Chapter 22 [Living Area]
It didn't take the students, mutants and the Andromeda crew members long to crowd into the Sanctuary's living area. After the hours-long wait, they wanted news of any kind.
"I wonder what's going to happen," Brennan said.
"It ain't gonna be good," Max retorted grimly with a frown crossing her face.
"Nyet, have hope," Darkstar admonished.
Dylan shot Molly a knowing look. He knew she had questions but this wasn't the time.
Mika glared at the others from where she sat with her cousins. "That's about all we have right now." Seeing Nick and Trance walk into the room followed by the Child and Angie, the time was almost there.
Spidey felt his senses tingling away above and beyond what the Child normally merited. This is going to be something else. Where's Doc Strange when you need him? From what he had overheard from the others, there was some other dimension where the fight would take place and that made him wish for the mage all the more.
Finally, Adam and Rommie came down the stairs to address them all.
The geneticist rubbed the sides of his nose and cleared his throat. "Everyone, we have a situation. Everything we've tried to stop the Overmind hasn't worked. We have a weapon that will work but it'll require extraordinary effort to do this. Andromeda, continue please."
The android nodded. "Thank you, Dr. Kane. The weapon in question is a mental pulse dampener/inhibitor. It redirects psionic energy away from the wearer and back at the source." Seeing Lana's hand shoot up in the air, she asked, "Yes, Lana?"
"I can do that on my own. Why use that?" the former cheerleader inquired.
"You can't handle that much energy, Lana," Adam disagreed.
"Begging your pardon; but let her try before you say that!" Chloe snapped.
"Chloe, let them finish," Lex requested. "Come on."
"It had better be good. Miri shouldn't have to go through this," his wife groused, shooting her friend a supportive glance.
"There's more. The device takes a lot of power. Power that the Child has. However, we need to get him to a source of dark energy for him to use it for as long as it takes," Rommie continued.
That's putting it mildly. Dylan shuddered, recalling how the Child took out the Spirit of the Abyss single-handedly.
"To fight this threat, he needs to face it in the Pit of Darkness. And he needs to feed before he does so," Rommie continued, seeing the rare display of fear on her captain's face. "Darkstar, your dark force will be needed."
"I'll do what I can," she agreed, remembering the last time she had done so in Russia. He will be uncontrollable after feasting. Can we risk that?
"But that will make him unstable," Nick protested, voicing the others' concern. "What will happen if he can't handle it?"
"Ah'll handle it," the Child stated pointedly. "Big Ugly's goin' down an' that's that."
"We just don't want you dead in the process, Chief," Angie argued.
"None of us do," Martin added, speaking on behalf of his fellow students.
"Ah ain't got a choice," the Dark One countered. "Ya'll be ready fer that creep. ‘Sides it won't be long now." He grinned widely and snidely.
"What do you mean?" Adam asked.
Emma exclaimed, "I can feel it too! The Overmind's in Tucson!"
Clark looked at the others frantically. "My parents and Missy! They're there! He'll find them!"
"We aren't going to let anything happen, Clark," Lex vowed.
"Ya'll got that one right," the Child promised. "'Nough talk. Ah wanna whup some ass! Meetin' over!" With that, he stalked from the room, eager to get to work.
Dylan faced his crew. "The Maru's should get us there pretty fast. Beka, you and I will fly everyone there. Trance, you, Rommie, Molly and Harper stay with Adam. Is that all right with you, Adam?"
"Fine," the geneticist agreed. "You heard him. Hurry."
The others hurried after the captain and first officer. Knowing the two potential adversaries' capabilities, they wondered what they were in for.
[Althanor—Several hours after]
Cybelle stared at the Faerie Empress with a mixture of anger and shock. The latter had outlined the stream of events occurring in the outer world. "With all due respect, you can't be serious!"
"I am and this is the way it has to be," her visitor asserted firmly. "Even now, the Child and your allies make preparations. You and Deirdre will need to play your parts when the time comes."
The high priestess glanced over at her niece who hung her head sadly. "Deirdre?"
"I can't believe we need to go back there!" the heiress protested.
"Everything happens the way it should. There is but one way to stop this menace," the Empress proclaimed.
"I'm glad I'm not around Mama right now. She must be ready to spit nails," Deirdre supposed. Taking a deep breath, she continued, "You want me to open a portal there. Correct?"
"Correct," the Empress concurred. "The Child and the others will do the rest."
"And if this alien menace survives?" Cybelle inquired.
Deirdre frowned as she asserted, "Then Xena, Ferali and I will deal with him, Aunt Cybelle." Turning back to the Empress, she added, "This will be taken care of."
"Thank you," the Empress concluded, disappearing from view.
Deirdre shook her head. "She wants to kill Papa and she's thanking me? Terrific. Some solstice season, this is."
Cybelle balled her hands into fists, stewing in silent consternation over this stream of events. Finally several minutes later, she told her niece, "Just make sure you finish the job."
"If you need me, Auntie, I'll be preparing for my role in this wretched affair," the younger priestess concluded, disappearing into the mists beyond and leaving her aunt to consider all of the possibilities.
Gabrielle had searched for several hours for Xena to no avail. Francesca wasn't let in on that meeting of Adam's and thanks to Nai-Jin, I know why. Finally she heard a grinding noise in the blacksmith's shop. Matilda's out so who would be doing that? She entered the forge to find her counselor sharpening a sword. "Xena, where have you been?"
"Dealing with things," the warrior replied, checking the edge of the blade.
"When were you planning to tell me about this trip of yours?" the queen demanded. "Nai-Jin told me that you would be with the Child and Ferali in the Pit of all places!"
Xena sighed. "I don't have a choice, Gabrielle. The Child's preparing to face that giant again. I ain't lettin' him go alone. There's no way you and Eve are going with me. You have the Amazons to think about! I have a bond to David and there's no way I'm going to let Angela go in there."
The Bard-Queen frowned. "You think I'm going to let you go in there alone either?"
"Ferali will be with me, Gabrielle," Xena asserted.
"And so will I." Deirdre stepped through the mists to join them. "Are you ready, Xena?"
"I'm waiting for your mother," the warrior-counselor replied. "That big creep's in town already and heading for Lex's place."
Gabrielle nodded and hugged her best friend tightly. "Come back to me."
"I will," the warrior vowed, disappearing into the portal after Deirdre.
And so will Eve and I. Meantime, there's work to do. Gabrielle knew she and Eve had to keep the Kents safe. With that, she rushed off in search of her heiress.
Chapter 24 [Luthor Hacienda—Tucson; An hour after the discussion between Xena and Gabrielle]
A white rental van pulled up outside of the hacienda's gate. Even in mid-afternoon, the street seemed too quiet for its own good. Therefore nobody saw this threat approaching.
"Is this structure it?" the Overmind asked impatiently.
"It is indeed," Arighatto affirmed, climbing out of the truck. "Follow me." They walked up to the gate and rattled the locks. "Rip it down please."
The alien grinned and shattered the lock with an energy blast from his brow. Seeing the guards running up, he laughed, "Fools!" One more wave of mental energy took those defenders out.
Arighatto changed into Yodoshi and urged, "Let's go."
Jonathan and Martha heard the alarms from the broken gate inside of the house. "What is it?"
"Mom, Dad, what's going on?" Missy asked fearfully.
"I think that alien just found us," Jonathan asserted. "Martha, take Melissa and find a way out of here."
"We're not leaving you, Jonathan," his wife protested.
"And what about Drs. Alvaro and Messenger?" Missy added.
If what we think about them is true, they'll be all right. Since the battle with the Greek gods, he had suspected that Eve, Francesca and Angie were tied to the warrior trio. "They'll know what to do! Come on!"
At that moment, the Overmind broke down the doors and lumbered into the mansion. "Will nobody face me? Where are you, Kal-El? Show yourself!"
"He's afraid," the demonic samurai scoffed. Then he sensed two more auras in back of them. Turning he found Gabrielle and Eve standing there ready to fight. "You?"
Gabrielle drew her scythes and frowned, allowing her glare to burn into his eyes. "Clark's tied up at the moment. But, Yodoshi, I still owe you for nearly killing Xena on Mount Fuji."
"And there's that cut on the arm from Asia," Eve added, readying her sword, "time for a rematch."
"They send women against me?" the Overmind roared, firing a mind blast at them.
The two Amazons dodged the blast easily.
Eve executed a double somersault over the hunter's head. In mid-leap, she slashed out with her sword, slicing through his armor and gashing his back in the process.
"Argh! Another woman with a sting?" he roared, firing and just missing her again.
"Not bad for a mere woman! There's more to us than meets the eye," the Princess retorted more confidently than she felt. Mother, where are you?
Then the roar of the Maru's engines could be heard descending into the courtyard.
"About time!" Gabby stated, delivering a kick to Yodoshi's chin and knocking the demon lord back.
"That was good. Xena's trained you well but not well enough!" the demon snarled.
"Why don't you ask her yourself," Gabrielle pointed out.
"Yeah, why don't ya?" Xena added, slashing into Yodoshi's shoulder from behind. "Gabrielle, get the Kents outta here! Where's Eve?"
"Delaying the Overmind," the bard explained. "What's going on?"
"I'll explain later. I just hope Dylan knows what he's doin'," the Warrior Princess told her. "Eve! Switch off!"
"Mother! What is it?" Eve asked, trying to keep away from the barrage of mind bursts.
"Help Gabrielle deal with Yodoshi. I'll deal with Big Ugly there," her mother declared. I wish we could power up these headband things now.
"Right," Eve agreed, as they changed places.
"We meet again!" the Overmind greeted with savage glee. "I'll kill you for stinging me."
"Ya gotta hit me first!" Xena baited, resuming her daughter's dodging maneuver.
As they fought, Deirdre appeared on the staircase behind them. "Ready." She dropped the mists on the two combatants and herself, removing them from the scene.
"What did you do with him?" Yodoshi wondered.
"We're going to deal with him," Clark asserted, stepping into the room with his friends.
"You're first," Shalimar stated.
"Better than you all have tried to kill me," the samurai asserted, turning his hand to flame.
"We only wish to trap you," Martin disagreed before beginning a chant.
Before he could react, Yodoshi had reverted back into Arighatto. "What?"
"I've forced you back into your mortal form and blocked you from changing again," the shaman noted.
"I think I can finish this," Spidey assumed, securing the samurai in a web-cocoon.
"Let's get him to the precinct. I have a feeling that Steve and Garth will want him for national and international crimes," Nick told them all.
"First and foremost, kidnapping and murder," Miri interjected.
"You would accuse your own father?" he asked her.
"You aren't my father. You never were!" she snapped.
He scowled at her as they carried him away. He would make sure that she would regret those words. I guarantee that.
Meantime, Lana asked Miri, "How are you doing?"
Miri sighed, "I wish I could say that I'm feeling better. Right now, I'm too worried about Uncle Dave, Dee-Dee, Xena and Ferali."
"They'll be okay. They have to be," Clark assured her.
"I…I…hope so. Meantime, let's make sure your family's okay," Miri replied hesitantly, accepting the embrace from her two friends at that point even as she thought about the battle in the Dark Lands. Uncle Dave, be careful.
Chapter 25 [Lousain's Chamber, The Pit—Ten minutes earlier]
Deirdre's portal opened into the bleak and wicked area. The torches' flickering light reflected off of the stone walls, revealing the frayed remains of the wizard's tapestries. Off to one side, the group saw the giant obsidian throne and the giant brazier. "Nice to see it hasn't changed," she deadpanned.
"This place is scarred by the sorcerer's evil," Ferali retorted, hefting his axe.
"This is where you all fought those trolls?" Darkstar wondered, feeling revolted by the stagnant wickedness.
"Their boss an' we whupped ‘im too," the Child informed her bluntly, entering the area. As he did so, the shard in his left shoulder glowed, burning him. "Dammit!"
"What is it?" the Russian wondered.
"The dagger fragment in his shoulder is drawing energy from this place," the priestess pointed out. "Darkstar, it's time."
Darkstar nodded. "Be brave, Comrade." She surrounded the Child in a dark cocoon.
Almost instinctively, the Dark One began devouring the energy, boosting his own reserves. "Oh yeah! Ah can feel it now! Keep goin'!"
For several minutes, she kept ‘feeding' him until she petered out. "I…can't. Sorry."
The Child glared at her yet only said, "Don't matter. Ah can take what Ah need from ‘ere. Ya got the hat-thing?"
Ferali handed him the helmet. "Here you go. Be careful with that!"
"Yeah, yeah. Ya'll sound like the Little Woman," the Child retorted, putting it on and letting the dark energy inside of him activate it. He winced, feeling the pain run through him from the "recoil" but held his own.
Seeing the lights flickering on the headpiece, Deirdre announced, "It is time. Prepare yourselves." With that, she vanished into the mists.
Barely a minute later, the sounds of fighting could be heard punctuated by Xena's war cry.
The Overmind stumbled backwards out of the mists. "What is this? Where am I?"
"Right where we want ya!" Xena declared, drawing more blood before leaping out of his reach.
Ferali swung his axe again, gashing the giant in the leg. "That is for my honor brother, you scum!"
The Overmind growled and looked around the chamber. "Is this the Underworld?"
"Sorta," the Child snarled, stepping around the throne to face the alien hunter. "Ah'm at mah peak here, Boy."
"Bah!" the Overmind scoffed, firing a mind blast at him.
The blast had no effect on the Child save to make his frown more pronounced than ever. "Ya're dead!" Firing a pulse, he knocked the alien off of his feet.
"That's impossible!" The alien looked at his opponent with amazement. His invulnerability should have protected him.
The Child cackled wickedly, drawing still more energy from the chamber. "Na' here, it ain't! Ya'll are MINE!" He burned his opponent with several fire bursts.
"Leave some for us!" Xena told him.
"Git outta here! Ah don't wanna see ya hurt!" the Child retorted. "Hey! Tell Little Woman tha' Big Bro loves ‘er!"
"You tell her," the warrior shot back.
Deirdre heard the Empress' urging in her head. Get yourselves out of there, Deirdre.
No! I won't leave Papa!
Deirdre, it's time for him to show his valor. Go now or I will pull you all out of there.
The priestess fumed with indignation. "Everyone, it's time. The Empress' orders."
"She's kidding, right?" Xena asked with disbelief.
"We can watch within the mists," the priestess promised, helping Darkstar into the portal. "Come on."
Ferali and Xena both took one last look at the two combatants. If the giant survived, he wouldn't live for long. Then they leapt into the "mist-blind" to watch the events unfold.
"Finally!" the Child huffed, watching his adversary rise from the granite floor. "'Mon, Boy, take yer best shot!"
"Now you die," the giant sneered.
"Big words, Ugly," the Child countered angrily. Holding his hands up, he soaked in dark energy from the chamber. As he did so, he radiated the energy, turning dark. "Time fer yer whuppin'! Ya'll ain't botherin' them kiddies ‘gain!"
From the giant's forehead, an energy beam coursed toward him.
From the Dark One, a pyre of dark fire shot forth to meet it.
The two energies met causing a big explosion.
In the midst of it, they heard the Child's scream.
When the light faded, nothing remained of the two combatants save the charred fragments of the Kandorian helmet.
"No! Papa!" Deirdre cried, bringing them back into the area. "Where is he?"
"He's gone," Xena muttered, trying to restrain her emotions as she embraced the priestess. Not for the first time, she remembered Gabrielle's near-sacrifice in Dahak's temple and her own to defeat Yodoshi on the slopes of Mount Fuji. How will Angela handle this?
The gnome screamed indignantly, scoring the floor repeatedly with his axe. "WHY? Didn't he do enough?" He dropped to his knees and wept openly, not caring who saw him for once. Several minutes later, he collected himself. "My brother, you will not be forgotten. I promise you that."
Darkstar collected the burned metal fragments. "We need to return." Looking around the chamber, she wished, "Dos tevdanya, David, may you finally have the peace you deserve." With that, she disappeared into the mists.
"She's right," Ferali agreed. "W…we need to get going. I've had it with this stinking place!" Saying that, he vanished into the mists.
"Xena, come on," Deirdre sobbed. Seeing the other looking around sadly, she asked, "What is it?"
The warrior glanced around at the chamber and quirked her right brow. Something didn't feel right but she couldn't tell what it was.
"What?" the priestess asked incredulously. "What is it?"
"I don't know!" Xena snapped before collecting herself. "Come on, I'm with Ferali. We gotta get back."
The priestess stepped back through the mists and took one last look out at the area. "Papa, I love you." She allowed a stray tear to course down her cheek before shutting the passage behind her.
Chapter 26 [Christmas Eve]
[St. Gabriel's Cemetery—Metropolis]
Lex stood in front of his mother's tomb, inspecting every nook and cranny of the site. Given the results of the battle, he grieved for his longtime friend. Still, he needed to let his mother know. "Hi, Mom. Sorry to be so sad. It's been quite a week with an alien looking to kill us. We got through it though. Dave sacrificed himself to save everyone…." He broke down in spite of himself.
Minutes later, he collected himself enough to continue, "You would have been proud of him. He never thought twice—just doing what he had to for us." Producing the medal from where it hung around his neck, he added, "I'm wearing this as a reminder. You'd want me to do that. He was my friend and brother." Once again, the tears flowed and his sobs choked him.
Chloe walked up behind him and offered her hand. "Lex, I can't believe it either. How could it happen? This is Christmas!"
"Life isn't fair, Sullivan," he managed to mutter. "Some Luthor I am."
"You're mourning a dear friend. It's okay," she pointed out as her own eyes watered. "I can't believe I prejudged him when we first met. I…I…." At that point, she cried as well.
He embraced her. "Let it out, Chloe. We both need it."
And for the next hour, they did so.
Clark stared out of the front door in disbelief. "I can't believe he's dead!"
It is regrettable, Kal-El. He fought and protected you all. Jor-El's voice sympathized.
You would say that. The Child died cleaning up your mess. Clark groused.
"I know what you mean," Lana muttered sadly. "He's always looked out for us even when we didn't know it. Come here." When he sat down, she put her arms around him. "I keep waiting for the Child to appear and make everything better."
"I know what you mean," he concurred. "That isn't going to happen though."
"He loves us, Clark. That's why he did it," she declared. Seeing her father-in-law's truck pull into the parking lot, she urged, "Come on; let's check on Mom, Dad and Melissa." As the threesome in question walked in, the shock clearly was on their faces.
Martha's eyes were bloodshot but she managed to collect herself. "We heard from Sarah Conroy. Kids, we're so sorry."
Jonathan frowned. "He never backed down from anything." Walking over to the window, he ran his hand across the glass. "The Child died the way he was born. He may have been difficult to deal with but he was always a hero."
The others nodded, not knowing what else to say or think at that point.
[Tucson—El Gato Negro]
Nick sat at the bar sipping on a glass of blood wine. While he didn't normally need it, he craved it on that night.
"Nicolas," Janette greeted. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"Merci, Janette," he replied. "Alyce and the students are taking it hard. I still need to talk with Adam and Caitlin about what to say to the university."
"Mmm…yes. Death is difficult to explain, no? But most importantly, Nicolas, he was your friend. His curse is now lifted. Think of it that way."
Nick got up and walked toward the door. As he did, he noticed Eckhart slithering toward him. With a glare, he sent the fledgling scurrying for cover. I won't allow him to start on Dave now. With one last look around the bar, he departed for the Loft and his meditation.
Emma sat by the fountain, staring into its reflective pool. She couldn't believe it either. He's supposed to be invincible, isn't he?
"Emma?" Darkstar asked.
"Laynia, I really want to be alone right now. All right?" the psionic requested.
The Russian nodded. "Da. I wanted to tell you that he faced the end—without hesitation. He was a true hero."
"Thank you for saying that," Emma expressed. "Since you were there, it's good to get that."
Laynia sat down beside her, trying to serve as comfort for her friend.
In the living area, Mikhail shook his head. I can't believe he's gone.
"We all miss him, Major," Samantha told him.
"I know," he replied, looking over the other students. "Excuse me." With that, he left abruptly.
Martin called them all together. "We can follow his memory. Let's make him proud."
Cybelle stood in front of a giant bonfire, staring into the intense heat and light. My brother. When Deirdre returned, she had comforted the latter while holding back her own tears. The Empress got her sacrifice. May she choke on it. Over on the other side, she saw Karen, Mike and their children trying to maintain their composure as well.
"Auntie?" Deirdre asked, walking over.
"Yes, Dear?" the elder priestess inquired. "Are you doing better?"
"Not really. I miss him," Deirdre said, sputtering between tears.
"As do we all," Gabrielle declared, joining them with Eve at her side.
"Where's Xena?" Cybelle wondered.
"She's comforting Angela," Eve reported.
At that moment, Ares appeared and approached the fire.
"Get out of here, you bastard!" Eve spat, drawing her sword.
He frowned. "I came to pay my respects. And I have something else to tell you."
"It can wait," Gabrielle interrupted.
"I think you might…." He started again.
Cybelle wheeled on him, scorching a tree with a fire ball. "SHE SAID IT'LL WAIT! Don't test me on this one, war god! Not today!"
"Fine," he groused. Too bad ‘cause I had some news for them. With that, he vanished, leaving them to their mourning.
Xena, Ferali, Meroli and Dylan sat in the main hut with Angie, trying to help her.
In the previous two hours, Angie had cried until she could do no more. Then she comforted the twins as best she could.
"Angela, I'm sorry," Xena expressed.
"I know. You had no choice," the oncologist replied, accepting the apology. "Why him? WHY?"
"Sometimes we have to hold the line against the darkness. The Child did that and paid the price," he supposed. "He's a hero, Angela. The people of New Krypton are in his debt today as is the Commonwealth."
"As are the Inner Realms. We will remember him," the leader of Nurrengaard declared.
"Yeah. Everyone's in his freaking debt. Why can't that bring him back??" Angie snapped, pacing about the room. "I need him!"
"Angela," Xena interjected, trying to soothe the other.
"No, Xena! Right now, I can't take any more!"
The gnome took a deep breath and sat down next to the grieving woman. "I'm with you, Angela. He would want me to help you right now."
"I know. Thank you, Ferali," she told him, embracing him. "You were a brother to him and he loved you as such. And I think of you the same way."
"I'm honored that you do," Ferali assured her. "Come. We need to go."
With that, the quartet left the hut, determining to be as brave as possible for their fallen friend.
Onto Part 6
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