Excerpt from O-Men: Liege’s Legion - Bastion
(C) Elaine Levine 2019
Wolf Creek Bend, Wyoming
The Red Team Headquarters
The moon was late rising. Not quite full, it spilled cold light over the quiet mansion Bastion was charged with infiltrating. An orange glow radiated from somewhere around the front of the garage. It was steady, not flickering like a fire, but it was orange, not red like taillights.
That light was a summons, pulling at Bastion. He’d avoided it for weeks, but tonight, he could no longer resist its call. He cautiously made his way around to the garage wing of the house, keeping his energy shield in place, effectively hiding himself from technology and humans alike.
He knew what he was looking at—he’d known all along. It was the specter of the Matchmaker. The fiend had no balls; he never delivered his curses in his corporeal form. No, he brought his terrible messages the coward’s way, through an astral projection, sparing himself the blowback he deserved.
The orange glow wasn’t coming from the Matchmaker’s bright red hair or glowing eyes; it was a light that emanated from his entire body. Bastion rushed the mirage, wanting to touch its energy to get a sense of who was behind the Matchmaker persona.
Of course, he couldn’t get close enough. The thing’s projection moved with Bastion, keeping just out of his reach.
When Bastion gave up, the Matchmaker lifted a hand and pointed at the house. One of the four overhead garage doors opened. Bastion shielded the screeching sound from being heard by anyone inside.
Briefly, the reality of what was happening registered; the experience Bastion had both yearned for and feared was at hand. He froze in place, staring into the black void of the open garage.
If he accepted the Matchmaker’s pairing, shit was going to get real—and fast. He was ready for it, but was the female who’d been selected for him ready?
How could she be?
Legend said if the male mutant accepted the chosen female, she would die. And if he didn’t, he would die.
Maybe that was all bullshit. Neither Liege nor Summer had died…but it had been a close miss for Summer. And their relationship was still new, so it was anyone’s guess as to what was yet to come. Now that Liege’s woman was changed, was she spared from the curse?
Merde, there was so much they didn’t know.
Bastion spun on his heel, intending to continue yet another pass around the estate. He stared at the hill in front of the garage that provided the house privacy from the road, and though he willed himself to move forward, he couldn’t go in that direction.
Bastion looked at the glowing fiend watching his struggle, still pointing toward the open garage door.
The Matchmaker’s red eyes looked victorious. And he was—Bastion’s only way out of this clash of wills was surrender.
Baise-moi. How satisfying could a relationship be if it was forced on both participants? This was unacceptable, but there was nothing for it but to pretend to yield. Bastion headed into the shadowy garage, making a show of giving in.
He’d seen in the time he’d been surveilling the compound that many females lived here. How was he to know which was his?
After only a few steps into the oversized garage, the Matchmaker’s bright glow blinked out. Bastion pivoted, intending to make his getaway, but once again he found he was physically blocked from going in any direction that led away from the house. The garage door slowly lowered—even as the house door unlocked itself and opened inward.
This was fucked up. No way could the Matchmaker force Bastion to do anything. But for now, for show, he had to make the fiend believe he’d accepted his fate.
Bastion stepped inside. The door closed behind him. Though he’d been prowling around the property for some time, this was the first he’d been in the house. He’d studied the blueprints for the sprawling mansion—it was essentially a big X with an elongated middle section—so he knew basically where the public rooms and bedrooms were located.
He pulled the shadows in around him so no human could observe him. No animal either. The mild electromagnetic frequency he was emitting hid him from recording devices, making him invisible. He wasn’t a man, wasn’t a ghost. He was nothing. He went through the public rooms on the ground floor. The house slept, unaware of the shadow moving within it, the mutant hunting the woman that legend had preordained was his.
Temporarily abandoning his mission to find evidence of this mercenary group’s allegiance—and the scientists they hid—Bastion was now on a different scent, driven to find the woman fated to be his. He made a brief pass through the southern end of the main floor, where some of the bedrooms were. Without entering any of the rooms, he knew she wasn’t there. He briefly considered making a ruckus, summoning all the occupants of the house into the living room so he could walk among them and find her more easily. He didn’t because the anticipation was delicious. Heady. Each step closer to her deepened his hunger. He wanted her as he hadn’t wanted another female—not just in the time since he was changed, but in his entire life.
And this was a female he’d not yet met.
Upstairs, the sprawling mansion contained only bedrooms. Three in each of the suites at either end of the house, eight in the long middle, with a break between both sides for a bridge that crossed over the foyer. The smell of lumber was strong coming from the basement. Likely there were more rooms down there. Why were they expanding the already sprawling mansion?
He’d find out soon, but not now. Tonight was his time to meet his woman—if he chose to accept the curse. He made a brief pass through the second floor’s southern bedroom wing. She wasn’t there. He started down the main hall, holding his palms inches from each door.
She was near. His heart beat faster. His woman, his light, his life. She was here. His hands vibrated as they hovered at her door.
This was a moment like no other. He didn’t want to rush it, but nor could he stand the anticipation. He opened her door with just the power of his mind and stepped inside, closing it behind him.
A short hallway passed between the bathroom on one side and the closet on the other, then opened into a large space. Her room was tidy, decorated in the masculine style of a mountain lodge. It wasn’t to her tastes, he realized, but he also knew she held no attachment to it; it was merely a place to sleep, nothing more.
She was on the bed, sleeping soundly. He stopped, stunned by the white glow coming from her. Liege could see auras, but Bastion had never before seen light of any color surrounding a human.
If he needed any confirmation that the Matchmaker had indeed found his light, Bastion was staring right at it. He forced his focus to go deeper, inside the light, to the woman it covered.
Her face was peaceful. Angelic. Streams of dark brown hair spilled down her shoulders, over her green tank top. She was half in, half out of the covers. One long, supple leg was bent over the blankets that covered the other half of her. He couldn’t quite determine her skin color. White or olive, he supposed. Her lips were lush, rounded. Her lashes were long. Her brows arched artfully over her eyes. He wondered what color they were. Brown? Green?
He reached a finger out to stroke along her bare arm. The next thing he knew, he was on his back on her bed, a knife at his throat, his woman straddling his waist. Her strong thighs gripped his sides as if he were a horse she meant to ride.
Her dark hair curtained her face as she leaned close to snarl, “Who are you and what are you doing in my room?”
He roared with laughter.
God, his woman was full of bravado. The knife nicked his skin.
“This is but a dream,” he said. “You have nothing to fear from me. And you won’t remember any of this.” His comment was part compulsion. He wasn’t ready for her to meet him yet. He had to get a better understanding of who she was and what her people were up to before he let himself be known to her.
Her legs eased their grip. She set the knife aside, but still held him down on her mattress. “I don’t know you.”
“Not yet. We’ll meet soon.” He pushed her dark hair back over her shoulder. “You are beautiful.”
“You need a shave.”
“Perhaps I do.” He smiled, then drew her down close so he could taste her mouth. Fuck, her lips were as delicious as he knew they’d be. He caught the upper one in his teeth, releasing her slowly and gently. “Tell me your name.”
“Selena. Selena Irving. Who are you?”
“Bastion.” He kissed the side of her jaw, near her ear. “Say my name.”
Shivers prickled his skin. “I like how it sounds when you say it.” He lifted her fists from his shoulders and kissed her knuckles. Her breasts were perfection—heavy globes against his chest. “Tell me everything about you.” He wanted to hear her voice. He wanted to know her story. He wanted to fuck her senseless.
He yearned to let her remember him, but knew that wouldn’t happen because he wasn’t going to let her keep this memory. Maybe one day he would give it back to her—one day long in the future, when she no longer carried knives.
Selena looked suspicious. “Why do you care?”
“Because you fascinate me.” He caught her chin in his teeth and raked them lightly over her skin.
She moaned, but pulled free. “You haven’t earned the right to know me yet.”
“But how can I earn it without getting to know you?” He could simply compel her to reveal her secrets, but he didn’t. He wanted her to bring forward what was most important to her of her own accord.
“That’s not my problem,” she said.
He rolled her over, slipping his legs between hers, still holding her wrists. As soon as she was on her back, he felt the panic that slammed into her. Instantly, he released her and rolled off her to lie on his back. With all of her gusto a moment earlier, Bastion felt broadsided by her reaction. It hurt that his woman held fear so close that, even in her sleep, it was a go-to emotion.
She didn’t mention it, so neither did he.
They both stared up at her flat ceiling. Bastion played an image for her, a star-scape with translucent clouds floating under a bright moon. The trees at the edge of the vision shifted in a slight breeze.
Selena was captivated.
So was Bastion, watching her.
As gifts went, this wasn’t much of one. Merely a vision to bring her peace. He suspected that just as he hadn’t earned the right to hear her story, nor did he have the right to give her a tangible gift.
He sighed. He was going to have to do this on human time.
Slow as fuck.
“If you won’t tell me the story of you, then at least tell me one thing you wish for.”
Selena turned from the shimmering vision and met his eyes. “What are you, a genie?”
“I suppose, owned by the hand that holds me.”
“This is just a dream, right?”
He nodded. “Just a dream.”
Selena stared at the vision he still played for her. “I want a lover. Not just any lover. One strong enough to stand next to me, to let me be me. I’m not good at following.”
“That is a good wish.”
After a moment, Selena turned to him. “What’s your wish?”
“I want the same thing.”
She turned on her side and put her hand on his chest. “Can genies take lovers?”
“I’m not a genie.”
Selena nodded toward the beautiful star-scape he was playing. “You must be. Regular people don’t do these things.”
“I’m not a regular, either.”
“Then what are you?”
Selena smiled and shook her head. “No, my lover doesn’t have so much hair.”
Bastion turned onto his side, putting his hand on her waist, gently urging her toward him until their mouths were just a breath apart. “This one does.”
Selena ran her hands over his chin and into his hair, pulling him closer, closing the distance between their mouths.
An electric pulse coursed through Bastion at the contact. And when their tongues touched, heat slammed into his groin, hardening him. He hungered for her. For a moment, he let himself revel in his desire, something he’d not felt for a very long time, something he had been unable to pretend into existence since he’d been changed, though he’d tried like hell. The feeling was exquisite, as was its source. He could get drunk on the hum she made his body feel, and knew without a doubt the Matchmaker had found him his perfect mate.
Bastion slipped his hand behind Selena’s ear, holding her to him as he took over the kiss, deepening it. The threat that the Matchmaker’s curse might end this fierce, vibrant woman filled him with rage. He tried to roll over her, but she resisted.
That fear again. She didn’t want to be under a man.
Who had dared hurt her?
Selena straddled him, laying her body over his. She wasn’t a small female. No, she was a bundle of taut muscles and honed reflexes. Perfection.
He kissed her soft cheek, the hard line of her jaw, the warm stretch of her neck, all while she rocked her hips against his. He spread his legs wider, opening hers, hating the layers of clothes that separated their bodies.
“Selena,” Bastion said as he rubbed his cheek against her throat, “tell me about the Omnis.”
Her body tightened. She drew back from him and frowned, withdrawing completely from their warm intimacy.
“This isn’t a dream,” she said.
“Of course it is.”
“How did you get in here?”
“I am just a dream.”
Selena scooted back from him, in full retreat. Bastion sighed as he stared up at the starry sky illusion he still kept in place, hating that she owed her loyalty to a team other than his.
“We are on the same side of this war, you know,” Bastion said. They had to be. The Matchmaker wouldn’t have selected her for him otherwise.
Or would he?
“Get out of my bed. And out of my room.” She was crouched at the head of her bed, a cold and hostile stance for a warrior who’d just been like melted caramel in his arms.
Bastion got off the bed. He retrieved her knife and set it on her nightstand. He wished he could read minds as easily as Liege could. Instead, Bastion could only read energy and catch thoughts that were clearly broadcast, but that didn’t preclude him from imposing compulsions, which was what he did now. Facing her, he compelled her to remember only bits of their encounter and none of the details about him.
“Know this: I am yours and you are mine. I’m coming for you.”
In the hallway, Bastion paused to take stock of what had just happened. His body thrummed with excitement. He’d found his woman, his one and only. His light.
And it was entirely possible she belonged to his enemies—the Omnis.
He forced himself to get his shit together and get on with his mission. He became aware of the hallway he was in, of the rooms he’d passed on his way to hers, rooms where other mutants had once been or were now. The War Bringer, whose energy he and Liege had encountered in the Omni subterranean stronghold, was here. The War Bringer had fought his way out of an Omni torture chamber, but did the fighter’s conflict with the Omnis signify a schism in their ranks rather than a direct hit from an Omni enemy?
There was much to see and understand yet. Bastion had been observing from the outside for a couple of weeks, but he needed to know more before he could report back to Liege.
At the moment, the mansion’s occupants slept, oblivious to the threat walking among them. They had robust technical protections in place around the house and grounds against wicked humans, but nothing secured them from Bastion or his kind.
The house was filled with fighters—and their families. They lived here openly, with no attempt to hide their whereabouts from the locals or the Omnis. Bastion knew, from surveilling the household, that some of the women who were not fighters operated businesses, both in town and from the compound itself. People—regulars—were in and out of this place all the time.
Was this group hiding in plain sight? Were they under the Omnis’ protection? Or were they just dangerously ignorant of the fight they’d entered?
He could feel the energy of more than one mutant around this place. If these fighters had mutants among them, then they should know what his kind were capable of…unless the mutants here had not shown their true selves.
So many questions.
Earlier, while he’d been on his way to Selena’s room, several of the other rooms had caught his attention. Two had recently housed mutants. Bastion went into the first of those rooms. A male mutant had stayed here recently.
Did the other residents here know they’d had a mutant for a guest? If so, did that make a checkmark in the column for these people being Omni affiliates or enemies? Bastion put it in the pro-Omni column he was mentally tallying.
He went down a few doors to another room recently occupied by two mutants. A bonded couple had been here. He’d felt the presence of a mutant female from his patrolling outside the house. Was this whom he’d been sensing? Both of these mutants had the stink of Omnis all over them. Who were they? Why had they been here? Was this couple the Ratcliffs—the scientists Liege had sent him to find?
He should have come inside when he first arrived rather than observing from a distance for so long, but he hadn’t wanted to tip off his enemy, Brett Flynn. If Bastion had found this band of fighters, it was only a matter of time before Flynn did so as well. With his energy all over the place, Flynn would know it held importance for the Legion.
So far, Flynn was nowhere in sight, so Bastion couldn’t put off this exploration. And now that the Matchmaker had connected him to his light, he’d had to come inside and find her.
Did the fighters who lived here know they’d been infiltrated by mutants? Perhaps that was why they could exist here with impunity; they’d struck a deal with the devil.
Definitely a tick in the pro-Omni column.
Bastion continued down the hallway into the main section of the house. He held his hands up near each door, letting himself sample the energies that used the room.
When he came to the room the War Bringer used, he felt a little thrill of anticipation. This man had survived Omni torture. Bastion wanted the whole story, but he couldn’t expect to learn it tonight. He slipped inside the room. A man and woman were asleep in the bed. The woman was a petite blond. She fit the Omnis’ white supremacist ideal of a perfect woman.
Another tick in the column of these people potentially being Omnis.
His gaze moved to the War Bringer. Bastion had been leaning toward the theory that this man had fought a fellow Omni warrior for the rights to the woman, but that theory crashed and burned when he got a good look at the War Bringer.
Olive skin, black hair, tribal symbols seared into the soft under-skin of his forearms. For the millionth time, Bastion wished he had Liege’s skill for reading minds. The War Bringer’s leather wrist cuffs were lying on the dresser. Bastion picked them up.
Guerre, I need you, Bastion said, summoning his team’s healer. Guerre was hypersensitive to energies and could often read detailed events from objects. His psychometry worked even through a mental connection with any of the guys on the team.
Go, Bastion, Guerre said.
Can you get a read on the cuffs I’m holding?
A long stretch of silence chewed up the minutes. Bastion stayed quiet. Guerre could work miracles, but he needed complete focus.
What is it you want to know? Guerre asked.
Tell me about the man who owns them.
He’s from an American Indian tribe. Lakota. I’m not sure which subgroup.
Huh. A tick in the column for Omni enemies.
Is he an Omni? Bastion asked. Might as well get Guerre’s take on the guy’s situation.
Again there was a long pause. It’s unclear. He’s entangled with them, for sure, Guerre said.
Thanks. Go back to sleep.
Bastion stared at the big leather cuffs. The Omnis would not admit a Native American into their wretched ranks, except perhaps as a servant, slave, or human experiment. Brett Flynn would love to turn the War Bringer into a ghoul.
Bastion looked at the couple sleeping on the bed. They had an extraordinary energy binding them. Pure, almost tangible, it was what the energy of love felt like. He set the cuffs down, suddenly feeling as if he’d overstepped. He left the War Bringer’s room, more confused than ever about the loyalties held by this group of fighters.
The bedrooms in the rest of the upper floor were of no interest to him. Bastion went downstairs. A short hallway led to the southern bedroom suite on the first floor. The first bedroom was empty. Well, empty of current occupants, anyway. It was packed with the energies of many people, almost as if it were a passageway.
In the next bedroom, a couple slept. Bastion kept himself invisible, but even with such protections in place, his presence woke the man. He got up and looked around the room, then went out into the living room shared by the three bedrooms in that suite.
His absence gave Bastion a chance to focus on the blond female that shared the man’s bed. She was a mutant.
Another female mutant. Maybe this was the one he’d felt from outside.
Bastion wondered what change had happened in the core Omni ethics, thin as they were, that they were now modifying female humans?
The man came back into the room and slipped under the covers. As he pulled his woman close, energy arced between them, like two halves of an electrical device that only sparked when the pieces were close to each other.
Bastion stumbled back and banged into a chair. His careless movement startled the man, who cursed and turned the light on. Bastion held still, confident he couldn’t be seen. The man threw the covers off and stomped to the door again. Of course, there was nothing to be seen in the suite’s living room.
When he returned to his bed and his woman, that energy arced again. This time, Bastion was prepared for it. Outside of this house, he’d only seen that electrical bond when Liege and Summer were near each other.
These two people were in love. Desperately. Beautifully. Completely. Like the War Bringer and his woman.
But that didn’t mean they weren’t Omnis.
Bastion tended to believe that Omnis were born without souls—the most evil of psychopaths—but perhaps even the soulless could fall in love.
Given that the woman was a mutant, and the only mutants Bastion had ever met were ones created by Omnis, then it meant another tick in the pro-Omni column.
It was curious, though, that this woman didn’t sense him. He’d been able to sense her from way out in the woods surrounding the property. Her man was more woke than she.
Bastion pondered that as he left their room and went into the next one. Two boys were fast asleep inside it.
He hated the fact that children lived here. It muddied the waters, making this place seem more of a familial retreat than a stronghold. The Legion couldn’t strike against the compound without significant collateral damage. Perhaps that explained the presence of the children. Omnis would hide behind any shield they found useful.
Bastion had just stepped into the small living room shared by the bedrooms in that wing when a realization hit him. Human energy had many identifiers, but two aspects were most prominent. The first were biological markers shared by families of the same blood. The second came from a human’s personality. An individual might share biological markers and have diametrically opposed personality markers, but you could always sense who was related to whom.
One of the boys in the room Bastion just left was a biological son to both the man and woman sleeping in the next room, and the other was biologically related to only the female. And there was another family bond from the man—he was a biological relative of the mutant male who’d had a room upstairs, the one who’d slept alone.
These people weren’t just Omni allies; they were family.
What was going on here?
Bastion resumed his discovery of the house and its occupants. He walked down a short hallway, through two glass doors, and into another wing at that end of the house—a large gym building. The first room was a basketball court, or had been before it had been repurposed. Now it served as a classroom, a living room, and a bunkroom. About a dozen and a half bunks were stacked in rows at the far end.
Bastion stepped into the dark room. The only illumination came from the ambient light in the hallway, but he could see almost as well in low-light conditions as in daylight. He crossed the long space and wandered among the bunks. Most of them held sleeping boys. A few contained young adults—or older teens, at least.
Why were they there? Why did these people keep some children close but banished others to this huge gym wing?
The Omnis did things like that, use children in any way they wished—as servants, test subjects, sex slaves.
These kids had a vibe of abuse. Definitely a tick in the pro-Omni column.
The rest of the rooms in that wing were standard for a gym—a pool room, locker rooms, and a weight room. No one was in any of them.
He returned to the main house and went through the rest of the rooms, finding nothing of great interest. He didn’t want these people to be Omni supporters, but the mental balance sheet he’d been tallying was leaning heavily in that direction.
And what did that mean for his Selena?
If she was in deep with Omnis, he was going to have to crack her brainwashing.
Or terminate her.