Chapter Forty-five

*** *** ***

Ange moved along the busses that less than a week ago had been their homes. Now they provided the cover she needed to evacuate her people. Whisper was defending them the best he could, but she could tell that his heart wasn't in it.

He was still somehow reliving what he had done to Duck. She knew she couldn't afford to coddle him, but she wondered how much more the man could take.

Tracker told her that Duck had forgiven him, but somehow she doubted that Whisper had managed to forgive himself. At least right now there wasn't enough time for him to think about it. She dove for cover as a barrage of gunfire ricocheted around her.

"Move," she heard Wheels growl as she returned fire. Ange didn't have to be told twice.

She was running at full tilt when Jonesy reached out and pulled her into the next 'foxhole' in the line. She almost yelled at him until she saw that the one she was heading for was already occupied. She nodded and waited for him to signal the others.

"If we don't get through here, we're cut off," he told her as he looked and saw Tyler heading for the next hole. "Hit the deck!" he growled as he saw Tyler pull the pin on a grenade.

As the spray of dirt hit them Ange wondered whatever had brought them to this.

*** *** ***

Geoff acted as rear-guard as the others regrouped at the main fall back point. So far, they'd been lucky. Between Rabbit's high-ground advantage and Boomer's 'fireworks' display, they'd managed to keep the casualties on their side relatively light. He'd seen a few of Ange's people go down, and he'd gotten an earful from Mercury before his line went dead, but those were the only serious instances he knew of. He hoped Gran and her people were faring well. Somehow he got the impression that the action he'd seen was only the fringe. The real battle was happening in the middle of the wrecking yard and in the astral plane.

He tensed as he saw movement heading towards him, then let out his breath. It was Boomer and Lightning. As he watched they took turns covering each other as they backed away from the onslaught.

"Boom," he called over the comm-link. "I got you."

He watched as Boomer signaled Lightning and then called back over the link. "'Bout time," he growled. "I'm fresh outta Demo"

"Serious?" Geoff asked in surprise. It was hard to think of Boomer without his explosives.

"Dead serious," Boomer answered. His voice was tense. It had been a while since any of them had been in the middle of a full combat situation. As Boomer and Lightning made their way towards Geoff, several ex-gangers popped up laying down a line of fire.

"Move!" Boomer ordered Lighting as he switched to full-auto.

Geoff watched worriedly as Lightning ran past him. "She's clear," he told Boomer. "Now you."

Boomer moved without questioning his brother's ability to cover him. As he moved he barely heard the suppression fire Geoff laid down. The only thing he heard was his own heartbeat as one stray managed to find its way through and catch Geoff in the thigh. He could tell by the way his brother fell, the bullet had hit the bone.

"Lightning," he called as he grabbed Geoff and pulled him out of the line fire.

Lightning moved without thinking. Taking Geoff's position, she began picking off Briar's advancing forces. Boomer gave Geoff a quick once over and verified the severity of the wound.

"Oh that hurt!" Geoff gasped as Boomer began inspecting his leg in earnest.

"Go ahead and swear brah," Boomer told him. "Trust me on this, it helps."

Geoff gave a half laugh as Boomer ripped his pants leg, then took his advice. As the pain ebbed Geoff looked at his brother and between gasps asked, "and you actually used to pick up women this way?"

"Worked too, its the pity quotient. It gets old pretty fast though," Boomer laughed, but Geoff could see the worry in his eyes. "Let's get you to the medics," Boomer told him as he hastily bandaged the wound.

"That bad?" Geoff asked softly.

"That bad," Boomer told him with a nod. "But we haven't lost a Wilson yet and if we do, it sure as hell isn't going to be on my watch!"

*** *** ***

Rabbit watched as the zombies moved towards the center of the wrecking yard. He took a deep breath and released a steady stream of air as he thought about his next move. Once Briar's forces were past him, he'd be able to move down off of the water tower, but until then, he was isolated. The position was defendable, but Briar had sheer numbers when it came to zombies. How nobody had noticed that many disappearances was beyond him.

He scanned the area noting where the defenders were. He noticed Ange and her people were having some trouble and was about to help when he saw Geoff go down.

"Ten!" he all but yelled. He pulled out his sniper rifle and began picking off the gangers that had shot his brother. 'Nobody cuts into my family ...' he swore to himself.

He covered Boomer and Lightning as Boomer picked Geoff up and carried him to the center ring. He knew it was bad. Boomer wouldn't have insisted on carrying Geoff if it wasn't. He said a silent prayer as they moved into the deeper cover that the middle of the wrecking yard provided.

Once he'd dealt with the group that threatened Geoff he looked around. His shooting hadn't gone un-noticed.

They were starting to swarm up the tower. Again, he could feel something searching for him. It was the same thing he'd felt when he was in the rafters of the motel, and it made him just as nervous now as it did then.

"At least if they're attacking me, they won't be bothering the others," he told himself as he prepared for a stand-off.

*** *** ***

Joey was working with Kenny and Justin when Boomer arrived with Geoff. Kenny turned, noticing the worried expression on Joey's face. "Put him over there," Kenny stated as he finished bandaging one of Ange's people.

"Artery," Boomer told him softly as he set Geoff down gently.

"Damn," Kenny swore. "Joey, finish up here," he added as he moved over to Geoff.

"Sorry 'bout this Ken," Geoff apologized weakly.

"Yeah, sure," Kenny teased. "Got yourself shot just to make sure I didn't get bored and start thinking you were having all the fun."

Kenny inspected Geoff's wound and noticed the gray pallor in his brother's face. "Justin, I'm going to need you again," he called. "Joey, hold down the fort."

With that Kenny prepared to work on Geoff's leg.

*** *** ***

Justin watched over his brother as he worked on the wounded. It amazed him how the man kept going in spite of everything else that was happening around him. What amazed him even more was how well they'd meshed.

Kenny was not only confident in his skills, but he trusted those around him to fill in where they could. He still didn't entirely understand Kenny's 'family', but he could see that they all depended on each other. He thought about Fen and nodded. The one they called "Eclipse" was watching over him, making sure that Briar didn't use him against them again.

He shook his head. There was something about these people that just told him that they would do everything they could to see to everyone's well being. 'Would and have,' he thought to himself as he looked at Kenny. They had taken him in and made them part of their family.

Joey merely looked at him and nodded.

*** *** ***

"Maguin, you must move," Kai urged. "Listen to us!"

Kai could feel Rahalleth's rage and worry as they tried to reach Minh. "Mother! Sister!" they exclaimed.

Kai looked to the sky and could see Rahalleth circling over them. Despite this, Minh hadn't stirred.

"He must be stopped," they thought as one again. Torn between Matriarch and her attacker, Kai wavered for a moment then launched himself at his enemy.

'Remember, he will use that which he has taken from you against you," Rahalleth warned.

"It is no longer of me," Kai answered angrily. "I will not be weak again!"

"Do not fall into this trap young one," Rahalleth warned. "It was rage and anger that were my downfall."

Kai nodded in understanding. "For the Mother then?"

"For the Maguin!" Rahalleth agreed.

*** *** ***


'Twisted,' she thought as she tried to piece together the images that filled her mind. 'All twisted inside.'

She was falling. Why didn't she fly? She was hurt and alone and then a voice called to her. 'Maguin,' it had called.

The voice told her that she had to move, but it hurt to move. Even thoughts seemed to echo in her mind, until they too became a part of the pain. Then she heard the rush of wings as something launched itself towards the sky.

As it lifted away, she heard its mental cry. "For the Mother."

'Mother. Maguin.' The thoughts revolved in her mind until she heard another voice.

"Sister," it called softly. "Come to me so that I may help you."

'Mother. Sister...' The thoughts were disjointed, but she knew they meant something very important. She tried to move, but the pain merely spread from a knot in her mind to a fire throughout her body. Still something told her she had to move, not towards the voice, but away from it.

'Don't be afraid,' it called to her. 'I have your scent now. I will be with you soon.'

Something in the thought filled her with dread.

*** *** ***

Gran forced herself to concentrate on the opposing lodge as she once again heard the dragons screaming outside their walls. If the mother of the Celestial Long and her champion could not defeat their enemy, all was lost.

If she failed to dispose of the enemy's lodge, then they would simply call him back to the physical plane and it would begin again. She concentrated on the lodge, knowing that everything depended on both teams' success.

As she watched her attack descend upon her enemies she could hear Bear rumble with pleasure. These were the ones who had all but destroyed a favored son, the one that she would one day name as her successor. Bear would do to them, what they had done to his cub. She would be the one to see to it.

Gran could feel his intent and nodded. There was no other choice.

"Thank you daughter," Bear told her in response to his unspoken question. With that The Bear's rumble became a roar as his will locked with the world around them, forming it into a sphere that encompassed both lodges.

"There will be no escape from this sphere, save victory or death. Fight well my children." Bear's voice echoed throughout the sphere.

*** *** ***

Ni groaned as he struggled with the weight of his friends. They were nowhere near close enough to the fall back point and the enemy was moving faster than they were. Daff was doing what he could to slow the zombies down, but his remote was practically out of ammo. Meri for her part was managing all right with Jade, but she wasn't moving very fast either.

"Daff," he called. "Find us a place to dig in."

Daff nodded as he sent the remote higher. "Should have something soon," he stated as he monitored the remote's movements.

"Meri, cover him as best you can," Ni added as he started looking around. He knew he couldn't last too much longer hauling both Wulf and Gris, but there was no way he was going to leave anybody behind.

*** *** ***

Rabbit was running out of ammo and time. He was trapped now. The zombies kept coming. He'd cut a swath out of the ranks of those approaching only to have more replace those who'd fallen.

The worst part of it was the fact that were no thought or emotions in their minds. The only thing in their lives now were the orders of their masters. At least Geoff was safe; he held onto that thought as he started picking off his attackers.

He was counting his bullets now. If the count came down to one, he knew what he was going to do.

10..Three zombies closing in from the left...7... one grabbing at him from behind. 6... two in front, one to the right... 3...

They were too close now, if he didn't do it now they'd have him. He turned the gun on himself and prepared to end the battle. As his finger started to tighten, he felt the familiar disorientation of the transpo unit. He gave a sigh of relief as he solidified back at base. Carefully he de-cocked the gun and let out a sigh of relief.

*** *** ***

Tommy watched worriedly as Rabbit dropped to his knees and gasped for breath. "Rabbit!" he called worriedly. There were so many things that have could have gone wrong with the unit and they all started going through his mind as rushed up to his brother.

"Tommy," Rabbit cried, relief shining in his eyes. "You overgrown tree hugging son of a Vax! What took you so long?"

"Rabbit?" Tommy called as he picked his brother up off the ground. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine Tommy," Rabbit assured him. "You can put me down now. I was just relieved."

"We saw you, knew we had to get you, but the calibration wasn't quite right. I was afraid we wouldn't get you in time."

"I was too," Rabbit told him. "But you did fine. On a hunch, I'd say you got the contraption up and running."

"Yeah," Tommy told him.

"Then what are you waiting for son," Rabbit asked. "Get me some bullets and send me back in."

"Can't just yet," Tommy answered. "We need a signal to send to. And right now, we got more people to evac."

Rabbit nodded as his brother put him down. "You do what you have to," Rabbit told him. "I'll be raiding the armory. Call up the backup teams, we're going to need all the support we can get."

Tommy nodded. When it came to the status of a situation, he knew to trust Rabbit's evaluation implicitly. He gave the gauges a worried look and prayed they'd have enough power for the job ahead.

*** *** ***

Sable watched as the first of the people were transported back to the base. He could feel the ork Tommy's worry as the transportee fell to his knees, but he felt nothing from the man himself. As he looked around, he realized that he had the same 'blankness' that he'd gotten from the woman Duck. His eyes told him they were there, but he was completely incapable of sensing their mental presence.

As he looked at Duck then back at the man in the room below, he tried to understand. He was not used to people being a blank spot in his mind. He was used to feeling their presence... their thoughts. He thought that Duck might have been an anomaly, but to find another individual that he couldn't feel with his mind warranted more investigation.

Something told him it might prove to be something very useful in the fight against his 'brother'.

*** *** ***

Ange held her breath as the zombies closed in on their position. "Tyler, Jonesy, take the high ground, see what you can do. Whisper, Wheels, you're with me." She was glad that Halifax had stayed with the other non-combatants. She wished that Wheels had stayed there, but there was no way Wheels was going to let her face this thing alone. Only now it was down to the five of them.

"Boss," Jonesy yelled as he pushed past her with a flying kick. Tyler was already pulling Wheels and Ange out of the way as his partner waded into the attacking zombies.

"Whisper man, get 'em outta here!" he yelled then turned back to see what he could do for his teammate. "Jonesy!"

Tyler dove into the group of zombies that had surrounded Jonesy. He felt something connect with his head and felt the blood start to trickle down his neck.

As Whisper pulled Wheels and Ange away from the fray, he felt an odd movement around him. The next thing he knew, he, Ange, Wheeles, Jonesy and Tyler were on something that almost looked like a stage.

As he looked around an ork stepped forward and introduced himself.

"I'm Tommy," he told them. "Sorry 'bout the suddenness of your departure, but it looked like you needed to get out of there quickly."

"Tommy, cut with the long winded intros," another voice growled for behind a pile of munitions cases. "Whisper, you want to get your friends situated, we got a lot of work to do around here."

As the man moved into the light he recognized him. "Rabbit?"

"Yeah, that's my brother Tommy," he added. "How are your people doing?"

"Jonesy and Tyler are hurt," Whisper reported. "Most of my spells have no effect on the zombies," he added.

Rabbit nodded, then looked at Tommy. "Tommy, get 'em over to medical. Whisper, if you'll help me with the prep, magic may have little effect on the zombies, but .40 cal seems to do rather nicely."

"You got it," Whisper answered. "Who all's here?"

"Duck, you, me," Rabbit answered. "'An about twenty sibs standing in reserve. Right now Tommy's evac-ing people who are either trapped or in no condition to fight anymore."

Whisper nodded. "Any idea of how many of them we're up against?"

Rabbit shook his head. "No clue, and I have no idea how they got as many un-dead as they've managed to pull together."

"The Doc," Duck answered from the door way. "Must be the Doc."

Rabbit and Whisper turned towards her. She was shaking slightly, but there was no mistaking the set in her jaw. It was time to act and she knew better than most what they were up against.

"Duck," Ange called. "I'd been hoping to see you."

Duck nodded towards her then stacked the crate she was carrying with the others. "Let's move," she told them.

*** *** ***

As the transportees cleared the 'deck' Rico began scanning the video feeds and pager signals. There were more people online than he was used to tracking, but by linking directly into the system, he was able to compensate for the extra load.

He could tell that something was off on Geoff's signal. From the visuals, he knew that Geoff was injured, but in the 'secured area' of the yard. His first priority had to be those people that were still stuck in the area outside the protected zone.

He was moving as many as he could and as quickly as he dared. Many of the people they were rescuing had never experienced the Transpo's effects and more than a few had come dangerously close to shooting them when they came off the pad.

He tried not to think about it too much, there were still too many people who were in danger. Too many people they had to move out. The zombie threat was lessening, but the gangers that had flooded Briar's ranks were still roaming the yard.

He prayed the power situation would remain reliable as he again began scanning the area for stragglers.

*** *** ***

Ni took a deep breath as he tried to follow's Daff's directions. It was hard enough for him to squeeze between some of the vehicles, but with Wulf and Gris there was no way he could maneuver through the area.

"Hold it right there," he heard somebody growl. As he turned he found himself looking down the barrel of a shotgun. "Hey boys," the thug yelled. "Got me a trog with a halfer. Oooh, and two pretties!"

"Kill the trog," another voice growled. "Save the pretties for later."

Ni growled as he realized what they were thinking.

"Shut your yaps you ignorant filth dwellers," Meri growled as she leveled her gun on the owner of the shotgun.

"Trog's dead," the man threatened.

"I don't think so," Meri told him. "The 'Trog' is with me."


"Meaning," Meri told him, "that you're dead the minute I think you're going to hurt him, and that goes for your friends in the bus."

Ni allowed himself a half smile as he realized that Meri was giving the location of the second attacker to Daff. He heard the faint whine of Daff's drone as it moved towards its target.

"Meri you sure you're up to this?" Ni asked playing along with her bluff.

"One little mana bolt," she countered innocently. "I think I'm up to frying two dweebs with nothing better to do...won't take all that much out of me."

"Well, not to complain," Ni countered, " but they are getting a little bit heavy," he added as he indicated Wulf and Gris.

"Down!" Daff growled as he picked up the movement from the bus. As he opened fire on the man inside the bus, Meri fired 5 shots at the man with the shotgun.

Ni hit the ground as he heard the roar of the shotgun. He could feel several of the pellets creased his scalp, but when the shooting finished, he knew they'd managed to survive.

"Ni?" Meri called softly.

"Fine," he answered as he wiped the blood out of his eyes.

"Good," she answered, "cause I think I'm hit."

"Meri!" Ni called as he pulled himself back up.

Suddenly everything around them seemed to fade out of sight.

"Meri!" Ni yelled as he looked around him. Wulf and Gris were still at his feet, but there was no sign of Meri, Jade or Daff. He pulled his oversized handgun out as he tried to get a fix on where they were.

"Ni," he heard someone call softly. "You're safe,"

He watched in disbelief as Shateiel moved towards him. "You've been teleported, you're with friends."

Ni looked at her, then at Wulf and Gris. "Meri, Daff and Jade are still there," he told her.

"We'll get them next," she assured him. "We need to get everybody off the pad," she told him as she moved closer.

Ni nodded as he picked Wulf and Gris up and moved towards her. "Wulf needs a Doc," he told her as they waited for the others to arrive.

Duck rested her hand on the giant's shoulder. "We'll get him taken care of," she assured him. "What about Gris?"

"Think he's just exhausted," Ni answered then stiffened as he heard the machines activate behind him.

"What the freakin'" he heard Daff grouse.

"Friends," Ni informed him as he helped Meri and Jade off the pad. He watched Meri worriedly as the medics arrived and strapped Wulf onto a gurney. A woman arrived and began checking them out.

"Get him to 3," she told the first set of medics. Then she was checking out the others. "Easy hon," the woman told Meri. "We'll get you taken care of right away."

Ni smiled encouragingly at Meri, but he'd seen the worried look in the woman's eyes.

"What about Jade and Gris?" Meri countered.

"They're just run down," Ni told her as he held her close. "Just take it easy."

Meri nodded then rested her head against Ni's chest. "Don't worry about me," she told him softly.

When the orderlies returned, Ni picked her up and gently laid her on the gurney. "I'll be right here waiting for you," he promised.

On the floor, Jade and Gris started to stir.

*** *** ***

Gran rooted herself in the center of the circle. She pushed the gathered energy into the plane channeling the energy the opposing circle was directing towards them into a steady flow around them. Daniel still was still serving as the circle's shielding as she prepared to combat the newest attacks.

The elementals seemed to be unable to break through the wall of fire, but when they touched it, she could see the fire burn brighter. She knew that as the wall burned, Daniel suffered. Still this was war, and he had accepted the price. Who was she to refuse his gift in the interest of protecting him?

Slowly the power filtered through the sphere, forming and reforming as Gran directed it. Her attack was gentle and constant while the enemy's came in surges. It was the difference of a storm that blows through and then is gone and the water that flows through for countless ages until a canyon is formed.

It was all a question of them surviving the constant surges until the steady pressure had built up to the required levels. It was now a showdown between will and heart, and the TwoBears clan had both.

*** *** ***

Kai growled as he watched Rahalleth dive towards the circle. 'We'll never reach him in time,' he told himself.

'No,' Rahalleth agreed. "But still we must try!"

Kai again dropped his wings and dove after the fleeing figure of Rahalleth.

'He changed,' Rahalleth observed as they picked up speed.

'What do you mean?' Kai asked distractedly.

'Right before the Maguin drove it to the ground, he changed. He was no longer Long, but smoke.'

'Smoke,' Kai stated as he back winged away. 'We are fools!' he declared. 'Here we are whatever we imagine! He is leading us away...'

'Away from the Maguin!" Rahalleth added in shock.

Kai changed his angle and dove, not for the fleeing Long, but for Minh.

*** *** ***

She stirred slowly, painfully. Something told her it was death to stay where she was, but she had no idea where she was.

"I am coming," the voice told her. "Hold on!"

The voice seemed concerned, but something inside of her stirred. 'Deceit,' the word floated through her mind. 'Lies.'

'Maguin!" another voice called to her urgently. "Do not surrender. Do not forget who and what you are! Stand Mother! Fight!"

'Maguin... Mother... Two voices...' She pushed herself upright. "I am Long. I am the Mother of Long... I AM THE MAGUIN!

It came back to her now. She had fallen into their trap. She let them control the situation. As she looked out across the astral plane she drew herself up. 'This is the realm of the imagination,' a voice inside declared. 'It is the power of the mind.'

'Kai, join your voice to mine. Join your thoughts, your will with mine. We are stronger than hate, we are stronger then fear, we are stronger than the pain!

'We are Long," Kai agreed.

'Maguin and Shoumenren' Minh declared proudly.

Maguin and Shoumenren; Mother and Doorman; Matriarch and Gatekeeper; they stood together against the approaching powers. Their thoughts joined Minh and Kai began transforming the world around them into something the Dark singer would never understand.

*** *** ***

The Dark Singer arrived, only to find nothing. No land, no power, nothing. As he looked around the area, all he saw was the void. Pure unadulterated nothingness. He tried to follow her scent, but it was as if she was everywhere and nowhere. It didn't make sense.

He called to Rahalleth. 'Do you feel yourself, or the child?' he asked angrily.

"NO." Rahalleth answered.

The Dark Singer smiled evilly. 'Bring forth the missing piece. We will find them!'

Rahalleth's smile echoed his own.

*** *** ***

Boomer watched Kenny and Geoff until he was sure they were all right, then he went looking for Tracker. They needed to coordinate their efforts.

"Boom," Tracker called. "What have you got," then he looked around. "Where's Geoff?"

"He got hit. Kenny's with him now," Boomer told Tracker. "Last of the demo's set. They've hit some of the claymores, but for the most part they're just staying clear of the area," he added.

Tracker nodded. "Any word from Wulf and his team?"

Boomer shook his head. "Not a peep. Got an earful when Mercury went down, no idea how bad..." Boomer let his breath out as he looked around. "Any word on the circle?"

Tracker shook his head. "Minh was hurt, Kai went after her. Kenny spent some time on both of them, but other than that... the circle's unbroken. Ian's getting tired."

"We all are," Boomer countered. "But we do what we can, with what we've got."

Tracker nodded. "I hear ya," he added, wishing he could simply call on BlackPaw or Voodoo, but there was no way they could reach them in time. "I'd even settle for one of Duck's hare-brained schemes right about now."

Boomer nodded.

*** *** ***

Copyright 1998 - M.T. Decker

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