Modern Crusaders, Book 2
Disclaimers in Chapter 1
The lights had been dimmed in Ally's room in response to the darkness outside, and Claire sat in a surprisingly comfortable hospital chair and watched her friend sleep. Ally was wearing soft but strong restraints at her waist and wrists. She had been confused, agitated and delusional before the sedative had finally kicked in, and the doctors weren't sure how long it would take for the drug she had ingested to wear off.
Claire's gaze lingered momentarily on the restraints, before drifting up to Ally's face. There was something missing, and it took her a moment to realise that the dragon pendant Ally had been wearing was gone. A quick glance at her hand showed that her engagement ring was missing as well, and Claire realised they must have been removed by the hospital staff for safety.
She felt a mild jolt of renewed shock as she realised once again exactly who the woman in the bed was. Earlier she had been too busy, comforting and helping Evelynne, making phone calls, to truly process the information. Now that she knew, Allison Parks was unmistakably Alleandre Tretiak. Her Ladyship Dame Alleandre Tretiak, in fact, and she wondered how she had never seen it before. Because it was unthinkable, she answered herself. It was—is—unthinkable that the Heir to the Atlantean Throne and her fiancée would ever hide in America. It's unthinkable that she would be working in a bar in small-town Pennsylvania. And because it's unthinkable, nobody thought it. Everyone knows that they're in seclusion in Atlantis, or Europe. And even if "Allison" and "Sophia" look similar to a certain famous couple, so what? Jean looks a lot like Christina Aguilera, but she obviously isn't. I think. Claire managed to feel a bit of humour at the thought. But it turns out that they are Her Highness Evelynne deMolay and Her Ladyship Alleandre Tretiak. And they're friends with me! She had briefly wondered if their friendship had been part of the act all along, but had dismissed the thought. Not only was it too painful to contemplate, but the interactions she had had with them were too genuine to be feigned.
Looking over to the bed, and satisfied that Ally's condition was unchanged, Claire thought back to the other shock that had been handed her earlier. Evelynne thinks my attacks might actually be remote viewing? Like ESP stuff? A part of her wanted to dismiss the thought automatically, but she couldn't seem to stop. She said she knows people who can do stuff like that. Well, she is in the Atlantean government, so maybe they have some kind of secret program, like the CIA is supposed to. Would I want to work for something like that? She frowned. No, I don't think so. But I don't see her forcing me to do it. Although maybe she just knows people. Has friends who can, oh, see the future or something. Although if they could, why didn't they do something about the Invasion? She looked at Ally again. Maybe it's Ally. She tried to think of her friend doing something unexplained, and came up a blank. Well, she did go into that fire. She scoffed internally. Sure, she actually flew in with her superpowers and saved the day! Yeah, right.
Exhausted, but unable and unwilling to sleep while she was watching Ally for Evelynne, Claire leaned back, considering the last few hours. When she had realised just who her friends were, and what had happened, she had expected the princess to make a call and have herself and her fiancée evacuated immediately. However, while Evelynne had made a call, she had returned even more shaken and pale, and simply said that rescue was currently inadvisable. It was still an option, but much more complicated with the assassination attempt.
The police had also begun an investigation, as expected, interviewing the doctor, Evelynne, Joline, and Claire herself. When the investigating officers had realised that it was "only" a lesbian affair, and had taken place at Horton City's only well-known gay-friendly establishment, Claire had not been particularly surprised to see their interest waning. However, she had then been privileged to see first-hand the full force of the Atlantean Royal personality, and was only too glad it had not been directed at her. Somehow, without ever revealing her real identity, Evelynne had taken the two officers, chewed them up, spit them out, bent them back into shape, and sent them back on their investigation with much more enthusiasm than they had probably ever had for any task before. And left them happy to do it. Evelynne had experience dealing with some of the most powerful and strong-minded leaders ever to be in politics, and the employees of some pitiful small-town police force had no defence. It had been awe-inspiring.
Many of Evelynne's co-workers and friends from the bar had come by, although most of them were somewhat the worse for drink. Corey had been determined to stand guard, fighting off his obvious inebriation to do so, until Evelynne had convinced him to go home, get some rest, and then bring a change of clothes when he returned. Narmin had been busy dealing with the police investigation, closing the bar early to do so.
Now Claire would have been able to see the sun beginning to rise, if there had been any windows in the room. She looked away from the clock, feeling fatigue tugging at her mind, and saw Ally' face twitch. Instantly awake, she jumped up and leaned over the bed. "Ally?" she asked softly, as dazed grey eyes flickered open. "Ally, can you hear me?"
She slowly regained consciousness, feeling the confused and sluggish nature of her thoughts, and had a moment of panic when she couldn't remember who she was. Ally. Alleandre Tiffany Tretiak. That passed, but then felt renewed panic over the simple fact that she had forgotten. Ally knew that she never forgot who she was or, on a very basic level, where she was, even when waking from the deepest sleep. For a moment, though, she had been adrift in complete ignorance of anything, and that was frightening.
Now, though, her eyes blinked open and she peered blearily at her surroundings.
"Ally? Ally, can you hear me?"
The voice drew her attention, and she looked in that direction, where the speaker was close enough for her to be able to make out distinctive features. "Claire?" she whispered, confused.
"Yeah, it's me," the other woman confirmed. "Don't worry, Evelynne will be here soon."
Ally tried to frown, knowing that there was something wrong with Claire using that name. "What… what happened?"
"Do you remember anything?" Ally shook her head. "They said you might not."
Ally frowned again. Not remember? She had perfect recall, eidetic memory, that she remembered clearly enough. Fumbling in her own mind, she bent her will towards that particular ability, trying to call up any events that might have led her to… wherever she now was.
And screamed as she was plunged into the memories with shocking suddenness.
She was in the Sixth Age, talking with Josh, Sammy, Corey, and a few others. "Is it my turn for drinks?" she heard herself say, and her eyes moved down at her empty glass. There was a vaguely unpleasant aftertaste in her mouth. "I'm not getting whatever this was again," her voice continued. "It was weird. Okay, I'll be right back."
Ally watched from behind her own eyes as her body got up and walked towards the bar, and realised that she was remembering her own thoughts as well. Her memory-self caught sight of Evelynne at the other end of the restaurant, and she had a flash of just how sexy her lover was. A woman walking in the opposite direction distracted her. Or her, she thought. There was a pulse-quickening beat playing over the speakers, and Ally felt an urge to go over to the dance floor and join the crowd there.
Enjoying the slow flush of arousal that was beginning to permeate her body, Ally reached the bar and waited to catch the attention of the bartender. A blonde woman was there as well, and Ally smiled in her direction. "Hi," her memory-self said. "At the risk of sounding like a corny pick-up line, have I seen you I here before?" Her eyes looked the other woman up and down appreciatively.
The other woman blushed lightly, but smiled back. "You might have. It's been a while, though." She held out a hand. "I'm Joline."
"Ally," her memory-self replied, letting her touch linger, even while the mind trapped in the memory began to panic. "You here with someone?"
Joline shook her head. "No. I just came to have some fun. Get out of the apartment."
"I understand that." Ally's body looked over towards the dance floor. "Would you like to go and have some fun now?" she asked, her mission to get drinks forgotten in favour of the tug on her desires.
"I'd love to," Joline replied.
Taking the blonde woman's hand, Ally led her to the dance floor, where one song was just ending and another, with a sensual, gut-squeezing beat, was beginning. They started out simply enough, but as time passed Ally moved closer and closer to her dance partner, brushing up against her with increasing frequency. Joline was a little slower, but eventually began to respond more ardently to the animal attraction between them.
The Ally in the memory lost track of how long they danced, but the one watching from behind her eyes experienced every single second, every touch and emotion, and was rapidly losing the objectivity that was the norm during total recall. She was quickly becoming lost in the memory, the knowledge that it was a memory fading behind rising panic and horror.
Finally, they slowed, and memory-Ally looked down at her partner, seeing the sheen of sweat on Joline's face and feeling a matching glow on her own. The other woman was panting and flushed, and both Alleandres recognised clear arousal, one with desperation, and the other with matching desire. The memory-Ally gave a sultry smile and took Joline's hand, leading her off the dance floor, while her alter-ego, now completely lost in the memory, struggled vainly to gain control of the body, to end the events she knew were coming.
She continued to batter at the impenetrable wall as her body pulled the unresisting blonde into the bathroom and into an unoccupied stall, shrieking and flailing helplessly as she saw her head move forward, felt and tasted the salty sweetness of the first kiss. Trapped in a body that utterly ignored her every attempt to regain control, she continued to try, her frantic pleas and desperate mental screams completely unheeded. Her body moved backward, drawing Joline with her, seeking the pleasure of skin, even as the mind behind her eyes recoiled in terror.
More touches followed, as Ally's pants were fumbled open and a hand slipped inside, and part of her groaned in pleasure, as another part moaned in pain. The physical pleasure and mental pain continued to mount, until in the memory the door to the stall was pushed open, and a familiar form stood there, features a mask of shock and betrayal. Memory-Ally smiled in welcome, and moved towards her fiancée, while Evelynne stepped back with a strangled whisper, and the mind trapped in the memory withered in shame.
It was too much, and Ally's mind seemed to explode in a blast of knife-edged memory as she felt a familiar mental touch in her thoughts. It was feather-soft, but at that moment it was like a chainsaw in her brain. "Get out! GET OUT!" she shrieked. She was trying to shield her head with her hands, but they were restrained somehow, leaving her to writhe in agony. "GET OUT OF MY HEAD! Get out! Get out…" Her voice faded slowly as she was pulled back into blessed oblivion, and went into the blackness gladly.
Evelynne was walking back from another unsuccessful phone call to her "aunt." The situation was even worse than it had been. The code phrases that had been used in the latest message had told her that at least two other decoys had been attacked. Whether it was an attempt to draw her and Ally out, or if the attackers were truly hoping that one of the decoys was the real thing, the situation was far too dangerous for her and Ally to reveal themselves for anything other than a critical emergency.
She was metres from Ally's room when she heard the shriek. And went from a walk to a run in an instant.
Bursting into the room, she saw Claire standing by the bed, trying unsuccessfully to comfort the distressed woman, but unable to maintain a grip on the flailing form. Claire looked up, pathetically grateful, as Evelynne reached the bedside.
"What happened?" Evelynne asked, attempting to place a hand on Ally's forehead, but the woman on the bed jerked away as if burned.
"I don't know," Claire said helplessly. "She woke up for a moment, and I asked her if she remembered anything. Then…"
"Ally?" Evelynne called. "Ally? It's all right, love, I'm here. I'm here." There was no response, and Evelynne felt tears on her cheeks as, in desperation, she reached out and carefully touched her mind to Ally's.
And was repulsed with such force that she was nearly knocked across the room. For a brief moment she caught a taste of terror-rage-lust-shame-love-pleasure-hatred before her own mind recoiled with the suddenness of a snapping elastic band. She found herself kneeling on the floor, dry-heaving, hearing her lover's cries to get out of her head.
Claire's bewilderment was obvious as she tried to decide which of her friends to help. The decision was taken from her a moment later as a doctor and several nurses rushed into the room, encircling the bed, and Claire's arms went around Evelynne as the other woman tried to burrow into her body. Ally's cries slowly diminished as the drug that had been injected into her arm took effect, leaving near-silence, broken only by Evelynne sobbing into Claire's chest.
Hours later, Evelynne was sitting crouched over her lover's bed once more. Ally was still restrained, although she had barely twitched since the last sedative had been administered.
Suddenly, Ally's face moved slightly, and Evelynne hurriedly wiped the remains of tears from her face as she leaned further over the bed. "Ally?" she whispered, not wanting to wake the other woman if she was just shifting in her sleep. It had happened a few times before. This time, however, Ally's eyes blinked open, showing much more comprehension than there had been previously. "Hi," Evelynne said, smiling tremulously.
Ally reacted reflexively to the smile, beginning to grin until suddenly her eyes widened and her face froze. With a soft moan, she shut her eyes again and turned her head. Her hands moved in an abortive attempt to hide her face, but were brought up short by the cuffs around her wrists.
"Ally, please don't," Evelynne begged, reaching out to touch her lover's face, hurt when Ally jerked away slightly. Every instinct she had was screaming to stretch out and touch Ally's mind, but she kept her own talents under strict control, remembering the results of the last time she had done so. "Ally, please, I'm here, love."
Ally's lips were moving, and Evelynne had to lean closer to hear her barely whispered words. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please don't leave. I'm sorry."
"Hey, no. I'm not leaving," Evelynne murmured, gently turning Ally's face towards her own, feeling tears on her own cheeks that matched those on Ally's. "It's all right. It's not your fault."
Ally's looked up at her with pain-filled eyes. "But I—"
"It wasn't your fault," Evelynne said again. "Someone put something in your drink. You were drugged, love. You couldn't help what happened."
"But I-I wanted to. And I did. I remember. I remember."
"But the drug…" Oh, Isis. The drug was supposed to suppress memory, but Ally's memory doesn't work like other people's. She went from chemically-induced amnesia to total recall, probably in the space of a split second. "Oh, love. I'm sorry." Evelynne brought her face next to Ally's, embracing her as best she could. She could hear her lover's shallow, erratic breathing by her ear. "It still wasn't your fault."
Continued in Chapter 15
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