She leapt through the Wolf as it bit into time, its fields ripping open a wound across dimensions. Radiation and exotic particles burst forth into fresh, new space, as did Anayasia before plummeting miles toward the surface of the Earth.
She awoke, in time, to darkness: her membranous wings had cocooned her to protect her after first stretching out to prevent a fiery, atmospheric descent. Parting them now, she saw night. Snow was falling, flakes alighting upon her purple lips. A pointed, snakelike tongue swept across her mouth, and the cold moisture felt good trickling down into her throat.
Alone in a large, snowy field, Anayasia Dragona sat up.
Shaking her head rid it of the snow clinging to her long black hair. Unclear thinking told her that her brain was struggling in adapting to the new time frame; though anticipated, she prized precision too much not to be annoyed by this.
She burned off mental fog with a single fierce thought: What Year Is This? Following was a subtler concern: Would They pursue her here?
A corner of her mouth curled. Depends how much they miss me, she thought.
Anayasia Dragona stood, the muscles of her five-foot-ten, curvaceously powerful body flexing and releasing like oiled steel. Peering beyond a horizon of trees to moving lights, she attuned to a pervasive droning of thousands of stinking vehicles, each bucking to get ahead on a road too small.
Backtime pulp mech, scoffed Anayasia, stretching her wings, feeling their steady, independent strength. Focusing to charge them further, she leapt straight up into the night.
Nearly all of her was covered with dark scales, some spiked, but not even her soft lavender skin, where exposed, was bothered by the rush of cold as she soared. Anayasia remained highly vigilant for any appearance of the Mad Ones. Her thinking and tactical senses were still foggy, but an electrical field from her horns held her hair tight from her eyes and ears. She rose higher into the night. Slowly, vigilance eased as curiosity over her new surroundings took hold.
Free to do whatever she wanted, Anayasia cooed and looked east.
She was not far from a major pulp collective: a human city. Ground craft formed rivers of light, while above her a flying machine roared on through the snowy dark. Light, sound, and stench, were everywhere, in the air, on the water, betraying a crude technology and even cruder organization. Still, she was free, able to do whatever she pleased. This is real, Anayasia thought, despite her best effort to stay even.
Her nostrils flared with excitement.
She entered the city's airspace as silently as the falling snow. Though her midnight wings were of healthy span, it was their concentrated capacity for quantum vacuum modulation that yielded her main motive forces. With supreme leisure, she glided among the tops of the tallest buildings, spying various pulp biz in the windows.
How far back did I go? Anayasia began wondering. At first glance, these humans showed no physical difference from the Mad Ones she had run from. Approaching a towering edifice dominating the city, she lit outside its roof perimeter fences, peered streetward, and her large black eyes began absorbing the finest of detail.
She saw pulps and their vehicles, all coming and going, noisy and rushing. It was intense for Anayasia, species homo draconis, who had rarely been this close to so many homo sapiens in her entire regulated life. This is real, she thought again, gazing upon this world in this alien century. I beat them, I'm free. With every passing moment it was sinking in, lifting her heart with song. Yet no song sprang from her lips.
Suddenly, the night was feeling very void; her pryde, her world, all that mattered to her was gone. Draped in her wings, as night filled with snow and wind, Anayasia focused hard on the activity below to start learning about her new home.
* * *
As stealthy as she had been, it had not been enough.
Cameras were panning the roof of the Chicago Sears Tower. A security guard posted near the Tower's Skydeck observatory, checking his monitors, expected nothing out of the ordinary. He was in for a rude awakening.
"Hey, Theo," he said, "somebody's on the roof, and it don't look like Santa."
Older and more stoutly built, the second guard, Theo, put down his magazine. "You're kiddin'." He came over to see as the view zoomed in on a still figure, clearly outside the roof perimeter barriers. "Crap," he said. "We got a jumper."
"How the hell'd she get out there?"
Into a mike: "Kansas, this is Oz. We have a jumper, looks female. She's outside the west fence. We're gonna check it out."
"Be careful," returned a woman's voice from a speaker.
"I'll go, you stay," Theo then said to his partner as he went and put on his coat. "Damn it's gonna be freezin' up there. How's she doin'?"
"She hasn't moved. Maybe she already froze. Doesn't look like she has much on..." Through the swirling, blowing snow, the younger guard could not be sure of what he was seeing. What was she wearing? he thought. What were those hornlike things sticking out of her head?
At the top of the stairwell to the roof, Theo keyed in the code that unbolted the main roof door. An arctic blast hit him full in the face as he heaved the heavy door open. "Crap," he muttered. "Crap, lady, why'd you have to pick now to do this?" He closed the door and pulled his coat's collar tighter around his neck, all while holding onto his hat to keep it from blowing away. Trudging across the roofscape, Theo kept his focus on the lone figure ahead. Despite this fierce, biting wind, her hair, he noticed, only shimmered, barely, as she stood like a statue on a cliff of black steel.
Things were starting to look really odd.
Whoever this jumper was, Theo thought, she was dressed very bizarrely, wearing some kind of cloak and scaly tights. Those had to be tights. And was she really wrapped in a "cloak?" That must be a costume, Theo was thinking. That would explain those horns too. Great. But then, she had to be something of a fruitloop in the first place to be out here.
One thing he was sure of: she had to be freezing. She did not looked dressed for stormy winter weather.
"Hello," Theo called out at last in his friendliest tone.
Startled, Anayasia turned and glared.
The force of her gaze was tangible. Theo's mind blanked. Then he remembered: get the jumper to talk, keep her tied to the world of people. But her eyes, like bottomless pools, kept throwing him.
Damn! "Hellooo," he said again, forcing a smile. Despite her eyes, he thought her quite the looker, with those lips, those cheekbones...she was a demon-monster babe; and, skin tone aside, she did not look in the least bit cold.
The guard took out his radio. "Andy, you seein' this?"
His partner's voice came back. "Hell, yeah. We all are, you're going to have company." The Chicago Police had been alerted. "She's deep Goth, huh."
"Real deep." She kept staring at him. "I'm gonna try again. Um...hi there," he called out. "What's goin' on? You, uh, mind if we talk for a while?" Still no response. Theo brought up his radio and spoke sharply. "Andy what's with back-up?"
"There's a team on the floor right below her; there should be guys on the roof any second." Two seconds later, both Theo and his jumper heard the roof door open.
* * *
More! observed Anayasia, counting eight. The one already here was speaking to her again. She wished she understood his words, but her brain still was not fully up to speed. However, Anayasia knew voice tones, and this human's had not been threatening. Indeed, he smelled of fear, and that bolstered her own sense of daring.
She pondered: How can I say I am not about to attack...
* * *
With his eyes on the female outside the fences, one of the new arrivals, Lieutenant Rodriguez, greeted Theo with a nod. He asked, "Has she said anything?"
"She just stares, Lieutenant. She just stares."
"She got passed razor wire?" asked another officer.
"Maybe she just scaled the building," said a third man, trying to be funny.
There were no breaks in the barrier as far as anyone could see, so that was a possibility, if extreme. Rodriguez said to Theo, "We're scanning every file on the planet to see if she's flagged. This just don't smell right." Then the tall officer began to slowly step forward, holding up his badge, when suddenly the jumper moved.
It had been quick: a dip of the knees for a leap that cleared all the perimeter fences, as well as her would-be rescuers. It was the jumper's manner of descent, however, that brought it home. At the height of her leap she had spread big, batlike wings followed by a gentle return to the roof.
"Jesus, oh sweet Jesus," whispered one of the officers. Next to him, Theo stared mouth agape, not even noticing his hat blowing off his head into the night.
Before them was no wigged-out costumed jumper. She was an unearthly vision sheathed in scales of iridescent midnight, save for pale purple skin above the neck and less modestly down her midfront. Silvery trim adorning her, and standing six-two with her heelspikes down, she was amply female in all the right places, and dragon in a way her watchers could never, ever believe.
Anayasia held her head high and her wings open, hiding nothing. She issued forth a throaty coo, awaiting the humans' response.
"Carajo..." breathed Rodriguez. Her sound was arousing him. Snapping out of it, he leveled his gun at her. "Police! Don't move." Anayasia quieted as everyone came to and took aim. "Who are you and why are you here?" pressed Rodriguez. The clicking of sidearms perforated the quieting wind.
"Identify yourself!" the lieutenant demanded. Still nothing from her; was she even understanding him? What was she? he wondered. His eyes were tearing from her stare. Rodriguez repeated his commands in Spanish, but it made no difference. In English he said, "Jackson, show her the pretty bracelets." A young, big officer, with a set of steel cuffs, carefully stepped forward.
* * *
Anayasia thought, This is not what I had in mind.
She did not like their tone, thought those might be weapons pointed at her, and truly she was not keen on this pulp soldier coming near. Truer to her nature, she bared glinting fangs as this time she released a long snarling hiss.
That sound knifed through their systems, one officer grunting as he soiled himself.
* * *
Jackson, now! shot Rodriguez with a nod. The big officer darted in to grab a sleek scaly wrist; and it was the last thing he did as a clawed hand took him by the collar and threw him straight back from whence he came.
The officer hit another cop dead-on. Rodriguez and the rest opened fire.
* * *
Anayasia ducked, and bullets whizzed by overhead. She leaped as lead slugs pounded where she had just been standing, and a hissing screech from her throat split the night as she came down like a wrecking ball on two more men. As she spun to take down the others, she reviewed their small weapons, allowing a hail of bullets to slam into her side.
Soft metal; poor momentum, she assessed with nary a blink, slugs bouncing off her. One she caught with the tip of her claw, on its nose, then put it in her mouth and swallowed. The officers stared, and for the first time since arriving here Anayasia grinned, a hideously sensual display of teeth and humor.
"No way on Earth..." said one officer as he aimed for the Draconis glyph centered in her forehead.
The four curving horns atop and aside her head glowed with fire. Their vacuum-skewing fields materialized--inside the officer--a dense electrostatic point, which promptly and radiantly inflated, incinerating the man on the spot.
"Crap!" cried Theo, leaping behind a satellite dish. Balls of heat flared around them. A policeman taking cover yelled into his radio, "Officers down! Send back-up and medics!" The electrostatic bursts stopped. With utmost care, Theo peeked above the dish-base housing.
There, surveying the battlefield, she loomed, beautiful yet monstrous. In the stillness of the night, she rolled her gaze over to capture his. Theo was barely able to breathe.
* * *
Anayasia turned and inspected another human, one she had slightly torched. His eye sockets were barely smoking from the flash-burn of his brain; she admired her clean precision. Squatting, with a silvery claw she lifted a nearby, also-smoking 9mm semi. Cute toy. What else might they have? Anayasia wondered. More so: what were they making of her.
She was quickly learning.
Her pointy ears pricked to new sounds coming from over the sides of the towering Chicago skyscraper. Anayasia dropped deeper into battle mode. Flaring her wings, the nanoplex quantum-plume nodes in her spine bit into subatomic space to further empower every synthetic and enhanced cell of her body. But she was still foggy from time-traveling; she snarled as two HBT Stormbird fancopters rose above adjacent sides of the Tower, their lights, their roaring skyfans now dominating her attention.
* * *
The fancopters opened fire, tearing up the roof with streams of high-speed, steel-jacketed shells. "Hell! Where'd she go?" said one of the pilots.
"I have her," said the other Stormbird. Anayasia was a blazing red figure in that pilot's infrared display. "She dove off the east side; I'm coming around." Yet when he did, there was again no target, only a gaping hole nine stories down. "Damn, she's inside!"
"I see her," said the first pilot, bringing her ‘bird round and down before cutting loose, the other gunship joining in. Bullets ripped into the Tower, turning clean, high-tech offices into maelstroms of smoke and debris.
"You a quick grrrl, ain'tcha," said pilot one, retargeting, trying to hem in the fleet, crimson-red image. Nothing was slowing this "dragonwoman" (alien? gene-freak?) down, not furniture, not walls. The pilot was tempted to send in rockets, but already damage was extensive, and the flame being churned up was obscuring the target's infrared signature.
"Cease fire," said pilot two, also losing the image. Smoke was pouring out of shattered windows. Man, the press is going to have a field day with this, he thought. "Do you see her?" he asked pilot one as he scanned with radar.
"I'm not sure," she replied. "Hold it..."
Something large and burning burst out of a window, machine-gun fire reducing it to flaming smithereens. "Hell!" cried the pilot, realizing she had just blasted a filing cabinet.
A second projectile swift and sure curved up from below, slamming into her Stormbird and rattling her teeth. "She's on you! She's on you!" said pilot two. "I can't get a clear shot. Shake her off."
Pilot one pushed her fancopter to its limit, twisting and turning over buildings, but to no avail. That thing was holding on with steel-crunching strength.
* * *
Thought Anayasia Dragona: Game mine.
Games were what her human creators--the "Mad Ones"--had called her training, poured on since childhood, every one designed to make her stronger, to hone her into the deadliest, humanoid fighting machine imaginable. Battling primitive war tech, her current performance would have kept every planner at Asymmetric entertained. With an easy yank, she ripped the Stormbird's nose-mounted machine gun from its moorings. She peeled back armor plating like it was foil and dug through what was underneath.
* * *
The pilot, white with terror, felt the rending through the frame of her fancopter. "She's gonna down me!" she said. "I'm heading for the harbor." If she crashed there, no damage would be done to the city, nor lives lost on the ground or in buildings.
"I'm right behind you," said her comrade in his closely following Stormbird.
As they zoomed out over the dark water, the lead gunship sizzled then lost all power. "She did something--shorted my systems!" cried pilot one. "I'm bailing!" The woman unbelted and jumped out the hatch, her paraglider opening as soon as she was clear. She watched her ‘bird go down, tears welling in her eyes, when a swift dark shape moved in on her.
Claws with inhuman strength gripped her head and forced her eyes and helmet-lights up. They were met by eyes of obsidian.
"...oh God..." the pilot murmured.
* * *
Female soldier, Anayasia realized, though hardly of the heavily powered ilk she regularly crushed in her own time. She had also known female researchers, teachers and clients, caring for none of them...except one, long a distant, bittersweet memory...her human mother, from whom she had been taken.
Anayasia growled and snapped the pilot's neck, killing her instantly.
* * *
"Terri! Terri!" cried pilot two into his comm. "Damn you!" he yelled, machine-gun fire blazing. His target spiraled off. "Base, Strike One is dead. I'm clear for full SCARs." It was time to end this. Small deadly projectiles shot away from the surviving Stormbird.
Anayasia spun easily from their paths. The target-seeking rockets tore passed her then came about. Smart but slow, she assessed, amused. Turning, she headed for their source like a missile herself, as machine-gun bullets glanced off her scaly shoulders and ripped through her hair.
The pilot's eyes went wide as Anayasia veered off at the last instant. He could not even draw a breath to yell as two fully charged rockets slammed into his cockpit.
Over Lake Michigan, a thunderous fireball blossomed, illuminating the night.
Noting that limited effect, Anayasia allowed the remaining SCARs to strike her. The blasts, able to melt steel, were like tepid pops against her as she hit the lake.
Anayasia could hold her breath a long time. As she sank into the cold, darkening waters, lights from newly arrived Stormbirds above grew dim. She knew she could delete them all, easily, having seen what these weapons were capable of. But to what end. This, she reflected, was why I left my own time. No more fighting...
The darkness deepened, and the silence. If these backtime humans thought her destroyed by projectile fire, then at least for now she would be unbothered.
* * *
"The Chicago police were testing a new crime- and terrorist-fighting weapon last night when a freak programming error caused the unmanned robotic drone to fly astray and attack the Sears Tower. Explosions rocked the night as fancopter gunships did battle with the drone, finally destroying it to keep a bad situation from getting worse. Our own Jason Holland is on the scene with his report."
The story dominated the morning news, people listening while drinking coffee, driving or still waking up. Later the Mayor came on to hail as heroes those who had died protecting the city. As well, a full investigation of the incident was promised, this to include the United States Army, as the design of the drone was military-inspired.
All visual records were confiscated. Forget-What-You-Saw was the rule. But the fact was: that she-creature, near-human, so impossible, would never be forgotten, not by a single eyewitness, not for as long as each of them lived.
Some twenty-four hours later, while high-level investigators were still scouring the Tower, the Loop and Chicago Harbor for remnants of the "rogue drone," miles away a sleek, powerful form burst from Lake Michigan.
Soaring high, Anayasia Dragona pierced the cloudless, star-strewn night.
Enough hiding, she thought. But what next? She had no place to go. Having yet to gauge the integrity of her human-guise function, it would be unwise, she knew, to return to a large population center. Better it would be to stay where it was quieter and darker.
Anayasia needed to think what to do.
Her life had been mapped out to a tee by the Mad Ones: a fighter, a destroyer supreme she would be. That required her makers giving her a unique edge: free will. Also needed for her to bear young, this inspired a dynamic more potent than was planned for, one of Life; and now, by her own devising, her future was open to her. No more fighting! she resolved, wanting something more. Every battle impulse was to be stifled in order to know life, here, without conflict among countless human strangers. Anayasia could be civil, indeed even pleasurable. Carnal skills were, after all, how she had gotten access to the Wolf, what the Mad Ones called their time machine.
Below her was wooded darkness along a stretch of shore. With no place to go, perhaps it might be best, Anayasia thought, to spend the night concealed here and seek a healing sleep. If her creators appeared, she would fight all-out--with every ounce of her power--not to be retrieved, her advantage over them being a longer time-adapted mentality. She also had her unique, psiconscious talents, though to use those she would need a truly clear head.
Every edge mattered. For now, cocooned by forcefield-endowed dragon wings for a simpler defense, Anayasia returned to deep water to lie quietly at the bottom of the lake.
Come for me, she thought, teeth bared. Come and play with me.
As she slowed her heart and her breathing, she considered her chances with humanity here. There was so much to understand, and this frightened her. "Hellooo," she tested with a soft, subdued voice, guessing at the meaning. Eventually, she would recognize the language and then be able to speak it. Her first words: No more fighting, no more fighting...
Anayasia recalled the last expression of that female soldier, the snap of her neck, and began cooing, soothing herself with a gentle tune. Sometime after, she could finally doze and find her healing dreams.
* * *
"Prolonged inactivity," a man said.
Replied a woman, "She's probably asleep."
They had seen nearly everything prior: gray, embossed-like images silently depicting confrontation and battle. Now, the dragona's surroundings faded to reveal a vast, curvilinear office, lying centuries in the future. Two figures were within. The woman--the High Director--who had a fondness for Project Dra, said, "I did not think this possible." Her smile was subtle. "Her upgraded tracer is effectively transdimensional. The viewing is imperfect, but she suspects nothing."
Said the older man, "We're drawing processing power from all levels, all the way up to the Galactic Plexus. I was determined to make it possible."
"You're inviting a security breach. We ought to retrieve her."
"Soon...soon. Let her settle and feel safe, first."
"Fitting, for trying to escape, no?"
"She has escaped, the only one ever to do so, and she will fight us," warned the High Director, "using every advantage, including those unprecedented talents of hers. She's one surprise after another, always learning, always developing; her resistance will be like nothing we've ever dealt with. I trust retrieval will involve, at the least, several draigons."
Via implants, the President of Asymmetric Knowledge Enterprises mentally instilled in his office walls an all-encompassing vision: a crisp, sapphire expanse of ocean golden-chipped with sunlight. Draigons--male dras--flocked in the distance.
The man finished his glass of wine. "She needs to be reminded," he began, "of her place in the grand scheme of operations. It'll be worth the market-loss to first snap her closer to us, to the Draconis Event or the Near Annihilation; either, for a taste of Mankind's darkest hours. When she awakens. Then we'll see...we'll see what new Games we wish to try out."
"Be mindful, Mr. President." The older man turned, unable to decipher the glint
in her eye. The Director said, "Our Games will just keep improving her."
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