Book: Don't Cross This Line



Don't Cross This Line

CONTENTS


Dedication

Legal

Social Links

Series List

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

12.25.2016

Authors Notes

Snippets!

Craig Martelle

TS (Scott) Paul

Justin Sloan

Justice Is Calling - 12.15.2015

Justice Is Calling - Beginning.

The Queen Bitch Is Back

KIEL - TKG Art

ROYLEEN - TKG Art


DEDICATION


To Family, Friends and

Those Who Love

To Read.

May We All Enjoy Grace

To Live The Life We Are

Called.


Don’t Cross This Line

The Kurtherian Gambit 14 Team


Beta Editor / Readers

Bree Buras (Aussie Awesomeness)

Tom Dickerson (The man)

Sf Forbes (oh yeah!)

Dorene Johnson (US Navy (Ret) & DD)

Dorothy Lloyd (Teach you to ask…Teacher!)

T S (Scott) Paul (Author)

Diane Velasquez (Chinchilla lady & DD)


JIT Beta Readers

Brent Bakken

Heath Felps

Andrew Haynes

Kelli Orr

Gage Ostrander

Leo Roars

Hari Rothsteni

Björn Schmidt


If I missed anyone, please let me know!


Editors

Stephen Russell

Kat Lind


Thank you to the following Special Consultants

for DON’T CROSS THIS LINE


Jeff Morris - US Army - Asst Professor Cyber-Warfare, Nuclear Munitions (Active)

Heath Felps - US Navy CPO (Active)

Don’t Cross This Line (this book) is a work of fiction.

All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Sometimes both.


Copyright (c) 2016 Michael T. Anderle


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.


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The email list is changing to something…New.  I don’t have enough details but suffice to say there is so much going on in The Kurtherian Gambit Universe, it needs to go out more often than “when the next book hits.”


I hope you enjoy the book!


Michael Anderle - Nov 13, 2016.

Series Titles Include: 




Death Becomes Her

The Kurtherian Gambit 01


Queen Bitch

The Kurtherian Gambit 02


Love Lost

The Kurtherian Gambit 03


Bite This

The Kurtherian Gambit 04


Never Forsaken

The Kurtherian Gambit 05


Under My Heel

The Kurtherian Gambit 06


Kneel Or Die

The Kurtherian Gambit 07


We Will Build

The Kurtherian Gambit 08


It’s Hell To Choose

The Kurtherian Gambit 09


Release The Dogs Of War

The Kurtherian Gambit 10


Sued For Peace

The Kurtherian Gambit 11


We Have Contact

The Kurtherian Gambit 12


My Rides A Bitch

The Kurtherian Gambit 13


Don’t Cross This Line

The Kurtherian Gambit 14


Never Submit

The Kurtherian Gambit 15

Late Jan/ Early Feb 2017


(21 books planned for The Kurtherian Gambit)




**New Series**


The Dark Messiah - Michael’s Return

The Second Dark Ages 01

12.25.2016




**New Series with Justin Sloan**


Justice Is Calling

Reclaiming Honor Book 01

12.15.2016




**New Series with TS Paul**


The Etheric Academy - Alpha Group

The Etheric Empire Academy Book 01

December 2016




**New Series with Craig Martelle**


Nomad Found

Terry Henry “TH” Walton Chronicles

Early Jan 2017






SHORT STORIES


Frank Kurns Stories of the Unknownworld 01

You Don’t Mess with John’s Cousin

(read before TKG08)


Frank Kurns Stories of the Unknownworld 02

Bitch’s Night Out

(read before TKG10)






The Boris Chronicles

With Paul C. Middleton


Evacuation (Out)

Retaliation (Out)

Revelation Nov 2016

Restitution TBD




Anthologies




Glimpse

Honor in Death

(Michael’s First Few Days)

See on Amazon: http://kurtherianbooks.com/Glimpse_Amazon_US




Beyond the Stars: At Galaxy's Edge

Tabitha’s Vacation

See on Amazon: http://kurtherianbooks.com/Beyond_Stars_Amazon_US

Meeting room on board QBS ArchAngel


“Fuck them…” she whispered into the silence.


The men and women in the QBS ArchAngel didn’t breathe, didn’t flinch.


Their Queen was speaking.


Bethany Anne turned towards her people. She had been gazing at the giant screen showing Earth, hanging in the expanse of space beneath them. Her eyes narrowed, glowing red, her lips compressed. “They have attacked us for three solid years. They have hunted people only tangentially connected to me through companies I no longer own.” She looked around at the faces of those watching her. “They have attacked some of your families, and I have tried to be understanding, to offer the other cheek.”


Bethany Anne twisted her head left, then right. The sound of her bones popping loud in the room’s silence both times.


She continued, “We have taken care of terrorist issues, saved people and countries from the evil men and women in the night, never looking for accolades, support or even a fucking thank you.” Her voice turned to ice, cutting through the room. “They keep pushing and pushing and pushing.” She paused a moment and exhaled, “I’ve tried civil.” Her eyes flashed red as she whispered, “No … More…”


“ADAM!” Bethany Anne’s voice cracked out the command.


“Yes?” his voice came through the large room’s speakers.


Bethany Anne eyes looked up slightly, “Push the command out to my people. We aren’t taking any more shit from those on Earth. The Etheric Empire has officially had fucking enough, thank you very much.”


Bethany Anne nodded sharply and started walking crisply towards the room’s exit, “Admiral Thomas?” She called out, his reply immediate. She continued, “Make sure the Captains of the fleet know that weapons are hot. I’m not taking another bullshit move like they just pulled. Any country tries that again, and I want them to level something important, got that?”


“Yes, ma’am.” Admiral Thomas called back as she exited the room.


Admiral Thomas’s left hand clicked a button on his lapel as he started walking towards the door, “This is Admiral Thomas to all Captain’s. Weapons are hot, I repeat…weapons are hot.”


The men and women in the room filed out behind their Queen.


She had tried to take into account what drove those on Earth. But no one understood that all of Bethany Anne’s reactions to the attacks against her and her people had been substantially restrained.


Now, the gloves were coming off…




Author’s Notes, Frank Kurns Stories of the UnknownWorld - The Time of Patience


My name, my full name, is Franklyn Adam Kurns and I am over one hundred years old. I have seen more shit in my life than any human should be expected to behold ... and stay sane.


I started out in the military, before going into a covert organization to help hide the reality that there were others, living among us, that were the real monsters in the night.


I used my position to help one group of these monsters, so I thought, against another. You see, at that time I thought our folklore about Vampires and Werewolves was real. I had no idea at the time we were all human.


Just some humans had been subjected to advanced genetic modifications, often accompanied by a very hot temper.


The Time of Patience, the series of books that I’m going to release with other authors, happened during the last three years. The years since the big dust-up in the Antarctic.


I’m sure you have heard about it?


Depending on who you listen to, TQB was down in Antarctica stealing old Nazi technology, or we attacked the US Navy (we did not, we protected them no thanks to the ungrateful asses in the brass) or we were working on communicating with aliens to take over the world. (Seriously? Who comes up with this shit?)


We have tried to stay off the world’s radar for the last three years. The reason is ... we needed to build our own house, so to speak. One of them is inside an asteroid, so it is kind of large.


The need for all of the technology and ships is to protect the Earth against aliens, aliens who want to come and subjugate mankind. So that whole story of us bringing aliens to Earth is complete lunacy.


During the Time of Patience, we visited Earth pretty often. But, rarely did you hear anything about it as we stayed out of the news to the best of our ability. The few times we made the news was due to our Academy students who went off the reservation. Just like any kids in any country since…ever.


I’ll have a few books out about that, soon enough.


I am about to upload these final books before we transverse through the Annex Gate of the Yollins’.


Unfortunately, there were those on Earth who pushed Bethany Anne too far and attacked one time too many. For the last three years, she had not returned their attacks as they warranted. Unfortunately, they thought she was weak and unwilling to fight.


A toothless nag, some thought her.


Now, I am sure, most people are aware of just how wrong that supposition truly was. However, for you to see both sides of the story, I’m going to relate what happened before the chaos and the carnage.


You can choose to believe whatever side you wish, but I am going to deliver the video proof that goes along with my assertions. Further, I will include a lot of additional supporting documentation, WikiLeaks style, that goes along with the videos.


I suspect a lot of this information will be squashed, as very powerful people will not wish this information to be out in the public domain. I hope others decide to copy the data, and keep it living as a testament against the powerful elite who believe the common man lacks common sense and is incapable of seeing the self-centered bullshit they pull.


What you do with the information I provide… I leave up to you.


I hope that my trust in the basic righteousness of humanity is well deserved.


Now, for the events leading up to the divorce.


Ad Aeternitatem,


Franklyn Adam Kurns


T-minus forty-eight hours before we cross the line.












CHAPTER ONE


Dulce Lake, New Mexico, USA


Patrick Brown, the principal overseer of the operations side for Majestic 12, nodded to Dr. Eva Hocks as the two of them met in front of the elevator that went down to floor two-six.


Usually, the good doctor and Patrick would trade jibes with each other, but never on the Quarterly meeting day.


“I hate this,” she whispered to him, as they both turned their keys and punched the separate buttons for the elevator to come up and get them.


Patrick kept his voice low, “This time Eva, I’m completely in agreement. Whatever the benefits we gain from the technological advances is certainly offset by having to deal with them,” he nodded at the elevator doors, still closed.


Eva breathed in as they heard the elevator arrive, and the doors opened to admit them. Both wrinkled their nose as the smell from section two wafted up the elevator shaft. It was unpleasant and slightly nasty.


It was alien, Patrick decided.


Patrick waved his hand for Eva to go first. She rolled her eyes, “Sure, be a gentleman when we enter the elevator to go down to the belly of the beast, why don’t you?”


Patrick stepped in behind her and turned, sliding his key in and turning it before punching in the code to go down.


The doors closed.


“Well,” he admitted as they waited to go down the two hundred feet, “I don’t mind being a gentleman, but that puts me into specimen category with you. I figured out a while back that specimen was a bad situation where you are concerned.”


“Is that why you are always a pain in the ass?” Eva looked over, not sure if Patrick was giving her a hard time again, or being honest.


“Um,” he paused before shrugging, “That’s probably truer than I care to admit, really.” He didn’t return her look.


Interesting, she thought, he seems uncomfortable. I wonder what else causes this to occur?


“You are doing it again.” He spoke, flatly.


“What?”


“You are studying me, again.” This time he did look over at her, annoyance written on his face.


Eva thought back to what she was thinking and closed her eyes, “You can take the scientist out of the lab…”


The elevator stopped, and the doors opened as Patrick finished the phrase, “but you can’t take the lab out of the scientist.” This time, he stepped forward and asked over his shoulder, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”


Patrick stopped and waited just long enough for Eva to catch up before resuming his walk, “I mean, I get when you say you can take the guy out of the fight, but not the fight out of the guy or something similar, but a lab?”


Eva shrugged, desiring to chat even less as they went further into the level two-six.


“Lord, I hope we don’t have to speak with Ztopik,” Patrick looked behind them as he was talking softly, “the little guys are bad enough, but looking up into his pink eyes just freaks me the fuck out.”


“Would you please,” Eva hissed, “not speak about him down here?” Patrick pursed his lips and nodded. After another two minutes of walking down the hall, hewn from rock but having totally smooth walls, Patrick and Eva came to a door. The rising portal was a little taller than most human doors would be.


Patrick nodded to the two, three-and-a-half-foot-tall, gray aliens beside the door. Neither wore anything but a holster for their small weapon. The weapons looked more like a black flashlight with three small buttons, each altering the level of destruction.


The guns set to level one sucked. Three buttons and it was turned to max, supposedly wiping your atoms from existence. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the little guys didn’t have much in the way of self-awareness. Most grays are hive-minded to a superior. For now, Patrick had only ever met one superior.


They pushed the door open and inside the room, the walls, and 10-foot ceiling painted white, stood Ztopik.


Eva pushed down her anxiety and smiled cordially, even if Ztopik’s pink eyes always caused her confusion. She thought bunny rabbits, with piranha teeth, whenever they had to come down and have their quarterlies with him or his delegate. He had no teeth that she had ever been able to discern in the small slit mouth that graced his face.


“Welcome, Patrick, Overseer and Eva, Lead Scientist,” he spoke. At over seven feet tall, his thin body barely had enough shoulders to drape the silvery robe over without it sliding down his body.


“Hello Ztopik, how do the studies go?” Patrick asked as he and Eva took two chairs around a six-foot diameter white table, leaving the modified seat for Ztopik to use when he chose to sit down.


“As always, effectively if more slowly than I would prefer.” His voice, a little musical, admitted. Ztopik waited for the two to finish sitting before he pulled out the last chair and sat as well, adjusting his robe underneath himself. He looked back at the two humans, his eyes never blinking. “I come to understand that there are happenings up on the surface?”


Oh shit, Patrick thought. He had hoped to keep everything about TQB out of Ztopik’s knowledge. There had been a critical incident in 1979 in these two-levels with hundreds of people killed. Killed easily, in fact. Patrick’s goal was a delicate balance of allowing necessary evil to occur to acquire the technologies needed from Ztopik and his people down here in these levels.


“There are always happenings, but which one are you asking about?” Eva interrupted, her voice cracking. Ztopik ignored her vocal issues, he was amused at how much she feared these meetings. Fear is the ultimate indication you are a slave, not a master.


Ztopik feared nothing on this planet.


“I understand that the humans who have expressed they were in communications with aliens almost a hundred of your years ago have been communicating now with outside emissaries?” The hairless white face turned back and forth between the two humans.


“Yessss,” Patrick agreed, drawing out his answer to give himself time to think where Ztopik was going with this.”


“I want one of your people in the meeting,” the alien finished.


“Why? Isn’t that dangerous?” Eva asked, her curiosity driving her fear to the side.


Ztopik turned and stared at Eva for a moment, drawing out the silence. The little power play irritated Patrick, but he and Eva had already argued about her fear for years, and it got him nowhere with her. Ztopik liked to tweak Eva.


Maybe it gave him an alien version of a hard-on. Who could say?


Eva mumbled something unintelligible, and Ztopik turned his head slightly before answering, “No, we have the ability to block Dr. Abesimmons memory of this location, and give him a proper cover story, so long as we have the time to do this.”


“You want Abesimmons to go?” Patrick blurt out. Of all the members of the human team, Abesimmons was the least likely to want to do this.


“Of course,” Ztopik answered Patrick, “he has a good cover, correct?”


“Well, yes,” Patrick admitted. Hell, they all had good covers with the government.


“So, my people will protect his mind, and provide instructions on what we wish to know from those who provided the technology. We shall find out if there is anyone here in this world providing the information she had, or not.”


“What people?” Patrick was confused. As far as he knew, Ztopik was a singular leader. He wasn’t aware of other aliens such as Ztopik on Earth. Patrick wasn’t even sure if Ztopik was a proper emissary, or if he was his race’s version of a splinter group. If there were more of his kind and their efforts here on Earth, that might be a problem.


“That is not known at this moment, Overseer Patrick.”


Ahhhh, shit. Ztopik was using his title now. That was equivalent to a parent saying a child’s full name when they called.


“Ok. How can we help?” Patrick responded.


“I thought this was obvious?” Ztopik answered, “I wish Dr. Abesimmons to come down here, and then go on this trip with the American Government to Schwabenland to speak with Maria Orsitsch. He will ask certain questions, and depending on how she replies, I will know if we have a problem.”


“What problem?” Eva blurted out.


Patrick raised an eyebrow, what’s got her on edge?


“A name that will mean nothing to you, Dr. Eva Hocks.”


“Perhaps, perhaps not,” Patrick temporized, trying to get Ztopik’s attention away from Eva. Her interruptions were annoying him. Like a cat that was disgusted with a mouse trying to fight, instead of fleeing.


“Go on, Overseer Patrick.”


“We hear a bunch in all sorts of circles and efforts. Perhaps if we know this name, we will either recognize it or make sure to tell our people and our contacts to listen for it?”


Ztopik considered the statement then slightly lowered his head on his fragile looking neck, “You make a good point, Patrick. The name you and your team should be listening, or looking for…” Ztopik’s eyes, generally never an indication of any emotion, seemed to flash red. Like a super-fast wave crossed them and then cleared back to his usual pink.


“Is Kurtherian.”


New York City, NY - USA


Tabitha scrunched her shoulders down in her coat. She didn’t need it for warmth, but rather to cover up the weapons and Bat-shit she had hidden around her body.


She could just kill Bobcat and William. Those mother-fuckers stole into the Tonto’s rooms and drank beer and watched Batman starring Michael Keaton. Then they followed it up with the Christian Bale version and got to talking about all of the wonderful toys Batman had.


Then, they damn near whispered how Tabitha’s little toys and Batman’s toys were kind of the same, weren’t they? So now, Tabitha had Bat-toys. Even Jean Dukes would ask her about her toys when she went to ask about another weapon or weapon idea.


She was so going to grab them by the balls and lift them into the air as they sang like the sopranos they needed to be. Didn’t they realize this Bat-toy shit was going to last for decades?


God, Vampires didn’t forget anything. It’s like they savored every little fucking joke FOREVER.


Her watch thumped against her wrist, so Tabitha took a left down a small street that looked like it cut across to the hotel she and the team were staying. It was getting dark sooner now, and the chill autumn winds were cutting through the street.


If Bethany Anne didn’t need Bobcat and William so bad, she would…


“Ay mamí tù tan caliente!” a man called from in front of her followed by a couple of hoots. Tabitha focused ahead instead of on her feet, fuming at those two malcontents and could see five guys coming at her from the street’s intersection ahead. She rolled her eyes. She didn’t have time for this shit but felt a need to do it anyway. She looked around and smiled. Across the street was a dark, dank and smelly alley.


Perfect!


She couldn’t do anything to Bobcat and William at the moment (whether they had intended to cause her trouble or not) but these assholes seemed like a pleasant diversion.


“Kiss my sweet ass, you gringo pieces of shit!” She called out and hurriedly crossed the street, making sure to look like she was trying to get away from the guys. She smiled when she heard the mutterings and exclamations from behind her and their quick footsteps in her direction. She didn’t hide her accent, which only made them angrier.


Sometimes, being a Queen’s Ranger, with the duties it entailed, was a real pleasure.


Schwabenland, Antarctica


Dr. Abesimmons shivered despite his long johns and coat. Having to ride on a conventional airplane down to Antarctica was a price he was willing to endure if he got a chance to speak with Maria Orsitsch.


It had taken him more than a week and a half to think how to persuade both Eva and Patrick that they needed to take this chance to learn more from the Thule group. Once they had resurfaced again from history. The Thule group had been mostly silent when speaking with the world at large and now the opportunity to see if they knew more than they had divulged so far was a golden chance.


A golden chance they needed to take advantage of.


Abesimmons was shocked when both Eva and Patrick accepted his argument the first time. He wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth and try to figure out why as he hurried to go pack his bags before they changed their minds.


Abesimmons looked out the window as the plane turned to start their landing. There were four of those damned TQB one-person patrol planes stationed in the air that he could see. One country made the mistake of believing TQB wouldn’t fire on unexpected guests and learned they were right.


But, the Thule group had no compunctions about shooting down the craft, and they did. Seven people died on that plane and the message coming out of Schwabenland was ‘When we say no, we mean no.’


Message received.


Now, a few invitations had gone out to a few countries, offering to speak with their representatives to see if Schwabenland would like to join with any of those countries.


This, of course, caused an uproar in the UN. That circus was getting worse and worse. Even Patrick had to admit Schwabenland joining another country was probably going to cause a major problem in the UN.


Not his problem.


The plane hit the ice with only a little swaying back and forth as the pilot got the plane under control. Abesimmons could feel the landing was going to be safe and he let out his breath.


The tension he had felt in the pit of his stomach let up, just a little.


Abesimmons was one of twelve delegates from the United States. None on the plane knew him, so all on the plane figured he had been secluded away in some government program or another and they were right, to a point.


He was here to see if he could find the information that those he worked for were seeking.




New York City, NY - USA


Tabitha’s escape ended up in a smaller enclave where three buildings came together, giving her about a twenty by thirty-foot area to play. All of the back doors had rusted metal bars over them, and there was one which had an old light that was trying its damnedest to shine through the pollution covering it.


She turned around as the five guys entered the alley entrance and waited for her attackers.


They showed up at the mouth of the alley and instead of running right at her, they slowed down and took their sweet damned time approaching.


How typical. Slow down and enhance the terror for the woman so they could feed on it.


There was a trash dumpster on her right by a door that smelled of Chinese food. She eyed the men and walked towards the dumpster. With the screech of metal on concrete, she pulled the dumpster away from the wall. This would ensure the lid, as she flipped it up, would stay open.


She walked back towards the center and lifted an eyebrow. A couple of the young toughs seemed to be looking sideways at their friends, but no one wanted to admit the little display of strength startled them.


“Gentleman,” Tabitha stated as they fanned out where the alley opened up into the courtyard, “and by gentlemen, I mean assholes ...” she was interrupted from additional comments.


“Now, that isn’t the proper way to respect the men around you,” the middle tough spat on the ground. He was wearing a jean jacket with black sweatshirt underneath. His accent sounded maybe first or second generation American to her.


Tabitha, hand on hip nodded towards his clothes. “What isn’t proper is that outfit! Didn’t your mother teach you how to dress?” Her face made obvious what she thought of his looks.


A couple of the guys with him started grumbling, and the main guy in the center put his hands out, pushing down as if he was calming those with him. “Now, that isn’t a way to get out of this situation safely.” Head dickhead replied, “Nor is talking about my mother.”


“I didn’t talk about her. I asked her son if she taught you how to dress. If she did, and this is what you are dressing in, then you either ignored her, or you are as dumb as a rock. No one,” Tabitha acted like she was looking down at him, “Wears a white t-shirt with a black sweatshirt and an old jean jacket. Shit, didn’t those things go out of style last century?”


“Not where it matters, muffin,” he replied, raising an eyebrow to her.


“You got nothing to make a muffin rise, asshat. Jean jackets are appropriate in the South…and maybe still with metal heads. You are here in New York in the fucking winter cold. I doubt one girl gives you a second look,” Tabitha replied and looked up the walls on both sides.


“You are about to give me a second and third look with a little …what are you doing?” He looked up the walls, both sides, before coming back to rest on her, smiling, “Oh, now you figure it out? Now you figure out you have nowhere to run?”


Tabitha turned around and continued looking at the two windows she found behind her, confirming that no one was at either one. She spoke, but the guys could hear her just fine as she turned back around to them. “I’m just making sure we don’t have any witnesses, Ace.” Tabitha replied as she looked at him, “The ass kicking I’m going to give you five is only going to give me a few hours of satisfaction. But, it’s the best I have on offer at the moment so, what’s it going to be? Are you all lips and no solution?” She punctuated her comment with a pelvic thrust, “Hmm?”


“Johnnie,” the guy on her left whispered, “C’mon, this isn’t right.”


“Don’t be a pushover, Sebastian,” Johnnie retorted, “she’s as much as dared us to kick her ass. Trust me,” he took a couple of steps forward and made smooching noises towards Tabitha, “When I get done with her ass, she won’t be able to sit down for a week.”


As he finished his statement, he popped his pelvis out towards Tabitha to the catcalls from the guys behind him as they started following him forward.


Sebastian sighed heavily. His cousin was impetuous and foolhardy. His momma said one day he was going to get Sebastian in trouble.


He prayed it wasn’t this evening as he started following the other four, noticing something that concerned him.


Did her eyes just flash red?














CHAPTER TWO


Inside Schwabenland Base, Antarctica


Maria Orsitsch nodded to her two guards. Both Hans and Horst returned her nod back as she stepped between them to enter the meeting room. Their base, once they brought the heaters online, was a very comfortable seventy-four degrees. All of her people were older but in great shape.


Unfortunately, she didn’t have the technology to make her people young again as the young Queen did.


Horst grinned, “Dresses again, Maria?”


She stopped in front of him, “If I knew that a punch would hurt you, I would hit you. A slap against that granite you have for a head would only hurt my hand, Horst.” He smiled at her as she continued speaking, “You know I’m not fond of the pants women wear today. Dresses are for ladies, thank you very much.”


“Yes,” Horst replied as she stepped between the two men to go into the meeting room, “But the pants allow us to see the woman’s weapons so much easier than dresses, Maria.” The two men chuckled as they closed the door to the room behind her.


Men, Maria thought, freeze them and thaw them out and they still only think of sex, sex, sex.


Maria set her yellow notepad and pencils down. She preferred to write her notes. Her notes language was completely unique, no one would be able to decipher it.


Except, perhaps, the Kurtherian. She had asked Bethany Anne, twice now, to speak with TOM and the best she was allowed was communication through one of their phone devices.


“Maria?” Hans called out sometime later. The knocking on the door took her attention away from the notes she had made during the meeting with the Germans the day before. The history of her country was dramatic, to say the least. Broken apart after the war and brought back together in October of 1990, there was a lot of good and bad with the reformed country. Either way, it wasn’t the Germany she remembered.


Truthfully, none of the countries were anything like she remembered or cared about. Her last meeting was with the United States of America and then she would have to deliver her decision to her people ... those who chose to continue following her.


Wherever that lead.


“Yes?” she replied, looking up from her notes.


“I have Barnabas out here, from Bethany Anne’s group. He is asking permission to speak with you a moment.”


“That is ok, please let him in.” She put down her pencil and stood up.


Barnabas walked in and nodded to Maria, who nodded back. Barnabas was a very peaceful person, at least to Maria.


“Wie Geht’s?” He asked her as the door closed behind him.


“Gut und Dir?” she replied as she took a seat. Barnabas never tried to shake her hand or hug her in any way. He was always formal in their meetings. In a strange way, he was the most comfortable for her, of those who followed Bethany Anne.


“I’m very well, thank you,” he finished in English and pulled out one of the chairs in the large room. “Are you ready for this last meeting?”


“As ready as I hope to be. It seems, to me at least, that speaking with Aliens is a more straight forward exercise than talking with anyone from the future, or at least my future, in this world.”


“Have you made contact then?” He followed up but then put up a hand, a small smile on his lips, “My apologies. My curiosity knows no bounds, as Frank Kurns will attest.”


“Yes, another whose curiosity knows no bounds, you two should be brothers,” she replied.


Barnabas nodded, “It was strange, our first meeting. When he and I first got to know one another, I had information he wanted, and he was a spring of information I needed.”


“Really?” she looked down at her pad and realized it was the wrong one for her notes on Frank and looked back up to Barnabas. “I thought I remembered him saying you didn’t ask as many questions as he?”


“If we must talk about Frank behind his back,” Barnabas started, then winked, “Then the truth is no one can ask as many questions as that man. Nor,” he nodded to Maria’s notepads, “does he fail to also make all sorts of notes, in his books, about the answers.”


Her eyebrows drew together in concentration, “I don’t remember him writing much,” she replied.


“Mmmm,” Barnabas put his hands on the table, “Then I would suggest that he was recording the meeting, to jot down notes later, so he could get more questions in during his time.” Barnabas could see Maria weighing that answer for accuracy, “Or he was so captivated with the answers, he dared not slow down, and he expected to write his notes down later.”


“More likely the former, than the latter,” Maria admitted, “He did place his tablet on the table when we spoke.”


“Mystery most likely solved. I doubt he would trust his memory, as good as it is, without a backup.”


“Is it true he is from my time?” she asked.


“Frank? Yes. He was in the second World War and has been through a medical procedure to reduce his age.”


“That is fascinating. I wish my contact would have provided that information,” she admitted, “I can’t say I enjoy sitting with Bethany Anne considering how attractive she is.” She reached up to grab her hair, which was getting longer but not nearly as long as she had it in the stasis chamber.


“Bethany Anne was attractive before she was healed, you were both attractive in your youth and still are I believe. However, that is not why I am here to speak with you.”


“Yes, I know Barnabas,” Maria picked up a pencil and tapped it on the table. “But you are the only one I feel I can share some of my thoughts. You seem to be the only one who just tells me like it is, and isn’t trying to control the situation and my decision.”


Barnabas raised an eyebrow, “You don’t suspect that I am a vicious plant by my Queen to influence your decision?”


Maria laughed, “No! God no. If Bethany Anne wanted me to do something, I imagine she would have Captain Kael-ven tell me. I am a sucker for an alien, and she is the only one that seems to have plenty of aliens hanging around her.”


“Yes, she does appear to acquire aliens without trying. It is a singularly unique trait,” Barnabas admitted dryly.


She chuckled. “So, if you are not here to influence me, Barnabas, what do I owe the honor of your presence?” She smiled, wishing she was about fifty years younger. She would have had a chance to turn his head and make it go in a complete circle if she still had her youthful looks. There was a reason the Vrilerinnen were called the beautiful young ladies of the Vril Gesellschaft.


“I’m here to ask your permission to sit out of the way, unnoticed, and watch the people.” He smiled, “I promise, I will be a ghost, no one will even notice me.”


“There are inquisitive people among the Americans who come, Barnabas. I doubt they will ignore you.” He just shrugged, smiling enigmatically.


Maria wasn’t without her own resources. She knew he was different, and old, ancient probably although she could never get anyone to admit just how old he was. She considered it a small victory she figured out how old Frank Kurns was. She nodded to herself, and asked, “No speaking?” When he shook his head, she continued, “And if they ask about you?”


Barnabas pursed his lips, “I will step out, then.”


Her eyes opened in surprise, “What would your Queen say if you fail to stay for the whole meeting?”


“Nothing, she is not asking me to join this meeting. I am requesting it as the leader of the Queen’s Rangers.” He moved in his chair, “We have been chasing a group for three years, and I am of the opinion they will seek to be here.”


“They are American?”


“We have been able to track their spaceships into U.S. Airspace. However, we cannot go further without risking an altercation with the American’s.”


“They can see your ships, now?” she asked. Barnabas stayed quiet and shrugged. “Ok, keep your secrets,” she continued, “I am but an old woman, what am I going to do?”


Barnabas surprised her by barking out a short laugh, “Old woman?” His eyes, she noticed, looked beautiful when a grin lit up his face, “I think you need to perhaps get another set of mirrors in this land, Maria.” He stood up and moved a chair from the end, near her, and put it in a corner out of the way of everyone, “With your permission, I’ll just sit here?”


Maria nodded her agreement and wondered how she was to accomplish more work with him just sitting behind her in the corner.


“Maria,” his voice, clear in her mind though she didn’t notice his mouth moving. “I’m not here … I’ve stepped out. It would be good for you to continue what you were doing before I interrupted you.”


Maria looked down at her notes and turned the page, looking over at a clock on the wall. The Americans should be here in twenty minutes. She sure hoped Barnabas made it back to her room before they arrived. He had a way of making her feel peace in this turbulent time for her people.


New York City, NY - USA


Johnnie pulled out a knife, “You have two choices, give it to me freely, or give it to me painfully. Either way, chica, you are giving me some ass.”


Tabitha laughed, “Sorry, this ass,” she pointed behind her, “has a ‘no small dicks allowed’ tattoo,” she replied, putting up her fingers. “Looks like this with a circle and slash over it,” her thumb and index finger made the universal symbol for very, very small.


“Then, I guess you choose painful,” Johnnie said as he came forward and laughing to himself. The woman was talking big, but she didn’t even get prepared to fight properly. She didn’t move to a fighting position, her two feet side by side and a shoulder’s width apart.


Worked for him.


He stutter-stepped to catch her attention and then twisted the knife so that the blade was away from her face and threw a punch.


He might cut her later, but he didn’t want to worry about scarring such a beautiful woman yet. Especially if a punch was all that it was going to…


“The fuck!” he grunted when the woman grabbed his hand mid punch with her left and stopped it cold. His fist paused briefly in between the two of them, before she yanked it further in a slightly different direction pulling him off balance. She used her right hand to punch him in the forehead. He collapsed straight down into an unconscious heap.


With one out of the fight, three others jumped at her. The fifth man kept back, his eyes looking left and right into the shadows.


“Woohoo!” Tabitha squealed and slightly turned up the speed. Where they punched, she slid away, the blows missing by just a hair's breadth. So close, yet too far away. She slammed her elbow into the side of the second jerk’s head.


Two down.


Tabitha swung a round kick and caught the fifth guy in the stomach. He collapsed, grabbing his stomach, trying in vain to stop the sudden pain.


“Sorry,” she called out as she dodged a kick from guy number four, “Can’t have someone at my back like that, Hirotoshi would make me do a thousand pushups and I…” She blocked the next punch from jerk number three with her palm and then quickly double punched the guy in his stomach. Grabbing his head as he folded, she slammed it down onto her rising knee. As he collapsed she finished, “absolutely hate push-ups.”


The last guy was definitely more brawn than brains as he came to grab her in a bear hug. Her superior speed offered a few options, and she decided to have more fun and allowed him to catch her. He laughed as he picked her up off of her feet and squeezed her hard.


“Watch the ta-ta’s, asshole,” she fumed, “they aren’t fucking balloons here, Ricky Bobby!” She slammed her forehead into his chin, staggering him and then she opened her arms and dropped back to the street. She punched him hard in the stomach and then casually knocked the shit out of the side of his skull.


“And another one bites the dust,” she finished as his eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed to the ground. She looked around. Four guys lights-out, one still coughing, clutching his stomach. She reached down and seized the blue denim jacket collar of the first dick and started towards the dumpster. “You get the bottom, maybe the worst is in there.” She grabbed his arm, belt loop, and a some of the jean fabric in the vicinity, before casually tossing him into the dumpster. A crunching noise happened along with the the noise of his body landing inside the dumpster. An aroma that made Tabitha’s nose twitch rose out from the trash.


“Damn, that’s some nasty shit,” she commented as she grabbed two more and pulled them over and tossed them in. She grabbed the final two, one of them still holding his stomach as she pulled them both by the legs over to the dumpster.


Tossing the comatose one in, she bent beside the last guy, “Sorry number five. I appreciate you trying, but the best reduction to your sentence is I won’t toss you,” she nodded to the dumpster, “in there.” She stood up and kicked him in the side of the head, “but you still have to be punished,” she finished to the now comatose guy.


A moment later, she was back out on the street returning to her previously interrupted walk back to the hotel.


Her steps a little lighter than before.


UN Headquarters - New York City - USA


“What we have,” the Chinese Ambassador spoke, in the closed room, to the eleven other United Nations members, “is a company, or entity, or group of humans who have partaken of what the world provides and is not giving anything in return. Selfishness in action.” Zhou looked around and was pleased.


Everyone was nodding their heads in the right direction, that is to say in agreement with him.


“They are also taking the cream of our people!” Ambassador Jackson Emeka broke in, right on cue. Almost as if it had been planned hours ago in a private meeting. One of many meetings Ambassador Zhou held in the last couple of days.


For three years, the Chinese government had tracked the clans which had alien technology in their own country. A few people had died on both sides, but no technology had ever been recovered. They had captured two of the clan’s members alive and research was going to start on those two, but they had killed themselves, and the blood samples were almost useless.


The researchers, he was told, had hope but the secrets of the blood weren’t forthcoming, and some of the upper-level politicians had run out of patience. It was time to get nasty.


It was time for Ambassador Zhou to use the carefully cultivated alliances and debts China had procured over the years.


“They did not take everyone,” Ambassador Jamil Franklin responded. Ambassador Zhou did love a well-scripted debate.


“Yes, and why is that?” Ambassador Emeka responded, “Is that because they have the ability to know who has our secrets? Perhaps they only look for those who can bring a little bit extra, so to speak, to their hidden goals? I know they claim they are going out to the stars to fight other aliens. But, why is it they are building a giant space station?”


“A what?” Ambassador Billony asked, her eyebrows going up in surprise.


“Their space station,” Ambassador Zhou said, taking command of the conversation once again. “TQB has secretly been building a space station out in the Asteroid Belt these past three years. We have images from some of our space assets.”


“What do they need with a space station?” she pressed, turning from Ambassador Emeka to Ambassador Zhou.


“That is a good question,” Zhou replied. “The unofficial official explanation we hear from backdoor conversations is they are using it for the hundreds of thousands of people they have stolen from our respective countries. The,” he nodded to Ambassador Emeka, “cream of the crop they have taken from our countries, perhaps stifling our own ability to get ahead?”


Ambassador Billony’s lips pressed together. She was new to the group as her country in Europe had recently gone through elections, and the old guard was tossed out. The new President and cabinet were certainly more bellicose in their speeches against TQB.


It had cost China considerable effort to support the new President during the elections, without getting caught. The race was close within a month of the vote. Then, an unnamed source or sources dropped a significant amount of email and other documents that changed the election. With so much content to wade through, no one questioned who could have shot the two small video clips showing the President with questionable people that swayed the remaining holdouts and pushed the victory from close to a landslide.


“So how do we stop them?” she asked, “They abide by the rules not to land in our countries, but our people go to other countries.”


“They just used that rule to filter out those who weren’t serious,” Emeka retorted, “the U.S., so far, allows them to take people from their country. They purchased land and use it for a space terminal. The US hasn’t shut them down so far.”


“The decision to change that could be close, I understand,” Zhou interrupted. All heads turned to him, “The present President is not as much a fan as the previous one was. Right now, the most that has been done against TQB is to require them to fill out flight plans which allows the U.S. to test their radar and other defensive location and target acquisition capabilities.”


“A lot of good that does us,” Billony added.


Zhou shrugged, “It isn’t like our people couldn’t leave and go to the U.S. anyway so they would have to admit they are stopping their whole ‘land of the free’ nonsense if they do otherwise. I know they are stinging from some significant drops in military, science, and advanced technology resources themselves.”


“Now they know how it feels,” Billony replied, “to have your people go to another country and stay there, not coming back to help your own country do better with their new skills.”


Many around the table nodded sympathetically. The U.S. was now receiving the rewards for having done the same to all of them, and many other countries around the world for the last hundred years. No one here was going to shed a tear for the Americans who lost some of their own people to TQB.


Mind you, none wanted to admit they might have a country or a government people didn’t want to come back to or support, either.


“How many are they taking, now?” Ambassador Franklin asked.


Ambassador Emeka flipped through a couple of pages in front of him, “It is slowing down. They have added approximately five thousand to the list of those immigrating for each of the last three months.”


Franklin pointed to the paper from across the table, “If you believe they place all of the names on the list, it could be fifty thousand, and we wouldn’t know.”


Zhou spoke, “We don’t know it isn’t fifteen thousand people leaving Earth for her group. We don’t know they aren't forthright with us in this one area, so perhaps we give them the benefit of the doubt? If the number is two-hundred and fifty thousand to date, and each person would live to be fifty years old on average, that is many, many years of advancement and resources the world is going to do without.”


There was an epitaph from the end of the table. When everyone turned, Ambassador Jameson’s face grew red, “Sorry, just did that math. That’s twelve and a half million years of support they are stealing.”


Zhou, noting the perfect opportunity to stab when it looked like he was nice answered, “Well, we can assume they would not be that useful before twenty, so we are probably looking at maybe seven and half million years’ worth of help.” Ambassador Jameson’s face looked at Zhou and raised an eyebrow. Zhou smiled and put up his hands, “Sorry, you are right. Seven and a half is still too much time to allow TQB to steal away.”


Zhou turned back to the table, “It seems we are in agreement here, yes? It is time for TQB to return payment for what they have taken from our world.”












CHAPTER THREE


QBS ArchAngel en route to Earth


Bethany Anne, dressed down in jeans and a white sweatshirt, nodded to the two guards in front of Jean Duke’s weapons development area entrance. “Gentleman,” she said to the two guards. She hadn’t met either one of them. Not an unusual situation now that they had allowed almost four hundred thousand people to come and join her kingdom.


“I’m sorry, but we will need a pass, ma’am,” the first one told her. Bethany Anne heard a snort come from Eric standing behind her. Eric then grabbed his collar and started talking softly.


“I need a pass?” Bethany Anne asked the two men, looking back and forth between the two of them, confused.


“Yes ma’am,” the second guard explained. “Guardian Peter would have our ass…ets if we admitted anyone without the proper credentials.” The second guard nodded his agreement.


“Right,” Bethany Anne put up her hand and turned it palm towards her, raising her middle finger and flipping them off.


“Ma’am,” the first started, then his eyes grew large as a three inch, exceedingly sharp nail extended itself out from her middle finger, and her eyes turned red.


“Now, what pass does the Queen need, exactly?”


At that moment, the four of them could hear the rapid sounds of running boots clopping on the floor and a roar of “That’s the Queen you IDIOTS!” as Peter turned the corner. His glance took in the two men, eyes aghast, and Bethany Anne’s hand flipping them off with her red eyes staring at them, as well.


Eric grinned as Peter tried to hide his frustration as he slowed down to a jog and joined them. “Sadhi, Ken, didn’t you two pay attention to the most important pictures list?” Peter’s grimace was enough to jolt the men from their stupor.


“But sir,” the one on the left stated, “The Queen was in all black, and… and…” Sadhi licked his lips, his eyes flicking back to Bethany Anne whose hand had dropped, the nail back to normal and her eyes looking towards him without the scary red eyeballs.


Peter turned to Bethany Anne, “Obviously, we have a few holes in our training, Bethany Anne, my sincere apologies.”


She patted him on the shoulder, “I applaud the effort, and even if they didn’t recognize me when I’m dressed down, they might have paid attention to Eric’s shoulder badge.” It amused Bethany Anne to see both men’s eyes follow her thumb to Eric’s Bitch patch and then quickly checking to see the same patch on their boss’s arm. Ken’s eyes slowly closed in the classic ‘how could I be so dense’ move.


Sadhi, on the other hand, seemed to want to argue some more. Peter reached over, picked him up by his shirt into the air with one arm and hissed, “Don’t say a word, are we clear?” Sadhi looked down at his boss and nodded his head.


“ArchAngel, open this door,” Bethany Anne spoke, and the ship's voice came out of the speakers near the door, “Yes, Bethany Anne.”


Sadhi looked down as the doors opened and the two walked through them. He turned to look at his boss who still hadn’t dropped him.


“If you should ever be stupid enough to argue with the wrong people, trust me when I tell you that Bethany Anne and her Bitches have a rough way of teaching.”


Peter opened his grip, and Sadhi dropped to the ground. “Now, you two grab your tablets and open up the book on important people.” He told the two men, “I want you to write up your story on what just happened and maybe a few ideas on how to make damn sure you can tell when the Queen comes knocking, got me?” he growled out.


“Well,” Ken admitted, “the scary as shit red eyes are a unique characteristic.”


Peter chuckled, “You should be happy. Usually, she isn’t in such a good mood when those fuckers show up.”


“That was a good mood, sir?” Sadhi asked, his hand trembling some as he pulled up the documents Peter told him to review.


“Fuck yeah that was good,” Peter told the two as he turned around, calling out his statement over his shoulder as he walked away, “your ass would be dead otherwise.”


His answer seemed to hang in the air long after he had turned the corner, his steps receding down the hall.


Schwabenland, Antarctica


Dr. Abesimmons credentials passed along with those in his group. He looked around at the large cave mouth, cleaned and hosting different types of vehicles. Some built recently to go outside the cave, some looking as if they had been built during World War II.


Some of unique design, but made a long time ago. Abesimmons wished he could go take a look, but his job was clear.


Get in, take notes, ask questions, go back to his job in Washington D.C.


The Schwabenlanders were all looking older, fit, but definitely older. Hell, if his group waited long enough, they would be able to come back after they all died within the next couple of decades and take what they wanted.


Or, considering how strong one of the guards looked, perhaps they were not so frail.


Half of the group was ushered into a tiny waiting room, and the door clanged shut behind him. Abesimmons noticed the guy behind the glass.


“State your business.” He asked, his Germanic accent heavy. Their main lead, J.J. Aspens spoke up.


“U.S. Delegation to meet with Ms. Orsitsch.”


“I understand you have twelve in your group, Dr. Aspens?”


“Yes,” J.J. responded, pointing down the group, “We have another six outside waiting.”


“Makeup of the group outside?”


“Two ladies, four gentlemen.”


“Understood, Dr. Aspen. Welcome to Schwabenland.” The door on the other side of the small room unlocked as a buzzer went off.


Abesimmons walked out with the rest and a minute later, the others in their group came out of the chamber.


“Doctors?” A middle-aged woman spoke from Abesimmons’ right. He turned, and she continued, “If you would all follow me?”


The group started out after her as she called out in a pleasant voice, “Please don’t leave the group, that is very dangerous.”


Abesimmons nodded his head in understanding. They had been told of the potential havoc awaiting those who went sightseeing in the base without permission.


The results were often deadly.


Abesimmons guessed there weren’t too many lawyers in Schwabenland and if they had any, to begin with, their curiosity had been fatal.


It took the group about five minutes to walk to the meeting room. Often through hallways that had nothing interesting to see. Abesimmons, usually good with underground locations, suspected they were close to the entrance and their starting point. However, they must have planned the trip to skip certain areas.


Interesting.




Jean Dukes R&D Lab




“Hey boss,” Jean Dukes called out from the back of the room. She was hunched over, pointing to a design hologram that one of her engineers had projected just above his desk.


“No, don’t push the envelope right here. The gravitics will warp at that juncture, and we will have a problem. Trust me, we went through this issue years ago when we built this ship. It drove Marcus and TOM nuts.”


“Don’t want that to happen again, do we?” her guy said before beginning subvocalized commands to the computer running the design software.


Bethany Anne walked up and nodded for Jean to step away.


Jean winked to Eric, “What’s up hombre?”


Eric winked back but didn’t answer. He continued looking around her room and at her people. Jean had a long conversation about trusting her people with John a while back. She finally realized that none of the Bitch’s assumed anything bad about her people, but what about mind control?


With aliens out there, and what she had been told about Bethany Anne’s abilities, it was a possibility.


Jean turned back to Bethany Anne, “Boss?”


“Just checking in and finding out how we are doing with the projects,” Bethany Anne replied.


“Ah, management by walking around,” Jean stated. “Ok, Project T113,” she jerked a thumb behind her, “is slightly ahead of schedule if we can fix this gravitic issue that buzzkill back here…”


“Hey!” the engineer called out and then decided to focus really hard on his project when both ladies turned and stared at him.


Jean turned back to Bethany Anne, “As I was saying before buzzkill rudely interrupted me. Project T113 is on track, if slightly. Trying to push this much metal and skipping through the etheric is giving everyone migraines.”


“What about TOM’s engines?” Bethany Anne pressed.


“TOM doesn’t know exactly how that works. He was a pilot…”


“Not an Etheric Fusion Warp Drive Scientist,” Bethany Anne finished for her, “he reminds me of this fact all of the time.”


Not all of the time.


Every time I ask a question related to your engines.


I push the buttons, calculate the accuracy of the location based on the Kurtherian Pulsar and Gravitic Wave information in the database and select my next target. Then, hit the button when there is enough power, and reserve, in the engines and cross my fingers.


It’s that ability to cross your fingers and hope that made you a pilot, TOM. Bethany Anne replied. An unusual characteristic in your people.


True.


So, I know you are aware of a bunch more. I think you just might have a little Kurtherian Rocket Scientist in you, yet.


Bethany Anne could feel TOM considering her comment. She needed TOM mentally in the game. If she could just get him to admit that he might be able to contribute to this project, as a real skill and not a hack, it might help their game some.


Maybe.


Satisfied her project working with TOM was on track, Bethany Anne continued with Jean Dukes.


“So, we come to project Gauntlet,” Jean started.


“That’s the Guardians most favorite. I’m surprised Peter wasn’t in here and only had two of his lackey’s outside.”




Jean made a hmmmm sound, “That explains why we didn’t have as many interruptions as before.”


Bethany Anne asked, “You didn’t know you had two guards outside?”


“Well, yeah, I knew. However, I hadn’t put two and two together that Peter did it because he noticed how many random people would come in and interrupt our efforts to finish Gauntlet.”


“Did it work?”


“Well, yes,” Jean turned towards another workstation. It was stand-up desk height and was three feet on each side. Wood on the surface, it was all computer encased inside metal underneath. The wood top provide a place for those standing around a place to set their tablets down as they talked.


Bethany Anne walked up and took a second side of the desk as Jean pulled up the computer and started going through the complicated login procedure before Gauntlet came up in the hologram. There were three sizes. One fit a huge, seven-foot tall humanoid, one fit a robust male and another fit a strong female.


“These suits allow the Wechselbalg or the Guardian Marines to jump in, suit up and empower themselves to be a one suit walking badass.”


“The biggest one?” Bethany Anne could guess, but she wanted Jean to answer.


“Uhhh,” Jean smiled, “Well, Peter, Nathan, and Ecaterina wanted something they could use if they were Pricolici.”


“What’s the backup if they go rogue and won’t change back?” Bethany Anne stuck her hand out and rotated the mech-suits in front of her.


“The suits internals have been calibrated to ascertain if we have a mentally competent being inside the suit, or not. If they won’t change back, it can be recalled back to the ship, or it will lock up, and one of them will be pissed off when the override opens the suit.”


Bethany Anne grimaced. There were only a handful, including her, who would be on hand if they couldn’t find a way to get one of the Pricolici to turn back.


“When did I authorize,” she pointed to the big suit of armor, “that?”


Jean mumbled into her computer voice node, and a form showed up, “Ah, it was during one of the get togethers in All Guns Blazing.”


TOM, when is she talking about?


Ahhh…


I thought you were always paying attention.


Well, If I’m not otherwise focused, yes.


For an alien, you sure act like a male.


Point of fact, I am male.


Then my assertion that a guy is a guy is a guy, no matter what species he comes from, is now proven.


There was a silence before TOM replied, How long have you been setting up this joke?


I have to do something to keep you on your toes.


>> I have the information, Bethany Anne.<<


Great, ADAM.


What constitutes a male? Tom cut back into the conversation.


Huh?


Well, we can discuss the …


Hold it right there! Bethany Anne interrupted. No bringing in the whatchamacallits from Kurtherian System four four seven or some shit.


Why not? They are real species I assure you.


Really? Because I have no idea if you are making this shit up or not.


So, I can only bring up species from groups you can confirm?


>>It was during the conversation you had with Peter and Nathan during little Christina Bethany Anne’s party.<<


Bethany Anne was thinking back to the party when TOM interrupted again, What about species you can confirm?


Huh? Sure, species I can confirm work, TOM.


Jean Dukes noticed Bethany Anne’s classic conversation-with-voices-in-my-head face and waited for a second before Bethany Anne’s eyes went rolling up.


“Remember now, boss?”


“Yes!” She huffed, “Those two snakes set me up!” She puffed a stray strand of hair out of her face.


Jean pointed to the largest Gauntlet, “The Proc-101’s there going to get scrapped?” she asked.


Bethany Anne shook her head, “No, don’t misunderstand me. I’m good with,” she pointed to the hologram, “those. As for the boys, I’ll be ready for them next time. It look’s like our favorite Saint will be involved, too.”


Jean nodded sagely. For the last three years, Saint Payback-is-a-bitch had become almost a religion unto itself among Bethany Anne’s teams.



Captain Kael-ven’s four legs clipped down the hallway. He nodded to the two Wechselbalg guards that stopped any humans from entering the Yollin area on the ArchAngel without permission. Occasionally, a few new recruits rotating onto the ArchAngel would come down to the Yollin’s area to see if they could see the somewhat reclusive Yollins.


Last month, a couple of self-professed geeks damn near had a heart attack when they had been stopped by the guard only to have Captain Kael-ven behind them when they turned around to go back to their area.


Both just stood there, looking up at him stupefied.


“Do you mind?” he asked the two, “I need to get by to go to my area,” he told them as he stretched out his arm to point down the hallway behind them.


The two geeks shook their heads silently.


“You have to move, first,” he patiently explained to the two humans. Finally, the two Wechselbalg guards picked the two humans up and moved them next to the wall so the Yollin Captain could continue on his way peacefully.


This time, there were no sightseers.


The door to Kael-ven’s suite opened and shut as he walked through the entrance. He had figured out that ArchAngel was capable of telling the Yollins apart and didn’t mind opening his door for him. He felt like a member of the First Caste every time he walked into his room.


“Captain Kael-ven, you have a call from TOM.” the speaker announced after his door closed shut behind him.


“Answer please,” he replied and walked to his sitting couch.


TOM’s voice came through the speaker, “Hello Kael-ven.  I’m sorry to be short with you, but I need to run a bunch of alien races past you…”












CHAPTER FOUR


QBBS Merideth Reynolds - Inside Bethany Anne’s Suite


Bethany Anne, Ashur, John, Darryl, and Jean Dukes appeared in the specially built Queen’s transference room. It was a thirty-foot diameter, fourteen-foot high room with a simple rubber flooring and two sets of doors. One set went into her private chambers, the other led out into the guarded hallway.


The rubber floor was there to help soften the fall if someone had too much momentum when appearing, and it was easy to clean should blood be a problem.


Ashur shot forward coming to a halt at the outside door and barked.


“Welcome home, Ashur,” Merideth, the Operations E.I. for the base station said through the speakers. Ashur bolted out as soon as the E.I. opened the doors.


“Don’t be getting into a fight with Bellatrix!” Bethany Anne called out. “And kiss the puppies for me!” she followed up. The four of them heard his chuff in response, and John and Jean snickered.


“It’s a lot easier,” Jean admitted as the four of them headed towards the meeting room through the same set of doors, “to think you aren’t crazy when I can understand his communication.”


“I don’t know,” Bethany Anne commented as the doors slid shut behind them. John took care of the security details as the small group went through the Guards’ area, “I kind of enjoyed it when no one but me knew he could communicate. You guys should have seen the look on your faces.”


“Oh, uh, I always thought we hid it well,” Jean admitted.


Bethany Anne chuckled.


“You do realize besides reading minds, even if she isn’t trying, she gets a feeling for what you are thinking?” Darryl asked Jean.


“Nooo,” Jean drew the answer out, “but that might be a little embarrassing to learn now!” She shot a dark look up at her man, who shrugged as he kept watching down the hall as they walked.


“Don’t worry about it,” Bethany Anne told Jean, “we don’t advertise the fact because it would only freak people out. I try to push it down as it feels like I’m a peeping Bethany Anne. Sometimes, though, like when Ashur was talking to me, it was fun,” she looked over to Jean, “You do need to get your fun where you can, sometimes.”


Bethany Anne chuckled when Jean’s cheeks colored, “Not like that, you nympho.” Now, Jean’s cheeks colored more as the two guys chuckled louder than the sound of Jean’s punch on John’s shoulder as it echoed down the hall.



Five minutes later, the four of them entered the Special Legation meeting room. This one was inside the base, as opposed to the one connected to the docks area which was used for security reasons.


Bethany Anne nodded to Omar Kolan, previously in charge of the hotel operations for the Asteroid Belt, and elevated up to help run the human operations side of the base station. Dr. April Keelson from Medical and Dr. Michelle S. Brown-Williams in charge of Food was on the side of the table with Mr. Kolan.


She greeted the tag team of Kevin McCoullagh and Yamauchi Stephanie. Lance had pulled them up from the Colorado Base, and they had helped oversee the beginning of the excavation and building of the Merideth Reynolds. They were on her right with Marcus, Bobcat, and William down that side. The smelting area out in the belt had finally been disassembled, and the massive amount of raw materials from excavation were stored wherever the hell they could find room. The miners, accustomed to the difficulties mining in space, appreciated mining out the inside of the Asteroid with the new Yollin Drilling Machines.


It had been a tough, but good, three years.


“First up,” Bethany Anne asked, “the artificial sun?”


Marcus grimaced, he preferred not to call anything artificial, but he had been ruled against with finality when Bethany Anne asked him his preferred name.


His official choice had been a long group of scientific words which made one want to use it for a drinking game.

Screw up saying the name, take a drink  People would get plastered in minutes.


He answered her question, “We have tested all three levels, and they are working. We tested what might happen in seven different catastrophic scenarios including,” he looked over at his two friends, “If an idiot got drunk and ran a small pod into the main Etheric Energy collector and overcharged the system.”


Bobcat shrugged, “Always assume alcohol can take your worst catastrophe and magnify it.”


“Preach it, Brother Bobcat,” William agreed.


“And?” Bethany Anne interrupted the trio.


Marcus turned back to Bethany Anne, “It degraded effectively in all instances, and we did not have any unfortunate accidents.”


“What, pray tell, would have been the likelihood of an unfortunate accident, and what would it have been, again?”


“Ah,” Marcus scratched his cheek, “less than dying in an airplane crash and instant annihilation for everyone inside the asteroid.”


“So,” Bethany Anne confirmed, “the only survivors would have been those outside in the docks area?”


“Yes,” Marcus admitted.


“Then always assume alcohol is available and sprinkle it everywhere like pixie dust when you conceive of problems with the system. My whole effort to save that backstabbing blue ball back there would immediately ceased being terribly effective if our whole damned base was vaporized.”


She paused a moment, then added, “By us.”


Bethany Anne looked at Marcus, tapping her nails on the table to get him to look up at her, “We have had these discussions before, Marcus. I understand you work in probabilities and the chances of a mistake after you, ADAM, ArchAngel, Merideth, the Defense E.I. Reynolds and TOM all going through the design might be vanishingly small, but I can’t have a mistake if we can help it.” Marcus nodded his understanding.


“Ok, so when do you want to turn on the main system?” she followed up.


Marcus’s eyebrows rose, “Ah, what?”


Bethany Anne smiled, “I believe you have tested the Arti-Sun effectively, when do you want to fire it up?”


Inside Schwabenland Base, Antarctica


The American group had been speaking with Maria now for well over an hour and Barnabas only had one issue nagging at him.


He couldn’t read Dr. Abesimmons.


His mind was a blank to him. He was a cipher, a problem, a puzzle.


Barnabas enjoyed a puzzle because it promised new knowledge at the end when you finished putting the puzzle together. That he couldn’t read his mind was curious, and extremely rare, but was just a hint something could be wrong, not proof so far.


The Americans had pretty much promised Schwabenland their own small area of the country, similar to how they had finally provided American Indians with their own land. Unfortunately for the Americans, Maria had read up on them, and the American Indian’s life hadn’t seemed to be going too well until they figured out that gambling was the ultimate equalizer. Now, reservations all across the country were pulling in the white man’s money legally.


Hell, the white man was driving hours to drop their money in the American Indian coffers.


Should the Indian management and government manage it well, the Indian people were going to do well for a long while, perhaps generations to come. If they didn’t succumb to greed just like almost every other human group in existence.


Maria nodded towards Dr. Abesimmons who held up his hand, “I apologize, Ms. Orsitsch, but I have a couple of rather unique questions if I may?”


“Certainly, Dr. Abesimmons.”


“We understand you have spoken with aliens living in Alpha Centauri, and I am not questioning that in any way whatsoever. However, we are curious if you have perhaps had contact with another group of aliens, the Grays?”


All faces turned to Maria, “No,” she replied, “I’m aware of the aliens called Grays and do not believe I’ve spoken with any of them.” She smiled benevolently towards Dr. Abesimmons, who had been nothing but incredibly respectful the whole discussion when he had asked any questions so far.


“Thank you, the second question, is whether you have every heard of a group of aliens called Kurtherians?”


“SNEEZE!” Barnabas ordered into Maria’s mind, and she immediately held up a hand, turned her head away from those at the table and sneezed loudly.


“Please do not recognize the name Kurtherians, Maria,” Barnabas suggested, leaving the final decision in Maria’s lap.


Either way, this man was now suspect number one on his list of leads.


Maria fanned her face, closing her eyes and turning her head back away from the table again. This time in Barnabas’s direction and her eyes opened when she saw him sitting in the chair.


Then they narrowed as she looked at him before she sneezed once more and turned back towards the table.


She smiled to the table, “I’m terribly sorry, I’m usually not very allergic, but perhaps something came in with your clothes. I do apologize again.” She turned towards Abesimmons, “I’m sorry good Doctor, you asked about an alien species? A Kurthurans?”


“No, madam, Kurtherians,” he corrected.


“No, I have not. Are they important?” She asked him, “I’ve heard of maybe a dozen different species but Kurtherians,” she stopped to make sure she was pronouncing the name correctly, “Is not one of them.”


“I understand. They are,” he told those in the group who had written the name down in their notes, “a rumored group and a passion of mine. My apologies for taking a gamble and asking during this limited availability of your time.”


At least three heads nodded in understanding. All researchers Barnabas knew, having read their surface thoughts.


The group continued talking for another twenty minutes when there was a knock on the door, before Hans and Horst opened it and walked in. Soon, the American group had been herded out of the room with Maria walking out at the end of the group to see them to the exit. She turned and whispered towards the room before she closed the door behind her.


“We will talk later, Barnabas.”


Private residence, outside Chicago, Illinois - USA


The former President sighed as he hung up the phone. He leaned back in his chair and used his foot to move it in a circle so that he was looking out the large window into the beautiful winter landscape at the back of his house.


He knew he was going to get pulled back into this mess one last time.


He had left two envelopes for the new President three years before. The first was the traditional letter from the outgoing President to the new incoming one. That was expected, and it held similar thoughts and recommendations as the President before he provided at the start of his term of office.


The second one was simply labeled, “Ignore At Your Own Peril.”


For the first year after he left office, the relationship between TQB and the USA had been cordial, and he had hoped the decent working relationship he had built up with Bethany Anne would continue with the new President.


It had not.


First, they didn’t get along. Both had large enough responsibilities, but only one of them had the real ability to back it up. The USA had a large capacity to be tactical and some damned impressive weaponry and people.


Bethany Anne could drop a rock in the middle of Colorado. That she wouldn’t was an assumption the wags up in the Government had finally decided was the Gospel Truth.


So, even though you could do something, if you wouldn’t then where was the threat?


He continued looking out the window, knowing he was going to pick up his personal phone and make that call. He owed the world another try. Hell, he owed his family another try.


He breathed deeply and reached back with his left hand landing on his desktop, moving it a couple of times left and right before he felt his hand grab the cell phone and pulled it back around.


He grinned just a little as he called up the Digital Assistant, “SIRI, call Wonder Woman.”


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


The all-system warning lights and alarms screamed throughout the inner area, and all non-essential people were told to get inside.


It might have been nice to have everyone see this new technology turn on, but Bethany Anne wasn’t willing to gamble on a small mistake vaporizing her people.


Watching it happen on video was going to have to be good enough.


Those working to bring up the new Artificial Sun were working inside the main Engineering rooms. One with controls, another for the main machinery with glass between them. “When you close the loop between the two systems from the Etheric side, come back here and hit the button to complete the links,” Marcus told Bethany Anne. He was licking his lips as he watched the two screens showing the Etheric Energy Pull for their systems.


He touched the commands, and the lights in the middle of the massive cavern dimmed, leaving everything in the inky blackness that the absence of light always produced.


The smaller Etheric taps were busy being re-routed to the Arti-Sun.


“See you guys in a second,” Bethany Anne said as she stepped into the room with the Etheric tap machinery and closed the glass door behind her. One second they could all see her, the next she took a step and was gone.


Marcus watched all of the readings and reached up to wipe off his forehead. Then, there was a slight uptick in Etheric Energy coming into the system. “Four, three, two…one!” Marcus called out and slammed his hand, and the desktop when the Energy Input spiked a thousand fold and the slight humming from the room next to them became a roar.


“YES!” Marcus screamed triumphantly, “We have connectivity and the capacitor is not being slammed! The Arti-Sun is acquiring energy per stated calculations. Merideth?”


“Yes?” the E.I. responded.


“Are you seeing anything outside of normal parameters?”


“No Marcus, I am running the agreed testing parameters, pulling the energy through the Etheric Iris using different diameters. So far, it is running…One moment.”


Marcus’s mouth opened, “One moment?” He asked as he turned to review the systems.


Bobcat and William stepped up. They had worked to stay in the background on this project.


“What the hell?” William asked and started using the far left monitor and checking additional screens.


Bobcat worked with Marcus, “That doesn’t look right,” he said as he pointed to a chart on Marcus’s screen.


“Tell me something new, Bobcat.” Marcus grumped as he worked to see what Merideth was doing.


“Uhhh new. Ok, here’s one. I think I found a girl?” Bobcat told his friend.


“That’s nice, what does it taste like?” Marcus asked as he touched areas on his screen to show two additional input charts simultaneously.


Bobcat snorted, “Jackass, I said girl, not another beer.”


“You have no other love but beer, Bobcat,” Marcus answered.


“Folks?” William interrupted the two.


“Yeah?” Bobcat answered and leaned over to look at Williams screen where he was pointing.


“Oh, fuck us again.” Bobcat blew out, “Markie Mark, take a look over here.”


Marcus looked quickly over to William’s screen and then returned to his for a second before he turned back to Williams and leaned towards William’s screen, “What the hell?”


“It’s Morse Code,” William answered, “Bethany Anne is testing our system.”


“How the…,” Marcus shrugged, “Merideth, translate the Morse Code and use it to figure out the next fluctuation and adjust appropriately.”


“Done,” Merideth replied moments later.


Thirty seconds later Bethany Anne appeared in the glassed room, the hum of the machines behind her receded to a solid middle-level bass, one you could feel in your chest.


She opened the glass door, the sound loud and then closed it, blocking most of the noise from reaching them once more.


“How was that Final Exam, guys?” she asked as her phone went off in John’s hand. He took the call.


“Fine boss, did you have to scare us so bad?” Bobcat asked.


“How did you handle it?” she replied.


“Swimmingly, I assure you,” Marcus answered. She went up and patted him on the shoulder, “I’m sure you did. However, how confident are you that the system will work now if we get unexpected Etheric fluctuations?”


“UEF’s?” Marcus looked at her, confused, “TOM never said there were any UEF’s, and before you say anything, I did ask.”


“I love TOM to death, which might be foreshadowing if he keeps up his talking to me in my head at the moment, but I have asked him if he is an Etheric know-it-all and he admitted he wasn’t. Who's to say there isn’t a normal, hundred solar year Etheric flash which occurs?”


“We passed, right boss?” William interrupted and gently kicked the back of Marcus’s ankle.


“Yes, you passed” she agreed.


“Bethany Anne?” John called out.


She turned and raised an eyebrow. He wiggled her phone, “Call from the President.” She made a disgusted face before he explained again, “Sorry, ex-President, not the PITA.”


“Oh, then ok, toss it here.” John flicked the phone to her, and she snagged it out of the air and put it up to her ear, “Hey, ready to leave Illinois?” she asked with a smile.


The voice chuckled on the other side of the line, “PITA?”


“Yeah, our not-so-hidden acronym for you know who,” Bethany Anne replied, “One second.” She turned around to see the rest of the team in the Arti-Sun Engineering area high-fiving each other and passing around small glasses of alcohol.


Good thing E.I.’s didn’t drink.


ADAM, confirm Merideth is running Arti-Sun for the next few hours.


>>She is in full-time control now. Marcus set that up previously. It requires an override from him, with your permission in advance, to change that.<<


Ok, at least he was thinking ahead. She noticed Dr. Brown-Williams had sidled up to Marcus now and seemed to be initiating the conversation. Marcus was oblivious that his little sun stunt had appeared to attract the food scientist in maybe a romantic way.


Who knew?


She turned back to her phone, “Ok, I’m back. What do you want me to do, and who put you up to this?” she asked the ex-President.


“That obvious, or am I bugged here?” he chuckled.


She tapped her lips, “No, not bugged. But, if I lied about that, it would be funny as hell to hear about your security detail scrambling all over your house trying to find how we knew.”


His frown came through clearly over the call, “No, I don’t think so. My wife would not appreciate having our walls ripped apart and destroyed as they tried to find your technology. They would evict us under eminent domain or some shit, and we’d never see the inside of my house again.”


“Oh, yeah, guess that might suck for a joke after all,” she told him.


“Well, the request is for you to come to an event in Europe, among a select few power players in government and business, to try and bury the…ok, poor choice of words. To see if we can negotiate any sort of agreement for the technology when there aren’t a bunch of cameras and egos involved. Well, ego’s on parade, anyway.”


“So, no lights, cameras, and recordings?” she asked.


“Can’t promise anything, but I was told it was supposed to be a pleasant meeting of walking around and chatting. No one is going to say anything, admit anything, use anything in the meeting as political ammunition, etc. etc.. Believe as much of that as you want,” he finished.


“And you?”


“For my sins of being able to call you and you taking my call, I’ve been asked to attend with you.”


Bethany Anne snorted, “You done gone and fucked up, haven’t you?”


“Apparently.”


“What’s the wife think about this?” she asked him.


“She’s coming around to flipping everyone the hell off and kicking the arrogant asses to the curb. To think she spoke up for them for the past three years is starting to grate on her nerves.”


“Told you so,” Bethany Anne said.


“Wow, and I thought Queens were above that.”


“Not this one, I’ve decided to be Regal is so passé,” she admitted. Then she turned around to see Marcus waving his hands in the air as he explained what he was thinking when Merideth was involved in handling the Etheric energy pulses.


“And boring,” he added.


“Especially boring. How those Kings and Queens in the past did it, I’ve no idea,” she agreed as she turned back to his conversation.


“So, will you do it?” he got back on the reason for the call.


She shrugged, “I don’t expect it to accomplish anything, but I’ll give the dead horse one more chance before we put it six feet under.”


“Have your people call my people?” He asked.


“How about we have Gabrielle call you back?”


“Yeah, or that works, too,” he admitted before asking, “She’s still with Eric, right?”


“One second,” Bethany Anne barely covered up the Mic on her phone and yelled over to Eric, “Hey, Potato head,” she waited for Eric to turn towards her, “You and Gabrielle are still tight, right?”


“Who’s asking?” Eric replied, confusion on his face.


She held up the phone, her other hand still covering the microphone, “The only President we like.”


Eric grinned, “Oh, then tell his wife that yes, Gabrielle is still very taken.”


Bethany Anne put the phone back to her ear, “Did your wife hear that?”


“Yes, she is nodding that she did. She came into the room a few seconds ago to let me know dinner was ready.”


“Ok, so Gabrielle will call you, and it will get setup. You guys go eat, catch up with you later.”


The said their final goodbyes and hung up.












CHAPTER FIVE


Inside Schwabenland Base, Antarctica


Maria Orsitsch didn’t know whether she should be fuming, or allow her curiosity to over come her anger at Barnabas for exhibiting capabilities he hadn’t divulged before.


Or both.


She expected the man to disappear after whatever he had come here to do, and was surprised when was still at the table and sipping coffee from a mug someone must have brought him.


She told Horst to stay out and entered the room, closing the door behind her. “That was an interesting display of talent I hadn’t expected you to perform, Barnabas.”


He dipped his head in acknowledgment and continued sipping his coffee.


She pulled out her chair and sat down, placing her elbows on the table, “Are there additional surprises I might expect?”


He put the coffee on the table, “Why would I tell you this, Maria?”


She stabbed the table with a finger, “I was under the impression your Queen was one of the legations who was working to acquire our allegiance? How about we start with that concept?”


“Then, I think you have mistaken something, Maria.” Barnabas picked the mug up and took another sip. “What you have at this base is impressive, and your skills and weapons are commendable, yes.” He put his coffee cup down a second time and wrapped it with both hands, “But if you want to be frank, and talk like two adults, you have promises of abilities to come, nothing here,” he nodded his head towards the door, “is of value to the Etheric Empire.”


“Then why all of this help?” Maria asked, annoyed, “Your people have aided to help keep Schwabenland a free country.  For what purpose are you doing this. Further,” she asked, annoyance creeping into her voice, “You commanded me to sneeze!” She sat back and pointed a finger at him, “You could be manipulating me right now.”


Barnabas raised an eyebrow but said nothing.


“Well, answer the question,” she spoke, annoyance coloring her voice.


“Maria, there was no question. You are irritated because you feel out of control. The fact you have felt in control was due to a misperception on your part. You, and your people, are protected as both a courtesy and a requirement to keep you safe from a fight you can’t win.”


“A fight with who?” Maria waved her arm towards the door, “Those unknown flying saucers? Their technology is better than some of ours, but not enough to allow an easy win over us.  I doubt they can make it too far into this fortress,” she finished.


“Not them, although we suspect they would be worse than you suspect.  No, with Bethany Anne.”


“Why would she be a problem?” Maria asked, now totally confused. “She’s never been belligerent to us. Nor have we done anything to TQB.”


“Let’s play a game called suppositions, Maria.” Barnabas offered, “Let’s pretend that the following happened.  Schwabenland, for whatever reason, was clearly overcome by a foreign power.  Any of the majors.  China for instance.” Maria’s sudden grimace was all Barnabas needed to know she could see the results of that path.  “Or America with their present President and attitude of World First?”


“Bethany Anne is responsible for that,” Maria fired back, ‘Not us.”


“No, Bethany Anne is responsible for saying ‘no’, nothing else, and sticking to her guns on the subject.  Apparently, her consistent position on this request has infuriated those who believe since they have joined into larger and larger groups of adult children with nation-sized temper tantrums, she should change her mind.”


Maria sat quietly for a moment before commenting, “This was our path, you’re telling me?”  He nodded. “So, without her taking the heat, and flying overwatch up there above us to make sure no large nation attacked us, we would presently be speaking United Nationish?”


Barnabas chuckled, “Yes, that is the scenario we saw happening. Those who run the psycho-analysis on Bethany Anne came up with trying to take over Schwabenland by force which would push Bethany Anne to act. If they had, she would retaliate at that point.  But, with small groups, like the airplane you shot down, you were on your own.”


This time, Maria thought for a few minutes on his words.


She looked into his eyes, her blue iris’s beauty telling in the artificial light, “You don’t want us?”


Barnabas shrugged, “I’ve not had personal discussions with the Queen on the subject.  As far as I can guess, she would be happy if you joined, or ok if you stayed.  She suspects that if someone in the world possesses your technology and doesn’t share, it will be the final match that lights the gunpowder of World War III.”


“And where will she be?”


“Across the line in the stars, Maria,” Barnabas’s voice softened, “We haven’t hidden any of that from you.”


“You are leaving this mess as it is?”


“Maria,” Barnabas paused, then sighed. “Maria, we are less than five hundred thousand souls out there, and we are going to fight a race that are the boogeyman for the entire Milky Way.  I don’t think you need to try and add Parent the Earth to our list of things to accomplish.”


“If you don’t, who will?”  she replied, her voice resigned.


“How about Earth itself?” Barnabas asked, “It isn’t outside the realm of possibility they will figure this out themselves.  Bethany Anne’s taken on the responsibility to make sure Earth has the option to stay free.  What they do with that freedom, is up to them.  If we were to take the option away, then we are the subjugating Empire and it will be brother against brother, sister against sister at that point, is this what you are asking us to do?”


Maria looked down at her lap, her fingers fidgeting, “That is what it will be for us, except in our case it will be us against our grand children and their children’s children.” She spoke softly then looked up to Barnabas, “Most of my people aren’t thinking this way, but I know it.” She patted her heart before she looked off to her left, as if she could look through the solid mountain and see Germany itself, “We do not have the strength to stay outside of a world that would beg us for help.”


She sighed, the feeling of resignation and sadness closing in, “We are a people out of time, Barnabas. From a world where those who live in it have no idea what world war was really like and frankly,” she turned back to Barnabas, “Don’t know they are in the beginning again.”


She shook her head, “No, I was pulled into a war and was forced to help a group of people I had no desire to support.  Schwabenland was the negotiated price for our help.  I will not go through that again…”


She looked at Barnabas, “This is what I would ask of your Queen, Barnabas.”


New York City, NY - USA


Tabitha came out of her room in the suite she and the Tanto’s were staying in while in New York. There was a knock at the door, she raised an eyebrow when Hirotoshi walked over and opened it and spoke with Kouki outside for a second.


Closing the door, he turned to Tabitha, “Kimosabe, why is the New York Police department coming up here?”


Tabitha acted innocent and shook here head.  “No idea. Anyone we know?”


“Yes, it is Inspector Clouseau,” Hirotoshi’s heavily accented answer made a mashup of the detective’s name.


She pointed at him, “You know that isn’t how his name is pronounced,” she walked past Hirotoshi who eyed her like a father watching his teenage daughter who might have gotten away with something and he wasn’t quite sure what, yet.


There was a knock at the door, and Tabitha practiced her smile before opening the door and greeting the man on the other side.


“Why, Detective Cleusah, what a surprise seeing you again!”


“Is it?” he asked her.  Detectivie Cleusah was five foot ten inches, dark haired and was probably fifteen pounds paste his prime weight but still had his muscle from his twenties.  “I happen to be …”


“Hold that thought one second,” Tabitha told the detective and shut the door on the rest of his sentence. She turned around to find Hirotoshi ten feet behind her, his arms crossed over his chest.  “I’ll just take this outside,” she told him.


She turned back around to the door and stepped out, causing the Detective to rapidly step out of her way.  Kouki smirked when Tabitha looked at him.  She rolled her eyes, grabbed the detective by his suit jacket and started towards the elevator.


“Where are we going?” he asked the head strong woman.


“ix nay alking tay, k?”  she muttured as they walked up to the elevator on the second to the top floor.  It dinged and she practically grabbed the detective and pulled him him as her finger was stabbing the door shut button over and over again.


It finally closed for her.


“Tabitha, what the hell is wrong with you?”  He asked, exasperated.  Since meeting her two years before when a lot of justice came calling in New York, by a woman vigilante no less, Detective Theodore ‘Ted’ Jameson had both looked forward to seeing Tabitha, and dreading it at the same time.


He could never pin the situations over the last two years on her, but it seemed like every time she came to town, unexplained stuff happened to less savory individuals.  The one time he had been able to absolutely pin her to a location, she had so many eye witnesses that it was a clear case of self protection.


“I can’t just want a moment of your time, Ted?” She asked him in a breathy voice.


“No!” He put put up a hand, “Been there…well, sort of, and no thanks.  Sorry but the concept is a lady on the street, a freak in bed.  Not a freak on the street and God knows what in bed.”


Tabitha chewed on her lip, “Damn, I hadn’t considered that a problem.  I thought freak in bed forgave all sins.”


“I have plenty of freak in my normal existence, I don’t need more at home.”  Ted answered as the elevator dinged.


The doors opened and Tabitha looked to her right and winked at Ryu who had lobby guard duty at the moment.  This was going to piss him off because he wouldn’t be able to follow her this evening.


“Why can’t we stay in this warm hotel?” Ted asked as she dragged him by the hand outside into the chilly night.


“Because the hotel has a lot of ears,” she told him as she took a left.  She let go of his hand and put hers into her pockets.  “Ok, since you aren’t here to ask me on a date, what can I help you with?”


Ted grimaced.  With her accent Tabitha could make just about anything indecipherable to a normal English speaking person.  Then, when she ratcheted up her sexy kitten accent, no normal English speaking male understood her much anyway.


Except Ted.


He had worked hard to nail her for a long, long time and therefore had dealt with her sexual attraction defense a lot.  He, mostly, wasn’t bothered by it anymore.  “I have a pack of guys found not too far away from here inside of a trash dumpster. “


“Strange place to go for food, isn’t that where you Americans throw it away?”  Tabitha asked him.


“Tabitha, you know America as well as Jenny from the Block, so don’t play ignorant South American for me.”


“I don’t know these pack of guys, so how do I know if they understand where to go to eat?  Plus,” Tabitha continued.  She enjoyed these talks with Ted, “you New Yorkers do everything different here in the big city. It is a miracle anything normal is done at all.”


Ted dodged some trash as they walked, “Perhaps we might bend the law of normalcy upon occasion.  But five guys in a dumpster, all beat up is a little rare.  Especially since a hobo saw a woman matching your description run into the alley, yelling at the five guys.  Then, he claims he hears a bumch of fighting and the woman comes walking back out a minute later and heads in this direction.”


“Ted, you are making this up,” Tabitha told him.


“Why do you say this?” Ted asked as he dodged a guy in a trenchcoat who was paying more attention to his texting than who might be in his way on the side walk.


“Because you are, and you are a pitiful liar,” she told him.


“Well, imagine my surprise when I find out you are in town,” Ted continued, “near the altercation with the five punks, one of which is admitting they got their ass kicked by a woman, a hispanic woman.”


“Wow, you New Yorkers grow them up tough,” Tabitha told him.


“Uh huh,” Ted replied.


“Why are you on this, Ted? I thought Detectives worked murders and money cleaning.”


“If you mean counterfeiting, that’s the Feds.  If you mean money laundering, then perhaps.  However, stop trying to sidestep the question.  Was that you beating up the guys this evening, Tabitha.”


She stopped and looked at him, “Why do you ask questions you know I am not going to answer?”


Ted looked up the street at all of the lights, car lights and hearing the honking horns. “Because Tabitha, I tracked you down enough to know you work for TQB.  You work in their law group, right?”


Tabitha pursed her lips, then gave him a slight nod.


He looked down the other way, back the way they walked and sighed.  “Here, come have coffee with me.  I know a small diner around the corner.”


“You are asking me out on a date, Ted?” Tabitha asked, smiling at him.


He shook his head, “Hell no.  This is cop to … cop.” He admitted, “And if my girl friend sees me with you, you had better back my ass up on that.”  Ted started walking towards the next intersection leaving Tabitha alone for a second watching him walk away, her mouth open.


“What girlfriend?” she called after him, jogging to catch up to the detective.




Schwabenland, Antarctica


“Maria,” Barnabas rubbed his eyes, “I’m not an envoy for Bethany Anne. I’m the head of her Rangers.” When he looked back at her, she was still sitting here as determined as ever to give him a headache.


“Yes, you have told me this before, Barnabas and I have looked up the background. You are a self-reliant law unto yourselves, within reason, to track down and apply the Queen’s justice,” she told him.


“Exactly. So why are you asking me to get involved in a discussion like this?” he asked. When it came to Maria, for a reason he still didn’t quite understand, he refused to read her mind. It did make life more interesting working with her, but the frustration level was considerably higher, as well.


“Because as a man of justice, you are one of the few I trust, implicitly to do this for me,” she leaned back in her chair.


Barnabas looked at the woman, considering her request. “I don’t have a reason to be involved, Maria.”


“No, not one that is part of your Ranger’s group, that is true,” she told him, “However, would you do it as a friend, for me, Barnabas?” She asked him, her eyes opened enough to draw Barnabas into reading her top most thoughts.


He closed his eyes and nodded, “Yes, I will make the request,” he opened his eyes again, “But the decision is Bethany Anne’s.” His eyes pierced her soul. The absolute and granite assurance that she couldn’t press him another inch was resolute.


Why, she wondered to herself, Weren’t you in Germany a hundred years ago?












CHAPTER SIX


New York City, NY - USA


The waitress brought two cups of coffee and set them down, “Sugar or Splenda?”


“Black, thank you,” Ted replied.


“I’ll take them both,” Tabitha replied, and the lady opened her hand over the table, dropping five packages of each on the table.


The waitress looked over and nodded to a couple that sat down two booths away, “Be right there, sweetie.”


Once the waitress left, Ted asked, “Are you in town for personal, or business reasons?”


“What, exactly, are you going to do with this knowledge, Ted?” Tabitha asked him. She grabbed the five sugars and cleanly ripped the tops off and dumped them into her coffee.


Normally, Ted would have expected Tabitha to make some cute comment such as, “my coffee is sweet like me” or something. This Tabitha across from him was someone different.


This one was all business.


Ted looked around and then back to Tabitha, who was still staring him directly in the eyes, “Uh, why so serious?”


“Because you are asking to be involved in stuff that is above your pay grade, Ted,” she answered. “Before, when it was Ted and ... maybe, maybe not, vigilante Tabitha, it was one thing. If you are looking into my background and you really want to find out? Well, that trust comes with a price.”


“Expensive?” Ted asked.


“Deadly,” she answered.


Ted’s eyes opened wider and leaned towards her, “What the hell, Tabitha?”


Tabitha put up a finger and listened around, there were no tell-tale signs of anyone listening. She unzipped her coat a few inches, reached in and pulled out a small tablet and set her thumb on the bottom button. She hit a couple of areas on her screen, and Ted’s eyes opened in surprise when all of the diner’s noise diminished and what he could hear was garbled.


“What the…”


“Technology, Ted,” she told him. “Look, I can be daffy if I want to be, and perhaps I’m reacting a little here, knowing you are a man with a job and a girlfriend … and a life. But, trust me when I say that you would have never put me behind bars.”


“No? Why is that?” Ted asked.


“Because my Queen never forsakes her own ... EVER. I would have been released either by the system, or I would have been retrieved without the government’s permission. It wouldn’t have mattered which one. Perhaps my boss would have come to get me, perhaps I would have told them I’d just get out myself.” Tabitha told him, “I’m a Queen’s Ranger, and as such, my responsibility is to find injustice. I take cases and solve them. Punishment, if there is no obvious other way, is my responsibility. Those five toughs? Yeah. That was me.”


Ted’s eyes opened wider. Not only because she finally admitted to an altercation, but his head was swimming. Those cases he had from a couple of years ago with the vigilante support and now this evening.


“Not all of them are me, obviously,” she told him.


“Can you read minds?” he asked.


“Have you been studying us, detective?” Tabitha asked him.


He nodded, “A little. Stuff I can find out without raising too many suspicions,” he admitted.


“Then, you need to realize that there are things that go bump in the night. The Queen’s Rangers bump back.”


“What if they are too big to bump?” Ted asked.


Tabitha started laughing and put up a hand. “Sorry,” she covered her mouth and got herself under control, “Ted, if one Ranger can’t take care of the problem, then that Ranger will suffer a lot of shit, mostly harassment. I have my own team, and we are a hell of a plan A, trust me. But, there is always a plan B.”


“And what’s B?” Ted asked.


Tabitha put up her closed hand, then opened one finger for each name she called out, “John, Eric, Darryl, Scott, Akio.” She told him, “B is for Bitches and trust me, you wouldn’t want to piss them off.”


“Why is that, are they super tough?” Ted asked, his testosterone fueling a desire to prove himself capable to Tabitha.


Tabitha shook her head, “Ted, don’t go there. A Queen’s Ranger,” she pointed to herself, “Me, Barnabas and whoever else is in our group has a constraint, and that is Law. We are bound by it, by Bethany Anne. It is part of our creed. The Bitches have a different creed they live by.”


“What’s that?”


“Results,” she told him, “I try to keep the pain down.” Ted snorted in disbelief as she continued, “Look asshat, I did keep it down for those five twerps. They were just something to take my annoyance out on, and they accosted me first. I didn’t tell them to attack me.”


“So, they chased you into the alley?”


“Yes.”


“Why were you annoyed?” he asked.


“Because two other friendly pain-in-the-asses have taken it upon themselves to teach my Tontos shit I would really rather they didn’t know.”


Ted put his hands to his face and wiped them down, “I feel like I’ve fallen into the Twilight Zone here. Back to the Bitches. Why are results a problem?”


Tabitha changed her voice from her command persona, to soft and caring, “Ted, listen to me.” He nodded, “I could walk into any of your precinct houses, and kill everyone there. I’d be hurt, that’s true. I might not possibly live through it, but I could do it.” She put up her hand, “I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m telling you this so that you understand. I’m a cop, in my own way. I’m law, I’m justice. I’m better with guns and shit than you guys, sure. But I can’t touch a Bitch. We,” she pointed back and forth between the two of them, “are law officers. The Bitches? They are warriors. Bad-ass mother-fuckers that are dropped on problems. If Bethany Anne were to point to a country and tell one of those five to subjugate it, then that country is so fucked they wouldn’t have a clue. John could go through a whole military base with Jean’s weapons.”


“You are describing a Superman, Tabitha. I’m not sure I’m buying it.”


Tabitha picked up her tablet and started typing super-fast on it. Ted’s eyes opened slightly as he realized she was typing too fast for a human. Even a teenage girl, human.


She turned the table after she hit a button and Ted noticed the noise cancellation dropped as she handed him the tablet. He was surprised she did that and then noticed her looking behind him. He looked over his shoulder as their waitress came up to the table, “More coffee?”


“Yes, thank you,” Tabitha told the waitress and Ted lifted his mostly filled cup.


Ted took a few sips of his coffee and looked at the news clippings she had called up. He read through them, scanning mainly, and his mouth dropped open before looking up to Tabitha, “You are saying the Bitches, those guys, did this?”


“That’s from years ago,” Tabitha held out her hand, and he gave her tablet back. She hit a button, and the noise protection dropped into place, once more. “That was the guys blowing off some steam. Hell, they were just Bitches one point zero at that time.”


“What are they now?” Ted asked, thinking back to the attacks the report had spoken about and her comment about the guys just blowing off steam.


“Probably about two point five or version three.”


“What do you call these guys besides Bitches?” Ted asked.


“Me?” Tabitha asked, and Ted nodded, “I call them friends.”


“What are you people?” Ted asked, not really expecting an answer.


“We are the Earth’s best chance at staying free,” she told him, “we are Bethany Anne’s people, come hell or high water. We are her law and her justice, all wrapped up in a no-nonsense group of humans who will walk through hell and clean it the fuck up. Satan best hope Bethany Anne never points us that way.”


“Is that what you were doing here, in New York?”


“In a way, yes. I’ve been chasing some assholes for a while, and I’m back.”


“Those guys tonight just got in your way?”


“More like they accosted Justice, and Justice kicked their asses. If they had truly been in my way, I would have taken them out. If not me? Then Barnabas, a Bitch or Bethany Anne. And actually, God help them if I ever call her.”


“Why?”


“Because it means Vengeance is coming, and she doesn’t drop flowers behind her,” Tabitha told him, “She is a great leader, don’t get me wrong. However, she has a zero bullshit policy and that’s what I deal with … bullshit. There is a lot of bullshit in our lives, and I’m pretty good at rolling with it. Bethany Anne?”


“Yeah?”


“You probably wouldn’t have found those dicks.”


“She would have killed them?” Ted asked, his eyes drawing together, “For being rude?”


“Ummm ... accosting a woman is not simply rude, it is a horrible experience. This time, the little woman fought back. But no, Bethany Anne can do things far worse than killing them and ... before you ask, I won’t tell you. Hell, I don’t know them all.”


“Then why do you follow her?” Ted asked.


Tabitha took a sip of her coffee before answer, “Because she saved my life, and then she saved my soul. I get the chance to pay it forward, and I’m going to do it. The man I call my father might be back one day, and I’m going to be there, right beside Bethany Anne, to welcome him back.”


“Your father?”


“You wouldn’t know him. His name is Michael. Once we have our present task completed. I know we will be searching and we will find his ass, I guarantee it.”


“He’s dead, gone, lost or what?” Ted asked.


“He’s definitely lost. Bethany Anne says he isn’t dead, but I don’t know why she says that. They have a connection, that’s all I know, and I trust her completely. If she says he’s alive? Then he’s alive. She tells me to clean up New York City, I come here and start cleaning up New York City.”


Tabitha cocked an ear and touched her tablet to drop the sound field. “There is a mugging going on, leave it alone or fix it?”


“Ah, fuck,” Ted said, and Tabitha smiled, she was up and jogging out of the diner before he stood up.


There was a twenty-dollar bill on the table, and Ted had never seen her put it there.


Who the hell was this woman, really? Or should he be wondering what?


He started jogging to catch up.


He heard a whistle to his left as he exited the diner and started running that way. He came up to another alley and could hear Tabitha’s voice.


“Look, shithead, I don’t care if you need the money to put your momma through college, stealing it from this woman isn’t the right answer. Getting a job, perhaps after taking a bath would be a good start.”


Ted reached for his badge, hesitated, then slid it back in his pocket.


This was what he had been researching, wasn’t it? Now he wasn’t so sure he should have made up the lie about having a girlfriend.


He walked, as quietly as possible in the shadows to see Tabitha in between a woman, crying on the ground, and two toughs.


The larger, taller white guy spoke to her. “Look bitch, we takin’ this money, and whatever fucking money you have as well,” He pulled out a ten-inch knife, the glint off the blade in the poor light flicking up and down the alley.


“That’s not a knife!” Tabitha replied, in an Australian accent. She reached inside her jacket, and the guy jumped towards her screaming “AAiii!”


The man shot across the alley, a loud CRACK then a crunch as his body hit the wall, slumping down. Simultaneously, Tabitha’s foot came back down from kicking him.


“Well, that was fucking rude,” Tabitha huffed and spoke to the second guy, “You giving me back her purse and money, or are you going to take a dirt nap like your friend over there?”


“He…he dead?” The second tough asked looking at the other guy crumpled on the ground.


Tabitha spared a glance at him, “No, not yet. His lung is bleeding from where my kick broke his ribs and punctured it. I can hear the blood causing problems already.” She turned back to him, “I suggest next time not stabbing first and asking questions later.”


The guy handed the purse to Tabitha who helped the lady to stand up, “Find out if anything is missing.”


“Will you help Jim?” the second thug asked, “He might not be much, but he’s the only friend I got.”


Tabitha looked back to the tough, “You got a name?” He nodded, “So, tell it to me already.”


“Thomas.”


“Ok, Thomas. I’ll help your friend but if he ever pulls this shit again? I’ll let him die, understand?” He nodded to her, “Just so you know, that guy behind me is a cop, so don’t be getting ideas.”


Ted walked up behind them and watched as Tabitha pulled something out of her jacket. It was a syringe and a vial. She pulled some of the liquid into the syringe then kneeled down by the tough and ripped his shirt. “If you want to help Ted, call him a paramedic. This will save his life, but he is still going to be sore as shit and need some bandages and help. I’m not making him feel all better, and sure as hell, I’m not kissing his boo-boo’s,” she told him as she stuck the needle in between a couple of ribs and administered the shot.


Ted pulled out his phone and started typing on it, “What are you giving him? Is it a medicine that is going to get you in trouble?”


“Not likely, nothing will show up in his toxicology reports.”


“More secret stuff?” Ted asked.


Tabitha stood up and turned around, putting the syringe, with cap back on and vial back inside her jacket. “Ted, I’ve been shot, stabbed and fallen from three story buildings…Well … actually, I jumped, but that’s neither here nor there. I need this product to help me survive in my job. That I helped this loser is a weakness of mine, not a strength. What he got was what coming to him. I helped Thomas who just wanted a friend in life, and I’ve been there when I was younger. Maybe together, the two of them will find the help they need.”


Tabitha started walking away, “Wait!” Ted called out. His eyes switching between Tabitha and the two toughs. He was trying to decide what he could do, if anything, to keep Tabitha with him.


“Got to go, Ted, enjoy the view while you can.” She patted her ass, “Sirens are coming this way, you will have friends soon.” She turned around, and walked backward looking at him, “Don’t bother with the hotel, we are already checked out.” She blew him a kiss and then turned back around and walked around the corner, disappearing in the dimness.


“Shit,” he sighed, his shoulders slumping.




QBBS Merideth Reynolds


“Bethany Anne?” Merideth spoke from the speaker, “Barnabas is calling for you.”


Bethany Anne looked at her tablet and the list of e-documents she needed to review. Even with pushing a lot of work off to ADAM who could give her the necessary facts for a decision, it was still a lot of work.


She highlighted a third of the documents quickly and pushed them off to her dad. He had too much time on his hands, she was sure.


“Ok, I’m good, put him on.” She looked up to see Barnabas’s face hovering in the air in front of her. “What’s going on?” She noticed the room he was in, “You in Schwabenland?” He nodded.


“Yes, home of the free, but frozen,” he replied.


She nodded, “Oh, tracking someone down?”


“Yes, I’ve got a lead on the group that keeps attacking us. They might have sent someone here to speak with Maria as part of the American Legation.”


“Oh? Do you think the U.S. is involved in this, then?”


“No, I don’t believe so. No one in the team knew this person, and I couldn’t read him,” he admitted.


“Sorry,” she interrupted, “but did you say you couldn’t read him?”


“Yes, I did.”


“How often does that occur?” she asked.


“Rarely. It’s happened before, but the percentages are fairly remote it would happen without this person having help,” he replied.


“Ok, tell me the rest of the plan, Barnabas.”


“I’ll jump in my Pod in about thirty minutes and follow them. They have left, and ADAM is tracking the plane for me, if they seem to deviate from the flight plan they provided the military, I’ll know.”


“Ok, let me know if you need anything, and I appreciate the update…”


This time, Barnabas interrupted, “My Queen, I have something else.” He gazed into the camera and straight into her eyes.


Bethany Anne raised an eyebrow, “Uh oh, for you to be so formal this must be good.”


“Maria Orsitsch has requested permission for the Thule group here in Schwabenland to emigrate to the Etheric Empire.”


Bethany Anne shrugged, “Ok, that was the expected decision out of all of their options. Why is there a speed-bump?”


“She is asking to be permitted to provide some technology transfer to the Germans before they come with us.”


Bethany Anne thought about it a moment, “What technology? We haven’t told them before they couldn’t share technology, so how come she asking about it now, and why is she worried enough to ask you about it?”


“She wants to provide the core concepts of their version of gravitic drives. Those versions are extremely power hungry and can’t send ships out like ours. However, it is an advancement that could cause problems in the world.”


Bethany Anne tapped her finger on her lips, “Yes, ADAM did some analysis with Frank and Jeffrey on this. I’ll have Frank call Maria and explain the potential ramifications if she does this. Let’s see what she decides to do after that.” He started to interrupt, but Bethany Anne put up a hand, “I’m not saying their ability to emigrate is denied if they choose to deliver the technology. I’m stating that they need to know and the absence of a ‘yes’ should at least cause her to think long and hard about it.”


He nodded his understanding.


“Ok, follow up with me on your tracking. Those assholes have been a major thorn a bunch of times, and if we can find out more about them, I’m game.”


“And if we find out they are deep in the USA?”


“Barnabas, what do you do to cancer if it is in your best friend?”


“Cut it out,” he replied.


“Yes, we will cut it out with or without permission,” she told him.


Barnabas’s eyebrow went up, and Bethany Anne chuckled, “The answer before you ask, is it’s easier to ask for forgiveness. Maybe ... depends on what they are doing. According to Mason Jaydon, his group was working on the technologies that could handle those flying saucers, but he never found out where the technology originated. According to Maria, the advancements we have seen were not part of her technology and according to TOM, some of the spacecraft’s abilities we have seen are well known to half a dozen alien groups and so could be provided by another alien group. So, I’m not a huge believer in allowing cancer like that to exist while we are off fighting in a different solar system.”


“Understood, Bethany Anne.”


They said their good-byes and Bethany Anne looked back down at her tablet after he disappeared. She still had over sixty-two documents to discuss with ADAM and decide which direction to take.


“Fuck me,” she muttered as she called up the first document.












CHAPTER SEVEN


“Now, that’s a mansion,” Tabitha told her Tontos. “No wonder Michael wasn’t that impressed with the house down in South America.”


The six men and one woman were in the shadows on Gramercy Park South, staring at the house Michael had used before changing Bethany Anne.


Bethany Anne had been offered seven million dollars for the forty-two room mansion through an intermediary when those responsible for coming in and cleaning it had shared that no one had been in the building for years.


Bethany Anne quickly fired the cleaning crew for talking and then allowed small groups of her people to visit from time to time. Always staying in the front few rooms with everything else off limits. She had never personally been to the house, preferring to not see anything that reminded her of his absence.


Tabitha whispered, “Ok guys, pretend you’re ninjas and let’s go stay at the boss’s home, shall we?”


Six male figures disappeared into the night while Tabitha waited in the darkness, before moving from shadow to shadow herself until she slid a key into a side door, shut off the alarm system and entered the house.




Chicago, Illinois - USA


The svelte blonde woman, wearing a long red dress and matching red lipstick with her hair pulled back into a bun, slid into the seat next to David Dennison. He was enjoying his drink and the beginning of his long weekend off.


David had decided to stay with the outgoing President who had protection for life.


“Bartender?” She called out, only to be ignored at first.


David called out louder, “Hey Barry!”


Barry jerked his head around and noticed David’s hand in the air, pointing down to the lady in the red dress beside him. Barry put up one finger.


David turned to the attractive woman, “I’m sorry, but Barry is hard of hearing out of his right ear, don’t ding him for that.”


The woman nodded and gave David a short smile before it disappeared like rain sprinkles on a hot street, “I appreciate that.”


“You good?” David asked, “I’m not trying to intrude, just grabbing an end of the week drink to unwind and don’t mind talking, or staying quiet.”


The woman seemed to wage a discussion in her own mind before turning more fully to David and putting her matching clutch on the bar and holding out her right hand, “Hello, my name is Paula, and I’ve just been stood up.”


“Wow,” David replied, reaching out to shake her hand, “My name’s David, and I can tell you he’s an assho…Ouch!” David’s hand jerked back, and he was shaking it up and down.


“Oh!” Paula looked at her hand, “Did I shock you? I’m so sorry!” She put her right hand on David’s left arm.


“No, maybe,” David answered, looking at his hand for blood, but there was nothing wrong with his hand, “Wow, it felt like a sharp edge.” David looked over to Paula, “You aren’t secretly a foreign government spy are you, trying to drug me…drug me…drug me up?” David asked, his face going lax for a moment, then snapping back alert. “Well?”


“Well, what?” Paula asked, “I’m not sure I got your question the first time.”


“What will you have, Ma’am?” Barry asked, interrupting the conversation.


She reached over to grab David’s drink and smelled it, “Is this Glenlivet?” Barry nodded. She continued, “I’ll have one the same way, thank you.” Barry went to get the lady her drink. She turned to David, “I’m sorry, what was the question again?”


David pursed his mouth and shrugged, “Beats me.”


Barry returned and slid Paula’s drink to her. She reached inside of her clutch and pulled out three twenties, “This should cover anything for myself and David, yes?” Barry nodded and accepted the bills and then went back towards his conversation at the other end of the bar.


“Wow, thank you,” David told her, picking up his glass, “I’m sorry for your getting stood up, but I can’t help but think this has been a wonderful night for me, so far.”


“Well, just think of it as me paying in advance,” she told him, taking a sip from her drink.


“For what?” David asked, daring to raise his eyebrows, flirting for the first time in a long time.


“Shall we say, services to be rendered?” Paula told him and raised one eyebrow, holding up her drink for a toast.


“Damn, that works for me,” he agreed and clinked her glass.



The next morning, David woke up, trying to remember the night. He looked around his room, and the sheets and the bed were definitely more messed up than usual, but he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary that a night of drinking too much might not have caused.


His head was not pounding, so thank God for small favors. He got up out of his bed and walked past his dresser. His gun and everything he normally would drop on the dresser was there, nothing missing.


He continued into the bathroom and stopped.


His bathroom was done up in white. White marble countertop, white wood siding painted and white tile set at a forty-five-degree angle with gray grout in between.


He took a couple of steps and reached down. The red panties were easy to spot against the white. He picked up the folded piece of paper. Apparently, the dream was real.


“Hello David,


Thank you for a fantastic dinner and even more wonderful night. I hope another girl gets as lucky as I did when they get stood up.


Because ‘Up’ should be your middle name.”


David smirked and continued reading,


“I hope my payment in advance was sufficient, I look forward to your payback.


All my best,


Paula.”


He turned over the note a couple of times, she hadn’t left a phone number, so how were they supposed to get together for payback?




QBBS Merideth Reynolds


Darryl and Scott milled around the crowd standing in the large cavern. In the future, this cavern was probably going to be used for shipbuilding, refurbishment or disassembly. However, for now, it was a good place to host thousands of people who had emigrated to the Etheric Empire.


This was a smaller group, maybe three thousand. Although it had been over a year since the last jihadist had tried to join and assassinate Bethany Anne, the two guys mingled in the audience to see if they could get a read on anything bad before it happened.


Presently, there was a ten-foot-tall stage which was built on one side of the room. It was kept clear except for these events when Bethany Anne, John, and Eric would arrive.


Bethany Anne had delivered thirty-two of these speeches so far, and she understood each might be the final speech for the new people joining them, and always delivered her best effort. Each month more impediments for people to emigrate was put in front of people on Earth.


In the end, those that were joining had the possibility of giving up their lives, and they needed to be provided her best effort to help them decide which way they wanted to jump. With her, or back to Earth.


Scott nodded and smiled to a young family. The dad seemed hesitant to interrupt him, perhaps he was an introvert. Scott looked around to confirm nothing seemed amiss and then stepped closer to the group.


“How are you?” He asked the parents as he fist bumped their young, dark haired boy who smiled at him.


“Excited!” The mom admitted, her green eyes lit up, “This is it, right?”


“Depends,” Scott answered, playing with the boy’s hair who twisted out from under his hands. Scott looked back to the parents, “if you mean is this the meeting where you join with us? Then yes. This is it. You have the option to say no, and we will return you back to Earth fairly soon. Or, you can say yes, and you release all of your ties to Earth’s countries and join the Etheric Empire.”


“Why do we have to release our ties?” The dad asked.


Scott looked at him and shrugged, “That was more an Earth condition than us. However, if you are from Australia, you don’t. There are about seven other countries who also don’t care. For us, those of us in the Etheric Empire, we tend to think humanity first. So, we don’t mind if our countries get their panties in a twist. The world is a big place and countries are your people, your kind. It’s natural for a human to join and want, no need, to be a part of a group. Well,” Scott waved his hand towards the crowd, “this is that family now. We are tied together by a desire to move ahead, and protect the world whether they all deserve it, or not.” He put his hand down, “further, we are going to make our own way out there. We aren’t sure we will ever see the Earth again, so this base station, or another planet might be your home. We don’t know. However,” Scott nodded to the podium, “the Queen is about to appear so catch me later if you have questions, ok?”


The man agreed as his wife gushed excitement and the boy was tugging on his dad’s shirt to be held so he could see better. The dad said ok, and Scott grabbed the little guy and easily lifted him to sit on his dad’s shoulder and then continued his walk through the crowd.


The cavern was lit by the same portable arti-sun technology used in the large cavern, just much smaller and built with small gravitic support which allowed E.I. Merideth to move them around as she needed since this cavern wasn’t in use all of the time. They were about six-feet-wide, and ten-feet long. There were translucent panels in place to try and diffuse the brightness. However, eyes had been damaged by looking directly at them. The effect was no different than looking at the sun while on Earth.


“Your Attention Please,” the speakers attached to the walls boomed out. “This is E.I. Merideth, please focus your attention on the stage and reduce your talking.” There was a pause, ‘Yes, that means you too, Mr. Killsbury.”


Some chuckles were coming from Scott’s left. Merideth always found one or two boisterous people in the group and called them out by name. It was a small reminder that she could hear, and see, just about everything on the base. With Operations being her area of responsibility, she considered the emigration acceptance event to be a high priority.


The light above dimmed a little, and the light on the stage area increased. There was about a five to seven second wait before John, Eric, Bethany Anne and Ashur appeared, and the crowd went wild as Bethany Anne smiled at those in the audience and waved.


It was always something unique when people appeared out of nowhere.



Ashur chuffed and then pranced around the stage, “Oh hush,” Bethany Anne told him as she waved to the crowd on both sides of the stage. “You love this, and you know it. The lights practically make your white coat shine.”


Ashur barked at a child he saw in the audience and wagged his tail before turning towards the three humans and chuffed again.


“Not my fault,” John said, “Bellatrix doesn’t like the limelight, and you know it. She’s happy to stay with the puppies and visit the kids over at the Acadamy.”


It had been a little over two years since TOM and Bethany Anne finally figured out how Ashur was sending messages to her and how she was picking them up. A short, ten-minute modification in the Pod-doc allowed most of those around Ashur to understand him directly now, as well. There were a handful of devices that could be handed out to help Ashur communicate with those who did not have the modifications.


Bethany Anne finally stopped waving and turned her palms face down, using the hand gestures to quiet the group.


Ok ADAM, pipe me through the speakers.


>> Understood.<<


“Welcome to the QBBS Merideth Reynolds, humanity’s first base station and the home of the Etheric Empire.” Bethany Anne’s voice came out of the speakers, easily heard throughout the crowd as she walked back and forth on the forty-foot wide stage.


“Let’s cut to the chase on one of the most confusing terms here, which is Empire.” She started. “As you know, my title right now is Queen Bethany Anne, not Empress. That is because we here are a group of people who understand our sense of identity is a shared purpose to protect those back on Earth. We aren’t ethnically similar as we have members from all over the world. We don’t all share the same language, although everyone is fitted with translation tools and an implant. Eventually, I’m told, we will all speak the same tongue. Our culture, such as it is, will grow with us as we engage in the mutually satisfying effort of making damn sure our families, friends and loved ones back on Earth get to do whatever it is they want to.”


Bethany Anne stopped in the middle of the stage and looked back over the group, “Remember that. We are going out there,” her left arm pointed up and to her left. None in the group knew she was pointing toward the Annex Gate, “to give those on Earth,” her right arm pointed down and to the right, “options. It is not, and cannot, be our responsibility to make sure they do the right thing on Earth.”


Her voice was a little somber, “Think about that. We might be going to save the Earth from aliens only to have Earth destroy itself,” her voice brightened, “Or, they might figure out their problems, and when we, or our children or children’s children, come back, Earth might be Utopia.”


Bethany Anne opened her arms to encompass the crowd, “The only reason they have the opportunity to become Utopia? Is because of you. Your willingness to take chances. Your belief in fighting, or supporting those that fight, and the courage to challenge an unknown future.”


She pivoted and started walking down the stage to her left, “Now I know that some of you, in fact, many of you are also fed up with what is going on with our world.” She turned around and started back the other way, “and frankly many on the world are completely upset that you chose to come up here, so don’t expect any accolades from Earth cheering you on as we go through the gate.” She haphazardly pointed back behind her, “It’s that way, if you are curious.”


A bunch of heads turned in the direction of her hand, to stare at the far rock wall perhaps to imagine the Annex Gate hanging in space before returning their focus to her.


Bethany Anne stopped at the far end of the stage, “No, they aren’t happy because, and I quote, ‘you are taking the best and the brightest with you!’” Bethany Anne shrugged, “That’s true, and you know why?”


“I asked you,” she said a little louder, DO YOU KNOW WHY?”


This time, she got the ‘NO, WHY?’ response shouted from the crowd along with cheering as she stood up there, grinning and proud, in front of her people.


“Because you don’t take your fucking ‘B’ team when the future of EARTH is at stake! That’s why!”


This time, there was bedlam in the cavern, the shouts of support and comradery helping draw those on the floor together. Realizing they shared a common goal, and all of them were ‘A’ team players pulled together to help make this goal happen.


“Now, you can’t follow that which you don’t know, and I won’t, under any circumstances, leave you clueless. However, here is the gotcha. If you already know you want to go back to Earth, you need to make your way to the back of the cavern to any of the five people dressed in green. You will be returned to Earth within the next three days.”


She clapped her hands, “Go on! We don’t have all the time in the World here, folks. There is no shame in realizing you want to be back with loved ones. None at all.” She put a hand on her forehead, acting like she needed to shelter her eyes from the glare, “I see a handful of people back there already and at least,” she looked over the crowd, “maybe three or four moving in that direction.”


“Unfortunately,” she dropped her hand, “if you stay for the next part of this talk, you will be returned to Earth just hours from us jumping through the gate. Some family discussions just need to happen with family, ok?”


Bethany Anne was surprised, only seven people seemed to be in the back. She nodded her head and those individuals were escorted out of the larger chamber.


Once the group had left, she continued her speech. “Now, you will be offered one more opportunity to leave this chamber and return to Earth after my next speech. But unfortunately, your return will have to be right before we go through the gate as what I’m about to share is private, for our group only. Is this understood?”


She saw many heads’s nodding to her, “Good. The first is that we,” she pointed to those on the stage with her, “and others of my team are modified humans. Meaning,” she put her arms up to quiet the people, “we have advanced technology allowing us to do some amazing stuff. One of them,” she turned to her left and took a step, to suddenly appear at the other side of the stage to the silence of the crowd, “is to walk through another dimension.” She pointed from where she had been and then to where she stood, “This ability is pretty unique, as are other abilities.” She put out her hand, focused on creating an etheric ball of energy, It was similar to the one that she and TOM had worked out when she first melted those damned pins the guys had been wearing years ago.


Two or three children in the crowd started clapping, and Bethany Anne smiled. It was nice to create something that brought joy to her people, not always death.


Light them up, guys. She sent out.


Both John and Eric smiled and held out their hands, each creating purple globes as well. It wasn’t much more than a light source at this moment, but these balls could be quite destructive. The teams were still experimenting to see if the ability could be refined.


“What you see here, are examples of Etheric energy. Hence, the reason for the name Etheric Empire.” Bethany Anne pushed her globe up and reached out with her right hand as if commanding John and Eric’s little balls, no bigger than a small snowball to join hers as they floated up about twenty feet and out over the crowd before finally disappearing.


She started walking back to the center of the stage, “We use the Etheric as an energy source, a conduit, and for other nifty abilities.”


“What you think of as Vampires, the folklore, are actually modified humans who had messed up nanocytes. They needed blood as a conduit to acquire the Etheric energy their nanocytes need to live. Fortunately, we have fixed this issue.”


Bethany Anne stood in the middle of the stage and looked out over the crowd. Each person feeling as if she spoke personally to them alone. “You need to know the measure of the woman you would follow into space, to other solar systems, taking peace or war with me as we track a group of aliens who have tried already to use Earthlings in their schemes. And they will be coming back.”


Her voice deepened.


“Hear me, all of you who are in this cavern,” she continued, “my name is Bethany Anne Nacht, I am the Queen of the Etheric Empire. But, before that, I was the Queen of the UnknownWorld, and I am The Queen Bitch!”


By her last words, Bethany Anne’s eyes were glowing red, her hair was floating due to the energy she was processing, but not using. The speakers had been turned off because her voice needed no support.


She spoke slowly, clearly, so no one would misunderstand, “There is no other rule but my rule. There are no other options but mine. We will either win the fight, or we will die trying, Ad Aeternitatem!” She called out, “Forever! Fight with me, beside me, before me and support me, or choose to go back to Earth. I will not buckle, I will not bow, and I will not give up or give in ... EVER!”


Now, a few people had started to take a knee out in the crowd.


“We will move forward, we will cross that line,” she pointed to the area of the Annex Gate. “We will win our battles, and we will be peaceful to those aliens who would be peaceful towards us. Or we will do what is necessary to those who wish for war.”


More and more people took a knee, the action was never requested or required. It had happened at the first allegiance event and every one since.


Bethany Anne moderated her voice, “I will seek to be fair, to be just, to be a good Queen for you. We as a people will seek to be a good ally to those who would ally with us.”


This time, a little of her emotions leaked. Her sheer determination emboldened those in the front nearest her as she finished her speech.


“But we will always be a strong people, people who are willing to talk peace, but always back it up with strength. We are the Etheric Empire, and we will never, EVER, run.”


Now, every person in the cavern was on one knee.


“What say you? Are you with me?”


The guys all adjusted their ear implants to reduce the roaring from the crowd as Bethany Anne stood and accepted their allegiance.


The Etheric Empire grew another three thousand souls that day.












CHAPTER EIGHT


New York City, NY - USA


With the Tontos checking out the house, Tabitha walked around the large mansion, wondering what it must have been like when Michael was here.


She knew he had an area that was underground. Bethany Anne had chosen to not visit there, and frankly, no one was sure if it was possible to get into or if it was safe.


A large metal door had been installed to cover the access. Bethany Anne had told them she wanted it solid, but not airtight. If Michael should ever need to get past the door, there needed to be a way in.


Tabitha walked down the stairs that would lead to the suite of rooms or whatever Michael had built for himself under the house and sat down on the last two steps staring at the metal door for an hour, wondering what her Father had in there. Wondering what he was like before he knew Bethany Anne before he had started to soften some, being around so many women in his life and she grinned.


Michael was challenged, for sure, by both her and Bethany Anne. She figured out his temperament and fought back so much he had secretly asked to have her replaced. Bethany Anne had stopped that effort. Tabitha had almost wet her panties from laughing when she found out that Bethany Anne had told Michael the only replacement available was a gay man. End result, Michael had retained her and for that alone Tabitha would be forever grateful.


If there was one thing that Michael gave her, it was a man she could believe in. A man, who she knew from the bottom of her heart and her head, would have supported her for the rest of what had become a very long life. He taught her to believe in herself because that was the only way she could do what he demanded.


And when she produced miracles, he made her feel good from what she accomplished. He told her, many times, that his ability to help clean up the mess in South America would not have been as successful without her efforts.


She smiled, there was never any smoke blown by Michael. If he said you did well? Then you absolutely had done well. Not just by the measure of today, but by the measure of people working with him over centuries.


It was a hell of a team to be a part of, and she felt special that she was. The most recent member of Michael’s technical team, perhaps, and for sure not the last.


Bethany Anne promised they would have him back.



“You know,” Hirotoshi spoke softly from the top of the stairs behind Tabitha, “We always have a bolt hole, there is likely another way in.”


Tabitha shrugged. This time, she had heard him at the top, “Probably? I’ve no idea if anyone but Michael would be able to use it, though. And, it seems a little voyeuristic to me to look inside his bedroom.”


Tabitha turned to look up the stairs and put up her fingers in a small pinch movement, keeping them an inch apart, “Even if part of me desperately wants to have something personal of his, you know?”


Hirotoshi came down the stairs and stopped, dropping down to sit a couple of steps above her, “Yes, I understand, Tabitha.”


“We going to find them, Honcho Tonto?” She asked.


“Them which?” he replied.


“The bastards that blocked me so many times already.”


“Yes, we are close. Who knows, maybe your effort to track them to New York is right, and they are here within only a few miles of us right now.”


Tabitha laughed, “Damn, you do know how to turn me on, HT,” she made wringing motions with her hands, “Just let me have a few minutes with each of their necks, you know?”


“Get in line behind the Queen, ok?”


“Yeah,” her shoulders fell, “Like I would have a lot left over after she was done.”


“It isn’t your station to replace her justice, should she choose to implement it.”


“I know, but she does this kick them into the Etheric, and they disappear shit. I want them penalized.”


“How so?”


Tabitha thought about that a few moments, “Give me a minute…or ten. I’ll come up with something suitable, I’m sure.”


“Well,” Hirotoshi added as he stood up, “you might wait until you find out who they are before you select a punishment.” He started back up the stairs, his feet barely making a whisper, “I’m checking on the group, Kimosabe.”


Tabitha stood up and started following him, working on her foot placement to minimize the sound. “I’m with you, and learning, Number One.”



“It was hidden,” Katsu commented as he, Tabitha and Hirotoshi looked at the laptop sitting on the large wooden desk, “False bottom in one of the drawers,” he pointed to the lower left bottom drawer


“Well, scoot your butt over, and let momma give this a try.” Katsu stood up, and Tabitha slipped into the chair. It was an old IBM Touchpad. Katsu already had the power supply plugged in, and she hit the power button. The old floppy disk drive made its chucking noise as it checked for a boot disc, then the fan could be heard as it started to spin.


“Damn, the old IBM’s last forever,” she murmured as they waited for the memory count and then the first screen came up.


“Windows WHAT?” Tabitha choked out. “Wow, who the fuck was old enough to use this antique OS?”


“Michael,” Hirotoshi suggested.


Tabitha looked down at the chair, then around the small library-looking office they were in and considered where he would have come up from his rooms and breathed out, “Holy shit.” She rubbed her hands on the leather armrests and looked up at Hirotoshi, “I’m sitting where Michael would sit?”


Hirotoshi nodded, “Most likely.”


She pointed to the laptop, “This is coming with me.”


The final boot screen and password came up, and she held out her hand, “Katsu?” He placed a USB device in it, and she looked on both sides of the laptop and found the USB input. She pulled out her tablet and set it on the table and went through her own security to bring it up, “Achronyx?”


“I’m here and listening, Tabitha.” the tablet replied.


Tabitha looked up to both men, a question on her face as she spoke so softly even the Vampires could barely hear her, “Who changed his programming to be nice?” she asked them and they both shrugged.


“Do you want something, or are you just wasting my time?” the tablet spoke again.


“Oh, neverfuckingmind.” She told the two guys, voice normal again.


“Glad to have the normal Achronyx back,” she said to the tablet. “I’ve got a small task for you. Old IBM laptop, running Windows software and I need you to hack in past the password. Be careful, the OS is old, but the guy that was running the security at that time was top notch.”


“I’m always careful,” Achronyx replied.


“My ass you are,” she retorted, “Remember Budapest?”


“That was a miscalculation about the ability of the original owner of the server,” the E.I. answered.


“Whatever floats your digital boat, you’ve been warned,” she told it.


Tabitha leaned back in the large leather chair, turning her head this way and that and realized she could still smell the tiniest amount of Michael on the leather, “This chair needs to go back with us.” She looked up to Hirotoshi, “It’ll be a present.”


He nodded his understanding.


“Security is bypassed,” Achronyx interrupted at the same time the OS continued past the login screen to finish boot up.


“Lord of the fantastically crappy GUI,” she muttered as she looked around at the old, large icons, “no wonder those old dudes can’t see shit.” Then, she whistled and pointed to the screen, “This has a Bethany Anne folder on it.”


“I think the Queen needs to be made aware of this,” Hirotoshi suggested.


“I…just…but…,” finally, her shoulders slumped, “Ok.”


She leaned back in her chair and sought the connection she had with Bethany Anne.


Bethany Anne?


Yes?


Busy?


One second... Nope, good now Tabitha, what’s up?


I’m at Michael’s house. 


Ok.


We found something.


OOoooookay.


I’m pretty sure that we have Michael’s old laptop, and it has a folder about you on it.


What’s it say?


I’ve not opened it, she replied, who do you take me for?


A hacker that doesn’t know when to stop looking. Is Hirotoshi or Ryu behind you?


Yes, she admitted, Hirotoshi.


Ok, that explains the failure of Tabitha to be Tabitha. So, he suggests I know that there is something about me, right?


Got it in one.


Do you need to go into that file? Other than itchy fingers that all hackers have, to know shit they shouldn’t know about? Bethany Anne asked, humor coloring her question.


Dammit, you make it sound like a disease, Tabitha replied.


It is, a mental disease to be sure. But, we all have mental conditions, and yours works for you. It’s why you make a good Ranger.


Tabitha didn’t know how to respond to that statement, she hadn’t considered her insatiable curiosity an asset with her Ranger role.


No, I don’t.


Ok, then stay focused on your efforts. From what I remember, Carl and probably Michael had some hellacious backdoors all over the…


YES! Tabitha’s mental mind link practically screamed back.


Ouch Tabitha! Bethany Anne replied, what the hell?


Tabitha leaned forward, her hand moving the little red nub on the keyboard to move the cursor around the screen.


I bet those assholes don’t know all the backdoors Carl had!


You think there are some Frank or ADAM can’t find?


Those guys are fucking geniuses, but Michael and his hackers had decades to setup shit. There could be databases that don’t hit the web itself.


Ok, not that you probably waited, but permission granted to review. Just be careful you don’t wipe the machine before you clone the hard drive, ok?


Oh…fuck. Yeah, good point. Tabitha replied, a little more contritely as she realized her mistake.


Yeah, good luck!


Thanks and bye, boss.


Barnabas is your boss.


Yeah, but I don’t like calling him boss when so many other nicknames present themselves.


Whatever, Tabitha. That’s between you two. Ciao’.


Ciao’.


“Achronyx, order me the following computer parts and get them delivered as quickly as possible. Pay whatever is necessary, I want them first thing in the morning.”


Katsu whispered, “This is New York, there has to be a computer store open this time of the night, right?”


“Probably,” Hirotoshi admitted, “take a list from Tabitha and find the required hardware.”


Tabitha looked up at Hirotoshi, “Why not me?”


“Because, Kimosabe,” he replied, “You can’t go get ice cream without running into someone that you find a need to beat up and toss into a dumpster. I don’t want the New York Police Department arriving on our front door ... again.”


“Well,” she frowned and then crossed her arms and laid back in the chair. “Shit. Someone hurry and bring me the backup stuff,” she grumped.


Molenbeeck area, Brussels - Belgium


Paula kept her head covered in this area. While it might be difficult, perhaps, to kill her, a shot to the face was still a shot to the face. Her special clothing only protected so much.


She entered a run down establishment, and proceeded to the back, unmolested. Rarely did anyone go to the back who didn’t know who they would find, there.


There was a tall man, probably somewhat recently returned from fighting in Syria or Iraq. She provided the password, and he knocked three times on the door. A muttered word and the guard replied. The deadbolts were heard as they grated on the metal. The door opened enough for her to slide into the room.


Inside, she pulled off her head covering and allowed her blond hair to cascade down her shoulders. She hated tying it up.


She nodded to the three men in the room. No names mentioned. It was appropriate should any listening devices somehow be active near them.


She slowly reached inside the multiple layers of her outfit and pulled out some rolled up papers, handing them to the man in the middle. He was wearing a Manchester United t-shirt.


He slipped the rubber bands off the document and opened them up to review. He took the papers and folded them the other way to roll them up and then released, trying to get them to lay flat as he put the five papers on the table.


Paper one was the job information. Including date, time and offer to help get twenty of his men into position to attack TQB if, in turn, they promised to hit the following location in Europe with eighty of their men. Her people would supply the money for the weapons and help them all arrive in the city from wherever in the world they needed to be picked up.


The man pointed to the agreement to take twenty of their fighters to space, “You can do this?”


She nodded agreement.


“And the money?”


Again, another nod.


He looked up to both men who had been looking over his shoulder at the documents. “Do you both agree we do this?”


The one over his right shoulder shrugged, “If the intelligence is correct with what they are saying here, she will be at the event. So, most of our people will be there.” He looked up to Paula, “You expect these twenty to be a feint?”


She nodded.


“Do you believe they will survive,”


She shook her head, her mouth pressed in a line.


“I wouldn’t either,” the main man agreed. “They will go to Allah knowing they have helped us pay back the devil herself and take her people down.”


The man looked over the documents one last time before pushing them together, “Allah has decreed it.”


Paula nodded her head and grabbed the headdress, pulling her hair back up to tuck it in. In a couple of minutes, she took a left out of the rundown building and twenty minutes later, outside of the Molenbeeck area, she pulled out her own special phone. Typing in the commands, she put it up to her ear, “Patrick? Paula. They have agreed. You still able to get the twenty up to the Base Station? No, they don’t expect them to survive. Yeah, I didn’t expect you to have one of your pilots stick around, either.”


Paula took a right at the next intersection and then grabbed her head covering and took it off, stuffing it in the nearest trash can.


“We only agreed to a one-way trip,” she grunted her response to a question from Patrick, hung up, then tucked the phone back in her clothing.


Not since she had been following Bethany Anne’s protection detail had Paula felt so insanely happy.


It had taken years, but her quarry was within her grasp.












CHAPTER NINE


Kaifeng, Henan Province


Captain Zi Shun entered the restaurant, one that he and his three friends had used years ago before the time of the clan.


The time of decimation.


He and his group resupplied over and over again with new recruits who just became fresh meat in the ongoing war with the changers.


The cats.


Jian and Zhu were waiting for him. Based on the empty bottles in front of them, they had been here a while.


Both men had been promoted, and now commanded their own squads. As the three ‘untouchables,' Shun, Zhu, and Jian had a mythic reputation with the men in the military. The three of them personally responsible for twelve changeling kills over the years. Always offering the dead as a sacrifice for Bai, their friend, who had died during that fateful trek out into the forests.


All three men had been offered transfers to postings out of the forest patrols. All three respectfully declined.


How would they get their revenge from within the city?


Now, they were posted again in Kaifeng because all troops had been pulled back. No one could find the Clan Kings and the fighting, at least with their three groups, had become a stalemate. Captain Shun had brought in technology to register movements, and it became too expensive for the cats to attack, they would always lose at least one, sometimes up to three of their members.


For the last three months before they were recalled, there had been no headway, and finally, the brass understood it was a hopeless cause. No one had found the technology hurriedly taken out of the mountain temple.


They had found the empress, or priestess dead. Her arms and head cut off. Rumor had it that TQB was responsible for the death. There had been five bright meteors that entered Chinese airspace from the southeast, and no reported impacts.


Whatever, Shun had come to the opinion over the years that maybe TQB had the right idea. Governments, even his own, weren’t the right people to have the technology, either.


Shun waved to the waitress who nodded and went to retrieve a beer for him. He tossed his hat onto the seat and pushed it over as he slid into the half-circle booth. “You two still capable of thought?” He smiled as Zhu hid a rude gesture behind his beer bottle.


Shun pulled out his wallet and raised an eyebrow. Jian shook his head, so Shun counted the six bottles on the table and placed a fifty-yuan bill on the table. That should pay for what they had plus what he intended to drink along with a tip. He would add more later if necessary.


“Rumor, or real?” Jian asked. Both Shun and Zhu turned to their friend. Zhu turned to Shun, “Real?”


Shun nodded his head.


“This is not right,” Jian said. The two friends listened to their quiet and contemplative friend. “They want to use Chinese who work for TQB as assets to draw TQB into a fight?” Jian exhaled loudly, “That is wrong.”


Shun shrugged, “Ok.”


Zhu’s eyebrows raised, “That easy?”


Shun took a swallow of his beer, “That much time in the forest gives one time to contemplate what is right for one’s country, and what is good for one’s leaders. They often have not matched.”


Jian picked up his bottle and tapped Shun’s bottle before he took a swig and put it back down.


“Do we have a target?” Zhu asked.


“Yes, small manufacturing company about an hour south of Zhengzhou,” Shun admitted. “Just received the instructions before I left.” He turned his wrist over and looked at his watch, “Woo’s group is going to leave in about an hour and go down there by truck to capture the employees who are working the late shift.”


“An hour?” Jian asked, and Shun nodded.


“I’m not having it,” Jian said and reached into his back pocket and pulled his wallet out, “I’m driving, guys.” He dropped another fifty on the table and stood up, no sense of imbalance at all in his steps. Shun and Zhu watched their friend for a second as he walked towards the door and then to each other.


“It’s prison,” Zhu said.


“Or execution,” Shun admitted.


“For Bai,” Zhu said and slid out of the booth past where Jian had sat and stood up and started after their friend.


Shun grabbed his hat and slipped back out of the seat as he put his hat on and agreed, “One more time, for Bai,” he murmured and followed his two friends.


Whatever Shun’s ancestors wanted, he might not be able to provide them. He would, however, protect his countryman from the enemy.


The problem was ... this time the enemy was the government.




New York City, NY - USA


“Are you telling me,” Tabitha spoke into her tablet as she looked at the laptop screen, “we finally got the slimy bastards?”


“Yes,” both Achronyx and ADAM answered her at the same time.


She hated it when Achronyx ignored ADAM. For an E.I., Achronyx could be a turkey sometimes. She was surprised ADAM didn’t digitally slap Achronyx.


She was with Hirotoshi, Ryu, and Katsu in Michael’s office. The treasure trove of backdoors Michael’s laptop accessed allowed them to finally follow the money trails her team’s work had uncovered.


It all made sense.


The assholes were in Boston. Not New York as she had thought, but they were close enough.


She had Katsu buy a new laptop when he had gone out shopping earlier. She had virtualized Michael’s laptop OS. In the event something went wrong, they wouldn’t lose the vast amount of access it provided. Due to the new laptop, she could work at speeds that would have caused Michael’s laptop to seize up.


She slid back in her chair, “ADAM, are you sure?” She chewed the inside of her lip.


“Yes, Tabitha. The financial records show the money trail all the way through the four locations you searched previously.”


“Son of a bitch,” she whispered, “Location of these guys?”


“Achronyx has the Boston address, and I can confirm, using satellite imagery in place, that the site is guarded.”


“That makes me feel better, not worse,” Tabitha admitted. “When do those that sleep well at night need guards? ADAM, please notify Barnabas I need to speak to him.”


“Done.”


“Ok, let’s drop ADAM. I’ll speak to you later.”


“Understood,” ADAM confirmed and dropped off the call.


Seconds later, Barnabas called. When Tabitha accepted the call he got down to business, “I understand you have had a breakthrough?”


“Yes, we got the bastards, Barnabas. But, there are guards and other issues, and I’m considering doing this a little different than normal.”


“What, no three-story falls?” He asked.


“I’m doing better with those. Just last week I accomplished falling from four stories successfully.”


“Number two, that would be funny if I wasn’t sitting here, wondering if that story is true or not.”


“I’ll leave you wondering,” Tabitha replied.


“Yes, you do that while I hear your plan,” he agreed.


“Ok, so here it is…” she started and then proceeded to lay out her idea.




South of Zhengzhou, Henan Province - China


Jian pulled the car around the back of the manufacturing plant. The three men had switched out of their uniforms and hoped the people inside would listen to them. If not, well then they had their weapons inside the car, and perhaps they could frighten them out of the plant.


Shun had his Captain’s hat inside a bag which he grabbed as Jian shut off the car and the three men got out. It was a little past two o’clock in the morning here, and all men were wearing sweaters to deal with the cold.


Shun walked up to the back door and knocked. When no one answered, he knocked louder.


A muffled voice came from inside, it was unintelligible.


“Open up,” Shun called out, “You people need to get lost!” He spoke to the person behind the door, trying to keep his voice down, but loud enough to pass through the door and be heard.


There was a crack in the door, and someone inside asked him to repeat his comment.


“The government has cut orders to take you hostage against TQB for some reason, you need to clear everyone out of here!”


“Who?”


“The government!” Shun was getting exasperated. Usually, you mention the state, and it got someone to show their face quickly, and their backs as they ran away, soon after. He looked back at Zhu who shrugged. He turned back to the crack in the door, “May we come in? The three of us need to get out of sight.”


The door opened, and Shun’s mouth dropped open.


It wasn’t a countryman standing at the door, but a European who was smiling.


And his eyes seemed to glow red.


Hands reached out and grabbed all three men quickly, pulling them into the building and the door shut, the light outside flickered, then burnt out leaving the back door in darkness.



Shun, Zhu, and Jian stood looking at those standing in front of them.


“I am Stephen, from TQB. We appreciate your warning but as you can see,” he swept his hand towards the large manufacturing floor, “There is no one working tonight.”


Jian spoke first, “You knew.”


Stephen nodded, “Yes, we knew. We have been at odds with governments for years, now. They have been holding people hostage, trying to force the Queen’s hand. Although this is the first time we have no interest in a company and the Government is attacking.”


“Why then?” Zhu asked, “We were told this building was owned by TQB.”


“Oh, it is a TQB, just not us,” Stephen admitted. “Either paperwork snafu, or perhaps someone hoping the government shuts their competition down.”


“Then why are you here?” Shun asked.


“Because my Queen doesn’t want innocents hurt and she is particularly perturbed by the Chinese Government,” Stephen admitted, “those who worked here took maybe three to four minutes to clear out.”


Shun looked at his watch, “You have maybe fifteen minutes before those who followed us could get here, probably closer to thirty or forty-five. You can leave.”


“Where would the fun be in that?” A young American man asked behind Stephen.


Stephen turned towards the young man, “Peter, not everyone enjoys a fight nearly as much as you.”


“I’m getting rusty, it’s been a little while since our last good fight,” Peter answered.


“It’s been what, four weeks?” Stephen asked him.


“Five weeks, three days and,” he looked at his wrist, “three hours.”


Stephen turned back to Shun, “So, you can see we have some anxious fighters wishing to make sure the Brass get the idea that messing with TQB, whether the right or wrong TQB, is a bad idea.”


“But, some of you will be killed,” Shun admonished.


“No,” Jian interrupted looking at the men, “they won’t.”


Shun and Zhu turned towards their friend, “Why not?”


“These are similar to those we chased in the forest,” Jian admitted.


Stephen smiled, “Ah, I was wondering why you smelled familiar. You are Baô, are you not?”


Jian’s eyes darted back to his friends, and he tried to catch Stephen’s eyes and shake his head, but it was too late.


Shun asked, “Is it true, Jian? Are you part of the Sacred Clan?”


Jian shook his head, his shoulders dropping, “No.” He straightened up and looked his two friends in the eyes, “My family, my parents, left the clan in the night, scared the Sacred Clan would track them down and take what was most precious to them,” Jian pointed a thumb at himself, “me.”


Zhu asked, “Why?”


Jian shrugged, “I’m not sure. My parents were very silent about what they knew. I think I was supposed to be a female child for the Clan’s plans, and the leaders had planned to kill me so my parents could have another child without upsetting the government. My mother found out about my sex early, and together they spirited me away in the night.”


“They want to kill the males?” Shun asked, “That’s…”


“Backward, yes,” Jian admitted, “It had to do with a prophecy. I’ve pieced together the story over the years.”


“You still have the smell, Jian,” Stephen interrupted the three friends, “Can you change?” Jian shook his head. “I imagine you might be able to, but you have never been taught, and the ability is not strong enough to work on its own unless you get highly emotional.”


Zhu snorted, “Well, that closes the discussion then, Jian never gets emotional.”


Jian shrugged when everyone looked back at him for an answer.


“Ok, let me ask the three of you, one more question,” Stephen started. When he had their attention, he continued, “Do you want to stay in China, or are you done?”


Jian shrugged, “My parents.”


“Can be grabbed safely, if you will tell me their address and go with a team to fetch them quickly.” Jian nodded his agreement. “Ok,” Stephen turned to Shun, “You?”


Shun hesitated only a moment before nodding, “I’m done with a government that would take their own people, hostage.”


“No family?” Stephen asked Shun shook his head.


Stephen turned to Zhu, “You?”


“I’ll go, my parents will stay. They are in the backcountry and haven’t seen me in three years. I never gave the Government my real address or name. I’ve sent my parents enough money over the years, my brothers and sisters can deal with caring for them. If I can provide a last letter?”


Stephen nodded, “Very good then, Peter?”


Peter turned and called over his shoulder, “Karen, Timmons.”


Those in front could hear a female cursing as two people came forward, “Sir?” the woman said. Apparently, she was able to get over her frustration at not being here for the fight before she made it up to the front.


“Help Jian here with his parents. Take transport three. When you get there, it will stay with you. The ArchAngel just released another transport for us down here. When you finish, you will take Jian and his family to the Angel.”


“Yes, sir.”


Stephen spoke again, “All three of you should go, you don’t need to be here when the PLA gets here.”


“How bad is it going to be?” Shun asked.


“For the PLA?” Stephen asked, and Shun nodded. “Not bad, well, except for their transport.” Shun nodded his understanding, then followed Jian and Zhu out the door behind the Karen and Thomas. Both of the TQB personnel walked with a hunter’s grace.


“Now people,” Peter spoke, cracking his knuckles, “get yourself prepared and Thomas,” he yelled.


“Sir?”


“Take care of the lights,” Peter finished his command and smiled, thinking about the fun to come.












CHAPTER TEN


All Guns Blazing, Outer Docks - QBBS Merideth Reynolds


The bar was deceptively big.


Bobcat, William, and Marcus had started out with a plan, open the first bar in outer space. Then, they decided they wanted the best bar in outer space.


Finally, they decided they wanted a place where adults could mingle with adults, but the children of their friends could come in, as well.


That required some interesting ways to change up the architecture. The issue was more of form follows function. The guys thought long and hard about what was needed in a bar and who would probably come and visit.


First, you had solo drinkers looking for a place to enjoy a drink around people, but not necessarily be part of a crowd.


Then you had different sized groups of drinkers. Also, there were those that wanted to dance or blow off steam. Maybe play darts, hook up, or other games that came up.


That all took room.


Then, you needed a place that children could join in which meant a separate area. Not for the children, William argued, but for the adults who wanted to drink without worrying if a child was going to see them, and then they would be guilty of creating the next generation of alcoholics. Bobcat thought that odd but Marcus agreed with them.


“Look,” William told Bobcat, “You would start drinking in the morning if you could get away with it.”


“What do you mean?” Bobcat answered, “I use vodka and cinnamon to gargle with every morning.”


“I’m sorry,” Marcus interrupted, “You use what?”


Bobcat turned to his friend, surprised his two buddies didn’t know this trick, “Vodka, the recipe is one cup vodka and nine tablespoons of cinnamon. Put them both in an airtight container after mixing them together and store it for two weeks to let the flavor’s combine. Then, gargle.” He looked at his two friends, “What? It fixes halitosis.”


Marcus’s eyes opened wide, and he turned to William, “I’m shocked.”


William shrugged, “I’m not. The fact that Bobcat knows how to mix his liquor so he can drink in the morning is perhaps a little surprising, but it doesn’t rise to the shocked level.”


“No,” Marcus shook his head and pointed to Bobcat, whose head was pivoting back and forth between the two guys, “Not that he drinks in the morning, but that he knows the term halitosis.”


William’s face split into a huge grin and reached over to fist-bump the scientist who winked to Bobcat.


Bobcat looked at William and put up his left middle finger, “You’re friend number one,” and put his other hand up with the middle finger extended to Marcus and looked at him, “And so are you.” Bobcat pulled his left hand around and put both hands, middle fingers extended up towards Marcus, “Actually, YOU get to be friend number eleven.”


“Yes!” Marcus crowed, hands raised in the air, “I get turned up to eleven!” He turned to William, lowering his arms, “That’s the joke, right? Turn something up past ten?”


“Yes, that’s right,” William agreed to chuckles all around. “But, it makes my point, Bobcat. You are fine with alcohol twenty-four hours a day. Not everyone thinks that is acceptable.”


“Especially around children,” Marcus added.


“I blame your inability to have a hangover,” William commented, “It makes you less sensitive to the evils of drinking.”


“Just because I don’t suffer myself, doesn’t mean I don’t suffer in quiet sympathy with you poor schmucks,” Bobcat replied, “You should know your limits. My limits happen to be superior to most men.”


“You mean every man,” Marcus said. “I’ve seen Wechselbalg who have trouble keeping up with you.”


“Why do you think I gargle each morning?” Bobcat grinned, “Training is the most important part of any good regimen.”


William’s face went blank, a perplexing look on his face before turning to Marcus, “Could that be right?”


Marcus turned, “What? Are you asking the rocket scientist if gargling alcohol would help one’s ability to not have hangovers?”


“Uh, yeah.” William agreed.


Marcus shrugged, “I’ve no idea. I’d have to set up research to figure this out.”


Bobcat raised his hand, “I’ll volunteer!”


Both men turned to Bobcat and barked,” No!”



Now, All Guns Blazing had the kitchen designed to be in the middle, splitting the more family friendly bar and grill from the more adult bar and recreation area. Both sides of the kitchen had a bar with stools, but one side had tables and booths for eating, and the other had high tables, a dance floor, darker booths for private conversations and an area for darts and other games.


There were a dozen private rooms on two levels that could be rented for either business meetings or parties.


Or both.


The docks area, a large area on the Merideth Reynolds, was growing. Storage, warehousing, housing, and businesses were built to handle all of the externally focused roles and activities. There were two high-speed magnetic trams which delivered people back and forth between the Docks, and In-world.


One of the main features of All Guns Blazing was the large viewing deck with a window twenty feet high and sixty feet long that allowed everyone to see out into space. The deck, reached by stairs from either side, was the premier draw for the bar and it took Team BMW weeks to finally provide a design that passed the engineering and defense teams approval processes.


It was a quieter area, usually. The view of space caused most to stand, or sit, and drink in the splendor of the Universe.


Except for tonight.


Tonight, All Guns Blazing was hosting a get together of some old hands celebrating the Anniversary of the Battle in the Everglades.


It was only one of the many times each year the teams got together to try and pass along the stories from the beginning.


The beginning that started five unique people down the path to saving the Earth.




South of Zhengzhou, Henan Province - China


Stephen stood in the shadows, on the roof of the two-story building, enjoying the crisp air. Beside him, Peter kept his hands in his pockets. Both men watched as two PLA transport trucks turned onto the street heading in their direction.


One of the trucks missed a gear change, the grinding noise easily heard by the two, before the driver was able to slam the gear home and continued on their way to the parking lot, below.


Todd and his Guardian Marines were downstairs, behind the Wechselbalg who were hiding in the shadows of the machines.


“You know,” Peter said, “I’m getting pretty tired of just humiliating these people.”


Stephen looked over to the young man, “Desiring more blood, young Wechselbalg?”


Peter’s eyes flicked over to Stephen, “Not what I meant, at least not that way.” Peter replied, “I mean I’m tired of keeping the gloves on Stephen. Each time we do this, we keep the carnage to a minimum. It isn’t slowing down the efforts.”


“This,” Stephen said, pointing towards the two trucks about to pull into the lot below, “isn’t about them. It’s about us.”


“Oh?” Peter asked, curious, “How so? I get that we are trying to make sure others aren’t hurt by attacks against us, but how is this about us rather than them? If we attacked and made it hurt more, perhaps they wouldn’t try so damned often.”


“Think about the future, Peter. Think about twenty, or thirty years from now. You will have how much alien blood on your hands? It is going to mess with your mind. I don’t think we need to go out there with years of human blood on our hands, as well.”


The trucks disgorged troops. The two men could hear the shouts of commands and then the door, which they had locked, was forced open, and boots were flowing into the room below.


“ADAM, drop the null-communications shield,” Stephen said.


“What if they do something that hurts Bethany Anne, what then?” Peter asked as he got undressed, then the two of them walked to the edge of the building.


“Well, then there will be no gloves,” Stephen admitted as he stepped off the edge and dropped behind the troops below.


The roar of the Pricolici transfixed the men as two monsters fell from the sky right into their midst.



Private First Class Chung was the third man entering the door, into a dark warehouse. He turned to the left and aimed his QBZ-95. The man couldn’t see anything, but his gut was telling him to run. He swept the area again.


Two of the men had lowered their weapons. Chung hissed at them. He’d been out in the forest for a small tour, and he still trusted his gut.


“What are you hissing for?” the first asked and rolled his eyes. “There isn’t anyone to fight. This isn’t the wilds, and you need to stop blaming your time there fighting the cats when you jump at shadows!”


He had barely got out his comment when a primal roar from outside startled everyone. Men twisted around, aiming back at the door as fear rolled in from that direction, forcing them to fight the urge to run further into the warehouse.


Chung never stopped looking into the building. He saw the wolf, its eyes flashing yellow, streak out from behind the nearby CNC lathe and leap. The animal’s jaws were coming straight for his throat, and he pressed his trigger in reactive fright. Two bullets slammed home into the wolf, throwing its trajectory off enough that it collided with him, but limiting its bite to his arm, not his neck.


His gunfire was enough to warn those who had turned around to look back over their shoulders. But few bullets were fired as people, dressed in black slammed into their group, guns ripped out of their hands and growls joining the roars coming from outside.


Chung screamed as the wolf’s jaw snapped his arm bones, his fingers releasing the gun to drop beside him as he landed on the floor. He tried to ignore the pain and reach for his knife.


A booted foot stepped on his left wrist, pinning it to the floor. Chung looked up into an American’s face who said something in English. While he didn’t understand the language, the gun muzzle in Chung’s face needed no translation.


He slowly pulled his hand away from his knife.


“That’s a good choice, mate,” Todd told him, “I’m sure Tommy over there will heal. However, if you stab him with that silver knife you got there, I’m pretty sure Stephen won’t give a shit if Tommy just rips your throat out for real, next time.”


“You got that right,” a male voice, have human, half growl caused Chung to look to the side.


Where there had been a wounded wolf a second ago, a naked human male was getting up. Chung’s eyes opened in fright when the man tossed two slugs on Chung’s chest, “I think these belong to you.”



Stephen bent his knees and landed gracefully on the ground. He was working on his Etheric abilities since TOM and Bethany Anne started playing with Etheric forces and anti-gravity. He couldn’t yet figure out how Michael went to myst, but he was able to lighten his weight.


John thought his trick was fantastic and made him watch the opening sequence in Underworld where Selene dropped from a significant height right onto the stone, stood up and then walked away.


Looking sexy the whole time.


His arrival was noticed as a few men started to turn around when hundreds of pounds of snarling Pricolici landed and started tossing around bodies like a kid tosses presents after opening them on Christmas morning, reaching for the next.


Stephen smiled and pushed his Fear. There was a soldier on his left that was pulling up his QBZ and Stephen was there in a blink, yanking the rifle from his hands before elbowing him in his helmet. The man went sideways hard enough to take out one other who was trying hard to overcome the double dose of Stephen’s fear plus having a seven-foot-tall Werewolf howling and cursing in a guttural language so close to him.


Peter, bitching when one man finally pulled his pistol and shot him, tossed the soldier currently in his grasp. Stephen watched as Peter grabbed the gun, bent it enough to be useless then put his large misshapen hand under the shocked soldier’s armpit and tossed him. The soldier flew over five heads, fifteen feet to stop when he bounced off of the cement wall of the warehouse and landed, unmoving, in the few pitiful shrubs the warehouse had around it for decoration.


There wasn’t much light out in the parking lot. Two soldiers just pulled triggers, and four other soldiers went down under friendly fire.


Stephen, enhancing his speed reached into his jacket and pulled out a pistol with modified tranquilizer shots and rapidly starting shooting those who seemed the most likely to cause them problems.


Then, he shot the rest as Peter howled in frustration. “Oh quiet and see who we have left in the trucks, Peter,” Stephen told him.


“Theresss gooeesss my fuunnnzzzz,” the large Pricolici bitched as he jogged over to the trucks to find the driver’s doors open, but no sign of the drivers.


“Cleeannnzzz,’ Peter called out.


“ADAM, bring them down,” Stephen called out, and in seconds, large eight-inch anti-grave plates came down and floated by the trucks. “No Peter!” Stephen called out to the Pricolici who was eyeing the soldiers that were running away. Stephen commanded, “Change back or we will have another talk.”


Peter shook his head in the negative and moments later, he stood in front of the vampire. “Do you,” he started to ask before he turned his face and spit out something besides the truck before turning back to Stephen. “Do you always have to threaten to beat the shit out of me again?”


“Yes,” Stephen told him as he grabbed one of the floating plates and got on his knees to find the right metal bar under the bed of the transport truck and locked it in place, giving ADAM an update.


Peter started down the other side of the vehicle, putting the plates on the other end of the truck as Todd and his people began the process with the other truck.


Stephen grabbed the next plate, “You need to control the Pricolici, not allow it to control you. If you don’t, there will come a day when a very tough decision will have to be made, my friend. I’m not going to make it easy for you now, and have to do something I’ll forever regret in the future.”


“Yeah, well,” Peter answered, locking his third plate in place, “the last time you kicked my Pricolici’s ass, it got the message pretty well. I can feel the hackles on the back of my neck stand up and then my monster brain remembers you breaking my legs and my left arm. And slapping the shit out of me.”


Stephen locked his fifth plate in place, “That kind of power needs containment, or its benefit is lost. It’s what killed the berserkers. Individually, they were indestructible. But, get a good team that practiced, and you could take one down easily.”


Peter bent down to look under the PLA troop truck, “You knew berserkers?”


“Huh?” Stephen asked and then, recognizing Peter’s voice was coming from under the truck, bent to stare at the young man. “Did I know berserkers?”


“Yeah,” Peter asked, “I’ve always admired them. They often helped break up shield walls before they could get set. A useful thing in fights, I was reading.”


“Yes, I knew two.”


“So, tell me about them,” Peter asked.


“What do you want to know?” Stephen asked. “They tasted pretty good,” he winked to Peter and then stood up, moving to the next plate.


“Hey!” Peter called out as he grabbed the next floating plate, “You can’t say they tasted pretty good and then drop the story.” The two men locked the last plate at the back of the truck and walked up to the front where two of Todd’s Guardian Marines were affixing the last two plates.


Stephen patted him on the shoulder, “How about you get dressed? Talking with a naked man isn’t the biggest deal with me, but you are causing a ruckus.” Stephen pointed to some of the female Wechselbalg who were dropping tied up PLA soldiers outside of the building.


Peter looked up to the top of the roof, “Well, shit.”


“Oh, don’t be a wimp,” Stephen said as he grabbed Peter under the arms.


“What the hell are you… FUUUU!” Peter screamed as Stephen took three fast steps towards the building then threw Peter up. The sound of Peter’s landing caused Stephen to smile when he landed with a painful thud. The werewolf finished yelling, “UUKKK!”


“Hurry up,” Stephen called to him as he turned to find Todd with a smile on his face, “Are the packages ready to go, Todd?” Stephen asked the Guardian Marines leader.


“Aye, sire, that they are,” Todd told him and then grinned even larger when Stephen’s mouth pressed together.


“I’ll get my Queen back one day for giving me a title,” he grumped and then smiled when he heard Peter’s loud ‘son-of-a-bitch’ when he landed after jumping from the roof behind him.


“ADAM, two presents to return to base.”


“Understood, Stephen.” ADAM’s voice could be heard in Stephen’s receiver in his ear. It vibrated the bones and produced sound. No one else would ever hear it.


Moments later, the two huge PLA transport trucks started lifting into the air, accelerating in speed the higher they went up before the night swallowed them both.


“You know that rocks hurt like a bitch, Stephen?” Peter said as he came up beside him. “That roof had a shit load of them.”


“Then next time, young and unlearned,” Stephen looked over at Peter, “I suggest you think ahead about clothing needs.”


Military Base - Kaifeng, Henan Province


“No sir,” Private First Class Mi spoke to his commanding officer, “We lost communications with them right after they said they were entering the parking lot, sir. We have not been able to contact them up since.”


“What could be the problem?” Captain Zhia wondered, “This was supposed to be a secret mission.”


“Sir?” Radar operator Bolin called out, “We have two strange contacts heading this direction.”


Captain Zhia turned and stepped over beside the radar operator. He hit a button on the console, “Those are too big to be planes. When was the last time this equipment was looked at?”


“Sir, last quarter per regulations,” the Radar operator answered. “Look, they are coming here.”


“Should I hit the alarm, sir?” Another Radar operator asked, seeing the two unidentified objects approaching.


“Where did they come from?” the Captain asked.


“We picked them up coming from Zhengzhou, sir. Ten kilometers this side of the city.”


The Captain’s eyes drew together, “Show me.”


The Radar operator pointed to the location on the map.


“No, no, no, no, no, no,” he murmured and then picked up the phone, “Give me the base commander.”


Five minutes later, two hundred men, all with weapons at the ready, but half dressed only in underwear were standing on the edges of the runway. They watched in confused silence when two large empty PLA troop transport trucks crashed down out of the night in the middle of the base’s main runway.


The base commander ground his teeth together as he waited for the four men detailed to go look inside the transports. Seconds later, they confirmed no one was in the trucks. The base commander turned around and growled.


“Someone find my damned men,” he told his sub-commander as he stalked off towards his office to call Beijing.




All Guns Blazing, Outer Docks - QBBS Merideth Reynolds


“So, there are the four of us,” Eric told the four men and two women who were at his table. Thirty had been picked to be a part of the evening’s festivities. The backdrop was outer space as the guys each told stories at different tables on the viewing deck. Each time they held this celebration, they would invite a handful from those new to the teams, whether Wechselbalg, Marines, Operations, Navy, Engineering or Defenses.


They shared some drinks, some food, and stories. Together, they grew by passing on the emotions, the pain, the effort to fight through the fear to do what was right.


For each other, and for the world.


Eric pantomimed holding his rifle, looking left and right, “The four of us figured we had one Nosferatu to deal with. Now remember, we were entirely human, no enhancements at that time. For us, Nosferatu were fast fuckers, stronger than cement head over there…”


“Heard that, Escobar!” John called out over his shoulder and resumed his own story.


Eric winked to his table, “Stronger than John, I mean. We were out in the Florida Everglades, and if you don’t know that area of the United States, it’s hot, muggy, filled with water and small areas of land and alligators. It’s getting on towards the evening, and we have one fucking Nosferatu to take down, and they’re four of us. We’d been fighting these sonsabitches for months all across the United States. We lost a lot of good men, and we had just one vampire to help us. This little switch of a girl with black hair…”


“Heard that Escobar!” Bethany Anne called out before she went back to her discussion.


“I mean this full-bodied woman with raven hair…”


Bethany Anne called over to Eric, “You’re so full of shit!”


Eric rolled his eyes and looked over to Bethany Anne, “Why is it I can’t tell my story here?”


She waved him off, “Ok, zipping my lips…maybe,” she said to him and turned back to her group again.


“So, Bethany Anne and the four of us hear that Dan is under attack. John tells BA to go help them. Otherwise, they are all dead because we were in a trap, a setup. The Forsaken that had planned this did a good job and we were fucked. Our ace in the hole was the recently changed Vampire. But, we didn’t know her, she didn’t know us.”


“You had never worked together?” One of the engineers asked.


“Nope. John and I went to the airport to pick her up as she arrived in a jet fighter from Europe. We didn’t know how to act around her because vampires are notoriously touchy. They could just as soon help you as rip your face off.”


Bobcat came to the table and started grabbing empty bottles and replacing them. Bobcat and William had to start bussing these events because their usual help would listen to the stories and forget to do their jobs.


“So, she agrees, and John sees her disappear. Which, let me tell you is still freaky as hell now but was blowing our ever-loving minds back then. So, we got one Nosferatu, and Bethany Anne has about twelve. I said something about it seemed fair we get one, and she get’s twelve, and Scott says,” Eric smiled, “I shit you not, he says ‘We wouldn’t want her to think we gave her the easier task because she’s a girl, right?’”


Eric was slapping the table laughing as Scott called out across the room, “Escobar, kiss my ass!”


Eric’s team was enjoying the antics between the four Queen’s Bitches as Eric flipped Scott off over his shoulder, “So Darryl says ‘I wouldn’t let her hear you’ and Scott is like ‘FUCK No!’”


Eric wiped at the tears in his eye, “So, we are feeling kinda cocky and loose at this moment. Then, God helps us, we find out we have two of the Nosferatu, not one like we thought. Let me tell you, we all probably thought we were going to bite the bullet and die that night. So John takes command and tells Scott when he counts to three to light up one of the Forsaken and keep it busy so the three of us can maybe get the drop and kill the other Forsaken that is in front of us.”


Eric takes a pull off of the beer Bobcat had left him and then sets it back down.


“So, our chances of living would go up a million percent if we can just kill one of these fuckers. Now, we start cussing, but we are having to do it creatively because if not, we all figure the ghost of the recently departed vampire helping Dan’s group would jump out of the bushes and make us do a hundred push-ups or some shit. It’s getting pretty hairy, and we all know we are up shit creek without a paddle. So, in one of my less lucid moments I scream out, ‘Come get me, you ginormous shit eater! Hey, spanky love nuts and your friend fudge slapper maximus over there.’ to get their attention.”


“Did it work?” a woman from operations asked, “calling them names?”


“Well, with Forsaken, breathing gets their attention. It wasn’t so much the words as the activity behind it. You see, we were dead. But, because of Bethany Anne and her antics, we decided we were going to go down fighting showing those cum-camels our middle finger. The two bastards crisscrossed and one got to John, breaking his arm, backhanding him damn near unconscious and grabs John’s knife. Nosferatu are strong. This one took John’s knife and shoved it all the way through his protective vest. The punch with the blade was so strong, John flew something like thirty feet…”


“Ten feet Escobar, shit get the story right,” John called out again.


“Hey, you tell it your way, I’ll tell it mine,” Eric shot back before turning back to his table. “That leaves that particular Forsaken in front of us, and we all unload on his ass. Darryl and Scott go after the last Forsaken, and I rush to John, whose knife is fucking embedded in his chest. Blood is coming out of his mouth and then John is busy trying to admit he’s always loved me and …”


“Do I need to come over there and beat your ass, Eric?” John asked.


“Ok, he didn’t, but he calls me a prick so I ask him what Bethany Anne has said about crap level cussing and he looks back over my shoulder and says, ‘I don’t know, why don’t we ask the little rectal hole dictator herself’?” This time, Eric’s table erupted in laughter, and Bethany Anne just shook her head.


This was the third such party on the actual anniversary of the event and the team always tried to listen to see where Eric was working to pad the story and get his story back on track.


Which was to say, somewhere near reality.


Eric put down his beer, “This is the best part, I promise.” His table quieted down. “So, John is there dying, knife in his chest and Bethany Anne is willing to help save him. She drinks blood out of pouches, and then she yanks the knife while I get the vest and shirt and shit off of him. She slices her wrist and gets him to drink the blood and then puts some on his chest wound. Now, you know we are connected with an Alien now, but back then we didn’t have a clue. John is healing from the nanocytes in the blood and Bethany Anne collapses beside him, spent herself.”


Eric looks around and leans forward to his table, lowering his voice as the others lean into to hear him. “So John wakes up and is a little freaked about turning into a vampire. We promise him that he isn’t going to, or at least that’s what Bethany Anne has told us. So, then John flops his left arm around and his hand lands on Bethany Anne’s chest and he ends up groping the boss.” Eyes around the table open wide, not believing Eric who puts up three fingers, “Scout’s honor, no shit. Then, Bethany Anne says, ‘I just spent a lot of effort to heal you, Mr. Grimes. If you don’t get your hand off my tit, I’m going to waste all of that effort when I kill you myself.’”


People started laughing, and Eric, smiling wide put his hand up to quiet them down, “John says, ‘Well, what do I spend the points on for cussing creatively if not to buy a quick feel?’ and Bethany Anne replies, I’m not kidding, ‘John, I have a headache.'”


This time, there was no keeping Eric’s table quiet as they saw Bethany Anne place her head in her hands as if she was trying to hide.












CHAPTER ELEVEN


Schwabenland, Antarctica


“Is this the right choice, Maria?” Horst asked her.


Maria was sitting at the large table, listening to those who would decide where the group would go. While Maria’s decision was accepted as the core desire, the decision related to where all of them should go was something that those at the top of the group needed to agree upon. It was larger than just a location, it concerned what would happen with their legacy as well.


Schwabenland would be no more.


Maria looked around the table, to the other eight people present. She smiled at them all and gave the tiniest of shrugs. “I cannot be sure, but I can tell you that the decision allows me to sleep at night.”


“We left one war, to join another,” Horst told her. “Ironic, that.”


“Were we ever not at war, Horst?” she asked him. Maria could tell that those with concerns had voted Horst the spokesperson. “We made a deal with the devil to be here. I’m sure he thought once he took care of the world, he would have time to deal with us.”


“Then the Americans came,” Horst reminded her.


“Yes, they did. And you and the guards of freedom fought for our own version of independence. Choosing never to accept a world leader over us, again.”


“And now, what is changing your mind?” Horst asked.


Maria looked towards those around the table, “Relations…and time.” She turned back to Horst, “Would you want to fight, continue to fight, against those here on Earth? We have been attacked already, and the Etheric Empire is leaving.” She pointed up, towards space, “They are leaving to take the fight for Earth’s freedom away from here. It makes sense,” She pulled her arm down, “We have a choice. Never again will we have freedom due to obscurity. No, we have the opportunity to be welcomed in any country. Not for our bodies,” there were a few chuckles around the table, “but for our minds and more importantly, for our technology. Once they have that? Well, we would be irrelevant once again.”


“And the Etheric Empire, what do they want us for?” Horst asked. Not in a disrespectful manner, but a firm request nonetheless.


“Actually, nothing.” Maria answered, “Our technologies are not as powerful as what they have already mastered. Their people, some of their people, are so advanced due to genetic and nanocyte manipulation they will live to be hundreds of years old.”


“I thought Barnabas was already centuries old?” Horst asked.


“He is, Horst. He has lived over ten centuries. If you want to know the measure of evil, he will tell you that he has lived it. At one time, he feels he was the living embodiment of evil.”


“And we would follow such as this?” Cheryl, a woman wearing a faded green dress asked from her left. Her hair, long and gray, fell past her shoulders. “Can evil redeem itself?”


“That is the existential question, isn’t it Cheryl?” Maria answered, “It is not the actions that need to change. Those are imprinted in history, and one can only atone for the actions. No, the question is can one’s soul change.”


“So, what is the answer?” Horst demanded.


Maria blew out a breath, “I’ve come to understand that to answer the question, we need to ask that of ourselves.”


“What! How so?” Horst asked, surprised.


“Because, I’ve been in contact with the alien TOM. It seems that those who provided myself and my sisters with help are not generally considered wise, caring and as wonderful as perhaps we thought them.” She shrugged, “So, from that perspective, if it is true, we have implemented evil. It was only due to something happening on the Aldebaran’s side, what I don’t know, that we didn’t finish the effort necessary to have them arrive here.”


“How were we supposed to know?” Cheryl interrupted.


“Is result, or intent the deciding factor, here?” Maria asked. “Because, I understand our intent was correct. However, the result might have been the subjugation of Earth had we been successful.”


“Why do you believe this alien, TOM?” Horst asked.


“Because I have a soft spot for aliens?” She answered, with a smile and chuckle which others joined in. “No, I asked him to allow me to speak with the Yollin Captain, Kael-ven as well. Between the two, they convinced me it is more likely than not.”


“How does this tie into Barnabas?” Cheryl said.


“When he was ‘in his evil mind,' others had killed his spouse. He does not remember that time. It was after this event he went and lived as a monk, seeking peace and wisdom away from humanity as much as possible. Asking questions incessantly.”


“That hasn’t changed,” Horst muttered.


“No,” Maria answered to the humor of the group. “He still asks a lot of questions, that is true. But, he was wise enough to find out if Bethany Anne could contain the beast he fears is still within himself, should it become uncaged.”


“What happened?” Cheryl asked.


“I understand she knocked him out multiple times before he realized he should stop asking questions that pissed her off,” Maria answered dryly.


“Wow, wish that was possible for me,” Horst admitted as he stared at Maria.


“Bully,” she replied.


“Oh, sure, the whole weak woman card,” Horst grinned, “This century seems much more about gender equality, Maria.”


“Well, I’ll inform Bethany Anne or one of the other women in her group you wish to work out with them, ok?”


“Let’s not be getting hasty here, those are young women, and I’d hate to have an unfortunate lesson learned.”


“Ageist,” Maria retorted.


“I have allergies against black and blue marks,” Horst responded, “They don’t heal very quickly anymore.”


“Hmmph,” Cheryl told him, “So, you believe that a human can do evil, but without intent, it isn’t the same?”


Maria nodded, “In this case, yes. But, I want to caution that I feel for those here on Earth and I would try to help our nation, at some level, with our technology.”


“What does TQB say about it?” Horst asked.


“They believe it could lead to destabilization between the world powers. However, while TQB is trying to find those that attacked us, they have not at this point. I would provide the technology transfer with some qualifications that should keep the advance down, to a degree anyhow. If the group that attacked us is not found, then our country can catch up to the technology advancement I should hope. Should an alien group, of which we unaware of at this time, attack us, then I presume those in Germany would share the technology so the world could quickly respond.”


Maria shrugged, “Those that wish to remain, may stay. Those that wish to go with me to another star system, may go with me. Who is voting go?”


Maria looked around the table and nodded in relief.


Every hand was raised.


A dark field outside Brussels, Belgium


“If you think I am going to go to the trees with you, Abd, you’ve been bitten too many times by a camel,” Paula told the man who was trying to coerce her to go for a walk.


Just a little one.


“Abd, stand back,” Abdullah ordered as he joined the two of them. Abd made excuses and went over to the group of twenty men waiting and smoking some ten paces away.


“If you were wearing proper clothing, this would not happen,” Abdullah told her.


“You and I both know that is a lousy excuse. I should be able to walk naked like I was brought into this world through here, unmolested.”


“Perhaps that is how it should be, but it is not how it is,” Abdullah explained. “When one is stronger, the temptations can be quite difficult to subdue.”


“Then, perhaps it is a good thing I have a pistol to help me with negotiations, right?” Paula asked.


Abdullah looked down and noticed as she pressed the gun hard enough into her jacket for him to see, “Yes, the cat has claws I see,” he said.


“No, the cat has nine rounds,” Paula told him, “and multiple mags if necessary to continue the discussion.”


Abdullah looked up into the night sky, “When is this magical carpet ride going to get here?”


“He’s already up there,” Paula said, “He’s just waiting for me to let him know to land.”


Abdullah looked over at her, “Why didn’t you tell him to land already?”


Paula took a couple of steps forward and spoke over her shoulder, “Because it would have been easier for him to shoot all of the guys out here if someone was going to be stupid with me.”


Paula told the men to move back, or be flattened. Moments later, one of the larger Majestic-12 ships landed silently just meters from the men. Landing on four legs, the ramp lowered from underneath the ship. Two men, with weapons, came down the craft.


Tyler went to speak with Abdullah, Antony came over to her. “Trouble?”


She shrugged, “Nothing I couldn’t handle. This isn’t my first rodeo, but it would have been more trouble to find another twenty willing participants quickly.”


“Understood,” he told her and leaned a little closer, “Just to be clear, they know everyone is getting off and shooting across in space, right? We aren’t landing anywhere inside.”


Paula turned towards the twenty men and nodded, whispering, “Everyone understands this will put them in the history books as the first suicide bombers in space, for the glory of God.”


Antony straightened up, “Well, they will be that much closer to heaven when they explode. They don’t have bombs on them now, right?”


Paula chuckled, “No, I explained their stuff wasn’t going to work well in outer space.”


She turned back to Antony and said, “I told you our bombs are much better.”


New Mexico - USA


One week, which was how long it took Barnabas to track Abesimmons to D.C. then others in the group to follow him back to a location in New Mexico before they lost him when he flew into an area and disappeared underground.


It made sense, actually. Barnabas and others had figured out that the most likely location for the group they were searching for, was underground. That said, the site also needed to be in a relatively unpopulated area. However, when you have dozens, if not hundreds of ways to leave from over two thousand square miles? It boggled the mind pinpointing where they were really located.


So, Team BMW came up with a solution using a mix of existing technology for drones out of Japan and adding additional technologies, including self-destructing abilities that would go into effect if the system ever was out of contact with it’s primary for more than thirty seconds.


It was time.


The Dropship Pod, unseen above the clouds dropped three small, dark gray parent orbs into the night.


They fell the three miles before slowing their mad rush to finally hover just inches above the ground. Alone in the forest night, no humans saw the first orb open a hole and disgorged twelve flying insects.


Made of metal.


Receiving instructions, the insects fluttered away, each to a location that allowed them entrance into the underground caves system below.


The second and third orbs moved silently in the night. The first stopping five miles south of the first location releasing twelve of its own drones.


The third was three miles to the west, doing the same thing.


Each insect drone flew into the cave and then continued on, mapping the insides with 3d laser technology and uploading the information directly to their parent.


The controlling drone then sent the information to the dropship pod which sent the information Etherically to ArchAngel.


Before too long, thirty-six little drones were mapping the caverns in the Dulce Lakes area. Occasionally, one would have to stop and backtrack back out. Five times, the little drones had to leave the cavern they were searching and seek another surface entrance to go back into the underground areas and continue their effort.


The cavern system, ArchAngel figured out, was huge.


Every fifteen hours, the little drones would return to the main pod for a recharge. Then, go back into the system again. Occasionally, they would have different orders depending on what ArchAngel was piecing together.


ADAM was watching the results with interest. If ever an A.I. could be said to feel emotion, then it was happening now.


ADAM was feeling pleasure.




Boston, Ma - USA


Charles nodded to the security officer, then drove past the gate into the large country estate. He didn’t recognize this security person, but then again he didn’t pay too much attention to the security guards, anyway.


The only reason he noticed this time, he figured, was the guard looked Japanese. A strange occurrence, to be sure, but not out of the realm of possibility.


Charles pulled into his front spot marked with a large, Cyrillic ‘C’ on the ground for him. The next two spots were labeled with the letters ‘F’ and ‘D’ respectively.


Charles got out of his Range Rover and grabbed his briefcase. The effort in the Senate to pass electrical power legislation was doing well so far and should help their oil efforts. The United Nations was moving forward, as well. Closing his door, he walked towards the entrance of the mansion and pressed his hand against the security panel. The door lock clicked, and he stepped inside, closing the door behind him.


Their security people were responsible for areas outside of these walls. The whole purpose of this mansion was to keep secrets. Secrets he, David and Fred spoke about openly within the walls of this building. They had cleaners come in, and then security swept the house for anything the cleaners might have left behind.


Since the three of them weren’t living here, this happened once a month.


He walked through the entryway into the bar, set his briefcase down and quickly made himself a rum and Coke. Hanging his coat on the rack, he grabbed his drink and case and continued down the carpeted hallway into the main library and meeting room.


He stopped at the chessboard and raised an eyebrow. Fred had moved, but it was a strange move. Charles’s eyebrows drew together as he studied the board with more focus, trying to fathom the reason for the move. If he didn’t know better, he would swear Fred paid a ringer to play for him.


Charles put down his briefcase and took a sip of his drink, thinking through all of the different moves and countermoves. He must have stood there five minutes before he realized the trap.


He might be in trouble.


Charles frowned. This was too subtle for Fred. He either did pay someone to help him with this move, or he got lucky and had no idea that twelve steps in the future, Charles would be in trouble. He took another sip and moved his Queen to Bishop’s three before bending down and picking up his briefcase and walked further into the room. He had almost made it to his chair when he stopped.


Drink halfway up to his mouth, he stared at the dusky-skinned beauty sitting in David’s chair. It happened to be facing away from the chess board, the back too high for him to see that someone was occupying it.


Someone that shouldn’t be here.


“Who are you?” he asked her.


“Tabitha. Why don’t you sit down Charles? Fred and David have just arrived and will be joining us, shortly.”


Charles didn’t move but pointed at Tabitha using the hand with the drink, anger coloring his voice, “You are not supposed to be here, this is private property.” He looked around the room, to see if anyone else might be hiding.


“When did rules mean anything to you, Charles?” Tabitha asked, standing gracefully, her hand trailing along the back of the leather chair as she walked around it. She was dressed in a black pantsuit, sleeves slit down the length of the fabric, her tanned arms peeking in and out of view.


Charles could hear his two partners coming down, talking to each other when David abruptly changed tone and spoke, his voice louder, “Guard, you are not supposed to be inside this house! I will call and inform your company they will be docked for failure to…Good God, stop pointing that pistol at me!”


“What’s the meaning of this?” Fred called out, and Charles turned to see his partners practically pushed into the room by another Asian security guard who was aiming a pistol at the two men.


“Seriously Jun?” Tabitha asked him.


“It was part of the outfit, Kimosabe, and it was easier than listening to their complaints.”


Tabitha spoke to the three older men, pointing to their chairs, “Take a seat gentleman, you are going to be here a little while.”


“Why?” David burst out, “You will be arrested and charged with…”


She interrupted, “I’m not one of the three people on trial here, dickwad!” Tabitha told him.


Fred, his mind trying to parse the coarse language coming from the woman in front of him, turned to Charles, stupefied.


“Well Fred, seeing how we don’t have the pistol, why don’t we humor the woman?” Charles said as he took the two steps necessary to get in front of his chair and sat down.


The other two men less graciously made it to their own chairs and sat down. Tabitha walked over to the men and put out her hand, “Briefcases please,” the men looked at each other in question. Jun cleared his throat, and the three looked disgusted but turned over their briefcases to Tabitha.


Taking all three of them, she walked back to the table on the side and set them down. She reached over to her right and picked up a small diary that was laying there, “Why don’t we start with what you guys have written in this book, shall we?”


“That’s personal!” Fred burst out, “Don’t you know a diary when you see one?”


“With a lock, no less,” David added.


Tabitha didn’t turn around, she just read a couple of notes, “Ten thousand for a bet from C to D re: Jailing TQB CEO.”


“So, we happen to like to wager amongst ourselves, that is hardly a crime, young woman,” Charles remarked.


Tabitha nodded, “That’s true, it isn’t. At least, it isn’t something I particularly care about.” Tabitha turned to another page in the book and faced the three men. “Here is one wager I think relevant, and it says you won, David. ‘C & F bet D $10k TQB CEO doesn’t fight’.” Tabitha touched the page a couple of times, “It says here you won that David due to lack of evidence over two years ago.” She looked at the man, “Unfortunately, you won on a technicality, as you three are going to find out.”


“What are you talking about?” Charles asked, suddenly realizing who she worked for.


“Why you already know Charles,” Tabitha told him, “or at least you have a good idea.”


“Do you, Charles?” David asked him.


“I have a good guess,” Charles admitted.


“So, out with it,” Fred told him.


Charles nodded towards Tabitha, “She works for TQB.”


The two others looked back at Tabitha. Finally, Charles’s eyes grew wider, “You’re her!”


Tabitha flicked a stray hair back over her shoulder, “Her who?”


Charles pointed, “You’re the one who was in the security footage.”


“Not possible, that lady was butch,” Fred grumped.


Jun snorted, and Tabitha shot him a scathing look promising payback later. “Probably, but you must have horrible cameras to make me look butch.”


“What do you want?” David interrupted, “We can double, triple, hell we can set you up with your own small country. Just name your price.”


Tabitha looked to David with sympathy, “Oh dear, David, I’ve already drained your bank accounts. By now, the money is hitting over fifty different shell corporations, banks in overseas areas, and moved into precious metals and other investments that aren’t liquid.”


“Like what?” Fred asked.


“Like food,” Tabitha answered, “It’s so nice of you to be buying food for those who just got hit by the the tsunami. Well, them and those who are leaving Earth to fight for our precious blue ball.”


“We’ll do no such thing!” Fred argued.


“We’ve already done it, haven’t we?” Charles asked, his shoulders slumping.


Tabitha pointed to Charles, “Bingo! You are the prize kid in this class, Charles.”


“How much?” Fred asked.


“How much what? How much of your money did I find?” Tabitha asked, “Gentlemen, I’ve been looking for you for years. I’ve acquired so much information that was,” she put up her fingers, “this close to nailing your asses before. Now, with the final pieces in place, I’ve probably tracked over ninety-two percent of your total assets. Well, not including the money and other instruments in your two safes.”


“Three,” Jun corrected, “Ryu just found another.”


Fred’s face turned hopeful, before schooling it to neutral again.


“Tell them to keep searching,” Tabitha told Jun, her eyes flicking back away from Fred.












CHAPTER TWELVE


Boston, Ma - USA


Footsteps were heard entering the room, “You can tell them to look behind the medicine cabinet on the third floor,” Barnabas spoke. “They will find a small lock in the lower left-hand corner they need to pick before the back part will separate.”


“Who the hell are you?” Fred asked, looking over his shoulder as Barnabas stopped beside the chess set, “I’m Barnabas,” he answered and then moved a chess piece, “And this game is now won by me moving Bishop to Queen’s three in five moves.” Barnabas continued further into the room.


He was wearing a dark, three-piece suit with pinstripes. “I am,” he told the three, all of them staring at him. “The person who is going to decide if we,” he pointed to Tabitha and then himself, “take care of this here and now, or we bring the Queen in on this.”


“What Queen?” David asked, “You don’t mean that trumped up piece of ...”


“Can I call her now?” Tabitha interrupted, looking towards Barnabas, her eyes pleading.


“No,” Barnabas answered.


“David shut…up.” Charles ground out.


“No, David,” Tabitha told him, her voice sounding annoyed. “You should really continue, as Barnabas needs a little more persuading that Bethany Anne should come down here.”


“Why us? Let’s talk about her. Why is she hoarding medical advances? Let’s put her ass on trial.” Fred retorted, “We are sitting here, growing frail when totally useless, money-grabbing, self-centered bastards from Ivy-League schools are raping and pillaging our companies. Doing it for their own benefit when we could still be around, with a little help from her,” he practically spat the word, “for decades longer and make sure that doesn’t happen.”


Barnabas pursed his lips, “Your defense, for all of your efforts, is health?”


“Like you would know about aging,” Fred replied, flopping back in his leather chair, “You’re what, late twenties, early thirties or so young man?”


Tabitha snorted and looked away from Barnabas, trying to keep a smile from her face.


“No,” Charles said, his eyes narrowing slightly as Barnabas turned to face him, “You just look younger. There is wisdom in your eyes something that young men wouldn’t have.”


This time, Tabitha rolled her eyes where Barnabas couldn’t see her.


“My age is irrelevant to this discussion,” Barnabas told the three. “We are here to find out why you did the multitude of things you did. At the moment, it seems a common desire for more power, more money and more … just more.” He told the three.


“Challenge, proving one is better than others, there is more to life than having more things,” Charles replied, “Certainly someone with your experience understands the desire to prove oneself?”


Tabitha turned and looked back towards Barnabas, “How about now?” She asked.


Charles threw an ugly look in Tabitha’s direction, “We,” he pointed to the other two men, “are responsible for over a hundred thousand jobs in the upper Northeast United States alone. If we are truly as destitute as this woman says we are, who is going to handle those families?”


Barnabas turned to Tabitha, “You drained them dry?”


She nodded, “Asshole response 101, hit them in their pocketbook. ADAM is taking care of the results.” Barnabas nodded his understanding.


“What about our damned families?” David asked, “Are they not part of your equation? You won’t get away with this either. I don’t know how you think you will walk away from this at all. Our security gates and these grounds are tracked continuously.”


“Yes, and they are all connected on the Internet for downloads. Conversely, that means they are online for uploads, as well,” Tabitha told him, “Achronyx took care of your chiquitito security system, senor.”


“I’m going to sue your asses into oblivion,” Fred said as his finger pointed to Barnabas, then Tabitha and back again. “You won’t have enough to buy toilet paper to wipe your ass when you shit under a bridge.”


Tabitha looked over to Barnabas, “How about now?”


Barnabas shook his head and shrugged, “I tried.” He looked out through the large window on the other side of the table to the trees beyond, “You can call her.”


Tabitha closed her eyes as she heard David ask, “Call who?”


“Bethany Anne,” Charles answered, “Fred, you are a world class jackass.”


“Why? What’s she going to do?” Fred retorted.


“Not helping, idiot,” Charles told him.


Fred’s chair squeaked, “Bahh, these two are just playing good-cop, bad-cop. We have Bethany Anne located somewhere off Earth. By the time she can get here, the cops will be swarming this place.”


Bethany Anne?


One moment, she replied.


Tabitha kept her eyes closed, she didn’t care to see these three assholes any longer.


Ok, done kicking Eric’s ass, what’s up?


Barnabas has given me permission to ask what you want to do with the three assholes that were behind the attack on the Jayden’s?


Little Anne and her family? Bethany Anne’s voice came back, going frosty over their mental link.


That’s correct.


Where are you? She demanded. Tabitha could almost feel the fire in her eyes as she walked out of wherever she was towards her room.


Boston, Massachusetts in a private home on wooded property outside of town.


Where is the G’laxix Sphaea?


Right on top of our heads, well a few miles above us, but not much.


Ok, let me grab Ashur, and I’ll be there in about … Hold one. Ok, I’m figuring say ten minutes.


Understood, Tabitha finished.


She opened her eyes to see all four men watching her, “She’ll be here in ten.”


“Hmph, impossible,” David said.


“Not if we have bad intel,” Charles admitted, sitting back in his chair.


“If you believe,” Barnabas spoke, “that she is with the large station you would be right.”


“Not that I’m curious, but I’m curious. How do you know this?” Tabitha asked Charles.


“Hmm, basing it on the length of time they hadn't seen her,” Barnabas answered when none of the men said a word.


The three looked sharply at Barnabas.


Tabitha walked over to the table, “Well, that secret is still a secret, it seems.” She picked up the first briefcase, “Wow, talk about old technology.” She turned to Barnabas, “Should I pick it?”


“No, you would find the status of their present projects, a few secret files they shouldn’t possess, a ham sandwich in David’s briefcase and other various stuff you would expect.”


“How the hell do you know that?” David asked.


“He is reading our minds,” Charles slumped lower in his chair and turned to look out the window to the trees beyond. “Checkmate.”


“Why are you giving up?” Fred said, “These two aren’t killers and neither is the woman coming.”


Charles looked over to Fred, “You need to open your eyes a little more, Fred.” He pointed to Tabitha, “She’s the one that jumped out of the third-story window in Germany. Remember that video?”


Fred looked at the woman in the attractive pantsuit and then back to Charles, “What of it?”


“She’s a modified human, Fred.” He pointed to Barnabas, “He’s God only knows what. But, he’s either,” Charles pointed to his own head, “reading our damned minds or can see through our briefcases unless they have some magic trick I can’t fathom.” He pointed to Jun behind the men, “They have replaced all of our security, can travel faster than light somehow to get here from outer space and,” he turned to face Barnabas, “how old are you, really?”


There was a pause before Barnabas answered, “A thousand years and then a few.”


“Well…shit.” Charles muttered, “I hadn’t expected that answer.”


“How could you?” Barnabas answered, “it is a pretty well-guarded secret.”


“Secrets are our tradecraft,” Charles admitted, “At least, we thought they were.”


The men all got lost in their own thoughts for a few minutes.


A quiet enveloped the room and then a sense of unease permeated the men. Both of the brothers adjusted themselves in their chair and Charles started looking around.


“She’s here,” Tabitha told them, “Vengeance has arrived.”


The men, unsettled by Tabitha’s comment looked to each other before turning to the door. They heard footsteps, multiple pairs. The first they saw come through the door wasn’t human.


It was the biggest damned white German Shepherd any of them had ever seen.


It trotted over to Tabitha and looked up at her until she broke, “Fine, fine, how are you Ashur, besides begging for a head rub?” She asked him as she scratched him behind his ears. He chuffed to her, and she chuckled, “Yeah, the hound finally ran down the foxes, big guy.”


The second through the door was a mountain of a man. White, dressed in a black suit with black sunglasses, he had to be damn near six and a half feet tall.


He paused in the doorway, then continued when he was comfortable with the situation.


Then, she came in. She wasn’t what they expected at all. She carried herself regally, but she held a sword in her hands. One that looked to be generations old and she carried it like it was a normal part of her life.


Her hands had used it.


The fear the men felt only escalated as she drew near them. She walked and stood beside Barnabas and looked the three men over. “Well, my Rangers, it seems the longest open case you have had is now going to close, well done. Here sit the instigators that paid to have a little girl laying on top of a bomb in Las Vegas.”


Fred started to talk, but she looked to him and pinched her fingers in his direction. An overwhelming fear raced through his body, and it was all he could do to try and breath. “Judged!” She told him, her eyes flashing.


“What are you doing to my brother!” David yelled, fear in his voice as he watched his brother’s hands pounding on his chair, clenched in pain.


Bethany Anne turned and looked the man up and down, “Here, I’ll show you.” She pushed a hand towards him, and his body screamed at him to run, to leave, but he couldn’t move. His heart started racing faster and faster, and he couldn’t grab enough breath. “Judged,” she spoke before turning to view Charles.


Charles tried to stand up, tried to run, but a hand grabbed his shoulder and shoved him back into his chair. Charles looked up to see the big guard standing behind him, his dark sunglasses only showing Charles his own reflection.


Charles turned to see the two brothers struggle in their chairs, their faces turning blue. “What the hell are you doing?” he asked, his voice breaking as he watched his partners.


“Allowing them to die, together,” Bethany Anne told him. “I’ve spoken with Barnabas, all three of you are guilty of events which killed other human beings. You willfully used your power without regard for others. Never caring what those in your employ did to accomplish your goals. You all have earned this judgment for many past sins.” Charles glanced up at her from watching the twitching of his friends as the twitches slowed, the men asphyxiating slowly, painfully. He had only glanced back to her when he noticed she was looking at him.


And her eyes were glowing red.


Her voice, deeper than a moment ago spoke, but he heard it both in his ears and inside his mind, “Charles, you paid those who endangered a little girl in Las Vegas, that was the decision which brought you to this end. You deserved this years ago.”


The fear he was feeling became but a small memory to the desire to leave, to escape, but he couldn’t. His body locked up in indecision, his mind screaming in fear, chemicals released in his body at a level that never should occur.


Charles struggled, never noticing that Fred and David had already stopped moving, death having taken them.


Two minutes later, Charles stopped his struggling, and Bethany Anne stopped pushing fear into the man’s body.


“You bastards,” Bethany Anne spat when she was done. “You fucking camel sucking jackasses had to try to have it all. This was a peaceful fucking end considering how you should have gone down.” She started walking out, “Rangers, you did superbly. Clean up as needed, and I’ll expect a final report in two days, Barnabas. I’ve got the President’s thing to go to this week.”


Barnabas started walking out the door himself as he spoke back over his shoulder, “Tabitha?”


“Yes?” she called after him.


“I’ll expect that report by tomorrow morning,” he told her and then left the room following Bethany Anne.


She watched him walk out, her mouth open, “Well, Gott Verdammt!” she grumped as she put the briefcases next to the three men. “Jun, tell the other Tanto’s to clean up and put the security people back where we found them. Barnabas’s mental commands are going to drop within,” she looked at her watch, “twenty minutes.”


Jun followed her out, “Yes Kimosabe, what else do we need to do?”


“Take only what we need and then find a place to hole up for the night back in New York, I’ve got fucking reports to write, she huffed.




New Mexico - USA


The system easily spotted the small flying insect. It allowed it to pass the first checkpoint. However, five minutes later when the little bug didn’t veer off due to the sudden light burst, the secondary security system shot it out of the air.


It dropped like a rock, landing amongst the crevices beside a boulder.


The security system confirmed there was no movement in the air and went back to passive mode.


The little drone did not move, but it did send a message to the parent orb which was quickly relayed to the sky, then to outer space.


Drone 012 attacked, a laser emitting on non-customary wavelength. Instructions?


ArchAngel passed the information to the highest General in the Etheric Empire for review.


General Lance Reynolds received the message and smiled.


They found the bastards.












CHAPTER THIRTEEN



Private residence, outside Chicago, Illinois - USA


The time was ten thirty in the morning, an hour behind the person he was waiting to call.  A few years ago, he would have been sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office, making this call.


Looking out his back window, he appreciated the fall colors and leaves laying on the ground.  Winter was running late this time of year. You could almost go outside with short sleeves.


Low sixties, who would have thought that?


His phone rang so he turned his chair around and leaned forward, to the right side of his desk to pick it up. “Hello.”


“Hello, sorry about the time, I’ve got this damned meeting with the Senate leaders in twenty minutes.  Their whining is about to drive me nuts.”


“Yes, now you understand how my hair went gray so fast.”


“Well, it’s not a problem on my side, my hair was grey already.”


“A small benefit in the larger scheme of things, I’m sure.” he replied.


“Yes,” the President admitted. “I just wanted to touch base with you on the TQB meeting in Belgium, everything is a go for her to be there?”


“You know, her has a name,” he replied, annoyance creeping into his voice.


“Maybe for others, but that is the nicest name I have for her at the moment.  Instead of moving ahead with tax reforms and building up this country, half of my time is dealing with outer space immigration and alien scare concerns.  If I could, I’d slap that bitch into jail.”


The ex-President pulled the phone from his ear and looked at it, the vitriolic hatred practically oozing from the ear speaker.


“If it wasn’t for their ability to knock us out,” the present President continued, “I’d already have slapped them in jail and used the law to confiscate their technology.  I’ve no idea why they believe they can do a better job protecting the world than those who are already doing it.”


Biting his tongue, he let the President continue talking until, finally, a question was asked he could answer, “So, are you set to go to Belgium as well?”


Placing the phone back to his ear, he replied, “Yes.  I’m taking David of course.”


“Good, I’ll have one of the commercial planes pulled from Andrews for you and whoever else needs to go to fly on, since I’m asking this of you.  Are you going alone?”


“Yes, my wife is staying,” he answered.


“Good, you never know what can go wrong around that woman.  She has caused so much trouble in the last three years I can’t being to tell you.”


No wonder Bethany Anne thought this President was a PITA, he thought as the bitching continued.


Finally, an interruption occurred and the phone call wound down.


“Yes,” the ex-President replied, “I understand.  We will be on time.  Tell Greg hi for me.  Right, ok, I’ll tell her as well.  Good-bye.”


Hanging up the phone, he realized he really didn’t miss the office like so many thought he did.  He laid his phone back on the desk and turned towards the window.  His since of calmness destroyed, he was hoping a few minutes of viewing the scenic picture in his back yard would be enough to calm him back down.


He frowned, there was one relevant point in that whole discussion.  Bethany Anne did have a way of being around trouble.  He should perhaps prepare a little better than usual.


He reached back and grabbed the phone one more time.  At least he knew who to call for this favor.


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


Bethany Anne looked at the map of New Mexico, with a dark overlay of caverns, “That’s a lot of holes in the ground, Dad.”


Lance pursed his lips, “You could say that.  You could also say it looks a lot like Swiss Cheese,” he grumped, “However, we are dropping some of the more quiet Guardians down to start checking out the caves that seem plausible that their ships used.”


“Why?” She asked.


“Why what, check out other caves?” She nodded, “Because we need spaces large enough for our cavalry to go inside. After our first drone got shot down, we’ve been a little more careful.  We don’t know everything they have available so we are putting an armored unit in.”


“Her Majesty’s First Battalion Wechselbalg Armored Units?” Bethany Anne chuckled.


“Weeeellll,” Lance drew out, “We only have six working Wechselbalg units at the moment,” he scratched his chin, “So, I went to go talk to another crew.”


“What other crew?” she asked, looking over at her father, “the only crew that has …OH MY GOD!”  She exclaimed, “You asked the Yollins?”


“They are bored.  Kind of like a certain ruler I know.  If you are willing to drop a year off their service, up front, then Kiel and his team would love to suit up.”


“I don’t know, Dad.  What did Kael-ven say?”


“He thought it was a splendid idea.  The option for the military group to do something besides spar with our people to stay in shape?  Plus, get a chance to get in there and mix it up?  Yeah, they are chomping at the bit to do it.”


Lance stayed quiet, letting Bethany Anne think through the options.


Finally, she said, “What is the catch?”


“Other than dropping a solar year off of their slavery?” Lance asked, earning him a dark look from his daughter.  He chuckled, “Kael-ven wants to go down, as well.”


“He does?” Bethany Anne asked, “I thought Captains of the ship always stayed…Well, with the ship.”


“In this case, the Yollin’s are creating a Yollin Mercenary Group, and Kael-Ven is their leader.  So, he feels he should at least be down there,” he said as he nodded towards the map.


“First Yollin Mercenary Group connected to the Etheric Empire?” Bethany Anne said.  Then, a wicked smile broke across her face.  “I fucking love it!”  She pointed to the map, “Imagine the faces on those jackholes when they have mechanized attacks going after them.  Yeah, and some of them are obviously not human.”


“Don’t kick off the party early, I’ll be done with my meetings in Belgium in a few hours, I’m sure.  If they don’t spit on me.  If they do that, I’ll be out of there even sooner.”


“I don’t think they will spit on you,” Lance told her.


“Eh,” she pointed to her head, “I’ll probably feel the desire.”


Lance moved next to her, “You ok?” he asked.  While they were alone in his office, the moment still felt too personal to just blurt out.


She nodded, then sighted. “It would be easier if those in power back on Earth weren’t such a group of … of…”  She tossed out her hand, “names escape me.”


Lance looked at his daughter, “You aren’t feeling ok, you can’t come up with a suitable name?”


Bethany Anne gave her father that look.  The one daughters have given fathers for generations when he asks something particularly smart. “Yes, I could.  I just don’t want to spend the mental energy to suitably call them the words that matter.”


She waved to the New Mexico map hanging in the air between them, “This looks good.  Let’s try not to piss off the U.S. when we do this.”


‘Right, their President already wants to string us up.”


“I told them the last time they harassed my people I’d start harassing theirs.”


Lance chuckled, “I don’t think they appreciated you grabbing their expensive satellites and moving them to useless orbits.”


“They claim imminent domain over our property down there?  I’ll just grab their shit up here.  When they gave it back, they got their satellites back.”  She shrugged, “It worked.”


“It does frustrate the President.”


“Who can kiss my ass,” Bethany Anne spat out, her eyes blazing, “That inbred skanky tea-bagging titless jizz-dripping fucktard ranting spunk experiment can …”  she noticed her dad trying to hold his laughing in. “You Jackass!” the CRACK of her hand slapping his arm reverberated off his office walls.


Lance was smiling as he rubbed his arm, “Damn, the sacrifice I make to cheer you up.”


Bethany Anne stepped towards him and gave him a hug, “Thanks Dad.”  She leaned back, “Your arm ok?”


“Hell no,” he grumped, “You slap rather hard.  My old frail body…”


“You ass!” She smiled, “TOM gave me an update on your Pod Doc updates, he says you probably don’t even feel anything by now.”


“Well,” Lance admitted, dropping his hand, “It might be psychosomatic.”


“Psychosomatic issues are usually from stress,.” She retorted, “Not my slapping you.”


“What are you doing, reading the damn medical dictionary?”  he asked, “You need to get out more often.”


Bethany Anne turned towards his door, “I am, I’m going to go meet with World Leaders.”


She opened the door and was about to step through when Lance said, “Don’t kill any of them.”


“No promises!” she replied and shut the door.


Akio knocked on Yuko’s temporary quarters door, “Are you ready to go?”


Yuko grumped from inside her room. “Akio, this is a goodbye party, how am I supposed to be ready for that?”


“I would imagine by making sure you are dressed, as a start,” he told her, “We have spoken about this a dozen times, you do not have to make this decision.  It is your life, Yuko.”


“I’ll be out soon, promise,” she told him.


Inside her room, Yuko was dressed.  However, she was laying down on her bed, her eyes closed.


ADAM, this sucks!


The parting is, I understand, the hardest part amongst friends.


Yuko sighed, But, you have been there for me ever since the beginning.  You remember when you let us join your Revolution?


Yes, that meant a lot to me.


Why?


You did not know who, or what I was.  Yet, you joined because the you believed in doing what was right and you have thrown everything you have into helping Bethany Anne.


She’s my…Dammit ADAM, I’m going to miss you guys so much.  She willed herself not to cry.  She had already put on her eye makeup.


Yuko, join the party.  Bethany Anne needs to leave quickly and she is waiting to say goodbye.


WHAT?  Yuko bolted out of her bed, grabbing her jacket and jumped towards her door flinging it open and almost ran into Akio. “C’mon!” she told him, grabbing his hand, “the Queen is waiting on me!”



Yuko, Akio and her team were in the temporary section quarters based in the Docks area.  While it was close to the tram to go In-World, they were here temporarily and rarely needed to go inside the base.


Yuko put on a burst of speed to go through the hallways.  Outside of their quarters were a few doors leading to larger rooms for those in the military, which Yuko was surprised to realize she was, to get together outside of the smaller rooms.  Then, the entrances were operations offices and HR as well.  Finally, it moved to eating locations, regular apartments and then the main demarcation to the docks that the area was named after.  Warehouses and locations for ships to arrive and depart happened.  Finally, she turned the corner to the pride of the docks.


All Guns Blazing.


She slowed down.  Fast enough that Akio had to react more quickly than normal to not bump into her.


He was about to ask her what was wrong when, looking ahead, it was apparent.  All Guns Blazing had a long line to get in.


“That line is going to take forever!” she complained, “How are we going to get to the party in time for me to see Bethany Anne?”


Akio smiled and put an arm around her shoulders, “Like this, young one.”  Walking her forward, Yuko allowed herself to trust Akio and feel safe while still staring at the large crowd they had to go through.



William was up at the front, handling the crowd that had learned that Bethany Anne was in the club.  Anytime she showed up, it was good for business.


However, it sucked for crowd control.


William spotted his brother from another mother and stood up putting his hands up in the air, “People!”  He got their attention.  With a unique All Guns Blazing shirt that said ‘Owner’  on the back, most recognized him, Bobcat and Marcus anytime they were in the club.


“Folks,” he called out, “Please move aside and allow my brother through,” a few people tried to adjust, but it wasn’t a pretty situation and William’s face just had a disgusted look on it. “Ok, I tried nice.”  William pointed to the people, “Remember that in your stories that I tried nice.  You get one chance, folks.”  William grabbed a small box and stood on it, catching Akio’s eyes and called out, “BITCH BE COMING THROUGH MOTHERFUCKERS, MAKE WAY!” then, in a calmer voice, “Akio, turn up the heat.”


That’s when the fear hit and people realized and other’s called out, “Queen’s Bitch!”  There were a couple of ‘Oh Shit’s’ and a couple fucking move already’.  Then, soon enough, the fear abated as Akio, his arm holding Yuko, walked through the middle of the hall and up to William.


The two fist bumped and Akio escorted Yuko into the club, taking the stairs up to the viewing deck that had two guards who nodded to him.


William looked out of the people who stood transfixed with the reality of what they had heard before and what they experienced.


The fear a Queen’s Bitch could bring was beyond explanation.


William told his bouncer, “Nick, take care of the front, now.” Nick nodded and William turned back to those in front, “Next time, I suggest you make room when I tell you, feel me?”


William walked back into the club hearing the ‘hell yeah’s we feel you’ behind him.



“That was an awful feeling,” Yuko told Akio. She chuckled, “I’m glad your my friend.”


“I’m hundreds of years old, Yuko.  Understand when I say I am very glad you call me friend.”


Yuko put her head against him, “I don’t deserve you guys, you know that?”


Akio chuckled and pulled his arm down as they made their way up the round staircase, “And that is precisely why you do.”


This time, Akio was ready for Yuko to stop when she saw how packed the viewing deck was.


Everyone was waiting for her and Akio to join them and this time, Yuko couldn’t stop the tears from cascading down her face.  She put her hand up to her face, trying to catch the tears when Gabrielle suddenly was beside her, wiping them with a cloth.


“Bethany Anne told me to be ready, but damn girl, you were supposed to make it at least five steps inside the club for me to win.”


Yuko choke laughed as she took the cloth and dabbed at her eyes.  “Who won?”


“ADAM, that AI silicon sonofabitch,” Gabrielle spat out, “I’m out two ounces of gold, too.  Greedy bastard.”


ADAM?  Yuko called out


YES?


You bet on me?


Of course.


But… Yuko didn’t have anything to say.


I had to have money, else I couldn’t give you my present. ADAM told her.


You got me a present?


Yes.  Bethany Anne told me if it was to be from me, then I had to make the money myself to mean the most.  So, I’ve been doing that.


What could you need money for? Yuko asked him.  You don’t owe me anything.


I might not owe you anything, but I wanted to give you something.  He told her Now, enjoy the party.


Yuko took a step into the viewing deck and greeted her friends.


 —


Akio was talking with Darryl and Scott when he felt her presence.  Turning around, he bowed to his Queen.  “Got a minute? she asked him.


“Yes, my Queen.” he replied and she put a hand on his shoulder, “We will be right back,” she told the guys and disappeared.


“Now that,” Scott told Darryl, “I’d like to figure out how to do.”


“I understand it takes a certain amount of something you don’t have,” Darryl told his friend.


“Really?” Scott turned to him, “What?”


Darryl patted Scott’s shoulder, “Intelligence.”



Bethany Anne and Akio arrived in one of the Bar’s meeting rooms.  They had it locked from both sides, so no one would accidentally venture in while Bethany Anne was transporting back and forth.  While she made an effort to look before she arrived, always better to be as safe as possible.


“Yes, my Queen?” he asked her.


“How is Yuko?”


“A young woman who has made her decision, but it is still painful as friends must leave.”


Bethany Anne nodded, “I understand.  Are you ok with staying?”


Akio nodded, “I am good with this, my Queen.  It isn’t like I can’t speak with you,” he tapped his head, “If I must.”


“True, but remember due to the distance, it is very draining.” She put a hand on his shoulder, “He will be back, Akio.  I don’t know when, probably not soon. Please, take care of my people on Earth as they do whatever the hell they do.  Continue the responsibilities of the Queen Bitch in my absence.  Are we clear?”


“Hai, we are clear, my Queen.” He answered.  Then, looking up into her eyes, he smiled, “You brought honor back, when I felt there was none available.  Myself and my men will do this you ask, until our dying breath, or we have him again.”


“I’ll be back, whether it is a hundred years, or a thousand,” she told him, “If I’m not dead, I’ll be back when this is finished.”  Bethany Anne took her hand off of his shoulder and walked to the small dresser on the side of the room.  Opening the top drawer, she pulled out a sword, in a sheath and closing the drawer, she turned around.


“You are my Elite, my Bitch on Earth.  Take this sword as evidence of my faith in you and wield it in my absence.  You are my representative.  Your actions brings me honor, your respect brings me honor.  Take it now and know you have my complete trust, Akio.”


Akio pursed his lips and bowed, “I understand you will not accept my refusal,” he held out his hands, “So, I accept my Queen.”


Bethany Anne smiled and put the sword in his hands, “Good, cause I really don’t want to have to fight you to make you take it.”


Akio smiled, “That would not be respectful, my Queen.” Akio grinned, “Nor would it feel good, either.”


Bethany Anne chuckled, “You know, I think being around William has helped loosen you up a little, Akio.” She thought about it for a second, “Not much, but a little.”


“Yes,” he admitted as the two of them headed towards the door, “William is an interesting experience, my Queen.”


“Ok, I’ve been putting this off as long as I can,” she sighed, “Now comes the worst part of the evening. I have to tell Yuko goodbye.”












CHAPTER FOURTEEN


“So, I was shot, blood gushing out of me,” Yuko listened for the umpteenth time as William related his story of getting shot in Japan, “when Akio comes and just slays the guys who did this to me.  I’m foggy, fading in and out of consciousness and I see Akio, red eyes blazing as he kneels down and I bravely bite on a piece of leather as he jams his claws to pull out the slugs…”


“He fainted.” Akio said from behind William.


William turned around and looked down at Akio, who had Bethany Anne behind him, “Hey, you are absolutely messing up a good story with the facts. Didn’t Bobcat and I teach you better than that?”


“Right,” Akio deadpanned, “well, I will switch places with Yuko here,” he reached out and gently pulled Yuko towards him.  Then, he did some sort of trick where one second he was behind her and the next, she was behind him. “My Queen,” he told Bethany Anne who winked and then the two ladies were gone.


Akio turned back around to those listening to William, “I understand I looked like this?” Akio asked and then willed his eyes to go red, his voice a little harsher, “Do continue, Brother!”


Those listening to William took an involuntary step back, but leaned forward to listen to the story, anxious to see what happened next as Akio took up helping William tell the story.


If not exactly the true story.



Bethany Anne and Yuko appeared in her suite and Yuko looked around, “Oh!”


Ashur chuffed and Yuko walked over to him on Bethany Anne’s bed, “I’ll miss you too, fluffy one!”  She grabbed him around his neck, “You protect our Queen, ok?” Ashur whined and Yuko laughed, letting him go. “Yes, I know that is an impossible task, but you are the dog for the mission, right?”

Ashur chuffed again and Yuko rubbed his head, “I thought so.”


Yuko turned around to see Bethany Anne dabbing at her eye with a tissue, “Don’t Bethany Anne!  Your going to make me mess up my makeup…” Bethany Anne opened her arms and Yuko stepped forward to hug her.


“You know we are all going to miss you, right?”  Yuko nodded her head and said something muffled in Bethany Anne’s chest.  “Especially ADAM.”


Yuko looked up, “Hey, ADAM!  What was it you wanted to give me?”


“Ah,” Bethany Anne stepped back, “I was wondering if you were going to keep it a secret, ADAM.”


ADAM’s voice came from Bethany Anne’s bathroom, “I had to use it as a way to help Yuko attain equilibrium and, well, Gabrielle ratted me out.”


Yuko leaned to her left, to look around Bethany Anne who was blocking her view of the Bath area. “ADAM?”


Yuko heard movement and then he appeared.  Yuko moved out from behind Bethany Anne who stepped aside.


“ADAM?” Yuko asked, confused.  “This isn’t possible, is it?”


“No,” the Android agreed, “You are hearing me speak from this android, but I have been working on this gift for a year.”


Yuko looked up to Bethany Anne who smiled, “He had to generate the funds,” Bethany Anne told her, then added, “legally.”


“Yes,” the little android admitted, “It was that requirement which took me a little longer.”


“He’s,” Yuko reached out and felt the body.  It was metal, and the whole unit didn’t try to act like a human, “beautiful.”


The little android put his hand up to touch Yuko’s, gently. “Thank you.”


ADAM’s voice switched to coming out of the room’s speakers, “Adam Nacht, say hello to Yuko.”


The Android faced Yuko and it’s mouth, animated to some degree spoke, “Hello Yuko, I am Adam Nacht, I am the Entity Intelligence who will be working with you.”


Yuko looked to Bethany Anne, “His name is Adam?”


Bethany Anne smiled gently, “His name is whatever you decide to call him.  It’s up to you to change it once, then the E.I. is forever that name.”


“Yuko turned back to the android, “Can you turn around?”  The E.I. turned easily and Yuko sought the seams that must occur in his body, “What is he made out of?”


“Well,” ADAM spoke, “he is a synthesis of human metals, and Yollin alloys which we were able to forge out here in the Asteroid.”


“How?’ Yuko asked, still feeling across the seamless body.


“With a lot of help,” ADAM admitted, “There are a lot of friends which helped back at the party.”


“I’m going to have to tell them all thank you,” she said, tears messing up her makeup.


“What would you like my name to be?” The E.I. asked her.  “I can be either male, female, or gender neutral.


Yuko thought about it, “Well, ADAM is ADAM to me.  And it feels wierd to have a boy as a friend…”


Yuko held out her hand, “Hello Eve, my name is Yuko and you have no idea how pleased I am to meet you.”


Bethany Anne handed Yuko clean tissues after she finished shaking hands with the shorter Android.


“Is there special care instructions that go along with her?” Yuko asked as she tried to clean up her mascara.


“No, I have a multi-century power supply,” Eve answered.


“Ah, I get it, ADAM and Eve,” ADAM said.


“Interesting,” Bethany Anne murmured, “Eve was beget from ADAM, and that is true here, as well.” Bethany Anne dabbed at her eye one last time, “Yuko, I have a few words to tell you before I go.  I have to go meet with a bunch of sticks in the mud about stuff they want and I won’t give them.”


Yuko turned to Bethany Anne.


“First, you can’t police the world.  Don’t try.  Whatever they do, let them do.  Your responsibility is for the UnknownWorld.  Akio has responsibility to take care of any Forsaken, you have responsibility to take care of those who would honor Michael’s Family, or me.”


Yuko nodded her understanding.


“So, be strategic, be smart.  I know you already understand how to rely on Akio and the team.  However, you are getting older, and wiser yourself.  You have good intuition, remember to use it.  Continue with your strength and your martial training, it will come in handy.  So,” she nodded to Eve, “will she.  We have two E.I. containers running her intelligence.  She is damn near the closest A.I. we have.”


“Perhaps, one day, she will be a true A.I.,” ADAM added, “I’ve calculated the computing power, and it is within the realm of possibility.”


“Truly?” She asked, looking at Eve who returned her stare, “What would it take?”


“That, is something you will need to figure out,” Bethany Anne admitted. “ADAM has placed a huge amount of information in the E.I. for you to review on this subject.  It could take multiple lifetimes to go through, and master, all of it.”


Yuko opened one arm and Eve walked over and leaned into her, hugging her gently, “Oh my…” Yuko squeezed the Android and smiled, “At least I can’t hurt you.”


“That is true,” Eve admitted, “Not much can.”


“Remember, Yuko,” Bethany Anne said, watching the two of them, “Be strategic with your moves, be smart and hide, rather than show yourself. Be the wind that is whispered in the leaves, a name, a phantom.  Exist to bring order and protection, but try to stay hidden to the masses.  Your primary objective is to be there for Michael when he arrives.  When that happens, Eve can contact us.  Be there for my people in the UnknownWorld.  Use the technology we have provided to watch as much as you can.  You can’t protect everyone.  God knows I’ve tried and failed.”


Yuko nodded her understanding of her orders.


“Then, I’ve got to get back to the ArchAngel and change and get down to Earth.  Are you sure you want to age?”


“For now, I need to.  My parents would not understand if I do not age as they get older.  I would not have them wonder.”


“I understand.  We’ve enhanced you as much as we can until they are no longer with us, then.  We have as much enhanced nanocytes as we can provide.  Use it rather sparingly, ok?”


Yuko nodded.


“Alright, one last hug and then I’m afraid I can take you back to the Party, but Eve will have to take the Tram.”


“That’s Ok, I like the tram,” Eve said, “I’ll meet you at All Guns Blazing if that is ok with you, Yuko?”  The little android stopped and waited for permission.


“Yes, that is fine.”  Yuko answered, “Wait, how do we communicate?”


We communicate the same way you do with ADAM, Eve’s voice, now tilting towards a feminine sound echoed in Yuko’s ears.


Yuko stared at Eve, “Ok, this is so cool ADAM.  I cannot thank you enough”


“It’s what Friend’s do for, we take care of each other.”


So ADAM, you going to admit to Yuko that Eve is a protection Android?”


>>I think there is only one way to answer that, Bethany Anne.<<


Oh?  How is that.


>>Hell no.<<


Bethany Anne schooled her face, fearing she would snicker and give away that ADAM was telling her something.


“Ok, my Japanese Princess, time to get you back to the party, and me on my way to another boring meeting with stuffy old people.”


Yuko went to Bethany Anne and hugged her, “Bethany Anne, you have provided me with something I would never have had otherwise, and that is a true friend in ADAM, and an opportunity to help my country.  We might be staying below the radar, but those who need to know we exist, well, we will find them my Queen.”


Bethany Anne hugged her back, “It’s time.”


The two of them disappeared.




Belgium


“Abdullah,” Paula said, as she sat in the small coffee store.  He sat down, setting his coffee to the side. “Do you believe we are ready?”


“Yes, all is in place. Without you telling us, we would not know an event is occurring,” the man admitted, taking a sip of his coffee.


Paula looked around the small coffee shop, “They are trying to keep the meeting a secret.  A last ditch effort to persuade TQB to listen to them and share their technology.”


“I hate their leader as much as anyone in the world,” Abdullah admitted, “However, in her position I wouldn’t share either.  It doesn’t take much intelligence to agree there isn’t a government to be trusted.”


“Except yours?” Paula asked.


Abdullah shrugged, “I am a leader who enjoys the fight.  The fight is here, yes?” He took another sip before setting his coffee down, “Perhaps when I was a little younger, full of what you call piss and vinegar, yes?”  Paula nodded, “Well, in those times I believed more in the prophecies than perhaps I do now.”


“What is different now?” Paula asked, her voice, for once, seemed curious to Abdullah.


“Now it is about making sure my people have space, have opportunity. It is not only America who has had religious people trying to use their beliefs to run other’s lives.  My people have dealt with it for centuries.  Just look at how advanced we were a long time ago, and look at us now.”


Abdullah flicked his hand, the disgust on his face passing through like a bird flying across a yard,


“Now, most of our countries are held in the hands of those who would be the next Mohammad, or the next Caliph.  If not that, then they are ruled by either Military Dictators who don’t sleep easy at night, keeping my people down under the threat of death, or Kings who do the same thing, but are more legitimate in the world’s eyes.”


Paula hated to admit it, but she was starting to respect this man.


“What do you hope to accomplish with these attacks?” Paula asked him, “You have to have what, two hundred fighters?”


Abdullah chuckled, “No, perhaps we were not as up front with you as we could have been.  We have over five-hundred men for this operation.  You have provided the perfect chance for us to ambush so many influential people.  Not only TQB’s leader, who we want to hit.  But, the ex-President of the US will be there, right?”  Paula nodded, “Plus, maybe three other significant country representatives and over forty business and other dignitaries.  It will be good to take down the ex-President.  Perhaps, it will be a bigger benefit to us that he dies.  Most of the people in the towns don’t know, or care, about Bethany Anne.”


“We certainly do,” Paula interrupted.


“Don’t worry Ms. Paula without a last name,” Abdullah told her, “The TQB leader is wanted by people high in many Freedom Fighter organizations for raids her people have done.  She will be killed, certainly.  But, for the rest of those who feel like the American’s have cheated them, killing the President is the bigger win.”


Paula nodded.  So long as Bethany Anne was killed that is all that mattered to her.


If an American ex-President needed to be sacrificed?  Well, it would only drum up support for a stronger military in the US.  Her team would then have opportunities when it came time for advanced weapons needs.


She was sure that when the technology Majestic 12 had created over the decades was shared, any questionable methods to procure it would be swept under the rug.


“What about air support?” Abdullah asked.


“We brought in all of the SAM’s you gave us,” Paula told him, “How you disperse them around the area is up to you.”


“No, is there any additional technology you can provide in that area?”  Abdullah asked.


Yes, she thought, but no fucking way were you getting it.  We’ve had our asses handed us by doing that before.


She shook her head, “No.  Nothing we can do without risking the whole operation.  The energy needs are pretty substantial and it wouldn’t take too much of a sweep to find them at the moment.  Our efforts tend to be aiming at spaceships, not little ships zipping around the city.”


“Too bad. You know TQB will have backup, yes?”


“That’s why the SAM’s are here.  We outfitted a few with enhanced seek and destroy abilities. Otherwise, the chance of those things hitting TQB ships are about zero.”


Abdullah flipped his hand over and back, twice, “It is in the Prophet’s hands at that point.  We are but to stand there and aim, then click the buttons under while bullets seek our lives.  If he chooses it to hit the enemy’s ships, they will hit the enemies ships.”


He pulled the coffee up to his lips, “Of course, if the missiles have better tracking solutions before we fire the missile? Well, that is just advanced preperation on the Prophets part, I believe.”


A small curve graced Abdullah’s lips as he took a sip of his coffee.












CHAPTER FIFTEEN


Geneva, Switzerland


Anny Elizabeth slid her feet into the new high heels she purchased expressly for this evening.  It had been over three years that she had been working for Bethany Anne’s company and she had two promotions so far.


One of them had been into the negotiations group.


It had been a surprise to Anna to find out that Bethany Anne no longer owned the parent company.  When she first found out, she was concerned and went to go speak with Amanda in HR to find out what was going to happen.


For a moment, Amanda had looked at her with a blank expression.


“Blackballed,” Anna reminded her, pointing to herself, “remember?”


“Oh!”  Amanda responded, “That was taken down when we hired you, didn’t you know?”  Anna didn’t.  “Oh yes,” Amanda confirmed, but pulled up the necessary screen to look again, “For us to hire you, and for it not to be a problem your name has to come off the list.  So, when the bosses bosses…”


“Bethany Anne,” Anna supplied.


“Yes,” Amanda pushed up her glasses to peer at her computer, “When she had me hire you, I’m sure she spoke with whomever had put your name on the list and convinced them to take it off.”


Anna winced internally.  Whoever had blackballed her was screwed if they didn’t remove her name.  Bethany Anne, she was aware, took care of her people.


Tonight, however, Anna Elizabeth had a chance to pay back Bethany Anne and ask her if the option to immigrate with her people was still open.


She slipped on the second shoe and stood up to look in the mirror.  She turned around and looked over her shoulder.


Yes, the dress looked very good.


She stepped over to the closet and grabbed a coat.  While it was in the low fifties fahrenheit during the days, it approached freezing at night and there was a chance of rain.


She had just snagged her purse from the bar when her doorbell rang.  She walked over and looked through the peephole.


Holy Crap!  She barely saw his chin but she new who was on the other side of the door.  Opening it, she smiled to one of the men she admired.


“Good evening, my name is…” he started to say, but she interrupted.


“John Grimes!” Anna said in a rush. Looking up into his eyes she said, “My god, you are so much bigger in person.”  Then, her hand clapped on her mouth, her eyes wide, her voice came out muffled, “I’m so sorry, that was so rude of me.”


John smiled, but shrugged, “I’m American, we are good with compliments such as that.”  John stepped aside as Anna stepped out of her apartment and turned to lock the door. “Besides,” he added, “Jean isn’t here to take offense on my behalf.”


A moment later, Anna said, “I blame the calendar,” as the two walked down the hallway to meet up with Bethany Anne, John’s chuckling lingering in the air as they turned the corner.



Bethany Anne’s foot tapped on the floor.  They were in one of the new, posh Executive Pods.  With seats for ten, it didn’t lack for comfort.


What it did lack was the ability to just make the whole night go away.  These stupid meetings went no where.  The sycophantic suck-ups wanted stuff she wouldn’t part with.  Sometimes, she was just too nice to friends.


>>John is signaling, we are going back down.<<


Good.


She had tried to speak with the two Guardians up front, but apparently Peter had been telling stories and she couldn’t get them to yank the sticks out of their asses and chill a little and talk with her.


She was going to have to find that little toadstool and see what lies he had been concocting lately.


Seconds later, the door on the side of the Exec-Pod cracked open and Anna Elizabeth stood there transfixed. Her eyes alight with the delight of the Pod coming out of the sky, Bethany Anne was sure.


“Well, come on in, it isn’t very warm out there!” Bethany Anne told her.


“Oh!” Anna accepted John’s help getting up into the Pod.  The Pod stayed a foot off of the ground.  “Sorry, it’s just so weird seeing this big ship come out of the sky like this without any sound.  It’s hard to see even when John pointed it out as you guys arrived.”


John got in and shut the doors.


“That’s by design,” Bethany Anne admitted, “but, let’s not talk about this stuff.  Let’s talk about you!”


“Me?” Anna asked, “But, I’m kind of boring.”


“Says the cute young woman in her … oh my GOD those are beautiful!” Bethany Anne exclaimed as she looked at Anna’s shoes, “Manolo Blahniks?”


Anna turned her foot sideways, “YES!” She practically squealed. “I got this last weekend, do you like them?”


“If I didn’t like you so much, I might have had to mug you for those.”  Bethany Anne looked up at Anna, “What is your shoe size?”


Anna looked back “Five and a half, why?”


“Bethany Anne,” John snickered, “Is thinking of acquiring them.”


“You want them?” Anna asked, confused.


“John, don’t be an ass,” she told him and then turned to Anna, “I’m like any woman, I see a pair of shoes that are beautiful…”


Anna laughed, “I never thought you had a shoe fetish.”


“Oh, it might be a well keep secret,” John said, “but Bethany Anne and Imelda Marcos have a few things in common.”


“Ok,” Bethany Anne turned to John and told him, “You mention me and Imelda Marcos together one more time, Mr. Grimes, and I’ll make you pay next time we are on in practice together.”


“Boss, be reasonable,” John argued, “You have complete shipping containers of shoes you haven’t opened yet.  The last three years of whole lines from over, what, seventy designers?”


“You have shipping containers of shoes?” Anna asked.


“Well, it’s not like that,” Bethany Anne started, then stopped herself. “You know?  It’s exactly like that.” She flung a hand out towards the windows, “How am I supposed to know how long this is going to take to save this place?  I need to know that I always have a new pair of shoes in case the latest meeting went bad.  It helps my mental disposition,” she finished.


“Shipping containers, I heard that right, yes?” Anna asked again.


“Over five,” John clarified, “Only two pairs of each type in her size,” he grinned and winked at his boss.


“Hey!” Bethany Anne retorted, “I’m not the only one.  Gabrielle has two containers herself and let’s not discuss how many containers of guns and shit you and the other guys are bringing along.  Especially when your own woman has made half that shit you bought useless.”


“Whoa!” John put up his hands, “Don’t be dissing the firepower.  It is a therapeutic release to feel the guns kick and the smell of gunpowder after you shoot.”


“Yeah,” Bethany Anne sat back in her seat further, crossing her arms across her chest, “So is the smell of the leather, the curve of the front of the shoe and the height of the heels.”


Anna, looking back and forth between the two of them as they spoke tried one last time.


“These are the ocean going shipping containers?  Those are the ones you have?”


John looked over at Anna, his hands opened showing his ten fingers splayed out and mouthed, silently, “Tens of Thousands of pairs!


Bethany Anne, looking out the window lifted her hand and flipped John off to the laughter of everyone in the Pod.


You better pray to Saint Payback-is-a-Bitch.  She thought to herself.  Because your time is coming.





The ex-President and his security, David, waited in the dark, next to the limousine near their plane.    The ex-President was looking up into the night sky, “You ever looked up into the sky, knowing there were aliens out there, going about their business day to day just like you?”


David, keeping a watch around the area answered, “Not too much, sir.  I have to admit it is a weird feeling knowing and meeting the Yollins up on the ArchAngel.”


“Yes, the Yollins.  It helps, a little, to know they also fear the Kurtherians.”  He looked over at David, “At least TQB is not fighting figments of their imaginations.”


David shrugged, “Not always sure I agree with their methodology, sir.  Those decisions are above my pay grade.”


“I get it, David,” he answered and looked back up to the sky himself. He might be out of office, but one doesn’t just leave behind the feeling of responsibility as easy as taking off a coat.


David reached up to his ear, “We have incoming.”


“Where?”


David turned and pointed to the South, “That direction.  TQB informed me and traffic control who happens to be bitching they can’t see them.”


Soon, there was the tiniest amount of thrumm one felt, but couldn’t hear and the TQB Executive Pod came swooping in, doing a tight circle before coming to rest near the limousine.  David watched as the door opened and John Grimes stepped out and checked the area before he allowed Bethany Anne and finally one more woman out as well.


The doors closed, and the Pod lifted back off into the night sky and disappeared.


The President watched it go as the three walked up to him, “Where are they going?”


“Back up to the ArchAngel,” Bethany Anne told him, “Good to see you again.”


The ex-President turned and greeting her with a smile and a hug, “Thank you for this.”


“Yeah, you owe me,” she told him and they separated, “I’m dreading this like a trip to the dentist.”


“You don’t need to go to a dentist,” he told her as John opened the door to the limousine.


“Nor do I need to do this, either,” she retorted, “before we go, let me introduce Anna Elizabeth Hauser to you guys.  She works in negotiations for her company and has worked for me in the past.”


The ex-President put out his hand, “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Hauser.”  He shook her hand before waving the ladies into the car, “Ladies first.”


“Thank you,” Anna replied and ducked her head to enter the car.  Bethany Anne went second.


He slid in next allowing the two security guards to get in last. David with them, John up front. The ex-President looked to Bethany Anne, “So, you really are going to give this a shot?”


“You mean because I dragged Anna along on this?” she asked him to his nod. “Yeah, I’m not going to waste my time on the infinitesimally small chance it would work without at least giving it the old college try.”


“Really, what college?” He asked and grinned at her.  They all felt the car pull out.


“Damn, you people never quite, do you?” she asked him, chuckling, “Or is it the bounty?”


“Oh, the bounty of course,” he replied, “It’s what, up to fifteen million now?”


>>Twenty-two and a half million.<< ADAM supplied.


“It’s over twenty million, now,” she corrected him.


David whistled but didn’t say anything as he looked out the window.


“We can split the money,” he told her, “I mean, ten million just to whisper a name to me?”  His smile grew wider, “Imagine the …”


“Bullshit that would happen to anyone who used to know me?”  She looked at him, this time with a pretty frank expression, “I’ve had to move a person I knew from my past twice already before she finally decided to just take me up on my offer to immigrate.”


“That is true,” his smile faded away, “They would speak to anyone that knew you.”


“More than that,” she supplied, “Depending on the country, interrogate is the proper term.”


“Unfortunately, too true,” he agreed.  “By the way, China wasn’t invited to this seeing how you still have frosty relations with them.”


“Those bastards are lucky I haven’t flattened their leadership and had a new set put in place.”


“There have been some wondering why that hasn’t occurred, yet.”


“Because the computer calculations on the potential social issues brought about by a decapitation of the Chinese Government isn’t worth the enjoyment I would derive from the effort.”


“So, sleeping at night wouldn’t bother you?” he asked.


Bethany Anne looked at him, “When you had to send men into battle on foreign soil, did you worry about the wives of those soldiers they killed?”


“Some, I’ll admit,” he shrugged, “but they chose to pick up arms against us.”


“Same thing,” she agreed, “Just because they don’t have a gun, their political efforts and what they allow in the name of their country is on the heads of the politicians.  The buck, or yuan, stops there.”


He nodded his understanding.



The hotel was over three hundred years old.  With the spires lit up against the night sky by decorative lighting and a golden angel statue at one corner, the hotel looked like a small, five story castle.  The car was stopped at the gated entrance and then they were allowed entrance into the inner courtyard and stopped a few feet from the front doors.  The back passenger side door was opened and David got out.  John exited from the front seat beside the driver and then a knock occurred on the roof of the car.


The ex-President exited next and then Bethany Anne. Anna came out last and all three were swept inside quickly.  Walking through the inside to a ballroom in the back of the hotel, Bethany Anne was surprised to see a very modern inside compared to the outside of the building.


They even had a bar with purple and green bar furniture.  Not at all what she was expecting.


Soon, they passed through the more public area and their rush slowed to a more normal walk.  Anna Elizabeth started cataloging who she saw, and who looked like they had the right intensity for the evening.


Bethany Anne took a look sideways and noticed Anna had already got her game on and was analyzing the people in the room as they were announced.


Damn, this woman might make the evening interesting, after all.



“Wow, she brings a woman with her to this event?” Sophia whispered to her friend Emma.  Both ladies, wives of business leaders often met and gossiped in the corner as each new person arrived at these meetings.


“Yeah, but do you see her security guard?” Emma asked, her eyes going up and down the tall man’s body,” makes you wonder why she is here tonight.”


“Because she is the woman of the evening, Emma!” Sophia hissed back, only slightly surprised Emma didn’t know what the TQB CEO looked like.


Emma was in her own little world.


The operative word, Sophia admitted, was little.  She swore to her husband that Emma’s intelligence could fit inside a tennis ball and have room for nine more identical sisters.  However, at events like this, she could be depended on to provide the evenings entertainment.


Like right now.


Emma kept whispering, “I swear, I would be down on him like a stripper on a pole.  No, down like an ice cream at a weight watchers party.  Hmm, maybe down like a case of beer at a frat party,” she kept trying new phrases to see which one fit the best.


Sophia looked at her friend, curious. “When was the last time you were at a frat party?”


“What?”  Emma looked to her friend trying to catch up with her question, “Oh, last fall.  Took a wrong turn right into a hell of a night.  Let me tell you,” Emma winked to her, “when they yell cougar, it’s a good thing.”  Sophia snorted.


The two women went back to watching the new arrivals.



“Bethany Anne?” John whispered.


“Ummhmmm,” she answered, just as quietly.


“Promise me you won’t pass what those two were saying on to Jean?” He asked, while he searched the room for any problems.


“Quid pro quo, Mr. Grimes.”


Dammit, he pressed his lips together, she was going to negotiate this with him. Fortunately, the first two men joined Bethany Anne and the ex-President and drew them into a conversation.   For now, John knew, that meant she would stay quiet until they concluded the negotiation.


Before too long, Anna stepped into the conversation, asking the business leaders questions about their own companies and within two minutes, she had them whimpering, begging to leave the conversation.  It took little time before it was obvious these two were puffed up men whose businesses were hopelessly left behind.


As they left, Anna whispered to Bethany Anne they probably had pulled strings to get in to this event.  All of the old hands allowed those two to go first.  It was going to set the mood for the rest of the evening.


Since Anna had asked relevant questions, instead of Bethany Anne just biting their heads off, Anna said she saw more men taking their last sips before heading in their direction.



John looked at his watch.  It had been over an hour of boring conversations and another two hours to go.  Anna had been superb and Bethany Anne was actually enjoying herself.  When those she was negotiating with left, Anna would give Bethany Anne an update on her thoughts and the two would start betting on who would approach next.


Occasionally David and John would exchange comments and a few people would come up and speak with the ex-President, but he was really being dragged along in the wake of these two women, tonight.


The ex-President found he was enjoying his evening, as well.


A couple of times, he wanted to tell someone to go away, as he was trying to listen to the women speaking to someone.


Then, the unmistakable staccato firing of weapons could be heard dimly and John, David and Bethany Anne all turned towards the entrance to the large ball room.  Ladies started screaming and more than a couple of men started yelling.


Four men from inside the room all started running towards the door, two stopping and two continuing on past.


David looked around, “Sir, we need you back in the corner, there are windows in here!”


Bethany Anne’s lips pressed together and John put an arm around her and Anna, pulling them towards the wall as people freaked all around them.


“Gott .. Verdammt,” Bethany Anne’s voice came out of John’s chest.  He had picked her up and held her close, her face implanted in his jacket.


John set the two women down and turned around, Bethany Anne and Sophia both arranging their clothes as he turned towards the entrance.


Someone outside yelled they were loosing the front door.


“Go John!” Bethany Anne called and pointed towards the doors, “We have Pod’s getting prepped to drop!”


John pulled a pistol and offered it to her. She ignored it, “I’m armed!”  She yelled and then pushed him, “Now fucking go already!”


He nodded, turned to David, “You got them both?” David told him he got them covered.  John ran full tilt, most people not believing what they saw as he headed towards the front of the hotel.


Bethany Anne looked at the stained glass windows and frowned.  She could leave, but where would that leave most of the others?


“Terrorists,”  John’s voice came over her implanted ear receiver.


Well, that settled it.  When was she going to get a chance like this again?












CHAPTER SIXTEEN


John raced into the hallway, the doors slamming open as he rushed through, hoping no one was on the other side.


Except…Son-of-a-bitch!  Fucking terrorists. He clicked his microphone, “Terrorists.” Pulling his other Dukes special, he set the power down to four. He didn’t want to worry about who was on the other side of the person he shot.


These pistols where slightly different than her earlier version’s.  These had larger rods that allowed for mushrooming, like hollow points, when they hit. Causing those he shot to feel the concussive damage at lower velocities.


Like right now.


As he came out the doors, bullets were stitching the carpet heading in his direction.  He twisted, throwing himself to the left by looking hard over his right shoulder.  His arms helped speed up the twist, getting out of the way of the bullets which tracked past him and then into the frame of the doors behind him.


John kept his eyes on the three men down the hallway as he twisted, aiming both pistols, he fired.


He hit the far right shooter in his shoulder, splattering the man behind him with blood.  Not that he cared, John’s third shot went through that guys nose and took half his cranium out the back of his head.  The guy on the far left took two to the chest, thrown backwards as the slug’s momentum carried him along when they slammed into him like a freight train.


John’s body slammed into the left wall, arresting his movement. He bounced off and landed in a crouch.  Firing slowed for a moment, John ran towards the front of the building.



The beautiful stained glass window on the far left side of the room, away from where they stood shattered as bullets pelted the ceiling inside.  Women screamed and men turned towards the new threat.


David turned towards the new threat, seeing Bethany Anne turn in that direction, the direction of the front door again.


“Stay here, Anna!” Bethany Anne told her and kicked off her heels.  Damn! Where was her preferred boots when she needed them?


A female’s voice echoed in David’s mind. If it looks like she is going to leave, shoot her…


“What?” Anna yelled, “Why can’t I go with you?”


If it looks like she is going to leave, shoot her…


“Because you aren’t me,” Bethany Anne told her, “I’ve got what it …”


That’s when excruciating pain slammed into Bethany Anne’s back.



Five Black Eagles screamed down from the Arch Angel, itself coming down lower into the stratosphere.


“Black Eagle One, one minute from touchdown…”


“We got fire, we got fire!”  Black Eagle two shouted over the intercom.


“Sum-bitch!  They are coming right at us guys.  Break, break, break.  Somebody has been studying and we got unfriendlies.” Black Eagle called, “Take your course, lose our friends and come back.  ArchAngel, seeking a little support here!”


All five Black Eagles turned and raced in separate directions as twelve surface to air missiles streaked up from the city below.


Down below, there was hollering as those who had the shoulder mounted rocket launchers laughed and high fived their buddies when the SAM’s took off in separate directions, obviously following the five Pods that had been screaming down.



John raced to the front.  He heard the rush of men coming through the front door and raised the power of his Dukes to six.


He didn’t think there was anyone behind those coming in his direction he would have to worry about.


John, his speed ramped up, shot into the main Hotel room and started laying waste to those men heading in his direction.


Those that would be guards were all on the floor, bodies bleeding out what remained of their lives on the tiled floors that others had walked on for hundreds of years.


The man closest to John head exploded when John’s first shot hit him between the eyes.  Before any of the other terrorists could react, John shot an two others in their chests, spraying those behind in blood and gore.


John was just getting started. By the time the first gun’s bullets started erupting out of the muzzle, John had already cleared out half, about twelve, of the men that had been in this second wave.


But, it the damned terrorists were flowing in like flood waters.


“Son of a bitch,” he swore.  Next time they told him he couldn’t have any grenades, he was going to tell them to go fuck themselves.


John cranked the power up to eight.  Bodies started flying backwards as John placed his shots carefully, trying to use the exploding bodies as an beaver would use trees to create a dam to slow the stream.


Where the fuck where all these assholes coming from, anyway? He wondered.  Was there a ten for one special on Terrorists in Belgium this week?


He took two more shots when Bethany Anne’s scream of pain hit him.



Anna screamed as David raised his gun to shoot Bethany Anne, who was laying on the ground, another time.  Anna jumped him, beating him on the head and ripping at his hair.  Too incoherent to make sense, Anna’s tears flowed down her face as she tried to rip into David’s eyes with her nails.


David, stumbled backward under the weight of the woman as he tried to block her attacks.  Finally, he put his pistol up under her left breast and pulled the trigger twice.


“NOOOO!” Screamed someone behind the bitch as Anna’s struggling stopped, and she collapsed off of David to slam into the floor.


David looked up into the red, flaming eyes of the woman he had just shot in the back, transfixed on him and promising him pain beyond the imagination.


The Devil herself had risen up!  David aimed his <<pistol>> right at her face and pulled the trigger.


CLICK.


Oh shit!  He pulled the trigger repeatedly.


CLICK CLICK.  FUCK! He threw the gun at her.  She slapped it out of the air.


David ran out of time when the red-eyed demon, with talons for fingers stabbed his chest, and squeezed his heart, “I’m done with you useless, limp degenerate whoring sack sniffing forsaken fucks!”  David’s body had barely hit the floor when Bethany Anne, her wrist slit was forcing blood into Anna’s mouth, “DRINK GODDAMMIT!” She screamed at the women, whose eyes seemed to be dimming.


“I’m not losing another fucking friend to this useless pile of self-servings shit bags, DRINK!”  Bethany Anne, pulled on the etheric, “LIVE DAMN YOU!” She screamed and jolted Anna with Etheric Energy, Anna’s body spasmed.


“Look out!” the ex-President screamed and Bethany Anne could hear a pistol go off behind her.


She bit off a curse and looked to see what was happening.  The ex-President was trying to shoot men coming through the window.


He was a better President, than he was a shooter.


BETHANY ANNE! 


I got this, John.  She sent to him.  Stay up front if it is bad.


It’s a fucking tidal wave of terrorists, he admitted.


Good, when I finish here, I’ll be fucking them up over there.


What?


Anna breathed in heavily and Bethany Anne looked down, a bloody tear dropping from her face when Anna’s eyes cracked open.  Bethany Anne turned, “Ok, Mr. President, your job is to protect this woman.”


He turned to look at Bethany Anne, her eyes glowing red, streaks of pulsating red veins covering her face.  Her voice, dark and dangerous as her eyes focused on the men spoke loud enough that all in the large ballroom could hear over the noise of gunfire and shouting.


“You want me?” She told them, “You Got Me!”  She started walking towards the other side of the room, hands outstretched, red balls of energy started materializing in her hands. She ducked a couple of bullets aimed in her direction.  “The Queen Bitch is in the house motherfuckers!”  She threw the two red balls of energy which slammed into the front two terrorists.  Both bodies crashed backwards into the wall, the front of their bodies burnt, their eyes open, pupils gone and nothing but the whites of their eyes visible.


The terrorists right outside the window started screaming in fear.



John, relieved Bethany Anne was ok, amped up his speed when he heard the screams of the men behind him.


John’s smile turned maniacal when he felt the beginning of her fear hit his area.  John added his own and now, the terrorists knew real terror.


John laughed, “You guys let loose the Jinn tonight!”  He turned his right handed pistol up to ten, then his left. “Let’s see how well your bodies stop a Dukes on ten, you naked cock balls wanking fuckwits!”


Bodies started exploding… and John’s hands started hurting.


Fuck it, they would heal.



ArchAngel “Captain Jameson, fourteen locations located where the SAM missiles fired.”


Captain Paul Jameson was standing in for Gabrielle, who was back on the QBBS Merideth Reynolds. “Do we have any Nightshades down yet?”


“Twelve seconds until deployment for locations one through seven on the screen. Two other Nightshade deployments will be on target within seventeen seconds for the other locations.”


Paul chewed on his cheek, thinking about whether to hit the first group ASAP. But, that could allow the second groups five seconds to react. If he waiting until all were all target before release, that was five extra seconds to send up additional SAM’s.


SAM’s that seemed particularly effective. How they were tracking them, they hadn’t figured out quite yet.


“Wait three seconds then deploy first group, deploy second and third Nightshades as soon as possible.”


“Understood, Captain Jameson.”



Anna, struggling against the fear was holding onto the ex-President’s arm like a lifeline.  He had put the gun to the side, doing his best to just stay with Anna, holding on to her and fighting to not run away.  He had to yell at more than one person who might have stumbled across Anna already.  He had no idea how Bethany Anne’s blood had helped the woman heal, but he saw it done.


He was still in shock with David.  His security guy had cold bloodedly shot Bethany Anne in the back, right in front of him.  He hadn’t reacted.  Oh, he would have liked to have thought it was because he didn’t see it.


No, he saw it happened, but he had been locked in shock even when Anna had jumped David, stopping him from shooting Bethany Anne again.  It was when Bethany Anne reached into David’s chest and crushed his heart that he started moving, again.


Then, Bethany Anne crumpled when Anna had looked dead…Hell, was probably dead.


The first few shots in their direction got him to pick up David’s pistol, find the extra magazine he had on him and start firing back.  All the times he had chatted with the secret service, and them giving him rudimentary instruction had helped.


A few seconds ago, he would have been sure that they were all going to die.  Now, he wasn’t sure any terrorists were going to survive the night.


What had they unleashed?



Bethany Anne grabbed the man who was desperately trying to crawl back over the window and pulled him back, screaming.  Her punch caved in the side of his head.  She jumped up to the window sill and then off the sill to land ten feet below on the grass.


She bent down and picked up a Kalashnikov and started cracking off shots at those running from her.  Walking forward, she ran out of bullets. She bent down and grabbed a fresh magazine and continued firing at those she could see.  She heard John laughing from behind her and to her right.  She dropped the rifle and went running that way.



Ayaan was kneeling down, trying to open the latest box when the attack occurred.  The four others up on the roof of the building were celebrating when the whistling started.  Ayaan looked up seeking what the noise was when Ahmed beside him exploded into red mist.


Now, the men started calling out to the holy one, but their cries couldn’t be heard.


The three others exploded one by one, the whistling loud enough to hurt Ayaan’s ears as he laid flat on the roof, praying to the Prophet for his life.


The noise left as quickly as it arrived and Ayaan looked around at the gore and body parts strewn about the roof top.  He crawled to the side of the building and leaned his head over the side and threw up.



John could feel Bethany Anne’s presence as she came up from his left.  He had precious few targets.  Well, live targets.


There were some who were wounded, and perhaps they might be saved.  But, all John cared was they were out of commission and not a danger.


It was up to others whether they lived or not.



The five Black Eagles, the missiles after them spent, arrived too late to get involved in the attack.  Black Eagle One landed in the courtyard, trying to find a place without too many body parts.


He jumped out of the Black Eagle and palmed it closed.  It rose up a hundred feet in the air.  The easiest way to keep nosy people from trying to get into it, yet make it almost immediately available for use.


He walked over to the door, meeting John coming from the other direction.


John holstered his left pistol and switched his pistol to shake hands with the pilot, “Rishaan, good to see you.  What happened?”


“SAM’s John,” he told the Queen’s Bitch, “I don’t know where they got the technology, but they were able to at least track us for a little while.  We stayed closed enough to them so they didn’t return.”


“I was wondering why you didn’t just out run them,” John admitted.


“ArchAngel wasn’t sure if they had logic to come back and hit you here, so we stayed out there as bait until their engines spent their fuel.”


“Away from land?”


Rishaan nodded, “Yeah, if they hit a boat, well we tried our best to minimize the casualties.”


John looked around the courtyard, “I’m sure we would get the blame for the deaths, instead of these poor, misunderstood bastards.”


Rishaan looked around at the carnage, “Shaytan’s dogs, all of them.”


John turned into the hotel to check on Bethany Anne and Anna.


This night could only get worse, not better.


“Rishaan,” he called out.


“Yes?”


“Get back in your ship and stay close.  I might need to call down a few attitude adjustments.” John told him as he walked into the hotel.  He was covered in blood and guts and needed a shower, bad.


“My luck, someone got this shit on video,” he said as his foot crunched something he didn’t want to think about under his shoe.












CHAPTER SEVENTEEN


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


Reynolds, The Merideth Reynolds Defensive E.I.’s male voice came over the speakers, “General we have unexpected incoming.”


Lance looked up from his working area in the main defense operations room.  To date, it had been a very sophisticated office for Lance, Dan, Kevin and a few others to use. They expected to be busy once they went across the line through the Annex Gate, but not here in their own Solar System. He looked over to Dan who shrugged and got up from his desk to join Lance.


“What do we have, Reynolds?” Lance asked.


“Sporadic and faint positive hits one hundred twelve kilometers off area 312, outside the Docks, sir.” A hologram appeared, showing the QBBS Merideth Reynolds with the Docks area highlighted in orange, and a faint blue light flickering off to the side.


“Velocity?” Dan asked.


“Matching with us, at the moment,” Reynolds answered, “However, it was slowly approaching until three minutes ago.”


“Is that why the ten and five thousand kilometer warnings didn’t go off?” Dan asked.


“Yes, at that point, the speed and radar signature attributed a minimal threat assessment.” the E.I. replied.


“Huh, something for the after-action report,” Lance commented. “Reynolds, backtrack likely origination point.”


“Five days ago, Earth orbit.”


“And there is another item for the AAR,” Dan agreed.  He looked over to Lance, “Country or our unfriendly UFO group?”


“I’m going with unfriendly UFO Group for $500,” Lance answered as he rubbed his chin, “But, is this a kamikaze, an attack, or spying?”


“At the rate we are heading towards the gate, everyone on Earth must know we are going to meet up at the Annex Gate and probably leave within the month, right?” Dan spoke aloud, but didn’t expect to get an answer.


ADAM, however, did come over the speakers, “Dan, the generally held consensus is that the Etheric Empire will stay at the Annex Gate for an unspecified amount of time.”


“You know, ADAM, you are better than the morning paper,” Lance told him.


“Thank you, General.”


“So, why is he staying out there?” Dan asked. “You think we should send out a greeting party?”


“Well,” Lance started before ADAM Interrupted.


“ATTACK!  Bethany Anne is UNDER ATTACK at the event in Belgium.”


“Well, shit!” Lance spat out, “There’s our answer.”


“Reynolds!”


“Sir?”


“Put up the gravitic shield, set it to four kilometers focused around the docks area.”


“Merideth!”


“General?” the feminine voice replied.


“Issue the emergency warnings. Shut down the mag-trains and lower the blast doors between docks and In-World.”


“Yes sir,” she replied and cut her connection.


“Well, their ship just lit up,” Dan said as he pointed to the hologram, “Here it comes.”


“Reynolds, calculate the lag between when the attack on Bethany Anne happened and when that ship reacted,” Lance told the E.I.


“Could be on a pre-planned time schedule.” Dan advised.


Lance agreed, “Yeah, but I’d still like to know.”  the two men watched as the dot rapidly approached. “I wonder what the hell they think they are going to accomplish?”


MJ-12 Ship XJ 03


Antony Rikert, main pilot on this trip for Majestic 12, spoke over the internal comm system, “Hey, hope our packages are ready down there.  We are less than forty-five seconds from ejection.”


Tyler came back, “We are good here, one to go. How we looking up there?”


Antony looked over his dash, “So far, nothing seems to be coming after us, so that’s a good thing.”


“That fucker is huge, Tony,” Tyler shot back, “They might think we are going to smash on the side or something.”


“Possibly.  But, check this out. For some insane reason, they have a large glass viewing area where a bunch of docks are.  I’m thinking we shoot our packages over there. They can sacrifice a couple of guys taking out the glass instead of trying against the massive metal doors and once the air has escaped, go in that way with the additional sacrificial warriors.”


“I’ll tell them the plan down here,” Tyler replied.


“Works for me, Antony out,”



John Abdullah Khizen nodded his head to the man locking his helmet on. He turned with care due to his spacesuit, shuffled across the deck and with help, laid down in the ejection module. They looked like metal caskets to him.


Perhaps that was appropriate.


Inside, he could see the explosive packages.  The Majestic people had delivered a demonstration a day ago and everyone within his group agreed.


The destruction was very impressive and superior to anything they could have brought along.  Further, the men explained, the bombs would not activate until the ejection modules were over 6 kilometers away from the ship.  They wanted no chance a blast wave would affect them.


Which meant they would be ejected eight kilometers away from their target and immediately upon ejection, the modules would fire jets to slow down.


“What happens should the jets fail to fire?” John Abdullah had asked the man helping them get into the modules.


“You explode when the modules hit the space station,” Tyler had replied. “It will be a very big boom, we assure you.”


John Abdullah just nodded. So long as he wasn’t floating out in the middle of nowhere until he died from starvation, stuck in a small, dark, claustrophobic space he would be fine.


Dying wasn’t something he was scared to do. Dying slowly in the dark was a different matter. John Abdullah wouldn’t have signed up to do that type of operation.


Still if one was going to die for one’s belief, being one of the first to die attacking infidels in outer space was something he would be able to say he had done with his life. Or actually, maybe others would.


Tyler made sure John Abdullah was tucked in correctly, with nothing to stop a proper seal. He closed the top of the module and locked it down. Knocking twice on the top to let the person inside know it was done.


They were on a one-way ticket to meet their God. Perhaps they wouldn’t see light again, perhaps they would. Tyler was assured, however, that he didn’t expect anyone to live outside of the next four hours.  If they failed to kill themselves, then the poison they were breathing along with their oxygen would finish the job.


No one was going to stick around for any inconvenient conversations with TQB if Majestic 12 had anything to say about it.


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


An alarm went off in the Docks area, and Merideth’s voice reverberated throughout the hallways and rooms. “This is not a drill! This is not a drill!  Reynolds is tracking enemy incoming. Repeat, Reynolds is tracking enemy incoming.  Please move to designated safety areas.  Mag-Tram is shut down and In-World is no longer accessible.”


Bobcat looked out the viewing glass from his place at the hi-top table.  He, William and Marcus were by themselves having a little celebratory dinner and drinks together, when Merideth’s ‘all-areas’ warning reverberated throughout the Docks.


Marcus turned around in his seat, to look out the large viewing window.  “I will bet you each a quarter ounce of gold they try to come in through here.”


William got up from his chair and walked over to the large area and then turned to Marcus who was still seated, “Here?” he asked, pointing at the glass.


Marcus nodded yes.


William shrugged and turned back to looking at outer space, “Ok I’m in for a quarter-ounce.”


Bobcat slid off his bar-stool chair and knocked on their table, “I’m in.”  He walked over and joined William at the glass.


Marcus’s shoulders slumped. He lifted the napkin from his lap and cleaned his mouth before folding it and putting it beside his plate on the table. He slid out of his chair and turned to walk over and stood next to Bobcat.


Bobcat turned to look at him, “Why are you thinking they will attack here?”


William snorted from the other side, “Has to be most likely location.  All the other entrances are closed up with metal.”


“If it was so obvious,” Bobcat turned toward William, “Why did you bet?”


“I’m supporting Marcus’s slide into the terrible vice of gambling. He doesn’t do it enough.”


“So, what? You’re thinking if he wins he might do it more often?” Bobcat asked.  William nodded.  Bobcat thought about his answer and turned to look out the window, “I completely support the financial sacrifice on your part, William. Do you mind me taking his side?”


“Sorry, bets are already closed.” William told him.


“Damn, just my luck,” Bobcat then looked to Marcus, “Was that your reason for betting?”


Marcus chuckled, “No.  My reason was I’m here, so obviously, with my luck they are going to try and attack where I am.”  He paused, then added, “If I’m right and die, I don’t have to pay off anyway. It’s kind of a ‘win but can’t really lose situation’ was my thought process.”


“You Marcus,” William chuckled, “are sneaky.  I’m impressed.”


Marcus leaned back to look around Bobcat to William, “Enough to go for a full ounce?”


William barked a laugh, “Hell no! You’ve already explained your logic. That wasn’t smart, young padawan gambler.”


“Oh,” Marcus turned back to the window, “yeah, that wasn’t smart of me.  I’ll do better next time, Master William.”


“It is not whether you bet or not bet,” William spoke, his voice old and high pitched, “but how often win you, that matters.”


Bobcat called out, “Merideth?”


“Yes, Bobcat?”


“Reynold’s has the All Guns Blazing defensive measures on, right?”


“Yes, Bobcat.”


“Good,” Bobcat agreed and returned to looking out of the window, “This is going to be a good view, guys.”  He looked around, “I want a fresh beer, wonder if we have time?”


“You have a minimum of fifty-two seconds, Bobcat,” Merideth informed him.


Bobcat’s face lit up, “Shit! I’m going for it!” He took off to the closest stairs and the two guys heard his stomps as he raced down and his voice calling out, “Hold my spot open!”


The two men turned to each other after watching Bobcat’s headlong race out of the viewing deck.


“I’ll go double or nothing that he doesn’t make it back up here in time,” William said.


“No bet,” Marcus chuckled.


“Damn.”



Lance checked the information on Bethany Anne coming in from ArchAngel.  The ambush on her was well planned, it seemed they had done a good job and planned for her calling in backups.


“They had no idea who they were really hitting,” Dan commented.  Lance turned to look at him. Dan nodded to the screen that Lance was viewing, “These people don’t know about the UnknownWorld.  If they did, they wouldn’t have hit her with lots of people and regular weapons. They would have tried a small tactical nuke or something similar.”


Lance turned back to the reports screens, “If you are trying to help me feel better, I’m telling you that you suck at it.”  Lance grumped.


Dan chuckled, “She’s going to be fine,” he sighed. “The world?  I’m not so sure.”


“Why?” Lance asked.


“Because I see here,” Dan stepped up and pointed at some notes, “That Anna was hurt.  Knowing Bethany Anne, she went full Queen Bitch on them.”


The was a moment of silence before Lance nodded, “Right in front of everybody.”


“Yup,” Dan admitted, “Probably not putting that genie back in the bottle.”


Lance shrugged, “She was cracking under the pressure of staying nice all of the time anyway, Dan.”


“You think so?” Lance nodded. “Why?  I haven’t noticed too much,” Dan asked.


“She was withdrawing a little more each week. Each time she had to turn the other cheek, to stay nice or tell her people to stay nice,” Lance informed him.


Dan took a deep breath and let it out slowly, “Yeah, I’m kinda done with that bullshit myself.” He stepped to another console and looked, “How are we doing with the New Mexico effort?”


“One second, I have an update on our inbound,” Lance said as he and Dan watched the hologram, “What are they sending our way?”


“Look’s like metal caskets,” Dan said.


“That’s what they will be,” Lance admitted, the men got a good look at the ship, “Looks like it’s our beloved UFO Group again,” Lance said, disgusted. “Reynolds!”


“Sir?”


“Hole those sonsabitches with a one-pound puck, Missiles.  If they run, then hit them with J-Interceptors at fifteen k distance. If they don’t leave, then scramble two Black Eagles and take them out.”


“You don’t want to capture them?”  Dan asked.


Lance grunted, “They just tried to kill my little girl, Dan.”


Dan turned back to the hologram, “Fuck them up, Dad.”


“J-Intercepts aren’t going to leave two pieces big enough to scratch together to get a spark,” the General said, staring at the hologram.


Dan asked, “What are we going to do about the incoming?”


“Reynolds?” Lance spoke out.


“Yes?”


“Destroy the first fifteen and then let the rest through as close as 100 meters to where they were going before you stop them.”


MJ-12 Ship XJ 03


“That’s correct, base,” Antony said, “All packages leaving the ship and we are about to head back to base.  This part of the operation seems to have gone well.”


Antony listened for a second, “Understood, XJ 03 out.”


Antony felt the one of the last Ejection Modules leave the ship. Seconds later, he felt the last leave. Tyler called him on the comm.


“All gone, boss.  We going to stay or are we going to skedaddle?”


“We are already,” Antony responded, typing in the final coordinates and stabbing the execute button, “leaving.”


The large asteroid started getting smaller when the ship’s alarm started blaring. It was the alarm indicating the ship had suffered a puncture. Antony swore viciously and sealed his suit, “Tyler! What the hell happened?”


Antony shoved the speed into the red, ignoring any additional alarms as the craft shot away from the asteroid.


“Tyler!” Antony called but got nothing.  He felt the alarms getting muffled as loss of atmosphere affected the sound carrying in a vacuum.  Antony unbelted from his chair and raced to the stairs that led below.


Jumping down the stairs three at a time, he dropped to the lower deck and ran half way around the circular hallway to come to the area of the ship where Tyler was working.  Antony peered through the glass into the room, then he slammed the wall next to the door.


“Dammit!”  Antony turned around and slid down the wall, his heart breaking at the sight of his friend’s mangled flesh, his blood splatter all over the walls inside the room.


Antony never even heard the microsecond of warning before two objects slammed through his craft.


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


William and Marcus could hear Bobcat’s footsteps as he came back up the stairs, bottles clinking in his hands.


“Did I miss anything?” He asked the two friends as he passed William a cold beer and Marcus a Coke. It was a condition of Bethany Anne’s they weren’t allowed to serve Pepsi in All Guns blazing.


Pepsi had become a black-market product.


“You have five seconds before contact by objects which…”


“OOOOoohhhhh!” The three men all gaped when massive explosions occurred some distance away.


“Pretty fireworks, but too far away to know where they were going.” William said to the other two.


“Five objects have been permitted to come closer,” Merideth told the men.


Within seconds, the men saw reflections from about five metal objects heading towards the glass viewing deck’s direction.


Bobcat took a swig of his beer then used the bottle to point out the window, “Motherfuckers, didn’t you think we considered this?” He asked no one in particular.


“Fuck me,” William told the two, disgust coloring his voice, “I’m out a quarter ounce of gold.”


Dulce Lake, New Mexico - USA


Patrick slammed his office phone down and spat, “Son of A BITCH!”  He jumped up, grabbed a chair and threw it ten feet to slam against a rock wall.  “FUCK!”  he yelled out.


He had just received word they lost communications with XJ-03.


Patrick looked around and could only see red.  He wanted to grab something and start beating the shit out of anything and everything.


“FUCK!” He screamed, once more. He walked back and put his hands on his desk, his head hung down as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to think about his last talk with Antony and Tyler before they left.


“How did they find them?” He whispered into his empty office.


How?”


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


“All I’m saying,” Marcus chuckled, “Is this is the stupidest idea we’ve come up with yet.”


“Oh shut up and turn around, it’s going to get us drinks for decades,” Bobcat laughed as he turned away from the window and reached for his belt.


Outside QBBS Merideth Reynolds


John Abdullah’s module started beeping and red lights lit up inside. Apparently, something had stopped them from making it all the way to the asteroid, but the small air jets would be able to get them close enough.  The lid opened on his module.


He used his feet to help him pull up and look around. He was amazed at the clarity of view space offered. He had a very tiny rotation. He reached over and hit the two buttons that would stop his rotation


He moved slowly, as they had been taught. Fast movement was not your friend in outer space.


When he was able to bring his visor around to see the asteroid more fully, his eyes opened wide at the sight in front of him.


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


“What are those three up to now?” Dan asked, aloud.


“What three?” Lance asked as he issued commands to those who had been secreted down in New Mexico as he read reports on Bethany Anne’s situation.


“Team BMW, who else?” Dan answered. “Oh, HELL No…” He busted up laughing, “Oh holy shit Lance, you have GOT to see this!”


Outside QBBS Merideth Reynolds


John Abdullah’s face drew in confusion at exactly what he was seeing, but he finally had to admit it was exactly what he thought it was, originally.


He had one black and two white asses pressed against glass aimed at him.


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


“Hahahahahaha”, Bobcat, William and Marcus were trying to catch their breath.


“Lord, I would LOVE to know what those sumbitches are thinking right now,” William said and moved his butt across the glass, “Need a moon to figure out where you are, you fucking duck spunk?” he called over his shoulder towards those outside the huge window.


Marcus finally slowed his laughing, “Oh Einstein, forgive me now but this is fucking funny!”


“That’s it!” Bobcat called out, taking a swig of his beer, “Pull on that chain motherfuckers and win a one way trip to hell…It’s the one with two orbs on top!”


The men, laughing their asses off hadn’t heard the footsteps coming up the stairs.


“What the hell are you three doing?” a woman’s voice cut through their laughter.


All three men, still bent over with their naked asses pushed up against the window looked over to their left. Gabrielle stood there, her mouth agape staring at them.


They were grinning like three little boys.


“Mooning those assholes!” Bobcat answered, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.


Gabrielle took a few steps into the room and peeked around to see the last handful of men trying to get out of their ejection modules.


“Are those terrorists?” She asked, confused.  She looked back and forth between the three men, pants around their feet on the floor and the obviously lousy space walking terrorists outside.


‘Yeah, we think so,” William agreed.  “Merideth said the first fifteen explosions were high-level, sophisticated devices that didn’t need oxygen.”


“So, you three are mooning terrorists?” She asked, seeking confirmation.


“Ah, yeah. Pretty much,” Bobcat agreed still grinning like a kid while he took a swig of his beer.


“Oh,” she replied.


Outside QBBS Merideth Reynolds


John Abdullah’s face drew wrinkled in further annoyance when another white butt was pressed against the window aimed at him and his brothers.


Those playing with them at the moment wouldn’t laugh when they got close enough to explode their bombs!


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


The Defensive Operations Room had filled up with people.  There were screens all over the room, but the main, large screen in the middle wasn’t focused on the enemy.


Merideth had scrambled three small working cams that had been used for outside efforts in the last six months.  Now, the E.I. was using it to take video from behind the Terrorists, who had no idea the little units were there.  The video was aimed at All Guns Blazing.


“Merideth,” Dan called out.


“Yes?”


“Zoom back in on the window,” he told her trying to figure out what the hell…”Oh Lord!” Dan cracked up and others started laughing.



“Kiss it you fucking posers!” Gabrielle called out, “Hey, pass that beer over here!”


Bobcat reached over and grabbed Williams beer, “Hey!” He called out.


Bobcat passed it to Marcus who passed it to Gabrielle, “Gabrielle knows better than to ask for mine!” Bobcat told his friend who shrugged as they continued their mirth.



“I wonder if she knows her ass is being taped for posterity?” Lance asked Dan.


“Well…now, whose fucking ass is that?” Dan called out when a fifth object pressed against the glass.



“Go Bellatrix!” Bobcat called out as the black German Shepherd turned around and pushed her rear against the window.


She chuffed.


“Hell yeah, that’s right!” Gabrielle laughed as Ashur’s mate chuffed additional comments about the men outside.



“This is getting Gottdammed ridiculous,” Lance said, trying not to laugh his ass off, “Oh lord almighty.  Well, five asses for five assholes.  I think we have enough for now. Reynolds!”


“Sir?”


“Tell those clowns to zip up, we are getting rid of the trash…”


 —


Reynolds voice came out of the speakers in the viewing area, “Gentlemen, Lady and Bellatrix, General Reynolds has requested you be informed to zip up and watch.”


“Oh good!” Marcus reached down for his pants, “who the hell is going to clean the glass?”


The five of them turned and the four humans put their clothes back in the right places.


Soon, the five men started struggling frantically as the the gravitic shield pushed them away from the Docks area.  It started off slowly, then sped up to push the men just short of when they would likely pass out.


“Now that,” Marcus commented, “Is terminal velocity.”



Out in space, John Abdullah could only scream in the darkness.












CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


The sirens could be heard getting closer as Bethany Anne walked into the ballroom. The smell of burnt flesh still pungent from the two terrorists she had toasted with the balls of energy she hurled at them.


The men and women in the room stank of fear.


Anna turned to watch as Bethany Anne came towards them. The ex-President held her up, concerned about her health.


Bethany Anne walked through the doors and people shrank back against the walls. She looked at them as she made her way to the corner where Anna and the ex-President were … feet away from David’s dead body.


“What are you?” One of the women hissed at Bethany Anne.


“A mad as hell, recently shot in the back, pissed off bitch who is going to stick her foot up your butt if you don’t learn how to be polite to someone who just saved your scrawny useless ass,” Bethany Anne told her as she continued to the corner.


Bethany Anne’s concern was evident as she knelt, “How are you, Anna?”


“Alive?” Anna Elizabeth responded, “What happened?”


“C’mon,” she reached under Anna and easily picked her up in her arms and turned towards the entrance to the hall. Looking at the ex-President, “You coming or are you staying with your man here?”


The ex-President stared at David’s body and rolled down his sleeves, “I have no idea what he was up to, Bethany Anne.”


“I know now, but I didn’t suspect when he shot me.  He was mind-tapped by an enemy group who is using some serious badass mental shit.”  Bethany Anne noticed John Grimes, himself a bloody mess striding into the room and the stink of fear ratcheted up higher.


What the fuck was it about John? Bethany Anne wondered, that I fucking have glowing red eyes and damn near horns sticking out of my head, but it’s John that still causes a shit ton of fear when they didn’t see him do anything?


Something to consider some other night.


“John, please take Anna.”  He nodded and gently took Anna from Bethany Anne.


“Hey, I can walk,” Anna argued.


“Shut up, Anna. This is the only time you are going to be touching John close like this or his woman will shoot you a final time, herself.  So, stop trying to be a hero and allow your recently shot-to-shit-self to be carried, alright?”


Anna nodded and put her head on John’s chest.


She was asleep almost immediately.


“So, he was manipulated?” the ex-President asked.


“Yes,” Bethany Anne agreed, “he didn’t know what was going on. He was a pawn in a bigger game.”


“Fuck.” the ex-President said looking around the room. “I won’t leave him here.”


“Well, in for a penny, in for a shit-ton of copper,” Bethany Anne said and bent down and picked David’s body up and pushed it away.


More intake of breath and muttering in other languages occurred when David’s body suddenly disappeared in thin air.


“What the hell?” the ex-President exclaimed.


“He’s in a foreign dimension, he will be fine until I pull him back out.  We need to go,”


>> Bethany Anne, your Executive Pod is waiting outside.<<


“Ok guys, ride’s here, let’s go,” she started walking towards the exit when one of the men called out from the other corner that she couldn’t just leave.


Bethany Anne flipped him off, “Stop us, bitch!”


They almost made it to the front of the Hotel when she spoke over her shoulder, “We have the Directorate of Special Units and other people congregating outside.  Stay here until I explain the situation to them.”


The two men halted as Bethany Anne continued walking towards the front doors.


“How does she expect to explain all this ...” the ex-President asked as he looked around, “death and destruction?” He turned towards John, “And can she really get David’s body back.  I’m not sure what the hell is real anymore.”


“Yes to your second question, she can get him back. I imagine she isn’t so much going to explain what happened as explain what will happen,” John answered.


“What’s going to happen?” the ex-President asked, half-listening.


“She is going to tell anyone outside we are leaving,” John told him.


“They aren’t going to want to hear that,” he replied.


“She doesn’t really give a shit what they want at the moment,” John told him.



Three different FN SCARS were pulled up to shoulders and aimed at her when Bethany Anne exited the hotel.  Lights had been set up, illuminating the area. She used the moment the cops needed, to confirm she wasn’t an enemy, to check out the carnage John had wrought.


Damn, he’d been busy out here. She made a face and stepped over a particularly large puddle of blood and felt her feet almost adhere to the ground due to the sticky blood she already had on the bottom of her feet.


Gott verdammt, this was nasty shit.


“Get on the ground!” A voice, using a megaphone, called out.


Bethany Anne looked up, shock evident on her face, “Are you fucking crazy?”


“I said…” the megaphone speaking man came back.


“I heard what you said, you sick fuck!” She retorted, “Does anywhere,” she pointed around her, “look like a place you want to stick hands or, god-forbid, your face near?”


“Who are you?” the voice called back after a moment of reflection.


“I’m the one who needs to put my shoes back on so when I kick your ass, you know it!” She replied as she stepped over another couple of bodies, “Oh, that’s just fucking gross,” she made a face. “Any of you people, who are presently aiming your guns at little ole me, going to come lay down your jacket so my feet don’t have to walk on this shit?”


Bethany Anne listened to the heated whispering coming from the vehicles setup behind the lights.


“Sir!” one male was talking, “That’s the TQB CEO.”


An older voice replied, “The one up in outer space?”


“Yes.”


“What is she doing here?” the person in charge hissed back.


“She,” Bethany Anne pointed to herself interrupting the hastily whispered conversation, “is trying to warn you that you need to move your asses, or you are going to have a very bad hair day in about half a minute.”


“Why?” the person in charge called back.


“Because thirty seconds is the maximum amount of patience I have left!”  She explained, “If I wasn’t trying to not flush the good cops down the toilet with these,” she pointed around her, “terrorist assholes, I’d already have …” Bethany Anne flashed sideways, using her Etheric enhanced speed to pivot, run outside of the lights and up the side of the courtyard behind the cops and stopped right behind the man with the megaphone. She hissed into his ear, shock written on his face, “kicked your ass!”



“Yes, I’m leaving of my own free will,” the ex-President told the lead police officer a fourth time, “and if you don’t get out of my way, my ride is going to leave without me.” he told the man.


Frustrated, but not seeing how the previous President of the United States could be under the mind control of the accused mutant or demon possessed CEO of TQB, he nodded his head and waved to his men to let the ex-President join the TQB people already in their Pod. The ex-President walked over, stepped into the Pod and within seconds, it was disappearing into the night sky.


The cop looked around, how the hell was he going to explain this?



Bethany Anne handed the ex-President some wipes, “If you have anything you need to clean?”  He looked over and did a double take.


She was clean and had fresh clothes on.


He turned around, saw John in the seat behind them, but noticed Anna was missing. “What happened?  Is Anna in the same location as David’s body?” He turned back to Bethany Anne, “Is Anna alive?”


“Yes,” she answered, “Anna is alive and fine. I took her up to the ArchAngel for further treatment. I took a fast shower and changed clothes because, ugh.”  She looked out the window for a second, “Sticky bloody clothes are the worst.”  She turned back to him, “So… questions?”


The moment drew out, he seemed to be weighing which question should go first before finally, squaring his shoulders he asked, “Did you know David was under mind control when you killed him?”


She returned his stare, “No … not until the pain of his death released the mental control on him.”  Her shoulders slumped, “Perhaps if I had paused to consider he was acting out of character, I might have been able to figure it out. But …”


“But,” John interrupted from behind her, “Bethany Anne has a catastrophically bad reaction when she’s shot in the back.”


Bethany Anne turned to say something to John, but he put up a hand, “It all goes back to Petre’, Bethany Anne.  No one can survive an experience like that and not have changes to them.  If you get shot or hurt somehow from behind, you immediately go into a protective mode which usually means you immediately attempt to remove the threat.”


“You’ve been shot in the back before?” the ex-President asked, “I feel like I’ve fallen into the twilight zone.”


John started counting on his fingers, “She’s been shot, stabbed, burned, shot some more, cut with swords and other sharp instruments including claws and fangs,” he paused a second.


“Not helping, John.” Bethany Anne told him.


The ex-President asked, “Why didn’t David’s bullet’s blow you away?  I just noticed a couple of shoulder wounds and that’s all.”


“Bethany Anne doesn’t go anywhere without back protection, now. She’s wearing a specially designed flexible metal shield that is about an eighth of an inch thick,” John supplied.


“How did you keep it on?”  he asked, curious how this woman kept protection on her when he would have sworn she didn’t have a vest on underneath that white blouse.


“Sticky glue,” she answered, “the protection goes on in sections so I can move around easily. Then, once the sections are on if I need to look presentable, a skin colored cover is placed on my back as well.”


“Oh,” was all he replied.


“No, there isn’t anything up front,” she told him, “I worry about my back getting shot.  If someone is in front of me, I can deal with that.”


John leaned toward the ex-President and whispered, “And she hates how the protection hurts the precious pair.”


“John Grimes!” Bethany Anne’s voice was half embarrassed, half exasperated, “This is the ex-President of the United Fucking States!”  She pointed a finger at him, “You have been around Tabitha way too damned much.”


“I haven’t seen Tabitha in weeks,” he protested.


“Which, obviously, was still too recently,” she told him before pulling her finger down and addressing the ex-President, “We are going to be at your house in a few minutes. This gets you there before anyone can react to the situation and you can decide what you want to do.”


The rest of the trip was silent, with everyone in quiet contemplation until Bethany Anne received a call from her father.



Two men stepped out of the black Audi A-6 with license plate A-216.  The lead officer walked over. One of the gentleman looked around at carnage, “I’ll be back.”


Finn Jacobs closed his door and waited for the Special Directorate contact headed in his direction.


Those that knew license plates numbers, knew he was from the government.


Finn held out his hand, “Eden, right?”


The office nodded, “Yes, good to meet you Mr. Jacobs.”


“Call me Finn,” he told the officer and looked around. “Looks like we have a huge mess here.”


Eden looked at what he was seeing, “We do.  We also have at least ten rooftops with more bodies and we suspect at least a couple of more.”


“Rooftops?” Finn asked.


“Yes, the terrorists used shoulder mounted SAM’s to attack TQB ships.”


“I didn’t hear about that.” Finn rubbed his face, “Sorry, too early in the morning and no coffee, yet.”


“You really don’t want to eat anything right now, sir.”  Eden told him.


“Who did we lose inside?”


“Predominantly guards, two innocent hotel attendees and at least four of the hotel employees.”


“How about the special guests inside?”


“You knew about this meeting?” Eden asked.


“Not until I woke up this morning,” Finn admitted. “I got an update from my partner who is out looking around.”


“Someone I should know about?” Eden asked.


Finn shrugged, “It could become a problem to know more about him, but I’ll leave that in your hands to decide.”


Eden shrugged it off.  If he needed to know, he’d asked him.  He nodded towards the hotel, “So far, none of the VIP’s inside, but one, are dead.  That death was VIP on VIP violence.”


Finn’s eyebrow raised.


“Seems, for whatever reason, the ex-President of the United States’ security put three or four rounds into the back of TQB’s CEO.  The negotiator for TQB jumps him, he puts two rounds into her and she drops to the ground, then TQB’s CEO becomes some sort of demon and punches through his chest and kills him.  She forces blood into her negotiator’s mouth and terrorists start shooting as they come in from a broken window.  Her security is busy at this time shooting the shit out of…well,” he points to the dead in the courtyard, “All these shitheads. The ex-President takes over guarding the negotiator who is apparently reviving and our demon CEO starts walking towards those terrorists trying to get in through the window.”


“Did you say three or four rounds in the back?” Finn asked, “I’m just trying to figure out how she stood up.”


“The bleeding she shows didn’t come from her back, so the thinking is she had some sort of super high-tech bullet proof vest or something on under her clothes.”


“She bleeds?” Finn asked.


Eden looked at him and spoke slowly, “Yes, and apparently it makes her angry.”


“I think I would be fuck-all angry if someone shot me in the back.  Especially if they were supposed to be protecting me.”


“Not this kind of angry,” Eden told him.


“Ok, surprise me.  What kind of angry?”


“The brilliant red eyes kind that creates glowing red balls of energy she throws into two of the terrorists. Energy Balls that somehow burn the shit out of them.  Killing them and burning their eyes completely white.”


“Ok, I’m surprised,” Finn thought about it, “What kind of technology does she have that she can create red balls of energy, and where did the energy come from?”  he wondered.  “Ok, so they took the body of the guy she killed, right?”  Finn asked, “I mean, we didn’t get lucky and she left us that guy?”


“Uh, well… the guy is gone,” Eden equivocated. “But no, they didn’t take the body with them. Eyewitnesses inside say she did something and the body just disappeared.”


Finn looked up into the night, this project was getting more and more frustrating. Finally, he looked back down at Eden, “Video?”


“Well, that’s where we got lucky,” Eden answered.



Paula hid in the shadows, just a mile from the ambush that had gone so terribly wrong.


What the hell was that woman?


Her feed from the hotel video had allowed her to see the beautiful opening salvo in the operation.  The freedom fighters had done an amazing job of surprising the gate guards.  No hesitation to kill, just focused on getting inside and it looked like the quantity of extra fighters Abdullah had brought to this little party in TQB’s honor was going to be a wise move.


It was supposed to be Bethany Anne’s final going away present from Majestic 12. Apparently, all of Paula’s efforts to learn about Bethany Anne’s security had missed a few very important abilities.


Like being fucking bulletproof and throwing around balls of burning energy like some sort of comic-book hero.


Paula successfully resisted the desire to throw her phone.


Paula was in the basement of an old empty hotel. She chewed on the inside of her mouth, deciding what she needed to do next when she got a call on her private line.


One from the home office, so to speak.


She picked up that phone and put it to her ear, “Yes?”  She listened to Patrick’s monotone recitation of events in outer space.  Her shoulders drooped, her eye’s closed and she replied, “I got it.  We lost Antony and Tyler.  No, the mission here was a bust.  I’m sending you an info burst in a few minutes.  Then, I’ve got to get out of here.  I don’t want to be caught in a dragnet.  What? No.  No, let me find my own way back to base.  I need some time to process everything.”


Paula grabbed the little wireless mouse she was using for her computer and started flipping it end over end as she listened to Patrick talk.


“No, I don’t know what happened to any of the men here.  Yes, I implanted the dead man’s signal in Abdullah per our operations and tactics rules.  Me, you, I don’t care.  Here, hold on.”


Paula stopped flipping her mouse over and set it back on the little pad.  She wiggled it until she could find the mouse pointer and used it to move to another window screen.  Clicking on a text box, she typed in a code and clicked ‘send’.”


She went back to her call, “Ok, Abdullah, if he was alive, is now brain dead.  So, he’s the last complication from the operation here.”


“Yeah, I’ll miss them too.  Yeah, we will fuck them up, that’s for damn sure.”  She listened for another few moments, “Ok, I’ll be back within seventy-two hours.  Bye.”


Paula hung up the phone and put it down. Reaching for the little mouse and then, as the first tear dropped down her face she turned and threw it against the far wall, “FUUUUCK!”


She put her head down on the little table which held her laptop, her shoulders heaving as the tears soaked the floor beneath her.


She wasn’t sure how long she had been crying when her early warning alarms started beeping.  She jerked up, noticing the movement alarms in the alley on the south side of the building.  “Dammit!”



The wolf, a female, was following the scent she picked up that had been with a group of the men from earlier.  Whenever one tried to figure out the truth, her love had told her that if something didn’t belong, that was usually the string to pull to get an answer.


Since Stephen was so old, Jennifer gave him the benefit of the doubt as to whether it was true, or not.


Age was supposed to bring wisdom. He certainly had the age, Jennifer just hoped it equaled wisdom.


Behind her, five men in tactical gear glided through the night. The scent went into a building.  She waited for the men to come and open the door for her.


Door opened, she looked around for traps and sniffed to see if she could detect any explosives.


Clean.


She padded into the foyer of the empty building.


Jennifer followed the trail to the door which led down.  Being careful, she and the five men opened the door and checked out the landing before slowly descending. The main lead released multiple three inch drones which checked down the staircase before giving off a beep the five men could hear in their implants.


Two minutes later, the team broke into the bottom basement, only to find no one was inside.


Jennifer changed back to human right next to a wall, disgust evident in her voice, “The bitch went through here some how.” The team tried to figure out how to open the hidden door. Three minutes later, they got the call to return to the ArchAngel.


Two miles away, Paula came up out of the exit hole, checking over her shoulder, alarm in her eyes as she remembered the size of the wolf the team chasing her had with them.


Who the hell brings a wolf to find someone?












CHAPTER NINETEEN


Etheric


Bethany Anne stood with John beside her holding a body bag, both had their heads down.


“I’ve made a mistake, and for that, David Dennison, I am sorry,” Bethany Anne spoke, the body laying between them. “Perhaps if I opened my mind I could have figured out something was wrong, but I reacted in pain, in frustration.  I allowed my anger to be unleashed…”


“Boss, you can’t,” John started but stopped when Bethany Anne put up a hand.


“I understand, John,” she told him, “But David needs to know I don’t blame him.  He was a pawn, in between two powerful forces he couldn’t understand.  Perhaps ... just perhaps, I’ll figure out a way to slow down enough to find a better solution next time.” She stood a moment, saying a final prayer for another person, caught up in the politics of power. She wiped away a small tear and nodded.


“John, would you help me with the body?” She asked and reached out for the bag he was holding.


Dulce Lake Area, New Mexico - USA


Ztopic was waiting for the two humans, curiosity abating his normal desire to play with their emotions. In the history of his time with these two leaders, they had never requested an unscheduled meeting.


Something must have substantially affected them.


While annoyed, he was in the middle of reviewing the tests in section four with the human-n’thyruuk mutations, this interaction with the humans might bring something new to his existence as he plotted to find the right mutation to compete in the great wars.


Moments later, he received the mental update that the two humans were outside. Ztopic stood up.


He preferred to start all of his discussions from the advantage of height.  Humans seemed to defer to those taller than themselves.  Perhaps it was similar to the reactions in canines?  He wasn’t sure, he would need to isolate the DNA code for that section and study it.


The door opened, allowing both Patrick Brown and Dr. Eva Hocks into the room.


The two stopped and bowed slightly to Ztopik, who paused, then bowed back.


Patrick spoke first. “We appreciate you interrupting your research to hear us, Ambassador Ztopik.”


Even more curious, he thought, rarely was Overseer Patrick this formal. He nodded his understanding so Patrick would continue.


“We have had setbacks and believe there might be an effort to locate this base, and if successful, to attack it.”


“By who?  The US Government?” Ztopik asked.


“No, by TQB,” Eva blurted out.


Ztopik turned towards the human woman, “TQB again? I thought they were a technology challenge, not a warlike group.”


“We…ahh…we might have been a little more mistaken on that,” Patrick answered, licking his lips.


Ztopik’s unblinking stare returned to Patrick, “Overseer Patrick, was this an intellectual mistake, or perhaps inadequate information shared on your part?”


“Patrick!” Eva hissed, “Now is not the time to play word games.”


Patrick’s mouth pressed together before he spoke, “Ztopik, TQB has superior technology, and our many efforts to acquire their technology have failed.”


“How could a group with Earth’s technology protect themselves from Majestic 12?” Ztopik asked, “I seek clarity here if you are asking me to help.”


Eva shot Patrick a dark look and provided more information, “Ztopik, their people have stopped an ambush that would have killed a normal human.  Paula used a large group of armed men to attack and not only did they fail, TQB’s people killed a lot of them in the process.”


Patrick, feeling Eva’s concern, finally broke through his hesitancy. “They’ve found and destroyed XJ-03 in outer space and on multiple occasions tracked our ships coming closer and closer to locating this base.”


Ztopik’s long, sinewy arm went up held a hand out to Eva, causing her to stop what she was about to say. “Overseer Patrick, this group is in outer space?”  Patrick nodded, “How long have they had this capability?”


Patrick’s eyes closed.


He opened them, resignation that his previous efforts to hide TQB from Ztopik was a mistake, “Years.”


“What was XJ-03 attacking?” Ztopik asked.


“A battle station.  TQB has built a battle station in an Asteroid,” he admitted.


“A battle station?  They have built something for war?” Ztopik asked.


“Actually, a lot of somethings!” Eva hissed, more concerned about TQB coming to their base than the fear she felt for Ztopik.


Ztopik ignored the woman’s outburst.


Patrick agreed, “Yes, it is for war. I have documents which suggest they are heading for a different solar system to fight another alien group.”


“The name.” Ztopik asked.


“Bethany Anne,” Patrick answered.


“That does not sound like an alien’s name,” Ztopik responded.


“Yollins,” Patrick corrected.


“Yollins?”  Ztopik thought for a second, “Yes, I know of this group.  Powerful, but not very creative in their martial efforts. They seek to expand their systems by subjugating the local intelligent species as slave labor and returning the raw materials necessary for their own species to manage and expand.”  He didn’t say anything for a few moments and Patrick and Eve looked at each other.


“I am thinking,” he told the two, interrupting their failure at mind communication, “if your TQB group is geared up to fight the Yollins, then they must have found and overcome a Yollin research vessel.  Otherwise, the Yollins would have either left the system and reported that this was a poor choice for subjugation.”


Ztopik looked to both humans spending a moment or two for each. “Unlikely.”


Then, he looked up into the ceiling as if weighing different possibilities. “Or, the Yollins would have been back in force and nothing we would have built to date would have been enough against a mass assault.”  Ztopik was annoyed.


His enjoyment of the research into the easily mutable human, DNA crossed with so many different species, had allowed him to become complacent.  He didn’t fear anything from this planet, but a concerted effort by a large enough space going competitor would mean that all of his work to date would be in vain.  He hadn’t left his world and hidden on this horrible little planet to stay in the background.


The Kurtherians played the great game, and Ztopik wished to prove himself against the masters of DNA manipulation and species on species war.


“The Yollin’s abilities would explain how they built in an asteroid and some of their war capabilities. The problem, I believe, is their ignorance.  They need more than a battle station to save this planet from subjugation.  With Yollins, you either hide your abilities so their research vessel leaves ...”  He paused a second, “that option is not available. Or you create a suitably strong enough military to cause the Yollins to consider you too much difficulty to battle.”


There was another pause as Ztopik’s head swayed back and forth on his thin neck. “Then you continue to build your military and try to stay ahead of them.”


Patrick’s tablet beeped, “My Apologies, I’m expecting a video from Paula to share,” he pulled out his handheld and looked at the private message., “Well, shit.”


Ztopik held out his long, white arm and Patrick handed the tablet to him. He touched a couple of buttons and then both could hear the video’s audio play a second time.  He pointed to the tablet, “Who is this female?”


“That,” Patrick admitted, “Is the CEO of TQB.”


Ztopik viewed the video a third time.  He stopped before playing a fourth because the value of seeking new information was offset by a rather unfamiliar emotion for him to feel since he had come to this world.


Heavy concern.




Secret Meeting, UN Building, New York - USA


Ambassadors Zhou, Emeka and Franklin waited for a fourth to join them as they sipped coffee in the private room.


All three had used what technology they had to confirm this room bug free and all had left their electronics outside.


Ambassador Zhou started, “While we wait for our fourth party, have you read the eyewitness accounts?”


Ambassador Emeka nodded, “If true, then she is a demon and we must do something to protect Earth from her and her kind.”


“Do we believe them, though?” Ambassador Franklin asked. “We have no video to prove any of this.”


“What good would video be?” Zhou countered, “it is too easy to doctor video and you end up having to trust the people providing the information as to the veracity of the information. No, we are trusting those who have been under great duress, and the evidence acquired by the police after the attack.”


“What do we know, for sure?” Emeka asked Zhou.


“We know that two terrorists were indeed killed by an unknown weapon of devastating power. It burnt their flesh and fried their nervous systems.  Either one of these two effects would have killed those men. Well, and the kinetic punch that slammed their bodies against the wall behind them. That probably would have killed them due to internal bleeding.”


“What weapon does she posses which can accomplish this?” Franklin murmured, more to himself, wondering what TQB must have built.


“Unknown,” Zhou answered the question anyway. “But more intriguing, she was shot and not killed. Multiple gunshots to her back and witnesses suggest they saw at least two wounds in the front of her shirt.”


“She can’t be killed?” Emeka scoffed.


Zhou shrugged, “We believe she can be killed.  But, is that the best solution?”  He asked.


“I can’t think of a better solution at this moment, Zhou.  Why would we leave such a danger to challenge the World’s will?”


“Who said we would leave that danger walking free?” Zhou replied, “She obviously has physical abilities which we can harness to help mankind learn to survive such physical harm.” He looked to the two men. “She professes desire to help mankind?  How about she provides the secret to eternal youth and physical health she is withholding from us?”


“That is not something she is going to willingly provide us,” Emeka scoffed.


There was a soft knock on the door.  Ambassador Zhou got up from his chair and leaned over to Emeka and Franklin and whispered, “Who said we planned on asking for her permission?”


Zhou opened the door and welcomed in a fourth to this meeting in the super early hours of the morning.  Once he made sure the hallway was empty, Zhou closed the door.


Emeka’s eyes opened in surprise. Franklin looked over to him and both had the same thought.


Why was the Ambassador of the United States joining them?


Outside Chicago, Illinois - USA


“Honey,” the ex-President’s wife joined him in his study.  Dawn was creeping up over the trees and soon, the new day would begin.


But, would it?


Who do you trust, those who are like you, or those whose actions match yours?


He turned towards her as she walked around his desk to stand next to his chair, “Yes, sweetheart?”


She reached down and pulled him closer, “I’m thankful you came back to us.” A teardrop moistened his forehead, and then her fingers as she wiped it off of him.  “I can’t believe David is dead,” she whispered and he felt her hug tighten.


He rested his head on her chest and looked out the window to the dark trees, nothing but outlines and darkness.


No answers, just like the questions going through his head at the moment.


He hadn’t received one call from the White House directly. He had received messages, but not one personal connection. He thought as his eyes looked through the glass. Thinking about the options as he watched a helicopter pass by in the distance once more.  He was being watched and they could say all they wanted, he knew they weren’t protecting him from Bethany Anne.


No, they wanted to catch her coming back and jail her. Then, they would figure out how to keep her legally.


He didn’t bother telling them not to try. This wasn’t his operation and he had been trying for three years to explain that change didn’t come about by creating a military state where might makes right. Especially not when the one with the most might wasn’t you.


He sighed. They had picked up David’s body two hours before and now his secret service attachment was itching to have a conversation with TQB. If David shot her, then it was warranted.


It was a no win situation and it happened because he asked Bethany Anne one more time to try communication.  A request originating from the White House, and then an ambush happened. He let that percolate around in his mind. At this point, he wasn’t willing to ignore any possibilities.


“Did he deserve to die?” his wife asked.


He focused and realized she had asked the question more than once. “For his actions, yes.” He answered her. “But, he didn’t do it of his own free will,” he told her, quietly, “he had been brainwashed by another group.  Bethany Anne didn’t know this until David had shot her. Then he shot Anna Elizabeth when she tried to stop him from shooting Bethany Anne again while she was down.”


“Oh no, did he kill her?”


“Almost, she would have died if not for Bethany Anne.  Hell, we all would have died if not for Bethany Anne.”


“Don’t you mean you all would have died because of her?” she asked him.


“What, because they attacked us because she was there?” he replied.


“Yes.”


“Honey, I was the one who talked her into attending.  Are you suggesting I killed David?”


“No!” He felt her clench her hand into a fist and tapped it on his shoulder.  “Dammit!  Stop being so civil.”


“You want this to be her fault, why?” He asked.


“Because I can’t change the Government!” She told him, “I’ve been in those halls. I’ve been around those people. If this isn’t her fault, then what?”


His eyes drew together and he realized he was ignoring the smaller picture.  There comes a time in every man’s life when the clarity of the situation becomes stark and unyielding.


This wasn’t about the world, or the United States or the people in the United States. He had given eight years of his life working to make his country the best he could. He had spent another three years trying to mitigate the friction between the present administration and TQB. Now he needed to protect his family and be on the right side of this conflict. A war between what the government and TQB.


Unfortunately, he wasn’t going to be allowed to sit out this fight. He looked up to his wife, “You know I love you, right?”


She smiled down at him and placed a hand on his face, “You’ve got that look in your eyes.” She searched him, seeking insight into what he was thinking. “I’m not going to be happy with this, am I?”


“I’ll accept the punishment as I have to.“ The ex-President stood up. “Wake the girls, I’ve got a call to make.”












CHAPTER TWENTY


ArchAngel Orbiting outside L2


The room was holding fifty humans and six Yollins.


General Lance Reynolds looked over his people and nodded to Dan, “You guys ready for this?”


Dan smiled, “Lance, can’t wait to get back into the field again.”


“Shit!” Peter called out from the first row, “You know Bethany Anne’s coming, right?”  There were a few chuckles in the group.


Kiel leaned forward from his position behind Peter and tapped him on the shoulder.  Trying to be quiet, but failing miserably, he asked Peter in his clicks and twirls before the translation kicked in, “Why is the fact that Bethany Anne is participating something to laugh at?” The Yollin looked around and realized everyone was listening to him.  He articulated his shoulders as he had picked up from watching the humans over the last three years. “I’m sorry, but I am curious.”


“I think I understand your confusion, Kiel.” Lance answered.  “Captain Kael-ven T’chmon and Dan here are going to be in the back, commanding through your people and directing communications and tactics as we clear out the base.  You are wondering what does it matter that Bethany Anne would be in the back?”


Kiel turned towards the front. “Yes, General Reynolds, that is the core of my question.”


“Oh,” Peter replied finally understanding the Yollin’s question. “I’m sorry, Kiel.  I forgot that you and your people haven’t been on an operation with Bethany Anne and the Bitches yet.”


“Yeah, sometime I’ll have to give you the play by play of the Downtown operation after the Everglades operation,” Dan interjected, “You would have a better understanding with that information.”


“Or the Chinese base operation,” another voice called out from behind Kiel and the alien turned to see who spoke up.


Dan’s voice caused Kiel to turn back around, “or the ambush by David that time in the mountains.”


“What they are all mentioning, without really telling you Kiel,” Lance broke into those flinging out battle stories, “is that Bethany Anne will be on the Tip of the Spear, as we call it.  She won’t be in the back.”


“That is the place for those of us who are trained,” Kiel answered.


Lance didn’t take it as condemnation, so much as ignorance. “Kiel, how long have you studied the martial arts, since how old?”


“Since I was young, when I first left my parent’s home I went straight into the military.”


“Right. You know I’m Bethany Anne’s father, right?”  Lance wanted to make sure Kiel understood.


“Yes,” he nodded.


“Bethany Anne has been training to fight since she went into school. She was going to competitive fights and kicking ass when other girls were starting to figure out they liked boys. She has been a warrior in training for almost her whole life.  You can’t tell her not to be in the front of the group. There isn’t anyone here faster, stronger or more deadly than Bethany Anne. If she believes she needs to be in a fight?  She will be in it.”


Dan spoke up, “Captain Kael-ven T’chmon and myself will fight as called on, but our role is to get down there and run the operation so you and your warriors are most effective. What Peter alluded to is if we don’t get our fight in first, we might be considered the mop up crew.”


Kiel thought for a moment, “So, going into battle with Bethany Anne is a race?”


“Ahhh,” Dan thought about it for a second. “Not so much a race, as an opportunity to be a part of one of the deadliest tactical teams in existence.”


“But, isn’t that a bit premature?” Kiel asked, “Don’t get me wrong, but you have fought only humans.”


“And the ass kickings your people receive when fighting us?” Peter asked.


“We are not in our mech suits during those fights,” Kiel argued.


Lance snorted, “Neither is Bethany Anne.”


ArchAngel - Queen’s Bitches Armory


Jean Dukes and John Grimes each held one side of the black foot locker.  It was thirty inches front to back, four feet left to right and another three feet deep.


It weighed close to four hundred pounds.


Jean had worked for the last year with her team on the Queen’s latest suit. It was, in Jean’s humble opinion, the best one yet. Almost sixty percent more durable, and fifteen percent lighter, and still held the beautiful deep red.


The color of blood, the color of life.


Together they carried the footlocker into the Bitch’s Ready Room and with a loud BANG, they dropped it on the floor.


“Fucking shit!” Scott yelled, turned around, his hand on his heart, “Why the fuck did you two have to go and do that?” he looked down at the footlocker, up to them and down again.


“That” John pointed to him, “shows you have poor situational awareness.”


Scott flipped him off.


“No,” Scott retorted, “it shows I placed my trust in my teammates not to play asinine pranks that could cause me to go into shock!” He nodded at the box, “This the new set?”


“Yeah,” Jean replied as she placed her hand on the lock. The system lights around the rectangle accepting her hand print for verification, blinked twice red, then twice blue and a solid ‘chunk’ sound occurred. Jean grabbed the top handle and lifted.


Inside were the pieces for Bethany Anne’s arms and part of her back. Lower levels in the footlocker provided the rest of her equipment.


Scott walked over and looked over the top of the open footlocker, “Sweet.”  Jean picked up one of the lower arm pieces and handed it to him, “Damn, this is light.” He said as he looked at the armor. He paid attention to the little automated mini-connections that would pull each piece together into a seamless suit.  After admiring the work, he looked up to Jean, “How much stronger?”


“Sixty-percent,” she replied.


“Damn, that’s an improvement over two dot oh,” he agreed.  “Guess Tony Stark doesn’t have anything on you, huh Ms. Dukes?”


“Hell no. That pansy has nothing on me,” she put out a hand and Scott gave her back the arm piece. “Except maybe intellect, money and a seriously fucked up medical problem with his heart.”


Scott looked to John, “We still rocking version two point ohs?”


John shook his head, “No, we also have a three point oh’s.  They are stronger than our last set and this time, it has three levels of ablative armor.”


“Fuck Yeah!” Scott grinned and high-fived John, “We are going to ROCK that joint!” Scott did a little pop dance, spun around to end up looking back at John and Jean.


John looked back, “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”


Scott chuckled then shrugged, “John, I can’t even spell ablative, much less confirm what I think it is.”


Jean sighed, “Scott, why don’t you give me your best shot at what it means?”


Scott folded his arms across his chest, then reached up to scratch his neck, “I’m assuming it is some level of hardened plastic material. That you’ve spray painted or used other application methodology which, in turn, protects against lasers and shit by using vaporization, erosion and or maybe chipping at a controlled rate, I suppose.”  He finally stopped scratching his neck to look down at Jean.


Jean’s mouth opened and stayed open.


Scott winked to John, “Don’t mess with the NYPD SWAT department, we just might know what the hell you’re talking about.”


John chuckled until Jean slapped him, “This isn’t bros before hoes, Mr. Grimes!”  She eyed him for a second.


“Sweetie, you should have seen your face.  Flies could have landed inside your mouth,” he told her, not bothering to hide his grin.


“Whatever, you two masculine mental midgets.” She huffed. “Yes, Scott you are correct. The ablative has been added in case we get more lasers like the drones are seeing in the cave systems. We borrowed some of the technology from defense companies and coupled it with Yollin co-polymer…’


“Stop!” Scott put up a hand, “I concede, please don’t start tossing around chemical names or my masculine mental midget mind will explode.” he spread his hands apart starting at his ears, mimicking an explosion.


“Hmmmph,” she responded, “I’ll be nice to you, this time. Otherwise, Cheryl Lynn might come seek me out when you can’t carry on a conversation for more than twenty seconds without needing a reset.”


“Now that you mention it,” Scott started.


“Stop!” This time, it was Jean, “I’ve heard enough from Cheryl Lynn to understand I might not want to know anything past reset.  I promise to not provide chemical makeup of ablative technologies while you promise not to mention anything about what reset entails, deal?”


Scott shrugged, “Deal.”


Jean turned around and Scott winked to John.


Outside Chicago, Illinois - USA


Her worried eyes glanced in his direction, so he smiled and winked to her and the girls. It wasn’t like he was in control at the moment, and if there was any group that might be able to help his family leave his home while under protection, it would be TQB.


He had sent four different messages, set to leave in, he looked at his watch, fifteen minutes. They should give those who knew him his reasons for doing this.  Whether they cared to share the information with the world was another matter.


“Dad, where are we going?” he smiled to his oldest daughter.


“Well, where we end up is a little vague at the moment, but right now, we are going on a trip,” he told her.


She looked at their small suitcases of clothing items their Mom told them to bring, “Dad, I don’t have near enough clothes if we are going to be gone for longer than,” she eyed her suitcase again, “eight hours.”


Girls, indecipherable as teenagers and completely opaque as grown women. Maybe that had more to do with the simplicity of men’s minds compared to most women. Whoever believed that boys and girls are the same should have their heads examined for an inability to recognize truth when she bitch slaps them upside their heads.


The doorbell rang and he stood up, using a hand gesture to tell his wife and daughters to stay put. His steps echoed as he walked down the ceramic tiled hallway from the back to the front door.  He peeked through the eyehole and then went back and did it again.


There was a man in a monk’s outfit on his front stoop.


He opened the door, partway and stuck his head out, “Yes?”


The man lifted his hood off of his head, “I apologize for the outfit, I haven’t had to use it in a long time. My name is Barnabas.” He turned and looked over his shoulder, waving to one of the Secret Service who had nodded his head in their direction. Barnabas turned back to the ex-President, “I have had discussions with all of the security here and the two unmarked sedans a little way down the street. They understand you and the family are sneaking out for a movie, and they are here to make sure no one figures out you are gone.”


Barnabas raised an eyebrow, “So, may I come in?”


The ex-President nodded and opened the door further, stepping aside to let this TQB holy man inside. He never noticed Barnabas releasing a small handful of drones from his hand.



Mark Medlin knocked on the front door of the ex-President’s house. He glanced at his watch and then knocked a little louder.


“I told you, sir. He and his family stepped out for a movie,” Agent Terrence Burrow spoke from behind Agent Medlin.  The agent had arrived two minutes ago upset that the ex-President wasn’t answering calls from Washington.


And neither had his own security team.


Mark turned around, “The ex-President of the United States doesn’t just go out and enjoy a movie with his family!  Not without permission.”  He knocked louder, still didn’t get a response, “Terrence, open this damned door.”  Mark stepped to the side to allow Terrence access.


Terrence shrugged and stepped up, pulling out his keys he flipped through them until he had the one for the front door. He reached forward, unlocked the door and stepped back.


Mark watched him step back and pressed his mouth together.  Stepping forward, he turned the knob, opened the door and stuck his head inside.  “Hello? Anyone home?”  He didn’t hear any noise coming from inside the home.


This couldn’t be good.


Terrence waited outside, refusing Mark’s request to join him.  “It is,” Terrence told Mark, “a free country still, right?”


Two minutes later, Mark came out of the house, slamming the front door behind him and talking on the phone, “I don’t know where the hell they went!  Yes, I got the message they went to the movies, but with who?  They didn’t walk.  How do I know? Because, dipshit ...” Mark kicked a small rock in anger.  It skipped down the driveway, “there are no cars missing!” He finished.


ArchAngel - Operations Meeting Room


Lance called out, “Peter, Todd, a moment, please.”  The two from the Queen’s Guardians waited while most of those who had been in the meeting filed past them and then both walked to the front.


Dan was there with the General.


“Sir?”  Peter asked and Todd nodded.


“You need to make sure your guys know to stay behind those that are armored, Peter.” Lance told him. “Dan can tell you more, but this is likely going to be a tough operation. Your people are a little happy, happy to run ahead of the game. Hold them tight this time, got it?”


Peter and Todd both nodded and both answered at the same time, “Yes, sir!”


Dulce Lake, New Mexico - USA


Patrick Brown stepped out of the unassuming building and looked around.  The main entrance to the facilities below was in an old looking, run down, metal shed of a building with rust coming down the sides off an old highway in some trees.


He had argued for closing it and Ztopik had effectively overruled him.  They were to place a massive amount of explosives and when they saw the first few attackers, they would let them get into the building and fight their way to the large elevator.


Then, the death and mayhem would occur.


Patrick waved to the three guys still installing the explosives and turned around to go inside and back down.


With his recent luck, he would be stuck out here when TQB came calling.


ArchAngel - Medical


Dr. April Keelson walked over to the bed where Anna Elizabeth rested.  She was healed, but it was best to monitor the energy usage for the nanocytes for at least twenty-four to forty-eight hours after an event if it was possible. Plus, she had concerns that Anna would have issues with being shot.


The internal trauma to other organs had been bad. While Bethany Anne’s nanocytes were certainly some of the best, Anna Elizabeth was still in pretty bad shape when she arrived.


“How am I today, doc?” Anna asked, a bored expression on her face.


“Still wanting to get out of here?” April asked and checked the readings.


“Of course, I feel fine.” Anna replied, “All I have to do is sit here and read. I’m rather caught up on my reading at the moment and…”


“And,” Bethany Anne cut in when she startled both ladies.  “you are just as bad at staying still when you believe you are fine as I am.  The problem,” she told Anna, “is you have new medical nanites in you. These nanites are using the pathways in your blood to draw energy from the etheric.  These pathways fail eventually, and then they take energy from your blood before they quit working. That draws your energy for personal use down and could, potentially, do more harm than good. You are out of the worst danger, but if you need energy are you ready to drink a cup of blood?”


Bethany Anne’s blunt question caught Anna by surprise.


“Did you say, drink a cup of blood?” she asked, looking to the doctor to see if she would confirm what Bethany Anne just said.


Unfortunately, she did.


“Yes,” Dr. Keelson agreed, “You will notice the medical drip I have on you.  While the hydration and the nutrients are important, it is there to deliver blood if you need it.”


“Uh,” Anna looked from the doctor’s face to Bethany Anne’s and then back again. “Well, can I get something to do, at least?”


April decided that she would use this explanation the next time someone wanted to leave the medical area earlier than she thought prudent.


“Sure,” Bethany Anne told her, “As one of my new assistants, you have a lot to catch up on. We will talk later.”


Bethany Anne started walking away, then just disappeared.


Anna, mouth open and eyes looking shocked, turned to Dr. Keelson, “Did she just say assistant?”


“As a matter of fact, she did,” April agreed. She reached into her medical coat and pulled a slip of paper to hand to Anna, “She told me to give you this if you woke up and she had already left the ship.”


Anna unfolded the paper and on it, written in blue ink, was a short message signed by Bethany Anne.


I told you some years ago, you work for me, now.  - Bethany Anne












CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE


ArchAngel - Bethany Anne’s Personal Suite


Bethany Anne pursed her lips and considered what her people were about to do.  It would, without a doubt, put them at odds with the United States if the government found out.


Was it worth it?


As far as ADAM and Frank could figure out, this UFO advanced technology group was not known to the government at any level.  Frank had heard rumors back during the Truman administration in 1947. But he hadn’t followed the information too deeply as his own efforts in the UnknownWorld were real, the idea of aliens was laughable.


Well, who was having the last laugh now?


Certainly not Bethany Anne.


If they encountered technology outside of TQB’s abilities, too many of her people would be killed tonight in this raid. But, without knowing the challenges, they couldn’t decide to engage in bombardment on U.S. soil in good conscience.  Plus, with the sheer size of the underground cavern systems there was no way for them, yet, to know where they were.


They found the outside protective details over the last couple of days and their drones could not go any further. Team BMW decided that an organic drone might be advisable, but impossible to create anything quick enough to support them in this operation.


So, the choice was go in by foot or leave the whole thing for another generation to figure out.


Bethany Anne snorted.


That sounded like the political hacks of just about every country down there.  Vote for more taxes and refuse to tackle the hard problems that might get them voted out of office.


“Fucking posers, I won’t shirk the hard decisions,” she muttered as she walked into her closet.  “ArchAngel?”


“Yes?”


“Tell the Bitches to suit up.  Tell my father to drop the ships and remind those on the G’laxix Sphaea that they need to drop off the cache of gear in Europe once they are done with Yuko and Akio.”


Bethany Anne stripped and grabbed her skinsuit. Her armor had most everything she needed on the outside of the suit, even special swords and protective scabbards.


Cancer doesn’t leave the system peacefully.  When you find it, you fight it tooth and nail. The U.S. had a cancer, and it was up to her people to fight it.


She put on the skin booties, then took a step and disappeared.



Bethany Anne stepped out of her receiving chamber, rooms now known as TC’s or teleportation chambers, into the armory. She didn’t teleport, but it became a shorthand for what she did and she had learned to just go with it, the truth was too annoying to beat into everyone’s head.


“Hey, look what the cat dragged in!” Darryl called out as he allowed Eric to snap his chest protection into place.


“I’ll find a cat to pee in your suit and shut the last lock if you keep that up,” she retorted.


“Ooohhh GROSS!” Darryl’s face showed just how distasteful that thought was to him. “Have you smelled cat piss?” Bethany Anne tapped the side of her nose, “Yeah, then you know,” he told her as he shook his head, trying to get rid of the thought.


She nodded and walked over to her foot locker looking down at it, “So, this is it huh?”


“Yes,” came Jean’s muffled voice from behind John.  Bethany Anne leaned over to see Jean on the floor with a few tools messing with something on John’s left knee.


“Problems?” Bethany Anne asked.


“Fucking second shift failed to reset a catch on the last test and we didn’t have any code to catch that failure. I’ve got to reset fifteen of these cherry-assed-twat-muffins before I can reset…the…” there was a loud SNAP and then Bethany Anne saw pins around his knee connection all disconnect, then reconnect and lock in place. “There, that will teach you to fuck with me, you metal mutant,” Jean muttered and started grabbing her tools and stood up.


Jean smiled like she was about to fire off one of her big guns her team had dreamed up. “Alright my Queen, let’s get YOU suited up.”


Bethany Anne snickered. You had to love a person who enjoyed their job and was made for it.  Bethany Anne was pretty sure Jean Dukes’ name was going to be admired on a lot of worlds.


If they weren’t busy cussing her out.


NORAD - USA


The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a United States and Canada bi-national organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. They had been having fits trying to track TQB ships for the past four years.


Now, they had incredibly sensitive tools someone quipped could find a pimple on a bird’s ass.


Like always, they were on alert to see who might spot a TQB incursion.  Since no TQB requested flights were on tonight’s report, it would be a feather in anyone’s cap to be the first to find and confirm an unapproved approach.


Days later, NORAD’s best would be going through all of the recordings from this evening to figure out how they had missed all of the activity.


Because, apparently, TQB hadn’t been trying before to stay off the radar and NORAD had no idea just how good TQB’s new anti-radar ability truly was.


NORAD might be able to spot a pimple on a bird’s ass, but apparently they couldn’t spot over twenty massive shipping container sized ships flying down from outer space toward an area in New Mexico.


At least, not when TQB didn’t want them to.


ArchAngel - 300 Miles above New Mexico


General Lance Reynolds watched the data coming in from the drones and the ships that had landed. There were three landing zones to split up those heading into the caves system. They had figured out the likely main entrance to the base, but Lance told everyone not to focus on trying to attack at that location.  The main entrance would be well defended, or well protected somehow.


That didn’t mean they would ignore the location, on the contrary once the drone confirmed their suspicions they would have a very small group attack up top.


Carefully.


Twenty minutes later, ArchAngel verified Lance’s suspicions. “General, we have confirmation from our drones that there is explosive residue outside of the main entrance.”


“How far outside the front door?” Lance asked as he nodded to a support person to bring up the three dimensional view of the building.


“Up to thirty-three meters, sir,” ArchAngel replied.  An orange line started drawing itself around the hologram as the drones figured out where new dirt had been unearthed. Twice, the drones had sniffed unknown chemicals. The mix was something ArchAngel didn’t have the characteristics for in her database.


“ADAM?” Lance called out.


“Yes sir?” he replied.


“Do you have anything on those two unknown chemicals?” he asked, highlighting the two rows of unknown data.


“One moment, General,” ADAM said.


It was actually almost two minutes later when ADAM came back, “I have spoken with the Yollin Scientist Royleen and he has tentatively identified that chemical makeup as an explosive used for mining operations.  Depending on the quantity, he says to stay a least a hundred meters away from any location with it.”


“A hundred fucking meters?” Lance said, shocked. “Shit.” He saw ADAM draw a circle a hundred meters around both locations directly on opposing sides of the main building. “That would kill everything inside the building and outside as well,” he commented aloud.


Lance looked again and pointed out two areas in the hologram. “I bet you the drones have missed two more locations equidistant from these two locations.  Basically the four poles in a circle,” Lance remarked more to himself, but ArchAngel took it as a command.


“Checking, General,” ArchAngel replied. Less than a minute later, ArchAngel confirmed the additional two locations.


Lance wanted to spit, but there was no where to spit in his operations room. “Dammit. If we go knocking on this front door, it’s going to be blown away.”  He grabbed a cigar and unwrapped it, stuck it in his mouth to chew on, unlit.


“ArchAngel, patch me into Dan.”


Immediately, he had Dan on the comm. “This is Dan.”


Lance got right to the point, “Dan, ArchAngel is downloading data related to new chemical traces we found up near the main entrance. Make sure the drones and other chemical sniffers know it and mark it.  Royleen says to stay a hundred meters away from this shit.”


“Wow, that bad?” Dan asked.


“Yes and more so for you guys underground. He says it looks like mining explosives,” Lance explained.


“Well…fuck.” Dan answered, “Understood and thanks.”


Lance changed channels, “Bethany Anne?”


“Here,” she replied.


“ETA?”  he asked. He had barely finished his request when a holographic digital timer, counting down, appeared in his operations tank.


Two minutes till Midnight.



Captain Kael-ven T’chmon, First of the Yollin Mercenary Group DeathBringers turned when he saw Kiel look up.


He smiled. Bethany Anne’s new dropship design for his people was very nice. It took into account both those in mech suits and those without, such as himself. They were locked into the Etheric Empire’s communication comm suite and if he was honest with himself...


It was frightening.


These humans knew war, and they knew war like a species designed by the gods for it.  If these humans had been, or could be, roped into fighting for one of the Seven Kurtherian Clans?  Well, perhaps he and his people needed to support Bethany Anne.


Because with Kurtherian technology he wasn’t sure he knew of a species that could fight them if their whole world was involved.


It was a problem now.  For his species to survive, did he need to make sure this particular woman was able to defeat his own people?


Kael-ven pushed the concern aside, and focused as the dark crimson painted dropship slowed to a stop.  The ship had her vampire skull design painted on the side and a zero one beside it.


The door opened and Kiel mumbled a particularly impressive set of Yollin expletives.  Bethany Anne jumped off the dropship and her men followed behind her. All of them in their mech suits. The suits relied less on massive motors for speed and power like theirs, but instead used Kurtherian Etheric driven motors that were much smaller allowing for more refined suits.


Kiel turned to his Captain, “I will give up my whole pay for this operation if they will build me a set.”


Captain Kael-ven turned to his military leader, “Are you speaking ahead of yourself?”


Kiel shook his head, “Captain,” he nodded towards the humans, “I’m military, through and through. I need one of those suits.” There were agreements muttered behind Kiel as his people, in their own suits, grumbled.  They went from being the Mighty Yollin Mechanized Unit with advanced suits and abilities to feeling like they received their mech suits from the used spaceship yard on the third moon of Asht’rix.


And everyone knew you didn’t trust anything that came from Asht’rix without checking it out.


Twice.


“Told you,” came a male human voice from behind them.


Captain Kael-ven and his people turned to see Peter and two of his men behind them, “Tonight, you guys,” Peter nodded to the few females in the group, “and ladies, are going to find out what it is like to fight behind the most fucking badass leader in the Galaxy.”


“Aren’t you getting in a suit, Guardian Peter?” Kiel asked.


“Oh, I am,” Peter admitted, “But it isn’t good for me to hold my form just sitting around doing nothing.”


“You are going to change, and then get into a mechanized suit?” Kiel asked, shock plainly evident as his mandibles hung open.


“Kiel,” Peter shook his head, “How the hell do you think I plan on keeping up with my Queen?”  He laughed, “Dude, you are about to go on the operation of your life.  Trust me.”


Peter started undressing and the two guys next to him opened the cases they had with them. “She’s here, so I won’t try to go off the reservation now.” He twisted his neck left and something popped.  He did the same thing going to the right.  Then, his voice went deeper, “It’s time to take the fight to the enemies of my QUEEN!”


Kiel wanted to take a step back as the huge Pricolici suddenly stood in front of him, its eyes piercing yellow in the dim light watching him like prey.


The two men next to Peter quickly started yanking components and fitting the Pricolici standing there impatiently waiting for them to get the suit on him.


Kiel watched as Peter’s men put on the armor.  He turned to his Captain as if to say, “Even he get’s the special armor!”


Peter started growling when another, deeper growl emanated from behind him.  “Peterrr,” Nathan’s voice deep and malevolent in his form, walked into the circle. In his jet black mech-suit with a paw print on his left breast plate he finished his threat, “Sttannnd or I willl make you stanndd.”


Peter stopped his growling as the last three pieces of Armor were locked in place and bent down for them to lock on his helmet.


Bethany Anne, helmet off, walked over to this group with her team and Dan following behind. “Are my Yollin Mercenaries ready?” There was a sparkle of amusement in her eye.


“No,” Captain Kael-ven admitted, “It seems we are having a bit of Mech-Suit envy here and their minds are not on the operation.”


Bethany Anne pursed her lips, “We finish this operation, and depending on how you perform in your suits, we will talk, Captain Kael-ven. Amaze me, and we will upgrade your suits.” She nodded to him and his people and then she and her team continued walking towards the large cave entrance.


Dan stopped next to Captain Kael-Ven as the Yollins followed Bethany Anne and the two Pricolici into the darkness.


Kael-ven looked down at Dan, “Did she just take my people’s heart?” he asked as he noticed his team standing a little straighter, listening perhaps a little more closely.


“Yup,” Dan answered, “welcome to my world, Kael-ven.”



Ztopik had never adjusted to the wake and sleep cycle of these humans. He might spend days awake on his research, only to go to sleep for the same amount of time when done.


His body required approximately a one in five ratio of sleep to wake time. For him, it wasn’t sleep so much as reducing his mental processes significantly to allow the rest it needed.  He would dim the lights and choose a simple problem to consider as he spent the time rejuvenating the energy necessary for his brain to operate efficiently.


Helping the humans with the trap above had been a little challenging.  He hadn’t worked with that type of science in a very long time. Unfortunately, he had to mix the chemicals. If he had tried to use the slaves to accomplish this, there was a good chance it would have destroyed a perfectly useable room within his area inside the base.


Then, he would have had to suffer additional humans in his domain and that was … distasteful.


They always created trouble and the last time some of them worked in level six it required an extermination event for both a quarter of his slaves and another sixty humans.


A waste of good slaves, not to be done again if he could help it.


Now, once this issue with the potential of attack was overcome, he should consider replacing Patrick Brown and Eva Hocks.


Their effectiveness over the last few years had dropped, and this present issue with TQB was a prime example. Patrick’s efforts to hide information that Ztopik needed to continue with his plans could not be allowed to continue.


Ztopik flipped the page over and finished writing his thoughts. A few moments later, he stopped writing and watched as the ink faded, the final information was stored in the secondary crystal and could be reviewed now at any time.


He set down the writing instrument and started walking towards the exit.  A few steps from the door, he heard a beep.


Ztopik turned slowly and his mouth drew together.


There were alarms going off for the lower, not upper, levels.












CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO


Half mile inside Entrance 3 - Dulce Lake, New Mexico


“I’m telling you, I smell something.” Sadhi told Ken as the two of them worked their way left around a large outcropping, the rest of the team behind the two.  The minimal light their hats projected was all that was needed to help the two Wechselbalg see well in the dark.


Ken put up a hand and his group of six stopped. He breathed in deep a couple of times. He didn’t want to stop right now. After the ass chewing he and Sadhi received from Peter for their failure to recognize the Queen, he was really hoping to make a good impression on this operation.


Being cowards, jumping at every little sound or bad feeling wasn’t going to get them to the base ahead of them, either.


He pulled up his tablet and tapped the command to have a drone come to their area and confirm the next hundred yards.


Being dead wasn’t going to get them to the base at all. He gave them a hand signal, and they all took up positions looking out.  Moments later, three of those in the group turned their heads when a tiny little insect went through their group, heading towards the direction of their path.


The seconds seemed to crawl by for Ken, who was belittling his decision when his tablet vibrated. Looking down, the map showing his path updated.  He and his team had been re-routed around their original path and the area ahead of them had been marked off with a skull and crossbones symbol.


He slid the tablet back into this pocket, “Sadhi!”


“Sir?” came back the response.


“You and your golden fucking nose get up front for our new path.  You just saved all of our damned lives.”  He told his friend.  He spoke to the rest of the group. “Let’s keep going, but Sadhi is now focused on smelling out ahead of us.  There are explosives in front of us, people.”



Bethany Anne and her team jumped from location to location going down their entrance. She had decided, over the objections of just about everyone in the group, that she and the Bitches were going first. Dan sent multiple drones out ahead of her team and additional drones beside their group.


There was no way those in the base would be able to miss her arrival and that was her plan.  If they had methods to attack, those in the mech-suits had the best chance to live through it.


“Kiel!” hissed Bo’cha’tien over their personal suit communications, “This woman is crazy!” She laughed as they both jumped over a large pit. Their suit lights allowed for them to see the utterly dark cave as if it was twilight outside.


The two Yollins were the closest to the five humans in front of them.  They were rushing through the cave system like Kolleens on Th’Reek crystals. The two Pricolicis were placed just ahead and to the side of them. They were, apparently, wave number two.


“Yes!” Kiel called back, exultation in his voice, “Peter said we would need to keep up and I thought him telling a small untruth!” Kiel glanced at the path ahead.  Just in front, the cave opened wider and had a much higher roof. He jacked up the power and boosted, easily clearing a seventy-foot section of the path and leap-frogged the two Pricolici who growled their annoyance at his sudden advancement.


Bo’cha’tien laughed and yelled at him, “that is cheating!”


Kiel didn’t call back. Rather he focused on keeping his speed up as they dashed around a corner. He trusted those in front of him to warn him about problems ahead.


Now was time to race!


“Prepare for war, Bo’cha’tien!  For we rush to seize it in our crushing grip and strangle those who will not yield to us!”  Kiel slipped on a rock, his suit bouncing hard off the wall. He straight armed a pillar of rock on his left to get back on track, but now Peter had caught up.


“I tollldd youu, Kieellll!” the sinewy monster next to him laughed, “It is but for us to be warriors and race to do that which we were BORN TO DO!”


Every being in their mechanical suits heard Bethany Anne’s shout of joy as they all rushed through the caves, “Catch up to me, my people, for today we WILL KICK EVERY ASS WE SEE!”



“WHAT THE HELL IS COMING AT US?” Patrick yelled over the video connection in his operation’s room to Ztopik, who had never left his own.


“Your yelling, Lead Operations Patrick, will not support an effective method of leadership,” Ztopik replied tersely. He was watching those getting closer as the system registered their approximate position due to seismic calculations and occasional snippets of video.


The lasers in the system were useless. They barely had time to fire one, maybe two shots before something took them out.


“Get your people to the bottom level, Lead Operations Patrick, or we will have no one protecting us from below,” Ztopik commanded.


“How the hell do they know the caves?” Patrick bitched, keeping himself from yelling in his frustration. “We would have seen any humans or…”


Patrick’s voice dropped off. Ztopik presumed Patrick had figured out a possibility.  For Ztopik, the how didn’t matter at this point.


It just was.


One didn’t argue with reality, not when the proof was coming straight towards them.


“Should we bring back XJ-02?” Patrick asked.


“No,” Ztopik responded,” If we need support above us, they will be there for you.  I doubt this group hasn’t planned for fighting the ships inside the caverns.”


Patrick hated asking Ztopik for help, but he had to admit he had been waging a silent fight with TQB for the past few years.


And his failure was staring him in his face as TQB raced through the cave system coming straight at him.


Ztopik sent out a mental command, “I will provide support, tell your people to not interfere with my Grays.”


Patrick nodded and Ztopik cut the connection.



“We have light ahead.” Bethany Anne told the group, “It’s time to fly, folks.”


Having made their best effort to trip any traps in their path, Bethany Anne and her team slowed to a stop in order to wait for the Pricolici and the Yollins to catch up. When those team members arrived, Bethany Anne spoke to Kiel, “Do you use this same tactic?”


“This leap-frogging?” Kiel asked. “No. Our suits are usually more advanced than those we fight, so we haven’t had to do this.”


“Well, we have an enemy of unknown abilities and another alien, somewhere in there.” Bethany Anne told him, “So, I want it thinking.”


Bo’cha’tien chuckled, “You want it thinking that Yollins are attacking?” The eyes on the Yollin female narrowed. She was liking the thought they would be the first in view.


“Hell yes. So, you will be dropping in first. Start creating a mess and get their attention. When we get enough of their defense showing up, we will leapfrog you and drop in.”


“What do we do at that point?” Kiel asked.


“What we plannn to do allll night,” Peter answered, “Catch UUUp.”


Multiple round disks arrived above all of those in the suits. Each had two bars hanging from the bottoms of the disks.  As each lowered above those standing, they would reach up and grab the bars.  The controls were simple.


Bethany Anne looked around, “Time to earn your money, DeathBringers!”


With a bone vibrating chittering, the six Yollins lifted up into the air and headed towards the large flat area ahead of them.


“Ready Bitches?”  Bethany Anne asked looking around. Then added, “And Nathan.”


His guttural laughter reverberated off the rock walls as another seven bodies, encased in armor, rose into the cavern darkness.



Patrick’s face popped back up on Ztopik’s screen, “What are those, Ztopik?” His voice was half angry, half frustrated because the enemy had now come into the viewing area of their high powered video cameras.


And Patrick had no idea what the large and obviously not human mechanized suits were as they dropped down right outside the landing field.


There was no mistaking the opening conversation with the aliens. They unlimbered guns and started shooting into anything that looked like it was valuable.


They weren’t here to play nice.


“Those,” Ztopik answered, anger flooding his carefully cultured voice, “are Yollins!”


His mind racing, Ztopik could not figure out how Yollins could be, or even would be attacking them. They should have fifty ships up in orbit and delivering an ultimatum.


Patrick spoke commands to another screen and Ztopik could now hear the crack of normal weapons fire from the men Patrick had hastily moved to the lower levels.


“Those guns are not going to accomplish anything against the Yollin,” Ztopik paused his talking, sending commands to his slaves, “My Grays are arriving now, they will even up the fight,” he promised.



The constant pinging of projectile weapons hitting Kiel’s suit was annoying as hell, but the bullets didn’t represent a danger to him or his people. Each time a face, leg, or arm showed itself, half a dozen bolts either blew it apart, or damaged the area it had just been in.


Bo’cha’tien spoke privately, “Why are we hiding?”


“Because our employer told us to, Bo’cha’tien.” he replied.


“Well, I think this is stupid,” she said to him, “it is obvious that these humans have nothing that can hurt us, watch!”


Kiel turned in time to see Bo’cha’tien jump out from behind her protection and start shooting randomly. She drew attention away from Kiel, and the heavy patter patter of the bullets lessened on his armor. His order for her to return behind her protection was lost as she yelled over her loudspeaker.


“Eat Yollin Plasma and DIE MOTHERFUCKERS!”



Sam Bollard was pissed.  Despite its heavier bullet his M14 wasn’t doing shit to these aliens. But, at the moment it was what he had. The alien bastards stayed behind the outcroppings just outside of the flattened landing area and their return fire had already killed three of his people.


Then, one of the aliens jumped out and started blasting heavy bolts of hot shit everywhere. It started chittering over a loudspeaker on its suit.  No one could understand shit, but the last two words at the end.


Greg yelled over to him, “Did that alien just say ‘die motherfuckers’?”


“Yeah!” Sam agreed, “Who the fuck is teaching them English?”



Goowek sent out the command, “Place all debilitation devices on max power.  We are not acquiring specimens. We are commanded to kill these Yollins.”


The five other Grays with him all checked their weapons and set each of the three settings to max.  While they had fewer shots...


They were powerful shots.


The elevator opened and Goowek stepped out.  They emptied into a short hallway that would enter into the landing cave.  He could see two men were using their weapons from the exit outside.  He and his people were not fast, but what they lacked in speed...


They made up in firepower.


He walked calmly towards the opening.



“HAHAHAHAHA…Kiss my Yollin ass you pink hairless bunnies!” Bo’cha’tien yelled, slamming two more shots towards the large rock two of the men were using to hide behind.


Bethany Anne’s voice came over the system, “WE HAVE ALIENS, WE HAVE ALIENS!”


Kiel twisted around to look and saw a short Zeta Reticulan step up into view just inside one of the built entrances.  He was lifting his hand up, aiming.


“Bo’cha’tien lookout!” Kiel told her. He jacked up his power and shoved off the ground. Time seemed to stop as he jumped at Bo’cha’tien’s legs.  He could see a brightness to his left before his visor darkened.



Ztopik watched the view to see what was going on. He watched as the Yollin stood there, accepting the humans weapon fire and playing with the humans. Then, he noticed another jump towards the one in the open.


Ztopik calculated the timing and wondered at the outcome.



 “WE HAVE ALIENS, WE HAVE ALIENS!” came over Bo’cha’tien’s communicator.  She looked around, surprised to hear Bethany Anne’s voice and then saw the Zeta Reticulan.  It was a short Gray, it’s unblinking eye aiming a …


“Oh Shit!”


Sometimes, humans had the best words for any situation.  She had already used motherfucker, and now she had to cross off shit, too.


Her desire to get out and prove herself had finally got her killed.


Fuck her life.


She started turning her gun, because who knew?  Maybe they would miss, maybe they…


SLAM!


Her body violently rocketed to the side, having been smashed into by something from her left.  That’s when her suits alarms all went to yellows and reds.


Before she blacked out, she noticed that her left arm was listed as red with a mark through it.


The drugs hit her system and helped her body not go into total shock.  She had a passing thought as her thoughts dimmed.


“I’ve lost my arm.”



“Move, Bitches.”  The command came from Bethany Anne and she and her team, who had been holding steady up at the top of the cave, out of sight, dropped down quickly holding on to the grav carriers.  Then, twenty feet from the floor they let go.


Seven bodies, encased in the world's most advanced mechanized armor, dropped into the midst of the defenders with Bethany Anne landing just to the side of the hallway opening.


Goowek had been watching to see if he could get another shot at the two Yollins who had disappeared behind the rock on his left.  He didn’t have enough shots to shoot indiscriminately.


He barely had time to register the deep red armored person before his head exploded.


Fractions of a second later, his five team members had also been targeted and killed.


“Kiel!”  Bethany Anne called out.


“Here,” came back his voice over the comm.


“How is Bo’cha’tien?” she asked.  She looked to her left, a man was pulling up a pistol to shoot her. She reached down, and grabbed it out of his hand.  Crumpling it up, she tossed it to the side.  He reached back for the rifle he had been using a moment before and she reached down to her leg, issuing a command, one piece separated. She used the armor sized Wakizashi to cut off the man’s head before she reattached the sword.  “Stupid ass,” she muttered as she walked towards the elevator.


Kiel came back, “She will live, but the weapon disintegrated her whole arm.”


“No shit?” Bethany Anne asked, then turned around and walked back to the first alien. She bent down and picked up the weapon the alien had used.  She pushed it into the Etheric.


Walking back to the five other bodies, she picked up every one of their weapons and pushed them into the Etheric as well. Better to not leave this technology hanging around.


“Folks,” she put out over the radio, “the little gray guys have something that will disintegrate you, so if you see one of those, put them down fast.  Grab the weapon, I want them for R&D.”  She switched to the command channel, “You got that, Dan?”


Dan’s voice came back, “Watch out for the little gray guys, their weapons will atomize you.”


“That’s right.  We have a Yollin down, she’s missing her whole arm,” Bethany Anne told him, “So, let’s get this going but make sure everyone is super careful.”


“John’s going to be particularly happy about this,” Dan quipped.


Bethany Anne thought about it, “You know, that’s not a bad suggestion.”


He agreed, “I know, it’s why you pay me the big bucks, Bethany Anne.”


She watched as her guys took a few moments to check everything out and get their stuff back together. “Ok, bring up the teams, Dan.”


“We have a problem with the group for entrance three,” he told her.


“What problem?”


“Their paths are totally blocked by explosives.  We are pulling them out, putting up a Puck Curtain and moving them around to entrance two at this time, but they will be a couple of minutes behind those who are already in the group.”


“Any change on the Pods flying in here for cover?”


“Nope, we still have something messing up the computers on the Pods, until that stops, we continue to be stuck.”


Bethany Anne turned and looked at the elevator, “It’s like the damned scene in Star Wars where we have to turn off the tractor beam,” she huffed.  “Ok, keep them coming, we have to deal with this elevator.”


“Good luck,” Dan told her and closed the connection.


Bethany Anne looked to her guys, “Who's feeling lucky?”


All of the guys started looking back and forth at each other as Kiel came walking up along the side of the group. Now, she had seven males from two species looking back at her.


“Ok, anyone who wants to volunteer, take a step forward,” she told the group.


Six sets of feet shuffled one step backwards.


Kiel turned and looked behind him to the guys all smiling. He turned back around to see Bethany Anne smiling at him as well.


Except, her smile seemed just a touch malicious.


Kiel looked down at his feet, and then everyone else’s feet and realized he was now in front of everyone.  He turned back to Bethany Anne, “I want it on the record that I have been screwed.”


Bethany Anne reached out to him, “Sorry, I can only take one more with me and you just volunteered.”


“Take me whe…” the Yollin got out before they both disappeared.


The humans all chuckled in the sudden silence before they spread out to make sure no one took them by surprise.












CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE


The operations room of the base was full of people.  Patrick had a team watching all video cameras, but really focusing on the ones that showed the elevator and elevator shaft. Another group of his people was busy setting up explosives they could drop down the elevator shaft.


The final descent into the bottom landing field was through one hundred and twenty feet of damn near impregnable rock.


Patrick’s eyes narrowed and he hit the buttons to switch through the video streams from outside. So far, TQB had destroyed twelve of their cameras, but they still had another four in operation.


TQB had not brought along any devices to dig through rock as far as he could determine. He jerked a little when the video stream that he was watching suddenly went to static.


Make that three video cameras still in operation.


He gritted his teeth. They had defensive preparations up top, but not nearly enough down at the bottom. They were between a rock and a hard place and the final choice he had was to call in the US military.


But, if he did that, they would be screwed a second time.  A few or even most of his people might get away from the human’s group. There was no way the experiments in section two could be allowed to leave.


Or even found.


Patrick was watching the video stream of the team working to booby-trap the elevator shaft when his brain could not…no, dared not believe what his eyes were telling him.


Etheric


“What…is this place?” Kiel asked when looking around the grey amorphous landscape. The light was bright enough, but with the fog in place he couldn’t see.  The sensors of his mech suit were not helping, either.


“Follow me,” she told him and then answered over her shoulder. “This is the Etheric dimension. We can’t travel too far because between the two of us, the energy to transfer this much metal drains me every damned step we take.”  Even now he could start to hear her breathing harder.


“Where are we going and how far is it?” Kiel asked, looked around him trying to get a sense of where he was.


“Fuck all if I know, but it had better not be too far.” She stopped and seemed to lean forward just a bit and then they continued, walking another five paces before she stopped and leaned forward again.


“What are you doing?” Kiel finally asked.


“Looking out from inside the elevator shaft to figure out if we are at a floor yet,” she answered and then resumed walking.  She did this another three times before pausing longer.  “Oh…well, that’s just fucking rude.”


“What?” Kiel asked, turning back around to watch her.


Bethany Anne looked up and around, wherever she was looking, before she reached back to him, “Hold my hand and walk three steps with me.”


Kiel gently grasped her mech suit’s hand and paced himself with her shorter strides. She continued holding his hand and leaned forward again, “Oh, this is going to be delicious,” she murmured.


“Are you planning on eating something?” Kiel asked.


“What?” she stood up, “No.  At least, I hope not.  I need you to go take care of some humans in the real world.”  She looked around, “I’ve got to sit and rest for a few minutes and pull in energy.  I’m sorry to say, but you are a real fuck-ton of energy-sucking alien to be yanking through the Etheric.” She turned to him, “Ready to be a scary alien mercenary and kill some people?



Eric and Darryl were standing near the elevator when both turned towards it, then looked up in unison.


“You heard that?” Eric asked and Darryl shook his head in agreement.


“Screaming, yelling and a few…” Darryl stopped speaking as a scream of terror seemed to be getting closer, fast.


Then, the sudden thump-splat was loud and clear to the both of them.  Darryl made a face of unease.


Someone had just decided to fall down the elevator shaft.


Darryl called out over the comms, “Hey folks, I think Team Bethany Anne just let us know they are cleaning out the path up above us.”


Peter came up to the two men and sniffed the air, “Fresh dead.  She isn’t leaving anyone for us,” he heaved a huge sigh of frustration, “Why didn’t I step forward?”



Kiel was trying to take all of these new experiences in stride, including when she told him to take a step forward and he went from being in the Etheric fog to inside a base in a hallway hewn out of rock.


With seven humans in front of him, splayed out around an opened elevator door. He could see the empty shaft beyond.  He took a step and grabbed the right arm of a man with a rifle.  Tossing him forward, the flying body knocked one guy near the elevator entrance out of the way. The body continued forward, slamming into the far wall of the elevator shaft.  Kiel could hear his screams as he descended until his sudden stop ended any of his worries.


Forever.


Kiel cranked the power up. And, in seven point two human seconds, he had been shot with forty-two rounds of which three ended up ricocheting back around and hitting other humans.  For him, it wasn’t a problem and three humans died of crushed skulls, two with crushed chests and one arm had come off when he forgot to adjust his suit’s power. He remembered a phrase one of Bethany Anne’s people had used, and he murmured it as he tossed the arm away. “Oopps, my bad.”


That human was screaming as he laid on the floor, so Kiel casually kicked his head to shut him up.  Then, inside his helmet he made a face when he got brains on the end of his mech-suit’s foot.


“Gahh!”  he took a step and felt the little organic matter between his boot and the floor for a couple of steps before it rubbed off, “I’ve got to remember that those heads are crunchy on the outside, but meaty on the inside.”


His eyes opened when an arm appeared from thin air in front of him and pushed him backwards.


He landed on his ass in the Etheric fog again.


“Nice job, now come along, I found their operations room.” She turned and started walking in a separate direction from before, her steps, he noticed, seemed a little slower.


Kiel got up and walked with her. He got a warning beep that his energy was down fifty percent.


It seemed her energy wasn’t the only thing the Etheric drained.



Patrick was staring at the video input when the back of a Yollin attacker appeared in the middle of his video feed.


“What the fuck?” He jerked back and saw the Yollin fighter grab Greg Humble and throw him into the elevator shaft. Greg disappeared down out of view.


The sounds of gunfire came through the speakers as well as screams from the men as they turned to fight the alien who had somehow snuck up behind them.


In seconds it was over. The Yollin kicked Jay Bier’s in his head and crushed his skull. As it took steps towards the video camera, an arm appeared and the alien started falling backwards, but disappeared and all Patrick could see was the dead bodies in the hallway outside the elevator.


“Kenny!” He yelled out, hearing Kenny’s ‘sir’ he ordered, “Lock down this room!” He opened the top drawer in his desk and then slammed it shut, opening the second in a rush.  Reaching in, he pulled out a silver-grey metal container with a place for his thumb.  Pressing the lock, it turned green and he used both

hands to open the box.  Leaving the box in his right hand, he reached in and pulled out Ztopic’s gift to him.


His own Zeta weapon.  Placing the box on the desk, he turned towards the door, keeping an eye on the video cameras in case the alien attacked somewhere else.



Bethany Anne was leaning forward, “Yeah, this is the place.”  She pulled back and then sat down before finally laying down on the ground.  She reached up and unhooked her helmet, taking it off.


Kiel was surprised to see her face had lost most of its color.  Her skin was now almost the color of bones, bleached in the sun of many seasons.


“What can I do?” Kiel asked, concerned she was going to die and if she did, how was he going to explain this to the rest of the team?


Hell, how was he going to get out of this dimension?  He unlatched his helmet and took it off, sniffing the air.


“Give me a few more seconds, I am barely pulling in energy right now.  If you can shut down your systems, do so. I need enough energy to push you through.  Then, you need to stay alive long enough for me to get in and help you.”


“Why would I not be alive?” Kiel asked, shutting down his unnecessary systems in his suit.


“This is the operations room,” she told him, “There are a lot of people in there.  Probably not as many rifles, but I’m sure lots of pistols and high ranking staff.”


She closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and then stood up, “If anyone is going to have weapons we don’t like?  It’s going to be them.”


Kiel considered his options, “How big is the room?” She told him. He turned off the ability to jump high and drained the energy back out of those capacitors into his plasma gun. “Do you need any of the machines in there?”


She was silent for a moment, “Yes, probably.”


The Yollins two mandible looking appendages both turned inward at the top, then straightened. He drained the energy from the plasma pistols and looked at his supply of kinetic rounds. “How many people?”


She paused, then leaned forward, pulling back she told him, “About forty-two.”


“I’ve got seventy kinetics left,” he told her and pulled that pistol, exchanging the magazine for a full load.


“Don’t waste your shots,” she told him.


Fortunately, Kiel was able to bite back his response.  He wasn’t sure what the translation software would have told her, but in his language it was pretty damned disrespectful. So, he decided to nod in her general direction instead.


She placed her helmet back on her head and he followed placing his own back on.  “Let’s do this,” she told him.


“One second,” he told her.  He turned away from her, “Ok, I take a tiny step and you push, correct?”


“Yes,” she agreed. “You are coming out in a corner of the room where there are no people and no furniture.  I’ll look right before I push you.  Everyone is going to be in front and to your left, I think.”


“You think?” Kiel said, but then she barked.


“Step!”



The first person to die in Patrick’s vision was Michael Shanks. His head shattered, coating those near the door around him, in blood and brain matter.


Those shot, but not dead, started screaming as Patrick dropped down and turned around to see an alien in the back left corner of the room, calmly shooting  his people.


Patrick flicked off the safety on his disintegrator and aimed it at the alien who was turning towards him.


There was only one chance to get this shot right.


“FUCK YOUUUU!” Patrick yelled and then it was his time to scream in pain when a sword cut through his arm, the disintegrator beam taking a chunk out of the solid ceiling between him and the alien.


Patrick barely had time to recognize his arm was gone before a metal kinetic round blew through his chest, tossing his now dead body like a rag-doll, toppling over the short desk that was behind him.


—-


“This is BA,” Bethany Anne’s voice came over the comm, “status?”


“Bored,” John answered, “You planning on letting us in there?”


“Damn, you lazy butt whale sniffing asshats haven’t found another way through tons of rock?” she replied to the men’s chuckles.


“No, but we are thinking that the elevator shaft might be haunted,” Darryl replied, “It’s raining dead people.”


She chuckled, “Kiel didn’t send him down dead.”


“Well, he finished dead,” Eric answered.


“We’ve got video and the elevator shaft is clear. They were setting up a loud boom for you when coming up the elevator and as far as I can tell, that is the only path up.  Take it up one floor and you then have stairs that access the floor above.  Seven floors total, I’m on three.”


“Anything else we should know?” John asked as he pointed to himself, Nathan and Scott for the first elevator test.


“Yeah,” she came back, voice calm. “There is another elevator shaft and I don’t have any video into that section.”


“Understood,” John replied and the connection went silent.


Darryl quipped, “That’s not like, ominous or anything.”






Ztopik watched as the humans died in the operations room, his little mouth pursed.  The Yollin was calmly and efficiently shooting them. He noticed that he would not have to worry about dealing with Patrick, before a replacement was put in charge.


 “Meehine,” he pointed towards the secondary exit, “Go to the research lab and prepare to release the fourth group.”


The little gray alien obediently turned and headed toward the research floor.


Now, how did the Yollin get through Patrick’s defenses?



John, Nathan and Scott stepped into the elevator, John pushed the button for level three.


The three men, two in human mech suits and one in a Pricolici suit stood there, waiting for the elevator to go up.


“Sure wish we had some music,” Scott said, “Hell, I’d even take some Barry Manilow right now.”  Nathan chuckled behind him.


“Not exactly music to take over an alien base with,” John commented.


“Well, neither is this dead air,” Scott said when the elevator slowed to a stop.


“Wonnndeerrr hhhoowww wee finnddd herrr,” Nathan growled.


The doors opened and the men heard the sound of gunfire coming from down the hallway.  John stabbed the button for the elevator to go back down to the lowest level, “follow the audio crumbs of destruction and chaos,” he said as the three of them started running down the hallway.



“Bethany Anne, I’m running out of ammunition!” Kiel called out.


“Don’t worry about it,” she told him.


“We don’t know if they have more of those weapons!”  Kiel retorted.  When the ceiling had lost a chunk Kiel realized he had almost become the Yollins Mercenary Companies first death.


“It’s not about that,” Bethany Anne told him, “It’s about…”


The roar reverberated down the hallway and poured into the Operations room.  The gunshots coming into their room had stopped. But the gun shots continued, just aimed elsewhere.


Then, the screams of terror and bodies getting ripped apart, or slamming into walls started.


Bethany Anne put down her sword, “Ok guys, don’t say we didn’t save some for you.”


“FUCK!” Scott called back, “Did you have to get them all worked up?”


“Stttoppp Youourrr bitttchhhinggg!” Nathan growled, his laughter sounded pretty damned evil when it accompanied the dismemberment of humans, their cries suddenly silenced.


“Fine!” Scott yelled back, “Don’t say I wasn’t polite.”


Kiel had walked up to the doorway and peeked around and saw the huge Pricolici, a human in his left hand who was trying to beat his arm as he dangled in the air, Nathan squeezed his neck. The loud snap preceded Nathan dropping the dead body. Nathan’s right hand grabbed the face of another human. That one’s scream of pain ending suddenly with the shattering of his skull, “he he hee hehhhehhh.”


Soon, there were no more humans opposing them.


Bethany Anne walked out into the hallway and spoke to the guys, “Remind me to tell Ashur I’m sorry, I could have used his furry ass on this operation.”


“We need to look after the Queen, she is weak,” Kiel said as he came out of the room.


Bethany Anne turned around, “You just fucking ratted me out!” She bitched to Kiel, “Gott Verdammt!  The alien mercenaries are stabbing me in the back!”



Ztopik watched the humans and the non-humans kill the Majestic-12 people.  He considered options and then his tiny mouth turned up. He pressed three buttons and all of the computers in the room shut down.


Turning around, he headed toward his research level.


There was no time, he considered, like the present to determine which of his creations was the deadliest.



It took the teams twenty minutes to run through the rest of the levels.  Those humans which gave up, were rounded up and taken back to the caves.


If they fought, they were eliminated.


Bethany Anne and her team found the scientists shaking in their offices. Peter brought a female to the group, “this is the leeeaddd Doctorrr,” he told her.


Bethany Anne, her helmet in her hands, turned to look at the woman.  She had mascara streaks that tears must have made. But, at the moment, she glared at Bethany Anne.


“You bitch!”  she hissed, “You have killed my friends here ... for what?”


“You tried killing my people first,” Bethany Anne retorted.


The scientist spat, “we are trying to make the US the most advanced superpower in the world, what are you doing?”


“Saving the world from Aliens, you self-centered, poor excuse for a human being.” Bethany Anne replied, then handed Eric her helmet, “I don’t have time and she isn’t worth my pity.”


“What are you doing?” the scientist started fighting Peter’s hold, trying to kick backwards. “Stay away from me!”  Her foot found his armor and she cried out in pain.


Bethany Anne, eyes turning red, spoke, “Hello Dr. Eva Hocks,” her voice dripped with disgust, “I was wrong, you aren’t a poor excuse for a human being, you aren’t a human being at all.”


“What are you doing,” Dr. Hocks eyes, jerking around, looking to each man there, “Stop her!”


John spoke up, “BA, you need me to slap her if she speaks?”


“Iiii cannn biiiitte herrrr,” Peter offered.


Dr. Hocks was twisting for all she was worth, but it barely budged Peter’s arms, her pleading became crying.


“You seek knowledge above everything,” Bethany Anne spoke, her head turning to the side. “You have experimented on humans.”


Dr. Hocks, tears spilling, noticed the eyes which had held no emotions toward her now looked at her with judgement.


A thought made its way through all the emotion. She wasn’t getting out of this alive.  She felt something digging through her mind.


“Where are the two keys, Eva?” the woman in the crimson armor asked her.  “What are we going to find down the second shaft, Eva?”


A minute later, Dr. Eva Hocks sobs turned to screams and then her screams died along with her.


Bethany Anne wiped the blood off of her mouth, “I fucking hate that shit. But if there was ever a bitch that deserved to provide me energy? This tea-bagging self-centered fucktwat was one.”


Bethany Anne’s hand dropped to her right leg where a sword extended, she grabbed the sword and bent down and cut through Dr. Hock’s neck.  Returning the sword, she told the team, “Not taking a chance she can come back alive.  Now, let’s go get keys. We need the teams.”  She walked back towards the operations’ room to get one of the keys off of the dead Operations manager.


“We have some nasty shit below, people.”












CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR


The hallway was silent when the woman in the crimson armor appeared.  She stopped fifteen feet in, and behind her the elevator doors opened.


“Would you stop doing that shit?” John bitched as he and Eric walked past her and continued down the hall. The elevator doors closed and went back up for the next group.


In ten minutes, they had a large group searching out the level.


They found nothing and no one.


“Thoughts?” John asked.


“Bethany Anne,” Dan’s voice came across the line.


“Yes?”


“Team two has run into a few humans trying to escape, two down, two captured.”


“Thank you, we have any other holes they are trying to leave out?”


“So far, no.” He told her.


“We have some shit ahead of us.  According to the woman in charge of science, we have aliens manipulating humans genetically down here and many of them are ugly.”


“Why are you going in personally?” Dan asked, “Why not just release the E.I. anti-personnel weapons?”


“Because…” Bethany Anne replied and closed the comm. She popped her helmet latches and pulled the helmet off, scratching her head, “Is it me, or do these things make your head itch more?”



Outside, Dan swore under his breath.


Kael-ven turned to him, “She didn’t answer the question, did she?” The alien asked.


“Yeah, she answered,” Dan told him. “The answer was BBADWT.”  Kael-Ven moved his shoulders, his version of a shrug.


Dan made a face, “Because Bethany Anne Doesn’t Want To,” he supplied.



“Fucking shit,” She griped, “If I could jump out of this armor, I could jump through the Etheric and …”


“NO!” six different voices yelled at her in unison.


“Yesss!” one Pricolici added, a second late. Everyone in the group turned towards Peter who smiled, “I’llll join youuu!”


“Fuck it,” she told the group, her eyes started to glow, her cheeks showing lines of red power as she pulled energy like crazy.  Locking the helmet back on, she started walking down the hallway.  The men all got in behind her, two by two.


They went down the hallway and dropped down five levels using the stairs.


On each side, her armor opened and she reached down, grabbing the swords.  The armor folded back in, hiding the sword locations.

This time, though, she fed energy into the hilts of the swords and the blades started glowing and elongating.


Jean had done wonders, and now her swords could channel some of the Etheric’s energy.


 She kicked open the sixth level door and screamed, “Dress Rehearsal for HELL boys!”



Ztopic stood behind the last cage, the one he refused yet to open.  He wanted to see how each group of his mutants worked against this group of attackers.


Mentally, he could feel their approach and the sheer power of the female in front.


Then, they arrived on his level and it was all he could do to pay attention to the slaughter.



“You’re telling me,” Eric asked, shooting something that was a cross between an ape and a female human, the deformed experiment’s scream tearing through his soul. “These were all human at one point?”


“YES!” Bethany Anne screamed, “FUCKING SHIT!” She threw her two red, glowing swords up into the air and kicked something running at her. She caved in it’s head, stopping it in its tracks. She grabbed the swords as they came back down and used her left sword to cut off the head.


Nathan and Peter were off to her left, ripping through those attacking. The Yollin mercenaries were off to her right, beating the shit out of anything they could grab, saving their ammunition.


She could hear the roars of the Pricolici as they ripped into genetic mutations that came from a truly twisted imagination.


“WE HAVE ALIENS!” one of the Yollins yelled, it’s voice suddenly cut off.


“SHIT!” Kiel’s voice came over the line, “they have disintegrators!”


“Bitches, TO ME!” She yelled, as more and more Queen’s Guardians and Queen’s Marines flooded into the huge cave, guns and growls everywhere as men and women fought for their world, for their friends, for their Queen.


The glow of the swords died when she pulled the energy back into herself and holstered the swords. John, Eric, Scott, Darryl and, with a roar of vengeance, Peter came tearing through the different groups of those fighting. “I’ve got that motherfuckingcunt and he is going to DIE!” She spat, anger at the inhumanity of this alien’s twisted efforts on display and the hell that was the situation her people were in.


Having to kill those twisted into inhuman forms.


These beasts looking out with very human eyes.


Bethany Anne’s right hand went out, palm forward and a glowing red orb developed. This time, it didn’t stop at six inches, in her anger, it continued to grow.


“Uh, Boss?” John called out and Bethany Anne threw the ball.


The explosion occurred two-thirds of the way towards the clear, mental siren call of the alien. Towards the back of the massive cavern spread with the dead, the dying, and the burned, its energy continued through the air. Cages, some melting, were blasted out of their way.


The Queen Bitch and her protectors striding across the floor, destroyed anything that remotely came close to them. The few aliens that looked in their directions lost their heads when Kinetic projectiles slammed into them.


It was mass carnage.


Bethany Anne and her team finally noticed a large ass cage and the beast within.


“What the fuck is that?” Eric asked.


“Target practice,” Bethany Anne told them and threw a ball of Etheric Energy.  It streaked across the remaining distance and exploded outside, electricity arcs racing all around the cage.


That wasn’t so smart, a voice commented inside of their heads, The Zhool’tai’ch is a very vicious beast. The best I have created. Interestingly, it wasn’t made with any human DNA at all, the voice informed them.


“Well, the bigger they are,” John said and flipped his pistols up to ten, “Crank it up, Bitches.”


Bethany Anne pointed to the large, fifteen-foot cross between a crocodile and an orangutan, “Kill that thing,” she commanded.


The cage energy dissipated and the beast roared as it pushed open it’s door.  It started running quickly towards Bethany Anne.


Ztopik watched with interest. The female was calmly walking towards him, but the Zhool’tai’ch would certainly get to her, first. She didn’t even have any obvious weapons nor was she creating those glowing red balls of destruction.


His eyes flashed pink as the Zhool’tai’ch charged and it went right through her when she disappeared and then reappeared. Enraged, it started to turn around when those behind her started shooting it, massive chunks of flesh exploding from its body. It turned back towards those attacking it.


The woman, however, kept coming towards him.


This could almost be humorous. The alien’s voice entered her mind, if you and your people had not just destroyed seventy years of my hard work!


“Cry me a fucking river.  You got a name or should I just call you shit head?”  She retorted.


“You can call me Ztopik, or Master!” The alien said and Bethany Anne’s body froze up.


Bethany Anne fought the mental commands stopping her in her tracks. The harder she fought, the more her body wouldn’t move.


Bethany Anne, straining with all she had, started cursing violently as the alien snickered at the sub-level being in front of him.


“You see,” Ztopik pulled out a disintegrator from the sleeve of his robe. “I might not be as physically impressive as you, but when you are a superior species, it is enough.”


Ztopik felt another enter their conversation and his blood went cold.


MOTHERFUCKER, the alien voice said, WHO SAID MY FRIEND LACKED MENTAL DEFENSES?


“WHO!”…Ztopik cried out as immense pain slammed into his head.  His frail arms reached out to catch himself as his knees buckled.


MY NAME IS THALES OF MILETUS, I AM KURTHERIAN AND YOU ARE MY BITCH!


Bethany Anne, released from Ztopik’s mental hold, resumed her walking towards the alien.  Her left arm shot out and a two-inch red globe of power streaked across the cavern to blast away two aliens that had cornered a Wechselbalg and her Guardian Marine partner.


“FUCK YEAH!” she heard the screams of her people and she grinned ferociously.


“Kurtherian?” Ztopik cried, the pain causing him to whisper.


Bethany Anne reached for her sword but TOM stopped her.


YES, he spoke into Ztopik’s brain, KURTHERIAN.  MY FRIEND HAS A SAYING ABOUT REDUCING BAD GENETICS AFTER THE BIRTH AND I’VE DECIDED SHE IS RIGHT.


“What?” Ztopik whispered, looking up into the flaming red eyes of the human.  Her helmet in her right hand.


Ztopik heard the woman in the Crimson Armor’s voice through his ears at the same time the Kurtherian’s voice slammed into his cranium.


“DIE YOU BASTARD!”


TOM, Thales of Miletus, Kurtherian Pilot lost on an alien world broke through his own conditioning and reached deep into the alien’s brain and found the link keeping him alive here in the physical world.


This is my friend, TOM whispered telepathically, No one touches her mind without permission!


Ztopik’s eyes glazed over, dead, as his brain seized, then cratered from TOM’s mental attack.


Bethany Anne turned around and viewed the carnage. She could see that at least seventeen of her people on the ground.


Putting her helmet back on, she walked towards the middle of the large cave. The carcass of the Zhool’tai’ch, looking like hamburger, laid some twenty yards to her left.


They had some cleanup to do and she opened her palms, red balls starting to glow in her hands.


Let’s do this, TOM told her, I got your back!


I never doubted it, TOM.




New York City, NY - USA


“So, we are in agreement?” the other three ambassadors nodded.


“The President is willing to make the call as soon as we have signatures,” the United States Ambassador told Zhou.


Ambassador Zhou opened his briefcase and pulled out the document and placed it on the table.


The document had many countries already pledged by their signatures. The US Ambassador’s eyes opened in surprise. He picked up the document and read through the who’s who of major and minor countries represented.


He failed to see Japan, Australia or Germany on the document, but there was sufficient space for them to be added later.


He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a pen. With a flourish, he signed the document on one of the top lines and put the pen back in his jacket. “Sorry,” he pulled it back out and held it out to Ambassador Emeka, “Do you gentleman need to sign as well?”


The other two ambassadors took their turns and signed the document before the US Ambassador accepted the pen back and he moved it to the other coat pocket.


That pen was going to be worth money one day.


Unfortunately, he wouldn’t realize that it would be infamous, known as the Pen of Destruction. It was true, some would say, the pen did accomplish what the sword never could.


“There is no time like the present to make the World’s will known,” Zhou told the US Ambassador, “Here is the location of one of their ships presently over Japan.”


“We can’t fire a sub nuke over Japan,” the Ambassador stated.


“True, but if they move east or west, we have them,” Zhou told him and the US Ambassador nodded his head and reached out for the information the Chinese Ambassador provided.




Japan - EARTH


Captain Natalia Jakowski hugged Yuko and shook Akio’s hand, “See you when we see you,” She told the two and walked back into the G’laxix Sphaea and her crewman closed up. She walked up to the front of the ship and sat in the captain’s chair.


It was her week to rotate into this ship and she loved it.


Within a minute, the sleek craft crested above the tree line and started to break towards the west, heading towards Europe to drop off a couple of stashes.


There were barely over the East China Sea when the alarms started squealing.


“We have inbound SLBM, Trident II D-5 on intercept,” The G’laxix Sphaea’s E.I. spoke.


“Implement Defensive Puck Field, Seek and Destroy!” Captain Jakowski spat out.  Admiral Thomas had them run drills all of the time and being attacked was but one of them.


The holographic tank sprang into view in front of Natalia’s seat. She pulled her hands apart and it zoomed out, showing the location of the submarine-launched ballistic missile.


“Defensive Puck Field in place.  Calculating intercept of incoming missile at seventeen point four nautical miles.”


Seconds later, G’laxix Sphaea responded again, “Missile has been destroyed through kinetic collision. No nuclear explosion, chance of radioactive residue calculated as likely.”


“Fuck those assholes!” Natalia bit off the rest of her comment, “G’laxix Sphaea cloak us.”



“SIR!” the radar operator on the US Ohio class submarine called out, “We’ve lost the target.”


The Captain’s sharp nod accepted the result.


He had followed his orders, may God have mercy on the souls who made that decision.



Bethany Anne and her team had exited the base after searching through it multiple times.  What they could grab, they did.


The rest?  Well, they planted devices to implode the caves.


>> Bethany Anne.<<


Yes ADAM.


>>The G’laxix Sphaea has been attacked by a nuclear missile over the East China Sea.<<


WHAT!  Those near Bethany Anne watched as her eyes started glowing. They quickly looked around and then checked their own tablets for news.


>>The ship and all crew are ok, but Captain Jakowski is asking if she should continue the operation or leave?<<


Tell her we can do another run as necessary, leave Earth.  Tell my commanders I want a meeting ASAP.


Her eyes never dimmed during the whole trip to the QBS ArchAngel.












CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


The attractive South American reporter looked into her compact mirror and checked her makeup and hair. Putting the compact away, she smiled and nodded to her camera woman.


“Ready Giannini?” Sia asked her friend, who nodded to her.  Sia moved the camera a little to the right, and really looked at her friend. “We don’t have to do this, if you want to stay on Earth.” She nodded behind her, “The last ship going to Earth leaves in three days.”


Giannini shook her head, “No Sia. I’ve seen enough these last three years. I don’t know what the Earth’s path is, but my path…”


“Our path,” Sia interrupted.


“Our path, my heart, is to go to the stars and report what we find out there,” Giannini smiled, “I used to think that I needed to rise up in the eyes of my bosses.”


“And now?” Sia asked.


“Now, I need to rise up in my own eyes, to be what all reporters need to be,” Giannini answered, straightened her shoulders and looked ready to start her commentary.


“Oh,” Sia asked, adjusting the camera so she could get Giannini’s profile and the large park that was part of the inside of the Merideth Reynolds in the background.  “What’s that?”


“Those that tell the truth, report on our government and support the people,” Giannini answered.


“Wow, big pants to wear,” Sia’s muffled voice replied. “What do you think Bethany Anne is going to say about you reporting on the Government?”


Giannini smiled, “Who do you think gave me the pants to put on?”


Sia chuckled, “You are on in three…two…one…”


“Hello,” Giannini spoke to the camera, “My name is Giannini Oviedo and I’m coming to you from the Mark Billingsly Park inside the QBBS Merideth Reynolds.  This is our last report before the Etheric Empire’s ships cross the line separating this solar system, and the Yollin’s…”



The President looked down at his desk at the piece of paper laying on it. A knife, with an imprint of a vampire’s skull on the hilt, buried deeply into his desk pinned it in place. Neither had been there just three minutes ago, when he stepped out to use the restroom.


He reached forward and grabbed the knife, moving it back and forth before he yanked it out.


He opened the letter, his lips compressed as he read the words.


“There are two ways I will finish this war you started. You can try to attack again and I will rain fire from Heaven on your places of power, completely obliterating your ability to wage war, or you can Leave Us The Fuck Alone. If you choose option one, I will start my attacks at the top, just as easily as I placed this knife in your desk.


And, as I told the Chinese, there will be nothing left of your military except machines blackened by fire and people praying for the souls of your dead. You DO remember how that ended, don’t you?


Queen Bethany Anne, Etheric Empire


The Queen Bitch.”




Dulce, New Mexico - USA


Paula drove the last twelve miles in the Jeep she bought off of Craigslist.  These damned vehicles cost an arm and a leg, even for something fifteen years old.


She had shopped at the Goodwill back in Phoenix before purchasing the Jeep and driving out to Dulce. With no communication from Patrick, she had a good idea what must have happened to the base while she was making her way back from Europe.


She parked the car at an old gas station a mile from the front entrance to the base. Once communications had stopped, Paula had started working hard to check her back trail, making blind moves, randomly choosing a different city to fly to and wait a couple of days before flying again.


Eventually arriving back in New Mexico.


She opened the Jeep’s door and got out, reaching back for her backpack to make sure she looked like she was just an average back packer this afternoon.


Placing the aviator sunglasses on her face and the olive green baseball cap on her head, she pulled her hair out through the hole in the back and started walking the trail leading out from behind the building into the trees.


An hour later, she stepped out from behind the tree she had used to study the building a couple of hundred yards away.


No one moved, and nothing looked like it had been disturbed in days.


QBBS Merideth Reynolds


>>Bethany Anne, there is a female watching the Majestic-12 base.<<


Bethany Anne stopped looking at the readiness reports and reached over to the fruit bowl to grab an apple. Cleaning it off, she spoke aloud, “Show me.”


A video came up on the wall in her ready room and she bit into the fruit. She pointed with the hand that had the apple at the screen, “Hey, that looks like the chick in the MJ12 images.”


>>There is a match on her jawline and mouth.<<


“Call John and make sure he gets to watch this,” she said and took another bite of the apple. Her crunching filling up the silence in the room.


Two minutes later, there was a knock on her door.


“Come in,” she called and turned to toss the apple core into the trash.  The noise of the apple landing in sync with the door opening.


“Brought Jean with me,” John said and the two of them walked in, stepping towards Bethany Anne and looking at the wall to see what she was watching.


“THAT BITCH!” Jean shouted pointing at the woman on the screen, “That’s the fucking twatknuckle that was stalking our men!”  She snorted in disgust.


“ADAM, are you recording this?”  Bethany Anne asked.


“Yes,” he responded.


“Good,” Jean said and pulled out a chair beside Bethany Anne, “What are we about to do to the geriatric cuntquat?” she asked, sitting down.


“Not so much us doing something to her as her previous friends,” Bethany Anne admitted and then reached back into the bowl of fruit a second time, “I need some popcorn.”


“Heard that!” Gabrielle’s voice came from the hallway outside, “We got time?”


“Yeah,” Bethany Anne called out, “Looks like she is studying the building to see if there is a trap.”


“Well,” Gabrielle said as she came in, carrying two bags of popcorn and a coke and three other beverages, “there is one, right?”


“Yup,” Bethany Anne admitted, “lots of alien explosives all around that area.”


Five minutes later, the room was crowded with all the Bitches, Peter, Nathan and Ecaterina and little Christina Bethany Anne coloring on the table with her back to the video. The little girl, now almost five, reached towards the fruit bowl, her finger growing a claw and stabbed an orange before bringing it back.  She pulled it off her claw and then her finger returned to her normal human looking finger again.  She put it to the side and picked up the green crayon and started filling in the trees.


Then, Frank and Barb arrived, with Lance and Patricia right behind them.   Stephen and Jennifer arriving shortly thereafter.


Jennifer asked what they were watching and Barb mentioned this was the bitch that had been stalking the guys during the camera shoot and who they had figured out was behind the ambush in Europe. “Oh,” Jennifer responded, “So, we going to kill her?”


“Oh, hell yeah,” Cheryl Lynn said from in front of Scott. She was leaning back against her man, his arms around her,” Can’t wait to see the pretty explosion.”


“Hey, move over!” Bobcat called out to the general laughing as he, William and Marcus arrived.  Those in the middle picking up chairs and handing it to those closer to the door to store out in the hallway.


“ADAM, duplicate this image on the ceiling as well as the other walls,” Bethany Anne spoke aloud, “Except the one in front of Christina, don’t want anyone not able to see the ending to the movie.”


Fifteen minutes later, the general conversation in the room quieted down to where the only noise was little Christina’s coloring.


The woman started walking towards the building. She adjusted her backpack and walked up to the building, knocking on the door and calling out.  She stood there for a minute, knocking and calling out before trying the open door.


The picture went higher up in the air, at least three hundred feet and another two hundred north.


Then, those in the room cheered and shouted in joy as the building exploded, raining shrapnel down for almost forty-five seconds.


“Got you, bitch,” Bethany Anne said.


“Now that,” Lance called out, “is good television!”


Barb spoke out, with exasperation, “Frank, sweetheart, why are you writing this down?”


“It ends my book,” his voice clearly heard by all in the room as he told his wife, “It’s perfect!”




QBS ArchAngel


Bethany Anne looked at the Yollin who was staring back at her, “Are you sure about this, Kael-ven? There isn’t an option for you to reverse this choice and I don’t want you to regret making it.”


“There is no regretting my choice, Queen Bethany Anne,” he told her. “I have spoken to my people and we are in agreement.”


“Even scientist Royleen?” She asked him, a smile teasing her lips.


“Yes, even the ever hardheaded Royleen sees the truth, now.”


Bethany Anne pursed her lips. “You will have to allow me access to your thoughts.  If it were only me, I would be ok, but for me to accept this offer, I will have to confirm for the sake of my people.”


Captain Kael-ven T’chmon nodded and lowered his head.  Bethany Anne placed her hands on both sides of it. While not strictly required for her to read his thoughts, it helped her with the alien minds.


Tell me when you have the thoughts, TOM.


I’m in.  Hold on a moment. TOM replied.


Seconds later, he came back. He is being forthright, Bethany Anne.


She pulled her hands off of the Yollin, “Stand up, Captain Kael-ven T’chmon.”  She chewed the inside of her cheek. “You are an anomaly. I would like to know what has changed your people’s minds?”


His large mandibles opened wide a moment before closing, “With us requesting your help, this is not an effort of subjugation.” He told her.


“No?” She asked.


“No,” he told her, “It is a Revolution.”




FINIS


Join us for more of 

The Kurtherian Gambit

coming January 2017

Right after… 

(turn page for the the next book).

MICHAEL RETURNS TO A WORLD CHANGED…

BUT HONOR DEMANDS HE FULFILL HIS PROMISE

12.25.2016


Don't Cross This Line

Author Notes


THIS IS IT!  

ONE YEAR OLD A FEW DAYS AGO.


Written November 11, 2016


As always, can I say with a HUGE amount of appreciation how much it means to me that you not only read this book, but you are reading these notes as well?


Just one year and nine days ago, I released the first book of The Kurtherian Gambit series titled Death Becomes Her.  In that time, this series has taken off to become a sleeping hit.  I’m probably one of the most successful authors no one has heard about because of FANS who love not just the first book, but ALL of the books.


I say sleeping, because to date there have been a total of 11,019 of Book 01 sold, and 4,880,000 pages read (Kindle Unlimited).  That would (based on 384 pages KENP V 2.0) be about another 12,708 full books read.  Now, I know the total is higher (because books can be read, but author notes aren’t etc.) but it does mean that at a minimum, the first book as been sold (read) a total of 23,727 times.


So, all of my success comes from approximately 25,000 readers.  Readers who are then going on to read the REST of the books.  Enough that as of last night (According to Amazon) I am the #172 top selling author on their store.


172.


There are over 200,000 authors minimum on Amazon.  My original goal was just (sometime around end of November / Beginning of December 2015) to be in the top 2,000 authors on Amazon.  Thanks to YOU and your sharing of the stories with friends, family, strangers in stores (this is literal, not figurative) I have been amazed to be counted in the top 500 authors on all of Amazon since July of this year!


That’s freaking UNBELIEVABLE.


Just rocking our little story about Bethany Anne and her people and those around her has been life changing for me, and over a 1,000 other Indie Authors who joined the 20BooksTo50k group that came out of my success.


Trying to give back to other authors.


I could share stories how that group of authors, helping each other, support them getting their own stories out and how YOU, my readers, help them make it happen!


Just this week, readers of the snippets took a book that was listed as the 92,000th ranked book (based on sales) on Amazon and within 24 hours, moved it up to under 10,000 for two days.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the author I was supporting (Boyd Craven III) was coming back from a sudden trip to check on his father who had fallen very sick and concerns were heavy about his health…


The other author of the book the fans pushed up?  His father, Boyd Craven Jr.


His father recovered thankfully. But it was a sobering feeling that we helped make a good thing happen in the life of someone who could use another good thing to occur at that time.


What’s going on with Audio?


For those who love Audiobooks, I have some great news.  I am this close (see two fingers pinched close together) to finding a narrator.


I hope.  Lord in Heaven PLEASE I hope.  I’ve had 19 auditions so far, and 17 have been (some after MUCH review) put in the ‘no’ group.


Two are left and I have one request out to a huge name to see if she has any interest.  The problem?  Well, it’s hard to handle the size of these stories without massive talent.


She (and it will be a lady I pick) needs to be able to read the story in an engrossing way, do Bethany Anne well and men in a way that works.  It’s a freaking HUGE challenge and I was pretty upfront about the issues.


Think about it.  One actress will be handling Bethany Anne, TOM and ADAM all in one head.  Then, add in the Bitches, Gabrielle, Tabitha, Frank, Lance, Nathan etc. etc. ;-)


But, however long it takes, it will be worth it because I’m setting aside the money to make the first seven books happen. I refuse to “Do one book to see if it sells.” model and leave fans hanging.


So, I’m looking for one of the best, and I’ll pay her for her talent and skills because I really, really want Bethany Anne and the Bitches to come alive.


What’s a Yollin look like?


So, a fan on Facebook asked about what Yollin’s looked like (sorry, I looked but couldn’t find the fan’s name that asked).  Now, that was an awesome question, the only problem was the artist I used for my Bethany Anne stuff (Andrew Dobell) doesn’t draw creatures / aliens.  My artist that is working on the covers and spaceships (Jeff Brown) doesn’t do a lot of creature / alien work either.


Where the hell was I going to find an artist that would work with me (that was dependable)?  I asked Jeff Brown if he knew anyone and he suggested Eric Quigley.


I looked over his artwork thinking…I want him!  Now, If I can just afford him.


So far (audio will easily beat this in the near future, but right now) nothing costs me near as much as all the artwork and covers I am doing.


I’m spending enough to buy a small car on this stuff, so I needed a creature artist that I could afford, as well as would do an amazing job.


So, check out the two Yollin Artpieces in the back of this book (I hope you can all see them!  Some are in color, to I will be placing the pieces up on my website in the coming week for everyone to enjoy, even the black-and-white kindle fans).  He will be doing Captain Kael-Ven next.


Remember, my website is http://www.kurtherianbooks.com.


I think Eric is going to do smashing on the aliens for the last arc in The Kurtherian Gambit and allow us to better visualize these beings.


In the future, fans willing, I’m going to put out a Kurtherian Gambit e-Book on the artwork and show the different stuff we have all worked on, and give you a history of how one Indie Author has spent thousands and thousands on art for his series.


By the time I’m done with 21 books (and others) I’ll have easily spent over $20,000 on artwork alone.  I want this stuff as much as fans seem to want to see it, so together I think we can make some COOL art and I look forward to more of you asking questions like…”What’s a Yollin look like?”


;-)


So, where are we going?


The Kurtherian Gambit’s scope is huge.  I’ve explained before (Here?  Don’t remember.) that I wanted to have a world I could play in, and do a lot.  I wanted to play with vampires, and aliens, and Military Sci-Fi and worlds and spaceships (oh my!) and A.I.’s and so on and on.


And due to the huge social support of fans, especially on the FB ads and their own links and interactions. I get to.  It’s a huge blessing.


And it is getting bigger.


With the next release for Bethany Anne, NEVER SUBMIT, we will be in another Solar System having left Earth behind and to their own devices.  What happens to them?  What happened, some will ask, between books 13 and 14 (the three years)?


Well, I’m happy you asked!


In order to produce additional insights into these events, some of the author’s I’ve befriended on 20BooksTo50k have agreed to work in collaborative efforts to enhance the Kurtherian Universe. In awesome ways.


These aren’t Frank Kurns 15-20k words books.  These are true books and series with additional characters.  One with a character you have seen before (Terry “TH to his Friend” Walton) and completely new Vampires who have little understanding of what happened when TQB was part of the world, but exist when Michael comes back in The Dark Messiah (12.25.2016).


I’ll give you more info after the author notes, but we have TS (Scott) Paul doing a YA series w/ the children of the Etheric Empire set during the 3 years between books 13 and 14. Justin Sloan and his vampire Valerie who leaves behind Europe in the future to protect New York City State from her Brother, Donovan (see snippet at end of book). Finally, we have Craig Martelle who is taking TH and showing us what happened to Earth after Bethany Anne left and how this man was affected, and then learns to forgive himself and become the protector that was always inside of him.


With a vengeance.


All leading up to The Dark Messiah Series and Michael’s return.  Michael has a promise to fulfill, and Death wasn’t going to keep him from fulfilling his promise.


Because his Honor requires it.


By the end of 2017, I will have released eleven (11) more books. Seven (7) in The Kurtherian Gambit (Bethany Anne) series and four (4) in the Second Dark Ages (Michael) series.


I will be collaborating on another eleven (11) (minimum) books from these authors and perhaps a couple more (J.L. Hendricks for Romance stories between books 13 and 14).  I am finishing one with Paul C. Middleton for The Boris Chronicles and he will release a fourth second quarter 2017.


So, stay with us if you would, as we bring Justice, Friendship and all around BadAssery to stories, to each other as the Indie Publishing Outlaw pulls out his Jean Dukes Specials and tips his hat up with the barrel.


Telling those who believe they know best about what readers want, “You sure about that?  Because if you aren’t, why don’t you take a sit right where you are at, and let us tell you a new story in The Kurtherian Universe.”


As we move from 25,000 fans to 100,000 and beyond.  Kicking Ass and Taking Names all along the way!


THANK YOU ALL!


Michael Anderle


Next: Snippet Preludes for Don’t Cross This Line (read this for a good laugh)

About the New Collaborations

Justice is Calling Intro (Reclaiming Honor Book 01)

Book cover reveal

KIEL - TKG Art

ROYLEEN - TKG Art

So, here is the background on the latest Pre-Snippet…Snippets!


During the production of each book, I will post snippets - small pieces of the book (in order, starting at the front) up on my website. I usually start this about 2-3 weeks before the book release and stopping a couple of days before the release.


Each time I do this, I usually make up a two or three sentence little fun blurb to go with it that have previously been non-sensical.


Except this time.


This time, for whatever reason, I did this introducing Snippet #02 for Don’t Cross This Line.




The intrepid author stands on his tippie toes, looking over the fence. His eyeballs just showing their whites as he looks left, then right down the street...


He tosses the snippet over the top of the fence and runs like ...






Now, when it came time for Snippet #03 to go out, I didn’t have anything non-sensical to say again, so I decided to continue the story of “The Author.”


Here is the intro to Snippet #03:




The author sneaks out of his dark writing basement, a couple of pages of writing secreted on his body as he stealthily moves in the shadows.


He checked the video input, no one was waiting around his house as he made it to his digital mail box and shoved the regular paper into it and then bolted back to his door, slamming it as he breathed hard.


"I've got to start working out..." He wheezed.


Outside, his wife pulled the paper's out of the digital mailbox and stuck them in the regular mail box.


"Authors," she said as she walked up to the front door of the house and went to their room.




Now, in this continuation of the snippet stories, it is almost twice as long, but it introduces a very important character, The Author’s Wife.


Now, I’ve created some beloved characters in the books and I’m kinda liked by my fans as well.  But, for some reason, The Author’s Wife became a freaking fan favorite for those reading the snippets.


Here, she shows up again for the intro to Snippet #04:




The author, his heart pounding in his chest, inched up through the grass on his belly.


The grass was cut to a height of ... 3 inches.


It tickled his nose and he was trying desperately to stifle a sneeze. The air was humid for this time of year and too hot. He eyed the height of the massive wall, something King Kong would scale and pushed forward his catapult holding the snippet ready. He hit the small lever and turned, running back to the safety of his writing lair.


Never seeing that the snippet flopped to the ground two feet in front of the small, hand-built catapult and safely on this side of the fence.


His wife, noticing the antics from the kitchen window, shook her head and walked out to the yard.


Reaching down, she picked up the round piece of paper and tossed it over the fence. Grabbing the popsicle stick contraction she walked back into the house muttering to herself.


What the hell was he thinking?




Damn! In the last snippet, I created the beginning of a monster I didn’t realize was coming up to bite me on the ass.  Until the Facebook fans started chatting about her.


So, I’m kind of a people pleaser sort of guy.  So, since the readers were enjoying The Author’s Wife, I decided to give them MORE of the author’s wife.  Because, more of what they like is a good thing, right?


Right?


Fuck My Life!


Here is the intro to Snippet #05 (Written Oct 28th, right before Halloween).




The doorbell went off. The intrepid author looks out from the door leading down to his writing lair.


No one was answering the door.


DING DONG!


The writer's head stuck out further and looked around. No one was coming to the door. Resigned, he grabs the latest snippet from his back pocket and tip-toes up to the door. Breathing in and out heavily, stealing himself, he grabs the door handle and yanks it open, tossing the papers outside he yells, eyes closed from fear, "HERE YOU GO!" and slams the door, fumbling for the lock before he finally opens one eye to see and turns the door lock before scrambling back to the stairs.


The author's wife hears the front door slam, pulls off her EarPods and looks up to the front of the house from her position sitting on the couch, "Now what the ..." Next, she hears thumps of her husband's feet bounding down the stairs before she hears an 'oh SHIT!' and then a slam and another couple of thumps.


She puts her head on her hands and shakes them. She hears him get up again and close the bottom door to the stairs.


DING DONG.


The author's wife gets up from the couch and walks to the front door, pushing the stairs door closed on her way past.


Silly man.


Opening the door, she looks down to see young children dressed in Halloween costumes. A tiny little cute Spongebob Squarepants and an Angel.


"TRICK OR TREAT!" they call out, eyes excited with the promise of more loot.


His wife snags some candy from the bowl beside the door and notices the papers laying on the ground.

"Here you go, you two are so adorable!" she tells the two children as she fills up their Halloween bags.


The two children thank her and leave. Shaking her head, she steps out on the porch and grabs the papers. Going back into the house, she walks through to the backyard, continuing to the fence and chucking the snippet papers over the top before turning back towards the house.


"Sometimes, I wonder why I married that man," she mumbles on her way back to the house.


"Oh yeah," she replies out loud, cleaning her feet before going back inside. She answers herself as she sits down to finish the work she brought home.


"He has a cute butt."




That was it…That was the fateful snippet intro that caused The Author’s Wife to rise above and become a solid fan favorite…Maybe. Or, it could be that any woman who has to put up with an author automatically gets the vote.


The Author was relegated to second place…not even a close second..more of a ‘go sit on the stairs going into the basement’ sort of second place.


Now, we get to the intro to Snippet #06:




The Author's wife closed the door to the garage, "Honey, I'm home," she called out. She went into the bedroom and took off her shoes, "Ooooh," she practically moans, "that feels so good!"


Taking off her earrings, she sets them on her jewelry dresser when she hears this low...groaning?


She starts to pull off her watch when she hears it again. "Honey?" She calls out again.


But, no answer.


There! The moaning happens once more. She looks around and grabs a stick the boys were playing with and opens the bedroom door. The sound is coming from the front of the house.


She holds the stick in front of her, like a sword, ready to beat the shit out of anyone, or anything, that shouldn't be in her house.


"Honey?" She calls out, but her voice cracks, just a little. She steps around the corner, stick raised to bring it smashing down on the intruder... and then relaxes.


She walks towards the front door, using the stick to prod the body laying on the floor, little candy wrappers laying all over the place.


It was the scene of a Great Candy Massacre, she thinks.


The perilous beast, who was supposed to be writing his next book, was in mortal agony after eating so many damned Butterfingers and Snickers.


"Just kill me," he moans, never opening his eyes.


"Trust me," she tells him, "I'm still tempted. You scared me!"


He moves, just a little, to pull some papers out of his pocket, "Would you give these to my fans? They, they deserve something before I die of chocolate overload..."


The Author's wife reaches down and takes the snippets from him. She raises the stick, but pulls it down and uses it to point at him. "If I come back and you are sick on my floor, I'm using this stick to whack you silly!"


The author turns over, his cheek feeling the coolness of the ceramic tiles, "Deal," he agrees. Then, he closes his eyes seeking the blessed relief passing out might bring.




Oh yeah, never learning, I only exacerbate my problem by continuing to show how The Author’s Wife has to put up with the Author.


One fan asked me what my wife thinks about these snippets.  I explain she doesn’t read them. The next morning, I share with my wife the question and she responds (as she is getting ready for work that morning) “I don’t have to read them, I live them.”


Which leads us to the intro to Snippet #07 where for some insane reason, I drive the sympathy vote completely home by making The Author out to be some sort of messed up Tim the Tool Man sort of character (not true, honest!):


Intro to Snippet #07:




The Author took his snippet, and a crossbow he purchased from the neighbor's garage sale down the street, to his son's bedroom up on the second story.


Thankfully, his kids were still at school today. He walked over and unlocked the window and pushed it open.


Turning around he took two paces and then turned to face the window. Sitting down, he took the tightly rolled up snippet and laid it in in the place where the bolt would go.


He considered his theory. Snippet in bolt location, lay down on ground and lift crossbow. Aim out window and fire.


What could go wrong?


Seemed easy enough for the author, so he laid back and aimed in the middle of the opened window, the fence line should be easy for the snippet to cross.


Ignoring that little buzzing in the back of his mind, he confirmed his aim and pulled the trigger.


WINDOW SCREEN!


The loud "FWAPP" hit his ears as the snippet nailed the screen and both screen and snippet fell out of the window sill.


SHIT SHIT SHIT! The author set the cross bow to the side and crawled on his hands and knees quickly to the window and peeked out.


He let out a sigh of relief. The screen and the snippet were still on the little roof beneath the window. He would just need to lean out and snag it.


---


The Author's wife had her leg's kicked back. She needed to be on a late evening call with Japan, so she came home early to do a little work. In the back of her mind, she recognized the footsteps going up the stairs.


That was safe. It was when her husband went outside that bad stuff seemed to occur.


A minute later, she jumped unexpectedly when she heard a loud "FWAPP." Looking around, she was stuck trying to figure out if that noise came from her house, or maybe from a neighbors?


She was looking outside when she heard some scrapping from above and to the left. She was in time to see her husband half leaning out of the window, trying to grab something.


She yelled, hoping her voice would reach upstairs, "Sweetheart, what are you doing?"


"One second, snippet!" He called out, apparently not aware she was watching him.


"Stop leaning out like that! You are going to..."


Too late! She closed her eyes when he reached one little bit too far and she heard an "Oh fuuuu..." and a 'badoomp' and finally "dgge".


Opening her eyes, fearing the worst, she noticed her husband holding up a piece of paper in the air, waving it like it was a flag of surrender in the middle of a huge pile of leaves, only his arms and one foot visible.


"Snippet," his muffled voice said.


She sighed and walked to the back door, "I'm going to kill that man."




By now, I’m being pushed ahead on the tsunami of emotions the fans have for the Author’s Wife.  I tell my sweet dear heart all about the fans loving The Author’s Wife character and she just rolls her eyes.


It’s like she doesn’t believe me all the time, or something. I keep telling her I’m going to do “I heart Author’s Wife.” T-shirts or something and she doesn’t believe me.


Finally, it’s time to come up with another idea and I think, “What would my wife do if I had just fallen out of a second story window but need to get another snippet out?”


The IMMEDIATE internal response (you know, the kind that comes to you from the second voice in your head?) Is “she would drug me.”


FML…Once more!


Now, we go to Snippet #08:




The author was fidgeting with his food. The dinner his wife cooked was amazing, it was his favorite Italian meal.


Perhaps a little carb heavy (it was making him sleepy) but other than that?


Delicious.


Now, if he could just execute on his plan to get the snippet out of his pocket and over the fence, he would be golden.


"Sweetheart, why don't you have a little more tea?" she poured him a refill.


"Thank you my love," he replied, but looked at her funny as he took a drink. She was being too easy going this evening. Did she know he was planning on making a run for the fence tonight?


Naaahhh. She didn't keep up with his schedule, or exactly what he did with the books.


He took another bite of the lasagna, his eyes drooped.


"Here sweetheart, let me grab your plate." She took the fork out of his hand.


He turned, trying to figure out why she had grabbed his fork. He had lasagna still on his plate, didn't he?


Was it desert time, already? Wow, desert sounded like a good idea before trying to brave the thirty-five feet of well manicured 3" tall grass all the way to the fence. Then, chunking the two sheets of paper over that damned insurmountable bastion.


His vision screwed up. He saw his wife coming towards him, smiling in pity, but with a pillow, not a piece of chocolate cake.


Because, DAMN! Chocolate cake after Italian food would be the ultimate way to screw up his courage to get this done.


He just needed to blink this damned sleep...this damned...


The Author's wife slid the pillow where his plate had been sitting a few moments ago. The author's head nodded twice before landing square in the center of the pillow. His soft, sleepy breathing confirming the sedative she put in his drink was working as planned.


She reached into his back pocket and took out the snippet. Then, she reached behind him and grabbed a small blanket from where she had stashed it earlier.


Placing it around his shoulders, she turned down the light in the dining room.


"Sorry sweetheart," she patted him on his head. "There is no way I'm risking whatever brainless idea you had to get this over the fence this evening."


She walked to the back door and turned to see his baby face resting on the pillow. "You will wake up in twenty minutes, and then I'll give you that chocolate cake you wanted."


She turned the doorknob and stepped out, "I'm sure I'll have a suitable story about how brave you were by that time, as well."


The door closed softly behind her as she made her way to the fence.


By now, this whole snippet thing is going CRAZY - You have to read the responses in the snippet posts because fans (I think Earl started this) are writing small STORIES to go w/ the intro stories that are supposed to introduce the snippets… I mean, we are so meta at the moment, I’ve lost all control of this situation.


Not that I ever had control…but still.


Now, before I release Snippet 09, my beloved wife (in real life) goes on a business trip to California.  Which leaves me as the only parental unit in the house.  We have three children (one lives out of the house, two are still in high school).  The two high schoolers (Seniors) join in the snippets…Not that they had a clue at the time I wrote this, they found out later.


Intro to Snippet #09:


“Dad, does Mom know what you are wanting to do?” The Author’s youngest twin asked. He and his two sons were sitting in front of a huge … contraption.


The Author waved both hands towards his two teenage sons, “Now, let’s not bother Mom’s delicate psyche with this idea. She’s traveling for work and it wouldn’t be good for her to have to deal with this while she is so far away from home.”


“Really?” the older of the twins asked, “Because I remember her warning us about your efforts to put your snippets over the fence.”


“They aren’t … efforts… exactly,” the Author says.


“Right,” the younger twin agreed, “Mom describes them as P.E.R.F.E.C.T.”


The Author’s Eye light up in delight, “See! She completely gets me! The ability to overcome the physical and mental challenges that snippets represent…” The older twin interrupts.


He eyes his father, “Dad, it stands for Pitiful Efforts Real Females Eventually Can’t Take.”


The Author waits for a moment for his brain to realize it was an acronym. then makes a face of disgust.


“That’s because she doesn’t understand the difficult and challenging profession of writing. Of taking my blood, sweat and tears…”


“Dad,” the older interrupts again, “Mom says she has lots of tears from your snippet efforts.”


“Really?” The Author replies, confused.


“Oh yes,” the younger agrees, “she cries in frustration every time you hurt yourself doing something, uh…uh…,” the brother looks over to his older twin. “A little help?”


He nods his head then shrugs, “Insane?”


“Not…helping,” his brother replies.


“Look you two,” the Author points to the large contraption put together from old tinker-toys found in the attack and duct tape, “This is bound to get the snippet over the walls of rejection to the ravenous hordes on the other side.”


“You mean, the nice people over the normal wooden fence having a bit of Coke together out there?” the oldest asks, confusion evident on his face.


“And the dog,” the younger agrees, “don’t forget the dog.”


“Yes!” the eyes of the Author light up, “Cerberus himself is out there!”


The two teenagers look to each other, communicating as somehow twins can do and both turn towards their father. “So,” the older one starts, “let’s see this snippet,” he asks as he holds his hand out, eyeing the contraption behind the Author.


“I’ll see if the coast is clear,” the younger stands up.


Caught by surprise with the sudden acceptance and obvious understanding for the need of Herculean strength and the mental effort to dig deep to bring up the latent heroic desire in all men to …


The older twin snags the snippet out of his hand and tosses it to his brother, who was already streaking for the back door! The Author watches in horror as the beloved snippet flips end over end, past his contraption to be snagged out of the air by the second son with his teenager reflexes.


The Author, not quite so fast as his son heaves his aging body to one side, then the other to get momentum so he can try to stand up, but too late! The younger is already out the back door as the

Author tries to stand up, his legs not quite enough and find’s out he miscalculated. He falls backwards right into his contraption.


The older twin winces and closes his eyes, the tinker-toys falling down like a James Cameron scene, bouncing everywhere with his Dad underneath, his hands covering his eyes.


By the time their Dad finally moves, the younger twin is coming back in the back door, “You know? That dog was really nice. He likes to get scratched behind his ears.”


“C’mon, let’s get Dad out from underneath this mess,” his older brother tells him.


The younger pulls out his iPhone, “Not before we get evidence.” He snaps a picture.


From beneath the tinker-toy mess, their father moans, “YouTube?”


“No,” they both respond, “Mom!”


The younger finishes, “We get ten bucks if we save you from disaster…”




So, that time, I figured I would pull The Author’s Wife out of the snippets, and her rocketing fame will decrease…Not so, she hires two snitch’s to tell on me and now both The Author’s Wife AND The Author’s Son’s are now fan favorites.


The Author never catches a break.


FINE!


The Author decides to make his next effort without ANYONE at home.  That will teach them all a lesson…


So, The Author waits until the kids are at school, and his lovely wife is still out of town to effectuate his next effort to get the snippet over the fence to the fans on the other side.


By now, these damned intro’s are the size of small book scenes!  LOL, fans are telling me that they don’t want me too spend too much time writing the intro’s, but they love them so much, they don’t want to tell me to stop.  I guess that is a passive aggressive way to tell me to grab a bunch of No-Doz and get my ass typing.


Intro to Snippet #10:




The author listened to the beautiful simplicity of his empty house. He was sitting at the counter, on a bar stool, eyeing the long distance from his backdoor to the back fence.


He licked his parched lips.


This time, there was no wife to drug him, no teenagers to trick him. It was just him, the snippet laying in front of him, and hell’s half acre.


The Author reached up and wiped imaginary sweat off of his eyebrows. He chewed on his upper lip and turned back to eye the three shot glasses in front of him.


Two contained the Elixir of life… one contained Pepsi. He had two shots to make it to the fence or it was guaranteed if he failed three times, he was going to have to drink the big ‘P’.


He considered how that sounded and decided to change that to ‘have to drink the big ‘PC’.


Well, shit. Now it sounded like he was going to drink a personal computer. That wasn't going to work either.


Screw it. He hitched up his pants and walked to the back door. He grabbed the handle and started rocking on his legs.


“One, Two..” He screamed the last number, “three!” Yanking open the door, the Author ran like a man chased by a baby with a dirty diaper to the back fence.


It was, he counted, at least thirty-two steps of torturous danger. Coming up on the fence at full speed he put on the brakes, eyeing the top of the fence as he reached into his back pocket.


SHIT! He turned to look at the back door in dismay, he had left the snippet on the countertop!


Dammit. He started chugging his middle-aged body back towards the back door, looking out for any nefarious insects that could be trying to ambush him.


Making it to the back porch he went inside. Breathing hard, he grabbed the first shot glass and tossed it back, the carbonation burning the back of his throat.


He set the glass aside and grabbed the snippet this time, sticking it in his pocket. He looked over his shoulder and the fence easily moved back another thirty steps.


He set his shoulders and turned back. Grabbing the second Coke, he drank it quickly and then pushed off the counter top, racing back across the back yard, dodging the zombie disease carrying mosquitos when he arrived at the fence. Reaching into his pocket, his hands clasped on the snippet.


Throwing the snippet over the fence, it rebounded off the fence a foot from his face and came back to hit him in his left eye, “Diddly Sock Puppet!” he screamed, grabbing his eye with his left hand. Looking around, one eye down, he finally discovered the snippet and hastily tried to grab it. Three times was the charm and he flung it back over the fence.


It disappeared into the clouds.


Running back to the house, he tried to look for any traps along the way, the sweat was real this time.


Tripping on the step up onto the back porch, our intrepid Author made it to the back door and stepped inside, slamming the door behind him. Leaning back against the door, his chest heaving due to exertion,


The Author smiled and put up his hand in VICTORY!


“Woohoo!” he shouted for today he had beaten the evil hell’s half acre and come back alive. Perhaps wounded (he wondered if he should get a medal for his valorous efforts) he took the three steps and dropped into his chair.


In a stupor, smile on his face and one eye still closed our beloved author reached out and grabbed the second Coke and downed it.


Fifteen minutes later, the sons of the author came in through the garage door from school. Calling out, they didn’t hear dad reply.


They found him on the kitchen floor, Pepsi dribbling down his shirt.


“That…” he whispered to the first son to ask him what happened, “wasn’t…Coke…”




So, ended Don’t Cross This Line’s pre-snippet, snippets.

The following are the confirmed Authors who are writing in The Kurtherian Gambit Universe with me.  Our first collaboration books are releasing either in December or January 2017


Check them out ;-)




CRAIG MARTELLE - Terry Henry “TH” Walton Chronicles


Don't Cross This Line


Craig is the Author of the the best selling End Times Alaska Series, The Free Trader Series and the new Cygnus Rising series.


He is a retired Marine, lawyer (not holding that against him) and consultant.  He is taking over the science fiction and miltiary fiction genres.


Craig is letting loose in The Kurtherian Universe with language not used in his writing since…Well, he heard it in the Marines.


Here is the first blurb about Terry Henry.


The Terry Henry “TH” Walton Chronicles starts with Nomad Found (January 2017)


After the fall, strength was power, then electrical power became a force unto itself. The strong built their empires, only because of people like Terry Henry Walton. He showed a small town boss there are no limits if you planned well and built slowly.


You just have to stay smart to be one step ahead of the next strongman.


In a world where mechanics and engineers are the most valuable people, Terry committed to protect them with his life. Little did he know he lived because others allowed it. Little did they know, he doesn’t give a fuck what they allow.


Because Robert told him the future was bleak, and he has an ace-in-the-hole.




VISIT CRAIG ON HIS AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:

https://www.amazon.com/Craig-Martelle/e/B01AQVF3ZY/

TS (Scott) Paul - Etheric Empire Academy Series




Don't Cross This Line


Scott is the author of the bestselling science fiction YA Athena Lee Chronicles and his new best selling Urban Fantasy Federal Witch series.


Scott is well known to my fans as he is the #1 Also-bought almost every day I look (meaning he is the most purchased author of the top 16 authors my fans read).


When I was searching for a collaborator to do a YA series, I figured I’d ask Scott because it was a logical choice, but with his success and busy writing schedule, I hadn’t really expected him to say ‘yes’.


I’m super happy that he signed up!


The Etheric Empire Academy series (first book release Dec 2016) will follow those youth we know from the stories (Cheryl Lynn’s daughter and son and others) as a uniquely Bethany Anne academy is created to help them learn not only Reading, Writing and Arithmetic…  But Etheric Anti-Gravity engineering, small squad tactics and alien relations 101.


Unfortunately, just like their parents are single minded and willing to break a few rules, the children don’t fall far from that tree.




VISIT SCOTT ON HIS AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:

https://www.amazon.com/T-S-Paul/e/B01C7IPHYQ

JUSTIN SLOAN - Reclaiming Honor Series


Don't Cross This Line


Justin is the author behind such titles as Falls of Redemption Trilogy, Modern Necromancy Series (with Michael La Ron), Bringer of Light Trilogy (Allie Strom) and additional work on the Game of Thrones game as well as tv and movie scripts (his latest work with Sean Platt and others was picked up recently to be made into a movie.)


The Reclaiming Honor (Justice is Calling out 12.15.2016) series paints the picture of the world Michael returns to one hundred and fifty years after Bethany Anne and the Etheric Empire have left to fight the Kurtherians.


Valerie, a vampire changed by one of David’s children who was released from his cement prison by grave robbers, can’t follow her father anymore.


She must follow the call in her heart and seeks the land of America to prepare to protect it from the effort to spread her father’s dominion.


All while trying to figure out why some people are starting to trade in blackmarket Vampire blood in this new city-state.




VISIT JUSTIN ON HIS AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:

https://www.amazon.com/Justin-Sloan/e/B00OJPAM0K

Justice Is Calling - A New Kurtherian Gambit Series

Coming

December 2016


Don't Cross This Line

CHAPTER 1


Old Angers, France (West of Paris)


Valerie turned her head just enough to stop the rancid, oil-slicked water from flowing into her mouth. The street was filthy, even ignoring the blood and guts--not that those would disgust her. Well, not the blood anyway, her being a vampire and all.

Something had tasted nasty in that water. Nasty enough for her to care to move her head, in spite of the piercing pain that doing so sent through her body. That's what happens when your brother breaks practically every bone in your body and leaves you on the rain-drenched street.

Utter and unbelievable pain.

In fact, she was ready for the sun to come up. Hoping it would hurry and get on with it, how much worse than what she was already feeling could the sun be?  Death had never scared her. But pain? Even though she had always healed from it, she hated pain.

And with this much pain, she was ready to die. All thanks to her brother, Donovan.

She’d hoped he was gone, done with her, but she felt him next to her. She could smell his scent, even through the blood that had come streaming out of her broken nose.

Donovan, that ass, kneeled down and moved her hair so that it wasn’t blocking her view of him.

“See, Valerie, I can be nice when I want to.”  He chuckled and cast a glance over his shoulder, where she imagined one of his goons stood but couldn’t see from this angle. Probably Jean-Pierre, his right-hand man, and the one that had delivered the sucker punch that set her up for her brother’s beat-down.

He turned back to her, “I just never care to be nice,” he continued.  He leaned a little closer, enough she could smell his breath, “That’s the difference between you and me."

Those goons laughed, and she imagined ripping their pitiful, small brained heads from their gorilla-like bodies. They’d ambushed her as she walked down the raining street. Lost in her thoughts, she would’ve been able to take them any other time, but today something had changed. She lost focus... and direction.

She’d seen the chaos, the death, the truth. Like a veil covering her eyes, the lies had been lifted. Now the reality of her situation didn't sit right with her. Especially not when she’d turned to see one of these goons taking the life of a child. A defenseless child, dead, for no reason. And now… she couldn’t do anything to stop them from continuing to be ruthless fucking pricks. It sucked.

“You. Are. A. Dick,” she managed between pained breaths and choking on the sewer runoff that flowed into her mouth.

She coughed up and half-vomited, pleased to see the scrunched up expression on Donovan’s face when some of that sewage-spit-meets-vomit hit his shoes.

“Yes,” he said, casually standing up and then wiping his shoe off on her pants. “But this dick isn’t the one dying in the deserted street, waiting for the clouds to break apart and have the unholy sun come down and kill her, is he?” He sneered, then laughed when she tried to talk again and failed.

She looked to the dark blue at the edge of the black sky, a hint of pink working its way up along with the rising son, and struggled to say, “Dad…”

He barked a laugh and said, “Dad? Dad is going to appreciate the truth, if I ever get around to telling him. Why he dotes on your worthless, spineless ass, I don’t know. Now, he will be sad for maybe a day or two and then he can continue the effort to plan the eventual takeover of the New York City State by yours truly.” Donovan glared down at her, disdain heavy in his voice as he said, “Not by a little whore who disgraces all vampires with her inability to act.”

He watched her for a minute, lying there, broken and bleeding then he smiled. “Darling sister, you look sick.” With a laugh, he kicked sewage water in her face, “You must stay hydrated.”

Behind closed eyelids, the embers of her anger started to burn slowly; the sewage runoff like gas for the burning hatred in her gut.

Now? Now dying wasn’t an option. His ass was hers if it was the last thing she managed in this life.

Donovan and his goons walked off, laughing as she worked to figure out how she could beat the sun from stopping her in her vengeance…No, not vengeance.

Justice.

She tried to move her hand, but all she could manage was whimpering in pain. A tear, laced with blood, joined the water beneath her face.

***

Sandra ran through the corpses of the slaughtered, her heart hardened to yet another conquered village. She had thought she'd enjoy witnessing one more conquest in the Blessed's gradual move to the coast. During training, she had listened with fascination of the stories, always amazed by their courage. They had come this far from Old Paris and had managed to take down or absorb into the Duke’s kingdom every group they found in the barren and forsaken lands.

The dying lands.

None of that mattered right now, because if Sandra didn’t find her Valerie, her Mistress, it would be her head.

No, that wasn’t what Valerie had said…It would be her heart. On a platter, served cold for Valerie’s other servants to consume while she watched.

Part of that threat terrified Sandra, but part of it made her laugh. Sure, she’d seen the darker side of her Mistress. But they’d also spent evenings together staring out over the wasteland that had once been known as Paris... the toppled Eiffel Tower and lines of abandoned cars, all the while wondering what the days had been like before the collapse of civilization.

They’d talked, they’d laughed, and they’d touched. Her Mistress’s hand had found hers, and then her lips, gentle, yet firm. A kiss, given in friendship and maybe something more?

It had never happened again, and Sandra had been sworn to secrecy. But…it was enough to make her doubt Valerie would ever cause her any real harm.

So yes, fear drove her in this search, but more than that. It was loyalty, and the deepest love for a friend one could have, when said friend was a vampire princess and one’s supposedly ruthless Mistress.

The feeding contributed to the loyalty, she couldn’t ignore that, of course. The taste of Valerie’s blood when she offered it wasn’t what Sandra would call sweet, but it flowed through her, making her feel younger, healthier, and in complete bliss.

The only problem was that it was addictive as hell.

She reached the top of the pile of rubble and, in the distance, saw the rays of sun peeking out over the trees. The other Blessed, as the father of them all titled his Clan, were pulling back to the cover of darkness. The father, Le Duc Eckhart was simply referred to as the Duke, his French title from the old days.

That had been before he’d gone into sleep mode and slept right through the end of days, or the “Second Falling of Rome,” as he called it. Now, he orchestrated these attacks and insisted on war camps set up at a retreat point, guarded by loyal Weres during the day. A raid would occur, then Eckhart’s children and their children would retreat during the light of day while his other troops cleaned up and established another outpost in his name.

Even the Duke couldn’t survive in sunlight, which meant Valerie definitely could not. Being a non-modified human meant Sandra could, but it didn’t matter. She’d either die here searching for her Mistress, or be torn to pieces when she returned without her.

“Valerie,” she called out in a hoarse whisper, her voice overused from calling out for her master. One minute Valerie had been at the front lines, charging in to attack with Donovan, and the next she'd wandered off, aimlessly.

Shadows were beginning to creep along the roads, and one moved. At first, Sandra refused to get her hopes up, figuring it was simply a forgotten victim, but then she saw the eyes—red, glimmering, searching.

In the flash that it took her legs to carry her to her Mistress, Sandra was kneeling beside Valerie. She gasped in shock at the sight of her master. In the past, Valerie had returned home with gunshots, Werewolf bites, and worse…but nothing like this. The beating she must have taken to be in this state was unheard of.

Then it hit her. No human could have done this to her Mistress.

“Who betrayed you?” Sandra asked, hands shaking in anger. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find you earlier, I searched, but…where’d you go?”

Valerie almost smiled, but the tears of blood running down her cheeks gave her away. Her mouth opened, but no words came out.

“We have to get you out of the sun,” Sandra said, and then bent down to help her up.

But the motion sent a spasm through Valerie and she screamed in pain.

Again Sandra glanced at the horizon. The thick, billowing clouds were orange now with highlights of purple, and the tip of the sun was barely visible.

“Drink, Mistress,” she said, holding out her wrist for Valerie. “It’s the only way.”

***

Valerie stared up at this lowly human. Her servant, yet so much more. There was no way around it, if she hoped to survive long enough to escape the sunlight and one day truly bring justice about, this was the way.

Every bone in her body snapped and cracked as she tried to move for the bite, but the pain caused her to collapse in agony.

“Please,” she whispered, the words barely escaping her mouth. This was humiliation galore. Valerie the vampire princess stooping to such lows.

But to not do so meant Donovan won, and that she could not allow.

“Please,” she said again, and this time Sandra heard, judging by the look of shock in her eyes.

Without hesitation, Sandra pressed her wrist to Valerie’s mouth, flinching only slightly when the fangs pierced her skin.

Warm blood flowed forth and it tasted of life—sweet, aromatic, and soothing. At first, Valerie felt she would close her eyes and just sleep forever, but then a surge of energy and power came over her. She knew that nothing could ever stand in her way.

Skin pulled itself back together and she felt her bones mending themselves. She licked her lips and drank more, closing her eyes in ecstasy and then focusing on the warmth of the blood as it filled her and nursed her back to life.

A soft moan. She looked up to see how pale Sandra had become in a matter of seconds, and what she hadn’t seen at first hit her—sunlight forming a halo around her servant’s head. The sunrise had found them.

With one last, sensual lick, Valerie pulled herself back from Sandra’s wrist and told her, “I am forever in your debt.”

Sandra collapsed beside her, falling into the shadows and out of the sun’s path.

Valerie tested her strength and was glad to see it returning. The pain was there, but bearable as she continued to feel bones mending, muscles re-attaching. She put an arm around her servant, and then, spotting a building still mostly intact, drug herself and Sandra through shadows until they were safe inside.

“The others,” Sandra managed as they leaned against the inside wall, recuperating. “Your father won’t like that we’re not with them.”

Valerie's eyes flashed red, “My father can kiss my vampire ass, as long as he doesn’t suck any blood from it.”

Sandra turned with a jolt. Nobody talked of the Duke that way.

Valerie painfully held up a hand to stop whatever Sandra might say, finality in her voice. “We’re not going back. Ever.”

“Then, we’re no better than Forsaken,” Sandra said. “On the run, hunted. I—”

“You’ll do as you're told,” Valerie said, then glanced at the younger woman’s wrist and cringed, thinking of her honor. “That is, if you’re willing. I cannot force you to make this journey with me.”

Sandra’s eyes went wide at this offer, but then considered the options her heart provided and nodded.

She wasn’t going anywhere.

“What is the plan, Mistress?”

“We get to America before Donovan and his people, set up a base of defense, and see to it that my brother’s journey across the ocean will be his last.”


CHAPTER 2


Somewhere Across the Atlantic


Diego snuck through the large, open cargo bay of the anti-grav blimp, his nose tingling. He hadn’t been sure what upset his senses when the ship first set off. The scent of goods, en route to supply the few remaining city-states in North America, had been strong enough to cancel out his Were senses.

But now that they were floating out over the open seas, he was sure of it. The smell of fish, salt, and vampire.

The streets of Spain had taught him how to stay out of trouble. Groups of Weres claimed different territories of Old Madrid, with the wolves on one side, a splinter group of the Sacred Clan—Were cats—in another. But he was a runt, which meant none had accepted him. Small when transformed and not much taller than five-six as a man, he’d been laughed out of dens when he tried to pitch himself to the various packs.

No Alpha wanted him as a liability.

He had tried to tell them that he had his own unique skills. Speed. A brain that worked twice as fast as most others, and the ability to sneak.

“So go join the Sacred Clan, pup,” one of the henchmen had told him, right before Diego put a blade in the Were’s throat.

So yeah, sticking around after that discussion hadn’t been an option. Asia had too many risks, with the legends of Yuko and Akio, vampires nobody wanted to mess with. Staying in Europe meant the packs would be after him if he tried to hide out in Spain or Portugal, and anywhere else risked more Vampires. Forsaken or not, he’d heard what they did to stray dogs and cats, and didn’t want to find out if those rumors were true for himself.

But right now, his dreams of making it West looked like a long shot. For all he knew, this vampire was here to kill him, paid off by the Were who he’d nearly killed—and would have, if the blade had been silver. Even if the vampire didn’t know anything about him, it was likely to throw him overboard simply to avoid complications.

Diego paused by one of several round, thick glass windows, and watched the setting sun.

If the vampire had traveled during the day, that meant… No, that couldn’t have happened. Only the old vampires of legend, from the days before the fall of the world, could walk in the sun. Even that could be fiction as much as fact. Diego, for his part, believed it was simply the stories vampires told to scare other members of the UnknownWorld.

“Where are you?” he hissed, stepping away from the window and trying to make sense of it. But only one conclusion came to mind. The vampire had help. Whether that meant in the form of humans or something else, he couldn’t be sure.

He’d have to proceed with caution.

And then a thought struck him—if they were down here in the shadows, the sunlight wouldn’t matter. He’d forgotten the part in the stories that said they didn’t actually need to sleep in the day, that little detail had been made up from fiction long ago lost.

Mierda, he thought, as a breath touched his neck. He froze, waiting for the fangs, but none came.

Instead, it was a woman’s voice. “You were looking for me, and now you’ve found me.”

She hadn’t attacked, and that was her mistake. His claws extended as he spun on her—only to be thrown aside as a second person, or vampire more likely, based on how fast they moved, sent him flying.

***

Valerie had been waiting for the Were to walk right into her trap. Part of her waited like this because she wasn’t sure she’d fully healed from the night before—she still felt a bit queasy. The other part of her simply liked to toy with Weres.

She’d gambled correctly on feeding Sandra some of her blood, after healing so that they could both be recuperated in case anything went down. In this case, it also served to make the servant girl smell like a vampire.

He growled and swiped at her with his claws, drawing blood across Valerie’s face. It would heal, but crap it stung!

“Quiet or they’ll be after us,” she hissed, pinning him to the floor with one hand as the other went to the hilt of her sword. “And I’d prefer not to have to kill the people who know how to fly this thing.”

The fierceness in his eyes faltered, and he lowered his clawed hand.

“You’re not killing me?”

“Not yet decided, but I’d prefer  not to mess up my karma.” She looked him up and down, noting his small stature for a Were, even an Asian looking Were. “But you haven’t told me why you were snooping around down here.”

“Snooping? I smelled vampire, and figured I was being hunted.”

“You’re so important that we’d send our own to track you down?” She looked at him like he had just taken a walk off the short plank into a pool of stupidity.

He blinked at that, clearly affronted.

“That’s what I thought,” she said, then stood and waited for him to get up. “Tell me fast, Were, what you’re doing here.”

He stared at her, defiantly. Fine by her, she could play this game all day—as long as the top of the blimp didn’t fly away and leave her exposed to sunlight, which was unlikely to happen. Then again, she’d rather get back to hiding before they were discovered and would have to explain themselves.

Crews of the blimps were known for their ferocity. They had to be strong, in the face of pirates. Thule inspired anti-grav technology, left over from the days before the fall, meant that they could get blimps flying. Other means of travel across the seas were challenging, as fuel had become incredibly scarce after the great fall of the world. So it was back to the old days of sailboats, if one could gather enough of a crew and figure out brave the ocean, or these blimps. Either way, pirates had made a comeback—some human, others not. Most kept to the waters, but if they managed to get their hands on a blimp and shoot you down, you were pretty much toast—burnt, soggy, salty toast.

For all she knew, half of this crew was made up of pirates looking for an honest buck between pirating bouts.

“I’m not going to sit here having a staring contest with you all day,” she said. “Speak up, or I feed you to the sharks.”

“Why not eat me yourself?” he said, with a glare like he dared her.

“Do you really understand so little about my kind?” She laughed, then turned to Sandra. “Would you please explain?”

Sandra stepped forward, hands folded before her. “My Mistress is referring to the fact that vampires aren’t big on Were blood. So, my assumption is she’d at least prefer to give you a swimming chance, or better yet, make the sharks happy with a meal that came to them.”

With a cautious glance, Sandra stepped forward, eyeing the Were up and down. “But you don’t strike me as dangerous, because you’re not. Isn’t that right, Mr. …?”

“The real name’s Xianliang,” he said, his eyes clearly announcing his annoyance. “But I had a street name in Spain, if you must… The guys called me Diego.”

“Huh. Diego… I kinda like that. I’ll use that when I like you. Ass-cat otherwise.”

He glared and waited.

With a nod from Valerie, Sandra introduced the two of them. And then they waited. Finally, Diego blew out his breath and leaned up against a crate.

“The old world has nothing for me anymore,” he told them. “Better to follow the path of those before. Head out west.”

“It’s as simple as that?” Valerie asked.

He eyed her out of the corner of his eyes, then shrugged. “Nothing’s ever simple. But yeah, honestly. There are stories you hear, right? This one's about a place they’re rebuilding up north, what the old days referred to as New Jersey. Well, rumor has it that’s the place to be. I’m talking food, shelter, and even some sort of order.”

Was this Were serious? Valerie shared a look with Sandra, but she didn’t look surprised. More like sympathetic. It wasn’t that Valerie didn’t realize people and those of the Unknown World lived in poor conditions, but being the creation of the Duke meant certain lifestyle differences from the general populace. And she rarely had to deal with it. Even when they had set up their various outposts around France and she had gone to inspect, the worst must have been hidden from her, as she was now beginning to understand.

Everything was hidden from her until she had insisted on going on the raid. The Duke had said no, at first, but had capitulated at Donovan’s insistence. Now it all made sense. He knew she’d freeze up when she saw what it was really like, this underground war they were fighting—us against everyone else. And now she was getting a different view of it.

They found a hiding spot near the back of the supplies, and soon she found that she didn’t think this guy was half bad.

Diego told her all about the streets of Spain, how he’d been a Were as long as he could remember. Maybe even born into it, but he hadn’t ever known his parents.

It had been survival first, everything else a distant second in his experience.

“How about you?” he asked at a lull in the conversation. “I mean… am I just talking nonsense here?”

Sandra looked like she was about to answer, but Valerie held up a finger and said, “No, it was the same for us.” She noticed Sandra’s look of confusion at her lie, but went on. “We never fit in with society, always on the run. It’s the same now, and who knows, maybe we’ll come to this city of gold you mentioned.”

His expression turned to worry, and she was about to ask what that was about, when she noticed he wasn’t looking at her at all, but past her to the window.

A large shadow was passing them, and in an instant she was at the window, watching as two large blimps moved into attack formation. One of them sported the modified jolly roger—crossbones, but instead of a skull it was a vampire face with blood dripping down from long, sharp fangs.

“At least we know this legend is true,” Diego said. When both Valerie and Sandra looked at him like he was crazy, he added, “What? I’m just saying, I like to know what’s true and what isn’t in this world.”

“Know this then,” Valerie said, pulling out her sword and turning towards the bay door. “If we don’t save this ship, none of us will be making it to that fabled city of yours.”

He gulped at the sword, and rightly so. It was solid steel underneath, but the silver lining etched into the blade and used to fortify the tip meant members of the Unknown World had extra reason to fear her. “Then let’s make sure they leave here in pieces,” Diego said. He stripped quickly, both women glancing to each other and back at him.  Sandra caught Valerie's attention and lifted her eyebrows twice, quickly.  Valerie had to hold in a laugh that threatened to escape.

In a blink of an eye, he was gone, replaced by a ferocious looking, if a bit on the smaller side from what Valerie was used to, puma.

Her favorite shoes had been a vintage pair of Pumas found in an old abandoned warehouse, so in spite of his size, she found herself instantly liking him a little bit more. Still, she wondered about his ability in a fight. Rolling her eyes, she had to wonder at her ability to make decisions, if she was willing to like this Were because of her fascination with a pair of shoes that hadn't been manufactured in decades.

While Valerie was among the best of them when it came to training, her recent experience with a real battle and the taking of lives gave her reason to worry. This Were kitten didn’t help her confidence any.

But she had a mission, and right now those pirates stood in her way. She’d have to suck it up and make them pay, and just hope that Diego could do his part.


CHAPTER 3


Valerie leaped up to the nearest crate, went through a window, and up the stairs to the deck to see what they were dealing with. A moment later, Diego joined her in his Puma form.

“Sandra’s not coming?” he hissed.

“Can’t serve me very well if she’s dead, can she?” She answered sarcastically.

She saw the realization dawn on his face before he said it. “She’s not a vamp.”

“Bingo.” Valerie held out a hand for silence as a crew woman went running by.

The way these blimp ships were, the deck could be covered in sunlight at certain times of day, and since it was approaching dusk, most of the deck was. They were, fortunately, hiding behind a large portion of the captain's cabin and the stairwell that led both up to the captain and down to where they had just come.

The two sky-ships were moving around so that one would be on each side, and men and women were already moving to their battle stations on all three of the ships.

“Prepare to be boarded,” a voice came over  the loudspeaker from the ship to their left. “Resist, and you will be sucking water with the worst of them.”

“What're our chances of outrunning them if the captain goes that route?” Valerie asked.

Diego shook his little puma head, and said with a voice slightly more alluring than his own, especially in the way he rolled his R’s almost like a purr, “Zero to none, but fighting she might hold up.”

“Two to one,” Valerie said, doubtful.

“Trrrust me, I’m kind of a techie nerd. Well, as far as tech goes these days. In the old days, let me tell you what I could’ve done with—Ouch!”

She’d flicked him in the ear. “Focus!”

“Rrright, but, ouch!” His tail moved and he shifted on his hind legs as if preparing to pounce, but then said, “The point is, theirrr ships are built for speed. Like sloops in the old days, just single masted, not many cannons, but ours is more like a Man of War. Those babies had double masts and a hundred cannon.”

“None of what you just said means anything to me.”

The puma sighed. “Pirate stuff. I don’t know if I have it right either, honestly. But back in those days—”

“Diego…”

“Ah, right, focusing. Let me say this in simple, even-a-vampire-can-understand terms—our ship is strong, theirs are not.”

“Okay,” Valerie said, irritation causing her voice to rise slightly. Good thing everyone around them was yelling and had no reason to come to this part of the ship just yet. “Let me say this in you-want-to-live-so-don’t-ever-talk-to-me-like-that-again terms. I will throw you off into the ocean and see if cats like water.”

The puma’s tail twitched quickly. “Sorry, it’s a habit.”

“Being an ass is a habit of yours?”

He nodded.

Great, she was trying to figure out how to make it out of this without being discovered and without having to slaughter every last one of them, and here she was, was stuck with a sarcastic ass-cat. She laughed to herself.

“Something funny?” Diego said.

“I just came up with a new nickname for you. Ass-cat.”

Diego stared at her, his yellow puma eyes burning fiercely.

“It’ll grow on you,” she said, then motioned to him. “Follow me.”

“Wait, wha—”….




Join Valerie in December with Justice Is Calling  (Reclaiming Honor Book 01)…

Coming January / February 2017


Don't Cross This Line

Don't Cross This Line

Don't Cross This Line


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