Under Siege
David J. Duncan
July 2002


Notes: The characters from "Forever Knight" belong to Sony Tri-Star. The characters from "Xena Warrior Princess" belong to StudiosUSA and Renaissance Studios. The characters from "Smallville" belong to the WB, and DC Comics. The characters from "Mutant X" belong to Tribune and Marvel Studios. The characters from "Dark Angel" belong to their copyright holders. All other characters are fictitious and are of my creation. Please send comments to dante0220@yahoo.com .

Prologue [A rise overlooking the reconstruction of the Amazon village]

Gabrielle, Bard-Queen of the Amazons, writes....

It's good to watch this scene unfold in this fashion. For several weeks after the battle, the village had remained in ruins. Now, as with the phoenix, new structures have appeared to replace the destroyed ones. Soon, we'll be able to move in again...

In this scroll, I tell the tale of how tragedy almost derailed our friends' dream before it began...and how, after so very long, a little girl lost was at last found again.


(Additional Note: The dream flashback in this chapter occurred at the end of "Return to Nurrengaard")

Chapter 1 [Smallville, Kansas]

The late summer night blanketed the town in the heartland. After the heat of the day, the cool breeze had relaxed the inhabitants, allowing them to sleep. One notable exception was going on over on the western side of town. There, in a small rented room, a young woman thrashed back and forth on her bed. Her cheeks were flushed with a crimson hue and her brunette hair lay damp and plastered against her face. 

As with other nights during the past two weeks, she had the same nightmare. Over and over again, she saw herself as a little girl of about eighteen months in a very dark place. Surrounding her were these monsters...hideous and slightly hunched over with menacing looks on their faces. She felt herself being carried by an adult woman with a sad smile and long brown hair. After that, she and the lady were ripped from each other. The latter was tied to some stone slab. Then, a large demon loomed over the lady with an elaborate dagger poised to stab her. Watching the whole scene, a man with dark hair and a beard sat on his throne.

Then the ruckus started as two intruders bullied their way into the area. One was short and well muscled with long brown hair and a deadly ax. The other was just under six feet tall with dark brown hair and fired his bow repeatedly, emptying his arrows into the monsters. In response, the dark haired man rose from his perch and blasted these two with energy from his hands.

"Unca!" she heard herself cry out. 

At that moment, "Unca" rose from the floor. His mouth was contorted in a ghastly grin, and his right eye was closed. A deep throaty chuckle escaped his lips as he started to exchange blasts with the dark bearded man. From him, she could feel something wicked and cruel emanating throughout the room. His right hand sent a glowing burst into his adversary knocking him into the way of the descending blade.

"This isn't over...Dubois," the dying man muttered and gasped his last breath. 

****

The radio's alarm buzzer jolted the woman awake. Sitting up in bed, she could feel herself shaking and the sweat across her brow.

"Why do I keep dreaming this same scene over and over again?" she wondered, wiping her face off with a blue hand towel by her bed. Staring in the mirror, she examined her face and felt the familiar scar on her chin. For as long as she could remember, the two inch long scar had elicited questions from her classmates and now, her co-workers at the Talon. "Somehow, I know the dream is tied to this scar. How? And who is this Dubois guy? That's a new twist. Okay, Miri, get a grip. You have to be at work in an hour and a half." With that admonition, she jumped into the shower and steamed away the feelings for the day at least.

****

Right at 5:15, Lana Lang let herself into the little caf╚ inside of the former Talon movie theater. Despite the struggle to convince Nell and Lex Luthor to keep this place open and running, she felt that the sense of nostalgia, not to mention the sounds of happy customers and the busy register, made everything worthwhile. For the past two and a half years, she and Lex had worked together to insure the caf╚'s success, surpassing her own wildest dreams in the process.

After graduation, everything had changed. While the Talon had provided her with a focus during school, it was time to move on. Nell would be back from Metropolis in a couple of days to resume day to day operations so that she could leave for college.

"It's so hard to believe that in just a week, Clark and I will be going to Tucson again," she sighed deeply and shook her head. Just another way that everything had changed, she supposed. Just two months earlier, she and Clark had arranged a visit to the University of Arizona and a personalized orientation. Once they got there, everything went to Hell as a rouge group called the GSA attacked, kidnapping Dr. Angela Dubois, Dr. Adam Zero, and herself and holding them at a place called Genomex. Despite the situation, Lana had held her own and forged a bond with Dr. Dubois, who she discovered was also Xena, the legendary Warrior Princess. Most shocking of all, she discovered why Clark had been so mysterious as he used his powers in front of her for the first time to save her life.

Upon their return, the two teenagers had explained everything to the Kents and almost everything to her aunt. With the help of the Duboises, they convinced the latter group to let them study there.

Admittedly, the Kents were a little dismayed at first at Clark's decision to reveal his true nature to her. However, Lana was adamant that she would keep his secret no matter what and made that very clear to his parents. 

At that moment, a knocking at the door broke her reverie. "Huh? Oh, Miri!" Walking over to the door, she allowed the slightly older woman into the place. "How's everything going? Did you get any sleep?"

"Some," the other conceded, letting out a yawn. "I had that dream again."

Lana shook her head as she started a coffee pot going. Her friend had graduated a year ahead of her, but she was so mysterious. For years, her parents hadn't been able to have kids or adopt one for various reasons. Then, at the age of nine, Miranda, or Miri as she liked to be called, appeared in Smallville, and, as with Clark, she remained secretive. Rumors had swirled about the girl, but both Lana and Nell had always liked her. Still, these chronic visions had always bothered her one way or another. "Are you ever going to tell me about them?"

"If you're ready to listen," Miranda finally relented, accepting the steaming cup from her friend. "I see myself as a toddler in this dark place with monsters all around me. There is this woman with long brown hair holding me. Then, she's about to be sacrificed by the monsters. Suddenly, these guys burst in. There's a fight...and something weird happened to the taller of the two intruders. He changed somehow."

"Changed?" Lana wondered. "As in physically?"

"No," Miri continued, sipping her coffee. "This is gonna sound really crazy."

Lana shrugged. "Try me. We live here, remember?"

"Well, the guy shuddered and started to snarl like a rabid dog or something. Then, he got up with this slasher type look on his face, ready to kill."

Lana nodded, feeling an incredible sensation of deja vu. "This guy. What did he do?"

"Okay, he was slurring in this deep Southern accent and firing some sort of energy pulses at the monsters," Miri noted. "Why?" Seeing Lana's eyes widen, she asked, "What is it?"

"Was there anything else?" Lana pressed.

"Yeah. I kept calling out to him as "Uncle". Also, as the head monster died, he called him...."

"Dubois," Lana guessed.

Miri almost dropped her coffee. "That's right! How?"

Lana got up and began to straighten up the counters before the rush came in. "The man...was he almost six feet tall with dark brown hair?"

"Yes," Miri agreed in confusion.

"And the brown haired woman, what was her name?" Lana continued.

The older woman scratched her head. "It's so fuzzy, but I think I remember...Amanda. No, that wasn't it."

"Angela, right?" 

Miri stood up. "Yes. That's it, but how could you have known?"

Lana sighed. "You know how we've always wondered about our real parents and all that? You remember when Clark and I went to Arizona?"

The other nodded. "Sure...and that was some adventure from what you told me. Funny, I remember feeling flashes of pain for some reason during that time. In fact, that's when I started having the visions again. What does that have to do with anything?"

"Miri, I can't swear to this, but I think I know your uncle. He's a professor at the university where Clark and I are going," Lana postulated. 

"What if you're wrong, Lana? There are a lot of Duboises out there!" Miri protested, starting another of her meditative techniques.

"True, but I think that there aren't that many David Duboises out there who look like your dream man, can do what he does, and have the same issues. His wife's name is Angela. Kind of cuts down on the possibilities, doesn't it?" Lana explained. 

Miri paced about the room. For the past fourteen years, she had wanted to know who her true family was. Now, after so much questioning, the answer might be in front of her. "Can I meet him?" she asked.

"Actually, they're coming here to help Clark and me move in a few days. Let me talk to Clark and maybe we can arrange something at his folks' house," Lana agreed.

"Please do," Miri concurred, tying on her apron and getting ready for the customers. "I would really like that!"

Lana smiled warmly. For once, she was going to do something for her friends instead of the other way around.


Chapter 2 [Tucson]

Dave walked across campus feeling a bit depressed and moody. Oh sure, his plans for the upcoming semester were proceeding along well and everything was going all right. The day was bright and sunny with a nice breeze. Francesca would be meeting him in about an hour for lunch. In just a couple of days, he and Angie would be heading for Smallville to meet up with Clark and Lana. Everything seemed to be coming together.

Yet that day, August 10th, had always been a difficult one in the Dubois family. Fourteen years before, his sister-in-law, Terri, had taken her small daughter, Miranda, shopping for clothes. The department store in question bustled with shoppers of all kinds. For an hour, the two looked at cute dresses, trying to make up their minds. Then, tragedy struck. As Terri turned her back for a minute, a medium built man grabbed the little girl. 

The frantic mother gave chase, quickly catching up to the kidnapper.

The man pulled a gun and shot her in the chest before he escaped into the parking lot, taking the little girl with him. 

For Randy Dubois, Dave's brother, it was an excruciating night. Already reeling over the kidnapping, he sat with his wife as the latter slipped away in a hospital bed. "Find our baby," she whispered with her dying breath.

For years, Steve Petersen pulled every rock and stone looking for her yet he always came up empty. Despite these failures, he had sworn to both Randy and Dave that the Bureau would keep looking.

****

Once in his office, Dave plopped himself into the soft chair. Opening the top drawer, he pulled out a picture of Miranda and him taken just a week prior to the kidnapping. Seeing her face brought the old feelings of guilt and he heard the Child growling in his head. A tear creased his left cheek. "Some day, Miri. Some day, I'll find you, Sweetie."

Then, a knocking came from the door. "David, it's Eve. Can I come in?"

"All right," he sighed, placing the picture on the desk and watching the Religion professor enter the room. "What can I do for you?" he asked, forcing a smile onto his face.

She took the guest chair and assessed him for a moment. While he always had something on his mind, her friend seemed so sad on that particular day. During her meditation, she felt his pain and the need to help him. "What is it, David?"

"Just another of my anniversary days," he groused, sipping on a cup of cherry tea.

"What kind of anniversary?" she probed, looking around the office for a clue. Then, she spied the picture. "Who is that? Can I see?"

For a moment, he almost said no, but slowly, he handed it to her.

Watching the effort that this action took, she knew this was very dear to him. Noting the little girl in the picture, she remembered Angie telling her about the situation last year. "This is your niece, isn't it? She's beautiful."

"Thank you," he expressed, releasing another deep sigh. "You know, I went through the Pit after her and got her back. But, I can't find her here!" He slammed his fist on a corner of the desk, scattering papers everywhere. "Where is she, Eve? Why can't we find her?" 

"You will," she maintained. "Be strong."

He snorted. "I always have to be strong. No letdown for me. If I do, whammo! The Child takes out everything in his path. Eve, every year it gets harder for us to have hope."

She nodded. "I know, but you have to hang on to your faith. Pardon me." She embraced him and urged, "It's all right. Let it out before it forces the change."

Surprisingly fast, his guard dropped and the tears flowed. For several minutes, he released his emotions in a big burst. Then, as quickly as the emotional monsoon had flared up, it abated. "Thanks. I'm sorry you had to see that."

She smiled and rubbed his shoulder. "That's what friends are for. You've come so far, and been such a help to me. It's my pleasure to help you too."

"I agree. At some point, I'm going to run across her, and..." he started, a vision interrupting his train of thought. In his mind, he saw his young friends, Clark and Lana, holed up in an office area with two other girls whose faces he couldn't see....

"What is it?" she asked fearfully, not knowing what to expect. 

"I just had a vision of our two new students. They're going to be in trouble," he revealed. "It's in the future. Somehow, I know that much."

"Well, you and Angie are going to be there on Friday," she told him. "Hopefully, you'll be there in enough time to prevent any trouble."

"I hope so too," he concurred, taking a gulp of tea. "I hope so too."

**** 

Across campus, Angie sat in her office with a stack of unread reports on her desk. As with her husband, she felt the effects of the anniversary poignantly. Their niece was a source of joy, always bubbly and warm. Every year, it was tough to get through the day, supporting him as she dealt with her own feelings. Still, she needed to get through the day no matter how tough that proved.

At that point, a knock came from the door.

Forcing her professional fa┴ade to the surface, she called out, "Yes?"

"Angie, it's Natalie. Can I come in?" Natalie LeBeau requested.

"Sure. It's open," she agreed, relaxing into her chair.

The coroner walked into the office and shut the door behind her. "What's up?"

"Oh, the usual stuff," Angie supposed.

Her visitor chuckled. "You have that look of Nick's when he's hiding something. C'mon, Angie. You and Dave have been depressed the last couple of days. What is it?"

"I suppose Nick senses it too, huh?"

"Actually, he and I both thought I should drop by," Nat revealed. "I expect Dave to have his mood-fests, but you?"

Angie shook her head sadly. "This is a hard day for both of us, Natalie. Did we ever tell you about how Dave saved Karen, Miri, and me from Lousain the first time?" Seeing the other nod, she continued, "Today's the anniversary of the day Miri disappeared."

Natalie's jaw dropped. "Oh. Angie, I'm so sorry."

"That's okay," she excused. "I think I'm going to book off early. Do you think that Nick and Alyce could drop by? Or maybe we could go over to the Loft? Eve's going to be watching the twins. I don't want Dave to be alone tonight, and I need some friends around us."

The medical examiner hugged her friend reassuringly. "He wanted to invite you all over to his place. Steve warned me that this was one of those red flag days, but didn't tell me why. He knows, then?"

"He's used every connection to try and find her," Angie told her. "As usual, he's the most loyal friend one could want, Natalie."

"I couldn't agree more," Natalie concurred, a smile coming to her face. "Hey, let's go out to lunch on me. You look like you need it."

"Okay," Angie agreed and stood up.

Then the phone rang.

"Who?" she wondered, picking up the receiver. "This is Dr. Dubois."

"Dr. Dubois, hi, this is Lana Lang from Smallville. I'm sorry, is this a bad time?" Lana wondered.

Despite her mood, Angie was glad to hear from her friend. "Of course not. What's on your mind? Do you have a question?"

"Well...actually, I might have a bit of a weird situation here. There's somebody here who is having visions of a dark place," Lana started. "A place with trolls and some black haired guy with a beard."

The description forced chills up and down Angie's spine. "Lana, what else was there?"

"She's right here. I'll let you talk to her," Lana indicated. 

"H...Hello," another female voice came over hesitantly.

At the sound of the voice, Angie tensed even more. It was so hauntingly familiar. "Hi, who am I speaking to?"

"I'm sorry to trouble you, Ma'am. My name is Miranda Arighatto, and the visions are mine," Miri responded. 

Angie signaled to Natalie to sit back down and collected herself. While she was in no mood for a hoax, she knew that Lana wouldn't do something like that. For her own sake, she needed to know more. "That's okay, Miranda. What else can you tell me about your visions?"

"Well, it's pretty much as Lana said except for four things. I see a really short determined guy with a beard, and an ax. Then, there's a sad woman who's comforting me against the monsters. I'm only a baby in this dream for some reason. Finally, there's this guy who's shooting the beasts with a bow. The bearded guy hits him with some bright light. There's a demon who stabs him with some knife. I call him "uncle" and..."

Angie's face turned white. Somehow, the woman was describing the scene from the Pit. "What happened? It's okay, but I need to know."

Collecting herself and glancing over at Lana and Clark, Miri continued, "He changed. It was the scariest thing I've ever seen in my life. His eye closed and he snarled with this deep accent...Southern accent. He blasted the bearded guy into the way of some sacrifice-looking event. He died instead of the woman. Can you tell me what it means?"

Angie sobbed loudly, trembling. "Oh, goodness."

Natalie jumped up, wondering what was going on, and wanting to help.

"I'm sorry, but I need to know what that means," the young woman pushed. "Why do I have these dreams?"

Angie started to hum the lullaby she sang so long ago.

"That's it! How? I...." Miri wondered. Then, it hit her. "You...you were the woman with me!" Realizing this, she began to cry herself.

"Miri-Ma?" Angie asked, not wanting to believe it despite the fact that all of the clues were sitting right in front of her.

"That's right, but only my real father and uncle knew that nickname! I can't believe it...Auntie Angie is that you?"

The doctor broke down, crying a few tears of happiness. "Yes, Sweetie, it's me. Oh, you don't know how happy this is going to make your uncle and me! Are you in Smallville? Is there anyway you can stay there for a couple of days?"

"Sure. You are coming then?" Miri wondered.

"We'll be there sooner than you think," Angie assured her. "Trust me, you won't be able to keep your uncle away now even if Hell were in our way."

Recalling the vision, she shuddered. "Can I talk to you again?"

"I'll call you tonight, okay? Can you put Lana back on? And Miri, we love you."

"I love you too," the girl noted, handing the phone back to Lana.

"Dr. Dubois?" Lana asked. "Is she your niece?"

"It seems that way. Listen, are you going to be at home? I want to call back tonight."

"I'll be at Nell's," the prospective student agreed. "I'll have Miranda there too."

"Great. Oh, this is going to make Professor Dubois so happy!" Angie exclaimed. "Well, I got to tell him the news. Can you have Clark keep an eye on her?"

"We both will," Lana concluded. "I'll look forward to your call." With that, she hung up.

Angie slowly hung up on her end and looked at Natalie.

"What is it? What happened?" the coroner demanded. "Who was that?"

"It was Miri. Somehow, she's found us. She's in Smallville and waiting for us," Angie declared, laughing.

"Are you sure this isn't a hoax?"

"Nobody knows about the Pit in such detail-certainly not a girl of that age. Natalie, she described it in such detail. She knew the lullaby and Dave's pet nickname for her! I...I can't..." the oncologist continued, breaking down with tears of joy. "C'mon, let's go get Dave and Steve! They need to know!"

Natalie agreed and followed her out of the office, smiling at the prospect of good news.

****
[Smallville]

Lana hung up the phone and turned to face her Clark and Miri. "I'm so happy for you, Miranda!" she cheered, hugging her friend.

"I...I can't believe it!" Miranda exclaimed. "After all of these years. Listen, both of you, I am so grateful that you both were there for me through everything. You don't how much it means to me."

The two orphans exchanged glances before returning their gaze to her. 

"Oh, I think we do," he stated. "But hey, you're going to have two families now, right?"

"I guess." She winced, knowing how protective her stepfather could be. Despite her age, he still treated her like a child during his visits from Metropolis. "He isn't going to like this."

"Well, it's not for him to say," Clark advised. "You're twenty, so you're old enough to make your own decisions. Besides, the Duboises are family to you...your original family."

"They're going to call again tonight. Can you come over for dinner tonight, Miranda?" Lana requested.

"You bet I'll be there. Well, I need to practice my martial arts for a while. I want a clear mind when I speak to my uncle. Thank you, Lana." With that, Miranda put away her apron and walked out of the Talon. 

Lana embraced him, her eyes twinkling up into his. There was a special magic in the air at the Talon once again. Accordingly, they decided to enjoy it together for the moment, basking in its special nature.


Chapter 3 [Genomex]

Mason Eckhart sat behind his desk, pensively plotting his next move. For the past few months, most of the GSA's efforts had been directed at keeping the FBI at bay. The Dubois fiasco had cost the agency a great deal in terms of secrecy and credibility. Worse still, the repeated efforts to find Adam's accursed hideout had failed, causing him a great deal of stress. For some reason, his memory of certain events remained hazy. His efforts with the agency's counselors were getting results, but it was going so slowly.

Then a buzzing came from his intercom. "Yes?" he asked impatiently.

"Mr. Eckhart, Lionel Luthor's here to see you," his assistant informed him.

A smile creased his face. Luthor was one of his biggest supporters throughout this recent mess. "Please send him in."

As the doors slid open, he rose from his chair to greet the visitor. "Lionel, how are you?"

"Fine, Mason. I have a situation in Smallville with Lex, but otherwise, everything is in control. Your call sounded urgent," the businessman replied.

Eckhart frowned. While he knew that his plans would benefit his visitor as well as himself, the GSA's contacts had informed him that Lex Luthor was a friend to both Clark Kent and Lana Lang, thereby creating a potential problem for any operations. "We're getting ready to launch an investigation of Smallville, Lionel. There's been a great deal of...shall I say...abnormal activity there."

Luthor allowed a smile to flicker across his lips. He too had heard about strange things happening in Smallville and, in one case, witnessed one such "meteor-mutation" hold his plant hostage. "Yes...well, it's a unique place. I have one favor to ask of you, Mason."

Guessing at the other's intent, the white haired man nodded. "I will order my men to stay away from your son and your operations of course." 

"Thank you," the visitor replied pleasantly. While he enjoyed initiative on the part of his friends, he had to maintain the integrity of his operations. "And I appreciate your letting me know about this. Hopefully, this will get Lex to move back to Metropolis."

At that moment, Eckhart felt a flash of recognition pop into his head. Somehow, the conversation with Lionel had triggered something. "Yes, that would be a good thing, I suppose."

"Are you all right?" Luthor asked.

"Yes, in fact, I just remembered something I have to do," the administrator told the other man, a grin forming on his face.

In spite of himself, Luthor shuddered. Usually when Eckhart grinned like that, someone was about to get it. "Very well," he excused himself, shaking the other's gloved hand. "You know where to find me if you would like assistance. Good day."

After his guest had left the area, Eckhart sat back behind his desk and rubbed his hands together. For some reason, the mental block in his mind had been suddenly lifted. "Griffin!" he hissed, realizing who had done this to him. When the opportunity arose, he would make that anomaly's life miserable to say the least. More importantly, however, valuable information started to come back to him...including the location of Mutant X's hideout.

He remembered how to get there and the security overrides. 

Pressing the intercom, he ordered. "This is Mr. Eckhart. I need Mr. Samson, Ms. Peckenpaugh, and Mr. Tomko to report to my office immediately."

Like a cat circling a bird, his grin grew in anticipation. "Soon, Adam, I'll have you and your outlaw band," he vowed. "All of you."

****

[Mutant X Sanctuary]

Despite the fact that the previous week had been quiet, Adam's nerves were on edge. It was like the calm before the storm. Due to the close call the team had when Griffin led the GSA to them, the leader had agreed to allow Toni Quintana and Dave Dubois rig up an alarm to their machines in Arizona. If the security was compromised or files were downloaded to a computer with a GSA IP address, the alarm would be sounded in the desert. Much to his relief, the final connections had been made only an hour before and tested to insure they didn't compromise the firewall.

Around the Sanctuary, most of the lights were off. Tomorrow would be another training day as they all needed to stay sharp in case Eckhart tried something. As he passed by the stairs, he noticed that Jesse was still working away despite the hour. Walking up to the next level, he asked, "Still at it, huh?"

"Yeah," the density mutant replied, turning from the monitor. "Toni and Dave have everything set. I was just running some sensor sweeps to make sure that everything was in order."

The older man wondered, "And?"

"Everything's great. It's nice to know that we have backup," Jesse stated prophetically.

As if on cue, the lights flickered and the computer monitors went dark. The backup generator kicked on, but then, it too went out.

"What in?" the younger man wondered.

"Get the others, now!" Adam yelled, realizing the cause. Somehow, the GSA had found them again. There was no time to lose. Pushing buttons wildly, he initiated a system wide wipe of the files. 

Shalimar leapt into the area from the hallway. "Adam! What the Hell's going on?"

Around the corner, they could see Brennan bolt into the area; rapidly firing energy bursts at the intruders. "Who let them in here?" 

"They broke in. Somehow, Griffin's mind block must have worn off," the leader supposed.

"Yeah, well, we're outnumbered, Chief!" the electrical mutant informed him, firing another burst and taking out the two GSA agents coming around the corner.

Then the rest of the invading force broke into the atrium, surrounding the platform where they stood. Off to the edge of the group, they could see Emma and Jesse being herded away with their hands bound and the telltale governors on them.

Adam looked at the deletion sequence. Half of the database was gone, but how would they buy the time needed to finish the job and rescue their friends?

From the mass of his well-dressed shock troops, Eckhart strutted to the bottom of the stairs. "Adam, what was yours is now mine again. You've lost."

"Not yet," Brennan argued, shooting off bursts from his hands and taking out several more agents.

"As much as I admire the attitude, Mr. Mulwray, you're finished," the chief adversary disagreed.

As their enemies encircled them, the remaining three prepared themselves for the final assault.

****

[Tucson-About twenty minutes earlier]

Nick walked about his living room, taking in the sights of his friends' conversation and fellowship. The night had gone much better than he had anticipated. Although a bit of gloom still hung over the air, the mood was a productive one. The potluck meal had gone quickly. Deirdre meditated in the corner. Angie and Francesca talked with their new friend, Max. Dave and Toni Quintana tweaked her laptop connection. Due to recent events, they had decided to have a backup alarm in case the GSA got too close. While they hoped it was a redundancy, one could never be too sure.

Finally, Dave stood and remarked, "It's done."

"You said it," the blonde cracker agreed, reaching for a glass of wine. "Between the laptop and your office computer, that was an afternoon that went fast."

"So, what does that thing do?" Francesca wondered. "I saw you two working in his office this afternoon."

"It's a relay alarm back to Adam's computer system in Sanctuary," the professor declared. "If security's breached, we'll know about it." Pouring himself a drink, he sat down next to his wife.

"I thought he was super paranoid," Max supposed. "How did you manage that one?"

"He trusts us," Toni informed him. "Besides, the only way that something would happen is if Eckhart were to break in."

"That's not likely," Angie doubted.

At that moment, the recently installed light began to flash bright red.

"Ummm...like that?" Steve wondered.

Everyone stared at the alarm beacon. Sure enough, things had been too quiet.

"Damn!" Dave hissed, jumping out of the chair and raising his hand. From across the room, his bow and quiver flew into his waiting grasp. "Speaking of which..."

"Maybe it's a false alarm," Francesca offered.

The medievalist grabbed the back of his neck as pain shot up and down his spine. "Arrggh...Not bloody likely!"

Angie grabbed his arm in a panic. "Emma?"

He nodded. "She's been taken. They put a governor on her."

Deirdre stood and stated, "Give the signal, Papa."

"In a minute, Kiddo," he advised. "Angie, why don't you and Francesca go home? Can you see if you can find our two warriors, will you?"

The two female academics exchanged glances. While the excuse was high on the lameness meter, it did give them an opening. Bolting out the door, the duo made their way down the stairs to the car. Once there, they made sure the coast was clear before initiating the transformation into Xena and Gabrielle.

"C'mon," the Warrior Princess urged, running back up the stairs. 

"I'm right behind you," her companion assured her.

Less than a minute later, they rushed back into the room to find that the young priestess had already opened the portal. Nick, Max, and Dave were waiting for them.

"Hey," Max declared. "Now that they're here, can we go?"

"You bet," Dave agreed. "You all ready?" 

"Let's deal with that slime," Xena remarked grimly, chakram at the ready. 

"Deirdre, when you open the portal, flood the other side with the mist," her father instructed, drawing an arrow with a small colored bulb and a wick on the tip. "This is for color."

"What do you need the arrows for?" the transgenic soldier wondered. 

"A flourish," he replied flippantly before jumping into the mists just behind Xena and Gabrielle. "Steve?"

"I'm right behind you, Bud," the agent assured him, checking his weapons. After giving Nat one last look, he vanished into the mists.

"After you," Nick said to Max.

"Thanks," she accepted, entering the smoky tunnel.

After the former Crusader had brought up the rear, Deirdre closed it behind them. No sense in letting the enemy have a backdoor. 


Chapter 4 [Mutant X Sanctuary]

Eckhart's forces continued to close in on Adam, Brennan, and Shalimar. To their credit, the latter two kept fighting, driving the agents back. However, they were starting to tire, having expended their powers over such a long period. Finally, their opponents overwhelmed them, knocking them to the floor before sticking governors on them as well. 

"Finally," the administrator huffed. "Give it up, Adam."

"No way," the Mutant X denied. "I just wiped out all of the data and infected the computers with a virus. You've got nothing, Mason. There was also a homing beacon built into the system. Help's on the way."

"He's bluffing, Mr. Eckhart," Tomko retorted. "The system diagnostic from this afternoon showed nothing of the kind."

At that moment, several gunshots in the air interrupted the conversation.

"Who would?" Eckhart wondered, staring at the doorway.

From there, Steve walked in, a gun in his right hand and his badge in the left. "Good evening, everyone. Agent Petersen, FBI. Now, whatever are you Genetic Security Agent types doing here? I thought you were supposed to be shut down during the probe into your dealings." Priming both guns, he continued, "I guess this shows what you think of the law, doesn't it?"

Eckhart scoffed. "Really, Petersen, you've been around your friend too much. Coming in here alone against us? You're a fool."

Hearing the mental alarm in his head go off, the agent hoped that everyone was in position. In the dim reflective light of the intruders' flashlights, he could make out Max skulking around the edges. Nick levitated along the west wall. He knew that Xena and Gabrielle were crouched in back of him, the former holding her chakram at the ready. Finally, Dave floated high above the scene, ready to fire as needed. "Who says I'm alone?" With that, he bent over low.

The warrior grinned and flung her weapon. The metallic disc ricocheted off of several metal panels and still more agents' heads before returning to her hand.

"Xena!" Adam realized.

"Yeah, it's me all right," she concurred, stepping into the open. "Come on, I can use a good workout."

Then, the group heard a dark chuckling from above. "Hey, guys. We've got ya surrounded." Looking up, they saw Dave levitating in midair, his hands glowing brightly, revealing the dark smile on his face. "Now, why did you have to screw everything up by showing up uninvited and all? Tsk, tsk! Hey, Steve, what do we do with uninvited nerds?"

"We throw 'em out on their asses," his friend concurred, glaring at their adversaries.

"Damn straight," Dave agreed. 

"We have the numbers and there are only three of you against fifty of us," Eckhart bellowed.

"That didn't matter back at Genomex, Whitey," Dave disagreed. "And it won't matter now!" Allowing his hands to cool off, he lit and fired a special shaft into the agents' numbers. "A present from me."

The projectile exploded in their midst, covering the area with a thick choking smoke.

The professor counted to five before yelling, "Everyone into the pool! The one who kicks the least amount of GSAss buys the first round back home!"

"You're on!" Max cracked, leaping into the fray. Moving quickly, she took out enemies left and right. Seeing an agent abusing Shalimar, she leapt to her fellow feral's side and smacked the agent holding her down. Nobody was going to beat on a like-minded genetic soldier like herself if she could help it.

Xena gyrated, flipped, kicked, punched, and cracked her way through the opponents. Before her, they fell like so much wheat.

Gabrielle's staff found more than a few heads.

Nick and Dave fought back to back taking out the remainder of the enemy.

After a few minutes, the GSA agents were out for the count, strewn across the floor like so many rag dolls. Unfortunately, Eckhart and his chief lieutenants were nowhere to be found.

"Are you okay, Adam?" Dave wondered.

"Yeah. You all really saved the day," he coughed.

"I'll say," Brennan agreed, wincing from having his hands bound.

"Hang on a minute," Xena advised and using her dagger, cut his hands free.

"Thanks," the electrical mutant expressed. "Adam, can you?"

"Just a minute," the leader agreed, fishing through the panel in back of him. There, he found a probe-like device. Walking down the stairs, he touched it to the governor's base, deactivating it and popping it out of his neck. Then he did the same for Shalimar.

"Thanks," she expressed, rubbing her neck. "And thanks, everyone. Max, you too, for the save."

"As if I was going to let some Manticore-reject beat on a sister like that," Max replied, a smile growing on her face. "Get real."

"Well, we have to get out of here. Everything's been compromised, unfortunately." Adam told them.

"Not to mention that they have Jesse and Emma," Brennan reminded him.

"At least for tonight, come back with us," Dave urged.

"You three can stay with me," Nick invited. "It's secure, and who's going to mess with the Elder of Tucson?"

"I thought that LaCroix was the Elder..." Adam interjected.

"Since we came back from Nurrengaard, things have been changing. You saw my new floating powers. Nick is now the Elder of the Community," Dave explained, glancing around. "Too bad about this place, though. I really liked it."

"We did too," Shalimar agreed. "It was home."

"But, you can start over," Nick asserted. "We'll help."

"We can try," the new mutants' leader agreed. Looking around at the scattered agents around them, he asked, "What do we do with them?"

"Leave them to me," Steve asserted, getting on the phone to the local law enforcement. Maybe they might not be in jail for long, but he could get more evidence on Eckhart for the Bureau's case.

After all was said and done, the group grabbed a few things including a box of clothes for each Mutant X member. Then, Deirdre opened the portal, teleporting them away from the scene toward safety.


Chapter 5 
[Genomex]

About two hours after the battle, Eckhart reentered the complex. He had to hand it to the incorrigible FBI agent. As big of a pain as he was, he certainly could set up an operation on the fly. Given how much difficulty the GSA had in getting around it, the blockade had been somewhat formidable. "It's a pity he's working for the wrong side," he remarked walking down the hall of the interrogation area. Turning to his right, he entered a side room. There, he saw Emma and Jesse secured by their wrists and ankles.

"They got away, didn't they?" Jesse cracked.

In response, Peckenpaugh shocked his side with an electroprobe. "Speak to Mr. Eckhart with respect."

After allowing the scene to take place, the administrator glared at the density mutant. "Yes, Mr. Kilmartin, they did escape. It seems that Dubois and the others knew we were there. No matter, we have you two and we know where your base of operations is. Now that your forces have been split, I can proceed with my next plan. My contacts tell me that young Mr. Kent and Ms. Lang are about to travel to Arizona. I'm going to put a stop to that."

"Leave them alone, Eckhart!" Emma protested, fighting the pain from the earlier questioning. "Haven't you done enough to them?"

"I don't think so, Ms. diLauro. That young freak is still running around trying to pretend he's normal. Mr. Kent needs to learn a few things in stasis," Eckhart retorted. "Don't worry, as soon as I track down the rest of your band, you'll be there too." With that, he turned and walked out of the area. The Smallville raid was already in the works. Tomorrow, he and thirty handpicked agents would leave for the town to take the troublesome teenagers into custody.

****

[Tucson]

Meantime, the group had returned to Nick's loft. Max took off immediately to report on Genomex to Logan. As for the others, Nick's collection of artifacts and memorabilia from across time stunned the Mutant X members. While they knew he was a vampire, those items revealed his true age.

"These are something else!" Brennan admired, looking at the various items and instinctually calculating their worth.

"Thank you," the former Crusader accepted. "Eight hundred years of traveling does provide its share of souvenirs. Anyhow, take a look around if you'd like." Turning to Alyce, he requested, "Can you entertain them for a while. I need to talk with Janette."

"Certainly," the curator agreed. 

"Thanks," he said appreciatively. "Dave, Xena, Gabrielle, thanks for coming over."

"No problem," Dave told him. "A workout is always a good thing."

With that, the Elder disappeared through the open skylight and into the night sky.

Then Xena slapped the side of her head. "Angela had a call she wanted to make!"

"Can't it wait until morning?" Dave yawned.

"I don't think so," the warrior disagreed, sheathing her sword and changing back to Angie.

"Okay," Angie stated, pulling out her cell phone and dialing away. "Here goes. I hope it's not too late for them."

****

[Smallville]

For several hours, Lana and Miranda had sat in the former's living room, talking about the past and their hopes for the future. Occasionally, their glances would turn to the phone over in the corner. As the hour drew later, both women wondered when the call would come.

"They forgot," Miranda fretted.

"No, I'm sure that they're occupied with something," Lana disagreed. "Trust me, they'll call."

Then, about 11:30PM, the phone finally rang. "Hello?" she answered.

"Lana, this is Dr. Dubois. Sorry about calling so late. We had an emergency to deal with," Angie explained.

The younger woman shuddered. If they had an emergency, it meant trouble. "Did you deal with it, okay?"

"Kind of. Before I speak to Miri, I wanted to give you a message for Clark: he'd best watch his back," the doctor told her. "We just ran into Eckhart and his goon squad again."

At the memory of that monster, Lana shook a bit more. "I'll do that. Thanks," she replied, trying to keep her voice steady. "Meantime, here's Miranda."

"Hi, Aunt Angie. Is everyone all right?"

"We're fine, Sweetie. As I told Lana, we had something to take care of. Look, I have someone here I think you'll want to talk to. Hold on," the oncologist noted. Looking at her husband, she advised, "You might want to take this one. Brace yourself though."

"Why?" he asked.

"Just trust me," she said knowingly before sitting down on the couch.

He shrugged. Oh, what the heck? "Hello?" he inquired.

"Hi, is this Professor Dubois?" Miri asked.

At that exact moment, he felt a familiar vibration coming through the connection. There was something about the girl's voice. "Who is this?"

"My name's Miranda," Miri continued. "I'm a friend of Clark and Lana's."

For some reason, the feeling he was getting jogged his memory. "It's good to meet you," he stated. "What can I do for you?" 

[Angie shook her head on the couch and through their telepathic connection, urged, "Open yourself up, Dummy!"]

[He looked at her in a funny way. "What is it?"]

["Ask her about her past," she pushed.]

"Okay," he relented. "So, tell me a little more about yourself."

Miranda glanced at her friend nervously. Seeing the other woman nod, she continued, "Well, I was adopted when I was about six, but I remember my real parents. My mother was blonde and had a brilliant smile. She was into painting until she died suddenly." Then, the image of that day in the mall flashed back into her mind and she sobbed suddenly. "I...I'm sorry. I can still see the guy who grabbed me shooting her."

Dave almost dropped the phone when he heard that. Combined with the reading he was getting from her, those words revealed who she was. However, he had to know for sure. "What else do you remember about your childhood, Miranda?"

"When I was really small, I was kidnapped by these monsters and taken to this dark place along with a woman with brunette hair. Two guys rescued us, but they had to fight off a lot of the monsters and a bearded guy in the process. One of the two rescuers turned angry and blasted the bearded guy after taking a stab wound in the left shoulder from a black knife. Do you know any of this?" she detailed.

[From deep within his head, the Child roared, "Dammit, it's her! Somehow, Ah know it's her!]

He gripped the old wound once again. "I was stabbed in the shoulder in a dark place like that," he told her. "Do you have any scars from that?"

"A crescent one on my chin," she told him.

He wavered and collapsed onto the couch next to his wife. When their friends tried to intervene, Angie waved them off, allowing him to continue. "Mi...Miri-Ma?" he sobbed.

"Uncle Dave? Is it you?" Miranda pushed.

"Oh man," he whispered, the tears streaking his face. "I...It's me, Short-Stuff. Although, I'm not sure you're so short anymore." 

"No, I'm all grown up," she tried to make a joke of it.

"I'm sure you are. Umm, your aunt told you that we're going to be in Smallville, right?" he inquired.

"Day after tomorrow, right?" she confirmed.

"Heck with it!" he exclaimed. "Hold on." Turning to Deirdre, he told her, "Get your Aunt Cybelle. It's an emergency."

Guessing at the cause, she nodded and vanished into the mists. A moment later, she returned with the High Priestess.

"Dave, what's going on?" Cybelle demanded. "You know what hour it is?"

"I do," he told her. "We need a portal opened to Smallville."

The priestess scoffed and looked at her niece. "For this, you got me up? Couldn't you do it yourself?"

"Auntie, Papa has a reason," Deirdre retorted.

The High Priestess shrugged. "Very well." 

"Okay," Dave agreed before getting back on the phone. "Are you still there?"

"Yes, are you still coming?" she wondered.

"In a minute or so, you're going to see some fog near you. Can you and Lana walk through it?" he requested.

Miranda glanced around. Sure enough, the fog had taken over the left half of the room. "You want us to walk into that?"

"It's perfectly safe," Lana assured her. "Come on."

"All right. If something doesn't work, I'll call you back," Miri concluded and hung up. Following her friend's lead, she crossed the room and stood at the mists' edge. "Are you sure about this?"

"I've taken this trip before," Lana noted. "Take my hand and follow me."

Miranda grasped her hand firmly and started into the smoke, not knowing what to expect next.

****

On the other side of the mists, Dave stood and walked over to his sister's side. "Are they in there?" he asked.

"They are," she replied. "Deirdre, can you help them?"

"On my way," the younger priestess complied, entering the area.

Seeing that her brother was nervous, Cybelle rubbed his arm. "Hey, it's going to be okay. What's got you so worked up anyhow?"

"Trust me. If it's what I think it is, you'll be at that point soon enough," he declared.

****

Deirdre walked around for about two minutes before she spied the two women. "Ah!" she smiled and walked over. "Lana?"

"Deirdre, good to see you," Lana inquired. "Sorry, it's not as easy to navigate in here as you make it seem." 

"I'll bet," the priestess chuckled. "And you must be her friend. Welcome!"

"Do we have much farther to go?" Miranda wondered.

"Nope. It's this way. Let me get us a shortcut," Deirdre commented with a smile. Waving her hands, a patch of mist opened to reveal the Loft. "Go ahead. They're all waiting for you both."

"C'mon," Lana assured her friend as she guided her through the portal.

Deirdre followed them, sealing the portal behind her and hoped for the best.

Chapter 6

Miranda stumbled out of the mist only to find herself in a strange but rather unique place. As with the other visitors, she found herself overwhelmed with the collection of artifacts and such. More noticeable, however, were the insights from the others in the room. Throughout most of her life, she had felt things about the people around her, picking up on their auras and emotions. Now, as she looked around, she felt the differences in her cohorts. The man and the blonde haired woman with the black clothed man on the stairs were definitely more than they seemed. Most of the others in the room shared this characteristic.

"Focus, Miri. You gotta focus. Remember what Quan Gui told you," she reminded herself softly, probing the energies around her. Finally, she settled on the two people on the couch. She knew their auras somehow. While the brunette's was familiar, she could feel his energy leap at her from across the room.

Lana was right. He could only be one person: the man from her dreams. For a moment, a tremor of fear shot through her as she could distinguish between the two personas within him. Then, she collected herself. Somehow, she sensed neither would hurt her.

"Uncle Dave?" she asked, running toward him.

"That's right." he nodded, positively radiant. Sweeping her up in his arms, he kissed her over and over again. "Miri, it's so good to hold you again." The tears dripped down his face.

Cybelle stared at them before exclaimed, "It can't be!"

"Apparently, both Dave and the Child are satisfied," Angie remarked, getting up to join their embrace. 

The priestess stared at her niece. "You knew, didn't you?"

"Not really, but few things would make him that happy, especially today," Deirdre noted, watching her parents' scene with her long lost cousin. "Sorry, Auntie. This is too important not to have you here."

"I need to see for myself," she asserted, walking over. 

"Auntie Cybbie?" the visitor wondered.

For a second, Cybelle froze. Before she vanished, Miri had called her by that name often. "Can you relax and look into my eyes for a second, Dear?"

"Okay," she agreed, doing so.

The priestess analyzed the young woman's aura and energies and discovered what the others already knew. "Goddess be praised!" she exclaimed, hugging her. "You've come back to us!"

"My little sister, the doubting Thomas," Dave cracked.

"Hush, you," she shot back with a grin on her face. For once, she let the austere priestess fa┴ade drop. "As for you, Miranda, your father will be so ecstatic when he finds out!"

"You never forgot about me?" Miri wondered.

"Never," Dave asserted, kissing her cheek. "We never stopped looking for you. The man with the short black hair is a FBI agent who spent the last fourteen years with you as his pet project."

"Somehow, I knew that," she assumed. "Hold me, Unca and Auntie, please."

"As long as you like," Angie assured her. "As long as you like."


****

Lana aimed the camera, waiting for the perfect snapshots. She grabbed the initial embrace between Dave and Miri; Angie's joining them, Cybelle's realization, and his heartfelt kiss on her cheek for posterity. Having done so, she walked over to the staircase where the Mutant X members, along with Alyce, Steve, and Natalie, just watched silently.

"That's great," she told them. "Since I've known her, Miranda's always wanted to know that her family remembered her. This is incredible."

"Yeah, it's a real tear-jerker," Brennan sighed, a tear coming to his eye in spite of himself.

"Hey, look at you!" Shalimar teased, poking him in the side. She would never let him live this one down.

Adam simply watched and admired the scene in front of them. Given how everything else-including his dream-had come caving down around him on that night, it was gratifying that the professor was showing emotions other than anger, pain, and hate. "May you have those feelings for a long time, my friend," he hoped.

"I wish Clark were here," Lana sighed. "He's going to be so happy when he hears about this."

"I can imagine," Adam concurred. "How are you both anyway?"

"We're fine. We're almost ready to move out here to start college," she replied pleasantly. 

"Great!" Shalimar commented. "How's he handling everything?"

"He's okay. I think he likes that he doesn't have to hide his true nature from me anymore," Lana told her.

"I'm sure," the geneticist stated, walking over to their friends. 

"Lana, you sure know enough special people, don't you?" Miri inquired.

"What do you mean? These are your aunt and uncle's friends."

"Well, there are several types of people here. The woman by the refrigerator there is empty. Over there, the blonde lady and her friend have strong energy. And, as for my aunt and uncle, I'm reading two auras in each of you," Miranda revealed.

"You're a mutant too," Adam realized.

"I've always been different," she continued. "That's why I was so secretive, Lana. Watch." Focusing on the cup on the far countertop, she made it float across the room into her hand.

"Impressive," her uncle complemented. "Who knows about this?"

"Nobody except my stepdad. He said I was a freak and if I did that, he would beat me," Miranda informed him.

Dave flushed beat red and felt the Child raging inside of him. "Let him try," he told her.

She stared at him. "I just felt that. The tremor of darkness that just went through you. What is it?"

Angie cleared her throat. "You mean 'he' not 'it'. There are two personalities there, as you already know."

Their niece nodded. "I know. He's so angry...ever since Clark and Lana were here last; I've felt you, Uncle Dave, in my thoughts. The darkness screams like a hurt child."

"That's exactly what he is," Dave agreed. "I'm dealing with it. Having you here is as good as any medicine that I could ever get."

"Amen," Angie agreed.

Lana looked at the clock. "Ummm, Miranda, I'm sorry, but it's getting late and we need to be getting back before Nell has the police looking for us."

"So soon?" Miri asked crest fallen. Having just found her family, she didn't want to let go.

"Can you make it until the day after tomorrow?" Angie asked. "We'll be landing in Smallville at 10AM sharp."

"Okay," the younger girl relented. "I'll be counting the hours. I love you both. Please let Daddy know I'm alive and I'm thinking about him."

"Count on it," Cybelle assured her, opening up the portal. "He'll be thrilled."

"Thanks, everyone," Lana beamed. "You've made her so happy. See you soon." With that, she popped through the mists.

Miranda took one last look at everyone before she followed her friend. Soon, she would be with them permanently. "Please, let everything go right!" she hoped as she pushed ahead toward Smallville.

****

Back at the Loft, Dave stared at the spot where the mists had dissipated. He was thrilled-more so than he had been in a long time. But, for some reason, he had a bad feeling. Something was about to hit Smallville, involving Miri and their friends. "Take care, Short Stuff," he thought. "We'll be there as soon as we can."


Chapter 7

Even as the happy reunion occurred back at his Loft, Nick walked into the El Gato Negro and made his way over to the bar. After the fight earlier that evening, he hoped that all was well within the Community.

"Nicolas," Janette greeted, leaning over the counter. "What will it be tonight? White wine?"

"Make it a straight glass of Chablis," he requested. "Thanks."

She nodded and produced the glass quickly. "So, what happened earlier tonight? Your thoughts were centered on a fight." 

"Some of my friends were attacked tonight. Remember those goons who attacked the university a few months back?" he inquired.

She sipped from her glass of bloodwine. "Hmm, that is difficult to sort out, mon Cher. So many people take aim at your professor friend these days," she indicated, allowing a touch of irony to seep into her voice. "These threats could endanger the Community."

"I know, but as I mentioned to LaCroix, Eckhart isn't going to stop unless everyone stands up to him," he hissed.

"Your white haired megalomaniac has returned, has he? Well then, I shouldn't have to tell you what to do, Nicolas. Stop brooding over it. Drain him and leave nothing," she declared icily. "You'll make everyone's lives easier including your own."

At that moment, Tracy plopped herself down next to him. "Hey, Nick, you seem stressed. What's up?"

He glanced at Janette, trying to decide whether to involve his partner or not.

"She...is your partner, Nicolas. She deserves to know. If you will excuse me, I'll attend to my other customers. Bon chance, mon Amor," the vampiress noted, turning from him and walking down to the end of the bar.

"I deserve to know about what? Nick, what's going on?" Tracy pushed.

"The GSA made another move tonight," he revealed. "Remember the Fallone case?"

Her eyes bugged out wide. "You mean the goons in the good suits are back?"

"There was an attack...not here in Tucson, but elsewhere. Some of my friends got hurt," he mentioned, sipping on his wine.

"I'll bet the Duboises were involved too, right?" she snickered. "Figures."

"Hey, they kept the damage at a minimum," he argued. "Six of us took out fifty of them."

"Fifty?" she coughed, almost choking on her drink. "Where does that creep recruit from? I thought we arrested most of them the last time."

"Steve's looking into it," he said trying to assure himself in the process.

"I thought he was already doing that," she supposed. 

"He was. I thought the investigation was pretty far along. There was an order to stop their operations during the probe. Eckhart's not going to stop for the law."

"So, his name's Eckhart. Nick, what else is there? What's going on and why does it involve the Duboises?" she wondered.

He sighed, considering how much to tell without giving away Mutant X's secrecy. "Remember Dave's speech after the incident. That sums it up."

"So, they're the Klan essentially? Who are these 'special people' that he spoke about? We've heard rumors about mutants and such from the government, but that's nonsense, right?" she pressed.

"I know several such people, Tracy," he muttered, gulping down the rest of his drink. "You do too." Then, through his link with Alyce, he felt something. "Hang on." Taking his cell phone out of his coat pocket, he dialed his home number.

"Hi, Nick!" the curator greeted enthusiastically.

"What's going on, Alyce?" he asked.

"Well, you're not going to believe it. Everyone's fine here. Cybelle showed up and well, I can't believe it," she mentioned.

"What happened? Is there something wrong?" he asked nervously. "I can feel Dave's emotions going off the charts."

"It isn't what you think," she told him. "Nick, you know what today is, right?"

He sighed. It was the anniversary of his niece's disappearance. "So, why is he...happy?" He shook his head, not believing what he was feeling.

"Miranda's been found. Cybelle brought her here with Lana Lang from Smallville. Oh, Nick, you should be here! Everyone's hugging and kissing her. Natalie's positively bawling over here," she reported.

"Hush!" the coroner cracked next to her, elbowing her.

He grinned. At least, something good came out of all of this. "I'll be right there." 

"What happened?" Tracy wanted to know.

"For once, Dave's happy."

"Him? Get real!" she scoffed. "Mr. Doom and Gloom with the Dark Brat in tow?"

"He is," he affirmed. "Take care, Trace. I've got to check this out for myself." With that, he rushed out of the bar and took off into the night sky.

Back in the bar, Tracy finished her drink and left her money on the counter. "I hope that he is happy for all of our sakes." With that, she departed herself, heading for the apartment to talk with Vachon.

****

Steve and Natalie watched their friends carefully. It wasn't often that the Duboises expressed happiness on that level.

"I take it this has been a long time in coming?" she wondered.

He nodded. "I've been searching for that girl over the past fourteen years, Natalie. Trust me, they're due for this. Long overdue. I just hope there aren't any problems."

"Problems? Like what?" she asked.

"Usually when something like this happens to Dave, there's a huge rope attached," he told her. "In that regard, his luck's the absolute worst I've ever seen."

"He hung onto Angie, didn't he?" she inquired.

"Trust me, Karen and I were ready to pull them back together if anything happened. In fact, it almost didn't happen. Thank Karen for helping them get started. I'll tell you about it sometime," he replied. "I won't let anything happen in this situation either."

"I know that," she agreed.

"If we can be of any help, we'll be there too," Shalimar told them.

"Absolutely," Adam affirmed, rubbing the agent's shoulder. 

At that moment, Nick descended through the skylight into their midst. "What happened, Dave?"

The professor got up off his knees, a smile spread wide across his face, and his cheeks wet with tears. "She's alive, Nick! She's okay!"

The vampire detective embraced his friend tightly, wanting to enjoy the feeling as long as he could. "Alyce said she's in Smallville. Did Clark and Lana find her?"

"She found us through Lana," Angie noted, her eyes just as red as her husband's.

"That's right," Cybelle added. "Thank you for allowing us to be here, Nicholas."

"My pleasure," Nick told her. "I'm glad for you all. When do you give her father the good news?"

"Tomorrow morning," Dave stated. "Randy needs to know. Cybelle, you want to handle it? And don't tell Dad. I don't care. No buts."

"Fine," she groused, shaking her head and disappearing into the mist.

Collecting himself, the professor turned to Adam. "Hey, I'm sorry that I'm celebrating when Jesse and Emma are in the GSA's hands. We'll get them out."

"We understand," the geneticist assured him. "It's great to find loved ones like that. I'm happy for you all. I truly am. When we get things up and running again, she'll be the first person added to the new database."

Seeing their friend's despair, Angie asserted, "Nothing's changed, Adam. Your mission is still on."

"I know," he sighed. "But Sanctuary's gone and so are our records."

"No, they aren't," the professor disagreed. "Let's get over to the university. I have a surprise for you." 

Glancing at each other, the Mutant X members didn't know what to expect. However, they decided to follow his lead.

After getting in the Subaru, they took off toward the university.


****

Toni waited by the side door of the Social Sciences Building, nervously looking about for GSA agents. She couldn't believe that the Sanctuary was gone: that Eckhart had found everything. "At least, we got the system hooked up in time," she told herself, glancing at her laptop. Everything seemed normal, but it never hurt to make sure.

About 10 minutes into the vigil, she saw Dave's Subaru approach and blink its lights a prearranged number of times.

She rushed over to find the professor there along with his wife, Adam, Brennan, and Shalimar. "What? Where's Jesse? What happened, Adam?"

The leader rubbed his forehead anxiously. "I'm sorry, Toni. He and Emma were captured by the GSA."

"How could you let that happen?" she demanded, not caring who heard her. 

"Hey, we are going to get them back," Shalimar reassured her. "It's been a tough night all around."

The hacker nodded. "Hey, I'm sorry. It's just that...I care...I really do."

"We know," Adam told her. "Dave, what did you want to show us?"

"In my office, c'mon," the professor urged, guiding the others up the stairs. When he tried to unlock the door, he found that it had been jimmied already. "Damn!" Turning to the others, he told them, "Be ready for anything, gang." With that, he led the group into the darkened building and down the hallway to their right. Sure enough, light was showing under the door to his office. 

"Don't these assholes listen?" Dave hissed. 

"Nope," Brennan noted, already generating sparks with his hands.

"Angie..." the professor advised his wife.

"Right," she agreed, ducking around a corner and pulling the sword, becoming Xena. 

A moment later, the Warrior Princess rejoined them. "Ready?" she asked grimly, her eyebrow arched.

"Oh yeah," the feral agreed.

"Allow me," the professor told them. Walking up to the door, he saw two fairly built intruders in the telltale suits rifling through his files and trying to get at something on his computer. Rapping on the door, he asked, "Can I help you, guys?"

The two looked up at him. "Shit! It's Dubois! Get him!"

"You've got to be kidding," the medievalist laughed. With little ado, he charged into the room, bulling into one assailant, putting him to the floor. 

The second one smacked him across the back with an electroprobe, delivering a healthy jolt of electricity in the process.

"Should we?" Adam asked.

"Nah," Xena replied. "He's having fun."

Meantime, after three jolts from the probe, Dave stood up with the crazed look on his face. "You shouldn't have done that," he muttered, elbowing the other in the face before delivering a haymaker to the chin. "Damn, that felt good. I took them with no powers. Guys, they're all yours."

"Thanks," Shalimar accepted, grabbing the two agents and shoving them into the wall. "Hey, guys, how's it hanging?"

Brennan walked up to the captured duo, allowing the sparks to fly from his fingers. "Now, guys, we need some information. Where's Eckhart holding our teammates?"

"Where else?" one snorted. "Genomex, you freak!"

For his trouble, the feral banged his head against the wall. Allowing her eyes to flash gold, she pressed, "That ain't nice. Where did you learn your manners?"

"So what is Eckhart up to next?" Adam posed.

"Get stuffed, Adam. We're not telling anything," the other prisoner denied.

The professor moved the water dishes from under his plants to the floor. "Shalimar?"

"Right," she growled, allowing the two men's feet to touch the liquid.

"Now, guys," the electrical mutant resumed. "Adam asked you a question. Just answer it, okay?"

"You wouldn't dare!" they chorused.

The former thief laughed wickedly. "You break into our pad, kidnap our friends, put governors on the two of us, and you say that? Please. Just answer the question!"

The two looked at each other and then, at Adam. "You wouldn't do it." 

Xena cracked her knuckles and told her associates, "Allow me." Walking up to the two prisoners, she put the pinch on them both before advising them in her iciest voice, "Okay, I've just cut off the flow of blood to your miserable brains. You'll be dead within thirty seconds unless I release ya. Answer Adam's question."

The two men writhed in pain, trickles of blood coming out of their noses. "Sm...Smallville," the one in Shalimar's left hand coughed. "We're...going after those teenage...brats."

The warrior turned to the professor who approached the two men. For a second, he glared into their eyes, allowing them to see the fury just behind them. "You better hope everyone's okay otherwise I'm coming for both of you," he threatened. "Any surprises up your sleeves that we should know about?"

"Jus...somethin' for you...Dubois. We have an agent...ready for you," the left one continued.

"Oh really?" Dave smirked. "Well, I'm ready for whoever it is too. Xena, it's getting close to time."

"Right," she agreed, removing the pinches and knocking the two captive agents out. "What now?"

"Now, we get these creeps into custody," the professor noted, dialing his office phone. "Hey, Schanke, what's up? It's Dave Dubois and guess what?"

Schanke glanced at Tracy who was watching him impatiently. "I give up. What?"

"I'm in my office and I found a couple of the suits burrowing around like roaches. Wanna come by and pick them up?" Dave offered.

"You betcha," the souvlaki-loving detective accepted. "We'll be there in five minutes." 

Hanging up the phone, Dave told Adam. "You folks had best hide for a bit unless you want a run in with Tucson's finest."

"Good idea," the leader agreed, guiding Brennan and Shalimar outside.

A few minutes later, Schanke and Tracy walked into the building and found them fairly quickly. "Hey, guys."

"Detective," Xena replied curtly.

"What happened here?" Tracy asked, glancing back at the warrior.

"They broke into my office, looking for something. We found them first," the professor informed them.

"I see. Well then, Tracy, I think we have a nice cell in Holding for these guys, right?" Schanke proposed, slapping the cuffs on one unconscious agent.

"Right," the blonde detective noted, securing his associate. "Umm, can we get some help here?"

"Okay," Dave agreed, levitating the two prisoners out the door, down the hall, and out of the building. Once outside, Schanke opened the back door, allowing them to be placed on the seat. "All set?"

"Yeah. Thanks, Dave. We'll call Steve as soon as we get back to the Precinct," Schanke informed them as he and Tracy got back into the car and drove away.

Watching them leave, the professor and the warrior walked back into the building where Mutant X had slipped back in unnoticed. 

"So, where's this surprise?" Adam wondered.

Accessing his computer, Dave found the file and opened a series of directories and subdirectories. Each one had its own separate password. Placing a CD-RW in the CD-ROM, he downloaded the information. "Voila," he told them. "The new mutant database."

"You're kidding!" Brennan doubted.

"We keyed in an automatic high-speed yet secured dump of the information on the Sanctuary's computers to this computer. The other piece is in my laptop here encrypted and zipped," Toni explained. "As soon as the computer's security system was compromised, the download initiated automatically."

"Pretty slick," Shalimar complemented.

While Adam wasn't as sure, he couldn't argue with the precaution. Indeed, due to Dave and Toni's efforts, the information was safe for a new Sanctuary. "Thanks, both of you."

"No problem," the cracker told him. "But we need to keep this information safe and sound. Dave?"

"Give me a second," the professor told her, keying in a new sequence. "There! The computer keys in a new set of passwords as it closes down. If someone keys in the wrong sequence, it erases the files in that directory. If they try to FTP in without authorization, the computer locks onto their IP and sends them a potent nasty gram if you get my drift."

Adam nodded, feeling relieved. He should have trusted them to take such precautions. "Sounds good. Shall we get going? It's been a long night."

"Yeah, sleep will be a good thing," Angie concurred, having just come back into the picture. "We'll fix something for all of you at our apartment."

"Great. When do we leave for Smallville?" Brennan wondered.

The professor glanced at his watch. "Angie and I fly there in about 30 hours or so. Deirdre can pop you three in a couple of hours later," the professor noted as they walked to the car. "I want to get a feel for the situation first."

"Do you think there's a way to get Jesse and Emma out of Genomex?" Toni wondered.

"I think the three of us can do that. If you can help us with the alarms," Adam agreed.

"You bet," Toni replied enthusiastically.

"Sounds great," Dave added. "Let's go. Toni, where's your car?"

"Over here," she pointed to the little blue Nissan.

"We'll wait for you," Angie told her.

Toni nodded and hurried over to her vehicle. Once inside, she started it up quickly. Following the other car's lead, she left the university heading toward the East Side.




Chapter 8 

[Genomex]

As the group interrogated the two agents, the eyes of Genomex were on them. In particular, a red-haired man with a stocky build sat in a lotus position on the floor focused on the events unfolding across the country. To prepare for this moment, he had watched the security footage of the professor's fights with Alti, the break in at that facility, as well as reviewing the field reports of the recent battle at the Sanctuary. Seeing those images of Dave and his moods sent a thrill through him.

Then, through his fellow agents' eyes, he stared into the other man's psyche. He felt the volcanic nature of the emotional tempest lying just beneath the surface. "Marvelous," he savored, standing up. While most GSA agents considered him a nut case waiting to explode, Joseph MacTavish relished challenges such as this one. His unique telepathic ability gave him the edge he needed. Anger and violent emotions strengthened him. In exchange, he could send out bursts of pain to his victims. His acquisition rate made him one of the agency's top operatives.

Leaving the area, he walked down the hall and into the room where the two Mutant X members were being held. He allowed a big grin to spread across his face as he inspected the prisoners.

"What?" Jesse asked less than cordially.

"Oh, nothing. I like what I'm reading off of you," MacTavish gloated. "Your fear, anger...they're an open book to me. I just wanted to take a look at both of you before leaving for Smallville. It seems Mr. Eckhart has a job for me. A special job..."

Emma begged, "Don't...confront David Dubois. For your own sake, don't."

The density mutant gasped, "You're crazy."

The agent stared at the prisoner, shooting a jolt of pain into the latter's system. "You should learn respect for your betters, Kilmartin." Turning back to her, he wondered, "And what about you, Emma? What do you know about Dubois that I can use?" 

"No..." she muttered, trying to shut out the pain. "You'll...destroy the...town between...you."

"If that's the way it has to be, so be it," MacTavish remarked coldly. "I haven't met a mark tougher than me yet." Getting the attention of the two guards by the door, he told them, "Keep an eye on them. Knowing Adam, he'll try something."

"Keen observation, Mr. MacTavish," Eckhart agreed, nodding his support of MacTavish's warning to the guards. "We leave in five minutes. Are you ready?"

"Yes, Sir," the psionic agreed, holding up a garment bag. "The rest is with Ops."

"Splendid. Come with me, then," the administrator directed. After taking one last look at his prisoners, he led the other man down the hall and out of sight. Shortly thereafter, a plane bearing the GSA agents took off, heading for the Midwest.

****

At 6 PM, the shift change started, allowing the previously assigned guards to be relieved for the evening. As the monitors were left momentarily unmanned, the screens rippled and froze in position throughout the compound. In addition, the security suddenly went offline. Even as the newcomers assumed their positions, they had no idea that they were suddenly vulnerable to an attack.

Five minutes after that, the mists formed inside of the cell, coalescing into the familiar portal shape. Wisps of fog blocked the cameras, providing cover for the operation to occur.

Emma managed a smile. Help was there at last. Glancing over at Jesse, she could see that he was still woozy from MacTavish's pain dose.

From the portal, Xena, Dave, Gabrielle, and Max cautiously slipped in. Unbelievably, the coast was clear.

"This is too easy," the medievalist griped in a whisper.

"Don't bitch about it," Max hissed, looking about.

Xena whipped out her sword and began cutting their friends' bonds. "Stay still. We'll have you out of there in a minute." Quickly and efficiently, she helped them both to the ground. 

"Thanks, Xena," Emma whispered.

"Don't mention it. At least not yet," the warrior advised, handing the telepath to Gabrielle for support. "Max?"

The transgenic, already supporting Jesse, huffed, "I've got him. "Let's go, gang."

"Right," Dave concurred, signaling to his daughter within the mists that they were ready. 

The portal opened wider, allowing them to carry their beleaguered allies to safety. Once they were inside, Xena followed with Dave bringing up the rear. Having done its work, the fog dissipated, leaving no trace of either prisoners or rescuers to be found.

****

[Tucson]

Toni finished typing away at the keyboard in her office and watched the screen as her latest virus FTPed itself to Genomex, wormed its way through the firewall, and disabled the security system. "C'mon, guys," she urged. "There are only a few more minutes before they realize what's happening."

"Relax, Toni," Eve soothed. "When it comes to infiltration, my mother and Gabrielle are masters at it."

"That's true," Adam stated, recalling his ancient history. "But we are on a time limit here."

As if on cue, the mists formed, allowing the others to spill into the room.

"That's it," Deirdre noted, sealing the portal behind them. 

Brennan and Shalimar rushed over to embrace Emma even as Toni practically pounced on Jesse.

"Wha? Toni, but...?" Jesse wondered woozily. "How'd they catch you?"

"Silly!" she laughed, kissing him again. "We pulled you out."

"Hang on," Adam told them, pulling out the probe and popping the governors out of their necks. "There."


Natalie walked over from where she had been sitting with Steve and asked, "How are you both doing?"

"Peachy," Jesse muttered.

"Better now that I'm not hanging by my arms," Emma sighed. "Do you have an aspirin?"

"Right here," the coroner agreed, pulling out a bottle and tapping two white pills into her hand. "How's that?" she asked.

"Great," the psionic said appreciatively, putting them in her mouth and using the glass of water which Dave handed her to swallow them. Rubbing her head, she added, "Adam, they're going to Smallville."

"We know," the leader told her.

"But they're bringing a new mutant agent with them. Joseph MacTavish," she told him.

Hearing that name, the leader's eyes bulged. Staring at Dave and then, at the computer screen, he asked, "Toni, can we bring up the database here?"

"Yes, why?" she responded, keying in the access codes. "Should I search for MacTavish?"

"Please," he told her. "I hope I'm wrong."

"Y..You're not, Adam," Jesse declared, managing to sit up. 

The screen popped up the appropriate entry. "Here he is, Adam," Toni indicated. "According to this, he...oh wow..."

Adam shook his head. "Guys, what did MacTavish say to you? Anything about his mission?"

"Yes," Emma brooded and looked at Dave.

"What? He's just another GSA agent whose ass we're going to kick. So freaking what?"

"He's not just another agent," Adam disagreed. "Xena, have a look at this, will you?"

The warrior nodded and scanned the screen. Using Angie's knowledge of modern English, she quickly deciphered the text and growled, "It figures. David, he's another stinkin' Alti!"

"How?" Gabrielle and Eve wondered, looking at the report for themselves.

"According to this," Adam continued. "MacTavish's new mutant ability is two fold. First, he can absorb strong emotions...pain, fear, and anger. Then, he can emit burst of psionic energy, triggering pain responses in his victims. Dave, you really need to be careful of him."

"He's going to hunt you down, David," Emma emphasized. 

The professor chuckled darkly. "Well, I've learned a few things from facing the Wicked Bitch of the East. He can try to bring me down, but I don't think so. If he goes near Miri, I'll rip him apart."

"David," Xena reminded him. "Remember what happened between you and Divia? Do you want to do to Smallville what you did to Wabash?"

"I had no choice. She attacked me," he countered. "I am not going to let Clark, Lana, or my niece be hurt by those bastards! Am I clear?"

Nothing but silence could be heard in the room.

"I SAID AM I CLEAR???" he bellowed.

"Yeah, chill out, Chief," Max advised, rubbing her ears.

"A little St. John's wart will help here," Dave suggested, cooling off. 

"Just like with Alti, right?" Steve guessed.

"Absolutely," the professor concurred. "I'll have enough time to do my thing before we leave. Deirdre, can you have your aunt get me some herbs?"

"I'm on it, Papa," she agreed, vanishing into the mists.

Taking a deep breath, the professor continued, "Okay, the flight's at 7 in the morning. If you'll excuse me, I'll be working in my office." With that, he left.

Everyone collected themselves for a minute before the next words were uttered. 

"Steve, I'm feeling abnormally high emotional levels even for him," Emma noted. "What's going on with him?"

"Besides another challenge, I don't know," he replied. "There is someone who might know, however."

"Karen Montoya," Xena guessed. "Good choice."

"Thanks," the agent concurred, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket.

"Do we need to involve her too?" Adam wondered. "This is a secret, remember?"

"She's a mutant too," Natalie noted. 

"And besides Angie, she knows the most about him," Steve pointed out, dialing the numbers.

"Hello?" Karen answered.

"Hi, Karen, it's Steve Petersen. What's going on?" he asked.

"Oh, just getting everyone back on track after our little trip. And yourself?" she wondered. Then, reaching out with her own enhanced senses, she felt the emotional tremors. "Oh no. Now, what happened?"

"Well, there's good news and bad news. Which do you want first?" he inquired.

"The good," she chose.

"Okay, we found Miranda. She contacted us last night," he started.

"Oh, that's wonderful news!" she exclaimed. "So, are you going to get her?"

"Yes," he sighed.

"Where is she?" Karen probed.

"Smallville, Kansas," he informed her. Then, he heard her drop the phone. "Karen!"

For a minute, there was silence. Finally, she forced herself to speak. "That's a really bad place for him, Steve. Remember, the trip that his father made him take junior year?"

"I kind of remember that," he agreed. "Wasn't it about that time that he went over the deep end?" As the memories circulated, he recalled the giant card they sent somewhere out of state. "That where he was hospitalized, wasn't it?"

"Yes," she confirmed, starting to feel the anger boiling inside of herself. "When are you all going there?"

"Tomorrow," he mentioned.

"I'm coming with you. No buts. Are either Angie or Xena there?" she stated.

He looked at Xena. "She wants to talk to you."

The warrior glanced at her companion and daughter before trying to deal with the small talking thing. "How in Tartarus do I use this thing?"

"Just put this end to your ear and talk," Natalie explained, helping her with the device.

"Thanks," Xena mentioned. "Karen?"

"Yes, Xena. I was just telling Steve that I'm coming with you. Smallville is a hot spot for Dave. A real bad one," the nurse explained.

At that moment, Deirdre reappeared with the herbs. "Here they are. I...where's Papa?"

"Here's Deirdre. See you soon," the warrior concluded. "It's Karen Montoya."

"Auntie Karen, what is it?" the priestess asked,

"Sweetie, can you pop me in there? I'm going with all of you. Your father's going to need all of the help he can get there with his moods when we get there," Karen requested.

"Sure. With everything else, I'm sure we can do something. What's the big deal?" Deirdre wondered. "Papa just started acting up today, but doesn't remember any reason why."

"He wouldn't either," Karen surmised. "But the Child would, and so do I."

"I'll be right there," the priestess agreed, hanging up and summoning the fog. "We'll be right back."

Within fifteen minutes, she had returned with Karen. The latter had thrown a few essentials into a duffel bag. 

Seeing the strangers around a few familiar faces, she introduced herself. "I'm Karen Montoya. And you are?"

"My name's Adam," Adam introduced himself, shaking her hand. "And these four people over here are Mutant X."

"My name's Max," Max added. 

"You're Dave's friend, aren't you?" Emma wondered. "Besides Angie, I felt strong feelings from him about you. I know you from somewhere else...You were in Istanbul, weren't you?"

"That's right," Karen replied. "Telepathy...hmmm...Angie mentioned someone who had helped Dave with his feelings during the GSA mess. Emma diLauro?"

The psionic smiled. "That's me. I'm glad to finally meet you, Karen. So, where's Dave?"

"In his office," Xena informed them. "C'mon. Gabrielle, Eve, let's see what's going on."

Those companions departed the room with Emma and Karen, heading for the office. 

Afterwards, Brennan insisted, "Hey, what happened there, Petersen? What was so bad?"

"How about a public beating?" Steve muttered, shaking his head. "Compliments of his father."

Everyone went quiet again, almost feeling the pain emanating from across campus and hoping that this could be resolved. 


Chapter 9

At sunset, Nick stirred and looked out his bedroom window toward the university. In only a few short hours, Dave's mood had shifted from happy to enraged. "What happened?" he wondered, putting on his work clothes and walking downstairs.

"Nick, what is it?" Alyce asked, looking at him through the doorway to her study.

"We may have another problem," he sighed, picking up the phone. "Nat said she was going to be with them."

"Hello?" she asked.

"Nat, it's Nick. What's going on?" he inquired.

"Nick...well, it's really complicated," she explained. "Eckhart's going to attack Smallville before we can get the kids out of there. Then, there's a new mutant agent who's challenged Dave to a duel. Apparently, this guy feeds off of anger and dishes out pain. Finally, the Child has just started up with some issues about Smallville which only Karen knows about."

"Well, it can't be his father," the detective presumed.

"It was," the coroner stated. "Some sort of public embarrassment session with a bonus beating on top of it."

Nick winced. Bad enough to deal with an Alti wannabe, but in a place where his pain was so pronounced? "Where is he?" he asked sharply, seeing the last rays of sunset descend over the city. 

"His office, we think," she replied.

"I'm there," he concluded, hanging up. Looking up, he zipped through the skylight and streaked towards campus, landing beside the Social Sciences Building in time to see Karen, Xena, Gabrielle, and Emma running up. 

"Nicholas, you felt it too?" Xena asked despite already knowing the answer.

"It hit me like a sledgehammer as I slept," he told them, hurrying inside.

**** 

For the past half hour, Dave sat at his desk, grinding herbs with the pestle for his arrowheads. However, he found it difficult to focus with his guts in an uproar. The Child was pissed about something, but not being forthright with him. "All right! Out with it!" he spat.

In the corner, the black image within the bright corona appeared, "Ah'm busy. Wha's up?"

"What's going on?"

"If Ah thought ya could take it, Ah'd tell ya," the Other replied frankly.

"Why don't you tell him?" Emma proposed, stepping into the room with the others.

"When we're there!" the Child spat.

"No, I think now's a good time," Karen retorted.

"Ya know as much as we do," the image snorted. "Naw, this would blow his mind. Daddy really made a mess of things that time. Let's just say that the scuz beat us within an inch of our lives and the folks in Smallville helped us."

"We're up against pretty big odds," Karen declared.

"Wha? Mutie-Boy with the pain powers?" the Child guffawed. "Please! Ah've survived Alti. Git this straight, he projects pain and absorbs anger. Ah am the summation of pain and anger! Xena, we ain't stupid, but we know our friends. Just as with y'all, those folks helped us an' we 'member."

The others stared at him. Somehow, his ties to Smallville were beyond Clark and Lana, but rather, to the town itself. No wonder the GSA attack had him so rattled. 

"Hey, Emmie, take a peek if ya like," the Child invited. "Bro', let 'er in."

The professor nodded and locked eyes with the telepath. "Ready."

She focused, burrowing into his subconscious. Only a minute later, she saw flashes of what had happened: an illegal land deal, Dave's calling in the government, and his father pummeling him in public before leaving with a man with long brown hair. The next memory showed the townspeople helping him. One took him to the hospital. Another provided a blood transfusion. A nice farmer and his newly married wife put him up for a couple of days. "Yes, it's clear. Karen's right."

"Ya see?"

"I do," Emma concurred. "Dave, you'll really need to brace yourself when you get the whole story. He's right."

"Ah'll leave ya to watch 'im," the Child told them. "Ah'm here if ya need me." With that, he disappeared.

Tears streaked his cheeks. "I won't anything happen to them! I can't!"

"It's going to be all right," Xena comforted, embracing him. "We'll stop them."

"Count on it," Karen concurred.

"Absolutely," Gabrielle agreed.

"Nick?" Dave asked.

The vampire shrugged. "Unless it's a quick trip, I can't be there. If it's a dire emergency, then if Deirdre can pop me in so we can deal with it and get me back here quickly, I can help you. In the meantime, I will keep an eye on things for you here, however."

"That would be great. Thank you," Dave accepted. "I'm done anyway. Why don't we head back to the apartment. Granted, things are gonna be cramped, but we'll manage."

"Okay," Nick indicated. "If that's okay, then I have to get ready for work. Good luck." With that, he was gone.

"Now, let's meet the others and let them know you're doing better," Karen urged, rubbing his shoulder.

After scraping the pestle into a salad bowl and putting the lid on it, he followed his friends out of the room. One way or another, this was going to be a Hell of a trip--even if he couldn't remember the details at the moment.

TBC...


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