Debris scattered everywhere after the initial explosion as a cloud of smoke billowed into the air from the burning remains of the house that was once there. No one could have survived that explosion. The entire TIGERS 28 squadron was scattered all over the area, some further than others. Some of the boys had minor damage, some had none, and others were heavily injured.
Aaron was finally able to get his bearings as he shook the stars from his head. He now had a slight headache from the blast, but nothing too bad. He first checked himself to see if he had any serious injuries, but found only some minor scratches and scrapes. Nothing was broken, it seemed, as he slowly stood to survey the damage, only to hear distant shouting that seemed to be originating from about a half-mile away.
When I heard the shouting off in the distance, I quickly formulated a plan of action with what limited manpower we had. I knew I didn't have much time to survey the damages, but I had to be fast about it and soon. My superior hearing was able to pick up some faint voices; it sounded more like orders given to capture us? 'Like hell they will!' I thought to myself as I slowly wobbled my way to the nearest body, which appeared to be Bryan.
'Oh My God! Bryan! The kid has been through hell for what four to five weeks of Augmentation Sickness and was slowly showing signs of recovery, but the tards had to just screw things up!' I looked around the area to see who was beginning to move and who wasn't. The first ones I saw moving were Jamie and Brock. I suppose it had to be endurance and Healing that helped them.
'Jamie! Are you okay?!' I thought as loud as I could so Jamie could pick it up.
'Not so loud, man! The explosion really shook us hard, ya know!' came the annoyed response, causing Aaron to giggle.
Aaron stopped giggling and became serious, 'I really need ya to start finding out who's up and about and who's not. Hurry, please! There's an army zeroing on us and I can't find FireBird anywhere!'
'Okay, give me a moment and I'll start broadcasting. I don't think FireBird survived that. I mean I heard his screams coming from his mind as the explosion took place.'
'SHIT! We need to defend ourselves and or call for backup.' I thought while searching for my radio. It took me a moment or two for me to realize I didn't have it on me, and I cursed to myself for being stupid enough to not have it with me when I should have. 'Jamie, see if Brock has his radio with him. He never leaves without it, anywhere we go. I just hope it wasn't damaged. I need to check on Bryan; he isn't moving, and I think I heard he is the enemy's primary objective!'
'Right...' I waited a few moments and when I heard nothing back, I turned my attention to Bryan and gave him the once over. He was covered with bruises and some heavy gash wounds on his head, chest and legs. I thought back to my first aid training and really wished I had some sort of healing ability, but with only two at our present location, Jamie was the only one standing with it. I couldn't find Jesse anywhere, even if I really looked, and the noises seem to be getting closer. At least I'm glad I learned first aid, so I absent-mindedly reached for my backpack, only to remember it wasn't there. I growled inwardly as I began to rip a piece of clothing off my shirt so I could at least stop some of the bleeding and cover some wounds. It was the least I could do for him, but then he should be able to recover from that blast slightly faster than normal.
As I finished tending to Bryan's injuries, I stood and turned to face the wreckage. It was a total mess as the explosion really took out a huge chunk of the house. The only part of the house still standing was the basement and some parts of the stone fireplace. Jamie was right about not surviving that; however, I was not going to give up on FireBird just yet!
'Brock managed to contact the girls, but couldn't get a hold of Stealth. They said she disappeared sometime after lights out.' I had to think about that one, as it was odd for Stealth to just leave the girls alone, but it was so like her these days. Jamie continued as if he hadn't heard my stray thought, 'Brock also tried contacting command, but something is jamming their frequencies. We are pretty much on our own,' Aaron heard in his mind with some nervousness added to the end of the sentence.
'Guys, it's time to haul ass and make our stand,' I sent to Jamie, hoping to reassure him by taking command for the first time for real. 'Here's what we'll do; I'll scout the area searching for anyone able to fight, but for some reason, I can't find Jesse. I know you have healing, Jamie, but I don't want you to over stress yourself on everyone. Come to me and look at Bryan's injuries. Brock will hafta stand guard.'
A few minutes later, I heard rustling and looked up to find Brock and Jamie, with a limping Jimmy leaning on Brock with tears in his eyes.
I looked up questionably at Jimmy and noticed Brock shaking his head no. I immediately knew what happened and silently cursed to myself for not being prepared. Half of the squadron didn't have their vests on as they should have and that starts now.
"Guys, I really fucked up and should have had everyone wear their vests, but I didn't and I shouldn't be a leader if I can't…"
"Stop it!" Brock barked, interrupting me. "There's no way in hell you coulda known this was coming! Training or not, this is as real as it gets, and let's stop and get our shit straight before they get here!"
I smiled slightly, nodded and slowly stood. I then looked at Jimmy and nodded slowly, then turned my attention to Jamie. "Bro, I need ya to see what ya can do for Bryan."
Jamie took one look at Bryan and quickly sank to his knees at his side, then placed his hands over him, scanning for the extent of his injuries.
As Jamie finished at Bryan's head, he looked up at me with a look in his eyes that spoke volumes. "He's alive, but barely. There's only so much I can do for him. He needs a class 4 or better to heal him, or plenty of bed rest for like weeks!"
I breathed a sigh of relief as I was hearing the initial report. "Is there anything you can do for him?"
"Just barely, but not enough. If Jesse was here, it'd be a lot better, but… I'll see what I can do."
"Just don't overdo it."
He nodded and I turned to look at Brock. "Ya stand guard! It sounds like at least a hundred on foot coming towards us and should be here in less than ten minutes."
Brock nodded and I took off running at almost fifty miles per hour, swiveling my head as fast as I could, but had little luck in finding anyone. When something caught my eye, at first I thought I saw a wolf, but upon closer inspection, the tail was slightly different than the body, and I quickly made my way towards the wolf, hoping it was Jesse. As I got closer, the wolf started snarling and it turned towards me in attack mode.
I slowly put my hands up in a defenseless manner in hopes to try and be peaceful, "Dude, it's me, Aaron. Stop playing games, Jess! There's an army waiting to crush us and we need you!" I spoke softly as the wolf started growling louder. I'm glad I had superior reflexes since the wolf leapt at me with awesome speed, I was able to duck in time for it to miss my head, but somehow I had a feeling it was not aiming for me, but for what was behind me.
Feeling very nervous, I heard some ferocious growling and snarling. Turning quickly, I couldn't believe what I saw. There stood a large black bear, about twice the size of the wolf, and I was beginning to wonder how the hell it snuck up on me. Before I was able to ready myself to assist the wolf, the bear smacked the wolf hard in the jaw, sending it flying thirty feet away from us. The wolf then landed on the ground with a thud and lay motionless. Next thing I saw, the wolf began to slowly transform back into a human boy, and it was Jesse, I instantly recognized, even from this distance. His blond-highlighted brown hair was barely noticeable, but I couldn't worry about him now as the Bear made an attempt to swing at me, which I easily dodged. I swiftly brought my right arm out and thrust my palm forward and concentrated on putting all I had into my telekinesis, and threw the bear hard into the sky and away from us. I didn't care if it was a real bear or another shapeshifter; it had hurt my friend and it was starting to piss me off. I began to breathe a bit heavy and felt weak in the legs, but managed to slowly make my way towards Jesse.
Once I got there, I could tell the large scratch across his cheek was beginning to heal rapidly as he slowly fluttered his eyes open and quickly jumped up in an attack stance.
"Where the hell did that bastard go? Lemme at him!"
"Easy. tiger, he's gone. I flung him sky high so he shouldn't be returning anytime soon."
Jesse's features darkened some, "He was mine!"
I could sense he was getting mad and the situation was going nowhere fast, "Dude, I saved your ass and you saved mine by watching my back there. Let it go! Save it for the army that's on their way!"
He immediately lost his angry look and looked at me questioningly, "Say what?" He then looked into the distance I came from, then back at me, "Never mind, I can hear them too." He then looked down as a breeze blew through the area, making him realize he was naked. He finally looked back at me with a blush forming on his cheeks, "Well, I uhh… kinda need something to uhh… cover up?"
I let out a chuckle, "I'd have a spare, but well I lost my backpack or worse, it got destroyed."
"I'll just transform back into a wolf, but I'll need to be in human form in order to summon animals for support."
I quickly held up my hand to stop him from doing anything further and looked into his grey eyes, "Before you do, Bryan needs healing quite badly."
Jesse silently cursed before nodding and quickly transforming into a wolf. then taking off in the direction where Bryan and the others were, while I moved on towards continuing to search for the rest of the guys.
I watched Aaron speed away; I then diverted my attention to Bryan and focused on the most severe injury he had taken. I was surprised to find him still breathing with the injuries, and any normal would have died from the extent of them, yet Bryan was somehow managing to hang on, but barely. I tried not to worry about the rest of the guys, but at the same time, I really had to concentrate on healing this one injury to his chest. This should be easy to heal, not beyond difficult. I suppose it has something to do with the AS he went through, but I can't be sure.
I began to break some sweat as the injury was beginning to finally heal some, I stopped for a second and slammed my fists into the ground, causing Brock to look over his shoulder. "Ya ok? You look like you just ran the marathon or something."
I shot Brock a look that sent him into a giggling fit, "Dude, for some reason, his injuries are harder to heal than before. You should know he's still recovering from his AS!"
Brock turned to face me and held up his hands, "Okay, okay, chill out, man. I just feel totally helpless here and I wish I had the ability to heal others as well."
"It's okay. There is only so much I can do without Jesse around, and to make matters worse, we have no idea if FireBird survived or not. I can't even locate him telepathically. He is either out of range or de…"
"Dude, don't say it. I'd rather you don't use that word. It creeps me out thinking we could truly be on our own here and… well… I hate that feeling okay?"
I nodded in response and turned my head to look at Jimmy. "That goes same for you, what he just said." I thumbed towards Brock and Jimmy just looked up with a tear-streaked face, forcing a slight smile.
I sighed then turned my attention back to Bryan and placed my hands directly over the wound. Looking back up at Jimmy, "I know it hurts, but you gotta think of our lives first and any help we can get, even if it's very little."
Jimmy wiped his tear-streaked face and nodded with a determined expression. I continued, "We'll find your brother somehow, Jimmy."
I then concentrated harder and the wound began to look better, nothing more than a nasty scrape, but it was all I could do till we all looked at the sky and saw a black bear flying from the direction Aaron took off in.
"What the hell was that?" I asked as I turned to look at Brock.
"A bear, from the looks of it… don't let your guard drop! They are getting close!"
As I began to stand up, I felt a wave of dizziness hit me and dropped to a knee, then shook my head. "Jamie, are you okay?" Jimmy asked as he scooted over to sit besides me.
"Yea… no… I don't think I can do much, guys. I pretty much used up almost everything I had on Bryan."
I could hear Brock groaning as Jimmy looked unsure on what to do, but what he did next surprised me. I watched as he closed his eyes and began focusing on his surroundings. At first, nothing happened, but as I saw some beads of sweat appear on his head, several large chunks of rocks and sticks began to slowly rise above the ground and take the shape of a spear. Next, as they looked to be really sharp, somehow with an incredible force, they plunged into the ground and increased in size, forming a barrier of sharp thorns made of sticks and rocks above the surface by about 6 feet. There was enough visibility to see in the distance, but plenty of cover. Anything solid would have a hard time getting through, but somehow I don't think it would stop those who can change into a gas or mist form like Aaron.
Just as I was about to say something, Jimmy collapsed on the ground panting with a small grin on his face. "Not bad, but we're down to only me." Brock half-complained, half-praised Jimmy, till another voice joined us, causing Brock to activate his Chi Sledgehammers.
"Make that two. Aaron sent me here about Bryan being really hurt."
"Jesse!" I exclaimed. "Where have you been?!"
"Fighting a bear, at least Aaron sent him flying." He sounded grumpy at that comment, causing Brock to stifle a giggle.
Jesse shot Brock a sour look then walked towards us and knelt next to me to look at Bryan's injuries. "Man, he looks trashed."
I nodded in response, "I managed to heal the huge gash in his chest, but it was all I could do."
"Okay, lemme see if I can help him some…" He placed his hands on Bryan's chest and they instantly healed. Once he was done there, he moved on to other parts, healing minor wounds before finally arriving on his head. At first, it looked like nothing was happening, but when I looked closer, I could tell Jesse was beginning to sweat some before he finally stopped.
"Man, I've never had this much trouble trying to heal someone, yet it was hard to do. If my suspicions are correct, Bryan could be a really strong Class 5, but I could be wrong. I just can't believe the trauma center just wrote his AS off as a minor flu bug, when he was sick for close to four weeks and is still recovering from it, even after what… three weeks now…"
"We know…" Brock and I said at the same time, causing us to exchange glances and smile before returning our attention to Jesse.
"Anyway, I've managed to heal his head injury, but the rest is up to him. I thought about having you use telepathy to see if you can guide him to the surface, but you are too drained and we don't want to lose you too." He had a point so I nodded in agreement and Brock did as well.
"Are you able to back me up?" I heard Brock ask Jesse, who gave a nod in response. He easily stood up, wiping some sweat from his head, then his eyes widened at the sight before him. "Whoa, who made that?"
"Jimmy did. He's out of it now." I said in response as I tried to stand up.
Brock immediately stopped me, "Sit, Jamie, and rest up a bit longer."
I nodded, then watched Jesse kneel and place his hand on the ground and close his eyes. I suppose he was going to summon help and I grinned, knowing we'd be evening the odds somewhat.
The next thing I knew, I instantly heard battle cries from about a hundred feet from the spike wall.
"Hello?" I called out to a black wall of nothing, only to receive an echo of my own voice. I began to wander about, trying to figure out my way around, till I saw a shadowy white form out in the distance. I felt my eyes beginning to hurt at the light, but I was determined to push forward and curiosity had me wondering what it was. Strange, the last thing I remember is being knocked out by a huge explosion, then hitting a rock as I hit the ground. I kinda figured I should have been dead, but I wondered if I was in some sort of hell?
Still, I moved forward as if I was floating towards the light. I felt lighter and lighter as I crept closer, till I heard voices from below me. I looked around and still found nothing, but I found that if I focused harder, the voices began to grow louder. Suddenly, as if a force hit me and pushed me towards the Earth, I felt like I was falling towards something and away from the light.
When I looked back up, the light was nothing more than a simple white dot in the black sky. This was when I heard a familiar voice, "It is not your time yet, baby bro. We'll meet someday, but I need you to be strong for me and for your friends."
Startled, I looked back up and blinked. I thought I was dreaming when I saw a faint mirror image of myself, but only older and with curly reddish hair, which contrasted my slightly curly and dark brown hair.
When I finally managed to talk, I let out a small squeak, "But I'm scared! What if I can't do it? I like it here! It feels safe and peaceful!"
"Your friends need you and you must awake your augments."
It sounded more like an order than a request to me and the concept of what everyone's been telling me that I could possibly do frightens me worse than getting hit by a car. "What if I can't handle it? I'm afraid that if I don't control them, it will get out of hand!"
"Don't worry, baby bro, I'll be here to help you."
I looked at the fuzzy image with a funny expression on my face. "How? I've heard of people being able to talk to the dead in their dreams, but never in battle or…"
The image knowingly smiled at me, "If you must know… you are a Class…"
Suddenly something pulled me back into my body and I awoke to battle cries filling in the air and several screams of pain. I awoke to a sleeping Jimmy and Jamie, while Brock managed to take a heavy hit in the shoulder while some sort of mist filled the air, causing several enemies to collapse and gasp for breath while Jesse was trying to Summon animals of some sort, only to stop quick enough to dodge an attack and start the summons.
'Wait a minute, I'm able to see clearly and I feel like I'm completely healed,' I thought to myself and looked at my hands. I could find no scars, and I felt the rest of my body for anything out of place but found nothing. As I began to try and stand, I looked up in time to watch a fast blurring male heading straight for Jesse at what looked like to be over five hundred miles per hour. There is no way he could avoid this and I called out to him, but it was too late. Jesse had taken the hit and it instantly knocked him out, sending him flying towards a tree, but Brock managed to crouch and jump to catch him in time before he hit the tree, except he was caught in mid-air.
The next second, he started groaning in pain as if his limbs were going to be ripped from his body. He appeared to be struggling against some unseen force as the unseen force started stretching him out in the shape of a star. He screamed in pain, waking up Jesse, then he too, got caught in the unseen force and started screaming.
I looked around in panic, not knowing what to do when the mist suddenly took shape of a fourteen-year-old boy. It was Aaron, but he was too slow, as he had just gotten himself caught as well. He appeared to be trying to shift back into his mist form, but was having no luck as a huge flying rock was speeding towards him.
When I finally managed to find my voice, I shouted as best as I could, "Aaron, look out!"
He looked at me with wide eyes, then quickly craned his head to see the rock coming towards him, but it was too late. The force of the rock was hard and fast enough to send him flying into a tree, knocking him out cold.
This was making me mad; my friends were getting hurt, and this was something I hated being witness to. The next thing I know, I was being shot at with what seemed like a 12 gauge shotgun, but it stung like a bee sting and I quickly stood and fixed my gaze on the attacker. He looked at me funny as if his shots didn't affect me. He smirked as I suddenly felt someone attempt to stab me, but it again felt like a bee sting. I turned my attention to the attacker and with all my strength, I clotheslined his chest, sending him flying through several dozen trees at an astonishing speed, yet could see it all clearly.
Next, I heard shouting off in the distance and the next thing I know, I turned to see a missile coming straight towards me.
The moment when I heard the house was going to explode in five seconds, I immediately teleported to the bottom of the stairs as I last saw Jeremy headed for the basement door. As I arrived, I was met with a familiar scent, a scent that terrified me when I first met her.
I quickly turned and found Stealth holding Jeremy and Brandon hostage with her hands over their mouths and another person standing next to her.
Before they teleported out a half second before the explosion, her sinister cackle filled the air quoting one of the most famous lines seen in Gene Roddenberry's StarTrek: The Next Generation with the Borg: 'Resistance is futile'."
My eyes widened as I watched them disappear, followed by an explosion. I began to shout 'NO!', but I was too late. I had to think fast, yet panic was beginning to interfere with my thoughts on where I needed to teleport to. Suddenly, I felt the blast push me back with incredible force and when I thought of the location, I teleported out too late as the force was carrying me. The next instant, I felt myself still being hurled backwards from the explosion, then slamming into a huge rock wall behind me, causing a heavy rumble as rocks fell on top of me, knocking me unconscious.
In what felt like an eternity, I felt as if I was dreaming being a little boy again. I remembered what it was like to be normal, without any augmentations, without any military training, just being a care-free boy running about the field on a warm sunny day. There was a gentle breeze in the air , yet I was enjoying the time with my brothers and friends playing on the swing by the small pond out in our back yard. I really missed that place, yet it was also the first day I had used my augments, to repel an angry swarm of bees after one of the brothers knocked their nest off the top branch. I wasn't sure who was more afraid, the bees, my friends or me. I was afraid for myself and afraid what would happen at that moment.
Suddenly, the scene switched to my parents being killed mercilessly in front of all of us and myself exploding in a giant ball of fire with Fire-like wings.
'Wait a minute', I thought as I watched the scene unfold. 'Since when have I ever had wings?'
Suddenly, the scene shifted to the BEST Agent and soon to be my squadron commander. He was asking me to think back to when I exploded in anger. I could tell I struggled to think back at that point, but I couldn't remember. Now I know why, I blacked out and let my anger take total control and a hundred percent of my augments were being used out of pure anger and hatred to those who murdered my parents in cold blood.
The scene then shifted back to after my wings appeared then suddenly disappeared as it began to rain heavily, dousing out the flames, leaving me soaking wet. I was still rather pissed and something unexpected happened. I watched as my younger self brought up his fist and let loose a stream of lightning towards the escaping criminals, instantly frying them.
As quickly as the images of my past appeared, they disappeared suddenly and I felt myself begin to wake up.
A slow reddish-orange glow covered what appeared to look like a cave, but more like a glass cave. I must have used lightning and the fire wings were used to protect my back. I thought my fire armor was enough to protect me, but these wings must have softened the blow, except the rocks must have knocked me out. I began looking around, but I knew I was missing something or was supposed to be protecting someone, yet I struggled to remember. Still, the cave was beautiful and when I looked close enough, I thought I saw a Tiger appear on one of the images and disappear just as suddenly, but it was only the flicker of the flames. It was at that moment when I realized I had to get back to the boys and I prayed I wasn't too late. As I brought my clenched left first forward, streaks of lightning shot forward, causing an outward explosion of rocks. As the dust cleared, the sun was already beginning to set. 'I WAS OUT THIS LONG?!' I screamed into my thoughts as I thought of Jeremy's cabin, but outside of it and instantly teleported to his location, leaving an outline of a phoenix in my wake with thoughts of my squadron being kidnapped or worse.