her strength reached its peak. She ignored the men who were trying to grab her. They pushed and pulled at her, but they might as well have been tearing at a bronze statue with their bare hands. She didn’t budge.

One of the MP’s pulled a sidearm and aimed it at her. He had a dumbfounded and confused look on his face. “Stand down,” he shouted at her. “Move toward the doorway.” 

Tala ignored him as the wild tingles homed in on her sex,  her eyes fluttering. She was breathing deeply and hovering on the very edge of losing it, yet she hadn’t even touched herself.  

“Get her out of here,” Collins shouted as he saw her lips quivering. The woman looked like she was about to have a seizure. “Any way you can. Hell, shoot her if you have to.”

One of the MP’s tackled her, only to bounce off her steel-hard legs. Something snapped painfully in his shoulder, and he groaned as he fell onto his good side. 

The MP with the gun thought she’d attacked his buddy,  and he panicked. He fired at Tala’s chest, only to see the bullet dimple her large breast before bouncing off, leaving a ragged hole in her top. His jaw dropped in astonishment as he saw unbroken skin behind the hole.

Tala smiled in arrogant pleasure as the man tried to comprehend something that wasn’t possible in his world. She reached up to tear her top open, which ensured that every man in the room was facing her as she clenched the explosive inside herself, finally reaching the required pressure. She wanted to make sure they knew who had killed them.

A fantastic explosion raced outward through her body, the shockwave reaching the surface of her skin to radiate outward.   With her speeded-up senses, she actually saw the   closest men turn into pink mist as the blast wave raced outward in a perfect circle around her, picking up people and equipment to smash them against the circular, armored inner walls.

A scant half second later, Tala found herself standing naked in the center of a dark, empty room. The only light was coming from the violent glare of her pelvis. 

She lifted her right hand to run her fingers across her flat stomach, then upward. Her nipples were tingling and hard and she still felt wildly turned on, but the rest of her body was just numb. The rising heat lifted her blonde hair to billow it high over her head. She stared down at the red glow which lit the inside of her thighs, and felt insanely proud of the force she had just unleashed in her most sensitive of places. 

She paused to take a dozen deep breaths, and then took a step forward, finding that her legs were numb as usual. It was always a challenge to walk after a detonation. But she managed.

She slowly approached the curved, armored walls of the command post, noticing as she did that she could see the outlines of crushed metal desks and other equipment plastered against the wall, the metal barely a sixteenth of an inch thick. Wires and electrical equipment were flattened into a grotesquely incomprehensible mess. Everything was stained red.

Turning, she walked gingerly toward the open doorway and out into the empty corridor that led back to the surface elevator. The walls had bulged outward from the blast to give the hallway a tubular shape. The remains of the security screening station were plastered against the inside of the elevator shaft down at the end of the corridor. Squinting, she saw traces of dog fur embedded in the gore. 

Despite her earlier anger and embarrassment with the explosive-sniffing dog, most of it an act that had been designed to fluster the MP, she felt badly for the poor animal. It had only been trying to do its job. 

Killing Americans didn’t bother her. 

Killing dogs did. 

She tried not to look at the bloody fur as she stepped into the elevator shaft and looked upward to see a square of daylight high overhead. The elevator car had been ejected from the top of the shaft like a bullet from a gun as the blast found its way to the surface. The cables and topside machinery were likewise gone. 

She smiled. All of this destruction had come from inside her body. So much for being the weaker sex. 

She briefly debated clawing her way up the walls of the shaft before deciding on an easier way. She bent down while concentrating on making her legs strong, and leaped upward. She bounced off the shaft walls several times before crashing into the mangled girders that remained from the elevator machinery. 

Emerging seconds later from the wreckage, she found herself standing in what was left of a government office building. Desks were overturned and windows blown out, and the floor was littered with bodies. Several rescuers were clawing their way into the wreckage, but they froze when they saw her emerge naked and glowing from the debris. Two of the men aimed weapons at her while a woman walked forward to bravely offer her a blanket. 

Tala calmly reached down and picked up two baseball-sized chunks of broken concrete. The armed men shouted at her to drop her ad hoc weapons, but she merely flicked her wrists toward them. The concrete hit with the force of a cannon shell, boring fist-sized holes through the men’s chests to send them flying backward. 

Smiling in satisfaction at her unleashed power, Tala turned to face the now horrified woman who was still tentatively offering her a blanket. Reaching out, she grabbed the front the woman’s jacket to pull her closer. The woman’s clothing promptly burst into flames from the heat of Tala’s skin, and the air whooshed from her lungs. Her eyes filled with mortal pain and fear. 

Tala showed her the only kind of compassion she was capable of by crushing the woman’s fragile ribs against the steel of her own and then snapping her spine, ending her suffering. 

She dropped the woman’s crushed body as she looked around for for a way out of the building. Some way to escape unseen. She wasn’t ready to show the Americans how they’d been defeated. To reveal to them that their country’s leadership could be decapitated by a single woman. 

Not until the first missiles were in the air.

After that…well, Crimson was the color of blood.

#

Central Virginia

I stared out the windows of the safe house near the Charlottesville-Albemarie Airport while watching a heavy rain fall. The low clouds scudding over the field occasionally broke long enough to see two gleaming white Gulfsteam IV jets sitting on the tarmac. This was one of the CIA’s emergency airfields.

I needed access to one of those planes and Peabody was my ticket. Despite his initial distrust of me, he’d made a critical decision on that helicopter yesterday. He’d decided to believe in me. I was going to return the favor by telling him everything I knew about Crimson. 

He was my only link back into the Agency and its intel network. I needed to know what my fellow Crimson operatives were doing, especially Tala. She’d always been the most powerful of my sisters.  

My encrypted cellphone rang, interrupting my thoughts. I had no idea why my Agency phone was still working, but at least it was secure.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“Five minutes out,” Peabody said. “But I just got word that the National Command Center has been destroyed by an apparent suicide bomber.”

“Suicide? I doubt that. Sounds like Tala’s doing.”

“Who’s Tala?”

“I’ll explain when you get here.”

“We’ve lost control of the line of succession,“ he said, his voice as emotionless as always. “The Joint Chiefs and most of the agency heads and their lieutenants were in the NCC when it blew. If the Russians shot at us now, we wouldn’t be able to respond.”

“The Russians aren’t the problem, Peabody. Their current leaders don’t know anything about Crimson. Orlov was the one who kept us in play. He was working his own agenda.”

“Then what’s the point of decapitating…?” Peabody started to ask. 

“He’s released my sisters,” I interrupted. “They are only doing what he trained them to do.”

“Who… what sisters? What training?”

“His idea is to get us to poke our finger in the hornet’s nest by nuking some critical religious sites. Orlov was an old Soviet, still committed to the cause. Even though I killed him, the rest of Crimson will try again. At one of our alternate launch locations.”

“Crimson?” he asked.

“Yes. I’ll also explain that when you get here. In the meantime, see if you can find out which of the alternate command and control locations is being activated.” 

I hung up the phone as I continued to worry about Tala. She’d always been far too strong for any of us to defeat during our childhood training. While the rest of us were half human and half alien, Tala’s DNA had turned out to be mostly alien. She was closer to whatever it was they’d modeled us after. 

Tala was the one Orlov had doted on, remarking constantly on her hair color, which was even a lighter shade of blonde than my own. I’d always thought it was just his sick obsession with little blonde girls, but now I wondered if there was some connection between hair color and our alien donors.

I clearly remembered Orlov teaching Tala to wrap her body around explosives to magnify the shockwaves, relying upon the fact that the longer an explosion was contained, the more powerful it became. 

I’d tried it only once myself, gripping the explosive in my hands as I curled myself into a ball around it, tensing every muscle in my body. The resulting explosion had left me bruised and sore for a weak. 

In contrast, he’d taught Tala to hide it deep inside herself, flaunting her invulnerability by having her detonate some bit of hidden explosive while playing with us just to show off. She’d only been eight years old at that time. I shuddered to think what she was capable of now. 

How do you stop someone who is a walking bomb?

I was still lost in thought when I saw headlights coming down the long driveway. I recognized Peabody as he turned his car around to face back down the driveway. When he got out, he held his silencer-equipped Glock 10mm in one hand and a briefcase in the other. His eyes were moving constantly, studying everything as he walked toward the door. His reputation as the Agency’s top counter-agent was well deserved. 

Unfortunately he didn’t have any idea what he was facing. I would have to show him.

I opened the door to stand tall in the entrance, my eyes level with his. Now that I was quickened, they were far brighter than before, glowing with a golden light. 

salt03

He paused in the doorway, dripping wet, staring at me.  In typical Peabody fashion, he didn’t waste words. 

“I saw eyes like yours at the NCC just before the explosion.”

I held his gaze for another second, and then stepped aside to let him enter. He wasn’t an easy man to intimidate. 

“Let me guess. A blonde about my height?”

“Taller. The explosive dog didn’t like her, but she brazened her way past. I almost stopped her. Thought it was odd that she had eyes like yours. Statistically improbable.”

“If you had, she’d have killed you, Peabody. Don’t blame the security people. The woman you saw was Tala. Orlov trained her to carry explosives in her vagina. Given I’m sure she had a high clearance and all that jazz, nobody was going to do a cavity search.” 

His eyes opened marginally wider. “Her vagina?”

“She’s trained to turn her body into something harder than steel and detonate it inside herself. The shock wave is multiplied many times by the containment of her invulnerable body.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Salt. She’s vaporized. The update I got on the NCC said the blast effects were overwhelming.”

“But strangely, there was no sign of heat or fire or explosive residue. Correct?”

“How did you…?” he started to ask, only to pause, eyes even wider now. 

“As I said, its Tala’s thing. Orlov trained her to do that two decades ago. She’s the most powerful of us.”

“Us? Who in the hell are you talking about?”

I took a few steps backward and placed my hands on my hips.  “It’s easier to show you. Shoot me.”

“What?”

“You see any marks on me, Peabody? After everything I went through yesterday. After jumping from a fatal height.” 

I lifted the side of my top to reveal where I’d been shot. “You shot me here. See. No marks.”

To his credit, Peabody hesitated for only a moment before lifting his silenced Glock. He was a man without emotions. A man of pure logic. He knew he’d shot me, but given I was uninjured, that logic told him I was bulletproof, no matter how crazy it sounded. 

He aimed down and fired at my thigh. The heavy subsonic 10mm round stung as it hit, but the flattened bullet bounced between my legs to roll across the floor behind me. The clink of spent brass hitting the floor seemed unnaturally loud as he looked down at gash in my pants. There was no blood.  

I let him stare at my legs for a moment and then lifted the bottom of my blouse to bare my stomach. I tensed my abs. “It might be easier to shoot me here.”

 He quickly pulled the trigger three more times, sending the stinging bullets plowing into my gut, the spent brass clinking on the floor as before. The heavy bullets bounced off my hard skin as they doubled me over. One of the ricochets hit Peabody hard enough to make him wince. He quickly lifted his aim and fired a last round directly between my eyes, the impact snapping my head back for a moment. 

It was all I could do to keep from crying out as my eyes began to tear. Unlike Tala, bullets stung me like the devil.

He slowly lowered his Glock, yet his face showed no emotion. He ejected the clip and verified that it was loaded with service ammunition. He snapped the clip back into the gun. 

“I think you need to explain this to me, Salt.”

I pull my top back down as I stepped closer to him. Those wild tingles were teasing me again, making me want to do things that were inappropriate. I couldn’t resist leaning close to him as I lifted his gun hand to to press the barrel of his silenced Glock against my left boob.

“One more time, Peabody. Just for giggles.”

His eyes flicked down to stare at the way the gun was dimpling my breast. He tried to pull the gun back, but I reached out to flick his trigger finger. The gun fired, but this time the POOF of his silencer was nearly inaudible, buried as it was in my soft boob. The recoil pushed him backward as the hot, spent bullet fell down inside my clothing. I reached down to shake my top, and the flattened bullet clunked to the floor.

“As you can see, bullets don’t hurt me. Anywhere.”

His gaze slowly rose from the hole in my blouse back to my face, the merest hint of a question in his eyes. I began to wonder if he was a robot. Most men would have been freaking out by now.

“The project was named Crimson,” I started to explain. “It was the darkest of all Soviet programs, drawing on some genetic material that had been discovered in an extraterrestrial craft that crashed in Siberia decades earlier. The Tunguska event.”

“The meteor that exploded with the power of a nuclear detonation? Back in 1908?”

“That’s what most people believe. It was actually an ET that blew up in the atmosphere. There was an artifact, and it eventually found its way to Orlov. He was the one who discovered a way to harness the DNA residue that was found inside it more than 70 years after the explosion. Soviet science in the 1980’s was capable of injecting that DNA into some human ova and implanting the resulting fertilized eggs into human hosts. A half dozen of us were born. We were called Crimson.”

“Half human and half… what?”

I shrugged. “Unknown. But judging by our abilities, a vastly powerful humanoid race. Apparently the alien DNA was completely compatible with human DNA.”

“That could only be the case if they shared a common ancestry with us.  We can’t even do that with apes.”

“Something to think about, isn’t it?” 

I smiled as I saw Peabody frown, his mind racing. Most men would have been visibly shocked by what he’d just seen. By what he’d just heard. They’d be unable to accept the implications. But Peabody was a man of pure logic. 

“Is there any more of that genetic material left?”

I shrugged. “No idea. But right now that’s not our problem. Stopping Tala and my other sisters is.”

“All of you are sleepers?”

“Yes. Deeply indoctrinated using hypnotic suggestion. I don’t know why I’ve managed to overcome that. Failure of the hypnosis or maybe my long career in the CIA or maybe the torture in North Korea. Maybe just luck. But we can’t count on any of the others to share my weakness.”

“How is this a weakness?”

“Orlov trained us to overturn the President and his line of succession immediately prior to launching a nuclear attack on the US. Given that threat is gone, Orlov has refocused us on a first strike at targets that will ensure the demise of the US. Insulting every Muslim on the planet for all of time by destroying Mecca and other holy sites. The resulting Jihad will last a thousand years.”

“Where are the Russians in all of this?”

“Ignorant. But if the attack comes off, they’ll condemn the US right along with every other country on Earth. They’ll join the alliance to stop the US from further attacks. It would be the end of America. Perhaps the end of the West as we know it.”

I saw the first evidence of fear on Peabody’s face. So he wasn’t a robot after all. He realized how close Ted had come to doing all that yesterday. He’d thought it was over. Now he knew it was just starting.

“Your former boss was part of Crimson?”

“Yes and no. Ted was one of Orlov’s agents, brainwashed and all, but not Crimson. He was disposable. His job was to trigger me and the others. Apparently the alien DNA only worked with females. All the male babies failed to develop.”

Peabody’s hands were shaking slightly as he set his briefcase on the kitchen counter. He pulled a list of names from his briefcase and began to scan it. “Its my belief that everyone in the chain of succession down to the Attorney General is dead.”

“Who’s he? The Attorney General?” I wasn’t much of a student of current politics.

“Her. Name is Nancy Lyon.”

I felt a twinge of fear as I walked over to stand behind him, gently rubbing the stinging spot on my boob. “You have a picture?”

He pulled out another folder and flipped through it until he came to a handsome dark-haired woman. We both saw the eyes at the same moment. They were golden.

“Jesus…she’s Commander in Chief now. We’ve got to stop her.”

“Nobody is going to take her out, Peabody. Not now. The rest of Crimson will protect her.”

“You know her?”

“Yeah. Her name used to be Abby. She was my best friend when I was young.”

“Well, your best friend is about to be given the nuclear launch codes and authorization to use them.”

“Not if we get to her first, Peabody. We need her location and the shelter they’re taking her to. Clearly what’s left of the government will be going to ground somewhere.”

Peabody pulled out his phone. “Assuming I can find anyone who knows what’s going on. The entire government is in disarray.”

“We’re going to need one of those Gulfstreams too. I might be bulletproof, but I’m not Supergirl. Flying isn’t one of my skills.”

#

Attorney General Nancy Lyon was surrounded by Secret Service agents as she was driven at breakneck speed to the airport in Dallas. She’d been in town to review the work of the local US Attorney’s office and attend a political fundraiser for the President when she was informed that she was to be sworn into the Presidency. 

After a moment’s surprised reaction, she took the news in stride and raised her hand to take the oath of office. Like most senior government officials, she’d heard of the attempt on President Lewis’ life and the killing of the Vice President. She reacted strangely, however, when told of the explosion in the National Command Center. Also the killing of everyone above her in the line of succession. Instead of shock, she’d just nodded, almost as if she’d expected it. 

Moments later, she officially became the latest President of the United States as well as its Commander in Chief. 

She began her new job by asking all the right questions as her white government Gulfstream IV took off from Dallas. Who was attacking them? Why now? And where were the attacking forces located?

The only name the Secret Service could give her was Evelyn Salt. And she was dead. 

She asked for a detailed status report on all strategic nuclear weapons. The men obliged her. They were under attack. She was their Command in Chief.

Their plane flew northwest, heading toward Colorado Springs, Colorado. The old NORAD combat operations center in the middle of Cheyenne Mountain was the most secure and hardened installation in the world. It had been kept in a warm-ready condition since the end of the Cold War, waiting for a time when it would be needed once again. 

Agent Jeffrey Mills briefed her on the Mountain as they flew. He described how the combat operations center sat on huge springs inside a metal-clad cavern that was 2000 feet inside a solid granite mountain, with a mile of rock overhead.  The entrance tunnel was designed to carry blast from one side of the mountain the other, with two massive blast doors set into an alcove in the middle of the tunnel that deflected any blast away from the hardened buildings that were located in caverns behind the blast doors. 

The Mountain had been designed to survive a direct hit from a multi-megaton nuclear warhead. Not only survive, but continue to operate. It was a small city with the resources to operate for months without outside contact. It had multiple hardened communication links connecting it to both the defensive and offensive forces of the US military. No force on Earth could penetrate the Mountain once it was locked down.   

President Nancy Lyon seemed reassured as they explained this to her, yet she was clearly drinking from a fire hose of information as the men tried to get her up to speed before they arrived in Colorado Springs. Most important was the military nuclear control team. They described how she was to use the Football that was waiting for her in Cheyenne Mountain — the authorization device that only the President of the United States could use to authorize the release of nuclear weapons. 

Someone was clearly attacking them, and it was entirely possible that it was a nuclear power like Russia or China. 

Further attacks and the need for retaliation or even pre-emptive strikes were possible. 

#

Virginia

The worried look on Peabody’s usually emotionless face as he hung up his phone told me we were in even deeper trouble than I’d feared. 

“They just swore her in. She’s airborne now, heading for Colorado Springs. They’ve reactivated the Cheyenne Mountain Combat Ops Center and they are going to lock it down once she arrives.”

“What’s her ETA?”

“On the ground at Peterson Field in Colorado Springs in 60 minutes, more or less.”

“Shit. We’re four hours away, assuming we were airborne now. What about a Gulfstream for us?”

“Still working on that.”

“I’m assuming Lyon will have full control of the military once she’s there?”

“As far as I know, yes.”

“Can we cut-off communications between the Mountain and the launch facilities?”

“No way. Its comm systems are hardened. It’s designed to stay operating even in a nuclear war. This is what they built the place for. To weather any attack on the US and to coordinate a counter strike. Every nuke in the arsenal will soon be under her command.”

“Fuck. Orlov must be dancing on his grave.” I smacked my fist into my palm hard so hard it sounded like a gunshot. “That bastard. This was his plan all along. But how could Orlov arrange to place Lyon in this position? How could he prepare so long ago for this day?”

Peabody shook his head slowly. “He just had to get someone into the succession line, anywhere, and then kill everyone above her. None of our scenarios involved a sleeper this deep.” 

For the first time, he looked distressed. He seemed to be taking the failure personally.

I reached out to grip his arm. “It’s not your fault. Who reasonably would have worried about the Attorney General being a Russian sleeper, let alone becoming President?”

“Nobody is going to listen to us, Salt. You realize that. We can’t stop her. What do we tell people? That aliens from outer space are attacking the US for God’s sake?”

“Actually, its the old Soviet clandestine service that’s attacking. I doubt there were ever more than a handful of Soviets who knew about Crimson, and I’m betting Orlov was the only one left alive when I killed him. Other than those of us who are Crimson that is.”

“You’re going to have to show them, Salt. The bulletproof thing. Something.”

I shook my head. “That would just generate questions nobody would want to hear the answers to. Not now. Not during a crisis.”

“Then we have to find a way to get into the Mountain before Lyon does.”

“Agreed. Which means keeping her plane from landing at Peterson Field until we get there.”

Peabody swiveled nervously back and forth in his chair as he thought. He finally paused to face me. 

“A bomb threat specifically aimed at President Lyon. Until a press announcement is made, nobody outside the inner circle even knows she’s been sworn in. If someone called in a threat with very specific info on her, talking about Peterson Field, stolen anti-aircraft missiles or whatever, they’d assume it was from inside the circle of trust. They wouldn’t know who was the mole.”

“Then I have to do it, Peabody. They already think I tried to kill Lewis. I’m also supposed to be dead. If I surface, if I make this threat, its going to be taken seriously. They’ll know I’m working with someone inside.” 

“But you’ll burn me, Salt. I said you died in the fall from the chopper.”

“No, you said I jumped from 500 feet. The crew of the chopper were surely debriefed as well. They will have confirmed your story. The fact that I survived and am still a threat is going to shock them all. They’ll take me seriously.”

“Then do it. I’ll work on getting us a ride.”

I punched up the classified number for the Secret Service office in the White House. No sense in going through channels. 

#

We were airborne in one of the CIA’s Gulfsteam IV’s a half hour later. I don’t know Peabody did it, but we got the Hot bird. The one the CIA always kept crewed and ready for emergencies.

Meanwhile, I delivered my threat. I swear I could hear the blood draining from the agent’s face over the phone. This hadn’t been a good 48 hours for the Secret Service. Now I was promising even worse.

I briefed Peabody after I hung up, and he made another call, only to give me a thumbs up halfway through the call.

“Good work, Salt,” he said as hung up his phone. “Her plane has been re-routed up near the Canadian border while Peterson Field is secured. You were convincing.”

“People that come back from the dead often are. I fed them just enough specifics to prove who I was.”

“Meanwhile, I’ve been feeding information about golden-eyed sleepers into the system as fast as I can. CIA counterintelligence and the FBI now know that the woman who killed the Veep had eyes like yours. They were treating that info as an anomaly, so I asked about a blonde woman entering the NCC with the same eyes just before the explosion. They’ll have surveillance cameras on the surface that survived the blast. Once they access those cameras, they’ll have an unusual profile that matches all three attackers. I’ve also planted a seed about Lyon. One look at her picture, at her golden eyes, and someone will start connecting the dots.”

“And then do what? Arrest the newly sworn-in President because they don’t like her eye color? Who’s next in the line of succession after her anyway?”

“The Secretary of the Interior. A former Park ranger.”

I smiled. “Oh, the military will love that. A tree hugger.”

“Doubts. All we can do right now is plant doubts, Salt. Maybe get someone to hesitate on the launch trigger if she tries to pull it.”

“Once I get into the Mountain, I should be able to stop her. Nancy was the brainy one when we were kids. No real physical talents. I can take her easily.”

“Unless your sisters are there to defend her. How many of them are still alive?”

“I have no idea.”

I unconsciously made a fist as I imaged fighting my sisters. That drew Peabody’s eyes to my wrist. I followed his eyes down to see that the tendons of my wrist and hand looked like steel cables. The muscles of my forearm were fantastically defined. My entire arm looked as if it had been carved out of a steel beam. I suspected my flesh was actually harder than mere steel now, but I wasn’t going to try and explain that. 

“Tala is the only one who can stop me, Peabody.”

“So how strong are you, anyway? Now that you’re quickened?”

“Give me your backup gun.”

Peabody hesitantly pulled the small pistol that was strapped to his ankle. I held out my hand and he placed it in my palm.

I ejected the clip and cycled the round from the chamber. 

“Watch this.”

He stared down at my hand as I slowly closed my fingers and began to squeeze. The gun felt very hard and angular at first, but then those maddeningly pleasant tingles began to race through me again. I felt myself getting turned on, hot even, as my muscles stood out strongly across my forearm. 

The tingles quickly turned into an unbearable desire to touch myself, to make myself come, but I gritted my teeth and resisted that need, focusing my arousal on simply getting stronger.   

The gun promptly collapsed in my hand. 

I began squeezing it with both hands as I worked the gun steel into a ball the way a child might make a snowball. By the time I set the mangled remains down on the table, the steel was smoking hot from the friction. The crude ball no longer looked anything like a gun. 

Peabody’s wide-open eyes moved from the mangled ball of gun steel to my chest, then to my eyes and back down. I could feel my nipples pressing against the fabric of my top, engorged like bullets and probably just as hard. 

I was gasping for air as those hot tingles worked on me. I found myself wondering what kind of man Peabody really was. Beneath his suit. We had time. Nobody in the cockpit would know what we did back here. 

It took all my willpower not to reach out for him. To give myself to him. But I already knew it would never work. My body was harder than steel now. All of me. And he was just a man. 

Sadly, I shook my head to push those misplaced thoughts away. This business of getting super strong by getting turned on was awkward. Distracting as hell too. But if that’s what it took…

“Its like you stepped out of some kind of comic book, Salt.”

“Yeah. An X-rated one maybe. I don’t think even a comicbook writer is twisted enough to envision sexual arousal driving their heroine’s strength. And vice-versa.”

“Reality is often stranger than fiction, Salt.”

“Which is why you can’t tell anyone about Crimson abilities, Peabody. People will think you’ve lost it and they’ll pull your access to information we need.”

“Do you always get, you know, turned on like this?”

I nodded. “When I want to get strong. Sorry if it bothers you, but it’ll fade soon enough.”

“It just seems… bizarre. Why would the aliens have convolved sexual tension with super strength? Their idea of sex must have been pretty athletic if their women had to turn to steel first.”

I shrugged. “Maybe this is what comes from being half human. Hell, maybe its just me. The last time I saw my sisters, we were far too young to explore this aspect. But we all seemed to have different talents, that much I do remember.”

“So what else can you do?”

“I can move faster than you can track with your eyes. Hear things you can’t. Read a newspaper at a hundred feet. Stuff like that.”

“No heat vision or super breath or whatever? No flying?”

I laughed. “Not that I’ve discovered. But this probably isn’t the place to experiment. Not while we’re eight miles high.”

He nodded as he turned his thoughts back to the mission. “We have to figure out how to land at Peterson Field even if the airspace is closed when we get there. They might shoot us down if we try.”

“Easy. I’ll just jump as we fly over the area at altitude. A Gulfsteam IV that’s light on fuel can climb well above 50,000 feet. They won’t see us as a threat up that high.”

“That’s a long way to fall. This plane doesn’t have parachutes.”

“A body can only fall so fast no matter how far they fall. Terminal velocity at the altitude of Colorado Springs is about 200 miles per hour, maybe a bit less. It’ll hurt, but I’m sure I can walk away from the landing. The trick is for you to convince the crew to fly over Cheyenne Mountain in the first place.”

“That’s probably restricted airspace during the best of times.”

I reached out to touch the gun beneath his coat. “Like I said, convince them. Or figure out how to do it yourself after you take them out.”

His hand closed over my arm, gripping me. “You truly do feel like you’re made of steel.”

I winked at him. “Steel bends, Peabody. It even melts. I don’t.” 

I watched the funny look in his eyes. For the first time, I saw a hint of intimidation combined with his curiosity. Even a little arousal. As interesting as it would be to explore his reactions further — I was still turned on after all — this wasn’t the time or place. 

Instead, I rose to move to the back of the cabin where I slumped into one of the chairs. I spread a blanket over myself. 

“You should get an hour or two of sleep, Peabody. Not likely we’re going to get any for a while after we get there.”

#

Colorado

I watched the Front Range of the Rockies approaching from 52,000 feet. Despite being over 14,000 feet high at their summits, the Rockies looked like mere wrinkles from this altitude. 

Traffic Control had denied us permission to overfly the Colorado Springs area as expected. The airspace for fifty miles in all directions was closed to all but military traffic.

I looked meaningfully at Peabody and he got out of his seat to go forward to the cockpit. He locked himself into the cockpit, and minutes later, the plane turned and began to fly directly toward the sprawling city of Colorado Springs. 

Peabody could be very convincing when he wanted to be. 

I just hoped nobody would shoot us down before I got close enough to jump. They would have F-16’s flying top-cover over this airspace. Our only hope was that they’d be confused by the fact that we were squawking CIA codes on our transponder. 

I quickly braided my hair to keep it out of the way as I pressed my face to a window, straining to make out Cheyenne Mountain. It knew it was located just south and east of Pikes Peak. At 9000 feet, it was nearly mile lower than the white expanse of Pikes Peak. But even that lofty summit was almost eight miles below us now.  

I quickly found that the terrain south of Pikes Peak all looked the same. We were too high and too far away to pick out details. I drew a line from the sprawl of the Fort Carson Army Base to Pikes Peak, looking for a large collection of antennas on a summit that was along that path. That worked. I found a bare ridge that was bristling with antennas. That had to be it. 

I picked up the intercom and described my target to Peabody. Moments later the plane turned and headed straight for the antenna farm.

Rising, I walked to the entrance door. Opening it was going to be difficult, especially at this altitude. It was not only strongly latched, but it was a plug type door that opened inward with the internal pressure reinforcing its seal on the fuselage. I had to find a way to open it without explosive decompression ripping the plane apart. 

I was going to need Peabody if I survived my fight in the Mountain.

I poked my rigid index finger against the small inspection window that was set into the upper part of the door. The inner plastic pane cracked slightly. I poked again, harder, and my finger made a hole, only to stop when I reached the heavy glass that formed the pressure bulkhead. Taking a deep breath, I smashed my fist through the plastic to hit the glass. Nothing happened. I pulled my fist back further and smashed it again, and this time I was rewarded with a maze of cracks. I hit the glass one more time and it exploded outward. 

Everything around me began rushing toward the hole in the window, myself included. The air turned to fog as I hit the door chest first, my right boob stretching painfully through the tiny window. If I’d been made of lesser stuff, I’d have gone out that four-inch wide window, one way or another. As it was, my invulnerable body was plugging the leak. 

I struggled to pull enough of my stretched-out boob out of the window to unplug it, allowing the air to howl past me again,. Seconds later, the decompression ended. I looked down at my torn blouse to make sure I was still all here. I was. 

 I now had bigger problems. I couldn’t breathe in this thin air and I had no idea how long I could hold my breath. The pilots had oxygen masks — hopefully they had a spare for Peabody -- but I had to get down into thicker air before I passed out. 

I began tearing frantically at the door, digging my fingers into the plastic and aluminum inner frame, tearing my way through the flimsy material to find the locking dogs — the real strength in the door. Once I had my fingers wrapped around them, I pulled inward while twisting my wrists until the hardened aluminum shattered, freeing one side of the door. I jammed both hands through the left-hand gap of the plug door and pulled inward. The door gave off a piercing squeal and began to bend under my grip.

The ragged opening admitted the horrific whine of the jet engines along with the roar of the slipstream. A tornado of wind filled the cabin. I braced my feet and pulled a final time, and this time the door ripped completely off its hinges. I tossed the mangled assembly down the aisle between the seats. 

The plane tilted strongly forward as the pilots began an emergency descent.

Turning back to the tilted doorway, I said a tiny prayer and threw myself out into the slipstream. 

The wind caught me, spinning me violently around as I felt a tremendous blow slamming into my back. I’d hit one of the jet engines. Looking up as I tumbled away, I saw flames exploding from the engine.

I didn’t have time to worry about that as I twisted myself around to assume a proper free fall position. It had been a long time since I’d done any jumps at the Farm. 

As soon as I stabilized my body, I wiped the windblown tears from my eyes so I could search for the parking lot at the main entrance to the Mountain. Unfortunately, I was disoriented again. I spun myself around to get my bearings, and saw a white Gulfstream sitting on the tarmac at Peterson Field a few miles to the east.  

Turning back the other way, I studied the brown landscape below me, squinting as I tried to put my enhanced eyesight to good use. I scanned left and right before spotting the summit antenna farm. Far below it, a large collection of military vehicles were gathered at the end of a road that seemed to end at a cliff. That had to be one of the portals. A small motorcade was disappearing into the cliff. 

President Lyon was already there! 

I adjusted my arms and legs to fall head-first toward the last vehicles of the motorcade, streamlining my body as I tried to fall faster. Maddeningly, the ground was coming up too slowly.

Two long minutes passed before the fatal ground rush that every skydiver dreads began at 1000 feet above the parking lot. I saw one soldier look up and point as the parking lot suddenly seemed to spread out to the side and the ground rose up to smack me at fantastic speed. 

I landed directly on top of a Hummer. I blasted through the vehicle to bury myself in the asphalt beneath. Thankfully, I didn’t feel any pain. Just that strange  numbness. I tried to get up and run, but I had the weight of the Hummer on top of me. 

I gritted my teeth, willing the numbness away as I reached between my legs and touched myself, glad for the privacy of the Hummer. I had to get strong enough and fast enough to get through the portal before they figured out what had happened and started shooting. 

It was an obscene way to become super, but a few moments of focusing did the job. My numbness faded to be replaced by a surge of hot arousal. Tingling strength rushed through my body. 

I leaped to my feet so fast that the four ton Hummer went flying into the air. It landed upside down on another vehicle. 

I began to run toward the portal. 

I was almost there when the first high-velocity metal-jacketed rifle round found my back. The powerful impact knocked the air from my lungs and threw me forward. More rounds followed. The air was suddenly filled with bits of fabric. It took me a moment to realized the confetti was my clothing. 

I had no idea if I was bleeding or not, all I cared about was that the bullets gave flight to my feet. I raced through the portal as a half dozen rounds bounced off my ass and legs as I leaned forward into the wind. Then I was racing around a gentle curve in the half-mile long tunnel, leaving the bullets to ricochet back and forth between the walls. Some of them hit me softly from the sides.

The ground ahead of me was paved with asphalt with a dotted yellow line running down the middle. A road wide enough for two vehicles to pass. I focused on the dotted line and ran for all I was worth. 

I was still accelerating when a brilliant flash of light lit the darkness in front of me. 

I didn’t have time to wonder where the flash came from as a powerful laser beam caught me in the chest. I dove to the side and skidded to a stop, only to have the beam follow me. My left boob felt like it was on fire as I stared uncomprehendingly down the tunnel toward a weapon that belonged in the world of Science Fiction. 

Strangely, instead of feeling pain, the laser’s heat felt like it was making me stronger.  Just like the high voltage had. 

salt05

Was I absorbing energy from the laser?

I didn’t have time to wonder about that as I leaned into the beam and took a step forward, only to have the beam blink out. I blinked away the residual glare to see a golden-eyed, red-headed woman standing close to me. 

“Anakara!” I gasped as I recognized her.

“My long lost sister, Evelyn,” she smiled. “You’ve come to help us. Good.”

I walked closer to her, the glow from my chest accenting the red of her long hair. I remembered her power. She could fly like a bird. I’d always envied her so, watching her soaring with the hawks over our remote Siberian compound. She alone could have escaped our confinement if she’d wished. But she had stayed with the rest of us out of loyalty. We were a family.

She floated closer to me now, darting around in the air like a hummingbird. For all my fond memories of her, I knew she’d be working with Tala and Nancy. She was here to stop me.

I waited until she flew close, and then threw a punch at her. My fist found only empty air. 

“Surely you don’t think I’ve grown so slow you could actually hit me,” Annakara taunted. “And why would you want to anyway? We’re together again.”

“We’ve got to stop Nancy,” I told her. “She’s going to destroy this country. You’re helping her.”

“Of course I am. America is evil. Capitalism’s chains will destroy the poor.”

I was trying to think of something clever to say to that when she flashed forward to crash into my midriff, knocking the air from my lungs as she drove me backward into the wall. I picked myself back up to see her bobbing on thin air further down the tunnel. 

“What was that for?”

“You have to get well, Evelyn. I want you to stay out here until its over. Tala’s waiting for you, and you don’t want to fight her. She’ll hurt you.”

I slowly walked toward Anakara. “I don’t want to to fight any of you. But I need to see Nancy. She’s here, isn’t she?”

She shook her head. “I’m not saying anything more until you are one of us again, Evy.”

Clearly I wasn’t going to be able to reason with her. Maybe I could confuse her. 

“Anakara, don’t you know that my saving of President Lewis was designed to create confusion? I put him into that coma. He won’t recover. That’s how I opened the door for Nancy’s succession.”

Anakara paused to hang steadily in the air, a look of doubt on her face. She’d always been very gullible. 

“If you don’t believe me, come with me to see Nancy. She’ll confirm what I’m saying.”

Anakara settled back to the floor to let me pass. “OK. But I warn you, Evy, I’ll toss you into orbit if you’re lying. You’ll never come down.”

I had no doubt she could do exactly that as I walked past her. She floated along behind me as I continued down the tunnel. 

I’d gone perhaps a hundred feet when that laser targeted me again, two beams converging this time to strike the middle of chest. The twin beams seemed to come from a distant point down the tunnel. I gritted my teeth and just leaned into them as the heat burned the rest of my top away. It didn’t hurt, but it made me feel funny.   

As before, the beams fired for only a few seconds before shutting down. Half blinded by the glare, I didn’t see Anakara coming at me from behind until it was too late.

So much for being gullible.

She wrapped her arms and legs around me and propelled me forward down the tunnel at fantastic speed. I found myself racing directly toward a tall blonde who standing in the middle of the tunnel. Before I could try to dodge to the side, the blonde’s fist connected with my face, knocking both me and Anakara backward so powerfully that my head shattered a section of the rock wall. 

Tala!

I leaped back to my feet, but Tala was a spring-steel tigress, punching at me so fast that I couldn’t even see her fists moving. The blows were starting to hurt. I tried to grab her wrists, but she was too fast for me. 

“Silly Evy,” Tala taunted, also using my childhood name. “You could never beat me. You never will. I’m not half human like the rest of you. I’m pure.”

I swung my fist at her as hard as I could, but she caught it in her hand to shove me backward. I fell on my ass to skid down the roadway for fifty feet. 

Despite being able to toss a four-ton Hummer into the air, my strength was trivial compared to Tala’s. 

Looking up at her, I remembered seeing the short black dress she now wore once before — it was an artifact from the ET ship. The dress wrapped around her neck with two narrow swaths of black fabric descending to cover her breasts before flaring out into a tiny skirt, leaving her shoulders, arms and back bared. The deep V of her cleavage dropped all the way to her navel. 

Dressed this way, I had no doubt Tala was a dead-ringer for the aliens. Yet the exotic outfit looked completely out of place inside this cold, dark Doomsday cold-war complex.

“I could break every bone in your body, Evy. Very slowly. Just as I promised to do so long ago.”

We’d always fought as children, the two of us being the most physical of the sisters. Naturally, I’d lost all the fights. Yet I didn’t hate Tala. She was my sister. 

“We need to give Nancy some time to complete her mission,” Tala continued. “Then she can heal you. She can make you one of us again.”

She was spouting the same kind of crap as Anakara. I was opening my mouth to argue with her, struggling to think of a way to get past her, when a flurry of sharp stings peppered my back. I heard the stuttering roar of gunfire a fraction of a second later. 

The black fabric of Tala’s dress began rippling wildly as bullets bounced from her steel-hard skin as well. Soldiers were  racing down the tunnel, shooting as they came, but they didn’t know friend from foe. 

I did. I saw Anakara huddling on the floor of the tunnel. She cried out as the bullets tore tiny red divots from her skin. She wasn’t as bulletproof as Tala and me. I quickly ducked down to shield her with my body.

Tala smiled her thanks at me as she stepped around the two of us to face the approaching shooters, her move further protecting Anakara. She rested her hands on her hips as she proudly thrust her chest out, daring the soldiers to shoot her. Bullets quickly peppered her body from head to toe as I heard her laugh at the men. She slipped the dress from her shoulders to drop it down over her waist, flaunting herself as she walked closer to them.  

I realized she was trying to draw all the ugliness to herself to protect Anakara.

I stared at my more powerful sister, watching her hair and her dress fluttering wildly as she held her arms wide, seemingly embracing the lethal rain of bullets. The soldiers were concentrating all their firepower on her when two blinding beams of coherent light flash outward from Tala’s eyes. 

I was stunned. It hadn’t been a laser weapon after all that had targeted me. It had been Tala’s eyes. Yet she’d never had that power as a girl!

I could barely watch as the soldiers bodies exploded into a firework of sparks, their clothing and flesh and even their weapons vaporizing in Tala’s superheated glare. She stared at them until even the sparks of their annihilation had vaporized. When she finally blinked her eyes closed, a hundred feet of the tunnel wall was left glowing blood-red, the asphalt roadway bubbling as it boiled away, creating thick clouds of smoke that floated toward the tunnel entrance. 

Yet despite the threat, more soldiers pressed bravely forward, led by an armored Hummer. They knew they were fighting for the survival of their country. 

I turned around to see the huge blast doors behind us, both of them still standing open. If I could get inside and close them while Tala was busy fighting the soldiers, I might have time to reach Nancy. 

Turning back to Tala, I gathered all my power, finding it was getting easier and easier to turn myself on just by willing it. Seconds later I was trembling at the very edge of orgasm,  my body yearned for release. I poured that surging power into one Herculean kick. My heel landed in the middle of Tala’s back to send her flying like a cannon shell toward the soldiers. 

Spinning around, I dove toward the emergency control panel on the wall to press the Nuclear Detonation Emergency button that was just outside. Yet another artifact of the Cold War. Bells began to ring and red lights flashed as huge hydraulic motors shook the floor as they strained to overcome the hundred ton weight of each door. The doors began to swing closed at surprising speed.

I dove through the first door and was headed for the second when someone grabbed my ankle to trip me. Anakara fell on top of me to hold me down with her flying power. 

“You can’t go in there, Evy. Not until you’re well.”

I twisted around beneath Anakara to kick her so hard that she crashed into the ceiling. I had hoped to stun her, but by the time I got back to my feet she’d flitted through the inner door. I tried to run after her, but I was too late. The door crashed closed with a BOOM that sounded like the crack of doom. The massive locking bolts whirred as they drove deeply into the vault-like frame. 

Spinning around, saw the outer door do the same — a fraction of a second after Tala dove through the crack. She landed on the floor near a corner of the massive door. 

Despite having been shot hundreds of times, she looked completely untouched and pure. Her eyes sparkled like yellow diamonds. Her blonde hair glowed as if from inside each strand. I began to wonder if there was any human DNA in her at all.

tala

“So, little Evy, we’re safe in here until Nancy is done. Please don’t try to fight me any more. Its useless. And I could hurt you a lot easier than you might imagine.”

I clenched my fists as I struggled to gather my power. The energy I’d absorbed from her eye beams and my arousal was still surging through me, fueling my muscles with such power that I felt weightless on my feet. 

Yet despite the power that was pouring freely into my veins, into my muscles, I might as well be a small child facing a hungry tigress. Tala had detonated herself inside the NCC and survived to arrive here ahead of me. She might very well have the strength of thousands of men. How could I defeat someone with that kind of power?

“Our fighting will end like all the other times, little Evy,” she continued as she continued to sit against the corner of the massive door. “With me hurting you until you cry for me to stop. Unless you rejoin us. Unless you become part of the new world we are about to create.”

“A world where our country is the most hated nation on Earth? Never.”

“This isn’t our country, Evy. You are Russian, just like me. Like the rest of our sisters. Its time to reclaim our heritage. To claim our true power.”

“That’s all in the past, Tala. Orlov’s sick fantasy. He’s dead, along with the old Soviet.  I’m an American now and proud of it.”

She laughed as if I’d said something funny. “Well, if you insist on spouting that kind of insanity, then I really will have to kill you. You know I can.”

She rose to walk over to the super-hardened concrete that formed the passageway between the doors, and slowly crunched her fingers closed around a corner of it, pulverizing the bunker-grade concrete as if it was nothing more substantial than spun candy. I shivered as I watched her demonstration of raw power. 

“If there were such a thing as Superman in this world,” she continued, “I could crush him as easily as this flimsy rock. As easily as I can crush you, Evy. The difference being that I don’t want to hurt you.”

I backed away, realizing that she probably really did have the strength of a mythical Kryptonian. How could anyone fight such power? I didn’t exactly have any Kryptonite on me.

She walked slowly toward me, her body shimmering in all its glory. Her limbs gleamed with supple power, muscles moving smoothly beneath tight skin. Muscles of steel. 

I desperately poured everything I had into my punch, slashing upward to catch her just beneath her rib cage. The blow lifted her off the floor to smash her into the ceiling, doubling her over. I followed with a kick that sent her flying backward to smash up against the far blast door, the blow so powerful that it left an impression of her body in the steel. 

She merely smiled and landed catlike on her feet. Shockingly, my strongest punches hadn’t even knocked the wind out of her.

“You can punch me all you want, Evy. But you can’t hurt me. No one can.”

I swung at her again, only to have her deflect the blow with her arm. She threw her shoulder into me, pinning me to the other blast door. I tried to dive away, but she grabbed my braided pony tail to jerk me backward. She began to swing me around her until finally smashing me into the floor. 

I bounced off the concrete and came up to land on my feet. I kicked her as hard as I could, but she leaped lithely over my leg to hang in mid-air. 

My jaw fell open. I was so shocked that my legs gave out, dropping me to the floor. “You… you can fly too?”

“Anakara showed me how. Perhaps I could teach you as well. Its easy once you believe.”

The last threads of hope left me. My fight had just become even more hopeless. I could never escape Tala.

She smiled as she saw the resignation in my eyes. She walked closer to stand over me, her long legs spread in domination. Between the massive blast doors that only she could open and my inability to hurt her in any way, the game was over.

Or was it?  

I found myself staring up under her tiny dress to see a patch of neatly trimmed blonde pubic hair. She was too proud to wear anything beneath her alien dress.

I remembered how Orlov had twisted her from the beginning. The disgusting way he’d taught her to use her sex as a hidden weapon. She’d never have considered doing that on her own. No woman would. But given it had proven so useful at the NCC, it was my guess that she’d reloaded herself with that special explosive. An explosive that could only be detonated by extreme pressure.  

If so, then maybe there was more than one way to open these blast doors. 

“I’m sorry, Tala, but I’m not done yet…” 

Before she realized what I was saying, I extended the index and middle fingers of my strong right hand and thrust them upward with all my strength. My aim was true, and I buried my fingers to their hilt in her, compressing the explosives that I felt inside her.

 

The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor, my body numb.  Tala was imbedded in one of the blast doors, her pelvis glowing white-hot, her blonde hair splayed straight out from her skull. 

I had no idea how I’d survived the blast, but a glance at the doors told me it had been powerful enough to damage the concrete frame along one side of the inner door. A sliver of light was shining through. 

I rose on shaky legs to stagger toward the sliver of light, only to have my hopes fall again as I saw where it was coming from. The three-foot thick concrete frame of the door was damaged, but the gap was barely inches wide. Still, it at least gave me a handhold.

I tore frantically at the special concrete, only to find it had apparently been made with some kind of super-hard aggregate. Carbide or something. My fingernails actually broke as I ripped off tiny chunks. It would take forever to get in there this way. 

I turned all my attention on the meter-thick steel door. Steel I could work with my bare hands.

My nipples itched and my body filled with tingling warmth and my muscles flexed fantastically as I tried to bend it, and the door began to yield slightly. But I realized immediately that it was so thick that it would take me hours to tear a large enough opening to get through. And that was assuming my strength held out that long. 

Now that Nancy knew I was here, now that the complex was locked down, she would act long before then. Before anyone outside the complex could disconnect the comm circuits into the Mountain.

Still, I refused to give up. I smashed my fists into the steel to leave the imprint of my knuckles. I tore at it those depressions with aching fingers, trying to form handholds in the steel, hoping to be able to bend a corner of the massive door inward.  The steel screamed softly as it yielded to my grip, but there was just so damn much of it. 

“That wasn’t very nice, Evy,” a soft voice said from behind me. “I had planned to use that explosive to destroy the Command Post after Nancy launched the missiles. Now I’ll have to do it the messy way.”

I spun around to see Tala tearing herself free of the door. She was still wearing her invulnerable gown, but the middle of her body was glowing white-hot as she massaged her left breast with her hand. 

She looked down at my broken fingernails, seeing the blood that was starting to flow from the quick. “You really want to get in there that badly?”

“I want the chance to at least talk to Nancy before she ends all hope. Before she sends the world into a tailspin it will never recover from.”

“The world will recover in time, Evy. Not America perhaps, but humans in general will go on. They always do. Especially now that we can guide and protect them.”

I shivered as I thought of humans living under the enforced totalitarianism that my sisters would impose. Tala alone could destroy any resistance to Nancy’s rule.

“No. You have to at least give me the chance to reason with her, Tala. If she rejects my arguments, then I’ll at least know I tried. Please.” 

I’d never pleaded with anyone before, but I’d never felt as helpless as I did now. Not even when I was in that North Korean prison.

“You are a goddess, Tala,” I continued, appealing to her vanity. “You can do anything. Hold onto me if you want once we get inside. But let me try to talk to Nancy.”

“We truly want you to rejoin us, Evy. If this is how I can convince you to return, then I will do it. But do not try to hurt me again. You’ve used up all your spare lives.”

I stepped back from the massive door. “Not that it matters, Tala. Not even you could open this door.”

She winked at me as she clenched her fist and made a muscle. Her hard biceps grew impossibly defined, revealing perfect twin peaks of hard muscle. “It’s but concrete and stone and steel, Evy dear. Compared to these muscles, it might as well be wet paper.”

Instead of working on the weakened corner of the door as I had, she jammed her fingers deep into the steel by an intact corner, burying them to their roots. A maze of hard muscle flexed across her back as she began bending the meter-thick steel inward. 

The tortured steel screamed so loudly I had to cover my ears.

She did the same to each corner, peeled a corner of the the massive door away from its frame far enough to rip the logging dogs out of the door frame. Then she wedged herself inside one of the gaps, the cold steel crushing her breasts flat against her chest, and began to push even harder, her chest heaving with inhuman power as she shoved her hands directly forward from her chest. 

I had to cover my ears again as the meter-thick steel folded up with a cacophony of unearthly groaning and shrieking squeals. Tala just smiled as she saw the shocked look in my face. She was enjoying showing off.

I fed her vanity.

“You are so beautiful,” I cooed. “Indeed, you are so much more than merely human. Truly a goddess.”

“As are you,” she smiled as she thrust herself forward with another burst of fantastic strength. The huge door folded in half as she ripped the last of the locking dogs out of ceiling and floor. She gave the door a final wrench, and tore it completely free of its frame. She walked through the opening into the inner cavern, holding a hundred tons of mangled steel over her head as if it was nothing. Turning around to face me, she gave me a little curtsy. 

“Is this wide enough for you to get through, sister Evelyn?”

I ran to the opening to embrace her. I didn’t care if she’d been showing off. She’d opened the way for me. 

The problem now was to disrupt the nuclear release command circuits. Something Tala wasn’t going to allow me to do.

Not without a further distraction. 

Looking up at her as she held that massive door over her head, I saw the way her nipples were standing out. She was incredibly turned on. Like me, using her strength aroused her, and that arousal in turn gave her more strength, feeding on itself.

I recalled when we were young how the others had always gathered around me whenever they were tired or sad. The way we’d hold each other. I was the one that radiated warmth and contentment when we were young. 

Today I was radiating something else. I’d seen it when even the ice-cold Peabody got turned on around me. 

Perhaps I could slow Tala down long enough to stop Nancy.

Perhaps I really did have some Kryptonite.

I reached out to slip my hands under Tala’s dress and cup her warm, firm boobs. My thumb and forefinger caressed her hard nipples as my lips found the fragrant warmth of hers. I kissed her deeply while concentrating on sending a burst of desire from my body to hers.  

She gasped as her body stiffened. She stumbled and dropped the massive door behind her to hit the floor with earthquake force, and wrapped her arms around me to kiss me wildly in return. I felt myself growing stronger as we exchanged power, my arousal for some of her strength. 

Still, it was all I could do to keep breathing as Tala’s embrace gradually tightened, reminding me that my invulnerability had some serious limitations. I couldn’t worry about that now.  I had to focus on forcing her to lose control of her arousal.

I was her Kryptonite. 

I kept beaming pleasure into her body, and moment’s later her mouth opened in a perfect O, her eyes fluttering, her every sense now lost in pleasures that only I could bring her. Her arms stiffened around me so much that I couldn’t breathe. I felt my ribs bend painfully. I began to wonder if I’d made a big mistake when she suddenly cried out, her body exploding in pleasures beyond human imagination. 

She fell into an unrelenting orgasm that was filled with the power of the distant stars.

It took all my newfound strength to tear myself from her. I laid her gently on the floor where she shook and cried out, lost in passion she could not control. 

Once again, I had a chance. Turning, I sprinted toward a group of buildings that sat on huge springs. The springs were designed to soak up the ground shock from a direct hit by a large nuke. 

The centermost building was labeled Command Post. That’s where Nancy would be along with her military advisors. 

Hundreds of cables connected that building to a maze of wiring around it, bringing in power while connecting the Command Post to a dozen different hardened communication links. Any one of those would suffice to carry a Launch order. 

I didn’t have time to storm the building. As soon as Nancy realized I was there, she would launch. Beyond that, Tala would eventually recover from her passions. She would likely not be gentle with me this time.

I had but one play. 

I flashed across the cavern floor at super-speed to crouch beneath the metal Command Post building. I began to lift it, my shoulders and back flexing impressively as I stretched the massive springs. I felt so much stronger, flush as I now was with the power I’d drawn from Tala. 

I started lifting and dropping the building, repeating the motion, putting my super-speed and strength to work setting up an oscillation. Faster and faster I went until the armored building was vibrating like a paint shaker in a hardware store. Thirty times a second. Faster.

I knew the violent shaking would kill anyone inside, but a dozen deaths were infinitely preferable to millions, perhaps even billions if Nancy ignited her holy war. I could only hope the delicate electronics that carried the Launch orders would be destroyed at the same time. 

The building started to bounce so powerfully that it came completely off its springs. I gave it one final shove, and the four-story structure topped over to land on top of Tala. She cried out one more time as she arched her back and tossed the building so far off the floor that all the connecting cables sparked and ripped apart. The building came to a rest, jammed partially inside the tunnel doorway that Tala had torn open.

The locked front door, which was now on top of the building, exploded outward and President Nancy Lyon leaped out. She was still dressed in the same expensive evening dress she’d been wearing to that black-tie dinner in Dallas, although the fabric was now frayed from the intense vibrations. Her medium-length black hair was in disarray. 

nancy lyon

She gave me the same kind of dispassionate look I’d seen on Peabody’s face so many times. The same inhuman lack of emotion. 

Behind me, I heard the building creak as Tala pushed it aside. I heard her padding barefoot across the floor behind me, her lungs gasping hungrily for air after her exertions.

I could only hope that this interruption of communications had bought enough time for Peabody to convince the military of Crimson’s goals. I prayed they’d be able to isolate us here in the Mountain. With any luck, they’d shut down their entire Launch control system until Crimson had been dealt with. Perhaps they’d even nuke this place until the mountain was little more than a glass-glazed hole in the Earth.

“So, once again you delay the inevitable, Evelyn dear,” Nancy said. “Once again, you give our enemies time to regroup. To determine our plans. To thwart us.”

“Yeah. And fuck you too, Nancy,” I said. So much for greeting my long lost sister. I wasn’t going to die pleading for my life.  

She walked closer to me while staring into my eyes. I remembered too late that her most remarkable power had been the ability to control minds. 

The perfect talent for a lawyer.

Steel arms surrounded me from the back. I felt Tala’s warm breath on my back as Nancy’s eyes bored into mine, and I shivered. Tala’s hands began to cup my breasts, holding me gently. 

“You nearly escaped me a second time, Evy dear,” Tala breathed in my ear. “You’re good. Very good. But there won’t be a third time.” 

Nancy smiled at the same time. “Do not fear, Evy, we aren’t going to hurt you. Far from it. I am going to heal your mind. I am going to remind you who you are. And then you are going to remind us why we are sisters.”

Nancy’s eyes began to glow brighter, and I felt a strange lightness inside my head. My worries vanished along with my pain. I felt myself smile as I suddenly remembered the purity of our cause. The desire to wipe away the scourge of Capitalism. The dream of bringing the purity of Communism to all the world. The simplicity. The wonder of a brave new world.

My sisters shared Nancy’s dream as they lovingly embraced me. Nancy’s warm lips found mine, and she kissed me deeply as her hands slid low on my body now. I suddenly realized that Anakara was there as well, floating weightlessly as she kissed my cheek. Anna as well, her eyes glowing with obvious passion. Tala embraced us all with her long arms and legs, protecting and binding us together.

There was no holding back now as my body surged with unchained desire as all the needs I’d held inside me for too long were released.  Crying out in wondrous agony, I remembered what my role truly was in Crimson: I was the one who brought comfort and pleasure to the others. 

My sisters drank from the fountain of my passion like vampires too long denied their blood.  Yet instead of blood, a literal shock wave of ecstasy radiated from my body to fill them with ultimate pleasure, all of us finding our ecstasy together. 

I knew in that moment that I’d finally become the woman I’d been born to be: the source of Crimson passion.

 

(To be continued…)

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