The Phoenix Initiative by papayoya
Summary:

The Flare, a massive solar eruption that hit America's West Coast, caused the death of a million women. Not everyone affected by the Flare developed terminal cancer, though. Four women woke up, after three very painful months, turned into something else. Over eight feet in height and possessing supernatural strength, Jennifer, Susan, Nathalie and Nicole will have to learn to live their lives in their new condition.

The Phoenix Initiative is the military project that takes care of them, studies their possibilities but also tries to replicate the process in the background. It has been going on for over a year... when one of the girls decides that she has had enough of being treated like a lab rat. 


Categories: Sci-Fi, Giantess, Destruction, Muscle Characters: None
Growth: Amazon (7 ft. to 15 ft.)
Shrink: None
Size Roles: FF/m
Warnings: Following story may contain inappropriate material for certain audiences
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: No Word count: 37085 Read: 19688 Published: November 04 2018 Updated: December 02 2018

1. Prologue by papayoya

2. Chapter 1 by papayoya

3. Chapter 2 by papayoya

4. Chapter 3 by papayoya

5. Chapter 4 by papayoya

Prologue by papayoya
Author's Notes:

 

 

Prologue

    Colonel Christian Rhodes walked along the corridor of the motel, looking at the numbers on the doors as he went. It was more out of custom than need, since Christian would have been able to get to room 1023 with his eyes closed if he had wanted to.

    He felt his heart accelerating when he finally reached the cheap wooden door and removed the keycard from his wallet. At that precise moment, the thrill he felt from his weekly meeting clearly outweighed the guilt he felt about Martha and the boys.

    The electronic lock beeped, the light turned green and a smile appeared on his face as he pushed the door open. Then, his excitement died in an instant and was replaced by an intense fear.

    Objectively, the woman waiting naked in bed for him was as alluring, if not more, than Allison. Rhodes, who had always had a weak spot for women, had instantly became attracted to her distinctive Polynesian features once the young lawyer had awakened from her coma. This was before he had come to know her better. Arrogant, short-tempered and rebellious, she had given them all sorts of trouble before she finally ended up breaking out of the facility, having first killed a researcher and two guards.

    Recovered, after the initial freeze of seeing her in bed, Christian hesitated on what to do. He shot a glance at the still open door over his shoulder. It did not go unnoticed by the woman in bed, who addressed him with the deep and sensual voice he had enjoyed at first and had learn to fear later.

    “Don’t be stupid. You know it would do no good.”

    Christian knew she was right. Once she had found him, he had no chance of escaping from her. He looked to the front and nodded.

    “Close the door, Christian,” the woman then said.

    He hesitated and then realized that the initial shock had made him forget about the most important aspect of the situation. A cold shiver ran down his spine.

    “Where is Allison?” he asked, his voice unable to hide the anxiety.

    “Close the door,” the woman insisted.

    Christian wanted to yell at her, to jump and pound his fists at her, to hit her until she told him what she had done with his lover. Knowing that it would be useless was frustrating at a level that he had never experienced before. He had his teeth clenched when he turned slightly and pushed the door closed.

    The room was only lit by the light that filtered through the window. Still, the full moon and streetlights were enough for his eyes, which had already adapted to the dark, to get a good enough picture of the scene as the woman that had been lying in bed stood up with a grace that her height should not have allowed her.

    The bed groaned as the woman shifted her weight to her feet and stood to her full height. She then bent and reached for something at the opposite side of the bulky bed from Christian. He felt his blood chill when she stood back up holding a bound and gagged Allison as if she were a child.

    The size difference as the menacing woman held his petite lover managed to convey her proportions in a way that the large bed had almost masked. Her head was not that far from the ceiling as she stood in a confident pose, looking almost like the perfect mix of a WNBA player, a fitness model and a centerfold.

    The Flare had done wonders on to Nicole Keilani, as it had with the other three girls. Christian had seen pictures of her from before the incident and she had been undeniably beautiful, but the pictures had nothing to do with the sheer perfection standing in front of him now.

    In her hand, Allison looked like a doll, even if the lingerie she was wearing highlighted every inch of her curvy but petite 5’2” body. Nicole was holding her two feet off the ground without any apparent effort.

    “Your secretary, Christian? That has to be a classic!” the sculptural woman said.

    “Don’t hurt her!” Colonel Rhodes said, his voice sounding more afraid than assertive. “She’s done nothing to you!”

    Just then, Allison tried to scream, but her attempt was muffled by the gag. Nicole frowned and simply shook the petite woman with disdain.

    “Shut up, darling!”

    “Let her go!” Christian yelled.

    Nicole looked back at him and shrugged. And then, she dropped Allison to the floor. She hit it with a loud thud. He thought he could hear her sobbing through the gag, but Nicole’s voice came back and masked the sound.

    “Come here” she said softly as she beckoned him with a finger. She was stark naked, the pale light coming through the curtains highlighting each and every muscle of her perfect figure.

    It was the last thing Colonel Rhodes wanted to do. It is what he did, each step bringing him closer to the woman that he both lusted after and dreaded.

    “You were never bashful,” Christian said between his teeth.

    “You were expecting a naked woman. I did not want to make my presence too startling,” Nicole replied with a smirk.

    Christian Rhodes look down to see the bound body of his lover squirming behind Nicole’s feet, then sighed and looked up at the intruder. He was a reasonably tall man, but he could not prevent feeling dwarfed, like every time he stood next to one of the girls. The fact that it was Nicole, with everything she represented, made it worse.

    His head could basically make it reached as high as her disproportionate and impossibly erect breasts. When she stooped a little to push him with her unyielding mounds, Christian knew that the disposition had been on purpose.

    “Enjoying the view, Colonel?” she asked in a mocking tone.

    Her hand, delicate despite being quite larger than his own, reached for his shirt and took a fistful of it before lifting him up like a helium balloon.

    “I’m up here, though” the Hawaiian woman said with a smile as she brought their faces level.

    Christian’s feet were dangling a foot-and-a-half off the ground, but he resolved not to scream and kick. The last thing he wanted was to give Nicole further reason to keep bullying him.

    “What the hell do you want?” he snapped.

    It only made the amazon chuckle.

    “I’ve been looking forward to having a quiet conversation with you.”

    “What if I don’t want to?”

    Nicole did not reply. She just raised her oversized right foot and placed it on Allison’s back, covering almost all of it. Then, she started pushing. The moans of extreme pain were noticeable even with her mouth covered.

    “Ok!” Christian let out.

    Nicole removed her foot from Allison right away and chuckled.

    “I knew you could be reasonable.”

    She then sat on the bed, making the heavy-looking piece of furniture groan once more, and brought the colonel to her lap, cradling him like a baby. It was meant to humiliate him. It was successful.

    “What do you want?” Rhodes asked. He was almost pleading.

    “I want to know about Sully’s side project,” Nicole said.

    Christian’s mind had been too focused on the immediate danger to facing him and his lover to consider the threat Nicole represented beyond that. He had only just realized this mistake, and judging from the large woman’s reaction, it had shown on his face.

    “I… it’s above my clearance level,” he replied, realizing that denying the project was not an option anymore.

    “I know,” Nicole said, which made him feel hopeful for a while. “But you can point me in the right direction,” she added.

    “Why me, then?” Christian asked. She was right. If he talked, Nicole would know more about the project than if he did not, but she would still not know enough.

    “Easy. You were the weakest link,” she said. “And I’ve been looking forward to meet you again. I had to leave without saying goodbye.”

    This reactivated Christian’s rage.

    “You killed three people!”

    “They were in my way,” Nicole said softly with a shrug. Then, she closed her hand around his skull and started applying pressure, increasing his pain to unbearable levels in a fraction of a second. “I trust you are smarter than they were, though.”

    “Ok!” he groaned. The pain vanished immediately.

    “Talk, then,” Nicole urged him.

    “If I do, will you let her go?” Christian asked her.

    “If you talk, I’ll give you what you want,” Nicole replied.

    Revealing secrets he had sworn to protect made Colonel Christian Rhodes feel miserable. It improved as he went on, though. Nicole did not interrupt him much, only to get some clarifications or to nudge the explanation in the direction she was interested. Eventually, he had nothing left to explain. Nicole seemed to understand.

    “Those were good directions,” she said with a smile.

    “You’re going to kill me,” Christian said in a matter-of-fact tone.

    “I would say it’s not personal, but both you and I know that would not be exactly true,” Nicole said.

    “We always treated you well,” Rhodes said.

    “Well?” Nicole asked with a laugh. “You mean, well as in a bed, a roof and three hot meals per day? Well, excuse me if I saw a little bit beyond that and realized about the lab rat aspect, and double-guessed Lindbergh’s intentions. Are you close enough to using the rest of the girls as publicity stunts? Or would you rather explore their military suitability first? Or maybe you don’t want to risk any of that until you can finally use all the research we were so gladly taking part in to develop a weapon that can kill us?”

    “You don’t know that!” Rhodes screamed.

    “Yet you are not denying it,” Nicole replied in a soft tone. “In any case, what I know is that I am a free woman, who went through three crappy months in unbearable pain and that you have no right to keep me locked away from the world. I bought your crap about society not being ready for my new conditions and skills for long enough. And then I realized that you have neither any rights nor any power over me. If society isn’t ready for me, then that’s society’s fucking problem!”

    “You stand out too much!” Christian said.

    “And what’s the fucking problem with that?”

    “Well, there may be something, since you escaped three weeks ago, and you essentially vanished.”

    “That’s because I’m the one who is not ready yet. And I’m not too keen on the idea of having you use the other three girls on me.” Nicole said.

    “They will find you.”

    “We’ll see about that. I have some very resourceful friends,” Nicole said.

    There were a few seconds of silence. Then, the amazon said:

    “I think it’s time, Christian.”

    “Let Allison go first,” Colonel Rhodes pleaded.

    Nicole smiled. The evilness of the gesture made him freeze.

    “I told you I would give you what you wanted. And believe me, I’ve known what you wanted ever since you first set your eyes on me.”

    Without further word, the massive woman used her free hand to push her mammoth breasts apart. Christian yelled when her other hand pushed his head between the two massive and strangely solid mounds of flesh, muffling his screams in the process.

    “You know, Christian? One thing that still surprises me is how you guys didn’t find out about the details of my previous life in your background checks. I know you went through everything, but somehow, you never dug deep enough when it came to my sexual preferences,” she said.

    Christian wiggled and kicked, but it was piece of cake for Nicole to hold him in place.

    “You know, I’m a vigorous girl. I always was. I got into sex early enough, but it failed to be as satisfying as I expected. I naturally started looking for ways to make the most out of my sex-life, and I tried some very wild stuff, but I could not find anything that fulfilled me until I discovered S&M.”

    Rhodes kicking became wilder just then, but Nicole just giggled and kept him in place.

    “Can you imagine, Christian? Feeling all this strength in my body, knowing the things I could do with it… and not taking advantage of it? Can you imagine the self-control that required? I’ve been a very restrained woman, Christian. But that’s about to end!”

    Just then, Nicole pushed her breasts together. Colonel Rhodes’ skull never stood a chance and it crushed like a grape as her two unyielding mounds were pushed against each other with the force of a hydraulic press. The crunching sound was sickening for everyone but Nicole, who moaned in delight as she felt the gore spreading over her chest.

    She enjoyed the feeling for a few more seconds before letting go, making the headless corpse of Christian Rhodes roll onto the bed.

    Then, she stood up and headed for the bathroom. Allison’s body was kicking wildly on the floor, right on her path. Nicole did not even divert her path to plant her massive foot on Allison’s back and rest her entire, substantial weight on it. The petite woman’s kicks died in an instant, as Nicole’s sole crushed her in half.

    The motel’s shower looked ridiculously small as Nicole tried to maneuver her prodigious body into it. Fresh and clean after a certain degree of contortionism, she put her baggy clothes back on and moved Allison’s body from the floor to the bed. It took her no effort to roll the two corpses in the bedsheets and make a bundle with them.

    It was late enough at night that there was no one around to be attracted by her height. In any case, all they would have seen would have been a rather tall woman carrying a bundle on her back, without knowing just how easy it was for her to hold the weight of what used to be two people.

 

End Notes:

 

You can get more details and material about the story in https://www.deviantart.com/papayoya

Chapter 1 by papayoya
Chapter 1

    Officer Kyle Jenkins was talking to his father on the speaker phone as he crossed Lowell Bridge to the opposite side of Santa Isabel Bay.

    “I won’t be able to come tonight, dad. A couple of colleagues are sick and they asked me to do some overtime. I’m afraid I need the money.”

    “Will you stop acting as if you had an obligation to come visit me every day? I’m not crippled. I’m just old,” his father’s voice came through the other end of the line.

    “I know…” Kyle started saying. “Are you eating well?” he then insisted.

    “For God’s sake, Kyle. I’m perfectly able to take care of myself. I was a cop for forty years and believe me, back then things were not as easy as you’re used to.”

    “I know dad. It’s only… anyway, sorry. I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 9 to bring flowers to mom.”

    He knew his father was as affected as he was by his mother’s unexpected demise. He just did not show it, which concerned Kyle even more. His mother had not been a very strong woman, so she had been one of the first affected by The Flare to die. She had been mentioned in the news. Then, thousands of other women started to die, and the world had forgotten about Rose Jenkins.

    Santa Isabel had been hit the hardest. As yet, no one really knew exactly what The Flare had been, but everything pointed to his home city being in the focus of the inexplicable solar eruption. Close to half of the million women that had developed a cancer and died a few weeks after the event had lived in the Santa Isabel metro area.

    One day short of the tragic anniversary, the city was still recovering. As well as the women that had died, a similar number of inhabitants had left, having found it impossible to keep living in a city that had been so cruel. The ten million that had stayed had yet to bounce back.

    Traffic continued to be a nightmare, but Kyle thought that even the blaring of horns had decreased, as if people couldn’t find the energy to complain to each other.

    “You don’t have to come if you’re too tired” his father said on the other end of the line, taking Kyle away from his thoughts.

    He was about to protest when the world went to hell.

    Kyle had never experienced an earthquake before. So, it took him a couple of seconds to realize that he was in the middle of one.  A very big one.

    He lost control of his squad car, which crashed into the car just in front. His airbag went off, confirming that it had not been a mild impact. It was far from the only one. And, at the same time, it was far from the worst consequence of the tremor.

    A steel girder pierced the car just in front of him as the ground under Kyle shook again. It took him a moment to realize that it had not been another quake, but the bridge breaking. A fifty yard area straight ahead of him bulged, sending cars in his direction. There were more crashes, even if they were less violent than the first one had been, and there were a couple of cars skidding past his cruiser and slamming into other vehicles in the lanes on both sides. And then, there were screams.

    Kyle brushed his forehead and noticed a trickle of blood on it. Still, he thought he was more or less fine. His first reaction was to reach for his cell phone and check on his father. He had to discard it when he saw that there was no line, confirmation that this had not been a mild earthquake at all.

    Kyle hyperventilated and thought about what to do. The screams of the people getting out of their cars and running along the narrow aisles between packed vehicles showed him the way. He was a police officer, for God’s sake. He should get out of the car and try to see what he could do to help.

    The first thing he did was to switch on the police radio to ask for instructions. He switched it off right away when he realized that it was pure chaos. He was on his own. But he had his duty.

    The first obstacle in his quest to help was the fact that his cruiser’s door would not open. It was jammed by a car that had crashed too close to his. With the window not rolling down because of the damage to the door, Kyle’s only option was to shoot the glass and then squeeze through the window hole, taking care not to cut himself any further.

    He noticed he was still a bit dizzy from the crash, but managed to move through the spaces between cars, pausing by a couple of people that were sitting on the road, backs against their cars, with different types of cuts and bruises. Kyle stopped for long enough to make sure that they were not seriously injured and went on.

    He helped a panicked woman out of her car, taking care of her little boy first, then tried to recruit a couple of volunteers amongst those that looked less affected and in better shape.

    Screams brought him and his two new collaborators running to the edge of the area where the bridge had bulged. What he saw there made his heart freeze.

    The bridge had not only bulged. A full section of it, maybe fifty yards long, was missing, the gap between the spot he was standing on and the next standing section about two hundred feet above Santa Isabel Bay.

    Kyle dreaded to think just how many people might have been on that particular stretch of road when it had broken. Looking from above, there didn’t seem to be any activity from survivors on the surface of the water below.

    He shifted his attention from what had happened and focused on the task at hand. The task that had caused the yells that had attracted him in the first place. The school bus.

    Kyle had never been especially good at Physics. He did not need to be to know that the balance of the fifty-foot yellow bus was far from perfect, with about half of it on the road and the other half looming over the gap. The bus was tilted towards the gap, its back wheels a few feet above the road. It seemed almost a miracle that it hadn’t fallen yet.

    A metallic groan and a small swinging of the vehicle confirmed his thoughts. And then, he could hear nothing but the screams of the children inside. It took Kyle a couple of seconds to react. By the time he did, he realized that the people had already organized themselves and had run some ropes around the back fender, pulling back to try and bring the bus back onto the road. They had not been not very successful.

    A new, more noticeable groan tilted the bus some more, and he could feel the people pulling back straining in unison. The bus moved barely a couple of inches forward, but they were two terrifying inches.

    Kyle’s eyes moved from the bus to the people trying to pull it back and then to the bus again. His first instinct was to help pull. His colder head prevailed and he climbed a car that had stopped right at the edge and looked at the terrified children through the windows.

    They were both screaming and crying. A quick look down the bus showed him a red splotch on the windscreen, and he understood that the driver was dead. He unsuccessfully looked for the teacher. And then, he started screaming and gesturing with his hands.

    “Get to the back of the bus! Move back!”

    It seemed pointless for a while. The bus groaned once more, and Kyle feared that it would slide past him and into the bay. Eventually, the first two kids understood what he was saying and moved to the back of the mass transport vehicle. Soon, others started following. It was not as easy as Kyle would have thought. The kids were not that old, and the bus was tilted enough that they had to practically climb their way back. A few of them were too afraid to react, but more and more kids started to understand what he was asking them to do and helped balance the weight.

    Kyle smiled as he saw the bus pivot in the opposite direction for the first time. He climbed down from the car and headed towards the people with the ropes, who were looking more hopeful than the last time he had checked.

    And then, a new chunk of asphalt broke, and the bus moved in the wrong direction once more. Kyle was pretty sure that it would have dropped straight into the water if no one had been pulling back. Still, the fight against fate was starting to feel like a futile endeavor. A few of the rope-pullers looked way too strained, and even though they had been joined by some fresh helpers, they seemed unable to prevent the apparently inevitable for much longer.

    With all the tension, Kyle had not heard the large helicopter passing overhead. He did not register the characteristic twin rotors of the Chinook until he turned to look in the direction of the various gasps. He quickly forgot about the chopper and focused on the woman instead.

    She was walking along the aisles that had formed between abandoned cars and if anything, she stood out. It was hard to judge from his distance, but it was clear that the woman was massive, dwarfing the cars she was walking past as she moved with a sense of purpose. She was gorgeous too, something Kyle would not have imagined in a woman that size. Blonde, with large blue eyes and thick glossy lips, she had the face of an action movie celebrity stuck on the body of a giant fitness model. Her muscles did not bulge but were incredibly well-defined; they were impossible to miss, since the woman was dressed only in a pair of shorts and a top made of a dark material that was so tight fitting, it seemed that it would rip apart at any moment. The top clearly had the hardest of jobs, since the woman’s chest could not be described as anything but humongous. Kyle wondered which would be the correct letter of the alphabet to quantify its size. It was not until she cleared the last line of cars that he noticed that she was barefoot.

    People got out of her way as she kept walking towards the bus. Towards Kyle. As the authority in the area, he decided he should probably do something, so he climbed down from the car and headed towards her, only to stop when he realized that he was only as tall as her midriff.

    “I’m here to help” the woman said in a surprisingly high-pitched voice.

    “O… Ok,” Kyle said. “How?”

    “Let me show you,” the woman said.

    She walked past him and around the people that were still trying to hold the bus in place. She had to bend to get under the ropes and reach the underside of the back of the bus. And then, the most astonishing thing Kyle had seen in his life took place.

    The woman placed one hand on the fender and the other below the bus. After that, she started straightening up. The vehicle groaned once more, but it was a different type of groan from the one he had been dreading. The bus started to move, but this time it moved in the right direction. Or, to be more precise, it started moving upwards.

    The woman kept straightening up, not even looking strained as the bus kept following her motion until soon it was no longer touching the road. Kyle could hear the collective sigh as the woman kept going, now standing completely upright as she kept pushing up her arms and the bus with them. The mind-blowing nature of the entire scene made Kyle lose his perception of time, but a replay of the sequence in his head convinced him that it had probably not lasted much longer than a few seconds.

    The bus was soon horizontal, even if it wasn’t touching the road. In a way, it appeared to be hovering, its only contact with the bridge via a woman standing at its end. The woman turned, still holding the school bus, and looked at Kyle as if what she was doing was the most natural thing in the world.

    “Would you mind making some room? I need to set the bus down.”

    People did not waste time clearing the necessary space, allowing the massive blonde woman to kneel and set the yellow mass transportation vehicle softly onto the road. She stood back up, smiling like anyone would after a job well done, and dusted her hands off.

    “What… how… who are you?” Kyle asked.

    The woman looked down at him and widened her smile, seemingly ready to answer. Then, she changed her expression and said:

    “The kids can’t get out. Come!”

    Kyle tried to follow her around the bus, her so-much-longer legs making it hard for him to keep pace. The woman was standing by the front door of the bus, the children packing in behind it.

    “Move back, kids. I’ll open it for you,” she said with a sweet voice.

    The youngsters inside did not react. They were too panicked.

    “I said move back!” she repeated, her tone still soft, but her volume several orders of magnitude higher. She had sounded like a stadium speaker system, Kyle was sure that she had been heard several hundred yards away.

    It worked, the pupils clearing enough space for her to take hold of the door and start to open it. It soon became evident that it would not be possible. The panel was so twisted that opening it at the middle would still not clear enough space at the top and bottom.

    Kyle had seen enough already to make a suggestion.

    “Um… can you fix the door?”

    After what he had seen this strange woman do, it felt like a logical enough request.

    “Sure thing,” the woman said. “But we don’t have time for that.”

    Human minds are very adaptable. This was the reason Kyle wasn’t completely freaked-out when the woman, who he guessed would be in her mid-twenties, pushed her fingers into the steel around the door frame and, after a bit of complaining from the sheet metal, managed to get them right through. A second later, she was tearing the door frame away from the bus as if it had been made of paper.

    She discarded it over her shoulder and beckoned the children to walk out with a smile. It took them a few seconds to make their minds up. Finally, they stampeded away from the school transport, even if none stopped by the woman who had just saved them.

    She looked momentarily disappointed, but her beautiful smile returned a second later.

    Kyle was speechless, so it took him a moment to react when the woman turned to him and asked:

    “What’s next?”

    “W… what?”

    “I’m here to help. The kids are safe. What’s next? You’re the only agent of authority I can see around. I need some instructions,” said the massive woman.

    “How… who are you?”

    She rolled her eyes and said:

    “There’s no time for explanations, but I guess you need something, so I’ll give you the short version. I promise to tell you the rest when we’re done. My name’s Jennifer Watson. I’m twenty-six. I’m a real woman. But I’m freaking strong! I guess you already saw that. I’ve come here to help. But I need you to tell me how. I’ll follow your orders.”

    “Why?” Kyle asked.

    “Well, you’re a cop,” Jennifer said.

    “I… I don’t know… did you see anyone injured on your way across the bridge?” Kyle finally asked.

    “Nothing serious,” Jennifer said, shaking her head.

    “Ok…” Kyle replied, hesitating.

    Jennifer started tapping her foot while he thought, which made Kyle even more nervous, if only because of the fact that the road was slightly cracking as she did so.

    “I can hear some people in need of help on the other side of the gap,” Jennifer offered, getting impatient.

    “How?” Kyle asked.

    “Trust me. I can,” Jennifer said.

    Seeing that Kyle kept hesitating, she then offered:

    “Maybe you want us to go and help them?”

    “But how?” Kyle asked again.

    “I’ll take that as a yes,” Jennifer said. “Sorry.”

    Kyle did not understand what she was talking about. Regardless, the amazon bent and grabbed him by the armpits. One moment he was standing on the bridge, the next he was dangling two feet above the road and the next he was soaring across the gap between the two standing sections of the bridge. He could feel Jennifer’s impossibly hard body against his skin, but he could tell that she was taking care not to hold him too hard.

    They landed well past the edge of the bridge, Jennifer’s feet digging a small crater as they came down, the shockwave knocking a couple of abandoned vehicles onto their sides. It was the only empty area in their surroundings, and Kyle realized that the woman had chosen the landing spot carefully.

    “How?”

    “I think what you mean is that I should be helping those people over there to get out of their cars, right?” Jennifer suggested.

    Kyle nodded and she headed towards a pile up, pushing cars apart like a little girl playing with a model set. Once there was enough space between them, Jennifer started ripping doors out. Kyle was still surprised by how delicate she was as she carried the more severely injured victims to empty areas where they could receive attention.

    Once the wounded were safe, it became clear that they were lacking medical assistance. Jennifer turned to Kyle and looked down.

    “These people need a doctor,” she said.

    “Yes…” Kyle replied. “I… don’t see one around.”

    “There’s an ambulance about two hundred yards down the road. It’s blocked.”

    “Can you?” Kyle asked.

    “Yes, but I need you to clearly order me to do it. Otherwise, the brass is going to be pissed off.”

    “Sure… Jennifer, could you… could you go over there and bring the ambulance here?” Kyle asked.

    “Is that an order?” Jennifer replied with a wink.

    “Yes.”

    “You got it!”

    The woman disappeared with a jump. Two minutes later, an ambulance appeared to float towards him. Kyle was the only person in the area who wasn’t shocked to see it being carried by a young blonde woman who was making her way through the spaces between crashed cars.

    It took the medics some time to get out of the vehicle, but they did once Jennifer encouraged them. Then, she urged Kyle to continue their humanitarian mission.

    Officer Jenkins adapted remarkably well to the possibilities opened up by the impossible woman as they went on, freeing trapped people, getting the injured to assistance and saving those in dire situations.

*=*=*=*=*=*

    Susan was not feeling very confident as the adapted helicopter carried her to the city. She had been expecting to have much more time before going public but the mission-call had come in a rush. She was smart enough to know that, after today, her new life would be exposed to the world, and she wasn’t too sure if she wanted that.

    Jennifer and Nathalie seemed considerably less affected. As far as Susan knew, they had been longing for the exposure. They seemed incredibly comfortable with what they had become. Susan could not understand it. Nine months after waking up from thirteen weeks of the most excruciating pain, Susan still did not know what, or who, she was.

    She knew who she had been. A shy college student, not too popular despite the fact that her friends had told her more than once that she was undeniably beautiful. They were dead now, victims of the cancer that, instead of killing Susan, had turned her into something else.

    Susan was not stupid. She could see all the amazing aspects of her new condition. But, unlike the others, she could also see the drawbacks. And once she was finally exposed, there would be no way to contain them. Everyone that had ever known her would learn what she had become. And what she had already feared for some months, namely that she was a freak destined for a life spent in the spotlight and at the expense of others, would be truer than ever.

    The General had been too specific for her to question his orders or to ask for an exception. There had been an earthquake, a very bad earthquake, and they were going to help the city. The three of them. Susan could see the public relations logic behind that, of course. Lindbergh would have a much easier time explaining what they were and what he was doing after saving a few hundred people than he would under any other circumstances.

    “We have arrived,” said the lieutenant who was sitting across from her.

    The cargo door of the Chinook opened, and Susan walked towards it. Well, there was nothing wrong with helping people, she thought as she jumped from two hundred feet up, landing with a loud thud as her feet dug into the asphalt.

    Three squads of firefighters turned in unison. Susan, who had landed with the grace of a gymnast, walked up to the man who was obviously in charge and said:

    “A few minutes ago, you were promised exceptional resources to help clear the tunnel. I’m those resources. I’m here to place myself under your command. I’m ready to take your orders.”

    She had carefully memorized the speech, to make sure that she wouldn’t mess it up. Lindbergh had been very insistent that they made it obvious they were acting under the instructions of the rightful authority.

    “Er… who are you, girl?”

    The man was looking up at her, like everyone else in the world except for Jennifer, Nathalie and Nicole. It was not the first time that she received that look. Her audience had been limited up until that point, but every now and then new people started working in the facility and more often than not they were shocked to see her, even if they had been given prior warning.

    By now, Susan was familiar with the type of effect she provoked. Her own little theory held that she was the most shocking of the four, since her girlish face, freckles, long red hair and pale skin did not match well with her new powerful appearance.

    Muscles bulged now where there had only been skinny arms and legs, and her almost non-existent breasts had swollen to proportions she would not have ever dreamed about, even after a few sessions of plastic surgery. True, her chest could not compare with Jennifer’s, but the cheerleader’s boobs had already been massive before The Flare.

    Susan had wondered if her new condition would allow her to get tanned. It did not, her pale appearance making her stand out among her new cohort. She did not get sunburnt either, though, which was to be expected, considering that the source of her new strength was the Sun itself.

    Despite all that, she was bothered by the look from the firefighter.

    “I believe you need a demonstration of my ability to help. Do you need that tunnel cleared?” Susan asked. She was pointing at the entrance of the tunnel the firemen had been working on. It was completely blocked by rubble that had fallen when the earthquake had brought down a section of it.

    “Yes” the fireman said.

    “With your permission, I’ll proceed with the demonstration,” Susan said methodically, repeating yet another of the sentences she had memorized.

    She took a path that would lead her through two other firefighters. Susan enjoyed it when they dashed out of the way, looking down at them as she passed. Then, she planted herself in front of the tunnel and mentally sized the chunks of debris blocking the way. She went for the largest one, a big block of concrete with some steel girders sticking out of both sides. The whole thing had to be some twenty feet across.

    Looking over her shoulder at the stunned firefighters and smirking, Susan crouched and brought each hand under the large concrete block. Two seconds later, she was holding it well over her head, its weight not making her strain at all as she turned and savored the startled faces of the firefighters.

    “Where do you want me to put it?” she asked with a mix of pride and mockery. She guessed they were no longer doubting her abilities, even if they probably still thought of her as a freak.

    Her mood changed in an instant when she saw a number of firemen take their cellphones out of their suits and point them at her, ready to take pictures. Susan could feel her blood boiling.

    “Don’t take pictures!”

    She realized that she had raised her voice too much. And she was very aware of how loud she could be. It was one of the tests they repeated regularly at the facility. The firemen were not only shocked by the volume of her words, they also looked rather afraid. Susan realized that being snapped at like that by someone who was holding a few tons with her bare hands must be unsettling.

    She tried to fix it by smiling shyly and adding:

    “Please.”

    Knowing that she had to break the awkward moment, Susan tossed the heavy chunk of debris to an obviously unoccupied area and walked back to the officer in charge.

    “So, you’ve seen what I can do. How can I help you?”

    She ended up having to give them the short version of who she was, much like Jennifer had done. Unlike her colleague, Susan had no intention to invest time in the long story later.

    She proceeded to follow the men’s instructions as she methodically and swiftly cleared access to the tunnel. Soon enough, firemen could get in and start to help those trapped. A few minutes later, Susan was done with the rubble.

    It was a professional co-operation. After the first incident, she never managed to gain the firefighter’s trust. No one took any pictures of her, though.

    Once she was done, having barely exerted herself, Susan addressed the officer asking:

    “Is there anything else you need me to do?”

    When the man looked at her and shook his head, she asked:

    “In that case, could you please direct me to some other area where my abilities may prove handy?”

*=*=*=*=*=*

    Nathalie was leading a mixed team of cops and firemen as she stepped into the lobby of the Walden Tower. After helping some people out of the rubble of a smaller building that had collapsed, the team she had been working with had been directed to the tallest building in Santa Isabel.

    A hundred stories tall, the Walden’s remarkable architecture stood out from the city’s skyline. The men in the lobby were as surprised as anyone who saw her for the first time, but the ones she now considered to be her team hurried to explain that she was on their side and to sum up some of the skills she could bring to the mission.

    Nathalie’s oversensitive ears caught the man in charge in the lobby saying:

    “What sort of crap is this?”

    She realized that, as usual, a demonstration was in order. She did not want to be too extreme, but she needed to find something that would remove any doubts from the minds of the men she had to work with.

    The large bronze representation of the world that stood in the center of the lobby fountain was as good a tool for her purposes as any. She walked towards it without saying anything. Ten seconds later, she was holding the solid, twenty-foot-diameter globe in one hand, causing the jaws of those who had not yet met her to drop and those that had already worked with her to shoot knowing glances at them.

    With that settled, it was time to get to work. The cop in charge recovered his composure remarkably quickly and filled them in.

    Floors seventy-two and above were cut off. Floors fifty-nine to seventy-one had collapsed, and neither the elevators nor the stairs were usable. There were at least sixty people trapped in two of the elevator cars, and their best estimate was that there were over a thousand-people stuck on the upper floors. With the cellphone network down, no radios and the landlines cut, they had no effective way of communicating with them.

    There were some men studying blueprints of the building on the lobby’s counter, and Nathalie asked politely if she could take a look. She seemed to have an entourage as she walked over, followed by a dozen men that were barely as tall as her chest.

    “They’re exploring possible evacuation routes,” one of the firemen that had come with her explained. “It looks tough”

    “Can they show me?” asked Nathalie, softly.

    She listened carefully to the man’s words, as he listed the difficulties of each option and laid bare the obvious lack of hope of finding a timely resolution. She was patient. And once she had processed all the information, she suggested her own plan.

    “Do you think it will work?” she enquired.

    The men exchanged glances, obviously startled.

    “Er… yes, it should work. But, can you do that?” the officer in charge asked.

    “Of course,” she replied with a confident smile. “I just need someone who knows the structure of the building to come with me. I’ll need directions when I’m up there.”

    A shorter than average man with pale blonde hair and even paler skin took a step to the front.

    “I’ll go.”

    “Ok. Do I have your permission then?” Nathalie asked the commanding officer.

    “Er… yes,” he said, still not believing that they were going to do what she was suggesting.

    “Ok,” Nathalie said. “Would you all mind covering your ears?”

    She got some quizzical glances.

    “Cover your ears, please. You’ll understand.”

    When the men had complied, Nathalie looked up and addressed the people seventy stories above. It would have felt stupid if her voice had not sounded louder than the speaker system at a Rolling Stones concert.

    “People on the top floors of the Walden. Help is on the way. Please stay away from the elevators. If you can, get to the higher floors. We’ll be there soon!”

    It had been deafening for the men around her, even with their ears covered.

    “How did you do that?” the man in charge asked.

    Nathalie just shrugged and headed to one of the elevator doors, choosing the one she had learned had a free shaft. Her fingers dug effortlessly into the metal. It was then a piece of cake to push the doors apart and peer up the shaft.

    She turned and beckoned to the pale man.

    “Time to go.”

    He walked towards her, but then glanced at the never-ending chimney and asked:

    “How?”

    Nathalie knelt and said:

    “You’ll have to climb my back.”

    It took the man two seconds to realize that it was not a joke. He finally swallowed hard and moved towards the massive girl, grabbing her muscular neck and trying to pull himself up. When it became obvious that it would not be an easy task, a massive hand pushed him on the butt and helped him up.

    Sigursson would have felt like a child on his mother’s back had it not been for the stark contrast between his pale, almost white skin and the young woman’s almost golden brown tones. She stood up as soon as she felt that he had a good hold, and then walked into the shaft. Sigursson was still wondering how she intended to climb up a thousand feet when the woman extended her palm, fingers close together, turned it downwards and hit the concrete at the side of the elevator shaft. Her fingers easily penetrated as far as her palm. She repeated the operation with her other hand a bit higher and Sigursson realized that she had created two handholds. Her feet soon followed, allowing her a comfortable climbing position inside the long vertical duct.

    “Are you OK?”

    “Er… yes! How did you do that?” he asked.

    Nathalie chuckled softly.

    “Are you still surprised?”

    “I… I guess”

    “Hold tight!” was all she said as she started to climb.

    Sigursson could not believe what was happening. It was not only the fact that she was breaking concrete as if it had been crackers. The woman was climbing at a rate he would have been unable to match even if he had had a real ladder.

    “Mike Sigursson, by the way,” he offered by the time he had counted at least twenty elevator doors.

    “Nathalie. Nathalie Baptiste,” she replied, not nearly out of breath. “Are you from Iceland, Mike?” she asked, apparently happy to have a conversation.

    “No. LA. My grandparents were.”

    “Same here. Grandparents from Haiti.”

    Mike nodded and then asked:

    “So, what do you do? I mean, when you’re not climbing skyscrapers with your bare hands?”

    Nathalie chuckled softly.

    “Well, that’s most of what I do nowadays, although mostly it’s training. I used to be a nurse, though. Before the Flare.”

    “The Flare did this to you?” he asked.

    “Kind of. It’s a long story.”

    They had reached floor fifty-nine by then. Mike had to look at his watch to confirm that it had taken the massive girl less than five minutes to climb almost sixty floors. The elevator shaft was blocked with rubble and a couple of steel girders.

    “Do I push them apart?” asked Nathalie.

    Mike realized that it was a genuine question. And that it did not mean she was wondering if he thought she was able to perform the feat, but rather she wanted to know if she should do it. He thought fast.

    “No. We don’t know what else this rubble is holding. It could start an avalanche.”

    “Oh,” Nathalie said. “Which way, then?”

    “Through the floor,” he said.

    The amazon climbed a few feet down and pivoted, holding herself only with one hand and foot. She did not seem to be straining, so Mike ignored the urge to yell at her to be careful. She then used her other hand to push the elevator doors apart and make enough space to jump into floor fifty-nine.

    It was no mystery how the top of the building had become cut off. The floor looked like a warzone, what used to be luxurious office space now having become a pile of rubble, with collapsed walls and sections of both the floor and the ceiling completely missing. Nathalie sighed when she saw the first corpses.

    “I was too late,” she said, the regret obvious in her tone.

    Mike understood that he needed to comfort her, which was weird considering that he was riding her back.

    “They probably died right after the quake. There was nothing you could have done.”

    “Still…” Nathalie said.

    “Let’s go save the rest, shall we?” he offered.

    It worked. Nathalie brought him off her back and he was soon walking next to her among the rubble, trying to find another way to get to the higher storeys. Being dwarfed as he moved next to the massive woman’s side was less humiliating than being carried like a child, but it was still impressive.

    Nathalie soon identified a large enough hole in the ceiling and pointed up.

    “Can you?” Mike questioned, surprised.

    She did not answer. Instead, she just picked him up by the sides and hopped up, her colossal body soaring through the opening and easily clearing five floors to land in the sixty-fourth.

    She repeated the operation once more to get to the sixty-eighth. Then, it was just a matter of finding a new elevator shaft to reach the seventy-second storey and open the doors to land in front of a panicked and, now, also awestruck, audience.

    The crowd moved a step back as she emerged from the elevator shaft. Seeing her place Sigursson on the floor did not help.

    Nathalie sighed again. She had been expecting it, but it was never welcome. By now, she had come to understand that this would be the initial response she would receive from people, and that the only way to change that would be through deeds.

    So, she ignored the reaction and scanned the area, trying to assess the situation.

    “That man is trapped,” she said, pointing out a man whose legs were hidden under a heavy shelf.

    “The… the shelf is blocked by debris. We can’t get him out,” a random person in the crowd claimed, apologetically.

    Nathalie did not reply. She just crossed the room, making people move out of her way, and crouched to grab the shelf with one hand. It took her only a casual movement to push it, and the rubble that had been forcing it down, out of the way. She was a bit more forceful than needed, putting on a show with the overall action.

    The man she had just freed looked a bit more thankful than the ones that had received her, but he still moaned in pain. Nathalie crouched and touched his legs with the greatest care.

    “They’re both broken, but it’s not too nasty. You’ll walk again,” she said.

    The man looked questioningly at her and she just shrugged:

    “I’m a nurse, specialized in surgery.”

    Standing back up, she addressed the rest of the crowd and said:

    “I’m here to help. But I need your cooperation.”

    Sensing the mood had slightly improved, Nathalie scanned the room and pointed to an open elevator door and the large elevator waiting beyond it.

    “What’s the problem with it?”

    “It was here… the power went out,” a woman said.

    She nodded, crouched again and picked up the man with both broken legs as if he were a doll. Crossing the room to the elevator, she set him down in it with care.

    “Bring the wounded and anyone who can’t move well to the elevator.  Everyone else, you need to get to the roof. Use the stairs.”

    “But… the elevator’s not working,” the woman protested.

    “Leave that to me,” Nathalie just replied. “The rest of you, climb to the roof. And tell everyone else to do the same. Now!”

    She beat everyone to the roof, of course. Taking another empty elevator shaft, Nathalie soon reached the machinery housing in the very top floor of the building. Mike breathed fresh air as soon as she opened the hatch and hopped outside.

    “Ok, time to get organized. The people down on seventy-two still need some time. Which were the elevators that were stuck with people inside?” she asked.

    “Five and eleven,” Mike said.

    Nathalie easily located the housing for elevator eleven’s machinery and walked towards it, followed by officer Sigursson who had to quicken his pace to catch up. She did not ask for permission before she ripped the roof of the small housing from the structure and hopped inside to look down at the elevator car, some twenty storeys below. Mike arrived in time to see her grab the thick steel cable and pull upwards, much as if she were drawing a bucket from a well.

    The elevator groaned at first and generated some sparks later. Once the emergency brake was gone, things were easier. Nathalie pulled the massive elevator out of the shaft in no time.

    By now, Mike Sigursson had lost the ability to be shocked by anything the ebony amazon did, so seeing her hold a fifteen by fifteen foot elevator car over her head as if it were a balloon felt almost natural. Nathalie wasted no time setting it down on the roof, pushing the doors open with the ease of a hot knife cutting butter and looking at the thirty very startled people packed inside.

    She frowned just a bit when she got the usual reaction. She didn’t hesitate before addressing them, though:

    “There’s no time to explain. I’m taking you to the first floor. You’ll find help there.”

    Closing the doors shut, Nathalie lifted the elevator with just one hand, keeping hold of the thick steel cable with the other. Then, she walked to the edge. Mike admired the exercise of delicate precision and balance as she crouched and let the elevator car go just enough so that she could still keep it in place with the cable she was firmly gripping. After that, she just stood there, letting the length of the steel cable slowly go as she held the entire weight of thirty people and their container for the entire duration of the hundred-floor descent.

    Mike started clapping once the people were safely on the road below. Nathalie merely turned and headed for elevator five.

    It took her an hour and a half to evacuate everyone who had been trapped, reaching a pace of an elevator ride every three minutes when she was at her peak.

    Nathalie had enjoyed the growing shows of appreciation from the people in the Walden as she kept carrying groups of them down. By the time she was about to load the last elevator car, there was cheering which filled her heart with glee.

    “How are you going to get down yourself?” an exhilarated Mike Sigursson asked her as she closed the doors of the final ride.

    Nathalie had savored his look of admiration. It was in that state that she scanned the city from atop its tallest building and chose the best possible landing spot.

    She felt free while soaring the sky, the 100-story jump feeling almost like flying for a few seconds. Finally, after nine months, she had made a difference. All the pain, all the training and experimentation, all the restrictions of her new life… they were all worthwhile if she could help people.

    She landed in the middle of an empty plaza with a loud crashing sound, the combination of her significantly increased mass and the height of the jump making her dig out a crater and cause a blast strong enough to shatter every window on the block. Nathalie sighed, but this was not going to affect her mood. It was an unavoidable consequence of her new ability to help people in ways beyond the imaginable. She took a deep breath and focused her ultra-sensitive ears, trying to determine where to go next to offer help.

*=*=*=*=*=*

    Nathalie, Susan and Jennifer were sitting on the oversized couch of the living room, strangely silent as the back door opened and General Lindbergh walked in. Without a uniform, which he never wore, it was hard to imagine him as a soldier. He was a tall man, but the good life had made him lose the sharpness of his best days of service. Together with his haircut, tanned skin and expensive suit, he looked more like a CEO or a politician than a four-star general.

    Any doubts about his military origin were gone when he addressed them in the commanding tone of someone who was used to real authority.

    “You girls did a fine job today. A real fine job. It’s the best introduction our operation here could have had.”

    “We should go back there. There’s still plenty to do!” Nathalie said.

    Lindbergh raised a hand and was pleased when everyone shut up.

    “You were in the field for more than twelve hours. It’s time to rest. Let the emergency relief teams work during the night and you can join them again in the morning. This time we’ll be more selective and choose missions that highlight your true potential.”

    “And bring the cameras,” Susan said with some disdain.

    “One day, you will learn to appreciate good PR, Miss Simpson. In the meantime, maybe you could think about how the big bills for running this place are paid. You’re as interested as I am in having taxpayers love you with all their heart.”

    “There is plenty of stuff about us on the news already. And we’re trending on every social network,” Jennifer said, her tone so different from Susan’s that it did not feel as they were both part of the same conversation.

    “Of course. Anyway, I thought you’d like to learn a bit more about what you did. The earthquake was the worst ever in this area, even worse than the San Francisco big one. We build stuff better these days, but still, it was bad. The official count so far is over three thousand dead. City Hall hasn’t calculated the infrastructure damage yet, but it’s going to be massive.  But the important part is that it could have been much worse. You made a big difference, and even if only for what happened today, the Phoenix Initiative makes all the sense in the world. Our estimations, shared by the local authorities, are that you prevented at least ten thousand deaths and rescued more than thirty thousand people that would have been trapped for days. I thought you would like to hear it from me before you get it from anywhere else.”

    General Lindbergh started clapping and was soon joined by the support personnel. Then, there was some cheering, which finally drew Jennifer and Nathalie into the celebration. Even Susan smiled.

    “Now, let me lay out the plan for the coming days. Tomorrow you will rejoin the relief efforts, and you’ll continue doing that for as long as it takes to bring Santa Isabel back to normalcy. You’ll be way more popular from tomorrow onwards, so take it into account. Mingle with the people. Be nice. And stick to the scripts the PR team gave you and to the approved Q&A. Once we can declare the Santa Isabel operation a success, Miss Watson will be on point for further PR activities. You’ll receive special training for those. Clear?”

    He got three nods in response.

    “Perfect. Get a good night’s rest. Briefing tomorrow morning at oh five hundred hours!”

    Dr. Campos, who had been standing at the back, moved in front of the girls and gave them a very warm smile.

    “See? You’re the heroes I always said you were?”

    “You’re too kind Elena,” Jennifer said with a tone that clearly denoted false modesty.

    “Really? See for yourselves!”

    She switched on the large, wall-mounted TV. An image of the press conference room downstairs appeared on the screen, showing General Lindbergh standing next to a man they quickly recognized as the Mayor.

    “There’s been a magnitude nine earthquake in the city and the Mayor comes here for the press conference?” Susan asked.

    “Shh. They’re about to start,” Jennifer said.

    The Mayor addressed the audience while General Lindbergh stood in an authoritative pose.

    “My fellow citizens. In the wake of the anniversary of The Flare, our great city has once again been hit by tragedy. One year after the Sun took half a million of our women away, Santa Isabel has been hit by a magnitude nine point two earthquake with its epicenter fifteen miles inland from Downtown. This is the largest earthquake in America’s recorded history. We were ready, but not enough. Our architectural standards, the strength of our infrastructure and our emergency plans helped reduce the impact of this catastrophe. Nonetheless, we mourn the loss of more than three thousand of our fellow Isabelians. It’s now time to grieve them. But I know that this city will rise again, as it has always done. No matter how hard we are hit, Santa Isabel will continue to be a beacon of progress and modernity, making all of us proud.”

    The Mayor remained silent for a few seconds, to let his words sink in.

    “Yet, even in the darkest days we find some shining light, and today we have done so in the persons of the three women that have already become the Angels of Santa Isabel. These three women, Jennifer, Nathalie and Susan, and their remarkable abilities are solely responsible for having saved over ten thousand lives and for having freed over thirty thousand trapped people. And since I’m sure that you will want to know more about them, General Owen Lindbergh, standing next to me, is going to tell their story to the world. General Lindbergh, please.”

    Lindbergh smiled briefly and stood even more stiffly, if that were possible.

    “Thank you Mr. Mayor. I will be brief, since our priority right now is to continue assisting the emergency relief teams to contain the consequences of the earthquake. But I know the public want answers, so I’ll provide them. I am General Owen Lindbergh and I am in charge of the Flare Research Unit of the United States Army. Most refer to us as the Phoenix Unit or the Phoenix Initiative, for reasons that will become clear shortly. One year ago, our country’s West Coast was hit by a solar deflagration of unprecedented intensity and of very special spectral composition. This phenomenon, popularly known as The Flare, had dire consequences for the affected area, with special intensity in the city of Santa Isabel. Right in the aftermath of The Flare, more than a million women were affected by a previously unknown and especially aggressive type of cancer. As you know, none of them survived more than three months. But there were three exceptions.”

    It was Lindbergh’s turn to pause for added effect. The girls had to acknowledge that he was good on camera.

    “Three of the affected women, three in a million, started to recover after suffering thirteen weeks of intense pain. And then, the cancer changed them, granting them some of the extraordinary abilities you have seen today. These women are Jennifer Watson, a twenty-six-year-old woman who used to be in the Sea Lions cheerleading squad, Nathalie Baptiste, a twenty-seven-year-old nurse, and Susan Simpson, a nineteen-year-old student at West Coast University. After being exposed to The Flare, and after agonizing pain, the three of them gained height, muscular mass and body density, making them much heavier than they would be just because of their stature. Their increased muscle density has granted them extraordinary strength and agility. Given that these three women came back from death only to be stronger, we internally call them Phoenix.”

    Another pause. Damn, he was good. Susan wondered if Lindbergh had rehearsed the speech in front of the mirror.

    “Under my command, the FRU or Phoenix Initiative, has looked after these women, trained them and is now able to organize them so that they can use their extraordinary abilities in the best interests of this country and its people. I’m happy to report that Jennifer, Nathalie and Susan have agreed to become active members of this unit and to offer their services to society. Today has been their first day in the field. There will be many more. Starting tomorrow. Right now, the priority of the unit I command is to keep assisting Santa Isabel’s emergency teams with the relief effort. We will be in the field tomorrow. Once Santa Isabel is as safe as possible, we will organize a press conference, visits to this facility and interviews. Thank you for your attention and may the victims of today’s unfortunate events rest in peace.”

 

End Notes:

 

You can get more details and material about the story in https://www.deviantart.com/papayoya

Chapter 2 by papayoya
Chapter 2

    Nicole was finishing her twenty-third cheeseburger by the time Lindbergh concluded his speech on TV.

    “You forgot to mention me, you stuck-up bastard,” she muttered as the door to her comfortable accommodations opened. She wasn’t spooked by it, merely curious about the identity of the person visiting her.

    “Andrey,” she said in a soft tone.

    “Keeping a healthy diet, I see” the man replied, looking at the empty wrappers from a well-known fast food joint. He was in his forties and had a strong West Coast accent which differentiated him from the first two generations of the Petrenko family. Or at least, from the part of the Petrenko family that had left Ukraine, established itself in Santa Isabel and made itself popular in its underworld.

    “A girl has to work hard to keep this figure,” Nicole replied, slapping her ultra-hard body. “Or not. I don’t know, really.”

    “You don’t mind showing it, though,” Andrey observed, pointing out her very obvious nudity.

    “I wasn’t expecting company. Besides, don’t you like what you see?”

    “Mind if I take a seat?” Petrenko asked, changing topic.

    “Sure. It’s your house, anyway.”

    Andrey Petrenko walked past Nicole and sat in an armchair that was as far away from the couch where she was lying as possible in the spacious room.

    “Still scared of me?” Nicole asked with a sensuous smile.

    “Hell yeah. You give me the creeps!” the man said casually.

    Nicole was feeling playful and stood up from the couch, walking casually to the armchair, enjoying his unease as she did so. Then, she bent, resting her hands in the arms of Petrenko’s seat and bringing her massive breasts closer to his face. Her breath was hot and humid in his face as she whispered:

    “Don’t worry, Andrey. I need you.”

    “And once you don’t?” Andrey asked.

    Nicole then lifted the armchair a foot off the ground, in a casual display of her vast strength.

    “I’m a woman of my word,” she said, setting the armchair down again and moving back to the couch. As soon as she was lazily sitting on it again, she asked: “You didn’t come all the way here to tell me that I scare you, did you?”

    Andrey pointed at the TV, which was still replaying scenes of the newly-named Phoenix team moving around Santa Isabel, using their extraordinary strength to help those affected by the earthquake.

    “So, those are your famous friends?” Andrey finally asked.

    “Of course. Who else?” Nicole replied.

    The TV was showing the scene in which Jennifer had lifted the school bus, saving it from a certain fall though the gap in Lowell Bridge. Nicole had been glued to the screen ever since the report had started and it was clear that this had become one of the favorite clips for every news producer.

    “Can you do that?” Andrey said, pointing at the television.

    “Wasn’t my demonstration the day I came convincing enough?” Nicole asked.

    “It was. You’re here, aren’t you? But still, seeing it in the real world feels different,” the mobster said.

    “To answer your question… yes, easily. A bus is what, fifteen, twenty tons? That’s peanuts!” Nicole said.

    “So, you could do the same things they did?” Andrey kept asking.

    “I can do better. I consistently bested the other girls in all the tests. Well, to be fair, I have to admit that the blonde bimbo always managed to do a bit better than me in raw strength. But when it came to the rest, I always ended up on top. I also was the only one smart enough to leave.”

    Andrey Petrenko remained silent for a few moments, thinking. Then, he said:

    “So, your friends went public,”

    Nicole looked at him and arched an eyebrow.

    “It’s not time, yet,” Nicole replied.

    “You’ve been here for three weeks already. No one knows where to find you. I’m keeping my end of the deal,” the Ukrainian said.

    “And believe me, this is going to be the best deal you’ve ever made, Andrey. But it’s not time to go public yet.”

    “Your friends have.”

    “Sure, but when I do I won’t be helping elderly women to cross the street or rescuing cats from trees,” Nicole said. “Soon,” she then promised.

    “When is soon?” Andrey insisted. “My father has been locked up in that shithole for six months now!”

    “Days,” Nicole replied.

    When there was no answer, Nicole added:

    “I promise you, when the moment comes, you won’t regret it”

    There was some more silence, and then Andrey said:

    “Can you come with me? Maybe you can help with something else.”

    “Do I need to get dressed?” Nicole asked.

    “No need, unless you’ve suddenly became bashful.”

    Nicole followed Andrey out of the chambers that had been conditioned for her and along a long stretch of corridor, in silence. Behind her and Andrey there were four of his men, clearly carrying weapons. Of course, it made no difference, but Nicole knew that this made people like Andrey feel safer.

    They got outside and followed a path in the vast Petrenko estate, still in silence. They finally reached a small warehouse area, a black van parked in the front. Andrey pointed at a long and narrow window. Nicole bent to look through it. The space was completely empty, except for a bench and a few scattered chairs. There were three men sitting together on the bench. A fourth was standing in one corner.

    When Nicole stood back up, Andrey offered an explanation.

    “Chinese,” he started saying, as if that explained everything. “Hong Kong Triads. They’ve been trying to get into Santa Isabel for some time. They got bolder after my father was caught.”

    “So, the drugs market’s getting tougher?” Nicole asked.

    “Very.  You could say that their business tactics are aggressive,” Andrey said.

    “How?”

    “Killing the competition, basically. These four guys here, are hitmen. They blew up one of our warehouses in the harbor last week. Sasha tracked them.”

    “Why are they still alive, then?” Nicole asked, surprised.

    “I need information. That attack was just one of many. They’re hitting secondary targets so far, but they’re getting braver. I can’t hit them back. The Triads have sent someone to take care of the operation in Santa Isabel, but no one knows where he or she is. The farthest we can get are cells like this. They operated out of an electronics store. So, for a change, I decided to capture them rather than killing them,” Andrey said.

    “You wanna know where the guy in charge is.”

    Andrey nodded.

    “They’re not talking, though. Claim not to speak English. You don’t speak Chinese by any chance?”

    “I’m not Chinese, for God’s sake!” Nicole protested. “My parents were Hawaiian. Not all Asian-looking people are Chinese, you know?”

    Andrey’s lips curled in a smile. Then, he added:

    “Can you think of any other ways you might be of assistance, then? I’ll give you a clue: The boss is the one that’s standing apart from the rest, and we’re pretty sure he speaks English.”

    “What do you want me to do?” Nicole asked. It was better to get clear instructions to prevent misunderstandings, she thought.

    “I need information. I don’t need them. I hope that’s clear enough.”

    Nicole understood. Something felt a little weird, though.

    “I can’t believe you’d never tortured people for information before I came into your employment,” she said.

    “Sure. But after seeing your friends on TV, I’ve developed an appetite for seeing you in action.”

    Nicole understood. She had demonstrated her strength to Andrey often enough, but up until now, she had not been especially helpful. She was truthful when she said that she intended to make up for that, but the man seemed to be starting to lose either his patience or his faith. Perhaps he was beginning to suspect that she might have the strength but not the will to use it. That was nonsense, of course, but she could see how the mobster might have formed that impression.

    Whatever the reason, it worked well enough for her. She certainly had no issues with killing, and the set up was as private as it would get. She was no professional interrogator, but she had resources available that every torturer in the world would love.

    “I hope you have a good cleaning crew,” she said, sounding confident.

    Petrenko’s men opened the heavy door, startling the four Chinese inside. Nicole had to crouch to walk through it and enter the warehouse, wearing a wide smile on her face and nothing else as she faced the hitmen.

    The door closed behind her.

    “I asked the boys for some alone time with you,” she said as she observed the men. It was clear that their leader had understood, and she was quite certain that at least one of the other men had got it too.

    Nicole placed her hands on her hips and bent a little in a pose that would make her magnificent chest look even more prominent. Making an effort to use her figure to look sexy despite her menacing size, Nicole smiled again and said:

    “So, who wants to be first?”

    There was no answer, but she had not been expecting any. Straightening back up, she started strutting towards the men on the bench as she said:

    “I’ll choose myself, then.”

    She could see that the men were very puzzled. Her size and build were definitely making them uneasy, but she could also see that the fact that she was naked and unarmed confused them.

    The men stood up and scattered as she approached, but Nicole just kept going, easily cornering the one she had already chosen like a cat stalking her prey. The man grew visibly more nervous when she was merely a pace away from him. He looked up at her, as if realizing for the first time just how tall she was. His initial reaction was typical. Then, acting on impulse, he tried to shove Nicole out of the way.

    She did not move an inch. She did not move her hands from her hips either. This must have frustrated the man, since the next thing he did was punch her. Nicole could have sworn that he had not pulled his punch at all. She reached that conclusion from the man’s look of effort. She never felt it, though. The man’s fist hit her rock hard stomach and was not able to even make her skin yield a millimeter. There was a crunching sound, but it was clear that it was not coming from Nicole’s body. Which left no other option than the crunch having happened in the man’s fist.

    Nicole had been hit plenty of times back at the facility. She had been tested in a myriad of ways, and one of them included simulated blows with different levels of intensity, many of them several orders of magnitude higher than the man’s effort. She had never been hit by a real person, though, the main reason being that no one was really interested in hurting themselves. It was exhilarating. It was not that she had not felt the punch. She would have probably described it as a light tap. Of course, it was not even annoying. The truly uplifting part had been feeling the knuckles of the man breaking as they hit her rock-hard stomach.

    She moaned first, giggled later.

    This must have made the man mad, since he hit her again with his healthy hand. The results were identical, the crunching sound obvious to Nicole and everyone else in the warehouse. Then, he kicked her, her thigh unmoving as the man’s foot twisted at an awkward angle.

    Nicole could feel the shock in the remaining three men. The one in front of her was past that. A quick look at him told her that the man’s usefulness had already expired. Time to up the ante.

    Crouching, she grabbed him around the throat with her oversized hand and rose back up, lifting him with ease. This again stunned the remaining three hitmen, even if it was the oldest trick in the book for her.

    “I don’t know why you keep insisting on breaking yourself against me, when I could do a much better job myself,” she said softly, not knowing if the man had actually understood her.

    It did not matter, though. She just turned and walked to the center of the warehouse, shaking the man as if he were a balloon.

    She raised her voice just a bit, trying to instill fear in the other three men.

    “I want to know who sent you. I want to know where to find him. And I want to know now. Tell me, and you won’t end up like your friend.”

    Nicole then brought her free hand to the man’s groin and used this new hold to reposition her other hand from his throat to his armpit. Holding him almost horizontal, she then started to pull in opposite directions.

    The screams of unbearable pain came an instant later. She smiled, enjoying them. And kept pulling, feeling the man’s body stretch to its limit despite the fact that she was barely applying a fraction of her strength. The screams intensified and Nicole felt her nipples swelling and her shaved cunt starting to get wet. She moaned, to let the other men know how she was feeling.

    She applied a fraction more strength and the first things started breaking. There was a tearing sound, much like that of over-stretched clothes, and the screams died. The man had passed out. He was not dead, yet.

    There were other screams other than his, though. The remaining three hitmen, who had remained mostly silent until now, were yelling at each other in indistinguishable Chinese gibberish.

    With everyone in the desired state of panic and the gangster in her hands unconscious, there was nothing more to do other than complete the job and rip the man in two. Blood splattered all around as she did so, most of it ending on her nude tanned body. She held the two halves of her vitim for a few seconds, moaning in delight as she offered them to his terrified comrades.

    Then, she tossed them to either side of the vast room and looked at the rest of men. To say that they were shocked would have been an understatement.

    “You cannot imagine how horny this makes me!” she said. Covered in gore, she now appeared to the survivors as a blood-thirsty demoness rather than an attractive, yet oversized, woman. “You guys are seriously fucked!”

    The three men scattered to opposite sides of the warehouse as she took a first step towards them. This, of course, was not a problem. Mentally choosing her next victim, Nicole hopped and soared fifty feet, only to land with a loud thud right in the path of the man she had selected. Unable to stop, the man hit her and fell onto his back, his nose broken.

    Nicole took advantage of that to take a step forwards and push her foot onto the man’s chest. He immediately brought both hands to her sole, trying to push it away. It was as effective as if he had been trying to push a mountain, the humongous foot not yielding even a fraction of an inch.

    Nicole knew that the effect she had sought was already obtained. She also knew that the man under her foot was not relevant when it came to getting information. She did not care. She was too aroused already.

    She first toyed with him, feinting to crush his ribcage a couple of times, only to stop just before his bones shattered.

    Just then, the third man, the one who wasn’t the boss, but who Nicole suspected could speak English, did something she was not expecting. He had been trying to stay as far away from her as possible, but now that his colleague was in pain under her foot, he ran towards her. First, he tried to push her and later to pull her leg away from his colleague. Nicole guessed that the two men may have a family relationship or a friendship, since otherwise, his actions were incomprehensible.

    She did not care about friendships, though, so she just shoved the man away with a casual backhand, sending him flying across the room and hitting the back wall, hurt but alive. It had required her to strike a very fine balance, but she had not wanted to kill him so quickly.

    Free to focus on the man under her foot once more, Nicole played with his fear of her crushing him a couple of times and finally moved the foot away, letting him breathe.

    She then crouched and closed the long and powerful fingers of her right had around the man’s face, dragging him upwards as she stood up again. Soon, the man’s feet were dangling a couple of feet off the ground as she held him with at the end of her extended arm without any apparent effort.

    The man’s skull gave a bit with just a tiny bit of pressure from her fingertips. His screams of agony filled the warehouse even though her palm muffled them a bit.

    “Wait!” a scream from the other side of the room interrupted her. Nicole raised her eyes to see the man Petrenko had identified as the leader looking at her with a mix of fear and anger.

    “So, you do speak English, after all.” announced Nicole, in a mocking tone.

    “Let him go and I’ll tell you where to find Zhao,” the man said. His Chinese accent was noticeable, but his English was quite good.

    Nicole smiled back at him and said:

    “I have a counter-offer.”

    She then closed her fingers, crushing the man’s skull with a sickening sound. She was still holding the gory remainders when she said:

    “You tell me what I want to know, and you won’t end up like him.”

    There were yells, now in Chinese. Nicole did not understand a word, but she understood that the basic content expressed anger and threats. She could not have been less concerned. She dropped the deformed corpse to the ground and shook her hand in the air to get rid of some of the gore.

    “God, interrogation is a messy business,” she said, taunting.

    The man she had swatted away was starting to recover, but Nicole was not interested in him. His boss had now become a much more appealing target. He was as jumpy as anyone she’d ever seen when she started to walk slowly towards him. The thought that she could cause this type of reaction in a man that made a living by killing other people made her feel strangely proud.

    It was clear that the thug did not know too well how to react. He tried to get away from her at first, but it was easy for Nicole to change direction so that she slowly but inexorably cornered him. She did not rush, though. She had all the time in the world.

    The man finally gave up, either because he was exhausted or because he realized that there was nowhere to run. He was soon standing between Nicole and the wall.

    “What are you?” he asked, almost spitting the words.

    Nicole crouched and grabbed a fistful of his T-shirt, lifting him up like a doll and bringing his face to hers.

    “Just a girl that works out!”

    “Monster!”

    “You kill with a gun. I don’t need one,” Nicole said. To prove her point, she used her free hand to pinch the man’s right thumb between two of her own fingers. A quick grinding movement turned every bone in it to powder, making the man shriek.

    Nicole gave him a few seconds to recover.

    “Now, what can you tell me about that Zhao guy?”

    It took a bit more persuasion, but the man had essentially been broken, so he spat everything out with certain ease.

    Zhao had been sent by the Triads to establish their operations in Santa Isabel, as a beachhead to their future expansion along the West Coast. His mission was simple: build enough infrastructure to be able to take over a relevant chunk of the distribution business, then win market share. The Triads were not patient, so their preferred method to do that was to get rid of the main players and take their place. Zhao had been sent by his bosses once his predecessor had built a vast distribution network with no one noticing too much, and had the right profile for the second phase of their “hostile takeover”. Their attacks so far had merely been tests of the strength of Petrenko’s organization, but things were going to escalate soon. And they would have the full support of the vast resources of their parent organization.

    Nicole also learned that the reason the Hong Kong mafia had not been detected until recently was that the person who had been sent first to establish the initial operation had been very thorough with his choice of location and his tactics. They did not hold any infrastructure in the harbor, which would have been the obvious choice. Instead, he operated from the small airfield in Vanderbilt, which was ideal both for private jets to land quietly and for speedboats navigating through the canals. The Chinese never dealt with final distribution directly, either.  Instead, they operated through a front of Colombians and Puerto Ricans.

    Zhao himself had taken advantage of that to go unnoticed while he set things up. And now he was massing a small private army in the Vanderbilt that he would soon unleash.

    Nicole was satisfied with the explanations, so she just tucked the man under her arm and walked towards the door, stopping on the way to take hold of the remaining thug, who, remarkably, had recovered.

    Petrenko’s men hurried to open the doors, standing out of her way as Nicole ducked once more and exited the bloodied warehouse with two men in her possession. She set the boss in the ground first; he was quickly rounded by Petrenko’s men and immobilized.

    “I guess you got everything didn’t you?” she asked.

    Andrey nodded.

    “Can you keep him for me? If what he said turns out not to be true, I’ll want to have a chat with him.”

    “Sure,” Andrey replied. He gestured to his men, who brought him back into the warehouse, his yells in Chinese probably pointing out the fact that sleeping with the torn remainders of two of his colleagues was not a very welcome proposition.

    “Would you be so kind as to send some of your men to check if the little fucker’s story holds? You won’t want to engage them directly if what he said is true.”

    “Of course.”

    “Good. I think it’s time I started repaying your generosity.”

    “What about him?” Andrey asked, pointing at the squirming man she was still holding under her left arm.

    “Do you know how terribly lonely I’ve been these last three weeks? I’m all fired up after this little exercise. There’s no way I can go straight to bed.”

    Andrey swallowed hard.

    “Will you need my men to keep him too, once you’re done?” he asked, trying to sound as cold as possible.

    “Oh, I don’t expect there’s going to be much left of him by the time I’m done,” Nicole said, chuckling. At the same time, the man’s kicks became stronger. It made no difference, the possibility of breaking free from her hold remaining non-existent.

    Nicole was about to leave, when Andrey caught her attention.

    “Nicole.”

    “Yes?”

    “You remember I said before that you gave me the creeps?”

    “Sure,” she replied with a devious smile.

    “It was an understatement. You scare me shitless.”

    She laughed and turned, walking to her room with a wriggling man under her arm.

 

*=*=*=*=*=*

 

    General Lindbergh was in his office, going through the press coverage of the day. There was a constant smile on his lips, something that the very few who knew him well had learned was almost impossible to achieve.

    He had never needed to sleep much, which was a trait that was exacerbating as he got older. As a matter of fact, he was still wearing his elegant suit as he switched from the AV pieces to the first preliminary reports his staff had prepared on social network impact.

    The call surprised him but did not startle him. There was no caller ID, but that was hardly exceptional amongst his counterparts. He donned the earpiece, reclined in his chair, put his feet on the expensive mahogany desk and picked up the call.

    “Lindbergh,” he said, almost barking it.

    “Good evening, Owen,” the voice on the other end of the line sounded milder. General Lindbergh recognized it immediately.

    “Mr. Secretary. I was expecting your call earlier,” the General said, his tone becoming much softer.

    “I was at a fundraiser I couldn’t escape from. You know, the election is in four months. And it’s not as if I’d been given any prior notice that Phoenix was going to be in the spotlight so I could free up my diary.”

    “We had to take the chance. The earthquake was too good an opportunity to let pass,” Lindbergh defended himself.

    “I’m not criticizing you, Owen. You played it well. You played it very well. You could hardly have found any better context to bring the girls into society. I’ve had so many messages of congratulation that my iPhone is almost blocked. I put you in there because you get the job done, and that’s what you did today.”

    “Thanks Mr. Secretary.”

    “What’s the plan for the coming days? We need to take advantage of the overwhelmingly hospitable mood of the nation right now,” the Secretary of Defense said.

    “The girls will continue helping with the relief effort. That’ll take a few days. Today was a bit chaotic, even if it worked well. But the PR team is already working to make sure that we make the most of them starting tomorrow,” Lindbergh replied methodically.

    “And then?”

    “We’re working on getting some interviews scheduled. Watson, mostly. She’s the safest bet.”

    “God! I love her! People love her! She’s more American than the flag! It was great to have her being the one that saved the kids. I can’t stop watching that video!” the Secretary said.

    “It was coincidental. We got very lucky,” Lindbergh admitted. “We have her helping with schools and hospitals tomorrow. She should get most of the screen time.”

    “And the others?”

    “Baptiste will mostly help in the less favored neighborhoods. We thought it would help to convey the diversity message. We’ll keep Simpson out of the spotlight as much as we can; enough footage so that people remember that she’s there, but not enough that they will care about her.”

    “That girl unsettles me,” the Secretary acknowledged.

    “Well, she’s not the type of girl you’d want to go for a beer with,” Lindbergh admitted.

    “She won’t be any trouble, will she?” the Secretary asked.

    “Nah. As long as we keep her away enough from the cameras, she’ll be alright. And she’s a hard worker. Despite being the least credited of the girls today, she was the one freeing more people from the rubble.”

    “I was not referring to that type of trouble,” the Secretary said.

    Lindbergh noticed the change in tone and straightened in his chair, moving his feet back to the floor. So, this was not going to be just a commending conversation, after all.

    “Look, Charles,” he started, using the Secretary of Defense’s first name for the first time. “She’s a teenager. Before all this happened, the girl was a weirdo. She could count her friends on the fingers of one hand, and all of them are dead because of the Flare. We’re talking about a girl with zero social skills and no self-esteem who has suddenly become something she still doesn’t understand which has suddenly made her the center of attention. Do I like her? Of course I don’t. She’s the type of girl you and I bullied when we were back in College. Is she dangerous? Not as long as no one gets to know her beyond the cute and shy redhead girl who moves really large chunks of rubble out of the way. The one thing we don’t need is that the public gets to know her better as a girl that’s totally unlikable and has that kind of strength.”

    There was a pause, but the breathing indicated both men that the line was still open.

    “Look, Owen. I agree with you. But any error in judgment in this area is very costly. We cannot afford another Keilani situation,” Charles Dunbar, the Secretary of Defense, said.

    “We took the necessary measures. And Nicole Keilani won’t be at large for long. She was always the smartest of the four, so she’s managed to keep a low profile much more effectively than we expected. But Beck is on her trail, and he’s getting closer. There aren’t that many places a woman like her can hide.”

    “Sure. I’m not sure if I’m totally comfortable with the possibility of her being found, though,” the Secretary said.

    “We’ve talked about this, Charles. We have it under control,” Lindbergh said.

    There was another pause that made General Lindbergh’s hair stand on end.

    “Look, Owen. I’ve had thousands of very enthusiastic messages today. But I also got some other calls. Right now, the public’s all excited with the girls, and they’re right to be. But I had some people calling me to check if we had them under tight control and if we had a back up plan in case it was needed. Not everyone in D.C. is totally relaxed about having women with such freakish strength at large, you know.”

    “Our contingency plans remain ready,” Lindbergh replied in self-justification.

    “I know. But we have a problem. We’ve had them checked. And not everyone believes they’re good enough.”

    So, this was the bomb. General Owen Lindbergh had to make an effort so that his voice would not convey the irritation that the words had caused. He had been running Phoenix flawlessly for over nine months, delivering success after success! He had just served Dunbar the biggest PR ever, on the dawn of the campaign. If he played his cards right, this would grant him a spot on the ticket next to the President! And now he was being told that they had been monitoring his operation and engaging non-authorized personnel in evaluating his decisions?

    He breathed in hard. If he said what he wanted to say, he would be out of a job by the morning. It had to be the Keilani affair, of course. He knew how nervous everyone was despite the fact that the woman had not caused any damage in the three weeks she had been out. He had to find her, and he had to find her soon. But he refused to take all the blame for Nicole’s escape.

    After all, he had had to work with whoever fate had chosen, not his own picks. And he was certain that he would not have selected a teenage nerd without a social life, an idealist do-gooder nurse, a stereotypical cheerleader with an addiction to popularity and a nosey, ambitious and ill-tempered young lawyer with a remarkable liking for dominance. They made for lousy soldiers, they were not great test subjects either and he lacked the means to enforce effective discipline, since the only methods that would have worked would have been too obvious.

    “I see,” was all that Owen Lindbergh managed to reply.

    The condescending tone from the Secretary of Defense as he came back almost made him lose it.

    “I know it’s not your fault. You have too much on your plate. You’re managing the three girls who are still at Phoenix masterfully. The PR is excellent. And the promise of Dr. Sully’s research is fascinating.”

    Lindbergh did not reply and just waited for what Dunbar had to say.

    “We’re sending someone to help, to focus on the contingency plans. He’ll report to you.”

    “I see,” Lindbergh repeated, knowing perfectly well that whatever formal line of reporting was established would be bullshit under these circumstances. Whoever was coming would be calling Secretary Dunbar every day. And he would not be reporting solely on his progress.

    “Do you know Dr. Roark?” Dunbar asked.

    “From DARPA?” Lindbergh replied. The joke seemed to have no end.

    “Yes. She used to manage the Special Projects unit,” Secretary Dunbar said.

    Yeah, used to manage it until she had to resign after getting caught running extremely unethical practices. Which, when one directed the Special Projects Unit at DARPA, was a remarkable achievement.

    “Yeah, I know her,” was all Lindbergh said.

    “Great. She’s starting tomorrow. She has some ideas she’s going to share with you.”

    Which meant that she had been one of the “experts” that had checked Lindbergh’s contingency plans and told the SecDef and his staff that they were bullshit and let it be known that they could do a much better job there.

    “Great. I’ll fill her in when she comes, then,” was all Lindbergh said.

    “Fantastic. Good night, Owen. And congratulations again. You had a big day today!”

    “Thanks Charles!” the General replied, even managing a cheerful tone, just before he hung up.

    He was not in the mood to review any more press coverage of the day. Feeling considerably more upset than before the call, the last thing Owen Lindbergh did before standing up to head to his bedroom was write a short note for Colonel Beck. It said:

    “Urgent you find Keilani. Use any means necessary”

 

*=*=*=*=*=*

 

    Nicole stepped out of the shower, grabbing an extra-large and fluffy cotton towel to dry her sculptural body. Petrenko’s men had done their utmost to adapt the guest rooms in the east wing of the estate’s main house to her special needs. The chambers had already been luxurious enough, but there had been considerable work involved in making the spacious shower tall enough to fit her comfortably or to change the bed, sofa and armchairs for oversized, robust and still comfortable options.

    She had taken her time under the hot water, removing human remains from her bronze skin and massaging her muscles with the only fingers that were able to make an impression on them: her own.

    She was still a bit moist by the time she hung the towel to dry and stepped out of the bathroom and into the main bedroom. She smiled at the little man as he noticed her coming back, anticipating what was about to happen. The action at the warehouse had stirred her libido, and it was time to indulge a little.

    Nicole scanned the room to find some toppled furniture and several broken heavy objects. It confirmed what she had thought when hearing the noises from the shower.

    “You didn’t try to leave, did you?”

    Of course, he had. And of course, he had not been successful. The door was armored, and the windows were bullet proof. She had the key, so she would have been the only one able to get in or out of that room.

    The man then yelled something in Chinese and raised a knife. It made Nicole chuckle.

    “I see you found the fruit platter.”

    The man shouted some other gibberish; she just took a step forward.

    “Stop!” the man then said in strong accented English. He was wielding the knife in a way that threatened what would happen if she did not obey.

    Nicole went on. The man, who had been very jumpy to start with, was getting incredibly nervous now. He stepped back, but he soon met the wall. Nicole kept ambling casually across the room, cutting the distance very quickly. One step, two steps, three steps… and she was already on top of him.

    And then, the man screeched in a mix of fear and rage and stabbed her with all his might. He must have put quite some force into the move, since the tip of the knife bent, and Nicole knew that it was good quality steel.

    She could not help but laugh, driving the man into a second and a third attempt, which were as unsuccessful as the first. Nicole’s abs did not even dimple as the incredibly sharp tip of the knife pushed against her with all the strength of the thug’s arm behind it.

    The man was getting ready for a fourth strike, but Nicole prevented it, anticipating his move and grabbing his knife-wielding hand with her delicate but considerably larger one. The hitman pulled away with all his force for a while, and then used his free hand to try prying Nicole’s fingers open. It was to no avail.

    “It’s not nice to stab people. If it hadn’t been me, you could’ve hurt someone,” the amazon said with certain mockery in her voice.

    And then, she tightened her fist with the strength of a hydraulic press, feeling countless bones break at the same time.  The man let out a shriek that made her womanhood even more moist than the shower had left it.

    Nicole opened her fingers gracefully to see what remained of the man’s hand. It barely qualified as one in its current state.

    “I think you’ll need some help opening ketchup bottles in future,” she mocked as she lifted the gangster casually from the ground with a hand under his armpit.

    Crossing the room to the ample bed, Nicole tossed the still screaming man into its soft surface and then climbed on sensually herself. She wanted this to last a bit, so she lay on her back and reached for him, placing his quite smaller form on top of herself. Using only a single hand to guide him now, she placed his face right on top of her massive left tit.

    “Suck!” she commanded.

    When the man refused to comply, she pushed his head just a tiny amount, compressing it between a granite breast and the unstoppable force of her hand. He got the message when his skull started to groan and moved his tongue out to lick her swollen nipple. Nicole rewarded him by releasing the pressure.

    She soon started to moan. It was not due to the man’s efforts, of course, since they were quite pathetic. The fingers of her free left hand, working down at her pussy, were the responsible party.

    “You know, I can barely feel you. But at an intellectual level, it’s exciting,” she said.

    The man could not reply. He just went on, urged by the hand at the back of his head.

    When Nicole felt that her clit was excited enough, she decided to give the man a chance, so she removed her fingers and used her other hand to turn him like a rag doll, placing his face on her wet cunt.

    “You get the idea, I hope,” she urged, as she waited for the fireworks.

    They never came. She should have expected it, of course. The man’s tongue was way too weak to be able to push her lower lips apart. She removed him as soon as it became evident that he was as good as useless and brought him back up. Sitting down, she looked at his defeated expression and considered bringing him back to her nipple. She discarded the idea, since it was not as if it was going to make a difference.

    “You’re kind of useless, you know?”

    Then, her eyes shone, and she said:

    “I have an idea!”

    Placing his head next to her left breast, Nicole measured the distance and then turned her torso in the man’s direction. Her tit, which was comparable in size, hit the man’s face with a loud thud. Nicole chuckled when he screamed, and then moved his head back to see how his right cheek was beginning to swell and blacken noticeably.

    “That was cool!” Nicole said. She had resolved that if the man could not please her, she might as well use him in the other way he might be sexually stimulating: hurting him.

    There was a deep terror in the man’s eyes as Nicole moved him around and placed his head next to her other tit. She repeated the operation with identical results, laughing as the man sobbed in intense pain.

    Nicole’s left hand was back at her cunt, her fingers working as she pondered what to do with her lover. He was quite badly beaten, so she didn’t think he’d last for long. She resolved to bring him up to her face. He understood what she had in mind when she pushed her lips out and tried to fight it. He was as unsuccessful as in all his previous attempts.

    Nicole pushed her lips into the man’s and then sealed them in an unbreakable kiss. This alone was painful enough. It became much worse when her tongue led the charge. There was nothing her conquest could do to prevent it other than closing his teeth. Nicole’s tongue broke through them as if they had been made of wet tissue. He would have screamed if his mouth had not been completely useless by then. Meanwhile, she kept exploring, tasting his salty blood as she did.

    The difference in their heights also accounted for a difference in the sizes of their tongues, so Nicole soon found out that she could get anywhere in the man’s mouth with it. Excited by what had just happened with his teeth, she got rougher, enjoying the feeling of stuff breaking as she went.

    Nicole’s fingers kept stroking, which together with the damage she was causing with such an apparently harmless part of her body like her tongue, made her arousal raise exponentially.

    She was so excited that it took her some time to realize that the man was barely putting a fight anymore. He might have learned that it was useless by now, but it was way more likely that he was half gone.

    Without taking her fingers from her womanhood, Nicole moved the man’s head away from her face and looked at his. He looked much worse than she had expected, his entire face dark and swollen by now, only his left eye half open and looking at her like some sort of animal asking to be sacrificed.

    She pushed him against her chest without a second thought, his skull bursting like a ripe melon and covering her with gore once more. She managed to bring herself to climax right then, her scream so loud that it broke a couple of the vases the thug had left standing.

    Nicole panted for a long while. Then she realized that she needed to take another shower.  Before removing the man’s remains from herself, she decided to switch the TV on first.  The screen was partially shattered, a consequence of her outburst when reaching her pleasure peak, but the image could still be seen more or less well enough.

    She was about to switch it off when she saw the same canned images of the girls doing their stuff in the city. Then, she noticed the interesting information scrolling across the lower third of the display. Jennifer would be working on a few hospitals in the morning, Nathalie would visit Northwood and Susan would be helping clear the Subway to get it back to work as soon as possible.

    Nicole smiled and looked at the time on the alarm clock by her bed. She still had time for a shower and to grab a couple hours of sleep. She would be stretching her legs in the morning.

 

End Notes:

 

You can get more details and material about the story in https://www.deviantart.com/papayoya

Chapter 3 by papayoya
Author's Notes:

 

 

Chapter 3

    “We don’t need Roark sniffing around!” Dr. Jacob Sully snapped as General Lindbergh shared the news with him.

    “Look, Jacob, I like it as little as you do, but I’m afraid we have no other option. The woman is flying to Santa Isabel as we speak.”

    “What for?” the scientist barked again. Jacob Sully was a brilliant man, but he had never had strong social or political abilities.

    “In theory, she’ll report to me, at the same level you do. Secretary Dunbar wants her to take ownership of the program to neutralize the women; you’ll remain responsible for the main research project, with Campos reporting to you and working on the exploration of the medical possibilities of the findings. Of course, she’ll try to learn more,” Lindbergh said.

    “I’ll make sure she doesn’t!” Sully replied, still in the same angry tone.

    Lindbergh then smiled.

    “No, you won’t do that.” When Sully looked at him questioningly, the General explained. “You’ll make sure she gets as much information as she wants. You’ll be as cooperative as you can be. And the only things that you will keep away from her will be the ones I choose. If Roark is happy, Dunbar is happy. And we need him happy for as long as possible, understood?”

    Sully nodded.

    “Good. Now, you’ll choose the people on your team working on the neutralization project and let them know that they report to Eva Roark, starting today.”

    “A lot of people in my team work on multiple areas at the same time,” Sully complained.

    “I know, which is the reason I trust you’ll assign the researchers with less exposure to those areas we want to keep to ourselves for the time being to Roark,” Lindbergh replied in a condescending tone.

    “I… understand,” Sully finally said. “We could have done without her, though.”

    “It’s our fault really. I reviewed the latest neutralization plan we sent to the SecDef’s staff two weeks ago. It’s crap!”

    Sully blushed, half ashamed and half upset.

    “It’s my fault as well as yours,” Lindbergh said. “I approved it before sending it.”

    “I… I didn’t include everything we’re doing in that area,” the scientist said by way of an apology.

    “Of course, you didn’t. Which was expected. But next time make sure that what you include feels compelling enough to bureaucrats in DC that are likely to have a panic attack when they see our girls roaming Santa Isabel, moving tons of stuff out of the way like someone tidying a kid’s room. Especially when those same bureaucrats are especially jumpy about the fact that one of the girls is at large and not yet found.”

    Sully looked down. Then he muttered:

    “I’ve been… too focused on other areas of our investigation.”

    “I know, Jacob. Don’t take it personally. If we keep her under control, Roark may even prove useful. In the end, being in charge of the neutralization strategy is a sugar-coated pill. Her work will only be relevant if everything goes to hell. Your work, though, will be on the front page of every newspaper when you succeed.”

    Lindbergh smiled as he saw Sully’s face relax at his remark. It was relatively easy to deal with the man. He lacked any sort of moral compass, so you only had to appeal to his ego.

    “Speaking of which… I wanted to share some of our recent findings. I trust you’ll find them interesting,” Sully said.

    Lindbergh did not have too much time, but Sully was usually conservative in his statements, so him saying that he had something interesting to share certainly appealed to his curiosity.

    “Sure. Give me a minute, will you?” Lindbergh said. He then took his cell phone out and made a call. “I’m going to be late. Ask Rhodes to take over the coordination in the field,” he stated, in his usual commanding tone when giving orders. Sully was surprised when his eyebrow rose. “What do you mean you don’t know where he is?”

    Lindbergh listened to his assistant’s explanations for a few minutes, then finally said:

    “Ok, ask Burns. I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

    “Any problems?” Sully asked.

    “Nothing important. Please, go on.”

    Jacob Sully had used the time to connect the display from his computer to the wall TV. General Lindbergh was soon looking at six charts that all looked more or less the same.

    “What am I looking at?” he asked.

    “Correlation,” Sully replied. Owen Lindbergh knew how to interpret a chart if he was given all the data. The charts on the screen were easy enough: they all showed a slow but steady growth slope, with some peaks and valleys but a clear trend line. “There was some important work needed filtering and normalizing all the data that we had, but once you know what you’re looking at, the conclusion is unmistakable. The charts here belong to Susan Simpson, but we could be looking at Baptiste’s or Watson’s data and it would look just the same. Top right chart is the weight, once we normalize it to take into account only muscle mass. This one was a bit tricky, but it turned out to be the one that revealed everything else. Next one to the right are the results for raw strength. The next one is peak speed. Bottom row are resistance, reflexes and eyesight. All of them normalized. I could chart the data for other parameters. With the right processing, they would all look the same.”

    Lindbergh quickly understood what the doctor was telling him.

    “They’re improving.”

    Sully nodded.

    “The key is in normalization. It was almost imperceptible in the raw data, but one of my guys is a bit of a genius and has a natural ability to identify trends. Once we knew what to look at, working out the rest was relatively easy.”

    “How much?” Lindbergh asked, feeling a bit uneasy.

    “We established our current testing methodology six months ago. We had to discard previous data, since it was not comparable. Having said that, we have a lot of data points and the chart is very linear, so we expect what we have is enough,” Sully went on.

    “How much, Jacob?” the General asked, obvious impatient.

    “2 percent in 6 months. So, 4 percent every year,” the doctor said.

    Owen Lindbergh exhaled and chuckled.

    “You had me worried for a second there, Jacob.”

    “I don’t think you understand the implications of what I just told you,” the scientist said.

    “So, in twenty-five years they will be twice as strong as they are today. That will hardly make a difference!”

    “Well, it’s eighteen years, really. But that’s not the point. The relevant part of what I told you is not how much stronger they will get, Owen!” Dr. Sully said in a tone that suggested that he could not understand how his boss was not getting it. “The truly amazing part is that they CAN get stronger. And they are. Which means that something is still making them change. The Flare kickstarted the process. But it’s still going on.”

    “How?”

    “The Sun, of course. It’s the only possibility, the only explanation that wouldn’t cause differences between the three of them. The Sun made them, and the Sun is still powering them up!”

    “How many people know about this?”

    “Well, the researcher that found the correlation. Me. And now you,” Sully said.

    “Let’s keep it like that for the moment. And for God’s sake, make sure that Roark doesn’t find out.”

    “Owen, you’re still missing my point. Making the girls stronger right now is pointless. What’s the difference between being a million times stronger and being two million times stronger? The real point is that we have a new and wonderful tool to figure out how to replicate the process. Up until now we’ve invested most of our effort in understanding the consequences of The Flare in the girls and on doing reverse engineering to understand how it worked. Now… now that we know that they are still transforming, we can just design experiments and measure the results.”

    “Are you suggesting what I think you are suggesting?” Lindbergh asked.

    “It’s our strongest option to make progress. How long do we have?” Sully asked.

    Lindbergh sighed. There was no point hiding his thoughts from Jacob Sully. The man was completely loyal for the most fundamental reason: his success depended on him.

    “Not much. Roark can’t be coming purely to take care of an area we’ve been overlooking for some time. She’ll do that, and she’ll do it well. But she certainly had higher expectations when she accepted it. I didn’t know it when I was planning it, but yesterday’s PR bought us time. I can make sure the girls are on TV daily over the next few weeks. But the current hype will eventually die down. And when it does, the Pentagon will still be looking for their super-soldier. Either we deliver it, or they’ll ask Roark to do it.”

    Sully nodded.

    “I’ll fast track the tests, then.”

    “Which tests?” Lindbergh asked, a bit concerned.

    “Over the last nine months we’ve theorized about which radiation components of The Flare were the ones that caused the improvement. All of them are also present in very small doses in regular solar rays, which fit well with what I just explained. Two days ago, we started exposing the girls to mild doses of these components, equivalent to about a year of exposure to the Sun. We have three subjects, so we’re testing different wavelengths, combinations and intensities and comparing the results in their daily checks. After all, that’s the scientific way to validate a theory. It’s a pity that Keilani is no longer with us, we could’ve moved forward even faster.”

 

*=*=*=*=*=*

 

    “I love the new outfits,” Jennifer said as the modified Chinook descended into the square where they were due to land. There was no rush today, and the PR team had decided that having her jump out of the chopper could be more counterproductive than helpful.

    Once the Phoenix name had quickly caught on and the #Phoenix hashtag had started to trend, someone at the PR department had decided that it would be a nice touch to add a red logo in the shape of an actual Phoenix to the black Kevlar two-piece outfit they usually wore. The team was working on something more elaborate, but it was remarkable enough that they had been able to react so quickly after their first day.

    Cameras were pointing at her once the heavy helicopter set down and the large cargo doors at the back opened. The chopper, which had been black to start with, now also boasted two shiny Phoenix logos next to the US Army one.

    Jennifer smiled warmly as she focused on being casual but elegant in her trek down the ramp. Her sensitive ears caught each and every question launched at her from behind the police line, but she just smiled politely and pretended to ignore them. Stopping halfway to the journalists, she broadened her smile and gave the short speech she had prepared in an only slightly louder than normal voice:

    “My colleagues and I were incredibly happy to be able to help our fellow citizens yesterday. We’ll continue offering our assistance today, and for as many days as needed to help Isabelians out of the difficulties they’re currently facing. I’m heading to Saint Claire’s Hospital, which is still operating at half capacity after yesterday’s earthquake. I know you have questions. Right now, our priority is to help, though. I’ll be more than happy to tell you anything you want to know about me once the city is back to normal.”

    She ignored the outburst of questions and turned, walking to a different end of the police line and smiling cutely at the officers manning it when they opened it for her.

    The sight of the familiar face made Jennifer happy enough to pick up her pace a little. Officer Kyle Jenkins stood in place as she approached, smiling but looking a little uncertain about the entire situation.

    “Hi there, Kyle!”

    “Er… hi, Jennifer,” the officer replied, without too much conviction.

    “I’m glad that we’re working together again,” the amazon said. Seeing that the police officer still did not look too convinced, she crouched and whispered closer to him: “The school bus was yesterday’s most popular clip. The PR guys realized that people want to see us together. Follow my lead and I’ll make you famous!”

    Kyle was not so sure he wanted to be famous, but he had his orders, so he followed the ultra-confident superwoman as she started again towards the hospital.

    Jennifer kept smiling at people, shaking hands and exchanging courtesies for a few minutes, with Kyle discreetly standing at her side, still feeling uneasy next to her towering figure. Their first stop would be on the twelfth floor, which was still closed due to rubble.

    Kyle walked towards the elevator and saw Jennifer diverting towards the stairs.

    “I’ll see you upstairs,” she said with a wave.

    “Why don’t you take the elevator?” he asked quite naturally.

    “I’m a big girl, Kyle,” Jennifer said cutely as she took two more steps towards the stairs.

    “Come on, I’m sure you’d fit if you crouched down!” Kyle replied, raising his tone a bit so that it would reach her.

    It visibly made her upset, which at the time made Kyle very uneasy. Jennifer turned and walked towards him, her face way less cheerful than it had been until now. She dropped to one knee as soon as she was next to him and whispered at him again:

    “I weigh forty-nine hundred pounds, OK?” she said.

    Kyle’s jaw dropped.

    “Wh… what?”

    He was still trying to process what she had said, trying to find out where he had got it wrong.

    “Shut the fuck up and get to the twelfth floor. I’ll explain later, OK?” Jennifer said, in her most annoyed tone since he had met her. “And not a word to anyone.”

    Kyle decided that the last thing he wanted to do was to upset a woman that could lift a bus over her head, so he did as instructed and took the elevator by himself. His jaw dropped again when the doors of the twelfth floor opened and she was there, waiting immediately outside for him. She was not even breathing hard.

    There were some more people in the exit area, as well as a TV crew. Jennifer waited for the hospital director to explain what she would be doing there and why it was so important, smiling as cutely as ever. She then rested her hand on Kyle’s shoulder, apparently in a gesture of camaraderie. When her fingers closed a bit tighter than they should, though, Kyle knew that she had not yet forgotten the conversation downstairs.

    “Kyle and I are very happy to have been assigned to this hospital. I’m eager to get started and clear the three blocked floors this morning, so that more kids can be treated here starting tomorrow. Now, if you’ll forgive us, we’d rather get to work.”

    She pulled Kyle “gently” as she walked towards the collapsed area, forcing him to follow her. Then, she made sure to get deep into it, looking for some isolation.

    Kyle was a bit scared when she let him go.

    “I… I didn’t… I’m sorry...” he started. Then, he seemed to realized something and said: “Wait! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

    “I know,” Jennifer replied in a less cheerful tone than the one she typically used. “But I realized we needed to have a chat if we have to keep working together.”

    Kyle nodded, a bit relieved.

    The amazon then extended an oversized hand and said:

    “I’m Jennifer Watson. I’m twenty-six and I used to be a cheerleader for the Sea Lions.”

    Kyle took the hand, the feeling a bit awkward as it was both soft to the touch and incredibly hard to the pressure, and said:

    “Kyle Jenkins. Thirty-one. Cop.”

    “Girlfriend?” Jennifer asked.

    Kyle blushed and shook his head.

    “Ok. If they keep making us work together, sooner or later they’ll start speculating about romance. If they ask you, just smile and say that we’re friends and have a very good working relationship. You might want to add a comment or two about how great I am. I’ll do the same. That should settle it.”

    “Or… I could deny it?” Kyle suggested.

    “Why would you want to do that? It’s best to keep them thinking,” Jennifer said. “Believe me, it is. No comments about me weighting forty-nine hundred pounds, though,” Jennifer added.

    “Is that for real? My squad car weights less…” Kyle said.

    “Tell me, Kyle… do you think I’m fat?”

    The question took him completely off guard. If there was something missing from Jennifer’s body it was an ounce of fat. Her muscles, while not bulging, were better defined than those of a fitness coach. And her proportions, hips, waist and chest were almost cartoonish.

    “No! Of course not!”

    “Right,” Jennifer said. “You saw me holding a school bus over my head, did you not? Do you know how I did that?”

    Kyle was getting a bit upset by Jennifer’s tone.

    “No, not really. You told me you were freaking strong and that you would explain later. You never did.”

    Jennifer had not been expecting the harsh response. It made her realize that she was being a bit difficult, which made her relax her tone.

    “When all those other women got cancer, I did too. But I didn’t die. Many days, I wished I had. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy. And then, one day, the pain was gone. I was aware of my surroundings once more. And I could see myself. Only I was not me. I was … this!” she said, pointing at herself. “The cancer, or whatever it was, did something different to me than killing me. I grew. And it made my muscles ultra-dense. I have waaaay more muscle tissue than even a body this size has the right to have. That’s the reason I’m so freaking strong. And also the reason I’m so heavy. And believe me, the world isn’t ready for eight-footers, but it’s even less ready for women of my weight. I can’t get in elevators, I can’t ride vehicles that haven’t been adapted for me, I can’t swim…”

    “You can’t swim?” Kyle asked, taken by surprise.

    “It has to do with the density. And I love swimming. I can walk under the sea without issues, or jump out of the water. But no swimming.”

    “I’m sorry,” Kyle offered.

    “But then, I can hold a bus over my head!” Jennifer added, trying to cheer the tone of the conversation a bit.

    Kyle then remembered about something he wanted to ask.

    “Why are we in this hospital?”

    “You mean, why is someone like me taking care of a job any construction crew could do? Or why are you stuck with me?” Jennifer asked. She answered her own question: “It’s called PR. Yesterday, we made a big difference. Today, there’s not really much chance of repeating that. But we have people’s attention. And that’s the important thing. So, why a hospital? Because it sells more than a library. And because we can finish by kissing kids on our way out.”

    “You don’t seem too bothered, though?”

    “Why should I be? I love kids. And I understand that image is important. If I had shown up under any other circumstances, I’d be called a freak. Today, I’m the people’s hero. Once this earthquake stuff is over, I want to continue being it. I want people not to freak out about my strength. I want them to talk about my looks.”

    “Why are you telling me all this?” Kyle asked, realizing that the amazon was opening up quite a lot for such an early stage in their professional relationship.

    “Because you have a part to play. They put you with me for a reason. Originally, the idea was that we would be very obviously following instructions from the rightful authorities. You know, the last thing people want is a girl with my strength making her own decisions. Now that we’re angels and all that, my guess is that they need a counterpoint for us. I mean, I’m a woman. I’m supposed to need someone to help me think or provide me with emotional balance.”

    “That’s male chauvinism!” Kyle said.

    “That’s the way it works,” Jennifer countered.

    “You’re not upset by it?” Kyle asked, surprised.

    “Again, that’s the way it works. I want to help people. I want the popularity that comes with it. So, I play my part. And if you play yours, you can get a lot out of this.”

    “But, I haven’t a clue how to do this!” Kyle protested.

    “Don’t worry. I’ll help you,” Jennifer said. Then, she crouched and brought her face closer to her partner’s. “Oh, and Kyle… if you ever tell anyone any of this… I’ll be very, very pissed off, understood?”

    He swallowed hard.

    Her tone was cheerful once more as she said:

    “Cool, let’s get some rubble out of the way, shall we?”

 

*=*=*=*=*=*

 

    Nathalie was smiling at the people lining up on both sides of the avenue as she walked slowly, waving shyly as she headed towards the bridge on eighty-third. Or towards what used to be the bridge. They had asked her to clear the rubble and cars that were blocking Northwood’s main street, so that traffic could get back to normal as soon as possible.

    Mike Sigursson was walking next to her, feeling overwhelmed about the situation as a camera crew recorded their movements, now from a distance.

    “There are no emergency teams in the area. I haven’t seen one since I landed, and that was a while ago already. And this neighborhood was hit hard.”

    There were many more affected buildings compared with other areas of town, probably because the construction quality was lower.

    “Santa Isabel is a big city. There aren’t that many emergency relief resources,” Mike replied apologetically.

    “And this is a poor neighborhood, right?” Nathalie replied dryly.

    “I didn’t say that…” Mike said, ashamed.

    Nathalie softened her tone immediately.

    “I know it’s not your fault, but you might want to tell whoever might give a damn about this that I noticed, and that I hope that I won’t need to mention it when the news crews ask me about my day. I’ll clear the street as asked, but these people need much more than a weight lifter.”

    They were interrupted by the loud bang of three shots and the approaching sound of screeching tires. A car raced past them two intersections ahead. Ten seconds later, a squad car with its siren on rushed after it.

    Nathalie looked at Mike questioningly. He was listening to the radio.

    “They looted a local electronics shop. The owner, who lives upstairs, tried to stop them with a shotgun, they shot him. He’s injured but alive.”

    Nathalie could feel her blood boil. After a day helping victims of the earthquake and having a first-hand view of the misery the tremor had caused to tens of thousands of people, the thought that someone might take advantage of the situation and of the victims maddened her.

    She looked down at Officer Sigursson and said:

    “Mike, order me to help you with this.”

    He looked up at her and realized that he had no other option.

    “Su… sure. Nathalie, is there anything you could do to help us with the shooting?”

    She smirked and said:

    “Ask for reinforcements. Wait for me here.”

    Nathalie turned and started sprinting right away. Mike felt a shiver running down his spine when he realized that she was running faster than a race car.

    The ebony amazon made a left onto the street where the looters and the chasing cops had raced by and used her enhanced vision to find them six blocks away. It made her step up her pace, her feet now cracking the asphalt as they pushed her along at over a hundred and fifty miles per hour.

    Traffic was still light, considering that most of the roads in the neighborhood were still not operational, but there was the occasional car every now and then. It was no problem for Nathalie, who could combine her acute senses, her superhuman reflexes and her agility to easily avoid them and run past them as if they were stationary.

    She soon caught up with the squad car, the passenger looking at her with his mouth wide open as she kept level with it for a few seconds.

    “I’m going to take care of them. No need to risk your lives,” she said to the startled officers.

    She picked up her pace right after, reaching a peak of two-hundred miles per hour before catching up with the old Lexus. Nathalie wondered what to do for a second. Then, she just jabbed her fingers into the side of the car and stopped in her tracks.

    She was dragged for a few feet. Her feet dug into the asphalt as she played the role of a brake for both the car and herself. Half a block further on, they were completely stopped.

    The squad car, not ready for what had happened, raced past them before immediately braking hard, leaving very noticeable tire marks on the road as it did.

    Nathalie was still very pissed off at the criminals, so she did not waste time walking over to the driver’s side of the car and ripping the door off the vehicle’s frame. She bent to look at the hateful men inside when she found herself facing the barrel of a gun.

    The thug did not even warn her before shooting. At point blank range, she felt the slug hitting the bridge of her nose and stinging a little, only to bounce away in a random direction an instant later. Just like in training. Just like they had been instructed to avoid in “real life”.

    Nathalie reacted without hesitation and kicked the underside of the car, making it roll twice over itself before it landed on its roof. None of the villains inside were in good enough shape to try anything against her when she approached the car again and bent to look at the now very bruised thugs. She did not feel any sympathy for them, so she just ignored their pained moans and proceeded to remove all three of them from the car, not taking any care to be gentle in the process.

    The trio of looters were lying on the road next to Nathalie when the two cops from the chasing car finally arrived, clearly short of breath.

    “Are you OK?” the one she had seen through the window asked.

    “What? Yes, sure!” Nathalie said.

    “They… they shot at you!” the cop said.

    Nathalie did not know if her expression would betray her. She resorted to the answer she had practiced, though.

    “Yes… the fucking bastard tried to shoot me. He missed, though.”

    The cop that had been driving arched an eyebrow, but did not say anything. Nathalie decided not to give them any time to think, so she just crouched and started grabbing the looters one by one, tucking two of them underarm and keeping the third in her right hand.

    “Where do you guys want me to leave this scum?”

 

*=*=*=*=*=*

 

    Susan was working down in the Subway tunnels, clearing some large pieces of debris out of the way, when she found herself running out of patience. The latest of a long series of puns was the final straw for her. The workers had been whispering all morning, unaware that her enhanced ears allowed her to hear even their distant breathing.

    She turned, her look startling the men despite the low light, and said angrily:

    “Yeah, I have a great ass. Great tits too. And no, I’m not a virgin. But don’t get too excited, I don’t date shorter guys!”

    The crew exchanged looks of shame. It was not nearly enough to calm Susan down. Her voice started to become louder, up to a point that no-one who lacked her special abilities would have been able to match.

    “You guys are disgusting! It would at least be passable if you weren’t completely useless. But you know what? I’m spending more time trying not to crush you as I’m getting the job done than actually clearing the way!”

    There were some murmurs and over-shoulder glances before finally they faced Susan again, feeling uneasy.

    Susan had broken the seal.

    “You know what? I don’t need you! The only reason I’m required to work with you is so that people will think that I’m just one more pair of hands. But I’m not. I want to help, but I don’t need to take your crap!”

    There was a very uncomfortable silence. Then, Susan broke it with a very loud interjection.

    “Get lost!”

    The men were starting to become very scared.

    “Go on! It’s alright! There aren’t any cameras here! No-one’s interested in crappy Subway work, even if it’s possibly the most useful stuff that will get done today. You can all just fuck off and no one will ever notice!”

    When no one reacted, Susan raised her voice to the point where men had to cover their ears:

    “Go!”

    That finally had the desired effect. She immediately felt a guilty pleasure at what she had achieved, even if she knew it was going to provoke a backlash back at the base. Not having to worry about the pigs anymore, she focused back on the task at hand. It wasn’t easy, but it was the sort of job she could get done in a fraction of the time a full construction crew would have needed. The Subway was important for Isabelians, especially the less affluent ones, so Susan knew that no matter how lousy everyone thought the work was, she was doing something significant.

    For a while, she continued pushing smaller pieces of debris off the tracks. From time to time, there was a larger chunk she had to take all the way to the exit; without the men bothering her, she could get it done so much faster. She enjoyed the loneliness and the quiet and efficiency that came with it. She had to be thankful for her enhanced eyesight, in any case. With the men gone, so were their flashlights, which meant that the tunnel was in almost total darkness as she worked on it. A tiny glimmer of light was all her eyes needed to work, however, affording her a view of the tunnels that was comparable to the most sophisticated night vision systems.

    Susan knew that, even with her remarkable skills, she would not complete the Subway task in a single day. And she understood that Lindbergh would continue assigning her to it for as long as he was able to; after all this was the least public of all the relief efforts available, the perfect location for the girl that no-one had wanted to become super-strong.

    By the time she came out to take a bite, Susan had already cleared seventeen miles of tunnels. No-one congratulated her on a job well done or sat with her to eat. She could not have cared less, devouring the equivalent of twenty individual rations quietly and methodically while noticing the stares of the men fixed on her. No-one was whispering anything about her anymore, though. Susan figured that the men had done the math and realized that her hearing was far more sensitive than they had expected.

    She just nodded at the annoyed-looking men when she finished her huge meal and got back inside, ready to accomplish in a few hours what the two-dozen men out there could not have dreamed of completing even if they had a whole month.

    The last thing she was expecting when she turned around the corner and faced the last section of the tunnel she was working on was the one thing that happened.

    “Hi there, Susie,” the deep voice said, almost with a trace of mockery.

    Susan recognized it right away.

    “You know I hate being called Susie!” she snapped.

    “I know, I know,” the woman that had uttered the words replied, raising her hands in an apologetic way as she stood up from the boulder she had been sitting on and headed towards Susan through the gloomy tunnel. For once, Susan did not need to look down to meet her eyes.

    “What are you doing here?” Susan asked.

    “I just wanted to have a chat, catch up a bit,” the woman said.

    “Tell me, Nicole, why shouldn’t I just turn you in?”

    “Because you don’t give a shit about them,” Nicole said.

    “I don’t give a shit about you either,” Susan said.

    “No, but you’re dying of curiosity.”

*=*=*=*=*=*

    Lindbergh tried to look welcoming as he received Eva Roark at door to his office. It was curious: he found her physically attractive at the same time as despising her presence. In her mid-forties, Dr. Roark kept herself in admirable physical shape and dressed smartly but elegantly, making her look professional, commanding and appealing at the same time. Or at least, that’s how she appeared to the General.

    “Welcome to Fort Exeter, Dr. Roark.”

    She smiled, but it was clear that it was forced.

    “It’s good to be here and to be working for you, General Lindbergh. It’s clear that you’re running the most interesting military research project in the country. I hope that I can contribute to its success.”

    “Oh, I’m sure you will. I was told by the Secretary that you reviewed our neutralization plans and identified several potential improvements,” the General said, swiftly cutting to the chase, but keeping his tone warm.

    “Well, I spotted a few black holes. My conclusions pretty much matched those of the other committee members.”

    A committee? So, Dunbar had set up a committee to review and trash their work? Lindbergh managed to keep a calm demeanor despite the rage that he felt welling up inside.

    “I see,” he said, simply.

    “The staff at the Pentagon were very concerned by those conclusions. The committee came up with a list of recommendations and I was asked to oversee its implementation,” Roark explained.

    Once more, “I see,” was all that Lindbergh managed to say, the effort to contain his anger growing more taxing. “That’s in line with what I was told when I was informed that you would be reporting to me,” he added, stressing the hierarchical reference.

    “Good. There won’t be any misunderstandings, then,” Roark replied with a cold smile.

    “Of course, we all hope that your work won’t be necessary,” Lindbergh said. “Our objective here is creative in nature, not destructive.”

    “Oh,” uttered Eva Roark.

    “Oh, what?” the General asked, finally letting his displeasure be heard in his voice.

    “I see you were not fully informed. The Pentagon has decided to put any other research on hold until we have a revised neutralization plan, signed off by the committee once I’ve submitted my recommendation.”

    Lindbergh was speechless.

    “That’s crazy…” he finally managed to say.

    “General, with all due respect, crazy would be allowing yourself to be blinded by ambition and focussing all the vast resources at your disposal on replicating the random results of The Flare when you don’t even have the means to control the four women under your command, as proven by the escape of Miss Keilani,” Roark snapped.

    So, this was not going to be a courtesy meeting, after all.

    “Have you come to help us, or correct us?” General Lindbergh finally barked.

    “I’m here to help you by correcting the part of your work that needs correcting. Don’t get me wrong, General. What you are trying to accomplish may prove to be the biggest advance in US military power since Project Manhattan. But right now you’re tampering with radioactive material in the middle of a metropolis without anything that even resembles shielding.”

    There were a few seconds of uncomfortable silence. Eva Roark held the General’s gaze constantly.

    “Thanks for being direct about your observations and your purpose here. And thanks for making it clear that formal reporting lines aren’t going to be that relevant. I assume you’ll be keeping the Pentagon up to date directly, saving me the trouble of having to do so. Now that we’ve reached this point, I’ve got to ask, though: what’s it going to take for you to endorse the revised neutralization plan and unblock the real research we’re doing here?” Lindbergh asked in a silky yet threatening tone.

    Dr. Roark narrowed her eyes just a little and said:

    “I’m a practical woman, General. And since I assume you won’t be willing to use any of the three women still working for you for the sort of tests that would be required, what I have in mind will necessarily involve Nicole Keilani. Once I see her corpse and I understand the manner of her death, you’ll have my recommendation to move forward.”

    “How soon can you be ready, Dr. Roark?” Lindbergh inquired.

    “How soon can you deliver her to me?” Eva Roark asked back.

*=*=*=*=*=*

    Mike Sigursson watched in amazement as Nathalie kept the three looters under control as easily as an adult might keep three children in place, while his colleagues made the transport van ready.

    He had seen Nathalie take off after them and still could not believe the speed the young woman had managed to achieve. The rest of the story, he knew by reference. If he had not seen the woman in action before, he would not have believed a word of what his comrades had told him. Now, he had no problem accepting that the amazon had caught up with the car, stopped it with her hands, flipped it over with a kick and removed the three bruised criminals from within as if they were rag dolls.

    He was still feeling somewhat uneasy about the part of the story where she had barely managed to avoid being shot in the face. It would have been dramatic for the city to lose its newfound hero less than forty-eight hours after meeting her for the first time. Mike made a mental note to have a chat with Nathalie and raise her awareness of the dangers of law enforcement. He had the feeling that the girl was overconfident due to her abilities and was not alert to the type of scum that existed out there.

    He was leaning on the front of his squad car, watching Nicole release “her prisoners” one by one to his colleagues, who were handcuffing them and forcing them into the van. Suddenly, a reflection caught his attention. He was about to discard it, but curiosity got the better of him so Officer Sigursson found himself walking towards the upside-down car in which the looters had been trying to escape.

    He crouched to pick up the shiny object and was shocked by the realisation that it was a 9mm bullet. Or, to be more precise, a severely deformed 9mm bullet. It looked like the slugs they had picked up when firing on the range at an armored target. And it was right next to the car, very close to the spot where Nathalie had clearly torn the driver’s door out of the frame to get to the driver.

    “Hey, Sigursson! What’s up?” an approaching colleague called from distance.

    He rushed to place the deformed bullet in his pocket. He was still a bit jumpy when he stood up and turned to the smiling officer.

    “Nothing. I thought the men might have dropped something when exiting the car, but it was just a trick of the light.”

    “Sure. Hey, that girl… she’s pretty impressive, isn’t she?”

    “More than you think.” Sigursson replied.

*=*=*=*=*=*

     Five minutes into their initial meeting, it became clear that Eva Roark was much more skilled at politics than Jason Sully.

    “What do you mean the teams I’ve formed won’t work?” he complained.

    “I took the liberty of picking my own team members during the flight here. I see none of the ones on my list are on yours. I suggest we discuss them one by one, if you don’t mind?” Roark said.

    “What… why? I do not report to you!” Sully complained.

    “Feel free to check with General Lindbergh if you want. We can continue our conversation later, if that works best for you.”

    “I already checked with Lindbergh!” Sully complained.

    “You may want to do it again,” Eva Roark suggested with a silky tone.

    “I will!”

    “Ok, so let’s leave the team composition for a later meeting. Is today at 6pm OK? I’d rather not delay this decision too much.”

    Sully could only nod. Roark smiled and changed topic:

    “Let’s talk about content, then. Would you mind sharing with me your latest neutralization plans?”

    “You already have them. I think they’re the ones you criticized in order to get a ticket here,” Jacob Sully replied, finally releasing all his animosity for her.

    “Of course, I have those. But even if you haven’t paid any attention to this particular critical aspect of the project, there’s no way those were your real plans. You see, I have more esteem than you think for your abilities,” Roark said.

    “I was told that you had your own list of suggestions,” Sully replied, trying to change the direction of the conversation.

    “I do. And I’m planning to update it once I see your real plans.”

    There was a very long and uncomfortable silence. Or at least that’s how it felt to Sully. When Eva Roark moved, to get more comfortable in her chair, and it became obvious that she was not going to leave, Sully said:

    “I need to talk to General Lindbergh.”

    Dr. Roark rolled her eyes before replying:

    “Your loyalty is admirable. It’s not going to get you very far, though.”

*=*=*=*=*=*

    Lindbergh never met with Colonel Beck at his office. The tall and sharp-looking man was lighting a cigarette when the General climbed into his car, on the sixth floor of a mall parking lot.

    “I got your message,” Beck said in the same cold tone he always used. “I’m still stitching the net.”

    “I need you to work faster. Roark was much more obvious than I was expecting, which means that her takeover is not going to be subtle. Our only way out of this is to find and kill Keilani without any meaningful contribution from that bitch,” Lindbergh said.

    “I see,” Beck replied, not changing his expression.

    “Can you do it?” Lindbergh asked, sounding a bit impatient. Beck was brutally efficient, but the man’s attitude sometimes got on his nerves.

    “Honestly, I don’t know. She’s been way more careful than I expected over the last three weeks. There’s hardly any clues to work on.”

    “Can you push it?” the General asked.

    “I could, but it would put at risk our original objective of not attracting attention to the fact that one of the girls had gone AWOL. If I start digging too quickly, the SIPD and the Feds may start inquiring. And now that they know about the other three girls, even the press might start sniffing around.”

    “I don’t care. We have more important objectives right now.”

    “Understood.”

 

End Notes:

 

You can get more information and art about this story and others in https://deviantart.com/papayoya

Chapter 4 by papayoya
Author's Notes:

 

 

Chapter 4

“It is so nice of you to come bid me farewell, Andrey,” Nicole said, sounding both playful and mocking. “I’m starting to believe that you might actually like me,” she added, bending to make her impressive breasts even more noticeable in the very skimpy outfit she had chosen for the mission.

She was sitting across from him and two of his bodyguards, in the back of a delivery truck that had been adequately conditioned for the mission.

“I’m putting a lot of faith in you, Nicole,” the mobster said.

The amazon smiled, her beautiful and exotic features almost making Andrey Petrenko forget that they belonged to the most ruthless killing machine he had ever seen. And in his line of business, that was saying a lot.

“Today is the day your generosity towards me will start paying off,” Nicole said, sounding as confident as anyone he had ever heard.

“Will you be able to… capture Zhao alive?” aked the Ukrainian.

“I’ll try. I know it’s important. I just can’t make any promises. He’s way too mortal for that.”

“I guess that will have to do.”

“You’re sure you want the message to be very clear, right?” Nicole asked.

“Of course.”

“Good,” she replied with an evil smile.

Nicole headed for the back of the delivery truck, nodded to a man to open the door and elegantly hopped out. She was already four paces away, when Andrey called from inside:

“Are you sure you don’t need us to get you closer? We’re still ten miles away.”

Nicole flexed, smiled at him and applied vast amounts of strength from her legs to shoot herself into the sky, disappearing from view. Andrey was thrown back as the truck violently shook as the shockwave hit. By the time he recovered, he was stunned to see a five-foot-deep crater in the spot where the superwoman had been standing.

*=*=*=*=*=*

Nicole landed twenty seconds later, on top of a hill three miles away. She thought she could have jumped farther, but there was no need. She wanted to take a peek before charging into the Triad’s base. It was not that she did not trust Petrenko’s men, but no intel was as good as that gathered by oneself.

As she walked to the edge to find a good observation position, Nicole felt her heart pounding with increased intensity and realized that she was thrilled thinking about what was going to happen. After all, a year after falling victim to the most excruciating pain conceivable, and almost nine months after waking up transformed, she was now facing the first real test of her new condition.

Of course, they had tested her extensively, back at Fort Exeter. They had wanted to know what she was capable of, and in the process, she had learned how amazing she had become. But those had been mere exercises, and this would be the real thing. In her mind, the blood she already had on her hands counted for little; she had already known how much stronger than an unarmed man she was before those encounters. But now she was about to confront real opposition, a group of armed and trained men standing between her and her objective. And she was eager for it.

As she looked at the airfield in the distance, Nicole was thankful, not for the first time, for the secondary abilities that had come with her transformation. Despite the more than seven miles that separated her from the object of her interest and the dark of the night, there was no detail that escaped her inquisitive look. Dr. Campos had once explained that it had to do with the number of photoreceptors in her eyes. Apparently, it was some five orders of magnitude higher than the number typically possessed by a normal person, allowing her to see even when there was very little light. At the same time, she had explained that the sheer quantity of receptors allowed them to form something she had referred to as an array, which allowed her eyes to focus much more powerfully. In practical terms: she had the biological equivalent of night vision and the ability to zoom in at great distances and observe in high detail.

From her side, Nicole did not need to do anything special to hide as she studied her objective. The darkness and her relatively small size, compared to her surroundings, rendered her practically invisible to anyone who was not actively looking for her. And she doubted anyone knew what they were up against yet.

Vanderbilt was larger than she had expected. The airfield itself was not remarkable, one among many hundreds in the country. It featured a short and narrow landing strip, the type that was suitable only for smaller planes, with a lonely control tower at one end and a couple of hangars at the other.

The rest of the site did not match the airstrip. It was hard to be sure, but Nicole would have sworn that the vast warehouses standing beyond the hangars were very new. In any case, they were clearly oversized when compared to the aviation portion of the location. The same disproportion was noticeable in the docking area by the canal. At some point, not very far back in time Nicole suspected, someone had enlarged the waterway where it passed by Vanderbilt, and it now boasted sufficient space to dock four speedboats. Three of the spots were taken at that moment, and with her enhanced eyesight she could easily see five men busy unloading heavy looking sacks from one of the boats. Nicole did not have any doubts about the contents of the bags.

She followed the canal and saw that it was blocked off by a sturdy-looking gate. A bit farther ahead it split in two, meaning that the section running alongside the airbase was private.

Just then, the speedboat next to the one that was being unloaded started its engine. Nicole’s ears had no problem detecting it, thanks to the way her hearing had been enhanced similarly to her sight. She was in no hurry, so she focused on the boat while it undocked, navigated onto the canal and sped away, leaving a very noticeable wake on the water.

The men had finished unloading the first speedboat in the time she had followed its sister, and soon there was another engine starting, although this time the louder sound belonged to a truck. A set of headlights lit up as the five men that had been working on the sacks climbed onto the truck in different positions and the vehicle started moving, its noisy path leading it to one of the large warehouses. Nicole smiled when the large doors opened to let the truck in, offering her a good view of the well-lit interior.

It was bustling with activity! The truck was only one of the fleet of vehicles parked inside the vast building, which included similar trucks, large sedans, SUVs and vans. She counted at least two dozen men, but she was sure that there had to be more in the sections of the building she could not see. About one in four of them seemed to be acting as some kind of  guard or, at least, was very obviously armed. She stayed with a couple of them for a while, until they were summoned by someone who seemed to be calling the shots and the trio moved out of the warehouse and headed towards the second building. Clearly different in construction from the warehouse, even a casual observer could see that this edifice featured two stories.

They got in through a side door, disappearing from sight. Nicole was about to focus somewhere else when a light came on up on the second floor and the man in charge came into view through the window. Nicole’s heart filled with glee when another male entered to greet him and she recognized Zhao from the pictures Andrey’s men had managed to obtain.

Ten minutes later, the observation had become very boring. From her position, Nicole could only see the two men talking. And then, talking some more. She would have moved her attention somewhere else if it had not been so important to determine where to find Zhao when she stormed the place. Her patience was finally rewarded when the two men parted and, a few seconds later, a second light came on at the opposite end of the second floor. It had to be Zhao’s office, of course.

This was an important piece of knowledge. It was not the only one she needed, so she continued scanning the site. It was time to get the information that was required for deciding how to get in. And Nicole soon understood that what Zhao’s lieutenant had told them back at Petrenko’s estate had been true: the Triads were getting ready for war.

Nicole was far from an expert in illegal operations, but even to her untrained eye the amount of heavily armed guards patrolling Vanderbilt felt out of proportion for a mere distribution business, no matter how shady it was. The sound of another engine made her shift her attention to the main gate. They were getting ready to let someone in. A pair of headlights on the access road soon showed her who. The two vans had stopped a couple of miles from the base and Nicole saw a black SUV parked on the side of the road and a man talking to someone inside the first van. The conversation was brief, the man nodded and got back into the SUV while the two vans resumed driving down the road. The scene repeated itself at the main gate and soon the vans were moving inside Vanderbilt’s grounds and heading towards the second warehouse - the one in which she had located Zhao’s office.

They did not drive inside. Instead, they parked at the front. The dozen men that quickly climbed out had not been evenly distributed. Nicole soon understood why the second van had held only four goons when they started unloading long and heavy-looking Pelican cases and piling them by the gate.

Most of what Nicole knew about military matters she had learned at Fort Exeter, so the majority of her knowledge concerned various heavier than usual weapons that the team there had explained were going to be tested on her. She bet the cases she was now looking at contained some of those weapons and not the more conventional automatic rifles that the guards at the perimeter were carrying.

So, Zhao was really getting ready for an all-out war! Petrenko had already been concerned about the Chinese, but Nicole was starting to doubt that he was aware of what was coming.

The amazon felt her excitement rising as she thought about the scenario. For starters, she was now convinced that she was about to repay Petrenko’s hospitality many times over. If the small private army she was seeing intended to hit the Ukrainians’ infrastructure in a concerted attack, she was quite convinced that Andrey’s losses would be heavy. But Nicole was acting out of pure altruism.

She was eager to find out more about her new status. After nine months learning more and more about the amazing consequences for her of the Flare, Nicole had gradually convinced herself that she had become something else, unbound from the restrictions regular people had to face. To begin with, this realisation had manifested itself simply as arrogance. It slowly evolved into rebelliousness and finally into a sense of superiority and of being above conventional authority and morals. By the time she concluded that she was above those that were testing her and were telling her what to do and what not to do, she had already escaped from them. And now she was going to prove to herself, more than to anyone else, that she was right.

The fact that she was going to use violence to demonstrate her point came naturally to Nicole. Her upbringing had mostly shielded her from physical violence, at least in relevant doses. But aggressiveness had been a daily requisite of her job and the fact that it came naturally to her had helped her climb through the ranks with ease.

She was ready to go. Nicole crouched and built tension in her leg muscles. A second later, she was soaring into the night sky again.

The four men in the SUV never knew what hit them. One moment they were patiently waiting in their vehicle, weapons ready in case someone headed towards Vanderbilt down the only available access road, and the next moment they had been smashed beyond recognition inside the very flattened remains of their car.

Nicole dusted herself off as she stepped out of the crater she had created on landing, significantly deeper than the one that marked the spot where she had jumped, up in the hill. Her unbelievable thirty-six hundred pounds, paired with the extraordinary kinetic energy of the jump had made short work of the flimsy truck and crushed it and its occupants like aluminium foil.

Not even short of breath as she faced the road, Nicole first broke into an easy trot, only to accelerate to a sprint after a few paces. Her bare feet cracked the road as they exerted pressures that the asphalt was not designed to withstand, pushing her to a top speed of close to two-hundred and fifty miles per hour and bringing her to the main gate in less than one minute.

She decided not to stop, splattering the first guard like a bug on a windshield. There she was, covered in gore again and facing a second very shocked guard. She smiled at him as she took a first step in his direction. The man screamed in Chinese. Nicole did not understand the content, but the tone did not leave much room for doubt. Shrugging, she merely took a second step. That was enough for the guard to reach his breaking point, and he lifted the automatic rifle he was holding, ready to fire. He never had the chance, as Nicole’s swinging forearm hit him with the force of a bulldozer and splashed him against the fence.

“God, and I had just got changed!” she mocked in a whisper as blood dripped down her terse figure. Her nipples were swelling and pushing against the Kevlar fibers of the tight-fitting two-piece outfit she was wearing. A familiar warmth in her womanhood reminded her of just how arousing violence could be for her.

Nicole looked at the airfield and listened to the cacophony inside. She noticed that she had attracted some attention, but her appearance had been so sudden that no general alarm had been raised about her yet. There would be one, sooner rather than later, she thought with a smirk. And after the satisfying but maybe a little too quick foreplay, she was eager to have more.

A simple hop was enough to clear the twelve-foot tall fence and land with the grace of a gymnast inside the grounds of the base. A pair of headlights were soon on her.

Nicole waited patiently for the jeep to approach her. The two men inside were incredibly jumpy when they stopped their car twenty yards away from her and got out, assault rifles in hand. They screamed at her in Chinese. Nicole just shrugged.

“Who are you?” one of the two men yelled in a very accented voice. “How did you get here?” he asked, looking at the still closed fence and trying to find his colleagues who were supposed to be manning it.

“Name’s Nicole,” she replied with a smile. “And, well, I jumped over,” she added.

The man let out some more Chinese gibberish, this time speaking into a walkie-talkie. Nicole did not understand his question and she understood the answer even less. She guessed that someone was trying to contact the men at the gate and the men at the car down the road, and she knew for certain that they would be unsuccessful. Which meant that the entire base was being put on high alert at that very moment. It worked well enough for her.

“Get on your knees!” the guard yelled at her.

“What’s the problem? Am I too tall for you?” she mocked.

The man did not like her answer and immediately raised his assault rifle, taking aim. Nicole just rolled her eyes.

“On your knees!” the man yelled again.

Nicole merely placed her hands on her hips and said “Make me.”

It was obvious that he was very pissed as his colleague took aim at her and he walked the ten paces that separated them at a hurried pace. Nicole loved his stunned look when he realized their actual size difference and showed it with a grin. This made the man lose it, so he did not warn her again before hitting her square in the stomach with the wooden butt of his AK-47.

Nicole was ready for what happened. The man was not. The blow, which was intended to bring her to her knees with pain, felt more like a gentle tap to her. The effect on the weapon was considerably less mild, the wood cracking from the impact with the amazon’s super-dense abs.

He looked up at her in terror. She simply smiled before backhanding him and sending his broken body flying over the hangar. The incomprehensible screams from the man’s colleague prevented Nicole from savoring the moment. She just turned and faced the most spooked man she had ever seen.

“It’s impolite to hit people,” she said, shrugging.

The man reacted by shooting a burst of automatic fire at her. Nicole had been shot plenty of times during her training at Fort Exeter. She had never been shot by someone who had the clear intention of killing her, though. It made everything so much better!

As expected, the bullets were unable to break her impregnable skin and bounced off her after deforming themselves in the attempt. Nicole had seen the results plenty of times before and knew that the metallic sounds she could hear were nothing more than warped slugs raining down around her onto the tarmac.

She was hit six times, the man so shaky that he even missed four of his shots despite the close range and the fact that she was not exactly a small target. There followed a second of eerie silence while he tried to reconcile what had happened with the fact that Nicole was still standing there, smiling at him with her hands on her hips.

“Ooops,” she said, mocking.

She started advancing towards the man before he could understand what had happened. Seeing her threatening figure getting closer made him react. He did it in the only way he was ready to, by emptying his magazine on her.

Bullets kept hitting her, not one of them being able even to get close to the threshold of annoyance. At most, they felt like gentle drops, as if it was raining or she was taking a shower. By the time she was three steps away the man’s finger was still pulling the trigger, but the only response he was getting from his weapon was a click that indicated that it was empty.

The guard tried to turn to flee so quickly that he tripped and fell on his butt. Nicole just kept going and let her oversized foot land in the natural spot, which was occupied by the man’s groin. The crushing sound as her foot applied the pressure provided by her unnatural mass was sickening but was soon masked by the man’s anguished screams. Nicole feigned nonchalance and simply kept walking, her left foot landing on the man’s head and popping it like a grape.

Nicole did not realize that she was panting until she was off the disfigured corpse, her nipples threatening to break through the Kevlar, if that was even possible.

“Oh, God!” she moaned.

This was nothing she had not done before, but it felt so much better! The ease with which she had overpowered and obliterated men that she knew were at the top of the pyramid when it came to violence was exhilarating, almost to the point of being inebriating.

Nicole had known before that she had become extraordinary, but she was starting to understand the magnitude of the changes she had been through at a different level now. Seeing dangerous men try hard to hurt her and feeling their frustration when they could not even come close, stirred her in a way that could only be matched by the ease with which she could dispatch them.

“I’m a superwoman. The pinnacle of humanity. And they wanted me to get cats down from trees!” she whispered as she savored the moment.

Her thoughts were promptly interrupted by the roaring sound of an approaching engine. Nicole quickly found its source in another jeep and zoomed in to see four tense but otherwise very unsuspecting men getting their weapons ready.

She waited for them to get closer and then crouched next to the jeep that had carried her two attackers. She placed one hand on the rear wheel arch and stood back up, lifting the back of the jeep as she did. Now in a more convenient position, it was simple for her to reach with her free hand to the bottom-center part of the vehicle and lift its two tons over her head with the ease of someone handling a beach ball.

The incoming jeep was now much closer, but Nicole would not have been able to see the stunned faces of the men inside if she had not employed her enhanced sight. She waited a couple more seconds and then tossed the jeep she was holding with all her strength. She had thrown larger weights before, but seeing the vehicle soaring into the air and crashing onto the incoming car was way more satisfying than throwing weights in the training grounds at Fort Exeter.

The impact was deafening. Seeing the mangled remains, there could be no doubt about the fate of the four men that had been inside.

“More of everything,” Nicole thought. “That’s all it takes. More strength, more resistance, more agility. Make the increase significant enough, and suddenly I’m not one of them. I’m not bound by their rules anymore. And they wanted to turn me into their maid with one hand while they looked for ways to kill me with the other!”

Her thinking was cut short by a tapping against her temple. Nicole frowned and soon felt another tap on her forehead. She quickly associated it with the shooting noise and turned to look for her attacker. She promptly found the sniper in the lone control tower at the end of the landing strip.

She scowled as a third shot hit her in the cheek and shot herself at the tower, her super-dense body soaring the fifteen-hundred feet with ease and breaking through the flimsy structure as if it had not been there, bringing it down like a bulldozer. She opened her arms for the landing and smiled as she turned to see that there was no way the pesky sniper could have survived.

Her presence was now widely known in the airfield and, while most members of the Triads still could not believe what they were hearing, the entire site was mobilized. Floodlights lit, and screams erupted in every corner of Vanderbilt, as armed men gathered to search for her. It was not as if they did not know where to start. After all, a crumbling control tower was noticeable enough, even for those without her enhanced senses.

Nicole saw another jeep rushing out of the hangar and speeding down the airstrip and started running towards it, quickly doubling its speed as they played chicken. The jeep tried to turn at the last minute, but Nicole was too fast for it to react and just charged to the side it had taken, crashing against the vehicle and making it explode spectacularly, killing its four occupants without even seeming to notice.

Her death toll was quickly escalating, but she couldn’t care less. She could not fool herself. The reason she did not give a damn was not that they were criminals. The reason was that they were weak, and it was so effortless to end their lives that it was hard to feel guilty.

The next barrage of bullets to hit Nicole was quite a bit more noticeable than anything she had been shot with so far. It was equally ineffective, though. The projectiles, appreciably larger and heavier, mangled as much as their smaller siblings and ricocheted away, unable to pierce her skin. The pressure they exerted, while more intense, was still far from being able to cause her any serious discomfort.

She turned to see the vehicle-mounted machine gun, still firing futile rounds at her. Nicole reflected for an instant on the mix of feelings the situation produced. On one hand, there was the elation she felt every time she was attacked, only to prove her utter superiority and invulnerability. On the other, it was beginning to feel annoying, when not insulting, to be shot at.

The jeep where the heavy-looking machine gun was mounted was not too far away, not driving too fast, probably to give the gunner a better chance at hitting the relatively small target she represented. Nicole hopped on one foot and landed right in front of the vehicle faster than anyone could react. Then, she slammed her fist on the hood, digging it deep into the engine block and making the car flip over itself and over her, landing with a loud crashing sound about twenty feet behind her. She turned and walked calmly to the wreck she had so easily created. The occupants were bruised but still alive and trying to get out of the overturned jeep. She helped them by taking hold of the vehicle and bringing it back to its upright position.

When she crouched to look through the driver’s window, Nicole was faced with the barrel of a gun. She did not flinch as the terrified driver pulled the trigger and she was shot point blank in the face. The bullet bounced off the bridge of her nose with slightly more annoying pressure than usual.

She merely curled her lip and threw a punch with her left hand, her fist easily going through the windshield, the shooter’s head and the headrest. She removed her hand to see blood and other remains from the man stuck to it.

“Messy,” she muttered as the man sitting next to the driver managed to kick the bent door open and got out of the jeep on the other side, limping away from it as fast as he could.

Nicole just stood back up and rested the ball of her humongous foot on the side of the vehicle. She could see the wounded man with ease, her head easily towering over the roof of the car. Then, she pushed with her leg.

Cars are not designed to slide sideways. Still, the force that Nicole had applied was so massive that it easily overpowered any resistance the tires or the asphalt could offer. The car was soon rolling over itself, reaching the escaping man soon enough and turning him into a red smear on the landing strip. Still, it went on, rolling a couple dozen more times before coming to a stop.

She strutted her way over to the once-more upside-down jeep and bent, digging the fingers of both hands into the insubstantial metal, ripping it open like a curtain, only to expose that the third man, the one that had been shooting the main gun at her, was also dead.

“Pathetic!” Nicole let out as she flipped the jeep yet again with her foot.

Her interest quickly shifted from the very dead men to the weapon they had been using against her. Nicole was not an expert on weapons beyond knowing that she had been tested with plenty of them during her evaluation at Fort Exeter. So, she did not recognize the .50 calibre machine gun mounted at the back of the jeep. Still, it was clear to her that the weapon was heavier and supposedly deadlier than the rifles that had been used on her so far.

She reached for it, easily plucking it from its support and holding it up in her arms with curiosity. The .50 cal Browning Machine Gun was almost as long and as heavy as a full-grown man, which was the main reason it had to be mounted to be operated. This, of course, did not matter to Nicole, who was holding it as much difficulty as she would a toy gun. Resting it on her shoulder, she turned and searched for activity.

The loudest noises were coming from the docks area. It was close enough, so she started walking calmly in that direction while she reflected on the amazingness of what she was capable of.

There was a truck in the docks once more, and the line of men soon became visible. Bullets started ricocheting from Nicole’s skin soon enough, but she just ignored them as she kept advancing with a cruel smirk on her lips.

The intensity of the barrage increased as she approached, but it was as inconsequential as ever. Nicole realized that she enjoyed the unsuccessful attempts at wounding her, so she let them go on for a bit more, until she was finally close enough. Then she lowered the heavy machine gun she was holding, aiming from the hip.

The noise was way louder than that of a rifle as the .50 cal started spitting lead at a very high rate. She had not been looking for precision, but she had not needed to. She was too close to miss, so soon the heavy slugs started hitting the men. They did not merely pierce them, but made parts of their bodies burst, letting Nicole know why she had felt their impacts more intensely than those of regular bullets.

By the time the loud spitting noise was replaced by a clicking that told her the weapon was out of ammo, the seven men that had been shooting at her were down, barely recognizable.

An eighth man was running away. Nicole twisted her lip and held the machine gun with one hand over her head, much like a javelin. She took aim for a moment and released the heavy weapon, which travelled the hundred yards in a second and hit the man square in the back. He practically exploded on impact, making the amazon chuckle.

She was almost ready to move to the next area, but there was something she had to do first. She closed the distance to the truck at a relaxed pace and crouched elegantly, lifting the massive vehicle over her head as she stood back up almost as if it were merely an inflatable facsimile of itself.

“Did you think I hadn’t spotted you?” Nicole said cutely to the terrified man who had been hiding under the truck and who now found himself lying at her feet. “You’re breathing so hard that I could have practically heard you from home!”

He tried to crawl away, but Nicole just took a step forward and pushed her right foot on his thigh, crushing it under the combination of her immense strength and weight and making the man howl in pain.

“Not so fast, squishy,” she said as she straddled the very obviously pained mercenary.

When she moved her right foot forward, he thought that it was over. She did not step down, however. Instead, she just rested her heel delicately in his chest and maneuvered her big toe so that it was over his mouth. The man closed his lips, but Nicole just pushed down with her toe, easily breaking his teeth and forcing its way in.

“Lick!” she commanded.

The man was beaten. To his credit, he tried, but there was no strength in his body anymore.

“Oh God!” Nicole said as she just flicked her toe upwards, breaking the man’s jaw and killing him in the process.

Nicole’s arousal was on the rise again, so much so that her Kevlar bottom piece was getting drenched.

“I need to do something about it!” she thought as she walked the few paces that separated her from the docks and released the truck she was holding onto the boats still in there, crushing them and rendering the canal unusable.

There was no one in Nicole’s immediate vicinity, or at least no one that was not dead. She turned and took a deep breath, trying to decide where to go next. The oversized warehouses at the other side of the airfield were the obvious choice. After all, it was time to start seriously disrupting the Triad’s operation.

Word of her had apparently traveled fast around the site, since guards were not rushing towards her anymore and, instead, they seemed to be pulling back to the critical part of their facility. Focusing with her superhuman eyes, she could see people hurrying into the main warehouse as the guards started closing the heavy door. She chuckled as she crouched and shot herself to the sky.

*=*=*=*=*=*

Wei would have not believed it if he had not seen it with his own eyes. By now it was impossible to deny the demon woman that had killed so many of his comrades. With her voluptuous hourglass figure and her toned muscles, much like those of an athlete or a fitness model, she would have been attractive, if it were not for her unnatural height or the fact that there was blood all over her scantily dressed form.

After losing too many of his men, he had finally decided to fall back rather than sending more of them to die. He felt some relief when the heavy door of the warehouse closed with a loud metallic Clank! His men, jumpier than he had ever seen them, formed a line facing the gate anyway, getting their weapons ready for the female juggernaut everyone feared would soon come knocking.

And then, an explosion at the center of the warehouse threw them all onto their backs. Wei was fast enough to roll, so he was the first one to panic when he saw the devilish woman standing in the middle of the downed shelves, white powder mixing with the gore stuck to her skin.

*=*=*=*=*=*

Nicole did not have any problems with Zhao’s men holing up in the warehouse. Still, she was fond of surprises so, rather than charging at a door that would have certainly proven flimsier than the men had believed, she pushed herself into a jump, her inhuman leg muscles sending her far higher than anyone had the right to reach.

Nicole could even feel the air temperature changing as she peaked at around a mile in height and then stretched her limbs to increase the speed of her descent, gravity pulling at her ultra-dense body like a longtime lover.

Nicole’s feet broke through the roof of the high warehouse with ease, barely slowing her down before she hit the ground like a bomb. She hardly noticed the man that had been standing right under her feet, his body practically disintegrated as she landed on him and kept going, digging a ten-foot-deep crater and creating a shockwave that pushed people and shelves around as though they were dead leaves.

Most people were reacting to her presence by the time she slowly walked out of the crater, with the exception of a few of the closer figures, who lay unmoving with their bodies in awkward positions.

“Puny fuckers!” she whispered with a chuckle as she faced her astonished audience.

Cocaine dust filled the air, more concentrated closer to her, since her method of entrance had taken its toll not only from the people gathered in the warehouse. Nicole smiled at the spooked members of the Triads, who had not yet reacted, and crouched to grab a hundred pound bag of pure cocaine from the floor. She effortlessly tore a large opening with her fingernail and used her fingertip to take a pinch of powder and bring it to her nose.

“Fucking great quality, guys!” she pronounced.

Without warning, and to everyone’s surprise, she brought the bag closer to her face and started sniffing, the powerful air stream created by her lungs when inhaling forming a dense stream of white powder from the bag and into her. Everyone was shocked when she tossed aside the clearly empty bag not too long after.

Nicole shivered and sniffed one last time.

“Oh my God!” she let out, excited. “I hope you don’t mind, but I couldn’t waste the chance. Costs a fortune to get high with my new metabolism!”

Dr. Campos had tried to explain to her once, but all Nicole had managed to understand was that given her new body mass and her metabolic rate, drugs and other substances that affected the normal functioning of the human body were almost completely ineffective on her. Even at very high concentrations, her body would quickly filter the effects.

She had missed getting drunk or stoned ever since her transformation, no matter how intoxicating her new strength was. Nicole had been a frequent user of recreational drugs before The Flare, both her endless working hours as an associate at a top-notch law firm and her tastes when it came to partying welcoming the extra stimulus.

She was feeling the effects of the cocaine inside her now, though, with an intensity she had never felt before.

“Now, let’s get kinky before it wears off, shall we?” she said with a wink.

The hailstorm of bullets started as soon as she started walking, her preparation having given the goons enough time to recover. She ignored them as usual, her high making the feeling of the worthless slugs ricocheting from her impregnable body even more enjoyable.

“You’d be adorable if you weren’t so pathetic!” she said as the men from the Triads kept on attacking her. Or at least, those with guns. The operators that had been working with the merchandise were considerably more lost and even more scared.

Nicole stretched her arm to grab a man in a worker’s clothing who had ended up dangerously close to her in his attempt to flee. Her hand took hold of a fistful of his baggy jumpsuit, and she pulled him in towards her, lifting his small body into the air like as if he were no more than a little child. The shooting stopped almost right away, making her chuckle as the man screamed in the usual Cantonese gibberish.

“What? You’re afraid of hurting him? Oh, come on!” Nicole said as she grabbed the back of the man’s head with her other hand and pulled him towards her chest without restraint. There were too many super-compacted muscle fibers in her breast to cave in. On the other hand, the man’s skull was way less impervious, and crushed like a ripe watermelon caught between a blacksmith’s hammer and his anvil.

Nicole moaned, making it sound louder than it should, shocking everyone else in the warehouse even more. Quickly, the bullets started coming back. She just lifted the lifeless man she was holding over her head and scanned the room, choosing a victim and tossing a hundred and eighty pounds of corpse towards him at high speed. Both bodies burst with the high-speed impact.

Those in the warehouse seemed to be getting keener on getting away from her than on attacking her. So, even if bullets were still hitting her randomly, the rate had decreased considerably. It did not make a difference to Nicole, who was losing interest in the ineffectiveness of the firearms and was instead avidly looking for arousing experiences.

Then, a clicking sound made Nicole shift her attention to her feet. The dark green pineapple-shaped object triggered her curiosity first and her memory an instant later. She curled her toes, digging them into the concrete floor, once she identified it for what it was. So, when the grenade exploded, the blast did not send her off her feet. It was still the most heat and pressure she had felt in the entire raid, up to the point where she felt as if she were receiving a massage to her legs.

It was not the first time Nicole had been tested with explosives. She had already known that she did not have to fear the pressure or the shrapnel, and she was also aware of her much superior tolerance to heat. Once more, proving it in the battlefield, so to speak, was way more thrilling than just learning about it from tests.

Nicole loved the sudden dismay in the thugs’ expressions as the grenade exploded without more consequences for her beyond a certain reinvigoration of her legs. She understood that, while they had already accepted that bullets could not hurt her, they had placed their hopes in the explosive.

She let out a soft laughter as she scanned the room to see more disappointed faces.

“You guys are making this so much fun!” she mocked.

And then, she dashed towards the man that had tossed the grenade at her. They never expected someone as tall as her to be able to move so fast. So, by the time she planted herself in front of the attacker, he never saw the punch coming. Nicole did not hold back this time. After all, the man had just tossed a lethal weapon at her. And well, the cocaine had hijacked what little inhibition she had initially possessed.

It was the first time she hit a man with a considerable portion of her strength. She realized why she had not had to do it before soon enough. Her punch did not throw the man backwards. It did not tear through him either, as had happened in some previous attempts. Instead, the force conveyed by the super-dense muscle fibers in her arm into her iron fist was so brutal that it disintegrated the body, not giving the thug even the time to scream. Gore was spread widely across the warehouse, part of it unavoidably ending on Nicole’s already soiled body.

Nicole’s onslaught had already been mind-blowing for everyone, including her, until now. But what she had just done marked an inflection point. Shooting stopped, and yells increased both in volume and frequency. She merely burst into loud laughter.

“Oh, my fucking goodness!” she said, her powerful voice easily carrying to every corner of the warehouse.

Nicole’s nipples pushed once more against her tortured Kevlar outfit, her high combining with her natural sadism to make her feel more aroused than she had ever felt. It was not about the mission anymore. It was not even about feeling superior and exploring the possibilities of her new condition, as she had done at the beginning of her assault. There was something more animalistic driving her now, chemically enhanced by a dose of pure cocaine that would have killed a few thousand men. Something that was telling her that the only way to keep the pleasure flowing was to let her inner beast go. And she did not see a reason not to.

The first man she chose must have seen the bestial expression in her face, since he gave her the most terrified reaction she had seen so far as she started heading towards him, stalking him like a predator as he started heading backwards, too shocked to even turn and run.

Nicole let out a pleasure groan as the man tripped and fell, butt-first, to the ground. She was on him in no time, grinning as he yelled something incomprehensible in whatever form of Chinese the man spoke. She just drew a long, shapely and toned leg back, kicking him midriff.

She contained the force of her kick considerably. After all, if a punch had done what it had done, she had no doubt that her comparatively stronger legs would be able to do much more damage. Still, her toes broke quite a lot of the man at contact, she thought. The rest of the man broke when his body slammed against the wall with a sickening splash, a hundred feet away and at about twenty feet in height. He remained stuck up there for a few seconds before he started sliding down, leaving a wide red streak in the light gray concrete.

The closest man to her was trying to climb up to a high shelf using a ladder, as if that was going to help him. Nicole reached him at a casual stroll, her increased height giving her the reach to grab the man’s shin before he could get away from her. She pulled the man lightly and let his body hang upside down, keeping her hold on his leg while his head loomed a couple of feet off the ground.

Not knowing too well what to do, Nicole started swinging the man over her head like a lasso, while she turned and scanned the room. She soon found a group of three men that were packed closely enough together for what she had in mind. Smirking, the amazon let go of her swinging man, throwing his already unconscious form in the chosen direction. She laughed as the four bodies dissolved in a splash of crimson.

The men were quickly grouping at the far end of the warehouse, as far away from her as possible. She quickly fixed that by hopping and crossing two-hundred feet of open space in a single impulse, her threatening form landing just a few yards in front of the terrified men.

Their screams helped her maintain her arousal, and the occasional bullets fired at her once more were a nice added touch. When she got tired of the man still shooting at her, Nicole crouched and dug her fingers into the concrete floor as if it had been made of clay. She was holding an irregular chunk of hardened rock the size of her hand by the time she stood up.

She did not even flinch before releasing the improvised projectile underarm, effectively decapitating the pesky shooter.

“You know, it’s fun for a while, but it gets annoying after a bit,” she said as she shrugged.

Nicole took a step forward, causing the four remaining men to take a step backward. She kept at it for a while, giggling when the men’s backs unavoidably hit the back wall, leaving them without room to back off any more.

Still under the effects of the coke, Nicole let her mind wander and threw herself into a flying kick. She had taken some taekwondo lessons as part of her personal defense classes but had never got even close to the level that was needed for this trick. Moreover, she would have had to have mastered perfect spring technique before being able to throw herself into a well-executed kick like the one she was attempting. It turned out that all of that could be easily overcome by a prodigious amount of strength.

Nicole’s body soared and closed the ten yards separating her from the victim she had chosen in a second. His attacker burst as her oversized sole hit his chest. Her foot kept going and broke through the wall, making part of it collapse as she dropped to the ground with grace.

“Mmmmmmm,” Nicole moaned, letting this new feat go to her head, as well as to her nipples and her womanhood.

She pushed back to her feet in an acrobatic movement, doing a backwards cartwheel and landing with the style of Nadia Comaneci as the remaining three men disbanded. She stopped the first one by stretching her endless leg and lifting it, holding it at a ninety-degree angle with her body and acting as a barrier for the goon. He hit it and dropped to the floor as if he had hit a concrete wall.

Nicole was feeling very mischievous now, so without thinking twice she jumped in the air and aimed her landing so that her steel-hard ass would land on the man’s comparatively smaller face. He never stood a chance as her buttocks made short work of his comparatively much softer skull, squishing it as she kept the impulse to do another backwards cartwheel, grabbing the third man’s head between her powerful thighs.

The man was trapped as she landed on her feet, face looking upwards in agony at her cruel smile. His hands were hitting her buttocks, making her giggle when she noticed what the light taps were.

“Tune it down, lover!” she mocked.

He tried to hit her again, and in a swift motion she trapped his hand between her right buttock and her own, quite larger palm.

“You really like my ass, don’t you?” Nicole asked with a wink as she started applying pressure. She thoroughly enjoyed the pained expression in his face when the bones of his hand started being compressed between the two unyielding surfaces of Nicole’s body, approaching their breaking point. “I’ll tell you what! I’ll let your hand stay there!”

The man’s shriek as the bones of his hand were crushed to powder would have caused agony to anyone but Nicole. She just moaned, stirred by the man’s pain. By the time she stopped pushing, there was merely a bloody stump at the end of his arm.

Nicole wanted to play some more of her cruel games with the man but noticed that he was getting limper.

“God, you guys don’t last long, do you?” she protested. Then, she simply crushed his skull with a casual gyration of her hips, widening her stance to let his corpse drop to the ground.

This left a lone man out of the multitude that had been holed up in the warehouse when she had broken in through the roof. Needless to say, he had used the time she had been torturing his colleague to break into a run. It was nothing that Nicole would not be able to solve in four or five strides, but she decided against chasing him. Instead, she just took a step towards a tall shelf and ripped a steel pole from one of the supports. It was about ten feet long and as weightless as a straw. She used the fingertips of her right hand to reach for the tip of the pole and crush it into a point, then held the entire thing over her head like a spear.

The man never saw it coming as the makeshift javelin went through him, entering through his back and pushing his body off his feet, until both the weapon and its victim ended up stuck in the far wall.

Nicole noticed she was panting again. She did not know how long she had been at it. She could not believe that she had already finished them all. She had not done anything she had not known that she was capable of doing. But it felt so different in real life compared with in training.

Quite instinctively, Nicole’s fingers found their way into the Kevlar bottom piece of her garment and started playing with her damp womanhood. She was too enticed not to do something about it. Then, a dark green and sturdy looking box to her right caught her curiosity. She grinned mischievously when she opened it to find a score of grenades much like the one that had been thrown at her. She remembered the mild pleasure of the explosion and had a wicked thought. The coke and her libido did the rest, making her act before she could think.

Nicole’s pinkie finger got rid of the ring before she pulled her tight Kevlar away and fit the grenade inside. She had never thought she would be able to enjoy an explosion so thoroughly. The Kevlar burst from the inside, exposing her shaved and now very excited cunt to the world. Nicole let out a long and very loud moan as she savored the ripples of the sensorial eruption.

“More!” she let out, reaching for another grenade and using her fingers to part her lower lips wide enough to fit it in, not stopping to think if that was a good idea.

Every glass in the warehouse shattered as she orgasmed and screamed to the top of her lungs. She was in heat, her rational mind practically disconnected as she continued with a succession of three grenades, the third finally throwing her on her back as she howled in pleasure.

“Oooohhhh,” she purred as she sat down, panting heavily. “And I thought the days of good sex toys were over!”

The comedown was delicious, even if something in the back of her mind was telling her that she was not done, that she had put pleasure ahead of business and that tended to be a bad idea. Her hedonistic mind rejected the thought, but suddenly, a faint sound woke her up from the trance and made every muscle in her body stand alert, helping also to shrug off the last effects of the drugs.

“Fuck!” Nicole let out as she identified the now very noticeable sound of the plane’s propellers.

The amazon jumped to her feet and started to sprint, reaching her top speed before spectacularly breaking through the concrete wall of the warehouse. There it was! The plane had already got out of the hangar and was now starting its take off run on the short airstrip. It was midway through its objective by the time she reached the start of the runway and changed direction, chasing the twin-motor aircraft.

The plane’s landing gear was starting to lift off the tarmac, but Nicole had already closed about half of the distance to it. So, by the time the pilot started to tilt the plane upwards in the hope of abandoning the horror she had unleashed in the airfield, Nicole was already upon it and could reach upwards to grab the axle between its wheels.

She kept running with the plane a bit more, beating the aircraft’s attempts to pull up with the unfathomable strength of her biceps. But she could not keep at it forever. As heavy as she was, Nicole knew that the plane was perfectly able to lift her along with its fuselage. She had no way of getting an anchor point on the ground to prevent that, so stopping the plane in its tracks was not an option. Aware that Zhao was very likely on it, she opted for the mildest option she could come up with.

So, by the time Nicole came to the end of the airstrip, which marked the point where she had to make a decision, she just pivoted on one foot and carried the plane with her, releasing it with exactly the right impulse.

The bi-motor had never been designed to withstand the stress the superwoman had put on it, so as soon as she released it, it tried to lift, only to plunge into the ground a hundred yards on, bouncing off its landing gear as it repeated the jump again much like a grasshopper.

It did not last long. Soon, the lack of stability brought the plane to the ground at too tilted an angle, sparks illuminating the dark night as its right wing hit the tarmac, ripping itself from the fuselage some dozen yards later. It was all quite quick from then, left wing, landing gear and tail going before the plane hit the entrance of the hangar twisting on itself.

Feeling a bit guilty at having indulged too much, Nicole did not waste any more time and propelled herself through the air with a precise jump that made her land with the usual effect on the ground, barely a dozen yards away from the downed aircraft. She ripped its side door away as if it had been made of wet tissue and stepped into the metallic tube, smiling when she saw that the four male passengers and the pilot were pretty battered but still alive.

She reached for the closest man.

“Not Zhao,” she said as she slapped his head off his shoulders.

The next man was looking downwards, probably still stunned from the crash he had just been in. She placed one finger under his chin to lift his face and when she saw that he was not the man she was looking she just kept going, breaking his neck with a flick.

The other two men were now looking at her in terror. Neither of them was Zhao either, which made Nicole frown as she threw simultaneous punches that broke through their skulls.

She had had high hopes of finding her ultimate target in the escaping aircraft, so the fact that none of the four men on the passenger compartment was him pissed her off considerably. She did not think the pilot would change her luck, but she still leaned through the door to the cockpit and grabbed his skull with one hand, turning it to see that, effectively, he was not the man he was looking either. She closed her fingers with a groan, popping the man like grape.

“Fuck!” she said louder than needed.

Nicole was beginning to realize that Zhao might have escaped while she was letting herself fall too deeply into indulgence and cursed. She was not worried about Petrenko or any stupid promises she might have made to him. If the man dared to complain after she had completely destroyed his rival’s infrastructure she might need to have a serious talk with him to let him know about her terms for their agreement. But she had always been an overachiever, and not being able to get what she was planning pissed her off at an extreme level.

She was thinking about the most suitable way to return to the Ukrainians when a thought crossed her mind. Zhao was not in the plane. But there had been no other vehicle leaving the airfield. Of that, she was pretty sure. Most of the vehicles she had disposed of, and none of the ones she had left alone for the moment had started their engines. Her sensitive ears would have caught them if they had.

So, either Zhao was still in the airfield, or he was leaving on foot. In either instance, he was at her mercy. Too eager to check her theory, she did not even walk back to the small entry door but just ripped a section of the plane’s fuselage away with her hands, hopping onto the tarmac and observing the remains of the airfield with renewed curiosity.

Nicole took a deep breath and then stopped breathing, letting the sounds of the night come to her superhuman ears unfiltered. She could hear grasshoppers, birds, the ripples of the wind in the canal’s water and on the grass… She could not hear any steps, though. Or any whispers.

There was no way Zhao could have got so far away as to fall out of her effective detection range. Nicole had been tested and could hear relatively soft sounds for miles around her. This left only one possibility.

She did not run as she headed to the second warehouse. She did not need to. With most of the Triad’s crew gone, she only needed to be attentive to anyone trying to sneak past her. Realizing that it was kind of stupid to still be wearing her Kevlar top when her bottom was long gone, Nicole ripped it to shreds and enjoyed the stroll as the breeze soothed her sculptural body and she found the time to reflect on what she had done.

If this was meant to be a test of herself, there was no doubt that the results had been overwhelmingly good. The theory she had already been aware of had been easy enough to put into practice and had proven to her beyond any doubt that she was so far above men now that the idea she had once entertained of remaining at Fort Exeter, subject to the whims and instructions of Lindbergh’s team, now appeared utterly ludicrous.

She had the conditions to be free at a level no one else had been before, and this made the idea of living the life of a prisoner or a monk plain stupid.

Even when just walking, Nicole’s long legs conferred her a speed that brought her to the front of the warehouse of her interest soon enough. She was utterly unprepared for the RPG being shot at her from a window on the second floor, so she did not have enough time to dash out of its way before the rocket hit her square in the stomach.

Neither the RPG’s penetrating tip nor its explosive had any more effect on Nicole than bullets and grenades had had before. Unprepared as she was, the blast was enough to throw her back some ten feet to crash into the side of one of the two parked vans, flipping it over.

She was both upset and embarrassed as she sat down, groaning. So, she was barely paying attention to the mildly pleasurable effect that the explosion had had on her abs. All she wanted was retribution on whoever had had the guts to attack her after knowing all she was capable of. Her annoyance was considerably increased by the fact that the results of the attack had made her lose her gracefulness.

Despite the darkness, it was easy enough to find the man, still standing in the window of the second floor and getting his RPG ready for a second shot. Nicole pushed back to her feet and grabbed the underside of the van with one hand in the same motion, bringing it over her head in a fluid movement and releasing it toward the man as soon as her feet were firmly planted on the ground.

He never had time to finish reloading, the three tons of van crashing through the window and bringing a portion of the building around him down. Not being nearly as resistant as she was, the man was of course crushed under the rubble.

Nicole took advantage of the new opening on the building to flex her legs ever so slightly and throw herself through it, landing next to the van.

The floor cracked and shook as she moved. Being a second floor made the overall sturdiness of the structure worse than in the normally more reinforced ground floor. Despite that, her weight, while amazing, was still in a safe enough zone for her to move through normal constructions. However, there would be no way of masking her approach, but Nicole guessed that throwing a van through the window had already served as a pretty noticeable knock on the door.

The second floor seemed to be completely empty, save for the shooter she had just taken care of, so she just moved through the corridor and reached the far end of the building, where Zhao’s office had been. She stepped inside and inspected the relatively large space.

It was clear that the Triads were either not planning to stay at Vanderbilt for long or did not care about luxury, since the office was mostly filled with furniture that was either old, cheap or both. Nicole was not concerned about that, but about the fact that there was no trace of Zhao there.

She took a new deep breath and held the air inside as she focused her enhanced senses on the silent area. A smile formed on her lips as the faint sounds of someone breathing became very evident. She just had to tilt her head slightly to find them coming from behind a tall metallic filing cabinet.

Nicole did not mind that her footsteps as she crossed the room towards her target were easy to hear. She just stood in front of the cupboard and grabbed it with one hand on each side, easily moving it out of the way and revealing the six-foot tall opening on the wall. She crouched to find the awed figure of Zhao, aiming a gun at her.

“That won’t help you,” Nicole said with a smile an instant before the incredibly spooked man emptied the magazine on her. Bullets bounced off her cheeks, teeth, nose and forehead with the same ineffectiveness every slug had shown so far.

“Told you,” Nicole said with a scowl. “That’s going to cost you, though,” she added as she reached through the opening and grabbed a fistful of the man’s shirt, pulling him out of his hideout like someone dragging a rag doll.

Nicole tossed the man to the center of the office and stood with her hands on her hips. The dripping sound preceded the wetness in the front of his pants.

“Oh, come on! Really? You’re the guy that was going to take over business on the West Coast?” Nicole mocked.

“Please…” the man said as he crawled back.

Nicole merely took a step forward and said:

“I’m not going to kill you. At least not just yet. Petrenko wants you alive,” Nicole said.

Zhao’s accent was surprisingly mild as he addressed his first complete sentence at her for the first time:

“No matter how much Petrenko is paying you… I will double it! I will pay you ten times more!”

Nicole let out a soft laugh and took another step towards Zhao, kneeling gently next to him and reaching out with a finger to raise his chin.

“Are you offering me a job?” she asked kindly.

“Yes… yes!” Zhao replied instantly. Nicole could see the trace of hope in his eyes and contained a laugh. This was going to be entertaining.

“How interesting… wouldn’t it be an issue that, well, I just killed all of your men?” she asked.

Zhao just shook his head.

Nicole let out a soft laugh.

“Tell me Zhao, don’t you think that if I was looking for money, I could just storm into a bank and rip the safe open?”

She had to love the change in Zhao’s face, all the hope suddenly going away.

“What is he giving you, then?” he asked, not understanding.

“You know what’s the problem with men like you? You see a woman like me and all you can think of is that I must be working for someone. I don’t work for Petrenko. He was nice to me, so I’m repaying him by being nice to him. He needed some vermin removed, so I did it for him. He also asked me for you,” Nicole finished, standing up and dragging Zhao with her with her single-finger hold.

Nicole then reached for his pinkie finger and held it between her thumb and index. Without warning, she pushed them together, crushing the three bones into powder with the ease of someone crushing an empty eggshell.

Zhao’s shriek was very high-pitched, making Nicole laugh.

“I didn’t like being shot. Consider yourself lucky that you’ll get out of this one for only three bones. You have two-hundred and three more to go, so don’t piss Petrenko or, especially me, off.”

Nicole let him scream as she ripped one of the tall metallic doors from the filing cabinet with her free hand. With the ease of someone working with clay, she wrapped the sheet metal around the screaming man she was holding, immobilizing him before grabbing him underarm and making for the exit of the building.

*=*=*=*=*=*

Petrenko was as surprised as his men when Nicole appeared calmly strolling down the road, holding a van over her head with a single hand. She closed the distance to them and carefully set the vehicle, which was in pretty good shape, on the road.

He tried to avoid fixing his stare for too long on the amazon’s stark-naked figure, but could not prevent a shiver when he noticed the gore even in the dark.

“Did you do it?” he asked.

“Did you doubt it for a second?” she asked with a wink.

He sighed, and she seemed to enjoy his discomfort.

“They were getting ready for an all-out war,” Nicole said, switching the tone to a more serious one. “But they were not ready for me.”

“Zhao?” Petrenko asked.

“In the back. I tried to keep the van as much in one piece as possible, so that one of your men could drive it back. I guessed people would be startled to see me carrying it all the way to your estate,” she said playfully.

Petrenko nodded and headed for the back of the van with two of his men. He was shocked when he saw Zhao, wrapped in thick sheet metal, but smiled when he realized what this meant for his business issues.

Then, he saw the large bags of cocaine and the military boxes with grenades.

“I didn’t need the gift, but thanks,” he said to Nicole.

“Andrey, dear, that’s not for you. I just took some toys for my own indulgence. It would be great if your men could leave them in my chambers when you get home,” she said.

“Toys?” Andrey asked.

“You’ll understand,” she said with a wink.

Petrenko swallowed hard.

 

End Notes:

 

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