The street was dark as she briefly exposed herself to view. The Indian had dropped her off a few blocks from the target’s house, and she stealthily moved through various yards; each time she had to cross a path she made a complete job of looking all about, making sure she was not seen. It was slow going, but before long she was standing in the Marshall’s back yard. She pressed herself against the side of the house, inching to the front. Taking a deep breath she then darted out of cover, and in seconds was silently scampering up the tree. There she waited. She inserted the tiny speaker in her left ear and scanned up the road. It really was a good place to set up. The road dead ended a few meters behind her, so there was no way Alan Marshall could hope to sneak up to her. Her muscles tensed as she spotted headlights turning onto the street, but the Indian transmitted into her ear that this was not her target’s arrival. Her hands were sticky, and she wiped them free of tree sap against her black robes.
She waited a long time. Most of the lights in the houses were already out for the night as she ate a simple meal of sticky rice wrapped in seaweed. From time to time a car came down the lane, but each time her earpiece crackled with the information that the vehicle in question was not her target’s car. She wore no timepiece but knew the hour was very late. Many a time as she waited she considered meditating, but rejected the idea, wanting to remain fully alert.
Two pinpricks of light appeared in the distance, enlarging as the car approached. This time it was him. She rolled her head, loosening her muscles. The car pulled up to the house, not coming up the drive, but taking the spot by the curb. This came as no surprise to her. Hours before she had watched as Marshall’s parents returned home, the vehicle, piloted by the father slipping in next to another one in the two car garage. Her body tensed as she prepared to spring from her hiding spot. She heard the engine shut down. There was a brief pause before she saw the interior lights of Marshall’s car come on and the driver-side door swing open. The wind was picking up as she dropped to the grass below her.
Alan got out of the car and shut the door. The whole day he had been bothered, a feeling in the back of his mind that something wasn’t quite right. It had receded by late afternoon, after he had left to pick up Kate at the train station, and by halfway through their sushi-and-a-movie night out it had disappeared almost completely. Now, however, it was returning, and with a bit of a vengeance. After dropping Kate off at her house and steering his dad’s station car the few blocks home, the dull throbbing reappeared, something like a faint headache. He had looked around after cutting the engine, but had seen nothing, and reassured by the presence of the security men in the van halfway up the block, he had gotten out.
Karick had been pissed off for the last three hours. His hands gripped the wheel tightly as he drove, too tightly for comfort. He had just picked up Jack at the International Terminal at JFK, and had been relieved that the old man—well, not so old man now that he inhabited the body of Theodore Dickinson—had ordered him to take him up to see Alan at once. The problem was that Alan wasn’t answering his cell phone. Karick didn’t know how long Alan had been off the air, but he knew that he’d been trying to get a hold of him for the last three hours, and had as yet been unsuccessful.
Jack was in the back seat, reading over some papers as Karick sped up the Bronx River Parkway, doing at least twenty over the limit. His new assistant, Peter Gant, a former U.S. Army Ranger, was trying to calm him.
“Slow down, slow down,” he counseled, “You’re just going to get pulled over, and that’ll just set us back.”
“Young man,” Jack piped in from the backseat, “We are in dire circumstances. There is no risk of our being pulled over. Leave the local constabulary to me.”
Peter did not understand, but decided not to question how their passenger would prevent the smokies from stopping them. Karick put his foot down, and the car rocketed farther ahead.
Patrice and Eric, the two watchers on duty a few doors down from Alan’s house set their cards down as they saw his car come down the street. Their shifts were soon to end, and they were looking forward to the rest of the night off. Eric turned in his swivel captain’s-style chair and checked the monitor. The tiny transponder implanted behind Alan’s knee responded to the signal and chirped an answer to the machine’s interrogator. A small blip appeared on the screen and he keyed the two-way radio feature on his cell phone, paging Karick.
“Nest to Sentinel, Alan pulling up now. Are you still unable to raise him?”
The frantic quality to Karick’s voice was evident through the ether. “He’s there?”
Karick picked up speed. Jack then suggested that the two guard grab Alan and get him away from the house. Karick relayed the message. Patrice grumbled at these new instructions, ones contrary to the protocols he had been briefed with when he started this job. As Alan got out of the car they did the same.
She was about fifteen meters from him, advancing steadily. He had only taken a few steps towards his house when the quiet of the street was broken by voices coming from up the block.
“Alan! Mr. Marshall, sir!” two men cried out as they made their way towards the driveway. She watched her target pause, turning to face the calls. She sprung, her sword held high in a two-handed grip.
Just as he was completely turned around Alan noticed something out of the corner of his eye, a tiny flash of reflected light off a long thin metal object. “A sword. Headed at me,” his brain instantly processed. He took a step backwards, the sole of his right foot coming down on an acorn, one still green from the recent rain, one scattered by the recent gust of wind. He fell on his ass, hard, but luckily as he saw the sword miss him, whistling through the air where he was, seconds before, standing upright.
A figure, clad in all black, its face obscured by a mask, twisted around, bring the sword towards him. Not thinking he reacted, using his powers to defend himself. With a clatter, the long weapon went flying down the road, more then twenty feet. He expect the bearer to be startled, allowing him a second or two to regroup, but the ninja-like figure paid this development almost no heed, kicking him while he was attempting to lift himself up, the crepe sole of her shoe smacking against his face, the back of his head striking the pavement with force.
“Hey! You there! Freeze!” Alan heard one of his guards yell. His vision, though blurry from the blow to the head, could still make them out, advancing toward him rapidly, their sidearms drawn, pointed at his assailant.
Her attention distracted momentarily, Alan hoisted himself to his feet and began to inch away from the scene as quietly as he could, his steps wobbly. The ninja person had turned his back on him, dealing now with the others. She waved her arm out, and to Alan’s shock his two rescuers crumpled to the ground in midstride. Alan had managed to put about a dozen feet between him and the attacker before the ninja turned back.
“Keep away,” he mumbled as loudly as he could through his swollen mouth. A warm trickle of blood was flowing from a small gash on the back of his skull, down his neck and under his collar, and he was slightly groggy. She sprung at him again, and it was all his effort to repel her with his mind. She was practically flying at him, her right foot tracing an arc through the night air headed right for his chin when he pushed against her with his mind. She missed him and curled into a ball as she landed, rolling over and bouncing up into a battle position in a single smooth motion. Her eyes darted over the landscape, searching out for her blade. She spotted it almost at once, lying on the hard pavement almost at the mouth of the next house’s driveway. Clapping her hands together dramatically she concentrated on it and it lifted off the surface of the road, soaring to her hand. Alan saw it too, and he diverted it with his TK. It flipped over, the point of it now flying towa rds Michiko, and she dove out of its path so as not to be impaled.
Alan kept with it, causing the shaft of the blade to be impaled in the oak in his front yard, halfway to the hilt. The ninja, who by this time Alan had deduced was a woman, jumped up again, but he was quick enough on his feet to dodge this time.
“You’ve made a mistake coming here,” he said with more confidence than he actually felt; blood was dripping from his mouth, and he spat to avoid swallowing some of it. He watched her wheel around, and midway through her move he reached out with his power to seize her mind. To his consternation he couldn’t get a grip on her consciousness. Furiously he concentrated, but it was futile, like trying to hug a greased sow.
His mind probe momentarily startled her as she was in mid-kick, but she brushed it off easily; it did, however affect her aim, and her blow to him was only glancing, connecting with his side. Twisting her body around she struck at him with an open hand, connecting with a chop to his gut, and he doubled over in pain, the wind knocked out of him. Seeing this she scampered over to the tree and began to wrestle with the handle of her sword, trying to pry it from the trunk. She could hear him gasping a few meters behind her as she freed the weapon. Turning to him again she raised the sword high and advanced. Just as she was about to strike the deadly blow something went wrong.
She was flying backwards, and with a crash she collided with the oak tree, a massive blow, her whole body aching at the impact. “The little bastard,” she thought bitterly, picking herself up off the grass, one hand brushing dirt and debris from the front of her robes while the other hand seized the handle of the sword. “Two can play at this game.”
He was running down the road, trying to get away. A quick thought and he was down, having tripped over an invisible obstacle she had created in his path. By the time she had caught up with him he was on his feet again, making to run. A flash of steel and he was bleeding from a cut, though not as deep as she would have hoped, a gash running from his right shoulder to his left hip. His shirt was in tatters, and soaked red.
Alan lashed out with his TK and she went flying again, landing with a thud about thirty feet away, but to his chagrin she was on her feet within a second or two, charging again. Behind him he could hear a car approaching, its headlights casting long shadows on the roadway. She was almost at him once more, and with his strength abandoning him he repelled another attack, knowing within himself that he had not the vigor to do so again. His vision was blurry, both from the pain he felt and the copious amount of sweat dripping off his forehead and stinging his eyes, as he watched her approach again. With a vague sense of distraction, like he was a character in a martial arts movie, and not a soon to be victim, he watched the steel blade as it swooped towards his neck. He was going to die. He was going to die in the next three seconds.
She heard the squeal of the brakes, but paid it no heed. The moment of victory was at hand, and she would not be distracted from her mission. Two hands gripped on the handle of the sword, one quick slash and it would be over. She was already thinking about the follow through of her slashing action when the sword once again skipped from her hands, clattering to the pavement. Three men were approaching her, two with handguns pointed right at them. “Well,” she thought, “This wont be anything but another slight annoyance, like the first two.” Once again she waved her arm in the prescribed motion and said the proper incantation, but to her horror, nothing happened.
She was struck by a blow of immense proportion, not a physical blow, but a battering ram of pure mental energy, flooring her. This new player, the man in the middle of the pack of three walking towards her position, was playing the game on a higher order of magnitude, she feared. Slowly she rose from the ground to confront this new threat, but no sooner had she righted herself, spitting blood, than another wave of psychic power overwhelmed her.
Alan was sitting, propped against the Anderson’s mailbox, blinking rapidly. Jack and the two others ran up to him. “I’m alive,” he croaked, straining with effort to get the words out.
“Yes, my friend, but only just,” Jack said quietly, crouching beside him. A few lights went on in the houses on the street, but with a quick global command from Jack they were swiftly extinguished, the residents returning to their beds. Alan could see his attacker, laying flat on her back in the center of the road, unmoving. Karick and the other man were tending to the two guards, trying to rouse them while Jack tended to his wounds. He could feel Jack’s hands on the back of his head, and it felt as though he was being tickled as the skin on his scalp was knitted back together. A similar process took care of the bloody wound to his torso, and he attempted to stand up but Jack held him still, telling him not to move.
The former Dr. Massimo left his side and went to help with Patrice and Eric, all the time keeping a sharp eye on the attacker lying in the road. The two security men had been stunned into unconsciousness, and it wasn’t long before they were finding their feet, slowly making their way back to the surveillance van, Peter and Karick fast on their heels carrying the ninja’s limp body between them. Jack returned to the mailbox and sat beside Alan, his eyes closed.
“You’re still a trifle shocky, Alan,” he said very quietly, taking one of Alan’s hands in his own.
Alan felt soft pulses of energy pass through their manual connection, and was soon feeling a whole lot better. Karick went over to the van and instructed them to wait, then returned to Alan and Jack, standing guard, his gun at his side.
By his wristwatch Jack spent almost ten minutes pulsing Seed energy into him as they sat quietly on the semi-deserted street, Karick pacing around them. At long last he felt his two companions grab him from his underarms and lift him up. Karick went and moved the car, parking it around the corner and out of sight as Jack led Alan back to his house and up to his room. Tadeusz joined them shortly thereafter.
“That was some scary shit,” Alan commented after quickly downing a glass of water Jack had fetched.
“You’re telling me!” Karick laughed, though his face was all business.
“Who is she, Alan?” Jack asked, his features circumspect.
“No clue. She was powerful. I couldn’t penetrate her mental defenses. She came this close to killing me. It’s a good thing you got here when you did.”
“Yes,” Jack replied dryly, “But it would have been a better thing if you would have answered you cell phone.”
“Fuck! I turned it off when I went into the movie theater, and forgot to turn it back on when we left.”
“Well, that’s water under the bridge now,” Karick said, “But I do hope you’ll be more attentive in the future.”
“Well, I’d love to stay and chat all night, but there are matters pressing, none more so than the young woman now out cold in the van. Rest up, my young friend,” Jack said as a farewell, patting Alan’s head paternally. He was asleep in minutes.
Jack stopped Karick as they were halfway down the driveway back to the car. “I think it is time to pick up the Indian. He is near, but headed back to Manhattan, to the hotel. We will collect him there. You and I will ride back in the van with the girl. Leave Peter and the Buick here to guard Alan.” Karick nodded and jogged ahead to issue instructions to his team.
He didn’t see all of it, but he did catch the end of it, and that was enough. After signaling the woman he had put his car in gear and made his way to the end of Marshall’s block, parking just around the corner. With great care he inched his way on foot through the first yard to see the battle, and to be ready when the mission had been carried out. The appearance of the newcomers was a sorry happening, but there was nothing for him to do but flee. It was his luck that he was an unknown element as yet, he believed.
“OK, boss, where to?” Karick asked as they pulled away from Alan’s street. He was driving with wet shoes, something he had never really liked, but was tonight a consequence of having to hose the blood off of the pavement in front of the Marshall house.
“Federal Plaza, in Manhattan,” Jack instructed, and Karick accelerated through the dim streets towards the highway onramp.
“This time of night?”
“The guardians of democracy never sleep, my friend, though I myself could use some. I’m a little jetlagged.”
It was child’s play for Jack and Karick to gain admission to the building. Within minutes the INS and the FBI were in possession of the photo of Patel snapped just a few days before as he left London for Heathrow and the USA. The agents didn’t know why they were to detain the Indian, but the knew that Mr. Lazarus was to be informed immediately when it happened.
The assassin was lodged in the secure office in Wilkins’s suite, and at long last Jack was able to rest.
Two days later Mr. Patel was removed from a Dulles to Heathrow afternoon non-stop, and within hours the FBI had turned him over to Jack.
“I don’t remember if I said this the other night, but thank you for saving my life. And thank Karick and the other guy, too.
“What I don’t understand is the why of it,” Alan was saying as he took a bite out of his steak. Jack paused as he brought his wineglass to his lips. They were in a semi-secluded booth at a midtown steakhouse a few days after Patel had been caught.
“My stepbrother is smart, but sometimes that is not enough. One can be too persistent for one’s own good, a lesson he is dire need of relearning. I think a small part of him understands that this obsession of his, his thirst for power, is going to one day spell his doom, but his arrogance clouds his judgment to such a degree that he denies the folly of his course.”
“What has the woman been saying?”
“Nothing, not a word, at least with her mouth. Her mind, on the other hand, is quite a revelation.”
“So you’ve been successful in penetrating through her defense? I tried that night, but I couldn’t get a hold around it. It was...”
“Slippery, yes, I’ve run into that problem myself,” Jack chuckled.
“So how do you get around it?”
“Well, first thing, when you and her were doing battle she was honed for combat. Over the last few days I’ve been keeping her unconscious most of the time, and taking my time working around her ingrained defenses. I haven’t learned much from her, but Patel has been most illuminating. Just the fact that she can repel our advances as she is able is the illuminating thing.” Jack proceeded to tell Alan what her had learned by interrogating the Indian.
“But, but, but,” Alan sputtered, “That wouldn’t have worked! He really wanted to kill me and take my ring? Cut my hands off? Why would he think that my power derived from the ring?”
“Unlike us Vessels, he knows nothing of the true nature of the Seed, of its history, its origins. After his first attempt failed he became even more obsessed with the promise of the Seed, and is now willing to do anything, not matter how rash or badly thought out the plan might be. To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
“So, what do we do now? Are we going to go after him, neutralize him as a threat?”
“For now, we do nothing, at least nothing overt. I’m going to release Patel soon, let him go back to his master if he wants, and if he has the balls to go back to London, he’ll report to me, though I doubt he’ll risk the wrath of my brother. The female presents a far greater threat, and I will be concentrating my efforts on thoroughly shattering her defenses. When the house is ready she will be moved there. I had one of the small rooms in the basement made into a sort of makeshift brig. It’s getting late. We should adjourn for the evening. I’m meeting your friend Anne-Marie tomorrow,” he added with a wicked grin.
The limousine Mr. Lazarus sent arrived at ten in the morning, and Anne-Marie was ready for it, having awakened at six. She was nervous. She really did love her work at the casino, and could see herself making a career there, but the picture Carl had painted for her, a glamorous life filled with travel and interesting—and varied—work had its attractions as well. The struggle within her caused a restless night, and so, when the summer sun rose over the shore and filled her bedroom with early morning light she was almost relieved that the suspense was nearly over. She would know. Today was the day she would know whether she would be departing her comfortable existence for a new more cosmopolitan way. In the four hours between her rising and the arrival of the car she fussed. First over her make up, spending more than twice her usual time applying the cosmetics, albeit with her usual feather-light touch, and then over what to wear, settling, after numerous false starts o n a just-above-the knee tan skirt, a matching jacket, and her fanciest, most stylish white blouse, one that was cut low, but not too low. She checked her hose over and over looking for runs, putting aside three pair before finding a completely unblemished set, and then donning them in an extremely careful fashion. Too nervous to eat she sat at her kitchen table, nursing a mug of coffee for more than an hour waiting for her ride, looking at the morning paper, but not actually focusing on it enough to read the words.
She took the paper with her when the chauffeur had led her to the car, and during the ride up the turnpike she managed to stanch her nervousness enough to read it. She was surprised when she reached the office building that Mr. Lazarus was waiting on the pavement to meet her, but he explained as he climbed into the car that their first meeting was to be over lunch, and he directed the driver to a nearby restaurant.
The lunch went well, she thought. The job, as he described it sounded interesting, and had he asked her for a decision right then and there she would have accepted, but he made no such gesture. After lunch they returned to the office and she met Karick. Immediately she liked him; he seemed very competent, and she was put at ease by being among a fellow security professional, though he was reticent about clueing her in fully to his background. He showed her around the small offices and gave her a brief about what her position would entail. Mr. Lazarus disappeared for a few hours, upstairs to his lawyer’s office he had said. Karick drove her to her hotel around four in the afternoon and got her checked in. She would be meeting the board of directors the next morning for her final interview, and tonight Mr. Lazarus was taking her out to dinner and a show.
“Alan, she’s everything you said she was,” Jack enthused over the line.
“Yeah, she’s great, huh?”
“Pretty, intelligent, good at her work. Even Karick thinks we should hire her! And those legs, wow! It’s very good not to be an old man anymore.”
Alan suggested he suppress her memory of Carl Sutherland. “I think it would make things less complicated, and anyway, she’s going to know me as Alan, so I’d rather not have to keep two stories straight in my head.” Jack agreed.
“So, what are you going to do with her tonight?” Alan asked.
“We’re going to the dinner and the theater, and then I’m going to seal the deal. Gotta run,” he said, finishing up the call, the lascivious tone of his voice fully transmitted.
Alan went back to his books, a high afternoon sun the only source of illumination as he reclined on his bed. He had to declare a major at the end of the coming school year, and he was leaning towards something to do with ancient history or archaeology. The department at Columbia for these topics is called Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures, or MEALAC, and he had spent yesterday afternoon browsing through its homepage, making printouts of the class pages which had reading lists and syllabi. He had ordered a great many of them from Amazon, and found others in the local public library. Jack had even volunteered to teach him some languages, Classical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Akkadian, and with his abilities he would be able to take them in in no time.
He had wanted to spend the day with Kate, but when he called her earlier in the afternoon Mrs. Van Devanter had told him she’d gone out, not knowing where she went. He tried to raise her by cell phone, but it just clicked through to her voicemail each time he had called. They had soft plans for that evening, and he wanted to talk to her to firm them up.
Around five o’clock in the evening he finally reached her. She wouldn’t say where she was, telling him she had a surprise, so he returned to his reading, losing track of time. When he looked up from his pages twilight was falling. The doorbell had just rung, and he heard his mom greet the visitors. He got up from his desk making towards the door, figuring it was Kate, and just as he pulled it open she came barreling into the room, smashing into him and wrapping him into a ferocious embrace, kissing him, and turning him around in place all in one motion so that his back was to the door.
“So what’s my surprise?”
Kate cleared his throat, and taking that signal Scarlet appeared in the doorway. “My I present...Miss Scarlet Cavanaugh!”
“Wow,” he smiled, “Good surprise! When did you come in?” He gave her a peck on the cheek.
“Just now,” she answered, returning the kiss.
“I was picking her up at the airport,” Kate chimed in.
“So how long are you in for?”
“I’m in for good,” Scarlet informed him. “I was working for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as a paid intern this summer, collecting and analyzing water and soil samples, but the budget crunch forced not only all of us interns being let go, but a whole bunch of the real employees got laid off.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Alan told her, sympathy drawn on his face.
“Yeah, well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, as my dad would say. It was a great summer, anyway. Kate said she’d find work for me for the next few weeks down where her dad works, so I got a flight, and here I am.”
“What about your stuff? Don’t you have to go home to pack?” Alan asked.
“Nah,” Scarlet explained, “I stored a bunch of stuff in Kate’s basement at the end of the semester, and I brought two big suitcases with me, plus my parents have to drive my kid brother to Boston College in a few weeks, so they’ll all swing by with the rest of it.”
“Yeah,” Kate added, “And she’s staying with me until school starts, plus when her folks and brother come through, they’re staying with us too. I just have to clear it with my mom, but I’m sure it’ll be OK.”
“ALAN!” his mom yelled from the foot of the stairs, “ARE KATE AND SCARLET STAYING FOR DINNER?”
Kate and Scarlet nodded, and Alan went down to tell his mom. The girls followed, and soon Mrs. Marshall taken up Kate and Scarlet’s offer to help; Alan was given the task of making the salad, Scarlet at setting the table, while Alan’s Mom and Kate fussed over the rest of the cooking. Mr. Marshall got home just before seven, and they all repaired to the dining room. Both of Alan’s parents had a great deal of questions for Scarlet, not having met her before, so dinner took longer than usual, and it was after half past eight before the table was cleared and the dishes and pots in the dishwasher.
Alan was wiping dry a serving platter Scarlet had just handed to him when Kate excused herself to use the bathroom. She leaned closer to him and dropped her voice. “What happened to Kate? She looks like a skeleton.”
“Don’t worry, we’re working on it. She lost some weight on her canoe trips, and she was thinking about keeping off, but I told her she looked unhealthy. Trust me, when I picked her up she was even thinner. Her mom even approached me and we talked about it out of Kate’s earshot. I seems that she was anorexic during her sophomore year in high school. Mrs. V said it wasn’t too bad a case, but she did see a psychiatrist for more than a year.”
They heard the toilet flush, and Alan continued, sotto voce, “I don’t think its that, and I’ve been pretty much on her to put some of the pounds back on.” He was going to keep telling, but Kate reappeared.
“So what do you want to do tonight?” Kate asked. She had a feeling they had been talking about her, judging by the way they had both clammed up upon seeing her come back, and she wanted to break the tension.
“What’s there to do in a small suburban town on a Thursday night?” Scarlet asked.
“Well,” Kate told them, “My folks are in New York for the night.”
“Why is that, dear?” Mrs. Marshall asked reentering the kitchen.
“My mom’s Aunt Vicky broke her hip, and she was released from the hospital today, and the private duty nurse doesn’t start until Monday, so my folks are staying in her guest room until then.”
“How ‘bout we rent a movie or two, pick up some ice cream?” Alan offered.
Kate wanted to object to the ice cream, she was getting sick of it, really, but held her tongue as she saw that Scarlet thought it was splendid idea. Because Alan had to phone his Uncle Lou—it was his birthday—the girls left without him for the grocery and the video store, thanking his mom for dinner as they left. It wasn’t until he had hung up that he realized that he didn’t have a car, his still with Karick. The station car was making funny noises, probably because with Alan using it at night it had seen more miles than usual. He went to the garage and took his single-speed off the rack on the side wall. It was the only bike he owned which had its original pedals, ones which didn’t require him to wear specialized cleats.
He reached the house before the girls returned, and waited for them on the front porch. He was surprised to find the house empty. Conchita, he knew, wasn’t due back for a few more weeks, but he wondered about the whereabouts of Pauline and Cal.
Kate cleared up the mystery when thy returned. First, she had Alan take Scarlet’s heavy suitcases from the trunk of the Jetta, and then she told him that Cal was in Philadelphia taking the tour of a few medical schools he was interested in applying to, and Pauline was a chaperone at a campout for her summer charges. Alan hauled Scarlet’s stuff up to the guest bedroom while Kate fired up the DVD player, and Scarlet scooped out the ice cream. Alan was pleased that the one of the pints the girls had bought was pistachio, his favorite flavor. The film was “Secretary,” which surprised him, as it was very risqué. As they watched the movie Alan plunged into Kate’s mind. She had, he learned, never gotten her courage up to take Scarlet to bed. Dipping into the redhead’s thoughts he learned that Scarlet didn’t even know Kate was bi. He was also surprised to find out that Scarlet had been sleeping with guys over the summer, well, just one, but it was still a surprise nonetheless .
The film was making Kate hot. The scene where the lawyer spanked the secretary and then jerked off over her ass was kind of gross, but on the whole she was turned on. Alan hadn’t tied her up at all since she returned from Maine, and now with Scarlet’s arrival she wouldn’t get the opportunity to fuck him tonight. She rubbed her legs together, hoping neither of her companions would notice; Alan did.
After the movie was over Kate took the bowls into the kitchen and washed up.
“So, your job was good, I mean besides the budget cuts?”
“Yeah,” Scarlet answered. “Commuting sixty miles to Columbus five days a week was draining, but I liked it, and I made some good friends, well, one, really.” She blushed.
Alan arched an eyebrow, though he didn’t betray that he knew Scarlet had been fucking a guy while home for the summer. “Good friend? Does she have a name?” he asked, eliciting a blush.
“Jeremy,” she croaked, embarrassed as all get out. Kate had always told her that Alan could see right through a person, and this was the first time she had experienced it first hand. They way he looked at her, the arched eyebrow, the inflection in his voice when he asked the question, it was like he was penetrating her innermost thoughts.
“Jeremy, interesting name for a girl,” he kidded. “So, tell me about him.”
Kate called over from the kitchen, asking each of them if they wanted a beverage, listing off what was in the fridge, and Alan asked for a root beer, Scarlet for a diet coke.
“He’s from the next town over, a junior at Ohio State, and we carpooled. One day I would pick him up, and the next he would come get me.”
“Who’re you talking about?” Kate asked, coming back in.
“I don’t have a boyfriend!”
“Did you sleep with him?” Alan asked, his expression sly.
“That’s none of your business!” was her shocked retort, but he was looking at her again, that same piercing glance. “Well, um, OK, yeah, we, uh, yeah.”
“Scarlet!” Kate exclaimed, a faux horror in her voice. “What happened to ‘Lesbian until graduation?’”
“Well, you see,” she started, grasping for an explanation, “Technically, I wasn’t in school, you see, and uh, he was, uh, is, really cute, and you see, really good at, you know, uh good in, uh, bed.” The color on her face matched that of her name, as she kept on sputtering.
“So, are you and this Jeremy a couple?” Kate asked, taking a seat after handing out the cans of soda and placing a bowl of fruit along with a bowl of pretzels on the table in front of them.
“No, it was just a summer thing. Long distance relationships suck.”
“Oh, poor baby,” Kate said sympathetically, stroking the other girl’s red hair.
“Oh, Kate, it wasn’t like that. We agreed to, uh, hang out again next summer, or maybe this Christmas break, if both of us were still single.”
“So you’re no longer an LUG?” Alan asked.
“I’m not sure,” Scarlet admitted. She hadn’t been with another woman since the school year had ended, mostly because she wasn’t ready to reveal that part of herself to her friends and family back home, and that made finding a willing female partner impossible over the summer. She was beginning to get confused. Was Kate just being nice to her, or was she coming on to her? They had shared a room for ten months, and never had her roommate held her they way she was doing now. Even more confusing was the fact that her boyfriend, a boyfriend Scarlet knew Kate was madly in love with, was sitting five feet away, watching them from his seat in an overstuffed den chair, and amused look on his face.
“I uh, found that I missed being with a guy, and,” she paused shivering as Kate’s hands migrated down to her back, massaging it gently. Her nipples popped out, so she hugged herself so he wouldn’t see. “I uh still like girls, very much, and uh, I think a small part of me wanted to sleep with a guy so I would see if I, uh, really wanted just to be an LUG, or maybe see if I was becoming an out and out ‘L,’ you know?. Kate, what ARE you doing?”
Kate had managed to untuck Scarlet’s t-shirt from her jeans during Scarlet’s explanation, and was now under the fabric.
“I never told you,” Kate began, “But last year, after you told me about you and Jessica, ah, doing it, I began to have fantasies about doing another girl. Right before spring semester started Alan and I had a threesome with this really really cute grad student he knows.” She punctuated this revelation with a lazy swipe of her tongue across Scarlet’s earlobe.
“Really?” Scarlet gasped in a breathy whisper.
Alan nodded. Kate popped her bra clasp.
“Hey guys, I’m not sure about this.”
“Why?” Kate teased, licking her again on the ear. Scarlet shuddered, feeling her panties moisten.
“Well,” Scarlet began, marshaling her thoughts, “When you and Alan and the grad student had that, ah ah ah, threesome,” she started as Kate began distracting her by playing with her pointy nipples, “You were just—JESUS that feels nice. What was I saying? Oh ummmmmm, yah, you weren’t really a couple yet. But now.”
Kate cut her off, “But nothing,” she insisted, ending the conversation with a tender kiss, which Scarlet returned with passion.
Jack put on his jacket and stowed his necktie in the left pocket. The night had been a success in more ways than one. Over a pre-theater dinner at Picholine Anne-Marie had agreed to come work for him. She would be in charge of his personal security force, as well as being a consultant to Cyaxares, reporting to Karick. He had made a significant breakthrough with the Japanese woman, penetrating her memories for the first time earlier in the day, and the sex he had just had with Anne-Marie, his first since his resurrection, was smashing.
He had dismissed the driver at the theater, with the intention of walking her back to her hotel after the curtain fell. All through the show, a new musical, one which featured puppets having sex, no less, but one which had garnered excellent reviews, he had slowly increased her level of arousal, reducing it when the play ended, but only slightly. They chatted as they walked up Seventh Avenue towards Central Park South, where the hotel was located.
Using his mind to distract her she didn’t even realize that her new boss was walking her up to her room.
“So,” he began, his voice soothing, “To a new beginning.” He had opened the mini-bar and poured out two nightcaps. She glanced over the rim of her glass as she took a sip. He was very handsome, different from the guys she was regularly attracted to. His brown hair was salted with bits of gray, but that would have been more noticeable if it wasn’t cut as short as it was. There was a rugged quality about his face, and he had a strong chin. His eyes, in her opinion, were perhaps his most alluring feature, a steely blue, almost gray. He was older than the men she had previously dated, but that just made him seem more debonair in her eyes. “Salut,” she answered his toast before taking a sip.
Suddenly he was closer. She could feel his whisky-scented breath on her face. “Welcome to the team, welcome to the big city, Anne-Marie.”
She kissed him, softly on the lips, both of their mouths closed. It was a fleeting buss, in no way obscene, but she recoiled. “I shouldn’t have done that, sir.”
“Quite alright, quite alright,” he answered, holding his ground. They were still standing face-to-face inches apart. He put his hand on her bare shoulder, brushing her hair off of it and leaned in. This time their mouths opened as they came together, and by the time she broke it off she was panting slightly.
“Call me Jack. I don’t stand on ceremony.” He leaned in again, but she retreated.
“Sir...Jack, we shouldn’t be doing this.”
“I wont tell if you wont,” he joked, pressing his mouth to hers. He arousal returned, and she slipped her tongue past his lips, tasting him, tasting the slight sour flavor of the liquor. His hands ran up her back and she shivered in the embrace. A terrible thought flooded her mind. Carl Sutherland had pimped her to this man. She tried to break away, but he resisted. With more force she extricated herself from his arms and turned her back on him, stomping over to the window and looking out on the beautiful city, a small tear staining her cheek, her mascara ruined.
“What’s the matter, Anne-Marie?”
“Is this a set-up?” she sobbed. Carl had done this to her, too. Seduced her. Now it seemed like he was just passing her around. She didn’t love Carl, but he had been her lover, and now feelings of betrayal were welling up inside her. She was nobody’s whore. Shit, even her current arousal was similar to when she was around Carl. She felt she had been manipulated, and she didn’t like it.
“Carl? Who is Carl?” Jack asked, sincerity dripping from his voice.
“Pardon?” she asked bewildered. In an instant all memory of Carl Sutherland was wiped clean from her mind by the man a few feet away wielding the power of the Seed of Paishiya’uvada, the third Seed, the Seed first given to Cyaxares of Akkad. She crossed the carpet to stand near him again. “Where were we?” she asked with a smile. He arms encircled her again as their mouths met, and she held his wrists briefly, guiding his hands down to cup her ass. She was very horny, her previous upset completely vacated. Soon he had maneuvered her over to the bed, his jacket strewn over a chair, her heels left by the window. He was strong, she felt in her bones, and not just physically. He had a magnetism about him she had noticed upon their meeting. His lips and tongue explored her neck, some of her most sensitive locations, and she writhed and moaned in arousal. Her hands were all over him, feeling him through the soft cotton his shirt, scrabbling fingers dispensing with the butt ons. After she had stripped him to the waist her hands explored his chest. He had a very good body for a man his age, which she pegged somewhere in the mid-forties, hard but not bulging muscles, a sprinkling of soft brown hair covering his pecs and middle, tapering off as it wended its way down to his navel. She bent forward and licked one of his nipples, bringing out the desired response.
He lifted her onto the bed and knelt on the bedspread next to her. He held her left leg in his hands, slowly working at removing her stocking. He took the top of it, which came to an end just above her knee, and gently started rolling it up. In less than a minute both were off, and she shucked up her hips as his hands rested against the waistband of her panties, allowing him to get them off her. He moved north, raising the hem of her dress up, and she held her arms straight of as he stripped it off her. His mouth came to rest in her cleavage, and to her surprise and delight he managed the to undo the closure with his teeth. She giggled at that, and he shot her a devastatingly handsome smile. She felt gooey between her legs as she reached over to him and unbuckled his belt, then fought his hands off so she herself could get his pants open. They both laughed at that, the light giving off from the fixture sparkling off his unusually colored irises. As their tongues danc ed against each other’s she was aware that he was taking off his pants, and she had no objection. Down to his shorts he pushed her back against the mattress and crouched between her legs, licking at her moist center.
“Oooh, that feels nice!” she exclaimed as he tongued her pussy, adding his moisture to her own. Her hips bucked up and her clit was crushed against the flesh of his nose. She howled in delight and repeated the action after hearing no complaint from his end. Through two gasping, screaming orgasms he licked her with no let up, and she was covered with a shiny sheen of sweat before she pushed him away. He rolled over next to her and they kissed again, and this time she tasted herself, not single-malt on his mouth. The idea of it turned her on even more. As he settled against the headboard she pulled off his underwear and began to lick his rod with soft small strokes. He moaned her name aloud, which cheered her to no end.
After a few minutes she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Anne-Marie, you’d better stop. I don’t want to...finish...like this.”
She came off him with a pop and looked him square in the eye, a loopy grin plastered across her face. “Jack, do you have a problem getting it up? Getting it up again?”
“Not in the slightest, my dear. Not in the slightest.”
“Then lay back and let me finish.”
He came in her mouth and she swallowed it down in a nasty gulp, and to her glee she noticed he barely softened after the orgasm. She straddled him and rubbed her wet slit against his cock. Soon it was as hard as before, and he brought his hands up to hold her at the hips, guiding her over his erection, the head poised at her soaked entrance.
“Do it,” she moaned, “P-please.”
He pulled her down, penetrating her, his groin rising to meet hers. A shock of electricity went through her, or so it felt, as he began to fuck her with long even strokes. He was a better lover than that guy, whatshisname, she mused, though it was a fleeting thought as she swiftly approached orgasm.
“Aieeeeeeeeeee!” she screeched as her pussy contracted, clamping down around his hot cock. He paused in his motions, letting her spasms pass before continuing, but soon he repositioned himself, him on top, thrusting between her clammy thighs. She was tiring quickly, and glad to be underneath now as the pace of his fucking accelerated, bringing her closer and closer to release as the minutes wore on. She felt him tense above her and she exploded again as he spent himself within her.
They snuggled for awhile, each unable or unwilling to speak for a moment.
She broke the silence. “Wow. I mean, wow! That was, well, wow!”
“I’m glad you liked it, Anne-Marie,” he whispered, tilting her head and giving her a small kiss on the tip of her nose.
“I’m glad I took this job.”
“You speak for both of us, I assure you.”
She sighed and began to drowse in his arms, her silky hair rubbing against his shoulder. He held her for awhile before rising. The Japanese assassin was awaiting him, and it was unwise to leave her without proper supervision for long stretches of time. Before he left her wrote a short note on hotel stationary for Anne-Marie. He checked his left pocket again, assuring himself he wasn’t forgetting his tie, and then made a quick stop in the bathroom, stealing one of the hotel’s washcloths, stowing it in the right pocket of his jacket. He clicked off the bedroom light and quietly shut the door so as not to wake Anne-Marie. The curtains were blocking the rising sun as it tried to infiltrate the room.
She had always been attracted to Kate, even before she knew she was bi, but Kate had—for as long as she had know her—Alan, so she never even dreamed that what was now happening would ever possibly happen. Her eyes closed, she found herself lost in the kiss.
This was so weird, Scarlet thought as the worked their way up the stairs to Kate’s bedroom. Kate had spent the last five minutes kissing her and mauling her on the couch. Now here she was, topless, Kate holding by the hand, leading her up to her bed. Alan was acting strange as well. He just sat there across from them, a wry smile on his face. Kate had wiggled her way behind her, and she found herself resting her back against Kate’s large firm breasts. She had half expected to feel the nipple rings, but the fabric of the bra obscured them. She felt a hand work the snap on her jeans, and the other rubbing circularly, rhythmically on her tummy. She took a deep breath as Kate drew down the zipper; Kate smelled really nice. Alan was watching still, not doing anything; it was unnerving, but she stared at him, finding that she couldn’t look away from the amused expression he was showing. Kate licked the back of her ear as she snaked a few fingers under the waistband of her panties; her eyelids clamped down and she shuddered as those digits made gentle contact with her wet center. The pad of Kate’s index finger came to a halt resting on her burning clit, and Scarlet could feel her stickiness seep through her panties and trickle down her thighs.
“Kate,” she called out, half in whisper, half in moan. “Kate, p-please.” The black-haired girl’s answer was to bring her other hand to the red-furred pussy and worm a finger in as she continued to massage the clit. “P-please,” she entreated again, tears of pleasure running uncontrollable down her freckled face. Kate made a long and lazy sweep around her ear again, causing her to shudder with even greater intensity, finishing off by taking the lobe between her lips and giving a playful suck. Trembling, Scarlet tried again.
“P-p-please, K-kate,” Scarlet sobbed. Through her blurry eyes she saw that Alan was unstirred. Blinking through her tears, unable to articulate herself she focused on his face, trying to get a message to him without having to speak. This attempt was complicated, in fact compromised, because even if she could get a meaning across she had no idea what that would be. She parted her lips in an effort to say something, but Kate was moving, no longer behind her, but right at her side; her hands continued their manipulation despite the shift. As she finally concentrated the will to open her mouth Kate shifted her body slightly, tilted her head, and kissed her, her tongue swirling about behind Scarlet’s teeth. Scarlet moaned into the kiss, her body shivering in pleasure. Out of the corner of her eye she could still see him sitting placidly, like this sort of thing happened every day. Kate broke the kiss and began kissing and licking her neck, and she gasped. Her verbal abili ties returned. “What are you doing?” she croaked.
Kate looked her right in the eye and gave her a quick kiss on the lips, “Whatever you want.”
Kate’s face filled her whole field of vision, and she blinked a few more times in rapid succession, trying to gather herself. “Why am I fighting this?” was the only thought running through her bliss-addled brain. She closed her eyes trying to summon another thought, but Kate’s lips had returned to her own, and she returned the kiss. Her whole body shuddered with a mini-tremor, her hips grinding her pubis into Kate’s palm. Suddenly Scarlet felt Kate pull away, her hand removed, her lips gone. Scarlet’s eyes fluttered open in time to see her roommate stand and take the first step towards the stairs. Alan remained in place. Scarlet realized she was panting. She could feel individual beads of her own moisture clinging to her crotch and upper thighs.
She was confused. Why did Kate stop? Why was she leaving? Where was she going? She looked at Alan with questioning eyes, but he was riveted to the sight of the retreating Kate. Scarlet turned her head to follow his gaze. Kate was taking her time moving to the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. Without thinking, without actually making a decision, Scarlet hoisted her butt off the couch and fell in line behind Kate. Kate was now a few steps up, and when Scarlet reached the foot of the stairs she heard him move in the background. She twisted around, and to her surprise saw that Alan was tidying up the living room, collecting the empty cans, picking up stray bits of snack food, and the like. She resumed following Kate, bewildered, but taking her offered hand.
The upstairs was dark, the only light coming from Kate’s bedroom. Scarlet moved slowly, because she was unsure of her steps in the dimmed hallway, and because if she were to walk any faster her unbuttoned jeans would fall down. Kate stopped her just inside the door, and Scarlet was greeted with a french kiss, Kate’s hands busy beneath with her chest once more. They could faintly hear Alan moving about downstairs, but Scarlet could tell Kate was paying it no mind. She shivered in the coolness of the heavily air-conditioned room.
Kate led her to the bed and put her almost limp body in a sitting position on the edge of the mattress, kneeling on the carpet to grab the blue jeans at the cuffs. With an almost violent flourish Kate yanked the pants right off of her friend, and then was up, pouncing like a great tiger. Scarlet was now on her back, Kate lying right on top of her. Kate grabbed her head and held it still as their lips met again.
Scarlet lost all sense of time as they made out on the bed. She had no idea how long they had been embracing before Kate slithered down her body, giving her rock hard nipples a tweak as she did so. She raised her ass of the bed to allow Kate to remove her sopping panties, and squealed as she felt Kate’s tongue part her cleft.
She wanted to watch, so she propped herself up on her elbows, knowing she wouldn’t be able to sustain the effort for long. She could only see Kate’s lustrous black hair busy at the apex of her thighs, but she could certainly feel the magic her mouth was doing. Just before her stamina failed her she saw him enter the room. In a way, he was coming to help, and he stood beside her next to the bed, repositioning Kate’s pillows so she didn’t have to hold herself up any longer. Then he retreated to the foot of the bed and began undressing Kate, starting with the sneakers and shorts. Kate slowed her licking, shifting so Alan could strip her properly, and Scarlet moaned in disappointment when Kate lifted her head from her crotch so Alan could removed Kate’s t-shirt and bra, dropping all the garments in a mound on the floor. Kate returned her face to Scarlet’s pussy, and the red-haired girl sighed with satisfaction. She was nearing her peak, her hips a dervish of motion as she rubbed her womanhood into Kate’s eager mug. “Ohhhh! That feels s-s-s-s-o, mmmmmmmmmmmm!” she moaned as her body bucked with arousal.
As she returned to earth she realized that Alan hadn’t yet joined them on the bed, but she was in no condition to ask because Kate’s tongue was rapidly sending her into orbit again. He body shook with orgasm again, and she melted into the bedding, too exhausted to move a whit. Kate’s body covered her again, and she found herself licking her own juices off the other girl’s face, though slowly, as she had little energy.
“Kate?” she asked between licks.
“Is he just going to watch?”
Kate slid off her body and turned to Alan, who had seated himself in the armchair near the door of the bedroom. “Well, how ‘bout it, champ?” she asked him with a playful wink. “What’s the holdup?”
“Just waiting for an invitation, s’all,” he chuckled.
Kate turned back to Scarlet. “So? Should we invite him?”
Scarlet nodded weakly, just happy to be following Kate’s lead in this. Alan moved to the bed, and Scarlet was between them. Each of them took one of Scarlet’s pink nipples in their mouths and began to suck gently, causing Scarlet to sigh. Alan lifted his head and suddenly Scarlet found herself kissing him, their tongues dueling as they explored each others mouths; she could taste the last residue of root beer in him as her eyes fluttered shut. Kate was fingering her tenderly, and her thighs closed around the invading hand, holding it tightly to her. Her eyes snapped open as Alan broke the kiss and Kate wrestled her hand away at the same moment. She looked both of them in the eyes, one at a time, as she felt Kate’s hands on her knees, parting them for Alan to settle between, and then turned her focus downward as she watched him disrobe and maneuver his penis, the biggest one she had ever seen, her foggy mind was able to note, to the outer lips of her red-haired pussy.
“He’ll kill me with that thing,” Scarlet gasped, addressing Kate.
Kate stroked her hair reassuringly, “No baby, you’re wet enough. Don’t worry, I should know.”
Alan fed a little bit of his cock into her and she felt her petals part to allow him the entry. He was thick, wider than to what she was accustomed, the feelings a mix of pleasure and discomfort, though biased to the former of the two; a small tear began to roll down her face, but Kate swiftly licked it away.
“Do you want some more?” Alan asked, concern evident in the tenor of his voice. Scarlet nodded, and she grabbed Kate hard as more of Alan’s dick invaded her. Alan took his time, slowly feeding his cock into her dripping channel, and Scarlet gasped and moaned at the progress. It took more than a few minutes of rocking in and out before all of Alan was inside her, and when that happened Scarlet looked up to see Kate taking position over her, presenting her shaved pussy to the now upturned face. As Scarlet began to tentatively lick the smooth lips Alan began to pull out and push in, at first using far less than half his length, but gradually building speed and using nearly all of his shaft. Kate faced Alan, and the leaned into each other as he fucked Scarlet and she rode her face. As Alan kissed Kate, Scarlet sucked her to a quivering orgasm, and her shouts echoed off the bedroom walls; neither Alan slowed the pace of his fucking, nor Scarlet the slithering of her tongue i n and around Kate’s pussy.
As Kate steadied herself against Alan, her hands gripping his shoulders to stay upright, she felt Scarlet moan into her pussy, and could feel her quiver and shake in a mighty climax. Now it Alan’s turn to be kept upright as he growled and came in Scarlet’s trembling depths. He was leaning against Kate, who was pushing back so he wouldn’t topple.
Scarlet was having trouble breathing steady as Alan and Kate dismounted from her. She watched as Kate reached over to the nightstand and turned off the lamp. In the dark Kate nudged her over and laid down; the cuddled, Alan on the other side of Kate, holding her. Scarlet was asleep within minutes.
The sun was rising higher over the East River as Jack approached the office building. He bought a pair of cheap sunglasses from a West African street vendor right after leaving the hotel, so he wasn’t bothered by the glare.
As he expected, Harriet, Stan’s secretary was already in the office as he entered, but what she was doing took him aback. She was hammering away at the lock on the steel door with her stapler.
“What are you doing?” he asked, alarmed.
“Hmm? What?” she asked. Her eyes were glassy, and as he interrupted her she came to realize her surroundings. Jack sent her back to his desk, removing the commands the girl had implanted there.
“So,” he thought, “She is awake. Awake and scheming.” He went to the bathroom and wet the washcloth with cold water. Back in the office he unlocked the door and entered, not turning on the overhead lights, just the small desk lamp. She was feigning sleep. He wiped her forehead of sweat and grime with cloth, then pulled a chair over to the couch where she was bound.
“You cannot fool me, young lady.”
She made no movement. Jack peered into her memories; she resisted.
He could see it now, in the chapel of the monastery, on a raised wooden platform in the middle of the room, surrounded by dozens of prayer mats. A piece of black glass resting on a cushion. Twenty or more of the monastery’s residents bent in prayer, with some sort of energy emanating from the crystal, washing over their prostrate forms.
“Perhaps the source of their powers, this energy,” Jack thought as he attempted to probe farther into her mind.
A meeting, in the abbot’s office.
“Ouch!” he swore, rubbing the pain out of his forehead. This memory she was desperately trying to protect.
He pulled the door closed behind him, and sent Harriet out for coffee. Try as the assassin might, her resistance would crumble, and he would learn the secret of the meeting with the abbot. It was just a matter of time.