Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons


Chapter 20

Published: 8 Apr 14

Rex stayed hunkered down in the deep snow and watched the final group of freed hostages move out on the path melted earlier by Tanner. Already, small drifts were starting to form within the cleared area, making the going slower than it had been for the first two groups. Behind him, the mechanic could be heard working on one of the snow cats, carefully watched over and guarded by Cassie.

Per Josh's plan, he continued to hold back, using all of his heightened senses to find trouble. At the same time, Eldora, in her white tiger form, used the cover of snow and her natural fur pattern to stay all but hidden right on the edge of the path. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Garret purposefully put extra magical energy into his sorcery shield to make it glow much brighter than normal insuring he really stood out.

On the other side, Skye also announced herself, encased in her geode skin. Her pink crystal fist spikes were fully extended and she made no attempt to hide who or what she was. Behind her, Valda moved from tree to tree softly and quietly, her woody armor blending in to the trees making her all but impossible to spot unless someone happed to notice her move. Even then, thanks to countless hours of squadron practice, and the fact her squadron clothing was made to mimic tree bark, she looked more like a small tree or shrub being blown in the wind than a person. The rest of the BEARS and COUGARS were spread out through the rescued hostages wearing extra clothing and coats of those who had been in the lodge or they had taken down. This allowed them to blend in to the group, making identification of who was normal or Augment all but impossible.

For the first time since being activated, the kids of BEARS 97 had enough information from defectors and rescued hostages to have a good picture of whom and what they were fighting. All information pointed to the fact the leader of the separatists had made it clear those at the lodge couldn't fail. They had been ordered to hold hostages at all costs until the location of the Senator's kid was given or those guarding the boy turned him over. Since this hadn't happened, everything pointed to those who remained in the area making one hard push to regain control of the area while taking out as many USDT and RLD resources as possible.

As troubling as this was, the remaining information was a great deal better. Air Magus's report of forty one augments being involved with the attack had been basically confirmed by talking with the hostages. After tallying the totals of enemy Augments taken down, by Josh's and Rex's teams the worst numbers suggested thirty of those had been either eliminated or seriously injured with an additional three or four probably being hurt. Making things even better, was the fact the vast majority of those not accounted for were rated by the 'Boss' as class ones and all five major leaders were down. The combination BEARS COUGARS rescue at the ski lodge had done some serious damage to the separatist forces, and both sides knew it.

Josh, after gathering as much information as possible, decided it was time to crush the remaining forces in and around the ski resort. The reasons for this were twofold. First, by eliminating the last of the resistance in the area, those they just rescued would stay safe. Secondly, and almost as important, was the belief by USDT Command that the 'Boss' and the remainder of his forces would have to come out of hiding in one last ditch effort to gain control of the Senator's son. Too many resources had been used in this operation for failure to be an option, even for a group as large as this one appeared to be.

In Josh's way of thinking, it was important to eliminate as many separatist reinforcements as they could while numbers were in their favor. The fact no one knew who this 'Boss' was or what he could do made this even more important. The last thing Josh wanted to have to do was to fight the 'Boss', but having to do so while the jerk was supported by a hoard of other Augments was even more frightening.

USDT Command was just as concerned. Even though the storm still raged over most of Montana and the surrounding states, resources were starting to mobilize. Special operations teams from Whiteman Air force base were now in route with experimental aircraft designed to fly through the harshest weather. Still, even USDT Command had to admit the size, scope and intensity of the blizzard was beyond what the crafts had been designed to handle. Because of this, it was a volunteer only mission, but it didn't take long to fill every available slot on all four craft.

Knowing help was on the way gave Josh some comfort. Still, the weight of being in command weighed heavily on him. Even as he walked slowly in the middle of the group, occasionally using his mental abilities to search for hostiles, he wished Sun Storm had been healthy enough to be out here with his squadron.

This distraction almost caused him to miss the thought of an ambusher thinking about pulling the trigger. However his mind quickly returned to the task at hand as he yelled for everyone to dive for cover.

At almost the same instant Josh felt the thoughts of someone wanting to do those he was with harm, Rex shouted out a warning as his senses picked up the sounds of movement in the woods to the north of the group being escorted. A second later a quintet of gunshots echoed across the ski resort in rapid succession.

Garret managed to defect two of the incoming rounds with his shield, but a third managed to get past, slamming into his shoulder. The other two shots kicked up snow on either side of him.

Brock's eyes went wide as he saw Garret spin from the impact of being shot, but not go down. He wasted no time as he dropped to a knee and returned fire on the first figure he saw. The boy's accuracy with the twelve-gauge proved to be up to the challenge as the nearest attacker was knocked back while the rifle he had been holding flew out of his hands and into the deep snow well off to his side.

Next to Brock, Killian all but duplicated every movement, but was a bit slower. Still his powerful rifle round found its target with a devastating effect. The man who had shot Garret in the shoulder crumpled as the bullet caught him in the gut. The large bore .44 magnum lever action rifle fell butt first and stuck straight up out of the snow next to him.

Before those in the woods realized what was happening, others in the group spread out and opened fire with other captured fire arms.

As the attempted ambush fell apart, Josh flipped his hood down and sent a powerful mental spear into the first attacker he saw, a woman with a spiked tail and muddy green energy around her hands. She fell back clutching at her smashed in throat, unable to breathe.

Up from Josh, Reed spun, and threw a pair of his chi daggers into yet another assailant. The man grabbed at his hip and managed to get behind a tree before Rex could move up. Still the ball of ice thrown by Rex hit the tree with enough force to send splinters into the guy's face and partially blind him.

A moment later, a full volley of Augment energies lanced out at those on the path from behind the first wave of ambushers. A pair of fire darts, a burst of ice shards, a beam of red energy, and a wave of electrical sparks shot out from out of the tree line behind those who had shot at Garret. At the same time, a small tremor rolled across the ground knocking about half of those being escorted down.

Even though he was knocked to one knee, Kurt waved his arm in a wide arc. A light blue wall of magical energy sprung up giving cover to the whole group. Those who were either trying to stay standing or regain their footing watched in some awe as the entire wave of attacks fired at them dispersed harmlessly off the barrier without any evidence of it being so much as scratched.

Garret made a bit of a snarling sound as he rolled his shoulder. He could tell whatever had shot him had been bigger than anything he had been shot with up till now, since he could feel a bit of a trickle of blood running down to his armpit, but he also felt a weird warmth, as his body and his amazing self healing had kicked into a higher gear and was already repairing the damage. Ignoring the extreme discomfort he moved at a dead run over to Brock and Killian "Forget me, get moving!"

He looked out seeing Rex through the bluish barrier. Rex had finished off the guy Reed had wounded and was moving up on the last gunman. He staggered a bit as another burst of ice shards ripped into his side, but between his cold immunity and toughness, he was able to shake off the attack within mere moments.

Rex clearly heard Garret and glanced back. Seeing the two boys all but exposed at the edge of where Kurt had put up the wall. He jumped up and took a bullet from the last rifle armed separatist rather than let it hit Brock. This time Rex fell from the force of being hit.

Both boys spun and fired at the same instant. Brock's shotgun blast caught the guy dead center in the face while Killian's shot found the man's sternum, shattering it. He fell without so much as a sound.

Garret also leapt forward, letting loose with one of his sorcery bolts while blocking a beam of blood red colored energy with his shield before it could hit Killian. While his weakened shield shattered into hundreds of bits, the sorcery bolt hit the teenage girl and exploded, knocking her back into a tree with enough force to snap her back. Garret purposefully moved to stand in front of the two Normal boys before he started forming a new shield.

Rex shook off the impact of the bullet and stood, limping slightly. "Good shooting, but neither of you can take a bullet! Leave the fighting to us unless there is no other choice! Now get behind us!"

Air Magus moved up and threw up a wall of wind, giving all five of them some decent protection from the front. His face betrayed some fear, "This is not coming from those who were with me. Only one of us can make and earthquake and he was not part of the group tasked with hitting the ski lodge!"

"Crap…" Rex grunted as he rubbed his left hip, noticing immediately the shot hadn't even broken his skin. "So what can you tell us?"

"He's my age. Rumor has it he is the Boss' son. I only know him as Rock Slide. He is a Class Four and has all sorts of earth and rock powers including some decent rock armor, but his only true ranged attack is causing jagged rock pillars to shoot up from the ground. I've even seen them slice though an armored car.

"He can make them real fast too. On the other hand, if you feel the ground moving upward and you are fast enough, you can dive out of the way since it is only about a two meter circle of them. They really wipe him out too, almost as bad as my exploding air missiles do to me. The rest of his stuff takes a lot of time. It'll be a good twenty minutes before he can cause another earthquake."

Rex grabbed his radio, "Josh, Air says we are facing a new force and the ground shaker is a Class Four kid our age. We have to keep the Normals spread out and if something moves up under anyone they have to dive and dive fast!"

"Understood. I'll pass the word, but if he is really a Class Four we need to take him down!"

Unseen by the five boys, a man watched the whole exchange with a wide and diverse range of emotions. First, seeing Normals and Augments work so closely together was somewhat bewildering. Seeing an Augment purposefully take a bullet for a Normal was stunning. The fact the Normal being protected was his stepson was gut-wrenching. Finally, watching his stepson, and another in his son's class, endanger themselves to aid Augments was almost too much to take.

Before his mind could fully process the events unfolding a mere twenty five yards below him, a group of people appeared out of the blowing snow moving toward the five boys.

He moved to give himself some extra cover. As he did so, he caught movement out of the corner of his eyes. He hunkered down further in the snow and turned slowly.

At first he saw nothing, but then he saw a flap of a large wing. A moment later a woman with long white feather covered wings landed only a few yards for him, clearly never seeing him. She scanned the area before going airborne again. Finally, she swooped down and grabbed the rifle sticking out of the snow next to the man who had been gut shot by his son's friend. The rather beautiful woman showed no real remorse as she dug through the possessions on the body, found the extra ammo and stuck the satchel of ammo over her shoulder. She then used clawed feet to easily climb up the trunk of a tree so she could shoot down, over the blue wall.

"Like hell you will…" Brock's father muttered as he raised the captured pistol and fired a single shot.

The woman's head seemed to jerk as the .357 magnum bullet went in one side and out the other. She fell like a brick, disappearing into the deep snow under the tree.

The single gunshot caused everyone to duck down and look, but it was not enough for anyone to get a good fix. Even Rex, with his empowered hearing, was only able to get a general idea of where it came from. Of course the walls blocking some of the sound didn't help matters either.

Still, he turned and looked, trying to peer though the bluish wall made by Kurt. "Pistol shot; somewhere on the other side of the magic wall. Couldn't get any real fix, but something big fell into the snow right after. The only question is who. We are all in the lodge or on this side of the barriers."

"Is there a friendly out there?" Air Magus asked.

"If there is, I hope he or she is still alive, cause I think someone just bit it." Rex stated with a great deal of concern.

Suddenly, and before more could be said, the outline of a figure could be seen moving toward them through the snow blowing around the wind wall. The voice of a young sounding boy could be heard, "Magus, my dad is going to kill you when he finds out you switched sides!"

Air Magus whispered, "Rock Slide." He then gulped and took a step back.

Rex nodded and keyed his radio so others in the squadron could hear. "You'll have to get through the rest of us before you lay a finger on him or any Normal in our protection Rock Head. If I am counting right, you just lost another five to us and several more behind us, considering my other friends had to have dealt with some of your other moron friends. Would you care to be next?"

The boy seemed to shake, but it was impossible to tell if it was from anger or fear since the wind wall was blowing the already heavy snow around even more. After a couple of seconds the boy seemed to regain some composure. "It's Rock Slide and my dad says you have until daybreak to give us the kid or he will start flattening Whitefish and everyone in it until you do!"

Rex's eyes narrowed to mere slits as he spoke softly but with a great deal of force, "Air, drop your wall."


"Drop the wall. Garret, protect your friends. He's mine."

Deciding, based on tone alone, it was not in his best interests to argue with Rex, Air Magus glanced over his shoulder, "Cover your eyes and be ready, this is going to sting." He then extended his hand and turned his wrist while spreading out all five fingers as far as they would go. A massive burst of wind shot outward from the wall as it literally exploded, sending an intense wave of snow in all directions as it cleared the snow all the way to the ground a full yard out from the wall in both directions along the entire thirty foot length.

Rex's claws came out to their full length as he pounced, ignoring the ice, wind and snow.

On the other side of the wall, the young teen known as Rock Slide staggered back as the powerful wind wall seemed to detonate. Snow temporally blinded him, so he never saw the five long claws rake across his left leg. His thin rocky armor gave enough protection to prevent his whole leg from being ripped off, but not enough to thwart grievous injury. He screamed and clutched at his leg.

The agonized screech came to a quick end as Rex's other hand closed into a fist and landed on the boy's chin, breaking it and removing a handful of teeth in the process. Rock Slide was unconscious before he hit the ground.

Three adults rushed forward, but were cut down just as viciously. The first fell to twin arcs of electrical energy from above. The second figure launched backwards as a tree, ripped out of the ground and swung like a massive club by Skye, impacted her chest. The last staggered back as every Normal armed with a gun fired at him. He then fell as Logan nailed him with twin light beams shot out of his extended hands.

Rex moved up to the bullet riddled man who had managed to get back up on his hands and knees. "Your boss just threatened the wrong group of BEARS and COUGARS!"

With rage still flowing through him, he kicked the man with enough force to send him into and through a small shed off to the side of the path made earlier by Tanner. He then reached down and grabbed Rock Slide and held him up high in the air knowing there was a handful still close enough for him to smell and hear moving around. "You can tell your Boss, whoever the hell he is, this: If he lays one finger on anyone or anything in Whitefish, or any other place in this county, he'll be next!

"Also, let him know we have his brat! If he wants him back he can meet us at the Whitefish Airfield and discuss it!"

Skye moved forward and tossed the tree she had ripped out of the ground onto a woman who had moved forward. The cracking of branches drowned out most of the short lived scream. "Unless the rest of you want to play catch with thirty to forty foot tall trees, you best run back to your boss!"

Josh moved up cautiously and put his hand on the limp boy held above Rex's head. "Rex, put him down and let me and Kurt tend him or he'll be dead in the next few minutes."

Rex did as instructed, listening carefully. He glanced over at Eldora in Tiger form as she dragged a teen over and dropped her next to Rock Slide. She growled and used her head to point out where one of the hostages had fallen.

Kurt was already next to the woman, using his healing ability on her.

Rex moved over and knelt, seeing the woman's thick coat was badly scorched as was the side of her neck. "How is she?"

"She's lucky she had such a thick coat on, or most of this would be third degree burns and not second. Miss sparkly fingers jumped over the wall and sprayed her good before your Cat Girl stopped her." Kurt looked up, "What'd she spray?"


"Yeah," Kurt looked up with a bit of a frown. "It was twin streams of liquid out of her mouth and whatever it was really messed up sparkly fingers face and eyes."

Rex cringed slightly as he saw the red and blistered face of the girl Eldora had dropped in front of them. "Ewww, I always kind of wanted to know what her spit would do to a person! Pretty nasty!"

"She deserved it!" Kurt seethed. "So she can like spit acid or something?"

Josh took a quick look then turned away, clearly disturbed by the damage on the teen's face. "One of Eldora's forms is a spitting cobra, but she doesn't have to be in cobra form to spit. This is the first time we have seen it really hit someone in the face, though. Her poison is way worse than a normal spitting cobra, cause cobra spit doesn't do anything to skin!"

Kurt's eyes went wide. "She's got a poisonous spit? But it went like twenty meters!"

"If there is no wind she is accurate up to about forty yards, it goes further," Josh explained. "She has the same kind of fangs, with the forward facing holes, as a spitting cobra, but her venom sacs are much larger and the muscles around them are like super augmented or something. If you ever see them contract to spit, it starts at the base of the neck and pulse upwards."

"Oh, man, how nasty can you get! How often can she do it?"

"We've seen her able to spit back to back to back, but each one shoots a little less far. It then builds back up in about five to ten minutes. Spitting more than once an hour or so always makes her real thirsty, so she doesn't do it very often.

Rex listened carefully for a few seconds, "There are still a few out there but they are backing off quickly. I think we are clear."

Josh glanced up from Rock Slide's unconscious form. "Rex, wash the spit off with snow and get everyone inside. Kurt and I will take care of these other two and catch up. Skye can keep watch."

On the other side of the blue wall, Brock's father waited until there was no sign of anyone. He then moved up to the body of the white winged woman: he quickly secured the heavy rifle, shoulder bag, and her multi-channel walkie-talkie. As he continued to move through the area to collect other weapons and equipment off of the dead, he searched out for signs of other attackers.

It didn't take long for him to realize the boy he now knew as Rex had been correct. The latest defeat had been the final straw for those trying to retake the hostages. The few remaining terrorists were backing away from the lodge and the ski resort as a whole. As further proof of the magnitude of the defeat the terrorists had just been dealt, they didn't even attempt to look for all their fallen comrades. Those they could get to easily they did, but they left several of their own, some still alive, right where they fell. A few minutes later a trio of snowmobiles fired up and moved off at an angle toward the northeast.

Now heavily armed and equipped, thanks to the battle prowess of kids, he moved up to an abandoned snowmobile and hotwired it. He then made a large circle to check the area. Once he was sure he was alone, he changed the frequency on one of the captured walkie-talkies and knelt. "This is Tango is anyone on?"

Within seconds several others responded. Brock's father looked down at the radio, still not believing what he was about to do. Finally he keyed the radio again. "Guys, I know you ain't going to believe this is coming out of my mouth, but there is something we just have to do…"

Rex frowned as he heard the sound of another snowmobile as it headed in the direction of Whitefish. He looked over the massive group of rescued hostages, then over to the small infirmary where those who had been injured were being worked on. He focused in on Josh. "Most of them took off to the northwest, but one of them is heading down to the southwest. All I hear now is wind, snow, and someone whimpering just to the west of us."

Josh chewed on this inside of his lip for a second. "We can't leave whoever it is out there, Rex."

Garret let out a long breath as he stood while finishing off a third bag of beef jerky. "I'll go grab him."

Skye shook her head, "Rest and recover rookie. You used up way more energy than I did. Logan, come on. Let's go get whoever it is. Maybe they can tell us where they took those they pulled out of the lodge before we got here."

Logan jumped up and clenched his fists bringing up his gloom armor, then extended one of his dark pulsing chi blades. "OK, ready."

Rex pointed to the south. "Right down there. I only hear one, my guess is a boy. I'll stay at the door and keep my ears open."

Skye pulled up her geode skin and forced her pink spikes from her fists. "Logan, no crazy stuff. Just watch my back, help me get whoever it is and we bring them back here. If there is someone else out there using this as a trap, we fall back here and beat them down as a group."

"I got it, OK?"

Reed glanced up, "It will be if you follow directions."

Logan rolled his eyes, "Guys I get it, already."

Rachal stood and moved up next to Logan, "He and I work great as a team, I'll go!"

Skye glanced over as she noticed next to all of the Cougars in the lodge had stopped talking and looked absolutely shocked. "Um, how about the three of us go then?"

"If it gets you all off his back, I'd be happy to!" Rachal fired back.

Logan shot Rachal a huge smile as the trio walked out the door.

Reed glanced over to Cassie, once he was sure his sister was out of hearing range. "Wow!"

Cassie nodded in agreement, "Looks like your sister found herself a boyfriend!"

Rex glanced over to Reed, "I don't see what the big deal is."

Kurt stood as he finished working on the injured kid Eldora had taken down. "Rach doesn't talk to anyone. She thinks she is ugly and the kids in school keep calling her monkey girl. There is almost always a picture of a monkey in her locker when she opens it and lots of kids make soft monkey sounds when she walks by."

Eldora made a snarling sound. "Bastards..." She took a deep breath, "Sometimes…" Her right hand crashed into her left as she paused. "I just wish I could go off on kids at school when they do crap to us."

One of the kids they had rescued from the lodge glanced up, "Eldora, I have been one of the worst, but it ain't going to happen again. You won't have to throw a punch, I will for you."

A couple of others nodded in agreement.

Josh's mental ability easily picked up the truth behind the words, but decided to speak up in warning. "You realize if you start defending us, you will all make yourselves targets, right?"

One of the adults hugged his daughter. "Is it really like this for all of you?"

"Pretty much," Colt stated with a note of resignation. "Once in a while we can do something, like sending a sharp shock through a locker…"

"Or I can change the combination on a locker of a kid when they go too far." Josh added in. "But if our squadron commander finds out or USDT gets a complaint about us, we get put on restrictions. We tend to purposefully stay where the cameras in the school can see us to prevent false claims, but we all still end up with an investigation or two a year against each of us.

"Any time someone gets hurt at school, the first thing the principle does is round us up and find out what we know about it. If we actually were close enough to see it happen we end up in the office until we get cleared. Our squadron commander, Arctic Trooper, ends up at school at least once a week, because someone is accusing us of something."

Rex took a long deep breath to keep his voice from coming out as angry as he wanted it to. "I got suspended and put on USDT probation for a month because I extended my claws at school. The only reason I did it was because someone stuck a glob of gum in my locker and I was trying to scrape it off my art project so I could turn it in."

An older woman frowned deeply, "You got in trouble for that?"

Reed snorted in disgust. "Being a cadet in the RLD or USDT, any display of an augmentation at school is considered the same as if we brought a gun to school. We cannot use any of our abilities, even to help another kid, without permission from our squadron commanders."

Kurt saw the looks of astonishment on the faces of those they had rescued. "I can't even heal someone, even if they asked for me to do so. There was a kid who broke his arm right after I my healing power came out. It was so bad it broke through the skin and was bleeding. I hit it with my healing augmentation to stop the blood flow and ended up on a month of RLD probation and my family was moved to where we live now since it hit the local papers that a kid had used an augmentation on another kid."

Another woman shook her head sadly, "I'm amazed you all even go to school."

Talon, the boy from COBRAS 75, rolled his eyes. "We are all offered home schooling, but we are already shunned. Without school, the only time we would do anything with other kids is at squadron activities. I don't know what it is like elsewhere, but my squadron commander, XO, and other adult officers bust their butts to get us together as often as they can figure out how, plus deal with USDT stuff. It wouldn't be very fair to them if they had to check up on us getting home schooled too.

"We do tend to do lots of sleep over's at other cadets' houses and we invite kids from COBRAS 74 and 68 over a lot, since they are pretty close to Scotts Bluff, but still… No one in my squadron home-schools."

"Same here," Josh quickly chimed in. "Most of our parents are already dealing with harassment at work for having us. Besides, if one of us caved in and started home schooling then the pressure would only get worse on the others cause the Church of Purity and their kids would see it as a victory and would go for blood."

"No one down in Florida opted for home schooling either, pretty much for the same reasons." Garret added in. "My mom wanted me to, but several of the others from my junior squadron came by and talked me into staying, pretty much for the same reasons Josh gave."

While most of the kids listening looked very guilty as the conversation was being held, more than a few adults looked on and listened with total confusion. Killian's dad, in particular, had to wipe a tear out of his eye. "You kids could wipe the floor with our kids. After seeing what you could do, but don't, I am astonished the papers aren't full of reports of kids like you all going off."

"Part of what we do is watch out for each other," Valda chimed in. "Every one of us has had to walk out of school and vent, sometimes it takes someone else in the squadron to step in front of us and point to a door. A big part of control training at USDT training camp for new Augments is to just walk away and vent when we have to. It is also to look out for each other, and if one of us does go off, we are authorized to do whatever it takes to prevent injury to others."

Cassie sighed, "Still, it happens. We all had to watch a report out of Pelican Rapids last year. A kid from COUGARS 106 picked up a kid and tossed him out a window while he was still sitting at his desk. Two others from the squadron had to take her down. Fortunately, the desk took the worst of the damage, but every time one of us does something, we all have to go through some kind of extra classes on how to 'Contain and Vent', which is the two key words we have drilled into our brains."

"It works, though." Rex admitted, "I think I hold the record for walking out of class and smashing rocks or slashing up wood. When I get pissed, I clench my fists, walk out of the building and the second I am off school grounds I go pummel rocks or something. There are half a dozen dying trees just south of the school because I have thrown rocks into them."

"And through them," Josh added.

"Only a few times," Rex growled defensively. "And I haven't put one through a tree and into a house or car in over a year. I make sure to only throw in the direction of other trees now."

"Yeah," Tanner snickered, "But the last one into the Lexus was kind of cool."

Rex turned a bit red and poked up his middle finger claw on his left hand, getting several chuckles from rescued kids and even some adults. "Do we want to talk about fire damage, hot head?"

"Let's not talk about damage at all, guys." Colt cringed.

Several of the BREARS 97 kids grinned and snorted. Josh, seeing several blank looks from the Normals, smiled and patted Colt on the back. "USDT covers damages done on accident, but it is tracked. Colt, here, holds the record for the most damage ever done by any Augment in the U.S. in one incident, by like a few million dollars."

"Millions?" Brock's mom gasped.

Seeing Colt roll his eyes and hang his head, Tanner moved up and started rubbing the slightly younger boy's shoulders. "Yeah, the replacement cost had quite a few digits in it."

Rex couldn't help but snicker, "Like eight of them before the decimal point. The first one was a five too!"

One man, who had his daughter sitting on his lap, let out a light whistle, "Fifty million… Are you serious?"

Josh nodded with a humorous grin, "Power substations with enhanced power dampeners are not cheap."

Killian's dad looked over to Colt, "The big power outage last year was because of you?"

Colt took a deep breath as he walked over to a lamp, picked up the cord and bit into it. While it was still in his mouth the lights started to flicker and the sound of the emergency generator for the building kicked into a higher gear. "This barely tickles. If this wasn't on a circuit breaker, I could pull and hold in the entire output of the generator for hours before I would have to release any power."

Brock watched as the lights continued to flicker and the generator's pitch increased again to compensate for the drain. "You are holding it inside you?"

Colt nodded. At the same time he motioned for Brock to come close.

Brock cringed but reluctantly forced himself to do so. As soon as he got close enough Colt reached out and grabbed his hand.

Josh looked around the room as several people's eyes went wide, fully expecting Brock to go flying back. After a couple of seconds of nothing, he spoke up. "Feel anything, Brock?"

"No… nothing!"

Colt continued to chew on the wire while holding onto Brock's hand. "When I blew the substation I had absorbed the power coming directly out of the power plant on the main line for several minutes while I got my breath back after flying for like an hour. Computers at the power plant detected such a large drain it sent an alert to the US Department of Energy, at the same time my absorbing the main output from the power station caused a brown-out all the way to Billings for over five minutes.

"Not even that was enough to harm me. All it did was make me jittery, like drinking two energy drinks or something. But I got scared and let like five minutes of power buildup go all at once and took out our substation and caused damage to the main power lines leaving the power plant, so they had to be replaced too."

"How cool! Next year, I get to go to school with a kid who can brown out half a state!" Brock spoke with some glee in his voice."

"More." Valda added, "Power was actually diverted from power plants in Washington State to make up for the sudden decrease in energy here. Otherwise, there would have been brown outs in Idaho too. When the substation blew, Colt was still pulling energy directly out of the power plant and continued to do so for an additional fourteen minutes."

"Which is why several parts of the substation literally melted," Rex remarked

"Holy crap!" Brock's mom gasped. "How much control do you have?"

"How much do you trust me?" Colt asked as he looked at Brock.

"Um… what do you want to do?"

"I just want to show off a bit, but I can't without your permission. Our squadron commander would freak out if I did anything to a Normal without consent."

Brook took a deep breath then nodded. "Go for it."

"This'll tickle a bit." Colt grinned. A moment later Brock shivered lightly as his hair flared straight out. Another couple of seconds passed before Brock lifted off the ground. Colt closed his eyes as he kept up concentration. "I have tapped into your neural network and am going to let go of your hand. Stay still. So I can lift you up to the ceiling and lower you. If you start thrashing around, it'll mess up my connection with your electrical paths in your body and you will fall."

Brock gulped. "Ready."

Josh moved up, ready to catch Brock if Colt lost control, or Brock started to get scared and moved too much. A few seconds later Brock's head bumped up against the rafters before Colt lowered him gently back to the ground.

Colt let go of his control. "Before you touch anyone, you will want to touch some metal so you get rid of the electrical charge around you. If you don't, you will probably put a light burn on someone."

Before more could be said Skye returned carrying a long haired boy who was wearing very ragged winter clothing. The kid's right arm hung loosely down by his side and his whole right shoulder looked lower than his left.

As Skye lowered him gently to the ground, several kids from BEARS 97 identified the kid. Josh moved up, but had to fight a badly unwashed odor surrounding the badly battered child. "Stephen?"

The kid nodded weakly. "Kent's still out there…"

Josh glanced over to Rex, "Anything?"

Rex concentrated on all his senses for a few seconds before he shook his head. "Nothing but wind and snow."

Rachal looked over, "I didn't see anything when we were grabbing him."

Brock's mom moved over to the new arrival, then glanced over to Brock. "Dig out some of your extra clothing so we can get him washed up and into something clean."

As Brock started to pull some clothing out of his small pack, Tanner knelt. "Stephan, we thought you were killed by the Woodsman…"

Stephan glanced and shuttered, "No, the Woodsman had nothing to do with the attack on the camp." He stopped and cringed as Kurt and Josh teamed up to use both their healing abilities to put his shoulder back into place while they also started to repair the damage.

Once he was able to bite back the pain enough he resumed talking again. "We were just sitting down for dinner when we were hit. Most of the adults and several older cadets were killed within moments…" Stephen's voice dropped to a mere whisper. "Then he came and helped round the rest of us up…"

He bit back another wave of pain then resumed. "Almost all the BEARS and RLD junior cadets were taken. We were drained by this guy they called Dark Raven and they tossed us in a bunch of captured RLD trucks, but ours got a flat and the one behind ours couldn't get around us on the small road. Before we even realized what was going on the whole forest came to life.

"The Woodsman and his bunch took out those guarding us. He caused the trees to turn on the guy trying to drag me away and ripped him apart. The same thing happened all over the place. We were all still pretty weak, but we escaped into the woods. Some of the others joined the Woodsman, but Kent wanted to get back to his RLD squadron so I stuck with him and a group of others… Mom and dad are dead, Josh, so is Paul.

Tears trickled down Josh's cheeks, "Yeah, we know. We all attended their funeral. We thought you were dead too!"

Stephan shook his head, "I should-a been. Paul saved both me and Kent from those attacking the camp. Then HE came in and killed him, my mom, dad, and dozens of others who were still trying to fight back."

"One person took down dozens of Augments?" Reed's eyes went wide at the thought. "How?"

Stephan gulped and closed his eyes. "He turned metal and grew… His hands changed into swords and stuff. He is real fast too…" the youngster winced at the memory. "Kent and I took out a couple of his people a few hours ago and got close enough to hear him and a group of his people… We heard about the resort. We came here hoping to get some food and take a few of them out. Maybe even link up with some of you, but Kent and I tried before and got shot at by RLD and Canadian military. I think they thought we were bandit Augments or something… But then we heard about you all attacking the place and grabbing his kid so we backed off since we didn't know who was who, or if we would be seen as one of them. We were spotted as we tried to back away and I got separated from Kent in the storm.

"I got hit and decided to get here for help, but I got confused and the pain got too bad…" Stephen looked up speaking in between sobs. "Josh, he is really pissed… You all have some kid he really wants… Some important Augment… and now you have his kid too… He kept saying he put too much into this to fail and something about a Senator who would come after him and let the world know he is loose for screwing this up. I heard him... He is going to start flattening Whitefish if you don't give him the kid he is looking for. He doesn't even care about his own kid as much as the other kid."

"Who the hell is this guy?" Cassie demanded to know.

Stephan closed his eyes and shuddered. "From what I have heard since the attack, he was one of four to have escaped the island prisons a few years back. He was the ring leader and even took out a nuclear sub in doing so. He calls himself the boss, but the Woodsman called him Lord Bronze Age."

Total silence fell across the whole building as for over a second as no one even took a breath.

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