It was a bright and sunny morning in the Amazon lands as the sisters got up and prepared to do their work. Around them, the woods were still damp with the night's cool dew and the gentle residue of the rain.
Xena galloped through the woods on Argo II's back at a brisk pace. While she had grown accustomed to the sedentary lifestyle as chief counselor to the Amazon High-Queen, she still needed these workouts to keep the blood flowing through her veins and the rush of excitement running through her. Sometimes, I really miss the chase, the head bashing, ass kicking, and swords clashing. Still, to be here with Gabrielle and Eve is all worth it. After all of the fighting, it is nice to be 'retired'.
"Is it really?" a voice chided.
She growled. "Ares, come out!"
The war god appeared in a flash of light. "Hey! Is that any way to greet an old buddy?"
She snorted as she dismounted from the mare. "Some buddy. Hey, have you recovered from Dahak's butt whupping yet?"
He frowned. All I do is help her. All she does is insult me. Why do I put up with this crap? Trying to let himself cool down, he looked about at the scenery for a minute.
She smirked and arched her brow at him. "Uh, unless you're out here on a wilderness retreat, I'd guess you've got something to say. So, spill it already."
He shook his head. Remember she needs to know. "It's about your buddy, Dubois."
Upon hearing the name, she drew her sword and glared at him. "What are you gonna do to him now?"
He put up his hands defensively, stating, "Hey! Hey! Cool it! I'm not gonna do anything. I just wanted to warn ya about what's gonna happen."
At that moment, a scream echoed up the pass from the village, cutting him off.
Xena shook her head. Now what? Damn it, this was such a good morning too! "We'll talk about this later, Ares. Meantime, stay outta my hair! Yah, Argo!" Galloping at full speed, she soon disappeared amidst the trees.
He shook his head, recalling what he had gleaned from his momentary glimpse at the Fates' loom. Not only Dubois, but you, Gabrielle, and Eve are gonna get it, Xena. Before this is done, you'll be begging me for help. With that, he disappeared in a flash of light.
Meantime, back in the village, everyone scrambled trying to find the alarm's source.
Gabrielle and Eve emerged from the former's hut and looked about anxiously. Their sister Amazons were instituting a hut-to-hut check to insure that all was in order.
Seeing Varia run by, the queen called to her. "Varia! Could you come here please?"
"My queen," she greeted once she had reached their side.
"How goes the search?" Eve wondered.
"Everything seems in order, Princess," the former queen reported. "Still, Nai-Jin remains unaccounted for."
"To her hut," Gabrielle stated, grabbing her scythes and rushing across the common area.
Eve glanced anxiously at her
fellow counselor before taking off for the mystic's hut. Not another emergency!
Minutes later, Eve and Varia reached the oracle's dwelling and rushed inside. There, they found Gabrielle cradling a shaking and distraught Nai-Jin. "Is she?"
"She's had a scare. I'll need Cybelle or Deirdre to look at her," the queen replied, looking up just as Xena arrived.
"What's going on, Gabrielle?" the warrior asked nervously.
"I don't know. We heard the scream just as you did and..."
At that moment, Nai-Jin's eyes snapped open. "M...My queen. Thank the gods. Y...you need to know..."
"Rest, Nai-Jin. There'll be plenty of time later," Gabrielle assured her.
"No!" the frantic mystic exclaimed. "Forgive me, but you must know...I was meditating this...morning."
Xena leaned over and inquired. "What did you see?"
"Xena," Gabrielle urged, telling her that this wasn't the time.
"Sorry, Gabrielle, but Ares just tried to tell me something. We need to know."
"S...she's right. You do need to know. You and your counterparts have some festive gatherings...right?" Nai-Jin started.
"Yes," Eve responded. "Go on."
"Both scenes were attacked by men...in long coats and dark eye coverings. They caused pain with metal stick things. I saw you, my queen and princess, defending yourselves along with the long lost girl-child. Xena, you and our friend, David Dubois, were at the other place. Then, there is an explosion...and screams from the dying..." Her eyes bulged and she shook violently.
The bard-queen and her companions exchanged anxious looks. What could it be now?
Then, the seer continued, "From the pain, whole families are destroyed. From the pain, he will emerge...dark and terrible...seeking revenge and vengeance. He stumbles about screaming his pain to the skies and destroying things in his path."
"He who?" Varia asked skeptically.
"The Child," Xena guessed with certainty. Something's gonna set David off badly. Eli, help him when the time comes. "David's dark persona...the one that defeated Velasca."
Varia took a step back thinking about the devastation around them and recalling the stories from Althanor about the battle between him and Cybelle.
"Xena, my queen, both of you will suffer from this as well....Look to your future friends. They will need you in the following days...That's...all," the mystic concluded, collapsing into a healing trance.
"Will we need a council, Queen Gabrielle?" Varia inquired.
"No. We'll need to meet with Cybelle however. Xena, Eve, and I will take care of that. Meantime, Varia, be watchful of anything unusual in our absence," Gabrielle directed. "Could you wait until the healers come for her?"
"I shall," Varia agreed.
"Thank you," the queen replied. "Xena, Eve, come with me."
As she watched the trio leave, Varia thought, Be careful, Gabrielle. Remember, you three carry the hopes of our people as well as those of the future upon your shoulders.
At the village's edge, the Bard-queen stopped her companions.
"When's she gonna get here?" Xena wondered.
In response, the mists appeared, allowing Cybelle to step into view. "Greetings, Queen Gabrielle, Xena, and Eve. What's going on?"
"Cybelle," Gabrielle returned the greeting. "Nai-Jin had a prophecy about next week."
Not again! The high priestess winced. "About the party?"
"I'm afraid so," Eve added, bowing her head.
"Bad enough to cause your brother to freak out," Xena reported.
"That's almost an everyday occurrence."
The warrior glared at the Althanorian and hissed, "Not like this!"
"Don't lecture me, Xena," Cybelle warned, still recalling their debate in front of the Amazon council.
"I wasn't. Ya need to take this seriously!" the warrior asserted intensely. "Especially since your Old Man's buddies are causin' trouble again!"
Gabrielle stepped between them. A fight's the last thing we need right now. "Settle down now! Cybelle, we wanted to let you and Deirdre know to be on guard, okay?"
"Fine," Cybelle agreed tersely. "I'll let her know." Meantime, the feud between Dave and Dad continues to hurt us, doesn't it? Blasted pig-headed morons. Glaring at Xena once more, she disappeared back into the mists, leaving them alone.
"Xena," Gabrielle advised. "Please cool it. We're all tense, but..."
"Sorry, Gabrielle, but she needs to understand that David isn't responsible for what's happening! Her father's done his share of damage. And we don't have time for diplomacy," the warrior disagreed, her frown very prominently on her face.
"I have to agree with her, Gabrielle," Eve added. "We've gone around and around on this, but it's not solving anything."
The queen sighed and stared into the forest. Eli, please be with us. If it's as bad as Nai-Jin says, we'll need your help desperately.
[Logan's loft-Five Days Later]
Surrounded by his bank of computers, Logan Cale monitored web traffic on certain frequencies. Just two days prior, Dave Dubois and Steve Petersen had come to see him concerning the GSA and a possible connection with Lionel Luthor. Based upon what his research detected, their fears were justified.
It doesn't matter what year it is. The slime still manages to ooze upward. He continued to process information. I know Adam wanted a lid kept on publicizing new mutant activities, but this really needs to be exposed. Maybe the world is ready for an advanced Steaming Freedom Video bulletin.
At that moment, Max entered through the open window. "Hey. You paged me?"
"Yeah," he replied. "I've got some info on that Luthor guy. Talk about a real creep."
She scanned the screen's text and shrugged. "Typical industrial slime bag. Has his paws in every pie from here to China, I'll bet."
"That he does. Max, Dave and Steve were right. His company, LuthorCorp, just acquired Genomex," he reported.
Crap. That sucks. "Adam's gonna love that as will Dave. I guess I gotta go deliver the bad news, huh?"
"Hey, you were the best delivery person that Jam Pony had, right?" he asked, flashing her a smile.
Yeah, you don't have to be there to deal with the pissed professor. "I guess," she sighed. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm sending an encrypted message to Toni Quintana. She'll know how to get it to Mutant X," he noted, opening up another window on his screen.
He's something else. You can take the super patriot outta his area, but you can't take the super patriot outta him. She grinned and ruffled his hair playfully.
"What was that for?" he asked.
She smiled wickedly and arched her eyebrow up and down suggestively. Wouldn't you like to know? "One day, you'll find out." Kissing him on the cheek, she stated, "I'll pass the info along. I got a meeting with the others at the vampire club. See ya." With that, she disappeared through the window.
Adam, thank you. He allowed himself a brief smile before returning to his work.
[The El Gato Negro-about 10PM that night]
Off in a corner of the bar, Dave looked around anxiously. I wonder what everyone's going to say? It had been a very hectic week. Winnie and Annie agreed to do a session with the students to cover the class he was going to miss. Then, there were the last minute scheduling issues with the party and the reunion. If the plan worked out right, Dave, Angie, Karen, Steve, and Natalie would go to the reunion in the afternoon before making the two-hour drive to Wabash for the party. I won't miss this one, Short Stuff. Not after all of those years of searching.
"It's going to be okay, Dave," Angie reassured him and rubbed his arm.
"I hope so," he said anxiously. "We can defend ourselves. Most of our relatives can't." Tipping his mug, he guzzled the rest of his ale.
Geez. Steve told him, "It won't come to that, Dave. Forewarned is forearmed. I just got off the phone with the Bureau's New England office. Garth is being assigned to the case to work with me."
"Garth?" Dave and Angie chorused.
"Right. He just graduated from the Academy. His finals were delayed a bit by your recent excursion to Nurrengaard. Given his familiarity with us, he was assigned to the case. The Main Office insisted on giving me a partner, so I requested him."
"And I figured you folks could use a hand anyway," the new agent added, walking up to the booth. "How's it going?"
"Oh. It's about the same as always. The faces change, but the situation's still the same," Dave informed him grimly, shaking his hand and waving to the open seat. "Want a beer?"
"Yeah. Get me something dark to match the mood in this place. Geez, guys, the help needs help. They look dead or something," Garth complained.
Steve and Dave exchanged skeptical looks as Janette arrived at the table with a fresh round. "Compliments of Nicolas, Gentlemen. By the way, who's your friend, hmmm?"
"Janette, this is Garth Singleton, my new partner and a long time friend of Dave's. Garth, this is Janette."
"The pleasure is mine," the new agent expressed, kissing her hand.
"Merci," she accepted. At least this one has some manners. "What would you like, Monsieur Singleton, hmmm?"
"A dark ale please," he requested.
She smiled and left for the bar. "You two know her?"
"You might say she and I shared a dance," Dave cracked.
Angie rolled her eyes. Yeah,
some dance. Meantime, Xena and I were boogying with LaCroix.
"So, is this it?" Garth asked.
"No, we still have a few more folks joining us. Seven more to be precise," the professor indicated, looking toward the door. Seeing Max and the Mutant X members, he motioned them over to the booth. "Hey, guys and gals. Take a seat."
"Thanks," Max accepted, warily glancing about. Well, girl, you were imprisoned with other transgenics. What's the matter with the vampires as long as they leave you alone?
The immortals scanned the new mutants cautiously, not knowing what to make of them either.
"Nice place for a meeting, Dave," Brennan cracked.
"It's secure. No shot of the GSA being here," Adam assumed, taking a look around for himself.
"Exactly," Nick agreed, joining them. "Garth, what are you doing here?"
"I've been assigned as Steve's new partner," Garth informed him, shaking his hand before continuing, "Relax, everyone, knowing Dave, you all have your secrets. That's okay. I've been brought up to snuff on Genomex and the GSA. I wouldn't mind meeting some of the other mutants that these creeps have been gunning for."
"Just out of curiosity, why is that, Agent Singleton?" Shalimar wondered, sipping from a drink in front of her.
"Just to tell them that they're okay in my book is all. Hey, Dave, Angie, and Karen are my friends, and they're mutants. I'd like to make a few more friends among those I want to work with."
The Mutant X members looked at each other anxiously.
Finally, Adam asked, "Dave, how long have you known Garth?"
"Since high school. We've fought together a few times too, right?"
"A few," he concurred. "Like in San Carlos. Remember when you got Karen's note and we had to get down there?"
"San Carlos, huh?" Angie asked, her eyebrow raised expectantly. "I thought you never went anywhere on Spring break."
"We didn't exactly go down there to party, Princess. Karen was kidnapped and we went down there to bail her and Marisa Sarantiello out of Guisanto's hotel suite. That's where I made up my first explosive shafts," her husband explained. "Anyhow, he's cool, guys."
"I'll vouch for him as well," the Elder agreed.
"Very well," the team leader stated. "I'm Adam and these are Brennan, Jesse, Emma, and Shalimar. They're new mutants."
"Pleased to meet you all. So, you all are kind of like that team I've heard all the rumors about? Mutant X. Those folks must be awesome, especially with all of the garbage that Eckhart logged in about them. I wish I could meet them."
Dave snorted rudely.
"What? I know that laugh! What did I do?"
Shalimar shook her head even as a big grin spread its way across her face. "You just did."
"We're Mutant X," Adam added.
And someday, I'd like to be too, Max added to herself.
Garth offered his hand. "Adam, it's a pleasure. I really respect what you're all doing. Fighting for one's rights is a never ending grind."
"Exactly," the team leader noted, gripping the hand before allowing him to do the same with his team members.
"I'm Max. Another associate of sorts," Max added.
"She was in on that raid seven weeks ago, Garth," Steve told him.
"Yeah? That was some place. Too bad somebody stripped it clean. I wonder where all that stuff went?"
"Who knows?" Dave shrugged. "Who cares? Meantime, let's focus on the case at hand, okay?"
Garth shot his buddy a look. He knows something. After making a mental note of it, he continued, "Okay. After getting your call, Steve, I checked the GSA communications log. Apparently, somebody's been making a few calls from Smallville to Genomex. Your buddy, Lionel Luthor."
"We know that he's connected, Garth," Steve pointed out. "Was there anything else?"
"Yeah. They talked about a dual operation and coordinating manpower, but they didn't say where," the new agent continued.
"Want to bet they're going to go after us?" Steve proposed.
"Huh? They wouldn't dare! The Bureau's got them staked out!" Garth protested.
"Doesn't matter," Dave disagreed. "Even with the Bureau's stakeout, they attacked Smallville three months ago. We were all there."
"Lionel Luthor's not going to stop for the law," Nick added.
Adam sighed, recalling how the investor had ingratiated himself into Genomex back in the earlier days, tipping the balance toward Eckhart's ambitions and forcing him to leave the operation. We can't let him do any more damage.
"So what do we do?" Jesse wondered.
"They'll split their forces and so will we," Steve assumed. "Those of us who were invited to go to the reunion will go there. Meanwhile, Cybelle, Deirdre, Miranda, and Karen's daughter, Michelle, will be at the other party, keeping an eye on things. If the GSA strikes at one, we reinforce that point. If they strike at both, we hold our own. Max, I was able to get an extra two invites to the reunion for you and Logan if you want to go."
"But I'm not in your graduating class," she disagreed.
"You can go as our guests," Angie invited. "I would feel better if you two were there both as contact folks and as our friends."
The transgenic squirmed uncomfortably. Another party. I have to dress up again. Crap. Well, they're right. "Okay, but I'll need something to wear."
"Trust me. That won't be a problem," Dave assured her.
"And what about us?" Brennan wondered.
"You all are our backups. I figure that you can go wherever help is needed the most," Steve continued.
"Nice use of the flex defense, Steve," Dave complimented.
"Sounds like our Filler Play, Dave," Garth realized.
"It is with a few modifications," the professor clarified. "Meantime, Eve and Toni will keep an eye on the students here and let us know if anything happens. Nick?"
"The Community will keep an eye on things here as well. Once again, if you need me for a short period of time, I can be there," the former Crusader told them.
"Sounds as if you have this all planned out," Adam said, taking a sip from a glass of wine. "To a successful outcome."
"Hear, hear," everyone chorused.
Let's hope he's right, Dave worried, sipping from his ale. Let's hope he's right.
Chapter 6 [Morning of the Big Day--Wabash]
Miri rose early and put on her sweats. Today was the big day. I've never had anyone throw a party for me before. She frowned. Her stepfather didn't believe in celebrating birthdays nor any other holiday for that matter, especially after his wife died. I'll bet that I was the only kid in Smallville who didn't get any presents at that point. Thank Heaven for the Kents and Lana's Aunt Nell. For a minute, she recalled some of the Christmases when Clark would "invite her over for dinner" only to surprise her with a neat toy or a book. Chloe and Lana always shared their gifts with her as well. I'm so lucky, and now, I have my real family back.
She heard a brief yip. Turning, she saw Mika and her dog, Misty, coming into the room. As usual, the former was concentrating on her dog, picking up on her thoughts. What a neat talent that is.
["Misty! You want to wake everyone?"]
["Sorry. You human types are so excited. What gives?"]
["We have a party to go to. You, on the other hand, will go stay with Eve, Toni, and our friends, okay?"]
Aw man... ["Left behind again!" the terrier complained.]
["Don't worry. I promised I'd bring back some food for you, didn't I? Besides, in case of trouble, I want you there to alert the others. You can back us up, right?"]
The terrier let out a heavily-brogued
whine. She didn't like being left behind, but she understood. She's counting
on me! Yeah, I can do this, but the grub had better be forthcoming.
Mika shot the pooch a skeptical look. I promised, didn't I? What's her beef now? ["Come on. Let's go for our walk."]
["Okay."] Time to get choked to death with that damn collar. I wish she'd trust me not to run off.
Good morning, Mika," Miri greeted.
"Hey, Miri," her teammate replied, fastening the plastic collar around her companion's neck. "Ready for that run?"
"You're up early."
"I couldn't sleep either, so I decided to go out to the barn. There, I gave Mr. Blackwell a hand with things. For some reason, I couldn't sleep last night. I could've sworn I heard someone outside about 2 AM."
"You too? I thought I was dreaming. I stuck my head out the window, but there was nobody there."
That's weird. " I told Mr. Blackwell. He's taking a look now," Mika said, opening the door. "C'mon! Let's work some of that nervous energy off."
"Okay," Miri agreed, following her friend. I hope it's nothing.
[Smallville, KS-About 2 hours later]
Lex stood in the waiting area of the Smallville airport for the flight to Albany. I wish it weren't so early. Still, when you don't have many flights between there and here, you take what you can get. Sipping on the bad imitation which the stand called "coffee," he ran down the list of things to do when he got off the plane: get the rental car, pick up the flowers for Chloe, change clothes at the local hotel he had booked for himself, and arrive fashionably late for the gala affair. Miranda's a good kid. She deserves this party. I'm glad she has a loving family.
Still, he had the feeling
that something was going to go wrong. He couldn't put his finger on it, but
somehow, he knew it. Dad, keep out of this! He had said as much the
last time Lionel made an appearance in Smallville. The old bastard was behaving
much too smugly during that meeting. Something's up. Now, I'm glad I made
that call to David Dubois afterwards.
Then, the flight was announced. Lex strolled up to the gate with the other passengers. After some brief pleasantries, he handed his boarding pass and ID over and, after everything passed inspection, he got onto the plane. Minutes later, the vehicle was airborne, heading east.
Hang on, Chloe. I'll be there soon. Again, he felt the nervousness eating at his stomach. He vowed to keep a sharp eye out.
Back in the airport, a tall slender man in a fine wool suit pulled on his overcoat and produced a cell phone. Speed-dialing a number, he looked out the window as someone on the other end asked, "Yes?"
"The boy's on his way. He left five minutes ago, sir," the agent informed him.
"Excellent. Keep up your surveillance. Out," the other concluded, hanging up.
The man emotionlessly donned his sunglasses and headed for a dark SUV. Once inside, he drove off into the dawn.
Lionel hung the phone up in his new office. Everything's going according to plan. Only a few more hours to go. The reunion would start at 3:30 and end at 5. The reception in Wabash would start at 4:30. Those parties will go out with a bang. I'll teach them to defy us. With that in mind, he buzzed the intercom. "Mr. Ashlocke, Ms. Mitchell, please report to my office. Thank you."
He smiled ferally as he sipped on a cup of coffee. Time to get this show on the road.
Five minutes later, the two new mutants in question entered his office. Each had a determined look on their face.
"Is everything ready?" the administrator wondered.
"Yes, sir," she reported. "The agents are already in the area. I'm set to leave within the hour. When we're ready inside, I'll give the signal."
"Are they on to you?" Ashlocke asked.
Adrienne shrugged. "Hey, I have as much right to be there as they do." Turning back to her boss, she requested, "Permission to depart?"
"Granted. Good luck," he agreed.
"Thank you," she accepted. Looking at her associate once more, she snarled at the cocky smile. "And what's your problem?"
Honey, wouldn't you like to know? "Nothing you need to concern yourself with."
Someday, you'll end up with a knife in your back and I want to be there to watch. She frowned and left the room.
After making a mental note to himself about her reaction, Lionel inquired, "Are we ready at the farm?"
"All set. The charges are in place," Ashlocke reported. "Still, I wish we didn't have to sneak around like this. I'd rather take Dubois, Adam, and the others on directly."
"If we play this right, you'll have that face to face fight you want," the administrator assured him. "Now, relax for a few hours or train or do whatever you want. I'll call you when I need you."
Ashlocke nodded and stalked out of the room. After the doors closed, he frowned. 'I'll call you when I need you'. What does he think I am, a prize dog or something? He'll soon learn differently. For your sake, Luthor, you'd best follow through on your end of the agreement. With that, he continued to his quarters. There, he had a few emails of his own to send.
Chapter 7 [That afternoon-Amherst, MA]
Dave silently drove the rental car down Route 9 toward the town center. It had been a smooth trip all the way around. After a three-hour trip in the Double Helix, they had landed unseen in the woods behind Bradley Airport. There, the ship lay under its stealth cloak and the team watched for GSA activity at both sites. For their part, Dave and the others picked up a rental SUV at the airport and headed due north on Interstate 91.
"Is this how you folks always travel?" Garth wondered.
"Yeah it is," Steve replied, checking his guns and ammo. "You get used to it after a while."
Some do. Some don't. Natalie frowned, looking out the right side window. It was a cloudy and damp day as the forecast called for rain later that night. Reaching into her purse, she fingered the cell phone there. If anything went wrong, she could speed dial Nick with the touch of a button. At least he'll be able to alert the students that something's wrong.
"Not really, Steve," Angie sighed. "I just hope this is all for nothing."
"So do we all, Princess," Dave assured her. Seeing that they were inside of the town limits, he declared, "It won't be long now. Do you want to take the scenic tour or get right over to the school?"
"If we were earlier, Dave, I'd say we could get a coffee, but we need to be there in 10 minutes," Garth pointed out.
Maybe next time. "Okay, we'll be there in a minute or so," the professor replied, guiding the vehicle through the town center and down the main drag. Hanging a right, he pulled into the high school and stopped the car. "Everyone, we're here."
If only we weren't on such a state of high alert, Max mused, smoothing her dress and watching as Logan and the others got out of the car.
Dave gladly got out of the car, stretching his arms skyward. I forgot what it's like to drive with the gear on. Still, we can't just walk into a party with a quiver and a bow, Chief.
["Oh why the heck not?" the Child chuckled.]
["You'd like that," Dave retorted. "I don't think so. Besides, if we're right, you'll have enough fun soon enough."]
["Bring it on," the Dark One urged. "Ah'll be waitin'."] With that, the voice went silent.
I'm glad I thought to have Deirdre put the invisibility spell on this stuff. With the GSA so close by, we'll need every advantage close at hand.
"Are you okay?" Angie asked, rubbing his shoulder.
"I'll get there. Let's go find Mike and Karen," he agreed.
Meanwhile, Mitchell had already entered the reception area and sat with her "date"-a fellow agent. She recalled her time as a student here. As with so many of the others in that class, she had her up and downs. While she was a good student, she wasn't spectacular. For the most part, I was invisible. I worked my tail off and never got anywhere. Taking a look at the group walking in, she snarled. Oh, if it isn't the oh-so-pretty Karen Montoya and hubby. Dubois can't be far behind. You stole him from me, Karen. I'll show you both. By the end of the night, you'll rue that you all ignored me.
"Hey, focus," Sanderson urged. "We have a mission, you know."
You stupid twit. Of course, I know that. Staring into his eyes, she smiled and hit him with some psionic energy.
The man held his stomach as he felt the room twist and turn on him for several minutes. Then, after she released him, he hissed, "Try that again and I'll show you a few things!"
She just smiled icily at him. Yeah whatever. "Focus, remember? Dubois just came in with his wife and entourage. Who are the brunette and her companion?"
"She's that mysterious new mutant. Nobody knows who she is. I've never seen him before either. I've been waiting for another crack at Dubois though," her companion asserted.
"You underestimated him, didn't you?" she cracked. "Don't worry, I won't. I know what we're facing."
"Do you now?" he snickered. "Trust me, you get him mad, you'll know it. We need to be extra careful with him."
He does have a temper, but it's not that bad. Speaking into her earpiece, she whispered, "Are we in position?"
"Everyone's inside and we've taken up positions. Now?" another agent informed her.
"No. Let the party get started first. Ten minutes, okay? Check on the other base," she concluded. "Mitchell out." Let everyone get comfortable. Then the fun really begins.
For hours, the activity around the Blackwell farm was fairly intense. In the kitchen, Jennifer Blackwell, Jeannie Alvarez and Sarah Dubois cooked up a storm, creating all sorts of dishes and treats. Miranda and Mika helped to set the long table in the dining room. Outside, Clark, Lana, and Chloe assisted Bill Blackwell with decorations on one end of the property while Cybelle, Deirdre, Francesca, and D. J. Montoya spruced up the other end. Finally, Caroline and Carl Alvarez roved around, helping where they were needed.
Randy Dubois took a walk around the property to survey the preparations for himself. After arriving early in the day, he had helped Bill with chores, and then with a last minute food run into town. He smiled at the efforts of his family and friends to make this a special day. Miri, you deserve it, Sweetheart. Judging from your four friends, Smallville took care of you and I'll always be grateful for that. Taking another look around, he started back toward the house. Almost party time.
As he reached the door, his grandmother stuck her head out. "Randy! It's time!"
"Okay," he agreed, running into the house as if he were a kid again.
Beatrice Alvaro had helped to raise her grandkids, especially when their father had fallen off in his attention to them. May that man stay where he is for a long time. Chiding herself for the thought, she whistled long and loud, signaling everyone to come in.
Fifteen minutes later, the group sat around the dining room table in the midst of the Blackwell family artifacts. The guests, both young and old, admired the antiques and the collection of warm family pictures stretching back 80 years.
As the clock bonged six times, Bill Blackwell eased himself out of his chair and raised his glass. "Everyone, I'd like to thank you all for coming tonight. We are gathered here to welcome a special young lady back into our lives. Miranda, I remember watching you as the flower maiden at your aunt and uncle's wedding so long ago. Then, I watched my daughter...your aunt...remember you, look for you, and never give up hope. Welcome back."
"Speech! Speech!" her Smallville classmates chanted warmly, egging her on.
Miri stood and took a deep breath before nervously starting. "Well...Mr. Blackwell, thank you so much for those words. I'm not sure I deserve this. I do wish my Mom could be here tonight with us." She paused and allowed a tear to fall down her cheek. "Sorry, everyone...I miss her."
"She is here," Lana whispered, gripping her hand. "In the corner."
Following Lana's lead, Miri saw a slender female spirit in the corner, smiling warmly. Momma! She was there all along! Collecting herself and allowing a smile to come to her face, she continued, "I am glad to be here with my family and my friends. As you can see, I was in a good place with the best friends anyone could want. My boss, Mr. Luthor, will be here soon, I'm sure. Anyhow, thank you, Clark, Lana, and Chloe for being such good friends and opening their homes to me during our school years. I do appreciate it. Now, let's enjoy, okay?"
"Absolutely," Sarah concurred, starting the mashed potatoes around the table.
Ten minutes later, a blue Oldsmobile Sentra pulled up just out of sight from the house. Inside, three GSA agents awaited their orders from Amherst. For the previous half-hour, their associates had been involved in a brawl with the Duboises and their associates.
Then the command came over the earpiece. "Light it!"
The agents looked at each other and once again, doubted the sense behind this command for a moment.
Bad enough to be stuck hiding like a little child, but now, I'm stuck with three sissies as well. "Give me that!" Ashlocke demanded, grabbing the detonator away from them. "This is how you do it." With that, he pushed the orange button on the remote.
Just down the street, the 125-year-old farmhouse exploded into a pile of kindling and debris.
Adam and his protÈgÈs waited anxiously at their stations for any news from their friends in Massachusetts and New York. They all had to admit that Steve's plan made them nervous. It was an overarching design that tried to consider everything, however, what happened if the GSA attacked in both places at once? That thought weighed heavily on everyone.
"Jesse, has Toni heard from them?" Adam wondered.
The density mutant shook his head as he signed off of the secured chat. "Sorry, Adam. She's concerned too."
"Feeling anything from Dave, Emma?"
The slender brunette nodded. "Concern, anxiousness...Adam, the GSA is there!"
Shalimar turned from her console. "Guys, I hate to tell you this, but our tap is picking up some directives. They're moving in on the farm as well."
"Two fights. One ship. Which way do we go?" Brennan inquired.
The leader sighed and took a deep breath. I hoped this wouldn't happen. Still, given the makeup of both groups, there's no choice. Dave, I hope you can handle your end. "Jesse, take us to the coordinates that Angie gave us. We have to stop them in Wabash first."
"Right," Jesse concurred, starting things up and sending them toward the farm. Heading northwest, they passed the Berkshires, cruised over Albany and ten minutes later, they swooped over the rural countryside.
"Put the tap to speaker, Shalimar," Adam requested.
The feral complied. Over the intercom, they heard the sound of a scuffle-more than likely from the reunion.
"End of the line, Adrienne," Steve stated in the background. "Come on, let's go."
"No, Petersen, not yet. You'll be sorry," a female voice threatened before ordering, "Light it!"
"What the?" Brennan asked.
Then, they saw Angie's childhood home explode into a mass of splinters and fragments.
"Whoa!" the electrical mutant added, stunned.
"Adam!" Emma called, cringing in pain.
The former geneticist ran to her side. No, not this. Not now. "What is it?"
"It's awful. There's so much pain...so much...death," the psionic stammered, trying to regain control of her overwhelmed senses.
"We're there!" the pilot told his companions. Swooping in low, they landed in what remained of the cornfield behind the burning house. As soon as they touched down, he was already out of his straps. "I'll phase through and get a read."
"Be careful!" Adam requested. Once he had left, he asked the others, "Can you go and do what you can?"
"We're there," Shalimar asserted, breaking open the fire resistant suits and handing one to each of them.
"You don't have to," the leader told her.
Damn it, I'm already scared about the fire. Now, he's feeding my doubts. "Yes I do. Those people are family to Dave and Angie. We owe them that much. Besides, Clark, Lana, Miranda, and Chloe are in there too," she argued, zipping herself into the protective covering. "Coming, guys?"
"Right behind you," Brennan said, securing his suit and hurrying down the ramp.
As soon as they had done the same, Emma and Adam followed, hoping to find some sign of life.
The GSA's done some bad things in their time, but nothing like this. What have you all done? Adam wondered frantically as he raced toward the site along with the others.
From the time of the conversation between Mitchell and Sanderson, ten minutes had gone by. By now, the mingling was picking up in intensity. The dance floor was hopping as long lost friends got reacquainted to the sound of 80's music.
In a corner of the room, Dave watched his classmates carefully. Sure, he and Angie had fun talking to everyone and seeing his friends, but something seemed out of place. Crap. I should be having fun. Instead, I'm suffering from delusional paranoia. Figures.
Seeing his wife coming back over along with Karen, he asked, "Do you feel something out of place?"
Karen stared at him. Uh oh. When he starts getting nervous, something's definitely wrong. "Such as?"
He motioned to the table across from them. "See those two over there?"
"Yeah, it's Adrienne Mitchell. She's a little creepy, but so what?" the nurse inquired.
"The guy with her is GSA," he told them. "His name's Sanderson. He's the guy that stuck the governor in me back in Tucson."
"He's...?" Angie wondered. Oh man! "Umm...I've got to make a trip to the girls' room."
"Go for it," he agreed. Watching her leave the room, he whispered to Karen, "Get ready."
"Do I have to draw you a diagram?" he hinted.
Damn! So much for the party. Well, this is why you got your brown belt, Karen.
Then, Garth and Steve rejoined them at the table. "Dave, we're surrounded," they reported. "They outnumber us five to one."
Karen rolled her eyes. I knew it. Leave it to Dave to come up with a party of his own.
"Get ready," the professor instructed them. "Natalie, raise Nick on the line. Max..."
"We're gonna kick some ass, right?" the transgenic asked expectantly, the right eyebrow arched in anticipation.
"Logan, stay down," Steve directed, prepping his guns. "Garth?"
"Locked and loaded," his partner replied, motioning to his weapons.
"Ready for your first firefight?"
The rookie looked at Dave and Karen. "Trust me, we've done this before, Steve."
"Not against guys like this," Dave contradicted. "When this gets started, stay back to back, okay? We cover each other out there. I'm hoping that our reinforcements get here soon enough if you get my drift."
The coroner hung up the phone and stated. "They're blocking signals from getting through. Now what?"
Dave grinned and got up. "We pick a fight." Then, he walked over toward the GSA agents.
"Is he...?" Steve wondered.
Karen and Garth stared at their friend, recalling how many other times he had done this type of thing. "Uh yeah, he is," he told the other agent. "Brace yourselves."
The professor stopped at the agents' table. "Hi, Adrienne, long time, no see. How're tricks?"
She smiled predator-like. The jerk's making small talk when he should be concerned about his ass. "Oh, I'm about to close a major deal."
Dave shrugged. "You don't say! On what, pray tell? Overcoats and outfits? Fancy electroprobe thingies?" He leaned close to them and hissed, "I know what's going on out there. Don't do it here."
"Orders are orders," she responded coolly, dropping the mask of civility.
"That's what your friend said the last time, Adrienne. What did you call yourselves, Sanderson? I think it was the Enforcers of Genetic Purity or some such crap? Didn't you learn before?" the professor growled before letting himself lapse.
"Ya'll know wha's in mah mind," the Child told them. "Screw with us an' Ah'll deal with ya'll. No buts. Your choice." Then he returned control to Dave.
My God. He really is multiple. She composed herself and told him. "Suit yourself. Attack."
From the doors, the agents spilled into the room, armed with probes and the telltale gloves.
"Your loss, Adrienne," Dave sighed.
"No, it'll be yours, Dave," she disagreed.
Running back to the table, he concentrated, allowing the spell to drop and revealing the quiver on his back. Grabbing the bow under the table, he had two shafts strung in it before anyone could breathe. "Now, can't we play nice?"
"Now you want to play nice?" Mitchell laughed. "Just a moment ago, you threatened me."
"Tit for tat, Dearie," he remarked. "Everyone, get behind us."
"DO IT!" Steve ordered.
Even though she hated these cretins, Mitchell didn't want there to be any witnesses. "Before we start, the rest of these brats go."
"Sounds good to us," Dave agreed. "Everyone, out now!"
The rest of the class and their spouses stared in disbelief at the standoff developing around them. But, they had a way out. Within moments, they had cleared the room, running for their cars. Taking advantage of the crowd, Natalie and Logan left as well.
Once the room was otherwise cleared, the agents barred the way again. "Now then, where were we? Ah yes. Surrender or we beat you into submission."
"So much for the sugar and spice stuff," Karen dryly jabbed. "You always were a twit."
"Oh, I'm going to enjoy watching you go into a pod, Karen," Mitchell grinned. Turning back to Dave, she chortled, "Stop pointing that thing at me." Concentrating, she created a sense of vertigo in his mind, sending the room spinning. "Neat trick, huh?"
"Crazy bitch!" he snarled, dropping to his knees. Grabbing a bomb from his pocket, he pulled the top and threw it at her.
The explosion and tear gas disrupted her concentration, stopping her attack. "You'll pay for that!"
"No, you're the ones who are going to pay," Steve asserted, priming his weapons. "You are all in violation of Code 17. Therefore, you're all under arrest. Come quietly."
"You heard the man," Garth concurred, weapons at the ready.
"I'd do as the man says," Dave suggested.
"Attack!" Sanderson ordered.
As one, the agents moved in, weapons ready as well.
Using his levitation abilities, Dave gained himself a perch above the battle and began picking off enemies with his downpour of arrows.
Max moved from opponent to opponent, evading their probes and bashing their heads in. Manticore, GSA, it doesn't matter. Different names. Same dumb ass goons.
Karen pulled a series of kicks, chops, and spinning maneuvers on the GSA.
Garth and Steve bludgeoned everything within arm's reach.
A few minutes later, more fighting could be heard from the hallway. Then, the far door crashed in, pushing two GSA agents into the room. Xena immediately followed them. "David, you sure know how to find a party, don't you?"
From his perch, he laughed, "It's a gift."
"Hey! Where'd she come from?" Max wondered, separating a man from his teeth.
"I was in the neighborhood," the warrior deadpanned. "Are there some for me?"
"Knock yourself out," Garth remarked. "They're not trolls, but hey, I don't mind fighting with you."
"Thanks," Xena accepted, flipping into the heart of the battle and knocking heads together. Grabbing a couple of electro probes, she grinned wickedly and began shocking agents with their own weapon. "Hey, this is kinda fun!"
Within moments, the GSA goon squad was mopped up except for Mitchell.
"End of the line, Adrienne," Steve told her. "Come on, let's go."
"No, Petersen, not yet. You'll be sorry," she threatened. "Speaking into her mouthpiece, she ordered. "Light it!"
They all looked at each other, wondering what she was saying.
Suddenly, a massive wave of pain struck Dave, Xena, and Karen.
"That's it!" Steve growled, training his gun at her. "Garth, cover me and don't look at her."
Steve tore across the floor and tackled Mitchell. Ripping the headset off of her, he cuffed her and ordered, "Tell me, what did you do?"
"Momma...DJ...Mika..." Karen moaned.
Across the room, Dave writhed on the floor. The pain was so much. He felt them...Deirdre, Lauren, Karen, Mika, Miri. "Rrrrr....rrrrr...raarrrghh! Got...got to get there...'fore," he muttered pulling himself to his feet. He felt the room spinning. Worse, he felt the Child screaming in rage. He wouldn't be denied...not this time.
Concentrating, he forced a portal to appear. "Karen, Xena, Max... you're with me. Steve?"
"Go! We'll take care of this mess! Help the others!" Steve directed, empathically waving them into the portal.
At that moment, Lt. Rivers charged into the area. "Everyone, hold it!"
"Not...now, Lieutenant," Dave snarled and jumped through the portal followed by Xena, Max, and Karen. Once they were gone, the portal dissipated.
"Agent Petersen, I trust you have a good explanation of all of this?" Rivers demanded.
"Give my partner and me a minute to get these creeps wrapped up. Then, we'll chat. Trust me. Dave and the others have more serious problems right now in Wabash."
"Wabash?" the officer asked. "There was an explosion there that took out an old farmhouse. It belonged to..."
"Bill and Jennifer Blackwell," Steve finished the sentence, pulling his prisoner to her feet. Damn them. This could break Dave and Angie, not to mention Karen. "Lieutenant, this is the woman who authorized that act. Book her and these others on several counts of domestic terrorism, assault, and possible homicide."
"Will do, Agent Petersen. May God be with us all," Rivers agreed before turning on his walkie-talkie. Within minutes, the state police had raided the place, dragging the suits outside, and leaving only the two FBI agents in their wake.
After the others had left, the two agents stumbled out of the facility not believing what had just happened.
Just outside, Mike Montoya, Logan, and Natalie caught up with them.
Sensing something was wrong, the coroner hugged Steve, and asked, "We've heard that they struck again, but don't know where."
The agent glared at her, the tears flowing from his reddened eyes. "They blew up the Blackwells' farm."
Oh my God. Natalie gaped in horror. "Steve, I...I..." She hugged him tightly.
"So where are they? Where's Max?" Logan pushed.
Garth answered haltingly, "Dave managed to...pull...that portal trick. Max, Karen, and Xena went with him. By now, they're there."
Logan took a deep breath. In his years as a freedom fighter, he had seen many corrupt acts such as this one, but never had any of them struck so closely to home. This is why we have to remain vigilant.
At that moment, Rivers ran up to them. "Guys, would you like an escort to the site?"
"That would be great, Lieutenant," Steve agreed.
"We'll head right down the Mass Pike. At the New York line, we'll switch off and another group of officers will take you the rest of the way."
"Sounds great," Garth sighed. "Come on, everyone."
As the quartet looked to the west, they saw the phantom images of smoke. In their mind, they felt the anguish coming from there. Worse still, they heard one scream tower above the bleakness. Banshee-like, it signaled carnage and gloom. The Child was totally unrestrained and woe on those who had done this deed.
Woe on them indeed.
TO BE CONTINUED....
(Well, I felt the need to break the story here. Don't worry, the sequel "Suffer the Children" will be out soon. Brace yourselves, this is going to be one high octane ride. More soon....)
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