Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons


Chapter 15

Posted: N/A

Sun Storm winced and lightly rubbed his ribs as he took a seat in the waiting area of the tanning salon. Still, even as he wiggled to find a position that caused him the least amount of discomfort, he could feel his healing empowerment was working hard to repair damage done when he wrecked his SUV. He also knew it had taken just about everything his son and Josh had in them to repair what they had.

Next to him, Josh cleared his throat to get the attention of the others. "Guys, listen up! Sun Storm has been reactivated and Battlement has given him command of our squadron. We have new orders!"

All around Sun Storm the kids of BEARS 97 and their recent allies became silent and turned to gave him their total attention. Taking a moment to glance over the youngsters, he felt a bit of a sinking in his gut. They were kids, most a bit older than his oldest son, but still children. The fact they were faced with the current situation was surely ripping out a piece of what being a child should be about. Still, USDT 19 had made it clear to him this small group was the only hope for the close to 200 hostages held in the main building of the ski lodge. Making matters worse was the fact the threat of execution was being taken seriously.

Sun Storm closed his eyes in a brief prayer, then took the deepest breath his still-banged-up chest could manage. "First off, let me thank all of you. You have done a fantastic job of not only taking on the Augment threat to the area, but also saving many lives, including mine. All of the main roads have been swept at least once as have most of the larger back ones. Most of the radio stations are giving this squadron and the others in upper Montana full credit and advising everyone to look for USDT cadet help should they be in need. Even stations normally anti-Augment in tone are advising their listeners to trust you all if you show up.

"Even better, the Church of Purity radio broadcasts are telling their people not to call in for emergency help, because the only help they will get will come for USDT cadet squadrons. Instead they are telling their listeners to seek help from other Church members. The very fact they have to admit this shows just how awesome a job you have all done.

"In essence, you all have managed to accomplish something USD teams all over this country have been dreaming about for decades. This small group has proven to most folks around here there is a real chance for Normals and Augments to coexist. Much to my personal astonishment, I even heard some regular folks speak highly of you all. For, even as I left the hospital to come out here, I heard more than a few thank Joshua, Gwen, Tanner, Valda, and you other two." He pointed to Skye and Eldora with a bit of an awkward smile. "I am not great with names, sorry."

Skye shrugged, "Hopefully you will know us all by name after we rescue those in the ski lodge."

Sun Storm gave a slight nod. "Trust me, I'll have all your names down and will be speaking them with pride over the fact I got to know you all well before this is over. You all just being here and wanting to attempt this rescue tells me what fine young men and woman are in this room with me.

"Although USDT One has reinstated me for this, you all can see I am not even close to one hundred percent and without direct sunlight I cannot properly recharge. In simple terms, I am in no condition to engage in direct combat. However, the sniper rifle you managed to capture, along with the ammunition for it, gives me a way to support you all. I don't tend to brag." He managed a real smile, "but there is no one within a thousand miles of here better with a rifle then I am."

He then turned and pointed to his oldest son. "For those of you who have not met my boy, this is Richard. He hates the name and much prefers to go by Ricky. He has some close range healing abilities, low intensity light beams, Can turn into a vapor, and has some toughness and strength. He can also launch a pretty powerful bolt of internal energy, but it really wipes him out.

"He has made it clear he wants in and would like to join your squadron after this is over, so I allowed him to come with us. It is up to you if you are willing to let him join you at this point."

Rex spoke up quickly, "Welcome to the squadron, Ricky. I want you to stick close to me or Garret for now, since we don't know much about you and have never fought with you. Besides, we tend to break up into squads and your healing talents should be in mine since Josh leads the other one."

Josh nodded. "Agreed, however, this is a joint operation with the girls, and the RLD squadron is still about an hour out. We will probably have to reorganize things a bit on this. um. well, mission is probably the best word for it."

"Actually it is an official USDT operation. The name of it is 'Operation Snow Slide'. I am commander and Joshua, you are my XO. The RLD squadron has been given approval to help, but only as backup, so we are the ones who are going to take the lead.

"I have already been in contact with their XO, Quill. Unfortunately, their commander is on Christmas break up in the Northwest Territories, so they don't have him at the moment. Regardless, we are going to split her cadets into three groups. The four who all got parental approval to actually fight, along with the one who you all sent up there to get them, will directly join us. They are to have primary responsibility of protecting the civilians as we rescue them. This way we can continue to take the fight to those who resist.

"Quill will establish herself at the hospital and use the other cadets to take over emergency services for the county, so we can continue to provide aide to Normals who need assistance. Understand, RLD orders say the kids of COUGARS 43 are not to be on the front lines, but they are free to use all their abilities to help defend innocents and us. Furthermore, I have been told by Quill, all those she is going to hand over to us are not going to sit back while we get pounded. One of them is a Class Five, who I am told is extremely gifted in magical arts."

Josh frowned, "Sorry, Sun Storm, but a Class Five just doesn't impress us much. Just wait till you see what Colt, Skye and Garret can do."

"Garret is a."

"No he ain't." Rex snarled. "He's a Five."


"He's a Five." Skye quickly confirmed. "Just wait till you see what he can do."

"OK, so a Four, his file says he is a two."

"Nope." Colt spoke up, "Mister, he had AS every bit as bad as me and we have seen him in action. I'd be hard pressed to take him down one on one, and if I got close I'd be a puddle. He hasn't pulled out his big bang yet, but he has one, and it's a big bastard."

"Five." Tanner confirmed. "What he did to the snowmobile and was about to do to the dude who shot him."

"Yeah," Logan joined in. "His arms started to pulse and if we hadn't talked him down, it would-a been ugly. I was a good twenty yards away and could feel the power building around him. It makes my blades look like pocket knives. It's a chi power, probably linked with his fists, but bigger, way bigger."

Josh shot Garret a grin. "Look, Sun Storm, I've been part of joint USDT-RLD campouts and this squadron has two very legit Class Fives and most of us think both Tanner and Rex should be classified as Fours. Like it or not, every one of us is dead certain Garret is a Colt style Five."

Sun Storm glanced around the room before his eyes settled on Garret, "What do you think?"

"I'm not sure," Garret admitted. "But after talking with Colt, I am sure I had Augmentation Sickness, and not Swine Flu. I also know I can take a bullet and smash things really easy."

"Yeah!" Colt next to shouted. "Show him your fists."

Garret shrugged and raised his arms. It took only a split second for a bluish glow to encompass his arms and fists.

Josh glanced over to Gwen. "Put up a bubble around just me, Garret, and the wood pile!"

Gwen looked puzzled, but went into deep concentration. Less than a minute later an orangish glow erupted from her hands and quickly encompassed both Josh and Garret in a see-through bubble.

Josh smiled at Gwen, "Nice control!" He then picked up one of the bigger logs and tossed it toward Garret. "Smash it!"

Garret didn't hesitate. Using his empowered reflexes and his glowing hands, he made a single clapping motion, catching the log between the twin glowing arms and hands. The log all but disintegrated, blowing up into thousands of splinter sized bits. Had it not been for Gwen's force dome everyone in the room would have been showered with them, but as it was, only Josh and Garret were caught in the open, but since both had superior toughness, neither was even slightly harmed. Both had to pull off their shirts and shake the debris off, then pick numerous bits of wood out other their clothing, however.

Sun Storm felt his jaw drop some as he watched the awesome display. "OK, fine, I'll make sure Garret gets a full-fledged re-class." Taking in a deep breath and wincing slightly as his ribs expanded uncomfortably, he turned his attention to Garret, "Son, if those globs are even half as easy to bring up as it looked."

Garret rolled his eyes as Gwen dropped her protective dome. "I know, I know already! I have to be very careful! Everyone in the squadron who has seen me bring them up has warned me like a hundred times already!"

"Good," Sun Storm stated sternly. "But now you get to hear it from an adult. Those things can kill most augments, let alone a Normal. Don't ever let anger get the best of you, son. If you ever get mad enough to need to hit something with those, taking it out on logs is probably a good way to go. At least by massacring wood, you will have to pause to remove annoying sharp bits of wood from your hair and clothing, which will give you valuable time to think and not overreact."

Josh glanced at the floor around him and Garret, now littered with bits of the log. He glanced over to TJ with a bit of a sheepish smile, "Um, sorry about the mess, "We'll clean it up once we're done at the ski resort."

TJ looked at the devastation with a shake of his head then over to Garret and a bit of a low whistle, "Now I see why I was warned about how powerful you are."

Garret glanced down and gulped as he realized there were bits stuck into the carpet and some had ripped clean through and even penetrated the hard wood floor below. "I'm sorry!"

"USDT 19 will cover it," Sun Storm managed to snicker, "You all can blame me. I was the one not taking you all seriously enough."

TJ scratched his sideburn as he took at the extent of damage to his floor. "Well, I have been wanting to find a good reason for a remodel. If you all are willing to help, then we'll call it even."

"Deal." Garret stated with no hesitation.

"We'll all help," Skye joined in. "I'm sure Valda can fix your floor without needing to spend any money though."

"We'll definitely make it right, TJ." Rex glanced over to Josh and sent a thought in the boy's direction. "You did that on purpose so you could show Garret just how dangerous he was while impressing Sun Storm!"

The answer back of, "Who, me?" combined with the gleam in Josh's eyes confirmed his suspicions.

Before more thoughts could be exchanged, Josh spoke aloud. "Sun Storm, I think we need to make some plans, but I don't know anything about COUGARS 43. So am sure we will have to let them form their own small unit. Arctic Trooper also says it is hard to bring a new Augment into a team since it takes time to understand what each can and can't do. Wouldn't it be better to send them to protect the senator's kid, since the only ones with him are now the Class One medic and your youngest son?"

Sun Storm shook his head. "My younger boy and the Air Force medic have taken the senator's son to my cabin retreat, so he is no longer even at my house. The simple reason for this is, should we come across an Augment with mind reading abilities, I don't want any of you to accidentally give away his location. The place is not even known to my boys and my younger son is in the back with Jackson's kid so he still won't know exactly where he is, even when he gets there. Right now, I am the only one here who knows and I have a rather unique talent to block mental scans by all but the most powerful mental Augments.

"The best way to keep young Master Jackson safe is to knock out as many separatists as we can now. Once this storm is over USDT One will allocate enough resources up here to force whatever is left to go back to where they came from and RLD and USD teams will move into Canada to find and eliminate any bases, while rescuing those they have taken. Battlement personally told me there are extensive plans being drawn up even as we deal with what you all have brought to light. I have been gauranteed nothing is going to be spared to find a rescue any Augment or Normal taken by these separatist factions."

Sun Storm paused and looked over to Gustav and Ajax. "As I understand it you two were taken by these people?"

Ajax spoke up. "Yes Mr. Sun Storm. I used to be in one of Woodsman camps, but it was taken by those we now fight."

"So you are certain this is not the Woodsman and his people."

"No!" Ajax spoke forcefully. "Woodsman would not do this. He taked me in when I was left by my. "He glanced back to Rex. "Um. I forget the words again. Mre et pre."

"Mom and dad." Rex responded.

"Mother and Father are more accurate," Josh stated, "But either will work."

Ajax nodded, "Yes Mother and father, they leave me in the woods after I ghost walked the first time. Woodsman's people found me and took me in. They got me warm and fed me. If not I would be died. When found and tooken to the camp, they did not even know I was Augment, nor did they care. Only when they found I was one of us did they offer me a home. From what I later found out, they first thought I was lost and were going to take me to a police station."

Sun Storm frowned deeply. "Are you sure they weren't just trying to make you feel better about what they would have done if you had been a Normal?"

"Very sure, sir." Ajax nodded vigorously. "I was part of a group that took a girl into a town and pointed out the police station to her several months later. One of those in the camp found her crying on the bank of a river. She lived with us a couple of days while one of us healed her hurts, then we took her into a town. I went because she was my age and had gotten to like me some. Besides, I was able to ghost walk with her to the station, then vanish, so they couldn't track us easily back to where we were dropped off so I could take her into the town.

"Woodsman told me they were going to do the same for me, but once they found out I was left for dead, they made me one of them. Woodsman is not a bad man."

Sun Strom raised an eyebrow as he looked around the room.

Josh spoke up in Ajax's defense. "He's telling the truth."

Sun Storm held up his hands, "All right, I just find this information difficult to swallow because we have been after the Woodsman for a very long time and know he has hit us and RLD teams in the past."

"He thinks our type should have our own land," Ajax responded. "And he will try to take Augments being shipped to group homes, especially in Canada, because he says he grew up in one and they are awful and cruel places to live."

Sun Storm sighed, "Before Canada got with the US and started its own Augment program, Augments who were rejected by their families were taken and put in government homes. I have heard some bad things about them, but I have never met anyone who was in one. Until now, I didn't even know the Woodsman was in one of those institutions."

Josh glanced over to Sun Storm. "I have heard some state-run group homes in the US are not the greatest for Augments either."

"I have heard the same thing, but cannot verify one way or the other," Sun Storm admitted with a sigh. "The states that do not allow Lutheran and Church of Christ run Youth Empowerment Shelter houses probably have some less than ideal living conditions for abandoned Augments."

Ajax let the side comments go. Instead he glanced over to Gustav for some support. "I know you did not know Woodsman, but you have heard other older adults talk about the same things at the camp."

Gustav made a slight shrug by raising his thin shoulders a single time. "Many at the camp talked of being locked up when they were our age. Dark Raven often told of how he wanted to lock up Normal kids like he was. He said it was like being in jail. Kids were always hungry and it was cold."

Ajax pressed his lips tightly together for a few seconds before he continued. "Woodsman and his people told of the same thing, only they didn't hate all Normals like Dark Raven and the Boss. Woodsman said no kid should live in one of those places and Augments should have a place of their own, so we could come and there would be a good place for us to go when we got our abilities. He even said he didn't want any kid, Augment or not, to be as hungry and cold as he was when growing up."

Sun Storm leaned forward and drummed his fingers over his head for few moments. Even as he spoke his head didn't come back up. "I bet he was hungry all the time. Back when he was a kid, very few understood how much food an Augment has to eat. Even when we don't use our augmentations and empowerments, our bodies still keeps them ready and thus we burn far more calories than someone of equal age and size.

"Still, just because they were treated badly does not make it right to fight the governments of the US and Canada now. Are you two absolutely certain you don't know anything about this other mysterious leader?"

"Nothing," Ajax spoke firmly. "I saw him several times but he did nothing other than give orders. He is about the same age as you, has dark hair, and brown eyes. He is big, taller than you, and looks very strong. The only other thing I really know is everyone is very scared of him."

Gustav nodded, "He spent much time with Dark Raven so I saw him lots, but like Ajax I never saw him do nothing. I know he hates the USD and RLD very much and Normals even more so. Every time I saw him he talked of war with the Defender programs and killing Normals. He says the more Normals they kill, the better off the world will be, because Normals have fewer Augments than we do, and Normals are the lesser race. Even Dark Raven was afraid of him. He says he would like to make Normals live in small cells like he had to when he was young, or be sent off to some island like happens to Augments now."

"Wow," Sun Strom exhaled with a hiss. "Well, as much as I feel sorry for the way he was treated as a kid, it certainly does not justify taking and threatening to kill hostages."

Gustav spoke up. "They will kill all Normals and take any augments they find. Those who fight for the Normals will be treated very badly, too."

"Are you sure?" Sun Storm asked.

"Yes." A few tears welled up in the corners of Gustav's eyes and his voice cracked as he continued to speak. "I was the only Augment on the tour boat and Dark Raven used to tell me the others didn't deserve to live and so they didn't. The first time he said this, I asked him about my older brother and he laughed saying he was now fish food with the rest of those who had been on the boat. I hit him with a long stick and sent him into a tree, which is when I found out I have some kind of natural ability to make a staff a very dangerous weapon. Actually, I think it is my most powerful ability."

"But it didn't help much. Before I could run, a bunch of the others took me down."

Ajax managed a bit of a grin. "Yeah, but you put like four of them into trees with the stick before it broke!"

"If it had been stronger and I knew how to give it a surge of my power like I know how to do now, I probably would have gotten away." He lowered his head, "But I didn't so I was given to Dark Raven to take my powers and even life force whenever he wanted because I hit him. Still, sometimes he would take a normal and drain them of all life while making me watch, just because he hated them so much. One time he told me he had done the same to some from my boat ride."

As Garret put his arm over Gustav's shoulders, Ajax spoke up. "I have also seen them kill Normals and treat Augments who fight back against them very badly. They have even killed some. But most are forced to work like work animals until the Boss thinks they will fight for him willingly. They do keep a few Normals who are family of younger Augments in the camp, but they are nothing but forced labor and to force the younger ones to do what they are told. If not, the boss orders the Normal family members killed."

Sun Storm growled lightly. "Fine. Then USDT 19 is right, there is no real choice. We will have to hit them and hit them hard. We need to do what we can to protect civilians, but our primary goal must be to take them out before they can turn on the bulk of the hostages. Like it or not, a few civilian casualties are going to have to be acceptable." He chewed on the bottom of his lip for a moment, then spoke up much more softly. "Look, I know several of you have already jumped in and fought some of these idiots and the rest of you say you are ready to do so, but you are all cadets.

"USDT 19 will not hold it against you for staying on the sidelines."

Garret shook his head, "No chance."

Rex flashed Garret a big grin and quickly agreed. "We can't let this happen."

"Besides," Skye added, "We are kind of an odd squadron. All of our parents are Normal and most of us have Normal brothers or sisters. If we don't stop them now, our families could be next."

Tanner's eyes narrowed as he thought about Skye's words, "We are going after them with or without you. No one is going to come after my family because they happen to be mostly Normal."

Even Gwen seemed to get a bit angry at the thought of someone attacking her family. Yet another thought occurred to her. "Before I became an Augment, I had lots of friends in school. Today was the first time since I became one, some of them even looked my way and I like the feeling. This may be my only chance to get some of them back to being friends."

Eldora glanced over at the younger girl with some surprise, but at the same time realized why she seemed so scared all the time. She resented the fact she was an Augment and just wanted to have friends like she used to. At the same time Eldora realized Gwen was by no means alone in this. The loss of friends and being turned into an outcast had been horrible for all of them. As the leader for the girls, Eldora had been with each of the others as they had been brought back from USDT training facilities in Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, one of four US facilities for teaching Augments about who and what they were while giving them enough control to not hurt others.

Upon return very few kids they had been friends with treated them the same way. Most were afraid of them while others backed away because of peer pressure, or because their parents were too afraid of them being around someone who could do things Normals could only dream of. Very few kids even wanted to sit next to an Augment out of fear or the scorn of others.

Eldora glanced over to Gwen. "No matter what, you still have us."

"I want more and I'm sure not going to let people get killed when I can stop it," Gwen fired back.

Valda reached over to the wood pile and started changing the form of some of the logs into a single long piece of wood. "Sun Storm, I don't think there is even a slight chance of talking us out of this, so we may as well come up with some kind of attack plan."

Sun Storm nodded slowly. "OK, gather round." He glanced over to Josh, "I want you to lead one of the teams. Who should lead the other?"

Josh glanced over at Eldora. "By rank it should be you."

Eldora held up her hand. "Josh, we both know the second best leader in this squadron is Rex, and in a fight he is probably better than you are. This is no time to play stupid with rank and age."

Tanner quickly agreed. "Rex is the best front line fighter and as a combat leader in practice he is the best we got. Let's toss out our squadron rank on this one, Josh."

Josh took a breath or relief. "All right, Rex, Team Two is yours. Who do you want?"

"To be honest, I like who I had when I got here, I have a good idea of what they can do and we have all gotten to know each other. If it's OK with you, I'll take Colt, Garret, Ajax and Gustav. If you want me to have six so both teams have the same number then' I'd take either Valda or Eldora.

"You are taking most of the younger ones, so I'd recommend Eldora. Also, Ricky is with you. You're right. His healing makes him a good fit with your squad."

"Fine with me."

Josh glanced back to the others. "OK that means Valda, Skye, Tanner, Logan, and Gwen, you are with me. Logan I know how you feel about your armor, but."

"I'll keep it up until the all the hostages are free, Josh. Getting a rock put through my shoulder is enough pain for a while."

As the assault plans were finalized, a pair of snow cats pulled up out front and COUGARS 43 cadets piled out.

Quill, a massive six foot eight woman who looked a great deal like a human porcupine, as she had long dark colored spines instead of hair, and the back of her hands were also covered with very sharp barbed spines, entered and held the door open for the others. "Sorry we are late."

Sun Storm stood and nodded. "No problem. Are your kids briefed?"

"Yeah." She glanced down. "This is Cassie, Reed, Kurt and Rachel. They will be joining you on the assault. Kurt can put up a very hard and thick wall of force around those you get out, but it takes him a few minutes to pull the old one down and make a new one, so give him some advance warning before sending out the next wave. He can also heal others, has a host of talents and is pretty tough. He is a Class Five, but tends to think a bit too highly of himself; don't let him get mouthy."

Sun Storm grinned at the boy. "You best look around, because there are two, probably three others here who are class fives, son, and all three have been in hard combat and have killed already."

Kurt's eyes went wide. "Seriously?"

Skye moved up and grinned at the twelve year old with long golden hair and blue eyes, finding him more than a bit cute. "Yeah."

"Awesome!" Kurt spoke in amazement as Skye changed to her Geode Skin and extended long pink crystal spikes out of her knuckles.

Tanner glanced at some of the other COUGAR kids who were staring at Sun Storm with wide eyes and snickered. "Hey, how often can you say you were in a group with four Class Fives?"

Quill also raised an eyebrow, but stayed focused on a quick round of introductions. "Cassie is our cadet commander. Although she has a multitude of gifts, the one you may want to make the most use of is her multi-spectrum sight. She can even see though this storm."

The huge long-thorn-covered woman then nodded in the direction of one of the older boys. "Reed is our boys' leader. He is a Class Two, but don't take him lightly. He is a highly gifted leader and fearless. I don't think his animal summoning abilities will be much good in this storm, but he can control sound in some amazing ways. He can create all sorts of distractions if you need them.

"Last but not least, Rachel here." Quill used her hand to lightly yet firmly push a girl with rather plain-looking shoulder length brown hair, large brown eyes, and a small nose forward, "will be joining you. We haven't found too much she can't climb, and climb fast. She also can control plants, bend light around herself so she becomes all but invisible, and has a magnetic blast capable of really screwing up anything with moving iron parts.

"All four have some degree of toughness, but with the exception of Kurt, none of them can take a bullet without some serious injury. Because of this, if fighting moves past you and these guys have to join, I want Kurt to take the lead."

"We also have Gregory, here. He was pretty wiped out by the time he got to us and has done nothing but sleep and eat on the way back down here, but he still isn't totally rested. He says he has a hell of a screamer."

"Oh, he is," Rex muttered.

Gregory cringed and took a step back from Rex. "Sorry."

Rex stared for a moment then nodded. "Hey, you came through big. All's forgiven. Just point that mouth away from me before you use it again!"

Quill snickered. "So he really did fight against you all. Interesting, group of kids you have here Sun Storm."

"The best group of youngsters south of the US Canada border, Quill. They have all proven the Defender program does more than help Augments."

"Hopefully my kids will be able to say the same before it gets dark again. You should take the snow cats. They are armored and both Cassie and Reed are fully certified with them. We managed to refuel them just up the road at a station with an emergency generator, so their tanks are full too. Besides my kids know how to pilot hovers and your hovers are faster and better situated to handle emergency services."

"We ripped the GPS units out." Josh warned the woman as he moved forward and started introductions with the others.

"We can use our handhelds," Jasmine spoke as she pointed to the radio on her COUGARS vest.

As Josh nodded, TJ glanced over at the new arrivals. "Guys, this is my place and I would be honored to get you all some food. Also, if any of you want to get cleaned up, get some shut eye, or just relax some, my place is yours."

"Quill?" Kurt looked up with hope in his eyes.

"He genuinely wants to help and feed you all, so go for it. We could all use a break after untold hours in the snow cats."

"You can read minds?" Sun Storm asked.

"Not really, but I can tell if someone is lying. There is no question your host is totally sincere." A bit of a smirk crossed her narrow face. "My guess is, RLD Command figured I'd make a great cadet leader since I can detect falsehoods and have very good hearing." As Sun Storm burst out laughing, she glanced at the corner of the room, "Speaking of cadets doing things they probably shouldn't: What happened to the floor over there?"

"I didn't believe what I was being told, so the kids gave me a demonstration." He paused and snickered, "had you been here I wouldn't have needed so much convincing."

"Must have been a hell of a show."

"While your kids get a hot meal and cleaned up, why don't you take Garret, Gwen and Rex outside. I am sure Garret would love to show off again."

"More splinters," Garret groaned.

"Come on, rookie," Rex prodded, "maybe we can test just how fast you can bring up those fists of yours while you get to show off some more."

"Can I go out too?" Gustav asked. "I want to see if I can get anything out of the normal light."

"How much of wanting to get outside is having been stuck in a tube most of the night?" Sun Storm asked.

Gustav glanced down at his feet, "Some."

"Go ahead." Sun Storm smiled while reaching over and patting the slender youngster lightly on the back.

Logan stood as well. "I'll go too."

"Dad?" Ricky asked with hope in his eyes as he looked over to Sun Storm.

"Sure, but stick close and stay outside the bubble. The way the last log disintegrated, we'd be pulling bits of wood out of you for months!"

Josh took a deep breath. "Also remember, there are rouge Augments out there looking for us and for the senator's kid, so stay in a group and keep your eyes open."

"I'll go too, Josh," Eldora stated. "I haven't gotten to know Garret, and since we are going to be in the same squad, I'd like to see why you all are so impressed."

Rex shot a surprised look over at Eldora. "You mean the log wasn't enough?"

"Awesome, to be sure, but a class five."

"Trust me, Eldora, he ranks right up there with me and Skye," Colt stated with a hard edge to his voice, "and he's probably a bit nastier than either of us."

Josh said nothing, but the look in his eyes along with the nodding of his head told everyone watching on, he was pretty convinced Garret was indeed quite powerful and dangerous. He then glanced over to Kurt. "Both Ricky and I have healing Augmentations, but Sun Storm is still hurt some. Do you have enough to see what you can do?"

"Sure. I have been in the back of a snow cat for the last seven hours."

Sun Storm shook his head. "Work on Ajax's leg first. He still has a bit of a limp which is the last thing he needs at a time like this. I want all you kids as healthy as possible before we retake the ski resort. If you have anything left, then do what you can for me. But I don't want you expending too much on me. I'd prefer you get some food and recharge. The lives of a couple hundred men, women and children are in your all hands."

As Rex led several of the others outside, Josh nodded in Kurt's direction while pointing to Ajax, "It took everything I had to put his knee back together and tighten things back up. The only real damage was to the knee and the surrounding tissue, though, so if you focus there, maybe we can get him back up on his feet properly."

Kurt moved over to Ajax, seeing the slightly older boy look at him nervously, "Don't worry, from what I have been told my healing augmentation doesn't cause any pain, but some people say it itches or tickles."

"Tickle,." Jasmine stated, "really bad too."

"Itches," Reed responded, "And there is no way to scratch it since it is under the skin. It drives me nuts for like five minutes after he is done!"

Seeing Ajax glance his direction, Josh giggled. "I don't think you two are helping much."

"Just telling the truth," Reed fired back while looking at Kurt. "Besides, he wouldn't know how his healing feels. His toughness has prevented him for needing to patch himself up, no matter how many risks he takes."

"Risks?" Skye asked while trying to hide the fact she was liking the kid more by the minute.

Reed let out a long sigh, "Yeah, all the time."

"Oh come on." Kurt started to complain only to get cut off by Quill.

"Boy, you took out my SUV, don't be getting lippy!"


"DUDE!" Cassie shouted. "You totaled four cars, one SUV and a crane with your bare hands and body all in the matter of seconds. Don't be giving us any of your 'oh come on' crap!"

Skye's smile grew wider. "Seriously?"

"Yeah," Reed muttered, but went on to explain. "We were getting out of a meeting when this sports car came around the bend way too fast and headed straight for a couple of kids getting done with soccer practice in the field across from our hall. Kurt, here, grabbed Quill's SUV and tossed it in front of the kids. The sports car hit Quills SUV and went airborne toward our meeting hall, which was under construction, so he grabbed the hook on the front of the crane and pulled it down to protect the rest of us. When it fell on him, it also took out my mom's car and Shannon's dad's car and the guy rounding the bend right behind the sports car smashed into the hook and cable of the crane and spun out into a tree."

Cassie snorted and pointed at Kurt. "He shoved his way out from under the mangled mess and didn't have a scratch on him, but his COUGARS uniform was all shredded. At least he was able to fix up the drivers of the two cars. The one who almost hit the soccer players was fined for drunk driving and the government waved the jail time as long as he didn't file a claim against the RLD program."

"I didn't even get credit for saving those two kids," Kurt complained.

Valda burst out laughing. "You're lucky you didn't kill someone!"

Josh rolled his eyes, "Don't let them give you too much of a hard time. If it had happened here, Skye would have put up her geode skin and stepped in front of the car and let it hit her."

"I would not!"

Valda snickered, "Yes, you would have, or Colt would have fried it and left the guy with all sorts of electrical burns!"

"A drunk driver would have deserved it," Colt stated flatly. "If you ask me, you done good, Kurt!"

Tanner started to join in the conversation, but was interrupted by Josh's hand held. Eldora's voice came through clearly. "We got company out here!"

Outside, Gwen put her force bubble around Rex and Garret. As she did so, Quill walked up and poked at the glimmering dome a couple of times. "Some kind of force field?"

The small girl turned to look up at Quill, cocking her head back as far as it would go, so she could make eye contact. "It's a magic thingy. It was my first augmentation, but it isn't super strong or nothing. A couple of bullets will crack it and a couple more will totally shatter it. It also doesn't let any air in, so I leaned to make it with a small hole in the top so people can breathe."

"Still, very impressive," Quill stated, sensing the youngster wasn't thrilled with her abilities. "You also have great command. You put it up right where you were directed with very little effort."

"I guess it's nice, but wait till you see what he can do!" She pointed at Garret.

Inside the bubble Rex hefted a huge log from the ground off to the side of a wood pile. Since it had yet to be split, it was still over four feet in diameter and weighed well over three hundred pounds. Rex waved his finger as Garret brought up his glowing fists. "Let's test this and see just how fast you are, rookie. I want you to wait until I toss it at you before you bring up your fist thing. If you are able to do it, then I'll start tossing them at you faster and faster until we see just how fast you are with them."

"If you hit me."

"Even if you can't get out of the way, it still won't be as bad as taking a bullet, rookie."

Garret sighed and took a couple of steps back. "OK, ready!"

Rex did his best to catch Garret off guard. He first turned back to Quill. "Just wait till you see this." Then, without warning, he backhanded the massive log at Garret and spun to watch. Much to his astonishment, Garret reacted with incredible grace and speed. The small boy's arms flashed, turning a bright blue, then he stepped to the side and smashed the huge hunk of wood between his hands. Just like inside, the log burst into millions of splinters. Since this one was bigger than the one he had destroyed inside the tanning salon, some of the debris cloud even blew out the hole in the top of Gwen's force bubble.

Quill moved up to the glowing dome and peered into the cloud of falling wood fragments, noting the dome had a few hairline cracks in it. "Are you two OK?"

Rex coughed a couple of times and extended his pinky finger claw on his left hand to scrape some wood bits out of his ears, "I'm good!"

"Me too!" Garret's excited voice could be heard a moment later. "But I think I need to change. My clothing is like mangled!"

"Holy Crap!" Eldora stated as Gwen dropped her force bubble and Rex and Garret came into view. Both boys were coated in wood bits and their clothing had holes too numerous to count. "Are you both sure you are OK?"

Rex coughed a couple more times and spit out some sawdust colored phlegm. "You know, oak smells a whole lot better than it tastes."

Garret responded, giggling. "Let's do that again!"

"I'd say they're good," Gustav stated with an astonished glance at Garret, "You know, if you had hit me with one of your fist things."

Quill looked over both boys carefully, then back to Gustav. "Son, if you had been hit with those you would be dead!"

"Paste," Ricky added in.

"And it was so fast!" Gwen stated with awe.

"Faster than my blades, way faster!" Logan agreed with a shake of his head. "Rex tossed it at you hard."

"Harder than I meant to," Rex admitted. "I thought it was going to be heavier than it was."

Quill shook her head as she stared straight into Garret's eyes. "I have been working with cadets for over a decade and have been in the RLD for over double that. Never have I seen such speed with such a deadly augmentation!"

"Colt can launch electrical bolts just as fast," Eldora stated.

"OK, yes," Quill corrected, "ranged attacks can be ultra fast, but this isn't a ranged thing. Do you have something bigger?"

Garret shrugged. "I don't know."

Rex jumped in. "He does."

Logan nodded. "Yeah, but it hasn't come out yet. Almost, though."

Quill whistled. "If it's there, you are a Class Five. You may even be a Class Five without anything bigger. You have to be."

"I know already!"

Quill raised a finger in annoyance over being cut off, only to have Rex shove both Logan and Gustav into the deep snow while yelling, "Look out!"

Before Quill could so much as turn her head to see what the problem was, Garret shoved her back with his glowing fist, preventing any of her spines form sticking into him. A split second later a concussion beam slammed into Garret, knocking him a full step back into deep snow. With a snarl, brighter blue energy rippled over both his arms and the beginning of an outline of a reddish-gold shield appeared on his arm. "Oh, so someone else wants to play, huh?"

Next to Garret, Rex extended his claws as a small burst of ice shards ripped into his already ruined shirt. He snarled in annoyance while he forced his fangs to emerge as well. "Guys, get behind me and Garret!"

Off to Rex's left side Logan rolled over and took a knee. Before any of the other realized the situation, a dark shadow started to form around him as he brought up his gloom armor. At the same time blades stated to emerge. "Just buy me a few seconds, Rex!"

Eldora twisted to the side as a small burst of flame shot by her, narrowly missing. Even as she radioed the others for help, her body started to make odd popping and snapping noises. Before Quill could pick herself up out of the deep snow, Eldora's face had taken on the shape of a huge feline and an animalistic snarl came out of her mouth.

Gustav didn't even bother to stand up. Instead he curled his hand and brought up a small ball of fire. He then rolled over and tossed it in the direction of the ice shards he had seen hit Rex. A yelp of pain rewarded his efforts. Even as he stood he shouted out, "I need some kind of staff!"

Off to Gustav's right, Gwen glanced around. With a quick and well practiced flip of her wrist, she brought out one of her bright yellow force whips. Without hesitation, she swung it, snapping off the top of a street sign. She then snapped her other wrist, causing another whip to emerge. With two whips out, she cut through the snow a half dozen times until she found the bottom of the sign. It took only one more hard strike to cut it off at the base. Even as it fell, the whip coming out of her right hand coiled around the heavy pole and yanked it back. It fell in the snow right in front of Gustav. "Will that work?"

Gustav stood, picking up the metal pole with wide eyes. He spun it, realizing without some kind of empowered strength, he'd never be able to wield it. As it was, with his strength being augmented, it still was not easy to properly use. "I'll make it work for now! Thanks!"

Quill finally stood. "Kids, fall back; we need to regroup!"

"This is BEARS territory," Rex snarled and he grabbed a handful of snow, crushed it into a hard ice shard and hurled it down the street. "We'll hold the line. Get the others."

A blur of bluish-gold energy appeared overhead as Colt wrapped himself in his electrical armor. "Already coming, Rex. What do we have?"

"I was just able to catch the sound of talking, two voices, but one of them can see us by hearing. Since then three others have attacked us. They are all coming from the north. From the way it sounded, they stumbled on the snow cat tracks and started following hoping to ambush whoever was driving them. We need to protect the shop and TJ!"

Josh's voice came into his head. "Tanner, Ajax, Sun Storm and I have TJ and inside the shop. COUGARS 43 are all moving to Support. Rex, you have command out there. Take them out before they can bring in support!"

Quill cringed and shook her head, "What was."

"Josh," Gwen responded while shaking her head. "I hate when he does a telepathic broadcast! It makes my head feel weird."

Ricky and Gustav both rubbed the front of their heads while exchanging glances. Before either could react, a bolt of electrical energy blasted down, dropping a figure with long sharp looking horns coming out of her forehead.

Colt's voice came from above. "Shake it off, guys! They are closing on us!"

Gwen followed up Colt's high voltage attack with twin strikes of her whips, knocking the figure back down before she could even fully stand back up. "Stay down, woman. The next time I'll make them sharp!"

A man materialized out of the blowing snow holding a large pistol, "Only if you are alive."

His words were stopped short as a weird hum came from over head and a long reptilian tail smacked hard into the guy's wrist, knocking the gun out of his hand.

The man let out a curse as he pulled a wicked-looking blade from over his back and hundreds of sharp spines burst though the guy's coat.

Another voice came from behind Gwen. "I know him! Those spines have poison! Girl, drop and go to the side! Allen, go high!"

The second Gwen dove sharply back and to the right and the boy with the tail went high, Gregory took another step forward. He took in a huge breath and let loose with a shrill scream. The windows in the building behind the man shattered and the door blew inwards, but the poison spiked man was caught flatfooted. Blood started leaking out of his ears, eyes and nose well before he fell unmoving into the deep snow only five yards from Gwen.

Valda moved up to Gregory and tossed a dozen long woody thorns into the injured woman with the long horns. A shout of pain rewarded her efforts.

Without warning, a man with graying hair and a grey beard came around from the side and snarled as he glared at Gregory, "Your friend is good as dead, Ear Piercer!"

Before Gregory could do more than try to shove Valda out of the way, getting a bunch of her woody armor barbs in his hand as he did so, the man let loose with a breath weapon of his own. Hot steam blasted out of his mouth. Gregory yelped and turned to avoid it hitting his face. Just as the steam started to burn him, however, it stopped. A moment later he heard a loud bone-crunching thud behind him.

He whimpered as he tried to pull his impaled hand off of Valda's spikes, then glanced over his shoulder, only to see the man who had breathed on him splattered against, and partially embedded into, a building. Ten feet away Gustav advanced on the man, doing his best to keep the long street sign pole spinning.

Valda started to roll over, felt some resistance and heard Gregory scream in pain. Seeing the boy's hand was still stuck on her woody spikes and bleeding badly she stopped moving. "Oh, crap!"

Tears rolled out of Gregory's eyes. "Can you retract them?"

"Yeah. But it's part of my wood armor. If I drop it, it pulls back inside me and it'll rip up your hand even worse!"

Gustav heard the scream and ran over to the two. He dropped the pole as he knelt next to them. "I don't think we have much choice; the more you move, the worse it is going to getand he is bleeding all over the place. Pull your spikes back and I'll get him inside! From what I have seen, Josh should be able to help him."

Logan moved up and knelt. He cringed seeing the problem instantly, "The hooked spines will rip his hand wide open, Valda!"

"I know." She glanced at Logan as an idea came to her, "Use one of your blades. They are harder than my woody armor. Cut them!"

"But that'll cut you!"

"Yeah, but only a flesh cut. This way Josh will be able to pull them out without doing as much damage as me just retracing them."

Logan looked over to Gustav. "Hold his hand out away from Valda as much as possible, so I don't have to cut any more than I absolutely have to get his hand off of her and trust me. I am very good with my gloom blades."

Gustav pulled Gregory's fingers and hand up as best as he could. Seeing Gregory shaking in pain, he glanced over at Logan, "I don't think I can go any further."

Logan took a deep breath and sliced downward with a hard swing, easily cutting though the wooden spikes holding Gregory's hand to Valda.

Valda rolled away and took a couple of deep breaths as the pain literally took her breath away.

At the same time Gregory rolled over and puked while clutching his wounded hand into his stomach.

Gustav helped Gregory back to his feet and hefted up the pole with his other hand.

Valda stood, glanced at her missing spikes along with some oozing of blood and cringed. Seeing Gustav struggling to carry the pole while helping Gregory, she spoke up. "Forget the post. Just get him in to Josh. I'll cover you."

"I've got your backs." Logan started, only to be interrupted by Valda.

"We've got him. Your cut was perfect, it's nothing more than a road rash on me. Make sure the woman with the horns stays down and go help the others!"

Logan started to argue, but noticed the woman with the horns was getting back up. "Take care of them, Gustav!"

"He already did," Gregory said weakly while using his good hand to point at what was left of the steam breather.

Gustav frowned. "I could have hit him harder if I had a real staff. I couldn't put enough energy into the shaft to make it break the sound barrier like I can with a lighter weight wooden staff."

"Somehow, I don't think more was needed, but don't worry. I'll take care of you," Valda stated as motioned for Gustav to head toward the front of the salon.

The woman with the horns showed a great deal of toughness as she struggled to her feet and glared at the three kids as they fell back. With a flip of her wrist and snap of her fingers, a concussion beam launched down the street, ripping Gregory out of Gustav's grasp and flinging him down into the snow again.

Gustav turned sharply and let loose with a pair of x-ray beams out of his eyes which sliced into her side, knocking her down yet one more time and opening up a pair of holes which started bleeding.

Rage flashed into Logan's eyes as he took a defensive stance, preventing the woman with the horns from easily getting past him. With his armor and blades fully out, he readied an attack, but never got the chance.

From the building top behind the woman a huge white tiger pounced. The tiger's claws ripped through the woman's parka and opened up viscious wounds from her upper back all the way to her hips.

At the same time the huge cat snarled and bit down onto the woman's right shoulder. The collarbone snapped in multiple locations as the cat shook its prey, then tossed the mortally injured woman into the snow a full ten yards away. As Logan moved up, Eldora shape-shifted again, changing into a huge bird of prey and took to the air.

Half a block up, Gwen's twin whips snapped out, coiling around an older teen as the kid tried to hit her with a blast of flame. She then yanked back hard, flipping the boy violently to the ground.

Suddenly twin whips extended out of his hands and snapped back at Gwen, cutting her leg lightly.

Gwen yelped and easily spun away from the second whip. "What the. Those whips look exactly like mine!"

Reed Burlington from COUGARS 43 quickly moved up next to Gwen and flung a chi dagger at the older boy, cutting the boy's leg badly.

The young man cursed and tossed a duplicate, although not quite as powerful of a dagger back, only to see it get smacked aside by one of Gwen's whips.

Reed spit into the snow. "He's a power mimic. Whatever power we hit him with he can duplicate it and use it against us."

"Does he know how to use them as good as we do?"

"Not the ones I have seen."

"What about our empowerments?"

"Unless he can drain us, I don't think so. Normally mimics can only duplicate augmentations."

Gwen wiped at the blood oozing out of her leg as her whole demeanor seemed to turn quite a bit darker. She snapped her whip again, easily knocking another tossed chi dagger out of way as she moved forward. "Then let's play!"

She moved forward making twin strikes on the boy while twisting to the side to avoid another tossed dagger made of chi energy. Both of her whips struck the older kid's face leaving behind deep bloody cuts.

The kid howled in pain and reformed the whips. Only this time as he lashed out, the small girl he was facing showed why she was allowed up to squadron level before most kids her age. She showed incredible control as she used one of her own whips to tangle up both of his, while her other one changed in mid swing to have thousands of tiny razor sharp blades all up and down its length. As it hit, his winter pants shredded as did the skin underneath. The young man fell screaming.

Gwen spun her hand, further entangling the whips coming out of the horribly wounded boy's hands while the whip on her other hand once again changed. This time, the tiny blades changed to fish-hook like structures. Her strike was perfect, wrapping all the way around him, pinning his arms to his side, and digging in.

She closed on the teen, "You move your arms at all, my hooks will tear you to shreds."

Tears of agony poured out of the kid's eyes. "I give! I give!"

Reed moved up and whistled, "Wow! So would I." He paused and took a deep breath, "You need medical help bad, and we can get you some, but you best tell us how many are in your group!"

Quill moved up and glared at the older boy as no answer was forthcoming, She briefly cringed as she realized what the small girl had done. "I really don't think you want this child to pull on her whip any harder than she already is. Now answer the question!"

The kid took in shallow breaths of air because to do more only caused more of the hooks to dig into his flesh, "Nine, nine including me."

Quill nodded, finding no deception in the answer. "Let him go." She then activated her radio. "There are nine of them total. Reed and one of the BEARS girls has one of them down with me."

Other cadets from COUGARS 43 responded quickly, starting with Shannon, "I can see another down. One of the BEARS shape-changed into a tiger and ripped a woman with horns apart."

"I have a third by me," Cassie radioed in. "What is left of him is stuck in a building."

"I have a fourth confirmed for us, Quill," Allen joined in. "Gregory took him down with a shout, but he's hurt and heading back inside. I am airborne with their electric flyer, but him and the guy we are tracking are way faster than me."

"OK COUGARS," Quill ordered, "Stick close to these BEARS, but stay out of their way, From what I am seeing, they are way more combat effective and trained than we are. Besides, we are here to watch their backs and protect civilians. However, they came after us and we don't want them getting word back to whoever is in charge of the separatists. Don't let any escape if possible!"

She then glanced down at the trembling boy wrapped in Gwen's whip. "It's OK, we got him. Let him go sweetheart."

"You sure?" Reed asked.

"He's hurt bad, and isn't going anywhere." She made her own spines pop up, "Are you?"

"No. No!" the boy sobbed.

"It's the truth, release him."

Gwen shrugged and with a few seconds of concentration the barbs on her whip vanished. She then yanked back, spinning the boy in the snow.

Quill whistled with a bit of awe at the display before she glanced over to Reed, "You two get him inside and see what we can do for him. I'm going to go help the others."

Up the street from Gwen and Reed, Skye and Logan moved up on a pair of kids about the same age as Garret and Gwen. The young boy saw them and with a flash of his eyes sent a light pulse at Logan.

Even as Logan's armor absorbed the attack while only causing him to stutter step, the girl sent a dark pulse of her own at Skye. Her thick Geode skin and strength made the attack totally useless.

"You best have more than some dark rays coming out of your eyes," Skye snorted in annoyance.

A long club formed in the boy's hand as the girl caused a shimmer of energy to form around her.

Logan shook his head in warning as he stared at the boy. "Do you really want to try your club against my blades?"

The boy gulped and brought up his arm. It took only a few seconds for the outline of a rounded shield to from.

"Sorcery, huh?" Logan snorted, not really asking a question. "I bet ours is better than you."

At the same time Skye went into deep thought. "Josh, we have two of them, but they are kids, and I don't really want to bust them up."

Josh's voice came back into her head only a moment later. "I'll send you some help. Maybe Ajax knows them. Keep them talking."

The girl tuned to stare at Logan. "Yeah? Well, there are two of us!" She raised her arm and caused the outline of a shield to appear on her arm. "Do you think yours can take on two of us?"

"Actually, I am sure he could," Skye fired back, hoping to buy a few precious seconds, not really wanting to fight the two rather scared-looking kids. "He's a class five, after all."

"Really?" The boy asked while taking a nervous step back.

Before more could be said, Ajax's projection appeared behind the pair of kids. "Paige, Sammy, stop. You cannot beat my new friends, nor can I let you try."

The girl spun, losing focus on her shield as she did so, causing it to fade before it fully formed. "Ghost Shadow?"

Ajax nodded, "Paige, you do not have enough control to be out here and my new friends do. If you attack them you will lose. Woodsman would never have allowed you to join this fight."

The boy timidly glanced back at Ajax's projection, then back to Skye and Logan, both of whom had closed but were clearly holding back some. "They said they would give our sister and brother to Dark Raven if we didn't!"

"Dark Raven is dead," Ajax stated with a deep frown. "Those you are about to fight helped kill him. You are the one on the wrong side, Sammy."

"Dark Raven, dead?" Paige asked with very wide eyes. The shock of hearing this caused the shimmer around her to blink out.

"Yeah," Skye spoke up. "Ajax joined us and helped as well. Forget these fools, join us!"

"But our sister and brother." Sammy started to say, but lost concentration on his own sorcery ability as he did so, causing his partially formed shield to fade away.

"We'll go get them as soon as the storm lets up," Logan joined in. "Besides, Ajax is right, neither of you is quite ready to try to fight on this scale. You don't even have full control over your augmentations yet!"

The boy turned sharply to glare at Logan. "I do too!"

"No, you do not, Sammy," Ajax stated more firmly, "Otherwise you would still have your shield." His image blinked out and appeared right next to the boy. "You are both strong and have many abilities, but both of you combined could not hope to harm one of my friends here even if you had full control, and you know you do not.

"Besides, they are both stronger, faster and way more powerful than you are. I know, I have seen them kill the boss's people. Dark Raven and Fire Lance are both dead, and I think Ice Wave and Stone Shard are as well."

Gustav appeared out of the sheets of blowing snow with one of the girls from COUGARS 43. "So is Boiling Cough. I know, I killed him with some help from some of these two's friends. His days of hurting us are done, Paige."

The girl looked over at Gustav with near shock in her eyes. "He's dead?"

"Yeah, and Gregory, Ear Piercer, took down Spine Plague. Come on, look around. You could be part of this group instead!"

"It is true!" Ajax spoke up again, "They do not want to hurt you, but if you strike at them again, you will give them small choice.. Um, little choice?" He glanced over to Logan.

"Little," Logan confirmed with a slight grin, then turned to the two kids. "Guys, Ajax and Gustav are both with us and you could both be too with a bit more practice. Don't make us have to hurt you."

"But Mind Siren will know and send word," Sammy choked back tears. "Our brother and sister."

Ajax shook his head. "We have known each other since Woodsman brought you all to the camp. You bunked in the same camp as me for over a year. The last thing I want is for you to get hurted. These two, Gustav, me, and all their friends can help you. Just go back to the building with Gustav and you will not be hurted. The rest of us will find Mind Siren and finish this."

Skye frowned, "Who is this Mind Siren you are talking about?"

"She is a lot like Josh," Ajax responded with a look of anger and frustration. "She can send and get thoughts, mind lift things, throw fire, and her fingers can shoot rays that burn the skin and cause really bad blisters unless you have good toughness. Her rays can even burn me through this image. It is the only thing I have found capable of doing so."

"Then let us deal with her," Logan stated before turning back to the two kids, "Are you willing to let us help?"

Paige glanced at her brother, "I don't know."

Sammy looked around, realizing as he did so the others had all but surrounded them. He closed his eyes for a moment, then looked back to Ajax, "They really won't hurt us?"

"No chance." Ajax stated firmly. "My body is in the building Gustav is taking you to. I will be there when you get there. The others will take care of Mind Siren."

Logan went into deep thought. "Josh, good job sending Gustav back here. The two kids are going to come back with him, but they are scared out of their minds."

"We'll take care of them," came a fast reply.

"I know, but it sounds like their brother and sister are being held and used to make them fight against us. There is a double-t out here we have to find her! At least it doesn't sound like she a porter."

I'll start a scan and warn the others. Stick close to each others; you know telekinesis is nasty if used properly. But we have to deal with her fast. I know Sun Storm says he can block telepaths and he can, but he isn't nearly as healed as he is trying to let on. He can't even totally block me out even when I am not really trying. If a good one gets too close to him, I don't think he'll be able to prevent them from finding Senator Jackson's kid."

"Understood, Josh," Logan growled.

A few seconds later Gustav came in to the salon leading the two very frightened kids. "Hey everyone, this is Paige and Sammy. They were at the same camp as Ajax, Gregory and me. Their brother and sister live there too, but are Normal. They are very afraid for them since Normals are hated by the Boss, and they were told if they didn't fight they'd be harmed."

Sun Strom frowned deeply, "Once this is done, USDT and RLD will get to those camps and rescue them."

Josh paused his healing of Valda for a moment. "Or we will do it ourselves. One way or the other, we'll do everything we can to get to them before more harm can fall on them."

Kurt continued to use his magical healing energies on Gregory while he spoke, "COUGARS 43 will help too."

Josh glanced over. "Get them some food and a spot to warm up, Gustav."

Even while Gregory trembled as TJ did his best to pull out yet another sharp barb out of his hand, he nodded to the two. "It's OK. You are both safe here."

Valda nodded to Gustav as he came back from the kitchen with some sandwiches for the two frightened kids. As soon as he put down the plate, she tossed over the staff she had been making out of the wood pile over to him. "Here. The next time you see someone who hurt you or either of these two, put them into a tree or something for me."

Gustav guided the two kids over to the fireplace and hefted the finely crafted staff. He spun it a couple of times and tested its strength. A hint of a genuine grin came to his features for the first time in a very long time. "With pleasure."

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