Castle Roland

Educating Max

by D'Artagnon


Chapter 12

Posted: 04 Dec 14

Soul Forge

The forest's lesser vegetation flew by, only the chirping of crickets and the panting of the wolf beneath him taking anything away from the breathless sense of the air rushing through his ears. He gripped tightly to the huge canine, using his legs to hold just to the edge of the rib cage of the great beast, and his three fingered hands to clutch fists full of fur from the scruff of the neck. Ahead, his quarry changed directions, slipping through a patch of moons dappled ferns, hoping to escape the hunt. The rider shifted his position on the great wolf, drawing back a missile on the end of an arrow whip. The poor wild sheep didn't stand a chance, even as it desperately tried to evade the wolf rider.

The arrow whip's twang snapped across the air, like a bolt of skyfire on a cloudless day, sending the missile speeding to its target. The shaft penetrated deep behind the sheep's jawbone, sliding straight up into its brain. The kill was as mercifully swift as it was brutally efficient, but such was the Way. All things must eat, and are in turn eaten.

After preparing the carcass and giving the entrails over to the wolf to sate its hunger from the chase, the wolf rider and his mount returned to their den, carrying enough meat to see the hunter through a few hands of days. The ride home took most of the rest of the night, and the elf astride wolf back had time to watch the two moons dance across the sky, Child Moon slipping into and out of Mother Moon's embrace before the elf saw his way home.

He stopped at the stream beside his bower to wash the blood from his hands and his weapon. In future hunts, such a scent might give away his position, meaning that the elf and his love mate would be out a meal or two. His reflection in the water was dark, yet his keen eyes easily picked out his own dark hair, his large green eyes, his big pointy ears, the fore braids that passed before his ears, marking him as a hunter among the tribe. All these features were not new to him. They were him.

A second image could be seen also in the reflection. That of the great black wolf that strode beside the elf, to lap water from the stream. The wolf's bright blue eyes were the one feature that could be discerned at a distance in the dark, twinkling like distant stars in the black blanket of night. Those luminous eyes were the reason that the elf had named his bond beast Star Twin. The wolf noticed that his bond elf was looking at him and looked back, his eyes getting what the elf had come to realize as the somewhat amused and quizzical expression of his breed.

*hunt good?* the wolf thought. Wolf sends were always difficult to read at best, but this one came across fairly clearly.

*Hunt very good,* the elf replied. *Much meat!*

*Twin Star seek pack now, time for see lovemate, play like cubs.*

*You do that,* the elf smiled, running wet hands through the fur ruff at the back of the wolf's neck. The rascal leaned into the rub, despite almost snarling back through a wolf send.

*Not wet fur!* He charged off after giving a quick lick to his elf's face and dashed into the night, seeking the companionship of his own kind.

The elf wasn't too upset at this turn of events. It, too, was part of the Way. The elf leaned deep over the brook and pushed his head under its calmly flowing waters. He let the current pull his longish hair about in drifting tangles. He'd comb it out later, as it dried, but for now, the feeling of the water on his head was enough. It helped clear his mind.

He pulled his head out of the water silently, letting the water run down his bare back, under the leathers of his hunting quiver and the soft leather of his buck skins and weapon belt. He stretched his back out as far as possible, his head hanging backwards to stare up at Mother Moon, still high in her nightly trip across the sky. Feeling the water course its way across his chest and back and buttocks, he closed his eyes and let the sensation of being alive, being in the moment, in the Now of Wolf Thought, enclose him totally.

*Been hunting long, Beloved?* a thought as sweet as honey on a warm day sang into the elf's mind. He opened his eyes and turned, seeking to use his hunter's ears to locate where his lovemate was. A slight sound of breathing to the left, and behind betrayed his lovemate's approach.

*Long enough to have worked up an appetite,* the elf thought back. He stood, letting the wetness embrace him and linger on his skin, cooling him from his hunting exertions, but strangely, only adding to a growing heat of a different sort. *Where are you, beloved?* the elf hunter thought back, a teasing sort of by-play entering into the thought's tone.

*Close enough to smell you.*

*That doesn't help any. I smell like Twin Star and sweat. It's a hot night.* The hunter cast his gaze down wind, trying to see subtle shapes against the dark blanket of night.

*Bound to get hotter,* came the equally teasing reply.

A movement in the dark drew the elf's attention and he turned only too late. The other elf landed on him and they wrestled to the ground, flailing away but not trying to strike. They grappled for position, for dominance, for the sheer thrill of skin against skin.

The elf decided that some things were worth losing fights for. He let the larger, taller elf press him into the soft grasses that grew beside the stream. He put up a token struggle as his wrists were pinned above his own head, as the weight of another body pressed boldly down on his, and he felt his own desire growing as he felt the ardor of his lovemate pressing against his bare belly. His own arousal was a hot flame tickling under his skin, seeking any way out, demanding to be released. His mind was awash with his lover's desire and the need to become one spirit, one flesh, one soul, one… one. The elf rolled his stomach muscles against those of the taller elf above.

"Hey!" the taller elf whispered with his face a lick away from the hunter's nose.

"Hey, what?" the hunter replied, his breathing starting to take on a heat of its own.

"Hey, I love you."

*Oh, Eeyore, you too! Head, hand, and heart.*

The bloodsong rose in them both as they lay together, writhing as one. A great shaking overcame both elves, passion flaring between them, building and rising as they touched each other, letting mouths meet mouths, lips explore neck and ear, noses drinking in the scents of each other, eyes hooded with heat, rolling heads and bodies and hands against each other…

*Max, snap out of it. Time to wake up, Little Brother.*

Max felt the sudden snap and rush of falling out of a dream. His body literally responded to the sensation of tumbling down, as though someone had pulled a rope hooked through his lower spine, by jerking to a nearly vertical position, legs stiff and straight out, arms stretching backwards to find the ground. He gasped as he realized where he was, sitting in the backseat of his brother's beat up old Mustang, his jacket dropping into his lap from where he had been using it like a blanket. Max shook his head, even as the erotic imagery left him in the fashion of dreams after first waking.

"Whoa! Cameron, that's pretty hot stuff you dream about!" Max breathed out silently. His cheeks felt the sting of a blush against the early morning coolness of late October in New England. He sat up more fully and was thankful that the jacket was now covering his lap. He quickly adjusted his straining boyhood under the jacket, still contained in his other clothes. It was the second time he could remember sharing Cameron's dreams, only this time he felt not only their full intensity, but he felt like he was an active part in them. So that's how he sees me when he calls me his little elf, Max thought, smiling.

"You hungry?" Michael called, starting up the Mustang.

"You buyin?" Max returned, climbing up into the front seat.

The Dunkin' Donuts was only a quarter mile down Broadway from the Fen. It was the most logical place to grab some breakfast, since Max and Michael didn't want their parents to know where they were. The less people around when the shit hit the fan, the better. They cruised through the drive through, picking up a dozen glazed, a 48 pack of Munchkins, a hot chocolate for Max and a coffee regular (cream and two sugars) for Michael.

Max watched as they drove past the few houses lining this section of Broadway as Michael drove on. He saw that the decorations for the coming Trick or Treat were fully on display. Tonight would have been his last time to go door to door begging treats in the time honored tradition. Now, he would have to be able to pull off enough tricks to be able to treat himself to waking up tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that, and so on. Suddenly he missed the carefree nature of his childhood until his powers came about. His life no longer had the idyllic charm of one who was just flowing with the crowd, making a comfortable, if noticeable, place in the herd. Now he truly was more like the ghosts and pumpkins staring back from the sides of the houses. Now he was a spirit in an unfit world.

They drove back in relative silence, listening to the Sunday morning show out of WHEB in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was a spot of humor and music that helped relax both boys while they ate. There would be enough reason for tension later on.

Once back at the Fen, still scarffing down breakfast, Max leaned back suddenly and let out a mighty sigh of utter contentment. He stretched out to his full extended length, fingers curling into claws as he tensed and relaxed his entire body, one major muscle group at a time.


"Just something going on with Cameron. I feel him waking up, trying to stretch. He can't do it, so I just did it for him."

"You two still feel the connection, huh?" Michael said, saddened. His one true love, Becky, the girl he had mind wiped about their times together and their chance at having a family, was still in his thoughts. The What If's, the Might Have Been's, all the love and devotion he felt for her still wouldn't go away. Max felt that loss in his brother, that sense of incompleteness. There was nothing that either of them could do about it at the moment, but Max swore that one day he'd set that wrong to rights.

"I guess so. It's more of a body thing, than a mind thing. When we were,um, close… well, I kinda doubled us. We each felt everything the other felt when we were… fuckin' like rabbits," Max admitted a blush coloring his cheeks in embarrassment.

"sometimes, little brother, you're like the internet."


"Too much information, Max," Michael said, covering his grin with a sip of coffee.

"Sorry. I guess you aren't really all that comfortable with the whole gay thing, huh?"

"I never said that. I just said that the details of what goes on between you and Cam are none of my business."

"But you don't mind that we were, um, having sex? Gay sex?"

"Didn't we already have this conversation? Look, Max," Michael said, setting his coffee down entirely. "Sex isn't love. Love is love. Sex is just a way to express that. You and Cameron love each other. There's no denying that. In fact, that might lead to some embarrassing moments once all this is over with. The two of you and Cam's folks and our Mom and Dad may have to have long talks, if you know what I mean."

"I don't understand."

"Max, when you were in the hospital, they examined you and Cam. Very thoroughly."

Max's eyes lit up in sudden understanding. "You mean…"

"They might know, yes. Then again, they might attribute it to the attacks, thinking the two of you were raped."

"ohmigod," Max said under his breath. "Well, there goes privacy."

"Hey, it could be worse. At least right now they're more worried about you than about your sex life."

"No wonder Dad was such a wreck at the hospital. He thought that I'd been raped!"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Oh Mike, this isn't gonna get any easier, is it?"

"Give the folks some credit, Maxy. They aren't as tight minded as some parents I know. Becky's folks would have killed us both had they known she was pregnant." Michael picked up his coffee again and took a long sip. "Besides, you aren't the only one in the car to have experimented with boys."


"Me," Michael admitted. "But that's not important right now. The thing is this. As a telepath, you experience a person's whole mind at a glance. Their wants, their fears, their loves, their personality, their total essence. And believe it or not, it's a lot easier to fall in love with a presence than a body. A lot of telepaths, even in my coven, have relationships that go beyond biology. What skin you wear, what gender you are, even whether you are a total slob or a super fitness freak, none of that matters to us as much as what's inside. Apparently you fell in love with what's inside of Cam and you just make love to his outsides."

"Ya know what? That pretty much describes exactly how I feel about him. Although I wanna get naked and jump his bones too."

"I know. Your dreams have been fairly loud lately."

"I'm talking in my sleep again?"

"Yeah, well, let's not go into what I heard you asking for," Michael said, hooking his fingers into quotation marks at "heard." Max smiled through a blush as Michael continued. "That's none of my business, if you take my meaning."

"Thanks, Mike. I'm glad you're my brother."

"Yeah, well, let's hope we're still alive after today so we can appreciate each other more."

"I have the subjects spotted, sir."

"Excellent, Lieutenant. Keep us circling the area," the man in the special forces jump suit said. He walked to the back of the cargo plane and gave several distinct hand motions to the small group assembled there. Three men and a woman and a teenage boy on a leash, all wearing jump suits with significant modifications. Heavy bowls of armored glass protected the heads of all but the teenager. A layer of steel was fitted into their jump suits, with layers of packed Kevlar over that. The adults all bore weapons, ammunition and various other pieces of equipment mounted on thick webbing belts strapped all over them.

"Okay DragonWing Alpha! We have positive ID on target. He is a 13 year old boy named Maxwell Perault. He is a high power telekinetic, so be prepared for large objects shifting positions. He may also have some highly developed mental attacks. Yesterday he nearly put Zeke's lights out for good."

"I'll get that Yankee scum suckin' motherfucker this time, boss!" Zeke shouted from the end of his leash. He was the least protected of the group, but his enthusiasm for the hunt was greater than most.

"When you get to the target, you are to take whatever actions are necessary. Rules of engagement are as follows. No civilian involvement can be tolerated. Fire to incapacitate target, not to kill. Any one else in the conflict area must never be allowed to report what has happened. Understand?"

A chorus of yessirs answered him. "Alright team, you jump in two minutes. Good hunting!"


"Yeah?" They were sitting on the trunk of the Mustang, resting between Max learning the finer points of using his powers in a fight.

"Should we go to church today? I mean, we might not make it. Shouldn't we…"

"God knows what we're doing today, Max. I'm sure he's watching over us."

"I hope so. Have you ever, umm… I mean, like in Dogma?"

"I've never had mental contact with God, no. But I still feel that he's out there. I just don't know if he's able to help us anymore, kiddo. I think we're reaching a point where he wanted us all along, in his image and all, and we have to make the next steps on our own."

"You really think we're that powerful? That we're like God?"

"I think we've been touched by God. And that makes all the difference, Max. For better or worse, we're all experiments in God's laboratory."

"I guess. I wonder if that makes us angels? Mike?"

"Um humm?"

"Can you, idunno, feel God?"

"With my powers, no. I don't think he'd want us to be able to even if it were possible. But with my heart… with my soul, yes. In my opinion, I think he's waiting for us. All of us, I mean, not you and me specifically. He's waiting for us to all grow up a little."

"Is that what you and I are doing. Growing up the human race a little?"

"Mad little!" Michael said, smirking. "What brought on all this religious talk? Scared?"

"More than a little," Max agreed, casually juggling a few stones with his telekinetic power. The five pound rocks were ducking and diving around Max's head like electrons around an atom. Max was only half concentrating on keeping the orbital paths regular and the stones from colliding.

"That's a pretty nifty trick, there," Michael said, glancing at the stones tumbling about Max's head. "Are they spinning, too?"

"You're just trying to make this complicated for me, aren't you?" Max replied, putting spin to each stone as they rotated around his head.

"Great, now you're a partial map of the solar system. Your science teacher will be pleased."

"No," Max said, closing his eyes. He flared his power and his eyes opened, glowing like twin suns. "Now I'm a model of a solar system."

"Cute!" Michael said, his tone clearly indicative that it wasn't, in his opinion, "cute."

A sudden stillness in the air stretched out and Max felt as though someone was walking on his grave. The stones stopped orbiting and dropped to the ground, one bouncing off the back bumper, earning Max a reproving glance from his brother. Michael cast his eyes about, his mental senses stretching out as well. Max leaned against the car, beside his big brother, a deep nervousness creeping into his spine, like a dread of the dark, even though the sun was fully shining. His feet couldn't seem to stay still, kicking nervously at the dirt below his toes.



*Do you feel that? [Image/Impression]*


The boys rolled off the Mustang in time to see the five parachutes come in at various places in the Fen, roughly surrounding them. Max's eyes immediately picked out Zeke. *That's the one who muted me before!*

*Stay Sharp, Little Brother,* Michael warned. The trunk of the Mustang flew open and the short sword came right to Michael's hand. *Body Focus on?*


*Ground Focus deep?*

"You know it," Max whispered back, his mind was focusing in many ways at once, his spirit all business. His eyes glazed over with his power, tapping into the limitless energy of the planet beneath him. Standing back to back with his brother, this was Max's moment of truth.

The soldiers moved in, weapons at the ready. Max felt his mouth drop into a frown more deeply etched in stone than the faces of Mount Rushmore. "Maxwell Perault. Under articles of the National Security Act, you are requested to surrender quietly and come with us. No harm will come to you if you comply. If you resist, we are authorized to use lethal force." The soldiers were closing in, arming their weapons as they moved in. Zeke was practically straining his leash like a rabid wolf to get at Max. They were hemmed in, trapped. At least, that's what Max and Michael wanted the soldiers to think. It was their advantage.

*Well at least they give you the chance to surrender before they start shooting up the countryside,* Michael quipped.

*Should I just give them the finger or simply launch into the Star Spangled Banner?*

*Try to get some information. We might go down fighting but at least we deserve to know who we're fighting.*

"I'm Max Perault," Max said, straightening up from his crouch. "Who wants me?"

"The federal government of the…"

"Who… Wants… ME!" Max said, adding the backing of his will to his words. The spokesman for the group cried out in anguish, a crack spider-webbing on the bowl of armored glass against his head. Apparently, Max was a lot stronger than they had anticipated, and the helmet meant to shield them from his mental powers wasn't up to the task.

"Ugh! Dr. Conrad… UGH! National Security Agency… EEEEEEEEENGH!" the soldier replied, trying hard to resist Max's hammering thoughts.

"Where is he?" Max asked almost casually, but with venom dripping from his voice. Zeke made a lunge forward as the other troopers stopped and watched their field leader. Max had the feeling that they were trying to lend their psychic energies to resisting Max.

*Hey, you feeling this? [Impression]*

*Yeah, they're all psis, but not as strong as us.*

*Can we use that?*

*Not five on two, but we might be able to if we thin the odds some. Zeke seems to like you.*

*Target locked!* Max thought back, his eyes narrowing in hate. *Cover me!*

A small rock, little larger than a fist leapt up near the soldier holding Zeke's leash. It whipped into a tight spin, batted aside the soldier's own weapon and then severed the leash holding Zeke, the leather stretched taught under the feral boy's weight splitting like rotted linen.

"Whoo Hoo, Round two, Yankee boy. Prepare ta die!" Max let his mind run briefly over Zeke's, finding the breach he had blown there earlier and easily slipping inside. He looked for a redeeming quality, something other than hatred and rage and a desire to kill that Max could identify with. Something other than just a primal urge for violence.

But there was none. Even before he had been subverted, before the powers of his mind had been forced up to levels he could barely control with chemicals and conditioning, beatings and pain, Zeke had been a sadist, and had mercilessly sought to harm others, taking particular pleasure in harming those weaker than himself. Now, now he was little more than a dog, given an instinct to kill and a command to do so.

The rock, still spinning tightly like a saw blade, shot forward with considerable power and smashed into the back of Zeke's head, knocking the boy unconscious. Max couldn't kill him outright. Not in cold blood. As angry as he was at Zeke, the poor kid was little more than an animal.

All around, the sound of gunfire came at them, but Michael had the bullets whizzing about like electrons around the nucleus of an atom, spending all their energy skating on his energy barrier. Chunks of lead fell and lined the ground at the barrier's terminus. The soldier's moved in as one, almost as if coordinated by a single mind, keeping Michael and Max pinned in the middle as they advanced.

But Max still had control over his rock, and it now became an extension of his will, a lethal pinball that he sent careening about. His first order was to shatter the armored glass bubbles protecting the soldiers. Only one cracked open, that one belonging to the leader, and only because Max had already cracked it pretty hard with just his will and his voice. Still, the bouncing rock ricocheting off their helmets was highly distracting, and they would stop firing as the rock banged off their helmets in turn.

*They came prepared!* Max thought to Michael. *I'm gonna have to use the beam. Will it go through your shield?*

*We're about to find out. Go for it!*

Max focused, letting the rock fall to the ground. He decided to try and be non-lethal, give these fellow telepaths a chance to break off the fighting. He aimed at the leader's gun. He released his target focus and sent it inside the weapon, actually feeling the hot discharge of gasses, the recoiling springs and mechanisms each time a bullet entered the chamber and flew out. This wasn't going to be pretty, Max realized and he focused his anger into the gun.

The gray beam stretched out between his head and the weapon, the rippling effect in the air pounding against the tall weeds of the Fen like hurricane winds. He pushed and felt the beam strike, peeling layers off the gun, eating away at the metal and plastics of the device, crippling its internal workings, shattering shells.

The soldier screamed as the gun evaporated under Max's assault, pulling his hands away and diving for the ground as the gun literally exploded. Max drew his eyes back, cutting the beam off and relaxed. His contact with the ground focus still kept him energized, but he felt weak as well. The use of the gray beam was physically tasking for Max.

*How we doing, Maxy?*

*One gun down!* he replied, but his mental tone belied his state. The beam was costly to use, and they still had three other guns and four soldiers to deal with.

*This is getting us no where. We need to take some more direct action. Maxy, Fly now! [Image: grenade!]*

Max leapt into the air, shoving harder against his ground focus than he really needed. He shot straight up over 100 yards, his arms flying back and to his sides as he leaned over to watch below. Michael hadn't jumped, though.

The explosion wasn't as big as Max would have expected, but the results were no less devastating. The grenade went off very close to Michael and Max watched in horror as his older brother fell over, almost slowly. He felt his brother's body focus slip away, like suds down the kitchen sink drain. In horror, Max realized that Michael had let go of his sword as well. His brother was clearly out of the fight.

*MIKE!* Anger flooded every pour of Max and he dove on the soldiers, an avenging eagle sweeping out of the sky with energy streaming back from his eyes like sparking tears. He reached out with his mind and grasped the weapons of all three soldiers, crushing their guns in one swift motion. Next he jerked the soldiers all together, suddenly, cracking their helmets together. He then lifted his hand up dramatically, pulling the helmets off all three of them. He didn't care where the helmets landed, he just jerked them up as hard as he could.

The soldiers panicked, reaching for their back up weapons. But Max wasn't done. He landed among them, his eyes peeking out from under his bangs, anger evident on his face. "You have two choices and two choices only," Max said, his fingers flaring out. The uniforms, web belts, weapons, ammo packs and boots all peeled off the soldiers leaving them in their underwear, and even that Max was tempted to strip off. His anger was a physical thing, heating the air around him, whipping unnatural winds through the Fen.

"Leave here now and never return, or die!" And for emphasis, Max casually reached out a hand and first raised then vaporized a large chunk of granite, the powdered rock flying off as though sand blasted. The silence that came upon the Fen was vaguely empty and deafening.

"Choose now, while I'm still feeling generous," Max said, his anger still seething, but he had control now, his powers waiting for a conscious direction, no longer the uncontrolled "Dragonball Z" aspect. A drip of blood ran out from under Max's nose, the pulse beat in his temples raging, pounding. His head felt the power he barely contained behind his eyes, and that quivering knife edge of indecision pushed the power back inwards, upon itself and flared. His skull felt the overload and ached terribly, fit to explode.

The Leader motioned away and the soldiers began retreating, giving Max a good deal of space. "And take that thing with you!" Max commanded, levitating Zeke over to the three men. "Tell your boss if he comes for me again, I will come for him!"

The soldiers left and Max kept watch as they left, floating up into the air to keep them under his eyes as they escaped, thankful for their lives. Once they were gone from the Fen, Max dropped back down and fell to his knees beside Michael. His tears were silently falling as he reached out and touched his brother's body. A grenade had gone off next to him. He felt still warm, and there was movement, but Max was certain it was little more than nervous twitching.

Max let the power leave him, just released his ground focus and felt the weight of the world rush in to fill the emptiness where his power had filled him. In the hollow echoing of that transition, he sank further towards the ground, his body suddenly feeling limp, stiff and old. He wasn't just a recent 13 year old any more. He was a warrior now, one that had not only felt the anger and fury of combat, but one that knew the pain of loss, and the price victory might entail.

He needed to reach out to Cameron, then. To just brush minds, to share his pain with someone who would not only understand, but would be able to comfort him. Someone who knew the meaning of patience and sacrifice. More than anything, Max just wanted to be held, to be the weak one for a change. All his power and his strength mattered little to him, just then. He couldn't bring Michael back.

He could barely bring himself to look down. Max felt certain that all he'd see left of his brother would be shreds of flesh and bone, and a mangled mess of caked blood where his brother's face had once been. A grenade had gone off right next to him. There was no hope.

"Well, Mike, we sure gave them hell," Max said. He felt totally alone, bereft, lost. I guess I'm not meant to be with normal people, he thought. Or to have people close to me. I'm a weapon to them. One they want to control.

"Yeah, we did!" Max heard. His eyes popped open wide. He glanced down and saw Michael looking up at him, smiling, unhurt.

"Mike!" Max said, leaping on his brother, dog piling him. "But… But, I saw… I mean, the grenade… how?"

"It never touched me. I put my whole focus on it and absorbed the blast."

"But, I saw you go down… I mean, you were gone."

"Yeah," Michael said, sitting up and ruffling Max's hair. "The blast knocked me out, but none of it touched me."

"Which means?"

"Which means we won the first round, Little Brother. We WON!" Michael shouted, throwing his arms around his kid brother and screaming in joyous relief.

Max leaned back and let his own shout of release out, leaping out of Michael's arms and soaring into the air. He flipped over backwards, banking tight, slipping back and forth on the air itself, just reveling in his powers and the rush of wind in his ears.

And then a shot rang out, catching Max completely off guard. He looked down and saw Michael slumped over on the ground, a pool of red gathering in the hard packed dirt of the fen. Max looked around frantically, not sure where the shot had come from, looking for a target. His body focus flared to life and he tapped deeper into the ground focus. His senses streamed to life, bringing him details about every movement within his scanning range, even as he descended rapidly towards Michael.

"Mike?!" Max said, crouching over his brother. The blood was coming in small spurts, slowly leaking from a wound the size of his little finger in Mike's shoulder.

"It's not that bad," Michael hissed. "Max, watch your back. They weren't the only ones that dropped." Max's eyes shot open wide at that, his senses probing outwards. He felt no new minds around him.

"I don't feel…"

"Feel for the gaps!" Michael interrupted. "They are masking themselves from us, but they are leaving holes that our powers can't feel. Strike there!" He brought his hand around and pressed his sword into Max's hands. "Take it. You might need it," he groaned.

Max felt his terror rise. He reluctantly grasped his brother's sword, the images flying into his mind from the handle. He saw the blade's construction, forged and worked by Michael's own hands and the powers of his mind. He saw the energy that Michael had put into the blade's design, its inherent strength, its sharpness, and lastly, the skills Michael had trained long and hard on to use this weapon. Max also saw the times that his brother had used this blade to take life. The gruesome details of the fight, the stakes of life and death so prevalent in his mind.

Max dropped the blade as the images overwhelmed him. He fought with his own tears a losing battle. The dampness struggled down his face, breaking his concentration. He let his foci go down.

*Max, pick up my sword and fight for your life. Fight for Cameron… and fight for me too, little brother… I love you Max… remember that… always…*

And Michael faded into unconsciousness again. But this time, there was a longing, a pull away that Max felt would be permanent. Max clutched tightly at his brother's body, crying aloud, wailing his name. He let his mouth hang open and sent out both a verbal and a mental scream of anguish that seared through his heart.

He would have just lay there, pressed tightly to his brother's body and wept had not one of the approaching attackers fired on him first. The single shot passed over his head, striking off the chrome bumper of the Mustang. Max looked around, startled, and reflexively picked up the sword. His foci flared back on, flooding him with power again, with the unyielding energy of the Earth itself.

He stood, no, hovered, as he turned about, his mind flaring with his anguish and agony and anger. "You want a piece of me!?" he screamed, the wild aspect of uncontrolled telekinetic power reaching furious pitch surrounding him. His clothes lifted and shuddered in winds that began at his skin, the ends of his hair flying up and drifting in phantom currents of air. He gripped the sword tightly in both hands and raised it in challenge, his teeth grit together in a grimace of raw hatred.

"Then come get me, you bastards!" he shouted, announcing his intention to fight. He swept the blade in a tight arch, willing a portion of his telekinetic power to strike outward from the blade, an arc of force that cut down tall reeds and grasses, and even sliced off the top of a weathered granite boulder. Three cries of pain answered that slash of raw mind force, and Max felt happy that he had hurt someone. He turned to the left and hacked again through the air, sending out a more diagonal line of force this time, rewarding Max with a visceral cry of unimaginably pain, the sound of ripping muscle and splintering bone making a loud counterpoint.

"Take him down, hard!" a voice shouted, and Max's world exploded into pain.

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