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A Step Too Far 1:
IT'S ALL IN THE CARDS
by Chad Imbroglio


Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which is my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin through which I run
And do still run, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done,
Thou hast not done,
For I have more.
John Donne (1572-1631), A Hymm to God the Father

"This is too dangerous, Allen. We shouldn't be here."

"Oh, bite me Issac. It's fun! Besides, what kind of policeman would look for us here?"

Allen picked up his slice of sausage pizza and began to devour it. He didn't get much food while staying at the Colony, and rouge para- psychologists like him needed fuel to run on.

Issac picked up his pizza and began inhaling faster than Allen. He had grown a foot and gained almost a hundred pounds after being bonded to the god Nergal. His appetite had increased accordingly. And he had to admit, this Chucky Cheese's pizza was good.

A little boy and his mother sat in the booth across from Allen and Issac. He began complaining, "Mom, I wanna play Tempest! I can almost beat Deathbringer! Please? Pretty please?"

"I'm sorry, Billy, but I'm all out of quarters," the mother replied.

"Now this is a travesty that I must put an end to!" Allen said. He stood up and walked over the the little boy and his mother. "Here, I think I can help," Allen said.

He reached behind the little boy's ear and pulled out a quarter. Then another. Then another. "Now go and crush that Deathbringer. He deserves every bit of it."

"Thanks, mister!" the boy exclaimed as he ran off to the arcade.

"That was a very nice thing for you to do," the boy's mother said to Allen. It was obvious that she was a little peturbed at Allen for encouraging the boy, but she was trying to be polite.

"No problem," Allen said. An accusitory expression appeared on his face. "I got the quarters from your quarterless purse." The mother began furiously looking through her purse as Allen quickly made his getaway.

"Come on, Issac," he said. "We'd better take the pizza with us or we will bring the cops in here."


Louis Rachtman stood atop the grassy knoll in Dallas, looking at the spot where his most famous moment had taken place.

Of course, just like last time, no one could see him. No one could sense him either, that was the beauty of the whole thing. Only a little distortion in photographs to keep the country guessing for the rest of eternity.

That was one of his talents. Not only was he invisible to the eye, but he could shield himself from detection by other Omegas. Even that little runt in the SEEKER squad. Not that he had any need to hide from them, having the same boss and all.

They used to have the same boss, anyway. Louis had "died" years ago, his other talent being too subtle for current uses. The new government wanted slam/bang action that the press could see and not have to think about too much. The subtle subversion of minds was the old way and the press could jump all over it. The circus around his best product, Oswald, was still buzzing.

Louis looked down at the letter he had received from Italy. Some facist politician there wanted him to play with someone in the States who would eventually come to Italy. All part of some hush-hush Stormkiller project or some such nonsense. It was money though, and without getting social security at his age, he needed it.

Now all he had to do was find this Covenant.


It was getting dark. Allen and Issac wouldn't be able to reach Oxford, Ohio until the next day so they were looking for a place to stay the night. It had been kind of quiet in the station wagon and Issac had had time to think.

"Are we doing the right thing?" he asked. "Leaving the Colony behind, I mean."

"As I see it," Allen replied, "we had several right options. First was staying at the Colony with Threll and waging war on Dynamax to clear our names."

"That's sounds like a good option in retrospect," Issac said.

"Yeah, and you could be in charge of the nursery," Allen said playfully. "Those little kids need someone big to beat up on..."

"Go ahead and rub it in, Mr.I-Sold-Out-To-A-Crime-Boss-And-Had-To- Be-Picked-Up-In-Crystal-City."

"Touche. Anyway, the second option was fighting Dynamax on our own."

"Yeah, right."

"The third option was let the Colony do all the war waging and we just travel around on our new found wealth and have fun with life."

"Exactly what do you consider fun, Allen?"

Allen smiled and said, "There's a Holly Lodge up ahead. Pull on in."


The Fool in the Crossing position.

Rene knew what this meant. Her Uncle Al was on his way. She'd have to clean up her dorm room and polish up her latest card tricks in preparation. She'd also have to keep her friends away, thanks to the last America's Most Wanted episode.

With Allen coming, the rest of her daily reading seemed inconsequential. She knew what to expect, so she generally ignored them. The last card flipped and Death appeared in the Outcome position.

She turned back to the spread and began to look closer.


Allen and Issac were sitting at a four person table, waiting for Allen's niece Rene to arrive. This particular table happened to be right by a large hole in the floor of the cafeteria, giving the place a semblance of a ski lodge. Added to that were the students of Miami's West Campus and the twosome had a lot to look at.

"I take it that this is the artist's quad," Issac noted.

"More or less," Allen replied. "Rene often said that she refused to live anywhere else on campus."

"And she's expecting us?" Issac asked.

"She should be expecting us, assuming that she hasn't lost her touch."

"She's an Omega?"

"No, she has the gift of sight." Allen's face turned skeptical. "Of course, if my hunch is correct, then she may very well be an Omega..."

A young woman walked up behind Allen. Her hair was black and curly, running down just below her neck. She was somewhat shortish in size and had a pale complexion that contrasted with her black knitted sweater and stockings. Issac didn't have any doubt that this was Allen's niece.

"Well, you're maybe Omega is here, Allen," he said.

Allen turned around and smiled at Rene. "Hi, Rene! I knew you'd find us. I'd like you to meet my good friend Issac Warner. Issac, this is my niece, Rene Johnson who've I've been telling you so much about."

Issac stood up and shook Rene's hand. "A pleasure."

Rene continued to smile pleasantly and whispered through her teeth, "It won't be for long if we hang around here. Where's your car?"


In the small village of Casepian which was located in the central hills of Italy, Father Napoli was very frightened. He was just about to finish his morning prayers when he was granted with a vision.

Outside an abandoned cathedral, a cross was standing with a straw man nailed to it. At the cross' foot was a short, ugly man who was beating the straw man with a stick. Father Napoli watched then as the man withered and turned to straw himself, blowing away in the wind. Then came a great fire and he could feel himself burning.

Somehow, Father Napoli knew what this all meant. He went from his sleeping chamber to the parish's private library where sacred books were kept. He pulled out one that hadn't been touched in centuries and looked for what he needed.

The Mass of St.Secaire.


"I was on America's Most Wanted!"

Allen was lucky that Havighurst Hall was nearly deserted or someone would have heard him. None the less, Rene had to shut him up anyway. It was pretty tough.

"Let me guess, they had Tom Cruise playing me in the reenactments. No, Anne Rice would disapprove. What was I wanted for? Destruction of private property and grand theft cyborg? What about Issac? Did they mention him? How about -"

"Uncle Al?"

"Yeah?"

"SHUT UP!"

Issac had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing out loud. No matter that he was just as deep in trouble as Allen.

"Allen, this isn't funny," Rene said. "You're face is known all over the country now! You can't go walking around everywhere with that invisibility smudge on your face."

Allen had calmed down. "No problem. We were going to leave the country anyway, right Issac?"

"Uh, sure..."

"But first," Allen focused intently on Rene, "I need to run a few tests on you. Mwha-ha-haaaa!"


Pictures. Interviews with friends. All known writings.

"That Hugo guy sure was organized," Louis thought to himself as he rifled through the Dynamax files in Phoenix. Thanks to Mr.Hugo's in depth reports on Covenant's personality, manipulating him would be much easier. As an added bonus, he wasn't even an Omega.

As he flipped through the notes, a security guard came in. Louis hadn't bothered to make himself invisible while in here, so the guard's flashlight illuminated Louis' thin, wiry body. "Go away. You didn't see me," Louis commanded to the guard.

The guard backed out of the door and left, remembering nothing. An experienced man like Covenant wouldn't be so easy to control, but that was allright. Louis liked a challenge.

He came to a set of notes about a certain Lori Ranik. After reading enough, he slipped the files into his satchel and left. Next stop was Cincinnati.


Rene was sitting at her desk, looking over the small rituals that Allen had wanted her to perform for him. Issac was sitting on her couch/bed sifting through her Tarot cards. Allen was in the bathroom down the hall.

"Issac," Rene said suddenly, "how long have you known Allen?"

Issac though for a bit before replying. "Well, I had him as a professor in college, but I couldn't really say I knew him then. I guess only for a couple of months."

"And that's when all this trouble with Dynamax and Shiva began?"

"Yea, about then. Why?"

Rene stopped to think again. "Has Allen...changed any since all of this excitement began?"

"Not a whole lot," Issac said. "He did get a little severe during the whole Shiva thing, though. He was under a lot of stress."

"I imagine." Rene was worried. Issac thought Allen's current behavior was normal, but he hadn't known him before all this crazyness began. Even now, Allen seemed to severe to Rene. He tended to over react to everything. He obviously wasn't meant for this kind of life.

Allen popped back in through the door. "Ah, dormatory restrooms, how I miss 'em."

"I'm ready with everything," Rene said. "When you're done with this, do you promise to have a little private talk with me?"

"You're probably just going to practice your frosh psychology on me, but OK." Allen pulled a COED out of his bag. "Now don't worry, this won't hurt a bit."

He placed the COED on Rene's head and flipped it on. The small red light went on and the LED readout read "5% active 100 mfv"

"Well, you're not an Omega," Allen said to Rene. "Though you do have a bit more activity than the average non-Omega has. Not surprising, considering your gift. Now, if you would start the ritual please."

Rene began the chant, "E Pax Ignitum E Agitum Ignitum..." and waved her hand over the candle Allen had provided her with. Allen watched the readings on the COED intently.

The LED readout changed as the ritual continued. The left value went from 5% to 25% and the right value went from 100 mfv to 1500 mfv. As the ritual came to a close and the candle lit, the green light went on for a second and then turned red again.

"I KNEW IT!" Allen shouted. He was practically shuddering with excitement. "Rene, for almost a full second, you were an Omega!"

"What?" Rene had an idea of what her uncle was babling about, but she needed to hear it from him direct.

"You see, whenever a mage uses a ritual, he's activating the part of his brain that gives Omegas their power. Do you know what this means?"

"Magic is bunk?"

"Exactly!"

Rene was bit her lower lip and thought for a second. "I don't believe it. Let's do some more tests."


Deep below the Mediteranian, Wrexakt machines began to hum and glow with life. They tried to activate their main functions, but something was wrong. The parts had salvaged and numerous alterations had been made to their design and structure. Emergency systems began coming to life, slowly gaining power from the backup generators.

Miles above, the Lyrinian Brotherhood began scrambling about in preparation. The Great Battle was about to begin.


"See, I was right." Allen felt kind of bad being so smug to his niece, but this was his moment of triumph. He needed someone to gloat over.

Everything worked exactly as Allen had said it would. The rituals that called the names of spirits had no effect on the caster but drew on the psychic power of the spirits. The other rituals all triggered psychic powers in the caster's mind. There was only one thing left unexplained for Rene.

"One last ritual," she said. "Issac, hand me my cards."

Issac, being bored out of his skull, had split her Tarot deck into its components. He handed her the pile of Major Arcana. "Will this be enough?"

"It'll be fine," Rene said. She began shuffling the deck.

It looked like it was going to be another long stretch to Issac, so he reached over and turned on Rene's TV. It was around six thirty now and the network news was on. Dan Whither was at the anchor's desk and a small picture of Eric was over his left shoulder.

"The world was stunned today as the Omega Tempest appeared in Times Square and destroyed the monument to his death. Many see his returning from the dead as a sign that he is more than just an Omega..."

Issac's eye's popped open as the news report went on. "Allen, check this out...Eric's alive!"

Allen turned his attention away from Rene and dashed over to the television. Rene got up and joined him. "Who's Eric?"

The news report continued with stock pictures of Eric. The voice over went on, "In the past few months, Tempest has done much to help the reputation of Omegas all over the world by saving lives and performing deeds in a super hero fashion..."

"Eric's just a kid," Allen muttered. "He isn't any super hero..."

"Eric?" Rene put the pieces together. "You know Tempest?!"

"He hates being called that," Issac quipped.

"Shhhh!"

"...more than just a comic book hero. Tempest has already amassed a religious following based upon his god-like powers and resurrection. More after this."

"I thought that Free Spirit said that Eric was dead," Issac said.

"Well," Allen said, "he said that Eric was 'with his own.' I guess his own are still alive."

"I can't believe this," Rene said. "You actually know Tempest. What's he like? How old is he? Is he really a god?"

Allen headed back towards the desk where they were working before. "Tempest is actually Eric Anderson, the sixteen year old brother of Danny Anderson, that terrorist I was telling you about. He's unbelievably powerful, but he's still a kid. He's overrated, really."

"Do you think I could meet him sometime?" Rene asked, putting the COED back on. She was fascinated by the idea of a man his age graced with the powers of a god. So powerful, yet so human. She had to meet him.

"You might," Allen said. "Why not find out for our final test? Deal out those cards. A good 'ole Celtic Cross will do."

Rene shuffled a few times and asked her query. "Will I meet Eric Anderson?" She began to lay out the cards.


First she laid out the Significator, the card that represented her current condition. It was Death. Apparently the change her earlier reading had predicted was taking place now.

Next came the Crossing Card which represented things that influenced or opposed her. It turned out to be the Fool, Allen's card. The meaning of that was pretty obvious.

The third card was the Foundation. I represented the basis of the question and was represented by the Chariot. Evidently her drive to accomplish her personal goals. She got the Chariot in this position quite a lot.

The fourth card was the Recent Past. Rene wasn't the least surprised when it turned out to be the Tower. She had just broken up with her boyfriend Kevin a week ago. He had dumped her for some Sorority bitch that he considered an "upgrade in life" to Rene. Bastard.

On top was the Crown that bridged the past and present together. The Magician was there, naturally enough. While the Magician was a card of bridges, it could also once again mean her Uncle Allen, the binder of magic and science. His presence could certainly be presiding over her present and future.

The Strength card turned up in the Future position, so Rene guessed that whatever was in store for her, she'd become stronger inside for it.

The row of cards to the right began with the Temperance card representing her feelings and emotions. She was letting her uncle push her around a bit, but for some reason everyone seemed to let him do that. And she was keeping her temper about this whole thing...

The seventh card stood for External Influences. For this she flipped up the Wheel of Fortune. Rene didn't like this at all. With the exception of breaking up with Kevin, her life had been going pretty well. According to this, whatever her role with Allen and Eric would be, it was all going to do a flip flop.

The penultimate card represented her Hopes and Ambitions. The Lovers. Rene was a little embarassed at this. She only wanted to meet Eric out of sheer curiosity, didn't she...?

The Final Outcome was flipped over to reveal the Sun. That was a very positive "yes" to her question. She didn't have time to think more about the reading, though, because a vision had come to her.

In a darkly lit room, military men from all around the world were gathered about a table. At the head of the table was an older man whom she somehow knew was named Owen. The vision narrowed in on his face and he said one word.

"Stormkiller."

An electric pain shot through Rene's head, tossing her consciousness into it's deepest recesses.


Allen was watching the COED as Rene drew the last card. Nothing had happened during the entire reading, much to Allen's disappointment. Suddenly, the COED lit up like a Christmas tree and the readings went off the scale. Rene let out a moan and fell out of her chair and to the ground.

"Rene!" Allen pulled the rest of her down from the chair and began checking her vital signs, cradling her head in his arms. It was almost as if her Omega had been triggered...

"Oh, God," Allen muttered. He looked up at Issac and said, "I think all he rituals I had her do triggered a latent Omega in her. She seems to have passed into a coma!"

Issac knelt down next to Allen and Rene. Somehow, he knew what he had to do. He reached out and touched Rene's forehead. He began to hear voices, though he wasn't doing any speaking or thinking.

Who's there?

I am Stingray.

What are you doing here?

I've come to bring you back.

I don't want to. I hurts.

The hurting is gone there. Come, your uncle is worried about you...

Rene's eyes snapped open and she looked back and forth between Allen and Issac. "What happened?" she asked.

"Yes, what did happen?" Allen echoed.

"I brought her back telepathically," Issac said uncertainly. "I think..."

Rene got to her feet and picked up her deck of cards. "I mean what knocked me out in the first place. I had a vision, but those don't usually knock me silly."

"I think you had a latent Omega trigger go off," Allen said. "All of the rituals you did must've stimulated the right part of your brain."

"An Omega?" Rene couldn't believe it. She didn't feel any different. "But how-"

There was a loud banging at the door. A voice from outside shouted, "This is the Police! Allen Covenant, we know you're in there. Open this door or we will force it open!"

"Shit!" Issac yelled. He looked at Rene's open window. "Quick, Allen, through here. Hurry!" He then proceeded to climb out and jump.

Rene turned to Allen and said, "Allen, get going. I'll handle the cops. Good luck."

"Rene..."

"I'm fine!" Rene nearly shouted. "Now get going!" She began to push Allen towards the window.

While he was standing on the ledge, he quickly turned back to Rene and said, "We're heading to Rome on the 2:15 flight out of Dayton. Meet us there if you can. And tell no one but Lori. Good-bye!" Allen then jumped from the window to Issac's arms four floors below.

Rene turned to the door. Something smashed into it once and it nearly came off the hinges. One more and it would be down.

Not really knowing what to do or say, Rene absently flipped over a card. The Chariot came up.

As the police smashed down the door, Rene found herself wishing they'd just go away. As the they leveled their guns in her direction and the leader shouted, "Freeze!", Rene pointed in their direction and yelled, "FUCK OFF!"

There was a flash of light and the policemen were gone. She didn't know where, she didn't know why. Then it came to her. "My Omega..."

As Rene stood in her room trembling, a shirtless man with long black hair floated through her wall. She recognized him.

"Temp-Er..ic Anderson..." she managed to mutter. He looked so worn, like he had been through Hell and back. Yet so young...

"Sorry to barge in on you like this," he said, "but I sensed a major burst of psychic energy where I had last detected Allen Covenant. I thought that there might be trouble."

Rene was still too stunned to talk coherently. "Uh, well, uh, the situation seemed to take care of itself..."

"Where is Allen, Rene?"

He knew her name. He must have read her mind. What else did he find out? Her awe began to fade and her dander began to rise. "How did you know my name? Did you find out any other interesting facts about me while in there? How about the color of my panties?"

Eric wasn't put off the least bit by her sudden attack. "I got your name and relation to Allen only." A smile crossed his face. "But if you must know, grey. Didn't you look this morning?"

Rene suddenly felt very embarrassed and stupid. "I'm sorry," she said. "I've just had a Hell of an experience and didn't have a chance to yell at my uncle about it."

"That's OK," Eric said. "Now, about the location of your uncle. And don't make me go in there for it."

Rene suddenly felt very mischievious. Eric had dropped the mysterious Tempest bit in order to make her feel more comfortable and was now showing his age. Allen HAD said to tell no one, so she decided to have some fun.

"OK, I'll tell you." A wicked grin appeared on her face. "But first, promise to go out on one date with me sometime in the future."

Surprise lit Eric's face. He wasn't expecting this at all. "Uh, sure..."

"Great," Rene said. "He's leaving for Istambul at 2:20 from the Columbus airport."

"Thanks..." Eric said hesitantly. He had just made a tenative date with an older girl that he knew almost nothing about in exchange for information he could have gotten easily. An uncomfortable feeling came over him. "I'd better get going. Stuff to do, ya' know."

"Sure," Rene said, a smile of triumph on her face. "Don't forget to come looking for me!"

"Uh, yeah," Eric said as he began to float out the window. "Later."

"Bye." Rene didn't know why she had just done that.

No, she did know. For some reason, Eric struck something in her and she wanted to make sure that he came back for one reason or another. She only hoped that he looked cute when angry.


Next Issue:
The fun and the suffering begins in Italy. And more Rene!

Eric "Tempest" Anderson is property of Matt Rossi. Used with his (so far) permission.

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