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CATACLYSM DAYS
by Matthew Rossi

It looked as if a night of dark intent
Was coming, and not only a night, an age.
Someone had better be prepared for rage.
(Robert Frost, Once by the Pacific)

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
(William Shakespeare, MacBeth Act V scene v)


Don Riley was upset. For one thing, the Navy's modified Sikorsky helicopter was not the most comfortable ride he'd ever had. Second of all, he had barely three hours of sleep, what with all the paperwork on this Shiva mess (Paperwork, the bane of the public servant...he hated it) and thirdly, he didn't see why he was even there in the first place. Never mind Jason, or Chris Josephs. He was glad that they'd let Sonic stay on the carrier. Bill was just as convinced this was a waste of time as he was. What about the IRA? What about priorities? Didn't anything count anymore?

"So explain to me why we're here again?" Apparently Jason had the same thoughts that Don did. He had to yell to be heard over the chuff-chuff-chuff of the rotors.

"I told you, Jase, I don't know. Something about an incident in the Atlantic. Ask Lt. Ripley there. She's got all the answers."

"Please, Dr. Riley, call me Sarah. And no, I know very little about the whole thing, but basically, this morning, 3:25 AM EST for you civilians, something impacted the Atlantic Ocean. It is suspected to be an Omega, or maybe an alien. In either case, whatever it is, you're the closest thing to a xenobiologist on Uncle Sam's Payroll. And the other three are for insurance."

Chris piped up. "Insurance against what?"

"That's why we need insurance...because we don't know."

The rest of the ride was made in relative silence...relative because no one spoke, but the helicopter made up for it.

Finally, they arrived at the target site. At first, Riley saw nothing there (save two far off shapes he took to be other carriers, maintaining a perimeter) and then there it was, bobbing in the water. An all black shape. An all black humanoid shape. That was all he could tell from the vantage of the helicopter, but he knew one thing: It felt big.

Very, very big.


TWO HOURS LATER: SIRECOM REGIONAL COMMAND OFFICES, ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA.

Riley looked at the black metal shell, studded with wicked looking spikes, that locked something inside it. Away from his scientists eyes. Chris and Jay were at his back, and even now, every so often one would whistle at what they'd 'caught.' Sonic was out checking security. Don looked at the psi-suppressor harness they'd placed their visitor in, curved and bulging metal clamped to it, it made Riley think that the Marquis DeSade had a military defense contract. Dynamax makes great gear...but I don't like them.

"What does all that gear DO, Blockade?" Chris was sitting back on the console to the left. "And what IS he, she or it?"

"We don't know what we're dealing with yet. So, against my better judgement, the brass has insisted we lock our guest in a Dynamax stationary psi-suppressor. The most powerful one made. As far as what we've got here," Riley touched a spike and drew a drop of blood from his finger. "All I know is that nobody on earth made this armor."

"How do you know that?"

"Easy, Jay. C'mere and I'll show you." After taking one last look...Black featureless mask with two opaque eyeslits, a crest of wicked seven inch spikes on the top of the helmet like an aggressors mohawk, huge cestus like gloves with a row of four nine-inch spikes along the knuckles (Same number of fingers...definitely humanoid.) and six inch spikes along the forearm of the gloves...kneepads with massive ten inch spikes. Similarly spiked boots, shoulders, and even elbows. That's a gladiatorial armor, my gut's screaming that at me...he walked to a terminal and engaged the scan profile.

"See this atomic number?"

"Yeah? So what?" Jay bent over the computer...Chris was still staring at the armored figure...and looked at the complex figures and atomic models. "128. So what?"

"Anything with atomic number 128 would be an element, otherwise it would me made of many discrete substances. This is made of one pure metal, and at a 128, it should be HIGHLY radioactive, not to mention unstable as hell...but its neither. It can't be sitting over there, but it is, it gives off NO Radiation at all...no, nobody on this planet made that."

"So that means..."

"That means...we are not alone."

Chris, meanwhile, was examining the armor more closely. "Hey, Blockade...?"

"Yes, Chris?"

"There are no seams on this thing...how does he put it on?"


Mont St. Michel:

J.L. Steele sat at the desk, reading the dossier from his snitch at the SIRECOM base in St. Petersburg. They'd changed the security baffle system since I was there, but Joel had taken the risk anyway to get the files to him. if they seriously thought they'd keep ME out, they're insane. The data he was receiving didn't make sense, though.

A Dynamax Stationary Psi-Inhibitor? FOUR Seekers? Including Don Riley? In St. Petersburg. Hmmm...Riley's a trainer now from what I gather...and a psi-inhibitor THAT powerful tends to indicate that there's somebody very powerful at the St. Petersburg location. Someone that powerful could be useful against Dynamax and that snake Tazakles. Sure, there were other guilty parties, but Tazakles FLAUNTED it. He rubbed it right in the press' face, and they just didn't seem to see it.

He stared at the wall and glowered, wishing he knew someone who could tap the secure files, not just the maintenance and roster files. Still, Joel had given him something to go on, and he'd be damned if he was going to ignore it.

Time to get Rift out of bed and pay a visit to an old colleague. Time to continue the war.

J.L. Steele made Danny Anderson seem laid back and easy going.


Don Riley thought he might be going insane. So close, and yet so damn FAR! I can't get through this fucking ARMOR!

"SON OF A BITCH!" He smashed a whole table clear in one sweep of his arm. "Nothing can CUT that fucking thing! Lasers don't work! Sonics don't work! High-intensity water-jets, electrical cutting beams, fucking PATRICLE DISRUPTORS do diddly! DIDDLY!"

"Uh, Don?" Sonic was more than a little surprised at how angry Don seemed to be. "Maybe you should take a break..."

"No...I'm alright, Bill. Really." He took a shuddering breath and rubbed his hand through his hair, then turned to look at Bill as he straightened out, stretching his back. "It's just that it's like being handed a whole new world...but somebody forgot to tell you how to open the damn thing! One things for sure, whoever made this is a fucking genius, because from what these sensors tell me, the metal's absorbing everything I throw at it."

"Are you still convinced its from space?"

"Oh yeah. If the fact that its defying half of the known laws of physics didn't convince me, then the dust on the upper level would. It's exceptionally high in Cesium and Iridium. This thing passed through a gaseous anomaly somewhere up there on its way down. Oh, this suits from space. And, if there's anything IN it, I'd be willing to bet that its from space too."


Luckily for Don, he doesn't gamble very often. Because he'd lose that one. Sealed in the armor of the Harrakin Royal Caste lay an unconscious, overtaxed Eric Anderson. Between his battle with the God Killer and his flight home, he'd used every scrap of energy he had. Now he was in a regenerative coma as his body continued along the endless trail of adaption that caused his powers to continually spiral higher and higher.

His mind, which had run without sleep for nearly three months, was now torturing him.

"You never take responsibility for your actions?"

"Y'all are too powerful ta stay here."

"That is the Harrakin way. YOU are Harrakin."

"He killed us all...."

[]

<Screamday slips the spiral, burning in the edgebright pathway to reventribution...>

Lokar and Harrakin and Neysar and Kaartha and the fusion core consumed the world of Marn and the Killer won't stop and the city of Morr is wrenched into space and that alien dies and the trip home and Sharra and Agony and....

Eric drowned in an ocean of thought.


Steele wasn't sure about this, but he didn't really have much choice. His Cadre, while not fully prepared for a confrontation, knew what the stakes were. Plus, they had right on their side, since they were going to save one of their own.

He reviewed the team he was planning on bringing. Of course, he'd have to go...his power made him VERY efficient against Omegas. Plus, he'd always wondered what would happen if he duplicated Riley's ability to shut down other Omegas. Could he shut Riley down? He may well have to.

Warstryke has to come. I may need his power. Ahmad's definitely on the team for this one. Besides, if I leave him here, nobody will be able to speak to him. He comes.

What about Anna-Marie? Well, she's not as powerful as some, but she's versatile, and intelligence can help win a battle, so I'd best mark Rebecca down as active for this. Besides, she's one SPITEFUL woman...she'll enjoy tearing a few minds into scraps.

Finally, Jove. Power to spare, and loyal as anyone could ever be. He'll be useful. Mark him off. And pray I'm not leading them to their deaths.

He stood and walked out of the cold room, to where he knew his troops would be waiting for him. Because this was just a skirmish in the ongoing war.


Bill was fairly comfortable with himself, with being a Seeker, with his Omega powers. This alien crap he wasn't so comfortable with. He was almost relieved when he turned the corner and literally bumped into Chris. Or more accurately, Ricochet bounced into him.

"Hot Coffee!"

"Woah--OOF!" Bill went down on his back and Chris bounced up into the ceiling. Which broke a light fixture. Then he landed rather unceremoniously.

"Geez...I'm sorry, Bill."

"No harm, no foul. What's up?"

"I'm just getting stir crazy in this place. I was going to pick up Jay, figured we could patrol the area, at least feel like we're doing something around here."

"That's a good idea. Why don't I go with you?"

"Cool." They walked into the lab, where Jay was seated on a console watching Don set up ultrasound sensors on the chestplate of the armor.

"Jay!"

"What, Chris?"

"Wanna come on a little patrol of the area?"

"Why? Who'd come here?"


There was a tearing in the air, and then Steele and his Cadre stepped through, inside the fence of the St. Petersburg base. Rebecca looked around.

:Hey, why'd you pop us here? Why not inside? You know all these bases like you was raised in 'em.: Her Portuguese was the patois of a street kid raised by herself.

:It may be a trap.: Steele scanned the perimeter. Thirty yards to the building. :Do you sense anyone between us and that wall?:

:No' way. Clean.:

"Jove. Crush the wall."

The immense bulk of Jove lumbered forward. Each step ate up five yards of the grass. Then he swung his massive hand and sent the brick facade, the actual steel-reinforced concrete underneath it, and the wood paneling on the inside flying. Alarms went crazy.

:Steele!: Warstryke brought up his shields. :What are you doing!?: He was also speaking another language, namely Arabic.

:It's the direct approach. Follow my lead.: Steele turned to Rebecca. :Go!:

The team sprinted in the hole, followed by Jove, who despite not really attempting to run kept up fairly well. A group of normal SIRECOM guards, about ten in all, came running around a corner.

Rebecca smiled. :Sucks to be you'all, heh? Specially what with being on fire and all!: She concentrated, and her power burst free of the confines of her mind, telling the troops that their flesh was burning, that their hair was going up in copper colored trails of fire, that they were asphyxiating. They collapsed.

The Cadre continued on to the central lab, the only part of the building that had the right wiring to run a Dynamax Stationary Psi-Suppressor.


"What the HELL was that!?" Riley's head snapped up as he heard the wall smash in and the alarms go off. Jay Ortiz did as well.

"Omegas. Four of them, at the maximum range of my power, coming in tight...Ones REALLY big. The leader looks familiar...can't remember...STEELE!"

Sonic and Riley looked at each other. "What the hell would that AWOL maniac be doing here?" Bill got his batons ready.

"They must be here for the alien...I don't know why, but we can't let them have it! C'mon!" Before Blockade or Sonic could move, Ricochet and Trax were both already out the door. Riley and Bill realized what a tactical mistake that was.

"C'mon!" Sonic tore out after them. "Steele'll chew them up and spit them out!" Riley was right on his heels.

In the now empty room, there was no one to hear the muttering coming from the armored figure. "God Killer....got to stop it...got to..."


Steele smiled when he saw Ortiz. He'd helped train the kid, and knew exactly how to take him down. :Rebecca! Take out speedy gonzales coming up eleven o'clock!: He switched languages. : Warstryke, the bouncing one is yours. Keep him occupied.:

:It shall be done.:

Trax cleared the corner of the hallway when a wave of vertigo swept over him, causing him to lose his balance. He skidded into, and through, the wall and stumbled in a vain attempt to regain his footing. Ricochet came down on Warstryke's shield, hard, but it held and as he bounced in the air Warstryke launched an attack with his metallic arm, firing wildly at him. A few shots hit and added to his stored KE. Unfortunately, they also sent him through the ceiling rather handily.

:Excellent, Ahmad.:

"Hold it, Steele!" Riley and Sonic had arrived on scene. They stood blocking the way down the hall, Sonic with his batons out and crossed, Riley in the lead.

"Not bloody likely, Don. You might as well give up now; we've taken your kiddie patrol out of this fight."

"Listen to me, you idiot, you are endangering..."

"No, it's SIRECOM that's endangering Omegas, not me! Where is he?"

Before the misunderstanding could be either cleared up or escalated, Rebecca grabbed her head and shrieked. :AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR! AAAAAAAAAAARGH! MAKE IT STOP! MAAAKE IT STOOOP!:

Then the building shook like ice cubes in a blender.


In the main lab.

Eric's mind was at fever pitch. Literally image after image tore into his subconscious as his body completed the adaption to the new levels he had set during the battle with God Killer.

{Killed us all...I am last one left...}

<Spinward drifts the spiral>

[We are what we are, childish race afraid of feelings. We are Harrakin.]

Kali laughing. Kali smashing his face into the pavement.

The Killer laughing as it lifts the crushed building out of its way.

Eric himself tearing a city from a planet.

The fit in the Training Room.

Deathbringer's red, cackling face leering as he drained Eric.

The Killer slamming itself into him.

The Killer.

The Killer.

The...

"THE KILLER!" Eric burst into awareness, the Green Light tearing out of his mind. The Dynamax Psi-Suppressor exploded off of him. The rumbling increased, and then stabilized as the groggy man/boy steadied himself. Have to stop it. The Killer. Have to stop it.

"Have to stop it." He ghosted through the walls, unaware of his surroundings, unaware of anything, drunk off of the power dancing under his skin.


Jay had just gotten to his feet when the trembling in the ground began, and in seconds was full fledged shuddering. Since he was the only one outside the base, he was the only one to see as the entire 140 Acre SIRECOM base tore off of the Florida Isthmus and simply appeared in the void of space. There was air around them, and something was keeping all that stuff that can instantly kill you away. Jay knew it was the void of space, though, because he was looking up at the Earth. Somehow, there was gravity enough for that.

"Oh, this isn't..." That was all he got a chance to say. The painful sensation of his Omega sense overloading, as it did in New York, ripped into his brain. But this time it was as if HE was the one staring a Hydrogen Bomb in the face as it went off. This time, the power was literally hundreds of times greater.

This time, it smashed him into unconsciousness.


Inside, Steele barely had time to mimic Rebecca's telepathy and leap into her mind before he felt...something. Something that made him shudder. He'd barely missed it, and didn't exactly mourn its passing.

<Rebecca? Anne-Marie?>

<<The Killer...they all died. Mother of God, it was the Killer of them all. Black, black as space. Killed them all. Have to stop it. Help me...>>

Not knowing what else to do for her, he projected a feeling of calm and stepped out of her mind. The situation was bollixed well and truly now.

Riley looked stunned. "Did anybody else feel that?"

"That trembling? We all felt that, Riley."

It was Ricochet who broke the standoff that had developed. "Uh, guys, I hate to spoil a grim staring match, but I REALLY think you should look out the hole."

"Why should we do that?"

"Because, Steele, I can see your house from here. And every OTHER house in the whole Western Hemisphere." He gestured, and the two teams walked to the hole, staying on respective sides.

There was the compound retaining wall, and all around it was a very vivid, starry night, same as always (It had been day!) save that the planet Earth and the Moon were both visible, each the size of grapefruits in the sky.

"We're on the other side of the fucking moon. Why aren't we dead?"

:Allah and the prophets and Moses and anyone else who may be listening...I repent all my sins.: Ahmad sounded very near the end of his tether. Steele knew exactly how he felt.

"Riley...I went into Rebecca's mind..."

"Who?"

"My telepath! I went into her mind...she was mumbling about some killer, all in black like space, she said, who killed them all, whoever THEY are. That sound familiar to you?"

"The alien we found...He's wearing an all black armor. Oh, I'm really beginning to hate this."

The wall behind them rippled like water, and the seven foot tall black shape, studded with huge spikes, stepped into the hallway where they were standing. As he solidified, his boots rasped against the stone.

They as a unit whirled.

Steele sucked in his breath. "That's one dangerous looking son of a bitch."

"WHERE IS THE GOD KILLER!? WHERE IS IT!? I CAN'T FIND IT!" The voice sounded electronically amplified, distorted, like a machine. A very pissed off machine. "TELL ME WHERE IT IS! I HAVE TO STOP IT!" Stunned by the whole being teleported into far-earth orbit and shielded from the rigors of space deal, they didn't stop to wonder about the english. Telepathy, translator program, lots of I LOVE LUCY broadcasts, who is to say?

Riley began re-thinking his hypothesis. "Steele...it seems to be LOOKING for some sort of Killer. Maybe your telepath was picking up on that." But it was too late for Riley's realization, as the SIRECOM training took over on Steele and Sonic. Riley barely had time to shout "BILL! NO! DON'T..." Before they were attacking.

"Jove! HIT HIM LOW!" Steele reached out with his power, attempting to duplicate what he was facing...but the armor insulated the thing in front of him. So he copied Sonic instead, who had already smashed his batons into the ground, setting up a vibration. Steele struck the ground as well, adding his copied power to the surge.

Meanwhile, Jove moved, much quicker than it looked possible that he could, and swung his fist. There was a crunching sound of bone snapping as he hit, which Steele had half-expected. The fact that it was Jove's bones was not welcome news, however. The figure in black was not even moved. A look of surprise creased Jove's massive face, more stunned than hurt.

"WHERE IS IT!?" The black gloved hand lashed out, almost absently, but in a blur of speed. Jove was standing there, and then he was wrapped in a glowing field of green, bobbing helplessly twenty feet in the air. The vibration surge slammed into the figure in black...his spikes didn't even quiver. "I HAVE TO STOP IT!"

Riley reached out with his power, damping down Steele and Sonic, which was a tremendous strain on him. "STOP FIGHTING IT! Even if you could hurt it, it's all that's keeping us alive!"

Steele and Sonic stood in a staggered formation, and as Riley stopped holding their powers back, prepared to be attacked. Instead, nothing happened. After a few tense moments, Jove was lowered to the ground. The green light played over his broken hand.

"Jove?"

"Hurt. Not hurt. Not want to hit it again."

"That's probably best." Jay Ortiz's unconscious body came floating in the room and was deposited at Riley's feet. He checked the boys vitals.

"How is he?" Bill/Sonic asked.

"Fine. I don't understand this. If he wanted to kill us, he'd have done so by now."

"Then why'd he attack my telepath? Why'd he pop us into space? It doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense, Riley?"

While the Seekers and Cadre puzzled it out, Eric's mind reeled as he remembered. The last fight at the Morr enclave. Pulling the city free. Fighting...destroying the Killer. Leaving the planet. The exhausting flight. The crash. The crash into the ocean...earth's ocean.

He was home. It was over.

He had a really bad headache. And there were voices buzzing around his ears.

"...whatever we do, let's not antagonize it until we know what's going on." English? Eric let his mind range out, which was frighteningly easy. He sensed two people that he knew somehow he'd damaged..so he reached inside the woman's mind and removed his jumbled broadcast. He reached inside the boys mind and removed his sensory trail, masking himself from the wounded one's sensitive power. He knew what had happened from all the minds in the room, as easily as he had once breathed.

"I don't see what I did to antagonize it in the first place."

:Could somebody tell me what the fuck just happened?: Rebecca groaned as she opened her eyes. Jay Ortiz also began to wake up, and his comment was "Please. No more soup, mom."

:That alien over there..: Steele began.

[Actually, I'm not an alien.] The mind voice was strong. It easily entered every mind in the room at once, bypassing any language barriers. [I'm a resident of Chicago, Illinois. Sorry for what happened here...I was a little disoriented.] With a single thought, the armor began to recede off of his face and chest and arms, stopping at his waist. His gold skin was revealed, along with his straight black hair (Now nearly five feet long), the glow of his green eyes. Ortiz recognized him first.

"Holy shit...it's Tempest."

"Oh, man, you called it." Ricochet was equally stunned. "You SAID he wasn't dead."

[Please, call me Eric, okay? I never really liked that name.]

Steele had heard of the kid...he'd been busy during the time he'd been most active, but he hadn't been dead, and you'd need to be if you wanted to not know who Tempest was. Even Anna-Marie and Ahmad gasped as they saw him. Steele reached out with his Omega, seeking to dupe him in case it became necessary...and felt something holding him off.

[If I allowed that, Jean-Luc, you'd explode. Your body is too human to survive my power.]

"How do you know my name?"

[I'm a telepath. I know where all your prominent birthmarks are. Sorry about that, by the way, but it couldn't be helped. We can talk more after.]

Riley spoke this time. "After what?"

[After this.] Eric's eyes flashed, and suddenly the sky was blue again. There were the same palm trees over the north wall that there had been before. They were back. [I've only been gone for two weeks...hard to believe it. Feels like I've been gone forever.]

"Wait a minute! Before I believe you are who you say you are..."

[And what, exactly, makes you think I care if you believe me, Sonic? I know you were at the Colony. I know you met Danny, and Mirry, and Conflagration, or Thomas-Peter if you prefer. I know every thought that's in all of your heads. I know about Ms. Corvante's childhood. I know about Steele's cause, Riley's desire for knowledge, everything.] Eric's cold green stare swept the group. [I have been attacked by crazed aliens, I've ripped holes in space and fought a thing that has killed entire worlds, and I'm a jr. High school drop out. I don't know what to do. I don't know where I belong any more. I sure as hell don't have to prove myself to you.]

Steele leapt at that. "If you need a place to belong, maybe I can provide one for you..."

[No. No more holy causes for me. No more battles to save the world and defeat evil. I've done my bit. I'm so fucking tired of fighting. Besides, you remind me of my brother. That's not a bad thing, but we'd never get along.]

It was Trax and Ricochet who spoke up next, almost as one. "You could join the Seekers!" Riley turned to look at them, and then thought about it.

"We could help you figure..."

[Out how to use my powers? No. There's no way to train me. It wouldn't work.] In that moment, he didn't look like the imposing world famous Omega everybody thought he was, wanted him to be. He looked like a sandbar with a cripple bird trapped on it, alone and lonely.

[I envy all of you. I know you all, and you don't really know me. I wish I could join you. I wish I could hang around with people my own age and use my powers without worrying every second, but I can't. All this power makes me a prisoner.]

Eric closed his eyes. [You can only do so much, so you can't be expected to fix the unfixable, save the unsaveable. I can. But I don't want to.] He levitated up, and then stopped and looked back at the two groups. [I'll say this...Steele, you've isolated yourself too much, alienated too many too quickly. And Riley...some of what Steele says is true; more than either of you know. Look into it. Discover it without me having to tell you. I think I want to leave myself out of saving the world from now on.]

And with a flash of green, he was gone, leaving the Seekers and the Cadre and Florida and responsibility behind. After a few moments, within which everybody milled around and wondered what the hell just happened, Jay spoke.

"That was him. Holy shit."

Steele snapped out of it first. "Well, all I can say is this...Goodbye." The rift ripped open and swallowed his team before Riley thought to suppress his powers. It closed, leaving the Seekers alone.

"Think we should have stopped them, Don?" Sonic leaned against a ruined wall.

"Probably. Who knows? I'm still trying to figure out if a good thing or a bad one just happened. Let's get the hell out of here."


Eric spun in the air, his naked skin and hair sliding through the dirty, polluted, beautiful sky. Earth dirt. He was home, all right. The eastern seaboard of the United States bobbed beneath him as he headed northward. Until he reached the place he was heading for. Washington, D.C., land of PAC's and packrats. Eric had a face in his mind from when he'd had his attack, during the Shiva crisis, when he read the mind of everybody in the Colony. Including Anne and Harvey. A face, and a name. Now, having read Don Riley's mind, he knew who that person really was.

Cornelius Owen. Power behind the throne of SIRECOM. Big wheel in the professional power game. Eric flew across the city so fast that no human being could have seen him, although he knew that they heard the rush of wind. He didn't want them to know he was back just yet.

When he walked through the wall into Owen's office, the first thing he thought was that the man had nice taste. Especially the snake. There were, of course, all sorts of mechanical contrivances in the place to alert people when security was breached...but Eric decided that they weren't working.

"Hello, Mr. Owen."

"Who?" The Old Man (Eric knew that everyone capitalized that phrase when they spoke of Owen.) turned to see who would dare enter his office unsummoned. His eyes narrowed into slits so tight Eric wondered if he could see when he saw who it was. Of course, half-naked men with five feet of hair and green glowing eyes floating in your office tend to be memorable things. "Who are you? What do you want?" Eric knew that the Old Man was pushing a button underneath his desk...but Eric decided that it wasn't working.

"I think you know WHO I am, Mr. Owen. And nobody's coming. Not for a while yet. I just wanted to meet you...you know, see one of the most powerful men in the world up close. I don't really know why. I just did."

"And now that you have?"

"I suppose I'll be leaving. Of course, the fact that I floated in here undeterred and can get in here, and anywhere else you happen to be...I hope that doesn't give you any sleepless nights. Goodbye, Mr. Owen." Eric hoped that Harvey somehow knew what he just did. He had liked Anne and her grandfather, and while he had no desire to fight their battles for them, he didn't mind tweaking Owen a little.

Eric simply flew up and out the ceiling. Owen tried the Panic Button under his desk again. Sure enough, thirteen SIRECOM agents came barreling through the door in seconds...but of course even if they'd been there, they'd have been meaningless.

Owen sent them away. Carter gone, Hauptmann still evading his grasp, and now this...BOY...a danger to everything I've built. He picked up a green cellular phone from its cradle inside his desk.

"This is Owen. Reports of his demise were exaggerated. I repeat, reports of his demise were exaggerated. Go to Stormkiller alert stage alpha." The hand that hung up the phone was steady, but the knuckles were the white of glacial ice.

Which is, curiously enough, what passes for Owen's heart.


New York City. The City that never sleeps. Times Square. The Square that was where Tempest 'died.' Eric landed, not even bothering to bend the light around him, or warp the minds of everybody watching, or to do any of the other things he could have done to keep people from noticing him. He just didn't care if they saw him or not. It wasn't important to him.

He stood on the spot where he and Kali had gone at it. The street had been patched, but there it was, the discoloration that said to Eric "I was here." He looked at it, studying the memories of the fight. He looked around.

People were staring at him. He ignored that. Some of them had already recognized him. And there, in the square itself, under the jumbotron screen, was a plaque commemorating what had happened. Eric reached out with his mind and melted it to slag. He didn't want there to be any plaques. He wanted to crawl in a hole somewhere, and he wanted to fly, and he wanted to be home.

The Colony.

He took off, ripping through the air like his namesake.


For the third time that day, Eric landed somewhere. He was doing a lot of landing, and it was getting old fast. He wished he still had his old clothes, but he didn't want to use his powers to change the armor into them, because he wanted to keep it. Then it occurred to him that he didn't have to change the armor.

He willed it off, and it collapsed into the disc it had been when Tatris had brought it to him. It was bonded to him now, not that he'd ever need it again. He stood in the junkyard naked for a brief second (And had there been any photographers nearby, they'd have been able to name their own price from the tabloids.) and then he was dressed, transforming the air into clothes. The jeans, biker boots, blank black t-shirt, and biker jacket he'd always wanted. No need to ever shop for clothes again, Eric realized, and then he laughed bitterly.

"I don't need to eat. I don't need to sleep. Now I may not even need to ever change my fucking clothes again. What do I need to do?"

After a few minutes of feeling bad for himself, Eric headed towards the entrance. He'd decided to walk down like a normal person would. Won't they be surprised to see me? According to Free Spirit, they think I'm dead. Then he realized something.

There was no door. Just the hole that led down. He decided not to use his powers to probe below...if they weren't there, then maybe. He walked down the tunnel in silence.

The Colony was deserted. Eric hadn't expected that. He walked around, looking at all the stripped places where they'd obviously dismantled everything they thought they might need and took off. Eric stood in the empty remains of his childhood, such as it had been, for a few minutes. Then he sat down against the wall, wrapped his knees in his arms, and began to cry. He didn't know when he'd be able to stop, but he was glad he still needed to.


NEXT ISSUE:
Part 3 of the Kulak storyline, as Eric catches up with his surrogate family, only to discover that Baba Yaga is about to kill them! Plus, more on Project Stormkiller!

OKAY, ROLL CALL! The Seekers appear courtesy of and are the property of Matt Dempster. The Cadre appears courtesy of and is the property of MR. Kay Green. Cornelius Owen appears courtesy of and is the property of Marc Singer. Tempest appears...Oh wait, that would be me, wouldn't it?

Writers Notes:
Not This Issue, Jack.
BADGER

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