When a friend asks for help, Lee just can't say no, but what kind of trouble could Hap have? Big Trouble!
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. None of the characters, places, or anything else is meant to be represented by anything in reality. Duh! Fiction, get it? I the author reserve the rights, so please don't go posting this anyplace else without my permission. A very special thanks goes out to Cathy and all the others out there in BCTS land who have encouraged and inspired me to write and keep writing. Another round of thanks goes out to djkauf who is the fastest proofer I've ever encountered. Any remaining mistakes are all mine
I shook my head. “No, you two go on. It’s alright. It’s not your fault Ricky’s busy tonight. Besides, If I tag along that’ll mess up our fiction that you two are an item.”
Both my friends gave me doubtful looks.
Vonda’s eyes told me volumes. These last few weeks had been wonderful. Despite this being a farm and all the stories of sneaking off behind the barn, we still hadn’t gotten our kiss. With a teenage younger brother just entering his testosterone storm, he was watching the only examples of available womanhood like a hawk does a mouse.
Thankful, I missed most of that ogling. Adam had come to terms that Ernie was gone, and Lee was here to stay baby. On the other hand, I couldn’t blame him too much for looking at my girlfriend. Vonda was turning into a true beauty.
With the combination of odd jobs around the farm, and joining in my crazy workouts, she was really blossoming. Nicely toned from all the activity, she stood at five feet six; four inches taller than I. Her dark brandy hair glowed with copper highlights from time outside picking vegetables. The exercise and dancing gifted her with a graceful walk that I’d sought all my life. Truly she flowed, sweeping all along with her. Even without that bedeviling missing kiss, the happiness just being together suggested that I was right. It was love.
Right now she without saying a word made my heart beam in joy knowing she felt the same way.
Then there was Hal. He was miserable. Not only because he was splitting us up tonight, but because he was missing Ricky. The two really hit off together. Then there’s his frustration over the circumstances that was keeping Teresa in the closet. That kind pain I knew all too well.
I didn’t think he was going to do something foolish. However, he was begrudging every minute till we could graduate. Two years till he could dare cast off his disguise, and mask. Two lifetimes till she could spread her wings and be free.
Sometimes I still cried. Hap and her Med-scanner gave all of us gender mixed and confused a chance at finding our best balance for being at ease with ourselves. In my original timeline, we could only make do with imperfect transitions using hormones and surgery.
However as wonderful as Hap’s methods were, Career Day opened a tabooed door. It’d given so many of us a taste of the forbidden. That was bad because society wasn’t ready to even consider transgenders as acceptable, medical condition or not. Too many were like Hal’s father who regarded their children as things and belongings to do with as they pleased. But now that Hal sampled that fruit, he yearned for more with every once of her soul.
I saw no solutions other than killing his sum’bitch of a father. While the red neck racist pissed me off to no end, I couldn’t go that far. Recent events reassured me that I wasn’t a murderess.
So while both Vonda and I offered shoulders to cry on, I also encouraged Hal to work out as much of his frustrations as I dared. Half the time I was afraid I pushed the meditation and spiritual aspects of the martial arts too zealously. On the other hand, variants of that philosophy helped keep me sane in another world that might have been and not so far away. Who was I kidding? It was still keeping me more or less sane.
If Hal was going to make it, she needed to be strong as well as have good friends. Besides, with his Father being the way he was along with such classmates like Chris Sawyer, knowing how to handle yourself was damn near a necessity.
I kinda got my own prejudices thrown in my face. Hal was so damn delicate for a teenage boy, that I assumed he was physically weak. Nothing doing! For ages he’d been Vonda’s secret dancing partner, and had no problems keeping up with her. He might not have the bulk of a line backer, but instead had the slim body of a swimmer or runner. Our artist friend had endurance to spare.
That gave me the idea to try something else. I’ve already admitted that even as a child in my previous existence, I’d idolized Bruce Lee. Finding myself back in if not my past, but a past before he died, I spent him a letter. Knowing he was proud of his body, instead of saying I knew he was going to die of a cerebral edema, I suggested the diagnostic capabilities of the med-scanner could provide a useful picture of what he was doing right and offer vindication of his methods.
Much to my relief it worked. His problem was found and fixed before it caused him trouble. More, my letter began a long range sorta kinda friendship with us writing back and forth. In that first letter I’d asked for advice how to develop myself considering my small size. Master Lee sent me copies of his books, autographed no less! He’d even taken the time to highlight areas I should pay special attention to because of my sex and size.
However, I also have some special advantages. Although I can’t pack on muscle mass like he could, I was still a Wildcard. In my case it meant, I got a lot of bang for my buck with every hour of working out. I could duplicate a lot of his incredible feats. My power to weight ratio was out of this world which let me do some really way out acrobatics.
The problem was Jeet Kune Do was anything, but defensive. Master Lee believed that the best defense was a strong offense. That worked for me, even as small as I was given my advantages. I, however, had doubts that would work for Hal and Vonda given their lesser skill levels and the limited time they were able to train.
My experiences with Chris in that ally suggested another possibility, Parkour. ‘l'art du déplacement’ literally means the ‘art of displacing.’ It’s the art of using your body the most efficiently way possible to negotiate obstacles. It had about a decade to go before it gets developed into the form I knew from my time in 2010. The running, jumping, and sliding around, over, and under anything in their way. Some of their feats were astounding with scaling high walls and safely falling from high heights.
Another problem was I’d never studied the art. However it was perfect for teaching someone how to run away. Remembering Jackie Chan’s agile big screen antics, I thought Master Lee might be able to help. Writing to him, he suggested several sources.
Of all the things I missed and still miss about the future, the internet is number one. No Amazon or Barnes and Noble website where you could search for the book you wanted, order it and have it on your doorstep in three days. Finding the book, seeing who had it in stock, and some cases having to send the payment in before they would ship, was a royal pain.
One of the key things I remembered from my time about Parkour was that it was dominated by the guys. Lacking the upper body strength, girls needed to come up with new ways of getting around certain obstacles. Additionally, while a farm offers a wide variety of obstacles, it rather lacks the walls, railings, steps and other terrain of towns like where my friends lived.
I’d seen Vonda and Hal’s neighborhood so I had a good idea of if something did go bad what they would be facing. Right there I decided to narrow things down for my friends’ needs. We would train in every Parkour skill I could remember and redevelop, but we would focus on their particular home environment.
As a new Traceuse, that is a female practitioner of Parkour, I did my best to kill as many birds with one stone as I could. At first I tried the new maneuver on my own carrying my ‘pinecone.’ That let me practice and allowed me to get feedback from Hap on how well I did. Of course it also gave me protection from my own first clumsy efforts with her there ready to do her healing thing.
Then I tried the same thing without its protection. Okay I admit I was paranoid about losing the CI artifact. However my efforts paid off. Oh the look on Vonda and Hal’s faces as I ran up a tree. Then it got serious as I show them how to speedily and safely get down from a height such as two story bedroom window like at their homes.
Once or twice I thought they were going to tell me to stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine however it is exhilarating do it and look back at just what you accomplished. On the other hand, Mom surprised me by helping. She might be so country that it hurts sometimes, but never ever slow. I think she understood at least in part of what I was trying to do. With her own history of abuse, pushed by my recent experience with Chris Sawyer, she gave her approval by pushing my friends along.
Of course where she and I was, little brother Darryl wasn’t far behind. Soon he was doing vaults and tumbles too. It was just like when he tried to copy me as I worked on assimilating all the martial arts downloads Hap gave me. He kept it up and was pretty darn good for a first grader. Darryl used to bug me, asking what kind of belt he had. I laughed and stole Pat Morita’s line, “JC Penny!” That used to make him so upset, but now it was our private joke.
Besides I told him if ever found out he use it to bully others, I would spank him so hard he wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week. I suppose that was another reason why I stressed the philosophy so much. I was well aware of how it could be misused. Plus Mom was there too keeping both of us on the straight and narrow.
What does all of that mean? Well I got a lot less sleep with all the working out, and was dateless for tonight.
Determined not to mope, I told them, “Hey you two. It’s really alright. This is a perfect time for me to take Adam and Darryl out. Can’t neglect my brothers can I?”
They laughed. Adam made it no secret at all that he wanted to see Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed breaking the law. However little brother Darryl wanted to see Jedi Knights. While both Smokey and Star Wars were both PG, Mom was the tie breaker. The violence was one thing, but the profanity was another. Adam was going to have to wait to get his Trans-Am fix.
Personally, I thought this universe’s version of Pontiac’s car was hideous. But you know boys! Somehow once they begin talking about cubic this and displacement that, they lose their minds! It either looks good or it doesn’t. Like a certain Vida Boheme once said, “Style or Substance?”
I gave my friends a hug before they climbed in Vonda’s Lincoln land barge. “Have fun.”
Hal grinned, “May the Force be with you!”
Holding up my hand with my ring and middle fingers parted, I replied, “Live long and prosper. See ya‘ll tomorrow.”
It was going to be a long day. We all had to be up early. Saturdays were busy days for us with folks from Columbia cruising around looking for fresh produce.
He rolled his eyes, “You know Vonda is going to call you as soon as we get back tonight.”
Laughing, she smacked his shoulder.
I knew my face must’ve looked as wistful as Vonda’s as they left for St. Michael’s. Damn, but didn’t I have to figure some way for us to get that kiss!
“Mom!,” I called going inside. “Is it cool I take the boys to Star Wars, liked we talked about, tonight? Ricky had something come up. His Uncle has him working late.”
She smiled shaking her finger at me. Mom wasn’t anyone’s fool. She knew I deliberately was making opportunities for her and Dad to have ‘together’ time. “Sure you can dear. Why don’t you go and get cleared up? I’ll hunt ‘em down and hose them off.”
Giggling, that was only half in jest. Depending how filthy they were because of whatever mischief they’d gotten into, she just might! “Sure Mom!”
For me it was pretty fast considering I jumped in and out of the shower. I just wanted to be clean. My hair always takes me the longest, but Mom helped dry and braid it again as the boys bathed. With hers also being long, it was something we helped each other with. It’d become one of those mother and daughter bonding things.
The dark red highlights from our trip to my Aunt’s had lightened to a medium red from all the time outdoors working. I think Mom really liked the way it looked, but I kinda liked the darker look. She’d even been making noises about making another appointment for us to get pampered.
My Mom caring this much about her appearance? She even wore a bit more makeup than she used to, with me dating now. Giving me a hug, she said, “We old ladies have to keep up with you young things somehow.”
Hugging her back, I replied, “Lady, yes, but never old!” Besides I knew she wanted to look nice for Dad. Tonight I wasn’t wearing much war paint anyways. Just a little lipstick and a touch of eye shadow, since this was only my brothers and me this evening.
I squarely blame my life in the previous universe for my girliness. There, I was hampered in truly being me, but here was a different story. As much as I truly loved being near superhuman, expressing, reveling in, my femininity made me even happier. So yes, I wore makeup, dresses, and heels, and cherished every moment. While I wasn’t going all glam, my jeans, blouse, and hair, my outfit didn’t leave any doubt I was a young woman.
The contrast was night and day with my brothers with their short cut hair dripping wet pulling on T-shirts, and me. I might be dressed casual, but had obviously taken care with my appearance unlike them.
Mom while trying to get Darryl’s hair combed stuck a ten spot in my purse. Oh yes, glory be the days when 10$ would get three into the movies with even some left over.
Waving of byes later, we were on our way. Instead of Peachburg, which was close to St. Michael’s, school, and where my friends lived, it was closer from where we lived, to head into Columbia, the big city. We made it to the theater with time to spare.
Elton John’s Crocodile Rock played on the radio as we pulled laughing into the parking lot. Although Adam grumbled a bit, because he would much rather be listening to John Denver, my brother and his country music!
Getting our tickets and letting Adam and Darryl spoil themselves with snacks I saw the looks I got. The boys doing the ogling were from the local high school because I recognized them. Back in that old life, my brothers and I had to drop out of the private school and go the public route because money got tight.
So I was in the position of knowing them, but they didn’t know me. I was guessing at least half the reason for their attention was because I was a new face. Off hand, it looked as if Career Day hadn’t changed this bunch’s juvenile behavior.
The leader was a spoiled brat by the name of Ron Jeffcoat. Every time he got in trouble his father bailed him out. The last I’d heard of him, Ron had finally found something his father couldn’t or wouldn’t ‘fix.’ My best guess was drugs, but it could’ve been something worse.
In the here and now, as long as he left us alone, I was cool. Admittedly, I was still paranoid from my experience with Chris. I still had my secret weapon in my purse. However, the theater lobby was busy enough we were left alone.
Making myself comfortable, I smiled as Darryl grasped when the monstrous star destroyer followed the title crawl. It kept coming and coming. Happily sighing, I enjoyed his wonder at seeing this for the first time.
Two hours later, we clapped as John William’s soaring theme signaled the ending. Even Adam liked it, although I suspected once was enough for him. On the other hand, Darryl looked as if, like me, once simply wasn’t going to be enough. Nice to know that some things did repeat themselves even in this other universe.
Chris snubbed out his Marlboro in disgust. Peachburg was just too damn close to St. Michael’s. He couldn’t even go to the movies without the finger pointing and whispers. The rumors had him from running into walls to that freak beating him up. At least Glenn and Mike kept their mouths shut. They after all knew he wouldn’t put up with their lip.
For that matter he had to get into any number of other faces too, but there were limits. With the word spread so far, he couldn’t stop everyone from flapping their lips. Leaning on old ladies would be a very bad idea with all four of St. Michael’s’ cops really watching him now.
Maybe three of them needed to have their Barney Fife-like one bullet in their pocket, but Sheriff Griffin wasn’t anybody’s fool. He’d explained what Chris already knew. As a minor, the disturbing the peace charge wouldn’t hurt his chances when the college football scouts came looking in a few years. However, getting caught at assault and battery was an entirely different ballgame.
Sternly, the Sheriff told him if he was angry to save it for football games. Letting it out in St. Michael’s was a surefire way of staying in the boondocks for the rest of his life. Fate had given him the talent and ability to make something of himself, don’t blow it.
Shaking his head, Chris dug out his wallet to purchase a ticket. He hadn’t known what to do when the Sheriff asked if there was anything he wanted to talk about. He’d gotten the feeling it was about his Dad’s ideas about discipline. Even if it was, he kept his mouth shut. What could the Sheriff do anyways? Besides Chris was the stronger now. Very soon in the future there would be no more so called spankings. They were only that if you wanted to call being whipped with a leather belt by a grunting 250 pound redneck such.
“One for Smokey and the Bandit,” he said stepping up to the window.
Taking his ticket, Chris saw the baby blue Studebaker sitting out there in the parking lot. ‘Oh hell, no!’ He thought. It couldn’t be. He’d rode nearly 50 miles just to stay away from that freak and the trouble she’d caused him.
He seriously thought about walking out, but he already had his ticket. Nothing to be done about it now. More than likely she and her weirdo friends would be watching that Star Wars crap again. Not him, screw that long ago in a galaxy far away crap. Some good old fashion speeding, beer and law breaking were just what he needed right now. Disrespect for authority, hell yes! Determined to enjoy his Friday evening, he took a deep breath, going inside the cool air conditioned theater.
Laughing little brother and us went out into the still hot southern summer evening. Happy or not I hadn’t lost situational awareness. Ron and his goon squad were following us.
What made me do a double take was Chris Sawyer sitting on his motorcycle. This was a long ways from his usual hangouts. He must’ve come out just before us because he was just now lighting up a cancer stick. He’d noticed me, but didn’t look as if he wanted to start anything. However he was watching Ron just like I was.
I wasn’t too concerned because we should make it across the heat shimmering parking lot to Da’ Car before they could reach us.
Then as one they began running. I thought about throwing Adam the keys, so he and Darryl could make a run for it, but I really doubted they would abandon me. Adam was too hard headed to obey me, and Darryl was as loyal as his backwoods blood could make a soul. Nothing for it, but to stick together and hope for the best.
In nothing flat, they raced ahead cutting us off. Swaggering Ron got in my face. “Hey sweet thing why don’t we go somewhere and get it on?” Then to my brothers he demanded, “You two get lost.”
My hand holding my purse grasped my hidden equalizer, the baton. “Why don’t you get out of my face Ron Jeffcoat. Then using my eidetic memory I named each of his goons. “I know you too, Tommy Browning, and Jeff Conroy.”
Then I turned back to him. “You’ve been told no. Now leave.”
Chris shook his head watching the freak and her brothers attracting trouble like flies to road kill. Personally he wasn’t impressed with the three dummies. Sure they were big, but he’d labeled the leader as a rich kid used to getting his way. Someone who played at being tough, but lacked real grit. The other two were only hangers-on riding on the rich boy’s coattails.
At first he almost missed it, but he caught her slipping out that rod or whatever it was out from underneath her purse. Glenn and Mike claimed it five feet long and looked liked a sword. He guessed she had a car antenna, maybe with something added to it to give some extra heft. That could be real nasty.
Clueless there didn’t see a thing. She was very good. If he hadn’t been watching for it, he’d never seen it. Then again Chris was expecting it. Like he thought, she was no one’s prey. She might be a freak and so small you wouldn’t think twice, but she was one of the strong.
Sitting there, he wondered how far this would go. Hell, this was more entertaining than the movie!
Ron’s two goons, knowing I could identify them, hesitated. Somehow I knew he wasn’t going to cave so easily. He didn’t.
Well on his way to six feet tall, Ron towered over me. He picked up my braid from my shoulder. “Who’s going to make me? You?”
I smiled as I prepared to ram my homemade security baton into his solar-plexus.
“If I were you, I would step away real slow before something very bad happens, asshole,” Adam said calmly.
At 14 younger brother was four inches taller than me. He still lacked Ron’s height, but Adam was built like a fire plug from all the hard farm work. He got their attention like I didn’t.
“So you’re going stop me and your sister from having a little fun?” Ron growled, but I notice he didn’t move a muscle.
Adam guffawed. “Me? Hell no! I’m not into that kind of stuff.”
Then he nodded at Darryl the first grader, who was standing just as he’d been taught, nice and loose, but focused.
“He is. Darryl how long have you been doing martial arts?” Adam asked.
Littlest brother answered, “Four years.”
Then smiling evilly Adam said, “What kind of belt you got and what are you going to do these guys?”
Darryl grinned. “JC Penny! First I’ll kick him in the knee,” little brother said pointing to Tommy. “Then I’ll punch the other one in the privates. When they’re both down, I’ll kick the one holding Lee behind his knee. After he falls, I’ll jump on his gut a few times to buy us time to get to the car.”
Ron stared at Darryl, but I know he didn’t see any fear. Little brother liked being bounced around. Then he’ll hop up and go charging in for more. Maybe being a little crazy does run in the family.
Little brother sighed looking disappointed, “But I won’t get a chance to do any of that.”
Adam not moving his eyes from Ron’s asked, “Well, why not?”
“Because Lee will have all three of them down before I can even do anything,” the eight year old complained looking up at the teenager that was double his size. He scolded Adam, “You know that.”
Younger brother walked up next to me and Ron. “You decided to pick on the wrong family. She’s got autographed books by Bruce Lee and he’s helping her write her own on how to deal with people just like you.” Adam stood at my shoulder silently declaring his intentions.
Chris spat. As much as he wanted to see just what the freak could do, Richie Rich shouldn’t be messing with the little kid. That was different. He was still deciding how much his dad had beat into him about the strong and weak was BS. Some might call him a bully, but high schoolers beating up second graders punched his buttons. Maybe it had something to do with the way his Dad treated him. Chris did know he couldn’t stand by and let it happen, damn it to hell.
He could see Richie Rich there was between a rock and a hard place. The asshole couldn’t back down without losing the respect of his cronies. On the other hand he really didn’t want to fight either. Chris wasn’t sure what they’d demanded of the freak, but he had a few guesses.
Kicking his bike to life, he gunned the throttle. Sure, he pushed other kids around, but that was to make certain they knew their place in the pecking order. Never ever did he had to push a girl into having sex. Even as a sophomore, he was one of the stars of the football team. Hell, they came to him.
One of the dopes was looking none too sure about this, but the other was going to stick it out to the end. Everyone else in the parking lot was doing their best to ignore what was happening. This time in the afternoon, it was mostly the crowd from the local high school who probably knew these losers.
Knowing he was going to hate himself in the morning, Chris jammed his cigarette between his teeth. Gunning his throttle again he roared over to them.
He was unsurprised when the freak’s head didn’t even twitch. Her head and eyes stayed locked on Richie Rich’s. She’d known all along exactly where everyone was. Her brother standing next to her cut his eyes over for an instant, but stayed focused. Hell, even the little kid stayed calm.
The three bullies were another story. Ole Richie was startled, and Mr. Hesitating and Unsure was ready to call it for the day. That left the last, not so smart, but loyal dummy wondering what to do.
Chris took a deep drag on his cigarette and tossed it away leaving a trail of sparks. “Lee, you saw Star Wars again? What is it with you and that movie? It was weird enough when you and Vonda came to school with your hair in those honey buns.”
The freak’s eyes still didn’t move. “My brothers hadn’t seen it yet, but yeah, I can’t seem to get tired of watching it. Hey it was the last day of school, and made a great prank. You here to see Smokey and the Bandit?”
Rich kid was getting itchy, as one of his followers started backing out. ‘Good,’ thought Chris. It was too damn hot to fight out here anyways. “Yeah, it must’ve let out a little before your show. It was pretty good.”
He got off his bike letting them see he was just as big as they were. “These fella’s giving you some problems?”
She replied, “Trouble? I don’t so. No one wants any of that do they Ron?” The freak said taking her hair back.
Ron looked at her one last time before deciding he didn’t like the odds. He then stepped back. Trying to look cool he turned and swaggered away. Chris heard him making up shit trying to save his tough guy reputation.
She turned to him curious. “Thank you, Chris. I really didn’t want to drag my brothers into that.”
Sparing them a glance, he saw they were still ready to fight. Both knew he was no friend to their sister. Nothing off of his back. His business was with her. “No thanks necessary. We’re even now.”
With that he got back on his bike. It was time to get back to his own stomping grounds. He had more thinking to do.
I watched Chris leave. He was the last person in the world I expected to ride to my rescue. Maybe he felt he owed me for keeping my mouth shut. Whatever it was, he considered us quits.
Turning, I watched the other bullies walk away. Part of me wanted to go and kick Ron’s ass on general principle. If he’d tried this on me, how many other girls had he raped? I half-seriously contemplate doing it anyways despite the attention it would cause. However, I did have my brothers to consider.
Then I smiled. I had something better. I had knowledge, fore knowledge. It was an act of willpower not to rub my hands together in glee. The State Attorney General and several others would be getting letters. With luck at least one would take allegations that Mr. Jeffcoat of the DA’s office was abusing his position to protect his son. If not there was always the press.
Opening the doors of the Da’ Car, we waited for the inferno inside to cool before daring to get in. “Adam, hey thanks.”
Younger brother gingerly slipped in wincing at the hot seats. “Lee there’s lots I just don’t get, but I know when something works. Mom doing all that girlie stuff with you makes her happy. Because she’s happy, Dad’s happy. Because they’re happy, we get to go to the movies and do a lot more other stuff. You spend more time with Darryl which make him happy. That makes me happy because I don’t have to watch him and get to do my own thing. We’re all happy. I’ll never understand you, but I ain’t no fool. As long as our kooky family is happy, no one, and I mean no one gets to screw it up. That means anyone who messes with you is messing with me.” He crossed his arms after having his say.
Damn if I didn’t want to hug him so hard his ears would pop, but I didn’t. Younger brother had come a long way from when I’d first walked off that Career Day bus. Perhaps he’d come even further from the man he’d grown up to be in another time and place. That proud to be a Red-Neck wouldn’t have bent enough to put his prejudices aside to say what he just did.
Instead, I gave him my biggest smile. “Thank you again, Adam. How about instead of burgers, we go to Duff's Smorgasbord? My treat.”
Both brothers sat up like a pair of hounds that just caught a scent. Nothing like an all you can eat buffet to catch these two’s attention.
Laughing, I let him at the radio. He couldn’t find any Denver songs, but soon we were listening to Glenn Campbell’s ‘Southern Nights.’ Carefully touching the hot steering wheel, I joyfully let the marginally cooler air flow over me singing along, “Southern Nights …”
Jeff Conroy watched the pristine Studebaker turn onto the main drag. Shaking his head, he looked over at Ron who was still talking trash to Johnny. It was just as well that big guy on the motorcycle had intervened. The whole thing was a bad idea from the very beginning.
The minute Ron saw her standing in line, he started running his mouth. She was really a looker even if she wasn’t a blond like he preferred. None of them had seen her around here before. That’s when Ron began saying he bet he could get her to give them all some nookie.
If they didn’t know her, then she didn’t know them. Who was she going to complain about? Besides even she did somehow identify them his old man would get them off. She was just a skirt after all. Her two brothers were younger, and what could they do against the three of them, all high school juniors?
Jeff didn’t think it was a good idea at all. He was thinking they could do plenty. The older boy was two or three years younger than them, but he looked pretty solid. Ron might be a city boy, but Jeff wasn’t. He knew how families from the backwoods could nurse and keep vendettas.
When he said something about that, Ron sneered that she would give it up even quicker if they threatened her brothers.
He sighed watching the sky blue car disappear into traffic. Why the hell did he ever listen to Ron any damn way? Sure he’d gotten away with a shitload of crap, but it wasn’t because he was cool, or tough. It was only because his daddy worked in the DA’s office.
Jeff’s Dad warned him time and again hanging out with Ron was bad news. He was beginning to see the truth of that. Look at what it’d cost him.
If Ron hadn’t shot off his mouth, Jeff might have had a chance of talking with her maybe even getting a date. If even part of what her brother’s were saying was true then she knew Bruce Lee! Plus she was writing a book? Hell, some of the kids in his class couldn’t even read.
Then there was how she’d faced down Ron. When he’d grab her hair, all she’d done was smile. There was no fear in those green eyes. She was different from any girl, he’d ever met before.
“Hey Jeff, come on!,” yelled Ron. “We’re going to use my special ID to buy some beer.”
Jeff closed his eyes knowing he meant the false one he carried. That’s it. He’d about enough of Ron. “I’m going to split. Got things to do.”
Ron shot him an unfriendly glare, but just waved dismissively.
Jeff didn’t miss the unheard snide comment that got a laugh from Johnny. It was probably something malicious about him. No, Ron wasn’t his friend. He was definitely tired of this crap.
Walking towards his own car, he found himself looking out where that Studebaker had disappeared. She just had something about her. Jeff had the feeling he’d be hearing about her again. What had her brother called her, Lee? No matter that was one face he was going to remember. Maybe it’ll be in a movie or on the cover of a book. Who knows, maybe he‘ll one day get the chance to apologize for being a stupid jerk.
Alone, he drove away lost in his thoughts wondering about could’ve been.
“Lee, I need your help.”
A few weeks had passed since I took my brothers to the movies. Shaking my head free of the dreams, I sleepily looked at my clock, 2:30.
“Lee,” the voice asked again.
Hap? I reached into the secret cubby hole where I’d hidden the small pinecone shaped gadget. The Alien AI gave the device to me so I could help my Mom. According to her, it was like her creators version of a first aid kit.
Smoky, my cat, meowed softly at having her rest disturbed. She curled up on my pillow as I sat up.
The metallic greenish spindle-like shape reminded me of a closed pinecone with its organic scaled pattern. I was kinda scared of the thing, but that didn’t keep me from using it. Mom’s transformation took care of her tobacco addiction, but not the habit. I used the thing to make the ‘taste’ of her cigarettes bitter a little at a time. More than a few times, I’d helped my family with semi-major injuries that are part of farm life. Of course they didn’t know it was me. You know the drill. “Hey that cut isn’t as bad as I thought after it was cleaned.”
Remembering a SF story, however, I made damn sure it hurt like nobody’s business. It would not do for anyone to get careless. Like I said farm life could be a tad dangerous.
I concentrated sub-vocalizing. “I’m here Hap.”
“Something bad is getting ready to happen. I need your help,” she said.
I was still blinking away trying to wake up. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day, and I’d stayed up later than I should’ve talking with Vonda on the phone.
“Hap, I have to get up in about three hours, can this wait? Besides what possibly can I do that you can’t?” I said letting my legs dangle off my high loft bed rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
“I can only operate though immobile machines Lee. I don’t have arms and legs despite all I can do. You should be able to do this and get back home without anyone knowing.” She said in my mind.
“Okay Hap. What do you need?” I surrendered. There was simply too much I owed to blow her off.
“As you know since your ‘incident’ I’ve been much more careful about using my override to protect those who are in danger of abuse by med-scanner operators. Your own experiences showed me, that I’d caused the death of at least one innocent because my efforts backfired scaring your authorities into over reacting. For the most part, doing nothing has been wisest.”
“However, several units are in the hands of other governments now. In their efforts to circumvent my operating protocols they are endangering and threatening lives. This is causing a serious conflict with my programming and my innate purpose of healing. I want you to rescue these hostages and render that unit unusable.” She explained.
I had no idea if she could see my incredulous expression. “You’re kidding. Hap, I know I have 50 years plus of life experiences, but I’m not a secret agent or a combat solider. Right now I’m a teenage girl who’s only had her sweet sixteen birthday party a few months ago.”
“Lee, there is no one else. You’re the only one to ever get close enough to the interface sequence so I could fudge the rest. I sincerely hope conflict will not be necessary. In the event they do, you are well able to protect yourself. Not only are you supremely fit, but you also have the ‘downloads’ of several of your species’ most effective combatants. More, you’ve worked at integrating that knowledge into your muscle memory.
“My companions estimate that you have better than a 99.9 percent chance of success. Your arrival will be unexpected and you will have the advantage of surprise,” Hap paused. “Please?”
I sighed. There was no way I could in good conscience turn her down. I owed her not only my happiness but that of my Mom too. Besides, she was my friend and confidant. “Okay Hap, I’ll do it. I hope you have some means of rapid transportation. I think I left my invisible supersonic jet in my other pair of jeans.”
A flash of light disoriented me causing me stumble forward to keep from falling. Where in the hell was I? Looking around, I most certainly wasn’t in my bedroom.
“You’re in the secure storage area known as Hanger 51,” Hap answered.
“I thought you couldn’t do anything like this?” I said referring to the teleportation, and wondering what I’d let myself in for.
“I can’t. My companions decided to step in and assist given the circumstances,” She explained. “Even then this is not easy. Going from med-scanner to med-scanner isn’t too hard, but beaming you in from outside that system is.”
Okay let me see. “I need to know where I will arrive and where the hostages are kept. Any information about who, what and where about the guards would also be nice. I’m assuming this is some kind of military facility so type and location of security systems would help too.”
I did a little shuffle since the floor was ice cold. Hmmm…, have to do something about that too. Being barefoot and in my jammies weren’t fashionable or fit garments for hostage rescuing, which bought another point.
“Hap, I’ll need some kind of disguise too. The odds are against anyone ever recognizing me, but why take chances. Are these bad guys aware of your extraterrestrial origins?”
A hologram of planet Earth popped up in front of me. The focus narrowed down to a spot in the Soviet Union, Sverdlovsk. Oh joy.
It circled revealing, what looked to be from the outside, a fenced apartment complex. However as the zoom continued, that illusion was busted by the guards and checkpoints.
Then a red circle blinked with the under script identifying it as the Med-scanner. A dashed path led from there to an adjacent area, where three more amber circles this time appeared. Hostages it read. I noticed the two areas were separated by more than enough distance to get it outside of the scanner’s extended field.
More symbols appeared. TV cameras, door switches and alarms as well as another checkpoint neatly labeled. I of course recognized the graphics. Admittedly I wasn’t pulling an Obi Wan going to shut down the tractor beam generator, but I was relativity certain none of the hostages was a princess. The Soviets were brutal to Romanovs and the few survivors stayed the hell away from the USSR.
“Yes Lee,” Hap confirmed. “They tried to open the casing. It didn’t take them long to guess that your nation most certainly did not invent the med-scanner. As for equipment, my companions should be able to create just about anything you want.”
I felt like a little girl with a charge card in the toy aisle. However I had to think about this. This was the Soviet Union for Gawd’s Sake, and they had a machine stolen from the US. The last thing I want was to make to make the Cold War hotter between the two superpowers.
The Yom Kippur War of ’73 happened right on schedule. The end results were about the same as last time with an exception. OPEC jacked up gas prices and it got tense as US backed Israel and the Soviet clients got into it. Things nearly got as bad as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The US with its victory of the South East Asia Affair as it was called here wasn’t willing to back down. Neither were the Soviets and so the Cold War warmed up. Things had cooled off some in the aftermath, but still things weren’t good as they felt threatened by the US’s tech advantage and tried to catch up.
Alright, I needed a disguise as an alien, but human enough for me to function. Plus all the gear I carried couldn’t look at all familiar. I found myself playing with my braid as I thought. That gave me an idea. Hmmm… James Cameron’s Avatar was still many years in the future if ever.
Going as a Na'vi was tempting, but unless I made myself into a miniature version, it wasn’t practical. But it did remind of another movie that also had a hair braid as a tail, Zemeckis’s Beowulf. Angelina’s character of Grendel’s Mother was this golden skin demoness with her long braid changing to a serpent like tail as well as her having these stiletto heel-like claws.
Let’s think about this. I’m very slender so adding a layer of golden like material to bulk me up shouldn’t hurt my mobility. Better if the stuff was protective. The heels would help blur how short I was, and wouldn‘t slow me given all the dance practice I’ve been getting using Vonda’s borrowed shoes.
The braid-tail could have all kinds of useful functions. A small camera to let me see around corner as well a tazer so I can take out that checkpoint without permanent injuring anyone. Perhaps an interface too to bypass electronic locks and other electrical doodads. Hell, if I’m going to do that might as well add a regular lock-picking gun function to the mix too.
Hap said, “We can do all that plus another couple useful capabilities.”
“You could’ve at least waited till I asked for them,” I complained. “Alright, we’ve three hostages. Are they able to walk? How about speaking English? The handful of Russian words I know isn’t going to convince anyone to come with me.
“Do you have someplace safe for these folks afterwards? No doubt they’re in bad shape, at the very minimum, mentally and perhaps physically too. And don’t look at me please! I don’t have any place for them to stay. Since the Soviets haven’t been able to break into a one of these things how am I suppose to disable it? Can’t you just tell it to turn itself off?”
Hap’s voice laughed, “Don’t worry, dear one, we have a plan for them. You get them out, they’re be safe. As for the med-scanner, we will use the cyber-interface in your braid tail. It’ll ’virus’ the scanner causing it to go inert.” She paused, “I could do that, Lee, but that would clue them in that the med-scanners are a part of a network instead of each being a stand along machine. I’m not ready for that to be revealed yet.”
“Once you reach the hostages you’ll have to get them back to the med-scanner. Think of it like a transporter pad from Star Trek. In this instance they will have to each enter the area of the machine‘s field. After they’re safely ’energized’ you can virus the scanner and we will ‘beam’ you out.
Your kernel will be your interface device. Now Lee we need you to walk to the group of large crates directly in front of you.” Hap directed.
Looking up at the dome ceiling above me, the lights gave this place a really eerie feel. It took me a second to find those crates of Hap’s. The place was filled with them as well other oddly shaped tarp covered objectives. .
Walking carefully barefooted across the cold concrete floor I said, “If anyone is hurrying on their way here I hope you know I’m leaving a trail of forensic data behind me. Things like babies’ footprints are kept on record.”
“Don’t worry,Lee. We’ll take care of that after we upgrade your kernel,” Hap reassured me. “Now set it on top of the one to your right. There will be a flash of light, so shield your eyes.”
I took my ‘pinecone’ and set it on top of the crate like Hap asked. Covering my eyes, the expected flash was followed by a dimming of the lights. Oh great, they were drawing on the building’s power supply. Someone will definitely be checking this out.
Peering at it, I couldn’t see any changes. It was the same small metal unopened pinecone it’ll always been.
“Lee, place the wide end of the base of the kernel against the back of your neck right under your braid.” Hap told me, “You should hurry. Visitors are coming.”
All kinds of unpleasant images rushed though my brain. Taking a deep breath, I placed it as she asked. I resisted a shiver remembering the interface ‘spike’ in Matrix.
“Lee, this might be disorienting,” Hap warned just a little too late.
Gold goo spurted from my ‘pinecone’ running all over my hands and shoulders! Oily-like, I couldn’t wipe it off and trying only spread it. More of it jetted forth covering me. Slipping, I fell as it enveloped my face. Gagging, it ran into my nose and mouth!
“Breathe, Lee, breathe!” Hap commanded.
Shaking from shock, I took an experimental breath. I was alive!
Looking down at myself, my jammies were gone. Literally skin tight fine golden scales covered me. Staring at my hands, my nails were silver and gleamed like polished steel. Feeling my face, it was as if I wasn’t wearing anything. Moving to my breasts, my nipples and privates were covered but there were no loss of sensation. Talk about feeling naughty!
I had to grin at the thought of Ricky, Hal and Vonda seeing me now.
Examination of my feet revealed those claws that served as stiletto heels. Unlike the movie, I could actually flex them. It was just like moving my toes, and was actually similar to the rear talon perching birds had. I stood without too much of a problem. A few trial steps made me glad of the practice Vonda and I’d done in heels during our sleepovers. Hey, being so short I was partial to anything that gave me a little height!
A sound of grating metal and voices alerted me I was out of time. “Hap, now would be a good time,” I whispered, concerned.
“Standby, energizing,” she announced as the lights flashed again.
When I opened my eyes I was somewhere else. In front of my vision hovered the map of this facility. I was in the center of the first circle, med-scanner. I was now wearing some kind of visor. Touching it uncertainly, I was still wondering what I’d gotten myself into.
“That’s protective shielding for your eyes. Additionally it further hides your identity as well as many other useful functions.” a voice said. It didn’t sound like Hap.
“You’re not Hap.” I told it, looking around me.
For the first time I saw what a Med-scanner really looked like. If an oak tree that could grow giant silver metallic acorns that was it. It had a circumference of approximately three feet in diameter. Attached to it was all kinds of equipment including a circle made of thick, heavy duty electrical cables.
“No, I’m not. That entity is not solely dedicated to keeping you alive, I am,” it answered.
I found the door, and quickly padded over to it. Instead of a clicky-tap from my ‘heels’ there was only a soundless spongy feel from my ‘golden slippers.’ The talon heel flexed like it was alive giving an unexpected spring to my step.
The ventilation and airlock-like door labeled this as a clean room, an armored clean room. Checking out the area I saw that the entire area of the Med-scanners’ field was included. They’d probably found out the hard way just how large it was. It all made sense considering they were trying to disassemble alien technology, and knew of Hap’s safeties and primary overrides.
“So I take it that I’m wearing some kind of bio-armor?” I asked examining the door.
“In the simplest terms, yes. Bio-nano-armor might be closer, but you lack the background understand a more exact description,” the voice explained.
I said, “I love you too. How about helping me with the door. Undoubtedly, it’ll set off some alarm if we force it. Can you suggest a subtle alternative?”
“Certainly. Direct your cyber-tail to the lock,” it said.
“And how do I do that?” I said trying to see if I’d set off any alarms yet.
“You’re right handed, so hold out your right forefinger,” it directed.
Alrighty! Doing so had my braid wrapped tail’s tip hovering alongside my hand. Cool!
Unlike most the rest of me, it was silver like my nails. I made to touch the lock with my finger and my tail obeyed me. Small motions of my hand resulted in larger movements in the tail. Upon touching the lock a list of options popped up beside the map diagram. As I focused on each command it highlighted. Scrolling down I found ‘Disable alarms and unlock door.”
The tail’s tip split and fine tendrils shot into the frame. An eye blink later it flashed a green ‘done’ and the door opened. A second later I repeated the procedure on the outer door. I hoped with the alarms out it didn’t matter if I left both doors open. I just might need to make a very quick exit.
The map showed a long corridor leading to the checkpoint where the hostages were. Using the finger trick again, I stuck the end of my tail around the corner. Options popped up again, and I picked picture. A video of the passage appeared next to the map.
The glassed in checkpoint looked to have a pair of guards and was probably armored. The only way into the detention area was another double-door airlock arrangement. The door to the checkpoint was also in there. No way to even get to the entrance without being seen. Just wonderful. Just over thirty feet to cover in the open, even more good news.
“You have five millimeters of foamed, gold, nano-forged chitin. You are practically immune to small arms. Your heel spurs are more than capable of punching though that glass. This is not anywhere near a true test of your capabilities.” The voice, that wasn’t Hap, chided me.
I laid my head against the wall. “I might be older than I seem, but I’m still in a lot of ways only sixteen, okay? I’ve only just started dating, thank you very much! Now you want me to go running down a hallway with two guys at the end armed with AK’s? Well, excuse me, if I’m in no hurry to test how bulletproof I am.
“I would really like to get though this without hurting anyone, them or me! Besides, if this goes bad and bullets start flying, while I might be okay,t those hostages probably aren’t bulletproof. Stealth is the key.” I argued.
Then it was taken out of my hands. Coming from the other side of the hallway behind, three scientist types in white coats stared first at the opened clean room airlock and then at me. Oh Crap!
Like a shot I leaped after them. Not slow, they dropped their clipboards and ran like hell itself was on their heels.
Targeting reticules appeared on all three. I sighed, as I ran them down. This on-the-job-training in bio-suit operations was getting real old. I may not have experience in this type of mission, but my Army MOS in military intelligence involved me in the planning. You gathered every scrap of information you could find and planned the best you could for the unexpected. Then you practiced as closely as you could to what you expected to run into until you could do it blindfolded. You did not go in cold with equipment you’ve never used before.
Focusing on the furthest scientist running for his life, I commanded, “Taze!”
My tail whipped over my shoulder at him as I slide tackled the closest. Jeet Kune Do stressed using whatever worked and this let me keep my hands free. The polished floor was perfect for this, letting me trip up the third runner as well.
While the first did the tazer jerk, I targeted the other one and stunned them all before they could recover. That took a little longer than I liked since that function had a recharge time. It was only a second or three, but I could really do with it being faster. “Are they alright? They don’t look any too healthy.” I said hoping none of them had bad hearts because of too much vodka.
My heckler replied, “Affirmative on that unhealthy part, but they took no lasting harm from the shocks. However I think our options have shrunk,” It added as the alarm blared.
Not wasting time with curses, I threw myself to my feet running flat out for the corner. Not bothering to slow I used a Parkour maneuver to bounce off the wall splinting full speed down the hallway. At the first muzzle flash, I ran up the wall like from the Matrix, but I kicked off hard for the opposite side. Landing in a sliding roll, I flexed my tail aiming for the door’s locks.
“Bust the lock and drag me under their guns!” I silently screamed as bullets tore up the hallway.
Like a striking snake, my braid-tail struck the outer door, burying its tip into the lock. I grabbed my outstretched tail with one hand, leaving my free hand to guide and keep me under the guns, as I bounced off the wall, under the armored glass, before slamming into that hallway door.
I smashed it open, and tumbled into the small passage. It had doors going to the guard room and into the detention area. Gas hissed from vents in the ceiling as the two guards inside the security post reacted to this new development.
My rider warned, “Breath though your nose. I’ll filter it.”
“Get the lock!” I pointed scrambling against the door before they started shooting again though the gun ports.
Somehow I could still hear despite the thunderous roar of the AK’s. The deadbolt lock shrieked as my tail yanked it clean out of the door. Throwing myself against it, the door crashed into one Russkie while I commanded, “Taze!” at the other targeted guard.
“You’re the one that should be doing all of this,” my peanut gallery spectator commented. “Taze him, open this, pull this other, I’m not suppose to do all of this for you,” it complained.
Letting myself spin, I roundhouse kicked the guard that’d gotten hit with the door. I pointed with my right forefinger again. My cyber tail immediately came to attention. Running down the ‘menu’ I selected ’tazer.’ With a flick of my hand, the cyber limb tagged the hapless Russkie as he clumsily groped for his AK.
“Like that,” I asked?
Turning, I studied the booth, surprised I could read the Cyrillic. “Since when can I read Russian?”
Dryly, I was answered, “Since you complained you couldn’t speak the language. Hap downloaded it into you when we ‘energized’ as you so quaintly put it.”
I hit the switches to open the doors in the detention cells. Dancing pass the broken glass and bodies, I entered hoping to get the hostages moving.
The place was built like it suppose to house serious bad asses, a not unreasonable concern given Hap’s capabilities to enhance. Coming to the first door, I wasn’t able to help myself. “Come with me if you want to live.”
Anything else died on my lips. The woman inside was so pale she could’ve been a vampire with her nearly snow white hair. Unlike the silver gray of age, her long locks glowed and shined with life. Looking up at me, her lips were naturally colored a dark red. However, it was her vivid blue eyes that told the truth about her situation.
Pain and numb torment filled them. Wearing only a thin hospital shift, she hugged it about herself as best she could. Cringing away from me, her every breath spoke of her abuse.
Aww Crap! Hap might not have given in, and let those SOBs torture these poor souls with inhuman transformations, but that didn’t keep them from changing them into a form where they could be taken advantage of. I think the woman in front of me was the Russian version of ultimate feminine beauty. It was too bad they didn’t respect the heart within that clay.
I knelt by her as she fanatically took in my unusual appearance. “I’m here to get you and the others out. What’s your name?”
It was a little awkward, but I think I got most the pronunciation correct. That was the problem with Hap’s ‘downloads.’ You had the knowledge but you still had to train your body to use it. In this case, my tongue and mouth to make the correct sounds.
Hesitantly she said, “I was Vasily, but now they call me Zorya Polnoca. I, I, I, was a man.” she said looking at me imploringly wanting me to believe her.
Trying to ignore the alarms still going off, I urged, “I’m Selene. I believe you, but we must hurry. Time is running out. Can you stand?”
Zorya touched me as if she couldn’t trust her eyes. Then she nodded, Wobbly getting to her feet. “Who are you,” she asked? Then seeing my cyber-tail, she said, “What are you?”
What else could I say? “A friend.”
Helping her, I saw a pair of scared faces cautiously looking at me from around behind the doorway. Both were children. Startling, each of them were the splitting image of the woman I half-held up.
They almost bolted as soon as I saw them, but stopped as Zorya called, “Zvezda, Danica, it’s okay. Come here.”
They came running to her. Despite their identical appearance they were different ages. Zorya was an adult I guessed in her mid-twenties. Danica was the youngest who was pre-puberty. Zvezda was a teen still becoming a woman, a little younger than I. All three hugged each other as if the world itself was coming to an end.
“Please, we must hurry. More guards will be coming soon. I would like to be gone before they get here.” I was feeling much less non-violent.
Zorya wiped her tears nodding.
I could see that while the other two girls were in pretty good shape, Zorya wasn’t. I sub-vocalized, “Am I stronger like this? I don’t think she is going to be able to move very fast.”
My tag along replied, “Yes for short bursts. You should be able to carry her.”
Good enough. ”Zorya, I’m going to carry you. Girls try and keep up.”
There was second of surprise as I slipped underneath her and lifted her on my shoulders.
Danica stared at my feet, I think realizing they might not be shoes as my talon spurs flexed under the weight.
I was very careful, knowing Zorya might be injured. However, if I could get her back to the med-scanner all that could be fixed. Now for the tough part.
“Hold your breath. They’ve released gas. This might be scary but we need to go to the lab. Okay let’s go!” Then I took off moving as smoothly as I could.
Using my cyber-tail cam, I saw both younger girls hesitate, but begin to follow.
I checked out the corridor the same way, so far so good. All three’s eyes got big seeing the damage to the checkpoint, but thankful we’d no additional visitors.
Zorya wasn’t too bad of a burden, but she did slow me. We made it all the way to the lab entrance before I heard the first signs of more trouble.
“Quickly, girls inside!” I said letting them go in first.
The thump of booted feet stopped at the corner as a Soviet cone-head helmet peered around it.
I shut the outer ‘airlock’ door. “Lock and jam it shut.” I ordered.
My cyber-limb wormed around Zorya to do so.
A canister bounced down the hallway spewing white smoke or gas.
Danica and Zvezda huddled just inside the second door obviously frightened of this place.
“The inner door too, if you please, the same as the first.” I ordered again. Fortunately there wasn’t any back talk from my spectator.
I softly said, “Girls, Zorya, I know bad things has happened to you in here. However it is the way out. These men truly don’t understand what they have here. They are attempting to use it for other purposes than for what it was intended. Please trust me,” I asked.
Their light blue eyes unwillingly said yes.
Cyber-tail cam showed a pair of guards wrestling with the outer door. Time was running out.
Gently I put Zorya in the med-scanner. “Hap, the first hostage is ready for transport.”
I heard her humor as she continued to make fun of my science-fandom. “Energizing.”
Both girls gaped as Zorya glowed and disappeared.
“Cosmos Patrol!” Zvezda blurted out amazed.
“Hap, can both girls go next? Things getting a little tight here,” I tried to keep calm as the frustrated guards shot the outer door to bits, using their rifle butts to clear the wreckage.
“I’m sorry but we can’t. The energy just isn’t there, I would suggest the smallest for next. That will allow levels to build back up quickest,” she said.
Damn! This was so not good.
Kneeling, I spoke to the two girls. “Zvezda can you be brave? I need to have Danica go next. But that will mean you’ll have to go and sit in the scanner as soon as Danica leaves. I won’t be able to help you.”
They both looked over my shoulder at the burly guards forcing their way to the inner door.
“I’m going to be a little busy, Okay?” I asked.
Zvezda nodded, “I’ll help Danica.” Her young face got hard. “They hurt Zorya. Hurt them back.”
I smiled as we both helped Danica up to the machine.
“Energize!” I sent.
Not waiting for her to disappear, I flowed to the door. Behind me, cyber-limb cam showed the teen cambering into position into the med-scanner. My attention was snapped back to the doors the aggravated guards gave up and tossed a grenade into the airlock.
A quick glance assured me the teen was out of direct line of sight, but still might be hurt. Okay you goons, no more nice Miss time-traveling extra-dimensional visitor for you.
I breathed a sigh of relief as she glowed just before I got thumped hard by fire, glass and thunder from the grenade exploding.
Rolling to my feet I saw the first man charging in. “Hap, how long till I can zap the ‘core’ and get out of here?”
My ride-along answered, “Hap is busy right now. Five minutes would be nice. They hurried things getting the last hostage out. Energy banks are depleted.”
Another canister came bouncing in spraying something. I thought about batting it out it, but actually it helped me. My ‘visor’ did a color shifting thing so I could see clearly in the foggy smoke.
“No hurry five minutes sounds about right.” I said. Rape was such an ugly word for a despicable act. Poor Zorya’s condition quite frankly pissed me the hell off. I’d no idea what they were trying to accomplish. Right at this moment I didn’t care.
Rider set a timer running in a corner of my vision. However, I was watching the gas-masked troops begin their first rush.
I sent my cyber-tail between their legs tazering the last man in the five man column. A short skipping boxing step had me in front of the leader. Short vicious jabs walking their way up his abdomen set him for the kickboxing knee in the face as he kneeled over. Whirling pass him as he fell, I closed with the second who tried to bring his AK to bear. My right hand hit his weapon’s magazine release while trapping his finger in the guard.
Yanking the rifle upwards, he screamed as his finger broke. The single round in the chamber discharged its roar magnified in the small area. My ears were unaffected, but I can’t say the same for the goons.
Twisting low, I danced under the legs of the third slamming him down hard into the second. Meanwhile number four had enough. Freaking out, he fired a shot that bounced off the helmet of number one, who just got up, and went right back down again.
Lithely kicking, the inside edge of my talon heel spur caught the AK’s receiver cleanly parting it in two. As he stood shocked holding the two halves of his assault rifle, I tased him.
Now aware of just how damn sharp those stiletto heels from hell of mine were, I was more careful. Didn’t want to spear anyone no matter how mad I was. Besides more than likely none of these yahoos did the deed anyways. I popped each one as my tazer charged just for good measure.
My timer read 2:35. How time flies when you’re having fun. However, now that it was over, I wasn’t feeling so good. It didn’t help that I knew why. I was usually a pretty peaceable sort. Those guys were coming in here to kill me, and then I went into there to hurt them, hurt them bad.”
“Hey,” I said weakly, “Can I upchuck without passing out from the gas?” I asked feeling very, very green.
“It would be much better if you didn’t, Lee. We‘ve done well not leaving behind any forensic evidence.” Rider replied.
I looked at the timer, 1:58. Oh joy.
Staggering over to the giant acorn, I took cover just in case they tried anything else. It didn’t seem like it, but being here also let me be in position to complete the last phase of this mission.
Two minutes of trying not to toss my cookies, seemed like a lifetime. If I dared I would’ve sighed in relief as Rider announced, “We’re ready to transport. Strike the scanner.”
That option was already selected. Tapping the acorn with my cyber-tail, I saw the metallic shape become dull and its texture seemed less sleek.
Biting my lip, I sent a simple, “Done.”
That flash of light again and I was somewhere else. I really didn’t care as I hurled, gagging and near choking. Helpless I knelt there unable to move away from my own ‘discharge.’
I looked around, tears still flowing. It took me only a second to place it. After all, I’d played in those rafters not so long ago, my family’s barn.
Finally, I shakily stood up. Distastefully, I glanced at my mess. Picking up the shovel from where it was usually kept, I scooped it up. A minute later it was safely buried. Okay that was one problem taken care of.
“Hap,” I asked. “This is over right? Can I please go back to bed now?”
“Yes Lee,” She said. “You can go now. To remove your armor, just pull your kernel free. You however might want to wait until you’re back inside since everyone is still asleep.”
“Good point Hap,” I said.
Walking back to my house, it felt a little surreal. It was still as if I wasn’t wearing anything. I could feel the morning dew and the grass under my feet, as well as the breeze. Luckily, Lady our dog had grown used to my weirdness. She gave me a sniff and went back to sleep.
Another good thing about my room being an expansion is its own outside door. I think that made Daddy a little unhappy. If he had his way, his little girl would be sleeping in the center of the house within an armored safe.
Besides sneaking back inside, my own door made keeping other things secret easier too. One of those greeted me at the door, Smoky my cat. Daddy disapproved of inside pets, and so I sneaked her in and out of my room at night. Well behaved, she never made a mess. She’d trained me well to open the door for her when she needed to go.
I glanced at the clock as I sat on my bed, almost four. Reaching behind my head under my long braid, I found the lump of my ‘pinecone.’ Remembering the unpleasantness of ‘activating’ it, I took a deep breath before pulling it out. I was still having distinctive flashbacks to the old Matrix movies and the big ‘plug’ in the back of their heads.
There was a slight click. I blinked as the stuff flowed off my face. It happen so quickly, there was none of the gagging as with it going on. In seconds, I was back in my jammies, holding my pinecone.
“Goodnight Hap,” I said lying down exhausted in so many ways I couldn’t count them all.
“Goodnight Lee and thank you. You saved those girl’s lives tonight.”
Before hiding the alien device, I had to ask, “They’ll be alright won’t they?”
Hap replied, “I have a very nice place for them with good caring people. It’ll be a few days before everything is ready for them, but they’ll be fine. Now get some sleep.”
Drowsily, I nodded, hiding my pinecone back in its nook. Heavily my eyelids closed …
“Time to get up Lee!” Squealed little brother Darryl as he bounced on my bed.
Forcing myself to focus on the clock, it read, 6:00. With a moan I ignored his laughing and pulled my pillow over my head. Oh Happy Day.
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