Suffer the Children
David J. Duncan
September 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 DC Comics and Tribune. The characters from "Mutant X" belong to Marvel and Tribune. The characters from "Dark Angel" belong to Tribune. All other characters and scenarios are fictitious and belong to me. Please send any questions or comments to

Thanks to my beta readers Emily and Jarvinia for all of their comments. Kudos to Peggy for her insights as well. 

Strap yourselves in, guys. It's going to be a heck of a ride....


The Child rants....

Ah guess ya'll were expectin' Gabby's piece here. Well, since she's busy, Ah'm here 'stead.

Everyone's hurtin' now since them yellah scuz buckets blew up the farm. Ah've felt pain from Big Brother before, but nothin' like this! Ah see 'im tryin' to hold on while leadin' Xena and Maxie through this smoky junk. Now, that we're here, Ah can't stand it! Everyone's cryin', gnashin' their teeth, and runnin' around like a bunch of stinkin' chickens. The air's reeks of death...

Xena's throwin' things left an' right, lookin' for Gabby. Gotta admit that she's good at bustin' stuff. Ah've never seen 'er so scared yet pissed.

We just found Randy. Aw....<grinding of teeth> The boy's hurtin'. There ain't no savin' 'im, but we gotta try. Pickin' 'im up, we move ahead. On the way out, we smell burned skin an' crap... Before we hit the door, we found Momma and the Little Woman's folks lyin' there not breathin'. Ah feel a wave of sadness go through us as well as the tears on our face. 

Then we hear a moanin' comin' from the flames. Aw Hell. We scrounge to the right and find C...Chl..oe there with a big gash on 'er head, and real out of it. After shiftin' Randy on the left, we heft her over our right shoulder and git the heck outta that place.

The air is cool, but dang it, it's rainin' and thunderin'. Everyone's backin' away from us like we're psycho or somethin'. Ah'm feelin' Big Brother startin' to waver as he sets the two down on the grass. As our brother lies dying on the grass, he's slippin' into shock.

Now, Ah'm takin' over.

Someone's gonna pay for this. Them boys are gonna hurt. An' anyone who gits in mah way is gonna join 'em. Ah guarantee it. 

Chapter 1 [Minutes before the Prologue]

Brother Tony sat up on the front lawn stunned at what had just happened. His ears rang and his limbs were covered in little bloody streamlets. Thank God I was by the window when it happened. The explosion had pushed him out of the window, bounced him off of the porch like some child's toy, and onto the lawn where he had lain for several minutes. Forcing himself to stand, he watched the inferno devour the farm. Why did this have to happen? Father, what is your purpose? 

Then, he heard a piece of the burning façade give way and saw it fly and hit a dirt patch just off of the driveway. What could? Moving toward the spot, he saw Miranda's young friends, Clark and Lana, along with the guest of honor herself, come stumbling out of the wreckage. The two women's faces were smeared with ash and they hacked terribly from the smoke. He, on the other hand, didn't seem fazed at all by the fact that his clothes were burning. How could this be? No wonder David and Angela wanted him as a student. What's important is that he's thinking of the others first. Rushing up to their side, the minister asked, "Are you all right?"

"Brother, can you take them?" Clark requested. "Make sure nothing happens to them!"

"I would be happy to, Clark, but you can't!" Tony protested.

"Chloe's still in there, as are the others!" Clark argued over his shoulder as he zipped back into the flames.

The boy's a marvel. Father, protect him please.


In the midst of the inferno, Mutant X scrounged around, looking for traces of survivors. The heat and the smoke were intense. Still, they had to get something out of this. Someone had to survive for their friends' sake.

Adam sighed to himself. Even inside of his suit, he felt the heat and knew that they would have to get out of there. He had already sent Jesse back to the Helix for a rest due to the adverse conditions. Soon he would have to do the same with Shalimar and Emma. Of all the things that Eckhart would have done, nothing would have been this bad. For once, Mason, I wish you weren't dead. Forcing himself back to reality, he stated into his helmet comlink, "Anything?"

"No," Shalimar's voice reported. Just the damn smoke and fire. Crap, I hate this stuff. I...Hey! At that moment, her feral senses picked up on something. "Adam! There's something in the corner!"

"I can feel it too!" Emma added, hurrying over to the spot. There, the kitchen table was on its side, forming a makeshift barrier. "Hello?"

"Who's...that?" Mika's voice inquired. "Emma?"

"That's right. Are you okay?" the psionic wondered.

"Sure. Can you help move this table? It's protected us so far, but..."

"Hang on," Emma assured her as the others moved in to assist in the task. 

The quartet quickly slid the table aside to see Mika and DJ huddled there, along with their Aunt Caroline, under a protective mental shield. 

"Come with us," Adam instructed, extending his hand.

"Adam, she's hurt. Her ankle is twisted," Mika pointed out.

"We'll tend to that," Brennan assured her, supporting Caroline. "Let's get out of here!"

The party rushed from the scene, finding solace on the grass beyond the wreckage.

As they helped the three victims down to the ground, Shalimar growled, "There's somebody else here. The GSA's still down the street."

"Are you sure?" Adam asked. 

"Absolutely. There's one of their trademark SUV's down there on the road," she indicated, motioning to the street.

"Jesse? How are you doing?" the leader inquired into his ring.

"Fine now," the density mutant replied. "Shalimar's right. There are GSA transmissions coming from that car."

"I say we pay them a visit," Brennan stated as he finished getting out of his suit and putting it on the ground. 

"I second that," the feral agreed, throwing her outfit on top of his. After what they've done here, they deserve what they get. I, for one, plan on giving them a few lessons in decency.

"Let's apprehend them before..." Emma pointed out. Then she looked toward the fire. "Adam, the others just arrived! They're in there!"

"Others?" he asked with uncertainty.

"Dave, Xena, and Karen!" she blurted out looking toward the burning wreckage and then, the street. Which way should I go? My teammates or my friends? There's no choice.

"Do so, but be careful!" Adam agreed. We've lost enough tonight. "Brennan, you have those gloves I gave you?"

The electrical mutant nodded, holding up his hands to reveal the water resistant insulated gloves covering them.

With that, his protégés rushed down the hill and toward the dirt road below. Those agents were about to get a nasty taste of their own medicine.


Meanwhile, the portal opened, allowing Dave, Xena, and Max to enter the destruction. Everything was aflame. Within moments, every memento, every feeling of home had been consumed.

Xena panicked. On the one hand, she felt Angie's loss of the one home she had grown up in. Potentially, her parents could be gone as well. However, Gabrielle was still somewhere in this deathtrap. Hurrying her way through the flaming barriers, she yelled, "Gabrielle!" over and over again. No, she can't be dead! She can't be! I won't let her be dead! C'mon, Gabrielle, we need you...I need you.

In the third room that she searched, she heard a coughing sound. "Gabrielle!"

"Xena?" her companion rasped. "Over here!"

Hang on, Gabrielle. I'll be right there. Possessed with a single-minded determination, she crossed the room, vaulting and somersaulting sections of burning timbers and floor paneling. Seeing the collapsed paneling, she asked, "Gabrielle?"

"Right," the Bard noted. "Sorry, Xena...this section's too heavy for me alone."

"Don't worry 'bout it!" the Warrior Princess assured her, drawing her sword, and splitting the wreckage like so much fire wood. Seeing her friend alive, she thought, Thank Eli. 

The Amazon queen stood gingerly and tried to help the woman beside her. "Beatrice! Come on! We're getting out of here!" Not getting any response, she repeated, "Beatrice!"

Xena felt the elderly woman's neck. Nothin'. "Sorry, Gabrielle, she's gone."

The Bard felt a wave of pain from Francesca. I'm sorry, Francesca, there was nothing more I could do. "Come on, Xena." Resignedly, she allowed the counselor to lead her from the scene.

As they made their way back through the carnage, the two warrioresses encountered the bodies of the dead-the families of their dear friends. Angela's parents not to mention the members of David's family that he trusts. What in Tartarus would possess someone to do this? 

Max called, "Find her?"

"Yeah, I did. And you?" Xena responded anxiously.

" least not in this area," the transgenic reported. Hell, it's certainly hot enough in here. All of these folks are wasted. Too freakin' bad. 

Karen ran around in a panic. "Mika! DJ! Where are you?"

At that moment, Clark whizzed through the fire to their side. "They're out, Karen. Let me help you."

Thank God. At least, my kids are safe. I... At that moment, she stumbled across two bodies on the floor. Turning them over, she came face to face with her parents. "Ahh! No! Mama! Daddy!"

Man, this really sucks. And given how the Little Professor's doin' in the next room, this is gonna be a picnic to deal with him. Shit, I'm not lookin' forward to this, Max mused. "We can't help them, Karen. They're gone. Still. I hope you don't mind some help getting them out."

"" the nurse choked back a sob and set to work carrying her father's corpse from the scene.

Max cast her other companions a knowing glance as she picked up the other body.

"Is everyone else out?" Gabrielle coughed.

"Everyone that's still alive," the teenager commented. Hopefully, somebody got Chloe. By now, even he was beginning to feel the heat. "Where's Professor Dubois?"

Somewhere in there. Xena turned and looked into the flames. Somehow, she knew Dave was in there. "Come on!"

The trio escaped the structure just as the last beams fell in.

Everyone stared at the flames. Dave was still in there.

He didn't make it. At least... Brother Tony thought.

Karen looked up from where she was hugging her sister and children. "Where's Dave?" Looking at the fire, she started shaking. "No!" 

Mika grabbed her. "Mama, no!"

Karen shook her off and took three steps forward before Xena intercepted her. "Out of my way, Xena. He's still my friend."

"Can't let you do it, Karen. Besides, he's still alive," the warrior stated, motioning over her shoulder.

From the flames, they saw a ball of fire stumble out of the main blaze. It swayed a bit as the winds picked up and howled in intensity. Gradually, the flames diminished, revealing the professor laboring with Randy and Chloe on his shoulders. Worse still, the right eye was squinting, his breathing was labored, and the blade shard in his shoulder was glowing.

By Eli, he's losing control. Thankfully, he still had his mental shielding. "David?" Xena asked, approaching him cautiously.

"It's...okay," Dave told her, shaking. "Can somebody see to Chloe?"

Clark hurried over to her side. No, she can't be dead.

Karen stooped down a moment later. There's been enough death tonight. We're not losing her too. With that, she began to inspect the young woman.


Meantime, Dave leaned over the body of his brother, trying to make the latter comfortable.

"H...Hey, c...can't you dry?" Randy cracked.

"Hush up," Dave spat tersely, trying everything to keep him from going into shock. "Ya...You're gonna make it."

"Please save him," Miri requested, kneeling beside her father.

"Ah...I'm trying," the professor replied. I can't bear to tell her.

"N...No, Miri-Ma, he can't..." Randy told her.

No! The young woman began to tear up. "But...we...just found each other, Papa. You can't leave me too."

He smiled. "I'll never leave you. It's time for me to see your mother. Be a good girl now. You hear me, Short Stuff?"

She frowned. No! This isn't fair! It can't be happening again! 

"Miri, you promise?"

"Yes, Papa," she sobbed.

"Dave, watch after her? I...wasn't a good father."

"You were the best," the medievalist protested, grabbing his hand firmly. "'ll be the best! Ah...I know it!"

The dying man reached up and managed to embrace his brother and daughter. "Than...k you. And Dave, for what it's worth...I...I'm sorry...." With that, he slipped away.

"Papa! Papa, don't leave me!" Miri protested, beating on the dead man's chest.

"Miri," Dave moaned. "He's gone..." 

"You have all this power and you can't save him!" she accused him. "Your own brother!"

Her uncle began to shake as the tears flowed down his face. Damn...she...she's right. Ah can't save 'im.

Xena growled, "Back off!"

"No! You back off! You don't understand!"

"Nah....I...It's ya'll who don't understan'," Dave muttered, losing ground by the second. The spasming grew worse. Standing, he let everyone see the tears and the change taking place on his face.

The wound was pulsing, spewing dark black energy.

His left eye was blood red.

He was snarling. His ability to form words was gone.

Brother Tony rushed forward. NO! He can't change now! I won't let the Other take him! 

Xena intercepted him as well. "Unless you have a death wish, stay back."

Tony stared in disbelief at her. "But...but..."

"Stay back," the warrior repeated, grasping his arm in a vice-like grip.

In front of them, the Child roared his pain and displeasure to the downpour. 

Lightning flared. Thunder boomed. A stray bolt reached down from the sky. 

The Dark One instinctively fired a pulse repelling the electricity. "RARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!" For a long minute, he bellowed at the heavens not understanding what was going on. The pain was too intense, the spoor of death too toxic to bear. Now was the time for vengeance. Turning his attention in the direction where Mutant X went earlier, he smiled wickedly.

"," he muttered with effort before hustling off, leaving the others to wonder what would happen next.


Deirdre watched these events from Chloe's side as she and Karen tried to heal their friend. No, Papa. Come back! She cried. The Empress had told her that this day might come. Something needed to be done. With that, she stood up.

"What are you doing?" Karen demanded.

"Getting help," the priestess stated, looking to the sky. With Cybelle injured and unconscious off to the side, it was her task now. "Great Mother, hear your daughter's call! The balance has turned and we need to restore it! Hear me, please!" 

"Now what?" Karen wondered.

"Now we wait...and hope that something can be done."

Chapter 2

Ashlocke growled to himself. Minutes after he and those two craven cowards blew their target up, Lionel Luthor had ordered him back to Genomex. Unfortunately for his companions, they got to face Adam's crew for their troubles. Never say I didn't give you anything, Adam.

As he turned back onto the main road, the mutant watched as a Ferrari with rental plates made the turn and headed Hell bent-for-leather toward the devastation. The driver's bald head left no doubt as to his identity.

Daddy's rebellious boy is charging in. Too bad he's too late. Ashlocke cracked heading down the state route toward the base. His work was done for that night. 


As Ashlocke had noted, Lex sped toward the carnage as fast as he dared. From the police reports he had received during the drive from Albany, he knew that something terrible had happened. He just didn't know what that would entail. No, she has to be okay. She has to be okay. Lex, get a grip. Then, he saw the flames lick the rain-soaked sky just over the hill, and his blood ran cold. Shit! Shit! Shit! Careening the car into the driveway, he just missed hitting a man heading in the opposite direction.

"Hey! Watch where the Hell you're going!"

As the other turned his head, Lex saw that it was David Dubois. Unfortunately, his face was in the leer and he shot the driver the dirtiest look imaginable before vanishing into the storm. My God, if he's lost it, we're really in for it. Jumping from his seat into the storm, he bolted for the scene. In front of him, the embers of the house glowed and flared, consuming the remains within them. People wailed around them and embraced each other as they sought comfort. "Hey!"

"What d'ya want?" Xena glowered, standing over Randy's remains and insuring that Miranda could cry in peace.

"Xena, what happened?" the businessman demanded. 

"What d'ya think?" she chortled. "The house blew up! Some bastard set a bomb!"

The young man shook his head. This was to be Miranda's special day. Nobody would be this callous...Nobody except for.... A surge of anger passed through him. Dad, you SOB! "Chloe! Where are you?"

"She's over there with Clark and the others," the warrior spat grimly, motioning to her left.

"Thank you." With that, he rushed over to his friends' side. "How is she?"

"Lex," Lana sighed, her eyes glistening through the tears and her head throbbing from the wails of the dead and dying around them.

"Good to see you. I just wish it were under better circumstances," Clark managed to say.

Lex embraced his two friends tightly, allowing the tears to flow as well. " is she?"

"She's in shock. I won't know more until we get her to a hospital," Karen told him, getting up from the blonde reporter's side. "That's a nasty head wound and Albany General's not going to be able to treat that one."

"Then who?" Lex demanded angrily. "Whoever it is, I'll pay their price!" He stooped over his love, running his hands through her blonde hair. "She's so still. Is she?"

"No," Deirdre revealed. "But if we don't get her help soon, she will be."

The entrepreneur produced his cell phone and asked Karen, "Who do we need to help her?"

The nurse called, "Xena!"


"Come with me. Now!" 

The warrior glanced at her curiously. She wouldn't make a request like this unless there was a good reason. "Gabrielle. Watch Miranda."

"Right," the bard concurred, taking her friend's place.

"Can I borrow this?" Karen requested. "It's kind of a private call."

"Just get help. After that, I don't care!" Lex told her point blankly before returning his attention to Chloe.

The two women walked away from the rest of the group. When they were out of earshot, Karen wondered, "Xena, we need Angie."

"She's too rattled right now," the warrior diagnosed.

"And I'm not? Look, that girl's dying up there! My parents are dead too! We can save a life, okay?"

For a long minute, Xena stared into the other woman's eyes and studied the pain there. She's right. Still, I'll do it. "Dial the number. I'll talk."


"Me. Just make sure you get me the right guy. The number is 621-5678"

The nurse managed a smile. Thank you, Xena. Dialing the phone, she listened to the ringing....


[University Medical Center-Tucson]

Dr. Michael Fishburne stepped out of the elevator purposefully. His meeting with the President's council had run over. Now he was eager to pack things up and head home. As he approached his receptionist's desk, he saw that she was upset over something. "Lori, what is it?"

"Doctor, I'm sorry. There was a terrible explosion in New York State. There's someone you want to talk to on the line about it. Trust me, you want to take this call," she sobbed, handing him the receiver.

What could get to her like this? "This is Michael Fishburne."

"Dr. Fishburne, right?"

"Yes. Who is this? Why did you upset my receptionist?" he demanded.

She's upset? She oughtta try it here! "We met once. I'm Xena and we have a real problem here."

Xena? The woman who fought Callisto here? That Xena? "I...remember you. What happened?"

"There's been an explosion an' a lot of people are hurt! One girl's about to die unless she gets an operation. Now, accordin' to Angela Dubois, you're the expert in this stuff. We need ya to do yer stuff."

"Where's Angela? Is she all right? Let me talk to her!" Dr. F demanded.

"She can't come to the phone right now. The house that blew up was her parents' farm. Now, I don't have time to screw around. Can ya help her or not?" the warrior growled.

My God. He nearly dropped the receiver. Angela was one of her best doctors on his staff. If her parents had been killed, she would be a basket case. If the girl was one of her friends... "How are you going to get her down here?"

"Leave that to us. See ya ," Xena tersely concluded before hanging up. "Deirdre, Adam, let's go!"

The former geneticist sprinted to their side. "Go where?"

"Tucson," Karen replied. "Angie's boss is prepping an OR right now and we can use your help."

He glanced down toward the road where his protégés had gone. Through the storm, he swore he could hear Dave's growling. I shouldn't do this, but it's a life in the balance. "Okay. Deirdre?" 

The priestess nodded and moved to assist Xena and Karen. Opening the mists, she told them, "Go!"

"Thanks!" the other women chorused, disappearing into the fog before it dissipated.

"Wait a minute!" Lex protested. "Where are they going?"

"To the only place where Chloe can be helped, Lex," Deirdre noted. "The only place." With that, she vanished and took the portal with her.

For several minutes, the billionaire stared at the spot, not believing what had just happened there.

"She means it," Clark pointed out. 

Lex nodded, trying to maintain some semblance of strength in all of this mess. If anything happens to her. "I hope so, Clark. I hope so. For all of our sakes."

Additional Note: Dave and the others were in the Inner Realms for "Return to Nurrengaard" and "The Harrowing Road Unwillingly Traveled".

Chapter 3 

The Faerie Empress speaks....

Much has been undone on this night. Through the mists, I watch as the flames lick the night sky. I feel the agony of both the dying and the living. I see my servants' torture at the hands of those as ruthless as any troll. I hear Deirdre's cries for my intervention. 

My allies, the Amazons, the sisterhood of Althanor and those of Outer Earth, will demand vengeance for this perfidy. 

I vow that this cruelty will not go unpunished. However, first a more terrible task awaits me. The situation has triggered the Child's emergence. We must stop him without killing him, a difficult task to be sure, but one that must be done. As such, I have sent Grimwilkin to the gates of Ferali's kingdom, seeking aid from the victim's honor-brother.

Meantime, I must go and gain the help from one who has to undergo his rite of passage on this terrible night.


[Halls End Palace, Kingdom of Routhwen, Inner Realms]

Ferali the gnome sat anxiously on his throne and stared out at the chamber. Just hours before, his new ministers had debated seemingly insignificant issues to death, giving the new king a headache. How did Harokin deal with this business? Better to be with David and the others inside of the Pit than to be listening to this tripe.

Then, the young herald ran into the chamber and bowed quickly. "Your majesty, there is a visitor!"

The monarch bade the boy to rise before asking, "Would you see him in please?" It'll be a welcome distraction.

The young man rushed off eager to please his king. Five minutes later, he returned, leading an elderly gaunt man dressed in gray robes and leaning on his staff. "May I present..."

"Grimwilkin!" Ferali greeted, descending from his throne. "I'm glad you could accept my invitation! I'll send for some wine."

The wizard shook his head. "Thank you, Ferali, but no, this is not a time for celebration. It seems we have a problem."

A problem? Anything that can make the old wizard that grim is dire indeed. "I see. Lousain cannot be back again, can he?"

"Fortunately no. However, it could be as dire. The...problem is on Outer Earth."

Outer Earth? Then, this concerns David Dubois and the others! "What is it, Grimwilkin? If it concerns my brother in arms, then it concerns me!"

"Through dark villainy, his family and friends were attacked. Many didn't survive. Others hang onto the thread of life by the slimmest of grips. Worse, David has changed again. The damned dark shard in his shoulder triggered the Other. You know of what I speak," the old visitor related. Waving his staff, he created a view portal that replayed the night's events. 

Ferali shook his head as he viewed the fighting in the high school as well as the explosion. When will they ever just leave him alone? Then, he saw the explosion and the pain on Dave's face descending into the darkness. This is intolerable! "Where is the Faerie Empress? Certainly she has an interest in this?"

"She is there, assessing the situation, and determining the best way to deal with it. Meantime, David will need a place to come to afterwards to rest and to heal."

The gnome frowned, imagining what his ministers would say. Blast them all! "My doors are always open to him and his companions, Grimwilkin. Bring him here and I'll see that no harm comes to him. That I can promise you." Marching up to his throne, he took the axe down off of the wall and hefted it. "Meanwhile, I am coming with you."

The wizard cracked a smile. He is a loyal friend. Thank the goddess he is that. "The Empress wishes you to go to the scene. I will go to their desert home."

The king nodded. "Very well, Grimwilkin." Picking up a baton, he rang the gong off to his side, bringing two servants running. "Prepare the guest chambers. I go to help a friend."

The first man, a tall, slender, fair-haired individual, argued, "But you have a meeting!"

"Damn the meeting!" the gnome spat angrily. "I have more important things to attend to right now!" With that, he stormed across the room, ax in hand. "I'm ready, Grimwilkin. Send me to his side."

The wizard waved his hands, teleporting them away in a flash of light and leaving the two servants quaking in fear.


[UMC, Tucson]

Fishburne made several calls after the mysterious warrior had hung up. First, he secured the best operating room. Then, he relieved Belinda McDermott of her usual duties, sending her to scrub up and prep for the task at hand. 

"Cancel any other appointments, Lori," he instructed. "I have one other call to make." Dialing the phone, he thought, I hope he's there.


Nick sat at his desk, rubbing his temples and trying to deal with the pain. Something's going on, but what?

"Uh, Nick?" Tracy asked low. "Since when do vampires get headaches?"

"They don't," Schanke stated firmly. "But that is the question. What is it, Nick?"

"I...don't know," the Crusader responded. "Normally, I would agree, but there's something going on with Dave and the others tonight. I can feel it...and...." His eyes bulged. "No."

His partners jumped at the sight of his reaction. "What?" they asked.

"Something's happened to them..." he muttered, reeling from the pain over the link. 

Schanke pushed, "Dave?"

"The Child's in total control, Schank. He's about to go on a rampage," Nick told him.

Then, his phone rang. 

"Miles," he answered.

"Detective Miles, this is Dr. Michael Fishburne over at the UMC. We have a situation," Dr. Fishburne started.

Yeah no kidding... "Is this related to what's happening up in New York?"

"How did you? Never mind, yes, it is. Can you get over here immediately? I think a certain Greek friend would like you to be here."

Xena. "I'll be right over," Nick responded, almost slamming the phone back into its cradle and jumping out of his seat.

"Nick, where are you going?" Tracy demanded.

"The university. We've got our crisis. You two follow as soon as you can, okay? It's at the UMC," he advised as he bolted through the doors. Rushing around the corner, he took off into the night, streaking toward the hospital as quickly as he could.

Hang on, guys. Hang on.


[Fine Arts Museum, Tucson]

Eve stood in the rear of the student group, looking about at the religious totems from Antiquity in the cases around them. The kids were entranced by Alyce's descriptions of the tools and their uses as she guided them from culture to culture.

You're a wonder, Alyce. Thank you so much for doing this, the former Messenger mused. Still, I wonder what's going on with Mother and the others. It's not like them to stay out of touch for so long. Then, she felt a familiar presence.

The curator stared at something. Him? Here?

"Relax, I mean you no harm," a familiar voice advised.

The group turned to see Grimwilkin leaning on his cane and staring grimly back at them through his intense dark eyes. "I'm sorry, but I need to speak with Eve on a matter of great importance. It concerns your colleagues."

My colleagues? What's this about? Grimwilkin wouldn't be here unless... "Everyone, class is dismissed!"

Most of the students, not wanting to stick around to find out what the mysterious man wanted, hurried off into the night. However, Martin, Samantha, Paula, Michelle, and Maria all stayed behind.

"What is it?" Martin demanded, stepping forward. "All night, I have heard the wind crying to me of horrible things. The spirits are restless."

"This concerns our teachers, doesn't it?" Paula added.

"Not to mention Clark, Lana, Miri, and Mika," Samantha chimed in.

"Now, calm down," Eve tried to sooth them.

Their loyalty is to be commended. But are they ready? Grimwilkin wondered to himself.

"Whatever it is, Grimwilkin, they can hear it as well. These are Dave's new mutant students. Whatever concerns him and the others concerns us too," Eve assured him.

"Very well," the wizard related. "There was an attack on your friends tonight. Many of their relatives didn't survive it."

"And Professor Dubois?" the shaman asked.

This one is more than he seems. Truly, David, you've chosen your students well. "Changed, my friend."

"The Child?" Alyce asked although she already knew his answer and dreaded hearing it.

"Yes," Grimwilkin added. "He's lapsed and is rampaging even as we speak." Then, he felt a spark of inspiration come through him. "I do have a task for all of you, however. Eve, I need you to go to the house of healing yonder. Your mother and Angela will need you. Would your students like to come with me?"

"Where?" Samantha inquired.

"To the accident site. Your friend, Clark, is about to undergo a trial of sorts. He'll need all of the support he can get, I'm afraid."

Without hesitation, the five students agreed.

"Be careful," Eve requested. Eli, be with them.

"We will," they promised as they disappeared in a flash of light.

Now to see to Mother, Eve told herself, rushing out of the exhibits area, down the stairs, and out of the museum. Running at full speed, she made her way through the underpass, and navigated the sidewalks between her and the hospital. 

Hang on, Mother. Hang on. 


Inside of the OR, Dr. Fishburne and Belinda checked the equipment to insure that everything was ready. A few moments of frenzied checking told them that indeed everything was in place.

At that moment, a mysterious fog began filling the hall outside.

What the? Fishburne wondered, opening the door and walking out. "Somebody check on this smoke!"

"It's okay," Deirdre informed him as the others hurried from the obscuring cover. "I'll get rid of it in a second. I'll be back." With that, she vanished.

The hospital administrator looked around at this group. Seeing Adam, he asked, "Adam, what is this?"

"The girl's hurt bad, Michael. Let's go. Where do I prep?" the geneticist asked.

"Through that door!" Fishburne watched as Xena and Karen Montoya lowered their blonde haired friend onto the operating table. 

"All of you...if you're staying in here, I need you to clean up!" Belinda stated.

Karen nodded. "Give me a minute." Turning to Xena, she said, "I'll let you know what happens."

The warrior nodded silently. By now, Angie's pain was becoming too much to bear. Just a few more minutes, Angela. "Yeah," she muttered, stalking off.

"Where's she going?" Fishburne demanded.

"To be alone, okay?" Karen told him as she left for prepping.


Somehow, Xena made it up the elevator without being noticed. Not that she would have cared much if anyone had seen her there. She needed a private place and Angie's office was as good a place as any. Fortunately, Lori had left to go downstairs, leaving the area unguarded. Quietly, she slipped into the office and secured the door.

Okay. Sheathing the sword and concentrating, the warrior triggered the change back into her modern day self. 

Angie looked about nervously. Of course, she knew that she was back in her office, but her mind was numb to everything else except for the pain. Mama. Daddy. How could this happen? How? The tears flowed down her face and she began to wail painfully. For almost ten minutes, she cried, screaming to the ceiling how unfair this was. It wasn't professional, but at that point, she was beyond caring.

Then, a knock came from the door.

"Go away!" she spat.

"Angie, it's Eve and Nicholas. Please, open up. Grimwilkin sent me."

The oncologist snapped somewhat back to her senses at the sound of the name. Grimwilkin? Then, our friends are getting involved. She opened the door to find her roommate's daughter standing there. "Sorry about the noise."

Eve managed a helpful smile. "You're entitled, Angie." Closing the door, she bade, "Let it out. It's okay."

"We're here for you," Nick told her. "Don't worry."

Angie whimpered, and for the next few hours, she cried and cried and cried some more.

Chapter 4


The two GSA agents looked about them at the rain-swept landscape. They couldn't believe that Ashlocke had left them behind and that Luthor had ordered him to do so.

The first agent tried his cell phone over and over again, but it didn't connect. "Blast! We'll have to walk for it."

The other man sighed angrily. Wait'll I get my hands on that freak! "So what do we do now?"

Before the first man could answer, a voice suggested, "How about you both surrender?"

They looked all around them. Now, they were hearing ghosts. 

Jesse phased out of the tree behind which he had observed the two men. "Come quietly, guys."

"Or not," Shalimar added, landing beside her teammate. Her eyes glowed bright yellow.

"Come on, guys," Brennan challenged. "Try something. Give us an excuse."

Emma looked back in the direction where they had just come from. "Uh, guys."

"Not now, Emma," the feral hissed. 

"Hey...uh...we didn't kill anyone! Honest!" the second agent protested.

"Yeah right," the electrical mutant cracked in disbelief. "Let's see. You're out here and that's a GSA bomb in there. You're GSA. That means you did it."

"We didn't! The crazy freak with us did! We couldn't do it!" the first agent confessed.

"Guys!" the psionic insisted.

"What?" the others demanded in unison.

"We may have a bigger problem coming this way!" Emma continued. "You two had better surrender to us quickly!"

Shalimar scanned the road back toward the house with her senses. "Damn. She's right!"

"What is it?" Jesse wondered.

"Dave's about fifty yards from us and closing fast," Shalimar reported. 

"So what's the problem? We have it taken care of," Jesse told them.

Emma shook her head, feeling the pain emanating off of the approaching Child. "He's totally lapsed. I can't sense Dave in there. It's only the Child and he's not thinking right now."

Then, a lightning flash lit up the road, revealing the angry Child standing there, watching and snarling wordlessly as if more animal than man.

"Stay back!" Emma told him. "We'll take them in."

The Child snarled again and stepped forward.

Man, I can't believe we're gonna protect these lowlifes, Brennan thought, generating a charge in his gloved hands. 

"Dave, stay back," Shalimar ordered.

"N..ot...Big...Brother," the Child stated with great effort. 

"No! Their deaths won't accomplish anything! They won't bring your family back!" Emma protested.

"Ven...geance..." the Child slurred.

The quartet glanced at each other. As much as these two deserved to face whatever the enraged Child could dish out, they couldn't let him do it. Forming a barrier, they stood their ground.

"Get back," Shalimar warned.

"Git!" the Dark One spat, his own hands glowing with energy and he kept coming.

"Your loss!" Brennan said and reluctantly fired a double-barreled blast at his friend.

The electricity sparked as it hit the enraged one's wet exterior, making him scream in pain, but it didn't knock him down. Instead, he instinctively returned fire, knocking the elemental mutant out cold.

Next, Jesse tried to phase up through the ground from behind, hoping to mass out and strike before the Dark Other would notice. 

Unfortunately, the Child sent some of Brennan's energy residue through him, nearly scattering the phased out attacker's molecules through space. 

As he fell to the ground, Jesse managed to yank himself together before blacking out.

"That does it!" Shalimar growled, flinging herself into the air at the Child. Grabbing him in a headlock, she directed, "Stop this now! Stop it!"

The Child, not understanding her, whirled her into a nearby tree, knocking the air out of her.

"Git!" he growled.

Can't do that. With a cat-like growl, she launched herself at him again.

The Child roared and sidestepped her charge, choosing to clothesline her with his arm before backhanding her hard into the same tree.  Now, he advanced on the psionic.

"You're not getting to them," she told him, trying to maintain a reassuring front. If there's any help out there, I could really use it right about now.


A few minutes earlier up at the house, Clark and the others wondered what was going on. By now, Deirdre had transported most of the wounded to either Albany General or the House of Healing depending upon where they were from. 

"It's too quiet," he remarked. 

"Not from where I'm standing," Lana told him, rubbing her ears. For the past three hours, she had heard the wails of the victims as they died. "It's terrible."

"Did you hear Chloe?" he wondered, embracing her.

"No. She's still alive," she replied, burying her face into his chest. 

Lex gave them a long look. What did he mean by that? How can she know if Chloe's still alive? I will get to the bottom of this.

"Indeed you shall, Alexander Luthor. Indeed you all shall."

The group turned to see a mysterious elf-woman appear in a luminous glow. She seemed to float above the ground. 

"Who are you?" Clark asked.

"She's the Faerie Empress," Gabrielle responded, bowing slightly. "I'm sorry that Xena and the others aren't here to greet you."

"They are tending to more important things, Queen Gabrielle. Even now, they are trying to save the one you call Chloe. However, there are other things to worry about tonight. Where is David?"

"He stalked off down the road," Lex reported, pointing in that direction.

The Empress nodded. "Yes. He did go that way. But we have a problem. He must be stopped."

"Yeah? By who?" Lex scoffed sarcastically.

"By your friend, Clark," the Empress asserted, glaring at him.

Me? How can I do it? Trembling as he recalled the first tantrum he saw from the Child in Tucson, he felt his nerves overwhelming him.

"It is up to you. As the sole surviving son of the planet Krypton, you were sent here to do great things. Kal-el, you must do this," she continued.

His friends stared at him. As long as they had known him, the farm boy had concealed things from them. True, he was a great friend, yet he was so mysterious. 

Lana sighed, recalling his revelation to her on the campus just three months earlier. Yes, she knew he was an alien, but was that so bad? "Clark, she's right. He doesn't deserve this."

"Will you keep the secret, Alexander?" the elf inquired.

"Yes. I will," Lex vowed without hesitation. "Clark, we need to talk about this at some point."

"We will," Clark agreed. "Thanks, Lex."

At that moment, Grimwilkin appeared along with their classmates.

"Stay back," the wizard advised.

The others watched as Clark grasped hands with the lady of the light.

"Clark, fear not. I am bringing you to your full potential. You will now have strength far beyond that of mortal men among other talents. Go now and help your friend," the Empress advised as she pumped energy into him.

The young man quivered as he felt the charge race through his system. He did feel stronger and more confident. Nothing's going to be the same again. Looking at Lana, he added, Well, almost nothing. When the contact had ended, he looked at his friends once more.

"Go now. Contain David's rage."

Clark nodded and instinctively launched himself into the air, disappearing from sight within seconds.

"The rest of you may go and collect the ones you call Mutant X. Do not, however, interfere with the battle between Clark and David."

"Why not?" Samantha asked.

"This is his trial," Deirdre replied appearing from a mist portal and bowing.

"Indeed. Get ready to hop aboard," Paula agreed, concentrating and turning herself into a dragon. 

Having seen their teammate pull this trick in simulations, Mika, Lana, and Martin jumped on their colleague's transformed back without hesitation and held on as she took off into the night sky.

Lex stood transfixed by what he just saw. What have you gotten yourselves into, Clark, Lana? That was just incredible. Seeing that Brother Tony remained just as awed by the sight, he rubbed the latter's shoulder and stood at his side.

Chapter 5

Ferali moved quickly through the high grass, searching for any traces of his honor brother. Grimwilkin, while I appreciate the need to stay out of harm's way, you might have dropped me some place besides this infernal grass and in this weather. Swinging his axe to and fro, he carved a path for himself. Now where in the Dark Realm are you?

Then he heard the familiar sounds of battle ahead. Above the din, the familiar roar could be heard. He has changed! By Dryforth's troth, this will be difficult. With that, he made his way toward the battle.


Emma had tried everything she could think of to dissuade the Child's advance. The images had included pleasant landscapes, music and even people. Not even the image of Angie made him slow down. Now what?

Glancing at the frightened GSA agents, a momentary dark thought crossed her mind. Are you afraid? Good. You should be. This is what you do to us everyday. It just happens that this is one person who won't take it. 

She felt something in the sky overhead coming closer. What in? Looking straight up, she saw a unique convoy: a dragon being led by a flying man. What in? As they came closer, she could see that the man was Clark. He can actually fly now. If these were better circumstances, I'd congratulate him. The dragon has to be Paula. Wow, I'm impressed.

For his part, the Child growled curiously at this sight, not knowing what to make of it either.

At least, they've distracted him for the moment, the psionic thought as they landed.

From the brush, Ferali emerged onto the scene, axe slightly lowered. Remember Grimwilkin's advice. Don't provoke him. Looking about at the scattered heroes, he shook his head. They were trying to help him and he did this. Will there be any reasoning with him? 

"Ferali?" Emma asked. "What are you doing here?"

"Grimwilkin brought me here to help deal with David, but subduing him isn't my task."

"Then who will?" Emma wondered.

"That's for me to do," Clark indicated, stepping forward even as he fought back the nerves.

"But you can't! He'll kill you!"

The gnome shook his head. "That is the task given him by the Faerie Empress herself. He must do it."

The Faerie Empress, Emma mused, recalling the legends imbedded in her childhood stories. She actually exists! 

"Look," Clark told her. "Help the others, okay? I'll hold him off."

"And I will stay by his side. I cannot interfere in the fight, but I will be ready to pick up his effort if he should fall," Ferali pledged.

From where she was helping her friends, Lana overheard those words. No! He can't die. Running to the front line, she stated, "It may be your task, Clark, but please, don't be stupid. We need you. I need you."

The young man stared into her eyes, seeing the dread in them. For her, he flashed the Kent smile and assured her. "I will come back to you, Lana. Count on it. And so will Professor Dubois."

"I hope so," she said wistfully, hugging him tightly. He's my rock, my pillar. Lord, he has to survive this mess. If we lose both him and Chloe, what would we do? What would I do?

After a few seconds, he released her and promised, "We'll continue that hug later. I'll want a kiss too."

She smiled, her eyes shining. "Count on it. Be careful. I love you." With that, she ran back to help the others finish loading their friends onto the dragon's back. Once Shalimar, Jesse, and Brennan were there, the students got back up there. "Emma?"

"No, I'll stay here. Just go! Help them!" 

As the dragon took off, Lana stared into Clark's eyes for as long as she could before disappearing into the storm.

Once they had gone, Clark exchanged looks with Ferali, and then, the enraged professor. Man, this really sucks!

"Do it," Ferali urged. "If you hurt him needlessly, you'll answer to me."

Great. Talk about pressure. Approaching the Other, he indicated, "Hey, you know me. I'm your friend, Clark Kent. Can we talk?"

"Clark, be careful," Emma advised.

The Child growled as his student positioned himself between the two men and himself. He still wanted blood.

"Stop this. Look, you're going to have to come through me," Clark told him.

"F..Fine," the Dark One muttered and fired twin blasts at the challenger. 

Surprisingly, Clark didn't flinch, astounding everyone, including himself.

The Child roared and fired blast after blast at him with the same result. Finally, he turned to the large oak tree and concentrated.

Slowly, the ancient landmark came loose from the ground and hovered in the air.

The Other dropped it right on his latest opponent, burying him under a mountain of wood.

"Clark!" Emma called, dreading what she was going to have to tell the others.

A noble young man, he was indeed. As much as it pains me, you will be avenged, the gnome king vowed as he brandished his ax and stepped into the arena next. Looking at his friend, he recalled their adventures together especially the dark wars against Lousain. You don't deserve this, but someone has to bring you down. I'll mourn you and promise that the perpetrators won't live to see a day longer than they deserve.

From the side, Emma felt her head throbbing. It was a dull, low ache. For days, she had felt it off and on, but had told nobody about it. Now, it had picked up in intensity. Her brow began to glow and from that spot, she somehow fired a mental pulse that exploded between the two combatants.

The Child stared at her curiously. This wasn't expected from the next one in the whupping line.

Having started, the blasts kept coming, exploding here and there. What is this? Why am I doing this? How do I make them stop? 

"What are you doing? Stop!" Ferali ordered. "You're angering him further!"

"I...I can't. This has never happened before!" she informed him.

"Take it out on the tree, then!" the gnome suggested tersely, returning to the staring match with his adversary.

She turned quickly to the tree, allowing the cascading blasts to chip away at it, sending firewood here and there. 

After a few minutes, the target began to shake and exploded in all directions as Clark fought his way free of it.

Wow, he thought. I did it. I can't believe it! Regaining his senses, he told the others, "I got him."

Ferali smiled grimly and stepped aside. "Do us proud."

She turned and let the uncontrolled barrage wreck havoc on the grass away from the site.

"Thanks," the young man accepted and zipped toward his opponent faster than the eye could see. Wrapping him in a bear hug, he said, "I've got you and I'm not letting go!"

The Child roared his displeasure, sending wave after wave of energy through Clark. 

Although this attack burned him, he refused to let go. There's gotta be a lot of pain in there. to take it so that he can let it out. "It's...okay. Let it out! Let it out!" 

For several minutes, the Other's screaming reached a fevered pitch, the volume ascending higher and higher, matching the ferocity of the storm itself. Finally, he collapsed to the ground, shaking and crying. "Gone...They're gone. Ah'm alone 'gain."

"No. Your friends are here," Clark assured him, rubbing his shoulder. 

Ferali declared, "As long as we're here, you'll never be alone." 

"Emma!" Clark called. Receiving no answer, he glanced over to the field and found her lying there. "Watch him," he requested of the gnome, zipping to her side. A cursory field exam discerned that she would be okay. Carrying her in his arms, he made his way back to the others.

"C...lark, sorry Ah...Ah...hit ya. It hurts," the Child apologized through his tears. "Ah hurt mah friends."

He apologized. Will wonders never cease! "It's all right," Ferali assured him. "Now, let's go see Grimwilkin and the others."

Clark smiled and flew off with Emma and the two agents. After depositing them at the house, he made a return trip to help the others.

Chapter 6 [Two hours later]

Steve and Garth drove the borrowed van frantically up the state road from Albany. In the three hours since they left Amherst, the police band had relayed information about the tragedy in Wabash, compelling them and the police cars with them to race faster and faster toward their destination.

"I really wish they would keep a lid on this one," the junior agent sighed.

One of the New York troopers in the back seat with them replied, "We can't stop them from finding out."

"We need to keep the press out of there!" Steve growled. "Bad enough that Dave's gonna be worked up, but if they start badgering him now...."

"What's the matter? Is he camera shy?" the other trooper scoffed.

That's putting it mildly, Natalie stated to herself with her arms folded. If things are going that badly up there, the media had best stay clear of the area.

"If what Max says about Dave is true, I agree with Steve," Logan concurred. I hope she's okay.

Turning the corner onto a dirt road, Steve pressed the vehicle onward. A little further down the road, the line of fire trucks came into view, their lights flashing intermittently in the night. Five minutes later, the scene loomed before them. Ringing the property, fire trucks, police cars, news vans, and neighbors' vehicles barred the way for further advance.

Crap. It's a freaking circus! Steve slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car. "What the Hell is this? Natalie, you're with me! Garth, take the others!" Waving his ID about, the senior agent cleared them a path through the sea of humanity. What are these idiots doing here?

"Oh, Steve," the coroner gasped. "Look!"

His eyes bulged at the sight of the burned hole where the farmhouse had once stood. He had seen terrorist attacks, watched as embassies fell, and negotiated with hardliners. However, a scene had never hit him like this one did. My God, who and what did this?

"Agent Petersen! Natalie!" Brother Tony called.

Recognizing the elderly minister's voice, the entire group of newcomers rushed to his side. 

"Brother, are you all right?" Steve wondered.

The elderly man bowed his head, allowing the snow-white hair and eyebrows to stand out against his soot-smeared face. "My soul cries out tonight. Look about you and I think you'll understand."

"Where are the others?" Logan asked.

Tony pointed to the barn. "David, Francesca, and Max are in there. Agent Petersen, Garth, I have requested that your colleagues stay away from there for their own sakes."

Dave went off. Shit. "Did the police force a standoff with Dave?"

"Fortunately, no. Your mutant friends and their students prevented it," Tony continued. "I will tell you all that he hasn't recovered yet. The darkness has consumed him right after his brother passed away."

"And it will be at least a while before he will be able to do so," Grimwilkin affirmed. "All of you, please come with me. Brother Tony, thank you for your efforts with these...people. I would rather prevent any other business tonight."

As would we all, Tony concluded.

The wizard led the newcomers to the barn. There, Max and Francesca kept an eye on things. Along the wall, the Mutant X members lay in various states of consciousness. In the far corner, Ferali rubbed Dave's shoulder supportively. Beside them, Miranda stared numbly into space.

"Ferali!" Garth called. "How did you get here?"

"Grimwilkin summoned me. You know that if my brother here needs my aid, I'm never far away."

"How is he?" Garth inquired.

The gnome sighed. "I don't know. The Child refuses to speak to me. He rants occasionally and moans. For his own sake, I'm taking him back to my fortress at Hall's End where he can recuperate a bit. Given his destructive potential, I feel that's for the best."

"Uh huh," Garth agreed. "I wish to accompany you both."

"If that is your wish. As a hero against the Dark, you're welcome as well."

"Thanks," the agent expressed before turning to the Child. "Hey. How are you?"

The sullen one glared at him through a bloodshot, puffy left eye. "How d'ya think Ah am? Look around!"

"I saw."

"Can't protect Big Brother. Can't deal wi' crap right now."

Garth shook his head. During high school and their expeditions in the Inner Realms, he had watched as his friend had taken so much punishment. How much more can he take?

"They're gone," the Child sobbed, "Damn them!"

"Let Steve and the others deal with them, okay?"

The Child seized the agent's arm with a vise-like grip as his eyes burned into the other's psyche. "They better, Singleton. 'Cuz if ya'll don't, Ah'll hunt them boys down mahself! They'll pay! Ah guarantee it!" For emphasis, he fired a pulse through the broken window behind the agent.

Garth quaked. He had seen that look in the Dark Lands. Steve, you'd best deal with this mess. Meantime, Ferali's right to get him out of here.

"Git Petersen."

Garth motioned nervously to Steve and Natalie.

Approaching their friend carefully, the agent and coroner drew on their knowledge of his moods. As with a wounded animal, he needed to be approached with extreme caution. 

"What's up?" Steve inquired.

"Deliver a message to Daddy Dearest. His fault! He knows an' Ah know it!" the Dark One snapped.

Natalie gripped his arm tightly. She had seen Nick in fits of rage, but never anything like this. 

Steve nodded and patted her hand reassuringly. This is going to take some tact, but he's right. "Leave that to me. Meantime, you go with Ferali, okay?"


The gnome and wizard moved to the Child's side.

"It's time," Grimwilkin informed Steve.

"Sure," Steve agreed. "Take care of him, okay?"

"Deliver that message and brief the Bureau," his partner replied earnestly.

"Count on it."

With that, the group vanished as Grimwilkin spirited them away.

Dave, you get well, Buddy. We'll take care of things here, Steve told himself. Turning to Natalie, he said, "Let's talk to the local police and get some information." After she nodded, he led her from the area.


Logan stood next to Max staring into her eyes and wondering what to say. I know she doesn't like to seem weak, but...

"How's everyone back in Amherst?" she blurted out.

"They're in shock and stunned to say the least. We got out of there right after you did," he reported.

"I'll bet they are. I'd rather have been with you than here, Logan. This is sick! I'm a soldier trained to wipe out targets and kill if needed, but to deliberately target civilians? Not even Lydekker would've done something like this!"

"I know. Apparently, these GSA guys are different," he agreed.

She allowed the anger to flow into her voice. "No, Logan! You don't know! You weren't here! He just went nuts! It was the craziest thing I've ever seen! He was...more animal than human, screaming and hollering, tearing everything apart!" She stopped for a second to glance over at the other mutants. "They took him on, but left me behind to be a stinking nursemaid!"

"It wasn't deliberate, I'm sure," he tried to excuse them.

She sighed, her eyes starting to water. "I'm sure you're right, but I wanna show them that I can fit in! I feel so damn useless!"

He frowned. Since they had come to this time, she had developed a bond with Mutant X. Understandably, she wanted to join them. "Hey, they know you're a good soldier, Max. Give them time, okay?" Drawing her to him, he allowed her to bury her face in his chest so that she might cry without anyone seeing her do so.


Jesse rubbed his temples trying to get rid of the headache pounding at them. The effort involved in pulling himself back together on the road had weakened him to say the least. "I hope Adam's okay."

"Probably doing better than we are," Brennan muttered, sitting up. "Man, I never want to get in Dave's way when he's pissed off like that again."

"Just think. He could have killed us."

"Next time, I might ask him to do it," the electrical mutant griped. "The headache's worse."

Jesse shrugged. "At least, you didn't get pancaked into a tree like Shalimar. She's still out."

Shal!  Brennan jumped to his feet and looked over the unconscious feral. She's still breathing at least. "How's Emma?"

"She's okay. I guess she had something weird happen to her."

"Like what?" 

"I don't know," Jesse continued. "The students mentioned it when they brought us back here. Then, they split. Dave just left with two bearded guys. From what I hear, Clark finally stood up to him."

"Clark? Man, I knew that boy was tough, but not that tough. Geez," Brennan admired. Looking at the two unconscious females, he stated, "We really need to get them back to Sanctuary."

At that moment, the mists collected in the corner, allowing Deirdre to enter. "Guys."

"Sorry, but can you get us back to the Double Helix?" Jesse requested.

The priestess nodded methodically and waved her hands, covering them in mist. When everything cleared again, they were onboard the ship. "Just a minute," she requested, vanishing for a minute. When she reappeared, Max and Logan were with her. "Go!"

"Right," Brennan agreed, pressing a sequence of buttons on the console, sending the ship streaking toward the west. "Deirdre, can you do that hocus pocus thing of yours again?"

Any other day, that remark might have merited a wisecrack from her, but she sighed heavily. "Give me a second." Once again, she opened the portal, allowing them to vanish from the scene.

"There, now let's get to the bottom of this mess."

Chapter 7 [UMC]

The activity in the OR had been intense as the doctors scrambled to save Chloe's life. In addition to Adam and the resident surgeons, Frank Landers had joined in the effort courtesy of Deirdre.

Finally at 8 PM, the group had completed the procedure. Karen wheeled the patient out as the doctors lowered their masks.

"I hope she pulls through," Adam stated, wishing that he had the advanced Sanctuary equipment there to help her.

"If anyone knows that procedure, Drs. Sanders and Fishburne do," Belinda indicated.

Frank watched as the resident nursing staff put Chloe in the elevator. There's already been too much pain. We can only hope that she recovers.

Karen sighed as she returned to the area. "I'm going upstairs to check on things."

"Mind if I come with you?" Dr. Fishburne asked.

"While you're doing that, I'm going to go fill the others in," Frank informed them.

"Take your time," the nurse said as she and the administrator walked into the waiting elevator.

" 'Take your time.' Right," he hissed, walking into the waiting area. There he found the group of students forming almost a protective barrier around Clark, Lana, and Miranda. Off to one side, Lex Luthor absently sipped on a cup of coffee, his eyes looking at nothing in particular. "Everyone."

"Doctor, how is she?" Lex inquired, springing from his seat nervously.

"Miss Sullivan pulled through surgery. I take it she's quite the fighter," Frank reported.

The businessman looked to his friends with a hopeful smile.

"She's that, all right," Clark agreed. "So what happens now?"

"Now we'll have to wait and see. Is there a way to reach her parents?"

"I'll do that," Lex volunteered.

"Thanks," Frank expressed. Looking at Miranda, he sighed for the third time in as many minutes. Bad enough to lose your father, but your friend too? 

The orphaned girl looked up at him. "Can we see her?"

"Only for a minute. I don't want her disturbed," the doctor stated.

Tough. Lex snapped the cell phone shut. "Doctor, what are her chances?"

The surgeon frowned. "Not very good, I'm afraid. She suffered massive head trauma in the fire. It's hard to know for sure."

Miranda shuddered. This can't be happening. 

Lana hugged her friend tightly, hoping that the contact would help them both. This isn't fair, but we have to be strong for them.


Angie finally stopped crying since her eyes were so puffy that no more tears would flow. However, she still felt spasms shooting through her. She still couldn't believe that her parents were dead.

Nick sat at her side trying to be a reassuring presence. He had left briefly to bring Ramirez up to date and to drive the Caddy over there along with Schanke who was waiting outside of Chloe's room. In addition, his link with Dave had enabled him to track the Child's fluctuating moods and building rage. Not that I could shut it out in any event. Nat had managed to call him during the race to the site, but he hadn't heard anything since. I hope they're all okay.

On the other side, Eve rubbed her friend's shoulder and offered prayers for support. Eli, help them now.

Then a knocking came from the door.

He answered it to find Karen and Angie's boss standing in the hallway. "Come in."

"Angela? What are you doing here? I didn't knowÉ" Dr. Fishburne inquired.

She just shot him a noncommittal glance. With everything else that was going on, she didn't care about anything tonight.

"Ease up," Karen told him. "She's been here looking for some privacy after what happened."

"Where's Xena then?" he asked.

Angie choked a bit on her sobs. "SÉShe left after making sure I was okay. Sorry, sir, IÉI must look a mess."

"You have every right to be. I'm sorry about your parents. If there's anything I can do, just ask."

"Thank you," the oncologist whispered. "I just need to be with myÉdaughters right now."

"Lydia's watching them even as we speak," Eve told her.

"We'll see you home," Nick offered. "Schanke's offered to watch Chloe Sullivan's room for tonight. A couple of uniforms will relieve him in the morning."

"She's out of surgery," the nurse reported. "She pulled through."

Thank God for that at least: a ray of hope in the midst of all of this carnage, Angie mused before wondering, "Any word on Dave?"

Karen told her, "He's been taken elsewhere."

"Where? Tell me! Where is my husband?" Angie demanded, springing out of her seat.

"Can you excuse us?" Nick requested to the administrator.

As much as I would like to ask why, I won't under the circumstances. There are a lot of strange things going on with Angela and David. Someday, I'll get to the bottom of it all. "Certainly. Once again, Angela, if you need anything at allÉ." With that, he left the office.

Once the trio was alone, Angie pressed, "Okay. I want to know where he is! NOW!"

"Ferali and Grimwilkin took him back to the Inner Realms from what I heard from the others. I'm sure you can follow when you're up to it."

"Right after I check on Karen and Lauren," the doctor asserted. "I'm sorry, Karen."

"For what?"

"For being selfish. I'm not the only one who's lost her parents tonight," Angie apologized.

Karen's eyes teared up as she embraced her friend. "It's okay, but thanks, Angie. It hurts so much."

"I know, but we have each other."

"And us," Eve assured them, looking at Nick. "What about Mika, Miranda and DJ?"

"DJ's with his father right now. As for Mika and Miranda, they're with their friends. They're better off that way."

"Come on, then," Nick urged gently, leading them from the area and down to the Caddy. He would drop them all off at the Duboises' apartment before heading over to the El Gato for some answers.

Chapter 8

Adam walked out of post-op exhausted from the events of that evening. For hours, he had assisted the medical staff with the operation. Now that Chloe was in her room, his thoughts turned to Mutant X. What did they do after I left? I hope they're okay.

At that moment, Brennan's voice came from his ring. "Adam? Hey, are you there?"

After making sure the coast was clear, the leader responded, "Yes. What's going on? Where are you?"

"We're back at Sanctuary," Jesse piped in. "The girls are in the lab being scanned even as we speak."

What the? "Okay, what happened?"

"Dave went nuts and went after a couple of GSA agents. Well, we tried to stop him," the density mutant continued. "He went through us in just a couple of minutes."

"And Shalimar? Emma?"

"Shal got smacked into a tree hard, but she'll be okay. Something freaky's going on with Emma's powers though. When you get back here, you might want to take a look at the readings," Brennan added.

More surprises. Terrific. Just what we need.

"Adam, Toni's going to meet you there. Also, the students are in the waiting room," Jesse continued.

"Right," Adam agreed. "I'm on my way to visit with the students. Out."

Turning the corner, the leader saw the teenaged new mutants sitting together in the waiting area. In particular, they were huddled around Miranda and Mika who consoled one another. They've all had quite a night. I wish we could have prepared them better for this ordeal, but who knew? 

Michael saw him first. "Adam. Any other news?"

"No. Other than what Dr. Sanders told you, there's been no change. My concern, though, is for all of you. Are you all right?"

Michelle sighed. "All things considered. How's Emma doing?"

"According to the guys, she'll be fine, as will Shalimar," Adam assured her. "First, Miranda, Michelle, can you look at me please?"

The two women lifted their heads allowing him to see their tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes. 

"I want to tell you both how sorry I am. I can't imagine what this is like for you," he expressed.

"Thanks," Mika managed to say. "Mom and Aunt Caroline left to be with Dad and my brother. She wanted meÉto hang with all of youÉif that's okay. I just want to check on Misty."

"Absolutely. We can bring her back to Sanctuary with us," Adam agreed. "Miranda?"

"Yeah?" she sobbed. "I'm sorry, Adam. I don't feel like talking right now."

That's understandable under the circumstances. "You need to rest, okay? Come with me."

"OÉokay," she agreed hesitantly. "Any news on Uncle Dave or Aunt Cybelle?"

"Nothing yet," he told her.

Miranda broke into yet another crying fit. "I started it, Adam. I pushed him over the edge."

"ShhhÉ" he comforted, hugging her tightly. "You did no such thing. According to Emma, he was already losing control when he got there. Your father's death pushed him over the edge, not you. Now, come with us."

She nodded sadly and left with Martin and Samantha for the door to catch some fresh air.

Speaking into his comlink, he requested, "Guys?"

"Yeah, Adam?" Jesse replied.

"Send the Double Helix down here on the double, okay?"

"I'm on it," the density mutant concluded, signing off and running for the hangar. Minutes later, the dark ship streaked from its mountain base heading south toward the Sonoran Desert.

The geneticist saw Toni approaching him. "Can you get the kids together? Jesse will be down here in the Double Helix shortly. I'm going to look in on the Sullivan girl."

"Right," the programmer concurred, hurrying into the waiting area.

After checking with the charge nurse, Adam rode the elevator up to the third floor and made his way to the right room. 

There, Don Schanke looked at him curiously. "And you are?"

"My name's Adam. I was one of the doctors who operated on her."

The pudgy detective eyed him carefully. "Detective Miles said you might be coming by. Go ahead."

"Thank you," the leader replied, walking through the door. In the dark room, he heard the beeping of the instruments monitoring the girl's vital signs. 

"Who's there?" Lex's voice challenged.

"Lex, it's Adam. I wanted to see how she was doing."

"There's been no change since they brought her up here," the businessman replied. The instruments' lights highlighted his haggard eyes and the worry on his face. 

For Adam, the years peeled back in his mind's eye. He recalled going with Eckhart to the funeral of Lillian Luthor. It was a splendid service. Lionel laid a splendid bouquet on his wife's tomb but that's not what grabbed his attention. He recalled the loneliness of a small red haired boy wanting his mother to come back to him. "Lex, I'm sorry about this. I did all I could here."

"I know. You were kind to me at the funeral even when Eckhart disapproved of your being so to me. Your team fights well, you know."

"Team?" Adam wondered, trying to play dumb.

Lex smirked. "Don't try and kid me, Adam." He whispered, "I know about Mutant X, thanks to my father's takeover of Genomex. Don't worry, your secret's safe with me, especially if you can help Clark and Lana."

Lionel's takeover move has endangered us all. Still, I hope Lex is honest about that, but we have to trust him. "Thank you for that sentiment. I wish I could get her back to my base. I have some machines that might be able to help her."

Lex never hesitated in his response. "Do you have a way back there tonight? If so, you're taking both of us."

"I can't. Protocols and all of that," Adam protested.

"Fishburne and the others have done all they can here!" Lex argued. "Her father has asked me to make sure that Chloe gets the best possible care! I intend to do just that. I know you, Adam. Your technology makes this place look like the Stone Age. Help her. Please."

Adam stared into the younger man's eyes silently, observing everything.

"I can't lose her like Mother."

The geneticist called into his comlink. "Jesse?"

"Yeah, Adam?"

"Is everyone inside?"

"We're waiting on you."

"Pull the Helix up to the window. We're going to have two extra passengers. One is really bad off," Adam informed him.

"Be right there," he responded. A moment later, the ship was hovering by the window with the hatch opened. "Come on."

Lex quickly opened the window to see Clark standing at the edge. "Clark, help me with Chloe."

"Right," the farm boy replied, hooking the edge of the gangway to the ledge. "Come on."

Clark and Lex picked Chloe up gently and carried her into the Helix. Once there, they laid her on a platform set up inside. Adam followed closely behind them.

As the gangplank was retracted, Schanke ran up to the window. "Hey!" he protested. "You can't do this!"

"Sorry, Detective," Lex told him. "I've got no choice." With that, the gangplank closed and the Helix vanished under its stealth cloak and roared off into the night.

Schanke shook his head derisively. Ramirez and Nick are gonna have my head over this fiasco. Oh man. I'm gonna get it. 

Chapter 9 [El Gato Negro]

Deirdre stalked through the doors of the vampire club needing solitude from the problems outside. For the entire evening, she had been shuttling people back and forth between Tucson, Wabash, and other places. She needed a break and she needed it now. 

As she passed through, immortals and mortals alike gave her a wide berth due to both her abilities and pedigree. One Enforcer tried to make problems, but a glare from her sent him scurrying for cover. Scram, scum! 

Hanging up the phone, Janette approached her carefully. Nicolas wants her left undisturbed. Very well. "Deirdre, right?"

"Right. And you are?" the priestess asked.

"Janette. What's going on tonight? I've been feeling the oddest vibrations coming from Nicolas," the bartender inquired.

"Somebody decided to blow my grandparents' house up, if you must know. Papa's disappeared and Mama's a mess right now. I need a drink," she noted. "A glass of ale please."

The vampiress placed the dark drink in front of her. "If you would like to talk, Cherie, I'm here."

"Nick trusts you, as do my parents, Janette," Deirdre stated. "I feel so overwhelmed. I really feel like I want to die. Do you ever feel that way?"

The poor girl's been through Hell itself on this night. "I've been there. Death's visits are never pleasant."

"Some of us can help," a familiar voice scoffed from the entrance.

Janette glared at the sight of Ali making his way down the stairs. "Stay away from her! NicolasÉ"

"Brabant doesn't know what he wants," the former Janissary challenged. "I'm going to have some entertainment with her tonight."

"Go away," Deirdre advised pointedly, allowing the bile in her stomach to seep into her voice. "I'm really not in the mood."

"Too bad. I insist," he insisted, grabbing her arm.

At that moment, Nick entered the club. "Ali! Stop this!"

"I'll be revenged upon Dubois one way or another!" Ali spat.

Deirdre hissed, "YouÉrevenged on him?" With a single move, she freed her arm and fired a pulse at the Janissary flinging him across the room. "You have nothing to do with him! You and your infernal brood have done enough to him and my mother."

"Since I can't find him, I may visit her tonight," the Janissary baited.

The priestess's eyes glowed as she telekinetically pinned her opponent to the wall. "Understand this, monster. My family has suffered enough tonight! If you come near any of us, I'll make what my father did to Dijon look like a picnic. If you even breathe on my mother or sisters tonight, I will hunt you down. Make no mistake, I am my father's daughter!" Seeing the Elder approach, she asked icily, "Wouldn't you say, Nick?"

"Yes. I don't want trouble, Deirdre. Want to talk?"

"That's all I want," she agreed, releasing Ali. "Just keep him away from me."

"Sure," he indicated. "Go with Janette. After you finish your ale, let's go to the loft to talk."

The priestess shrugged and returned to the bar.

"Feeling your oats, Nicolas?" the Turk wondered.

Nick vamped out and slammed Ali back against the wall. "I am the Elder here, Ali. You have no business with her tonight."

"She knows about us and needs to be eliminated, just like the rest of her family!"

"Somebody's tried that tonight and very nearly succeeded. I do not want the Duboises touched by you or any other Enforcer. Am I clear? Leave now!"

The Enforcer growled, "This isn't finished, Crusader!" With that, he took off out the way he had come.

Nick took a deep breath and sat down next to Deirdre. "Are you set?"

"Yes. Sorry about the mess."

"He started it. You actually stood up for yourself and didn't cause too bad of a scene considering what happened," he commented.

"IÉIÉWhen he threatened Mama, IÉ" She began to sob.

Nick embraced her, trying to soothe her pain. "It's okay. Really, it is."

At that moment, Tracy ran up to him. "Nick, ummÉI'm sorry."

"Not now, Trace. We just had a situation here," he indicated.

"Yeah, I can tell." She winced at the sight of the vampires scurrying for cover. "Schanke called. Apparently, those mutant guys took off with Chloe Sullivan."

Adam can probably treat her better than the UMC can. Still, I wish he could have let Steve and me deal with the niceties. "I'll have to deal with it as soon as I can. Right now, Deirdre needs me."

"If you say so," his partner said, not convinced, but hoping that this screwy business would work itself out. Watching as he helped the young girl to the Caddy, she mused. You better not be playing hard and fast with this one, Nick. For all of our sakes.

Chapter 10 [Palace of Hall's End]

The Child speaks...

It's so pretty here. Ferali put me in a real nice room and has left me alone. Ah'm thankful for that since Ah need time to think. Big Brother still ain't talkin'...he's needs a spark of some kind. Ah never thought Ah'd say this, but Ah think we need the Little Woman right now....


Garth paced about his room uneasily. He had hoped that Dave would have snapped out of his funk by now. Who knows how strong the Child's hold on him is?

A knocking came from the door. "Garth? It's Ferali. Might I come in?"

"Absolutely," the agent agreed, opening the door and allowing the gnome into the area. "Any change?"

"None. At least he's brooding quietly. I've also ordered everyone to keep away from him."

"What about Angie? Is she ready to talk to him?"

Ferali nodded. "Grimwilkin has gone to bring her here. Hopefully, she'll be able to help him."

"Hopefully," Garth concurred. C'mon, Dave, we need you.


Meantime, the wizard appeared in the Child's chamber with Angie and Deirdre. Not knowing what to expect, the trio approached him carefully.

"David?" Grimwilkin inquired.

"Wha? He's not talkin' to anyone right now," the Child brooded.

"Why not? We want to talk with him," the elderly man insisted. "Let him out."

The Dark One sighed. "Ah wish Ah could. He's hurtin' real bad right now."

"Can I try to talk with him?" Angie asked. "Will you let me try?"

"Be mah guest." Looking at her, he added, "Ready?"

She nodded and started the link. In the blink of an eye, she found herself in the midst of a bleak dreamscape resembling a dry desert landscape with thick black clouds and pools of blood everywhere. Geez, Dave, what is this? Using her knowledge of him, she picked up on his aura and walked towards it.

An hour later, she came up to a deep crater in the ground. Just like the Pit. Figures. Descending into its depths, she fought off the waves of despair echoing off of the stone walls. Where are you? I knew I should have tried to bring Emma with us. Following the path, she walked right into one dark recess. Okay, I can feel you here. Come on! This is just as tough on me as it is on you! 

Then, she heard a moaning sound to her left. 

Moving toward the source, she found him lying on the granite floor. He was badly beaten, bloody, and semi-conscious. "Dave?"

He didn't respond except to let out another moan. 

She stooped over him, cradling his head in her lap. "Dave, c'mon...speak to me! I need you to fight. C'mon!"

He twitched slightly, but said nothing.

"Wake up!" she bellowed, the tears streaming from her eyes. "Please!"

The salty fluid pittered-pattered on his face, dribbling into his mouth, and causing him to twitch slightly. "Angie, wh...where are you?" he called as if talking in his sleep.

"I'm right here," she told him, stroking his head and allowing his hair to run between her fingers. "I'm not going to let anything else happen to you." Then an inspiration came to her. No, it's too corny. It'll never work. Looking at his face once more, she sighed. Do I have a choice? No. With that, she kissed him and thought, I love you. Please come back to me. I can't lose you too.

For a minute, he lay quietly. His breathing settled into a regular rhythm. Slowly, his eyes fluttered open. "An...Angie?"

She hugged him tightly, not wanting to let him go again. "It's okay." She managed a smile, allowing him to sit up gingerly. "Feeling better?"

He shook his head. "Not really. I feel as though I've been hit by a semi."

"I hate to tell you this, but you look like it," she cracked, ruffling his hair. "You scared me, you know."

"I'm sorry," he apologized. Then he realized, "The Child! Damn, what did he do?"

She glanced at him; thinking optimistically, At least he's got his senses back. For something so corny, it was effective. "Oh, you both scared some folks out of their wits and nearly killed the GSA agents who blew up the farm."

"I hope somebody stopped him first," he stated.

She frowned. "He flattened Mutant X within a minute although Emma stood up to him. Clark finally corralled him, though."

"Clark. Great, so I exposed him too. Terrific," he groused.

She pulled his face toward hers and replied, "It's okay. Only Lex and Brother Tony saw Clark do his thing thanks to Grimwilkin and the Faerie Empress."

"They're involved too? Wonderful, we caused an interdimensional incident," he complained.

"Hey, we didn't cause anything. They got involved because they're our friends, Dummy. Now, c'mon, this place really stinks and they're waiting for us."

"Okay," he agreed, willing himself back to reality.


"Anything?" Garth asked.

"Nothing yet. Although I am picking up on some activity in there," Grimwilkin indicated, looking into Dave's eyes. 

At that moment, Angie snapped out of her trance, exhaling deeply. "Wow!"

"How'd it go?" Ferali inquired.

"I got him to snap out of it. Hopefully, he should be coming to," she informed them.

The Child nodded. "Ah don't know whatcha did, but he's ready to come out. Ah'll see ya later."

"Hey," Angie told him. "Thanks for holding the line until we could get to him."

Did she just thank me? Ah don't believe it. "No sweat. If ya'll need me, Ah'll be here. Remember, when the time comes, Ah want mah share of payback."

"Don't worry. You'll get it. I promise," she affirmed. 

He took a deep breath and allowed Dave to surface.

"I'm back," he surmised. Looking at the people around him, he wondered, "What happened? Where am I?"

"Welcome back," Ferali indicated. "You're in my palace at Hall's End. Grimwilkin, Garth, and I brought you here."

"I just had the worst nightmare...I remember fighting the GSA in Amherst when this strong pain ripped through my head. I dreamt that the farm was burned down and there were so many dead."

Angie bowed her head and sobbed.

"It was no dream, Chief," the agent told him. "It happened. I'm sorry, but it happened. A GSA bomb wiped everything out. Your Mom, grandmother, and brother were killed along with most of Karen's immediate family and Angie's parents."

He shuddered again, turning white. No! It can't be!

[From within his head, the Child declared, "It is. Hey, Ah need ya to be strong. Ya ain't goin' nowhere!"]

Dave looked at his friends' faces, seeing the grim reality in their faces. It did happen. It really did. Miri! "Where's Miri?"

"She's with friends right now, Dave," Garth told him.

"I'd like to see her," he stated. "And my daughters too. But first, can I have a moment alone with my wife?"

The others nodded and departed the room..

"Angie, I'm sorry I wasn't there for you," he apologized again as he eyes teared up.

"I understand. We should really be thankful for our friends. They bailed us out," she assured him, managing a smile.

"Despite your pain, you came in and got me out. You don't know how much I..." he started.

She put a finger to his lips, shaking her head. "I do know, Dave. You've done the same for me. Besides, we're in this together. I wasn't going to leave you in that bleak place. I need you too much..." At that moment, she began to cry.

He held her tightly, rocking her in his arms as if she were one of their girls. "And I need you. I'm here now and we will survive this ordeal, okay? Let it out. It's okay. I'll protect you."

She nodded and released her emotions into his chest, wailing loudly for several minutes. Finally, she stammered, "I...think we should go talk to the others."

"Right," he stated, getting up and then helping her to do the same. "Let's get this show on the road."

With that, they headed toward the door looking to close this chapter and start a whole new one.... 

Chapter 11 

[The Amazon Village]

Francesca sat off to the side of the village square watching as the Amazons carried on their everyday lives. It seems so easy to them. I know they just dealt with their share of loss, but I wonder how they did so. 

"Francesca?" Gabrielle asked.

The professor turned to see the queen stooping down next to her.

"How are you doing?"

"I'm hanging in there," Francesca noted sadly. "Look at them, Gabrielle. How do they do it?"

"Do what?" the bard inquired.

"Continue on with things. I know I shouldn't be complaining, especially after what you all went through, but..."

Gabrielle hugged her closely. "You and your aunt were close, Francesca. Besides, you're sharing your cousins' pain right now. That can be overwhelming."

"What do I do?"

"You just have to move on. We've all had to do that from time to time. You're hurting, but time will help lessen the pain. Try to hang onto the good memories that you shared with Beatrice, okay?"

Francesca sighed. I know she's right, but it's so hard. "How can they do that? How?"

"There isn't a rational reason," Eve added grimly, approaching them. "They're vindictive. Why did I kill Joxer? Why did I threaten to kill you, Gabrielle? It was purely spite and for the sake of power is all."

The queen shot her an intense stare. Eve, why did you have to bring that up? I guess it's a case in point. The pain never goes away. "She's right, but I promise you, Francesca, we'll bring them to justice. What they did is inexcusable. We'll deal with them."

"Ya got that right," Xena concurred darkly, joining the trio. "After what they put us through, I have my own plans for them."

Gabrielle shuddered. She's so angry...not that I blame her after what they did to Angela and the others. 

"At least, David pulled through all right," the warrior added.

Francesca's face brightened at that comment. "When did this happen?"

"About an hour ago. Angela had to go in and help him, but he's ready to come back from the Inner Realms and get on with things. We'll need to watch him, though. He's still teetering on the edge," Xena continued.

I'll bet and so are you. Eve told herself. "Any news on Cybelle?"

"According to Genaria, she'll be okay," Gabrielle reported. "Her burns are healing nicely with the aid of the herbal remedies in the House of Healing."

"And Deirdre?" Francesca asked.

"She's with Nicholas. From what Angela's been able to gather, Ali attacked her in the El Gato Negro. Apparently, she gave him a harsh lesson in what it means to mess with a priestess," the counselor informed her, a wicked grin forming on her face. "I wish I could have seen it."

"Nick allowed that to happen?" Francesca protested.

"He didn't get there until after it was over. She already had the bastard pinned against the wall," Xena said amusedly. "Anyhow, she's safe for now."

"Fine," Gabrielle told her. "Meantime, let's finish things up here. I have a feeling the funeral's going to take a lot out of us."

Yeah. It will do that. Xena mused. It will indeed. With that, she accompanied the other two Amazons back into the village.


[House of Healing, Althanor]

Cybelle stared at the ceiling of the shelter, sullenly allowing the cascading emotions to flow through her. On the one hand, the loss of so many relatives left her heart feeling empty. Yet, her stomach churned with rage, fear, indignation, and the choked sobs of loss. How is it possible that one can feel all of these emotions at once? While she craved solitude, she also desired company. While she wanted to forget, she also desired revenge. How can I feel both at the same time? How? 

Then, Genaria entered. "Mother, you have visitors."

"Visitors?" she whispered, trying not to show her tears. "Give me a compose myself. Nobody should see a High Priestess in this state."

"Not even her brother and sister-in-law?" Angie supposed as she and Dave entered the area.

Goddess be praised! "Is it you, Dave?"

"It's me, Sis. It's me," he declared. "Umm, Genaria, would you mind giving us some privacy?"

"And make sure that we aren't disturbed," the oncologist added.

"As you wish," Genaria assented, bowing low and departing. 

"Feeling your oats, are we? Am I that poor of a sight that you feel the need to usurp my prerogative?" 

"Don't start with me, Cybelle," the professor declared. "I just finished wallowing deep enough in my own doubts for a while. Besides, I'm still your big brother, okay? You look as though you need to let it out."

"I'm fine," Cybelle asserted, folding her arms and frowning.

Angie shook her head and sighed. Duboises and their stubborn streaks. Geez.

Dave laughed in spite of himself and the situation. "You never change. You know that?"

"I refuse to find anything funny about this!" Cybelle protested, pouting.

"Yeah. You're fine, right?"


"About as fine as you were after Grandpa Alvaro died. I remember that look. It's okay. Don't bullshit me. You need to release the emotional maelstrom inside of you. Don't deny it. You know it's there. It's okay. We won't tell."

Angie nodded. "Promise."

Cybelle slumped her shoulders. For so long, she had been required to keep the stoic form of the priestess. Now, with her brother there, she was once again his baby sister. "Dave...I..." 

Without another word, he gently embraced her, allowing her to cry against him. "Let it go, Cybbie. Let it go."

Hearing him call her that broke her defenses. She screamed her pain to the ceiling, crying and sobbing fiercely. "What are we going to do, Dave?"

Damn them for reducing us to this. Angie felt the icy hot spasm running up and down her spine. We'll make them pay for this all right. Oh, will they pay. I know I shouldn't be saying such things, but I can't help it.

"We'll carry on as best we can," he reassured his sister. "We'll bury our loved ones, and then, we'll move on."

"They have to be avenged!" the priestess spat.

[From within his head, the Child yelled, "Hell yeah!"]

"And they will be," Dave informed her. "But we'll do it the right way--through the law, if possible. Otherwise, we'll get to play a bit. "

"I've already promised the Child his pound of flesh," Angie noted. "And I'll have Xena take my share for me."

Dave stared at his wife in disbelief. Normally, she's the one who's restraining me. What the Hell? I can't let her go down that path. I won't let her do it. Xena, help us. Help her.

Angie joined the siblings on the bed in a mutual embrace. There they stayed for a while, supporting one another against the harsh realities in the outer world.

Chapter 12 [Hampshire County House of Corrections--Northampton]

Steve pulled the car into the guest lot with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he really didn't want to see Stuart Dubois, especially after dealing with the GSA. On the other hand, he had made a promise to Dave that he would deliver the message. "Ready?" he asked.

Natalie shrugged. How can I get ready for this? Oh well, it's not like we're going to get that involved with the man. We just say our piece and leave. Still, after everything Nick's told me, I would feel better with him here.

He stroked her hand gently and told her, "You don't have to do this. I can deal with it."

"No. I want to come with you," she insisted.

"Very well," he agreed, glad that she was indeed coming with him.

Together, they entered the correctional facility and moved toward the main desk. As the hour was late, the lobby was empty, save for the guard checking people in and out of the place and two other visitors who were on the way out.

Odd, Steve thought. It's after regular visiting hours. What are they doing here? I guess security hasn't improved that much since Stuart's escape. For some reason, he had a strange feeling about the duo.

"What is it?" she inquired.

"Nothing," he said, hoping to convince her.

She frowned and shook her head, knowing that something was up.

Once at the desk, the guard asked them, "Can I help you, folks?"

"Yes," Steve replied, flashing his badge. "Agent Steven Petersen, FBI. The lady with me is Natalie LeBeau from the Tucson, AZ PD. We want to see Stuart Dubois for a few minutes."

"Dubois, huh? He's a popular one tonight. You're the second group," the other man told him.

"Excuse me? The second group?" Steve wondered.

"Oh yeah. Those two guys who just left came to see him too. Hang on. I'll buzz the officer in charge. Strange that he didn't come down to see them out." He buzzed for his colleague, but nobody came. "What?" He buzzed again, but with the same result. "What's going on?"

"What is it?" Natalie asked.

"Shouldn't he be here by now?" Steve asked, noting that the feeling was getting stronger.

"I'm going to try and call," the guard told them. By now, he was getting nervous. "Desk to Block 18. Copy?"

There was no response.

"Block 18, do you copy? Robertson, pick up!"

Once again, no response.

"Call for a lockdown now!" Steve ordered, drawing his gun and running out toward the lot. He wanted to talk to those two visitors, but they were long gone. "Damn!" Heading back into the prison, he stormed up to the desk and stated, "I want to see Dubois now!"

"Sure, Agent Petersen," the nervous guard complied, unlocking the door. "I just raised another officer who will walk you there."

"Thanks," the coroner replied. By now, she was feeling the same nervousness.

Grabbing her hand, Steve headed down the long gray corridor. At its end, he saw the officer, a rather young pimply-faced redhead. Terrific. We have a potential crisis and they send a damn rookie out here. Shit. "Are you the officer to meet us?"

"Yes, sir. I'm Rubenstein," the other answered.

"Well, Officer Rubenstein, take us to Stuart Dubois now," Steve indicated, allowing the impatience to seep into his voice.

The young man nodded and hustled them to Cell Block 18. All around the trio, the prisoners glared at them through the bars of their cells.

Now I really wish Nick were here with us, Nat thought nervously, gripping Steve's hand tighter.

He remained silent, trying to remain composed for her sake as well as their own. "Is it much farther?"

"Almost there," Rubenstein said, feeling increasingly anxious himself. 

Finally, the trio arrived in front of the door. Looking in, they saw a man hanging from the top of the cell door. Another man lay silently on the former's cot with a single gunshot in the chest.

"No! Open the door now!" Steve bellowed. This can't be happening! Not now!

Rubenstein fumbled with his keys before finally getting the right one. When he finally opened it, Steve raced through it, inspecting everything around him. I can't believe this!

"I'll call my superiors," the guard said nervously, grabbing for his walkie-talkie.

"You do that," the agent advised almost sarcastically as he dialed his cell phone. Damn kid. 

Across town, Lieutenant Rivers answered, "Rivers."

"Lieutenant, this is Agent Petersen. Listen, we have a major crisis here at the County Jail. Can you get over here?"

"A major crisis? I'm afraid to ask, but I'll be right over," the detective concluded, heading for his car.

You should be, Steve seethed to himself.


Ten minutes later, Rivers rushed into the evacuated cellblock. I'll say this about Petersen. He sure knows how to get things moving. What the Devil is it that's got him so concerned? "Agent Petersen?"

"We're over here," Natalie called.

The Massachusetts state trooper stepped into the light to see the murdered men in the cell. "Is that who I think it is?"

"It's Stuart Dubois all right, Lieutenant. We found him like this. The officer, Darrell Robertson, is the regular guard on this floor," Steve added, stepping over to the newcomer's side. "Thanks for coming down so soon."

"You think it's suicide?" Rivers wondered, taking a closer look at the proof.

"We won't know for sure until we get this stuff back to the lab for an examination," a skinny balding man stated, joining them.

"And who let you in here?" Steve wondered.

"I'm Max Brunnell, the warden of this facility, Petersen. I'll thank you to stop interfering with the normal operations of this facility."

"Oh, I see. So escapes and mayhem are a part of that, pray tell?" Natalie scoffed.

"No. They do happen in police work. And how would you know, Miss...?"

"That's Doctor...Dr. Natalie LeBeau. I'm the chief coroner for the city of Tucson, Arizona," she replied coolly, flashing her badge. "And no, they don't happen normally. Thanks to your sloppiness, first Stuart Dubois escapes and now, he's dead along with one of your guards!"

"Natalie. That's enough," Steve urged.

"Thank you, Agent Petersen. She's out of her jurisdiction and needs to be reminded of that," Brunnell noted.

"No, Warden, she's not," Rivers corrected. 


Steve smiled coldly. "I just got off the phone with my superiors before you both got here. Since the FBI relates this crime scene to an ongoing investigation, this is now our jurisdiction. You've screwed up twice too many times for my liking. I have been instructed to seal this area off and bring in the people to do the job right."

"He can't do this, Rivers!"

The lieutenant shrugged. "He already has. We're out of the loop now, Warden, unless he wants us in it."

"Dr. LeBeau's going to do the autopsies for us. I want there to be no mistakes on this one." Glaring into the administrator's eyes, he growled, "No mistakes. Don't you have some place else to be right now?"

Brunnell turned and stalked away, muttering about know-nothing bureaucrats.

"Okay, Lieutenant, I want this area sealed off. Nobody else comes in or out unless I say so. Nat, can you let your partners know what's going on?"

"You bet," she agreed and walked off toward a corner of the echoing cellblock.

"My best people will be here shortly, Agent Petersen. You'll have the full cooperation of the authorities."

"Thank you. This is going to be really delicate. For everyone's sake, I want to know what the cause of death was. If it's murder, I'm going to have to deal with Dave and Cybelle. After what they just went through, they're going to be tough to deal with," Steve told him.

"How bad was it?" Rivers wondered.

"The house is gone. Other than his niece, sister, daughters, and his wife, he lost his family on both sides. Our friend, Karen Montoya lost her parents as well," the agent reported, sucking in a big breath to keep his eyes from watering. "You didn't see the hurt in Dave's eyes when he stumbled out of that inferno, Rivers. That's why this has to be done right. I want to make sure whoever's responsible gets what's coming to him or her. All the i's are going to be dotted and the t's crossed."

"I know that and so does Farrell. That's why he left you on the case. He called me while I was driving over here," Rivers told him. "I've known David for a number of years. Even though his father's dead, I don't know how he'll react."

"While he'll be glad to be free, he'll want the right thing to be done. That's why we need to nail them. If we don't, he will," Steve replied, staring out the window at the moonlit sky outside. Yeah right. The Child will be pissed. He felt that their father was his to kill if and when he wished. Whoever did this has now earned some serious pain whether we step in or not. 



Nick scrambled through his paperwork, trying to find the right report to satisfy Ramirez. Where is it?

"If you're looking for the Matthew case, it's already been done," Tracy told him, the frown clearly on her face.

Here it comes. "And your problem is?"

"My problem?" she laughed derisively, arching the eyebrows. "My problem is, Mr. Nick Miles, that you are keeping Schanke and me out of the loop constantly, not to mention that you know more about things that you let on."

"It's part of the job description," he remarked.

"Not for being a detective."

He glared at her, allowing his eyes to change for a split second before they returned to normal. He whispered, "They are for being a vampire and the city Elder. Trust me, things will work out." Seeing that the conversation wasn't going to stop there, he offered, "Come on. Let's go for a drive. I think you'll understand if I don't want to talk about this here."

She shrugged. Oh, why not? Maybe this time, I might actually get some answers. Grabbing her coat, she followed him into the parking lot and got into the Caddy. "Okay, Nick, what's going on?"

"With what?"

"With all of this mysteriousness lately. The situation with Deirdre's a part of it, but you didn't seem that surprised about Chloe Sullivan's disappearance."

"Are you accusing me of being in on it?" he scoffed. "Look, Tracy, I had nothing to do with that. I was by Angie's side most of the night. The woman just lost her parents, you know."

"So, where was her husband? Isn't that his job?"

"It would be...except he had his own issues to deal with. I felt him lapse big time, Trace. He was gone. Totally gone."

"What do you mean 'totally gone'? As in no control over you-know-what?"

"Exactly. Cut him some slack though. He didn't seriously hurt anyone, and other than a few trees getting uprooted, didn't do any damage. He lost most of his family too, not to mention Karen's family," he explained.

"You do have a link with him, don't you?"

"It's not like I can shut him out, Tracy. I hope you never feel the kind of pain that I felt from him tonight."

"At least it's over," she surmised.

At that moment, Nick's cell phone rang. "Yeah, Miles."

"Nick, it's Nat. Umm, can you let Ramirez know that I'm going to be a couple of more days up here?"

He stared at his partner and then asked, "Why? What happened? Where are you?"

"I'll let you talk to Steve. Hang on," she told him.

"Nick, this is Steve Petersen. Uh, we have a situation at the prison in Northampton."

"Isn't that where Dave's father is being held?"

"Was being held. He's dead, Nick, along with the guard. Farrell's given me jurisdiction, and I've asked Natalie to perform the autopsy immediately."

"You think it's GSA?" the vampire detective asked.

"Right now, I can't say for sure, but we did see two men leave the area right as we came in. We need the autopsy done to get to the bottom of this."

Nick winced. Someone's going to have to deal with the Child on this.

"Great. I guess Dave really flipped out...." She scoffed.

He growled. "Dave wasn't anywhere near there tonight! He's been with Agent Sanderson the whole time. No, don't accuse him of that. Don't go there."

Now it was her turn to wince. "Gee...umm...he does have a motive. Sorry, Nick, but it points to him."

"He had nothing to do with it."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. He was taken some place to cool down so that he wouldn't go after his father."

"GSA then?"

"Steve didn't say, but I know he thinks so, and so do I."

"If somebody's going after Dave like this, they might make a move at the funeral. Call me nuts but..."

He nodded. "I agree. That's why the funeral's going to be held after dark the day after tomorrow."

"And you're going to be there, I trust?"

"Yes. I can't stay away. You know that. I have to represent the Community up there. Let's do this patrol, okay?" he declared. 

She nodded as they took off down the street. Despite his words, or maybe, because of them, she knew something was going to happen at the funeral. That's why we all need to be ready for anything.

Chapter 13

Even as the Double Helix streaked back over the desert, preparations were underway for helping Chloe. Onboard the plane, Adam and Jesse had the computer scan her both for immediate observation and the further procedure back at the Sanctuary.

"Any change?" Jesse asked.

The leader surveyed the floating CGI image in front of him. "No. Vital signs are still weak, but we've managed to stabilize her for now."

"If she's stable, then why did you bring her with us?" Michelle asked.

Adam sighed, feeling his patience stretched a little thin. "Lex was right. If we kept her there, she would have steadily declined. This way, we have a chance." Speaking to the comlink, he called, "Brennan?"

"Yeah, Adam?"

"How are the preparations going there?"

"The information for Chloe Sullivan just came through. Emma just woke up," the electrical mutant pointed out.

Good. "Emma, how are you doing?"

"Other than a headache and a glowing spot between my eyes, I'm fine. What's happening?" she wondered.

"The new mutant students, Lex Luthor, Toni, Jesse, and I are en route back to you. I just sent the information from Chloe Sullivan's scans to you. We need the lab prepped ASAP," Adam instructed.

"I'm on it," she told him, pressing some buttons on the console in front of her. "We'll be waiting."

"Good. Out," Adam concluded. "Jesse, what's our ETA?"

"Ten minutes," he advised.

"Thanks," the leader said. He turned to see Lex , Lana, and Clark standing at Chloe's side. Hang in there, kids. We're almost there.

"Adam?" Lex asked.

"Yes, Lex?" the leader responded.

"For what it's worth, thank you for this."

For what we're risking, let's hope she pulls through. "You're welcome. Think good thoughts. We'll be there soon. Everyone, if you can wait in our living area, we'll let you know if there's any news."

As he said that, the Helix approached the mountain base. Flying straight at it, it disappeared into the illusionary cover over the hangar, slowing down, and finally stopping on the metallic pad.

"Okay, let's go!" Adam told everyone as the hatch descended. "Clark, can you carry her up to the lab? The others are waiting."

"Absolutely," he concurred, carefully sliding his arms under his friend and cradling her in them. Before he turned to leave, he locked eyes with his other friends, giving them the reassuring look that nothing bad was going to happen. "We'll be there in a minute." With that, he disappeared, whizzing through the twists and turns of the facility.

Jesse smiled and shook his head at the young man's ability to move from place to place quickly. Then, snapping back to the present, he quickly followed his mentor out of the hangar rushing up to the lab.

Toni sighed. Hacking computers is something I'm good at. Mentoring students is a whole other ballgame. "Let's hit the kitchen, everyone, for a snack. We can talk there."

Lex tensed. His face twisted in a frown. They act as if this was like getting the car serviced or something. C'mon, Chloe, you've got to pull through.

"It's going to be okay, Lex," Lana reassured him. "She's going to be okay." In spite of her words, her eyes watered.

He embraced the younger woman. She had better be. I don't know what I'll do if she isn't.


Meantime in the lab, Emma and Brennan had the biobed set up and the scanner ready to go when Clark arrived.

"Where do I put her?" Clark inquired, his nerves flaring by now.

"The biobed's set. Place her on it if you would," Emma requested.

The farm boy set his friend on the designated spot and took a step back. C'mon, Chloe.

As soon as he did that, Brennan nodded to Emma.

She flipped a switch, moving the overhead equipment into position. A button push started the machine's scan.

The patient's life signs started scrolling across the data screen. Fortunately, the display remained steady.

"How are we doing?" Adam wondered, rushing into the area with Jesse following closely behind.

"She's still the same," the electrical mutant indicated.

Throwing his coat onto a chair, the former geneticist took a quick scan of the screen. "That's good at least. Starting the sweep now."

The light shot out from the overhead projector concentrating on the patient's head and seeking out the damaged tissue and bone.

The group watched on the screen as the regeneration took place.

To Clark, it was miraculous. Although he had seen Adam help the professor in this fashion, seeing the enhanced regeneration was incredible, to say the least. Wow. Adam never ceases to surprise.

A few minutes later, the machines shut down, signaling the operation's end. 

"Well?" Adam asked.

"Vital signs are increasing," Emma observed. "Breathing and respiration are becoming normal."

On the table, Chloe groaned and slowly opened her eyes. "What hit me?" 

"Chloe!" Clark exclaimed happily, moving back over to the table.

"Clark, talk about a sight for sore eyes." she grinned. "Where are we?"

"It's called Sanctuary. Welcome," Adam greeted warmly as he walked over to their side. 

"You're the people who helped us in Smallville, right?" she wondered, eyeing him and the other two new mutants carefully. She blushed with embarrassment. "I owe you an apology."

The psionic smiled. "We didn't exactly meet under the best circumstances, but thanks."

If only everyone could change their views like that. "Thank you, Chloe. I really appreciate the sentiment. David Dubois had mentioned that you two had talked."

Clark thought about this situation for a minute. I thought that Detective Miles had made her forget about the whole thing with the GSA and new mutants. How is she remembering this?

"I know several folks who are gonna be mighty happy to see you," Brennan told her. 

"Meantime, I need to run some more tests on you. If you could just hold still, I would appreciate it," the former geneticist informed her. "Clark, would you mind?"

He flashed a warm smile. "Not a bit. Be right back." With that, he zipped toward the dining area.

The reporter stared incredulously. "I still don't believe it."

"He's something else, all right. He stopped Professor Dubois all by himself," Emma recounted.

"Clark stopped him?" The reporter giggled at that one. 

Brennan shook his head. "What's your problem with that?"

She managed to compose herself. "Well, this is Clark, Mr. I-Stumble-About, Kent that we're talking about. He's a really sweet guy and I know he would help anyone. But to stop Professor Dubois in one of his scary modes?"

Adam kept a straight face as he told her, "The young man is an exceptional actor, Chloe. He's had to be around all of you." As he started the scan, he added, "Those with exceptional skills often hide their gifts in exchange for acceptance."

Despite her weakened condition, that remark piqued Chloe's curiosity. "You mean like Clark?"

"Exactly," Brennan stated. "We've all had to do it since we were kids. I never even let my parents know about my abilities."

Once again, the blonde girl felt ashamed of herself. I've really got to learn to watch what I say to people. Poor Clark. When I was trying to find out about him, I was harassing him. She lay quiet on the table watching the beam sweep across her. 

"You still need to rest a bit, I'm afraid. Otherwise, you're in perfect health," Adam reported.

"Thank you. Look, I don't know what to say other than I've been behaving like such an ass around all of you. Why are you being so nice to me?" Chloe wondered, her eyes tearing up.

Emma glanced at her, sending waves of pleasant thoughts through her mind. "That's because we like to think the best of people. You're already changing your views, Chloe. What you've said is more than lip service; it's coming from your heart. We appreciate that."

"Right on," the electrical mutant concurred as he grinned at her. "Music to our ears."

Adam walked over to her side and put his hand on her shoulder. "Just be open minded and a good friend. That's all we ask. As Emma just said, you're already doing the rest." At that moment, he noticed the group standing outside of the glass looking at them. "Well, looks like you've got visitors."

Not waiting for clearance, Lex rushed over to their side. "How's she doing, Adam?"

The former geneticist smirked. "Why don't you ask her?"

"Yeah, Luthor, why don't you?" she bantered, raising her eyebrows and squinting mischievously at him.

She's back in all of her glory. He grinned, allowing a few tears to fall from his face in spite of himself. 

"Oooh, the big bad Lex is crying. That's a first," she cracked. Seeing that he was genuinely interested in her welfare, she softened her tone a bit. "You don't know how much I appreciate that. Kiss me, Billionaire Boy."

He gently cradled her shoulders in his arms and gave her a long kiss. "There. Are you happy now?" he countered snarkily, the smirk back on his face. "You always were demanding. You know that, Sullivan?"

She flashed a brilliant smile that spoke volumes.

"Well, as much as I like to keep you all to myself, there are others who are waiting to see you," the businessman informed her. "Hey, guys!"

Clark, Lana, and Miranda approached gladly.

"You don't know how worried we were about you," Lana told her, hugging her. A few tears fell on the other's pillow.

"I'll say. Chloe, it's great to see your eyes open. Believe me," Clark added, flashing the famous Kent smile.

She sighed contentedly. Being with friends is the greatest thing one could want. Thank you all for being here. Then, she noticed Miranda's moodiness despite the smile on her face. Oh, God. "Are you okay?"

"As much as can be expected under the circumstances," Miranda replied, trying to keep up a front.

"Did your Dad get out okay?"

The other woman bowed her head. "That's what caused Uncle Dave to finally lose it." She broke down crying.

Chloe forced herself to sit up and put her arms around her grieving friend. I can imagine. "It's all right. I'm sorry to hear about what happened to him, especially since you two just found each other."

"Sorry I had to ruin the moment, guys," she sobbed.

"You were always a bad actor, Arighatto," the reporter saucily jabbed. "You don't have to act around us anymore. That goes for everyone." She looked right at Clark. "We're all friends, right?"

"Right," he agreed, looking at Lana and Lex. 

"Thanks for the show of support, but I'm Miranda Dubois again, okay? My family died to show their love for me. In honor of that, I'm changing my name back to what it was before. Of course, I'm keeping my friends as they have been," Miri sniffed.

The trio looked at her with surprise. It was a drastic step yet one that was understandable under the circumstances.

Finally, Chloe spoke up. "Clark, I'm sorry about all of the snooping. At some point, I need to let your parents know that too." 

"That's all right. I'm sure they'll appreciate hearing that, however. But hey, if you weren't snooping, you wouldn't be you," he assured her.

"Better believe it, Farm Boy," she replied pointedly before changing the subject. "Do you want to talk some more, Miri?"

"I'd like that if it's okay with everyone," Miranda agreed, still trying to conceal her tears. Despite her pain over her father's death, she was so happy to see her friend back among the living.

"I would like you to get some rest," Adam pointed out. "Just for a couple of minutes okay? Sorry, I just want to make sure that you recover all right."

"I promise," the patient sighed, folding her arms. I so hate just staying put.

"And keep quiet," Lex added humorously, the smirk growing wider on his face.

She made a face at him. I'm going to get back at him for that.

"Meantime, I need to let her father know she's okay," Lex pointed out. "Is there a secure phone line anywhere?"

"Yeah," Brennan agreed. "Is it okay, Adam?"

"Absolutely. Have Jesse and Toni go with you. After that, let Nick Miles know as well. I'm sure the police aren't too thrilled with us right now."

"Right," the electrical mutant agreed, leading the entrepreneur out of the lab.

"Emma, why don't we check on the others?" Adam inquired, motioning toward the remaining quartet.

"Absolutely," she agreed, following him out of the lab and leaving the others to talk by themselves. 

Once the doors closed, the emotions came through and, for the next hour, they shared in their friend's grief over her father and family. After all, wasn't that what friends were for?

Chapter 14 

[Dubois Household]

Eve sipped on a cup of tea as she attempted to work on her manuscript. Where are they? First David disappears, then Deirdre, Angie, and now, the students. This night just keeps getting better and better. Walking over to the twins' bedroom, she noted that the girls had finally fallen asleep. That's a good sign at least.

Then a rapping came from the door.

She approached it carefully. "Yes?"

"Eve? It's Nick Miles. Deirdre's with me. Can we come in?" Nick asked.

"Sure," she agreed, opening the door for the two visitors. After they entered, she inquired, "Where has she been?"

The priestess sighed deeply. "Sorry, Eve. I wanted to have a drink at the El Gato Negro. I figured that I wouldn't be bothered there. I was wrong."

Oh no. "What happened?" the former Messenger pressed.

"Ali attacked me. Well, he tried to attack me...I dealt with him," Deirdre reported.

"She had matters under control when I stepped in. I told him to stay away from all of you," the Elder added.

Nick certainly is adapting to his new role. Lucius would be proud, I'm sure. "Thank you for doing that."

"My pleasure," he told her.

"Any word on Papa yet?" Deirdre inquired.

"Your mother went to the Inner Realms to get him, I guess," Eve supposed. "I don't have a definite answer."

At that moment, a flash of light came from the corner of the room. There, Grimwilkin appeared with Garth, Dave, and Angie.

"Ah, we're back!" the wizard smiled. 

"Thank you," Dave managed to say. He was still weak from his experience.

"You're quite welcome. Rest now...all of you," he stated. "Meantime, if you need us, don't hesitate to call."

"We won't. Thank you, Grimwilkin," Angie told him.

The elderly man bowed his head slightly as he vanished into thin air.

"Dave!" Nick exclaimed. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," he whispered. "I'm so tired though."

"You're going to bed, Buster," his wife told him, guiding him into the bedroom.

"Where did you all go?" Deirdre asked.

"To Ferali's palace," the agent explained. "We figured it was best to keep Dave away from prying eyes while he was in his other state." Pulling out his cell phone, he dialed his partner's code and waited.

"Petersen here," Steve answered.

"Steve, it's Garth. We just got back and I wanted to check in," the other agent replied.

"How's Dave?"

"He's back to least for him. I'd still be cautious with him, however."

I'm sure. "Nat will be glad to hear that. How's Angie?"

"About the same as Dave. She's hanging in there. Eve, Deirdre, and Nick are here too."

"Can you put Nick on?" Steve requested.

Garth handed the phone to the detective. "It's Steve."

"Steve, how's everything up there with the case?" Nick asked.

"I'm glad to hear from you, Nick," the agent indicated. "Natalie's working on the autopsies right now."

"Okay. Thank you for the update." Terrific. Nick frowned as he hung up. How are we going to deal with the Child when he finds out? I'd best talk to LaCroix about this situation.

"Problems, Nick?" Angie asked, coming back into the room.

"A big one actually. Everyone, please take a seat."

The others looked at him anxiously. What else could happen to them that would have him that uneasy?

Nick continued, "Steve just told me that there was another incident tonight at the Hampshire County Jail."

"That's where my father-in-law is! If that's...oh gosh! How bad off is the jerk?" Angie realized.

"Steve and Nat found him dead in his cell. Apparently, she is doing the autopsy, even as we speak."

Garth checked the messages on his cell phone. Sure enough, there was one from Farrell explaining the situation. "He wants me to take the point here, I trust?"

"That's about it in a nutshell," the vampire told him. 

The oncologist sighed. This is going to be even harder for Dave. Sure, they hated each other, but the Child's going to want revenge even more now. Stuart was his prize.

"We also have another problem," Nick noted. "Chloe Sullivan disappeared from the UMC a few hours ago. Schanke and Tracy let me know about it."

"Any leads?" Garth wondered.

"Yes. I'm thinking that Adam took her and the others back to his...base. He's got some pretty sophisticated equipment there."

"I'm sure," the agent muttered. Now I know about the missing equipment. The question is where did it go?

"Garth, if Adam and the others took Chloe, they had a good reason for doing so," Angie pointed out.

As if on cue, Nick's cell phone went off. "Miles here."

"Nick, it's Adam. What's our status down there?" Adam asked.

As if he needs to ask. "Adam, where's Chloe Sullivan? You all are about to have a manhunt on you."

"She's fine, Nick. We brought her here to Sanctuary and treated her. Her head wound's just about healed and she seems to be back to her old self, judging from the reactions of Clark, Lana, and Miranda. Hang on, I'll let you talk to Lana."

"Detective Miles, right?" Lana asked.

"That's right. How's Chloe doing?"

"She's fine now. Whatever Adam and the others did to her, it worked. She's awake and seems to be her normal self. We're all okay up here. Lex Luthor's calling her father right now back in Smallville. Can you let the others know?"

"We'll do that. Can you let the others know that Professor Dubois is back and resting?" 

"Absolutely. Detective Miles, can I ask you something?" she requested.


"Clark talked about watching Professor Dubois explode during our last trip. We saw it again up in Wabash. Is he always like that?"

"No, he isn't," Nick replied quickly. "Those two times were extremely hard on everyone. Lana, he just lost most of the people that he cares about. You might want to talk to Emma."

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to sound cold. He...well...he scared me. I'm still getting used to all of this mutant stuff, but I will," she apologized.

"That's okay. Be patient, Lana. Everything will work out. Trust me and give my best to Chloe, okay?"

"Absolutely," she concluded as she hung up.

The detective sighed as he put the phone away. This is way too soon for those kids. Yet, they need to be exposed to it. I'm hoping that Adam and the others will help them.

"She's having a hard time with this, isn't she?" Eve supposed. "Give her time."

"I just told her the same thing," he agreed. "Meantime, we know where Chloe Sullivan is and that she's okay. I'll be at the precinct if you need me."

"Thanks, Nick, for everything," Deirdre expressed.

"No problem. You handled yourself well," the detective concluded, walking out to the Caddy.

After he left, the priestess asked, "Mama, I'm so glad to see you're okay."

" 'I'm faking it' as your father would say," Angie tried to joke. Seeing her daughter's lower lip start to quiver, she embraced the younger woman caringly. "It's okay. You know, I'm really proud of you. I know you're hurting, but you've held your head high. Papa would say the same thing."

"Thanks," Deirdre managed to say. She's still hurting and she takes time to comfort me.

"Rest for a while. If we need you, I'll let you know," her mother assured her.

"Okay." she smiled and made her way to the guest room.

Angie looked at Eve a few minutes later and slumped her shoulders. "How does Dave do this?"

"From what I can tell, he does it because he has to," the former Messenger assumed. "I think you need to take the same advice you gave to your daughter, Angie."

I hope I measure up. Mama, Daddy, I miss you.

Chapter 15 

[New Sanctuary] 

Lana couldn't sleep. She had sat in bed, staring around at the guest quarters within the Sanctuary. Everyone else had finally drifted off, but she couldn't do so. She still heard the echoes of the dying around her from the fire. Finally about 3AM, she got out of bed and back into her clothes. I wish I could get some fresh ones. Still, with everything else that's happened tonight, I shouldn't complain. Silently, she slipped out of the area, creeping through the dimly lit corridors of the complex. Adam, if you have any motion detectors or anything, I'm sorry.


Shalimar sat on a bench overlooking the newly replenished fountain. Sebastian, thank you for getting this thing going again. It helps us when we need to think. She rubbed the back of her neck. While it was stiff and sore from the fight, there was no permanent damage. However, when she thought back to the fight, the sight of Dave so far gone continued to unnerve her. We really do need to work with him. Still, Emma has a point; he has gained some measure of control for the most part. She also touched her forehead and kneaded the spot. For the past few hours, she had been feeling strangely jittery. I must still be out of whack from the fight. It was almost as if she could see and feel things from behind her.

Then she heard a creak come from the stairs behind her. Who? Reaching out with her feral senses, she picked up on the newcomer and smiled. "Lana?"

"How did you know? Is the soot smell that strong?" the former cheerleader wondered, stepping into the light.

"Yeah. However, it's almost as if I can see out of the back of my head, for some reason. According to Brennan, something weird's going on with Emma too," the feral stated. "Anyhow, how are you holding up?"

"Well. I've been better. It's not everyday where I nearly get blown to Hell and back," Lana cracked half-humorously. In spite of the crack, she trembled a bit. "I'm sorry, Shalimar. I should be asking how you're doing."

"Hey, I'm tough. At least, I can say I've gone head to head with the good professor twice and survived. You, I would say, are doing remarkably well under the circumstances, Lana."

"You think so? It's a good act," the younger woman admitted.

"As it is for all of us, Kiddo. Believe me, I've seen a lot of serious stuff in my time, but never anything like what you all went through tonight. Adam says that you've been very strong and brave. Keep your chin up, all right?"

"I'll try. How do you deal with your abilities? The voices are driving me crazy," she asked.

That is a tough gift to deal with. Emma would be the best one to talk with her. "Take one day at a time. We'll work with you, as Clark will, I'm sure. He's quite a guy, you know."

Lana blushed. "Thanks. Yes, he is the most decent guy I know. It's funny. All of those years, we knew he had secrets, but never knew what they were. Now that we know, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Thank God he's here with us tonight."

"Yeah. He's quite a person...all of the farm charm and power in one package. He cares about you, you know. Between us, the first time he was at the old facility with the team, he was pacing all around eager to get you back. Stay close to him, Lana. From what the others said to Adam, you helped him to stand up to Dave tonight."

"But he has all of that strength and those talents."

"And you give him the confidence to use them. Personally, I like it when we girls have a bit to say about what the guys do," Shalimar pointed out, a warm smile on her face. "Speaking of which...Martin, you can talk to us, ya know."

"Martin?" Lana asked, looking around.

"That's some talent," the shaman complimented, shifting back into view. "Even under a cloak of invisibility, you still detected me. My apologies. I was returning from my meditative walk on the Spirit Plane."

"Walk on the Spirit Plane?" Shalimar asked in disbelief.

"Yes. As with my grandfather, I can move amongst the spirits and hear their cries. I feel the Earth's energies all around me. As you did, Lana, I too felt the anguish of the victims. May I join you?"

"It's a free country," the feral cracked.

"Thank you," he accepted, sitting down next to them. 

"Martin, can I ask you a question?" Lana requested.

"Certainly. Something is troubling you. How can I help you?" he agreed.

" do you deal with what we encountered tonight? It was so overwhelming and frightening."

"Which part? The ghosts or our professor?" he interjected. Seeing the startled look on her face, he continued, "Ah, it is both." His face turned grim. "Both are overwhelming at first. Only with experience do you learn to deal with the Spirit Plane. You are strong, Lana. I saw that tonight as you supported Clark in his struggle. Despite the risk, you approached the combatants to offer your love to him. I admire you for that." He stood and concentrated. "It is one gift that makes us who we are, just as I can also do this." Slowly, he morphed from man into a bear before returning to his human form.

She managed a wistful smile. "People do that for those they love, Martin. I just wish it were easier to deal with everything."

Shalimar rubbed her shoulder. "As I was saying before, give it time." Turning to him, she wondered, "You've faced Dave before, then?"

The shaman considered his answer for a moment. "Not directly. However, I have seen his rages. I was in the audience at the University Library when the witch, Alti, awoke the Child, as well as in the Gila three days later when they fought again. Then, on one of my meditative journeys, I followed him and the others to England, France and finally, Istanbul where both personas fought the vampire lord, Dijon. I felt his eruption soon after at the hands of the agents when you all first met. Finally, I walked with him as he ventured into the Inner Realms."

"Hey, that's where he, Angie, and the others went after we beat the trolls!" the feral realized. 

"Yes. That's correct. Professor Dubois returned to the Dark Realm and to the Pit along with Dr. Messenger, Deirdre, the gnome-king, Ferali, and Detective Miles. There, they faced the dark wizard, Lousain. I have never felt evil like that. Did you notice the glowing wound in his shoulder?"

"The left one, right?" Lana inquired.

"Yeah, it was glowing during the fight. I remember before we took on the trolls, he was gripping it in pain. It was throbbing or something," Shalimar realized.

"He was stabbed by something called a phantom priest. The fragment is from an eldritch blade. That wound, combined with the darkness in that place and the pain inside of him amplified the Child persona. He's the manifestation of our mentor's pain, anger, and discord, but he also is the Protector. That's what he was doing tonight."

"We weren't a threat," the feral disagreed.

"But you were blocking his way, weren't you? The Child demands vengeance...even now. And now, I..." he reported. "By the Great Spirit!"

Lana gripped her ears too. "Not him! What does he want?"

"What is it?" Shalimar growled, her eyes turning yellow. Sonnuva...I can feel somethin' too. "Where is it?"

The younger woman grabbed her friend's wrist, enabling the latter to see the floating manifestation in front of them. They both recognized the figure. "What happened?"

"I was murdered tonight," the ghost growled. "Do you think I really want to be talking with you right now?"

"Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Shalimar chuckled darkly, recalling all of the trouble he had caused them the last time they met as well as all of the stories she had read from Dave's file. "Dave was nowhere near ya."

"No, he wasn't. That bastard, Lionel Luthor, betrayed me! He destroyed my family."

"Yeah, we know. We were there. Who was your killer?" the feral pressed.

"This guy came into the cellblock and did something to the guard with his mind. Then, he came after me. Somehow, he lifted me with his mind and hung me without having to touch me," Dubois' ghost recounted. 

Another psionic. Terrific. "Is that all?"

Dubois looked at her. "What else is there?"

"Don't you owe your kids an apology?" Lana demanded.

"Those freaks? Please! I don't want their help, but I'm forced to ask for it. I want them to bring the murderer to justice."

Martin nodded. "Even now, your son is learning of your passage. The Other you helped to create wants revenge. The murderer will face justice of several kinds. It's up to us to make sure that the appropriate measures are administrated. I give you my word on that."

"Thanks for that at least," the ghost accepted. "For what it's worth, if my kids have to hang with their own kind, you all are good friends." With that he faded out.

The trio all looked at each other anxiously. Dubois had been a royal pain in life, but his death would contribute to other things too.

"C'mon!" Shalimar told the others, leading them toward the lab. Once they got there, they found Adam working with Chloe. By her side, Lex held her hand throughout every procedure, refusing to leave her side for anything. "Adam!"

The leader looked at her, wondering what the problem was. Not another surprise. Please. "What is it, Shalimar? Lana and Martin, what's going on?"

"Tell them, guys. This is your thing," the feral told her companions.

Lana sighed deeply and trembled.

"What is it?" Chloe asked. "Lana, it's okay."

"There's been another murder tonight, Adam. Up in Northampton, Mass at the prison," she continued.

Northampton? "Isn't that where...?" The connection hit him at that moment. Oh no, not that too. He gripped the side of the table with his hands.

"Isn't that where Stuart Dubois is?" Lex wondered.

"Was, Mr. Luthor," Martin corrected. "His spirit came here tonight."

"His spirit? You're sure?" Adam interjected, not sure what to think.

"Hey, I saw it too," Shalimar informed him, although she wasn't exactly believing it herself either. "Trust me, it was him all right."

"What did he want?" the leader continued.

"He cries out for vengeance," the shaman continued. "He implicated your father, Mr. Luthor, in the attacks tonight. "

"How are we going to tell Dave about this?" Lex asked, shaking his head. "Granted, they hated each other, but it's still his father we're talking about here. How are we going to tell him?"

"He already knows. Already, the Child stirs once again. Soon, he'll seek revenge as he did against the Enforcer, Dijon. We need to get to Tucson immediately."

Adam paced around the lab a couple of times. I hate to wake everyone up now, especially after all of the stress.

"Can I offer a central place to meet other than Tucson? We do have to let their folks know they're okay," Lex suggested.

"And where would that be?" Lana asked. "The mansion?"

"Absolutely. That way, everyone can be there and the Kents can let the others know that the kids are okay," he offered.

"Since we can't bring them all here, I think it's a good plan," Adam accepted.

"Consider it done," the businessman told him. 

At that moment, Emma burst into the lab. "Sorry, guys. You need to know..."

"The Child's loose again. We know. It's a long story," the former geneticist snapped in spite of himself. "Get the Double Helix ready. Everybody needs to be up by 5:30. We leave at 7 for Smallville. I just hope that Angie can handle him until then."



Dave rolled around in bed as he lay in a troubled sleep. Over and over again, he was fighting the GSA in Amherst along with the others. Before he could get to Mitchell to stop her, she gave the order....He saw Randy's death...then, he felt...No. Not him too. Not that it's any big loss, but....

A scream penetrated the troubled jumble within his mind.

["He was mine! Damn it, Ah claimed 'im first!" the Child bellowed.]

Dave sat up suddenly, sending vibrations through the mattress.

Angie stirred as well. "Mmm...Dave, what is it?" Something else just happened, but what?

"My father's dead too," he told her tersely, getting out of bed.

"Your...? Oh, Dave, we were going to tell you," she noted. "You were already out cold. How?"

"The Child. Apparently, he felt it happening," he stated, getting into a fresh set of clothes.

"Come back to bed. Let's try to get some rest," she insisted drowsily. Neither of us will sleep well, but some is better than none. As she still felt the feelings of anger and resentment boiling through her, she wondered to herself, How do you deal with these emotions, Dave?

At that moment, the bedside phone rang. 

"Who?" she wondered, picking it up. "Hello?"

"Angie, it's Adam. Are you both awake?"

"We are now. Somehow, Dave found out about his father. I trust that's what you're calling about," she sighed.

"Exactly. Has Dave lapsed?" the former geneticist inquired.

"No. But I can feel his Darkness inside of his head. I've never felt him this upset," she told him, climbing out of bed and grabbing for her robe. None of us will sleep now. "What time is it?"

"About 4 AM. Listen, Lex Luthor's going to arrange a meeting for us in Smallville in the morning. We'll be by to pick you up about 7:30. Okay?"

"Sounds reasonable, I guess," she yawned. "We'll be ready. See you then. We'll need to pick Karen up as well."

"We can do that. We'll see you then," he concluded, hanging up.

Great. She hung up as well. Dave's about to freak as am I and we're taking a trip back to Trouble Central for him. This just keeps better and better. Maybe some coffee will help everything. With that, she walked toward the kitchen area to join her husband and start the pot.

Chapter 16


Early the next morning, Lionel Luthor surveyed the newspaper with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the main target was hit and the message was sent to the Duboises, Mutant X, and his son. On the other hand, many agents had been arrested in the process. Sooner or later, the recruiting well's going to run dry. This negative publicity is going to hurt in that regard. Halfway down the page, he caught the notice about the murders at the jail. What the? Who did this? 

At that moment, Ashlocke entered the room and silently watched the man behind the desk. He's obviously ticked about something. So we lost a few agents. Big deal. "I just got back. It was a good night all the way around."

"Was it now? Did I tell you to go anywhere near that jail?" Luthor stormed.

"You said clean up. I did," the mutant replied almost flippantly. "What's the problem?"

"The problem is that I wanted Stuart Dubois left alone! He's on our side!"

"Was on our side," the other man clarified. "I sent an additional message. You wouldn't happen to be having any second thoughts, would you?"

"Of course not! I just expect my employees to follow my orders!"

Ashlocke frowned malevolently and focused his thoughts.

The administrator flew out of his chair and was pinned against the wall. "What are you doing? Let me down at once!"

"Only after you understand who is really the master and who is the servant, Lionel," the mutant informed him. "The only reason that you're still in charge is because I like the appearance of having you there. Just remember your place." With that, he dropped the telekinetic hold, allowing his victim to fall to the floor. "Don't worry. We do have a common purpose in all of this, and I will help you. After that, who knows?" With that, he turned and walked out of the room.

For a while thereafter, Lionel sat silently in his chair, trying to figure a way to deal with the out of control ally. Now, I know why you all felt the way you did. What have I unleashed? What indeed?


Ashlocke walked back into his quarters smugly. It's time to launch my plan and show these morons who's really in charge. And since I'm the most powerful new mutant, it should be me. After all, who else has psionic, feral, molecular, and elemental powers in one package? Looking around him, he saw fifteen people waiting there for him expectantly. "Is this everyone?"

One woman, an African-American female, nodded, "It is, Gabriel. The Strand awaits your guidance."

He nodded. "We have another lesson to administer soon enough. Stay sharp. Soon, the world will know of us. Those who would oppose us, mutant, vampire, or otherwise, will be educated in the errors of their ways."


[Double Helix-somewhere between Tucson and Smallville]

Chloe sat in her seat under the temporary blinding effects of the visual cloak patch on her head. Even with all of the weirdness I've seen with these guys, this takes the cake. "Do you folks always travel like this?"

"Usually," Adam replied. "Relax, nobody's going to hurt you. This is just routine."

"So, Luthor, are you blind too or did you bribe someone?" she jabbed.

Even without her sight, she still has that tongue. What do they say about the other senses compensating? "I let them do it to me too, Chloe," his voice told her. "It's okay. I trust Adam."

"Besides, Lana and I are keeping an eye on everything," Clark advised her. 

"And what did you do to not get the blindfold treatment, Farm Boy?" she cracked.

"We're...well...working with them, Chloe," Lana told her. "He's helping us with our abilities."

Lex's ears perked at that one. "Does this have to do with the ghost stuff?"

She sighed. "Yes. You know how I go to the cemetery to speak with my parents? It seems that I can do that with a lot of other people too."

" see dead people?" the reporter queried. "And you talk to them?"

"I have. I saw Stuart Dubois last night. Ask Shalimar," the former cheerleader noted. "It's really weird. Guys, when we see the others, don't say anything about this stuff, all right? I don't think that Nell will be able to handle it."

Lex chuckled. That's putting it lightly. She'll blame Clark and Dave. "Not a problem. What's a partner for, right? Anyhow, we've got bigger fish to fry than that right now. But first, Clark?"

"Yeah, Lex?" he responded.

"It's time for our talk," the entrepreneur stated. 

Oh great. Now, I'll get it. Holding Lana's hand for support, he asked, "What would you like to say?"

The others in the cabin turned to listen as well. They knew that something had come up between the two men and hoped that it would be resolved.

The businessman frowned. "Frankly, Clark, I'm a little disappointed in you. You saved my life, and then leave me guessing and groping for answers. I wish you would have trusted me with this secret of yours. I could have kept it. That's what friends are for, right? I would have helped you with Phelan and the others if you had let me do so."

"I know that, Lex, and I'm sorry that I kept it from you and everyone. I just wanted you all to think of me as normal," Clark apologized.

Lex nodded, knowing that he meant what he said. "However, you are still Clark Kent, powers or not. You're my friend and a damn good one at that. You've stood by me through everything no matter what. You also helped to save Chloe. Finally, you impressed me the other night by saving the situation from total chaos."

"I did what anyone would have done, Lex." Clark dismissed the compliment.

"Not hardly," Emma told him seriously. "Trust me, staring the Child down is one thing, restraining him is quite another. You accomplished a first. Sorry, Dave."

"That's all right," the professor declared. "Trust me, I have to live with him all of the time. He's tough to deal with in any case. Clark, listen to them."

Clark squirmed embarrassedly. 

"I wish somebody could take a picture of this scene right now! I know Clark's cheeks are red. Aren't they?" Chloe laughed.

"Chloe," Clark muttered, looking around at everyone.

"I wish I could see this," she continued, the wicked grin still on her face.

"I did have a point to all of this when you're done," Lex cut in, half-seriously and half-humorously.

"Oh all right, Luthor," she sighed. "Pronounce away."

"Thank you," he accepted, allowing the not so gracious smirk to spread across his face. "Well, Clark, I just wanted you and Lana to know that I understand and accept who and what you are. That goes for everyone. Adam?"

"Thank you for that, Lex," Adam expressed, walking over. "We need all of the allies we can get, especially if your father decides to pull something."

"That's why we're heading for the mansion. I can work with Agents Singleton and Petersen to arrange things back east," Lex continued, laying out his plan. "Meantime, I want to speak with Brother Tony about tomorrow night."

"What about it?" Angie wondered. "We're just going to have a small service. That's all we can do right now."

"Don't worry about it, Dr. Dubois. I've got it covered. Whatever you think is necessary, we'll do. You just get your families together and let me cover all of the other angles. Of course, I could use some help if the rest of you don't mind."

"I don't think that will be a problem," Adam told him. "Just tell us what you've got in mind and we'll help."

"Are you sure about this?" Dave wondered, a dumbfounded look on his face. "I...don't know what to say. Thank you. We'll pay you back when we can."

"You're giving my friends a valuable experience. This is the least I can do. Besides, this is my father's mess. I feel obligated to help. And then, there's the matter of the Talon incident."

"Yeah that," Dave groused, shaking his head.

"We heard about it, but why bring it up now?" Garth asked.

Lex bowed his head. "I was there. So were your parents, Clark."

The Mutant X team members looked first at Lex and then at Dave to gauge their reactions. From both, they saw extreme consternation across their faces. This was a matter that would never go away.

"My father's caused enough damage to everyone," Lex continued. "It's time another Luthor made amends both to the people of Smallville, to your families, and to the Children of Genomex." He thought about Dave next. "Besides, Dave, you've shown me that there is another way to go besides the dark path. I've never believed in destiny. Because of your example, I've decided to strike my own road and not give into the darkness or my father's shortsightedness. I'm building my life and I have somebody I really care about. Best of all, I have my friends. I hope you all feel the same way."

"We do," Lana agreed. "And thank you."

"Amen," Clark concurred, rubbing his friend's shoulder.

"And you know how I feel," Chloe told him. When he talks like that, I feel all warm inside. No wonder I feel the way I do about him.

Dave smiled. I did make an impression that day, didn't I? "That speech and a chocolate-cherry mocha might make the day bearable." He held Angie closely to him, not wanting to let her go.

"That can be arranged," Lana agreed warmly. "If you show me how to put it together, we'll name it after you."

Angie shook her head and managed to smile. What would we do without our friends? And what would I do without Dave? She kissed her husband's cheek and snuggled up against him.

Continued in Part Two

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