Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons


Chapter 21

Published: 8 Apr 14

Josh glanced around at his fellow squadron mates for several seconds as the Normals around the lounge started talking in hushed voices. He felt a cold shiver roll down his spine along with a rather helpless feeling. He took a couple more seconds to recompose himself as best as he could and pulled out his BEARS radio, "A.T., You on?"

"Go Josh!" Arctic Trooper's voice responded almost instantly.

"Sir, we have some very bad news…"

"Who got hurt?" Arctic Trooper asked with a great deal of concern.

"No…" Josh took a deep breath, "We are secure…"

"So what's wrong son?"

"Sir, we just found Stephen Lentel…"

Arctic Trooper cut Josh off, "He is alive?"

"Yes sir… but…"

"But nothing!" A.T. shouted in an almost jubilant response, "You found hard proof some of the junior cadets survived the attack at the RLD encampment!"

"I know sir, but you need to listen… He confirms Woodsman was not behind the attack. In fact he has first hand accounts of Woodsman saving him and a bunch of others after the attack…" Josh took a quick breath and continued as he felt his hands start to shake. "Sir, he saw who is behind this… It is Bronze Age!"

"BULLSHIT!" Battlement's voice roared over the speaker forcing Josh to pull it away from his ear. "I personally took that murdering SOB down and was there when we dropped his sorry butt off on the most secure island containment spot we have for rogue Augments, Palmyra Atoll! There is no way he got out of there and survived!"

"Sir," Josh spoke in a tense whisper, "According to Stephen, he saw Bronze Age shift and kill dozens from the encampment who were fighting. He also heard it right out of Bronze Age's mouth how Bronze Age took out a nuclear sub and got off the island with like four others…"

Jade Witch joined the conversation, "Battlement, the British experimental sub Star Fish… It went missing during exercises with our Pacific Fleet and was assumed to have experienced a major maculation after it reported metal sounds against its hull. The last I heard was its last radio message said it was headed to Johnston Atoll but we never did get a fix on her, then she and her crew disappeared. Last I knew, we never found her…"

"We didn't." Mystic Knight also joined in the discussion. "A week later a fishing boat was lost just south of Johnston Atoll, and the lone survivor mumbled something about hitting a half sunk metal ship, but died before we could get more information."

Mystic Knight paused and let out a light whistle, "Battlement, if this is really the work of Bronze Age, we can't let the kids attempt to take him on. The last time he took out over five hundred civilians and half of a USDT team…"

Battlement snarled, "I know. It was my team and I couldn't even attend the funerals since I was in traction! If he's really back…" Battlement's voice trailed off.

Rex grabbed his own radio, "We can't let him and his goons take out Whitefish! Those people can't even run in this weather!"

"Kids," Jade Witch spoke forcefully, "The chances of you taking him down are beyond remote and even if you do, some of you will not make it."

"So we are supposed to let him take out a whole town?" Tanner asked with outright disgust in his voice.

"We will be there in a few hours." Battlement stated. "They will have to hold until we get there."

"If we can't hold, how are Normals supposed to?" Valda demanded to know.

Arctic Trooper let out a long breath, "Battlement, the kids are right. Without Augments, he will wade through the whole place and casualties will be in the hundreds, maybe thousands. With the destruction of homes and buildings, this weather, and the cold we are expecting after this front passes, it will kill many more."

"I can't and won't order in a bunch of cadets!" Battlement stated while slamming his fist into and through a thick metal table he was working at."

Jade Witch took a couple of uneasy breaths, "Sir, are you ordering them not to defend Whitefish?"

North Star answered for Battlement, "No… But our advice is to hold and hope we can get there in time. We really don't want to be putting BEARS and COUGARS into graves again anytime soon."

Arctic Trooper spoke up again, "Josh, I am moving down to help and I am sure Jade Witch is moving up from the south even as we speak. I will bring whatever cadets who are willing, but North Star is right. You try to hold the line, some of you will be hurt and there is a good chance you will have fewer squadron mates before darkness falls over the mountains tonight."

Finally Eldora let out a long nervous breath, "Josh, what are we going to do?"

Rex growled, "We have to try to stop him!"

Josh looked over to Rex, "You heard it straight out of Battlement's mouth, Rex; the last time the world heard from Bronze Age, half a town was destroyed and over five hundred people were killed including half of USDT 19. Battlement finally beat him, but even he was out of action for almost a month recovering from injuries. How exactly do you propose we stop him?"

Cassie glanced over to Josh, "I hate to say this, but Rex is right. We have to try. If we don't he will kill hundreds of people in Whitefish."

The father of the girl taken by those who had attacked the ski resort spoke up, "What about my girl and those they took?"

Reed turned to the distraught man with a deep sadness in his eyes, "Mister, we can't go after a few kids when an entire town is about to be wiped out…" He then turned back to Josh, "If you guys are going, so are we. To hell with RLD orders about us being back-up."

Kurt nodded in total agreement, "The only chance we have to stop him is to unite and hit him and his flunkies with everything we have. I'm in."

One by one the rest of the BEARS and COUGARS nodded to Josh and started gathering their gear. Talon, from COBRAS 75, was the last to nod in agreement. "My radio was smashed when we first got hit; can I use one of yours?"

Gwen tossed over her radio and stood, albeit with a slight limp. "You can use mine…" She then glared at Eldora as the older girl started to tell her she wasn't joining in. "I'm going unless you want to fight me. You are going to need all of us!"

Josh held up his hand to stop Eldora from arguing as he turned to Talon. "What do you need a radio for?"

The left side of Talon's face twisted upwards, "I'm putting out a call to get us some extra help."

"From where?" Logan demanded to know.

As Talon adjusted the frequency, his eyes narrowed. "This was supposed to be an unofficial squadron trip put together by our folks. There are a dozen more from COBRAS Seventy Five down in Whitefish and the surrounding area. It was supposed to be a fun trip while giving our Commander a break from us. We didn't even tell him where we were going so he couldn't feel like he needed to join us…"

Talon rolled his eyes upon seeing the looks he was getting from the others. "I know, it's against protocol to schedule a trip as a large group without getting an OK from our squadron commander or USDT Command, so we all booked in different places. It was my mom's idea, there are a few others up here from other close by COBRA squadrons too, but I don't know who or where they are. We were supposed to meet on the slopes for lessons in two days."

Josh's eyes went wide as his hand went out to prevent Talon form radioing his fellow cadets. "Hold up a second…" He then keyed his own radio, "Battlement, we are going to try, all of us, but we may be able to gather some extra support. There are a bunch of cadets from COBRAS Seventy Five and other close by COBRA squadrons up here. Can you set up a retrans from where you are at to hit all COBRA radios within like twenty miles of where we are at?"

While the radio was still keyed, Talon glanced over, "Um, some of the guys from my squadron may not have their radios on, since we are not on an official trip and didn't want to show too many of us in the same location."

Battlement chuckled, "Boy, I am going to strongly suggest you never repeat those words, while those of us who just did hear them need to have a sudden case of forgetfulness… But, I get it. Sometimes you need to get out from under us… so we'll just pretend we authorized this one something... Stand by Joshua, I may be able to get you a way to contact all of them."

There was several seconds of uneasy silence before Sonic Strike spoke up, "Stand by Joshua. Battlement just got the go ahead to do something we have never done before. I'll get you a hook up, but it will not be local and you will have to go through the general alert frequency for Montana Civil Defense. To do this, you will need to adjust one of your radios to broadcast over your squadron's alternate frequency and reset another of your radios to USDT One's emergency frequency since all radios can send and receive directly from USDT One.

"Once you hear Battlement's voice over the radio listen and wait until he gives you the go ahead. As soon as he does, start speaking into the radio set to your squadron's alternate frequency. We will retransmit it over to civil defense. Just so you understand, we are turning over all of Northern Montana's civil defense to you, so you have to be very careful what you say. Everyone listening to any radio will be able to hear you and I don't think you want Bronze Age to know more than you absolutely need to tell him, nor do you want him to know we know who he is!"

Josh eyed his radio in near shock, "Um, can't you all make the broadcast?"

"Joshua," Battlement spoke firmly, "We are still trying to get to you all. By having your voice come out over the radio, it will establish who you are by voice and will let others know we have placed you in command until we can get there. Unless you want to back off and go into hiding…"

"No, we can't. Bronze Age has already shown he has no problem with killing Normals in mass numbers We can't let Whitefish become another killing field! We have friends and family here!"

"We understand, Joshua." Mystic Knight spoke softly, "Just do your best to stay in one piece until we get there so we can all shake your hands." He paused and cleared his throat. "Battlement will be coming on in five seconds so stand by."

A few seconds later all BEARS and COUGARS radios beeped an alert tone. At the same time the radio behind the counter chimed out an emergency broadcast alert. A second later Battlement's voice came over all the radios. "This a General Phase One alert being issued by USDT 19 to all USDT Cadets and personal in the upper Montana area. I say again, this is a General Phase One activation alert by USDT 19 to all USDT cadets and personal in the upper Montana area. Several areas of North West Montana have experienced heavy renegade Augment attacks as the blizzard moved in. At this time we are requesting any and all USDT cadets in the area who wish to fully activate to do so now. Stand by for an additional emergency message from one of our onsite commanders, Joshua Stellman, senior cadet of BEARS 97!"

Joshua's radio came to life with North Star's voice. "USDT One's command frequency is all yours, Joshua. Go ahead and make your civil defense announcement for those close to you to switch over to USDT One. This way they will hear your voice over the regular radio before they do so over USDT one and will not be quite as skeptical."

Joshua gulped and took a deep breath and keyed the radio set to his squadron's alternate frequency, "All COBRA cadets in the area of upper Montana, please activate your radios and turn them to USDT One's command frequency. Again, all COBRA cadets in the area of upper Montana, activate your radios and turn to USDT One's command frequency. Any other non-BEAR cadets are requested to do the same. Talon, from COBRAS Seventy Five, is with us and says he has friends out there. We could sure use your help. Also, I know there are several people in and around Whitefish who do not like us, but this is no longer about Normals and Augments, it is about our homes and our families, please get to shelter and let us do our thing. We cannot fight for you effectively if you hinder us."

After a couple of moments of silence, Battlement's voice came back over the radio. "At this time we are asking all non-combatants in the area of Whitefish to remain indoors and if possible to seek shelter in basements or other secure locations. Fighting in and around Whitefish could get heavy and wide spread, damage is a very real possibility."

Battlement's last warning was repeated several times as was the message spoken by Josh. At the same time radios set to USDT One's command frequency came to life as COBRA cadets started to report in.

Josh grabbed his gear bag and some extra food as he gave directions to gather at tennis courts south of the post office at Fifth and Baker. Those who could not get there, he had others in the squadron get their locations and told them to get ready for pick-up. Finally, he contacted Quill so she could make a run to the BEARS 97 squadron building and grab all the shirts, coats, and outerwear with BEARS 97 markings she could find so all those joining them could easily be identified. The last thing he wanted was to end up accidentally fighting kids on his side because he didn't know them.

Talon managed to smile with some pride at how many from his squadron and friends from other squadrons answered the call. Still, it did not sit well with him that there was the very real possibility several of them would not be around to see the sun come up the next day.

Josh turned to Cassie, "I think we should stay in the same teams…" He paused and turned to look at those he had just helped to rescue. "We could keep a couple of us back to protect…"

Brock's mom shook her head, "The best way for to stay alive and protect the people of Whitefish is for all of you to go. We'll hold the place and keep an eye on those you captured. Stay safe and when this is over, we'll have you all over for a cook out or something."

Rex moved over to Rock Slide and growled. He glanced around, spotted a couple of thick metal floor lamps and wrapped them around the boy. At the same time Kurt and Skye did the same to a couple of the other captives. As he stood he looked over at Josh, "I told these idiots to meet us at the airfield if they wanted rock head back…"

"I know, but we now have confirmation of Senator Jackson being behind this and he was told we were going to pull his kid out at the tennis courts. If what Stephen heard is correct, about Bronze Age wanting Jackson's kid more than his own, he will move on the tennis courts and we need to have the bulk of our forces there. Besides, if he does go after us at the airfield first, and we aren't there, he will make a bee line for the tennis courts thinking we threw him a curve ball."

"Won't that put the fighting in the middle of town?" Brock's mom asked with a great deal of concern.

"Yeah," Reed sighed, "but it's a much more logical place for a pick-up of a high value target since it's way more defendable than an open field."

Josh glanced over at the bulk of the hostages. "If we do this right we can keep most of the fighting in the business areas between Lupfer and Spokane Avenues. This way we have buildings for cover and since the blizzard shut almost everything down, the risk is more to property than people. USDT will just have to fork over the cash to rebuild a few shops, which in the long run will help many of the struggling businesses with new buildings and money for lost operational hours and goods."

Killian's dad rolled his eyes, "Somehow I don't think USDT Command would be too happy about you earmarking their funds."

Josh snickered, "After all the corporate bailouts and handing over money to people who sit on their butts and do nothing, it's about time the government forks over some cash to those who work for a living instead of making those who work into the bad guys."

Brock's mom snorted out a brief laugh. "My husband will be shocked to hear you said those words. He has been saying the same thing for years!"

Josh shrugged, "I bet there are a lot of people around here who would like us, or at least agree with much of what we believe if they would just give us a chance." He paused as he heard Rock Slide groan. "We don't know what they are capable of, so don't take chances. If they start to break out or try to use any augmentations, shoot them."

Before more could be said, Josh jerked his head in the direction of the door, telling everyone to head out.

Those in the lounge watched from the door as all the kids who had just recued them piled into the pair of damaged snow cats and moved back down the mountain in the direction of Whitefish. Even those who still showed some injury didn't hesitate. Killian finally turned to his dad, "After everything we have put them through, they are going to try to protect our friends and families… we can't let them do this alone…"

Killian's dad listened to the warning about seeking shelter over the radio again and nodded slowly. "Anyone manage to grab their cell phones from the lodge before we came here, and if so, do any of you have one with a signal?"

A couple of people held up phones and nodded.

Killian's dad moved up and took one of the offered phones, "I think it's time to call around and let people know a group of kids are all but going to their deaths in an attempt to protect the rest of us. Some won't care, but I bet I can find some who will."

More than a few others nodded and the few working cell phones started getting passed around the room. Dozens of calls were made. Before the two snow cats were even half way down the mountain, more than a few gun cabinets and safes were being opened in the town below.

Josh watched the snow continue to pelt the front of the snow cat's badly cracked front window. He closed his eyes and focused on the rest of those with him. Although each of them was thinking about different things, all of them were scared. They were afraid for their families, for themselves, but above all else they were terrified of failure. Those who were old enough to remember pictures from the last time Bronze Age attacked a town were replaying the images of body bags lining the streets and scores of buildings with major earthquake-like damage while the Church of Purity shouted into every camera they could find for the deaths of all Augments.

Even the kids from Canada where wondering if they could prevent such mass destruction, and if they couldn't, the next thought was universal; would they be blamed? Such a thought was pretty normal for all of them since being blamed for everything and anything was part of being an Augment in the Defender Programs of both countries. Josh continued to sort through all the thoughts as Reed piloted the craft toward the location of the closest COBRA cadets who had requested a pick up from the Super 8 hotel. Finally, he realized the silence inside the vehicle was only making everyone more nervous.

He took a deep breath and turned to look at those in the back, "Come on guys, you're all acting like we already lost! Sure, Bronze Age is a class five, but so is Colt, Kurt, Skye and Garret! We have taken down dozens of his underlings including Dark Raven. I know, we are still in for a nasty fight, but we haven't lost a single fight with the best he could throw at us!"

Talon managed to find his own voice, "Josh has a good point. Besides, as Bronze Age's numbers have dwindled, yours…ours… have grown. My squadron is nothing like yours since we only have one class four, me along with three other class threes, and the rest are all class twos, but from what I have seen and heard, most of those we are fighting are class ones and twos with a very few higher ones in leadership spots. Josh is right, we can do this."

Reed nodded, "Very true. Plus Quill and the others from my Squadron are going active, regardless of what RLD wanted, so we do have one adult with us. If we can hold out for a couple of hours other adults will be able to get here, including the bulk of USDT 19. Plus, RLD reserves are moving in as well. Other BEARS squadrons are also heading this direction with adult leadership. All we have to do is hold out…"

Skye shook her head, "The problem is, we can't, Reed. If we simply try to hold, they will take out whole sections of Whitefish and may even move to other towns in Flathead County."

Josh nodded, "Skye's right. We can't fall back this time. Instead, when they hit us, we will do the last thing they expect."

"Which is what?" Rachal demanded to know.

"We go on the offensive."

"Huh?" Logan gasped in shock.

Reed smiled as he realized what Josh was thinking. "He's right guys; if we let them push us back or even hold us in one place, the others will spread out and start searching for the senator's kid. However, if we hit them and push them back, even for a little while, they will think the false pick up point USDT set up is the real one. Bronze Age will send everything he has at us. At least this way we will prevent them from striking out blindly at other locations and killing defenseless civilians."

"If they do unite and focus everyone on us, we will probably be badly outnumbered." Talon warned.

Josh shrugged, "if it comes to that, we move southwest while continuing to fight as hard as we can, this will lead them across the river. While we will be more in the open it will pull them away from the bulk of the people we are trying to protect. At that point we focus on survival and hold out till help comes. Those birds from Whiteman Air Force Base are only three hours out, and when they get here, we will have over a hundred and twenty Augment Special Forces on our side. By then Battlement and USDT 19 will be here as will A.T. and Jade Witch with other BEARS squadrons. There is no way Bronze Age will be able to fight his way out of all of us."

A few minutes later Josh pulled up at the hotel. Three COBRA cadets piled in as quick introductions were given by Talon while parents of the kids looked on with a mixture of fear and great pride. Josh stepped out into the blowing snow and looked at the parents, some of whom were trying hard not to cry, but failing. "This is a requested activation, if you don't want your kids to…"

One of the dad's spoke up, "We all talked this over as we listened to the radio reports and USDT One's command frequency reports; this has got to be their choice. Only one parent said no, but the rest of us… well to be honest, it sounds like the best chance we have is you all and if our kids are going to end up fighting anyway to prevent others from being taken by these animals, their best chance is in large numbers with others like them."

Josh nodded and made a quick round of introductions as the group crammed into the snow cat and disappeared into the snow, leaving more than a few parents looking at the deep tracks left behind, wondering if this would be the last they saw of their kids.

At almost the same time Cassie pulled into the Best Western, only to find four COBRAS huddled in the entrance waiting to be pick-up and along with a WOLVES 13 cadet. Rex eyed the boy's howling wolf with a moon behind patch on his parka for a second. "Man, way cooler patch than our BEARS insignia!"

The twelve year old grinned and held out his hand. "I'm Corbin."

Rex extended his own hand to shake only to find his hand went right through. "What the…."

The others chuckled as Corbin's eyes glinted with merriment. Corbin took a step back before stepping back up and taking the still outstretched hand. "My best ability is to phase shift. When I do, I look like I'm still here, but most of me is in an extra dimensional space and everything except electrical energy passes through me."

Upon hearing this, Colt grinned and caused waves of visible electricity to ripple over his hand, "So you don't want take my hand then?"

Corbin gulped and took a step back shaking his head wildly, "No, no, I'm good!"

Garret moved up giggling, "So what brings a Wolf up here?"

A woman moved forward and patted Corbin on the shoulder, "He did. His birthday is Christmas Eve so we combine Christmas and his birthday to make it a big present every year. This year he wanted to see snow and learn how to ski since we hardly ever get real snow in the Arizona Desert. Besides, his dad and I wanted to check out the area, since I have a chance at a promotion and we may be moving up here."

Eldora glanced out the window, "Well, if you wanted snow, you picked the right time to come!"

"Yeah…" the woman sighed, "And after this, they better offer me a bit more money than they were thinking if they want me to take the job!"

Several parents and kids snickered over the comment. The moment of fun came to an end as a very large man moved up and looked down at Rex, "I sense you are in command of this group." It was not a question.

Rex glanced up, "Yes sir… You an Augment?"

The man nodded and put one hand on a girl and the other on a boy both wearing COBRA issued parkas. Their long bold hair, sharp noses, and steel grey eyes told even the least observant the two were related and almost certainly twins. "I never entered the program, but I am a class two. The only way I am going to allow them to come is if you let me come as well."

One of the other girls looked over at Rex, "Mr. Hammond comes with us on almost every outing, and USDT has given him limited reserve status so he can help as an adult leader…"

Rex picked up his radio, "USDT command, I am with several from COBRAS Seventy Five, one of the dads says he has been cleared as a reservist, a Mr. Hammond, can you confirm?"

Mystic Knight responded after only a few seconds, "His status is unusual, but confirmed Rex. He is a certified class two, but never was in BEST. On the other hand, he is a former Navy Seal. We would actually all feel a great deal better if he was with you out there."

Rex's eyes went wide, "You want to take command sir?"

Mr. Hammond managed a grim smile, "I don't have near enough intel or knowledge of the situation yet, but thanks for the offer. As you fill us all in, I am sure I can find ways to use my background to aid in holding off these renegade Augments, however. Besides, I can feel a great deal of trust in you from the rest of your group."

"Mental Augmentations?" Eldora asked.

"Mood sense is probably a better term. My real abilities are these. It took a couple of seconds for Mr. Hammond to bring up a chi weapon in the shape of a large double bladed axe followed moments later by a weird humming sound which seemed to surround him.

Rex cringed and took a step back, "Your sonic armor really screeches!"

The man dropped his armor augmentation and glanced at Rex with raised eyebrow, "Hearing empowerment, huh?"

"And sight, and touch, and taste, and smell…" Eldora rolled her eyes. "When we do night drills he can detect all sorts of stuff and be ready for things before the rest of us even wake up."

"Nice!" Mr. Hammond stated seriously, "the Seals could use someone like you in a few years! What are you, a class three?"

"Yeah, but he should be a four." Eldora stated seriously. "They way underrated his claws and strength, probably because he has no real flash like most class fours do. All his stuff is natural."

Mr. Hammond raised an eyebrow, "I look forward to seeing more."

"You will." Garret spoke up, "a lot more, and soon."

The man turned and eyed Garret with a bit of a frown, "Aren't you kind of young for squadron level."

"NO!" Eldora, Rex, and Colt all stated loudly at almost the same time."

The reactions of the kids caused all eyes to fall on Garret.

Garret rolled his eyes, "Come on, guys…"

"Dude…" Colt eyed the youngster, "you have already been shot three times, beaten the curd out of a class five and forced him to run away from you, flattened a snowmobile, tossed another one, and ripped a third one apart with your bare hands, and taken down like a dozen separatists!"

Rex glanced over at Mr. Hammond who was now eyeing Garret with a great deal of caution. "He doesn't want to admit it, but everyone who has seen him in action has no doubt he is a Colt style class five." Rex grinned and pointed, "And this is Colt."

The other boy in the small lobby chocked on his own saliva for a second, "Two class fives? No… no way!"

Rex shrugged, "Colt, grab a lamp; rookie blue fists!"

Garret let out a sigh while bringing up his blue globs all but instantly. Across the room Colt grabbed the desk lamp and bit into the cord. A few seconds later there was more light coming from Garret's fists than the lights in the room. At the same time the emergency generator kicked into its highest setting.

Colt spoke with a bit of disappointment, "The generator here is real wimpy. If I pull more juice it will pop its main breaker on it."

Rex pointed to a street light pole and nodded to Garret. "They need to see what you can do so when we get hit they won't think you need to be protected."

Garret let out a long breath, "This better be getting added to your damage pay out, not mine."

Eldora giggled, "Rookie, with everything we have already busted up, a street light will not even register with the BEST cleanup crews."

While Garret walked out into the snow, Eldora turned to the other kids. "Out of any of us, he is the last one who will need protection."

A moment later Garret delivered a single punch, putting his hand and blue fist through the thick wooden pole. A second later it cracked and started to fall. Garret grabbed it, held it up and finally lowered it down into the snow so it didn't fall on any buildings or buried cars then came back inside.

Mr. Hammond took a second to find his voice, "Boy, those fists… if they can be brought up as fast as it looked, you got to be damned careful…"

Rex couldn't help but snicker as Garret's shoulders dropped. He cut off Mr. Hammond. "Sir, everyone, including an RLD officer and a former USDT strike time member, has said the exact same thing. And what he did to the pole out there was nothing compared to what we have seen them do."

"At least a class four, probably five…" Mr. Hammond whistled softly only to get cut off again.

Eldora shook her head, "He has a bigger bang; we just have not seen it yet… Almost, but he managed to hold it back a couple of times already. He's a class five and if it does come out, dive out of his way cause none of us knows exactly what it will do, but it will be big, it will be nasty, and it will really mess something or someone up."

Colt continued to suck in power as names and basic abilities of the newcomers were given. Finally he spit out the cord and unplugged it from the wall. As the lights flickered back on and the generator dropped down a few gears, Colt glanced over to the desk attendant as he dropped the light on the desk. "Don't use it until BEST cuts you a check and you get it fixed… Oh and thanks for what little recharge your generator could give me."

As Colt walked out the door toward the snow cat he glanced at Rex, "After this is over I am going to need to find a decent generator. I am not even close to a full charge."

Eldora eyed Colt for a second. "You know, you could learn a little tact from Garret, but in the mean time, when we get to the tennis courts go into the post office. I know they have a generator. Stay plugged in until we get hit. At least this will give you a bit more juice."

Cassie glanced back as the six new arrivals climbed in, a couple of them electing to kneel rather than sit in the already cramped seats. "Wow, now we're talking! I'm beginning to think we might actually be able to do this!"

Cassie listened as the kids exchanged information about augmentations and training while she piloted the craft toward the post office. Without precise GPS tracking she would have missed the bridge, since the snow had formed a drift which blocked a clear line of sight to the bridge beyond. Making matters worse, there was no way to tell if she was on the road or not without GPS, but on the other hand, the snow was showing some signs of dying down some. She pulled up a radar view and shook her head, it showed they were just in a lighter spot of the overall storm. Heavier snow would soon move back in as the next wave was already pushing up from the south east.

Still, it was nice to be able to actually see something for a little while without electronic aid. Her slight smile faded almost as soon as it appeared as she caught sight of a trio of snow mobiles, each with two people on them, following the tracks of the other snow cat. "Guys, I think we have a hostile scout team in front of us!"

Rex jumped forward and used his heightened eyesight to study the small group. "Ajax, the one on the right has red skin and curly black hair, is he one of them?"

"Hell Spawn." Gustav spat, "He's a class two, but his touch burns and if he holds on he can make you real sick. I have seen him give those who wouldn't do what the boss wanted really bad fevers. One of the Normal moms died because of him. He has sharp fingernails, but nothing like yours and he also has wings, but he can't fly, only glide. He's kind of tough, too, but again, nothing like you are."

Gustav moved up and watched as the three snow mobiles continued to follow the tracks of the other snow cat. "The guy driving the one to the left is who you really have to worry about!"

Ajax moved forward and watched for several seconds. Finally the man turned enough for Ajax to see his face, "Oh crap, is that Sphinx?"

Gustav nodded, "Yeah…"

Cassie's eyes went wide as the man pointed and shouted, "You better tell us what you know, cause they just saw us!"

"He's a class three who can turn into a stone lion," Ajax gulped, "real tough and has a nasty bite too!"

"What about the others?" Rex demanded as the three snowmobiles made a turn and headed straight for them."

Air Magus answered as the others came into view, "All class ones who got pulled out of Augment centers in Canada. The one in the grey coat can make your clothes go stiff with some sort of molecular touch. The others are all low power ray shooters."

Rex didn't look too impressed. "Colt, stay plugged in to the battery charger. There is no reason to deplete any more of your reserves when we don't have to. Rookie, Sphinx is all yours. I'll take the devil. Magus, Ajax, Gustav, Eldora, you all take out the trash. Ricky, stay put, no reason to risk your leg on a bunch of second stringers."

"What about the rest of us?" Corbin demanded to know.

Rex glanced over, "You all need to see what you are in for and get a good feel for how we work together. Still, if one of them happens to get past us, take them out."

Mr. Hammond looked over at the kids from the Best Western as Cassie slammed on the breaks, Garret shoved open the side door, and the others lept out and moved in the direction of the on rushing snowmobiles. "Rex has a good point. Your first taste of real combat should be as observers. Be ready to assist, but we don't know much about them or the way they fight. This is a good chance to see both."

Before more could be said, Garret's hands flashed blue and his left fist slammed into the snowmobile with Sphinx on it. The back end flipped up and launched the class one while Sphinx turned in mid-air into an obsidian looking lion and easily landed on his feet. It pounced with astounding speed and agility, but it was not prepared for what it was trying to pounce on.

Garret's right fist slammed into Sphinx's open mouth, shattering almost all the razor sharp stone teeth. As it let out a screech of pure agony Garret's left fist slammed into its muzzle shattering it and sending bits and pieces of stone all over. Before Sphinx could try to recover and flee, Garret picked up what was left of the snow mobile and slammed it over the stone lion's back, snapping it. From inside the snow cat the new arrivals all saw Garret eye what was left and simply say, "bad kitty!"

At the same time Garret was decimating Sphinx, Rex's claws were raking down the side of the snow mobile with Hell Spawn. With the front right ski taken out it nose dived into the deep snow and flipped on its side, sending both the driver and the passenger tumbling. As Rex moved on Hell Spawn, Eldora sent a stream of spit into the face of the driver. The woman fell, screaming. Seconds later so did Hell Spawn as he tried to reach out and grab Rex.

This proved to be disastrous to the rogue Augment, as the claws on Rex's other hand cleanly removed the outstretched hand. The scream was brought to a quick end by Rex's fist which broke Hell Spawn's jaw and flipped his unconscious form back into a building a full six yards behind him.

Both Rex and Garret turned to see what other threats remained only to see Gustav swing the staff made for him by Valda. The staff turned a golden color as energy surrounded it. A split second later the tip of the staff slammed into the last snowmobile and sent the whole thing flipping backward.

Air Magus then sent a sharp gust of wind downward so the mangled machine landed on both the driver and passenger, doing massive damage to both.

Ajax then sent a pair of heat beams into the woman Eldora had spit on causing enough burn damage to overload her body's pain tolerance. She fell into the snow extinguishing the embers on her coat where the twin beams had struck her.

In less than thirty seconds it was over.

As Garret moved to climb back in, Mr. Hammond offered him a hand up, "Class five, no doubt!"

"And we still haven't seen his big bang." Colt snickered.

Rex surveyed the damage and waited until the others where back inside the battered RLD snow cat. He looked over the stunned faces of those who had just joined them. "We give no quarter and offer no remorse. They have already killed fellow Augments and Normals and many of them took out a joint COUGARS-BEARS training camp and killed all those who resisted, including one of my squadron mates. If any of you want out, now is the time to tell us, cause it is only going to get worse from here."

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