‘Fire all around! I’m burning up!’
“Lisa? Where are you? Béla? Please! Answer me!”
‘I can’t stay here – I’ll die in here!
Tabatha shrieked as she awoke, sitting straight up on her sick bed. The twenty-plus patients sharing the cramped ward jumped as well, many crying out and complaining in their own pain and misery.
In an instant, Tanya was beside her. “It’s okay, Baby – You’re going to be okay! I promise!”
“Mom?” Tabatha gasped. “What happened? You’re all burned.”
“It’s okay, Honey,” Tanya repeated anxiously. “You’re going to be all right!”
“Mom… Tanya…” Tabatha blinked and put her hands up to hold her head steady as a sudden wave of dizziness swept over her.
An instant later, she pulled her hands back so she could look at them. Did she really see what she thought she saw? “I’m all burned…”
As her mind woke up more, she began to remember. “Oh, God… They’re all dead!”
“Honey,” Tanya said, her voice pleading for calm, “It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have saved them. Lisa tried to teleport a missile and it went off in her travel zone. No one could reach her to pull her back…”
“No! Mom, that’s all wrong…” Tabatha insisted. “I can shield and go back! I can still save her…”
She fell back as another wave of dizziness overwhelmed her.
“Save them… all…” she muttered, then passed out again.
“She's severely dehydrated,” Doctor Frank said, pushing his way over to Tabatha’s bed, “just as you are, Mom.
“Here. Drink this!” he said as he shoved a tin cup into Tanya’s nearly numbed fingers. “It will help you regenerate.”
Her son’s insistence was such that Tanya automatically raised the cup to her lips and took a gulp. Nearly choking, she managed to swallow the viscous fluid as it flowed heavily over her tongue, insisting that it not become separated as it slid in a long, slippery lump down her throat.
“Gawk! Gack! God!” Tanya gasped. “What the hell was that?”
“Raw egg white,” her son grinned. “Good, huh?”
“Gack!” Tanya coughed in reply.
“Come on, now,” insisted Doc Frank. “Back to your own bed, Mother. Katie will be just fine. Now let me give her a new I.V., Okay?”
“Frankie, please,” Tanya begged, “get her well, fast! I’m scared that we won’t be able to save Béla and Lisa. And your sister’s down there, too…”
Tanya stopped talking as she swooned, nearly fainting back into her bed.
“Lay down!” Doctor Frank insisted. “You’re still weak from your burns! We have as much time as we need. Nobody’s going anywhere until we get everybody back, I promise!”
“Jake…” Tabatha whispered in her sleep. “My darling…”
Frank Junior wondered whether Tabatha was just having a nightmare or was actually dreamwalking down in the radioactive crater where Solar City had been only sixteen hours ago.
What had happened was beyond horrible. Over half the population had still been inside the mountain when the nukes hit. Alicia, Jake Pestova and Jake Hedron had all been down there at ground zero, along with Béla and Lisa. Only the need for his professional services kept him going, now – helping to keep his own grief at bay by handling other injured people who had been lucky enough to transport up before that final blast vaporized the mountaintop and caved it in on top of everyone else.
As he reached up to change the empty I.V. bag, everything shimmered. Doctor Frank lost his balance and nearly fell over as he was moved into his new position as the reality wave swept through. Tabatha became Béla, cut up badly and with her wings still formed. Her skin was badly burned and half of her hair was simply missing, along with most of the skin on her face and the front half of her body. Jake, her husband, was standing anxiously next to her on the other side of the bed, anxiously pleading with his eyes for Doctor Frank to do something to help her. Tanya was nowhere to be seen.
‘She’s monitoring everything from the bridge,’ Doc Frank realized. ‘Why did I think Mom was in Sick Bay?’
Doctor Frank shook his head to clear his mind, then got back to work.
“She’ll be fine, Jake,” Doctor Frank promised. “She's alive and simply unconscious. She's regenerating quite nicely. The reason her skin looks mottled like that is because new skin is growing beneath the radiation burns. See?”
He used a small pair of tweezers to lift a loose scab off of Béla’s burnt shoulder, showing Jake fresh, new, pink flesh. Jake breathed a sigh of relief and blinked tears out of eyes.
“Thanks, Doc,” he whispered gratefully.
He couldn’t ask. Doctor Frank wouldn’t know the answer. And Tabatha was still jumping back and forth from the ship to the surface, rescuing people from inside their mountain hideaway; a few people each trip. The Focal Press on the surface was still operating, as well, protected from the nuclear blasts by Tabatha’s time shield, firmly in place over the underground city.
“These are the last of the burn victims,” Tabatha gasped breathlessly from behind them both.
Jake turned and gazed hopefully at the small group Tabatha had retrieved from outside her time-shielded city. Lisa wasn’t among them.
Jake and Tabatha gazed at each other for a few seconds, then Tabatha slowly shook her head, ‘No.’
“I’m sorry,” she gasped, exhausted, starved and barely able to stand.
Tears flooded her eyes and flowed down her face, matching Jake’s own.
‘There’s too much energy in Lisa’s travel zone – I couldn’t get back far enough in time to find her,’ Jake heard in his mind, since Tabatha was too exhausted to speak out loud anymore.
Jake knew Tabatha had done the best she could. A single instant after that missile went off, she had time-shielded and teleported down directly into the center of the blast. Her time-shield had protected her, but she simply couldn’t push hard enough to go back in time to before…
But she did manage a miraculous catch, snagging Béla scant feet away from smashing into the ground at two-hundred kph and teleporting her to Sick Bay. Then she returned to Solar City and shielded the whole place as best she could, almost as if she knew more bombs were coming.
Then, hugging her husband to her bosom quite desperately, she teleported back up to the safety of the Phoenix, bringing both Jakes with her. Alicia was left behind to coordinate the constant loading of the Focal Press and transported up with the last load of passengers.
The sign over the hatch said “Mess Hall”. Tanya grimaced as she looked inside. At least two hundred people were jammed in there. Some were actually sleeping, having tethered themselves to a table leg so they wouldn’t float away in zero gravity.
She turned away and headed toward Engineering, hoping to find an empty space where she could relax and get a few hours sleep. She was suddenly hit with a broadcast of pure sexual sensation.
‘That feels like Lisa!’
There was definitely an image of Lisa associated with that orgasm. The sensation had emanated from the other side of the bulkhead she was climbing.
‘She's alive?’ Tanya hoped, tears of joy coming to her eyes at the prospect.
Tanya looked in vain for a hatchway into the compartment where Lisa was obviously having sex. Evidently that set of prefab rooms was accessed from the next passageway over.
‘There’s an easier way to do this…’ Tanya thought, and simply teleported into the room on the other side of the wall.
Reentering the physical universe on the other side of the wall was a real problem. The compartment was full of naked bodies – at least six horny girls were floating in the 6’ x 8’ x 8’ sleeping compartment. Tanya found a spot near the bottom of one wall where a cot was folded out into the room and popped in.
“Hi, girl,” someone called out from somewhere in the floating mass of undulating female flesh. “Welcome to the wake! Find a body part and start licking…”
“No guys?” Tanya complained.
“No room!” someone yelled back.
A pretty face and a nice pair of naked breasts appeared in front of Tanya. “Hi, sweetie! What’s your pleasure? Top or bottom?”
“Uh, top?” Tanya conjectured, not sure what to say.
The girl reached out, pulled Tanya into the merry-go-round of floating bodies, and opened her blouse, exposing Tanya’s nice, firm breasts. The girl began licking and kissing with obvious pleasure.
“Oh, that’s nice,” Tanya said into the girl’s ear.
‘This is a wake?’ Tanya asked herself, somewhat surprised.
She began kissing the girl’s hair and the side of her head, then the girl raised her head and began kissing Tanya in return. In a moment, they were tonguing each other and playing with each other’s nipples. As their bodies started to align, Tanya felt someone pulling her slacks down past her knees. From another angle, someone continued pulling them down and completely off her feet. She had no idea where her clothes or her shoes went after that.
Tanya felt something delicately crawling along her thighs and looked down. It was hair, floating in free-fall. The girl she was making out with had another girl between her legs. Now she recognized them. They both worked in the machine shop back in Solar City. The second girl’s hair was floating free and brushing against Tanya’s sensitive thighs.
Noticing another pussy right next to the one she was sucking on, the girl pulled herself through a little farther and began rubbing between Tanya’s legs with one hand. Then she went back to licking the pussy of the girl who was kissing Tanya.
“I’m coming!” someone cried out.
An instant later, a small shudder of sensual excitement flowed through the entire group. Tanya suddenly realized that these girls were Lisa’s little clique and that Lisa had taught them all how to mind-link with each other so they could experience one another’s orgasms.
‘That’s why I thought Lisa was in here,’ Tanya realized sadly. ‘This is her signature mind-link…’
The first girl’s orgasm started a chain reaction of orgasms throughout the group. Girls began to cry out and shudder as the broadcast wave of sensuality passed through them. Tanya felt the girl she was hugging and kissing tense up for a moment and moan into Tanya’s mouth. The hand massaging Tanya’s pussy seemed to get lost, then returned a moment later, moving less energetically than before.
“That was six,” the girl who came first sighed. “One from each of us for everyone here…”
The girl Tanya was kissing broke away for a moment. “Didn’t count – the fresh meat didn’t come. She wasn’t connected. We’re still at five…”
‘God! They even talk like Lisa…’
Tanya suddenly found that she was the center of attention. Half a dozen naked girls, all radiating various levels of lust mixed with a deep, longing sadness surrounded her and began licking and caressing her, all over. Tanya got the idea that these girls did this a lot – every chance they got, but this was the first time that Lisa’s little clique had ever played together without Lisa. They were determined to honor her as best they could, each one fully knowing that Lisa would spit at them for crying over her.
There was one girl on each breast and two hands playing down between Tanya’s legs. Another girl came up from behind and daintily wrapped her arms over her shoulders. The girl began kissing and delicately licking Tanya’s neck and shoulders from behind, making Tanya shiver from head to toe.
The hands between Tanya’s legs stopped and a warm, wet tongue licked from her anus all the way around to her clit. Another girl started licking the back of Tanya’s leg.
“Oh, God!” Tanya cried, trying to reach down past all the other girls surrounding her to guide that wonderful tongue up against her clitoris and lock her legs around the girl’s head so she wouldn’t get away.
“She's almost there,” someone announced from underneath her floating, quivering body.
“Here, use this,” someone else said.
A warm, hard, but slippery object was shoved up inside Tanya’s wet, well-tongued pussy.
“Oh, yeah!” Tanya murmured as someone turned it on and it began to vibrate.
By now, Tanya had a girl on each leg, just massaging her smooth thighs. The girl clinging to her back was still there, giggling to herself and driving Tanya crazy with her gentle kisses and licks on her bare neck and shoulders. A girl was sucking on Tanya’s clit and she (or someone else) was rubbing that vibrator in and out, twisting it around and really churning up her insides.
“Oh, yeah! Harder!” Tanya cried out, wanting that vibrator rammed all the way inside her.
The girls, not knowing which one she was talking to, all increased their loving efforts to make her come. Tanya yelped as both her tits were sucked into eager mouths that began chewing on her sensitive nipples. At the same time, Tanya felt her clitoris being grabbed by a not-so-gentle set of teeth. The girl on her back bit down against her neck.
Under all this sensuous assault, it only took one dainty fingertip stuck in her ass for Tanya to blast her orgasm out into the entire group.
“Aaaiiiieeeee!” Tanya screamed, losing all control of her over-stimulated body.
She shook violently as wonderful sensations flooded through her body while all the girls laughed and cheered her on as they held onto her.
“Six!” they all cheered in unison, hugging and kissing her. Some of the girls were crying openly, even though they all sounded as though they were celebrating.
They seemed to realize that Tanya was through for awhile and let her go with a gentle nudge toward the ceiling (the wall with the light in it). There were no handholds, so Tanya just floated free, enjoying the way she felt as she gently came down from her sensual high.
The compartment door opened. “Ah! There you are!” Frank said, a little too cheerfully.
Tanya twisted around, turning her head to see who was there. “Hi, guys!”
Tabatha and Frank were floating at the entrance hatch to the small compartment. They were both upside down.
Tanya reached a hand out to Frank but the sudden motion caused her to start rotating. She’d hoped he’d pull her down, but now she was turning the wrong way. Another girl grabbed her leg and pulled her back down.
“Thanks,” Tanya said after she grasped the handhold next to the hatch.
“Bye! See you! It was fun!” the girls all called out to Tanya.
Tanya’s blouse and slacks appeared and floated down toward her. Tanya pulled herself through the hatch and Tabatha helped her dress.
Before Frank could close the hatch behind his sexy, ripe wife, the girls were closing in, on and around each other, returning to the one thing they could do to honor their missing sister.
“What in the world was that?” Frank asked, grinning at his sexily aromatic wife as she finished dressing.
“Lisa’s wake,” Tanya replied, sighing. “That’s her girl club, I guess.”
“I had no idea she had groupies,” Tabatha said.
“Neither did I,” replied Tanya. “I just happened to notice them when I went by. I thought Lisa was in there.”
“Well, Sweetie,” Tabatha mused, looking sad. “Maybe in a way, she was. I felt them, too.”
Tanya, Frank and Tabatha pulled themselves down the passageway toward engineering – that was the most obvious place (and the roomiest) for a group meeting. Jake Hedron was there with his mother and sister, Alicia and Jackie, waiting.
“Okay, gang,” Jake Hedron informally opened the meeting. “This is our third day in orbit and I’ve noticed that most of the Normals are getting a little stir-crazy. As you know, we haven’t loaded enough food and water to get us where we want to go yet because we hadn’t planned on evacuating quite so soon. Tabatha and Alicia have been searching out more supplies for us, so I’ll turn the meeting over to Tabatha.”
“Thanks, Hon,” Tabatha said, releasing a wall handle and pushing off toward the front end of the room.
Arriving at her destination, Tabatha neatly twisted around and stopped her forward progress, landing on her feet against the far wall, her graceful maneuvering in zero-gee much envied by at least half the people in the room.
“It’ll be easier if I just use mental images,” Tabatha said, “as it would take too much effort to use a pointer and a wall map that requires gravity to just hang there.
“Despite what the Chairman said about our lack of supplies, we have enough for several more days. Believe it or not, we only need a month’s supply of food. This ship can go almost anywhere in the solar system in a month. We might take a little longer if we started at Neptune and was trying to get to Pluto, because right now they’re on opposite sides of the sun. It would take six weeks at one-half gravity constant acceleration.”
There were a few ‘wows’ and more guffaws.
“Alright, let me explain,” Tabatha smiled at the group. “If we accelerate at half-gee for one week, we would be travelling at roughly two million kph. That’s over fifty million kilometers per day. If we shut off the engine after one week, we could coast the rest of the way to Jupiter in about ten days.
“But we don’t need to shut off the engine. It would accelerate for a thousand years if we let it, so long as there is a magnetic field for it to operate in. The sun’s magnetic field extends at least fifty billion kilometers outward in every direction. Jupiter is well within the magnetic field of the sun.”
“What happens if we go outside the sun’s magnetic field?” Jake, Béla’s husband, called out as he entered the Engineering section. “Could we stop, or turn around?”
Everyone looked up at the sound of his voice.
“Béla!” Tabatha cried out upon seeing her behind her husband. “You’re awake!”
Béla tried to smile. She looked more or less normal, but something was definitely different. She looked… older, and her eyes seemed dull. She followed Jake into the room and found a handhold, not speaking to anyone.
Tabatha smiled, but looked hesitant. “So, the question on the floor is, ‘What happens if we leave the sun’s magnetic field?’ Well, hope that it doesn’t happen, Jake. What we have is a ‘magnetic’ drive engine. It will only operate within the confines of a magnetic field. If you travel beyond the solar system, you’ll drift until you enter another magnetic field.”
“You mean, like another star?” Alicia asked.
“Yeah,” Tabatha replied, “or something else. There are other magnetic fields out there that aren’t planets or stars.”
“Really?” Béla asked, surprising everyone with her apparent interest. “What kind of stuff is out there?”
“Uh,” Tabatha wrinkled her eyebrows, trying to think. “Let’s see…”
“I can help,” Jackie called out. “There are also dark masses interspersed among the stars. They can only be detected by the heat they radiate or by their x-ray emissions. The nearest one, actually, is only two light years away.”
“How far is that in miles?” Jake asked.
Jackie replied, “That’s about twenty trillion kilometers, or about eleven trillion miles.”
“Really?” Frank asked. “How fast can this ship go?”
“Ha, ha,” Tabatha replied, looking at Frank. “I can see where you think you’re going with this, and that would be suicide. This ship can’t go interstellar!”
“Yeah,” Frank said, pretending to agree, “but… how fast could it go?”
“Okay, I’m game,” Tabatha replied. “Somebody know the answer to this?”
“I can ask the Praetor,” Alicia volunteered, then already having her answer, continued. “Okay, it says that: If you went out near Pluto, turned around and accelerated at full speed, you could reach sixty-five million kph in eighteen days – that includes a ten million mile near approach around the sun for a…
“What?” … The Praetor was speaking in her mind again.
“A hyper bowl? …
“Oh, Okay. Some kind of slingshot effect using the sun’s gravity…
“Oh, it says to tell you that’s sixteen and a half percent the speed of light.”
Everyone laughed at hearing all this quasi-scientific stuff spilling out of Alicia’s pretty mouth. She was good at politics, but scientific stuff often left her baffled.
“Thank you, Alicia,” Tabatha grinned, trying not to laugh. “So, does anyone know what that means?”
Jackie spoke up again. “It would take a little over six years to travel one light year at maximum speed. But getting up to maximum is so… problematical… I would never want to try it.
“First of all,” Jackie explained, “the heliosphere is pretty weak out by Pluto, and it isn’t constant. This ship might be able to accelerate at, maybe, half a gee? Then, at the nearest approach to the sun, it would be accelerating at thirty, maybe forty gees, crushing anyone and anything inside. It simply isn’t feasible.”
“Okay, then,” Tabatha replied, suppressing a yawn, “Everybody get that?”
“She lost me on that helicopter thing,” Frank said, definitely looking bored now that his thoughts about traveling to the stars were so thoroughly squashed.
“Heliosphere,” Jackie corrected him. “It means the sun’s magnetic field.”
“Why didn’t you say that, then?” Frank complained. “I didn’t have any trouble understanding Alicia…”
“Okay, back to the reason for this meeting,” Tabatha called out. “There are three major depots that weren’t destroyed when…”
Tabatha hesitated for a moment, realizing that Lisa could be accused posthumously for nuking everyone she could find with the missiles the Confederacy had tossed at the group’s mountain refuge. In eight minutes, she’d single-handedly wiped out half the remaining population of the entire North American continent. But, she’d permanently whacked the Confederacy’s ability to make war before they got her.
“We need to break up into three teams – one for each depot,” Tabatha continued. “Take as much as you can handle. It may cause hardships for those we leave behind, but life on this planet is doomed anyway, and we need those supplies to survive.”
“Can I go with Mom?” Alicia asked.
“No,” Tabatha replied. “There are only you, me, Tanya and Jackie, now. And Béla, of course – If you’re up to it, Béla?”
“I can perform my duties,” Béla murmured quietly, though her eyes said otherwise.
“Alright then,” Tabatha said, “Alicia and Jackie, your target is Macon. There’s a Campbell’s Soup plant, there. Béla, you are going to raid a warehouse in Florida. I go with Tanya.”
Tabatha closed her eyes and imaged the targets for the other Femme members. Moments later, the meeting began breaking up and people were trying to negotiate the hatch in free-fall.
“Guys,” Tabatha called out, getting their attention one more time. “The guys go wait at the Focal Press and keep the platform clear of incoming supplies. Girls, teleport your shipments onto the platform whenever it’s clear. That way, we can keep track of what’s coming in and where to put it.”
“So, kiddo, where are we going?” Tanya asked as she floated up beside her favorite Femme.
Tabatha looked at her. She still looked tired from all that teleporting three days earlier. “First off, we’re going down to Solar City and retrieve the Focal Press there. I’m not leaving Praetor technology behind so those snakes can use it to transport troops to New Eden, and it’ll take both of us to teleport it. Then, we’re going to Albuquerque.”
“What’s in Albuquerque?” Tanya asked. “That’s not a Confederate city.”
“No, but there’s a supply depot there – a mountain hideaway similar to ours,” Tabatha explained. “And it’s completely deserted.”
“How did you find it?” Tanya asked, walking along with Tabatha.
“I used Lisa’s trick of creating an image of whatever it is you want to find, and then try to match up something in the physical universe with it. In this case, I was looking for big boxes of food-stuffs – cans, packages, dried fruit and veggies.”
“Okay, lead the way,” Tanya replied, placing her hand on Tabatha’s arm.
Both girls disappeared from the passageway.