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The Dragon Fight

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  • The Dragon Fight

    The Dragon Fight

    A Jerry Cornelius story

    By Paul David Wright, based on the character created by Michael Moorcock

    Jerry Cornelius sat on a bench.

    He propped the shades onto his bare head, and turned his dark eyes around the park. He pulled at the collar of his dark Fendi jacket. His shirt was also black, as well as his pants and his leather boots.

    The green park lay out around him, spring was blooming its golden rush. Birds sang in the trees.

    And, as usual, his contact was late.

    The sun disappeared behind a cloud.

    He watched a long black car pull up and discharge a tall Asian man and small Asian girl. They were dressed imperiously. Like a swarm of bees, body guards surrounded them as they made their way up a path to the bright red building. They apparently expected more media then had appeared. It appeared to anger them. The man turned blazing eyes towards him, glaring at Jerry challengingly.

    Jerry simply smiled. The man abruptly turned, and stalked the rest of the way to the building. The girl looked at him lazily, then turned and followed the man. Jerry watched her go in admiration.

    When they vanished, he turned back to the scenery.

    At least, until the practice session ended, and the girls' volleyball team went to change.

    Jerry smiled, turned and watched the trees.

    The Volleyball team eyed the living room warily.

    Jerry had brought the girls here to his Harbison House after encountering them in the parking lot. He had almost jokingly offered them a ride, which they had unexpectedly accepted. As he had started for their high school, he had cracked another about having them come home with him, which they accepted with enthusiasm.

    He watched in amusement as they looked over the objects in his place, letting them be as they marveled at the treasures that adorned the walls.

    "Wow," a dark haired girl gasped. "This is an impressive place."

    Jerry smiled sardonically, then nodded gently. A pretty blond took his hand and led him to a painting of a man with a large sword. He had long fair hair tied up in back. His clothing consisted of strange yellow armor. The most intriguing element was the gem that hung in his forehead.

    "Who did this painting, Mr. Cornelius?" She pointed at it.

    Jerry smiled. "I did, actually."

    The girl looked at him in amazement. "Cool!"

    Jerry smiled, and guided the team on a tour of his large house.

    In the library, they looked over the large wooded shelves packed with any number of books on many genres. Three of the girls picked out books to flip through. The team were a bit disappointed at the slim selection; Mostly, it consisted of old science fiction which didn't really interest most of the girls. Only three sat down with any of the books and started reading.

    The rest of the girls followed Jerry into the next room. This turned out to be a home theater chamber. Jerry activated a computer in a corner. A list of movies came up, and the girls surprisingly choose a movie in unison in moments. Jerry had never heard of anything like that, much less experienced it. He smiled. Another surprise was their choice. Not a so-called 'girly flick,' but the movie I AM LEGAND. Jerry would have chosen THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, with Vincent Price, but never OMEGA MAN. He couldn't really stomach it.

    Jerry and the three girls sat in the theater as the film unfolded. He sat between two girls. He stretched out over the seats of the girls nearest to him.

    As the movie reached it's decive middle section, as all hell broke loose and it got very dark, the girls, acting totally unlike how high school girls are normally supposed to act, reached up and put his hands onto their shoulders. Jerry smiled, amused.

    The two nearest him pressed close to him as it got even darker for Will Smith. The bass boomed out, the speakers howled, the screen flashed with dazzling FX. The redhead to his right leaned her head against his shoulder. She seemed to be hiding her eyes at some of the images. The brunet on the other side grabbed his jacket roughly. Jerry smirked. It didn't matter to him if this anxiety on their part was real. He held the two of them close, enjoying their presence.

    The night ended with the seven of them in a huge poster bed.

    Far from sleeping, the girls were busy entertaining him in a way that high school girls are normally depicted as being unwilling to do. They were energetic with their sexual energy. They had fallen under the spell of his rich voice and enigmatic blue eyes that seemed to possess a dark energy of their own. Few women could resist it.

    The girls took turns straddling him. Some choice to massage his penis with their mouths or their hands. They all were athletically muscular, with well devolved limbs that only added to the pleasure they inflicted on him.

    He smiled at the sensations that the girls provided him with. He returned the favor with interest.

    The moon rose high as the hysterical moaning continued.

    After dropping off the volleyball team at the gym the next day, Jerry drove back to his Harbison home. He had moved here some time ago, when the prospects seemed better. Now, eight years later, he was ready for a rest. Cleaning up Walker's mess had been a feat that even he couldn't take all at once.

    He exited his car with a groan. The girls had been over energetic. He had had a hard time keeping up, but, ultimately, the girls had tired before he did. But, they had given him a great workout. His muscles ached, and he was sore all over.

    But, it had been worth.

    He smiled as he pictured it.

    Improbable. Impracticable. All sorts of impossibles might be attributed to it. But, by God, he had pulled it off. He had to admit that he was still in good shape for his age.

    He opened his door, finding mail scattered on the floor. He gathered them up, and then looked them over on the kitchen table.

    Several ads.

    Two catalogs.

    One anime catalog.

    Videotapes. Fansubbed anime.

    A large envelope. Two British postal stamps. Two Canadian. Three American. The return address was missing. Post marks from Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Korea.

    He tore it open.

    A handwritten page. In red ink- "Murderer," over and over.

    The second page. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," typewritten, over and over.

    The final item: A photo. A girl in a fur coat, arm held high, obscuring her face. A whip falling.

    In felt pen: "For your eyes only."

    He though it was Ms. Laurie, his latest partner, but the pose was atypical.

    Nothing else in the pack.

    He stared at the items. His fingers drummed the table. Then, with a single gesture, he put them back envelope.

    He leaned back, and watched the ceiling.

    A clue was hidden there, but he didn't feel up to locating it then.

    The parking lot was dimly lit. Its corners were draped in dark; it's concrete a shade to low. No real noise penetrated the walls. Jerry's footsteps were the only sound. He walked the length of the lot, and stopped at space 3.

    A figure stepped from the shadows.

    "I got your message, Ms. Laurie," He said. "What's up?"

    She smiled. She was tall, and blond, with dark eyes that seemed to see everything. She wore a dark green pantsuit. Jerry thought it looked terrible on her.

    "Something is coming up. The operation is in danger of exposure. There are spies all around. Who they answer to, the government or someone else, we can't say. But, we suspect it's not the government."

    "That doesn't sound good." Jerry unwrapped a Rollo candy bar, popped on into his mouth. He was the one who discovered the principles of the program. He had started it, and then turned management over to his sometime lover, Ms. Laurie. It was a variation of the Rohmer Formula that had helped to turn the people on. It helped them tune back in, ending the destructive fantasy that had held sway for eight years. They all had high hopes for it.

    "No." She brushed a strand of light hair from her eyes. "If it goes down, then the delusions of yesterday will hold fast."

    "What's it all got to do with me?"

    She shrugged. "Nothing, really. But, I thought you might like to be in the loop. Perhaps something will come to you."

    "And if it does?"

    "Do the usual."

    He nodded. She stepped over to him, kissed him full on the mouth. She then slipped back into the shadows.

    He smirked.

    Jerry stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Five Points. He perused the newspaper for articles about death and violence. They were mostly of the sensational type, overblown and unbelievable. He laughed gently, and popped a chocolate into his mouth. They were all he needed to live on.

    In the cold summer sun, he watched several passerby go pass. The girls were, at least, appealing. He smiled.

    He read the articles again, trying to determine the most outrageous one of them all. It was a difficult decision. They were all so outrageous, unbelievable, and sensational, it made them all difficult to take seriously. Some were worse than others. Hot button issues received more hot air from both sides then 'normal' articles. Both sides, of course, took the bait, and screamed past each other.

    Jerry folded the papers, and left them on the table as a tip. He headed back into town, avoiding the interstate and its jammed traffic, up Broad River, pass the war protesters and the cops attempting to contain them. He shook his head.

    The bar was dark. Light shone harshly thru large windows in the front of the building.

    Jerry watched the TV suspended over the bar as he sipped his whiskey. The president-elect was deflecting repeated questions about the Vatican's attack on the Islamic Quarter in Rome. Both sides called the other infidels and heretics and where lobbing rockets at the other as they called for a cease fire. Neither recognized the other's right to exist, and thus, as the cease fire rhetoric continued, they lobbed rockets at each other. It was a vicious cycle without end.

    He shook his head and ordered another whiskey from the comely barmaid standing among the beer symbols and the neon, the long bar, the faucets, the register. Behind him, a stair led to an upper lever filled with more tables and a dart bar.

    The President-Elect repeated that "There is only one President at a time." The reporters speculated on what he meant, what he would do. The Conservative columnists called him a coward.

    The man that sat down on the stool besides him was tall, with a handsome face slightly touched with age. He was impeccably dressed in a white. He ordered a rum.

    "Your late." Jerry glanced at the newcomer.

    "Well, I'm here now." Prinz Lobkowitz shrugged.

    They sat in silence.

    "What's the story?" Jerry sipped his drink. Lobkowitz did the same, then sat up straight. He put a bill on the counter, then cleared his throat.

    "The deal is coming along. The evangelists have gotten their land all picked out. Right in the heart of Arizona. If all goes well, the migration will begin in July."

    "Good thing Walker was still in office when this screwy plan cropped up. I doubt Barris would have gone along with it."

    "Imment Domain is useful. Walker is a believer, so he pulled strings and bullied congress to get the Religious Right the state."

    "And you went along with it." Jerry glanced at Lobkowitz meaningfully.

    The Prinz shrugged. "What they believe is no interest to me. I'm a diplomat. I want to help when I can."

    "Even a fascist government?"

    "It's better then the alternative."

    "I always thought you were a opportunist." Jerry turned back to his whiskey, letting the warm glow flow thru him.

    "You'd rather have a American Mullah get in charge? I'm a rational compromise, since even they are reluctant to put the wrong evangelist in charge."

    "It's just that the radicals will get in eventually," Jerry muttered.

    Lobkowitz shrugged. "Hopefully, I can prevent that from happening to quickly."

    Jerry was sitting at Group Therapy's outdoor cafe, watching the passersby with disinterest. They raced up up and down Greene Street in a hurry out of character of the district. He blinked in the hard glare of the sunlight, and donned his raybans. He picked at his meal.

    At the table in front of him sat a man dressed in a load shirt, with long hair and a bohemian attitude. He was currently chatting on a cell phone.

    Jerry smiled and pulled a devise that resembled a cell phone out of his pocket and began to punch in a number.

    The display featured a target in it's center, like a gun sight. In the center was the bohemian.

    He punched in another sequence. The display zoomed into the Bohemian's head. Jerry smirked, then punched the 'dial' button.

    After a second, a soft pop was heard.

    A small red spot appeared in the back of the Bohemian's head. This was duplicated by a very tiny spot that appeared in his forehead.

    Jerry yelled "Goddammit!!"

    A waitress appeared at his table in seconds. "Sir, we don't allow that kind of language here. I must ask that you leave our premises immediately."

    He simply glared at her steadily.

    "I must insist. If you refuse, we'll have no option but to call the police." She looked very smug.

    Jerry rose, still glaring at the smug girl and then left.

    The needle, he managed to see, had cut cleanly through the brain and out the front of his skull. It had fallen into a bush just beyond the next bush, well outside where a normal bullet would fall.

    He smiled, congratulating himself on a job well done.

    At the Circle-K on Broad River road, Jerry stopped to get a drink.

    He wandered around the brightly lit store, looking into the glass cases holding beer, soft drinks, and other beverages.

    He compared the prices. The generic items were cheaper than the name brands. Of course, the healthy items were more expensive than normal stuff, and since money was tight, people just ate the cheaper, less healthy stuff.

    Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a small Asian girl in black. He was in a hurry, so he didn't notice much about her.

    He turned and eyed the rotating hot dogs, but decided that that was too unhealthy, and grabbed a bag of Lays chips, and rushed to the counter.

    In the monitor he saw the Asian girl behind him as he paid the counterman. He pocketed the change, and left the store.

    He found his ride around the side of the building. He felt a sting in his side. His mind wandered, his vision wavered, his balance slid.

    He fell into two furry black arms, and felt no more.

    Jerry opened his eyes.

    He was lying on a couch. He slowly rose to a sitting position and surveyed the room. It was of darkly paneling. The furniture was severely modern. A brown desk sat at the end of the room. It was bare. On the walls hung various Asian hangings. Behind the desk was a hanging with a red dragon upon it. The heavy smell of perfume hung in the air.

    He rose slightly from the couch, but fell back almost at once. His head was spinning.

    "Good morning, Mr. Cornelius," said an accented female voice. He lifted his head.

    Behind the desk, which had been empty before, now sat a small Asian woman. Her dark hair was cut short at the cheeks. Her dark eyes blazed. She wore a dark outfit topped by a bright scarf. She seemed to have a silver fox stole behind her elbows.

    "That's a good trick," Jerry mummer. She smiled coldly, and then rose from her seat.

    "I am the Onna No Ryu" she said. Jerry shook his head in slight disbelief.

    "I know that 'Dragon Lady' is an epitaph applied to your kind, but you’re the first I've encountered to use it as an actual name."

    "It is... useful" The Dragon Lady said. She sat down across from Jerry, crossed her long stocking legs. He found himself staring at them. She held a cigarette in a holder like an old-fashioned Hollywood star. She had the aura of one too. Jerry smiled despite himself.

    "So," he started, "What can I do for you?"

    The Onna no Ryu smiled also. She drew in a breath of smoke and then let it out again.

    "Your associate, Ms. Laurie," she breathed. "She is... hindering my operations. I wish you to bargain with her."

    "She'd probably not listen to me," Jerry countered. "She's not easily persuaded."

    "Please," the Onna No Ryu said. "Please try."

    Jerry sighed. He knew he couldn't refuse this lady. Her presence was far too strong. He also knew that he'd never be able to change Ms. Laurie's mind. But, he decided to try, nether less. This woman haunted him. He wondered how many she had entranced like this. Most likely many.

    "Alright," He finally sighed. "What are your terms?"

    Jerry strode into the old church. He had bought it when the congregation had decided to sell owing to lack of interest. Jerry had been amused at the ridiculously low asking price. The girl at the reception desk waved him through. He smiled at her as he went in.

    The smell of sulfur hung in the air. The lights were dim. A green glow lit the area weakly. Shadows flitted in and out of the lights.

    He approached one of the female techs. "Is Ms. Laurie about?" He asked her. She pointed towards the offices. Jerry moved in the direction indicated.

    He passed upright tanks filled with glowing green liquid. Inside, human forms wiggled furtively. Other techs wrote data down on electric clipboards. A single note rose and fell.

    He paused, brought up information on a nearby computer. He smiled, then continued on.

    Near the back, he found Ms. Laurie dictating data into the main computer. She looked up as he approached.

    "Hello, Jerry! Good to see you!" she smiled, extending her hand, which he shook. "What brings you here?"

    "I thought we could do lunch," he replied. He peeked at her clipboard.

    She smiled. "Our program is coming along smoothly. We've had more converts since the election. They at least understand the need."

    He nodded. "The Rohmer Principle confirmed."

    "Confirmed and proven!" She gestured firmly. "At about two to the power of..."

    "Please, Ms. Laurie," he protested. "Not high mathematics first thing in the morning."

    She folded her arms. "That is the difference between us, isn't it? You are a prize winning scientist, but can't be bothered to use that knowledge for good."

    They walked back towards the office.

    "Well, since you are dealing with my theories, I don't feel the need to hurt my brain," he commented. She sighed.

    As they entered the office, she said, "You never were intellectually curious."

    He shrugged. "Where do you want to go for lunch?"

    She leaned against her desk, staring at him. "I don't know. Perhaps Monterrey?"

    He nodded.

    Ms. Laurie rubbed her long finger along Jerry's arm.

    They both lay in the large bed. Jerry wasn't paying attention to the woman beside him. He stared at the ceiling.

    "You seem," she said, "to be preoccupied."

    "You could say that," He replied. She rubbed his chest in a regular pattern. He sighed, relaxing. He smelled her perfume, stroked her long blond hair. He then stroked her arm, and then made his way along her body, until he found her crotch. She squealed happily, and rolled over onto his erection.

    They exhausted each other happily.

    Jerry dozed off soon after. He was awakened when she started shaking him.

    "Jerry," She said, "What is it?"

    Jerry sighed, then related his encounter with the Onna No Ryu. She looked at him without an expression. When he finished, she rolled over and joined him in staring at the ceiling.

    "So," She said finally, "That woman is leaning on you too."

    A moment passed, as they both were lost in thought. Then she rolled over and propped herself over him.

    "If she thinks I'll fold just because of you, she's very much mistaken," she commented.
    Jerry nodded.

    "That's what I told her you'd say," He muttered.

    Jerry stood in the stands, watching the volleyball game.

    His team had just scored and they now looked set to win. The crowd stood and applauded, and he joined in. He was terribly proud of them as he might be of a successful daughter.

    The team stopped and waved to him, shouting at him enthusiastically. Jerry returned the gesture with a small amount of glee.

    The game resumed. The ball passed over the net, and one of the team spiked it back over. The other team missed it, and another point was awarded to Jerry's favorite team.

    Jerry smiled as he admired the girls athletic muscular forms. They moved with grace as they tackled the ball. The gyms heat made the air stifling. The girls on both teams wore gym shorts and t-shirts. Their hair was tied back behind their heads.

    Another save, and the team scored yet another point.

    A heavy set man stood up and walked down the bleachers and towards the bathroom. Jerry watched the girls serve once more, watched the ball get blocked by the visiting team, then get shot back by Jerry's champions. They scored another point. After another round, Jerry stood, stretched, and made for the bathroom.

    Inside, in the dim light reflected off the off-white walls, the man was at one of the urinals. He was a heavy set, middle-aged man with a cruel face named Ross. He was also a heavy supporter of right-wing organizations. He glanced at Jerry with heavy distaste. Jerry went to the farthest urinal from Ross.

    Ross finished up, then came up behind Jerry threateningly.

    "I don't appreciate you partying with my daughter," he snarled. Jerry ignored him.

    "I swear, if you come near her again, you perverted hippy, you'll regret it." He glared at Jerry darkly.

    Jerry smirked. "Dead men shouldn't make idle threats."

    "Why you..." he growled, gripping Jerry's collar and spinning him around, and slamming him agiasnt the hard white wall.

    Jerry only looked amused, which made Ross even more furious. He again shoved him roughly into the wall. Jerry only smiled again. Ross raised his fist.

    A slight popping sound echoed through the room.

    Ross stopped mid-swing. His mouth was open and he looked astonished. Another popping sound echoed, and Ross fell into a crumpled heap.

    Jerry adjusted his collar, then pulled a flat metal object out of his pocked that was no bigger then a cell-phone. This was a new design of the ancient heater that he had used in the past. A tiny hole was in the lining of his pocket.

    Jerry put the device away, and then manhandled Ross into one of the stalls. He sat him on the toilet, then closed and locked the door, and then returned to the game.

    The score was tied.

    The final serve was done by Jerry's team. They served it hard. The ball flew over the net. The visitors scrambled to block it, but failed spectacularly.

    The game ended with the home team scoring big. The girls celebrated with hugs, high fives, and yelling triumphantly. The crowd echoed their joy.

    Jerry slipped out in the chaos.

    Jerry walked to his car along Assembly Street. It was fairly quite then, which was strange for this time of day. The sun was high overhead. The trees were losing their leaves.

    "Hey there, Delilah, what it like in New York City...” he sang, clicking the doors of his car unlocked. As he reached to open them, a hand stopped him. He turned and found a small Asian girl beside him. She was dressed in black, with sunglasses and a dark fur coat.

    "The lady would see you," She said in an accented voice.

    Jerry sighed.

    A short girl dressed as a secretary pulled the door closed behind him. Jerry looked about, stepped several paces into the room. Tapestries hung from the walls. Most were solid prints of red dragons. Some were ancient scenes of everyday life, while others depicted mythical tales. Behind the desk now hung a red dragon on black. He turned to inspect a statue of a cat.

    "Welcome again, Mr. Cornelius," Said a voice. He turned; saw the Onna No Ryu sitting behind the desk. She had not been there before. Jerry shook his head, went and sat down before it. She smiled coldly.

    "I don't suppose you were a magician in the past?" He asked. She smiled again.

    "I was many things in the past," She replied. "Some more honorable then others."
    She fixed him with an inscrutable gaze, said, "As for the matter at hand, what news have you?"

    Jerry looked away, said, "I warned you. She is not going to budge."

    The woman leaned back, glared at him. A hand fell heavily on his shoulder. He got up and followed the two darkly dressed ladies out of the room and the building.

    He wondered if the Wendie's was too crowded.

    Jerry walked thru the shelves of the library. He scanned through them, trying to find something worth reading. He picked up an old Tarzan of the apes book, but put it down again. It upset his modern sensibilities.

    He shrugged.

    He had come here to see about a book request. The initial request had been months ago, and it still had not come in. That seriously annoyed him, but then so did much these days.

    A girl in silver fox appeared besides him.

    He studied her out of the corner of his eye. She was short, very blond, with Grey eyes. She was more pretty then beautiful. The coat terminated at her knees. Her long stocking legs ended in black boots. Under the coat she wore a dark vest over a dark blouse.

    She looked at him, and he smiled at her. She smiled back. She held up a book, and asked, "What do you think of this novel?"

    "Teen girl falls for teen vampire. Wish fulfillment tale. Good, if you like that kind of thing," he commented.

    "Well, I loved the first one," she replied.

    He smiled. "Then you'll love this one."

    She gave him a look, and stuck it under her furry arm. Jerry started to brush by her, when she stopped him and asked him to help her find a book. He agreed, and she took his arm and led him to the fiction section. They took nearly an hour searching thru romance novels, and finally they found the right book. She reached over and squeezed his arm, then walked off.

    Jerry watched her go in disappointment, then went back to his original search. Eventually, he found something stimulating.

    After he checked out and went outside, he found the blond leaning against the wall, looking out towards the highway. She saw him, and raised a hand in greeting. She asked him if he'd mind giving her a ride. He asked about her vehicle, and she said "I'm not having a good day, so I want a diversion."

    He smiled, put his arm around her, and led her to his Aston Martin One-77. He enjoyed the fabric of her coat. He helped her into his sports car.

    They stopped by a Burger King just off Blossom Street.

    Over the meal, he learned she was Tara Powers, the daughter of a successful small business owner. She was separated, pending a divorce. Her husband was currently in Europe, and would remain so for the time being. Their marriage had started out wonderfully. They were high school sweethearts, with no care in the world. Then, it had fallen apart. No children were in the picture.

    They then discussed small stuff like music, then Jerry invited her to come home with him. She hesitated, but accepted.

    They arrived at his Harbison house. It was not on Harbison proper, but in a little subdivision just off the busy road. His house stood on a two-block piece of land, behind a brick wall. The house was a two story building giving an impression of white and gold. Many windows adorned it, and the roof was green.

    Tara marveled at the size of it. Her father lived modestly, and her husband wasn't rich. He held the door open for her, then started to help her remove her coat, but she insisted on keeping it on. He happily let her, took her furry arm and gave her a tour.

    They ended up in the theater, watching the original STAR WARS films. During EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Jerry put his hand on her knee, and, after not getting a negative reaction, slid it gently up her leg. Her breathing was heavy as he did this. He reached her skirt, and slid expertly up it. She rolled her eyes back, grabbed his hand, and guided it. He leaned over the rail, and kissed her full on the mouth. She threw her arms around his neck, and returned the kiss passionately. He rubbed his hand over her body. He squeezed her breast.

    "Do or do not. There is no try."

    Jerry pulled her stockings off, then her underwear. Tara moved over, straddled him, pulling his pants open, and stroked his penis while Jerry stroked her coat. She kissed him with passion, which he returned. Her coat tickled his cheek.

    Soon, she took his member inside her, and rocked gently back and forth. He moved forward, letting it tickle her sexual insides.

    Her moaning was escalating, ending in a high pitch scream that burst the bubble, causing them both to collapse. They were drained.

    "My God", she said, "That's the first time I've felt anything like that!"

    Jerry walked to the bulk of the Carolina coliseum.

    At the ticket window, he knocked on it to get the girl's attention.

    "Can I help you," she asked in a bored voice, without looking up.

    "Deputy-Commander Cornelius," he said with a smile.

    "When's your apoin..." she began, looking up. She gasped.

    "Right about now, I expect," he laughed. He always enjoyed the reaction they got when they were together.

    "Sir," she stammered.

    "Don't you think," Jerry commented, "That you should page him?"

    The girl nodded, reaching for the switch. Just then, the door opened, and Frank Cornelius stood there.

    "Jerry! Good of you to come!" he said, thrusting his hand out for Jerry to shake. His accent was thin and his voice, high. They shook hands and then his brother escorted him inside.

    Thru several corridors they walked, until finally they exited into the stadium floor.
    Jerry looked around, noting the nearly empty seat. Frank indicated a seat in front of his desk, and he took it.

    "Glad you could make it," Frank said, and began to shuffle papers.

    "Wouldn't miss it for the world," Jerry answered.

    Around them, similar desks stood. Some were occupied like Frank's, most weren't. Up in the stands, the audience was restless.

    "Alright," Jerry said, filling a Styrofoam cup up with water from a cooler. "What do you want now?"

    Frank smiled. He continued shuffling papers, then marked some with a pen, then placed them into a OUT box. Jerry watched him with growing impatience.

    "There are... suspicious elements," he began.

    "So,what else is new?" Jerry commented with a shrug.

    "Nothing. But we'd like you keep a eye out for certain elements."

    "Which ones?"

    "The reversed moon."

    "Why me?"

    "Because," his brother said, "You move in independent circles easily. And you can detect things our ordinary agents can't."

    "Anything in particular?" he asked, taking a swig of water.

    "You'll know it."

    "How will I contact you?"

    "Don't worry."

    "I'll think it over."

    "Good man," Frank commented, leaning back smugly. Jerry had an impulse to take his brother out with his sonic gun, but he resisted it. he rose, left the floor, exited the coliseum.

    Jerry went to the Local-K across the street, and bought a large case of beer. By morning, he was in no condition to carry out his mission.

    Jerry drove thru Five Points. Shops, restaurants, people passed him by.

    He remembered a dream.

    A kiss, lost in time.


    Jerry and the Deep Fix played at a club, despite the owners’ squeamishness at booking a 'drug band.' The local moralist had a fit, of course, but most people just let it pass.

    The music flowed over the performers and the audience. They jumped up and down, laughing and clapping. The lights blinked over them, blinding them temporarily.

    Jerry smiled. He'd not felt this good in years.

    Jerry glanced at his watches.

    The multiple green arrows stood still at various points on the dial. No temporal disturbances.

    He decided to go shopping.

    Jerry walked to his bedroom pulling off his tie. He reached out and flicked the light switch, flooding the room with light.

    He looked on in surprise.

    Sprawled in his bed lay the Onna No Ryu. Her bare skin glowed dully in the harsh light. She moved, looked at him and smiled.

    "And I thought the old cliché’s were dead." He shook his head.

    She smiled, shifted her position, and wrapped the blanket around her. She then sat up, on the edge of the bed. "They are useful."

    "The Super Spy comes home to find the Femme Fatale in his bed waiting for him. This leads into the mandatory sex scene. Easy way to get the principles together. Very erotic. It's every guy’s fantasy. It's just unrealistic."

    She rose from the bed. "Do I look unrealistic?"

    "Hell, no. To the contrary, you look ravishing."

    She reached up, put her long arms around his neck. Her perfume filled his nostrils. "Then, the problem is?"

    "Realistically, this kind of scene doesn't happen." He kissed her passionately. "And, usually, in fiction, it's a ruse." She closed her eyes as he kissed her. "Usually, to get information." He ran his hands over her bare form. She sighed in contentment.

    They backed against the bed, then he laid her gently onto it.

    The moon shone brightly on the landscape. No birds were heard in the still air.

    Jerry turned the key and the car flashed to life. The garage door swung open, and the car leapt out into the night, racing thru the shadowy streets, under the silver moon.

    Neither spoke. They both were reflecting on the hours before.

    They had spent some time together, mostly under the covers of the bed. Soon, the talk had turned to current events, and they suddenly decided to go for a road trip.

    "Yeah, but what about you’re... Organization?" Jerry looked at her quizzically.

    She smiled. "I will leave it to my second. She is dependable."

    He hesitated. "Where shall we go?"

    "Where ever the winds take us." She met his gaze. "Do you not want my company?"

    "It's not that, no."

    "Then what is the problem?"

    He turned, laying his arm over his face. "Nothing."

    Silence fell between them.

    "We'll go in an hour," he said. "Collect your personnel things and make whatever arrangement you need to."

    She nodded, rose from the bed, still wrapped in the white sheet, and made for the bathroom. He admired her as she went.

    A sense of apprehension fell over him. What is was, what it meant, he couldn't tell.

    Now, barreling down the road and heading from town, Jerry turned the events of the last month over in his mind. They didn't quite add up. The Ladies’ actions weren't sensible.

    He shrugged.

    He'd take things as they come.

    The moon hung in the creamy black sky like a bright white bulb.

    Jerry spared it a glance, then turned back to the gloomy highway. Ahead of them shone a dim circle of light that illuminated road ahead slightly. The road around them was deserted. They were a lone sliver of life on a dead land.

    In the passenger seat laid the Onna No Ryu, sleeping soundly, and wrapped in her furs. Her hair was draped over her face in delightfully disarray. Her head jumped with each bump.

    The radio gurgled in the stillness.

    Jerry yawned. It had been a long forty-eight hours, and he was on autopilot. He badly needed some sleep.

    He decided to stop at the next motel that appeared.

    As they signed in at the motel, Jerry was amused when the lady gave her name as Megami Tenshino.

    When they reached the room, he commented, "Megami Tenshino, eh? If that's not an alias, I'm not an expert."

    She smiled. "No, that is not my real name. My real name died with what respect I had for my country. The past is a closed door that I wish to remain closed. A person without a past is free."

    Jerry lay on the bed and closed his eyes. He was enjoying the smell of her perfume, which was like flowers. She pulled off her fur coat, and threw it over him. He laughed from beneath it.

    She lay down next to him, gently removed her coat and put it on a chair. She then wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him.

    "Have you ever been in love, Jerry?" Megami put her arm carelessly across his chest and laid her head on his shoulder. He stared up at the ceiling, then shrugged.

    "Only once," he finally replied. She looked up at him with questioning eyes.


    "That's right," he replied. "Any other time was a shallow crush I mistook for love."

    She stroked his chest. "I find that hard to believe."

    "I don't fall in love easily."

    "I've heard you have hundreds of friends."

    He shrugged. "Acquaintances. Not friends. I don't like getting close to people."

    "Too bad," she cooed, stroking his chest with her long fingers. He closed his eyes contently. She asked, "Don't you like people?"

    "Sure. Just not in my business."

    She took the hint, and turned over onto her back. He sighed in disappointment.

    After a long pause, she said, "Emotion is why I'm here." He smirked. She saw his expression, said, "I'm serious."

    "So you say," he replied. She glared at him.

    "When we met, I felt something. I was intrigued. You are like no other man I've known." She kissed his shoulder. "The second encounter, I was sure. I wanted to find out more. I wanted to explore your depths."

    "Shallow though they are," he replied with a small laugh. She echoed him. She rolled over onto him. Her face was inches from his, and her breath was warm.

    "I'm here because I want you," she breathed. More like I want information about Ms. Laurie's organization, he thought. But he didn't voice this sentiment. He simply kissed her on the lips. Soon, they both were engaged in a heated embrace and rolling on the bed.

    Cities passed by in a blur.

    The radio was blaring heavy metal music, which the Lady only just tolerated. The current program was hair metal bands, which she was a little more patient with.

    The sunset fell behind the mountains.

    They watched the event, both lost in their own thoughts. It was their fifth day together, and they were still trying to get a handle on the other.

    The Lady was more than a little reluctant to reveal too much about her past. She seemed to enjoy being mysterious.

    The day had started uneventfully enough, slowly and steady. At a Seven-Eleven, she had successfully haggled the price down. Jerry shrugged. It had been a good performance, he thought.

    Now, standing in the waning daylight, he again wondered at his inscrutable companion, who she really was, what her real past was. And how much more she'd accept of his prying.

    He shrugged again, turned, and walked back to the car.

    Jerry and the Dragon Lady joined a tour packed with fans and tourists, all come to bow at the altar of the King. Graceland was now a tourist trap of the worst kind.

    In front of a wall-sized portrait, tourist dressed as the Vegas Era King stroke proses and sneered for cheap cameras.

    Flashes went off at every room they stopped at, a strobe effect set to Love Me tender.

    Bad singers performed karaoke versions of Teddy Bear. Black leather posers swung their hips and sneered.

    The Onna No Ryu shook her head. "Yesterday's rebels are tomorrow’s icons."

    Jerry nodded. "The culture devours its own."

    "What's it all mean?"

    Jerry turned, followed a blond impersonator into the Jungle Room, amid the strobes.

    "What does anything mean?" he asked, as heavy metal blared from hidden speakers.

    A warm and dusty old bookstore, heavy with smell of pleasant decay. Bookshelves stood at haphazard angles. The carpet was green. Leather bound books lined one wall. Paperbacks lined the frequented shelves.

    Jerry pulled a book from a shelf, then hurriedly replaced it.

    He didn't need to read The King In Yellow.

    Very few customers were present. Others ways made obtaining books much more convenient. This had dented their sales. These kind of specialty stores were slowly going extinct. This fact depressed Jerry far more then he would admit.

    Megami appeared at his elbow, holding three pulp reprints. He was constantly amazed at her ability to appear and disappear almost at will. He smiled.

    "Found what you need, Ms. Tenshino?"

    She displayed her wares. "Not all of them, Mr. Cornelius. But I found what I wanted."

    He nodded, pulling a Phillip K. Dick reality-bending novel off the shelf, then followed the Lady to the register. She slyly slipped her arm into his as they went. They exchanged smiles.

    A few customers watched them jealously.

    They exited into the warm Houston air and wandered to their car. People dressed in cowboy gear walked the streets, their clothes clashing with the modern urban street. Children ran around as adults yelled at them to behave.

    The Lady smiled.

    The entered the car and left, amid the huge gas guzzling cars and country rock music that openly blared from every corner.

    The Lady watched the huge skyscrapers above them. They were tall, Grey glass giants that seemed to glare down at them in moralistic rage.

    She sighed. "It's so oppressive here."

    He nodded. "In some ways, yeah. The heart of traditionalist thinking. The very old school. Anti-modern sensibilities can be a shock to a progressive mind. It's active all over the states, of course. But here it's at its strongest."

    She punched the radio, finally finding a classic rock station. Its signal was faint, but it was better then the country rock and pure country on the other stations. The Lady relaxed.

    Soon, they hit the interstate, and two days later, the state of Texas was left behind.

    Los Angeles- The city of Angels. Jerry smiled. The artifice suited him

    They drove down the street watching people mingle. People with brightly colored hair, blond bimbos congregated outside pharmacies, cops looked around, drugs passed below the surface. Celebs strolled across the street as paparazzi swarmed.

    The Lady snapped several pictures of big name celebs.

    Jerry watched her bemused. "Acting like a tourist? Isn't that beneath you?"

    She smiled. "It's a convenient cover, Mr. Cornelius. Who would expect the head of an organization like mine to be a typical tourist?"

    He nodded. She did make some kind of sense.

    Soon, the heady, oppressive atmosphere paled, and they took the next exit out. Soon California was far behind them.

    "The next state ahead is Arizona." The Onna No Ryu looked up from the map. Jerry scowled.

    "What is the best alternative rout?"

    She looked at him questionably. "What is the problem?"

    Jerry pulled over to side of the road without answering her. Ahead, they saw a long brick wall, with armed guards patrolling the top. A guard house stood next to the wall, packed with armed guards. A large gate separated the road.

    Megami blinked. "I see what you mean."

    On a hill overlooking the state of Arizona, Jerry and The Onna No Ryu trained field glasses on the land beyond the border.

    Megami gasped as she observed the land. "By the gods! They have torn down all the vegetation!"

    "They believe that their god is coming soon, to take them to paradise, and to punish all those they hate. Keeping the environment intact is not high on their list," Jerry explained.

    "They are destroying nature!" Megami was shocked and dismayed.

    "It's their way." Jerry shrugged meaningfully. "They are custodians of the world, so their book says. So, they can do damn well what they please. And they please to not bother with it. Their god will deal with it."

    "What's it like in their?" Megami asked, dreading the answer.

    "It's like the worst kind of theocracy you can think of. Without any restraint from secular law, they are free to force their ideas on anyone."

    "Doesn't our constitution say you can't do that?"

    "Sure. But, Walker signed a 'Presidential Decree' that freed them from the law. They live there like an exclusive country club, unaffected by the outside, by laws normal people have to follow."

    She shivered. "Sounds horrible."

    He smiled. "From the reports of those who've escaped, it is. When it started out, it was multi-cultural. But, in little under a month, it thinned out into a primarily white community. It's worse there than at any time in American history. It's worse than any story of lynching you may have heard."

    She looked at him. "Why doesn't the law intervene?"

    "According to Walker, they are above the law, and the Supreme Court has so far backed him up. Nothing can officially be done." He laughed.

    Behind giant blocks, the capitol was in ruins. Both parties sniped at each other while the nation wound down. On giant screens the new president urged both sides to compromise. The result was fresh bullet holes in all the buildings.

    "And they wonder why the people call them out of touch." The Lady shook her head.

    They watched the carnage from behind bullet-proof glass, and placed bets on how long Antony Scarface would last.

    The Lady smiled demurely as Jerry paid out.

    Confetti fell from sky and showered the streets below in pink splotches of color. A high school marching band marched past in yellow and black, the sound of drums and sousaphones rumbling through the cold smoggy morning.

    Jerry passed a pastry to the Onna No Ryu. She smiled as took it. "Lovely parade."
    He nodded.

    The parade drifted past, as floats rushed by, as celebrities hawked their latest project, politicians hawked themselves, blaring music assaulted the crowd. High school bands marched past, making their debuted and seeking exposure.

    Little bits of color sprinkled the Dragon Lady’s dark hair. She brushed them out absently.

    "How many parades does one nation need?" She asked.

    He shrugged. "As many as it requires to convince them of their superiority."

    The parade continued to pass.

    Several states later, they rested at Motel 66.

    The Lady collapsed onto the bed in exhaustion. She looked at Jerry with heavy eyes and wiped her brow.

    Jerry sat heavily on the bed, flipped on the TV. The death of Michael Jayzon dominated the news. He was a colossal musical star who had been faced with numerous scandals. But, his death still surprised people. And some still wept for him. No matter what his personal life, he was still a legend.

    Jerry lay back and closed his eyes.

    Soon, she heard his snoring. She sighed, closed her eyes, and was also asleep.

    Jerry was awakened by his cell vibrating in the dark.

    He opened his eyes, reached for it, and flipped it open. The green glow reflected off his face as he looked at the number. He didn't recognize it. A voice mail had also been left. He listened to it, and the voice was familiar.

    He pulled on some clothes, then went outside, and called a number.

    After a few minutes, it picked up.

    "Moe? It's Jerry. Listen, you feel up to some action?"

    The white glow of the moon glared down on him.

    "Good. Meet me at Santa Fe in three hours. Right. Thanks."

    He flipped the cell closed at went back in. The Onna No Ryu was still asleep. Jerry sat on the edge of the bed, and made preparations.

    The battle been going badly, reflected Prinz Lobkowitz.

    He stood on the roof of the Arizona Governors’ Mansion, with his personal body guards around him. The sounds of gunfire echoed from the inside.

    "What's the latest," he yelled to his second. The man indicated that it wasn't good.

    The Prinz scowled.

    They couldn't hold out much longer. They had been here four days now, and their supplies were dwindling fast.

    A bullet just missed his head. He ducked as his men returned fire.
    He glanced up as the sounds of a helicopter reached him. He hoped it was who he expected.

    A Kazak Mi-17 appeared from the trees.

    A figure waved to Lobkowitz and his troops. He smiled.

    Some people just had to make an entrance.

    He waved to Jerry Cornelius and Shaky Moe. Jerry was lowering a rope ladder as Shaky Moe picked off the guerrillas.

    Lobkowitz and his men scrambled up the ladder eagerly, as bullets buzzed around them like bugs.

    Moe gave the populace the single-finger salute.

    Lobkowitz drank cup of vodka that Jerry gave him, and indicated a refill. Jerry obliged.

    They both sat in the hotel room.

    "So, what happened?" Jerry sipped from his own glass.

    "It started well. I let them have their little theocratic and socially restrictive laws. For example, it's a crime not to belong to a church. It's a crime to not own a Bible. Hell, it's a crime to be anything other than a Christian. A Christian by their definition, and they don't even agree on that. Some weeks later, I heard of atrocities being committed against various lesser sects, but was hampered by the Church at every turn. Then, about a month ago, the factions began to openly fight each other. I called on them to stop. Repeatedly, in fact."

    "They didn't listen?"

    "Of course not! But now, they had a mutual enemy. Me. I found little things going on- my tires being slashed, my pets being murdered. Then, about a week ago, my personal secretary was found hanging upside down from a tree. Flayed."

    Jerry winced. He filled their glasses again. They both sipped their drinks for awhile before Lobkowitz continued.

    "I was glad that I'd brought my own security force, because afterwards, the 'Good Christians' of the state abandoned me. It got so bad, I couldn't leave the mansion. Soon, they even started attacking it. First it was sniper fire directed at whatever moved. They then stormed it a week ago, killing anyone who tried to surrender, and forced us to fall back. When we were constricting to the roof, and that's when I called you. And you know the rest."

    As he finished, the Onna No Ryu entered the room, weighed down with several bundles. She looked at Prinz Lobkowitz in surprise. Jerry made the introductions, and they both shook hands.

    "Any place we can drop you?" He asked.

    "Jerry," The lady asked after Lobkowitz had left the room, "Who is he?"

    "A friend of mine." Jerry sipped at his vodka.

    "That's obvious." She glared at him.

    "He's the former governor of Arizona, for starters." That startled her.

    "I thought you detested those types."

    "I do," he replied. "But, he's not that kind of person."

    "What kind is he?"

    "A military type. Diplomat. That kind of thing."

    "A secret agent?" She wasn't sure if she understood.

    He shook his head. "Not the kind you’re thinking of. No, he's a political diplomat. That's why he didn't last as the governor of that state."

    "Come again?" She seemed confused.

    "Love to, but later," he smirked. She turned bright red.

    "What I mean," he continued, "Is that he tried to see both sides of issues, he tried to negotiate. That was not what they wanted. They wanted someone as set and inflexible as themselves."

    She nodded. "I understand. He was working with people who would tolerate no compromise."

    "That's right." Jerry finished just as Lobkowitz reentered the room.

    "It's all arranged," he said. "I'll be taking a plane to DC to give the President and congress a briefing. Then, I'll repeat it for the committees."

    "You'll be busy." Jerry sipped at his vodka some more. Lobkowitz nodded wearily.

    "It'll take several days. And I expect the Conservatives to dispute my testimony. They can't accept failure, except when someone else does it. But, luckily, I've got several witnesses to back up my version of events. That should help."

    "May luck be with you," The Lady said.

    "Thank you, dear lady." Lobkowitz kissed her hand as she turned bright red again.
    Presently, he picked up his bag. "Well, it's time I was off. The taxi is waiting and I have a wait for my plane to arrive. So, goodbye, dear friends."

    Jerry shook his hand. "Good luck."

    Prinz Lobkowitz nodded, and was gone.

    That night, as they lay in the motel room, Megami became strangely talkative.

    "I wish to tell something about my past. I will not say much, but will sketch it out." She looked at him. He nodded. "I was born in Japan. The year is not important."

    "My childhood was stubbornly normal. But it was happy. My parents and siblings enjoyed a quiet living. It was heaven."

    She sighed.

    "Then, everything changed. Our whole existence was shattered in a bomb blast. At fifteen, I was an orphan."

    Jerry slid his arm under her neck.

    "I struggled mightily. In 1997, I moved to the states. I was eighteen. I eventually married into a American Yakuza family. By sheer determination, I soon became the power behind the throne. I managed to consolidate that power, and soon turned to revenge."

    Blue tinted moonlight streamed through the windows.

    "My parents, I learned, had been political targets," she continued. "I moved very carefully in my plotting. Three years more, and I waited. Then when they arrived on American soil, I took my chance. They never knew what happened."

    She leaned against him. "Since then, I have made many changes to our organization. I have carefully turned them into a semi- respectable business. My late husband's resources allowed me to continue my empire."

    She looked at him. "Does this satisfies your curiosity, Mr. Cornelius?"

    He smiled. "Many times over, Ryu-sama." He leaned in and kissed her gently on the lips.

    They had coffee at an outdoor cafe in Boston.

    Jerry sipped his coffee, Megami sipped hers. The crisp air was chilly but not very cold. Boston was busy this lunch hour. People darted across the road. Car horns blared.

    "I feel," Megami commented, "That this will be our last day together."

    Jerry shrugged. "It's peaceful enough."

    Black copters passed overhead. They both ignored them.

    A girl appeared over the Onna No Ryu's shoulder. She was of the Lady's race, with long hair and dark eyes.

    "My lady," she began, and they then commence to communicate in their own language. Jerry sipped his own coffee, ignoring them.

    To Jerry, the Lady said, "It appears that my second is less reliable then I had assumed. She has taken over my operation and has taken to calling herself The Flower Lady."

    Jerry quipped, "Good help is so hard to find."

    "Not always." She glanced at the girl. "But, I cannot let this stand. I must reassert my authority."

    "Well, if I can help in any way." Jerry smiled. This was more like it.

    "So," The Onna No Ryu commented, "She's at my Pelion compound."

    They were studying a map of the compound. It was a huge piece of land with gardens and foliage. Green areas spread out. In the center was a single story traditional Japanese-style temple. It stood far enough off the road to mask any activities.

    Jerry was impressed. "Nice layout."

    "It is, yes." The Lady was proud of her design. To the girl, she said "Gather as many of those still loyal to me and gather at Finely Park in two days."

    The girl nodded, and hurried out.

    Jerry and the Lady turned back to the map. She pointed out that the gardens would give the most cover to the defenders. But, she knew of several flaws there. She and her forces would exploit them during the battle.

    Jerry nodded. He was looking forward to this.

    Jerry listened to the creatures of the night.

    He crouched down besides the Onna No Ryu behind the trees and bushes of the estate. Ahead of them stood the house. It gleamed white in the dark, surrounded by lights and tall vegetation.

    Around the house, hidden by foliage and greenery, were the Onna No Ryu’s forces. The tension was thick as they awaited her signal.

    The Dragon Lady surveyed the house thru field glasses, marking the lack of visible guards.

    "She must feel might secure." She was contemptuous.

    Jerry reached up and scratched his cheek. The wait was irritating him. He wanted to get started.

    The night was chilly, the sounds were chilling.

    The Onna No Ryu raised her hand.

    The chill bit further into those present. Tension reached its height, and as it did, the Lady dropped her hand and her forces surged forward. They charged the undergrowth towards the house, glowing in the inky blackness of the blue night. They tensed again as the growing went on and no obstacle was encountered.

    Jerry glanced up at the white waning moon. He wondered when the defense would start. Opposition suddenly answered Jerry's thought, and the two forces joined in battle in earnest, with many flashing limbs and flying kicks. The line around the house held, despite the efforts of the Lady’s forces. Wave after wave of attackers were fended off with punching kicks and flying fists.

    Jerry watched the action in dismay. This wasn't working out quite like the plan. Finally, a group of attackers struck at a line, and broke thru. The rest swarmed thru, engaging the defenders in a deadly game. A few flying kicks and shadowy pumping fists, and they were thru, with the Lady and jerry bringing up the rear. The front line surged forward.

    Reinforcements arrived, jumped down on the Ladies troops from the trees. The ones surprised went down and didn't get up. The ones next in line surged forward and engaged them with flying fists and pummeling legs.

    A girl suddenly rose out of the undergrowth and spun her attack at the Lady, but the she deflected her attack with crashing fists and slashing feet. The Lady smiled coldly. She then punched her in the midsection. The girl fell, and didn't rise again.

    Jerry raced forward, only just missing getting a slashing fist in his face. He swung to the left, the girl swiped him off his feet, and he rolled to the right, just ahead of her piled driver punches. He back flipped, dug out his ancient heater, and drilled the girl thru. He stood, saw the Onna No Ryu gesturing, and he ran after her.

    "Everybody was kung-fu fighting," he sang as he ran behind the girls in front of him.

    He paused as another girl took out a defender with flashing, crushing, fist, and flashing feet. They then ran as fast as possible, but the house seemed no closer. He cursed under his breath.

    He ran up, found a defender about to crush a downed attacker. She stood over her, gloating, and raised her hand together in a ball. Jerry drew his needle gun and riddled her with tiny pinholes. She fell with a strangled cry, staring at him with glassy eyes. Jerry reached down, pulled the Dragon girl up, and they then ran together towards the house.

    As the Dragon forces surged forward, several in the front rows suddenly vanished. The ones behind them paused, staring at the ground, then they leaped forward. Jerry paused, looking into the shadow that covered the ground. It was a pit, two feet around, and slippery with dirt. At the bottom of it laid the girls who had fallen in; all were impaled on spears, broken and bloody. Their eyes were empty and glassy in the waning white light of the moon.

    Jerry shook his head, leaped the pit, and, followed by the girl he'd saved, ran as fast as he could towards the house.

    He paused besides a tree, and observed the progress, such as it was. He saw a group of defenders leaping down from hills and engaging the Dragon forces in combat. He aimed his gun and cut down several before they had a chance to engage the attackers. The forces swarmed forward, and Jerry felt a tugging at his sleeve, and he turned and followed the girl forward.

    Under the blue glare of the moon, the Dragon forces surged up the hill, meeting little resistance.

    Jerry and the girl warily eyed the undergrowth, the shrubbery, the vegetation. Nothing had attacked them for awhile.

    The forces swept towards a hedge with an opening in the center. As the first few reached the slit, flames suddenly shot out. The figures lurched about in the glow of their own demise.

    The rest fell back, taking shelter were they could.

    More flames shot out, missing the remaining troops by inches. They glimpsed the operator just behind the wedge. She was a bright white shadow in the dull blue glare.

    The Onna No Ryu shouted to Jerry. He nodded, and pulled out his ancient needler. At that instant, flames shot towards him, forcing him to draw back. The girl beside him suddenly jumped up, and ran in front of him, then towards the right. The flames leapt after her, catching her and engulfing her. She fell with a scream.

    Jerry aimed his gun, and, as the operator was swinging the flame thrower towards him again, pulled the trigger. A dull his filled the air, almost inaudible over the sounds of the flamethrower.

    The operator fell with a strangled scream.

    A gesture from the Dragon Lady, and her forces swarmed again into the breach, and were met by desperate defenders within. Fist began flashing and dancing forms performed an intricate ballet of death.

    Jerry looked down at the charred remains of the girl he had rescued. She had been burned beyond any hope of identifying. He sighed as he turned and ran after the rest.

    Why was he so lethal to people?

    The main hall of the house was a spacious lobby, with several red columns joining the floor and ceiling. On whitish wall hung impressionistic art. Some seemed to portray foliage. Some could not be made out at all.

    A long corridor led back into the interior of the house. Standing in it, were the defenders.

    As the first pounding of the Dragon Forces began, the girls stroke an attack pose, ready and at ease.

    The door exploded inward, and the Dragon Ladies' forces swarmed in, met the defenders, and the battle began anew.

    Soon, the defenders fell back, and the invaders swept forward. Behind the main force, Jerry and the Onna No Ryu entered. The Lady surveyed the scene, smiling coldly. She gestured the rear forces forward, and they swarmed on, into the barren corridors.

    Jerry lagged behind, studying art treasures and tapestries.

    The Onna No Ryu strode down the heavy wooden corridors, cautious as ever. The thin, musty air, heavy with perfume, was stifling.

    She pulled up short.

    Facing her, was a girl, only slightly younger then she was, with a heart shaped face, large dark eyes, and long, brownish hair tied with a brocade in the back. She wore a smart dark business suit.

    The Onna No Ryu was face to face with her rival, the Onna No Hanna.

    "We meet at last." The Dragon Lady smiled coldly.

    The Onna No Hanna also smiled. "For the last time." She adapted an attack pose, both hands out straight, bend towards her. The Dragon forces started forward, but were stopped by the Lady.

    "This is my fight." The Dragon Lady also adapted a similar attack pose. The first parry was a checkmate. More flashing fists and they separated. The Flower Lady thrust out her hand, was countered by the Dragon Lady's defense. Another flashed out. The Dragon Lady countered, struck her lip. Blood slowly dripped from the wound.

    They separated. The Flower Lady glared at the Dragon Lady. She wiped the blood off her chin. She suddenly dashed at the Dragon Lady. She sliced her arms, blocked her attacks. The Flower Lady responded by going on the other side for attack. All she threw were blocked. The Flower Lady exploded into a frenzy, attacking her rival on high. The Dragon Lady fell back, and the Flower Lady pressed on. They suddenly fell apart. The Flower Lady smiled smugly. The Dragon Lady glared.

    The Flower Lady leapt at her. She blocked her first attack, but was struck in the nose by her second. They traded blows, then fell apart again. The Dragon Lady brushed her hair from her eyes. She wiped blood off her lip, and glared at her rival.

    She suddenly leapt at the Flower Lady, throwing her fists at lightning speed. The Flower Lady reacted by blocking her blows.

    She fell back under the Dragon Ladies blows, up a corridor, and down another. She fought back franticly, attempting to counter the Dragon lady's attacks. The Dragon Lady struck out, her rival ducked the blow, as it took out a wall. The Flower Lady attacked, but was beaten back.

    In desperation, she struck out with her foot, but even that failed to penetrate her rival's defense. The Dragon Lady jumped, twisted in mid-air, and kicked her rival full in the side. The Flower Lady went flying, struck a wall. She glared at the Dragon Lady, then pushed a button, and vanished thru a trapdoor.

    The Dragon Lady glared at the empty space. Her breathing was heavy, her hair plastered to her face.

    A runner came up. She said, "M'lady, the enemy is retreating."

    A smile slowly crept across her face. "She had realized that she is beaten. She is weak, and we have won."

    She turned, and led her forces down the corridor towards her office.

    "You will all be rewarded," The Onna No Ryu told those who helped storm the house. To Jerry, she said, "Even you."

    He smiled, wondering what she could offer him for a reward. It's not like he wanted anything anyway.

    As if reading his mind, she said, "You will be allowed to live."

    The girls also smiled, and started laughing.

    Jerry stood looking out the windows up at the stars.

    The Dragon Lady appeared from the shadows and stood behind him.

    "Are you sad?" She asked. He shook his head.

    He turned. "All good things must end."

    She looked at him with cold eyes. "I must say, I thought you'd be more emotional at our parting."

    He smirked. "I told you, I'm not the emotional type."

    She glared at him. He turned back to the sky, and she hesitated, then melted back into the shadows.

    Jerry approached his Challadon home, paused.

    He opened the door. He saw something gleam in the moonlight. He pulled it out of the frame.

    An Ace of Spades.

    He sighed. he was not up to having to deal with this. Unfortunately, it demanded his attention. He leaned against the column, gathering what strength he had left, then he turned, and walked to the gate.

    As he expected, outside stood two men in black uniforms. They addressed Jerry as he appeared.

    "The Deputy-Commander wants to see you." They were contemptuous.

    Jerry sighed.

    At a mansion in Charleston named for a corrupt governor, Jerry was seated into a chair in a dark room. He closed his eyes. His strength was at it's lowest, and he wasn't sure how much force his brother would use, nor really what he wanted to know.

    At length, he felt light on his eyelids, and the sounds of a door opening. He sighed again, forced his eyes open. It was like lifting sandbags.

    He saw his brother standing there. He wore a stark white suit and had his hair brushed back. His cold eyes blazed, and his expression was stern. Jerry recognized it, and knew that when in this mood, his brother was capable of anything.

    "How about drink at least?" Jerry tried to be reasonable.

    "Later, you bastard," his brother spat. That was not a good sign either. "I've heard of your road trip with our star suspect. And I expect you've got nothing to show for it, either."

    "What do you want?"

    "Information! Who she is, her past, hell, her real name would be useful."

    Jerry shook his head. Frank glared, slapped his brother.

    "You really are useless!" his brother yelled, slapping him with each word. "All that time, and you didn't even find out her real name!"

    "It's not like I didn't try." Jerry was again trying to reason with his brother. It didn't work. "She's so... Private."

    "Ive half a mind to hold you on a accerssery charge," his brother spat.

    "And what would that accomplish?"

    "Nothing, except revenge."

    The two brothers glared at each other.

    "Why are you interested in her, anyway?" Jerry asked.

    "We suspect her to be involved in criminal activities," his brother commented bitterly.

    "What proof do you have?"

    "We're still compiling evidence."

    "So, you don't have any."

    "Our suspicions are..."

    "Unfounded," Jerry interrupted.

    "Her kind," Frank commented, "Are usually into criminal activity of some kind."

    "Your profiling her."

    "Sometimes, the profile is accurate," Frank said, slapping him.

    "But not always." Jerry's face was aching. He severally wanted a drink.

    Just then, the door flew open.

    Frank turned, his expression never changing, as he saw just who was standing in the door.

    "I should've known." He was unsurprised.

    Standing there were four girls. They held automatic weapons in their hands, and were wearing maid uniforms. They were part of a brigade that their father had created before he died, charged with protecting the family, and keeping the brothers from killing each other.

    Frank made an unpleasant sound, then moved to the far wall under the cover of the blond's weapon. The dark-haired leader reached down and pulled Jerry to his feet. They then hustled him out. The redhead paused, studying Frank.

    "What about him?" She asked, indicating him. Jerry shook his head.

    "Never mind. He'll have enough to do just explaining this to his masters."

    The girls pushed him down corridors, and all five emerged outside. They packed into a large car. At the wheel, the dark-haired girl shifted gears, and the car thundered down the road into the inky night. As they turned onto the highway, the blond, who had been watching the rear, said, "No sign of pursuit."

    "Good." The Leader was relieved.

    They rolled into the secret HQ under the mountain somewhere in Wyoming. it had been bought by the family when the national parks had been put up for sale by Walker. This had been the only one to be sold before the plan was scuttled due to an outcry by the Walker supporters. He had again misjudged what he could get away with.

    The Maid Brigade jumped out to establish a perimeter. Jerry then exited the car with the blond maid hovering beside him, and then entered into the hideout proper.

    "What about Mr. Frank," Asked the leader. "What if he comes here?"

    Jerry shook his head, said, "He won't."

    "How can you be so sure, Mr. Jerry?" Asked the blond.

    "Frank, despite his shyster ways, has at least some family loyalty left. That trumps any transient government administration. You know the old adage about blood and water?"

    The Maid Brigade didn't look convinced.

    In the control room, the Brigade went to consoles, activating the machines. They activated the scanners. The green lights gave their faces an eerie glow.

    "Object sighted!" Shouted the redhead. She activated a outside monitor. It showed a squadron of black helicopters coming over the hills, straight at them.

    "Activate defenses!" Jerry commanded. Beside him, the leader commented, "I thought you trusted Mr. Frank."

    "I'd be fool to trust Frank," He shot back.

    The only sound after that were the sounds from the controls.

    The black copters approached quickly. The dark haired girl set up the target lock on them. They approached steadily, angry wasps attacking an intruder.

    The control room was in silence.

    "Prepare to fire," Jerry called, reluctantly. The dark haired girl sucked in her breath, but carried out the order. She pressed a sequence on the touch-sensitive controls, which opened a door, revealing a trigger devise. She gripped it with wet hands.

    The minutes ticked by, but the copter's never deviated.

    "On my command..." Jerry called. The girl tensed her finger on the trigger. All eyes were locked on the screen.

    Suddenly, the copters veered away, vanished into the thick range.

    "Stand down" The leader called. The dark haired girl let out a sigh of relief, and deactivated the missiles. They all slumped down into their seats. The blond wiped her hand across her brow. Even Jerry seemed relieved.

    He turned to the Leader, patted her arm. "The comm is yours."

    He then left the control room to the Maid Brigade, and took and elevator down to the lower levels.

    He needed to recharge.

    The old, rusty, stone walls echoed his steps. The florescent lights came and went. Finally, he reached a door. He put his hand against it, and the door slid open. Inside was a line of pale lockers. Cold white walls gleamed under the cold lights. He went to a set of lockers, then pulled off his clothes. He adjusted a shower, and dived inside. He let the cold water wash over him, cleanse him.

    He exited, pulled a towel over his still damp body, then opened another door. He passed thru a large room, it's floor covered in that special coating that covered school gym floors. Disused equipment laid about. Old programs littered the floor. He made for a set of doors on the other side.

    Inside one room, a series of silken, glowing webs hung from the rafters. They buzzed musically.

    He fell rather then walked into the room. Even the floor was covered in the buzzing webs. He wrapped the golden webs about his naked body. The ones on the floor he pulled around his form with extreme emotion. His flesh tingled from the contact. He writhed in pleasure. There was a sudden explosion of release.

    He closed his eyes, and in an instant was asleep.

    He stumbled out later. He was drained of energy, but he knew that the recharge had worked, and soon he would be at full power. He slid onto a nearby couch, and fell asleep.

    Jerry awoke to the sound of silence.

    He opened his eyes to the bright darkness, sighed, brushed his hand over his naked head. His mind had finally cleared itself of the excess, and he saw clearly the motion of the universe.

    He heard a sword sing.


    As Jerry stepped out of the elevator and entered the command center, he saw the maid brigade clustered around the center console.

    He stepped forward curiously. The leader saw him and beckoned him over. The girls parted as he approached. Laying on the console was a thick brown package.

    "It's addressed to you," the blond said. "It's from.... Mr. Frank."

    He glanced at her sharply, then carefully unwrapped the brown paper from the package. The girls watched tensely. Jerry held up the contents thus revealed.

    It was a book.

    "The Gods Of Mars," the leader read. She looked at Jerry. "What does it mean?"

    He didn't answer at once. He had picked up the book started flipping thru the first few chapters, then closed it. He smiled.

    "It means Frank knows where we are."

    The others looked at him starkly.

    "But, he's not going to attack us directly." He winked at them. They let out a relieved breath.

    "So, we're safe here?" The blond drummed her fingers nervously until she noticed the leader looking at her sternly and stopped.

    "Oh, I shouldn't think so." Jerry was in good humor as he spun on his heel, and exited the control room.

    In his Grey room, Jerry lay on the sparce bed, and stared at the ceiling.

    He was turning Frank's message over in his mind.

    As usual, he was damned ambiguous about things. Frank rarely gave straight answers to anything, and the book was one more thing.

    The question was how long it would be before they could return.

    He sighed heavily, thrust his arm over his face. From the air vent came the whisper of girlish giggling. He realized that the brigade was preparing to retire for the night. They were most likely showering now. He mussed how lucky they were that this base had an ample supply. They might be able to last several months here, if needed.

    Jerry very much doubted that that would be necessary.

    The reports he'd heard from the media suggested that Frank's forces were after some Islamic jihadist, and not him at all. They were searching in New Mexico. He took that as a sign that Frank would relax his hunt for him. He couldn't really justify coming here, anyway.

    He listened to the voices and giggling, smiled. He pictured his servants in the shower, water falling off their perfect breasts, off slim bodies, hips, ankles....

    Jerry was studieng the books on the reddish wooden shelves critically. They were, almost without fail, from the 19th century, with leather covers and elaborate prose. They were all first editions too.

    He pulled one from the shelf and flipped thru it. The pages were mustard colored, chipping, flaking. As he was replacing it, the blond came in.

    "Mr. Cornelius," She said. He glanced at her without passion.

    "We've been scanning for several days," she continued. "Do you really think Mr. Frank has given up?"

    "You saw the message as well as I did." He turned back, pulled down a dog-eared copy of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.

    "Yes, but..." She hesitated. "Can we trust him?"

    He shrugged. "Probably not. How'r the defenses?"

    "Well, the lower levels are sealed. All servalience has been activated. Motion detectors are activated, and radio traffic is being monitored. We believe we're as ready as we'll ever be."

    Jerry nodded and replaced the book.

    Through simulated windows came the glow outside. it was slightly distorted by the projection unit. But, the illusion was good enough to put the occupants at ease.

    The girl bowed, then backed from the room.

    Jerry wished he had a drink.

    The maid brigade stood in the middle of one of the gyms. They wore dark leotards with see-thru sleeves. Their feet were in little slippers. Their hair was tied up behind their heads. They stood in a line, facing the mirrored wall.

    The leader called "One" and they punched the air. She shouted "Two", and they punched with the opposite fist. They then repeated the exercise several more times.
    After a dozen repetitions, they started kicking the air as high as possible.

    Jerry watched from a shadowy corners. They had been on duty for nearly seventy-five hours, and desperately needed this break. They had chosen to work out their stress with exercise. They liked to keep active and fit, per their training. In their line of work, fitness was a requirement.

    He reached out and hit a punching bag. It swung high then fell back like a rock.

    He admired the girl's stamina.

    The brigade was now doing spinning kicks, ending with more punching the air. They then took a break. They poured each other some water from a nearby cooler, then sat and drank it while resting on medicine balls or leaning against the paneled wall. Some sat on the blue mats that covered the floors.

    Jerry continued to watch them as they chit-chatted. It they knew he was there, they didn't show it. Eventually, they rose from their places, went back into formation and repeated the exercises from the top.

    Jerry watched for a little while longer, then turned and left.

    Storms raged around the mountain. Lightening broke the Grey night with stark white light. Thunder boomed above.

    In the control room, Jerry scanned the reports provided from the automated systems. The maid brigade was currently asleep and had been for five hours. In their absence, the base was watched over by the far less reliable but non-tiring automated defense systems. The could detect movement around the base, but were unable to interpret the signal.

    That required human judgment.

    Jerry finished the reports, then leaned back in his chair. He rubbed his eyes. No threats had been reported.

    He yawned. It was time he had some rest himself.

    When he returned later, the maid brigade were back at their posts. They looked refreshed and alert. The three screens showed no trouble in the surrounding scenery. Only the Grey tempest clouds showed above the mountains.

    The leader turned at the sound of the elevator opening and nodded to Jerry.

    "How'r things?" Jerry walked up to the leader and stood behind her.

    She turned. "So far, it's all been clear. No sign of trouble."

    He nodded. "Hopefully, it'll continue to be so."

    The girls nodded, though most didn't seem convinced.

    The room was long and shadowy. A glowing window sat at the end. it showed the outside view of green hills. The sky was Grey and cloudy. Several were very dark. it looked like a storm was massing.

    Jerry let a deep breath. Nothing had happened for days.

    He sat on the red felt chair, with a vodka in his hand. He stared at the screen, seeing but not seeing.

    He brooded on the current situation. It had been more then a week now since they had arrived at the base. And nothing had happened in that time. Their stress levels were very high, and the girls seemed to live in the gym. They were more high strung then normal.

    But then, so was he, he reflected.

    He closed his eyes, forced himself to relax.

    The source was obvious, of course. They were all apprehensions of a attack from the feds or Frank and the faction of the Maid Brigade loyal to him, despite that message he had sent.

    He wished Frank would take some action, already.

    In the end, they had to stay for only a fortnight before they received a definite signal from Frank.

    "The return of the Thin White Duke..." The redhead repeated, confused. Jerry smirked.

    "What's David Bowie got to do with this?" The dark-haired girl shared her confusion.

    Jerry turned to them in amusement. "It means the coast is clear. Frank has decided not to do anything. For whatever reason he's given us the all clear signal. We can go back."

    The morning sun slowly rose over the mountains.

    The doors of his gate swung open. He parked the in the garage, started for the house.

    As he did, Nationalists in green jogged past his house.

    He pulled a book from the shelf of his private library.

    Rain pelted the barred window. He flipped thru the book, found what he wanted. A strange picture supposedly set in Africa, but depicting the natives as Caucasians. It was a picture of a cannibal butcher shop.

    He pulled out some scissors, cut out passages from it, then pasted it into a notebook. He put the notebook between to candles in gold holders. He lit them, and muttered a arcane spell.

    Jerry again stood in the parking garage.

    He leaned against the wall. The smell of gasoline and oil floated around the silent spaces. Lights glowed dimly. Jerry yawned. It had been a tiring few months.

    Footsteps sounded on the concrete floor.

    He looked up and saw a yellow-headed form walking towards him. The woman stopped abruptly, stared at him disdainfully.

    "Mr. Cornelius." Ms. Laurie was contemptuous.

    "In the flesh." He smiled slightly. She moved so that she was standing in front of him, and glared at him sideways. He looked at her in disinterest.

    "How's your organization?"

    "Its stable now. No thanks to you."

    He smirked again. "Yeah. Your rival has her own problems to deal with ."

    Ms. Laurie continued to glare at him.

    "I thought you would be happy that I managed to disrupt her long enough for you to make the needed changes." Jerry checked his nails.

    "And I thought you were on my side." She wasn't happy.

    "Did you?" Jerry turned, began to walk off.

    "So, who's side are you on?"

    He stopped, spoke with his back to her. "That is my little secret." He walked off.