X-424 sat in Benny's chair with a journal open to an article co-written by Dr. Ian Brooster of the Warrmer Institute in Chicago, and Dr. Moira Kelly of Emory University in Atlanta. Benny had already read the article about their research to regrow healthy heart muscle in laboratory rats. It could be ready for further testing in only a few years. He wasn't sure why X-424 had been reading that article. The truth was, that she hadn't been reading it. At the sound of the turning knob, X-424 had quickly put a pamphlet back into the drawer where Benny kept it. The pamphlet had been written to explain the effects of directed electric manipulation on the brain during memory stimulation. X-424 worked hard to remember what she had read through the interference of her programming. That way she could use it later, and she would. Benny didn't know that this Femme had the capacity to deceive. He should have known that X-424 was becoming more than a Femme. Deep down he did know. He stood in the doorway, just looking at her. "Its late", he began and reached his hand towards her. She took it because she knew that he wanted her to. "Do you still prefer to be deactivated for parts of the day."
"I would rather be deactivated while you were awake so I could protect you while you are sleeping", she replied in a flat voice.
Benny's lips turned up slightly. "Protecting me is not your job right now. I have others for that." He lead her to the bed and watched her disrobe. If she intended to be deactivated while he slept, then he at least wanted to feel the heat of her body next to his. When she was completely naked, X-424 laid down on the bed. Benny crawled beside her and pulled up the covers. Once he turned off the lamp, he gave a single order, and X-424's programing switched off. Just like that, the algorithm and equations that ruled Kristen's body and mind were gone. She was free from their numbing influence and she took control of her own consciousness, if only for a time. She could feel her body as she came to herself. She could feel her hands and her feet and her legs, and her heart beating in her chest. She could feel the expansion and contraction of her lungs, and then she started to remember.
The steel was slowly being crushed beneath the tightening grip of X-424's five slender fingers. The muscles of her forearm were hard , supplying the force to make the bed rail unrecognizable. The wood of the box spring had already splintered, but Kristen's hand continued to tighten. Her smooth skin was covered in night sweat as super human strength coursed through the muscles that tightened the fingers around the tortured steel.
Atop the bed the rest of Kristen's body lay still for the moment. Only her arm and face moved. She lay on her back with her face towards the ceiling. Her eyelids were pressed shut and her beautiful face was contorted. She was at the place again, the place where she had been erased. She wasn't just remembering it. Her mind had taken her there. It was showing her every detail of what had been done to her, making her relive it. She could remember the ride in a darkened van from the county jail in Houston to the research facility outside Dallas. At first it had been great. She was with 30 other women in a large dormitory. All the women were young and pretty like her. They were from all over the country with different ethnic backgrounds, but they all had problems. Most of them had been on drugs just like Kristen. There were a couple of former strippers, like Kristen. All the girls looked out for each other. They thought that they were going to get help for their self destructive behavior when they started going to sessions.
As she slept in the bed, Kristen could see the single white light that had shined in her eyes every day during those sessions. The light pulsed rapidly. So rapidly that it almost looked constant, but it wasn't. It was incessant, like a drill boring a hole. Every day she had stared into the light for so long that her mind had made the light go away. It had become a huge black hole in the middle of her sight while the scientists turned her mind into a blank slate ready for their input.
"What is your name, and where are you from?", she heard in her head. The voice was hollow, echoing, and powerful, too powerful. She couldn't resist it. She couldn't not answer. She had to obey the voice. Something inside her head made her answer the voice.
"I am Kristen Louise Washington from Seattle", she would reply in a voice strained with the emotion of the moment. She didn't want them to do this. This wasn't what she had been promised. They had promised her a new chance at life, but instead they were destroying her.
"What is your name, and where are you from?", the voice asked again.
The light shined in her eyes. Even when she shut them, the light shined in her mind. She could see it and feel it. It was filling her up, leaving no room for Kristen. She was being pushed out and erased.
"I am Kristen Louise Washington from Seattle", she answered again.
She cried and struggled against the bonds that held her to the chair, but they hadn't filled her lean swimmer's muscles with super strength, not yet. They needed to control her mind before they would begin work on Kristen's body. Day after day they had taken her and the other young women into the rooms to be interrogated with the light shining in their eyes. They asked the same questions getting the same answers until one day when they asked, "What is your name and where are you from?", and Kristen couldn't answer them. She didn't know her name, and she didn't know where she had been born. They replaced her name with a number. They told her that her name was X-424 and it always had been, but she didn't believe them. They hadn't gotten rid of her real name.
Kristen didn't know it, but she was the slowest progressing Series 4.7F candidate in the system. They had to work twice as hard to get half the progress, but they persisted. Memory by memory, they made her recall her life just so they could wipe it away. They attempted to removed her memories at the cellular level. As they removed who she had been, they uploaded their programing step by step using the pulsing light in conjunction with a batch of formulas that organized the proteins and hormones necessary. The more of the behavior program they got into her brain, the more control the scientists gained, but it was barely enough. During the last interrogation the scientists had been forced to take two breaks, not for her benefit, but for their own.
While they questioned her, Kristen could feel the programming in her head urging her and forcing her to obey the commands of the voices, but her mind was strong. The scientists had upped the power to the maximum of what they had determined to be safe levels. This procedure wasn't just dangerous for Kristen's mind, risking turning her into a vegetable, it was extremely taxing on Kristen's body. Several young women from the early trials had died of heart failure and other complications. Even those maxes weren't enough. They had been forced to push past those limits. They realized too late that Kristen's make up was rare or even singular amongst the population. Had they known how resistant and strong her neural connections were, they would have never admitted her into the program. They had just seen a junky in jail, and never took the time to find out that this young woman had graduated from one of the best schools in the world with honors in only three years. They didn't known that she had been one of the best swimmers in the world. Instead they tried to break her, and finally she cracked.
Lying in the bed next to Benny, Kristen remembered the moment when the programming had won and she'd lost. She remembered the memories that she'd been holding on to. They had taken away the last shred of who she had been. Those scientists had killed her one memory at a time.
In the bed, Kristen bumped and pushed against Benny enough times to awaken him. He rubbed his eyes and looked over. She had thrown off the covers, and her naked body was covered in sweat. Her muscles tensed and flexed as she ground her hips into the mattress. He was getting aroused. She didn't even move like this when they made love. Her body was hypnotic. Benny looked at the small muscles of her body. They ones that created the flow of her waist, the ones that made her body taper like a hand made hourglass. His eyes flowed down between her legs. He wanted so badly to put his hands between her thighs. He wanted to feel her. He swept his eyes up her body stopping at her breasts. X-424 had wonderful breasts. He loved her nipples. They were as erect as he was. Benny grinned and pushed up to an elbow to get a better look at her body. His mouth began to water with want, then he glanced at her face. His grin dropped away, and he pushed himself off the bed.
Kristen grimaced and frowned. Her lips mouthed words but only moans came out. Her head turned from side to side, testament to whatever struggle was going on inside her. Benny dared not get close. A stray movement from her strong body could injure him severely, but he had to do something. He had to activate her.
In the distance of her dream, Kristen heard a voice. It wasn't like the voices of the scientists who had taken away all that she had ever been. It was a concerned voice. She wanted to hear this voice, but it called her by the wrong name. It called her by the name they had given her. Why couldn't someone call her name? Why did she have to be alone?
"X-424! X-424 sit up and come to action stage one." Kristen was gone, and so were her memories as soon as Benny activated the programming. X-424 was there now.
"Were you dreaming!?!" Her took her by her shoulders. He could feel the perspiration on her skin.
"Series 4.7F's can not dream", X-424 replied without emotion.
Benny walked away from the bed, rubbing his hand through his hair. He knew Femmes couldn't dream. Dreaming was something the programing didn't allow. There wasn't supposed to be anything inside of their heads except what was put there. He had read how the procedure was done, but he knew what he had seen. He had just witnessed X-424 having not a dream, but a nightmare.
Not far away in an Atlanta suburb, Mary Rogers was finally getting into a deep sleep after a long day working two jobs. It wasn't easy for her, but she always reminded herself to take stock of her blessings as they came and never to give up hope of things getting better. They never seemed to, but she never gave up. She was in the middle of a dream of her own when she was awaken from her sleep by a small voice calling, "Mommy". She opened her heavy eyelids slowly, but was wide awake in only an instant. Mary shot up and swung her feet to the floor. Her only child was standing over her with blood staining the front of his Justice League pajamas. He was pale and barely able to stand up straight. "My God, Timmy!" She took her son and cradled him. Mary couldn't remember throwing on cloths, but she did remember the feeling of helpless desperation while driving her son to the hospital. He hadn't looked good, but the waiting was the worst. A nurse came out and told Mary that it was okay to go see her son. Timmy looked so tired and weak as he lay in the bed with an iv dumping into his arm.
"I'm sorry, Mom", he said to her. To his eyes, it was Mary who looked weak and tired. Timmy knew that she was trying so hard to keep things together for him since his father died. He knew how hard she worked. It was hard enough being a single mother, but he wasn't even a good son. He'd been born with a flawed body.
The doctor took Mary to the side and explained that Timmy was responding well to the dialyses, but that it was going to take a few more scans to see if there was any damage. The bad news came a day later when another doctor informed Mary that Timmy's cancer had come back, and that it was more aggressive than ever.
"The doctors in Tulsa said that he had responded well to the treatment." Mary began to shake, and she put her hand to her lips like she did whenever she was nervous. For the last 12 years, her late husband Mitch would have taken her trembling hand in his, but no more. She was on her own to face this.
"The doctors could not have known how resistant this particular type of tumor was. We have new techniques that have come online in the last five years."
"What can be done?"
The doctor sat forward in his seat. "We can do various things that can ease his discomfort, but I would recommend putting Timothy on the transplant list immediately."
That next night at home Mary tried to keep everything normal for her son. He was on the list, but she wasn't holding out much hope of him moving up it quickly. She had been informed that while Timmy's case was serious, he wasn't the highest risk candidate, assuming a match could be found in the first place. Mary knew that was code for lack of adequate insurance. Mary had some health coverage from one of her jobs, but only to a certain amount, and a transplant was going to be much more than she was covered for. She could feel herself wanting to get angry and frustrated, but she pushed all that away. She had to stay strong for her son.
After a small dinner, Timmy couldn't eat much, Mary went to her bedroom and looked through her husband's things. She hadn't been able to take everything when she'd moved to Atlanta, but she cherished what she did have. She had all of his letters some dating back to when Mitch and she had been teenagers. Mary's father hadn't wanted Mitch around. They would laugh about it years later, but Mary would never hear Mitch laugh again. All she had were his letters. Sometimes she liked to read his early love letters, the ones written as much with lust as with love, but she pulled out his last letter instead. He'd written it the day he'd been killed, and left it on the night stand like he knew he wouldn't be coming home again.
Mary sat down on the edge of her bed. Parts of the letter were funny, and parts of the letter were grim, but it flowed just the way Mitch's words always had. She stopped reading when she got near the bottom, not because she didn't want to finish it, but because of something it said:
...don't worry if you find these words useless when your back's against the wall, just read this letter like you used to do in the old days, when we first met...
Mary scratched her head then set the letter to the side. She went out to the hall closet and rummaged through it hoping that she had packed it. She found the black light after only a few minutes and after a few curious glances from her son. She went to her bedroom plugged up the lamp and turned out the lights. When she was younger her father had forbade her from talking to Mitch Rogers, so he had written her letters in invisible ink. When the room was dark, she held the paper up to the black light and saw an entirely new letter emerge between the lines of the letter that she had read so many times before. Mary's mouth dropped open.
As she read, she realized that she hadn't known all there was to know about her husband. It was as if he had been living another life right in the open where no one would notice. Just like the letter he had written in regular ink was only a cover for the message that he really wanted to give her. Mary had never attempted to read between the lines of her husband's life. It wasn't like he had lied to her for all of those years, instead she simply hadn't see the clues. She did know that this letter now gave her a hope that she didn't have before. There was a man who her husband had been working for, and this man had promised to help if anything happened to Mitch. The man was simply called the Broker. Mary read the letter closely and followed the instructions. Her husband had put the secrets on a flash drive that he had hidden in something that he knew his wife would keep if she ever moved, the box that contained her letters. She looked in the bottom of the box and found it wrapped in plastic and tape to protect it. There were other secrets that her husband had found. Some information was encoded. This had been the information that he was going to give the Broker in his next report, but Mitch never got a chance to make that report. Most of that information had been time sensitive, but not all of it. Mary hoped that this Broker would still be interested in the information her husband had died to obtain.
The next day, she put the flash drive in a safety deposit box at a bank north of Atlanta then went back to the letter. Mitch had put a phone number in the letter. Mary drove to a pay phone a few miles from her house and dialed. She didn't know that the Broker hadn't answered. One of his associates had.
"Hello", the man said.
Mary heard the voice on the other end and nearly lost her nerve, but thoughts of her son put everything into perspective. "I have some information, and I was told to call this number."
The man listened to the information given in code. Mary didn't know what any of it meant, but the man at the other end of the phone did. His eyes opened wide as she talked. He ran his hands through his golden blond hair. He didn't write anything down. That would be far too dangerous. The decent part of him wanted to tell this woman how much danger she was in, but he couldn't risk it. Until he could figure out a way to get this information without anyone knowing, it would be better to keep her in the dark.
"Keep the information hidden. How can I contact you?", the associate asked.
"I'm not giving you my name or number. I'll have to call you." Mary was getting scared, but for her son she'd face the fiery furnace.
He didn't need her name anyway, he already knew who she was. "That's fine", he began, "but don't call this number again. We wouldn't want it to get compromised." He gave her another number, one of his numbers. He couldn't risk the Broker getting the information this woman had. It would make the Broker more powerful, and that couldn't happen. The Broker's influence had to be mitigated.
"Ok, I'll call the new number. Are you really going to help me?" Mary had to know, or she'd never call again.
"Of course I will. You will be rewarded very well. Trust me." Morgen Stern hung up the phone and sat down in the Broker's chair. He had to plan quickly. In years past Morgen's influence and power had been as much or more than the Broker's, but with his victories over first Romano Scarlforo and then Jason Mallster, the Broker's profile had risen even higher than it had been before. He no longer had to watch his movements. People changed their plans if they ran counter to the Broker's will. Morgen Stern knew that the Broker's hold was broad but shallow. His main weapon was Caeda, the assassin that Morgen Stern helped make, but she would be out of the picture soon. Morgen was going to see to that. Without her, the Broker lacked the ability to reach anyone anywhere. While she was in his back pocket, everyone secretly feared waking up to see her cold eyes staring down at them. Morgen knew that the information this widow had would give him something on the powerful people in the international underworld. The Syndicate Commission would be brought under his influence.
Morgen Stern would need allies though. The Commission had been kowtowing to the Broker for the last several months, and the information didn't guarantee his safety. He needed someone else for that. Morgen had a corps of powerful people who did his bidding, but on reserve the Broker could call on the people that he had helped. That meant that those three girls in Atlanta could get in Morgen's way too. He didn't want to face them directly, not yet. They had taken down Jason Mallster's Syndicate in one night. That was power that had to be respected. He would think about the situation, and like usual for Morgen, luck was on his side.
"How is she?", Jean, Benny's second in command asked after sitting down next to his boss. Benny hadn't slept at all since the difficulty with X-424, and it showed.
"All the tests say that she's perfectly fine", Benny answered wearily.
"But you don't believe she's fine?"
Benny inhaled slowly before he spoke. "I don't know what fine is. Is it fine that every single Femme used to be a rationally thinking human being who was turned into a robot? If that's fine then I guess X-424's fine, but that's not what you came down here for."
Jean decided to come right out with it. "You just got a message from the Commission." The Commission was the international body that controlled the syndicates like Benny's. "They're having their quarterly meetings in the United States and of course your presence would be appreciated since you're the head of North American operations."
"I'm sensing a 'but' coming on."
"Yes, boss. The meetings are happening in downtown Chicago, under cover as an international real estate convention."
Benny's face flushed, and he balled his hands into fists. "Of all the cities on the fucking continent! Well, no need to get mad. I have to go to Chicago, and there's nothing I can do about it. But Jean, you're going to have to be ready. Malcolm's attacks might work, or they might be a disaster, either way you have execute our plan." Benny hated the timing of this. Malcolm and his terrorist group the Revolution were Benny's allies, but they were about to do something that would raise the stakes even more.
"I have the plan down. I hate having to look over this dirty business that the Revolution is putting on the country. I'm glad my family's in Montreal. Its too bad, Malcolm's crazy."
"Its okay, I'm crazy too", Benny said quickly.
"You aren't crazy boss."
"Yes, I am, and I have been since I was about 17 or 18. I threw away my life when I raped the first girl. I had a full ride to the University of Chicago, and I might have even been on track for a Rhodes Scholarship. Instead I raped a girl and went to prison. I was prescribed medicine years ago. I refused to take it, but Jason Mallster forced me to. I've been a different guy ever since, but the urges aren't completely gone, just masked. I have Jeff make the pills for me so no one will know. You're the first person I've told."
Jean twisted his mouth and shrugged his shoulders. "Doesn't change a thing for me. I watched Jason run this Organization for years, and I was loyal to him, but we were never as strong as we should have been. You have less to work with than he ever did, but I think you're laying out a groundwork to make us better. I can see my role in it, and I'm satisfied and honored to be working with you."
Benny inhaled and nodded. "You're a good guy, and I need you. Just make sure we're protected no matter what Malcolm and his Revolution does."
"You got it."
Benny looked at Jean walk away just as X-424 came towards him. "Have a seat", Benny said as a request, but to X-424's programing it was an order. She sat down next to him. He pushed his body close to hers. "I have a special gift for you, but its going to have to wait. We have to go to Chicago."
"I have been taken for tests more than any other Femme. There is obviously something wrong with me. Could you chose another, sir, perhaps X-419. She's very dependable. I don't want anything to happen to you."
Benny ran a finger down her cheek and looked into her deep brown eyes. "The other Femmes don't want anything for themselves or for anyone else. That's why you're going with me. Pack some stuff that you like, and let's go."
"Sir, I'm a Series 4.7F. I don't like or dislike anything."
Benny smiled. "Why are you lying? Now go get packed. We're leaving
in a couple of hours."
Early the next day, Benny and X-424 were in Chicago. As a boy Benny had always dreamed of going to the big city of Chicago, but his life had taken twists. He and X-424 drove into town instead of flying. He was still unwilling to test his surgically altered facial features against airport security. They went to the loop and found the Belden-Stratford Hotel directly across from Lincoln Park. Benny and X-424 registered as a married couple, and unlike his predecessor Jason Mallster, Benny knew how not to cause a scene. He and X-424 didn't get a suite, just a normal room, although the rooms were quite spacious and nice. X-424 had been ordered to go by the name Erin. It felt good to have any name even if it wasn't her real one, and she'd been ordered to act like a normal person.
They were on the street later when Benny looked over at X-424s' beautiful face. "Are you hungry?", he asked.
She tilted her head, seeming to ponder. "Yeah, I am", she replied naturally.
It was such a relief for this gorgeous woman to finally have a personality, even if it was a fake one. They walked down the street until he saw a medium sized Greek deli. He held the door open for X-424. "Order for me, please. I'll find a table", she said and walked off. Benny got in line.
He sighed and looked around. There were people taking an early lunch and some regulars were posted up with their laptops and gyros. It was a place where Benny could have imagined spending time if his life had turned out differently. He stood in line looking up at the menu. His stomach was grumbling so whatever he ordered didn't matter. He was taking in the menu until his nose caught a whiff of what could only be the scent of a woman behind him. He decided to glance back and get a look. More than likely the woman behind him would be plain, ordinary, unattractive, ugly, or at worst absolutely hideous, but Benny's curiosity got the better of him. He couldn't force himself not to look. He turned in a seemingly natural motion and was rewarded for his trouble.
The woman behind him was perky and extremely pretty. Energy bubbled out of her, as she stood in line impatiently waiting for her turn to order. She was about 5'6" with light brown hair and serious looking hazel eyes that hid a lot more than they revealed. The corners of her mouth bore the fine lines of someone who smiled often, and her brow showed little evidence of frowns. Her complexion looked like she had just come back from the beach, but her lack of a heavy jacket told Benny that she was used to the weather. If radiant skin could be sexy, then this young woman's was, but he wanted to get at least a glimpse of her body. Her baggy hoodie was blocking his view. He turned his eyes to the front, but he could hardly contain his urge to talk to her. He tried to concentrate on what he had to do, but medicine or no, Benny had urges. Her pretty face wouldn't leave his mind. He had to stay focused. He couldn't afford to get distracted, then he felt a touch on his right shoulder. He turned quickly.
"Oh, I'm sorry". The woman's words were muffled as she pulled her hoodie over her head. "I didn't mean to bump you, but its so hot in here."
Benny's eyes widened when he saw what that hoodie had been hiding. She was wearing a dark red top and some hip hugging jeans. Her skin tight top had risen a little while her arms were over her head revealing the bottom of a chiseled stomach covered in the same flawless skin. Benny stirred in his pants. He saw her lower abs tighten as she moved. He pulled his jacket down to hide his crotch before she finished pulling off her hoodie.
"Its ok. You must be a local to think its hot in here", Benny tried to sound off hand.
"Oh yeah. Born and raised here. What about you?"
Benny saw her lips moving, but he couldn't keep from looking at her body, especially her her arms. She was as close to sculpted female perfection as he could remember seeing. He could tell that she spent hours and hours working her muscles to get them to that shape and hardness. He could imaging her in the gym sweating and making her body hard. Deep in Benny's mind, he heard her question, and he forced himself to answer.
"I'm from Iowa." He cringed inwardly at telling the truth, but he went with it. "I've been living down south in Florida for a while so the cold's sneaking up on me."
"Ahh Florida", the young woman moaned. "I haven't seen the ocean in so long."
"Really? You look like you just came from South Beach."
She laughed and held out her arms to look at her always radiant skin. Her triceps flexed when she locked her elbows. "People always say that, but when I do get a little tanned, I get a really nice bronze look like those Brazilian girls."
"I bet they don't have arms like yours."
She smiled at him. It was almost enough to make Benny cream right there in the deli. "Thank you. I'm training for a show. Some guys like the muscles and some guys don't."
Benny nodded and outwardly kept his cool. "I can't think of anything better than a woman who takes care of her body."
"My sentiments exactly." She tied her hoodie around her waist, which cut off Benny's view of her stomach, but when she extended her arms, the neck of the shirt separated, showing off the top of her splendid pectorals. Coupled with her perky tits they were so nice that Benny had to stifle a whimper.
"My name is Benjamin." He held out his hand.
"Cassidy." She shook his hand quickly. "People just call me Cassie."
"Nice to meet you, Cassie. You look like you come here often. What's the best thing on the menu?"
She pursed her lips and folded her arms raising her cleavage to nearly unbearable levels for Benny. "Order the Salad Special, with lamb, chicken, and tabouli. Oh and make sure you ask for extra feta cheese."
Benny ordered two of what Cassie had suggested. "Hey, you want to join me and my friend at a table?", he asked.
"Sorry, but I have to get back to campus. I have a class. I'm going to have to eat this on the way."
"Oh, so you're a student?"
Cassie started towards the door. "Yeah, at the University of Chicago."
"Very good school", Benny said with a nod and a tinge of regret for what could have been.
Cassie chuckled. "Sometimes I think its a little too good. But nice meeting you."
"One more thing, I hate to hold you, but if my friend and I stay in town the night, what's a good restaurant for dinner?" Benny just didn't want to see her go. Her body looked young and ripe in those clothes. He could almost taste her.
Cassie's grinned. "My dad's restaurant of course, Redwine's Steakhouse, and don't worry about a reservation. If you come this evening, I'll make sure you get a table."
Benny smiled. "I can't promise anything, but if we stay in town, I'll most certainly take you up on it."
"Good, hope to see you. Bye." Cassie left the deli and hurried to catch the 'L' back to Hyde Park. She didn't think too long about the guy she'd met. She was used to talking and being friendly to people. She didn't know who Benny was, or what he was capable of. She had no idea that she had just spoken to the man who had nearly raped her brother's fiancée Lisa Sanchez. If she had known, Benny would have begged for a painful death. That would be better than what Cassie Redwine could have done to him.
While Benny was at the deli, Morgen Stern arrived at the Belden-Stratford and was in his suite in only a few minutes. He tipped the valets and bellhops generously. He settled in and went over his itinerary. He should have brought his assistant along, but he wanted to travel light. He was here as a representative for the Broker. The Broker himself was in Asia Minor on business. He sent Morgen like a lackey or stand in. Morgen would take this slight, even if the Broker didn't see his trip to Chicago as one. Morgen was biding his time and looking for an ally.
The reception downstairs was great cover for a meeting of some of most powerful people of the underworld. Morgen mingled. People were eager to introduce themselves and to make sure that the Broker's partner knew their name. Morgen though, had his eye out for some attractive women. He had come to Chicago alone, but he didn't want to stay that way. He spotted a woman wearing a burgundy crushed velvet gown. On a woman less statuesque it might not have worked, but on this woman it was stunning. Morgen moved into his attack pattern, when he noticed the man with her. His attitude changed, and an idea burst into his head.
"Morgen Stern", he greeted the man.
They shook hands. "Nice to meet you. Benjamin Harris."
"Ah the head of North America", Morgen said as if he hadn't already known. "Who's the lovely woman?"
"Erin", X-424 answered. She held out her hand for Morgen to shake. Instead he kissed it.
Benny got jealous. "She works for me and does what I say."
Morgen smiled at Benny. His too perfect features hid the danger in his gaze. "I know what she is, but for something so dangerous to be wrapped in such a beautiful shell is nearly criminal." Morgen took a sip of his scotch. "Send her away for a moment. You and I need to converse."
Benny didn't have to take orders from the Broker's stooge. "I don't think I will."
Morgen's smile remained, but he casually used his power. Benny's mouth started moving, and he heard his own voice. "Go off and mingle", he ordered X-424. She had no choice but to obey. The programing made her walk off and follow his orders, but the small bit of Kristen inside knew that something was wrong.
"Good", Morgen teased.
"What the hell just happened?" Benny was furious but didn't raise his voice.
"It's what I do. I could make you do whatever I want. That's my ability."
"I don't care what your power is, Mr. Stern. I won't be treated like a puppet."
Morgen's smile fell away and he looked at Benny seriously. "I wouldn't think to do that. I prefer willing cooperation instead of coercion. It's easier on all involved. I need your help with a matter." Morgen lead Benny to a corner of the room. "I have a situation that I believe you can assist me with. There's plenty of rewards to go around."
"Why don't you take it to the Commission?", Benny asked.
"Because the rewards are better if I don't. The Commission serves its members and its interest. My interests and theirs aren't quite the same."
"Why would I help you over them? I'm working for them and they seem pleased with my work so far. I'm not rocking my boat. Go find some other dolt to work with you."
"If that's how you want to play it, Mr. Wilson."
Benny's heart nearly stopped. That was his real last name before he changed it to erase his past as a rapist. The Commission didn't know anything about his past. If they found out, it would ruin him.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I mean Mr. Harris. I should respect your name change, since the world believes that the serial rapist Bernard Wilson is dead."
Benny's mouth was dry and his fingers shook. He couldn't even talk.
"It would be a shame for a Commission member to find out the truth", Morgen said as if he was talking about the weather.
Across the room, X-424 saw Benny from the corner of her eye. She was meeting people just as she had been ordered. If left to her programing, she would have continued to do just that. Benny had ordered her, and X-424 had to follow orders, but Kristen didn't. It actually hurt to disobey Benny's orders just like it had hurt to disobey the scientist who had wiped her memories, but Kristen endured pain that increased with every single step. Her head was pounding by the time she took up a position behind Morgen Stern.
"Something wrong", she asked in her Femme voice.
Morgen turned quickly, but never lost his cool.
"I'm glad you showed up", Benny managed. The pain in X-424's head went away instantly. "Mr. Stern was just leaving."
Morgen nodded. "I sure was. I'll be in touch.... Mr. Harris." Morgen turned and left.
X-424 took Benny by the shoulder. "Would you like to go back to the room?", she asked with concern in her voice. Benny couldn't tell if it was real or fake.
"That'd be good. I have to think."
Twenty minutes later Benny was sitting in their room with X-424 massaging his shoulders and back. She was good at it. She kneaded the stress from him. "I need something on Morgen Stern. He says he's working for the Broker, but I don't think he is", Benny said as he rolled his head from side to side. "What do you think?" Benny chuckled, not expecting an answer.
"I think he's working for himself, and he thinks you're a weak target. He thinks that he can strong arm you because of your past."
"And what do you know about my past?"
"Only what you have revealed. I don't have the ability to judge, so there's no need to ask the next question."
"So I won't ask you what kind of person you think I am. I'll just ask you what I should do about Morgen Stern."
X-424 put one hand at the base of Benny's back and adjusted his spine, just a little. "Morgen Stern is very connected, more connected than you are. I think you should work with him."
X-424 couldn't get surprised. "I think you are in no position to fight him. You should gain his confidence and really mean it."
"Why do I have to mean it? I'll just stab him in the back as soon as I can."
"Morgen Stern made you order me away even when you didn't want to. What's to keep him from forcing you to tell him the truth?"
"Damn, I should have thought of that. How can I keep from lying?"
"Tell the truth", she said more emphatically. "You are accepting his offer for your own selfish reasons, not to help him. You don't care about him, and he's not stupid enough to think that you will."
She was right. She was a hundred percent right. "Are all Femmes as smart as you?"
"I doubt it", X-424 told her master.
That night Benny joined Morgen Stern for dinner in the latter's suite. It took only a few minutes for Benny to explain his quick change of heart to Morgen Stern.
"I should never underestimate a man's self interest. You're a smart fellow, Mr. Harris."
"Call me Benny, and I had very good council on the matter. Sometimes we men need a dose of female intuition to sort out our lives. Now, Mr. Stern--"
"Call me Morgen."
Benny nodded, keeping his eyes on his host the entire time. "Ok, Morgen. Tell me what's going on, from the beginning. I like to know where I stand."
Morgen ordered the events in his head before he spoke. "In Atlanta, a widow has found some information that could help us both. Her husband was a spy who worked for my partner the Broker. Spies riddled Jason Mallster's organization from top to bottom, from the late Mitch Rogers to Mel Johnson, everyone knew every move Mallster made. When Jan Caufield was captured, everyone thought that she was dead. It was Mitch who let the Broker know that she was alive. He was going to give the location of the lab in Oklahoma, but Mitch was caught by Jaques Briene, the telepath. They had planned to torture poor Mitch, but he tried to escape and a Series 4 killed him. They never found out what old Mitch had managed to steal. Then his widow calls and gives me Mitch's last report. Like I said before, there is something for you and for me.
Benny leaned back in the plush chair. "I'm waiting to know what it is. Not every treasure is worth dying over."
Morgen chuckled. "So true. For you, there is a new program designed to control the human brain that is even more advanced than the one used to control your precious Femmes. Think of it as a major upgrade. It was designed by the same man who designed all of Jason Mallsters' brain controlling programs, a guy named Horowitz. He invented the formulas, but it was so good that he went on the run to keep Mallster from getting his hands on it. Mallster tried to kill Horowitz's family and Caeda saved them. That's how the Broker got involved. He wanted to have what Mallster wanted, but I'm giving it to you."
"Ok. What's in it for you?"
Morgen weighed his answer. "Mallster was feeling a lot of heat from the Commission. They were ready to replace him. He needed a bargaining chip, so he secretly obtained the list of Commission operatives in legitimate society. He found the names of the government leaders, ceo's, professors, pastors, and civil leaders who secretly work for the Commission, doing their bidding while looking legitimate to the rest of the world. These are the people who give the Commission its real power. Underworld power is nice, but if you can control both sides of life, then you really have power. If I can get my hands on that list, I will have a trump card."
"Against who? The Commission?"
Morgen adjusted his tie. "No, not the Commission."
Benny eyed him closely. A sinister smile spread across Benny's face. "Against the Broker then. You plan to use his own spy's information against him. I like it. So where is this information?"
"Have you ever heard of the Warrmer Institute?"
Dan Horowitz, PhD looked at his appointment list
and saw one name not crossed out. There was a woman named Erin Kerns
coming to sign up for a memory recollection and retention study. There
weren't many details on this woman because her appointment had only
been made this morning. He couldn't prescreen her, but that was okay,
he would let her take the test. Horowitz was just happy to be working
again, and not running. He and his family had been on the run for more
than a year. They had run from Chicago, to New York, and then to
Boston, and then to a little town in West Virginia, none of it worked.
Mallster's hired guns had always found him. The people who were looking
for his formula had chased him and his family everywhere. His wife and
two kids had only been moments from death, and if not for a heroic
young woman named Amaris, his entire family would have been killed.
After the close call in West Virginia, Horowitz had been at his wits
end. It was right then that he was contacted by the man he should have
trusted from the beginning. Instead of running from the Warrmer
Institute, he should have trusted its founder Zechariah Warrmer. The
reclusive head of the Warrmer Institute and Warrmer Foundation had
promised Dan Horowitz that if he came back to Chicago that all of his
problems would disappear. His family was still in hiding, but Dr.
Warrmer promised that it would all be over soon. He checked the time,
and started towards the elevator. His appointment was fifteen minutes
away, but this place had so much security that it would take him a
while to get to the lobby.
X-424 walked up the stairs to the front door of the Warrmer Institute. It was a crisp day, but very sunny, the sort of day Kristen would have enjoyed, but she was Erin Kerns. She walked inside, and the guard at the desk greeted her politely, but he knew better than to let a pretty face make him complacent. "I'm here to see Dr. Horowitz", she announced.
"Ut oh", a voice said behind her. X-424 turned quickly to see where that had come from.
"You're going to be Danny's new guinea pig."
"I guess so", X-424 said as a look of recognition came over her face. The man standing there was tall with a good build. He had woolly brown hair, long sideburns and gray eyes. She knew Dr. Ian Brooster from the photos in the magazines, but the pictures couldn't have conveyed the youthful energy and zest for life that he had. "I'm Erin, and you must be Ian Brooster." She walked up and extended her hand. "I've read your articles."
He shook her hand and smiled. "You and three other people."
"Don't count yourself short, Doctor. The work you and Dr. Kelly are doing is going to change lives."
"I hope so", a woman's voice said.
X-424 turned towards a woman's voice. A six feet tall strawberry blond with piercing blue eyes, and a wonderful athletic build was coming towards them.
"Well I can only take credit for half of the research. This is my partner, Moira Kelly", Ian told the person he thought was named Erin.
This blond was much more than his research partner, X-424 could see that right way. She noticed the way they looked at each other and finally held hands. Then she saw the diamond ring on Moira's finger. "Pleasure to meet you, Dr. Kelly. I've been reading your articles for the past year or so. Its like you burst on the chemistry scene from nowhere", X-424 said.
"I was in the wilderness for a while, but I think I've found my way", Moira said, but only after looking at Ian.
Just then the elevator bell run, and Dr. Horowitz came out. He looked at the group and smiled broadly. "Hey, you two, don't try and steal my participants."
Ian smiled back. He had known Dan Horowitz for a long time, but the man had disappeared for over a year and then had come back to work like nothing had ever happened. "No, Danny, I don't think Erin could help us with regrowing muscle. Looks like all of her muscles are just fine."
The programming made X-424 blush to keep up the charade.
"Come on downstairs, Erin", Dr. Horowitz said. Everyone waved as they parted. Ian and Moira were off to lunch while Dr. Horowitz went back to work. He lead X-424 into the elevator and used his id card as a key to access the bottom floor. He lead her down a hall filled with doors with no knobs. Only the cards opened doors, and all the employees had one. The more important the person, the more doors their card could open. Dr. Horowitz placed his card against the reader next to the correct door and it clicked open. He showed Erin inside and sat her down at a table. His bubbly assistant brought out all the forms that needed to be completed.
X-424 sat at the table writing lies for answers to the questions, waiting for a chance. She worked on the form, and then the assistant walked out, leaving X-424 alone with Dr. Horowitz. That gave her the opportunity she needed. She put the pen down and quickly stood up from her chair. The doctor was hunched over reading something when X-424 crept behind him and put one arm around his neck and squeezed for a fraction of a second. Her enhanced muscles barely had to flex to produce enough power to render Horowitz unconscious. The doctor felt a rush of pressure like the top of his head was going to explode before he blacked out. X-424 let him fall to the ground. She turned him over and removed the key card from his lapel then walked out of the bunker like office into the hall. The assistant was coming back. X-424 smiled. "Oh, there you are. Dr. Horowitz asked for you."
"On my way", the grad student called out cheerfully. X-424 let the assistant pass. They walked back into the office together. The assistant didn't think there was a problem until she saw her boss's legs sticking out of a doorway. She started to scream but didn't get a chance. X-424 knocked her out the same way she had knocked out Dr. Horowitz. With them out of the way, X-424 started down the hall. She had a rough idea of the layout of the building. She didn't know where every door led, but she knew the right one when she saw it.
It was supposed to look like all of the other doors, but the vault door was two inches of solid steel that swung on hydraulic hinges. It was so heavy that most normal people couldn't have opened it otherwise. X-424 held the key card against the reader and the locks clicked. The door swung open. She hurried inside. There was no quick way to close the door. It had to close on its own. The lights automatically came on as she walked between the first set of shelves. There was no way for X-424 to know that the same motion sensor that had turned on the light had also spotted her as an intruder. X-424 had noted that the building didn't use biometrics like thumbprints or retinal scans. She didn't know that every sensor in the building was biometric.
When Dr. Horowitz's key card had been used, the computer expected Horowitz to enter the room. It had taken hundreds of measurements of the person who had waked through the door and none of them matched Dr. Horowitz. The computer flagged the event. The system gave Dr. Horowitz a few more seconds to enter the room. Perhaps he was escorting a guest. X-424 didn't know that her time was running short, because when Dr. Horowitz didn't enter the room, the computer activated a silent alarm.
X-424 looked around the large storage area for a small parcel. She quickly walked past years and years of experiments. There was everything from tissue samples suspended in solution to old data kept on reel to reel tapes. X-424 quickly dismissed anything that didn't fit the description of what she was looking for. Then she saw the small tote sized folder wrapped in twine and tape. She tucked it into her pocket and started towards the door.
On the main floor in the lobby, Moira was trying to pull away from Ian. "I'll just be a second. I can't believe I left it down there, but I have to get that in the mail today."
Ian pulled his fiancee close. "Just hurry up, please. Lisa and Zo are going to be waiting for us."
Moira freed herself. "I'll go as fast as I can." She stepped onto the elevator and smiled as the doors closed. Ian checked his watch and looked over at the security guard.
"I remember those days", the guard told Ian with a grin. "I've been married 37 years, but the early memories never fade."
Downstairs, X-424 put the key card against the reader. The door didn't open. She tried it again, but no response. She couldn't hear an alarm or see flashing lights, but somewhere there was something wrong. She didn't have time to figure out what. She wrapped her fingers around the card reader and snatched it off the wall. There was a large processing unit built into the wall behind it, just as she had thought. The hollow space in the wall made that section weaker. She backed away from the wall and unleashed a mighty kick at the door frame near the card reader. The boom echoed in the room and in the hall. She pulled her shapely leg up and kicked again. Another boom resounded. This effort produced a small crack in the masonry beside the door. BOOM!!! Her foot hit the frame again. This time dust and chips of concrete rained to the floor. X-424 powered her scientifically enhanced muscles and kicked again. The crack became larger. The wall was losing its strength. She stepped forward and put her fingers into the crack her powerful kicks had created. She took a deep breath, gathering strength, then she slowly exhaled. Her shoulders and back swelled and flexed as she pulled against the door. The color left her fingers. X-424's surging muscles applied tons of force against that very small spot. The wall tried to hold, but X-424's strength was relentless. The door was up to her challenge, but the wall and frame were not. The door frame failed and gave away in a shower of concrete. X-424 wasn't finished. She put her right arm against the ruined wall, and her widening shoulders powered against the wall and door. The hydraulic hinges hissed as her strength defeated them. She managed to slip her body through the opening. She turned to her right and ran down the hall towards the closet exit.
X-424 ran faster than any regular human could have run. She heard a door open behind her. She kept running. She didn't want confrontation. It would only slow her down. Her mission was to get her parcel out of the building without damage. She sped up, but it didn't help. Several guards came down the stairs in front of her.
"Stop right there!", one of them yelled.
"Out of my way!", X-424 ordered in her Femme voice. Any trace of the fictional Erin was long gone. The completely emotionless tone put the guards at edge, but they held their ground. The group of men behind her skidded to a stop.
"We have you blocked in and the police are on their way."
X-424 started forward. The men had procedures to follow. The senior guard pulled out his tazer, aimed and fired. The barbs hit X-424 in the center of her chest and delivered their jolt. The men watched at a distance as all of X-424's muscles flexed hard from the electric shock, but she didn't lose control at all. Even though the charge was still on full, X-424 attacked. She didn't feel pain. She snatched the barbs out and pressed forward. The guards moved in to restrain her, but they were more than useless. X-424 tossed men around. The guards hit her with their clubs, but she didn't even react to their blows. She took them by the necks and crashed their heads into the walls, and hit others with their own clubs. It took only a matter of seconds for X-424 to rid herself of this annoyance.
Around the corner, Moira stepped out of the elevator. She turned towards Ian's lab when she stopped quickly. She heard the sounds of a struggle and rushed towards it. She didn't know what was going on, but the crashes she heard were serious. Moira turned the corner and saw the girl from the lobby toss a grown man over her shoulder with a flick of her wrist.
"What are you doing!", Moira screamed.
X-424 turned, unconcerned with this latest obstacle. She had just dispatched six grown men, and this one woman was no threat. She started forward, walking with no regard to the six foot blond blocking her path. Moira looked past the woman to the guards. This brought back unpleasant memories of when Moira had broken into this same facility a few years earlier, but that was another life. Now days, she knew all the guards by name including all the men lying on the floor. There wasn't much left of the misguided woman that Moira had been in her darkest days, but she did have one thing left, strength... lots and lots of strength.
X-424 reached her arm out to swat this woman away. Moira didn't even budge. Before X-424 could compute what was happening, Moira pushed back. X-424 flew off her feet and bounced against the outside wall, landing not far from the injured guards.
"Stay there, if you know what's good for you", Moira warned.
X-424 didn't listen. She had to get out. She had to complete her mission, and this woman was in the way. She changed her attack strategy. She charged quickly. Moira couldn't let this woman get away. She readied herself. X-424 stopped short and threw a quick hard punch at Moira's head, the former All-American athlete's reflexes were quick, plus she had been training with her former student Jan Caufield. Moira ducked the punch and moved in. X-424 kneed the tall blond in the side, but Moira got her arms around the Femme. She clasped had hands behind X-424 and lifted. She squeezed quickly. Moira's muscles jumped to attention, swelling beneath her blouse straining the seams.
X-424 grunted from the pressure and tried to pry Moira's arms off. The squeeze didn't last long. Moira built momentum and strength from her legs and threw the Femme into the outside wall as hard as she could. The inside wall of the hallway was made of cinderblocks, but the outside wall was three feet of reinforced concrete. X-424 hit that wall hard enough to shake the floors above. Her enhanced body bounced off and landed in the middle of the hallway. She pushed herself up to her hands and knees before standing up. The Femmes had some of the best bodies that science could produce, but not the strongest. X-424 had never felt strength like this woman had. It was far beyond anything the super soldiers could muster. X-424 assessed the situation again. She heard the radios of the unconscious guards chirping as other guards tried to contact them. When the men didn't answer, the full alarm sounded. A klaxon blared and the building went on lock down. X-424 had to hurry.
She attacked Moira again throwing two quick punches and a sharp powerful kick. Moira blocked the punches with her forearms and took the kick on her side. She grimaced and staggered, but didn't go down. She lunged forward to grab X-424. They locked in a clinch, each trying to gain an advantage. The two women had wonderful physiques made even better by their massive strength.
X-424 went for Moira's neck and shoulders. She got to within a couple of inches, but her progress stopped. X-424 set her legs apart to get a firm base as she pushed. She pushed as hard as she could. She pushed her muscles harder than ever. She pushed them harder than she had when she'd defeated the vault door. She pushed harder than she had when she had helped rip a prop shaft from the bottom of a ship, and she pushed them harder than she had when she'd defeated and ripped the head off of a Series 4 super soldier.
X-424's muscles were rock hard and defined. Her lats flared and her triceps surged, but it wasn't enough. The blond loomed above her. Moira's face was contorted in the struggle and a little sweat dropped from her brow. She set her teeth on edge her muscles swelled like nothing X-424 had seen. The buttons from Moira's blouse flew off hitting X-424 in the face. Her sleeves ripped down the long axis, and her glorious body burst through the confines of her blouse like a landscape of muscle shapes. Her pecs were striated fans of muscle bunching up and thickening by the second. Her traps and shoulders were so hard and cut that Moira had grown wider, but the muscles on her back were breath taking. They slowly contracted as she pressed forward.
It wasn't even a contest. X-424's arms started moving away Moira's neck at a steady pace. No matter how hard X-424 tried, she couldn't stop the progress. Moira kept pushing and squeezing even harder. She had much more in the tank. Moira was not even 2/3 as strong as she had been at her peak, but she was strong enough for this. X-424's knee hit the ground. Moira took a step forward and kept up the pressure. Moira's forearms bulged out. Her fingers bruised the skin and ground bones together as she defeated this woman.
X-424 was still pushing as hard as she could. She pushed her muscles to the very edge, but it did no good. She wasn't going to beat this woman with pure strength. She had to find another way. At once, X-424 stopped pushing up and instead pulled back with all her might. Moira lost balance and came down. X-424's back hit the floor hard, but she didn't try and break her fall. She needed all the momentum she could muster. X-424 raised her legs as Moira came down. Moira's hips hit the bottom of the Femme's shoes relatively softly. X-424 coiled her legs as Moira came down fast, then like a super human spring, she released all the stored power in one titanic instant. X-424's long muscled legs flexed hard as she fully extended them. Moira was launched up and back like a missile. She flew through the false ceiling, crashing though drywall and light fixtures. A shower of sparks fell to the ground, but Moira continued up until she hit the concrete bottom of the floor above. Pain shot from her head to her feet. She couldn't even put her arms out as she fell to the floor. She hit head first. X-424 didn't stay on the ground long. She jumped up and hurried for the exit thinking that her problems were over, but Moira wasn't that squishy. She had hit the concrete hard enough to kill a normal person, but she wasn't normal anymore. She shook her head to clear it and roared to her feet.
X-424 didn't have enough time to turn around before the blond amazon grabbed the smaller woman and lifted her over head. Moira was being controlled by pure anger. Her always hard muscles were bursting with anger fueled power now. She shook X-424 in frustration then threw her into the inside wall as hard as she could. X-424 flew right through the cinder block wall creating a big hole. The blocks barely slowed her. She flew deeper into a laboratory on the other side of the wall. Moira could hear the sound of machines and cabinets crashing to the floor. Some of those machines weighed hundreds of pounds and they were falling like legos.
On the inside of the darkened lab, X-424 got to her feet. Blood dripped from her nose and from her ear, but she didn't feel pain. She could see the big blond standing in the lighted hall, but Moira couldn't see X-424 in the darkness. Instead of attacking, X-424 hurried towards the far door. That would put her closer to the exit. She didn't want to fight Moira again if she didn't have to. She had to complete her mission. Failure was not an option. X-424 opened the far door as quietly as she could, but she had to force it open and that made noise. She entered the hall around the corner from Moira. She saw the exit door only a few feet away. There was a clear path to the exit, until a team of five security guards burst into the hall from a stairwell. These men had been sent to check on the ones who had gone down earlier. She had no time to waste. She attacked. X-424 hit men hard enough to disable them with one blow. She dispatched these regular men quickly, but quietly enough. The sounds of her fists hitting and breaking bones carried down the hall and around the corner to where Moira was standing. She'd been looking through the hole wondering if she had killed the intruder. She knew better now.
X-424 was throwing a man against a wall when Moira rushed around the corner, covering space very quickly. The man grunted and slid to the floor. Moira lowered her head and charged. X-424 made a run for the door, but Moira had a full head a steam. She caught up to the Femme after only a few steps. Moira took the smaller woman by the shoulders and redirected her the right. Moira slammed X-424 into the reinforced wall with all the force she could. Air left the Femme's lungs in one long whoosh, and blood sprayed from her mouth sprinkling the wall. Automatic tears formed in the Femmes eyes, but the programming didn't feel pain. Kristen did. She was hurt, and she knew it, but she didn't know if she had the strength to do anything about it. She put her hands against the cold hard wall and pushed back with all of her strength, hoping to get separation from Moira. It worked against her. They both flew towards the other side of the hall. Moira's back hit one of the lab doors so hard that it knocked it off its hinges and tore the frame from the wall. Moira hit the ground with X-424 on top. The amazon quickly wrapped her arms around X-424's upper torso and trapped X-424's legs with her longer ones. As soon as she gripped her left wrist with her right hand, Moira squeezed and squeezed hard.
There were few people in the world who could bring so much strength to bear. Moira's muscles throbbed and flexed tighter and bigger. Moira's blood was already flowing and her muscles were already pumped. They built on their earlier strength. X-424 felt her bones being compressed. Her skeleton scientifically hardened to withstand her own strength and anything that came against her, but the scientists couldn't have foreseen Moira's power. The second strongest woman in the world was crushing this Femme to death.
Moira was focused on her task. It wasn't easy to hold X-424, but she had more than enough strength in reserve. She started to use it now. This woman was too dangerous to let anyone else fight. Moira had to make sure she wasn't a threat, so she crushed harder. Moira growled and pushed her head to the floor as she put on her final squeeze, crushing the Femme like blond boa constrictor. She felt something give, then there was a crack, followed quickly by another. Blood bubbled to X-424's mouth. A car crusher couldn't have done what this woman's arms were doing. Moira's muscles flexed harder, pouring even more strength into the weakened Femme. Her arms moved another few inches, making X-424's entire torso smaller. There was another crack and a bloody gurgle. It was nearly over now. X-424's organs were under so much pressure they they were actually heating up. Moira wasn't just crushing her, she was cooking her too.
X-424's head whipped from side to side and finally her body did too. It offered no relief from Moira's deadly anaconda squeeze, but it was all she could do. Her motion was making them inch closer to the wall. At once, she noticed it. With the strength she had left, X-424 rocked sideways as hard as she could. Moira's forehead hit the corner of the wall. She shouted from the pain and her grip weakened. X-424 freed herself and backed away. Moira held one hand to her forehead and the other she used to steady herself as she got to her feet.
X-424 couldn't stand up straight and she labored to breathe. She looked directly at Moira until she heard the intercom announce that the building would soon be surrounded. Moira turned towards the sound for a instant but her sky blue eyes went back to the intruder. She was locked in combat. This woman wasn't going to get away. She was too dangerous. Moira looked away again she heard the footfalls of a dozen men getting closer. A touch of worry came into Moira's mind. This woman was strong enough to punch a hole in any guard, but she hadn't, not yet. Moira glanced at one of the injured guards then looked up at the Femme who was only a few feet away.
"Just let me leave", X-424 pleaded. "I don't want to fight."
Moira looked at the bruised woman then at the bleeding guards one more time. These men needed help, not a prolonged battle between two women could bring the walls down. "Go", Moira said softly hoping that she wouldn't later regret her decision..
X-424 turned towards the exit door and kicked it off its hinges with one short powerful move. It flew out ten feet from the building before crashing against the steps. The Femme ran out and up into the streets of Chicago. Moira watched to make sure she'd left before turning her attention to the men lying on the floor. She spun around quickly when she heard a click-clack sound behind her. She saw an old man with a cane walking through the darkened and destroyed lab towards the light of the hallway. Moira had never seen this man in person, but she saw his portrait everyday when she walked into the lobby of the Institute.
"You did the right thing letting her go", Dr. Zechariah Warrmer said. "Don't worry about these men. I'll see to their care, and don't worry about the damage. I'll have it fixed."
Moira stood up. She towered over the hunched old man. "What about her?" She pointed towards the exit where X-424 had escaped.
Dr. Warrmer smiled. "Don't worry about her either. She stole a list of formulas that people have been trying to obtain for a couple of years. It had become a pain. Now they have them, but I don't think its going to work out like they expect."
Moira stepped towards Dr. Warrmer. "You planned to let her steal it didn't you?", she asked.
The man patted Moira's hand softly. "Yes, I did." He smiled like a grandfather would at his favorite grandchild. "I didn't expect you to be here, and I didn't expect the security guards to have so much zeal, but I guess those are good problems to have." He shifted his weight on his cane. "Come, Dr. Kelly. The paramedics are almost here, and your fiancee is waiting on you."
Moira heard people rushing down the hall, and she heard ambulance sirens in the background but no police.
Dr. Warrmer lead Moira to Ian, who was beside himself with worry. Dr. Warrmer stayed long enough to make sure Moira's bruises were tended to and then he went to his office. He had a little more business to handle before the day was over.
Morgen Stern met Benny at a cheap motel outside of town. X-424 couldn't go back to the Belden-Stratford. There was no way to could explain her injuries. She was more injured than he had ever seen her. She had fought a Series 4 super soldier and had only broken a sweat, but someone broken some of her ribs.
Morgen looked at the Femme with a tinge of pity, but he had to remind himself that these soldiers didn't feel pain like a regular person. Benny was worried and cared for the Femme as best he could. She lay in the bed with him bandaging her wounds and attempting to address her ribs until Jeff could see to them.
Morgen tried to stay out of the way while he calmly explained the next phase of his plan to Benny, who listened with only one ear. The other was glued to the news coverage of the Revolution attacks in Boston, Las Vegas, St. Paul, and Atlanta. Benny had to admit that they were going better than he had thought.
Morgen left before the conclusion of the terrorist attacks. Benny planned on staying at this motel for a few days to let X-424 heal, but before long he realized that the Revolution's attacks were going horribly wrong. He had to get back to Atlanta, and quickly. He trusted Jean, but the second in command couldn't handle a mess this big on his own.
Back at the Institute, Dr. Warrmer was walking into his office on the top floor. The grand fatherly air left him as he settled into his chair. He sighed and looked up at one of his employees.
"I should have trusted you", Dr. Horowitz said solemnly. His head was pounding, but he was as relieved as a man could be. His time on the run was over.
"You should have always trusted me", Warrmer scolded him. "You ran from me before you knew my intentions. I didn't care that you were moonlighting with Mallster behind my back. I am more concerned with talented people like you getting yourselves killed. You're too valuable to me and to the world, but you ran and almost got your entire family murdered! For what? To escape a bump on the head! After all the running and all the trouble, a simple headache was all it took to get that formula list out of your hands." Warrmer sighed loudly and poured himself some brandy. "Did you make the changes to the formulas that requested?"
Horowitz nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Good. Then you no longer have anything to worry about. You can bring your family back to Chicago and live the rest of your lives, but if there is a next time, come to me first."
"Yes, sir", Horowitz said again before he turned and left the room.
Dr. Warrmer was disappointed as he watched Horowitz walk out. He couldn't understand how a man could be so smart and yet not know how to read people at all. That was something to ponder another day. Instead he pushed the button for his assistant. "Get the Broker on the phone." After a couple of rings they were connected. "Its done", Warrmer said quickly.
On the other end of the line the Broker sighed. "Thank you."
"You're going to owe me, Dimitri, and I never forget a debt."
"I knew that before I called you, Zechariah. I'm in your debt", the Broker admitted. They hung up after that. There was nothing left to say. The Broker was playing a deadly game that would come to a head sooner rather than later.
|Power and Fury: The Early Days pt.1||The Femme Soldiers||The Femme Revolution Pt. 2|
|Power and Fury: The Early Days pt. 2||The Femme Soldiers Attack||The Terror Gallery pt. 1|
|Power and Fury: Just Warming Up||The Strength Serum||The Terror Gallery pt.2|
|Power and Fury: Itching for a Fight||Power and Fury: Power Problems|
|Power and Fury: The Heist||The Femme Revolution|
There are plenty of others where this story came
from. Please check out the bookshelf for all the past chapters of
Power and Fury and my other series.
comments and critisisms welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org