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by Matt Dempster
"What's the reading?"
"I have an absorption rate of 553 kilopsions."
"That's not high enough. What the hell? He should be soaking this up like a sponge!"
"Absorption curve is a flatline. He's just not getting anymore."
"Crank up the power feed, and hit the boosters again."
"Is that wise? If we feed him too much, it may push him into deep shock."
"I don't care. Hit him again."
The him in question spasmed in agony as the energy feeds resumed their steady pour of power into his already overtaxed system. He thrashed against the restraints shackling him to the table. The pads of the boosters touched down on his chest, and a low humming was heard against the high pitched whine of the generators.
One of the men dressed in white turned to his collegue. "Any change?"
The shorter man glanced at his monitors. "Not a damned thing. Heart rate is skyrocketing, though. His BP is elevated too. We have to shut down."
"Becker won't like that."
"Becker will like a dead Omega even less. Do you want to be the one to tell him that we fried his new toy?"
The taller man shook his head. "Ok. Shut down. We'll let him come down for a bit, and then put him in for his next session with Sheldon." He turned to a third man, standing by at the door. "All right, Larry. Slap the drains on him, and take him back to his quarters. He should sleep for a couple of hours."
The tall man placed his hands in the center of his back, and arched it, wincing with pleasure as his spine crackled. He turned back to his partner. "Wanna grab a beer, George?"
"I'm for that."
Don woke in his cell with a huge pain in his head. He sat up and groaned. Every muscle in his body felt as if it had been stretched and pulled beyond it's limit, and his brain felt like it was going to jump out of his skull and run about, nipping people on the ankles. His mouth was dry, and tasted like a large carnivore had used it for a toilet. His staggered up off the bed and stumbled over to the bathroom. A quick twist of the faucet, and several splashes later, he stared at his reflection. Grayish stubble coated his face, and his cheekes were sunken pits. He looked like he hadn't eaten in days. Of course, that wasn't true, he had eaten well, but they were using his Omega so much it sucked up every bit of energy he had, and the damned Psi-Suppressor in the room prevented his normal metabolism from efficient use of his reserves. 'Funny,' he thought, 'you never think about all those little benefits of being an Omega until they're all gone.'
He looked back out at his room. Remarkably nice prison cell it was. A main room with a bed, and a desk, complete with computer, and his very own private bathroom. And his very own Dynamax 27-DJH psi suppression field in case he got antsy. Nice carpet, pictures on the walls, and a lock on the door that might even give Michelle pause for a second or two.
Don walked back out unsteadily, and sat down at his desk. It was covered in notes. Most of them were meaningless bullshit, stuff regarding energy conversion rates and psionic strengths. A few journal entries, nothing personal. Don knew bloody well that these were searched regularly. He twisted the screen of the computer to face him, and switched it on.
After a few minutes of typing on the word processor, he heard a chime at the door. He twisted about in his seat, and saw a uniformed guard open the door. The meals came at irregular hours, and Don didn't bother trying to jump the guard. He had tried that in the first day of his capture. He had waited by the door until they had brought food, then grabbed the guard and placed him in a joint lock. He took his weapons and keys, and then knocked him unconscious. He had gotten to the staircase about a hundred feet away before ten guards swarmed in on him and beat the hell out of him. At least they had let his Omega heal him from that. Otherwise, he'd still be in the hospital.
The guard set the food down on the table next to the door. "How's it goin, Doc?" he asked cheerfully.
Don had resigned himself to the guards' attempts to gain his trust. "Oh fine, Max. I'm just planning my summer vacation. Cancun's lookin' pretty nice."
"Sounds great. Ok, you take it easy now, all right?"
"You bet." You hypocritical bastard.
The guard left, and Don walked over and picked up the tray of food. 'Chicken again?'
A chime and the sound of tumblers clicking announced that Don had a visitor. He swiveled around in his chair as the door swung wide to admit a tall blonde woman and an accompanying guard.
Don gave a small smile. "Good morning, Ms. Sheldon."
Josepha Sheldon gave no answering smile. She brushed a non existant piece of lint from her uniform shirt, and said, "Time for our next session, Riley."
"Oh come on, Josepha, you could at least be pleasant. After all it's not like you can go anywhere either. We're pretty much both stuck in the same place."
Josepha frowned and turned on her heel. Don sighed, and rose to his feet. The guard allowed him to pass, and then followed him out, locking the door behind them. Don felt the Psi Suppressor field fall away from him as they walked down the hall, his restored metabolism revitalizing him. By the time they had reached the lab, he felt almost up to low par.
"All right, you know the drill, Riley. Lose the shirt."
"I show you mine if you show me yours."
Sheldon just stared at him. Riley shrugged, and removed his shirt. They had given him back his SIRECOM fatigues, which was nice of them because those hospital johnnies were fraggin COLD! He settled back in the chair, which reclined placing him at a 45 degree angle to the floor. He looked at Josepha. "You know, I don't understand why we keep doing this. You boost my powers so I can absorb more power. You do this repeatedly. The doctors pump me full of juice later, and they can't figure out why your boost isn't taking."
A tech moved in and fastened a large metal cuff to Don right arm as he continued. "They have to know the boost isn't permanent. I don't absorb powers that way. Even if I drained you dry, I still wouldn't be able to boost myself that way. So what gives?"
"The answer to that, herr Doktor, is quite complex."
Don snapped his head around to see Frederick Becker walk into the laboratory. The tall German walked over to a chair and sat down. He steepled his hands in front of him. "Have you heard of Tempest, Doctor Riley? Of course you have. Everyone knows of Tempest, the strongest Omega to ever live. Powerful beyond our comprehension. Capable of destroying us in the blink of an eye. A god on this earth. An uncontrollable god. And therein lies the problem. What if, someday, in a fit of pique, he decides to wipe out a continent? Or split the earth in two? Or just simply eradicate a city? We have no way to stop him. Not yet, anyway.
"This is what project Stormkiller is about. You are one of the prototypes. I chose you, because I feel that there is no better way to neutralize an Omega, than to take away his powers, the powers he is so used to relying on. After all, by his own admission, Tempest is only a sixteen year old boy without his powers."
Don started to laugh.
Becker frowned. "You find something amusing about all this, Doctor?"
Don shook his head. "First off, this whole Stormkiller thing. Pardon me, but it sounds like a bad story from an NP comic book. Secondly, do you have any idea of the amount of energy Tempest puts out, even without a direct focus? We're talking enough to power Seattle for a week! I don't care if Josepha was there, holding my hand, and boosting me till she fell over in a coma. I couldn't absorb that much power. I'd explode like a firecracker on the Fourth of July. Third: you seem to have this theory that even if you could somehow boost my absorption power to that height, I would help you. Wrong there too, my friend."
"You misunderstand, Doctor. We don't intend to gove you a choice. Gentlemen, please activate the scanner."
One of the white-coated lab technicians pulled down a lever, and pressed a sequence of keys on the console before him. A low bass hum emanated from the ceiling, and an apparatus that looked remarkably like a telephone booth slid down from the ceiling. The door to this small chamber opened, and Josepha walked inside. She turned and faced Don and gripped the rails on the inside of the chamber. She closed her eyes, and Don felt the now-familiar sensation of her power reaching out and pushing his own to new heights.
Becker continued. "You see, Dr. Riley, we are scanning and recording the interactions between your powers and Ms. Sheldon's. We feel we can duplicate them, and amplify the booster effect in a permanent manner. Currently, we understand your powers better than you yourself do. A simple matter then to...."
Becker was cut off by a tech. "Scan completed, sir."
Becker nodded. "Very good. Escort Dr. Riley to operating room 4. It's time for the implants. Oh, and have Ms. Sheldon taken back to her cell, and make sure she rests. We'll need her to test if the procedure was successful or not."
Don heard the word implants and he immediately started to struggle against the restraints that had suddenly fastened him to his chair. From the scanner assembly on his right arm, he felt a small prick, and had time to think, Shit... before the world spun into blackness.
"Give me some suction in here! Ok, Ok, there. We'll attach the booster primary to the cord at this point. The auxiliary units we'll attach to the arm modules. Ted, get the unit. All right.....easy now...there. It's in place. Activate the interfacing program."
The tiny unit placed next to Donald Riley's spinal column extended a sheaf of fiber-optic lines, each thinner than a human hair, thousands of them. The tiny computer inside the unit communed with the mother computer in the lab, in seconds figuring out where to place each cable, testing the connections. Riley's body twitched spasmodically as the machine triggered nerve endings at all points of his body. The whole thing took under 45 seconds.
"Excellent, gentlemen. Let's get the other modules in place. Frasier is on in an hour, and I don't want to miss it."
Brenda Washington sat in her office reviewing the latest report filed by the Seekers. Wes wasn't exceptionally clear with regards to how exactly they had accomplished the mission, though. The flight in and the battle to reach the command center was written in his usual matter-of-fact style, but from the the time he and Morgan entered the computer, he was exceptionally vague. Brenda made a mental note to herself to ask Wes about it when they returned from Rio. Wes had also passed along commendations for Morgan and Grogan, which had been sent along the the training instructors.
She put the report back into it's sleeve, and put it aside on her desk. She reached over to her in basket and picked out a sheaf of supply requests by the R&D department. She looked over the first one and sighed. Another long day at the office.
She was reaching for the second sheet when she heard a slight thump from out in the hall. She frowned, and bent back to her work. As she signed her name, a second, louder thump came from the hall, and faintly she heard a thin scream.
She slapped the intercom button on her commpanel. "Security? There's a disturbance outside my office.."
"Stay put, sir. We have an intruder in your sector. We are dispatching a team to take care of it."
She turned to the computer, and tapped a few keys. "Computer: display view from corridor security cameras on this terminal."
At first, she didn't see anything. There was one guard, and her secretary at her desk. Then the body of a security guard slammed into the wall at the corridor intersection. The office guard pulled out his weapon and raced down the hall. The camera followed, tracking him. The view shifted to the cameras around the corner, which showed a single man fighting a team of four armed security guards. As she watched, the man's hand shown red, and he swept it around in a fast arc at one of the onrushing men. The hand left a streak of red through the air as it sliced into the man's abdomen like a hot knife through butter. The guard staggered back with a look of surprise on his face, his hand clutched to his stomach, trying to hold in his vitals. He careened into the wall, and slumped to the floor.
The remaining guards kept their distance. One was frantically calling for backup, telling them to bring a psi-suppressor module. The other two warily circled the intruder, bringing their weapons to bear. The Omega looked at them with disdain, and strode forward towards Brenda's office. As if by some unspoken signal, the two guards opened fire, peppering the Omega with bullets. The shells whined off of his skin, and he turned to stare at the guards as if they were particularly annoying insects. Raising his hands, the red glow growing more intense, he moved in a blur of speed back at the two men. His hands swung, once, twice, and one guard was left staring at the amputated stumps of his arms, the hands that were once there still holding the gun as they fell to the floor. The other guard simply stood stock still, his body not even realizing it was dead as a wound opened in his throat. It took one step forward, and then pitched face first into the hall carpet.
The Omega turned away from his kills, now spattered with blood and moved to the door of Brenda's office. The secretary was long gone, and the door was all that remained between him and her. Reinforced steel. Solid computerized lock. It'll hold. It's got to hold. she thought, praying to God that it would stop the killer.
The Omega looked it up and down, and then placed the edge of his hand on the surface of the door. His hand pushed into the surface, cutting it like a buzzsaw. A high whine filled the room as Brenda stared at the fingers pushing their way through the door. The hand moved in a circular pattern, creating a round hole in the doorway. The severed plate was pushed through, and it fell with a clang to the floor. The intruder followed, his hands raised and ready.
Brenda backed into the far corner of her office, a .38 held in her shaking hand. "Stay away, you bastard!" she cried, and fired twice at the advancing Omega. He gave a twisted grin as the bullets bounced off of him, and moved in for the kill. His hand went high, and paused for just a second.
In a grating and barely intelligble voice, he said, "My employer sends his regards."
From behind him, a second voice came. "And we'll be sending them back. In a body bag."
The intruder spun, his hands coming into a defensive posture. Bill Walker, aka Sonic smiled grimly. "I'm sorry, sir. I'm afraid you don't have an appointment. I'll have to ask you to leave."
The Omega said nothing. He moved left, around the desk and towards the doorway. Bill stepped in, batons held crossed before him, already shaking with suppressed power. The intruder feinted left, and then darted in, slashing with those deadly hands. Bill danced back on his toes, barely avoiding the strike. He stepped left, his right baton swinging in a vicious arc towards the skull of the other Omega. The intruder blocked, his arm taking the jarring blow, and swung once again. The glowing hand was swept aside as Bill spun, one baton guiding the arm away, the other crashing into the back of the attacker. The Omega howled as the baton's vibrations shattered two of his ribs. He whipped around, his hand slicing a red trail through the air, and connected with Bill's side. Bill jerked away, his elbow coming down to cover the wound. Already it was beginning to close, but it hampered his movements. The intruder's swings came closer and closer, Bill barely deflecting them. The pain made it hard for him to control his freqs, his vibrations going undirected. He leaped back in time to avoid his head being separated suddenly from his neck, and landed atop Brenda's desk. The rogue Omega moved in, his hands raised, confident of the kill. Bill gathered himself, and leapt over the oncoming Omega, doing a front flip, landing directly behind his attacker. His baton swung in a backhanded arc, every bit of power that he had left concentrated in the vibe field. The baton connected with the intruder's head.
He had just enough time to open his mouth before his head exploded. The blue glow faded from Bill's body as he stood there, breathing heavily, one hand clamped to his side. He sheathed his batons on his back, and turned to Brenda, who was cautiously advancing on the now-headless Omega intruder. Bill turned to her. "Are you all right?"
She nodded, her face gray. "Thank you. You had better get down to the infirmary. I'll have security dispose of....this."
Bill nodded wearily. He turned to go, and then turned back. "Any idea who he meant by his 'employer'?"
"I have a lot of enemies, Bill. I wouldn't put it past Owen, or even Tazakles. I'll have some of the investigative team look into it."
"I'll have security beefed up a little, and I'm going to assign you a Seeker recruit as a personal security officer. A little Omega power can come in very handy."
"So I see. Get to the infirmary."
Jarvin Tazakles steepled his fingers, and stared at the chessboard before him. His move to take the white bishop had failed, foiled by a simple pawn. His agent had failed, and there was no more time for second attempts. much as he regretted it, Washington would live. For now.
"Have the modifications been completed?"
"Almost, sir. We are awaiting testing and a shakedown run before installing the scatter-boxes and control chips. If we did that now, and there was a malfunction in the hardware, we'd have to recalibrate the entire system. That could take days."
"What were the extent of the alterations made?"
Becker called up a schematic of Riley's implants. As he spoke, each section zoomed outwards to fill the screen for a moment. "We implanted the booster modules without a hitch. Preliminary testing indicates a fourfold increase in power levels, increasing absorption capacity by 380%. Further testing indicates new TK signatures with the increased absorption. Our best explanation is that he is rerouting the absorbed energy to enhance and create other personal telekinetic effects, possibly including strength, agility, speed, and so forth.
"The arm modules seem to be functioning normally. At full capacity, these can serve to bleed off power by creating a telekinetic force field effect. The field gets weaker with time, as his energy level drops. The field can be extended to enclose a five by five foot area.
"The dissipation effect Riley noted in his powers is still intact. He simply eradicates the source of the projection, therby nullifying the attack. He still has the same limitations about personal fields though."
"Bottom line, Herr Becker. Could he defeat Tempest?"
"With careful management of absorption-to-use rates? Yes, I believe he could."
"When will you test our new agent?"
"Shortly. We want to let the wounds heal from the surgery. Amazing recuperative powers these Omegas have. We'll be testing him with Josepha Sheldon."
"Excellent. Keep me apprised."
"Yes, sir. Becker out."
The staff of SIRECOM's R and D department were not pleased.
The project that they had had the best minds of the team working on was refusing to crack. This was, of course, unsurprising since the technology that they were studying was as far removed from their scope as ours is from your average paramecium. Riley's initial work had yielded some information, but without the actual thing there, the armor that had brought Eric Anderson, aka Tempest, back to Earth remained an enigma.
The armor's apparent composition of element 127 was only the start. Not only should it have disintegrated in seconds, taking most of the facility, not to mention the countryside, where it was studied with it, it should have been putting out enough radiation to power ten small midwestern cities. But it just sat there, a lump of cold metal, seamless, light-absorbing, energy-absorbing.
The seamless part was also getting to the team. The armor had no apparent openings or hatches, yet somehow Tempest had ridden inside of it. Riley's report said that he had watched the armor seemingly melt at the boy's command. The team was split over this one. A small fraction said that it could be some new form of magnetic-field linked armor, the fields providing integrity for the entire structure. Most said that the armor melting was a telekinetic trick, not unlike the one Michelle Thomas used.
The metal seemed to absorb all forms of energy directed at it. Sonics, lasers, radiation, all were sucked in and held by the armor. Of course, by all appearances, Tempest could do the same thing, so why he would need something like this was beyond the research team. But that wasn't their concern at the moment. First came the secret of generating this super-metal. Things constructed out of this material would be virtually impervious to anything on the planet. This made the whole project one of great interest to the SIRECOM brass.
The researchers shrugged their collective shoulders, sighed, and went back to the impossible task of unraveling Tempest's armor.
Don came to slowly, and took stock of his situation. It was not at all pleasant.
He was strapped into a chair, with a pair of scanners encircling his wrists. Around him he saw technicians bustling about, carrying papers to and fro, checking readouts, and so on. One came over to look at Don. He turned back to the others. "He's coming around!"
Becker walked into the room. Uncanny sense of timing that man's got, thought Don groggily. Becker smiled.
"Ah, Doctor Riley. You've rejoined us in the land of the living."
"Sorry. I don't feel like I quite made it all the way back, so you'll excuse me if I'm a little short on repartee."
"No matter. The operations were a success, by the way. Your implants are functioning quite normally. If all goes well with this test, we'll install the control chips tomorrow, and then you will be ready for training."
"You'll pardon me if I don't seem real happy about all this."
"As I said before, no matter." He turned away from Don. "Bring in Ms. Sheldon."
Josepha Sheldon walked into the room, flanked by a pair of guards. She stood before Don, legs spread, arms crossed. "Is he ready?"
"Hello yourself, Josepha."
"Hush now, Doctor. Yes, he is prepared. Are you?"
She nodded. The techs brought forth another chair. She took her seat, and made herself comfortable as a pair of scanners were affixed to her wrists. She took several deep breaths, and nodded to Becker, who in turn nodded to the group of technicians at the computers.
"This will be a test of your new absorption capacity, Doctor. You will absorb the psionic energy thrown at you by Josepha, as well as our own projectors. You will continue to do so until the experiment is terminated. Do you understand?"
"If I refuse to participate?"
"That's not a problem. We will simply activate your powers through the remote triggers built into your cybernetic implants. Therefore, we really couldn't care less if you willingly participate or not. Although, if I were you, I would, if only to try and keep a bit of control over your powers."
With that, Becker signaled the techs. Switches were thrown, and a bass hum was heard as the psi-projectors powered up, and discharched into Don. His power snapped on as a reflex, and he began draining the projectors. He felt Josepha's power on the edges of his own, the two intermingling, strengthening his absorption. He sucked at her power just a little, and relished the taste of it, the rush it gave him. The projectors powered up to full, and the energy poured into Don's body, his Omega drinking it in, filling him with power.
"Absorption reads as 3 megapsions."
"Projector batteries at one half."
"Vitals on subject steady, slight increase in heart rate and adrenal production"
Don heard none of this. His power reached out and grabbed all the juice it could. He was hungry. It felt like he had never eaten before, and was settling down to a nine course meal. The artificial power had a bland taste, but it was filling. He sucked more of it, garnishing it with a bit of the power gleaned from Josepha.
"Projectors are approaching overload. Energy drain rate exceeding expected rates. Should I shut down?"
"No. Wait a moment more."
Don felt the power ebb for just a second. He quickly pulled as much as he could all at once. It filled him like fire, leaving a warm glow throughout his body. Had it ever felt this good? Did it matter?
"Overload on projector one. Automatic shutdown in effect. Two is fluctuating...two is down...we have a fire in two. Emergency extiguishers have activated. Projector three..."
Don felt the power slide away from him, and he cried out silently in protest. He felt the faint ticklings of Josepha's power, and quickly oriented on them, much as a shark oriented on blood in the water. He pulled all that he could forth, drinking it in as fast as he could. So good....
"Sir! Vitals on Sheldon are dropping rapidly!"
Becker turned to see Josepha Sheldon's body arch and spasm, the wrist scanners holding her into the chair. Her eyelids fluttered, the whites of her eyes showing. Her mouth opened and from it issued a blood-curdling scream.
"Sir, projector three is about to..."
The number three projector array exploded into shards of plastic, metal and glass. The automated systems released the sprinkler system, trying to put out the fire. Technicians ran left and right, heading for the exits. Becker stood, stunned. How had this happened?
He moved towards the doors, and then stopped, hearing the groaning sound of metal tearing beyond it's limits. He looked back over his shoulder, and beheld the form of Don Riley rising from his seat with a look of extreme anger on his face. Becker bolted for the door, and ran down the corridors. He headed for his office. He would be safe there.
Riley looked about, and saw the two guards advancing toward him with their weapons raised. They both lowered their guns and fired simultaneously. Riley instinctively dropped back a step and crossed his arms in front of himself. A shimmering wall formed between him and the guards, and the bullets whined harmlessly away. Riley grinned ferally at the two guards, who looked at each other, and then ran for the exits.
Riley stood for a minute, staring at the chaos around him. Slowly, the fog lifted from his mind, and he began to think rationally again. His first though was Josepha. He moved over to her, but before he even checked her, he knew she was dead. His Omega must have drained her reserves until there was nothing left to keep her alive. He had killed her. And the worst part was, he could still feel that rush, the sweet taste of her power....
He stood, and thought for a minute. Becker. He needed to get Becker. He was the key to all this insanity, and if he himself wasn't running the show, he knew damned well who was. Riley moved out of the lab, feeling the power within himself feeding him, strengthening him, lending him speed. He dashed through the halls, heedless of the evacuation alarms. A computerized voice repeated: -Emergency, biocontaminant escape. All personnel evacuate this base at once. destruct procedure in 10 minutes.-
'Biocontaminant, eh? I'll show 'em contamination..' Don thought grimly as he charged towards becker's office. He figured that's where the boss would be, wiping the databanks, making sure no trace of this abortion was left for an outsider to find. He rounded the corner, and plowed through a bunch of fleeing scientists, their white coats flapping behind them. He skidded to a halt at the end of the corridor. The nameplate on the door before him proclaimed this "Office of Frederick Becker." Don smiled and knocked. Hard. The doors buckled with the force of the blow. He wound up and hit it again. The steel door bent inward again.
Becker punched the transmit button just as the door blew inward with the force of Riley's last kick. He held in his hand a .45 caliber pistol. "I am sorry, mein freund. The data is all gone, and so is the link to my superiors. You seem to be, how do you say it, shit out of luck? I would, if I were you, hurry and leave this place, before it becomes a scorch mark on the ground."
"Not without you, Becker. You see, you are a link to your superior. I'm taking you with me."
Becker smiled, a fanatical gleam in his eye. "Again, I am sorry. But I do mot think I will be accompanying you this time around." Quickly, before Don could react, Becker put the .45 into his mouth, the barrel angling upward, and fired. The limp body slithered out of the chair with a thump.
Don stared at the body for a moment, and then quickly, without looking back, made for the exit. The schematics of the place that he had memorized earlier came in quite handy, as he quickly navigated the now empty corridors of the installation. As he emerged at a full tilt run from the building's outer perimeter, he heard the voice over the PA system blare: -Self destruct in five, four, three, two, one- Don dove behind an outcropping of rock and threw up his new TK shield. The upper portion of the building exploded in a fountain of debris, bricks and concrete shard raining down on the surrounding area. The ground shook with the contained blast as the underground complex collapsed in on itself.
A wall of warm air pushed over Don, and as he stood, he watched the dust cloud mingle with the smoke and the fire. He sighed, brushed himself off, and turned towards the highway. He looked up at the sun, and started walking west. Vegas was only a few days away on foot.
A few hours and about thirty miles later, Don heard a car approaching from over the hill. The engine turned out to belong to a beatup '79 Ford pickup. Don stuck out his thumb, figuring what the hell, why not?
The truck slowed and pulled over. Don stared at it, not believing his luck. It was probably a mirage, and as soon as he tried to get up into it, he would fall on his ass back onto the road. He ran up, and looked in the driver's window. A wrinkled old man's face smiled at him. "Howdy son! You're lookin mighty tired! Need a lift?"
"Yes, sir, I sure could use one."
"Hop in then. Where ya headed?"
"Las Vegas, sir."
"Vegas, eh? Most people lose all their stuff comin' OUT of Vegas! Looks like you got a jump on 'em!"
Don gave a wan smile. "Looks like I did at that."
The old man looked at him as they pulled away from the roadside, back onto the asphalt. "You all right there, boy? You're lookin a bit peaked. Had yourself a bad day, did ya?"
Don looked at him, and then looked out the window. "My friend, you don't know the half of it."
Well, hell, it'll be a surprise to me too!
[All characters used with permission of their authors, with the exception of the Seekers. I don't need to get permission from that schmoe.]
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