the Masks VI

Note:  This is a combined issue due to the fact there was no
“adult” scene in Issue VI.  In issue VII I have returned to hot
transhuman sex for at least one scene.  However the storyline
would not make sense without Issue VI, so I’m including it. -


   By noon the late spring snow had disappeared, the sun had emerged and the temperature was climbing into something that was jacket comfortable.  Such was the weather on Thule.  The delegation followed Winter through the gates of the small community sitting on the southern tip of the island.  It was clean and well kept, and had  Winter had adopted it as her own personal projects when she found out about it.

   "This doesn't look like any kind of refugee camp I've ever seen," Ms. Glasswater from Amnesty World Wide, commented.

   Winter smiled at the woman wearing a smart black suit.  She was in her mid forties with kinky red hair and brown eyes, and seemed to have perpetual look of disgust on her face. "I'm not familiar with those.  This is a community my parents set up for the survivors of the UN's transhuman breeding facility in Riyadh and for the survivors of Bodego Bay."

   Winter watched as the woman looked at the series of small houses with well-kept yards lining the street. Over the sounds of the surf and birds, the occasional call of children could be heard. "How many refugees do you have here?" a tall man with glasses asked.  Winter recognized him as being with one of the American press services.

   "Counting the women from Bodego Bay, we've taken a total of a hundred and fifty refugees at this facility," Winter told him as they made their way down the travelwalk.  Winter knew that they were being watched from behind several window curtains, and understood the sentiment.  The residents of this community had been through hell and back they did not trust easily.  She herself was still earning their trust after working with them for several months .  "All of the ones who are healthy enough to be out among the people are here."

   "What do you mean healthy enough?" the Ms. Glasswater asked.

   Winter stopped at the edge of a small park where several young children were playing, many were testing out the feathered wings on their backs and gliding around the park on the thermals, all the while being watched by older children and parents- many of them with wings as well.  "These are the children that were rescued.  Their parents are in various levels of recovery from the chemically induced comas the UN kept them in.  The UN didn't really care what kind of life they had as long as they could use them to inseminate and incubate their super-race."

   "Most of these kids are winged.  Why is that?" asked Cardinal Moressi from the Vatican delegation.

   Winter turned and waved back to one of the teenagers waving to her and smiled at the cardinal.  She sighed and said, "For some reason, the UN was trying to breed angels.  I think several of the mullahs thought it would be a mark of distinction to have an angel as a  fourth wife.  They bred for looks wings, speed, and power of flight."

   "I would think that they would have wanted to breed soldiers with durability and strength," the Cardinal said.

   Winter shook her head and smiled, "The problem with durability and strength is that in males, eighty-five percent of them are gay or bisexual; and in females, it was a matter of the men not wanting a woman they couldn't beat."

   "You don't seem to have a very good opinion of the UN, Princess," Ms. Glasswater said.  "I would think that you be open to its peaceful overtures, and accomplishments."

   Winter smiled at the woman and shook her head saying, "My opinion doesn't matter, Ms. Glasswater.  I don't make nor do I influence imperial policy.  That is the job of my parents."  She turned back to small village and continued, "Each of the dwellings is designed for a single Atlantean-style family, so they are more than adequate for our purposes here.  Each one is tied to the imperial computer network and  power grid, and each one has home fabricator.  They all have access to the city's transportation and communications system."  

   What about medical and psychological needs?" the cardinal asked.

   "They are all seen on a regular basis by a group of highly skilled volunteer healers and counselors," Winter told the man.  "They are being given options about their final dispensation: they can either stay here assimilate and become Atlantean subjects or citizens, or they can be repatriated to their country of origin or the country of origin of their parents. Although the latter has met with only limited success. "

   "What do you mean by subjects?" the reporter asked, his voice stunned. "Are these people slaves without any rights?"

   Winter shook her head and chuckled, "The empire does not practice slavery.  My parents fought several wars against the Hesperians over the practice.  Every person in the empire has certain inalienable rights, the first of which is to the right to be left alone.  At the same time, only those who've actually served the empire in some manner are allowed to vote, hold office, or own more than a small plot of land.  Anybody can gain those rights by serving in our military for four years, at certain high risk occupations such as fire fighter, police, or EMS for six years, or other civil service occupations for eight years.  Subject rights are the guaranteed rights of all Atlanteans.  With the right to vote, own property, or hold office, comes greater responsibilities."

   "What about your nobles?  Don't you inherit certain rights?"

   Winter nodded and said, "Yes we do, but if we don't serve within a certain amount of time, then we lose them."

   "How did you serve?" Ms. Glasswater asked.

   "You mean besides watching over and guarding the Empire while it was in time stasis for three hundred millennia?" she asked.  "I have recently sent my application to the Imperial Aeronav Academy.  I hope to serve in special forces."

   Glasswater gave her a disbelieving look. "You, special forces?  You're just a little wisp of a girl."

   "I am an Atlantean, I'm not everything I appear to be," she said with a smile.  "Now if you would return to the subject of our tour."

   "You said that repatriation had met with only limited success.  What did you mean by that?" Cardinal Moressi asked.

   "Repatriation back to the International Alliance countries have been successful.  However many of those who were repatriated to non-IA countries have ended up back in the hands of the UN.  We've stopped that process and are working on rescuing those who've been recaptured," Winter told them.

   Glasswater protested, "But the UN has assured the world that they have stopped the Riyadh Project."

   "And Hitler said that Sudetenland was Germany's last territorial demand just before he invaded Czechoslovakia.
I long ago learned not to trust dictators' promises," Winter replied.

   "What about the women from Bodego Bay?" Glasswater asked.  "I understand that Atlantean law does not allow for abortion.  What about those women?"

   Winter smiled and said, "Atlantean law does not allow for abortion except for the cases where the life of the mother is threatened, which are rare cases indeed.  We have other ways of dealing with unplanned pregnancies.  The women in question have each chosen from several options."

   "What options?" Glasswater asked.

   "All of them chose to have their child's DNA scrubbed of their rapists contributions.  Some chose to have it replaced by that of their husbands gleaned from other siblings, others to have it replaced with their own resulting in a genetic clone, and some have offered their children up for adoption to Atlantean families and had the DNA of the adoptive parents inserted.  One thing is for sure though, none of their rapists' DNA has been retained," Winter told the woman.  

   "How many chose the latter?" the reporter asked.

   "A significant number," she told him not wishing to give away too much of the women's personal information.  "There are matters of personal privacy involved so I'm not going to give you enough information to determine who the women are and which individual choice they made.  Suffice it to say that the choice was theirs, they made it, and all of the children will live.  Atlanteans are funny that way.  Call it a cultural failing."

   The tone of her voice made it pretty clear that she was not going to back down and the visitors seem to have gotten message.   The rest of the tour went without any other difficult questions, and Winter was glad to have the visitors gone. She knew that they were making the refugees nervous, and she was tired of being the diplomat. She still had other things to do, not the least of which was deal with the other time lords over the fact that she was fulfilling her duties to her people as was agreed upon when she joined them.  If they didn't like it, then she would just have to "explain it to them."

   JJ's skin itched all over from the glamour Wade had cast on the two of them to make it easier to blend in at the venue they were investigating.  It was s simple spell that made them look much younger than they were, allowing them blend in with the other kids where they were going.  Technically they really weren't that much older than the kids at The Court, but it was a venue designed to attract adolescents and they didn't want to look like a couple of hunters.

   The Court was a commercial youth center type establishment with arcades, comic shops, record and video stores, a theater and a small teens-only dance club.  If there was anywhere that would attract Todeshaus' attention, this was the place.  It was also open until ten o'clock on weekends, well after the sun had gone down and when the vampire would be out.

   There were kids everywhere as he and his pack began to spread out.  The six of them wanted to watch and see what happened.  According to JJ's source there had been over a dozen kids attacked in the last month, and that was just the ones that had been reported.  Most disturbing of all was the sexual content of the attacks.  This was one really sick vampire, and he was targeting affluent kids.  His going after Lee was a major-league mistake.  JJ was honestly surprised that he hadn't broken his fangs on Lee's neck but evidently the kid wasn't in his metal form when he was attacked, although, he'd heard he'd been in it when he crashed through his uncles' bedroom door.

   It wasn't long before JJ caught the scent of the dead.  That told him a great deal about the vampire who was here.  It was fairly well known in the shifter community, that vampires had different scents depending on their general personality.  Those who smelled like death and decay tended to, but not always as Vlad was an exception to the rule, be linked to darker forces, and for lack of a better term, be evil.  Evil was as good a description as he could come up with for what was being done to the children of Atlanta.

   As he worked his way through the crowded central court, it didn't take him long to find the vamp.  Just as he spotted the tall well-built blond man, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Taking a moment, he checked the text message.  It was from Lorne, his werecat friend:  Got
one slipping into the theatre.  Going in after him. -L.
 Before he close the device it went off again.  This time a similar message from Wade about the arcade.   This place was literally crawling with them.

   He quickly send them a message back that he was following one himself.  He followed the man as he slipped past the security at the dance club with a flash of his eyes.  Again that told him a lot about the vampire.  He or someone else had used their mind to overwhelm this chaperone before.  As he followed the vamp inside the club, JJ noticed this one seemed to be hunting for something specific.  His scent also wasn't the same as the one he'd detected outside.  

   He approached several of the teens, but didn't touch any of them.  On one that seemed to attract the vamps attention, JJ noticed small marks on the girl's neck that looked like they were starting to heal over.  The vamp seemed to shake his head and move on.  Something about this situation told JJ that there was more here than met the eye.

   When the blond disappeared down the hall toward the bathrooms, JJ got a bad feeling about it.  He headed in that direction as quickly as he could make his way past the pressing bodies of the dancers.  When he got to the men's room door, he rushed in but found nothing but the stale odor of urinals that were not cleaned nearly enough for his satisfaction, and a couple of surprised teenagers.  

   Turning back he stopped and listened at the ladies room and heard a low thud and an animalistic growl.  He tried the door but found it locked.  So far nobody had noticed him at the wrong bathroom door, but they were about to.  He stepped back and summoned the wolf in his soul to forefront.  With a growl, he hit it hard with his shoulder and felt the lock give way.

   Slamming the door open he ducked through the seven foot door as he felt his body begin to shift.  He could smell blood and death in the room and heard a whimpering sound coming from one of the stalls.  But what caught his attention most was the blond vampire he'd followed in here had another man against the wall.  The scents were confusingly mingled with that of blood, sex, and fear.  

   With a back paw, he shut the door behind him and growled.  The vampire did not turn, he simply said in a soft Texan drawl, "You must be James Williams Junior.  Vlad said you were coming out hunting these vermin."  Then with a powerful heave, he twisted the man he was holding around, and held him by the back of the neck.

   JJ leaned down and sniffed the face of the man the vampire was holding.  He was a vamp too, and he stank of putrid flesh, of meth and blood, and sex.  This was the scent that he'd been following.  He was a well-muscled medium toned black man with a shaved head and gang tats.  His pants were also hanging down around his knees.  JJ growled. The girl in the stall whimpered.

   "This is one of Todeshaus' lackeys.  They've been poaching the local youth center," the other vampire said squeezing the back of the man's neck and lifting him off the ground.  JJ could see the puncture marks in his neck and blood on the blond vampire's face.  

   Shifting down to his human form, JJ asked, "Who are you?"

   "Name's Brett Dallas, Nicholai sent me," the blonde said again.

   JJ nodded and then turned to stall where he heard someone whimpering.  "Are you okay, miss?"
   "Please go away," she whimpered.  "Please don't hurt me any more."

   With lightning reflexes, JJ lashed out that the vamp, Dallas was holding, his arm shifting in mid strike. A single grasp and twist and he pulled the man's head off and felt it dust in his paw.  "Nobody else is going to hurt you, miss.  Please come out.  We need to see if you need to go to the hospital."

   The door opened tentatively and JJ could see a bruised eye peaking through the door.  "Is he gone?"

   JJ snorted and said, "He'll never be back."  He turned on the charm and forced the wolf in his soul down.

   "What are you?" she asked opening the door wider.

   JJ could see the blood running down the side of her neck into her breasts.  He could also see blood running down the inside of her calf and the torn pieces of her underwear on the floor of the toilet.  She was a tall pretty girl that looked to be in her mid teens with short brown hair and hazel eyes. She was wearing a torn Shiloh High School tee-shirt and a denim skirt.  JJ felt the wolf rise in his soul again and fought to keep it under control. There was no need to scare this kid any more than she already was.  "I'm a friend. I'm here to see that you get the help you need."

   "Where's the other guy, the one that pulled him off of me?" she asked wiping the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand.  

   "I'm right here, Miss," Dallas replied from behind me.  "Neither one of us are here to hurt you."

   Suddenly she came bolting out of the stall and flew into his arms, sobbing.  He looked over at JJ and shrugged as he gently patted the girl's head.  "Come on, darlin', let's take  you to the manager's office and call the police.  We need to report this."

   "What happened to him?" she said looking around.  

  Dallas stroked her hair gently and said, "He ran off when my friend here came bustin' through the door, with plans o' relievin' him o' his skin.  He musta' heard us a fightin' in here."  Again he stroked her hair and said, "Look at me, Darlin'"

   She smiled and looked up at him.  JJ could feel the force of his mind reaching out to hers as he stroked the hair out of her eyes.  "You will forget this happened.  It will NEVER trouble you again.  You will take this money and go to the gap and buy some new clothes and change, and then will forget why."  He paused and slipped two hundreds in her hand.  "Do you understand?"

   The girl nodded as if in a dream.  "Yes sir, thank you."  Dallas looked over her head at JJ and smiled.  

   Still holding her shoulders, he added,"I don't want you to fret about what has happened tonight. If you start to remember, it will only be in a dream.  It won't bother you because it was only a dream."  He then gently kissed her neck where the other vampire had bitten her and JJ watched as the marks went away.

   He let go of her and the two escorted her out of the lavatory.  When they had made their way down to the end of the hall, JJ said, "I'm surprised we weren't interrupted."

   "There's a compulsion on the room not to investigate," Dallas said.  "That's what sent me looking in there in the first place."  He stopped and scanned the club and then pointed toward the door.  "Let's go outside.  I need some fresh air.  That one left a bad taste in my mouth."
   Exiting back into the main courtyard of the building, JJ was surprised to see both Wade and Lorne coming out of the building looking smug.  They looked at each other, nodded, and Wade said, "That's two down.  Remind me to do something nice for Leif Hunter.  That hammer he loaned me was quite effective."

   "Bludgeoning a vampire to death is usually not very effective," Dallas said.
   "It is when the hammer has been blessed and directly used by a demigod of the Norse faith," Wade said with a smirk.  Then he added, "Who are you?"

   "This is Brett Dallas," JJ told them.  "He's been sent by Vlad to help us clean things up."  JJ noticed the double take the vampire gave him but the tall Texan said nothing. "Any word from the Mike, Ana, or Gabby?" he asked.   Of course he'd never call Gabrielle Gabby to her face.  They usually called her either Gabrielle or Brielle.  She was likely to rip his balls off for calling her Gabby.  Thaty was their personal nickname for her, ever since she accidentally outed he and Wade to JJ's dad.

   Suddenly a howl split the night air, and in the unison that came from long associations, the three turned in the direction of the call and took off to leave Dallas standing there alone.  They knew the howl; they knew what it meant.  Ana had something bayed and it was threatening to get away.

   They didn't take time to be nice about it, they simply charged through crowd toward the the comic shop of all places. Following the occasional follow up call, the three of them tore through the main room where the customers were browsing into the back room where it looked like a game of Warhammer 40k was being played and out the back door into the alley.  

   What they found there made their blood boil.  Mike was unconscious on the ground,  Gabrielle was holding the side of her neck, and Tatiana had a tall dark-haired man backed into the corner.  Several deep bloodless gashes were raked across his chest, and he wasn't wearing any pants.  A young girl of maybe eleven or twelve was running off down the alley, obviously trying to get away from the man who'd attacked her and the six and half foot of raging black werewolf that had saved her.

   "Wade, you deal with the girl.  Make sure she's okay.  Lorne, check on Mike and Brielle.  I'll help Ana," JJ said as he began to shift right as Dallas came through the door.  

   The vampire took one look at the reinforcements and leapt straight up.   His body shifted and changed into a small bat and flew off into the night.  "Todeshaus!" Dallas screamed. "I'm coming for you!"



   Brendan looked over at the tall thin handsome man and said, "If you're my father that means that I really am that little bastard that he always called me."

   "Hell no!" Noah stepped forward and stared at Alec.  "I'm not saying you're not his father, but under no circumstances whatsoever am I letting anybody call him a bastard, and that means him too."

   "It was a joke, Kitten," Brendan said as he reached out and put a calming hand on his smaller husband's shoulder.  "And he didn't call me a bastard, I did."  He looked over at Alec and said, "I'm sorry, you'll have to forgive him, he's a little protective of his family."

   Alec smiled at him and said, "I'm as shocked by this as any of you are.  I had no idea that your mother had become pregnant.  If I'd known, I'd have taken responsibility for you."

   Brendan chuckled bitterly and said, "If you had, my dad..., uh..., my mother's husband,  would have killed us all three."

   Alec smiled darkly and said, "Not hardly."  Then he looked over at Brendan and his voice softened.  I take it you had somewhat a difficult life growing up?"

   "Only if you consider frequent beatings and starvation while chained to a wall in the basement difficult," Brendan said snarkily.

   "I can of course vouchsafe for what Michael is saying as well as for Mr. Frostbridge's character," Vlad said.  

   "I don't know if you can say that much about my character if I'm just finding out about a  twenty-something year old son," Frostbridge said.

   "So far, you're heads and shoulders above the man who raised me," Brendan replied.  Looking around he added, "Why don't we sit down and get comfortable. Let me introduce you to my family.  You've already met Noah.  That's Nelson over there," he pointed to the thin young Asian man.  "Standing next to him is Cordelia, or Delia as she prefers to be called.  Next to her is Sharon, and then David.  They're my pride."

   Frostbridge nodded and smiled, "It's a pleasure to meet all of you.  I've wanted to for a long time, I just never suspected it would be under circumstances like this."

   "Please, everyone sit down," Vlad indicated the chairs and sofa.  "How is your grandmother David?" he asked.

   "She's well sir, and sends her regards.  I think the babies are putting a bit of a sparkle back in her eyes.  I know it has in my dad's."

   "Having grandchildren does that to folks," Vlad said.  "Who is staying with the children now?"

   "Nana, and Mom," David replied.  

   "Answer me a question, Mr. Frostbridge," Brendan asked.  "Did the weretiger gene come from your side of the family?"

   Vlad laughed and Frostbridge turned a deep shade of red.   Finally Alec smiled and said, "I'd say so."

   "Were you born a weretiger?" Delia chimed in her own question.

   Vlad laughed again and Noah turned to him and said, "Okay Vlad, what's so funny?"

   Frostbridge cleared his throat and said, "I think what he finds amusing is the way I became a weretiger.  It was during the Vampire Wars of the Southeast in the early eighties.  I was infected by Trey Greenbough."

   "Wow!" David said sitting down.  "That must have been some bite.  Brendan tried the same thing with me, but it didn't take.  I just got sick for a few days after he bit me."

   "He didn't bite me," Alec said his face still red.  "Lets just say it was an unexpected side-effect from an intimate exchange of bodily fluids.  I'd already been exposed to the same strain of the virus by someone else.  Trey Greenbough's contribution turned out to be enough to push me over the edge."

   Brendan shook his head not understanding.  "I'm sorry, I don't get it," he said.

was infected via sex,:
Across the link they all shared, David sent him an image of exactly how the process might be accomplished.  Brendan felt the heat rise in his own face.

   "Who was the other person?" Delia asked.

answered, "I don't think it would be a good idea to reveal that
particular piece of information. The lady is married now, and is very
much still a lady.  I was fifteen at the time and just coming into
my power as a mage."
described in Cattin' Around: The Vampire Wars of the South East*

   "Okay, that's enough guys," David said.  "There's no need to embarrass our father-in-law any more than he already is."

   "What did you mean about beatings and being starved as a kid?" Alec asked, his voice taking on a very sympathetic tone.

   Brendan shrugged.  He didn't talk much about his childhood.  His family knew things were rough for them.  Hell it was rough for all of them- that is except David who still had contact with his parents.  Noah's folks had been diplomats killed in the Middle East by a terrorist bomb.  Sharon's parents were actually wealthy, but they were also negligent to point of being criminally so.  The last anyone heard, they were jet-setting around the south of France.  Nelson had been raised in foster care until he was old enough to run away- for some reason nobody wanted to adopt a Japanese-American baby when he was younger.  Delia had run away from home when her father began sexually abusing her at twelve.  She and Nelson had hooked up in Atlanta, where they knew Noah briefly.

   "I was raised, if you could call it that here in Miami.  My dad was a civilian contractor at Homestead Air Force Base.   He was a little tyro too, always trying to run things at home like they were on the base.  If he got any backtalk from either Mom or me, it usually meant a rap across the mouth.  If the lawn wasn't cut just so, if my room wasn't perfectly clean it would mean a week without supper, or being locked in the basement, or a beating, or all three," Brendan fought to keep his voice from going dead, but it was hard. These were difficult memories.

   "One day after a week of only eating whatever Mom could slip me, they had a big fight, and then it got quiet.  I stayed there for another week wondering what had happened.  It wasn't until the police broke down the basement door to find me chained to the wall that I learned he'd killed mom and was on the run," Brendan told them.  He felt Noah's hand slip into his and squeeze it gently.

   "Not long after that, I had my first change.  I ran away from the shelter they put me in and hunted the bastard down.  I found him at our old house.  We fought, he knocked me around for a while and then I changed.  Nobody ever checked that basement again before the house was bulldozed and the basement filled with concrete.  After that I took to the streets, and eventually met up with Sharon.  Not long after that we were approached by Mr. Dalton and ended up a Martha's where we stayed until graduation."

   Brendan hadn't realized how powerful these old emotions were inside him.  He'd thought he'd put most if it behind him.  "Now, I'm a cop making sure this kind thing doesn't happen to other kids."

   Alec nodded and reached over and put a hand on his and said, "Like I said, if I'd known, I'd have come and stopped it.  Your mother never told me.  I never saw her again after that weekend."

   "What about your family?" Brendan asked.  Do I have any other brothers and sisters, or cousins out there?"

   Alec shook his head and said, "No.  I was an only child and my parents were killed when the Directive attacked our commune outside of New Orleans.  I was only about thirteen at the time.  That was when I got a very brutal education on the Directive."  Brendan could tell that the man had his own scars, his own past that was uncomfortable for him to remember.  "If it hadn't been for one of Doctor Leger's mages taking me in, things could have turned out very different for me."  He smiled and added, "So I'm pleased to find out that I actually have some family, even if I didn't know about you until today."

   "Well, where do we go from here?" Brendan asked.

   "How about a late dinner?" Alec asked.  He looked around and smiled, "I suddenly have a son, two son in laws and two daughter in laws, and evidently grandchildren.  I'd like to find out more about you."


   It had been a long day, but Tommy was genuinely interested in meeting and talking to his guests.  When he'd found out that part of the Wrought, particularly Coldfire was in the area with Magelight to help with the last installation of the infrastructure that would restore the power grid to what was left of California, he'd gone out of his way to invite them to dinner at the New Pacifica School.  He wanted to pick their brains about Kym, and to personally thank them for befriending him.  However, he was discovering that they were not what he'd expected.

   As they sat down to dinner in the apartment he and his wife had at the top of the schools' East tower, he wondered if he'd be able discover the information he wanted.  He was genuinely worried about Kymbrall and how he was settling in.  These two were some of his closest friends here in this reality, and in some ways knew him better than even Tommy did now.  Tommy had faced down dragons without flinching, including his step-father Merrick, but he found that he could not hold the gaze of either of these two beings for very long.  The sheer power of their personality was unbelievable.   

   "So, how is the reconstruction of California going?" he asked casually.

   "As long as we can keep the government out of our way, quite well," Corbin Grimwauld told him as he settled down into his chair.  "We finished up with the optical power cables today.  Several other crews are currently working on installing the bridges.  One of the good things you can say about the Catastrophe is that it solved California's water problem, or more accurately changed the nature of it."

   "You said installing bridges, don't you mean building them?" Elizabeth asked as she passed the bowl of potatoes to Aerin.

   "Actually, they're being built whole-cloth back in Las Vegas.  M-7 is using various contracted transhumans to move them into place.  It cuts down on the construction time immensely."

   Tommy grinned, "Sounds like your boss is very good at figuring out ways to apply transhuman abilities to things other than combat."

   "Oh definitely," Corbin said, his eyes flashing at some personal insight.  "M-7 does more than just supply cities with transhuman law enforcement.  There's a whole division dedicated to finding mundane jobs where a transhuman gift would be helpful.  The transhumans get a better paying job, and the company gets higher production."

   "But that's not what you really want to ask about is it?" Aerin asked with a smile.

   "Reading my mind?" Tommy asked.

   She shook her head, smiled and said, "No.  You've got quite good mind shields, but I've talked to Kym enough to know that you're worried about him."

   "Do you have any idea why he's mad at us?" Tommy asked.

   "He's not mad at you per say," she replied.  "He's hurting.  He lost a lot in that war," she said.

   "We all lost a lot in that war," Tommy said bitterly.

   "Maybe so, but I'd say what he's lost cuts very deep for him," she replied.  "I'm not trying to diminish your own pain, but you still have your support structure around you."

   "So does he," Elizabeth said.  

   "Not the same way," Aerin replied.  "I understand the feelings tied up in your phyrebonds. They aren't that different than what we as the Wrought share or what the First Pride shares.  You can rely on each other for emotional and mental support a whole lot better than he can.  He feels alone, and cut off from you guys."

   "He did that to himself," Tommy replied defensively.

   "Perhaps," she told him dropping the subject.

   "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you.  But he walked away from us, he could have come to live with Elizabeth and me or even Nicole and Merrick," Tommy said.  "Instead he went to live with two strangers."

   "Adam and Steve aren't strangers to him.  They are two men who showed him some very poignant kindness when he first arrived," Corbin replied.

   "What do you mean?" Tommy asked suddenly worried about his cousin being taken advantage of.

   "They knew what it's like to be alone on the streets and not having any family.  Murphy gave him a roof over his head, and three square meals, but Adam and Steven went out of their way to help him feel at home, and to get the little things that people tend to forget about."

   "Why would they do that?" Tommy asked defensively.

   "Because they're nice guys," Aerin said. "And not because of the reason you just knocked me down with.  Those two men are as dedicated to each other as you are to your wife.  They were genuinely trying to help. Kymbrall recognized that too." She stopped for a moment and then said, "And they've taken a lot of grief about what you're thinking from outsiders, they don't need it from you too.  Kym doesn't need it."

   "I'm sorry," Tommy said.  "It's just I care about my cousin and I worry about his safety."

   Aerin smiled and said, "I understand.  But you and Elizabeth can go anywhere and start over, and so can your mom and her husband. But Kym is tied down by his age, and by the fact that he's alone..."

   "He is not alone," Tommy interrupted.

   "Really?" Aerin asked.  "Who is in his mind to support him, Tyr?"  She put her fork down and said, "Every dragonborn on this planet is bonded to a dragon- except for him.  Not only that, your people actively withdraw from him."

   "They don't understand him," Tommy explained.  "And he won't give them a  chance to."

  "Maybe so.  But right now, he needs to find out who and what he is," Corbin said.  "He's lost more than just his world or his family. He's lost who he is.  He can't be dragonborn anymore because all the dragons are either dead or the allies of his family.  He can't be the avatar of Tyr anymore because that doesn't mean anything here.   The kids you are raising are not yet tied to their identities, you, Elizabeth, Nicole, and Merrick have enough of a life together that the loss of the war is a blessing for you.  But to Kym, someone who was raised to be nothing but the bringer of peace, the incarnation of your greatest warrior, has had everything that he stood for cut out from under him- his very identity.  When that's gone, he's discovering that there is very little left, and it scares the hell out of him.  Believe it or not, you are not a reminder of what he still has, but a testament to what he was and can never be again, and what he can never have.  I can't blame him for staying away for a while.  Your people did a very good job of breeding and training the ultimate warrior.  But the problem is that now that the war is gone, and the need for him is no more, you're left with a weapon not a person.  And unlike a weapon, he can't be put in a cabinet and ignored."
   "Nobody wants to ignore him," Elizabeth said.  "His family loves him."

   "I don't doubt that," Aerin said.  "Nobody doubts that.  The problem is not that Kym isn't loved by his family, it's that he doesn't know who he is."

   "We can help him find that," Tommy protested.

   Aerin shook her head and said, "I don't think so.  The dragons and the dragonborn are part of the problem. You made him into something you needed, and he let you.  Now that you don't need him, he needs to make himself into something for himself."

   Tommy knew that she was right.  It didn't make it any easier though.  "We can give him that," he protested weakly.

   "Why do you feel so strongly about this, Tom?" Aerin asked.  "Why is the idea of him being off on his own so distressing to you?"

   "He's only a kid," Tommy said knowing that wasn't it.

   "He's one of the most self sufficient young men, I've ever met," Aerin replied. "And he's got people looking after him.  You know he's starting to wonder why you and Merrick seem  so intent on rubbing his nose in what you have and that he can't.  Why do you have this need to make him conform to the world as you think it should be?  His aunt doesn't do that, Elizabeth doesn't do that.  Why do you feel the need to mold and control him?"

   "Because he's just a kid, and he doesn't have a male figure in his life to help learn what it means to be a man," Tommy said.

   "He has several male figures in his life to help him, not the least of which are Adam and Steve, plus Corbin, Ethan, and Leif," Aerin said.

   "Especially Leif," Corbin replied.  "Of everyone we know, Leif is the only one who actually sees him as a friend- not a young man to mold and shape, not as someone to talk to or help, but simply as a friend- someone to shoot bows with, and practice swordsmanship.  They're talking about taking a trip to Alfheim in a few weeks to go hunting."

   "You're telling me that the only person who really treats him as an equal and a friend is a demi-god?" Tommy asked

   "I would not call us demi-gods, we just have divine parents.  As for Leif, he's not pushing Kym for anything other than just someone to spend time with and that's important for both of them.  They've both lost someone important to them to the wars each of our peoples fought.  Leif has for the most part recovered from his loss, but he sees a kindred spirit in Kym."

   "As long as he's happy," Tommy said and found that the words tasted bitter.




Ms. Patrick wants to see you in her office," Mr. Fryman, his homeroom
teacher told Kymbrall as soon as he walked into the room.  Kym
didn't like the look on his teacher's face.  He'd learned a long
time ago how to read faces, and Mr. Fryman's was telling Kym that he
didn't didn't like having to send him to the counselor's office.

   Kym nodded to him and said,"Yes sir."  He grabbed his books and headed down to the main office off the school wondering what was going on.  His main concern was that someone had discovered that he had unusual powers and thought he was a transhuman.  Registering as such would not fit well with his own plans.

   Arriving at the office he told the secretary that Ms. Patrick sent for him.  She nodded to him and gave him yet another of those strange looks that put him ill at ease. There was definitely something going on, and he didn't need Tyr's voice in the back of his mind telling him to be careful with what he said.

   After about five minutes, the secretary said, "Ms. Patrick will see you now."

   Kym got up and entered the large office.  Ms. Patrick was not at her desk but instead was at a table that was evidently used for conferences of some sort.  With her was another man that he did not recognize and a female Nevada State Trooper.  He felt his blood start to race in his head, and his heart pound.  Forcing down his fight or flight instincts and willing the phyre in his soul not to flare to life he raised a puzzled eyebrow and asked in a calm voice, "Ms. Patrick, you wanted to see me ma'am?"

   The woman smiled up at him and said, "Thanks for stopping by Kym.  We have something we want to discuss with you."

   "We?" he asked looking at the other two people in the room.  

   "This Mr. Stewart from the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services and Officer Cunningham.  There are some questions we'd like to ask you."

   "Do you think that I've done something that warrants the intervention of child services?" he asked probing carefully.

   "No." Officer Cunningham insisted.  She was a tall black woman in her mid thirties.  She was well built and looked like she was more than capable of handling herself.  At the same time there was a certain softness to her gaze that suggested she considered this duty to be a bit distasteful.  That worried Kym even more.

   "We just wanted to get some clarification of the standing of your legal guardianship," Ms. Patrick said.  "Please sit down."

   Kym thought about the request.  It would put him more at ease, and he recognized the tactic.  It would also make it more difficult for him to flee- if he were a normal human.   Personally, he preferred to fall back on his training as a member of the Order of Thorns- standing at parade rest- but he knew that would be misconstrued.  Instead he locked eyes with each adult in the room before sitting down.  He knew exactly what effect his golden eyes would have on those with neither phyre nor transhuman abilities.   It was a tactic he'd picked up from his grandfather, and had recently seen used with great efficacy by the members of the Wrought.  Taking his seat, he asked, "What kinds of questions?"

   Mr. Stewart leaned across the desk and said, "We've had some disturbing calls about your living arrangements, Kym.  We did some checking and found out that your legal guardian in the Nevada is Ms. Gates Murphy."

   "Yes sir.  Is that a problem?" he asked.

   "Besides the fact that Ms. Murphy is in a highly dangerous profession, very possible.  However, you are currently living with two of her employees, Doctors Adam Stevens and Steven Adams- a couple who were married in California several years ago?"

   "Yes sir," Kym answered carefully.

   "A gay couple?" Mr. Stewart asked, his voice taking a tone of accusation.

   "I do believe that term is occasionally used to describe them," Kym said evenly.

   "What is your sexual orientation, Kymbrall?" he asked.

   Kym looked at the counselor who had a questioning look on her face.  He nodded to her and she said, "Kym is a member of our Gay Straight Bisexual Lesbian Transgendered Student Alliance."

   "Are you sexually active Kym?" Mr. Stewart pressed.

   Kym felt his heart clench in his chest.  "No sir," he answered honestly.  

   "Are you sure?" Mr. Stewart pressed the question.

   "I think I would know if I were," Kym said.

   "What Mr. Stewart means Kym is that some kids are sometimes involved in activities of a sexual nature but don't consider them to be sex," Ms. Patrick said.  "Or sometimes they are involved with people that they don't want to get in trouble."

   Kym smiled and locked eyes with Mr. Stewart.  He waited until the other man looked away uncomfortably before saying, "I know what the definition of is is, Mr. Stewart.  I'm not sexually involved with anybody- in any way."

   "Well, you are an openly gay teenager who is living with two gay men.  There have been questions asked about the appropriateness of the situation," Ms. Patrick said.  "Have either Doctor Stevens or Doctor Adams touched you in a matter that is inappropriate?  Have they engaged in inappropriate activities in front of you?"

   Kym felt the phyre in his soul threaten flare alive with his shock and anger.  Finally, he shook his head and said, "No ma'am.  Both Adam and Steve have been the model of supportive parents for me.  I haven't felt this comfortable in a home since my fathers died," he told them in no uncertain terms.  "Exactly who have made complaints?"

   "We're not at liberty say," Mr. Stewart told him.

   "So I don't have a chance to face my accusers?" he asked.

   "You aren't being accused of anything, Kym," Ms. Patrick said.

   "Aren't I?" Kym said.  "I'm being accused of either being a male Lolita or of an inappropriate sexual relationship."

   "The law doesn't hold you responsible, Kym.  You aren't of age to give consent," Mr. Stewart said.  

   "Consent for what?" Kym asked.

   "For sexual contact," Mr. Stewart said.

   Kym leaned over the counter and said, "Mr. Stewart. I am not, nor have I been involved in a sexual relationship with my guardians.  They are two of the kindest gentlest souls you'll ever meet."

   "Still, the state is concerned about the situation," Mr. Stewart said.  He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a paper.  "I understand you have an aunt in Georgia and an older cousin  California.  The State of Nevada has decided to terminate Ms. Murphy's guardianship of you because of the nature of her job as well as forbid you staying with Doctors Adams and Stevens."

   "The state doesn't have that right," Kym protested.

   "Actually the Division of Child and Family Services has the right to terminate the parental rights of anybody we choose to. Doctors Adams and Stevens and Ms. Murphy could of course fight this in court, but in the meantime you would be moved into state custody and placed with another foster family."

   Kym sat back in his chair stunned.  He couldn't believe this was happening.  "I want to know who made the complaint."

   "I'm sorry, we can't reveal that information," she said.

   Kym nodded.  Maybe not, but he knew how to find out, and he would find out. "What are the options you are offering me, Mr. Stewart?"

   "If you stay in the State of Nevada you will not be allowed to live with either Ms. Murphy nor your current caregivers.  You could go to California to live with your cousin or to Atlanta to live with your aunt."

   Kym briefly wondered if his aunt had put someone up to this, but realized that no, that wasn't her way.  If she wanted to force the issue between them, then she'd simply come and get him.  This was coming from the outside. Some busybody had complained about Adam and Steve.  "How long do I have to decide?"

   Mr. Stewart smiled and said, "Take as long as you want.  You, however will not be allowed to return to your current residence without a police escort."

   "So basically, you'll drag this out into the public and embarrass two men who've been kind to me for your own perverse pleasure," Kym said.

   "We're not the perverts here, Kym," Stewart said.

   Kym locked eyes with the man and let the full fury of his personality pour into his gaze.  "Oh yes you are, Mr. Stewart. You are perverting the law and justice for your own agenda.   As far as I'm concerned you're nothing but another Kurt Gruber."  He turned to look at the officer and asked,"Officer Cunningham, I take it that I'm at least allowed to say goodbye to the men who've showed me kindness after the death of my parents?"

   "Actually we have a restraining order being served to both of them at their place of residence now.  They are not to come within a hundred yards of you," Mr. Stewart said.  "It's up to you, Kym.  If you stay away from them and go and live with your aunt in Georgia, or your cousin in California then this will go away.  If not, it will affect their ability to work on security sensitive projects for the government."

   Kym suddenly understood what this was about. It wasn't about his or their being gay.  This wasn't about his aunt, or him, or anybody else.  This was the administration striking back at Murphy for what happened at Mount Charleston. This was the Chicago Way. He sighed and realized this was a battle he couldn't win, but the war would continue.  He said,  "Very well, Mr. Stewart.  I'll go to Georgia."

   He reached into his wallet and pulled out a piece of paper with his aunt's school's address on it.  "I can be reached here. Please send my records there."  Then turning to Officer Cunningham, he said, "I'm at your service ma'am."

   "What?" she asked surprised.

   "Escort Mr. FeyStone to the airport and book him on the next flight to Atlanta.   Delta has his information," Mr. Stewart said smugly.

   Cunningham looked confused and protested, "I thought I was here to investigate...,"

   "You're here to serve and protect Officer Cunningham.  You have your orders," Stewart said.

   She nodded and looked at Kym and said, "I'm sorry, Kym."

   Kym smiled at the woman and said, "I understand Officer.  It's not your fault."  He turned to Stewart and said, "Aufweiderzehen Herr Stewart. Sie
sind Hörfähigkeit von mir."

   As he and Officer Cunningham left the room he overheard Mr. Stewart ask Ms. Patrick, "Who is Kurt Gruber?"

   "I have no idea," Ms. Patrick replied.


   "So, what are you plans, now?" Emory asked her brother-in-law over coffee at her home in Walker County, Alabama.  Wyn had been staying with his brother and sister-in-law since the reality to which he'd been sent recently reattached itself to this one.   He'd been helping with both the repairs to the farm and school as well as acting as a business advisor to them.

   Wyn shrugged and settled into the seat next to the window and smiled at the woman he knew had been responsible for rescuing him as an infant from the UN's attempt to clone her future husband.  In a strange twist of fate that saw him spending almost a century in an alternate reality, he was now much older than the brother from which he was cloned or his brother's wife. "I haven't really decided.  It's going to take some getting used to being back home.  Things were a lot different in the other place.  Most of my memories are now part and parcel to various monster movies."

   "Did you ever discover what caused that reality to branch off from ours?" she asked.

   He nodded his head and said, "Ever heard of an organization called the Recondite Order?"

   She smiled and set her coffee down. "They were a group that broke off from the Directive after the Battle of Carpathia.  The Directive finally crushed them in the mid seventeenth century."

   Wyn replied, "Well in the reality I just spent eighty years, they Order defeated the Directive.  It set off a whole series of events that would have spun it off into nothing if I had't been sent there to keep things under control and guide it back toward the trunk reality."

   "So you're sort of doing Winter Atlyn's job?" she asked him.

   He shrugged and said, "Something like that.  But I don't get all the cook perks she does."

   "Yeah, you've got your own perks," she told him.  "You have any prospects?"

   "Well, General Presley has offered me a position with the DNA," he said.

   "He's just wanting another agent like Trey," Emory told him.

   Wyn grinned at her and said, "Not quite.  It's not a field position. He wants me to head up the field office in New York City. For some reason there's been a lot more vampire and witch activity there lately, and he wants someone in charge of that office that they'll listen to."
   "I hate to see you go off again Wyn," Emory told him.  "You just got back.  I know your mom won't be happy about you being that far from the ve`"

   "I can make a new ve`," he replied.  "I've had a lot of practice with opening the bridge."

   "How about other aspects of getting settled in?" she asked carefully.  Wyn knew that she was fishing for something, but he didn't know what.

   "I'm not sure," he told her.

   "Your mom is putting pressure on us about grandchildren.  I think pretty soon she's going to be aiming young women at you too," Emory said leaning back in her chair.

   Wyn shook his head and said, "No, not really.  I saw someone at Mount Charleston that I'm sort intrigued by, but I think he's going to need some time before he's ready for any kind of relationship."

   "Really?" she asked leaning forward.  Wyn knew she was wracking her brains to figure out who.  Most of the people in that fight were already involved with other people. "Who?"

   Wyn just grinned and said, "Let's just say I'm a patient man and leave it at that."

   "Like one of Freyja's has ever been patient when it came to bed partners," she scoffed.

   "I don't know, I think Trey was rather patient with waiting until both of you were ready. And let's not forget about Sasha.  He's what, a thousand years old, and has yet to find anyone."

   "Sasha is too tied up with other things to go looking for a mate.  I'm sometimes surprised that he's even sane," she said.  

   "Oh, he's sane.  He's just carrying a torch for someone who won't cross that line," Wynn told her.  He'd seen Sasha's eyes whenever he was around Dane North, Kottrtru, the man who rescued him and taught him what it meant to be a magecat in the twelfth century.  "He'll eventually get over it.  I have it on very good authority that it's not time for him to find his mate yet."

   Wyn watched as she leaned back in her chair and studied him.  Finally she picked up her cup and said, "You know something I don't?"

   "What do you mean?" Wyn feigned innocence.

   She told him, "For thousands of years, the magecats have been known far and wide for the fact that they take their love where they can find it.  That they can't be tied down, and you all are just a little on the slutty side...,"

   "Emory!" he protested.

   "Don't get all huffy with me Wyn Greenbough.  I know for a fact that you broke quite a few young Swedish hearts, both male and female when you were living in Upsalla," she told him.  "But lately, things have been changing.  Beatrice married Aaron Stryker and settled down in the fifties."

   "Yeah, it's kind of funny to find out that Cobalt-Blue, one of the Emperors of Atlantis is your second cousin," he interjected.

   "... and then your dad settled down with your Mom.  Next it was Trey and me, and poor Leif is coming out of shortpants practically married.  What gives?  Exactly what is your Lady up to?" she continued.

   "I'm still single. So is Dane and all the others," he protested

   "Yeah but you just indicated that you're willing to wait on someone," she countered.

   "I said I was willing to wait, I didn't say I was going to be celibate while I wait," he told her deflecting away the question about the change in the magecats.  What was happening was not yet for anybody's ears- even his own.

   "So any prospects?" she asked.

   "A few," he told her.  "But to be honest, I'm sort of going to wait until I get to New York to actually start looking for anyone to amuse myself with while I wait."

   "So  you are going to take General Presley up on the job?" she asked.

   He smiled as he realized that yes, he had indeed decided to take the job.  "I guess I am."


   A light appeared in the dark depths, as Coral and Depth Charge homed in on the location where the sub was supposed to have gone down.  They were well below a hundred and fifty meters and there should be no light visible whatsoever, yet up ahead there was the soft glow of something in the water.  Corey was reminded of the glow lights that the Shan used for their underwater farms.  "Who put up the lights?" he asked.

   "I don't know," Depth Charge replied.  "They're not Shan design and the Navy didn't say anything about them."

   He pinged the area and was surprised to find several forms in the water circling and occasionally crashing into the sub that was sitting on a precarious ledge next to the Puerto Rican Trench.  If there were to be a slide, the sub could go tumbling down into the depths of the trench and be crushed by the pressure.  He stopped and held a hand out for Depth Charge and asked.  "What are those?"

   He waited and read the secondary waves as she pinged the area.  "I have no idea.  They're not like anything in our data base.  To be honest they remind me of the creature in that movie we watched a few weeks ago.  Some kind of mutated shark- carcharhinus
if I don't miss my estimation."

   "Great, mutant bull sharks, that's all we need," Coral said.  "But what are they doing at this depth?  They're a shallow water shark."

   D'an'a shook her head and said, "I don't know.  I also don't know why they would be ramming a submarine the size of an aircraft carrier. I have a very bad feeling about
this, Corey."

   "Me too. Let's be on on our guard.  I want to check things out before we try to move the sub," he told her.

   "You plan on moving something that big?" she asked.  "How?"

   "With a great deal of effort," he told her.

   "Even if you CAN lift it, you're hand would go right through the hull," she said.

   "Ships are designed to be towed.  I'll find some place to hang on and pull her off the bottom," he replied. But first we have to drive off the sharks that think they are capable of taking down a submarine.  Any suggestions?" he asked as they two floated in the water watching the big creatures hurl themselves at the sides of the vessel. Coral focused on one of the larger creatures and studied it.  It was about three meters long with a broad snout like a bull shark.  However, were its pectoral fins should be were a couple of short powerful arms that ended in webbed claws.   Trailing under and behind it's powerful tail were a pair of legs that too ended in webbed clawed feet.  He looked over and realized that Depth Charge was casting some kind of spell as her trident began to glow in the water.

   When she finished, she grinned back at him and asked, "How about a couple of high speed passes to scatter them?"

   "Okay, but warn the Salvor  and the Constellation
they may hear some booms.  Have them warn the
Seastorm.  Those sailors have been through enough, there's no use panicking them any further," he told her as he again watched the mutant sharks circle.  The Salvor and the Constellation had been sent to rescue the downed Seastorm.

   Depth Charge backed away for a moment and used the communicator on her wrist to call Mother at Illia who then routed the call to the Navy.  It was the long way around for communications, but most of the Navy's equiment wouldn't work in open water this far down.  The amount of pressure on them was measured in the tons per square inch.

   When she came back and nodded to him she said, "Everybody's aware.  Mother is relaying telemetry to both Salvor and the Constellation.
too deep for the Stormwings to give us any cover. And Captain Carter
said that the Navy had not installed any lights.  They're sending
down another ROV to monitor us though.  What about the ledge it's
sitting on?"

   He hadn't considered that.  He pinged the ridge and suddenly felt his heart sinkinto his shoes.  "Cancel that warning," he told her.  "That ridge is not very stable. If we set off any explosions around here, we're likely to trigger a sea slide that'll bury her at the bottom of the trench."

   Depth Charge nodded next to him and said, "I'll let them know. Should I have the Salvor
some cable?."

   Coral shook his head and said, "No, she'll never be able to lift her.  She's short by several tens of thousands of tons of lifting power.  I'll have to do it myself."

   "Corey, cable will help you.  If we can secure cables around her like a net, then that'll spread the force out and we can both try to pull her off the bottom and then secure her to the Constellation's

   "Good idea.  Any idea how to deal with the sharks?" he asked.

   She smiled and said, "We've been trained to fight sharks.  What's the big deal about these?"

   "The fact that they are attacking a submarine the size of an aircraft carrier," he told her.  "I know bull sharks are hyper aggressive, but this is just ridiculous.  There's a lot more going on here than meets the eye."

   "What say we deal with the sharks and then with getting the Seastorm off the bottom?" she proposed pointing her harpoon in their direction.   You just keep it below sound speed."

   He nodded and grinned.  "Okay, let's go."

   "Wait just a moment," Depth Charge said touching the pad on her communicator.  "Did you get all of that Mother?"

   Corey heard the Illian AI's voice reply, "I will ask the Salvor to lower a sufficient length of cable.  Good luck."

   Corey extended his own harpoon in front of him and jetted in the direction of the sharks.  He hit the middle of the swarm at just under soundspeed and let the backwash hit them as he rapidly decelerated.  The force of that much water suddenly slamming into their swarm sent them spiraling away in all directions.  Depth Charge was right behind him using her own harpoon as a club.  Neither one of them really wanted to hurt the sharks, just drive them off.

   But the sharks were having none of it.  They kept coming back in a swarm, darting in and trying to grab an arm or a leg.  It wasn't long before, Coral and Depth Charge found themselves floating back to back as they were circled by a dozen or so man-eaters.  "I'd say it was time to take off the kid gloves and stop worrying about killing them. They don't seem to be worried about killing us,"  Coral told his sister as he clubbed an attacking shark in the top of the head, nearly folding its body in half with the blow.  He noticed that the metal became warm in his hands.

   "Agreed," Depth Charge replied.

   The next one charged in for an attack, Coral hit in the gills with the tips of his harpoon.   He felt the metal in the weapon suddenly flare red hot.  "What the hell?!  It's like fighting the dragons!  The harpoons heat up when they touch them."

   "Curious," Depth Charge said as Coral felt her body twist with a powerful thrust of her own.  

   Corey noted that the other sharks began to follow their fallen pack members and began to devour them in a classic feeding frenzy.  Within a matter of moments the school had lost interest in them and was engaging in a bloody orgy of self destructive feeding.  When it was over, Corey looked over at  D'an'a and said, "That was just plain weird."  Looking down at the damaged submarine he added, "And it doesn't explain what happened to the Seastorm.
 She looks like she's been hit with explosives."

   D'an'a nodded as a light beeped on her bracer and then said, "Mother says that the Salvor has the cables are ready.  I'll go up and get them. You see if you can find a place way to wrap them around the sub."

   Coral nodded as she jetted away, arms splayed to the side.  Suddenly a golden shaft of something lanced out toward her.  She twisted to the side as a small golden spear sliced into her shoulder, and Corey heard her scream in pain as the next one caught her lower in the chest and punched a hole straight through.  There was a remarkable lack of blood and he realized that the spear had been white hot when it hit her.  

    She hung there motionless as a figure came swimming out of the depths of the trench.  He was big man with a blond mohawk  and brown eyes.  He was nude from the waist up but Corey could see a long fish-like tail flowing out from his lower torso like some kind of merman.  

   "One down, one to go," he sneered at Corey and pointed a rifle at him.

the Masks VII


   "Boy, you got a choice.  You can save your sister, and I'll destroy the sub, or your can save the sub and I'll kill your sister,"  the merman told Corey as he leveled the same rifle with which he'd just shot D'an'a.  With a wicked smile he added, "Or you can try to save both, and I'll kill you first. Either way, the International Alliance is going to lose."

   Corey felt something deep and angry rise up in him. Who the hell was this guy that had just shot his sister?  Who did he think he was attacking a US submarine?  And where in the hell did he get off thinking that Corey was helpless?   Corey started to raise his harpoon at his attacker when he said, "Aa, aa!  Just keep that thing pointed down."

   Corey shrugged and said, "Okay. Have it your way.  But you forgot a fourth option."

   "What?" the merman asked.

   "You could always tell me you name," Corey said evenly, trying his best to sound like Clint Eastwood.


   "What's your name?" Corey asked again.

   "Mariner," he said.  "Why do you want to know?"

   Corey looked at the high tech rifle pointed toward him.  His sonar was telling that it was some kind of mass driver with a very dense and powerful battery in it.  He opened his mouth screamed through the sonar organ in his chest at it.  It was loud, and it was focused in a straight line toward the gun in Mariner's hand.  He was rewarded with a sudden flash of light and an small explosion as he ruptured the casing shielding the rifle's battery.  Electricity suddenly arced from casing to Mariner's hand. There was a loud sizzling and a a "pop" as the flesh on the hand burned down to the bone. it was Mariner's turn to  scream into the depths.

   "Because I want to know the name of the first man I ever have to kill," Corey said with a grim determination.

   Mariner's long sinewy tail lashed forward and slammed into Corey's chest, hurling him backwards as the man grasped the ghastly remains of his wrist.  The electrical arc had been so powerful that it had cauterized the wound leaving no blood trace.  "That won't save you boy," he growled painfullly through clenched teeth.  

   "It's kind of hard to kill me when you you're missing an arm, and your side is opened through to your rib cage," Corey said calmly pointing the tines of his harpoon at the man.  

   "What are you talking about boy?" Mariner growled..  "My arm is still here.  It's just my hand.  I can kill you with one hand."  He launched himself at Corey.

   "Oh," Corey said and suddenly jetted to the side and somersaulted past his attacker.  Two quick bursts of his hydrogenerative power down the tines of his harpoon and his water knife lashed out.   The first tight stream of water capable of slicing through plate steel lanced out and sliced Mariner's good arm from his body half way through the bicep and continued on to open up his chest cavity.  With a twist the second sheered off the tail about halfway down its length.    "Sorry, I guess I shouldn't have warned you about that."

   As the man began to sink in a cloud of blood, Corey darted in and kicked him hard in the chest.  "That's for shooting my sister!"  He watched as Mariner spun down into the depths toward the furball of frenzied mutant sharks below.  

   Looking up, he pinged D'an'a.  The wound in her chest had clipped her left lung, but had cauterized the damage. Corey wasn't sure what the bolt was made of that the mass driver had hit her with, but it had been hot.  She wasn't losing too much blood right now, but she was in serious pain and needed medical attention.  He hit the stud on his bracer and said, "Mother, I've got a situation.  D'an'a's been shot, and the sub is still in danger.  This isn't going to be nice, and it's not going to be a smooth ride. Tell the sailors on the Seastorm to hold onto something bolted down."

   "I've seen the broadcast, Corey. Do what you have to," Commander K'horal's voice came over the communicator.

   "Yes sir," Corey said wondering what broadcasts he was talking about.

   Jetting up, he grabbed his sister and checked her over visually.  The wound looked nasty, but he could see where her own regenerative powers were already kicking in.  He briefly wondered exactly what kind of wound it would take to actually kill a defender.  He knew about the First Defenders killing each other over mates, but it was hard to imagine anything less powerful than a megalodon being able to do it. Although D'fen had lost both legs to a dying dragon, so he guessed it could be done.    

   He pulled her body gently against his side, noting that even nearly unconscious she had a tight grip on her harpoon.  Taking her over to the downed sub he spoke to into his communicator again, "Mother, tell the Seastorm to flood their forward torpedo tube and open the outer doors."

   "What are you planning, Corey?" Mother asked.

   "I'm finding a safe place to put D'an'a while I tow this whole damn thing out of here. Now do it," he told the AI through clenched teeth.

   "Doing it," Mother replied. "But we are going to have a discussion about your manners."

   "Yes, ma'am," Corey replied.  

   He waited while the sailors aboard the sub complied.  When the doors opened, he stuffed his sister and both harpoons in the tube and closed it over them.  "Tell them to hang on," he told mother as he jetted down to the keep of the boat.   He wasn't worried about being subtle he wasn't worried about setting off a sea slide. It wouldn't matter when he was finished.

   He dove under the great steel hull and pinged it.  Finding the keel line, he put his shoulders against the massive reinforced metal and lifted.  At first nothing happened, and he redoubled his efforts.  With a groan, the vessel came off the bottom and settled onto his shoulders.  He brought his legs together and began to fire water down his legs as he tipped his body forward.

   The loose seabed beneath him began to slide away and he poured the power into his jets.  The great vessel slowly began to rise, as the edge of the trench collapsed below him.  With a heave he began to shift the massive weight until it was lying along his back.  "Mother," he said into the water. Tell them to set their diving planes to surface."

   After a few moments, he felt the weight on his back lessen slightly.  He increased his thrust, and accelerated forward feeling the vessel become lighter as the diving planes on either side of her began to create lift.  "Mother, I'm sonic blind.  The Seastorm is blocking my sonar.  I need to know where the Salvor is."

   "Fifteen degrees to port, Corey," Commander K'horal's voice came over the communicator.  "I've dispatched a fast medical shuttle to your location.  It should arrive shortly after you surface."

   "Thanks, Commander.  Tell Mother I'm sorry for snapping at her."

   "She'll get over it. As the saying goes, the cause was sufficient," he replied.  "You'll be out of the broadcast area soon, Corey. Be careful."

   "Broadcast area?", he asked.

   "Somebody has cameras set up on scene and broadcast the whole thing.  Listen to me Corey. As soon as that vessel is secure in the hands of the Americans I want you to swim back to Illia at top speed.  If you have to, leave D'an'a to the med-techs, but head straight back here. Don't stop until you are on Illia.  Do you understand me?"

   "I won't leave D'an'a," Corey told the Shan leader.

   "I appreciate that, Corey. But do as I say," K'horal said.

   "Yes, sir," Corey replied finishing the course correction the Commander gave him.

   "Am I on target?" he asked.

   "Projections show you will surface between the Salvor
the Commander told him.

   Corey kept on the course and rose, feeling the water becoming warmer and then lighter around him.  In half an hour, he was at station keeping under the Seastorm as she was secured to the two rescue vessels.  When they finally had her weight balanced between them, he let go and watched her settle against her mooring lines.    

   Then he headed to the torpedo tube and retrieved D'an'a and their harpoons just as the Shan shuttle settled into the water nearby.  A med-tech jetted out to meet him and took D'an'a from his arms.  With some confusion Corey noted that she was wearing an encounter suit.

   "What's that all about?" Corey asked pointing to the encounter suit.  "My scanners didn't show a radiation leak?"

   The med-tech smiled and said, "We don't have time for a game of pin to the bottom."

   "Huh?" he asked.

   "Corey, you just lifted a submarine off the seabed.  The water is full of your pheromones," she said.

   "Oh," Corey replied suddenly understanding.  He probably reeked to the point that he wasn't fit to be around civilized folk.  He'd really better stay away from the sailors onboard the three naval vessels or there'd be quite a few DADT resignations.

   "Is that why Commander K'horal wants me back to Illia right away?" he asked.

   Her face suddenly became very serious and worried.  She shook her head and said, "No.  "Your fight was broadcast over quite a few news services.  There are some rather stupid humans calling for you to be arrested for murder, or at least attempted murder."

   "What?" he asked.

   "Get back to Illia," she said.  For long seconds he hung there stunned by the news.  "What are waiting for? Go!" she told him in no uncertain terms.


   Merrick looked around the house he and Nicole had purchased for him, her, and now Kym.  The whole mess out West was still being resolved and Nicole had gone into her Order of Shadows document search mode and was playing havoc with Nevada Department of Children and Families as well as certain members of the President's political machine.

   When it became clear that Kym was coming home to stay, he decided it was time the boy had a home.  It was time to stop playing and around and get serious.  He'd screwed up that first meeting with him after the boy had dumped his armor.  He realize that, and he was going to do whatever it was going to take to give Kym that chance to find out who he really was that he needed.

   He wasn't sure what was happening to him, but he suddenly needed his family around him.  Obviously Tommy was off with his wife and building a new family of his own in the California Islands so he wasn't going to be around.  Merrick hadn't been able to finish the job with raising him because of the situation in their own reality.  He wasn't going to make that mistake with Kym.
  He'd bought the house several weeks ago. He wasn't sure at the time why he'd bought it.  The Foundation was more than willing let him and Nichole have first shot at the rather nice administrator's quarters at the school.  But it didn't feel right.  There was something wrong with the set up.  So he went out house hunting until he found something that felt right.  What he'd found was a very nice large modern neoeclectic place on an island in Lake Norris, just a few miles from the school.

   With a few modifications using his own elemental manipulating powers, he'd been able to make it feel like it should.   It was isolated, it was defensible, and it was elegant.  He recognized that was the dragon part of his nature.  He, like all of his people, was a collector and a hoarder.  Some would, and had in the past, called it greed. To him it was simply his nature.  When he'd been young he'd collected gems, and gold. For almost three centuries at the end of the Roman Empire he'd collected other things as well: land, power, politicians, and influence; even people.  All of these things were of value to a dragon. Now he was collecting again. This time it was money and influence.  His wife was quite helpful with that too.

   But the house was ready and evidently just in time as Nicole was due to arrive from the airport with the boy anytime soon.  Merrick just hoped that he could see that neither Nicole nor Merrick had anything to do with what happened.  Nicole's initial inquiries so far had led to a brick wall. But she was very good with finding holes in walls and was starting to upset the rats that lived there.

   As if in answer to his thoughts, he heard the Nicole's Ford pull down the front drive. Cutting through the house, he went to greet his nephew and help with the suitcases.  As Kym got out of the car his face was a mask hiding all emotions.  "Pop the side door, and I'll get his suitcases," Merrick said.

   Nicole shook her head and told him, "They didn't send his clothes or anything.  He was put directly on the plane from the school.  There's a restraining order against Adam, Steven, and Gates."

   "What the hell?" Merrick asked.  "What kind of jacked up outfit are they running out there?"

   "I don't know, but I intend to find out," Nicole said.  She looked between him and Kym and then said, "Why don't you take Kym to the mall and get him some more clothes and things he's going to need.  Adam and Steven said they'd send his stuff to him either via the Wrought, or Fed Ex it.  But that's probably gonna take a while, and he can't be stuck in the same jeans and tee-shirt until then."

   "Got it," Merrick said turning toward the house.  "Let me get my keys."  In less than a minute he was back sliding in behind the wheel of her pickup.  Kym got back in the passengers seat and didn't say a thing.

   Merrick looked over at his nephew and asked, "Do you feel like dealing with crowds?"

   Kym glanced over at him, and for just a moment the mask slipped from his face.  Merrick could see the surprise at the question reflected in his eyes. He also saw a deep soul wrenching pain there.  "I'll deal with it."

   Merrick shook his head and said, "Yeah, you'll deal with it.  You'll deal with whatever life keeps throwing at you huh?"

   "Something like that," Kym said neutrally.

   "Well, if you don't want to have to deal with crowds we won't deal with crowds," Merrick said.  "I know this is hard on you Kym.  You pick the place we go shopping."

   Kym shrugged and said, "The mall is fine.  I need to use an ATM anyway."

   Merrick knew better than to ask about that.  Kym was a dragonborn down to his toes, and Merrick knew that the boy probably already had half a dozen bank accounts in as many  names.  Nicole had commented that he'd had several weeks lead time on them in this reality and when she went to establish their identities here, she'd found that Kym had devastated the finances of several drug cartels as well as half a dozen terrorist organizations.  She'd complained that he hadn't left much for her to work with.

   "Okay, the mall it is," Merrick said.

   "I'm sorry," Kym said.  "I didn't mean to sound unappreciative.  I really do appreciate your taking me to get what I'm going to need.  It just seems that over the past year, this has gotten to be a habit.  I had to buy new stuff when I moved to Pawpaw's because our house was a crime scene and I couldn't get anything out. Then when I moved into Murphy's Law, Adam and Steven went out of their way to make sure I had the little things that sometimes get forgotten in times like these.  And now, here I am doing it again.  I'm sorry to seem ungrateful."  That was more words out Kym about what was going on than he'd heard the boy say in a year.

   "It's okay, Kym. Believe it or not, I understand how you're feeling.  When I was still a youngling barely three centuries old, I lost everything when Alaric sacked Rome.  I ended up having to move to Ravenna and deal with that fool Honorius.   So I do understand how you feel."

   "Really?" Kym asked.  Merrick got the feeling that he'd never much thought about exactly how old Merrick really was.

   Merrick nodded and said, "Really. All I had was a few coins in my pocket, and an old horse that didn't like the smell of me.  Fortunately though, my first element was earth so I wasn't completely without some resources.  Kind of like I suspect you are."

   "You know me that well?" Kym asked.

   "You?"  Merrick shook his head, "No. But I know your aunt, and I know that she trained you. I've also seen what you've done since you've been here.  Whether you realize it or not, you're a Thorn all the way down to your toes.  Sometimes I watch what you do and wonder if you ever got anything out of the Order of Light, and then I remember what you did at the Battle of Mount Charleston.  I don't think you realize just how amazing you really are."

   Kym sat silently for long moments.  Finally, he said, "I'm sorry for all fuss."  It seemed to Merrick that the boy was looking to end the conversation.

   "It's not a problem," Merrick told him.

   The remainder of the trip was in silence and much to his surprise, Merrick found it comforting.  Kym seemed to be one of those people who was comfortable in silence, and who did not feel the need to fill it up with random conversation.  It wasn't a rebuke, it was simply the way the boy was.

   Arriving at the Mall of Georgia, the two entered the huge complex and headed toward the Aeropostale store.  Merrick came to realize that this kid was extremely self sufficient. He knew his sizes, he knew his tastes, and he had an eye for a bargain.  The last part was something of a relief since Merrick planned to pay for his purchases.

   At the checkout when he insisted on paying, Kym began to protest, but then he studied Merrick for a few moments and smiled wanly to himself and said, "Okay."  Merrick wondered what that was about.
   However, he went straight from there to an ATM and withdrew some money, and insisted on visiting the electronics store across from the mall.  Much to his surprise, Kym dropped a huge amount of cash on several computers.   Merrick said nothing to him in the store or even the parking lot. However when they were in the truck heading home he asked, "You mind telling me why you just bought enough high-end computer hardware to start your own business?"

   Kym smiled and said, "There are things I need to keep up with on the net, and I need more than one MAC address to do it."

   "Why do I get the feeling that some of it would make certain people in government very nervous?" Merrick asked.

   "I don't want them to be nervous," Kym said.  "I don't want them to see it coming until it's too late."

   "What are you talking about, Kym?" Merrick asked.

   "This whole mess was caused by somebody in the Administration trying to get back at Murphy because of what happened at Mount Charleston.  This is they way they do business.  Right now, I'm just going to run things down.  Nicole asked me to let her handle it.  However, that doesn't mean I can't supply her with all the information she might need."

   Merrick smiled and replied, "Like I said, a Thorn down to your toes."

   Kym shrugged and said, "Technically I'm still a minor. That makes this case very much in the jurisdiction of the Order of Thorn's mandate to protect children."

   "Well, you and your aunt both can take a night off from it. After we're done here, the three of us are going to Piedmont Park. Their Summer Movies in the Park program includes "A Week With George Lucas". Tonight is Return of the Jedi."

   Kym stared at him for long moments. Finally, he turned and looked back toward the road with that same enigmatic wan smile.  "I could do Jedi in the park."


   It was everything Wade could do to keep up with the rest of the pack, and he would be the first to admit that he was using his magic to "cheat".  His bad leg was killing him, but he wasn't going to fail his packmates no matter what.  They'd chased the vampire who'd attacked the little girl from The Court, across most of one county and into downtown Atlanta.   For the whole chase, they'd been ambushed along the way.

   It had taken him a while to find and catch the girl and even longer to calm her down.  By the time he'd ascertained that she was going to be okay and dropped her with a nearby police officer, he'd had a hell of time catching up with the rest of the pack.  He didn't have the advantage of Avalon's swanmay cloak so he was forced to fly by sheer force of will.

  About forty minutes later, he came onto one hell of a scene in the parking lot of an elementary school.  It was in the northern section of the town, the area where Yankee Zephyr had died defending the city from the dragons.  There were police cars and emergency services and dead bodies everywhere.  

   A sudden chill went through his spine when he saw that two of the bodies, torn and full of bullet holes were Mike and Ana.  Even from the distance of the rooftop on which he was standing, he could tell there was no life left in them.  He shuddered at the thought of two of his oldest friends being shot to death, obviously with silver rounds.   But from the fast decaying corpses around them, many of which appeared to have been ripped in half they didn't go down without a fight.  He said a quick prayer to the Lord and Lady and skirted the edge of the battle scene to find the others.  He knew the loss of their friends had to be killing Jimmy.

   It was nearly half an hour later when he'd entered a nicer section of the city, ironically enough called North Druid Hills, where he found another circle of police cruisers.  This time, a huge chunk of the station's brick wall had been smashed and bricks and debris were everywhere.  One car had been completly smashed and another was burning sending up plumes of black smoke into the clear night sky.  From across the the street, he watched as Brielle was driven away in an ambulance.  With his othersight, he could see where Death was already hanging over her.  A fire and anger began to grow in the pit of his stomach.  Somebody was going to pay for this.  He hefted the the hammer in his hand and felt its weight settle something in his soul.  He again took to the air as thunder rumbled in the distance.

   His flying speed was much slower than he'd prefer, but he had to admit that he wasn't a superhero, just a witch in love with a true-breed werewolf. He didn't have enhanced strength or durability, only his spells and his wits.   As he continued to follow the broad swath of destruction left by his lover and the rest of the pack Wade was beginning to think that Todeshaus was throwing everything he had at Jimmy.  He couldn't believe the number of vampires this particular Damned had at his disposal.  It looked like he'd turned most of the gangs in the city.

   In a short time the sounds of gunfire caught his attention.  He altered his course to close with it.   What he found looked like something out the Transhuman War.  Jimmy and Lorne were both in complete battleform and stood back to back in the street in front of the Lindbergh Station; werecougar and werewolf were holding off an army.  What looked like a hundred vampires were circling them as traffic was backed up for miles.  Any time one of the vampires would dart in for an attack, they'd meet claw and fang, and then stop moving at all. The bad part was that a train was pulling into the station and it looked like there were twice as many vampires on it; several literally as they were hanging onto the roof their faces grinning maniacly as the train slowed.

   Wade set down on the roof of the building, pulled the hammer out and began to cast.  He felt the power build in him, as he hurled the lighting down into the crowd of vampires.  BOOM! Concrete, asphalt and pieces of vampire went flying in every direction.  He heard Jimmy growl, "Wade's here."

   The young witch took a moment to look more closely at his true-breed lover.  The rich red fur was streaked black with his own blood.  He was favoring his left side and there were several silver blades still stuck in his body.  Todeshaus was discovering an unpleasant fact. You can kill a regular werewolf with silver, but against a true breed you were only going to make him angry.  

   He glanced over at Lorne and could see where the werecougar was in worse shape than even Jimmy.  Wade leapt down from the roof and started swinging the hammer in his hand.  He noted that it began to glow a brilliant white light as the vampires approached.  He felt a strange energy infuse him as he began striking at anything near him that moved.  The wave of vampires between him and his lover began to part as they learned to fear the hammer that burned and crushed the soul as well as bone.

   Up ahead, he heard the horrible scream of a cougar in the night.  The mass of bodies in front of him surged and closed around him.  He stopped and pointed the head of the hammer in front of him.  The sounds of thunder began roll through his soul.  Above him, he could see storm clouds that had not been forecast close around the scene of the battle.

   A heavily muscled vampire leapt at him from the side.  He swung the hammer at it with all his might.  As he struck the undead creature in the head, he felt something surge through his limbs.  With surprise he noted that the iron head of the weapon swept the vampire's head clean from his shoulders and sent its body spinning off into the night.

   Another grabbed at him from the other side.  He kicked out with his good leg to get it away from him and was again surprised when his foot drove the vampire back by several yards. Something was happening to him.  He had never had this kind of strength in the past.  Not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth, he took the hammer by both hands and began to swing it in  wide circles around him all the while slowly spinning to make sure that the vampires couldn't approach him from behind.  It was an uneven advance toward the throng of bodies ahead, made even more so by his weak leg.

   Slowly inexorably he made his way toward the press of bodies where he'd heard Lorne scream.  He almost lost his balance when he slipped on something slick on the pavement.  With horror he realized it was blood, and as it was running in rivers down the pavement, several vampires were bent over lapping it up from the ground.   He shuddered at the sight when they looked up at him, madness in their eyes.

   He began advancing on the source of the blood, forcing the vampires back, his mind not willing to contemplate what his gut was telling him.  It wasn't until he drove the last away from the form writhing in pain on the ground.   Lorne had literally been torn limb from limb and he lay there as only a body and torso.  The only reason he was still alive, was that the vampires wanted his heart to keep beating.  Lorne looked up at him. Shame and fear were in his eyes.  "Please..., end it..., Wade.  Don't...,let me..., become..., like them," he wheezed weakly at Wade.

   Wade nodded, and felt his soul go cold.  He reached deep inside himself and called the fury of the gathering storm above him.  A request made.  A promise given.  Lorne had been one of the first of their group of friends to support him and Jimmy when they came out.  He'd always been close to Wade watching out for him and making sure nobody messed with Wade because of his bum leg.  The fury in his heart reached out for the storm as with one hand he raised the hammer high above his head.  The air around him suddenly became charged as he pointed his free hand at his friend and muttered the spell to keep his promise.  

   For an instant the hot Atlanta night became like daytime as the stroke of lightning lanced down from the sky to the hammer.  For an instant it settled around the head and then raced along Wade's outstretched hand to instantly reduce his dying friend to ashes.  The power of his fury was not to be abated by this mere action though.  It demanded more.  I demanded retributition!  Bolts of flew from the blast point to strike anything standing within twenty yards. Vampires burst into flames and began running in every direction as they were consumed by the power of Wade's anger.
   It was in this instant that Wade looked up to see Jimmy's battleform surrounded by twenty or so vampires tearing at him, trying to hold him down. For just a second their eyes locked and it was understood.  The odds were against them getting out of this. Even through the beastly yellow eyes, Wade could feel the love and affection from his mate. No matter what happened, they would always have each other.

   Then, out of nowhere, Todeshaus dropped from above into the fray; the vampire had yet to acquire another set of pants.  He looked like hell, and it was obvious that several members of the pack had been at him.  His once handsome features were now a mass of bloodless wounds.  Most of the flesh was gone from his left arm, and there was a criss-cross of deep slashes on his chest and abdomen.  Wade recognized Lorne's work.  His genitals too were gone, and only a gaping dead-white wound was in their place.  

   Wade tried to warn Jimmy, but his voice was lost in the dying echoes of the thunder from his strike.  He screamed Jimmy's name as the vampire struck from behind, driving his good arm into Jimmy's back.  Wade watched in horror as the vampire withdrew his hand holding Jimmy's still beating heart.   With a stunned look, the true-breed began to shift back to his human form and topple forward.

   Wade's world turned to ashes. He screamed incoherently and charged forward at the vampire who'd killed Jimmy.  Wade didn't know if it was the look in his face or the fear of the hammer in his hand, but Todeshaus' minions scattered before him. Those that were too slow were bowled over by Wade's uneven gait.

   With a scream of fury, he brought the pulsing hammer down onto the hand holding Jimmy's heart.  BOOM! The sound of the blow echoed off the concrete walls of the surrounding buildings.  Todeshaus screamed in pain and backed away leaving his hand still embedded in the shattered sidewalk.  Wade swung again, this time with a powerful back stroke that caught the vampire in the ribs and slammed him through a parked pickup truck nearby.  Wade began advancing on the vampire as Todenhaus struggled to pull himself out of the twisted metal.

   From nearby a high caliber pistol barked.  Between limping steps, a .357 round crushed Wade's skull as it splattered his brains all over the sidewalk.  Like is lover before him, the witch toppled forward, a lifeless husk.  Somewhere in the night, swanmay wings sliced through the hot summer air to carry away the souls of the battleslain.


hell's breaking lose over at Piedmont and Lindbergh," Dustin said.
 "Mayor Reed is afraid it's turning into a riot.  The
helicopters are up and are reporting gang violence.  He wants us
on stand-by."

   "Standby?" Seth asked.  "What kind of gangs?"  He was glad that Lee was not here at a time like this.  He would hate to leave the boy with a sitter when it looked like there might be a second burning of Atlanta.

   Dustin shook his head and looked out the window and said, "I don't know.  He said that if we showed our faces, it might be taken the wrong way."

   "What did he mean by that?" Seth asked.

   Dustin shook his head and said, "I don't know.  He said for us to stay put and keep a low profile.  He went as far as to call Murphy and tell her to make sure we followed orders."

   "What did she say?" Seth asked walking over to the large window and looking out toward the park where the crowds were gathering for a movie.
   "She's not currently available.  However our orders from Cassidy was to stay out of it until the Mayor called us in," the tall blond said as he picked up the remote and turned on the television.

   The speakers flared to life, as the screen began to glow.  "This makes no sense!" a reporter was complaining.  "We're looking down on hundreds of people but nothing is showing up on the cameras!"   Seth's head shot around to look at the screen.  On it was the image of Lindbergh Station from the air.  A pickup was smashed, there were the bodies of two young men lying on the ground, and a huge hole blasted into the asphalt, but nothing else. Next to one of the young men was what looked like a small sledge hammer.  "I swear Gene, it looks like they're licking up the blood from the ground."

   "This is the fourth and most devastating incident reported tonight, Martin.  There was the vampire attack at The Court in Gwinnette County, a plaza catering to kids and young people.  Then there was the werewolf versus vampire fight at Chamblee that left at least two werewolves dead, and scores of vampires as piles quickly decaying corpses. Less than half an hour later another werewolf was severely injured and over a dozen vampires were killed at the North Druid Hills Station, and now this attack.  After the untimely death of Associate Director Davidson; the local field commander for the  Department of Nocturnal Affairs the vacancy has not been filled.  Acting Director Jones has been unavailable for comment," the anchor said as behind him scenes from the devastation of the four battles were shown.

   Seth looked over at Dustin and then back toward the screen.  "Dusty, this has vampire written all over it.  That's less than five miles from here, and there's three thousand or more people across the street in the park- including children."

   "We've got our cells," Dustin said.  Why don't we change and go stake out the park?" the tall blond said.  "If any asks, we're on call."

   "Good idea," Seth said handing Dustin the bag with with his Challenger working clothes in it.

   Twenty minutes later the two of them were on roof of the apartments on Tenth Street overlooking the park.  "I've got a bad feeling about this Dusty," Seth said as he adjusted the presser field on his mask.  Why he and Dustin wore the damn things he wasn't sure.  Most of their neighbors had figured it out by now.

   "So do I, Love.  So do I.   I just wish Jett and Evan weren't in Florida on leave right now," Challenger said.

   "We can handle it if we have to," Seth said patting the quiver of arrows on his hip.  Ever since that battle with UNIPACT Prime back in 2005 when he faced off with Stonewall with the thing, it had become as much a part of his costume and working equipment as his the tools he carried in the pouch at his sided.*  (As told in A Gathering of Gatherings)

   "Yeah, but right now, Quantum's ability to generate light in any spectrum would be awful handy," Challenger said.

   Seth gave his husband a questioning look.  This wasn't like Dustin to second guess himself.  "What's wrong?" he finally asked.

   "I'm just upset because we couldn't protect Lee," Dusty said.  "I mean, we're all the family he's got left and we have to send him off to another plane of reality to keep him safe from this monster."  He stopped and looked at Seth and said, "I want the bastard destroyed before he can go to ground.  I want my nephew back where he belongs."  The old intensity was back in Dustin's voice. It reminded Seth of their days on Paraforce 1.

   "Me too, Dusty. Me too," Seth said as he stepped off the edge of the building.   "I'm going to reconnoiter the area."  He spread his great black wings and took to the sky.  He didn't bother going into "stealth mode" which was shrunk to about six inches.  He wanted to be seen.  He wanted the people below to know that someone was looking out for them.

   As he caught a thermal over the park, he scanned the area below.  It was a little known fact that Seth's vision was extremely sharp, and could see into both the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum.  It was about the only we could maneuver at top flying speeds.  He watched as the people relaxed on ground, while on the big screen set up in the middle of the park, Luke Skywalker and crew were evading imperial stormtroopers on speeder bikes on the forest moon of Endor.   He was deathly afraid that the transhumans were about to be drug into a nocturnal war, and the baselines were going to be caught in the middle.



   Alec was a bit surprised at how easily his son's family was wiling to not only accept the truth of what had been revealed this evening, but him as well.  Alec only ever slept with one woman- well two, but Emory Northmore didn't count because she was wearing a very attractive male form at the time.  Evidently his one time with a real woman had resulted in her becoming pregnant with Brendan.  Leave it to Alec's luck to choose a married woman.

   "So how long have you worked  with Mr. Stone in Birmingham?" Delia asked.

   "Since the early eighties," Alec told her.  "We met during the vampire wars."

   "Wow?  Did you meet Runeclaw and Night Angel too?" the tall blonde asked.

   Alec smiled and probably blushed just a little at the thought of Runeclaw.  At the time Alec had been barely sixteen, and Trey nineteen.  However, that had not slowed them down one bit.  They were in a war for their lives and took their comfort where they could find it.  It wasn't until much later that he realized two things.  The first that the Emory Northmore he knew- the MALE Emory Northmore was  a shapeshifting mage who's natural form was female.   The second was that a weretiger didn't have to bite you to infect you, if there's the proper exchange of bodily fluids.  "Yes, I met Runeclaw and Night Angel as well as Emerald Stone.  I also met the Werewolf King of North America, but back then he was just plain old J.D. Williams and was defending his mother."*  (As told in Cattin' Around: Vampire Wars of the Southeast)

   "Wow, family with connections," Nelson said with a smile.  

   "Babysitter," Sharon replied with a gleam of mirth in her eye.
   Alec chuckled at that and said, "Tell me about yourselves.  I've heard all kinds of rumors, but LeCroix has been keeping you guys pretty well hidden.  I know David, Noah, Brendan, and Nelson were at the Battle of Mount Charleston.  But we don't know a lot about you personally."

   Everyone laughed and Sharon said, "That's because the other spiritwalkers and elementalists haven't had a chance to come into their power yet.  We have to stay hidden for a while and watch over them so there will somebody to show them what they're supposed to do.  But as for us," she smiled and said, "Your son Brendan is a detective for the Miami Dade Sheriff's office dealing specifically with crimes against children.  I'm a professor of economics at University of Miami.  Noah is a best selling author who turns out about three novels a year, and is working on his Masters in poli-sci.  Nelson is a prosecutor for Dade County- Brendan catches them and Nelson puts them in jail.  David is starting his third year of medical school with plans on specializing in nocturnal and transhuman medicine."

   "What about Delia?" Alec asked looking the tall elegant blonde.

   She smiled and said, "I'm retired.  I refused to take a pay cut or lose my severance package when the government took over the banking industry.  I walked away with my money and told the government's pay czar where to shove his new rules and regulations, and dared him to try to take my money."   Alec got the impression that nobody in their right mind would ever try to take anything from his daughter-in-law.

   "Now what about you?" Sharon asked eagerly.  "Except for David, none of us really have any family we care to be around.  Tell us about the man who gave us our favorite primal tiger."

   Alec shrugged and said, "Not much to tell.  I'm a mage and a weretiger.  I've been working for Chancellor Stone since I graduated high school.  That's actually how I met Brendan's mother. I was in Miami negotiating a deal with the local mages.  I graduated University of Alabama Birmingham with an MBa.  I live in the Mountain Brook Homewood area of Birmingham."

   "Is there a Mr. Frostbridge?" Sharon asked.

   He shook his head and said, "There've been a few close relationships, but nothing ever lasted.  My duties representing the mage interests in Mr. Stone's Congress pretty much makes having a significant other difficult.  I either have to keep them in the dark about what I do, or find someone who knows what's going on, and trust me.   When it comes to the gay community that's harder than you think."  He shrugged and said, "I got tired of little party bois trying to latch on to me a long time ago.  People can and do get killed in what we do."

   Alec noticed the rest of them exchanged glances and then Nelson said, "Unfortunately on a regular basis as the six of us know all too well."

   "Any hobbies?" Brendan asked.

   "I'm an avid sci-fi and B movie fan," Alec offered somewhat sheepishly.  The whole pride turned to look at Brendan and chuckled.  "What?" Alex asked.

   "We know where Brendan got that," David said with a smile.  "Tuesday night is still B movie night at our house."

   "That is when we all can make it home.  Lately it's just been Brendan, Noah, Delia and I," Sharon said.

   "David's usually at the library, and Nelson's in his study working on a case," Noah said.

   "What about you and your writing?" Alec asked.  "When do you find time for that?"

   "Usually between three and six a.m." Brendan said.  "Noah doesn't sleep a lot."

   "Noah doesn't sleep at all, unless he uses his powers with a significant amount of force," David said.  "After Mount Charleston, he slept for a week."

   "After Mount Charleston, we all slept for a week," Noah grumbled.

   "I didn't think you were involved except to keep David safe while he shut down the dragon's ability to manipulate the elements," Alec replied.

   "We weren't up until that final push.  Then we were in the thick of it," Noah said.  "And I won't let anything happen to my family."  There was a fierceness there that sent shivers down even Alec's spine.  This young man who looked no older than a teenager had evidently experienced a great deal of loss.  It was clear he was telling the universe: no more.  (As told in Dragonwar)

  A worried look came across David's face.  Alec followed his gaze and turned to see a tall handsome raven-haired young man working his way toward their table.  "This can't be good," David said.

   The boy nodded to group and said, "Hi guys.  I'm sorry to interrupt, but there's an emergency in Atlanta."

   "How do you know about an emergency in Atlanta?" Brendan asked.

   "It's all over the news. Open hostilities have broken out there between that vampire who took over and the werewolf packs.   Several hundred vampires just killed J.J. Williams and are rampaging through the streets."

   "That is not good," Noah said.  "That fool could set off war between the vampires and werewolves that would make what happened in Carpathia look like a cake walk.  We'd better go too," he said looking over at David.

   "Vlad wants you guys out of it.  Technically this is still a battle between him and Todeshaus.  I came to see if Mr. Frostbridge would be willing to teleport me there.   I'd really like to get there before Emerald Pruitt.  She's likely to kill everything in sight and let God sort it out."

   "That woman does have a blind spot doesn't she," Alec chuckled.  "Yeah, I can send you there. The only place I know to set you down though is a little coffee shop and bookstore near Piedmont Park."

   "That'll do," he said looking at his phone.  "I just got word from Vlad that Witchcat is there visiting some friends."

   Alec nodded and said, "That's good.  The real trick is to keep Trey Greenbough from burning down the city.  J.J. is his best friend's son."

   "No the trick will be to keep Leif Hunter AND Trey Greenbough from burning down the city.  Leif went to school with J.J.," Kent said.

   "Oh dear," Alec told him pushing back from his chair with visions of the City too Busy to Hate going up in flames.  "Let's take this outside.  It's going to be rather flashy and probably not a little unpleasant."


room was not often used.  It was deep in the realm of otherspace
that some called Sheol.  It was a place where reality was
malleable if one had the will to make it so.  Now it was host to a
unique gathering of individuals to deal with one of their own.

   "This situation is intolerable," Merlin growled from his seat at the large table.  Winter noted that the closer in time they came to his point of birth, the younger he appeared.   Gone was the wizened old wizard who'd forced himself up on her when she was only fourteen some three thousand centuries ago. Now he appeared to be a man in his late thirties and were it not for the coldness in his eyes, he'd be quite handsome.  "She cannot be allowed to lead her people."

   "Why not, Merlin?" Ramses asked.  "I did. Boudicca did, as did Elija.  You yourself were the power behind the throne in the sixth century.  Why would you seek to deny Winter access to her people?  Besides you, Caine, and Abel agreed to this when you took her to train her."

   "But we did not expect her people to survive," Merlin protested. "They weren't supposed to.  She's altered the timeline by preserving the Atlanteans!"

   "You are the one who gave my parents the technology to preserve their holdings," Winter said with a smile.  

   "I don't recall that!" Merlin protested.

   "I was there, Merlin," Caine said from his seat, the mark on his forehead rising with his eyebrow.  "Just because you don't remember it the doesn't mean that is true of the rest of us."

   "But if the Thulian Empire comes into existence, they will embark on their Great Quest. That cannot be allowed!  It will disrupt the entire time stream!"  Merlin protested standing at his seat.

   "That is your theory Merlin," Boudicca said. "It is not one upon which we have reached a consensus. To be honest it sounds more like an attempt on your part to strike back at her father for the beating he gave you."

   Winter enjoyed the look of shock on Merlin's face.  He should have known better than to throw that particular argument anywhere near Boudicca.  She had very little patience with him and his pet theories.  "Nevertheless, even though we've all led our peoples at one time or another, all of them pale in comparison to what the Thulian Empire will be.  None of us ever wielded that kind of star-spanning power."

   "What makes you think I'm going to lead my people?" Winter asked.  "Do you think I'm going to become Queen or something?"

   "Aren't you?" Merlin accused.

   "Of course not!" Abel who'd been silent up until this point said, his blind eyes seeming to peer directly into Merlin's soul.  "Winter has already made arrangements for another to take the throne. She is not attempting to lead her people."

   "Why would  you support her, Abel?  She's involved herself with your father's first wife, a primal!"

   "I hold no ill will toward neither Lilith nor her children.  So Winter has acted to preserve the children of our half brother?  It is no concern of mine!" Caine said.

   "But her interference will create one of the greatest mysteries in human history!" Merlin complained.

   Ramses raised and eyebrow, "This is coming from the man who gave us the Once and Future King?  We all have mystery surrounding our names.  Winter is one of the few of us who has had the good graces to keep her name out of history.  People wonder even today how I got my people to build the pyramids, they wonder if Arthur really existed, or if it really was a flying saucer that Elija rose to the sky in.  And we won't even talk about some of the rumors surround poor Caine and Abel.  Last I heard, there was one group that was saying Caine was the father of all vampires."

   "Personally, I like the one that has Abel and I living in two houses on opposite sides of a cemetery telling macabre tales," Caine said.  "I'll leave the vampires to my father's first wife."

   "My point is," Ramses said, "that so what if in several hundred years, the Terran Alliance can't figure out what happened to one of the planets orbiting Alpha Centauri? There have been mysteries all through time.  To accuse Winter of attracting attention to herself is a matter of the pot calling the kettle black."

   "What of her involvement with Covenant?" Merlin accused, obviously desperate to find something to stick to her.

   Every head turned toward her.  "Is this true, Winter?" Boudicca asked.

   "Only as a retaliation when Merlin threatened to bring the Kregar to our reality," she said.  "I told him that should he do that, I would be forced to call in some favors."

   "Why would you threaten to involve the Kregar?" Abel asked.  "Few realities have survived their invasions."

   "Something has to limit the power of the Thulian Empire!" Merlin protested.  "I won't be around to stop them from destroying reality in a thousand years!"

   "Ah this is about the fact we're approaching your birth," Ramses said.  None of the time lords could progress to a time preceding their birth.  Because of Merlin's unique situation, the closer the time stream comes to the point when he is born, the less and less powerful he will become.  "Do you not think that we can't handle the situation without you?   You are the one that made the bad deal that allowed you to age backwards Merlin.  Should the Thulians threaten reality, then we will be there to deal with them."

   "Without you," Winter said sweetly.   The least satisfactory part of this whole inquiry was that Winter knew exactly how it was going to turn out.  Each time in the distant past when the old sorcerer had come to her bed, she'd taken just a piece of his memory in retaliation.  She'd seen this in his memories and knew exactly how it was going to go. The problem with him remembering her future was that it put her in a position to be able to steal those memories and use them against him; just as he'd stolen her innocence and used it against her.  What was that saying about revenge being a dish best being served cold?   

    Each of these memories were used to preserve her family and to twist the knife as revenge for the horrible draughts he'd make her drink afterwards to make sure that there was no consequences to his actions.   Perhaps that was part of the problem.  Merlin remembered all the things she would do to him as a young man in the future so he took his revenge on her when she was a young girl.  Perhaps they were locked in an eternal self-fulfilling struggle against each other.  Two forces passing in the time stream and bitterly fighting until they pass on beyond each other's birth.

   But Winter knew a bit of a secret.  Her involvement with the beings known as Covenant had given her some insight into exactly what would happen when her people achieved their goal with the Great Quest.  Merlin was on a dead end collision with the Big Bang, but Winter knew how to protect herself and her people from coming entropy of the "Great Wind Down or even the Big Crunch.  Merlin had no such knowledge.  She would have her final revenge in the end after all.

  "We will take your concerns under consideration Merlin," Ramses said.  "But unless you can produce something other than Winter is simply calling for us do as we agreed when she was fourteen, you have no case.  She can serve her Empire as she and they see fit."

   Merlin glared at her, the hatred in his eyes evident.  "This is not over, Winter."

   "I never thought it was Old Man. We've been at each other's throats for three hundred millennia.  You will do horrible things to me in the past I will make you pay for them in the now and in the future.  It's a cycle we're in.  It's almost like we're married."


   Jett smiled over at his mom and her new fiance and said, "So, the reason you're keeping Dad's name is because Delsin's last name is Storm too?"

   "We thought that might amuse you," Agatha said.

   "Who knows son, we may already be related.  It's not like Storm is that common of a surname," the tall broad raven haired man said.

   Jett shook his head and said, "I don't think so."  He bit back the thought that he was not this man's son.  He was trying genuinely not to dislike this man.  It was hard though, some part deep inside him wanted to hate his guts.   It made no sense whatsoever.
   Delsin shrugged and said, "Maybe not.  We are hoping you can make it to the wedding next month."  He looked over at Evan and said, "Both of you."

   "I'll be sure to put in for leave as soon as we get back," Jett told him.

   "Exactly what is it you do?" Delsin replied.  "Your mother hasn't given me a whole lot of details."

   Jett and Evan exchanged glances.  His mother was very good at keeping secrets, and his was no exception.  "We're in law enforcement."

   "Police?" Delsin asked.  "You are the sole owner of one of the most successful aerospace companies in the world, and you work as a police officer?"

   "Something like that," Jett told him.  "It's complicated."

   "I'll say," Delsin replied.

   "What is it that you do, Delsin?" Jett asked.

   "I'm in finance.  I recently took over as chief financial officer of Berkana Bank," he said.

   "I know that one.  It's financial sheet is in very good shape. Why did the former CFO quit?" Evan asked.

   "She refused to take the pay cut that the pay czar implemented across the board.  The cut didn't make a difference to me.  I don't need the money anyway.  Evidently neither did Mrs. Funakoshi.  She walked away with a severance package that left Mr. Feinberg weeping.   She said it wasn't the money, it was the principle," Delsin said with a smile.  When it was clear that neither Evan nor Jett were going to laugh, he added, "That was a little financial joke.  Principal slash principle."

   Jett smiled and said, "Yes it is."

   Delsin looked at him carefully and finally shrugged.  "Why do I get the feeling you don't like me, Jett?"

   "I honestly don't know, Delsin.  I don't know you well enough to like you or dislike you," Jett told him.  "That was why I took some time off to come down and meet the man who is marrying mother.  I've discovered that I've been so busy, p..., uh with my own career that I've let too much time pass since I last saw my mother."

   "Does this mean you're coming home soon?" his mother asked hopefully.

   "As soon as I can find a replacement," he told his mother.  "I can't leave the others in a lurch."  Next to him he knew that he'd just stunned his lover with that announcement.  "If you're getting married and are going to have a baby, it's time I stepped up started running the company."

   "Now that's a surprise," his mom said looking at him suspiciously.  "The company is in good hands, and you know your father wanted you to finish your degree before you took over."

   Jett nodded and said, "I know, but I'm not going finish it if I stay with my current job."

   "Have you talked to Evan about this?" she asked.

   Jett shook his head and said, "No."

   "Don't you think you should.  Evidently he's as surprised as I am."

   Jett turned to look at his lover.  There was a definite look of disbelief and surprise on his face.  "We'll talk later Jett," Evan said.  Jett knew he was in trouble then.  He made it a point to stay on his best behavior for the rest of the afternoon as they all toured around Biscayne Bay where his mother had settled after retiring from the Navy.  

  It was late well into the evening when they finally got a moment alone to speak.  The sun had long set in the Western horizon when Jett spoke.

    "I'm sorry to spring this on you out of the blue," he told Evan.

   "What, that you want to hang up the old uniform and become a CEO?  First mention of it I've heard," Evan said tersely.  "I thought we decided that we'd talk about life changing issues like this."

   "We did," Jett said defensively.  "But I think I need to be in charge of the company now that Mom's having a baby."

   Evan nodded and said, "Is that all?"

   "Yes..., no.  That's not all," Jett said.  "I also want to make sure that my Dad's company stays in either mine or my Mom's control."

   "And what makes you think it's not going to?" Evan asked turning to look through the window that looked out over the bay.

   "I don't trust Delsin," Jett said.

   "You don't know Delsin," Evan said.  "Were you planning on my joining you, or did your change of career include a change of boyfriend?"

   "What?!" Jett asked.  "What makes you say something like that?"

   "Well, you unilaterally decided to give up being Quantum.  That comes part and parcel with Razorwing," Evan said the hurt apparent in his voice.  "He turned and faced Jett.  You've always told me that we were in this together, but suddenly when you get worried you start making decisions for both of us.  You didn't ask if I wanted to give up my job.  I LIKE my job.  The pays not bad," he looked Jett up and down, "there are certain fringe benefits that are good too."

   "So we don't give up being Quantum and Razorwing and we move to Miami," Jett said.  "I'll just do the Bruce Wayne thing.  Wanna be my Robin?"

   "And leave Seth and Dustin in a lurch?" Evan said.  "Part of the reason we took the job was so that Atlanta would actually have some kind of hero defense.  Let's face it.  Not many heroes stay there for some reason."

   "It's inhospitable?" Jett asked.

   Evan shook his head and said, "No.  You can't say that.  The people have been very welcoming to us."

   "The mayor's a jackass that attempts to use us as his personal press opportunity?" Jett ventured.

   "And that's different from what President Panty-waist did back in DC?  No Jett, that doesn't answer why there are no heroes there."

   "There are no heroes there because of the huge nocturnal influence.  Just like here," Jett said.

   "Here, has Coral and Depth Charge," Evan replied.   

   "You know what I mean," Jett said.

   "Actually I don't.  To be honest, I'm worried Jett.  If you want to go back to school and then take over the company when you're done, I'm all for that. But at least talk to me about it.  Don't just arbitrarily make decisions for me.  I'm not your accessory.  I thought I was your partner."

   That got Jett's attention.  Evan's concerns were suddenly making sense.  Evan had always been something more of a follower than a leader; never really asserting himself.  It had taken Jett a long time to get him to come out of his shell.  About two years, they'd found out what the source of it was.   A good half of his genetic code came a Meirrian pleasure replicant.  They were genetically predisposed to "please" their owners.  He shook his head and said, "You are my partner, and the only boyfriend for me.  I'm not planning on replacing you.  And if you want, we'll talk about the job and school thing.  I mean, we'll really discuss it.  I won't make any hasty decisions."

   Evan turned around and smiled at him.  "That's all that I ask, Jett."

   Jett walked over and put his arms around his lover, pressing his body against Evan and said, "Good.  Because I want you in my life always."  He kissed the blond on the ear.

   Evan snuggled back and pressed his body hard against Jett's.  "I love you Jett Storm. I couldn't stand the thought of losing you."

   "I'm not going to replace you," Jet said snuggling down and enjoying the Evan's scent as he ran his hands down the other man's hard muscled front.  "You don't get rid of me that easily."

   "Getting rid of you is the last thing I want to do," Evan said reaching behind him and stroking Jett's black hair.  He turned and pressed his body against Jett's and kissed him seriously.  Jett felt himself begin to respond to the blond's kiss.  He reached around and down to cup Evan's hard little bubble butt in each hand.  He had always loved Evan's rear-end, actually he'd always loved all of Evan.  He knew that he would love Evan even if he didn't carry the pleasure replciant genes that made him so attractive.

   Evan melted against his body as his tongue pressed against Jett's mouth seeking entrance.  Jett parted his lips and devoured his lover's tongue, as Evan began to run his hands down Jett's back massaging the powerful muslces there.  He pulled back and asked, "What time are we due down for dinner?"

   "We've got about an hour and a half," Jett said feeling his body beginning to respond to Evan.  He felt his own length harden in the front of his jeans.   "Just enough time," he said as he began to unbutton the front of Evan's shirt.   Pushing the soft material down off his shoulders, Jett exposed the smooth well-muscled form.   He ran his fingers in little circles around the bright pink nipples, and then squeezed them gently.   

   Evan closed his eyes and moaned.   Jett looked down and could see the outline of his lovers' dick in the front of his slacks.  He smiled and started working at Evan's belt and button to the stylish slacks to release the prize contained therein.  Kneeling, he pushed the slacks down to reveal the baby blue briefs under it.  He leaned forward and nibbled at the front of Evan's dick the material drinking in the heady aroma of cotton, sweat, and maleness.  Above him, Evan moaned again, and Jett smiled.

   When the material had turned a dark cerulean from his spit and Evan's own lubricants, Jett pulled the briefs down along the hard muscled thighs of his lover and released the eight inches of maleness behind them.   In a single stroke, he engulfed the long wide dick in his mouth and took it to the back of his throat.  Pulling back he ran his tongue up the silky length of Evan's cock sucking deep and reveling in the musty taste.  Then opening his throat as wide as he could, he buried his face down into Evan's nearly bald pubes.  

   Neither Jett nor Evan had very much body hair, not much more than peach fuzz even though both men were now in early twenties.  Possibly it was a side effect of the nature of their powers. He was a natural energy absorber and converter, and body hair would likely get in the way of the absorption or be burned away by its expulsion.   Evan on the other hand could generate a golden metallic substance from his skin to act as either armor- which he wore under his costume- or to become the gravity defying wings on his back, or long razor sharp spikes from the backs of his hands.  Again it was something in which hair was likely to interfere.  Or it could be side effect of their shared  Merrian heritage. It wasn't a question he felt comfortable asking his mom.  "Hey mom, did Dad have any pubic hair," was not a conversation he saw himself having anytime in the near future.

    He reached around and grabbed a double handful of that beautiful ass he'd been admiring earlier as he began to go to town on the dick in his mouth.  Jett loved the taste of Evan, the slight musty, slightly tangy and all male tasting precum that seemed to constantly ooze out of his broad circumcised cock. Jett felt Evan's hands on his head as he began to slowly face-fuck Jett.   

   Something must have set Evan off, because it usually took quite a bit of cock-sucking to get Evan's motor running this fast.  He pulled off the dick and kissed its head for before running his finger first into his mouth and then along the length of his lover dick.  Then it was back down on it as he worked his now slick finger into Evan's ass.  

  He worked in first one finger and felt Evan begin to tremble.  A second finger and Evan pushed him back.  "Not yet.  I want you inside me," he growled at Jett.

   Jett smiled and stood and kissed him.  In a flash, the blond had divested himself of his shoes, slacks, briefs and shirt.  He stood facing the door frame to the connecting bathroom of their room and stuck his butt out toward Jett.  It was Jett's favorite position, with both of them standing, Evan bent over slightly holding the door frame.   It was a position they'd even used in a modified form while flying- although they don't usually talk about that.

  With a deliberate slowness, Jett teased his lover by taking his time removing his own clothing.  He could see the hunger begin to burn in Evan's eyes and felt it become reflected in his own.  When he stepped out of his slacks, Evan lunged at him, dropped to his knees and took Jett's own seven inches of dick straight down his throat.  

   It was hot and hungry and for a moment, Jett thought that Evan wasn't going to let up but instead finish him off right there with his mouth.  But after taking him to the very edge, Evan pulled off, stood and turned around again.  Jett didnt' need a second invitation. He stepped forward and holding the side of Evan's hip with one hand, he lined his dick up to his lover's opening with the other.  As he felt the head of his uncut cock slip through the tight ring of Evan's ass, the blond thrust his hips backwards burying Jett's cock deep in his body.

   It was as it always was: hot, tight, and slick.   He reached around with one hand and took Evan's eight inch cock in his right hand, while holding onto his hips with his left.  As he would take a long languorous stroke into Evan's ass, he would stroke down on the dick in his hand.  As he pulled out, he'd stroke up.  

   They set a long steady rhythm that way as he nibbled at Evans ear, and whispered to him of the love they shared.   Evan had once told Jett that this was the way he wished the world could stay forever; in his arms with Jett buried deep inside his body.  But even for two men with a transhuman endurance, this became too much after a while.  Eventually the need of both men became too great for them to deny.

   Jett released Evan's dick to his own hand and grabbed his lover by the hips and began to fuck him harder.  Suddenly he felt Evan's ass ring clamp down on his dick and smelled the sweet pungent odor of the blond's jism as it splattered across the floor.  That was the last straw for Jett.  He grabbed Evan's hips and began to rabbit fuck him fast and hard until in a final burst of passion, he went over the edge and filled Evan's ass with is own seed

   For long moments they stood there afterwards, Jett still embedded in his lover's body, his hands roaming his front as he gently kissed his neck and ears.  "Want to take this over to the bed now?" Jett asked.

   Before Evan could reply both of their cell phones began to ring.  "What now?" Jett asked. He pulled away from the man he'd asked to marry him on more than one occasion and dug through his discarded slacks for the device.  Finding it, he hit the receive button and said, "This had damn well better be good."

   "We're on standby in Piedmont Park where there are thousands of people watching Lucas in the Park," Dustin's voice said.  "There're reports of a vampire hoard numbering in hundreds if not thousands advancing through town.  Evidently some big wig in the nocturnal community has been killed and they're talking about this starting a nocturnal war.  Is that good enough for you?"

   Jett felt himself blush.  Finally, he said, "Sorry, I didn't mean to snap.  You just caught us at an awkward moment."

   "In other words, you were either fighting or making love," Dustin said.  Jett could almost see the teasing smile on the older man's face.

   "A little bit of both," Jett replied.

   "Well, we could use your help.  Even I'm worried, and so is Seth."

   "We'll be there as soon as we can get changed and get a signal on the transponders," Jet said.

   "See you in a bit then," Dustin said before the phone went dead.

   He looked over to where Evan was hanging up his own phone.  The blond smiled and said, "Those two are two peas in a pod."

   "I know.  Let me grab a pad and scribble a note to Mom while you get your costume on," Jett told him.