Other Fan Fiction ❯ KISS Next Generation ❯ Showdown ( Chapter 6 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

 
Nothing to lose conclusion
By Trynia Merin
"Now you see…" Jeannie nodded gravely. "We have to do something!"
"And we will," Gene promised. "Ace, do you think you can get us there… to Leader's time?"
"But won't she be able to track you?" Tyler asked. "I mean… they have our families… how can we?"
"We don't know they can track Ace," Jeannie pointed out.
"Well as a matter of fact, they must be able to track all the comings and goings of time
travel," Mona mentioned. "How else could they track us?”
"What we need is some way for us to get there, without them knowing," Gene muttered, moving away from Jeannie.
Darryl held up something from the belt of one of the Destroyers. Cautiously he showed it to Tyler, then Paul. "Excuse me, but maybe this might help?" he asked.
"What?" Paul asked, turning his head. "What is that?" Gene demanded, turning from Jeannie.
"One of those devices I saw Leader's goons carrying," he said, turning it over. "They'd twist this part here every time just before they'd disappear. Is it some kind of transporter or something? Like a matter transporter?" He handed it to Paul, who glanced over it a second before tossing it to Ace. Mona fingered it as well, the two Celestial avatar probing it carefully.
Paul asked, "What do you make of it?"
"It hums with time all right. It's some temporal transmitter…" Ace muttered.
"Sends things through time, right?" Jeannie said sullenly. "We know that. But what I wanna know now is what are we gonna go do about getting our families back? And getting even?"
"Ace is gonna teleport us there, of course," Gene said, fingering his chin.
"You can use it to tell what year they came from, too," Jeanie nodded. "So, what's the word, Ace?"
"Hmm, that'll take a minute," Ace muttered, holding up the device to his ear, as if to listen for some faint whisper. "Perhaps if we can find the scent," Tyler suggested. "That is if you can't place what year…"
"What?" Demon asked. "The scent. Maybe if you can figure out the 'scent' of the time and place Leader came from you could know when and where they originated from," Tyler said, striding over to take the device from Ace.
"Great, but isn't there a chance Leader might come back?" Sean asked. "I mean I get the impression this chick is pretty slick. For all we know she could be watching us to see if we behave or not… and those devices could let her come and go as she pleases…"
"That's why we need you to stay here and be a diversion…." Paul said. "And to keep yourselves
safe…"
"Gene… they come from 2184," Ace announced. "That's what this thing is set for…"
"Good, then that's where KISS is going next," Gene announced. "Now, while we're gone…"
"If you go blazing into there without knowing where, you might do more harm than good," Tyler suddenly protested, as he snatched the device from Ace. "I mean each time we teleported into the past, something went wrong… maybe teleporting to the future isn't such a good idea…"
"But our families…" Jeannie protested.
"Why not use these devices instead to get there," Tyler asked. "I mean this one could let someone sneak in unobtrusively… and anyway, how do you now that Leader isn't expecting you to rush to the rescue anyway? Talisman or not, I think she knows a lot about KISS…"
"Exactly," Jeannie nodded.
"That's why we have to go to the future and stop her, once and for all," Gene interrupted. "Can you get us there Ace, unseen?"
"Please, you can't just go…" Mona protested. "What if it's a trap? What if you don't come back?"
"You'll need these, if we don't," Gene interrupted her, as he reached inside his costume. They drew in their breaths as KISS extracted the objects of their power, the Talismen, one by one. Ace let Tyler take the device, as he extended his hands. In the blink of an eye, he had materialized the familiar box, flat and the size of a man's jewelry case, lined with velvet.
"What are you doing?" Jeannie shook her head. "You can't expect us to hand over the Talismen!"
"It's a plan B," Gene told her. "If we don't succeed, you four have to carry on."
"No…" Mona protested, as each member placed their Talismen into place.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Tyler pointed out. "There are only three of you… and there should be four Talismen…"
"You can't just go without us," Jeannie reminded Gene, hands on her hips. "It's not fair!"
"Baby, it's the only way…" Paul whispered, moving up and stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. "You know it, as well as I do…"
"I think it's time to let them into the secret," Ace reminded Gene and Paul. "Might as well come out."
"Something fishy is going on here," Sean muttered to Darryl.
"There are four Talismen," Gene told them. "But we didn't know when the fourth would arrive… till last night."
"Come on out, Peter," Paul called. "It's time."
"You mean…" Tyler got out as he gripped Mona's hand.
"Yeah," Paul nodded.
"Did you get a good whiff of Leader and her goons?" Gene asked him. "I sure did."
"Dad,” Tyler got out before he felt faint in the knees. It had been years since he had last heard his father's voice, on that fateful day at the hospital emergency room. When the fatal heart attack had claimed his father, and he and Jennifer had rushed to the hospital to find him laying there, a million tubes thrust into his failing body. He had fought so hard, but it was in vain. Hard living had sucked the last of the nine lives from the Cat Man… Fate had changed. Shifted enough to make the strangest possible, and it was evident now more than ever when the figure strode out of the shadows, eyes flaring green as the large black panther shifted off all fours and strode into their midst. Hair shot through with streaks of silver, Peter moved into their midst with the grace of a cat. Mona drew in her breath sharply as she noticed how good he looked for his age.
"He's… hardly aged," she gasped.
"The Talismen energy," Ace whispered to her. "It's got this anti aging thing going on. Course for me doing the booze and snort kinda screwed that up…"
"Dad… holy… I don't' believe it…" Tyler got out as he strode forwards, his arms extended. "Where the hell were you? Were you here all along?"
"I'd been following these creeps ever since I'd led them on that goose chase so you guys could get here and look for the kids," Peter said. "They captured me, along with a bunch of other people. But I overhead where they're holding the families…"
"What?" Gene gasped. "Good work!"
"I know where… and it's in the future…" Peter nodded. "You guys were right. But
there's something worse…"
"What could be worse?" Jeannie demanded.
"Leader's got a division of her people here. It takes a hell of a lot of energy for her to shift back and forth through time, so they have a secret base in our time," Peter announced. "And they've been rounding up people from the past… survivors to 'mutate' into their own kind… I've seen it happening…"
"Oh shit…" Paul gasped.
"So… she's interfering in time as well…" Jeannie snarled. "And they have the gall to complain about us manipulating things!"
"But enough about that! Let me look at you kid!" Seizing his son, the Cat man hugged him tightly, slapping his back. Tyler was in pure shock as the muscled figure of his father, clearly not suffering and crippled from carpal tunnel, lifted him off his booted feet.
"How... the hell…." Tyler stammered.
"What is going on here?" Jeannie demanded of Paul and Gene.
"Ace teleported all four of us off the KISS jet. That's when Leader's goons suddenly appeared out of nowhere and attacked us. Peter stayed behind to fight them while we made our way here…" Demon explained. "He said he'd join us as soon as he fooled them into thinking we were lost… and led them on one hell of a goose chase…"
"Some job. They still found us…" Tyler muttered.
"Well it would have worked better son, if I hadn't been captured…"
"They must know you're gone…" Mona panicked.
"I took care of my guards once most of the others had left, in search of you guys. I overhead them saying that you'd been seen again. Then I switched to animal form, and escaped."
"They'll miss two mutants, won't they?" Tyler asked his father.
"Not with all the wild animals running around that survived, and escaped from the zoos," Peter
laughed.
"Did you know Peter was here?" Jeannie asked.
"Not till we got here. Then you guys had come and gone," Paul explained. "Peter went out to scope out the area to see if anyone was here. I didn't sense that he'd come back, till a few minutes ago, and only then he signaled me to keep my mouth shut about him being here in case Leader tried anything."
"Now, lemmie look at the little girl you've decided to make an honest woman of," Peter grinned as he released his son, and turned to Ace and Mona.
"There isn't much time…" Gene growled, but shut up from a look from Paul.
"Gene, they thought he was dead, so chill a minute?" Paul snorted.
"That's her all right," Tyler said, slipping an arm around Mona's shoulders and hugging her close.
"C'mere kid," Peter smiled warmly, striding up to Mona and hugging her tightly. He pressed a kiss to her cheek, and drew back, hands holding hers. "You're something else, little girl. I was hoping you'd charm him here. Considering how he was talking about you so much it was driving me crazy!"
"He was like a brother though," she got out.
"Oh he might have acted like a brother around you," Peter winked. "But he couldn't shut up about you he'd talk about you so much. Either he was obsessed, or in love.”
"Your realize that means were' gonna be related," Ace cackled, slapping Peter on the shoulder.
"Are you sure you want to be the ones to lead the attack, on the future?" Sean asked Paul, taking his arm amidst the joviality.
"Yeah, that's the plan," Paul said. "And now you've got the scent, you think you can hone in on her operations, Pete?"
"Sure thing. We're gonna kick some major ass, and get our families back," Peter said, slapping a
hand into his palm. "That's for damn sure… nobody kidnaps my daughter and gets away with it!"
"But if Leader kills you," Sean shook his head. "What do we do?"
"Please, take us with you," Mona begged, grabbing Ace's hand. "We only just saw you survive.
"I want to make her pay," Jeannie said. "And fight right next to you, all of you…"
"You'll get your shot," Gene said, taking his daughter's hand. "But right now it's more important you four... five including Darryl... stay alive. If Leader keeps coming back here, we need a rear guard."
"Just because we're children…" Jeannie began.
"We're more experienced," Peter pointed out to her. "We have had our powers way longer then you, kiddo."
"There's another reason why you have to stay, Jeannie," Paul said softly. "You and Mona both. You carry the future."
"C'mon," Jeannie groaned.
"No, he's right," Peter added. "It's early on, but you guys are gonna be expecting more company, sometime soon."
"You mean," Sean got out.
"Yes. You carry the future, all four of you. And mostly Mona and Jeannie…" Paul pointed to them.
"Oh man…" Gene's jaw dropped. "Jeannie…"
"I'd never thought I'd live to see my grandkids," Peter said, as he pressed a kiss to Mona's cheek.
"It can't be," Mona stammered. "I'm... pregnant."
"The pitter patter of little feet," Ace said. "Little cat feet or little space ace feet."
"If me and Tyler… that means Jeannie and Elliot," Mona stammered, and then began to laugh. Paul and Gene exchanged awkward looks, both fixing their gaze on Sean and Jeannie.
"I had no idea," Jeannie stammered.
"Here we go," Ace laughed, and Mona stepped on his foot.
"Shut up Ace," Gene growled at him.
"Well, this is interesting," Paul got out. "But now you realize why you carry the future, girls. And why you have to stay behind… don't you?"
"You have to stay alive, no matter what," Gene said, taking his daughter's hands in his. "For the sake of our grandkids. And that's a fact."
"You're not mad are you?" Jeannie asked him. "I mean all that effort you put into practically scaring off my wanna be suitors."
"It was a matter of time," he laughed ironically. "Just never thought I'd be mixing the genes with Paul's… talk about keeping it in the family."
"Gene's with Paul's, they actually said that," Ace laughed. "Nice one... Paul.”
"Dad, knock it off," Mona groaned, biting her tongue as she tried to stop herself from cracking up. Around her father she could hardly stifle her own distinctive laugh and ended up joining in.
"We have a very impressive 'gene pool', don't we," she blurted out, trembling with mirth instead of fear.
"Now you know she's your daughter," Peter added. "Nobody but your kid would make horrible stinkers like that, Ace!"
"I couldn't be prouder," he smiled, arm tightening around her shoulder. Mona felt the hot blood
flush her face, but this time it was pride that mingled with the awkwardness.
"You see, we're going to get through this," Paul assured Jeannie and Sean. "We've faced worse shit before..."
"Which is why she must pay," Jeannie reiterated, with a low barely audible growl.
"Fight to save your child's life, not to get even," Paul told her, gripping her hand. "That's my grandkid you have, remember?"
"Yes," Jeannie whispered, as Paul kissed her cheek tenderly, and stroked a hand over her belly paternally. There was no sign of movement that she could feel, but Paul could sense the tiny mind just coming to awareness within. A life force that struggled for recognition, alive and very much acutely growing. Sean sensed it too, and flushed, for he knew it was Elliot's child. A sense of protectiveness came over him that flooded Sean's soul as well.
"Then go and kick their asses, and get back here so you can meet your grandkids some day," she nodded gravely.
"And if Leader has troops here, you guys have to stay, to keep them occupied and free the other humans they've imprisoned," said Peter. "That's what you have to do."
"Are you sure our families are in the future?" Sean asked Paul.
"Yes… I know it's the case," Peter nodded sadly. "I couldn't stop them from sending the families away. They were just sending them before I was locked in a cage. Then I managed to escape when the guards were suddenly overrun by a pack of wild animals…"
"Beast control, right?" Tyler asked.
"Right," Peter nodded. "You have it too… but it's something you develop over time, son."
Ace in the meantime had sat down with Mona on the sofa, fiddling over the time transporter. They both discussed its workings in hushed voices, pooling their mutual technological savance to piece together its function.
"Hey, I think I can get this thing to work." he announced.
"WE hope," Mona added.
"Well that's something. Should we clap or be afraid... very afraid?" Tyler joked.
"In Ace's case I'd be afraid, but since Mona's involved we might have a chance," Peter laughed.
"Ready to go?" Gene asked the others.
"Hell yes," Paul nodded.
"Won't you need some sort of receptacle for power?" Jeannie asked them.
"We almost forgot… we'll need the instruments from you guys," Paul laughed. Jeannie handed the axe guitar to her father, while Sean relinquished his guitar. Gladly Mona handed hers to Ace, while Tyler tossed the drumsticks to his father.
There were many tears and fierce embraces as KISS bid their children farewell. Mona buried her
face into Ace's halter, weeping. Sean and Paul shook hands slowly, while Gene kissed his daughter goodbye. Peter and Tyler exchanged a firm embrace, patting each other on the back before withdrawing. Jeannie turned from her father, and faced Paul.
"Be… careful," she told him, impetuously kissing his cheek. He returned the kiss, stepping back as he grasped her hands.
"Be good," he whispered. "And take care of my grandkid."
"Darryl, Sean… take care of them… if they need help, you give it to them," Gene charged the two youths who stood aside.
"You got it," Darryl nodded, moving to stand near Jeannie. "Without hesitation."
"Understood," Sean nodded.
Tyler slipped an arm around Mona's shoulder as Ace gently released her. Peter waved goodbye after kissing his prospective daughter in law one last time on the forehead. Gene took the Talisman box, and handed it to Jeannie. Father's eyes met daughters, locking for a second that seemed to last forever.
"We'll be back," Gene nodded. "That's a promise."
Ace clipped the device to his belt, and twisted the dial. A ripping blue force crackled like lightening, and all four members were swathed in its radiance. Blue branches spread incandescently from Ace to the other three band mates. That same wind crackled through the battered living room, silhouetting KISS in liquid white fire. As soon as it had started, it stopped into stillness. Only silence could be exchanged among the friends now. They had their part to play now.
***
"Did Peter happen to tell you where this base was?" Jeannie asked Tyler, about an hour after KISS dematerialized. Mona tried her best to be brave, sitting next to Tyler on the sofa. Jeannie leaned against the mantelpiece, regarding her friends while Sean occupied the easy chair, and Darryl the other couch.
"He beamed the location to me telepathically," Sean explained. "Just before he left. It's where they said to meet us with the Talismen."
"What do we do," Mona asked Jeannie. "I know that's sounding old?"
"We need to stall them somehow," Jeannie said. "I think we will pay an early visit to their base, once we've rested and restored our powers, and then show up a tiny bit early."
"What have you got in mind?" Tyler asked.
"Well they took our instruments, but I know where we can find others…" Jeannie tapped her chin.
"How can you think of music at a time like this?" Mona snapped irritated at her.
"Work with me," Jeannie sighed. "Our dads told us to create a diversion, so we're gonna create one Hell of a diversion… when we hand over the Talismen…"
"We can't give them up!" Sean cried.
"Who says we have to?" Jeannie winked at him.
"Uh oh, are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Tyler asked.
"We have a lot of practicing to do," Jeannie said slowly. "Let's give Leader and her minions who are here something to chew on."
"I don't know if I like the sound of that," Mona moaned.
"Well I don't know if they will," Tyler laughed. Jeannie walked over and picked up the flat red
box, covered in velvet. She slowly opened the lid, and revealed the four objects of power nestled in their home. Strange chikara pervaded the air itself, a dozen times stronger than that they had felt from the instruments. From the box seeped radiance, this almost blinded them all.
"Come here and stand close," Jeannie instructed. "You too, Sean."
"What are you…?" Mona asked, before Tyler squeezed her hand in reassurance.
"We need all the power we can muster, gang," Jeannie spoke through the radiance, which had taken on a strange chime that struck at the boundary of conscious and unconscious thought. They did not so much hear it in their ears as in their hearts minds and souls. Otherworldly tones that vibrated the very molecules of their bodies themselves. They had only felt it twice before, when they had discovered them in the basement, then revealed the Talismen to their fathers and passed on the power in 1976.
"Ohhh drink it in," Tyler gasped, his every sense expanding in seconds. He could feel the life forces as patterns of chikara, smells and sounds blending into so much more then what a human could sense. Mona felt billions of silver threads weaving in and out of reality, forming each present moment. It suddenly became easy to consider the ways of forcing a path through and among them.
Jeannie's heart ignited with the fire of revenge and hunger for justice. Now more than ever she felt invincible. Sean's mind buzzed with thoughts that he struggled to filter out. Within his own mind he could feel Elliot helping to urge and nudge him through the ways and means of power. More and more chikara he drank in, till the cells of his body sighed with satiation. Jeannie closed the box, and drew in her breath. Slowly she set it down, and turned to Mona. All four of them felt stronger and more confident than ever with the chikara surging through their cells.
"Mona… put this in a safe place," she said.
Mona gestured, and the box vanished from view. She smiled for the first time in hours, inhaling each life-giving breath with a new awe. It seemed so much easier to relax and enjoy the new abilities she absorbed.
"Now… are we ready?" Jeannie asked them.
"Hell yeah!" Sean laughed. "Woo what a rush!"
"What do you want me to do?" Darryl asked, standing a bit aside.
"C'mere and we'll explain…" Jeannie beckoned.
***
There was a blinding flash, and KISS felt themselves forced through what seemed a pane of solid glass, but was in reality a barrier of time. There was the sudden sensation of falling, yet each of them instantly leveled out as their chikara wreathed them, and enabled them each to defy the bonds of gravity.
"The kids are never gonna let us live this down," Peter muttered to Gene. They hovered in a strange haze, no sense of up or down for a moment.
"Well, they'll learn," Gene laughed. "It took us forever to realize we could all fly!"
"What if they all can't?" Ace asked. "I mean, after all they only share one half of our genetics."
"Later, what I wanna know is if we're here or not," Paul asked.
"Smells a hell of a lot like Leader's stench," Peter confirmed.
"Let's clear this mess up," Gene muttered. Fire exploded from his throat, heating up the immediate air. Slowly the mist burned off, to reveal the ground below and the sky a misty gray around them. Still the same cityscape greeted them, but he could swear he saw bright lights gleaming far below.
"Technology, everywhere," Ace muttered. "It's like far above what I sensed before man…"
"Where to now?" Paul asked.
"That way… follow the smell," Peter muttered, and led the way.
"Better hide us from anybody," Gene instructed Ace. Nodding, Ace flicked his wrist, and one by one, the members of KISS vanished as light rays wrapped around each.
"I can't keep it up forever guys," Ace reminded them. "So we gotta work fast."
The further down they swept, the thicker the haze became, until it darkened to an eerie twilight. AT first, they couldn't' determine if it was the same cloud cover as before, or something far different. Peter confirmed the latter; saying it didn't smell much like the dust they had encountered after the comet's impact.
"It's like smog, but look… I can't see the sky anymore…" Peter said. However, it was balmy warm, almost tropic as he descended first toward the forest of twinkling lights. Gene felt a strange rumbling in the pit of his being, as if great powers of fire had been kept on high, but on a slow simmer.
"Geothermal power," Gene wondered. The dust itself could have been volcanic in origin. If this was a hundred or so years in the future, wouldn't the comet dust have cleared by now?
"This planet's screaming," Peter winced, almost trying to block the sound from his ears. "Whatever happened, it wasn't natural! They're sucking it dry… of its resources."
"Uh oh," Paul muttered. "I'm sensing minds… I'm trying to block them."
"I can't keep us invisible much longer guys," Ace said. Suddenly something whizzed past them, the turbulence slicing into the four like a knife. Engines droned with great power, almost drowning out Gene's order to scatter. Parting from the others, Gene saw the winged shape soar up, then double back. The blaze of energy from the tail of it suggested some sort of rocket or energy propulsion.
"I don't think it saw us," Ace panted.
"Think again!" Peter shouted, as the craft doubled back.
"Scatter!" Gene shouted. They soared off in four directions, hoping to confuse the aircraft. Thick beams of energy radiated from the undersides of the craft, sizzling only feet from Paul and Peter.
"See how they like fire," Gene muttered, and spat a line of fire on his next pass. Paul took the lead, swooping over and under as he beamed a pulse from a star covered eye. Pencil think in comparison, the beam still made contact with the craft.
"Ace, Peter, get down there and find our families!" Gene shouted. "We'll take care of this!"
"Send me a brainwave when you've found 'em!" Paul cried.
"Wait, don't' destroy it!" Ace cried. "We can use it!"
"Now you tell us!" Gene shouted.
"More of a challenge!" Paul laughed. While Paul and Peter streaked down toward the ground, Gene and Paul coursed upward toward the craft, which had swung around for another pass.
"I'll confuse it. You see if you can teleport in and surprise the pilot!" Gene suggested.
"Gotcha," Ace nodded with thumbs up. Black wings spanning he streaked headlong into the path of the craft. IT wasn't his imagination when he saw small specks break away, curling trails of fire behind them. Guided missiles of some sort no doubt. Explosions ignited the night left and right as Gene dodged each, narrowly avoiding the rain of red streaks from what must be laser cannons. Ace vanished from view as Gene continued his relentless path to what seemed destruction. Fire blazed from his throat into the path of the oncoming onslaught. While it failed to stop the lasers, it vaporized the oncoming second wave of missiles. Through the massive blaze he flew without harm, ever closer.
At the last possible moment Gene slammed a cloud of fire, and jerked his path upwards. The craft continued on its course, diving earthwards. Red rain slammed into the earth, down near where Paul and Peter had flown. Gene arched up, and circled back, struggling to keep pace with the craft. He pulled out his guitar at the ready, and pushed himself faster and faster. Soon he soared just over the craft's belly, only to find it weaving and bucking strangely. Firing stopped altogether.
"That was too damned close," Peter muttered from the ground. On all fours he ran, followed by Paul who still flew behind him. Only ten feet from the ruined and cracked landscape Paul drifted, toward the source of the flier and the spires of light. IT seemed gathered into a place the size of a small town, surrounded only by a ten-foot wall that ringed in either direction. Buildings composed of glass and some strange ceramic caught the light of the city, glowing softly from within. Already night was fast coming, and the two each followed the elusive traces of mind.
"A whole nest of 'em. Do they know we're coming?" Peter wondered.
"Let's not stuck around to find out. I'm sure Gene and Ace caught their attention somehow," Paul muttered. "I sense confusion, but many of them are just on an even keel…"
"How many?" Peter asked.
"Well… I'd say there aren't' that many in here. Perhaps two thousand… at the most…"
Their voices stopped when Peter let out a snarl, and leapt up to stop Paul from advancing. Both tumbled to the ground, only five hundred feet from the complex walls. Voices sounded distantly, as they approached a small shimmering in the air.
"Stop…" Peter whispered, pinning Paul under a black paw.
"What?" Paul demanded.
"Ozone… something's giving it off in waves…" Peter hissed. "I can smell it."
Paul picked up a rock and tossed it forward. It sizzled and caught fire as it hit fifty feet from them in mid arc. "Shit… force barrier," Paul muttered.
"Yeah." Peter nodded.
"Now what? If it keeps us out," Paul muttered.
"If they do notice Gene and Ace, they'll send someone out to investigate. Then we jump them," Peter nodded.
"I hope Ace and Gene have better luck," Paul cursed. Both he and Peter set out to try to find some weakness in the force shield, separating and heading in two different directions.
"You sure you know what the hell you're doing?" Gene asked, as Ace opened the hatch and helped him inside the flier.
"C'mon I got in, didn't I?" Ace laughed. Gene stumbled inside, quickly punching one of the Destroyers who happened to come round. Ace sat behind the controls of what appeared to be a large flight cabin. Screens and flat panels laden with strange symbols flickered on almost every surface. There were windows in the craft, and two seats up front, and several in back.
"It's some sort of attack craft," Ace said. "And from what the computer told me, it was on a routine patrol."
"I'm not even gonna ask how you figured that out," Gene muttered, settling into one of the seats to take a breather as Ace's fingers tapped various panels in front of him. The machine leveled out its course, and circled over the complex of lights below.
"Easy, when you know how," Ace cracked back. "It's a piece of cake. Ray repulsion and antigravity."
In the back of his skull Gene felt a tingling, and knew it was Paul trying to contact him. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the source of thoughts. Quickly he digested the contents, and blinked open to glance at Ace who was glancing over the strange succession of images on a flat screen.
"Force field, around the whole shebang," Gene muttered.
"Gotcha. Looks like they're high and dry," Ace nodded.
"Then we gotta use this baby as our ticket in," Gene nodded eagerly. "Where's the weaponry?"
"Hey, we can't just bust in there," Ace protested. "Sit tight and I'll get us in."
"Let's go back for Peter and Paul," Gene said. Within minutes their companions slipped into the hatch, flying alongside of the craft first. One by one they admired the strange futuristic flier replete with a dozen advances only Ace could puzzle out.
"Whoa," Peter shook his head, as Ace pulled the craft around for another pass. "This is heavy. I can't believe all the technology here. You sure you know what you're doing Ace?"
"Don't doubt the master," ace laughed. "Unless you wanna get the hell out and walk."
"We can't fly around here all day," Paul muttered. "No shit," Peter rolled his eyes. "Are we gonna use this and break in and kick ass, or are we gonna do something else?"
"You say that our families are in that particular place?" Gene asked, pointing to a plan that Ace managed to punch up on another screen.
"Yes… that building there…" Paul leaned over Ace's shoulder and pointed.
"We'll someone's gonna be missing this flier," Peter muttered.
"Subterfuge or front attack," Gene puzzled, as he rubbed his chin. "That's the question guys."
A panel flashed insistently, and Peter turned his attention to it when he heard the voice babbling urgently. "Uh guys… I think we're being paged."
"Flier 27 alpha, report! You have not checked in with Destroyer command… please respond," it protested.
"Who's gonna answer?" Paul held up a hand.
"Don't look at me; I'm just flying this thing," Ace shrugged.
"Shit," Paul muttered. "Whatever you've got in your mind Gene, you'd better act fast."
"Ace, get me and Peter down there, now!" Gene shouted. "Sort out the rest later! Wait for us… and if we don't get back you guys come in! The hard way."
"I was afraid you'd say that," Peter groaned. Ace jerked a thumb and both band mates vanished quickly. Again the Comm. panel crackled with the voice, screaming for an answer.
"Uh… This is flier 27alpha," Ace said hesitatingly. We're having… uh…"
"Technical difficulties!" Paul shouted.
"Who is this, please confirm!"
"Uh, we have damage, but we're working on it," Paul said hastily.
"Your voice pattern does not match recognition," it said. Frustrated, Paul's eyes glowed amethyst, and a stray bolt slammed into the COM panel. It exploded in a blaze of sparks.
"Recognize that, jerks," Paul muttered.
"Uh, I don't think that was what they wanted to hear," Ace glanced up.
"Tough shit for them," Paul shot back.
"Uh Paul, we have company," Ace announced, jerking his head back to the forward view. Paul glanced anxiously at the small specks that seemed to materialize on the display around the central axis. Soon the drone of the engines was accompanied by the distant boom and vibration of the cabin.
"Damn," Paul gritted. "Well they know we're here now!"
Gene and Peter felt the quick snatch sensation fade, and the gloom formed itself into a strange red radiance. Distant voices echoed, and for a moment they raised their senses for any possible obstruction. A scream pierced the dark, and Gene threw up a blaze of fire to illuminate the chamber.
"What is that… ohhh!" a woman cried. Into the light of Gene's flame peered several frightened individuals, including two youths with features much like his own who huddled together behind dancing bars of light. Opposite a dark haired girl hugged her knees and sobbed into them.
"Holy crap… Dad… is that you?" came a surprised shout.
"Nate, Susan!" Gene shouted, rushing forward to the front of the first cage of energy. Peter bounded over to the opposite, nosing at the light bars that kept him tantalizingly from his own daughter.
"Dad… no freaking way!" Susan cried, glancing up with hope. "How did you…"
"No time to explain kids… we're getting you the hell out of here! Where is your mother?" Gene asked.
"She's being kept someplace else,” Nathan announced. "Some lizard bitch came in and took her with her."
"What?!" Gene snarled. "Stand back!"
"It's lasers," Susan got out before Nathan gripped her arm and pulled her back to a safe distance. Gene's spiked glove smashed into what appeared to be a control panel, shorting out the bars.
"Baby, you okay?" Peter called into the other cell in the meantime. Jennifer lifted her head and gasped at the sight of her father in makeup. Was it a dream? He shifted and blurred into human form, sniffing at the bars.
"Daddy! How did you… oh my God… I'm so glad to see you!" she cried.
"Hang on, I'll get you out," Peter said. A quick swipe of obsidian claws slashed through the
one side of the bars, shorting out the mechanism as easily as Gene did. Dancing lights died to
nothing, and Jennie collapsed into her father's waiting arms. Gene hugged his children tightly to his armored form, never so glad to see them in his life, except since their birth. They were here, and safe, but now what? Terri was still being held somewhere in this complex. Why had Paul failed to locate her?
"Do you have any idea which way?" Gene asked.
"No… something about using her… as an insurance policy," Nathan said. "Some chick named Leader."
"Shit! Peter, we gotta haul ass! Terri's in trouble!" Gene shouted.
"I'm onto it!" Peter shouted. Before Jennifer's eyes he blurred and dropped to all fours. A gleaming black panther with white patches stood in his place, massive with powerful muscles and glowing green eyes. Without fear Jennie climbed onto his back and they raced out.
"Hang on," Gene told both his children. Easily he flew after Peter, carrying Nathan under one arm and Susan under the other. Peter whiffed the elusive scent of Terri, freshly laid down along the maze of corridors. They hoped they would find her in time.
"Let me go, damn you!" Terri shrieked as Leader's guards dragged her along. "Oh no, I need you, specifically;" Leader shook her head, slipping her visor down over her face. "One by one you will join me in the past… if the children decide to become brave."
Second suddenly materialized in the main control room, in a blaze of wind and energy. He gasped, panting at the exertion of transit. "Report…" Leader said, turning to him. Terri continued to writhe in the grasp of her captors, kicking and screaming obscenities.
"WE have located a strange disturbance of light and sound… coming from what was once the arena,” Second said. "Third is taking care of it to remind our subjects that we are serious."
"What sort of disturbance?"
"Third will tell you as soon as she reports back. I've come to oversee operations here.”
"See that you do, and apprise me of any difficulties," Leader nodded. "I will personally reinforce any foolhardiness on the part of those brats."
Twisting her dial, she signaled to the others. They did the same, and Terri vanished together with her captors in a swirl of electricity. Just then there came a loud shrilling tone, and Second whirled about. Klaxons wailed in emergency. Angrily he rushed to the computer bank where one of his monitors glanced anxiously at him.
"That's coming from the prisoner cell block," the security officer muttered.
"What?" Second snarled. "Who would dare?”
"I don't know… but the guards are not responding, and the restraint mechanisms have short
out…" Security 2 shook her head.
"Damn. Get someone onto it! I demand to know who…"
"Right away," Security 2 nodded. "I'll oversee it myself!"
Just then the main door to the Control slid open, and an anxious Flight Monitor rushed in. "Second, I've lost contact with flier 27 alpha!"
"What… why didn't you say something before?"
"I thought 25 alpha could track it!"
"Tell me again what happened!"
"Second, one of the fliers… I'm concerned that they haven't reported within the hour. They are not showing upon on scanner… and I just got a report from 25 alpha that they have spotted it, heading away from the city."
"You're fortunate Leader is not here…" Second hissed, baring his fangs at Flight Monitor 3. Security 2 rushed quickly out of the open door, seeing the anger in Second's red eyes. It would not do to be caught in whatever angry outburst that might result.
A bleeping noise chimed over FM Three's voice Comm. link. He touched the switch, saying," FM three here… what… you can't be serous!"
"What?" Second asked.
"25 alpha is reporting in, but they say that they're under attack!"
"Put it on main!" Second yelled, punching warmth relays on the band of screens in Central Control.
On the video screen blinked the visor face of the pilot of 25 alpha. "Second Leader, forgive the intrusion, but we are under attack! Alpha 24 has been destroyed… by 27 alpha!"
"What?"
"They are attacking… we're in pursuit, but they're headed for the Complex!"
"Damn you, stop them! I demand to know what's going on…"
"We're in pursuit… Pilot 56 out!"
"Has this place gone crazy?" Second snarled. "Who can possibly be attacking us?"
Suddenly the voice of Security 2 blared over the speaker urgently, "We are under attack… in
Experimental 2!"
"Under attack?" Second yelled. "What do you mean…?” Static crackled as the sounds of shouts and explosions sounded in the background. Snarls and roars blared over the din of gunfire. After a minute Security Two's voice resumed, "They're getting through… we can't hold them back… they're headed for central…"
"Who?"
"Mutants… face painted mutants… humanoid…. And they slaughtered half a dozen Security and scientists all ready!" Two shouted.
"WHHHHHAAAAT?" Second roared. "Stop them!"
"Shouldn't we inform Leader?” Flight Monitor 3 asked.
"If the prisoners are free… no. We'll wipe these attackers out… personally… and then slay them all, past and present!" Second shouted.
Explosions sounded closer and closer, thunder rumbling. Second and Flight Monitor turned around to see the door smoking. Before they could react, the door exploded inward with smoke and fire. Another shot slammed into Flight Monitor Three, cutting him down. A security guard slammed into the far wall through the jagged opening, backing away in fear as he skittered helplessly away.
Smoke cleared, and Second picked himself up. Shots rang out, and the screams of hurt and dying echoed in his ears. He reached for his gun, bringing it to train. Again a guard flew through the open hole, gibbering in fear. Through the smoke bounded a black shape, pouncing on him.
"Stop there!" Second shouted. A blast of fire slammed into his hand, and he dropped the gun, gasping in pain. He rolled over, struggling to hit the interstitial COM link. Leader had to know. A claw clamped down on him from above, and he felt himself raised up into the air. Gasping he raised his hand to his helmet. Another claw ripped off his helmet and tossed it to one side, then ripped off his temporal transit module and crushed it.
"Where is she…" roared the source of his entrapment. Two eyes gleamed red like hot coals in a volcano, shaking as he was flung back and forth helplessly.
"Let me go!" Second gasped. "Or they'll die… I swear!"
"Who? Us?" asked a chorus of voices. Out of the smoke and fire came three youths, each carrying weapons they must have gathered from the slaughtered guards.
"You're finished, you asshole," the Demon snarled, fangs bearing. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't snap off your head and spit down your neck… you worthless piece of shit!"
"Your mate… in the past… will die!"
"Not without this," Demon grinned wickedly, holding up a small disc. Second desperately fumbled at his belt, and gasped.
"No… you can't get away with this!" Second gibbered. From the fallen pilot, a dark ebony shape rose. Two green coals for eyes in patches of black and white merged into a face of a great Cat. Snarling, it paced over to the fallen form of Security 2.
"Dad… don't kill him…he can tell us where Leader is," Nathan cautioned. "And Mom!"
"You'll not win… even now the others are in the past… filling our mission!" Second cried.
"Wanna bet?" Demon laughed. "You sorry excuse!"
His grip on Second's neck tightened slowly, causing him to gasp. Eyes bulged as Second writhed in Demon's grip. "If… you kill him you lose any chance of saving your mate," Security 2 shouted from under Peter's dark paw.
"Mom…" Susan gasped, rushing up with her laser rifle in hand. "Dad… you can't kill him… what if he's already called Leader?"
"Is that true?" Gene asked, shaking Second like a maraca.
He gasped, as the grip loosened enough for him to breath and croak, "I… won't tell you. Only that if you are here… then you have betrayed yourselves… and you will all die… for your insolence…"
"Then you won't tell us what you have planned? Is your sorry existence worth preserving?" Gene asked.
"You… will not succeed," Second gasped. "You will have to kill me… before I reveal…"
"Whatever you say," Gene laughed, and raised Second high over his head. Susan gasped as her father jerked his arm up, and hurled Second into a control panel. There was a sickening crack, and the lizard man rolled over. Slowly his chest heaved as he plummeted into unconsciousness.
"You… didn't kill him?" Security 2 gasped. He saw the rise and fall of Second's
breathing.
"That's the easy way," Gene muttered, the red glow subsiding in his eyes. "And KISS never does
anything the easy way…"
"You cannot win," Security 2 shook her head.
"Watch us," Peter snarled. The last thing she saw for a long time was the backside of obsidian
claws, then an eruption of red fireworks and oblivion.
It was dawn of the first day when they managed to transport their burdens to the location they had chosen. Necessary supplies had been found and scrounged from the various elements of the city, and set up in the manner they had chosen. Sounds that had not been heard for months rose and echoed in the empty shells of buildings.
The second day dawned, and found the four hastily making their last preparations. Tyler puzzled over the generators, wondering how the heck they could muster enough power to run them. It was Mona who channeled a massive charge of electricity into a rig up of capacitors, storing enough for the mission ahead. Darryl lugged speakers and amplifiers into place on the large framework they had erected. Jeannie's massive strength and fire breathing ability fused a network of girders in place. Sean spot-welded in the lower places, wiping sweat from his brow.
"I'm still not sure what this is gonna accomplish," Sean muttered, looking up from the meshwork he had completed.
"Simple, a distraction," Jeannie said slowly. She tied a cable to the one end, and called for Tyler. He dashed up to the stage, and helped to pivot the twenty-foot steel sculpture into place on the other side.
"How does it look?" Jeanie called out into the audience.
"Awesome!" Mona called back. She rushed down the lines of ruined stands, to the stage. Darryl glanced up at something flickering overhead, which suddenly died down. He leapt offstage, and rushed up to where Mona stood. His jaw dropped as his eyes widened.
"Damn, it looks almost like back in the past!" he gasped.
"I hope it is enough of a 'distraction,' "Jeannie nodded to Elliot.
"They're gonna wonder why we're not here for the Talismen exchange," said Mona.
"But they'll hear us and come… early," Jeannie nodded, as she switched on the amplifier. A
huge hum sprang into life as she pushed the plug of her bass into the equalizer.
"Too bad we have to use wires," Sean muttered. "But hell, just getting this chance."
Tyler leapt up and behind the drum kit he'd salvaged together. A few bangs and thumps resounded under the hale of his sticks. Darryl moved behind what appeared to be a mixing board, stationed out in the stands by Mona. Sean plugged in, letting his own guitar hum with a series of chords.
"Mona, better get up there and get busy," Daryl urged her.
"But I don't know if I can play nearly well enough," she said with a sigh.
"Didn't Ace teach you a few things?" Darryl asked.
"Yes… but…"
"Well just let Sean take the lines if you feel uncomfortable. You're gonna be singing the music, right? Just choose rhythm if you get lost…" Darryl winked. Mona jerked her thumb and vanished in silver sparklers, appearing onstage a fraction of a second later next to Sean.
"There you are," Jeannie laughed. "Wondering when you were gonna come up here."
"You really think this will work?" she asked.
"It's gonna attract attention. They've been leaving us alone… for the time being. We gotta bring them to us…" Jeannie laughed.
"But the pyros…"
"Set them up with Sean's help. Good thing Tyler knows a thing or two about chemistry other than just acting and music."
"It's nearly four," Sean guessed, and then glanced down at his watch. "Are we ready?"
"Let's take a moment to group, and feel it, then start," Jeannie said. Mona shook the nerves out of her stomach, and picked up the Gibson that she had found in the basement. Sean grabbed a flying V shaped guitar, and started to strum chords.
"Ready Tyler?" Jeannie asked. "Let's get ready."
"Now or never," Sean nodded. They moved into their respective zones, each centering their energies. Tyler began to lay down a steady beat, which started to pound the air like thunder. Mona recognized the triplet pattern from the concert she and Jeannie had unceremoniously tumbled into. Jeannie and Sean's instruments cut into the line, base and lead line cutting through. Mona laced into the part she had struggled to learn, undergirding with a rhythm that matched Tyler's drumming.
"I feel uptight on Saturday nite," Sean began to sing into the microphone, alongside Jeannie.
Mona hung back, struggling to take the lead line as best she could, " 9 o'clock the radio's the only light… I heard my song and it pulls me through… comes on strong, tells me what I got to do."
Out and over the empty stadium the song reverberated. Louder and louder they grew with each chorus and verse, building in volume until they were sure that it could be carried further into the city.
When they reached the bridge, Mona heard Sean start the line. She filled in on harmony, running under the line as Tyler pounded, and then Jeannie filled out with bass. It formed into a seamless whole that made their nerves tingle and their blood boil with chikara. Gathering confidence, she was able to lead the line into the next song, ringing a single chord as Sean set up the rhythm lines. Then she joined in, as Sean and Jeannie belted out the first line, "It's so sad, living at home, far from the city… and the midnight glow…"
"it's so sad, going to school so far from me, and the dirty things that we do…" Tyler and
Mona completed.
"I'm the king of the nighttime world, and you're my headline queen… come live your secret dreams," they all sang at the top of their lungs, now that their courage had been mustered.
Out over the ruins the noise echoed, building in power even with its distance. The very sidewalks reverberated with the energy as if an earthquake had sprung. Slowly the twilight began to ebb into darkness, only to be split by a distant radiance. Red, yellow, and white fire blazed into the sky, painting the ruins into temporary days that faded into nothingness. Repeatedly they rose, from the distant source of the noise. Sound even reached the harbor, where a blind had been erected, and the attentions of Second and Third Destroyer were turned to a monitor deep within their complex.
"What is that?" Second demanded as they targeted the source of the disturbance on scanner. For the last few hours they had watched the children lugging strange equipment from the enclosure, but they had thought little of it, for they were sure they were abandoning the ruined mansion. Last they had checked, there was not a life source present, although the Chikara still reverberated.
"Better go investigate," Third muttered, to Second, who glared at the scanner.
"I don't like it. Surely they wouldn't be so stupid as to try and attack now that we have the hostages."
"Transformations are complete on the populace," Third nodded. "I think we should investigate the source of the noise."
"I will convey a report to Leader, while you warn our subjects about the price of defiance," Second ordered. "I am due back at Origin point…"
"Leader wanted to be present for the transfer. She is due to arrive at sunset interval," said Third. "Will she arrive from the origin point?"
"Soon," Second announced. "Try to have it resolved by the time she arrives, at the point of origin."
Twisting his dial, he vanished into nothingness with a blaze of lightening. Third turned to her guards, and waved an order. Weaponry was gathered hastily for what would be a routine operation, each hoped. Taking their hover bikes vehicles they slid out of the chameleon field surrounding their blind.
"Shout it, shout it, should it out loud!" rang out in the distance, words finally discernible out of the din of the thunderous cacophony. They could not help but be mesmerized by the alien sound. Surely they knew it from the history tapes, but who was there to play?
Third shook her head in strange confusion. She just had to figure out who and what it was. Before Leader arrived in the next two hours to make the exchange. At least what they thought would be an exchange. So much depended upon their success. In a column behind her raced a dozen or so Destroyers, some recently transformed. Glancing back she saw some of them even tapping their fingers to the pounding pulse beat. Another flare pierced the gloom, brilliant fire against the gray clouds. It exploded into a starburst that rained little sparks in fountains of fire over the crumbling skyscrapers.
"From that arena section," Third muttered, angling her bike and gunning more speed.
"You really like, my limousine, you like the way the wheels roll… you like my seven inch leather heels… and going to all of the shows… But… do ya love me…" she could swear it said.
By the time approached the perimeter, the pattern of song and words had changed. They wove in and out of a circular labyrinth of darkness, gunning their bikes into the small space. Soon it opened into a vast circular sweep of benches, and the source of the noise. Blinding explosions and radiance slammed their senses with the wall of sound. On the stage were the Four, surging and pulsating to the beat they lay down. Mona gasped at the sight of the fast whizzing figures that began to circle the arena, and almost lost her line.
"This is Third, CEASE and DESIST!" the lead biker cried. "At ONCE!"
"Hold steady guys," Jeannie told them. "Hold it steady."
"But…" Mona cried. Laser flashes exploded, zinging onto the stage. However Sean fixed his gaze on one cyclist as they streaked by, a narrow beam focusing to slam into the underside of the vehicle. A well-aimed blast of fire from Jeannie sizzled into the second in the line as they continued to belt out their song.
"Guys, it's the music, we have power in the music!" Tyler suddenly shouted. He slammed a series of drumbeats into his snare and tom toms, suddenly seeing the green chikara leaping back and forth. Raising his sticks he crossed them, feeling the chikara jump to their tips. With a flick of the wrists he hurled the chikara burst into the midst of the oncoming line.
"Oh yeah that's the stuff!" Jeannie laughed, and swung around, aiming the neck of the Punisher she wielded. Under her fingers she built up a line of energy and released it, fire springing from the strings itself. Mona gasped, jumping back at a stray blast. Fingers played over her strings faster and faster until she felt the energy crackling to a climax. A burst of star fire and electricity rocketed out the neck of the guitar, fizzling as it sailed into Third's hover bike.
Third leapt clear just in time, tumbling onstage as she confronted them. "You fools, what is the meaning of this?"
"We got your attention," Jeannie laughed as the music stopped. "But why are you attacking us?"
"We're just rocking out," Tyler shouted down from his drum kit.
"And you fired the first shot," Mona screamed at them. "We're defending ourselves!"
"Do you not know that the time approaches?"
"We have the Talismen," Jeannie said, holding up a hand. "But we will only give them to leader. We simply wish to play one last concert before we are to turn them over."
"This… cacophony is a concert?" Third asked. "How do I know this isn't some… trick?"
"Mona!" Jeannie shouted. Holding out one hand, Mona jerked her thumb. On her outstretched hands appeared the box, which she opened briefly.
"Shut it!" Third shouted as the blinding radiance stabbed into her retinas with the force of a supernova. Mona did so.
"Does that convince you?" Jeannie asked. "We have the Talismen, and you have our families. Where does it matter where we meet?"
"It matters little, although you waste the time given you," Leader suddenly spoke, appearing out in the audience. She strode forwards, glaring up at Jeannie and her band.
"So, we have what you want!" Jeannie shouted.
"You presume much, little one," Leader shook her head as rested her hands on her hips. "The place was not what we agreed upon."
"But we have the Talismen. We simply wanted to give one last concert…" Jeannie said slowly.
"Is there any crime in that?"
"Third attacked us. The flashes and bangs are part of the performance," Tyler shouted.
"You can't blame us for wanting to rock and roll one last time, in honor of whom and what we are," Sean asked.
"I will overlook this lunacy, because you have what I seek," Leader tapped her foot impatiently. "But I warn you, no tricks because I brought special insurance."
Snapping her fingers, she gestured. A screaming and cursing echoed in the now silent stadium as a shapely blond was maneuvered into place near Leader. Jeannie let out a cry of anger, which subsided into a growl. "Mom!" she gasped.
"Jeannie, don't listen to them!" Terri shouted, writhing and squirming. "They're going to kill you all! Or worse!"
"Shut up," Leader snorted. "As you can see, this woman means much to you and your sire. I suggest that you give us the Talismen now!"
"Let her go," Jeannie growled low. "And Mona will teleport them to you."
"Not so fast," Leader said slowly. "Where are your fathers? I see that they are absent!"
"They abandoned us," Sean snarled.
"Somehow I don't think so. Care to try again?" Leader asked, and pulled out her laser pistol. She
jammed it under Terri's chin, forcing her neck back.
"There's no need for that!" Jeannie shouted. "Release her! Take your goddamned Talismen! What does it matter where our fathers are?"
"They could be waiting in ambush," Leader laughed. "But you wouldn't be that stupid, would you?"
"No," Jeannie said, lowering her head. "You have won. Mona…"
With but a gesture the box of Talismen vanished from Mona's grasp. They appeared in the hands of Third. "Very good…" Leader nodded. "And now… my end of the bargain."
"Let her go… already, sheesh!" Tyler shouted. Leader took a moment to reach for the box, and
Terri suddenly noticed one of the guns aiming toward the stage.
"Jeannie, look out!" Terri shouted, and twisted her body, knocking into Leader. The box with the
Talisman flew forwards, scattering its contents. For a moment there was blinding radiance and
nothing. Darryl, who had remained unseen, threw himself out of the sound booth and landed on the offending sniper, wrestling him for the gun. Terri wriggled free of her captor, and rushed over to help Darryl.
"NOW!" Jeannie shouted. "ROCK IT!"
"YEAAAAAAHHHHH!" Mona screamed into her microphone.
"HELLO…. HERE I AM… HERE WE ARE… WE ARE ONE!" she and Jeannie sang into the
microphones.
Loud raucous tones blared into the silence, splitting it asunder. Drums sounded like cannon shots, pounding the air. Base tones rumbled and shook the very foundations of the arena. Caught unawares, Leader and her troops reeled to the sonic assault. Chikara slammed back and forth between the tom toms and snares of Tyler's kit, and he hurled a sphere of viridian chikara outwards. Mona again built up the current in her Gibson, flaring glistening missiles of electricity into the groaning mass of Destroyers.
"I've been waiting for this night to come…."
Suddenly Leader rubbed her eyes, and noticed that the box and its contents were nowhere to be found. She snarled, finding the charred remains of a box, filled with ashes and glitter.
"Treachery!" she hissed, still clamping hands over her ears.
"GET UP… NO ONE LEAVES UNTIL the NIGHT is DONE… the amplifiers start to HUM.. the CARNIVAL IS JUST BEGUN!" they all blared into their microphones.
"Attack!" she shouted, despite the loud noises. They struggled to raise their weapons, to fire on
the stage. A burst of fire slammed home from Jeannie, disbursing several who had struggled to reach their hover bikes. Leader scampered after Terri, pulling something out from under her back. A silvery net exploded from her gun, snaring the escaping Darryl and Terri.
"You're IN THE PSYYYYYYYY… co, you're in the PSYCHO CIRCUS…" Mona and Tyler continued to sing.
"No!" Sean gasped. He aimed a well placed bolt from his gaze at the net, severing it. Mona and Tyler continued their chikara bursts from onstage while they continued to play as loudly as they could. Leader reached the net, grabbing Terri by the neck. For a moment the two wrestled, as Leader fumbled at her belt.
"Mom!" Jeannie shouted, hurling down her Punisher and launching herself off stage. She soared in two heartbeats, reaching her stepmother's side. A dragon boot kicked Leader off Terri.
"Jeanie… is that you?" Terri gasped into the war painted face.
"Yes…" Jeannie gasped, hugging Terri close as she protected her from the hale of fire. "Oh god Mom I'm so glad you're okay! But the others…"
"For this they will die…" Leader snarled. The music halted as the band concentrated all their efforts on a volley of return fire. However the look of surprise on Leader's face startled Jeannie. Cursing Leader threw down her com link, and fired a blast at Jeannie. Picking up her stepmother, Jeannie flew her quickly to the concert stage.
"You will all die for this!" Leader screamed. " I will not be denied… too much is at stake!"
"What the hell?" Sean asked.
"You may try to destroy our future, but even now I will destroy your past!" Leader shouted. She reached for the device on her belt. Sean aimed a blast from his gaze, slamming into the control unit. It exploded, knocking Leader backwards. However, one of the other Destroyers aimed a shot toward the stage at Sean. Jeannie turned, letting lose a blast of fire. Terri threw herself into Mona, whose gaze was fixed on Leader momentarily.
"Look out!" Terri cried.
Everything happened so fast, yet the next few seconds slammed into Jeannie's brain. She saw her fireballs connect into the Destroyer, as Sean jumped aside. Leader had recovered at that moment, rolling over and grabbing her discarded pistol. Bringing it to bear, she aimed it at Mona and fired. Tyler leapt from his drum kit, as Terri absorbed the impact of the laser weapon, shielding Mona.
"Mommy no!" Jeannie screamed. In blind rage she threw herself from the stage toward Leader. Gold and scarlet armor slammed into the lizard woman, cutting her down at her midriff. Over and over they rolled, Jeannie punching and slashing hard while Leader fought for her very life.
"Oh no!" Mona sobbed, feeling the weight of Terri on top of her. Slowly Terri looked up at her with a weak smile, breathing rasping in and out.
"No!" Sean gasped as Mona held her close. "Oh no!"
"I've got her," Mona nodded gravely as Tyler and Sean defended her. Blasts slammed into the stage, melting steel and exploding amplifiers into blazes of sparks. Sean leapt out into the audience, after Jeannie while Tyler landed at Mona's side. Darryl fired into the thick of the onslaught, taking cover behind a stack of amplifiers. Tyler helped Mona to drag Terri behind one of the large steel girder structures.
"C'mon, breathe…" Mona cried, struggling to urge Terri to stay alive.
Meanwhile in the audience, two women desperately struggled for dominance. Leader in her armor was much tougher then Jeannie realized, slashing and backing away from Jeannie as she drew blood with a concealed knife. A cut crossed Jeannie's exposed chest, just under her breastplate. Jeannie pushed her off with a dragon boot, and both stood apart, panting.
"You murderer… I'll kill you…" Jeannie growled.
"Your family is dead already. Your fathers were very clever, attacking us in the future. But they will not win. And even now I have asked for reinforcements. Just one of my fliers will be enough to vaporize this arena and you with it!"
"I don't care, as long as you go up with it!" Jeannie roared, spewing fire. Leader rolled aside, hurling her knife. Jeannie caught it in midair, throwing it aside.
"You could still end it, if you tell me where the Talismen are!"
"Why do you want them?" Jeannie spat, as Leader lunged for her midriff. She spun out of the way, grabbing Leader and lifting her up off her feet. Slowly the fingers tightened on Leader's throat, squeezing tightly.
"To survive," Leader hissed. A savage blow landed in Jeannie's midriff, knocking the wind from the Dragon woman. She doubled over in pain, hugging her stomach.
“WE will survive too," Jeannie snarled. Leader found herself slammed and pinned, Jeannie's fangs bared and hot breath hissing into her face.
"Not so," Leader laughed sadly. "Look!"
The roof exploded into fire, bits of masonry falling. Jeannie glanced up, and was thrown clear with a twist and flip from Leader. For a moment she lay stunned, glaring up into the night sky, and a series of lights blazing overhead. A large winged shape soared over the patch of open sky, engines flaring into the night.
"That is the last sight you will see," Leader said, advancing on Jeannie. "Unless you tell me where the Talismen are!"
"I won't betray them, not my future," Jeannie hissed. Fire slammed into leader, as Jeannie sat up and let loose a bolt directly into Leader's path. She rolled to her feet, and jumped, colliding with a solid body again. This time came the crunch of bones as she landed on something solid. Blood dribbled from Leader's face as Jeannie slammed her fist into the woman's jaw, and tore her helmet off. Gold eyes fixed into green ones, blazing with fire. A hand clamped down on Leader's neck, slowly squeezing it.
"You will pay for killing Elliot," Jeannie said. "And for hurting my Mother and capturing my family!"
"Then go ahead. Kill me…" Leader choked, her color fading to an ashen tinge.
"Tell your troops to stop," Jeannie said. "Or I kill you here and now… the choice is yours."
"Third! Withdraw!" Leader croaked. Gunfire stopped suddenly.
"Throw down your arms now, or your Leader dies," Jeannie roared.
"Do it!" Leader choked weakly. The loud drone stopped from outside and Leader gave a mean smile up at Jeannie, "But it won't help you!"
Mona and Tyler glanced anxiously at one another, hearing the whine of what sounded like engines dying down. There came the sound of gunfire being exchanged, and breaking masonry that tumbled. However the look of shock on Leader's face soon replaced the triumphant gloat when the ship's occupants dropped into the center of the arena.
"What the hell took you so long?" Tyler shouted.
"You know that inter temporal traffic," Ace cackled.
"Terri's been shot, she needs help!" Mona cried. Peter and Ace rushed to the stage, as Gene and
Paul advanced upon Jeannie.
"You… how…" Leader stammered. Jeannie took her knee off Leader, and hauled her up by her neck. She still kept a firm grip on the lead Destroyer, spinning her to face the others.
"Easy, when you know how…" Paul said slowly.
"Nice job Jeannie," Gene said slowly. "You actually didn't kill her."
"Humiliating her is enough," Jeannie said slowly. "You've lost, future bitch."
Leader said nothing as Gene strode up. Just then there came a shout from the stage from Peter. "Gene… Terri's been shot!"
"Shit…" Gene gasped. He flew to the stage. Jeannie still grabbed Leader by the neck, flying quickly after him. Gene landed next to his life mate, who lay in Peter and Mona's arms. At sight of him she weakly glanced up at his armored form. Tenderly he cradled her. "Terri… oh damn…who did this?"
"She took the blast for me," Mona sobbed. "It's my fault!"
"No…" Terri croaked. "It was my choice!"
"Shh, shut up," Gene urged. "Baby, save your strength!"
"Gene… I… are the kids… okay?" Terri asked, blue eyes fixing into his weakly.
"Even now you have not won," Leader snarled at Jeannie. "Your mother's hold on life is tenuous!"
"Hold her," Jeannie shouted to Tyler. He grabbed Leader, pinioning her as he shoved a laser pistol under her chin. Paul reached the stage, as Leader's troops kept an eye on their leader. Darryl and Sean raised weapons to cover them, while three children strode out. Susan and Nathan rushed to their mother's side.
"Jeannie!" they cried, joining her in the small group that assembled around Terri.
"Mom…" was the next word out of Susan's mouth.
"Oh no…" Nathan got out. "Oh shit… no…"
"Kids… Gene…" she got out, blood dripping from the corner of her lips. "Sorry to check out like this… I'm glad… you're okay… but I don't think… I am…"
"Shut up," Gene urged her. "Don't talk… we'll get you help we'll…"
"Get real," she laughed, reaching up to finger his cheek softly. She had hardly the strength of a
baby. Gene kissed the back of her hand vehemently.
"Terri… don't you check out on me," he warned.
"I'm sorry baby," she whispered. "I can't… I'm just… hanging by a thread… I don't think I can stay with you."
"Mom!" Susan began to choke as Nathan grabbed onto his sister, and they both grabbed their mother's hands. She was so cold to the touch already, despite the clothing they had piled around her.
"Remember I love you all… you too Jeannie like my own… I love…." She whispered, then fell silent.
"Terri," Gene said. She leaned up with the last burst of strength, and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. All of a sudden she shuddered, and lay still in his embrace. Blue eyes gazed up sightless to the family she had come to know.
"Her chikara… is gone," Paul sighed, looking at the ground.
"I tried to save her… I did…" Peter said. "But it was just too late… I…"
"I won't have it… I won't…" Gene stammered, gathering her body into his arms and patting the side of his mate's face. She failed to respond, simply limp and lifeless under his hands.
"Mom… no…" Susan sobbed. She buried her face in Nathan' chest, while he knelt in pure shock. Jeannie squeezed her eyes shut, forcing back tears. Leader broke free of Tyler, backing away as she trained a laser pistol on them all. Ace protectively hugged Mona to him, as Peter moved close to his daughter. Gene whirled, lowering Terri to the ground.
"You will join her soon fools," Leader said. "But which one of you will watch the others die slowly before them?
"Enough!" Gene roared.
"This ends now!" Jeanie echoed. Before Gene could even act, Jeannie had risen from the stage. In a streak of amber she threw herself into Leader. There came a loud scream that echoed in the area, followed by a dead silence. Gene and the others stared at Jeannie, who stood up from Leader's fallen body, blood spattering her armor. Slowly she backed away, eyes squeezed shut for a moment.
"Oh shit!" Paul gasped.
"You… you killed Leader!" Third gasped.
"An eye for an eye, and a life for a life," Jeannie chanted slowly, then fell back onto her knees. She hugged herself, shivering as she felt sickness rise in the pit of her stomach.
"Get the hell out of here, before you are next," Gene's growl came as he landed next to his daughter.
"Are you satisfied now, that more blood has been spilled? Do you realize just what you have done?" Third asked, backing away. She trembled with fear as the blood-spattered figure huddled near her commander's lifeless form.
"I won't be, till you get the hell out of our century," Gene answered, eyes blazing crimson. "And don't you ever think of fucking with our timeline again!"
"Because of your selfishness we will all die!" Third choked. Gene took Jeannie's shoulders and maneuvered her away from Leader's body. Third rushed to her fallen commander's side, cradling her head and shoulders and rocking her.
"Selfish, what is selfish?" Gene laughed ironically. "You were just as ready to warp our people into your goddamned misbegotten race, just so you could justify your existence!"
"We have as much right to our survival as you do," Third spat back. "And given the chance I would do it all again... but this time I would not hesitate to kill each and every one of you!"
"Ace, get them out of here, now," Gene snarled. So instructed, Ace turned to the strange remote control he had brought with him from the ship.
"What are you doing?" Mona asked him.
"Watch," Ace said simply. He turned a dial, and pressed a button. Energy crackled from the belt units of each of the remaining Destroyers. One by one they crackled with energies. A huge wind slammed mercilessly into everyone, and Peter shielded Jennie from its assault. Paul moved near Nathan and Susan who huddled by their mother's lifeless body. A shimmering rip appeared in the ceiling, sucking everything into its maw. Each Destroyer flew into the heart of the temporal maelstrom, while Gene grabbed his daughter and pulled her back from its grip to a safe distance.
"You will regret this…" Third's voice echoed. Leader's body was also consumed as her belt
unit too activated. Bright blinding radiance seared their eyes, to fade to nothing but gloom a
second later.
A few minutes of grim silence passed in shock. Fast pulse pounding fighting had disintegrated into stillness and nothing. Still the adrenaline pounded in everyone's bodies, driving them close to insanity. There was the passing of something major, and none knew what to do or say. Only mere feet from where Leader had been killed, Jeannie huddled with her Father's arms around her comfortingly. All she could feel was a numb coldness, and the stickiness of the blood clotting on her fingernails and hands. With odd clinical detachment she stared at it, and then in the next minute she shuddered from head to toe.
"I… killed her," Jeannie said softly, glancing up at her father. "With my bare hands… I ripped her throat out!"
"Jeannie," Gene said slowly, holding her out at arm's length. Tears filled her eyes, and he pulled her close to him.
"She murdered Mother, and Elliot… and I killed her…" Jeannie stammered, fighting the tears. "And… now... I..."
"Shh," Gene told her, holding his daughter in a fierce embrace only a Demon could withstand. "I've got you now… it's over."
Picking her up in his arms he flew back with her to the stage, to join his family. Nathan and Susan moved into the embrace, hugging Jeannie and their father fiercely as they all cried together. Tyler hugged his sister and father, looking past them in misery. Paul felt Sean grip his shoulder in support as he looked out at the devastated arena. Mona felt her own father's arms wrap tightly around her from behind in a close hug. Silver tears fell down her cheeks as they rocked together.
"We… won," Darryl muttered to Sean and Paul who huddled together. Paul had his arm around Sean's shoulder as if the boy were his own son, sharing their grief and guilt.
"Whoop de frigging do," Tyler spat, still hugging his father and sister.
"Yeah… we won," Sean answered, glancing at Paul. "But why do I get the feeling this isn't' the end?"
"Because it isn't," Paul answered. "Leader's gone, but Third escaped."
"They didn't' escape. I sent them back where they came from," Ace said.
"What the hell good will that do?" Peter asked, looking up from his daughter and son.
"We created an alternate timeline," Ace explained, arm still around Mona. "By what we did back here. Leader's temporal transit modules allowed them to exist in any timeline, so if they changed their own history they would still exist. So they went back to an alternate universe… where we were all killed."
"But won't they use the technology to try to get back?" Paul asked.
"I destroyed their units by remote control, and burned out the master circuit," Ace continued. "The instant they get back to this alternate universe, it will take them forever to figure out how to recreate it."
"Ace wiped the computer banks too," Gene supplied. "For what it's worth."
"So, no more Destroyers then?" Tyler asked.
"Not anytime soon. They lost a lot trying this scheme," Gene said soberly. "We made sure to make a lot of damage in the future."
"By the time they fix what damage we did to their city, they'll think twice about messing with us again," Peter said.
"But what about us… will we have to go to another century to survive…" Mona asked.
"No. No more time travel…" Gene said. "Fate's screwed with us. We stay here!"
"And how are we going to live in this wasteland?" Sean asked.
"There is enough technology in that ship we brought back, to make sure we can. In addition, whatever we need, we'll have Space Ace build," Paul announced.
"So you and I have a hell of a lot to keep us busy," Ace told Mona.
"Now let's get the fuck outta here," Peter said. "And do what we need to do!"
"Yeah," Gene nodded, looking up from a teary eyed family. He picked up Terri in his arms, and
glanced around. Not a word of protest crossed anyone's lips as he walked out of the stadium followed by his three children. Susan and Nathan walked with their arms around Jeannie, followed by Paul and Sean who walked close together with Darryl. Mona and Ace were next, followed by Peter and his children. All around them was the silence of ruined LA, and the gaunt quiet of destruction.
"What about the others that were found alive…" Tyler asked his father. "The other people?"
"Mutated, into Leader's race," Peter said grimly. "We left them behind in the future."
"Oh shit…" Tyler got out.
"They didn't' want to come back," he said sadly.
"So you mean we're the only people left alive on the whole freaking planet?" Tyler asked.
"Looks like it," Peter said grimly, glancing around.
"Damn, this isn't a garden of Eden," Tyler grumbled.
***
Soft earth fell on Terri's casket, lowered lovingly into the bottom of a deep hole they'd dug. It was early in the morning, and they had gathered around the grave to pay their last respects. Few words were spoken, except a few prayers read by Gene and others.
"I never thought I'd be using one of these damned Caskets to bury my own mate," Gene joked sadly.
"There was nothing else we could find right now. But Terri… I won't forget you," His voice broke before he could finish the last words of the eulogy. Reaching down, he tossed a handful of dirt on top of the Casket, painted with their own images. How damned ironic. "Goodbye, Mom…" Jeannie whispered, and threw her handful next. "I know you were a stepmother, but I'll always think of you as my mother… in all the ways that really counted."
Susan and Nathan went next, tossing silent handfuls down simultaneously. They moved to join their half sister and father. Next Paul moved up, and gestured. A fine shower of rose petals rained out of nowhere as chikara wreathed around his body. Sean produced a single rose, tossing it down as well.
Others tossed their handfuls, lightly pelting the smooth glossy surface of the Casket with its
pictures and the logo, "Legends Never Die," in Die-Nasty script. Soon the shovels were produced, to finish their mournful task. One by one they turned from the fresh grave, and walked past the looming shape of the flier parked in Gene's back yard, between the main mansion and the guesthouse to the back doors.
For a moment Jeannie looked back before going in at the leaden sky. She let her sight walk over her stepmother's grave, then across the perimeter of her home. Small worker drones already moved back and forth from the ship, gathering masonry in their mechanical grips to rebuild the ruins. Only the flier's presence preserved the memory of the future's intervention.
It wasn't over, she said to herself. Not by a long shot. Even though they had lost two of their numbers, they were all alive. Nor did it matter that they were probably the last humans left alive on Earth. They had proved that legends never died. Living proof in fact that they were notoriously difficult to kill. Still the blood stains covered her spiked gloves and breastplate despite her best efforts to clean them off. No matter how many times Jeannie told herself Leader deserved her fate, it didn't erase the misery she felt inside.
"Revenge sucks," she sighed. "It doesn't feel like it was supposed to…"
"Hey Jeannie, are you going to come in? Or will we drag your butt in here!" came Sean's half hearted laugh from indoors.
"I'm coming in," she said, leaving the ruined world outside as she joined the others.
 

Chapter 5
Chapter 7
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