Act II: Old Friends United
Twelve years after their graduation and life has changed for the two butterflies since that dance and the beginning of what would eventually become their careers. They'd lost contact with each other since that time and much had happened since. The value of overcoming her self esteem issues and fears had opened new doors for Alicia and she'd gone through them by herself courageously. Heylyn too had found a great deal of success and acclaim following her dreams though her heart was heavy with loss. Time though has a way of reuniting people when they are meant to be and stay close.
Grier Torman sat in the limousine, gently twirling the contents of a whiskey glass. He watched the ice cubes spin in the glass before taking a generous sip. He wore a casual suit, albeit designer though his body and age didn't quite fit the style. In his early forties and with decidely thinning light brown hair and stress lines across his face, he wore his time alive visibly. He'd grown up raised by his father, his mother having left before he'd turned five. His father had worked driving forklift for a living and most of his time and money was spent at a local bar. Torman had quickly learned that the only person that he could rely upon was himself. When he was just eleven years old he'd joined a local gang whom at the time were involved with small crime and heists in the area he'd grown up in. It wasn't until he fifteen that he'd made a name for himself when he'd come up with a idea that had given his gang the tactical edge. A means by which they could literally take over without breaking any laws. After all, they were just buying up someone else's failed business.
His plan as he'd told it to one of the senior members of the gang, the only one with real buying power that they could acquire all the legitimate operations in the area by employing the gang to scare off the customer base. When the targeted business had been sufficiently pressured, the gang would buy it and take over. The gang would then promote the business legitimately and watch as the money rolled in. All legitimately. Then they'd just move on to the next business and so on until they controlled all of the businesses in the neighborhood. Word of the fifteen year old Torman's plan had made its way up the ladder and impressed some in the upper echelons of their organization. From that moment he'd become a protected man. By the time he was twenty one, he was running the local branch of the gang and most of the businesses in the community. That was when he'd fallen onto the radar of the real power behind many such gangs all over the world. That power had arranged for Torman to receive training with regard to investment and acquisition and by the age of twenty five Torman had earned his way into an investment and holdings company by the name of Tynan And Associates.
That was when and where the real money started rolling in and when Torman had applied his same technique to the acquisition of larger companies traded on the stock market, it worked like a charm. He'd use his many contacts, his current and former gang buddies to employ subtle sabotage of a target company until its stock value was low enough that their firm could just step in and acquire it at a reduced price of course. Torman had risen through the ranks of this company and by the time he was thirty one, he'd made it to the board of directors.
It had been a comfortable ride Torman thought. A few houses across the city and two in other parts of the world. The best food and whisky money could buy. The best of the best. That was until Norler had shown up. Walton Norler had made it onto the board of the directors and was vying for the position of CEO for the investment firm. Torman had known that he'd be trouble from the moment that he laid eyes on him. Norler had made his name using a technique in which he would only acquire companies that met a strict set of social and moral guidelines and a proven track record. Business was no place for morality as far as Torman was concerned. It was all about the return on investment. The thing was that Norler had been turning heads from the moment he'd come on board and that meant trouble. Like a disease this sense of morality and responsibility was spreading through the investment firm and Torman was no longer the golden boy that he'd been at the company from his arrival.
He finished the glass of whisky just as the door opened and a man sat down in the seat beside him.
"You're late. I said nine o'clock sharp. It's nearly nine twenty five." Torman poured another glass for his guest and then one for himself.
"There's been a change. They're launching the new product early at a trade show this week. I had no idea this was going to happen. I had to stay and get the details." the man answered Torman accepting the glass.
"Look Gus. Because its you, I'll forget about it. Anyone else and I'd have them worked over. So what's this new deal then? Give me all the details." Torman took a sip.
"They're ready with both the hardware and the software. They just finished the second round beta with flying colors. They decided to launch at the trade show this week. They've got all the advance products, design documents and source code at their downtown headquarters. They'll be loading the product and gear onto a truck for the trade show two nights in advance. They'll be setting it all up the following day." Gus took sip of the whiskey coughing a little.
"Listen to me. Here's what we're going to do. I want you to find out who is going to be transporting the gear to the trade show and make sure they don't show. I don't care how, just do it. I'll arrange for another truck to show up and well take the whole shipment which of course will never make it to the trade show. In the mean time we'll enter the building and wipe their computers with the master design files and source code because we'll have the only copies on the truck. We'll leave with the equipment and wait for their share value to drop. When it does we'll buy them up and release their product at the TCE Show in two months. We'll make a killing, I'll be the golden boy at Tynan and you and your friends will make a load of money. I always look after my own." Torman said pouring back the remainder of his whisky and thrusting his hand at Gus.
Gus accepted it gratefully more relieved that Torman hadn't blown up at him.
"Also there's another pressing matter. It's about that research firm." Torman began.
"The pharmaceutical one? Yeah, what about it?" Gus asked.
"I want you to have some of the guys on the street conduct a string of smash and grabs across the city. They'll be going after any AE253 prescription pain killers and cleaning them out of all the pharmacies they hit. I want the black market flooded with them." Torman ordered Gus.
"I thought they weren't addictive? That's why nobody is selling them on the streets." Gus told him.
"That's the point. With them all over the black market it will create bad publicity for the company and I'm looking to acquire it. Secretly of course. They're working on something big and anyone who comes up with a way to push their stock value down or scare away any other investors will get a big bonus from me and the big man personally." Torman advised Gus whose eye brows ascended his forehead.
"How much are we talking?" Gus asked.
"A lot. We're talking six digits. The AE253 is the only pain killer they do. All their other products are related to treatment and there's no black market for that. So we need a way to get at that other profit directly. I want to acquire that company for my portfolio before they come to market with their new discovery. Whoever helps me get there will be sitting pretty." Torman slowly nodded to accent his statement.
"Alright sir." Gus replied already putting his mind to the task.
"Oh and Gus. If you make me wait like that again, I'll cut your head off myself. Do you understand." Torman said a dead serious look on his face.
Gus looked back in shock.
"Yes sir." he said timidly.
Torman looked at him intensely for a moment enjoying the silence and building tension before he broke out laughing.
"You bought it. You bought it. Do I know how to play you or what? Now get going and make sure that gets done." Torman said to him patting him on his shoulder.
Gus put the glass down in a coaster and got out of the car a smile of relief on his face. When he'd closed the door and was gone Torman spoke into the limo's intercom.
"Vic, do me a favor. I tell the Stacey and the others to keep an eye on Gus. If he screws this up I want him to disappear. You got it?" Torman said through the intercom.
"Absolutely Mr. Torman." Vic replied as Torman's cellular rang.
Torman picked up the phone and checked the screen. It was Valerie, his girlfriend of seven years.
"Where are you honey? You were supposed to be home already. You told me that you wouldn't be late tonight!" Valerie said as soon as he answered.
"Look I was just getting something done at the office. I'm on my way home now honey. I'll be there soon. I promise." Torman charmed her through the mouth piece of the phone.
"Really? Good. I've got some champagne on ice. You know its our anniversary tonight right? I'm wearing that little outfit. You know. The one you really like." Valerie said to him putting on a sultry voice.
"I wouldn't miss this night for anything. I'm on my way right now babes. I'll be there soon. Keep the champagne cold and those other parts warm." Torman said to her waiting for her reply from his twenty seven year old girlfriend.
"Ohhh. There already quite warm. Be here soon or it will all be cold." she replied to him as she hung up.
"Yup. Bye you washed up hussie..." he said after he was certain she'd hung up.
"Vic, take me home. Wait, on second thought give it about ten minutes. I want to have another drink." Torman said as he poured himself another.
Alicia sat reading Sylvia's notes and trying to discern what she must have been like as a researcher in the years before Alicia was born. She had been waiting in the lab for three hours for her latest attempt at perfecting the compound she'd coined as the SY349AB series. Her and three of her research associates had come up with an idea in terms of the arrangement of the molecule of a particular protein that from which they'd yielded great results in another experiment. The idea was a simple one but a very powerful technique they'd developed to understand the process of activities undertaken by the RNA messenger during cellular mitosis. What they'd anticipated during this process is that during the protein building stage of mitosis that information loss was occurring based upon random perturbations related to the interpretation of information in the reference gene. This loss was related to the sheer numbers involved during cellular mitosis. Considering that in just ten generations it was possible to arrive at more than a million “child” cells, each of which were supposed to be a perfect copy of their parent cell dependent upon what their target functioning. This rarely happened though in real life even though the accuracy and built in redundancy protected life and the living with such natural error checking. That is to say that life did not merely succumb to entropy so easily.
Their most recent plan was to enable the RNA messenger to refer to another copy that was as Bryce Maxwell, the mathematician working on the project coined it “stored between universes”. Such information could be referenced by RNA at the molecular level level as a sort of mirrored copy of the amino acid it described. The atoms were arranged into the molecules; the required recipe for one of four possible amino acids that would act as a data field in the dna strand. The mathematician Bryce Maxwell had discovered (between his gigs as a jazz pianist) that matter bound in molecules had a special relationship as far as the "multiverse" was concerned. Their molecular relationship was kept in a separate mirrored universe until those same atoms failed to be a part of the molecule the mirror universe represented. A microuniverse that came into existence every time such a molecular relationship of atoms was created. These mirror universes could be referenced by RNA by way of their effects upon probability provided their corresponding atoms were excited enough and to the correct frequency. Alicia had grasped the concept easily and had even further developed the technique with her own ideas on Quantum Fold Propagation, which were basically a predictable model that could be used to create pocket universes for simple molecules that could be used to store copies of corresponding matter at the atomic and subatomic level. When the RNA messenger was involved in the reference steps of making a copy protein strand, it would refer both to the copy in the source protein and a copy stored in the Quantum Fold which was reflected in the probability resulted in errors. In tests such references always turned out "error" free when rebuilding a copy of a protein using this method. The amazing thing was that much like the collapse of the wave function in Quantum dynamics, this result only occurred when measured by lab equipment operated by a conscious observer making the observation. As if the entire molecule had been as it had turned out all along. In other words it would appear like it had not been modified at all. As if the molecule that it had been was just an illusion.
Creating the compound that produced such results required controlled irradiation which was administered inside of a special centrifuge they'd constructed for such a purpose. An accelerator gene could also be coded and spliced into the current gene the RNA was operating on that would speed up the process of cellular mitosis. Alicia sat reading from Sylvia's book as the centrifuge cooked the most recent version of the SY349AB solution.
Sylvia's area of research had been in pharmacology and a field of research she called complimentary compound treatment. That is where a given treatment involved the use of two separate chemical applications. Each might have been applied using two delivery methods but when the two separate compounds interacted within the body, they produced the desired treatment as a whole. The results in her research journal were astounding especially with delivery methods involving analgesics and a direct epidermal application usually in the form of a balm. Sometimes her favorite parts were Sylvia's little runs of sarcasm and practicality when it stood off against her creative imagination. It was easy to see that Sylvia didn't take herself too seriously which resulted in her wonderful sense of humor and scathing sarcasm as much as it had her ability to peer into some very intricate problems with relative ease. Alicia had followed suit with the proposed delivery method though instead of going for an epidermal application, she instead decided on an application that could be applied to clothing or external wear like jewelry instead. She'd reasoned that you can't change your skin in the case of over application seeing as they were dealing with a partially radioactive external treatment. The external application was essentially a catalyst for the internal compound which was taken as a pill. The external application was merely sprayed onto clothing or even potentially jewelry so as to be inconspicuous and non-invasive. It could also be used to control exposure and treatment by limiting the time the treated garment was worn.
The digital bell sounded signaling the end of the irradiation phase and the big machine wound to a stop quietly. The interior of the centrifuge was flushed with deuterium to cool the compound which was contained in sixteen vials centered around the spindle and to cool the machine itself. Alicia got up and walked over to watch as the interior was flushed and then drained as the cold air drying began clearing all residual water and vapor from the interior. A few moments later Alicia entered her code into the touchscreen pad and the door to the centrifuge unlocked. She retrieved each of the vials loading them into a wheeled tray. The SY349 pills were already prepared and had been created by a completely different process. They too were on the tray and numbered correspondingly with the recently retrieved vials. Now she was on to the testing phase which is why she'd stayed at the lab past hours. This project had been her entire life for it was the first project she'd taken after graduating though she'd started as an entry level researcher.
She'd spent two years working as a lab hand and learning the ropes at the facility. They were working on a promising treatment which repaired nerve fibers by revitalizing the production of neurons. It was based upon hormone therapy which could be trying on a patient depending upon their endurance and physiology. Alicia learned about the treatment and then envisioned a treatment which bypassed the need to stimulate cellular production via hormones preferring instead an approach which yielded the production of healthy cells all the time based upon the body's requirements. She came up with the concept for the SY300 based upon the design of a compound which she theorized would augment the natural recombination process of the RNA messengers giving them a hundred percent accuracy in reproduction. After having designed the compound and the organic simulation that she used to test it, she lost her nerve and decided not to present her research proposal to the committee instead falling back to her prior state of being when she attended high school. It wasn't until she'd had a dream of her best friend from that time, Heylyn who'd come to her asking her why she'd not presented her research.
“Why didn't you present your proposal Alicia. What is wrong? You have something to offer the world!” Heylyn demanded of her in her dream.
“Its not ready. The numbers just aren't right. There's something off in the simulation.” Alicia responded.
“Isn't that what research is about? Figuring the hurdles out with the help of your associates?” Heylyn reasoned with her.
“I'm just not confident that it will work. There's problems with the...” Alicia didn't finish before Heylyn spoke.
“Nonsense. You're just not confident. Do you remember the graduation dance? Do you remember how you felt before it? Do you think that dress did anything to you? Did it change you? No. You were still the same Alicia with or without the dress. The dress opened your own eyes as to how beautiful that you could be. Not anyone else. You. So what do you think is stopping you from bringing this formula to the world?” Heylyn asked her sitting across from her in the same attire she would wear in their high school classes.
Alicia thought about what Heylyn had said and it made sense. Nothing had changed about her when she put the dress on. She was still the same old Alicia but the dress really had changed how she saw herself. She needed to take that same attitude and take it with her when she pressed her employer about having an opportunity to present at their monthly meeting. She just needed to remember that feeling of showing up at the graduation dance in that dress. The first dance that she'd ever attended.
When she woke up the next day she promised herself that she would talk to the Project Director about presenting her research idea for the SY300 series. Three weeks after that day finished she stood before a auditorium full of her peers and fellow researchers. She presented a paper based upon her findings first at the University Of Waterloo after she'd been cleared by her peers. Her talk was met with some academic skepticism (which was common on such radical findings). After she'd delivered the talk, the first question came from a man who'd traveled up from the Santa Fe Institute specifically to hear her talk. He wore a stylish sports coat, shirt and slacks and for all intense purposes could have been attending a concert rather than a scientific lecture.
"Dr. Westin I get the feeling by what you've presented here that you feel that genes as expressed through their RNA messengers during mitosis are somewhat imperfect. Could you clarify this for us?" the man asked remaining standing.
Alicia paused thinking about her answer for a moment.
"Are you accusing me of practicing eugenics?" Alicia asked him very directly.
"Not at all. By the experimental evidence you've presented here I'd say that you're targeting the system of mitosis that results in errors or abnormalities in the genome statistically speaking. Are you you saying that you feel that this errant system of cellular mitosis is flawed? I only ask because you are very obviously trying to apply alternate quantum fields theory to molecular biology." the man returned.
Alicia felt a little bit intimidated by the man's insinuation but in the end her intent remained true and she explained honestly.
"Imperfect? No. A flaw? No. If it is, that's something we have in common with every living thing that reproduces via cellular mitosis. My findings and my resulting paper are very separate from my goals as a researcher. You could say that genetic errors are in large part responsible for life thriving on this planet. If our genome had been perfect in the first place, then you'd not see a variety of species and life in such a precariously balanced ecosystem. Likely it would have resulted in a dead end for life altogether. By perfect of course I mean perfect replication of the DNA from the host cell from which it is derived and what it has the potential to become. Error free during the process of building the copy so that we may use it clinically in isolated treatments to help the genome of sufferers of such diseases to refer back to an original unchanged copy of the gene from the base stem cell or the fertilized egg from which the organism as a whole was conceived. I'm not trying to make perfect people or Nitzche's Superhuman person though Nitzche has been misquoted and misunderstood in history for certain and certainly misused by crack pots such as Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying on this issue of preventing the expression of random genetic errors through mitosis is that If we can grasp this technique then there's a chance we might be able to tame a whole host of diseases including Cancer without interfering in that natural error term that gave rise to biodiversity." Alicia said confidently finishing her answer with a quaint smile.
The man smiled back at her and put his hands together in applause. Soon thereafter the auditorium followed in suit and the audience stood as the applause continued for a moment. When it had died down she spoke again.
"Thank you. Thank you. I'm sorry Sir but I didn't get your name?" Alicia asked him professionally still smiling slightly.
"I'm sorry. Please do forgive me. I'm Professor Bryce Maxwell." the man replied to her.
"Hmmm. I thought you'd be shorter." Alicia said to her smiling back at him in amazement.
"Shorter? Oh you must be speaking of my quantum copy. He's shorter... and funnier... Oh here he is right here." Bryce said in jest pointing to a shorter man beside him as the auditorium broke out in laughter.
She was overwhelmed with questions after the talk which was a good sign. Her academic associates and peers were interested. After the question period the room had emptied as the researchers returned to their work for the day. That was when she was approached by the Project Director who wanted a feasibility study on his desk in a week. They were going to take the idea and present it to the core investment group.
Six months beyond that point the project time-line had been put together and the last of the new equipment had been installed and they were officially researching the SY300 compound. Within two years they'd finalized the initial compound and discovered the Quantum Fold Propagation effect resulting from irradiation of the compound hence confirming Bryce Maxwell's theory about such micro-universes being traversable by electromagnetism and irradiation of certain isotopes. Once they'd confirmed their findings the research funding was renewed and the SY340 was born.
The most recent version of the formula was given as a spray and a pill. The spray would be applied to clothing or jewelry or any adornment that could be worn on the body. The pill was only taken once and acted like a marker dying the initial generation of cells present in the body so that the spray's proximity to the body would be enough for the effects to work on the entire body. The effect was nearly immediate taking about five minutes of time from the ingestion of the pill to make the body susceptible to the effects of the spray application. Removing the garment the spray was applied to would slowly reverse the whole process over the course of anywhere from an hour to a day. Further testing would be required to see how prolonged use of the treatment affected the permanence of the treatment.
Most of the testing they'd done was in simulation and most recently the only real world testing they performed upon lab mice. All of the lab mice had recovered as a result of the scaled dose of the SY349 from a variety of ailments which they'd been tested against. A full recovery rate in the mice who'd worn collars that were treated with the spray and had been given the ingestible marker. Within an hour of ingestion in the slowest case the mice were perfectly healthy, even healing scar tissue and having regrown lost hair. The lab mice after testing were sent for further observation at another lab in order to avoid bias selection effects. In the first round of such evaluation there were no signs of any ill effect upon the bodies of the mice. They'd been completely cured of a variety of degenerative diseases having regrown healthy muscle tissue. In the case of nerve damage, neurons were found to regrow and reform their connections along nerve pathways even repairing the spinal column in cases involving spinal injuries. They'd most certainly become the “happiest and luckiest mice in the world when they ended up at our lab” as Alicia had joked about to her peers.
The second round of testing involved primates and that was done at another private facility. Weeks ago Alicia was given a copy of their reply directly from the Project Director. The introduction letter called the formula a miracle. All of the lab monkeys had the same results as the lab mice in recovery and health effects. They were given the pill and a collar that had been sprayed with the irradiated compound. They'd fully healed even scar tissue they'd acquired years prior to ending up in the lab. Two serious cases involving spinal injury and severing of the spinal cord found depicted them in one picture where they were completely immobile, requiring hand feedings in order to eat and constant care. Within three hours of ingesting the formula the primates had become entirely mobile healing their spinal injuries altogether. The researchers at the lab joked that they had so much fun spending the rest of the test time teaching the two affected primates how to be mobile. Something that either of the adult primates had never done in their lives. The formula was indeed a miracle and Alicia found herself elated thinking about it's future.
All of the test results had been positive and the Project Director himself had even had trouble keeping himself from Alicia's giddiness about it. He'd told her that at the National and International testing agencies they might not arrive at the same results as their testing was much more discerning and aggressive. They were the front line for ensuring that people did not end up with a faulty medication or treatment. They tended to take their jobs seriously and were not out to do favors for their friends. Real diseases and health issues required real treatments. They were there to ensure that nothing slipped by that could potentially interact with another treatment and have ill side effects or create an entirely new problem. They were in the business of saving lives and much like their counterparts in the Far East, they took this responsibility seriously.
The entire testing regimen would take about two years from the time they'd applied for approval until a response with the board's findings. That was time that Alicia did not have and she wanted to be sure for herself that it had no ill effects upon humans. She'd told her coworkers that she'd planned to stay late and finish up on a tricky experiment. Someone had even joked with her not to try in on herself. Another coworker had responded 'I don't think the formula would affect her. Alicia couldn't be any smarter'. She'd managed to keep her cool despite the fact that was exactly what she'd planned to do.
She went over to the security panel and deactivated the security camera in the lab, as she wanted this test to be off the official record. She then wheeled the current batch that she'd just made over to one of the lab tables she'd cleared. There upon it was the gift Heylyn had sent her despite the fact that it had been years since they`d seen or talked to each other. It was the first night wear suit off the line after Heylyn had signed the four company deal that had made her fashion company West Meet East International a reality. It was a stylish evening suit made of a stretchy material so that the black pants hugged Alicia's curves firmly despite her heavier appearance. The shirt itself was a dark pinkish lavender tight top with a high neckline which could be worn with an optional trench coat which stretched down to her knees. A skirt made with a stretchy fabric was worn over pink tights for the lower half of her body. Overall the whole outfit appeared very stylish though she'd never worn it. She'd never had a reason to as she'd most often either be working or at home sleeping. It had remained in the front hall closet ever since she'd received it as a gift from her best friend at school. It was Heylyn's graduation dress that had brought her out of her fear of pursuing her dreams. It was only fitting, she'd thought of in pun, that Heylyn's first designer offering to the world should be the garment upon which the first human tests of the SY349 should be conducted.
She'd prepped each of the pieces of the suit on the table laying them out readying them for the spray on application of the SY349. She took the lid off the first vial of the most recent batch of the formula she'd just made and attached the spray applicator and started her camcorder placing it on the far end of the table so as to take in the entire view.
“This is Alicia Westin of The MedSci Research Initiative. I am about to conduct the first tests of the SY349 upon a human being. That test subject being myself. I have prepared a batch of the formula and have selected this clothing garment upon which to be the first recipient of the spray on version of the formula. This is the first designer suit crafted by Heylyn Yates to be produced in the world. She gave it to me as a gift and seeing as I'd likely not be here doing this if it wasn't for her, it only made sense that this should be the first garment upon which the formula was tested. So here goes the spray on application at 8:23PM on Friday July 9 in 2006.” Alicia informed the invisible audience of her camcorder.
Alicia took the atomizer in hand and started covering the garment in the SY349 formula first one side and then the other. The process of applying it to the entirety of the designer suit took about ten minutes as Alicia had been thorough. She didn't want anything to go wrong.
She let the clothing sit for a moment and then began to disrobe her own lab coat and clothing. She quickly ran over to the camcorder.
“Ooops. I don't want you to see this part. You might not want to either.” she joked undermining her own self esteem to the camcorder turning it around in the opposite direction.
She ran back to the end of the table and put the suit on carefully pulling the tights and skirt on and then putting the shirt on and tucking it in behind that belt she'd prepared. She waited for a few minutes and then suddenly she began to feel warm.
“There's a bit of a tingling sensation and I haven't even taken the ingestible application of the SY349 yet. Feels kind of like goosebumps.” she spoke for the camcorder which faced in the opposite direct.
Once she'd finished donning the attire she threw on a pair of dark running shoes that didn't quite go with the outfit but served the purpose of the experiment. She then went back over to the camcorder and turned it around looking in the view panel to line it up.
“The spray on application went successfully and as you can see, I'm wearing the suit that it was applied to. As I said there's a definite tingling sensation which I attribute to possible reaction with the neurons of my nervous system. Possibly manifesting itself as an artificially stimulated signal to the brain through charge induction. This is incredible and I haven't even taken the pill yet. Ok, here goes.” Alicia said as she opened the bottle with the SY349 pill application and administered one dose for herself.
She then popped it into her mouth and washed it down with a glass or water from the water cooler. A moment later sat down in the chair just behind her.
“Definitely feeling a little dizzy now just a few moments after taking the SY349. A very rapid sensation cascaded out from my stomach and outward to my extremities. A little bit of...” Alicia winced as the first cramps hit her body and the pain filled her being.
She momentarily became certain that she was going to die. It was as if every part of her being was being ripped apart and instantaneously healed. Simultaneous pain and healing. She curled up in the chair and let forth a scream. By the time she'd run out of air the pain had subsided and was replaced by a new feeling. She felt energetic like she'd never felt before. Time seemed to slow enough so that she could concentrate and take in every little detail before moving on to the next thought. She noticed sensations in her body and an awareness she'd not felt before.
“The pain has subsided and has been replaced by an energized feeling. Very attentive and the incredible resolution of detail I'm noticing is… breathtaking. I also feel lighter and stronger… like my physique has been...” she looked down at her hips and stomach noticing that she'd visibly lost weight.
She ran over to a full length mirror in the change room and examined her body. Pulling her shirt up. She was surprised to see the ripples and delicate sculpting work of a network of finely toned muscles carved to perfection across her stomach and abdomen. She threw her trench coat to the floor examining her arms. They'd become toned and defined with musculature even under her clothing through which she'd never seen on a another body let alone hers. She then ran across the lab and grabbed the camcorder and proceeded out the door of the lab and then from the building out onto the street.
“This is incredible! I feel absolutely incredible.” she said jumping in the air into a standing flip spinning several times before landing on her feet.
She tried it again with ease each time a little higher and more complex a manouevre.
“Incredible!” she exclaimed as she put the camera down pointing it towards the twenty floor office building that neighbored it.
She then ran at full speed for the side of the wall and leapt. She easily bounded up onto an outcropping which she grabbed hold of to pull herself up to the next and further until she was standing on the top of the building. She stood looking out at the night skyline of the city. She screamed at the top of her lungs with joy and excitement as she ran for the neighboring building which was about thirty floors in height and about sixty feet away. She leapt once again clearing the distance with ease latching onto an outcropping which she used to propel herself upwards towards the top of the building again.
“This is incredible!” she yelled as she jumped off the other side of the roof top grabbing hold of a drainage pipe which extended halfway down the building. She slipped as far as it would carry her and then caught another ledge and bounded her way down into a dark alleyway and loading dock.
“Who the heck are you?” a man immediately turned to face her holding a gun in his hand.
“Wait! Don't shoot.” she immediately put her hands up.
She looked around the alley and saw two bodies, both of security officers lying on the alleyway floor. There was a truck in the loading dock where a team of eight men quickly loaded computer equipment into the truck.
“Call Torman. Tell him we've got a snoop here that's about to become a casualty.” the man with the gun instructed another man who'd been keeping watch in the alley.
“Oh. I get it. You guys are taking these computers? Are they even yours?” she asked them her hands still in the air.
“Lady, we're borrowing them. Our boss is going to buy the company as soon as its stocks are cheap enough. We're here to ensure that they're going to be cheap enough for him. So he has enough money to pay us.” the man with gun said to her.
“Look Garret. I say we just do her now.” the other man said.
“You prick. You just said my name. What did I say to you about that! You almost got me busted last time!” the man with the gun turned his attention away from Alicia for a moment and that was all that it took for Alicia to make the decision to act.
She leapt at the gunman grabbing his wrist and twisting it around dislodging his elbow making him scream.
“Sorry! I was a little bit too rough… I'm sorry. I don't know my own...” Alicia stated as the other man came at her from behind though she detected it as if she was staring right at him.
She ducked striking out with her fist towards his abdomen plunging it into his side. He gasped as she swung up as his jaw knocking him instantly unconscious.
“Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry! I used way too much force. I'm still getting used to this. Please, forgive me.” she said to the unconscious man while the other screamed hanging onto his shoulder.
The other eight men poured out of the dock and into the alley. Two with crowbars in hand while another grabbed the gun from the alley and leveled it at her. She quickly dodged sideways and the shot exploded in the night air. She pushed herself off from the wall high into the air impacting the gunman and the man behind him. She punched the gunman in the back as he fell rending him to sleep beside the unconscious security guards with a thud. She then spun with both her fists clenched hitting one of the other men in the side of his cheek and another in the neck. They both fell leaving only five standing.
“Ok. That's a little better. That was only as hard as you deserved for trying to shoot me!” she yelled at the other unconscious gunman.
The five of them charged her at once attempting to grab hold of her arms. She went low kicking at their legs in a circle while propped on one hand. They all fell grasping at their legs as she heard the sirens.
“Oh… I'm sorry but I have to… Oh… I don't want to do this.” she went to each of them that had fallen and hit them one by one in the face knocking them unconscious.
She then picked up the gun and put it by the sleeping security guard slapping her face a bit. She roused coming to life as Alicia disappeared up the wall of the alley.
The security guard got to her feet picking up the gun shaking her head. She appeared confused for a moment before the sound of the sirens brought her out of her confustion.
“Freeze. All of you. Or... you're going to get what I just dished out to you...” she said looking around a little dazed looking at her hands.
She went over to her unconscious partner and slapped him on the face attempting to revive him. He came to shaking his head before she helped him to his feet. He looked around in disbelief seeing their assailants sprawled across the alley way floor just outside of the loading dock.
“Whheeeooow! Damn! I always knew you had it in you partner!” he said in approval as the Police pulled into the alley.
A Fool's Dinner
It was late and the sky outside of the board room windows was dark. They'd already been there for two hours in an emergency meeting between their board of directors. There were fiscal problems and a signpost that led to a sharp downturn in the stock value of their investment firm Tynan And Associates and the confidence of their shareholders. They'd long been in the investment business and had ploughed through their share of hostile takeovers and buyouts. Sometimes reducing their purchase to ashes as they liquidated or merged their quarry with another one of their holdings. It had been a cut throat business and Tynan And Associates had not been an exception to these tactics in the world of board rooms and bottom lines. Many of original the team who'd brought success and then eventual demise to Tynan had all but abandoned it in recent months leaving only a divided team, those who'd thought that they could save it or those who thought that they could commandeer it rending it back to its heartless heights of profit and power. Until recently some had thought that profit and corporate responsibility were mutually exclusive but someone had managed to turn them around.
Recently a new Chairman, Walton Norler had come into power and he'd managed to begin to turn the whole thing around. Norler had been lost and directionless as a young man. Over the years he'd grown into a charismatic leader and that charisma only increased when he'd brought to the table his vision for the future of big business and investment. One of social responsibility whereby the directors would have a set of guidelines that any investment had to follow to earn their approval. The means by which the firm could aquire and the negotiating practices as well were subject to such guidelines and principles. That was what Norler had called their Edict Of Responsibility. He'd drawn it up and then debated it with a consultancy he'd hired to test its rigidity when put to the rigors of the boardroom. It had matured and by the time he'd come on board Tynan And Associates he'd planned to apply this new business ethic and transform the entire firm. He intended to make the firm the leader in biomedical research and technologies that could change the world for the better. No more cash grabs. No more buy up and break ups. What he'd seen at Tynan And Associates for the first two months of his membership to the board had disgusted him. When he'd managed to bring six opportunities to the table all of which had passed his Edict Of Responsibility and all of them had resulted in a technical leaps, good press and sizeable equity the board voted almost unanimously to make him the Chairman. Everyone had voted in his favor. All except for one. Greer Torman.
A tray of vegetables, noodles, chicken, pizza and soft drinks sat on the buffet behind them. The room had been quiet while they ate as most of them were famished after the stressful day. When all of their respective plates were clear, someone broke the silence.
"So let me ask you. What is the next step in our plan?" Torman asked Vinnler at the other end of the table.
"Haven't you been listening? It's simple. The next step is to move in and assess their value and buy them like we always have. The means by which we do that is by acquisition of their assets via legitimate stock buyouts according to Norler's guidelines. His edict of rediculousness." Vinnler paused for the laughter.
"The way we afford it is through market pressure via our network of their 'customers' and reduced sales hence pushing the price of the stocks representing their holdings to the floor. Right Torman? Pressure and poor press means poor sales. Poor sales means poor stock value. Poor stock value means quick buy up. Torman taught me the ropes..." Vinnler replied without blinking looking around the room for any signs of a smile.
"...kidding. We're not here to do that. We're here to do what's right. Right Torman?" Vinnler looked over to his peer at the board room table.
"Right." Torman said coldly.
Vinnler was one of the few who'd sided with Torman and operated under his methods of acquisition though they'd been playing Norler for the time he'd been on the board. Tynan's pretty boy. Vinnler knew they'd hired Norler as a figure head and for the good press relations he'd bring to the firm. A real charmer. If Tynan still went into the depths of bankruptcy they'd just up and hang it on him.
"Funny. You make it sound simple. But it isn't that simple. There's a market share that we don't have a strangle hold over. We need an effective strategy that will help us deal with this problem and our future with one fell swoop. Anybody?" Torman looked the table over and when nobody responded he continued.
"Investment! Just like our Chief to be Norler says." Torman pounded his fist to the table though Norler listened and kept his eyes firm of Torman fearlessly.
"Acquire. Accumulate and Accrue. It's that simple. We can do it just like that, even with Norler's rule book." Torman attempted to make his sale to these the hawks of hostile takeover but even their ethics were sound in morality.
Torman had other ideas about what was right.
"Ok. I can see that you're not happy with the Edict Of Responsibility. I'll make my point your way and by the return. You give a pretty convincing argument in speech but you provide nothing on paper. Can we as an investment firm make these acquisitions in the time limit so that we can benefit from the tax credits and interest payout while sheltering our capital gains on this deal? Edict aside what you're seeking to do isn't a viable investment plan as it stands." Norler spoke with authority throwing Torman's rhythm off.
Torman was sick of the fact that there were no easy takes like there were in the old days. Too many were smart to his kind of plan. He had clearly jumped in over his head in this one so he adjusted his strategy so that he'd stay on the table and comfortably. He'd report this later to his financier and mentor. Taking over Tynan And Associates and keeping it from the leadership of Norler was his goal.
"Look, I understand what you are saying. But this firm that I've been targeting, the biochemical research firm is a sure deal. They're onto something big right now with the a medical technology. The complete reversal of a variety of diseases and cancer without the side effects of some other forms of therapy. Can you say miracle cure. We' make billions if not trillions. I'd say that this is a good time to buy them whether by hook or crook. They're on the brink of something big and all the numbers point to it and you can't discount that." Torman made his sale and sat back comfortably in his seat.
Norler sat quietly thinking for a moment careful not to speak on the matter. The truth was that he'd been dealing with the research firm for some time through Tynan. They had been his first investment. One that he'd pushed across the board at every firm whose table he'd graced.
"I am aware of the research firm of which you speak and have been working with them for some time already. We will be dealing with them more visibly in the near future gentleman and that's all I can say about the matter. That's why its called investment and not instant." Norler laid out the rules to Torman who responded afterward.
"As long as I get the credit and percentage for it. We'll profit big and everyone will be happy. I'm no fool for a deal." Torman replied.
"Remember that our goals are responsibility and positive results. We have a responsibility to the world around us. Those guidelines come first and from that we'll be prosperous, but not without. That will be all. Thank you for your time Mr. Torman. Mr. Vinnler." Norler spoke with volume and an edge of fierceness even standing to make his point.
He'd dealt with the likes of Torman many times over and had no intention of standing down before a business man whose methods were more akin to gangster cronyism than business negotiation. Sometimes taking a stand required the courage to roar and Norler was never one to back down when it came to ethics and virtue. Some of his more staunch opponents had played him in the past purposely riling him up and using such reactions to label him as a zealot. Their way of building up their own public image. Making the competition react while their candy boy simply remained calm. Norler had dodged that bullet many times over the course of his career and had learned much every time somebody used it. He figured his plan for Tynan And Associates was worth it as for what he intended to do with the responsibility of power that so many at Tynan And Associates had abused
Torman wanted to own Tynan And Associates by the end of the week and put his plans forth to acquire it with a clever manipulation of his assets leveraged to make the purchase himself though he was pushing his current holdings to their limits. Torman's means of aquisition were a simple idea tested and true. All it required was people willing to go along with it and as someone in history had put it, there was one born every minute. Torman had grown up in the rough much like Norler had unbeknownst to him. During his youth Torman had joined a gang with whom he'd remained connected his whole life. They'd watch his back and do his dirty deals for him if he asked. When Torman had first become involved in the world of investment he'd found a business aquisition he'd been evaluating though his resources were limited. He'd had some pull with investors and could have drummed up half of the capital needed to make the purchase but had no way of making the whole. The answer to his solution was a simple one he surmised.
The business was a brand chain of stores which had started to grow in its third year. It was tied in with the rising tech industry of the early nineties some time before the internet boom. He would use his gang contacts to sabotage the customer base and the work staff of the chain. The resulting sabotage would result in less sales hence reducing the stock and capital value he'd be able afford. Sure enough within six months of enacting his plan the numbers had been reduced to the point that the sale was financially trivial for Torman. Soon after the purchase he'd put the word out that he was in fact the new owner and majority share holder. The gang's purposeful sabotage stopped and the customer base once again boomed. The stock value skyrocketed making Torman a multimillionaire many times over in short work.
Torman had developed a scheme for purchasing and buyouts that would carry him successfully for years and only grew with the advent of communications technologies. The internet, cellular phones and text messaging put it all in his hands and gave him the power to value and devalue stocks for future purchase keeping him in close contact with his current and former gang compatriots. Nobody, not even Federal investigators would figure out what was going on and how he did it. Stock prices would just magically drop when he'd set his sights upon an investment or purchasing opportunity. Soon after his aquisition they'd often rise dramatically. That was if he'd done his homework and more often than not he'd pick a near winner. Torman had by such deals become one of Tynan's most successful board members.
The turn of the millennium had seen a change in consumer buying habits and had brought about an era of informed investors. The model under which board members like Torman had acquired such holding did not last during the auditing process. Tynan experienced a slump as it descended from its position as the number one technology research firm. Despite downfall Torman had held onto his place on the board as he watched his investments liquidated one after the other. There was one thing his gang could not protect him or his investments from and that was bankruptcy. Even the power afforded by his brand of cronyist collectivism had its limits though Torman had no intention of getting out. After all he was just getting started.
To deal with the threat of Norler and to aquire the biomedical research firm he'd spied, he put the word out to his gang network to remove anyone who might pose a threat to that acquisition either internally from the labs or from anywhere else. He'd use his contacts to spy on potential investments so he'd have the first dibs on them. Hidden cameras and internet spying had become part of his game since the turn of the millennium. Anyone who got in the way of this plan and the gang would just scare them until they ran away and then scare them some more. If such victims didn't run then the gang would either get physical with them or make them nuts. Neither objective was too difficult when you had the gang to do it and that Torman certainly did. Torman would pay anyone who got caught and reimburse them for any time spent incarcerated. After all he looked after his own but only if it didn't put him out of business. They were important as long as they could could benefit him but not far beyond that. Besides, his big boss would take up the cost and his boss had no such financial limits.
Through this effort Torman's goal was to push the stock prices down artificially while building up their potential value to his dinner contacts who were in charge of the currently largest and most rapidly shrinking investment firm on the continent. He was determined to be chairman of the board for Tynan And Associates in a month's time giving him complete control and access to their research agenda. A year later he'd have Norler's position as head of the entire investment firm for his foresight in the purchase of the biomedical research firm. The very same research firm for which Alicia worked. Unbeknownst to Torman she'd also become Torman's biggest threat.
Torman's gangs and cronies had already started calling her that crazy night chick.
Smash And Grab
Samias waited across the street from the pharmacy. He spied it waiting for that window of opportunity he'd come to know in the smash and grab business. Apparently the order had come from the big man himself, Torman and he was not one to disappoint. He'd been a part of Torman's crew for a while though he'd never met the man himself. One of his representatives would call call Samias with instructions that would entail the services required of him by Torman. He would have otherwise spent the night at home waiting for business to come to him. His product after all sold itself without the need for advertising or marketing for it was one of the most addictive substances known to human kind. He rarely ran out of customers in need of his product.
It was a little bit after three in the morning and the last of the foot traffic from the streets had passed leaving the street empty. Seeing that the coast was clear Samias took one last glance in both directions before whistling a signal to his fellow gang members whom appeared from the shadows to meet him at the pharmacy entrance. They quickly spread some towels about the ground in front of the pharmacy before they proceeded to carefully bash the glass door with a towel wrapped baseball bat. They pulled the glass door outward as it broke and fell somewhat silently to the padded pavement. The miscreants entered the pharmacy with their faces covered. They approached the storage containers and looked through the directory until they found the correct index. They had been instructed to search for the AE253 which was a non-addictive pain killer developed by the biomedical research company that Torman was targeting for his next takeover purchase.
The thieves quickly filled a ruck sack with prefilled prescription bottles of the AE253 capsules and then emptied the source bin in its entirety into their ruck sack. Once done one of them began looking for other pharmaceuticals they could sell for a profit. Samias quickly gestered a distinct no to them indicating that Torman only wanted them to take the A253 and nothing else. The others reluctantly withdrew from their search of the pharmaceutical reserves and followed Samias. They quickly made their way back out of the store through the broken glass door and out onto the street where they quickly fled on foot splitting up in the process.
Three hours later and a few kilometres away Alicia stepped off the subway and up the stairs to the bus platform where she picked up a newspaper from the confection stand.
"Smash and grab thieves strike again. Hmmm..." she said aloud.
"Its a wonder that nobody was hurt. In the last three weeks there's been one death, one shooting and two stabbings. These gangs are getting out of hand. They're practically running the streets. Its getting too dangerous for an honest business owner to operate much less honest citizens." the confection worker commented to Alicia.
"Well someone's doing something about it. It says here that a couple of security guards busted up an organized theft racket ran by eight assailants." Alicia commented to the confection owner.
"We need more citizens like that. The streets would be much safer then." the confection owner commented.
"What? Vigilantes? Their just as bad if not worse than the gangs." another passerby commented aloud in response.
"At least they're doing something." the confection store shot back quickly.
"It's a shame that anyone should have to. Maybe its too much for the Police right now?" Alicia said more thinking aloud as she made her way to her bus.
Alicia's bus ride to work was quiet and uneventful and she spent her travel time reading a bit of the newspaper. When she arrived at work and found her way into her cubicle putting the paper on her desk. A pair of hands grabbed her shoulders from behind and she jumped startled.
"Alicia. We need to talk in my office. Now." she turned to see the Project Director Darret Winslet behind her.
"And a good morning to you too. Doesn't anyone say good morning anymore?" she asked rhetorically.
"Good morning Alicia. We need to talk in my office. Now!" he replied somewhat sarcastically.
Her face grimaced as she followed him from behind into his office.
"Close the door." he demanded.
"What? What's this about?" she asked and he gestured once again to the door.
She reluctantly closed the door and took a seat in front of desk across from him.
"You've obviously seen the news. The break-ins. The recent insurgence of the AE253 painkillers finding their way onto the black market. A recent overdose with AE253 capsules involved. This is the most press we've had for a long time and of course all of it negative." Darret told her.
"What? An overdose with the AE253? That's impossible. I was here during the last stages of the testing phase for that product. It's virtually the safest painkiller of its kind on the market. Its not addictive. It doesn't have negative interactions with ninety eight percent of other known treatments. Why is it even on the black market? It's so cheap comparatively speaking that nobody could hope to sell it for a profit." Alicia said to Darret.
"Oh thank you so much for agreeing with me. I couldn't have said it better Alicia honey. You know that this is a critical time for our research and funding. We're on the brink of a major product release and all of this negative press comes at once. Not to mention just before a scheduled meeting with our key investor group. Walton Norler from Tynan and..." Darret didn't have time to finish.
"He's coming here? For us? To invest? That's great news Darret!" she replied a look of joy had crossed her face.
"Good that he's coming here at all but the worst of timing for this scandal to appear." Darret responded.
"There's obviously something wrong here. The AE253 went through ten cycles of the most rigid of testing programs in the industry. No side effects. Not even a hiccup or heart murmur." she responded.
"I know. I want you and Alex to present to the investors the results of our latest research. About the SY340 series. Specifically the SY349." Darret told her directly.
"When Darret? You know my plate is full?" she asked him as she became visibly tense.
"Two days from now. Sometime in the mid or late afternoon." Darret replied waiting for her response.
"Two days? I'd need at least two weeks! I haven't got anything ready to present to a group of investors. You need to talk to Alex. He's the better speaker." Alicia said to Darret.
"That's not what Bryce Maxwell said. He sent me an email after your talk at the University Of Waterloo. He said you're a real gem." Darret told her quoting his email.
"He said that about...? Wait a second. You're just trying to soften me up so I'll do this. You know what kind of pressure that would be? Right after this negative press about the AE253? No way! Get Alex to do it. He's the better speaker." Alicia responded to him.
"He said that he won't do it without you. He said that we need Alicia to make this presentation or he wouldn't do it at all." Darret drove the pitch home.
"Alex said that? Really? Well... Alright. But you owe me. Us. Big time." she replied to him a little flustered that he'd finagled her into agreement.
"Great! Thank you Alicia. I'll make it up to you. I'll just spend the next two days keeping the press off of you and the rest of the research team. Wish me luck." Darret assured her just as the door to his office opened and a researcher popped his head in.
"Hi Alicia. I got your message Darret. You wanted to see me?" Alex said oblivious to their conversation.
Alicia looked over to Darret giving him a scornful look.
Alex noticed her face and responded.
"What? Did I miss something?" he asked them.
"Oh Alicia and I were just saying how nobody ever says good morning anymore..." Darret looked to Alicia smiling.
In the end it was Alicia who had to break the news to Alex about their upcoming presentation before the investment group.
Fashion And Accessory
She had been in the industry for long enough to know when something wasn't going to work, and this was just one of those cases. The top didn't really go with skirt and didn't speak enough for the lady who would wear it. She looked it over as worn on the figure of the second mannequin in her office which bore the name Elise on a little nametag earring. Heylyn wondered if she had already spent too much time trying to perfect a design that just wouldn't work. She'd overcome self doubt before and this was more than just her own natural self criticism and more her professional eye giving her a retroactive peer review.
She had been working on this design with sketches and had carefully created the patterns for the piece which was scheduled for presentation in a runway show in less than a week. She had almost given up on it when the phone rang. She paused for a moment pretending the call wasn't important before her intuition kicked in imploring her to answer.
"Heylyn? Heylyn Yates?" An excited female voice on the other end asked.
"Yes this is Heylyn Yates. Who am I speaking to?" she answered curtly.
"Alicia. Its Alicia. You remember me don't you?" the voice asked with enthusiasm.
"Alicia? Alicia who?" Heylyn asked the lady on the other end.
"Don't you remember? From school? High school? Alicia. You never know where Alicia's been? You remember?" the voice asked once again.
"Oh my gosh. Alicia! I am so sorry. I did not recognize you." Heylyn sat up in her chair, her design waiting impatiently nagging at her.
"Great! You remember! Its so good to talk to you Heylyn!" Alicia replied more enthusiastic than at first.
"So how have you been doing? Its been a long time." Heylyn asked her.
"Oh I'm doing fine. You're doing really good. I saw you on the fashion news last week. I didn't tell anyone that I went to school with you though." Alicia replied hesitantly.
"Yes, things have been going well the last few years since that showing. I've been trying to keep up with it since then you know. One thing after another. What about you? What are you doing?" Heylyn was used to others fussing over her.
She had become so used to it that she had learned the art of deflecting it to the up and coming talents in her field. She needed the peace and solitude to work on her designs so she'd have something to show when all the fuss came knocking at her door.
Alicia paused before speaking to her long lost friend.
"Well. I've been. Well let's just say that we're going to change the world." Alicia spoke deliberately, leaving Heylyn feeling a little unnerved.
Heylyn had also learned that there were sometimes people who liked to follow those who'd found their way into the public spotlight. Often with no discernible reason but most had the best of intent and were excited to be a part of the creative energy and often contributed to it. Some though became obsessively dangerous and Heylyn was especially wary. Sure she'd studied martial arts and was in great shape but she was a smaller lady that had learned to overcome the stigmas attributable to her not only for her sex and beauty or ethnicity, but also her small frame. Cliche beauty could be as much a bane as a blessing for some women. Many would often not take Heylyn seriously in regard to her ambitions and this drove her even further to succeed.
Alicia had been overweight in school but she always managed to keep her spirits up despite the lack of attention that she had received from the opposite sex she always kept her marks top notch. Heylyn had befriended her in school and they'd been friends all the way through as Heylyn reminisced. Heylyn would get picked on for her short size or just get picked on by boys not able to cope with their own attraction to her. She'd also often get picked on by girls jealous of her, who would goad her for many reasons other than the truth. They were two of a kind and friends for sure and they both remained single throughout high school for two very different reasons, both of which had the same effect.
When high school had ended they had parted ways. Heylyn was by that point already a talented designer whose ability had been exploited at numerous high school fashion shows by the student council. She went on to study fashion arts at an academy which rounded out her knowledge of design with the workings of the business she aspired to be a part of. She'd been discovered part way through her course by a fashion company who'd spied her designs through her website. They contacted her and the rest was history as it went. She'd worked for a two weeks around the clock for her first showing which went off with flying colors (literally). Her success had been guaranteed from that point on and she didn't look back and embraced the next steps as they came.
Alicia had lost contact with her after they parted ways from high school. Alicia's path had been more based in academics and research in her favorite subjects. Science, genetics, quantum physics and biochemistry. She had excelled in those subjects with an almost innate ability to learn and comprehend anything related and her marks were always at the top of the class. Upon leaving school she'd been snatched up by a theoretical research firm who interned her as a lab hand before moving her to the new fields of bio-kinetics, quantum bio-informatics and genetic transmogrification, the latter of which she had pioneered. She pondered her own path since last seeing her friend and wondered about where she should begin before finally speaking.
"I've been working on something that... You have to see it. You must. You will. Soon. I'll be watching." Alicia said in an unnerving tone to Heylyn before hanging up.
Heylyn pocketed her cellular phone and went back to her design.
"It was nice to talk to you after all of these years too, Alicia." Heylyn said aloud the edge of sarcasm in her voice sharp in her voice.
It was late and time to go home. Her design office was only a few blocks from her condominium and she preferred to walk the distance despite the rash of violent muggings that had been taking place recently in the downtown core. Three weeks ago one of them had even resulted in the murder of one of the victims. Heylyn rarely paid much heed to such warnings as she'd little to fear so she felt by way of her training though her heart ached for the victims.
"Well. It looks like its time for me to go Elise. I'll see you tomorrow. You could always do a little tuning up on this design. If you feel up to it." She took one more glance at her design addressing the mannequin before standing to grab her purse and a light jacket for her walk home.
Heylyn turned the office lights off and locked up her office. She then made her way to the lobby of the West Meet East International office building and smiled throwing and friendly wave to the security guard. The night watch man bid her a farewell and she strode out onto the streets. Her typical walk home took her through the downtown core and mostly out of the dark. Though she didn't feel the slightest bit of fear walking by herself her intuition told her that she was being watched. She stopped into an all night market on the way to get some ingredients for a stir fry for her dinner that night and continued her journey home. On the last leg of the journey she chose to take a short cut through three interconnected alleyways which lead out onto the main street by her condominium address. She turned into the first alleyway and the transition to darkness was immediate as was the muffling of the sound of traffic. A harsh quiet fell over her surroundings as she proceeded broken only by the repetitive click of the low heels of her shoes. She walked the distance through the first alleyway, which housed a plethora of refuse from the local businesses and restaurants on the block. The smell did not miss her pug nose and she smirked as she brushed the air from her nostrils.
She continued her trek through the alley and as she turned to enter into the second alleyway, a figure jumped out of the shadows towards her.
"Can you spare some change?" A weather worn face asked her.
"I don't have any." She said truthfully.
"Thanks anyway Miss. I'd be careful if I were you around here. There's been a lot of violence around here. Be careful and I'll keep an eye out for you." the weather worn face replied to her.
"Thank you." Heylyn pulled off her hat, a fashionable woolen beret and tossed it to the man.
He caught it, sniffing it deeply.
"It smells like heaven. Thank you miss." the weather worn face crawled back into the darkness.
She turned into the conjunct alley and continued her way home. She was part way to the third alley when something hit her from behind and she fell forward onto her face. She struggled to her feet looking around for her attacker. Not one but six large men stepped out into the alley to face her.
"Seems you picked a bad night to walk home alone." One of them stated, his matter of fact tone annoying her.
She loosened up and readied herself hoping that she wasn't too out of practice for a confrontation.
"What do you want?" Heylyn asked them squarely.
"We want you. And whatever you've got. But we'll take you first." Another spoke without negotiation.
"Well come and get it then." Heylyn replied, her brow furrowing.
"That's what I like to hear!" the first one said as they all six advanced.
The first one came close attempting to grab her. Heylyn's foot quickly and efficiently clipped the underside of his jaw, shattering his two front teeth. He backed away grasping at his jaw wimpering quietly and painfully.
The second tried to grab her from the side only to receive her knuckle to a point directly below his nose, sending a sharp pain up through his skull and making his eyes water profusely. He didn't see the second blow which clipped his solar plexus immediately removing all of the air in his lungs and paralyzing his abdominal muscles. He gasped struggling for a breath.
The third got a hold of her shoulder from the other side and she spun connecting her hand with his temple. She reasoned that if she made it look fancy the others might consider retreat before attempting attack. Stunned he stumbled backwards and fell. She was wrong and they continued their assault. The fourth and fifth grabbed her from behind attempting to constrained her. She grabbed the first one's arm and twisted it spinning his thumb in place. A shot of pain flew up through his wrist and forward to his elbow and his shoulder suddenly felt like it was on fire. He screamed as she tightened her grip. The other man reached for her neck and the released the man she was holding to confront him. He swung at her and she side stepped his blow with little effort letting him throw a second. He did just that and her counterstike caught him in the bridge of his nose and simultaneously his his floating rib. His eyes filled with water and mucus while he struggled for breath like his cohort.
She backed away into one of the others who'd gotten his wits. He quickly grabbed her arm as she struggled against him. He hung on for dear life knowing that if he let her loose he'd be done for. His perseverance paid off and another one of his fallen comrades was on his feet and holding her other arm.
"Well, it seems you are outnumbered." The sixth one pointed out.
"That b#tch broke my teeth. I'm going to kill her!" the first one spoke spitting bits of his teeth onto the ground before them.
He pulled a large knife from his belt and held it to her throat. She eyed him with scorn.
"You might want to try flossing a little more." She asked him scathingly.
"Let her go!" A voice commanded from a fire escape high above them.
"Make me!" The first said, looking up to the fire escape.
A dark shadow flew down from the heights above landing directly on top of the first one, folding him to the ground underfoot.
A blur of colors flew about the air and the attacker's leg was in mid flight connecting with the thug constraining Heylyn on her right side. He fell quickly already unconscious and a fist hit the back of the neck of the other holding her.
The other two had stood again to face this new threat and before a flurry of feet and fists reduced them to a pile of unconscious flesh.
"Are you ok Heylyn?" The voice asked, a tall female stood before her, her hair streaked blond and red.
"Yes, I'm ok. Thank you for saving me. Who are you?" Heylyn asked.
"I need you to grab a hold of my shoulders and don't let go. Most of all I need you to trust me." The voice asked Heylyn.
"What are you talking about? I'm not going to..." Heylyn responded defensively.
"You have to trust me Heylyn. Please." the stranger asked again pleadingly.
"How do you know my name?" Heylyn asked the mysterious lady.
"We've known each other for a long time. You need to trust me." the lady said presenting her back and shoulders to Heylyn.
"Alright. But nothing funny." Heylyn let go of her reservations momentarily.
Heylyn threw her hands around the neck and shoulders of the stranger before her and was hefted in the air by leaps and bounds as the mysterious stranger scaled the face of the building. Not sticking to the walls, but finding hand or foothold wherever one presented itself quickly and efficiently. The mysterious stranger thrust upward towards the roof top without stopping and Heylyn hung on for dear life. Once there she leapt building to building until they were scaling Heylyn's condominium and with a final bound were on Heylyn's balcony.
Heylyn let go of the mysterious stranger and struggled to keep her balance after the tumultuous trip up the side of the building. She caught her breath and looked at the stranger with wide eyes.
"How did you do that? How did you know where I live?" Heylyn asked the strange lady, her blonde hair gleaming in the night.
"I said I've known you for a long time and you've known me." the lady responded.
"You aren't another stalker are you? Maybe I should call security." Heylyn asked readying herself once again defensively.
"No. I'm not a stalker. I'm Alicia." the lady replied calmly.
"That's impossible. You're lying! Alicia's... bigger." Heylyn accused the lady.
"Let's get inside. I'll explain everything to you. Trust me." the lady said trying to gain Heylyn's trust once again.
"Ok. But you have to explain what's going on and no funny stuff either!" Heylyn asserted herself momentarily and then opened the sliding door to the interior of the condominium and found the light switch her hands still shaking from the trip home.
She quickly went to the fridge and poured herself a small shot of liqueur which she readily threw back.
"I don't usually do that but this is definitely an exception. I need to calm down." she said to the lady as she poured another.
The condo itself was large and full of Heylyn's work projects. Some finished and others at some point on their journey to completion. Her walls were covered with artwork by a variety of different artists and styles accompanied by some of her design drawings that she'd had professionally colored. There was no place that it was a mess but there was also no place that it was in completely in order. It was artistically decorated from top to bottom giving it more of a warm welcome than a don't come in attitude. Alicia eyed one of the paintings that adorned the wall depicting a model strutting her designer garb lighting up a dreary world and the smiles of onlookers around her. The background was dull and dreary but the closer to the design and the model you looked the more faces and smiles alight there were. The artist's initials were an elaborately designed iconic signature of the letters MR.
"Nice place. Kind of what I'd imagined you'd have." Alicia said looking it over.
Heylyn went to the fridge and pulled a liqueur cooler from it.
"Drink?" She asked Alicia.
"No thank you. I don't drink and do that. My body could probably metabolize the alcohol fast enough but I don't take any chances." she replied.
"Well I'm going to have one for both of us then." Heylyn responded opening a cooler and pouring it into crystal champagne sifter and taking a seat on the sofa across from the strange lady.
Alicia was wearing a stylish tunic and a tight fitting stretchy skirt and what appeared to be fuchsia tights. They appeared a bit more utilitarian than for presentation which made them stylish in an odd way. She was wearing brand name black court shoes, which didn't quite go with the outfit Heylyn thought, but they were practical. Her top was a snug fitting material also black with paneled pattern etched into it's surface. There appeared to be numerous holes that had been the result of battle, though no wounds were apparent. Upon closer examination she realized that the tunic, skirt and tights were one of her combined designs from one of her first fashion shows. Heylyn panicked when she recognized what appeared to be bullet holes in Alicia's clothing.
"Are you injured?" Heylyn asked Alicia in a panicked voice.
"No. These holes are the results of numerous encounters. I'm fast enough to avoid them most of the time. I heal pretty fast too." Alicia answered her clinically.
"Now. Tell me what the heck is going on!" Heylyn demanded, taking a pull from her drink.
"It's me Heylyn. Have you forgotten about our friendship? Our time in school together?" Alicia asked her in all seriousness.
"No. I didn't forget anything. Look at it from my point of view. This is all a bit too much for me to digest at once. I take my nightly walk when I get attacked by some strangers. You show up and trounce them like some kind of... super vigilante and then tell me you are my best friend from school. Maybe you should start this." Heylyn told her taking a seat and urging Alicia to.
"Ok. That's a good idea. Where do I begin? I've been working on some incredible research. You would not believe what we've... I've been working on. The truth is that they don't know what I've discovered and I can't let anyone know. You're the first person that I've told." Alicia explained.
"Told me what? You haven't told me anything. You show up out of nowhere and kick the crap out of some men trying to attack me for which I'm grateful, and then take me on an amusement ride up the building and to my condominium all while holding onto your back! What the heck is going on!" Heylyn took another drink from the sifter emptying it down her throat before returning to the fridge for two more and putting them on the table before her.
"I know this is hard for you to believe and understand but you have to try. I've developed a sort of chemical that bonds with fabric and makes it do all sorts of incredible things. The fabric accentuates whatever qualities you have in you both emotionally and morally. I don't understand exactly how this occurs as the effects are heuristic. I only know for sure that it does. Secondly it seems to bond with something internally in whomever wears the fabric. It imbues them with great power and even changes them. I mean look at me. These effects remain the same for as long as a couple of hours after the fabric is removed. I designed the compound and formula as a way to reverse the effects of degenerative diseases at the genetic level. So that cells affected by such diseases could reproduce successfully while shedding the mutations caused upon infected cells by certain diseases. Both genetic and environmentally acquired diseases. We also targeted fast cellular regeneration using a sort of binding with the original stem cell that produced us. A copy of the original genome from which we emerged. The fertilized egg. It turns out that cellular mitosis can be modified to refer to a copy of the original genome that resides in pocket universe made possible by something I call quantum folds. You see, when a cell is irradiated it..." Alicia explained as best as she could hoping that Heylyn would understand her.
"Wait a minute. Slow down Alicia, you lost me. Remember I had to get you to tutor me so I could pass my biology and chemistry classes. So why would you bring me into this. Why call me up tonight and explain to me that we're going to change the world?" Heylyn asked Alicia quickly as she imbibed another drink before opening another.
"Because the formula and compoud is finished and it works great except for one thing." Alicia replied, looking down at her costume.
"It requires that the fabric be shaped into clothing and that it has some form of artistic design to it. Aesthetic. Like how we perceive it affects its functioning in some way. Like quantum observation selection effects. I don't know why or even how the chemical 'knows' what is artistic or not. It must be built into the universe somehow at the quantum level though I don't understand it yet or an interaction with our conscious perception of what we see as being artistic. I only know that if the fabric it is applied to isn't hand crafted carefully by someone with an artist's eye, it doesn't work. Or at least not as potently or the same way. You end up with anomalies that become more chaotic than beneficial. Even the abilities the wearer receives are different according to the design and the designer. Even by the design of their hair or makeup. Even makeup has an effect as well as it ties into something to do with our perception of artistry. Sometimes powerful, sometimes not. I'm not like you Heylyn. You're an artist and designer. You might be able to really make this into something great and help us both to understand it. Once you get the feel for how design affects and shapes what is possible with it, you'll be able to design cures for disease just by the shaping and design and colors of one's clothing and the correct application of the formula." Alicia explained pausing for a moment to catch her breath before she continued.
"I'm not even sure why it does that. Definitely more quantum than genetics based transmogrification. You as a designer should be able to shape what the fabric and the clothing does. You'll probably have better luck than I did in the design department with both hair and cosmetics or without. You can do things by feel rather than by finite measure. You could do this just by your design, the shape of it, its colors and the effort you put into it though the results aren't always predictable. Even when I take this uniform off, I revert to my original form, though I've lost a little weight since high school as a result of the recent exercise but I'm still a little heavy. Ok. I'm done. Whew." Alicia stopped nervously and looked at her long lost high school friend.
"Just be yourself Alicia. You were always good to me. I want you to be happy. Though if being happy is losing your weight, you must make that choice yourself but either way, I'll always be your friend regardless." Heylyn told her friend.
"And I yours." Alicia responded to Heylyn more loyal that ever.
"I'm not sure about the other stuff that you were talking about, but from what I did understand you're saying you want me to design fabrics and clothing to make cures for diseases or to make people into... heroes. Superheroes?" Heylyn asked.
"Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying. Learn to utilize this effect so that we can shape the cures or even become super athletes or heroes. I mean look at what's happening in the city. In the world recently. Especially with gangs and violence. Tonight was only one example and I've been doing nightly patrols for a while. There's something going on and definitely some kind of organized force that are coordinating them." Alicia replied.
"I like the idea of helping you cure diseases. As far as running around the city in tights I'm not so sure. I'm sure that some of my guy fans would probably just love it. We'll need to play with ideas and test it out then. I don't even know where I'm going to find the time. We'll have to do it at night then. Start in the evenings and go until two am, no later because that's all my body can take and I have to be rested for the day. So do you. What do we need to make this possible?" Heylyn pondered the plan before asserting herself to Alicia.
"I'll have to get some supplies from the lab for the coating process. Of course I'll need SY349A and B. That's the serial number for the formula I developed. You coat the material with the A formula every time you make a new outfit. The B formula is a once off ingestion as a pill once and once only for your whole life and that enables the coated material to interact with your cellular structure. The two combined activate the irridiation process. Nobody can just put on your clothing and benefit from the effects of the SY349A coating unless they've taken the SY349B pill and besides, the effects of that costume might be different on them." Alicia advised Heylyn.
"Hmmm. I think I understand though I seem to remember you helping me with my chemistry home work. I don't really understand the technical details but I get what you said. You get the supplies and bring them tomorrow evening at seven. We'll try some tests with the fabrics I have and I'll fix up your suit. Make it more streamlined and more stealthy for the night. Afterward I'll make us some hero's costumes. We'll become heroes of our own." Heylyn's mind began going over the potentially limitless possibilities.
Then her mind hit upon the real possibility and at once she comprehended the immense responsibility she'd been given.
"With this formula from what you are saying we could even design something that stops cancer, or reverses it." Heylyn's face grew long in awe.
"Yes. The formula makes it possible to affect the body's physical and genetic structure in a very short period of time via error free cellular mitosis. A few hours from when you put the formula treated fabric on, though that time is affected by the overall design." Alicia expanded upon Heylyn's observation.
Heylyn's hallmark of balancing aesthetic with function was something that she was renowned for in the fashion industry and had learned well from some of the giants she'd interned with. She had the rare talent to be able to accommodate either without compromising the other. This project gave her creativity a playground of potential through which to explore the possibility of immense benefit for all of humanity. The silence in the room was a sure indication to Alicia that Heylyn's mind was already deep in contemplation.
"I see that you've already started. I knew you'd love this Heylyn. Its really good to see you again. Friend." Alicia said truthfully before she stood and walked over to the balcony door.
"I have to go and finish my patrol and then get some sleep. You should rest now and don't tell anyone about what we talked about. Nobody." Alicia smiled at her friend.
"I won't tell a soul." Heylyn stood and gave her friend a warm and heartfelt hug.
Alicia wiped a tear drop from her eye and stepped out onto the balcony and leapt out into the night in a style all her own.
"Night Style. That's what I called that outfit. The Night Style. Well that's your name Alicia. I hope that you like it." Heylyn thought aloud as her friend disappeared into the darkness.
Downstairs, a car pulled up to a stop outside of the condominium the driver brandishing a cellular phone to his ear.
"She just left a moment ago. I couldn't keep up. She's way too fast. I'm not sure what she was doing here and she wasn't here for long. She might have foiled another crime or stopped for a bathroom break." the man spoke into the phone.
"Excellent. Just track her down again and keep her on the scope. If this is connected to the research lab I want to know before the other investors do. This could be huge. Tighten the surveillance at the lab as well and report in if anything changes. Don't let this get out. Get the gangs mobilized for the next few nights as well. I want a presence on the streets. I want this town to know who's running the show. Most of all I want to get this... Night time vigilante." the voice on the other end of the phone commanded.
Torman hung up the phone exhilarated by the thought of what they'd reported to him. Numerous sitings of a super powered avenger that could scale buildings leaping from rooftop to rooftop. She could take out an army of thugs with ease as she had at the botched corporate sabotage Torman had orchestrated. Another one of his pressure tactics to lower the stock value of a tech firm he was trying to acquire. She'd taken all eight of his cronies out before they'd stolen the company data and computer equipment. This was the better than he could have hoped for.
It was certainly better than he knew.
Heylyn arrived in her office at West Meet East International an hour later than she usual. She'd started the company on her own after she'd presented her first two major shows. She'd actually presented them more than once at various fashion exhibits which had generated a lot of interest. From those initial shows she'd signed a deal with four major garment manufacturers for the designs which of course were to bear her own name as part of her introductory signature series. The idea of the garment manufacturer and their confidence in her products. It was at that point she'd needed an identity that symbolized some ideas that were much more important than just one person alone. She'd come up with the name West Meet East while thinking this concept over as a way of literally reintroducing the west to the east. She'd hoped that it would break down some barriers and highlight the triumphs of the times when the west and east met to the prosperity of each. Perhaps like when Marco Polo's trip to the Far East garnered the first European trade through the Silk Road. Uniting the west and east and promoting the first real world connecting trade route. Like when England had returned Hong Kong to China, it had repaired bridges that had long been destroyed in ages earlier starting a new era of prosperity and trade between the West and the whole of China. It also had returned a long lost child and that child had matured into a beautiful adult much like its two nation parents.
When she started the company she sought design partnerships and hired with this idea in mind. She hired with diversity in mind seeking to represent the concept of West Meet East in her company directly. She had a very artistic and multi-talented staff each of whom were flexible and could operate in many roles. She'd regularly take on intern students and staff building her company on the partnerships of many. She'd also reward staff who helped to get others onto their feet. A social responsibility she felt was necessary for making a better world. Sometimes just such a lost soul would find their way to the runways after having a difficult start in life. Not everyone after all was so fortunate as to make all the right choices right from the start. After all, her clothing was as much a social statement as it was about social responsibility. Sometimes art had to twist itself in many ways in order to wake people up but she had to make sure that her company was awake first. For the first deal her name was used (for her signature line). The other three deals that she signed were her first deals under the West Meet East company name. It was with the capitol generated by those deals that she built the company. Heylyn having remembered Alicia's measurements from her graduation dress had sent her the very first evening wear suit from her line as a gift.
The West Meet East headquarters was a large office facility that she'd had modeled to her design specification under the approval of an architect. It had a multitude of offices, a shared design area with cutting tables and sewing machines. There were three theater sized studios for photo shoots or small fashion shows alike. There was a larger theater for the bigger venues which she'd lease out from time to time whenever another designer or company needed a space for a show. There was a lunch room, dining room and a brainstorming room where employees could go to spark their creative juices with a number of activities. The whole concept had payed off and the company became self sustaining in its first half year and by the year's end it was turning a handsome profit. Heylyn reinvested those returns back into the company and had even began profit sharing with every one of her staff. She felt it made them feel more like a team. In as much it gave her a good feeling starting each day. That is when she hadn't been accosted in an alley and rescued by a super powered friend from her school years wearing one of her designer outfits as a costume.
When she walked in and past the receptionist a handsome man well dressed approached her with an entourage of four people following in tow.
"Heylyn? Do you have a moment?" he asked her.
"I'm sorry Heylyn, this is Mr..." the receptionist interjected pragmatically.
"Mr. Allen. Allen Spears. You might have heard of me." the handsome man held out his hand as Heylyn accepted it.
"Yes I have. You host Evening Fashion on Showca..." Heylyn tried to finish as did the receptionist.
"Yes that's right. Do you have a moment to give us an interview in your studio?" Mr. Spears asked her maintaining his charming smile.
Heylyn smiled back a little bit taken by this unexpected attention. She had been awake for most of the night and had only slept an hour. She woke up this morning already late and put her face on before running out the door. She felt self conscious and didn't feel ready for an interview.
"I'd love to but I had late night and I'm going to have..." Heylyn tried once again to finish.
"Please don't say no. You do realize that our audience numbers are nearly two mill..." Mr. Spears tried to finish before the receptionist interjected.
"Mr. Spears, we'd like you to wait here while Heylyn gets settled into her studio. She'll call us here when she's ready." the receptionist winked at Heylyn who mouthed thank you as she ran down the hall to her studio door.
She opened the door to the studio seeing the clutter in her office with bits and pieces of her projects here and there. She suddenly realized that she had nothing ready to show except something she'd been keeping as a secret project for her up coming presentation at a fashion show. It was a piece that she was going to wear herself and a playful one at that though she felt up to it.
She folded it up and put it into her carry bag, the one that she'd use to transport projects back and forth between the studio and home. She looked for something she could show to Mr. Spears for the audience of Evening Fashion that was presentable. She quickly redid her face trying her best to hide the bags under her eyes. Normally she was quite proud of them as they were the signs that someone was so obsessed with or into their art form that they often lost sleep over it.
When she'd found something to showcase she called to the receptionist to have a model sent in for the showing and told her to show Mr. Spears to her studio fifteen minutes later.
Monique walked into her studio and gave her a warm hug before asking her what was required. Heylyn chatted with Monique for a moment before handing her an outfit she'd designed and assembled last month. Monique disappeared into the change room and re-emerged ready for the showing.
Monique had lived a rough life up until her opportunity at the studios and with the designer's company. She'd narrowly avoided the pitfalls of drug addiction by her sense of determination but her passive and easy going side had often betrayed her especially once she had gotten comfortable in a situation. Her ex-boyfriend had been one such person and as a small time neighborhood bad boy. He'd gotten her close enough to the wrong choices to make up for her share of the right ones. His idea was that he was going to slowly work her into the trade of selling her body for sex while he'd be her manager.
She had gotten the opportunity walking home one day from her boyfriend's home. She'd passed Heylyn who was on her way to the studio for a showing though she didn't have a model for the job. She had planned to show it on herself though it didn't go with her hair or her style and she really wanted to present the design on the best candidate to really make it shine.
Monique walked by catching Heylyn's eye by her unique hair and eye color. Monique's poise was natural and eye catching. Heylyn quickly stopped her and offered her the job, a two hour gig all together for five hundred dollars, a sizable amount for Monique at that time. She of course accepted and they had become friends from that point on. Monique was hired a short time later by the designer company and kept on staff for regular photo opportunities and fashion showings.
She had struggled against her boyfriend's hidden plans for her and once she had found out what he was up to, she'd struggled with the moral similarity of selling one's physical self for the enjoyment of others. He'd even used that argument to try and convince her that it wasn't different from her day job anyway. Just a change of people and scenery he'd say. The same sexy clothing and being part of the center of attention.
When Heylyn had learned of this she rented a neighboring condominium bachelor unit for Monique and told her to get away and to stay away. He'd forget about her and she'd forget about him. In the mean time she tried introducing her to some of the guys she'd known who occasionally worked for the designer's company. Monique never resented the aggressive sistering that Heylyn gave her but she still missed the exciting lifestyle of her boyfriend's neighborhood.
Despite her outwardly passive appearance Monique craved an exciting and passionate lifestyle through which she could show that part of herself. That's why she exceeded quickly as a model but she still felt a lack in her life that could not be matched by anything but risk or sometimes recklessness. The self destructive nature Heylyn had seen in many models before. All she could do was to mentor her and hope for Monique to make the right choices and finally take charge of her life.
Mr. Spears and his entourage walked into the studio as Monique stepped out of the change room. He was as were many men were taken aback by her beauty and her presentation of herself. Both affirmative enough to indicate self confidence and playful dominance and demure enough to imply playful subservience.
The make-up artist and stylist arrived and gave Monique a quick touch up while the Mr. Spears entourage went over the studio selecting the right place to shoot from and the best place for the interviewer and interviewee. Heylyn had been through this process many times before and kept herself busy as she waited patiently for the interview to begin.
"Good evening everyone. I'm Allen Spears and I'm sitting here tonight with Heylyn Yates of West Meet East International." Mr. Spears put on his television face and manner and played it up crossing his eyes at Heylyn as the camera panned to a portrait shot of Heylyn.
"Hi Allen. It's great to be here." Heylyn responded a little bit of laughter escaping her.
"You've been riding high on the success of your recent evening collection. Do you think that you could show us something from your upcoming runway show?" Mr. Spears waited for the camera to change to focus on Heylyn before scrunching his face up tightly and squinting at her.
Heylyn's smile broadened for the camera and she instantly understood his charisma and talent as an interviewer.
"This here is from my upcoming night collection which will focus on the night life and for those people that live actively. Maybe for those that like to go out dancing and enjoy the night life. Here we see Monique in one of the first pieces of the collection and of course we'll see Monique again as part of the full show in two months." The camera panned to take in Monique as she strutted for the camera a few steps towards and a few steps back.
Heylyn's suddenly envisioned in her mind a short dress of scales over scaled patterned stockings leading down to a pair of stylish boots. The boots weren't heeled as most of her non-formal wear designs were and had designer soles that were both armored in Kevlar and had a foot guard of pressed plate.
"That has sort of a couture look to it but short enough to play in. Any fashion tips for our viewers?" Mr. Spears this time kept his face extremely and unflinchingly serious once again getting a smile from Heylyn and a giggle from Monique.
"For the evening don't wear anything that restricts your movement or your style. Combine colors that let you be seen with shades that keep what you want hidden." Heylyn spoke confidently about something that she loved to do which was design clothing and adornments.
As she thought about her night wear show, her mind suddenly focused on an upper body top once again lined with scales up to a smooth finished and flexible breast piece of Kevlar. Flowing from the design was an undulating and glowing aura that appeared like the wings of a butterfly. The piece was rounded out with formal gloves much like what you would find on a couture dress on a lady out for a night at the opera.
Heylyn had rarely experienced visions unless she was under the stress of a deadline. She had been in many such times in life but this was no such time or was it? She had been working all day on her designs for the show and drawing up the patterns and matching materials for the seamstresses. At night she'd get home and eat a quick meal on the fly as she drew sketches of the outfits she'd want to work on for the next day.
The events in the alley last night and Alicia's reappearance in her life had triggered something in her that was fueling her creative drive and she liked it. Her energy level had picked up and if things got any better she might actually have the energy for a workout at the Dojo. She had studied martial arts for her whole life since she was six and had mastered three different styles by the time she was nineteen.
Tae Kwon Do had given her the strength and stamina she'd need for her long hours at the studio and kept her from tiring too easily. Regardless of her lack of recent practice, her legs were toned and curved like a fine instrument and to someone who found legs attractive, hers were a complete work of art: beautiful and deadly.
She had studied Kung Fu which gave her speed and accuracy. She had learned to balance and channel her bodily energy and to focus her mind to such a point that it did not get in the way of what her body had learned to do naturally. Over her period studying the various forms of Kung Fu she'd come to enjoy the dragon style with its dramatic forms and almost mystical and counter intuitive presentation. She'd become fast and fatally accurate.
Finally she had studied Goju Karate which gave her an abundance of power and a hard and soft form. She'd learned techniques for disabling an opponent very quickly and efficiently and deflecting blows with it's open handed blocking style. Repetitive practice of her katas while developing her own utilizing her knowledge of Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu had given her a very versatile technique for dealing with many adversaries before becoming overwhelmed. She'd become diverse in technique and form.
Despite her recent lack of effort in the department of her physique she was still toned and a finely tuned instrument of physical stamina, speed and prowess. Despite all of her training Alicia and her formula had made her look like she was moving in slow motion.
She wondered how her design arts and her costume might improve her abilities with the help of Alicia's formula. Who was she kidding, Alicia's talent was making all of this possible and it was below Heylyn to be modest on her behalf. Alicia had spent many years trying to overcome her shyness around others and her self consciousness with her appearance. Heylyn was going to help her overcome those issues and they would work as a team to clean up the recent spate of crime in the city.
His day started early and with a phone call. He had been sleeping soundly and in the midst of a nightmare about missing the next purchase and being left with nothing in the process. In it the research firm had dropped in value as planned but most of the shares had been rescued by an emergency buy ordered by Norler. Norler though tough on the exterior was a conundrum to Torman's way of doing things. In reality Norler was an effective leader, a good judge of character and a shrewd negotiator but he liked to take unnecessary risks. Those risks were always based upon his views of his moral responsibility, a phrase that was found on the lips of more and more people in board rooms across the world.
Torman had always regarded it as a fad, though he had regarded the ecological craze of the early millennium in the same way and had already missed a number of investment opportunities in his skepticism. Norler on the other hand had made several profitable investments in the commercial and energy sectors, a number of which had turned around a bad year and strengthened the firm's confidence and buying power. A year later he was voted to the chairman's position, commanding a total worth of more than forty five billion and a considerable reach on the investment ladder.
Tynan and Associates had been on the radar of the investment firm for two years and had made an impression with the release of a smart drug that was capable of renewing and repairing RNA messengers in cancerous cells. Though only usable in the later stages of cancer and often near the critical mortality stage, it had a success rate of twenty five percent with the test subjects who were treated with it. That meant that those subjects who had been treated with their drug had a complete reversal of cancerous cell growth, with all cancerous tissue regenerated as normal tissue.
The body even broke down the remaining cancerous growth and removed it via the immune system on those test subjects. Though still five years from making it through the rigorous approval standards of the international medical community, it was the most promising cancer treatment to date. It had one catch. Of the successful treatments, there was a 10% cumulative chance per year that the patients would experience a remission that would spread at twenty times the normal rate. These facts were ascertained in simulation but nonetheless were realistic dangers to those patients and had affected the investment profile of the research firm. The honesty of the research staff and the project management team had affected their chances at renewed funding for their future.
Torman had written them off as an a potential liability risk while secretly keeping an eye on them for the last two years. His plans were to see the value hit rock bottom and then buy up the firm and raid their technical research and sell it to the highest bidder. A year ago Norler had at a meeting brought up the subject of Tynan And Associates and the risks of a purchase. He admitted that he had been through his own firm keeping them fed and their research programs funded under tight supervision and reliable monitoring of progress. This had thrown Torman's plans off all together and he needed a strategy to come out of this either owning Tynan And Associates or taking Norler's place as the chairman of the board of investors and purchasers.
In Torman's nightmare Norler had held a vote and the board voted unanimously to purchase the research firm and commit to ten years of project funding with the goal of reaching the market with a viable cancer treatment drug based upon their RNA repair technology. Torman had broken down yelling at the board claiming that the investment was all risk and that they had lost their minds. Furious that he had lost out on his secret investment he then pulled a machine gun from his briefcase and proceeded to gun down each of them one at a time in a furious hail of bullets. He threw the gun onto the table, smoke still rising from its muzzle as he considered his options. That was when the cellular phone that lay two inches from the smoking gun rang, its melodically catchy tune echoed through the silent board room.
"Yep. Go ahead." Torman spoke groggily into his cellular phone sitting up in his bed.
"We've got something. It's the girl. The dangerous one. She just landed twenty feet from the loading dock entrance and she's on her way in." the voice reported to Torman.
"Ok. Hold on." Torman covered the phone.
Torman glanced at his clock and then to his girlfriend before getting up and going downstairs into the kitchen where he continued.
"I want you to keep an eye on that place all day until it closes tonight. If anything happens or someone leaves the place use one of your two mobile units. You always stay put and alert and always call in anything of note. Do you understand?" Torman spoke with seriousness to his hired eye.
"Yep. I got it. I'm prepared." he replied and hung up the phone.
Torman ran upstairs and jumped into the shower and was out again in two minutes where his girlfriend met him.
"Do you have time for..." she asked him seductively.
"No babe. I've gotta go." Torman seemed eager to avoid her and when she sensed this he changed his emotional stance with her. He needed her after all.
Valerie was twenty eight and he had met her at a banquet during an investment conference. She was well educated and well liked amongst her peers not to mention that she was tremendously fit and beautiful in the textbook definition. She had approached him first as his outward appearance was deceptively different from that of his inner appearance. She had interrogated him about his work and his portfolio while he expressed little interest in her.
When he later saw her talking closely to someone whose support was imperative for an upcoming deal, he quickly changed his stance towards her. He feigned interest in her and proposed that they go out for a drink that evening. They did so and found their way to her hotel room back at the conference. They slept very little that night but both were up early the next day and back into the convention.
When the afternoon had arrived and they had a lull in their respective schedules they returned to their lovemaking of the previous night, this time using his room. The convention continued for another three days and by the end of it, they were an item and he had gotten his deal. After all, she had put in a good word for him in regard to it with her friend. He had used her in such a way ever since as had she him, though her affection for him was real and she might have married him.
"Look babe. This is a busy time and I'm stressed. We'll have dinner together tonight." he kissed her on the lips and tried to pull away.
Valerie grabbed him and pulled him back to her and he returned the same kiss again before leaving the bathroom to get dressed leaving her seductively leaning against the porcelain sink like a discarded Venusian delight. She thought that she'd give it another chance at dinner that night.
Torman was dressed and out the door five minutes later.
Alicia stood atop the EMX Tower staring across the city in all of its vastness. The tower upon which she was poised stood like a monolith amidst the backdrop of other skyscrapers and nearly pierced the clouds. She had learned to fight her fear of heights and was now as comfortable standing atop sky scrapers as she was standing at the top of a flight of stairs. Thanks to her suit a fall from one in either case posed little threat to her. She would merely use her newly acquired acrobatic abilities to catch a grip on the wall or slow her descent enough to withstand the impact.
The last part of Alicia's trip was always a difficult one and required her to make a jump that was at the limits of her current abilities. The EMX building fortunately for her neighbored a row of other buildings that formed a staircase over the course of ten blocks. The last jump in this staircase led right into the back parking lot and loading docks of the Tynan And Associates research building.
She started the last stretch of her journey to the lab leaping from building to building careful not to cause any damage to the structures as she did. She arrived at the last building and jumped using her arms to slow her approach to the parking lot before she tucked into a roll across the pavement redirecting her momentum horizontally. When she had slowed enough she stretched her legs outward into a cartwheel using her arms to push herself onto her feet each one touching the ground in turn.
She looked around the parking lot to see if anyone was watching her. When she was confident that nobody had seen her she casually strolled up the stairs to the door and opened it with her key. Inside she encountered a second door where she entered her code after which the magnetic lock disengaged and she was granted access to the research facility. She quickly found her locker and stashed her suit then made her way to the shower.
Nobody had arrived at the research facility and she had timed her routine perfectly every morning for the last week since she'd been using her formula treated suit. She had stripped herself naked and jumped into the shower giving her body a moment to heal from the rigorous physical regimen she'd endured the prior night. Her body would still be under the effects of the suit for two hours after which her body's cellular and metabolic systems would start to return to the natural state of her own body.
A short time later her body shape would return and though she'd lost much weight as a result of her increased physical activity she still had some to carry. She'd usually be in the lab when this occurred and in her clothing. It was initially loose fitting when she had put it on but would soon be filled in as her body state returned to normal. By that time all of her wounds would have healed and any physical damage to her body would be repaired to a limited degree.
There was much to do and when she'd finished dressing herself, she proceeded to the laboratory and started preparing the formula. There had to be enough to complete several rolls of fabrics and composite materials for things such as Armor though she wasn't certain what Heylyn's plans were.
It took her an hour to prepare the final chemical stages of the formula before it had to be separated in the centrifuge. From there it was superheated to burn off impurities and to cure the residual composites necessary for the bonding process. The radioactive isotope that resulted from the bonding process was what Alicia theorized was a key factor in the functioning of the formula.
She proposed that the decay of the isotope allowed proteins at the molecular level to rewrite their own code and to modify the RNA messengers used to fix and modify cellular production and other bodily structures. The RNA could reference its own code via the protein strands and could even reference a prior arrangement of amino acids from any time the body had been "alive" via non-locality, temporal loops and quantum fold propagation. At the atomic particle level the effects of the formula caused strange behaviors and interactions between particles that were completely counter intuitive, as if some cosmic consciousness were playing with their measurements. Even above and beyond the already counter intuitive nature of quantum mechanics itself. What was happening behind the phenomenon was that another universe had come into existence that contained an original copy of the complete DNA from the original fertilized egg and stem cell alike and a future copy of the same genome as it existed unaffected by disease. The RNA could then use this backwards reference to the original copy (from the past) and a unaffected copy (from the future) during mitosis because as far as the connection between the atoms that made up the molecules that make up a strand of DNA were concerned, there is no such thing as time.
The research possibilities of the formula were potentially endless and Alicia knew it. It was a for them to integrate biochemistry with the field of Cosmology, Physics and Quantum Mechanics for use in the medical field. Then it wrapped it all in the fact that this effect could be shaped artistically just by the power of aesthetics. As Bryce Maxwell had put it, when nature chooses to show her true self to us, it is only then that we understand what beauty is. That physics and medicine could be married to one another was incredible. However their courtship was one of aesthetics and art because such a union is born of the beauty of truth. The beauty of confidence of self and one's peers and one's health. Their own mutual mortality. Lack of fear thereof, for and by. It was incredible that they still had to struggle for the research money to continue their operation. That's what happened when a group of people such as themselves were so far into something that so few were aware of and even fewer would invest the time to grasp. The faster they got there with this new technology the more people they could potentially save from a variety of illnesses. It was as if a force was working against them. Godel's demon or Jung's trickster. An unseen force that would operate against their efforts towards progress. That too was like a conscious force though a malicious one that was playing with the perception of their potential to the outside world. Little did she know that such a force existed and it was called Torman.
When she finished in the lab she pocketed the material treatment formula and several of the accompanying doses of the ingestible formula in her lab coat. They were contained in four hard packaged vials and had enough to treat several hundred yards of fabric and enough for six human doses. She then made her way through the stages of decontamination and back to the lunch room where she sat and wrote some notes in her journal regarding her theories about the SY349A.
This was the favorite part of her day as there was nothing but silence in the laboratory as there was still one hour before the first employee would arrive for the day. Her mind was free to wander about the possibilities of the formula and the potential paths they could take for future versions. The cancer treatment they'd developed had recently made it through the first stage of international approval, and they were already working on a second version using the new SY349A. Another research group was developing a program that targeted degenerative disorders such as Muscular Dystrophy which would eventually lead to regrowth of the muscular system, the nervous system, the limbic system and even the spinal cord. They'd had success producing neurons that had been enhanced by the formula meaning that at some point in the future it might be possible to heal and regrow missing parts of the nervous system. Including those neurons in the brain. Much of their work and research in the field of Neurology and the nervous system had indicated that as far as the body was concerned there was little difference between the neurons of the nervous system and the brain. That opened the door to the possibility that the actual function of "thinking" was not limited to occur within the skull cavity. Most of our cogition and grammatical thinking appeared to stem from that location but more and more medical research was finding that kinetics and muscular learning actually occurred in other parts of the body and specifically the nervous system. The SY349 did not differentiate between types of cells, it merely augmented the process of mitosis with the ability to course correct itself during the process of reproduction.
In the ground breaking non-invasive procedure the treatment would be administered through wearable items such as jewelry. The patient would receive a dose of the ingestible formula which they'd only take once in their life and then be required to wear a bracelet or a necklace that was of course treated with the SY349A formula. It was the same science behind Alicia's suit and thus had the same waiting time until peak effect. Alicia theorized that the physical qualities of the whatever the isotope was applied to would shape qualities of the radiation emissions that caused the bodily RNA messengers to regard their connection to their quantum counterparts. Like the suit it also benefited from the "form amplifies function" effect whereby a designer could shape the treatment artistically taking into consideration such things as the shape and even the color of the jewelry as compared to the area of treatment. One shape and color might be better for treating and reversing the effects of a brain tumor and yet another shape would affect treatments for lung cancer. The possibilities created a whole area of expertise that made aesthetics as much a part of that treatment as the understanding biochemistry itself.
Alicia jumped when she heard the door open behind her and the first research associate entered the lunch room brandishing a cup and a packaged muffin.
"Good morning. How are you today sunshine?" Alex spoke with confidence a big smile on his face.
"I'm doing just great. How about yourself Alex?" Alicia returned politely though a little bit apprehensively about the loss of her quiet time.
"Just fine this morning. You know that we have a presentation this morning?" Alex asked Alicia, the grin still stretched across his face.
Alicia panicked for a moment as she visibly flushed. She'd completely forgotten about the presentation. She was expected to take the podium for at least a half an hour to round out Alex's research update which was presented to a silent investor and his advisors every two months. This one was especially important as it could lead to a research deal with funding secured for at least a decade.
Alicia jumped to her feet excitedly and gave Alex a peck on the cheek.
"Oh thank you. You just made my day!" she said hardly able to contain her glee.
She turned and was out the door of the lunch room and out into her cubicle to prepare for the presentation. If they could really make this presentation count their investor worries might be over and research programs for the next generation of SY349A would be a reality and Quantum Fold Propagation and RNA Regenerative treatments would be as common as penicillin within fifteen years. A new generation of medical treatment would be available and they would be a big part of that. She opened her presentation software and began piecing together her presentation.
A Change In Plans
A man sat in a car just out of view in the parking lot of the research building. He watched a group of people entered the building from the back entrance.
"Someone just arrived. At the lab. A guy in sun glasses. He's got three other people with him." Torman's hired observer spoke into the phone.
"How are they dressed?" Torman asked him.
"They're dressed in suits. They're passing looking through the contents of a file folder." he replied back.
"Damn! Investors. Ok. When they leave again, put one of the other cars on them and report back." Torman responded a little bit of panic in his voice.
"Will do." the observer answered but the line was already dead.
"They've got investors checking the research firm out for a purchase or investment deal. Just like my nightmare." he though to himself.
He walked in a circle for a moment and considered his options carefully before deciding to go ahead with his the disaster plan. He opened his phone once again and dialed a number from memory.
"It's Torman. We're going to go ahead with what we discussed. I don't want any evidence left behind and I want the researcher unharmed so we can question him. The hard way if necessary. If you need to call me, text first with the code." Torman hung up spinning his executive chair around to face his desk.
He opened his top drawer and pulled out a locked case which he carefully opened with a key from his key chain. He opened the case carefully and pulled forth a 9mm handgun and three magazines of additional ammunition. He put it carefully in his belt and pocketed the magazines returning the case to the desk drawer before stepping out.
"I'm out for the weekend Koryn, take any messages and I'll get them on Monday. Have a good weekend. Say hi to the kids for me." Torman said without looking at her directly.
"Thank you Mr. Torman, you have a nice weekend." Koryn replied getting back to her emails.
"Oh I most certainly will." Torman replied.
The drive back to his house was peaceful in the midday traffic and when he arrived it was three o'clock PM. Torman made one more call to set his plan in order. He dialed and waited for an answer.
"Go ahead." the voice answered.
"Send in the dancing lab coats." Torman told the mobile unit.
"They're en route." the voice answered.
With that Torman hung up the phone and waited for the plan to unfold and for his girlfriend to arrive home from the office before they headed to his real office.
The Project Director shook hands firmly with Norler as he walked to the door, shaking the hands of each of his advisors as well.
"We'll setup meetings every month as discussed in our plan. We look forward to speaking again." Norler stepped out the door, his advisors behind him.
Norler, who'd been eying Alicia made his way over to her and extended his hand.
"Walton Norler. I'm sorry that we didn't get a chance to talk. I've been quite a fan of your work for some time." Norler smiled for her sincerely.
Alicia blushed for a moment taking in the attention she'd been getting her mind still firmly on Alex.
"Thank you. I understand you've been making waves in your business as well." Alicia replied.
"Maybe you'd like to get together for dinner some time? Maybe we could speak more in depth about our efforts?" Norler asked her.
"Well, I don't know when I'll be available next..." she said blushing profusely looking for Alex.
"I'll give you a call soon and we'll make arrangements. Is that to your liking?" he confirmed with her.
"Alright. Thank you for coming to see what we're doing here. I hope you were impressed enough to fund us." Alicia responded still slightly blushing.
"It was my pleasure. Keep up the good work." he said to her as he followed his board members and advisors out the door.
The Project Director turned and walked back into the meeting room where the staff had snuck in after the meeting had adjourned.
"That's it. We're done." The Project Director paused for a moment feigning disappointment.
The mood of the room bottomed out as the faces of every researcher was painted with disappointment. The Project Director stood silently for a moment before he spoke again his face lighting up.
"They're going to fund us for an additional fifteen years! They've already committed to it in writing. In exchange they'd like us to bear their name as well. Tynan Research, a subsidiary of Tynan And Associates. That came from Walton Norler himself. He said he was particularly moved by Alicia's and Alex's presentation." He exclaimed hardly able to hold his excitement.
The room broke out into cheers and laughter as a hugs and handshakes were passed around the room.
"I'd like to take a moment to thank Alicia and Alex for their excellent presentation. Their enthusiasm really pushed the message home and that we're serious about this as the next generation of treatment technologies for some of the most challenging obstacles to human health and mortality. We will be meeting at the Emporium for drinks and dancing tonight to all interested." The Project Director finished his speech and found his way back to the office.
"Way to go Alicia! High five." Alex approached his research peer cheerfully.
"Hey! We're a team." She said to him knocking his waist with her hips.
She had put her spare suit on underneath her lab wear and the SY349 had started to take effect.
"That's a pretty awesome hip check. Are you going to the Emporium tonight?" Alex asked her with serious interest in his eyes.
"I don't know. I might be. It depends." She answered him unsure if he was expressing interest in her or not.
"You should go. It will be a chance to get out. I'll be there." He said and winked to her before he left and returned to his work.
Alicia thought about Alex's implicit invitation before returning to her area to collect her things. There was still a half an hour left and she wanted to get some rest before starting the night, after all it might be a busy one.
Before she left, she dialed Heylyn as she had the other night still wondering how they were going to put this whole thing together. As she dialed the thought occurred to her that Heylyn might have just written her off as eccentric and lost. Ultimately she remembered what her friend had told her all of those years ago, believe in yourself. Funny how self doubt rears it's ugly head when you take your biggest risks, she thought making an effort to correct her own course.
"Heylyn speaking." Heylyn answered cheerfully still flying after the great interview.
"Hi. Its Alicia. What time do you want to meet at?" Alicia was curt and to the point.
"How about we meet at my place in about an hour. I'm just on my way out. Try to come in through the front door this time." Heylyn joked with Alicia.
"It's been a while since I've used a front door or any door for that matter. I think I can remember how to do that. I'll see you soon." Alicia replied returning the levity gratefully.
"Bye for now." Heylyn hung up the phone.
After Alicia had finished a short meeting with the Project Director she stepped out the door. On her way to the bus stop she failed to notice the car that pulled into the back parking lot at Tynan And Associates. These men weren't employees but they wore the same lab coats that all of the researchers wore. Everything about them was similar to the research employees when looking from the outside but looks can be deceiving. They weren't there to utilize their resources, drive, knowledge and love of life to create a solution to one of many problems plaguing the world. They were there to take.
Design For Two
Heylyn walked into the lobby of her condominium to see Alicia seated in the waiting area. Heylyn nodded to the security guard as he announced her guest's presence. Heylyn and Monique had walked the distance home together as Monique's condo unit was on the same floor though a few units away and they'd accompany each other for the walk home when they could. It was the least that Heylyn could do to make sure that Monique's ex-boyfriend did not show up and cause problems for her.
"Alicia, this is my co-worker Monique Defleur. Monique this is Alicia. She's an old friend of mine from high school. We're working on a project together." Heylyn introduced them and the trio went to the elevator.
"So are you working on a fashion project together?" Monique asked a little curious about Alicia.
"Well. Yes and no. We're designing lab coats for the research firm she works for. Alicia thought they could be a lot more stylish yet still be functional so she came to me." Heylyn answered her graciously.
"Yes we can show a little more leg but we want to make sure that researcher's minds are on their research." Heylyn made a vain attempt at a joke.
"Yes, but we could make them battery and solar powered to operate the lab instrumentation and recharge phones and other devices if need be. There's enough wattage in fluorescent lighting to charge solar devices plus we could..." Alicia stopped herself before she went to far.
"That sounds neat. That would work great for regular clothing too." Monique said instantly catching on to the idea thinking about her own e-reader.
Alicia and Monique shared a common ground when it came to technology and this alienated Heylyn a little bit. She'd used software from her days in school especially digital painting and design packages. She preferred not to dabble in the technology itself but rather was interested in what it could do to shorten the time from concept to wearable clothing and fashion accessories while still being functional.
Most of her designs were very comfortable and complimented rather than contort the human form. In this way they were alluring in ways that were often ignored by some designers of more traditional items like shoes and waist wear. An important part of her design was to be able to be physically free moving no matter what the setting was that the clothing or outfit was designed for while maintaining the traditional appearance of the outfit.
Her formal wear designs were always complimentary in a traditional sense and attractive but no matter the outfit, one could be nearly as physical as they wanted to be. There were no constraints imposed by her outfits upon the range of motion or the tilt of a woman's hips to affect presentation of her legs. In one of Heylyn's outfits one could just as easily walk the wedding aisle, dance the entire night or even do an hour of gymnastics without being limited by the outfit or footwear. Her night wear and formal wear designs would look just as good in heels or heel-less.
This always rubbed the traditionalists the wrong way but Heylyn's designs were just an alternative design that praised the human form upon which it was worn. Those who still preferred heels might even buy them and wear them with one of her outfits (a sort of statement in itself) but her own shoe designs rarely twisted the form in ways that compromised the body.
Heylyn had learned from experience when people started to notice her that many men (and women) were afraid to say what they thought when it came to something that their spouse might wear. Most it turns out might say what they thought the other might want to hear in order to avoid hurting their feelings when it came to items of clothing that they were wearing.
She'd learned this by careful observation of people. She noticed that there were many people (including her former partners) who might take notice of her when she had worn heels, but there were nearly twice as many when she'd worn a more modest shoe that was easier on her physique and hips. Her musculature and curves were more apparent especially if she'd been working on them. The clothing itself presented her form in the most gracious and alluring sense because it was worn upon a work of art. The human body.
Heylyn's thoughts returned to where she was as the elevator door opened. Alicia kept herself from talking too much in front of Monique for which Heylyn was grateful. Monique had no idea about what they were doing and just about everybody would be kept out of the loop until they crossed that bridge. When they arrived on their floor Monique said her goodbyes and went her way and they turned the corner to arrive at Heylyn's condo. When they got inside Heylyn immediately went to her design table and pulled the outfit she'd separated from her work and put it out on the table.
Alicia noticed the clock on the wall and asked Heylyn if she could sleep for spell.
"I'm surprised that you lasted this long. Go ahead. There's a guest room down the hall on your right. Do you want something to eat before you sleep?" Heylyn directed Alicia making sure that she was fed.
"I'm not hungry. Please wake me up at eight o'clock as I've got to meet some people at the Emporium tonight. You can come if you'd like. I'd prefer it if you would." Alicia answered looking like she was ready to sleep there.
"That's perfect. If you need anything just help yourself. I'm going to fix up some things that I brought home tonight for our project. Maybe we can do some tests tonight too on our way to the Emporium." Heylyn's project obsession found its way her late afternoon.
Alicia disappeared into the guest room and was asleep a short time later.
Heylyn continued her design effort examining the outfit she'd put on the design table. It was a sort of risky design itself intended as night wear one might wear to a dance club. She spent the rest of the evening piecing it together with some other functional parts and some experimentation in order to test the effects of the SY349A formula.
Her intuition told her to try some design elements that she suspected were linked to the formula and what they'd enabled with Alicia's abilities while wearing it. When she'd finished she took a pair of Kevlar sports boots that she'd received as a gift from the manufacturer for her endorsement. The boots were Alicia's size and most likely would function well with her suit. The Kevlar added to their durability though Heylyn expected it wouldn't be long before she would be required to attempt utilizing the anti-ballistic fabric into both of their outfits. When she was done she took a nap on her couch remembering to set the alarm for eight o'clock.
Torman's entry team who were dressed as lab technicians waited in their car in the back parking lot for a few more employees to leave before they made their move. They had a check list that they were keeping with all of the employees they knew about. Every time one of them left, they checked that one off so they knew exactly how many were remaining and who. When the only people left were the ones that they wanted they made their move. The driver dialed a number on his cellular phone.
"We're going in now. We'll be at the back ETA three to five minutes." he spoke into the phone before hanging up.
He started the car and drove over to the back entrance, stopping the car and leaving it running. The three of them got out and used a key to gain entry to the building and a code they'd obtained careful surveillance of one of the employees.
When inside they walked through it strategically checking each room to make sure that they didn't miss anyone. The first person they encountered was a lab technician making their way out of the building. They walked by unnoticed by and continued on their mission.
When they arrived at the cubicles and workstations they noted two of their three targets present, each of them sitting at their cubicle presumably finishing up their end of the day work. One of Torman's technicians dealt with the lab associate while the other dealt with Alex.
"Hi, I need you to come to the Project Director's office for a short meeting before we go." Torman's lab tech requested of Alex.
Alex looked at him curiously thinking he'd never seen him before. He looked at the security badge that he was wearing which appeared to be legitimate before he responded.
"Sure thing. What does he want to congratulate us for the great presentation again?" Alex asked the Torman's lab tech.
"I think the Project Director is thinking of taking a trip." Torman's lab tech answered improvising.
"Ok. Gimme a second." Alex took a moment to organize his cubicle before grabbing an attache case and heading for the Project Director's office with the lab technician.
Something was off but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. The other technician was already on his way to the Project Director's office and both really didn't know what to expect.
When they arrived at the Project Director's office they caught him just as he was packing up to leave for the weekend.
"Is this a surprise meeting?" he asked the quintet a smile on his face.
"I thought you requested us?" Alex said to the Project Director.
Alex was very certain that something was amiss when one of Torman's lab technicians blocked the way out of the Project Director's office before speaking.
"We're going on a trip out of the back door. Nobody make any sudden moves and no signals to anyone. Let us do the talking if we encounter anyone that you know and you'll likely save their life. Act natural and nothing will happen. When we get out of the back door there will be a van with the doors open waiting for you. Get in and don't make any sudden moves." Torman's lab technician spoke in a calm and practiced manner keeping his gun in their view but concealed from others.
The trio immediately complied with the request although Alex evaluated his options. He sized up the three of them and considered it unwise to attempt to dismantle the situation here in these closed confines. Although he'd been trained for situations like this, he wasn't sure that he could handle three of them quick enough and there were lives at stake.
The most imperative thing that he could do was to ensure that their lives were safe and that the formula remained protected. There were three perpetrators and they had a vehicle and a schedule which meant that it was part of a bigger organized plan with other people involved. They had targeted the three of them selectively which meant they were likely after information. The Project Director was likely the highest priority target alongside himself with the lab associate being expendable. They would likely threaten to kill the lab associate in order to pressure him and the Project Director to reveal their knowledge of the formula.
To stall them here and now would likely mean injury or death to one of the other non-target employees as they'd likely kill them to silence them if problems arose. Instead he decided to look for a way to communicate what had happened when the opportunity presented itself.
The group proceeded to the back door of the building only running into one person a member of the cleaning staff. They all maintained their ruse so as to save his life and their own. When they made it to the back of the building they exited without incident to see a black van with its side doors open and two figures in black waiting for them.
The Project Director got in as Alex looked around as obsequiously as possible collecting as much information as he could. He noticed another car on the other side of the van and noted its model and color. before getting into the van himself. The three faux lab technicians closed the door of the van and returned to the car they'd arrived in, discarding the lab coats revealing their black suits beneath.
Both vehicles left the back parking lot of Tynan And Associates at 4 PM sharp and were en route to the rendezvous point to meet with Torman.
Heylyn's alarm rang at seven fifty five startling Heylyn out of her short nap. She'd managed to sleep for forty minutes and though she felt energized, she knew that she'd pay for her lack of sleep sometime soon. She got up from the couch and tapped on the guest door for Alicia.
"It's eight o'clock sweetie. Time to get up." Heylyn notified Alicia of the time.
"I am up." Alicia replied as she emerged from the room looking refreshed.
The formula also accelerated the metabolic rate of the body meaning that what you consumed was turned into energy quickly and when you rested your body recovered at many times its normal rate.
They both walked into the living area which also contained her design table in the spacious room. Heylyn spread the outfit out across the table along with the Kevlar boots she'd modified for Alicia.
"These are for your outfit. They're Kevlar reinforced boots. I modified them a little with clips that should clasp to your legs a bit better. There's also two straps one for each foot to secure something, with a quick release. I also shaped them a little in order to augment your stability or speed." Heylyn handed them to Alicia.
"This is great! Thank you so much. This is exactly what I needed." Alicia examined them carefully playing with the strap.
"This is the suit I modified for myself. Its a make shift modification of an outfit I had planned for an upcoming show. Its taken from a dream that I had as a child." Heylyn gazed at it, lost somewhere in thought.
"That's beautiful. It looks a bit like scales. Armor. What is it?" Alicia asked her looking at.
"It's a high grade composite material I've been using in some of my newer jackets and other clothing lines. It's manufactured in a few different forms. This one here resembles a scaly pattern and was originally designed as weather and water protection by the manufacturer. It works well though it's useful for many other things too. I kind of wanted it to look a bit like a butterfly and a bit like a dragon." Heylyn said as she prepared the garment along with Alicia's boots for a treatment with the formula.
"A butterfly? I can see the analogy there, but a dragon?" Alicia asked a look of puzzlement on her face.
"You're a butterfly in a sense. I mean the graduation dress..." Heylyn responded to her after a moment of thought.
"...like a cocoon. Coming out of my shell. Being unafraid of the world..." Alicia said in realization.
"Something like that. The butterfly is delicate too. In need of protection. The dragon. Not so delicate. Sometimes destructive. Very destructive." Heylyn said laying her costume out on the table examining it carefully.
"Then why have the dragon next to the butterfly if the butterfly is so fragile?" Alicia once again delivered her question to Heylyn's doorstep awaiting an answer.
"They both have qualities that we need. We need to use them in correct proportions and for the right situations though. That's what I got from the story." Heylyn explained to Alicia.
"You mean like don't bring a bull to a..." Alicia stopped herself short.
"Yes. Like don't bring a rampaging bull to a shop with fragile dishware." Heylyn replied with a smile and a smirk.
"Bring the butterfly instead." Alicia said.
"Bring both, but let the butterfly do the talking." Heylyn said winking afterwards.
"Well?" Alicia asked Heylyn.
"Well what?" Heylyn asked Alicia as the put the boots out on her table.
"Aren't you going to tell me the tale?" Alicia asked her expectantly.
"Are you sure that you want to hear this?" Heylyn asked Alicia.
"Of course I do. Its important." Alicia spoke sincerely.
"Ok. Here goes." Heylyn answered her as she summoned the tale for Alicia:
"Alright. It's a tale about a large field where many creatures lived. The field was their entire world. It was their home." Heylyn started.
"All of the creatures that lived there, lived happily and in harmony. Some were more dangerous than others but they got along." Heylyn continued.
"Like the butterfly and the dragon, right?" Alicia asked her.
"Well there were butterflies that lived there but no dragons. Not yet at least. Remember that this is a children's tale so they were pretty peaceful and happy." Heylyn replied wondering if she'd asked the same questions of her Grandmother when she was younger.
"You mean they didn't eat each other right?" Alicia said.
"Exactly. They might have if she'd told me the story when I was sixteen instead of six. I was young so they kept the part about animals eating each other out. So to me at that time they were telling me the story of a bunch of cute and cuddly animals in a field." Heylyn said thinking about it.
"There were the ants, the worms, the bees, the snakes, the mice, the birds and the butterflies. No dragons though." Heylyn proceeded with her tale.
"Cuddly ants? Bees? Snakes? Really? So if there were no dragons, then where do the dragon scales from your costume come from? How'd you come up with that?" Alicia asked her.
"If you'll let me finish the tale then you might find out." Heylyn said a bit sarcastically.
"Sorry. Please continue." Alicia pursed her lips a smile still apparent on them.
"They had no enemies and the field would provide all of the food that they needed to grow up and have children starting the whole cycle over again." Heylyn to Alicia impatiently.
"Like Utopia." Alicia said to Heylyn.
"U what?" Heylyn asked Alicia.
"Utopia. You know. The concept of perfect world order and peaceful organization amongst people. Plato first spoke of..." Alicia started before Heylyn cut her off again with a scathing smirk.
There was a moment of silence as Heylyn caught found her place in the story.
"It was very peaceful there until one day the collectors happened upon this field." Heylyn leaned against the table.
"Collectors? You mean like stamp collectors? Bill collectors?" Alicia asked again confused.
"You're doing this on purpose aren't you?" Heylyn asked.
"No. I'm just trying to get the tale right..." Alicia clarified.
"Animal collectors. They were animal collectors. Like poachers I guess. Maybe they had it in for animals living in peace. Maybe they didn't like U... Utopia. Anyway they were a very vile group of collectors or poachers or whatever you might want to call them whose cruelty was without equal." Heylyn's face held a mean grimace.
"They would collect the most beautiful specimens of each of the creatures and keep them trapped in a cage while tormented them and tortured them." Heylyn's face cleared and became resolute.
Alicia remained silent.
"The cruel collectors would show up and claim one of the most beautiful of each of the creatures from the field young and old alike every time, taking them away never to be seen again. They were kept trapped while they were tormented and exploited for the benefit of the collectors. They were pretty bad people indeed. And cruel. Did I say cruel?" Heylyn confirmed with Alicia.
"You said cruel." Alicia replied.
"I thought so. Anyway, the remaining creatures of the field had a meeting and every one of them that lived in the field showed up. The creatures tried to figure out what they were going to do about these cruel collectors." Heylyn continued.
"The mice said: The snakes can bite them! and the snakes replied: They're too big!" Heylyn made her voice shrill like the creatures she was imitating.
"Was that a mouse or a snake sound?" Alicia asked.
"Look, when my Grandmother and my Mother told me the tale they used to do that. They'd try to talk like a mouse or bee. So that's the way I'm going to tell it to you." Heylyn told Alicia.
"After all, you might have kids of your own one day. You'd better get some practice now." Alicia said to her giggling a bit like a kid herself.
"I can only hope they're not nearly as devious as you." Heylyn said sarcastically still smiling.
"Alright. I'm sorry." Alicia replied to Heylyn pouting slightly.
"The worms said: The birds can eat them! to which the birds replied: They're too big!" Heylyn continued the story in her shrill voice.
"The ants said: The hornets can sting them! to which the bees said: They're too big!" she continued with her squeaky voice stopping a moment to laugh at herself.
"The butterflies said: We can stop them! to which the rest of the creatures laughed asking: What ever can a butterfly do? All you have is grace, beauty and artistry?" Heylyn calmed herself for a moment before continuing.
"The butterflies left the meeting feeling worthless and like they could not help because they could not do anything but be graceful, beautiful and artistic. The other creatures mistook this for vanity while all the other creatures could at least do something to help their field and protect them." Heylyn said to Alicia as she continued.
"And then one night the butterflies got together and decided to make a cocoon. When they made it they included an antenna from the ants, a whisker from the mice, a feather from the birds, a stinger from the bees, the ring from one of the worms, and the scale from one of the snakes, and a pair of their butterfly wings." Heylyn said making a bowl with her hands and mixing the imaginary ingredients.
"The butterflies are kind of like a scientists? Aren't they?" Alicia asked Heylyn.
"Yeah. Like mad scientists." Heylyn said sarcastically pausing before continuing.
"They were just doing their part to protect the field. They were artists so they made something of their own creation to help the field. There were probably a few scientist butterflies there too. Maybe a philosopher or theologian. Who knows? I'm trying to tell it to you the way my Grandmother and Mother told it to me. Anyway, the butterflies left the cocoon to grow and grow it did." Heylyn paused again for effect.
"One day the cruel collectors returned to the field to collect more of the creatures. Each of the creatures was captured as the next one was collected. When the collectors went to take a butterfly the already humongous cocoon opened." Heylyn spread her arms playing the part.
"Out came a ferocious Dragon." Heylyn's hands bent into claws and her face became ferocious.
"So that's the dragon. I knew there was a dragon in this tale. I knew it!" Alicia said aloud clapping in joy.
"May I?" Heylyn asked Alicia who silently nodded retreating a bit.
"The Dragon had the wings of a butterfly so it was beautiful. It's butterfly's wings had the feathers of a bird so it could fly. It had the scales of a snake so its skin was tough. It had the antennas of an ant so it could read minds. It had the whiskers of a mouse, so it could sense danger from afar. It had the rings of a worm, so it could heal very quickly, and It had the stinger of a bee so it was deadly." Heylyn played out each of the qualities of the dragon in detail for Alicia.
"That's one scary dragon. Did you actually get through this tale without screaming and crying?" Alicia asked Heylyn amazed.
"I was a pretty brave girl you know. Even when I was little." Heylyn told Alicia waiting for a moment before continuing.
"Though I cried a lot when the collectors took the animals away." Heylyn recalled.
"The large dragon said to the cruel collectors in a bellowing and thundrous voice: You've taken one each of the creatures of the field! You may keep each one but for a price. For the mouse, I will take your left leg. For the worm, I will take your right leg. For the ant I will take your left arm. For the bird I will take your right arm. For the snake I will take your neck. and for the butterfly I will take your head!" Heylyn once again curled into a ferocious monster.
"You're really getting into this." Alicia said.
"Alright. I'm not going to finish this tale for you..." Heylyn said turning back to the table.
"I like it! Really. It's awesome! Continue. Please?" Alicia pleaded to Heylyn.
"Gotcha! Ok, where was I?" Heylyn turned back around a big smile on her face.
"The collectors dropped all of the creatures they'd collected that day and tried to run before they were stopped again by the Dragon. The dragon spoke again with a booming voice: For all of the creatures that you've already taken I will take your life. The collectors cried: No, no! We shall return them at once. The collectors returned a short time later with all of the creatures they'd collected and set them free though they'd been tormented to no end. They were emotionally battered and distraught after their mistreatment. Some were hardened and harsh and others were silent. Some were content to be free once again and found the strength to smile." Heylyn smiled herself.
"The Dragon then asked the returned creatures whether the collectors should be allowed to go free or to pay the price to which the creatures replied..." Heylyn said letting the last word hang in the air for a moment before Alicia spoke.
"So what did the creatures decide?" Alicia asked.
"I can't tell you. What do you think?" Heylyn asked her.
"Well after that I think they'd probably want to see them become dragon bait. Maybe with a little sauce on top. I don't know. I mean what they did was pretty bad. They hurt the poor little creatures and they weren't really hurting anyone else. Those collectors deserve their lesson." Alicia said a little bit flumoxed by the indeterminate outcome.
"Do they? Maybe they do. Maybe they did have their lesson." Heylyn asked Alicia once again.
"Well. I don't know. I'm not sure what they deserve! Oh Darn it! You did that on purpose!" Alicia said in response.
"Maybe its something that you need to think about?" Maybe that was the point." Heylyn suggested.
"That's the end? Really?" Alicia asked.
"No. There's a bit more. After the creatures of the field had told their decision about what to do with the collectors to the dragon, the creatures of the field never laughed at the butterflies from that day forth ever again." Heylyn said as a smile crept onto her face deep in memory of her parents.
"I can't believe you tricked me like that! I want to know what happened!" Alicia demanded.
"I can't tell you." Heylyn said smiling.
"What did your parents tell you. Your Grandmother. Your Mother?" Alicia pressed Heylyn again.
"The same thing. I thought about it for years. I still do. Even until this day." Heylyn said.
"That's not fair! Didn't you ask them?" asked Alicia.
"I took the answer they gave me and in the end I was too happy that the creatures were free and I'd forgotten about the collectors. As I got older I thought about it though. Like I said, I still do from time to time." Heylyn said turning around to tend to their costume pieces.
"So it sounds like you've got a history and a tale to go with your costume." Alicia asked her.
"Makes me think of that first day we met, on the side walk. Do you remember? About the graduation dress." Heylyn answered.
"Of course I do. That's when you asked me about helping you to pass your biology and chemistry class. That's when you showed me the design for the graduation dress. That was a big day for me. Friend." Alicia told her sincerely.
"And what happened to all those people who used to pick on you?" Heylyn asked.
"What do you think happened them?" Alicia asked Heylyn.
"I don't know. I guess I'm just too happy to have my friend back." Heylyn replied.
Torman's Real Office
The van pulled into the industrial district and proceeded to an abandoned production plant that Torman had procured (through an alias of course) a year ago to see his plan realized. He had installed the latest production equipment to handle anything from refining to the full scale production of just about any chemical substance. It was all programmable via machine control interface and all automated. He had procured the ten giant centrifuges which were equipment that was on the watch list by national security by importing them as individual parts and reassembling them in his facility though he had no intention of enriching any of the banned radioactive isotopes for sale to nuclear customers. Possibly a future venture he'd thought.
The rest of the equipment he'd procured from his recent history of forced lab closures which he executed by careful manipulation of the market forces that supported them. When they'd dropped to rock bottom value he'd come along with an offer of capitol and strong arm them into folding and selling. He'd take their research and hang onto it for later use keeping any patents or dispense it to one of his other holdings to assist in their research. His methods were malevolent and cruel compared with those of Norler.
Norler had always seen a company as being something that should be kept healthy and its employees passionate about their effort and their research technology would inevitably turn out the like. Keep the company healthy and inspired and it's offspring would mature with grace and confidence in the face of an ever changing market. Being realistic did not require anyone to shelve their idealistic dreams. It only underlined the importance of taking them very seriously.
Torman on the other hand regarded the people much like the material assets of a company. Easily liquidated and expendable. The real value of any company was its impression on the markets and the selling prices of its stocks. The technology and creative properties produced by companies were transferable. When such technology hadn't matured it could be put in stasis or transplanted to other companies. The drive and passion of those who created it was not imperative to its development nor did it even have a place in the ledger. Torman had a huge impact upon the market activity and the dissolution of many research efforts.
Meanwhile Norler's impact had been a thousandfold that of Torman and during the waves of change and corporate responsibility. Norler never ignored the bottom line but instead had introduced new ways of regarding its driving forces. Forces that unified the employees and treated them as they were. The most important part of any company. More recently because of the impact of persons like Norler, Tynan And Associates had begun to see spurs of activity in both volume and the value of their stocks. He'd opened the eyes of many to the possibilities of what maintaining that driving force was about. The bottom line was connected to it very much and factored in as much as market impression and speculation. Even more so because it was market impression. When people are unified creating a dream or an idea there was no stopping it. As Norler knew, there was no force like an idea whose time had come. Restructuring to support such an idea was a matter of working with the company, its management and its employees working together and not against one another.
Torman had come to the conclusion that compassion and morality were not his concerns nor the concerns of any business person. The bottom line was the only real concern there was and that everything else that depended upon that would find its way there by ensuring its healthy maintenance. Idealism and passion had no place in business or in the weight of the value of a company or technology in Torman's eyes. That was merely a fad that would come and go like the Eco-boom of the late nineties. The truth was that Torman's dismantling of companies for profit had finally caught up with him in an ever changing world and this was his insurance policy. This was his way to be sure that he retired regardless of what others thought of him while maintaining the lifestyle he'd become accustomed to. This was his final deal and he was looking to cash out and be elsewhere by the time the dust had settled. Unbeknownst to him his impact upon the world was only just about to begin.
He sat inside the building at the desk to his office which was enormous inside of a huge building which easily could have doubled as an aircraft hangar. The chemical operations equipment was spread across the plant floor before him with his office elevated to a stage like platform seventy five feet above the floor. It had no walls meaning one could easily walk off the edge though it was big enough that it minimized that likelihood. He could oversee the entire operation from where he sat. To gain access one was required to take an electric elevator which had little else than handrails and a lever to operate it. Almost feudal in approach he thought.
The group from the van entered the building accompanied by the false lab technicians and Valerie, who they'd picked up along the way. She'd not known about the building or any of Torman's other dealings in this way as she'd been kept in the dark about everything herself.
"Welcome to my humble abode!" He affirmed his presence, his voice echoing off the walls of the huge room.
He waited for them to ascend the elevator to his office, all of them piling onto it at once as the motor groaned lifting them to gigantic platform. There he sat behind a desk at the far end of the platform staring group down.
"Babe, could you take a seat here beside me. As for the rest of you there's seats over there for you." He gestured Valerie to a chair by his side behind the desk and to a set of three chairs to his prisoners.
They all complied, Valerie taking the chair by his side. His henchmen took up positions behind the prisoners while two remained at the elevator. A remaining henchman approached the desk and dropped the contents of the prisoner's pockets and their other personal belongings onto the desk.
"Now. Let's get to get to know each other. It's what most civil human beings do. Right?" Torman looked to the three members of the newly acquired Tynan Research team.
"I'm Greer Torman. This is my beautiful girlfriend Valerie. We are very pleased to meet you." Torman stated confidently while Valerie shifted a little, obviously uncomfortable with the situation but getting a glimpse into the mentality that Torman was often possessed of.
"Let's start with you." Torman pointed to the lab associate.
"I'm Carsen Manard. A research associate at..." He didn't have time to finish before Torman pointed to the next prisoner underlining the unimportance of Manard.
Manard had no clue about what had been implied.
One of the men behind Carsen grabbed hold of the back of his chair and dragged it to the edge of the platform. Carsen panicked and when he tried to stand a gun was held to his face. He quickly sat back down. When he did Torman pointed and his henchmen pushed the chair and Carsen over the edge of the platform. The other two prisoners closed their eyes and winced as he screamed for the duration of his fall which was short ending in a thud and splash as he hit the cement floor of the plant. Torman wasted no time moving on to the next.
"And you?" Torman indicated Alex.
"What do you want with us?" Alex asked him very clinically.
"Ahhh. There's my scientist. Always asking questions and looking for answers. Like me though I'm hardly a scientist. You're Dr. Alex Smyth. You've your doctorate in clinical biology." Torman smiled at his discovery of Alex then pointing to the Project Director.
"That leaves only you. You must be the Project Director. Professor Darret Wenslen. The one with the information that I need. Let's begin then." Torman directed one of his henchman to Carsen just as Alex had suspected might happen.
The henchman drew a gun and leveled it at Carsen's head walking him to the edge of the office platform. The henchman held onto Carsen's lab coat and pushed him toward the edge, the gun in his other hand trained on Carsen's head. Carsen leaned perilously close to losing balance and falling the seventy five feet to the concrete floor below.
"Now. Tell me everything that you know about the formula." Torman demanded of the Project Director.
Darret did exactly as Torman had asked fearing for his own life. He told Torman of what they'd discovered of its unique healing properties and that the main research scientist on the project had been Dr. Alicia Westin, the chief designer and researcher for the project.
"Alright. See? That wasn't so hard was it. Alicia? That must be our girl. The one who's been interefering in my operations about the city. I'm sure that she'll come looking for you and when she does, we'll be ready for her." Torman assured the two men.
"Valerie honey, have Mick get the car ready. We're going out dancing tonight. To the Emporium." Torman instructed Valeria looking back to the two captive researchers.
"Consider yourselves lucky. He's never taken me dancing." Valerie said with a scathed look towards Torman.
Inside she was terrified. She had never seen this side of him before. The man she'd slept with so many times before. The man that she'd thought she would eventually marry. The murderous criminal mastermind of the city had come home to roost. She kept her feelings well masked and proceeded to the elevation platform and back down to the plant floor. The elevator descended slowly giving her time to think about the situation. As she walked by the body of the fallen researcher a tear snuck from her eye onto her cheek. She thought about Torman again and wanted to scream. That bastard! She would play along with his plans and when the right opportunity came up she'd turn him over to the authorities. Business shrewd dealings in business and finance was one thing. Torman had become a crazed and power hungry murderer. It was far too dangerous to expose him now as he was in high tilt. She knew who she could trust in his organization and whom she couldn't. Torman's mysterious overseer kept a sharp eye on the goings on around him and Valerie suspected that Torman was nowhere near as dangerous as this unseen threat.
She committed herself to the fact that she wouldn't let anyone else die. Tonight at the Emporium she'd find a way to deal with him and let the authorities know of his plans.
A Butterfly Is Born
Back at Heylyn's condominium unit Alicia readied the vials of formula with the applicator attachment. It was basically an atomizer allowing her to spray it onto the application surface to which it would bind in fifteen minutes. The effects would start to occur after that binding time. Alicia knew they had to get moving. They had to leave soon and she wanted to be sure that they would be under the effects of the formula by the time they arrived at the Emporium.
Alicia handed the pill component of the SY349 to Heylyn placing it in the palm of her hand.
"Is this the red pill or the blue pill?" Heylyn asked trying to bring some levity to the situation.
"For you? Both. You have to take this in order for the formula to bind to your body. It will paint your entire system with a marker. The marker is what enables the isotope to affect your body. You wont have to take another one for the rest of your presumably long life." Alicia explained about the pill to Heylyn.
"So I won't grow another set of eyes or start talking backwards then?" Heylyn did her best to joke with Alicia.
"You might. I mean when I took mine I spoke with the Chesire Cat for hours..." Alicia looked very serious for a moment before a smile crossed her face.
"Ha ha ha. Alicia in wonderland. Very funny. Here goes." Heylyn put the pill in her mouth and swallowed noticing no unusual sensation.
After Heylyn had taken the pill Alicia began to spray the formula onto the outfit on the design table, stretching it in order to get it on all of the surfaces evenly. The whole process took twenty minutes from start to finish, including Alicia's new Kevlar boots. She took the boots from the table and put them on immediately. Their fit was snug and the clips worked perfectly.
"You'd better put your outfit on now. When you do, you're going to feel strange for the first little while as the transmogrification occurs. Your body will change at the molecular level so it is a little bit uncomfortable. Especially the first time. Believe me." Alicia warned Heylyn of the caveats of RNA repair technology and experiencing quantum fold propagation first hand.
Heylyn dodged to her bedroom with the outfit carefully putting it on and making sure that it was snug in all of the right places. The outfit was a little bit odd but not beyond wearing in public though she'd likely wear something over it like a light jacket. The top was snug and well fitting. Her hands were gloved in formal wear to the elbows which was reinforced with a composite fabric she'd used for sports wear while still retaining an elegant look. Her skirt ran to just above the knees and hugged her body once again revealing her rounded and curved body. Her stockings ran the length of her legs down to a pair of calf high heel-less boots to which she'd affixed some of the Kevlar fabric she'd salvaged from a prior project. Her vest was dark and scaly rounding out her look. This was the start and would help her determine the impact of design upon the effects of the formula. Heylyn took a moment to admire her work thinking that they both looked invitingly good.
"Well let's hope this works as good as we look." Heylyn said pulling her friend over to the mirror beside her.
"Oh, that reminds me. The masks." Heylyn opened her purse and pulled forth a pair of masks.
"Masks? They're usually unconscious by the time they have a chance to get a look at me." Alicia said to Heylyn.
"With a mask you won't always have to fight. You could talk them out of whatever they were doing in the first place. That could save a lot of potential injury and damage for both of you." Heylyn insisted.
Alicia's was a pair of mirrored sunglasses that concealed her eyes and cheeks and masking her appearance just enough to conceal her identity. Heylyn's appeared much like an elegant pair of wings spread across her face like that of a butterfly. Alicia treated Heylyn's mask and her sunglasses and when she was done she handed the mask to Heylyn.
"We can wear these when we try to the real tests tonight..." Heylyn fell to floor gasping.
"Oh... Damn it hurts!" She grasped at her stomach and groaned, her entire body in extreme pain.
The world began to spin and she drifted from this world and back into the world of the field. She wasn't alone. He feet fell quietly on the grass as she approached the flower filled clearing through the trees. The moonlight reflected off the myriad colors of piston and petal alike. It was sheer beauty though beyond the barrier of the trees she felt nothing but pain.
"You've returned to reclaim your legacy. It has been a long time." the voice boomed from everywhere at once shaking her innards.
"I know you. I remember you." Heylyn said aloud looking around for the source of the immense voice.
"Of course you do as we've never been apart. You nor I without. I've been with you since the first time your Mother and your Grandmother told you the tale. Even before that really." the voice spoke again coming from behind her.
She turned swiftly to face it instead only seeing a familiar face.
"Jin!" Heylyn said in surprise and joy.
"Some memories remain dear, do they not?" Jin Hua asked the now adult Ai Yuanlin Ying.
"How do you know of this place? The field? My Grandmother's and my Mother's tale?" Heylyn asked her.
"It is the birthplace of your imagination and your connection to the one you seek." Jin Hua lifted her index finger and a butterfly landed atop of it slowing spreading its wings to and fro.
"I thought you'd taught me all that I could learn from you? The moon rises and the flower closes. You said I'd learned what was needed and then you left." Heylyn asked Jin.
"I said that we never cease to learn in this world of wonder and atrocity. When you learn that you never stop learning you'll realize just how little you actually know. Enough to keep you thirsty for knowledge but never parched of it. Your path with the school had come to an end. As that door closed another opened. Another beginning. You entered it without even knowing that you'd progressed in that direction. Neither up nor down. You proceeded rather than become dormant." Jin moved through the field as though she were floating, her elaborate dress concealing the means of her movement.
"I've reconnected with my friend Alicia.Is that what you're talking about?" Heylyn asked her.
"Friends come and friends go. Some you may take with you forever and others become acquaintances lost to the passage of time. Alicia is the former rather than the latter but even she with her incredible aptitude and her new found abilities has some challenges ahead. As you can see the graduation dress that you crafted for her opened a door. For the both of you and for that matter, the world. The special medicine that she designed has the ability to change many things and as such it is both of great benefit and very dangerous." Jin Hua spoke as she bent over coaxing the butterfly onto the petals of one of the field's many flowers.
"Are you saying that something of such benefit should be controlled? By who? Who could handle such a responsibility? Who would decide such a thing?" Heylyn asked of Jin.
"Asking the right questions as always Ai. Alicia understands what her medicine is capable of and that in the wrong hands it could become a great weapon of destruction and control. There are those who already plan to use if for their own power and benefit. It's potential to heal is also its potential to harm. You will see for yourself soon for you have already begun the process of becoming what you were destined to be. You've made me feel so very fortunate to have been your mentor though I hope that you are able to face what lies ahead. This is both hello and goodbye once again. You're the butterfly that is about to meet the dragon." Jin backed away from Heylyn and disappeared into the distance beyond the barrier of the trees.
Heylyn proceeded after her though her movements were slow and thick as if she were stepping through molasses.
"Jin! Where is the dragon? Where!?" she screamed.
Heylyn stopped when she felt a breath upon her back. She turned suddenly to stand face to face with the behemoth of her childhood though much more real than what she'd imagined as a child.
"Here!" the fully grown serpentine dragon with the wings of a butterfly replied in a voice that echoed throughout the field.
Heylyn was suddenly thrust back into the real world violently as the abdominal pains rose to a peak and then subsided.
Alicia recognized the signs of shock setting in by Heylyn's appearance. Alicia picked her up from the floor and put her on the couch. She then retrieved a cloth from Heylyn's bathroom and wet it with warm water and returned to begin dabbing it on her face.
Heylyn curled up as the first waves of pressure hit her. Her entire body was being modified at the molecular level by the formula and was just beginning its early stages of the transformation. She clenched her fists struggling against the pain. Moments later her painful contortions stopped and her body felt great. Like she was a butterfly emerging from a cocoon or maybe a dragon as Jin had said. Then her contortions ceased and she stood before Alicia.
"Wow! I feel so much better." Heylyn said to Alicia as she examined her hands and legs.
"Really? I don't think that the transformation is through. That was way too fast. Let me..." Alicia tried to urge Heylyn to sit back down.
"It's alright. I'm pretty resilient Alicia. You should know that. Let me get us something from the fridge..." Heylyn stepped into her kitchen and opened the fridge door.
When she opened the door she was presented by a pair of eyes from within the blackness inside of the fridge. Before she had time to respond something wrapped around her waist and pulled her inside.
She screamed as she fell through the darkness only to be illuminated by the moon which floated somewhere above. Her muscles tensed as her finger nails transformed into talon-like claws while retaining the appearance of her regular nails. When she opened her eyes the world appeared different to her. The darkness had ceased to become a barrier for her sight. She could see a trail of mist that followed her hands and everywhere the moved. The trail stayed in place for minutes afterwards. When she concentrated it disappeared and her vision was normal once again. Even the air tasted different to her like her senses were extremely heightened yet when she concentrated they returned to normal.
She examined her body from which an aura emanated and glowed. Her skin had taken on a minute scales which were both soft or tough as steel. Her falling sensation grew momentarily and she looked below to see the grassy and flower filled field rising up to meet her. She heard its heart beating in her ears and she knew at once what it was. She descended back to the field and started to run. She suddenly floated from the ground as a pair of aetherial wings spread from her back. They were of mist and light and shimmered in the air. As if by sheer will and the shaping of her butterfly wings alone she started to fly in the direction she desired.
The field flew by beneath her as she raced towards her destination. When she wanted to land she just willed her body to turn and right itself onto the ground and it did just that. She landed gracefully, her aetherial wings fluttering rapidly then disappearing into her back. There she stood before the cocoon of her childhood dreams. It ebbed like a beating heart as she approached it in her her new costume. She touched the exterior of it in fascination. Something was moving just beneath the surface. She stepped in and peered a bit closer. Suddenly the cocoon ripped open violently and a monstrous head emerged from it. Its jaws opened as it roared at her she stumbled backwards. She quickly flipped herself back up and onto her feet in an effortless motion. When she returned to the cocoon which she found to be empty. She felt something moving in the air from behind her and she spun. When she turned it was gone. Then a voice spoke to her from the direction she'd been previously looking.
"Have you come looking for something here? Why is it that you return after so long Ai Yuanlin Ying?" she turned to see the tremendous creature floating before her.
"You're still here...?" she asked in amazement on the verge of tears.
"How would it be otherwise that you fail to know that where you seek to be is where you've been all along?" the dragon spoke.
"Is that a reference to Frank L. Baum?" Heylyn asked the dragon.
"It seems that you have grown wise in time though in that time what is it that you've sewn? For that alone is far more important than what you reap and what you've known. Did not you hear that from the lips of Jin Hua? My pupil through the ages and your mentor." the dragon posed for her.
"If you've been here with me all along you'd know then wouldn't you." she countered.
"Then you say that I am merely a manifestation of your own mind. A piece of your personality that has been fractured into its own independent mind? Know that I am much more and not solely of you. Long after your vessel shuffles from this mortal coil or should I say toil, I'll be etching my utterings into the minds of many more like yourself. So answer me. What have you sewn?" the dragon asked her.
"You're talking to an artist. A fashion designer. Should I take that literally or metaphorically?" Heylyn asked creature as it floated propelled by two enormous feathered butterfly's wings, its long serpent like body coiled as if ready to strike.
"Does not art imitate life or is it the other way around? The eternal struggle I'd say and sound though none be bound. Not many are as quick to pick up on my word play or my absurd ways. How about both?" the dragon loomed over her bringing it's face in close to hers.
"Both literally and metaphorically? Both art imitates life and life imitates art?" Heylyn confirmed with the dragon somewhat confused.
"Both both. Now what have you sewn more so than what you've known?" the dragon replied.
Heylyn thought for a moment about her most important creation wondering what it could have been. A moment later she spoke.
"Alicia's graduation dress." Heylyn answered the dragon.
"Very good and I would have said just the same. For you see its not just what you sew but the thread it leaves in its wake and for what sake. You helped a young friend of yours to get over one of her fears and together you're going to change the world. In more ways than you know. It all started with helping that girl to get over her own self consciousness and helping her to get over the thought that she was somehow less. Confidence in this world is an undervalued commodity often possessed by those who've not earned it and take it for granted. You helped Alicia to dress herself of it well by what you'd sewn and the thread it bore. Keep in mind butterfly, there will be more. You will face a grave peril at the place you both seek joy. Be this as said by Jin Hua' s lead that this is both hello and goodbye for now though it is." the dragon mired as much as it admired her.
The dragon's face faded and the field slowly disappeared as she drifted from her dream back to reality. She looked down at herself in amusement dreaming that she was flying and when she awoke she was on the couch and the room had stopped moving.
Alicia stood over her shaking her attempting to rouse her.
"Heylyn! Heylyn!" Alicia said loudly trying to rouse her friend from her dream.
"Wha... How long have I been out?" Heylyn shook her head.
"For about an hour. How do you feel?" Alicia asked Heylyn.
"I feel... good. Very good and healthy. A bit strange." Heylyn said rubbing her head.
"We don't have to go to the Emporium although I kind of wanted to speak to Alex. Maybe even tell him about..." Alicia started.
Heylyn thought about what the dragon had said. About the power of Alicia's medicine and how it could potentially be used to heal or harm. The dragon had indicated that there would be danger waiting for them there. She had to make sure that Alicia was safe just as Alicia had saved her in the alley way. There was so much at stake and this mystery and adventure was only beginning.
"I think I'm good enough to go to the Emporium. Besides, I wouldn't miss your party for the world." Heylyn sat up feeling very different than she did an hour ago.
Her mind was the same but it was almost like she was in an entirely different body. Her own body though it had been transformed.
"You should take a look at yourself in the mirror first." Alicia warned Heylyn.
"Why?" she said as she got up and ran to the mirror.
She was shocked when she looked into it seeing her face had changed. All of the areas of her face that had color. before were accentuated as if someone had painted those parts. Her eye lids and brow line were a dark shade of lavender. Her lips and cheeks were a deep red. Her eyes had become like those of a cat or a reptile. When she looked even closer minute scales were visibly etched onto the surface of her skin but only lightly so. Even the suit itself had changed a little to accommodate her body which had increased in musculature but only accenting what was already there. She once again felt light and very powerful. Though she was taken aback by the changes in her, she was energized and excited to experiment with her new abilities.
"I'm going to tell you something that I decided when I joined the research team. What I did was promise myself that what I learned and what I accomplished would only be used to assist and protect others. If I'd gotten a job offer elsewhere I wouldn't have taken it. Progressing and earning money is alright but using these abilities only for excessive self gain is wrong. We must use them to help the world. Understand that." Alicia reminded Heylyn of their real responsibility.
"I think I understand. You sound like another friend of mine." Heylyn said thinking back to the dragon's question of her.
"I hope that you're ready to go along with that because I don't think that I could stop you even if I wanted to. But I would try if I had to." Alicia said in all seriousness to Heylyn.
"Sweetie, you do not have to worry about me. I'm already on my way there." Heylyn replied but she'd not understood fully the responsibility her abilities might impose upon her.
"Ok. Let's take a trip to the Emporium, check out your new abilities and enjoy ourselves with my coworkers and peers. How is it that you say it in the fashion industry? Schmooze?" Alicia said and with that they left through the front door, each concealing their clothing under a pair of stylish trench coats Heylyn had pulled from her closet.
"You've got it. As long as you're schmiling." Heylyn replied.
As the two women walked out of the condominium in the downtown air north towards Queen Street Torman's last watch called to inform him of their departure.
"On their way then? I guess we're going dancing tonight." Torman replied from the other end of the phone.
"I thought you didn't like dancing." Valerie said to Torman still shocked at what she'd seen of him.
"I guess I'll have to try liking it tonight. Besides, you can dance and I'll do business the hard way." Torman said to her grabbing her hair and forcing a kiss upon her.
She resisted and had become disgusted by what he'd become but she went along with it thinking of the safety of the scientists and finally her own life.
The walk to the Emporium had been uneventful though the Friday streets were crowded and active with night life. Alicia was used to the heightened sense of awareness her abilities had given her. She took notice of some things and knew when to reject certain situations while keeping an awareness of others. Heylyn was only beginning to understand the complexities involved. When they'd walked by a couple who were verbally arguing with one another, Heylyn had been startled and though that there might be danger for one or the other. A little bit of a closer inspection indicated to her that neither were tense nor did they have an accelerated heart rate. They were both calm as could be though their conversation would imply otherwise.
Heylyn's unique awareness gave her a complete view of her surroundings both in front and behind and even through solid objects. She was aware that there was a man keeping pace behind them walking his dog. The man was not paying any attention to either of them but instead was on his cellular phone talking to another party. Alicia's awareness would operate on visual accuity but only in front of her. Her sense of sound was heightened and as such she could pinpoint a small target from a distance by sound alone. Her heightened sense of sight enabled her to respond with lightning reflexes that no normal person could match. Her reflexes too were quick and kept her safe from the times she'd encountered armed assailants.
The walk was a long one that would put them at the Emporium at just after ten pm, right when it started to get crowded. Alicia thought of her co-workers and hoped they'd be easy to find within the bar. It was the biggest dance club just west of the south central downtown core. It had been a tourist draw as well making it crowded on weekends. The research firm had used it for some of their birthday or employee parties as it was a great middle ground between the likes of the researchers in their mid to late twenties and the interns many of whom were in their early twenties. Darret and Alex were both in their thirties and among the older of the researchers. In the past gatherings they'd enjoyed themselves and as Darret had put it, dancing helped to keep one spry.
Heylyn broke the silence first.
"So if this works have you given any thought to a name?" Heylyn asked Alicia.
"A name? Alicia is fine, isn't it?" Alicia answered, thinking that Heylyn might mean actually changing names.
"No. I mean your outfit. Like in the comic books and movies. You know? Like super duper girl or something like that." Heylyn clarified her question.
"My Aunt was a Police Officer and she's a hero. She's saved a few lives as a matter of fact. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation three times on the job. She never had to change her name to CPR Girl or anything like that. She retired five years ago but that's not the point. Why do people that wear costumes have to change their names?" Alicia said carefully trying to make a point.
"I get your point. My cousin worked as a fire fighter and he saved many lives and is also a nameless hero to the rest of the world. There are many nameless heroes in the world and that's who we're trying to help." Heylyn said trying to spur Alicia into a little excitement.
"We're trying to help people who become endangered or victimized in some way that could potentially harm them." Alicia challenged Heylyn's response.
"A person becomes potentially endangered when they cross the road. Does that mean we're going to walk everyone that we see across the road?" Heylyn posited a scenario to Alicia challenging her friend's stance.
"No. We're going to use our abilities if there is something that we can do to prevent someone from becoming harmed by accident or malicious action in order to keep the world safe and make it better." Alicia answered her somewhat defensively.
"So doesn't a volunteer who commits part of their time to helping others consider themselves a hero? They're making the world a better place? What about instant volunteers, someone who holds a door for the elderly or disabled? They're heroes in a sort of way too and making the world a better place." Heylyn once again countered.
"Yes in their own way. So what you're saying is that a hero is someone who uses the means available to them and their abilities to protect others if they can, to do good and to inspire others to do the same or to inspire others period?" Alicia answered Heylyn with a question.
"I couldn't have said it better sister. Though I'd amend that myself with it depends upon intent." Heylyn smiled at her friend.
"Intent? How can intent come into it?" Alicia asked.
"What if I hold a door for someone knowing it will make me look good? Or doing it because if I beat someone else to it, that will make them look bad?" Heylyn asked Alicia rhetorically.
"How can it be good if you use good deeds as a means to make someone else look bad?" Alicia asked Heylyn.
"Exactly! That's intent. Doing things that create a contrast to purposely prop someone else up by their contrast to someone else they've pushed down. Like what some of the students at school used to do to you. They'd elevate their status by picking on you while at the same time pushing you down." Heylyn explained as best she could to Alicia.
"That's definitely bad intent. Now if I'd provoked those students into doing that to me, that would be another story." Alicia said honestly.
"We both know that you didn't. Some people do though. They were trying to do that to you really. To make you react badly so as to make you the bad girl and them to loo like the good ones by contrast. Maybe they were jealous of your talents or that you'd apply yourself to your school work. That's intent. Maybe someone tries to push a button they know you have so that you'll react badly. Nobody else knows about that button so they think that you're overreacting. You're the bad even though you did nothing bad. It was the intent of the other person that was wrong. So I'm saying that with these great powers we have to be careful not to do that or become victims of that." Heylyn tried to explain the concept to Alicia who suddenly grasped it with ease.
"I agree then for certain. That's bad intent but when life is at stake there's no time to think about such things." Alicia replied.
"And that very thought is good intent. To put the well being and safety of another person ahead of the social politics that might accompany helping them. You might find that kind of altruism in U... U-tupperware?" Heylyn said trying to recall the word Alicia had used.
"Utopia." Alicia said nearly bursting out laughing.
"What I'm trying to explain is that there's people who are going to play you that way Alicia. There will be some who try to take from you what you've achieved in those regards as well. People who do are always on the wrong side of intent and that will get them in the end. Intent determines a lot." Heylyn tried to explain remembering her time with Jin Hua.
"So that doesn't tell us why we need to change our names. I mean Police and Firefighters don't. Why should we?" Alicia made a great point.
"I'll bet you they would if they had to wear a costume when they did those things." Heylyn laughed a little.
"You mean like: When the sun rises he arrives broom in hand to clear the streets of dust and dirt. The Street Sweeper. Quick! To the sweep mobile!" Alicia joked making them both laugh.
"We have clean streets don't we?" Heylyn replied.
"I thought we were going to clean them up." Alicia countered.
"We are. But we have to have some neat names first." Heylyn said to her friend trying to draw the artist out in her.
"What? You mean like Lab Lady?" Alicia asked her not quite grasping the concept.
"That gives away your real identity. No something else. Try a few." Heylyn said.
"The Dark Walk?" Alicia verified it with Heylyn.
"That's getting better. I thought of one the other night for you. Do you want to hear it?" Heylyn asked Alicia.
"Alright. But it better be good if you've built it up this much." Alicia looked at Heylyn skeptically.
"Ok. Here it is. How about... Night Style." Heylyn said building suspense and accentuating the words.
"We talked about all of that to get to Night Style?" Alicia responded to the name Heylyn had chosen for her a shaking her head left to right and smiling.
"I like it." Heylyn said withdrawing a little though defending her idea.
"So do I. So do..." Alicia paused before her friend disappeared with lightning reflexes to the other side of the street.
It happened too quickly even for Alicia to see but Heylyn had leapt out onto the road pulling a lady off of the street before a truck had just barely missed her.
"Thank you! Oh my gosh! I would have been dead! Thank you so much!" the lady said looking around in awe.
"Next time you should wear brighter colors so you can be seen if you plan on waltzing out onto the street like that." Heylyn said to the lady before she carefully returned to the side with Alicia.
"What happened?" Alicia asked her.
"It was like I heard and could see her heartbeat from the side of my vision. Then the same thing for the engine of the truck. Before I knew it I was in the air pulling her from the street." Heylyn replied to Alicia, others staring at her in disbelief.
"I think that we can safely say that the formula is active and functioning." Alicia said with certainty.
"You haven't seen anything. Wait for the next version of both our costumes." Heylyn said with confidence.
Heylyn was starting to understand the link between design and the augmentation the formula gave her body almost perceptually.
"So what do we call you?" Alicia asked her friend.
"The Butterfly Dragon." Heylyn replied.
"That's a good name. Just don't try blowing fire." Alicia half joked as they approached the line up for the bar.
"Only if we eat spicy tonight." Heylyn laughed.
"And no cocoons..." Alicia said to her giving her a friendly bump.
It took them ten minutes to get through the line after which they paid the cover charge after the first set of doors. When they got past the second doors they were confronted with the enormous sound system and the thump of the bass drum. They tried to pass the coat check without luck.
"Coats please!" the girl yelled at Heylyn.
"Pardon?" Heylyn replied over the barely audible over the music.
"Coats please!" the coat check girl yelled again.
They tried to walk past but were confronted by the bouncer who directed them back to the coat check. Heylyn smirked at the bouncer simultaneously seeing his heartbeat, his house keys and the healthy pile of condoms in his back pocket behind his wallet.
"At least he plays it safe." Heylyn commented to Alicia who had no idea what she was talking about.
Alicia fished around in her pockets for her mask. When she found it she pocketed it in her outfit and handed over her coat. Heylyn did the same retrieving her mask and clipping it to her belt for quick access. Heylyn handed over both their coats, now in full costume.
"Nice duds chic! You go get 'em" the coat check girl responded.
She was clearly many years younger than either Alicia or Heylyn and very hip. Heylyn smiled and walked into the bar Alicia following her.
The coat check girl waited for the nod from the bouncer and when she got the signal she retrieved the other vial of the SY349A formula from Alicia's coat along with the pills required to activate it. She tossed both the items to the gentleman who'd shown up forty five minutes before them. He took them and disappeared upstairs to the bar's management offices.
To Alicia this was an all new experience as she'd never lived the social life that most growing youth had lived in the city. She was busy doing other things mostly because none of the guys ever asked her out on a date. As a result she'd missed out on a lot of experiences that were common to most people by the time they were twenty five. The music pierced her senses and she found herself moving. She found it odd moving through the bar and getting eyes from many of the guys there. She found herself fighting shyness at the same time as her ego swelled many times over. Heylyn got the same looks too but she was used to it and she was privy to much more information from her senses than she'd ever been. To her It was also like a completely new experience. Seeing every last detail about the people in your surroundings.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught a the hand of someone dropping a pill into a drink. She moved in for a closer look leaving Alicia to look for her coworkeers. Heylyn walked up to the bar and stood in front of the drink that had been drugged. She waited there casually glancing over to the person who'd tainted the drink. He was in his mid twenties and well dressed. It surprised her that someone who could afford to come out dancing here would attempt such a thing. When the owner of the drink returned Heylyn saw that she was a stunning beauty who'd just come from the dance floor.
Heylyn quickly stepped up to the bar leaning over it and purposely knocking a drink onto the guy who'd done the drugging. As she turned to apologize she swapped the drugged drink with that of the guy who'd drugged it.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do that. At least I didn't knock over yours." She handed him the drink he'd drugged moments earlier.
Heylyn then turned to the lady and offered to buy her another drink. She accepted gratefully and when Heylyn finished paying for it she turned back to the guy.
"Aren't you going to drink your drink?" Heylyn's voice pierced the music and sent chills into his body, his heart beating a mile a minute.
The guy hesitantly picked up the drink and guzzled it. When he was done he stood and walked to the door of the bar and left.
"I saw him drug your drink!" Heylyn told the lady.
"Really? That scumbag! I guess that's why he left in such a hurry?" the lady thanked Heylyn.
"Keep your drink close to you next time or have a friend keep an eye on it for you. Make sure you take a cab or transit home tonight." Heylyn suggested.
"Are you saying that it's my fault for being drugged if I don't watch my drink?" the lady asked Heylyn sarcastically.
Heylyn paused a moment before turning to answer her.
"No. It wouldn't be your fault. I guess it wouldn't be your fault if you died in a motor vehicle accident and you hadn't been wearing your seat belt but chances are in most cases you'd be alive if you were. Take my warning as you will. I was only asking you to be careful and not saying that it was your fault. The crime most certainly is that someone would drug your drink with the intent to take advantage of your state but that determination alone doesn't keep you safe." Heylyn replied and the lady nodded as she wandered out onto the dance floor drink in hand.
Heylyn bopped across the dance floor enjoying herself and arriving where Alicia had taken up her vigil. Alicia had been looking around for her co-workers when she spotted a table near the back corner and recognized Alex and Darret seated with a group of eight burly men she'd not seen before.
"There they are!" Alicia tapped Heylyn's shoulder.
Heylyn glanced in the direction Alicia pointed but could not get a good view from her location. She rounded the bar and tried to take a look at the table again as Alicia followed her. As she got closer to the table she made out shapes in the pockets of the burly men that were clearly firearms. One of them had a handgun under the table and it was directed at the two smaller men. Heylyn stopped Alicia who was on her way to greet them and dragged her onto the dance floor out of view of the table and then proceeded to dance.
"Those men. The big ones. They've got guns! I mean real guns! Firearms!" Heylyn yelled into Alicia's ear as she bopped to the music.
"What on Earth?" Alicia almost looked back but then thought twice about it.
"We've got to keep an eye on the situation from here. I'll call the Police right now." Heylyn said to Alicia.
"We should wait for one of them to go to the bathroom." Alicia said hoping that they were drinking.
"Did you see any drinks?" Alicia asked Heylyn.
"Yes. But it could have been water." Heylyn replied thinking carefully.
"I've got an idea. Why don't we order them a round of drinks like I've seen on television? You could say they were from you. They don't know you. I could keep watch from a distance." Alicia suggested.
"Sure. That sounds great. I could add a bunch of shooters to the order as well. Maybe we can catch them off guard. Let's see if they are drinking on their own and if not then we buy the round." Heylyn added to the plan.
Alicia thought about Alex and how he'd indicated his interest in her and wondered if that interest was still there. How would he feel if he knew they had taken the formula and used it for their own purposes whether it was for the greater good or not. Darret was there as well and how would he take it? Given the situation it might have been the best choice and might not require much justification. She was more concerned for the health and safety of her co-workers so she found a stool beside the dance floor that had a clear view of their table. Heylyn joined her keeping vigil with discretion. She'd noted that two of the eight burly men were definitely drinking and were likely part way to intoxication. That left six that were fully alert with one of them keeping a gun fixed on Alicia's co-workers.
They could never take out the burly men before Alex or Darret were severely injured or killed so instead they decided to wait for an opportunity to act. Alicia never once took her eyes from the group while Heylyn's senses enabled her to see them even when she was not looking at them directly. Together they kept watch and much to Torman's dismay, the music played on and the people danced. From where he was situated he could see it all and soon him and his girl would be able to handle it all. Valerie danced in her treated suit as the formula took effect while Torman sat and watched her. The pain hit them both at the same time and moments later they'd become transformed like Alicia and Heylyn in ways they could not comprehend.
Heylyn proceeded with the plan to buy the armed men a round of drinks. Alicia Stayed where she was while Heylyn ordered a round of drinks and shots for the men guarding Alex and Darret. She fluffed her hair making sure she was alluring enough before she had one of the wait staff bring the two trays full of drink to their table. A few unmarked Police cars had arrived and six plain clothed Officers entered the bar through the front door. They proceeded into the bar area after showing their badges to the door staff.
Alicia and Heylyn both watched as the trays arrived the men taking a look around. The wait staff pointed to the bar where Heylyn was located and Heylyn waved on cue while Alicia maintained her vantage point by the table at the dance floor. Heylyn walked over to the table strutting her stuff in her outfit and drawing many a glance from the guys around her. When she arrived at the table she approached the one with the gun and spoke.
"Hi honey. I'm feeling a bit lonely tonight. How'd you like to play?" Heylyn said flirting with every bit of charm that she had.
"How about we play after I'm done working?" the burly man replied to Heylyn's offer.
"The same offer might be gone by that time." She responded maintaining her flirty style.
Alex and Darret looked at Heylyn unsure of who she was but felt very nervous about her proximity to the man with the gun.
"I'm interested." Darret said aloud trying to grab her attention.
"See. Don't put off for later what you could have right now." Heylyn tried her charms once again to the burly man.
He was a professional. He turned his head keeping his eye on Alex and Darret.
"I see that you already have a thing for your guests." She said feigning a pout.
Alicia watched as two people approached Heylyn from behind. They were somehow different in the same way that Heylyn was different. One was a sharp dressed gentleman wearing a suit and sunglasses while the other was a very stunning and tall lady who wore low heeled boots and a tight skirt. Her physique was as striking as Heylyn's and just as fit. Her top was definitely designer and if she'd known she would have recognized it as one of Heylyn's sold in the designer stores. Alicia's heart skipped a beat when she'd realized they'd been had. The formula. She'd left it in her coat at the coat check. Alicia leapt over the table as time stood still. Valerie, the physically fit lady who'd approached Heylyn from behind put her hand on Heylyn's shoulder firmly securing hold of her. Heylyn saw it before it happened but let it happen anyway out of concern for Alicia's friends. After all, what harm could anyone do to her.
"This is my table. I think that you're leaving now!" Valerie pulled Heylyn with all of her might flinging Heylyn across the room.
Heylyn flew threw the air under the force of Valerie's throw. She tried to levitate herself toward the ceiling of the dance floor where she dug her nails into the plaster. Her glowing wings rose from her back and took shape spanning slowing her momentum. Plaster chips fell from ceiling as Heylyn slowed herself. One of the plain clothed Officers saw the pitch and pulled his gun running for cover. He tapped his headset and signalled his fellow Officers.
"This is Unit Two. We're got an assault in progress! Looks like a fight has broken out on the south end of the bar. Over." the Officer blared into his headset.
"Units One and Three on our way. Over." a reply came back through his headset.
Meanwhile Alicia was in mid air before she dropped into a roll launching herself back onto her feet and towards the man accompanying Valerie. She piled into him with the force of a freight train throwing him at the corner of the bar. His head impacted bluntly and he bounced onto the floor tripping several bar patrons. Alicia worried for a moment that she might have used too much force but when she saw the man stand and brush himself off she knew that he was like her. Under the effects of the formula.
Alex took the opportunity as soon as the gun man was distracted and leapt over the table at him with skilled precision impacting his chest dead center. The man fired the gun once before dropping it the bullet harmlessly impacting the wall behind them. Alex was caught by one of the other burly men who bounced him into the table head first. The gentleman in the suit discarded his broken sunglasses and proceeded towards Alicia.
"Ahhhh. You must be Alicia. I've heard so much about you from Darret. Was that before or after Carsen died?" Torman smiled to Alicia pondering the timing of events.
He grabbed two of the men at the bar by the neck a concentrated green flash of light emanated from his hands. A moment later he released both the men and they flew into a rage and attacked Alicia.
Her hand caught one of them by the shirt. She threw him harmlessly aside with enough force that he'd think twice about returning. The other one threw a punch catching her in the shoulder as she twisted around redirecting his energy and throwing him to the floor.
"Good work Alicia. Not bad for a lab researcher. You've been putting in some time at the gym? I knew you were fast but not that fa..." Torman didn't see the blur before it impacted his face spinning him in a complete circle several times over before he fell to the floor.
"Are you ok Alicia?" Heylyn stood where Torman was a moment ago her wings wavering and changing shape behind her.
"Yes I'm ok. Help Alex and Darret at the table!" Alicia turned to deal with Valkyra.
"Ok. Let's see what you've got!" Alicia held up her guard against Valerie who advanced flanked by four of the burly men from the table, the remaining three dealing with Alex.
As Valerie stepped forward Alicia noticed that Valerie had a light green aura that encompassed her body. Alicia puzzled for a moment as Valerie threw a wide arc swing with tremendous force just barely missing Alicia. Alicia spun with a foot sweep and it was obvious that what Valerie had in strength she lacked in experience. She quickly fell to the floor tumbling over onto her back once again flipping herself up and onto her feet where Heylyn was waiting.
"Remember me?" Heylyn remarked sarcastically directing a palm strike into Valerie's solar plexus.
Valerie flew backwards to the wall knocking bits of the plaster onto the floor with her.
Two of the burly men grabbed a hold of Heylyn one clasping each arm. Her glowing wings held them in place as she smashed her arms together with little effort knocking them both instantly unconscious. Two of Torman's remaining henchmen attacked Alicia who dealt with them quickly, pulling one to the ground and rolling over him retaining a grip on his arm disabling him while still fighting the other with her legs. She snap kicked him to the floor where he lay and did not move. Alex had dealt with one of Torman's guards leaving two who'd just gotten a hold of him. One of them delivered a punch into his stomach winding him and sending him to the floor. Alicia leapt at the remaining men who'd just dealt Alex a debilitating blow and dispatched them quickly and efficiently. Torman got up from his place on the floor and brushed his suit off once again.
"Well it looks like this meeting is adjourned. We'll be seeing each other again soon." Torman yelled to Heylyn who turned to confront him.
"Freeze! Police! Put your hands in the air above your head! Any sudden movements and I'll be forced to fire!" one of the plain clothed Officers yelled.
Torman looking unconcerned pointed to the Officer and a green and black bolt of energy leapt from his hands and struck the Officer in the chest. The Officer dropped his gun and clasped at his head struggling.
"Get them off of me! They're biting me! Please! Help! They're all over me!" the Officer yelled rolling on the floor in hysteria.
Another of the plain clothed Officers dove at Torman from behind.
His form dissolved before it popped from existence. The air where he had been collapsed to fill in the space he'd occupied moments before making a huge thunderous clap. Valerie stood brushing herself off. Her senses returned and her head cleared along with her memory. Alicia observed that she no longer had a green aura about her body.
"Where the heck am I?" She spoke looking at the room around her.
"You were dealing with me." Heylyn flew towards her ready to take her down if need be.
"Who are you?" Valerie asked Heylyn who stopped short of grabbing her.
"Amnesia?" Heylyn commented to Alicia who was busy pulling Alex to his feet.
"Darret, Alex. We've got a lot to discuss." Alicia addressed her co-workers.
"That we do." Darret replied glad to be free of Torman.
The remaining Officers approached their guns drawn as Heylyn's aetherial wings retreated back into her body.
"Stop right there! Hands above your head!" the Officers yelled at the group.
"I'm an agent! Check me on your computer." Alex announced keeping his hands high as Heylyn, Alicia and Valerie followed suit.
One of the Officers nodded to another and he stepped forward and searched Alex.
"No badge. Must be a bluff. That's two strikes. Impersonating an Officer." the plain clothed Officer announced after searching Alex.
"Call it in! The International Intel Unit. I'm number 481-72-3801. Check it dammit!" Alex ordered the Officer.
"HQ. We've got a man here claiming to be a member of the International Intel Unit. Number..." the Officer began after which placing the headset on Alex's head.
"...Number 481-72-3801. Live Ops." Alex said into the headset as Alicia watched in amazement.
The Officer took his headset back placing it on his head. He held his hand in the air directing the other Officers to hold for a moment when the reply from HQ came back.
"He checks out. He's on our side of the International Intel and Investigations Unit. Male. Thirty two years of age. Dark hair. Thin build. Five feet ten inches in height. Scar on his right arm from a bicycle accident in his youth. He's clear and on an operation." the radio operator's voice came back over their headsets.
The Officer checked his arm out and then gestured to Alex to lower his hands.
"Sorry 'bout that. It's procedure." the Officer said to Alex.
"Not a problem. Besides, I wouldn't want to be stuck with your paper work tonight. They're with me. Acting assets for this operation. Her, her and her. Darret here is a kidnapping victim and a witness to a murder. The others are accomplices to both the murder, kidnapping and extortion." Alex informed the Officers.
"We'll give our statements in a report to the Intel unit about the involvement of some others in the bar. They're under the employ of the criminal mastermind in the city. The one we saw disappear into thin air." Alex stated.
"You saw. We didn't see anything like that. Nor did we see this lady here grow a pair of giant butterfly wings. We all have psychological evaluations coming up. I think it would be best if we excluded those details from our report. Don't you?" the Officer looked around to his peers and back to Alex.
"Agreed. I'll handle those details." Alex replied.
"What about the press? There were people in here who undoubtedly have camera phones. This will be all over the internet before morning." Alicia said being technologically astute.
"Nothing I'm not already used to..." Heylyn said alluding to her pseudo celebrity status as she lowered her arms.
Alicia and Valerie followed suit and lowered their arms relieved that they would not be placed under arrest. The Officers began setting up a crime scene as more support Officers arrived.
"We need to get going. We need a place to discuss this. The research lab is going to be a crime scene in about an hour as well. That leaves it off limits for the time being." Alex looked directly to Alicia.
"Here. Take my keys. Take a cab back to the condominium and wait there. Valerie and I will get another cab." Heylyn told Alicia as she took out a business card and wrote something on the back of it.
“Show this to the front desk security. They'll let you in." She told Alicia.
"Good thing. I'd hate to haul this bunch up the side of the building and in through your balcony." Alicia joked as they proceeded to the front door.
"Now you've got a lot of explaining to do." Alicia looked scornfully towards Alex.
"Me? I think it's you that has some explaining to do to me!" Alex returned.
"Wait a second there. You both have a lot of explaining to do to me!" Darret exclaimed to the two of them.
Finding Her Way Home
Heylyn and Valerie started their walk back to Heylyn's condominium amidst the arrival of emergency vehicles outside of the Emporium.
"I'm Heylyn. Heylyn Yates. Now you and I are going to go for a little walk and make our way back to my condominium. I need to make sure that you are yourself and that you aren't going to try to attack anyone." Heylyn told Valerie recognizing one of her own designer outfits.
Heylyn gestured to Valerie coaxing her to follow. Valerie shrugged her shoulders and decided to comply. She could recognize shrewd negotiators and Heylyn most certainly was amongst them. The last hour had become a complete blank to her and she could not remember what had happened in that time. It was like that piece of time had completely disappeared. She only knew that she had become disgusted by Torman and his illicit dealings. Further he'd been doing this for some time behind her back and had brought her into it once he'd secured her trust.
"What were you doing in that bar and how did you throw me so easily?" Heylyn asked Valerie.
"I had gotten home from work. When I did some of Torman's co-workers met me at home and asked me to come with them to meet with him. Torman was the man in the business suit and sunglasses." Valerie replied.
"I know who Torman is. Now at least. Where were you supposed to meet with him?" Heylyn assured her.
"I... I can't remember. At all. It's like that part was blanked out. Like a nightmare you forget when you wake up. I only remember getting up from the floor of that bar." She answered.
"Don't you have any idea of your own strength?" Heylyn asked Valerie.
"What do you mean?" Valerie asked her.
They walked past a car parked on the street which Heylyn assumed that Valerie could lift easily but Heylyn thought better of it. A display of any kind of ability here would certainly draw the attention of onlookers and the press. The damage to the bar was minimal however they'd definitely attracted some attention already. Too much attention.
"Do you work out?" Asked Heylyn.
"Sometimes. Mostly aerobics. Why?" Valerie answered her.
"What's the most that you can lift?" Heylyn asked her.
"I don't know. I've never measured. I don't see where all of this is going." Valerie responded.
"You're... strong. Very strong. I don't know where or how you got that way. But you got it somehow." Heylyn told her not knowing that Alicia had brought the formula to the bar in her coat.
"You're wearing one of my designer outfits and you're... Strong." Heylyn told her once again.
"You aren't on any drugs or anything like that are you?" Valerie asked Heylyn in all seriousness.
"No. I'm not. Sort of. I took a doctor's prescription. Sort of." She answered trying not to lie about the formula.
"I should ask the same of you. I mean you threw me across the bar. Pretty easily but you claim that you don't remember. Sounds like drugs to me." Heylyn insinuated to Valerie making her a little more agitated.
"Look at this from my point of view. My last recollection is of getting into a car on my way to meet my boyfriend and then waking up covered in chunks of plaster inside a bar. Now I'm walking I don't know where with a complete stranger." Valerie tried to explain her side of the situation.
"Did someone drug you or give you something?" Heylyn asked Valerie once again.
"I can't remember. A pill? Maybe? I took a pill... and they sprayed my clothing with something..." Valerie told Heylyn.
A chill traversed the length of Heylyn's body. She'd taken Alicia's formula too. That could only mean that Torman somehow had stolen it. Heylyn spied a newspaper box and came up with an idea.
"Try lifting up this newspaper box. It's bolted to the ground and fairly heavy. Heavier than most people could lift. Try it." Heylyn asked her.
"Are you serious?" Valerie stopped next to the newspaper box looking at it like it was alien to her.
"Give it a try. Really." Heylyn requested once more.
"Ok. If it will get you off my case about it. Here goes." She answered.
Valerie put her hands one on either side of the newspaper box, squeezing a little just to get grip enough to lift it. When she squeezed her hands together the newspaper box started to crumple like a soft drink can.
She jumped back a little startled by what she saw. The newspaper box did not return to its normal form again so she knew that she wasn't seeing things. What scared her was that it was so easy.
"Great. Now we're vandals." Heylyn said sarcastically.
"You told me to do it!" Valerie said in shock.
"Don't worry. We'll make sure its working." Heylyn said.
She retrieved a coin from her pocket trying the newspaper box and when she saw that it opened without any trouble they moved on.
"You can do a lot more than that. I just needed to tell you so you didn't accidentally kill someone. You have a lot of strength and you have to be careful with it. If you want to be normal again you only need to change your clothes. Your strength is bound to that outfit." Heylyn explained the situation to Valerie.
Ironically what Valerie was wearing was a part of a design Heylyn created for business wear that she had called Power Wear. A lot of use of the color. blue and bold accents of complimentary colors to augment the impact of any business lady's dealings. Torman had obviously treated the suit and given her the formula.
"I designed that suit." Heylyn said to Valerie.
"You mean that you designed this to give me super powers?" Valerie asked her quizzically.
"No. I mean that I am a fashion designer. I designed that suit for the Power Wear collection last year." Heylyn remarked.
"A little ironic don't you think? I mean my scumbag boyfriend reveals to me that he's a criminal mastermind. A few hours later I have amnesia and find that I have super powers and have been working on the wrong side of the fence without even knowing it." Valerie laughed.
Heylyn saw the humor in it and they shared the laugh together. It was easy to see that this lady was likeable and very obviously not a bad person.
"At least nobody got hurt. Did they?" Heylyn asked Valerie.
Valerie's laughter subsided and tears began to slide down her face.
"Torman had one of his thugs kill one of the lab workers. He pushed him off the top of the... my gosh. It was horrible. The sound he made when he..." Valerie sobbed.
"Don't worry. We're going to get this Torman. He'll pay for what he's done." Heylyn reminded her.
There was a moment of silence as they walked.
"What's your name?" Heylyn asked her.
"Val for short. Valerie Aspen. You designed this suit did you? That must make you Heylyn Yates." Valerie replied as she wiped her eyes.
"Yes. I am her and yes my father picked it as my western name and I like it. We have to get back to my condo. They're waiting for us there. I'll explain the rest when we get there." Heylyn told Valerie.
"Well thanks for taking the time to explain this to me. Even if you don't find him, I'll make Torman pay for what he did."
When the opportunity presented itself Heylyn flagged a cab for the two of them and they made their way back to the condo.
In one night the formula had made its way to three other people besides Alicia and there was no telling what the powers of the man in the suit were.
The situation was clearly getting out of hand and had to be stopped.
The cab ride home was silent and uncomfortable. The taxi driver did his best to alleviate the silence and tension in the air. Alex sat looking at his phone as he sent text message after text message to his contacts. Alicia sat staring out the other window of the cab watching the streets and store fronts go by. Darret sat nervously between them clearly uncomfortable and trying not to let his gaze fall to Alex's phone.
The cab pulled into the condominium pickup and dropped them off. Alex paid for the cab ride as Alicia made her way in through the front door. The security guard immediately took notice of them and responded.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"We've been sent here by Heylyn Yates. She said to show you this." Alicia handed her the note Heylyn had sprawled on the business card.
"Alright. The elevators are there. You know the way from there I take it?" the security guard asked.
"That we do." Alicia replied to the security guard.
They proceeded to the elevators remaining silent for the trip up and outside of Heylyn's condominium unit. While Alicia fumbled through her pockets trying to find Heylyn's keys and security card, someone watched them from the neighboring apartment.
Monique stood at the door in her undergarments looking through her peep hole trying to get a good look at the people trying to make their way into Heylyn's condo. She recognized Alicia, the one who'd been there a couple times in the last few days though the other two men she did not know. She puzzled over the situation and wondered what to do. Did Heylyn go out to a bar and bring home some company? Monique found the whole situation to be odd and decided to keep a closer eye on things.
She found her cellular phone and dialled Heylyn's number.
"Heylyn speaking." the answer came over Monique's cellular.
"Hi. It's me. Monique." Monique replied to Heylyn.
"You're still up? You must be calling about the people going into my condo, right?" Heylyn asked Monique.
"You've got it boss." Monique responded.
"Well. They're guests for one thing. Friends of Alicia's. There wasn't enough room in the cab for us all so we decided to take two cabs. I gave them my keys in case they arrived first." Heylyn explained.
"So you're having a party of gathering and you didn't bother to invite me?" Monique asked her slightly hurt.
"No. Not at all. This is a business meeting. Really. Alicia's management wants new garments for their research team so she arranged this meeting so we could discuss the possibility." Heylyn replied thinking quickly.
"Really? I've got some great ideas about that. Especially related to tech and gadgets!" Monique forced herself into the situation a little further.
"We're going to be discussing numbers and you know its my company policy not to reveal the details of business dealings internally or elsewhere." Heylyn replied to Monique trying to keep her at a distance for the time being.
"Oh come on! Have a heart! I'm like your best buddy at work and you're keeping me out? You could have at least called me and invited me." Monique said pouting audibly.
"Monique, we'll talk about this later. Right now I've got some important things to discuss with my guests. I'll talk with you when I get back. But let me contact you but don't wait up. Remember that I may be your friend but I'm also your employer. This is business and it doesn't involve you. Be professional because you really are a professional." Heylyn reminded her.
"Alright chief. You'd better call though. Talk soon." Monique hung up the phone.
Monique put the phone down and returned to the peep hole to find that they'd already gotten into Heylyn's condo. She then went into the den of her condo unit where she could listen in a little better to their conversation.
Inside of Heylyn's Alex and Darret made their way over to the couch. Alicia stood pacing for a moment before addressing them both.
"So what's this? You're an Intelligence Officer? An Agent? I take it that you were going to tell us?" Alicia addressed Alex.
"Yeah! Answer up!" Darret looked to Alex waiting for an answer as well.
"What about you? You used the formula without approval and you've been jumping around the city like super duper girl fighting crime for a while now! Haven't you?" Alex returned.
"Well?" Darrett looked back to Alicia waiting for an answer.
"I tested it on myself because I wanted to be sure it could work for people. You know the process. It might take years before the formula gets approved for public consumption despite the fact that every test we've run points to it being a miracle cure. People in that time are going to die that could have been saved by this cure. This is more important than any of the the risks involved with taking it. I wanted to be sure. I wanted to prove it that it works. And you were spying on me the whole time. Just how close were you watching me? Did you watch my bank accounts? My social life? Maybe you got a few peeks of me in the nude?" Alicia shot back at Alex.
"Speak up bucko!" Darrett folded his arms across his chest awaiting Alex's answer.
"Yeah. I've been watching you Alicia. Just like you said. We have to. You are a potential security leak and a threat to this whole operation. We've been trying to nab Torman for years. To catch him in the act of playing with the markets. Dealing with his street gangs. His whole operation and since he's had his eyes on the research lab from years ago when he first tried to acquire it, I was brought on board. Now that you've leaked the formula right into his hands you've wrecked years of investigation. Now we're in a real conundrum. If he reverse engineers the formula, and he will try, we'll all be in a load of trouble. You can forget your Pulitzer Prize. Your Nobel Peace Prize. Your cover of Scientific Weekly beside Bryce Maxwell because we'll all be finished. All of us!" Alex shot back at her.
Darrett thought about it for a moment and then turned to Alicia.
"Well?" Darrett asked raising an eyebrow.
"If someone didn't test this then he would have already purchased us and he'd have the formula anyway. I did what I had to do. I didn't know that it would give me super human powers. I just wanted to make sure that a human test subject would live. The side effects are remarkable and this says that there is even more potential for this medicine as a cure for many ills. Cancer for one. Heart disease. Any debilitative disease or ailment. How about complete regeneration of the nervous system one neuron at a time. This is bigger than every one of us and we have a responsibility to get it to the people who need it. As far as Torman goes, someone has been feeding him information from the inside. Keeping him in the know because he seemed to be ready for us when we arrived at the Emporium to meet you. I've been fighting his gangs for a while now on the streets but I had no idea that it was connected. He's been using them to play with stock and market prices. To devalue companies he was fixing to purchase. The research lab was one of his targets and you knew about this Alex yet you did nothing! If I hadn't tried the formula and found the unique abilities it imbued me with, we'd be a subsidiary of Torman Enterprises right now and he'd already have control of the recipe. This is more important than how many people get rich from it. The research will be paid for when the treatment it results in makes it to market. Everyone will make money it has to get there and quick because people who need it will die before its approved. Torman and people like him would only use it for their own personal gain. Not just financial either. He's probably planning on arming his gangs with the same powers he has! Then who will stop him!" Alicia's face grimaced at Alex somewhat in disgust.
Darrett stood up and took a place beside Alicia looking back at Alex scathingly.
"And what powers are those?" Alex asked.
"You were there! You saw for yourself and first hand! He has some kind of psychic ability. Telepathy? Like a mind control or mind communication ability but he can also erase minds. Make them crazy too if he wants. Affect cognition and perception at a distance? You're a Doctor too Alex! Darrett! You saw what he did to that Police Officer." Alicia reminded Alex.
"Come on! Listen to yourself! How could he do that? I mean super human strength and reflexes are one thing but getting at someone else's mind? You're scientist Alicia. Get a hold of yourself!" Alex scolded Alicia.
"Yeah Alicia!" Darrett said looking to her.
"How far fetched is it really? He has the ability to amplify his own body's biomagnetic field and to tune it to other people's brains. Their nervous systems. Maybe receive it from others as well and use them as a power source. There's likely more to it than that but I observed what was happening. Maybe its worse. Maybe the formula created a link between him and his gangs. Torman's acting upon his and their wishes at the same time so he's not even really entirely in control himself. He wouldn't be aware of this though. With such abilities they could even affect the production of bodily hormones of their victims! Make people hyper, manic, sleepy, hungry when they wanted. There's no telling how many people they could affect at a time. Mass anxiety attacks and hysteria! What about mass violence? Or creating an army that would do their bidding? What if each of the gang members had this ability or as a group? We can deal with one of them at a time easily enough but not a thousand or even a hundred. Then what? Do you think that a Night Style and a Butterfly Dragon could stop them all? They'd overrun this city and every other city in the world!" Alicia impressed upon Alex.
"Sounds like collectivism Alicia. Next you're going to start talking about little green men." Alex said trying to undermine her.
"It might be similar to real collectivism. To a hive mind where a figure head is the sum of the minds of their followers. Literally the will of the people though against their will. In this case, his lust for power and greed has attracted similarly minded people through his gangs. The formula has amplified that effect and the link between him and those people. This is really dangerous and possibly like a real hive mind. Either he's running the show entirely or he's being entirely run by the lot of his gangs." Alicia tried to explain it to Alex but he wasn't grasping the concept which surprised her after all they'd been through together.
"Listen to yourself Alicia. You need to calm down. We need to get this situation under control. You're just getting out of hand and this is unproductive. We need to come up with a plan to foil his plans." Alex said to both his peers.
"He'd need a factory. A few centrifuges. A digital spectrometer and an analysis suite. A lot of expertise. There's only a few sites like that in the world that could set up to reverse engineer it and start producing it quickly enough for his plans." Darrett added.
"What about in the city? He must have something set up like that. If he'd been planning this for years he would have set up something like that here?" Alicia asked them.
"The place he interrogated us. It had a number of industrial centrifuges. A chemical analysis and spectograph stations. They might be able to do the trick but it would need expertise for certain. The kind of people we'd know for certain." Darrett thought back to their interrogation at the chemical factory.
"If you've been there he'll know we're coming for him. That means he'll be setting up shop right now. He might be reverse engineering it as we speak." Alicia panicked pacing Heylyn's condo.
Monique listened from her den taking it all in. She could not believe what she was hearing thinking that they might be drunk. It wasn't until she'd checked the internet for information about what had happened at the Emporium that she started to believe their story.
There had been numerous postings of video clips online that were going viral. She'd checked the clips finding one she knew was Heylyn. Nobody else would have recognized her unless they'd known that she'd been there. There she was flying to a stop on the ceiling of the bar, two enormous glowing and undulating wings flowing from her back. She flew from the ceiling to confront a man in a business suit who walked away from his injuries like nothing had happened.
Monique shivered when she thought about it. About Torman's gangs having that kind of power.
She picked up the cellular phone and called Heylyn again.
"Heylyn speaking." Heylyn answered as she paid for the cab fare.
"Hi. It's me again." Monique replied.
"What now?" Heylyn asked her a little impatiently.
"I know everything already. Butterfly Dragon." Monique told her.
Torman strode through the plant over to the enormous centrifuges. He'd purchase them a part at a time and had them assembled inside of the factory itself in order to avoid detection by the authorities. He had his parts supplier cross label the parts so the authorities wouldn't detect that he had received the parts of a complete centrifuge. Centrifuges were essential components to enriching uranium or plutonium, both key components for building atomic bombs. Unfortunately they were essential for the process of creating the isotopes necessary for the production of the SY349 and played a crucial role in the irradiation process although if someone had approached him about enriching uranium, he'd have done so if the price was right.
He'd retrieved enough of the formula from Alicia's jacket at the Emporium to empower a few of his employees. He'd begun immediately instructing some of the others on how to do it and leaving them to do so. Meanwhile he took the remaining formula over to his Chief researcher in the factory whom he'd retrieved from his home only a few hours earlier.
"Here it is. This is the isotope and these pills are the markers. I need this broken down chemically in two hours." Torman told him.
"Two hours? Are you kidding me? This is going to take at least six to eight even with this equipment..." the Chief researcher began.
Torman's face contorted for a moment as he concentrated, elevating his hand to the researcher's face. A stream of green wave-like energy funneled from Torman's hand to the researcher's forehead.
"If I am working at the process constantly and efficiently we could have it done in three hours. I'll do that sir." the researcher replied blank faced.
"Good. Because if you don't have it done in two and a half, you are literally going to lose your mind. You'll spend the rest of your life a gibbering idiot. Oh and if you see anyone in here that doesn't belong, kill them. That's the safety. Set it to off to fire." Torman said handing him a gun.
"Understood sir. Right away." the researcher immediately began working on the process to reverse engineer the formula.
Torman continued through the factory towards the office he'd constructed on the platform where a few of his experiments were awaiting him.
"They're going to be coming through here and soon. I want you ready. Understand? Kill them both. Dead." Torman slid his hand across his throat.
"Where's Valerie sir?" one of the men asked.
"She's dead to me. If she's with them, she's dead to you too. Make it that way." Torman replied.
"I'm going to gather some paperwork from my office and then I'm leaving. For good. Once that formula has been reverse engineered you're to have the details and the recipe transferred to this file storage account. Get the tech to look it over and encrypt it if it takes less than ten minutes. If the researcher isn't done reverse engineering the formula by that time, kill him and take the samples yourself and contact me from the airport. I'll give you further instructions from there." Torman gave them their orders and proceeded up the platform elevator.
Ten minutes later Torman had his belongings and his files stashed in his brief case and was on his way to the airport.
He was looking forward to a vacation and that would come after he'd met with his boss: Mr. Zek. Mr. Zek of course would no longer be his boss because Torman had planned to assume control.
Torman had a quiet chuckle to himself on his way to the airport in his limousine.
"You know, if this was a comic book and I was a super villain, I would be Hostile Takeover." his laughter bellowed from him and his private joke.
Heylyn hung up her cellular phone and bid the cab farewell. Valerie held the door as they entered the front door of the condominium.
"I directed your guests up stairs Miss Yates." the security guard informed Heylyn.
"Thank you. Have a good night." Heylyn replied to her.
"Nice place." Valerie said looking around the condominium foyer.
"It certainly is home for me." Heylyn replied as they got into the elevator.
A moment later they were opening the front door to her condo unit.
"You made it. Finally. We've already covered a lot of ground so far. Alex was just explaining about his work as an agent behind our backs!" Alicia explained to Heylyn with an edge of sarcasm.
Alex and Darret both stood looking to Heylyn who'd just come in the door accompanied by Torman's girlfriend, Valerie. Heylyn had clearly entered during the fray of a debate between the two and they were certainly just catching their breath.
"Don't let me stop you. You obviously had a bit of a discussion going here. I assume..." Heylyn looked to Alicia then to Alex and Darret and then back to Alicia. Alicia nodded to Heylyn.
"You got that right. Heylyn... this is Dr. Alex Smyth and Professor Darret Wenslen. They're my co-workers back at the research lab which is now officially funded by Tynan And Associates and apparently has been a part of some big investigation for some time unbeknownst to us lowly lab researchers." Alicia said introducing the two her voice sharp and stinging.
"I wish we were meeting for the first time under better circumstances. We've heard a lot about you and not just from Alicia. Very pleased to meet you." Darret responded to the introduction both him and Alex offering their hands.
"Perhaps we should bring her up to speed? Alicia?" Alex inquired looking to Alicia waiting for her to shoulders to loosen enough to indicate the earlier tension had subsided.
"Fair enough. Though you've definitely weaseled your way out of a good and thorough explanation. This time..." Alicia replied loosening up a bit.
Alex looked around the room to each of them in turn. Heylyn nodded for them to proceed while Valerie found a place on the couch next to Darret.
"Torman's been using street gangs and a complex network of allied sympathizers with unique surveillance technology across the city to do everything from fluctuate the market prices for certain companies or to pressure politicians and remove enemies to his goals. He came onto the Federal investigators radar four years ago with a fiasco involving the sale of a company whose Chairperson had been a candidate in a federal election years prior to the fiasco. The Chairperson alleged that extortion and blackmail had been involved in manipulating the price of shares for the public company in order to force them to the floor. Torman has been our primary suspect for that operation and has been under investigation ever since. He'd targeted the research firm that Alicia works for in one of his scams. He had planned to use this purchase to acquire the secrets of the formula of course. At that point he was under the impression that they had a potential treatment for a variety of degenerative diseases. He was of course looking to capitalize on this cure." Alex explained to them.
"We recently got Norler on board with us and he's been very cooperative even opening the investment firm's books to us so we could audit Torman's dealings secretly. Once he'd heard what was happening he wanted to make sure that the Tynan And Associates and the research operation was insulated from any further damage that Torman might cause." Alex continued his background on the case.
"We had known about his interest in the research and we had you on the radar as well suspecting that you might be a corporate spy for Torman." Alex indicated Alicia.
"We weren't sure what you were up to until we got a report of a... and I quote: gorgeous lady in a sleek suit stopping various crimes around the metropolitan very effectively gutting some of Torman's efforts to drop the value of companies like Tynan." Alex told them, Alicia visibly blushing.
"Tynan would have likely been traded into Torman's hands if not for Alicia's effort so we re-evaluated her as an asset to the investigation rather than a liability. Unfortunately the leak of the formula batch into the hands of Heylyn was poor insight on Alicia's part and putting the formula into such risk of falling into Torman's hands was downright irresponsible and may have cost lives." Alex stated coldly.
"Your saving grace is that you showed up tonight and thwarted his men at the bar rescuing both Darret and myself. On the other hand you let the formula slip into Torman's hands and that is why we have super Torman walking around now." Alex sat down after finishing his briefing.
"He has the ability to affect people's minds. Affect their perception and even influence and control them to a certain degree. That's definitely what he did to some of the bar patrons and that's most certainly what he did to the plain clothes Officer." Alicia told Heylyn.
"That explains why Valerie couldn't remember anything either." Heylyn responded to Alicia.
"It seems that the formula works well with clothing of your design, Heylyn." Darret indicated Heylyn's contribution to this crisis and she too was unsure of whether she should take that as a sign of support or not.
"We could just take the suits. Without SY349A they won't be able to reproduce another costume so their powers are useless without the suits." Heylyn suggested.
"Exactly. Torman has had an hour start ahead of us and we need to get that formula back from him before he's reverse engineered it into one of his own. Then there would be no stopping him or anyone else who got their hands on it for that matter. Torman has a history of using street gangs as his pawns for his dirty work. If he equipped them with such abilities we'd have a major crisis on our hands. We need the three of you to assist us in hunting him down and retrieving the formula while ensuring that it has not already been delivered to anyone else. Our saving grace here is that if he uses it making suits, it can't be reverse engineered beyond the point of application so we can just round up the suits. We suspect that he's smart enough to know that so we have to pull all the stops to catch him before this is out of control." Alex once again laid out the goals and concerns just as he had in the investors meeting the previous day.
"We need to get the formula into the hands of the patients who need it. That's priority one. Can't you guys just do the secret agent thing and hunt him down with your trained operatives? Aren't you guys supposed to be the best?" Alicia turned to Alex with her question and sarcasm.
"Alicia. He's running a tight ship. Not to mention that he has help. Insider help. It's big and he's protected. Not the kind of guy you can just mobilize an army of secret agents against hoping that one of them will get the goods on him. As an international team enforcing laws, we have to build a case first. That's complex business even compared to rocket science. We can't just march in with the cavalry and stampede everyone. Besides half of his accomplices are intertwined with society already. Some legit some not so legit. This is a very complex situation. We need outside help to find him and get the goods on him and his help. He's off our radar now and very close to disappearing and that could spell disaster. Seeing as you are the expert about the formula and the only expert in the world about its effects, we need you to head up this investigation from here on in. With the help of your friend Heylyn." Alex stated his case to Alicia hoping she'd see it a little bit from his side.
She scorned him with a gaze for a moment and then spoke.
"I'm a scientist. I got mixed up in this because I crossed the line and tested this formula out on myself. Maybe I'm living out a childhood fantasy. Maybe I like doing this but its not the hero that I set out to be. I set out to help people by curing them of ailments for which there is no help. No cure. I had something to offer the world in that small way and I can help far more people by creating cures and medicine than by chasing down a bunch of thugs and criminals and pounding the daylights out of them and doubtfully some sense into them. Now you're asking me to put my calling on hold and to chase down these criminals that you should have dealt with long ago?" Alicia resumed her stance prior to Heylyn and Valerie's arrival.
"The truth is that you're involved and Torman would not be super Torman if you hadn't tested out the formula on yourself. We have no comparable people ready to take this on. As I've said, you're the best qualified as is your friend Heylyn. Keep in mind though that unless you do this, you're both accomplices to Torman's operation. After all, how do I know that you didn't intentionally deliver the formula into his hands and then feign and attempt to apprehend him so we'd be thrown? Maybe you're playing for his team? I mean he got the results he desired didn't he? So if you don't go along with this, we'll assume that you were his accomplice. Otherwise if you help us in this investigation we'll take that into consideration when we go over the details of your leaking the formula directly into Torman's hands. You'll be a hero instead of a criminal yourself." Alex said sternly and unwaveringly.
"You creep. I really liked you." Alicia said to him her face compressed into a grimace.
"I'll second that." Heylyn added.
"You're playing at Torman's level. I just got rid of one Torman. I am definitely not working with another." Valerie responded.
"So what's it going to be Alicia? Heylyn?" Alex said unconcerned with Valerie's answer.
"I'm in. What choice do I have?" Alicia replied reluctantly.
"I'm with my friend until the end. I'm in despite the fact that I don't like you." Heylyn committed herself to this cause.
"I'm only doing this not because of you or because of your threat Alex, but because if this formula gets into the wrong hands I alone understand the risks. I'm doing this so it gets done right. When I'm done I'm turning in my superhero tights for good." Alicia assured him.
"My forte is acquisitions and negotiations. I'm not a superhero. I'm definitely out." Valerie stated plainly.
"I'd say that after the way you threw me in the bar that you're underestimating yourself a little." Heylyn told Valerie.
"Can we take that as an indication that you are bailing out on this?" Alex confirmed with her.
"Yes. I'm out of this for good. I want nothing to do with that slimeball or you." Valerie stated as plain as day.
"Slimeball number two." Alicia added.
"Very well. I'll need you to hand over your outfit to Alicia and Heylyn." Alex told Valerie clearly.
She looked down for a moment then back to Alex.
"Very well." Valerie said, holding onto the reality she'd had before this ordeal started.
"You need to remove that outfit. Go with Heylyn and Alicia to one of the bedrooms and give it over to them." Alex ordered Valerie.
"Could you accompany Ms. Aspen here to the bedroom. Make sure that she doesn't hide anything and give her some of your clothing so that she may get home." Alex asked Heylyn and Alicia.
Heylyn and Alicia accompanied Valerie to Heylyn's guest room where she had several outfits that might fit Valerie. She put two of them on the dresser for Valerie while accepting her garments as she disrobed.
Heylyn could pretty accurately tell if she had anything hidden as the treated fabric was tinged with a light glow compared to untreated fabrics and materials making her a prime component in this search.
When Valerie was done she picked up one of the outfits from the dresser and began to put it on when Heylyn's eye caught something on her wrist.
"The bracelet. I need the bracelet too." Heylyn requested the bracelet from Valerie seeing its tinged glow indicating traces of the formula.
Valerie hesitantly took it off handing it to Heylyn.
"It was a gift from him anyway. I don't think I'm going to see him again. At least I hope not." Valerie said sulking a little, a tear visibly streaking down her cheek.
When she had all of the treated clothing from Valerie she turned her back and waited for her to dress. When the trio emerged from the guest room Alex hung up the phone while Darret was still on his.
"Here's the treated outfit and garments." Heylyn put them in a shopping bag and handed them over to Alex.
"Well that's it. We're done here. I'm off the case which means that you won't be seeing me at the lab anymore. You'll be dealing with someone else now whom you will never meet in person. The person that you'll be talking to is named Alice. She'll contact you and she'll never ever ask you to meet in person. At most they will tell you to meet someone somewhere but you'll never meet her. You'll need to start tonight. A truck is going to pick us up in five minutes out front. They'll drop you off at the location that we suspect is Torman's production plant and hideout. You're on the case from that point." Alex briefed the duo once again.
Alicia was still both heart broken and fuming inside. She'd never had emotions this complex in relation to anyone outside of her own family before. This was the first time in her life that any guy had expressed interest in her and she'd been set aside conveniently like a toy in which he'd lost interest. These emotions were new to her and she had trouble coping with them. Most women had already experienced this many times over by the time they were in their twenties. To have one's hopes built up and then dashed in one fell swoop. Her heart stung but she knew she'd have to pull herself together to be useful in the search for Torman and the formula. She took a deep breath and forced her feelings aside for the time being and joined Heylyn in her sense of focus.
They took a few moments to clean themselves up. When they were done Heylyn went into her fridge and tossed Alicia a handful of energy bars and a four pack of yoghurt drinks.
"For energy. We might need it." Heylyn said with a half smile.
"Don't worry. It doesn't hurt for long. You have a lot to offer the right guy. Keep your chin up and love yourself." Heylyn gave her the most sound advice she could give a friend.
They both looked at the time. It was already 2:00 AM and the night was just beginning. So was their adventure.
The group snuck out of Heylyn's condo door moments after Alex got the call that the utility van had arrived. She had just locked up when the elevator arrived and despite her enhanced senses she failed to notice Monique's teary eyes peering out at the group from her partly opened door. She closed her door as the elevator door opened. Heylyn momentarily thought that she noticed something with her three sixty awareness but rejected it to the excitement. Monique closed the door still feeling very left out from what she'd overheard while listening from the den. She decided that she'd make herself useful keeping an eye on Heylyn's condo for her while she was gone. Inside she worried for her friend.
The group strolled out of the elevator on the ground floor. Heylyn, Alicia, Alex, Valerie and Darret likewise. They passed the security desk and the guard nodded to the group, Heylyn winking at her as did Alicia. They continued out the lobby doors to see the utility van parked to one side so as not to draw attention. The five of them piled into the back of the van and it pulled out en route for Industry Drive the suspected location of Torman's facility.
"Keep your phones on and set them to the silent ringer so we don't alert anyone to your presence. If you can't talk when you've received a call just key the numbers seven, nine, three on the keypad and then hang-up. We'll know what's going on and that you're ok. Oh yeah, make sure any of your phone's lights are off too. That's a big give away." Alex briefed them on communications etiquette.
"What if we need to report in?" Alicia asked him, holding her feelings at bay.
"I'll send a text message to the both of you right now. All you have to do is send a message to the reply number of that message and it will notify Alice to contact you. You don't even have to send any text in your reply. Just send it blank. We'll have your location at all times too as long as your phones have batteries. Even if the batteries are drained." Alex replied to Alicia's question.
"Remember. Get the formula first or find out where it is and follow its trail. Notify us each step of the way. It's imperative that he doesn't reverse engineer it." Alex finished up as they pulled aside four blocks from Industry Drive beside a bus stop.
Alicia and Heylyn jumped out of the van looking around for anyone who might have seen them. When they were certain that the coast was clear they started for the production plan. Heylyn was still uncomfortable with her ability to fly and thus crossed the hydro field with Alicia on foot on their way to the chemical processing plant.
Heylyn's senses came to life in the field and there was nothing that she couldn't see even in the darkness. Alicia's anticipative intuition made up for her lack of heightened senses and she negotiated the darkness with ease and skill. When they came to a fence Alicia leapt over it in one bound. Heylyn merely flew over it though a little clumsily.
"Don't worry. You'll get the hang of it." Alicia whispered to her.
She was intensely afraid of using her martial arts skills with her new powers as she had no sense of what her capacity for deadly force was with an unpowered human being. She didn't want to kill anyone, just to incapacitate them. If she'd used her abilities to their fullest potential it would most certainly be overkill. She resigned herself to using simple taps for the time being as she had in the bar in order to save lives.
Alicia's abilities were much different than Heylyn's and were more focused around her speed and ability to flow intuitively to the next obstacle in the most efficient way. Her level of strength and speed was beyond that of even the strongest person but with the suit in it's current state she would be hard pressed to counter someone of Heylyn's ability and skill though she most certainly would be a difficult challenge.
Heylyn had hoped that they could change that by redesigning Alicia's suit. Because they didn't have much of the formula left Heylyn couldn't start from scratch but she'd eyed the obvious design elements of Alicia's design layout and thought that she had enough understanding of how to amplify Alicia's already formidable abilities with her eye for bio-ergonomic design and artistry enhancing the effects of the formula. This is exactly what Alicia had hoped for from her friend because in the future Heylyn would provide the essential link between aesthetic design and healing potential of the formula. If Heylyn understood the link between the formula and the design that maximized its potential and she'd enable them to bridge the areas they were struggling with that could not be explored with pure logic and data alone.
Alicia thought that it was much like the world of physics that would often produce artistically minded scientists and philosophers like Lady Ada Lovelace, Richard Feynman, Barbara McClintock, Anne Druyan and Carl Sagan, Sir Roger Penrose or the many others who'd lifted us up to embrace the sciences and whom ultimately viewed people, other creatures of the world and the universe as being much more than the sum of their parts. They were ambassadors teaching the next generation of people of the importance of science and the role that artistry and aesthetics always had in understanding concepts that were more intuitive than concrete. Quantum mechanics was one such science that required one to view the inner workings of nature in an entirely counter-intuitive approach that was even unpredictably counter-intuitive. String theory or even M Theory bridged this gap between artistry, aesthetics, science and intuition even further.
The future of science was intertwined with the future of artistry and the deployment of future technologies would be heavily reliant on artistry and aesthetics though in combination with the discipline and objectivity of science. Each working hand in hand. Heylyn was from a completely different and unrelated field. She had become an important pioneer in the future of advanced medical treatments and applied sciences. For Alicia this gave her more determination in the fact that they were really doing something important and meaningful. Even if they were running around in costumes to do it. One day what they learned would lead to cures for diseases with some of the highest mortality rates in all of history, possibly including mortality itself. They had to ensure that the formula did not get reverse engineered as its potential for cure was also its potential for death and destruction in the wrong hands. Once they'd procured it Alicia had decided that she'd hang up her tights for good. She was a benefit to the world in her laboratory. She saw that in her future she might even have the chance to inspire students to rise above the limits of their own confidence as Heylyn had helped her to do. After all, these were the shoulders upon which we were all perched. Riding the shoulders of giants as it were. Those who'd come before us to give us this world we both rise within to achieve or toil within to deceive. Maybe one day the diseases and ailments we faced as part of our daily struggle would be gone and just memories. Old stories and myths that our Great Grandchildren would tell to one another in thoughful reflection or even in jest. Of course they'd be replaced by another set of challenges that the generations would have to rise and cooperate to overcome giving fuel to the cycle of life. Until she was back in the laboratory it would be her running around in tights with her best friend chasing baddies she thought to humor herself and to give levity to the situation.
They crossed the parking lot to the facility and approached the building heading towards a metal door on the back wall. As they approached a motion sensor above the door an infrared camera activated following and tracking their movement.
"I guess its not a surprise to tell you that we're being watched." Heylyn told Alicia as she watched the infrared beam visibly through her new vision. She marveled at it momentarily watching it follow their movements.
"So that's how they work." Heylyn said to Alicia.
"Can we assume that they know we're here?" Alicia asked Heylyn the obvious question.
"What if they're not?" Heylyn posited.
"What if they are?" Alicia returned.
"Either way we have to go in. Do you know how to stop an alarm system?" Heylyn asked her rocket science best friend.
"Yes." Alicia answered.
Alicia reached into her pocket and clicked a few buttons on her phone then waited a moment. There was an awkward silence as Heylyn watched Alicia in amazement attempting hack and disarm the alarm system with her cellular phone. Alicia stared intensely at the screen waiting for a response. The phone's silent ringer caused the phone to shake in Alicia's grip and she held it to her ears answering.
"Hello Alice. We're at the production plant. We need the alarm system disarmed or the power shut down for the building." She requested of Alice before hanging up.
A moment later the motion sensor and the infrared camera powered down along with all of the lights around the building and presumably in the interior.
"There." Alicia said cocking a coy smile at Heylyn.
"Well that was a let down, science girl. I was expecting something a little bit more impressive from you, though that was creative." Heylyn replied with a humorous smirk.
Heylyn approached the door and clasped the handle carefully before pulling it. The handle came clean of the door with a clank but the door itself didn't budge.
"What happened to your artist's touch?" Alicia said to her with purposeful sarcasm.
"Hmmm. I guess that's not much better." She responded in disappointment.
Alicia clasped her fist and punched the door where the handle had been removed. Her hand penetrated the steel through to the other side where she pressed the latch to open it. The door swung open freely exposing the darkness inside.
"After you butterfly girl." Alicia said sarcastically to Heylyn.
"That's butterfly lady to you." Heylyn deflected Alicia's sarcasm harmlessly aside getting a smile from her.
Heylyn slowly walked inside the building, her senses coming to life as she got inside the darkness of what appeared to be a utility corridor. She quietly stepped forward seeing Alicia step in behind her without having to turn her head. The hall continued for ten meters as they passed the two shipping area bathrooms arriving at another locked door.
Heylyn grabbed the knob this time twisting and breaking the latch easily. She pulled the door open. She heard a distant sound that was cyclic and repetitive though she could not make it out clearly.
"There's a sound inside somewhere. That way. Motion too." Heylyn pointed into the forest of equipment scattered around the floor of the humongous production facility.
"That's a centrifuge. A big one from the sounds of it. They must have started the reverse engineering process. Alicia acknowledged touching her friend's shoulder once.
Heylyn made the decision to attempt to levitate herself seeing as it was spacious enough to make up for her clumsiness with aerial maneuvers. She felt the molecular charge suppression field around her pushing her off the ground as her aura brightened slightly. Her wings sprung from her back twisting in shape to become a pair of menacing butterfly wings. She took to the air about five feet giving her a better view of the hangar like building. It would literally take them a week to sweep every part of the building. It was almost as large as an aircraft hangar if not larger.
"We're looking for an aerial platform. That's his office apparently. About seventy feet up." Alicia quietly remarked to Heylyn noticing that she was meandering slightly in the air.
"I see it. There's movement up there too. There appears to be a lot of heat and light coming from the direction of that sound." Heylyn whispered to Alicia.
"That's the centrifuge. For sure." Alicia told her.
"There's someone there. The appear to be monitoring it. Probably the centrifuge operator? Is there even such a job?" Heylyn asked.
"Don't laugh. They take a bit of know how to use. With any luck they'll be too busy with it to notice us coming." Alicia said to Heylyn as she drifted out of audible range.
Curious, Heylyn flew up to the platform leaving Alicia behind and out of communication distance. As she approached the platform she saw that it had no walls but was furnished nonetheless.
"Talk about workplace hazards. One step in the wrong direction and..." Heylyn said aloud thinking Alicia was still able to hear her.
Heylyn spied what appeared to be a lift or simple elevator that was parked at the top of the platform on the other side.
"I'll be right back." Heylyn told her friend who was too far distant to hear her.
Heylyn flew easily through the air her wings spread thrice her arm span. A trail of multicolored aetheric aura streamed behind her glowing lightly as she traveled. She leveled herself and landed on the platform gently. Her wings shrunk back into her back leaving trails behind them as they did. She then began to systematically search the makeshift office in the sky.
Alicia frustrated that her friend had left her in the dark began moving forward hoping that her eyes would adjust a bit better as she moved. She bumped her head on one of the huge centrifuges.
"Auuhhh!" She stopped for a moment rubbing her head before she suddenly remembered her mask.
She fished through her pockets finding the mask. As she pulled it from her pocket something else dropped from the mask. She put the mask on and was amazed upon opening her eyes. The room around was visible as plain as day though the color intensities were higher than normal making it seem somewhat surreal. She scanned the floor for whatever had dropped from the mask when she noticed a formula vial and the pill container. Then she remembered that she had kept the vial they'd used to treat their costumes in her suit pocket while she'd put the full ones in the jacket before they'd left. Judging by the remaining formula left in the vial they had enough to treat eight to ten more costumes if they needed to. She carefully put the containers back in her pocket being sure to clip the pocket shut. The vial itself was reinforced glasstic with an outer layer of composite steel so any damage suffered would not break the vial. Meanwhile Heylyn searched the platform jumping when the elevator sprung to life by itself. She kicked herself for not sending the elevator down for her. A moment later her friend arrived at the top.
"Thanks for nothing, friend." Alicia remarked snidely.
"I'm sorry. Really. That's a nice mask!" Heylyn said noticing that Alicia had the mask on.
"It helps. A lot!" Alicia commented still a little bit sore about her friend's aloofness.
"The centrifuge is close by. You can resume the search here while I take out the centrifuge operator if you'd like?" Heylyn updated her friend to her progress.
"I mean I've already searched most of the area up here except for that part over the..." She'd barely had time to finish when something tripped her and she fell clumsily to the ground.
"What was tha..." Once again she was picked up and launched through the air and off the edge of the platform.
She cartwheeled through the air as gravity caught hold of her pulling her towards the floor. Her wings sprung from her back as she attempted to stop herself, slowing enough to push off from the ground and carry her back up to the platform. Meanwhile Alicia took a defensive stance though she could not see anything or anyone. When she concentrated she thought she could hear something behind her. She quickly spun raising her leg to contact something living spinning her arm around to catch it then falling into a roll. The large man fell with her rolling onto his feet stumbling back a little before stopping.
He wasn't wearing a costume and there was no sign of anything on him that was treated with the formula. Alicia thrust herself forward angling her upper body diagonally poising her arm for quick strike to his upper chest. She'd found it to be an efficient disabling move and had used it quite often when dealing with multiple foes. She flew the distances in microseconds snap punching at his chest. By the time her fist was extended he was no longer there having moved too quickly for her to see. Alicia landed rolling to her feet only to be kicked in the chest sending her over the edge of the platform. She grabbed for anything that she could get a hold of before she was caught by Heylyn who was on her way up. Heylyn centered herself above the platform dropping them both clumsily onto it. They stood back to back trying to find their target.
"Its one of the big guys that Torman had working for him. Like the ones in the bar. He doesn't have a suit and I can't see any clothing that is treated with the formula." Alicia brought her friend up to date with their assailant.
A moment later and something squeezed their two heads together with amazing force. They fell to the floor out of reflex rather than damage a little bit dazed but relatively unharmed.
"Where'd that come fro..." Alicia didn't have time to finish her sentence before she was once again thrown over the edge of the platform. She seemed to cover the distance to the edge nearly instantaneously and she could not comprehend how their assailant could move that fast without possessing the formula or clothing treated with it.
She was falling before she knew it head first towards the floor. She leveled her arms in front of her hoping that she could roll to absorb her vertical acceleration horizontally. Just before she hit something snagged her ankle and she was grateful to see her friend hanging onto her foot and just above her an oak desk about to crash down onto both of them.
Heylyn tried to out fly the desk but she'd not the experience to do so and got barely half a foot away before Heylyn spread her wings shielding them both as the desk landed on the two of them. They were crushed under its enormous weight with Heylyn landing on top of Alicia and the desk on them both. There was a moment of silence before Heylyn got up throwing the desk from the two of them once again relatively unscathed. Alicia rolled over onto her back before flipping herself onto her feet.
"That wasn't pleasa..." the two of them were thrown away from each other.
Alicia flew towards a centrifuge hitting its iron exterior flat on and falling to the floor groaning. Heylyn continued twenty feet crashing through a mixing apparatus smashing it to bits before colliding with a support beam just behind it. The enormous post bent under the force and the footing even became unbolted from the floor.
Alicia got to her feet once again trying to find the assailant. This time she counted to three and then once again spun herself throwing her fist into a backhand arc around and connecting with something solid that was not machinery. She saw the burly man fall to the floor and roll to a stop where he groaned trying to climb to his feet. As he did Alicia noticed that his wristwatch was glowing through her mask indicating that it had been treated with the formula.
"Its his wrist watch!" Alicia yelled before diving at him in attempt to clip his kidney and wind him.
She landed over him snapping her punch but he'd disappeared just before she impacted. Once again he quickly reversed it reappearing behind her with his arm around her neck. She struggled with him unable to remove his grip as the watch must have also increased his strength. She gasped for air as his grip tightened bringing her precariously close to passing out. She felt around his arm and when she got a grip on his watch she yanked, breaking the strap and sending it flying into the darkened plant.
"Oh shi...!" He cursed under his breath before Alicia twisted his arm breaking it.
She fell to the floor gasping for air while he screamed crying on the floor beside her.
"You b... You bi... arrrgh!" He bellowed in pain.
Heylyn arrived from her encounter with the support post in the plant and helped Alicia to her feet.
"My hero!" Heylyn remarked at Alicia's solution to their mutual problem.
"Don't mention it." Alicia coughed still out of breath.
"The watch. It's over there somewhere." Alicia said pointing in the direction she'd thrown the watch.
"I've got it." Heylyn quickly surveyed the area finding it under one of the machines before returning with it.
"That's pretty clever. And kind of scary too. I'd say your watch is running a little slower than hers though." Heylyn remarked about the watch.
"There's still ways in which the formula can be used that we haven't even thought of that might be unfathomable to deal with. What if there were two of them? We might not have come out of this. He was testing us. He is playing with us purposely. Measuring us and learning from it." Alicia pondered aloud looking around for any cameras.
"We can fix that." Heylyn said before jumping over to the whimpering man on the floor.
"Where is the formula and where is Torman!" Heylyn asked the man grabbing hold of his broken arm on which a gigantic bruise was forming.
"He...He...He's gone!" The man said obviously already in a great deal of pain.
Heylyn twisted his arm a little.
"AHHHHhhhrgh! Ok! Ok! Arrrrghhh! He took off with the formula somewhere offshore. No jurisdiction there... he... heh" The man sneered still wincing in pain.
Heylyn twisted again, this time the other way.
"AHHRGhhhharrahhh! Pleas... please. He grabbed a flight to an island in the south Atlantic. It belongs to his boss. A big criminal... organization...global." Heylyn immediately looked to Alicia who immediately pulled her phone and requested a call back.
A moment later her phone rang and she answered.
"We've got some information. Torman took the formula to an island in the south Atlantic. Outside of the country. Torman is part of an international criminal organization." Alicia looked over to Heylyn.
"What's the name of the island?!" Heylyn demanded of him indicating her intent to twist again.
“Tree... Treadwater... Treadwater." The man replied without any resistance.
"Treadwater. The Island is called Treadwater. We've incapacitated his man here. Only a formula treated wristwatch but very effective. Send an ambulance too please." Alicia verified the location and then hung-up the phone.
"Watch him. I've got the guy on the centrifuge." Heylyn said as she took to the air much more confidently this time her butterfly wings both glowing and translucent.
Alicia used her smart phone once again doing a Google search for Treadwater. It came up under a GIS database which indicated that it was an island discovered back in the nineteen seventies and got its name from the fact that it was discovered by a shipwrecked couple. According to their accounts they had to tread water to get there safely from their ship which had sunk in the reefs just off of its shores. Over the years since its discovery the tourist industry had moved in. Big chain hotels and resorts populated half of the island while the remainder had been protected as a wildlife reserve.
"Heylyn! I think you're going to like this part." Alicia yelled over to her friend.
Heylyn landed quietly behind Torman's researcher as he closely monitored the reverse irradiation process at the controls of the centrifuge. She tapped him on the shoulder and he spun quickly to meet her gaze. His aura glowed green to her and she surmised he'd been affected by Torman's power. He quickly reached for a weapon he'd stowed in his lab coat. Heylyn's hand shot out faster than could be seen catching his wrist before he had a chance to retrieve his weapon. He struggled for a moment against her grip before attempting to fish something from his other pocket with his free hand. She quickly caught his arm with her other hand and lifted him off the floor flying him over to where Alicia had been minding Torman's apprehended time traveling thug. She gently placed him on the floor of the plant.
"He is under Torman's power. We need to tie him up. Maybe Alex and his friends can figure out what's going on with him. Maybe they can come up with a cure or antidote." Heylyn told her.
Within ten minutes the emergency crew arrived and the processing plant was alive with activity. Alicia had removed her mask so she didn't appear conspicuous. Someone recognized Heylyn as a fashion designer which made things a little difficult. She explained that they were shooting a music video and that Alicia was the singer which made Alicia at the thought. When the International Investigations and Intel unit representatives got there they closed the scene off and sealed the building. One of the senior agents approached Alicia after they'd secured the area.
"The name's Gavin. But you can call me Gavin." He smiled having tried vainly at a bit of levity.
"It doesn't work all the time. I'm from the Leslie Nielsen generation you know. It's an acquired taste. You're going to need some rest because you'll be leaving for Treadwater in six hours. You've got time to have a nap and pack and that's about it. You'll be going undercover as its a resort Island that's been on the radar for two years now with us. Possible dealings with organized crime and likely that's where Torman's buyer is. We predict that he'll try to sell it and possibly stay on the Island thereafter under an assumed identity. You'll go in as tourists on a coach class flight. You're to find Torman's location and the whereabouts of the formula. There's no facilities capable of reverse engineering it for a thousand kilometers so if he's there it will be there on it will be en route to a processing facility. Procure it and Torman if you can and notify us via the usual means. We have a car waiting to take you home. You have enough time to clean up and grab some things. Maybe even a quick nap." Gavin laid it out plain and simple.
"That sounds good. I could use a bath." Heylyn said feeling a little bit sore thinking that he did look a bit like Leslie Nielsen.
Despite the empowering effects of the formula they desperately needed some rest. Gavin's van dropped them off at Heylyn's condominium where they spent the next four hours resting unaware of the world around them. Unaware of the fact that they had been played.
She was at Torman's production plant and perched upon the elevated office of where they'd met the super powered man with the watch. She had walked into the plant in casual wear almost like she was there for a fashion show. A buzzer in the building had just gone off alerting several people who'd been attending to the machines in the plant. A moment later the elevator arrived and they were up on the platform with her dragging her flailing to stand before Torman's desk. The back of Torman's chair was visible from behind his desk.
"So you think that technology is yours to keep from people like me?" Torman said from his chair, Heylyn scarcely remembering.
"You can't have it. It's not yours. You'll undoubtedly misuse it." Heylyn told him as she struggled against Torman's henchmen.
"Who's to say that you're using it for any good? Alicia stole it from the company that she worked for did she not? Who gave you permission to use it the way that you're using it? Running around like two little school girls playing your superhero make believe." Torman appealed to her using his expert skills as a negotiator in many company buyouts.
"I trust Alicia's judgement. She's using it for good. She chose me for her reasons and those are reasons that you'd never understand." Heylyn pulled against the one on her right but he held tight to her arm.
"Its a cure for diseases like Cancer and you're using it as fodder to revitalize your failed fashion business. Aren't you. As for Alicia, she's using it to have vengeance upon her school bullies. Living vicariously and making up for all the fun she missed out on during her school years. Is that not right? Heylyn." Torman spoke to her calmly, trying to rile her emotionally.
Though she had not experienced the kind of hype that she'd experienced since her first showing after signing her distribution deals, she never took that as a sign of decline but rather maturity. It was a competitive but complimentary business that had many players and many teams. The vitality of designers often declined within the first few years of their first show. Heylyn had made efforts to reinvent herself while sticking with her approach to design which was elegant form without compromising function. Compliment the form already present on the body of the wearer. After all her customers were the real works of art. She was merely providing the picture frame of them in their daily lives. She was comfortable with her growth as a designer and as an artist though Torman's reasoning made her question her measure of herself but she failed to let it affect her. As for his comment with regard to Alicia's state, she'd faced that question herself. Alicia was a grown woman who'd missed out on many of life's adventures merely because of the stigma of her slight weight problem and the cliche of her intelligence which some men might have found intimidating. Men like Torman. She needed time to adjust to the experiences that most woman have lived through by the time they were in their twenties. Heart aches and heart breaks were potentially devastating to those who'd never experienced them. This was Alicia's Achilles heel. A delicate heart.
Torman was trying to play Heylyn on her sense of self improvement and expertly playing her on her own high expectations of herself. The thought occurred to her that if she was dreaming then was it not her that was thinking these thoughts and inventing Torman's personality and interrogation? That is where her dream felt odd like the Torman of her dream was not a part of her at all but an isolated being separate from her dream.
"What if I told you I could most certainly offer you more." Torman spoke appealing to her weakened sense of self though she'd held on surprisingly well.
"I'm not interested." Heylyn told him flatly.
"Oh. Really?" Torman said as if amused by her answer.
The chair slowly turned around revealing Alicia who sat comfortably dressed as Night Style.
"What if it was me who made that offer? After all, I gave the formula to Torman. Didn't I?" Alicia asked Heylyn.
"No! You're not Alicia. Not the Alicia that I know." Heylyn exclaimed clearly shocked by Alicia's sudden appearance in her dream and in association with the creep she'd come to know as Torman.
Suddenly the buzzing around her was too much and the henchmen had firmed their grip upon her. Alicia started laughing wickedly as the henchmen hauled Heylyn flailing to the edge of the elevated office platform. She kicked and screamed but only the sound of the buzzing and Alicia's hideous laughter answered her cries. The henchmen having arrived at the edge tossed her a distance out into the air before gravity did the rest.
She fell face first towards the floor of the processing plant accelerating the whole way. She opened her eyes just as the floor met her face. The alarm clock buzzed incessantly as it had in her dream. She lifted her weary head to peer at the time observing that it was 6:34 AM. She rubbed her face feeling like she'd not slept at all. She was naked and comfortable under the sheets and blanket and desperately wanted to stay in bed having found a cool spot on her sheets. She had put their costumes in the steam cleaner she had in her home so their costumes would be clean for the morning. These were the tribulations of being a superhero she thought. Before they'd gone to bed Alicia had joked that the steam would neutralize the powers leaving Heylyn thinking that they'd be destined to wear stinky costumes for all of their heroic outings. Alicia's poker face thrown when she started to laugh giddy from lack of sleep.
Alicia had fallen asleep in the guest room and she too was comfortably naked under her covers. She too dreamt though she imagined that some unseen and obscenely gorgeous fantasy lover had joined her in bed and gently kissed her as he slid under the covers with her. They had fondled each other in her dream though it reminded Alicia of her only adolescent relationship. A short one that she'd had twelve years prior. It was not a pleasant experience as the boy was clearly uncomfortable with her and he'd not really known what he was doing. Nor did she for that matter and this just exasperated the experience. Alicia presumed that her lack of experience in this area had superimposed itself onto her idea of sensual contact and that left her feeling somewhat unsatisfied. She fantasized about it further before she awoke at the edge of anticipation. She contemplated whether the formula might have affected her in this way and instead ruled it to being a result of the increased physical exertion she'd been having. It felt good to be able to use her body and to really enjoy it. Something that many people take for granted and she knew this especially having worked with some debilitating diseases in her line of research.
Alicia looked at the time hearing Heylyn's alarm muffled through the walls. She hadn't slept naked for some time and it felt liberating to her. She looked under her covers and noticed that her body had changed again. She'd not gained back the weight or size that she'd lost while wearing the costume. Her body was muscular, toned and very athletic in appearance and this startled her. She jumped out of bed, the scientist in her very much awake and asking questions. Did she still possess her powers? Was this permanent or something that would slowly return back to her prior bodily state? She dove to the floor and tested her strength and balance propping herself up on her arms in a hand stand.
She flawlessly pushed herself up on two hands maintaining perfect balance. She then walked on her hands and much to her surprise it was almost as easy as walking on her feet. She remained inclined and switched to one hand effortlessly then the other. She launched herself back up onto her feet with one arm and sat on the bed and a smile stretched across her face. She threw on a t-shirt, underwear and house coat from Heylyn's guest room wardrobe eager to explain her findings to Heylyn. She opened the door stepping out into the living room.
Heylyn had just gotten up and was making her way to the kitchen to prep a quick breakfast when Alicia caught her.
"Good morning! Notice anything different?" Alicia asked Heylyn impatiently.
Heylyn finished filling the kettle and plugged it in before she gave Alicia her full attention.
"You look great! No side effects I take it? What about your abilities?" Heylyn asked her enthusiastically.
"I still have..." Alicia and Heylyn paused realizing the pressure that the new finding had pressed upon them.
"You started wearing your formula treated costume about ten days ago. Do you think that the rate of this new effect is based upon body mass?" Heylyn asked her thoughtfully.
"No, the formula works on field theory rather than individual particles. In other words the RNA has access to the past and future genome while exposed to the field generated by the spray on formula. One we remove our costumes the field dissipates and the process of transformation reverses though not as quickly as the transformation itself. That's because the cells are going through the remaining field energy result from being in proximity to the spray. It goes through the remainder of that energy in reversing the transformation. What might be happening is that the body is able to retain it's new form for longer and longer periods of time because the energy field is retained by the body somehow. Through the biomagnetic field maybe? This is both good and bad. It's good in the sense that the treatments developed might be permanent or semi-permanent. That also means that Torman's use of the formula is potentially permanent as well as is everyone he's used it with." Alicia spoke as she thought carefully about all of the ramifications.
"So from what you're saying, regardless of the physique of the person who uses it, the formula will arrive at these effects in about ten days?" Heylyn verified with Alicia.
"That looks like the case so far. I can't take the chance to test that by not wearing the Night Style costume as we need it for the investigation. This is definitely a positive insofar as treatment goes. None of the laboratory mice exuded this quality. That might be because their biomagnetic field was not at the critical field point. That's a level of magnetism and its field strength measured in Gauss over mass over nervous system throughput. It would take about a hundred mice to match the critical field point of the body of a human being. Many human beings in close proximity to one another have a high critical field point." Alicia turned her hips taking a look at herself clinically.
"We'd better let them know now. That might change plans." Heylyn said as she poured their hot water.
Heylyn began to pull all of the ingredients for a quick breakfast from the fridge as Alicia phoned Gavin to let him know their new findings.
In her haste Heylyn made an inadvertent mess which she began to clean up when there was a knock at the door. She looked to Alicia who was still on the phone with Gavin.
"Who is it?" Heylyn asked cautiously before unlatching the door to see her coworker Monique Defleur standing before her.
Monique stood quietly for a moment looking at Heylyn as if she'd been left behind before speaking.
"It's Monique. I just wanted to make sure that you were Ok." Monique inquired from behind the door.
Heylyn unlatched the door and let Monique into the condominium.
"We're ok. One of our guests was a little drunk last night. We got caught up in a mess down at the Emporium." Heylyn told Monique as she finished cleaning up her mess.
"I heard about it on the news last night. That's why I was checking on you." Monique offered her sincere concern though she knew the truth already thanks to her eavesdropping.
"Oh we're alright. We're just getting ready for a trip. I won't be seeing you at the office for about two weeks." Heylyn hoped that she was right in her estimate.
"You know, you've always been a friend to me. If you're having problems and you need someone to talk to, you can talk to me. I've got a lot of life experiences that most people don't have in our business. If you need that kind of advice just let me know." Monique offered in the most diplomatic way that she could.
Heylyn pondered what she was implying for a moment before dealing with it. Last night Monique had called her to let her know that she'd known about the Butterfly Dragon. That had perturbed Heylyn at the time but she'd managed to put it at the back of her mind until now. She knew that she had to address this problem and a few others before leaving for the trip. Monique was her friend and she didn't want to leave her with that kind of knowledge having not talked about it first.
"That's so sweet of you to be concerned Monique, but I can assure that its not what you're thinking." Heylyn told her firmly.
"Its ok. Really. If you need to talk don't be shy. I won't judge you. You know denial is a sign of..." Monique told her once again knowing the signs of denial when she saw them.
"You've definitely got the wrong idea Monique. You may have many life experiences that I don't have but don't take that as a sign that everyone else deals with your past challenges. I appreciate you offering your help but there is nothing that needs helping." Heylyn corrected her with authority.
Heylyn became a little bit impatient with where Monique's reasoning was taking the conversation. Heylyn had been around people who'd involved themselves in the underground lifestyle and rescuing women from that lifestyle was a big part of her life though she'd never fallen victim to it herself. It was Heylyn's way of using her position in life to help other women who'd had a bad start. To give them an opportunity that might help them find a different path. What they did with that opportunity was up to them ultimately and she'd seen just as many fall ultimately being their own worst enemy or just not being able to give up the life style before they'd tasted success enough for it to take hold of them. To change them enough to know that they might want the kind of life that comes with being financially independent and successful. It was a risky investment because when the friends of such Women got word that they had such an opportunity, those friends would see it as a windfall. A source of money for their group and to fuel their lives. Often those so called friends would drag them down rather than real friends who would elevate. She'd encountered situations where such people would try to get at her own personal life and information in order to manipulate her. To have their ticket to the world of fashion and celebrities. Often this would ultimately ruin the whole opportunity for the person involved and they would end up in the same as those gutter who'd ruined the opportunity in the first place.
Not all situations were the same and she'd had three successes with other models whom she'd brought into the world of modeling from similar backgrounds to that of Monique. They were different in that they had close friends who had their heads together and were more supportive. They insulated those Women from the destructive kind and helped them to achieve success without asking for a single thing in return. One those Women (and one Man) had tasted success and had managed to get the hang of being responsible as a person for themselves they were fine. Success was contagious and addicting itself but rarely destructive when taken in manageable doses. Her prior proteges were now very successful and independent and working for other people. To her that was a result of their own effort and their ability to take advantage of the opportunity.
People in her industry couldn't help everyone and there were many who'd let them know it but they did more than most people knew. They did their part often silently despite the cliche that was attributed to those in the business of aesthetics. The people that were not aware of their efforts such as some of the radical advocacy groups would often tear into Heylyn and her industry for its lack of priorities and values. For its shallow view of placing value on visual beauty rather than the personality. She knew better as did most in her industry for the reality of that misnomer was written on the face of every lady they'd rescued from social disaster. They were the butterflies of the field. Struck down for their elusive vanity and under appreciated until their full potential was needed. When that potential emerged it was like the butterfly's dragon from its cocoon. Like Alicia's graduation dress.
In the fashion industry as they did in many industries with a strong media presence, just about everyone involved took one person under their wing attempting to heft them up and into the arms of opportunity. Monique was Heylyn's fourth effort in this way though Heylyn never thought about it as imperative. It was timing circumstances and serendipity that had arranged their meeting.
Heylyn realized that Monique's experiences and Heylyn's help had left Monique feeling like she'd been given the opportunity out of the guilt. The guilt of those who were successful that many preyed upon in order to manipulate a person as if their success was undeserved. It was until a person had found their own success that they would never understand. Many of the people who would attempt to manipulate those who were making their own success or had already achieved it would often attempt to sabotage it. This was the case especially for people like Monique whom they'd often latch onto thinking that they'd be hefted up along with her. Meanwhile such people often ended up ruining the opportunity altogether. In order to reverse the blame onto their victim they often tried to ruin the victim's repute or to make them seem mean or bad. Often by constant harassment and abuse. People like that were definitely not friends and unfortunately Monique had many like that. They'd long since chased her real friends away. Many of Monique's clique had mistaken the opportunity for social guilt on Heylyn's part for her own success when in fact it was anything but. Monique had her own guilt related to the fact that she didn't feel like she deserved it and this is what Heylyn sought to address.
"Look. I know that you feel the way that you do because the opportunity you had with us fell into your lap. Get rid of that feeling. It was a convenience to me at the time and an opportunity to you. You could have failed miserably but you didn't. You stuck it out despite your situation and living arrangements and yet you succeeded. That was your success and yours alone. You did it. You do not owe me a thing. You need to pat yourself on the back for your success but don't gloat in it. Think of what's possible for your future and what you want and pursue it accordingly. If you follow me around because you think that you need to repay that opportunity you're wrong and you're paying it to the wrong person. Get yourself on your feet and then help someone else do the same." Heylyn explained the facts to Monique trying not to be condescending.
Monique thought about it and realized that what Heylyn was saying was true. Opportunity didn't always work out and when it did it was not an injustice to feel good about yourself for succeeding just as it wasn't justice to feel bad about yourself for not succeeding. Even if the opportunity fell your way by serendipity. The opportunity itself came as a result of circumstances beyond her control and none that she could take credit for often just as readily as it might taken from her by malicious people or her own lack of self control. It was good fortune that it came to her at that time. Acting upon it and succeeding was her triumph as she could have easily declined the opportunity that day and remained on that train. The wrong one. She could be grateful to herself that she accepted the opportunity and grateful to herself that she'd made the effort to succeed. She could be grateful that nobody had sabotaged the opportunity for her because there are trolls in the world who just hate to see others succeed and progress. That was always a real danger in coming from where she had. Jealousy and envy had motivated some of the most vile behaviors in people and that was no different where she'd come from and sometimes potentially worse. She wondered what kind of a mind would labor to sabotage another person's effort to better themselves but would not labor to better their own life? What kind of a person took no action for the benefit of themselves but took action for the detriment of others?
Monique had defended herself against the malicious people of her neighborhood but had been strong willed enough not to get involved in it. She'd cried about it to others but had never returned the same effort to those who'd done it to her. When Heylyn's opportunity had arrived on her proverbial doorstep she'd been grateful that nobody from her neck of the woods had found out. If they did they would have broken it down and her along with it. Some people in life who saw opportunity befall others saw it as being too easy. Like someone or something had given it to those who received the opportunity. For those who acted as barriers they saw it as their position in life to make sure that opportunity was earned and not just given. Those people usually pursued nothing of their own and had defined their existence in their self appointed job of acting as obstacles to the opportunities of others. The same people usually defined their own success by the lack of success of others rather than by their own efforts and achievements. Maybe that fact had been what motivated such people to literally steal the good deeds of others for their own. So they'd not be without accomplishments though those accomplishments weren't truly their own. Trolls in fact would often gang up on the solitary achiever or an isolated person trying to pile their loathing onto their victim hoping to trick them into losing control. Behaving worse than the trolls themselves. That was the means of destruction of butterflies in this world. They would crush their dreams and hopes by crushing their wings. Ultimately though they'd come to the end of their road and nothing to face but themselves and a wasted life. They could run from everyone else but they couldn't get away from the only person that they couldn't outrun and that was themselves. No matter what kind of wool such people could pull over the eyes of others they could never fool themselves and they would likely be their own worst judge. Facing themselves and their end after such a life of abuse and sabotage of others would likely be a grim fate for such a person. Both Heylyn and Monique could at least both be grateful that was a fate they'd never have to face. Most people who did would usually have to face it alone because their so called friends would often be in the same boat.
Monique had was the daughter of a hard working Ukrainian Father and an equally hard working French Mother who was a homemaker. She'd left home at the tender age of nineteen to pursue a career. She'd met Samias while working as a waitress for a local restaurant. He'd led her on keeping his criminal life hidden from her for a long time during their courtship which was decidely short. Samias was crusher of wings himself but in ways that his gang would perform for him. Monique had in her younger years seen Samias' brash personality as a sign of strength and this was very enticing and exciting to her. She never took part in any of Samias' lifestyle and if she'd known the worst of it she'd have left him for certain. If Samias had known Torman at that time, they'd have likely become good friends. By the time the trouble had started with Samias and his friends it had been too late for Monique to get out unscathed. Samias' reputation had been getting around and by that time Torman's contact network had found him and was using his services and his gang connections. Samias was a small time hood and would do work for Torman as a corporate saboteur. He would sabotage the value of companies or investments that Torman was seeking to purchase by any means possible and to the maximum effect. This would result in an often drastic drop in the purchase price or stock value making such a purchase possible and with a profit. When the purchase had been made and ownership transferred Torman's cronies would cease their efforts and the investment would 'miraculously' recover making Torman look like a star and filling his coffers. Samias was a part of the team that made that possible though his coffers were never filled as were Torman's.
"Alicia. I want you to tell Gavin that I am bringing my personal assistant with me on this trip. I don't do anything without her and she's to be rewarded amply for her participation in this trip. Otherwise you can count me out regardless of the consequences." Heylyn spoke firmly to Alicia who was still on the phone with Gavin.
Alicia looked at Heylyn like she was insane. Heylyn held her ground and her stance, folding her arms across her breasts.
"Uhhh. Gavin. Heylyn is bringing her personal assistant. She won't go anywhere without her and that's final. She's to be rewarded for it too." Alicia tried to assert herself but ending up sounding more like she was pleading.
Alicia held the phone away from her ear for a few moments looking to Heylyn as a barrage of words flew aggressively from the earpiece. When the words had lost their edge she returned the phone to the side of her face without missing a beat.
"Then we're agreed? Ok. Good." Alicia nodded affirmatively to Heylyn.
Heylyn turned to Monique looking through her with serious intensity.
"You're coming with us. There's to be no trouble or nonsense from you and this is serious business. For this trip you're my assistant. That means that what I say goes. Go get packed. You'll need two weeks of clothing and supplies for a tropical resort. Don't mess up and I mean that! You can thank me later." Heylyn ordered Monique.
Monique hurried out of the condo with an ear to ear grin before Heylyn could chang her mind. Alicia hung up the phone and put it in her pocket.
"I guess some heroes don't need to use their super powers at all to make a difference in somebody's life." Alicia said to Heylyn.
"We're most certainly not going to make much of a difference with stinky costumes." Heylyn said pulling the costumes from the steam cleaner.
She tossed Alicia's Night Style gear to her and then held up her Butterfly Dragon outfit as she looked in the mirror.
"Why do I feel like I'm going to regret this?" Heylyn said, the sharpened edge of sarcasm keen in her voice.
She made her way through the aisles casually glancing at each item occasionally touching a blouse or a sweater and examining it for signs. She knew what she was looking for though she didn't know how she'd recognize it. At first she thought she might see it in certain colored garments. Before long she expanded her search when she'd had little luck. Her shaded eye wear concealed two beautiful sapphires mixed with shades of grey and a splash of yellow in each which each surrounded two perfect pupils. They peered through each item until she arrived at one.
"What do we have here? This looks like hers." She spoke aloud handling the fabric looking it over carefully as she looked for a tag.
When she'd located it on the inside of the neck she spied it for a name. When she found the name she was looking for she continued on to the next item once again examining each in turn. A tall man at the counter watched her admiringly as she strolled the store examining the garments. She was much more refined than Valerie he thought. More subtle too. Maybe he would settle down with her on his own island if he handled the situation just right. If Mr. Zek made it happen he'd be sitting pretty and he could spend the rest of his life living free and easy. He could drink pina coladas every night and wake up on the beach the next morning outside of a two million dollar home. He'd have Delinia to nurse him back to health with sex and more drink. All he had to do was figure out how the formula worked and get it reverse engineered and replicated.
Judging by the amount that it had taken to do his suit, the watches of his henchmen and Valerie's suit and his secret weapon he figured he'd have enough to handle ten more full applications. That would leave enough for the reverse engineering process. He'd have plenty to set up his protection network and enough to take his abilities to the next level. For whatever reason it was he could not maximize the potential he saw within the formula. There was something different that the ladies had done to maximize it making the both of them formidable opponents. The fashion designer had little to do with and he suspected that the other lady knew how to amplify its effect. Just to be safe though he had called in an old flame from his recent past whose background was in fashion marketing. Her eye for the artistic was what he was after thinking that maybe she would recognize a quality that the clothing had that had made the formula more effective.
When he'd explained it to her on the phone she was not so enthusiastic but when she'd arrived for a lunch meeting at the airport before his departure, he'd persuaded her otherwise. She'd understood perfectly and in doing so he was able to let her in on the whole secret without the worry of her breaking down to anyone else about what he'd told her. After their lunch they immediately made their way over to the airport mezzanine and were greeted by a variety of shops and fashion chains that suited their needs.
He was careful not to attract any attention but without looking so after all he'd be a fugitive by this time if they'd set in motion tracking him down. They'd be safely on a plane and on their way to Treadwater before dinner. His employees had taken an earlier flight and were most likely getting ready to integrate the operation into that of Mr. Zek. They were already looking for a production facility with the capabilities to re-engineer the formula and looking to produce it in the hopes of growing their global reach.
"I think that this should do. Its ten outfits, five men's and five women's, all designed by her as you requested. The watches too. What do you think?" Delinia asked Torman, a seductive smile stretched across her face.
"I think that we're going to be a smash." Torman replied lowering his sunglasses momentarily to get a look at her selections.
An hour later and their plane was taxiing for take-off. Next stop: Treadwater Island.
Dreams And The Flight Assisted Butterfly
Heylyn had always been accustomed to doing things herself. Even since she'd been infused with the SY349 solution, she'd not really been dependent upon anyone but complimentary to many nonetheless. Their solid friendship had been renewed. That or it had never been lost in the first place. That is why Alicia had contacted her first and this comforted Heylyn. Heylyn possessed formidable skills even without the application of the formula to what had now become her Butterfly Dragon costume. The formula and the suit afforded her many abilities that would help her in this adventure but she ultimately did not depend upon them. She had always been in the cocoon from her childhood through to her adulthood. She like Alicia had emerged from that cocoon. Two butterflies in a world that needed their beauty and guidance.
Alicia was just as talented and exceptional as Heylyn though her skills and abilities were often not as recognized by society as were those of Heylyn. Until recently popular culture afforded little attention to those in her field but times were changing. In such an atmosphere Alicia had long struggled to get ahead before her talents were noticed. She'd been recognized for different abilities and virtues than those that Heylyn exhibited. Heylyn though had always seen between the hype. Heylyn's tremendous abilities had not denied her own ability to recognize and help the careers of others. Much like having helped the career of Monique who sat across the aisle from her and Alicia in the Airbus. Monique had such meagre beginnings and had even used some of her resources in fleeing those beginnings. She did so in order to be a free woman to pursue her life like women such as Alicia and Heylyn. We all started at different rungs of the ladder with some closer to the top than others though their concept of up and down was certainly subjective. The top though as Heylyn would think about it was what you deemed it to be. Your personal struggle to achieve that which held light for you. That which motivated you to wake up in the morning or to work all hours of the night to finish. Like the time she'd spend working through the night into the wee hours of the morning before a fashion show getting her designs just right.
It had already been a strange flight for Heylyn and Alicia. They were both exhausted from the prior day's activities and pursuits despite their newly acquired abilities. They both had drifted into sleep on the flight trying to regain much needed energy. The energy they'd need to see this through to the end. Monique having slept soundly the prior night sat across the aisle from them with her face pressed against the window as she watched the clouds en route to Treadwater Island Resort and Club. She'd never been on an aircraft and that had made this trip an exciting new experience for her. These were doors that Heylyn had opened for her and she'd pursued them with ambition, courage and wonder. Alicia slept with her head pressed against the other window as she caught up on missed rest from the two weeks prior to her foray into the world of super-heroism. Heylyn had passed halfway in and out of consciousness a few times during the trip already before finally arriving quietly at the land of nod. While she slept she visualized the exterior of the flight. All of it. Each of the passengers too. Some of them whose thoughts she heard she tried to ignore though she had little success. Voices echoed through her head though she managed to keep herself composed mostly due to her exhaustion. When she finally found peace in the midst of the sensory input she was receiving she was startled within her dream by a voice of presence. A voice she'd heard before when she was a little girl.
Her dream had started out at her office studio at her company headquarters. She had just put the finishing touches on the Butterfly Dragon costume which she slowly put on. She went to check herself in her full length mirror. When she arrived before the mirror she was greeted by the reflection of a little girl who stood in a field at night amidst a flowery clearing. In the distance scattered trees and bushes bracketed her in all directions. Heylyn instantly recognized the little girl as being herself and upon that realization she became the little girl. Standing in the midst of the same field she'd visited many times in her childhood dream world. It was the field where the butterflies had made their dragon and unleashed it upon those who'd taken their peace and freedom. She had no idea where this field was located in the world. It was every such field everywhere for all she knew if that made any sense. What did make sense in the midst of a dream world she thought to herself? Wearing a light summer one piece dress much like she had worn when she was a child she walked without shoes through the grass. The foliage of the field tickled her feet as she explored it through her toes. Free of the fear of reproach by anything that might be crawling through it.
"I see that you've returned. The young lady who has recently hatched from her own cocoon to become the butterfly woman Ai? Wonder grows restless to explore and upon achieving wisdom becomes love itself and more so with age as much beauty." A voice boomed out startling her from her musings of the foliage floor.
"Your way with words is quite good. I'll take them as a compliment." Heylyn replied.
"Words can be as you describe lest you wash them down with a bit of attentiveness. There are meanings beyond the meanings just as there are visions beyond the dreamings." The dragon spoke fluidly and readily with language with the brush of words upon the canvas of language.
"Are you trying to impress me?" Heylyn asked the dragon.
"No. I am merely in want of understanding? Are you you? Are we not all but of the same want? To be understood? Or perhaps its that we'd rather not be so easily deciphered?" The dragon asked her candidly.
"Am I me? Me? I think and am capable of self reflection. Therefore I am. The only proof that I need. Speaking of which who are you?" Heylyn asked in repose.
"Yes. No. The most obvious quote though to affirm the reality and independence of one's self. If that were the truth then we'd only need little other than to wake up and eat and make sure that we had enough to eat later before we'd waste away to nothing, would it not? As for who I am. I am that which sprang forth from the cocoon that fateful day. You were a little girl then. Perhaps that is why you've taken such form in this field on this night. As for me, I am that which guards this field and so much more." the dragon replied in a somewhat patronizing tone.
"I was thinking along the lines of a name. Do you have one?" Heylyn asked the dragon.
"I have many. My butterfly name is Weltherwithsp in your tongue. I had walked the earth with this name in years now long gone. The world was then a different place and the names of those nations since that time are also long gone." The dragon spoke the name which sounded like a whispery movement of air more than a sound as he spoke it.
"Weltherwithsp? That's a beautiful name. It sounds almost Scandinavian." Heylyn replied in pause.
"That's because It is. My dragon name in your tongue is Karkathrakushk and in the native tongue of the land from which you emigrated it is Xǔduō míngzì yòng yī zhī jiǎo zài měi biān míngzhì de shé." The ground shook and the air solidified momentarily before breaking sounding much like a sonic boom as he spoke the name to a startled Heylyn.
Heylyn jumped back momentarily taking a defensive stance in wait of the onslaught which never came.
"I guess you really are a jumping flower and I just had to see, but I like Ai much better though I do very much like flowers. You are then Heylyn flower. I take it you like my butterfly name better than you do my dragon name. Then as a butterfly I shall you deal with as I hope you'll share the same grace with me Butterfly Dancing Flower." Weltherwithsp reposed with little effort to sooth Heylyn's tension.
"That wasn't funny." Heylyn stepped forward showing little fear of Weltherwithsp.
"You're right. It was hilarious but I digress nonetheless. You must forgive my butterfly nature, for it is always playful, yet we have serious business before us. Don't we?" Weltherwithsp posited.
"How do you know that?" Heylyn asked Weltherwithsp.
"Do you forget? You are asking that question of yourself, for I am you and yet not you. A new part of you and a connection between yourself and all your prior selves throughout history. An undiscovered part of you that lay in wait for you to one day consume the formula and reveal me, both in and outside of you. You certainly must have suspected you were destined for something? All that training in the three forms? You remember Jin's words? The sun rises, the flower opens. Through the day the light and goes in. The night comes and the flower closes." Weltherwithsp answered Heylyn's question though doing little to change the look of puzzlement upon her face.
"You're a side effect of the formula? You mean my childhood memories are just the side effects of the formula too? That's impossible." Heylyn's puzzlement disappeared as she challenged the dragon's implication.
"A side effect I am not. I am as real as your own memories. You have always been the butterfly. You unburied the dragon from the time you had started your martial arts training at six. That was just three years after your Grandmother and Mother had started telling you the story, jumping flower. The story of the field. Of the butterflies. And of course let's not forget the very dragon to whom you speak. She sent me to protect you. To protect them. You had fallen onto that branch and been injured though I know you were pushed. So did your Grandmother. She convinced your Mother to start you down the road to the martial arts style you'd eventually come to know as the Butterfly Dragon style. It is an ancient style and it has been practiced by many before you. It combines the styles and wisdom of many nations and peoples. All to protect them." Weltherwithsp told her, wisdom unreserved.
"To protect who? Who are they?" Heylyn asked abruptly in search of a purpose that she'd somehow overlooked.
"Those who need protecting of course, though you know who they are." Weltherwithsp snickered.
"You're using what I don't know to toy with me. To wield power over me and manipulate me." Heylyn responded.
"How can that be if I am part of you and connected with you?" Weltherwithsp asked her.
Heylyn held her glaring eyes upon him waiting for it to continue.
"The truth is that I know many things that you don't and I can see many things that you can't despite the fact that I am a part of you and yet separate. I can go places you never could. I can see into the minds of others and know them like you never can. I can see potentiality and possibility in ways that you could not even fathom. The foe you face on the island is much more potent than you think. Both cunning and deceitful. Someone... something that you should take a little more seriously than you do." Weltherwithsp told her.
"Alicia and I will be able to deal with Torman and his allies. I believe that we are more than the sum of our parts alone." Heylyn responded to Weltherwithsp, a little defensively.
"That we are. Most certainly indeed. Even the most meager of ideas starts as a thought and far from the body. Maybe that is our mind? Our spirit? I'm sure a philosopher or theologian might have the answer albeit none the same. Perhaps it is objectively subjective. Or is it subjectively objective? Words to describe it before it becomes a force in the world. Just as those you coined by Descartes. Words that confirm your existence by the proof of ponderance. Such ideas describe our state but we most certainly need something more. Do we nought us each and every one? Just as a butterfly needs wings to carry it to the sky so does a ship need sails. But where there is no passage of air neither can travel and though it is not the wind that pushes us to do it most certainly. An essence for want of adventure and experience and a mind to guide it. That is the me in me and the you in you. Our bodies are the vessel and once we have wings or sails we can take to the air or the sea or whatever medium you so choose. The fact that many cannot get past how we label things and how they came to be is not nearly as important as the fact that they clearly are." the dragon explained to her.
"Transcendence. The importance is not upon the names that we give things, but that they are. To just be. Jin and I visited that in our lessons. The so called nameless name as Lao Tzu put it. That does not mean that I should give up my name or label in the world. Nor should you." Heylyn proposed to the dragon.
"By all means no. For the body requires sustenance and you live in a practical world that requires you to pay to survive. People rely on you as their means to a living. How could one keep track of their means to earn and pay without such a label? You might starve as would others and chaos would ensue. Someone else might come along and take that label from you and use it for their own self gain. A currency based upon our notion of the labels of things and people. Imagine that. Even if you did lose that label, does that mean that you are no longer yourself? That is the point. You are still you even without that label. Even if everyone else secretly agreed that you were someone else. The one constant that you have in your life. More importanly, that lump of pink matter that seems to facilitate that notion is not you either. Its just the receiver for the real you. The radio as it were. Wired specifically to you and nobody else because you don't even occupy this space. Some might call the real you a spirit. Your energy field. Even your consciousness which it surely is." the dragon explained.
"We're getting treading into some deep water here. Don't you think? What does this have to do with Treadwater Island and finding Torman?" Heylyn asked the winged beast.
"Listen and it will all become clear and you will help them find peace with their fear." Weltherwithsp smiled coyly for her.
Heylyn stared at the dragon which fluttered its eyes at her possibly toying with her.
"I wasn't expecting a philosophical lecture from a dragon in a field with talking mice, worms, birds and insects. Alright. I'm listening. Please continue." Heylyn said rolling her eyes.
The dragon moved its head closer to hers and sniffed the air and then let out a sigh.
"I think you meant it. Then I shall continue." Weltherwithsp took a large breath and continued.
"Where were we? Oh yes. I remember. Even our consciousness requires a driving force that pushes every thought. Even those that simply confirm your being by way of the fact that you are capable of self reflection. Individual reflection." the dragon paused and Heylyn interjected.
"A driving force. You mean like a push? Like the wind in sails? That was a good anecdote. You used it before." she encouraged the dragon trying not to goad it.
"Precisely. A push like the wind. Perhaps motivation though it is something more. Keep in mind though that while those thoughts make their way to your receiver that there are some who can read the passage of what comes from that driving force through the medium along the way." the dragon told her once again pausing to think.
"You mean like Police scanners? Some people listen in on two way radio conversations, though they don't take part in them. Kind of like aural voyeurs I suppose." Heylyn suggested.
"Yes. Another good anecdote. So there are some who can listen in to the flow of thought. The cosmic wind or aether through which consciousness flows to us each. They might try to fool you into believing that your thoughts are theirs, but that is not the case at all by such means. It is more akin to overhearing one's words through a... Police scanner as you said. Or reading over somebody's shoulder. That driving force that propels the creative urge and to adventure and experience in this world is not of it. Not a part or the result of this collection or parts that make us up but beyond it. That force that is you is not of this realm of being. It is as I've said: beyond and the quest to both understand this and agree about what is happening in this regard and even to control it has led to much blood shed and war over the span of human existence." Weltherwithsp once again paused deep in thought.
You aren't graced with consciousness or a spirit as the result of the inner workings of the parts of your brain. You have it before you even have a brain or a body. That is what we would call us. You. Me. We." the dragon waved the tip of its tail between them in a gesture.
"Again, what does this have to do with Torman? Our mission?" Heylyn said impatiently.
"You're still like the little girl in many ways. Forceful. Sometimes even impatient. Admirable qualities even from a butterfly such as yourself. That driving force is unique to each and every one of us. How we act upon it is up to us and what amounts to our being and freewill." Weltherwithsp looked at her waiting for her response.
"Freewill? Torman's ability seems to be to influence others. Maybe even to control them." Heylyn thought about what the dragon had said.
"Well freewill plays into many aspects of our being a self realization. Poor Alicia's mind at one point had tricked her as a result of the cruelty of others into hiding herself and her wonderful talents from the world. Those who vex the spirit or our driving force often by way of ignorance or hate of some form can affect the future of us all in ways too profound to even begin to understand. The joy of seeing others hurt and of crushing that driving force through malice or ire. That's the cruel nature by which some people choose to compete in this world. Perhaps they are threatened by one such as her. Intelligent and naive both at once though it is best not to let your disdain for such behavior from such people get the best of you lest you become the monster yourself. They're experts often at turning the tables. Men like Torman and his gangs. Your school bullies. Alicia was self conscious as a result of their treatment of her. Your dress helped her to overcome that self consciousness. Kind of like training wheels upon which her self esteem could allow her to move without losing kilter. After that experience she learned to cope much better with those who act and behave in such a manner. She felt beautiful within herself and that blockage of self esteem no longer was a barrier for the expression of her driving force. It was free to emerge through her and become what she chose to pursue. Her research on the formula. Without the graduation dress that might never have happened." the dragon explained to her.
"So the graduation dress was Alicia's what helped her to find her butterfly's wings. Her dreams and ambitions were the driving force that pushed her through the wind. To be free." Heylyn expressed the sentiments of their last conversation.
"Precisely." the dragon gave its summary of their last talk and its point of view.
"So this is linked to Torman's means of influence? You mean that we might be able to liberate others from him?" Heylyn asked the wise dragon.
"Ai, you might not know this but you are from a long line of people who've been prominent at one time in history. What makes them prominent as much as yourself is not related to their genome as the modern world might put it. It's not related to their parts for people with far less ability to use their own parts have done far more and perhaps that's what motivates Alicia so much. It's related to the fact that they acted upon their driving force and never once feared the reproach of others' cruelty especially with their regard to their efforts to achieve positive ends and their ideas about right and wrong. The fact that they acted upon their drive and ideas in that regard to further humanity though many in history have added this up to being the result of heritage. Blood. More recently genome. People who use it as a means to convince others that they were born with something special more so than others of supposed lesser stock." the dragon paused for a moment before continuing.
Heylyn pondered what the dragon was saying.
"These are the kind of leeches who populate Torman's backyard and criminal empire and he is merely their figurehead though a willing one. There are also those however like yourself who will help to liberate others from such tyranny. Help others to find their way and walk freely upon their own. When you are among those who are realized themselves and confident they will work together to elevate you. Should your efforts merit such a thing. What made the Queens, Kings, Empress and Emperors of yesteryear were people with the ability to liberate others and to empower them. Many people presumed that they had special heritage. In fact they were people whose most important and unique quality was the ability to liberate their followers from the limits imposed by others and more importantly from their own self imposed limits. To respect themselves and their ability as unique and free people in this world. Further to understand the responsibility that such empowerment imposed upon them. A responsibility imposed much like your powers impose upon you. Like Alicia's. Like the one you will come to know as the Eclipse." a gentle smile crept across the face of the dragon.
Heylyn contemplated what the dragon had said nodding in amazement as she comprehended.
"As you know from choosing your path in the fashion arts, there are many who will play the public perception against you with deceit. Perhaps even lay traps upon which they hope you to tread so as to be a discredit to you. Both Alicia and yourself have and will most certainly experience this further with the battle for the formula. Your unseen enemy is one who has mastered such a means of manipulation to gain much power." the dragon continued.
"How do I know that what you speak of is not deceit?" Heylyn asked still not entirely sure of the dragon's motives.
"Your skepticism is merited. After all I bring to you a concept that is often elusive and is so often used by those who'd fool you that you are already used to questioning it. That is because what I present to you is truth. I force upon you no choice as to whether you decide to accept it or not. That choice is yours and one I'd most certainly never take away from you. Your life experiences will be my witness. History has certainly made a poor name for those of my kind and image and who would believe the tongue of the dragon except those who herald from lands where the dragon is a much different symbol than one of mirth and deceit though there are certainly very dangerous and destructive dragons. Though I'd hardly associate myself with such deception though there are those who'd argue that because it came from one such as I that it must be deceit. Much the same way that some people might claim that because certain words came from someone of a particular breed or stock that their words must be similar trickery or deceit. I only give you the wisdom of my observation and experiences. Whether or not you choose to believe them is up to you and I will fault you none for your choice either way. Nor will I provoke you to anger or reaction to make you seem arrogant, zealous or mentally unsound if you disagree with what I've explained. Remember that most in this time in which you live aren't always acting of their own mind or free choice when they are acting to dodge the burden of hatred imposed by those who don't want you to have a free choice of your own. An informed choice made by the merit of your life experiences and your own conscience. This is the key to freeing those enslaved by Torman. Remember from where you came with your parents that the dragon kind are regarded much differently. History in the west has been unkind to us." the dragon explained.
"The great divide between the Far East and the West. I'm a child of the Far East yet raised in the West. In the so called new world my parents knew of this struggle. I loved my father. He was a great man. Retaining our cultural heritage was a challenge in the midst of such a transition but they managed to balance it. Somehow. That is something for which I am grateful. Perhaps that is what gives me the ability to see this from both points of view. Both the wisdom of the Far East and the initiative of the Far West. Dragons are a much different iconic symbol in the Far East than they are in the West. What my father used to call the myopia of the illiterate. He was an avid reader and he'd read many works of both the East and West himself. He was learned and had a way with words. Much like you." Heylyn looked down as she smiled a tear meandering down her cheek.
The dragon listened carefully as she continued.
"His way with words are a part of me as much as the heart of both my mother and my grandmother. What he was saying when he said myopia of the illiterate was that most literature fell onto one side or the other of this idea about myths and legends of the East. The dragon being one of the biggest casualties to this war of words waged by history. Those who did not read or were not readers of literature or fiction often had a slanted view in relation to this perception of the East and the dragon. That would often act further to take the credulity of the literature of many fine works you'd find in the East from India to Japan and every place in between. My father was fond of the works of many Western writers despite his cultural heritage. Hence my western name as he was a fan of the works of William Butler Yeats. Perhaps the power of what you say is embedded within one such poem he coined about dreams being aspirations. Perhaps when the first real trade opened up between the East and West, there were those who felt that such trade was a bane to their societies. That such competition might hurt their business. The way that this may have manifested itself is within preconceptions of the icons of both the East and the West. A shame that many did not see it as an opportunity for business, growth and understanding." Heylyn responded to the dragon.
"As a dragon I'd have to say that I agree. Most certainly to make matters far worse about this misunderstanding some actually began to reverse the meaning of words. Like having love mean hate. Up meaning down or to get to my point, having East mean West and vice versa. With all this confusion how is one to get their bearings? Especially when the means by which one does get their bearings are also mixed up? My words and what I have explained to you so far in such a case would mean dire consequences for anyone who believed them because they'd contextually mean the exact opposite. Perhaps it is from here that such misconceptions about the nature of the Eastern dragon stems? For here I bring you wisdom though to one who reverses words in such a way, what I've said is dire." the dragon lowered its brow in thought once again bringing its head close to Heylyn's face.
"What would possess people to do such a thing?" Heylyn asked the glowing creature.
"Perhaps those who play with language as such are seeking to sort out the differences between words and actions for that is the only real way to know for certain of one's intent. One who has limited ability to act would therefore have little or fewer means of clarifying their intent to others. If you were to take away the freedom to act from someone who primarily used words over action then you would never really know for certain what their intent was would you? It could take on the context of what they said or the exact opposite. It would be open to either interpretation if context was so confounded as to mean it's respective opposite in spoken word? Up could mean down or it could mean up. Action is what gives the compass its direction and tells us which way is north and which way is south. Without action you'd have no bearings as to what was meant by their intent. Would you?" the dragon once again answered Heylyn's question.
"What if I only speak and don't act? Maybe I can't act for whatever reason to clarify my intent. Maybe I'm paralyzed or bound to a wheel chair. I can't for whatever reason act to confirm my intent with the same freedom that others have. Then what?" Heylyn asked the creature.
"To take away someone's ability to act or to express by way of action is to take away the ability of others to perceive their intent for someone who'd overheard their words could easily reverse them in context and consider themselves right even if that context was the opposite of what was meant. Someone could literally present your words in the exact opposite contextual interpretation and that would most certainly be bad news if your real intent was defined by the real historic definitions of those words. The only way that you knew them. If the words that are used to define other words are also reversed in definition then getting one's bearings is a conundrum and confusion then must surely be in charge. Indeed if you only went by someone's words as the indication of their intent then having no such bearings would mean the intent could fall either way." the dragon answered her question.
"Their emotions and expression would indicate their intent. Wouldn't it?" Heylyn asserted.
"Yes but emotion is a touchy and easily manipulated spot with many people. What if someone like Alicia didn't meet someone as yourself. She would have undoubtedly end up trapped on her own and away from others' presence for fear of the abuse of others. Someone might attempt to take her ingenious ideas from her while she was trapped in a prison of their making. Creating her fear of the world by whittling away at her self confidence and by way of perpetual abuse of her when she ventured forth into the world. Keep in mind though there are people of all shapes and sizes who'd do such a thing to another human being if they sense a weakness through which to do so. They could have taken much before any would have known. Her brilliant ideas. The formula in such a case might never have come to exist or worse ended up in the hands of someone else much sooner for they'd have mined her for it while she was still afraid to be social. People who do that would use every means they could to take from her and keep her trapped while they did so. They are the kind of people who fill Torman's gangs. Your effect upon her life was far greater than you know and is also the key to liberation. Knowing of all this is important for your mission." the dragon continued.
"You're saying that by me doing that for Alicia that she avoided such a fate altogether?" Heylyn asked.
"One of her mentors was victim to such a ploy. Sylvia of whom Alicia's never spoken to you. One whose life was as impactful upon Alicia as your own. She was the victim of the same kind of thing years earlier and by the same conglamerate of people that you seek now all under the leadership of Torman's real boss. She had been working on a different problem in the world of biochemistry. She'd been the first to discover the link between aesthetic perception and the placebo affect though not at the level of investigation that Alicia had undertaken. On the investment group was the one who is now Torman's employer. The one who pulls the strings and whose finances are a billion times greater than Torman's. He arranged for her to be subjected to chemicals to which she was already allergic. They were fed through the air duct system to her. As a result of her metabolic reaction to the chemical soup they'd made she was forced to leave the research firm, leaving behind all of her notes and papers in regard to her work. After all it was their intellectual property and as part of the contract she'd signed with them. This was a few years before she was to receive her pension and this put her in great financial strain. She eventually ended up in a low income apartment and then upon qualifying she was admitted to a nursing home (five years before her actual retirement age). Torman's boss had his employees fit her apartment with surveillance equipment. So they could keep an eye on her. They'd known that she was onto something big and he was going to take it from her any way he could. Give it to another researcher whom they would protect while they painter Sylvia as being a crazed troublemaker who'd been fired from the lab for her irate behavior. That is how Alicia came onto this man's radar and how Torman first got word of her for his future investment scheme and attempt to steal the formula. Alicia's mentor spent the remainder of her life under the watch of this organized criminal gang and because of what had befallen her, nobody listened to her when she sought legal help against it. Instead she was ridiculed and written off as a lunatic by the time Alicia had come into her life. It was that chance meeting that spurred Alicia's interest in the relationship between aesthetics and science though Alicia never would have pursued scientific research if not for your graduation dress. Liberation of others is the key." the dragon explained Sylvia's plight to Heylyn.
"Does Alicia know this?" Heylyn asked.
"No, she does not though in time she will come to suspect it and many things about the nature of the world that she did not know. Perhaps that is when she'll need you the most. A loss of innocence is never easy and especially for someone as bright as Alicia. You should know as you've been let down by a world with which you shared so much when you lost that one spark in your life. The one who clung to your heart even unto his last moments." the creature shifted itself momentarily moving to another spot to keep the rising sun from Heylyn's eyes.
Heylyn instantly knew that the dragon spoke of Brad and his death during the plane hijacking. A tinge of pain struck a chord in her heartstrings and then it subsided. She chose not to bring him up and continued trying to get further information from the dragon about their task ahead.
"How do you propose that I handle that? Is it even right for me to do so? I mean Alicia's an adult. For me to treat her as being too naive and to coddle her is patronizing. Especially for someone as smart as her." Heylyn drew a look of concern.
"Consider yourself a life coach much like you've already been to Monique. A nurturer of sorts though you are a capable leader yourself as evidenced by the success of your company. Be a guide without taking her by the hand for these are things she must become aware of on her own. She must learn to understand them." the dragon insisted to Heylyn.
"I'll make sure she's alright though really she'll be alright because of her. At least one of us knows what we're looking for on Treadwater and how to deal with Torman." Heylyn remarked.
"Most certainly keep her from Torman's grasp because with her in his command there'd be no stopping him. He'll prey upon others there and use every tool at his disposal to do so. His employer is even more dangerous." the dragon spoke with intense seriousness.
"We'll stop him and get the formula which is the source of his power." Heylyn said a determined look on her little girl's face.
"Torman, his power is built upon the wings of those who do his bidding. The formula gave him the ability to affect others with very negative emotions and also to control their mind. Even for very harmful purposes. Like those who already populate the ranks of his army." the dragon accentuated his point.
"Torman isn't far ahead of us. He wouldn't attempt to use that ability much on his way. It would attract the attention of the authorities who'd overwhelm him with numbers. That's assmuming he even has limits. We have to assume that he's limited in the range of his power otherwise he wouldn't have had to travel to Treadwater in the first place. He's avoiding direct confrontation for certain because he plans on setting up shop on Treadwater. I can only hope we find him before he has reverse engineered the formula." Heylyn said to the dragon.
"Sometimes the youngest of minds has the eldest of insight. Perhaps this duality is what makes wisdom a quality that exists on the extreme spans of life, the young and the old for they've learned the art of simplicity that many forget during their mid years. This will help you both. Alicia and yourself because your saviors will be amongst the young and old and those who have, and may yet benefit from from your efforts. Those helped by the formula. Past and present. You will be contacted by your most important allies and they are aware of myself already. They as have I, will take you under wing and as you've helped Alicia to find hers, so shall you too learn to fly. Really fly." the dragon spoke.
There were a few moments of awkward silence as a mass of butterflies began to lift from the petals of the flowers around them.
"You have grown into a beautiful dancing flower my little Ai. Do well with what you are a what you can be." her Grandmother spoke through the dragon's mouth.
The field began to fade and Heylyn lost her balance as the field and the world around it shook as Weltherwithsp uncoiled from the ground and took the air.
"Wait, Grandmother. Don't go." Heylyn ran after Weltherwithsp, tears in her eyes and feeling very much like jumping flower feeling like the little girl that she once was.
"We will speak again." Weltherwithsp paused to take a whiff of a flower as it slithered through the air and disappeared into the distance.
Alicia awoke as the airliner came to a stop the engines idling and passengers leaving the plane. They'd landed at a stopover destination to refuel for the last leg of the flight allowing passengers an hour of time on the ground and outside of the plane should they need it. The building itself was a large complex with a shopping mall, restaurants and hotel inside allowing travelers a variety of options to suit their needs. Their aircraft taxied up to the dock positioning itself near the refueling crew which had been readied for the scheduled task.
"Wha... We can't be there already." Alicia said aloud wiping her face with a wet nap.
"This is a stopover. We'll be here for an hour before taking off for the final leg of the flight. You're free to leave if you'd like." the Stewardess told her having noticed her confusion.
"Let's go check it out. Heylyn looks pretty exhausted. She won't miss us. It will give her a break." Monique said to Alicia trying to peak her enthusiasm.
"I don't know. We should just wait." Alicia told her flatly.
"I'm going to go check it out. I need to stretch. You should too." Monique stood and made her way down the aisle to the exit hatch.
Alicia stood to find the Stewardess with whom she'd talked a moment ago and asked her to let Heylyn know where they'd gone when she awoke. The Stewardess graciously agreed. Alicia turned to see that Monique was already long gone. She spent the next few minutes trying to catch up with Monique.
Alicia marveled at the massive shopping mall like facility contained right inside of the airport itself. She'd traveled little in her life and this was a new experience to both her and Monique.
"Pretty awesome huh?" Monique asked Alicia, not really waiting for an answer.
"Kind of makes you want to shop." Alicia replied to Monique not used to this kind of social experience.
"That's the idea." Monique replied already on her way to a shop she spied.
"This is where all of what Heylyn and I do leads." Monique explained to Alicia who fathomed little about Heylyn's talent.
Alicia admired what Heylyn produced and recognized her connection to artistry as being complimentary to her own science when combined. Maybe the day the two would come together when the formula treatment had become part of all worn clothing and jewelry. Imbuing it with real healing potential. Anti-carcinogenic and disease resistance built right into what you wore, and all amplified in effect in accordance with its physical and aesthetic appearance. The possibilities were endless. It was this potential that Torman and his conspirators were after and even at this moment both Alicia and Monique were being watched.
Just outside of the store into which they'd ventured three men watched carefully, measuring the situation.
"She just went into the store with another passenger. They must have met her on board. She's not wearing the treated suit. I repeat. She's not wearing the suit." Gant spoke into his phone.
Gant was large and muscular and at six feet four inches and two hundred and sixty pounds, could scarcely go unnoticed. He had been used to that his whole life and had capitalized on it by working various personal security jobs for most of his career. That combined with his training in various forms of martial arts and investigative training, he was perfect for this job. The two men accompanying him were his pick of top security enforcement guards. The cream of the crop and just as potent as Gant. All professional having protected domestic and foreign dignitaries and a variety of movie and music stars.
Alicia caught sight of the behemoth outside of the store, looking very large and conspicuous. Must be intentional she thought.
"He's kinda cute don't you think?" Monique said to Alicia.
"Who?" Alicia asked.
"You noticed the big guy outside. Kind of a sore thumb don't you think?" Monique asked Alicia who became instantly defensive.
"Well. In a kind of Platonic way... I'm not here to flirt with guys Monique. He's obviously here to keep an eye on us. He's letting us know he's here. He's letting others who might try to hurt us know that he's there to protect us. That means that there's more that we can't see. Incognito." Alicia replied thoughtfully, while admiring a one piece body suit.
"Ooh. So what if he's not. What if he's just some big hunk that wants to ravish us..." Monique replied purposely overplaying her flirtatious side more so to get a rise out of Alicia.
Alicia seemed closed to her and unnatural in some peculiar way. Like she was too tense and afraid to really live. Monique on the other hand seemed too aloof and risky to Alicia. Her flirtatious and curious nature would get them in trouble if she wasn't careful. This was dangerous business. Monique took Alicia's silence as an indication that she'd better stop and let the tension ease a little. The truth was Alicia's formula assisted senses were working overtime and though not as heightened as Heylyn's, they had already helped her to pick out four more players in this game.
"We're being surrounded." Alicia announced to Monique pushing her towards the exit of the store.
"Yeah. By hunks galore. Doesn't Heylyn ever take you anywhere?" Monique asked her in her street hip tone agitating Alicia.
"We're both usually too busy to play. You'd do best to learn from her in that way." Alicia responded her senses alight.
"I do. All of the time. She helped me away from a lot of trouble you know." Monique replied trying to regain her lost ground with Alicia.
"You mean like I'm doing now?" Alicia said as two of the men she'd been tracking walked out from around an information kiosk.
Alicia urged Monique to run and as Monique's sense of panic set in they both broke into a sprint.
"We've got to get back to the loading point and onto the plane." Alicia pointed the direction to Monique as she fell in behind her in protection.
As the two pursuing them passed Gant, he stepped out sweeping his leg in a low arc flipping the two men over to the solid airport mall floor.
"Going somewhere?" He asked them.
Alicia turned back to see her pursuers flat on the floor as they were taken into custody by airport security. The two others that Alicia had seen while in the store came into view and began charging at Gant and his support team.
"Oh look. They want to play. Heads up boys!" Gant said to his team mates pointing out the two new antagonists.
The airport security had just finished restraining the first two when the second two arrived.
The first one was wearing what appeared to be some kind of modified Kevlar Armor. He stood confidently covered from shoulder to toe. The second wore some casual clothing and looked like a tourist with a pair of small earphones on and a flashlight in his hand. They stood before the airport security and demanded the freedom of their team mates.
"Let them go. Now or pay the price!" The armored one demanded.
Gant stepped in to deal with the armored goon.
"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to put your hands above your head. We're placing you under arrest for threatening a security agent while the airport is under heightened security. " Gant imposed himself between the airport security and the two that had confronted them.
Six more airport security personnel arrived to surround the two who'd approached Gant.
The armored one took a step forward perhaps to test Gant's defenses. Gant wasted no time throwing a front punch full force. His fist connected with the face of the Kevlar man hitting it solidly but doing little. Gant felt like he'd hit a practice dummy more than a human being.
The Kevlar man retaliated though not as Gant had expected. The attack came not for the wide opening he'd left in lure for the Kevlar man but right to the elbow of his attack fist. Gant felt a sharp pain as his elbow joint buckled against the immense force of the Kevlar man's fist.
Gant spun in a low sweeping arc in attempt to knock both of them down at once and relieve his arm from the strain of the Kevlar man's first attack. The casually dressed man jumped narrowly avoiding the sweep while the Kevlar man just absorbed the force without moving.
"Guys! Girls! I need some help here!" Gant requested of the other security in panic.
One of the security fired several non-lethal rounds from his pistol. The galvanized rubber rounds impacted both men with little result. The casually dressed man turned to the newly arrived security and focused his flashlight upon them, switching on the beam. A wall of light impacted them physically throwing them back with its kinetic force. In one fell swoop three of them were down and unconscious. The other three wasted no time firing their pistols which were loaded with lethal hollow point.
The casually dressed man disappeared momentarily from reality re-materializing behind the security as if he'd traveled through the flashlight beam itself. He swung the flashlight once again, the beam impacting each of the security and throwing them with tremendous kinetic force. They fell lifeless and unconscious to the floor of the airport mall mezzanine as the two support guards charged the Kevlar man. They both impacted the Kevlar man falling aside as if their momentum had been absorbed by his presence somehow.
The Kevlar man turned to deal with Gant. He'd stored up enough kinetic force that he could easily dispatch a foe of Gant's size. The Kevlar man moved with incredible speed striking Gant easily in the solar plexus winding him while sending him flying backwards through space. Gant hit the floor and slid for twenty feet helplessly to a stop.
Monique watched in amazement as Alicia sped towards the conflict. Alicia charged knowing that the security team was dealing with formula powered adversaries. They'd need her help if they were to survive. Alicia's first strike hit the Kevlar man square between his shoulder blades with tremendous force and pressure though he moved little as a result. The Kevlar man absorbed the energy of Alicia's strike and channeled it through his leg, kicking her and sending her flying backwards through the air. Alicia arched her back mid flight and consumed the energy of the Kevlar man's retaliation with a string of cartwheels falling backwards to the floor and sliding for several feet. She righted herself thirty feet from the Kevlar man standing upright. She wasted no time in returning to deal with him. She ran forward towards him not seeing the casually dressed man who'd teleported through his beam of light to arrive in front of her.
She reflexively dove into a roll between his legs launching herself into a hand stand kick from behind him. This time the force of her attack connected and sent the casually dressed man forward at high speed onto the floor where he slid to a stop obviously unconscious. His flashlight rolled out of his hand and across the floor where Monique picked it up and examined it.
"Be careful with that, it's dangerous! Let the security handle him!" Alicia yelled to her.
Monique saluted to Alicia allowing the security guards to deal with the unconscious casually dressed flashlight man. Alicia then turned to finish up with the Kevlar man.
"Now let's see if I can figure out what's driving your power." Alicia said to the Kevlar man.
"Babe, give me your best shot. I could take it all day." the Kevlar man responded.
She ran towards him thinking that she'd try a different approach this time as she got close to him, she grabbed his shoulders cartwheeling over him in attempt to pull him down from the other side. He stumbled backwards further than he had with a direct attack. She observed that pulling rather than pushing him or hitting him with direct impact seemed to have a greater effect.
The Kevlar man turned with tremendous force releasing that which he'd stored up from her prior attack. She was thrown once again flying into a cartwheel this time landing just barely on her feet. She realized that she was going to need a new strategy.
"Freeze!" two more of the security had recovered and gotten to their feet, weapons extended before them.
"Be careful! Don't shoot him! Your weapons aren't effective against him and will actually help him! Radio for more help and just stay back." Alicia told them protectively.
She turned to face him once again looking to his legs to see if there was a way she could get him off of his feet. Once he was down they might be able to pile upon him and constrain him. She ran at him once again keeping her back arced low and her stance close to the ground.
As she approached she dove for his legs, all of her momentum directed forward and low for the best possibility of knocking him over. She piled into his legs feeling like she'd hit a building. She stopped instantly and even her reinforce body cringed painfully. She fell away from him laying in pain as her body rapidly recovered. The Kevlar man turned raising his foot to stomp her using the kinetic force she'd given him.
"Why? Why did you attack us here?" Alicia asked him hoping to buy some time.
"You should know that babe. Torman wants to slow you down. He's got plans. For us all. The whole frickin' world. He's going to change it all. He's going to change the rules to everything. Frick when he's done, there might not even be rules!" Kevlar man replied.
"He stole it! That technology. He's using it to hurt people. Hurt innocent people. You must have innocent family in your life?" Alicia asked him appealing to his humanity.
"Yes. Of course I do. But we're on the right side of innocent, not the wrong side. We're going to benefit from it while you're going to fall." Kevlar man replied raising his foot to finish the job of smiting Alicia.
As he smashed his foot down to her face he was simultaneously lifted into the air by something he'd not seen. His foot came down missing Alicia's exposed face by inches. His sudden ascent continued until he was forty feet off the mezzanine floor before he was let go by whatever had hefted him up. He fell impacting the floor hard and flat on his back. He attempted to get back on his feet only to be knocked over by a force too quick to see.
"Why don't you pick on... nobody at all?" Heylyn demanded of the Kevlar man not able to come up with a cliche for the situation looking to Alicia momentarily.
Heylyn's stood impressively before the Kevlar man as her wings disappeared into her back, her aura glowing intensely.
"Did we pick on you?" Kevlar man asked Heylyn.
"Yes. When you picked on anyone else." Heylyn answered.
"Look, can we just get this over with? I have a flight to make and some money to collect for beating your hides silly." Kevlar man asked her as he turned charging for Alicia once again.
Alicia had gotten to her feet and was readying herself for another round of combat. The Kevlar man charged and Alicia threw herself to the floor quarter prone. The Kevlar man unable to stop fell hard tripping over her body as she flew to her feet.
"Alicia! Heylyn! Our flight's leaving in five minutes!" Monique yelled to them from a safe distance.
"Boohoo. You're going to miss your flight." Kevlar man said sarcastically.
"We can't just leave him loose." Alicia said to Heylyn from a few feet away.
"Get the clips on his Armour. They're on his back. I'll keep him occupied. Maybe if we can get him down to his pajamas he might soften up for us." Heylyn offered in suggestion.
"I'm on it. I just hope he'd wearing something under that." Alicia landed on his opposite side as he got to his feet.
"You might want to keep an eye on me if you can. Do you like to dance?" Heylyn stepped forward ready for action.
Kevlar man threw a wide arced punch at Heylyn who easily dodged it returning a strike to the shoulder he exposed. He absorbed the force easily returning it to her in his next blow. His fist hit her solid in the chest sending her back a few feet as her dragon skin absorbed most of the blow. She flipped over as her wings erupted from her back slowing her as they flapped frantically.
"Nice shot though you really should never hit a lady. Except maybe with a pillow but you don't look like the pillow fight type!" Heylyn feigned a flying charge for his abdomen.
Instead at the last minute before impact she poked him in the eyes though with little force.
"Arrrrgh!" Kevlar man screamed covering his eyes in pain.
Alicia had finished unclipping his chest guard and guard as they fell to the ground flimsily.
"All done! What do you think? Was it worth the show?" Alicia asked excitedly.
"Whew! Just his pajamas underneath. Now let's see how tough he really is." Heylyn kicked him three times in succession up through the length of his body.
He fell to the ground motionless but breathing. The look of pity crossed Heylyn's face realizing she'd used a bit too much force.
"He'll live! Quick! Our flight! Its leaving!" Monique yelled to them.
Alicia ran for the departure gate as fast as she could.
"You've got the rest here don't you?" Heylyn asked the security detachment who were all recovered and on their feet.
"We've got it from here, Miss. Thank you and your friends for your help and cooperation. Enjoy your flight." Gant told her pointing to the departure gate.
"Good idea." Heylyn started her sprint as her wings shrunk disappearing into her back and her aura once again faded.
She ran the distance to the gate arriving just as Alicia did. As they got past the gate a crowd cheered for them from the mezzanine. Monique turned and bowed as Heylyn grabbed her from behind and dragged her onto the plane.
They settled into their seats as the passengers chattered about them and what they'd seen in the mall and mezzanine.
"So when do I get mine?" Monique asked as she popped a strawberry into her mouth from a plate she'd ordered.
"Your what?" Heylyn asked her.
"My powers?" Monique responded popping another strawberry into her mouth.
"Maybe you need to fill out an application with Alicia. She might be taking applications for a sidekick." Heylyn told her honestly grabbing a strawberry from her plate.
"I thought Alicia was your sidekick?" Monique asked Heylyn.
"There's no sidekicks here." Alicia responded angrily to Monique smirking at her.
"Good. Then I'm in." Monique smiled tossing a strawberry to Alicia.
"No thanks. They make me break out." Alicia replied.
Norler had been trying to find the research group for some time and it was eleven in the morning. He'd heard bits and pieces of rumors related to the incident at the Emporium, and more recently a stand off between security forces and some unknown assailants at an airport in the south. He'd had his personal secretary calling around for him trying to find Darret and Alex though he was really looking for Alicia. His intuition told him something was wrong and he rarely ignored it. From the point he'd awaken at five in the morning he'd been trying to track them down with a series of phone calls. At six he'd given up instead focusing on getting ready for his day at Tynan and Associates. He left from his estate at seven in the morning arriving in the office at quarter to eight. From that point he'd put his secretary and another staff member to the task of hunting down the lost researchers.
By one in the afternoon and still without an answer he was forced to call in a favor from a friend. He dialled a number on his cellular phone and a moment later a voice broke the silence.
"Fergensen here." came the voice.
"Hello Lanny. It's Walton. How are things in the intelligence business?" Norler spoke curtly to the voice on the other end of the phone.
"Good though I don't know how intelligent that makes us. I haven't heard from you for some time. What's the occasion?" Lanny asked him.
"I need a favor. I have some missing friends and I need to locate them. It's important. I was hoping you could help." Norler asked Lanny.
"You know that's against the rules." Lanny responded.
"Something's wrong. I can feel it. They're leading researchers on the brink of a breakthrough. A big one. You guys must have a file on them." Norler asked urgently.
"So you're filing a missing persons report?" asked Lanny.
"If I have to." Norler agreed with him.
"Alright. Can I have some names?" Lanny asked.
"Professor Darret Wenslen. Doctor Alex Smyth. Doctor Alicia Westin." Norler gave their names one at a time.
"Well this is interesting though I can't tell you anything about the first two. Against the rules." Lanny told Norler.
"What about Alicia?" Norler pressed Lanny.
"That's the right question. Fortunately passenger lists aren't confidential unless a passenger specifically requests it. She's on a flight bound for Treadwater Island. The flight left at eight thirty this morning. She should be there in about two hours." Lanny told Norler.
"That's right on the turf of the big man himself. Mr. Zek. You know him?" Norler asked.
"Who doesn't. Wealthy industrialist. has a twenty percent share in the global market. Runs his empire from a resort island. We've got a file on him a few hundred kilometres long if we printed it." Lanny replied.
"So what would Alicia want with a power hungry industrialist unless she's thinking of..." Norler said aloud.
"Maybe she's looking for funding?" Lanny suggested.
"Maybe. Thanks for the info Lanny. Make the missing person's report official then. The three I've indicated have been missing since seven this morning. I'll have my secretary fax the details over to your office. I've got to go look into this. Thanks again." Norler said mulling the new information over in his head.
"Not a problem. Give me a call when you're in town. We'll go for some dinner. On your tab of course." Lanny said a lighthearted smile on his face.
"Will do." Norler hung up and then rang his secretary.
"Hi it's me. Could you fax the dossiers of Professor Darret Wenslen, Doctor Alex Smyth and Doctor Alicia Westin to missing persons along with any details you've learned since I asked you to find them this morning? Thanks." Norler asked her.
"Right away." she replied before hanging up.
"How would Alicia know Mr. Zek? Is she really shopping for research money? Maybe she's going to sell him the formula." Norler said thinking aloud.
"Mrs. Fanton, could you arrange a flight for me and two members of my security team to Treadwater Island right away? I'd like to be on a flight by this evening latest if I could." Norler asked his secretary.
"Right away. Derek Gavneris available as is Jun Park. I'll get back to you." she replied.
"Thank you." Norler responded hanging up.
"Let's see what Alicia is up to going to meet Mr. Zek." Norler said once again thinking aloud.
Norler was on a flight to Treadwater at one thirty in the afternoon and would arrive there by four in the afternoon.
Valerie lay on her bed reading the market daily; the print version which she'd had amongst her belongings. The Investigators had provided her with a residence in a hotel and she was under twenty four hour security detail. Most of her clothing she'd folded up and put into her temporary home along with her other belongings which were scattered across the two dressers in the hotel room. She'd gotten ready earlier looking like she might be ready to go out for a night on the town. Men had often been like play toys to her easily manipulated when the implication of sexuality was involved. Almost every man she'd met had fallen into such a category and that was one of her strengths in the business world though she'd never sacrifice her own integrity with regard to business though often the kind of men who'd make a play for her would do so of theirs.
Men who themselves sought power for the purpose of having that power often were easily manipulated by sexuality. After all, men motivated by such impulses had given her that power. After her schooling she'd learned from the school of life how to use it. When it came to business she'd rely on her remarkable intelligence and sly maneuvering to get ahead while she still thirsted for the conquer of her quarry. She'd had successes in such a way until she'd met Torman. He was different and never fell for her wiles and that was precisely what had caught her attention about him. A challenge that she could never achieve when manipulation was needed to succeed. Things had changed for her since her surrender and his flight from the country. She'd realized that he had never loved her and that she was just a means to get ahead in another one of life's ironies. She'd been discarded like a forgotten play toy much like she'd done to her many short term partners. The situation had changed her in ways she'd have thought to be weakness especially in the world of business but she was quickly learning that in fact they were real strength. The strength of virtue and integrity. They had no value to people who had never lost them and had to earn or re-earn them.
She'd rarely sleep with the men she dated unless there was a commitment involved. Many times in such relationships she'd lose interest after having conquered men. After they'd lost all of their mystery to her she needed something to keep her spark alive and to feel desired. She never really had Torman and this kept her chasing him constantly. Before long she'd become dependent upon him for he was the one man that she could never really have. Torman had fled betraying her and leaving her to pick up her life though she really had nobody to blame but herself. She was young and confident she still felt like she'd lost something else in the time that she'd lost with him. Somehow by her loss she'd realized that partnership teamwork and real true love were what she wanted most and that was something that she'd not have found with a man like Torman. Life and love were nothing more than the time between deals and meals to him. Sex was the desert and he often like variety when it came to such. She had been a spin of the wheel between the deal and nothing more. Though she'd not known the level of his activities she still felt a sense of responsibility to make up for her part in them. That was the plan. He had to answer for what he'd done during his time in business, damaging so many companies just so he could fill his portfolio of assets. He had to pay for what he was planning to do with the formula. She had found her lost compass and she had purpose once again. More importantly she was going to earn her most important asset of all. Her virtue and integrity.
During her time with Torman she'd befriended many of his insiders and those of the person for whom Torman really worked. She had vast contacts within his own organization some of whom were still loyal to her. In the time since she'd been taken into custody she'd come up with a plan. She'd procured the formula secretly from her insider shortly after Torman's lab had been taken down. She'd managed to keep it hidden while she used it on a track suit which she currently wore. She remained hidden under the covers when the knock at her door came at precisely five after eight as she'd expected.
"Enter." she said casually.
The door opened and the officer stepped into her room as she lay seductively on the bed.
"Ms. Valerie you have a guest here to see you. I'm required to accompany you. He's on his way up now." the officer said to her.
"He's here to make a delivery. You know him and he's got authorization." Valerie replied charmingly.
"Well I'll just send him in then." he said to her.
"You do that." she said returning to her magazine trying not to draw unwanted attention.
He closed the door and she waited with anticipation to use Torman's own organization against him. The door opened again and an agent walked in.
"Ms. Valerie, I'm here with a special delivery for you." he said to her brandishing a briefcase.
"I'm sorry, my hearing was severely damaged during the incident. You'll have to come closer. Besides, I have something under the covers you might really like..." she said to him cupping her hand to her ear.
He raised an eyebrow as he stepped up to her bed. When he was close enough she leapt with her hand to his throat keeping him silent as he slowly fell unconscious.
"That will teach you for double crossing your agency and working for Torman." she said to him as she opened the briefcase.
There was her suit, the first one that she'd made with the formula, a tight business suit that was one of Heylyn's designs ironically called Lady Power. The elegance of its design had caught her eye as had the odd curvature of the hemline which was slightly revealing yet subtle. The suit had a pair of matching pants which were also formula powered. The formula treatment had resulted in enormous strength for her and a heightened sense of balance though she had more in store. She threw the suit into her knapsack and slid the briefcase under the bed. Then she lifted the double crossing agent's body onto the bed and under the covers where she put the other pillows under the covers beside him with a wig beside his head.
"At least you can tell all the guys you slept with my wig." she said to him sarcastically.
She donned the knapsack emptying the contents of the pay fridge into it and then stepped up to the window opening the curtains slightly. She looked for a way to open the window and when she realized that they were completely sealed, she ran her nails along the borders of the glass, carving a razor thin line around them. When she had finished etching the line she placed her hands upon the sheet of glass and concentrated while she pulled. The entire sheet came free from the window in her hands leaving a gaping hole. She put it carefully on the floor sliding it too under the bed and then stepped out of the window, clinging to the side of the building. She climbed to the top of the hotel and waited for the helicopter to arrive.
Moments later she was flying across the city to the airport and her waiting flight under an assumed name of course. When the helicopter arrived at the airport she quickly and efficiently disabled the pilot tying him to the flight stick for the authorities before vacating to the departure terminal. She fished through his pockets finding a cellular phone. She quickly dialed the number of the local Police emergency line. She gave her location and then screamed into the phone leaving the line open placing the phone on the dash of the helicopter.
"I'll take them all down one by one myself if I have to." Valerie said of Torman's cronies.
She ran across the tarmac and found her flight. A large C-130 she'd commissioned once again using Torman's resources and contacts all from her own cellular phone. That was the inefficiency of the organized criminal infrastructure. When everyone was not in sync about whether you were still the boss' girlfriend or not. Nobody knew whether or not to say no to your requests. They might be using technology to shore up the holes in their organization in many ways but there were still some leaks that they couldn't fix. She ran up the loading ramp of the flight as the crew beckoned her from inside.
The tremendous loading ramp closed as she entered the giant cargo plane and settled into one of the seats in the cargo hold.
"Oh crap! I forgot my bikini!" she said as she strapped herself in.
Alex sat in his office examining a series of graphs from a recent closed presentation he'd been called in to attend. The first set of graphs had been from a batch study conducted on the SY3 family of treatments developed in the lab. They'd recently been generated from the results of the test cycle data. The SY349 was ready for the approval process and might be available for public consumption in treatment centers around the world. Alex had been heavily involved the analysis of the results after each phase of the testing process. The test results came back one at a time in much the same way they had in the testing for prior treatments. The last step was an actual case study conducted over the course of two years involving two test groups from the same classroom. One group of children between the ages of four and fifteen had the markers and early symptoms from the onset of Hodgkin Lymphoma disease. This form of cancer was one such form the SY3 line of treatments was being developed as a possible treatment and possible cure but the test results that Alex currently examined were astounding. The second were a group that had suffered from the early stages of Muscular Dystrophy, another disease in the sights of the SY3 series of treatments. In both cases the return results were from each round of tests and study were astounding.
In a class room that had taken part in the test and study over the last three years, all of the child victims of the disease had experienced a complete cessation of symptoms or degenerative cellular growth. This news was the best news a designer and researcher could hope for and the success had not stopped there. In the last year of the test with the same children every sign of the disease had disappeared and their bodies had undergone a complete reversal of progression of the disease. For designers and researchers that was a major achievement but the successes still had not stopped there. Another unforeseen side effect much like the SY349AB formula had achieved with Alicia and Heylyn much as it was likely doing for Torman and his cohorts.
The entire classroom that had taken part in the test and study had developed unique abilities with a common factor. These abilities only worked when they were together in a group, much like the formula had somehow amplified the effects by proximity to other recipients of the treatment. The cure remained stable but these abilities only manifested themselves when the children were in proximity to one another. The teacher who had taken part in the test and study had first become aware of their unique abilities during a reading lesson. Alex watched the video test cam footage on his computer.
"...Donut. D is the first letter in the word Donut. Do you like donuts?" The beautiful teacher asked the children of the classroom.
A student put up his hand and she pointed to him.
"I like D and I like donuts. D is for something else that I don't like..." he answered her.
Another student, a little girl spoke as she put up her hand.
"Me too. I like donuts but I don't like...the other D. My mommy told me it was bad." she continued following in the little boy's line talk as another student took up where she left off.
"The other D doesn't bring donuts for you to have. No. The other D is coming somewhere..." he spoke as the next child continued.
"There's going to be lots of unhappy peoples. Some can't find their mommies and daddies. Some can't find their children when it comes..." another little girl followed up.
"They are at a far away place and the rain drops move fast. Very fast. Faster than Tommy can run..." she finished up and there was a moment of silence.
"Children. Where are the people and what is going to happen?" the teacher asked with a look of concern.
The entire class spoke in unison.
"They are on a land far away. The rain from the sky goes sideways. The ground shakes and the air pushes you down. The buildings fall down and the children can't find their mommies and daddies. It's a big D... a big one..." They told her, still looking very much like themselves, though saddened by the news they bore.
Alex stopped the video and checked the corresponding document file. It denoted that a week later on an Island off the coast of the Mediterranean a storm had hit the island at the same time as an earth quake. The resulting damage and loss of life was nominal at one hundred and sixteen deaths and close to half a billion dollars in property damage. If the children's warning had made it to the island they might have completely avoided the casualties altogether. Nobody at that point had understood what they were dealing with in regards to the children's new abilities.
That was the first incident where there was a definite correlation between the children's observations and a real world event. There would be many others to follow during the course of the study as Alex had seen them all. Together the children seemed to possess a precognitive ability and a heightened intelligence. When apart the children would retain the benefits of what they'd learned from their new abilities, but they were essentially as they were before. Children enjoying their newly found health.
Alex thought hard on this possibility and how it affected the future of the SY3 program. The children would likely live normal lives and only experience such abilities when in proximity with their class mates from the study. They would gain the benefits of living a full life and so far as the study concluded, they'd be free of the disease for which they'd been treated. Alex pondered this for a few moments longer before the idea hit him. He picked up his cellular phone and dialed the project director.
"Darret! We need an extension of the SY3 program classroom study. Maybe about a month or two. Hopefully less." Alex asked him.
"I saw the results too. What were you thinking." Darret responded sounding a little guarded and skeptical.
"We could use them as consultants in our hunt for Torman. The teacher Mrs. Wellin seems comfortable enough with the children despite their... talents." Alex told Darret his proposal.
"I don't know if we could get that through the regular channels not to mention the parents." Darret told him honestly.
"The parents don't even know about the results yet. They would go along with this if they knew what was at stake. We're talking about a power hungry madman with the technology to make an army of Alicias or Heylyns or like the precognitive children in the classroom. All for his dire plans and to use the stolen SY3 serum to carry them out. We don't have time for this to sit in the inbox of an administrator while we wait for approval. If we don't jump on this we might lose this forever. Not to mention that everyone will be regretting it for the rest of their short lives." Alex explained the situation with firmness and ferocity.
"Well... Alright. We do it. But we need a plan for cover. Give Alicia and Heylyn a number and video conference line to the classroom. Meanwhile we'll let the teacher know that they'll be contacted periodically by two researcher associates. Keep it quiet Alex. I mean really quiet." Darret offer the solution hoping that Alex would take it.
"Darret, you're awesome! I'm on it right now. They should be arriving at Treadwater in the next hour. I'll fire them the message and they should have it by the time they're in the airport." Alex responded excitedly.
"One more thing. Let them know to be on the lookout for Valerie. We just got word that she escaped custody a few hours ago. We're still retracing her steps and piecing it together. Give them a heads up on the island." Darret informed Alex.
"I'll pass it along directly to them." Alex replied as he prepared to encrypt the contents of the SY3 study into a file on his local server.
A moment later he sent the new instructions to Alicia and Heylyn. They were on their flight which at that moment had descended from the clouds and was on the approach to Treadwater Island and Resort.
"Fun and sun, here we come!" Monique said excitedly.
"Remember. We're here to catch Torman on the run." Alicia replied to Monique, somewhat uncomfortable with the sensation of the descent of the plane.
"We'll have time for fun when we're done." Heylyn finished the rhyme for them.
Continue to Act III: Island Of The Blackmail Empire