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The Question: Where is the smack down?
“Zoey, in my office now,” my father, General Thaddeus Jones snapped over the intercom. The General made my name sound like the foulest of cuss words. I’d been a disappointment to him since I came out of my mother’s womb female.
The General figured with his mind control abilities and mom’s clairvoyance they would produce a child with off the charts powers. He had little use for a sickly baby who showed no signs of psychic ability. Hoo ra!
He was equally unhappy with my mother, Grace, for not giving him a male heir with the traditional Jones’ family powers. A botched C-section during my delivery left Mom sterile, rendering her useless to the General’s plans and the Coletti’s breeding program.
My mother actually loved the General. Why? The only reason I could come up with was daddy dearest used mind control on her. Being an ace investigative reporter she soon discovered her not so loving husband was actively searching for her replacement. Mom divorced him when I was two and took me with her on assignments.
For fourteen years I never received a birthday or Christmas gift or even a phone call from the bastard. Once a year we got a nice letter from his attorney requesting that I be retested for psychic abilities. Father of the year he wasn’t.
The Iraq incident triggered my psychic powers when I was sixteen. Mom had been doing a story on the Khamisal Al-Dari and terrorists being terrorists they started shooting at us infidels. When I saw Mom get hit I totally lost it. I unleashed such a burst of power that my cousin, Quinn, the head of the Siren program, felt it all the way in the Bunker, Central Command’s top secret base.
Baghdad was soon swarming with Central Command and Coletti hunters looking for the female responsible for taking out twelve heavily armed terrorists. Sirens’ psychic abilities make them a hot commodity and prime breeding stock. They were more than a bit pissed when they couldn’t locate me.
That was about the same time the General started demanding his visitation rights. He suddenly wanted to get to “know” me. My father figured if he could prove I was a Siren, I would be his ticket to a job at Central Command. The bastard got a court order forcing me to go to his military base in Arizona for two weeks a year.
That’s when I came up with the wonderful idea of a grown version of the sickly child. Along with Hollywood quality makeup that made me appear to be on death’s watch list, I added padded clothing that made me look lumpy and deformed. To really piss him off I assumed the demeanor of a timid mouse who was afraid of her own shadow. He has this vein on his forehead that pops out whenever I’m around. I love driving him nuts.
If daddy dear had done any research on me at all, he’d know what I really look like. I’m a Scottish throwback just like my cousin Quinn. Instead of red hair and green eyes, I have black hair and silver eyes. I’m pretty sure my unique psychic powers rival or exceed Quinn’s and Kaylee’s. My shields are my biggest ace in the hole. I appear to be a normal human without any abilities at all and because of my petite size everyone tends to underestimate me.
When I was eighteen Mom obtained information that three high ranking military men were aiding the Tai-Kok and Rodan. These traitors were giving the Tai-Kok the codes to shut down our planetary defense systems, allowing them to swoop in and slaughter thousands of people. Seems human flesh is considered a delicacy and sold for a fortune at their version of supermarkets.
We tracked the traitors to Dallas where I met the love of my life. Paul was a fighter pilot assigned to protect Texas. The minute I saw him I knew he was the one for me. Paul was a tall, handsome warrior with the cutest dimples and a terrific sense of humor. After a whirlwind romance he proposed and I said yes. A week later we were at the base chapel and I was about to become Mrs. Paul Hennessy when the warning sirens sounded and all hell broke loose.
The western U.S. defenses had been disabled allowing dozens of Rodan ships to attack the base. The ground shuddered under our feet as the armory blew. Paul gave me a hard kiss and said, “I will always love you, Zoey.” With a grin, he grabbed his rifle and stepped out of the door. A laser beam flashed out like a fiery snake and vaporized him.
Every nerve in my body twanged with shock and denial. No! He couldn’t be gone. He couldn’t. It wasn’t possible. Mom grabbed my arm and tried to pull me to the bunker. That’s when the pain hit me and my mental howl of fury and grief was heard all the way to the moon.
Screams of terror jerked me back to reality. I bolted from the church in my white silk wedding dress and destroyed the mind of the Rodan raider trying to disembowel a panic stricken woman. The Rodan are ugly sonavabitches. Scaly purple skin and kinda remind me of a weird combination of rat and dinosaur.
Unleashing my psychic power, I slaughtered every Rodan and destroyed every one of their ships. Unfortunately, my rage also brought down the hunters. How Mom managed to smuggle me out of Dallas, I’ll never know. I was almost catatonic from overusing my powers.
It took me six weeks to get back to normal; whatever that meant. My heart had been ripped from me and all I had left was vengeance. I would find those murdering bastards no matter how long it took.
The trail went cold for almost two years until one of the traitors got drunk at a Mexican drug lord’s hacienda and hit on his wife. Not a smart thing to do. In a desperate attempt to save his life, the snake in the grass told El Jefe, the drug lord, about his dealings with the Tai-Kok. Being a splendid fellow, El Jefe decided to join forces with the traitors. The drug lord’s super model wife knew Mom from an interview earlier in the year and eagerly ratted the creeps out.
Mom was in Tucson following up on the promising lead when I felt her die. My mental wail of grief once again brought down the hunters. I was too busy evading them and the General to do a proper investigation of my mother’s car accident for almost a week.
I soon discovered that her death wasn’t an accident like everyone claimed. It was murder. Mom has gotten too close and the traitors had silenced her. Those murderous bastards had made one fatal mistake. They thought I wasn’t a threat.
“Zoey,” the General bellowed again, practically foaming at the mouth. “Get your ass down to my office.”
My father expected instant obedience. After Mom’s murder, he used his military might to force me to live with him. Could his sudden concern for my safety have something to do with his Central Command ambitions? Ah, yeah. The fact that I was twenty and an adult didn’t matter, either. Marshall Law gave him the right to do pretty much anything he wanted.
The only reason my timid mouse charade worked as well as it did was Marie. She had been mom’s photographer and best friend. Marie and her son, Alejandro, had traveled the world with us on assignments until he turned ten. That’s when her jerk of an ex-husband got custody of him and I lost my best friend.
Marie managed to get hired as the General’s housekeeper to keep an eye on me. She was afraid I’d shoot the ass. It had been close a few times. She also kept me from doing anything too stupid.
I waited to answer my father until I was sure his vein was pulsing nicely. The moron actually thought I wrote bodice ripping romance novels. I had even decorated my room with erotic book posters and a frilly pink heart bedspread. The joke was on him. I’m an award winning journalist and even have my own bi-line with New Times Weekly.
I knew one of the traitors was on the General’s base and I wasn’t leaving until I found him. My father’s demands had worked to my benefit. The only downside was the Coletti Warlords. They were persistent buggers.
“Zoey, answer me dammit!”
I pushed the intercom button and squeaked timidly, “I’m right in the middle of a scene, can’t it wait, sir?”
“While the rest of the Jones clan protects Earth you write god-damned porn. You’re such a fucking waste.”
Oh, I was more than doing my part to protect Earth, including being a Siren, anonymously of course. I wasn’t ending up as a brood mare. With a heartbroken sob, I sniffed, “I’ll leave immediately, sir.”
“You’re not going anywhere. Comb your hair and put some makeup on, for God’s sake. You’ve got five minutes before I send Ted up.”
Ted was the General’s toady and an all-out bully. “Yes sir.” He only got this way when a big shot Coletti was visiting. Gotta make a good impression, ya know. My father kept hoping he’d get posted to Central Command.
Dropping my shields, I scanned the area and gasped in horror. Holy shit, this Warlord’s psychic powers were off the charts. Why they kept coming to look me over was a mystery. It’s not like I flaunted my powers. Okay sometimes I did but always for a good reason. Maybe I needed to up my gross factor or give them what they were looking for.
A feral smile pulled at my mouth. Why not give them Jasmine, the General’s whore? All I had to do was boost what little psychic ability she had and they’d be all over her. The trick was not getting caught.
I widened my scan. Where was the little slut? Omigod, she was banging Lieutenant Golf in the men’s restroom. Talk about romantic. Wonder if the General knew?
I slid easily into her mind. Yikes, the Lieutenant’s itty-bitty penis wasn’t getting the job done for her. I could hear her saying, “Oh yeah, baby. That’s it. Give it to me big boy.”
He was going to give it to her alright. Jasmine’s mercenary thoughts were centered on how much money she could get out of him. She wanted a new party dress.
The nasty bitch was about to get her just dues. With a few adjustments her power level and brain waves now mimicked mine. God, I loved having psychic abilities. Too bad the fix wouldn’t last long but the resulting fireworks would be fun to watch.
Now came the hard part. I skimmed cautiously around the scarily powerful Warlord’s mind and waited for him to notice me.
An instant later his mind struck and bounced off my shields. “Impressive shields female,” a deep voice announced in my head.
Shit! Shit! Shit! He had been playing possum and I had walked right into his trap. Now all I had to do was lead him into mine. Giving a little yelp of alarm, I did what he expected any reasonable person to do when confronted with a dangerous predator. I ran.
He followed me easily. “I’ve been tracking you for some time now.”
That explained why they kept coming back to the base. I had used my powers a little too much lately investigating my mother’s murder.
The Warlord commanded, “Tell me your name.”
It was a good thing mind control didn’t work on me. “Jasmine.” I led him right to the horny bitch and snapped my shields down tight.
I caught a fleeting sensation of all that power ensnaring Jasmine’s mind. A shudder shook me. If he ever got inside my head, he’d own me, mind, body and soul.
My bedroom door shuddered from a heavy blow. “Zoey, open the door.”
Ted was such an ass. Using my best whiny voice, I cried, “Go away. I have a migraine.”
“You think I give a fuck.”
I flinched as the Warlord’s furious mind swept the house. Color me impressed. It had taken him all of thirty seconds to realize he had been tricked.
“Zoey,” Ted roared.
“I need to comb my hair,” I answered in a frightened voice.
“You’ve got five minutes,” he snarled and stomped down the stairs.
If the Warlord wasn’t here, I’d give him a good mental shove down the stairs. I went into the bathroom and pulled out my makeup. Time to ugly myself up.
Five minutes later, I limped down the stairs and came to a dead stop. Even with my psychic abilities locked down tightly, I could sense another powerful Coletti Warlord inside the General’s office. Thank God it wasn’t scary guy, I had a horrible feeling he would know who I was the minute he saw me. I guess I should be impressed. They had brought out the big guns to trap me.
An evil grin curled my mouth. Just wait until they got a sniff of my eau de dead skunk perfume. I knocked timidly on the door.
“Come in,” my father growled.
I opened the door and got my first look at the Coletti. He was a big dude and to my surprise really cute, if you were into the whole merciless predator thing. His black battle suit displayed an amazing amount of muscles and he wore large bronze bracelets on each arm. A bronze chain was woven into one of his ebony warrior braids. He was definitely high up on the food chain.
“Jaylan, this is my daughter Zoey.”
The Warlord’s stunned gaze swept over my greasy black hair that hung in clumps around my pale, zit covered face and paused for a minute on the black raccoon like circles around my eyes. He eyed my Hunchback of Notre Dame outfit in outright horror and his nose wrinkled in disgust as my scent hit him.
It was all I could do not to giggle. Hideous didn’t even begin to describe me. There wasn’t a man or Warlord alive who would want to touch me.
“It is an honor to finally meet you, Zoey.” Baring his awesome fangs in a scarily polite smile, he held out his hand politely.
What a liar. Time to get the fun started. I scuttled round the desk, and hid behind the General. “Please, don’t let him eat me.”
The General gagged. “My God! What is that smell?”
“My new medicine,” I squeaked, letting the tears roll. My cheap mascara would soon be running down my face in nice black streaks.
Jaylan took a step back and his copper colored skin turned a ghastly green color.
I had to admit the stench was pretty horrific. I might have overdone it just a tad. Thankfully the Vaseline up my nose kept me from hurling. I clutched the General’s jacket. “Please sir, don’t let him hurt me.”
My father jerked away from me and vomited in the waste basket.
The big Warlord grabbed it away from the General and puked violently.
Who knew Warlord’s had such weak stomachs?
A beep sounded in my earpiece. Marie’s signal that Ted was coming with in with a tray of her nice powdered sugar covered cakes and coffee.
The minute Ted stepped in the room I let out a blood curdling shriek and shot for the door.
Jaylan instinctively leaped out of my way and crashed into Ted.
He staggered off balance, desperately trying to keep the tray from falling. I stuck out my foot and tripped him.
The tray tipped over, raining cakes and coffee all over Jaylan and my father.
A stunned look on his face, Jaylan stared at the coffee running down his spiffy boots and the pieces of smashed cake decorating his battle suit.
“Dammit! You clumsy fool, look what you’ve done,” my father bellowed, trying to brush the powdered sugar off his uniform.
I shot out the door and ran into the parking lot. God I hadn’t had this much fun in ages and the look on their faces was priceless. Grinning, I headed for my car.
“Zoey!” the General shouted.
Crap. Hunching my shoulders, I turned to face him. “I’m so sorry, sir.”
“You worthless bitch, you’re determined to destroy everything I’ve worked for!” My father backhanded me.
My head rocked back, the world swam dizzily around me and I hit the asphalt.
“Your mother ruined you.”
Wiping at my bleeding mouth, I fought down the urge to kick the living hell out of the jerk. Staring up at my father’s rage contorted face, I hissed, “You hit like a girl.”
“I’m going to beat the truth out of you.” My father pulled back his foot to kick me and I rolled frantically to the right.
A frightening Coletti battle cry sounded and the next instant the General flew across the parking lot and slammed into a wall.
I took one look at the ferocious expression on Jaylan’s face and quickly huddled into a fetal ball. What had the General done to piss him off that much?
The Warlord stalked over to my father, grabbed him around the throat and lifted him up. “Touch her again and you die.” He shook him hard. “Do you understand me? Voss has claimed her.”
His face an ominous purple color, the General nodded.
“Zoey!” Marie screamed, rushing towards me in her crappy mustard yellow maid outfit that clashed violently with her red hair. “Did that bastard hurt you, honey?”
I scrambled to my feet and ran into her outstretched arms like a scared child and whispered in her ear, “Did you get my bag?”
“It’s stashed under the rose brush. I can’t believe he hit you,” she whispered, shooting a worried glance at Jaylan who still held my father by the throat.
“I think Daddy just blew any chance of getting that job at Central Command.”
“What a shame.” Marie took an abrupt step backwards. “Dear God! Did you use the entire bottle?”
“I guess I should have stopped with one good spray but I wanted to make sure I grossed them out.”
“By the amount of vomit in that waste basket, I think you succeeded.”
Immense power rippled the air around me and the biggest, scariest Warlord I’d ever seen appeared next to Jaylan. The guy was huge and his battle suit fit him like a glove, emphasizing every bulging muscle. Two daggers protruded from his knee-high armored boots and on each arm he wore large copper bracelets. Copper chains were woven into his ebony warrior’s braids. A burn scar on the right side of his hard, chiseled face twisted his mouth into a permanent sneer.
One look at his aura of sheer menace and I knew it was the Warlord who had been chasing me.
A frightened gasp broke from Marie. “Isn’t that Voss the Overlord’s battle commander?”
My stomach clenched. Dear God it was him. The only logical reason for his visit was the Alliance cruiser that had blown up in Earth’s orbit a month ago. I was pretty sure the traitors had sabotaged the space ship but I didn’t have any proof yet.
What had Jaylan meant when he said Voss had claimed me? We had never really met and he didn’t know anything about me. Did he? Nah, I was probably freaking out over nothing. If he laid a hand on me, I’d kick his ass. I eyed his muscles again. Running was good.
Marie grabbed my face and turned it towards her. “Unless you want to be a Coletti war bride, you’ll wipe that scowl off your face and start crying.”
I obediently broke into hysterical sobs.
“Better.” Marie stiffened. “Holy Mother of God, he’s headed this way.”
I took a quick peek over my shoulder and a cold chill ran down my spine. Voss’s pale amber eyes were locked on me and a smile formed on his cruel mouth.
The Battle Commander’s baritone voice sounded in my head. “Your disguise is very effective, little one. I shall enjoy discovering what is hidden beneath it.”
“He knows,” Marie cried at the same time.
“He sure as hell does.”
“Oh yeah.” I reached into my pocket and hit my special panic button. The base alarm wailed loudly.
Voss stopped dead, shot me a suspicious look and commanded in perfect English. “You will go to the bunkers and stay until I come for you.”
Yeah, like that was going to happen.
He pointed a long finger at me and warned, “Disobey me and you will be punished.”
The menace in his voice did make my knees wobble a bit. I nodded my head obediently and he vanished.
Jaylan clamped the General to his chest and teleported.
Stopping only long enough to grab my get-out-of-jail bag, we both bolted for the tunnels like two scared rabbits. Voss was downright terrifying and there was no way I could beat him in a fair fight. So, I’d have to cheat. A lot.
Two military police officers waved us through the blast doors and we tore down eight flights of stairs.
Marie huffed, “How long do we have?”
“It won’t take the Battle Commander long to figure out I rigged the computers and the squadrons of Tai-Kok fighters are nothing but ghost images.
I handed her a clip-on bio jammer. “Once these suckers are turned on we’re invisible to the Coletti’s scanners.”
Her hands shaking badly, Marie quickly turned it on. “Where did you get these?”
“I borrowed them from the base armory, along with a few other things.”
“If you get caught…”
“I won’t.” Breathing hard, I skidded to a stop next to a massive steel door and quickly typed in the security code for the emergency evacuation tunnel. Mind reading could be so handy.
The doors groaned and slowly slid open. We hurried over to a small door and I ran the security card I had swiped from Daddy over the scanner. The door clicked opened. I hurriedly rolled out the motorcycle I had stashed there. Warlords being warlords, I figured I had better have an escape route and a safe house.
“You’ve gotta ditch those clothes,” Marie gasped, rubbing more Vaseline under her nose.
“That spray is worth every penny I paid for it. No warlord will want to come within ten feet of me. ”
“No, they’ll just throw you in a cell until it wears off.”
“Good point.” I quickly stripped down to my underwear, yanked a camouflage shirt off the shelf and hurriedly put it on.
“I must compliment you on a well executed ruse. You are far too clever for a female,” Voss rumbled in my head.
I think he just insulted every woman on Earth.
“Surrender and I will be merciful,” the Battle Commander added.
I burst out laughing. A merciful Warlord? Wasn’t that an oxymoron?
“You find me amusing?”
“You refuse my offer?”
“My you are a bright one, aren’t you?”
“I will find you.”
What a smug asshole. “Wanna bet?”
“You issue a challenge?”
“As you wish, a challenge was issued and has been accepted. We will meet on the battlefield in twelve hours.”
“What!? I’m not fighting you.” Was he nuts? I wouldn’t last ten seconds in any kind of hand-to-hand combat with him and the jerk knew it.
“The challenge has been accepted. You have no recourse.”
“The hell I don’t.”
“Are you without honor?”
“No, but this is ridiculous.”
“You have the option of surrender.”
“Surrender is not an option.”
“Then we meet on the battlefield or those close to you will pay the forfeit.”
“If you want to kill the General, go for it.”
“Alejandro Vega is my guest. Do you still wish me to go for it?”
I ground my teeth in frustration. Dammit, I had been out maneuvered.
Marie stared at me anxiously. “What’s going on?”
“The Battle Commander has your son.”
“What?! How? Is he okay?”
I held up a hand. “I want proof that Alejandro is okay.”
“He has not been harmed.”
“Give him access to a phone and…”
Voss broke in with a menacing growl. “You doubt my word?”
Insult a Coletti’s honor and you didn’t live very long. “Who me? Never. His mom wants to speak with him.”
“I will make the arrangements.”
“Thank you. Am I allowed to bring weapons to the challenge?”
“It is permitted.”
“Where’s the big smack down happening?”
“You know the battlefield?”
“The base gym at dawn.”
That was so lame. You’d think the arrogant bastard would set it up at one of the big arenas and turn it into a media event. See the big, bad Warlord beat up the itty-bitty human. “Could you specify a time? I’d hate to be five minutes late and find out you had already hacked off Alejandro’s head.”
“That would be unfortunate. Zero five hundred.”
“Perfect.” I broke the link and sagged against the wall with a groan. What had I done? My wiretaps had finally paid off and I knew where El Jefe would be tomorrow. If the Battle Commander won, I would never find my mother’s murderer.