Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons


Chapter 7

Published: 8 Apr 14

Both Josh and Garret flinched as another bullet smacked into the hovercraft and caused a spider web on the window where it had impacted. Before the figure could adjust for another shot, a pair of bluish gold bolts blasted into the back of the machine he was driving from above. Sparks danced over the metal parts from back to front and killed the engine. At the same time the startled and lightly electrically burned rider panicked and fell off, leaving him in the snow and the machine on its side and lightly smoking.

Two more electrical bolts erupted from Colt's hands; both stuck the crippled machine, all but destroying what was left. "Scratch one, but Tanner can't keep flight and fight. It's just too cold for him to do both!"

"Then you are our air support; keep moving and stay high enough to where they can't easily spot you. His rifle looks a lot like my dad's thirty ought six. One shot will kill you, Colt," Josh shouted as he swung the hover around so he could do a full infrared sweep of the open area they were now in and the valley up to their northwest.

Rex responded, showing a great deal of concern, "A shot from one of those might even draw some blood on me, dude. Stay high and stay safe!"

Garret concentrated for a full three seconds, forcing a thick glowing shield to appear on his arm. He then grabbed his Nunchakus from his personal equipment and glanced over at Josh. "We aren't doing much good in here."

Josh slowed to a stop only a few yards from the figure lying in the snow and pressed the side hatch release. "Bullets will kill you too."

"Yeah, but they would have to shoot through this shield, and that isn't going to happen."

"A shield doesn't protect your back and sides," Josh reminded the younger boy as he scrambled out of his seat, pulling the keys to the hovercraft as he went. "Stay close to me cause I can heal you if you get hit."

"What if you get shot?"

"I'm a lot like Rex," Josh grinned, "Bullets, even high caliber ones, do bounce off me."

"Must be nice," Garret muttered as he jumped out the door and made his way toward the figure.

"It is, but they still tend to knock me down and hurt like hell, not to mention leave nasty bruises." Josh shouted as he too exited the craft and moved into the strong winds.

Before Garret could ask how Josh knew what it felt like to be shot, the figure who had fallen off the snowmobile stood up and glared, easily spotting Garret's glowing shield. The guy, an older teen, stomped his foot into the snow and made a pushing motion with his arms. Instantly the snow blasted upwards in front of him as dozens of rock shards blasted out of the ground.

Garret jumped in front of Josh, surprising both him and Josh at the quickness of his reaction. He then braced himself and held his shield firmly up with his right arm. The shards made crunching sounds as they impacted. Most shattered while a few ricocheted off. The force of the impact pushed Garret back almost a foot into Josh but didn't knock him over.

Josh clenched his fists as his brow wrinkled. The only sign of any release of energy was the parting and swirling of the blowing snow as the mental bolt launched out of his forehead and into the teen. The force of Josh's mental spear was more than enough to pick the older kid off the ground and hurl him backwards a full yard.

Less than a hundred yards away, and barely visible though the snowstorm, Logan and Tanner were also teaming up. Logan shoved Tanner out of the way as a snowmobile with an adult driver and a young passenger hurtled right at them. Logan then rolled into the deep snow and concentrated. Less than a second later a pair of dark pulsing blades appeared in his hands.

At the same time Tanner let out a string of curse words as he stood and knocked as much snow as possible out from around his neck. He then spun as the sound of the snowmobile once again got louder. He waited until his IR goggles allowed him to catch sight of the advancing machine before he extended his hands and sent an intense wave of heat outward, instantly melting an area of snow right in front of the snowmobile's path.

Before the pilot could adjust, the front end of the snowmobile dropped down a full two feet. At the same time Logan's hands spun with deadly precision. The twin blades took separate paths. The one in his left hand sliced off the right front ski while the gloom blade in his right hand found flesh. Thick winter clothing parted, as did the skin underneath, like a razor would cut a single piece of paper. This assault left both passenger and driver with a long thin and deep nasty cut across their upper right thighs.

As the snowmobile plummeted down the melted area, its remaining front ski hit earth and rock. This snapped off the left front ski and caused the whole thing to roll. The driver reacted quickly as a dark shroud of energy surrounded him and he went airborne. The young passenger, however, ended up in the wet icy snow off to the side of the area melted by Tanner.

Logan moved forward with his blades out while talking into his headset. "Tanner scratched another mobile, but the driver is an augment and took to the sky!"

Colt's voice came back across, "The flyer is mine!"

"Be careful, Colt, the guy was armed with a pair of pistols!" Logan shouted as he moved toward the young crying figure trying to dig himself out of the deep already starting to refreeze wet snow. "I gave him a pretty good slice as he came by, though, so he's hurt."

"Nice work," Colt responded. "The flow of warm blood should make it easier for my IR goggles to pick up something, cause everything is pretty cold and dark and there is no heat sources other than Tanner at the moment."

Logan nodded in silent agreement and turned back toward Tanner, only to see the young passenger whose leg he had cut work free of the snow and raise his right hand. Instantly a trio of small yellow bursts of fire slammed into Tanner's side spinning him around and knocking him to the ground. "Tanner!"

Tanner jumped back up and turned to face the kid who had just launched the fire darts. He moved forward with rage in his eyes.

The kid, realizing his fire dart augmentation hadn't done a whole lot, first reached for his shoulder, only to find his rifle was no longer with him. He then pulled a throwing knife and whipped it at Tanner. It didn't make it.

Logan reacted with incredible speed and grace, using his pulsing black blades to strike at and cut the thrown blade into three separate hunks of case hardened steel as it flashed by him. Before Logan could do more, Tanner moved past, stepping on the remains of the ruined precision throwing knife as he went. He got closer, only to get another trio of flame bursts.

This time, however, the flames disappeared as they impacted with him. A moment later the flames erupted back out of Tanner's hands and struck the ruined snowmobile, igniting it. Tanner glanced down at his hand as if a new revelation had just come to him; he then grinned evilly at the kid. "Oh, give me some more of that!"

Logan's eyebrows shot upward in surprise, never having seen Tanner do anything close to what he had just witnessed, "Neat trick, hothead!"

"OH, I AM JUST GETTING WARMED UP!" Tanner shouted in glee as he continued to move toward the now terrified kid, who looked very close to Logan's age.

At the same time Rex was looking at the radio setup as if trying to will a response out of the ringing cell phone. After five rings a surprised older-sounding male voice answered, "Hello?"

"Is this the senator's kid?"

"No. Who is this?"

Rex frowned, more annoyed at missing the fight than having to explain who he was. "Look, I am with BEARS 97. USDT 19 gave us the cell number so we could track you. They sent us out here to find a senator's kid cause this storm has grounded virtually everything for a hundred miles of here, and we are all they have up here at the moment. Now I really don't have a lot of time, and I got friends fighting and getting hurt to save his ass. Now who are you and is he with you?"

"Yes, he is with me," The man replied nervously. "This is Airman Lyons, medic, US Air Force. The boy is not doing well and needs heat and real medical attention soon. I have a couple of chemical hot packs around him, but they are starting to fade and I only have two more."

"Tell me where the two of you are and I'll get to you while my friends distract the idiots trying to find you all."

"There is just me and the boy. The pilot didn't survive the crash and my partner set out on foot to get help, but I heard gunshots about an hour and a half ago, so I don't think he made it. After I heard the shots, I carried the boy out of the wreck."

"OK, where are you?"

"You sound kind of young to be in charge. How do I know you are not one of those after the boy?"

"Well our Commander and XO are not out here with us, so you get what USDT 19 could send. As far as how you know what side we're on, all I can say is I have his personal cell phone number and I am in a FEMA hover. Plus, by the way it sounds, you really don't have much choice. You will have to trust me if you want the kid to survive."

There was a pause, "OK, fine. We are in a mini cave just south of the wreck."

"We haven't located the crash site yet, so that doesn't do us much good," Rex sighed. "Can you give me anything to go on so I can get to you?"

"Well, until a minute or so ago I'd have said no, but from where I am at, I can now see something starting to burn about 150 yards or so to the southeast, but it is just a flickering glow because the snow is so bad. Also, I can just make out some weird glow about 25 yards closer to me almost in line with the flames, but slightly further to the south. It seems to be moving …"

"Is it kind of a golden red in color?"

"Sure is."

"That's probably Garret with a shield out."

"Well, it kind of looks like someone small is holding it."

"Perfect." Rex nodded, certain he was right. "Stand by. I'm coming for you in a FEMA hover. Get to the mouth of the cave so you can continue to talk to me, cause right now I have to be in a narrow area to talk to you. The cave must be cutting off your signal."

"Understood, but there isn't much battery left on this thing."

"It won't take me very long, and once we have you, I have the perfect person to recharge it. Stand by."

"You got it, kid."

Rex stood and moved back to the pilot chair. "Guys, if Garret has his shield out I need him to hold position as a marker. I also need to know if there is there something burning down there."

"Yeah." Josh responded as he grabbed Garret's shoulder to prevent him from moving, "The snowmobile Colt fried is now in flames. He must have ruptured a fuel line or something. Why?"

"Cause that and Garret are my markings to get to the kid."

"You made contact?"

"Yeah, he is not far from your location so hold tight in case I need support."

"All right, we'll hold here!"

"Guys, keep your eyes open." Colt entered back into the radio chatter, "I have no clue where the flyer went, but I am still looking."

Josh scanned the skies, not seeing anything but snow, "All right. Tanner, Logan, you two are on point. I have to cover Garret so Rex can use him and his shield as a marker. We still have at least one, probably two more snowmobiles and a flyer."

"Understood," Logan responded while motioning for Tanner to move toward Josh and Garret. As he did so, he realized Tanner had grabbed the fire throwing kid and the kid was on his knees shaking. He took a couple of steps back toward Tanner, only to be stopped by intense heat coming off his friend. At the same time he could now see the face of the boy Tanner was holding onto. It was a mask of total agony. Taking a step back, he watched for a few more seconds, suddenly realizing as Tanner got hotter, the boy was going paler and his eyes were starting to roll up in his head. At the same time he recognized the kid as a former classmate who had burned an older kid when both of them had been in the third grade. The boy had never returned to school after the BEST agent had taken him and arranged for medical care for the sixth grader who had been picking on him. "Dude, let go! You're killing him!"

Tanner's head jerked as if suddenly snapped out of a trance and looked down. Seeing the kid he was gripping the hand of was now unconscious and starting to drool, he let go and took a step back. As he did so, he noticed the kid's clothing was smoldering and the sleeve of the coat closest to where he had been holding had glowing embers on it. Even worse, the hand he had been gripping no longer had a glove on it other than some melted and burned fragments and was bright red and badly blistered with his hand print clearly marked. "OH, shit! Josh, I need you over here now!"

"Logan!" Josh yelled. "We need Garret right where he is at. Cover him!"

"On it, Josh. We need you here now, though! I know this kid!"

Garret glanced back at Josh with a nod. "Go, I'll be fine."

Josh took a deep breath and glanced over to the burning snowmobile, using its flames to spot Tanner. He closed his eyes for a moment and vanished, appearing right next to Tanner an instant later. "Damn! Turn down the heat!"

Tanner backed off a full 15 paces, "I am trying to figure out how. The kid is a pyro thrower. When I grabbed him I think I absorbed his powers and now have more heat inside of me than I know what to do with!"

Josh looked at the badly burned hand and noticed blisters were all the way up to the forearm. "Well, use it!"


"Get airborne and help Colt until you use up what you took or go melt some more snow or something, just use it! You are still burning me from where you are standing and the fireproof clothing BEST gets you is even starting to smoke!"

Tanner backed off further and glanced down at himself. Noting his boots were starting to melt, his eyes went wide. "Crap!" He took a deep breath and surrounded himself with some of the excess heat he now had inside. It took only seconds for him to build enough heat and lift to take off into angry skies.

Josh reached down, expecting the kid to be very hot. Quite the opposite was true, however. Other than the burned area, the kid's skin was ice cold and clammy. He forced his mind to go blank as he ripped open the boy's coat and pushed his hands under the kid's shirt and thermal undershirt. Once his hands were under the clothing he removed his gloves and focused on the injuries. First he forced the boy's heart rate to speed up to pump more blood, then made the boy's body find all fat reserves and accelerated the burning of them so the body could rebuild some heat.

Once he was satisfied the dangers of imminent death by hypothermia had been dealt with, he moved on to focus the boy's body's healing efforts to sealing the leg wound created by Logan. It didn't take long to force the blood cells in the area to coagulate, preventing more blood loss, something the critically injured kid could not take much more of. With the bleeding at least stopped, Josh changed his focus yet again and concentrated on sending all remaining healing resources within the boy's body to attack the borderline third degree burns on the hand, ignoring the lesser second degree burns radiating outward from Tanner's hand print.

Not too far away, Logan got to Garret just as the Hovercraft Rex was piloting shot by at well over a hundred miles an hour, the whine of the lift fans and push fans drowned out all other sound. Unfortunately, this prevented either of them from hearing the snowmobile that was in hot pursuit. A couple of seconds after Rex whizzed by, the sound of a gunshot echoed off the narrow canyon walls. At the same time Garret was violently thrown to the ground as the bullet hit him in the left hip.

"No!" Logan shouted as he leapt forward to check on the newest squadron member. Just as he got there a new glow appeared where Garret had been slammed to the deep snow. Not knowing what was going on, but having seen other young augments find new powers after something bad happened, he rolled back and dove into the show for cover while shouting. "Guys! I think something is happening to Garret!"

Before any of the others could do more than glance back toward Garret, the boy jumped back to his feet and roared "Ouch! Crap! Son of a…" He stopped shouting as he eyed the onrushing machine, purposefully stepping in front of it.

The sorcery shield was still on his right arm, but his left hand and forearm was wrapped in a bright bluish glob, more than quadrupling the thickness of his arm and easily doubling the arm thickness around his normally small clenched fist. Another shot rang out, but this time Garret reacted with impressive speed, getting the shield up in front of him. A couple of sparks and a rippling of bluish waves over the shield told everyone the bullet had simply defected off the sorcery shield. At the same time Garret adjusted slightly so he was certain to be directly in the path of the oncoming snowmobile and braced himself. An instant before it collided with him, he slammed his glowing fist and arm into the front of it.

The destruction and devastation was incredible. The whole front end disappeared into the deep snow and pancaked to a thickness of less than an inch as it met the hard frozen ground under the over-two-foot blanket of snow. Both front skis snapped off and shot upward with enough force to send them far enough to where they simply disappeared into the storm. At the same time the driver and passenger of the snowmobile were launched as if catapulted since the back end came up as fast and violently as the front end went down.

The screams of both the male driver and female passenger could clearly be heard for well over a second before the snapping of tree branches over sixty yards away and a good ten yard up silenced the screams of the male voice. Moments later a rather sickening cracking sound followed by a howl of total anguish came from a bit further into the woods from the female voice. It too fell silent after a couple of sobs.

Bullets once again found Garret, this time from above. As three separate hits into his back sent him face down, he shook in a mixture of rage and pain. Still on the ground, he grabbed what was left of the six hundred pound machine and threw it in the direction of the incoming fire. It left his hand as if an average professional baseball pitcher had just thrown the best fastball of his life.

Above, the dark shrouded and still bleeding figure narrowly dodged the spinning mass of metal, dropping both pistols as he did so. He then started to back up, simply trying to get away from the small, terrifyingly powerful, form below.

A "Holy Shit!" came from an obviously astonished voice from a bit above and off to the right of the dark mass. Suddenly twin arcs of electricity blasted out of Colt's hands and into the totally distracted flying form. He held it for a full 5 seconds before letting go. The man fell out of the sky like a rock and made a bit of a splattering sound as he impacted and disappeared into the deep snow only a few yards from a still very angry and clearly scared Garret.

Garret glanced down at his glowing fist and started toward the fallen figure, walking though the snow like it wasn't there, even though some of the drifts were up to his nipples. "Who's next! Come on! Bring it!"

"Garret!" Logan shouted while keeping a safe distance, "Take a couple of deep breaths before you accidently hurt yourself or one of us!"

Garret paused and looked back for a second then let out a deep breath of air. As he did so the glow on his left arm started to fade. "That really hurt!"

Logan moved up to Garret as Colt landed next to him. Colt motioned for Garret to turn so he could look at where the bullet had hit him in the hip, not really worried about the boy's back since the Kevlar vest still had all three rounds poking out of it.

At the same time Logan snickered, "You know most of us wouldn't be able to be angry about getting shot with a high powered hunting rifle. We would be on the ground bleeding to death, probably with a shattered hip."

Across the narrow valley Rex guided the hover up to the step face of the western side of the valley. His sharp eyes spotted a man crouched down just under a rocky overhang. He pulled up and popped the side hatch.

He quickly jumped out and motioned for the guy to get the boy from deeper inside the small cave and get into the safety of the hover. Just as the guy disappeared, a burst of automatic fire and a bitterly cold burst pushed Rex back but did nothing else other than shred his BEARS parka and leave him coated in some ice. A snowmobile raced by spraying the far side of the hovercraft with bullets.

Rex glanced down, a bit surprised the burst of cold didn't do anything other than leave an icy film on his ruined coat. He didn't even fill chilled. He glanced back. "Stay there, we have a bit of a problem out here!"

The airman looked up with wide eyes, clearly noting the fact Rex's coat was full of bullet holes and covered in ice, but the boy was showing no ill effect other than lightly rubbing his chest. "I'm a class one, and was going to offer to help…"

"You protect the kid. These idiots are mine. There is something about getting shot that just pisses me off."

Rex ripped off what was left of his parka and stepped out from behind the protection of the hovercraft , grabbing a huge hunk of relatively flat rock off the side of the hill as he did so. He then spoke rather loudly into his head set. "Guys, I have company and could use a little help!"

"Hunker down. Colt, Garret and me could get there in just a few!" Logan responded.

"I got your back!" Tanner suddenly shouted from above Rex, "I melted my headset so I don't have a radio anymore."

Rex shrugged as he tested the weight and balance of the massive stone he was holding onto. "Never mind. Tanner fried his radio but has me covered." He then glanced up, "I got first dibs when they come back. You guys have been having all the fun so far. Besides, they shot me!"

"You sure?" Colt asked with some concern. "We heard automatic fire!"

"Even more reason to stay clear. You guys could take some serious hits from bullets!"

"Well… Um, yea… OK…" Logan glanced over at Garret who was lightly rubbing his hip and still looking a bit angry, "At least two of the three of us have that problem."

"Whatever." Rex grumbled, "You guys just don't know what it is like to get shot!"

"Yes I do!" Garret growled into his headset.

Josh paused his mental healing for the boy Tanner had sucked the fire energy out of and keyed his radio in total concern, "How bad?"

"I'll let you know as soon as I get a good look, Josh." Colt answered, "But I think he is fine."

"You sure?"

"Don't worry Josh, I'll live." Garret stated as he once again rubbed the area the bullet had hit.

"Which is probably more than we can say for the two who were on the snowmobile you totaled." Josh shook his head as he gazed back in the direction to two had been launched. "If he is bleeding let me know. I need to work on this kid a bit more if I can without endangering anyone in the squadron."

"Do your thing. We'll get you if we need you," Logan joined in.

"Yeah!" Rex blurted out as he again tested weight and feel of the huge slab of rock he was holding, "You all do your thing. Both of these jerks got me. They're mine."

Tanner chuckled as he flew a bit higher. "It's a good thing they only hit your vest, or they'd really be in real trouble. I'll be up here. Just call if you need me."

"Will do."

Rex motioned for Tanner to go higher as his sensitive ears picked up on the sounds of the snowmobile, no longer fading but instead getting louder. "Would you two hurry up already; this rock is getting heavy," he muttered. Finally, as it continued to get closer, he turned his right side to face the engine noise while doing his best to wrap his arm around the huge stone slab.

The second he spotted them, Rex yelled, "Here they come!" so he could get their attention. He was not disappointed as a burst of automatic fire stitched across the FEMA hover and burrowed into the ground only a few feet from him. Realizing the smaller sized passenger had shot at the sound of his voice only, he held on for a few more seconds, really wanting the two to see what was coming.

The moment he saw the smaller figure point at him and raise the barrel of the submachine gun, Rex grunted as he threw the massive flat chunk of granite like a huge Frisbee. Clearly the smaller sized passage had better eyes than the driver as he screamed a warning and dove off the back. An eruption of snow marked the spot where the figure and the snow met at slightly under eighty miles an hour.

A split second later, the several hundred pound spinning rock sheared off the Plexiglas wind screen as if it wasn't even there before slamming into the driver who had looked back to see what had happened to his passenger. The boulder hit him just below the neck shattering bones and flipping him off the back of the snowmobile with enough force to where the rock and driver both vanished into the swirling and blowing snow. At the same time the tether the driver was wearing pulled free and killed the engine of the machine so it came to a rather sudden halt only a couple of yards from where the driver had been ripped off of it.

"Tanner!" Rex shouted, "Help the Air Force dude get the kid into the hover. I'll be right back!"

Tanner flew down, clearly having some problems keeping proper lift around himself once again. "Good, I think I used up what I took from the kid!"

Rex raised his left eyebrow, not knowing what Tanner was talking about but wanting to know more. At the same time, however, he had something else to worry about. Even as he made a beeline toward the area the passenger had jumped off the snowmobile, his fangs were coming out of his upper gums and his very hard and nasty claws pierced the fingertips of his gloves. "You shot me! I ain't done with you yet!" he called out into the storm.

Meanwhile, Garret turned and let Colt pull down his pants far enough to expose the area the bullet had struck, clearly embarrassed that a good portion of his butt cheek was being exposed. Logan was first to let out a sigh of relief as he saw only a round black and blue welt. Yet even as they took a look they both noticed there was a trace of blood on the boy's white briefs but there was no sign of a break in the skin.

Logan was the first to speak as he took a couple of steps away and kicked at the snow with his snowshoes. "Lucky bastard! You have toughness on a level with Rex and Josh and you have some kind of accelerated healing! How in the name of God did BEST ever rate you as only a class two?"

Garret yanked up his pants and shrugged, "I had my first augmentation problem at the hospital when I was eight. I was really really sick; the doctors suspected I was one of the first cases of swine flu in the US, but they didn't ever confirm it as far as I know. I do know that an outbreak of it happened at my school while I was at the hospital. Anyway, I was deathly sick and the doctor went to give me a shot. I don't even remember doing anything, cause I guess I was like only kind of conscious, at least that's what dad says, but I guess I didn't want another needle or something."

Curiosity took over as Colt motioned for Logan and Garret to start making their way over to give Josh some protection. "You hurt the guy?"

"Woman." Garret corrected him while nodding. "I guess I sent a sheet of sparks from an auto spell at her. It put her in a burn unit until BEST arranged for an augment with healing to fix her up. I woke up a few days later with a BEST agent in my room watching me. It took another full week before I was finally feeling a bit better and they let me go with the guy so he could teach me how to control powers I didn't even know I had used. The same guy tested me after I'd been out of the hospital for a couple of days and gave me a Class Two rating. I tried to tell him I still was feeling a bit sick, but he said it didn't matter for testing."

Colt shook his head, "Normally it doesn't… Unless it was Augmentation Sickness."

Logan stopped dead in his tracks, "Oh, come on, I was only sick for five days. If he was sick enough to be almost dead and wasn't fully recovered for well over a week's time, then he would have to be a class five!"

Colt nodded and held up his hand to cut off further comments from Logan, "Garret, I want you to think back to just before you got sick. Did you do anything with Augments or did anything really weird happen, probably only a few hours before you got ill?"

Garret stopped and frowned, "Well yeah, but no one believed me when I got to the afterschool care place I went to. I then got sick on the way home after mom picked me up so I never got a chance to tell anyone else other than my folks."

"What happened?" Logan demanded to know.

"Well, I was climbing a tree waiting for the after school bus to pick me up. I reached up to the next branch only to find it felt weird and soft to the touch so I looked up to see a big snake."

"A snake in a tree?"

Garret nodded. "Actually happens a lot down in the southern parts of Florida, but I didn't expect to find one in a tree at school."

"So you grabbed a snake and freaked out?" Logan nodded, "I know I sure as hell would."

"Well, yeah, kind a, but as I jerked back something shot out of my hands. Whatever it was hit the snake and broke off the branch it was wrapped around. Both the snake and branch launched clear out of the top of the tree and out of sight. I think it actually ended up on the roof of the school, but when I came down and tired to tell the other kids there was no sign of a snake, only a branch with a broken off part sticking up.

"A couple of the older kids told everyone I must have broken off a branch and thought it was a snake. The others just laughed at me. Since I couldn't prove it and I never have done anything like it since, I gave up trying to figure out what happened or why. Mom even said it might have been a trick of the mind since I must have already been getting sick."

"Nope," Colt stated with total certainty, "You did something and it was your first use of an augmentation. A few hours later you got sick as your body tired to cope with sudden activation of those abilities. Only Class fours or fives get full blown augmentation sickness, and just about a quarter of class fours and well over half of us class fives worldwide die from it. You were lucky your mom took you straight to a hospital, cause without care, you probably wouldn't be here today. The BEST guy was a total idiot and didn't see your augmentation sickness for what it really was. When he tested you, there was no way you had gained enough strength back to get a proper classification. The jackass should be fired and you need a reclassification."

Logan whistled as the pieces all fell into place. "Colt's right. This also means we have to work with you a bit more so you can tap back into whatever you did to the snake."

Before more could be said, the older teen who had tried to bombard Josh and Garret earlier managed to get back to his feet, bleeding pretty badly from Josh's mental spear. With a grunt he motioned with his hands making a wave motion. Once again snow erupted upwards and dozens of rock shards blasted out, this time toward Logan, who was the closest to him.

"Look out!" Logan shouted as he spun and dove; his blades flashed with incredible speed deflecting most of the shards while avoiding almost all the others. Only a single stone shard found his skin but several others came dangerously close.

Garret was almost as quick, thrusting up his shield and yanking Colt down behind it. The shards Logan didn't knock down bounced harmlessly off the shield.

Logan shouted a curse as the singe sharp piece of rock pierced his arm. It went into and through the outer edge of his upper left arm just below the shoulder. The pain was bad, but one look at his brand new parka was enough to make him forget any and all discomfort and enrage him. The upper shoulder and sleeve were virtually shredded by half a dozen near misses. He shook his head, "Oh, no… no… not again!"

Before either Colt or Garret could move or even react, Logan tumbled right at the teenager using all his enhanced strength to roll through the snow with almost no loss of speed. He then came out of the roll and uncoiled like a viper making a strike. He used the momentum created by his maneuver coupled with his incredible martial arts skill to deliver a precision blow. The Gloom blade in his hand vanished as he slammed the palm of his right hand directly into the young man's jaw shattering well more than half his teeth and causing the seventeen year old to completely bite off the tip of his tongue.

As the kid did a full three sixty, Logan glared and watched in satisfaction at the unconscious body. It flopped unmoving into the snow a full three yards from where Logan had hit him. He glanced back at his coat and shook his head. At the same time he cringed and held on to his injured arm. "Damn it! I'm going to get my ass seriously beat for destroying another coat when I get home!"

Colt jumped up while nodding his thanks to Garret for his quick reactions. "Josh, Logan's been hit!"

Before anyone could do or say more, Josh appeared out of thin air right next to Logan. "I've got him. The two of you get the kid I was working on into a hover before he freezes to death, but be real careful. I didn't do much to heal his leg, so any rough movements will open up the cut, and it will be just as bad as if I hadn't done anything to it at all."

Josh then activated his headset. "Rex, Tanner, where do we stand?"

Tanner responded first, using the hovercraft radio since his was a melted blackened blob of plastic and fried circuits, "We got the kid. Even better, the Air Force guy is a class one and knows how to pilot the hover. Rex is still out there somewhere, though."

"Give me a minute or two, Josh." Rex followed up, "If you want to pull back with the kid, do it. You can escort the Air Force dude. Just leave Logan and Colt here to pick me up."

"Logan's hit, I'm taking him with me. You'll have to grab the last hover. I'll leave Garret and Colt to support."

"No, take the rookie…"

Colt interrupted, "Garret ain't no rookie, Rex. If there is more trouble you'll want him with us! Trust me."

Rex's eyebrows arched. "OK, fine. Looks like I missed quite a bit, you'll have to catch me up. We'll meet you back at the cabin, Josh."

"We're supposed to meet A.T. back at the meeting hall," Logan's pained voice reminded him.

"Josh," Rex warned, "the meeting hall is not a secret location. If the Woodsman really wants the kid and anyone gets away from here, that'll be the first place they look and we'll end up doing this all over again. My cabin is about as off the beaten track as it gets. Let Colt, Garret and me swing by the ranger station and pick up some more stuff and gas before we meet you back at my place. Go to blackout so you don't transmit anything either, so there is no chance of being tracked."

Josh once again felt the weight of being in sole command fall on his shoulders. He closed his eyes and wondered what Jade Witch or A.T. would do. Finally he realized Rex's advice was actually pretty good. "OK, we do this Rex's way, but Rex, I want you to take the last hover and crisscross the paths we make to prevent easy tracking."

"Understood." Rex confirmed before moving closer to where he saw the passenger fall off the snowmobile. It didn't take long to get to the spot where he saw the passenger with the submachine gun fall into the snow.

When he got there, he found a kid about his own age holding up the stub nosed weapon at him. He snarled and clawed at the weapon, only to have his hand pass right though as it wasn't even there.

Confused, he looked around before spotting a path leading away from the deep impact area where the kid had first hit the snow. He poked at the figure standing in front of him, only to have his hand go right through. "Neat trick." He called out into the storm, "But you left me a nice trail to follow and I can tell you are walking with a limp! It won't take me long to catch up! If you give up, I won't put you through a total ass kicking for shooting me!"

The image spoke in a strong foreign accent. "I'll never go back home!"

Rex felt his jaw drop and spoke softly. "Can you hear me though this thing?"

"Yes." The figure winced as more weight was put on the right leg. "It is a full mental projection. It is just like I am standing right in front of you. I can see you, hear you, and even make out the fact your fangs have retracted some."

Rex could clearly detect a hint of pain in the voice speaking to him. "Look, kid, BEST will listen if we take you in…"

"They tried to send me back home to them! No!" the kid shouted and took a step backwards, causing a real flash of pain in the eyes Rex was looking at.

Rex held up his hands and fully retracted his claws. "Our Squadron Commander would never let BEST or anyone place you where you were going to get hurt. Come on, give us a chance."

"You don't get it! I cannot go back to them!"

Rex shook his head forcing his fangs to fully retract as well, "Look around kid. As best I can tell, it is just you left out here with the six of us, you are hurt, and we can and will find you. If you turn yourself in to me, we'll all stand by you and I'll even forget about the fact you just sprayed me with auto fire.

"If not… well let me put it this way, we have one class five and at least two class fours out here against you. Since you were shooting at me, I am guessing you don't have anything better than a gun, and that isn't going to do more than piss me off again, and I ain't one of the three I just warned you about."

The dark green eyes went a bit wide upon hearing the classification levels of those he was facing. "I already know you are better than me by a wide margin. You took our patrol leader by yourself and other than no longer having a coat, you are unhurt. How do I know I can trust you?"

Rex shrugged, "To be honest I have no clue." He reached down and grabbed a handful of snow. As he stared packing it into a very hard ball using his empowered strength, he sniffed the air and used his other senses to help him locate the kid. "Would you really prefer to be stuck out in the wilderness with the Woodsman and his thugs when we could help you find a real place to live?"

"Anything was better than what was going to happen to me after I first became a um… person of power." The boy stated firmly. "At least these people prevented it and accept me."

"So will we, if you give us a chance."

"But I will not stay around you. I will be sent elsewhere, or even dropped off on Johnston Isle with the other renegade… afxanos… people like us… from your country to fend for myself."

"Over my dead body." Rex stated with absolute conviction. "A BEARS 97 cadet's word is golden. I said we'd forget the whole shooting me thing. Without that, you have done nothing illegal. We can then say you are abandoned. It happens all the time. BEST will check you out and do a mind scan of some sort to make sure you aren't wanting to hurt anyone in the program. Don't throw your life away on a bunch of murdering separatist idiots!"

"I do not think we killed anyone…"

"Really? What happened to the truck driver, the pilot of the chopper, or the guy who tried to go get help after the chopper crashed?"

The projection of the boy looked down and shook his head, "I do not know for sure. I did nothing…"

"But you heard something. I can see it and hear it. When you shot me, you sure expected me to go down. How long before you are forced into being the one who kills? I'm only going to give you this one chance kid. If you say no, the gloves come off."

"You do not even know where I am at."

The left side of Rex's face twisted upward as he wagged a finger then motioned for the boy to drop to the ground. "You better duck!"

The projection did as instructed so he reared back and threw the snowball with everything he had. The frozen ball of ice approached speeds of over four hundred miles an hour as it screamed into the blustery night. A few moments later it smashed into a tree with enough force to fully embed itself into the wood with a cracking sound louder than a gunshot.

"How close did I come?" Rex shouted into the night since the projection had faded. "Judging on your voice and where I heard the impact, I didn't miss by much!"

The projection reappeared, looking considerably paler than it did before Rex had demonstrated his prowess with snowy projectiles.

Rex nodded in satisfaction. "Before you answer I want you to think about the fact I could have been launching them at you rather than talking to you. Also take a look around; I have a basically endless supply of snow to send more your direction, and I bet I only have to hit you once. Besides, look down, you are leaving a really easy trial to follow. I could have had you or even killed you by now. All I'm asking is you give us a chance."

The eyes of the projection closed and a tear slid down the cheek. "My leg is really… um, I think it is said… messed up... I'm coming but…"

"No." Rex shook his head, "We'll come get you; just stay put. For the moment you'll just have to trust me, but we really don't want to hurt you and will not allow anything or anyone else to do so. We mean it. They would have to kill us first!"

Edited by D&B

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