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by Marc Singer
Part 5 of The Tazakles Gambit

An arc of electricity knocked Jimmy DeLeon across the room, sending rainbows of sparks shooting out of his armor. Ampere, leader of the invading Havoc Black Squad, tore into the armor as Jimmy's insulation and defense systems tried to fight him off—or at least stave off electrocution. Even if Jimmy did somehow survive, there was no question that he'd be useless for the rest of the fight.

That left three people to defend the entire Colony.

Anne Benson was wrestling with the Havoc Omega named Newton, who was using his gravity-powers cleverly enough that her strength and telekinesis were all but negated. Harvey was taking on the considerably more material menace of the giant Titan. So far, both were handing out more lumps than they took, which was good.

Warren just kept reaching out to his private arsenal and 'porting in more weaponry, trying to hold the rest of the Black Squad at bay. It was a losing battle, and Warren kept thinking of the Spartans at Thermo... Thermo... whatever. At least those Spartans succeeded in holding off the enemy; Warren was more worried that this would turn into Custer's Last Stand.

Jimmy screamed as Ampere penetrated his defense systems, and Warren cursed and stopped shooting. He couldn't let his friend die like the Spartans. Warren dropped his rifle and 'ported in a fire extinguisher from the third floor. He didn't know if it would stop Ampere, but it was supposed to be good against electrical fires.

Ducking to avoid the other Havoc troops' gunfire, Warren rushed over to Jimmy and trained the extinguisher on him full blast. The foam seemed to protect Jimmy from the man of living electricity, who recoiled away from him.

Warren was reaching for a fire hose when he saw, out of the corner of his eye, the Havoc member named Alchemist moving into Anne's blindspot. Alchemist was the one who'd killed the Colonist named Miguel a few days ago, encasing him in glass like a bug. Warren couldn't let that happen to Anne, in spite of what she'd said to him. So he did the only thing he could; he threw the fire extinguisher.

Which just bounced right off her Dynamax helmet. It did save Anne, though—because Alchemist turned her attention to Warren.

He grabbed his assault rifle again, 'porting it up from the floor a few feet away, but before he could fire it, Alchemist turned his armor, his rifle, every piece of clothing on him into copper. Then Ampere attacked him.

There was a flash of light, more brilliant than anything Warren had ever seen.

Then there was darkness....

Hot summer winds blew across the East Texas fields. It was nearly eight o'clock, but still bright outside; the midsummer sky seemed to stay light forever.

Warren Harmon Davis lived on a rabbit farm, and it had always been a joke in his family that his parents had named him after the warrens that held their chief source of income. Most of the rabbits were running around in their field, enjoying the summer evening as much as Warren was.

Warren loved the rabbits ever since he was a boy; he'd even built a little maze for them to run through, and done all his required science projects with it. Unfortunately, there weren't as many rabbits as there used to be. The family was running out of money, giving it to a local minister whom Warren just didn't like. Mostly because he drained the family's income, but partly because of his weekly sermons about destroying Omegas, who bore "the devil's legacy." Warren took those comments kind of personally.

But his parents just kept giving money to the ministry, so Warren had to watch as they sold more and more rabbits, until they were dangerously low on breeding stock. Some nights, when there was no food in the fridge, they killed rabbits for their own dinners. It just didn't seem fair to Warren to run them through their little lives, with the only reward at the end an ax and a dinner table. So he went out and got himself a much better job.

Warren felt the comfortable feeling of a ball smacking into his hand, and then he threw it back to his little sister. Warren didn't use a glove when he played with her, since she didn't throw that hard. Anyway, gloves were part of his job, maybe the best job in the world—playing minor league ball, with a really good shot at the majors in a year or two—but still a job. This was just fun.

Warren had a great relationship with Betsy. He tossed the ball around with her all the time, even shared lots of stuff with her. Like his secret Omega power...

Betsy missed the ball, and it went rolling down the dirt lane that led up to their house. But instead of chasing after it, she just yelled, "WAR-ren! Get it for me!" And since he'd touched the ball before, he was able to teleport it right back into his hand.

Yep, Warren even shared that secret with Betsy. Which was why his parents tried to smother him in his sleep that night.


Before she even finished her scream, Anne telekinetically grabbed Alchemist and flung her into Ampere's crackling, vaguely human-shaped electric field. That knocked Warren loose, and also sent Ampere's voltage coursing into Alchemist. However, her armor insulated her, and Ampere withdrew almost immediately.

Anne tried that trick every time she met an electrical foe since encountering Flux of the Seekers, and it had only worked the first time... she had to try something else. Grandpa!, she beamed telepathically, take care of this armored clod on my back, I need to save Warren!

I'll... try... Harvey answered. He was currently struggling under the weight of Titan, who was trying to crush him. Harvey suddenly shifted his stance, placed both hands on Titan's neck, and flung him head- first across the room, using the giant's own massive weight against him. Titan landed squarely on Newton, who was trying to crush Anne. Harvey leapt into the pile, determined to inflict more damage. Good enough, Annie? he asked.

But there was no answer. Anne was telekinetically wrenching Alchemist's helmet off her head, taking the Dynamax psi-screen along with it. Meanwhile, Anne was dodging Ampere's attacks with all her speed.

Desperate to do this before Ampere connected, Anne reached out and grabbed Alchemist's now-vulnerable mind. Anne had never tried using her telepathy on this level before, but she had no choice; it had to work. Anne broadcast one thought into Alchemist's mind, with a force so great that the Havoc killer had no choice but to act on it: "Water."

Alchemist's hands reached up, and unwillingly transmuted all the air in and around Ampere to water. Ampere emitted a distorted, electric scream.

With a callousness that would shock and frighten her later, Anne grabbed Alchemist and tossed her into the short-circuiting mess that was Ampere. There was a sick, burning smell as Alchemist's unprotected head was struck by electricity.

But it was no sicker than what had happened to Warren. Anne ripped open the hot copper shell, and choked on the cloud of steam and smoke that poured out. When it cleared, Anne could see that his whole body was covered in third-degree burns, or worse.

Anne pried him out of his still-sizzling shell, and tried to lift him without hurting him any further. Then Jimmy limped over, in stiff armor which was making funny buzzing sounds. "You'd best let me take him to th' infirmary, missy. My armor doesn't work, so you'll be needed here."

"Sorry, Jimmy. No time." Anne vanished in blur of motion.

And then there was one.

Warren woke up to the decidedly uncomfortable feeling of a soft, 100 percent cotton pillowcase being jammed into his face. The full weight of his father holding it down on him, choking him, smothering him... Warren thrashed wildly, but something else was holding his legs down. His mother's hands.

Warren panicked, and before he knew it, his old Louisville Slugger, a present from mom and dad for making the spot on the Grangers, was in his right hand. And he swung it upwards, again and again, because he wanted to live. He wanted to live more than the sound of his mother's screams, more than the feel of hitting something surprisingly soft and then going back and hitting it again anyway. Hitting it again and again until there was nothing pushing the pillow down anymore, and it felt nice and soft on his face.

Warren sat up, and his first thought was, My bat's ruined. It was the only thing he could think that wouldn't drive him crazy.

Mom looked at him, looked at the messy bat in his hand, and just fainted dead away. She still had a little pocket Bible in her hands. It had been given to her by that damn minister who was costing them all their money. Now he'd cost them something far more precious.

Warren thought of hitting mom, just to be safe, but decided it wasn't worth it. So he started packing his things, very, very quickly.

On the way out, he stopped to see Betsy, who'd been locked in her room. She ran over to hug him, her tear-covered face staining his shirt. "I didn't mean for them to do it, Warren, I swear!"

"Ssssh, sssh, it's okay, Betsy. I know you didn't. I know." Warren ran his hands through her hair one last time. "Betsy, I have to go. You take real good care of yourself, okay?"

"Wh-where are you goin'?"

"I don't know, kid. I just know I got to get away." Warren, now crying himself, hugged her even closer. "You just take real good care of yourself. And mom too."

Betsy sniffed, but stopped crying. "And dad too, right?"

For the first time, Warren wished he could teleport himself. Far, far away.

Ampere had somehow managed to recorporate himself, but he wasn't moving. Alchemist looked equally bad, with burns covering her head. Either one could've been dead, for all Harvey knew.

The rest of the Havoc Black Squad—Titan, Newton, the remaining gunmen—were regrouping around Harvey. Jimmy De Leon was behind him, tinkering furiously with something on his armor and not any use in a fight. Agony was still quite unconscious, and Hugo was probably getting outfitted for a halo right about now. "Well, well," leered one of the gunmen, "just one old man left."

"Maybe so," said Harvey, wiping a small amount of blood from his lip and trying to smile, "but you picked the wrong old man." He could feel himself sliding, sliding down to a dark place he hadn't been in fifty years. Not since the last time he'd been at war.

Harvey leapt into them. He would protect this Colony, at any cost.

Warren was training in the gym, the old Chicago Colony's gym with its amazing setup. Warren was doing all the new Tai Chi Chuan moves James Lao had taught him, pausing every now and then to teleport a billy stick or a sai into his hand and demolish some poor cardboard cut- out opponent. Now that Jarod was dead, he had to assume responsibility for all Colony security, and that meant he had to be his absolute best.

After a while, he became aware of an observer... he turned around, and saw Danny Anderson watching him. Warren felt a little embarrassed, and waved hello.

"You're working out awfully hard," Danny said.

"Yeah, well, I gotta be ready for when the feebs come for us."

Danny seemed a little shocked. "They may never come for us, Warren. We don't hurt any of them, except Tazakles... we're just trying to build a society where Omegas and feebs can live in peace."

Warren snorted, and started toweling himself. "Danny, that's enough reason for them to come and crush us. They. Hate. Us. You got that? They'll do anything to exterminate us. Just like the Nazis." Danny reeled back from the force of Warren's emotions, but Warren wouldn't let up. Danny was a nice kid, he'd taken Warren in when everybody else was out to get him, but he still needed to understand certain things about the world. "There is no feeb that doesn't fear us, Danny, and they will come to kill us one day. So we have to be ready. Because I, for one, don't plan on going down without a fight." He threw his towel at Danny, and started to leave the gym.

"Never without a fight," Warren quietly added.

As to whether Danny the telepath picked up on what Warren was thinking when he said that, Warren would never know.

Harvey waded through the feeb troops like they were rows of corn, thrashing them soundly in spite of their Dynamax armor. All the armor, guns, machines, car parts of the world fell before the enraged Harvey Hauptmann, Overman. It was the thing in himself he had been trying to avoid and deny for fifty years. It was also the thing that was most needed now. He'd inadvertently led troops to the Chicago Colony, causing its destruction; he owed it to this Colony to defend it.

Newton placed a high-gravity field around him, slowing him down and forcing him to use all his strength just to hold himself upright. Then Titan started punching his stationary target. Even if the Havoc Black Squad's killers weren't individually his match, they would overwhelm him through numbers. He needed Anne.

"Anne?" Warren timidly entered the room Anne had been sharing with Joanne and some of the other female Colonists, not sure if it was proper for him to enter this harem uninvited.

Anne sat up, on the bed where she'd been reading. "Yes, Warren? What can I do for you?"

Images leapt to Warren's mind, but he tried to suppress them... Anne was a telepath, after all. "I, ah, I was just wondering what you and Mr. Hauptmann were up to, now that this whole Shiva thing is over."

She ran her hands through her hair and rubbed her eyes. Warren suddenly realized that she was very tired, but she answered him anyway. "Grandpa and I interrogated Carter, and—we need to move on. We have to deal with Carter's boss."

Warren grinned sheepishly. "Actually, Anne, I wasn't talking about long term plans. I meant to ask what you were up to tonight. If you would, you know, like to do anything."

"Oh." Anne proceeded to give her explanation, but Warren heard all he neeeded to hear in that one syllable, saw all he needed to see in the pitying look on her face. She was shooting him down.

"You see, Warren, SIRECOM is holding this friend of mine hostage—well, he was my boyfriend—"

Down in flames.

Warren listened to the rest of her excuse, mumbled a few apologies, and got the hell out of there. Why did he think she'd ever go out with him in the first place?

Russell Pozen was badly overworked. He was the chief physician of the Colony now, he had to tend to all the people injured in the Dynamax attack and move everybody else to the upper floors, and he was only a pediatrician with one bad arm.

Normally, he would've just been assisting the real head doctor, Mirranda Anderson, but she was gone. Kidnapped by Dynamax. And her husband Danny, the Colony's leader and chief telepath, had disappeared after her. Which left Russell and the Colony to deal with a ton of trouble.

Anne Benson burst into the room, laid a horribly burned, steaming body on a table, and told Russell that it was Warren. Then she disappeared just as quickly, leaving Russell to gape at Warren's body. He snapped out of it, and shouted for every free hand to help him give burn treatments.

Warren was in critical condition the whole time, and Russell was astounded that he hadn't simply died from the electrocution. But the burns were still killing him, and Russell didn't know if he was enough of a doctor to stop them.

Midway through the operation, he was joined by another man, Franz or "Frank" Weiss, the only person in the Colony who was older than Russell. "Let me hold that tray for you," Franz said.

"Thanks," Russell mumbled, not without malice. Back when he'd been the "American Warmask," Russell spent his brief career hunting communists... but he'd grown up during World War II, and didn't have a high opinion of Nazis, either. As he labored over Warren, he said, "You mind if I ask what you're doing here? You and Warren didn't exactly get along."

"I heard he was hurt... or rather, Clara heard... and I came here to see if there was anything I could do. Also, to talk to him before he... if he..."

Russell glared at Franz. "Oh, I'm going to try and keep him alive, you can be sure of that. He won't be talking to you or anyone... but I think I know what he'd say to you if he could."

Warren stood close to the wall of "The Schoolhouse," the room that had been set aside for Joanne Cranshaw's and Franz Weiss's brand new classroom for the younger Omegas. He was appraising the swastika painted across it, and the words NAZI GO HOME written underneath. "Funny," Warren quipped, "all the times this has been plastered on something, it's always been used the other way around." He turned around and smiled at the two people who'd summoned him. "Poetic justice, don't you think?"

Joanne exploded with anger. "Mister Davis," she intoned in perfect Queen's English, "we asked you here to investigate this crime, not to pass judgment on Frank."

"Calm down, Joanne." Franz had a kindly voice and a soft disposition that had made him a sort of universal grandfather to everyone in the Colony... until they learned that he'd once been a Nazi soldier. Franz had been quite open about it, and made it the central issue of his history class; he wanted to make sure that his pupils did not repeat or fall victim to the errors of the past.

But evidently some people didn't think Franz had made amends for his past. And evidently Warren was one of them. He just scoffed at Franz, and said, "Sorry, pal, but as long as you're here, you'll have to deal with your own crimes. I couldn't tell everybody 'leave the Nazi alone'... even if I wanted to."

"Mister Davis," Joanne said, "may I remind you that you are chief of security, and it is your job to find these vandals?"

"I don't just follow orders, Ms. Cranshaw. That was Franz's game."

"That was completely uncalled for! You apologize—!"

"CHILDREN!" Frank screamed, with an authority that neither Omega knew he possessed. Once they both stopped shouting, Franz said, "I appreciate your help, Joanne, but your anger is unnecessary." He spun around on his heels to face Warren, as if he were delivering one of his lectures... which he was. "As for you, Mr. Davis, your anger is quite understandable... but I'm not the man I once was. People can change. I'd hoped I laid my checkered past to rest when I killed Deathbringer."

"That just tells me that you don't have any problem with killing Omegas," Warren said. Then he drew closer and spoke in a whisper only Franz could hear. "You can't change the fact that you're a feeb, Weiss. And a Nazi... sorry, ex-Nazi. That's two reasons why I and every other Omega in this place should fear you. Because you could turn against us any time, kill us in our sleep."

Franz was aghast. "Warren, I would never...!"

"Skip it." Warren turned his back on the teacher. "I'll find the kids who did this, alright. But only because Danny wants me to, you understand?"

"Yes," said Franz. "You're doing something you don't like, because you choose to follow every order of our government's Great Leader. I understand only all too well."

Warren looked back at him, not with rage but with pain. But he left the Schoolhouse without saying another word.

Anne sped back to the basement hallway where Harvey was holding the line against Dynamax. She hated leaving him alone, especially when the Colony had so few defenders left, but it was the only way to save Warren's life. She'd hurt the man, and he'd still saved her life. Letting him die was no way to repay him.

Anne rocketed past Jimmy, who was wiring his armor up to a console on the wall. He was absorbed in his work, but he managed to shout "More time!" at Anne. Harvey was in the center of the Havoc Black Squad, taking some heavy abuse from the Omegas while the feeb troopers—Anne used the term "feeb" with little guilt now—tried to get in a few licks. A telekinetic blow to Newton's head, followed by a full- speed body slam, broke his concentration and his gravity field, and soon Anne and Harvey were fighting shoulder to shoulder. Just as it should be.

Even with her arrival, things still looked grim. Titan was delivering massive punches, Newton was still conscious, and the Dynamax-augmented troops were wearing Anne and Harvey down. Ampere was up and around again, and powering up for another blast.

Harvey was too far into it to even care. He just kept throwing punches, not caring that there were more people than he could hope to hold back. Anne, trying to hold back the Omegas, suddenly realized that she didn't want to die here. Not that she wanted to abandon the Colony, she just didn't want to die fighting in some dingy basement. It looked like the Black Squad wasn't going to oblige her.

A madman's laugh interrupted Anne's morbid reverie, and it took her a moment to place the laugh as Jimmy's. All the lights in the hallway dimmed, and Anne could hear the nearby generators groaning as something bled them for every bit of power they had.

Every member of the Havoc Black Squad, living or dead, disappeared.

Harvey swung his head around, looking for more people to hit, while Anne glanced back at Jimmy. He was laughing and dancing as best he could in his stiff, fused armor. "Jimmy," she called, "what happened?"

"They used a pirated copy of my Transmat technology to beam in here, so I just beamed another signal to send 'em back out! I sent 'em to the damn Everglades!" Jimmy pointed to the console he'd wired himself into. "And I set up a jammin' field which will keep them from usin' a Transmat to get back in here!"

Anne laughed, and then Harvey did, and soon they were all hugging and dancing. Before long, they made their way to the infirmary. It didn't occur to them that one Dynamax Portable Transmat Receiver, short-circuited and damaged, might not have sent its wearer all the way to the Everglades. That she might still be in the building.

The Colony was a shambles. Its few remaining leaders and allies were in the infirmary, licking their wounds or feeling depressed. They weren't receiving the quality medical care normally found in the Colony's infirmary, because the head doctor was gone. Mirranda Anderson had just been kidnapped.

"It's all because of that crazy cyborg friend of yours," Warren said to Allen Covenant, while Russell Pozen bandaged the slight injury he'd received from the traitorious Threll. "He was probably a spy for Tazakles from the beginning."

"If Threll is working for Tazakles, then it's not his fault," Allen answered indignantly. "It must have been some kind of programming."

"Look," Anne offered, "it's too late to argue about whose fault it was. If anybody deserves blame, it's me, because I was right next to her when Threll attacked. But right now, I'm more worried about Danny. Anybody know where he went?"

"Yeah," Warren answered. "To get his wife back. I say we should all be following him."

Jimmy, who was donning his battle armor, said, "That may not be such a good idea. He tried to wipe his destination from the Transmat memory, but I recovered it, of course. He went to the heart of Dynamax Detroit."

"So he definitely needs us." Warren's combat shotgun with attached grenade launcher suddenly appeared in his hand. When Warren had taken that from Dan Carter, it had said "OMEGA KILLER." Now the OMEGA had been painted over with something else... FEEB.

"I'm not so sure it's a good idea to send everybody charging after him," said Anne. "This whole thing of kidnapping Mirry... it seems like a trap. Maybe Tazakles wants to lure us away from the Colony."

Allen Covenant started pacing around the room and speaking his thoughts out loud, a sign that he was on the way to a profound realization that probably wasn't at all pleasant. "... or he wants to lure Danny away... protect his family while... You're right, Ms. Benson, the Colony could indeed be in grave danger!"

Warren shook his rifle. "What. About. DANNY?" He searched around the room, trying to lock eyes with someone. "That man took us all in, and I'm not about to leave him to those... those Nazis!"

Harvey might have been the first one to snap, but Anne was the first one to show it. "Will you calm down and listen for a change, Warren?" She levitated over to him, within inches of his face but looking down on him. "There are hundreds of people here who need protection, people who are a lot weaker than Danny. People who weren't stupid enough to charge off half-cocked into Dynamax, which I guess is a mistake you want to repeat!" She lowered to the ground and stared him in the eye. "And as far as 'Nazis' go, Franz has told us about your little personality problem. Frankly, I would say anybody with a gun called FEEB KILLER shouldn't talk about Nazis. So put your gun down, and do your job, which is to protect this—AAAAARGH!"

Anne collapsed to the ground; so did Joanne Cranshaw and the spectral Javier Hugo, the other receiving telepaths in the room. "What's going on?" cried Harvey.

"Intruders... lots of them... basement... just shot some Colonists..."

Jimmy seemed confused. "How did they...?" Then he pounded his fist on the wall. "Fuck! Threll saw my Transmat, inside and out!"

"Omegas!" One voice stopped the chaos in the infirmary. It belonged to Warren. "Let's get it together and get down there... how are Conflagration and the Twins?" he asked.

"Still out of it," said Russell.

"And Lao and Miguel are dead... Danny, Mirry, and Threll gone... that fruit Angel's still missing... Covenant, you got any magic worked up?"

He shook his head. "Not for a fight. I'll need time to prepare some spells."

"Shit. You do that. Cranshaw, Russell, evacuate the lower floors. And shut off the elevators." He turned to the rest. "That leaves me, Jimmy, Agony, Harvey, Ms. Benson, and Mr. Hugo. The Magnificent Six." He took the safety off his gun. "Let's protect the Colony."

"Morituri te salutant," muttered Hugo.

Mercifully, few people were located in the basement, just support systems. The Colony's defenders reached the intruders before the death toll got higher than five. But if Dynamax reached the higher floors... that was probably their plan, to drive everybody upstairs and then fry them. Unless Warren had something to say about it. "Any advance info on these scum?" he asked. He and was being carried by Harvey, while Anne carried Jimmy; Agony's speed nearly matched their own, and Hugo, being more spirit than body, was somehow able to keep up with them.

"I'm afraid they all have psi-screens, typical Dynamax model," Hugo answered. He didn't need to say anymore, because they were already there.

Thirty people or more were massed in the hallway, all too near to the stairs. They wore black armor with the Dynamax corporate logo; six people, presumably Omegas, also bore flashy emblems and the seal of Tazakles' precious Havoc Squad. The bastard wanted the Colony to know who killed them. "Havoc Black Squad!" shouted the leader, a man with lightning bolts painted on his suit and the word AMPERE on his helmet, "take no prisoners! And be sure to get the old man and the girl, they're responsible for Tyrus Absalom's death!"

The Colony's defenders needed no such inspirational speech. They were fighting to save hundreds of defenseless people who were huddled right above them.

The battle wasn't even close. The defenders had to concentrate on protecting themselves from the withering volley of gunfire. Only Hugo was effective, as he no longer cared how many bullets hit his recorporated body. He moved from troop to troop, individually overwhelming each one with a telepathy so powerful that it sliced through the psi-screens like a hot knife through butter. He briefly wrestled with the knight in shining armor called "Astral," but because she was just an astral projection, he dissipated her with ease.

Anne knew that Hugo was slaughtering the troops, mercilessly and probably quite unpleasantly. She and the Colony had no choice but to go along with it. As he took out the front lines, she and the others could start returning fire.

"Take out the turncoat!" Ampere shouted. Two feeb troops, who were carrying a small box with a conical projection on one end, set the box down and aimed it at Hugo. A funnel of green light spiraled out of it, engulfed Hugo... and he was gone.

"Psi-suppressor," said Jimmy, as if it were the most profane word in the English language. "Against a purely psionic spirit, it's like disintegrating him." And if the others didn't understand the seriousness of this, he added, "We're screwed."

The troops aimed the funnel at the five remaining defenders, engulfing them all. Their comrades opened fire, and Anne had to dive in front of Harvey, because her grandfather still instinctively assumed he could shrug off bullets. Anne didn't want to know for sure; fortunately, her own third-generation Omega still left her some natural protection against the gunfire.

Jimmy, whose ability to operate his armor was unaffected by the funnel, raised both of his arms and set his sights on the box. Two small missiles shot out of each gauntlet, zoomed in on the psi-suppressor, and blew it to pieces. Several nearby troops were flattened, and the green funnel collapsed. Pressing the advantage, Anne, Harvey, Agony, and Jimmy waded into the troops while Warren provided covering fire. For a while, it looked like these five heroes just might hold off the entire Havoc Black Squad. Jimmy's technology far outstripped Dynamax's. Agony collapsed under a localized high-gravity field, against which her invulnerability was useless, but not before she knocked out a bestial Havoc Omega named Gollum. Harvey was actually cracking a smile, even as he cracked open suits of armor.

Then Ampere turned into a living bolt of electricity and fired himself straight at Jimmy's heart.

Anne, Harvey, Jimmy, and Agony all had more than their own share of bruises, but the first thing they did was check on Warren.

"I'm afraid he's not too good," Russell answered. "I've been trying my best... well, Franz and I have... but I don't know if we can keep him from dying. Those burns of his are pretty bad."

Harvey looked over to Franz, who seemed a lot more tired and old than he did, even though Harvey was several years his senior and aching from battle. "You've been working on Warren, huh?"

"We all do strange things during wartime, Harvey. At least this time, I know it is the right thing." He was continously mopping Warren's black, cracked skin. "I had hoped that Warren and I could resolve some things..."

"You just may get your chance." Allen Covenant breezed into the room, still filled with manic energy. "I need to go after Danny, but this takes precedence." He took a moment to center himself, then chanted in some strange tongue while laying his one remaining hand the other had apparently been lost during one of his strange odysseys on Warren's body. At first, Warren's skin crackled with a soft, sick, sound, but gradually the burns seemed to recede. After several minutes, his skin was still bright red and covered in blisters, but his vital signs had improved tremendously.

Covenant collapsed onto a chair. Warren's eyes flickered open, and he said, "...did we... kick their ass...?"

Anne and Harvey cheered, which he took as a "yes." The other people in the infirmary continued to tend the wounded and record the dead.

The thing with the horrible face went down the metal ladder, falling more than climbing. But it found its destination.

The thing once had a beautiful face, and a name that people in the newspapers wrote about, and a wonderful job. The job was the only thing the thing still had, and it wasn't about to give up.

The thing also once had a way home, but now it was stuck in the Colony. It knew it would die in the Colony. So it crawled to the place where Mister Tazakles said the generators and furnaces were. If it were going to die here, it was going to take all the other freaks along with it. Killing the freaks was the thing's wonderful job.

The thing raised its hand, and the very atoms moved to obey it.

Anne, Harvey, Jimmy, and Covenant were trying to plan a raid into Dynamax. Given their depleted numbers, the odds didn't look too good. And they grew dramatically worse when the entire Colony was rocked by an explosion. Somewhere else in the compound, a fire alarm began to scream the obvious.

"Is Dynamax back?" Jimmy shouted.

Anne quickly scanned the Colony with her telepathy, starting with the basement. "No," she said, "one of them is still alive. Damn it, we screwed up! I think it's Alchemist. She's by the furnace."

Jimmy's dark Caribbean face paled. "And the generators, the water tanks... if she makes the wrong chemical reactions, she could destroy the whole building! We have to get down there... Russell, get everyone out of the building now!"

Warren cleared his throat and said, "No time," and another explosion underscored his point. "You need... a quicker way..."

Anne asked him if he had any ideas, but Jimmy just said, "No. You're too weak, Warren, I can't allow it!"

Warren tried to smile, but it was obviously bravado. Anne wondered how much of him had been bravado, all the time she'd known him. Probably all of it, she thought, except for that time he tried to ask me out... "Warren," she said, "what are you talking about?"

"Danny once... had me touch... every Colonist." He gasped for air, then said, "Security measure. If I can get outside...?"

Anne turned to Jimmy. Now they could all smell the gas in the air. "Jimmy, it's the only way. You get him out there, I'll try to find Alchemist and head her off."

Warren coughed again, and said, "Anne... you're the fastest... ?" But the plaintive look in his eyes, hidden deep within the blisters, suggested it was more of a request.

Anne couldn't say no. She gingerly picked up Warren, asked Harvey to take out Alchemist, and then ran like the wind.

Anne raced to the ground floor, kicked open the doors, and found herself facing a dozen more Dynamax troopers. They'd probably been waiting there the whole time, ready to mow down anyone who tried to flee the Colony. Which now included Anne and Warren, who didn't have the time for this. The rumbling explosions, and jets of flame spitting out the lower windows, underscored their urgency.

Fortunately, Anne was moving so fast, the killers had barely reacted. Before even one gunman could raise his weapon, Anne released a telekinetic wave which flattened all of them. A second wave sent them hurtling into the air like so much trash, crashing into buildings or lampposts or pavement. Anne didn't really care how badly she hurt Dynamax's troops anymore. They certainly didn't care for her life.

Anne dashed across the street, aiming a few well-placed kicks at any Dynamax killer who tried to get back up. Once she was a few blocks away from the Colony, she found an abandoned warehouse and gently set Warren down. Her evacuation hadn't even taken a minute, but that might still be too long. Anne cradled Warren's head, but left his hands free, while he worked his power and said "Security" over and over again.

Harvey was speeding through the warren of corridors that led back to the maintenance and support room. When he got there, he didn't bother with the ladder. He just leapt to the floor, causing the whole room to shake. He was wounded, he was angry, his clothes were shot to hell, and his face was the very visage of death has he stalked towards the hideously burned thing that had been Alchemist.

The thing saw him, and tried transmuting the air into coffins of stone or metal, but they were weak and Harvey just punched through them. Desperate, the thing screeched, "It's too late! It's too late!" Sure enough, the furnace behind her was ablaze and the generators were quaking.

There was no time for debate. If there were, Harvey might start doubting his own actions; but there was only one sure way to save the Colony if he was in time, or punish its killer if he wasn't. Glad that Anne wasn't around, he snapped the thing's neck with one short, solid punch to the head. Unfortunately, it looked like Alchemist's last words were true, because everything went up in—

Warren wasn't in shape for this. He didn't think it would work, and even if it did, he knew what the toll would be. He didn't mind. This was a security measure. And he was in charge of security. Danny had said so himself.

He reached out, and brought two children into the warehouse, one standing near each hand. One of them was Clara White, a sweet kid, who looked a lot like her grandfather... there was no time to dwell on that now. He brought another two children. And another. And another. His hands were starting to sting.

Warren. Anne's words beamed into his brain, even as her soft hands cradled his head. Warren could also feel her emotions leaking in. She didn't hate him. She didn't love him, wouldn't have time to, probably never would have anyway, but she didn't hate him. She did hate herself for telling him, Warren, you have to do it faster. The building is about to go.

Four children. Eight. Sixteen. Thirty-two. The kids were out, he was bringing in adult Colonists now. Sixty-four. Covenant, Cranshaw, Russell. Good lord, his hands were burning. One hundred twenty-eight. Jimmy, Agony, Thomas-Peter, the twins. He couldn't feel his hands anymore. His face was so hot, but there were still more...

"Warren!" Anne screamed! "It's going up—grandpa!"

He reached out one last time. He grabbed nearly two hundred. And there was a flash of light....

Harvey was standing in a large warehouse, surrounded by Colonists. Hundreds of them, all looking about as confused as he was. He supposed Warren's plan had worked. Warren had teleported—everyone?

"Franz!" Harvey pushed his way through the stunned crowd. "Franz!" He shoved through Omegas and "feebs" of all varieties, looking for—"Franz!"

"You don't need to yell, Uncle Harvey. I can hear you just fine." Clara White looked at him with wide-eyed pleasure, because she still hadn't figured out that this wasn't just a fun adventure. She was sitting on her grandfather's knee.

"Are you alright, Harvey?" Franz asked. "You seem quite worried."

Harvey paused, finally catching his breath. "I thought Warren—"

"Warren," Franz said, "is a good man at heart. That's probably all he's ever been."

A tremendous explosion echoed in their ears, and a column of flame shot into the sky a few blocks away. "It looks like Warren got us out just in time," Harvey said. "I need to find him."

"I do as well," Franz said. Leaving Clara with Joanne Cranshaw, he and Harvey set out through the crowd.

Anne was still cradling Warren's head in her lap, caressing it while his body lay on a pile of clothing. She and the Colonists would do whatever they could to ease his pain. "You did it," she said, "you got them all out in time."

"mm glad... Anne... " He could barely speak, and Anne sometimes had to let him mentally complete his sentences. I'm glad you're here with me.

"I'm glad too, Warren." She kissed him gently on the forehead, but regretted it as even that slight sensation cracked his skin and caused him pain. Anne tried dulling his actual feelings, and telepathically sending him the perfect Platonic ideal of a kiss.

Jimmy was beside them, holding one of Warren's hands, both of which had turned blackened and burnt again. Tears were streaming freely down Jimmy's cheeks. "Warren, mon, you are one crazy son of a bitch... even if you'd been healthy, I don't know if you could have done it... but you did it, mon, you did it!"

"... but the building... blew..." Warren's voice turned into a dry rasp.

"The Colony wasn't a building, Warren. It was people. And you saved them." Anne tried to blunt his pain, to keep those sharp daggers from reaching his brain, but he was slipping fast. And without medical equipment... Anne had no illusions about what was going to happen.

Harvey and Franz shoved through the crowd of grateful Colonists. Harvey bellowed, "Warren! You saved... " His voice trailed off as he saw the face of his savior. In his already poor condition, the strain of teleporting out hundreds of people was killing him. It was even beginning to counteract Covenant's spell, as more burns appeared on his body. Covenant himself was chanting above him, trying to repeat the spell, but it wasn't working. Soon, Covenant was sobbing, repeating the same syllables over and over again, not for Warren but for himself.

Franz knelt down between Anne and Jimmy. "Warren," he said, "Warren, I need to tell you—"

"warren?" he said, smiling.

"Yes," said Franz, a little confused. "You're Warren. I want—"

"'s not fair... to run them through the warren... and then kill them... they deserve... better... " Anne, who was caressing his mind as she caressed his head, was the only one with a glimmer of what he meant.

Warren looked at the friends gathered around him. "mm not gonna die fighting, am I?"

"No," Anne said. Tears were welling in her eyes. "But you saved the Colony, that's so much better."

"yeah," he said, "yeah... didn't wanna die fighting... I wanna die in bed... surrounded by my family..."

And he did.

While the Colony headed for a nearby auxiliary shelter, Anne and Harvey took a brief walk, ostensibly to see if Dynamax was still around. Since Tazakles had no reason to believe otherwise, he would hopefully assume that all the Colonists died in the building's explosion. Knowing Tazakles, Anne thought, he probably believes that he's really destroyed the Colony, when he's only destroyed its most superficial shell.

He did also destroy one important piece of its heart, though. Warren Harmon Davis was dead, but before he died, he pulled every single person out of the Colony. If the Omegas ever get a hagiography, Anne thought, he'll be the first saint. Probably not the last.

Franz also accompanied them on their walk. He was useless for recon, of course, but they all knew they weren't going on recon when they found themselves lingering in front of the Colony building's smoking wreckage.

"If we had just known that one of them didn't leave," Anne said, "Warren might still be alive."

Harvey placed an arm around his grand-daughter. "We could 'if' ourselves to death on this thing, Annie. We did the best we could, and we saved the Colony. He saved the Colony most of all."

"There was... so much I wanted to say to him," said Franz, continuing his own private thoughts and not the conversation. "I knew he was a good boy. I even knew why he hated me. I just wanted him to know that I understood."

"He didn't hate you," Anne said. The older men both looked at her with surprise.

"I touched his mind at the end," she explained. "And Franz, you were the last person he hated. I think he admired the way you changed yourself." Anne shrugged her shoulders. "There was a lot he wanted to say to us, too."

"He didn't need to. He said it all when he saved us."

They looked at the smoking wreckage for a few more minutes, and then they left it behind.


... But The Tazakles Gambit isn't over. Anne and others carry the fight to Tazakles' doorstep in Covenant #16 and Pulse #17!

Allen Covenant and Javier Hugo created by Chad Imbrogno. Danny Anderson, the Colony, Jimmy De Leon, Agony, Russell Pozen, Joanne Cranshaw, the Havoc Squad, and Warren Harmon Davis RIP created by Matt Rossi. All other characters created by Marc Singer.

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