No Greater Love Chapter 13

No Greater Love.jpg

“No Greater Love”


(John 15:13)

By Zapper


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Chapter 13

*Meka & John*

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Nodding Meka checked that his Cavanaugh, now set in a medallion around his neck, was in place and his semi-auto was ready. He pulled the crystal with the shield spell in it from his pocket. “Invoke!” Meka shouted, and felt the powerful shield spell flare up around him. Just as he returned the shield crystal to his pocket there was a flash of power. He felt an impact against the shield, but it was a minor distraction and he ignored it. Putting his head down, Meka charged. A part of his mind told him one of the flying Insectoids had blasted a yellow green energy-sting at him. Then the shield flared again, and again, as the other Insectoids started blasting with their stings. The shield was more than up to the challenge and Meka focused on running, on closing the distance between him and the man who’d stolen his body, his life, and murdered his friends.

Meka’s anger built as he ran and then Eli stepped in front of him holding a glowing crystal in one hand. Without thinking Meka poured all his rage and pain into his spell and lashed out, “Brûler!” Fire blasted from the open-palm of Meka’s hand in a tightly focused beam of energy that burned almost white hot.

The attack hit Eli’s shield and he staggered back under the power of the attack. Before he could respond Meka lashed out again, “Get out of my WAY! Poing De L'air!”

This time Meka made a throwing motion and hit him with a violent blast of kinetic energy. The power of the blow lifted Eli and threw him into the air. His body disappearing as he tumbled down the river stairs to the sidewalk and street below. Meka turned to Max and saw the spider-woman place a bloody hand onto the Key. The Key started glowing as Max channeled energy into it and Meka lifted his gun and started shooting. Rounds slamming into the air around them as Max’s body shield protected them.

“You shall not stop us!” The spider insectoid hissed and made a throwing motion with one of her legs. A stand of white energy leapt at Meka. He poured power into his personal body-shield creating another layer of defenses below the powerful outer shield, and felt it stop the attack. Then Meka tried to move forward and felt the magic hold him. “Bitch!” Meka shifted the focus of his gun to the spider and started shooting.

This time there wasn’t an energy shield to stop the rounds. Yet the queen’s chitin was far harder than it looked and the rounds bounced off uselessly. Then the queen jumped. The leap was impossibly long and she sailed toward Meka forelegs extended to attack. At the last second Meka shouted a desperate spell. “Clignotement!” The world snapped out of focus and back again. Nausea hit Meka and he doubled over his abs cramping up, as he vomited.

The teleportation spell was only good for very short hops and you had to see where you were going but Meka hated it because of how his body reacted to it. Yet it had worked perfectly. Meka was now freed from the magical web and was a dozen feet behind Max. When he looked up Meka saw to his horror the air under the Gateway Arch shift. It was like looking down through a pool of water. On the other side a mass of beings waited, beings out of nightmare. Then they were surging forward. Flying, hopping, leaping, slithering, and crawling they came through in a swarm of nearly unimaginable proportions.


***

John saw Meka race forward attacks from the airborne Insectoids sparking and flaring against his shield. “I need to ground you bitches.” John muttered. Lifting a hand and calling on her affinity with air John drew on her magic, filling her manna-well, and shouted, “Vertex!” John felt her magic pulse out and she staggered to a knee as the effort behind the spell hit her. Lifting her head John looked up casting her senses into the air, waiting for it to respond. Moving air, or at least the volume of air that John was attempting to move, was hard work. Most people don’t realize that air has both weight and mass. The energy required to move this much air was a tremendous strain, but John maintained her focus.

Meanwhile, the hornet insectoids continued lashing down at Meka with energy-stings. Then she felt the wind respond. Agonizingly slow, it started to build. Than as the momentum picked up John could feel the strain drop and the air started moving faster and faster. Overhead the sun disappeared behind a rolling wall of clouds. The clouds were dark and ugly and then they began to rotate. John’s ears popped as the pressure changed.

In the distance John, could hear shouting and knew that the mundane population watching the fight was terrified. They didn’t know what was going on, but monsters had appeared out of nowhere. The gun and spell fire was unmistakable and John knew she was breaking one of the Coven and Society’s most important rules. Not to let normal humans see magic. There was no help for it though, they had to stop the invasion.

Rain started to pelt down in big fat drops as the sky continued to darken and the wind picked up. The hornet insectoids were now struggling to stay aloft. They were spending more time fighting the wind than trying to attack. Abruptly, one of the warrior hornets lost control and sailed away into the sky. Seeing she couldn’t stay aloft the queen made a strange humming-buzz and dove for the ground followed by her remaining three warriors.

As they touched down John released her control over the weather spell and dropped to one knee driving one end of the battle rod into the ground. Then resting her shooting arm on the forearm of the hand holding the battle rod she formed a solid shooting position. Ignoring the queen, she focused on the closest warrior hornet. Bang, bang, bang! The rounds slammed into the insectoid causing it to collapse and curl up in pain.

In response, the queen and her other two warriors opened up with their green-fire-stings. John poured magical energy into her shield and kept firing. A second insectoid warrior went down and then the queen and the remaining warrior charged. John held her position firing at the remaining warrior until the last second and then dove to one side.

The queen, now a twisted parody of human and insect, screamed her rage slashed her claws through the space John had just occupied. This close to the insectoid John could see the blending of human and insect and swung his battle-rod shouting. “Aestus!”

The rod hit the queen and bounced back, a blue-white fire burst out along the queen’s body. The fire highlighted her in-human body and her semi-transparent wings burst into flame as she pitched herself to the ground screaming in agony.

Abruptly, John’s back exploded in pain and she was tossed forward. Turning the momentum into a front roll John came back to her feet in time to see the last hornet warrior blast another sting in her direction. With her shield weakened John knew she had to move and dove to one side. This time when she came up she pointed the battle rode at the hornet warrior and launched a series of bright energy disks. The warrior dove away trying to dodge the attack just as John had, but John kept firing. When the hornet rolled to his feet John connected with a series of strikes that almost cut the warrior in two.

Then John felt, more than heard, a deep thrum behind him and he looked over his shoulder. “Fuck!” she gasped in horror as the first Insectoid burst from within the Gateway Arch. Ignoring the wounded queen, who was now struggling to her feet, John turned to see Meka hit Max with a blast of magical energy from behind. Again, Max’s shield flared protecting her. She spun around and snarled at Meka, Max lifted a gun and emptied it at point blank range.

“No!” John shouted and threw all her strength into an energy strike at Max’s back. This time the blow staggered Max and caused her to drop the key and stumble to one knee her shield flickering out. Max glanced back at John and snarled something John couldn’t hear over the howling wind. To John’s relief she saw that Meka, holding his side, stand up. Obviously, his shield had saved him, even if he was wounded.

Then Meka gripping his Cavanaugh Crystal in one hand, his gun gone, he said something John couldn’t hear and pointed a bloody hand at Max. The power that blasted out turned Max’s head into a charred cinder. She fell onto her side twitching as fire raced over her body consuming her in a pyre that grew and grew, burning fast and bright. By the time John stumbled to within a few paces of Max the fire died. Max’s body had been reduced to an unrecognizable pile of ashes, ashes that the wind picked up and scattered. The Key pulsed and started to go dim. John was now close enough to reach for it and just as she bent over it flew from the ground into Eli’s outstretched hand.

“Nice try ladies!” Eli shouted over the storm. John moved to stand next to Meka and then without saying a word they raced forward. The insectoids were pouring through by the hundred and they knew the gate had to be closed at all costs. Both John and Meka lashed out with spell fire and John paused to slam a new mag home. Meka kept up the spell-fire having lost his gun earlier, when he’d clutched his wounded side, but the wound didn’t slow him as he tossed one magical strike after another at Eli, as quickly as he could.

John started shooting. Once again using her magic to guide the rounds with supernatural accuracy. Instead, of aiming for Eli she focused her shots on the key itself. The first shield taught to any new witch is a body shield. To extend that shield over others, or over additional objects, wasn’t all that hard. It did require additional power and focus. In the heat of battle John knew that most people revert to what they’ve practiced the most.

Eli’s shield blazed up protecting him from Meka’s relentless assault. Then one of John’s rounds hit home. The key sparked and cracked. Magic seemed to spill out of it and then John’s next two rounds hit home and her gun clicked empty. The rounds tore chunks out of the key and energy arched around it wildly. With a curse Eli threw it to one side and started laughing. “You may have destroyed the key and closed the gate, but you’re too late. The Syndicate will win, regardless!”

John looked over her shoulder and saw the energy flicker out of the arch. Even so thousands of insectoids, of more types than John’s brain could grasp, had already swarmed through. They were spreading out in all directions and several had snapped up human by standers.

“You might think you’ve won, but there will be no covering this up. Once humanity learns what’s out there they will be eager to welcome anyone who can protect them from the threat.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” Meka said and ducked a diving attack by a mosquito-insectoid the size of a Terrier. “But you won’t live to enjoy it!” Then he blasted Eli with a flame strike. Instead of trying to block it Eli moved to one side.

“Oh, I think I’ll survive!” Suddenly a hybrid dragonfly Insectoid scooped Eli up. “I doubt you will though!” He shouted as the Dragonfly zoomed away having no difficulty flying even with the wind.

“Quick, Meka, back to back!” John yelled. The next few minutes became a blur. They managed to join their body shields together and drawing as much power as they could through the Cavanaugh Crystals, they fought. As they fought the sky grew darker and the rain got heavier, sleet now mixed in. Messing with the weather almost always had repercussions. Yet John didn’t regret using it to force the flyers down. Even now only the strongest insectoid flyers could remain airborne.

Time lost meaning. It could have been a minute or a day. Draw-power, cast, strengthen the shield . . . Draw-power, cast, strengthen the shield . . . Draw-power, cast, and strengthen the shield. John could never remember how long they fought or how many creatures she killed.

John blasted an energy strike into the soft underbelly of a large spider insectoid and then looked around. There were still a few monsters roaming the park, but most had fled or been killed. John dropped her shield and collapsed to a knee. A second later Meka took a knee next to her. Even though her side was drenched in blood there was a fire in her eye. “We survived!”

John nodded, “Yeah, and even if a few thousand insectoids got through it won’t be enough to take over the city. I’ll mark this up as a win, considering everything.” Then, seeing Meka’s wound, she added, “Here, I think it’s time to use this.” With that John handed Meka the third crystal Gwendolyn had given them. The crystal with the healing spell stored inside.

Meka reached for it, lost his balance, and slid onto his side. “Meka?!” John moved quickly over Meka and placed the crystal over the wound. “Invoke!” John shouted focusing the magic down into Meka’s wound. A soft white light spilled through John’s dainty fingers and poured down over the wound. For a moment, nothing happened and then the ragged wound started to close. It grew smaller and smaller, and then from within the wound something moved. Abruptly, the bullet that had been lodged in Meka’s hip popped out and fell away to one side. The wound finished closing and Meka’s body relaxed.

Meka sat up, “Wow, I feel . . . better.”

Then the light in the healing crystal died. “I think, it was a one use only, crystal.” John noted dropping the now dead and dark crystal to one side. It hit the pavement and broke into a thousand pieces.

“You shouldn’t have used it on me. I just needed to rest.” Meka complained climbing to his feet.

“Bullshit!” Johns retort was filled with mirth, “Just like a man, you don’t know when you’ve pushed yourself to far.”

“Ha!” Then Meka winced, “Don’t make me laugh. That spell might have healed me, but my hip is still sore.”

They made their way carefully through the field, defending themselves from any insectoids who came close. While trying to get back to the Cathedral, Meka grunted and pointed to a TV van and what looked like the dumbest reporters on the planet. They were filming everything and John had no idea how long they’d been there.

“Fuck, the Elders aren’t going to be happy about that.”

“Screw the Elders, we just stopped an invasion.”

“True,” then Meka stumbled.

“Come on, big guy. The crystal healed you, but it took the energy to do it from your body. Put your arm around me, let me help.”

John felt Meka’s heavy male arm drape over her shoulder and then her hand squeezed John’s right boob. “Hey, stop that you!” John elbowed Meka in his sore side.

“Ouch, hehehe, I was just checking to make sure the girls were still there.”

“Jerk.” John said, laughing. “Come on.”

Now that they were moving again, and the fight was over, John felt the adrenaline that she’d been running on leave. She was exhausted. The running, the use of magic, and the fight had been grueling. The need to save the city, and the fear for her family, had added an emotional dimension that had fueled her. Now, all she wanted to do was curl up and take a nap.

Even the sight of the TV crew filming didn’t seem important enough to get worked up about. Suddenly, she felt Meka stiffen, “John look out.” With that Meka pushed John behind him and for a moment he was lit-up by green-white light. Then he collapsed and John stepped around him to see the hornet queen, wings still burnt to nubs, face charged and blackened from John’s spell leering.

“I’vvvvvvve gotttttt you now!” The words were slurred with a drunken sounding buzzing.

John didn’t bother to look at Meka in her mind she could feel his crystal and lifted a hand. Meka’s Cavanaugh crystal pulled free of the medallion and flew into her outstretched hand and the crystal at the end of her battle rod flared as John screamed in rage, “Ferit Hasta!”

Blue-white power from the crystal at the end of the Battle-Rod combined with purple-white energy from the crystal in John’s hand. The energy formed a ball of power the size of a beach-ball in front of John and the leapt forward smashing into the wounded and half-crazed hornet queen hitting her squarely in the chest. She screamed a weird insectoid shriek and then her body came apart under the raw power of the magical attack.

For a long moment John looked down at the messy remains of the queen and then turned to Meka falling to her knees next to him. Meka was lying on his back, his chest a mess of burnt meat yet, somehow, his face had escaped most of the damage. Then John saw blood leaking from his eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.

“Meka?” There was a part of John that knew what she was seeing, what the obvious truth must be, but her mind refused to accept it. It was too awful to be true. He couldn’t be dead. He was too important to her, too much a part of her life. “Meka,” John touched her shoulder and tried to shake it but the heat radiating from his body almost burned her and caused John to flinch back. John could feel tears running down her cheeks and then a sob pushed up from her chest. “Meka, oh god, no.”

The horror and the reality started to sink in and John reached out with her mind hoping against all odds that he was still there. That she could pull his mind, his soul, into her body and that he’d somehow survive. ‘MEKA?!’ she poured every bit of energy she could into the psionic quest. There was no response. Then John felt a hole inside of her. The tears were streaming freely down now and she gasped for air between sobs. There was a hole, a hole in the spot inside of her, where Meka had taken up room. That space was now and forever . . . empty.

Just then she felt a hand on her shoulder. John looked up and through her tears saw a reporter with her cameraman right behind her. “Miss, Miss who was he? Will you tell us your name? Can you tell us what happened?”

John almost responded with her real name and then caught himself. “I-I’m Meka, Meka P-Petrucci and I’m a Witch. What you just saw, was the St. Louis Great Coven end the threat of an invasion from a Shadow Realm. An invasion orcastrated by the Syndicate of the Eldritch. ” At the stunned look of surprise John pushed herself to her feet. “You also saw a hero give his life to save mine.”

“What was his name? Was he a witch? You’re saying magic is real?”

The questions came rapid fire and it took John a moment to process them. “Yes, magic is real. Witches and Warlocks are real. We are organized into Covens and work together in an organization called the Society of the Gifted to stop rogue magic users and an organization called the Syndicate. The Syndicate is responsible for opening that gate.” Then John glanced down at Meka, “His name was Jonathan Bedford. He was a warlock, and a Guardian of the St. Louis Great Coven. This city owes him a debt.”

For several long seconds the reporter just stared at John and then said into the mic. “Brenda, did you get all of that?”


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THE END

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Epilogue

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John leaned back into the hot soapy water. The heat soaked into sore muscles and then she stretched out a long feminine hand to scoop up the wine glass. The dry bite of the red wine tasted delicious as she let it dance over her tongue. The combined effect of alcohol and hot water was more than just causing her to relax it felt soothing in a deeper way.

She could hardly believe that it had been a week since the events in St. Louis had announced to the world the existence of magic. So much had changed in that time, that she wasn’t sure it was all possible. Before she’d left the Gateway Arch Park police and emergency vehicles started showing up. The police had told him that she had to go with them. John hadn’t had any reason to disagree and had turned over her weapons and climbed into the cruiser that had taken her to the police station.

During the drive John saw that the streets were in chaos and it looked like the Governor had called up the National Guard. There were military vehicles everywhere and the signs of fighting between fleeing Insectoids and the government were both obvious and sad. At the station a very busy police chief had questioned John and she’d stuck to the story she’d given the reporter. At this point she no longer cared about the Coven, Society, or Syndicate. Meka was dead. John wasn’t sure she could feel worse if it had been Elaine’s corpse she’d been looking at. Then the thought of Elaine hit her, was she okay?

Using her one call she phoned the house land line and Elaine picked up on the first ring. Her voice was shaking and John could tell she’d been crying. “I-I just wanted to tell you what happened.” She whispered, but she’d interrupted her.

“I saw it on TV. Oh, Meka . . . h-he’s gone. John’s dead!”

John had wanted to disagree but couldn’t. She’d told the authorities she was Meka and in a way, it was true. It was the name that fit the body she wore. Yet, it wasn’t her. The idea of trying to explain a body-swap to the police or a reporter had just been too much. Now, at least for the moment, she had to live with that choice.

“I-I’ll be by as soon as I can. I’ll explain everything.”

“Oh god, Meka, he’s gone.” Elaine’s sobs rocked John and she, in that moment, almost told her the truth.

Just then one of the policemen tapped her on the shoulder and she looked up spotting the St. Louis Great Coven lawyer, a woman she’d worked with several times over the years. The woman was in her early fifties and wore a business suit with a skirt and heels, all black with a white blouse. Only it looked rumpled her her dark hair, streaked very lightly with a few silver strands, was uncharacteristically down. For the first time in the years she’d known Olivia she looked practically, dishhevled.

“Hi, Ms. Petrucci, I’m Olivia Orlando. I’m from the Coven and I’ve come to collect you. The elders would like to speak with you.”

John looked at the cop who nodded, “You’ve not been charged with anything. However, I’ve been told to get a cell phone number for you and to tell you that you can’t leave the country. We will want to talk to you again.”

On the trip to the Coven building it hit John. Olivia had been open about the existance of the Coven.

“Hey, you didn’t use one of your covers. You said you were from the Coven. Does that mean we’re now in the open?”

Olivia, sitting next to John in the back of the Coven car, gave her a long look. “As if there is much choice. You’re little interview with that reporter has hit the wires and is now being played on every network, globally.” Then with a shake of her head, “Yes, Mis Petrucci, we are now in the open.”

John slumped back into the seat, to numb to know what to feel. Then glancing out the window she noticed where they were. “Hey, if you take the next exit, we can swing by my-er-John’s place. I’d like to talk to his wife.”

Olivia shook her head, “No. Right now we’ve got to get you to Boston. The Society Leaders have gathered there. Once we’re done you can talk to John’s widow.”

The trip by Gate from St. Louis to Boston was disconcertingly quick. The room Olivia led John to was more like a boardroom for a fortune five hundred company than it was a conclave of the most powerful practioners of the Mystic Arts. John had been introduced to the Elders but hadn’t remembered any names. All the disciplines were represented. The sorcerers, wizards, psionics, and witches all had several representitivs. The only face John recognized was Gwendolyn sitting as the Elder for the Covens.

“Who the HELL do you think you are, going public like that with an announcement about magic!” The shouted accusation, from the wizard whose name John had heard and forgot, felt like a slap in the face.

“I think, I’m the mother fucker who closed a GREAT GATE! Stopped an INVASION from a shadow realm before things got totally out of hand and we lost NORTH AMERICA to a new magical species!” The rage in John’s response silenced the room. John felt a tingling sensation and when she glanced to her right the Ghostly image of Cassandra materialized.

*I’m sorry I’m late. I had to get your apprentice, Theodore, into position to stop the Syndicate’s next move.* At this Cassandra looked at the wizard, who’d accused John of single handedly exposing the magical community. *The Syndicate is going to try to kidnap the U.S. President’s wife. They’ve developed a body-swap spell that they’ve frozen in crystal. They plan to have their agent sleeping with the President, if Theodore doesn’t stop her. Sadly, my sight tells me, that Theodore will have to kill the agent to stop her.*

At this announcement the Elders all started talking. The specteral Cassandra leaned toward John. *How are you?*

“Terrible.”

*Oh, John, I’m so sorry.*

“Thanks. I’ll be okay. I just need to get home. Elaine thinks I’m dead.”

*I know, and in truth, Jonathon Bedford is dead. You will never wear that body again.*

“I know, but I need to tell Elaine the truth.”

“ORDER! Everyone please come to order!” The little sorcerer’s voice was much larger than her body and John immeditaly suspected that she’s used magic to augment it. When the room quieted she looked at John and Cassandra. “I take it by the way that you’re hoovering over this girl she’s one of yours?”

Casssandra shrugged, *She is a Seer and a Witch. However, she is untrained. I’ve offered to take her on as an apprentice, but she has yet to accpet.*

The sorcerer looked at John with a pair of piercing brown eyes. “Young woman. Your gift is very rare and of immence value. You do your community a disservice by neglecting your training.”

John felt her face heat up with anger and as she opened her mouth to retorte Gwendolyn cut in. “Brielle, peace. Meka, here, has just come into her talent. Until recently she has been my apprentice and is one of the best researchers I’ve got.” Then Gwendolyn looked at John, “Dear, please tell us what happened.”

John took a deep breath, “To start with, I’m not Meka Petrucci. My true name is Jonathan Bedford. This all started when Meka sent me a message from London.”

As John spoke the room grew quiet. They were all at least partly aware of what the Syndicate had been up too, but getting the story from John and then the details filled in by Cassandra and Gwendolyn left most of the Elders feeling stunned. In the end they decieded to continue with the plan to come out of hiding and publicly admit to the existance of magic.

John sank lower into the soapy water, “Like they had any choice he muttered.” For a moment she felt some satisfaction that they’d had to come out and tell the public what had been going on for a millenioum. With the thinning of the barrier between worlds, magic in this world was rising. John discovered she could cast spells, at least cantraps, without having to draw on manna from her crystal.

The Cavanaugh crystal was still a bit of a mystery to John. One she knew she needed to consider. After she’d left the conclave she’d realized that the crystal had reverted to a single globe. She hadn’t had to use any magic to restore it, which led her to believe that it had been closely bound to her and Meka’s souls. With Meka passing on the crystal, now bound to her, had reverted to a single orb.

The thought of Meka’s soul reminded John of the part of the Conclave she’d hated. The elders had all agreed, that with the filming of the events in St. Louis, and the heroism of Meka, caught on video, there was no way to tell the public that “John” was actually, “Meka.” The notion of body-swapping would terrify people, to think that not even your body was safe from a magical predator. On top of that, the public relations branch of the Society thought Meka’s heroism could be exploited to prove that the Society existed to benefit humanity unlike the Syndicate.

The order to keep silent included Elaine. John had wanted to rage against these orders but Cassandra had chimed in. She’d seen that if John returned and told Elaine what had happened that the secret would get out. The impact would worsen human-magical relations at a time when that couldn’t be afforded. Hearing this John had bit her tongue. As much as she wanted to tell Elaine the truth she knew humanity needed the Society to help fight off the dual threat of the Syndicate and the Insectoids.

When the conclave broke Cassandra looked at John and offered her another invitation to stay with her, at least for the next few weeks. Reluctantly, John had taken her offer. The idea of getting away from everyone and everything had a huge appeal. Then the Society PR guy grabbed John’s elbow.

“Miss. Please come with me. We need to talk about your schedule, training, and public appearances.”

“Excuse me, what?”

“You and John are heroes and national celebrities. Your heart felt interview with that local reporter in St. Louis has been picked up by all the news networks, including CNN International, and most global news networks. I’ve got over a hundred calls for interviews. We’ll need to go over your story and the message you need to promote.” The young man’s bubbly enthusiasm was enough to make John want to shudder.

“I’ve got to go. I’m supposed to be studying with Cassandra.”

“That won’t be a problem. We’ll set up gates, from her sanctuary, to the Boston and New York Great Coven’s traveling rooms. I’m thinking for the next two weeks you need at least two appearances per-day. After that we can take a breath and put a media campaign strategy together.”

John had looked at the spectral image of Cassandra, “Help?”

Laughing, Cassandra nodded and moved over to whisper in Gwendolyn’s ear. That had resulted in a quick trip to London and then to Alaska. John had barely kept her eyes open and Cassandra had met Gwendolyn and John in person and led John to the Cabin’s one spare bedroom. John took one look at the bed and collapsed on it. She’d slept for almost twenty hours.

Now, feeling her fingers wrinkle, John climbed out of the tub. As she did she caught the hint of wood smoke and thought Cassandra must be making dinner. John felt the rush of a memory, building a fire in that very oven, bantering with Meka, who was in passenger mode. John grinned, Meka had never liked building a fire or cooking and had left the day-to-day chores to John. As she dried off John realized that the time she’d spent here with Meka had been very special. Over the last four years they’d grown apart, then the enforced closeness of sharing a body, it made John realize just how much she’d grown to love Meka.

Tears leaked unnoticed from John’s eyes as she got dressed. The hole in her life felt just as raw, now a week later, as it had when she’d been holding Meka’s lifeless body. Nothing would ever fill that space, but maybe it would hurt less in the days to come. Now dressed in a light sundress and sandals John looked into the mirror. The reflection of the young woman was one she’d avoided the first couple of days. Not because she, hated being a woman, it was an inescapable reminder of her friend-sister and that she was gone. Now however, John smiled, her reflection still reminded her of Meka, but those were happy memories. ‘If I’ve got to wear a woman’s body, there’s no one else I’d rather be.’ John thought. Then turning and posing a bit in front of the mirror, “I need to change my hair. Meka kept it short, I think I’d like to try a longer style.” Done getting ready John slowly made her way to the kitchen.

“I see you didn’t turn into a prune.”

“Hehehe . . . you’re funny. I spent two hours working out, I needed a good soak.”

“If you say so.” Cassandra stirred the pot of stew on the stove top. “Why you do all of that is beyond me.”

“I like to exercise. I’ve got black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and Aikido. I need to train if I’m going to get this body in shape. Besides, healthy body, healthy mind, right?”

“I suppose. You did remember you’ll be traveling to London early tomorrow? You’ve got several media engagements.”

“Yeah, how goes the war? I assume they’ll want to ask about it.”

Cassandra nodded, “The swarm in Louisville broke out of our containment. They traveled south and met up with the insectoids from the St. Louis swarm and settled in the Dallas area. We’ve got no good intelligence on the state of the city or its citizens. The odd nature of the Insectoid magic prevents me from “seeing” what they are doing.”

John nodded biting his lip, “What else?”

Cassandra sighed, “Our best guess is that more than a million insectoids have now traveled to our Realm. They’re opening small gates. Bringing in a hundred or so kin and then closing the gate. They are open and closed too fast to detect or track.”

“Damn!” John muttered. Then let her anger go. “What about the Aelves? Are the Winter Fae still slaughtering Syndicate agents around the globe?”

“Yes, the Syndicate is on defense. Jason Drake and Tia Drake have had to defend their estate in Germany twice over the last three days from the Winter Fae. As long as they are focused on survival, we’ll have the advantage. In six months, the mundane population will accept the Society as the face of the Eldritch community. From that point the Syndicate will be little more than a footnote. We just need to survive the next six months.”

“Meaning, survive the Insectoid incursion?”

“Yes.”

Cassandra started scooping up bowls of stew and John went to work setting the table. For a time, they were both satisfied with the domestic duties of setting out a meal and eating.

“Will we have time for another lesson before I go?”

“We should.”

“Unless your morning sickness kicks in again?”

Cassandra glared at John, “Just wait! When you get pregnant, I’ll be there to remind you that you had no sympathy for me.”

John snorted, “I’m not going to get pregnant, ever.” Then she looked at Cassandra and grinned, “Besides, my last baby is growing in you, right now.”

Cassandra just shook her head, “You’re impossible.” Then she tapped her temple, “But I think you’re wrong. You will meet Mr. Right someday . . . wait and see.”

“Fine, can I have another helping of stew?”

Cassandra laughed and nodded. “Sure. And then I’ll quiz you on your talking points for tomorrow.”

***

The weird green light filled the underground chamber causing Eli to blink as he came awake. It took him several minutes to remember where he was and what had happened. The venom, in his system, left him barely able to think. It had taken hours for Eli to realize he’d been stripped naked and his crystal had been taken. Then they’d come for him. The Queens, there were so many now, as well as male leaders of other species. Spider, Hornet, Ant, Bee, Mantis, Mosqueto, Moth, Grasshopper, Scorpion, Fly, and Dragonfly they’d all had questions. When they’d not been satisfied with his answers they’d filled him with venom.

Ilse’s memories got fuzzy then. He remembered, more questions, more answers, and then they’d moved him. He had a vague feeling they’d moved him more than once. Then there had been the mating. Ilse had lost count of the number of females who’d been brought to him. The number of times he’d been held down and forcably taken by one Insectoid type after another. There had always been an audience, a group of warriors preventing the female riding his cock, from harming him . . . too much.

“Are you ready, darling?”

At the sound of this voice Ilse looked over and saw the green haired woman looking down at him. She looked tall for an Insectoid, at least six feet if Ilse were to guess. “N-No. Ready for what?”

“Your last courtship. Your seed is strong. Each of your gifts has resulted in hundreds of fertilized eggs. The Insectoids born of your loins will call this world home. They will be strong in your magic, and ours. In time, we will own this world and you, your line, will be one of the founding lines! Mantis is patient, but now is my time, and your last!”

Ilse’s heart leapt and he shook his head, “N-No. This can’t be happening.” As he spoke the Mantis female released her pheromones and Ilse’s male body responded. His cock grew hard and the grinning female settled onto it with a sigh of pleasure. Ilse fought to hold back, his arms and legs were shackled with a strange chitinous chain. Then unable to control himself he blew his seed into the mantis-woman and she changed.

Growing taller and assuming her hybrid mantis form the alien eyes glittered down at Ilse, and then she slashed down with a set of large forelegs. The cut removed Ilse’s head from his shoulders sending it skittering over the floor of the chamber. Ilse’s body continued pumping seed into the Mantis for several seconds. Then satisfied that she’d drained him the Mantis lowered her head, transforming to full insect before feeding on her dead lover.

***************************************

THE END

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Author Note: This concludes my tribute to Brittany. Please take a moment and leave a note.

Cheers

Zapper



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