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Old June 14th, 2019, 04:46 PM #1
scikaiju's Avatar
> scikaiju
Power Ranger
 
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382
scikaiju
Power Ranger
scikaiju's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



Kamen Rider Fusion the movie: Twin Fusion

A/N - Again another "movie" for a series I did. Admittedly, for this one I seriusly considered just putting it in the Fusion thread itself, despit the fact I kept it separate everywhere else I posted it. Mainly because it takes place in a very specific area of the story, between chapters 30 and 31. 60 basically leads into this and this story leads into the arc that starts with 31. Again, like I said with DekaOps, if the mods feel this should be merged with the other thread I will fully understand.
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~then~

Night was falling as the search team scoured the site of the avalanche as darkness set in. They had men still trapped under this mess, and were working hard to either dig them out. Or recovers the bodies, which ever they found first. Mitchell commanded his men to work faster, he wanted a majority found alive if possible. Perez walked up and told him that his team had secured the area, nobody was getting in or out without his permission. “Join in the search,” He told Perez, he nodded and joined one of the three man teams.

This wasn’t supposed to happen, that damn Drakan wasn’t supposed to be able to do this. Heads were going to roll when he found out who was responsible in leaving out that monkey was an explosive expert. He had to watch for his own head when Anderson found out about this. “Mitchell!”, one of his men shouted out. “We found Jones. What’s left of him anyway.”

“Get out of my way,” he ordered as he pushed a person to the side. He knew there was no need to rush, from the sound of things. When he got there Jones wasn’t crushed but he was laying there on the ground, his neck at an unnatural angle. “Damn it,” he muttered. Jones was the best second in command he ever had. This assignment was supposed to be a no brainer, take out the target quickly and silently. “Does any body know if that Drakan was caught up in the blast too?”

“It doesn’t look like it but were going to have the tech analyze the blood samples we recovered so far for Drakan DNA.”

“Right, keep looking you goldbricks. I want you to find as many survivors as you possibly can, now!” They acknowledge him and started to work harder.

“Mitchell!”, Perez called out. “We found somebody!”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know,” he answered, “it’s a civilian.”

“Son of a bitch,” Mitchell muttered as he ran over. A guy with brown hair was there on the ground, his left arm and legs looked like they were crushed. To Mitchell he looked pale as a ghost and already dead. “And why do you think I want to see this corpse?”

“I’m getting a weak pulse,” Perez informed him. “He’s still alive, barely though.” As soon as he said that Mitchell say the guy right hand moved slightly.

Mitchell looked at the poor bastard under the rubble. From the look of things he didn’t have much longer left to go. He had half a mind to put a bullet through his head and put him out of his misery. But he didn’t because he could just see Anderson get “upset” about him killing a civilian, even if it was a mercy killing. And he had seen what those claws of his can do to a person by accident. Being on the business end of those claws was something he was trying to avoid. “This has to be the luckiest son of a bitch on the planet,” he muttered to himself. To Perez he ordered, “Try to dig him out and get him into one of those tanks the lab had us take with us before he croaks. Anderson not going to like it but it’s better than letting him die out her like this.”

“Right,” Perez answered as he and the others worked to carefully dig him out.

“God, what else are we going find out here,” he muttered to himself. Swinging his light around a new trail of blood caught is attention. He ran over and started moving the boulders as best he could. He found another civilian, this one even more messed up than the other. “What were you idiots doing out here anyway?”

***

Several rows of tubes filled one of the labs in World Inc. medical wing. Most of them were empty. But a few contained an injured human body floating in a dense blue liquid. Various breathing tubes and wires were connected to the individuals to monitor their vital signs. A couple of them stopped what they were doing When Armstrong walked into the room followed by Anderson, Allen and a few others. A few more started looking nervous as Anderson dark eyes surveyed the room. He walked past them and between the rows of tubes containing the injured. He had a dissatisfied look on his face. “Is this all of them?”, he asked.

Allen answered him, “All the ones Mitchell found alive, or still clinging to life.”

They followed Anderson as he examined each occupied tube. Armstrong started talking, “We think a couple of them won’t last through the night.”

“We sent twenty of our men after one rebel,” Anderson stated. “How did we end having this many causalities?”

“This particular Drakan was an expert in explosives according to the report Mitchell filed,” Allen said while rereading the report in his hands. “The rebels seem to be getting desperate if they are resorting to these sort of tactics.”

“The rebels have always been a cowardly lot,” Anderson told them. “Always attacking and pulling back or setting ambushes like this one.”

“And we have to replace an entire team because of it,” Allen said.

“They were only human,” Anderson said, “easily replaceable in the long run.” He came across a tube containing a individual he did not recognized. Most of his body was crushed beyond recognition. The only thing that looked remotely human was his upper torso and chest. Then he saw another one he did not recognized. This one was in slightly better shape as his legs and left arm were crushed. “These are the civilians Mitchell said he brought in?”

“Yes they are Mr. Anderson,” Armstrong said. He tapped the glass of the one in worst shape. “This is one we don’t think is going to last much longer. It’s a miracle he lasted this long.”

“Have their families been notified yet?”, Anderson asked.

“Not yet,” Armstrong answered. “We’re still trying to figure out a convincing cover story to explain all of this.”

“I’ll have our spin people work on it. Either one of their families could be sue happy if they think we had something to do with it. Allen, have them get on that will you?”

“Yes sir,” he took one more look at the tubes before pulling out a cell phone.

Anderson walked away and studied the men in the tube. “Dr. Armstrong, exactly how close are you to being ready for a test subject for the Fusion system?”

“We’ve been ready,” Armstrong answered. “We just needed an appropriate test subject. As much as I hate to say it, the accident has left us with several excellent candidates.”

“Mitchell will be happy,” Allen said. “He wanted this thing to be under him any way.”

“This thing?”, Anderson asked with a raised eyebrow.

“His words not mine,” Allen explained. “Although in my estimation he’s not that far off.”

“Perhaps, but the system was designed to act alone,” Anderson told him. “I’m sure he might think he has some say in it, and I might let him take him out on the first couple of missions. But in the end he will act alone.” Turning to Armstrong he said, “So which one of our men suitable for the process?”

“Well Miller over here…,” he started when a tech shouted something out.

“Tube thirty seven is showing another brain spike!”, somebody shouted.

Anderson looked around until he saw the tube he was talking about. It was the one with a civilian, the one with the crushed legs and arm. Anderson walked over and watched him very closely. This person eyes opened part way before slowly closing. Anderson’s eyebrow rose slightly while he watched.

“Damn it, he’s waking up!,” Allen started to panicked.

“No he isn’t,” Armstrong told them. “That’s the fifth time this one had a spike since he was brought in. It’s almost like he fighting the drugs in the gel. Some of the others say he just too stubborn to rest and let it work.”

“He’s a fighter,’ Anderson mumbled while scratching his chin.

“Several of our men have had several spikes as well,” Armstrong told him. “Miller, as well as Johnson over here, has had a couple.” Anderson paid no attention to the doctor, he just studied this human floating before him. His eyes flickered once more briefly before closing again. This one was a fighter, no question about it in his mind. He made up his mind.

“What is this one’s name?”

“What was that Mr. Anderson?”, Armstrong said, a little confused.

“This civilian doctor, what is his name?”

Armstrong flipped through the list of names on his clipboard until he found what he was looking for, “The identification we found on him says he a Mr. Jack Davidson.”

Anderson clasped his hands behind his back, “Mr. Allen, a slight change of plans. Find out who his closest living relative is and inform them that Mr. Davidson has passed on,” he walked around the tube. “Caught in a freak avalanche while hiking or whatever he was doing out there. Body was horrible mangled, or something to that effect.”

“Why are we doing this sir?”, Allen asked, totally bewildered.

“I thought would be obvious Mr. Allen,” he looked this Davidson in the face before pointing at the tube, “we have our first volunteer.”

“We now absolutely nothing about this man!”, Allen exploded. “He could be a psychotic killer for all we know! Or he could run away from a battle we sent him to.”

“I’ll admit it is a bit of a risk.” He looked over to Allen with a slightly humorous look, “Although a psychotic killer might be an advantage for us. Even if he did run away the systems built in tracker will let us know where he is at all times. And I’m sure Mitchell will jump at a chance to toughen him up in that case.”

“But why him?”, Allen demanded. He changed the tone of his voice after the look Anderson gave him. “We have several qualified candidates who work for us and we know what they’re capable of. Why choose an outsider we know nothing about?

A good question, he had to admit. “Call it a feeling if you want. If he’s fighting here then he won’t run from one. Like I said the Fusion system was designed to act alone. Who better than an outsider to be bonded with the system.”

“No offence but that’s one hell of a risk you’re taking, just on a feeling of all things.”

“I am well aware of that Mr. Allen. And it is one I will take personal responsibility for if it does not work out. The decision has been made in any case and I will not hear any more arguments on the matter. Mr. Allen contacts General Rhodes and Senator Henning and let them know the Fusion system has a test subject now. I’ll tell Mitchell what is happening and what I expect from him on the matter. Dr. Armstrong, Mr. Davidson is now in your and you’re staff capable hands.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Anderson,” Armstrong replied as Allen walked off saying nothing. “Tim, Mike, ready tube thirty seven for prep. The Fusion system has just been green lighted for stage two.” He turned to Anderson, “I’ll send the appropriate paperwork to your office.”

He nodded and left him to start the process. As he exited Anderson wondered why he did choose this Davidson as well. A feeling was one thing but for something like this? Well when he did listen to his gut it never failed him, yet. If he didn’t listen he never would have challenged the senior Allen for control of this company. No, he was confident Davidson was the right choice in the long run. It was just a matter of finding the right way of controlling him. And there was no doubt in his mind that he would find that way.

***

Allen was still fuming about the decision, even hours later. How dare he just put a nobody into the program like that? This company invested a small fortune into the Fusion project, his fathers company. What should be his company if it wasn’t for his father blind loyalty to tradition. And Anderson underhanded treachery in using those same traditions to kill his father in front of him and the others and get away with it.

But thanks to Anderson he now had a plan of his own. Perhaps one that would eliminate Anderson and give him control of the company. He spent hours getting a copy of the forms Armstrong had sent Anderson. With one slight difference, he had another tube in mind. But tube thirty seven would have been the perfect choice for this plan. But Anderson had to follow his “feeling”. Now his options were much more limited. Everybody else was well known around here, and the other one, nobody was sure how much longer he was going to hold on.

Making his choice he quickly forged Anderson’s name on his copy of the form. He done it before several times, he doubted Anderson himself would be able to tell the difference.

Now he needed somebody to do the actual work. Armstrong was out of the question, he was so loyal to Anderson it was sickening. But there was another option. Anderson had his head so far up his ass he didn’t even see the conflicts in R&D that was right under his nose.

Allen tucked the papers into a file and quickly headed for the medical wing. But in the R&D itself, no who he was looking for was usually somewhere else this time of night. Unlike Anderson he kept a personal eye on who went where in this building. In one of the storage rooms he found Parker taking a long drink from the metal flask he kept hidden in his coat. He coughed, to announce his presence and saw Parker half spit half swallow what was in his mouth. “What are you trying to do?,” he demanded, “Scare me out of my bloody skin?”

“Taking a bit of a late night nip Dr. Parker?”, he asked.

“None of your business Allen, and why are you slumming down here anyway?”

“Looking for you actually,” he handed him the folder. “Mr. Anderson has a special assignment for you.”

Parker flipped through the file, “So there actually daft enough to go ahead with this Fusion nonsense. So where did they dig up this poor bastard then?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he told him. “Were going off site for the program…”

“Bloody hell,” Parker interrupted, “why do we got to leave the building? Everything to transform this git is right here.”

“Yes,” he thought quickly, “Anderson is afraid of rebel spies finding out. We have this warehouse, it’s out of the way so it won’t be easily found.”

“That’s a pretty far fetched for this thing.”

“You know how paranoid he is about this thing.”

Parker read the file a little more, “Bloody hell, what with this kick weapon nonsense?”

“Hell if I know, some geek in R&D pushed for it. So can we count on you for the job?”

The other man snorted, “So why me and not Anderson chosen one? I figure Armstrong would be all over this thing he need a cigarette afterwards.”

Allen faked a laugh, “Yes, well we decided that you would be the perfect person for the job. Armstrong is a little too… dependant on his staff. A project of this status is going to need somebody a little more discrete for the operation.”

“That has to be the biggest bunch of bull I ever heard. But I’m not going to blow off a chance to show up the green bastard.”

“Good Dr. Parker, I’ll make the arrangement and get you what you need after you inspect the sight. And don’t worry, you have my word Dr. Armstrong will not interfere with your operation.” He shaked his hand, then wiped it off as soon as he turned his back to him. Shaking hands with a red, how low had he fallen? But at least his plans were in motion now.

*six months later*

Anderson walked down the hall, all the waiting had finally paid off. He hoped it did at any rate. He was putting a lot of faith in this one individual who he did not know. And into a person he barely knew. But Williams had a lot of faith in this woman, and she hadn’t given him any reason to doubt her judgment. She had good instincts, for a human. He read the file they had on this Haily, nothing in it went against Williams’s estimation of the woman so he agreed to go with her.

An elevator opened up and a blond haired woman with green eyes walked out. As the humans say, speak of the devil. She seemed as surprised to seem him there as she was. “Mr. Anderson,” she was able to get out.

“Miss Haily,” he nodded toward her. “I assume you are heading in the same direction I am.”

“Yes sir,” she told him, “I got word as soon as there were starting the process. By my estimation he should be awake by the time we get there.”

“I guess we’ll see if you’re right then.” She walked beside him as they headed for the medical wing of the building. After a moment she spoke up again, “Did you get my request sir?”

“Request?”, he thought it over for a moment before remembering. “Yes I did, it was rather unusual. Is there a particular reason why you want to accompany him in the field on the mission instead of monitoring them from here?”

“Well,” she began, “we’re not sure were his priorities are. I know the system was designed to act alone, but I’m thinking of the field report. He may leave out details that he might not think were important but could have led us to the rebel.”

“A valid concern Miss Haily. And I agree, another set of eyes would be useful. So consider you’re request approved.” Allen passed them and he looked at the young woman for a bit, “Now I have a question for you, are you ready for this?”

She wisely took a few moments before answering, “I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be.”


“Good,” he stood in front of another elevator. “Destiny, as they say, awaits. After you,” he said after the elevator door opened. She thanked him as she entered. As the doors closed he thought he heard Allen yell at somebody over his cell phone. Something about it not being ready yet. Allen was harmless, but something told him to remember to check into that later. He looked at Haily one more time, with any luck she’ll help him find a way to control this Davidson person. It should be an interesting to see where it all leads them.

~now~

It was near dusk, most people were on there way home, off to work or heading elsewhere. In a darken alley was an individual wearing sneakers, blue jeans, a black t-shirt and a denim jacket. The built in sweatshirt hood was pulled over his head in order to hide his features, while the small glint of foil lining the hood meant to hide him from something else. Most of his attention was across the street in a store front window, a news report about him was being played. He could barely read the headlines from where he was at but he knew what they were saying, still wanted by the authorities. His life couldn’t get any worse.

Beside him a blond woman was listening to an earpiece. When he first meat her she was wearing a business suit. Now she wore a plain button up white shirt, black jean and shoes. And quickly became one of his closest friends, for a while there his only friend. She nodded and said something to the person connected to the piece. Turning to him she said, “They’re heading in this direction.”

“Like they herd him any where else,” he muttered darkly. God he hated these plans with a passion. But he said he do what was necessary to help Melissa and the others out. He stepped out into the empty street and waited. And as luck would have it he was upwind. So whoever it was would get a good whiff of Drakan blood before he got too close. Looking out of the corner of his eye at Rachel he said, “Watch your back this time would ya.”

She looked annoyed, “I can take care of myself Jack.” He did notice she said that while touching that small scar on her still slightly bruised neck. He felt a small wave of guilt when she did that, one of the few times he wasn’t good enough. And he was going to be damned if this one got any where near her.

“Just humor me,” he told her. She said nothing, but she did get a little further back into the alley. He was grateful for it too, now he had to wait. It wasn’t long before a guy wearing jeans and sport coat came running in his direction. He stopped short a few yards from him and acted like he didn’t see him right away. He sniffed the air a few times and Jack knew this was the right one as he looked in his direction. The guy hunched over slightly as a cracked shell formed on his back and he turned into a red turtle, a “knight” instead of a warrior king he was expecting.

Jack raised his left arm across his chest and a grey metal belt appeared around his waist. It had an oval device in front with a red faceplate. Two pods were on either side of the belt. He swung his left arm to the side and brought his right up to his face. “Henshin!”, he shouted and slammed his hand on top of the belt. The belt scanned him and he was covered in a black body suit. Blue armor formed around his feet, chest and on top of his shins and forearms. A blue insect style helmet with red eye formed around his head.

***

“Henshin!”, a male voice shouted. He was covered in a black body suit as a belt with a green faceplate scanned him.. Blue armor formed around his feet, chest and on top of his shins and forearms. An insect style helmet with green eyes covered his head. He took a moment to look himself over before returning his attention to his situation. He was in a garage of some sort facing down a red piranha with pointy little teeth. A few moments ago it was a human looking janitor. He could not believe what he was seeing. With a bit of trepidation he went after the piranha.

***

Jack ran at the turtle without hesitation. Just like he thought the thing was slow, but judging from it thick arms and legs it looked powerful too. He jumped and flipped over the turtle and kicked it in the back. It stumbled foreword a bit. The Drakan swung backwards that he easily dodged and countered with a right hook to its gut. It bent over slightly as Jack grabbed it by the shell and threw it to the ground.

***

He could not believe he was fighting a freaking monster. He was jumping and rolling out of the way as it tried to hit him. Actually he was amazed at how flexible the armor was despite how bulky it looked. Testing something out he jumped up and flipped over the piranha. When he landed he celebrated a bit too long as the monster grabbed him by the neck and threw him.

***

Jack was caught be a wicked backhand that forced him into a wall. The turtle took advantaged of his dazed states to toss him in the air. Jack landed on a hood of a near by car. Yeah, this thing was a powerhouse alright. Grunting as he peeled himself off the car the red Drakan raised its’ fist above its head and ran at him. Jack was able to roll out of the way but the hood was toast. The turtle kicked him away as it freed its hands. He tried punching at his head but the turtle caught his fist and forced him to his knees.

***

The piranha threw him into another pillar. It was hard to even think straight at this point he was so rattled. He was held in place against the pillar and the monster started punching him repeatedly. This was how it was going to end? He came back to life only to die to this thing? Getting angry he punched it at the same time it reared back his head to bit him. It looked like scales flew off of it as his fist hit his nose. Damn that felt good.

***

Jack was pounded down to his knees again. The turtle was caught off guard as he popped right back up and picked it up off his feet. He rammed it into the wall in font of him and started pounding away with body blows. Jack grabbed it by the back of the head and started throwing knees into its’ face. The turtle swung widely catching him in the side of the head making him see stars momentarily. He cleared his head fast enough duck another one and counter with an uppercut.

***

He found his rhythm pretty quick after he was able to get some space between them. He jump in and get in a kick or a punch before jumping back out of range. Keeping it off guard he jumped in and instead of jumping away he spun around and kicked the piranha in the head, then he spun again with another kick and did it a third time. He back flipped out of the way when it tired to kick him back. It came at him so he jumped out of the way and kicked it in the back of the head. He was starting to enjoy himself when a meter in his vision started flashing.

***

Jack rolled out of the way as it tried to stomp on him. He kicked its’ legs out from under it and it landed on it’s back. Surprisingly it was able to turn over to its’ stomach rather quickly. He opened his mouth to say something when the meter started flashing.

***

“I think I got a problem,” he said as he avoided the blows coming at him.

“Is a meter flashing?,” a male voice said from behind a car. An Asian man, what was his name again, Andy Chen that was it, looked desperate as he watched. When he said there was he was told. “You have an excess energy build up. Use it to defeat the rebel.”

“How?”, he said right before stepping away from a kick that nearly took his head off.

“The pods on your side, twist them up or down.”

***

Jack twisted the right pod down. The twin mini turbines behind the faceplate started spinning, redirecting the energy build up. The charge quickly ran down his right leg as he ran at the turtle. He jumped up and aimed his right foot at it. Hitting it in the chest Jack landed as the charge made it fly back. The turtle exploded a moment later.

***

Not sure what else to do he grabbed the right pod and twisted it down. He heard the turbines hmm as they spun inside the belt. Looking down at his right leg he was surprised as he felt the charge go down it. “Yes,” he said pumping his fist slightly. He backed up a bit before kneeling down and jumping up. He somersaulted foreword into the air and extended his right foot. “Rider kick!”, he shouted right before his foot hit the piranha in the head. It flew back and exploded. “Oh hell yeah!,” he said jumping into the air.

***

Jack hit the top of the belt again and deactivated the armor. Looking around for any witnesses he headed back for the alley where Rachel was still hiding. “You all right?”, she asked him. “You took a few hard hits.”

“Good thing my head harder,” he joked. She barely smiled, “I’m fine, just get me some aspirins when we get back.”

“I’ll let them know you got the job done.” He nodded, but held his back when she wasn’t looking. Damn it, his back stopped hurting last week too. When Rachel gave the ok they got his motorcycle, it looked like a Kawasaki Ninja that was blue with red and black stripes to the normal eye. But he knew of an extra feature that was built in. Bringing the engine to life they rode into the night.

***

He stood there and watched the burning remains. He was still in disbelief, did that actually happened? The remains and the armor around him told him it was real but it was still so surreal. Chen came up with a satisfied look on his face. “An excellent job Mr. Kingstone. Mr. Anderson will be pleased you did so well. If I had to be honest I thought you weren’t going to be able to pull it out.”

“Yeah thanks,” he said absentmindedly. Realizing he was still in the armor he looked at him, “Ah, how do I…?”

“Just hit the top of the belt again Mr. Kingstone,” he told him.

“Thanks,” he said again as he did so. The armor faded away and he was back in the gray sweatpants and T-shirt they gave him after he woke up. Looking at his scarred arms for a second, he ran his hands over his dark curly hair. Looking at Chen, he grinned and said, “And please, call me Richie.”

***

Under the city streets, under the sewers an underground community acted like every thing was normal. For them it was, being forced to live in this place because they “rebelled” against the normal views of their society. Forced into hiding because one of them was basically hunting them down. The hiding they were used too, they’ve been hiding among the humans for centuries. Even though they lived underground they staid in their human forms. They had one motto down here, nobody knows what class you were if you looked human. And this was his home for the past few months.

Jack walked the hallways of the habitat, mostly lost in his own head. Being down here among them for as long as he had he recognized most of them. Some greeted him with a friendly look, others were still a bit nervous around him. Not because he was human, but because he was the Drakan Killer. A myth that formed around him after he woke up in World Inc. and started doing Anderson dirty work. Things went south real fast after he found out Anderson was a Drakan himself. Being wanted by every law enforcement agency in the country, more of Anderson doing, gave him very few options. Luckily he found a place to stay and try to rest for a bit.

He passed a group that looked like they were new around here. Five of them just looked back at him. The redheaded male looked like he was trying to hide behind his buddy. The lone woman of the group looked at him cautiously but held her ground. There was a guy in the back but he couldn’t see what he really look like because he had his green hoodie pulled over his face. The apparent leader of the group, a blond guy in a bomber jacket stared at him. They gave each other a small heads up as he passed.

With nothing else to do for the night he headed for the workout room they had set up. As usual anybody in there gave him a wide space as he looked over what was free. As luck would have it the heavy bag was open. Taking off his jacket Jack started throwing a few punches. In the back of his head he could hear Rachel tell him he should train more, he was fighting a lot more reds now. They’ve been trained to fight at a young age. Not that some of the blues he went up against were exactly pushovers. And he didn’t even want to think about the warrior kings some of the greens were suppose to be. He noticed a couple of the others stopped what they were doing so he looked by the doorway. A woman with long brown hair, blue eyes and a very tired look about her walked in. She was looking right at him, “There you are, Rachel thought you might be in here.”

“So what did I do now?”, he asked in a joking manner. “The chimp couldn’t have found that little surprise I left for him already.”

“I’m sure the whole habitat would have heard it if you did anything,” she said smiling slightly. Melissa was used to his humor by now. Besides she would have known if he was telling the truth or not. At least he thought she would, being able to feel his emotions and all. Although he was not sure if they were exactly friends, they had an understanding now. “I just wanted to make sure you were ok.”

“Rachel put you up to this didn’t she?”

“No, I just wanted to see for myself. It’s something my brother used to do when he sent a group on a mission like this. I think he wanted to make sure he didn’t do anything that harmed the ones on the mission in any way.”

“Well as you can see I’m fine,” he held his arms out wide. “No harm no foul.” She looked at him funny, like she was sensing something. “Have I ever told you how much I hate it when you do that?”

“Sorry, I can’t exactly turn it off,” she told him. “I can ignore it most of the time, but sometimes things gets my attention if I want it to or not.”

“Try a little harder,” he said as he returned his attention to the heavy bag. It wasn’t long before he realized she wasn’t exactly leaving. “Was there something else?”

“No, I just noticed you seem to be taking out your frustrations out on that bag.” She laughed a bit, “I do the same thing, although I’m usually cussing out whoever caused it while I’m doing it.”

Jack smiled a bit, “Not my style.”

“I’ve noticed,” she sat on the bench near the bag. “I guess we all do things in own way. I know Emily likes to lock herself in her room and meditate while she works through whatever is bothering her.” There was an uncomfortable silence for a bit. There may have been an understanding between them now, but he was still the one who killed her brother. She broke the silence, “I’m not sure how more missions like that we can send you on.”

“Won’t here me complaining,” Jack said without thinking. She nodded in understanding, Melissa wasn’t a big supporter of those type of missions either. But both of them realized it was necessary if the rebels had a chance of surviving this thing. “I’m guessing it has something to do with the eggheads you got around here.”

“Yeah,” she answered. “They’re not sure how much longer they can trick the trackers into not reading your signal before World Inc. notices. Hell we’re not even sure if we’re finding them all,” she hung her head slightly. “Dusty helping us out were we can, but…”

“Anderson is a tricky bastard,” he said. “You don’t have to tell me that.”

“I know I don’t, it just frustrating at times,” she said. “You’re doing everything you can to help us. Yet I can’t say for certain if we’re doing the same for you two.”

“Hey, me and Rachel take a big risk every time we step out into public. Even before we took you up on that offer we took a risk.” He stopped, held the bag steady and looked at her, “Besides you gave us a place to stay and gave me a chance to make up some of the crap I’ve done to you guys.”

“It doesn’t seem like enough at times,” she said. Jack took her by the hand and made her stand up and face the bag. “What are you doing?”

“It sounds like you need to hit this thing more than me right now.” He walked around the bag, put an arm around it then gave her a small half smile, “I can probably talk Rachel into teaching you to curse in French so nobody knows what you’re saying.”

Melissa had to return the smile, “I start talking in another language and everybody going to have to know what I’m saying.”

“It’s a risk I’m willing to take.” She said nothing but quickly hit the bag by his head. She was so fast Jack reacted after it happen. Melissa smirked a bit as his eyes went wide momentarily. “Yeah, I think I’ll be going now.”

***

Anderson waited patiently while Chen brought their newest operative to him, looking out the window at the city below. His city. Like with Davidson he went over the footage from the garage before hand. This one does seem to have more of a, if a somewhat unique, fighting background. He couldn’t help but to think what Mitchell would have thought of this one. Although going over Chen report, he a little surprised this one said the words “rider kick” as well. Hopefully not a sign of things to come, considering the last one to say that went rouge.

Perez stood by quietly as they waited. Not a very talkative man, but he didn’t put his nose were it didn’t belong. But he would be glad when Mitchell was activated, for a human he could be rather insightful at times. And seeing how he knew the truth Anderson could relax a little more than he could around Perez. “So Mr. Perez,” he said wanting to break the silence, turning around in his chair to face him, “what is your opinion of Mr. Kingstones’ performance.”

“I’ll just be happy if we don’t have a repeat of Davidson,” he replied. A common statement among those under him. “You sure you can trust this Chen character sir? My background check could barely find anything on the man.”

“I think you’ll find Mr. Chen a bit more trustworthy than Miss Haily.” One of the mistakes he made sure to rectify this time around. He was having one of his own watch over this one.

“I hope you’re right sir,” he didn’t look that convinced.

“As they say Mr. Perez, time will tell.” A light on the intercom on his desk started to blink, “Yes Terry?”

“Mr. Taylor, Chen and Kingstone are here sir.”

“Please send them in.” He got up and glanced over to Perez before walking around his desk to stand in front of it. The door opened and the three entered. “Getting a head start on the meeting Mr. Taylor?”, Anderson said with a bit of humor.

“No sir,” he replied, “I meet them on the way up here.” Kingstone, who came in smiling, and Chen took the couch as Taylor stood by him. “Although I must say Mr. Kingstone enthusiasm is a tad catchy.”

“I told you to call me Richie,” he said. “I’m having a hard enough time getting Andy here to call me that.” Chen looked annoyed, but he also looked like he was tolerating it.

“So…,” Anderson paused, “Richard, I assume Mr. Chen has gotten you up to date on the situation.”

“Yeah, he did,” he said losing the smile. “It blew my mind when I found out there’s an another species on the planet.” He looked at his hands, a grin returning, “Of course it wouldn’t be the first time this info blew me away.” Perfect, another joker to listen too. Kingstone apparently felt they’re discomfort, “Sorry, just happy to be alive.” And under his breath where he thought nobody could here it, “And a Rider to boot.”

“Well I am certain all of us can understand that feeling.” Anderson made a mental note to check into this “rider” business. Back to the matter at hand, “Did Mr. Chen explain the main purpose of the Fusion system?”

Kingstone nodded, “I need some time to wrap my head around that one. I mean I’m grateful you guys brought me back to life and all, but I’m not sure I can do something like this.”

“You had no problem in the garage,” Perez told him. Kingstone hanged his head slightly.

“More than likely he got caught up in the rush of the moment, if you will,” Taylor spoke up.

“Perhaps,” Anderson agreed.

“I just don’t understand why you’re at war with these,” he looked at Chen, “what did you call them? Oh yeah, Drakans.”

“We are not at war with the Drakans Mr. Kingstone,” he told him, “my apologies, Richard.” He went up to him, “Well not all of them. There is a rather violent minority that we took it upon ourselves to, and I hate to use this word, handle.”

“And who asked you to handle them?”, he demanded.

“The Drakan asked for our assistance,” Anderson said. He learned form his mistakes with Davidson. After all half a truth was better than no truth at all. “We are some of the few humans who are actually aware of the Drakan existence. My company has some very good relations their community. If fact we have Drakan working for us. I usually don’t know who for the most part, I don’t want that information to color my judgment.”

“And do you get anything out of this?”, Kingstone asked.

“Just doing out part to help keep the peace in the Drakan community. Their only condition was that we handle things they’re way. The Drakan have a some what barbaric way of doing things. Their traditions demand that these rebels be terminated on the spot.” He cleared his throat, “I find the practice distasteful myself. But when we’re dealing with a species that on average is three to four times stronger than humans, well I find it’s not wise to argue.”

“I suppose, but this still doesn’t feel right.”

Anderson knew he word this very carefully. “These rebels have proven to be a rather deceitful lot. They have gone so far as to attack me on one occasion.”

“And you guys didn’t have one of me around to handle things?”, he said, mainly as a joke.

“Actually we did,” Anderson walked back to his desk and hit a switch. The painting behind the couch slid away revealing a screen. Kingstone got up whistling. Hitting another control an image of Davidson’s security photo appeared. “This was our last operative….”

“Jack?”, Kingstone said in disbelief. Anderson had a feeling they knew each other. Why else would they have been found in such close proximity to each other? Still he acted surprised.

“Did you know Mr. Davidson?”

“He’s my best friend. I don’t understand,” he looked at Chen, “is this why you wanted to wait and tell me what happened to him?”

“I realize this is quite a shock Mr. Kingstone.” He thought quickly, he needed to be careful here, one wrong word or phrase and he could set this one on a similar path as Davidson. “Mr. Davidson was a fine fighter, if not a bit strong willed.”

“Actually I think that’s one of the nicest way I ever heard anyone describe Jack,” Kingstone smirked. “So what happened, is he…?”

“No, Mr. Kingstone, which makes this all the harder.” He looked out the window and put his hands behind his back. “I’m afraid he had gone rouge some time ago.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”, he demanded.

“Mr. Davidson joined the rebels. He even went so far as to attack me and my men.”

Kingstone shook his head, “No, the Jack I knew would never do anything like that.”

“I’m afraid so Richard, it’s been a long time since you had seen him as you know. A lot can happen to a person in that time to change them. Especially if they are helped along the way.” He nodded to Taylor who changed the image to Haily’s security photo. “We assigned her to be his mission operator, unknowingly we set him up with a rebel sympathizer. During their time together she warped his perceptions of thing. She even got him believing that I was a Drakan.”

“No, Jack’s not that gullible. He would have seen through it.”

“If he was in his right mind, perhaps.” Kingstone turned his head sharply toward him. He was dangerously close to being pushed in the wrong direction. Anderson took a moment to continue. “Part of the blame lie on our shoulders for that. We sent him on so many mission he was becoming rather frazzled. Haily used that state to poison his mind. I personally blame myself for this happening. Perhaps if we paid closer attention to the situation this wouldn’t have happen.”

“I… I need to think,” Kingstone ran his hand over his hair.

“Of course, Mr. Chen could you please escort Richard back to his room. We’ll talk about this later when he has thought things over. And I’ll have my man bring you a fresh set of clothes, something a little more comfortable than what you have now.” Chen nodded and escorted a still stunned Kingstone out of the room. Anderson returned his attention to the city below, “This could be a problem.”

“If he’s as close as he says they were we might want to think of eliminating him now,” Perez offered.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be so hasty,” Taylor piped up. “There has to be away to salvage this before it goes the way we’re afraid it will.”

“The best way for that to happen is to make sure he believes what we told him.” Anderson turned around, “Do we have any footage of Davidson fighting our men?”

Perez thought it over, “I think we might have the security video from the warehouse incident a while back.”

“Is that all we have?” Taylor confirmed that it was, this was going to be more difficult than he thought. “Let Kingstone see that footage, make sure it looks like he was the aggressor. And if possible try to arrange a live demonstration.”

“I’ll look for some available targets,” Taylor said.

“I’ll make sure the men know what to do,” Perez added. Anderson nodded and dismissed them. This was going to be tricky, and knowing Davidson temperament, they should be able to pull it off. They just have to reinforce the idea that he changed over the months until then.

***

Rachel smiled at children as they started getting it. Melissa asked her to help with their makeshift school. Although she wasn’t sure she said yes when Melissa told what the teacher need some help on. Her time was soon up and she waved at the kids as she left the room. She didn’t go far before she found Jack leaning against a wall with his arms crossed. “Why do I not like that look you’re giving me?”

“I’m just wondering,” he said, “what their parents are going to think when they find out you’re teaching them to curse like a French sailor.”

“I know more French than that,” she informed him as she walked past him. He got off the wall and hurried up to walk beside her.

“Really?,” he looked confused. “I never heard you say anything else.”

“You weren’t worth anything else.” He clutched his chest and acted hurt by the statement. “I’m not exactly fluent, but I know enough to help them get started on the basics. Besides, it feels good to help the kids out, teach them something. You should give it a try.”

“And what am I going to teach them?”, he asked. “How to pick a lock in under ten seconds.”

“Some of the older kids are part of a shop class,” she offered. “You could show them how to work on an engine.”

“Oh yeah, a bunch of teenagers just standing around the Drakan killer with a bunch of heavy objects around. Yeah, I can see how nothing bad can come out of that one,” he said sarcastically.

She looked around as she added, “Well it’s either you or Sparky for the job.”

Just like she thought that did the trick. Jack told her, “I’m in. God only knows what Sparky would teach them. So how much time to I get to warp their minds?”, he gave her that stupid half grin of his.

“Actually the class is Dusty’s,” she informed him. “It’s on when he get’s a chance to get away from the auto yard for a bit. He figured with a bunch of teenagers he going to need an extra set of eyes to watch them all. And who better than somebody still in that mindset.”

Jack stopped in his tracks and stared at her, “You already volunteered me, didn’t you?”

“Me no, Dusty yes,” she corrected him. “Actually he was pushing for you for a while now. I told him I’d talk you into it.”

“Sparky’s name never even came up did it?”

“I’m pretty sure Dusty thought the same way you did.” She turned to walk away. She went a few steps before he spoke again.

“That’s something I would do you know.”

Now it was her turn to stop in her tracks and faced him, “That hitting a little low.” She tried her best to sound annoyed with him, of course it was never that hard to do to begin with.

“Then you shouldn’t have tricked me like that,” he said with a smirk. He looked around for a bit before saying, “So, do you want to grab some lunch?”

“I can’t,” she said. “I told Melissa I meet her in the garden center after I was done with the class.”

“Oh,” he said. He had a weird look on his face for a brief moment before returning to normal, “Probably a good thing, I just remembered Arron said he needed some help moving some boxes in storage. I should probably go give him a hand.” He pointed a finger at her and looked serious, “Now I don’t want Frank tracking me down saying you caused a scene, so you behave yourself.”

“Anybody causing a scene down there was poor Sparky after you tricked him down there.”

“Hey,” he quickly interjected, “that wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know Frank was actually gonna cut off one of his dreads.”

‘That’s not the way Sparky tells it,” she teased.

“Sparky says a lot of things,” he said quickly, “doesn’t mean all of it’s true.”

She laughed at him. “How about I catch you for dinner later on?”

Jack nodded a bit, “Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you then.” She waved and headed off for the center. As she turned a corner she glanced back and saw him still standing there. He sighed before going in another direction. Rachel kicked herself a bit, she should have went to lunch.

***

Richie sat there as the video ended and took off the glasses they gave him. There was no doubt about it that was definitely Jack in the video. And he had similar armor too. But it still didn’t explain why Jack apparently went loco. He knew Jack didn’t have the best influence growing up with his uncle but he was always a good guy. Chen came in and handed him a cup of coffee. He looked sympathetic as he said, “I know that was hard to watch.”

“You have no idea,” he said as he cupped his face in his hands. Putting the glasses back on he asked, “Did you know Jack while he was here?”

“No,” he answered, “I only transferred to this branch just recently. I asked around though, those who knew said he was quite the character. They were just as stunned as you were that this happened.”

“Something else must have happened,” Richie said. “I know Jack, no mater how much they said he changed he wouldn’t do anything like this.”

“Maybe you can try to talk some sense into him,” Chen offered. “Chances are good you’re going to run into him more than once. You could get through to him. Hopefully sooner than later.”

Richie snorted, “Not without a couple of two by fours handy. Jack pretty stubborn once he get’s an idea in his head. Sometimes even his mom couldn’t knock any sense into him, and that’s one lady you didn’t want to mess with. Trust me, I know,” he rubbed the top of his head from the memory, several of them.

“Well you do know him better than anybody,” Chen patted him on the shoulder as he stood up, “if anybody can get through to him it’ll be you.” His cell phone started going off, “excuse for a couple of moments, will you?”

“Sure thing Andy,” He returned his attention to the screen before him. He rewound the footage until he got to an image of Jack and paused it. There was something different about him, something about his eyes. They seemed harder than they were before, but it was hard to tell with the video footage.

“Alright we’re on it,” Chen said after a moment. He sat back in the chair as he folded up his phone. “That was the Command Center, we have an assignment.”

“You don’t give a guy much of a chance to get used to things around here.”

“Occupational hazard I’m afraid,” he told him. “They tried to keep this one simple for you though. We tracked down somebody high up in the rebel hierarchy. A teams been dispatched to apprehend him. You been asked to watch their back and lend a hand if they need it.”

“Wait a minute,” Richie stood up looking confused. “Didn’t Anderson say the Drakan wanted the rebels killed on sight? Why are we capturing this one?”

“Usually that’s true,” he admitted. “But when we locate one as high up as this one we try to capture him alive.”

“Then grill them for information,” he finished. Chen nodded for an answer. “Somebody as big as he sound has to know something. How hard is to get information out of one of these Drakans any way?”, he asked curiosity getting the better of him.

“I haven’t witness an interrogation personally,” Chen answered. “But I hear it can get rather… intense. If you feel you’re not up to it just yet I can make up an excuse for you.”

Richie seriously thought about taking him up on it. “No, I can do it. Besides Jack might show up, and I want to get that over with as soon as possible.” Chen nodded in understanding and led the way out. But he was really hoping Jack didn’t show up.

***

While she didn’t want admit it Rachel was looking foreword to dinner that night. Yeah they ate together before, hell they did it that morning. But for some reason this time felt different. Melissa, of course, felt it from her. Seeing how she knew how she felt about Jack, Rachel was glad she kept what ever she was thinking to herself.

Jack was already waiting at the table when she got her food. The one that was unofficially designated as theirs seeing how nobody else would touch after they got there. She sat down across from him like usual. Jack made attempted a joke about her taking her time but she ignored it. They sat there a talked about their day for a bit when Sparky and Arron decided to join them. From the look on Jack’s face told her he wasn’t expecting the two of them either. “What in the hell are you two doing?”, he asked them.

“Somebody has to chaperone you two, “Arron told them.

“Yeah,” the blue haired one added, “nobody wants to see the two of you get all freaky on the table.”

“Do you want me to stab them with my fork or do you want to do the honor?”, Jack asked her.

“I eating, do what you want.” Like she expected he reached for her fork. She pulled it away in time and told him, “That wasn’t an option.”

He pointed at Sparky, “I’ve know where he’s been, there’s no way I poking him with mine.”

“I think I was just insulted,” Sparky said sounding a little annoyed.

“It wasn’t hidden or anything there Sparky,” Jack told him.

“Hey is that Frank with his knife over there?”, Arron said looking in a direction.

“What?!”, Sparky shot and looked around widely almost knocking over the table. “Where?!”

“Hey!,” Rachel grabbed her plate. “Arron that was not cool.”

“I’ll give you props for the attempt Fido,” Jack said. “But you gotta work on that follow through.”

“It’s official,” she said as she put her plate down, “you two have officially corrupted this kid.”

“He was hanging around Sparky longer than he’s been around me,” Jack tried to defend himself.

“Which say a lot about you doesn’t it,” she said.

“Do I have to separate the four of you,” Melissa said as she walked up to the table with Emily right behind her. “You’re starting to make a scene.”

“We were minding our own business when these two bozos showed up,” Jack said.

“As much as I hate to agree with him,” Rachel added, “Jack’s right.” He stuck his tongue out at her. She looked at Melissa and recognized that look in her eyes. “I’m guessing this isn’t just a behave yourself type of thing.”


“And you’d be right,” she and Emily joined them at the table. “Friedman and our other mole haven’t been able to hear much lately and that’s had all of us worried. Friedman heard something about this supposed second mark one but he hasn’t been able to find anything concrete about that yet.”

“It would be nice to know how far they’re on that one,” Rachel said and Jack nodded in agreement.

“But he was able to find out about something. A couple of the guys in Anderson troops were talking about an ambush of a leader of one of the cells.”

“Which one?”, Arron asked.

“Drake,” she informed him. “Not exactly my favorite person in the world. But he’s one of us, and nobody wants him taken alive or killed. We’re going to shadow his route to watch his back. None of the other knows you’re with us Jack, but if World Inc. get’s involved he’s going to need the extra muscle.”

Sparky laughed, “Can’t wait to see his face when the Drakan Killer saves his ass.”

“You won’t be going this time around,” Melissa told him. “I need you’re help in obtaining an generator. Another cell has a spare but they’re not going to let it go for free.”

“Looks like it just the three of us,” Rachel said as they started to get up.

“I think,” Emily spoke for the first time, “that Rachel should stay here for this one.”

“Why?”, Rachel asked.

“I have my reason child,” was all she said.

Jack didn’t look at her as he said, “Maybe you should do as she said this time around.”

She felt betrayed, “Jack I’m your mission operator remember.”

“I know, I know,” he said looking her in the eyes, or at least he tried to. “Look I don’t believe in that future seeing mumbo jumbo either, ah… no offence.” Emily said nothing but Jack got out of range of her cane just in case. “But if she said you should stay maybe we shouldn’t argue.’

She knew where this was coming from. He didn’t want her to get hurt behind his back again and was probably looking for any excuse to cling on too. “I’m sorry but I’m going along.”

“Jack, Arron and the other will meet you in the garage,” Melissa said. She waited a bit before adding, “Rachel I’m going to need you to stay here and help me with the generator too.” She protested but Jack and Arron were already up and heading out the closest door. “Sorry but I had to go with Emily.”

“I don’t now what she saw, but if I know whatever it is coming then shouldn’t I be able to watch for it,” she argued.

“I never said you were in danger child,” Emily told her.

“Then why shouldn’t I go with them?”

“Something big is about to happen,” she answered. “I’m not sure what it is or when it exactly going to happen but it will be soon. Jack will need us later but right now he has to confront this one on his own first before he gets his head straight.” She got up and left leaving the two of them confused.

***

This Drake guy was easy enough to spot, he was the only one with his hair slicked back. Based on the few stories Arron told him abut this guy Jack thought he be forced to hurt him if they met in real life. But a job was a job, and this one he had no problem with. If he had any luck nobody show up then he could head back. But it seemed like his luck was on the thin side ever since the avalanche. Case in point Drake decided to stop and stretch his legs a bit, in a perfect ambush spot too. Jack stopped his bike and the guys in the van behind him pulled up beside as the looked around. “How did this idiot last this long?”

“He’s got good people,” Arron said. “Anytime we need a fast strike type of operation he’s the one they go to.”

“I’m surprised they didn’t send him after me.”

“I’m sure they wanted too,” Arron told him. “But nobody knew when you were going to pop up. And after that ambush at the safe house they planned for you failed I heard they had to really rethink things.”

“I think I got something,” one of the guys in the Van said. Jack paid really close attention to the area around Drake. He wasn’t seeing or hearing anything. Then again he didn’t know what that guy turned into so he could have hearing like a dog for all he knew.

“I think I see something to the west,” Arron said stepping out of the van. At the same time Jack saw Drake look in the same direction. That was good enough for him. He raced toward Drake as Anderson’s shock troops came out of nowhere, outnumbering Drake by three to one.

Jack did his pose on his bike and shouted out, “Henshin!”, before activating the system. Drake reverted to a red zebra with darker red stripes as those around him dropped their human disguise. Jack rode in fast, a shock troop turned around and saw him. Before the guy could react Jack stuck out his arm and hit him with clothesline as he rode past. Skidding the bike to a stop he jumped off and turned around quickly. For some reason nobody was coming at him. That was a first usually there be a couple of these freaks trying to take a shot at him.

He saw Drake get jump on by four of the shock troops. He ran over, grabbed the closest two by the back of their uniforms and tossed them away. The other two tried activated the electric prods on their batons and came at him. Jack ducked the first swing and blocked the second one. Kicking the first guy he then grabbed the second one by the collar, picked him up and slammed him down to the ground. He turned around and saw Drake sitting there staring at him with fear in his eyes. The guy wasn’t even trying to move. He didn’t have time for this, “Stop pissing yourself and start running away.”

Arron and the others caught up in their Drakan forms and took on the rest of the shock troops. Then Drake decided to run away to the trees. Jack watched the ones that was left, which one of these guys was the Drakan in disguise. And why was it none of them were still not coming at him? Well if they weren’t going to come to him he might as well go to them. Jack charged them, most tried to defend themselves but they couldn’t do much against him.

Drake came flying back into field surprising everybody. They looked in the direction he was came from. Out of the trees came somebody else wearing armor just like his, except the eyes and the plate on the belt were green instead of red. The second mark one, no doubt about it. “There’s another Drakan Killer?”, somebody said.

“They were right about you,” was all he said. Now things were clicking together. That’s why nobody was coming at him, Anderson set him up, again. And he walked into it just like a sucker. The second mark one charged him.

“Whoa, wait a sec,” Jack tried to stop him but the other one bowled him over. The second one started punching him in the head. Jack caught the fist and forced him off. “This isn’t what it looks like.”

“You’re attacking these men and protecting a rebel. How is that suppose to look?” He jumped and flipped over him. He kicked out both feet and hit Jack in the back. He fell foreword to the ground and quickly got up. There was something about this guy that was bugging him, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He’d worry about it later.

“That’s it, I’m going to kick the crap out of you before I try to talk some sense into you,” he told him.

“Just what I was thinking,” he said as they circled each other. Jack looked and saw that Arron and the other were handling the troops at the moment. Without warning the second one flipped foreword and started throwing kicks at him then surprised him with a right cross. Jack turned around and hit a kick to his gut. The second one took a step back then back flipped out of the way as Jack tried to follow up with an uppercut. Then he floored him with a spinning jump kick. He stood over Jack and said. “Do yourself a favor and give up.”

“Then you don’t know me all that well,” Jack said as he kicked his legs out from under him.

The second mark hit the ground, rolled to his feet and hit Jack in the head with a knee. “I know you better than you think.”

“Yeah right.” Jack caught him as he tried to jump again and slammed him to the ground. Hauling him to his feet Jack started striking away at his gut with his fist. The second mark one blocked and spun around to clock him with a forearm. He flipped foreword again and dropkicked him in the chest. Jack rolled backwards as he hit the ground and rammed his shoulder into him as he got up. “Now why don’t you give up?”

“Not until I stop you.” The second mark one tackled him into a tree. Jack felt the wind leave him momentarily from the impact and saw stars. The second one kneed him in the gut repeatedly before grabbing him by the shoulders and throwing him over head. His head cleared when the other one jumped up and was aiming his right foot at his head. He rolled out of the way, grabbed his ankles and tripped him. Jack got to his feet but was met with a foot to the face any way. The second one got up saying, “I have to stop you here, I’m Kamen Rider Fusion.”

“Oh God, don’t tell me Tim talked you into using that,” Jack said.

“Nobody talked me into using anything,” he answered. He charged, Jack ducked and grabbed him by the waist and legs. He spun around and planted him into the ground. Seeing the other guys was stunned he quickly got into position and raised his fist aiming for his head. Then the second one said, “And I told you that you didn’t know quality programming when you saw it.”

“What are you talking about?” Then a memory hit him and Jack felt a cold spot quickly growing in his stomach. The last time he heard that was when… he was back in the mountains before the accident. He wasn’t in the best of moods and his best friend told him that. His heart started pounding and his fist started shaking as in a small voice he croaked out, “Ri…Richie?”

“Hi Jack,” he said as he punched him in the face. Jack was too stunned to defend himself and just fell off of him. Richie didn’t let up as he attacked him without mercy. He finally tried to get his arms up to defend himself but he couldn’t get past it. This was his best friend, somebody he was told was dead. Richie jumped up and hit with a spin kick that knocked him on his butt. He barely registered it. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have a job to do.” He walked off and headed for Drake as he slowly sat on his knees.

A group tried to surround Arron, but the green wolf fought them off and saw what was happening. “Jack get a move on!”

Jack looked up and saw Richie reach for the right pod on the belt and twist it down. He had a job to do too, that fact alone snapped him back to his senses. Both of them started running. Richie jumped up and somersaulted forward as he pushed his limit and leap toward Drake trying to knock him away. Richie extended his right foot and yelled out “Rider kick!”. His foot hit Drake a split second before Jack reached him. Drake flew back and exploded as Jack crashed on the ground. Richie turned toward him, ”Now for you.”

“No you don’t!”, Arron said as he rammed into him. Instead of fighting he grabbed Jack as they and the other headed back for the van. Arron helped them load him into the back and jumped on the bike as they got out of there. Jack deactivated the armor and looked out the window and saw him standing there. He slumped back down and held his head, his best friend was alive and he should be jumping for joy at the idea, but he couldn’t even think straight.
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Old June 14th, 2019, 04:49 PM #2
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“Alright,” Melissa said over the line, “tell me again what happened?”. The people she sent out to protect Drake were a few minutes away from coming back. She was fine up until they reported they lost Drake to somebody who looked like Jack. She listened as they went over what happened again, nothing changed from the first time around. So it was true, Anderson did have a second Fusion stashed away.

Rachel, Lance and Sparky stood by as she put the head set down. All of them were thankfully keeping quiet as she tried to take that in. Eventually Rachel was the one who spoke first, “It went bad didn’t it?”

“That’s one way of putting it,” she said.

“Where they too late or something?”, Lance asked.

“No they found them before Anderson’s men did anything. Everything was going their way up until the second Fusion operative showed up.” They looked shocked at the news. They all knew Anderson had one somewhere, nobody was expecting it this soon.

“Is Jack alright?”, Rachel asked. Sparky was looking worried as well. How was she going to explain this part, she didn’t even understand it herself.

“Yes and no,” was all she could say. “From I could understand Jack took on this other Fusion then, for some reason, he just stopped. This other guy knocked him around for a bit then went after Drake. Jack was able to get his head back into the game but it was too late to save him.”

“What happen to Jack then?”, Sparky asked.

“Did this other guy do anything to him?”, Lance wondered out loud. “Maybe World Inc. created something that would affect his systems momentarily.”

“Friedman would have heard something about that,” Melissa said. She could feel Rachel uneasiness over the whole thing.

“Should we get Dusty here or something?”, she finally said. “”If Jack knows what happened to him maybe Dusty could come up with a way to block it.”

“Whatever happened Jack isn’t talking about it,” She informed her. “He seemed perfectly fine physically. But the way they described it he’s been sitting in the back of the van fuming for the past ten minutes.”

“I’ll get him to talk about it,” she said. “I mean he’s got to tell somebody.”

“If anybody can get that guy to open up it’s her,” Sparky said patting her on the shoulder.

Melissa nodded and they waited for them to get back. Rachel thought it was best if she gave him some more time before asking about it so she stayed there in the war room with the rest of them. It wasn’t a long wait before they got word they arrived. A few minutes later was when she felt it, anger and lots of it. The feeling was strong and it was getting closer. Melissa stared at the door and after a moment Jack came busting in. Her and a couple of others gasp at the rage in his face. He quickly looked around the room until he looked in their direction. Rachel’s direction to be exact, “You lying little…”, she heard him mutter.

“Jack what happened?”, Rachel asked. He stormed over to her pushing past a couple of people. Rachel found herself backing up and hit the wall behind her. Sparky and Lance actually had to hold him back.

“Jack what’s going on?”, Melissa demanded. He ignored her.

“You told me he was dead!”, he shouted at Rachel who was as confused as the rest of them. “You looked me right in the eyes and told me he was dead!”

“Who are you talking about?” Then Rachel emotions changed slightly. She whispered, “No way, it can’t be.”

“This have anything to do with that other Fusion operative?”, Melissa asked trying to get some control back. Again Jack ignored her.

“It was Richie!”, he yelled. Rachel looked stunned as she slid to the floor. “Why did you tell me he was dead?!”, he started to struggle harder to get away from Lance and Sparky.

“Jack,” Melissa said with authority, “I think you better go somewhere and cool off.” He ignored her again. “Now Davidson,” she ordered. Jack finally looked at her seething. He shrugged away from them and walked out of the room, hitting a filing cabinet along the way. Melissa leaned against table and tried to close the window in her head that left her open to the emotions of others. All of that just gave her a monster headache. Sparky and Lance just looked confused while Rachel sat there in her still stunned state.

“That was a level of pissed,” Sparky said after a bit, “I thought was only reserved for Jason.”

“No kidding,” Lance agreed. “Of course the big question is who’s Richie?”

Rachel finally found her voice as she answered him, “His best friend.”

***


Jack passed several people who quickly got out of his way when they saw him. He was not on the mood for them right now. Not caring where he was going he found himself in a storage hut. Then he finally let it go. Grabbing a small crate he yelled as he hurled it across the room, not really caring what was in it. Then he looked for something else, Richie was alive and nobody told him. Everybody kept him believing he was dead this entire time. The entire freakin’ time! They kept him in one of those blasted tubes and turned him into another freak.

He didn’t know how long he was tearing up the room, a minute, and hour and he pretty much didn’t care. He stood there in the middle of the mess and he still wanted to hit something. “Jack,” he heard Rachel say. He looked back as she wisely stood by the door. He did not want to be around her right now. He turned away from her. “I didn’t know they had Richie in the system.”

“Go away,” he said slowly.

“Jack you have believe me, I thought he was dead too. His file had a death certificate in it when I looked at it.” He heard her walk up to him, but stay a few feet away from him. “I would have told you if I knew he was alive.”

“You would have told me?”, he snapped at her as he turned around. His anger got the better of him. “You would have told me? It seems there are a lot of things you would have told me since I’ve meet you. Like you would have told me you had them looking for my mom. Like you would have told me there’s a bug in my head that’ll let the track me wherever I go. Like you would have told me you’re a lying little bitch!”

He saw her stiffen slightly and then he saw the hurt radiating in her eyes. That same moment he regretted saying that. “Rachel I’m…”, he started to reach for her but she backed away.

“What… whatever Jack,” she stammered as she hurried out of the room. “Just… just leave me alone.”

“Rachel wait,” he went after her. He followed her into the hallway. “Rachel I’m sorry.” She didn’t turn around but various French words caught his ear. He stopped and closed his eyes. Letting the frustration over take him he punched the wall beside him, “Damn it!”

***

Richie sat in his room in the medical wing, head hanging low. He didn’t bother to turn on the lights when he came in, the only illumination coming from the hallway as he didn’t close the door. Right now it seemed like the darkness was his only friend at that moment. That confrontation with Jack had to have been the hardest thing he had ever done. It still didn’t seem real, but he wasn’t fighting a ghost or a figment of his imagination. No, the blows they traded were real. He heard a knock and looked up, Anderson stood there waiting to be let in. Richie lowered his head again and said, “You were right. He attacked your guys just like you said he would.”

“Believe me Richard, I take no pleasure in that,” he said as he entered. Taking a chair from the corner he placed it next to him and sat down. “Every time I hear one of our assault teams encountered Davidson I hope that perhaps he might have come to his senses.”

Richie played the whole thing over in his head, “He seemed surprised that I was still around.”

“There is a reason for that I’m afraid.” Anderson took a moment to look him in the eyes before continuing, “You weren’t exactly a planned project. We only learned of your existence fairly recently. A former VP of mine, a man named Allen, stashed you away.”

“Was he one of the rebels too?”

“While he was a Drakan, he wasn’t one of the rebels. No, he was a person who for the longest time played both sides against each other for his own personal gain. I found out about his nature until after he gave us some faulty information.” He looked unsure if he should continue or not, “He purposely had us send Mr. Davidson after what turned out to be a group of children.”

“Wait a damn moment,” Richie cut him off. “Now I know Jack couldn’t have killed a bunch of kids.”

“And he didn’t,’ Anderson assured him. “Although for the longest time he let us think he did. I do believe this is about the time his slide started because he thought we would have sent a team after the children if we knew they were still alive.”

“Is that an idea she put in his head?”

“Perhaps, I can’t be for certain,” he admitted.

“You’re guys,” Richie said as he thought about it some more,” they had some kind of weapon…”

“Yes, after Davidson went rouge we had to come up with some kind of defensive weapon to help them protect themselves.” Anderson started rubbing his hands together lightly, “So far it has proven somewhat ineffective, but I have my people working on improving it.” As if he was reading his mind Anderson added, “Not to hurt Mr. Davidson of course, just subdue him long enough to bring him in.”

“And then what?” Richie wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer.

“Well… for everyone protection he would have to be incarcerated.” Richie head went a little lower. “Here of course,” he added, “I doubt a normal cell could hold him if he activated the system.”

“I have to know, has he attacked anybody else? Anybody not part of… whatever the hell this is.”

“Not that I’m currently aware of.” Richie sighed in relief, Jack didn’t totally go off the deep end yet. “I’ll let you get some sleep now,” Anderson said getting up. “We’ll try to limit our need of you in the field for now so you can get accustomed to things. But it might be wise to stay on alert just in case.”

“Yeah, sure thanks,” he replied as Anderson left. Richie was alone in the darkness again. Again he went over the confrontation again in his mind. What the hell happened to his friend?

***

There was a knock on her door, Rachel didn’t even get up from the bed to see who it was. There was a good chance it might be Jack and she was in no mood to talk to him right now. All this time and he still thought she was hiding things from him. How big of an idiot can he be? The person knocked again but added, “I assure you child, I am not Jack.” Realizing it was Emily she got up and unlocked the door. “Thank you child,” she said as Rachel sat back down. Although she gave a kick to Jack’s cot as she passed it.

“I guess you heard already?”, she said hoping this was going to be quick.

“A couple of the other overheard what a happened. As always word spread rather quickly down here. I know Melissa wanted to be down here to talk to you but she’s currently reading Jack the riot act.”

“It would serve him right if she tore him a new one,” she said bitterly. Emily sat next to her and gently patted her knee.

“I realizing you’re hurting child, but I know Jack didn’t mean to hurt you.” Rachel barked out a short, bitter ha. “As hard as it is to believe right now, Jack didn’t want to hurt you. His anger was directed at Anderson and World Inc. Unfortunately you were the closest thing that represents World Inc. that we have around here. I am quite certain if Dr. Friedman was here his outrage would have been directed at him.”

“So what?”, she asked. “Am I supposed to just forgive him then?”

“Now I never said that. Make him beg for it a bit before deciding if you’re going to or not.” Rachel laughed a bit despite her mood. “I may not have Melissa gift but I do know Jack is genuinely sorry about what he said.”

Rachel didn’t say anything for few minutes. Finally she said, “You knew what was going to happen didn’t you? That’s why you didn’t want me to go along this time.”

“I didn’t know who or what it was going to be child,” she corrected her, “the things I see are rarely that exact. All I knew was something big was about to happen that was going to affect Jack. It was up to him to decide how he was going to react to it.” Now what the hell was that suppose to mean? If she didn’t know what was going to happen why couldn’t she go then? “Let me put it this way child, what if he decided to get angry about the situation and nobody else was around to stop to hold him back?”

“No,” she said suddenly, “Jack would never…”

“No he wouldn’t, the Jack we both know would do anything unless he thought he was provoked. But a Jack who just had his world turned upside down, even I didn’t know how he would have reacted.”

“So now what, Do I give Jack some space to do this on his own?”

“For now perhaps, but he is going to need help to get through this. He’s going to need our support when he decides on how to handle this. More importantly he’s going to need your support child.”

“Let me guess, I’m the one that has to help him keep his head on straight,” Rachel said. Emily nodded in response. “Business as usual then.”

Emily chuckled, “Perhaps, but everybody knows he will turn toward you before he goes to anybody else.” Emily started to get up, Rachel stood to help her. “Thank you child. Right now, you need to give each other a little space, both of you will need to think straight.” She walked Emily to the door. “Think about what I’ve said child. This situation is going to be hard on everyone, not just Jack. Word of a second Drakan Killer will get out. More than likely it’s already started to spread.”

“And level heads need to prevail and all of that,” Rachel said. Emily nodded again. “I’ll try but Jack can be so impossible at times.”

“You would know that better than I would child.” Emily left her alone again. Rachel did think about what she said, but she wasn’t sure if she was willing to forgive Jack just yet.

***

Jack waited in the war room for the meeting to start. Everybody who entered gave him a weird look. Either a look of contempt or one of sympathy. Nobody was trying to talk to him either. Usually that would get on his nerves or he’d force himself to ignore it. But this time he was still so numb he didn’t care. But he kept looking when somebody entered hoping it was going to be Rachel. His heart sank every time it wasn’t. He really screwed up this time.

When she finally entered she looked around saw him and walked to another part of the room. Yeah he really screwed up big time alright. He got up and made his way over. She saw him but didn’t say anything. Jack sat next to her, she turned away slightly. But she wasn’t getting up and leaving either. After a few moments of nothing he asked, ”You all right?”

“Would you be all right?”, she shot back.

“Look I’m sorry I called you a …”

She cut him off, “Don’t repeat it. It’s bad enough you said it the first time.”

“Right,” he sighed. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy. Where was one of those “ghost” when you needed one. “I don’t know why I said it,” he told her. “I just wasn’t thinking.”

“No you weren’t,” she told him.

“I talked to Sparky, he said he could stand having a roommate for a couple of days. I can be by to pick up my cot later.”

“You don’t have to leave the room,” she said. He looked at her feeling confused. Finally she looked at him. Jack could still see the hurt in her eyes. “Just stop looking my way and accusing me every time Anderson throws us a curveball. I told you everything I knew.”

“I know you did. It was just… Richie… I…”, he trialed off. Jack put his hands on top of his head as he looked at the ground. He felt her hand on his shoulder and felt a bit better, but it was still going to be an up hill battle. “I’m the biggest idiot on the planet.”

“Yes you are,” she agreed. There was a small hint of a smile and he knew they were going to be ok. He was never going to live that down but they were going to be ok.

Melissa came in and everybody got quiet. She cast a look in their direction and looked satisfied as she headed for the front of the room. Maybe he didn’t have her gift but he could see how tired this was making her. “Thank you all for coming,” she began. “I just got done with several heated conversation with the other cell leaders. They found out about the second mark one, just like we thought they would. Needless to say they’ve been panicking about the idea of another Drakan Killer out there.”

“Where did Anderson stash this one?”, somebody asked. “We didn’t find anything in that warehouse.”

“Friedman did some snooping on his own,” Melissa answered. “According to him, they found this one a few months ago, after Jack and Rachel left the company.” She glanced over in his direction as she said that. He lowered his head, like he didn’t have enough reason to beat himself over the head. “He didn’t find out much but apparently Allen had this one started.”

“Allen?”, Rachel said in disbelief.

“Guess he was a little ticked Dad lost the company,” Jack commented not feeling the humor.

“That’s what we’re speculating,” Melissa said. “Of course the question the other cell leaders are asking is what are we going to do about him?”

Jack felt himself stiffen a little, afraid of what the answer was going to be. “Well Jack knows the guy,” Sparky said. “I’d bet Jack could talk him into joining our side.

“Just what we need,” Jason said at the far end of the room, “another one of him walking around down here.”

Rachel looked at him as he stared a hole through the blond hair man. Any other time and he be more than willing to make him shut the hell up. The old man standing next to Jason, Nathan, spoke up, “Despite how you or the others feel about him, Jack has been useful. A second one couldn’t hurt.”

“Fall right into Anderson hands why don’t you,” Jason said as he left the room. Melissa looked a little dismayed a couple of the others in the room nodded in agreement.

“I doubt Anderson can think this far ahead,” Melissa said. “If Friedman is right he didn’t even know this one was around. I talked to Lance about the possibility of trying to get this one to join us too. He was a bit cautious about the ideas but he thought it was a good idea too. He even volunteered to house this one if he needed to.

“But we can’t pin our hopes on that,” she continued. “We have to consider the possibility he wouldn’t listen. In that case he becomes a threat to us.” Jack felt several eyes look right at him, and he felt really uncomfortable. “If that’s the case we’re going to have to eliminate him.”

Jack closed his eyes and tried to pretend he didn’t hear that. That queasy feeling his gut that been there since he found out Richie was alive started getting worse. He almost gave in to the impulse to hurl right there and then.

“Jack,” he heard Melissa say. He looked up at her, eyes begging her not to ask him. She looked sympathetic but she asked it anyway. “Do you think you can take him out?”

“I…,” he barely heard himself speak, “I… don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”, Nathan cried out. “You’re the only one here capable of taking him out.” Jack looked down at the floor again.

“Hey, go easy on him,” Sparky spoke up in his defense.

“There’s another Drakan Killer out there,” Nathan countered, “we don’t have time to take it easy. We have to know if he can do it or not.”

Jack had more than he could take and left he room as fast as he could. He didn’t get far as he leaned against the wall and tried to get himself under control. He felt somebody come up to him a few moments later. “I told them I come out here and talk to you,” Rachel said.

“Don’t,” he begged, “don’t ask me to do it. I can’t do it. I can’t kill Richie.”

“I not going to,” she assured him.

“Thank you,” he told her.

“They’re not going to like but this goes beyond them.” Rachel looked back at the door and said, “But I hate to say it but Richie might not want to switch sides. I don’t know what Anderson is telling him, but he can be very convincing.”

“I know,” he said hoarsely. As much as he hated to admit but they were right. Richie could end up believing what ever Anderson was feeding him. But Richie was smarter than that, he be able to see through whatever they were telling him. Richie saw through his Uncle’s con all the time, there was no way he could believe Anderson for long. He just had to find away to talk to him and help him see what was happening.

***

“Are you sure about this?”, Anderson asked Taylor as he went over the report. This went totally against Davidson previous pattern of behavior.

“I’ve had this doubled checked sir,” He replied. “Davidson tracking signal has been picked up by the stationary scanners through out the city for the past couple of days. Nobody is sure what to make of it. It’s almost like he’s trying to get caught for some reason.”

Anderson thought it over for a second, “Or he’s trying to draw somebody out.”

“Kingstone,” Taylor said in understanding.

“They are friends after all Mr. Taylor. It is only natural he would try to contact him in some way.”

“Are we going to send Kingstone with the team when the scanners get another hit?”

“I don’t think we will be sending a team out Mr. Taylor. Not just yet at any point. Kingstone doesn’t know about the trackers built into the system. I feel it would be better to keep him in the dark for now.”

“What about Davidson?”

“Keep tracking his appearances. If anything he could lead us to the rebel base if he’s careless enough.”

“According to read outs that might not be possible in this case. He appears to be entering the main part of the city from a different direction each time, and doing the same when he leaves. Picking out a pattern is going to be difficult to say the least.”

“Analyze it anyway, perhaps seeing where he’s not going will tell us something as well.” Taylor said he would get people on it and left. This was an interesting turn of events. While he was still skeptical of Kingstone, but if this was the reaction they were getting out of Davidson there were a few pluses in the situation. All they needed was one big mistake and Davidson would be in their custody once again, or eliminated. Which one didn’t really matter at this point.

***

Jack pulled into the underground garage and cut the engine. Pulling off his helmet in disgust he sat there for a while. Any other time Anderson would be sending out every man, woman and child to get him. Now he couldn’t even get a cop to look in his direction. Rachel and Melissa came up to him, with the latter not looking all that happy. “Are you trying to get yourself caught?”, Melissa demanded.

“You told her?”, Jack asked Rachel.

“She figured it out on her own when she couldn’t find you a few times,” Rachel told him.

“Seriously, are you nuts?”, Melissa started again. “Anderson has this city set up to locate you. Now you’re just trying to let him find you.”

Jack pulled back the hood of his jacket. “I’m making sure they don’t know where you’re at.”

“That’s not the point,” she said. “You get caught and we get put in danger. I’m not going to let you risk everything we got here, not while you’re living here.”

“Fine,” he shot back, “I’ll be packed and out of here in under an hour.” Jack walked past them.

“Don’t make me detain you Jack,” Melissa warned him.

Jack brought his left hand up to his chest and wiggled his fingers slightly, “You wanna try it?”

“Wait one damn minute,” Rachel said getting between them. “This isn’t helping anything.”

“I have to watch out for these people,” Melissa said. “As much as I owe Jack I can’t let him be this reckless with their fate.”

“And I can’t exactly walk up to the World Inc. front desk and go ‘I like to see Richard Kingstone please’,” Jack countered. “This is the only way I can think of.”

“Look Melissa,” Rachel said, “I see where you coming from. But we have to at least try to get Richie on our side. Or at least get him to start understanding our point of view.”

“I understand that Rachel,” she told her. “But he’s still being reckless. I can’t allow this to keep going on. This stop now.” She walked away. Before Rachel could stop him Jack went after her.

“And what if you found out they brought your brother back? What the hell would you do?”, he demanded. Those around the garage looked at them as Melissa stopped and turned around. With a furious look on her face she slapped him, her Drakan strength flooring him. Jack laid there holding his jaw as she walked off again. Rachel knelt next to him, but she wasn’t exactly checking on him. “Guess I deserved that one.”

“Yes you did,” she agreed.

“You could have thought about it for a second or two,” Jack said as he got up.

“Just be glad she held back,” she told him.

“That was holding back?”, Jack asked as he dusted himself off

“You’re jaw isn’t broke.” Reluctantly he agreed. “Although the peace and quiet would have been a nice change for while,” she joked.

“Very funny,” he said. Rachel reached into her back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil. “Do you expect me to write my will before I go out again?”

“No,” she said. “I was able to talk to Friedman. He thinks he can sneak a note to Richie without anybody seeing him.” Jack took the paper and stared at it. “He’ll be here tomorrow, he’s going to be checking on the children and a few of the other that are sick with Dusty.”

“Does Melissa know about this?”, he asked.

“I was going to tell her before you two had you little spat. But I’ll think I’ll wait a few hours until she cools off a bit before I do.” Jack sat on the crate and tried to think. “You don’t have to get it done by tomorrow, Friedman said he’ll try to swing this way when he can. You have plenty of time to figure out what to say.”

“I think I know what I want to say,” he said. “I just need to figure out a place for us to meet up that World Inc. can’t zero in on.”

“To bad you can’t go back to your old neighborhood. Then again, thanks to me, that be the first place they look. Although it might have done you some good,” she patted his knee as she stood up. “Going back to the beginning when the two of you first met. You know, get a fresh perspective on things.”

“Yeah, but what can you do?”, he asked. She shrugged and left. Too bad he’d been back to the old neighborhood, when he was still part of World Inc. The dump didn’t change at all. But the more he thought about it, there was more than one beginning he could choose from. Maybe he could go back to where this crap started. It was far enough out of the way that World Inc. couldn’t have set up anything. It was the only thing he could think of that could work. Now all he had to do was write it in such a way that Richie could figure it out and nobody else could if the note was found.

***

Richie parked the bike they gave him by the side of the road. Reaching into the pocket of his black leather coat and pulled out the note to read it again. “You won the bet,” it said. “Meet me in two days at eight.” The note wasn’t signed but he knew who it was from. Now if he could just figure out how it got in his room to begin with. Placing his helmet on the handlebar he set up the path and looked up at the mountain before him. He knew it‘s been a couple of years since it happened, but it still seemed like yesterday when it happened. Richie wondered what would have happened to them if he didn’t insist they go hiking that day. Well no point in wondering about it now.

His mind retraced the steps they took back then. Actually he was amazed at how much the rock slide changed things. But not enough that he needed the flashlight he brought with him. When he got to the spot Richie saw it happen again in his mind’s eye and shivered slightly. Not seeing anything he continued walking the path until he came into a heavily wooded area. Richie was wondering if he read the note wrong when he heard something behind him, “I can’t believe you were stupid enough to come.”

Richie turned around and saw a guy wearing a denim jacket with a hood pulled over his head come out of the trees. But there was no mistaking that voice, he grew up hearing it. “Well you’re the idiot that invited me,” he shot back. The walked toward each other, both of them looking serious. Richie found his eyes flickering around trying to see if he could see a trap or anything amiss.

When they got within a foot of each other Jack broke out into a huge grin and pulled him into a hug. “They told me you were dead dude.” He pulled back still grinning like an idiot, but his eye. Now that they were up close he could definitely see that something was different about them. They seemed almost… well dead.

“Well who ever told you that was wrong obviously,” Richie tried to smile.

“Tell that to the person who slipped the death certificates into our files.“ Jack walked a few feet away, “Everybody we know thinks we’re dead, did they tell you that?”

“I heard about it, they said it was a mistake.”

“A mistake,” Jack laughed and crossed his arms. Richie recognized that posed, He knew he was right about something and wasn’t going to change his mind about it. “And such a great ‘mistake’ too, giving them the chance to put us into a program nobody knew was even sure would work.” He walked a little further away. He ended up changing the subject, “Took your damn time getting up here. I was starting to think I made the note too vague.”

“Well you should have been a little more specific,” Richie told him with a hint of a smile, “I mean you lost so many over the years.”

“Hey you lost more than you won. And you still cheated on that last one.”

“You got no proof I cheated at anything.”

“You’re family owns a casino, you’re telling me you didn’t learn any of their trick while you worked there over the summers?”

“My family doesn’t own a crooked casino.” Richie stopped when he saw Jack grin again. Damn it he fell into it again. “Why do you keep doing that?”

“Because you keep taking the bait,’ he replied plainly before laughing a bit.

“I guess some things haven’t changed.” He was glad of that actually. It was another sign his friend wasn’t totally gone yet. Jack started looking around the area. “Were you expecting anybody else?”

“No, just wondering when the troops are going to show up,” he answered. “This place is pretty remote but chances are you lead them here without knowing it,” he was quiet before adding, “I hope you didn’t know it at any point.”

“I didn’t tell anybody were I was going,” he assured him. “And if they did track me it’s because of the bike they gave me. That’s why I parked it by the road. I figured that way it gave you a few extra minutes in case they did show up.”

“It’s not in the bike,” Jack said looking at him. “Another surprised they left out. There’s a bug in our head that lets them know exactly were we are.”

“And who told you that bunch of bull, that woman they teamed you up with?”

Jack pulled back the side of the hoof to reveal some of the foil inside, “And do you think I’m wearing this as a fashion statement? And yes Rachel was the one who told me.”

Now Richie crossed his arms, “Figures as much.” He was surprised when Jack started looking annoyed, a look he recognized all too well. Was there something going on between him and that woman?

“She was in the dark as much as I was,” he said. “Although I didn’t exactly believe her at the time. But she didn’t know Anderson was a Drakan either.”

“They said she convinced you of that.”

“I saw him change right before my eye Richie, nobody talked me into anything.”

“Ok, say he is a Drakan, why is he at war with his own kind then?”

“Because he a green who’s really afraid of change. Didn’t they tell you they live in a class system? Blue are the peasants, red are the knights and the greens are the kings.”

“They told me about the class system, but that still doesn’t explain why Anderson would be at war with his own people.”

“I told you, he’s a green,” Jack put a hand on his head trying to find the words. “Do you know why he calls them rebels? Because they want to live outside the class system, that’s it. And Anderson finds that so offensive he’s willing to hunt down his own people.”

“But that makes no sense,” Richie said. “How big a fuss did these people make?”

“As far as I know they didn’t make a fuss. Richie I live with them, all they want of to be left alone. Anderson won’t even give them that.”

“So these rebels are the good guys then.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Jack said. “There are a few guys there I wouldn’t exactly call ‘good guys’. After some of the things I’ve done I’m not sure you could call me one either.”

“Then who are the good guys then?”

“This is war Richie!”, he exploded. “There’s no such thing as a good guy or a bad guy. Just two sides who think they’re right and the other side wrong.”

Richie stared at him, still trying to figure out where his heads at. “So why did you switch sides then?”

“Because after a while you notice one side is more right than the other,” he said softly. A sad look crossed his face, almost like he was remembering something. “I’ve done some bad thing to the wrong people Richie. I’m never gonna make it up to them, no matter what I do or how hard I try.”

“So what are you doing now?”, Richie asked. “Do bad things to the right people now.”

“It’s not that simple,” he said.

“How much simpler can it be, You’re robbing warehouses, you’re attacking people. Dude you’re hurting people.”

“It’s not that black and white.”

“And I’ve seen video of you and you’re so called “friends” on tape robbing a warehouse. What am I suppose to think?”

“There was more to it than that. They needed supplies and they don’t have a lot of resources. They do what they gotta do to survive.”

“And what are you doing? Hell man, you would have gone postal if anybody asked you to do anything like that. You’re wanted by the government for crying out loud!”

“Thanks to Anderson.”

“You’re the one who changed sides.”

“God!”, Jack walked away. “You can’t be this dumb.” He pointed a finger at him, “You were suppose to be the smart one. I saw through the crap they put in front of me, I’m trying to help you from making the same mistakes I did.”

“Is that why you brought me out here?” Richie asked in disbelief, “To try to convince me to the way you see things. You’re a wanted criminal and you don’t seem to care. Dude, I knew you’re uncle helped raised you but damn man…”. Jack face suddenly lost any expression it had.

“So it comes down to that huh?”, he said, voice also void of any emotion. “We grew up together, we know each other better than anybody else and you’re that willing to believe what they say about me. This was a mistake,” Jack turned to leave. Richie went after him and put a hand around his arm to stop him. Jack turned around and shot him a look that could kill.

Richie had to ask, “What happened to you?”

Jack pulled back a sleeve on his coat, revealing scars similar to his, “This happened to me. And it happened to you too.” Richie let him go. Jacked started walking away again saying, “It was good seeing you again Richie, and I really hope I don’t see you again. Because if we do I’m going to have to do something I don’t want to do.”

“I can’t let you go Jack. I have to bring you in for your own good.”

Jack stopped but didn’t look at him, “So we’re playing your cops to my robbers now.”

“I’m serious Jack, you can’t keep running like this. Let me help you out of what ever mess you got yourself in,” he silently prayed his friend would start seeing things straight again.

“If help means going back to World Inc. than no thanks,” he started walking again.

“Don’t make me drag you back Jack.” Rain started to fall between the leaves of the trees above them. Jack slowly turned around and faced him. “Please,” he begged, “come with me and we’ll sort this out.”

“I can’t do that Richie,” Jack said as the rain started falling harder.

“Then you’re giving me no other choice.”

“You’re the one who’s always telling me we always have a choice, no matter what.” They stood in silence for a long time. “Let’s do it then.” He raised his left arm across his chest. A belt with a red faceplate appeared around his waist. He swung his arm to the side and brought his right arm up to his face. “Henshin,” he said as he slammed his right hand on top of the belt.

Richie brought his arms up and crossed them in front of his chest. A belt with a green faceplate formed around his waist. Holding his arms out to the sides, a little over shoulder high he said, “Henshin!”, and brought both hands down on top of the belt.

Both of them were scanned until they were wearing a black body suit and the blue armor of the Fusion system. Richie’s green eyes continued to stare at Jack’s red as the rain drops splashed against their armor. Neither of them wanted to make the first move, neither wanted to throw the punch that could end their friendship one way or the other. Both knowing it was coming anyway no matter what they did. They ran at each other and both threw a punch that connected to the other’s jaw. Taking a step back after his head stopped ringing Richie spun around and kicked Jack in the side of the head with his heel.

Jack spun around but didn’t fall down. Richie threw other kick at him but surprisingly his friend backed flipped out of the way. He threw a punch that Richie caught, Richie tried to throw one of his own but Jack caught it. They stood there locked for a moment. Richie ended up saying, “Did you actually say ‘Henshin’?” He didn’t know why he asked it. Perhaps something to get his mind off the fact he was fighting his best friend.

“After forcing me to watch all of that, you’re actually surprised?”, he shot back and pushed him away. Jack started throwing jabs at his head, some missed but the last couple connected. That stunned him long enough for Jack to step up his attack. Richie’s head whipped around from a right cross and he felt him grab him from behind. Thinking fast he put his foot on a nearby tree and pushed off. Jack was caught off guard as they fell to the ground. He freed himself and quickly turned around and pounded away on Jack’s head.

Jack got his hands up in order to block and Richie tried to anticipate his next move. He seen Jack fight enough times that he had a good idea what he was going to do. That’s why it surprised him when he grabbed a tree limb that was lying on the ground and smashed it against his shoulder. Then a quick palm strike to his chest forced him away long enough for Jack to force him off. Richie swung with a backhand when they got to his feet. He ducked it and got under him and flipped Richie over his shoulder. Jack turned and stomped a foot into his chest. Richie grabbed his foot and tripped him the ground. Not wasting a second he slammed his knee into Jack’s head as he got to his feet. Richie picked him up and threw him into a tree. Jack slowly got back his feet.

Jack held his back for a moment as he waved him on. Yup he was just as stubborn as ever too. Richie ran in then somersaulted to the side at the last moment, he learned a few new tricks too. Catching Jack off guard he planted his shin into his lower back. Jack gave a short cry of pain as he fell to a knee, Richie forced himself to ignore it. He got to his feet again and Richie flatted him with a spin kick to the back of the head. Jack laid there for a moment before shooting up with an uppercut that he didn’t see coming until it was too late. He watched Jack who was still a little wobbly. Not that the stars he was seeing was going away anytime soon.

Richie kicked up to his feet and punched him away. He jumped and flipped over him punching Jack in the back of the head. He tried a backhand but Richie ducked then flipped backwards, the tip of his boot catching Jack under the chin. He followed up with a jumping spin kick that whipped Jack around. He started crawling away to get some distance between them. Richie watched him and the meter in his vision started flashing. Knowing Jack wasn’t going to give up he prayed this didn’t harm him too much. He twisted the pod up. A charge from the belt ran up his side and down his arm. Jack used a tree to help him up to his feet. Richie jumped up and with his fist drawn back he yelled “Rider Punch!”

Jack sidestepped and all he got was tree. Jack stood there and watched him breathing hard. While Richie wondered what he was planning to do next the tree behind him exploded. Despite the fact he knew the armor was protecting him he ducked foreword on instinct. Doing so he walked right into a right cross by Jack. He planned that, Richie just knew it. Before his head could clear Jack grabbed him by the back of the head and started throwing knees into his face. Jack gripped him around the neck while he was bent over and half threw half flipped him over his head. Richie heard a click as Jack straddled him and raised his right fist into the air. Too stunned to do anything he just watched as Jack yelled and brought his fist down. He closed his eyes and heard the fist land by the side of his head. Next thing he knew Jack grabbed him by the back of the neck and dragged him away as the ground exploded slightly.

Jack stood up and deactivated his system. Richie started at him in disbelief. After several long moments Jack said, “If I was as bad as they said I was, you’d be dead right now.” He started walking away but stopped before he went too far. “One more thing. Once you kill a Drakan you smell like Drakan blood. It doesn’t go away and some of them are better at ignoring it than others. So if somebody turns into a monster and start attacking you for no reason, go easy on them will ya.” With that he walked away leaving Richie sitting there totally confused.
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Old June 14th, 2019, 05:20 PM #3
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That could have gone better, a hell of a lot better. Throwing down with Richie was the last thing he wanted to do. His head was still ringing from a couple of those shots he took. But he honestly thought he would have convinced him he was on the wrong side. At least save him from making some of the mistakes he made. Jack was so lost in thought he almost forgot to report in. The only condition Melissa had when she agreed to let him do this was that he bring the head set and call in when it was over. Pulling over to a stop and taking off the helmet, he attached it to his ear Jack turned it on, “Anybody there?”

“I’m here Jack,” Melissa replied.

“Where’s Rachel?”, he asked.

“It looked like she needed a break so I told her I’d take over for a bit. So how did it go?”

Jack looked back before answering, “Let’s just say you won’t have to worry about putting a roof over his head.”

“I’m sorry Jack,” she said, sounded like she meant it too. “Did you have to…,” she trailed off.

“He got away,” he lied. Rachel knew he couldn’t kill him, but he didn’t know if she told Melissa that.

“Right,” she didn’t sound convinced. Could she read emotions over a comm. link? “Is he going to be a problem?”

“I don’t know,” he told her honestly. “I tried talking some sense into him, but he’s believing what ever load of bull Anderson been feeding him. God this can’t get any worse.” A muffled voice came over the set and Melissa mumbled something back to it. A familiar feeling started growing his stomach, “I’m gonna regret saying that ain’t I?”

“Maybe not you,” she said. “We just got a call from Dusty. He was delivering some medical supplies to one of the outside cells. From what I understand he arrived just after it was attacked by a World Inc assault team.”

“Where is it,” Jack asked, not thinking twice. He didn’t know who these guys were but Dusty could be in trouble. He was not in the mood to lose any more friends today.

“Give me a sec to trace your line,” she said. While was tapping his foot waiting he took some comfort in the fact that there was no way Richie could be involved in this one. “As best as we can tell he about twenty minutes away from your position, to the north.” Jack looked at the end of the flashlight that had a compass built in. He had to go in the other direction, back toward Richie.

He’ll worry about that if it came to it, “Tell Dusty to hang on and keep his head down, I’m on my way.” Jack put the helmet back on and revved the motor and quickly turned around. Going as fast as he could at on these roads he knew he could cut down that twenty minutes, he just had to push it to the limit and then some. Way too late for his taste he could hear the sounds of a fight going on. Jack didn’t even hesitate in doing the arm movements and shouted out, “Henshin!”.

Seeing a red fly knock down a blue bobcat as he got a good look at things Jack hit a control on the bike. Two small panels on opposite sides of the headlight opened up and two lasers popped out. Twin beams fired as he hit the triggers on the handlebars. The first couple of shots hit the fly in the gut, it then jumped up and over Jacks head to avoid the others. He turned the bike sideways and skidded to a stop. Watching the fly land he saw a green snake come into view, scales glistening in the moonlight. He risked a glance at the bobcat, “You all right?”

“Son I never been so glad to see anybody in my life,” the bobcat said behind him. “I owe you one.”

“Rachel would be bitchin’ at me if I didn’t come,” Jack said as he took the staff from it holder and snapped it to it’s full length and got between the two group of Drakans. “And I told them to tell you to keep you head down.”

“Saw somebody get hurt and tried to help them,” he explained. Yup, just like Dusty to stick his neck out to help somebody. “Snake guys in charge from the look of things.”

“What about the cell and the rest of his troops? I don’t see them any where.”

“Beating the crap out of each other last I saw.”

“Might as well join in the fun then,” After the whole thing with Richie he was spoiling for a fight anyway. He ran at them, aiming for the bug first. His main concern right now was making sure none of these guys got to Dusty. Easier said than done. He swung the staff at the fly and blocked were he saw a body part come at him. Getting behind the fly he forced the staff against it’s neck. That’s when he realized he lost that snake. Looking over at Dusty gave the bug enough time to flip him over his shoulder.

The bug popped wings out of it’s back and flew straight up then let itself drop. Jack had just enough time to get the staff in front of him to block the elbow drop coming his way. The Drakan grabbed the staff and wrestled it from his hands and tossed it aside. Thinking he was defenseless it left it self open when Jack kicked his leg up. The Drakan squealed in pain as it held it’s mouth. Jack had just enough tome to roll out of the way as it spit something out of it’s mouth. There was a slight sizzle sound as the goop hit the ground. The Drakan looked like it was going to spit again, he grabbed a handful of dirt and threw it into the bug huge eyes. It howled again as it backed up.

Jack quickly crawled over to the staff and grabbed it around the middle, giving it a quick squeeze. On one end a small electrode popped out. He grabbed the ring by his hand and twisted it all the way. A loud hum filed the air as the Drakan vision cleared. Jack gripped the staff like a javelin and threw it. The electrode hit the fly in the gut. It took a step back before exploding. He went to check on Dusty, afraid the snake got to him when he wasn’t looking. Relief flowed through him as he saw the old Drakan sitting there in his human form. “You gonna help an old man up or you just gonna stand there and gawk?”


“I’m thinking it over,” Jack said right before he extended a hand. Dusty grunted as Jack pulled him to his feet. “You got to be a little more careful there Dusty. Who’s gonna look after Bessie if something happens to you”

“You kidding son, I plan to be buried in that truck. Which is a far ways off, might I add.” Jack chuckled and was about to ask if he saw where the snake went when he saw a red dot on his clothes. Not even thinking twice he jumped on Dusty and knocked him to the ground. “What the hell Jack!”, he cried. A second later there was a small thunk. Both of the looked up and saw a black dart in the tree behind Dusty. Looking back he saw the snake again, this time holding a rifle of some sort. “Is that what I think it is?”, Dusty ask. Jack didn’t saw anything as he tried to shield him as he saw the Drakan take aim again. It fired and there was a small ping as it hit his armor.

“No you don’t,” Jack said as he saw the snake load another shot. Crossing the distance between them as fast he could he forced the barrel up as the Drakan fired. Suddenly it looked like the side of it head folded out and looking like a hood, great the snake was a freakin’ cobra. It hissed and popped out it’s fangs at him, dripping with venom. Jack let go of the rifle barrel and threw a kick. The cobra dropped the rifle and caught his leg. He found himself flying through the air and crashing on the ground. He got up and threw a punch with the same result.

The cobra grunted as it stalked him. Jack rushed in trying to catch it off guard. For a brief moment he had it on the defensive and backing the snake up. Then it bent it’s back at a weird angle to dodge a haymaker causing him to lose his balance. The Drakan swept his leg out from under him and held to the ground. It tried to bite him, luckily his armor was stronger than those fangs. Then he felt it reached for the belt. Jack didn’t know if the cobra could deactivate his system, and he wasn’t exactly in a rush to find out. Out of nowhere Dusty came in his bobcat form and tried to pry the cobra off of him.

The cobra batted him away and turned his attention back just long enough to backhand him hard. Jack heard a ringing in his head after the hit as he felt the Drakan get off of him. He forced his eyes to focus as fast as they could to see what was happening. Dusty was hurt on the ground and the cobra revealed it’s fangs again. Willing his legs to work he grabbed the rifle by the barrel and ran at the green Drakan. “Hey!”, he shouted to get the cobra’s attention and swung the rifle like a baseball bat. There was a loud, satisfying crack as the rifle broke against it’s head knocking the cobra to the ground. Jack jumped on top of it and jammed the barrel into it’s mouth.

The fangs popped out again as he applied pressure. Letting the rage that has been building up take him he grabbed it’s fangs and pulled with everything he had and yelled. The cobra scream out loud as it’s teeth were forcibly removed. Jack went to stab it with it’s own fangs but it block him. Punching him in the chest and gut several times the cobra stunned him just long enough to roll him off. Another backhand made sure he stayed stunned. The only thing he could hear was the sound of it running away. Getting to his feet Jack made sure it was gone before deactivating the armor and falling to his knees. The anger he was feeling wasn’t going away. Dusty changed back to his human form and knelt beside him. “Son…,” he said quietly, “are you all right? I’ve only seen you that angry one other time.”

“A lot of people have been saying that lately.”

“Anything to do with your friend being alive and kicking?”, he asked. Jack looked at him. “Melissa and Rachel told me. I was going to try to find you after I made this drop actually. Make sure you weren’t going to do anything stupid.”

“Now would I do anything stupid?”. Then he added, “Don’t answer that.” Jack picked up one of the fangs, the blood fresh on the root. “But I think I might have an idea of what to do with these things.”

***

Anderson hurried down the hall and into an elevator. It opened back up to the garage level and he stormed out. As usual Davidson was proving to be a problem, but this was entirely unexpected. How did he even find out about this operation, much less get there a fast as he did. He wanted answers and he wanted them now. When he got to the assault team area he saw a cobra sitting on the bumper of one of the vans hold red stained cloth to his mouth. “Do you want the humans to see you here?”, he demanded. The cobra reverted to Chen’s human form. “That’s better, now what happened?”

“Davidson happened,” Chen answered removing the cloth from his mouth. There were a couple of new gaps in his teeth.

“I am aware of that Mr. Chen. Why were you on the job? And why aren’t you watching over Kingstone?” For that matter where was Kingstone?

“He said he had something to do, he never said what it was. Figured I had a free night and overheard one of us talking about your attack plan. Thought I join in and have a little fun of my own.” Chen spit on the floor, a bit of blood was still evident, “Damn it, nobody told me Davidson was this demented.”

“Davidson did that to you?”, Anderson asked, his interest piqued. “I never knew him to be so vicious. Well there was this one assignment. By any chance was there a blue Drakan monkey involved in any way?”

“Not that I saw,” Chen told him. “I didn’t see Davidson until he stopped this Drakan I didn’t recognize from getting killed.”

“What did this Drakan look like?”

“Some kind of blue cat, I don’t know.” That narrowed it down, how many blue cat like Drakans could there be in his city? He threw the cloth down and reached for another. “He killed your man out there too. While he was talking to the other Drakan I figured I’d use that dart you men were bragging about.”

“Oh yes,” Anderson said, “I nearly forgot about that. It has been awhile since we had to use it. After Davidson found the last dart I figured it best we put it on hold. Of course, now he knows for certain we were the ones responsible for it.” Anderson backhanded Chen before he could respond. The smell of fresh blood over powered the scent of the stale. “There was a reason I ordered a temporary stoppage of its use.”

“Nobody told me they stopped using it,” Chen spat.

Anderson regained his composure, “An oversight on our part. I’ll have Perez do an inspection as soon as possible. That particular weapon should have been removed from the vans by now. My apologies for reacting violently Mr. Chen, but that was the one thing we were certain Davidson was still in the dark about. He might have suspected it, but he had no concrete proof.”

“Doesn’t do me any good now does it,” Chen said. “I have no fangs thanks to him, what in the hell am I suppose to do now?”

“While I can’t do anything about your bite,” Anderson said while taking out a pen and paper and quickly jotting something down, “but I can help with your human appearance. This is an address of a dentist I use. I’ll call him in the morning and tell him you’re coming tomorrow. He’ll have you presentable in no time. I will even foot the bill as a show of good faith.”

“That’s fine for this disguise but what about my real form?”, he demanded.

“I’m sure Dr. Armstrong can have something to remedy you situation. He just needs some time to brain storm some ideas. Stay here, I’ll have my chauffeur drive you home in few minutes, after you stop bleeding.” Anderson walked away and called for his man. He over heard Chen muttered about going under the knife again. He looked back and saw the man trace a small almost invisible line on the back of his neck. A potential problem perhaps, but not something to worry about right now.

No, his main concern was Davidson arrival at the mission. And where Kingstone went off too. Was it possible Kingstone overheard about the plan as well and told Davidson about it? If he did how did he get into contact with him? Or was it the other way around and Kingstone just happened to have the information? Too many question to answer at the moment, but he had a way to get at least a partial answer. Instead of calling for his driver he called Taylor in his office. “Mr. Anderson,” he answered, “I was about to leave for the night.”

“This won’t take long Mr. Taylor,” he said. “I just need to know if Kingstone was any where near the operation tonight.”

“I’ll pull it up.” Several minutes passed before he spoke again. “At most he was a half hour, maybe forty minutes away.” Interesting, was he meeting Davidson?

“Thank you Mr. Taylor. Sorry to keep you a little longer than you planned.” He ended the call and thought it over. Even if he didn’t know about the raid, the fact he and Davidson was in the same area was too much of a coincidence. He would have Perez keep an extra set of eyes on him. If he didn’t have somebody watching him already that is. Anderson was certain Perez would love a chance to stop another defection if Kingstone was heading that way.

***

Melissa entered the make shift gym and watched what was happening. Like she heard Lance was down here with Jack. Lance had some very worn pads on his hands that the other man was currently pounding away on. She saw Rachel standing by watching them and went over to here. “So what exactly is going on here?”, she asked.

“Lance is helping Jack work out his anger issues,” Rachel told here.

“I don’t have anger issues,” Jack snapped as he looked in their direction. “I have issues with the fact my best friend who is suppose to be smarter than me is acting like an idiot.”

“Did you really believe he’d join us just like that,” Rachel snapped her fingers. “I mean would you if the situation was reversed?”

“I’d at least think over what he said,’ Jack said bitterly. “Not believe what ever crap they were forcing down my throat. And not think I was going down the same path as my uncle just for kicks.” He hit the pad so hard Rachel jumped a little. Well that explained were some of it was coming from.

“So what happened last night with the raid?”, Melissa asked. “Dusty said you…”

“I got proof that everybody not what they say they are World Inc.,” he turned away from Lance and started removing the padded gloves he was wearing. “If that doesn’t work I’ll make Anderson change right in front of him of him if I have to.”

“Why are you going on about this?”, Melissa asked him. “I realize he’s your friend and all but this is getting nuts.”

“I’m trying to stop him from going through the same crap I did” he told her. “Why is that so wrong?”

“Jack,” Rachel spoke up, “you know I got you’re back on this, but even you have to admit you’re going a little crazy on this.”

“He pretty much saved me Rachel,” he said softly. He started looking at his left hand. “He saw what was coming and pushed me out of the way. If it wasn’t for him I’d be even worse shape then when they found me, or dead.” He slowly clenched his hand into a fist. “I’m trying to return the favor.”

“I got to say kid,” Lance finally spoke, “I’m going with Jack on this one. He’s going at it a bit wild though.”

“Traitor,” Melissa said with a smirk.

“I’m just saying I’m seeing where he’s coming from.”

“Must be a guy thing,” Rachel commented. “Come on Jack, let’s gets some lunch, my treat.”

“It free to begin with,” Jack told her as he followed her out.

Lance walked up to her and took the bottled water she was holding. “His hearts in the right place,” he said after a bit, “but his heads a bit of a mess at the moment.”

“Really I didn’t notice,” she replied sarcastically. “He has his heart set on getting his friend to change sides. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Anderson has too many things at his disposal to make Jack look like the bad guy.”

Lance looked thoughtful for a bit, “Maybe we can help him out.”

“How?”, she asked. “I don’t think he’s going to take our word that Jack still a decent guy.”

“Have you ever sent the video?”, he asked her.

“What video?”, she was confused. What did a video have to do with anything?

“The security footage from the safe house Phil was living in.”

“Oh, that video,” she said while putting her head down. “I found it in Chris’s room after he was killed. I never watched it.”

“I have,” he told her. “Jack might have killed him but it does show that Anderson men were the ones who caused the situation to begin with. We get that to him, then Jack might have a small chance of convincing him.”

“It’s too big of a risk,” she said. “We’re lucky Friedman didn’t get caught delivering the note.”

“And how long before Jack starts thinking barging right into World Inc. is a good idea?”

“That’s taking it to the extreme don’t you think?”

“With the way Jack been going on lately?”, Lance countered.

“You’ve been smoking something behind my back.” Melissa started to leave. Stopping by the doorway she said, “I’ll think it over, but I’m not promising anything.” She knew this was a good idea, but she couldn’t risk Friedman getting caught. He was too valuable for something like that. When she entered the hallway she saw Jack sitting there alone. Like when Rachel got hurt he had a lost look on his face. Then he saw her and it disappeared. He waved as he headed off for who knows where. Well it couldn’t hurt to ask Friedman what he thought of the idea. If he turned it down there was nothing she could do about it.

***

Richie walked the halls of World Inc. heading for his room. Everybody he passed gave him a friendly hello. As nice as everybody been with him, the past couple of days he couldn’t help but get the feeling he was being watched some how. Every so often he’d looked back and see somebody turn around real quick. A few of the troops he saw stopped talking when he passed them a few times. That was weird as they usually said a few words to him. “Hello Rich,” a woman said coming up to him.”

“Hi Heather,” he replied. “Things still quiet in the Command Center.”

“I’m afraid so,” she answered. She looked sad for a moment, “This was usually his favorite type of situation. If there was no Drakan activity than he could relax for a bit.”

“Who’s?”, he asked out of curiosity.

“Jack…,” she started than shut up. She started off, “Sorry I got something to check on. I’ll see you around Rich.”

“Right, see you around,” he said absentmindedly. That was something else that bothered him a bit. Nobody wanted to talk about Jack, well outside of Anderson that is. As soon as his name was brought up they either change the subject or hurried off. Quite frankly it was getting on his nerves. Somebody around here had to know what happened to Jack. When he entered his room he saw an older man in a lab coat standing his room. And for some reason there was a TV and a VCR set up in his room. “Can I help you?”

“I’m Dr. Harold Friedman,” he answered. “Ah… could you close the door please, I’m not suppose to be in here.” Richie did so hoping to get some kind of answer from this guy. “Thank you,” he said.

“Now do you mind telling why you’re in here?”

“I’m delivering a message from your friend,” he answered. Richie was stunned for a moment.

“You knew Jack while he was here?”

“You could say that,” he replied, “I was his doctor while he was here.”

“Then you know what happened to Jack then,” finally he could find what the hell went on. “You know why he went crazy.”

“Jack is one of the sanest guys I know,” Freidman said. “Before I forget, Jack wanted me to give you this.” He pulled out a long box out of his pocket and handed it to him.

There was a note attached so he read it first. Richie recognized Jack’s hand writing almost at once. It said, “You might want to see if anybody is missing these.” Richie opened the box and felt sick in his stomach. Inside was a pair of off white, slightly curved objects. They almost looked like fangs.

“Does this look like a something a sane person would do?”, he demanded.

“Are you that willing to believe the worst about him?”, Friedman asked catching him off guard. “To hear Jack talk about it you guys were almost as close as brothers. Ready to back up the other if somebody started bad mouthing him.”

“Jack changed,” was all he could say.

“I’m not going to disagree with that,” Freidman said surprising him again. “Since the time I meet him I could tell a difference in him as things went on. But I can tell you for a fact he didn’t go crazy.”

“Then what happened then? Why did he go on the run?”

“He saw through the lies.”

“Wait,” Richie said as he started to back up, “Your one of them aren’t you? You’re a rebel.”

“Well yes and no,” he told him. “I’m human, but I am affiliated with them. So I hope you appreciate the risk I’m taking here.”

“So why blow your cover to talk to me? Did Jack put you up to this?”

“Jack and the others don’t know I decided to talk to you. I was just supposed to leave the box and this,” he motioned with the video in his hand. Putting it on top of the VCR he leaned against the dresser. “I’m pretty sure they’d flip if they knew I was doing this.”

“So why are you talking to me then? And why now?”

“I had to be careful. Word got around that Anderson doesn’t want anybody who knew Jack to discuss him that much around you.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Richie told him. But it would explain why how fast people around here changed the subject. But this guy admitted he was part of the rebels, why should he believe him? “I don’t see why Anderson would keep anybody from talking about Jack.”

“Probably because he knows not everybody can keep the story straight. If I had to guess he figures it be a little more suspicious if several people told you a couple of different versions of what happened?”

“Compared to being avoided?”, Richie laughed out loud. “I’m sorry but that’s a bit of a stretch. I thought the rebels would have come up with better. I mean they had too to get Jack to change sides.”

Friedman sighed and rubbed his eyes slightly. “Is it that much easier to believe Jack is that gullible?”

“I didn’t say that,” Richie backed up. “I mean they must have been working on him for a long time. Hell that Haily woman must have said something to him here and there.”

“Rachel was never part of the rebels,” he corrected, “well not until recently. She joined up the same time Jack did.”

“That’s not what Anderson is saying,” he told him flatly.

“And if Anderson can do one thing it is manipulate people. Jack saw through the cracks, questioned things when other people didn’t. A couple of times a Drakan just went nuts when he was around. He saw something out of the ordinary the second time and found a dart with a chemical that made Drakans crazy. He brought it to me not knowing who I was working for. And for a long time he kept an eye on Anderson and his men.”

“Something about doesn’t sound right,” Richie paced the room. “I know Jack doesn’t trust rich people like Anderson. But he wouldn’t go out of his way looking for something. Even he’s not that paranoid.”

“Not without a reason, right?”, Friedman said like he was reading his mind. “That’s were this comes in,” he put the tape into the VCR and just let it play. Richie watched as this old guy came into vies looking worried, then guys wearing what he recognized as World Inc. assault trooper uniforms surrounded him. It looked like they were taunting the old man. The he turned into an elephant and started fighting back. Soon after he saw Jack on the side as he transformed and started fighting the elephant. When he blew the Drakan up Friedman turned the machine off. “So,” Friedman said slowly, “what did you see.”

Richie had to admit it, “Jack saw a Drakan attacking those guys. But they started it, he couldn’t have known.”

“And Anderson made sure he kept thinking that way. But he overheard a couple of them talking about it and that when Jack started being a little more cautious. The way he explained it they didn’t say it out right but from what they were saying it was obvious there was more going on.”

“And that caused Jack to changed sides?”

“No, this was one of his first official assignments actually, there were a lot of things that happened afterwards in his time here. It wasn’t until Jack fought the Rebel leader in the arena that he left.”

“What happened there, in this arena I mean,” Richie wasn’t sure he wanted to know but he had to find out.

“Jack was quiet about it for a long time before he finally opened up about it. Anderson arranged a massacre. The orders where what ever Drakan he didn’t take out they were to take down.”

“Wait if Anderson is a Drakan why would he do that? These are his own people.”

“Anderson is very old school in his thinking. He feels these deaths are on the rebels head because they want to live their own way.” Friedman went quiet for a few minutes, “Sad part is he thinks he’s doing the right thing for his people by doing this.” He took the tape from the VCR and put it back in his pocket. “I better get going. I hope you realize my fate is in your hands.”

“I’ll…,” Richie couldn’t believe he was saying this, “I won’t tell anybody.”

Friedman smiled slightly, “Thank you. I’m sure Jack would appreciate it too.” He left the room and left Richie with a ton to think about. But he was still a rebel, that video could have been faked for all he knew. Why did the only other person around here willing to talk about him be that guy? He needed some air.

Richie hurried down the hallway not paying attention to anybody. He was so deep in thought he didn’t see the guy he ran into. “Hey man, watch it,” Andy said as he took a step back. “You’re going to hurt somebody of you’re not careful.”

“Sorry,” he answered automatically. “Had my head around something.”

“I noticed,” While he spoke Richie noticed something strange. He was suddenly missing a tooth. Andy looked down and saw it lying on the ground. “Damn it,” he muttered. “That one is always coming out.”

“Did something happen?”, Richie asked.

“Ran into something a couple of days ago and lost two teeth,” he answered quickly. “The dentist I was sent too didn’t seem to know what he was doing.” A couple of days ago? Richie met Jack a couple of days ago. Look at him now he was thinking like Jack. Then he started thinking about the box Jack sent him. It had two Drakan teeth in it. “I’m going to try to put this back in. I have enough practice at it,” Andy laughed. “I see you around.”

“Yeah…,” Richie said hesitantly, “I’ll see you around.” Great now he was trying to put two separate things together. He saw Jack attack those guys that night. Then again Jack saw that elephant attacking those guys too. Richie stopped when he saw his reflection in a window. He took a good long look at himself. Why was it that easy to believe his best friend went off the deep end? How many times did he defend Jack in the past, and he do the same for him. So why wasn’t he doing it now? Jack and this Friedman guy went to a lot of trouble to try to convince him Anderson was full of it. And he just blew Jack off without even thinking twice, a man who was always straight up with him. Not liking what he was seeing in the reflection he walked away.

Richie stopped by an elevator and pushed the call button. He looked at his hands, he was so caught up in being a Rider nothing else mattered. And Jack said he was the smart one.

***

“He talked with Richie?”, Rachel asked Melissa. When she heard it she had a hard time believing it too. Although she was glad she decided to talk to Rachel about it first before bringing Jack in. His head wasn’t exactly straight now a days so who knows how he would have reacted.

“Did Friedman say how it went?”, Lance asked.

“Well he decided to protect Friedman,” Melissa told him. “Which is good, because I don’t think we could have gotten him out of there?”

“Guess there some hope for the guy yet,” Lance said as he crossed his arms and leaned against a table.

“Jack been saying he’s good guy all along,” Rachel told them. “How does that affect things for us? I’m sure Friedman is going to be watching his back now.”

“Let’s just say we found out sooner than anybody expected,” Melissa answered.

“We’re not going to like this are we?”, she asked. Lance shared her sentiments.

“Well,” Melissa started, “he got back in contact with Friedman later. And he wants to meet Jack again. In the Arena.” Lance inhaled sharply when she said that, Rachel was a little confused.

“I get the feeling this is something important,” she ended up saying.

“That where the big challenges are done, “ Lance informed her. “That’s where Anderson got control of World Inc..”

“It’s where my brother had his last moments,” Melissa mumbled. Rachel looked away slightly, realizing where this place was. That one place changed all of their lives drastically.

“So he wants to fight Jack?”, Rachel asked looking a bit unsure.

“He didn’t say,” Melissa said sighing. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea to head there. For all we know he could be leading Jack into a trap.”

“I got to disagree,” Lance countered, “I think we should leave this one up to Jack to decide.” Lance looked over to Rachel, she did so too. She hoped Rachel would agree with her. This might be important to Jack but she couldn’t shake the feeling something bad was about to happen. Emily wouldn’t even tell her what she saw when she discussed it with her.

“The safety of this place should be more important,” Rachel said. Melissa felt elated briefly then she added,” But if he’s calling out Jack he should be the one who decides.”

“Rachel…”, she began.

“Let me decide what?”, Jack asked behind her. All of them shut up with him standing there. He started looking confused when they wouldn’t return his gaze. Finally he said, “So how bad we talking here?”

***

As he traveled the cave like hallway he tried not to think about the last time he was here. But the memory kept sneaking to the front of his brain. The closer he got the stronger they became. Shaking his head in disgust he entered the main section of the cavern. It looked just the same too, a big open area with the sides carved out to look like seats. He went back into the hall when he saw two people standing there. It didn’t look like he was seen so he listened in. He bit his lip when he recognized one of the voices a Richie’s, but who was the other guy.

“I just had to see this place,” Richie said to the other guy. “This is where he decided to turn.” He wasn’t sure what to think now. He thought Richie wanted to talk. “I was hoping I could figure out why.”

“I don’t see what you think you can find,’ the other one said. “Anderson tech guys went over this place with a fine tooth comb.”

“Well you didn’t have to come along you know,” Richie told him.

“Somebody has to make sure you don’t get over your head.” When Richie turned around he gazed up in his direction, but it didn’t look like he spotted him. “How did you find out about this place any way?”

He saw Richie tense up a bit and did the same. “I… uh… overheard a couple of the other talk about it in the cafeteria.” Jack relaxed a bit, he was still protecting Friedman. “And I wasn’t expecting to find anything Andy. I just want to see if I can figure out what got into his head.”

“I’m sure a lot of people would like to get into his head to figure that one out.”

“If that many people,” he said as he came out of hiding, “want in my head maybe I should start charging admission.”

“Davidson?”, that Andy guy said, stunned, as he watched him came down the stairs. He did nothing as he reached the floor, but Jack thought he saw him rub his tongue over one of his teeth.

“I didn’t think you were going to come,” Richie said.

“Why wouldn’t I?”, Jack asked, stopping a few feet from them. “I thought you said to come alone.”

“I couldn’t ditch him,” Richie told him.

“Richie, what’s going on?”, Andy asked. To Jack it looked like he was getting ready to fight. He hoped Richie was seeing that too. “Why is he here?”

“I wanted to talk to my friend,” was all he said. “Is there anything wrong with that?”

“But he’s the enemy,” Andy nearly shouted. “”We have to take him in or…”

“Or what?”,” Richie demanded getting angry. “Kill him, is that what you were going to say?”

“If there no other choice yes!”, Andy shouted.

“There’s always a choice,” Richie told him calmly, “no matter what.”

“You idiot,” Andy reached into his coat and started at him but Richie got in his way. “Are you jumping ship too?”

“I’m stopping you form hurting my friend,” Richie said evenly, but Jack could hear the edge in his voice. “Somebody I know better than anybody, and who looks like he might have right about you guys all along.”

“So it took this and a visit from the doc to make you believe I was telling the truth,” Jack said with a smirk. “I gotta tell ya man, that kinda hurts.”

“Sorry man, it took me awhile to get my heads out of the clouds. Becoming one of your childhood heroes blinds you a bit.”

“I’d say it’s more like you head your head up your ass but that’s just me.” He stared down Andy who stared right back at him with hate filled eyes, occasionally flicking those eyes at Richie. Both of them were probably thinking the same thing. “Of course the big question is who side are you on?”

He looked undecided and took a few moments before answering, “Right now I think I’m on my side.”

“Works for me,” Jack said and patted him on the back.

“So what do we do with Andy here?”, Richie asked. “I mean we can’t just leave with him here.” That didn’t stop Jack from doing this that. He looked back and saw Richie slowly follow but keeping eyes on Andy, “I mean he is human right?”

“I don’t know,” he finally answered. He looked up at the top row and shouted, “Hey, is that guy a human or not?” Richie and Andy both looked up in surprise as Lance, Sparky, Arron and Rachel came into view. She held back a bit as the other came down the steps.

“He doesn’t smell like any human I ever meet,” Lance said.

“You didn’t come alone?”, Richie asked him.

“After what happened the last time I was here I’m not taking any chances. How does it look out there?”, he asked Rachel.

“It’s clear so far,” She told him. He nodded.

“You didn’t trust me?”, Richie was still stunned.

“You yes, World Inc. no. Nothing personal man I’m just going from experience.” He turned toward Andy, “And you’re not gonna let us walk out of here are you?”

“A very good guess Mr. Davidson,” Andy said as he turned into a green cobra. Lance and the other were in dropped their human disguises a moment later. Richie looked around in a bit of shock as a red wolverine, a green wolf and a blue eel stepped up beside them.

“Whoa,” Jack said suddenly putting out an arm, “Take it easy guys. I defanged this sumbitch a few…” The cobra opened his mouth and a pair of mechanical fangs popped out of his mouth. “Oh that is not good.”

“Smooth one Sherlock,” Richie said sarcastically.

“Like I knew they were gonna to turn him into the six million dollar snake,” he said quickly. The others surrounded the cobra, but he pointed past them at right at Jack and Richie.

“I want you two,” he hissed.

“Dude you’re outnumbered,” Jack said, “just give it up.”

“I challenged the two of you,” he said. “Honor combat, right here and now.”

“Great another old schooler,” Jack mumbled. “Can he do that? I mean both of us at once?”

“I’m afraid so,” Lance answered.

“Do we got to take it?”, he asked hoping Lance would say no.

“I saw we take it and do it one more time for old time sake,” Richie said.

“And you mom said I was the bad influence,” Jack told him. He looked up at Rachel. He could tell her vote just by looking at her. Then again this guy wasn’t going to go away, and how long would it take them to narrow down Friedman as the doc? “Let’s do it.” He grabbed Arron by the arm, “Make sure Rachel gets out of here in case this gets a little wild.”

“You can count on me Jack,” the wolf told him.

Jack and Richie faced the cobra. Jack raised his left arm across his chest and the belt appeared around his waist. He swung the arm to the side and brought his right arm to his face. Richie crossed his arms in front of the make the belt appear. The he held his arms out to the side. Jack glanced over to Richie who was grinning ear to ear. He looked in his direction and both of them nodded. Slamming their hands on top of the belts, both of them shouted, “Henshin!”

They were scanned by their belts and the armor formed around them. The cobra got into a fighting stance as they did the same. Richie leaned over and quickly asked, “So what’s the plan?”

“Kick his ass like he owes us money,” he told him.

“That’s always your plan,” Richie complained.

“Why mess with what works.”

“How did you survive this long again?” Jack just shrugged then headed for the cobra. It ducked a wild swing from him but couldn’t avoid Richie coming in with a flying dropkick. Richie picked him up and let Jack get in a few kidney punches. It hissed loudly as it bent to the side to avoid another punch. “What the…? Richie said trying to figure out what just happened. It gave the cobra just enough time to push him back then swing around to clock Jack in the head. He spun with it and kicked it gut. Jack grabbed it then felt it’s hands on his neck. The cobra slammed him into Richie. The Drakan let go and unleashed a flurry of punches then threw him to the steps near the others.

“Get up Jack!” Rachel shouted as he crashed. Arron went to stop her but she wasn’t moving from her spot.

“Hang on buddy!”, Richie shouted as he grabbed the cobra from behind.

“Oy, I’m guessing that’s a warrior king” he muttered as he slowly got to his knees. “Maybe it’s time for a new plan.” A moment later Richie crashed on the ground next to him. He looked at the cobra who just cracked it’s neck as it waited for them to get up. “You ok Richie?”

“Ugh,” he grunted as he got to his knees too. “This is a bad as those fights you used to get us in back in high school.”

“We were usually the ones outnumbered back then,” Jack reminded him. “And those weren’t my fault.”

“Then it’s worse then it was back in high school, and yes they were.” Both of them got to their feet, slightly bent over. Richie glanced up at him and said, “Going high?”

Jack nodded and added, “Going low.” Both of them charged the cobra. They were able to catch it off guard when Jack tackled his at the chest while Richie hit at the waist. But it only took a few steps backwards, refusing to go down. The cobra fought both of them off, blocking or dodging any attack they threw at it. Jack faked a backhand, spun around and kicked it in the back of the head. It went foreword right into Richie spin kick. It looked dazed but was still able to fight them off. Suddenly he grabbed his fist and ducked as Richie swung with a wild right that hit him in the face.

Jack head recoiled back from the impact. Next thing he knew he was flying through the air again and crashed hard. Jack quickly shook the cobwebs out of his head and got on all fours and looked up. Richie was holding his own, jumping over and around the Drakan while trying to get a hit in. Plan B didn’t work out, “time to get creative,” he said out loud. He ran back in and saw the cobra hit Richie in the gut making him go to a knee. Thinking quick Jack jumped off his shoulder and at the Drakan, slamming his forearm into it face. It stumbled back and he kept up the pressure, pounding away with left and right. Suddenly he grabbed it in a headlock and looked for his best friend who was still on the ground. “Richie!”, he shouted to get his attention. “Shining wizard!”

He nodded and ran at them full bore. Jack let go of it’s head and kicked his leg back forcing the Drakan back. He got down to knee and let Richie jump off him. Quickly Richie swung his leg up and planted his knee into the side of the cobra’s head. Landing on his feet he jumped and flipped over it’s head and kicked both feet into it’s back. Jack grabbed it around the head. Richie came in and did the same on the other side. The cobra quickly knocked both of them away. Before he knew it the cobra grabbed Richie by the face and slammed him into the ground repeatedly. Jack tried to help him but the cobra kicked him back. Getting knocked to the ground again the Drakan jumped on top of him bearing it’s mechanical fangs again.

“They said these can pierce your armor,” it said as he struggled to hold him off. “I’ve been waiting to find out since these were implanted into me.” Jack couldn’t stop those fangs as they slowly came closer to him. Then a rock exploded on the back of the Drakan head. He looked past the cobra as it fell foreword and saw Richie standing holding the remains of that rock in his hands. Quickly he pulled the snake off of him and punched it right in the mouth. He helped Jack to his feet and together they hit a double side kick that sent the cobra flying.

“My meter started flashing,” Jack informed him, “how about you?”

“Mine, been flashing for a while,” he said. “Why am I flashing before you?”, he wondered out loud.

“Sounds like a personal problem,” he joked. Richie said nothing in response but he could imagine the look on his face. The cobra staggered to it’s feet as he reached for the right pod.

“Are we going to say it,” Richie asked suddenly.

“Say what?”, he asked confused.

“You know…”, Richie trailed off.

What the hell…? “No I don’t know.”

“Dude look at us,” he gestured at what they were wearing.

Then Jack got where he was going, “Ah hell no!”

“Come on Jack, how often are we going to get this chance.”

“We’re in the middle of something here in case you hadn’t noticed nimrod.”

“You know we got to say it.”

“No we don’t got to say it,” he shot back.

“Oh come on…”, he begged

“I said no.”

“How many times have I asked you for something like this?”

“And how many times have I said no?”

“You owe me Jack.” While they were arguing the cobra staggered at them.

“Alright fine!”, Jack said as he punched the cobra in the gut, bending it over. “Just to shut you up.” They grabbed the Drakan by the shoulders and threw him back. “Damn, you nag more than your last girlfriend.”

“Hey somebody has to make your life miserable while you’re single,” Richie told him.

Jack ended up smirking behind his mask as they faced the cobra, “Wouldn’t have it any other way buddy.”

Running at the Drakan the twisted the right pod on each of their belt down. As the charges ran down their leg they jumped up in unison. Jack extended his right leg and aimed his foot at the Drakan. Richie flipped foreword and did the same with his right leg. Both of them shouted, “Double rider kick!” right before both of their feet hit it in the chest. The cobra flew back into the stone stairs.

Richie turned around and pumped his fist as it exploded, “Yes!”

Jack stared at him for a moment before slapping him in the side of the head, “Dork.”

“Hey,” Richie grabbed him in a headlock and started to noogie him on the helmet.

***

“We just lost Chen signal,” Taylor said over the phone. Anderson said nothing for a moment. Everyone’s biggest fear might have happened, but then again they had no proof one way or another. “Do you want us to send out a team just in case? We still have a small team stationed nearby. If we act fast enough they might catch them off guard. “

“No,” he finally said, “I don’t think we’ll do anything.”

“But Mr. Anderson…”, he started.

“Despite the animosity they may have had toward each other, even Armstrong said this idea of Parker’s would work. We just have to have faith that neither one saw a defect in the plan.” He hung up the phone and walked away from the desk. A pity actually, he actually like Kingstone. No matter, this was just a diversion at any point. No the main adjective was always Mitchell in the Mark two program. It was just too bad that he wouldn’t be able to personally witness Davidson’s reaction when he discovered what he did when Chen was killed.

***

Rachel and the other quickly went to the cavern floor after the fight was over. Jack and Richie were monkeying around, celebrating they’re win. It was strange to watch for a few moments, he never did anything like this after he fought a Drakan. Then again she had never seen him around Richie before either. “He’s going to be impossible now,” she said softly.

Lance stood back with her as Sparky and Arron looked like they were deciding if they wanted to join in or not. “You’re defiantly going to have you have your hands full now,” he said agreeing with her.

“I’m not going to say anything,” she told him. “But Melissa might be bugging you in a few days if that offer to take Richie in is still good.” Lance laughed a bit. Jack headed toward them and deactivated his armor. For the first time in a while what looked like a genuine smile was plastered on his face. It had been awhile since he seen him wear one, “Then again it couldn’t be that bad.”

Richie, on the other hand, was still in his armor and didn’t look like he was going any where. She coughed to get Jack’s attention and pointed behind him. He turned back to him and asked, “You coming or what?”

“I not sure I should,” he said looking bit hesitant. “I mean how would they react to me being around?”

“Probably about as well as they did me,” Jack told him. “Once you get past the first couple of hours of staring it ain’t so bad.”

“We weren’t staring,” Sparky said looking dismayed.

“You guys were doing a pretty good impersonation of it then,” Rachel told him.

“There something I got to know though, is it true you’re with the guy who did this to us?” Jack looked really uncomfortable before answer that he was.

“I’m sure if Jack thought he had a choice,” Rachel spoke for him, “he wouldn’t be there.”

“We got an agreement going,” Jack said. “We take down Anderson then we finished it.” He paused before adding, “But if you want to take a few pot shots at him I ain’t going to stop you.”

“Behind our backs of course,” Sparky added.

“Of course,” Arron said with a chuckle.

“I think I’d better see how many spare rooms my cell actually has,” Lance said dryly.

“Come on Richie,” Jack said, “you won’t have any problems with these guys. You got me backing you up and I’m in good with these guys.”

“You are huh?” ,Richie asked with a little skepticism.

“Well…,” Jack trailed off and looked at them, “it just these guys and a couple of others. But I’m on the boss’s good side so it’s all good in the end.” He gave him a thumbs up that Richie wasn’t returning. Jack looked at her and said, “You want to back me up on this?”

She crossed her arms, “That depends, how much of a pain in my ass are you two going to be?”

Richie chuckled, “Good to see some things haven’t changed. Guess I could always use a sidekick as I do the hero thing.”

Jack lost the smile but he still had an amused look in his eyes, “Watch it Riderboy. Come on I’ll introduce you to the other Stooges.” He headed for them again and Richie was following this time. He deactivated his system and quickly caught up with him. Then he grunted and grabbed the back of his head. He started to fall foreword as Jack caught him, “Richie!”

“What the hell?”, he muttered as Jack put him on the ground. “It felt like something in my head exploded.”

“Don’t worry man,” Jack told him. “I know a couple of good doctors who are familiar with the system. They’ll have you back on your feet in no time.”

“Jack,” he said, why did it sound like he was starting to have a hard time breathing? “I’m having a hard time moving my leg.” They all looked down and saw his leg barely move. And there was no doubt about it, he breathing was getting raspy.

“Oh God,” she muttered as it hit her, “his chip.”

“Don’t say that!” Jack shouted at her. “It’s got to be something else. Something fixable.”

“Guess Anderson screwed us over anyway,” Richie rasped as he figured out what they were talking about. “Didn’t want another one… getting away.”

“Nobody got screwed over yet,” Jack told him starting to sound desperate. “Come on Richie, you’re going to get fixed up then you and me are gonna walk right into World Inc and stomp a mud hole in Anderson’s ass.”

“Don’t think… it’s going to happen… that way bud.”

“Don’t talk like that Richie.”

“We had one last run,” he said weakly. “It was a blast too.” Everybody started to tear up. “Don’t be sad man,” he told him, “just kick ass.” His breath started to become more shallow, he struggled saying, “Best… buds…”

“Because everybody else is a dude,” Jack finished choking up. Richie let out one last breath and closed his eyes. He was gone. Jack lowered his head, shaking slightly. Lance put a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry Jack,” he said but Jack said nothing.

Arron knelt beside him, “We’ll get Anderson for this.”

Sparky added, “We’ll make it real slow too. Just like he deserves.”

“Jack,” she didn’t know what to say, “me, Lance and Sparky will find a place to bury him if you want. We’ll make sure World Inc. can’t find him.” Jack finally looked at her, eyes red from the tears. Slowly he got to his feet and put his left arm across his chest. As the belt materialized around his waist she asked, “What are you going to do?”

“Making sure they can’t bring them back.” He cried out henshin and the armor formed around him again. “Leave me alone…please.”

Rachel nodded, “Sure Jack, we’ll be… we’ll be right outside. Come out when you’re ready.”

Lane pulled her aside and said, “Me and Sparky will watch over him. Just in case Anderson’s troops decide to show up.”

“Right, come on Arron.” As they reached the top of the stone stairs she looked back at Jack. He stood there not even looking at Richie’s body. Her heart broke seeing him like this and knowing there was nothing she could do to help him.

***

He started pacing waiting for the meter to start flashing. For the first time since he first used the system it wasn’t building up fast enough. He looked at the ceiling, the steps, the seats, the floor in front of him, Lance and Sparky guarding one of the doors. Anything but Richie, he didn’t want to see him like this.

He wanted to remain numb and not think at all. But his memory had other ideas. He was three and he, his Mom and Uncle just moved to their new house. The mom and her son from next door introduced themselves. He didn’t remember much about that day, just that the adults were tall and this curly headed boy hiding behind his mother’s leg. He waved and said, “Hi.”

The boy’s mom said, “Say hi Richie.”

“Hi,” he said meekly.

“Wanna play?”, Jack asked. The boy looked unsure.

“It’s alright Richie,” he mom told him, “remember to stay were I can see you.”

“Ok,” he answered. They headed for the swing set in Richie’s backyard.

At seven they were sitting around looking at the various comics Jack had in his collection. Richie’s dad wouldn’t let him read them so he always came over and read his. While they were talking about the latest X-men Jack asked, “Who’s your favorite superhero.”

Richie shot to his feet and put his fist on his hips saying, “Spectreman.”

“Spectreman?”, Jack asked confused and started going through his books. “Is that the ghost guy in DC Comics?”

“No he’s this super cool guy on TV,” he said excitedly. “Mom let’s me watch him when Dad not home. Come on,” he dragged Jack from the bed, “It’s going to be on soon. It’s the coolest.”

As high school sophomores they ran for there lives and hid behind the football field bleachers. Breathing hard they looked around to make sure they weren’t followed. “How do you get us into these messes?”, Richie asked between breaths.”

“Is it my fault the head goon doesn’t have a sense of humor?”

“How many times to I have to tell you to think before you do anything.”

“God,” Jack through up his hands, “why do I keep hanging around you?”

“Because I’m the only one who can stand you,” Richie shot back. They sat there steaming a bit. Before long Richie started chuckling, “I thought he would have caught on faster than he did.”

Jack smiled and pointed at him, “That’s why it was funny. There’s hope for you yet.”

“There they are!” somebody shouted. They look to the street and saw a bunch of angry football player.

“Oh crap run!”, Jack shouted.

They were adults, a month before things went to hell and Jack stopped running after he caught the pass from Richie. He tossed it back saying, “When the last time anybody told you that you throw like a girl?”

“That isn’t funny Jack,” his then girlfriend said.

“Doesn’t make it any less true,” he countered.

“Too bad I can’t say he’s wrong,” Richie said as he put the ball down. Jack jogged back as Richie took the last burger off the grill. “So what are you going to do now? That place closed a week ago and you still haven’t looked for a new job yet.”

“Just taking some time to myself for a bit,” Jack told him as he grabbed a pop. “Besides I’m not in that bad of shape and I got a couple of jobs lined up that pay just as good.”

“You know that offer to work for us is still open,” Richie told him. “I can guarantee you a job.”

“Look Richie,” he said sounding a tired talking about this again, “I told you before I don’t want it. My Uncle taught me a lot of thing, one of them was don’t take jobs from your friends. It’s always going to go wrong.”

“You wouldn’t be working for me,” Richie told him. “I don’t even work there so there shouldn’t be much of a problem.”

“Your old man breathing down my neck would be a problem. I got an interview set up in a couple of days. All I got to do is be me and the job is mine.”

“Why are you going to be you if you want to get the job,” Richie joked.

“Oh funny, do you see my side splitting?”

“Hey guys,” Richie’s girlfriend said as she held up a camera, “This looks like a photo op to me.”

“Again with the pictures,” Jack said through his teeth.

“Just humor her,” Richie told him. Without any further prompting they stood next to each other put two fingers up behind the other one head and grinned like idiots. The light flashed as she took the picture.

The meter started flashing in his helmet. He looked over to Lance and Sparky. Lance nodded and tapped Sparky in the arm then pointed to the hallway behind them. They left him alone and he finally looked at Richie. He looked so peaceful laying there. Slowly he walked over. He put his hand on the pod and twisted it down, choking up he whispered, “Goodbye Richie.”

***

Melissa sat by herself as Emily came in. She silently sat next to her and listened to the silence. They got back a few hours ago from the arena. Just by looking at them told her things didn’t go well. Hell Jack expression, or lack of, told a bigger story. Emily finally broke the silence, “This was a test for everybody child, nobody knew what the results were going to be.”

She thought about what Rachel and Lance told her went down and the aftermath. “No offence Emily but this sounds like more of a torture for Jack than a test.”

“True,” she admitted, “he was the focus of this event, but we were affected just the same. And will be continued to be now that it is over. Something like this will not just go away overnight.”

“Well at least it’s over now,” she said getting up. “I’m going to try to arrange things to give Jack some free time to sort this out. If I’m lucky I can get him a couple of days, maybe three.”

“Time is what he needs child,” Emily agreed. As she left she heard her say, “Unfortunately his darkest days are still to come.”

***

Rachel woke up and found that Jack never slept in their room that night. It wasn’t until late afternoon when she found him. She expected him to be drunk off his ass but there wasn’t the sight or sent of alcohol around him. He was just curled up against the wall, he didn’t even change his clothes from the night before. Rachel stood by him, she wanted to comfort him but she also knew he needed his space right now. She turned to leave when he asked, “How?”

“Friedman did some checking after he found out.” She turned around saw Jack still wasn’t looking at her. “From what he was able to gather, That Andy guy had a chip in his head too that was linked to Richie’s. When he died it did something to his chip, interrupting his systems functions.” Jack curled up a little tighter when he heard the news. “Dusty wanted to check me out to see if the same thing happened to me. I told him there was no need to.” He didn’t reply, “Of course if you want proof…” And that did not come out like she wanted it too.

“I believe you,’ he said softly, voice cracking a little.

She walked back to him and knelt down, “Come on Jack, talk to me.”

“I’m fine,” he said a bit defensively.

“You can’t shut everything out.” He got up and walked away. “Jack you can’t stuff this down whatever you stuff thing inside you.”

“Not now,” he told her.

“You got to talk about this,” Rachel said following him. “I’m right here when you’re ready.”

“And what do you want me to talk about?!”, he snapped and turned around to look at her. She could see the tears falling down his cheek. After a moment he headed off again, “That fact my best friend is dead again. Or the fact I blew…” he stopped as he started choking up again. “I blew him…”. By the time she reached him he dropped to his knees and cried.

Rachel quickly knelt beside him and held him, “It’s ok Jack, don’t hold it in. He wouldn’t want you to hold it in.”

He slammed his fist against the wall,” Damn it, it should have been me. I should be dead now, not him.”

Rachel held him a little tighter, “Don’t say things like that. Please don’t say things like that.”

“He saved me,” he said not holding back anymore. “Why couldn’t I save him?”

“I don’t know,” she told him. She kissed him lightly on the forehead and held him until he ran out of tears.

***

When night hit Melissa and Rachel said they found it. Rachel told him he didn’t have to go but he wanted to. It something he should have done a long time ago. He pulled up beside the van as Melissa, Lance, Sparky and Arron stepped out. Rachel got off the bike a he looked at the gates. “You want to head back and do this another day?”, she asked.

“I can do this,” he told her. They walked through the gates and though the path until they reached the section they were looking for. God he was so not looking foreword to this.

Rachel could sense his anxiety, “Do you want me to come with you? You told me so much about him I feel like I know him.”

“He would’ve drove you nuts,” he smiled sadly, “especially with me around. I need to do this alone.”

“Sure,” she replied. “We’ll be here if you need us.”

Jack said nothing as he approached the tombstones. A chill ran down his spine as he saw the one that read “Jack Davidson”. He swallowed and looked the one next to it, the one that said, “Richard Kingstone”. He closed his eyes and pinched his nose. A moment later he felt Rachel put an arm around his shoulder. He was so grateful for that. Kneeling down he pulled a photo out of his pocket. The one of them before it all happened. He leaned it against the tombstone and stood back up. “Bye Richie,” he said softly. “I’ll make sure I get the bastard. If it’s the last I thing to do.” He turned and headed back for the gate. The others gave him some space but Rachel stood by his side. Now he was more determined than ever to take down Anderson, no matter what or who got in his way.
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