The late evening sun glinted off of the soft waves of the Pacific Ocean. Far off the coast of southern California, a small painted wooded fishing boat named Alexa bobbed back and forth gently, a stiff, cool wind blowing across its deck. It didn’t come any better, or more beautiful.
For most people, it simply wouldn’t be safe at that time of the evening to travel so far off the coast in such a small fishing boat. But Renee Prince was no ordinary person. In fact, the six foot tall tanned blonde hated resented having chosen that name for herself each time she heard it. The name itself, and the method she used to choose it, were a reminder of traditions of her birth place which she wanted to leave behind forever. She always liked the name Reya much better.
Unspoiled. Yes, that was the word to describe what she watched around her. She could be the master of all she surveyed if she chose – yet she found it so much more satisfying and intriguing simply to take part in it, to accept her small share of this place and enjoy it as much as she could.
And enjoy it she did. In fact, Alexa didn’t even have any kind of engine on board. It was strictly a sailing boat…and Renee planned to use the stiff winds which blew into the beaches of Los Angeles every evening with the tide to navigate back home.
It was time.
Renee stood quickly and gripped a three inch thick hemp rope with both hands. She pulled it quickly, effortlessly, hand over hand. A twenty foot high heavy canvas sail unfurled quickly, expanding to its full width as it touched the wind. Renee took a step backward as the small boat began to suddenly accelerate, picking up speed very quickly to match the velocity of the breeze itself.
The cool wind rushed through her hair, warm salt water splashed her skin as the small wooden boat crashed through the waves of the Pacific. She watched a few seagulls flying just above her, a smile creeping onto her face as she considered joining them for just a moment – but this trip on the boat, at least at the moment, was much more thrilling.
Her muscles ached a little as she held the rope tighter in her fingers. Rather then tie off the end of the rope, she held it in her hands…if only to feel the awesome power of the wind which pulled her small boat along the surface of the water. It was a struggle even for her, as powerful as she was, to hold back one of the planet’s most daunting and relentless forces with just the power of her own muscles.
Darkness began to descend over Renee as the sun finally sunk below the horizon – yet in her eyes, it was only a minor inconvenience. She could still clearly see the ocean, the coast, and all of the crisp colors around her. And the scents surrounding her…the tide was coming in, she was sure. The smell of the ocean was different during high tide. It smelled clearer, somehow more refreshing.
She could feel her senses enhancing in the encroaching darkness. The scent of sand reached her nose, along with a mixture of smells from the beach – various kinds of food and drink sold along the shore, suntan lotion, and…people?
Renee squinted toward the shore, wondering silently who would be out there after the private beach had been closed for at least an hour or two. Normally people on the beach wouldn’t affect her – but in this case, it hampered her carefully laid-out plans. She hadn’t bothered to park her car and boat trailer on the sand of the beach before she started her little cruise, planning to simply fold down the sail and drag her boat up to the parking lot above once the beach closed. But if people were there…she would have to either convince them to leave, or come up with a new plan.
She wrinkled her nose and frowned as a new smell flooded her senses – alcohol. These were kids on the beach, hoping to drink beer undetected in the darkness. Renee sighed deeply as she snatched her official-looking dark blue and yellow jacket, dark blue baseball cap emblazoned with the letters ‘MPD’. and . Sometimes she regretted taking a job with the Malibu Police Department. Even on her days off, she could never have a real vacation.
“I need a vacation, Sharon.”
Even as Renee Prince spoke to her best friend, Sharon, she leaned back in one of Sharon’s porch chairs, her ‘MPD’ baseball cap over her eyes. She was still wearing her dark blue uniform jacket – and the dark blue and yellow painted Mitsubishi Eclipse Limited issued to her by the Malibu police department was parked in front of Sharon’s home, it’s predominantly dark color hiding it in the darkness.
“A vacation?” Sharon smiled. “What would you do on a vacation?”
Renee, or Reya as Sharon was more fond of calling her, had just arrived in Los Angeles a few months ago from someplace distant, a place Sharon was all too familiar with.
The two women had one thing in common – though they both appeared human, they were much more then that. They were from a distant planet called Velor, bred as an advanced form of human for a single purpose…to protect the universe.
Starting at an early age, every young girl on Velor was trained in the art of war. They were trained how to use every part of their bodies as dangerous weapons – and a popular demonstration was when a long-haired instructor would carefully form her hair into a single braid, and literally use her own hair to shred solid metal, simply by whipping it around faster then the eye could see.
It was fun at the time, for young girls to learn how to destroy targets with their hair, or with beams of heat with their eyes. Little did they realize they were being trained for a war – a danger that was hard to imagine for a child growing up on Velor.
Little did they realize at such a young age…that years later, the war around their calm little planet would take the lives of many of their classmates. The population of Velor was dwindling, slowly dying out. Everyone knew it, yet the Velorian leadership would not sway in it’s mission to protect the universe from threats.
The biggest threat of all was from the people of Aria. While the Velorian people have always trained for war, they still had a culture of their own. Aria’s culture itself was war. Their planet was simply a factory, producing weapons, troops, and one generation after another of genetically altered warriors. While they didn’t necessarily see Velor as their only threat, they did recognize it as their greatest.
And so as another proud father watched his daughter of Velor, smartly clad in a form-fitting silvery metallic uniform, prepare for her first launch into cold, dark space, he felt the requisite pride…along with a healthy dose of fear. He had already lost his lifelong mate to the same fate. She left one cool morning, promising to return before her daughter’s birthday. He was notified of her death the next morning.
But his daughter made no such promise. She knew better…while her mom had vanished before she was even old enough to enter her training, she remembered. She gave her father a weak smile, knowing that a part of her would be with him always. As a heavy glass tube began to close around her, preparing for her first launch into space, her brave smile quickly crumbled as her feelings betrayed her. She watched her father crying, through the glass. He would be all alone.
Her hands clasped together tightly, her eyes closed as she could feel the tethers of gravity release her limbs. She began to cry silently, inwardly, praying…even begging to be sent back home. Suddenly, she couldn’t bear to leave her father by himself.
But as she opened her eyes again, a sudden calm washed over her. She was coasting through space, her metallic suit reflecting the orange-red glow of the Velorian Star. Her long blonde hair seemed glued to her skin as moisture permeated it, collected from the atmosphere of the planet, beads of water running all along her body as she travelled at unthinkable speeds through toward some unknown destination – some backwards, innocent planet known as Earth.
The stars seemed a blur around her as she stared straight ahead. The sadness at leaving her father, her home, behind tore at her heart as she blasted toward something bright in the distance – a star. A yellow star. It was only seconds before she could feel its power flowing through her veins, as if her own blood were lit aflame. It was exhilarating, even a little painful as wavelengths of pure energy not available from the Velorian Star began to penetrate her skin, and run through her body.
She looked down at her hands – they were glowing slightly from the sudden infusion of energy. The surplus simply leaked out through her skin, tracing an orange-red line through space behind her as she passed by the star. She remembered from her lessons – this star was known as Sol.
Seconds later – just as in the simulations – she flipped onto her back, and dove through the atmosphere of the third planet. On her back, she wore what appeared to be a metallic cape – it was a heat shield, designed to protect her clothing upon descent through a planetary atmosphere. It was designed to tolerate much more heat then her clothing, as well as provide resistance braking to slow her against the atmosphere itself.
She cringed as she felt a jolt, and the sudden shock of cold water touching her skin. Her descent hadn’t slowed as fast as she had hoped, and she had to aim toward a large body of water called the Pacific Ocean to break her fall. At the speed at which she was travelling, she would simply cause too much damage falling on land. The salt water quickly soothed her slightly burned skin as bubbles of steam surrounded her. She quickly regained her equilibrium and swam toward a bright light just above her.
“…And I saw the most beautiful thing in my life, Sharon. Lightning…I’d never seen it that close up before. I was so sure I was dead.”
Sharon laughed out loud. “You told me that whole story already, Reya. Just tell me what you’d do on a vacation.”
Renee gave Sharon a sly smile. Sharon was always the most impatient Velorian she had known. She guessed it was an Earth influence that she herself would learn in time. “Storm chasing, Sharon. Doesn’t that sound thrilling?”
“Eh.” Sharon waved one hand from side to side, silently offering Renee more tea. Renee declined. “I’ve had much more exciting things happen to me already. You just got here, Reya! Give it time, something scary will happen to you too.”
“Scary?” Renee shook her head. “The scariest thing that’s happened to me so far are those kids I kicked off the beach. They were drinking stuff I wouldn’t even touch. It’s practically jet fuel!”
Sharon choked on her tea at the mental image – kids sitting around a fuel truck from the airport, sipping the contents through a hose. “I’m sorry. It’s just funny, a mighty Protector fighting the dangers of alcohol abuse.”
“Hm.” Renee gave Sharon a mock frown. “I never liked that title. Not since I arrived here. I envy your job…at least you can legally go home once in a while. As far as Velor is concerned, this is my home until…until I’m reassigned.”
Sharon looked at Renee and froze as she took a sip of her homemade herbal tea. “You do know, Reya, one day you will be reassigned. Everyone is.”
“Hell, no!” Renee stood up and paced across Sharon’s covered porch, stopping to lean against one of it’s wooden support posts. “I love this place, Sharon. No…I’m in love with it. I don’t want to be sent to some war-torn cesspool just because this place is a little boring by Velorian standards.”
Sharon watched in silence as Renee retreated back to her chair and sat down quietly. She seemed to be saddened by discussion of the prospect of leaving Earth.
“I know that’s treason or something…but I can’t go. I’ve lost everything that was good in my life, Sharon. If I lose this place…I swear, I’ll go insane.”
Renee’s saddened eyes affected Sharon deeply. She remembered when she went through the same thing once…only she was weaker. She followed her duties and obligations – and regretted it ever since.
Sharon sighed deeply and slowly rose to her feet. Renee still sat in the chair, her eyes carried the fear and sadness that Sharon imagined she shared with her father on the day of her assignment. “Look, Reya…this is your destiny. You were brought up for this life–”
“Well…maybe I wasn’t ready”, Renee interrupted in a soft voice.
“You completed the rites, Reya. It’s a contract…you’ve accepted the task of serving Velor.” Sharon kneeled next to the chair Renee sat in and gently hugged her across the shoulders. She began to worry that maybe, just once, a Protector was released before she was ready. It was already unusual that she had been released from Velor at the age of 20 instead of 18, as was custom. “I understand how you feel. Do you know how many times I had to leave everything behind?”
Renee nodded softly as Sharon urged her to rise to her feet. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have you to help me.”
Sharon smiled. “Then you’d learn just as I did…the hard way. Now go home and get some sleep, Reya. You had a long day.”
The highly tuned four-cylinder engine of Renee’s police car roared a metallic growl as she took a hard corner to the right. The tires protested noisily, the scent of overheated rubber reaching her nostrils through the cooled air blowing in through the vents in the dashboard. A hard turn to the left corrected a slight drift of the car’s rear as she rounded the corner. Luckily, the car was built for speed and handling, or she may have eaten the concrete wall next to the freeway entrance for lunch.
She had turned off the audible sirens several minutes ago, as the high-pitched sound they made ate away at her nerves. She figured that in the sparse traffic around her, people would just notice the red, yellow, and blue flashing lights on the roof of her car, as well as the strobes hidden within all of the car’s lights.
It made her nervous to chase the red Dodge onto the freeway. The car was stolen, and had run from her when she attempted to stop it for simply driving through a stop sign. Bringing a high speed chase onto the freeway raised the stakes – speeds would be higher, and more lives would be in danger.
Renee breathed a sigh of relief as the Dodge zipped off of the next exit. It meant that he was hoping to lose her in the maze of streets in Los Angeles. But she knew that he would probably end up getting lost himself, first. A quick glance at the small flat-paneled terminal suspended from the dashboard between the driver and passenger seats told her that backup was still a couple of minutes away.
Another hard right turn, this one much too close. Renee worked hard to prevent her police car from skidding into a truck waiting to turn left onto the street she just exited. The Dodge had no such concerns – it left a red streak along the side of the truck’s trailer. Renee shook her head and tapped a couple of buttons on the small terminal, alerting the dispatcher of the crash.
Just as quickly as the chase started, it came to an abrupt end. Renee locked the brakes of her car as she watched the Dodge enter a narrow street too quickly. The driver of the Dodge didn’t realize that he was going too fast to drive between the cars parked on both sides safely – and promptly wedged his car painfully between two parked cars with a loud crash.
As soon as Renee stopped her car, the driver of the Dodge, a tall, skinny man with dark hair and light complexion, was off and running.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Renee jumped out of her car and took off after the man. She hardly ever had to run in the course of her patrols. In fact, this was the first time in months – most of her duties consisted of writing traffic tickets, and making the occasional domestic violence or passing bad checks arrest.
The man turned around suddenly and reached for something behind his belt. Renee ducked briefly as she heard several loud ‘snap’ sounds, and felt something hot tear through the air close to her face. He turned to run again, the weapon still in his hand. She felt a sense of urgency as she looked ahead of him – he was headed into a crowded restaurant district. She had to catch him, before someone got hurt.
Renee froze suddenly, drawing her police-issue nine millimeter automatic from her belt holster, aiming it steadily at the man. As she looked at the back of his head over the end of the gun, she paused just before squeezing the trigger. It felt wrong to gun him down as he ran away…as if there was no challenge in it. Shooting a man from behind, never giving him the chance to see his assailant, just seemed an uncivilized way to stop him…something worthy of the Arions she remembered from Sharon’s tales.
“Aww, dammit!” Renee holstered her gun quickly and took off again. She had to make up some ground, the man had put quite a bit of distance between himself and her when she paused to aim at him. But unlike him, Renee was not the least bit tired or winded…and she had plenty more where that came from.
She didn’t even realize, as she raced down the street, her toes barely touching the sidewalk as she ran, that she was passing cars moving down the street at nearly fourty miles per hour. The wind rushing through her hair, Renee was focused on the man she was trying to stop before he reached the restaurants at the end of the street. She was gaining on him very quickly.
The man turned suddenly as she stiffened both of her knees, using the friction from her rubber-soled boots to slow her quickly. He raised the gun, firing off two more shots in her direction as she slammed into him at over thirty miles an hour, knocking him off his feet to tumble into the street, the gun sliding clear across the concrete to the other side of the street.
Renee grabbed the man’s arm and flipped him over in an instant, snapping her handcuffs over one of his arms, and then the other. She didn’t even realize that he was unconcious until she tried to lift him to his feet.
As the sound of sirens filled the air, everything around Renee seemed to go silent. People on foot and in cars stopped to stare…at her. She glanced around slowly to see what the attraction was. That’s when she realized that her boots seemed to be smoldering, thin grey smoke trickling from the soles – and there were two twenty-foot black streaks on the sidewalk, leading up to the point where she collided with the man.
But it was one more measurement Renee took with her eyes which shocked her, and no doubt anyone else who had witnessed it. She herself, a seemingly normal blonde woman wearing a police uniform, would weigh a lot less then the tall, skinny man even in her most ideal condition – yet when she collided with him, he was thrown by the impact, the air driven from his lungs, and sent tumbling into the street as if it was a subcompact car he encountered rather then a blonde female police officer. He probably didn’t even bother to get out of the way, guessing that she would take more damage then he would.
Renee’s mouth dropped open in surprise once again as she hovered over the man, looking down at his unconcious form. Something didn’t look right. She kneeled next to him, and began examining him – his vital signs seemed fine, though his blood pressure was a little bit low. But what scared her was the fact that his limbs wouldn’t react naturally to touch. It was as if he was…
“Oh my God. Oh, no–” Renee fumbled with the radio on her belt and began to turn pale as she realized what had happened. Her collision with the man had much more in common with a car-human collision then she had anticipated. His spine had either been damaged or broken from the impact. Her hands began shaking as she found the call button on her radio. “Five Mary Seventeen to dispatch. I need a medic, code three.”
“Seventeen, is an officer down?”
“Negative, a suspect with possible life-threatening internal injuries.” Renee swallowed hard, her voice wavering a little as she completed the radio call. “I repeat, code three.”
Her facade of calm finally shattered as other officers began to arrive on the scene. She fell to her knees and began crying quietly, shaking violently as the other officers told her in vain that she did a great job, about all of the lives she had saved by keeping this criminal out of the restaurant district. But all she saw was a man’s broken body lying in the street. She had never killed before…and she promised herself she never would.
There would be no paperwork, no reports. Nor would there be an investigation against Renee Prince. At the end of the day, she simply walked into her supervisor’s office and place her badge and gun on the desk.
“You’re quitting?” Renee’s supervisor’s question sounded more like an accusation then a query. But Captain Lindsey Corren’s eyes told Renee that she was sorry to see a fellow female police officer give up so easily.
“I’ll be back”, Renee reassured, with a halfhearted smile. “I just need some time to get away from all of this for a while.”
“I understand.” Lindsey smiled. “I did the same thing when I shot my first suspect. Take all the time you need, Renee. But don’t forget that we need you.”
A quick handshake between the two officers made for a dignified farewell for Renee Prince, as she turned and walked out of the door. Her peers watched her in silence as she left – most of them had been in the same situation, and had taken the same walk out that door, unsure of when or if they would be strong enough to return.
Unlike them, Renee already knew she would be back. For even as she rejected her Velorian heritage to live on Earth in peace, justice was in her blood. She could feel it.
Most people who believed themselves to be logical didn’t see a human-sized object fall through the atmosphere of Earth, and crash-land just outside Los Angeles. Or maybe those who did see made themselves believe that they hadn’t. After all, objects falling from the sky always had a logical explanation behind them – a human being falling from the sky simply wasn’t possible.
It wasn’t the falling man which suddenly brought a flood of calls to the Los Angeles Police Department. It was the fact that the object that had fallen was indeed a man – a naked one – who then proceeded to walk through the backyards of several suburban homes.
The impact he made with the ground had already destroyed one home, bringing an immediate flood of calls to the Los Angeles County 911 dispatcher. Fire engines were rolling immediately from the closest fire station. It was several minutes later when frightened residents again flooded 911, reporting a naked man running from the vicinity of the explosion. Police were dispatched in a leisurely manner – a naked man was no danger to the public.
But then the call escalated as one small child called 911. “He’s in my house”, the little girl said in a whisper.
The dispatcher, Kelly, began trembling slightly with fear, her heart beating quickly as she wished she could leap through the phone and help the little girl. “Who’s in your house?”
“A naked man. He’s digging in daddy’s old clothes.”
Kelly flushed suddenly as she waved for her supervisor and placed a clammy hand over the microphone on her headset. The supervisor nodded and signaled the police dispatcher. The call had just been escalated to a Code Three emergency, lights and sirens.
“Unit Seventeen, on scene. ETA on backup?” Officer Tom Parker was no rookie. He knew it was dangerous to enter a residence alone during a robbery in progress. He sat in the dark in his car, no lights, waiting for at least one more officer to arrive.
“Two minutes”, another officer replied.
Tom heard a high-pitched scream from inside the house. He jumped out of the car and drew his gun quickly, racing up to the door and flattening himself against the outside wall. His heart was beating quickly, reverting to his police training was the only thing keeping him from becoming a trembling mess.
“Police! I’m coming in!” Immediately after his warning, Tom clicked on his flashlight and aimed it alongside his gun, kicking the old wooden entrance door, hard. The doorway shattered, giving way for the door to swing open violently.
“Police! Come on out!” His voice trembled this time as he began shining his flashlight through the entrance room of the home, hoping that whoever was in the house wasn’t armed.
He walked around the corner into the hallway…and immediately felt nauseous. The telephone handset was lying on the floor, soaked in a pool of blood – and the little girl who had called 911 was face-first on the floor next to the phone. “Oh my God…Oh my God, no–”
Tom suddenly heard a noice next to him. He pointed the gun in its direction. “Police! Come on out, now! Put your hands behind–”
Someone rushed past him, quickly, nearly knocking him off his feet. His flashlight slipped from his hand and bounced off of the floor. Just as backup arrived, he caught the siloutette of a man racing toward the front door in the glare from the headlights outside. Purely on instict, he fired five shots at the man, the sound of each loud snap from his gun causing him to cringe. He figured that he missed – the man headed straight out of the door.
As Tom Raced after him, he heard two more officers outside ordering the man to lie down on the ground. Looking outside, Tom felt a little relieved. Three officers in two cars were on-scene, pointing flashlights and guns at the suspect, as he stood on the stairs, seemingly bewildered by all of the attention.
“I am Sey-len”, the tall, imposing man said slowly. He was wearing clothing, only it didn’t fit him well. It was obvious he had stolen it from inside the house. “You will stand aside, or I will destroy you all.”
In the bright lights, Tom could now see that each of his five shots did indeed hit the man who called himself ‘Sey-len’. There were five holes in the side and back of his shirt – yet he still stood. “Oh, great. He’s on PCP.”
Tom picked up his radio, intent on informing the other officers that the man was on some sort of drugs. But he had no idea he would be changing the call he was attempting to make on a moment’s notice.
He watched Sey-len walk straight over to the police car, smiling at the two closest officers. The two mistakenly relaxed for a moment, thinking he would surrender peacefully. They were surprised for only a moment before their gruesome deaths, as the tall Sey-len simply gripped the front of their car and flipped it over on top of them as if it were a hamburger on a grill. The third officer outside simply caught fire and melted somehow, as if someone had turned a powerful heat source on him. He screamed in terror for several minutes before finally losing conciousness.
Hands now shaking, Tom clicked the ‘talk’ button on his radio, and struggled to find his voice through the paralyzing fear he felt coursing through him. “Officers need assistance. All my backup is…dead! They’re all–”
He paused as Sey-len turned to face him. As Sey-len approached him, he fell to his knees, his thumb still pressing the button on his radio as if it would somehow save his life.
“As I walk through the valley of death…I shall not fear.” The 911 dispatcher, Kelly, began crying softly as she heard Tom’s wavering voice uttering his last prayers. She could do nothing to help him. “I shall not fear…I shall not fear. Please God, no—”
The 911 dispatch center suddenly grew silent. Kelly looked at her supervisor, her eyes red with tears. He said nothing as he silently signalled the police dispatcher again.
He paused for a moment as he looked at the 911 dispatchers in the center. They all knew Tom. He was a gentle soul, someone they all loved. They never expected to listen to him die over the air. He swallowed hard. “All available units…Code 99. Officers down. Approach with extreme caution.”
“Can I help you?”
A clerk in a small clothing store in Malibu Square watched a large man enter and pause, looking around slowly as if he were taking in the atmosphere. He wore older clothing which fit him badly. The clerk became suspicious as the man began pulling clothing off of the racks without even answering.
“Excuse me, sir–”
He retreated back behind the counter as the behemoth of a man gave him a terrifyingly chilling stare. As he frantically tapped the panic alarm below the desk, he turned pale, hoping the large, silent man would simply take what he needs and leave quietly.
But such would not be his fate. He began to back away slowly as the monster approached the desk, slowly. With shaking hands, he tapped the release button on the cash register, and opened the drawer, quickly, throwing the cash at the approaching behemoth in the hopes of getting him to take the money and leave.
“I am Sey-len. You fear me…that is good.”
The clerk smiled weakly, as he watched Sey-len extend a hand in what seemed like a courteous greeting. He reached out to meet the man’s huge hand, in the hopes of preventing his own injury or death.
Once again, the clerk would not be so lucky. As soon as his hand reached Sey-len’s palm, he felt what seemed like a sudden tug against his shoulder…only as he watched, Sey-len stood in front of the clerk, waving his own detached arm in front of him. He wanted to cry out for help, but he suddenly felt both weak from blood loss, and frozen from panic and shock.
The last thing he remembered as being clubbed by his own elbow…and then, nothing.
Renee sighed to herself as she watched four Malibu police cars race down the street shortly after she parked her car in Malibu Square, the same retail area where she remembered knocking down that suspect. She even remembered the exact spot that the man lay unconcious, even though cars were driving over it at the moment.
She wanted so badly to know where the police cars were headed in such a hurry – deep down, she was still a cop. She had to take a deep breath and calm herself, tell herself that she was on vacation, and that the other officers were more then capable of handling the situation on their own.
Sliding on a pair of sunglasses, Renee focused on a small coffee shop fairly close to where she had parked. Sharon had asked to meet her there to talk over lunch.
As soon as she stepped through the doors of the coffee shop, she spotted Sharon sitting next to the window. Sharon still had a little bit of warrior in her – she always sat, stood, or hung around where she could see everything and everybody who came her way. She was never content just to hide in the back corner in peace and quiet.
“Enjoying your vacation?”
Renee smiled at Sharon and sat down at the table, tossing her sunglasses in front of her. She looked at the various pastries and extra cup of coffee that Sharon ordered in anticipation of her arrival. “It’s very relaxing. But I’m also getting a little bored. How can you stand to do this every day?”
“I’m a writer, Reya.” Sharon smiled as she shoved her cup of coffee around in a circle. “Writers find entertainment within their own minds. And if that fails, we just watch TV or go out for a while.”
“I have to tell you the truth, Sharon. Those stories of yours scare me a little. You must have destroyed San Francisco a half dozen times already.”
Sharon laughed quietly, trying not to attract too much attention from other customers in the coffee shop. “They’re just stories. The Arions have no idea this place even exists yet. We just got here first.”
Renee sighed and leaned back in her chair. She suddenly seemed a little upset by Sharon’s implication – that eventually, the Arions would come to Earth…and destroy it. “I love Earth. It’s such a peaceful place, Sharon. Even as I grew up…as we grew up…back home, there was always an undercurrent of fear, and hatred. I want my children to grow up in a place like this…knowing what peace and tranquility truly are.”
“Children?” Sharon smiled and took a sip of her coffee. “You’re thinking about children? Do you have any idea how much trouble you’d get into if you tried to raise a family here?”
Another sigh from Renee as she produced a small steel scroll from her purse and slid it toward Sharon. “I’ve been called elsewhere, Sharon. But I’m not going. I want to stay here.”
Sharon slid her chair back suddenly, turning a little pale as she used an amazing amount of strength to uncurl the small scroll. It was almost as if she had to confirm that what Renee told her wasn’t a prank. “But you can’t…I mean…it’s a death sentence if you–”
“The messenger would have to find me first.” Renee sounded confident as she took the scroll back and stuffed it into her purse. “And even if he does, I’ll just turn him away. It’s funny, really…messengers are supposed to enforce these things, but they’re forbidden to fight a Protector.”
“No, no–” Sharon leaned closer to Renee. The deep serious look in her eyes caused Renee’s smile to vanish, and a chill to run down her spine. “They won’t send a messenger. They’ll send a recovery team…of experienced protectors.”
“But–” Renee bowed her head and paused, trying to curb the feelings of frustration and sadness she felt. She felt like crying. She didn’t want to be forced to leave this place. “Can’t I…appeal this or something?”
Renee bowed her head further as Sharon shook her head sadly. She could tell that Sharon was becoming involved, emotionally. To her, that was a bad sign – between the two friends, Sharon was always the strong one, telling Renee not to let things eat away at her.
After she left the Malibu police station the night before, she went directly to Sharon’s house. Sharon accepted her warmly, even though she already had company of her own. She listened quietly as Renee poured out her heart in her kitchen, handing her a box of tissues as she began to cry. To Renee, Sharon was a rock, someone stable and caring enough to trust with anything.
“You really can’t handle this, can you?” Sharon smiled softly and held Renee’s hands between her own as Renee responded by shaking her head slowly. “I’ll tell you what, Reya. I’ll do what I can for you. I can’t promise anything, but–”
“Thank you”, Renee whispered softly as she reached across the table to hug Sharon tightly. She knew that the odds were stacked decidedly against her – but just the thought that Sharon was on her side was enough to give her the courage to do what she had to.
Renee wiped away a few remaining tears as she waved at Sharon and headed back to her car. It was impractical for them to walk to their cars together, given that they had parked at opposite ends of the block. Even so, Renee made sure to wait until Sharon reached her car, waving at her as she climbed in and drove away slowly. Sharon waved back as she passed by.
She guessed it was part of her cop instinct that always caused her to make sure everyone else was safe before leaving herself. Maybe, as a trained police officer, she felt she could handle anything which may befall anyone she watched over. Or perhaps it was something genetic, from her breeding as a protector back on Velor. Whichever the case, she realized at that moment that she had been absolutely, positively wrong.
As soon as she turned and headed toward her car, she felt a strong hand grip her arm. She was literally lifted off of her feet and slammed into a brick wall in an alley hard enough to send a crack down the center of the building. Her head spinning, she looked up at a very large man…and immediately felt terror surge through her body. It was as if some nightmare of hers had suddenly come to life before her eyes. But somehow, she realized that the nightmare had just begun.
She turned and tried to run away – but his steel-like grip on her arm stopped her in her tracks. He grabbed her hair with his other hand, and pulled it, hard, sending a searing pain through her scalp. He then used his body to pin her flat against the wall. Once she realized that she had been immobilized, she began screaming as loud as her lungs would allow.
Renee felt a blow to her head. It felt like a large truck had slammed right into her. Another blow, and another pull of the hair. She tried to push him away, to kick and claw at him, hopefully causing him enough suffering that he would choose to leave and pick on someone else. Yet he still held her against the wall, his foul breath entering her lungs as he laughed at her attempts to fight him off.
She screamed louder as she felt her clothing being torn, like tissue paper. She used all of her strength to try and push him away desperately, as she turned her head away to avoid that foul breath. He seemed amused by her struggles. That scared her more then anything else.
Her eyes widened with terror as something changed – he gripped her neck tightly, and suddenly shifted position to pin only her torso to the brick wall. She tried to cry out – but with her air diminishing, she couldn’t make a sound.
Every muscle in her body burned, and cried out to her as the man suddenly overcame all of her possible defenses, and invaded her in a most personal way. She closed her eyes and began to cry quietly, imagining to herself that this was all a horrible dream, a nightmare from which she would wake at any second. Or possibly that this was the first level of hell.
If it was hell, it lasted beyond an eternity…she hoped, and prayed that sweet death would take her. And as she collapsed to the ground, she closed her eyes and curled into a ball. There would be no more fighting. There would be no more warmth. Only cold darkness. So it will be written…the end.