instant/fast change

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 13 Pt 2
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 13 Pt 1
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 12 Pt 2
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 12 Pt 1
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 11 Pt 3
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 11 Pt 2
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 11 pt 1
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 10 Pt 2
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 10 Pt 1
The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 9 Pt 3

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 13 Pt 2


Official Report
3412 Abby Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

“Um.” Amy groaned, slipping a hand over her belly, as a slow gurgle rumbled its way through her abdomen. She’d had some minor queasiness over the past few days, but she’d been hoping the worst of her morning sickness was passed. It seemed she’d been wrong.

“Goddammit, not again….” she trailed off and closed her eyes. “I think I need the bathroom.”

“Uh, sure.” Ashley said, her brows furrowed and she gestured across the room. “It’s right across the hall.”

Amy lurched to her feet, hand still clasped over her stomach and sprinted toward the door. She swung it open and was through the one on the opposite side of the hallway in seconds. Without preamble, she fell to her knees in front of the toilet and hurled her guts out. When she finished, she collapsed atop the seat, panting and chest heaving for breath.

Ashley rushed into the bathroom after her at the sound of retching and stopped outside the door, arm resting on the frame peering in. “Amy, are you all right?”

Amelia collected loose hairs from her face, sighed and peered back at her friend. “I’m fine, it’s because… I’m pregnant.”

“Oh,” Ashley stared back, eyes widening. “I had no idea.”

“Sapphira and I were going to tell everyone after I got back. If you spill the beans…”

“Say no more,” Ashley mimed turning a key in her mouth. “Your secret’s safe with me.”

Amy stood and shook her head. “If Sapphira doesn’t wake up, I don’t know what I’ll do. I can’t raise a child by myself. I don’t have any idea what to do. Never once in a million years, did I ever let myself hope I’d get pregnant an—”

A dull thud sounded from the hallway and Ashley peered back. Amelia’s heart leapt into her throat on catching the blond’s wide-eyed grimace.

“Uh, Mrs. Van den Broeke, I didn’t see you there,” Ashley spun away from the doorway and Amelia’s mother appeared lugging a plastic storage container in her arms.

Serena van den Broeke turned, regarding her eldest child, eyes wide. “I-I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop I was just bring up some—”

“Oh hell.” Amelia groaned placing both palms on the vanity.

“There’s no way I heard that right. You can’t be pregnant, that’s not how it wor—”

Amelia glanced back at her, interrupting her elder. “No, it’s not, but regardless I am pregnant. Look, it’s hard to explain, but sometimes strange things happen to AEGIS personnel in the field. A while back something happened to me and well let’s say… it changed a lot of things.”

Serena stood there, mouth agape. “That’s… not—”

Amy gritted her teeth, a scathing reply on the tip of her tongue, but Ashley interjected. “It sounds unbelievable, but she’s telling the truth. I was there, and… she’s not the only one who experienced changes.”

Serena lowered her head and sighed. “I didn’t mean to, I mean I wasn’t say—”

“Forget it,” Amy waved her hand lips curled into a snarl. “We have bigger concerns, like trying to help my fucking brother.”

“Ashley dear, would you take these?” Serena asked holding the plastic container out to the younger woman. “You can take them down to the room at the end of the hall. Amelia and I need to speak alone.”

Ashley bit her lip, glanced at Amy, who nodded. She took the tote out of the elder Van den Broeke’s hands and disappeared down the corridor. Serena watched her depart before slipping inside the bathroom and closing the door behind her.

“Amelia, I…” She bowed her head and reached up cupping her daughter’s face. The agent flinched, but didn’t back away as her mother continued. “For years, I imagined what I would say to you if I ever had the chance to see you again and that day when you were in the hospital, I realized how unprepared I was. All those speeches, all the imagined conversations flew right out the window.”

Amelia brought both hands up and pulled her mother’s arm down. “This is hard for me.” Hot tears cascaded down her face. “I never thought I’d see any of you again. I’d put that part of my life behind me, but the wounds still cut deep and every time I look at your face… I’m so very angry.”

“You have every right to be. I was a terrible mother, if I could take back—”

“Can we not do this right now?” Amelia asked a sob racking her body. “We’re not out of the woods yet… not by a long shot.”

She slipped past her mother and slipped back into the hallway amidst a torrent of protestations from the other woman. Amelia didn’t glance back, but started down the hall. Stopping about mid-way she put her back to the wall, sank to her knees and wept.

A pair of arms enfolded her and when she looked up, peering into her mother’s eyes. She stiffened, gazing at her elder with wide eyes, then all her resistance crumbled away and she melted into Serena’s arms.

Amelia swallowed, forced back tears and looked Serena in the eyes. In the course of a few days a magical sword had thrown her across a room and landed her in the emergency room, she’d watched a good agent die for no good reason, was betrayed by someone she’d believe was her long-lost brother made over into a sister, learned that her actual brother may have been driven mad by the very same person, and discovered that the love of her life was unconscious in a hospital bed in a ‘not-coma’. Not to mention, she had to contend with her goddamned morning sickness.

“I can’t imagine what you’ve been through.” A sad smile touched Serena’s lips. “But judging from some of the things your friend said it couldn’t have been easy.”

“Damned hormones.” Amelia’s voice quivered. The excuse sounded hollow even to her ears, but her mother only smiled and nodded. “Um… I should probably apolo—”

“No.” Serena cut in shaking her head. “I wasn’t there for you when you needed me the most you have nothing to apologize for.”

“Maybe not then,” Amelia said fresh tears burning her eyes. “But you helped me today and that counts for something.”

Serena smile widened for a second, but then it slithered off her face replaced by a more somber expression. She climbed up and held her hand out. “Come on, let’s get you off the dirty floor. We wouldn’t want you to catch something. You’re expecting, you need to think of the baby.”

Amelia took her mother’s hand and stood with a grunt of effort. She didn’t speak, but pursed her lips tears streaking her cheeks.

“Uh… I should see if there’s something I can do for Brian,” the agent said at last.

Serena face looked stricken, but she nodded. “I tried talking to him, but he’s just not all there. I don’t know if anyone can help him.”

Amelia sighed and placed both hands on her hips. “I have a better chance than most. Remember how I said something strange happened to me in the field? Well, this body isn’t the only thing that was changed.”

Serena’s eyebrows shot up and she peered at her daughter, lips pursed. “What are you saying?”

Amelia flattened her lips together and sealed her eyes, reaching out with her mind. Serena, gasped and peered down at her feet as they rose from the ground. She threw her arms out windmilling them through the air. She remained suspended there for several long moments hovering just a few inches above the ground then Amelia’s eyes snapped back and her feet plopped back onto the hardwood floor with a light thud.

Serena peered at the other Van den Broeke eyes round and eyebrows disappearing into her bangs. “Good lord, how did you do that?”

“Telekinesis.” Amelia shrugged and folded her hands. “I can do a lot more, telepathy, mental projection, and some things I’m not sure have a name. Plus, I have an enhanced healing factor, faster reflexes and… I still have my psychometric retrocognizance.”

Truth be told, she hadn’t done a full test run, but she had a good idea what she was capable of if Sapphira’s power set was any indication. It seemed only logical that the agent would have the same abilities as the one from whom she’d inherited them, but it was not an assumption she had put to the test.

“So you’re going to, what, probe your brother’s mind?”

Amelia nodded. “It may be the only way I can reach him. Someone has done something unnatural to his mind,” she shuddered reflecting on Allison’s retelling of events and her own vision of her brother when she touched Leoffa’s mind. “I don’t believe he can come out of it without some drastic intervention.”

“Unnatural? Sounds like it could be dangerous.” Serena winced. “Are you sure this is something you want to do?”

“No,” Amy admitted. “But it’s something I have to do. Brian became involved in this because of me, I can’t just abandon my brother when he needs my help.”

“Okay,” Serena sighed. “Just be careful, okay? I’d hate for you to get hurt.”

Amelia smiled, tears sliding down her cheeks and lips trembling as she moved down the hallway. Whatever happened, it felt good hearing those words from her mother.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 13 Pt 1


Official Report
3412 Abby Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

A long soft sigh escaped Amelia’s lips. Birdsong wafted in from out of the darkness and she jerked upright, eyes wide and hands sliding over her belly. She panted, scanning the tiny room, before swallowing and pursing her lips.

Where was she?

Light spilled in from a small window adjacent to the bed atop which she rested and she peered through it. A large elm’s branches spread out into the sky, blocking her view of most of the street beyond.

“Oh thank god,” a voice said from the doorway and Amelia’s head jerked sideways to face the newcomer.

Amy blinked, watching the blond girl, unable to look away. “Ashley, what the hell are you doing here?”

“Well,” Ashley grinned leaning against the door frame one hand on her hip. “It’s nice to see you too.”

The agent released a lengthy breath and let out a low throaty chuckle with a slow shake of her head. “I mean, it is a relief to see a familiar face, I just didn’t expect you to be here.”

“How did I—” Amy stopped looking around the room.

“Get here?” Ashley finished folding her arms across her chest. “It’s a long story, but the short answer is I found you and brought you here.”

Amelia arched an eyebrow. “And the long answer?”

The younger woman pursed her lips, stepped into the room and closed the door behind her.

“Probably best if no one else heard this,” she winced and ran a hand through her shock of flaxen hair. She moved across the room, sat beside Amelia on the bed, placing a hand on the agent’s knee. Then with a long release of air she spoke. “I guess I should start by telling you that Sapphira’s in the hospital.”

That caught Amy’s attention, she regarded the other woman, eyes going wide. “What?”

“She collapsed a several days ago, after taking a call from an Idaho area code. And before you ask, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. Nobody does. I wish I had better news.”

Amelia pressed her lips together and bowed her head. A tear ran down her cheek, but she wiped it away before peering back up at her companion.

“Probably, the work of one of our friends,” the agent said with a slight quiver in her voice. “I have reason to suspect there’s a mole inside AEGIS, they were probably afraid Sapphira would come to my rescue when I disappeared.”

Or else raise hell if I turned up dead. Amelia added, but didn’t trust herself to voice that notion.

Her heart ached at the image of Sapphira sitting inert in a hospital bed somewhere. Throughout this entire ordeal she hadn’t once considered trying to contact her partner. Why was that? She swallowed reflecting back to Ashtar’s warning that she was being influenced and tasted bile in her throat. Maybe, Leoffa had influenced her in more ways than one.

“Shit,” Ashley cursed. “I was afraid it was something like that.”

“Tell me the rest,” Amelia said biting the inside of her cheek.

Ashley did, apprising her of her travels to Tondzaosha, witnessing the police taking her into custody and everything from there up to finding Brian van den Broeke trapped within his strange luminescent prison. She would have continued, but caught a gleam in Amelia’s eyes and paused, regarding her friend, eyebrows furrowed.

Amelia didn’t speak, instead thinking back to when she’d reached into Leoffa’s mind. There had been a brief flash and images very like those described by Ashley. There must be some connection.

“What happened after that?” Amelia asked, stroking her chin, her lips pressed in a thoughtful expression.

“Well, I tried for a good thirty minutes to reach him, and then… well, things got even stranger…

“Okay, that’s not working.”

Ashley threw a fist out in frustration. It impacted the space above Brian van den Broeke and a dull metallic thud sounded.

“Perhaps, you should hit it again, miss. I’m sure it will work better the fourth time.” Nabu’s voice intoned in her ear.

Ashley growled under her breath, but didn’t dignify him with a reply. Instead she turned away and clenched her eyes releasing a steady breath. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas, Nabu, do you?”

“No, miss, this is quite beyond my area of expertise.”

“I hate to say this, but if there’s nothing I can do here, it may be time to—”

“Miss, as loath as I am to interrupt, I am detecting a spike in energy readings.” Nabu spoke, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Perhaps you may wish to give it another look.”

Ashley spun around as a high-pitched screech rang through the air. The lights above Brian‘s inert form pulsated and intensified and he sat bolt upright…

“Andy!” He screamed the name, repeating it over and over, hands clutching the side of his head.

The lights swirled faster and faster, growing so bright that Ashley winced and brought a hand up to shield her eyes. A whoosh of air blew into her and she braced herself as a surge of energy cascaded out in every direction. The illumination grew so intense that she closed her eyes and averted her gaze.

Once her vision cleared, she lowered her hands and moved toward Brian. He watched her approach with wide eyes.

“Impostor, betrayal… sword. Blood gushing.” He mumbled peering past Ashley’s armored form almost as if she were not even there.

He hugged his knees and rocked back and forth, several long sobs escaping his lips. “She will die.”

“Who?” She demanded, her voice coming out as a low guttural growl through the suit’s voice changer.

He didn’t answer, instead he threw his head back and a raw, wheezing manic laugh sounded from his mouth. “The one who was king… her blood everywhere,” he mumbled. “My brother who’s now my sister. Times ticking… ticking… out through the window…”


Ashley didn’t hesitate. She lurched forward, armored form shooting through the bedroom window, glass shattering and cascading across the front lawn in her wake. Heart hammering in her chest, her destination already in mind, she shot into the open sky above. She couldn’t say why, but she was certain that he’d been speaking of Amelia. It sounded like the ravings of a madman, but somehow she understood that the danger was real.

“You just left Brian there?” Amelia cut in her disbelief reflected in her emerald eyes.

“I freaked out…” Ashley grimaced one hand kneading the back of her neck. “I didn’t stop to reflect, I just acted.”

“If it makes you feel better, I came back for him after. He was still there, at least in the physical sense, but mentally… Well, let’s just say he’s a few bricks short of a load.”

Amelia’s lips trembled and a sob escaped her lips. “All because that woman was trying to get to me.”

She wiped the tears from her eyes and regarded her blond friend who was now shedding a few tears of her own.  When the agent spoke her voice trembled. “So? I guess you found me.”

Ashley nodded, swallowing hard. “Uh, yeah. I figured since the police had you, you’d probably be at the station, and sure enough that’s where you and the girl were, unconscious in a pool of blood. Shit, I thought you were dead. After I went back for your brother, I brought everyone here.”

“Kruhl?” Amy asked, but her friend just blinked. The agent sighed, closed her nice and massaged her temple. “The short blond woman.”

“Oh! She’s fine, I think. She hasn’t woken up yet. There was blood all over her when I happened upon you guys, but I couldn’t find any cuts or scrapes, I guess none of it was hers.”

“And Brian?” Amelia asked staring back at her swallowing hard.

“Asleep, last I checked.” Ashley brushed the hair away from her face. “And there’s something else…”

Amy gaze intensified her eyes boring holes into the other woman. “Um, I didn’t know any safe places… and who to trust. I didn’t even know what was wrong with you so I, uh…” she trailed off wincing under the scrutiny of her friend’s gaze.

“You what?” Amy asked a sinking feeling forming in the pit of her stomach.

“I worried you would need medical attention and since the files Malcolm gave me said your mother was a nurse…”

“Oh, god,” Amelia sighed glancing around. “Don’t tell me this is her place.”

“No! Actually,” Ashley jerked her head from side to side. “But she’s here. She said this place belonged to a friend.”

Amy sighed and gritted her teeth. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, her mother gets thrown into the mix.

Oh hell.


The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 12 Pt 2


Official Report
Tondzaosha Police Station
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Amelia’s eyes cracked open. She attempted to sit up, but only managed to pull herself up about an inch before she struck an invisible wall and settled back into place. She turned her head,  peering about, sucking air in through her teeth.

She recoiled as she caught the gaze of a creature slouched over a shelf. It gurgled, long tentacles writhing and gyrating in the air as a trio of blood-red eyes fixed on her. A strangled moan sounded from the reverse wall and she shuddered and looked away. She peered straight into the eye of what most resembled a lime Jello mold, the second monster gazed at her with its one great unblinking eye, quivering there on its shelf.
She gazed back at the first creature, and then a third one roosted upon a shelf along the eastern wall which resembled an enormous round bird with big black eyebrows. It cooed, emitting a dozen loud warbles before taking a nosedive off its shelf and landing in a stack of crates.

Neither of the other two monsters moved, and she bit her bottom lip, eying a row of implements stacked around the blob creature.  There was a box of glass bottles, each filled with a different-colored liquid, most look innocuous, but one of them hissed. Next to the box were arrayed a dog’s skull, a playground ball which glowed purple and a mannequin head which had the most ghastly grin on its face, and whose eyes kept blinking.

There were dozens more, some on the stranger side, but most tended toward the more gruesome, like the statue which was exuding something that looked like blood from its mouth.

She did not understand where she was or how she’d come to be there, but she had a good idea who’d brought her.

Amy thought back to her very brief encounter with Ashtar, and the warning which the alien consciousness had passed on to her.  She’d needed time for her enhanced healing factor to work through the tranquilizers and time was up. With Ashtar’s help the agent created a partitioned construct within her own mind to trick Odalrik into attacking it instead of her actual consciousness and, failing some convoluted means of deception on her enemy’s part, the ploy had worked.

She set her jaw and moved to sit up, but again hit an invisible obstruction. When she lifted her arm, it would only move up a few inches. The agent pushed out with all the strength she could muster, and nothing happened. If there was some way she might break through, it would not be with physical force.

She let her eyelids slip shut,  released a long breath and extended her senses. She felt nothing save for the hammer of her heart, and the blood coursing through her veins. It was almost as if someone had encapsulated her within a dome of transparent GUNQ.


Her eyes snapped back open as the sound of gunfire rang out. The walls and doorway stifled it, but it was still discernable. Shrieks of rage, followed by brief bouts of silence and more gunfire.

“LEOFFA!” A voice screamed from somewhere outside the room, again muffled, but still audible and clear. “Show yourself!”

Amelia froze, her heart pounding in her ears, as her mind raced. She had no idea who was fighting on the other side of that wall, but she didn’t think it boded well for her at all. The agent gritted her teeth,  and furrowed her brows.

A wave of power rippled out from her palms and she grunted as it rebounded on her and into her chest. She panted and clamped her jaw shut against the pain. In retrospect that hadn’t been the brightest idea, but she had to try something.

She took several deep breaths, attempting to steady herself and reached deep within herself ensuring that she’d done no damage to the child before releasing her breath and opened her eyes again.

What chance did she have at making an escape, if she couldn’t breach the invisible field around herself?

She sighed, as she reached out with her mind, probing the surrounding space attempting to find a hole in the barrier, but found none. The agent slumped back and growled under her breath. It didn’t look as if she’d be going anywhere soon.

“Ashtar,” she said clenching her eyes shut and emitted a soft moan. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas, do you?”

No answer came and she sank her teeth into her lower teeth, letting out several choice curses. “Of course.”

A high-pitched wail sounded through the air and Amy’s eye’s snapped open. She sat bolt-upright, only realizing that the barrier holding her in place was gone, a few seconds later. Amy peered around the room, eyes locking on the door, before she leapt from her resting place and bolted through it.

She stopped, holding her breath in her throat. Kruhl lay off to one side in a pool of her own blood, three more bodies lay scattered about the room, either dead or unconscious. A figure stood, a familiar gem-topped staff clutched in one hand and Waldere stained with blood, raised over another figure curled up in a fetal position.

She narrowed her eyes, centering them on the figure which she presumed to be Odalrik.

She squared her jaw and balled both fists at her side. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

The figure spun around, and she felt her eyse grow wide. No, not Odalrik, it was Teressa. All at once, the second part of Ashtar’s warning rattled about in her mind. You are being influenced, not all is as it appears. The shadow of the goddess’s words rang through her mind and at last the last puzzle piece fell into place.

So little about their predicament had made sense until now.  The phone line cutting out, the computer burning up and the dark cloaked apparition were all her doing. At last, her true enemy stood before her.

Teressa must have seen something on her face or else decided to end the ruse. She charged toward her would be sister. Amy, however, was ready for it. She threw her hand out and  sent her attacker slamming into the opposite wall.

“Who are you?” Amy moved toward her, both hands clenched, eyes burning with anger. Whatever doubts she had evaporated when her opponent attacked.

Teressa did not answer, instead scowled and eye hder captor like a predator ready to pounce on its prey. Amy was not intimidated, least of all because the other woman was pinned to the wall, but she’d faced down gods and giants. Though her opponent had shown she could be dangerous, she was no Chemosh.

“Who are you?” the agent repeated her question between clenched teeth.

“You know I would have thought an AEGIS agent wouldn’t have been so easy to fool. I barely even had to try, all the effort I put into imprisoning poor Brian, and I could have just—”

Amelia jerked her hand back, motioning at the wall behind her, her face now a mask of rage as Teressa went soaring across the room and slammed into the reverse wall face first.

“You played me.” She launched herself at the other woman, hand gripping the hair on the back of her scalp. Teressa, whose face was red from obvious pain, attempted to kick out at her, but Amy slid aside and sent another wave of force to pin her legs against the wall along with the rest of her body.

A light whimper rang through the air, and Amelia glanced back, eyes searching for the source. It was Kruhl. Good lord, the once-king was still alive, but from the looks of things she wouldn’t be for long. She snaked her tongue over her lips and returned her attention to her captive.

“I will only say this once.” Amy growled. “Tell me who you are and what you’ve done with my brother.”

In answer the faux-Van den Broeke emitted a loud, guffawing, almost manic laugh. “And why should I do that? Go ahead waste your time with me, while poor little Kruhl bleeds to death. It’s the least of what he deserves.”

Amy froze, another puzzle piece falling into place as realization dawned on her. For the other woman, this was personal and knowing what she did of Kruhl’s past that could mean only one thing.

“Leoffa,” the agent uttered the name, knowing at once her suspicions were true. Kruhl had presumed her former lover dead. While getting impaled through the gut was often fatal, especially in less advanced societies, like Kruhl’s, it was not unheard of for someone to recover.

The agent glanced over her shoulder for a second time, heart hammering in her chest. Kruhl didn’t have much time and she couldn’t afford to waste what little she had left on the imposter. She licked her lips, already settled on a course of action.

Leoffa was not going to cooperate.  The agent clenched her eyes closed, placed both hands on either of the woman’s cheeks and reached out to touch her mind.


Amelia jerked away, sharp stabs of pain shooting through her skull as she took air in, in short jagged breaths. She’d sensed Brian, his presence was as discernible as if he were standing opposite her, looking his sister in the eyes. She caught sight of pulsating green lights and a figure resting in a bed. When she reached for his mind, everything went black and she staggered back gasping for air.

“Brian.” She spoke the name and peered up at Leoffa, already preparing herself for attack, but the other looked about as bad as the agent felt. She was hunched over, both hands braced on the wall, her face pallid and the sword and staff had fallen to her feet. Only her eyes revealed the anger which burned within.

Amy ground her teeth, raised her hands and hurled a blast of telekinetic force toward her opponent, but the other woman sank to the ground and grasped hold of the sword. When the blast hit, nothing happened, and Leoffa glared back at her, scooped up the fallen staff and rose to her feet.

“I have no desire to end your life, agent,” the sorceress said planting the staff on the floor, the tip erupting with brilliant violet light. “Nevertheless, I am prepared to defend myself.”

“Yeah,” Amy replied, narrowing her gaze and holding both hands ready. “That’s why you attacked me.”

“Forgive me, I was caught up in the excitement of battle. I believed you a threat, but you are a reasonable enough person. I think perhaps we could come to an arrangement. Even if my life doesn’t matter to you, you might feel differently about Kruhl. Even now her life slips away, allow me to walk and you may yet save her.”

Amy glanced to her side, where Kruhl was resting. She saw the diminutive woman’s chest rise and fall, but she was as pail as a ghost and the pool of blood around her was getting wider. Time was running short. Sapphira had once healed Amelia with her abilities, the agent might be able to do the same for Kruhl, but only if the little woman were still alive.

The agent pressed her lips into a thin line, suspicious by the abrupt turn around but willing to listen. The woman had lied to her from the very beginning and that didn’t generate a lot of trust.

“I know you have no reason to trust me, but if you let me leave with the sword, I will not lift a finger to harm you for twenty-four hours. You have my word.”

A slow nod of her head followed a long release of air. She didn’t like it much, but if the sorceress was on the level, she’d take the risk. “Very well, we’re agreed.” She said, forcing a quiver out of her voice.

Leoffa nodded, gave Amelia a warning glance then turned away taking several ginger steps before peering back at Amy. “Leave this place, and I will allow you safe passage, but should you stay, I will destroy you. You have a day to decide.”

She turned away, moving through the wreckage of the police station before stepping out into the open air and disappearing into the shadows. Amy only hesitated a moment before spinning around, rushing toward Kruhl and lunged to her knees at the other woman’s side. Blood seeped into the fabric of her slacks, but she paid it any mind.

Hands whipped out, hovering over Kruhl’s wounded abdomen, and the agent closed her eyes, stretching her senses. Kruhl’s presence was faint, save for her wound which burned scarlet bright in the agent’s mind. It throbbed, reverberating through Amy’s awareness as if the pain were her own. She pulled her hands away to clutch at her stomach, but stopped herself, instead willing her senses deeper. The flesh was jagged and raw about the edges, like torn fabric. Her insides weren’t any better, the attack had left them shredded to a pulp, and blood and stomach acid were gushing out.

Amy bit her lip as her fingers tingled. She concentrated on the injured flesh, willing it to mend, and, to her surprise, it began to knit together. Her stomach exploded in burning and throbbing with each pulse of healing energy. Her insides burned with searing hot pain which radiated from her body and into Kruhl’s wounds. She doubled over, keeping herself from collapsing atop the injured woman.

Sapphira had once described the healing process to her, how by mending the flesh of another you took their injuries upon yourself, or at least the pain from them. She hadn’t imagined that it would be so intense, but it was the most agonizing experience of her life.

As the last of Kruhl’s tissue knitted together, the edges of her consciousness were tugged toward the darkness. She blinked and shook her head, attempting to shake it away, but she soon found herself laying upon the cold floor. The last thing the agent heard before drifting into unconsciousness was the steady cadence of metal clanking on ceramic tiles.


The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 12 Pt 1


Official Report
Tondzaosha Police Station
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Well, what a nice little reunion this is,” Daisy called, her lips settling into a malicious grin.

Leoffa swirled around, moving away from Kruhl’s bleeding form and came to face the elder sorceress.

Daisy regarded Leoffa. Her enemy wore a different face from the one she was sporting when last they met. She was leaner, taller and bore a distinct resemblance to Van den Broeke. The sorceress understood the significance at once, but she did not speak, instead readying herself for the attack which was sure to come.

When they first came to this world, it had been Daisy who had healed the other from the wounds inflicted by Kruhl. At first, terrified by the strange new realm which they’d come to inhabit, they banded together, an uneasy alliance, but one which benefited them both. As they came to trust one another, Daisy found, much to her surprise, that Leoffa also had a talent for sorcery and so she trained her in the ways of magics.

Back when they awoke on this Earth her apprentice wore the face of a rather handsome youth, but dissatisfied with her male form, she experimented with her powers, altering herself to appear more feminine, eventually ridding herself of any residual masculinity. Daisy shuddered. Such a pity he’d been so interesting to look at. It appeared she’d again altered her form, but this time Daisy suspected it had more to do with manipulating the agent.

Each sorceress had their own talents. Daisy was better able to hop bodies than to alter her form. Though manipulating minds was a breeze, recreating Leoffa’s illusions took far more effort. There was some overlap, but there existed a clear divide between what abilities came naturally and a skill for them to learn and hone. Daisy knew a much broader range of spell works because of her experience, but that was not to say the other sorceress didn’t represent a threat.

Now that Leoffa possessed the magical sword, she’d gained an edge that Daisy would not abide. It was fortunate that she possessed the staff. She wouldn’t have stood a chance against the sword otherwise.

Daisy’s staff acted as a focus, a medium to channel magical energies and better control them. Without it, she could only perform the most basic of magics. She’d destroyed Leoffa’s staff in their last major confrontation all those years ago. The only focus which the other possessed was that of a simple amethyst crystal hung about her neck. It was nowhere near as potent as Daisy’s staff.

Leoffa held Waldere, the great sword’s surface stained with the blood of its former master. Daisy cursed herself. She had taken the weapon, thinking, in her arrogance, that only Kruhl could wield it. In her current form, the barbarian didn’t present much of a danger no matter how much she pounded her chest. Not once had the sorceress considered that Leoffa would successfully manipulate the once-king into handing it over to her. What a fool she’d been.

Now Leoffa wielded the combined might of the sword and her own innate magics. Daisy did not hesitate, raising her staff to hurl a bolt of energy at the sorceress. Lightning quick, the other woman raised her weapon and the blast sizzled into nothingness.

“Odalrik.” Leoffa’s lips curled into a sneer. “I was wondering when you would show your face.”

Daisy winced at the other woman’s use of her old name, but didn’t speak. Leoffa knew her opponent hated it.

Instead, she raised the staff, targeted her opponent’s spell haze, and sent a burst of magic coursing into the air all around them. Green bursts of energy swirled about, sweeping away Leoffa’s illusions before slinking toward her and oozing back into the staff.

The scene that resolved before her was more or less what she expected, but that wasn’t why she’d cleared the mist. Chief Avery, and two other members of the police force, no longer hindered by the haze, came rushing up beside their mistress, weapon’s drawn on the rival sorceress.

“What exactly did you think you’d accomplish, Leoffa?” Daisy scowled her voice taking on a rough edge. “Surrender and tell me where the crystal is and you may yet live.”

Leoffa’s answer, at first, seemed predictable, and Daisy’s disappointment was palatable. Her former apprentice lurched forward, sword drawn, and rushed Daisy. Chief Avery stepped forward, intersecting the younger woman, gun blazing. When the bullet’s hit, they zoomed through the sorceress, her image wobbled and quaivered before shattering into a thousand pieces and dissolving away into nothingness.

Daisy’s eyes grew wide. She jerked sideways and swirled around, at once realizing her mistake. It had been one of Leoffa’s illusions. Waldere’s blade sliced through the empty air in the space her head just vacated and she swung her staff out, striking Leoffa in her side. The other woman grunted and backed away, sword held ready.

Daisy didn’t give her another chance to attack. She hurled out a sizzling bolt of power, and though the blade caught the strike before it could land home, the accompanying gust of wind sent her tumbling back. Avery and her subordinates opened fire again, but Leoffa vanished before the bullets hit.

She reappeared a moment later, blade slicing through the chest of one of Avery’s men, splattering blood all over Daisy and a second man named Briggs before disappearing. Bone was no obstacle to the sword, other weapons might have had difficulty slicing through, but Waldere was a weapon of magic. It could pass through it as easily as butter. Stone, too.

Daisy barely even glanced at the dead man, before she scowled, lifted her staff and hurled a barrage of putrid green fire scouring out in a wide swath.

The attack hit Briggs, and he howled in agony, before he burned up in a tower of flame and disintegrated into ash. Avery’s quick wits spared her. She dove behind the sorceress and stayed out of reach of the inferno.

Daisy sent two full rotations of green fire around the room, before cutting it off. She planted her staff in the ground and casted her eyes about wildly. Leoffa knelt just off to one side, Waldere held blade down before her, clothes and hair were licked by the flames. Even her shoulder was aflame, but she didn’t seem to notice.

Her apprentice lurched to her feet, hand clasped about her throat. Three more Leoffa’s each identical from the last, stepped out from inside her and three more from each of those and another three from each of the newest batch.

There would be no telling which was the true Leoffa and which were illusions, but it mattered little to the sorceress. She sent out more spell fire, this time in a wave. Each of the illusory forms shattered and dissolved away until none remained.

“Dammit!” She cursed, the other sorceress was as slippery as an eel. She swung about, sending out random bursts of fire into the empty room, but it was to no avail. None of her attacks seemed to land home.

“LEOFFA!” She screamed out, slamming the butt of her staff into the ground. “Show yourself.”

To no one’s surprise, Leoffa did not comply and Daisy gritted her teeth, shrieking at the top of her lungs. A rush of energy coalesced within the gem of the staff and she released it into the wall, blasting a hole about a foot wide.

Cold steel touched her neck and Daisy froze, vainly attempting to swallow the lump in her throat.

“Don’t move.” Leoffa was so close she felt droplets of her spit speckle the back of her neck.

Daisy suffered no illusions that, given the chance, Leoffa would end her life, she’d threatened to do so on more than one occasion. Even were she to surrender there would be no bargaining, or deal making, just an execution. Daisy was too dangerous of an enemy to leave alive.

So, rather than surrender, she took the one course she believed that might give her a chance at survival. She lurched forward and rolled to the ground, infusing her staff with magical energies, before spinning back around to face her old pupil, fire already spewing out. She did not bother forming a protective barrier, Waldere would cut through it.

Leoffa’s weapon came arching down toward her, blade reflecting the florescent light of the station. Waldere moved through the air so quickly, that sorceress didn’t even feel it glide through her scalp, down her eye-socket and into her neck. Few swords could have cut through flesh with such ease, but few were imbued with as much power as the great blade.

Daisy’s victory cry became a gurgle as her spell fire hit home, sending the other woman reeling away. Leoffa panted, clutching at the charred flesh on her side, and turned back toward the other sorceress in time to see her lifeless form collapse face-forward. The blade still imbedded in her flesh, Waldere’s pommel hit the tiled floor with a metallic thud.

Chief Avery let out a high-pitched screech and clutched at her head as if she were in excruciating pain. She stood there for several long minutes before collapsing to her knees and wept into her hands.

Leoffa sneered at the pitiful display and retrieved Daisy’s staff. The gem in the center, once a brilliant green, had faded to black, a sure sign her enemy was dead. At last, she would have a staff of her ow. It had been so long.

A slow smile crept across her face as she leaned over to retrieve Waldere, yanking it from the other’s corpse with a violent jerk. Blood splattered her face, but it was not the first time, nor did she believe it would be the last. Daisy was at last dead, and she glanced over in Kruhl’s direction, the once-king soon would be too.

She glanced at Avery, who’d collapsed into a fetal position, and pressed her lips together in a thin line. Sooner or later the woman would either go mad, or she would come to her senses and return to she’d been in before Daisy had enthralled her. She rather liked the thought of the Chief reduced to a blithering madwoman, but if she recovered, she would be a threat.

Better to end her before that happened. She raised Waldere, intent on doing just that, but stopped when a voice spoke from the other side of the room.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Leoffa spun around, blade and staff in hand, to find a figure standing in an open doorway, both fists balled at its side.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 11 Pt 3


Official Report
Tondzaosha Police Station
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Magic implements thrummed and throbbed with barely contained energies. Trapped souls, failed experiments, and creatures borne of dark sorcery, each more gruesome than the last populated Daisy’s laboratory. She regarded each in turn and her lips curled into a soft, innocent smile.

When she first came to this world, she’d lost decades of researched and hundreds of carefully cataloged magical artifacts, most of which had, no doubt, been destroyed after her defeat by Kruhl and Reesha. Her heart still seethed from the loss, but there was no hope of recovering what was gone. So she’d started anew. Most of her experiments were failures, but even when she mis-stepped she learned something helpful.

She moved past Amelia van den Broeke’s inert form sprawled across a stretcher wheeled in by one of her cronies and regarded the sweet-looking young girl in the mirror mounted on the opposite wall. So many had under-estimated her, and with all but a few exceptions they were dead or subverted to serve her. 

She moaned, licking her soft feminine mouth, a shiver of excitement working up and down her spine at the thought of bending one more mind to her will. She bit her lip and gazed at the agent. Such an attractive woman, she thought. Perhaps Van den Broeke would make an able lover. She looked forward to finding out.

She moved to stand above the stretcher, planted her staff in the ground and slid her fingers across Amelia’s stomach. The sorceress shuddered in pleasure as her magic pulsated about the room. 

She knew from her mole within AEGIS that agents underwent training to resist mind control techniques, but breaching the agent’s consciousness had been far easier than she’d expected. The sorceress had been looking forward to the challenge of bending and shaping a consciousness, and though she had yet to initiate the magics which would subvert the other, it was only a matter of time before she shattered the rest of her resistance and her mind would be hers to do with as she pleased.  How very disappointing, she’d been expecting more of a challenge.

She stood, staff alight, her magic coursing through Amelia’s mind. Only a little longer and the agent would be ready. Then she would—

An explosion of shattering glass resounded in the distance and Daisy froze, craning her neck back toward the door. 

Her mouth creased into a frown and then a scowl when two more explosions rang out, each louder than the one before. This could only Leoffa’s doing. She clenched her teeth and rushed out of the room, staff aglow. Amelia’s inert form all but forgotten.

Gunfire rang out all around them, and Kruhl grated her teeth, ducking in front of the Diadem’s bumper for cover. Teressa grunted and dove beside her, panting for breath.

A barrage of weapons fire had foiled their attempt to return to the car. Kruhl didn’t know whether it was blind luck or intuition, but the warriors of the police clan had hemmed them in, somehow navigating through the dense haze which Teressa summoned. Now the pair lay about like sitting geese, vulnerable to attack. Neither of the women carried a weapon, and though Kruhl had once been a formidable warrior, she did not like her chances.

Nevertheless, when the first police clan attacker came into sight, she leapt up and rushed him, hoping to catch the man by surprise. Kruhl dealt the first blow, but it barely seem to faze her opponent. The police warrior swung toward her and slammed the butt of his weapon into the side of her face. His attack sent her flailing and she fell, throwing her arms out to catch herself before her face hit the ground, but not soon enough to prevent her breasts from impacting with a sharp burst of pain.

Though her face and chest throbbed in agony, Kruhl rolled onto her side and scrambled back to her feet, bracing herself for another assault, but it never came. Teressa lurched forward, grappling with the man. Kruhl rushed toward her, thinking to help, but her companion kneed the man in the groin and he crumbled to the ground like a sack of turnips.

Teressa bent over, retrieving something dangling from his belt and held it before Kruhl, jangling a small ring with three narrow flat objects, which Kruhl supposed were keys.

Kruhl arched an eyebrow, “The locker?”

“Only one way to find out,” Teressa replied, arching an eyebrow. 

She bent over retrieving the officer’s gun, before slamming the butt against the side of his head, and rushed away, making a beeline for the back of the evidence locker.

Kruhl regarded her with wide eyes, her face stretching into a grin as she followed suit. Magnificent! Teressa was indeed a warrior at heart. 

The once-king found Teressa, knelt down on the floor, already trying the keys in the lock, but when the other woman cursed in frustration and tossed them over her shoulder, Kruhl’s heart sank.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Teressa gritted her jaw, her eyes burning with rage. “We can’t seriously be this close, and not—”

She stopped, staring down at the fire stick, the flames in her gaze burning even brighter. She licked her lips and raised the weapon. “Maybe… there’s still a way.” 

With no prompting, she took aim and opened fire. A loud bang rang through the air and Kruhl brought her hands up to her ears, too late to muffle the sound. She only took her eyes off the locker for a moment, but when her gaze again fell on it, Teressa was swinging the door open.

Teressa reached inside, drawing Waldere free from the metal enclosure and extended it toward the former king, its polished steel surface gleaming. Kruhl regarded the weapon, eyes wide, hand shaking as she clasped it about the grip. Her grip couldn’t even reach all the way around.

All this time she’d been so eager to retrieve the sword, but had put no thought into what she would do once she had it. Defeat Odalrik, sure, but she didn’t consider how she might accomplish such a task. How might she make use of the sword? It was almost as long as she was tall. It possessed magic, but such power was most effective when used with the weapon’s more mundane aspect, the blade itself. 

Kruhl grunted, pulling the weapon up off the ground. Gods, it was heavy! She held it up for several seconds, her muscles burning, before grunting and setting it back down.

So weak… She scowled. Of all the forms she could have worn, why this one? Even if she were to train and strengthen her body, her frail little frame would never be suitable for combat. She was just too small. Even at her physical peak, anyone she was likely to face would be stronger than her. It was the most sobering realization Kruhl had ever made, and it hit as if it were an actual blow to the gut.

She released her hold, took a step back and peered down at her tiny hands. Her new body, with its wide hips and soft curves, was better suited to bearing children than combat. Kruhl met Teressa’s gaze, and swallowed, a pit forming in her stomach as she realized what she must do. The younger Van den Broeke sister was a better fit to defeat Odalrik, she’d survived for a long time against his repeated attempts to enthrall her and, if the way she’d carried herself against the police warrior was any sign, she would do well on the battlefield. She was tall for a human woman and well built. She may very well possess the strength necessary.

The weapon’s magic only permitted those deemed worthy to wield its power, but if Kruhl relinquished it to Teressa, it would recognize her as its rightful wielder.

“What’s the matter?” Teressa asked, her brows furrowed.

“I-I don’t think I am meant to bear Waldere,” Kruhl peered back at her, tears now streaming down her face. She gritted her teeth, rocking her head back and forth. “Not anymore.”

“You must take the blade,” Kruhl continued grabbing the handle and thrusting the pommel at Teressa. “It’s yours.”

Teressa gazed at Kruhl and blinked. Then a slow, malicious smile stretched over her lips and she erupted into a fit of hysterical laughter. She jerked the weapon out of the once-king’s hands. Kruhl realized at once something was amiss, but it was too late.

“That was much easier than I expected,” Teressa said, her voice seething with malicious glee as she thrust the blade out and through Kruhl’s abdomen.

Blood gurgled from Kruhl’s lips and she fixed her gaze on the other woman, her mouth agape. “Why?”

Teressa clenched her jaw and shoved the blade deeper. “You always were a little dense Kruhl, but I wouldn’t expect you to recognize me, not after all these years and certainly not in this body.”

The other leaned in, her lips brushing against Kruhl’s ear. “It doesn’t feel so good does it? Betrayed by someone you care about. All this time I’ve waited, hoping for a chance at revenge, and then out of the blue there you are again. You stabbed me through the gut and left me for dead. It’s only fitting I return the favor.”

Teressa jerked her arm back, sliding the blade free from Kruhl’s stomach and for the briefest of moments she remained standing, recognition marking her face before her eyes grew wide in terror.

Before she could topple over, Teressa grabbed Kruhl by the collar of her shirt, her face contorted in rage. “Say my name Kruhl.”

“Leoffa,” Kruhl repeated the name and a grim, satisfied smile crept across the other woman’s face. She threw Kruhl away from her and the once-king slammed into the ground, blood spewing from her wound. A shock of pain racked her body as she impacted the floor. Her head rebounded twice before it settled in place. A thousand questions were on the tip of her tongue, but Teressa turned away at the sound of footsteps.

“Well, what a nice little reunion this is,” a light, feminine voice called out.

Kruhl tried to prop herself up to get a better view, but fell back over, clutching at her stomach, attempting to keep her entrails from spewing out.

She could already feel the end coming. Soon Dohan would come, mounted upon her terrible black steed, and carry her away into the afterlife…

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 11 Pt 2


Official Report
321 S Oak St.
Grove City, Idaho

Entry into the home was not much of a problem for Ashley now that she’d adorned herself in the full RPR assembly. She doubted anything she did while wearing the blood-red armor could be considered inconspicuous, but she entered out of sight, just in case.

Until she’d summoned the remainder of the RPR, she’d instructed it to keep a close distance, and most especially to remain outside of town and away from people or roadways. Nabu, the AI that governed the suit was more than happy to comply. The Artificial Intelligence almost seemed sapient, but Malcolm insisted that it was a product of some very sophisticated computer algorithms. Ashley had her doubts, but so long as the suit performed as it should and obeyed her commands, she was willing to look the other way.

She stood just outside the home’s back door, gauntleted hand poised over the knob.

“Miss Harris,” Nabu said, a light, almost undetectable inflection in his voice that hinted at an Iraqi accent. “You may wish to enter through the window.”

“Why is that?” Ashley asked.

“The door’s core is composed of reenforced steel. While the servos in the suit are capable of removing it from its frame, it would be rather loud. It might attract undue attention.”
“What about the energy blades, wouldn’t one of them be able to cut through it?” She asked, hand still inches from the doorknob.
“In theory, yes, but the director never tested them in the field and certainly not on—”

“Yeah, well, now’s as good a time as any.” Ashley rolled her eyes and cut Nabu short. The AI was a bit long-winded, and far too cautious for her tastes.

“Need I remind you, miss, that you could overload the—”

“Better to do it here than in the middle of a fight.” She responded, again stopping the artificial intelligence before he finished. 

“Once again, there is no faulting your reasoning, miss,” Nabu replied. Ashley shook her head and bit back a sharp response. His tone had sounded almost… sarcastic.

Ashley dropped her right arm and pumped her fist three-times. A long, curved section of black metal slid out from the wrist, and burst alight, a thrumming, cackling blade sizzling to life along its length. She wasted no time, raising her arm and slicing down. The blade sheering through it from top to bottom as easily as if it were paper, but burned so bright even the filters on her helmet weren’t enough to keep her eyes from watering.

She pushed the half of the door still affixed to the hinges open and shouldered through, her armor just a little too large to fit through otherwise. She kept the blade extended, fearful that she might come under attack, but as she emerged on the other side, she encountered no obstacles and the only sound was the clank of her own armored feet. Still, she kept her weapon ready.

Her eyes scanned her immediate area. She’d stepped into a quaint little joint kitchen and dining room area. The cupboards were solid flat-white and the countertop was ceramic tile. It looked old, with a few nicks or scratches here or there, but overall appeared well maintained. 

The oven and range looked relatively modern and the microwave most certainly was, but otherwise it seemed consistent with the era in which the home had been built. She stepped through the room, ceramic tiles cracking under the weight of the suit, and moved past the dining table, a simple blocky affair that showed signs of frequent use. Though blocky and not real pretty, to her eye it appeared handcrafted.

She walked into a carpeted hallway, peering left into the front room, eyes studying the loveseat, sofa and television mounted to the wall, and screwed up her nose in frustration. The room was empty. The decor seemed rather spartan, even to Ashley, who’d never really done much decorating beyond throwing up a photo or two. She turned right, stopping about halfway down when she caught her reflection in an old oak-framed mirror. 

She’d seen the RPR armor more than once, but inspecting it from the outside and seeing it looking back at her in the mirror was a very different experience. For a woman, Ashley was about average height, roughly five-foot-five, the armor added a good fourteen or fifteen inches. No one would suspect that the person within was the vivacious young blonde. Most would assume that a man wore the suit.

Malcolm based it on the same technology that powered the Indigo Knight’s suit and shared a few of the same design elements. With the latter’s armor, however, he’d gone with a medieval motif. Hers was more sleek and streamlined and looked like something a villain might wear rather than a hero. While the armor was predominately red, a few bits of black and silver shone between segments.

Four glowing red lights, two about four inches in diameter, and the other pair about two, shone from the chest-piece. Segmented pieces of armor overlapped, to form a bulletproof shell around the wearer.  She flexed her hand in front of the mirror, segmented digits moving with as much ease as if they were her real fingers.

It was the helmet that sold the look. The face was mostly black, blending in with the red tones around the edges. Red light shone out from two dark sockets, and a grill that covered the ‘mouth’ portion of the faceplate pulsated and throbbed with angry scarlet illumination. A second, smaller one that comprised two slits, glowed with the same eerie red color, and took up the center of the face where a nose would be. She shivered and glanced down at the energy blade still pulsating from her arm. The weapon was curved like a scythe.

She peered back at the mirror. The helmet resembled a skull and she held her breath as she repeated the suit’s designation in her mind. Like the Indigo Knight armor there was a clear motif, he’d meant the suit to resemble some robotic red grim reaper, thus the skull-like helmet and scythe-style blade. 

She moved away from the mirror, mind swirling with the revelation. Had Malcolm designed this suit with some evil purpose in mind? She’d had what some would call a checkered past, but a bank-robber who could walk through walls and had a weak spot for damsels in distress was a far cry from the image that sprang to life. No, she shuddered, she would never go down that route. She would only use the suit for good. 

Four doors lined the hallway. The first led to the bathroom, a tiny, little affair, that while clean could do with some repairs, and the second, a home office. She only glanced inside for the barest of seconds before closing the door again. She regarded the final two doors. She thought perhaps, given the size of the home, the one at the end of the hallway was a closet. So she selected the other, cracking it open before swinging it wide.

Putrid green light spilled out into the doorway and as she peered inside, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. An inert form lay sprawled atop a queen bed.  Luminescent green swirls gyrated and pulsated in the air above him.

“What the fuck?” Ashley asked aloud, the voice changer in the helmet producing a deep baritone growl instead of her usual soft soprano.

She stepped forward, and stopped, slamming into the empty air as if she’d smacked into a brick wall. The girl took a step back, heart pounding away inside her chest, and licked her lips. 

“Uh, Nabu. I think we’ve hit a bit of a snag.” She placed her hands on her hips and let out a sigh. Making contact with Brian van den Broeke would be a little more difficult than she’d expected.


The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 11 pt 1


Official Report
Tondzaosha Police Station
Tondzaosha, Idaho

“Amelia, you need to wake up,” a voice spoke out of the nothingness,  reverberating through her skull with such force she gasped and her eyes snapped open.

A bright light shone in her face and she reached an arm up to shield her eyes. She angled her head, sharp stabs of pain pulsating in her temples.

“Amelia,” the voice repeated her name, and she shifted her head, gritting her teeth against the accompanying agony.

Though her eyes were still adjusting, she could see just well enough to make out a familiar set of features. Amy sucked in her breath and studied the teal-framed face of Ashtar.

Amelia groaned and clenched her eyelids shut. “Ugh, I must have taken a hit to the head.”

Ignoring the strange shade, the agent instead shook her head, and blinked, her vision at last snapping into focus. She drew in another deep breath and cursed. She was in what looked like a garden variety police holding cell, save for one detail that produced a shiver down her spine.

A familiar green paint coated the walls, ceiling, floor and even the bars on the cell. The shade was used exclusively by AEGIS. The substance which produced the color had a long, uninteresting chemical name, which she could neither pronounce nor remember, but most of the agency’s personnel just called it GUNQ.

Though it sounded rather harmless, it would block most any form of psychic powers and a fair number of other exemplar abilities. She was able to use her abilities anywhere within the cell, and the room itself, but anything coated with the GUNQ or beyond its boundaries was out of reach. Under any other circumstance escape would have been a cinch, but now it was not at all likely.

She swallowed, bile rising in her throat as she considered the implications of this fresh development. The only way Odalrik might have gotten hold of the GUNQ, was if he’d managed to compromise AEGIS. Its production was strictly regulated and controlled. The substance was manufactured by two separate companies and then combined by AEGIS employees. No one, save for a representative of the agency, would be able to obtain even a small quantity.

A puzzle piece fit into place. Someone enslaved to Odalrik must have been the one to redact her mother’s name in the case files, but why? If it was his intent to bring her here, he must have some reason for it. Was it to enthrall her to him as he’d done to the Tondzaosha Police? No, it made no sense. Her new powers hadn’t even surfaced yet. What need would he have of her?

Perhaps, she shuddered, he sought to make use of her retrocognizance.

“Amy!” Ashtar snapped.

The agent spun her neck back around to face her. She studied the once-goddess in all her glory. Ashtar was stunningly, jaw-droppingly beautiful, in an out-of-this-world unearthly sort of way. Though her form was human, there was a strange, almost imperceptible quality about her that spoke of her genuine nature. She was an alien entity of a sort, Amelia hadn’t quite been able to classify, but there was no doubt she was powerful and it was she who had granted Sapphira and, indirectly, Amelia, their powers. There was just one problem, she’d died months ago combating Chemosh and Garos.

“I am not a hallucination. I am an imprint, a shadow of the person who once was. When the true Ashtar died, she imprinted a piece of herself upon Sapphira and, in turn, when you joined with her and a new seed of power bloomed within you, a duplicate of that imprint passed into your subconsciousness.”

“Listen very carefully, there isn’t much time,” The strange alien specter said a tension in her words, that spoke of urgency.

Amy complied, and felt a tremor work down her spinal column, as the other issued her warning.

When Ashtar finished, a loud clank and a groan of metal on metal sounded from the doorway. Before Amy could even so much as blink, Chief Avery stepped into the room, raised her dart gun and opened fire.

A sharp jab of pain shot up her neck and Amy clasped a hand over the dart. With her other hand she threw out a wave of telekinetic force at the Chief and sent her hurtling back through the door.

Amelia struggled to her feet, but fell back onto her knees just a second later. She clenched her jaw, attempting to fight the effects of the tranquilizer, but soon she fell face-first onto the cold concrete floor. She looked up just in time to see Avery approach before everything again faded to black.

The person once known as Odalrik regarded Agent Van den Broeke’s inert form, a slow smile creeping over her youthful face. She’d come so far and waited so long, but at last that which she desired would soon be within her grasp.

She glanced down at her slight, feminine body, and let out a low throaty chuckle. This was the third form she’d taken since coming to this world. She’d discarded the first, a frail old wisp of a woman, after again learning to tap into the essence of life. The second, that of an unassuming man, had perished in that incident at the old police station, and this one she now possessed… well in the beginning it was that or death.

The girl was but a child,  a few weeks shy of seven years old, when she’d first come to possess her. At first she had loathed it, and thought to steal a new form, but few had seen anything but a little girl when they looked upon her and the sorceress realized that it was advantageous to remain within. When puberty hit, she again thought to abandon the body, but more than anything her innate stubbornness won out and she adapted.

Now, just a year removed from her teen years, she could scarcely imagine life as anything but a woman. If nothing else, the sex was amazing. She shivered at the thought and put it quickly out of mind. Such things were better reserved for her bedchamber.

All this time operating in the shadows and it would all soon be over. She would at last find the crystal so long concealed and gain utter control of this backwater little town.

She had long disdained using the artifact, fearing the risk of invoking its power, but this was not Erda and she did not possess the resources she once had. With it in hand, a much greater conquest would be but a small step. Even Leoffa with all her illusions would be hard-pressed to stop her.

Kruhl’s appearance, while unexpected, was fortuitous. It forced her to accelerate her plans, yes, but she relished in the opportunity it afforded her. Without it, she might never have lured Amelia back to her hometown and without the exemplar woman’s retrocognizance, the sorceress doubted she’d ever locate where Leoffa hid the crystal. Well, short of imprisoning and torturing her for information, but the woman had been as elusive as she was devious.

Her eyes alight with her magic, the sorceress, now known as Daisy Fischer planted her staff into the carpeted floor, green energies swirling within its jeweled top. She placed a hand upon the agent’s forehead, unleashing her magics upon her subconscious mind.

She had wanted the agent for her retrocognizance, but now she had become so much more valuable. When at last her resistance crumbled, the sorceress would bend Amelia to her will, and she would have a weapon at her command, possessing power perhaps even greater than her own.

Soon, she would have her revenge, and her enemies would tremble before her might.

“You’re mad!” Kruhl yelled, clutching her hands around what Teressa had referred to as the “Oh shit handle” above the doorway.

The younger Van den Broeke grinned and winked at the once-king, a manic grin stretching across her face. “You’re the one that wanted the sword, aren’t you?” When the light turned green, she stomped her foot down on the accelerator without waiting to hear the other woman’s objections.

The vehicle lurched forward, speeding down the roadway. It careened off the side of the road, across the walk and through the parking area, before slamming through the glass facade of the Tondzaosha Police Station. Glass shattered all around them, pelting the car hood and windshield.

Kruhl threw her arms up to protect her face, as a particularly large shard hit the glass, but the windshield held and she lowered her arms only to throw them back up as the car slammed into the reception desk and the wall behind it.

The vehicle screeched to a halt as a cloud of white dust and debris exploded before them. As it settled, a pair of officers made a beeline for the car, but Teressa’s eyes narrowed and settled on a steel door along the east wall.

The Diadem jerked forward, tires screeching, and slammed into the doorway with another eruption of dust and a shriek of metal.

Kruhl felt something wet drip down her brow. When she reached out to touch it, she winced against a sharp stab of pain. A small sharp fragment of glass was wedged above her right eyebrow. She brought her hands away, rubbing the blood between her index finger and thumb. She glanced to her left, the window had shattered. When had that happened?

“Kruhl, come on!” Teressa screamed, snatching at Kruhl’s arms with her right hand and clasping hold of her throat with the left.

The once-king slid over the seat, tailing Teressa out the door as that familiar black mist oozed out between the exemplar’s fingers. Weapons fire rang out, but the illusory fog had already risen between them and the police clan could only fire blindly into the haze.

Kruhl’s heart pounded in her chest as they flew threw the debris ridden room. Towards the back they found the sword within its metal cage scattered amidst a wooden bludgeoning weapon and a slew of fire sticks. When Teressa tried to open the enclosure, it wouldn’t budge.

“Shit,” she cursed, rapping her knuckles on the metal. “It’s locked, what the hell are we supposed to do, now?”

At once, both women glanced back at the car and a twinkle showed in each of their eyes. “I have an idea!” They both said in perfect unison.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 10 Pt 2


Official Report
1328 Maryzell Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Kruhl took in air, with short jagged breaths, and eyes clenched shut. Her entire body trembled, awash with a flood of emotions, mixed revulsion and frustration most predominant among them.

She’d become weak. She curled her lips in a sneer and opened her eyelids. One hand enveloping a breast and kneading the flesh. She moaned and bit her lower lip, glancing over her shoulder to ensure Teressa did not wake. It had been the better part of a day since they’d fled their enemies and the pair had barely spoken to one another since.

The once-king wanted nothing more than to battle their enemies, but she possessed neither the means nor the strength necessary. This body was soft.

She peered down at her free hand, flexing it before her face. Kruhl had allowed herself to succumb to the desires of her body, to allow a human to dominate her in bed… yet again.

She rose to her feet, turning her back on the other woman, arms folded across her naked chest. Curse Reesha for sending her to this world!

She clenched her teeth and balled her fists at her side. She had been among the greatest of her people’s warriors and she’d been reduced to this simpering doe-eyed slip of a human girl. If she weren’t so useless she would have taken on the police clan and saved Agent Amelia. She would have made those fools rue the day they’d ever crossed Kruhl!

Instead, she’d fled like a coward, and now she was frittering her time away instead of taking action. Her gaze again darted to Teressa, who had spent the time since their escape brooding, a slow simmering anger bubbling just under the surface. She’d spoken little more than two words to the former king, instead she spent her time whittling away at a hunk of wood with a strange folding knife she’d retrieved from one of the unusual pouches built into her trousers.

Kruhl looked about the little rolling home, which Teressa called a camp trailer, and crinkled her nose. It was dirty and smelled of rotted wood. They’d come to this place after their escape and had been there ever since. She tucked her arms over her breasts, peering through the little window beside the door.

Though she was far from an expert on this world, she recognized farm country when she saw it, even if it was a fair bit dustier than Eirdon’s fields. Beyond that, there was little else to see, branches, from the large copse of trees which surrounded the camper, obscured much of her view, but a large aging red building with wide double doors and white trim could just be made out through the tangle of evergreens.

Her mind wandered a million miles away, grasping for some solution to the mess she’d dug for herself. Were it not for her, Reesha would have never stood a chance of banishing Odalrik to this place. True, it had been the Sorceress who’d invoked the spell, but her old master was far too powerful and wily to be taken alone. Without Kruhl’s aid, she never could’ve gained the upper hand.

Teressa emitted a soft moan and Kruhl craned her neck back to gaze on the woman.The younger Van den Broeke sister jerked to a sitting position, small pert breast jiggling a little from the sudden movement. Her eyes were just as intense as the previous night, and, as she watched, the other’s countenance creased into a frown.

She thought back to their previous night of lovemaking, the intensity, the pure wild rage the other exhibited produced a stab of remembered pain in her loins. Kruhl hadn’t experienced the like since before Leoffa’s passing. His betrothed possessed a turbulent personality and sometimes her volatility translated into the bed chamber. It made for some of the most passionate lovemaking of the former Assar’s life. Though the sensations of her tiny new body differed, the intensity had been on the same scale.

Kruhl padded over to the bed, positioned herself beside the other woman, kissing her on the cheek before pulling away. Teressa regarded her, jaw clenched, rage burning with such intensity Kruhl thought perhaps she’d angered her, but then her lover’s features softened and she pulled the once-king close, wrapping both arms about her waist. Lips brushing her neck.

It unnerved Kruhl, that the other could so easily overpower her, but a part of her liked it. She would never have admitted it aloud, but when they were abed, she found that if she allowed the other to take control that the pleasures could be indescribable. She trembled, preparing herself for another round of sex, but when the other’s hands reached between her legs Kruhl, surprised even herself, and fastened her fingers around the other’s wrists.

“We should talk,” Kruhl said. “I realize this thing with your sister has–”

Teressa pushed Kruhl with such force that she lurched across the bed and almost took a nosedive over the edge before grasping ahold of the adjacent counter. She peered at the other, eyes wide, panting for breath.

“I’m sorry.” Teressa said, voice tense, almost confrontational. She shook her head and her features and voice softening. “I didn’t mean to—”

Kruhl righted herself and swallowed, glancing at her companion. She’d known that the strength disparity between them was significant, but hadn’t realized the full extent until that moment. How weak must she be in this form that the other could throw her about with so little effort?

“Forget about it,” Kruhl said, her voice trembling though she fought hard to keep it even. When she again glanced at her lover, tears were sliding down the other’s cheeks.

Kruhl pulled her close, wrapping her arms about Teressa’s larger frame. “I know this is difficult, but I understand how you feel.”

“Do you?” Teressa replied, her body stiffening in Kruhl’s arms. She pushed the other away, this time with only enough force for her to keep the other at bay. “I don’t even know if Amy’s alive. She’s my sister… and I just drove off and let them take her, God, what kind of person does that?” She gawked at Kruhl, eyes wide, voice devoid of any emotion, as if she were still trying to process what happened.

Kruhl peered back, her expression a near match to Teressa’s. When at last she spoke, she did so in a halting quivering tone. “Do not blame yourself. Respect her sacrifice. Agent Amelia knew what she was doing. She would want us to carry on.”

“Easy for you to say, you’re not the one who abandoned her own sister.”

“No,” Kruhl agreed. “But I impaled the love of my life in the abandoned her to die.”

Teressa looked as if Kruhl had slapped her. She stared at the tiny woman, then emitted a lengthy breath of air. She folded her arms across her chest, fire smoldering in her eyes, turning away from Kruhl eyes studying the wall just to her left. “We don’t stand a chance without Amy. My illusions will not get us very far. My sister was the only one of us with any actual power. Without her we might as well crawl into a hole and die.”

Kruhl did not speak, instead she looked out at the aging barn, a thoughtful expression on her face. Several long moments later, she met the other woman’s gaze, golden globes gleaming. “There may be a chance, but we need Waldere.”

“You talk about that sword as if it will solve all our problems. Just what can that thing do?”

Teressa swallowed and met the once-king’s gaze. There was an odd gleam in Kruhl’s eyes as she spoke.

Ashley stopped, staring down at the RPR module, before glancing back up to studying her surroundings. The guidance system had led her to an older area of town, populated by houses identified by the suit’s AI system as Cape Cod style cottages. Basically they were cute, neatly decorated, World War II era homes, all painted in pastel colors and off-whites.

To her though, they were just houses, albeit small old ones, and the only interest she had was in one home in particular or, more specifically, its occupant. She might now identify as the girl whose body she’d come to possess, but her mindset was still of a masculine sort. The minor details only mattered if they contributed to the greater whole. Pretty flowers and pastel colors weren’t relevant information and thus she only regarded them as a row of houses.

She stopped in front of a home, peering down at the module, eying the small red rectangular device to ensure she was in the right place. Satisfied, she nodded and slipped it back into her jeans pocket. The girl took a moment to study the building, frowning as she regarded the mailbox, which was so overstuffed, the front hung ajar. That was not encouraging.

Ashley had traveled all the way to Grove City, hoping to find the owner of this home, and now it seemed like he’d been away for days if not weeks. She cursed between clenched teeth and jerked the RPR module back out of her pocket. She’d wasted valuable time on this lead and it had been for nothing. Maybe it wa—

The young woman stopped. An alert had popped up on the RPR’s display, noting that there was a lot of ambient astral energy. She peered up at the house again, lips pressed together in a thin line, studying the readings. The signature was close enough to the one emanating from staff girl she doubted it was unrelated. Perhaps her trip hadn’t been a dead end after all.

She switched to thermal view and held the unit up. The southwest corner of the home, viewed through the display, was lit up like a Christmas tree.

“Goddammit,” she cursed.

Ashley did not understand what it meant, but she didn’t believe it could mean anything good. She jabbed the screen, toggling the thermal view off and paused only a moment, before activating the ASM Algorithm. She’d had enough with this incognito bullshit. A fresh approach was needed.

As she waited, Ashley frowned and peered out across the horizon. A black speck appeared, growing larger by the moment. A grin spread across her soft features. It was time to bust some heads.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 10 Pt 1


Official Report
1328 Maryzell Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

“Shit, shit, shit,” Teressa cursed her face contorted in a mask of rage. “How could I have been so stupid?”

She growled under her breath, slid the car keys into the ignition and the car’s engine roared to life. Anger flashed in her eyes as they fell on Kruhl. The once-king shrank away, taken aback, but then she gazed forward, clasping one hand around her neck, the second on the steering wheel.

“Hang on,” she said between gritted teeth, inky mist rising out between her fingers. “This will be one bumpy ride.”

She pulled on the lever between the seats and the car careened, a high-pitched screech emanating from the wheels. It slammed through the garage door with a wail of protest and wood and metal exploded, fragments slamming into the windshield with several dull thwacks and Kruhl threw her arms up to shield her face.

The vehicle lurched into daylight, swerved sideways, and just avoided slamming into a vehicle Teressa told her, after their first meeting, was called a police car. She clutched at the handle on the door, gaze fixed on Teressa.

“Oh hell,” Teressa cursed again her eyes staring out the windshield growing wider by the second. She raised both hands, palms out and fingers up, misty ink fading into the daylight. Kruhl followed the other’s gaze. A tall man bearing one of the fire-sticks was standing before the car, weapon trained on the other woman.

Kruhl was not the type to surrender, if she could help it, but even a proud warrior such as her recognized a helpless situation when she saw one. She scowled, then mimed the other woman’s pose. She narrowed her eyes, watching as the man approached picturing herself snapping his neck, but remained motionless. The police clan had won for now.

Putrid emerald energy crackled against the azure dome that Amy had summoned. The agent gritted her teeth, panting against the effort of holding her shield. She’d had no opportunity to practice using her new powers, but they seemed to respond when she needed them, even if she didn’t quite understand how. It was a marked contrast to Sapphira’s struggle to control the same powerset, but one which she could live with… if she stayed conscious.

Amelia’s shield rippled and the sickly green illumination brightened, spreading out and sizzling with such intensity, Amy’s eyes ached. She averted her gaze, tears cascading down her cheek, and held on. Perhaps Sapphira who was more experienced might know how to retaliate with the shield still up, but it was taking all of her concentration just to hold it against the mysterious attacker.

Her strength ebbed and she fell to her knees, her shield wobbling and contorting. She moaned, clenching her eyes shut and focus all her will on holding the barrier. She only needed a little more time…

As if on queue, an explosive crash of shattering wood and shrieking metal sounded from nearby. That would be Teressa and Kruhl, she thought, a smile touching the corner of her lips.

The pressure on her shield vanished and instead of taking the time to gawk like her assailant and most of the police force, the agent straightened. She rounded on her attacker and sent her shield flying out. It burst into the cloaked figure with enough force to send it tumbling to the pavement and rounded on the nearest of their attackers. She threw a hand out a wave of telekinetic force, rippling out, and three officers soared away, landing in a tangled heap.

She took the briefest of seconds, soaking in every detail she could. Kruhl and Teressa had crashed through the house’s garage door in the Yomato Diadem the former had stolen during their escape from the mental hospital, but the vehicle had only just cleared the exit. A ring of police cars blocked their path out.

All eyes turned toward her and she grated her teeth, already erecting a wall of shimmering azure energy as a new barrage of bullets came hurtling across the lawn toward her.

Time was not on her side. Already her body had begun to weaken and her vision began to fade. She fought it, teeth gritted.

Not now.

She redirected her efforts, diving behind a flowerbed with a raised stone wall and dropped the shield. She may not be able to save herself, but she’d be damned if she was going to let them get ahold of Kruhl and Teressa. Instead of attacking, she reached out and pushed the first squad car blocking the Diadem’s path. The vehicle lurched back, bursting through a small white picket fence that separated the driveway from the neighbor’s property.

Her vision dimmed and she clenched her jaw, fighting back the darkness, gunfire spattering into the stones all around her. She hurtled the second squad car away, moving on to the third and final one. It lurched into the street and Amy found herself on her knees.

The agent gasped, willing a shield to form around her, but it quivered and dissolved into the air with a soft sizzle. She felt a sharp prick on her neck, and snapped a hand up, finger clasping a short metallic tube with a fuzzy tip. She pulled it free, holding the tranquilizer dart in front of her face before peering back at her assailant. Chief Avery stood in the distance, tranquilizer gun clasped in her hands, scowling.

The agent fell the rest of the way to the ground, face-planting into the soil, fingers clawing at the ground in a futile escape attempt. She peered up, eyes focused on a cloud of inky haze that had oozed its way over the yard, the last thing she heard as her awareness faded into unconsciousness was the sound of screeching tires.

The girl stood back, pulling several strands of blonde hair away from her soft delicate features, her eyes wide as a pair of officers lifted the inert form of a tall dark-haired woman into the back of a squad car. She turned away, sinking her teeth into her lower lip.

“Amy,” she whispered the name, as a cold quiver shot down her back.

The agent was bound… and odder gagged. How and why had Amelia run afoul of the police? She was working with them. They were the ones who’d requested help from AEGIS. The mission files were very clear on that point. Why then had they detained her? It made no sense.

It all had something to do with the woman in black, the girl glanced at her, another shiver running down her spine. When the girl first laid eyes on her, she’d done a double take. The woman looked like she’d walked out of the set of some sword and sorcery movie. She wore a long cloak and its cowl was pulled back to reveal a youthful face framed by a shock of lengthy black hair. An emerald-topped staff was clenched in her arms, and, if the energy readings from the RPR module were any sign, she was packing a lot of astral energy. The girl didn’t quite understand what that meant, but she knew enough to be wary.

Though the cloaked woman seemed out of place amidst all the officers, she moved through the throng with an air of authority. She stopped a few yards from the car where they’d imprisoned Amelia and planted her staff in the ground. An older middle-aged woman in a police uniform rushed up to her and curtsied, like some peasant maiden supplicating themselves to their liege lord.

The girl frowned. Things were getting stranger by the moment.

She considered making a rescue attempt, but shut down such a fleeting ludicrous notion with a firm set of her jaw and a violent shake of her head. Even with the full RPR, she didn’t like her chances. Whatever power the robed woman had at her command, she was not one with whom the girl wanted to cross on her own. Making her first test run with the new gear, while tempting, would be stupid beyond belief.

Amelia was being help captive, but at least she was still alive. With the agent in police custody, finding her would be an easy enough effort. It would be a better course of action to bide her time, gather information, perhaps find a few allies and form a plan.

She stroked her chin, studying the home around which the police cars were clustered. She regarded the fragments of the garage door and pursed her lips. The hole was more or less car-sized. Given that, and the tire marks on the lawn, she guessed someone had left in quite the hurry. A potential ally, perhaps? If so, why had they left Amelia behind?

Bullet holes peppered portions of a white picket fence dividing the home from the neighboring house and portions of the exterior wall of the first. She didn’t know much about firearms, but the RPR had identified the weapons carried by the police as AR-90 Automatic Rifles. Military hardware of the sort far too sophisticated for any street cop, least of all for a backwater town like Tondzaosha. It was… concerning.

She dropped her hand and considered her options. Whoever had fled the scene probably had the answers she needed, but she didn’t have the foggiest idea how to track them down. She needed help, and with the information Director Malcolm had provided, she thought she might know where to find it.

With slow, careful movements, Ashley Harris turned away from the crime scene, and slipped the RPR module from her pocket, calling up the information she needed. With quick, yet furtive steps she moved away, heart hammering in her chest. God, this would be a pain in the ass, but it was the least she could do for Amy.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 9 Pt 3


Official Report
1328 Maryzell Ln
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Kruhl lay on her side, bedsheets draped over her bare form, hand clasped over her privates. After they finished their lovemaking, a sense of contentment flooded over her and she lay awash in the sensation.

Back home, she’d taken the virginity of many females, but experiencing it from the other end was something different altogether. Sex as a male was more of a throbbing, pulsating pleasure centered in one place. As a woman those elements were there, but a simple touch in the right place would send ripples of tingling ecstasy rippling through her body. She never imagined it would be so… all encompassing.

Her lady parts were aflame, throbbing with a dull ache, but also an emptiness. She was incomplete after the experience, as if she would never be whole until she again allowed Teressa to penetrate her. She trembled, an icy shiver racking her body.

Her hand slipped free of her privates and she held it in front of her eye, rubbing the blood between the flats of her fingers. Though their lovemaking had painful, it was not at all unpleasant. Teressa had deflowered her, or, as the other girl put it, she’d popped her cherry. It was a euphanism, she’d understood without explanation. 

Kruhl found herself thinking of the other woman’s unique anatomy. She’d long heard tales of individuals who were both male and female, possessing the form of a woman, but the private parts of a man. At the time, such stories seemed far-fetched and the once-king discounted them. Now, it seemed, her thinking might need some revision. She possessed no understanding of hormones and had never heard the term transgender. Other than the whisperings of fellow Assar, Kruhl possessed no frame of reference for such an anomaly.

She rolled over, regarding Teressa between cracked eyelids. The other woman bore a sleepy smile and her eyes had drooped closed. Kruhl leaned forward, pecking her on the lips and a broad smile stretched across her mouth as she studied Teressa.

She was slender and tall and bore small pert breasts and shoulders that seemed just a little too wide for her frame, but that wasn’t so unusual even for human females. Kruhl detected no outward signs that Teressa possessed so unusual of a form. 

“What?” Teressa asked with a loud yawn, a smile of her own cracking her lips.

Kruhl eyed her a moment longer before speaking. “How?”

Though the question was simple, it carried a depth of meaning that the younger Van Den Broeke understood at once. Teressa cupped her face and closed her eyelids. 

“I’m transgender,” she said, hands sliding away. Kruhl blinked, but did not respond and Teressa released a lengthy breath, pressing her lips together.

“I used to be a boy, but I always felt like I should have been a girl. About three years ago, I stopped living in denial and admitted the truth to myself. A while after that, I began my transition. Er…  that is to say, I started living as a girl full time and began taking a medicine of a sort that helped me develop a more feminine figure.” 

Teressa’s explanation was simplistic, and didn’t convey as much meaning as she would have preferred, but it was a subject the former Assar knew nothing about. Terms like ‘assigned male’ were likely a little beyond the other’s grasp. It seemed easier, for the time being, to keep it simple. 

Kruhl nodded, her mind reeling at the implications of what the other said. If such a medicine existed to make men more feminine, might there not be one to produce the opposite effect for women? Before she had a chance to inquire further, the door burst open and the other Van den Broeke hurtled into the room, a wild, wide-eyed expression marking her features.

Amelia’s eyes took in the lovers, and she quickly averted her gaze. 

“We, uh, need to get out of here. I think we may be in danger.” She licked her lips, a slight, almost undetectable tremor in her voice revealing her discomfort.

“What, why?” Teressa asked, sitting bolt upright, careful to keep the blanket pressed over her naked breasts.

“This may sound a bit paranoid, but I haven’t been able to contact AEGIS since we came here. At first I thought there was something wrong with the phone line, but a laptop just burnt up on me. I can’t shake the feeling that someone or something is trying to prevent me from getting help.”

No one spoke for several long minutes, and then almost as if on cue, the sound of car tires screeching and a long succession of car doors slamming shut broke the silence.

Any pretense of modesty flew out the window as Teressa flung the bedding off her unclothed form and collected her stray bits of discarded clothing scattered about. 

Kruhl looked around, eyes gleaming with confusion. She did not understand what the sounds signified, but she was no fool and picked up on the sense of urgency from the other women. She sprang from the bed on all-fours and scurried around in search of her own clothing.

Under ordinary circumstances, Amelia would have retreated from the scene, but when faced with danger, things like modesty were a luxury with which she could not afford to adhere.

Amelia reached for her gun, but remembered that she’d used up all her ammunition and dropped her hand. She moved along the outside of the room, avoiding making eye contact with either woman, and pulled the corner of the drapes open, careful to do so with slow, smooth movements so those without would be less likely to catch sight of her.

Police cars ringed the house, and dozens of officers knelt behind their vehicles, weapons in hand.

She sucked air in through her teeth, cursed under her breath, and slipped the drapes closed before returning her attention to the other two women who were in various states of dress.

As an investigator, she did not believe in coincidence. It seemed unlikely that the police’s arrival was unrelated to her latest attempt at contacting AEGIS. If their enemy disconnected the phones and destroyed the laptop, why wait to attack? They could have struck at any time. 

She was unable to shake the feeling of wrongness encompassing this entire situation and try as she might, there didn’t seem to be a reasonable explanation for any of it. Something more was happening than met the eye and it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. What was she missing?

She balled both fists. The agent would not stand by and let their enemies control the situation. Something needed to be done. She turned to face her younger sibling, mind already made up. “Once you finished getting dressed, get to the car, I’ll keep them occupied. 

She slipped out through the door before either woman could issue an objection. Teressa and Kruhl met each other’s gazes, then rushed to the doorway at the same moment, but the elder Van den Broeke had already disappeared down the hallway. The creak of the front door sounded in the distance, dispelling whatever thoughts they had of chasing after Amelia. 

Teressa turned her wide-eyes on Kruhl and gulped. They were running out of time.

Amy stood, hands clenched at her side, staring down at the sea of squad cars, police officers, and the automatic weapons which they bore. Though a shiver of fear worked its way down her spine, anger soon supplanted it. She grated her teeth and fought back the fire burning deep inside of her. 

Carter Rathdrum, a father, a husband, and, above all, a good man had died by their hands. Worse, even if Amelia survived this mess, it was unlikely she would be able to tell his family how he’d died. She would not let his selfless act be for nothing.

These were police officers, men and womaen who had taken oaths to uphold the law and defend the innocent. They had already gunned down the mental hospital and the roadside along their escape path. She doubted they’d have any reservations about shooting up the neighborhood.

How many more people had they harmed with their blatant disregard of the laws they’d sworn to uphold? 

The revelation that they may be under the influence of Odalrik, did little to temper her rage. How could they have let it get so bad? None drew Amy’s more ire than their leader. The Avery she had known was a person of integrity with a rigid, unbending sense of duty and responsibility. What had changed? How had Odalrik compromised her? 

Gunfire rang out. Amelia threw her arm up to shield her face, but it was just a reflex. She was ready for what followed. Bullets whizzed through the air, and stopped motionless, suspended as if on wires. Amy gritted her teeth, waving her arm, sending the projectiles slamming into the ground with a series of soft thuds.

“Gwyneth Avery!” She called out the Chief’s name at the top of her lungs, but if the other woman was present, she did not show herself.

Instead, a tall figure in a flowing black robe stepped forward to meet her challenge. Its cowl concealed its face, but Amelia just made out the tip of a thin delicate chin. It walked hunched over in a lurching gait, pulling a long wooden staff, its tip grating across the pavement. Atop it was affixed an emerald gem that pulsated with fetid green light. 

The figure stood upright, planting its staff into the soil and turned its shrouded head upon Amy. She strained her eyes, hoping to glimpse the face that lurked beneath the cloth, but she could see nothing of its features save for a glint of noxious illumination glimmering in its eyes. The stranger tilted the staff forward, and a beam of putrid green light shot out, straight toward the agent. She had only seconds to prepare herself before the attack landing home.

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