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by Marc Singer

(NOTE: This issue begins shortly after the conclusion of RIG VEDA. Parts of it take place before and during Pulse #10; after Eric's funeral, it immediately follows Pulse #10.)

"My name is Daniel Carter. My rank is Special Agent. I have no serial number."

Harvey Hauptmann paced around Dan's chair. Dan, for all his SIRECOM training and experience, probably couldn't escape from this chair; he was strapped to it by two metal bars that Anne and Harvey had twisted around him. All of the other SIRECOM agents who raided the Colony had been released into the custody of Billy Moulder and the Seekers, who seemed like pretty decent fellows—even if Hickman, the Seekers' leader, promised that he'd be back to arrest Harvey and Anne. But Carter appeared to be personally responsible for Anne and Harvey's last few, hellish months, so they insisted on keeping him and learning what he had against them. And maybe even finding a way to end it, so they could get back to their lives.

"You're starting to sound like a broken record, Carter," Harvey barked. "Now why have you been hounding me and my grand- daughter?"

"My name is Daniel Carter. My rank is —"

"Forget it, grandpa." Anne was sitting across from Dan, idly swinging her leg back and forth. "This nut isn't about to volunteer anything. I say it's time."

Harvey shrugged. "Yeah, I guess so. Good luck."

Anne closed her eyes, relaxed (as much as anyone who had gone through what she had gone through could relax), and slumped over.

Carter instantly grunted, his face twisting into an expression of effort and pain. He muttered, through clenched teeth, "Get... out... of... my head!"

Harvey clamped a powerful hand on his shoulder. "Forget it, punk. I don't care what kind of mental shields they taught you in SIRECOM, you're going to tell us what we want to know."

But as Harvey looked at the sweat breaking out on his daughter's forehead, he wondered if he wasn't being a little overconfident.

For a non-Omega, Dan had very strong mental defenses—that must have been part of SIRECOM basic training. The first barrier Anne encountered was a wall of surface thoughts—"My name is Daniel Carter," blah blah blah. It was both easy and pleasurable to shatter that.

Next was a blankness. It wouldn't have entirely surprised Anne to know that Dan's head was empty, but she knew it was just another trick. A few thoughts ripped this barrier to shreds like so much white paper.

And then she was nearly knocked over by a wave of hostility. Dan was projecting as much hatred as he could towards her, imagining what he'd do to her and her father, if given the opportunity. His fantasies about her were particularly disturbing. But Anne had weaned her telepathy on the likes of Deathbringer and Shiva—after them, Dan was just a petty little man, no matter how hateful. Anne envisioned a "bubble" around herself, washing her lightly over the tide of hatred and fear.

She washed ashore on a jungle.

Brenda Washington, official head of SIRECOM, arrived for her two o'clock appointment a half-hour early—only to find Cornelius Owen sitting there, waiting.

The Old Man looked pretty fit for a man who was pushing eighty. He didn't have too many wrinkles, and those he did made him look distinguished, not shrivelled. His double-breasted suit probably went out of style in the fifties, yet on him it still looked official. The scarf around his neck only added to the image of an elder statesman—and surely was meant to, because this November, Washington D.C. was unseasonably warm. (Meteorologists said that a strange heat bubble over Newfoundland would result in a warmer winter than normal.)

Owen was very cordial on the surface, and he even offered to kiss her hand. "No thank you, Mister Owen," she replied. "Women generally don't get their hands kissed anymore."

"That's right, they're busy running my agency now." Owen smiled, but his eyes burned deep with contempt. "And not doing too good a job of it. Your Uncle-Tom Seekers screwed up a very important raid."

"A very illegal raid. And if the Seekers hadn't stopped it, the Colony never would have been able to stop Shiva. Then where would we be?" Brenda grinned, ear to ear. "In hot water—and that's exactly what I plan to tell the boss today."

Owen chuckled. "I suppose you think you have me at a disadvantage. Well, my dear, how will your superior take it when he learns that you've been sharing classified information with a civilian?"

Brenda turned pale (as pale as she could get, anyway) and her heart started beating like a jackhammer. "Wh- what are you talking about, Owen?"

Owen smiled and jauntily waved his cane in the air. "I think you know what I mean. Detective Jack Russell—or should I say former Detective Russell? Really, Brenda, divulging secrets to an unstable man like that... this will not look good..."

Brenda took a deep breath, sat down, and faced Owen again. "Okay, so we each have something on the other."

"It does seem that way, yes."

"I take it we can reach some sort of arrangement?"

"How very professional of you, Brenda. Perhaps you are learning something after all." He leaned forward and whispered to her, a mean, raspy whisper. "You don't attempt to dislodge me or my agents, I don't incriminate you or your Seekers. We preserve the status quo. Agreed?"

The status quo wasn't exactly favorable to Brenda, but she nodded. "What about the Colony raid? The boss is going to want somebody's head, and it sure wasn't my idea."

Owen frowned. "Yes... Carter didn't come back, you can pin the whole thing on him. Dead men tell no tales, and all that... but I'll need something in return." Brenda was afraid she knew what, but Owen told her anyway. "You have no control over this Russell fellow, have you? You can't guarantee his silence?"

Brenda shivered. "I'm afraid not."

"Then all I ask is that you don't guarantee his safety, either." Owen smiled again. "There, now we each have our security and our scapegoats. I must say, Brenda, I am impressed with your maturity." His dry, weathered (but firm) hand shook hers.

A door opened, and a clean-cut man stepped through. "Mister Owen, the President will see you now."

"That's all right, young man. I don't think either of us will be seeing him today, after all."

Brenda could only nod her head wordlessly in agreement. On her way out of the White House, she washed her hands. Twice.

This was no ordinary jungle. It was completely dark and treacherous—the perfect metaphor, Anne thought, for Dan Carter's mind.

Hacking through the underbrush was tough, especially since Anne didn't exactly have super-strength here, only the strength of her mind. But she was able to visualize machetes, and even trails after a while. Yet this barrier had no end in sight.

Then the gunfire started.

Huge nightmare machines, that might have been planes once, many years ago, raced across the night sky belching fire. Mines exploded under the soil, creating clouds of sulphur and brimstone. And demons emerged from behind every tree or bush—demons that looked like sick, racist caricatures of Vietnamese people, complete with slanted eyes and bright yellow skin. It hurt Anne to look at them, it hurt even more to have to hit them. Anne had to keep telling herself that they were all part of Carter's mind.

A nightmare machine dropped a sheet of fire right behind her, and Anne had to race through the jungle to avoid being engulfed. As she did, she stumbled across a cluster of dead white men in American G.I. uniforms. The men whispered things, but Anne honestly didn't want to know what.

Still fleeing the fire, she stumbled across a small village. All of the huts but one were on fire, and a young version of Dan Carter, complete with Army outfit, stood in front of the last hut. He was surrounded by dead bodies, mostly Vietnamese. One white man, another U.S. soldier, was kneeling in front of Carter, pleading with him. Carter listened to his pleas, and then callously shot the man in both his hands. The rifle reduced the man's hands to bloody pulps.

Anne couldn't stand any more. She charged across the village clearing, praying she could will herself enough invulnerablity to shrug off Carter's mental bullets. The young Carter freaked out and fired at her full auto, but somehow Anne deflected most of the bullets away. Then she reached Carter and wrested the rifle away from him.

Carter still put up a hell of a fight—this was his mind, and he had greater-than-human strength here. He launched into a series of kicks with blinding speed, knocking Anne to the ground. Before she could get up, he pounced on her and began punching her in the kidneys (or her idea of kidneys) and the back of her neck. Worse, the wall of fire was now consuming the outer edges of the village.

Suddenly, the wounded soldier flung himself into Carter, knocking him off-balance. Anne twisted around and poured all her telepathy into one punch, which sent the young Carter flying—he hit the ground and didn't get up. Instantly, the fire collapsed into nothing. The door to the last hut swung open with a faint creak.

Anne picked up the soldier, imagining tourniquets for his arms. She started to ask if he was all right, when she saw his face.

"Good lord," she said. "Hickman? Wes Hickman? What are you doing here?"

"I am not Hickman," he mumbled. "I am Conscience, and Guilt."

Anne set the poor soldier down. No wonder he was in such bad shape.

The open hut beckoned, and Anne walked inside.

"THEY HAVE RICH!" Anne sat up with a start, screaming. Harvey was by her side in an instant. "Oh, grandpa," she said, "they've kidnapped Rich and they're holding him hostage."

"It's okay, Annie, it's okay." He put his arms around his grand- daughter. "Did you get inside his mind? Did you learn everything we need to know?"

"Yes, grandpa, but—they kidnapped Rich. Just because he knew me, and he rented that car. Grandpa, we have to get him back!"

"We will, Annie, we will." He stroked her hair. "Annie, I hate to ask, but—did you find out why Carter was chasing us?"

"Yes... yes, I did." Anne stood up and collected herself. "It's because SIRECOM is actually run by... someone you know..."

Harvey Hauptmann never prided himself on being the smartest of men, but he instantly knew who Anne was talking about. He turned around and drove his fist through the wall, sending tremors through what little was left of the Colony. "Owen."

"I'm afraid you're right."

Harvey paced around to Dan again. Dan was unconscious from his ordeal, but Harvey leaned over and spoke to him anyway. "Then you bastards never will leave us alone, will you? Not unless we turn around and face you."

Anne walked over to him. "I got a lot more from Carter's mind. Names, phone numbers, passwords—I think I can get us in touch with Owen."

Harvey smiled, a wide feral growl that might have made even Billy "Vulpine" Moulder quake. It was the most unpleasant Anne had ever seen him.

Cornelius Owen stepped out of the White House and into his waiting car, which promptly pulled out onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

"How did your meeting go?" The question belonged to Nicola Dare, who was sitting in the back of the car, cleaning her gun. Nicola was one of SIRECOM's top agents—more importantly, one of Owen's top SIRECOM agents. She was as good as Dan Carter, though not as pliable or as driven by hate, and that (along with Owen's generally low opinion of women in the workplace) was the only reason why she didn't occupy as high a position in Owen's network as Carter did.

"The meeting went extremely well—even if it wasn't the meeting for which I ostensibly came here." Owen grinned, and slid closer to Nicola. "I convinced Brenda to come around to my way of thinking, and I even got her agreement to let that colored cop buddy of hers die."

Nicola slid an ammo clip into her gun. "I take it that's my job?"

"Of course, my dear. Make it look suitably threatening." Owen would have liked to slide even closer to Nicola, perhaps place a patronal hand on one of her long legs, but bitter experience taught him she wouldn't stand for it. Nicola Dare would never resort to sex to please or impress a superior. For that, she preferred murder.

A few days later, Franz Weiss and his grand-daughter, Clara, were packing their possessions when Harvey came through their doorway. (He would have knocked, but their door, like most of the rest of the Colony, had been destroyed in the recent chaos.)

"Franz, Clara, I just came to say goodbye."

Clara looked downcast, and the tiny antennae that grew out of the tops of her earlobes drooped slightly. "You're not moving with the rest of us?"

Harvey knelt down and looked her in the eye. "No, honey, I can't come with you. I would just lead the men who wrecked this place to your new home, and they would wreck that, too."

Franz, struggling under the weight of a box, said, "I'm sorry to hear that you'll be leaving, Harvey. It was good having a friend here, if only for a short while."

Harvey took the box from Franz, and started packing the other possessions in the room. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Maybe I'll look you up in Detroit once I manage to turn my own life around."

"Your talk with the spy was fruitful, then?"

"Absolutely." Harvey's arms were moving at blinding speed, throwing clothes into boxes. "We're going to try and set up a meeting with his boss, and get him off our backs once and for all. And then I won't have to live on the run anymore, pretending to be someone else."

"Yes, I of all people should know how taxing that can be." Franz hugged Clara and nodded sagely. "But I do hope you'll come back sometime, Harvey. I think you're the only person in the whole Colony who has forgiven me for my... checkered past." Perhaps subconsciously, Franz used his free hand to rub the large bruise over his eye, the bruise he'd gotten from Harvey back when he was in the Nazi army.

Harvey turned around—he'd packed the entire room. "Don't worry about the kids here, Franz, they're good sorts. You teach that history class you were talking about, and they'll see that you've made up for your past."

Franz drew Clara even closer. "I hope so. I certainly can't run away from it anymore." And although Franz would never say why, Harvey knew that he was the reason.

Finding a cheap, run-down apartment in Chicago wasn't hard, especially since they had a roll of money taken from Dan Carter, and Anne's telepathic persuasiveness, to convince the landlord to let them move in right away, no questions asked. Danny and Mirry Anderson also gave Anne and Harvey some money, above their own objections; Anne and Harvey had wanted to refuse it, but necessity won out over pride. Although their months in the Colony cost them nothing, Anne and Harvey were still running dangerously low on cash.

They were also running low on patience. As soon as they moved into the apartment, Anne was out the door and on a pay phone. Harvey had wanted to make the call to Owen with her, but Anne wouldn't let him; he was far too emotional about it, and besides, somebody had to guard Dan Carter. Now that they were out of the Colony, he had a much better chance of escaping, metal bonds or not. So Harvey begrudgingly stayed behind.

Anne stepped up to the tiny pay phone. Didn't even have a glass booth—Anne couldn't imagine Calvin King changing to Overman in one of these. But a simple phone call on it could be the first step to changing her and Harvey's life. Anne fed several quarters into it, and dialed a number she'd lifted from Carter's mind.

"Who is this." The voice was forceful, with just a trace of an old Bostonian accent. It sounded like a man who was accustomed to giving orders, and having them followed to the letter.

"A friend of a friend, Mister Owen. A friend of an old friend."

Owen didn't miss a beat before responding, "I'm sorry, madam, I'm afraid you have the wrong number."

"Oh, I have the right number, Mister Owen. I got it from Dan Carter."

This time, there was an awkward silence on the other end of the line. At last, Owen replied, "This is the Benson girl, isn't it?"

"Close. I'm the Benson woman." Anne couldn't stifle a smile. "Now listen carefully. I have Dan Carter. You have Richard Cage."

Owen sputtered and said, "Young woman, I have no idea what you're talking about —"

"Cut the bullshit, Owen. We both know who's doing what here. In fact, I know everything you've been doing. And that knowledge, along with your top agent, ought to be worth something."

Owen's voice calmed considerably, but it didn't lose any malice. "Very well, young woman. What exactly do you want?"

"Isn't it obvious? I want my fucking life back!" Several passersby stared at her, and Anne lowered her voice. It's a good thing grandpa isn't here, she thought—if this bastard is getting me upset, I hate to see what Harvey would do. "I want your boys to stop hounding us, Owen. I want all charges against us dropped. And I want Rich freed. In exchange, you get your psycho back and Harvey and I promise not to blow your little spy group wide open."

"So it's to be a prisoner exchange then?"

"Something like that. I'll call back with the details."

Owen clucked his tongue like he was about to admonish her, but then he thought the better of it. "Very well, young woman, I agree to your terms so far."

"I didn't ask for your agreement, old man." Anne hung up, almost slamming the receiver clear through the phone. For some reason, the phone spat Anne's quarters back at her—perhaps she'd broken it?

Well, I'm in the mood to break something, Anne thought as she returned to the apartment. Preferably one mister Cornelius Owen. But at this rate, I figure I'll be lucky just to escape with my life intact.

Owen's car pulled up to a stately home in Georgetown. A home with very tall, thick walls around the grounds and enough electronic sensors to make sure that nothing got in or out unexpectedly.

Owen had made a beeline for the Georgetown safehouse as soon as he'd gotten the Benson girl's call. She didn't know it, but her offer to release Carter, indeed her very revelation that Carter was alive, couldn't have come at a worse time. Carter was a much better scapegoat for the Colony raid as a dead man; dead men couldn't spill any secrets to nosy senators like Reed Graves or uppity colored women like Brenda Washington. And that meant that Owen had to kill Washington's scapegoat before she learned that he no longer had full control over his. Nicola Dare had better do her job quickly... so far, she hadn't even found the cop, and Owen was very displeased.

I'm losing control, Owen thought. That Benson girl is trying to rob me of it, and forcing me to rely on another woman to fix this mess. Owen climbed out of the car, shoved aside his chauffeur, and stormed into the safehouse. I will find some rational way to pull order, my order, out of this chaos. I no longer have control over Carter's body or his knowledge. So (Owen reasoned as he punched in the code to enter the basement's special cell), I will just have to exert more control over the materials at hand.

As Owen stepped into the cell, Richard Cage stood at attention. "Hello, Mister Owen, sir," he recited.

Owen turned to Cage's conditioner, who was in the midst of conducting a session. "Very nice work, Claude. Very nice."

Claude blushed. "Oh, it's nothing, sir. After all this time, anyone could have done it."

Claude gave Owen a small candy to hand to Richard (a candy which contained a host of neurochemicals with names longer than Owen's pedigree). "Here you go, Richard," Owen said, handing it in turn to the young man. "How is your schoolwork progressing?"

Richard reached over to the wall, pulled off a glossy sheet of paper, and handed it to Owen. "I've been practicing very hard, sir. I hope it's good enough."

"Oh, I'd say you've been doing very well, Richard." Owen looked at the sheet—an old picture of Anne Benson. He poked his finger through the hole in her forehead. "Nine millimeter. Excellent."

Play. Record.

"Okay, it's now five o'clock p.m. on November 10th. Owen has been inside the Georgetown house for about two hours, and I've been standing outside the whole time. Thanks to your support, nobody has noticed me here, but I'm worried that I'll have to move along soon. So far, I've seen nothing to indicate that he's running a radical cell within SIRECOM or that he's holding Richard Cage hostage, and frankly I'm beginning to despair.

"I was pretty sure that Owen was the "Old Man" Brenda Washington kept referring to—he's not just the most prominent former director of SIRECOM, he was apparently its goddamn founder. It has to be him. It has to be. And with Dan Carter MIA, he's the only chance I have of finding Richard Cage. And getting my job back.

"I'm beginning to wonder if that's any chance at all. If Owen is the secret chief behind SIRECOM, he's going to be damn quiet about it. If he isn't, then either I'm a damn fool or Washington set me up to play one. She's stopped returning my calls....

"I'm beginning to think that you're the only person I can trust, and that's why I want you to have these tapes. If I... disappear, then I want somebody to know what I've discovered about the phone lines. Somebody powerful enough to make sure—holy shit!"

Stop. Rewind.

Play. Record.

"It's five-forty. Owen's car has pulled out of the Georgetown house, with one more person inside than when it arrived. I can't be sure, but I'm pretty sure that as they moved from the house to the car, I caught a glimpse of a young man who could be Richard Cage. I got a picture, I'll have to see how it develops. Again, I have to thank you for the disguise—there's no other way I could've perched on that telephone pole all day and seen inside the yard.

"I followed Owen's car back to his home, discreetly of course. They used the garage, so I couldn't see Cage get out, but I'm betting there will be some sign of his presence. Maybe fingerprints on the trash; I'll have to get a garbage man uniform somehow. I don't suppose you...?

"No, forget I asked. You've done more than I ever had a right to expect, and I haven't forgotten it. This is Jack Russell, signing off."


The funeral for Eric Anderson, held a few days after Anne and Harvey left the Colony, was extremely depressing. It wasn't even like they had a body to bury... just the memory of a body which was now, in all likelihood, scattered from here to the moon. And they held it in the desolate, abandoned Colony, which now looked like the junkyard it had always pretended to be. In many ways, the funeral was a funeral for the Colony itself.

Hardly anybody was there. Most of the Colony had already moved to Detroit, through some strange gizmo that Jimmy DeLeon had cooked up. Only those who knew Eric best had stayed behind. Except for Anne and Harvey, and Allen Covenant's strange crowd, they were all Colony people.

Presiding over the ceremony was Danny Anderson. Anne thought this was sheer masochism, because was the most depressed one there; he'd lost his brother and his dream. But perhaps the funeral was helping him come to terms with both losses.

They held the funeral under the cold night sky, amid the junk and wreckage. When Danny finished his eulogy, each mourner tossed something that reminded them of Eric into an open grave. It was like they were severing off the parts of Eric that lived on in them, Anne thought, and she didn't know whether that was beautiful or horrific.

Harvey stepped up to the grave and held up a pristine issue of OVERBOY. Goodbye, Overboy, he thought. He looked at the comic: I hope these god-damn things didn't get you killed. One real hero is worth a million paper ones. And he threw it in.

Anne stepped up to the grave. She didn't have a damn thing to send off with Eric, just a hunk of glass he'd fused in... oh, in one of their silly little battles. Some Viking funeral, huh, kid? You die to save humanity and you get a chunk of fused glass. Well, I hope Valhalla is kinder to you than this world was. God knows they're getting more sixteen year olds every day. And she threw it in.

After the ceremony, the Colonists, particulary Danny and Mirry, chatted with them a while. "Thanks for coming back today," Mirry said. "It means a lot to us that you put your plans on hold."

"Especially since you had to guard Carter," Danny added.

Harvey smiled and hugged both of them. "Our plans could definitely wait for this, and Carter is sleeping off a nice telepathic command from Annie." He scanned the horizon nervously. "I just hope that none of his friends have the gall to spoil today by showing up."

"Hauptmann, you bastard... you were right, Hickman, they did show up." Harvey and Anne stood out beautifully from the junk around them, illuminated by the cold green glow of the Nightfinder's display screen. Bill Walker, the Seeker operative known as Sonic, lowered the Nightfinder and began charging up his batons with seismic energy.

"Easy, Bill, easy." Wes Hickman, the Seeker leader known as Interface, held up a calming (if metallic) hand. "We aren't ambushing them until after they leave the Colony. There's no way we could take all of those Omegas, and besides, I'm not about to desecrate Tempest's funeral."

The Seekers were hunkered down in a tenement—ironically the same one which a more extremist wing of SIRECOM had used to stage its Colony raid a few weeks ago. While Hickman and Sonic spied on the funeral, Don "Blockade" Riley and Andrea "Flux" McCall were preparing themselves for battle. Even outnumbered, Hauptmann and Benson wouldn't come easily.

And at least one Seeker didn't see why they should. Don Riley drew his boss down the hall and said, "Wes, I really have to question why Ms. Washington wants us to arrest these two. I mean, there must be better ways of finding Dan Carter, assuming we even wanted him back in the first place."

"Riley, do you think that I want to save Carter's ass?" Hickman held up his prosthetic hands. "If it were up to me, he could rot in hell. But these two are fugitives, and Brenda wants all three of them."

Riley said, "This is some kind of game between her and Cornelius Owen, isn't it? Hauptmann and Benson are just pawns, aren't they?"

Hickman could never lie to his old friend. "So are we, Don."

From the other room, Sonic yelled, "They're leaving the Colony!"

Hickman clapped Riley on the shoulder. "Come on, Don. We've got a chess game to finish."

Riley trudged along behind him. "Yeah, well, the pawns always get killed first, don't they, boss?"

Anne and Harvey left the funeral, pulling their overcoats and scarves tightly around themselves. Chicago in November was quite cold, at night doubly so. "Annie," Harvey said, blowing out a cloud of breath like smoke, "you want to scan for any uninvited guests?"

"Sure thing." She reached out with her telepathy. "I'm not getting anything, grandpa... I'm not... oh, no." She grabbed Harvey's hand and started running, outaccelerating any sportscar.

"Annie, what's going on?"

"Something is absorbing my telepathy! We have to get out of here, before —"

A curtain of electricity suddenly sprang up before them. Anne and Harvey both tried to skid to a halt, but the curtain wrapped itself around them. Every hair on their bodies stood on end, and the pain of the electricity charging through their bodies nearly immobilized them. If it weren't for their natural invulnerability, both of them would have passed out instantly.

Three men stepped out of a nearby alleyway. All wore familiar black combat outfits. "Nice work Flux, Blockade," said Wes Hickman. He walked up to Anne and Harvey. "I feel really bad about this folks, but I'm afraid you're under arrest." He flashed them his SIRECOM badge. "You have the right to remain silent..."

Anne tried to talk to Harvey, but her mouth wasn't working right and Blockade seemed to be absorbing her telepathy. This was really, really bad—even though the Seekers were friendly, if they arrested them now, Rich would never go free. She had to do something.

Harvey tried to lash out with a punch, but Flux was slowing him down too much. Hickman sidestepped it easily, being very careful not to get hit by any sparks—and then Anne had her idea.

She lashed out telekinetically, and before Blockade could start absorbing that power as well, she grabbed Hickman and pulled him into Flux's electric field; his metal components started sparking. Anne hated herself for her next stunt, but she couldn't afford to play nice—she spun Hickman around as quickly as she possibly could, magnetizing him and putting all of his prosthetics, indeed his very Omega power of interfacing with computers, in grave jeopardy. His magnetized parts were also starting to ground Flux, drawing her away from Anne and Harvey.

"FLUX!" Hickman screamed. "SHUT IT OFF, NOW!" Instantly, the electricity coalesced into a very drained-looking woman. Hickman, equally exhausted, heaved a sigh of relief.

Blockade quickly absorbed Anne's telekinesis, abruptly dropping Hickman to the ground. But it was too late: Anne had freed herself and Harvey from Flux's grip. Anne dashed over to Blockade and lifted him with her own innate strength. Hopefully, since she got her strength from Harvey and not from her own Omega "trigger," he would be unable to leech it.

Blockade was undaunted. "I'm sorry about this, Miss Benson, but I have to take you in." He started struggling to get free, and amazingly, he was coming very close—apparently, he was funneling Anne's own psychic energy into his strength.

"Neat trick, Mister Riley. Too bad you can't give yourself invulnerability like I have." Anne pushed hard, and flung Blockade across the street and into a wall—Anne winced as he crumpled to the ground and did not get up.

Meanwhile, Harvey was facing off against Sonic. "I've been waiting for a rematch with you, Hauptmann," said the Seeker. His batons were already shaking like jackhammers. "You hurt me pretty badly during the Colony raid."

"Fella, I told you I was being controlled—!" But Sonic didn't want to hear it; he gave a loud karate yell and charged Harvey. His energy was charged up to the point where he was nearly as strong and quick as Harvey. The two men quickly got into a furious fight, with Harvey able to block Sonic's batons, but unable to land any blows of his own.

Anne sped over to the recovering Flux and tapped her on the back of the head while telepathically suggesting she go to sleep. Flux complied, and Anne turned around to see a frazzled-looking Hickman levelling a gun at her.

"I wouldn't budge, ma'am; you may be faster than a bullet, but this shoots something much nastier." Hickman started advancing on her. "I hate for it to come to this, ma'am, but I have to place you under arrest. You're holding a fellow agent hostage."

"And that agent was holding an innocent civilian hostage!" Anne screamed. "Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

Hickman seemed genuinely surprised. "What are you talking about?"

Anne didn't get the chance to tell him. Harvey led Sonic into going for a feint—he hadn't used his commando training in five decades, but it was all coming back to him now—and he grabbed the Seeker by both arms. Then Harvey flung Sonic into Hickman from behind; Sonic's built-up seismic charge went off, stunning both men.

Anne rapidly disarmed both men, and used Sonic's batons to reinforce her sleep suggestion. It looked like all the Seekers were down.

Harvey let out a loud war-whoop. "Anne, we did it! We took out four of the Seekers!"

Anne was not so jubilant. "Jeez, grandpa, I think we really hurt them. Especially Hickman. I mean, he's SIRECOM, but he's still a nice guy... let's just get the hell out of here."

Harvey took another look at the three bruised, beaten Seekers, who had fought Shiva and SIRECOM right alongside him, and all the joy leached out of his face as well. "Looks like the Hauptmanns have been at it again, doesn't it?"

They ran. It was, after all, what they did best.

Play. Record.

"Well, I finally managed to dig around inside the trash, but the only prints I lifted were the maid's. I guess Owen is being careful. I'm going to send you a photocopy of the phone bills I found, though. Interesting stuff...."

Fast Forward.

"When I stopped by my apartment to get the fingerprint stuff, it looked like somebody had broken into it. They did a really professional job of cleaning up after themselves, but a few hairs were out of place, that sort of thing.

"They're getting closer. I'm beginning to wonder if one of these tapes will be the last you hear from me.

Stop. Rewind.

Play. Record.

"It's, uh, ten-thirty p.m. on November 14th. Owen has had a visitor for the last half-hour or so, that woman I told you about before. My friends on the police department wouldn't give me an ID on her; I think I've used up just about all my favors. Except yours, of course.

"Wait, the woman is leaving. She's getting into her car—aw, damn, she's turning around and heading this way —

"I ducked. I don't think she saw me. Nevertheless, I'm getting the hell out of here."

Stop. Play. Record.

"It's ten-forty-five. I got out of the neighborhood and pulled over at the first mailbox I found. I want you to get this last tape, if only because of the phone bills—wait, a car is coming—"

Nicola Dare pulled over by the mailbox and rolled down her car window. A very shabby, nervous looking black man was standing by the box, holding one of those personal tape recorders.

"Excuse me," Nicola said, leaning across the passenger seat to speak out the open window. She had to put one gloved hand down between the seats for support. "Where is the nearest church?"

The black man stuttered, and shook like he was about to completely break down. "I'm sorry, miss, I'm n-not from around here."

Nicola smiled, a sweet smile that might belong to an Italian Renaissance Madonna, comforting her child in gentle tempura colors. "That's okay," she said, "I'll show you the way." The hand between the seats pulled out a very small, very lethal machine pistol. Her arm whipped up, and Nicola shot Jack Russell with several short, powerful bursts (sound-suppressed, of course) before he could even react.

By the time Jack's body hit the bloodstained sidewalk, Nicola was out of the car and onto him. First she grabbed the recorder—empty, but it would be good for fabricating a suicide testimony. Next she rifled through Russell's care—lots of nasty stuff there, cameras, fingerprint kits, even a telephone company uniform. Nicola threw it into her car so nobody could ask questions about it.

Nicola started cracking open the mailbox, to make sure he hadn't put anything inside, when she heard Russell breathing. She took another look at him—he must've had a bulletproof vest or something, because he was still alive. His one remaining eye was even flickering open, and his mouth was forming words. "Can't... die... yet..."

Nicola smiled again. "Of course you can, sport. The black cop is always the first to go." She fired a single, silent shot into his head.

She was checking the body, making it look like a drive-by (this affluent white Virginia suburb would be more than happy to blame any mysterious black man's death on gangs) when suddenly, a car started driving by. Nicola cursed and jumped into her car, fleeing the scene of the crime. But she took one last look at Jack in her rear view mirror, making sure that he was dying on the pavement.

Jack's blood ran over the curb and down the gutter.



To be continued...
Next Issue: Legacy #9!

Wes Hickman, Don Riley, Sonic, Flux, and the Seekers created by Matt Dempster. Used with permission. Danny and Mirry Anderson and the Colony created by Matt Rossi. Used with permission.

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