Béla's time on Earth comes to a terrifying end - and for the others, as well!
Cory McCloud stood guard, wrapped in his lead-lined poncho, and looked out over the magnificent mountains and valleys. The Appalachians were beautiful and peacefully magnificent, but the Rockies were magnificently harsh – each upthrust detail and stark cliff face crisp and visible – and completely inspiring to any soul who gazed upon them.
In the three weeks that his unit had been traveling across the continent, Cory had seen many sights that shook him deep inside. He’d never realized how large America was, even though he had trampled all over the wondrous green mountains and valleys of West Virginia and Tennessee. The army avoided the empty cities except for small squads that foraged for canned goods in the early morning or early evening of each day while the remainder were either setting up or taking down their protective lead-lined tents and shelters.
He reached the end of his assigned section, still watching carefully for any signs of motion, and turned to go back. He jumped and nearly fell over when he saw the incredibly beautiful and completely naked blonde sitting on a rock, watching him.
“Hi,” Tanya said, smiling.
“Holy…” Cory began. “Uh, wow! Uh, Miss, you shouldn’t be out here in the… uh, sun. It isn’t healthy.”
‘Wow! Talk about healthy! Holy shit that is the most incredible…’
Tanya laughed as she felt his emotions flow over her. His boyish lust was a real turn-on for the hundred-and-forty-year-old girl.
“You’re HER!” he exclaimed, swinging his rifle around and pointing it at the naked blonde. “The Wicked Seductress! The Devil Girl!”
“Well!” Tanya exclaimed, trying not to laugh. “You mean I have my own religion?”
Tanya stood up and delicately stepped down off the rock she’d been sitting on, not paying any attention to the rifle in the nervous young lad’s hands. She looked up and noticed that it was pointed right at her. Smiling, she began to walk toward him.
The rifle vanished!
‘Hey! Put that back!’
‘Sorry, sweetie, no time to get gut-shot! We have work to do…’
‘I want my bloodthirsty Lisa back! She likes watching me get murdered!’
‘Touch him and find out what we need to know. Now!’
Cory was slowly backing away, his mind a boiling cauldron of fear and lusty desire. The fear had increased a lot now that his rifle had disappeared.
“Tell me, you sweet boy,” Tanya cooed at the retreating guard, “What do they say about me?”
“T-t-they s-say,” Cory stuttered and tried valiantly to bring his unreasoning fear of her under control. “S-say that you s-seduce the guards, then steal everything they’re trying to p-protect!”
“That it?” Tanya complained, pretending to be insulted. “No… sucking your soul out, or leaving you with such unfulfilled desire that no other woman will do?”
“Well, yeah,” he admitted. “I… I heard t-that, too!”
“Surely you don’t believe that,” she said softly, taking another step toward him.
Cory looked around, desperately hoping he’d see his rifle on the ground. He didn’t. “I-I didn’t, never b-believed you were real!”
He flinched as she touched his cheek. He felt her mind flood into his and find his images of laughing with his squad members, each one bragging about what they would do to her if she came to them.
“You’d really tie me up and titty-fuck me?” she murmured, almost laughing. “How sweet!”
‘The supplies are in the flattop next to the command bunker,’ she thought at Béla.
‘Okay – let’s go!’
“Sorry I can’t stay,” Tanya whispered to the poor, trembling boy.
She kissed him full on the lips, then vanished.
It was darker in the supply tent and it took a moment for Tanya’s eyes to adjust.
“This is fucking ammo!” she heard Béla curse. “Where’s the food?”
Casting about with her mind, Tanya felt another guard standing outside. He was holding a device in his hand and pointing it at their tent.
“It’s a trap!” Tanya yelped and vanished again.
She teleported out behind the guard and grabbed him by the collar, pulling him to the ground. The little remote in his hand went flying. There were pounding boots coming up from behind her – several, in fact. She looked around quickly and spied the remote. It vanished. An instant later, so did she.
‘The food is already loaded into the trucks,’ she heard Béla say in her mind.
‘They knew we were coming!’ Tanya thought back. ‘We shouldn’t take the trucks anywhere vital – they might be booby trapped!’
‘You’re right! You want front or back?’
‘Front, I guess…’
One girl at each end of the truck, they teleported it outside the entrance to their mountain.
“Can you do one more?” Béla asked, already feeling the energy drain on her body.
“Yeah!” Tanya panted.
They teleported one more truck, then collapsed to the ground, exhausted.
Tanya passed completely out and found herself dreamwalking inside the trailer.
‘Hmm. The nice thing about dreamwalking is you don’t need light to see,’ she thought as she perused over boxes of canned goods and dried vegetables.
Creating an image of the Phoenix’s cargo hold, she began moving boxes from the trailer to the orbiting ship. She didn’t even have to pick any of them up – she simply moved the image of the cargo hold over each box and watch as it vanished.
She could feel Béla dreamwalking in the other trailer and doing the same thing. They had both trailers almost empty, now.
“Get out! NOW!” Lisa screamed into Tanya’s mind.
She felt Béla receive the alarm as well, and teleported her sleeping body into the image of the Phoenix’s cargo hold. Béla didn’t appear, so Tanya, still dream-walking, returned to the entrance into the mountain.
At least, she tried to. She dropped into a vast fireball of nuclear energy expanding rapidly upward into the stratosphere.
Terrified, she teleported into Solar City. Everything was shaking and the roof of the vast cavern was caving in and falling…
No. The cave roof was flat, now, resting against…
‘Tabatha! Thank God!’
Tabatha had created a time-shield around the central part of the city. A dozen people whom she’d been unable to protect had been killed as the cave collapsed around the edges of the city, but most of the populace had been returning from work and were at the centrally located food stations to get their evening meals.
Returning to her body, Tanya woke up on the floor of the cargo hold and physically teleported down to Solar City.
“Tanya!” Frank yelled with joy when he saw her. “You’re all right!”
“Yeah,” she replied, barely able to talk with his arms so tightly around her. “What happened?”
“They booby-trapped everything!” Lisa exclaimed angrily. “The food was booby-trapped and the guards were misinformed as to where stuff was. I thought I’d lost Tabby until I got back here. She must have time-walked because I couldn’t find her anywhere. Then the bomb went off at the front gate and I had to go back and warn you and Mom…”
“Thank you, Lisa,” Tanya exclaimed and hugged her into Frank’s embrace. “You saved my butt – again!”
The three of them radiated their joy that they all had survived the Confederacy’s vile trickery. Then Tanya started to faint from exhaustion, almost pulling the other two down.
“Hey, Sweetheart,” Frank asked anxiously. “You okay?”
“Hungry, dizzy,” Tanya panted, not able to catch her breath.
Frank and Lisa helped her sit down. Weak and weary, Tanya looked around at the survivors. Béla was sitting, slumped like Tanya. The two Jakes were both solicitously spooning food into her as fast as she could swallow.
Tanya’s numb reverie was interrupted a moment later as Frank returned carrying two platefuls of something.
‘Oh, joy! Beans – again… Yay! A chunk of meat! Alright!’
Lisa was helping. She’d loaded him up with dishes and was now unloading him, placing several hot dishes right in front of Tanya. She sat down and started shoveling food into her face, not waiting to see what Tanya wanted. Chuckling tiredly, Tanya pulled the nearest plate of beans and cornbread closer and began to eat.
“Jake wants a debriefing as soon as you girls are ready,” Frank told both of them as he sat down.
Lisa looked up, frowning. “I’m going to tell them there is no military threat anymore. I won’t need fifteen minutes to finish them off!”
“No!” Tanya exclaimed wearily. “Let’s decide as a group! We should stick together.”
Lisa fumed. Her voice shook with emotion and rage. “I thought I lost Tabby! I couldn’t find her anywhere! I timewalked back and saw her disappear from inside the truck she was searching, then it blew up! That’s when I knew she was okay. I went back again and teleported the truck back to where we found it as soon as Tabby teleported out. It blew up right in the middle of their camp!”
“You wiped out the entire army?” Tanya asked, stunned.
“I didn’t stay to find out,” Lisa replied. “I figured if our stuff was booby-trapped, yours probably was, too. By the time I got there, everything was vaporized. I time-walked back to warn you. And, no, I didn’t get an image of what you were thinking when you died, this time!”
Frank laughed nervously at that. Tanya just sighed, obviously disappointed.
“You faker!” Lisa exclaimed. “You didn’t even think of it until I told you!”
Béla came over and sat down with them. “Feeling better?”
“Yes,” Tanya replied. “Thanks to Lisa, we’re still around, huh?”
“I know,” Béla replied. “Sweetheart, you make a good backup, even if you don’t have your ‘phoenix’ abilities.”
“She sure does,” Tanya replied when Lisa didn’t say anything. “There’s a debriefing?”
“Yes,” Béla replied. “In about five minutes.”
Lisa turned and looked at her mom. “Good! I won’t be gone that long…”
She vanished. A moment later she reappeared. Her body was warm like she’d been out in the sun.
“Where’d you go?” Tanya asked cheerfully.
An image of Tanya being vaporized and the single instant of her awareness that it was happening before she died.
“You’ve been time-walking,” her mother suggested, not accusing her of anything. “Did you bring me one?”
Lisa smiled and shook her head. “Never occurred to me.”
From several tables away, Jake whistled at them to come over. The debriefing was about to start. The little group went over and joined Tabatha, Macario and both Jakes.
“I think that we should just let Lisa talk,” Béla suggested. “She's the one who saved all our hinder-tails today.”
“You’ll all get a chance,” the Chairman said, smiling. “First off, you are all an incredible group and more capable than I’d ever hoped. I’m thankful that you all survived the treachery dreamed up by those bastards. Tabatha, thank you for getting back here in time to hold up the roof – literally! And, I’ll turn the meeting over to you, now.”
He stepped down and Tabatha stood up. “Thanks, Hon.”
She looked around at her close-knit group. “I am so happy to see all of you alive! This has been a terrifying afternoon, and our work isn’t finished yet. But I’ll go into that, later.
“Right now, there are still two armies out there that are gunning for us,” she continued. “The group in the San Luis Valley is, if there are any left at all, effectively dispersed. We made the mistake of using the same tactics to steal from them over and over again. The Normals aren’t completely stupid, and have figured out a way to combat us.
“The nuclear strike at our front gate is something we did to ourselves. We weren’t careful enough. I even got vaporized and had to go back and teleport myself to safety. I’ve never saved myself quite that way before, and, I assure you, it’s a strange sensation, forcing a merge into a past ‘self’. I guess Lisa’s pretty good at doing that… What?”
Tabatha looked at Macario for a few seconds as though distracted then turned visibly whiter. “Umm, I think I’ll let Lisa talk for awhile. Lisa?”
Tabatha sat down, quickly, if a bit unsteadily.
“Okay, guys and gals,” Lisa said, looking unusually perky for what they’d all been through.
‘She thrives on adversity,’ Béla tiredly heard someone, probably Tanya, think.
“There’s an army to our east,” Lisa continued, “that’s trying to cross our new Grand Canyon. Tab… Tabatha wasn’t entirely correct – there’s only one army left. Only one bomb exploded at our front gate – I returned the other one to our generous providers before it went off.
“Now, regarding our immediate safety…” Lisa looked up at the roof – a mad assemblage of rocks and dirt lying on the top of Tabatha’s time-shield. “Tabby, can you put a time-shield ‘around’ the rocks so that it’s surrounding them, and not just holding them up?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Tabatha replied, still looking a little white.
Nothing visibly changed, but after a moment, the rocks began to glow molten red, then solidified into a smooth, finished surface.
“You want to release the time-shield?” Lisa asked Tabatha.
Tabatha looked up and slowly softened the time-shield, moving the thin protective layer into present time until it was effectively dispersed. She laughed when nothing happened, then dissolved the field completely. There was a vibration in the ground as though a small earthquake was occurring.
“Sorry,” Tabatha explained. “The time-shield at the front gate just folded, too.”
“That’s okay,” Lisa replied. “I don’t think anyone will be coming in that way for the next few thousand years. We’ll be long gone by then and…”
‘There are several objects entering the stratosphere over Colorado,’ the Praetor mentally informed the group. ‘They appear to be missiles.’
‘Is the ship in any danger?’ Béla asked.
‘Unknown,’ the Praetor replied. ‘The Bridge Commander requested that I inform you as events occur.’
“Well, I think we should get ready,” Tabatha murmured, sounding nervous. “The second wave is on its way.”
“The second wave?” Jake Pestova asked.
“We’re going to be nuked,” Béla said, clarifying the situation.
“Okay,” the other Jake said, quickly rising from his chair. “Lisa, Béla outside and in the air. Tabatha, I want you outside and on the surface to shield us from anything that gets by them. Tanya…”
He sighed, “This isn’t your show. I know you want to fight, but you’ll only get yourself killed. Take Frank and Mac up to the ship. They can unload the Focal Press as shipments arrive. Then go to the Bridge and coordinate with Commander Cutberg and the Praetor. Dad and I will coordinate loading the Focal Press down here. Mom…”
He sighed again, looking at Alicia. “You’re good with people. Get everybody you can find over to the Focal Press. As soon as people start arriving, we’ll send one shipment of supplies, then one shipment of personnel and keep going until everything and everyone is on board the Phoenix! Got it?”
Béla and her daughter were already soaring high in the thin air over the mountains. Vapor trails were already visible coming toward them; long wispy trails of red illuminated by the setting sun. Lisa stared at one of the vapor trails and it ended in a brilliant burst of blinding white light. She sought out another and another nuclear missile exploded.
Béla concentrated on the tiny dot in front of the nearest vapor trail and teleported a rock off the ground into it. A brilliant burst of white light rewarded her effort.
‘Hey! What’d you do?’ Lisa asked excitedly.
‘I threw a rock at it!’ Béla replied, laughing.
‘Well, keep throwing!’ Lisa acknowledged cheerfully. ‘There’s lots more coming. And I can see bombers, too!’
In the next five minutes, the darkening sky became cloudy with vapor trails and exploded rockets. The sun was set, though, and Béla’s powers were at their peak. She could feel the minds of the pilots in the approaching aircraft.
‘Maybe I can convince them to turn around!’ she thought at her daughter. ‘I’m going to go find out!’
Béla vanquished her wings and teleported aboard one of the bombers.
“Excuse me,” she said to the pilot.
Lisa appeared, also wingless, and teleported her mother out as the bomber exploded.
“They’re booby-trapped,” Lisa explained. “As soon as you said something, it blew up! They don’t want anyone doing what Tanya did that last time!”
“Wow!” Béla replied. “Well, you saved my butt twice today. Let’s get back in position.”
They both teleported back to their respective positions above their mountain stronghold.
“Incoming!” Lisa yelped as a missile flashed past.
She pulled the entire ICBM into her mind and pushed it back out into the physical universe over Nashville. Enraged at how close that one had come because she abandoned her position to rescue her mom, she teleported several more over other known Confederate cities. Memphis and Knoxville were suddenly obliterated. She dropped the next one over deserted Wichita, just in case any mutant spiders were still there.
‘Béla! Lisa! You have jets coming in behind you!’ Tanya shouted into their minds from the Phoenix’s bridge.
“Get down on the ground!” Béla yelled.
It was too late. As Lisa grabbed the last ICBM and pulled it into her mind to teleport it elsewhere, her chest and belly exploded as a dozen fifty-caliber shells exited, having already shattered her ribs, lungs, heart and spine from behind. The fighter jet then sliced her body in half as it zipped through where she was flying.
Stunned by the violent multiple impacts, Lisa watched the world spinning around as she tumbled out of the sky. Incredibly, her legs seemed to be flying away from her in another direction.
‘What’s happening?’ she thought for an instant.
Then the pain hit and Lisa tried to cry out with her ruined lungs. Trying to take a breath, she realized for the first time that her body was destroyed. In her shock and surprise, Lisa dropped the missile. As it reformed in the physical universe, it exploded. For an instant, the nuclear bomb seemed to obliterate everything. Then, just like the one in Albuquerque many years earlier, it evaporated and vanished into a black hole as Lisa, her bullet-riddled body shredded, sliced in half and nearly vaporized, pulled the explosion into the teleportation zone with her in one final agonizing thrust.
‘Oh, man – this really sucks!’ and she was gone.
“LISA!” Béla screamed, both vocally and with her mind.
The terrific shock wave shredded Béla’s wings and knocked her cold. Her body twisted and turned as it fell out of the darkening sky.
Tanya was on the bridge of the Phoenix and jumped in terror as Tabatha let out a piercing scream. Turning quickly, she watched her pseudo daughter fly backwards and slam against the rear bulkhead, all the while glowing brightly.
“My God! She's on fire!” Tanya screamed.
Leaping forward to catch Tabatha as she slid down the wall, Tanya grabbed her and teleported to Sick Bay. She reappeared an instant later, screaming in agony as her skin flamed. Now both were down and on fire.
Amber quickly sprayed them down with a fire extinguisher, then checked them both to make sure they were still alive.
A few minutes later, Ember clambered through the entrance hatch. “I couldn’t teleport!” she gasped, completely out of breath from power climbing the half-mile from Engineering to the Bridge. “It’s burning hot every time I try!”
“Oh, God!” she cried out as she stared in horror at the two charred, unconscious girls. “Will they be all right? What’s happening on the surface?”
“I don’t know!” Amber cried. “A bomb got through our defenses and went off! Lisa and Béla were right in the middle of it! I don’t know if they’re alive or dead! Tabatha and Tanya tried to teleport and this is what happened to them!”
The twins stared at each other for a few seconds, each one seeing their worst fears in the other’s mind. On the screen behind them, several bright pinpricks of nuclear fire announced the end of Solar City.
“It’s over!” Ember cried softly. “We lost…”
“They’re all dead down there…” Amber whispered in horror. “Oh, God…”