Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons


Chapter 23

Published: 17 Apr 14

Reed glanced over his shoulder at Valda and Logan. Both kids looked stunned to hear what Garret had done. Figuring the two wouldn't be much help in taking out the three snowmobiles to make it over the river; he focused in on Kurt and Rachel. "You up for this?"

Kurt slammed his fist into and through the side of the snow cat, "Turn this hunk of metal around and I'll show you how ready I am! These bastards need to pay for what just happened to Garret!"

Rachel put her arm over Logan's shoulders. "We can't let them win after what Garret just did… We have a chance to hold them right here, not even let them get into Whitefish. We have to do this or what Garret and the staff kid just did is nothing but a waste."

Logan's fists clenched as Rachel's words hit a nerve, "We didn't just lose the rookie for nothing!"

Across from Logan, Valda's eyes narrowed. She looked out the back and saw emptiness where the bridge had been only moments before. "Turn us around, Reed, turn us around and then get out of my way!"

Reed let out a long breath and turned the badly damaged vehicle around. "I'll head straight for the leader and try to run them over. If nothing else it will have to veer around us since we are bigger and wrapped in metal. Whatever side they go to, jump out and pile on them I will use the snow cat to block the others and buy you the time to finish off those first two jerks."

Logan forced one of his gloom blades to extend. "This won't take long."

Back on the hovercraft, Shannon still had tears coming out of his eyes. "Guys, you heard the orders, but we just lost most of our firepower and we need to guard Ajax while he ghost walks and looks for Garret and Gustav."

Corbin's eyes narrowed, "And thanks to Garret and the other kid, they just lost like fifty people. We have a chance to stop them cold right here and we can't let the most heroic thing I have ever seen be for nothing. They gave us a chance and I'm all for keeping it. Besides, you haven't lost all your firepower. A couple of you guard the ghost kid, and a couple of you watch my back…"

Everett patted Corbin on the back, "I know you are pretty sure you are going to end up living here and want to be part of this BEARS group, but you don't need to do this alone. We are all USDT cadets and we will do better if we work as a team. Let's do this together."

Two girls from COBRAS 77 nodded in agreement. The older one, Ellie, pulled out a pair of dagger style knives off her belt while her previously hidden tail pulled an even larger blade out of the back of her pack and wrapped around the hilt. "Boys aren't the only ones who can fight, guys. The whole reason we came is we both have toughness and strength."

The other girl nodded solemnly, "I just wish I had a pistol… I'm not allowed to travel with one even though I am a crack shot."

"Crack shot is an understatement," Everett grumbled. "You always make the rest of us look really bad on the pistol range. I am glad you aren't in our squadron, or none of us would have our basic marksmanship certifications!"

"Yeah, you would," Ellie countered. "We all do, but we just look really bad when compared to Leanne."

"From what I heard, most of the separatists have guns." Corbin responded, "Why don't you and Shannon guard ghost boy while the three of us find you a gun. Although… Guns… What a waste."

Leanne scowled, but getting a nod from the older girl she finally sighed, "Fine, but I want a piece of these idiots before this is over!"

Shannon spun the hovercraft around just in time to see Reed blow right past him in the snow cat, "Looks like my squadron leader is taking the lead."

"Catch up!" Everett demanded.

"Too late." Shannon winced as Reed plowed into the lead snowmobile. Bits and pieces of both machines rained down around them as the doors of the snow cat flew open.

Before the kids in the hovercraft could react, Logan dove out of the now ruined snow cat and sliced into the badly wounded driver of the snowmobile. The reptile skinned woman fell in a heap.

Moments later Kurt jumped out ripping the door off as he did so. Still in the air, he swung the metal door down on the passenger of the snowmobile with everything he had, driving the man deep into the snow and partially embedding him into the frozen ground underneath.

"Wow!" Ellie gasped, "What a pile driver!"

Even though Shannon was still badly shaken up over what Garret had done, he couldn't help but smile. "COUGARS can fight when we have to."

Everett shoved the side door open, "You all convinced me, but now it's time for some COBRA action!" Suddenly, a long spiked tail ripped out of the back of Everett's pants and wrapped around the neck of the man driving the second snowmobile. Everett let the speeding machine yank him out the side door. With a shout, "Yeah-Hoo!" he allowed the momentum to swing him through the air. He then used the strength of his tail to coil himself ever closer as he spun though the air. Before the quickly strangling driver or the passenger could react, Everett was on the two of them.

As soon as he got right in front of them he let out a large cloud of acid out of his mouth, uncoiled his tail from around the driver and rolled into the snow. The snowmobile continued for a few yards before flipping, sending both screaming men off and rolling over one of them.

"Nice!" Ellie shouted as she too jumped out the side door. "But you aren't the only one who can tail fight!" The large blade held by her tail slashed deep into the seat between the two women on the third snowmobile. She winced slightly as it jerked hard on her tail, but like Everett, she used her enhanced strength to yank herself over to the machine. At the same time the blades in her left and right hands struck, one plunging into the back of the driver and the other the shoulder of the passenger.

The driver slumped forward, but the passenger managed to get off a concussion beam out of her hand, stunning Ellie while allowing the wounded woman to roll off the back. Fortunately for Ellie, the driver fell off and the safety cord she had been wearing killed the engine quickly slowing the unpiloted snowmobile to a stop.

The second woman pulled herself up, glanced at the dagger embedded into her shoulder and snarled. She extended her good hand to release a second concussion beam on Ellie, "Die, you USDT puppet!" An instant before she was able to build up enough energy to release the beam, another young female voice came from right behind her.

Valda moved up as she saw the wounded woman and instantly realized the girl in the COBRA parka was in trouble. The words spoken cut to her core. She got right behind the separatist, "I think you need a hug."

The woman spun at the words. Even though she was staring straight at a large BEARS insignia on a heavy winter coat, the words the girl spoke caused her to pause. "Huh?"

Valda's eyes hardened as she wrapped her arms around the much larger woman, "You need a hug!"

At this point, the woman knew by the change in tone and the icy stare she was in trouble. She tried to pull away and fire off her concussion beam, but it was too late.

The moment the woman tried to yank herself out of Valda's grasp, the girl pulled tighter, brought up her woody armor, and extended all her wood spines out as far as she could force them. The woman in her grasp screamed and thrashed for a few second before going limp. Without any remorse, Valda retracted he spiny armor doing a great deal more damage.

The woman fell into the snow at Valda's feet, bleeding from dozens of wounds.

Off to the side Corbin noticeably cringed, but it didn't stop him from extending his left arm at the man who had been tossed off the snowmobile Everett had caused to flip. The man had pulled himself out of the snow and had a pistol leveled at Everett.

A ray of radiation erupted out of Corbin's cupped hand, searing the man's face. The scream alerted Everett who quickly dove into the snow to get out of the line of sight.

Seeing the guy hadn't been outright taken down by his attack, Corbin took a deep breath. He held it and clenched both fists. As he continued to concentrate, his whole body shook in a great deal of exertion, but suddenly the snow around him pushed outward, forming a bowl shape about a yard out all the way around.

The man turned, saw this, and fired a trio of shots.

Everyone stopped and turned to look at Corbin, expecting him to fall, badly wounded, only he didn't. Instead the bullets stopped as they hit something a yard out. The strange thing was they didn't bounce off or fall to the ground. They simply stopped forward momentum. The still spun, they just didn't move forward.

Corbin stared at the three bullets and cringed in exertion as he focused in on them. Less than a second later they picked up speed again, but didn't go straight. Instead they wrapped around the invisible bubble and actually accelerated to a speed beyond what they had been when they emerged from the barrel of the pistol. All three quickly broke the sound barrier again with loud bangs, then continued to accelerate. The three bullets slammed into and through the gunman at well over four times the speed of sound, dropping him instantly.

Kurt looked around, "Nice… Looks like we are clear. Six down, none of them moving."

Logan gasped as he moved up on Corbin only to find he couldn't move past the strange barrier. It wasn't hard, he could push on it but then his hand simply stopped then he had a hard time pulling his hand back out. It wasn't a wall, but it was certainly there. "What the…"

A bit of a smirk crossed Corbin's facial features as he dropped his Augmentation, allowing snow to start whipping around him while filling in the hole his powers had made, "No one should shoot at someone with gravity armor and gravity control… Um, anyone have something to eat?"

"Damn!" Reed stated as he moved to the door of the ruined snow cat, blood coming from a gash in his forehead from where his face met the control panel when he rammed the lead snowmobile. He tossed the boy a ration pack. "Even with blood in my eyes, that was pretty awesome!"

Kurt let out a low whistle as he moved up to Reed and started to use his healing Augmentation, "Dude, I've seen some cool stuff, but that was like way wickedly nasty!"

Shannon poked his head out of the hovercraft, "Yeah… incredible! I've never seen anything like that!"

Corbin moved up to the dead man and shuddered as he grabbed the pistol and extra ammo off the man's belt. "My Squadron Commander taught me how to use the combination of armor and control to stop bullets, then slingshot them around me kind of like a satellite does when it goes around the moon. This is the first and hopefully only time I get them shot right at me though. It was kind of scary. At least we got Leanne a pistol."

Everett dug himself out of the snow, "Good, cause I have seen her shoot several times. She doesn't know how to miss…" He paused, "But I recommend no one shoots at you. No wonder you seemed so blah about guns." He rolled his eyes as he moved up to Ellie with glowing hands. "What hurts?"

The girl shook her head and winced as the action caused her head to pound even worse, "Everything… what'd she hit me with?"

"No clue." Everett shrugged while glancing at the red snow surrounding where the woman fell. "But something tells me, we aren't going to be able to ask her."

"Good." Ellie groaned, "I never want to be hit with one of those again."

Everett nodded in understanding. "My healing Augmentation tends to cause blurry vision and dry mouth for a few minutes, but it will help, especially non-bleeding damage."

"Then do it." Ellie stated without hesitation. "I think I hurt my tail too."

Everett put his glowing hands on each side of Ellie's head. "This Augmentation just kind of seeps in. I don't need to touch the injured area, but we have found it best if I just hold onto the head of who I am trying to fix. It seems to work faster."

Shannon let out a long breath as he grabbed his radio off his belt, "All three snowmobiles are stopped Josh, but the snow cat is dead and we have a couple of injuries. Radar still shows six fliers inbound and at least four more snowmobiles trying to work downstream so they can find a place to cross."

"We're on the way. Just hold where you are." Josh's voice came back over the radio. "Do you need healing?"

"No," Reed managed to say as he keyed his own radio, "Kurt is taking care of me and one of the COBRAS is dealing with another COBRA. Just before the snow cat's radar went dead, because my head went into the screen, I counted six snowmobiles or other craft on the far side, so two are now unaccounted for. You need to send scouts upriver as well. We don't want any getting into Whitefish if we can stop them."

"What about Garret?" Rex demanded to know.

"The ghost walker is still limp, so he must still be looking for him." Shannon answered. "He hasn't even moved; it's like we have his shell only or something."

"You do." Rex cut in, "He's my friend, so take good care of him too!"

"We'll keep him safe, Rex." Valda assured Rex. "Nothing is going to touch his body while he is out of it."

Corbin glanced over, "I can go look too. When I phase shift, I can breathe, even underwater."

"Then do it!" Logan hardened, "We have to find him!"

"OK, but my mom and dad are in town and they can't protect themselves from bad Augments. One of the whole reasons I am in the program is Mom wants me to be able to fight the bad guys, cause she thinks they are everywhere." Corbin let out a long breath, "Before I had my breakout she almost joined the CoP cause of how afraid she is of us."

"Church of Purity," Rachal spat, "I sure wish some of the jerks would accidently get in our way out here."

Even though he was still bleeding, Reed managed a humor filled snort, "Not going to happen, Rach; they would never come out of their holes to help fight off enemy Augments. They need us for that." He then turned to Corbin, "We are going to hold the line, but if there is even the slimmest chance Garret and Gustav are alive, it would make it easier to do so with them.'

Corbin seemed to shimmer for an instant and it looked like he stepped to the side without really moving. "OK, I'll see what I can find. Just make sure none of them make it over the river."

Jade Witch's voice suddenly came over the radio, "Kids, I have almost all of BEARS 96 with me and we are moving into Kalispell now. If you can hold the river all along the Columbia Falls side, we can hold it at Kalispell and up to you. We have not had any real resistance for over an hour. All of the big guy's forces must have pulled back to him for the big push Garret just crushed. Now find me our rookie so I can… can…. Hell, I don't know, maybe beat him while giving him a hug or something!"

Another voice, this one a deep sounding male voice with a bit of a French accent, came over the radio, "BEARS 97, this is Cold Steel, RLD Reserve 28 commander, my team is just now pushing past Lake McDonald. We hit a hard pocket of resistance, but it fell apart quickly. You don't have to hold them for too much longer, but if you can keep them out of Whitefish, you will save an awful lot of Normal lives. And, if there are any COUGARS listening… well, let me just say you are doing us all real proud right now!"

Moments later, Arctic Trooper also checked in, "Kids, Cold Steel is right, and I am now in Eureka with both BEARS 98 and 95. We just linked up with USDT 19 and are on our way. Just hold the line, we are less than fifty miles out now!"

Rex put more power into the hovercraft engines. He gritted his teeth as radar picked up the six fliers moving on the post office. The fact they ignored him only made it harder not to turn around to go help those defending the snow cat parked off to the side of the tennis courts. "Their fliers just went right over me, I count six, but one was pretty big. I also have another very large inbound from directly north of you."

Mr. Hammond's voice came back over the radio, "You all get to the river and hold. We have this and in less than an hour we will have all sorts of extra support. Any of you with food, eat now because this may be the last chance to replenish energy before the big guy shows up."

Josh tore open a pair of MRE's while keeping his foot firmly pressed down on the gas. "Valda, with Reed hurt, it sounds like you are in charge there. Hold the area around the bridge so we can split and cover further to the north and south so those others don't cut across."

"We'll do what we can, Josh." Valda replied quickly, "But we are down to one vehicle and we have a pair of injuries."

Josh let out a long breath, "OK, Cassie, take the other hover to the south and link up with Jade Witch. I'll take the area north of the bridge. Rex, head to the bridge and spread out along there. If they get around us it will have to be way to the north and put them right where RLD 28 is coming from."

"We'll be happy to take on a few more for you." Cold Steel snarled. "After all, we can't let kids have all the fun."

The man's tone caused Josh to grin, "Then you best hurry, sir, cause we aren't planning on leaving you too many scraps."

This got a real laugh out of Battlement, "Boy, you are going to get a hell of a bear hug when I see you. Just don't get cocky and stay in one piece so I can!"

Rex snickered at the back and forth, but quickly sobered as he saw the extent of the damage to the snow cat Reed had been piloting and the missing bridge beyond. He powered down the lift fans and jumped out, "What did you all do?"

Logan moved up to Rex, "The rookie really did take out the bridge and Reed played chicken with one of the snowmobiles. It lost."

Rex cringed. "Well, USDT's pocket book is going to be way lighter after this…" He shook his head. "So where do we stand and have we found Garret?"

Valda shook her head. "Both Ajax and that Corbin kid are looking for him, but we have a couple who look like they are going to make it across the river." Valda pointed down toward the river bank, "Most didn't."

One of the COBRA kids who had come with Rex spotted movement down by the river bank. "There are two coming up the bank right now."

Rex extended his claws, but stopped as Ajax's ghost form appeared next to him causing him to jump. Out of instinct he swung. The claws passed right though. "Dammit!" Rex howled, "Don't do that! If you hadn't been in ghost form I would have killed you!"

"Sorry," Ajax held up his hands, "but we find them!"

"Garret?" Rex paused as he looked down the hill, then over to the COBRA, "Can you and your buddies take those two?"

The boy snorted and lowered his hood, revealing a pair a ram horns and a very bony looking forehead. He also removed his gloves showing ridges of hard boney knuckles. "Oh, yeah."

Next to the ram horn boy a girl spun her hand in a clockwise circle forming a very hot flame around herself. She glanced over, "Spencer, take the big guy. I'll take the one with the weasel face."

Spencer nodded, "Sure thing, Marcie. If mine falls first I get that kiss you keep promising me, though."

Marcie snickered, "And if mine does, you take me to the dance."


Behind the two kids, three other COBRA kids spread out, but kept their distance. It was pretty clear none of them wanted to get close to either of the first two. It was also obvious by the looks of the others; they didn't expect either of the two kids to need their help.

Rex raised an eyebrow and watched as the two moved on the rogue Augments, ready to react, but continued to speak to Ajax's ghost form. "So you found Garret?"

"Yes," Ajax pointed, "Under the water. They are both in a bubble same color as Garret's arm thing." Ajax pointed to his arm and drew a circle right where Garret normally formed his Sorcery shield. "They are stuck on the bottom under some… um… rock from bridge. They no move and me ghost form can't get though this bubble. Other one down there now, trying to get rock off…"

Rex held up his hand as the kid with the ram horns took a pair of orange colored beams from the big guy, shook them off, and suddenly sprinted at a speed much faster than most things could move. The boy delivered a punch that flung the hapless Augment all the way back to the edge of the water.

At the same time, the flames around the girl sparked as a dozen spines came off the tail of the ferret faced Augment, however, all but one burned up harmlessly. The surviving one went into her side and made her extremely angry. The girl shook her head while holding onto the wound. The flames around her turned a bluish-green tint as she moved up and let out a breath of flame. The ferret faced man screamed as he ignited from head to toe then ran and dove back into the icy water. A moment later the body came to the surface in-between the ice, face down, not moving.

The ram horned boy frowned deeply as the man he had delivered his haymaker to managed to stand, albeit with wobbly legs and blood coming out of his mouth. "Now I have to go to a dance!" the kid muttered while breaking into another sprint.

As the man he was rushing braced and reared back his hand readying some kind of augmentation, Spencer snorted, "You better have a very hard fist mister." He closed rapidly, only this time he didn't throw a fist, instead he jumped and slammed into the big man with a head butt of terrifying proportions. The huge man's hand shattered as it hit the boy's head, then the rogue Augment's skull dented deeply as the ram horns smashed into his forehead.

The attack was devastating: blood burst out of his nose, ears and eyes. At the same time the shock of the collision compacted the man's spine, shattering every bone from the base of the neck all the way down to the hips. The force of the blow also blew out the man's legs which snapped in multiple places. He fell in a shape no living human could ever match.

Rex quickly turned away from the gruesome spectacle and dove into the icy water in the direction Ajax was pointing knowing neither Augment stood any chance of doing another person harm.

As Rex disappeared from sight, Logan gagged at the sight of the mangled body while Kurt pumped his fist, "Now there's a world class head butt!"

One of the COBRA kids backing up Spencer shivered, "We have seen him put his head through reinforced concrete. We always wondered what would happen if he actually used them on someone… yuck!"

Back at the post office, Mr. Hammond eyed the kids around him. "They don't know most of you are fliers and the longer we keep it under our hats the more surprised they will be. Spread out and use whatever ranged augmentations you have. We need to see what they have while keeping us in the best cover possible.

Suddenly, a huge woman came into view alone; she hovered over the snow cat for a few seconds before landing next to it. Seeing several kids and one adult moving to attack her, she held up her left hand, "Hear me out first."

Mr. Hammond held up his hand, "Kids keep your eyes open, but as long as her friends are not trying to use this as a deception, it doesn't hurt to listen."

The woman eyed Mr. Hammond for a few seconds, noting the glowing axe made of the mystical energy many top martial artists say they tapped into. This internal force was widely thought to exist in everyone, but tapping it normally took years of work and training and only the true masters or monastery monks ever found enough to harness with real effects. For Augments, however, the Chi energy was often able to manifest into a solid energy from. In this case an axe. Finally she sighed, "Nice blade, but what's with the lime green color?"

"I happen to like this shade of green." Mr. Hammond responded as he returned the stare he was getting. He knew the woman was testing his resolve and the last thing he wanted was to lose the staring contest she started.

The woman shrugged, still not breaking eye contact even though the snow was blowing into her face. "Wouldn't be my first choice, but to each their own." Her face scrunched up as she chewed on the inside of her mouth then finally broke eye contact as she glanced around at a couple of the other kids defending the snow cat. "Look, I've done my share of killing over the last several months and too many have been our kind. Just give me the senator's brat and all this can end. We will disappear back into the storm and you all get to be heroes for defending a bunch of Normals. We both win."

"He's an Augment," Colt snarled, "and we are not going to let you kill him!"

"Kill him?" The woman shook her head fiercely, "We aren't here to kill him! We are here to take him and make him one of us. Once he becomes one of us, he will resurface and show the world he is one of the elite, the next stage of human evolution. His father will be shown to be a traitor as his son tells the world it was none other than Senator Jackson who set this all in motion. At the same time, you and your Defender organization can use it to squash everything he is trying to push though against all of us."

Talon's eyes went wide. "Wait… So you knew he was an Augment?"

"Of course." The woman snorted sending up a big plume of visible breath letting all those defending the snow cat see she had some kind of heat augmentation as well. "Look, the kid has a dad who hates him and hates us. At least with us, he will be around his own kind."

"What about what he wants?" Mr. Hammond demanded to know.

"Who cares what he wants?" The woman all but growled, "The only thing that matters is where he will be the most use to us, all of us."

"Just like those kids you all took from the ski lodge?" Talon fired back with a great deal of anger? "Your people yanked some of them right out of their parent's arms!"

"Look, kid, I know it is hard for you to understand since the Defender program brainwashed you…"

"Us?" Colt shouted, "You all are the ones who took out an encampment of BEARS and COUGARS, including some junior ones! I had to attend the funeral of one of our squadron members you all killed! You attacked them without any reason, and we have heard firsthand how you have forced many to join you by force!

"What you all did to Gustav is… it was disgusting! You drained him; you fed off him like he was a toy!"

The woman rolled her eyes, "Thunder Strike was one we made an example out of, yes. He fought back and he paid for it. His suffering let others see the futility of what happens to those who oppose us. It also showed the Normals we keep around just how pitiful they are…"

Mr. Hammond shook his head, "Yet you say the Defender Program brainwashes kids. What exactly do you call what you did to this Gustav and why you did it?"

"We lead from strength, and he was an example, nothing more. Others got to see how resisting the Boss was fruitless. As for the Normals we have in our camps, they are of a lower genetic make-up. It is nothing different than apes and monkeys are to them. They live to serve and entertain us. Sooner or later they will all bow before us. All we have done is accelerate the process for those who cross our paths."

"They are humans!" Talon hissed with unrestrained anger. "My parents are Normal yet they had me! How does that make them less than me?"

"Which is why we kept most of those who had Augment children alive. They have worth, at the very least as breeders." She let out another very hot breath, "Look, the chance you can actually kill me is very slim. I have healing that has brought me back from the brink death dozens of times. I was in the first wave to hit the encampment and survived everything the adults and senior kids could throw at me. In addition, I have several abilities capable of killing most Augments off in a single volley. Don't throw your lives away like this."

Electricity danced across Colt's eyes as he glared at the woman, "So you were there when Paul was killed…"

"If Paul was one of those at the encampment, yes. If he was a friend of yours, I'm sorry. He must have fought back or fled, which was a mistake on his part…"

"You all are the ones who attacked, all he did was defend the younger ones and his little brother and sister who you all took!" Colt shouted.

"Unfortunate for him. As for his siblings, I am sure they will turn out to be top notch Normal killers given time and training." The woman countered without showing any real remorse. "Now if you could just see past your noses, you would see what I am offering is a very good deal to both sides. We will even let you keep those you have taken from us. Even Thunder Strike…"

"Gustav is gone. He fell helping to take out most of your looser friends at the bridge." Talon snapped back. "He helped put like fifty of you into the frozen river. Thanks to him the tables have spun to our favor and more of your pathetic forces are falling to us even as you blab you mouth."

This caused the woman's eyes to narrow in anger, "Boy, you best shut your mouth before I permanently shut it for you. I am only offering this deal one more time. Give us the boy! If you don't I will personally kill several of you and take at least one back for the boss and his people to play with!"

"Bullshit!" the eldest Lonschok spat as he stepped out into the open. "You will fall before you take a single one of us!"

"Many have tried to kill me and all have failed. Your threats are idle at best. Now, brainwasher of children, give me the Jackson boy."

"Not going to happen." Mr. Hammond spoke with a great deal of restraint. "Look at you all. Where is your conscience?"

"Conscience?" the woman burst out laughing. "You work for a government program that takes kids for training and forces them to endure being picked on by the lesser beings of this world or punishes them! You are making them weak, programmed to serve the lower race. You have no room to talk!"

"Hey," the eldest Lonschok countered, "we aren't the ones taking kids away from their families by force, you are. We didn't attack a group of BEARS and COUGARS, you all did. Now you want to take yet another kid and have even threatened to take another one of us. The Defender Program was a choice for us; you give those you take none. Now, go fly back to your boss before we take you out right here!"

"I'm going to kill you." the woman snarled only to get thrown back on twin streams of electrical energy from Colt's outstretched hands. The force of the streams blew her out of her boots and tossed her back out of sight into the raging storm.

Moments later, five Augments dove on the snow cat, a wide variety of ranged augmentations were exchanged leaving the eldest Lonschok gripping at a wounded throat, while sending one of the attackers spiraling into the all but cleared tennis court with a rather sickening splattering sound.

Mr. Hammond ran over to the West Point cadet, "Oh, God, just breathe… Just breathe!"

The twenty-one year old tried to say something but no sound came, only a bit of blood.

Suddenly, the large bootless woman appeared with a glow around her; she aimed right for both the wounded young man and Mr. Hammond. "I told you I would kill you!"

Before anyone on the ground could react, a wicked screech echoed over the area and a massive reptilian bird dove out of the snow filled sky. Its claws latched onto the shocked woman and its massive teeth filled beak closed around her neck.

With a viscous twist of its head, the Pterodactyl ripped the woman's head clean off and flung it into the raging blizzard. Moments later, the headless woman's body crashed into the snow next to the snow cat while the massive winged bird landed and changed shape into a nearly nude boy with a rather crude COUGARS 44 branded into his shoulder. The kid didn't look well at all, but he eyed the body and managed a snarl. "Recover from that, witch!"

Before more could be said, the boy quickly changed shape again, this time into a Dimetrodon. The creature eyed those defending the snow cat, then sent up a huge cloud of white hot sparks out of its mouth. The action caught one of the other attacks totally off-guard burning all the feathers off the man's wings and igniting his clothing. He slammed into the side of the post office and went clean through the wall, showing he had some kind of hardened shell around the rest of his body.

The kids defending the snow cat wasted no time in taking to the air as the last three attackers desperately tried to regroup. The separatists never got the chance.

Colt was first to act. He sent a concentrated stream of electricity into one, knocking the guy cold. The man never saw or felt the building he slammed into.

The last two tried to split up, but with the two younger Lonschoks more than a bit angry over the grievous injury to their brother, combined with both the Hammond kids, the last two attackers were brought down quickly and without mercy.

As the youngest Lonschok landed and ran to his brother, the generator inside the post office exploded finishing off the man who had gone though the wall and causing all the lights to go out. Next to the kids, the massive Dimetrodon roared in what seemed to be a rage filled victory scream. Moments later, the prehistoric beast once again shifted into a very skinny boy and fell face first.

This time the middle Lonschok was ready; she rushed over to the boy, pulling off her parka as she did so. Before the kid fully fell into the deep snow, the heavy coat was wrapped around him and he was rushed to the confines of the somewhat warm snow cat.

Josh took the report form Colt, "I only know of one kid ever who could become a dinosaur! It has to be Kent!"

Mr. Hammond came back over the radio, "Well, we got him, but we are headed to the clinic. Bradley's throat is partially crushed. If we don't get him help, he will not make it."

"I could head back…"

"Josh," Mr. Hammond spoke firmly. "You all have to hold at the river. We are good and a regular doctor will be able to handle this. Like it or not, this is one of those times where… well… as it was one time put to me, the mission has to come first for the betterment of many."

Josh let out a long breath, "OK, but if any slip by us, you are all we have in Whitefish."

"Then don't let many through, Josh." Colt spoke up. I don't have a good generator to recharge any more. The post office one kind of exploded."

Josh shook his head let out a long breath knowing the damage total was quickly adding up, but couldn't do a thing about it. "We'll do the best we can, Colt."

Back at the river, nothing but Garret really mattered to Rex. He took in a deep breath of air and used his strength to propel him downward. Finding nothing on his first three dives, he resurfaced, using his claws to cut through the ice so he could take a breath. Once he filled his lugs he yelled as loudly as he could, "Ajax! Where are they?"

Corbin appeared next to Rex, "I'll show you… Um, aren't you like freezing?"

"Cold doesn't seem to bother me." Rex pointed at the other boy, "Lead the way."

This time, with Corbin's help, Rex quickly zeroed in on Garret, who was indeed incased in a semi-transparent bubble of magical energy. A large piece of the bridge was on top of the bubble, but hadn't punctured it, a testament to how powerful Garret's sorcery was. Rex slammed his fist into the large chunk of the former bridge until his lungs burned. He shot back up for more air and gulped in several deep breaths the moment his head broke through the surface. The second he wasn't gasping, he dove again.

This time Corbin was standing there, water seeming to go right through him. The boy pointed to the concrete holding Garret's bubble in place and gritted his teeth.

Rex frowned, but slammed his fist into it with everything he could muster. Much to his surprise the whole thing moved. Not much, but it did move. He nodded at Corbin as his fist once again connected with the structure. This time the structure moved several inches as Corbin's power built and made it lighter. Rex winced as he knew he had bloodied his knuckles, which was not something he could ever remember doing before, but he also noticed the bubble around Garret was losing some color.

Taking this as a very bad sign, his fist once again connected with the concrete. It finally broke in two and fell away from the bubble which in turn shot upward. Rex wasted no time following it up. He broke through the surface and sucked in badly needed air. Next to him the sorcery encapsulated Garret and Gustav bobbed up and down. Neither showed any sign of movement. Rex continued to breathe deeply as he swam and clawed though the ice, all the while pushing the bubble over to the shore. The moment he could stand, he quickly rolled it up to the others.

As Rex took a knee, Shannon peered into the glowing orb, "They have been down there a while. It has got to be out of oxygen by now!"

Rex took a couple more deep breaths while extending his claws of his hand with the bloody knuckles. He sliced into the magical field but didn't go though. "Rookie, drop this stupid thing so we can help you!"

Inside, Gustav shivered as he heard the words. The air was so thin his brain didn't want to work right and it was so cold his body was all but frozen. Still the words made just enough sense for him to send a jolt of energy into his staff and smack it into the side of bubble Garret had surrounded them with. This, combined with the other damage already done to it, was just enough to shatter it. It fell into millions of glittering pieces before they faded around the pair. Gustav managed to look up at the group as he felt fresh air flow over him, "Cold… so cold…"

"Tanner!" Rex bellowed as he yanked a fish out from under his shirt and whipped it back into the river with a great deal of annoyance, "Get your butt out here and give us some heat before we lose both Garret and Gustav!"

As Tanner stepped out of the hovercraft, a loud crashing sound came from the other side of the river followed by a huge chunk of concrete slamming into the frozen snow covered ground only a few yards from the group.

Across the river a voice spoke with deep dark rage. "Give me the boy or face the wrath of LORD BRONZE AGE!"

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