Other Fan Fiction ❯ KISS Next Generation ❯ Final Battle ( Chapter 22 )

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

Face me,
Blackwell

By
Trynia Merin
 
 
KILLER
Part 5
By Trynia Merin, Christine, and Shea
***
Tamara heard a loud explosion, and whirled around. She rushed toward the lab door, picking up packets of the TNT and hiding them in her smock. There were no guns in the lab, only these chemicals, and she didn't want whoever it was getting their hands on this as well.
"Christine, Jo!" she called, depressing her choker radio. She rushed down the hallway, and heard the distant sound of children screaming and crying. It sounded like the kittens, and she had a nasty sinking feeling.
As soon as she had run the length of the corridor that took her by the Criss living quarters, the sound vanished. Footsteps were heading toward her, and she turned toward them, wondering who they were. She reached out for Elliot, for her brother, and sensed nothing. An eerie silence in her mind, empty of any trace of them. Even Paul's thoughts she could not sense. Red flickered out of the corner of her eye, and she raced to the window. Rippling bands undulated and flowed, and her blood ran cold when she saw them.
"Aurora… but how could it be… unless… charged particles… of course," she shivered. Her watch had stopped, and she felt a buzzing in her ears. Slowly something blurred through the mists, and she could swear it was bright and large.
She turned away, rushing towards the chemistry lab. It seemed instinctual, almost automatic as the chemist ran through the halls. Her fingers found the computer panel, but all she saw was static. Then sparks flew as the equipment shorted out. Clocks had stopped, and she shoved the door open on her own laboratory, still intact.
Flasks had broken, and paperclips were strangely stuck to the walls. Crackling smells of something like charged particles filled her nostrils, and she saw that her lab computer had also exploded. Windows and skylights that afforded the dim gray natural light were flooded with the eerie red aurora. She saw the lights had flickered out, and all that was lighting the entire complex was this strange disastrous stuff.
"God, no," she felt her skin crawl, and felt an urge to run outside. She crossed back to the house, and then toward the courtyard. The swimming pool was empty of water, and she smelled ozone, and a sweet sickening smell. Her eyes widened, seeing the dust flying about, and then the clouds thinning over the disc of the sun.
Was it a gap in the clouds? It couldn't be, could it, she wondered in great fear. Sometimes the clouds seemed thin enough that there was the disk of the sun teasingly there. Red bands of light swirled as the clouds again thickened, and the eerie red glow was visible again. Tamara suppressed her fear, her pounding heart in the odd silence, and rushed back into the house.
"Elliot! Jeannie!" she hollered, rushing upstairs. There was the crib, turned on its side, and a gaping hole in the wall. Sick, she rushed down the back stairs, and back into the lab complex, rushing back to her lab again.
She slammed the door shut, and panted, closing her eyes. Lonely and nothing. Not a sound, not a flicker of power. Grabbing the flashlight, she clicked it on, and beamed it around, needing some yellow light in the red radiance that gleamed and spilled around the skylights.
"Tamara," came a voice, and she screamed in fear. She whirled about to see Ray standing there, wearing her geological vest, and a pair of coveralls. However the yellow suit was one of those that she saw Ray used for climbing on volcanoes, and the mask with the breathing filter was tipped back like a hood, its visor up and hallowing the back of her head.
"Good GOD you scared me," Tamara panted, clutching the side of a lab counter. "What the HELL is going on… the borealis!"
"The EM disturbance. Charged particles from a solar flare," said Ray slowly. "I know you're scared. It's something that's been happening more and more. Something's causing huge EM fluxes. And that's why you have to leave. If not for the layer of clouds covering the earth, you'd be burning with the UV radiation…"
"What has THIS got to do with the earthquakes?"
"You know as well as I do, that the dust is a curse. But in this case, it's a blessing. The ground's destabilizing. We have to go… and I've been looking everywhere for you…"
"Where is everyone?"
"I'll explain in a moment. I didn't really reveal how dire things were, but it's almost too late now… the comet that impacted us… it vaporized in earth's atmosphere as you know. Gene and Paul didn't realize that the ozone layer was slowly decaying. Ace and the astronauts wanted to find some way to remove the thick layer of clouds. But what they don't realize is that trying to do so would doom us all…"
"I don't get why you're talking about this… the ground's shaking, I'm scared to death, and there is this AURORA outside,” stammered Tamara.
Ray seemed extremely calm as she explained, "The earthquake's very near. You see it's generating a lot of plasma, and charged particles. There's a gap in the cloud's that's passing overhead. And charged particles from space are leaking through. It's a pretty unusual phenomenon. And you're seeing it now."
"Do you mean…" wondered Tamara, her knees knocking together. Only the floor and her body seemed real and solid. The rest of the world swirled around her like a fantasy gone nightmare.
"There's no more ozone layer. And that's the least of our worries," Ray said sadly, as she walked over to Tamara whose heart was pounding.
"Why didn't you say anything, why didn't we know?"
"The scientists that were trying to contact us. There's a reason they've been hidden. They thought everyone had died. The astronauts hadn't come down to earth for a reason, Tamara. You ever wonder WHY?" Ray challenged. Each of her words was spoken in a sotto voice, rife with intensity but with a rasping undertone she had not before heard.
"Ace said there was something weird with the atmosphere, and that they were trying to fix it," said Tamara.
Ray's eyes were unusually bright as she continued, "Radios have been unreliable because of this. And Ace's efforts to try and fix the problem have resulted in destruction of the ozone layer. He's screwed up, and he doesn't' want to admit it. And now Gene and Paul are making things worse by not listening to me. In only a few hours this area will be destroyed by a quake… and we have to leave…"
"Why didn't you tell us… why didn't Ace tell us that? I can't believe it," Tamara muttered. "How do I know you're not just making up this whole story about an aurora, and it's all some crazy trick that's fooling us all?"
"You can't be seriously thinking of ignoring me, are you, Tamara?" Ray glanced at Tamara, an odd look in her eyes. Perhaps it seemed almost inhuman, more predatory. Almost as if Ray were sizing Tamara up as prey to be devoured, waiting for the right moment of weakness to strike.
Tamara shook her head, and said, "What you're saying doesn't make scientific sense… there can't be an aurora… there can't be… if there was a problem with the ozone layer, there's no way there could be an aurora in a CLOUDY SKY."
***
The earth itself seemed to crack, and he saw dozens of mutants running away from something towards them. Paul growled in a fashion more suited to Gene as his eyes flared dark purple. "I think we need to go kick some mutant ass Gene!"
"Me too," he said, as he inhaled and shot a column of fire towards the nearest rank. Lizard men yelled and screamed. Rocks flew up as they began to throw things, anything they could get their hands on towards the two. Paul blasted them with a psi beam, flooding their minds with overwhelming fear. Gene swooped down, suddenly scattering them with bursts of fire. He swatted left and right, picking off what he could. There seemed so damn many of them, running towards them. One of them spread its wing membranes and leapt up, attacking Gene. He fell, overwhelmed by dozens of claws and hands as he batted them off and snarled. Under his feet the ground shook from another quake. How in HELL was this going on? He recalled no geological disturbances.
Paul blasted his psi-scan beam once more, giving the attackers the worst, most horrific nightmare he could think of. The mutant staggered away from Gene, only to meet the business end of Paul's boot. He heard screams and cries in the distance, and swatted the lizards as he got up.
"Thanks for the save, Paul," he mumbled.
"We're under attack!!! And three guesses who's behind it!!" Paul said, eyes still glowing.
They saw a silver flash, and lightening slammed into the remaining ones. A snarling yowl happened as a black panther creature slammed into the others. Ace materialized in the air, standing before them, while Peter battled off the remainders.
"Save the thanks for later we got to get to the compound, that's where the real trouble is!" Paul said through gritted teeth.
"Gene, Paul, what the HELL is going on?" Peter yowled.
***
"You are right," Ray said, and Tamara saw the redness was gone. Gone was all the eeriness and the lights in the lab were bright as if nothing had happened. Tamara blinked, as she saw Ray crouching over her, and felt hard floor under her back.
"I… god…" Tamara moaned, as Ray gently held her up, and pushed a pillow under her neck.
"You passed out," said Ray, who was wearing glasses, and her shorts and T-shirt with her vest. "I saw you curled up on the floor… I've been looking for someone, anyone…"
"But I saw you; I saw the sky on fire… I saw…"
"You saw an illusion, no doubt, like I did," Ray said slowly. Tamara felt her head spinning, and aching.
"Say what? Is this one of Blackwell's tricks?” Tamara rasped, the room still whirling far faster then she could stand.
"No, it's the phenomenon I was talking about," Ray said as she held a bottle of water to Tamara's lips, and the chemist hesitated in tasting it. There was an acrid smell she didn't trust.
"I'm fine," Tamara muttered, pushing the bottle away, and struggling to her feet despite Ray's efforts to stop her. "What are you talking about… that charged plasma thing?"
"Yes. We were all affected. It causes hallucinations. You see, there were tremors…" Ray said, walking in front of Tamara, holding a strip of paper in her hands. It was lined and graphed, and jagged lines like an EKG crossed it in wavy peaks. Sharp and clustered they were, and Tamara recognized it as a seismograph.
"Your seismography data," Tamara nodded. Her stomach twisted into a knot, reminding her to suspect every word coming from the geologist she once trusted.
"Yes. The main quake's only coming in a matter of time… we have to find the others. Convince them to listen to me," Ray insisted, lips close to her ear. Her breath rasped out, hot and bitter with a stench that twitched Tamara's nose.
"Ray, are you sure? It could be a trick. The computers were screwy enough… how can you be sure this data isn't garbage?” Tamara asked, not liking the stench that reminded her of rotten eggs.
"Is THIS garbage?" Ray asked, grabbing her hand and dragging her over to a small unit on the table. Three needles were tacking across the graphed paper, which Ray had torn the sheet she held off of. It was old fashioned, ticking and mechanical. Not in the least bit tied to a computer. Tamara noticed how viselike Ray's grip was, realizing it would be difficult to pull free.
"You see, this is a dinosaur of a model by our standards. Found from the university, since Gene didn't want to cough up the resources. You provided the basic circuits to build it. They are shielded from EM disruption. Does THAT lie?" Ray asked.
"Ray, please, I can't think, my head is spinning,” Tamara protested.
"This is the end of all things, unless we act. You and I are the only sane people here. We're scientists, thinkers. They have to listen to us. We have to MAKE them, or else humankind's doomed…" Ray persisted, her grip tightening on Tamara's arm. She knew Ray was strong, but the strength in the geologist's small fingers drove nails sharply into her wrist like cat claws.
"Ray," Tamara said, prying her fingers off the arm of her lab coat sleeve. "You're being a tad bit melodramatic here… aren't you?"
"Melodramatic?" Ray laughed harshly. "Are you joking? We're scientists. We have to take control. We have the means. So do those who have been trying to contact us, but for the malfunctioning radios… you and I must insure that our species survives, or all is lost!"
"Of course, but you're making it sound like we're two steps from doomsday, there are some of us that have lived, and we're doing okay," Tamara protested, not liking the hardness in Ray's eyes, or the steel in her voice. It didn't sound much like the professor she had admired, more like something from one or two of the books that promoted human colonization of other worlds at all costs. Never mind that there might be indigenous species. Wait, that was crazy! What had THIS got to do with SF and planetary colonization? This was more like a situation from The Day After, or Deep Impact, or When Worlds Collide. Humanity was on the edge of extinction, and only a few were left to take up the cause.
"Crack in the earth, good grief," Tamara muttered.
"This isn't funny," Ray sighed. "I know what movie you're referring to, and you couldn't be more right… the writers and thinkers who weren't into nonsense predicted this day would come. Carl Sagan, Heinlein, L Ron Hubbard. They all predicted we'd destroy ourselves in our ignorance, and our arrogance. The stupid mistakes of a few ignorant people making short work of all the human race has accomplished. We can't be snuffed out because of them…"
"Ray, stop babbling, you're making no sense," Tamara shook her head. "This isn't SF, this is REAL!"
"Yes, it is. And you and I have a moral responsibility to drag them out of the mire of barbarism," Raina said to Tamara.
"Excuse me, what are we talking about here?" he blinked, not believing her ears. There they were in a ruined lab, talking about SF of all things! Since WHEN was this anything to be discussing such lunacy? Yet it seemed oddly appropriate, because Ray was going bananas, and Tamara knew that she had to talk sense into Ray because they might be the only ones who had the answers to figuring out what was happening, and what was causing the world to go crazy.
"You and I going to some other fellow scientists who have things under control. Who are already living in a much better situation, in a shelter not far from here? The ones that we should have contacted before Gene started ridiculing my ideas. It's imbeciles who are short sighted like him that stand between us, and intellectuals like us who can save the world."
"Ray, if your friends have been trying to save us, why didn't they come with you?" asked Tamara. "How could we have missed them?"
"That's why I came here," Ray said. "To try and find you all. To convince you to come with me before it was too late."
"Why didn't we KNOW About this?' Tamara shook her head. "Excuse me, but you COULD have told us all this from the start. Why wait to tell me before the others… why all the subterfuge… why…"
"Because, I wanted to see if you were ready to leave this place, and come to your senses," Ray said. "Some of them didn't think that you were sane. That you were worthy to survive. I had to convince them that the survivors of this catastrophe were not just the mutants we've seen, but real humans."
"Hello, since WHEN did you start sounding like Weston…?” Tamara asked, knowing if Ray was the SF guru she claimed, she would know the main character from the C.S. Lewis series, which countered Arthur C. Clarke's notion that humanity needed to colonize space to keep vital, and alive.
"Excuse me?" Raina blinked, caught momentarily off guard.
"I'm surprised you never read Out of the Silent Planet," Tamara said. "Weston, Devine, Ransom…"
"C.S. Lewis," said Ray slowly. "Typical. I'm sure you're going to start espousing some garbage about how we should stay where we are…"
"Yes," Tamara said firmly. "If your idea of progress is leaving behind people in the dust, who will suffer and die so you can live…"
"You make no sense," Ray laughed. "Really, I thought you were reasonable."
"Explain to me again WHY I should join you?" Tamara asked. "As one scientist to another?"
"You're making sense at last," Ray nodded slowly. "Humanity must change to survive. And in so doing the less suited to adapt must sacrifice for the greater good. So that those best suited will carry on their legacy for the generations to come."
"So, someone dies who isn't meeting your criterion," Tamara asked. "Anything that is 'defective' must be purged?"
"Yes," Ray said.
"Survival of the fittest?" Tamara asked.
"Exactly. Their sacrifice will be considered a noble one. For those that can benefit will live. We have limited resources. We can't squander them on those that can't make a positive contribution… our shelter, and our planet is a finely balanced ecosystem… one miscalculation, and we will lose valuable ground in the fight for survival…"
"Who decides who lives and who dies?" Tamara asked.
"All of us, who are qualified to judge…"
"All of you, who are the most educated?" Tamara asked.
"Yes. That is correct."
"So, who would come with you really? I suppose that Gene and Paul are out, because they're beyond your reach. Jeannie, since she has medical skills and is a fighter, and Elliot, who is an empath are in… Mona, because she's a computer scientist, and knows the alien technologies… and Tyler who is adept in tracking animals and wildlife…"
"Exactly."
"Ace and Peter?"
"They made their choice. Ace turned the astronauts against us, foolishly. They hide themselves from our probes, and they've abandoned us… but I see their point. I suppose they will try to find their fate in space…"
"Presumption and supposition," Tamara said, fighting the sickness inside. “I suppose you theorize they'll build a space colony and abandon us on Earth?”
“They'd be within their rights to do so. After all, Mars isn't so far away, and what has a polluted planet to offer them?” Ray shrugged.
“No doubt,” said Tamara, meeting her gaze. The cold calculating green in the geologist's eyes stabbed right through her, but what made it worse was that Ray's words made sense. In addition, Tamara found it more difficult to argue against what Ray said. Especially since her own reasons seemed based more on emotion rather than what she was taught as a chemist. Tamara was tempted to break her gaze, but she notice that Ray's eyes had an unsettling depth, and she could no longer see any reflection in them.
“They've abandoned us, so why should we offer any aid to them?” Ray asked.
“True,” Tamara nodded, and narrowed her eyes. “But what about those like my brother? Would he have a place in your shelter… should push come to shove?”
"Of course. He has some healing capabilities. But he must keep his religious convictions out of the general acumen…"
"So… religion has no place?" asked Tamara. “What do people believe in? The common good of the community?”
"Yes. We must not discriminate. The people decide the laws, and we will judge which are passed. Devoting all efforts to survival, instead of frivolous things that could create dissention instead of unity…"
"So, he can't do what he loves most?" asked Tamara.
"He must not disrupt the development of the society we are trying to preserve," Raina explained. "And the children will be well educated and cared for. You yourself can have a place beside me on the council seat. If you come willingly. If you make it more difficult, you may not have such a chance for status so soon."
"And Simone, Christine?" asked Tamara.
"Your friends are of the opinion that women only serve functions of breeding, pleasuring men, and producing children. They have no desire to learn useful things… that would elevate them to the role of equals as males."
“Maybe they think like and equal are not the same thing?” Tamara said, feeling that she had heard THIS argument someplace before in a book she'd read years ago. Odd how all the SF literature had prepared her in ways she'd never see possible, but those things that were represented herein rang far truer than accepted facts.
“Granted. But we aren't arguing semantics here. My argument is that would you settle for being barefoot and pregnant if you had the ability to be something more, and yet because it takes more effort, you refuse to better yourself because it's too hard?”
“Scientifically they are breeding stock, would you turn them aside from a rational point of view?" Tamara asked.
"From that standpoint they are useful. But they cannot have as much say as those of us who are devoted to thinking. They have no desire to adopt our philosophies. They are redundant… while you are both gestating and capable of teaching others. Would you want them to pass on their puerile poor work ethic?"
"Sounds perfect, doesn't it?" Tamara asked. "You've got it all figured out, haven't you all?"
"Yes. Do you see now why you must come? You have no alternative…" said Ray. “I'd much rather have you come willingly than drag you kicking and screaming.”
“Have you set yourself to breed?” Tamara queried, changing the subject. Did Ray know if she was pregnant or not? If so, would this somehow change the opinion that Ray seemed fixated on displacing her from this enclosure?
“Indeed,” Ray said. “However, I have failed to produce any viable offspring. I'm unable to bear children. You however had never gestated, and are still within the prime candidacy for that purpose. Also your intelligence holds you in good stead. And your body and physical state, aside from your addiction to nicotine is superior for pregnancy.”
"What if my children were somehow… inferior?" Tamara asked. "What about children that aren't… well… intelligent enough?"
"I see you're reverting to your religious perspectives. I supposed this would come up. Sacrifices must be made… but no child will be terminated, if it can survive. If it's not fit to be carried, then nature will make our decision for us. The same with those that are too ill or beyond our ability."
"Would you have room for the blind, the lame and the sick?" wondered Tamara.
"If we have the technology to correct their deficiencies, and it is not beyond our capacity to help make them productive members, no. But if the extend drains any resources from others that have lesser but correctable problems, then no."
"It's so tidy and neat?" Tamara said flatly, her jaw setting firm. “That's the issue here, isn't it? It would be so much easier for all of us to follow your plan, regardless of the fact it might be deficient by its elegant simplicity.”
"I see that you are still not convinced," said Raina slowly. “I wanted to give you the opportunity to see it from a rational standpoint. Can you not see that this makes FAR more sense then what Paul and Gene are doing? What have THEY done to solve our energy problem, our food problem? Have they shared their powers with others?”
“They do not force their aid on those that don't wish it,” Tamara said simply. “They uphold the right to decide what is best.”
“Clearly some people who refuse help may not see that it's for their own good that we intervene… Tamara, there isn't much time…"
“What's the rush?” Tamara demanded.
“Every hour we wait, the enemy grows closer. You and I have far less time than you can imagine.”
“Why?” Tamara pressed on. Whatever was the reason balanced on the tip of Ray's tongue, ready to be drawn to the fore by her questions.
“I cannot wait for you to sit here for days on end trying to decide for yourself, when it makes better sense to see our shelter. Wouldn't you at least go there?” coaxed the geologist.
“Perhaps, if I knew I was free to leave,” Tamara reasoned.
“You could leave at any time,” acquiesced Ray, but something in her tone suggested that the very notion was absurd. “I don't see why you'd want to.”
“So, I go now, without Gene or Paul? Is that the choice?”
“You've tried to get them to see reason. But they refuse. If you go now, they will follow. That is why there is not much time. You see, Gene and Paul have left you all behind to follow some notion of vengeance against the disciples of Blackwell. If they really were dedicated to your survival they would have joined forces with my friends. Not left you all alone to be attacked, Ray warned.
“We aren't alone?” Tamara realized, her body tensing with a sharp bolt of fear. All along the sensations of thousands of eyes watching from afar were confirmed to be real.
“Think about it, Tamara,” said Ray. “Do you know where everyone is?”
“Tyler… Mona?” coughed Tamara, depressing her collar jewel. There was no answer. Her mind reached out to find her brother, but found silence. The entire complex seemed deserted.
“They're gone, aren't they?” Ray laughed harshly.
“Have they chosen to go?” Tamara demanded.
“That's why you have little time,” said Ray. “Because they're being stubborn, and foolish. Gene and Paul are under attack, and there is little chance they will survive. They're bringing the mutants here. I've seen on the radar, we're not going to survive another attack. And without Ace to repair the system, and Peter to drive away the mutants, it's only a matter of time…”
“Christine?” Tamara asked, as she felt the emptiness tangibly. She turned from Ray, and started to walk around the lab, Ray in tow.
“As we have been talking, things have happened,” said Ray, as she chased after Tamara. Both women emerged to find a bleeping alarm on the nearby console.
“Security wall's been breached,” Tamara suddenly panicked. “How…”
The ground shook under her, and she felt plaster hitting her on the head. Ray stood in the doorway, glancing at her. “That's another reason why we don't have time. Any minute these quakes could lead into a major earthquake…”
“How do you know?” Tamara asked, rushing into Ray's lab to see the seismograph. Grabbing her arm, Ray stopped her.
“It's too late. We have to leave now…”
“Mona… where is she…” Tamara breathed. “Mona… Christine… the children?”
Tammi, wait…” Ray said as she saw Tamara rush out into the courtyard to the cottage. Her eyes widened when she saw the wall breached, and rubble piled up where the guesthouse had once been.
“Good god in heaven what happened?” Tamara drew in her breath.
At that moment, Images of her friends flickered in her head, and she heard frantic cries as she surfaced, and saw the silver suits carrying the two kittens. Mona screamed as she fought against them, only to fall prey to a stunner that lay her flat.
“Mother, help us!” cried Elliot in her thoughts, and she realized he was the source. Lavender energy flickered, and all around her the images slammed home from his fragmented mind.
Tyler yelled in pain as they hit him with a stun stick. Jeannie heaved and was unable to hold her flame when they sprayed her with CO2. Elliot pulled at the headband fastened around him as he was jerked away, his hands bound behind him. Christine was nowhere to be found. Nor were Gene and Paul. Nick and Sophie were being taken as well. All of them. Her brother, fallen at the side, out cold and senseless, being laid on a stretcher and taken away like wood. Anger filled her, and sickness.
“You see, they are gone…” Ray said, drawing in her breath. “Gone…”
“Shit, shit shit,” Tamara hissed, rushing towards the rubble.
“There's nothing you can do… except come with me, you see, they've been taken by Blackwell's disciples. If you come with me now we can still help them.”
“Gene and Paul?
“Are beyond our aid…” Ray said as she grabbed Tamara's arm and pulled her. Tamara however felt something in the pit of her stomach as she tried to reach out mentally for Paul's voice. A shutter of darkness slammed down, and her eyes widened. Her thoughts reached to her brother, and felt nothing, but emptiness. Ray nodded sadly, “You sense nothing, do you? Don't you see that we can't help them unless we go?”
“There's no proof,” Tamara muttered, ignoring Ray as she depressed her collar choker, and heard nothing. Not even a hail.
“No… we have to leave now… for the sake of your children.
“My children? How could I be pregnant when you said that I've never borne children?” Tamara asked, a cold irrational chill raising the hairs on the back of her neck. Her heart pounded, and in that instant something rang false. Ray could have known if Gene had told her. Yet would he have?
***
"I'm sensing major disturbances, what's going on?" Ace asked.
"I tried calling the compound, but no go... and then the land sat satellite picked up massive geo flux."
Gene shook his head as he saw his friends. "What frigging made you come NOW? You ditched us!"
"Can someone tell me what the fuck is going on???" Peter said, still in his were-form.
"Something major bad," Ace said
"No shit Sherlock!" Peter growled.
"Space time is Swiss cheese, and there is a massive geological upheaval, that shouldn't be happening!" Ace said.
"Ace, what the fuck... I thought you two were arguing,” Gene scratched his head.
"This goes beyond that, Gene," Ace shouted. "Shandi sensed something wrong... and then Mona..."
"Mona was calling me... and then the link went dead at the source! My daughter had just discovered something... and then... nothing... I heard her screams, and then the geological upheavals..."
"Wait, how did you know...?” Gene got out.
Paul gasped, “Oh shit!”
Ace mumbled. "It's like a tear in the dimensional fabric, and I'm seeing that the EM fields are being warped from the source..."
Peter snorted, "There is a smell I've not associated with the mutants.... It's strange…"
"I suspected this... I'm seeing EM all over the spectra, and Pete, do you smell anything weird..." Paul muttered.
"EM fields... geological..." Gene got out. "You don't think..."
"I could almost swear it's human, but not quite…" Peter muttered.
"What direction?" Ace asked.
"The compound possibly near the labs..." Peter said cocking his head to get a better scent.
"Damn," Ace mumbled. "I was afraid of this. I didn't want to think, but the variables were computed..."
"Labs?” Gene asked, angry. “Are you sure?”
"Damn it Ace, ENGLISH Please!!!! Paul shouted. Gene growled low in his throat. He tried to hail Jeannie, but got only static. Then Christine, but the same response. Nothing. The links were dead.
"The tears in space time started getting worse when Ray appeared," Ace said.
"And she seemed to have all too convenient a cover story. And then Mona saw the emails. How did RAY know how to revive Elliot?" Peter growled ominously. "Come t' think of it… how in the hell did Ray know about Blackwell?"
"HOW?" Ace asked. “That's a GOOD question!
"I thought she knew from one of us telling her," Gene said. "She knew the talisman existed. But..."
"I thought something wasn't right when I couldn't get a 'read' on her....but I just thought she had tighter shielding than most people," Paul said tensely.” I should have watched closer."
"She contacted the ones I warned her against. The ones that were off registry. The ones the astronauts on the station said were illegally experimenting even before they made contact again. The commander said that the only shelters that matched the location that Mona transmitted were private ones... and their funding was caused by the Society for the Preservation of Science and Reason."
"They're an organization that was a crackpot one... going on about nuclear winters and stuff," said Ace.
"Oh great!!!" Paul huffed. "More crackpots to deal with!"
"What the fuck does THAT have to do with...?” Gene ran out.
"Yeah Ace... fill us in." Peter growled, "Because my kids are there!"
"Ray was a member, remember?" Ace said. "We thought it was SF crap like my Jendel stuff. But they are a group of scientists who are extremes."
"C'mon, this way," Ace said as he reached out to teleport them all. He threw his thumbs, but there came a blinding flash and Ace screamed in pain.
"YEAARRRGH!" he screamed. "EM... shorting out my relay... can't..."
"ACE!!!!!" Paul said, kneeling beside his comrade. Peter whimpered and licked aces face. Clearly he was concerned for his buddy.
"Shit," Gene mumbled. Ace groaned, feeling his brain on fire. His power was em and electricity based.
"Wait... isn't Ace's power based on EM? He shoots lightening as well as force... whatever nailed him probably was the same thing that..." Gene trailed off.
"Screwed up communications!!!" Paul deduced.
"Em fields can be fucked up by slips in the earth's crust. That much science I know... and create balls of charged plasma,” Gene mumbled. Ray would choke if she knew that he wasn't as dumb as she made him out to be.
"My teleport... screwed... familiar... scrambled... scrambled... dark light," Ace moaned.
Peter and Paul looked at each other and at the same time said "EARTHQUAKE!!!"
"Ray's a geologist," said Gene, and then a horror struck him.
"Paul, Tammi's a chemist and her power reflects that... but what if a geologist..." came Gene's voice.
"Got a chemist to team up with her???" Paul said not liking where this was headed
"Yes..." said Gene angrily.
"Black light... strong... was blocking me," Ace gasped. "I can't... it's all around me... all around us... stopping us..."
At the sound of his words, Paul felt his knees go weak. They turned to look at Ace and the realization hit them at the same time.
"Blackwell..." Ace moaned. "Another agent... right inside us."
As Ace lay groaning, the other three chorused "BLACKWELL!!!
"Shit, that MOTHER FUCKER!" Gene growled. "How could he...”
"Why does he want... Tamara?" Peter asked.
"Paul, remember why you wanted to save Kiara from Blackwell? Maybe it's for the same reason... wasn't that kid supposed to save us?" Gene said.
"What the fuck does that have to do with anything...? Kiara's a baby... she can't..." Ace mumbled.
"But Ace, I don't think she knows the full extent of her power yet," said Paul.
"It's useless to suppose on that point. It became clear to me that Kiara can't do what Blackwell wanted," Ace mumbled.
"What are you saying that your kid ISN'T the friggin savior of the world that you and Paul THOUGHT would be? That she's only able to make illusions and not save us?" Gene laughed. "Terrific!"
"She's a telekinetic. She could save the world with her powers, but only if she knew how to precisely focus. She can make dreams into reality, but her power is useless to Blackwell. It would only create illusion... The elders were incorrect to pin their hopes on her... and Blackwell... that's why he gave up on capturing Shan and the baby... it must be... because he didn't count on..."
"But someone else is, and Ray must have known it. And she must have told Blackwell..." Gene trailed off. "And that means...”
"That she wants Tammi and the babies!!!" Paul said.
"Yes..." Ace muttered guiltily. "And I thought I was saving Kiara by taking her away... but Blackwell isn't interested in her anymore, otherwise he'd have picked me and the astronauts off..."
Peter growled..."Who cares why? Seems to me that bastard wants ALL the kids..."
"Kiara was a red herring. A being of great power, but only able to bring hope. That's what we knew when I studied her powers. She can make your dreams come true, but without physical substance...”
"Soo, you're saying that she can only create a world of illusion. Blackwell fucked up. And now he knows that Tamara... can do what he wants..." Gene growled.
"And since Tammi CAN make physical substance..."Paul trailed off. "We need a plan guys. We've GOT to stop him!"
"Yes, we do, but how?" Gene asked.
"I can't teleport us in... And..." Ace said. "But... Paul, can't you contact Tamara if you try hard? I know there's something blocking... but maybe TAMARA can do what we can't."
"Does she know that the others..."
"I can try...we've got to," Paul said.
"I couldn't get through to Mona..." Ace mumbled as he typed something into his choker collar. It was a minicomputer. "And I'm tracing her to somewhere in the mountains... her and Tyler. But Tammi... I'm trying to get hold of her... and the last fix was the compound..."
"She's alone, then," said Gene.
"The others are already taken away," said Ace grimly. "Beyond our reach, and then..."
"With Ray." Paul said.
"Yes," said Gene angrily.
"They have taken my daughter and my grandchildren," Ace hissed as white lightening crackled in his fingertips. "They will fuckin pay!"
"Let me try again..." Paul said before he lowered his head and tried to open the link between him and Tamara.
Ace tried to shape the EM around them, to get Paul's mind cast through Ray's scattering. Gene glanced around, seeing if there was anything he could do. He rushed forward, but something slammed against him, like an artificial barrier.
"Force field, shit," Ace muttered as he struggled to help Paul concentrate. "This is serious. They're shutting us out... somehow with the house defenses..."
"Anyway to tap into it and reverse the process that's blocking us?" Peter asked as he paced nervously.
"Yes," said Ace as his mind reached out, and struggled to stop whatever EM flux was jamming them. "Someone's realigned the force field to keep us out... but if Paul can get to Tamara, and she can distract Ray... enough for us to get past the barrier..."
"Wait, Ray isn't causing the barrier is she?" asked Gene.
"Is that possible Ace?" Peter asked.
"Yes it is," Ace said. "Ray's set up the computer against us. And she's just using the force field to block us out. But she's powering it by warping the EM fields with her geology powers somehow. And that's just what I'm sensing..."
Paul stood there, eyes closed, transmitting w/all his might, in hopes he could reach Tamara. Tamara's thoughts echoed, and she was afraid. Very afraid. Blackness surrounded her mind. There came a rumbling in the ground, and a black cloud rose around the complex.
"It's not just Ray... it's something THRU and around her," said Ace, as he scanned the power he could read. “She's a conduit, a channel for something far more powerful in another dimension.”
"You can unwrap them right Space Ace??" Peter asked hopefully as he continued his nervous pacing. This inability to do anything was driving him nuts!
"Yes... I can try," Ace gritted. Gene breathed fire at the barrier, and then summoned his axe to hack at it.
"I can't be the only one, I can't be..." came Tamara's thoughts as fear ran rampant. Ugly black words were spilling around, and a flash of Ray came into Paul's mind through Tamara's eyes for a split second before the link wandered again.
"Gene its Ray!! She's behind this....She's got Tammi thinking we're all dead!!"
"All alone... I can't be... she must be lying," came Tamara's thoughts. But they were gripped in grief.
"Fucking hell," Gene growled, hammering on the barrier as hard as he could. What had happened to Christine he wondered.
"You're not alone baby." Paul transmitted. "Stall her if you can!"
"Paul..." came Tamara's thoughts. You're alive... you're alive!"
"Yes baby I am. Hang on we're doing what we can to get there."
"Paul, she's got the others... she's hurt Christine, what can I do?" Tamara's thoughts echoed. "She's controlling the earth... and I can't..."
The ground rumbled, and Gene growled as he hammered at the force barrier harder and harder with his axe. Somehow the thought of Christine being harmed in there gave him new resolve. Not only her but all of them had a personal stake in this, and he wanted to make Blackwell pay for harming two women important to him.
"You can Tammi, remember I told you you're more powerful than you realize? Distract her somehow!" Paul urged.
"I'll try... by god I'll try," Tamara said. Ace felt the EM field shift, and then the ground rumbled. The force barrier weakened for a second, and then came up again.
"That's all you can do...I love you baby." Paul whispered, eyes blazing purple with frustration.
"I love you too, and I won't let her win...” Tamara's thoughts echoed. "I swear to God she won't have our children... even if I have to die to save them..."
"None of us will as long as we have breath in our lungs," Paul transmitted.
“It weakened, for a second," Gene shouted. “This means that she's dividing her attention! All your lady has to do is keep her using more power, and she'll have less to power the shield!”
Again the ground rumbled, and they heard an unearthly roar. Peter caught the sound of voices coming into focus. Although the others couldn't hear, he could clearly. He wasn't sure if it was better or worse. Ace frowned, knitting his brow as he reached around and through the field, wrapping threads of reality to undo the tight matrix of force that the computer had concocted along with Ray's power.
"You are a COWARD!" came a familiar voice. It was Tamara's, clear and strong, filled with desperation.
"You cannot stop me!" echoed another, but it was warped and twisted with dark undertones that made Peter's fur stand on end. It was a voice of many, twisted and intertwined with Ray's voice in a discordant cacophony.
“Listen,” Peter shouted. “Someone's coming this way…”
Ace turned and saw a green cloud rising, and a loud inhuman roar as the earth quivered. Jets of steam and sulfurous gases spurted, and dust clouds surrounded the complex.
"That's her... that's her!" echoed Gene's voice as he hammered on the barrier. "Son of a bitch, that is her... it's Ray!"
***
“You want to know what I think… my decision,” Tamara took a deep breath. What she next said would determine if she would fight or flee. Here and now she had to make a stand, though fighting was something she loathed. Could she put her transmutation power against whatever unknown energies she sensed from Ray? Gut feeling revealed that Ray's inhuman presence masked a far greater threat, one she dared think was making itself known. Could it be the one they most feared, spilling over into their world from the other one?
"Yes. I've been reasonable… given you time to consider," Ray impatiently gritted, tapping her booted foot.
"Well, this is it. I think you, and your friends are cowards…" shouted Tamara, steadying her voice as much as she dared.
"Excuse me?" Ray asked, caught off guard.
"A coward, I repeat," Tamara repeated. "You, who justify your agenda through science. You're afraid of things that you can't measure, like God, and Art, and souls. You can't quantify life, but you try. And anything that doesn't fit your view of the world might as well not exist."
"Emotions, and quagmire, that are irrelevant," Ray laughed. "Really Tamara! I thought better of you!”
Anger fueled Tamara's next tirade, "Oh shut up, and get off your goddamn high horse. You obviously have no room for anything that REALLY matters. God forbid that I should believe in a greater power, that maybe YOUR view of nature is the sick one? Who says that the strong survive and the weak perish? Those who are scared to admit that the weak may have more strength, and just as much right to live as any? That we can learn to accept limitations and move beyond them. When we get rid of that which we fear, and try to put everything we don't' understand in a box, and leave no mystery, no dreams, then we are not fit to be called human."
"I see you are going to be difficult. A pity really,” Ray snorted.
"Are you even LISTENING to what I'm saying?" Tamara laughed. Fired up with her own outrage, she sought to continue her speech, if only to keep up the illusion of bravery. Every second she delayed Ray would buy more time for the Four to return and save her.
"Don't think I haven't noticed how you're biased, hiding behind all that intellectual snobbery, too afraid to really come out and let us know that you're really being manipulated. When are you going to come OUT and face us and let us know whose really pulling your strings? Who are you REALLY? When are you going to face us, Blackwell? Or are you AFRAID of me?"
"You really presume to know, little girl," laughed Ray, darkness coming into her eyes. They gleamed yellow for a second, then dwindled to their still inhuman intensity. They appeared bottomless, swallowing all hope of trust that could remain. "You alone stand between me and what I want. Laughable. You should be the one afraid. Afraid of me. Your precious Gene and Paul will not be able to stop what I've set in motion."
"Obviously it makes no sense to ask what you've done, because you're bragging about it," Tamara said as she felt fear again paralyze her.
"I will tell you anyway. Perhaps you will see that your efforts to fight are futile," said the deep voice of many through Ray's mouth. "Gene and Paul at this very moment are fighting a losing battle, to try and keep their defense against the mutants that are overrunning the place. Tyler and Elliot have fallen, trying to stop the researchers from taking the children. While you and I have been talking, your friends have been beaten. You are alone. Alone. And there is nothing you can do. Even your brother can't help you. His mind is lost inside mine, presuming to even THINK of…"
"You're lying," she whispered, and then Ray walked up to her.
"Give up now. Come with me, and stop all this nonsense. You can put it to a stop with one word…"
"No," Tamara said, as she suddenly dropped through the floor. Whoever Blackwell was, he was focusing his power through human hosts, and had a weakness. She had to find some way to stall him; if what he said was true.
"Paul, Gene," she gasped; as she saw the images flood her head. Fighting a losing battle, against impossible odds. She rushed forward to help them, but ran smack into Raina, who reached to grab her with long clawed fingers. Tamara hurled a magnesium flare into her face, and dove through the wall, into the heart of the house.
"I hear you Tamara," came Paul's voice. "Don't give in…"
"The others…"
"All we need is fifteen minutes… fifteen minutes… Ace and Peter are on their way…"
"But everyone else…"
"We'll make it right. You must get away… we're coming… just fifteen minutes…" came Paul's voice.
"You can run from me, but you cannot keep stalling the inevitable," Ray laughed as she tore through the wall like it was paper. "Face the facts. Ace and Peter are too far away to help. Oh no, they will be too late. Already your friends are being taken away. Of course you can prevent all this, if you tell me where Bruce and Eric are."
"No," Tamara said. "You're just playing games!"
"Can you take the chance of that? You're all alone. The Torch and the Fox have dealt with Jeannie and Mona. They are not harmed, but locked in sleep. The Golden Princess has seen to it with her spells. Even now she and her mate face Gene and Paul, keeping them from those who have been captured."
"Why even bother to tell me?" Tamara asked, feeling the pressure hammering at her mind. A small seed of doubt had sprouted into a vast forest. It was as if Ray's mind itself was pushing at the small crack in the mental wall she erected.
"Because you were fool enough to ask. It could have been easy for you, to follow this one you admired. But you had to make it difficult. But it won't' matter if you resist. I'll find them. My children will find them. And don't count on Christine for help. She's lost, hopelessly, in my shadow realm. All things are coming together. And you have no place left to run."
"Maybe not," Tamara said, as she felt the blackness. Fear arose in her, but she felt the presence of something inside. Someone had to make a stand. The floor below her began to vibrate, and she felt the ground changing state to liquefy. Cracks snaked through as masonry fell, and Tamara threw out her hands to enclose herself into a sphere of iron.
"Clever, but not clever enough," laughed the voice she now hated, and she began to run INSIDE the sphere, which lodged in a bit of masonry. Dispelling it so it was just glass, she saw the ground was restored to normal and Ray was there, her long black wings spanning.
"I'm not even starting to give up," Tamara choked, sounding more confident than she felt. Her heart pounded, but she had to try. Gene and Paul had to be close at hand, they had to.
"Paul, please, where are you?" she cried.
"Tamara, don't lose hope," echoed Paul's voice in her mind. "We can't reach you yet, but stay away from her… please stay away… just a few more minutes!"
Ray tore aside a wall, and then the ground again shook, knocking Tamara to her knees. The ground opened up, and it seemed magma burbled around her. The hot gases snorted up, and Tamara panicked. Concentrating she summoned up the change, solidifying the air around her into a suit of asbestos. It would keep the heat out… but for how long? She couldn't fly… but the earth under her feet, something in it she could solidify into something to stand on… surely. Asphalt melted, and she stumbled to run as fast as she could. Around her she made the sphere again, solidifying the magma that spurted out into a thin shell of glass like a human gerbil ball.
Ray flew, after her. The chase was on, and Tamara knew that she had to win it. Bits of stone crashed, and she threw herself free of the shattered sphere as she let herself slip through the molecules of whatever she was about to hit, and knowing she might not stop. But she hoped that she could as she solidified herself in the clear ground with dirt all around her.
Overhead Raina stood, her black wings spanning as she approached. The ground itself vibrated, and Tamara staggered to her feet once more. She was tired, sore, and scared that she might die. But there had to be a way to stop the enemy.
"You speak brave words, chemist. But you can quantify the force of my strength, can you not? You can't hold back someone like me," echoed Ray's voice. "Can you fight the fear in your mind? Can you really hope to win if you're the last alive?"
"No. But I can fight your host," Tamara thought. She concentrated hard, seeing how Ray was gesturing to create the cracks of magma around her. With a surge she sent something light towards Ray, and a blaze of hydrogen flared to life create a curtain of fire.
"Foolish. I am earth and fire. I am all four elements. You cannot fight me, weakling," boomed the laugh as fire was extinguished in a mountain of dirt. Pieces of stone and rock hurtled toward her, and Tamara stepped up her own battle. They crashed against her barrier of iron, which barely held. Desperately she reached out to the carbon in the air, and knew there was one thing that could resist all this damage and destruction. Around her dust and cinders blew, and Tamara let it blow close. Slowly it collected into a thin film, in the air she was solidifying, till it shimmered. Diamond hard, and thick, a spherical shell of the hardest substance lowly carbon could make.
"I must fight you and I will, I swear to God," Tamara gritted. "No matter the cost."
"I can melt it in seconds, fool," said the voice of Blackwell. "There is nothing you can create that I cannot destroy…"
"That was what I was counting on," Tamara said, as the barrier began to melt. She let the barrier down, and then moved forward, the fine coating covering herself overtop the asbestos like a living skin of diamond. Tamara reached and pushed her hands directly into Ray's face, concentrating hard on the breath of life itself that was through her body. Nitrogen suddenly spewed around.
"You can't burn if there is no oxygen," Tamara exhaled.
Against her hands she felt intense heat, radiating. Closing her eyes she struggled. There had to be a way she could reverse the heat somehow. Exothermic reactions. Could she change the states of matter? She wished she knew. How much longer could she fight? The creature that was Ray was gasping in the lack of air, suffocating as Tamara sealed her inside a thin shell of metal. Something was building up inside, generating heat through the ground, and Tamara backed away. Blackwell was using Ray's knowledge of geology to fight her. But there had to be something Ray didn't know that she did. What could it possibly be?
Ray was a human being, changed by his magic into a creature of pure power. But she was still flesh and blood. A focus for his power. And by fighting back, she knew she was tiring herself, but knowing that the feelings flowing through her confirmed that Paul was close. The sphere melted, and the creature that was ray stood up, roaring with anger.
"You are a fool," roared Blackwell/Raina with rage. Tamara felt drained, and her strength ebbed. Hot steam popped up from the earth, and she reached out to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen, letting it flow and the heat radiating outwards. The glass she was forming around her wouldn't hold it back, but she had thrown it up just in time.
"You're pretty good throwing rocks at me," Tamara shouted.
"That isn't even the start, fool," the Un-Ray laughed. More pieces of dirt flew towards her, and Tamara let them come. As they reached the proximity, she transmuted earth into gas that flowed around her, in some strange plasma. Reaching deep inside, Tamara summoned again the orbital of swirling light, sending the fourth state of matter to ionize whatever was thrown her way.
Tamara hollered, "But why don't you just come get me? I'm right here… Come and get me… if you dare! "
"You again presume much," Blackwell, the Un-Ray responded, and a foot set right before her, kicking her aside. Tamara rolled over and over, and looked up into the face that scowled. It picked her up by the front of her smock, and held her over its head.
"You've gone to a lot of trouble, so why not just kill me now? Unless Blackwell wants me alive… which you've made clear!"
"The question is this…Will you sacrifice the lives you carry inside of you, fighting me?" Ray asked. "They could perish if you even presume to fight me…"
"I would rather spare them the misery of your world," said Tamara softly. "And die knowing that I made the world a better place than give up."
"Oh yes? You have NO idea of what your power can really do, you fool," Blackwell laughed through Ray's voice. "So innocent, and yet so unaware of the fact you can easily destroy this host body, but your squeamish nature prevents it… you don't have a prayer against me, because you don't DARE have the guts to KILL."
"Oh?" Tamara asked. "Think again, BITCH…"
Tamara held her breath, and a green gas flowed around them, thick and pungent. Chlorine and lots of it. She felt herself drop as the creature coughed and hissed, batting away the gas. Maybe she'd die, but maybe she wouldn't. But it was horrible to think of Ray being locked in that place where Blackwell held her between life and death. Ray would understand, if there was any shred of her left inside.
"I'm sorry Ray," Tamara muttered.
The gas had the desired effect, but Tamara felt her powers ebbing away. Exhaustion flooded her, and she let it go. Semi blinded, but still alive the Ray/Blackwell coughed, "Valiant but futile… and now, I think you'll realize that you are fighting a battle you cannot win…"
Angrily the claw pinned Tamara down, and she saw the red gaze of the Un-Ray glaring down into her. Slowly the claw squeezed, choking off her life force. Her life breath was being choked off, dying. Yet she knew she could survive. Transmute the very CO2 within her lungs to sustaining oxygen. She went rigid; letting the Un-Ray think she was dead. Lying still she felt the claw loosen for a moment, her fingers hitting the dirt as she lay. Something inside told her to lay there, still and let her believe she was dead.
"You were a bright star that became snuffed out. But your husk will prove sufficient. That which comes inside your womb will be taken if you are dead…"
Tamara's mind moved within, and she could feel the sense of something depending upon her. Two lives forever snuffed out. That she could not bear. Praying silently she dug her fingers into the earth that rumbled.
"I WILL win!" Tamara said, as she looked up into Ray's face.
"You live, but how?"
"By my knowledge… you cannot kill me. I will live… don't make me hurt you," Tamara said, her voice increasing in pitch.
"You fool; surrender now and I'll be patient…"
"No," Tamara said.
"Then die, chemist!" Ray spat in her face, and raised her claw. At that moment, Tamara reared up and grabbed her face hard, not letting go.
"I MUST… try THIS!" Screaming she summoned her last shreds of transmutation, and hurled the effect towards Ray. AS the lava rose up from around her, Tamara fused it into molten obsidian. She pushed herself out of the effect and felt Ray's claw around her neck. Through the contact she sent her power, knowing that it was not something before possible to kill living flesh… but she had to try.
"You can't kill me!" Ray laughed, but Tamara shoved her hand into Ray's face, focusing the act of transmutation from carbon to something else. Not Silicon, but Germanium. A loud roar hit Ray, and she backed away. Tamara crawled away, her power exhausted.
"I tried, I tried," she whispered as she pulled her body away with her arms alone.
"You HURT me… you couldn't kill, you couldn't! How is this possible?" came the loud roar.
"Do me a favor and SHUT up!" shouted a familiar voice, and something landed on the back of the Un-Ray. Christine held her tightly, draining off the energies of Blackwell as she choked. Someone landed behind Tamara, and she felt herself snatched away as silver sparklers exploded around her. Strong arms held her, and she looked up to see Ace standing there.
"You okay?" he asked, helping her up.
"I will be," she gasped, as he steadied her, and threw up a vibratory cone to thwart the rocks heading their way. Throwing off Christine, Ray snarled. Yet another creature replaced Christine, leaping on the Un-Ray as it tore at her with claws. Simone roared and snarled, sinking her fangs deep into the side of Ray's shoulder. A Black Panther shape slammed into her back, claws hissing and ripping at the material. Roaring, she batted Simone away, and then Peter went flying. A blast of purple energy slammed into her from one side, while Gene swooped down, kicking with his boot.
Ray dropped, growling as the ground quivered. Ace teleported Tamara away and she felt herself grabbing to him as he materialized in the sky. Paul turned, and flew quickly towards them. "Thank god, are you all right?" he asked.
"I am now," she said shakily, and he looked torn.
"Protect her, Ace. I'm going to have to split Blackwell's influence from her… if we're going to save Ray…"
"You can't save her, without killing her," thundered Blackwell's laugh, as Gene felt sharp claws rip into him. Paralyzing webbing wrapped around her, immobilizing her as Christine again attacked. Gene dropped behind her, locking her in his arms.
"Now, get out of here!" Paul shouted, his purple aura reaching out to pull at Ray's body. Something gray was yanked out, and pulled toward him, but he felt the strain of it resisting. Her screams were horrible, and Gene let go.
"I can't do it Paul… it's killing her…"
"Please, don't let him… please," pleaded Ray as the transformation relaxed. Paul felt anguish, and his focus broke. In that moment he saw the woman he'd once loved, and it stabbed deep. And in that moment Blackwell's hold was regained. The blackness shot back, changing her into the hideous shape, and black wings spread as she launched herself into the air. Smoke and fire exploded, and the ground cracked and split. Sulfur and fumes hit their nostrils, causing Gene to grab Christine as she was hit by a pyroclastic flow. Paul sailed back, and Peter caught him, just in time to fly him away.
"You can't stop me. I've got them; I've got them all. And you can't have them…" Blackwell/Ray roared.
"Where's your lackeys…" Gene gritted.
"The children are but one part of my plan… and you will not be around to see the end. You may have stopped me now, but I WILL have the Star Bearer's offspring, the Celestial's daughter and the chemist. Mark my words…"
"Where ARE they?" Paul yelled.
The creature snarled and spitted, collapsing back into Ray. For a moment it looked like her, and then they saw the eyes bright gold, and the long hair which was reddish blonde in a scaly reptilian face. "You won't find them. Their abilities are wasted on you. They'll be safe. But you'll beg to join us…"
"Holy shit," Gene gasped, recognizing the face across decades. Paul's blood ran cold, and there came flashes of light and energy that blazed around them.
***
"Leader, it was leader," Gene snarled. Tamara felt someone holding her close in his arms, and she blinked up to see Paul holding her tightly against him. Wind flew against their faces, and she saw the ground whirling underneath them.
"It can't be," Peter gritted, as he flew alongside them. Simone was in his grasp, her long hair blowing in the breeze.
"It is," Ace nodded angrily, flying wreathed in silver mist. He flew behind the pack, after Gene, who blazed next to Christine, who was flying under her own power.
"Who the hell is leader?" Christine asked.
"A bitch from the future, that Jeannie thought she killed," answered Peter.
"She murdered my girlfriend, and Jeannie killed her…" Gene blinked in anger, his throat suppressing a loud roar. "It couldn't be… it just couldn't…"
"No fuckin way, it was a trick," said Paul. "She can't be…"
"Paul, what's going on, who are you talking about…? Blackwell possessed Ray…"
"It isn't ray anymore. She's been murdered," Gene growled. "It's Leader. And she's got the last laugh…"
"Wait… you mean…" Tamara choked.
"It's happening, and we thought we'd stopped it," Ace muttered grimly. "The pattern's set. It was just delayed."
"It is Ray…" Paul muttered.
"No, whatever you saw there wasn't Ray. She died the moment that Blackwell took possession of her body, and twisted it to his sick purposes," said Gene grimly. "The ray we know and love… she died…"
"No… it can't be…" Paul growled. "I won't believe it…"
"Believe it. Leader's been born. Ray's dead, that's it," Gene snarled. "And Blackwell will pay with his life…"
"Wait…" Tamara moaned. "Where are the others?"
"They've been taken away… I'm on the trail," Peter said. "The kids were taken to one place… and the babies to another…"
"What do we do?" asked Tamara.
"We find them and we kill every last stinking one of them," Gene roared. "But first, you're taking her up to the space station Ace. Where they'll never touch her…"
"Yes," Paul nodded. "You're going someplace safe Tamara. Because I won't let them take you or the others…"
"Now wait…"
"No arguments. We're gonna regroup, and then plan how to destroy every last one of them," Gene growled.
"What about the kids, you can't…"
"They didn't' want them dead. They're still alive, Blackwell's got no use for them dead," Christine said. "And as for Jeannie and the others, I'm sure they're going to be kept alive too…"
"How do we know?" asked Peter.
"We have to know. The last time they enslaved Jeannie they didn't kill her… only twisted her mind…"
"But we will free them. We can't right now. Not till we have a plan, and I swear we will have one," Gene said.
"Where are we going?" asked Tamara.
"To that place you found Petey. And we're gonna build a place and make sure it won't be breached. Then we're gonna put our scientist there, with you Paul, and you're gonna psi scan. Simone and Christine are gonna guard her, and the rest of us will go hunting."
"And I'll ask our astronaut friends to send help," Ace said. "And we'll locate the bastards, and get our own back."
"And we'll get backup from Eric and Bruce," said Simone. "I know they'll help us. And maybe NOW they'll come…"
"They already are," said Gene grimly. "They're going to meet us there. They had a run in with those silver suited bastards too. And they're already moving their people out to the haven while Bruce and Eric set up a diversion. We'll be in good company."
"A whole new city," said Ace. "Designed and beamed down from space. We'll find a way to start again. Bruce and Paul will lead them there in safety while Tammi teaches 'em. The human race'll survive. The rest of us will find the kids, and then its war."
"What about Bruce and Eric?" Tamara whispered.
"Shh, they'll be safe. They have to be. Blackwell will chase us. And we will lead him on such a romp he's gonna forget all about them," said Peter.
"I couldn't stop her," Tamara muttered.
"You did exactly what we thought you'd do," Christine said. "You fought. You didn't back down, and Blackwell didn't expect that!"
"I thought you couldn't transmute living flesh," Gene muttered.
"Neither did I," said Tamara. "But when you have to…"
"You don't have to fight her anymore. There's a greater fight ahead. The fight to bear the future," Paul said as he flew with her.
"The children…" Tamara trailed off.
"Are alive," Paul nodded. "But we must keep you safe. For if the others are not found…"
"Don't say it, please," Tamara cut him off.
"Let's just find a fuckin place to stay, first," Peter cut in. Never had the fight seemed so brutal, or so hopeless. There were just seven of them, Shandi safely up in orbit and no doubt worried out of her mind about Ace. Where would they next go?
“I don't know,” Paul answered her unspoken question. “But I swear that we'll make them pay…”
“Bruce, Eric, you hear me?” asked Gene as he slowly depressed his link. There were tense moments as they were listening, to static.
“Gene, Paul… damn, what the hell happened… it was crazy… we thought you'd been killed…” came Bruce's voice.
Tamara, Simone is they alive? Eric's voice came.
“I'm alive… are you ok? Tamara's voice choked.
“Thank God,” Eric's voice returned. “Don't worry; we're already getting our people ready to move. And you won't believe what we've found… I'm sure Pete's already…”
“If you mean that wooded area…” Peter trailed off.
“Yes,” Eric said. “Meet us there…”
“How do we know it's not a trick?” Christine whispered.
“We'll just have to trust,” Paul muttered. “We can't afford to let ourselves spread too thin. We need to stand together to survive, and then we'll find our children…”
***
 
 

Chapter 21
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