Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons


Chapter 10

Published: 8 Apr 14

Rex didn't bother to slow as he approached the ranger station. Instead, he aimed straight for the larger of the two groups, which happened to be trying to break into the BEARS 97 meeting hall. "I'm going to put us between them and their snowmobiles so we cut their mobility. We need to keep their full attention so the girls can hit them from behind with full surprise. Colt, any flyers have to be taken down right from the start!"

"The second one takes to the air, I'll drop 'em."

Rex slammed the throttle all the way forward, well past the safe operational RPM's of the back fans. Instantly the whole craft vibrated as the speed picked up and the spinning fan blades created a strange resonance tone warbling through the inside.

As the fans started making more noise, one of the six turned to look in the direction of the rapidly approaching hovercraft. Before the older teen could do more than extend his left hand and fire off an air burst, the hovercraft slammed into him. The force of the air burst caused the window of the craft to crack, while the collision with the young man dented the front and flung the hapless kid into the side of the BEARS 97 meeting hall with a sickening thud. The fact the kid was not killed instantly gave testament to the fact he had at least some degree of a toughness empowerment, but it was not enough to prevent serious injury.

Rex wasted no time spinning the hovercraft, knocking over another of those assaulting the meeting hall while causing three others to dive out of the way. The last one leapt, and with a swirling of snow and wind around her, she took to the air.

Colt shoved the passenger side door open and launched, leaving an electrical burn on the seat as he did so. "She's mine!"

Rex cut all power to the lift fans, causing the craft to drop into the deep snow only inches from the parked snowmobiles, effectively preventing their use unless someone or something physically moved the hovercraft or picked up one of the snowmobiles and moved it into clear ground. Rex then grabbed the key and leapt out the driver's side with a snarl, dragging his still extending claws across the chest of the woman who had dived out of the way.

The woman fell back, terribly wounded, but managed to take in a huge breath of air and exhale. The force of her wind breath weapon staggered Rex and slammed the door driver's side door with enough force to shatter the window and slightly twist the metal.

Rex shook his head and quickly realized not only had he been forced back a full three yards, but he was also coated in a thin sheet of ice. Glancing back, he noted the whole side of the hovercraft was also encased in a sheet of ice. Again he snarled and he flexed his muscles, causing the thin coating of ice over him to shatter. His voice came out sounding like it was being spoken by a tiger or some other great cat. "So you were one of those who attacked the truck, huh?"

The woman started to take in another breath, clearly horrified the youngster in front of her had not even been knocked down by her most powerful augmentation. It didn't help matters when she noticed the boy's claws were continuing to extend as were his very sharp looking fangs.

Rex again growled, his fangs giving his voice an even nastier tone. "This is BEARS 97 territory and we will not let your likes harm anyone in it!"

Without a second thought, he reached down and grabbed a good sized handful of snow and clenched his fist, compacting what was in his hand into a small chuck of ice. He then spun and flung the small ice ball with everything he could muster.

Before the woman's mind comprehended the danger, the small chuck of ice slammed into her right shoulder with enough force to shatter the entire collar bone and flip her up in the air. She was unconscious before she hit the snow. Moments later the snow turned red and started to melt as her blood poured out of the multiple wounds of claw slashes and an embedded chuck of ice in her shoulder.

On the opposite side of the hovercraft Garret tired to open the side hatch, only to find it was blocked by one of the snowmobiles. He tried again, and once again the back of the machine parked right next to the hovercraft stopped the door after only six inches. "Oh, come on!"

Ajax, still clutching his leg in pain after the hovercraft had lost lift and slammed into the deep snow and ground underneath, managed to catch his breath. "Use your strength!"

Garret glanced back, "I'll bust the door"

"Screw the door!" Ajax yelled, "Your friends need you out there, not in here!"

"Fine!" Garret yelled as he slammed his hand into the door with everything he had.

Outside, those who had had managed to get out of the way watched in shock as two of the snowmobiles they had come on suddenly flew high in the air as the hatch on the far side craft with FEMA markings literally blew open. The door itself also went flying into the BEARS 97 base they had been trying to break into, taking off a chuck of reinforced concrete as it did so.

The youngest of the attackers, a boy of only 11, felt his jaw fall open and his eyes go wide as a boy slightly smaller than him jumped out and looked around with a near rage in his eyes. On his right arm was a golden-red colored glowing shield and both his arms were wrapped in a dark blue glow. In terror, he tossed a pair of fire darts and followed it up with an x-ray bolt from his eyes at the kid only to watch the boy's shield race up and block both darts and the x-ray bolt do nothing more than make the kid twist slightly as it hit him and ripped his coat.

The deep snow didn't seem to affect Garret at all as he flung one more snowmobile out of his way so he could make his way into the growing fight. He spotted the fire darts and easily deflected them with his sorcery shield. The x-ray bolt came as a surprise since he couldn't see it coming, but the effect of it hitting him in the side only made him mad and didn't hurt nearly as much as the bullet had earlier in the night.

Garret took a single step toward the offending boy, grabbing a fourth snowmobile in his left hand as he did so. He pulled it back to throw it, but stopped as he saw the reaction of the kid lying in the snow.

The boy wildly waved his arms and shook his head while kicking his feet wildly, trying to get away from Garret. Even though he was wearing thick winter clothing, some steam could clearly be seen from around his crotch area as his bladder emptied.

Garret stared at the kid for a moment before speaking. "If you aren't right there when this is over, you are going to eat this." He easily raised the snowmobile over his head, "Even if I have to tear it into bite sized chunks and shove them down your throat!"

To make his point Garret slammed the machine down with enough force to snap it in half. He then picked up the back half and held it menacingly.

Tears streamed down the boy's cheeks as he wildly nodded his head and held up his hands to show his palms.

Garret underhanded the back of the snowmobile so it landed only a couple of feet from the kid. "When I get back you best still be within arm's reach of that, unless you want me to make you drink what is left in the gas tank!"

Suddenly Garret got hit from behind and face planted in the snow hard. "Ouch!" he bellowed as he jumped back up. Once again his hands and arms were glowing brightly as he spun and spotted a form in the blowing snow aiming an outstretched hand at him. He brought his shield up in the nick of time as a powerful bolt of dark energy slammed into it. The force of the impact was enough to send a bit of a shockwave though the shield and into his arm. Anger bubbled over as he shook with pain and rage. He extended his left hand out of instinct and left loose a golden red bolt of magical energy, matching the color of his shield, which actually dimmed with the release of the magical bolt.

The newfound power streaked across the snow-covered forest as if it was trialing sparks. It then slammed into a tree next to the guy who had just hit him with the dark energy. The tree trunk exploded outward at the point of impact, leaving a fist sized hole almost a foot deep.

The guy's eyes went wide as he dropped to a knee and launched another dark bolt. This one hit the sorcery shield and shattered it because Garret had accidentally weakened it with his magic bolt release, but at least it took all the punishment as it burst into a thousand golden-red shards.

Garret was knocked back into the snow and saw stars for a second, which allowed the guy to get off another dark bolt into Garret's back. This time the force of the energy slamming into him was enough to knock him deep into the snow and sent a wave of pain all the way up to his neck. He rolled over shaking with deep dark fury.

Before he could stand, there was a bone crunching sound and a shrill scream. He rolled over and winced at the pain only to see Skye, totally wrapped in her Geode skin, deliver a devastating punch to a guy in his late twenties. The guy's right arm was already clearly broken before Skye's second blow shattered his jaw and nose all at the same time. He then flew backwards into the meeting hall and slid down the wall, leaving a rather gruesome bloody streak as he did so.

The right side of Skye's mouth twisted downward into a very worried frown, making an almost sandpaper sound as the rocky skin rubbed against itself as she ran over to Garret, "Rookie, you OK?"

Garret's response was cut off as several bullets smacked into Skye from above.

She jerked her head only to get a couple more bullets from a slightly older girl who was hovering a good forty feet up. The girl fired a pair of pistols again, looking rather worried by the fact the bullets were simply bouncing off Skye's geode skin.

Colt's voice suddenly came from much higher up, "There you are!" A moment later twin arcs of electrical energy blasted out of his outstretched hands and engulfed the startled girl. He held the streams of electricity causing the girl to twitch uncontrollably, firing off her pistols wildly as she helplessly jerked under the onslaught.

Colt finally let go after rounds in the spare magazines for the pistols started popping off on the girl's belt because of the heat generated by his attack. She plopped in the snow unmoving, only a couple of yards from Garret and Skye.

An instant later an dark black bolt of electrical energy shot up from the forest floor, striking Colt. Even as the energy was absorbed by Colt, the shock of getting hit caused a burst of anger. His eyes sparked for a moment, then electrical energies rippled over his whole body, cloaking him in an electrically generated protection field.

A moment later the same guy fired a pistol at Colt, only to find his bullet deflected by the strange electrical field cloaking the boy who had just taken out their only flyer and had absorbed one of his most powerful augments.

Colt momentarily shook in fear as the bullets slammed into his new found ability. A split second later he opened his eyes and rubbed his arm, realizing he actually could get shot and stand up to it, but not without some serious discomfort. A nasty gleam came into his sparking eyes as the time spent under Jade Witch's watchful and demanding eye came center stage. He effortlessly did a full spin and angled down on the guy who had just attacked him. "Oh, that really stung! You're mine!"

The guy had seen enough. He dropped his pistol and took off into the woods as fast as he could run, which was considerably faster than most cheetahs could hope to move. His augmented speed was not match for Colt flying prowess, however. For even as he pumped his legs as fast as they would move, the electric glow of Colt's new armor gave away the boy's position and showed those watching, the boy was closing in on man at a dangerous rate.

Garret gazed skyward in relief at seeing Colt seemingly unharmed by the bullets. He reached back, realizing the back of his coat was now shredded, but there was no real pain and his Kevlar vest seemed to still be intact, although it did have a new chunk taken out of it. He jumped up letting some of the fury he was feeling fade as he saw the guy who had blasted him in a heap. He shook his head in annoyance as he turned to Skye. "I'm fine, thanks."

"No problem…" She paused and eyed him for a moment, "When Colt was telling us BEST screwed up your classification, I figured he was just trying to boost your ego, but after what I've just seen you are right up there with him and me! What were you about to do, anyway?"


"You had some blue arm things…"

"Oh," Garret shrugged. "New Augment, found it last fight. They smash things."

"So why were you pointing them at this jerk from several yards away?" She motioned to the terribly injured man next to the front door of the meeting hall."

Garret frowned as he caused the blue energy around his arms to return. "I was?"

"Yeah, and they were pulsing, not solid like you have now."

"Really?" His voice showed his surprise, "I have no clue."

"Well, you better watch it cause you were really close to totally going off!"

"Colt said the same thing earlier," Garret mused as he glanced back, only to see the kid he had been talking to before he got hit with the dark energy trying to crawl away into the relative safety of the forest.

Before he could say anything, Skye jumped over and grabbed the kid's foot and tossed him like a ragdoll. He plopped in the snow right next to the back of the ruined snowmobile again. She then wagged a finger and snagged the front half of the already mangled vehicle and ripped it apart with her stony hands. "Obviously you didn't hear what my squadron mate said before he was so rudely slammed to the ground." She shouted at the boy. "You best stay right there and grip what is left of back half of this thing now! Don't you dare move again or the two of us will take turns feeding it to you!"

She then grabbed a small chunk of the metal out of the engine block and crushed it into a small ball, "And this will be the first piece I feed to you!" She held up the now bottle cap sized hunk of metal for him to see. "Grease, oil, and all."

The boy shook in terror and added a lump in the back of his underwear to the already wet front.

Garret's nose crinkled up as he moved to the kid, grabbing a long metal piece of the former snowmobile as he did so, "Gross! He pooped his pants!"

Skye shrugged, "Do you blame him?" She picked up one of the snowmobile skies and ripped it in half with a single pulling motion. "You are smaller than he is, yet could rip him in half without much effort."

The boy whimpered and made one feeble attempt to pull away, but a snarl from Skye, along with her continuing to shred what was left of the snowmobile with her stony hands caused the boy to stop any further struggles.

Garret quickly moved up, bending the metal bar around the other boy's chest and arms. Not quite satisfied, he grabbed a couple of smaller hunks of metal, and twisted them around the kid's upper and lower legs. "Maybe, you'll stay put now."

He glanced over at Skye, "He can toss fire and hit me with some kid of ray but I don't think either will be able to cut though this."

"It'll have to do, the others need us." Skye glared at the boy, "if you try to get out and fail, the two of us are going to use you as a football and play catch with you, so unless you are sure you can get out, it'd be in your best interest not to try. Now stay put!"

Meanwhile, Rex glanced skyward as Colt flew by, cloaked in a yellowish-blue energy field. He keyed his radio. "New augment, Sparky?"

"Yeah!" Colt shouted as he continued to close on the guy who had shot him. "And you're right; it hurts to get shot, even with this armor thing up!"

Rex snickered, then stopped suddenly as a powerful wave of sound erupted out of the mouth of a kid about his age. The sonic breath weapon dropped Rex to his knees as he tried to use his hands to block out the sound as it blasted his heightened sense of hearing. He screamed in pain and started shaking.

As fast as the sound came it stopped. Valda stepped up behind the boy and made a throwing motion with her hand. Instantly half a dozen sharp spines blasted off her arm, four of which found flesh. The kid jerked away from Rex as his scream changed from one of anger to one of anguish. Still, the sound waves blasting out of the kid's mouth snapped braches and tore bark off of tree trunks over forty yards away.

Valda moved forward, making a throwing motion with her other hand. Once again half a dozen more woody spines were ejected from her arm, only one of which didn't find flesh. Her eyes were filled with wrath as she continued to advance on the kid, who was now thrashing in agony in the snow. "Leave my boyfriend alone!"

Before she could move closer to assist Rex, another kid appeared out of the blowing snow. This one slightly younger than her, but the snow prevented her seeing anything more than a darkened outline of the figure as it stepped out from behind a tree. The kid closed his eyes and extended his hands, not pointing at Valda. Instead he focused on the ground under her.

Suddenly Valda found her snowshoes rapidly sinking into the snow, as if it had melted, but it hadn't. Before she could try to escape the effect, the boy's forehead once again crinkled up and the snow turned rock hard, is if it had been changed to ice. Even with her enhanced strength, she found she couldn't pull free. She slammed her fist into the now very solid snow and felt it crack some, but still not enough to pull free.

The kid grinned evilly and stepped forward on the helpless girl, pulling a hunting knife as he did so.

A voice from behind spoke loudly, "You take another step and I will hurt you."

The words stopped the boy's progress cold. He turned slowly, only to find another kid only a few yards behind him. Confused, he looked around for a moment, forgetting about Valda.

Valda found her own eyes nearly bugging out as she saw the kid with the blade move toward her. She struggled harder, but to no avail. Her eyes got even bigger as a new arrival materialized out of thin air behind the kid with the knife and spoke.

She, however, used the fact the kid with the knife was totally distracted to her full advantage and went into thought, changing her normally olive colored skin a shade darker. Moments later her whole look changed as her skin took on a woody texture and with another few moments of concentration she forced dozens of spines to pop out. She paused as she realized the figure behind the kid was also in the line of fire, should any miss her primary target.

The new arrival winced in pain, but managed to nod at Valda, "You cannot hurt this form. Do it!"

The kid with the knife eyes went wide as he realized he had turned his back on the one he had locked into the snow with his molecular manipulation abilities. His head jerked around, but it was far too late.

Valda cocked her head to the side and let out a nervous breath, then made a throwing motion with both arms just as the knife armed kid turned. Two dozen thorns blasted out of her, well over half of the inch and a half long spines found him, turning him into a fleshy pincushion. He fell back screaming.

The rest of the thorns passed harmlessly though the rapidly fading figure. Valda once again slammed her now woodskin fist into the strangely rock hard snow, cracking it a bit more, but still not enough to pull free. She glanced around and pulled at her feet once again. Finally she gave up and keyed her radio. "Guys, I am stuck just north of the ranger station and Rex is down! I could use a hand!"

Back at Rex's cabin, Josh pushed back from Logan, "You're probably going to have a bit of pain for a day or two and a small scar, but I forced your body to fully mend all the real damage. The last of it will have to be natural or with a better healer than me. Next time put up your chi armor!"

"It slows me down."

Tanner glanced over, "And getting a piece of rock put through your shoulder doesn't?"

"Not to mention it would have probably prevented your third coat of the winter from getting shredded." Josh snickered.

Logan glanced over at the ruined shoulder of his coat and shook his head, "You may think it's funny, but I'm going to get my ass beat for this one. I'll be lucky to be able to sit down until you can come over and heal me after dad sees this!"

The Air Force medic, Airman Lyons, shook his head, "You all saved my ass. I'll buy you a new one, kid, don't sweat it!"

"No way." Logan fiercely shook his head. "You don't owe us anything and I will not take anyone's money unless I have to. Give it to someone who needs a week of groceries or something."

Tanner glanced over to the rather astonished nineteen year old airman. "Our squadron doesn't take anything free unless it comes directly from our Commander or XO. As a matter of fact, part of the money we all earn with our augments goes into a squadron fund, and a good portion of it secretly goes to help out food banks throughout the county. I don't think more than a half dozen non-squadron members even knows about it. My dad set it up when my brother was in the squadron eight years ago and Jade Witch has kept it going ever since with my dad's help."

The young medic whistled softly, "Even if it prevents you from a…"

Logan firmly nodded. "No one gives a BEARS 97 cadet anything."

"Wow." The guy glanced around the rather sparse cabin, realizing he was in the home of one of the kids, clearly living well below the poverty level, yet the squadron was giving money away to others. It was truly something the whole world should see, yet he could see none of those looking back at him would let a reporter tell their story even if he could find someone to do so. "You kids are incredible!"

Tanner snorted, "Too bad our classmates don't see us like you do."

"Maybe if you let it be known what you all do."

Josh glanced up from the senator's kid, who he was struggling to stabilize. "Not a chance, mister."

"Besides," Logan countered, "No matter what we do, we'll be freaks to most of the kids in our school. You just don't understand what we put up with."

"I'm a class one, kid." The man growled as he positioned himself between the boy Tanner had burned and the senator's son so he could keep a careful eye on both of them. Even as he monitored it was clear he was astonished at what Josh's healing abilities had done. "Believe it or not, we get it worse than you do because we don't qualify for Squadron level training and benefits. We just have BEST and as long as we keep our noses clean and once we turn eighteen, the military starts sending us letters, as do many private security firms and corporations. Only then does it get better for us."

Logan sighed and rolled his shoulder to check Josh's healing. Satisfied he was indeed back to near fully healed, he let out a long breath. "Sometimes I wish I wasn't an Augment, but my mom keeps telling me I was given these powers for some reason. I just don't know."

Airman Lyons shrugged, "This might just be the time your mom has been talking about kid, cause without you all, this kid would be in the hands of those animals or dead and all hell would be breaking out on the Senate floor. You and your buddies may be the very thing stopping a full scale civil war from breaking out between us and them."

Valda's transmission brought all talk to a sudden halt.

Josh broke off his healing of the senator's son as he heard Rex was down. He jumped to his feet, but stopped and glanced over to Tanner. It was clear he was torn between his best friend and his promise to protect the senator's kid.

"Go! You know the area and can go straight to the front door of the ranger station!" Tanner almost demanded.

Logan glanced up from the boy Tanner had burned and nodded, "We're secure here and we can hold off any attack until you can teleport back here. Besides, we have an Air Force medic and you have done about all you can for these kids and me. Plus, you are the only one who can get there!"

The air force airman pulled his pistol and checked the make sure his magazine was fully loaded then slammed it back in place. He then pointed to the senator's boy. "Kid, I can take over from here. If you can get there fast enough to help, then get moving!"

Josh let out an angry growl. "Fine, but any hint of a problem, radio me!" He clenched his fists and visualized the spot by the ranger station he knew by heart. An instant later he vanished from the middle of the cabin.

The young teen, who had knocked Rex down with his sonic scream, rolled over and pulled out one of the spines Valda had impaled him with. Shaking in pain he took in a breath but got no further.

Josh's voice came from only a few feet from the front door of the ranger station, "You do anything to her and I will kill you!"

The kid started to turn Josh's direction.

"Josh!" Valda shouted in a mixture of fear and relief, "He's a screamer!"

Josh vanished from the spot he was standing just as sound waves erupted from the kid's mouth. The effect of the sonic breath was so powerful, it actually put out the flames licking at the side of the ranger station. With the end of the flames, total darkness fell over the forest. At the same time, almost all fighting stopped as both sides lost their targets. Within seconds the only sounds coming from the woods was wind driven. Snow slashed into trees, building, and manmade machines. Branches protested under the weight of the heavy snow and wind, and anything positioned just right, including the heavily damaged FEMA hovercraft Rex had driven made strange whistling sounds as the wind howled around and through everything.

Unfortunately for the sonically augmented kid, Josh had seen enough to get a perfect fix on his location. Before the kid realized he was dealing with a very good teleporter, Josh appeared next to the kid and gazed down without pity as the kid struggled to find thorns buried deep in his skin.

In the near pitch blackness of night in the middle of a blizzard, Josh barely could make out the kid as he shook in pain as he tried to take out another of Valda's deeply embedded thorns. Josh also heard the kid's labored breathing as he tried to prepare another high powered scream should he need one, all the while trying to remain as silent as he could. A bit of an evil grin spread across Josh's lips as he went into concentration.

It took only a second for Josh to gain enough internal energy to lift the kid off the ground with his telekinesis. The kid started to thrash about in an effort to counter the effects he suddenly found himself in, but being off the ground he had nothing to grab onto and thus was under Josh's total control. Still he fought as he went ever higher.

A voice entered his brain as he found himself floating helplessly upward. "I can read your thoughts and can see you used to be a COUGARS cadet. I don't have the time to dig further to find out why you are now attacking us, but since you used to be one of us, I will give you a chance, one chance, to get out of this alive."

"It's not my fault! I was forced…" the kid started to yell.

The voice inside the kid's head became a great deal more sinister. "I do not care who you want to point a finger at. You hurt a BEARS cadet, my very best friend, and are damned lucky to be alive! Later you can come and talk with us if you wish, but now is not the time. Do you want the single chance I am now giving you?"

"What do you want?" the kid asked as he shook in terror at the tone of what he was hearing inside his head.

Josh stopped taking the kid higher and used his mental powers to push the kid toward a very tall lodge pole pine he knew was out there he just didn't know how far, "I am offering to leave you up in a tree, way up in a tree. If you agree to stay there until we all leave, you will be harmed no further. One move, one shout, one hint of resistance, it will be your last. For I can assure you, one or more of us will knock down the tree with you in it then use what is left to beat on you. Should you even think of a round two against any BEARS cadet, any BEST kid, we will track you down and hunt you like an animal!"

"I agree, but you have to listen to me! It isn't my fault!"

Josh felt something he didn't expect to find within the boy, a fear, not of him or even what was happening to him, but of what might happen. It was just odd enough of a feeling to make Josh pause. "I do not have much time, so let me in fully so I can feel the truth of your words and make it quick!"

"I'm not trying to fight you, kid, I don't want to be here or do anything to anyone, but I have to! My only chance of escape is if you take out the guy with the dark hair and glasses. If he reports me I will be hunted down and killed by them!"

Josh refocused his mental powers as he detected the kid was telling the truth. "Do not talk aloud. There is a chance, no matter how slight, those who came with you will hear you and shoot at where your voice is coming from. Since I am still moving you, they cannot pinpoint your location, but let's be careful. I want you to think your words, do not speak them; I will be able to hear you as long as you don't try to shut me out. Now who are they and how will they find you?"

The kid took a couple of deep breaths and did as instructed. "The guy who took over the Woodsman's operations to the north and attacked the combined COUGARS - BEARS camp a year and a half ago or more now. He has a woman with him who can track down augments after she has been around them for a few weeks. They have killed over a dozen COUGARS and a few BEARS cadets they captured in the original attack on our camp."

Josh felt his blood run ice cold. "There are BEARS cadets still alive?"

"Yes, several. There were also several of us junior COUGARS there as part of a training thing with older kids. We were taken as well. I know the reports said many bodies were not recovered because of the forest fire, but the fire was a cover, made by the Woodsman, so he could escape with some of his followers. Last I heard he had moved further southwest, trying to gather enough support to oust the new leader, retake his more northern camps and there is even rumors he helped to rescue some who escaped and didn't get caught."

"So some did get away?"

"Yes. At first many tried to escape, but we were all tracked down and forced to rebuild the camp with the help of our augments. After the first few months, any who tried to run were tracked down, brought back, and killed slowly," The boy shuddered as he recalled having to watch as one of his friends slowly starved to death in a metal cage, "while making the rest of us watch."

"Dear God," Josh shuttered in terror and rage as he clearly saw the images the boy was remembering, "WHY?"

The kid winced as Josh's mental powers seemed to scream into his brain, but managed to respond, "Because they tried to flee or get information to the Red Leaf Defenders or even the Woodsman. The new leader of the Woodsman's forces demands total obedience, anything less can mean horrible punishments up to and including death!"

"And this is not the Woodsman's doing?"

"No. They have been fighting on and off since the attack at the COUGARS - BEARS encampment. I heard directly from the new leader's mouth, the Woodsman and those who fled the attack against his camp tried to attack a military convoy to get arms and equipment to break the rest of us free, but got stomped by the Red Leaf and USDT. We hadn't heard any more, other than some talk of some fighting between the new guy and the Woodsman. All this changed a couple of weeks ago when the new leader found one of the Woodsman's southern camps and attacked it. Dozens of new kids and some adults came into the camp as captives and then many of us long time captives were given a chance to help with a new mission. I didn't want to find out what would happen if I didn't agree, so here I am."

Josh had to pause for a moment as he found himself using more mental abilities than he ever had in the past. The combination of keeping the kid up in the air and talking to him was becoming quite a strain. "I can't keep this up much longer, but I don't understand. Why do we need to take out this leader guy?"

The kid's metal words were filled with terror. "If the guy gets word back, I will be hunted down, brought back, and publicly killed just like the others were. He is the link the woman who finds runaways needs to locate me!"

All the kid heard in his head was a snarl of purest fury. "Then fall he will, they all will!"

Josh finally felt some resistance as the kid he was pushing along with his telekinetically bumped into a tree. "You stay there. We are going to finish this!"

"I can't grab…"

Josh focused and slowly spun the kid. "Let me know when you are in a spot where you can grab hold."

"Stop…" The kid paused, "Um… Can you either take me up a bit or lower me a bit so I have a branch to hold onto?"

Josh lowered the kid some and moved him back and forth until the kid finally thought back to him, "Up just a bit, please."

Josh did as the boy requested and waited until he could feel a great deal of resistance, which let him know the kid had gotten a good hand hold. "One last warning, you stay out of this. Come see us after all of this is over and we will gather all the forces we can and go rescue any and all BEAR and COUGAR cadets these bastards are holding, even if we have to do it with just the cadets from other squadrons we all know!"

"Just take out the guy with the glasses. He is the onsite commander and reports back to the big boss. The woman will have to use him to track me since he is the one who has spent the most time around me and she hasn't been around me in a good month or two. I know it's how she works, because the last two who ran away she couldn't find until she got help from those who were their designated commanders. If he gets away and tells them about me I'll be tortured and dead or wishing I was within a week!"

"Then he will not leave these woods unless all BEARS 97 cadets are dead!" Josh snarled as he finally released all control over the kid and moved in the direction he had seen Rex's crumpled form before the fire went out.

Even as he moved, he opened up his mind and found his nearby fellow squadron mates, "Guys, I took care of the screamer, but what he told me is almost beyond belief. If it wasn't for the fact I could feel the truth of it, actually see the truth of it, I would never have believed him. He was a COUGAR and was taken the same time as Paul was killed. As of right now, I am changing things up. I don't give a shit what A.T. or Jade Witch does to me for this order, nor do I care if USDT 19 sends me to the island as a criminal. There is a dark haired guy out here with glasses. He dies. He dies tonight: he dies hard!"

Josh paused as he felt an inner rage grow, "And he is just the start!"

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