The air and world around them went up in flames. A building off to their right exploded as something slammed into it. The shockwave made her head ring and her eyesight blury. Debris rained down around them before they could try to dive back into the building they stepped out of.
The rude man that’d directed them out here tried to shove them back into the building. The act to save their lives, cost him. Something sharp and flaming impacted his leg and he collapsed, screaming.
Shelly looked at Becky and Jessica, though she still couldn’t see Jessica’s face through the tinted helmet. She didn’t know what to do. It was too late to warn their rescuers about magic being severely weakened, and too dangerous to go out there to make their escape.
“Don’t just stand there like a girl,” the rude Paladonic Knight screeched through gritted teeth. “One of you, get me a bandage for my leg. The other, keep your weapon on the Betrayer’s Bitch.”
Shelly looked at her girlfriend again, for the moment having forgotten that they were disguised as guards. Despite the tense situation, Jessica burst out laughing and lifted her visor.
“You stupid ass-hat!” she scolded him. She stepped up to where the man looked up at her in total shock. “It’s not nice to call women bitches. Maybe in your next life, you’ll treat people better and live a little longer.” Shelly realized what she was about to do a moment too late. Jessica’s foot connected with the man’s head, and despite the noise outside, there was no mistaking the sickening sound of his neck snapping.
Shelly struggled with Jessica’s violence. She couldn’t believe her girlfriend had killed him in cold blood. Sure, the man was their enemy, but he wasn’t completely bad. Hadn’t he tried to save their lives? She understood that he hadn’t known they weren’t his comrades, but the callous way she’d killed him was hard to deal with. Shelly was used to death, and had helped deal it on numerous occasions, but something felt wrong about Jessica’s behavior.
“Come on,” Becky called to them. If she was bothered by Jessica’s act, she didn’t show it. “We can’t get out that way. Let’s head back and see if we can find another way, or at least somewhere to hide until this bombardment is over.”
“Good idea,” Jessica agreed. She grabbed Shelly and dragged her after. “We need to get underground as soon as possible. Those missiles will kill us as soon as them.” As if to emphasize her point, the floor shook and a few ceiling tiles collapsed to the floor.
Shelly was speechless as they backtracked down the hallways. She’d seen death before, so why did that Knight’s death bother he so much? She couldn’t remember ever killing someone defenseless, or hadn’t been in the middle of trying to kill them. Was that it?
“I’m sorry,” Jessica told her as they ran. “I can see that bothered you. I just can’t handle people who act like that. Besides, he was a Paladonic Knight. If he’d known who we were, he would have treated us differently.”
“But…” she trailed off, unsure what to say. Jessica was right. Had the man known who they really were, he wouldn’t have tried to save them. He was their enemy. She shouldn’t feel sorrow for his death. She hadn’t cared about the guard she’d killed down in their cell. The only difference between the two was the circumstances.
They found a stairwell leading back down and dashed through the doorway. The white walls turned into grey brick as they went deeper into the building and Earth.
Their flight came to a screeching halt as they hit the next landing. Armored men carrying machine guns surrounded them.
“While I commend you on your attempted escape, I’m afraid your run ends here,” a tall man stepped out from the others. He easily stood over seven feet tall, and Shelly wondered if he had a little giant in him. His shave head reflected the thin light from above. His burnished armor gleamed, but didn’t hide the massive frame it protected. A bleached white cape flowed from his broad shoulders. All these details flew from Shelly’s mind as she met his eyes. Ice cold, and just as blue. There was pure hatred in his gaze. He would almost be beautiful if not for the malice she felt flowing from him.
Jessica sneered and placed herself in front of Shelly. “You won’t take us alive!”
While Shelly didn’t mind her girlfriend stepping up to protect her since she couldn’t protect herself, she wished she hadn’t said something so melodramatic.
“Believe me, bitch,” the man responded in his deep baritone voice, “you won’t be burdened with life any longer than necessary.”
“What are your plans for us, Grand Meister?” Becky asked from next to Shelly.
“The betrayer’s bitch has no right to speak to me,” the immense man said to one of his subordinates. “Silence her, but don’t kill her. She needs to die at the betrayer’s feet.”
Jessica launched herself at the man, but was struck down by the butt of one rifle. Someone shot, and only then did she remember she was carrying a rifle. It was too late, and they were outnumbered, but she wouldn’t give up without a fight.
She tried to bring her weapon up, but something was wrong. She couldn’t breathe. Her knees grew weak as she struggled to stay standing. The landing spun around her as she tried to focus on the men coming up to her. What was wrong with her? She needed to fight back, but couldn’t find the strength.
More shots rang out, but she barely noticed them.
Her legs gave out as the hallway tilted and she crashed to the floor. She struggled to sit up, but it took all her strength to lift her head. That’s when she finally noticed the growing spot of red from her stomach. The agony followed a split moment later, radiating from her wound and stealing what little breath she still held. She tried to gasp, to scream, to do anything but lie on the cold concrete floor, but she was too weak. In desperation she tried to shift into a shield, but nausea swamped her, and she gagged, doubling the pain in her abdomen.
“You idiots!” Someone yelled. “That’s the Betrayer’s daughter. I wanted that bastard to watch his loved ones die. Fuck! Someone grab her and stop that bleeding. Make sure the others don’t have any weapons. If nothing else, we can throw this one at his feet. She’ll already be dead, but what can you do?”
She was going to die. She knew that, but there was nothing she could do to stop it.
“Like Hell there isn’t anything you can do, young lady!” that strange male voice from earlier screamed at her. “Get your pretty ass up and fight! You’d better not die. It’s been over twenty years since the last time I got any tail, and I’m not going to die in your head!”
She tried to rally behind that command, but oblivion took her first.
* * * *
“Dammit, what do you think you’re doing in my home?”
Shelly opened her eyes to the angry voice and looked around. She didn’t recognize her surroundings. Where was she?
“I thought I told you not to die. Or did you come here for the other thing?”
With a gasp she remembered the last few seconds and looked down at her stomach. She had to move some lacy pink cloth out of the way, but her stomach was smooth. There was no wound. She still felt a plug of pain from the spot, but she was otherwise unharmed.
“Yes, you have a beautiful stomach. Perfect for kissing, though I prefer to use ones as smooth as yours as a path down to greater pleasures.”
Shelly looked up to see an older man leering down at her. He looked familiar. He was the same man that she saw after Marchosias attacked Jessica and her. The familiarity went beyond that, but she still couldn’t place him. She couldn’t think of anyone with long stringy gray hair, but those eyes… Gray eyes just like her father, brother, and her. Was this man related to her somehow?
“Last time someone looked at me like that, they were getting ready to kill me,” the man chuckled, but she could see there was stress around his eyes.
“You can’t be,” she mouthed as she stared at the man. “Dad said he destroyed you.”
“Dad?” the man took a step away from her. “I didn’t have any daughters. Least, not so far as I know. As for being destroyed, it takes more than you can know to destroy Shemhazau Encantado!”
“But that’s… You became Murasame. My father said that he accidently destroyed you when he killed one of the Outsiders.” She was trying to wrap her mind around this man being her grandfather, but it was impossible. Lyden Snow didn’t have many regrets in his life, but destroying the father he barely knew was one of them. Her father’s anguish had been real when he told them the story of how he obliterated the first Outsider. It was anguish enough to smother his disappointment at the anticlimactic death of the being made of light.
The man grimaced at her. His sharp gray eyes seemed to examine every line of her face before he shook his head and sat down. Shelly had to admit that he collapsed onto his hind quarters more than sat down. He burst out laughing. Long guffaws of merriment surrounded her as the man buried his face in his hands.
Shelly let him laugh, not sure how she should feel. Her grandfather was before her, and as near as she could tell, had lost his sanity. Where had he been for over two decades, and why was he here now? For that matter, where was here? She glanced around, but still didn’t recognize the place. Light shone down from all around, but she couldn’t identify its source, almost as if she were back in the Shadow World. The ground was soft, but indistinct, as though some guiding hand had yet to give it substance and form.
Then she noticed her clothing. She was wearing a frilly pink negligee. She might as well be naked for all the good this outfit was hiding. As soon as the thought struck her, she was naked.
“Ahh!” she screeched and covered herself with her hands and arms. How had that happened? She tried to think past her thundering heart. She was somewhere where thought held sway. She was stark naked in front of her grandfather! No, don’t think about that! she chided herself. She struggled to think, but a few things started to fall into place. She knew about Mens Mundis, but she didn’t think she had one. Did that mean she was in Shemhazau’s mind scape? But how could that be? He’d been sealed into a sword and… No, that wasn’t right.
She tried to think, but the memory was slow to rise. She could think more clearly if she were clothed. As soon as the thought crossed her mind, she was dressed in full battle armor. It resembled what the Paladonic Knights had worn, and made her feel filthy just having it on. With another quick thought, she was in a light blue blouse and dark blue jeans.
With one crisis covered, she turned her mind back to the man either laughing or crying on the ground before her. Her surroundings were still indistinct, so she created them with another thought. The front room of her home sprang into being around her. She sat on her couch and examined the wiry old man.
Now that she was clothed and on her home turf, she could think. Shemhazau hadn’t been sealed into a blade, but into a pearled gem. When her father fought the Outsider, he destroyed the blade, but the hilt had remained. Shemhazau must have survived in the gem, unbeknownst to her father.
Hadn’t Marchosias attacked them with a sword that had a gem in the hilt? That blade had been dull gray, but if the hilt had been the same one that made up Murasame, then Shemhazau could have been part of that blade. But how had she come to be in his Mens Mundi? Had everything that’d happened since then been nothing but a dream? Was her brother really whole and healthy out there in the real world while she slumbered? Was she having a nightmare about being captured by the Paladonic Knights? Where had reality ended, and dreams began?
“You’re Lyden’s daughter,” Shemhazau said, startling Shelly from her thoughts. “Most likely from one of his human women. You don’t look like that mermaid… No, and I don’t sense any of Angela in you. As nice as your chest is, it’s nowhere near as monumental as that security guard’s awesome boulders. As long as I’ve lived, I’ve rarely seen a pair of tits to match the sheer magnificence that she carried on her chest. It was like two mountains sitting on her chest. What was her name again?”
“Jennifer,” Shelly muttered, not wanting to hear any more of her grandfather commenting on another woman’s chest. “Her name is Jennifer. My mother is Sheila Lance.”
“’Is Jennifer’?” he repeated her words. “So she’s still alive? Oh, what I wouldn’t give to gaze on her chesticles again!”
“Shemhazau!” Shelly snapped, losing some of her patience with the man.
“Oh, right. Sorry. Your mother is Sheila. Let’s see… I didn’t know her too well. She was the slave, right?” His eyes sharpened as he looked at her. “You don’t seem very submissive yourself. Such a shame, really.”
“That’s not important,” Shelly said. “How are we here? How did I get into your Mens Mundi?”
“My Mens Mundi?” the old man gave her an odd look. “Young lady, we’re not in my Mens Mundi. I assumed we were in yours.”
“But I’ve never had one,” Shelly retorted.
“Everyone has one,” Shemhazau’s eyebrows drew together. “Not everyone can access theirs, though. Tell me, does Marchosias still possess me?”
She knew he didn’t mean possess in the biblical sense. “I don’t know. He attacked me and Jessica. I became a sword and she used me to fight him. Something happened when I cut his flesh, and that was the first time I saw you.”
Shemhazau got to his feet and started to pace about her living room. “Interesting…. Are you some sort of soul stealer, by chance?”
“Excuse me?” she snapped, not liking the sound of that term. “I assure you, I’m no soul stealer!”
“Calm down, young lady. I meant no offense. Maybe you are a bit like that mermaid. She was always a touchy one.”
“I’m not a soul stealer,” she repeated trying to keep her voice calm but firm.
“It doesn’t matter,” he waived his hand and continued pacing. “What happened after you fought? Did he leave me behind? Marchosias is a powerful demon. The other woman must be powerful indeed to fend him off.”
“I don’t know,” Shelly conceded. “After I cut him, I met you. When I woke up, he was gone.” She grew uncomfortable, realizing she still didn’t understand how Jessica had fought Marchosias off after she’d passed out.”
“Yes, you mentioned that before. The cutting him, bit. Tell me, what is it you can do?”
“I…” she trailed off, growing self-conscious for some reason. She realized she was being foolish, and powered on. “I can take the form of anything inanimate I have touched. My brother, Sheldon, can take the form of anything living.”
“Your brother? How many grandchildren do I have? Cross-breeding can be dangerous, and there wasn’t another generator in the world that I knew about.” He stopped and grimaced before shaking his head. “Never mind. That’s not important right now. You say you can take inanimate object forms, and you had an issue after cutting Marchosias. Was he in his wolf form when it happened?”
Shelly nodded, remembering the teeth biting down on her steel blade.
“I wonder how your talent would react to a living inanimate object… It might be what caused your issue, and allowed me into your Mens Mundi.”
“But I’ve never been able to access my Mens Mundi before, and I’ve tried!” she protested, not liking this situation at all. There was still too much she didn’t understand. Could that be why she had such a hard time changing forms as well? Or was it due to the weakened magic in the Knight’s fortress?
“Some people are able to access theirs with ease. Others require being near death.” Shemhazau grew somber as he turned to face her. “I’m afraid you may be the latter. If that’s the case, then we might not have very long before you—”
“I’m not willing to die yet!” Shelly stood and stamped her foot. “Jessica and Becky are in trouble, and my dad is walking into a trap.”
“Lyden’s in trouble?” If Shelly had thought the man was in any way serious before, she was wrong. His gray eyes burned with intensity as he faced her. He stepped towards her, and she took a step back in fear. Or rather, she tried to, but the couch was there, and she collapsed onto it.
“We need to have sex,” he stated as though it were obvious.
“What?” she gasped, shocked at the notion. “No! You’re my grandfather. I won’t do that!”
“So what?” he asked, still serious. “It’s the quickest way to heal you and get you back on your feet.”
Her mind raced, running from the very notion of having intercourse with this old man. It wasn’t that he was ugly, because she had to admit that he wasn’t, but that he was her grandfather. The thought didn’t appeal to her. If anything, she felt her crotch dry up at the notion.
But if it let her get back to the real world and fight…
No! She didn’t know everything about the Mens Mundi, but she thought she recalled hearing that intimacy wasn’t required. Simply being here with more someone else was enough. Did Shemhazau count? If he didn’t, then having sex with him wouldn’t either.
“No,” she stated again, with all the authority she could put into her voice. “That’s not the only way to heal my body back up while we’re here.”
“Well, damn!” he grimaced and shook his head. “Can’t blame an old man for trying. It’s been so long, too! Sorry, sorry!” he backed away from her as she stood back up, anger blazing in her eyes. “Okay, so what happened that landed you here?”
Shelly was still wary of the man, but she told him what she could.
“So, you’re having problems with your abilities. Curious. Usually when magic is blocked over an area, it blocks external magic, not internal. To block internal magic the way the Daughters of Respite do, it has to be cast directly on the individual.”
“So you’re saying my run in with Marchosias is what’s causing my issues, and not what the Knights did?” She didn’t like that idea. It meant that if she got out of here, she still wouldn’t be able to change.
“Maybe,” he conceded. “It would help if I knew more about what they’d done. You need to get back out there.” He paused and looked at her for a moment. “Sure you don’t want to—”
“No,” she cut him off. “It won’t really speed things up, and we don’t know if this is helping anyway.”
“You were close to death when you came here, and you haven’t died yet,” he replied. “We’ve been here for some time, though that doesn’t always translate evenly with time in the actual world. I’d be willing to guess that my soul here is enough to help you heal, though we don’t really know at what rate.”
“Fine, fine. How did my son raise such a prude? Nevermind. Put your fist down. You’ve got real enemies to fight when you wake up. Have you tried waking up, yet?”
She ground her teeth in frustration, but lowered her arm. Who knew her grandfather would be such a creep? Smothering her anger, she focused on her awareness. Could she wake herself up? If she did right now, would it be too soon? Would she end up killing herself? She didn’t know how long she’d been here in real world time, but knew she needed to get back to Becky and Jessica.
With a bit of concentration, she forced herself to wake up. She commanded her real body to move, and her eyes to open. The world faded around her and it felt like she was floating through water.
“Just out of curiosity,” she heard Shemhazau’s voice from a distance, “try changing into my sword form. You may fin…” He faded away before she could hear the end of his advice.
With a gasp of pain and shock, Shelly opened her eyes.
“Oh!” Jessica gasped from inches away from her face. “You’re alive! I was… I—” Fresh tears joined others already streaming down her cheeks as she hugged Shelly closer to her.
“So the bitch is unlucky enough not to die first,” the Grand Meister’s cold voice sounded nearby. “Your father will have the pleasure of watching you die, then. He’s almost here.”
Shelly looked into Jessica’s eyes and saw fear reflected back at her. “How long was I out?” she asked. They were still on the landing next to a long hallway where she’d been shot. With careful fingers, she touched the spot where the bullet had struck. Her shirt was soaked in blood, but there wasn’t as much pain as she thought there should be. At least she could breathe if she kept her breaths short.
“Only a couple minutes,” Becky said next to her. Shelly noticed a large bruise on her left cheek and a cut along her chin still seeping blood. “I’ve seen people get shot there before. You couldn’t have healed yourself with magic dampened like it is. How…?”
Shelly tried to sit up, but was too weak. It didn’t help that Jessica was still hugging her. It took her a moment to pull away from her girlfriend enough to let her sit up. “Shemhazau says hi,” shelly said to Becky. She almost chuckled at the confused look the older woman gave her, but her stomach still hurt too much. She was healed enough, but not back to one-hundred percent.
“I’m so glad you could join us, Betrayer!” the Grand Meister’s voice boomed, stopping Shelly from saying anything more.
She looked up and saw a group of worn and tired people enter their hallway. She recognized her brother right away, but didn’t see her father.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Mihale Maztaim, but my husband isn’t here,” Brooke’s clear voice rang out from the group.
“That’s Grand Meister to you, Betrayer’s Bitch!” he snarled. Shelly could see that he was fuming to be denied his grand show. “Then he’ll have to know there was nothing he could do to stop their deaths!” he turned to his men and gave one final order before walking away. “Kill them.”
Shelly gripped Jessica’s hand and commanded, “Wield me!” She wasn’t sure if it would work, but it was her only hope. She recalled what Marchosias’s sword looked like with its gray blade, and pearl set into the hilt. She felt the change come over her, and wanted to cry out in relief.
“It worked!” Shemhazau’s voice rebounded in her mind, echoing her own thoughts.
“Who was that?!” Jessica almost dropped her in shock, but recovered in time to slash across the chest of one the nearest Knight.
Strength flooded into her. Any weakness that she’d felt fled as the soldier fell back, screaming and clutching at his chest.
“Oh, that felt good!” Jessica moaned. “That was almost as good as an orgasm.”
Before Shelly could gather her thoughts, Jessica was on another Knight, moving faster than any normal eye could follow. With each strike, power infused her and she felt closer to her girlfriend. As each Knight fell, Jessica became stronger, faster, and hornier. Shelly lost track of how many men fell, lost in a euphoric state. The two women became one. She was aware of every sensation her wielder felt, and knew that Jessica felt every keen slice; knew that her girlfriend could feel the air slide across her skin before slicing into another soft body. Their armor was nothing compared to her keen edge. Their lust for more grew with each strike.
“Jessica, stop!” Sheldon’s voice cracked through the air and Shelly came back to herself.
The tip of her dull blade was pointed at her brother’s throat. His hands were held up in a gesture of surrender. She changed back into her human form, landing lightly on her feet. She still felt like she could leap a mile or run a mega marathon at top speed, but she also wanted to vomit. Her legs were covered in blood and gore. Even as she let go of Jessica’s hand, they were still connected mentally for a moment. She understood why Jessica dropped to her knees, moaning and rubbing her crotch as sexual heat overtook her. It took all of her self-control not to drop down next to her and join in. She needed to get off with a desperation she’d never known before, but was able to temper it with the knowledge that now wasn’t the time.
“What was that?” Shlee asked with a gleam in her eyes. “And where can I get some?”
Shelly wanted to glare at the woman, but she could feel her own fluids dripping down her legs.
“Are you okay?” Sheldon asked as he gripped her shoulder. His touch sent fire racing through her, and she jerked away before she could embarrass herself. That touch sent an unwelcome desire through her, that was almost too much to deny.
“She’s discovered something new,” Gloria came to her rescue, “and is trying to come to terms with it. We should see to Becky right now.”
“But—” Sheldon tried to protest, but his girlfriend pulled him away.
Shelly had to bite her tongue. A part of wanted to call him back to feel his touch again. She shuddered in disgust and desire at the thought. What was wrong with her?
A woman she hadn’t seen in person in some time approached. “You look a little unsteady on your feet.” Four hands gripped her to steady her. It was too much. Those four hands ignited a bonfire in her. Losing control, Shelly pressed Mandy to the wall and kissed her. She groaned in frustration that those four hands weren’t roaming her body, bringing bliss to every inch they touched. It took her a moment to realize the other woman wasn’t responding to her kiss, and she pulled away. Her face and body burned with embarrassment and unquenched need. “Here, have a drink of this. It’s just water, but you look like you could use some.” One of Mandy’s four hands handed her a canteen. There was no derision or teasing in the other woman’s voice, but she still felt ashamed.
Instead of drinking the water, she poured some of it over her head. It wasn’t cold, but it helped cool her off a bit.
“My pheromone levels are completely turned off,” a woman Shelly didn’t recognize said, but she knew that voice. “This isn’t my doing.”
“Get away from her,” Shelly screamed. “She’s a spy working for the Knights!” No one moved or listened to her. “I’m serious,” she screamed at them, trying to back away from the unknown woman. “She’s sending them intel. We saw a video feed she’s sending the Knights of everyone making plans in the Orange Bubble. Tell them, Jessica!” She turned to her girlfriend, but she was too busy with her hand down her pants and one perfect nipple rolling between her fingers as she got herself off. That tasty nipple called to her. It didn’t help that she knew Jessica would welcome her touch, but there was more important matters to attend to.
“It’s true,” Becky said, coming to her aid. “There was a camera set up somehow to watch you, and then she spoke. Who is she?”
Shelly had to struggle not to get angry when everyone listened to Becky after ignoring her. They backed away from the woman as she gave them annoyed glares.
“I’m not a spy,” she said with authority. “Not for the Paladonic Knights, anyway.”
“How do you explain what we saw?” Shelly demanded. She saw Mandy standing close by, so knew the woman couldn’t lie, but it didn’t make sense.
“Maybe Sonia was hacked?” Shlee offered.
Hacked? She didn’t know what that was supposed to mean.
“Impossible,” Sonia stated in that same tone. “I’m worth more than the GDP of most third-world countries. I can’t be hacked. My neural network requires triple layer authentication, and is encrypted with three of the latest algorithms. My authentication subroutines change every three seconds. Even I’m not capable of hacking my own programing, and I’m the most sophisticated piece of machinery the US Government owns. There are only two computers that can change my programming, and one of them sits in the President’s Oval Office. The other one is at a location whose security clearance is higher than anyone possesses within five-hundred miles of here.”
“You’re not human,” Becky connected the dots before Shelly could.
If she wasn’t human, did that mean that Mandy’s ability to force everyone to tell the complete truth didn’t work on her?
“Um, Sonia?” Shlee asked as she approached the woman. “I know you have the ability to use pheromones to turn people on, but can you do anything to stop her from doing that?” She pointed to where Jessica was about to get herself off for the third or fourth time.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Sonia bent over Jessica. Before Shelly could protest that she still didn’t trust the—what was she? A robot? Android? Shelly didn’t know—woman, Shlee pulled her aside. Even this small touch sent heat flooding through her stomach, but she tamped it down with an iron will. Why had fighting with Jessica affected them that way?
“What?” Shelly demanded when they were a few paces away.
“I don’t think Sonia has been hacked—” Shlee began, but Shelly stopped her.
“I know what I saw.”
“I believe you, but I believe her also. Wait, let me explain,” she waived away Shelly’s protest, but kept her voice low. “I believe her when she says she can’t be hacked, but that doesn’t mean something at the other end can’t be. We already knew she was sending signals back to the President, who’s watching this with earnest. Something went wrong, tonight, though. The rockets weren’t supposed to strike until we were making our retreat. I think someone one the other end is screwing things up.”
“What makes you so sure it’s not her?” Shelly had to ask.
“Mainly?” Shlee grimaced as she asked the question. “Because if I were faced with hacking an unhackable android, or infiltrating the other end, it’s a no-brainer on what I’d do. It doesn’t make sense any other way. Also, she’s had numerous chances to betray us, but has gone to great lengths to get us safely to you.”
“Then why did you pull me out of earshot?” She wanted to believe her family and friends hadn’t been in the midst of a traitor, but she didn’t know or owe the woman anything either.
“So that whoever is on that other end transmitting her visual feed back to this base won’t know we’re onto him.”
Shelly cursed herself for not having thought of that as well. It was difficult to think with her hormones still rampaging.
“Are you okay?” Shlee asked, concern thick in her voice. “You’re looking a little flushed.”
“No,” Shelly admitted, though she didn’t want to. With Mandy around, she couldn’t stop the words from pouring out of her. “I’m so horny right now, even my brother is looking good and that’s just wrong!”
“I understand why you kissed Mandy like that, then.” Shlee nodded to the four-armed walking polygraph. “And why Jessica was moaning so much.”
“Shit!” Shelly cursed as she glanced to where Sonia was helping Jessica to her feet. Jessica was a bit disheveled, but her episode seemed to be past. “I’m going to have to tell her about that kiss. She’s going to be pissed.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” Shlee sniffed the air. “She’s pretty shaken up by what she was doing, and will probably understand.”
“I didn’t know you could read minds,” Shelly commented as they walked back to the rest of the group.
“I can’t, but I can smell all of your emotions.” Shlee grinned at her, and Shelly couldn’t call it anything but wolfish. “Sometimes it comes in handy. Everyone is pretty tense right now, but they’re all happy you’re alive as well. Even if that was the oddest rescue I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know Jessica could move that fast. I wonder how her body held up to the friction against the air of moving so fast. Even if her body withstood it, how did her clothes? Did she have some sort of shield around her, allowing her to ignore the laws of physics?”
Shelly walked away from the werewolf before she got a headache. She remembered that Shlee could be a bit of a geek sometimes. Of course, that only added to her credibility about her theory on Sonia.
“Where did Mihale go?” She asked as she examined the corpses still littering the floor. She noticed that Jessica refused to look at her. Had she noticed the kiss despite being otherwise occupied, or was her girlfriend ashamed of what had happened? She remembered how jealous Jessica could be, and didn’t look forward to having that conversation later. There were bigger problems to deal with at that moment.
“He ran off that way,” Sonia pointed down the hallway. “Your father wants to know where you got that sword shape from?”
Cold dread shivered down her spine at that question. It was almost enough to dampen the fire still burning in her loins. That was another conversation she wasn’t looking forward to. How was her dad going to react when he found out that he hadn’t killed his father, but abandoned him after killing the Outsider?
“We need to get to him.” Shelly decided to ignore the question for now. “If we can take out their Grand Meister here and now, it’ll weaken the Knights.”
“We can’t kill him, though,” Becky piped in. Shelly wanted to argue, but Brooke backed up the other woman.
“After Lyden killed the last Grand Meister, it made him into a martyr. The Knights were weakened, but those that remained rallied and grew stronger. We need to take him alive and make him answer for his crimes.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Shelly knew she was being petulant, but her emotions were still riding that rollercoaster. “We need to hurry. He could be anywhere by now.”
Sonia stepped forward and Shelly backed up a step. Shlee may be right about her, but Shelly still didn’t trust the woman… or robot, or whatever she was. Shelly didn’t expect the response she got, though. Sonia closed her eyes and plugged her ears.
“I overheard your conversation with Shlee, though I blanked out that audio before it was transmitted back to Washington. If her theory is correct, then I don’t want anything too sensitive being sent back. Unfortunately, that means your father is also left in the dark for right now. Anyway, I have hacked into their internal network. Grand Meister Mihale Maztaim is headed for the roof of their training center. There is a helipad up there. I suspect he thinks he is getting away, but I have already rerouted his request and sent them to another building. Even so, there is a powerful windstorm building up there. I don’t know if a helicopter will be able to land if it gets any worse.” When Sonia finished speaking, she opened her eyes and unplugged her ears.
Shelly stared at her for a moment more, still afraid this was a trap. It was her brother that made the decision.
“What are we waiting for?” he demanded as he pointed his gun down the indicated hallway. Shelly wondered at the golden glow around him, and also wondered why he hadn’t changed forms. He rarely fought in his normal body. “Let’s go kick some more ass!”
He charged down the hallway, almost everyone else in tow.
“I love the way he takes charge,” Shlee grinned and chased after.
“Umm,” Jessica muttered, but still wouldn’t look at Shelly.
“We’d better catch up to my brash brother,” Shelly said. On an impulse, she reached out and grabbed her girlfriend’s hand, trying to tug her along.
“Don’t touch me,” Jessica screamed and yanked her hand away.
Shelly stared at her in shock. Before she had a chance to respond, Jessica took off running after the others.
She knew… Jessica knew about the kiss and was pissed off at her. Shelly didn’t blame her, but her heart ached to be treated that way. She hadn’t meant to kiss the other woman. She didn’t have any feelings for Mandy. She’d lost control after… after… what had caused that overwhelming lust?
She realized she was standing alone in the middle of the Paladonic Knight’s territory. With a quick swipe across her tear-blurred vision, she took off running after the others.
* * * *
It was a long run, but Shelly was surprised to find she wasn’t out of breath when she finally caught up after a climb of four flights of stairs. She no longer felt the burning lust, either, thankfully. Jessica, Sheldon, Gloria, and Sonia were the only other ones not winded. Even Shlee and Brooke, two undeniably fit and healthy women, were a bit winded. But even they looked better than Mihale Maztaim.
The older man looked like a mountain as he glared at them, but hauling the weight of his frame plus his armor up all those stairs was an impressive feat. No matter what kind of physical shape you were in, no normal human could exert themselves to that degree and not show it. Even with his flowing white cape billowing in the wind behind him like some superman, he was still only human.
They stood on top of a roof with a large white circle with a painted ‘H’ in the center. Smoke from numerous fires billowed around them as the Paladonic Knight’s base burned from the rocket attack. She expected to hear screaming from wounded, but she heard none of it. She realized that the Knights had known the attack was coming. If they still had a man on the inside of the government, why would he allow the attack to happen? Or had he instigated it early? Shlee had said that it wasn’t supposed to occur until they retreated.
Her thoughts were pulled to the massive man before them as he cursed.
“You fools! Your stupid president is finished after this! Attacking a human base without provocation. On US soil no less? Her political career is over!” Mihale laughed, but there was a maniacal edge to it as he glanced at the sky. He was still waiting for his ride.
“You kidnapped three people,” Sonia intoned. Her voice easily carried over the wind that picked up, blowing even more smoke across the rooftop. “After your attacks on President Louise, your group has been branded as a terrorist organization. As we speak, Congress is drafting up a declaration of war. It’s you that’s finished.”
“We took three invaders to our world!” Mihale turned his head and spat to the side. He glanced again at the sky, and Shelly suspected he was growing nervous. He didn’t realize yet that his ride wasn’t coming. “We are working to save our world. I refuse to follow any government that would bow to the evil in the Shadow World.”
“I’m a human, you asshole! I was born and raised on Earth.” Becky yelled at him. The wind was really beginning to pick up. Shelly had to tuck her filthy hair behind her ear to keep it from blowing into her face.
“You’re a creature loving slut!” Mihale cried back. “You laid with the Betrayer. You no longer have a right to mix amongst true humanity.”
“I think he’s a little bit crazy,” Shlee muttered loud enough to be heard over the rising wind, but not by the man frantically searching the skies.
He gripped something on the side of his armor, and everyone tensed. He brought it to his mouth, started yelling into it, and Shelly realized it was a communications device.
“Where the hell is that chopper?”
“They’re not coming for you,” Shelly barely heard Sonia speaking over the wind. It was getting really fierce out here. She had to start leaning into it to keep from getting blown over. Was Lysa out here somehow? She didn’t think it was possible for the Pillars to visit Earth, but she knew it was possible for them to affect things here. “I’ve directed them to abandon you. You would be honored with how much they respected your decision to leave you behind. Perhaps not with the speed at which they did so, but they followed your orders without question.”
“What are you talking about?” Mihale asked as his face lost all color. He didn’t seem to be struggling with the wind, despite his large size and fluttering cape, his weight must keep him grounded.
Sonia opened her mouth to respond, but it was Mihale’s baritone voice that flowed from her. “Echo-two-four, this is Grand Meister Maztaim. I will stay and fight. You get out of here.” Sonia chuckled, her voice returning to normal. “A moment later, they called Mayday. This base is surrounded, Grand Meister. No one is getting out of here. You’ve lost!”
“Lost?” The man’s voice cracked as he took that in. “I don’t think so!” He reached behind him and pulled out an automatic machine gun.
Shelly leapt into action before thinking. She formed into a large shield, her metal surface rounded and gleaming in the firelight and smoke. The wind caught her before anyone else could, and she found herself tumbling through the air and over the edge. An updraft grabbed a hold of her, and she flipped through the air, rising higher. She didn’t have time to think. If she stayed in this form, she should survive falling, as long as she wasn’t dashed too hard against anything solid.
Then it hit her. She’d changed into something other than that sword! She didn’t know why she could change into her other forms again, but she wasn’t going to complain either! Well, she wouldn’t complain if she survived this mistake.
A sudden down draft hurtled her to the ground, and her elation changed to one of fear. She was going too fast. Even if she were made of titanium, an impact at this speed would bend her up, if not destroy her. What irony that she would get her ability back right before she was dashed against the ground.
She caught glimpses of the ground as everything spun around her. The wind grew worse, almost as if it had a mind of its own, shoving her harder towards her impending doom.
She heard a scream from above. Had that been Jessica? Was she worried about her? She feared that Jessica wouldn’t forgive her for that kiss, but it hadn’t been her fault! Maybe it would be better to dash against the paved ground below. She saw what looked like a parking lot rushing to meet her.
She closed off her senses. It would be better not to see it coming. She waited for the impact, half expecting to see Shemhazau appear before her. Hadn’t he told her they could speak when she was near death?
She thought of her dad next. He’d never know that his father still lived. Shemhazau would truly die with her.
That ground is taking forever to get here, she thought. She didn’t really want to die, but she didn’t enjoy waiting either.
Slowly, she opened her sense of sight and noticed she was no longer hurtling towards the ground. In fact, she was rising back up to the roof. Something had her in its claws. Had Sheldon shape shifted to rescue her? She didn’t see that golden glow around her rescuer, but maybe it didn’t translate into his other forms? She couldn’t make out much through the smoke, so she couldn’t figure out what form he was in. Something with wings and claws, but that was all she could tell for certain.
As soon as she was dumped on the roof, she changed back to her normal form before the wind could carry her away again.
“I thought I’d lost you!” Jessica caught her up in a powerful embrace. Apparently she’d been forgiven for that kiss.
“Not your brightest move, Sis, but I’m glad you’re okay,” Sheldon added next.
“Thanks for catching me,” Shelly said past her girlfriend’s shoulder.
“Um… I didn’t,” he gave her a confused look.
If he hadn’t saved her, then who had? She focused on the others around her, and then remembered her reason for changing in the first place.
Mihale Maztaim was laying on the ground, with, of all things, a large blue dragon towering over him. Something thudded the ground behind her. She turned in Jessica’s arms to see a smaller dragon with prominent human breasts and brown scales step up to her. The new dragon shimmered and formed into the shape of a mostly human woman, except for her clawed feet, scales acting as skimpy clothes, and long curved horns protruding from her head.
“It’s been awhile, Sister,” the newcomer said. “Might I suggest you don’t do any more flying leaps when we’re trying to create a windstorm?”
“I didn’t know you’d be part of this operation,” Sheldon stepped up and embraced their half-sister.
“Are the rest of you here?” Shelly asked. She wanted to embrace her sister also, but Jessica didn’t show any signs of letting go.
“My brothers and sisters are about, helping the humans clean up what’s left of the Knights. Mom saw that one pull a gun on you guys, and decided to step in. Hope you didn’t mind.”
“Who is that?” Jessica whispered into her ear.
Shelly couldn’t help but chuckle. In the last few minutes, she’d been on the craziest of emotional roller coasters, and it didn’t seem like it was going to stop anytime soon.
“This is my half-sister, Mei. Mei, this is my girlfriend, Jessica.” She made the introductions.
“Nice to meet you,” Mei held out one talon tipped hand. “I always suspected Shelly had a bit of dyke in her!” Mei’s golden eyes grew large as she realized what she’d just said. Shelly’s cheeks burned as she turned and glared at Mandy. She knew it wasn’t the woman’s fault, but then again, it was. Why was she even here? Sure, she could fight, but—
“I wish you’d quit thinking about her,” Jessica told her. “It’s enough to make me jealous!”
Shelly did pull away then as she looked at her girlfriend. “How did you know I was thinking about Mandy?”
“I can read most minds,” she replied, then covered her mouth, her shock and horror growing in her eyes.
Shelly tried to keep her anger in check, but she couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. After all the crap Jessica had given Gloria about invading privacy and reading minds, to find out that she could do it pissed her off. All this time, she’d thought she was safe in her own mind, but all her thoughts were open to the woman that professed to care about her.
“No, it’s not like that!” Jessica tried to protest. “I hadn’t wanted your brother to know, either. You weren’t supposed to find out!”
“My brother knew?” she demanded and spun to face him. She could feel herself losing control, but she couldn’t stop it. Too many emotions cramped into a short period of time. “Why didn’t you tell me, Sheldon?”
“I thought you knew!” he protested, holding up his hands to ward off her ire. “I didn’t know she was keeping it a secret from you.”
She knew he was telling the truth—had to be telling the truth! Despite that, she still felt betrayed. Looking around, she realized that Gloria had to have known as well. She’d stated that she couldn’t read Jessica’s mind, but she could have read Sheldon’s, and known.
She saw pity in the eyes that looked back at her, except for Jessica’s. “This isn’t what I wanted,” she tried to tell Shelly. “I don’t understand why I’m saying all this, but I didn’t want things to happen this way.”
Shelly wanted to ask what it was she wanted to have happen, but her heart cried out for a different question.
“Was it all a lie? Did you ever really care about me?” She had to know. Then she remembered something Jessica had told her before. “Or were you just using me to get back with my brother? Was everything a ruse to get back with him? You told me you still cared about him. Why don’t you tell me what you really feel now?”
“No, no! It’s not like that. I… I—“
“Go on! If it’s true, you can say it,” she taunted, unable to keep a sneer off her lips or out of her tone.
“Now may not be the right time for this,” Mandy tried to interject. “I know how things can get blown out of proportion whenever I’m around. Maybe we should—“
“Shut up, Mandy!” Shelly cut her off. She knew the woman was trying to help, but she didn’t care. Why? Why couldn’t she have told me? I wouldn’t have cared. I’m used to dealing with people who can read minds. Why did she have to keep such a big secret? “Tell me,” she added out loud, knowing Jessica had heard her thoughts.
“I do care about you,” Jessica cried as tears poured from her eyes. Shelly ignored them. “I want to be with you. I—I—“
“You what?” Shelly demanded, stepping up to look her soon to be ex-girlfriend in the eye. “You cared enough not to be honest with me? You told me so much about your past, but I guess you let that one little thing slip, huh? I didn’t keep secrets from you, but I guess you already knew that, from reading all my thoughts!” She knew she was being cruel, but her heart hurt. It was too much. Her chest felt like it was going to explode, while at the same time it felt empty and hollow. “What other secrets are you keeping from me?”
Jessica whispered something that was too quiet for her to hear with the wind.
“What? Speak up! I can’t wait to hear what else you’ve kept from the woman that has bent over backwards to defend you. I cared for you! I thought I might even love you, but—“
Jessica repeated herself, and it took a few seconds for the words to sink in. When they did, Shelly wanted to scream and throw herself off the building again, this time on purpose.
“Angela, the Pillar of Fire, is my mother.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Jessica turned and ran for the edge of the building. No one tried to stop her as she leapt from the edge.
The pity in the eyes around her turned to shock, but Shelly didn’t care. All emotion was burned out of her. She had nothing left in her to feel. She was empty, but tears still found their way out of her eyes and down her cheeks.
From the Author
Comments below are ALWAYS welcome. Please let me, or Garbonzo607 know how we're doing on this story. Chapters always appear here last, so that means chapter 13 is already up on the blog.