Chapter Twenty One

Travis slipped Marshall's ring on and it had the desired effect. His face aged twenty years and shifted subtly so on lookers could never quite be sure who they were looking at. He worked up this brilliant bit of magic after consulting with Athena to work the kinks out.

Thanks to Mark he had a new identity complete with documents to carry out his plans. Adam had come through and his shell companies were up and running. Sometimes it was good to be him, he thought as he straightened his powder blue suit in the bathroom.

"You been here long?" he said to balding man next to him in the lobby of the bank. The man slumped down and nodded yes.

"This is the fourth bank I've been to this week. No one is giving out loans."

Travis nodded politely and listened to Mr. Giuseppe's story. The money was rolling in at his family diner until their line of credit dried up. Now they were in debt and looking to expand and bring in more business.

While they talked Travis scanned Giuseppe's mind and found him trust worthy. The restaurant business would be a good addition to his assets. Plus it was a small risk and would allow him to expand his sphere of influence.

"Well it was nice meeting you," Giuseppe said and went into the bank manager's office. Twenty minutes later he stormed out of the office, files out of order and a grimace set on his face.

"Didn't go well I take it?"

"That jackass laughed in my face and told me I was dreaming to think they'd lend me one cent."

Travis gave Giuseppe his business card and told him to call and he'd arrange a meeting with his business manager.

"Please tell me you aren't joking." Giuseppe clutched his chest and sweat rolled off his forehead.

"Relax and I'm as serious as a heart attack. Sorry, poor choice of words."

The old man chuckled and they shook hands. Travis grabbed his briefcase and said goodbye. Mr. Hollister's eye lit up when he saw Travis. His serpentine face curled into a fake smile. The smarmy air about him always turned Travis's stomach. But he was chosen for his penchant for ignoring transactions that weren't above aboard.

Travis got right to the point and showed him the case full of diamonds.

"My, there must be seven, eight hundred thousand easy--minus the standard fees, of course."

"Yes, the import game can be fickle, but it pays well. Now I'd like you put 100k in escrow for one Anthony Giuseppe, and distribute it to him, pending the all clear from Mr. Reich of course."

"But Of course. Anything else Mr. Prince?"

Travis smiled and thought if Mr. Hollister's nose was any farther entrenched it'd be in his small intestines. He stifled a laugh as the picture popped in his head.

"Excuse me; I'm getting over a slight cold. I want a full status report on the T Cubed Education Foundation and the Prince Humanitarian Aid Organization."

Mr. Hollister flipped through the files on his desk and presented the data for Travis to inspect. He nodded that everything was in order while transmuting the data to Mr. Reich via his HUD.

"One more thing before I go. I want you to set up a scholarship for inner cities kids geared towards STEM. Hmm, call it the Rose foundation for gifted Youngsters, Or something to that effect," Travis waved his hand in a dismissive gesture and stood.

"I'll get on it immediately, sir. It was a pleasure doing business with you, as always Mr. Prince."

Travis nodded and excused himself. He stopped at the door and turned back around.

"In the future do try to be nicer to the plebeians. You never know when you might join their ranks. I dare say your bosses wouldn't be pleased if I took my business elsewhere."

Travis left Mr. Hollister sputtering and let a smirk grace his face before slipping his mask back in place.

After returning to the cave to debug some new devices Travis checked in with Mark and was informed the hacker penetrated the Nursery's system but was still shifting through the info. He'd also stumbled on to similar programs to recruit and control metahumans in Europe and Asia. As for Clean Sweep, Mark turned up the usual bribes and prostitution, but Travis told him to dig deeper. He wanted all the dirt he could get on as many high level politicians as possible before putting them under thumb.

"Whatever dude, long as you keep paying me. Loving this sweet set up you hooked me up with. Half the time I don't even have to type; it's almost like it's reading my mind."

"Duh that's Travis Thought Technology for me you. Speaking of which when you have some free time we need to get together for a special project of mine."

"Doing what?"

"I'll tell you when me meet up for the info drop. Don't trust this line even with the signal scrambled and tapping into a defunct spy satellite to transmit it."

"Paranoid much?"

"That's debatable given past events. While I have your attention I need your help on a new scenario."

Mark laughed and shook his head.

"What is it this time, oh wise one?"

"Nothing you can't handle. Just make someone's life hell by getting them declared deceased, freezing their accounts, putting them on the terrorist watch list. Get the picture?"

"Fuck," he said drawing the first syllable out before he continued, "remind me not to piss you off."

"Double cross me and you will suffer until your last breath."

"Shitting my pants now bro."

"Relax, I'm joking. Death would too good for you."

Mark laughed to cover his nerves and hung up.

He shouldn't frighten the boy like, but it was ever so hilarious, Travis thought to himself. He checked in with Adam and though he had a house lined up Travis still needed a job to prove he could take care of himself once emancipated.

"Fine I'll start a computer repair business and market to low income schools. I'll be good PR and whittle down my community service hours in the process."

"Smart thinking, I'll get right on it."

"Good, keep me posted per the usual channels."

***

Since the marriage ceremony three months hence Manasa sold a chunk of their supplies to other Pits in exchange for hunting rights during the plentiful years and employed an additional 80 Hebin warriors. The leader of this new group had alabaster scales, redish-blond hair and pink eyes. Try as he might Phoenix couldn't get the guy to follow his orders and had had enough.

He was currently in the skies above Philadelphia trying to prevent a plane from crash landing. He'd taken to rescuing people whenever the he needed to let off steam. It got him away from the Hebin when they shed their skin and reeked like rotten eggs. But the main reason he did it was to drive Travis crazy.

"Crap," he said when the wing tore off as he tried to grip it. Phoenix flew under the plane and pushed up, only to have the nose sheer off. He was able to guide it to the guard, but there was still the rest to worry about.

"Move."

Travis appeared before him and stretched out his hand. The plane shook and began to tear apart.

"Nice move, Gramps."

"Can it and let me concentrate."

Travis pulled back his power and the plane glided to ground, safe at last.

"Nice moves back there."

"What part of space is yours and Earth is mine, don't you comprehend? If you excuse me there are a ton of memories to modify and an internet that needs scrubbed clean."

"That time of the month already?"

Travis growled, sent Phoenix to the cave and went into damage control. An hour later Travis joined him in the cave and they hashed it out.

I've spent. Too much. Time. And money. To have you. Screw up. My plans. If. You come. Within. Five hundred. Light years of Earth. You check in with me. Or we will have this conversation. Again," he said in between bashing Phoenix's face and stomach.

"Meaningless words from a coward who has me locked in place. Let me go and we'll see who the tough guy is then." Phoenix spat out a bloody loogie and caught Travis between the eyes.

"Boys calm down."

"Stay out of this," they said in unison and Isis shrank back. Travis released Phoenix and they retired to Pathos to do battle.

Weapons summoned they clashed. The force split the ground and knocked their weapon from their hands. In the rush to get the next blow in Travis picked up Phoenix's axe and he picked the S-blade. The air hummed with energy as they traded blows. Phoenix sent a barrage of lightning bolts his way. Travis countered with a torrent of golden energy that caught him in his left shoulder.

"Quick study, punk."

"You too, but the difference is I haven't warmed up yet."

Travis smirked, kicked it up to battle mode and attacked. The axe separated in two and he used the left to defend while he attacked with the right.

"Good shit, but let's trade." He tossed the S-blade back to Travis who caught it and went on the attack.

"You suck," Phoenix said and blasted Travis with a wall of fire that sent him to the ground. He called the axe and it come to him, whole. He chuckled to him and charged up the next attack but Travis popped behind him and sent Phoenix ricocheting like a pinball as he attacked at hyper speed. After ninety seconds Travis collapsed to ground and vomited.

"Giving up already?"

As if. Once the momentum sickness passes you're toast."

Travis let loose another barrage of bile and staggered to his feet.

"I won't give you the chance to recover."

Phoenix sent a massive fireball hurtling towards Travis. No time to dodge and still weakened he sent a wave of flames that met the fireball and in the next instant the inferno came rushing back into him. Travis stood in the center of the fiery tornado and shot back a concentrated stream of flame that pierced the Nekoshin armor Phoenix was wearing and shattered his collar bone.

"Truce?"

"Done but tell me why you keep popping up on Earth, first."

"It'd be faster to show you."

"Fine," Travis said and powered down.

When they appeared on Draccon The problem became clear. Manasa's group were training with the energy cannons, while the albino's group looked on as they rested in afternoon heat.

"See ever since that new guy showed up they've been fucking up the program. If it weren't for your plans I'd done been all up in that ass."

"Have you bothered to introduce yourself?"

"And how am I supposed to do that hmm?"

Travis rolled eyes and shook his head.

"You've been here how long and haven't bothered to learn the language?"

He approached the warrior and removed his death mask and cowl.

"Ke ka Nagaraja Torin. Hassshim im saaa ke?"

"Ke ka Nagaraja Vasuki."

Vasuki removed his naja and they continued talking.

"Mind translating for the hissing impaired?"

"He said Manasa belongs to him and you'll have to kill him before he bows before a worm like you."

Phoenix got into a fighting stance and powered up.

"Hold it numb nuts. He's mine."

"What gives?"

"Hebin value strength above everything, but they will only follow one leader."

"So?"

"My plans call for absolute obedience, which means I'll be the HNIC around here."

"What?"

"Head Nagaraja in charge, do keep up."

Phoenix shrugged his shoulders and went to find Manasa. Travis nodded and then laid down the challenge to Vasuki. His pit stopped what they were doing and gathered to watch. Travis struck like a viper. His fist smashed into Vasuki's face sending him reeling backwards. He stumbled then righted himself and removed a pair of hooked blades from his back.

Travis stared him down and charged forward. Vasuki sidestepped and came up behind him, exactly as Travis planned. Vasuki and the others were blinded by the light of the explosion and those caught in the blast radius were covered in molten sand.

"You can't beat me. Yield."

"Never!"

Vasuki shed his burnt skin and continued the battle. Travis dodged his clumsy attacks and then struck. He drove his elbow into the back of Vasuki's skull and he fell unconscious.

The others cheers and wished Travis a long and prosperous reign. When Vasuki stirred he did not recognize Travis as his raja. Travis knew the others would rebel if he didn't put him down. He blitzed forward and crushed Vasuki's throat. The serpent king thrashed as Travis pinned him to the ground. He engulfed them in flames and Vasuki stilled.

Travis called back the flames and released him. The warrior sucked in a massive breath, coughed and stood. Vasuki glared at Travis, and then lowered his head and leaned forward. He flinched when Travis's fang cut into the flesh. Vasuki braced himself but instead of death, Travis's tongue ran across his skin.

Travis stepped back and linked minds with him. The message was clear. Step out of line and be slaughtered. Before dismissing Vasuki and his pit, Travis let it be known any order from Phoenix was to be obeyed as if it were from him. Vasuki nodded but something didn't sit right with Travis.

From then on he kept a close watch on Vasuki as he trained them. He and Phoenix alternated training and patrol duty. They started with escort and protection missions for Knox's cargo shipments, and progressed to bounty hunting and assassination jobs. Vasuki proved to be adapt at stealth missions, though he had a tendency go overboard and had to be pulled off the target. Travis tired of him losing them money so instead kept Vasuki assigned to torture duty.

By March Travis felt they were ready to take on the Nekoshins. They disrupted shipments of Mido and raided the fur balls' banking centers. Bounties were placed on their heads though because their faces were hidden it made it difficult to track them down.

In between raids they reached out to other planets and after exchanging a few thousand kin they joined the fold. Travis always made it clear should they be captured he would deny all knowledge of them working for him. Vasuki continued to screw up their missions so Travis prepared to execute him. Manasa pled for him to spare Vasuki as he was her cousin. Against his better judgment Travis complied and sent him off world.

After weeks of planning Travis assembled them and laid out the plan for their next mission. They would be sneaking into the plant where Mido was made, eliminate everyone there and blow up the factory. Travis scoped of the facility and saw they security was tight, so there best option was to teleport inside then fight their way to the power generator and plant the antimatter bomb.

"Bro, you sure about this?"

Travis checked the schematics one last time and nodded.

"Play time is over. These bastards wanted a fight and they're getting one."

Phoenix begged him to save a batch of Mido for them, but Travis narrowed his eyes and shook his head. Travis teleported them to the factory, after he went over the plan four times and triple-checked their energy cannons.

They cleared one room and were on their way to the next when sirens blared. Soldiers streamed into the room and they took cover behind a ventilation fan and opened fire. The fur balls had dead aim but thanks to the Nekoshin armor they wore the plasma beams bounced off them. The soldiers aimed higher and a burst of scolding steamed blasted them.

"Shit. Can you hold them off while I plant the bomb?"

"Done but do hurry," Phoenix said and decapitated two soldiers with an energy blade. Travis sent a burst of electricity the soldiers' way and they writhed as the charge coursed through them. He ducked down the side hall and picked off them as came rushing by. The way clear, for the time being, he popped to the generator room and set the bomb for ninety seconds. He returned to find Phoenix battling a muscle bound Nekoshin soldier, who opened his mouth and fired a blast of yellow energy. Phoenix smacked it away and his hand came back scorched.

Don't just stand there. Get the others out of here.

The bomb is going to blow in twenty seconds.

Phoenix nodded and teleported him and the soldier outside. Travis left Manasa to tend to the wounded and he returned to find the factory a smoldering crater. Phoenix had his axe out but the fur ball dodged his attacks with easy and fired off another blast from his mouth. Travis jumped in front of Phoenix and sent the blast back with one of his own. The beam smashed into the soldier, but he shook it off then disappeared and appeared behind the pair. Before they could react he set off a huge explosion.

"You OK?" Travis said as he dispelled the barrier around them. The entire left side of his body was covered in third degree burns and the skin sloughed off in places. Phoenix glared at the fur ball out of his good eye, the other dangled in the hole where his jaw used to be.

"I'll live but this pussy is working my last nerve."

There was a rush of energy when Travis powered off his gravity belt. Electricity arched of his muscles as they expanded. Travis shot up three inches as his spine decompressed and he worked the kinks out of his body.

Draw his attack and I'll blindside him.

Phoenix took off after the solider and blasted him with fireballs. When he disappeared Travis matched his speed and unleashed a flurry of punches and kicks. When he was done the soldier laughed.

"Try harder and I might feel it next time. But I will give you credit. Most can't keep up with me. Guess I can stop holding back."

In the next instant he drilled his knee into Travis's chest. Ribs shattered, one lung collapsed and the other was on its way there, Travis coughed up blood and convulsed as he struggled to draw breath. Phoenix appeared beside him and they merged. They put up a good fight, but the soldier outclassed them in speed and strength.

Any ideas how to beat this guy?

Give me a second.

With every blow from the soldier they grew weaker. Travis reached out his mind and found the soldier. A few seconds more, he was inside his mind. Travis reached out his hand and grabbed hold. The soldier stopped dead in his tracks and screamed. Pain like no other washed over him as Travis gripped his soul.

Who are you!

The soldier said he was General Smilodon, overseer of the delta sector and weakest of the Nekoshin generals. Smilodon laughed when he saw their shock. His laughter died along with him when Travis tore Smilodon soul from his body and devoured it. Everything that he was rushed into them. With this knowledge they planned how to take out the other generals. But that could another day.

When they got back to Draccon they found themselves in the midst of a celebration. Manasa and the others arranged a fest to celebrate their victory over the Nekoshins. It was standard Hebin cuisine: salted meats placed over calostones and grilled until they became like jerky, and a soup of roots and tubers served in clay bowls.

Travis watched as they swished the soup around their mouth, then and spit it out. They repeated this cycle three more times, and then swallowed all but a mouthful. For the rest of the fest they dipped blue straw-like fibers into the liquid and sucked on them until the favor was gone. Travis and Phoenix shrugged their shoulders and dig in.

As night fell the temperature plunged and they made sleeping arrangements. Some curled into tight balls around calostones, while others removed their tunics and used them as make shift tents. Some paired off to share heat, while others chose to go solo.

Travis watched as they went about this without sparing a thought to their nudity. What shocked them more was where their genitals should have been was smooth as a Ken doll.

"Yo, how do they you know?" Phoenix said miming going to the bathroom.

"Best case scenario, they don't.

"Worst case?"

"You don't want to know."

Manasa broke up their conversation when she sauntered up next to Phoenix and planted sloppy kiss on him.

 

"San sen ke esss sa," she said and pulled Phoenix by the hand.

"Huh?"

Travis rolled his eyes and translated that Manasa wanted him to follow her so they could talk. Message delivered he prepared to go home, but Phoenix grabbed his hand and the three retired to her tent.

It was barely big enough for two and Travis was scrunched up under the metal frame. The heat from the calostones combined with the enclosed space turned the tent into sauna. Travis kicked off his sneaker and slipped off his socks. Phoenix did the same, though his shoes were made from dried Hebin skin and closer to moccasins.

Their conversation lasted hours. Travis had to conferee with Manasa to translate Phoenix's replies multiple times. When he had enough Travis merged with Phoenix and linked minds with Manasa. The gist of what she asked him dealt with how Phoenix was going to ensure the survival of her pit and ways to expand their hunting grounds.

Travis drifted in and out as they talked but shocked to attention when Manasa laid into him for getting her people injured. Should it happen again she promised he'd not sire an heir. To emphasize her point Manasa bared her fangs.

"This is war. I'll try to mitigate the collateral damage, but I can't promise no one will get hurt. If you can't handle it then you better be prepared to use those."

She hissed at him then pounced. Travis took back control of his body and placed Manasa in a head lock and rolled her onto the ground. Manasa thrashed but Travis pinned her down with his knees and right hand. He brushed her hair aside and bit down, drawing blood. Manasa gave one more hiss and then stilled.

"Now will you behave yourself?"

She bared her fangs again and Travis bit down harder this time. He savored the taste and wanted more. Travis lapped the blood from the nape of Manasa's neck. She shuddered and responded by craning her neck towards Travis and raked her fang against his throat. Travis released her and she flipped herself around and locked lips with him.

"What the fuck!" Phoenix said cutting through the haze of lust fogging Travis's mind. They argued until a hot moistness engulfed them. Looking down they saw Manasa's head bobbing up and down.

"And on that note, I'll take my leave."

Travis locked on Earth, but he couldn't teleport. He tried again. This time he was pushed to the inner world of his mind as Phoenix took over. No matter what Travis tried he couldn't shake off Phoenix's hold on him, and he was forced to experience every second of it.

Travis ragged but he was impotent to stop what happened next. As the climax hit him an explosion erupted and they were engulfed in flames.

Manasa shielded herself. But when the fire washed over her she felt a pleasant tingling and then nothing as it entered her.

Author's note: Sorry about the long hiatus between updates. Expect the next chapter by next week and follow me on twitter @silentbutcudly for updates on the story and send comments to silentbutcudly@hotmail.com. On a related note I'm up 100 pages of book two of this series so fear not the story is far from done. And remember to donate what you can to keep nifty free