Fiction: The Butterfly Dragon I: Heroes Of Our Own - Act III: Island Of The Blackmail Empire by Brian Joseph Johns
Warning: This story deals with some mature situations. Reader discretion is advised.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Act III: Island Of The Blackmail Empire
2006 Treadwater Island
A resort paradise and home of Torman's mysterious employer, Alomera Zek. The throne of his empire and his vast fortune and island home. Cornered by those who despised and feared him, he rules from this part of the world, still pulling the puppet strings of leadership the world over. It is Alomera Zek's resources that Torman hopes to exploit in order to reverse engineer the SY349 formula taking over from Zek along the way.
Empire Of The Island
Torman walked the length of the boardwalk which took him to the marble steps leading up to Mr. Zek's massive estate. The marble steps wound through a thicket of jungle and brush before emerging in the lavish front of his estate. Torman took time to admire the estate from its exterior as he approached Zek's armed guards. Though not the only financier of hospitalities and amenities on the island Zek's share was forty three percent which was remarkable considering the sizable GDP of the island. Most of it was fueled by the profitable tourist industry. The remainder was shared amongst two other hospitality giants and a local community of privately owned vendors and family businesses, none of which had any dealings with the mysterious Mr. Zek.
All of his dealings were through his own holdings and conglomerates and he kept everything tightly controlled through a hierarchy of management on a short leash. He would often team two such managers together and play them one against the other so that no secrets would be kept from him with regard to the matters of his business and holdings, most of which were illegal or at best a bit shadowy. There was always someone looking to get ahead at the expense of their competitor and Zek knew how to benefit by this arrangement. By keeping the competitors in close quarters with one another he guaranteed that he'd always be in the know when something went wrong and needed his exacting attention. He'd promote one the other would fall or be discarded and sent packing with damage. It had worked for every aspect of his business thus far and he intended to make no changes to his successful modus operandi. Torman operated similarly while preaching to his fellow and former gang members about loyalty, which was nothing more than a cover for Torman's lack thereof. After all, Torman did not make money by sharing the losses or gains with his fellows in the gang. They had his leadership and insight and he was took advantage of his position to ensure that he was amply rewarded.
Zek's hospitality holdings on Treadwater were the laundry for his other dealings which often were more lucrative but also tended to draw the attention of foreign Government agencies and world policing intelligence quite frequently. His hotel, resort and casino on Treadwater were his link to the world of legitimate business and provided ample means for the cleansing of his dirty money and assets thanks to the high cash flow. The other competing hospitality chains had set up similarly with hotels resorts and casinos on the island and yet Mr. Zek somehow managed to maintain his hold on Treadwater and lived comfortably there mostly tax free. The businesses on the island with the help of Zek's competitors had set up an island improvement fund to ensure that the workforce had access to all of the modern amenities to keep their employees happy. Everyone who lived there was employed in the worker townships or the hospitality industry unless they were retired or physically unable to work. All who lived there lived well and to many this was a turbulent heaven bustling with activity to maintain those who sought to relax and enjoy. To spend their hard earned money for a few weeks of paradise.
There was no official Policing force for the island but every resort had their own private security firm which acted as the law for their property. The security for the workforce townships was paid for out of the improvement fund which had set up a strict judicial system which favored the protection of the customers and the workforce. There was little to no crime though and the security acted as information kiosks and concierges more so than armed enforcers. They each bore a handgun and a taser none of which had seen any use except at the training range. Zek's security force on the other hand had been hired mercenaries and professionals. His closest elite guard were often called upon to carry out the dirty work of dealing with those who'd double crossed him. In addition he had a line and contact with professional assassins the world over for times when military brute force would not accomplish his objectives. Rarely did his brand of manipulation and control come to violence for he had other means of keeping his reigns tight and those reigns literally wrapped around the entire globe. Most of the was handled through his unique database, a technological wonder he paid to have developed that would ensure his might for time to come.
The data center housed here on Treadwater was not limited under any international laws and therefore contained a complete accounting of all of his business dealings though transactions were often coded. In addition to accounting and inventory systems, he also housed the largest single database of blackmail and extortion videos, photos and media that existed in the world. Worthy against those who preached might for right or those of more despotic measure under the guise of might is right. Everyone, even the mighty had their secrets and it was their secrets that had given him much of his power and that ultimately had built his empire. If the mighty did not have any secrets, he'd manufacture them or set them up. Those who'd plan against him he'd play against one another by divulging their personal and most damaging secrets to the media or some other public form of forum. The internet had amplified the effects of his unique form of power manipulation and solidified his place on Treadwater. He kept this database as a means of pressuring political or company officials and other individuals who'd become a problem or an obstacle to his goals and those for his empire. They were the incentive he used to elicit any potential threat to his power to back off lest their life and career be ruined to shambles. Because of Zek's safety from international law they could host such files on the island without any repercussions for making them available publicly.
On one such occasion he'd sent an aspiring Senator a link via email to a video recording of his wild night with a sex trade worker. One the Senator had undertaken while on a business trip away from his wife and family. The Senator was a proponent for organizing an international policing agency that would have been a threat to Zek's power had the bill been passed. The link was sent on the same day of the birthday of the Senator's ten year old daughter just as an extra reminder of what he'd lose if continued lobbying for the policing agency. The Senator backed down and withdrew any of his support for the bill even voting against it upon seeing the video. The truth was that Mr. Zek had already a mass of ruined careers by such means and he'd come to respect it as the weapon of choice when dealing with unruly rivals. It was the thing that he loved the best about information technology. With close business associates he'd often arranged such set ups or compromising situations in order to ensure that he'd have such material if he needed it against someone. Even those he trusted though he really trusted no one. He even had something on every one of his own management including Torman should the day come that he needed to pull the plug.
Torman was not unfamiliar with this way of doing things because on his turf they dealt with problems in a similar fashion. The gang had enough clout in some communities that they could actually bury the existence of their targets. Erase someone from existing to the rest of society while diverting everything that person produced to the members of his gang. Like having their own personal cattle as he'd often put it. They'd done it a number of times in his home city and even Monique's ex-boyfriend Samias was readying to do the same thing to her before she left him. Monique had enough independence and sense to stay clear of Samias' lifestyle and the problems it wrought. They would have taken her credibility first and then had her working for Samias as a prostitute. They'd done it before and they'd do it again. If not for the serendipity of her chance encounter with Heylyn, Monique might have become another statistic on a social committee's chart.
Torman arrived at the top step of the marble stairway which was bracketed by elaborate water fountains and massive sculptures on either side. He stopped at the door and was greeted by Tiny, one of the elite guards of Mr. Zek's estate.
"Mr. Torman. How are you today?" Tiny asked politely as he directed a guard to probe Torman with the metal detecting wand.
"I'm OK. How about yourself?" Torman responded.
"I can't complain. Who could living here?" Tiny replied knowing that Mr. Zek could hear everything.
"I can't disagree there." Torman replied as the guard okayed him to proceed inside.
The magnetic lock clicked and the guard pushed the door open for him. Torman proceeded inside through the massive foyer to the glass elevator, which ran the exterior of the building diagonally toward the deck where Mr. Zek most often resided during his waking hours. The elevator arrived and Torman stepped out onto the deck which was complete with a dining area with several tables, a bar, a dance floor all beside an Olympic pool and whirlpool. On the other side of the pool there were a series of steps which led down to the beach which was closely monitored by high technology and security around the clock.
"Ah. Mr. Torman. I am so glad that you could make it to see me today. Please. Do sit down." Mr. Zek gestured to the seat on the other side of his desk.
"Why, thank you Mr. Zek. I've heard what a nice place you have, but this...? This is beyond my wildest expectations." Torman sat in the chair.
"Would you like a drink? Maelena makes an excellent Pina Colada." Mr. Zek seemed uninterested in Torman's flattery.
"Not right now, but how about a coffee and liqueur?" Torman asked him.
"Maelena. A coffee and liqueur for my guest Mr. Torman. You've met have you not?" Mr. Zek beckoned to the girl behind the bar.
Maelena a beautiful girl from the island workforce in her mid twenties stepped out from behind the bar.
"I recently hired her to replace the prior bar tender, who'd been selling information about me to the global authorities. He's currently tied to an anchor which resides at the bottom of my personal harbor. He sleeps in the salt water with the fishes." Mr. Zek gestured towards his personal harbor in the distance.
"Maelena on the other hand comes from a hard working family that are all my employees. I've taken a special liking to her. Her beauty and youthful innocence. She'll prove no such problem for me. Her family's expenses are all taken care of as are her Grandmother's medical bills. You see, loyalty can be purchased with all of the right rewards mind you and an occasional reminder of the alternative. Maela. Have you met Mr. Torman?" Mr. Zek addressed Maelena who approached the desk slowly enough for both men to admire her body and step.
"No, I've not met Mr. Torman. It is a pleasure to meet you. A coffee and liqueur is it?" She curtsied slightly for him.
"Pleased to meet you. Yes, with a little cream if you could." Torman replied with a smile like she'd seen from many others in Zek's employ.
Maelena returned to the bar to make Torman's drink knowing they should be left to conduct their business.
"Now. We can talk business. You have something that I want. I have something that you need. How can you compensate me for what you need?" Mr. Zek asked Torman as he bridged his hands with his extended fingers.
"I have it. You need it. Once I have the reverse engineered formula in my hands, you're a complete partner. Fifty-fifty. Then we can set up our operations everywhere in the world and with no interference from anyone." Torman said to him already speaking like a partner.
"Forgive me for saying so Mr. Torman. I am expending all of the effort into the reverse engineering process while you relax and enjoy my hospitality. I am making all of the effort while you are a guest in my resort and soon to be my island, all for free. Surely there must be something more lucrative that you can offer me for my services? After all, you merely took the formula from others who'd developed it. Surely Mr. Walton Norler would agree? Most certain Alicia Westin would." Mr. Zek asked slowly and tactfully.
"Regardless of where and how I got it, I have it. If full partnership isn't enough, then what is?" Torman asked, a bit of an edge on his voice.
Mr. Zek sat still a moment pondering as if Torman had asked him a question for which he'd not prepared. He looked to Torman, very seriously and continued.
"I propose that you give me full control of the formula and all information and material related to its use. I let you live under the full protection of my vast resources and build you a sizable home on this island. You will receive fifteen percent of the take for everything related to the formula and not a cent more. You are free to expand your own business dealings with my prior approval first." Mr. Zek said looking at him in dead seriousness.
"Where I come from you wouldn't last a minute. You fell into these riches and never had to earn one cent of them. You're ripping me off. Are you kidding?" Torman asked Mr. Zek like he'd somehow missed a joke somewhere along the way.
"I never kid Mr. Torman." Mr. Zek responded keeping a steady gaze upon him and remaining calm.
At that moment the tension was broken by the immaculate timing of Maelena who'd arrived with Torman's drink.
"Your coffee and liqueur Mr. Torman." Maelena placed the drink in front of him giving him a whiff of both the coffee and her hair and view of her bust line.
Torman accepted all that she'd offered and thanked her as she returned to the bar. He admired her behind and the subtle hypnotic rhythm or her hips as she walked.
"I want forty five percent. No less." Torman continued directing his words to Mr. Zek.
"You'll get twenty five and a nice home. Not quite like this one but a mansion by your standards with its own private beach." Mr. Zek told him firmly.
Torman was frustrated being taken this way but he was desperate and needed the resources that only Mr. Zek could offer him right now.
"Let's get that in writing." Torman told him.
"It's already done." Mr. Zek said pulling a contract from his desk drawer.
Torman looked at the contract seeing that all of the values they'd agreed upon were already hard written into the document.
"Pretty smooth. You knew what we'd agree on. I can see how you have all of this." Torman said.
"And how I've kept it. I take it that it is to your liking?" Mr. Zek inquired.
Torman looked it through making sure there were no catches or hitches to it. He'd examined enough contracts in his life to know where to look and what to look for. When he was satisfied he put it on the desk, searching himself for a pen.
"Here you go Mr. Torman." Mr. Zek said handing him a silver pen.
Torman grabbed the pen from Mr. Zek still a little frustrated that he'd been taken.
"Now, if you don't mind I have another appointment in ten minutes. The formula if you would please?" Mr. Zek extended his hand.
Torman reached into his pocket and placed both the vials and a pack of the accompanying pills on Mr. Zek's hand retaining a small sample of the formula and a few of the capsules just in case.
"Thank you for your business. You can expect work to start on your home in the next few days. I will have my secretary send a copy of the signed contract to your hotel suite. If you have any questions you most certainly know where to find me. Good day to you Mr. Torman." Mr. Zek did not stand but merely waved to Torman as he rose from his chair.
As if to rub salt in Torman's wound, Maelena walked over to Mr. Zek and stood by his side gently caressing his neck still giving Torman a view of her buxom.
"Good day Mr. Torman. It was a pleasure to meet you." She offered him.
Torman turned and left entering the elevator and frustratingly pounded the button with his fist. He could hear Maelena's giggles and laughter as the door closed.
Torman had thought about using his "ability" on Mr. Zek and everyone present on the deck. Instead he thought that he should play it safe for the time being and make the grab for power at just the right time. He would use his influence on the security chief instead and have him keep an eye on the Mr. Zek's affairs. When something had come back about the formula, Torman would be the first to know. For now he'd sit tight and enjoy his time with Delinia.
A Hero's Welcome
The airliner had safely landed and the passengers were directed out of the aircraft and onto a mobile exit ramp. Treadwater's airport had one runway which was big enough to support the airliners and a smaller runway for the smaller local craft. There was no loading terminal and passengers were unloaded onto the tarmac where they were directed into the airport passenger and administration building itself. From there the tourists and travelers alike could find suitable transport from a variety of limousines, taxis and even rik shaws to just about any point on the island.
Alicia looked a little uneasy stepping down the ramp as she'd been thrown off by the rapid descent of the airliner and the sudden fear of an accident. She thought how amazing that she could leap from a high rooftop slow herself by grabbing hold of various outcroppings on the way down and land on her feet twenty stories below but she'd not gotten over her fear of flying. She clung to the handle for the walk down the ramp and onto the tarmac.
Monique flew past her taking in a breath of the tropical air and swallowing it deeply. This was a new experience to her and one that she intended to live to its fullest. Heylyn stepped out of the aircraft and onto the ramp. Upon seeing Alicia's uneasiness she stepped through the passengers ahead of her to Alicia's side.
"You handled that like a star!" Heylyn told her as she helped her to right herself.
"Thanks, but next time I'll swim." Alicia mustered up enough energy for her attempt at levity.
"If you're good at that then I guess we'll just have to change your name to the Mermaid." Heylyn returned the attempt at humor.
"Just as long as you don't call me the Haddock. I don't want to end up in somebody's fishing net." Alicia grovelled still on the edge of nausea.
"Well, you'd definitely be the catch of the day." Heylyn laughed.
"Or the sole survivor." Alicia smirked and smiled finding a bit of energy to make it the rest of the way down the ramp unsure if Heylyn had caught her intentional pun.
Monique had passed a small crowd who'd gathered at the bottom of the ramp eagerly awaiting the arrival of one of the passengers. She held her arms up in air spinning and marveling at the warm air and the smell of the oceans which was sweet, salty and cleansing. She had never once left the concrete jungle in all of her life and for her this was as life changing as the career start that Heylyn had afforded her. Deep inside she was grateful and though her enjoyment of it was natural and not feigned out of some implicit debt to Heylyn. Heylyn had told Monique that the rest was up to her.
She stopped when the crowd converged on Heylyn as she arrived on the tarmac. A small group held autograph books or garments of clothing for her to sign. One held out a magazine interview that Heylyn had given a year ago a pen thrust in her face.
"Are you OK from here?" Heylyn asked Alicia quietly.
"Yes. I'm alright, unless the ground starts moving. Go do your thing. One of us has to remain incognito." Alicia said graciously with a bit more energy than a moment ago.
Heylyn went to the business of signing autographs for the ten people who'd been there to greet her. A reporter stepped forward and put a microphone in her face.
"Heylyn Yates. What was your involvement with the airport take down in your flight's last stopover?" She asked Heylyn.
"Nothing really. I was just being a good Samaritan though that credit should really go to the airport security and the advanced tactical unit they had there and all of those people keeping us safe from such threats. My involvement was nothing more than sticking my foot out to trip up one of the assailants. It was actually kind of scary." Heylyn spoke in a practiced manner into the microphone.
"Rumor has it that you are an expert martial artist. Did you use any of your martial arts in the confrontation?" The reporter asked Heylyn continuing her line of questioning.
"Well, I really just studied as a way to stay out of trouble when I was younger and for exercise and discipline. I'm really out of shape now and I did nothing more than stick my foot out to trip up one of the assailants. As I've said, be thankful for the fine people making the effort to protect us from such dangers. They spend a lot of time and effort making sure that we can lead safe lives, sometimes at the expense of their own." Heylyn offered her answer.
"Why have you come to the Treadwater resort? Is there someone special in your life? A secret lover maybe?" The reporter asked her tactfully.
"No. Just a much needed vacation. I've never been on one and thought that the time would be right to relax a bit and recharge for my upcoming summer wear line. No secret lovers. Just a little fun under the sun." Heylyn answered trying as best she could to remain incognito herself.
"Enjoy your vacation and thanks for your time." The reporter finished up.
"My pleasure." Heylyn replied before attempting to catch up to her friends.
Alicia and Monique waited for Heylyn just outside the doors to the airport building joining her as she approached.
"All done. Let's go pick up our luggage and check into our hotel rooms." Heylyn told them.
"Rooms?" Monique inquired.
"Yes. Rooms. I checked our itinerary during our flight. Something that you should have done as a personal assistant if you're going to keep your cover. We each get a room however our rooms are joined with a door between each of them." Heylyn told them.
"I just need a bed right now and about an hour of rest." Alicia responded to Heylyn.
"Does that mean that we can have company to our room?" Monique asked Heylyn.
"We've got to attend to the business at hand first. Keep your mind on that. There are a lot of people relying on us. Let's get to know the island and get some kind of idea where Torman might be and who he's in bed with now." Heylyn told Monique to be careful not to speak too loud.
"Our priority is to get the formula. It might be en route to be reverse engineered and if it is, we have to pursue it until we have it. We can't let it be reverse engineered and most certainly not mass produced. We can already assume that its in the wrong hands and they won't be using it to cure Cancer or reverse the damage of other diseases. They'll be using it to make others like us." Alicia reminded them both.
As if on cue Alicia's and Heylyn's phones chirped indicating that they had messages. They continued on their way to the baggage claim pulling their phones and checking their messages.
"It's Alex. I thought he was off the case? He says we have some new consultants working with us." Alicia told them.
"Who?" Monique asked.
"A teacher and her students." Heylyn answered.
"What? Are they geniuses or something?" Monique asked them.
"They're even more than that." Alicia told her without revealing too much.
"They're Alicia's fans. Alicia saved them after all." Heylyn winked to Monique not kidding at all.
"Saved them from what?" Monique asked intent on getting her answers.
"Debilitating and degenerative diseases." Heylyn told her.
"They saved themselves. We just gave their bodies the help they needed to do so." Alicia replied modestly spotting and picking up her suitcase from the conveyor.
"Who knows they might save us too." Heylyn said observantly as she grabbed her luggage before it slid past her.
Monique's luggage came out a moment later and she struggled to drag it off of the conveyor.
"I said to bring enough for a week. You brought enough to move in." Heylyn looked to Monique with a sarcastic smile spread across her face.
"This is exactly one week's worth of clothes for me. I'm the one that has to carry it so mind your own bus..." the huge case fell off the conveyor as she struggled with it and landed on her foot.
A moment later the three of them walked out of the airport together Monique limping on her foot. Alicia followed behind her. Heylyn appeared moments later with their things.
"I thought she was supposed to be my assistant." she said with an exasperated look on her face as she pretended to struggle with both wheeled suitcases.
Stop Over And Drop Over
Valerie walked through the terminal after having exited the first leg of her flight. She'd managed to get enough rest to recharge for the next step which would be much more difficult. The C-130 she'd chartered to take her over Treadwater island was refueling at the terminal. She'd chosen the craft as a means to make a high altitude low opening jump over the island mostly for its large cargo hold and the fact that it could retract its cargo ramp in flight for such a jump making them mostly effortless. She'd been an experienced skydiver, something she'd done in her early twenties over the course of ten weekends. She was certified for free fall dives but she'd never attempted anything like this before. Her plan was to make her jump over the island for a touchdown just offshore. She'd heard about it being done by airborne paratroopers and thought that it was nothing that she couldn't handle. Still using Torman's own resources she conscripted the aircraft for a sizable sum out of his pocket of course and had someone fetch the kind of timer she'd need to match the altitude of her chute opening.
On her way to the private flight terminals she observed a high degree of security activity in the airport. They must combing the place for me she thought. While on the flight she'd tucked her hair under a baseball cap and threw on a heavy coat which obscured her figure making her nearly unrecognizable from a distance. She walked with little concern though inside she was a little bit nervous from the possibility of being spotted. She spied one of the security personnel watching her out of the corner of her eye. She continued along trying as hard as she could to ignore him and keeping her eyes forward. When she'd arrived at the departure check point she passed her luggage through the x-ray machine though much less attention was paid to her in the private departure terminal than it would have been on a commercial flight.
She stepped out and onto the airport tarmac where she was met by a pair of men. She patted her head twice with her palm and spoke.
"Its a good day to do business?" she smiled behind her sunglasses.
The two men each patted their stomachs twice in much the same way she'd done with her head and then they replied.
"Not as good a day as it is to take a business!" they replied.
Valerie visibly eased a little though inside thinking you've been had and that serves you right working for Torman.
"So, what now?" she said without missing a beat.
"Here's the timer you requested. The altimeter's there and the chute release adapter is there. You know the rest I'm sure." he said to her handing her the device which was about the same size as a modern smart-phone.
"Looks pretty simple. I should be able to handle it." she replied.
"We've got an oxygen mask on the plane. You'll need it jumping from this altitude, although I've never heard of a birthday stunt like this. I'm sure he'll be surprised." the other man said to her.
"Oh, I'm sure he'll be very surprised. Very. Wait until he sees what I'm going to wear for him. He'll be in tears." she said coyly alluding to her vengeance.
The three of the them strode towards the C-130. It had a sizable ramp on the rear of the plane which one could drop anything from an armored personnel carrier to a platoon of men while in flight. The three of them strode up the ramp and into the plane while the two men continued on to the front cabin making preparations for takeoff. The large ramp closed as Valkyra looked for a place to set up and get her jump gear ready. She knocked on the cabin window and gestured for the men to close the curtain while she changed. She stripped down to her underwear and bra and treated a wet suit she'd brought along for the jump as she'd planned for a water landing. She had sprayed the inside of the wet suit so that the formula would not be exposed to the salt water of the ocean. She wouldn't need scuba gear for the jump as she'd be landing less than a quarter of a mile from the shore of the island. A distance that she could swim with ease. Her pack would be kept light in the water by inflatable buoys she'd procured.
The effects of her business lady power suit had been infused to her which amounted to immense strength, cunning and a seductive allure that was captivating to others regardless of their sex. She hadn't tried to her beguiling charms upon others but she had used it against those in Torman's organization to influence them into going along with her plans. Its only limit seemed to be the limits of the range of communication. She paused for a moment pondering what effects the formula might have had on the wet suit.
"I hope it doesn't turn me into a giant leech or tube worm." she said sarcastically to herself.
The intercom came on in the cargo bay.
"Is everything OK? Say again?" the pilot asked his voice loud and crackling through the speakers.
"Oh I was just saying that these seats are too firm." she responded quickly.
"I'm sorry Miss Aspen. Would you like me to come back there and fluff them up for you?" the pilot said jokingly in a friendly demeanor.
"No that's quite alright. There's been enough fluff for today already." she responded humorously.
"You should get strapped in soon, we'll be taxiing for take off in about three minutes." the pilot informed her.
She finished up her application of the formula and put the wet suit on just as the big cargo plane started its journey towards the runway. She got the rest of the pack ready and put it on the same rack with her chute. She prepared the altimeter and timer and attached it to the chute giving it a last minute inspection. She sat in one of the passenger chairs and strapped herself in keeping her air mask close beside her. Four minutes later they were in the air and on their way to Treadwater.
She slept for most of the trip which was choppy as the large and unladen plane was buffeted by turbulence. It gently lulled her into a daze and finally to a deep slumber. She awoke to the sound of a buzzer. She opened her eyes seeing the clearly lit sign Oxygen which indicated that they should don their masks.
"We're ascending to your jump altitude now. We'll be in position for your jump in about twenty minutes." the pilot informed her over the intercom.
She grabbed her mask and put it on before standing to prepare her chute and pack. She put her waterproof backpack on wearing it on her front making sure it was sealed. She then carefully put her chute on, securing all of the clips and straps and checking them thoroughly before sitting back down and waiting for her jump. Jumping alone was always the most dangerous because you often lacked a second set of eyes to inspect your gear for any problems. Her heart thumped in her chest in anticipation of the rush she got from doing it. In a non-free fall jump the strap was required as it was what opened your chute. In this case she would jump and fall for about fifteen thousand feet before her chute would open less than five hundred feet from her landing altitude. If she lived through it, this would be her highest jump ever. What a way to deal it to Torman. She'd have to play it by ear and play the role of a guest until she found him. Then she planned to deal with him directly and harshly for what he'd done to her and his betrayal of the world all in the name of profit.
"We're nearing your jump point. The ramp is going to open so don't be too startled. Just wait for the jump light to know when we're at your jump zone then you can take it from there. Happy landings." the pilot told her audibly over the intercom.
Two minutes later a klaxon sounded and a ceiling mounted siren filled the passenger cabin with an eerie red light. The back ramp started the slow process of opening letting in a barrage of sunlight and the scream of air pressure balancing itself to the atmosphere. A calm descended over her and she stood and walked down the center of the cargo bay toward the ramp and waited at the top for the jump light. She could see the cloud tops below and the entire cloudscape appeared like it might be a land of its own. Rounded hills and curvaceous valleys. It was all very beautiful and serene for a moment and then the jump light came to life keeping time with her heart. She stepped forward as she ran down the ramp towards the opening at the bottom and leapt out into the bosom of the atmosphere and from her C-130 cocoon into the open air of a freefall. An open faced smile spread across her face as she screamed into her oxygen mask.
"Torman. Here I come." she said aloud as she sped towards the barely visible ocean below.
Of Children And Strawberries
Alicia's, Heylyn's and Monique's rooms were all three connected by a door between each and into the main hall of the hotel. They had once again opted for height much like Heylyn's condo and their rooms were located on the top of the forty floor hotel. Once they'd gotten into their rooms they began unpacking and organizing their things without much time to enjoy the magnificent view or even the sunset as it shimmered from beyond the horizon. Alicia and Heylyn had reached the end of their limits by seven in the evening and settled in early giving Monique strict orders not to stray anywhere out of the hotel itself.
Monique of course made issue with the order if not to test their limits and once they'd indicated that they would not move on their decision she reluctantly agreed batting her long eyelashes at them innocently. Heylyn looked at Alicia and they both instantly thought the same thing: we'll keep an eye on her with our senses. Then they bid her a good night, then each other and finally retired to their respective rooms.
Monique dug into the little bar fridge looking through it for mischief to get herself into. She knew she'd found it when she spied the liquor and decided that she was entitled to a little nightcap which she garnished with one of the strawberries remaining from the package. She turned on the music, enjoyed her drink and modeled herself before the mirror. She imagined herself as a superhero much like she'd been impressed by that of her friends. The Butterfly Dragon and Night Style. How cool is that she thought to herself as the liquor took hold of her imagination.
"Who would I be if I were a superhero? I know! The Runway Model." she said aloud to herself giggling like a little school girl.
"How about..." she continued drinking down the rest of her second drink.
"The Hooker." Samias' voice came from somewhere inside of her.
Her sense of joy instantly vanished replaced by fear and spite at the sound of his voice.
"I'd never become a part of your world. Never." she said to the voice defensively as she mixed another drink.
"Ahhhh... Self doubt. I almost had you working for me suga lips." he responded.
"You kept me trapped so you could prey upon my low self esteem. You've done it before to other women you bastard!" she replied to his voice.
"If you're so free, then how come you're dealing with me now?" he asked her.
"When I'm a superhero I'm going to make sure that you never do that to women again! Ever!" she said catching herself before yelling.
No reply came back and she realized that she wasn't entirely free of Samias. She'd had issues with him ever since leaving and she'd still been haunted by his prior plans for her. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked to see Heylyn, only it wasn't Heylyn. It was the Butterfly Dragon.
"We all have our fears. Some people manage to get through life without being scathed by their fears or others. Some are chased by their fears and some leave scars and deep wounds. Being a hero is really about taking care of what you have to despite that fear. Or those scars. Don't let your memories of someone who really hurt you take more from you than they already have. You are free. Don't let him or his friends take anything from you and that means your peace as well. You are a hero if you think about where you've been, where you are now and what you've achieved in that time since then. Don't let your past eclipse your present." the Butterfly Dragon smiled to her gently assuring her slowly disappearing from sight.
Monique lay up against her bed her empty drink in hand.
"I won't let my past eclipse my present... eclipse. eclipse..." she said as she fell asleep.
In her dream world Heylyn awoke and looked around suddenly startled by her familiar surroundings. The tall grass and flowers that sprang up from the earth around her reaching for the sky. That same familiar dress that she used to wear as a child though much more to her fitting now as a mature woman. The air was fertile and there was life all around her. A butterfly's wings caught the sunlight reflecting it to her face creating the illusion of a sparkling silhouette as it landed atop a tulip in perch. A bee flew out of the tulip momentarily brushing up against the butterfly, who did not budge and the two did not conflict one another. The bee merely perched beside the butterfly momentarily before flying off in search of the nectar from another flower.
She sat up from her place on the ground eying the beauty around suddenly startled when the voice spoke.
"We meet again and all is at peace or so it would seem or is it seam?" the deep voice rumbled the ground slightly from behind her.
She immediately looked to see Weltherwithsp coiled much like before sitting in the grass enjoying the peace of the field. The butterflies did not seem to mind the presence of Weltherwithsp and flew freely through the aura in it's presence. A vast haze of color. floated from the avian and encompassed the fauna around it.
"I take it that was another reference to sewing?" Heylyn asked Weltherwithsp.
"Well of course it was for that is the binding to one of your creations is it not? It is where, or should I say wear? your designs become real and move from your mind, your plan and into something that some fortunate person can wear? Where ever they want." Weltherwithsp smiled perhaps amused by his quiff.
"Yes, I suppose it is." Heylyn pondered what he'd said for a moment.
"Don't think too hard about it. The time you spend creating starts with something that you cannot taste, touch, smell, see or feel but does that mean that it is not as real?" Weltherwithsp asked her.
"It's real to me in a sense." Heylyn responded a little bit defensively.
"You mean its real without the need of being here in a sense. It's your inner child and it changes the world in some way for the better. Some may like it and some may not but the world will be changed nonetheless. Now enter Alicia's child and her children into this picture and you'll see there is a new fold to this pattern forgive my pun." Weltherwithsp continued to elaborate.
"You mean the SY349 formula and the classroom?" Heylyn asked Weltherwithsp.
"Though neither of you had to change diapers for the SY3 and thankfully, Alicia's proverbial child did change the world for the children of that classroom and yet at one point it was in the same disparate space that your creations come from." Weltherwithsp asked her fluttering its wings and elevating itself slightly for a moment, leaning towards her.
"...I don't get what you're implying..." Heylyn looked at Weltherwithsp very seriously.
Weltherwithsp drew a deep breath from the air surrounding Heylyn and its aura momentarily fluctuated before it began speaking again in a familiar voice.
"Butterfly jumping flower, the sweetness of my life. I know that all of this will be difficult for you now but soon you will understand. You and your creations are a part of the importance of Alicia's and that is where you both will shine but there are those who want to do ill with Alicia's design. Just as your designs shape what the formula can do, there is much more than that alone and when you understand you will know. Let those children guide you. Guide you both. You will be shown by an eclipse of the night and the day and she will arise from a succulent flowering bush. Trust her but protect her from herself. Help her to find her little girl from whom she's become isolated. To liberate her from the man who took that little girl from her. For he is not so much unlike the man that you and your friends seek. Much the same as the man who took the formula." Heylyn's Mother spoke through Weltherwithsp's mouth.
Heylyn's eyes watered and she fought the tears though in the end they won but only for a moment.
"Why can't you help me with this Mother? Like you used to with my sewing and designs?" Heylyn wiped her eyes.
"Because it is for you to learn. You must protect them. You must." Her Mother's voice disappeared and the colors of Weltherwithsp's aura returned.
Heylyn stood staring at Weltherwithsp for a moment before the silence was broken.
"When you were a little girl, I was but a bedtime story that your parents told you to protect you from your fears. I was not real yet here I am. Is this real? Are you real? Did you believe your parents when they told my story to you and did I protect you?" Weltherwithsp asked her lowering its head and looking at her.
"I'm here aren't I?" Heylyn asked Weltherwithsp in defense of her parents.
"Yes you are as am I. Independent of one another and yet the same. I did protect you and you shall protect them because we're real. Then we can heal another and another and..." Weltherwithsp spoke more quietly before withdrawing.
Weltherwithsp's wings roared into a rapid flutter and its body rose and uncoiled from the ground and into the air a trail of butterflies following behind.
"We will talk again Jumping Flower." Weltherwithsp voice rumbled one last time before disappearing into the sky.
Heylyn ran in attempt to follow Weltherwithsp but she found that she could not fly in her dream. Instead she watched as it disappeared into the sky towards the sun. A moment later and the ground shook as she struggled to stay on her feet. She looked to the sky once again only to see the sun slowly disappearing behind another disk of blackness. She instantly remembered the legend of Tiamat, a mythic dragon who was thought to be the source of all eclipses by peoples of the ancient world. Tiamat was a source of dire evil and regarded much differently than the dragons of her parent's myths and her bed time stories. Was Weltherwithsp making another quip using the eclipse as his palette for such allegorical muse?
When her vision returned to the ground once more, she spied a succulent flowering bush and she immediately knew what she must do. As she awoke she heard the laughter of children in the field as they too chased their own butterflies. Heylyn was determined that they too would have their own Butterfly Dragon.
Hero Of A Different Kind
Heylyn tapped on Alicia's door at just past eight in the morning after having been in bed awake for an hour thinking about her dream. There was something more to this and just as important as their pursuit of the SY3 formula from Torman. She had been experimenting with the idea of fashion accessories that were really intended for the application and treatment offered by the formula. That is the fashion accessory would be shaped, designed and treated in such a way to target the functionality of that treatment to a specific ailment. They had already proven that the effects of the formula could literally become semi permanent via some unseen process that Alicia had not had time to examine. They had determined that the design of the item played a big part in this process and even affected the strength of those effects.
The door opened and Alicia quietly made her way into the bathroom in her room.
"Good morning..." Heylyn told her as the door closed.
"Morning..." Alicia replied still a little groggy.
"Did you get enough sleep?" Heylyn asked hoping that she'd say yes.
"I feel much better now but I do need a shower." Alicia replied through the door.
"Uh, Ok. I'll just leave you to that." Heylyn stepped back into her room and closed Alicia's door behind her.
She ran over to her dresser and pulled out a few scarves that she'd brought with her each made with satin and weaved of an elegant design of her own. She'd actually done them a year ago as part of a spring line and were themed with the idea of healing and renewal. She had brought them for the original idea of using them in case of injury in an encounter with Torman's super powered thugs. They could treat the scarves then carry them for immediate healing of battle damage should they need it. Her plans had changed much since her conversation with Weltherwithsp during the night and she'd come up with another idea but she needed Alicia's cooperation for it to work. She suspected that once Alicia heard it that she'd be in favor though they needed to speak with the classroom first to know for sure.
Heylyn waited until she Alicia's shower stop and gave her another five minutes just to be safe before knocking again.
"Come in." Alicia answered.
Heylyn opened the door and Alicia was almost entirely ready for the day and looking refreshed.
"We need to speak." Heylyn told Alicia.
"Let's have some breakfast and talk then. Shall we?" Alicia was enjoying this experience as it grew on her though her mind was already on the mission.
"That sounds good. I'll get enough for Monique too. She'll like crepes and strawberries." Heylyn dialed the kitchen and ordered breakfast for the three of them and then stepped out onto the balcony with Alicia.
"What's on your mind?" Alicia asked her as she grabbed a seat at the glass table.
"We need to speak to the classroom and soon. We also need to bring Monique into this and fully if you understand what I mean." Heylyn suggested without being too overbearing.
"I agree with that idea too though she needs guidance." Alicia told Heylyn in confirmation.
"We can call the class in twelve hours and catch them as they start as it is a Monday." Heylyn continued explaining her little plan.
"I agree with that too. We also need to confer with Gavin once again but not about the class. About Valerie." Alicia reminded Heylyn about another impending peril.
"Yes that too and..." Heylyn hinted.
"We went to school together. Remember? I still remember you standing up for me to that bully. You knew that I was well... a nerd and how much he was bothering me." Alicia confided in her.
"Yes. And his girlfriend too though she later apologized." Heylyn reminisced.
"Nobody would believe me about what he was saying or doing in class. Quietly mocking me and accusing me of the things that were his doing and yet you believed me. I'll always listen to what you have to say." Alicia told her friend confidently.
"I never told you this but when my parents arrived here, they were victims of the same thing too though they kept it from me. My Mother later told me of it before she passed on and I've come to know of such things in my time too. For such people they are merely trying to get purchase of you, by way of reaction. Make you the bad person or put themselves upon you. I went through it as well though my martial arts training helped to condition me against it. Still it was hard. It was hard for my parents too. That is another reason why they told me the story of the Butterfly Dragon though there is more to it than that. We need to take your creation and use it for good. We need to try something that we can do to help others immediately. Like the children in that classroom. They too had a problem they could not deal with that your work helped to solve. What you made will give others the tools to heal others with our own art and designs and even shape it as such. We need to do that as much as we need to track down you know who." Heylyn offered.
"I was thinking about that the last few days. So many people trying to come up with solutions for such problems and we've confirmed a solution now with tests to back it up. I don't have the resources to make this myself but once we do have the formula back in our hands, my super hero days are over. I'm going to approach Norler about this and see if we can't put this whole plan into reality in a year." Alicia told Heylyn who listened carefully.
"We don't have to wait that long. We can start now and by the time you approach Norler you'll have more than sufficient data for his firm to back the production of the SY3." Heylyn explained.
"What's your plan?" Alicia asked her.
"I'll explain over breakfast." Heylyn said as the door buzzer signaled the arrival of their food.
Monique stepped into Alicia's room moments later.
"I smell strawberries!" she said as the concierge wheeled a tray of food towards the balcony door and laid it out on the table.
"You'd better eat, you're going to need the energy today." Heylyn insisted to Monique.
"We're all going to. This party is about to get started." Alicia said confidently.
"Those are bold words for a nerd." Monique said to Alicia.
"Something that I'm quite proud of." Alicia said in defiance.
"Listen up sidekick. That's enough out of you. If you want to be part of the team you behave like part of the team." Heylyn told her.
Monique momentarily grimaced before her face lit up with an idea.
"Ok. Nerds we are. And we're proud of it. She's a science nerd. You're a fashion nerd and I'm a beauty nerd." Monique said in attempt to recover some of her lost ground.
Alicia and Heylyn looked at each other.
"Ok. We can work with that." They said nodding to each other.
"Look at that view!" Heylyn said pointing to the beach and harbor behind them.
Monique turned her head to take a look at the magnificent view and Heylyn grabbed a strawberry from her plate. Alicia laughed a bit as she did looking to Heylyn accusingly. Heylyn quickly put the strawberry back before Monique turned around to eat. Alicia and Heylyn kept it as their personal secret.
"Here's our plans for the day..." Alicia started laying out their itinerary before Heylyn finished it.
Valkyra was the name she'd chosen for herself. A sort of super identity for its similarity to her own name Valerie. It was also similar to that of an ancient tribe of mythical warrior women who symbolized strength and battle prowess. It was definitely the Valkyra in her that broke through the barrier of clouds falling faster with each second until she achieved terminal velocity. Her wind resistance had balanced out with the acceleration of gravity stabilizing her rate of descent so that she was no longer accelerating but falling at a steady velocity. Upon emerging from a small cloud patch she saw the island and the ocean around it. The island was still somewhat small compared to the rest of her view and she knew that she still had a bit of a descent before her landing.
She tucked her arms to sides and tipped her head forward to angle her pitch towards the earth and accelerate her fall. Her sudden change in speed and pitch took her closer towards the side of the island that she wanted to land though she planned on hitting the water first before swimming to the shores of Treadwater. Her stomach twisted and churned with the excitement.
The island got bigger as she approached. She made her final positional adjustments before checking her timer. She had another twenty seconds before her chute would open just barely three hundred feet over the water. Her heart thumped in her head while the adrenaline streamed through her body as the final seconds passed.
The chute opened and momentarily she felt as if she'd impacted a freight train. She had the curious sensation of being suddenly pulled upwards. Her body was flung downward under the force as gravity once against took hold of her. Another second and she was submerged forty feet into the ocean and struggling to find her way to the surface. Her immense strength and endurance allowed her to maintain a calm and the formula treated wet suit seemed to be helping in some way, for she felt like she could hold her breath forever if she'd needed. She quickly found her way to the surface and calmly took in a breath barely winded from the experience.
She gathered up the water logged chute bundling it together as best she could in order to tow it to the beach were she could more readily deal with it. Once it was bundled to a manageable level she began to swim the four football field distance to the island private side of the island. The area she had chosen to land in was heavily forested and there was no risk of running into tourists or vacationers on that side of it. She'd only need to get to shore get changed and travel through the forest for a bit before arriving at the resort she'd chosen to start her hunt for Torman and his cronies. She intended to take them all down herself though that prospect had recently become much more difficult than she would know.
Ten minutes later and she'd arrived at the shore hauling her chute up and onto the short beach that was hidden by the trees of the forest. Not feeling tired she proceeded to wrap the chute squeezing water out of it as she did. Five minutes later and the chute was dry enough to stash in her back pack. She stepped out of the wet suit and put on the track suit and slung her back pack over her arms.
"Not too bad at all." she said to herself looking at the time.
She spied a large boulder a distance up the beach at least three quarters of her height and her height in width and depth.
"Let's give this a shot." she said as she pushed on the boulder attempting to heft it up so that she could get under it.
Her feet slid on the mossy rocks and a moment later when they'd been sheered clean by the tremendous pressure of her force the boulder tipped up on edge allowing her to get under it and heft it up over her head with ease.
"Now that's more like it!" she said hurling it fifty feet into the air and out into the ocean.
It splashed down throwing disappearing beneath the waves under a tremendous pillar of water.
"Lookout Torman. Here I come!" and with that she jumped off into the dense fern and palm jungle on her way to the resort.
Torman And Zek
Delinia rolled over opening her eyes to see Torman sitting awake just staring at the wall a menacing look upon his face.
"What's wrong honey?" she asked him.
"Nothing, I'm just thinking. Go to sleep." he said nonchalantly.
Delinia immediately turned over and continued her slumber without another word.
The truth was that he was frustrated beyond measure about his meeting with Mr. Zek. He'd been played by Mr. Zek expertly as if he was just another one of Mr. Zek's lackeys. Torman was used to being the player, not the *played* and this bothered him to no end. He'd only slept for an hour that night paying Delinia little attention. She was nothing more than another toy to him and his ignorance of her bothered him little. Nor was she aware of the lack of respect that she was receiving from him for she was still under his influence.
Torman got out of bed and paced the hotel suite back and forth for a few moments before grabbing a pair of pants and shirt from his dresser and throwing them on.
"I'm going to fix this right now!" he said in anger stepping out the door.
He stepped out of the elevator on the ground floor and stepped out into the foyer and lobby walking over to the front desk. It was time for him to take over.
"Can I help you sir?" a lady greeted him with a friendly smile.
"Yes you can. This is my hotel now. You are all working for me. All the guests in here are now my employees. Do you understand?" Torman said barely able to contain his frustration.
"Absolutely sir. Would you like me to notify management when they arrive this morning?" she said barely missing a step.
"Yes. Send them to my room on the eleventh floor to make it official. We're going to have some changes around here. Treadwater is going to have a new owner and all of you are going to help me achieve that." Torman said to her.
"Absolutely sir. I'll get to work on that right now, setting up the system for your access." she said to him.
"Send a laptop up to my room with full access to your registry, accounts and billing system. I also want a full time security detachment to set up an office on my floor." Torman ordered her.
"Yes sir. If you like I could move your room to the top floor?" she asked him, completely unaware of what she was doing or saying.
"No. I want to remain incognito for now. Re-register my name as Thomas. If there are any staff or guests who are associated with Mr. Zek are in here or arrive, let me know immediately. Do you understand?" Torman said with intensity.
"Yes sir. Absolutely." she replied.
"Good. We're going to take him down and then we're going to move on to take over everything else. Then who knows what comes after that." he told her making little effort to hide his plan as everyone in the hotel was operating under his orders and control.
"That's all for now." Torman told her as he stepped away from the desk and returned to his room.
"Have a good night sir." she said happily as she began re-registering his name in the account registry.
Torman felt better having taken the steps he needed to in order to reel in the problem whose name was Mr. Zek. When he got back to the hotel room he gave Delinia a kiss that turned into an hour of play before they both fell asleep together completely unaware of Valkyra's impending return to his life.
Meanwhile on the other side of the island Mr. Zek had just received the phone call.
"We can do it." the voice came back on the other side.
"You mean its possible then I take it." Mr. Zek confirmed.
"Yes. It will take three weeks per batch though." the voice informed Mr. Zek.
"Damn! That's too long. Cut that down by a week. I don't care if you have to work all night. Increase the rate of production. I want the first batch ready in two weeks." Mr. Zek ordered his contact.
"I'll see what we can do." the voice came back.
"No. You'll do it. I want it in two weeks. Anything else?" Mr. Zek asked him.
"No. Nothing else." the voice replied impatiently.
"Get that done and there's an extra million in it for you for every week you can reduce my waiting time. I'll have the paperwork sent over tomorrow. Now get busy and make that happen." Mr. Zek told his contact before hanging up the phone.
Monique had just finished the worst of the initial side effects after the ingestion of the SY349-B tablet. Heylyn had already treated an outfit for her using up the third application of the formula, leaving seven more. Monique sat up in bed and rubbed her face.
"That could have been better." she said groggily.
"You'll feel better shortly as your body's healing systems will be much improved." Alicia told her as she prepared for the day.
Heylyn tossed Monique her costume which was quite subtle and fashionable. It included a red body glove style front with black tights and white sleeves. There was a red semi translucent piece of rayon which formed a triangle between her lower shoulders and a point between her breasts. It was there that Heylyn had sewn a black and white eclipse, depicting the sun cresting a darkened moon.
"Here. This should be perfect for this weather and you should be able to wear it just about anywhere though you might get a few second glances. No need to find a phone booth when trouble arises. I tried my best to shape what the effects might be so this is a learning experience for us both." Heylyn tossed the costume pieces to her.
"What's a phone booth?" Monique asked making a sarcastic age commentary and holding up her cellular phone.
"They're what super heroes used to use to get changed. By the way you're twenty six going on twenty seven. You aren't that far behind us young lady." Heylyn continued cheerfully as she gathered up the scraps of material.
"I look forward to age and achieving my first grey." Alicia said confidently.
"Beauty only gets better with time." Heylyn smiled to her as she finished up getting ready herself.
"That's 'cause our vision gets worse..." Alicia replied to Heylyn looking like the jester.
"Let's hope it gets better with time because I sure don't want to grow old." Monique replied sarcastically.
"I'll be you said the same thing when you were sixteen." Alicia responded to Monique.
"Maybe I did. I still look and feel young. What's wrong with that?" Monique asked them a little defensively as she put on the outfit Heylyn prepared for her.
"Nothing at all. It's a mind set really." Heylyn replied as she put the last bit of her kit back in her suitcase and into the closet.
"What's with this clothing? Whoa..." Monique staggered as she got to her feet and donned the rest of her costume.
Heylyn shot nearly instantly across the room to catch Monique before she fell.
"Take it easy. You should sit down and rest for another few minutes. I'll get you that water." Heylyn picked up a clean glass from the bathroom and filled it with cold water from the water cooler.
"Thanks Mom." Monique replied with a slight edge of friendly sarcasm apparent in her voice.
"Sister." Heylyn responded tidying up.
"Ok Sis." Monique came back finishing water in one gulp.
Monique's health returned five minutes later and they were out the door. Monique's recovery was instantaneous as Alicia had said it would be. In fact Monique said that she'd felt better than she had in her entire life. Her senses came to life and a whole new world of awareness had opened to her.
"This is incredible! I feel healthy! Alive!" Monique said aloud bouncing as they stepped out of their hotel and onto the island walkway.
"We're going to split up from here. I'm on my way to the West resort to find out what I can about Torman's whereabouts. We'll make contact in one hour. Set your phones to the silent ringer just in case. I'll see you soon." Alicia smiled and waved as she went her own direction.
"Good luck." Heylyn said to her as they parted ways.
"Where are we going?" Monique asked Heylyn.
"We're going to check out the other resort. The First Star resort." Heylyn told Monique as she set her phone to silent ring.
"Really? That's the one where the celebrities go when they're staying at Treadwater, Isn't it?" Monique said excitedly.
"One and the same but its not a social call. We're looking for someone who might be very dangerous. Stay close and don't talk to anyone." Heylyn told her.
They strolled along the walkway which spanned the entire island passing through all of the points of interest. The walkway itself had four lanes. Two for those on foot and two for bicycles, rickshaws, electric carts and scooters. They were on foot so they would be taking the scenic route to the First Star which was much to Monique's liking as it gave her a chance to enjoy the stunning island scenery. Occasionally a waft of warm ocean scented air would wash over them making Monique think of the beach.
Heylyn caught sight of a couple, a man pushing a wheelchair with a lady whom she presumed to be his wife. They both enjoyed the sights around them though inside Heylyn thought that she'd like to give them the ability to enjoy it even more. Walking was one of those things that many people took for granted. Take away the functionality of one's legs and one's life would change dramatically. Heylyn thought about this as she approached the couple.
"Excuse me. I'm Heylyn and this is Monique. Are you also here on vacation?" Heylyn asked them.
"Pleased to meet you. I'm Rory and this is Denise. No, this is our honeymoon." Rory said with delight as Denise lifter her hand to rub his arm tenderly.
"Congratulations! That's wonderful! May I ask you why you're confined you to a wheelchair?" Heylyn asked as carefully as she could.
Denise looked to Rory for a moment and then back to Heylyn.
"I have no movement in either of my legs. I've had Cerebral Palsy since I was six. I've learned to live with it in that time though. We've done fine." Denise told Heylyn.
Heylyn went through her pouch which was cleverly sewn into her outfit and pulled forward one of the SY349 treated scarves she'd made earlier in the hotel room and bottled water which contained a half of the contents of one of the capsules.
"May I offer this to you as a gift. In my family it is considered gracious to offer good will to those in need of healing. Please accept these from me and promise me that you'll wear it as often as you can." Heylyn asked her sincerely.
Denise accepted it graciously and put it on immediately. She put the water bottle in a cup holder on her wheelchair.
"Thank you. I gratefully accept it." Denise told her.
"If you have any good luck as a result of this and want to let us know here's a reply address." Heylyn handed her one of Alicia's cards.
"Thanks. If you want to meet us later for dinner and drinks we're staying at the West And Harbour. We'll be there for dinner around six." Rory accepted the card getting behind his wife to continue their walk.
"We'll try to make it." Monique answered for them.
"Have a great day and thanks." Denise waved as they continued their stroll along the board walk.
"Well that was nice. What made you do that?" Monique asked Heylyn.
"We have something that can help. I know it and Alicia knows it. We have proof that it works and tests that confirm we're onto something here. We should do what we can to change it." Heylyn told her without pause.
"But what if you want to make more costumes? What if you want to create another hero? Or worse, what if that lady grows another head or three arms?" Monique asked her.
"The only reason that we're heroes in that sense is because someone else tried to take the formula and we have to track them down. Besides the real heroes in this situation are Alicia and the people at that lab that researched the formula." Heylyn replied as they continued their path to the next resort.
"Yes but it took your designs to amplify and shape the effects. Why can't you be a hero too?" Monique asked her sounding a little bit too wise for her years.
"I can. We all can. We just have to do what we can when the opportunity presents itself. There's people who wake up every day and might have to face life and death decisions for others or even themselves, yet they don't often find their way into the ranks of those that people might idolize, yet there they are." Heylyn replied thoughtfully.
"Yeah, I guess. Most heroes don't even get recognized. Maybe that's what makes them real heroes." Monique said in an added thought.
"Maybe. I think that we have to do what we can. We have the means so for now that's what we're going to do. When we're done this, we'll be different kind of heroes. The kind that wake up every day and live our lives to the fullest. Do what we can to help out." Heylyn told her, looking to her and thinking of the studio back home.
"You mean like you helped me out with the opportunity." Monique asked.
"Yes but we went through that. Its an opportunity you took and you made the most of. Now we're onto the next opportunity." Heylyn told her in a mothering fashion.
"You mean the opportunity to see what the formula and the costume did to me?" Monique asked her.
"That and the opportunity to enjoy a bit of life once we're done here." Heylyn told her.
"You mean we'll be able to relax and enjoy this place a bit better?" Monique said to her.
"That's the plan." Heylyn's senses caught something.
A man ahead of them walking the board walk was wearing a concealed weapon. Heylyn picked up her pace to pursue him. She fell in behind him at ten feet distance, another couple walked between them.
"Hey..." Monique tried to scold Heylyn for stepping ahead of her.
Heylyn put one finger to her mouth and shushed her. They followed the gun man on his walk along the board walk until he arrived at a branch point that took them away from the resort they were on their way to. Heylyn decided that it would be better to follow him than to investigate the resort. He turned off onto a walkway that lead to a gated private entrance. There he entered a code in the gate and a moment later it slid open then closed behind him. Heylyn watched him for a moment as he continued his walk onto the marble steps that lead through a tropical forest and up to a distant place that she could not see.
"Stay here. I'll check this out quickly then I'll come back and get you." Heylyn told Monique.
"I'll be over there." Monique pointed to a scenic view that overlooked another section of forest and then fell onto a small lagoon.
"Keep an eye out for me." Heylyn told her.
"How about two?" Monique replied sarcastically.
"As long as its from the side of the gate of this property." Heylyn confirm.
Heylyn flew over the gate landing carefully and quietly on the other side, her wings disappearing behind her. She strolled up the steps catching sight of what appeared to be the top of a large building. The man with the gun she'd followed from the board walk had ascended the marble staircase and was now in front of the door of the estate, two guards searching him.
"Fancy meeting you here." a familiar voice said to Heylyn.
She turned to see Valkyra in an elaborate suit before her.
"What are you doing here?" Heylyn asked her quietly still a bit shocked.
"I've got an appointment with a sleaze ball of a man." Valkyra told her.
"You too?" Heylyn replied.
"Oh no. He's mine and he has a price to pay for what he's done." Valkyra stepped up to Heylyn.
Heylyn's senses indicated that Valkyra might be readying herself to attack and her skin reflexively turned to diamond shaped dragon scales though just barely visible to the eye. Heylyn's wing's remained tucked away in the interior of her aura.
"Valkyra, we need to..." Valkyra grabbed Heylyn who fought back with nearly as much force but not quite enough to hold off Valkyra.
Valkyra threw her into the air in the direction of the fence. Heylyn tumbled through the air a distance as her wings erupted from her back and spread to their full magnificence. Her wings buffeted with the air as she stopped herself just before landing on the ground on the other side of it stumbling backwards.
Monique spotted Heylyn and ran over to her as quickly as she could.
"What happened?" Monique asked her as she flew back to the other side of the fence.
"Stay there. It's too dangerous." Heylyn said to her as she rocketed back to the spot where she'd encountered Valkyra.
Monique ran towards the fence and then something strange happened. She felt dizzy for a moment as her body became much lighter and less tangent. She felt strange as her molecules passed through the solid matter of the fence before she re-materialized on the other side of it solid once again. She looked at her hands in awe for a moment before it got even stranger. As she started to run her form took on the shape of a solid streak of light and she accelerated at incredible speed. Unable to stop she continued up the marble steps only to stop when she collided with someone at the top. That is when the fun started for Monique.
Valkyra had turned to continue her trek through the jungle to the front door of the estate when a pair of strong hands grabbed her from behind.
"Valerie! Maybe we could nail Torman together? We need your help!" Heylyn asked her as she flew with Valkyra in tow to an outcropping of jungle overlooking the lagoon.
Valkyra grabbed Heylyn's hands and flipped her over causing them both to fall. Heylyn's wings encompassed like a cocoon them as they crashed into the jungle canopy before landing on the ground with a thump. Heylyn's wings disappeared into her back and her aura flared as she jumped to her feet. Valkyra approached her.
"We need to talk about this. Cool down." Heylyn told her but she kept coming.
"That man left me for another woman after dragging me through this business with the formula and his criminal enterprise. He has to be stopped!" Valkyra yelled.
"Yes. I understand. But we've got to find him and the formula first. We shouldn't be fighting each other." Heylyn told her trying to calm her down.
Valkyra stopped a moment holding off her attack.
"...He left me for someone else. He left me and then ran off with someone else." Valkyra told her a bit of rage in her eyes and the wetness of tears.
"He did the same thing to a lot of people. We're going to stop him but we need to do it carefully and we need to do it together." Heylyn told Valkyra.
"As long as we do it. We'll try it your way." Valkyra agreed.
"Good. I'm glad." Heylyn replied.
"I'm sorry about throwing you. You seem like you're really nice..." Valkyra offered Heylyn a response her ears tearing up.
"I'm sorry about the flight. Well, I'm a bit more sorry about the landing though." Heylyn told her in response as they both laughed, Valkyra wiping her eyes.
They immediately stopped when they heard the sound of gun fire from the direction of the estate.
"Oh no! Monique!" Heylyn exclaimed.
Valkyra put her arm around Heylyn as she took to the air. Her wings again took form even larger than before. They flew a distance coming down directly into the middle of the whirlwind that was Monique. Valkyra let go landing just before Heylyn hit ground landing on one of the gun wielding guards.
He fell to the ground only to be picked up and hurled into the forest by an angry Valkyra.
Four other guards burst out of the door to the estate as a streak of light collided with them. Monique materialized momentarily backhanding the closest one before disappearing into a shadowy form that flew behind the three remaining.
One of them leveled and fired his SMG on Heylyn as she landed. Her arm jumped to cover her eyes as the rain of bullets impacted her diamond scale hardened skin. The bullets shattered into tiny fragments as they hit the scales and before the second was up his magazine was empty.
"You're going to regret that!" Heylyn yelled to him still feeling a bit of pain from the impacts.
"I already do." He replied hopelessly when he saw that she was a lady.
She wasted no time diving for his SMG and breaking it in two finishing him with a spinning kick. He flew like a rag doll at the estate wall bouncing off it harmlessly to the ground unmoving.
The other two gunmen turned their attention to Heylyn opening fire upon her. Valkyra stomped the ground sending a shock-wave through the marble stair landing that impacted her target like a much of the stone construction material. He flew into the air already unconscious and landed harmlessly beside the door.
Heylyn once again held her ground as the bullets flew through the air hitting her dragon scales. Just before the oversized clip was emptied the Monique in shadow form returned, transitioning to a trail of light as bright as the sun itself. She flew at the eyes of the gunman as he screamed temporarily blinded and in a lot of pain. He dropped his gun as Monique materialized before him.
"Cool!" Monique exclaimed in reaction to the new trick she'd learned.
"You mean hot don't you?" Valkyra joked to her.
Monique took notice of Valkyra remembering her from the night she spied them returning from the night club.
"Whoa. It's you! That Torman guy's ex..." Monique's form half faded from view as she became intangible.
"It's Ok. She's with us." Heylyn told Monique as she rubber her arm to sooth the pain of the bullet impacts.
"What are we here looking for?" Monique asked Heylyn.
"I followed someone with a gun to this estate and I ran into Valkyra." Heylyn told her.
"They're set up on the other side of the door right now waiting for us. The whole place is in lock down." Heylyn told them.
"We'll never find anything in there now. We should leave and regroup." Valkyra suggested.
"Wait, I can peek in there without alerting them if you want?" Monique asked Heylyn eager to try out her new powers again.
"No we need to leave, they've got cameras all over the place." Heylyn told them.
"Let's meet back out on the board walk by the Coconut Shack." Valkyra suggested as she took off into the forest.
Monique disappeared accelerating down the marble steps and into the forest in the direction of the board walk.
"I guess it's settled then." Heylyn said as she took to the air just above the forest canopy.
On the other side of the door there were thirty men set up in wait for an ambush protectively as Mr. Zek was rushed into the hidden bunker beneath the estate. He watched the cameras with curiosity as Heylyn took to the air.
"So the rumors are truth. We are sitting on a gold mine with the formula. And they've come looking for it." Mr. Zek commented out loud to himself more than anyone.
"Ethel, open the intercom system. This is Mr. Zek. That was a drill and everyone passed with flying colors. That will be all. Return to your posts. Ethel, close the intercom." Mr. Zek picked up his black phone and dialed.
"Have a crew come over to assess the damage to the front of the estate and start repairs immediately. Send some paramedics as well. There may be casualties." Mr. Zek hung up the phone.
"It seems that I got the better end of the deal Mr. Torman." Mr. Zek mused.
Alicia made her way up the north board walk for a distance enjoying the tropical air. Many people were of course out and about enjoying their vacations, honeymoons or any excuse that they could make to escape to this paradise. Alicia envied them all with a healthy dose of admiration. They seemed oblivious to the troubles they'd left behind and that was the purpose she supposed. She found it ironic that she'd come here in search of problems that needed fixing rather than escaping them for a break. Perhaps her vacation would come afterwards. Maybe even with her dream lover. She stepped off of the busy board walk and crossed the road oblivious to the fact that she was being watched.
She stepped up to a bench where she sat pulling her phone from her pocket which was sewn into the interior of the light jacket that she wore. She assumed that Torman would be checked in under an assumed name if he was in fact staying at this hotel so she took a different approach.
While in bar with Heylyn where they held vigil upon Torman's associates and the captive researchers, she'd managed to take some pictures with her phone, though she'd long since forgotten with all of the excitement. She scanned through her photos one at a time in search of one with Torman's face.
"There's Valkyra. There's Alex..." she spoke to herself.
"Got it!" she said confidently recognizing Torman in the same suit he'd worn that night.
She cropped the picture to his face and adjusted the contrast levels of the picture manually before sending it over to Heylyn.
"This will help. Definitely." she once again noted to herself, ready to undertake the next step in her mission.
She got up and started over towards the front entrance and lobby of the Treadwater Cove hotel and resort. This was the only independently owned and operated outfit on the island and was why Alicia had selected it. She reasoned that Torman would look for local ties first in order to gain a stable place from whence to take on the goal of reverse engineering the SY3 formula. An independent resort seemed the best place to start.
She stepped into the lobby admiring the design of the lobby and the interior itself. It was different somehow but she could not put her finger upon it. There was not much activity as it was already late in the morning and many had already set out on their days events. She stepped up to the front desk and waited to be serviced by the hospitality attendant.
"May I help you?" the lady asked her in a very practiced manner.
"Well you might be able to help. I'm looking for a friend that I met on the flight over here. He told me he's traveling under an assumed name after a messy divorce though he did not tell me his assumed name." Alicia explained dealing her bluff out a little bit at a time.
"I see. Do you have a name for this guest?" the attendant asked her.
"Yes. Greer. Greer Torman. He traveled business class and likely his accommodations are set up similarly." Alicia explained trying not to sound too clinical in her approach.
"This might take a moment. If you could take a seat in the lobby I'll have someone let you know what we find. I can have a coffee or a drink sent over if you would like?" the attendant asked her.
"No that's alright. I'll be seated in the lobby." Alicia said as she stepped away to a free chair under the skylight and waited for her answer.
Torman received the call a moment later.
"Torman here. What is it?" Torman asked already having an idea.
"I've got someone here asking for you by name. She's blonde haired about five foot eleven. Very fit. What shall I do sir?" the attendant asked Torman.
"Just keep her there, I'll be down in a moment." Torman didn't wait for her response before hanging up.
"I've got to go downstairs honey. I'll be back momentarily." Torman said grabbing a hand gun just in case though he suspected that it would not do him much good.
A moment later he stepped out of the elevator and slipped behind the front desk and into the office.
"Call a desk staff meeting. Get security." Torman ordered the manager.
"Yes sir. Right away sir." replied the hotel manager dialing the intercom on his phone.
A moment later the desk staff came into the back office for their meeting.
"Listen up. We've got a situation here. This is a dangerous lady and my enemy. She's quick and dangerous and not to be trifled with. I want a full security detachment here in two minutes, fully armed. Lock the lobby doors before you approach her. I'll be out to assist once you've followed those instructions." Torman said with deliberate calm.
"Yes sir. You heard him. Let's go." the desk staff left to set his plan in motion.
Alicia sat reading the weekly resort publication waiting for her answer when she noticed two men in suits locking the front doors to the lobby. The activity level had dropped significantly in that time and she immediately got the feeling she was being bracketed.
She stood just in time to see an armed security detachment stepping into the lobby.
"On the floor face down, hands above your head!" yelled the security guard.
"Under whose authority and on what charges?" Alicia asked keeping her hands in the air.
"Just comply or we will be forced to shoot!" Alicia lay down on the floor face down.
The security detachment stepped over to her cautiously keeping their automatics leveled at her.
"She's secure, sir." the security spoke into a head set.
A moment later Torman stepped out and into the lobby to confront Alicia.
"Well if it isn't that pretty blonde girl from the lab. Looks like you lost some weight. That wouldn't be the result of your secret formula would it?" Torman spoke with little concern for his comments.
"Look. You've got something that could hurt a lot of people. You need to hand it over. You are a wanted man for your crimes." Alicia said trying to appeal to the sense of duty of the security officers.
"You don't seem to understand. Here, I am the law. I do all of their thinking for them so don't be appealing to their better judgement because that's me. You're not the only one with secret powers Missy." Torman told her as he reached into her head.
She felt strange, like she was not the only person looking out through here eyes. She fought against Torman's grasp on her mind successfully throwing his first attack away and getting him out of her head. Torman was momentarily stunned by the level of her resistance. He had clearly underestimated her and would not make the same mistake again though it was already too late.
Alicia rolled to her left and into the legs of the security guards with enough force to bowl them over. They fell firing off a few shots as they did narrowly missing her. An instant later she was cartwheeling back behind a concrete pillar in the lobby where she quickly pulled her phone and pressed the send button on a message she'd cued. A moment later Heylyn's phone received the urgent message.
"That worked perfectly." Alicia said confidently.
"I'm going to need some backup. Send in my elite guards." Torman said into his headset relishing being able to say that.
The security guards had gotten to their feet and were hidden tactically from view. Alicia's senses couldn't locate them so instead she chose to lure them out. She dove across the middle of the lobby to another pillar. Two of the guards opened fire upon her missing her by a short distance but revealing their location to her.
She scaled the pillar to the ceiling reverse cartwheeling across it dropping down onto the first security guard careful not to cause any serious damage. He fell to the floor dropping his gun which she immediately picked up, snapping it in two.
"You shouldn't play with guns!" she scolded him as a barrage of gunfire narrowly missed her.
She punched the fallen guard in his body Armour directly in his solar plexus. He gasped for air completely incapacitated but not seriously hurt. A moment later she disappeared behind another pillar too fast for the other guards to keep up.
She picked a stray chair and tossed it across the room with ease. It flew the length of the room as the two remaining guards fired upon it. She took advantage of the distraction leaping twenty feet through the air landing on one of them, once again easily disarming the guard and breaking the gun.
"You're a quick one aren't you? Let's see how you do with a little distraction!" Torman yelled as he reached for her mind once again.
She leapt for the last guard landing on him just as Torman's mind grasp hit her. The security guard fell as she grasped her head screaming. She felt a tremendous anxiety as Torman reached deep into her psyche attempting to get a hold of her consciousness. She fell to the floor as the last security guard got up.
"Nothing personal ma'am." he said leveling the gun at her and firing.
The first two rounds struck her in the shoulder as she found the will to roll out of the way. Her shoulder screamed in pain momentarily before her healing powers set in. She was on her feet once again running for the safety of a pillar.
The guard easily hit her once again in the back as she ran. She fell forward onto the floor tumbling back up onto her feet and behind the cover of the concrete pillar.
Torman twisted once again reaching into her psyche in attempt to contain it and gain control of her. She resisted pushing herself to her limits as she felt herself losing strength and energy.
Four more security guards entered the room their guns drawn.
"I asked for the elite guards, not you!" Torman shouted.
"They're en route sir." one of the fresh guards responded.
"Go over there and get her. If she's not docile or unconscious, finish her." Torman ordered them.
They began their sweep of the lobby area checking behind the pillars and planters that covered the lobby area. Torman had lost his hold on her mind though he suspected that she had fallen unconscious.
Alicia's wounds healed quickly and she once again found the energy to stand still weak just as the security team rounded the pillar, their guns leveled at her.
"Don't shoot." she said raising her hands.
Norler stepped carefully down the stairs under the tropical sun which was still keeping its vigil over the ocean and warming it's surf. He'd brought two of his security team with him not our of concern for any danger but for their investigative skills. Derek Gavner was a young and retired military professional who'd gone into the personal security profession having worked for many high profile clients. Jun Park was another personal security professional who'd worked for years as an agent in the secret service. It didn't hurt that both were black belt martial artists with a number of years of training in security services. He figured they'd be good company for the trip and indispensible for their investigative abilities.
A small limousine waited for them on the tarmac and they stepped into it and were under way.
"Driver, can you take me to the Estate of Alomera Zek." Norler asked the driver.
"Sir, you know that Mr. Zek only accepts visitors strictly by appointment." the driver responded.
"I'll have one long before we're there." Norler replied.
"If you insist. Sir." the driver replied reluctantly accelerating the limousine towards the service road system on Treadwater Island.
Ten minutes later they pulled up to the front entry way. The security team stepped out and opened the door for Norler who stepped out and began up the marble staircase for Zek's Estate.
"You must be Mr. Norler. We've heard so much about you. Sir, I'm going to have to ask you and your advisors to leave any firearms with us. Just a precaution. Mr. Zek has many loyal friends but he also has some very dire enemies." a guard at the front door went over them with a magnetic wand.
"I understand." Norler said quaintly nodding to his security escorts.
Norler's security team members each unstrapped their arm holsters handing them to the guard.
"I expect to get that back in the same condition I'm giving it to you." Derek commented as he handed the guard his gun and holster.
"Yeah. I just polished mine too." Jun remarked.
"If you will follow me, I'll take you to Mr. Zek." the guard directed Norler.
The guard stood before the big reinforced door through which a camera spied his face. Upon recognizing him the magnetic door unlocked. He opened the door and proceeded into the Estate followed by Norler and his security detachment. Norler had seen impressive architecture before but Zek's Estate certainly was amongst the best of them. A five story foyer with floating crystal sculpture which under air currents acted like wind chimes. The walked through the foyer and into the hall which opened up into another foyer where an elevator waited for them. The glass elevator descended at an angle along the outside of the Estate where it came to rest at the back pool patio and bar.
"This way please." the guard took led them out onto the patio.
The pool was filled with guests as was the bar where a beautiful bar maid tended to Zek's guests. Close to the Estate just off of the pool was Zek's enormous desk poised where he could watch the pool and do business at the same time. Mr. Zek sat in a large chair which appeared a throne. He gestured to Norler.
"Your advisors may wait at the bar and partake of Mr. Zek's hospitality." the guard said to Norler.
"I'll meet you at the bar. Go easy on the drinks." Norler said to his security detachment.
"We're staying dry until we're out of here, Sir." Derek said as they both headed for the bar.
Norler walked over to Mr. Zek's desk and greeted the man. Zek stood and accepted Norler's handshake graciously.
"Ahhh Mr. Walton Norler. I cannot tell you what an unexpected pleasure this is." Mr. Zek smiled for Norler.
"The pleasure is all mine. A very nice place you've got here and very hospitable." Norler said looking around.
"Surely you didn't come here to discuss my living arrangements. Tell me, what brings you to this part of the global market?" Mr. Zek asked Norler.
"Right to the point. I appreciate your candor. To tell you the truth I'd been told that someone I know is seeking your financial support for a research project." Norler said to Mr. Zek laying it all on the table holding back the details.
"Oh really. And may I ask who this person is?" Mr. Zek inquired politely.
"Well to tell you the truth business is involved and contracts have been signed so I can't say much. It's quickly becoming an issue for my legal department." Norler said keeping his information privy.
"What kind of research?" Mr. Zek continued pressing Norler.
"Medical research. Non-invasive treatments." Norler answered him.
"Well for someone who has travelled a considerable distance to ask me, you certainly aren't giving me much to go on." Mr. Zek kept his face concealed.
"Well I haven't got much to go on myself. Just that lead." Norler said looking over his notes.
"Maelena. Would you be a darling and come over here. I'd like you to meet someone." Mr. Zek gestured to the girl at the bar.
A moment later she dashed over her heels clicking on the patio marble her hips keeping rhythm.
"How may I help you Mr. Zek?" she said purposely keeping herself hidden from his guest in anticipation.
"Maelena, I'd like you to meet our guest. Mr. Walton Norler." Mr. Zek introduced the stunning beauty.
"It's a great pleasure to meet you Ms. Maelena. Walton Norler." he said extending his hand maintaining a professional demeanor frustrating her a little.
"Well if you ever have time for more than just business you might want to spend some time at the bar talking with me." Maelena replied to him.
"Thanks but this is purely a business call. Thank you for the invitation all the same." Norler repled to her politely.
"You truly are a difficult man to open. Perhaps if I offer you something in return for your information we could both benefit mutually." Mr. Zek suggested.
"I very much doubt that. Besides, I am trying to avoid a legal battle. I'm advising you that if anyone comes forward with such a deal with regard to medical technology or research related to this project and you involve yourself. You could be in for one heck of a legal battle. It would certainly draw much attention to you, something that I'm certain you'd most certainly want to avoid." Norler advised Mr. Zek.
"I assure you that I have no intention of ending up in a legal battle with you or any other investment group the globe over. I am quite happy with my share of the market and I hope that you feel the same way Norler. I'd hate to see two giants like ourselves end up in a battle that could lay waste to markets the world over. Many people would suffer you know. Many innocent people." Mr. Zek said raising a white flag bearing a veiled a threat.
"Battle? Not at all. We protect our intellectual property and our research. After all, next to our work force it's the single most important asset our company has. We intend to protect ours." Norler said firmly to Mr. Zek.
"Well I'm afraid we are out of time. Where will you be staying while on Treadwater Island Mr. Norler? My I suggest my own resort, the Ocean Crest here on the island. You can stay in our best suite all compliments of me if you'd like." Mr. Zek suggested.
"I've aready got an arrangement thank you all the same. Thanks for your time Mr. Zek. I'll be in touch and if you should be contacted by anyone in regards to the research of funding, I insist that you please call me on this line." Norler handed him a business card.
"I shall do just that Mr. Norler. I thank you for your company. I do wish you could stay longer. Oh how the fish do like to bite when the tide rises. Maybe next time." Mr. Zek stood for Norler.
"Maybe. Jim! Derek! We're leaving." Norler gestured to his security team.
They got up from the bar and joined Zek by his side.
"Thank you again for your time." Norler said to Zek as he stepped onto the elevator.
"We'll be meeting again I assure you." Mr. Zek said in a mildly sinister tone.
As Norler left on the elevator, ascending to the Estate, Mr. Zek gestured to one of his elite guards.
"I want you to keep an eye on Norler. Have him tailed right back to his room. I want to know everything he does and know about everyone he contacts." Mr. Zek ordered his guard.
"Arrangements have already been made, Sir." the guard responded.
"May I remind you that I pay you to follow my orders. Not think for me." Mr. Zek responded scathingly.
Torman's End: Zek's Beginning
Torman observed the situation full of ire for Alicia. They'd caused nothing but trouble and been a thorn in his side ever since he'd gotten hold of the formula. He'd become aware of Alicia's tampering in his business affairs as well. She'd foiled a number of his company buyout schemes by catching his gangs in the act of devaluing company properties. She'd been trouble from the start and it was time to put a stop to her.
"I've kept my eye on you Alicia is it? Ever since I'd heard the first rumors about that secret formula. That you were up to great and wonderful things at the research lab. Of course when someone says: great and wonderful things, I think money. So I kept an eye on your lab. Kept my partners on the street watching you and your lab. Waiting for the right opportunity to move in on it. That's around the time that I became aware of your efforts to put a stop to my street level business dealings. The so called super powered mystery woman I'd heard about so many times whenever my men tried to explain why they'd fail to accomplish a simple job for me. So I've known you for some time and let me tell you, I think its time that we said good bye. That's a shame because to tell you the truth, I was beginning really beginning to despise you." Torman delivered his lecture to her pacing as he did.
He looked to his security force and spoke.
"Kill her." Torman ordered them.
Alicia stood before the guards her hands in the air in a gesture of surrender a look of shock upon her face.
"Sorry ma'am. Orders are orders." one of the guards told Alicia.
"I'm sure those same words have preceded many needless deaths." Alicia responded bracing herself for the inevitable.
"Famous last words. Like most words, they're worth their weight in gold. Nothing." Torman said to her.
"Everything that we have is built upon words. Whether spoken or written. I take it that's the breadth of your trust? Your deals? Your business? Your words? How is it that anyone even trusted you? Why would these people ignore their own conscience?" Alicia asked Torman.
"Because they're not themselves. They're me."
As the security guard applied the pressure to pull the trigger, he was winded by a force that he did not even see.
Monique appeared before him as he fell to the floor unable to breath.
"I hope that didn't hurt too much. But just enough for hurting my friend." Monique said scornfully.
The other guards immediately fired upon the new threat their weapons set to full auto. The bullets passed harmlessly though Monique as she took on the form of a solid column of light.
Though she didn't need to, Monique phased from light to shadow and back again as she instantaneous dodged the bullets in flight. The ones that had missed her or passed through her visage just narrowly missed Torman.
"Watch it! I can't believe I almost shot myself." Torman yelled to the guards from behind cover.
The big oak lobby door flew off it's hinges towards one of the guards who barely escaped being crushed by it. Valkyra stepped into the lobby followed by Heylyn, the Butterfly Dragon.
"Honey? I'm home!" Valkyra yelled out for Torman the sarcasm apparent in her voice.
The last two security guards turned to fire upon Valkyra and the Butterfly Dragon.
Heylyn's glowing wings erupted from her back as she flew to take position in front of Valkyra. The bullets shattered and rebounded from her as her skin had become hardened scales.
"Why thank you Butterfly. Or is it Miss Dragon?" Valkyra said to Heylyn.
"Butterfly will do." she responded.
Alicia stood feeling suddenly energized by her friends' arrival.
"He's got some kind of mind power. Watch out. It's very debilitating. I think he's got the whole hotel under his control." Alicia informed them.
Monique disappeared reappearing beside Torman.
"He doesn't look so..." Monique didn't have time to finish her sentence before Torman was upon her.
He quickly found his way into her mind as she struggled against his mind power.
"Stop!" she screamed hanging on to the sides of her head.
Valkyra leapt the distance of the lobby just as Torman's elite guards arrived. One of Torman's superpowered creations burst through the wall of the lobby. His physique was remarkable shadowing that of Valkyra.
"I'm Hugh. Hugh Mongus. Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" Hugh said calling out to Valkyra and beckoning her to join him.
"You're one to talk. Picking on a lady." Valkyra said approaching the brute curtly.
Valkyra looked to Torman and then to the newly arrived Hugh Mongus and then back to the Butterfly Dragon.
"I've got Torman and Monique. Go!" Heylyn yelled to Valkyra as she flew.
Heylyn landed between Monique and Torman shielding her from his mind effect.
"We have some unfinished business Torman." Heylyn reached for his chest grabbing his shirt as she hefted him into the air.
"We don't have any business until you're finished." Torman grabbed at her hands unable to match her strength.
"Where is the remaining SY3 formula?" Heylyn asked him firmly as Alicia arrived beside her.
"I'm not telling you. Maybe we could make a deal?" Torman responded with scorn.
"You're not the only one with mind powers!" Heylyn said as she reached into his recent memories.
Torman screamed as the tremendous force of Weltherwithsp breached his psyche and finding its way into his short term memory. He felt the Dragon looking through his mind with little concern for his well being. Torman struggled against Heylyn's grip with futility.
Torman suddenly found himself in a field, lying in a deep pocket of grass, a jar clasped between his fingers. He peeked at the jar and saw a butterfly trapped inside, its wings opening and closing as the air within the jar slowly disappeared.
He stood up looking around for any clues of where he was.
"You're in my place now. Let her go." Heylyn said pointing to the butterfly in the jar whose colors resemble those of Monique's outfit.
He looked at the jar once again.
"I see. This is your friend... I have her in my..." Torman stopped.
"...Control is such a fleeting word for a man such as yourself, is it not? There one moment, gone the next." Weltherwithsp's voice pierced the air behind him.
He turned to see the magnificent and tremendous creature coiled as it hovered above the field before him.
"Who are you supposed to be? Her psyche or something? Her ego? Maybe you have Freud in here too? Next you're going to want me to tell you about my Mother shrink?" Torman commented sarcastically to the creature.
"I find that amusing as you strike me as a man that is a bit too crass for psychoanalysis and beneath such brilliant people as Jung or Freud. Though your jest is not as lost as you are should you not release her..." Weltherwithsp's form grew before him its eyes flaring.
"What are you going to do? Sit me on a couch and ask me about my dreams?" Torman scolded the creature scathingly.
"I would most certainly learn much of you by your dreams but we only have time for your nightmares!" Weltherwithsp's voice grew into a thunderous crash accenting his last word.
The field and the sky disappeared all replaced by the blackness and scales of the tremendous creature. The form of Valkyra stepped forward out of the haze followed by Delinia. Close behind them were the resort employees including the front desk girl who he'd engaged in a quick with while he was away from Delinia. Torman's face twitched.
"What is this? Some kind of joke?" Torman asked aloud appearing nervous about the situation.
"Am I a joke to you Torman? Is that all I was? We spent years together..." Valkyra approached him in his favorite skirt.
"What about me? Another joke? You used me like a toy..." Delinia asked him as she approached.
"Who's in control now?" asked the girl from the front desk whose name he'd not even bothered to learn.
Her eyes flared as Weltherwithsp looked out at Torman through her form.
"I think that I'd like a souvenir for my troubles..." said the girl pointing to Torman's privates.
"A piece for each of us..." said Delinia.
Valkyra grabbed him by the collar.
"I want the biggest piece. The one between his shoulders." Valkyra looked through him.
Torman held the glass jar up to his face peering at the butterfly contained therein.
"...Help me..." he cried quietly to it.
Outside of Heylyn's dream world in the hotel lobby, she felt an energetic surge coursing through her shoulders loosing her grip on Torman.
"Monique!" Heylyn yelled as Monique materialized her hand firmly on Heylyn's exposed neck.
"Let me go." Monique as Torman said to Heylyn.
"You let her go!" Heylyn commanded Torman as she struggled through Monique's grip.
Heylyn struggled to maintain her grip on Torman as Monique tightened her grip on her throat. Alicia was spurred into action having regained her strength and partly healed. She grabbed a hold of Monique's waist and flung her through the air towards the far wall. Monique's form disappeared halfway through her flight materializing several times between shadow and light nearly instantly on a path behind Alicia.
Alicia spun raising her leg to a round house kick as Monique dodged, ducking under her foot. Alicia quickly used the momentum from her round house to snap her other leg up as successor to her first kick. Her left leg grazed Monique who instantly became the immaterial form of light as Alicia's foot passed through the space Monique's face had been moments earlier.
Monique appeared once again this time phasing to a form of entire blackness grabbing a hold of Alicia's arm. Alicia fell backwards into a roll followed by Monique who flipped upwards flung by the momentum of Alicia's roll. Monique landed on her feet having absorbed a bit of Alicia's fighting abilities. Her form once again returned to one a little brighter than her natural form.
"Anything you can do, I can do better." Monique taunted Alicia who struggled to keep up with Monique's ability of instantaneous transport.
Monique's fist struck out clipping Alicia's shoulder as she blocked reflexively. Monique's other fist immediately struck out at an exposed opening near her collar bone. Her knuckles plunged into Alicia's collar bone which buckled under the force but did not break. Alicia fell backwards once again to absorb the force of Monique's punch rolling over her shoulders onto her feet. She'd noticed that Monique's fighting style had suddenly matched her own. Alicia realized that with her transformation ability, Monique could easily outmatch her own prowess. Monique was also absorbing her fighting style from her. She had to do something and quick. She had not fully healed from her super powered brawl with Torman's security forces. She realized she might be able to use this to her advantage.
Monique had materialized behind Alicia once again and reached out to absorb more of Alicia's abilities. Monique clutched hold of the point on Alicia's body that had been seriously injured during her battle with Torman's forces. Alicia turned attempting to grab at Monique's exposed arm only to find herself once again grabbing at air.
"You're going to have to be faster than that Missy!" Monique said to Alicia in an almost playful tone.
Alicia stopped holding back and clipped Monique with a quick three strike succession each hitting the same point. Monique at once fell to the ground grabbing her side in pain.
"Alicia... What... Why are we fighting? What did you do to me?" Monique pleaded with Alicia.
"Torman had you. I had to do it. I'm sorry." Alicia answered her compassionately dashing to her side.
"I had to trick you into absorbing from one of my wounds otherwise I'd have never been able to stop you. You're a tough cookie." Alicia explained to Monique as she tended to her wound.
"Cookies crumble." Monique said to Alicia jokingly.
"Lucky for us..." Alicia winked at Monique and gave her a smile.
Hotel Room Recovery
Valkyra had been the last to arrive and despite trying to close the door gently it still sounded like she'd slammed it. Monique had just stepped out of the shower, a towel clung to her body while another was draped around her head. She rubbed her ear clean with a face cloth looking at the three ladies who looked at her in disbelief.
"What?" she asked them though they just looked back.
"Well I needed a shower? Can I help it if I'm faster than you?" Monique said to Valkyra who seemed to visibly fume.
Monique felt rapid moving air as something flew behind her and into the bathroom.
"You're not that fast!" Heylyn smiled from behind the bathroom door as she closed it before jumping into the shower herself.
"Hey! I was getting ready!" Monique frowned.
Alicia lay on the bed still gathering her energy from the battle from which she was fatigued. The wounds she'd received from the security team had healed over but she still felt as if she'd expended a great deal of her day's energy already. She found energy with which to address Monique's comment.
"You got here first because you can sneak a bit easier than we can." Alicia said honestly.
"Or because you smelled worse than us." Valkyra said to her.
"How was I supposed to know that it would be low tide? All that gunk and dead fish to step in. Why'd she choose that place to clean up?" Monique shot back at Valkyra.
"She didn't know. Besides, I think it gave us a bit of humility." Valkyra said running for the shower in the other hotel room.
"I guess I'll wait then." Alicia said as her cellular phone rang.
"Alicia speaking." she answered the phone.
"It's Alex. I just got your message and I'm glad to hear that you're safe. You're going to receive a call in few minutes from the investigators. They want to share information and get some coordination going. They know about Torman. How's everyone else?" he asked her.
"Heylyn's doing good. She seems to be keeping us together and in one piece. So is Monique." Alicia told Alex.
"Glad to hear it." Alex said sounding a bit less tense.
"Valkyra is also on board. She's been an asset to us, especially dealing with some of Torman's stronger experiments. She's got a business background too so that's a big help." Alicia told him perhaps trying to keep him on the phone a bit longer.
"Valkyra? How did she? Wait. Don't tell me. I don't want to know." Alex tensed a little.
"I was thinking that when we're done that you could..." Alicia started.
"Look, Alicia. I'm sorry but I have to go. Something's come up. Call me a bit later." Alex responded and with that he was gone.
"Who was that. Your boyfriend?" Monique asked Alicia a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"No. He's the one that got away." Alicia answered.
Heylyn stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself with a towel from the linen shelves in the bathroom. The entire room was a cloud of steam as she'd really poured on the heat to clean herself thoroughly. Her skin once again soft and delicate the diamond scales which protected her body now hidden within her collagen and dermis.
The lights in the bathroom flicked slightly and dimmed the room. She looked at the lighting controls in the bathroom. A touch-screen LED panel indicated that the lights were at full level and the temperature was thirty five degrees Celsius.
"Quit playing around out there!" she yelled though no answer came back to her nor did the lights return to their normal level.
She thought nothing of it and continued getting ready, wiping the steam from the mirror her senses making up for the lack of lighting. She jumped back when she spied Weltherwithsp staring back at her from the other side of the mirror.
"I couldn't wait to see you my darling, though I didn't mean to peep. Though I could have waited I hope you think me not a creep." he smiled back at her a row of razor sharp teeth baring themselves to her.
"What are you doing here?" she asked him startled to see that he'd somehow crossed the boundaries of the imaginary and reality.
"How are you so sure that I'm not looking in my own mirror and finding you on the other side? I could then ask you the same could I not?" Weltherwithsp posed the question to her with amusement.
"What is it? I take it that you're here for a reason." she asked him continuing through his maze of anecdotes.
"We are most certainly here for a reason. Not anything less for here to and by, you and I. But there are more than just us and they too their reasons do have. Do you want to hear them?" a tuft of steam escaped from his nostrils and fogged his side of the glass.
"Who?" she asked him impatiently.
"Them and they you know not for you've not yet met. Just put the dress on and away we'll be gone though I suspect we're already there." Weltherwithsp's breath came forth again a multitude of colors cleaning the steam from the mirror.
She saw the dress hanging from the shower bar in the reflection of the mirror. She turned around to see it there on her side of the mirror before her plain as day.
"Don't peek." she said to him trusting him fully.
"I was going to ask you the same. Worry not for a remedy I do have." Another breath from his nostrils fogged the mirror obscuring their view of each other.
She dropped her towel and put the dress on which formed tightly to her body though accenting her natural beauty more so than anything else.
"There. I'm ready." she said to the hidden form of Weltherwithsp.
"I'll say you most certainly are. No less a diamond are you on any scale." he answered her.
"You certainly have a way with words. I'll bet you're envy of the other dragons." she said to him drawing a fine line between being alluring and sarcastic.
"There are no others so prismatic as I, for I am you but separate from you. Do you flatter yourself or another is the question?" Weltherwithsp asked her a sense of seriousness in its voice.
"You said yourself that you are distinct and I don't feel that I am talking to myself. I get the sense that I might meet you one day." she said to him.
"You said the same thing when you were a child as was I in the cocoon. Yet we did meet here and now. We may yet meet again in another way. Let us go for they are waiting." Weltherwithsp held out a lengthy scaly hand through the mirror waiting for hers.
She looked at it for a moment before accepting it. She put hers in his and was drawn into the mirror much like Alice had been many centuries before.
Monique had finished drying herself and applying some makeup in a compact mirror. She waited for the bathroom so she could do her hair. The shower had stopped a few minutes prior but she heard nothing of Heylyn. She banged on the bathroom door but no answer came back. She grabbed her dryer and accessories and headed for the other bathroom where Valkyra had gone.
"I'll be back when I'm done. You can use the shower that Heylyn is in if you like." Monique told Alicia who was still cradling the cellular phone on her stomach as she lay on the bed.
"Thank you but I'll look after myself." Alicia said half asleep.
Valkyra had finished her shower and had started getting ready herself when Monique appeared by the door.
"You don't mind if I get ready with you do you?" Monique asked her.
"Not at all. You won't slow me down." Valkyra wiped her face with a cloth cleansing her skin and began applying her makeup.
"Good. This feels like the studio back home." Monique said to her.
The truth was that the only place that she'd get ready that she was alone was at home. In the studio whenever she'd get ready for a showing, she'd be amongst peers and friends. She didn't like being alone as much as Heylyn often did.
She set up next to Valkyra who was already putting on her foundation.
"You should let your skin dry a little before..." Monique tried to give her some friendly advice.
"Look Monique. I know that you're an experienced model but please don't tell me how to get ready." Valkyra seemed a little impatient and perhaps even envious of the younger woman.
"You never spoke to me like that before." Monique's voice answered but Torman's manner came forth.
Valkyra instantly recognized it sending her into a panic.
"What did you say?" Valkyra asked her.
That was the last thing Valkyra would say and the last thing she would remember saying as herself for some time.
Alicia awoke still half asleep on the bed trying to recover from her encounter with Torman's security force. She thought about Alex, wondering where he was and how he was doing. Mostly she thought about how she'd missed that opportunity to be with him. She'd always had problems with her confidence throughout school and by the time she'd graduated into the working world as a researcher, she still had the same school girl shyness. Mostly she avoided that topic altogether still unsure of how to handle her feelings in such a way.
The first time she caught him staring at her he quickly looked away perhaps more voyeuristic in his approach than bold. It wasn't that boys in school didn't notice her, she'd just never caught them in the act. When she caught Alex admiring her she was caught off guard. Their minds were mostly on their research and perhaps that is what drove his sneak peek of her during a quiet moment. She tended to find their stretches of silence together during their laboratory time very comforting. Like they did not need to say anything as they were both there together and doing what they lived to do. They both knew it. Who could ask for anything more? That first time she caught him looking was enough to start her in the same direction. Before long she'd find herself doing the same thing. Not just for the chance to catch him again but to secretly admire him. Maybe she too wanted to be caught admiring him. A silent way of letting him know without having to say a thing. The thought occurred to her that maybe that was what he was doing. She closed her eyes again thinking about their next encounter if there ever would be one. If they ever made it off this island alive.
Alicia recalled one of the many patrols that she'd conducted in the city before she'd reunited with Heylyn. Alicia had been at the peak of performance that any person could be and then some. Her first encounter had been in an area of town frequented by Torman's thugs. They'd been shaking up a local franchise business in attempt to scare the owner into letting it go for less than market value. Presumably this was one of Torman's deals or those of his gangs though she'd not known it at the time. She was not aware of the politics of the situation but she caught the thugs just before they were about to rough the owner up one night in the store parking lot.
He'd just come out of the store and locked the door before proceeding when six thugs had appeared surrounding his car. One had grabbed him from behind and held him while the others closed in. When she'd arrived on the scene one of them was grilling him verbally while laying the occasional blow to his stomach.
She approached them and asked them what they were doing hoping, she'd scare them off by her presence. At that point Torman had more gang control over the area than the authorities did though the Police did not make it easy for him to claim his piece of the city. Torman's network was fast and effective at doing what it needed to do to remain hidden. When it needed to be bold it could still be effective and nobody talked about it. Nobody. The thugs were still operating under that air of confidence when Alicia had approached them and to tell the truth nobody had ever confronted them before.
"Lady, you're going to have to mind your own business unless you want that pretty little face messed up. This guy's just about done." the mouthy thug had said to her.
“You're done. Let him go.” she said to him confidently and unwavering.
She stepped a little bit closer trying to feign confidence but her heart was beating fast in her chest and she fought the effects of fear. She hadn't fully utilized the physical abilities the formula had given her since she'd first tested it upon herself. She had no idea if she'd even be capable of dealing with this situation. She'd remembered the first time that Heylyn had made a stand for her in school. Everyone else had been laughing at Alicia as the freckly curly haired bully, Derek shot spit balls at her through his soda pop straw. His cronies had surrounded him giving him an audience and cheering him on.
Heylyn had walked up to Derek who was nearly a half a foot taller than her, staring him in the eyes.
"Leave her alone." Heylyn had said confidently.
Derek's audience laughed when they saw her. Derek feeling confident with his crew behind him aimed his straw at Alicia and blew, hitting her in the back of the head with another spit sodden paper wad. Derek smiled at Heylyn.
"Or what?" he said to her.
Heylyn dropped her school books and before they'd hit the ground, Derek was on the floor, his arm twisted behind his back. She held his thumb upward, forcing the nerve of his elbow to twist locking his arm.
"Say sorry." She said as her books hit the floor.
"Let me go you bi..." Derek yelled before he screamed as she applied pressure to his thumb.
"Let him go." one of Derek's friends spoke, the others stepping forward menacingly.
Heylyn held her ground twisting a little harder.
"Say sorry I said!" she hefted his arm a little.
"Sorry! I'm sorry!" Derek screamed.
"Who?" Heylyn asked him not releasing the pressure.
"Alicia! Alicia! I'm sorry!" he screamed until she relaxed the pressure.
The audience surrounded Heylyn and she assessed the situation as best she could.
"Now its our turn." one of Derek's friends said to her.
Heylyn released Derek, who got to his feet.
Derek seeing his audience backing him up gained the confidence to confront her. Heylyn stood facing him standing guard ready for anything. What happened next was amazing.
Just as Derek stepped forward to push her a spit ball hit him in the back of the head. He turned angrily to see where it came from and stopped immediately when he did.
"Who did that?" he yelled at the crowd.
"Me." all thirty of the girls in the cafeteria said, each readying another spit ball in their straws.
Derek's friends turned around to catch the next volley directly in their faces.
There was silence as Alicia stood to say something.
"Leave them alone. They're not worth it." she said to the group of girls.
"Did you hear that? I think she likes you!" one of the girls shot out a spit ball at one of Derek's friends.
"Why don't you go give her a kiss?" another girl fired one hitting Derek directly on the tip of the nose where it stuck.
They all laughed together, including Alicia, Derek's friends and then eventually Derek.
The parking lot at three in the morning was not the same as the midday cafeteria of her school years but she thought she'd make a stand just the same.
Alicia stood confidently before the group of six men all of which appeared to be fit and up to anything she could confront them with.
Most of Torman's cronies would have backed off and waited for another night to do his bidding but these ones chose to stay. They'd been hoping for success of chasing the store owner into a quick sale of his franchise. Torman would reward them for certain if they'd achieved this goal. Had they chosen to leave, another group of thugs might be the ones who got the payoff.
So they stayed the leader facing Alicia much like Derek had stood up to Heylyn fifteen years earlier.
Instead of a straw the lead thug pulled a gun from his back pocket and held it in Alicia's face.
She stood facing the metal barrel of the gun staring it down its length.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." She said, slightly shaking and quivering.
"Oh, it wasn't for you. It was for him." he said as he swung his arm around returning to the store owner.
Time stood still for Alicia and she remembered the first time that her heightened senses had kicked in. She was moving faster than she thought possible and literally moving faster than thought. She leapt throwing her leg upwards in a snap kick connecting directly at the gunman's elbow. Her foot connected solidly and with enough force to break his arm. His hold on the gun loosed and before Alicia was on the ground she'd launched herself off of his shoulders pushing off of his belt towards a pair of the thugs.
They too were moving too slow to be of threat to her and she clothes-lined them both at the collar bone, quickly sending them to the pavement. She rebounded off of the store owner's car slightly denting the quarter panel as she flew back toward the remaining three. She caught the first mid chest with her fist winding him and throwing him backwards. The other two were advancing one with a punch flying towards her. She adjusted her flex a little avoiding the blow by an inch. She somersaulted to the pavement kicking her legs up and into the groin of one of the remaining thugs. He quickly reeled forward falling to the ground leaving the last one remaining. He turned to see his attacker standing atop one of his other friends who was unconscious.
He thought twice about attacking her and turned to run. Alicia watched him flee, leaving him be instead checking on the store owner.
"Are you alright?" she asked him.
"Thank you! Thank you! I cannot believe that..." he said trying to catch his breath.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed the Police.
"Uh... I've got to go. I think I damaged your car a little. Just a small dent. I'm sorry..." Alicia said backing up.
"Don't leave! You're amazing! I want you to talk to the Police. Tell 'em what happened." he told her.
"No, I've got to go. Unpaid parking tickets you know?" she said lying.
"Are you in trouble? I can refer you to legal help if you..." he continued urging her to stay.
"No, really. They'll help you and tell them I said hi." Alicia turned running and picking up speed.
"Who should I tell them you are?" he asked her as she leapt for the roof of the store.
"I'm the spit ball girl." she said laughing under her breath before disappearing into the night.
When the Police had arrived to the scene about four minutes later the officer stepped out of the car to inspect the scene.
"Stay where you are and don't move. Are you injured?" she asked the store owner.
"Yes... No... I'm fine really. Much better. I made the call. I own that store..." he tried to finish.
Her partner secured the thug's firearm cuffing them and then radioed details about the situation back to the radio room where they dispatched some emergency vehicles to the scene.
"Do you mind telling me what happened here?" the Lady Officer asked the store owner.
"Yes. It was incredible. They started to yell at me and beat me. Then... she came from out of nowhere..." he exclaimed still out of breath.
"Who? Who came out of nowhere?" the other officer asked him.
"The spit ball girl!" he said.
The Lady Officer immediately thought back to an incident she'd had in high school with some bullies, thinking of Derek and the spit ball she'd hit him with at the end of his nose. The Officer held a smile at bay as the other squad cars arrived. At least he's not injured she thought for the store owner. She examined the gunman's nose for a spit ball, but he only groaned in pain holding his arm.
"Must have been some spit ball." she said the store owner.
That was one of Alicia's first experiences with the empowering effects of the SY349 formula. From that point in time she'd felt unstoppable. Her encounter against Torman's forces at the Treadwater cove hotel and resort had been the first time she'd felt vulnerable in a long time. She had been thankful for Valkyra's presence to deal with Hugh Mongous. Heylyn once again had saved her much like she had in school all those years ago. Some things never changed and some friends always stayed. There with you for life whether there in person or there in your fond memories of them.
Alicia opened her eyes to see Monique's face staring at her. Monique's eyes a few inches from hers.
"Hello again lab girl. You've got something of mine." Monique spoke but Torman's manner came out.
"Lights out!" Valkyra said holding her to the bed as Torman possessed her from Monique's body. Now he had all three of them.
"We should get Heylyn now." Valkyra said, in Torman's manner.
"She's fast and very tricky. She's got a lot of martial arts training too." Alicia added, through Torman's persona.
"No, no, We'll need her to come looking to rescue us at Mr. Zek's. That will soften him up for us." Monique smiled, her eye twinkled at them as she dematerialized into a streak of solid light and flew across the room and out the window.
"I hate it when she does that!" Valkyra said storming out and onto the balcony before climbing down the side of the building.
"I love it when she does that." Alicia cartwheeled over the balcony railing catching onto outcroppings to slow her descent through the air.
Heylyn ventured through her dream vision in pursuit of Weltherwithsp into his realm.
Suffer The Children
She found her way through the field just as she'd remembered though it had changed a little. A distance up from the path she used to dream she'd wander along through the patch of woods, a hill had formed pocked with dense brush. She continued along the path and through the bramble trying to keep up with Weltherwithsp but its pace was too quick for her even with her abilities.
"Slowing are we? Like the flower delicately whose petals grab the air to slow her fall?" Weltherwithsp mused aloud though more for his own amusement.
"You mean I was faster when I was younger?" Heylyn inquired of him.
"Almost certainly, for you could flow more readily. Not with your feet but with your mind, because that's really the medium through which you go at this time." Weltherwithsp encouraged her.
"Maybe I knew where I was going because I don't now. It seems different somehow." Heylyn responded still struggling to keep up.
"You didn't know then and you don't know now. The only difference is that you knew less about the rules of the world than you do now and therefore you did less to slow yourself." Weltherwithsp told her as he flowed along the path ahead of her weaving through the brush towards the top of the hill.
Heylyn closed her eyes for a moment and thought about the butterfly she used to chase through the field. It would speed off and then when she'd fallen too far behind, it would perch itself on a flower and wait for her. Only to fly off again when she'd caught up. Eventually she'd managed to pace herself in such a way that her movement was consistent rather than sporadic. Heylyn let herself flow much like Weltherwithsp doing and the butterfly did. She floated forward effortlessly as she opened her eyes and the land moved beneath her. She had become as the butterfly, and through the air she moved with the wind more so than like it.
"You see it do you? Or feel it should I say? For that's the real magic of it knowing not the way..." Weltherwithsp mused again.
"Then why do we go?" Heylyn asked him coming at the problem from a different angle.
"That's better. We go for them and you know who but for who they go they do not know." Weltherwithsp spoke in riddle once again more amusing itself than her.
"Who?" she asked.
"This time its them, those whose cure was none too soon but should you fail become their boon. For more will suffer none the less and greater filled will become the cups of those who made it happen. Their pain." Weltherwithsp answered her leaving her more confused.
They crested the top of the hill, Heylyn nearly along side of Weltherwithsp now. She admired its scales and the rhythm of its body as it flew effortlessly through the forested. The path just barely contained them yet they managed to make it without so much as a bump of brush or with a tree. The field opened up before them and there were they all, though Heylyn had not seen them before.
They were playing in the field, much like she might have done when she was a child. They moved as children and not with any signs of their disease and it was just as it had been described to Alicia by Alex, a miracle. They were free of any sort of problems in their motion or musculature and more importantly felt no fear of movement. They were free of the bonds of their disease.
"There they are!" a little girl pointed to Weltherwithsp admiring it as it floated to its vertical height and then coiled itself like a giant spring keeping itself aloft by its two fluttering wings. The wings were as a butterfly's, large and lined with silken feathers which moved through the air with a whisper. Heylyn thought about its name when she heard the sound.
The little girl ran up to Weltherwithsp and then Heylyn. Heylyn bent over as the little girl extended her arms in a welcoming hug. Heylyn picked her up in her arms, spinning as she held her. She'd never been a mother and had never given it serious thought, with her work as a designer though she felt natural with children as they did with her. It felt unreal to her, to hold a child in her arms and she felt distant though in her heart she did her best.
"What's your name?" Heylyn asked the little girl in her arms.
"Warai. You don't know me yet but Weltherwithsp says you will." little Warai replied to Heylyn.
A little boy ran over to Weltherwithsp and pointed to him.
"Can you blow a fire like a real dragon?" the little boy asked him.
"I've never tried now that you ask and for that request don't hold me to task. I protect the field and fire does not! But I can make it rain or sun should you find that much more fun." Weltherwithsp answered the little boy who looked puzzled.
"Why do you talk funny?" the little boy asked him.
"When I speak as I do, its because I speak true. For I know not another way so funny not is yours to say. You think it funny? She thinks its happy? Who is right if the two of you cannot agree? You both are of course for you heard it as you do. I can speak and you can hear, but I cannot tell you how to hear it or what to make of it." Weltherwithsp answered and the little boy listened understanding perfectly as did the little girl.
"I think you've got some friends." Heylyn said to Weltherwithsp.
Three other children, a boy and two girls approached and stood gawking at Weltherwithsp in amazement and wonder at the fantastic creature.
"So why are we all here together?" Heylyn asked Weltherwithsp and the children as she cradled the little girl in her arms.
"Who of us shall start for our honorary butterfly?" Weltherwithsp asked the children.
They laughed at Weltherwithsp's statement.
"She's a girl, not a butterfly." a little boy said.
"No she's a butterfly. A real butterfly. I saw her." the little girl in Heylyn's arms spoke in her defense.
"I agree and I'll start..." one of the two other little girls spoke.
The first little boy continued "...this meeting of us here to let you know..."
"...Zek is crafty as he is vile..." the little girl in Heylyn's arms followed.
"...and he cares not for disease or the sick..." the little red haired boy said.
"...he's out to make the illness just like the cure... powerful and unstoppable..." the other little girl spoke.
The first little boy walked up to Heylyn.
"...so that there will be more sick than healthy..."
"...the whole world over which of course he'll rule and I don't mean with a measuring stick." Weltherwithsp said in jest.
The children giggled for a moment and then settled down.
"Are you saying that this Zek person is trying to use the SY349 formula to engineer a disease?" Heylyn asked them still rocking the little girl back and forth in her arms.
The little boy held his hands apart like he was starting a big fish story.
"He's making a biiiig engine for a biiiig disease..."
"...and he won't stop there too because he'll make his own heroes like you but they'll be bad..." the little girl jumped in the air attempting to fly as she spoke.
"...like the bad man who gets into your head..." the first little boy tapped the top of his head.
"...he's still around and closer still but now they've gone in for the kill..." Weltherwithsp continued.
"...he wants the same thing as the Zek but more more pain because he likes it to hurt people..." the little girl beside Weltherwithsp spoke hiding for protection.
"...and he gets other people to hurt people for him too..." the little red haired boy said.
"...he gets lots of people they go and get to hurt people but they don't know..."
Heylyn thought about the Treadwater Cove Resort and the people she'd encountered in there. They had all become like Torman.
"...Zek's new power makes the Torman very weak... be careful... I don't want you to be hurt too." a tear welled in the eye of the little girl in Heylyns arms.
"Zekky will pull your wings off!" the first little boy said, a little startled.
"...but if you win your friend will save us all and sick people will get better and so will the world..." the second little boy smiled.
"...then we can do other stuff everywhere and fix the other new things that happen because we helped the other old things go bye bye..." the two little girls on the ground stood before Heylyn almost singing the last part.
"Can you be my big sister?" the little girl asked Heylyn.
"I can be your big friend, and maybe soon I'll be your big sister." Heylyn smiled at the little girl.
"I like you. You are good. Not pretend good." the little girl gave Heylyn a peck on the cheek.
"Pretend good people try to take good from real good people so they can pretend to be good. Zekky is a pretend good but he used to be a real good." the little boy told Heylyn.
"Sometimes pretend good people don't feel good so they can't be good. They need a band-aid on their heart." the little girl in Heylyn's arms said to her.
"You need to find Zekky and stop him. Then we can make more people not sick and be able to walk and use their hands. Then they can make other hurt go away. And more things come that need to be fixed and we keep going better." the two little girls rolled their eyes finding the concept a little bit funny like a merry-go-round.
"Now do you understand? You must protect them for they are the future and someday they'll do the same thing for theirs and so on. Most of all, they know that the world must grow and that we grow by solving the problems we have and not feeding from them. There'll always be more challenges to meet us for it is the way." Weltherwithsp explained to Heylyn.
"I'll miss you." the little girl gave Heylyn a peck on her cheek and with that Heylyn was back in the bathroom of the hotel staring into the mirror with Weltherwithsp staring back at her from the other side.
"Your friends. They're gone. Taken by the one you felled though thought is his medium of life now and therein he remains more deadly than in life. Don't follow them but take your own path, and you will be reunited. Whether you fail against them or not, the end will be decided." Weltherwithsp spoke quietly to her its nostrils flaring and slightly fogging the mirror from the other side.
"Who took them?" Heylyn responded quickly.
"Many in foot, one in mind. He took them all, left none behind." Weltherwithsp's eyes narrowed and the mirror itself flexed under the tension of its gaze.
"You mean... Torman." Heylyn thought out loud as Weltherwithsp faded into her reflection.
Watching The Enemy
The view from the tree in which they were perched provided access to what they needed to see. The entry way to Zek's estate not far and an abundance of activity on his property as the seven o'clock sun slowly descended. By ten thirty the entire island would be bathed in a breath taking star light.
"This is boring..." Monique said as she casually flicked a piece of fluff from her costume.
"Its important and needed if we're going to get that good for nothing..." Alicia spoke, the edge of Torman in her voice.
"You're one to talk. You slept with me and led me on to believe we were going to get married. Creep. I'm a creep." Valkyra responded to the both of them Torman very much present in her voice.
"We've been here for five hours now and we've seen nothing except his workmen repairing the damage to the front entryway." Monique reminded them.
"There wouldn't be an entry way if you'd have let me finish the job then." Valkyra told Monique.
"Sorry, but I was trying to save you. I think. I even tried to..." Monique stopped when Alicia poked her.
They were perched in a tree just out of view of the front courtyard to Mr. Zek's Estate. Alicia pointed as a crew of men guided a large crate that was mounted on a remote controlled tracked dolly, with treads like a tank. It climbed the marble staircase carefully to the courtyard followed by a troop of men, one of whom possessed a large metal briefcase which was handcuffed to his wrist.
"I wonder what he has in there? His winter mittens?" Monique said sarcastically.
"No, stupid. That's where he keeps the key to the handcuffs." Valkyra said with a sly look on her face.
"Whatever it is, its important. The crate looks similar to the kind of crates they use to deliver lab equipment such as a centrifuge and incinerators." Alicia said to them.
"I'm willing to bet that he's got what he wanted and they've reverse engineered the formula or they're close enough to finish the job here. He's probably got the samples in the metal briefcase." Alicia continued.
"So what are we waiting for, why don't we just go down there and wipe them out and take the case and the equipment. Besides, Valkyra could just rip his arm off and grab the crate under her arms like she was out for a shopping spree." Monique suggested.
"We can't do that. Some of those men might be permeated by the formula already. Look at their clothing. There's something odd about it." Alicia told them.
"I agree. I haven't seen that kind of hemline on the cuffs of slacks for a long time. Those jackets look so forties you know. In the kind of movies my grand mother used to watch. We need Heylyn in order to know for sure." Monique commented casually.
"Look at the belt. There's also a sort of slit and opening near the elbows and sleeve too." Alicia noticed as well.
"How does bad taste interfere with what we need to do? By the time we get down there, level them and get out, they'll be needing a new wardrobe anyway?" Valkyra asked them, the scathe of sarcasm present.
"The point is that we cannot just jump down there and take them out. They've had the formula for some time. They've obviously been tinkering with it much like we were. They'll have figured out quite a bit. I'm betting that most of those men down there are under the influence of its effects right now. Sure, we probably could crush them, but there's that small chance that we don't. Besides, I want to get inside of them, and Zek preferably. Then we can take the whole darn thing." Alicia replied very much as Torman.
"Then its settled. We collect information first then we proceed." Valkyra/Torman acknowledged.
"I say we let the butterfly attack first. Suss them out. Then we'll know for sure what they're capable of. Then we can take her and Zek at the same time. She'll most likely be weakened by the encounter. So will Zek and his forces. We'll just move in and mop up. Just like the old days before Norler got involved." Monique responded to both of them, Torman's brows raising on her face.
"She's got help. Inside of her. I don't know how but she's got help from someone else. Something else. That's how she took us down. With the help of that flying scale bag." Alicia as Torman reminded them of Weltherwithsp's interrogation in the lobby of the Treadwater Cove resort.
"We watch and wait. Let Heylyn move in then we finish up the job ourselves and take over the whole operation." Valkyra as Torman summed up their goal.
The three nodded in agreement and returned their eyes to their future quarry.
Continue to Act IV: Trouble In Paradise