Dreams fade as time flows, but the truth is always there. Seasons bring change: that is the cycle of things. Out of loss, comes growth. Out of despair, new directions are found. Hope springs from the cracks of sorrow. Time flows smoothing over the rough edges until the pain is only a memory. This too is transitory. Nothing is eternal.
But when you stand in the middle of destruction, it is hard to see anything but the ruins...
Time finds a new beginning, but you must hold on until then.
Tread softly along your way...
*** *** ***
Through the darkness,
Through the shadows,
Is your heart strong enough,
to stand on its own?
Whispers lost in empty dreams,
running through the shadows in the shadows
no time to think of the price you've paid,
only enough to know, you must be moving on .
Only enough to know, you've paid to take the ride,
take it where it goes.
Through the fire
Through the flames
Is your soul strong enough
to see you through?
Whispers lost in empty dreams,
running through the nightmare in the nightmare
no time to think of the price you're paid,
only enough to show, where you must go
only enough to know, they've taken everything
and nothing's left inside
Through the pain
through the ashes
are you strong enough,
to stand against the wind?
Angry cries, lost in the roar
running from the sorrow, in the sorrow.
no time to think of the price you've paid,
just that you've paid with your sorrow,
paid in blood, paid in pain, paid in full,
and nothing's left inside.
From the shadows,
steeped in blood,
with nothing left inside
how do you go on?
Knowing only that you must.
He could feel the losses. They hung heavy on the air outside the old church. The music had taken a bitter turn. It was still beautiful, but something tragic had been introduced. He knew he had to change it, reform it into something hopeful, but the sorrow filled him until it became the heart of his music. Picking up his guitar he started playing an old hymn from the turn of the century. As the strains filled the old church, he could feel the change.
Three times denied what I believe,
and in that shame I hide
My foolish pride behind me now,
I need your fire.
When you spoke of what would be,
I really couldn't see
My heart is racing like the wind,
I seek your fire.
Our brothers hide like hounded sheep
Afraid of what's to come,
They're in the darkness reaching out
Give them your fire
The years have passed and now I see
the road you chose for me.
Give me the strength to see this through
Give me your fire.
The spirit moves and I am free
All pain is left behind
And those we taught are teachers now
They'll spread your fire.
I need your fire,
I seek your fire
Give them your fire
Give me your fire
They'll spread your fire.
Ian breathed a sigh of relief. Things were bad, he knew that much, but he also knew there was hope. He could hear it in the song, and the song never lied.
He was determined to keep it that way.
In her office Minh lit a single candle as she began a soft keening. She had heard the news, but it was not her battle. She had promised the elders that she would not act on this. Intellectually, she knew they were right. This was but one small skirmish in the great war. The war she and those of her clan had fought for eons. She knew what had to be done, but it was hard.
It was far more difficult for Kai, for he was young. He had not seen the great enemy, faced him. He had not suffered the losses she had, and she longed to protect him.
"Auri," she called.
"I know," he answered in her mind. "But until the great battle, until we are once again four, we cannot spare any of your kin, even one as young as Kai."
His words were cool, but she felt the understanding behind them. These were her friends, these mortals who had restored her faith in human-kind, and they were suffering. Auri knew too well the losses she was feeling, but there was nothing that could be done. There was far too much at stake, she could not risk the war; even for the likes of her friends, and their families.
Kai was not so understanding...
"Minh, you know I respect you, and everything you and the others have done for me. But if you have taught me one thing, it is the fact that you must stand by your friends."
"Child," Minh stated patiently. "We dare not intervene. If we do, the situation will escalate. This is but a minor skirmish, a step along the way to the great battle. What if we loose the war, because you are lost in this foolishness?"
"What if the great battle is lost here and now in this 'minor skirmish'?" Kai objected as he fought to keep his temper under control.
Minh felt her neck arching and took a deep breath. It was not the time for a battle of the wills. If Kai decided to leave, she would not fight him. It was his right, and deep inside in a hidden part of her mind, she hoped he would go and do what she could not.
"I will be careful dear lady," Kai told her. "Because you have taught me to do so. But you have also taught me the reasons I must go."
Minh smiled and gave him a slight nod. "You have come far my child. I will speak of this to the others."
Kai nodded. Either way, he was going
*** *** ***
(several hours earlier)
Rabbit bowed his head as he left the room. He wanted to scream. He wanted lose control, but a cold flash of sanity washed through him. His brothers needed him now. And they needed him sane. Boomer and Kenny would be worrying about him, let them, it would keep their mind off of things.
He saw the images flash again, the images that filled Tracker's mind as he fought to find the words. Davy may die. He forced himself to accept that. Tommy and Rico were hurting, but time should take care of that. But Bear, nothing could prepare him for the loss of Bear. He tried to hold onto the hope that the report was wrong, but he'd seen what Tracker had seen. There was no way around it. Bear was gone.
He could feel Duck's thoughts as Tracker broke the news to her. 'Tracker's with her, ' he told himself. 'Kenny and Boomer need you now.' Sadly, he walked down the stairs and into the break room.
He could feel Kenny and Boomer's eyes on him as he closed the door. He could feel their pain, but as soon as he was there, he knew, they were worrying about him.
"I'm fine," he whispered. "We'll get through this. But Duck... it's just not fair."
Kenny walked towards him and nodded. "Are you alright?" he asked softly as Rabbit looked at both of them.
Rabbit tried to look encouraging, but he knew he looked as miserable as they did. "No, but for now, we wait," he answered gently. "I'll be alright. Geoff'll find a way to let us know what's going on without compromising our location and then we'll know what needs to be done."
He watched them as they tried to get a handle on the situation, then he felt it, the almost guilty worry from Boomer. There had been no mention of Lightning.
"Boomer, it's okay to worry about the porcupine," he assured his brother. "Matter of fact, I'd worry 'bout you if you didn't. But right now, we're in a holding pattern, we don't really know anything, and that's going to be the hardest part. On top of everything else, Davy and the others are injured and in an unsecured location. That means that Geoff's first concern is going to be protecting them. It's up to us to find Briar and shut them down. Knowing Lightning, she's probably chomping at the bit at the new HQ, but she's not going to let anything happen to the others. We've all got our jobs to do."
Boomer looked at Rabbit before finally nodding. 'Keep your eye on the ball,' he thought to himself.
"You do that," Rabbit stated with a nod. "Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to watch the news for myself."
Kenny looked at Boomer and shrugged. "Man's got a point," he stated.
Boomer nodded and watched Rabbit as he stood in front of the 'vid and watched the news.
Rabbit stood staring at the screen as the news report was repeated. Boomer and Kenny watched him carefully as he watched the video feeds from earlier. Then they cut to a reporter waiting at the hospital as Geoff arrived with Gina.
The reporters ambushed them as they tried to enter the hospital. As they tried to move, the reporter shoved a microphone into Geoff's face. Geoff held Gina protectively as he faced the reporter.
"Please," Geoff stated evenly. "I have three brothers who've been seriously injured, two friends who are... missing. Please, just let us get this sorted out."
Rabbit watched noticing the painful pause when Geoff said 'missing.' He could almost feel his anxiety and then there was Gina. She was still in shock over the whole affair.
As Geoff tried to push past the reports, the cameraman blocked their path. "How do you feel?"
"How do I FEEL?" Geoff asked in disbelief as he glared at the camera. "People I care about have been injured, and you want to know how I 'feel?'. I suggest you move!"
"Please," Gina's whisper was barely audible. "Please, just leave us alone."
Boomer and Kenny exchanged worried looks as Rabbit stood up and gasped.
"Rabbit?" Kenny called worriedly.
"Pain," Rabbit stated as he identified the feeling that had suddenly filled his mind. "Pain and fear," he added.
They watched as he looked around, trying to place the source of the feeling then gasped. The thoughts were familiar enough. And then he realized the source "Duck!"
"What's wrong," Kenny demanded as he forced Rabbit to look at him, his eyes were wide, but the pain in them was obvious.
"It's Duck," Rabbit stated. "She needs us."
"What's happening?" Kenny asked again, trying to get a sense of what Rabbit was experiencing. "Derrick, talk to me."
"Get Tracker!" Rabbit growled. "Duck's in pain..."
Boomer hit the door running. Something in Rabbit's tone of voice told him that this was very real and very serious. He ran up the stairs to the office and pounded on the door until Tracker opened it.
"Boom?" he asked unsure of what had upset the man.
"Where's Duck?" he asked worriedly when he saw that Tracker was alone.
"She went to call Gran TwoBears," Tracker told him. "Why?"
"Rabbit. He says she needs us," Boomer answered as Rabbit screamed from the doorway of the break room.
"The pain, the fear. Helpless!" he yelled as he stumbled towards them. "Where is she?" he forced himself back into control, instead of riding the feelings that tried to override everything else. "Where is she?" he demanded again.
Tracker looked at the brothers then ran for the stairs. "She was going to take the bike to O'Donnel's." He growled as he headed for the door. Boomer followed on his heels.
Rabbit gasped as the pain from Duck was overridden by another feeling: danger. As he ran for the main door he felt it, the sudden pressure in his mind that told him something was very, very wrong. He trusted the feeling without thinking about it. It had saved his life too many times to be ignored.
"Move it!," he ordered urgently as Tracker and Boomer hit the ground level. He didn't know how he knew, but he knew that time was running out. Tracker was the first one through the door, followed by Boomer. Kenny was a beat behind them.
Without thinking, Rabbit dove through the door, pushing Boomer and Kenny to the ground with him. As they landed he heard the explosion behind him, felt the shards of glass and brick as they rained down on them.
He could see Tracker turn at the sound, then saw the look in his eyes as the building exploded behind them. Then he felt the wave of heat as the flames reached out for them. Before he could react, Kenny and Boomer were on their feet dragging him away from the flames.
"Rabbit?" Boomer called out worriedly as Kenny started checking him out.
"That hurt," Rabbit commented with a gasp.
"I got you," Kenny assured him.
"He going to be okay?" Tracker asked as he looked for any immediate threats.
"Some glass, but mostly I think it just knocked the wind out of him," Kenny answered softly as he probed his brother's injuries. Then he took another worried look back at the building. "What about the others?"
Tracker paused. He hadn't seen Whisper since he'd told him about the clinic. "Finagle and Mercury were patrolling. I don't know about Whisper."
"We'll worry about them," Boomer told him, "you look for Duck."
Before any of them could move, they heard the squeal of tires as the truck rounded the corner. Mercury paused as he noticed the guns pointing at them then opened the door slowly.
"We saw the explosion," he stated. "What happened?"
"Where were you," Tracker asked evenly.
"We were patrolling," Mercury answered. "Whisper signaled us over."
"Where did he go after that?" Tracker asked, this time a chill creeping into his voice.
"He said he was going to check the perimeter, then check back. He wanted us to stay where we were until he called us in. But then... this."
Tracker felt as if everything was closing in on him. "The motorcycle," he growled as he moved away from the others. When he got to the bike, he saw the helmet on the ground and Whisper just standing there, a blank expression on his face.
"Whisper?" he called, then he saw the dart gun in his hands. "What have you done?"
The horror in his voice cut through everything that Whisper was or wasn't seeing. He turned. "Tracker?" he asked as confusion played across his face. "What's..."
He looked down and saw the gun in his hands. Then he turned towards the warehouse, seeing the destruction for the first time. "What?"
"You tell me buddy," Tracker growled. "What have you done?"
"No," Whisper gasped as he dropped the gun. "No." Visions of Duck being carried away filled his mind as he sunk to his knees. "No!"
In the distance a siren sounded.
By the time the police arrived, there was very little left for them to do but cordon off the area. Reiger was one of the first men on the scene. Another bombing, so close to the last one, he knew it wasn't just coincidence.
He knew the tell-tales to look for, but he'd have to wait for the arson investigator's report to be sure. It sure looked like the same 'gas main leak' that had taken out the Wilson clinic. Judging by the arrival of Max Van holier-than-thou, he had a feeling he was on the right track. The expression on the Security chief's face only added to the confirmation. He wasn't even trying to hide his distaste any more.
"I'm sorry officer Reiger," Max's condescending tone radiating from the man. "But you're men will have to move away from here, this is an Aerocom investigation."
"We were here first," Reiger countered. "And I see nothing that indicates that this is Aerocom business."
"It is because I say it is," Max answered angrily. "And unless you want to end up on the run like your friend 'Finagle' you will move your pathetic investigation out of my way!"
Reiger stiffened. "If you think I'm going to let some pathetic excuse for a ..."
"Captain," and officer interrupted. "The man is on the phone."
Reiger looked from Max to the officer and clenched his fist. Max's expression one of complete victory.
"Yes sir?" Reiger answered as he took the phone. He felt his heart sink. "Yes sir," he answered quietly as he disconnected the call.
"Any other questions Lieutenant?" Max sneered.
Reiger scowled and almost told them all where to stick their jobs, but Finagle's words came back to him. 'You better be in the right place.'
He signaled his men to pull back as Max made one final jab. "We'll tell you what we find, Lieutenant."
Reiger stormed back to his car and slammed the door behind him. This whole thing stunk to high heaven.
"You'll get yours you little bottom feeding psychopath," he growled.
"We just like to call him Weasel-boy," a voice commented from the back seat. "Lets get out of here and I'll tell you all about it."
Reiger felt the sudden rush of adrenalin as he forced himself not to turn around. He'd let his temper get the better of him once already and it had resulted in him not noticing the man who now hid in his back seat.
"Relax," the man told him. "I'm not your enemy."
"That remains to be seen," Reiger answered warily. As Reiger started up his car, he tilted the rear view so that he could see the man in back. It was the same man he's seen at the storage facility.
"And you would be?" he asked as he put the car into gear and headed down the street. The man didn't move until they were well out of site, then he sat up and lit a cigarette.
"The name is Allison," he answered. "I work, or at least I used to work for Aerocom Security. My boss, the real head of security, assigned this case to me."
Reiger watched as the man looked at the cigarette, and then crushed it against the heel of his shoe without even taking a drag. As the man looked back up, their eyes met in the mirror.
"Bad for my health," he commented as he noticed Reiger watching. "Or so a couple of friends of mine keep telling me. Same friends the weasel-boy blames for all his problems. The man is a problem waiting for a chance to happen."
"Well, he sure as hell has been causing some problems for some friends of mine," Reiger answered evenly.
"The Wilsons?" Allison asked evently..
Sam Reiger felt his blood pressure rise. "What do you know about that?"
"I've been following Max," Allison answered. "You saw the way he went through the scene at the storage depot. It's the same way he's looking through this one."
Reiger nodded grimly. "And what exactly is he looking for?"
"That 'bottom feeder-psychopath,' as you so succinctly called him is looking for bodies," Allison answered in disgust. "Preferably my friends, but he'd be just as happy to find any one of the Wilsons that were there with them."
"They were there?" Reiger asked worriedly. "Boomer?"
"Don't worry, everybody got out alive in this one..."
Reiger looked in the mirror. Something in the tone of the man's voice told him that things were far from good.
Head down 7th," Allison told him as he looked out the window. Once he was sure they weren't being followed, he turned back around. "Park anywhere around here, I need to fill you in on what's going on."
"Aerocom's big secret?"
"Yeah," Allison answered quietly. "Aerocom's friggin' nightmare.'
Reiger found a likely spot and pulled over. "Alright, start talking."
Allison took a deep breath as Reiger turned to face him. "Two years ago, a research project, designated 'Sable Briar' got out of hand. More to the point, the researcher got out of hand."
Tracker fought to control his rage as Kenny and Finagle worked on Whisper. He hadn't seen it coming, and now Duck was in the enemy's hands. He wasn't sure who he was more upset with, Whisper or himself.
He forced himself to maintain the surveillance scans. The enemy knew where they were, following them wouldn't be that much more difficult. He wondered how long Whisper had been compromised.
Once he was sure they weren't being followed he looked up from the console. Boomer was behind the wheel with Rabbit riding shotgun. Mercury sat watching as Kenny and Finagle did their job.
He forced himself to breathe as he tried to think. How long did Duck have? Then it hit him with cold clarity. The attack on the clinic, the loss of Bear, the bombing of the warehouse, each of those events affected Duck directly. 'We were supposed to die,' he realized. 'And as far as she knows, she's all alone.'
Rabbit turned, and Tracker realized he had reached the same conclusions. "We'll find her," Rabbit assured him.
Tracker nodded, but would they find her in time?
Fen was tired. He had been in hiding ever since he'd escaped from Briar's men. He had been lucky but he knew his luck was running out. He had to warn Justin. Tre, MindBender wanted him and he'd do anything he could to get to him.
'Over my dead body,' he thought to himself as he made his way back to his apartment. He needed to clean up before he went to find his brother. He didn't want to scare him. As he climbed the stairs, he made one last check around. No one was following. He was safe.
He slipped into his apartment and looked around. Everything was just as he left it. He allowed himself a sigh of relief and then he hit the shower, the warm water caressing him. He tried to think of where Justin would be. The only place he could think of was their mother's apartment.
He realized that a shower wasn't going to be enough if he was going to mom's. He'd need to shave as well. As he lathered up his face and looked in the mirror, he felt something click.
Justin tensed as he heard a key in the lock. His mother had finally fallen asleep and now some one was trying to gain access to the apartment. He grabbed a vase and waited along side the door.
The door opened slowly and he could see the man's shadow as he pulled his gun and eased into the apartment. Justin threw the vase at the man, then grabbed his gun from him
"Justin," the man called to him as he aimed the gun at his head.
"Fen?" he called in disbelief.
"Yeah," his brother answered. "Who did you think it would be?"
"Good question," Justin answered cautiously without lowering the gun.
"Justin," Fen called worriedly. "What's happening?"
"Justin?" their mother called from the other room. "What's wrong?"
"It's just me," Fen answered.
"Fen?" their mother cried in disbelief.
As she came around the corner, Justin lowered the gun. He knew something was very wrong, but he also knew he couldn't tell their mother. Not after everything she had already been through.
He watched cautiously as she hugged Fen tightly.
"I thought we'd lost you." she whispered huskily.
'We have,' Justin thought sadly as he watched his brother return the hug. He didn't know how he knew, but he could feel the wrongness in his brother.
Eclipse groaned as he rolled over. He had no idea where he was, other than the fact that he had teleported instinctively away from the falling debris. Then the images came back to him. The police and rescue team closed in on the miraculous pocket they'd discovered. He'd watched as the pulled the clinics two patients from the opening, then Joey.
Joey had turned and taken one last look inside where Bear stood. It was then that Eclipse had realized the source of the miracle was Bear. He also realized there was nothing the rescue team could do for him.
Nothing they could do, but something he could: he had teleported in and out without thinking. The strain must have knocked him out for at least a few minutes.
"Bear?" he called. When there was no answer he pulled himself up and looked around. It was pitch black, but he could hear water running nearby. When he called out again, he recognized the way his voice echoed.
Without thinking, he had teleported to his 'safe' area in the storm drains. Once he realized where he was, getting his bearings was a lot simpler. He felt around until he found Bear and let out a sigh of relief. "Bear, you had me going there for a minute," he stated with a sigh.
Bear didn't move, his skin felt cold to the touch. Eclipse felt his breath catch as he felt for Bear's pulse.
"No," Eclipse groaned as he found nothing "Don't you do this to me!"
Eclipse positioned himself and began performing CPR. "Dammit Bear," he growled as he began compressions. "Don't you dare die!"