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|The story so far: SIRECOM agent Dan Carter, acting under the orders of former SIRECOM head and governmental eminence grise Cornelius Owen, exposed Anne Benson and her grandfather, Harvey Hauptmann, as Omegas and chased them across the country. Owen, pursuing a fifty-year-old vendetta with Hauptmann, also kidnapped Anne's ex-boyfriend, Richard Cage. When Anne and Harvey captured Carter, they learned of Cage's capture and set up a prisoner exchange with Owen. Unknown to them, several other parties have learned of this exchange, each planning to disrupt or alter the exchange to suit their own agendas. Soon, all parties will converge on the site of the exchange, a Rolling Stones concert that is being held dangerously close to the 25th anniversary of the Stones' Altamont concert, which ended in murder and anarchy...|
No, sir, I wasn't talking to myself. No, sir. It must have been your imagination.
...He's gone now. Just as well, I suppose I'll have to record over that last part anyway.
...Ahem. I am already in position here at the concert site. And when the time comes, I know what I must do. Events are proceeding at a breakneck pace, fracturing into a million shards like this nightmare that we call our culture. Only I can restore some meaning to this narrative, by providing it with a hero... and a martyr.
My aim, I think, has never been better.
JUST ABOUT A MOONLIGHT MILE
the penultimate chapter of Gimme Shelter
by Marc Singer
Anne Benson could have used her telepathy to mask her appearanceprobably should havebut she knew that SIRECOM had a vast array of psionic scanners and Omega detectors. She was taking enough of a risk just by being here. So her entire disguise consisted of a wig, some sunglasses, and the hope that she looked a lot more confident than she felt.
Chicago's O'Hare Airport was teeming with people who were traveling during the busy holiday season. That probably made Anne harder to spot, but it also meant she would have a harder time spotting SIRECOM's agents, especially without the use of her telepathy. Every face in the airport belonged to a potential enemy, and Anne began having second thoughts about her plans for the hostage exchange. If one crowded hallway made her this paranoid, how would she feel in an arena packed with tens of thousands of people?
Anne walked up to a row of lockers. One of them contained a thousand dollars in cash, left by Cornelius Owen so that Anne, Harvey, and Dan Carter could afford tickets to San Francisco, and tickets for the Rolling Stones concert there. Owen, of course, would have men watching the locker, which was why Anne had spent the last of her own money reserving the locker under it, and the locker that backed up to that one. She walked up to the locker on the other side of the row, hoping that nobody was watching it, but not really expecting her luck to run that way. It usually ran the other way, in fact.
Anne opened the locker and stuck her arm inside. It only contained a small scrap from a lead apron, which Anne had remorsefully stolen from a walk-in dental clinic and hidden in the locker two days ago. Next, Anne punched through the locker's back wall at super-speed. Since her strength and speed were inherited from her grandfather, and not part of the Omega abilities she'd "triggered" last July, Anne hoped they wouldn't set off any of Owen's detectors.
Reaching into the far locker, Anne twisted her arm upwards and pulled out the upper wall. Anne flinched, half expecting a bomb to go off, but only a small envelope dropped through. Anne rapidly tore it open and counted the cash, then wrapped the money in the apron and stuffed the package into her coat. Anne closed the locker normally, and tried to leave calmly.
Except her luck ran true to form.
The Seeker operative known as "Trace" was watching the locker that had the money in it, but for all his super-sensory powers, he found no sign of Harvey Hauptmann or Anne Benson. Then he heard strange tearing sounds from within the lockers. Trace quickly spoke into his cuff microphonehe felt rather silly about it, but SIRECOM loved those silly "Q Branch" gadgets and they made him wear onehoping to raise a fellow agent who was actually inside the lockers. "Phase, what's going on in there?"
Phase stepped out of the lockers so he could solidify and speak, though he didn't turn visible. "A woman just reached in from the other side and grabbed the money. Must be Benson... tall, dark glasses, brown hair, trenchcoat. She's heading for the main concourse."
Bill Walker, the Seeker code-named "Sonic" and the team's leader for this operation, crackled commands over their channel. "Everybody follow her, and watch out for Owen's agents." Walker sounded mildly depressed; he had a grudge to settle with Hauptmann, and probably hoped to encounter him today. Phase didn't like the idea of Sonic leading this mission... too bad Interface and Blockade, who were both much more sane about Hauptmann, had been reassigned at the last minute. It almost made Trace wonder....
But for now, Sonic was behaving quite rationally, so Trace tailed Benson (there was no way anybody could ditch him), while Phase followed invisibly. There were six Seekers in O'Hare, and a special ally that nobody knew about; there was no way this mission was going to go wrong.
Nicola Dare was in charge of the O'Hare run, since the Old Man would never dirty his hands with fieldwork. Especially the kind of fieldwork at which Nicola Dare excelled.
She glanced at her tracker display, which had been modified to look like a Game Boy. It showed that the radioactive envelope had left the locker and was moving steadily towards the main concourse. She nodded, and several other SIRECOM agents, nominally employed by the U.S. government but actually loyal to Cornelius Owen, began following her as she followed the envelope.
When Harvey Hauptmann had explained the money-drop setup, he'd said that any attempt to double-cross, follow, or ambush them would result in Dan Carter's death. But Owen knew that Hauptmann wasn't a cold-blooded killer. Hot-blooded, perhaps, but not cold-blooded. So nabbing the carrier probably wouldn't jeopardize Dan. Besides, Owen didn't really even want Dan recaptured alive.
Nicola and her men closed in on the envelope.
(That's interesting), thought Jarvin Tazakles, (the Old Man doesn't even want his Black Knight back. A useful stratagem I can exploit later.) Tazakles was sitting in a limousine outside the airport. His strong public image, normally an asset, kept him from traveling around the airport incognito. No matter, his telepathy was more than strong enough to do all his work from outsidetechnically, he didn't even need to get out of bed that morning.
But he had an agent inside the airport whom he wanted to keep near. And Tyrus Absalom was wandering around the lockers, looking for any sign of Hauptmann or Benson. (They don't seem to be using any psionics, sir. And if the girl came, she must naturally possess a very strong shield. Your scanner isn't picking up Benson or Hauptmannlots of other Omegas in the vicinity, though.)
(Ah, the noble Seekers, no doubt. No matter, Tyrus. Ms. Dare seems to have a bead on the envelope. Follow her.) Tyrus Absalom had all the emotions of a robot, but he also had all of its ruthless efficiency and unswayable obedience. He stalked the rogue SIRECOM agents.
Of course, Tazakles probably could have located either Hauptmann or Benson on his own, but he actually wanted them to reach San Francisco. This was just a bit of fun.
"Hold it right there, ma'am. We'd like to have a word with you." A familiar face loomed before AnneSonic, holding up his Seekers badge with its cute little omega symbol. The woman named Flux was standing next to Sonic, and neither looked very happyAnne and Harvey had given them a royal beating in this very city a few weeks ago.
"There's no point starting a fight here, Ms. Benson," said Flux. "It would just hurt a lot of innocent people. Now please come with us."
"You know I can't do that." Anne tensed her muscles, ready to leap over these lawmen, and through the ceiling if need be.
Sonic flashed a wry smile. "Have it your way," he said, indicating that it would be his way, too. "Trax."
A Hispanic man came running in, faster than even Anne could move. He pressed the trigger on his handheld weapon, and before Anne could duck, a wire coursing with electrical energy shot into her.
The shock from the taser was barely enough to jolt Anne, but Flux converted herself into electricity and poured herself into the wire. Flux had already paralyzed Anne once before; now combined with the taser, the pain was excruciating.
Sonic began reciting her Miranda rights, and Anne could see black dots rolling into the edges of her vision. She was about to pass out.
Trace saw the whole thing, of course. Trax and Flux were moving so fast that the crowd hadn't even reacted yet. "Come on, Phase," he muttered, "let's end this before it gets out of hand."
But then two men blocked his path. "Excuse me," Trace said, pulling out his badge, "but I'm on official business here."
"So are we, freak." The two men laughed, and pulled out almost- identical badgesthey were SIRECOM, but not Seekers. "And you're collaborating with the enemy."
Recognition dawned in Trace's eyes. "McAllister? Jackson? What are you doing...?" Then Trace cursed himself. These were Owen's boys. He could very well be dead.
Nicola Dare came strolling up, playing with a Game Boy which was giving off clicks like a Geiger counter. She was pointing it directly at the open space next to Trace. "Nice try, but we outsmarted all your little tricks. You might as well let us see you, Ms. Benson."
Phase made himself visible, in the middle of a flying leap which took down McAllister. Trace wasn't much of a combatant, but he kicked Jackson in the side while calling for help on his stupid little cuff mike.
Nicola Dare looked like someone who had just realized how badly she'd screwed up.
Anne was searching for a way out, and coming up emptywithout Wes Hickman around, she couldn't thwart Flux the way she had last time.
Suddenly, all the Seekers' earphones began bursting with noise, and they all looked down the hall at some other scuffle. Anne took advantage of the distraction to telekinetically separate the taser wire from her bodyno point in trying to avoid detection any more. The electricity stopped searing through Anne's body, and she telekinetically yanked on the taser wire as hard as she could, wrenching the gun out of Trax's hands. Anne spun it around, clubbing the gun at Trax's head like a weighted bolas. Trax ducked, of course, but the gun slid neatly and heavily into Sonic's head, sending him down.
Flux, not constrained by the wire, leapt back onto Anne's body. Anne couldn't take much more of this... then she saw the water fountain. It was a relatively simple matter to pull it apart, and direct all the free water right at herself....
Phase was able to confound Owen's agents by disappearing for a moment, then suddenly reappearing somewhere else and striking by surprise. But more agents were arriving each second, and Phase couldn't take them all.
Trace was faring even worse. He was a detective, not a fighter, and he was actually impressed that he'd managed to take Jackson out with a couple of well-placed kicks. That mandatory self-defense class he'd bitched about had actually paid off. Trace decided to thank Hickman, if he got out of this alive.
Which was very unlikely, because Nicola Dare had targeted him. First she kicked his gun away when he tried to draw it, then she severely pummeled him. She was about to snap his neck when a bright flash and a loud crackling noise down the hall caused both to turn their heads and look.
Anne Benson was wrapped in a pulsing field of energy. It didn't look at all pleasant. Then a fountain ripped itself in half, and its watery contents streamed towards her. There was a burst like a lightning bolt, and a huge thunderclap to boot. When the flash of light cleared, Anne Benson was lying on the ground, along with another woman. Both seemed unconscious. Civilians were panicking and running everywhere.
"Benson....", hissed Nicola. She turned back to Trace. "Pardon me, but I'm in a bit of a rush." Her hands tightened around his neck....
Suddenly, an older man in a finely-tailored three-piece suit, whom Trace had never seen before in his life, came charging up. The man held his arms upwards, and a shimmering, translucent mace appeared in them. He swung the mace down into Nicola's head; the SIRECOM killer let out an ear-splitting scream, and collapsed.
Trace gasped for breath and would have said "Thanks," but then the man swung at him, too.
Anne woke up on the corridor floor; it seemed there was no end to her invulnerability. Her endurance, on the other hand, was pushed to the limit. She tried to climb to her feet, even her knees, but could not. At least Sonic and Flux were out, but that still left...
A hail of fists pounded on her back. Trax's blows didn't really faze Anne; after all, he only had normal human strength, so it didn't matter whether he landed one punch or one hundred. Trax looked a little perturbed, so he pulled out a small gun (which sent the few remaining civilians scampering for cover). Trax fired several small darts, but none could penetrate her skin. Trax was looking really annoyed when a Korean woman came running up to him; the woman wore the same "man in black suit" outfit that SIRECOM gave to all its agents, apparently to make them look really spooky.
Trax smiled. "Hyper, great! Give me a hand here."
"One adrenaline shot, coming up." Hyper clapped him on the shoulder. Anne was confused.
Trax started to yell at Hyper, but before he could, he'd erupted into a flurry of super-speed, running laps around O'Hare. Every couple of seconds, he would whiz by again.
Hyper knelt in front of Anne. "You're coming with me."
"The hell I " But before Anne could finish, both she and Hyper were falling through a hole in the floor.
Anne and Hyper landed on hard stone tiles. The weird, momentary sensation of being timeless and spaceless passed, but Anne still felt disoriented and couldn't stand up properly.
Three people were standing over her: a young American Indian man, an attractive but somehow ferocious-looking Latino woman, and a man in black with a vaguely mysterious air about him. His romantic image, complete with long black scarf, seemed completely natural to him, but only because it was so utterly artificial. "Rift," said the man in black with an entirely appropriate French accent, "why don't you send Ms. Lee home? She'll soon be missed."
Hyper stood and walked towards a portal which the young man summoned into beingon the other side, Anne could see the chaos of O'Hare. The Latino woman stopped Hyper, and held the Seeker's face in her hands; Anne could pick up some kind of telepathic transmission between them. Then Hyper walked through the portal, and it disappeared.
"Now, Ms. Benson," said the Frenchman, "we must talk about you, and your grandfather, and SIRECOM. Oh, how rude of meyou may call me Image, and these are Rift and Rebecca."
The mystery man with the mace (Trace could sense it was actually an extension of the man's own psyche) wasn't hitting Trace yet, but he was coming uncomfortably close. Trace leapt over a row of seats to put some distance between them. The mace simply reformed in the man's hand, becoming a spear, which the man then threw at Trace. Trace dodged at the last minute, and the spear exploded into a cloud of ectoplasm when it hit the wallonly to reappear in the man's hand.
A blur of motion whizzed by, knocking the man clear off his feet and across the corridor. Trace smiled. If Trax was helping out, then that meant
Benson was gone. All the Seekers around her were either unconscious or in a daze.
The rogue SIRECOM agents and the mystery man seemed to realize this at the same time. They all ran in various directions. Trace didn't bother chasing; only Trax could catch up, and he seemed to be unable to stop himself.
Trace ran over to Phase, who was playing with Nicola Dare's discarded Game Boy. It was making clicking sounds whenever it passed over him. "Can you believe it?" Phase moaned. "Standing in that locker made me fucking radioactive!"
"Some other time, Phase, we need to clear out of here." Trace ran over to his fellow agents and picked up Flux, while Phase grabbed Sonic. Hyper, at least, was still conscious, and Trace asked her what went wrong.
"I think Benson mind-controlled me," she replied. "She must have made me send Trax into overdrive."
"Well, calm him down if you can, then get the hell out of here. Airport security must be on the way."
Phase, struggling under Sonic's weight, chirped in as usual. "Why the hell does it matter if security is coming? We're feds."
"Sonic told me that Ms. Washington wants this whole operation covert. And not associated with SIRECOM at all. So we can't deal with the law right now."
"Jesus," grumbled Phase. "And here I thought only Owen and Hauptmann did that kind of stuff. We have met the enemy..."
"Not now, Phase." Trace scanned the hall. "Where's Russell? He could at least help us carry these guys."
Jack Russell knew he should've stayed where the Seekers left him, but he just couldn't pass up this chance to meet his benefactor in person. So he'd left his seat in the airport and headed out to the parking lot.
Sure enough, the black limo was parked right where the message said it would be. Jack walked up to it, and one of the power windows in the back slowly rolled down. Jack could just barely make out Jarvin Tazakles, sitting inside in warm luxury. Jack didn't envy Tazakles his warmth, though; cold, even Chicago-in-December cold, hadn't bothered Jack much since... his little accident.
"My, Jack, you're looking well," said Tazakles. "I'd heard you had a frightful scrape with Owen's men."
"Owen's woman, actually. But yeah, I... pulled through." Jack didn't mention that he'd actually died, and his previously-undiscovered Omega had brought him back. He still didn't know what to make of it himself.
Tazakles leaned forward, and stared at Jack with a gaze so piercing that it actually seemed to immobilize him, holding him still while Tazakles dissected him, peeling back every layer of his psyche. "I appreciate your service, Jack. When everyone meets in San Francisco, I want to help you take down Owen. Once and for all. In the only way his kind understands." Images of a gun sprung to Jack's mind. A gun going off. Owen falling down into a row of chairs.
"I... appreciate all your support, sir... but..."
"Owen is a dangerous, twisted man, Jack. He will stop at nothing to gain power. You of all people should know that. And his enemies at SIRECOM are no better." An image of Jack lying in a gutter, left for dead by Brenda Washington. "Only we can stop them, Jack. For now, you just keep your eyes open for what the Seekers are doing. And when the time comes..." A gun going off. Owen. A row of tumbled chairs.
"I'll... try, sir..." A gun going off. It is in my hand. I laugh as Owen dies.
"Good man, Jack. And once Owen is out of the way, the two fugitives are yours. Arrest them. Expose SIRECOM. Do as you please."
Anne Benson, dead on the ground. Harvey Hauptmann, bleeding from many wounds. The Seekers. All of them. I am laughing.
Suddenly, a man wearing a three-piece suit came dashing towards the car; his sudden intrusion snapped Jack back to reality. The newcomer was sweating profusely. "Sir," he said, trying hard not to pant or show any signs of exhaustion, "there was a large scuffle. The Benson girl escaped."
Tazakles seemed annoyed. "Well then, there's no need to interrupt me, is there? Get inside. And hurry up, if Benson's gone, then we'll have to rush to play my other piece." Tazakles's voice was quite sharp, and although the man kept up his stoic facade, there was a slight flicker of fear underneath. While the man rushed to the driver's door, Tazakles turned back to Jack. As the opaque power window rolled back up, Tazakles met Jack's gaze and said, "Remember, Jack. I'm your only friend here. You know what needs to be done."
A gun going off. I am laughing.
"Where the hell are we?" Anne surveyed the weathered arches and the stone walls. "Some kind of old church?"
"Your guess is very close," said the man called Image, "but also irrelevant. Ms. Benson, I understand that you and your grandfather are opposed to SIRECOM."
Anne was no longer sure who was fighting whom, or to whom she was talking, so she opted for the truth. "Yeah. You could say that."
"Ms. Benson, my group is also opposed to SIRECOM. We want to expose all their dirty deeds, in fact. And one of their dirtiest is the hounding of your family. The kidnapping of your boyfriend."
"Couldn't agree more." Anne was finally able to stand again, and she sized up the three people in the room. She could probably take them, but where the hell could she go?"
"Nowhere, Ms. Benson, you could go nowhere," Image answered. "And you probably couldn't take us, either, so why not cooperate? We have mutual enemies, after all."
Anne sighed. "Okay, what do you want?"
"To blow SIRECOM wide open, and to get Owen in very serious trouble. But to do that, we'll need him to still have custody of your Mister Cage when we expose him. So I'll have to ask you to call off your little trade. Or at least postpone it. It's the only way."
Anne couldn't believe what she was hearing. "After all this? Forget it, Image, I'm not leaving Rich in Owen's hands any longer."
Rebecca stepped forward. (I could make you cooperate with us, girl.) The thoughts were initially formed in Portuguese, but Anne's automatic translation didn't remove any of their malice.
(No, no,) thought Image. (I won't have any of that. Ms. Benson is an ally, whether she knows it or not, and I won't coerce her.) Then he spoke, "I'm sorry, Ms. Benson. I do wish you would cooperate, but I shan't resort to Owen's methods in order to battle him. You are free to go, with my blessings... where shall Rift send you?"
Anne was worried. Someone being nice to her? No way.
"Oh, I assure you, I have no ulterior motives, Ms. Benson. I just wanted to get you away from SIRECOM, that's all. Now, where to...?"
"Uh, anywhere in South Side Chicago, thanks."
A portal appeared, leading to a street that was entirely too close to Anne's current apartment. Image gave Anne a farewell kiss on the back of her hand, and wished her well. Anne quickly moved through the portal.
(I told you she wouldn't cooperate, Jean-Luc.)
(That's J.L. to you, Anna-Marie), Jean-Luc Steele answered with "Rebecca's" own telepathy. (And I didn't think she would.
(We'll just have to disrupt her little exchange ourselves.)
Anne hurried back into the apartment, afraid that Imageor someonewas still watching her. Harvey looked up from the television, which showed a newscaster standing in front of O'Hare, blabbering something about an "Omega battle." "How'd it go, Annie?" Harvey asked.
Anne flopped down on the couch. "Don't ask. As sloppy as it possibly could've. Still, I somehow managed to get out. And I think this," she waved the apron, "will block any radioactive tracers SIRECOM used." That was the one nice thing about plumbing Dan Carter's mindshe knew every one of SIRECOM's dirty tricks, most of which Carter had invented. "I guess we did okay. We need to get out of town now, though."
Harvey pointed to the small pile of bags by the door. "We're all ready to go. The only problem is Sleeping Beauty." Harvey then pointed to Carter, who was tossing and turning on his cot. "He's in no shape to travel. The bastard's nightmares have been getting worseit would be funny if it weren't so damned inconvenient."
For Dan, it was more than inconvenient. It was downright horrifying.
Ever since the Benson girl had invaded his mind, Dan's Vietnam dreams had been coming more frequently, and forcefully. The caricatures of all the villagers he'd shot rose up to meet him, and the figure of Wes Hickman grew more and more powerful, strangling Dan with bloody, mangled hands. And this time he could no longer resist... he felt Hickman crushing his windpipe as the villagers cheered on....
Then everything froze. Everything, even the flying nightmare machines, even the fire they were spewing. Two helping hands pulled Dan free from Hickman's grip, and Dan vindictively kicked at the immobile dream-man. Then Dan saw his benefactor: Jarvin Tazakles.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Dan asked.
"Dan, what way is that to talk to an old friend? I'm here to help you. Testing out a new Dynamax telepathy device to come to your aid." Tazakles glanced around the burning, frozen village. "So this is your mind, eh? Explains so much... why don't we go someplace more pleasant?" Tazakles led Dan out of the village, and out through the motionless jungle.
"Tazakles, what the hell do you want?"
Tazakles put on a very annoying who-me? grin, then dropped it. "You get right to the point, don't you, Dan? I want you to stop playing the stooge for Owen. Take control of your life for a change."
"By giving it to you?"
Tazakles laughed. "Dan, Dan, you wound me! Here, I have something to show you." Tazakles led Dan around a corner, and suddenly they were someplace elseas if Vietnam were just one exhibit in a museum of Dan's life, all the dead bodies and soldiers just mannequins preserved safely behind glass. Now, Dan and Tazakles were in a waiting room in what looked to be the White House. Cornelius Owen and Brenda Washington were sitting rigidly, mouths open in mid- syllable. Tazakles snapped his fingers, and Owen and Washington snapped to life, like they were robots in the "Hall of Presidents". Dan listened as they negotiated a deal, basically hanging Dan out to dry for the failed Colony raid.
Successive "exhibits" took Dan to meetings between Owen and his agents, including that Dare bitch, where Owen basically said he didn't want Dan back to implicate him in the Colony raideven if that meant killing Dan. "I don't believe it, Tazakles," Dan protested. "This is some kind of sick joke."
"I'm very serious, Dan. Owen has no interest in you. Whereas I have a great interest in you, and that means I might actually try to keep you alive. So come work for me."
Dan felt the museum spinning around him. "II don't betray my boss, Owen. I've told you that."
"Your boss is betraying you, Dan. And besides, you betrayed Owen long ago. Remember?" The next exhibit showed Dan walking the streets of Georgetown, giving Tazakles confident information. "Every action you've taken from then on has only been different by degrees. So come work for someone who won't stab you in the back. Someone who can preserve your fading youth. Someone who can end these terrible dreams of yours, Dan...."
Dan had to admit that ending the dreams sounded good. He'd even been getting some of Benson's and Hauptmann's dreams lately, imagining a huge, red-mouthed giant that devoured them all. "So what do I have to do, Tazakles?"
"Let me show you." They turned another corner, and saw a black man lying dead in a gutter. "Sorry," Tazakles blushed, "somebody else's dream. Although I should point out that this was the fate of Jack Russell, your counterpart scapegoat. And I fear it's your intended fate as well."
"Yeah, what a lucky accident that we found it." Dan was getting perturbed, more by his own growing feelings of doubt than by anything Tazakles said. "Get to the point."
"This is the point, Dan. Last stop." A stadium filled with people. Running, shoving, rioting. Owen and Benson and all the rest in the middle. Dead on a pile of chairs. A gun going off. It is in Dan's hand. He is laughing.
Dan sat bolt upright and screamed, though his scream was stifled by Harvey's mouth. "Looks like you got him back, Annie," said Harvey.
Anne just frowned. "I guess so... for a minute, it seemed like there was something else in his mind. But there's no time to probe him now. Let's roll."
Harvey freed Dan from the cot, then threw a trenchcoat on him and re-handcuffed him. Anne telekinetically "scrubbed" every surface in the apartment, removing every trace of their presence (though Anne wasn't sure if it was fine enough to wipe fingerprints). In moments, they were ready to go.
Anne and Harvey were leaving for San Francisco, completing their six-month flight across the country. If things didn't work out there, then maybe there wasn't anywhere else for them to go.
Across Chicago, Jarvin Tazakles opened his eyes with a start. Benson actually managed to sever his link to Carter! No matter... the final seeds of doubt had been planted.
Tazakles leaned forward, into the driver's seat. "To the airport, Tyrus. Our Rooks are leaving town, and taking the Black Knight along with them."
"You're going to San Francisco, then? It's less risky if you do it from some nearby city, or even from here."
"Thank you Tyrus, I'm well aware of that. But I think Owen's downfall demands a more intimate involvement. It serves the bastard right, for..." Tazakles's voice trailed off. For forcing me to kill Beth Anderson, he thought. Forcing me to kill the one woman I ever came close to loving, and indirectly creating that damned Colony by leaving Danny and Eric Anderson without a home. It was only the greatest reason why Owen would have to die, and die by Tazakles's machinations.
None of the bastards suspect that I planted the visions of the concert in Hauptmann, Benson, and Carter. Even though the visions only happened when they were approaching or in Chicago... but in the end, Owen will understand. He'll understand when his own pawns rise up, topple his organization, and slay him. He'll understand that only I could have done it.
And I have to be there to see the look on his withered old face.
Anne couldn't sleep that night. It wasn't the rocking and the noise of the train; it was the anticipation. Kind of like when she was just a kid, and she could never sleep the night before Christmas, only the stakes were a lot more serious.
Anne opened her eyes and saw that Harvey was out of his bunk, looking out the window. Judging by the snoring, Carter was still asleep on the bottom bunk. Anne climbed out of her bunk and folded it up, creating a little more room; even with Owen's money, they still couldn't buy a very spacious sleeper, although it was the privacy that mattered.
"So where are we, grandpa?" Anne asked.
"Utah, maybe? One of those square states, anyway." Miles and miles of flat earth and telephone poles, lit blue by the combination of moonlight and sodium lamps, rolled past the window. "You couldn't sleep either, could you, Annie?"
"Nope. Looks like Carter's doing well for a change, though." She looked at him: his hands were badly swollen where they'd been handcuffed for the past two weeks. "You know, grandpa, I would almost feel sorry for him."
"If he hadn't ruined our lives."
"Yeah." Anne looked at her grandfather. "We're never going to go back to normal, are we? Even if we make it out of San Francisco. It'll never be normal again." Thoughts of her life in D.C., her friends, Rich... they all vanished. Deceptive memories of a life that would never be. Thanks to SIRECOM, and her own damned genes.
"It never was normal, Annie."
"What?" Anne snapped out of her bitter reverie. "What was never normal?"
"There's something you should know, Annie. About your life, and... Altamont." He pulled the shade down on Utah or whatever square state it was, and turned on a small bedside light. "And about your mother...."
Your mother was, well, a bit of a free spirit. She never listened to me the way her little brother and sister did. In retrospect, I guess she had a little bit of the same thing you and I have. In retrospect.
Anyway, Martha never listened to me. Listened to those Beatles, though, and the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark Five, and... the Dave Clark Five. No, I have no idea who they were. Just somebody your mother played loudly in her room.
She went to college out in California, which at the time I thought was for the best, because it meant she couldn't rebel against me anymore; she'd have to start figuring out who she was, not who she opposed. Well, she just ended up opposing Uncle Sam. Free speech sit-ins, civil rights marches, anti-war protests... not that I minded so much. I wasn't a big advocate of war, as you know.
Her lifestyle bothered me, though. She had a lot of boys I didn't approve of, and I'm sure they were only the ones I knew about. But I tolerated your mother's lifestyledidn't have any choice, reallyuntil 1969. December. Twenty-five years ago.
The sixties were ending, but they had already turned rotten. So many good people had died... I sometimes imagined myself in Dallas, or Memphis, or Los Angeles, stopping a speeding bullet right before some "lone nut" killed one of those boys. But what was the use? I wasn't there, and they had already died. Fat lot of good an Overman did this country.
Your mother had mentioned she was going to see a big Rolling Stones concert. Musical quality aside, that seemed harmless enough and your grandmother and I didn't give it a second thought. Woodstock had been peaceful enough.
Then the news reports crept in, that somebody had been killed by the concert security. They showed footage of the Rolling Stones leaving by helicopter while the Hells Angels killed some kid in the crowd. And your mother was in the middle of it.
I got the first plane out there, which wasn't so easy or so fast in 1969. I had to rent a car, no cab would go out to the Altamont Speedway... I was bucking a huge tide of traffic, people fleeing the scene. I didn't get there until nearly two days after all the chaosif your mother had been dead, what good could I have done? Stupid Overman, too late again.
But she was there. Muddy and bruised and a little bit shocked by the whole thing. As for me, I was horrified to see where all that music and rebellion had ledso much for "peace and love"so I asked her to come back home. I wanted her to come back home.
I... didn't do it on purpose, Annie. I only have a tiny bit of that telepathy of yours. But I really think I made your mother come back to Washington, without her even knowing. And I drove off lots of the boys she met there, until she met George Benson.
Why I liked him, I don't really know. But the fact that you turned out with such strong Omega powers might have something to do with it. If I subconsciously knew that he was a latent Omega-carrier like your mother, then I... I bred you, Annie. And that's why you're in so much trouble today.
Anne fumed silently for a few minutes, then she burst out at Harvey. He could feel the full telepathic force of her anger, but it was her words that really stung him. "And that's why you dread this concert, Harvey? You blame all that on Altamont? Why don't you grow up and try blaming yourself?"
"I already do, Annie," Harvey answered quietly. "Ever since I figured it out."
For a moment, Harvey was afraid she would stay angry, maybe even start tossing things around like a poltergeistand he was certainly no match for Anne. But the anger slowly disappeared, and Anne sat back down next to him.
"Don't be too hard on yourself, grandpa. You couldn't have done it on purpose, and you couldn't have known how things would turn out." She looked over to Carter, who had been awakened by Anne's angry thoughts and was now eavesdropping; a glare and a mental command sent him back to sleep. She turned back to Harvey and said, "If we have to blame anyone, lets blame the goons who are actually hounding us."
"That's right, Annie, we have to stick together." Harvey tentatively put his arm around her, and was encouraged when she didn't object. "But I still have a bad feeling about this concert. We're getting these visions for some reason, and I don't think it's just what I did to your mother back in the sixties.
"It's going to get violent, Annie. Look at what happened at O'Hare. And a bunch of old British millionaires won't help us, even if Jagger is an Omega. They just don't care, Annie. They'll escape on a helicopter, leaving us all to die."
Anne held Harvey's hand. "We won't die, grandpa."
"Somebody has to, Annie. It's just like before... things are coming to a head in this country. And I'm afraid history will repeat itself."
The train rolled on in the moonlight, carrying them farther and farther away from Washington every second.
Washington, Chicago, Mont Saint Michel, Oakland: all over the nation, even across the world, people were lacing boots. Buckling vests. Checking sights. Loading clips. Testing guns.
Studying maps for the concert, and pictures of Anne and Harvey.
END OF PART TEN
To be concluded in Legacy #11!
Be sure to read the extra-large final chapter, available today!
Sonic, Trax, Flux, Trace, Phase, and the Seekers appear courtesy of Matt Dempster. Steele, Rift, Rebecca, and the Cadre appear courtesy of Kay Green. (NOTE: This story takes place after Cadre #1-5.) Jarvin Tazakles and Tyrus Absalom appear courtesy of Matt Rossi. Thanks to all these fine folks for letting me use their creations so extensively... and, in some cases, lethally....
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