Puerto Rico, Ponce City
the south coast
Sylvia sat on a stool in the fifth bar or restaurant/bar of the night hoping to get drugged and kidnapped. She wore a dressy powder blue outfit with considerable décolleté. It was tight in the bodice and hips then flared out to show her very nice legs to good advantage, aided by matching blue high heels.
Her normally curly blond hair was schooled to silky straightness that curled down her back and over her front. Since her hair was alive and she controlled it as easily as she controlled her arms it never fell to hide her bosom. It had taken her much practice to achieve such effects so that her hair always seemed to fall naturally. Medusa-like hair motion was hardly seductive.
She had such control of her skin that she wore no makeup but appeared to, just now a discreetly sexy look on a face not resembling her own. Her fourth and fifth drinks sat on the bar before her. She was sampling first one and then the other. As intended, this made her look like a pushover, but she never felt more than a bit of the alcohol since her metabolism burnt it very quickly.
Happily, she was still able to savor the alloy of sweet fruit and iron vodka which she’d enjoyed before she became a sea monster. The invisible filter that protected her mouth and nose from physical debris also kept out poison, but it didn’t consider drinking alcohol poison, though it was.
This fact sometimes led her, though increasingly less often, to wonder just how the Hell the filter worked. It didn’t seem to be generated from one place in her body, which she was very slowly becoming somehow able to see (or feel or taste or all three) inside of. Something she was even more slowly becoming able to do to other people’s bodies when she touched them.
The filter had to act on matter, and sense it, and compare the matter with what could and should not be allowed to pass. Not being able to even localize what was doing those three actions was highly annoying when she let herself be.
Her musings were cut short by someone turning up the volume on the TV screens above the bar. Several people in the crowd seated at or standing near the bar looked up.
The screens showed a spaceship crewman grinning at the camera from his hospital bed, flanked by two nurses with a hand on each shoulder, good-naturedly pretending to fawn on the hero.
Which he was. He was the crewman who had talked about tangoing down to the store to get a replacement for a bad communications module. He wouldn’t be tangoing for a while. He’d been out of his crash seat desperately working to repair the electrical wiring of the attitude controls aboard the spaceship before it crashed rather than landed. The abrupt correction Leoni had been forced to make at the end of flight had pitched him into equipment which had broken both legs.
“…lucky it wasn’t my head…taking good care of me…”
Sylvia let her hearing’s sensitivity drop back into normal hearing range. There was too much noise in the bar. Magnified mashed-together sound was just loud mashed-together sound.
Besides, she knew from newspapers and personal contacts in ArgenSpace what had gone wrong with the landing of Spaceship Two. All parts and construction information for the spaceships was stored in GCM, Gillian Corcoran Monaghan, supercomputers. A correction of an electrical problem had been accidentally uncorrected and a problem reinstated.
Luckily the injured crewman had intuited the cause when orange warnings had first alerted the crew to a problem, confirmed it with Downside Control, and rigged up a temporary fix just barely in time.
The TV image changed to one of a TV journalist and the sound cut back to barely audible. Over inane commentary the video showed Leoni Campbell surfing. She’d given only a brief interview from the flight deck while the spaceship was being towed to its aquatic dock, saying she’d only done the job expected of any pilot.
This had annoyed some ArgenSpace execs, but others felt this dovetailed with a “space flight is routine and safe” approach they wanted the public to take. Sylvia guessed that Leoni’s laconicism would not hurt her career. She was after all a real-live hero.
Sylvia finished one drink and called to the bartender to bring her another. While he was mixing it she pretended to be surveying the crowd but watched him keenly. She was still hoping to encounter the bartender who she thought had drugged her three years ago, but it was always possible this one would do the same. She would have to catch him drugging her to know when to pretend helplessness.
After drinking much of the new drink she was mildly unhappy that no kidnapping accomplices had come up to her to lead her off by the hand as if she were a robot. One man, then another, did come up to chat her up, but when she looked blankly at them as if drugged they had left, one angrily.
A flicker of motion at the bare limits of her side vision alerted her to some action near her drinks. She pretended not to notice it. When several seconds had passed she swung back around to the bar. A glance showed a faint rainbow iridescence on the surface of one drink which had not been there before.
Triumph blooming inside her, Sylvia took a sip and felt a sheen of slime on her lower lip when she put the drink down. A drug had been deposited in her drink and had been rejected by her esoteric filter. She delicately dabbed her lips dry and, a few moments later, had to dry it again when she took another drink.
She leisurely finished both her drinks, letting her body go still and her few movements mechanical, letting her eyes focus on infinity. Once she slumped a bit and let her body jerk upright.
Her acting efforts were rewarded. Two young men dressed in nice jackets came up to her. Smiling and speaking as if old friends each took an elbow and helped her down from her seat, one of them grabbing her blue clutch bag and looping its strap over her shoulder.
Outside crowds were busy at the entrance to the club and the surrounding streets. They angled across a street to a parking lot and opened the doors to a late-model red sports car. They got her into the back seat with some trouble, Sylvia playing the part of someone chemically lobotomized. With happy malice she “accidentally” elbowed one of them in his crotch as they folded her into the car.
Half-lying, half-sitting she memorized the route the car was taking. Its destination turned out to be student apartments near the university. Pretty audacious, she thought. Or maybe not. Perhaps seemingly drunken visiting females were a usual sight here.
They didn’t seem to be officially allowed in the men’s apartment. The two took her in through a side entrance and were very quiet when they led her up two flights of stairs. Pushing her inside an apartment they breathed a sigh of relief and slapped hands.
“It worked! Hot damn! Look at this bitch. All ours.” Roughly they pushed her onto a couch. She artistically let herself sprawl so that her legs were apart and her dress showed most of one thigh.
One of them went to a tiny kitchen, took two beer bottles from a refrigerator, and popped off their tops. While he was doing that and returning to his companion that man had kicked off his shoes and taken off all his clothes. Completely naked except for socks he accepted a beer in one hand and continued masturbating with the other.
“Not a bad looking bitch. You think her pussy hair is blonde, too?” He took a swallow of his beer.
The other had set his beer bottle on a low table in front of the couch and was taking his clothes off.
“We’ll find out, won’t we?” He laughed, a little breathlessly.
Sylvia had come to realize that she was not going to get a lead on a ring of kidnappers. She decided to cease pretending to be helpless and triggered several changes in the appearance of her body, beginning with her eyes.
Changing eye-color was her latest discovery in how to shapechange. She’d been brushing her teeth and idly musing about the appearance of eyes. Irises looked black because they let light into her eyes, while sclera looked white because they reflected back all light. Could she make the “whites” look black without letting the light she needed to see leak out of her eyes?
Very carefully experimenting she found she could, as well as make them look other colors, including blue, green, yellow, and red. She was delighted with the last. It made her look like a demon.
She changed her eye color instantly but kept her eyes slitted and veiled with her eye lashes. She let hair turn bright green and her skin blood red, but slowly.
“Uh, Gabriel? What’s happening?” The masturbating man quit that activity. He stared at Sylvia as the green and red colors deepened on her hair and skin.
The undressing man was naked except for socks and the pants he was just about to strip from his ankles. He looked up at his companion and then at Sylvia.
His eyes widened. Sylvia popped open her eyes and stared at him with red demon’s eyes.
He shrieked and tried to run away from her. His pants tripped him and he fell, shrieking still.
Sylvia slowly, slowly sat up. She turned her eyes toward the man with a now badly limp member. Her voice came out as a croaking sound.
“So you thought you were going to rape some helpless girl?” Slowly she stood, her unhumanly flexible body unfolding like a snake standing upright on its tail.
His scream came out as a sandpaper hiss as he dashed toward the nearest window.
Sylvia leaped after him, catching him by the back of his neck before he could leap through the window and fall five stories to his death. She swept him off his feet as easily as she would a kitten, whirled, and threw him to bowl over his companion, legs now freed from his pants and nearly at the door.
The two fell, thumping heavily against a wall and bringing down a spindly table beside the door holding mail and keys. Mail, keys, and men scattered, the table shattered, the men sprawled. One lay sprawling, stunned. The other lay on his side, rocking, hands clamped around the flesh of a thigh pierced by a big splinter from the table, tears of pain coming from his eyes.
Sylvia walked over to them, stood looking down at them.
Shit. She couldn’t find it in her to kill them.
But frighten them and punish them she could.
She laid a hand on the pierced one and esoterically probed within him. The splinter was near an inch deep but had not pierced an artery. As she had learned to probe bodies she had also been learning to affect them. Now she deadened the pain a bit, enough so that the man would be able to pay attention to her words.
A probe of the stunned one showed a concussion but no serious brain damage. She started his body rapidly healing the concussion and sat back on her haunches to wait for him to regain consciousness. Watching the two of them she considered how best to handle them.
She also let the fangs in her mouth mature. Quick growth left them only strong enough to rend flesh. Slower growth made them harder than steel because, she had theorized, the bone in the teeth was made up of very long-chain, almost monomolecular strands of carbon. Coupled with jaws of the same material and jaw muscles of the very dense fiber of all her muscles, she could bite through thin-gauge steel.
Not that she intended to bite anyone or anything. The maturation was simply reflex. She only wanted her fangs to make her appear more horrible.
It was long minutes before both men were awake enough to attend to her. They must have seemed like hours to the men, in pain and fear as they were. To her, able to relax completely into the moment from years before her death, they seemed more like seconds, or maybe an infinite now.
“Do you know what I am?” she said when they appeared to be alert. The fangs made some sounds difficult. Her question came out “Do you ‘oh wha’ I am?”
The pierced one said, “A … a demon?”
Rational, then. Good. She turned her red eyes on the no-longer-stunned one. “Do you t’ink so?”
When he only stared at her in fear she repeated her question and got an answer.
“Wha’ am I?”
“I would enjoy killing you.” She held up a clawed hand. “Slowly. A cut here, a stab there. I could keep you alive for hours.” I ‘ould ‘eep oo a’ive ‘or hours.
“And I will unless you do something. Call the municipal police. Tell them all you know about who sold you the drug you tried to use on me. And all their customers. Do you understand me? Repeat what I said.”
Going back and forth between the two she made sure they understand their orders, despite the muddle her fangs made of her speech.
Then she walked to the window, opened it, and stood for long moments checking if anyone was near.
Detecting no one she leaped into the emptiness, twisted in the air to face the side of the building, and used the claws on hands and feet on the wooden sides of the house to descend as easily as she would stairs.
She took one last comprehensive look around, then disappeared into the night.