The Valerian Invasion
By John Hammersmith
The proposal was simple. A man by the name of Turner from the Nil Corporation called her early one morning to deliver the news. Out of hundreds of thousands of entries, hers had been chosen for the project, called simply “Pure Adrenaline”. Already a global phenomenon, the event was easily considered the most challenging role-playing contest ever created. Carrie was ecstatic to hear the big news. Being chosen to participate in the world’s largest hyper-reality game was quite an honor indeed! This wouldn’t be merely another simulation run on a computer, this would be a full 3-D world created for intrepid adventurers like her. Within one week, she would be transported to an undisclosed island location to compete for a massive, ten million dollar grand prize.
After receiving the invitation to join the party, Carrie prepared anxiously. She increased her usual workout regimen by nearly fifty percent, further sculpting her already voluptuous figure. A trip to the beauty parlor was also in order, including a full makeover. Her long, brown tresses were trimmed and styled, and her strong yet petite facial features were accented using the latest in cosmetic technology. After all, she knew her life would become quite public once her journey was set in motion, so she spared no expense on her appearance. A few final video calls with her family were all that remained before setting out on her quest with destiny.
On the big day, at about 12 noon, a helicopter arrived to whisk Carrie Bliss to her new island locale. She was told to pack light, so she only brought along the essentials. A uniform would be provided for her, and the Nil Corporation would also supply food and beverage. Butterflies danced in her stomach as the chopper began its decent to the island.
“Good luck, ma’am,” shouted the pilot over the roar of the propellers. A quick ‘thumbs up’, and she was on her way.
A forbidding 12-foot electrified fence surrounded the helipad, with a single gate allowing access to the grounds of the compound. Carrie, already humbled a bit by her surroundings, walked briskly towards the entrance of the park.
Once allowed access inside, Carrie saw a bustling crowd of participants and workers scurrying about, making last minute preparations. Following the crowd, she soon found herself waiting in a single-file line inside a large building marked ‘Orientation’.
A small man with a clipboard walked up and down the line of eager participants, eventually stopping right next to Carrie. He surveyed her perfect curves for a minute, until Carrie began to feel a little uncomfortable. “Excuse me,” he said in a harsh tone, “but what is your name ma’am?”
“Me? I’m Carrie Bliss. I was invited by Mr. Turner.”
The odd little man scanned the list on his clipboard. “Ah, yes, Ms. Bliss! Come with me please,” he said, gesturing towards one of many small dressing rooms. Carrie followed him, yet still felt a bit uneasy in his presence. Once inside the small room, he closed the curtain and continued. “Congratulations, Ms. Bliss! As you already know, you’ve been selected to participate in the largest role-playing game ever created. Please have a seat.”
Carrie sat and relaxed while the man continued. “My name is Thebes, and at this time, we are going to choose an identity and costume for your character based on your experience and skills. Since you advanced through the trials with such intellectual prowess, your classification will be field organizer. You will be second in command of your group.” Carrie smiled proudly to herself. Thumbing through a digital planner, Thebes again glanced at Carrie methodically. “Based on data received from the planners, your new identity will be ‘Lieutenant Godiva’. Please wait here while I retrieve your costume.”
Carrie couldn’t help but laugh at her new name: Lieutenant Godiva. ‘This will take some getting used to,’ thought Carrie. After a brief wait, Thebes returned carrying a skimpy 2-piece ensemble. The outfit was basically a shiny silver bikini. In Thebes’ other hand he held a small pair of high-heeled pumps, also silver.
“I know this costume seems risqué,” started Thebes upon seeing Carrie’s dismay, “but I assure you, with all the holographic coverage this event is being given, you’re going to want to look as stunning as possible.”
“The outfit is fine, I guess,” replied Carrie, “but I’m worried these shoes are going to slow me down out there in the field.”
“Ah,” said Thebes with a grin. “These shoes may look impractical, but they are state of the art.” He flipped the shoes over, revealing several small grooves on each sole. “These are stabilizer units designed to protect you from falling. They produce a small force field that will feel like you’re walking on air. Inside the heel, there’s a tracking device that will allow the hologram cameras to locate you, no matter where you travel within the battle arena.” Handing them to Carrie, he said simply, “Try them, and you won’t be disappointed.”
Carrie was doubtful at first, but after removing her own shoes and placing these heels on her tiny feet, she was thoroughly amazed. Her stance was not only stable, but her legs felt lighter in them as well. “Okay, Thebes,” smiled Carrie brightly, “I’m convinced. Give me a minute to change, and I’ll be right out.” Thebes nodded, then closed the curtain again, allowing Carrie some privacy. Once alone, Carrie quickly slid into the costume she’d be wearing as the seductive Lieutenant Godiva. One look in the mirror, and Carrie knew she looked fantastic. The silver fabric reflected in her cool blue eyes, making them appear even more alive and vibrant than ever before. ‘Look out, everyone,’ thought Carrie, ‘Lieutenant Godiva is now dressed to kill!’
Thebes let out a small gasp as Lieutenant Godiva approached him. Her stunning body looked extremely attractive before her costume change, but now she truly looked like the seductive goddess she was meant to portray. Handing the adorable girl a small necklace, the slight assistant said plainly, “This is an official Pure Adrenaline identification tag. Make sure you wear this at all times, okay?” Lieutenant Godiva nodded as she slipped the cold metal chain over her head, making certain not to snag her long, sandy brown hair. “Now, onto the next task,” he said, trying to hide his awe. “Follow me.”
Thebes led Carrie around the corner to a large room full of photo equipment and lights. “Now, we need to take a few publicity stills for the press. Everything is already set up, so step up onto that platform over there, and I’ll take some quick holograph snapshots of you in that snazzy outfit.” The silver warrior stepped up onto the round, 6-inch tall platform and waited for Thebes to guide her into position. As he stood behind the tripod, Thebes began to call out to Lieutenant Godiva, now shimmering vibrantly in the bright lights of the studio. “Okay, let’s start with some action shots.” First, Godiva tried a few running poses. Then, she attempted a few more difficult stances, fully displaying her supple flexibility. Snapping rapid photographs as she moved from one position into another, Thebes could feel himself becoming quite aroused as the seductive lady tried out her sexiest runway poses. Trying to ignore his amorous instincts, Thebes then directed young Carrie Bliss into a few stationary poses before helping her step down from the elevated dais. “Great job, Lieutenant Godiva,” said Thebes proudly. “I think we’ll have plenty of great shots for the media, especially if you win.” After he finished labeling the three full rolls of film, he gently reached for Godiva’s arm. “Now, we need you to meet your group.”
They wound through several corridors, avoiding collisions with other participants who were undergoing similar character transformations. Eventually, Thebes led Lieutenant Godiva into a large conference room. Around the table, Lieutenant Godiva could see two other ladies also dressed in provocative outfits. Thebes politely pulled out a chair for Carrie and said, “Here’s your team, Ms. Godiva. In a few minutes, your group leader will brief you on your mission objectives. Good luck!”
“Thanks, Thebes,” said Lieutenant Godiva as she took her seat at the table. Once Thebes closed the door behind himself, Lieutenant Godiva introduced herself to the other members of her party. After a few minutes, a large man dressed in leather entered and took a seat. He seemed to be drooling as he stared at Carrie’s shapely body. ‘Looks like he’s going to be trouble,’ thought Carrie, trying to avoid eye contact with him. Within moments, a striking black woman entered then took a seat at the head of the table.
“Hello, everyone,” said the new arrival. “My legal name is Angela Roberts, and my character name is Commander Stealth. I’ll be leading this expedition. First, I’d like to congratulate each of you for winning your place at this table.” She poured herself a glass of water, then continued. “I want to start by telling you that this will be no walk in the park. There are many perils and challenges waiting for us out there, and I want us functioning as a team before we even leave this room.” She pressed a button on her console, which lowered a platform full of equipment. “Before we start disbursing the gear, I’d like everyone to introduce themselves, real name first, then character name.”
“I guess I’ll start,” said the blonde beauty to Commander Stealth’s right. “My real name is Rebecca Anders, and my character name is Esper.”
“Welcome aboard, Esper,” said Commander Stealth.
“Hi, everyone,” said a Latino angel next to Esper, “My real name is Milla Rivera, and my character name is Lady Petula. It’s an honor to be a part of the team.”
“It’s an honor to have you aboard, Lady Petula.”
“Ladies, my name is Jimmy Sanderson,” said the gruff man in the middle, “and I’ll be called Sergeant Magnum.”
“Alright, hands to yourself, Sergeant Magnum,” commanded Stealth as the brash sergeant reached for Lieutenant Godiva’s smooth thigh.
Carrie spun around and threw Magnum an angry look before announcing herself. “I’m Carrie Bliss, a.k.a. Lieutenant Godiva, field operator, at your service, ma’am.”
“At ease, Lieutenant Godiva, and welcome aboard.” Commander Stealth nodded her approval to everyone at the table, then continued. “Okay, ladies and gentleman, here’s our mission. This large island has a secret base located within an underground bunker. Our job is to locate the secret compound and disarm the weapon inside. Not much intelligence is available at this time regarding primary mission specifics, but we understand that there will be several traps set out there by the enemy. We also have several sub-missions, most involve rescuing allied combatants missing in action.” Commander Stealth walked up to a map of the island and pulled out a pointer. “Here is where our last group turned up missing. Our first job is to find this location and ascertain what exactly happened. Are you all with me so far?”
All gathered at the table shouted, “Yes, Commander Stealth!”
“Alright, then, on to the weapons.” She walked up to the platform and started handing out gear. First, she handed Esper a holster containing a small hand-held device. “For you, Esper, we have this electrically charged stun gun that will zap the enemy with 50,000 watts of pure power. Use this sparingly, since it takes at least ten minutes to charge after full battery depletion.” Turning to Lady Petula, she passed another holster containing a large sword. “This sword, Lady Petula, will slice through almost anything standing in your way, so be careful when handling it, okay?”
Lady Petula smiled a wicked grin, then replied, “Yes, Commander Stealth, I will be cautious, ma’am!”
“Very good, very good. For you, Sergeant Magnum, we have some heavy artillery. Also, you will be in charge of our rations, which will be air-dropped to us as provisions are needed.”
“Great,” said the sergeant disdainfully; “Looks like I get all the grunt work!” Commander Stealth threw Sergeant Magnum a harsh look before continuing.
“Finally, for you, Lieutenant Godiva, we have this staff.” Handing the three-foot staff to Lieutenant Godiva, Commander Stealth winked at her, then explained its purpose. “This staff will discharge a paralysis beam within a range of 50 feet. You will also be controlling our positioning hardware, so you’ll be in charge of our heading.”
Lieutenant Godiva reached for the ornate silver pole-like device and smiled. ‘At least I can freeze that smelly Sergeant Magnum if he gets too fresh,’ thought the lovely warrior. She analyzed the positioning device for a second before powering it up and trying it out. “This display looks just like the trial program’s tracking signal, so I shouldn’t have a problem,” said Lieutenant Godiva reassuringly.
“Good,” said a confident Commander Stealth, “because if we get lost out there, it’ll be your ass!”
“Understood, Commander, I won’t let you guys down.” Already, Lieutenant Godiva had entered the coordinates for the first objective into the small computer.
“Fair enough. Is everyone ready for what waits for us out there?” asked the Commander triumphantly.
“Yes, Commander Stealth!” shouted all four team members, anxious to play with their new gadgets.
“Then let’s go!”
“Is there a way across?” asked the buxom Commander Stealth.
“No way across by land,” replied Lieutenant Godiva, “but according to this, the depth of the river is only three to four feet deep, so we should be able to simply wade across.” After about 50 paces, the travelling party cleared the hill, revealing the river below. Oddly, it looked like no other brook any of them had ever seen before. The water glowed an intense shade of yellow. As the five adventurers approached the haunting waters, they were surprised that they couldn’t hear the usual sounds of crickets or birds. Also, no fish seemed to be swimming in the strangely tinted fluid. Cautiously, Esper reached her hand into the water, hoping to discover some secret behind its unusual properties.
“Interesting,” thought the blonde psychic aloud, “the water is warm to the touch, almost soothing.” She reached her hand in deeper, seemingly drawn to the enchanting waters that lapped over the riverbed. Suddenly, she pulled her hand out and began tearing off her petite garments. Starting with her green tunic and finishing with her brown sandals, she soon found herself completely naked. Sergeant Magnum howled with delight at the sudden lack of abandon displayed by the seductive lady, now gloriously nude in front of him.
“Esper!” shouted Commander Stealth harshly, “Get away from that water!” Ignoring her commanding officer, Esper tiptoed into the water, giggling with glee. “That’s an order, Esper, this may be a trap!” Still engrossed by the gently flowing waters, Esper continued to wade deeper, until the water reached her knees. Her round breasts heaved with passion as the warm liquid danced around her waist. Worried about her comrade’s safety, Commander Stealth screamed at her disobedient officer. Esper ignored everything as she maneuvered deeper into the glimmering water. Kneeling on the riverbed, she lowered her torso and arms into the fluid, until only her pretty head remained above water.
Suddenly, above the desperate screams of Commander Stealth, Esper let out a piercing moan of pleasure. Silenced by Esper’s strange outburst, Commander Stealth watched in horror as Esper seemed to fall deeper and deeper into oblivion. Suddenly, she pulled out a device from her holster and aimed it at the enraptured companion. Lady Petula cried out to Commander Stealth, “Don’t shoot her, Commander! She’s possessed or something!”
Commander Stealth quickly replied, “This won’t hurt her! It’s only a levitation device. I need to get her out of there before it’s too late!” She aimed the small hand-held device at Esper, capturing her within its blue light. Esper suddenly fell silent as the effects of the beam washed over her. Commander Stealth slowly lifted the wayward officer up out of the water. With steady nerves, she managed to levitate her new friend to safety on the riverbank. Once safely on shore, Commander Stealth released the trigger. The four crew members ran to Esper, hoping to assist her in some way. Her body shivered as she kneeled on the ground.
Lieutenant Godiva reached out to young Esper, but Commander Stealth halted her, shouting, “Don’t touch her! She may be contaminated! I can’t risk losing another good officer!” Lieutenant Godiva frowned as she helplessly watched Esper shaking in the afternoon sun.
“So cold,” whispered Esper, as she struggled to her feet. “When did it get s-so c-cold?” She took one tentative step towards her compatriots, then slowed to a stop. “H-help m-me,” she begged as her body flexed tighter, restricting her movements. Eventually, even her slight quivering began to slow, until she appeared to be frozen in place right there on the river’s edge. Even her long, blonde hair seemed stilled somehow, completely unaffected by the balmy winds flowing around her. Suddenly, a bright spark began to appear on Esper’s small feet, starting at her toes. Gently flowing across the soft folds of sensitive skin, her wrinkly insteps and soles began to glow in bold relief, bright reflections highlighting the dark shadows within the delicate creases. Feeling dizzy and disoriented, poor Esper could feel her dainty feet becoming dense and cold as they hardened remarkably into precious gold. Her body began to hum as the golden patches on her feet began to spread upwards, capturing her slim ankles and calves. Everyone surrounding her gasped in shock and awe as the wave of transformation relentlessly gilded Esper’s knees and thighs. Swiftly gaining speed, Esper’s soft skin hardened, yielding to the ethereal force capturing her solid. Even the rough and tumble Sergeant Magnum couldn’t hide his fear as he watched Esper’s timid face begin to glow; her final plea for help becoming etched onto her face for all time. As quickly as the magic waters of the golden river had lured Esper, so too had her body been suddenly transmuted into a solid gold statue!
Time stood still for the surviving members of the party as they stood dumbfounded by the rapid transformation that they had just witnessed. The shock of Esper’s demise left them almost as still and lifeless as the new statue that stood before them. Never had any of them seen a sight so woeful, yet so shockingly beautiful. Esper stood with her left leg frozen in mid-step, and her right arm posed in front of her for counterbalance. On her cheek, a solitary teardrop congealed into a golden droplet, permanent evidence of her distress and fear. Lady Petula broke the silence, saying in a whisper, “Somehow, she knew all this was going to happen.” Choking back her tears, the grieving woman walked somberly to her stationary friend. “She told me of her premonition, that she’d be trapped out here. I tried reassuring her. She put on a brave face for the rest of you, but I know just how terrified she really was. I still can’t believe her vision came true.”
Lieutenant Godiva walked up to Lady Petula and gave her a reassuring hug. Steadying her own timid voice, she said hopefully, “Maybe there’s something we can do to reanimate her.” Reaching into her holster, she pulled out a device. Aiming the apparatus at her frozen teammate she studied the readings intensely. With a grave look on her face, she read the results of the scientific scan. “According to this probe, her entire molecular structure has been altered into pure gold. At this time, there is no known antidote for her condition. I’m so sorry everyone, but there’s no way to change her back, I’m afraid.”
Commander Stealth bowed her head in grief, uttering a prayer of mourning for her fallen companion. Petula simply muttered, “I can’t believe this is real.”
Already, dusk had begun to creep in, bathing the statue of Esper in an eerie orange glow. While Commander Stealth filed a report regarding the incident at the river, the rest of the party worked diligently on setting up camp nearby. As the sun dropped below the horizon, Sergeant Magnum torched a brilliant fire.
“Everyone, keep alert!” ordered Commander Stealth. “And whatever you do, stay close to the fire.” Lieutenant Godiva continued to console Lady Petula, who was still in shock over the apparent death of Esper. Sobbing quietly, Petula rocked back and forth, still racked with grief.
Walking up to Godiva, Commander Stealth gently tapped her on the shoulder. “Sorry to disturb you, but we need to figure out a plan on how to get across this miserable river trap.” Lieutenant Godiva followed the commander to a private spot nearby. Pulling out her tracker, she studied the terrain map for a moment before addressing Commander Stealth.
“Unfortunately, ma’am, there’s no easy way across at this time. However, if we chop down a tall enough tree along the riverbank, we should be able to create a makeshift bridge. It’s kind of risky, but I don’t see any other way to get across.”
“Considering how quickly we’ve suffered a loss, I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar happened to the missing crew we’re searching for,” sighed a frustrated Commander Stealth. “At dawn, we’ll try your plan to get across. I only hope we find survivors, not just victims.”
“I hope so too, Commander Stealth,” whispered Lieutenant Godiva thoughtfully. Glancing back towards the fire, Lieutenant Godiva was shocked to find Lady Petula missing from her previous location. “Commander, where is Lady Petula?”
Commander Stealth spun around quickly, scanning the area for her tormented ally. “I don’t see her, Godiva. Nor do I see any sign of Sergeant Magnum.” Pausing a moment to figure out a plan, Commander Stealth concluded, “We need to split up and search for them. But be careful, Lieutenant Godiva, we still don’t know much about the local wildlife out here, okay?”
“Understood, ma’am,” said Lieutenant Godiva as she grabbed her silver staff. Heading towards the north, she scanned the distance. The moon offered plenty of illumination, although colors were completely obscured from her sight. A crackling sound panicked the young adventurer, yet she still bravely sought out the source, hoping to find her missing comrades. Finding only a fox-like creature scurrying in the brush, she turned her attention back to the camp sight. Suddenly, the sounds of frantic yelling shocked her senses. Running at a full clip, Lieutenant Godiva sprinted towards the loud commotion.
In the darkness, she could see what looked like wings flapping in the dark sky. Below the unknown creature, Lieutenant Godiva could see Lady Petula, Sergeant Magnum and Commander Stealth. They all seemed to be battling against this foreign animal. Lieutenant Godiva studied the unknown organism as she rapidly closed the distance between herself and her endangered teammates. Somehow, the dark silhouette fluttering above them seemed oddly familiar to the silver warrior, perhaps she’d faced a similar creature during her preliminary trials.
Lady Petula, using her broad sword, swung at the beast, narrowly missing a flapping wing. As Lieutenant Godiva finally approached close enough to get a clear look, she let out a gasp as she realized what her combating friends were fighting against. “Look out!” she screamed in terror. “Don’t let that bird touch you! It’s a Cockatrice!” Aiming her staff at the diving bird, she immediately fired a paralysis bolt, hoping to halt its attacking decent. The hot white shot narrowly missed the evasive Cockatrice. Sergeant Magnum fired a flame from his launcher, but it also failed to halt the diving beast, now in direct pursuit of Lady Petula.
Commander Stealth, upon seeing the threat to her teammate, quickly lunged out at Lady Petula in an effort to save her. As Petula fell abruptly to the ground, she could hear her commander let out a wail. The Cockatrice managed to pierce Commander Stealth’s bare skin on her right forearm with its sharp beak. Lieutenant Godiva, now within close range, swiftly fired a blast from her staff, striking the foul creature. Completely paralyzed, the dangerous bird slammed against the rocks with a thud.
Commander Stealth moaned in pain as she surveyed her wound. Finding only a small scrape, she wondered why her skin felt like it was on fire. Before she could voice her concerns, she could see a gray dot appear where she had been struck. The spot rapidly spread, sending a chill up and down her spine. Her lush lips quivered as she stood there, spellbound. Pure anxiety pumped through her veins, pushing the venom deeper. Bringing her right hand up to her wide eyes, she watched in horror as it hardened into position. Summoning one last ounce of courage, she turned towards her companions. Lowering her now heavy right arm slightly, she said somberly, “I’m turning to stone.” Already, her right elbow locked as it too transformed into unyielding marble. “You all need to be brave and carry on the fight for me,” she said defiantly, as the crackling stone crept up to her shoulder. “It was an honor to lead such a valiant team. I’m proud of all of you.” Her final moments as a living, breathing woman were running short, and they all knew it. The stony wave now reached her neck, petrifying her vocal cords. A chalky flavor began to fill her mouth as it too transformed, turning white with streaky mineral lines of deep gray.
“I owe you my life,” whispered the grateful Lady Petula. “I will never forget you.” Inside the monument she was becoming, Commander Stealth took some measure of satisfaction knowing she sacrificed herself for her teammate. As her nose, eyes and ears glazed then hardened, the bold commander quickly discovered that further movement was no longer possible.
The remaining survivors watched in terror as their intrepid leader continued to change. Her mocha skin continued to fade as her once soft breasts solidified, forming perfect globes of permanent granite. The transformation then seemed to crawl its way under her snug commander’s uniform, only to reveal itself again as it crept down her muscular thighs. Bending at the ankle, it swept across her sandaled feet, rendering the tiny veins into an embossed filigree of marble. Within mere moments, the crunching sound of transforming flesh started to cease as the conversion reached a shocking conclusion.
“Fucking bastard!” screamed Sergeant Magnum as he aimed his large gun at the stunned Cockatrice. Pulling the trigger, the large bird sparked and crackled as it received the full force of the blast. Staring at the charred remains of the cursed creature still left the sergeant unsatisfied and he continued to rage. Firing his weapon wildly into the night sky, he howled like a mad dog until he finished a full clip.
Lady Petula sunk to her knees in front of poor Commander Stealth. Wincing in pain, she bowed her head in shame for inadvertently leading her friend into this dreadful fate.
Lieutenant Godiva scanned the horizon somberly, searching for more potential
threats to her surviving troop. To her left stood the proud and defiant
statue of her former leader, Commander Stealth. Shifting her glance
to the right, she could see the gleaming statue of Esper, a look of confused
fear permanently fixed onto her beautiful golden face. ‘How are we
going to survive now?’ thought Lieutenant Godiva as she trembled in the
cool midnight air.
“Operative Xavier, calling Scientist Turner. Come in Scientist Turner.”
“Turner here. Report, Xavier,” crackles a voice over the intercom.
“Target Alpha petrified, sir,” replies the lurking secret agent. “However, the Cockatrice has been killed.” Xavier frowns as he watches his precious creature smoldering in the distance. Remembering the egg hatching as if it were just yesterday, Xavier wonders how someone could kill such a unique animal.
“Understood, Xavier,” croaks Turner. “Return to base for further instructions.”
“Yes, sir,” replies a frustrated Xavier. Lifting the now empty
cage that once held the exotic Cockatrice, Xavier quietly sprints away
into the darkness. ‘I will avenge your death somehow, Vyger.
That is a certainty.’
To be continued...
On to Part Two