From the Story Arc: The Bearer of Strashnyjj, Strashnyjj News

Previous Story in the Arc: Thai Me Up by Commie Cowgirl (Friday, February 24, 2006)

(posted Saturday, February 25, 2006)

A tense silence enveloped the boat ride, broken only by Oksana’s exclamations of delight at the sea life and the stunning vistas of Taylor Island. A manta ray flashed under their boat. Oksana lamented her lack of firearms.

“Why kill something you think is beautiful?” Adam asked.

“So you can keep it,” she said, quizzical. “Of course. What else yuh gonna do? You’ll never see it again otherwise.”

“But it will be dead.”

“Shore. Otherwise it won’t hold still a bit.”

“Ah, the hunter’s paradox,” Yves said. His brother chuckled, loud enough to hear over the motor.

Adam envied the woman’s swagger. Just being in a boat with the Evuls was enough to whiten his knuckles. He expected to be pushed overboard at any moment, then thrown a restraining order as a life preserver.

Several medium sized cargo vessels nestled against Taylor Island’s dock. Shirtless dockworkers hauled crates on and off the ships, supervised by men in identical white polos. Adam squinted at the tiny figures: the uniformed men had rifles in their arms.

Beyond them, storage buildings and houses climbed up the verdant hillside of the island. At the distant top of the ridge, a handsome mansion rose from the treeline. Its white stucco walls and red tiled roof belonged on a postcard.

“Nice spread,” Oksana said.

“Mr. Taylor values the finer things in life,” Yves said. “It runs in the family.”

“Now, let’s just get one thing straight --- tarnation! What in Sam Hill was that?” Oksana and Adam ducked as a metal object roared through the air over their heads, into the setting sun. On its return strafe, the shape of a man became evident.

“That, my friends, is Mr. Taylor’s security chief, Robert Horn. He prefers to be addressed by his last name.” Yves waved at the airborne armored figure.

“A supervillain?” Adam couldn’t believe his eyes. His hair stood on end, remembering the wake of the flying man.

“A consultant. Mr. Taylor purchased a customized Security Suit from Crey Industries.” He shielded his eyes as he studied the flying man’s gestures. “Pier six,” Yves ordered the boat pilot.

“Looks like a Power Tank suit to me,” Oksana said to Adam in a murmur. “Commissar Saviour brags about crackin’ them open like an egg.”

“She does? So they’re not dangerous?”

“Nyet. They’re a nightmare. The Commissar is just ornery.” She watched the armored man fly towards the mansion. “You cain’t get a bullet through that metal hide of theirs.”

“So what do you do when you run into them in Paragon? Call the Commissar?”

Oksana leveled a serious look at him. “Ayup.”

Tropical paradise reasserted itself with the armored man out of sight. Birds sang and fish leapt as the boat edged into pier six. The rich smell of saltwater blew past them on the island breezes.

Yves made a point of assisting Oksana onto the pier. She accepted the lawyer’s hand, and turned back to Adam to wink at him. Adam felt an unexpected stab of jealousy. Even worse, Yves eyes wandered over her slender form with vulture-like avarice as she strode down the pier in her fluttering cowgirl skirt. Emil chuckled behind Adam.

Rubbernecking at the scenery, Oksana said, “shore is purty round these parts. I bet you got some fine beaches.”

“The best in the world,” Yves said. “I’d be honored to take you snorkeling once we’ve settled things.”

“Ain’t that called consortin’ with the enemy, pardner?”

He winked at her. “I’d rather you thought of us as ‘pardners’ than enemies. Our job is to facilitate a resolution between you and Mr. Taylor.”

“We’ll see,” she said, not meeting his gaze.

A canopied utility vehicle awaited them, driven by a man in the Taylor industries uniform: white polo embroidered with the Taylor logo, blue cotton twill pants, an earpiece, and a sidearm. Oksana accepted the invitation to ride in the back with Yves. Adam sat in front, leaving Emil to wait for the next vehicle. Despite the humidity, the road to Taylor’s mansion showed no cracks. The ride was as smooth as the boat trip.

They pulled up in the circular driveway. Another armed Taylor employee – a guard, Oksana realized, in spite of their country club garb – opened the door for her. “Please notify Mr. Taylor that Ms. Fedin and Mr. Stein have arrived,” Yves informed the guard.

“There is no need for that. He knows,” a husky female voice said. The woman emerged from the shadows of the entrance to the mansion. The Evuls nodded in deference to her. Adam just stared, jaw hanging open. She stood at six feet, with legs like skyscrapers. A tight leather top with long sleeves and a bikini bottom had been polished to the point that it shone midnight blue in the sunlight. Her bare legs were muscled like a figure skater’s, strong and sensual. A V-neck showed the merest hint of what must have been spectacular cleavage. Fiery red hair licked at her shoulders. Her even, elegant facial features were set in a proud expression that declared her dominance over any male that crossed her path.

Portia Henchly pursed her lips as if kissing the sky, and let out an ear-shattering whistle. With a fluttering of wings, a large hunting falcon dove from the sky and landed on her leather-clad arm.

She narrowed her eyes at Commie Cowgirl. Adam saw Oksana’s body tense, as if she were on the verge of taking a fighter’s stance. She drew her shoulders back, returning the challenge. The tension in the air made Adam sweat more than the heat.

For the two beautiful, proud women, it was hate at first sight.

“Nice to meetcha,” Oksana grated. “I didn’t catch your name.

“I didn’t offer it, Ms. Fedin.” She paused long enough to let the point sink in. “Portia Henchly, executive assistant to Mr. Taylor.” She looked away from Oksana as if dismissing her. “Take their bags to their rooms.” The guards hefted Oksana’s saddlebags. Portia rolled her eyes. “Follow me. Mr. Taylor is an impatient man.” Without waiting for acknowledgment, she spun on her heel and entered the mansion.

Adam saw Oksana press her lips together. He could imagine the two woman looking for an excuse to come to blows – in fact, he could imagine it behind televised on pay-per-view. Of course, he’d root for Oksana… but a little scuffling and tearing of clothing wouldn’t be so bad.