Rescue Operations - Sorry, no sex in this one, either. Damn!
Elaine, Annalisa and the human twins, Murielle and Miranda stood in the grove, holding hands to form a circle.
“Now, here’s how it works, girls,” Elaine was saying. “We form a circle and we mind-link together. I will suggest the object to concentrate on. When you can see that object in front of you, let me know. When you all see the same – by that I mean that our attention is on the same individual object, then we pull it into the circle.
“You mean that if you want us to concentrate on locating a fork or a spoon, we all have to locate the same one?” Murielle asked, grinning with disbelief at her new instructor.
“Yep! That’s exactly what I mean!” Elaine grinned back. “You find the exact one I’m thinking about!”
“Sounds like work to me,” mumbled Miranda.
“We won’t be looking for forks,” giggled Annalisa. “It’ll be fun!”
“Okay,” Miranda replied, not certain at all.
They concentrated on creating a common space in the center of the circle. Murielle linked up with her twin and, as she did, she felt Annalisa’s mind link with hers and Elaine casually embracing them all.
“You all remember what the Praetor looks like,” Elaine said, giving them their assignment.
“Yeah,” Murielle murmured, her eyes shut as she looked at that strange box Lisa had in her room back in Solar City.
“Okay, good,” Elaine said as she noted the different views the girls had of that object.
The twins had the same object located, six months in the past, on Earth. Annalisa had an image of the University Praetor in her mind.
“Alright, everyone,” Elaine said, getting their attention again. “Now make an image of a different praetor. It looks the same as the one you’re looking at. But, it’s floating in a vacuum and surrounded by empty space. It should look something like…”
Elaine made an image of a Praetor, possibly covered with dust, floating, spinning, in a vacuum.
Almost immediately, Annalisa located an image of a Praetor similar to the one Elaine was thinking about. It took the twins a couple of minutes to match their view up with Annalisa’s. Then they were certain they were all looking at the same Praetor.
“Okay, girls, let’s pull it in,” Elaine instructed them, surprised at how quickly four minds searching, even when two of them had never performed this exercise before, had found what she had searched the solar system many hours for and failed to locate.
At it appeared in front of the girls, it seemed smaller, somehow, than the one at University. Gradually, it increased in size and suddenly became solid with a small pop of air being displaced.
“Wow!” Annalisa said, relief evident in her voice. “That sucker was hard to get here!”
“No kidding!” Elaine agreed. She actually had a headache from teleporting it.
The twins didn’t say anything. They gracefully collapsed and sprawled out on the grass, completely unconscious.
“Something’s not right,” Elaine murmured. “Praetor, can you hear me?”
‘Εƒƒεţﮪﮎאָ ắκκЅ χūŗı?’
“Holy shit!” Annalisa exclaimed. “What the hell was that?”
“Oh my God!” Elaine whispered in awe and amazement. “It speaks Viragoan!”
‘Praetor! My Praetor please! Respond!’ Elaine cried out into the air with her mind.
‘Yes, Seeker,’ the Praetor replied. ‘What is it… One moment, please. Downloading incoming transmission.’
“What’s happening?” Annalisa asked, frightened to her very core.
Elaine gazed across the space separating them containing the Praetor they’d recovered. Her eyes had a fearful look in them that Annalisa had never seen before.
“This isn’t the Praetor from Father’s ship,” Elaine said, her voice strangely quiet. “This is the Praetor assigned to Commander Xuri.”
“There’s another great ship?” Annalisa asked, her quick mind putting together the obvious facts. “But, what was this Praetor doing floating in deep space?”
Then she understood. That other ship had been destroyed, as well. Tears sprang into her eyes, even though she had never met any of the alien beings on that ship. When she was able to blink away her tears, she saw that Elaine was weeping, too.
After a few moments, Elaine looked down at the Praetor they’d recovered.
‘?cce rettodā Elΐǻnnaε. Ą?da χūŗı descηde бЧЧnd. Χūŗı κǐŭrrŵy?’ she asked it.
Annalisa stared in amazement at her dearest friend, still partially mind-linked with her. But now there was a part of Elaine’s mind visible that she had kept shielded from all of them. This mind contained memories of her existence before her arrival on Earth. The images were quite vivid, but the concepts were alien, as well as the language Elaine was thinking in right now.
‘Praetor, help me,’ Annalisa whispered in her mind as she gazed at the being who was so obviously more than just her sister.
“Ejah!” Elaine cried out, then collapsed in tears and lay sobbing on the ground.
Annalisa jumped up and grasped her sister, holding her tightly as she obviously grieved.
‘Praetor, tell me what’s happening!’ Annalisa cried out in her mind.
‘This Praetor is from the flagship vessel commanded by a great leader of Viragos. The Seeker, your sister Elaine, was inquiring about her father, who served with Commander Xuri,’ the Praetor explained.
‘How could she possibly know that?’ Annalisa asked, convinced the world was coming apart and terrified of what might happen. ‘I thought Sibilius was our father!’ He created us! Didn’t he? And what was all that scary stuff she was saying to that machine?’
‘That ‘scary stuff’ is your native language, Child,’ the Praetor gently chastised her. ‘It frightened you because you could almost understand what the Seeker was saying. Your own memories of your earlier life are close enough to the surface of your consciousness that you could hear the meanings behind the words uttered by your sister and fellow shipmate.’
‘Okay, now! Stop that!’ Annalisa exclaimed. ‘You’re scaring me worse than Elaine is!’
‘That’s because your memories are coming back, Child,’ the Praetor told her. They began to re-emerge when you first laid eyes on your lost lifemate, Hakone, in the form of Jake. I find it interesting to note, however, that you are most selective in choosing what you wish to remember, Alysana.’
‘Don’t call me that! I am Annalisa, now.’ Annalisa angrily thought at the Praetor. ‘And my beloved Jake isn’t Hakone anymore. He’s human and hasn’t the capacity in his mind to remember ‘before’! It was too many lifetimes ago for him, so let it be known that we are Annalisa and Jake! I have bonded with him as he is now. I will not lose him, again!’
‘It is, as always, your choice,’ the Praetor replied. ‘Each has the freedom to live life in the manner chosen. No one will deny you this.’
Annalisa/Alysana felt the Praetor withdraw from her mind. Gazing down at the sobbing, helpless mass of grieving emotions in her lap, Annalisa bent her head forward in formal acknowledgement of her dear quire’s grief, gently drawing away the excess emotion and grounding it into the surface beneath her.
‘Eliannai, my quire, I share your grief in the ancient custom of our people. Please know that you are not alone and that Alysana grieves with you…’
“So, let me see if I’ve got this all straight,” Jonathan grinned. “Jackie, you’re my sister – well, half-sister, anyway. And Doctor Frank is my half-brother, and we all have the same mother.”
“Right…” Jackie murmured, getting somewhat bored with Jonathan’s excitement about finding an entire family that he belongs to.
“But you and Lisa are half-sisters and she’s not related to me?” he asked.
“That’s because Jake is our father, but Béla was her mother,” Jackie explained. “Our mother is her step-mother so that makes her your step-sister, if you need a familial slot to assign to her.”
“I think it’s amazing that you two have the same father,” Jonathan grinned. “I’ve never met two women who were less alike.”
“Don’t you go picking on Lisa,” Jackie growled. “She as smart in her own way as I am. Plus she can fry your ass from a thousand miles away if she got pissed off enough.”
“Don’t remind me – I was just outside of Nashville…” Jonathan began, sounding surly, now.
“Hey!” Jackie hollered, interrupting him. “That was a Confederate bomb that blew up a Confederate city! No one should have had to die, but they shouldn’t have tried to nuke us, either.”
Jackie blasted the image into Jonathan’s mind of what really happened that day when more than thirty ICBM’s fell out of the sky, all aimed at Solar City. Lisa and her mother Béla had disarmed, destroyed or re-deployed all but the last three when Lisa was shot out of the sky and rammed by a fighter jet that physically sliced her in half with its stubby little tail wing.
The fact that Lisa’s broken body and the tail of that jet did an equal amount of damage to each other didn’t make much difference because the ICBM that Lisa was teleporting at the time went off when she was hit, and vaporized the jet before it could crash. It was a tribute to the girl’s pure, raw courage that as her dying act she managed to pull most of the explosion out of the physical universe and into the teleportation zone with her before it destroyed everything.
But that same explosion had taken Lisa’s mother out of the fight, too. The last two ICBM’s, unimpeded now, struck home and would have killed everyone inside the mountain had Tabatha not shielded the town inside the cavern, preventing the mountain from collapsing down and crushing everything.
“One woman’s mind shield was enough to resist two nuclear warheads?” Jonathan asked, stunned by the images his new sister had shoved into what she considered his callused mind. “And Lisa, all by herself, could instantly transport a nuclear bomb anywhere she wanted? No wonder Sattersby was afraid of you people.”
“He didn’t have to be afraid of us,” Jackie countered. “He could have offered peace, but he chose not to and set three armies on us, instead.”
“From what I understand, people in your group were stealing supplies from them,” Jonathan replied. “If it hadn’t been for your thieves, the Confederacy would never have suspected you were even there.”
“Mom tells it differently,” Jackie replied. “If you remember, Sattersby was her bondsman for several years, just before he had her arrested for treason and sentenced to death.”
“What?” Jonathan cried in distress. “I never heard about any of that! She was bonded to Sattersby, true, but she enjoyed her life with him. I’d swear by that!”
“Sattersby was only interested in Mom because she was telepathic,” Jackie informed him. “He had a testing cube that lit up whenever telepathic waves were being emitted by anyone.”
“Really?” Jonathan asked. “What did it look like?”
Jackie showed him an image in his mind.
“I’ve seen that,” Jonathan remembered, thinking hard. “It was on Sattersby’s desk – an ornament of some kind – a paperweight, he said. But I never saw it light up.”
“You mean he tested you and you didn’t use telepathy while you were in the room with that cube.”
“Oh. He was testing me?” Jonathan asked, perplexed, now. “He was talking to me about taking a team up to New England to see what was happening up there. I left two days later and the expedition there and back took more than a year. I was just returning when Nashville got nuked.”
“Hmm,” Jackie said thoughtfully. “So he got you out of the way before he arrested Mom.”
“That sorry bastard!” Jonathan exclaimed, angry and knowing he was much too late to do anything.
“That’s all right,” Jackie replied. “Lisa and your grandmother rescued her.”
“Lisa again,” murmured Jonathan. “It’s hard to feel grateful…”
Jackie laughed. “She affects everyone that way. She has an attitude that makes you want to smack her sideways, but Elaine has practically given her Carte Blanche to do just about anything she wants.”
“Maybe Elaine’s afraid of her,” Jonathan suggested.
Jackie almost fell off the chair laughing. ‘Elaine? Afraid? God, hit me again!’
Tabatha, Dani and Alicia came in, their pleasant chatter suddenly swarming through Jackie and Jonathan’s discussion.
“Oh, good!” Jackie exclaimed. “You’re both here!”
“What’d you want, Darling?” Alicia asked her favorite daughter. “Oh! Jonathan! How wonderful! I didn’t know you’d be here!”
“Which ‘both’ does she mean?” Dani wanted to know as she slid into Jonathan’s lap. “You and me? Or those two?”
“Maybe she meant both of ‘you’,” Jonathan grinned, patting her gently on her slightly swollen stomach.
Dani laughed and kissed him. “I love you!”
‘Would you be interested in finding out how your children are doing?’ Tabatha thought into Dani’s head, stunning her completely. ‘Don’t worry – no one can hear me except you.’
‘My children?’ Dani exclaimed voicelessly. ‘But… That was so long ago! Surly they’re grown and have forgotten me by now!’
Despite Dani’s objections, Tabatha could feel the pain the girl radiated whenever she thought about leaving her children with her deceased husband’s mother, intending never to return.
‘It will require several of us to create the image,’ Tabatha thought into her mind. ‘You can guide the way, since you know where they are – or rather – were.’
‘I can really find out if they’re okay?’ Dani thought back, part of her mind wondering why she was having so much trouble focusing her eyes on her new friend and old adversary.
“Okay, girls,” Tabatha called out to everyone. “Gather ’round – We’re going to help Danielle locate some of her family that got left behind.”
“Gee, I never thought of that,” Alicia said. “I knew I left someone behind, but I thought he was dead – killed when Lisa bombed the Confederacy. Jonathan, did you leave someone behind? Some girl, perhaps, that you were in love with?”
“No, Mom,” Jonathan grinned at her. “Only you.”
“Alright, then,” Tabatha said, taking charge again. “Let’s everybody form a circle. Danielle, I want you to think about where you last saw your children. Try to project the image into the space in the center of the circle. I know you’ve never done this before…”
“I found Jonathan that way,” Dani said, smiling nervously. “But since there was only me, I didn’t use a circle.”
“And she found our boat once when it drifted away,” Jonathan added, more than willing to help with this important little project.
“Okay,” Tabatha laughed. “Then you have an idea of what I want you to do. If everybody holds hands, it will be easier to get everyone mind-linked.”
Jackie almost laughed out loud. She and her Femme teammates could mind-link while hundreds of miles apart. But then she remembered that Dani and her companion were still pretty new at this, even though the girl was getting pretty good at basic telepathy. She even almost had her privacy shields working properly.
Dani closed her eyes, surprised that the simple action flooded her cheeks with previously unshed tears. She opened her eyes again and noticed that most of the others were standing, heads bowed and eyes closed. Doing her best to ignore the trickling feeling on her cheeks, she fought through the emotional turmoil in her mind and managed to make an image of her lost children.
Just making herself look at the image in her mind caused another flood of tears to escape her tightly closed eyes.
‘Very good, Sweetheart,’ Jackie thought into her mind, ‘Now try to imagine that image in the center of our circle. I’ll help you, but you’re guiding us. So keep your attention on the image even if you can’t get it into the circle.’
Grateful that she was so suddenly ‘not alone’, Dani found that her emotions were no longer preventing her mind from functioning. In fact, her feelings seemed to be giving her the fortitude to do what was requested of her. Smiling with new courage, she broadcast the image into the center of their circle.
Dani immediately felt several other minds sharing the image, making it more solid and flowing their mental energy into her own mind.
‘Now. Let’s go find them, shall we?’ Tabatha smiled into her mind.
Suddenly Dani knew how to create the rift in time and space that could reach back to Earth and her abandoned family. Tabatha and her friends were providing the incredible power required and Dani was riding on the crest of that power, steering – guiding – reeling through space and colliding joyfully with the Earth.
She looked around. The farmhouse was a decayed, ruined building. Half the roof had fallen in. In sudden despair, Dani almost lost the image. She felt Tabatha and Jackie bolstering her power, their love for her giving Dani the will she needed to continue the search.
Time began moving backwards. It stopped when she found her mother-in-law and her children leaving in a Land Rover. It was almost dusk and was safe for the older woman to be outside, now. Dani cried out her joy as she recognized her oldest son, Frances, now a strapping young man almost twenty, climbing up behind the wheel. Her younger son, Stephen, and her baby girl, Sherrie, already turning into a beautiful young woman, took the back seat while their grandmother sat next to Frances in front.
‘Can I follow them?’ Dani asked her closely linked companions.
‘Of course! Just keep your attention on them, and they will stay inside the circle, no matter how far they travel.’
‘Are those your children?’ Dani felt Jonathan ask, his mind filled with the wonder of what they were doing as well as his joy at discovering a new facet of his beloved Danielle.
‘Yes, Darling,’ Dani thought back at him.
‘This is how they looked five years ago,’ Jackie told everyone in the circle. ‘We need to find out where they are now. We know what they look like, so it should be a simple task.
‘Dani, assuming they are no longer together now, who do you want to find first?’ Tabatha asked.
‘My baby, Sherrie,’ Dani thought back, suddenly anxious and realizing that if they weren’t together, Sherrie would be the most helpless of the group.
‘Okay, let’s everybody concentrate on finding Sherrie.’
The image of the Range Rover faded and Dani felt the cloudy rush of movement back into the present. Shapes began to form in the cloudy sphere in the center of the circle. Several buildings were on fire and people were out in the daylight. Some were crawling, feebly, obviously almost dead, cooked by the sun’s radiation.
Several others were in protective suits. Sherrie’s face appeared in the leaded glass faceplate as she tried to pick up a victim of whatever catastrophe had just occurred. She half-carried, half-dragged the nearly unconscious woman beneath a protective ledge out of the direct sunlight and turned away to rescue another.
As Dani gazed into her daughter’s obviously strong but bereaved face, she felt a rush of pride flow through her and directly into her daughter. Sherrie stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes suddenly flooding with tears. Then, almost angrily blinking them away, she continued with her task of trying to save as many others as she could.
“They’re all dying,” Alicia whispered, suddenly bursting into tears, herself.
‘We couldn’t save everyone, Mother,’ Jackie thought into her mother’s mind. ‘God knows I wish we could…’
“Look!” Jonathan called out. “It seems to be some sort of transport that wrecked, or something.”
“It couldn’t have been going very fast,” Tabatha noticed. “Most of the victims are still in one piece. Only a few seem to be dead from physical injuries.”
“But they’re being cooked out there in the sun,” Dani cried out. “Can’t we bring them here? We came here through a sphere that looked just like this!”
She could feel Tabatha and Jackie privately discussing the matter. There didn’t seem to be much sympathy for those poor victims lying out there, dying.
‘It will take almost all the power among us just to retrieve your daughter, Danielle,’ Jackie informed her. We don’t have enough energy to open a wormhole like the one in the ship.’
‘We need more power!’ Tabatha decided. ‘Alicia, break free from this circle and summon Tanya and any of Lisa’s twins you can locate!’
‘What about Lisa?’ Alicia asked hurriedly. ‘She has more power than all the rest of us together!’
‘Lisa is searching for the lost Praetor with Annalisa and one set of twins. What they are doing is also vital. Find everyone else!’
Within seconds, Tanya appeared next to the circle. She was naked and sweating profusely. There were several shallow, bleeding slashes on her breast and stomach, but other than that, she appeared healthy.
‘There has been an accident on Earth,’ Tabatha sent, quickly bringing Tanya up to date. ‘One of Dani’s children is trying to rescue the survivors. We want to open a wormhole and let them come here!’
Tanya joined the circle by placing her arms on the shoulders of Dani and Tabatha. There was an incredible amount of energy available in Tanya’s mind – most of it coming from her frustrated sexual arousal. Tanya and Frank had evidently been involved in some extreme personal down time.
But Tanya was all business, here. She readily channeled her excess sexual energy into the vortex the girls were creating. The sphere grew, the images inside becoming almost life-sized. A moment later, two sets of twins added their not-inconsiderable power and everyone had to step back as the sphere began to envelope the members of the circle.
Dani pressed against the sphere, suddenly feeling the heat of the savage sun striking her face and bodice. “Sherrie! This way!”
Sherrie spun around, nearly toppling over with the weight of her victim.
“Mother?” her muted voice cried from beneath the leaded suit. “What the hell…”
“Come to me, Baby!” Dani cried, her desperate need to touch her daughter clashing savagely with her fear that she could fail in this attempt to rescue her. “Come here! Hurry!”
Not understanding, but dragging her rescued victim with her, Sherrie clambered toward the transparent image of her long-lost mother. She was uncertain that anything was really there – she’d had heat-induced delusions before this. But this was the direction she needed to go, anyway, so she drew closer – and closer.
Then Dani reached out and pulled her daughter out of the sphere. They both toppled to the floor along with the tiny crash victim Sherrie had been rescuing.
“Oh, my baby my baby my baby,” Dani cried out repeatedly. “I’ve finally found you oh my baby! Oh God thank you oh my baby!”
“We can move the other end of the wormhole over the other victims and bring them here,” Tanya suggested.
“You do it,” Tabatha replied. “You’re better at this type of control than I am.”
Sherrie shrieked as the tall blond girl standing next to her reached down and, touching her rescued child, suddenly disappeared, taking the child with her.
“It’s all right,” someone nearby called out. “She's taking her to Doc Frank.”
Lisa suddenly appeared. “What’s happening? You guys are broadcasting planet wide!”
“Lisa, Oh thank God!” Jackie exclaimed. “I thought you were doing the Praetor Recovery stuff!”
“Elaine’s doing that,” Lisa informed her. “She wanted Annalisa with her. I guess they’ve worked together before. They’re in trouble, too, so let’s make this quick! Shall we?”
“Lisa, we need power,” Tabatha cried out. “I’ve got my shields stretched as far as they’ll go. We need to make the opening wider!”
Lisa stepped forward and gazed into the distant rubble of the Earth city. Almost immediately the sphere doubled in size and the entire group found themselves standing in the middle of the hot, sun-baked street. Several people looked at them, startled.
“Well?” Lisa called out, “Start grabbing people and bring them here!”
Her mental command echoed in everyone’s head along with her verbal instructions and everyone, including the lead-suited rescuers, began bringing crash victims into Jackie’s living room.
On the other side of the new worm hole, Alicia teleported them, one by one, to Doc Frank’s office. There were thirteen crash victims still alive and four lead-suited rescuers, including Sherrie.
“If you’ve been able to do this sort of thing all along,” Jonathan wanted to know, “why did you need a spaceship?”
Tabatha shrugged, “Hey, it’s a learning process, okay? Now we know.”
Alicia reappeared, almost staggering with exhaustion. As she reached down for another transport to her brother’s office, she fell on the guy and passed out cold.
Tanya reached down and teleported them both to Doc Frank’s facilities.
Sherrie was finally returning to normal after spending several hysterical moments grasping and hugging her mother as hard as she could. She gazed around in confused wonder, her eyes taking in the circle of girls, some actually naked and one bleeding as though she’d been stabbed, with their hands stretched out sideways toward each other, palms almost touching.
Where she was sitting with her mother in the middle of the hot, dry street was superimposed on a dark, mahogany living room. She and several of the other strange people seemed to occupy both spaces at the same time, including her mother.
“Mother?” Sherrie whimpered, her headgear lost somewhere nearby. Dani nodded, unable to stop her tears. “It’s really you?”
“Yes, my baby, It’s really me!” Dani sobbed. “I finally found you!”
“Oh, Mother, I’m so sorry,” Sherrie said and began crying again.
“You have nothing to be sorry about, Darling,” Dani said, soothing the girl while she ran one hand through her girl’s damp, sweaty head of stinking hair.
“Where’s Frances, Honey,” Dani asked anxiously. “Where’s little Stevie?”
Sherrie pulled back and gazed into her mother’s eyes. She hurt so bad inside, not knowing how to tell her. But then her mother stopped and stared back at her, understanding suddenly filling her face as she collapsed into tears, somehow knowing the cruel thing that Sherrie couldn’t say. Sherrie was alone – the last survivor from her family. Everyone else was dead.
Mother and found daughter, they sat on the hardwood floor, clinging to each other in their grief as the wormhole closed around them, shutting out a hot, scorched earth were only death waited for all those still living. The room emptied, leaving the two of them alone except for Jonathan and Jackie. As Lisa left, she promised to return shortly.
“Don’t give up hope,” she said to them. “We have all of time at our fingertips.”
Then she vanished, which startled Sherrie quite a bit.
“They can teleport wherever they need to go,” Jackie explained.
At Sherrie’s bewildered gaze, Dani introduced her companion, “This is Jonathan. He’s a…”
“You’re wearing the uniform of those who attacked us!” Sherrie snarled at him. “You killed…”
“NO!” Dani cried out, grabbing her daughter as she clawed at Jonathan’s face. “He’s not evil! He’s been here with me!”
“They killed Frances,” the girl sobbed. “They pretended they wanted to talk and they shot him down…” She sobbed hysterically for another moment before she could talk again. “We tried to reach him… He was still alive. They started shooting at us and we ran. Stevie was right behind me. I heard him fall but I was so scared I just kept running… and running…”
This time she didn’t stop crying for a long time.
“She thinks her brother died because of her,” Jackie explained to Dani as quietly as she could. “She blames herself. But from what she said, if she’d turned around to save him, she would have been shot down with him.”
“I think she would have preferred that,” Dani whispered back. “It’s hard for me to hear what she said, but I think it was harder for her to have lived through it. I know what it’s like to go on living when all you want is to do is die.”
“She described standard battle tactics for a Confederate scouting party,” Jonathan went on. “When outnumbered, draw your enemy into the open by any means necessary. Parley is the most successful method of tricking your enemy into helping you overpower them.”
“You forget who this girl is,” Jackie reminded them. “She is the daughter of Beth’s blood-sister. Any group of armed men would be hard put to actually succeed in killing any children she bore.”
“You mean my brothers might still be alive?” Sherrie asked, sudden hope in her eyes.
Lisa returned from wherever she’d gone, suddenly appearing beside them. Looking concerned, she knelt down next to the new girl who was still wearing her lead-lined suit.
“You’d be more comfortable without this,” Lisa said, softly smiling into Sherrie’s swollen, tear-filled eyes.
Dissolving the lead suit off the girl’s body, slowly so as not to disturb her further, Lisa mind-linked with her and drained off the excess grief that was numbing her mind until Sherrie, in wonder, stopped generating it.
“That’s better,” Lisa grinned. “Now, you and I are going to take a trip, okay? Let’s go save your brothers.”
They both vanished, but not before Sherrie took one last hopeful glance at her mother.
Jackie grinned at Lisa’s typical ‘take charge’ attitude. But the pair of newcomers still seemed distraught. “Danielle, are you all right?”
“Yes, I think I’m going to be,” Dani replied, not really sure of anything right at the moment. “You people have such powers that it will take getting used to.”
“Your untapped potential is as strong,” Jackie grinned. “You can already send and receive thoughts. Soon you will be popping in and out of places just like the rest of us.”
“When you say ‘potential’, you mean in the ability to destroy?” Jonathan asked. “Like Lisa?”
“No,” Jackie replied. “We all know how to blow things up – we’ve just agreed not to do it unless it’s absolutely necessary. The main use of our power is as you’ve just witnessed. Helping others.
“Come on upstairs,” she continued. “I’ll show you where you’re staying tonight.”
“This look about right?” Lisa asked, pretty sure that she’d read Sherrie’s imaging correctly.
“I guess,” Sherrie replied. “Look! There we are! And here comes the baddies!”
“Okay, great!” Lisa grinned, then sat down on a rock to watch.
“Aren’t you going to do anything?” Sherrie asked, stunned that her so-called savior was behaving in so casual a manner when the murder of her brother was about to occur.
“No, thought I’d just watch,” Lisa yawned.
“You’ve got to save…” Sherrie started to yell, then suddenly discovered she couldn’t move.
She was frozen in time and space! She wasn’t even breathing!
‘Let me loose! Damn you! Save him!’
She watched helplessly as her brother walked forward into the sights of the brutal Confederate renegades. A blaster bolt flashed and seemed to surround his entire body. Frances stopped; a look of frightened confusion on his face. Then he was hit with several bullets and fell backwards. Another blaster bolt flashed harmlessly around his body and the renegades charged, firing rapidly but with poor accuracy.
Sherrie was frantic and savagely furious at being trapped this way. Suddenly she fell to the ground, free again. With a great cry, she rushed to her fallen brother who lay on the ground, gasping from his wounds and coughing up blood.
As she dropped down beside him, Frances looked up at her.
“Ree… What are you…” He coughed again – a spasm of coughing, then he was somehow able to breathe again.
“Try not to move,” Sherrie sobbed as she forced him back down onto the ground. “I’m sorry Frances we came here to save you but SHE just let you get shot again! Oh God I HATE YOU YOU WITCH!”
“But they shot you!” Sherrie cried, her hands tearing at his bloody clothing.
Not finding any wounds, she sat back, completely at a loss for words.
“He’s a long-lifer, like you and your mother,” Lisa explained patiently. “Bullets won’t kill him. But I had to let him get shot or history would change and you’d disappear. Now let’s go get your other brother, shall we?”
Laughing almost hysterically with relief, Sherrie grabbed her brother and hugged him tightly. Filled with exuberance, now, she leaped to her feet, practically dragging her almost healed brother up with her.
“Now – you were running for your life and you heard Stevie? Is that his name? You heard him fall. That’s where we’re going, now – to where you heard him fall. Ready?”
Sherrie nodded anxiously. Frances looked at both of them like they were crazy people. Suddenly they were right on top of Stephen and actually knocked him down. He hit the ground with a loud grunt. Sherrie, amazed, watched herself as she slowed down and started to turn around.
‘RUN!’ Lisa screamed into the fleeing girl’s mind. ‘RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! TO TURN BACK IS TO DIE!’
Sherrie fled, running wildly, sobbing as she cursed her own cowardice. In an instant, she was out of sight.
“You made me do that!” Sherrie suddenly accused Lisa! “You made me think I abandoned my brothers! You know how much I hated myself for doing that?”
“What the hell’s going on?” Stephen yelled. “Why were there two of you?”
“You explain,” Lisa said, straightening up and turning back the way they had come. “I have work to do…”
The half-dozen renegades came rushing up, surprised that their quarry was no longer fleeing. Several shot Lisa even before they stopped running toward her. Lisa ignored the wounds and let the blood soak into her blouse.
“Just stop right there, Girlie,” one of them yelled to her. “Now you just stand reel still…”
Lisa barely stepped backwards as the shot penetrated her heart. Then she grinned at them and stepped forward. She estimated she had about thirty seconds before she would pass out from lack of blood to her brain. She didn’t dare talk as her lungs were already filling with blood. She had an image to project, after all.
Several more bullets struck her, perforating her breasts and belly. A blaster bolt turned her skin bright red and blistered as her clothes caught fire.
‘You’ve killed your last victim,’ she called out into all their minds, radiating her fury at them. ‘Now it’s your turn to die… You have been judged and sentenced – To Death by Fire!’
Not waiting until she died, the phoenix flared her body into pure energy and walked toward the now terrified killers. As each one turned to flee this fiery abomination from hell, his body turned slowly into flame, starting with the legs, then the torso. Lisa made sure each one stayed conscious until they had screamed several times, each one feeling the raw agony of breathing in the flames that burned their flesh.
In less than thirty seconds, all six renegades were flaming lumps of unmoving charcoal on the ground. Lisa forced her body back into its normal meat and bones form and turned back toward her three rescued siblings, naked now that her clothing had burned away.
“Let’s go home,” she said, ignoring their terrified gaze and the way they flinched away from her newly created naked form as she approached. “Your mother’s waiting to greet you.”