Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 11

Rob paced the operations center. “Have you found her yet?”

Stevenson shook his head, “Negatory, sir. Give me a little more time. She’ll pop up on camera shortly.”

Rob sighed and resumed his pacing. The director walked into the center and watched for a few seconds. Her eyes crinkled at the corners as her mouth curved slightly upward. When he turned to her, the director immediately straightened her face, but he still saw the twinkle of merriment in her eyes. “Still wearing the carpet bare, Mr. Worthington?”

He sighed and ran his fingers through his rumpled hair. He scanned the room, eyes not staying on any object for longer than an instant. “Jennifer isn’t showing up on any of the cameras, Director.”

She nodded. “Ah. So, you are worried about Ms. Steel. Do you believe her to be incapable of surviving?”

Rob’s forehead wrinkled and his brow drew downward. “What? Of course I don’t believe that! She is my friend, though. Not only that, but the supernaturals weren’t supposed to be able to contact her yet.”

“Yes. You have made a good point, Mr. Worthington. In that case, why don’t you use your considerable tracking skills to locate Ms. Steel and bring her back?”

Rob’s eyes widened. “Are you certain? What about the test?”

“Under the circumstances, I think it would be permissible to name the test as null and go with your original recommendation that Ms. Steel join.”

Rob smiled and turned to hurry out of the Ops Center. The director allowed him to get almost out of the room, before stooping him. “Mr. Worthington?”

He poked in her back in, eyebrows raised. “Yes, Director?”

“Bring our friend back safely.”

“Indeed.”

 

Rob strode the warm brown hall to the armory. He wanted to be properly outfitted in case Lilith was in a bad mood. Carter tended to have that effect on her. Rob shook his head. He did not envy the Walker of Worlds. The man had the power to slay deities and freely travel between universes, but he also had the responsibility of watching over trillions of lives across the same. That’s way over my pay grade. But there had been a time when it hadn’t been. Flashes of a different world and a woman with silver eyes played in his mind’s eye before he pushed them away. ‘Anila,’ he thought before pushing that away as well.

Arriving at the armory door, he placed his hand on the cold palm reader and leaned forward. A small green light waved over his retina as a blue one did the same to his palm. A computerized voice stated that he was cleared to enter.

“Of course I am. I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” he said.

As always, the computer did not respond. He grinned, thinking about what anyone would say upon hearing him talking to the computer. The heavy steel door slide up into a recess, allowing him entry. The backlit walls were lined with rows and rows of weapons. The rows closest to the doors were modern firearms from the Colt .25 pistol all the way up to the M72 light Anti-tank Weapon and FIM-92 Stinger missile system. Rob ignored them and headed further in. The next section held various martial arts and medieval weapons. He strode past bows, cross bows, javelins, swords and shields. Pole arms, blowguns and throwing weapons held no interest either.  Presently, he came to the very back of the armory. He stopped before a seemingly simple wooden door. This door however, was like the weapons within: magic.

Rob knocked three times on the door, paused, knocked twice more and waited. Soon a bright azure light played over his body. When it faded, the door swung open. A chill mist wafted from within. He shook his head. No matter how many dehumidifiers were placed inside, a mist always formed. He figured it must have been due to the magic being kept within.

The two-handed sword Glamdring hung on wall. Next to it were Icingdeath and the double-edged Blade of Evil’s Bane. On the opposite side of the room were the katana Tenseiga, the purple flesh covered broadsword Soul Edge and the mace Sharur. Gungnir, Mjolnir, Tonbogiri and the Runestaff hung from the ceiling. Rob strode past display cases holding the Sword of Truth, Mace of Cuthbert, Hammer of Kharas, the Dagger of Time, Soul Reaver and the Sword of Omens. He stopped before a dark wooden case in the shape of a pentagon. It had mystic symbols carved over the entirety of its surface. Despite this, it felt smooth and slightly slippery under his hand. He raised the lid and was hit with a wave of cold air. Rob ignored the arctic blast and fully raised the lid. He waved the vapor away impatiently and looked with reverence at what was within.

It was a blue crystalline bastard sword. The blade was a double fuller, lenticular design. The cross-guard was curved slightly towards the blade, the grip was of onyx and wrapped with golden wire in a chain link pattern, the pommel was a clear gem. Legend held that if this sword was used for evil, the gem would capture the wielder’s soul on his death. The sword rested on a bed of crushed red velvet next to its scabbard. The scabbard had been made by hand by Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. He had made it from the wood of an Elder tree and wrapped in the skin of a Nukekubi, a vicious human-like monster whose head detached from its body. Legends didn’t say who created the actual sword.

It was the third most powerful weapon in the armory, yet it was his favorite. The crystal sword fit him like it had been made for his hand. He reverentially lifted the blade and held it up to the light. The harsh white light of the fluorescent tubes was softened and diffused by the azure blade. He smiled as he stared at it. It had been two years since he last held this weapon. As he exited the armory, he passed a large sword embedded in a block of granite. Looks like the director finished with Excalibur.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 10

Jennifer sat on the cold stone floor of the cave. Further in than she wanted to go, she could hear small animals scurrying around. The smoke from her bonfire kept larger animals away. The fire crackled and popped as she stared into the orange and white flames. The heat dried her eyes and made her cheeks prickle, but she didn’t want to move further back. She blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to keep them moist. A cool wind swept into the cave and swirled the smoke into her face. She coughed hard, and spat excess saliva into the fire. After several minutes of staring into the fire, she yawned. Seconds later, she raised her arms out from her body in a stretch, closing her eyes as she yawned again. Her eyes heavy, her head began to sag forward. She jerked her head up, only to have it slide forward once more.  Soon, her head rested on her knees and gentle snores filled the air.

A large white wolf slunk over to the sleeping woman and sniffed her. It showed its teeth for a moment, lapped her cheek, then flopped down. The lupine rested its head on its paws, and watched the cave opening.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 9

Rob glanced at the carbon fiber face of his Black Seal MTM watch. Jennifer had been gone for over two hours. It was only supposed to take forty-five minutes. He sighed and looked at his friend. The blond woman smiled back and shook her head. “It’s too soon, Rob. You know the deadline is three hours,” she said in a cultured British accent.

“No one has ever taken that long!” He rubbed his forehead. He was developing a headache.

“You worry too much. You know she can do this. You wouldn’t have recruited her otherwise.”

“I worry too much? Have you forgotten about Mary?”

She shook her head, curls flying. “No. She was an aberration, remember. There was no way for you to know she was a half.”

A rumble of laughter came from the senior man. “Other than the nihilism, you mean?”

“Nietzsche was a human. Hard to get more nihilistic than him.”

“Okay. Fair point.”

A yellow light began pulsing. A second later, a small siren began to “wheep” softly. A young man hurried up. He carried a tablet computer in his hands and had a hands free communicator in his ear. “Mr. Worthington, we have a problem.”

“What is it, Mr. Stevenson?”

Stevenson swallowed hard. He hated to be the bearer of bad news. Especially the kind like this. “Um, the Walker of Worlds is there. He spoke with Ms. Steel and he knows she has his sword.” As he spoke, Stevenson sidled closer to the door. He didn’t want to be around when Rob blew up.

Rob sighed and ran his fingers through his dark hair. He shook his head, and looked down at the floor. “Just what we don’t need. Now I have to go in.”

The blond woman touched his arm. “You do and she gets disqualified. Those are the rules.”

Rob sighed. “Damn it.” He looked up, but didn’t see the Ops tech. “Stevenson!” he barked.

The young man poked his head cautiously back into the room. “Yes, sir?”

“Give me a sitrep.”

He nodded and tapped the tablet a few times, then pushed his finger towards the 15 foot viewing screen to Rob’s left. Rob and the blond woman turned and watched Carter confront Lilith and Jennifer running off. Rob sighed again. He hated when things went off the rails like this.

“Alright. We will continue to wait. I recommend that we terminate the countdown under the circumstances.”

The blond woman nodded. “Agreed. Mr. Stevenson, make it so.”

The young man tilted his head and tapped again at the tablet. “Done, Director.”

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 8

Jennifer slowly came to, dimly aware that her legs were cold. Damn it. I kicked the blankets off again. She hated when she did so. Why do I end up kicking off my blankets every time I hang out with Rob, and why is it so irritating? She reached to punch her pillow, which was feeling oddly hard, and came fully awake when her hand hit the cold stone.

“Ow. Fucker.”

She sat up in a hurry. A quick look down her body had conflicting emotions running through her. One the one hand, she was dressed; in a shift, it appeared, but still dressed. The worst part was the knowledge that someone had undressed her to put this on her. She felt…violated. Goddamnit, I’m gonna fuck up whoever took liberties with me while I was out. Her eyes went wide, and she reached between her legs. No soreness, but… What the fuck?! She leaped to her feet. Where’s my fucking panties?!

Jennifer whirled around and saw that one candle had burned down and been replaced with a fresh one. The shift was a finely woven fabric of some type and belted with a golden rope around her hips. On her feet were a pair of soft leather boots that came up to mid-calf. Her sword was laying on the bed in a dark leather sheath. She picked it up and examined it. The baldric was belted for someone much larger than she was. After several minutes of fiddling with the straps, she figured out how to loosen and tighten them. She slipped the baldric over her right shoulder so she could draw the sword with her right hand, and tightened the straps. When it was comfortable, she headed out the wooden door near the recliner.

Outside, she found herself in a soaring pine forest. She stalked along a path, cussing under her breath, vowing to tear the clothes thief a new one. Crickets made their reedy music, and a tawny wood owl screeched in victory as it caught a field mouse. She marveled at its beauty for a moment, and then lifted her face, letting the light and shadow dance across her skin. Bees hummed in and out of a cluster of wild rose bushes. A quick bend at the waist to inhale their perfume before hurrying on, and delighting at the sound of her boots crunching pine needles underfoot. Not too far away, she could hear a creek chuckling as it tumbled over different levels of rocks. It wasn’t long before it became visible through the trees. Jennifer decided to walk towards the creek. As she walked, she startled a pair of rabbits. She didn’t get to see much as they streaked out of sight, just a flash of long ears and twin streaks of brown fur. She felt a smile spread across her face as she continued. She’d never seen wild rabbits before. Not paying attention to the path, she brushed up against the rough bark of an immense pine, and getting sticky pine tar on her bare arm. Brushing the white tar only succeeded in spreading it further along her arm. She scowled at the mess, hating the tacky feel of it. A noise above her caused her to look up and forget all about the pine tar on her arm. A pair of grey squirrels chased each other through the tree branches, leaping boldly from limb to limb, sending a shower of needles and twigs down on her. She found herself giggling like a little girl at their antics. Why am I giggling? I’m supposed to be pissed.

Something about the forest path – what, she didn’t know – pulled the anger out of her, leaving her more at peace. What the hell is going on with me? For some reason, even that worry faded away. A soft, warm wind began to blow across her face and playfully toss her hair across her eyes. While she walked across the rich, loamy, black earth, long blades of grass caressed her bare legs. Birds resumed twittering in the treetops. The insects never bothered to stop their humming.

The ground became softer and wetter as she approached the banks of what turned out to be a wide river. Soon, Jennifer came to the edge of the running water. It was a beautiful blue, perfectly reflecting the clear sky above. As her gaze roamed the stretch of waterway, she could see that the river grew swifter about fifty feet further down. She made her way to it, the sound of a waterfall building in volume as she got closer. She soon found herself on a rocky outcropping far above a plunge pool, with a white, frothy cascade of water diving all the way down to it. A cool mist landed on her skin, beading up and then running down her limbs as far below, a deer drank from the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. A flat boulder rose up from the center of the plunge pool, its sun-baked surface drawing her on like a cat to a sunny window seat. She absently wiped spray from her cheeks as she contemplated her sudden desire to dive in to the pool below.

Jennifer leaned towards the waterfall, her lips parted, breathing faster and shallower. Her cheeks were flushed, and she wore a big grin of anticipation. She practically vibrated with excitement. Her lips shone as she unconsciously  continually licked them. I’m gonna do it! She took three giant steps backward, stopped, and then raced forward and dove off the outcropping of rock.

“Yaaaaa-hoooooo!” she yelled as she fell.

She arched her back, swept her arms forward and executed a perfect swan dive into the plunge pool at the base of the waterfall. Ignoring the sound of thousands of gallons of water thundering into the pool, Jennifer pushed to the surface, taking a huge breath as she broke it. She threw a triumphant fist into the air, laughing giddily at the same time.

“Yes! That was amazing! I wish Rob had seen that!”

Now why the hell did I say that? She mused, dropping her arm.

She swam to the boulder in the middle of the pool and pulled herself up onto it. She slid her fingers through her wet hair, slicking it back. She then lay back on the sun warmed boulder and looked up at the clear blue sky. She enjoyed the gentle heat of the sun as it warmed her and pulled the moisture from her skin and drenched clothing. The scent of the water saturated air, combined with the smell of rich earth and green, growing things further served to relax her.

Suddenly, the wind began to pick up, kicking a fine spray of grit over Jennifer’s body. At the same time, the light hairs on her arms and the nape of her neck stood straight up. She felt dizzy as if she had twirled in place. Chills danced up her spine and down her arms as she unknowingly bit at her lower lip and cleared her throat. Her mouth went dry as she sat up and looked around her. She could see nothing, but her legs were growing tense as if she wanted to start running. She stood, tears falling unnoticed down her cheeks. She abruptly turned and dove into the water, swimming for the shore. Oddly, the water felt colder and thicker as if it wanted to keep her from reaching the safety of the shore. She finally scrambled from the water and backed away from the water which suddenly seemed dark and sinister. Jennifer wrapped her arms tightly about her body as she shook uncontrollably and gasped for air.

A cold, white mist grew above the surface of the plunge pool. The animal and insect sounds faded away. The smell of earth grew stronger as the mist grew thicker. Jennifer back around a tree and continued to watch. A bank of fluffy, greenish-black clouds formed near the center of the boulder she had sunned herself on just moments ago. The clouds began to spiral up and into a vaguely humanoid form. A bolt of lightning struck the center of the clouds, leaving a bluish after image on her vision and the smell of ozone in her nostrils. Jennifer was surprised when she wasn’t deafened by thunder. Air, superheated by the lightning bolt seconds ago, exploded outward, nearly deafening her. She cringed, having never been so close to a lightning strike before.

Blinking away tears of pain, and the after images of the bolt, Jennifer looked back at the boulder in the center of the waterfall’s plunge pool. Standing confidently on the rock was a statuesque, curvy woman. She had long, thick rich red-orange hair, long sable lashes, and ice blue eyes. Her face was perfectly symmetrical and flawless. She had firm, up thrust breasts, a line outlining her abdominal muscles, and a defined “V” shape where her abs descended to her pubis, which had no hair. There was a very evident inward curve to the outline of her body at her waist and a sharp flare outward at her hips. She had muscular, yet feminine legs and delicate feet. Poking up above her shoulders were a folded pair of bat-like wings, the fingers of which were black.

“Come here, child,” the creature said in a soprano voice.

Jennifer unconsciously checked that her sword was loose in its sheathe by lifting it a bit with her thumb and letting it drop back. I have three options: I can run, I can go talk to her, or I can attack. After a few seconds of deliberation, she gave a heavy sigh and approached the creature with dragging feet. She nibbled on her bottom lip as she approached the bank of the pool of water. The winged creature snapped her wings out, showing an impressive span. She flapped them slowly at first, then more rapidly. She gently rose into the air, the downdraft causing wavelets to ripple away from the boulder. Shortly, the creature was settling gracefully to the ground before Jennifer.

“What are you?” she said in a strained voice.

“I am Lilith, the Mother.”

“Mother of what?”

Lilith gave a small smile. “All.”

Jennifer’s right eyebrow arched upward. “Are you trying to get me to believe that you are the Eve from the Christian bible?”

Lilith shook her head. “No, Jennifer, my dear. I’m informing you that I am the one all Abrahamic religions call Eve. You may believe what you wish.”

“Rob says religions are make believe.”

“Rob? Is he your mate?”

“Oh god, no. We’re just friends.”

Lilith chuckled. “Have it your way.” She suddenly got serious. “I have a favor to ask of you.”

“What kind of favor?” Jennifer asked suspiciously.

“A helpful one. Now listen: Not too far from here is a gem. It is in the shape of a clenched fist. It looks like it is made from a blue-white diamond, but it is really a different kind of mineral; one not found on your world. I need you to get it and hand it to me.”

“That’s it?”

Lilith nodded her head. “That’s it.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“I can give you your heart’s desire. The one you won’t even admit to yourself.”

Long association with Rob made her say, “The question is: Will you do so?”

“Yes, I wi—”

“Don’t trust her Jennifer!” a man’s voice thundered.

Jennifer and Lilith turned to the new comer. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with long and thick black hair. He had dark eyes, high cheek bones and a wide jaw which was covered with dark stubble as if he hadn’t shaved that morning. Thick arms were folded across a massive chest, clad in a silvery, purple-green colored, form-fitting armor. Across his forehead was a band of the same color of his armor. He looked regal, deadly, and intimidating. When Lilith saw him, her face contorted into a snarl of black rage. Her breathing picked up as she shook. “Carter!” she spat.

“L’Arc,” he responded, his eyes flinty.

“What are you doing here?”

“My job.”

Jennifer blinked and the mysterious man appeared, sword raised to chop, behind the winged female who vanished from sight. She reappeared several feet away, facing him once more.

Jennifer began to slowly back away. She had no idea who this Carter individual was, but she had no desire to get between him and the winged woman. Lilith growled and hissed, but made no move to follow. Jennifer backed into a tree, causing the sheathe of the white sword to knock against the trunk. Without taking his eyes off Lilith, he spoke to Jennifer. “Don’t lose my sword and only use it if you have no other recourse.”

Jennifer turned and fled, running nearly blind through the woods.  She ignored the brush scratching her bare legs, the tug of mud on her boots and spider webs breaking over her face. She leaped over a foul-smelling stagnant pond, startling squirrels  – which leaped up tree trunks – and a red fox that scurried into a hollow under a mighty pine tree’s roots. Fallen evergreen needles crunched underfoot, releasing their clean scent into the air. The light was fading, creating new shadows and dark patches around her. The wind sighed between distorted trunks, carrying the sickly odor of wood rot. She ran faster, ignoring the briars that caught at her shift, and the damp leaves griming her skin.

Her headlong rush was brought to an undignified end moments later when her foot slipped in some dark mud. She belly-flopped on the ground and slid partly into a stream, getting scrapped by the rocks and wet from the cold water. The sudden impact drove the wind from her lungs with a pained grunt. She immediately rolled off her wounded middle to her side. She curled around the stinging pain, trying to get it under control. Her breath shuddered painfully in her sore lungs. After several painful moments, she rolled to her belly again and pushed herself up on her hands and knees. Her limbs trembling with the effort, she pushed herself upright. She pulled up the soaked shift and hissed at the sight of the scrapes on her legs and the developing bruise on her abdomen.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 7

 

She found a six-foot steel door twenty minutes later. A thick wooden bar across it sealed the portal. She lifted the bar up and tossed it to one side, swinging the door silently on well-oiled hinges. She stepped through and had to turn on her flashlight again. As she played the light around the room, she discovered it was very similar to a basement. Overhead were air ducts, support beams and spider-webs (abandoned and otherwise). The walls were rough and unpainted. Hard-packed dirt made the floor. She walked for so long her legs were starting to burn. Finding a wooden door, she walked though. Inside was a candle lit room with a comfortable looking bed, a small table with a delectable looking steak, mashed potatoes and a glass of wine, and a thick cushioned recliner. Jennifer realized she was suddenly tired and hungry. She went to the chair and collapsed into it, tearing into the steak and potatoes as if she hadn’t eaten in days. The old saw about adrenaline spiking hunger was true. She reached for the wine glass, but it suddenly doubled. Suddenly, her head felt heavy and muzzy. She pushed away from the table and tried to stand, but she collapsed to the floor instead. ‘Someone help me!’ Before it registered that she hadn’t made a sound, blackness overcame her.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 6

 

Jennifer strode down a darkened hall, noting the slow, but steady increase of illumination. As it got brighter, she noticed shelves lining the walls filled with DVDs. She picked up a handful and began reading the titles out loud.

“‘Debbie Does Dallas’? ‘Busty Asian Beauties’? ‘Her First Lesbian Sex’? What the fuck? Did I somehow end up in Rob’s room?”

Not that she had ever been in there. It just seemed like what his room would be like. ‘Ewww,’ she thought. ‘I did not need that mental image in my mind.’ She tossed the movies back on the shelf. She continued walking down the corridor, determinedly not looking at the walls. She once more began seeing the trail of blood. To her dismay, the path of blood began to widen and freshen. She was so focused on following the blood, she failed to notice the hallway had widened into a large room with three antechambers branching from the main one.

Soon the crimson stain was as wide as a human torso and wet. A sickly, coppery scent was in the air. The cloying perfume was so thick, Jennifer was able to taste it. She gagged and nearly puked. Resolutely, she forced her gorge back down and moved forward. She looked up from the blood and had to bite back a scream. Her best friend Danni was hanging from a tree with a spike driven into her skull. Blood had turned her blond hair a dull pink. Her blue eyes stared into eternity. She was also missing her lower half of her body as if someone had literally torn her in two.

A growling began behind her and stopped as suddenly as it began. Jennifer whirled, tightening her fingers on her H&K Tactical .45’s solid grip. An enormous monstrosity was crouched and ready to spring. It had the curved, forward pointing horns like a ram, a muzzle like that of a Hollywood dragon, back plates like Godzilla and long, sharp claws. It was poised like a cat ready to pounce: its muscles coiled and bunched. As soon as she had completed her turn, the monster leaped. Without flinching, or even blinking, she squeezed the trigger of the gun as Rob had taught her. Eleven shots thudded home in its torso, but the beast seemed not to have noticed. Its momentum allowed it to crash into her, sending her sprawling. The bullets had done one thing, it knocked the monster far enough off its trajectory that Jennifer was able to regain her feet and look around for another weapon. Not too far away, she saw a rack of middle ages weapons. She ran over as fast as she could. There were a variety of weapons: a heavy-looking battle-axe which she wasn’t certain she could lift, much less wield; a big club with a bigger spike ball attached to the top; a long stick connecting a chain to a spiked ball; and a long, pure white sword. Thinking quickly, Jennifer grabbed the pure white sword and whirled around to fight the monster.

To her surprise, the big thing was directly in front of her. Before she could bring the sword up to defend herself, there was a dark blur before her eyes, a flash of silver and a spray of red. She flinched, expecting to feel the large claws of the monster rip into her, but nothing happened. It just stood there. She hesitantly poked it with the tip of the sword, and as if in slow motion, its head dropped to the ground. She swore with disgust and revulsion when blood geysered over her. She soon forgot her disgust as her attention became drawn to the sword.

The pure white blade slowly warmed in her hand. To her surprise, the blood from the monster was swiftly being drawn into the pommel of the white blade as if the sword was sucking it through a straw. As more of the blood was absorbed, warmth slowly spread through her body, starting from where she held the sword. As the warmth spread through her body, Jennifer found that she was feeling more energized and awake. Within minutes, all the blood was gone. She looked around for her rescuer, but no one was around. She found herself wondering about the odd blur. She went back to her friend’s body, trying to steel herself for the grizzly task of taking her body down and taking her home. However, when she returned to the tree, the only thing there was a bloodstain and a piece of paper. She tore the paper from the tree and read it.

 

It’s not her.

Keep looking

きれい

 

Jennifer scowled down at the message and the puzzling scribble, but decided to shove it in her back pocket and resume looking for her friend. Her instincts told her to trust the mysterious author.