The Butterfly Dragon II: Dragon Butterfly (Rewrite)


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, butterflies, dragons or mysterious flying killer shadows, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Language And Translation

This story takes place in a number of locations throughout the world. In these locations I've tried to adhere to a level of realism and retain the indigenous language as related in telling the story. In such places within the story, I've switched to a new method of keeping the English language translation by placing it above any spoken dialog that is in another language other than English within braces {} and in italics.

For example, a line of dialog for a Korean speaker would look something like this.

{Butterfly. Butterfly. In the night and in the sky. The Dragon follows and dare not I.}
"nabi. nabi. bam haneul e . yong-eun da-eum gwa na haji gamhi" Lee Jeong said raising goose bumps on her arms.

or a line of Chinese Traditional might look like this:

{If it was I in your dream, then lose not your esteem. For I'm the bringer of great things, though none so great as you...}
"Rúguǒ shì wǒ zìjǐ de mèngxiǎng, nàme bùyào shīqù nǐ de zìzūn. Duìyú wǒ de wěidà de shìqíng de shǐzhě, suīrán méiyǒu nàme dà, nǐ..." Weltherwithsp spoke eliciting the rhyme in another translation.

The character Weltherwithsp would likely not make such a rhyme (the rhyme is in the English and then spoken in the dialog of another language and therefore it would not be consistent in the spoken language but this is just an example).

I've given considerable thought to the dialog and just how things might be said in their host languages. As well, I've tried my best to be aware of the differences that language elicits in the minds of their speakers for most thought itself is based in linguistics and in some cases limited by what we give name or label to.

For instance, we in this part of the world might refer to something so simple as a snow fall by few words (snow, sleet, slush). All of those words describe icy water fallen from the sky whereas the Inuit have some twenty to thirty different words for the same weather phenomenon describing all of the different kinds of weather there is related to icy water falling from the sky. If your life and survival depends upon it, chances are you'd want to be able to communicate all the different permutations of a thing that relate as such.

I've taken this into consideration as much as I can and tried to carry as much of the ideas of some of the host cultures and their mystique as possible. In this story more so than with Heroes Of Our Own, Heylyn's native language of Chinese and her original cultural identity has proven to be a key element to the events about to unfold. At least part of this story is about each of the characters coming to terms with where they are, where they came from and where they are headed. A few new characters who make their entry into the series at this point being Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand and their respective histories and languages as well. There's a lot in more in store in this story line as well.

Though I've learnt much of Heylyn's culture through personal study and past relationships, my language skills are not so good as to write a line of dialog in Heylyn's or the new character's native tongue. I write the dialog in English and then translate with Google Translate and similar language translation tools as I am of limited resources and would gladly pay the money for a full linguistic translation if it was within my budget upon this writing. The dialog that I come up with is written though from the perspective of the speaker of the host language if that makes any sense.

For instance, when you translate the spoken language of a Chinese speaker into English, it has style to it that is representative of the grammar of the host language of the speaker. I've tried to maintain that as best I can, by taking what I know about the language after translation and retaining that style when I write the Chinese dialog. Also taking into consideration the importance and cultural symbols that aspects of their language have when translated. Likewise with the other languages that are to be found in this book.

As well, it might be noticed that rather than using the host character set of the spoken language, I've instead chosen to use the alphabet and phonetics for the speakers' language. In this way it can be read by an English speaking reader, phonetically and they might learn something about the language it represents. I am very excited about this because it allows many different readers who speak different languages to come at the story from different viewpoints. A Chinese speaker and reader might get something very different from the story than an English reader does versus a Korean reader, versus a Japanese reader all while staying the narrative inherent in the story.

Remember that poetic form can be very different when translated between different languages as metaphor and symbolism are different to each source language and culture, though I've done my best to retain that form between languages that use an iconic symbol set (where one symbol represents one thing or action from a group of possible things or actions) and phonetic symbol set (where one symbol represents a specific sound, with many symbols combined to create an icon representing a thing or action). Language in this way can very much shape our concepts of many different ideas.

Also to be noted is that whenever I've listed a traditional Chinese name I've listed the name in the form: Surname | Middle name | Family name. In most cases outside of this story when using traditional Chinese names, they are most often given in the form: Family name | Middle name | Surname. No disrespect is intended towards this tradition as I felt that many of my readers would most readily associate with the names I'd given in the format I'd given them.


This is the second book in the Butterfly Dragon series of stories. This story continues the lives of Alicia, Heylyn and Valkyra, Monique and Norler and introduced some new characters, some of whom will probably die. The tone of this book will take the characters to a much darker place and territory than that they faced in the first book Heroes Of Our Own. It will also deal with issues that are mature and therefore reader's discretion is advised.

It picks up several years after the success of their mission to the Treadwater Island Resort to deal with Mr. Zek, who is in prison at the time the story begins. Torman has been dead and "cleansed" from the minds of those that he'd occupied during the events of the first book and throughout some of the stories. Alicia's life has changed drastically as has her life role and purpose there to. She still possesses the initial driving force that motivated her for the first story but she's hung up her proverbial cape in favor of other ways to better society. She has also been in a serious relationship with Norler, the benevolent and philanthropic billionaire and is seeking to expand their commitment.

Valerie has been building her own business empire, or has at least started the process with a degree of success. Having finally overcome Torman's hold over her (see the story Valkyrie's Deal which chronologically takes place just before the events of this book) and secured lucrative business deal she much like Alicia has moved on to other priorities.

Heylyn and Monique have become closer during that time and have struggled to keep up with the changing times and live up to the high demand world of fashion, each in the way they know best. As a result, Alicia and Heylyn haven't been keeping in touch as often as they did in the first book. Of the original group of four heroes who brought closure to the story in Heroes Of Our Own, Heylyn and Monique are the only two who continued their efforts in many ways, including helping the Police to solve difficult crimes and in one case, even helping to hunt down a serial murderer who posed as a drug dealer (read the short poem Her Bedtime Story). Heylyn's attention recently has returned to the fashion world with an upcoming show by her company's top designer.

Heylyn's story in this will cover much ground and a vast time span from the very beginning of the children's tale her alter ego, The Butterfly Dragon is based upon. The very story her Grand Mother told her as she told her Mother in their family tradition.


A petal falls
Forked tongue darts
Weltherwithsp still

Lost in wind
Yet finds it's perch
Flower: Butterfly refuge

Pavement breaks
Under sharpened stilts
Dragon Butterfly walks

The world so harsh
Through innocent eyes
Warai sees beauty

Enemies stir
Their tombs not sealed
Revenge is born

From the worst turmoil can be born the order of beauty
Chinese Proverb

A jewel worth far more than any and always to be protected: a child's love and innocence
Korean Proverb

Hope is a lamp whose oil must be replenished

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips.
“Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Excerpt from 'The New Collusus'
Emma Lazarus

"From far and wide, Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee"
Excerpt from Canadian National Anthem

"It looks like we've found another home to add to the one we had."
Chang Wen Ying to his four year old daughter Ai Yuanlin Ying

"Your home is inside of you. It's a home you must keep safe. I hope that Akito and I will always be welcome. Even unto our older years."
Lee Jeong-Min Tokama to four year old Warai Jeong-Min Tokama

Ancient Legend

In waters still the currents stir.
Beneath the surface it churns.
Unseen to the eye though still ever present.
From where there's calm will they come.

The villages of old gone and reborn many times.
The world now much bigger than was known.
Many lands many people many places.
Many faces in the East and West like the winds.

They come and go on wingless birds.
Their horses without legs drink black water.
Their eyes see us all from the heavens.
The lands much changed reborn many times.

From this peace will come the Dragons of chaos.
To stir the waters and bring the froth and turmoil to the surface.
Dragons that bring forth mirth while other Dragons bring fortune.
The lands of the world will become the tumultuous froth.

The Butterflies will rise and heal the lands.
Their arrival might not be timely and enough so.
Many people fall despite their grace.
The healers bring them back.

The Butterfly Dragon unites them.
The healer makes them more.
Until they meet with the turmoil itself.
The Dragon Butterfly has come.

Ancient Chinese Legend.
The Path Ahead

The Meeting Of Ancient Dynasties 2000 BC

Long before the tales of ancient civilization they met. The peoples of all lands for each their seers had a tale to weave of a coming malice. Like none they'd faced as the peoples of the world. They were secret in their ways and learned of many languages each and yet they spoke a common tongue between them. They traveled from distant places of the world some long before maps of such places existed. Their boats of papyrus made travels between continents rare but not impossible. Some had made it from lands too far to imagine. They had been among the first of peoples in their lands to develop calendars and measured time. They had developed methods of navigation with the aid of the stars, which they believed spoke to them and guided them. Heralds of the gods.

They'd agreed on their first time meeting that they would meet once every thousand years and their collective knowledge would be shared so they may benefit their peoples and lands despite the conflict between them. Their hopes were that one day humankind would no longer compete by violence and rule by fear and might. That all peoples might work together and live amongst one another for the future benefit of all. That the struggles that humankind sought to overcome would eventually only be those that nature and the gods had presented us. There was one representative each for the thirteen colonies of the world. At this first meeting, they'd agreed that their great grand daughters and grand sons many times removed would meet again in one thousand years time. They used their ephemeri to indicate where the stars would be upon that future meeting.

A thousand years passed and once again the children of those who'd first met a millennia ago returned. They shared much knowledge between each other bringing the best that each of their civilizations had to share that would benefit their production of food, healing and the construction of tools. Each of these descendents were overjoyed at this meeting for in their sharing, they'd helped each other to overcome some of the hurdles facing their respective civilizations.

At this meeting they shared the most important of the prophecies that each of their seers had to share. Visions of a future fraught with turmoil. At that time in their near future would rise the monsters of their darkest visions to bring about war, conflict, disease and death. People would be fighting other people everywhere and the only sure thing was death. The people of the Far East had devised a plan to fight this turmoil and vowed each to train warriors who would protect the people and the peace from the chaos of these monsters. They shared their plan with the others at the meeting and they each vowed to work together to keep the people and the peace safe.

However they were followed by some members from each of their civilizations and the details of their meeting had been discovered. Those who had discovered this secret meeting called it a betrayal. Their fears were that one day people of two different cultures might marry and have children and that the lines of people would cross. That those of the faiths of the West would become intermingled with the faiths of the East and the very meaning of pure blood would be lost. This perturbed them so much that they'd been betrayed and that these people were working together to avert war and foster prosperity. Those opposed to this unity of people formed their own group and vowed that any time people tried to unite humankind, they would divide them. First dividing people along the lines of the West and the East so that they would fight and oppress one another over their differences, whatever they might be forever more. Then they would divide the West into two halves and the East in like, and those halves into two halves and so on so that none got along. They were being divided along the lines of West and East. North and South. Africa and Asia. Religion and Alchemy (as Science was then called). Men and Women. Adults and children. Any means by which they could divide people and create conflict.

Many whom had come to this first meeting from the West and from the East, some of whom had traveled across the oceans to be there were hunted down and killed. Their knowledge and what they had to share with their civilizations lost. Those who died were not able to share their knowledge of the coming turmoil nor prepare for it and so it was that wars broke out and people fought violently and feudal war was the solution of all matters of state for any growing civilization. A few however managed to live and share their knowledge. So were born the first of the Butterflies and though there were too few to fight the turmoil they eventually turned the tide.

Some became leaders in their civilizations using the military to keep the peace and order rather than create conflict and war. Others chose a life of faith using their knowledge to teach people of balance and spiritual growth. Some became diplomats and merchants dealing with peoples abroad while others tended to their farms or rice paddies and worked until their day's end. Those who remembered the meetings vowed that when the stars returned to the sky as told in their ephemeri, they would meet once again and share what they knew for the good of all. Their plan was to share their knowledge of how they were being divided by those taking their freedom and creating inequity to create further conflict.

The Dynasties Of The East 500 BCE

Under the stars she'd been on her way to the village circle. Her parents had built their hut which was quaint and simple by even their standards within the small village. Despite the fact that it was one of the few which still held its fired clay bricks and mortar to reinforce its' walls against the spirits. The land had many and their moods changed quickly and fiercely just as likely as they'd be calm and serene. She struggled with her extra weight and despite the calm of the eve, even the smaller bumps on the path seemed like mountains.

They had lived in the village for as long as time itself so it seemed, though really it had been twenty years since they'd settled in the valley, for its prime conditions and drainage for farming. Her mother and father had been a part of the settlers who built the village from the wood and dirt. They built the tools, erected the houses and then built the farms all from nothing but what the land and the spirits had provided them.

The men and women of the village were equals, each as capable as the other and the only lines drawn were those afforded the elderly by the young. Wisdom was valuable when you lived by the land and your wits, and the young paid their respects to earn it. Those that did often lived long and prosperous lives. Those that didn't often learned the hard way if they survived.

The land was free and that freedom often came at a steep price. The land was one country divided into many different peoples who often fought wars for its resources or to quiet the spirits and keep the balance of power. The land had been consolidated from time to tome in the dynasties, the Xia, the Shang and the Zhou. In that time they had become divided by many different means and a beast beyond their control in a land full of restless spirits. To the west, a fierce and nomadic enemy who often had other ideas about how the land should be ruled. They periodically stormed villages, pillaging the food and laying waste to what had been built. For them the land was the provider and if people were fostering unnatural growth from it, some other natural force would arrive to return the balance. Often it was the nomads of the west whom pressed even the mightiest of the armies of the dynasties. Divided the people of the land fell and united they held their home. The dynasties struggled for power and support within this turmoil.

To the east and into the seas, the great land of Honshu. Amongst them a great deal of fighting would determine who ruled and what part of the mighty island under the shadow of its silent God, the mountain that spit fire and smoke. The killing had found its way their too and the only art that had emerged as a result was that which could remain hidden from the blade of war and war itself. Sometimes they would would gather in their boats and come ashore to the east, and fight vicious battles, the spirits of Honshu and their blades against the spirits of the great land. Most often they eventually made peace, and there was shared learning between the two peoples before they'd return to their destiny on Honshu. Sometimes there was no peace and no one would return. The spirits of the land and of Honshu were satisfied that the price had been paid and balance had been restored. Then the arts would thrive and the peaceful would prosper while the warriors would tend their blades. The soul could not be denied.

To the south, and the lands of Gojoseon, the great farmers of both the land and sea, and the great architects and artisans lived their lives. Sometimes a party would leave their habitat and arrive with goods and knowledge to trade. Sometimes the people's of her land would go there and do the same. Sometimes there would be trading and others there might be killing. Sometimes the restless spirits would push the residents of Honshu to travel in their boats in great armies and fight wars with the Gojoseons of the south. Sometimes her people would go to the south to fight by their side. Sometimes the people of the Gojoseons would fight amongst each other. Sometimes they'd make peace and other times they'd slaughter the living until there were none. No matter who was fighting, there was always trade between them.

The dragon had its eyes in many places and where it did, there was death when the spirits were not happy with the people or the demons sought destruction. The dragon was the eyes of the land and its will to do great harm to restore balance. When the spirits were satisfied and the demons had tired and the land had been restored, the dragon became a source of peace and good fortune to the people. It was the will to balance the forces of the land and the spirits and the demons and to maintain harmony and balance. The dragon had rarely if ever looked upon her village and the spirits had rarely held contempt for them for they took what they needed and traded what they didn't. What they traded always brought in the means to heal the land. The paddies in their land had become fertile and bore much food for them and their skills had grown and before long the village had become prosperous. Nobody would speak word of this, for they did not want to attract the attention of the greedy spirits who might seek to benefit from their efforts.

So as the dragon slept, or kept the turmoil churning and frothing in the east, west and the south, the butterflies found their way into the village and the surroundings. The butterflies too were considered spirits of the air, artistry and beauty. Many people reviled them for the good fortune they'd bring and seeing one was often a good omen. She'd been told by her mother that long ago when the butterflies were scorned by the other creatures of the land for their beauty and artistry, they created the dragon to protect virtue, the land and its fauna and artistry.

There was no wall to protect them against the riders of the west. These nomads of the steppes were enemies of the dragon as they often killed those that they felt were useless. Artistry was one such thing they saw no utility for so often artisans were cut down unless they could adapt their skills for military use by the khans. Most couldn't and were often killed rather than being kept as laborers. In many villages that bordered the plains the value of art had not diminished but had become cherished. Those who possessed it would keep it guarded and hidden against such risk, only to display it proudly again when the threat had disappeared.

With the pressures of survival around them, the crops of the farmers were valued treasures like the art and just as necessary and symbolic for survival. The farmers had first noticed this and the fact that farming often made those who did it quite flexible agile and full of constitution. This made them the best qualified to protect their farming paddies and land against attack and had inadvertently resulted in the most organized form of martial training in existence. Some of the astute elder generations has developed techniques for using their farm tools as weapons against attackers. Over the generations this developed into an organized tradition of training, integrating itself with the spiritual beliefs of those of the land. In many villages, the elders would teach the young different styles borrowed from the animals living around them (including the butterfly and the dragon). These styles became more and more diversified and included the farming tools for use as weaponry against the riders and before long, they'd become formidable and legendary artisans themselves of martial endeavors.

Her mother and father had developed the first integrated style of the martial arts that combined the grace of the butterfly with the ferociousness of the dragon, much like the story she'd been told when she was a child. It was for this that the butterflies had made the village their home and the dragon protected it from the turmoil surrounding it. It was part of their family history and the village was their family too, though they’d had roots much further than they’d ever have known and back before the turmoil had found the land and when the people were in harmony with each other and the land and its fauna. When the butterfly and the dragon were one.

During these times of peace in the earliest of times of the land, her family had been born. They had come from the lands of the south, and the artisans of food and cultivation who so much loved and lived from the land and sea without raping it to survive. They came from the families of the warring tribes of Honshu, whose intensity and passion for the extremes of life and death had forged her as a skilled and talented martial artist in her parents' own personal family style. Finally from her home land itself and the love of its beauty, scenery and fauna and the land whose sky she experienced the wonders of the heavens every night since her birth. She and her family were a product of the best of their world and peoples unified in harmony. It is from this harmony that the butterfly dragon awoken through them and into the lives of the people in their village. Both as a unifying spirit and as a means to protect it.

Just as there had been a people to unify, there had been a force to segregate. Where her people had encouraged peace and understanding through martial training and the style of the Butterfly Dragon, another had encouraged war and mindless slaughter. Where her people had taught others to work the land and become self sufficient and realized, the other sought to incite violence and to encourage others take by force what they lacked. If those who had grown it, built it or created it were dead, who would be around to protest the truth about ownership? Eventually ever her people broke down and her family fled the arising chaos the people had fallen into. Generations had passes and soon the chaos had spread and her people were fighting each other everywhere. Her family had settled the village generations later and they'd have their peace and prosperity. They would teach it by their way of life and how they lived from the land and protected it along with their virtues.

She strode slowly through nothing but the star light until she heard the Se and the sound of its delicate strings echoed through the night. They had just started the spring festivities the main reason she had left in the first place on an urgent errand. The light of the lamps cast a warm glow across her face as she stepped into view.

"Honglian! Where have you been?! A pregnant woman out there walking alone! You should be ashamed for not getting help you know!" her neighbor, Tsiao scolded her.

"I am sorry, but it was urgent. I had no time to get anyone else to run the errand." she tapped her blue bracelet and lied.

"We're just glad that you made it. Your husband has been worried sick you know." Lu, one of the senior farmers told her.

"I am sure he's at home asleep right this moment as we speak!" Honglian said with an air of scathing sarcasm holding her tone momentarily.

Lu and Tsiao looked startled and held their tongues.

"Is my levity not appreciated?" Honglian began to laugh.

Lu and Tsiao laughed reflexively to relieve the tension and to distract Honglian.

Pingjing snuck up behind her and put his hands over her eyes. Honglian let out a quick scream and turned to see Pingjing. She thrust herself at him wrapping her arms around him and rubbing his back. He rubbed her sides carefully and gave her a gentle peck on the cheek.

"How was your little walk?" Pingjing asked her.

"Just fine, no thanks to you." Honglian told him.

"You wouldn't let me come with you. I had Baohu Zhe follow you. He's light enough that you wouldn't have known anyway. He told me you were back. Did you find them?" Pingjing asked her.

"You tricky spirit, you. Yes I found them. A good bunch too, take a look." Honglian opened the sack to reveal the yarrow stalks she'd cut for tonight's ceremony.

"Those are good. We may be able to divine a whole three seasons worth of questions from the spirits. Thank you my blossom. Speaking of blossoms..." Pingjing said rubbing her belly.

"Are you asking about our baby, or perhaps you are just seeking good luck?" she asked him coyly.

"Both. For us both. I mean for us all." he smiled kissing her cheek again.

The sound of the Se fell silent which meant that the ceremony was about to begin.

"Here! You'd better take them and prepare them." Honglian scolded Pingjing who ran off with the sack behind their hut.

Honglian made her way to a clay planter someone had overturned for her seat.

"Thank you Wennuan." she told him.

Wennuan nodded.

Honglian watched as her Grandmother walked to the center of the circle and addressed the village. Another elderly couple joined her wearing much different attire ceremonial attire. They all appeared very poignant and dignified.

"We have made it through another season and the spirits of the land have shown their kindness by ensuring us passage to the beginning of the next. That which ends begins again and that which begins must end. So here we are at the beginning again." Congmíng Meili spoke, pushing herself a little to get her voice into the night.

"Let us be grateful for this chance, for this is the fertility of the land and her buxom on this night. Maybe the land she will become like Honglian. Big and bouncy with a blossom of her own." Congming Meili spoke as the surrounding audience laughed aloud.

"It is with love for the land that you respond. Thank you the spirits. We shall care for it to honor your gift." Congming Meili nodded before making her way back to her seat.

"Thank you." the village said to the land and the night.

A moment later the couple who wore the ceremonial attire sat themselves before a clay table with a smooth wooden surface. Upon it were sticks of incense (herbs tightly bundled and often marinated in oils) and paper lanterns. The lady whose name was Chuantian, took up a place across from the man whose name was Xuanjian Zhe and their ceremony began. Chuantian closed her eyes for a moment and after balancing her breaths, she opened them again.

"Why have you come to us and before me?" Chuantian asked the Xuanjian Zhe.

"I have come to seek the guidance of the land and the spirits." Xuanjian Zhe answered

"You trifle us with your questions? We have more important matters than to attend to your needs. What is it you wish to know?" Chuantian asked a bit impatiently.

"I wish to know. Do the sky spirits and those of the air mean us harm?" Xuanjian Zhe asked Chuantian.

Chuantian cupped a group of yarrow stalks in one hand and selected some and placed them before herself on the table. She the examined them before speaking.

"The air and the sky are in harmony with you. There will be water from the sky in abundance but none too much." Chuantian answered.

"Thank you spirits of the sky. Will the earth reveal her clay and bear our paddies." Xuanjian Zhe continued with another question.

Chuantian cleared the table in front of her and again, cupped a hand and within it a bunch of yarrow stalks. She retrieved a selection of them and placed them upon the table again. She examined them and then spoke.

"The earth and its clay will be abundant and the quality good. The earth will not dry or drain of the water for your precious paddies." Chuantian answered the question.

"Will the riders of the steppes seek us out to take from us what the spirits have given and lay waste to our village?" Xuanjian Zhe asked her.

She once again cleared the table carefully placing the yarrow stalks she'd used into the sack where she retrieved another handful. After selective some and placing them upon the table she once again gazed into their future. Xuanjian listened intently waiting for her answer.

"The riders will not come for you, though they grow restless and hungry after a long winter. Honshu will not seek to clean you with the souls of its great warriors' blades upon your innards nor shall you find enemies in the Gojoseons. They seek reform amongst their land's three offspring." Chuantian told him holding tone and the last pronouncement.

Xuanjian Zhe smiled and the village cheered upon hearing this.

"They've smiled upon us again. We're..." Lu yelled before being interrupted.

"I am not finished." Chuantian spoke and the air grew silent again.

She paused looking to Xuanjian Zhe's eyes before speaking.

"The dragon can no longer protect you for another is coming and this is it's last season and this dragon will fall. Your village will be gone before the end of this season. All will die except two." Chuantian spoke in a sharp and deliberate voice.

"Honglian carries the seeds of birth, the rebirth and death yet again. She carries the best and worst of the great Honshu, Okinawa and Tsushima. She carries the best and worst of Gojoseon. She carries the line of the great dynasties and the spirits and demons of the land alike. She carries the life blood of the butterfly. She carries the ferociousness of the dragon. She carries the seeds of innocence and of corruption. She carries the future. Your future." Chuantian eyed Xuanjian Zhe, looking right through him.

In the weeks that came, the village prepared for the turmoil ahead and Honglian's Mother and Father trained the all of the villagers and farmers in the style of the Butterfly Dragon.

"Let us use this and the legend of the Butterfly Dragon to protect our children and their innocence. They will in turn carry it on and the future will be protected everywhere by the Butterfly Dragon." Honglian's Mother addressed the people.

"None shall ever under estimate the power of the arts to protect goodness and virtue. We may be humble farmers and artisans of the clay. But we will defend this our village and our paddies as the dragon!" Honglian`s Father finished the speech, holding his wife's hand and the instruction began.

The village became silent and that silence did not break until the sounds of new life and birth echoed forth into the night nine days after the start of the first instruction in the style. On that night, two were born. The only two that would live beyond Chuantian's grim prophecy. They would carry the life blood of the Butterfly Dragon and from that day forth they were the key to peace amongst the people of the land. They would be the key to peace between the people everywhere.

From that day they would be hunted by their shadow and their ancestors would cast the shadow that would become the hunter. This cycle would continue and repeat until it would be born.

The Dragon Butterfly.

Northern Song Dynasty Of The East

The village was empty and silent as the storm arrived above. The old world and ways were approaching the end of their long reign as the modern world slowly bored its way across the land. Other dynasties had arisen and fallen. The Qin, the Xin and the Han had all risen to rule and had given way for the next. The Song Dynasty held the land and the peace. It was the first government the world over to issue paper currency as a measure of the percentage of the treasury that one possessed.

This had signaled the beginning of a prosperous era of commerce and trade in the east. The Silk Road was open and westerners had brought about some of the first dealings with the cities and civilizations from the Far West. This would open the doors to explorers like Marco Polo to make their way to the east in the middle of the millennium. Time stepped forward and change with it and the ways of the mystics, the spirits and the demons and their threshold of balance between the land and the people was dying. Disappearing forever. Some ideas had merely drifted off into the night in the last five hundred years as the forces of change wore away at their need to exist. Some traditions too disappeared as the new thought and sensibilities came with new ideas. Gunpowder had been discovered and was used readily by the alchemists of the land for displays of magic and performance. The first compasses saw their use to reveal the invisible force of the north making navigation possible. This also led to the dynasty of the Song establishing the first permanent navy in the world.

The long dark ages of the west had come to an end though the wars had far from ceased when they could not compromise. Trade opportunities were ripe with new markets and people and many innovators were looking to what could be a prosperous future when people were ready to lay down arms. To the south Gojoseon had changed much in political and its structural organization. Leaders had risen and fallen and they had finally come upon a period of peace ironically ending the turmoil as they had began: in the three kingdoms of Gojoseon which had grown out of adolescence into Koryeo. Meanwhile another peoples to the south had liberated themselves and declared independence, the Dia Viet as they'd named their state. In their new found independence and golden era had blossomed for them. Eventually they too entered into the regional trade and prosperity followed. It seemed that a new way to fight wars without blood shed may have been found.

On the great isle of Honshu, a peace had found its way there too and as the butterfly had found its way to so many places, so had it there amongst the flowers of word, verse and prose had given them perch. The words to its anthem had come to life during this time, the Kimigayo though without tune to accompany them. It was a time of art and renewal and artistry and beauty thrived during the time of Heian.

Back on the main land and the dynasty of Song where the turmoil had taken hold. Many ancient traditions hadn't disappeared and some prophecies had become truth and the storm found its way above the village, much like the return of what had brought it to them. Most of the village was already dead and gone and the monster that had arrived in search of something had also come to see their end. It pit them one against the other until it had found the only ones remaining were its quarry. The very reason for its existence and the motive for it being here. The wind howled and the scatter flew in the torrential howling of this storm, for this was no ordinary storm. The sky darkened by the minute and the clouds thickened above the lightly forested canopy where the village dwelling lay. A group of men, women and children huddled inside of a small wooden home, some brandishing weapons of old, others safe behind blankets for the cold. They were the few who'd remembered the prophecy. They'd held onto ideas over which they kept guard.

"What do we do now?" asked Sela a man with a panicky voice.

"We wait!" replied Hein.

"We performed the rite. It should be... It should be just like us! Now." Korabu said looking to Hein.

"I'm not going out there. You saw what it did to them. All four of them. At once." Sela replied.

"You don't understand. We have to. For them. We'll be protected if we do." Korabu told them.

"By the... it left us! Abandon us! Ran away scared from that monster!" Hein reminded Korabu.

"We must. It is their only chance. Do we wait here for it to come in here and get us all?" Korabu continued.

"I will go." Li stood, her hair slightly damp.

"No you can't go." Hein told her.

"We'll all die while you sit here arguing They need us!" Li pointed to the children.

She pushed past Sela and Hein grabbing Korabu's hand.
"I will protect you." Korabu promised her with devotion in his eyes.

"No. We will protect each other." she reminded him of their obligation to each other.

Sela and Hein looked at each other and followed them out the door.

They each brandished their swords, Li armed with a small bow drew an arrow from a quiver on her back.

The wind and rain fell diagonally though their wide brimmed hats, the same ones they'd wear to work in the rice fields protected them from most of it.

It was getting darker by the minute as the storm grew in power.

They walked the paths of their now deserted village. Empty villas and pagodas creaked in the wind from among the scattered trees.

Back in their home, Siri got up leaving the children with her two nieces. She stepped before the ritual table and prepared the rite once again as she had earlier.

She pulled herbs from one jar, then a dried insect wing from another. Some dust and other unidentifiable parts from the other jars until she was done. After stirring them feverishly, she took a paint brush, dipped it in the mixture, which had become thick like a paste. It was green in color when she applied the brush to a roll of rice paper which she scrawled upon. She did this with three separate pieces of the paper, each with a different inscription.

The first one she took to the children, her nieces accepting it and keeping it in front of the children,

The second she took and put it over the door to the house, fastening it there. The thunder crashed shaking the house and startling her to the floor.

Outside, it watched them. All four of them as they approached. It jumped from rooftop to rooftop despite the wind, which did not seem to affect it or bother it.

"Do you hear?" Sela asked them.

"What?" Hein asked.

"The song... Her voice... Do you hear it? Just a voice. A song..." Sela replied.

"I can't hear a thing with all of this wind." Koruba said brandishing his sword tighter spinning it expertly in his hands.

"So..." Sela's voice drifted off.

The others formed a circle facing outward away from Li, whose bow was drawn ready. Koruba, Sela and Hein scanned their surroundings nervously.

It leapt to another roof, then to a tree very close to them peering at them from above.

"Stay closer together." Koruba said.

That was when it dropped from the tree and snatched Sela before anyone had time to see.

His screams were all that was left to remind them of his being.

"Sela!" Li turned nervously searching for him or a target.

Hein heard a thud on the ground behind him. He turned to see Sela's lifeless body in formless pile.

"Noooo! Sela!" he ran to the body.

As he did, it jumped down and confronted Koruba head on.

Koruba's sword was fast and his blade caught its claws before they entered his flesh.

He adjusted his stance to keep up with its onslaught as he tired quickly. It struck at him again and again chipping away at his waning strength, making his arms feel like wet noodles.

Li stepped side to side trying to get a shot, the creature always kept out of view behind Koruba. It was using Koruba for cover against her. It was an expert tactician.

Hein caught sight of it and grabbed Sela's sword, wielding it beside his own.

"You'll pay for his death!" Hein ran at it screaming, focusing as it bore down on Koruba.

Just as it had disarmed Koruba, Hein hit it with one of the swords, which glanced off of it harmlessly.

Hein wasted no time and swung the other he brandished blocking one set of claws from the creature but not the other.

Hein was impacted by the claws which tore into him ans sent him flying threw the air like a rag doll falling to the ground still and dead.

In the mean time Koruba had retrieved his sword and blocked the next attack the creature sent his way.

Back at the house, Siri spoke the last of the rites that she hoped would put an end to this horror. The village had been abandoned by most and those that did not leave were dead. They were the last of many.

She held the rice paper around the symbols of her inscription as they began to glow. Energy built within the symbols and the table began to shake. The children whimpered from under the blanket as Siri's nieces protected them.

Once again Koruba gained his focus and determination and fought with the creature keeping pace but not matching its stamina.

His skills as a swordsman were the best in this village and many other villages for a ways, but he'd never encountered an opponent such as this one.

Koruba's sword once again flew from his hand, sticking into the ground ten feet away. The creature knocked him down and moved in for the kill. Koruba struggled against the weight of the creature's foot upon his chest.

Back in their home, Siri took her knife raising it high above her head with both hands and drove it down into the insignia upon the rice paper. A tremendous burst of energy leapt from the insignia traveling outward in a line to the creature hitting it solidly. It glowed intensely for a moment though the creature felt nothing, shaking it off.

Li aimed her bow, let half a breath and fired as the creature raised its claws in attempt to tear Koruba in two.

The arrow flew true the distance to the dead center of the creature's breastplate, sinking deeply into it. The creature looked puzzled for a moment, almost in disbelief that this feeble arrow had pierced it. It ignored Koruba momentarily as it strode towards Li who struggled to draw another arrow before the creature arrived.

Korabu, quick on his feet dove for his sword, rolled to the ground and threw it like a knife through the air with expert precision.

Just as the creature had arrived to fell Li, was it hit by the sword which pieced it's back the tip protruding from its chest.

It fell to its knees before Li and looked into her eyes, laughing.

In its lady like voice it spoke.

"You win this time. Butterfly. There will be another time. A long time from now there will be another time." it laughed looking at its wounds.

It began to dissolve into dust which was quickly scattered by the now dying winds of the storm. The dust spiraled upward in a pillar to the clearing sky.

The rain had stopped.

The sky had cleared.

And peace had returned to the earth.

Koruba joined Li, and they embraced.

Siri came with her nieces and the children who gathered around Koruba and Li.

"The butterfly has returned!" said one of the little girls, where a butterfly had landed upon her hand, flapping its delicate wings.

"Yes. The butterfly has returned." Li said as she embraced Koruba.

The butterfly flew from the child's hand, flying high into the air and above the canopy of the scattered trees that kept the village concealed.

Blossoms dripped under the glaring sun as time began to heal the damages left in the creature's wake.

In moments one year after the other passed and soon a thousand had flown by, much like the butterflies and the blossoms through each season. The world had changed much over the ages. Many things were learned by the people of the world and many many more things were forgotten.

The butterfly, a symbol of beauty and innocence and her mysterious and otherworldly protector the dragon were remembered through the children's story told for millennia. Through the style of the Butterfly Dragon and through the line of Hongian and Pingjing the Butterfly Dragon would remain ever watchful.

The other. The most dangerous.

The threat to the preciousness of innocence and the scourge to the peace was forgotten.

And so was destined to be born again.

So too would be the Gem.

Dark Ages 1000 AD

As time would have it the ancients had met again as they'd planned on the millennia upon the convergence of stars in the western constellation of Cassiopeia. Travel by this time was slightly better though amidst the backdrop of the feudal age in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Those Traveling through Europe came from Africa, Europe traveling through Northern China and converging upon the road to where they'd meet just east of modern day Korea. The travelers from North America and South America traveled up through modern day Alaska to the Bering Strait, crossing on barges they'd build on site. Then once in China they'd travel to the meeting point just south of China and east of Korea. The Japanese, Javanese, Siamese and Khmers came to and those who'd come were the artisans and philosophers of their respective societies. There were representatives there from every continent and despite the fact they'd been found out in the prior millennia, their numbers had grown. The efforts of others to keep them divided had failed though the price had taken its toll on many civilizations. Much as the wars of the feudal era had their toll on the backs of the poor.

Some of the peaceful warriors, the Butterflies they'd trained had become a strong tradition in the East as had their counterparts in many other cultures. They'd risen to keep society together against the onslaught of those who'd divide the people though their task was a nearly hopeless one for the time. During the turn of the millennium the seers and astrologers had once again predicted the rise of chaos and those who'd cultivate turmoil between all unwary. They would once again be the threat against their unity and though most of the world knew not of their efforts, their existence would be once again be challenged by the terrors who'd return every millennium.

"We've shared our knowledge and the secrets of our medicines. We've shared our methods of crop sewing and cultivation. Our tools and techniques and we've each brought another era of hope for our people." Sheerome addressed the group from a stage in a small coliseum auditorium.

He sat beside several other women and men who addressed the people at the meeting.

There was a short applause which quickly quieted down before they continued.

"We wish to draw attention to the fact that our seers have observed that this season of the storm, there will be a tremendous turmoil for us all. One thousand Julian years forth upon the next return there will be none as us to tell of coming future." Xerani addressed the auditorium her voice echoing through the stone walls.

"A thousand years ago our ancestors faced the same crisis yet here we are. We've been divided in every way possible and imaginable by those who wish to see our peace and our ways crushed yet we survived." Sheerome responded drawing a response from the audience in support.

"This will be much different. The Dragon of good fortune will no longer be our guardian as it too will be banished to the sun. The Dragon of wisdom will be the only of the good Dragons to stand against the peril of the Demons and Dragons of turmoil. The Butterflies will be undone and there will be none." Weltherwithsp stood as he addressed them, his long moustache dangled from the sides of his mouth like whiskers.

"It is as Weltherwithsp says. He speaks for the Yarrow and the Yarrow does not lie." Xeng confirmed backing up the philosopher and his long time peer.

"The Butterflies have kept us from the darkness of the turmoil but we must ensure that our message gets through to the generations ahead. We will not be here nor will our children. This is the last of the generations that will meet here. So say the stars and so say seas." Kelmvard spoke for the Norwegians.

"We have found the same in the great Savannahs as we've not seen the waters return for three seasons. Our elders sages say that when the bones of the animals of the plains outnumber the animals living there, that the harbinger is upon us with a message of despair. The future has become lost. We have seen this just as Kelmvard and Weltherwithsp have said. Xerani is wise in her word. We take their words seriously as have the plains spoken to us." Chakutri the elder tribal Matron addressed the auditorium and the audience gave applause.

"We are in agreement that we must ensure that our knowledge remains and is passed on. But how then can we make sure of such a thing? Paper dries and turns to dust as does stone turn to sand. We cannot make a thing that time cannot take away from us." Sheerome asked his peers in the room.

"With a story. A legend. With the words of a tale." Weltherwithsp addressed them.

"Words have barriers too. Our ancestors created our common language so that we may share ideas but such language might not exist in the future let alone those who could learn or speak it. Literacy is already what separates the populace and is another dividing point for use by those fiends! Those of us who can read, painting us as the elite of society and those who can't, paint them as the underlings and the ignorant. Pitting us to fight one another as such while they stand back and to see who wins! The bruteness of might or the enlightenment of knowledge. Words without language are inert and will dwindle and die like us." Sangrald of the Mongols addressed them.

"Words are symbols for ideas and ideas will never die just as the imagination from whence they arrive shall transcend the body from which they emanate. Our symbols will survive and be passed on like our words whether there is a language to carry them or not." Siprunda told them supporting Weltherwithsp's proposition.

"We already use such tales and have been for many millennia. Our stories make their way around the East. Up into China. Into and out of Japan with whom we share much. Siam and the Khmer whose tales have been a part of many of our traditions. We already use such tales and they cross the boundaries between our people just fine." Seung Loo confirmed Siprunda's point.

"We have been for five hundred years teaching the children of the Butterflies with a tale. My Mother told me the tale just as her Mother told her and through us each the tale has passed. It only makes sense that we use such stories to pass on our warning to others about the turmoil ahead. About those trying to divide us and how." Zhou of China advised them.

"Then it is agreed? We will do so at once. We will return with the Butterfly story and share this with our children and they theirs and so on. We will warn the future of the coming turmoil that awaits them. Should Xerani's and Chakruti's predictions come to pass we still may have hope. Our knowledge of what we have learned will be shared with our peoples so that we all may prosper. Let us convene this meeting and prepare for tomorrow's day for we still have much ahead of us." Sheerome stood and addressed the audience.

They gave applause and then filed out of the auditorium and into the streets towards their encampment and temporary housing. Weltherwithsp met up with his soon to be wife meeting her just outside of the auditorium.

"You bring my eyes great joy and much to my surprise you employ only your charm and that sparkle in your eye. I ask myself: Why? How did I happen upon one such as you?" Weltherwithsp caressed her shoulders looking at her long dark hair.

"Your words are often too much. How can one such as yourself ever hope to live up the passions of our place of rest if you cannot live up to that elicited by your words? I'd think that you'd be just such a great let down." Seri posed the question.

"You'd question whether my lips upon yours can speak as well as my voice and words? Perhaps we should hasten our way to our bed to find out?" he asked her full of charm and zest.

"Have we time? The dinner will be held in but two passes of the shadow." Seri asked him.

"Before and after my dear for I should fear that we might nye find a more lovely day to enjoy as this for our love." he said further charming her.

They faces closed and their lips met just as the Klaxon sounded.

"We're under attack! There's a force laying siege to the town! To arms! To arms!" yelled one of the guards as he charged towards the gate followed by a group of thirty guards.

"We've got to get you to safety. I have to help defend the gate." Weltherwithsp grabbed Seri by the hand.

"No my love. I want to be there with you. We will defend it together. You've taught me enough of the ways of the Butterfly Dragon that I would be an apt defender. With you to protect me of course." Seri asserted to him then withdrawing slightly if only to allow him the chivalry of defending her.

"We will defend each other as is and love should be." Weltherwithsp said to her as they grabbed each other's hand.

They ran for their living quarters a short distance from the auditorium to the sounds of screaming and crying. In the distance they could hear the battlecries of troops as the battle had begun. They ran up a flight of mud brick stairs up to the landing just above their abode and found the chest they'd brought with them on the journey to the meeting point.

"Quickly. Go fetch the scrolls and my sigil from downstairs. We've got to try and get a message out of the city through the back gate. Haraahni will be leaving soon if not gone already. He can make it into Siam from here with a few days possibly even to Angkhor. If we can get word there, then word will spread to all reaches of the globe." Weltherwithsp told Seri.

She ran down the stairs without hesitation and into their temporary living quarters. Within she remembered they'd put the scrolls and the sigil under a table in a small wooden crate for safe keeping. She withdrew the scrolls which were housed in a case along with Weltherwithsp's sigil and seal. She quickly made her way back outside and up the stairs to the storage den where Weltherwithsp unwrapped the sacred weapons that he'd been trained in since he was a young child.

"Here my love. Remember what I have taught you. Our lives will depend upon it." he handed her the two blades in which he'd instructed her.

They were both designed by a Chinese craftsman whose family had long been in the business of blade crafting. They were works of art each despite their intended use. Weltherwithsp regarded them as a necessity for saving lives, not taking them. In a world focused on ruling by might and that mistook might for right, one often had to be as skilled at arms as literacy and wit. Seri and Weltherwithsp knew that one day in times ahead that would change and the world would graduate to other means of organizing itself.

He picked up his blades, one a Wakazashi being crafted in Japan by a master craftsman. It was as gift bestowed upon him by a friend long gone. His second blade was a unique design and one that he'd trained with since he'd graduated to armed combat. It's blade was a thick pole with a pointed end. On one of its sides were long serated teeth. With the blade it would be difficult to inflict mortal wounds but it was perfect for disabling an opponent and defending against an opponents strikes. It had been designed by two craftsmen. One who'd designed the pommel and grip integrating it with the pole of about four feet. The serated teeth and guard had been designed by a friend a in Angkhor.

Weltherwithsp sealed the chest and picked up the scroll case and together they ran down the stairs to the street and towards the meeting point that Sheerome had set should any trouble arise. They ran the distance and found Sheerome there with Xeng, Haraahni and several of the others from the auditorium.

"Here are the scrolls. May this knowledge not be lost to the chaos." Weltherwithsp kissed the case and handed them to Haraahni.

"I will protect these with my life." Haraahni bowed before Weltherwithsp.

Weltherwithsp clasped his open palm to his fist in return.

"Be safe my friend. We will meet again." Weltherwithsp bid Haraahni farewell.

Haraahni mounted his horse and rode for the south gate. Sheerome and Xeng watched him leave then turned to Seri and Weltherwithsp.

"You two could make it. Go to Angkhor where you'd be safe for the time." Sheerome suggested.

"No. We cannot run from this yet we cannot be lost to it either. They will remove us and their scourge from the books should we let them. They'll divide the world and keep us as each as such the further we run from them. This is what the Butterfly Dragon strives to defend against. Xeng, take word to my instructor and mentor Woo that I shall return." Weltherwithsp proclaimed.

"If you leave with me now, we can tell him together. It is futile to stay. If what we know is lost the world will suffer for it." Xeng reminded him.

"Be sure to let them know. I will meet you soon friend." Weltherwithsp told Xeng.

"We'll meet you." Seri corrected him.

"We'll meet you soon." Sheerome bowed.

Xeng clenched his open palm to his fist and Weltherwithsp returned the gesture and bid them farewell.

Sheerome and Xeng sped to the south gate on their mounts. If they rode fast enough they could make Angkhor in five days. They had enough supplies on them to last for four nights. From there they'd be living from the graces of nature.

Weltherwithsp once again found Seri's hand and they ran together for the north gate. The sound of fighting could be heard from a distance as they released hands and drew their weapons.

A group of the town guard had been overwhelmed by the invaders who rushed forth in a flurry or polearms and blades. Weltherwithsp charged to meet them with Seri by his side.

Weltherwithsp had trained long in the style of the protectors. Seri had been his instructor before they'd fallen for each other. After their first night making love together they agreed that he could no longer be her student and the next day she introduced him to another instructor. From there their bond had grown and they would practice their exercises together in the garden in the early morning sun. She was a Master of the arts by the time he had progressed through the ranks of an initiate. Weltherwithsp progressed quickly and soon he was able enough to merge his style with hers and they were as one. They would think and move in anticipation of each other.

As the first wave of attackers approached they moved together to dispatch them quickly. They needed no weapons though they possessed them to be sure. They were well trained with them well beyond what a swordsman or pikesman might be.

"We need to keep them close to the gate! They'll be slowed to a crawl trying to break through the opening. That should give time to the guards to muster reinforcements from the barracks!" Weltherwithsp spoke to her as he danced with a combatant.

He dispatched his foe and turned to see that she was already pushing them back. She'd made her way between their pikes and into their faces. With their weapons to long to wield in close quarters they were ineffective. She pushed the first line back twenty yards by the time Weltherwithsp had returned to her side. He flanked them ensuring the swordsmen could not get around the first line leaving Seri to push them back ever closer to the gate.

Weltherwithsp fought with the line behind the pikesmen attempting to get around to their flank as the reinforcements arrived. The guards rushed in pushing the line back to the front gates where a vicious battle for control of the gates ensued. Weltherwithsp fought his way forward to the chain pullies which kept the porticullis hoisted in place. The invading force had attacked with such haste they'd dispatched the guardsmen in charge of managing the gates. He scaled the wall ladder to the wall top and found the lever.

"Stand clear!" he yelled to the town's guardsmen.

He hefted the lever and for a moment nothing happened. Then all at once the ten ton porticullis dropped dividing a portion of the attackers from those outside waiting to get in. The guards fought with the remainders of the attackers until there were none.

For a moment there was silence.

"How long before they begin to lay siege?" Seri asked Weltherwithsp.

"They'll probably wait a day but not longer than that. Their commander will not want to lose the momentum. They won't attack at night as they'll need rest and to set up any siege equipment should they have any. We have a day of time to prepare." Weltherwithsp told her.

"Then let us tend to the wounded and do just that." Seri told her lover.

"You've a gash on your forehead." Seri examined him as he returned to the ground.

"You've a bit of sweat on your brow." he said as he wiped it with a silk kerchief from his belt.

"We've still got our lives." she said to him looking around.

"...and our love." Weltherwithsp replied.

"Let's put them to good use then, shall we?" she made her way to the wounded and together they tended to them.

They began tending to the wounded the second assault upon the township was mounted, this time with catapults and trebuchet.

The Ballerina: August 2002

She had studied ballet for most of her early life. It had been dream of hers to become a successful ballerina and marry the handsome Prince from the time that she was a little girl in her little girl fantasies. What she'd imagined that all marriage was like. That was how her Mommy and Daddy had met because that's how all Mommies and Daddies met. The world was fairy tale made just for little girls to grow up into healthy and happy Women. She was just such a little girl who would grow up a ballerina and one day she'd meet her Prince charming and live happily ever after.

When she'd become old enough she'd started studying ballet and began performing in her first stage performances only a year later. By the age of twelve she was the star performer in her dance theater company's yearly performance. Her life had become the fairy tale that she'd always dreamed of but even fairy tales had turmoil. Most little girls don't dream of turmoil and she most certainly didn't.

It was upon leaving from her most recent live performance at the age of seventeen that she was abducted. She'd left the dressing room after cleaning herself up and getting ready for her trip home with her high school boyfriend. She'd made her way out of the building to the back parking lot where a van sat in the dark. As she exited the building the man had approached her.

"Tina? Could you come with me? Its about your boyfriend..." he said to her.

She looked at the man startled. He was much older than her and appeared nicely dressed and authoritative. She assessed his appearance and assumed that she could trust him and followed him to the darkness and the van where the other men lay in wait. When she was in the shadows they emerged and threw her in the side door of the van where nobody heard her muffled screams.

She heard them yelling at one another but couldn't see them for they'd cloaked her head in a black hood. They were yelling about someone they called Torman. Someone else had said he'd fled to an Island somewhere in the South Atlantic and how they were on their own. They argued about whether they'd been seen or not. There was much commotion as she struggled and eventually she tired herself out falling asleep with tears in her eyes. Maybe her Prince would come and rescue her she'd thought to herself but he'd not been the man she'd been led to believe he was. He'd been in on her abduction from the start. She she fell unconscious as a sense of panic set in.

"Wake up! Are you hungry?" one of the men asked her lifting the cloak enough so he could loosen her gag.

"Let me go!" she screamed.

He quickly put the gag back on her.

"Don't worry. Nobody will hear her." another voice spoke urging the man to remove the gag once more.

"What do you want from me?!" she screamed at them still unable to see them.

"We know that a lot of people care about you. Your parents have money. Money we want some of. They're going to buy you back from us and this will all be over. So in the mean time do you want anything to..." the man told her.

Her leg sprang up when she'd heard his voice directly before her face. Her leg clipped his package sending pain through his lower body. He screamed at her.

"You little..." he fell to ground gasping.

"I thought you tied her legs?" another voice asked.

"I'll bet that hurt. I like you kid. You've got a lot of spirit. He's a jackass and he deserved it anyway." a more subtle voice said to her.

"Do you think that I'm stupid? Naive?" she asked aloud feigning confidence.

The truth was that she was terrified.

"What do you mean?" the softer voice asked her.

"I mean you're playing nice guy so that I warm up to you. So I trust you. Aren't you? Then your friends will be mean to me and you'll slowly become my friend so you can get information about my parents!" she yelled at him still terrified.

"What would give you that..." his voice was cut off as her leg once again connected this time with the soft voiced man's package.

He gasped falling to the floor beside the other who was just getting to his feet.

"See how you like it." her first victim stood kicking him again.

"Let me go!" she screamed again.

Her first victim stepped up to her winding up. He punched her in the side of her head instantly knocking her unconscious. The world remained black until her dreams started and when they did she felt like a little girl in her own fairy tale. That was when from nowhere the Dragon spoke to her.


She awoke to the smell of food near her. She was still blindfolded but managed find the food with her hands. She then found a plastic utensil. She struggled with it for a second hoping she'd found a plastic knife with which to free or defend herself. She found the rounded edge of a spoon and her hopes were momentarily dashed. She took the spoon and shoveled food from the plate into her mouth. The taste of half cold vegetables tickled her senses and her stomach groaned as she chewed them. She felt around the plate and found a chicken thigh. She moved on and found a bread roll which she stuffed into her mouth trying to quell her hunger.

"If you eat that all there's a desert for you." the soft voiced man spoke.

"I don't want anything from you. You're trying to buy me." she told him truthfully.

"Well I hate to tell you, but you're for sale. If your parents don't buy you, you'll be moved to the another market altogether. Believe me. You'll want to be sold to your parents before you end up on that one." the soft voiced man said to her.

"My parents will come for me. So will the Police and the Swat teams. You'll see. When they do you'll be sorry." she said to him.

"I've heard that before many times." he said to her.

"You're trying to break me down." Tina said to him.

"You're already broken. You just need some time to adjust. You'll see. You're attitude will be much different in a few days. In a few weeks you'll be eating out of our hands." he told her based upon his prior experiences.

She ignored him and continued eating with her hands what she could from her plate and then lay her head down beside her plate sneaking the plastic spoon into her lap. She lay still and listened carefully. It was silent for a long time and she could feel his eyes upon her examining her even through her blindfold. She became disgusted with the idea of any of these so called me taking her and her spirits fell. There were some things that she was still saving for the right man and that was one she intended to defend with her own life if necessary and most certainly with theirs. When she heard the creaking of the man's chair and then his heavy footsteps on the floor she slid her hands to her lap and began carefully breaking away pieces of the plastic spoon shaping it into a sharpened weapon.

That was when the voice of the Dragon spoke to her again though in her mind. Then the voice of the little girl much the same. She jumped in her seat slightly nearly dropping the spoon.

"He's gone. Don't worry. He's a sound sleeper. He won't be back until morning." the little girl spoke to her.

The serpentine Dragon slithered its way through the air, a tremendous pair of butterfly's wings carried it through the air gracefully.

"That's a monster. A Dragon!" Tina asked the little girl.

Tina had still been living with her little girl notion that Dragons and snakes were monsters that Princes were meant to save them from. Her handsome Prince had turned out to be in on her kidnapping and that had thrown her world upside down.

Maybe the kidnappers were just playing with her. Trying to skewer her interpretation of the truth again to break her down. Ironically she'd done a book report only a year earlier for school on the topic of Patricia Hearst. Patricia had been kidnapped in the mid nineteen seventies by a group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. An extremist group at the time seeking a reorganization of society and its leadership to conform to its standards and a redistribution of the social wealth. They'd even brainwashed and sexually assaulted Patricia at that time until interest in the case peaked with Patricia's recorded statements claiming that she'd joined the group.

The group eventually fell during one of the biggest shootouts in Police history with over nine thousand rounds having been fired. Patricia Hearst had been captured by FBI and later tried for her part in a bank robbery. She was later exonerated by President Jimmy Carter and then pardoned by President Bill Clinton. If not for Tina's book report and interest in the case she might have fallen for the soft voiced man's ploy. Such brainwashing schemes often involved subjecting a victim to repeated turmoil by members and then being mired by a softer more personable member with whom the victims will often confide even their deepest secrets. Tina was not going to fall for the ploy of these kidnappers and for all she knew they could be a part of such an extremist group themselves. She'd heard their leader's name whom they'd referred to as Torman though she'd never heard of the name before.

Tina focused once again on the Dragon before her amazed by its appearances. An ebb of colors emanated from it's body in a brilliant rainbow aura. The little girl stood beside it much smaller and certainly no more than five years old.

"I'm Tina. What's your name?" Tina asked the little girl.

"I'm Warai. This is Welly. Welly won't hurt you. Welly is a friend and sometimes even funny." Warai assured Tina.

"How do you know about them... The kidnappers? Who are they and why are they doing this?" Tina asked Warai as the Dragon coiled itself on the ground its upper body hovering before her.

"They're bad people that will get caught soon but not now. Listen to Welly. Welly will tell you better than I can." Warai pleaded with Tina.

Tina was frustrated and upset and on the verge of just giving up. She'd managed to hang onto a little bit of her little girl hope. The hope that her Prince charming would come to her rescue but more and more she realized that might not happen. Just one of her little girl dreams and she was on the verge of becoming a woman. She had to face reality and wait for her parents and family to pay the ransom and hope the Police caught them. The kidnappers who were already trying to break her down.

"Little Warai is right and you'll be alone all night unless you find it in yourself to nurture that wealth of time you've put in your body to hone your dance and you'll get your chance. It might take time. More than you know but in that time your strength will grow. They have the key in their possession one you could say was Torman's obsession. One day you're free to find their gold and when you do just as I've told you'll take them on and with your heart you'll free yourself: that's your new start. Your golden chains paired with the powers of the mist. Just like Alice you'll step through the looking glass..." Welly told Tina.

"If you know how to get free, then why can't I leave now?! Why can't you just tell them to come get me?" Tina demanded inside of her dream.

"We can only speak to you. We can't speak to anyone else. You are alone and have to find your own way out. Welly can give you the clues. You have to trust us." Warai pleaded once again.

"I don't see why it has to be this way! Maybe you're a trick like! Like how what they did to Patricia Hearst! You're trying to trick me. They're being the mean ones and you're the nice ones knowing that I'll open up to you." Tina accused Warai and Welly.

"You need to get to the dresser in the upstairs. The top drawer on the right hand side. A bottle and a pill in a bag." Warai explained as best she could.

"Are you saying that you want me to hurt myself? Take a pill to die?" Tina retreated from them a few steps growing more and more confused.

"We'll return when you need us most. Please trust us when we do. Please... You'll need them when the Butterfly... The Butterfly Dragon comes to save you... Please trust me us..." with that said the vision of the little girl Warai faded and the Dragon lifted off from the ground flying into the darkness.

Tina slept with the smell of her half eaten dinner beside her face on a plate. She just wanted this nightmare to end.

She felt someone pushing her shoulder.

"Hey. Hey! Your breakfast! We've got a busy day. We've got a buyer for you and after seeing your picture he's paying handsomely for you. Looks like you're a real winner after all cause you just made us all rich." the man's voice told her.

She recognized the voice of the first man she'd kicked in the package from the prior day. She sat up still blindfolded when she smelled the scent of the soft voiced man.

"He's right. We've got a buyer. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. Just so you know, your parents do really love you too. They're also going to pay us so this is a good day for us. We've sold you twice to two different buyers. Our best scam yet. So eat your breakfast because you've got a big day ahead of you." he told her softly.

"You bastard!" she screamed at him struggling to get free of the layer of duct tape that bound her abdomen to the chair.

He got up quietly and left her with her breakfast. She lay her face down on the table and cried as they got ready to put their plans into action.

By the time she awoke her kidnappers had prepared for their departure and she knew from that moment that she'd never see them again as the person she'd once been.

The soft voiced kidnapper sat down beside her one last time and spoke.

"Soon you'll be in the possession of someone who paid a lot of money for you. That's our real business and we'll be gone with your parent's money and the money paid for you by your representative. They'll be here to pick you up soon but we're leaving you with someone to keep you company. Just in case you think of making a run for there's nobody else around for ten kilometers and that's only in one direction. Its been a pleasure knowing you and just in case you're wondering. Yes, that's exactly what I was trying with you. I am the soft one, they're the hard ones. We've broken many a girl like yourself with that method and a few more to boot. Enjoy you're new life. You'll get used to it. They all resist at first but eventually you'll get into it. You might even start to like it." he said to her feeling the rage and disgust build in her.

Her breathing rose as her temper flared but she kept herself calm and held her tears. She was going to need all of the energy she could find in herself and she intended to turn this situation around.

"I am going to get free of this and when I do, I'm going to come find you and our roles will be reversed." she spat at him.

He stood up quietly unperturbed directing his men to start loading their van and preparing for their departure. She calmed herself ignoring her growing hunger. She thought that if they were professionals at conducting this scam, that they might have drugged her breakfast knowing that she might try to escape with the reduced manpower to keep an eye on her. Instead she dragged her breakfast of fried eggs and hash browns onto the floor and kicked it under the table. They might not notice them on the floor and think she'd eaten already. Her stomach groaned when she smelled it and she wanted to eat but she couldn't take the chance. There'd be time for good food when she was free.

Ever since this whole ordeal had started her head had been spinning with distrust but ultimately it came down to trusting herself. Tina was her own real ally right now. She guessed the intent of the little girl in her dreams, Warai and her pet Dragon was most likely good but it could have been Tina's own delusion. She could have made them up in shock, retreating to her little girl fantasies of Dragons and Princes and fairy tales. The truth was that she had to grow up and deal with this in real world terms. Not rely on a dream but on herself.

She was strong. She'd been a ballerina since the age of six for a total of eleven years of hard study and practice. Her body was a finely sculpted example of her dedication to her art. As a result she'd excelled in most sports as well even being able to compete with students much bigger than herself. She could exercise without tire for hours upon end only breaking a light sweat when she did so. She was agile and fast yet still with a thin and deceivingly graceful appearance. The years of practice and repetition would make her a powerful adversary if she'd known how to focus it. She put her face down on the table once again and waited for the main group to leave.

The person they were leaving behind was a cigarette smoker and he was told to go outside and smoke for to avoid the risk of getting the stench of cigarette smoke onto their ballerina victim. That would be a dead giveaway. How could a seventeen year old girl with such a finely sculpted body be a cigarette smoker? Her buyer would be taking her out into the public soon and they couldn't leave any suspicions open for someone to call the Police.

Her story had made headlines in the news already and people were going to be very attentive and on the lookout for her. The kidnappers had come across that before in their profession and their cover story was that she was a mental illness patient. They'd stolen the identity of a real mental illness patient that even looked a little similar to her. They'd procured a bottle of anti-psychotic medication to make their story convincing should there be a check during her transport. They'd also been secretly tainting her food with a psychotic substance in order to make her behavior a little more erratic than normal. They'd been in this business for a long time and had become quite good at covering their tracks. After all when the speculation price for a such a girl was upwards of millions of dollars, that paid for a lot of cover.

The speculation price was really a price that they'd anticipated they could sell her for once she'd been broken and "trained" for sale on the human and sex trafficking markets. There was a big market for it as there were many wealthy purchasers who would take possession of these victims who'd essentially had their identities erased after they'd been broken. Those that were not as attractive as Tina would sometimes be offered up as prizes for those who worked for the traffickers and when that failed to appease their employees the money often did. When they had trouble from any of their employees they'd just turn them into a product or make them disappear. There were many buried "problems" around the world to confirm that story. Tina had become one more casualty in a string of forgotten casualties in a secret trafficking ring.

The Anklets, The Bottle And The Pill

She woke up with a start lifting her head from the table. Her cheek was numb and throbbing from having remained motionless for so long and her body ached from lack of use.

"Hey! I need some water! I'm thirsty!" she yelled as she felt around on the table for food and drink.

She waited a moment and when she heard no response and no sounds from movement in the house she lifted her blindfold. Her eyes watered as daylight hit them and she put her hands over them to block the sunlight. She ran her hands around the table looking for anything she could find to break the restraints that kept her abdomen bound to the chair. She found a ceramic coffee cup which she clasped tightly in her hand smashing it on the table a few times before it broke. She then looked around the table for a sizable enough piece and began using its edge to saw at the duct tape which held her in place. After a few strokes the tape broke though it had nearly been an inch thick and many times layered. She struggled with it using her hands and finally managed to break it. She fell to the floor with a crash, her legs still asleep. They tingled as she lay there on the floor waiting to see if anyone came to check on the noise. When she failed to hear any response she got up and ran for the front door stumbling as she did. She tripped once again nearly driving her face into the door just catching the door knob with her hands to steady her fall.

She looked out of a window beside the door and shrank behind the door when she saw a man having a cigarette out near the end of the driveway ten car lengths away. He was talking on a cellular phone as he dropped the cigarette stomping on it he pulled another from his pack and lit it. She sighed with relief and ran for the stairs to the second floor. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs in the house which was barren of furniture and linens except the beds and bedding upon them. In the third bedroom she found a dresser and upon seeing it she ran over to it.

She ripped the top drawer open looking the contents over. There were numerous magazines and books and up in the right hand side was a small transparent bag with a small and dark spray bottle and two capsule pills. She thought about what the Dragon had told her in her dreams and decided that it must not have been a delusion. She grabbed them and put them in her pocket. She then looked around for a phone or anything she could use to contact the outside world. None of the walls even had phone jacks nor were there any electronics except for a small radio in one room and a thirty two inch panel television in the other. She quickly ran down the stairs almost falling once again just catching the hand rail in time averting disaster. She darted over to the window looking out to see if he'd done his cigarette. He still had the cellular phone pressed to his face and a cigarette in the other hand. Tina got up keeping clear of the windows looking for a phone or a weapon on the main floor. Much like the second floor, the first was empty not even having an oven. There was a fridge that was filled with water bottles and what looked like discarded leftovers from takeout though it appeared to be several months old.

She checked the drawers in the kitchen hoping to find a knife instead only finding discarded plastic cutlery and condiment packaging and several rolls of duct tape. She grabbed two rolls of the duct tape and quickly closed the drawer and ran for the back door. Her hopes fell when she noticed that the door had been welded and nailed shut. The other windows were all too small even for someone of her modest frame. She would have struggled getting her head out of one let alone her body. Her hopes dashed she instead decided she'd try once again when they tried to transport her. She ran back over to her chair and began wrapping herself in duct tape to hide the fact that she'd been free at all. By the time she had her blindfold back on she heard a latch turn on a lock and a warm breeze coming from the direction of the door. A moment later a pair of hands grabbed her shoulders keeping her still and they covered her head with a hood and tightened a rope around her neck just enough to ensure that she could not see a thing.

Someone cut the tape binding her to the chair and led her out of the front door and into the van that had been waiting to transport her into her new life. Her hope of escape faded as the opportunity never once presented itself. Instead she adjusted to her new life as they attempted to indoctrinate her. The last link that she had with what she'd left behind was the spray bottle, the pill and gold anklets she'd been given as a gift for her first ballet performance. She managed to hang onto her memorabilia undetected and that proved an anchor against what the process of breaking her. The spray bottle and pill because the little girl Warai and the Dragon had told her to. The anklets reminded her of whom she had once been.

On one fateful night when the Butterfly Dragon came to collect the bill from the kidnappers for all the Butterflies they'd taken, those anklets, the spray bottle and the pill would save her life.

The Dreamer: 2006

She'd run the same path through park many times on her jog. This night was no different. The air blowing through her hair and her heart pounding in her ears. She loved the sensation and the feeling. The freedom of being alive and on her feet. She stopped as she arrived at the end of the path and arrive at the pedestrian cross walk.

The lights changed and she started across still catching her breath. When she arrived in the middle of the road the lights hit her. High beams. She tried to run but found that she couldn't move and collapsed to the ground. Her legs were useless and unmoving. They mocked her plight. Perhaps in spite over the rest of her body's health. She struggled with her hands, pulling and drawing herself but she only made it a foot before the vehicles tires...

She woke up sweating. She'd tried to scream and only found her body had become paralyzed. Like her legs in her waking nightmare. She sat back in her bed and cried as she had the night before and the one before last. When her heart had slowed enough, she closed her eyes and fell back asleep and found her dream again. Running in the park and so free. She loved freedom and for that reason she continued her run. Towards the same crosswalk and the lights. Pressing the button and waiting. Catching her breath. Then she proceeded across under the flashing lights. No truck was going to take her freedom but then the headlights. And the truck. And the...

Little girl. Was she Asian? Chinese? Japanese? Korean?

The little girl reached out to her. From the space separating her and the oncoming truck. Like an angel. Behind her the wings. A serpent with wings. An angel and a devil?

"Please Miss. You need to come with me. Hurry... Please. You have to trust me..." Warai spoke her Korean accent audible in her English speech.

The serpent behind her hovered in place. Its face peered out from behind her. A demon of the sky or a devil? Did it smile? Was it laughing at her plight? It slithered through the air behind the little girl who may have been an angel.

"Please! Welly is not bad. You need to trust us. Please!" she pleaded.

The serpent's wings grew into shadows against the headlamps of the truck. It didn't move or try to make way for the vehicle. Nor did the little girl.

"I can't do it all for you. You have to trust me. Welly won't hurt you!" Warai's eyes said it all.

"What you see and what you perceive can keep you trapped by what you believe..." the flying demon spoke in a poetic and somewhat whimsical voice.

Did serpents and dragons really speak like that?

The lady reached for the angel's hands and when she found them they clasped hers with the warmth and light of innocence.

She awoke. In the waiting room. In her wheelchair. She'd fallen asleep waiting for the Doctor and her appointment. The dream was just the same and like the night she'd accepted the girls beckoning hands. She'd found her answer. The miracle that could end her nightmare. She just had to face her fear. When she'd seen the serpent at first, she thought of the devil. The snake and the forbidden fruit. She'd thought it a sign and the girl only a deception. Every night the same thing and for weeks she'd feared the serpent and then the little girl. For that simple reason.

She didn't know why on that fateful night that she'd taken her hands. She only knew that she'd faced her fear of serpents.

he following day after her nightmare dream she'd been reading a medical journal when she came across it. The thing that had changed her mind about her nightmares. It was on an advertisement from the medical association. The logo had caught her eye and as soon as she saw it she remembered her nightmare and what the flying snake had said to her:

What you see and what you perceive can keep you trapped by what you believe...

She realized that she had in her own imagination implied something much different upon the flying serpent the night before she had trusted the little girl. She had seen the serpent as a demon. A symbol of treachery and deceit. It wasn't the serpent from the tree and the apple at all. It was the serpent of the healer. A different kind of serpent and an age old one at that. Now she had a context that she could trust. Something that was tangible. Was her mind playing tricks on her? Her dreams foretelling of her future? Precognition?

Her mind and focus returned to the waiting room where she thought about her most recent dreams. Two nights ago she'd had the same dream and had felt at ease and calm, even in the impending face of doom. She'd fallen just as she had halfway across the crosswalk when the headlamps hit her. The wings of the flying serpent who flew behind the little girl. The little girl extended her hands pleading for her to accept. She was there to help. Then the lady accepted her, the little angel and reached out to accept the little Korean girl.

That next day she'd set up an appointment at her clinic where she'd go for physiotherapy. It was time to get all the facts rather than stay hidden in the dark with her suspicions. Her fears. Her superstitions. She'd arrived for her appointment nervously. Something was different about this day. When the Doctor had spoken to her she'd handed her a brochure labeled SY-349: A Miraculous New Start.

She thumbed through the brochure reading about the remarkable qualities of this newly developed treatment. It looked a little bit too good to be true and enough so to reinforce her sense of skepticism. When she found her way to the last page she noticed the logo. Tynan and Associates. Their logo depicted the letter T intertwined by the helix of DNA. She looked at it carefully noting how remarkably similar to the medical association logo it had looked. The T and the intertwined DNA helix resembled the winged serpent from her dreams. The serpent might have been DNA for all she knew. Using the powers of DNA and cellular mitosis to rebuild damaged portions of the body. She immediately agreed to take part in the program and that was the beginning. Her new beginning since having lost her legs to that horrible accident all those years ago. Since overcoming her fears she'd become a completely different person and with new legs of her own. She'd also become something different. Something much more than she'd ever would have thought possible. However she was still the same person that she was before her little angel had come to her dreams with the miracle and her name was Elizabeth Tandy.

True Partners

"I'll drive, you keep six. I have a bad feeling about this one." Officer Tristan said as they walked to the car.

"No way. I'll drive. If you have a bad feeling then I want you keeping six. You're a better spotter." Officer Tandy replied indicating how well she'd known her partner.

"Yeah. Alright. But I'm getting us back here alive after you bang up our car." Officer Tristan returned walking to the passenger side.

"You wish." Officer Tandy smiled back at him opening the driver door.

They'd been given instructions to look into some complaints they'd been receiving about a small warehouse located in the south end of the city. The warehouse was tucked into an alley behind a bottling plant. During the 1950s the area had bustled with business and since had changed much, leaving the warehouse unowned and operated for years. The land had been city property and had recently seen some activity despite the fact that the warehouse had been vacant for years.

Officer Tandy drove the short distance to the warehouse and pulled around just out of site. Most of the windows seemed to be sealed up from the inside and painted over.

"Whaddaya think?" asked Officer Tristan from the passenger seat.

"Vagrancy maybe? Looks suspicious. I think we should check it out. Probably a scrubby found his way in. We'll get him out and to a warm place for the night and all should be alright. We've got the key and a court authorization for entry should we need to. Let's do it." Officer Tandy replied whispering.

"Lets go. I've got your back." Officer Tristan assured her.

"...and I've got your front. My hero." she said sarcastically.

They quietly got out of the car and approached the building looking for any signs of recent use, wear and tear on the tiny lawn or lights in the interior. Officer Tristan looked in the mailbox and found a number of items addressed specifically to a John Doe. Literally with that name. He looked to Tandy raising his eyebrows and she gestured to the door.

She pulled the keyring from her belt and unlocked the key container and then used the key she retrieved to unlock bolt. They turned the handle to the door and stepped in.

"Toony that better be you and you better have my lunch! You didn't forget my pop did you?" someone yelled from inside the warehouse.

Officer Tandy looked quizzically to Officer Tristan who signaled her to proceed down the hall to the other side of an opening where he'd cover her. She stepped across the doorway and onto the other side of the opening down the hall. It appeared to be a bathroom at the end of the hall and a dead end.

"Who the heck is that? You better have a good... Holy crap!" a male in his mid twenties in a cutoff shirt jumped behind cabinet.

Officer Tristan smelled the air. They'd been cooking something. Not food for certain and there was a slight smell of pungent chemicals. Officer Tandy nodded to her partner.

"Police! Come out with your hands in the air above your head. No sudden movements." Officer Tandy yelled.

Officer Tristan kept his hand on his holster.

A man ran out from the room beyond a small gun in his hand. He fired twice and hit the wall beside Officer Tandy's head.

Officer Tristan immediately drew his pistol and went in low while Officer Tandy covered him with hers.

"Now do what she said! Do it! Drop it!" Officer Tristan proceeded low into the room observing three men, one with the pistol and the other a sawed off shotgun. The one with the pistol fired several shots clipping Tristan's armor. He proceeded eating the pain and fired back, hitting his target in the arm.

The male with the shotgun fired hitting Tristan square in shoulder spinning him to the ground leaving him screaming in pain.

Officer Tandy moved almost too fast to be seen into the room grabbing the shotgun swinging it like a club, bringing the burly man down. The third man fell to the ground pleading for her not to shoot. She immediately kicked the weapons away from them and retreated to Tristan's spot.

"This is Officer 715 at the site of our last call. We have an Officer down! We need backup and medical now!" she said yelling into her belt radio keeping the assailants covered.

She side stepped to Officer Tristan who was breathing erratically and struggling to stay alive.

"I think... Its fading... Just tell... My... Wi..." Officer Tristan struggled to get his last words out.

Officer Tandy put her free hand onto the wound. Her hand started to glow and she struggled against a great pain of her own. Tristan's breathing eased as his wound slowly disappeared healing over before his eyes. Feeling energized he jumped onto his feet his gun before him.

"Is the coast clear? What the heck did you do to me? They didn't teach me that in training!" Officer Tristan joked with Officer Tandy, who was struggling to remain conscious.

Officer Tristan kept his focus on the assailants though he'd felt different. He felt stronger and the room seemed very strange to him. Like he could sense everything about it. From all angles. He'd even seen the assailants as they were, before they'd entered. They'd been the back. It was a small operation but enough to keep a good portion of the downtown area supplied in powder.

A moment later another group of Officers burst into the warehouse tactically making their way to Officer Tandy and Officer Tristan.

They immediately searched and cuffed the assailants while another two officers checked on Officer Tandy and Officer Tristan.

"Can you hear me?" the newly arrived Officer spoke to Officer Tandy checking her for injury.

"Yeah. I'm OK. Just grazed me and I got a little scared is all." Officer Tandy replied.

"What about him?" the Officer asked of Tristan.

"I'm alright! I thought I was a goner but..." Officer Tristan was interrupted.

"I pushed him out of the way. No harm done." Officer Tandy interrupted him.

"Yeah. That's what happened." Officer Tristan confirmed looking at Officer Tandy Quizzically afraid to tell his peers about the miracle his partner had produced to revive him.

One of the things they taught you is to be a team. You and your partner. You had to be in sync and if you weren't, you were dead. She had taken the lead in that conversation for a point and he'd have to wait until later to find out from her what it was about. Until that time he was just grateful that she'd somehow been able to heal his wound, and even improve him in some way that he didn't understand.

"You'd better just take it easy for a bit too, Tristan." Officer Tandy told him.

"Yeah. I'm going to take a look and see what we got." Officer Tristan told her.

"Just be careful. Don't touch anything. The crime scene lab is on the way. We'll be too busy in an hour from now filling out paper work." she reminded him.

"Well that's a lot better than spending it in a freezer. Thanks partner." Officer Tristan nodded, making his way into the cook shop to have a peek.

He'd seen a few refining facilities before but it wasn't as bad a problem as some might think. It seemed to grow and shrink in cycles in conjunction with supply and the availability of facilities to refine it.

"Alright. Let's back up. We gotta let the Crime Lab check this out." the Commanding Officer arrived taking over the scene.

"Now that you've had a look in here you can go outside and see if the Crime lab is here. Outdoors. Oh and Tristan. Good job!" the Commanding Officer told his Officers holding his thumb up for him.

"No Sir. It was all Tandy's. She gets the credit. I'll take the assist." Officer Tristan told him.

He nodded admiringly back to Tristan and closed the trapdoor as they proceeded outside.

Officer Tandy had felt much better and had stepped outside for some air.

"How you feeling partner?" Officer Tristan asked her.

"A lot better. How about yourself?" she returned the concern.

"Great. You mind telling me what happened in there?" Tristan asked her candidly.

"You weren't well. So I healed you." she said nonchalantly.

"C'mon. Listen to you. What's that supposed to mean. Are you like a faith healer now?" Tristan joked.

"You're my partner right?" she checked with him.

"Yeah. Of course. What kind of question is that?" he seemed a little puzzled.

"Well, I just need you to promise me you won't tell anyone what I'm about to tell you." she looked at him seriously.

"What? That you want to do your own secret Vaudeville Show on ice or something? You can tell me anything partner and its as good as safe for keeps." he assured her.

"Three years ago, I used to be in a wheelchair. I was paraplegic. I had no use of either of my legs. Whatsoever." she confided in him.

"Come on. Don't play with me here. I've never seen anyone run like you. What are you saying. You're like the Bionic Woman or something?" Tristan asked her again trying to lighten it up.

"No. I'm not the Bionic Woman." she giggled hitting his arm before continuing.

"I went through an experimental treatment. For my condition. It had worked on a lot of other people very well. Gave them normal lives. Some more successfully than others but it gave results more so than anyone ever could have imagined. Haven't you seen the Tynan commercials?

"Yeah. Tynan. Just in time to change lives... Tynan And Associates. That commercial?" Officer Tristan said imitating the announcer from the commercial drawing a smile from Tandy.

"Well, during the treatment I'd noticed that I was healing faster than the program had predicted, and in the first month, my musculature and nerves had completely regenerated. In other words I was already able to walk within the first month of treatment from not being able to walk at all since the accident that took my mobility from me." she said to him an intense look on her face.

"That's unbelievable." he said.

"We continued with the treatments despite my faster than average healing. They said that it might have been a spike, in my body's response to the properties of the formula. So they continued regardless expecting things would balance out. Over the next month, I'd started having strange dreams anytime I'd interact with something. I'd like remember the recent past of whatever I'd touch. The more I tuned myself to something the more information I'd get about it. Where it was, what happened around it. Everything. Then one day the same thing happened with one of the workers at the lab. I touched them and I saw them. Their home life. Their past. Everything. As it continued things just got more and more bizarre and when I'd finished the program it took a week for me to calm down enough to even go outside. I was so sensitive to everything. When finally I did come out of my shell. I could do things that I'd only ever dreamt of." she told him.

"No. Really. That's unbelievable." he said with a straight face.

She paused looking at him scornfully before he smiled back at her. She chuckled and hit him a bit harder on his arm.

"Ow! That really hurt! Ok. Now I believe you. You're like Super Police Woman. Ow, that really..." Tristan tried his best to lighten her mood, though rubbing his arm.

"You finished?" she asked him seriously.

"Ok. Go on." he nodded to her.

She looked at him a moment with a bit of a smirk before she started speaking.

"So I thought to myself after only ever having had run in my dreams that I wanted to do something physical. Something that would require me to be my best. I did the entrance exam for the Police College and was in class training the following week. Since that time I've been learning the ropes of Policing and my own limits. The limits of these new abilities. I've only touched the surface. Who knows what's in store?" Officer Tandy finished her story.

"You said you experienced hallucinations. Kind of like waking dreams? Kind of like you were there at a different time?" Officer Tristan asked her.

"Yes. Exactly. How did you know?" she asked him.

"Because after you healed me with your Super Police Woman powers..." he dodged her attempt to hit him before continuing.

"Something similar happened to me. When I we were investigating the warehouse." he told her.

"So you're saying that you have the same powers now?" she asked him.

"Well maybe. I mean that's exactly what happened. I could see the perpetrators from the warehouse like I was seeing them a few hours before. There I was, a few hours in the past and they were cooking up a storm of powder." he explained his experience to her.

"You mean then that I can make other people... Like me? How can I test that?" she asked him.

He looked around for a moment and then got an idea.

"Hit me! Not in the arm. I mean in the face. Leave a bruise. Really!" he pointed at his cheek and held it out for her.

"I'm not going to hit you! Are you nuts!" she laughed at him.

"Come on! You just hit my arm all those times and you can't hit me in the face? Do it so we can test this. Then I can try to heal it! You can try to heal it. Then we'll do it again and I'll try." he offered the suggestion and his cheek.

Officer Tandy stood back thinking carefully about his suggestion.

"Fair enough." she immediately wound up and hit him square across the cheek.

"Arrrgh! Owww! Did you have to hit me so hard!" he held his hand to his face.

"Well you said..." she started.

"I know. I know. Just try to heal it! Quick! Man that hurt!" he told her his face puffing up and welling out.

She put her hand up to his face and concentrated for a moment.

Nothing happened.

"Wait! What's happening. Why isn't it working?" she asked him looking at her hands in amazement.

"Ok. Let me try." he said putting his hand on his wound.

Moments later his hand began to glow and his bruise disappeared.

"You stole my powers!" she accused to him.

"You gave them to me!" he replied.

"No I didn't. I tried to heal you. You were wounded." she explained.

"Well maybe they wanted to come to me. Maybe they liked me better." he said to her.

"But you can walk." she said to him.

"So can you apparently." he replied to her and then he thought about it.

"Wait a minute. You're saying that if they were transferred to me, that you eventually might not be able to walk. Your legs might just fold. Not work anymore." Tristan attempted to understand her.

"Exactly! It might take a while but my legs might just seize. I might just fall where I am unable to walk anywhere. We won't know it until it happens." she confirmed her theory to him.

"Well then. I'd better give them back. Just in case. I wouldn't want that happening while we were on a call." he said to her.

"Or when it was my turn to get the coffee and donuts." she joked with him already feeling a little bit weak in her legs and losing her balance.

Officer Tristan caught her as she fell sideways. He put his hands to hers and after a moment his hands lit up and her body glowed momentarily. She steadied herself against him and managed to regain her balance standing up on her own two feet.

"That's much better." she said feeling the sensation in her legs coming back.

"Ok. Now how do we test that it worked?" he asked.

She wound up and punched him again in the cheek.

"Owwww~!!! Why did you do that for?! You could have at least..." he said rubbing his face.

"Ok. Try healing it." she said.

"Oh. Alright." he put his hands to his face and attempted to heal the bruise slowly growing on his cheek.

He stood there for a moment realizing that it wasn't going to work.

"Alright. I guess that means that..." he realized that she could not heal him.

"'re going to have a bruise for a bit." she said to him going to the car and retrieving the first aid kit.

"Here, I'll do it the old fashioned way." she said to him.

"Thanks partner." Tristan replied.

"Hey? What are partners for?" she answered with that age old question.

The Dancer: July 2012

Once upon a time there was a beautiful woman with the most beautiful smile and the most graceful of poise. She would spend all of her days and nights dancing for the joy of the land and her life was just like a dream. Tina's life had become a dream and a blur. She'd been dancing the poles for as long as she could remember. At twenty six years of age she was in the prime of her life and as most with age she simply kept getting better. She drew the paying crowd and had been a star attraction at the club for a long time. Her immaculately sculpted body and ballerina like buxom kept them coming. Though she never bore it all for her audience they always wanted more.

She finished her show and stepped off the stage and to her dressing room. When she got there he was waiting there for her.

"I need you to do us a favor. Just once. For him." Markus said to her.

"You know I don't do that. For anyone." Tina said to him pushing him aside and making her way over to her vanity.

"This is different. He's important. He's a customer. You know the kind. And your ticket out of here." Markus turned to her lighting a cigarette.

"I said I don't do that. Not for anyone." Tina put her foot up on the marble counter top of her vanity and unclipped her heels careful not to entangle them in her anklets.

"He's ready to pay us five million dollars. If he likes your performance." Markus took a long haul on his cigarette.

"And if he doesn't he gets a freebie?" she asked him as she laced and tied her ballet shoes.

"He's still going to pay us." Markus assured her.

"You mean you. He's going to pay you." she responded quickly.

"Us." he corrected her though it was a lie.

The sound of the music system rumbled from beyond the walls of her dressing room.

"What does he do?" Tina examined her makeup in the mirror.

"He's a business man." Markus told her.

"What kind of business?" she stood looking at him inquisitively.

"Just business?" she asked.

"The money making business." he replied.

"You mean drugs? Trafficking? What?" she asked him.

He responded with silence.

"No way. The answer is still no." she stood on her toes stretching her leg straight up to her chest pointing her toes directly at the ceiling still standing on the toes of her left foot.

"I wasn't asking. I was telling you and you're going to do it." Markus said firmly.

"The answer is still no." she dropped her leg carefully switching to her right leg for support and raising her left leg to her chest.

"I'm calling the shots here and you're going to do it and you're going to like it. If you don't, I'll give you over to Smack Jack and you'll be turning tricks earning him thousands and making pocket change for yourself a year from now." Markus focused on her taking in the smoke from his cigarette and savoring it before putting it out.

"I'd die first or he would. Then you." Tina dropped her leg to the floor as she bent over folding her body touching her palms to the floor with ease.

"Is that a threat?" Markus stepped over to her menacingly.

"No. It was a statement of fact. Threats are idle falsehoods given by those too afraid to act." Tina unfolded her body as he approached.

Markus grabbed her by her shoulders and pinned her to the wall bringing his face an inch away from hers.

"I could break your precious little neck so easily right now. With just a twist it could all be over for you. Nobody would ever know." Markus spoke with disgust for her drawing away.

"You know you could never do it. They'd kill you." she eased her tension stepping away from the wall returning to her stretches.

"You're going with him tomorrow. You'd better be a good sales person and sell yourself well or..." Markus told her.

"Is that a threat?" she asked him.

"Be ready for your last dance tonight. You're working private dances too until 3 AM. That's an order." Markus barked at her.

"Yes Sir!" She stood tall saluting him then extending her middle finger as he left.

When he was gone she shrunk and fell to the floor and began to weep. She twirled her fingers around her anklet playing with it remembering her old life. All the years that had passed since she'd been taken by them. They'd even shot her parents during the ransom exchange before getting away leaving her literally without any family. The traffickers' other victims had become her only family and they too had disappeared one after the other over the years. As they'd been sold off or given away they'd be gone only to be replaced by new faces.

Somehow Tina had managed to stay untouched the whole time having earned her audience as an exotic dancer doing specialized dances for her wealthy clientele. They'd come watch her dance from inside the privacy of one of the elite rooms. She never touched them and they never touched her and from her rapport with them she had become respected and protected. Their reach was far and they kept an eye on her from within the trafficking ring and protected her from the clutches of the likes of Smack Jack. Smack Jack's namesake was based upon his treatment of his Women employees. The only reason he'd lasted so long was that fact that he had the market on the third rate customers. They were the bread and butter for the whole operation as it could not run on the hopes that a star performer would sell for a few million. Star performers were like comets. You'd be lucky to see one in your lifetime. The whole business disgusted Tina when she thought of it. Being treated like cattle. Graded and traded for cash.

She'd been one of the lucky ones as she'd heard tell of some Women being rounded up as young as eleven years old. Some sects in North America had prized them young and had even prized having many such wives. On the rare case that the kidnapper had grabbed a child, they'd often call contacts from such organizations as a fast sell. Hanging onto children for too long was a sure fire way to get caught and those caught didn't tend to last long in prison or the streets.

When Tina had been going through indoctrination, she'd seen one of the young ones they'd just acquired. They let her see on purpose to see what she'd do. Just as they'd predicted Tina had waited until the coast was clear and tried to phone the Federal Police to inform them of what was going on. The land line phone in the indoctrination facility had not been connected to the outside world but had been hard wired to one of the offices internally. The computer in this office could display the number she'd dialed and they'd just answered the phone and played along. Tina thought she'd spoken to the real Federal Police but instead she'd only talked with one kidnappers who'd pretended to be an enforcement agent.

She was certain that at any day they'd come bursting through the doors, guns blazing to rescue them. When she'd held out against the kidnappers techniques for far longer than most, they dashed her hopes by having the kidnapper she'd spoken to on the phone talk to her personally. He told her details from their conversation and her heart sank as her eyes filled with tears. She was broken when she found out that she'd been fooled. She broke down crying and screaming and they locked her up in a room by herself for three days. From that point she just went along with whatever they threw at her because they'd really covered all the exits and thought of every possible way that someone could seek to expose them. The next time she saw that they'd procured another young child she just cried quietly to herself though she never got used to it.

She'd had enough. If she was going to be sold in this manner she decided that she'd die trying to free herself rather than to play her part in this charade anymore. She'd do her end of the night dance for the audience and then her private dances in the elite rooms. Tomorrow when she left with her special customer, she'd try to make her escape. She would dance free or not dance at all.

And The Butterfly...

She was on the stage once again, her audience of wealthy pleasure seekers there to watch her move. Maybe they would remember her and when they were once again with their wives, they'd think of her. To them she may have been just the stand if for a moment's pleasure while to others she was the flower they'd hoped for all along. When she danced she was free. Free from any bindings either social or psychological. She was unbound and able to move and to feel her body holistically. She was alone in a room full of Men and some Women there to watch her. Perhaps they longed for what she had because they were prisoners too in their own way. To see someone already caught in the trap who'd somehow liberated their being despite. There were some things that could not be taken no matter the effort to take them.

She rarely noticed the individuals themselves within the audience. She was there alone on the stage and if they saw, they were seeing her as she was. She stretched her leg out before her and swinging herself around the pole sliding down gracefully. Elegance. She bore no part of herself in exploitation but instead she was a symmetry of curves and beauty. Alone. There was something however on this night. She for once had seen beyond the edge of the stage and out into the audience for it was there. Someone. Something? A Butterfly. The Butterfly Dragon.

There she stood beside the bar no drink beside her. Somehow she stood out from the crowd despite and that's when Tina had realized it. She had an aura. It extended around her a multitude of colors though mostly lavender, fuchsia and yellow with wisps of blue and fringes of green. It took on the form of enormous butterfly wings and for a moment she could see a heart at its center.

She paused momentarily when she'd seen her and panic started to set in. The panic of hope. A form of panic that she'd learned to curb many years before because hope always led to disappointment. Like her hopes of being free from this nightmare had been crushed with every attempt she'd made to procure it. She stumbled on stage and caught herself drawing some glares from the audience. They selfishly waited for her to once again find her carefree ignorance of their presence so they could return to their fantasies about her. She finished her dance though she'd completely lost her step and she struggled against the impending outburst that had been building up in her for years since her first confinement.

She quickly fled from the stage and found her way into the back and her dressing room not even waiting for their applause and cat-calls. When she'd made it to her vanity she looked at herself in the mirror. What had happened to that seventeen year old ballerina that she'd once been before this nightmare had begun. She'd aged in the blink of an eye and though her features told the world that she was merely twenty six, her experience made her a senior of wisdom in the failings of this world and its woes. She'd lost all of that time and she returned to that night when the little girl Warai and her pet Dragon (Walter Wisp?) had arrived in her dreams nine years prior.

She reached under the marble counter-top of her vanity feeling around underneath for the cubby hole where she'd kept her secret for so long. She found its familiar cold and metallic presence in the form of a the tiny bottle vaporizer and the bag with the pill. She examined the label once again as she had many times over. It was hand written with the insignia SY342 and the date of April 4, 2006 and the initials AW. According to their account, someone in the employ of the kidnappers had been hired to steal it from a laboratory. It had become forgotten in the shuffle and in the years since that time the person who'd hired them to steal had disappeared on a resort on Treadwater Island in the South Atlantic.

She examined the bottle and thought back to the Dragon's rhyme:

Your golden chains paired with the powers of the mist. Just like Alice you'll step through the looking glass...

She thought about what it could have meant. The chains that bound her to this place? Like shackles? Her chains were invisible and psychological and far more powerful than any she'd known. What golden chains did she have? She looked at the pair of gift anklets she'd received after her first star performance as a ballerina and realized they were the chains of her freedom. She carefully removed them and placed them upon the marble counter-top.

The powers of the mist then must have meant the spray. She shook the bottle vigorously then removing the cap she sprayed the anklets with the mist. They gleamed as the liquid quickly disappeared into the gold and she waited for a sign. A few moments later when nothing had happened she thought about the next part of the rhyme.

Just like Alice you'll step through the looking glass...

"Alice? Alice who? Alice Cruthers from her biology class?"
 She thought aloud ruling out that possibility.

"Alice through the looking glass! C.S. Lewis! Alice In Wonderland!" she said excitedly realizing that the Dragon had been referring to the pill.

She carefully put the anklets back on and stuck the spray bottle in her pocket. She then sat staring at the pill in front of her. The door to her dressing room opened and Markus stepped through it followed by two large men.

"What was that on stage? Was that your way of getting back at me?" Markus demanded.

She quickly grabbed the pill and popped it in her mouth.

"What was that you just took? Was that poison? Oh no. You aren't going to get out of this that easily." Markus darted across the room grabbing at her jaw.

Her pried her mouth open roughly looking for any sign of the pill she'd just popped.

"She swallowed it already! Damned Bi..." Markus raised his hand to her then thought twice.

If she was damaged at all before her night with her potential buyer, they'd find him dead in the bottom of a lake soon thereafter.

"Alright. I'm going to stand here until you throw that pill back up. Do you understand?" he barked at her.

"Go to hell!" she returned.

"Hold her arms." Markus instructed the two goons.

They each grabbed an arm restraining her with their superior force. She struggled and Markus once again pried her mouth open attempting to get at the back of her throat attempting to force her to vomit. She bit down on his hand and he screamed in pain withdrawing his hand from her mouth.

"Take her to the car. We're going taking her to the meat market. We'll send Cindy White to service our customers in her place. I'll deal with it personally. We're done with this one. Give her to Smack Jack." Markus ordered the men who dragged her out the back exit and into a four door sedan.

A moment later and they were on their way to the dreaded port side and the meat market. The secret warehouse facility where the trafficking ring divided up its booty for work in various strip clubs, massage parlors and as private attendants in pleasure clinics.

The Meat Market

Many newcomers who'd paid for a ticket to the west had arrived and were brought and divided up here. Women were often separated from their families and made to work in parlors to pay for their representation before an immigration hearing. If they didn't go along with it, they were sent to the indoctrination facility where they were conditioned for it. That was where Tina had been sent and it was where many domestic and foreign girls had ended up during the process. Being prepared for their new lives in the service industry or for prospective purchasers.

These were not mail-order or online find a bride marriages. This was a scam that sought to populate the sex trade service with domestic and immigrant kidnapping victims alike. The meat market that Markus had referred to was the place that some women sorted based upon their appearance for the different markets to which they'd be offered. Women like Tina made it into the high ranks based upon her beauty and education and the money they'd speculated they could make from her. Others would be sent to the parlors and clinics for a middle to upper-class clientele. Those with little education or the kind of looks that were not suitable for the parlors would end up with Smack Jack.

An entire system of trapping Women (and sometimes Men) for such services based upon abuse, discrediting and psychology. Trapped as such in an essentially free society right under the noses of the free public. The walls that kept them in were made from bricks crafted from their crushed hope.

The two goons unlocked the back door of the car and watched carefully as Tina stepped out. They walked her over to the back door of the warehouse pressing a buzzer. A moment later a voice responded from the intercom.

"No deliveries past... Wait. I just got the message. The door's open." it cackled through the speaker.

One of the goons grabbed the handle and pulled as the latch clicked. They pushed Tina in the door and proceeded behind her.

Tina been here once in the beginning and not much had changed in the nine years since. It was setup to look like a garment factory which they used as cover for the operation often making counterfeit clothing and designer copies. Some of Heylyn's designs from West Meet East International had even been counterfeited here though they more concentrated on simple items like tees, purses and shorts. None of the workers were paid, but they were fed and clothed. They'd learned early that meat with money was far more likely to run for it than meat without.

Many of them had been herded back into their residences which were nothing more than partitioned bunk beds and a shared dresser at the back of the warehouse. There were a few bathrooms but not many and barely enough shower space for personal hygiene. That wasn't required for making garments as much as it was for the service girls. The service girls were their bread and butter both the sales and rentals. The young ones were often taken care of first and shipped to a sect that allowed such youthful marriages or polygamy. They were often found outside of populated areas and in seclusion, living in like minded communities. There was rarely a financial transaction in such arrangements but they'd gained the support of related sects many of whom operated in the city. That kind of support was needed to keep the whole operation secret especially in the city. One thing they'd also learned is that people who took child wives and husbands knew how to keep secrets.

Tina had been lucky when she'd first arrived that Markus had spotted her first. If Smack Jack had discovered her, Tina would have already been turning tricks for eight years which was about the lifespan and marketability of most such service girls at the street level. After that they were forced to work for the garment factory or just thrown out altogether. By that point their credibility would be all but nothing and any attempt to blow the whistle would be met with skepticism by others. That was until the so called Zek trials of the famous Treadwater incident had finished and the organized criminal infrastructure had become undone.

Heylyn had attended some of the trials when she'd began investigating the trafficking ring. Some of the testimony of Mr. Zek's resort employees alluded to a connection between the resort and some of the sex trade workers employed there. Many references had been made to the ever elusive Meat Market but no addresses had ever been revealed. Only that it was one of the biggest sorting operations on North American soil. The real clue for Heylyn had come with the discovery of the counterfeit versions of her purses and hand bags.

She'd examined them closely and had managed to discern much about their manufacture. Monique had even been able to provide a list of plants and equipment purchases that could be used for such an operation. It was just a matter of investigating them one at a time on their nights away from home. By that time Alicia had hung up her Night Style costume and was busy building a solid relationship with Walton Norler and running the research division of Tynan And Associates to bring the next generation of the SY series to life.

That left Heylyn and Monique hard pressed with a lot of ground to cover not only in their home city, but in ten others across the country. They got a break in their search when they got word from tea freighter, which hauled exotic teas from the Asias to the Americas that they'd spotted cargo freighters unloading at a pier just outside of a large process plant. Heylyn being a fan of exotic teas had received the notice from one of her suppliers who'd sent her an email knowing that she'd become interested in the counterfeit and human trafficking case.

Heylyn had followed the lead with Monique and they'd discovered the Meat Market. Now it was just a matter of catching them in the middle of counterfeit production and a meat sort. Heylyn had Monique keep an eye on the Meat Market while she followed a lead to a high classed strip club in the northern part of the city. Heylyn had been told by Weltherwithsp in a dream that she'd find the lost dancer on the stage and on that night she'd fall to rage. Another one of Weltherwithsp's poetic anecdotes for which she'd known the Dragon. What Weltherwithsp did not let her know was that the little girl Warai had warned the dancer about this very night nine years prior. Before Warai was even born. Heylyn had not seen nor met the little girl and Weltherwithsp kept this from her. Timelessness was not meant for the time bound.

Heylyn had seen the dancer and had recognized that she'd had ballet training. In fact Heylyn would have said that the dancer was a trained ballerina. She decided that she'd follow this one for the night and when she disappeared into the back. Heylyn put herself in the line of sight of her dressing room door. When the man with the two big goons had gone into the dressing room she knew something was amiss. When they left the room with the girl in their arms, Heylyn left the strip club and took to the roof as the Butterfly Dragon. She then took to the air in pursuit of the car which made its way to the Meat Market. There Heylyn had rendezvoused with Monique and they organized their plan of attack. They were going to take the whole operate down on that night.

Dance Of A Lifetime

Inside the Meat Market the goons led Tina to Smack Jack's office. He sat in his desk his feet up on it as he smoked his cigarette.

"What can I get you two gents? You want a beer? No wait. You look a little more bourbon to me?" Smack Jack hustled them.

"Markus sent us here to hand her over to you." one of the goons announced.

"Now who is this fine little missy?" Smack Jack stood taking an interest in Tina.

"I'd say you was a dancer now, ain't that right?" Smack Jack eyed her body up and down.

Tina smirked at him.

"I think we're going to be educating you a bit. Least you hold your tongue like a lady. Except when its need for other..." he winced under the pressure of her kick to his groin.

He fell to the floor gasping.

"...that's some kick ya got there bi...tch..." Smack Jack rolled around momentarily as the two goons knew what was coming next.

"We're outta here. You shouldna done that. He didn't get the name Smack Jack for nothin..." one of the goons told her as they both departed.

Tina held her ground as Smack Jack got to his feet.

"Alright. Looks like I'm going to have to teach you some manners... We've got a pecking order around here." he wound up and swung.

Tina's movement was too fast to be seen and she easily dodged Smack Jack's hand.

"What the... Let's just try that again..." he tried to back hand her and once gain she moved too swiftly for him to see.

As he moved towards her in attempt to grab her she cartwheeled backwards away from his landing on ballet shoes in perfect form. She stood for a moment as he looked on enthralled. She then began her dance just as she'd done at the strip club except something was different. Her motions were more fluid and smooth and as she did, a soft music emanated from the air much like the chimes of a music box. Smack Jack stood motionless as he watched. The goons too stopped taking in the music, a smile stretched from ear to ear on each of their faces. Then they too began to move slowly at first and then more fluidly though nowhere near as graceful as Tina.

Others who took in the dance also began to sway to her motions and she continued to move creating the chimes and music as she did. Her audience did the same and she inched her way slowly to the back loading doors. One of the guards noticed the spectacle and shook his head.

"Hey! Hey!" he yelled running in the office hitting one of the alarms.

The warehouse brights came on and the buzzer sounded an alarm. Several guards came running out of their offices with guns drawn trying to find a mark amidst the paralyzed audience of the dancer.

"What the hell is going on?!" screamed one of the guards.

"I don't know! An escape or something!" another guard yelled back.

In the back another group of ten guards ran for the weapon locker. He handed out tasers and immobilizing foam to contain them should they have to. If it got worse they'd rely on their hand guns. If it got worse than that then they could fall back and retrieve the SMGs.

"Three man teams! Start catching the stragglers first! The doors are sealed. Nobody is getting out of here!" one of the guards yelled as a streak of light arrived in front of him and stopped just short of his face.

He stared in amazement as it spoke back to him.

"Nobody getting out? But we're still getting in!" Monique materialized before him swinging hard connecting with his jaw spinning him and sending him to the floor.

The roof crashed open as The Butterfly Dragon broke through the concrete diving downward to the floor landing in a roll and immediately flying into her Dragon Style form. She feet swept the legs of one guard out from under him as she rolled back up and onto her arms in a spinning scissor kick taking out another two. They slid across the floor and stopped where they remained.

She rolled onto her shoulders and back up onto her feet and into the air flying at one of the other guards. He fired his taser first hitting her face mask as she flew towards him. The mask sparked for a moment and she tore it off landing just in front of him.

"Aren't you Heylyn Yates?" he yelled in amazement.

"Yeah. But who's going to believe you?" she hit him three times quickly in succession up his abdomen and he fell unconscious to the floor.

"That's for counterfeiting my clothes." she turned pausing to kick him in the side before leaving.

"... and that was for tasering me in the face." she said taking once again to the air.

Meanwhile the dancer had stopped and looked on in amazement at the human forest she'd created. Smack Jack just stood there motionless much like a statue. She pirouetted towards him extending her hand when she arrived lightly tapping his face. He careened over onto his side with a thud.

"Enjoyed the dance that much?" she asked his motionless body.

The two goons snapped out of their motionless stupor and ran towards Tina attempting to grab hold of her arms as they had before. She artfully dodged their attempt to grab her instead with her graceful motion accelerating their intended direction. The suddenly found themselves moving faster forwards sending them both crashing into the cement floor. The lay still electing not to attempt to get up. Tina turned and once again ran for the door as she'd intended only moments ago. Five large men in coveralls approached her. The parted and allows another large man through.

"Its been a long time Tina. How have you been keeping since we last saw each other?" the soft voiced man asked her.

"Much better until I heard your voice a moment ago. Obviously it hasn't been long enough." Tina said to him throwing him a glare.

"Well you really should start getting used to it because you're going to be hearing it a lot more." the soft voiced man told her.

She ran back into the warehouse jumping over a conveyor belt turning out stacks of purses. They pursued her surrounding her surrounding the machine cutting her only point of escape off. She leapt high in the air bounding over their heads landing in a roll on the other side of the conveyor belt. She was once again on her feet and running for the doors. Tina was slammed from the side by a guard who'd attempted to tackle her and she flew sideways tumbling into a spin, never touching the ground. Instead her spin grew in speed and she leveled back up onto her toes accelerating as she did. She drew her arms in towards her body spinning her even harder. The guard stood on trying to find a point to grab her but backing off as her motion accelerated. The soft voiced man by this time had found her along with the goons and she was completely surrounded by the seven of them.

Upon seeing this from her immensely fast spin she extended her leg bending over at the waist. Her foot impacted them each in turn sending them flying backwards away from her at high speed. They each slammed into the walls and the machinery sending broken parts and counterfeit clothing into the air around them. When the failed to return Tina once again righted herself in her spin and stood erect then with one foot stopped her spinning altogether.

"Not even dizzy." she said aloud.

"Not yet anyway!" Smack Jack's hand found her clipping the back of her head.

She flew backwards away from grabbing her neck. As she did she heard the first shot. She'd never heard a gunshot before and it announced its presence telling all that the situation had escalated from martial prowess to armed conflict. She moved just getting herself out of the path of the projectile as it clipped her ballet tutu. She turned to see the soft voiced man behind Smack Jack brandishing a gun.

Meanwhile Monique had dodged back into one of the offices bordering the out wall of the warehouse. She quickly dialed a phone.

"Hello! There's been an explosion, a fire and shots fired at a warehouse at the Port Pier Unit 300." she held the phone out into warehouse where the gunfire had started.

"Just hold the line. Emergency personnel are being dispatched to the scene..." the male operator assured her.

"Sorry... don't have time to chat. HELP!" she screamed into the phone before hanging up.

She then disappeared taking on a shadowy form passing through one of the gun toting guards. He looked in shock as the shadow passed through his body then felt the impact of the wood block upon his head. He fell to the ground unconscious as Monique dropped the wooden block brushing her hands off.

"Only twenty six more to go?!" Monique yelled hoping Heylyn heard her.

There were a few gunshots in the background followed by a few loud smacks and a final whollop.

"Twenty five!" Heylyn's voice returned to her from the distance.

Heylyn had just found the discipline room which was nothing more than a cage where they'd keep the troublemakers for a few days as punishment. They had no privacy and some were shackled to the bars of the cage itself. Heylyn's eyes furrowed as she spied this and several Asian women who'd been chained to the cage interior.

"You bastards are going to pay!" she yelled looking for guards.

Two gunmen this time with assault rifles stepped into view keeping cover. They both leveled their weapons at her and fired. She quickly dodged sideways rolling back up onto her feet then bounced off the cage and from the opposite wall sending both her fists into the stomach of the first gunman. He flew to the ground rolling up into a ready stance.

"Ahhh. Shotokan? Me too. I'm going to enjoy this." Heylyn said an air of anger in her voice.

She took her position instead taking up a stance combined of her Tae Kwon Do turtle style and Kung Fu Dragon form. The man charged her throwing several heavy strikes first in quick succession. She'd anticipated that and countered with a strike to his open side opposite the hand with which he'd struck last. He turned slightly avoiding her blow clipping her side instead in a clever reversal.

"I know some tricks too. Fourth dan you know." he said to her stepping back holding one arm high the other low and his face centered.

She feigned a strike directly at his face instead using his neck as a stepping off point climbing his stance spinning to land behind him his back open. She struck him once in the floating rib. He fell struggling for breath.

"I'm sorry. I don't know fourth dan. I'm good friends though with sixth dan." she said cherishing a little levity.

The other gunman who'd turned out to be a woman leveled her rifle and fired. The bullet just grazed her cheek which instinctively transformed to its scaled form to avert damage. The bullet shattered upon impact sending a stinging pain up Heylyn's side.

Heylyn spun grabbing the rifle by the barrel driving her fist into the midway point of at the chamber. The rifle cracked in half and fell to the floor as the lady grabbed a combat knife from her belt.

Heylyn looked at her hand seeing the burn left by the smoking barrel of the gun and again feeling a sharp pain in her hand. The Teflon coated knife flew by her face no more than an inch away as she stumbled backwards. Having nearly been caught off guard she snapped out of her momentary lapse and began throwing a series of kicks at her new assailant keeping her at bay. The knife once again nearly missed her abdomen and on the third swing Heylyn caught it's blade in her scaled hand and pulled it from her assailant's grip. With her free hand she clipped the lady's solar plexus sending her to the floor beside her peer.

Monique had just arrived as the dancer stepped into the discipline room.

"The Police are on their way!" she informed Heylyn.

"I need to give them the evidence." Heylyn pulled the portfolio out of her inside pocket under her armor.

"I'll give it to them. The Dragon told me about you. I'm a friend. For life. You saved my life." Tina said to her.

"Make sure they get this. Tell them you got it from Heylyn Yates, if they have any legal questions. I have copies too so don't worry about this being covered up. I think this ordeal is over." Heylyn said to Tina compassionately.

"Miss! Can you help me and my Grandmother get free!" a young girl said from inside of the cage.

"Certainly." Heylyn wrapped her hands around the chains from the other side of the cage and pulled.

The chains snapped in two with relative ease.

“You're one of the Butterflies… The Butterfly Dragon.” an elderly lady said from beside the young girl.

“What did you say?” Heylyn asked her.

“Like the old tales. From before the Dynasties. ...When the Butterflies return, soon will come the Dragons. You're from the East?” the elderly lady asked Heylyn as she got to her feet stretching her cramped legs.

“Originally. From Guangzhou. We came here when I was just barely a year old.” Heylyn replied.

“Then you must have heard the tales. You are the first Butterfly. The Butterfly Dragon. The Dragons soon come… Your friend here is another Butterfly too.” the elderly lady spoke grateful to be free of the chains.

“Well, well, well. So I'm a Butterfly too? It looks like we're sisters now Heylyn.” Monique said with a smile.

“How do you know all of this? What do you know of the Butterfly Dragon tales?” Heylyn asked the elderly lady helping to steady her as she passed through the gate of the cage as Monique helped the little girl.

"Wait! Don't shoot!!!" Monique's senses flared to life as one of the guards she'd just downed leveled a rifle.

The report filled the warehouse which had fallen silent. Heylyn looked down to see that the bullet had hit her abdomen and passed right through. Heylyn grasped her wound cringing as she turned to see the Grandmother of the child grasping her chest.

"...thank... thank... you. we're… Help them… Help the Butterflies. Beware the return of the Dragons..." she sputtered and coughed as the last breath escaped her.

The little girl fell onto her Grandmother screaming and crying as Heylyn quickly flew the distance to the gunman. She drove her fist into his face knocking him unconscious instantly. She wound up and punched him again. She was about to wind up again when Monique caught her arm.

"We have to go! There was nothing you could have done. This won't bring her back!" Monique pleaded with Heylyn.

"I'm sorry." Heylyn said to the child on the edge of fury.

"Good luck. Make those bastards pay." Monique said to the dancer who shook her hand.

"Look after them both until the Police get here." Heylyn said to the dancer pointing to the elderly woman and the little girl.

"I will. I promise." Tina said as Heylyn and Monique flew out through a new hole in they'd made in the roof.


The Police held a press conference touting the Meat Market bust as the single largest bust of any Human Trafficking ring they'd uncovered, spanning ten countries in all with a total estimated manpower of more than six thousand workers and thirty six thousand victims over the course of twenty years. During the conference they revealed that six hours after the initial discovery of the Meat Market, they'd mobilized a task force to raid more than twenty nine illegally run businesses employing trafficking victims as sex trade workers.

Another operation had netted eleven children who'd been given as "gifts for the purposes of child marriage" to a sect for their compliance and protection with regard to the trafficking activity in seventeen cities. They'd explained that this effort had resulted in the procurement of freedom for many such migrant and domestic victims for more then twenty years, including Tina Wells, the ballerina that had gone missing nine years earlier.

As coincidence would have it, Officers Tristan and Officer Tandy had been first on the scene and had been touted as being heroes, finding Tina clutching an eight year old child victim whose Mother had been fatally shot. Officer Tandy and Officer Tristan are credited with administering CPR and resuscitating the child's Mother, bringing her back from the clutches of death. Both were safe and sound in a new home given as gifts by the city to the victims of the trafficking ring. Tina too sat in her own home free for the first time in nine years. Monique and Heylyn were overjoyed to hear of the Grandmother's recovery and Tina's new start which they secretly celebrated at Heylyn's offices and studio; West Meet East International.

All of them were to begin a new life though Tina never again had to dance for her freedom. She'd been free ever since she'd learned to dance and freed once again when she'd met the Butterfly Dragon.

Act 1: June 2012

The aftermath of Treadwater Island, the trial of Mr. Zek and the fall of his empire has created openings in the underground market of the city. Alicia Westin has hung up her Night Style costume in order to devote more time and energy to her relationship with Walton Norler. Together they've brought the SY349 past the approval process and it has since become a widely accepted but debated treatment in the medical industry. Heylyn Yates has been running her fashion company West Meet East International during the day, while at night she teams up with Monique Defleur to patrol the city in costume as the (Strawberry) Eclipse and and the Butterfly Dragon.

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

Heylyn dove for the ball as it flew lightening quick through the air. Monique had only tapped it, but with her abilities it turned the ball into a bullet. Heylyn caught the ball returning it to the opposite end of Monique's court. Heylyn rolled landing back on her feet finding the center of her court.

Monique changed direction and ran for the ball on the opposite end of her court. She just barely caught it sending it just slightly off center of where Heylyn stood. She positioned herself and hit the ball, returning it to Monique once again on the opposite side of her side of the court.

Monique realized that she could not make it no matter how fast she moved, so she cheated. Monique phased momentarily to a beam of light and made the trip with time to spare materializing in place to send the ball back to Heylyn.

"Oh. So we're going to play that way?" Heylyn asked her as she caught the ball with her racquet sending it flying directly at Monique's chest.

Monique didn't have time to step left or right and the ball impacted her knocking her over.

"Hey! No fair!" Monique got up and picked up the ball.

"You were the one that used your abilities first." Heylyn said honestly putting her hands on her hips.

"But I... I couldn't get the ball. You put it on the other side of the court!" Monique exclaimed.

"I have to get my points somehow." Heylyn smiled to her.

"What? By making me run so much?" Monique wiped the sweat from her forehead.

"Maybe you need to learn better control of the ball. Once you learn to control the ball, you control your opponent." Heylyn said to her.

"Unless they can move at the speed of light." Monique said with a cocky grin on her face.

"You still missed. I didn't use my powers at all. Are you learning about this game yet? You lost because I had control of the ball. Even when you can move fast enough to be anywhere on the court, it still takes something more than just speed to win." Heylyn told her.

"This isn't turning into one of those ancient wisdom lessons is it? You know, like Kwai Chang Kang? You may leave when you can snatch the tennis ball from my hand." Monique said to Heylyn sarcastically holding out the tennis ball in front of her.

"Very funny." Heylyn smirked rolling her eyes.

"Well its true. That's where this is headed." Monique defended her sarcasm expertly.

"No Monique. This is about here and now. Taking control of the ball is like taking control of your life. If you let someone else have control of the ball, then you're always chasing it." Heylyn told her as she crossed the net to her side of the court.

Monique nodded having seen this life lesson coming from Heylyn for a good distance.

"I am in control of my life. I've got a job. A good job. A good boss, though she seems to be getting worse every day. I've got a condominium that is mostly paid for. That means I've got equality?" Monique told Heylyn.

"Equity." Heylyn corrected Monique.

"Equity. That's what I meant. What's not in control?" Monique asked her.

"What's next?" Heylyn asked her.

"I just enjoy life every day. That's it." Monique replied to her.

"Enjoy life? Is there anything beyond what you have now that you'd like to achieve? Maybe something you want to do. Maybe to buy a house? What's next Monique?" Heylyn asked her.

"Well. I don't know." Monique told her honestly.

"Remember the person you were before. Living with you know who. You didn't think about anything beyond that. That was because he had control of the ball. Your ball. Now you're away from him and independent but you still don't have control of your own ball." Heylyn told her.

"Yes I do. Look." Monique held up her empty hand.

"Hey!" Monique exclaimed.

Heylyn held up the ball.

"What does that mean?" Monique asked.

"I think you said that means that we're ready to leave." Heylyn smiled at her, bonking her on the head with the ball and heading towards the exit.

This was their weekly stress breaker that they'd engage in every Thursday evening after work. They'd joined the club that occupied the building where there offices were located so it was hardly out of the way. They'd managed to use it every week consistently for the past year, with Monique showing up every once in a while for aerobics or dancercise, something she loved to do.

It took the edge off the week for the weeks that they didn't set themselves upon the city. To the rooftops in search of their quarry, whatever that might have been for the only two known superheroes in existence. The only two known in this existence anyway. They'd kept quiet and to most they were an urban myth and perhaps elsewhere there were similar urban myths much like the myths of the ancients.

"Is there anything happening tonight?" Monique asked Heylyn as they walked home in the evening summer air,

"You mean patrol? No. Its pretty quiet. I checked things out earlier. Nothing that's out of the ordinary. Why, do you want to patrol or maybe do something else?" Heylyn asked Monique.

"No, not really. I just wanted to sit in tonight. Catch up on some television or read finish that book you got me." Monique told her.

"Well same here. I want to finish some design work and get to bed early. But maybe tomorrow we could go out if you wanted? If you want a 'wing girl'. In case you wanted to meet a guy?" Heylyn looked at her with a coy smile ear to ear.

"How'd you know?" Monique asked her thinking that she looked like the Chesire cat, smiling at her that way.

"I didn't. I kind of feel the same way too. Lets take tomorrow night and be a bit more social than we normally are." Heylyn said lying somewhat to help her friend feel at ease.

"That sounds like a plan. Shake on it?" Monique held out her hand to Heylyn,

Heylyn grabbed Monique's pinky with her own and shaked it.

"Its a deal." Heylyn said as they turned into the condominium entry way.

"Go ahead. I've got to pick up my mail." Heylyn said to Monique heading over to the security desk.

"See you tomorrow." Monique said running for the closing elevator door.

"Bye." Heylyn waved before turning to the front desk security person.

"Still here? A long one for you." she said to him having recognized him from the morning.

"Yeah well my wife's expecting. I've got to make sure the mortgage is paid you know." he told her.

"Just this one. I'm going to need a signature." the front desk staff handed her a wrapped package.

"How long?" she asked him.

"She's been carrying for about seven months. So we figure another month and a half. Debbie is always ahead of time for everything. If the baby's anything like her she'll be a premature birth by a long shot." the man smiled at her jokingly.

"If I don't see you again, all the best to your family." Heylyn told him.

"Well, she is a fan of your work by the way. It wouldn't be too much to ask you for a..." the man blushed a bit.

"No problem at all..." Heylyn pulled a business card and signed it for him adding her best wishes for the child and their family.

"She is going to love this. Thanks." he said to her looking at it.

She signed for the mail and thanked him, taking the manila envelope sized package and putting it under her arm and proceeded up stairs.

After getting settled in she sat down with a stir fry she'd cooked last night having heated it in the microwave. She ate it right out of the Tupperware container before falling asleep on the couch in the peace after her busy day.

The Dream In A Package

Heylyn dreamt that she was driving somewhere in a forested roadway. She looked over to a lady, who might have been Alicia, Monique or even Valerie, except for the dark hair. She was reading a map following a path with her finger. Heylyn looked ahead on the road and the forest opened up into a roadway through a mountainous pass, a tremendous drop on one side. She had the feeling that they were being followed and she checked her mirror. A car in the distance was trying to keep pace with her. She stepped on the gas trying to get some more speed out her vehicle. She looked over to the woman, who looked back at her longingly and with a tear in her eye. She put her hand on Heylyn's which was perched on the stick shifter, though Heylyn had never driven stick. The car following them had closed a considerable distance and was attempting to pass. As it did, Heylyn took a good look at the driver but only saw a concealed terror behind its eyes. She struggled with the wheel as the driver in the passing car attempted to force her car off the escarpment and into a fifteen hundred foot drop. She steered hard into the offending car attempting to force it off the road only to have it bounce back twice as hard. She felt the car slipping and as she struggled with the steering wheel, her car slipped over the edge of the cliff, and she was weightless. She looked over to see the lady she was with as she clasped Heylyn's hand. The car tumbled and from inside they could only see rock face, followed by sky and then the ground speeding towards them.

"Goodbye." she tried to mouth to the passenger as the car impacted.

She woke up sitting up suddenly a mist of sweat on her brow.

She picked up her half eaten meal and disposed of it before tossing the container in the dishwasher. She then picked up the package she'd gotten in the mail and proceeded to open it.

It was wrapped in plastic shrink wrap first and then a sealed manila envelope. Inside was a letter and series of what appeared to be legal documents.

Dearest Ai Yualin Ying,

It is with great regret that I write to inform you that your nephew Akito Tokama and his wife Lee Jeong-Min were killed in a fatal automobile accident one week from the date at the top of this letter. We searched for any relatives, living and deceased and found your name in the family registry. It is for this reason that we have contacted you as next of kin and wish to ask that you attend a post memorial service for their tragic loss and later to discuss the legal ramifications regarding the custody of their five year old daughter Warai Jeong-Won.

We request that you respond before three days after the date at the top of this letter so we may make arrangements for your accommodations.

Our sincerest condolences,

Zenji Soong Man
Attorney for the Estate of Akito Tokama and Lee Jeong-Min

Heylyn could not believe what she was reading. She immediately scrambled around for her cellular phone and called the provided number.

"Offices of Soong Man. May I help you?" the secretary answered the call.

"Hi. I'm looking for Zenji Soong Man. I'm Heylyn Yates care of the Estate of Akito Tokama and Lee Jeong-Min." she told the secretary.

"Please hold." the secretary switched lines and another voice answered.

"Zenji speaking." a rough male voice answered.

"Zenji, I am Heylyn Yates." Heylyn answered.

"Ahhhh. Yes. I am sorry for your loss Ms. Heylyn. You received our letter I take it?" Zenji asked her.

"Yes I did. I just read it. How tragic." Heylyn was still in shock.

"Yes. The loss of any life always is. We have matters to discuss if you'd be willing to make quick arrangements for a flight over. We could be meeting in my offices as soon as tomorrow at this time." Zenji asked her.

"Set up arrangements for my accommodations as per your plan. I'll order my flight ticket and be on a flight in a couple of hours. I'll meet you at your offices in fourteen hours." Heylyn told him.

"Excellent. So that's noon our time. Thank you for your fast response and I look forward to seeing you." Zenji said professionally and sincerely.

"Right. See you tomorrow." Heylyn hung up the phone.

First Heylyn thought it might be a hoax to get at her money or targeting her as a result of her fame. After doing some calling around, she managed to get in touch with the ministry where the child's birth registration information was kept. When she could not trace the family connection through the records of the ministry, she called a family friend whom referred her to a Shǐxué jiā, a trusted family historian. She called this person long distance, who lived in a time zone 13 hours ahead of hers.

"I have been expecting your call, Ai Yuanlin Ling." the voice answered after three rings.

"How did you know I was going to call you?" Heylyn asked.

"How does the flock know when the seasons change?" the voice replied.

"You know what I am going to ask you then?" Heylyn rebuked somewhat defensively feeling like she had just reached Weltherwithsp by phone.

"The little girl? You are going to ask about her. You think this all to be a hoax to get at that which will matter little in the coming storm. She is no hoax and you are related, though most records will not recall such a fact. They are only kept in the knowledge of those who pass it by words that are only remembered and never written." the voice answered.

"My parents were from China. The names mentioned by the letter indicate Japanese and Korean family names. The little girl bears a Korean name. How am I related? Is this a hoax?" Heylyn inquired getting impatient.

"You are related and this is no hoax." the voice replied.

"Then I want to know the whole story." Heylyn demanded.

"You will. Get the girl and protect her. Speak of this to no one." the voice answered and the phone went silent.

"As if one Weltherwithsp wasn't enough..." Heylyn said aloud before hanging up.

Her eyes lightly teared when she thought of the tragedy. Finally she resolved to pay her respects to the family and to ensure that the child was looked after well despite the fact that she could not take on such a responsibility.

She immediately got in touch with her travel agent and gave them the details of her destination. They found her a flight two minutes later. After she'd called Monique and told her about what had happened and not to expect her at work, she was in the shower getting ready to leave. This was going to be a long night.

The Meeting

Zenji`s offices and the child care facility where Warai was being held in care were located in Japan on the island of Tsushima between Korea and Honshu. Heylyn sat in Zenji's office, waiting for him to join her. The flight had been fast and she'd slept for most of it not to mention that she'd actually gained time during her trip, so she'd arrived with time to spare, which she spent recovering for a day in a hotel room. The service for Akito Tokama and Lee Jeong-Min had been short but sweet. Akito had been a Japanese migrant worker who'd met Lee while on a job site in Korea. Six months later they were married. A year later Lee gave birth to a beautiful little girl they named Laughter (in Japanese), because the first expressions upon seeing her mother were complete joy, a smile and laughter. She had been a little bundle of joy to them ever since. Then some time four years later both parents were dead a result of a fatal car accident. Their service recognized both the Japanese and the Korean ceremonial practices, with which Heylyn was slightly familiar. She observed the moment of silence in their names and cast her flowers to their urns. She'd never met them but she'd felt a sense of family and kinship despite that fact. She thought about her nightmare the night she found out when she saw a photo of Lee. It was the woman in the passenger seat from her nightmare.

Zenji walked into the office with a file and some forms.

"First of all Ms. Heylyn." Zenji started as he positioned himself behind his desk.

"Call me Heylyn." Heylyn told him.

"Heylyn. You understand that you are the only named next of kin in their estate. You are their sole benefactor. They did not have much in the way of fixed assets, but they did have enough liquidity to cover the costs of the funeral and leaving about twenty nine thousand yuan or about three thousand Canadian dollars. That will help pay for Warai Jeong-Won's airfare back to Canada. There's the issue of applying for her citizenship as well and her inoculations." Zenji was interrupted.

"What do you mean? What is going on?" Heylyn asked him.

"You are Warai Jeong-Won's new legal guardian. You are like her mother now. She has nobody else but you." Zenji looked to her smiling through his crooked teeth.

"Mr. Zenji, I don't know the first thing about parenting. I cannot just jump into this. The poor girl would suffer with me as a mother..." Heylyn tried to explain as Zenji handed a picture of the little girl to her.

"That's alright. We will just have to send her to an orphanage, that is all. You may go then." Zenji stood holding out his hand.

"Wait. Did you say an orphanage? I can't do that. There must be some other arrangements that we can make. Is there nobody else? A distant cousin? A family friend?" Heylyn asked.

"Ms. Heylyn..." Zenji started.

"Heylyn!" Heylyn corrected him.

"Heylyn. I assure you that there is nobody else. You are her only family." Zenji paused while she thought.

Heylyn paced the room for a moment thinking about this carefully and looking at the picture. The little girl was beautiful and had her eyes. She could see herself looking back, though it was not quite her but someone else. A little person just growing and getting ready for the big world out there. Heylyn could not deny this little girl nor allow her such a cruel start in life but she had neither the means nor the experience to do this.

The world spun into a whirlwind of night and day and the darkness crept over her and then the light once again and she was in the field. A hornet flew by her ear buzzing loudly as it passed.

The air moved and it was quiet and peaceful just as it was the last time she'd seen it. A little less than a year ago.

"Thought you'd lost me did you?" a familiar voice posed a simple question for her.

"No. I lost me." Heylyn spoke honestly.

"I see that we're learning now? And but how?" Weltherwithsp's head snaked up next to hers and whispered in her ear.

"You know why I'm here. I can't do this. I can't raise a little girl." Heylyn exclaimed.

"You are a little girl! You raise yourself every day and then some. A bit too much I'd sometimes prefer to think but it is you whom must first wink when you cross that line for if you don't, lost you'll be can you not see?" Weltherwithsp encircled her.

"What? Are you saying that I'm being selfish?" Heylyn cut to the chase.

"Now what ever gave you that idea? I mean you raise yourself, one little girl. And here comes Warai, the little blossoming garden of laughter and you leave her to the orphanage. Not good enough for you is she?" Weltherwithsp unraveled and came at her from the other side.

"Are you playing with me? I won't have that. I needed someone to talk to, not patronize me." Heylyn told the ancient creature from her childhood fairy tales.

"And talk I am doing though not for you but to you. Maybe some sense might make its way to you from me but for that I'll wait and see." Weltherwithsp pulled back away following a butterfly for a moment then looking back to Heylyn.

"You've lost it!" Weltherwithsp continued.

"No I haven't. This is all just too sudden. I can't just take a leap with this little girl's life." Heylyn pleaded.

"Which little girl? You or her? What you can do for one, you can do for the other." Weltherwithsp suggested.

Heylyn pondered Weltherwithsp's words once again. If she could keep herself, essentially her own little girl alive every day, play with herself and keep herself company when she needed it. Tell herself when she wasn't trying hard enough or when she was trying too hard. She was ready to do the same for another little girl besides herself.

"You've answered your own dilemma again I see." Weltherwithsp told her more so than asking.

"Yes. Thanks for the help." Heylyn let a little smile slip.

"Be careful, those are contagious you know. You wouldn't want them to spread would you?" Weltherwithsp's grin spread across its face before it slithered off into the sky.

A moment later and she was back in Zenji's office.

"Let's get the papers signed then. I'll do it. I want custody of little Warai. She'll be coming with me when I return home." Heylyn declared.

"Of course she will. Thank you I mean thank you Heylyn." Zenji said to her sincerely as he began feeding her the paperwork one form at a time.

No New Little Life

"I'm sorry. But those are the results." the Nurse said to Alicia over the phone.

"They can't be. I mean we did everything. Absolutely everything the Doctor said. Try it again and make sure the test tubes are clean, that can throw a measurement. The centrifuge might have thrown a filament from a ball bearing and..." Alicia started, her immense lab experience.

"M'aam. I'm sorry. They're negative. I can get Doctor Reed if you'd like?" the Nurse responded.

The phone went quiet at the other end of the phone.

"...No. That's alright. You did everything that you could. Thank you." Alicia hung up the phone and rested her head in her cradled hands.

They'd been trying for months, her and Walton. Between his busy schedule promoting the Healthy World agenda of the World Health Organization and her new focus on pushing the successor to the SY-300 series formula, the S9-Beta there'd been little time for them. Right from the most critical point in their relationship. From the point they'd made a decision to create a life together and to bring that life into this world to nurture and raise. To pass their experiences onto their child and to hope they could bring the positive change to the world that they could not.

They tried and at first used the home pregnancy kits to measure for Alicia's pregnancy. They kept getting negative results and they kept trying until they finally decided to go see a Doctor together to discuss what the problems might be. They ran a full set of tests on both her and Walton, finding nothing wrong or out of the ordinary. Walton's sperm count had been more than adequate for fertilization. Her ovaries were healthy and she'd no prior history of any complication in her family. So they followed a regimented program that targeted maximizing their chances, and gave it another go. They followed this program for months, which involved a change in their diets, a change in their lifestyle and habits. Changes to the way they made love. They'd conferred with a Doctor on a regular basis and decided on lab testing to view the results of their effort.

She'd been at home, getting ready for an upcoming meeting at Tynan And Associates when the latest results came back from her Doctor's office. Naturally she took it all upon herself and blamed her body for this failure in pregnancy. After all it had been her body which had made her heavier than some of the other kids when she was younger. She had in the last two years made many changes to her appearance by a constant regimen of diet and exercise and she physically looked great. The best she had in years, even when compared with her superhero alter ego Night Style. Even though she still blamed it upon herself. It was her fault. Her imperfect body.

Something inside of her was wrong that needed fixing. Time to develop another formula. The fix Alicia's body formula that would solve everything wrong that she felt about her body. She thought jokingly to herself though she did not laugh. Instead she fought with her tears. Long and hard and managed to win the battle. She kept a dry face and eyes, enough so that she picked up her phone and called Walton.

"Hi babe." she said to him.

"When did they call?" Walton asked her.

"About twenty minutes ago. They were negative." she tried to finish.

"I know babe. I know. We'll try something else." Walton told her sincerely and quietly over the phone.

"There's nothing else left Walton." Alicia told him firmly.

"There's always something left. We'll find it and try it. We'll keep trying even if we don't find another way." he assured her of his commitment.

"I think..." Alicia started.

"No Alicia. Its not you. Its not your fault. This kind of thing is a long shot. It takes planning and time. Cancel the meeting if you need to. I'll cover for you. I know the material. We'll have a quiet evening at home. We'll call in for some nice take out and watch a movie together. It will be alright." he laid out a plan for the night.

"No its alright. I'll make it to the meeting. I'll take you up on the evening though. That sounds nice." Alicia let a smile onto her face.

"I'll see you in a bit then. Don't forget to leave the computer on if you want to get at the presentation through the network." he reminded her.

"I know honey, I built the network don't forget." she reminded him.

"Ok. Then I'll see you soon. Big smooch." Walton said.

"I love you too." Alicia hung up the phone feeling a little better but still ultimately carrying the blame upon herself.

She got herself up and gathered her things before heading out the door. As she drove out of the parking garage of her condo, she did not notice that she was being followed.

Business As Usual

Valerie picked up the pace of her address to the board of directors of Tynan and Associates. They listened carefully as delivered the rest of her analysis regarding an upcoming investment. In the aftermath of the Grier Torman and Mr. Zek fiasco, she'd been hired to get the investment firm back on track. She had Norler's approval and backing and he'd been so busy pushing the development of the SY-series of regenerative medicine and pharmacology that he'd not attended a board meeting in months. The fiasco that brought about the shuffle saw three board members of the very board she was addressing now, end up with prison sentences for criminal extortion and a host of other market sector related charges. She had finally liberated herself of Torman once and for all when she'd put together the bid for the very position she'd earned on the board. The echoes of his presence in her mind had been exercised once and for all. She also had been credited by the courts for helping to bring both Torman and Zek to justice.

Life had gotten much better for her since then and she'd taken charge of her own life.

"So it is my finding that the research being conducted at Harnes Chemistry is following very close in the footsteps of the research program conducted for the original SY formula. It is therefore my finding that with all of their fiscal expenses and developmental risks, that they are not breaking any new ground that has not already been researched in the SY program. No significant returns for such an investment and no new technology deliveries expected for the foreseeable future." Valerie finished up her talk.

"We're already in the midst of a ten year commitment with the research firm that developed the SY formula. Do you see Harnes Chemistry's research as a breach of our patents?" asked one of the board members.

"No. They've got lawyers with some expertise in biomedical research helping them skirt the risk of patent breach libel, so its a tightly run ship. They're looking to produce a competitive product following the same lines close enough that it works and not close enough to be legal. Good for the consumers in some sense because it guarantees competitive pricing and bad for the initial investors in the technology that started it all as they rarely recoup the projected return on investment." Valerie responded.

"We've already entered into an agreement that guarantees that the SY will be made available regardless of income levels in countries that don't have medical insurance or national coverage. Norler made sure of that. His girlfriend Alicia, one of the lead researchers for the project even started a fund to help finance treatments for the underprivileged world wide. Harnes won't be benefitting the consumer. They'll be filling their pockets. They'll just stick to markets that don't have medical insurance coverage so that they can enter into a pricing war and make this about the pricing margin. Why didn't Harnes Chemistry just approach us for a licensing deal?" asked the senior board member.

"They've got a portfolio of other such projects in their history. DTXB. Lesculamine. Triopsis Diexelicine. They've been doing this number for a while." Valerie explained.

"What if they find a path similar to the branch of the SY that resulted in the anomalies?" one of the board members inquired in a somewhat hushed voice.

"You mean the...sightings? That's all just a myth started by Torman and Zek's criminal syndicate to get at the research from another angle. There were never any superhumans or monsters created by the SY formula. The tabloids bought those stories but the authorities didn't" Valerie answered somewhat sarcastically.

"There were witness who said, and I quote: an angelic butterfly flew from the sky and rescued us! Another account claims: the golden lady in violet saved the airport's security forces and patrons from the monster men! And look at this: The super human lady caught lifting a fifteen ton boulder and tossing it like a pebble into the ocean! Someone got a video of it from a beach on Treadwater Island resort. It was viral for weeks after though that was four years ago. The accounts of that human trafficking ring bust. Some of the victims reported seeing a lady they simply called the butterfly, who single handedly dispatched all of the guards." the board member spoke of the myths to the room.

Valerie's face flushed for a moment.

"Sounds like they got what they deserved. Besides there were two such super women sighted at the bust. Another lady that was sighted could change form between shadows and blinding light. As for the rest, its just urban legend that has nothing to do with the very valid research conducted by Alicia Westin and Darret Wenslen or the research firm. I don't think Harnes Chemistry will creating any monsters. Maybe you should call up Ghost To Coast AM and ask them if they'd do a story about the Super Women?" Valerie responded carefully to the insinuation.

"Not a bad idea. We could buy some ad time as well for the SY formula and Tynan. The investors and stock holders would be happy." he replied sarcastically looking around the room for approval.

"So what do you recommend?" asked the senior board member trying to get them back on track.

Valerie paused a moment.

"I propose we press forward with the SY-9 Beta program as Norler recommended and up our investment plan. I also propose a marketing plan that includes the success stories of those that the SY series formula has helped thus far. The marketing campaign will serve to help us gain footing in some of the other harder to reach markets and to break down some of the long standing prejudices against the medical and pharmacological industry. The campaign's slogan will be called Real Miracles Do Happen. My marketing plan is included in your handouts and reading material. Oh yeah. Let's call Ghost to Coast AM just in case." Valerie finished up her presentation.

"All in favour raise your hands." the senior board member polled the board members.

Every hand in the room raised except for the board member with the monster stories about the super humans. He waited several seconds then reluctantly and slowly raised his hand.

"It's unanimous then. Good show Valerie. Thanks and this meeting is adjourned." the senior board member announced as the other board members quickly filed out leaving Valerie alone with the monster story board member.

"What gives Tannard?" Valerie asked him.

"You don't believe those stories?" he stood and approached her somewhat menacingly.

His frame was large and muscular even under his suit. He was in his mid thirties and still very fit.

"I have one more question to ask you Valerie." he said very deliberately.

Valerie avoided looking at him and instead concentrated on gathering her material from the presentation when the lone board member did something she did not expect. He tried to slap her face.

She instinctively caught his arm with one hand and stopped him dead holding his arm in a tremendously strong grip.

"No super humans eh? How do you explain that?" he asked her.

"Self defense classes. I could have you charged. Why on earth would try something so crass. I always figured you were a gentleman?" Valeria held his right arm carefully in her left arm.

He swung with his left, this time closing his hand in a fist. She easily caught it with her right hand and threw him across the room. He hit the wall and fell to the floor half laughing.

"I knew there was more to you than meets the eye."Tannard's voice sounded victorious and confident despite his injury.

At that moment someone ran into the room.

"What happened? What's going on?" asked a lady who'd stepped into the room.

"I was just trying to show Valerie here that I could do a cartwheel even though I'm a guy." Tannard said covering for the two of them.

She looked over to Valerie, who nodded back at her to let her know she was alright.

"You need to be more careful next time you brute." Valerie said gathering up the last of her materials.

Tannard got to his feet.

"Thank you miss. We're alright. Aren't we Valerie?" Tannard asked adjusting his tie.

"Some of us more than others." she responded.

"You have that right. For certain." Tannard replied.

Valerie quickly left the room and headed downstairs to her car. The lady who'd checked in on their safety followed her.

"I have a bad feeling about that Tannard. Just watch your back Valerie." the lady told her.

"I can handle him, thanks all the same. You have a good night." Valerie arrived just as the elevator did.

She quickly jumped in it and vacated the building.

Meanwhile Tannard pulled his cellular and called a number.

"Gotcha! She's one of them. She just stopped me twice. Threw me across the room too. She's one of them for sure. One down and three to go. If you're setting up the trap, make it a big one cause she's easily as strong as she is in video. Maybe even more so. Wooooohooo!" Tannard gave the information to his contact then cheered himself on.

Garden Of Laughter

Heylyn arrived at the child care facility and walked in the front door still a little uneasy and unsure of what to expect. She had never thought about motherhood as the most important relationship she'd had all her life was with her career. Brad Leeman was perhaps her closest and most intense love. He'd died years earlier on the other side of the world during a hijacking. She'd later found out that he'd tried to save the passengers but had been cut down himself in the process. It had taken years for her to get over his death which she had on the outside. In her dreams sometimes she'd hear his voice and when she did her tears would start.

Her employees and fellow designers were her family and she`d had no time for a social life that had included a man. She`d found men attractive in her life but they were rarely a priority to her and often had even represented a limitation or restriction. A possible hurdle to her career. She`d seen too many women often end up as such. Either trophies for a man that did not appreciate them. Women who spent far too much time tending to the ever fragile egos of their men and never enough time for themselves. She had always thought of partnership as just that, a partnership but from what she`d seen in her life there were few that had turned out as such. It was always the lady making concessions to accommodate the men. She did not hate men for this, she just saw that it might be something inevitable and therefore avoided relationships. Her parents had just such a relationship and her mother had made many concessions to accommodate the family. That was the way in her day and Heylyn`s generation had produced many confident and career minded women.

Her sex life too had not been active since she'd been with Brad and she`d reserved it for only the most special of encounters and in her life they`d been few. Being artistic she saw sensuality as an art itself as was it`s expression. She expected the same from a lover and as a result she`d only had three such experiences in her life that met her expectations. Unfortunately in every case the fragile male ego entered into their relationship and had ended it short. If she`d needed sensuality she`d seek it in other ways without a partner, though that was rare for her. Her obsession with her design work was her lover. Hence her thoughts about finding a mate and motherhood had never flourished. Her career was what mattered to her and it took front and center stage in her life only occasionally superceded by her new and mysterious career that nobody had known her for. The mysterious Butterfly Dragon Lady. The Butterfly Angel as one tabloid had called her. She was both a famous designer and a modern mythological mystery. But never once a mother. That was soon to change and she was having her doubts about her ability to do well by Warai and to balance all these aspects of her life.

She approached the front office and was met by a receptionist who took her name and the papers that Zenji had provided her. The receptionist asked for her identification and passport and asked her to take a seat. Heylyn waited nervously while they went through the process of verifying her identity. In this part of the world, few had known of her in person though they`d heard of her as a designer. China had clung to her name when she`d achieved international success and flaunted her as a product of the homeland. Heylyn had always appreciated her heritage and its rich cultural history having lineage from China, Korea and Japan far back in history but she`d also thought she`d been as much a product of North America. Her Mother was China and North America was her Father. China gave birth to her and gave her many values from its rich history but it was North America that had raised her to seek her fortunes and desires.

Once again she questioned whether she would be qualified to raise this child being so much a product of two very different cultural origins. Much like her company West Meet East International, meeting in the middle was not as easy as it sounded. Some boundaries were just as such, obstacles while other were risky to traverse without a form of sidedness. She'd founded West Meet East International to define the real difference between the word or and the word and. Some people thought in boundaries with the word or. Others thought in terms of breaking those boundaries by the word and. Us or them versus us and them. When you made progress in the idea is when others came to take the credit for it and often tried to push you to contradict a viewpoint she'd come up with. Perhaps the biggest hurdle there was. Everybody wanted to be the peacemaker but few wanted to get their hands dirty doing it. Those people mostly popped upon after the hard work had been done and stole the credit from those who'd been doing it for some time often by provocation. If you could make someone appear to contradict togetherness then it was just a matter of appearing more together when everyone else was watching while making the person whom you'd stolen the effort from appear less prone to peace and more attuned to conflict. She'd contended with that many times and sometimes she'd come out of it with her accomplishments intact and other times not so intact.

West Meet East International was about everyone having the boundaries they needed like privacy, personal and professional life, ownership, human rights, law and order, national borders, compensation for productive efforts that resulted in prosperity and charity. It was also about losing the boundaries that prevented peace, progress and good health by living by a common code of respect, virtue and professionalism while operating without boundaries with regard to culture, politics and belief. In such a case nobody's cultural, political or religious beliefs held rule over another and people were expected to treat one another with respect and dignity according to the universal human rights code and never with hate while those boundaries were absent between people. Once any of those expectations were broken the hard boundaries returned for the person that broke and had to be earned once again. Regardless of boundaries, a person's creative works and efforts were always their own and rewarded accordingly. That was one boundary Heylyn maintained at all times in West Meet East International.

Love and hate were not the same at all. Hate was an emotion whose presence could be provoked by someone else and even stimulated via hormone production. As her father used to tell her: To gain anger is to lose your control. In calm you will regain control. In real calm you will not seek control for you've already found it in balance and real control requires no effort. Anger and hate was one of those emotions which could be tricked from someone by malicious parties seeking to do so because it was linked with the production of hormones in our body. When some people had spent enough time and effort bothering someone, they were almost always certain to get an angry reaction. There were people who'd practiced such activities for years against some poor souls. Taking responsibility for one's emotions also meant taking responsibility for their treatment of others. Either alone or as a group.

Love on the other hand could never be tricked out of a person and that was because the body did not produce a love hormone. It was purely in our being and consciousness and only there of our freewill and choice, and only lost to such emotions as hate or despair. Both those emotions were the result of and exaggerated by hormone production. So love in essence was the only real form of freedom. Love was what she needed if she was going to raise a little girl. Warai had been the product of two different cultures much like Heylyn. Warai's father was a Japanese migrant worker who'd met her mother in South Korea. According to the records they'd been good parents by the paperwork. Heylyn suspected that if their little daughter was still alive beyond their death in a car accident that they must have been great parents indeed. Having protected their little daughter up until their last moment alive.

A moment later an elderly lady stepped into the waiting room from a long hall, a little girl with shoulder length hair clung to her hand. She was tiny, a little shorter than Heylyn`s waist height. Her face held two dark eyes and a little button nose and tiny lips. She looked tired and a little scared and perhaps even lost. Heylyn immediately stood up. A natural and warm smile crossed her face as little Warai stood before her.

"Miss Yates? Pleased to meet you. I'm Mrs. Cheng, Warai's caregiver." Mrs Cheng introduced herself.

"Pleased to meet you." Heylyn said to her smiling to Warai, who shyly hid behing Mrs. Cheng's dress.

"Miss Yates, this is Warai." Mrs. Cheng tugged lightly on Warai's hand to bring Warai around from behind her and out into the open.

Warai's face lit up upon spying Heylyn's and for a moment they were both at peace as if they'd arrived at home after a long journey.

"You're the butterfly lady!" Warai said to Heylyn before she starting laughing in a joyous shrill.

"You're the little butterfly girl! See? Here's your antennas, here's one wing, and here's the other wing." Heylyn said to Warai tugging lightly on her hair for the antennas and on the shoulder blades of Warai's blouse for her wings.

Warai laughed and giggled again, her face glowing.

"You're a real butterfly. I know. Wispy told me you know!" Warai laughed again.

"Oh she's got such a wonderful imagination. She's going to go on to be an artist some day." Mrs. Cheng said in levity.

Warai stepped away from Mrs. Cheng and reached out for Heylyn's hand.

Heylyn hesitated for a moment having a quiet thought.

Here is this little life that needs me to protect her and to love her and to raise her to be aware of the dangers and the treasures out there in this big world. Then one day she's going to strike out on her own and I'll have to hope that what I taught her will help her to survive and be successful.

"She's waiting" Weltherwithsp's voice spoke in Heylyn's head.

Heylyn extended her fingers and took the little hand that had just offered her trust. With that their bond was sealed.

"Now if you'll just sign some papers first you are both free to go. We'll be sending this information along to the Embassy here in Japan and South Korea. You'll need this information when you file for Warai`s citizenship." Mrs. Cheng told Heylyn.

The receptionist had prepared all of the paper work and Heylyn sat Warai on the counter beside her as she signed the stack of papers.

Warai watched her carefully and quietly with a little smile on her face. When Heylyn was done, Warai wiped her eyes and yawned and was ready to fall asleep.

Heylyn said her goodbyes to the staff at the child care facility and took a cab back to the hotel room. Warai had slept in the cab for the whole twenty five minute trip. When they arrived Heylyn picked her up in her arms and carried inside. On her way in her senses went off warning her that something was amiss. They were being watched by someone or something sinister. She took a look around scanning the area, peering through even the walls of the perimeter around herself. Her skin became scaly for a moment as the Butterfly Dragon came to life. She made a great deal of effort to make sure that she did not awaken Warai. Inside her mind she heard something laughing. A sinister laughter with a thunder to its voice much like that of Weltherwithsp though it was not. There was no playfulness or joy. Just malice and tumultuous cruelty. The last place she'd remembered such a feeling from anything was from Lasher. The serial rapist and murderer she'd caught last year.

"Somethings have help from us you whelp. Did you think you were the only one to have some fun?" the sinister voice came again followed by sinister laughter and a thunder like that of Weltherwithsp.

"Who are you?" Heylyn spoke aloud.

"I'm sorry m'aam. Did you say something?" one of the bellhops asked her as she passed.

She was startled back to reality and her senses suddenly went dry and things appeared alright. Under her clothing her skin returned to its soft and silky texture.

"Nothing. I was just thinking out loud." Heylyn responded.

She checked Warai again only to see she was sound asleep comfortable in Heylyn's arms.

She continued to her room deftly opening the door with the key card. When she got in she dialed the front desk and asked them to keep an eye out for potential stalkers. They agreed knowing of her celebrity status in other parts of the world. Heylyn lay Warai in the second bed beside her own and tucked her and let her sleep. She stroked her forehead for a moment seeing that this poor little girl had likely spent most of the last two days in a constant stream of tears. Heylyn tried to imagine what it would be like to lose the two most important people in her life when she was so young. She curled up on the bed beside Warai and fell into an uneasy sleep.

"Sleep little baby... don't you cry... Mother's going to find you a Butterfly..." Heylyn sang quietly.

"... and with those two big beautiful wings... Mother's going to find you a song to sing..." she continued stroking Warai's hair.

"...and when you've sung your song an hour... Mother's going to find you great big flower..." she sang softly.

"...when you're tired your wings are sore... Mother's going to sing your song some more..." her voice continued.

"...when you Mother's voice is dry... sleep your your flower lullaby..." her voice trailed off as she too fell asleep.

She dreamt about Akito and Lee, Warai's parents who both pleaded with Heylyn to watch their child.

They told her it was coming.

They said it would remove whomever was in its way just as it had removed them.

Then there would be nobody to protect Warai, their little Garden Of Laughter.

And For Every Butterfly Dragon...

She walked pronouncing each step with the click of her heels. She was not particularly tall though her heels added the illusion of height to her appearance. Her frame was compact and very fit and not very well hidden under her revealing layer of clothing. Her hair was held tight in a stylish pony tail that was partly braided giving it the appearance of a paint brush. The tail itself jumped back and forth with each step in its own entrancing rhythm. Her face was a work of art as if modeled of fired porcelain after a nameless goddess of the East. Her eyebrows were non-existent though there were two delicate calligraphic curves in their place with two lines emerging vertically just above the inside corner of each eye. Her tiny nose was barely visible if not for her two tiny nostrils and was framed by rounded cheeks. Beneath her nose were a pair of curvaceous and beautiful lips as full as the moon and just as red on this night. As one's eyes were drawn to her lips they would immediately be pulled down to the blouse she wore, which was open all the way down to just below her navel. Her compact hidden to either side. Her white porcelain skin from her neck line down was a canvas of masterfully colored and inked ancient symbols intertwined by the body of a dark serpentine Dragon. Its head was nowhere to be found on her exposed skin and was presumably hidden beneath her clothing though one would have a hard time tracing the path of its body to its head. Her skirt dropped gently from her waist just barely hiding her privates and revealing a pair of toned legs which were entwined by the same dragon's body. She was a walking caricature of sexuality exaggerated and alluring as part of her purposeful designs.

She walked cutting through a dark alleyway with little fear. Had her attackers noticed that she did not slow down upon entering the darkness nor did she elicit concern, they might have interpreted this as a sign not to cross her. Instead they assumed she was an easy target. She looked like a million dollars and they assumed she was load.

"Look at this one. Does she even know where she is? I almost feel sorry for her." one of the men said.

"Don't. She'll drop her purse as soon as we show ourselves and she'll likely wet herself too." another said quietly.

The third man shushed the other two as he ducked behind a bin as she passed them. He jumped out and the other two followed.

"Lady! We need some money for the bus!" the first one said.

As soon as the words left his mouth she stopped with her back to them. The air had grown mysteriously quiet with the absence of her clicking heels. The men stood nervously awaiting her answer.

"I said..." he was cut off.

"I know what you said. Why should I give it to you?" she asked them in a confident voice.

The first one paused as he thought about what to do. He hadn't expected her to be so confident and even as she had her back to them.

"Because... We'll take it from you if you don't?" he said more like a question.

"I don't believe that you will. You've got quite a history. A few petty thefts. An aggravated assault. Possession of a banned substance too. You won't. You're a follower. Now Rack there beside you will. He's got three assaults, two armed robberies, car robbery, kidnapping and extortion. He's a doer and he's motivated. You'll both follow him but you'll take the rap for it. He'll get off with a good lawyer and you two will spend a few weeks in jail while he's out and about screwing hookers. Is that how you want this evening to start?" she asked them still keeping her back to them.

"No... I mean... We need the money. Bad! Now give it over and you won't..." the third one told her aggressively.

"That's your habit speaking. That habit is going to get you killed. It's the second most addicting substance there is though its a bit more expensive than the first. Isn't it? You've even spent some hard time in jail because of it too. Didn't you know that mules are expendable?" she said to him without breaking her momentum.

"Who the... How do you know all of this? I could kill you for what you just said." Rack said to her.

"Let's just say I have a great sense of empathy. It helps me to hunt my prey. As far as you trying to kill me? You won't be leaving this alley tonight. Alive. The other two have a choice and I gave them an insight to your being. Your ways. So are you going to stick with the dead man or do you want to join him?" she said still keeping her back to them.

A few moments later she emerged from the alley alone and unscathed. She did not look for any signs of trouble as she did because she already knew. There was none. They'd gone into the night without even so much as one body nearby who'd know they were gone. For good. She turned south onto the crowded street which was lit by flickering street lamps and colorful neon signs. The red light district and her favorite part of the city for it was where she'd meet the most interesting of people. It was where she blended in though this was only one of her many faces.

She was still looking for something. She'd taken care of two obstacles to her finding what she sought though she let the girl live. She was not a child killer after all. She knew that the risk was that some day the little girl might grow up full of ire and seeking revenge for the death of her parents. She would search high and low for her parents' killer but she'd only find the Dragon. The Dragon would seduce her and the little girl would lose her innocence forever. The little girl was not a piece of this puzzle but merely a choice. To let live or to snuff her little life out entirely. Spare her the misery of growing up without parents. The Dragon had thought about taking her right there and then. Keep the little girl and become her surrogate parent. Train her in the mystic ways of the Dragon of old. In the ways of the Dragon Butterfly. Fate held a different path that night for the Dragon had said it did not want her. That withering beast did not want her and so the choice had become hers. A choice she'd made in an instant though she'd thought about it for what seemed an eternity. The little girl kept her life. The only thing she'd had left.

The Dragon was more concerned with the gem. It was the gem that Akito and Jeong-Min were protecting though even when there bodies were twisted in the wreckage of their car they dared not reveal the secret of the gem even with their dying breaths. She'd twisted them too. She'd reached into their minds and they'd kept her out. She'd tortured them causing them both a great deal more pain before they'd shuffled off. They still said nothing. They were merely dead there at the base of Mount Fuji in the rocky crag in which she'd pushed their car. Now she was back in Osaka in the red light district approaching the shop of the man who could tell her how to find her way back onto the trail of the gem.

He ran a small shop and confectionery in the district though that was merely his means to support an existence. His real time was spent uncovering the mysteries surrounding the ancient past. A past often that few knew had existed. Legends lost to the onset of time as it crept forward devouring everything in its path occasionally leaving table scraps behind for the archaeologists and historians to bicker over. His area of study pertained to something for which there was no record because it did not want to be found. Something that Seri and Weltherwithsp had made sure of a little more than a millennium ago. From that point most of the knowledge of their existence had been passed on by oral tradition though there were still clues to be found. Many of which the shop owner had discovered during his time investigating the mystery.

He'd heard the clicking of her heels as she approached the door and when the door opened he knew that death had come for him. Instead it passed him up much like the girl and for reasons unbeknownst to him. She walked into the store taking a look around at the shelves and the walls.

"Not what I was expecting but it will do." she said to him.

"Expectations are like trying to pretend you know the outcome of a coin toss. You'll always be surprised half of the time." the shopkeeper responded.

"I like you already. Now I need to know about a gem." she asked him.

"Some gems are well hidden. Their trail long and meandering." he replied rubbing his hands to his black silk shirt.

"I need to know the shorter trail. I'm a girl pressed for time, although I've really got all the time in the world. My quarry doesn't." she leaned in close to his face and looked into his eyes.

Zek's New Home

A small man bracketed by two larger men walked the long hall walk towards his section of the prison. He'd made this walk many times over and this was just another day to him. He'd just come back from the clinic where he'd received a therapeutic massage. It was of course was provided by a scantily clad lady and employee of his diminished yet vast empire. There he was able to undertake a few more carnal pleasures to which his fellow inmates were not privy for if he wanted it he would merely buy it. Not with money but with a deal. To give up one's money without a means of making it back was foolhardy. So every person he'd brought on board was an investment from whom he'd take his share at some point in the future.

His clinic Doctor and masseuse had been smart, attractive and he'd mired her twice before proposing his deal. She accepted it of course and by afternoon's end he'd watched her cloth herself from his bed as she left. Admiring every curve as she did. From that moment on her life had changed and she'd become one of the most protected people on the planet. On occasion he'd reward any man in the prison who protected his interests with similar treatment for a short time. On this day though he was the only patron of a clinic which serviced himself and the prison officials he'd managed to bribe. An indoor service with benefits for those who were loyal to the man whose name was Alomera Zek.

He'd been the leader of a global conglomerate empire whose tendrils reached every corner of the globe. His means to power had been his elaborate blackmail database and an organized system of maintaining and updating it. When they'd taken him down he'd let on that they'd dismantled it but that was far from the truth for his database was run under a distributed model. That is it resided on many computer systems the world over with security and redundancy. When he'd been taken into custody by the investigators they'd taken all of the hardware and software from his headquarters on Treadwater Island. The teams combed the resort Island and more than two hundred and fifty offices around the globe gathering evidence. The investigation had taken years though ultimately the breakthrough came by the hands of four people. His entire global empire had been infiltrated and dismantled by four Women who'd largely remained unsung heroes. Unsung for their own protection.

Disseminating the evidence from the investigation had taken prosecuting teams from more than seventeen countries a year to analyse in order to coincide with their case against the man. The empire. The court proceedings had taken a year and a half and after a long deliberation by the secret jury, Alomera Zek was found guilty of more than three hundred charges. His sentence was decided by a secret panel of Judges from each of the countries who'd aided in the investigation. This was done to protect all who'd taken part in the trial and those who'd been part of the legal system that had taken the chance to stand against the man. The empire.

"Empires don't fall. They change." Mr. Zek said to one of his personal bodyguards as the guard pulled his key to the gate of Zek's personal range.

He inserted the key to the iron gate and a metal clank could be heard from inside. He pulled a latch and the heavy gate slowly opened revealing the paradise within. To them it appeared like the gates of heaven when stepping in from the interior corridors of the prison. Like heaven and hell were actually located in the same place.

The entryway was carved of stone and marble and imported no doubt. The foyer was lined with fountains and statues and led into a modest complex given Zek's usual tastes. He had an office and a study where he could read and access the internet through a twenty layer gateway which was encrypted at each network hop. Besides that his network point of presence was masked and virtual appearing to be located in any one of a hundred and ten countries. He'd manage his empire through these relatively modest means. As he'd said: Empires don't fall. They merely change.

The he left the guards at the range entrance and found his way into the office where he settled into his chair behind a large desk.

"Tianna. What are the current whereabouts of my four ladies?" Zek asked aloud addressing an unseen person.

"Monique Defleur is with currently at the offices of West Meet East International. She's doing a photo shoot with Kori Jonglyu for an ad in an upcoming fashion quarterly. Alicia Westin is on her way to a meeting with her fiance Walton Norler where they are giving a presentation about Tynan And Associates new formula from the SY series code named SY369 Beta. Valerie Aspen is in her office gathering information and running a statistics spreadsheet regarding a recent deal for her Corporate Analysis services. Heylyn Yates' location is currently unknown at this time." the voice spoke without pausing for a breath.

"Tianna, what was Heylyn's last known location?" Zek asked aloud.

"Heylyn Yates' last known location was her offices at West Meet East International. She left to an unknown destination nineteen hours ago." the voice answered.

"Very well. I want you to enact our recent plan. Let our representatives know that we need their services. They'll be rewarded handsomely as always. I want to see the results on the news by next week. Do you understand?" Zek ordered the unseen Tianna.

"Yes. I will contact them immediately." Tianna replied.

"Very well. Oh and tell the Warden that he's not to interrupt another one of my sessions at the clinic unless he wants to end up as part of the population here. I don't want him to get any misconceptions about who is really running the show around here." Zek gave on final instruction.

"Yes sir. Empires don't fall. They change." Tianna replied.

"What was that?" Zek confirmed with her.

"The Warden. His prison empire. It didn't fall. It just changed. Its in your hands now." Tianna explained her logic.

"I see. A very clever application of the anecdote. And so very true." Zek replied impressed by her response never realizing the irony of her statement.

His empire was not about to fall but it was about to change.

The Plan In Effect

"With the success rate of the first in the SY series it has been a tremendous motivation to press on and to develop the next generation. With the most recent in the SY Beta series we've done just that and we've got Cancer in our sights. Our preliminary tests have shown a success rate in over twenty three types of Cancer with a complete reversal in sixty three percent of our test cases. That's complete cellular regeneration and repair with the immune system taking over the battle and isolating and ejecting the cancerous cells through the body's sanitation systems." Alicia clicked the pointer and brought up the next page in her presentation.

Walton Norler stood beside her as they delivered the presentation to the board. Despite his enormous pull with Tynan And Associates they still had to answer to the board. In the end they decided the fate of all their investments. Norler had delivered the numbers to them in the prior talk and that was where he really shined. The results from the clinics who employed the SY series treatment had been outstanding. Both in terms of success rate and the financials. Those were the numbers that meant something to the board and that's why they were there. In the end though the numbers needed a brain and a heart and that's where Alicia came in. She'd often joke about herself being a Heylyn. A heart with wings much like the costume insignia Heylyn had designed for her Butterfly Dragon costume. Walton had agreed and they'd designed the entire presentation together. A bonding process for them both. She got to delve into his world of return on investment, statistics and financials. He got to jump into the world of bioinformatics, DNA and quantum genetic transmogrification. Their hard work together had paid off for the board was very impressed and by the end of the Alicia's presentation they were on board.

They shook hands with the board members as they left offering their congratulations and a firm handshake. When the room was empty Alicia and Walton embraced each other and enjoyed a passionate kiss in silence.

"We did it!" Alicia pulled him in closer.

"No. You did it. The formula. Everything we're here for." Walton told her touching her nose.

"We did it. All of us. But the formula doesn't happen without investment because researchers have to eat you know." she pecked his nose.

"Speaking of... how would you like to go for a bite..." a tremendous explosion was heard as the building shook nearly knocking them off their feet.

"What the..." Walton said looking out the window.

Alicia ran over to the window looking out. She saw the tremendous plume of fire and smoke rising a few blocks away from their office tower.

"Where's the..." Alicia asked as she searched the room for her things.

"Its in your bad. I put it in the drawer of the buffet there." Walton pointed to the buffet on which the catering sat.

She quickly opened the drawer finding her bag. She opened it to reveal her Night Style costume.

"Close and lock the door!" she told him.

"Got it honey." Walton said as he turned to the door and latched it closed.

Alicia proceeded to strip down to her undergarments and quickly threw her Night Style costume.

"If you don't mind me saying honey... this is kind of hot." Walton said to her eyeing her as she got dressed.

"When I get back. I have to..." Alicia said putting her boots on and then her mask.

"I know. Go save some lives..." he said to her.

She turned to him and kissed him then turned and barreled for the window at full speed. She broke through the window tucking into a roll as gravity took hold of her. Her momentum carried her to the building wall adjacent the office tower from which she'd plunged. She caught the side of the building making her way up its side scaling it like an expert climber. In a short period of time she'd reached the top and was running for the edge once again in the direction of the explosion. She leapt off the building landing on another shorter roof rolling and tumbling back up and into a sprint. A few more similar leaps and she was sliding down the side of the building and onto street level.

A few blocks away Monique was undressing herself in Heylyn's office and donning her Eclipse costume. She'd heard the blast herself while in the midst of preparing for a photo shoot. She ran from the studio screaming that she had a phobia of loud noises. Moments later she was wearing her costume and quickly transformed herself into a streak of light passing through the window to the exterior and flying in the direction of the blast.

Valerie had been out to buy a coffee at a local cafe when she'd heard the explosion. She quickly ducked into the bathroom and clumsily donned her costume in the cramped space cursing under her breath.

"It always looks so glamorous in the movies. They never show you this side of being a superhero." she said aloud as she struggled to get into her tights.

She put her mask on and stepped out of the bathroom.

One of the cafe patrons saw her and yelled.

"Oh my god! Its that S&M chick from the classifieds!" he said pointing to her as she left.

"That's Superheroes and Maneaters to you!" Valkyra yelled back to him as she left.

A moment later she was leaping towards the site of the explosion as fast as she could.

Alicia was already on the scene assessing the damage when Monique arrived.

"Fancy meeting you here? What's the plan?" Monique asked Alicia.

"Where's the Butterfly?" Alicia asked.

"She had to take an emergency trip overseas." Monique answered her.

"We need someone to fly up top and see if there's a way in through the roof. Its pretty smokey up there. I'm going to try getting in through the lobby here and get some people out. Can you handle the roof by yourself?" Alicia asked her.

"Are you kidding? Not a problem. I've been doing this for almost two years now while you've been resting on your laurels with your new squeeze." Monique said confidently and arrogantly.

"Let's get to it." Alicia said.

"You might need some muscle." Valkyra said as she arrived on the scene.

"You and I go in through the lobby. Flying girl here is going to go in through the roof and try to rescue as many as she can." Alicia informed Valkyra shaking her hand.

"Alright. Let's go." Alicia said as she spied a crowd gathering around the building.

Alicia ran for the doors as the a few people stumbled out onto the pavement. Valkyra followed closely behind her.

"There's people trapped up above the tenth floor. The stairwells are trashed as are the elevator shafts." one of the people said as they fell to the pavement coughing.

"What's your cell number? I'll call you from inside. You can tell us where we need to get to." Alicia asked him.

He nodded and gave it to her and she was off into the building.

"We should get into the stairwells. I'll see if I can clear them out." Valkyra suggested.

"Alright. We'll try the south stairwell. You climb up the tenth floor near the blockage and get working on getting it cleared. I'll do a floor by floor from the bottom up getting people out and meet you at the blockage. I'll call the Eclipse too." Alicia told Valkyra.

"You mean Strawberry girl? Make sure she knows to direct them to the south stairwell then and I'll have it cleared." Valkyra replied as she ran for the stairwell as the lobby began to fill with smoke.

With that Alicia began her floor by floor search for survivors and Valkyra made her way to the blockage in the stairs.

Up on the roof Monique had arrived flying with ease through the smoke as a shaft of light. She landed and returned to her normal form and searched finding the door to the utility room. She struggled with the knob for a bit before breaking it. In frustration she kicked the door using a kick Heylyn had taught her. The door collapsed inward and she pushed it out of the way and made her way through the utility room. On the other end she found another locked door. She broke through it finding another stairwell leading down for one flight and into the service corridors and offices.

She quickly made her way down when her cellular phone rang.

"Hello?" she answered.

"Alright. We're in. Here's the plan. You do a floor by floor searching for survivors. Get them to the south stairwell. Valkyra's going to dig the south stairwell out. Hopefully we'll be able to make enough of an opening for the survivors to get through." Alicia told her on the other end of the line.

"Ok. Got it. I'll meet you at the south stairwell." Monique replied as she transformed to a shaft of light and began searching floor by floor for survivors at high speed.

Tristan spun the wheel and the cruiser skidded to a halt outside of the smoldering office building. Officer Tandy jumped out and began running for the lobby doors when Officer Tristan yelled to her.

"Look Supergirl. We're going to do this together. Partners!" Officer Tristan told her.

She slowed her acceleration to a stop and looked back at him.

"Alright. Partners. What are you waiting for?" she yelled back to him.

Tristan grabbed the first aid kit from the cruiser and proceeded towards the lobby with Officer Tandy.

They spied a small group of people who'd obviously emerged from the building and were now catching their breath on the paved front entryway outside of the building.

"Officer... Officer! Some rescue personnel already went in a few minutes ago." a man who sat on the pavement just outside the building spoke as they approached.

"Rescue workers? How's everyone out here doing? Is there anyone that needs immediate medical attention?" Officer Tristan asked aloud to the group.

The man shook his head indicating no.

"They went in and took my phone number. They're going to call for directions in a moment or two." the man repeated.

Officer Tandy grabbed her radio handset and relayed a call to the radio room back at their headquarters.

"We're on the scene of the blast. We've got light casualties outside the building minor injuries. The building looks pretty bad inside. We've got reports of rescue personnel on scene. We need medical and fire fighting support immediately." Officer Tandy spoke into her handset.

"...<zzk>Ten four. Medical and Fire fighters already en route. Keep us informed...<zzkt>" Tandy's radio squawked back.

Tristan handed the man a business card.

"Here's our direct number. When the rescue personnel call, you call us or better yet have appoint someone else who knows the inside of this building so we can coordinate this. C'mon Tandy." Officer Tristan urged Officer Tandy along.

"They most likely went for the south stairwell its the closest. There's people trapped above the tenth floor." the man told them as they departed.

"We'll be expecting your call." Tristan said as they departed for the interior of the building.

The two Officers ventured into the front lobby together and proceeded for the south stair well.

On the sixth floor Alicia ran through the offices as fast as she could looking for trapped survivors. Most of the offices were in tact excepting the accumulating smoke. Near the blast center the turmoil became pronounced with twisted cabinets, broken desks and computer equipment littering the floors. Pieces of the flooring structure jutted up into the offices as well making travel precarious. Alicia was carefully surveying the floor when she came across a stack of full cabinets that had been knocked over by the explosions.

"" she heard a tiny voice from under the cabinets.

She positioned herself listening for the source of the voice. She didn't want to start moving the cabinets until she'd found the victim who was obviously pinned under the rubbage.

"I'm here to help... can you speak again and I'll get you out." Alicia asked aloud looking carefully when her heightened senses kicked in.

She looked through the solid material of the cabinets sensing the warmth of the victim under the cabinets.

"It's alright. I found you. I see you. Yell if you feel anything shift in a way that hurts." Alicia said as she grabbed the first cabinet.

She removed the cabinets one by one with relative ease until she saw the face of a late middle aged Woman.

"Alright. I'm just going to get this last cabinet off of you. It might hurt a bit and I'll do my best not to hurt you. You just hang in there and I'll have you free in a jiffy." Alicia assured the lady.

"...I think my ribs are broken..." she said weakly.

"Just keep breathing and I'll do the rest." Alicia said to her.

Alicia clasped the last cabinet in both arms and hoisted it slowly off of the lady. Once she'd gotten it away from lady's body she tossed it out of the way of their escape path.

"Alright. This next part is going to be hard. I'm going to lift you up very carefully. I can see your injuries and I'll be careful not to hurt you." Alicia picked her up carefully.

The lady winced in pain as Alicia began walking to the stairwell as quickly as possible. She turned a corner and found herself out of the offices and back to the central corridor near the elevators and stairs. She was about to open the door to the stairs when the sound of another blast threw her balance slightly.

She backed up away from the door.

"Are you alright?" she asked the lady.

"...yes..." the lady replied.

Alicia lowered the lady to the floor and pulled her cellular phone to dial a number. A moment later the man from outside the building answered.

"Hello?" he asked frantically.

"It's me. The girl who took your number. I've got a survivor in my arms. I'm on the sixth floor and on my way down. We're going to try to get through the blockage near the tenth and get anyone else out. If you see any emergency personnel tell them to look for survivors exiting the south stairwell. Got it?" Alicia confirmed with the man.

"I've got it. The south stairwell. There's some Police on their way up right now." the man replied.

"Thanks. Bye." Alicia said as she hung up.

"Alright Ms. Here we go again. What's your name?" Alicia asked her.

"I'm Mariane." the lady replied.

"Good. I'm... a friend." Alicia replied careful not to reveal too much about herself.

Alicia approached the stairwell door and kicked it open. She then proceeded in and down the stairs with Mariane in her arms.

Meanwhile Valkyra coughed as she pushed a large piece of galvanized concrete rubble from on top of her leg. She'd been removing the larger pieces from the stairwell blockage and putting them on an adjacent floor. She'd made a hole through the wall of the adjacent floor large enough to put the bigger pieces so as not to block the escape route back down the stairs. She's just dislodged the last of the big pieces when somewhere up on the floors above there arose an explosion. She stumbled down the stairs with the chunk of concrete she'd been holding onto. She fell with the large piece of wreckage landing on top of her. If not for her increased strength and resilience she'd have been squashed under its weight. Instead she pressed the larger piece off of herself and carried it into the opening she'd cleared and then proceeded up the stairs.

"Anyone up there?" Valkyra yelled and the sound echoed through the stairwell above and below.

"We're here. We're up here! They're here to rescue us!" a voice from the other side of the opening yelled.

A chorus of other voices and chatter could be heard after Valkyra's initial contact.

"Alright! Yes. We're here to rescue you but you're going to have to help. Stand back. Go back up two flights to where its safe. I have to get these last pieces out and if I'm not careful it could collapse the stairwell. The last thing I want to see is any of you pancaked under it." Valkyra told them trying in vain for a bit of levity.

"We're on our way back up. Please don't leave us." the voice replied and then began urging the remainder of people back up the stairs on the other side of the blockage.

From in the stairwell down below Valkyra heard a familiar voice.

"Val! It's me Alicia! I'm taking someone out of here and I'll be up there to help you!" Alicia's voice echoed through the stairwell.

"Sure! You show up after all the hard work is done!" Valkyra joked yelling back down to her friend.

Alicia half smirked and smiled as she made her way quickly down the stairs.

Tower Of Peril

Monique had just finished her flight through the eighteenth floor when her senses caught something peculiar. It appeared to be glowing in an odd way to her perspective. She was still in the form of a shaft of light, one of the amazing powers the SY349 formula had granted her. While in that form her senses were vastly different and she could see the world in a way few others could. She flew to the point where she'd seen this strange visage and transformed herself back into her beautiful material form.

"That's odd. I wonder what's inside?" she said aloud in curiosity examining what appeared to be a sealed box.

"Hello? Hello? Is someone there?" someone poked their head out of one of the offices that lined the exterior wall of the building.

Monique turned startled and joyed to see others alive on the floor.

"How many are there of you?" Monique asked trying to peer through the thin veil of smoke that lined the floor.

"There's... eleven of us... one... five... six, seven... yes! Eleven of us. Are you here to help us? Where's the fire crews?" asked the man.

"You need to get to the south stairwell right now. As fast as you can. Someone is down there to help you. The way is clear. Now go!" Monique yelled to him.

The group filed out of the office where they'd been trying to signal a crew below through a broken window. They ran for the exit as Monique took a closer look at the large boxed package she'd spied a moment ago.

She opened the top of the box finding it packed with a confetti filling. She reached around inside of the box feeling for whatever might have set her senses off when her hands stumbled upon something cold and misshapen. It was heavy to lift but she managed to pull it through the top of the box to take a look.

"Hey. It's like some kind of computer timer or something." she said looking at the computer digital clock affixed to the side of it.

Her body went cold as chills ran up and down her spine. It was a bomb. It had to be.

She immediately grabbed it in hand and flew back the path she'd gone up through the service stairwell back towards the roof as fast as she could fly. She'd flown three floors when the bomb's timer began its descent from ten to zero before going off.

"Oh no..." she said as she realized the futility of the situation.

In that moment the building rumbled and every floor shook right to their foundation on the ground.

Happens Here Happens Far

Heylyn walked in hand with Warai whose little legs managed to keep up. Heylyn had wanted Warai to get some sleep and offered to carry her for the distance through the boarding terminal and onto the tour liner boat. Warai insisted that she was fine not wanting to miss a moment of this journey. Her eyes were alight with wonder as they proceeded to board the cruise ship. One of the boat's concierges led them to their cabin for the short journey. The craft was both a ferry service and tourist attraction that sailed between Tsushima and Gwangyang and several other stops between Japan and Korea. Heylyn had thought it might be a good diversion for her and Warai to bond and to get to know one another. Once in Gwangyang they would attempt to uncover the nature of what had pursued Warai's family and bring about her parents' death. The trail led back to a shipping company that had employed Akito before their tragedy and she planned to investigate. They settled into their cabin for the thirty six hour cruise which would take them directly from Tsushima where the foster care service was located that had taken custody of Warai and on to Gwangyang in South Korea.

They arrived at their cabin on the boat and the bell hop bid them a nice voyage. Heylyn gave him a tip and he proceeded happily on his way. The room was compact and cosy with enough room for the two of them to manage.

"Alright sweetheart. You're going to get some sleep for a few hours. I'm just going to get the rest of our things settled and I'm going to bed too." Heylyn told Warai.

"In the morning can I look out of the... window to see the ocean?" she asked her.

"You'd be too bright for the night out there sweetie. You couldn't see anything. In the morning we'll get to see it from the deck. You'll be able to see everything. Now get to bed." Heylyn brushed Warai's hair with her hand as she sat on the bed.

Warai got herself under the covers and Heylyn tucked her in. With the light motion of the boat on the water as the liner had left the harbor she was fast asleep. Heylyn joined her an hour beyond that staying up to read the records given her by the Adoption agency. The company Akito had worked for was East Shiang Sun shipping. He'd been a truck driver for their import and export business. They had offices all over southeast Asia and were a relatively big shipping company specializing in commodities trade shipping. She'd planned to investigate the company wing in Gwangyang when she arrived. She put the records back into the manila folder and turned over and went to sleep.

Outside in the harbor they'd just left and unbeknownst to Heylyn they'd been watched as liner departed. One of the men pursuing them who was not a local pulled their phone and dialed a number.

"They've boarded the liner and are departing. Tsushima, Japan to Gwangyang, South Korea. Everyone is in place and ready." the man spoke into the phone.

"Good. Give the craft a six hour berth. Then initiate the plan." a voice from the other end of the phone spoke before hanging up.

The man then proceeded to make another call.

"You're to give the liner six hours before initiating the plan." the man spoke into the phone before hanging up.

Friend Or Foe

As Alicia arrived at the third floor with the injured lady she heard steps coming up the stairs towards her.

"Hello? We're Police. Anyone there?" Officer Tristan asked aloud trying to peer through the dust and smoke.

"I've got a victim in my arms here. She needs immediate medical attention." Alicia said to them as she descended the flight of stairs she was on.

Tristan turned to Tandy and gave her a look. Tandy knew what he was thinking and she proceeded up the stairs to the landing.

Alicia lay the lady who was now unconscious carefully on the floor before the Officer.

"You carried her all this way? What's with the mask and costume? Wait. Later. Where's her injury?" Tandy asked Alicia.

"She said it was her ribs. She's short of breath. They're possibly broken." Alicia told the Officer.

Alicia watched as the Officer's hands began to glow. Tandy applied them to the lady's abdomen just above her waist and the lady's body began to shudder. Alicia watched in amazement as the glowing energy seeped from Tandy and into the lady and then back into Tandy again. The awoke coughing and struggled to her feet unharmed.

"Wha... what happened? I remember... you! Where are we?" the lady asked Alicia as she looked around to see the two Officers.

"We're in a stairwell. I'm going to lead you out to safety. You just follow me." Officer Tristan grabbed the lady's hand and she obliged willingly.

"How'd you do that?" Alicia said taken back by seeing Officer Tandy's abilities.

"What's with the costume and mask?" returned Officer Tandy interrogating Alicia.

"I'm a mascot for a local sports team. I was on my way to work with my friends when..." Alicia replied.

"...and you're on your way out right?" Officer Tandy interjected.

"Not a chance. My friends are up there. I'm going back up." Alicia said to her assertively.

"I don't suppose it would stop you if I said that I'd have to arrest you?" Officer Tandy asked her.

"No. It wouldn't stop me. Not one bit." Alicia said to her boldly.

"Then I guess we're going together." Officer Tandy replied in a matter-of-fact kind of way.

"I guess so. Just don't slow me down." Alicia said to her.

"Slow you? Don't slow me down!" as the Officer sped up the stairs.

Alicia followed the Officer as fast as she could leaping five steps at a time.

"You still didn't answer how you healed that lady. It's important." Alicia yelled to her.

"I'm a Police mascot. I'm a top secret experiment for the force. Like Super Cop." Officer Tandy said to her sarcastically.

"Maybe more like Robo Cop?" Alicia said to her as she caught up.

"Watch it lady!" Officer Tandy said sharply in response.

Officer Tandy stopped on the ninth floor landing looking up the flight of stairs to see another Woman. She'd had a large piece of concrete in her arms. One that had to weight in excess of six hundred pounds at least. The Woman hefted it around like it was a movie prop boulder tucking it into a hole which was filled to the brim with other similar pieces.

"Who the heck are you?" Valkyra asked upon seeing the Officer.

"Valkyra, this is Officer..." Alicia started.

"I'm Officer Tandy. Tandy. I think you're going to have some explaining to do." Officer Tandy said to Valkyra.

"I'm just a..." Valkyra began looking to Alicia for coordination.

"...another sports team mascot. She's my friend. She works out a lot too if you haven't noticed." Alicia said thinking quickly.

"...yeah. Just like she said. I'm a sports team mascot. Valkyra the strong! And my friend there is..." Valkyra began.

"...Night Style the mysterious..." Alicia said a little bit playfully.

"Team mascots eh? Well we've got some people to rescue. You can explain it all later." Officer Tandy told them pointing to the opening that Valkyra had carved from the rubble. It was now big enough for one person at a time to easily squirm through.

Valkyra turned back to the opening she'd created and yelled up through it.

"Can you hear me up there on the twelfth floor? You can come down here and start making your way through the opening. Carefully though." Valkyra signalled the people in the stairwell on the other side of the opening.

A moment later the first person used the opening, an elderly lady. Valkyra helped her down and onto the landing.

"Are you injured?" Officer Tandy asked her.

"My arm." the lady said pointing to her arm which was bandaged with a makeshift wrap of clothing.

"Look the other way please." Officer Tandy said pointing to the wall.

Officer Tandy pressed her hands against the wounded arm and her hands began to glow. The lady's arm began to glow in slightly in sympathy with Tandy's hand and then receded back into Tandy once again.

"My arm? It's better! How did you..." the lady exclaimed in delight.

"M'aam if you'd step aside and let the next people through." Officer Tandy said to her professionally.

Valkyra helped another person down through the opening and Officer Tandy attended to them. All in all there were only three more injuries that needed Officer Tandy's special touch. She attended to them and when they had a group of seven people Alicia led them down the stairs to the front lobby before returning with Officer Tristan to Valkyra and Officer Tandy on the tenth floor. They continued this until they'd gotten all seventy of the survivors from the floors above to safety.

"Where's Mon... Eclipse?" Valkyra asked Alicia.

Alicia reached into her pocket and quick dialed Monique's number. There was no answer.

"We need to get up and into the top floors to find her. I knew we shouldn't have let her go up there by herself." Valkyra said worriedly.

"She's a bright girl. She's fine. She's probably got her leg stuck in a crag or something." Alicia said knowing that could not be true.

"There's another survivor?" Asked Tristan.

"One of our friends. She was helping to clear the survivors out from the floors above. She directed half the people we took out of the stairs." Alicia told him.

"Alright. Let's see if we can't find her." Officer Tandy said reaching for the hole Valkyra had dug.

One by one they followed her up and into the upper echelons of the building.

Lost Liner

Heylyn awoke first. She'd been dreaming she'd been in a strange office. A place that was certainly not a part of her company headquarters at West Meet East International. She'd been looking in a box filled with packing foam. Then she was flying at high speed in a frenzied path and then she was startled awake by the explosion. She'd thought it was a part of her dream when she'd heard panicked footsteps in the halls outside of her cabin. Warai still slept peacefully while Heylyn changed from her night gown into the tights, skirt and blouse from her Butterfly Dragon costume tucking them under another layer of clothing to keep them hidden.

Her senses came to life and she heard the sounds of alarm from the decks below. There was an emergency in progress.

"Warai?" she shook the little girl out of her slumber.

"wha...? hmmm...?" Warai awoke rubbing her eyes.

"Warai. Where are we?" Heylyn asked her.

"We're on a boat going for a sail, silly." Warai looked at her thinking this was some sort of game.

"Honey, I want you to stay here for a moment. I'm going to take a look and get us something to eat. Here's a cream bun and some water until I get back. Don't open the door for anyone and don't leave. Do you understand?" Heylyn asked her making sure she was coherent.

"Don't leave me! My Mommy and Daddy left me! Nooo..." Warai sensed the panic around them and began to panic herself.

"Where's Weltherwithsp when you..." Heylyn spoke just as the familiar voice returned.

"I'd think that I'm needed but always so I'm never to far from now and when and that's my Zen." Weltherwithsp's voice broke the panic.

"Welly!" Warai screamed in excitement.

"You know each other?" Heylyn asked in astonishment.

"We have for some time but that's hardly a crime as what is going about for which you hear such clout!" Weltherwithsp spoke his mystery again.

"I need to go and investigate what's happening on the boat. I heard an..." Heylyn did not finish before Weltherwithsp continued.

"...that you do and this is no ordinary accident and much to our lament. What do you do when you've got a little heart that needs as much protecting as your own? In this case I'd say to stay in this place she'll be well and I'll be here but for a spell. We'll both be with you all along so listen well you'll hear us strong." Weltherwithsp responded to her expression.

"You keep her safe and I'll be back. I promise Warai." Heylyn said as she stepped out the door locking it behind her.

Heylyn ran down the corridor following a group of crewmen who'd been running out onto the deck. She stopped someone to ask.

{What's going on?}
"무슨 일이야?" Heylyn asked a man nearby her best Korean.

{I have no idea. I heard an explosion. The boat stopped moving. There was some gunfire and then this panic.}
"나는 아무 생각이 없습니다. 나는 폭발을 들었다.보트 이동 중지. 일부 총소리 다음이 공포가 있었다." the man replied to her.

The sun was still relatively low on the horizon meaning it was around ten o'clock in the morning. The deck was array with activity and people talking amongst one another trying to find out anything they could. The crew were running back and forth between sites on the boat. The hospitality staff were overwhelmed with questions as the passengers sought answers.

Heylyn concentrated looking into the boat in attempt to see the insides of the structure. It's metal hull and flooring were nearly impossible to see through. She saw a bit of commotion on the decks beneath her and what appeared to be a panic towards the aft in the lower decks.

A voice blared out of the ship's loudspeaker system in broken English.

"Hello. You might all be wondering what is going on. Well I'm going to tell you seeing as the Captain is indisposed right now. You're all now hostages of C'aan R'uum. That's right. You're our hostages and we're now in charge of this cruise boat. The engines are no longer functioning as we had to disable them. They'll take a week or longer to repair so sit tight and enjoy the ship's and our hospitality. We've got a few simple rules. You're all to stay in your cabins all night and you're not to leave them for any purpose. You may leave in the morning for breakfast for two hours at which time you will return until one in the afternoon at which time you may leave for one hour and lunch and then return again to your cabins. At seven in the evening you may leave for dinner and dancing and that will stop at precisely midnight at which time you'll return to you cabins once again until the next day. Those are your daily rules. We might be here for a while so relax, enjoy yourself and don't make any mistake about who's in charge here. That's all you need to know for now. The first passenger or crew member that disobeys these laws will suffer the punishment of death and be thrown overboard." the voice terminated and the loudspeakers went silent before delivering the same message in several other languages.

Heylyn thought hard about where she'd heard that name, the C'aan R'uum. It was not an extremist group that made news frequently though she'd heard the name before. She strained herself trying to remember where she'd heard it. Slowly and reluctantly people started filing back to their cabins. Heylyn took a moment amidst the ensuing commotion in attempt to get a look at their captors. She made her way up the stairs onto the deck leading to the control room. She was halfway up the stairs when someone put a gun in her face.

The man looked at her carefully and then spoke:

"Do you speak English? I don't have my translator with me so unless you understand this, you're going to be talking to my gun." the man said to her with an apparent accent.

{Ahhh. Engrish. Ahhh. You want me to go away. Ahh yes. I go. I'll just go back to my cabin.}
"Ahhh. Engrish. Ahhh. You want me to go away. Ahh yes. I go. 我將回到我的小屋。" Heylyn said to the man feigning ignorance.

She turned back down the stairs taking a good look at the captor before she did.

He kept his gun directed to her not leaving his post. She decided to make her way back through to her cabin though she kept her eye out for crew, hospitality staff and any of the captors. When she was reasonably close to her cabin she found a one of the crew and a hospitality staff member talking to a passenger.

{I don't know. You can come out of you're cabin at one and eat something good. Ok? We'll do our best for you.}
"知りません。あなたは1でおしている小屋から出てくると良いものを食べることができます。 OK?私たちはあなたのために最善を尽くします。" said one of the hospitality staff to the passenger.

Heylyn unlocked the cabin and signalled to Warai who looked over excitedly.

"What's...?" Warai began.

"I need you to translate for me? Can you do that?" Heylyn asked Warai.

"I can do it. Just show me who?" Warai said.

Heylyn opened the door enough to let Warai out and took her by the hand. They walked together towards the staff she'd just seen addressing the passenger.

"Warai, tell her that I'm here to help." Heylyn asked Warai.

{My friend Heylyn says she's here to help.}
"私の友人はHeylyn彼女はここに助けることだと言います。" Warai said to the hostess one of the crew standing beside her.

{Help? How?}
"助けて? どうやって?" the hostess replied to Warai.

"How are you going to help them she wants to know." Warai asked Heylyn with a curious look on her face.

"I don't know. Uhhhh, tell them I'm a secret agent... an investigator." Heylyn suggested.

Warai thought about it a moment and chose investigator because that wouldn't be a lie because Heylyn was investigating Warai's Parents' lives.

{She's a secret investigator. She's here to investigate.}
"彼女は秘密捜査官です。彼女は調査するためにここです。" Warai said confidently.

The hostess looked to the crewman beside her quizzically and then spoke more quietly.

{What do you want to know?}
"何を知りたいのですか?" the hostess asked Warai.

"Ok. What's next?" Warai asked Heylyn.

"Ask them how many bad men they've seen. How many are there?" Heylyn said quietly looking around.

{How many of the bad men are there?}
"どのように多くの悪い男たちがありますか?" Warai asked the hostess.

The hostess turned to the crewman and addressed the same question to him in Korean.

{There were four down near the engine room. Armed with guns. There's about ten up near the control room. I've heard there's another fifteen or so scattered about the boat. They said there's another bomb too.}
"엔진 룸 근처 네 다운이 있었다. 총으로 무장. 약 10 컨트롤 룸 근처까지가있다. 나는 또 다른 다섯 또는 보트에 대해 너무 흩어져 거기에 들었습니다. 그들은 또 다른 폭탄이 너무 거기 말했다." the man replied directly looking towards Warai.

"He said there's a lot of them. There's four in the engine room. There's ten up in the driving room. He said there's fifteen more everywhere on the boat. He also said there's a pogtan too. Heylyn, what's a pogtan?" Warai replied to Heylyn asking her own question.

"Its something bad, sweetie but we're going to be safe. All of us. Now I want you to thank them." Heylyn said to her.

{She says thank you. So do I. Thank you. Thank you Miss.}
"그녀는 당신을 감사했다. 나도 당신을 감사 할. あなたのミスをありがとうございました。" Warai thanked them each in their respective languages.

{If you don't mind me asking, are you from China?}
"あなたは私が求めて気にしない場合、あなたは中国から来ましたの?" the hostess asked Warai.

{She's Chinese and she's from Canada.}
"彼女は中国だと、彼女はカナダからです。" Warai answered the hostess.

{My Mommy's from Korea and my Daddy's from Japan.} 
"私のママの韓国から、私のパパの日本から。" Warai added.

{Please be safe. Please help us.}
"安全で下さい。私たちを助けてください。" the hostess replied and both her and the crewman bowed.

Heylyn urged Warai back into their cabin where she sat Warai up on the bed.

"Weltherwithsp? Weltherwithsp?" Heylyn said aloud.

"What? You didn't think I'd leave you to be by yourself in this most uncomfortable of situations did you? Not for moment I'm here for the count as you'd say." Weltherwithsp's voice broke the silence.

"There's an army of extremists who've taken over this boat. What should I do? How can I take them all down by myself without someone getting killed?" Heylyn asked aloud.

"Always a mystery there is to be found when approaching the limits of sight and sound. Perhaps there's more to this mystery than your sight would have it? When you think that you're most alone that's when you're actually most at home. There's many others just like you who'll help beyond alone your ability to. I'll be back and soon." Weltherwithsp left them with another mystery.

Heylyn gave pause to consider Weltherwithsp's stanza. She thought about the ship and its crew and the conversation they'd had outside of the cabin door moments ago. Perhaps Warai and her were not so alone as she'd imagined.

"Bye Welly!" Warai said aloud rousing Heylyn from her thoughts.

"Toodaloo..." Weltherwithsp said in reply to Warai.

"Are we going to be alright?" Warai asked Heylyn.

"We will. I promise you. This Butterfly is going to keep the little Butterfly and all the other Butterflies on this boat safe." Heylyn sat on the bed beside Warai and gave her a warm hug.

Dragon Trail

The flight had been a short one at an hour while the drive to the orphanage had been almost as long at forty five minutes. Tsushima's traffic was at its midday height as the lady stepped out of the cab and to the front door of the orphanage. She walked across the floor oblivious of the intrusive noise that emanated from her heels upon the hard wood floors.

The lady at the front desk saw her approaching and smiled.

{I'm looking for a small child. A little girl. She's a recent arrival. Warai Jeong-Min Tokama. Perhaps you can help me?}
"私は小さな子供を探しています。少女。彼女は最近の到着です。笑いチョンミンTokama。おそらく、あなたは私を助けることができますか?" the heeled Dragon lady spoke.

{Help you? Uhhhh... I can but that information is confidential. Do you have any identification that could prove your relation or that gives you power of attorney for your request?}
"助けます? Uhhhh...私はしかし、その情報は機密であることができます。あなたの関係を証明するか、それはあなたの要求のためにあなたの弁護士の力を与える可能性の識別を持っていますか?" the receptionist asked the Dragon lady.

{Identification? Why as a matter of fact I do. If I'm sure you'll find it right here...}
"識別?なぜ私は実際の問題として。私は確信している場合は、右ここでそれを見つけることができます..." the Dragon lady said stepping closer to the receptionist.

The receptionist took in her eyes. Those big beautiful eyes. Ancient. Like a snake's she thought as they enveloped her.

Moments later the Dragon lady emerged from the building confident that she'd had the information that she needed. Her mind was so easy to twist and toy with like clay in her hands. The lady had even revealed Akito's workplace address in Gwangyang which was where the Dragon lady had set her sights.

By the time afternoon had arrived Heylyn emerged from her cabin with Warai in hand. The hijackers had during morning made the rounds to each cabin and collected cellular phones, laptops and and tablets from the passengers. Many of the passengers had already sent frantic messages to the outside world but the hijackers knew that the authorities would verify their claims with the crew before dispatching the necessary authorities to deal with them. As predicted the authorities did make contact and requested a verification code from the Captain to indicate he was not being detained. The hijackers had known about the whole procedure and they even had known the code he was supposed to give if he was being detained. The Captain was forced to give the valid code to the authorities and they apologized for bothering him and that was that. Nobody was coming to help them. They were on their own until the hijackers made their demands known.

Heylyn had removed her Butterfly Dragon costume and decided that she needed to investigate a bit before she took any action. Her and Warai walked together, surrogate mother and daughter much like Heylyn's mother had with her twenty eight years earlier.

"I'm so hungry. I could eat the whole boat!" Warai said as she giggled.

"Don't start yet. We'll be there soon." Heylyn winked to her.

Heylyn looked around keeping her eyes sharp and her senses tuned. Most of her abilities remained with her despite the absence of her costume. She could peer through thin layers of steel and detect much though not as effectively as she could with her costume. She'd counted six hijackers on her trip to the restaurant and seven more inside of the restaurant. Each of them had a firearm and most of them had sub-machine guns. She'd seen the guns before during one of her many take downs since the Treadwater incident. They had little effect upon her dragon-skin armor ability but to the passengers and Warai they'd be deadly.

There was a lineup for lunch and they fell into place at the end. Heylyn recognized one of the crew ahead of her. He turned to her and spoke.

{I hope this day is a good one. Maybe good enough to see them fall? You're the one the crew is talking about. Quietly and carefully. We keep your secret.}
"I hope this day is a good one. Maybe good enough to see them fall? You're the one the crew is talking about. Quietly and carefully. We keep your secret." the crewman assured her in Korean.

{Did you see anything new. Anything helpful that might be of use to me?}
"새로운 아무것도 볼 수 없었다. 나에게 유용 할 수 있습니다 도움이 아무것도?" Heylyn asked him though keeping her demeanor in the appearances of them having a polite conversation rather than exchanging secrets.

{They keep guards posted on the engine room always. At least ten. The control room has around the clock guards as well. That's where idiot's head is. Their leader. He keeps watch from there and the security room which is next door. About seventeen guards there altogether. Ask the hostess about the guard shifts for the restaurants. They gave the hospitality staff and the crew separate talks and different rules no less to keep us divided. Like the rules for the passengers.}
"그들은 항상 엔진 룸에 게시 가드를 유지합니다. 열 적어도.컨트롤 룸뿐만 아니라 시계 가드 주위에있다. 바보의 머리는 곳이다. 그들의 지도자. 그는 거기에서 시계를 유지하고 보안 룸 이는 옆에 있습니다. 모두가 약 열일곱 가드.레스토랑 가드 변화에 대한 여주인에게 문의하십시오. 그들은 친절 직원 및 승무원만큼이나 분할 우리를 유지하기 위해 별도의 회담과 다른 규칙을 주었다. 승객에 대한 규칙처럼." the crewman told her.

{Thank you.}
"고맙습니다." Heylyn told the crewman.

They waited silently in line which moved relatively quickly. Many of the patrons were scared to stay out and about with the gunmen standing about on the deck of the boat. They rushed through their lunch and left their table hurrying back to the safety of their cabin even if it meant missing out on the midday sun.

When Heylyn arrived at the front of the line the hostess greeted her as she scanned for a table that had been cleared.

{A crewman told me that you might know something that could help me to deal with these hijackers.}
"승무원 당신이 날이 납치범을 처리하는 데 도움이 수있는 일을 알고있을 것을 저에게 말했다." Heylyn spoke her best Korean.

{You're the one who is here to help us? ...Uhhh yes. They've been keeping a steady shift of two gunmen in the kitchen and three outside in the restaurant area. Tonight I heard them arranging for the evening shift. There's going to be ten in here to deal with passengers. Four in the kitchen and one behind the bar. They're allowing the passengers to drink tonight despite their belief against it. In the gift shops they've been using patrols. Usually one or two guards. The decks have at least four who maintain visual contact with each other.}
"당신은 우리를 도와 여기 사람이야? ... 예 있자나. 그들은 레스토랑 지역에서 꾸준한 부엌에서 두 총잡이의 이동과 세 개의 외부를 유지했습니다. 오늘 밤 나는 저녁 변화에 대한 배열을 들었다. 승객을 처리하기 위해 여기에 열을있을 것입니다. 부엌에서 네와 바 뒤에 하나. 그들은 승객이에 대한 자신의 믿음에도 불구하고 오늘 밤 마실 수 있도록하고 있습니다.선물 가게에서 그들은 순찰을 사용했습니다. 일반적으로 하나 또는 두 개의 가드.데크는 서로 시각적 접촉을 유지 적어도 네 가지가 있습니다." the hostess told Heylyn using her expression to hide the content of their conversation.

{Keep your eyes and ears open. Let me know if you hear or see anything.}
"열린 눈과 귀를 보관하십시오. 당신이 듣고 아무것도 볼 수 알려줘." Heylyn replied to her.

She led Warai and Heylyn to their table and left them to eat. A moment later the wait staff brought their lunch which was a large healthy bowl of kimchi salad in a sesame dressing with a variety of shell fish on the side.

"Yummy! My favorite!" Warai said eyeing the shell fish.

Heylyn picked up a scallop with her seafood fork, dipped it in the ginger dip and flew it like a space ship towards Warai's mouth. Warai giggled and opened her mouth and plucked the fish from the fork.

Heylyn served out a portion of salad for them each and they sat enjoying their meal. Heylyn took the time to look around trying to gather as much information as she could. They were trained for certain and organized. Some of them might even have martial arts training which could make a bit of trouble for the quick take downs that she'd need to accomplish if she was going to get through them without any passenger casualties. They used headsets as well to communicate meaning that she'd have to immediately incapacitate each of them one at a time. Only the solitary ones until she'd dispatched them then try to move onto the larger groups. She thought about her plan and waited for Warai to finish the last of her salad.

Heylyn gestured to the wait staff and asked them to put their meal into a take out bag so they could snack while they waited for the dinner this evening. The waiter returned a moment later with their lunch wrapped in takeout bag. They then got up and left to return to their cabinet.

On their way back Heylyn noticed something that sent chills up her spine. A smaller boat had docked with theirs and was unloading containers and boxes. The hijackers had the crew assist them and they formed a line bringing the boxes by hand cart to the engine room and control room. The boat was tied to theirs on the same side as their cabin and with any luck she'd be able to keep an eye on them from their cabin.

"Look! It's another boat! How'd they do that?" Warai asked in amazement.

"They just docked with this boat so they could deliver something." Heylyn tried to explain still trying to understand what they were up to.

"Like mail for boats!" Warai exclaimed excitedly.

"I don't think they're sending us love letters though." Heylyn said to her.

"Awwwe. That's alright. I still like you. A lot. You remind me of my..." Warai's expression dimmed and she seemed saddened.

"It's alright honey. We'll get back to the cabin and watch a movie together. Ok?" Heylyn suggested.

"Alright. We can watch a movie. That's ok as long as its not Titanic." Warai said putting her hands on her hips trying her hand at a little bit of humor.

Heylyn smiled quite surprised by her sudden humorous turn.

We Can Be Heroes

"She's not on this floor." Valkyra yelled back to Alicia and Officer Tandy.

"Nothing in on this side either." Alicia replied.

"Alright, let's proceed up to the next floor. Be careful. I saw some damage in the ceiling which could indicate another blast point above us. I'm on my way to the south stairs right now." Officer Tandy yelled over to Valkyra and Alicia.

Officer Tristan had returned to the ground floor and taken over the management of the crime scene tending to the injured and gathering reports until the official bombing investigators showed up. Down on the ground floor were an army of firefighters who scoured the building for survivors and assessed the damage. Miraculously there had been no reports of fatalities and only one serious injury which was already being tended to at the hospital.

Alicia, Valkyra and Officer Tandy met at the stairwell and proceeded up and into the utility levels on the top four floors of the building.

"So do you care to elaborate on your clothing. The masks. The truth this time?" Officer Tandy asked them.

"We told you..." Valkyra started looking to Alicia who'd paused on the stairs to confront Officer Tandy.

"You don't seem to be breathing heavy. And what did you do to the injured? You healed them by some form of psychokinesis... or something... Maybe you need to explain something to us..." Alicia challenged the Officer.

"...I'm... strong. Very strong. I can't tell you how it happened but I can say that I can lift upwards of up to twenty or thirty tons. Easily." Valkyra told Officer Tandy.

The Officer paused looking at her as if she was crazy.

"You asked. I told you. So now what about you Mother Theresa?" Valkyra replied to Officer Tandy and her penetrating look.

"I was paraplegic four years ago. I'd volunteered for a new treatment which my physiotherapist's clinic was a sponsored. About two months in I'd started noticing I'd developed some strange abilities. Three months after that and I was walking. On my own two legs. As if I'd been walking all along." Officer Tandy told the other two women flatly.

Alicia looked to Valkyra who returned the inquisitive gaze.

"Any answers science girl?" Valkyra asked Alicia.

"What program or treatment were you receiving?" Alicia asked the Officer.

"That one from the commercials... Tynan. lt's possible. Today." Officer Tandy responded to Alicia.

Alicia thought about the implications as they proceeded up the stairs once again.

"So you received these abilities during the treatment. The only version of the SY to make it to the public had been altered to prevent the anomaly. That means..." Alicia thought out loud.

"So you too? Am I to understand that you are super powered as well?" Officer Tandy asked Alicia at little less intrusively.

"Yes. A bit more than an olympic athlete. I can run for days without tiring. My reflexes are at the precognitive level. My strength is well above normal. My senses as well." Alicia told her.

"Then we're similar. That's roughly what my abilities are besides the Mother Theresa effect as you just called me." Officer Tandy told them.

"So what now. You know our secret. What now? Are you going to arrest us?" Valkyra asked the Officer.

"...No. If it has been you two that have been running your own little vigilante business in the city, you're not going to keep doing that unless you keep us in the loop." Officer Tandy suggested to them.

"Or you'll stop us? Try!" Valkyra said to the Officer.

"It's alright Valkyra. That's a deal so long as you keep our secret. And should you not we know yours and your real life identity. We'll protect each other. We'll keep the Police in the loop but you're not going to run us. Ever." Alicia told Officer Tandy firmly.

"I take it the person we're looking for now is also... like us?" Officer Tandy asked them.

"Yes. She is. She's had a little bit of a rougher trip through life than others. She's not as fond of Police as us. She might like you though." Alicia said of Monique.

"So you have names?" Officer Tandy asked them.

"Valkyra." Valerie Valkyra Aspen replied.

"Night Style." Alicia Night Style Westin replied.

"Who are we looking for?" Officer Tandy asked.

"The Eclipse... sometimes with strawberries." Valkyra and Alicia both replied simultaneously.

"Does that mean her power is that we can only see her every few years?" Officer Tandy asked.

"Only if you're wearing protective eye wear." Alicia corrected her levity.

They crested the top of the stairs and arrived at the doorway to the first of the four utility levels of the building. The door had been blasted clear off and was somewhere else out of sight.

"Signs of the most recent blast we heard..." Alicia said to them.

The level itself was entirely open. There were no wall as they'd been blasted by the enormous force of the most recent explosion. The floor had even been slightly cratered where at its center they spied a single body.

"Eclipse!" Alicia yelled running for Monique's body.

When she arrived she saw that Monique was half in shadow form and half in light form.

"Alicia!" Monique exclaimed excitedly though clearly in pain.

"I'm here honey. Can you?" Alicia started.

"No. I can't. I might... die if I change back to normal. My injuries. I managed to fly the bomb to this floor from the eighteenth before it exploded. It went off in my hands while I was flying it. It was the strangest feeling... I transformed immediately when it went off. My injuries were slowed but if I change back. Wait! Who's she?" Monique let it all out at once.

"Officer Tandy. She's a friend. A real friend. She knows. About us. Trust her." Alicia consoled Monique.

"Alicia. I can't change back or I'll die. What am I going to do?" Monique's tears fell down her face as sparkling droplets of pure light.

"I can help you. Can you change back. Right now?" Officer Tandy asked her.

"...Should I even answer her?" Monique looked to Valkyra and Alicia.

"Trust her." Alicia assured her.

"Really. You can trust her." Valkyra confirmed.

"You can trust her. She's like us. You know?" Alicia consoled her.

"If I change back I'm going to die..." Monique panicked.

"Trust us..." Alicia told her.

"Ok. I'll trust you. But if I die... I'm going to haunt your butt! You too Valkyra!" Monique threatened them.

Ten minutes later they descended the last flight of stairs to the ground floor together. Officer Tristan met them as they arrived on the ground floor. Most of the smoke had cleared and now there only remained blast damage.

"Everyone's out. Everyone's alright." Officer Tandy told Officer Tristan.

"I guess this means we part ways. For now." Alicia said to Officer Tandy.

"Yes. I guess it does. Remember to fight the good fight." Officer Tandy looked to the other three women.

"Wait. We need to get a picture. You're heroes. People are going to want to know. Not your names but maybe that you're out there. With the fire fighters and medical crew. No casualties in an attack this big? That's good news. People are going to want to know." Officer Tristan suggested to them.

Outside of the building a team of the fire fighters and medical staff were coaxed to pose with Alicia, Valerie, Monique and Officer Tandy (who wore a bandana over her face). Officer Tristan took the photo and sent it off to a press contact and the Police Public Relations Officer. The photo would later become a clear message to Alomera Zek that his plot to kill the girls had failed miserably. There still however remained one Butterfly who'd brought another into their circle who was currently in the Far East of Asia.

Boat Show

Warai and Heylyn sat at a table shared by some of the other guests on the boat. She'd befriended them over dinner as guests were encouraged to mingle. They were an inspired and spirited group who were not going to let the hijacking ruin their vacation. They'd eaten their dinners and were now enjoying a night of drink and dance. One of the ladies with the group had remained sober and Heylyn had arranged with her to babysit Warai during her investigation of the hijackers. She'd decided to accomplish this during the cover of the evening and night entertainment aboard the boat. She'd do it as the Butterfly Dragon.

"Are you going now?" Warai asked her as she removed her jacket.

"Yes sweetie. I'm going to be gone for a bit. You be a good girl for Mrs. Soo-Lee." Heylyn folder her jacket putting it into a carry bag from which she pulled her mask.

"Am I going to see the Butterfly tonight?" Warai asked.

"You all are. Especially the hijackers." Heylyn stood and made her way out of the restaurant and club after giving Warai a peck on the cheek.

As she walked, she feigned a slight drunkedness to keep the hijackers unsuspicious. To them she appeared to be part of the costume party that was happening in the other restaurant on the other end of the boat. She laughed and giggled and waved her bottom a little for good measure until she was in the clear. When she was certain that nobody would see her, she leapt over the railings and flew just above the waterline towards the stern of the boat. She wanted to get a closer look at what they'd been unloading towards the engine room of the boat. She slowly flew up the side of the boat to the first level railing. She scanned the floor for any threats, sighting a lone hijacker who was guarding the back service entrance to the crew area and maintenance. She flew over top of the hijacker landing silently behind him without rousing him. She slipped her hand over his mouth and drove the two knuckles of her clenched fist hard into his kidney. He immediately fell unconscious dropping his firearm over the railing into the water. She looped his belt around the railing and hung his unconscious body from it.

She grabbed the knob of the door firmly breaking the lock. When she swung the door open she spied another hijacker coming up the stairs.

"'re early. I thought I told you not to leave your..." he started as the Butterfly Dragon descended the stairs and was upon him.

He raised his submachine gun to fire upon her. She quickly grabbed it's muzzle thrusting it towards him to avoid his reflex reaction. Her gambit worked and the gun did not go off. With her other arm she struck the tip of his jaw with the blade of her palm. A shot of pain extended up through his head though he was only conscious long enough to register a little of it. She dragged him up to the same railing and dangled him beside the other hijacker. Both she'd managed to take out silently.

She headed back inside into the corridor below passing many startled crew members. They held their tongues and she mouthed a kiss at them as she proceeded towards the engine room. She arrived at a junction point where she heard voices around the corner from her.

"He's not going to like this. The timer has to be ready by midnight and set to go off at precisely 2:15 AM. We're out of here at 1:30 AM. That should get us far enough from the blast." one of the voices spoke.

"I can have it done by 12:30 AM at earliest. This is delicate work. We're talking about synchronizing enough explosives to level a football stadium. He wants it done in twenty minutes? He's crazy!" the other voice replied.

Heylyn's thoughts rushed as she realized what was going on.

They're going to blow up the boat. Passengers and all. They're going to leave on that boat.

Back up at the table Warai finished the last of her Shirley Temple. Mrs. Soo-Lee offered Warai a bit of her shrimp.

"Would you like some?" Mrs. Soo-Lee's voice pierced the music and background chatter.

"Thanks. But I've to eat my melon first." Warai replied politely plucking the melon from her Shirley Temple and popping it in her mouth.

A small group of the hijackers approached their table. One of them was holding a picture.

"This is her. You must be Heylyn then. Our employer will be pleased." the hijacker said throwing the picture down on the table.

It was a family picture of Warai taken when her parents were alive. It was one of the photos kept at the orphanage that had taken custody of Warai after her parent's death.

"You're to come with us. Special request of our leader here on the boat. You're going to be his special guest for the trip back." the hijacker told Mrs. Soo-Lee and Warai.

"We're not going anywhere with you." Mrs. Soo-Lee defied them.

The hijacker slapped her face hard leaving a mark.

"You're going to come with us. Don't try anything either. Your friends are already dead." the hijacker told Mrs. Soo-Lee.

Warai began to cry quietly to herself.

"It's alright honey. We'll be alright." Mrs. Soo-Lee assured Warai to the best of her ability.

"I know. The Butterfly is going to get you all!" Warai said defiantly.

"There's not going to be a Butterfly to save you this time I'm afraid. Come with us. Now!" the hijacker demanded.

Watery Graves

Heylyn thought about what she had to do to prevent this from happening. She could try taking all of them down but that would only lead to passenger deaths. She could never get them all before they hurt one of the passengers. Instead she had to let them get off the boat and take care of the bomb between 1:30 AM and 2:15 when it was set to go off. Then she could pursue the hijackers and take them out when they were fleeing on the other boat.

Heylyn made her way back towards the two guards she'd taken out and grabbed them up one on each shoulder. She took them down the stairs to the crew quarters she'd passed.

"Here! Take their bodies. They're unconscious. Keep the tied up and gagged. If they awaken then knock them out again. A bang to the head. Not too hard. The hijackers are leaving at 1:30 AM. I'll be back then." Heylyn assured them.

"Ok. You come back though. We don't want to be killed!" they pleaded with Heylyn.

"I will. I promise." she told them.

The crew members took the unconscious bodies of the hijackers and stashed them under their bunks behind their personal effects while Heylyn made her way back up onto the deck.

She jumped over the railing and flew around to the port starboard and found her way back onto the boat without arousing any suspicions or being sighted. She then made her way back to the restaurant to find Warai and Mrs. Soo-Lee.

When she arrived at the table she saw that the table had been vacated except for one of the couples.

"Have you seen Warai? The little girl who was sitting here?" Heylyn asked the couple.

"The hijackers came and got them. Our friend Soo-Lee and the little girl. They took them up towards the control room on the top deck." the lady from the couple replied.

Heylyn wasted no time. She made her back through the crowd of party goers and dancers to the upper deck as close as she could get without being spotted by the hijackers. She saw from a vantage point that they were talking with Mrs. Soo-Lee, possibly questioning her. Warai sat beside her and was clearly scared and crying.

"If they hurt either of them there will be nowhere on this planet they could hide from me." Heylyn mouthed.

Heylyn kept her vigil there near the control room for a half hour until they escorted Warai and Mrs. Soo-Lee to their escape boat. The boat from which they'd been unloading all the explosives they were going to use to blow up the cruise boat. One by one the hijackers began making their way to the escape boat and boarding it. The dinner and dancing was still going at both ends of the boat and it was clear that the hijackers had no concern for it because they'd known that all the passengers would be dead in less than an hour. The loudspeaker once again came to life all over the boat as it had when the hijackers had first taken the boat.

"I regret to inform you that we have what we came here for and must now depart. We'll leave you all with a little gift. That is your lives and your freedom, courtesy of the C'aan R'uum. Remember that every day forward is a gift that we've given to you in the name and the glory of our fight. Don't try to chase us or follow us in any way. You're boat's engines are not functioning and will require a few days to repair before your vessel is once again underway." the leader spoke over the loudspeaker.

Heylyn cringed in anger at the audacity of the leader to lie to his victims like that. He'd intended to murder everyone on the boat yet he still tried to fool them right down to their last moments of life. She watched as he left the control room and proceeded to the escape boat. When he arrived at the boarding point he was stopped by one of the hijackers.

"Everyone is on board and accounted for except two of our team. What should we do?" the hijacker asked.

"Leave. They won't be alive for long to explain what we were doing here. We've got Heylyn and the girl. That's what our employer wanted. Get onboard and prepare to depart." the leader told the hijacker.

"Yes sir." the hijacker responded.

The passengers up on deck began to cheer and rejoice for their freedom. The restaurants filled and the real party began as the hijacker's escape boat departed.

Heylyn made her way back to the engine room still in her Butterfly Dragon armor and costume. She approached the door to the crew quarters and pounded it with her hand. The door opened and when they recognized her they let her in.

"They're here. Right here." one of the crew said as they pulled the hijackers from where they'd stashed them.

Heylyn approached them and ripped the gags from their mouths.

"How do we diffuse the bomb?!" she yelled at them.

"We don't know. They hired an expert to rig it. Its set to go off if anyone tampers with it." the hijacker replied terrified of the woman who'd so easily disabled him.

"Find someone with explosives knowledge. Someone on the crew or a passenger. A combat engineer. Anyone!" Heylyn ordered one of the crew.

He got on the intercom and contacted the Captain's deck. A moment later a reply came back.

"We're going to send old man Matsushita. He fought in the Korean war. He's a Japanese national who volunteered and was a former engineer. He might be able to help." the intercom replied to their dilemma.

"When he arrives send him to the engine room. Notify the Captain to prepare the ship for evacuation using the life boats. We're going to try to defuse this thing before it goes off and before anyone has to leave the boat." Heylyn told the crew as she sped out of the room and towards the engine room.

She arrived at the engine room door. She grabbed the latch and turned it. The door would not budge because it had been welded shut. She began pounding the door with a barrage of kicks watching as the metal door deformed and the weld broke. The heavy door fell to the floor with a thud exposing the engine room and the large device they'd set up to destroy the boat.

She quickly examined it though having no idea what to do. A moment later an old man with thick glasses arrived.

"I am Matsushita." he bowed.

"Good. What can you do about this?" Heylyn directed him to the bomb.

"Oh. Its very complex. A very tricky wiring. I can defuse. It might take some time. I need tools." Matsushita explained.

"Get the man some tools!" one of the crew yelled.

A moment later three tool boxes of varying size were placed before Matsushita and he began the delicate work of dissecting the bomb.

Heylyn watched him as he slowly and deliberately cut a wire.

"It did not blow. That's a good sign." he said to her laughing slightly.

"I'll say." she replied.

"Why are you still here?" he asked her.

"In case I have to fly you out of here." she replied.

"You can fly?" he asked her.

"Only during emergencies." she joked giving back some of his levity.

"Ok. Plug your ears. I have to cut another." he said.

"You're kidding I hope." she replied.

He cut the wire and her tension eased.

"Good. Now the bomb can be tampered with without worry of going off." he said.

"Now defuse it. Fast." Heylyn encouraged him.

"Now I just need to cut the line to the cmos switch and timer." he said taking examining three wires he held in his fingers.

"Pick a color?" he asked her indicating the three wires.

"Uhhh... that one. The turquoise one." Heylyn said without wasting a heartbeat.

"Alright. Plug your ears again." he said smiling placing his cutters on the green wire.

"Wait! You're cutting the wrong wire!" she said to him panicking.

"Ahhh yes. I see. You right. I fix." he said to her placing his cutters on the correct wire.

Then he cut the turquoise wire.

"All done." he replied to her.

"Whew. Thank you Matsushita." Heylyn said bowing frantically.

"No. Thank you. Thank the Captain Seung too. He very good man." Matsushita said humbly bowing himself.

"I must go. I have a boat to catch. Literally. Let the crew know the bomb's diffused and that they can begin repairs on the engine. I must go." Heylyn said to Matsushita and the few crewmen remaining.

She left the engine room and climbed the stairs up and back onto the deck. She then leapt into the air and flew in the direction of the fleeing boat of the hijackers. The passengers aboard the boat cheered her as she sped off into the night air.

The boat had made good distance in the time since it had left and was speeding towards an unknown rendezvous point. Heylyn flew quietly through the air, her aura dimmed for stealth.

On the hijacker's boat Warai and Mrs. Soo-Lee sat beside one another as the leader of their outfit spoke.

"Another two minutes and we'll once again make history. A measly boat full of social waste will become the latest casualty of capitalist and democratic excess of a market based economy. The hides of those pigs will soon be scattered along the bottom of the ocean and food for the sharks. We have Zek's prize here in our custody. It is a day of victory for us." he addressed his men as he kept his eye on the time.

The man he'd hired to wire the explosives rig on the passenger liner stood beside him enjoying his moment of victory. The clock edged slowly towards 2:15 AM and when the time crossed the line, there was silence. No explosion. No victory.

"Hmmm. Perhaps a glitch? Let us wait and see another minute." the leader spoke.

"Sometimes a rise or drop in temperature can affect the time." the bomb expert explained.

"No more than a minute though. Am I correct?" the leader confirmed with him.

"Absolutely. No more than a minute." he replied.

"It has been more than a minute. There's one thing, no two things I cannot tolerate. Mistakes and incompetence. You've violated both." the leader said as he pulled out a pistol and fired directly into the bomb technician's forehead.

His body fell dead in the cabin of the boat as Warai and Mrs. Soo-Lee screamed and cried.

"Take this lump of crap out of my cabin and dump him in the sea. Looks like the sharks will only have his body to feed upon tonight. At least we have Zek's prize." the leader said salvaging what he could from the situation and keeping his men's morale up.

Suddenly the boat stopped dead. Everyone standing in the cabin fell forward to the floor a few knocking themselves unconscious. The boat then began to travel backwards in the water. Like it had been snagged on something that had caught it in tow and was pulling it in the wrong direction.

Outside on the deck the entire boat had been lifted a few degrees leaving it difficult if not impossible to approach the back of the boat. At the back the boat Heylyn had hoisted the boat into the air enough to lift the propellers from the water and had began to pull it backwards. As the gunmen made their to the back of the boat and had spotted her, she dropped the boat back into the water. The spinning propellers immediately bit the water and torque began to propel the boat forward once again. A whole host of the gunmen fell to the deck a few falling overboard to become lost to the sea.

Heylyn emerged from the back of the boat and began engaging the men one at a time.

The first three were already flat out on the deck. She lifted them and tossed them at the walls. The fell unconscious and unmoving. Another two ran at her their submachine guns blazing. She dodged the shots cartwheeling towards them emerging from her roll her arms clothes lining both gunmen simultaneously. She spun once again her leg and foot clipping the face of another. She maintained the momentum of her spin and extended her arm. Her fist collided with the face of another and he fell too. Three more emerged and began firing upon her once again. Her skin flared and scales emerged and formed on its surface. The bullets flew harmlessly off of her though she winced in pain. She immediately flew at one of the gunmen and ripped the gun from his hand. She threw the gun at the face of another as her elbow hit the gut of the one she'd just disarmed. Both fell to the deck simultaneously unmoving. The last gunman's submachine gun had fired dry and he dropped the weapon pulling a pistol from his belt. He leveled it at her face. She grabbed his arm pushing it up with a little force enough to miss her entirely. He fired into the night air as her other arm spun broke his grip. She folded his arm upward and inward  towards his body as he screamed in pain. Another shot to his solar plexus silenced him entirely.

"The Butterfly! She's here! She's going to get you! All of you!" Warai exclaimed excitedly.

"You little! No Butterfly is going to hurt us!" the leader yelled at Warai.

"If she doesn't, the Dragon will!" she continued.

"You're my protection. My insurance then..." he said as he grabbed her using her as a human shield.

Outside of the cabin the leader of the C'aan R'uum heard excited firing of weapons and the sounds of brutal impact and screams. He cowered back into the corner of the cabin with his shield. Outside the door he heard a scuffle. He fired through the door a few times and then heard silence. The door opened and one of his own men fell inward to the floor with a variety of bullet wounds where the leader had accidentally shot him.

"I know you're there! B#itch! Come in and get me! I'll shoot the little girl!" the leader said his options having ran out.

There was no reply. Instead there was only silence. He tightened his grip on Warai and held the gun against her temple.

"She's going to die! Ha! You lose!" the leader exclaimed.

Mrs. Soo-Lee jumped at the gunman and grabbed the gun in his hand struggling with him for control of it. Warai was caught in the middle as the muzzle inched its way back to her head. A shot went off and then another as Mrs. Soo-Lee struggled against the leader.

From behind the leader the wall exploded as Heylyn burst through the wall grabbing both of his arms violently and pulling him back through the wall alone.

Warai dropped to the floor where Mrs. Soo-Lee picked her up protectively.

Heylyn spun the leader around.

"I remember you. You killed him. You killed my only real lover. On plane. It was your group. The C'aan R'uum. Years ago. You killed him." Heylyn said to the leader punching him in the stomach sending him flying to the deck.

"I've killed lots of people. Men. Women. Children. Of what importance is your real lover in all of that death?" the leader skirmished her.

"The bomb. You set it for 2:15 AM. That's a significant date. You're trying to send us a message. Me. The date of Zek's sentencing. February 15, 2010. The date he was sentenced by an anonymous judge. Protected by closed circuit television. You and Zek were working together." Heylyn stepped menacingly towards him.

"My dear. The world works in ways you'd never understand. Zek is paying dearly for your departure by the way. Like he payed dearly for the deaths of your friends." the leader explained to Heylyn.

"That means that Zek killed my lover. Years before I even knew who Zek was." Heylyn picked him up from the deck.

"There are lots of things you don't know, Butterfly. A whole world of things. I fear this conversation is over. Goodbye." the leader said as he leveled a pistol he'd picked up against his temple and fired.

Heylyn dropped his body and headed back into the cabin with Warai and Mrs. Soo-Lee.

"Warai!" Heylyn came in and grabbed Warai in her arms.

"Butterfly Heylyn!" Warai screamed in glee.

"Are you alright?" Heylyn asked Mrs. Soo-Lee.

"Yes. I'm fine. Thank you. Thank you so much." Mrs. Soo-Lee bowed.

"Let's get back to the passenger liner." Heylyn told them as she turned the boat around taking it back to the cruise liner.

If you like what you've read so far, you can order the first book in this series in its full text and final edition exclusively at (or your regional Amazon outlet). The Butterfly Dragon II: Dragon Butterfly will be available at some time in the future.

If you enjoy reading supernatural tales and international intrigue you might consider reading A Lady's Prerogative where you can sample it on its official blog at

The Butterfly Dragon II: Dragon Butterfly Copyright © 2015 Brian Joseph Johns

The Butterfly Dragon I: Heroes Of Our Own Copyright © 2011 Brian Joseph Johns.

If you care to comment on this please feel free to write at:

Brian Joseph Johns
200 Sherbourne Street Apartment 701
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5A 3Z5
416 203-0928

나비 드래곤
The Butterfly Rồng

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