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Old July 23rd, 2019, 04:00 PM #41
scikaiju's Avatar
> scikaiju
Power Ranger
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405
Power Ranger
scikaiju's Avatar
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405

<Episode 38>

*Opening Theme – Smile Empty Soul – Who I am*

Jack sat there waiting patiently for him to show up. Silently going over the clues he saw in his head and kept hoping he saw all of it wrong. The guy could be jerk at times but he seemed like a decent enough person, just a little rigid in how he thought things should be. Jack looked at his plant as he heard footsteps coming his way. Glancing over in that direction he saw it was him, “Hey Frank.”

He jumped slightly, “What are you doing? You trying to give me a heart attack or something?”

“I thought you would’ve smelled me before you saw me.”

“My sense of smell isn’t that good,” he informed him. “Now what are you doing in my garden?”

“How did you get the money for those new tools again?”

Looking annoyed he started, ”I told you I ran into…”

“You ran into a guy who owed you money. Right,” Jack said as he got up. “Did you hear about what happened to Emily?”

“What is this twenty question?”, Frank demanded

“I just had a unique experience, that’s all. It’s weird you know,” Jack said as he started walking around a bit, “I haven’t thought or seen things this clearly in a while now. It’s been what, seven eight months since it happened? From what I understand word spread like wildfire down here that I went a little crazy. Of course I can’t say I as all that sane to begin with,” he chuckled a bit. “Now that I’m more or less back to normal you think I’d be relieved. But as strange as this might sound I got used to the ghost being around so now I’m feeling kinda lonely. Hell in one of my more inbetween moments I actually nicknamed one of them Chuck.”

“Is this going somewhere?”, Frank asked sounding even more irritated.

“I’m getting there so hold your horses. Did you know Emily told me everybody was talking about my ghosts? Particularly down here so I know the entire place knew about them. So you could imagine that I was a more than a little surprised when one of Anderson’s men seemed to know about them too.”

“Obviously somebody told them,” Frank said

“Obviously,” Jack agreed, “but who?”

“I wouldn’t past Jason to sell you out.”

Jack smiled sadly, “You know normally he’d be the first one on my list too, but something else happened. About a month or so again, right before I discovered those flowers over there you stormed right past me. I don’t know if you saw me but I heard you. You were saying you had half a mind to take them up on that offer.” Frank paled slightly as he stepped a little closer to him, “Just out of curiosity, who are they and what was the offer?”

“That’s a private matter and none of your business,” he tried to put warning tone in his voice.

“Oh I think it is,” Jack said getting into his face. “I hear you talking about taking an offer. The next thing I know you have money and the World Inc. goon squad knows about my ghosts.”

“It’s not what you think,” Frank pleaded.

“I think it’s exactly what I think it is,” Jack said making him back up. “So why did you do it Frank?”

“I didn’t…” he started to protest. Then he broke down, “Anderson wanted to know what happened to you. He was curious about what happened during that night, that’s all. I swear it is.”

Jack really wanted to punch him right now, disgusted he walked away. “Well Frank I have some good news and some bad news for you. Good news is I asked around and you don’t turn into a mole. So I won’t have to beat you silly for being that obvious. Bad news… Sparky’s right behind you.”

“Wha…?”, was all he got out before he jolted slightly and some of the others came out of hiding to drag him away.

Looking at Sparky Jack went, “Please tell me you didn’t enjoy that.”

Fingering some of his hair that was still shorter than the rest he said, “He cut off one of my dreads man.”

“And I thought I had issues,” he said walking away.

“Hey Jack,” Sparky said after him. “You named one of your ghosts Chuck?”

Shrugging his shoulders he answered, “He looked like a Chuck.”

Melissa didn’t try to hide her disappointment as Frank sat in front of her. Of all the people who crossed her mind he wasn’t even near the top of the list. “Why did you do it Frank?”

“I already explained why I did it,” he answered softly.

“How much money did they offer you?”

“Nobody talked to me personally. He sent word that he was willing to pay for information on what happened to Davidson. What we were using was going down the crapper. I was trying to help us out. It wasn’t hurting anything if Anderson knew what was wrong with him.”

“You betrayed Jack,” she told him.

“Do you think I was the only one who thought about it? I’ve heard people talk about what they would do with that money.”

“I’m sure some where, but it still doesn’t change the fact you took Anderson up on it,” Melissa said sharply. Frank went very quiet. “Exactly how much did they offer you for information on Emily’s route?”

“What?”, he went bug eyed. “I’d never betray us like that. I did everything I could to make sure none of Anderson’s men could follow me here. I got lost a couple of times I was trying so hard. So why would I tell them where to find Emily. I didn’t even know where she was going until after they left. So when was I going to have a chance to tell anybody anything?” Melissa wanted to call him on a lie, any lie, but she knew he was telling the truth.

Sighing heavily she said, “Unfortunately I still don’t think I can trust you at the moment. But I don’t know what to do with you either. So until I do I’m relieving you of all your responsibilities. And don’t be too surprised if the people down here start acting differently around you. Like Emily keeps telling me news like this spreads rather fast.”

“I was just trying to help us out,” Frank repeated weakly as she left the room.

In the hallway she found Rachel standing there and Jack leaning against the wall. “He wasn’t the one who told Anderson about Emily.”

“Then we still got a leak somewhere,” Rachel said. “Even Emily said they were ambushed. There just no way Anderson’s assault team just ran across them.”

“Everybody starting to look at each other too,” Jack added.

“I know,” Melissa said pinching the bridge of her nose, “and until I have something concrete to show them they’re going to keep doing it.”

“I don’t suppose Emily has an idea who did it?”, Jack asked. “With her second sight and all that.”

“When did you start believing in that?”, Rachel asked him. Then she said, “Even if she did ‘see’ it why did she go out if she knew there would be trouble?”

“She knew Anderson was coming to put one of those tracking bug in her head,” Jack informed her.

“Emily a big believer in changing the future as little as possible,” Melissa said anticipating Rachel next question. “Besides I already talked to her about it. She told me she had a bad feeling about the trip but nothing more.”

“Maybe we should parade some of the more suspicious ones in front of her and see if she picks up anything,” Jack offered. Melissa and Rachel both looked at him. “I’m just saying… it’s an option.”

“So what are you going to do about Frank?”, Rachel asked gesturing toward the room he was in.

“I honestly have no idea,” she replied looking at the door. “I can’t send him out in case he decides to spill our location out of spite. And I can’t send him to another sell in case he tells them about him,” she pointed at Jack. “I have to think about this one.”

“Either way me, Arron and some of the others are going to look for the old tools,” Rachel said. “I don’t feel right in using the new one now. I’ll see you guys later.”

“See you in a bit,” Jack said as she left. Melissa watched him watch Rachel go for a few seconds before returning his attention her. A second later she noticed Rachel glance back at Jack.

She just had to ask. “When you said you had an idea who did it, did Rachel ever cross your mind?”

“Why would I have considered Rachel?”, he asked a little bewildered.

“Well you do look at her funny, usually when I mention that Anderson has another Fusion operative in the works.”

“Ok,” he admitted, “I have mainly because she kept some things from me. Like how I have one of those bugs in my head too. And we worked past that. But sell me out like that, there’s no way she would do it.” Jack got real quiet and raised an eyebrow at her, “You didn’t think…?”

“Of course not,” she assured him. “I was just curious, that’s all.” Jack kept looking at her funny as he turned to leave. Melissa smirked to herself, there was some hope for those two yet. She turned to leave herself when she remembered something else she wanted to ask him. “You named one of your ghosts?”

“I do not like this,” Perez said as he stood slightly behind Anderson as he waited behind his desk. In a rare occurrence he found himself agreeing with the human. This could very well blow up in his face before he knew it. Particularly if their incoming guest decided to divulge his secret to those under him. Anderson was sure none of the human would believe it. But there would be those who would start to ask questions, which would lead to even more questions. That headache he didn’t need. A light on his desk blinked on and his secretary announced he had arrived.

“Send him in.” Not even a second later an extremely well dressed rebel walked in confidently and took the seat in front of the desk without it being offered. Years of practice allowed him to hide the disbelief of the sheer gall the rebel had. “Can I get you anything Mr….?”

“Trent,” he said nonchalantly as he looked around the room. Then his gaze fell upon Perez, “Although I was expecting a bigger welcoming committee. Just one guard? I’m practically insulted.”

“Mr. Perez is the head of my assault unit. I assure you he’s more than capable of handling the situation.”

“I’m sure he is,” this Trent gave him a knowing grin. “Do you have what I asked for?” Without a word he opened a drawer, took out a rather sizable file and slid it across the desk. Trent looked it over, grunting something every so often. Suddenly he started clicking his tongue, “You’re holding out on me.”

“I gave you all you requested,” Anderson said plainly.

“Then where’s the information on the mark two you’re cooking up?” Once again he found himself being surprised by the man, and again years of experience kept that from showing. If this man wasn’t a rebel he would have made every offer possible to get him in his in his company.

“What mark two?”

“Don’t be coy with me Anderson. My cell has tabs all over the place. I know you have a new Killer in the works, just like I know your Mr. Perez is not the original head of your shock troopers.” Trent leaned back and looked confident. “Now about that mark two…”

Anderson leaned foreword slightly, “You said you wanted all the information on the ones we had created, past tense. If we were working on this mark two like you claim then it would be in the creation phase. Therefore we have complied with your wishes.”

He sat there simmering before he regained his composure and started smiling, “You are a sly cat, I will give you that. Fair enough, you’ve kept your end of the bargain so I will keep mine.” Reaching into his coat he pulled out and placed an envelope on the desk. “The location of your lost Killer and, as an added bonus, the so-called leader of this rebellion. I would mention where the entrances and exits are but you never requested that.” The look on Trent’s face made it apparent that he thought he just evened the score. “Pleasure doing business with you.”

“I wish I could say the same,” Anderson said after he left. Waiting a few minutes he looked at Perez who nodded. He turned away and started speaking into the microphone hidden in his vest. Anderson opened the envelope and studied the contents, a plan already forming in his head.

“I am not hearing things,” Jack stated to Arron. They were in the garage looking over his bike’s engine. At the moment they were in a heated discussion about it’s current condition.

“You are hearing things,” the youth shot back.

“And last night was the first time I heard this ping. So you weren’t taking as good of care of my bike like everybody said you were.”

“You are crazy.”

“Hey,” Jack pointed a wrench at him, “I know crazy and this ain’t it.” Jack looked up and saw one of the locals coming his way. The confused look on his face told him exactly what he was going to ask. “He looked like a Chuck,” he snapped. Turning back to the engine he muttered, “I knew I should have kept that to myself.”

“You probably listen to the part of your head that said you heard a ping from this high tech hunk of junk.”

Jack patted the side of the bike, “Don’t listen to him baby, he’s just an obnoxious teenager.”

“Does Rachel know you’re cheating on her?”, Arron asked. “Or are you cheating on the bike with Rachel?” Not saying a word or looking up Jack smacked him on the back of the head, “Hey!”

“Chuck did it,” was all he said. When he did look up he saw Melissa walk through the doors with a very stressed look on her face. “And I know that can’t be good.”

“Everybody stop what you’re doing,” she said loud enough that everybody in the garage heard her. Tensions felt like it grew when everyone saw her. “Anderson knows where we are.” There was a lot of gasps, cursing and the beginning of some panicky chatter from that announcement, but she didn’t let it go that far.”Trent, the man who took over for Drake after he died, was the one who informed him. Most of his cell called us the moment they found out and Dr. Freidman told us almost as soon as he saw him in the building. So we have to pack up and evacuate now.”

“How long until they get here?”, Arron asked.

“I don’t know,” she said softly. Finding her voice again she told them, “So I want every vehicle we have packed with the essentials and ready to go as soon as possible. Those who aren’t with Trent are going to help us, Lance and his cell are hurrying over to help out as well.”

“Where are we going to go?”, Jack asked. “There a lot of people down here.”

“We have some unused safe houses close by and Lance said he’d take in some of us for the time being. But we do have a ‘B’ site to go to. Every cell has a back up habitat for cases like this, known to just the cell leader and a few select others. Which brings me to the other reason why I’m here. I need some people willing to fight in case Anderson men get here before we’re ready. Jason and Sparky are heading this up so if anybody wants to volunteer step foreword now.”

Everybody looked around to see who would be dumb enough to take what would be a potential suicide mission if it came down to it. Then everybody looked right at Jack as he took a step toward her, “I’m in.”

“Jack you don’t…,” she stated to say.

“Yes I do,” he said flatly. A couple of more took his lead. Then Arron stood beside him. Glancing over to the kid, Jack looked at Melissa and slowly shook his head.

She nodded in agreement, “Sorry Arron I need you for something else. For those of you who volunteered, thank you and I pray to God that we don’t need you.”

“What the hell was that Jack,” Arron demanded. “I can make my own decisions you know. And you’re going to need all the help you can get.”

“Would you shut up for a second Fido,” Jack cut him off. “I need you to promise me you’ll make sure Rachel gets out of here.”

“But Jack…”

“Promise me,” he repeated a little more forcibly.

Arron looked him in the eyes then started nodding his head, “Sure thing man, you can count on me.”

“Good,” he said. Reaching into his pocket he handed Arron the keys to his bike. “Throw her on the bike if you have too, just get her out of here. And if there’s another pinging sound when I take the bike back I’m kicking your butt.” Jack rushed off to throw his stuff in his bag before he did anything else. He was getting a little ticked that he forced to leave what was basically home again.

Hectic didn’t even begin to describe the habitat at the moment. Everybody was running just about everywhere. Only a few were actually stepping up and trying to control the chaos. And Rachel was finding herself in her element. “Get those kids to the garage now!” she shouted at an adult watching over a group of the younger ones. “The first couple vans are leaving in a few minutes.” Turning in another direction she mumbled, “What part of children out of here first is that hard to understand.”

“Rachel where do the medical supplies go again?”, somebody asked.

“Second exit on the east side. Dusty has Bessie and a trailer already parked there to take them.”

“How are things going?”, Melissa asked avoiding getting run over by a couple of people.

“Ask me after we get to the new place,” she responded. “I said east exit, that way!”

“Is everybody just taking the essentials?”

“I don’t think I could call them on it if they did,” Rachel admitted. She kept looking down a particular hallway. She was dumb for even considering it under the circumstances.

Melissa looked down that hallway and realized where it headed and what was on the other end. “I’m sure Emily can be convinced to take it with her. Go, I got this covered. But you got five minutes.” Rachel took a second to make up her mind and ran town the corridor.

Anderson took a deep breath of the night air. He really should make the time to leave the city limits more often, it was so invigorating. Stepping away from his limo he watched as a black unmarked van pulled up. The side door open and rather disheveled Trent was unceremoniously dumped to the ground. Perez and his team quickly exited the vehicle and surround the two of them as he calmly walked toward the bleeding rebel. “I do hope you appreciate choice of a meeting place Mr.”, he smirked as he sarcastically said, “sorry Trent. This is the same area you told us that would be the perfect spot to ambush the old woman.”

“You son of a bitch we had a deal!”, he spat. “I gave you Melissa and Davidson on silver platter.”

“And I fully intend on following up on that lead. In fact someone I trust completely is heading there right now to look thing over. But after discussing the matter with Mr. Perez we felt it would be best if the men went after a smaller more insignificant target first. How did you put it Mr. Perez, a ‘warm up exercise’ I believe. So I must thank you personally for leading our scouts to such a target.” Trent started to get up but Perez and his men aimed their rifle at him.

“So why did you have your dogs drag me out here?!”, he demanded.

“Because I felt a very strange urge to explain exactly why I did this, believe it or not.” Anderson walked foreword and spoke low enough that only the two of them could hear. “I wanted to tell you personally. My late cousin and myself had very, very few things in common. However the one thing we did see eye to eye on is that we detest traitors. And you Trent are a traitor to a group of traitors. So you are worthless in my eyes.” Anderson turned away and left the rebel seething on the ground.

“You green son of ….!”, he began to shout as Anderson tightened his coat.

“Fire!”, Perez ordered. Gunfire dominated the night momentarily before fading away. Perez caught up with him a few moments after the smell of Drakan blood did, “He started to change sir.”

“You had no choice,” he finished for him. “I understand it perfectly.”

“What did you say to him?”

“I told him the truth. That our contacts demanded that we bringing him to them. I thought we at least owed to tell him what he could expect from them since he helped us find the rebel’s main camp. Apparently he felt it would be easier to take his wrath out on me rather than them. Although I am sure our contacts will eventually be grateful that we took this potential problem off their hands. The wording will be rather important when I tell them of course. But in case they don’t, allow me to say thank you to you and your men Mr. Perez for protecting my person during this particular lapse of judgment.” Perez looked proud as he saluted and Anderson entered his limo. Anderson smiled to himself as the door closed, that went exactly like he planned it.

“So how much longer to we have to wait?”, Sparky asked. Him, Jack, Jason and about four others waited in the common area while some more were in the garage guarding things in case the assault came in from that direction. Lance even decided to join in and help them hold the fort while the rest headed for this “B” site. Of course Melissa decided over everybody objection to stay until the last of them left, so they had something else to worry about. At the moment Jack had an extra thought racing through his head, this champion thing sucks.

“Last couple of loads,” Lance answered him, “should be heading out in the next few minutes. That last van leaves as soon as we’re on it.”

“Maybe the bug should leave now,” Jason said. “I don’t even know why he’s even here.”

Jack spoke before anybody could stop him, “Because this is my home too and unlike some people I could mention I actually have friends here I want to protect. Besides I said we’d finish it after we took down Anderson. And I can’t kill you if somebody beats me to it.”

“I like to see you try bug,” Jason challenged him.

“I had you dead to rights twice chimp,” Jack shot back.

“Save it for the shock troops,” Lance said as he pulled Jack away. “We don’t need to be doing their work for them right now.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and they won’t show up,” Sparky offered. A second later him and a couple of others started sniffing the air and tensed up.

“You just had to say it,” Jack told him as he looked around to see where they might be coming from. Then they heard the footsteps echoing in the air. Jack looked down one of the hallways and saw a lone female figure walking toward them. Wearing a tight bodysuit, her dark hair in a bun and a device on her right wrist she came closer, walking like she owned the place.

Sounding nervous Sparky asked, “We’re in trouble aren’t we?”

“It’s a lone World Inc. operative,” Jack said feeling his left arm twitch, “we’re in it deep.”

“Oh my,” she said stopping and looking each of them over. “Looks like we have some naughty little boys. I’m going to have to do something like that and teach you a lesson.” She grinned as her eyes became more bug like and some transparent wings grew from her back as she turned into a green wasp. Raising her right wrist up to her chest a metal blade popped up, “And I do love making naughty boys scream.”

Sparky changed into a blue eel, Lance a red wolverine, Jason a blue monkey and the other dropped their human disguises. Jack did the arm movement needed to prime the system and shouted, “Henshin!” and the armor formed around him.

“You guys,” Lance said pointing some of their own. “Get to the garage and tell those vans to get out of here now and form a secondary line. We’ll hold her off for as long as we can.”

“A confident boy,” the wasp sounded excited. “I love breaking boys like you.” They surrounded her as she eyed her blade. “Oh who to start with?” The wasp struck out at Sparky with a kick. Jack and the other went in but the female Drakan was holding her own. It ducked and made Jason hit Lance. Jack grabbed her blade arm and tried to knee her in the stomach. She blocked with her knee, twisted in such a way that her arm was free then jumped up and kicked Jack under the chin. Lance came at her but he was thrown on top of Jack. Sparky tried his luck while the wasp attention was on them. She saw him and swung her blade, Sparky backed away with a long cut on his arm. Right then Jack figured out who they were facing, a warrior queen. Great, just freaking great. Knocking Jason down the wasp licked some of the blood off the blade. “Fear laden blood, always delicious.”

“God I hate talkers,” Jack mumbled as Lance got off of him. She came at him and he rolled out of the way. Jack tried to sweep her legs out from under her but she jumped up to avoid it. Sparky and Lance tackled her to the ground. Jason came in to punch her but a well place kick stopped that. Head butting Lance in the face freed up her left arm which she used to start striking Sparky repeatedly. Jack grabbed the arm and pulled the wasp to her feet. She forced him away before he could do anything. Then she swung her blade low and slashed through the bodysuit and into his left thigh. Jack grabbed it and backed away, “Ugh.”

“A special metal,” she announced holding the blade up. “One that can cut just about anything, even your precious armor. And I bet you thought you were invincible. “Sniffing the blade and licking it again she looked at him, “There’s no fear in this blood. I’m going to enjoy putting it there.” Jack refused to back up from her again, then Lance and Jason went at her again catching her by surprise. He joined in as best he could but his leg was bleeding and killing him. The wasp kicked him in the leg forcing him to a knee. Lance and Jason forced her back allowing Sparky to sneak up behind her and grabbed her shoulders to shock her. She jolted slightly from the charge he was generating. The wasp started throwing elbows behind her and threw her head back smashing him in the face. Thrusting the heel of her palm into Lance’s chest knocked him down. Jason was able to hold his own until fast punch to the gut dropped him to his knees as the wind left him. Holding the blade up for a killing strike the wasp said, “This naughty boy learns the hard way first.”

“The monkey’s mine!”, Jack shouted as he ignored the pain and ran at them. Jumping off of Jason he rammed his shoulder into her. Trying to keep the advantage as they got to their feet he started throwing rights and lefts, connecting with most of them. He missed one time too many and the wasp took over. Giving him a taste of his own medicine she grabbed Jack by the back of the head and started throwing knees in his face. Grabbing him by the neck she threw him back Jack fell against one of the post and tried to hold himself up. The meter started flashing and he twisted the pod up.

“Now die for Momma,” she said right before she charged him. Jack ducked and the blade impaled itself into the post. She struggled to free her weapon and he cocked a fist back.

“Go boom for Daddy!”, he said as he punched her in the gut. The wasp screamed as it flew back and exploded. Jack dropped to the ground with a plop, “I need a drink.”

“I think I need a cigarette,” Sparky said as he came over and offered to help him up.

Jack looked at it, “Yeah I’m not touching that hand.” Getting to his feet Lance and Sparky asked if he was all right and he responded with a nod.

Jason walked up behind him, “That was… mildly impressive bug.” Jack whipped around and decked him catching all of them by surprise.

“Jack what the hell?”, Sparky asked. He deactivated the system. They saw him glare at Jason for a few moments.

“That’s for calling her worthless,” he told Jason. Jack started to limp away before Lance demanded to check on his wound.

“It looks superficial to me,” he announced after a few moments.

“Still hurts like hell,” Jack told him.

“We’ll check it a little closer in the van. Let’s get out of here before any reinforcements decides to show up.” Jack leaned on Sparky for support as they headed for the garage.

The “B” site was an old subway that one way or another feel off the map. So they should be relatively safe for the time being, well until Anderson decided to intensify the search for them. People were settling in best they could giving the circumstances. The place need a lot of work to make it livable but there was plenty of people willing to do the work necessary. Jack, after he got patched up, more or less disappeared when he arrived. Rachel found him in one of the side tunnels sitting against a wall and looking up. She walked a little closer to see he was looking past a grate and at the stars in the night sky. When he looked at her he stared at the pot of flowers in her hands. “You did not risk your neck to dig those up.”

“You worked hard on them and I wanted to save them,” she explained. “Besides Emily had the same idea. She had a couple of guys digging them up by the time I got there. She said they brought you peace and didn’t want to leave them behind. You may not like it but I agreed with her at least.”

“You’re both idiots.” After a few moments of silence he took the pot and set it by his feet, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Sparky told me about the fight, so are you all right?”

“You’re like the eightieth person to ask me that,” he told her.

“So are you going to tell me what you told those seventy nine others,” she stated as she sat beside him, “or are you going to tell me the truth?”

Jack went back to looking at the night sky. Softly he answered, “I don’t know.”

“Well don’t keep it to yourself this time,” she told him. “That’s what got you in that mess to begin with. You have a lot of people around you ready and willing to help out the best they can when it feels like things are getting to be too much for you. Do you hear me?”

“I hear you.” Another moment went by before he added, “Thanks for being there for me when I was in it.”

She smiled at him, “You’re my friend, where else am I going to be?” He smiled back and returned to the night sky. She rested her head on his shoulders and joined him at watching the stars.

*Ending Theme – Linkin Park – What I’ve Done*
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Old July 30th, 2019, 07:54 PM #42
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Power Ranger
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405
Power Ranger
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405

<Episode 39>

*Opening theme – Smile Empty Soul – Who I am*

After insisting very strongly Anderson took a tour of the rebels’ hideout. He always knew it was an underground movement, he was just slightly amazed they were actually underground this entire time. Perez, despite his position, still demanded he’d only be in the sections he and his men had actually secured. Not that he had a problem with the request, but the way the human was acting like he was the one in charge annoyed him. Fortunately Taylor was there to keep him in check, so to speak. Perez looked happy there was a buffer but he could care less, he just wanted to see where Christopher, and Melissa apparently, had their people living.

And how they had their followers living. Artificial lights strung all over the place above them. The air seemed stale to him now, he didn’t even want to imagine what it must have been like full of their followers. Taylor walked with him as he wondered about. “It says something about my cousins, does it not Mr. Taylor?”

“What does sir?”

“That they were able to convince so many to live under these condition.”

“Conditions seem to be better than the initial view would indicate,” he said. “Some of the men have seen hallways lined with rooms with beds in them, some look like they would fit a family of four comfortably. One of these corridors leads to a garden of some sort. A room that could be described as a meeting hall or dining area looked like it could fit a hundred with some elbow room. Perez himself spotted a room that looked liked it was where they planned their raids based on the maps left in the room.”

Anderson slowly nodded his head as he listened. The rebels were a resourceful bunch after all. Avoiding being captured for so long he shouldn’t have been that surprised. But one thing still bothered him, “Why is it nobody knew this a place like this existed?”

“I’m not sure,” Taylor admitted. “I had people going over old city plans and blueprints as soon as Trent told us about this place, and they couldn’t find a trace of it. I contacted Rhodes and he seemed to recall some of the older Generals back in the day talk about a bomb shelter for the politicians that fell off the radar. I’m assuming this is that shelter.”

“Have him go over what he can to see if anything else fell off the radar,” Anderson ordered. “There has to be some kind of record of places like this somewhere. I doubt the rebels just stumbled across this location, and they have to be someplace like this now.”

“He is sir, and I’m having our people go over the public records as far back as they can find. If they have another location like this one we’ll find it.”

“I hope so Mr. Taylor. It is a metaphorical black eye on my reputation that the rebels have been able to hide for so long in my city, and I will not tolerate it any longer.” They came to a stop at what Perez called the central hub of the hideout. Anderson could just see the rebels in his mind standing around the space, acting like they were in the right. The he set his gaze on the charred remains of the woman he sent here. Slowly he walked toward the remains as Taylor waved off the people guarding them. Standing over them he said, “A pity.”

“Did you know her personally sir?”

“Well enough Mr. Taylor,” he answered. “I almost made her my personal bodyguard, but her rather unusual quirks made me rethink that position. No, she worked out much better as one of my personal assassins. She never let me down once, and always came back with a smile on her face. She was disappointed I waited so long before sending her after Mr. Davidson actually, one of the few times she ever begged for a particular assignment.” Silent for a couple of moments he spoke again, “I want her remains properly taken care of. I will perform the ceremony as soon as we return.”

“I’ll take care of it sir.”

“Good, good. May I have a moment alone?”

“Of course sir,” Taylor said and left.

Anderson looked at her remains and lowered his head. Despite the small spark of sadness he was feeling a smile escaped his lips, “Welcome back Mr. Davidson.”

“Damn it, another dead end,” Jack muttered. Rachel tried to remain patient, they had been here a week and he still had no idea where he was going half the time. Of course he was still a little ticked he had to spend a day in the homemade goop, as he put it, to fix that gash in his armor. So this wasn’t helping his mood any. “This place is a freaking maze. I thought you said it was this way.”

“I told you two lefts and a right,” she said. “You went left, right, left.”

“Why didn’t you say something sooner?”, he demanded.

“You learn better this way,” she shot back. “Come on follow me.”

“I still say they should have handed out maps to this place.”

“That’s a security risk,” Rachel reminded him, “and you know that.”

“And I’m tired of getting lost down here.”

“So are a lot of people. Melissa’s gotten turned around a couple times down here too. We just need to get used to the place.”

“If we get used to it,” Jack said. “A lot of the stuff they brought in is still packed.”

“People are still jumpy from the evacuation. Even I’m looking twice at the nearest entrance or exit every time I hear a strange noise.” They came to an intersection and they paused. She didn’t remember this being here. Rachel could feel Jack staring at her as she looked down each one. “Well come on, don’t just lean against the wall,” she said hoping he didn’t notice.

No such luck, “You had no clue which way we had to go for a second.”

“Shut up,” she told him. After a few minutes they found the others in Melissa’s new war room. It was a small group, just them, Melissa, Lance and a couple of others standing around. “Sorry we’re late.”

“I just got here myself,” Melissa admitted. “I have to start thinking about putting up some street signs around here or something.”

“I second that motion,” Jack said as he hoped on top of a crate.

“I might as well third it,” Rachel said, knowing she was going to regret it the moment she did.

“I knew you got lost,” he grinned.

“Bite me,” Rachel told him. Jack stuck his tongue out at her and she did the same.

“Children,” Melissa said sternly.

“She started it,” Jack said trying to sound innocent.

“Did not,” she played along.

“Don’t make me separate you two,” Melissa looked serious before turning away to hide her smile. Before long she was getting back to business, “I figured I should update you guys on what’s going on. The other cells are slowly learning what happened thanks to Lance.”

“Certain details left out of course,” he added looking at them.

“Of course,” Rachel agreed.

“So far it still looks like Jack is still our dirty little secret,” Melissa took over.

“What do you mean ‘little’?”, Jack cut in. Rachel slapped him on the knee.

Melissa continued like he never spoke up, “The survivors from Trent’s cell implied they had no idea why he set us up. So it looks like he was the only one in his cell that knew he’s with us. Speaking of Trent, they found his body in the wood shortly afterwards. It looks like he was shot several times.”

“Can’t say I’m shedding a tear over it,” Lance commented

“I can,” Jack said. “I wanted a piece of him.”

“You and everybody here,” Melissa told him. “I’m assuming Anderson took the matter out of our hands. One some other news, I’ve been asked to inform everybody not to worry about getting a new garden center going.” She paused and looked like she was steadying herself, “Sparky said he was going to take charge of it.”

The group gave out a collective, “Sparky?”, at the news.

“I know, it took me by surprise too.”

“He’s going a little far to impress Angie, isn’t he?”, Jack commented.

“Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt,” Rachel told him. Then she thought it over, “But you’re probably right.”

“Which brings me to our next order of business, we might have to find a new meat and food stuff supplier.”

Lance and the other looked concerned, “Did Anderson find out about them?”

“No,” she said. “A human is putting the squeeze on us if you can believe it.” Everybody looked at each other. “And he wants to talk to us about ‘protection’. I don’t know who this Harrison guy is but…”

“Wait,” Jack interrupted her, “’Pitbull’ Harrison?”

“You know him,” Melissa asked. Rachel’s interest was piqued too.

“Through my Uncle unfortunately,” he told them. “He was a pretty small time wise guy too. Even before I was caught in that avalanche he was a small fish pretending he wasn’t in a big pond.”

“Well he’s apparently grown some since then according to a couple of the other cell leaders. He took over one of our major suppliers a little over a month ago. I have no idea how he found out about us though, we have a couple dummy fronts in place.”

“You’d be surprised,” Jack said. “I’ll go with you to meet with him.”

“Are you nuts?”, Rachel asked him.

“I had no plans on meeting with him,” Melissa informed him. “Even if I was I wouldn’t risk you getting caught.”

“Do you have another supplier set up?”, Jack asked. To Rachel and the others dismay she wasn’t saying anything right away. “Look, he owes me a couple of favors. I’m pretty sure I can work something out.”

Melissa was actually thinking it over, finally she said, “We’ll give it a try, but I still don’t think this is a good idea.” She broke up the meeting to go get ready. Lance and the other looked at Jack as they exited.

“Do I want to know why a small time mobster owes you favors?”, Rachel asked once they were alone.

“Nothing major,” Jack answered as he hopped off the crate.

“You’re risking everything on ‘noting major’? You’re crazy.”

“Hey, I know crazy and…,” he trailed off, “and this is pretty much it actually.” That did not fill her with confidence.

The meeting place was just outside Harrison’s old neighborhood, the same place he tried to run like a big time operation. Jack thought he was kinda pitiful back then too. With Melissa riding behind him, which was a little weird because he was used to Rachel being back there, he pulled up between a couple of small buildings. Harrison, wearing the same Hawaiian shirt Jack saw him in the last time, sat on the hood of a dark blue Lincoln Continental with a couple of his boys standing on either side. Taking off his helmet Harrison looked surprised, “I don’t believe it, little Jackie Davidson.”

“Hey Mortimer,” Jack shot back using his real name. His guards started snickering until “Pitbull” shot them a look. “Let me handle this,” he told Melissa.

“The way you’re handling it now making me nervous,” she whispered back.

“I got to say Jack,” Harrison said as he got off the hood and they walked toward each other, “I’m a little surprised about you. The little punk I knew as a boy becoming the most wanted man in the country, who would have thought it. What would your Uncle say? What would your mother say?”

“Things happen,” he told him plainly. “You wanted to talk to the woman behind me. She’s letting me speak for her.”

“And why should I let you?” Jack only reply was to look up which caused Harrison to do the same. On the roof to their left Arron was holding the unconscious body of one of Harrisons’ men. On their right Sparky had another one by the neck as he waved at them with his free hand. “Looks like we’re discussing business then.”

“I’m not really here to discuss anything,” Jack informed him. “You owe me two favors. I’m calling one of them in.”

Harrison tugged at his ear, “My memory may be a little hazy at times but I don’t see how I owe you anything.”

Jack was all too ready to explain, “Back when I was eight. You were on the run from the cops and begged my Uncle to let him hide out in out in our basement, even made me promise not to tell anybody you were there. The police tracked you down anyway, I lied to them and said I never saw you.”

Scratching his chin he said, “I can see how that could be seen as me owing you something, but I don’t see two.”

“My mom came home right after you left. She heard the police were there and asked what was going on. I looked her right in the eyes and told her the same exact lie.”

“And that’s definitely two.”

“Boss how is that two?”, one of his guards asked.

“If you ever met his mother you know he took his life in his own hands there,” he started rubbing his chin where Jack vaguely remembered his mom decking him. “So what can I do for you?”

Here’s goes nothing, “From what I hear you’re putting some pressure on these guy’s food source. I want it stopped.”

“Done,” Harrison said without thinking it over.

“Boss!”, his guard cried out.

“A favor is a favor boys, you should always honor them,” Harrison told them. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll even forgot I saw you tonight. That should make us even.”

“Fine,” Jack agreed, “and I sincerely hope I never see you again.” Jack turned around and headed for the bike. He knew it was too easy and knew the other shoe was about to drop any time now.

“You know,” here it comes, “I always thought the infamous Drakan Killer would look a little tougher.”

Jack froze in his tracks totally caught off guard. Looking at Melissa he saw her state of shock too. He mouthed the words “Did he just say?” She nodded slowly. Turning back around Jack saw an evil grin on Harrison’s face.

“One of the benefits of being seen as small time, you can find out things when people don’t notice you. Made it easy to find out about these freaks and you, and with a little digging what they did to you. I’m willing to forget all of it, if you do a little something for me. You see I got this Drakan trying to muscle in on my territory. I want you to get rid of him.”

“No deal,” Melissa told him after she found her voice.

“Gee, it would be a pity if the news about the Drakans got out to the press, with evidence might I add,” he smirked.

Jack looked him in the eyes, “Have you ever heard of Matthew Anderson? He’s like the main guy around here and he is very protective about it. If you actually did your research then you’d know he has a small army under him. If word about the Drakans get out don’t be surprised if he gets a package the next day. One containing info about where you live, who you associate with, where you hang out and anything else I can think of.”

“That’s a pretty good threat there Jackie,” Harrison laughed. “But what would your mother say about it?”

“Leave her out of this.”

“I can’t Jackie, you see I know where she is. And you really should have saved that second favor.”

Jack grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him close, “Leave her alone!”

“You think that favor you called in from Nick covered everything when you moved her?”, he taunted. “Relocating people ain’t cheap and the money had to come from somewhere. And I was more than happy to chip in. Before you get any ideas Jackie boy, I figured a day like this would come so I have one of my boys watching her. And if you do anything to me…”

“Don’t listen to him Jack,” Melissa told him, but she sounded nervous to him. He also noticed she wasn’t exactly saying he was lying either.

“Can you take that chance Jackie?”.The only thing he wanted to do was wipe that look off of his face. But he let go and backed away. “Good boy. Now I’m not a total hard case so I’ll give you a day to think it over. And it’s a simple choice Jackie boy, the Drakan or your mother. Meet me back here when you made your choice.” He patted Jack on the cheek before heading back for his car. Arron and Sparky jumped down and asked what he was going to do. He couldn’t answer, he just stood there shaking.

Once again Melissa wished she could turn off that window in her head that let her read the emotions of others. The anger radiating off of Jack was splitting her head open. And the commotion that resulted when they returned wasn’t helping it any. She tried to calm things down and get back some order. At least Jack was fuming in the corner and not adding anything to fuel the fire. Still the commotion around her was grating on her last nerve and she snapped at them, “I don’t remember putting this up for discussion.”

“All I’m saying is after all he’s done for us,” Sparky continued his argument, “why can’t we look the other way this one time?”

“And how many more times after that?”, Arron countered. “Do you really think this guy going to stop after this one?”

“You been watching too many movies,” Sparky told them. “Besides what does it matter to us? We don’t even know the guy Harrison wants Jack to whack.”

“And that makes it alright?”, Arron demanded. “As far as we know this guy is outside this stupid war. Would you really be ok with Jack killing somebody who was basically an innocent?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Jack finally spoke. Everybody looked at him.

“And where did that end up getting you?”, Rachel asked suddenly. He said nothing as he left the room. Then everybody looked at her. “When Jack started talking about what lead to his… episode, he kept going back to a couple of times he was forced to kill a Drakan that he couldn’t say for sure was involved in this. He always talked about the first time he had to, it was a frog who confronted us on the street and challenged him. That was the first time he realized he wasn’t feeling as guilty as he thought he should have been, and was worried about what kind of monster that made him.”

“At least you agree with me,” Arron said. Rachel didn’t reply right away, in fact she looked undecided. “Don’t go flip flopping on me now.”

“I don’t want Jack to do this either,” she said, “but this is his mother we’re talking about.”

“We’ll think of something,” Melissa said. “But we can’t do what Harrison wants.” Sparky started to protest, even Rachel began to join him. “We’ll think of something,” she repeated. “I have a hard enough time sending Jack out on jobs where I know he might be forced to fight a Drakan working for Anderson. I am not going to be ok with anything where an innocent has to die to appease some hood. And I know nobody here wants to send Jack down that road again. We’ll think of something.” She just wished she knew what it could be so it wouldn’t affect Jack’s Mom.”

A pitiful night sleep didn’t improve things. The conflicting bits of unwanted advice wasn’t helping anything either. Rachel tried to get his mind off of it but she gave up after a couple of hours. He just wanted to avoid people and think. The only he place he could find was the still under construction gym area. The heavy bag was up so he took off his jacket and started pounding away. His mind kept going back to the “innocents” as Arron called them. The frog who wouldn’t back away from the fight because tradition demanded it. The hippo who just wanted the glory of being the one who took down the Drakan Killer. Max, who he was forced to fight because of that damn dart. Those three always waved heavily on his mind, and two of them were usually some of the first to show up in his nightmare. Could he really add another one to his conscious?

Holding onto the bag he closed his eyes and sighed heavily. Why was he acting like he even had a choice? Grabbing his jacket he headed for the garage. On the way there Sparky caught up with him, “Where you going man?”

He knew where Sparky stood but he couldn’t take the chance and only told him, “Out.”

“Want some company?”

“No,” he answered.

“I’ll make sure your bag is packed when you get back,” he said.

“Look,” Jack stopped and snapped at him.

“Don’t go preaching to the choir,” the blue haired Drakan told him. “I know what you gotta do. I understand where Melissa is coming from, but I know deep down she and the others know you don’t have a choice in the matter. Do what you gotta do to protect your mom.”

“Thanks Sparky,” Jack told him gratefully.

“Hey, I’m your boy I got your back,” Sparky grinned. Jack nodded and continued on his way. Hopefully Dusty would put up with him after this was over.

She really should have asked Jack where this Nick guy was, buy she didn’t want to risk him trying to talk her out of it in case it backfired and hurt his mom. Not that those thought didn’t already entered her head, but this was the only option she could think of. Amazingly enough Melissa knew who he was and what he did on the side. Apparently in the past they had to get a few Drakans out of the city when things got too hot for them. She should have been worried about getting further involved in the mob thing, but at the moment she was more worried about being recognized out in the streets despite the red hoodie and sunglasses she was wearing. At least Arron was backing her up for this one. Entering the shop once they found it she saw a guy standing behind the counter with the nametag Nick on his shirt. He looked like she thought he would: tall, lanky and wearing glasses. “Can I help you?”, he asked.

“Yes,” she said as she took off the sunglasses.”I hear you have an outside business moving people.”

He recognized her almost instantly, “Sorry but not you, you are way to radioactive to even think about.”

“Actually I’m here about somebody you already relocated,” she explained, “Helen Davidson.”

“Oh no no no no,” he said while backing away from them. “Pitbull warned me that somebody might be coming in asking about her. He said he’d break my legs, wait until they healed and break them again if I ever told anybody where she was.”

Looks like it was time for the back up plan. “You know,” Rachel said calmly, “you could worry about what Pitbull would do to you. But maybe you should be worried about what I’ll have my young friend here do to you a little more. Arron,” she said and stepped aside. He took a step foreword and started at him. His eyes went wolf-like as he gave out a low threatening growl. The wide eyed expression in his face and the growing wet spot on the front of his pants said she got her point across. Rachel leaned on the counter, smiled and pleasantly said, “Now, about Helen Davidson.”

“I knew you’d make the right choice Jackie boy,” Harrison said as he pulled up. “Now be a good boy and follow us. I’ll explain when we get there.” He got in his car and drove off and Jack did as he was told. Jack found himself wishing that one of Anderson assault units would show up. It would give him an excuse to ditch these guys. Of course that never happened as the pulled next to a chain link fence of an old junk yard. “Now listen up. Mullen, that’s the freaks name, is using this place as a base to take me down. I was able to bribe his guards that were supposed to be here, so you got an easy in. Here’s how it’s going to go down, my boys will take care of his boys and you take care of him. And if you do a good job maybe I’ll give you mom’s new number so you can talk to her.” If looks could kill Harrison would have been incinerated on the spot by the one Jack was giving him. Harrison backed up a little, “Remember what’ll happen to her if anything happens to me.” Jack said nothing as he got off the bike and climbed the fence.

After he got in it didn’t take long for Harrison to make his move. Gunfire began to fill the air as he made his way toward the center, if this Mullen didn’t already run. If only. Again he didn’t get his wish as he found a guy wearing a white suit looking worried. Jack didn’t get close before he was noticed, “Who the hell are you?”

“Somebody who really doesn’t want to be here but doesn’t have any other choice,” Jack said as he kept walking. He did the movements necessary to activate the system and said, “Henshin.” Mullen started to back away as the armor formed around him.

“The Drakan Killer,” he gulped. “Look whatever he’s paying you I’ll double it, I’ll triple it.”

“Unfortunately you can’t raise what he’s offering,” Jack said sadly. He ran at him but got batted away when he got close. Mullen sprouted antlers as he turned into a blue moose. Looking around he grabbed a pipe out of a pile of junk and came at Jack with it raised over his head. He got a forearm up to stop a blow directed at his head and kicked him away. The moose went back in swinging forcing him to back away. Grabbing the pipe in mid swing he pulled and threw the Drakan to the ground. He looked at the pipe before dropping it. The Drakan took advantage of that moment to quickly get up and clock him with a left cross. Jack ducked another one and countered with a right of his own. He kicked it behind the knee to force it down and punched it in the head again.

The entire fight he wasn’t thinking about what he was doing. He wasn’t thinking about what Rachel and the others would were going to say about his decision. Jack was thinking about his Mother. And not her reaction to his choice. No, every possible thing Harrison could do to her was running wild through his head. As much as those thoughts disgusted him he had to let them fuel his actions. It was the only possible way he could do this. The moose started to fight back and didn’t let up. It jumped up suddenly and kicked him in the chest and forced him against a hood of an old car. The Drakan ran at him, Jack bent down and flipped the moose over his head and sent it flying. Jack climbed on top of the hood and jumped on top of it. He was forced off and kicked in the head hard.

He didn’t have time to lose the stars circling around in his vision as another punch came at him. Acting on instinct he blocked several punches before popping up with an uppercut that knocked the moose back. It tried to punch him again, he ducked and the momentum casing the moose to turn around. Thinking quick he grabbed him around the waist and threw him backwards. The moose stumbled to his feet as the meter started flashing. Jack looked at the moose… Mullen… and whispered, “I’m sorry,” before twisting the pod down. He squatted down slightly, jumped at the Drakan and extended his right foot. Hitting it in the chest the moose flew back and exploded.

“That a boy Jackie,” Harrison said as walked up with his men in tow. “That was pretty impressive. I may use you again if one of these freaks gets a little big for their britches.”

“No,” Jack told him. “That was it, I’m not doing this for you any more.”

“You sure your mom could live with that Jackie boy?”, he taunted.

“You really should have waited for me to deactivate the system before making that threat.” Jack ran at them catching them off guard. He crashed his shoulder into the nearest guard that knocked him down. Another tried to draw his gun. Jack kicked it out of his hands then slammed a forearm into his chest. A third started firing at him. He slowly walked toward him and grabbed the gun. Ripping it out of his hands he grabbed him by the shirt and not holding anything back he threw him. Then he turned toward Harrison.

“Th..think about it Jack,’ he said as he rapidly backed away, “do anything to me…”. He didn’t get a chance to finish as he ran in and grabbed him by the shirt collar. Forcing him against a pile of junk he lifted him off his feet.

“Now you listen to me,” Jack growled. “If I ever find out you, your friend or anybody working for you even looks at my mother I will make you wish you were him,” he gestured with his head toward the still burning remains, “by the time I’m done with you. Do I make myself clear!” Harrison nodded quickly and Jack dropped him. He patted him on the check before turning around and walking away more than ready to leave all of this behind him.

Melissa waited outside the garage waiting as it rained heavily. Nobody had seen him for hours and she was afraid she knew where he was. She prayed she was wrong as a lone headlight came toward her. Jack stopped short of her and took off his helmet and they just looked at each other. And she knew, not from any thing she was reading off of him, but from the fresh scent of Drakan blood that was in the air despite the downpour. Melissa seethed as she went up top him and punched him off the bike and to the ground, cursing herself for holding back at the last second. “You son of a bitch!”, she screamed. “If you would have waited we could have stopped this.”

“I couldn’t take that chance,” he said as he got to his feet.

“Rachel found you mom,” she informed him. She took no satisfaction as he looked away. “I know people down there and they’re getting her out of there now. I told you we would find another way. But you were so desperate to live up to your name you just had…”

“I don’t care if I pissed you off or not,” he snapped back catching her by surprise, “but I didn’t have a choice. When it comes down to my Mom and a Drakan I don’t even know my Mom going to win every damn time.”

“And what if it comes down to a Drakan you do know next time?”

“Do you really want me to answer that?” They were silent for a long time. Then he walked the bike past her, “I’ll go pack.”

“Every bone in my body says I should kick you out but I’m not,” she said not turning around. “Emily says we still need you. That and Sparky was able to convince most of the other to mutiny if I did.” Turning her head slightly she told him, “You are on a very short leash as of right now. Another incident like this and I will throw you out on your ass. Is that clear?”

“Perfectly,” he answered as he continued toward the garage.

“Explain something to me,” she said finally facing him. “When Emily was trying to calm me down after nobody could find you she told me something. She said sometimes a champion is faced with a decision where there is no right path. So he must take the one he feels he can live with the best. Champion, what did she mean by that?”

“Ask her,” was all he said.

“I did, she said to ask you.”

Jack stopped and sighed before facing her, “Honestly, I don’t know what it means either. I not sure I even believe in it yet. But it’s something I’m clinging on to, just for the sake of my own sanity if nothing else.” With nothing else to say he headed back for the garage. Melissa waited a moment before following him in. She was still royally pissed at him for making that choice. But she knew it was the only one he could live with, now if it only didn’t have to cost some “innocent” Drakan his life in the process.

Everybody was giving him a mix reaction in the hours after he got back, some agreeing with him and other not. Mostly they just avoided him. Jack didn’t really care either way. His mom was safe that was all that mattered to him. “You going to rip me a new one too?”, he asked Rachel as she walked up.

“I’m sure Melissa hoping I will,” she said. “But I know you thought you only had the one option. Besides as I see it I’m partially to blame for this too. Maybe if I told you what I had planned you would have waited and nobody would be arguing with each other right now, or maybe not. Look, I know how much you mom means to you. Melissa won’t like it but I know in my heart you made the right choice. Which is why I’m hoping this is a good surprise.” She pulled a phone out of her pocket and held it to her ear, “Are you still there? Good,” then she handed it to him.

“Hello?”, he said a bit unsure.

“Jack!”, a very excited and all too familiar voice spoke back.

“Mom!”. Tears started to form in his eyes, “Oh God it is so good to hear your voice again.”

“Same here baby,” she told him. “Now what is going on? Why was I moved again? Rachel explained most of it but I’m still confused.”

“That favor didn’t go as far as I’d hoped it would,” he told her. “But we took care of it so don’t worry.”

“You didn’t do anything stupid did you?”

“Would I do anything stupid? Don’t answer that.”

“I’ll take that as a yes. I do know my boy after all. But are you alright? Rachel kept a little too quiet when I asked about you.”

“I… went through some things, but I got through them. Rachel helped me get through it.”

“Good, usually you’re stubborn enough to try to handle anything major on your own. Unfortunately you take after me there so I can’t blame your Uncle Petey, no matter how much I want to.”

There was a click over the line before he could speak, “What was that?”.

“Rachel warned me about that,” she said sadly. “It means our time is just about up for now. Listen Jack I love you.”

“I love you too Mom,” he was able to get out before the call ended. Those tears started to fall as he handed the phone back.

“I’m going to talk to Dusty about working on that,” Rachel said. “That way you can talk to her as long as you want and as often as you want.”

Jack caught her by surprise by getting up and hugging her, “Thank you.”

“What are friends for?”, she said. She left him alone again with his thoughts. Would he have made that choice again? In a heartbeat, no question about it. Would he be able to live with it? That he didn’t know yet. But hopefully Rachel, the others and his Mom would help him out of it if he couldn’t.

*Ending theme – Linkin Park – What I’ve Done*
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Old August 1st, 2019, 05:34 PM #43
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405

<Episode 40>

*Opening theme – Smile Empty Soul – Who I am*

Things in the new habitat were slowly getting better. After everybody realized what was where things started to feel like normal. The new garden center was coming together nicely under Sparky’s care, to the surprise of just about everybody. And once everybody gotten used to the new routine it was like they always lived there. A routine that was broken as people hanging around in the main chamber saw Rachel storm in looking furious. Quickly followed by Jack who was holding the back of his head, “What did I say?”

“You know exactly what you said,” she shot back angrily.

“Obviously not if I’m asking what in the hell I said.”

She turned around and got in his face. Jabbing a finger in his chest she said, “What exactly is going through that head of yours? After all the things I’ve done for you. After all the times I’ve fought for you. How can you even say…?”

“How about you stop poking me in the chest,” Jack raised his voice slightly, starting to get annoyed.

“Do not yell at me!”, Rachel told him.

“You slapped me in the back of the head for no reason!”, he did start yelling now. “If anybody got a right to be yelling right now it’s me.”

“Oh all the ungrateful,” she started. “Why do I even put up with you?”

“Who asked you to put up with me?”, he shot back. “I didn’t see anybody put a gun to your head.”

“You block headed,” she started to say. Then she turned around and stormed off again. This time he didn’t follow, but he did storm off in different direction. But her voice did catch his ear.

Turning around he shouted, “And if you’re going to cuss me out do it in English!” She started to swear louder in French. His hands flew up in frustration, “Gah!”

He passed Sparky and a couple of other sitting at a makeshift table. Sparky look at the others and said, “Lovers spat.”

“Shut up Sparky,” he snapped at him.

Melissa told herself she wasn’t going to get in the middle of it. That lasted all of five minutes before she told a couple of people to find Jack and bring him to her. As she waited she made a promise to herself, she wasn’t going to jump down his throat and she wasn’t going to go on the attack. They were going to sit down and rationally discuss what happened. After all there were two sides of every story and he did deserve to have his side heard. Then Jack arrived and she realized, based off what she was reading, rational probably wasn’t in the cards. “Sit, we have to talk.” Instead he crossed his arms. “I said sit down.”

“When I’m ready,” he said a little defiantly. Apparently he was still a little irked from the situation with Rachel.

Feeding off the irritation coming off of him her eyes went feral and she growled a bit as she told him, “I said sit.”

Looking at her for a moment or two he said, “I’m ready,” and promptly sat down.

This could have gotten off to a better start. Taking a second to calm herself she said, “I know things between us have been a little strained lately. And I don’t usually involve myself in the personal quarrels of those who live here.”

“Fine, then I don’t need to be here,” Jack said as he started to get up. She pushed him back down a little harder than necessary, just to get the across the point he wasn’t going to leave until she said so.

“But in the past few months,” she continued, “Rachel and I have gotten to know each other a little better. So I consider her to be one of my closest friends. And right now my friend in angry and hurting and I want to know why.”

Sighing tiredly he said, “If I knew why we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“Something had to have happen Jack. Nobody has seen her like this. I heard Dusty found out and is coming in to crack your head open to find out what you did.”

“Then it’s going to be a long night because I have no idea what I did.”

She tried a different track, “Then tell me what was going on before whatever happen happened. Maybe we can figure it out and stop this fight.”

Sighing again he titled his head back before looking back at her. “Me, Rachel and Arron were straightening out one of the supply closest, and we were just talking. Out of the blue Arron, who I blame for all of this by the way, asked me if I thought Rachel would ever stab me in the back. I don’t know why it came up.” Melissa felt her gut tighten a little as she was afraid of what the answer was going to be. “I told him no, I fully expect to see it com…ing…,” he trailed off as it dawned on him what he said and dropped his face into his hand, “ah son of a bitch.” When he looked up she smacked him in the forehead, “Ow!”

“You didn’t hit yourself hit yourself hard enough,” she said.

Getting up he said, “I got to find Rachel. That wasn’t what it sounded like.”

“How can that be anything than what it sounded like?”

“Let me explain it to Rachel first then I’ll explain it to you.” He quickly turned into the hallway. She heard a, “Excuse me Emily,” that was followed by a loud crack and an, “Ow!”, before Jack came hopping back into view holding his right shin. “What the hell, is this hit the Fusion guy day?!”

“What did you say to that poor girl?”, Emily demanded as she waved her cane at him.

“I’m going to go work it out with her,” he quickly said. “If people would stop hitting me before I can find her.” He hobbled off as they watched. Melissa was hoping he found her quick because he wasn’t going to last long at this rate.

Rachel didn’t know if she should cry or tear him a new one. After all this time he still didn’t trust her. She hugged her knees to her chest as she sat in her bed, trying not to stare at his cot on the other side of the tiny room. Still low on space her ass. She had a half a mind to throw all his stuff out in the hallway. That way he could bunk with somebody he could trust. The doorknob shook a little then there was a knock on the door. “Rachel open up,” she heard him say.

She remained quiet in hopes he’d eventually go away. But he kept knocking and calling her name. Getting fed up she called out, “Go away Jack.”

“Let me explain,” he said, “that wasn’t what I meant.”

Rachel got up and almost shouted at the door, “So what, you expect me to stab you in the side now?”

“I don’t think your going to betray me or anything.” Then his voice went a little lower and she heard him say, “Do you mind? I’m trying to have a conversation here.”

“Whatever man,” a new voice said.

“Rachel,” he said talking to her again, “you are my closest friend right now…”

“Yeah right,” she cut him off, “some friend. You’d never say that about Richie.”

“Yes I did,” he said immediately, “hundreds of times. And he said the same thing about me.”

Against her better judgment she opened the door. Before she got out of the way and let him in she wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. “The only reason why I’m even listening to you is because I’m curious about what story you made up to make me believe that.”

“I know you’ll probably won’t believe it but it isn’t a story.” He walked in and she closed the door. He sat on her bed, “Please sit down.” Again against her better judgment she sat on the bed too, as far away as she could. He scooted away to give her a little more space before explaining. “All of this goes back to a stupid E-mail Richie got a few years ago. One that supposedly explained the differences between a friend and a real friend. One of them just happened to be ‘A friend will stab you in the back, a real friend will look you in the eyes while he stabbing you in the heart’. I don’t know how but somehow that became one of our personal mottos.”

“It’s a stupid motto,” she said softly.

“You know what? I agree with you,” he told her. “It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard and I always hated it. Besides I was pushing for a friend will help you move a real friend will help you move the body.” She almost cracked a smile but stopped it. Jack didn’t look like he saw it. Looking at her he said, “Look, what I’m trying to say is until today Richie is the only person I said that about. And when I say it I’m saying I trusted him completely. And I was saying I trust you completely Rachel.”

“Did you have to word it like that? I was thinking we didn’t get past all of that after all. Do you have any idea how much that hurt to hear?”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you like that. I was so used to saying it with Richie I didn’t think. Rachel I l…,” he stopped himself closed his eyes for a second. Part of her briefly worried if he was having a relapse. “I’m sorry and I would never intently hurt you. Sparky’s going to be disappointed when he finds out but you are my best friend. Sometimes I think you’ve been my only friend in this whole mess. You were there when it started and I really want you there if it ever ends.”

“I listened to you,” Rachel said after a moment. “I don’t know if I believe you, but I listened.”

“That’s all I wanted.”

“Can I have some time to myself please?”

“Sure,” Jack agreed as he got up, “take as much time as you want. If you want to talk to me I’ll be hiding somewhere because just about everybody wants a piece of me now. And apparently Dusty coming in to kick my ass too. The way things have been going somebody will get you a video of it before the day’s over. So enjoy.”

Alone again Rachel wondered if she could get him to repeat that in front of Melissa. It wouldn’t be the most accurate assessment but it’d be something. But then again she was sure Jack wouldn’t use Richie like that. So she didn’t know what to think. But looking over at his plant she was wondering if it could give her the same peace of mind it apparently gave him.

Anderson, in one of the few times in his life, was feeling confused. The rebels had been quiet since they relocated, outside the occasional small outburst here and there. But then there was a Drakan found dead in a junkyard recently. Davidson doing, there was no doubt about it. The big question was why. Normally he’d be in his office overlooking his city pondering the situation. But today he was in a monitoring room looking through a different window. “Any news on the corpse Mr. Taylor?”

“Not a whole lot Mr. Anderson,” his VP said. Looking through the report in his hands briefly he shook his head. “As far as we can tell his name was Mullen. He only just arrived in the city a few months ago and tried to keep a low profile since then. Our contacts were able to do some digging though, he saw himself as a gangster of sorts. One of there exacts words were ‘he saw one too many mafia movies’. Outside of that there’s not much.”

“Any idea if he crossed the rebels in some way?”, Anderson asked scratching his chin slightly still keeping his attention on the window.

“None that we can find,” Taylor admitted. “At most Mullen had a situation with a human named Harrison, who is a gangster himself apparently. A turf war if you will.”

“Interesting,” he thought out loud. “Find this Harrison, perhaps he knows something about the situation. Have Perez make him talk if need be.”

“He… disappeared sir,” Taylor said.

For the first time since he entered the room he looked at him, “Excuse me?”

“He disappeared sir,” Taylor repeated. “Apparently after whatever happened he left town. In a hurry from what I’ve been able to determine.”

“So we have a dead Drakan, from all signs by Davidson hands, and we have a human he was connected to him who left town for whatever reason. So how do Davidson and the rebels figure into this picture?”

“I’m not sure sir. I can keep digging if you want.”

“Put a man on it.” He quickly changed his mind, “Cancel that. It doesn’t matter in the long run. This person wasn’t part of my pack and apparently had no desire to make himself known to me. Mark it off as blip in the rebels’ usual pattern.”

“As you wish sir,” Taylor said.

“Besides,” he added, “there is an outside possibility I may get the opportunity to ask Davidson about it personally. Depending on the mood he is in when he sees Davidson that is.” Returning his attention to the window he looked down at the specialized training area below. He watched a figure dressed in a black body suit with red armor systematically take out the targets around him. The blue lenses on his helmet the only thing keeping Anderson from seeing his eyes. “And depending on what condition Davidson is in if he does.”

“A friend will stab you in the back, a real friend will look you in the eyes…,” Dusty repeated as he thought it over. Jack was right, he was coming over to kick his ass. He better be grateful she was able to intercept Dusty as soon as he arrived. “That sounds like something that would come out of his mouth. You happen to have him run this line of bull past Melissa?”

“He already talked to her,” Rachel told him. “According to her he was telling the truth.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” Dusty said as he sat down. “You guys really know how to take the wind out of a old man’s sails, you know that little lady. I was all set to knock some sense into that block he calls a head.”

“You can still beat him up if you want,” she said as she sat next to him.

“Wouldn’t be the same little lady,” he told her. “It still be fun but it wouldn’t be the same.” They shared a chuckle. “So where‘s that boy at anyway?”

“He’s hiding round here somewhere,” she informed him. “I thought he was joking to be honest with you, but nobody has seen him since he talked to Melissa. I’m sure everybody knows where he is, they’re just letting him think he’s succeeding.”

“He’s that afraid of the old man huh?”, Dusty laughed. “I don’t blame him, I could hold my own back in the day.” Rachel had to hide a smile as she heard Jack’s response to that almost immediately in her head. “Not that I wouldn’t fix him up afterwards. I’m still a doctor after all.”

“That’s one way to stay in business, busting up your own patients.”

“Whatever works darlin’,” he laughed again. “So how about you, how are you doing?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Well you’re the only one who does. Nobody can tell you.”

“I now he didn’t mean to be hurtful, but…”

“He could have worded it a little better,” Dusty finished for her. “We both know he didn’t mean anything by it. And sometimes he’s not the brightest bulb out there.”

“He’s smarter than he lets on,” she said quickly, She had no idea why she was defending him.

He gave her a smile she was all too familiar with, “If he all that smart why hasn’t he hooked up with you by now.”

“Could we not go through that again,” she told him. “It’s bad enough you tried to shove that idea down my throat when we were living with you.”

“Is it my fault you and Jack are both hard sells. I swear it’s like taking down a brick wall with a hammer. So you gonna let him off the hook?”

“I’m going to follow some advice Emily gave me a while back and let him grovel a bit.”

“Good for you darlin’. Maybe that’ll teach him to think a little more in the future.”

“I doubt it but there’s always hope.” She gave the old Drakan a hug, “Thanks for listening Dusty.”

“Anytime little lady,” he said as he hugged back. “Just remember, anytime he giving you any trouble just give me a call, I’ll set him straight.”

“Actually we have his mom on speed dial now.”

Dusty’s grin got bigger after remembering some of the stories Jack told him about her, “Even better.”

Sometime he wondered if his uncle ever felt this nervous every time he picked a lock in the middle of the night. Of course Jack usually had people watching his back while he did it. Then again he was usually on their good side. After his last couple of decisions he was lucky Sparky was still talking to his like he usually does. The locked popped with no problem, “We’re in.”

“Alright let’s go,” Sparky said as he waved Arron, Rachel and the others into the factory they were breaking into. This had better be worth it.

“I know I’m not in the best of graces with everybody right now,” Jack whispered, “but seeing what happened the last time we did a favor for another cell why are we doing this again?”

“Because Lance’s cell heard about this and couldn’t spare the man power to check it out,” Rachel reminded him. “And if we can’t trust Lance who can we trust?”

“Did Lance himself ask us to do this?”, he went on. “Or did somebody who said they were with Lance or whatever ask?”

“When did you get so paranoid?”, Arron asked. “I’ve never seen you this jittery.”

“Since nobody could tell if we had a C site ready or not,” he told them. That and he wasn’t sure how he was suppose to be acting in situations like this now. God, this champion crap needed to come with a manual or something.

“A, it was Lance who asked us to check this out,” Rachel told him. “And B, even if he didn’t Melissa would have double checked. She doesn’t want us to move again either.”

“Too bad they may have to,” a new voice said as the lights above them came on. They found themselves surrounded by a small squad of Anderson’s shock troops. A tall, skinny guy in a dark suit with a really noticeable nervous tick was apparently in the lead. “You rebels are either really desperate or really gullible,” he said as his head twitched.

Sparky just kind of looked at him, “Is he having a seizure or something?” Jack and Rachel looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. A couple of the troopers laughed.

“I’d asked you to come quietly,” he said looking annoyed at the comment and the reaction, “but I know you rebels won’t do that. So take them by force,” he told the troops, who extended their shock sticks,

“Jack,” Sparky started.

“I know the drill,” he said as he got his left arm up. “Keep her safe.” Doing the activation movements and shouting, “Henshin!”, he slammed his right hand on top of the belt. The armor formed around him as he got in front of everybody.

“Be careful,” Rachel said in his ear, “if they found a way to turn that metal into bullets you won’t be bulletproof any more.”

“I’ll worry about it if it happens,” he told her. “By the way, please tall me none of these guys are a Drakan.” None of them were coming foreword to tell him one way or another. “Please tell me it’s not twitchy.”

“Ok I won’t tell you,” Sparky said.

“I am going to hurt you,” Jack told him. The trooper made there way toward them cautiously while “Twitchy” stood there fuming.

“Nobody makes fun of my twitch,” he said a lizard like tongue flicked out of his mouth and he changed into a red chameleon. His head still twitched as he eyes turned wildly.

“You’re just cheesing off everybody today,” Arron smirked as he went wolf.

“I’m hurting you next,” Jack said right before he went toward the chameleon. He punched one of the troopers who was dumb enough to come at him before blocking a punch at his head from the Drakan. He let loose a right cross but the Drakan was as quick as he looked as it got out of the way. Jack was able to jump over a leg sweep but was hit with a punch to the gut as he landed. The chameleon came at him with a series of punches and kicks that kept him off balance. He took an extra step back to avoid a back roundhouse than ran in catching him around the chest, picked him up and ran foreword before slamming him to the floor. Jack picked him up and started to punch him in the gut repeatedly. The Drakan was able to twist out of his grip and quickly kick to the head that rocked Jack back.

The chameleon jumped up, wrapped his legs around his head and flipped backwards sending Jack flying forewords Jack rolled out of the way as a reptile like foot came at his head. Thinking quick he swung his arm out, catching the Drakan just below the knees knocking it down to his back. Jack jumped up and planted his elbow into its’ chest. He rammed his knee into his head repeatedly before using a rail next to him to get up. Then he realized this place had a basement and that was a long way down. Kicking the Drakan in the head as it tried to get up he took a quick moment to check on Rachel. She was holding her own using his old staff. In fact she was able to knock a couple of them down. “Who have you been practicing with?”, he wondered out loud. The chameleon recovered faster than he figured and caught him off guard with a charge. Both of them hit the railing and fell over.

“Jack!”, he heard Rachel scream as they fell.

Melissa sat in Emily’s room enjoying a quick talk, mainly to calm her nerves as always when she sent people out on a mission. “I mean what would you do in my position? Jack told me he has feelings for her. Rachel told me she has feeling for him. But they haven’t told each other yet. I wasn’t going to say anything at first because I figured they would have by now.”

“So what have you been doing to get them to do that child?”, Emily asked as she watered her plant.

“Outside of making them roommates again and trying to convince Rachel she should make the first move, nothing,” she said. “But I keep getting these feelings off of them, especially when they’re together. And quite frankly it’s starting to drive me a little nuts.”

Emily laughed as she put down the flower pot, “And to think just a little while ago we were wondering what she saw in him.” Then she stopped laughing and froze slightly. Melissa felt a nervousness coming off her and that amped her nerves up a couple of notches.

“Emily what is it?”, she asked trying to snap her out of it. “What did you see?”

“Jack,” she gasped.

“What happened to Jack?”

“Nothing yet child,” she said trying to get herself under control. “But his next challenge is appearing faster than I expected. And I’m not sure if he’s ready for it yet.”

“Oy,” Jack grunted as he rolled to his stomach and slowly got up. That fall was longer than it looked. Luckily the armor absorbed most of the impact as he landed. Still hurt like hell though. He looked up to see the chameleon stumble toward him. “Oh you have got to be kidding me.” He blocked the foot coming at his head, then jumped foreword and slammed his shoulder into its’ gut. The Drakan held on tight as he did everything not to fall backwards. The chameleon stayed tight across his shoulders as Jack got to his feet. “Get off,” Jack grunted as he used his arm strength to force the Drakan up and over his head. As it fell in front of him Jack quickly brought his knee up and slammed it into its’ head. The chameleon crumpled to the ground. Jack picked him up and tossed him as the meter started flashing. Twisting the pod down he waited for the chameleon to get to its feet. Then he ran in, jumped and kicked it in the chest. The chameleon flew back and exploded.

Jack panted as he deactivated the system and looked around, how was he going to get back up there? For that matter how was everybody else doing? “Rachel!”, he shouted at the story above him. “Sparky! Arron! Anybody!” no answer came down. “Hell I’d settle for the chimp right about now. No,” he quickly corrected himself, “no I wouldn’t. There’s got to be a staircase or something around here somewhere.”

Then he heard a slow clapping sound and tried to locate it. He found somebody coming toward him in the shadows still clapping his hands. He could tell from where he was he was wearing a World Inc. assault team uniform. “I got to tell you something buddy,” the figure said. “I was worried when I found out you were having problems. But it looks like you actually gained a step or two since I last saw you.”

He stepped into the light and Jack got a good look at him, but he already recognized the voice, “Mitchell.”

*ED – Linkin Park – What I’ve done*
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Old August 4th, 2019, 02:39 PM #44
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405

<Episode 41>

*Opening theme – Smile Empty Soul – Who I Am*

He heard a slow clapping sound and tried to locate it. He found somebody coming toward him in the shadows still clapping his hands. He could tell from where he was he was wearing a World Inc. assault team uniform. “I got to tell you something buddy,” the figure said. “I was worried when I found out you were having problems. But it looks like you actually gained a step or two since I last saw you.”

He stepped into the light and Jack got a good look at him, but he already recognized the voice, “Mitchell.”

“I bet you thought you’d never see me again.” Mitchell started jogging in place, looking pleased, “I was wondering it myself after you paralyzed me that day.” He stared at Jack for a second, losing some of his mirth, “You did know that right? I mean you had to have heard my back snap when I landed on the edge of that van. Yeah, I thought about that for a long time, I still do actually. But you got to love the Fusion system though right? You barely had any legs at all when we found you. Now look at us, on our feet like nothing happened.”

Jack felt a strong urge to back up but he held his ground, “So you guys arranged this little get together for a reunion or something? You could have just sent a postcard.”

“Oh no,” Mitchell quickly dismissed it. “No the plan was to get one of the other cells. When they raided that Trent guy cell a couple of the prisoners who were willing to talk said your group was pretty close to this other one. That was the one we were targeting tonight. The boys back at World Inc. were certain that the rumors we planted would draw them out. The idea was to try to draw you out by holding you for bait actually.” He chuckled a bit, “Imagine my surprise when you showed up instead. So the new plan was to get you away from the others. That idiot knocked you down here instead. I really had to hoof it to find you two.”

“So I forced you to think on the fly?”, Jack commented. “I’d bet that sprained something.”

He chuckled again, “I almost forgot you had a sense of humor. Well you can’t blame me with the look you gave me last time. That entire day was burned in my brain. I can’t tell you how many times I relived it. Hell I probably dreamed about it while I was in that tube being turned into a thing like you. Well not like you exactly,” he corrected himself. “For one I still have all my original parts,” he sneered. “And two I was bonded to the Mark two system.”

“Let me guess,” Jack cut him off, “You’re just dying to show me the difference between the two.”

Mitchell grinned, “Since you insist.”

Jack quickly got his left arm up to materialize the belt. Swinging his arm to the side he raised his right to his left. Shouting, “Henshin!”, he slammed his right hand on top of the belt. It scanned him and he was back in the Fusion armor.

Mitchell raised his left arm, bent at the elbow and his hand balled up in a fist. A familiar looking belt appeared round his waist, except the faceplate was blue. Glaring at him he clenched his fist tighter as he said, “Transform!” He moved his arm to the side and in one motion he swung his right arm up and over before slamming his right hand on top of the belt. Jack watched as he was covered in a black body suit and red armor formed around. He stared into the blue lenses of Mitchells’ helmet. Based on the look Jack guess he was based on a dragonfly too.

Jack snorted as he said, “Transform? Oh that’s real original.”

Mitchell cracked his neck, “At least my word sounds American. I mean hen…shin, what in the hell does that mean any way?”

“Transform you moron.” Jack ran at him and tried to catch him with a flying knee. He missed as Mitchell sidestepped out of the way. He turned toward him quickly as he landed and ducked a punch he barely had any time to react to. He scored a couple punched to Mitchells’ chest and gut but he quickly backed away before any more made any contact. Jack went after him throwing punches and kicks, but Mitchell was able to block or dodge them easily. Jack almost thought he heard him snicker at one point. He went for a haymaker of a right cross that the other man got under and countered with an uppercut that knocked Jack off his feet.

As he tried to get back up Mitchell stood there and actually dusted his hands off. That got on his nerves fast. “Same old Jack,” he said. “Always thinking pound on them until they give. Always looking for that one big hit.” Disdain entered his voice as he added, “Always relying on luck instead of some skill.”

“Sometimes it better to be lucky than good,” Jack said before kicking his foot out at the other man shin. Mitchell stepped back top avoid it and that gave him enough room to get back up. He went for another punch but Mitchell caught him by the wrist and twisted hard. The pain made him drop to a knee and grab at his shoulder as Mitchell continued to apply the pressure, “Ugh,’ he grunted.

“That’s definitely true in your case ‘buddy’,” Mitchell told him. “From what I hear you took out that blind hit man Logan and Kathy. Granted she had her quirks, hell some of the boys called her a psycho dominatrix, but she was one of Anderson’s top assassins. But if you fought them like you’re fighting me right now I’d say luck played a huge part in it.” Jack rolled foreword with the pressure on his arm. As soon as he landed on his back he kicked Mitchell in the head. Shaking his arm slightly as he got up he turned around and kicked him in the gut. He swung a knee in fast and caught Mitchell flush in the face as it forced him back up. Jack finally connected with a punch to the head. God that felt better than it should have. He went for another one but Mitchell caught his fist with his hand. Jacks’ arm was shaking with the effort but it wasn’t going foreword, in fact Mitchell slowly started to push it back.

“There’s a reason why it’s called the Mark two buddy boy,” Mitchell informed him. “They realized all the mistakes they made with you and corrected them. And not only am I stronger than you I’m pretty sure I’m faster too.” He let go of the fist and punched him. Jack was just able to block the next couple of punches and a kick aimed at his head. Then his head snapped back from a straight right. Then several more strikes he couldn’t see coming rocked him. Finally a right cross spun Jack to the ground.

Through the stars he saw the meter start to flash. Mitchells’ must have started doing the same because he heard the pod on his belt click. Jack watched him out of the corner of his eye. A punch or kick was coming, it was just a question of which one. Mitchell raised his foot up for a stomp. Jack quickly rolled foreword as the foot came down hit hard on the floor. As that part of the floor exploded form the charge he twisted his pod up as he got to his feet. As Mitchell turned to face him Jack put everything he had into the punch and nailed him in the chest. “Gotcha,” he grunted as he fell to a knee and Mitchell stumbled back. He lowered his head not rally wanting to see this. Then he heard the turbines in Mitchell belt start to hit hard. An electrical charge ran down his chest armor and into his belt. Jack looked on stunned, “What the hell?”

Mitchell acted as surprised as he was as he patted himself down, “Heh, I didn’t think that was actually going to work when they told me about it.” Then he looked right at him, “Too bad for you.” He pulled Jack to his feet and started unleashing on him before he could react. Holding him against a metal wall Mitchell told him, “Thanks for the recharge by the way.” He twisted the pod up and threw the punch. Jack got out of his grasp and all he got was wall. But Mitchell grabbed him and pulled him back as soon as the wall exploded. A chunk of wall smashed into his head and he fell to the floor dazed. Jack was vaguely aware of Mitchell standing there and deactivating his system. Reaching into a pocket on his vest he pulled out a small flat oval shape device that he slapped onto Jacks’ chest and stepped back.

“ARGH!”, Jack screamed in pain as it felt like a huge electric charge ran through him. As his body arched from the pain as his armor slowly started to disappear. He laid there breathing heavy and clutching his chest as Mitchell hovered over him.

“That looked like it hurt,” Mitchell commented. “Like a real kick in the nuts. Actually…,” he trailed off as he kicked him low. Jack sat up and held himself as a new pain ran through him. “I’m surprised you still had any,” he said while kicking him back down. Standing over him Mitchell looked thoughtful, “This look familiar doesn’t it? What was it you said the last time I saw you? I remember now, you asked me what the biggest difference between you and me was. You said you didn’t enjoy this. Which kind of implied I did. And you know what?” A sick grin grew and he knelt on top of him, reached into the hood and pulled his head up by the hair, “You’re right.”He started punching him in the face again, again and again.

Jack lost track at how many times he was hit and was about to lose consciousness when he heard Sparky shout out, “Jack!” Mitchell let go and looked to his left, then he heard what sounded like those shock sticks being activated.

“We’ll finish this later buddy boy,” Mitchell said as he got off of him and ran. Jack thought he heard multiple footsteps go after him. Rachel knelt down beside him with a horrified look on her face.

“Oh my God,” was all he heard before he finally passed out.

Where is he?”, Dusty said as he jumped out of Bessie looking worried when he arrived at the habitat. He must have pushed that old truck to its limits to get here so fast

“They should be here any second now,” Melissa told him. Beside her Lance was kicking himself with guilt. “Lance you didn’t know this was going to happen,” she tried to comfort him. “Emily didn’t even get a notion until they were in the middle of it.”

“I still sent you guys there,” was his only response.

“Two coming in!”, the guard at the door announced. Just like she feared Arron came in riding Jack’s bike. She ran for the van behind him with Lance and Dusty in tow. The door opened up and she felt a wave of relief to seeing Jack sitting up right. His face was battered and bloody. Rachel and Sparky were at his side trying to clean the blood off of him.

“No offence son,” Dusty spoke up, “but you look like hell.”

“You should see the other guys’ fist,” Jack smiled weakly, “I totally messed it up.” Dusty looked away but she was feeling his relief that he was trying to joke about it. It meant he wasn’t hurt that bad. “Just get me a couple of bottles of aspirins, I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll be the judge of that son,” Dusty told him. “Sparky help me get him out of here.”

Jack actually tried to pull away from them, “I can do it.”

“Son, either you let us help you out of this thing or I’m gonna jab a needle into you and knock ya out,” Dusty threatened him.

“Whatever,” he grunted and they eased him out of the van. “But I’m walking on my own.”

“You’re definitely as stubborn as ever,” Dusty told him as he under one of his arms while Sparky did the same on the other side. “Besides we’re not going that far, just to Bessie and my medical bag.”

“Mitchell just hit me in the head,” Jack protested, “nothing important got hurt.”

“Mitchell,” Melissa repeated, “I know that name but I can’t place it.” She looked to Rachel for some help. That’s when she noticed she was sitting in the opening of the van, looking at his blood on her hands and shaking. How did she miss reading that when she was that close? Melissa immediately sat next to her and put an arm around her shoulders.

“How much more crap is he suppose to take?”, she asked to nobody in particular.

“I wish I knew,” Melissa answered her. Hopefully Emily knew something but she didn’t say that out loud. “We’ve seen Jack bounce back from way worse,” she assured her. “Besides he’s too stubborn to let this stop him for long.”

“We just got him fixed mentally,” she said. “Now he comes back and tried to bust Jack up,” she wiped the tears on her face with the clean part of her hand. Closing her eye to compose herself a bit she started talking, “Mitchell was the one in charge of Anderson assault troops while we were there.” That’s why the name sounded familiar but she kept quiet. “The last time we saw him Jack tossed him on top of one of their vans. The way Jack explained it that messed him up enough for them to bond him to a new version of the Fusion system.” Standing up she reached into a pocket and handed Melissa an oval shaped device. “I found this by Jack. He said Mitchell used it to deactivate the systems.” She glanced over to Lance, “Your cell is good at the tech stuff right?”, there was a slight edge to her voice when she said the word cell. Before either of them could respond she walked past hem and over to where Jack was.

Lance took the device and studied it, “I remember them telling us about a device Anderson had that could stop the armor from forming. Looks like they took it a step further.” Melissa didn’t have to read any of his emotions this time around. She knew that look all too well.

“Just give her time to start thinking straight,” she told him. “Emotions are running a little high right now. Trust me I know better than anybody,” she smiled in hopes he would too.

“Nice try kid,” he said instead. “But I know they’re right in being angry with me right now.” He walked away and left her wondering if she had any chance in fixing this any time soon.

Rachel watched silently as Dusty finished up stitching one of the bigger gashed on Jack forehead over his eye. As he taped a bandage over it to join the others he placed previously Dusty commented, “I’ll check on that in a couple of days to see how it’s healing. Hopefully that won’t scar up on you.”

“Like one more going to make that much of a difference,” Jack said. Touching the bandage a bit he joked, “At least with this one I can tell people I tried to be like Evel Kinevel.” Something must have shown on her face because he looked at her and went, “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she said immediately. “I’m just happy you’re all right.”

“This boys head is harder than granite,” Dusty grinned. “It’s going to take more than a few hits to crack his thing open.”

“It’s not like he didn’t try.” Again he looked at her and said, “Sorry.”

Lance came up to them. Looking uncomfortable he said, “Jack I wanted to…”

“I don’t think now’s a good time,” Rachel quickly said.

“The boy needs his rest,” Dusty said at the same time.

“Guys, it’s alright,” Jack told them. Slowing standing up he looked at Lance. “There’s no need to apologize. Their plan was to get your guys and use them as bait for me. Chances are this was going to happen anyway, we just cut out the middle man.” Seeing the device in Lances hand he said, “I see Rachel gave you my little memento. You probably want to know how that worked. Melissa probably needs to know too so I’ll tell you both at the same time. Just make sure I don’t fall down on the way there.” Jack went off toward Melissa with Lance right behind looking slightly confused.

Rachel and Dusty watched them leave. Dusty looked at her and went, “Was I the only one expecting that boy to rip into him?”

“You’re not the only one,” she remembered how he was acting when they got the job. “I guess it’s a good thing he can still surprise us at times.” He nodded in response. “Are you going to be staying long?”

“At least ‘till morning,” he answered. “Jack’s got no outward signs of a concussion but I just want to make sure. Besides,” he smiled, “it looks like you could use somebody to talk to right about now.”

Feeling grateful she said, “Thanks Dusty.”

Anderson got out of his chair immediately as Mitchell and Perez walked into the office. “Mitchell,” he said as he walked over and took his hand, “if I haven’t said it already it is good to have you back.” Remembering Perez was in the room he added, “Not to knock your performance Mr. Perez.”

“Even I knew I had some big boots to fill when I took the job,” Perez said.

“I just wish I was able to bring Jack in to make this particular celebration complete,” Mitchell said.

“No offence Mitchell,” Perez told him, “but Davidson been proven to be a real pain in the ass since you’ve been laid up.”

“Yes,” Anderson agreed, “Mr. Davidson has proven to be a worthy challenge to the men.”

“I think you mean lucky,” Mitchell commented with a smirk. He was still on this particular kick apparently.

“Well if you two will excuse me I’m going to see if I can train the men to be that ‘lucky’,” Perez said before he left the room.”

“I’ll be down there too in a bit,” Mitchell said before the door closed. “I have to head down to R&D first. I owe Armstrong and his team an apology for doubting them about that little surprise for Jack.”

When they were alone Anderson said, “I’m surprised you haven’t taken back total control of them men yet.”

“I was out of the loop longer than anybody anticipated,” Mitchell explained. “Perez made the unit his own in that time. He’s a good man and I don’t want to step on his toes. Besides you were always telling me the Fusion system was designed to be a solo act when Jack was here.”

“Quite right,” Anderson said as he sat back in his chair. “Did Perez tell you that he and the men discovered we have Drakan in the troops?”

“I told him I was aware of it,” he said. “I also told him I kept quiet about it because I didn’t want to prejudice the men and affect the unit. He accepted that answer.”

“Good,” he nodded. “It was a tense couple of days after that bit of information got out. As mad as he was at the time I was surprised Perez was able to calm the situation.” Anderson picked up a particular file off the desk and looked at him, “Now about your proposal.”

“I hurt Jack pretty good,” was his only explanation. “If he’s anything like I remember he’s going to be itching for a shot at some payback.”

“A person can change in the time you were out.”

“I looked him in the eyes, he didn’t change that much. And sometimes the reward is worth the risk.”

Anderson raised an eyebrow,” Quite. I believe I’ve said that on a couple of occasions myself. Or something similar. Work out the basics of the plan with Perez and bring it to me.” He nodded and left the room. Anderson leaned back in his chair a bit, he never realized how much he missed having this particular human around. He was actually happy he graced Mitchell with the red armor.

“This is nuts,” Melissa stated as she read the note in his hands. Two days after Jack encounter with Mitchell they get this down the grapevine. Her first instinct was to rip it up, nothing about it felt right. But Emily was there and convinced her to show it to Jack. She had no idea why she listened at this particular time. They found him and Rachel in the gym. Jack face was still bruised and bandaged as he pounded the hell out of the heavy bag. He only stopped when Rachel pointed out they were there.

“You’re holding a piece of paper and that can’t be good,” he commented.

“Mitchell wants you one on one,” she told them. “They talked to their contacts and word just now got to us. He even designated when and where if you can believe it.” Jack took the note without another word.

Dropping the note to the floor he headed for the exit, “It’s tomorrow, I’m there.”

“Are you nuts?”, Rachel asked as she picked up the note and read it for herself. “You’re not even healed from the last time.”

“It’s something I have to do,” was his only explanation as he kept going.

“Do you want me to show you exactly how short that leash is?”, Melissa told him making him stop in his tracks. “I know he hurt you but I’m not going to risk everything because you want revenge. And don’t think a lot of people will be backing you this time around.”

“This isn’t about what he did to me,” he told her.

Apparently Rachel didn’t believe him either, “I’m sorry Jack but even I know better this time around.”

“And he used the word ‘cell’ last time,” Jack told them. “If they didn’t know it before they know now there’s more than one group of rebels out there. And how soon before he goes looking for them if I don’t show up, if he hasn’t already. Those cells will be facing a Drakan Killer who’s going to have no problem killing anybody who get’s in his way. He has to be stopped before he starts living up to the name.”

She looked him in the eyes and read him. Melissa was a bit surprised, there were a couple of things in there that indicated revenge but that wasn’t what was driving his words at the moment. Thinking it over for a moment she slowly said, “I guess we have a day to work it out.” Jack nodded and Rachel just looked at her as they left. Turning toward Emily she said, “One of these days we are going to sit down and you’re going to explain to me exactly what this champion business is you planted in his head.”

“It’s nothing I planted child,” she said, “it was something that was already there. Certain events just brought it out of him, even if he’s still trying to figure it out what it means for him.”

The “meeting” place was at the pier, specifically near the area where they rebuilt Richie. Mitchell was definitely trying to push any button he could. Rachel insisted on coming with him saying she wanted to watch his back if he tried anything, despite the fact Sparky, Arron and the others were going to be around to cover the area. He only agreed to let her come this far after making her promise to get out of there if it got violent, which would probably be pretty quick if things went down like he thought they would. When they found him Mitchell was actually leaning against the same building they kept Richie in. “Rachel, long time no see,” he grinned. “Are you making the job of tracking you down easier after I take down Jack?”

“No she just wanted a reminder of what a jackass actually looked like,” Jack said as they got off the bike.

Laughing a bit as he got off the wall he said, “Cute, I hope you’re still this funny while you’re both in a detention cell.” Mitchell started to do his movements. Jack did the same as Rachel quickly backed away. “Transform!”, Mitchell shouted.

“Henshin!”, Jack said at once. Their armor formed around them as that ran. Jack went low at the last second and kicked his legs out from under him. Mitchell quickly kicked him away and got back to his feet. He found himself backing up from Mitchells’ attacks. Then he went in and under a left hook and hit him in the gut as hard he could. Quickly following up with a knee he grabbed him by the head. Mitchell broke his grip and hit several punches to his chest while he was open. Jack was forced to stumble back and fell to a knee. Mitchell took a second to gloat before aiming a kick at his head. He caught the other mans’ foot and pushed him back. Walking into a backhand Jack was grabbed and barely kept up as Mitchell started running. Next thing he knew he was flying in the air.

Landing on a loading he heard Mitchell cry out, “Damn it, I was aiming for a corner.” Jack got to his feet and saw Mitchell come right at him. Diving out of the way he thought fast as he saw a pipe by Mitchell. Jumping for the pipe Jack swung foreword and planted both of his feet in his chest. Jack ran at him and tackled him, crashing through the door behind him. He got in a couple of punches in before getting pushed off. Mitchell went for a back roundhouse that he stepped away from. He went in fast using the other man leg to jump off as he kicked him in the head. Jack got behind him, grabbed him by the waist and threw him. Again Mitchell broke his grip, flipped backwards in the air and landed on his feet. Jack got up and got tagged with a right hook that sent him back top the floor. Mitchell stood over him saying, “I guess that fall took more out of you than I thought. You’re actually putting up a fight this time around. Too bad the end is still going to be the same.” He kicked him in the head before he could to anything.

Rachel ran toward the warehouse they crashed into. She didn’t tell Jack but she had another reason for wanting to come with him. When she reached the door she saw Jack on the ground and Mitchell picking his shots. Her hand going for her jean pocket she ran toward them. In her hand was the same device Mitchell used on him, fully recharged. He didn’t see her coming until it was too late and she slapped it on his back. She stepped back as Mitchell did everything not to scream as the charge racked his body. Like she hopped the armor faded away and he fell to his all fours. “Jack are you…,” was all she got out as Mitchell popped back up and hit her with a backhand that had a very audible smack that sent her sprawling to the floor.

Mitchell stood over her and spat, “You stupid bi…*gack*!”. She looked up to see him trying to pry Jack’s hand from around his neck.

“Big mistake,” his voice was dripping with anger as he wouldn’t let up. Mitchell quickly drew his gun. For a brief moment Rachel thought they found a way to turn that metal into bullets shells. Then he pointed it right at her. Jack started to squeeze harder. The muzzle of the gun started shaking slightly but it was still aimed at her and she was too scared to move. Mitchell face was turning a deep red but the gun wouldn’t waiver. It was almost like he was challenging Jack to do it before he could pull the trigger. Jack threw him to the side after a moment. He put his arms around her and forced her head back down to the ground. Rachel felt her heart skipped a beat as she heard the gun fire and the bullets ping off of his armor.

“Jack, Rachel!”, Arron shouted in his wolf form as he lead some of the others into the building. Mitchell fired off a few more rounds to keep them at bay.

“You’re luck going to run out one of these days,” he croaked before running off. Jack got off of her stood there watching Mitchell leave, his fist shaking slightly. He deactivated the armor after it looked like it was clear.

“We found most of the troopers and sent them running,” Arron explained. “We came as soon as we heard the gunfire.” He looked down at her and went to a knee immediately, “Geez Rachel what happened to you? You’re going to have a bit of a mouse under that eye.”

“What?”, Jack turned toward them and hurried over. He knelt down and she looked away not wanting him to see for some reason. Gently he took her by the chin and looked at the damage. She watched the concern in his eyes turn into something colder in a couple of blinks. He grunted, “I’m going to kill him,” as he looked to were Mitchell went and started to get up. Rachel grabbed his arm to stop him.

“I want to go home,” she said.

“Might not be a bad idea,” Arron agreed.

Jack looked at her and his eyes soften again as he softly said, “OK.” Kneeling back down he told Arron, “Let’s give her a few minutes first.” She was going to ask why then she noticed her hands were still shaking. She only been close to dying one other time, and she was unconscious for most of that one. Jack stayed with her rubbing her neck and shoulder until the shaking stopped. Again he took her by the chin and lifted her head up. With that half grin of his on his face he said, “You’re suppose to be the smart one in this duo. Leave the rough stuff to me in the future, ok.”

She grinned back, “I’m not making any promises.”

“Good enough,” he said.

Mitchell didn’t go far, only a couple of building away. The mission was blown and Jack got away, again. But he couldn’t stop smiling to himself. Still holding his throat he looked back at where he came from he said out loud, “You shouldn’t have shown me that one Jack.”

*Ending theme – Linkin Park – What I’ve Done*
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Old August 6th, 2019, 05:34 PM #45
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Power Ranger
Joined: Dec 2012
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Power Ranger
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405

<Episode 42>

*Opening Theme – Smile Empty Soul – Who I Am*

She knew something was wrong when she woke up and nothing happened. Rachel waited a few more minutes, still nothing. Rolling over she saw his cot was empty. He was getting better at hiding the fact those nightmares were still waking him up, but they still happened like clockwork. Getting out of bed and into her jeans she went looking for him. Seeing only one other person in the hallway she asked, “Did you Jack?”.

“I saw him heading for the gym,” she replied.

“Thanks Tina.” She should have guessed that’s were he’d be. It was almost impossible to get him out of there for the past couple of days. As soon as Lance arrived, which was just about every day now, off to the gym they went. Rachel heard him pound on the heavy before she even reached the door. She stood by silently and watched. His face wasn’t as swollen anymore but it was still bandaged and bruised, and she subconsciously rubbed the bruise on her cheek. For several minutes he threw punches at the bag, occasionally mixing in a kick or a knee. He paused only long enough to acknowledge she was there before continuing. “Getting an early jump before Lance arrives,” she joked. She knew what he was doing, he was trying to tire himself out. “So what happened in the nightmare this time?” Jack lost his rhythm for a second and she knew she hit the mark. “You’re supposed to tell me when you have one,” Rachel reminded him.

“I didn’t want to wake you,” he answered. Then he added, “For the forth time this week.”

“That kind of goes against our no more secrets rule,” She informed him. Sitting on the bench she patted the spot next to her to get him to join her. Reluctantly he did so but he was having a hard time looking at her. “Something in that nightmare changed, so what was it?”

Jack waited a few moments before answering, “I finally saw the other person the Drakan were going after.” He closed his eyes and put a hand over them, “They were going after you.”

She wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. “Hey, I’m right here. Nothing happened.”

“I know, I just…,” he trailed off. Opening his eyes again he said, “I wish this nightmare would just go away.”

“So do I,” she rubbed his back. “But Dusty says it’ll go away when it goes away. So is Lance going by again today?” He said he was. “Why have you guys been training so much for the past week?”

“Because Sparky and Arron keep holding back on me.”

“Holding back on you? I don’t get it.”

“Mitchell is stronger and faster than I am,” he said looking serious. “System to system I can’t compete, but maybe I can hold my own if I get better fighting wise. And I can’t do that if people are going to treat me with kid gloves.”

“You seem to be holding your own to me,” Rachel told him.

“I’m basically just a street fighter while he’s been trained,” he continued. “I’m basically fighting on instinct instead of anything else. He mentioned two of the fights I’ve been in, the one with the bat at Dusty’s and the woman we faced when we were forced to move. He was right, I was lucky in both fights.”

“Luck had nothing to do with those fights,” she tried to tell him. “Mitchell doesn’t know…”

“You figured out the bats weakness,” he said. “And if that wasp didn’t get her spike stuck in that pillar I don’t think I would have gotten another opening. I need to get better if I’m going to have a chance when I fight Mitchell again.”

“You’re letting him get to you,” Rachel informed him. “That what he wants, to get in your head. You can’t be listening to what he’s trying to tell you.”

“I can’t help it if he’s right,” he told her.

“Come on,” she said getting up, “we both now you’re better than he thinks you are. Luck only gets you so far and you wouldn’t have lasted this long if that’s all you relied on. But if you insist on doing this you’re going to need your sleep.” Dragging him to his feet she added, “Besides you have another engagement today you have to worry about.” Rachel smiled at how confused he looked.

Everybody but Jack apparently knew what that other engagement was. Even Lance said they were going to get in what they could before he had to stop and shower up. Then he found out what it was, he was going to help some of the younger kids learn how to dance. He sat on a box waiting for the kids to show and asked Rachel, “Why am I doing this again?”

“Because you agreed to it,” Rachel said.

“I think you agreed for me,” he commented, “behind my back.”

“They asked you to do this a few weeks ago,” she informed him matter of factly.

“Was I in my right mind then? Because I don’t think I was.”

She didn’t miss a beat, “I don’t think you’ve ever been in your right mind. And you’re not getting out of this, you promised you’d do it. The kids have been looking foreword to this.”

“They just want to see if I’ll fall on my face.”

“Behave yourself,” she told him as the teacher brought the kids in. Jennifer, who was still holding on to Polly, was in the group and waved at him. Jack found himself smiling and waving back. Rachel made him get on his feet.

“Alright children,” the teacher said, “today we’re going to learn a basic dance. Jack and Rachel have agreed to help us out.” He snorted and Rachel shot him a quick look. “Now before we get started perhaps Rachel and Jack will show us how it’s done.” They turned toward each other Jack put one hand on her back and took her hand with his other while Rachel put her free hand on his shoulder. One more time he worried about how hard he was holding her hand and lightened his grip up a little.

“Ew,” a little boy said, “we have to touch them?”

“Wait until you get older kid,” Jack told him. With a smile he added, “Then they get really icky.”

“Don’t put thoughts like that in their heads,” Rachel chided him.

“Sparky lives down here and you’re worried about me?”

The teacher coughed, “Alright then, if you two are willing to show them what the dance is suppose to look like.” She put on some music and they started dancing. Every so often the teacher would explain what they were doing. After awhile she remained quiet and continued dancing.

“You’re better than I thought you’d be,” Rachel commented.

“I’m not a total klutz now,” he said.

“Did you mom teach you to dance?”

“Actually it was my uncle.”

“That seems a little… weird,” she said.

“You’re telling me,” he a greed. “There were a couple of times I think he got a wo…”

“Jack,” Rachel quickly cut him off.

“Right,” he said a she looked around and felt a little embarrassed. “I forgot the kids were here.”

They danced for a few more minutes before the teacher stopped the music. “Alright kids you saw how it was done so let’s give it a go. Rachel, do you two want to stay and dance with them?”. Rachel looked his way and they both agreed. Jennifer ran up to him and took his hand. “That’s the spirit,” the teacher said. “Come on now, the rest of you don’t have to be shy.” Slowly they partnered up and the music started.

“Ok kid,” Jack aid to Jennifer, who was still holding her bear, “tell Polly I’m leading.” Jennifer wasn’t sure what to do at first, especially with the height difference. He told her to step on his toes and let him to the work. That did the trick as she was excited she was dancing. Jack just happened to look up and saw that Rachel was smiling at them. He started to smile back.

After about a half hour, and several stepped on toes, Melissa came in and watched them for a minute. Rachel saw her and said, “It’s time to go already?”

“Afraid so,” she answered, “the van waiting for you in the garage.”

“Where are you going?”, Jack asked.

“Lances’ cell needed some help moving some things,” Rachel answered. “Melissa said it was getting pretty crowded the last time she was there and we have a few empty safe houses they can use. I figured I’d give them a hand. I mean after everything Lance and his cell has done for us it’s the least I can do.”

“I’ll help out too,” Jack said.

“That’s ok Jack,” she replied, “I think it would be better if I go alone this time.”

“Why? Are these safe houses in the middle of the city or something?”

“No, they’re in a secluded area,” she said, “but… Do you want to take this one?”, she asked Melissa.

“From what I understand a good chunk of his cell knows about you living here,” Melissa said, “mainly from those he took him while we moved. We’re just not sure if they’re ready for you yet.”

“You can’t keep hiding me forever,” Jack told them.

“Next time,” Rachel said, “I promise, but I really have to go.”

“Rachel,” Jack said as she reached the door, “be careful.”

“I always am,” she said, “unlike some people I could mention.”

Jack watched her leave and kept looking. Jennifer kind of giggled as she said, “You like her.”

He just looked at her, “Don’t start kid.”

Mitchell hated playing catch up, but being out of it as long as he was he really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. One of the first things he asked about was that new metal a couple of the guys mentioned. The one that could apparently pierce or slice through his and Jacks’ armor. Armstrong explained that it needed a slight electric charge running through it in order to be one hundred percent effective. They only thing keeping them from turning it into a bullet was the fact they couldn’t find a way to charge the bullet and maintain its durability. The first couple of attempts the internal generator was so big it made the shell so thin it shattered on impact during the first couple of experiments. And the process to refine the metal was a long one so any weapon production was limited at them moment.

So Jack’s “luck” saved his bacon one more time.

The next thing he learned about was this new scanner. They could detect Jack’s chip no matter what he did to cover it as long as he was in twenty feet of it. They scattered them throughout the city, just far enough apart that he could walk into any of them. The only problem with that was he stayed out of the city as much as possible. Even when he did those scanners mysteriously went down or gave a negative reading. So he and the rebels had to know about them. Mitchell was surprised nobody made a move to disguise them or move them to another location when that happened, at least put a couple under surveillance. That would have been the first thing he would have done when that happened.

Then there was the most interesting piece of news he heard, they had captured a cell. And some where willing to talk to save their own skin. Not that it did them any good but they talked. This particular cell was the quote unquote quick hit espionage cell, and they knew things. Like the location of several safe houses the main group was known to use. Right now they were empty but under constant surveillance. And he raced over in a hurry to a particular watch station when he got the word. He quickly met with the surveillance team that was stationed in a wooden shack not far from the house. “Are you sure it’s her?”

“See for yourself,” his man said while handing him the binoculars. He scanned every inch of that house. There where people coming in and out of it and it took a couple of minutes but he spotted a head of blond hair. That was Rachel alright. “Can you imagine what the boss is going to say when we bring her in?”

“Yeah I can,” Mitchell said not taking his eyes off of her. They were making this just too easy. “But who says it has to be right away.”

His man started smiling, “You thinking about calling an audible?”

“The thought crossed my mind.”

“You thinking about getting a little extra payback for zapping you?”

“Not exactly,” he said. Oh he remembered her slapping that armor disruptor on his back. But more importantly he remembered Jack’s reaction when he hit her. “No, I’m going to see exactly how big of a chink she is in his armor.”

Melissa found it pretty easy to get into a new routine for her “strolls” as Rachel often called them. She had too otherwise she would have gotten lost pretty fast. Finding herself in the common area she found Jack hanging around the comm. area, leaning against the wall, arm crossed and tapping his fingers against his arm. Looking up at her he asked, “How much stuff did Lance want to move?”

“You’re acting like an old mother hen,” she joked. He looked back at the comm. area. Melissa didn’t want to say it out loud but she was surprised they haven’t heard anything yet too. But she decided not to add to his worry. “If Rachel is acting anything like she did when we had to move than she doing everything to maximize the space.”

“And he wasn’t out there either,” he said absentmindedly. The “he” being Mitchell of course. If she had to be honest it was a little weird seeing him acting this spooked. It wasn’t even like when he had his breakdown, the threat was in his mind then. Now that a ghost from his past popped back up he was just on edge. “And why didn’t Freidman tell us about it?”, she lost count at how many times he’d asked that one.

The only thing she could do was repeat what she told him before, “Because Anderson entrusted Mitchell to a specialist in spinal injuries. From what I understand he personally flew the guy in. I never thought my cousin would do that for any human.”

“I guess he appreciates a good suck up,” Jack commented dryly.

“Who would have guessed,” she laughed. The comm. started buzzing and his head snapped toward it. “See, I bet that’s them now.” She went over and put the call on speaker to calm his nerves if nothing else. “Did you guys get lost or something?”, she joked.

“Yeah, I like to speak to Jack please,” replied a voice she didn’t recognize.

“Who is…,” she started ask. The sharp spike of anger she got from Jack followed by the cold spot growing in her stomach gave her a clue.

“What did you do to her you son of a bitch!”, Jack shouted as he grabbed the microphone.

“Rachel’s fine buddy boy,” Mitchell responded. Melissa could almost see the smirk on his face. “You would have been proud of her man. She was able to get away and hide from us for a couple of hours. Too bad for her one of the guys is part bloodhound, literally.”

“If you hurt her,” Jack threatened.

“She’s fine Jack.” Then he added, “For now any way. Say in another hour and a half and who knows.”

“Mitchell I am going to…,” he started.

“Calm down,” Melissa whispered to him. “You’re giving him what he wants.”

“But I’m willing to give you a chance to come get her,” Mitchell continued. “Right now we’re on top of the Goldcup building. It apparently went out of business while I was out so nobody’s around. I even deactivated the scanners around the building for a couple of blocks around the building so it’ll just be the two of us. If you can get past me you can have her. Scouts honor. Times ticking away Jack, she’s waiting for you.” Mitchell cut off the transmission before he could respond.

Before anybody could say anything to him Jack turned around and punched a crate. “It has to be a trap,” Melissa said without thinking.

“Of course it’s a trap,” he snapped. “But I can’t…,” he couldn’t finish as he ran a hand over his face. “I can’t just leave her in their hands. Not after all we’ve been through.”

“We’re not,” she assured him as she walked over to him “We’ll think of a plan and get there before she knows it.”

Jack looked up and saw Sparky come in to see what the commotion was all about. Melissa watched as an idea seem to occur to him. Through the despair she got a glimmer of hope from him. She watched with a bit of wonder as she studied his face. She’d seem him react to a situation, she’d seen him jump in without question and she’d even seen him try to laugh things off. But this was the first time that she had ever seen him look like he was trying to form a plan. “Sparky,” he called out after several moments, “find Arron and Angie and meet me in the garage. I’ll explain once you guys get there.”

Jack started for the garage before Melissa could question him. “Angie doesn’t know how to fight,” she informed him.

He turned around but kept moving for the garage, “If this works she won’t have to.” Turning back around he ran for the garage.

She watched him for a second before turning toward to the guys manning the comm., “I know we have some people around that building. Tell them to look for those scanners and find out if they are deactivated or not. And if they’re not to turn them off or reroute the signal. Anything to help him out.” They went to work calling and she looked toward the garage. Despite her worry a small smile graced her lips, “And I thought love made you stop thinking.”

The trip to the building was uneventful, although he kept looking over his shoulder for an assault team van to come at him. It took a while when he reached the building but he found a way to get to the roof from the outside, of course it was guarded. He knew Mitchell wouldn’t make this easy. Carefully he approached the shock trooper and squeezed the boomstick to pop the electrode. Turning the ring just slightly Jack grabbed him from behind and jabbed him in the back. The trooper jolted for a second before dropping to the ground. For something he hadn’t used before the stun setting been coming pretty handy tonight, that was the fifth guard he had to take care of so far. Making sure nobody else was around he started to climb the fire escape, somewhat surprised there was no other guards station on it.

Jack slowed his pace as he neared the roof, peering over the side to check out the situation. His heart nearly stopped when he saw Rachel gagged with her hands tied over her head to a support pole for the Goldcup sign. Mitchell stood right in front of her. She recoiled as best she could as he reached out and stroked her bruised cheek, “That wouldn’t have happen to you if you didn’t interfere. Tell me, did Jack try to kiss it and make it feel better? I had the feeling he was into you before you guys cut and ran. So did you guys ever…?”, he made particular motion with his fingers. “Can he even do it?”, Mitchell laughed. Rachel looked like she as about to kill him herself, and probably had a few French words floating around in her head at the moment.

His first instinct was to smash his head in, but he was doing everything possible to ignore it. He was trying to stay focused on the scanner attached to his belt. Jack had about twenty feet before it went off from the chip in his head. He had to chance it. Guessing there was about thirty between them that gave him ten to figure out how to distract him long enough. Slowly he made his way toward Mitchell. Things were going good until some birds got startled and flew out of their nest. Mitchell heard it and turned around as he ran full speed. Mitchell got an arm up and the belt appeared but Jack tackled him before he could finish the sequence. Despite the wind being knocked out of him Mitchell was able to force Jack off of him. He got to his feet faster than Jack expected and started after him. They were on more even footing this time around and Jack was still barely able to keep up with him. Then Mitchell threw a straight right that Jack caught with his hand. It took a little effort but Jack was able to slowly push it back as Mitchell looked confused. A smirk grew into a smile as he said, “I’m guessing since they corrected all of the mistakes you can’t throw a one sixty fastball.” Before Mitchell could react Jack let go and punched him with everything he had.

Mitchell tried to get away but Jack stayed on top of him hammering away. He trapped one of Jacks legs between his and turned making him fall. Jack got up waiting for something to come at him, it didn’t. Instead Mitchell ran toward Rachel, jumped up and kicked the pole she was bound to. It fell backwards startling her. “Rachel,” he cried out. He didn’t see the fist coming.

“Transform!”, he said and finished the activation sequence. “You took you eyes off the ball Jack.” Mitchell punched at him full force and Jack barely rolled out of the way. “A rookie mistake.” Well this part of the plan just went to hell.

He threw the boomstick at Mitchell who blocked it and let it fall to his feet. It was enough of a distraction to let Jack activate his system, “Henshin!” Jack forced himself to calm down, Lance said loosing it or getting angry wasn’t going to help in this situation. Mitchell waved him on but Jack stood his ground. He tilted his head slightly, in confusion or amusement Jack couldn’t tell, then he came at him. Jack was doing a little better at defending himself this time around, but he was still lagging behind. He knew that was going to happen the moment the systems got activated. Too late to do anything about it now. Jack was able to get under a swing and deck him with an uppercut. Mitchell expected for him to follow up on it. Instead he ran for the staff and snapped it to its full length. Then he looked at the dial then at the meter, maybe…

He knew Mitchell taught him the basics of staff fighting, but probably still knew more than Jack did. Hopefully he didn’t know about this little trick. He went in fast attacking with the ends of the staff at any point he could. Like he thought Mitchell blocked them with ease, now if he didn’t see this one coming. Twisting the ring to full charge he was able to jam the end into his gut. While he appeared confused Jack used that second he had to pop the electrode and sent the charge into Mitchell.

He backed up a few steps and one more time the turbines in his belt started to spin as they absorbed the charge.”I thought you would have learned last time,” Mitchell sneered. Jack was counting on that as he backed away and moved to the side. Mitchell twisted the left pod down Jack didn’t see that upgrade coming, but he set his surprise aside as Mitchell jumped up. He jumped out of the way but he realized too late he was too close to Rachel. Mitchell landed a couple of feet in front of her and after a moment that part of the roof exploded. The pole she was tied to fell back even more, he scream was muffled by the gag.

“Rachel!”, Jack went for her. Mitchell pulled him back and punched him down. OK, screw the plan he had a new goal now. Jack went in hard and fast, catching the other man off guard at how viscous he was being. He didn’t care if he had a superior system Jack was not going to let him stop him. He racked Mitchell with punches and knees. Rachel muffled scream caught his attention again. The pole fell even more and it look like she was going to slide off and fall. Again Mitchell picked that moment to attack him.

He knocked Jack to the ground after several punches. Before he could do anything else a green wolf and a blue eel came out of hiding and attacked Mitchell. “Go!” both of them yelled.

Jack didn’t need any more encouragement as he ran toward Rachel. She started slipping more as the pole bent further and he ran faster. Jack jumped for it the same time she fell. He grabbed the rope binding her wrist with one hand as the grabbed the ledge of the roof with his other arm, “Gotcha!” He looked back to see Mitchell keep Arron and Sparky at bay. Then he looked across the street and shouted, “Anytime Angie!” Within moments a blue Drakan dove with dyed red and purple feathers on her head flew over.

“Don’t worry, I got her,” Angie said as she grabbed Rachel around the waist. They flew back with her saying, “Geez Rachel, you’re heavier than you look.”

Jack turned back to see Mitchell knock both of his friends away and look in his direction. He saw the meter start to flash in his visor as he pulled himself up. Mitchell ran at him as he got a foot on the ledge. Then he jumped, flipping over Mitchell and kicking him in the head to knock him foreword. As he landed he twisted the pod up and turned around to see Mitchell grab on to the ledge to keep from falling. Jack punched the slab between his hands and backed up. Mitchell looked at where he punched then at him, Jack raised up his hand and wiggled his fingers goodbye right before it exploded. Mitchell fell to the street and right into a passing garbage truck that kept on going. “I didn’t know they made night runs” Arron commented as he and Sparky walked up and watched the truck with him.

Sparky asked as they returned to their human forms, “Would that be considered ironic?”

“I don’t know,” Jack said, “but it sure is appropriate.”

Angie helped her untie her wrist and get the gag off. Then she flew her back over when they got the all clear from Arron. Jack ran over and wrapped his arms around her she put her feet on the roof, “Thank God you’re all right.”

She put her arms around him just grateful to be there. But she still had to say, “Don’t cut it so close next time.”

“There’s not going to be a next time but I’ll work on it.” He looked aver to Angie, “Thank you.”

“What are friends for?”, Angie said as she made her way toward Sparky. For some reason she felt him loosen his grip but his arms were still around her. So she tightened her grip around him.

After a few more moments Sparky asked, “You two want to get a room or something?” Angie elbowed him in the ribs.

“Shut up Sparky,” Rachel told him.

When they got back everybody crowded them. Melissa pulled Rachel away from him almost as soon as they got there. Rachel didn’t look like she wanted to go but he was quickly surrounded by people telling good job and couldn’t follow. About an hour later he caught up with her in an empty hallway. He walked up to her saying, “I thought I told you to leave the rough stuff to me.”

“Well you weren’t there to do anything,” she told him.

“You’re the one who told me not to go,” he shot back

“You choose then to listen to me?”, she said.

“I didn’t want to make a scene in front of the kids.” Both of them kind of laughed. She started off as he thought about that moment. He grabbed her arm saying, “Wait a sec, I never dipped you.”

“You never what?”, she asked confused.

“While we were dancing,” he explained, “I never dipped you.”

“It’s not that important.”

“Are you kidding?”, he said as he took her hand and held her close. “My dipping gets raves.”

“You’re crazy,” she laughed again.

“You know it.” Jack tried to imitate the music and they started dancing. After a few moments Jack bent her backwards and quickly brought her back up. She laughed despite herself, “See.”

“OK, I’ll admit it that was kind of fun.”

“Told ya.” It took a moment but Jack realized he wasn’t letting go of her.

“Yeah… you did,” she said looking him in the eyes. She wasn’t exactly pulling away either.

“Yeah… I… uh,” Jack found his head leaning toward her and hers lifting up to meet him. They almost kissed before a noise startled them. When they looked back they noticed both of them took two steps back.

The moment broken Rachel looked unsure as she said, “Dusty coming over to check me out. I told everybody I was fine, but you know how he is.”

“Yeah,” Jack said feeling nervous for some reason. “I better go find Sparky and them and thank them again for helping out.” They both headed in different directions. After a few minutes Jack was talking to himself, “I love you. I love you. Why can’t I say it when she’s around?”

Rachel ducked into the nearest women restroom and locked the door. Leaning against the sink she stared at her reflection in the dirty mirror. After awhile she said, “Just tell him you love him already you moron.”

*Ending Theme – Linkin Park – What I’ve done*
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Old August 9th, 2019, 12:16 PM #46
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405

<Episode 43>

*Opening theme – Smile Empty Soul – Who I Am*

Anderson stared a hole into Mitchell as he stood in front of the desk. Part of him had to give the human credit, he wasn’t withering from the gaze. He personally knew of a couple of greens who would have begun sweating right about now. It was one of the reasons why he was usually proud to be associated with this particular human. Then last night happened. Evenly he spoke, “I am extremely disappointed with you Mitchell.”

“I know sir,” Mitchell replied while staying attention and staring straight ahead.

“We had Haily,” he was having a hard time keeping his temper under control. “She was captured and in our custody. Half of the job was already done. She was Davidson’s support system, without her he would have been easier to deal with if not captured out right.” Slowly he stood and stared him in the eyes. “Then you decided to play a game.” Slapping his hand on the desk he demanded, “Why would you think that would be even remotely acceptable?”

“I was testing out something I discovered during a previous encounter with Jack,” was his only explanation.

“And what was that?”

“That Rachel was a hole in personal armor. I was trying to exploit it.” Many men would have started making excuses why the plan didn’t work. Mitchell left it there apparently realizing there was nobody to blame but himself.

“So you had her play the damsel in distress against her will.” Anderson dropped back into his chair. “And the reason why you didn’t think you could test this,” he searched for the right word, “experiment here was?”

“I didn’t think he’d come. We have captured rebels before and brought them here and not once have they made an attempt to rescue any of them.”

“That maybe Mitchell but in this case your estimate was wrong.” Anderson studied his face for any hint of a reaction but that poker face of his was as strong as ever. “You see Mitchell while you just saw a man relaying on his luck as you put it, I watched him while he was still here and read the reports of how he was acting after he left. I do believe I can safely say that with or without the rebels consent Davidson would have found a way to make an attempt.” Again the human said nothing. “Instead of following procedure you went out on your own and ended up with the garbage. Dismissed!” Mitchell saluted, turned around sharply and exited the office. Anderson sat back and tried to get himself under control, slamming his fist on the desk when he could not do so right away.

It had been a week since anything had happened. Melissa knew it was the build up until something big happened, but she didn’t have the heart to dampen the relaxed vibe she had been getting around the habitat. Actually it was nice to get that vibe again. Some of the adults were playing ball with the children. A lot of people were sitting around and shooting the breeze. Even Jason seemed less grumpy than usual. Then there was Jack and Rachel. He was sitting on a crate and she was standing against it looking in a particular direction. Staying behind them she leaned against it and asked, “So what are we looking at?”

“The new hot item underground,” Rachel answered. Looking between them she saw Sparky and Angie across the room doing the couple thing, holding hands and looking happy to be together.

“Ah, young love in bloom,” she glanced at both of them to gauge their reaction to her choice of words.

Dense as ever Jack said, “I don’t know if I should be happy Sparky found somebody or sad Angie apparently settled at a young age.”

“Now don’t talk like that,” Rachel told, oblivious to what she said as well. “We should be happy they found some happiness in all of this mess. Some people don’t know what they have until they lose it.”

“No kidding,” he agreed. “I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people have it right under their nose and not realize it.” Silently Melissa watched them as an awkward silence grew between them. Rachel turned her head and started to say something but quickly found something else completely interesting. Jack pulled back the sleeve of his jacket than glanced at her before looking in another reaction. Melissa dropped her head in frustration. What she really wanted to do was reach out and crack their heads together, but she was afraid that would hurt Rachel more than anything. Looking back up she silently urged one of them to make the first move already.

Resisting a very strong urge to shout out, “one of you say I love you already,” she said out loud, “It’s probably a good thing nobody else thinks like you do Jack. Otherwise they wouldn’t stand a chance.”

She got something weird from him right before he said, “Then you might want to have a little discussion with Arron, he’s taking bets on how long they’re going to last.”

“You’re kidding?” One look from Rachel gave her the answer, “You’re not kidding.”

“This idiot put in five bucks,” Rachel informed her.

Jack tried to defend himself, “I gave then four years, that’s a lot longer than anybody else gave them. Arron was saying six months tops. I probably won’t even remember if I won or lost money on that bet.”

“That’s not the point,” Rachel told him. “You’re betting on your best friend’s love life. That’s like them betting on us for some reason.” Melissa didn’t have the heart to tell them there was a wager going on for when they would actually “do it”. Then again she hadn’t lost the bet yet so there was no point really. Come to think of it Arron started that bet too. Melissa was going to have a talk with him one of these days.

“My best friend is standing right here,” Jack said pointing right at Rachel. That took Melissa a bit by surprise. “I though we had this discussion already.”

“I though you were trying o make me feel better,” Rachel told him.

“Have I ever done or said anything to make you feel better?” Jack looked confused for a moment, “Wait, that didn’t sound right.”

Behind them Melissa started smirking, best friend wasn’t an “I love you” but it was a step in the right direction. At least for these two.

“Is that all you got Jack?”, Lance told him. Once again they were in the gym and everybody gave them some space. Lance held up the padded gloves in front of him and insisted, “Come on show me a combo.” Jack threw three punches and finished with a knee. Lance absorbed each one with the gloves. “I saw that knee coming a mile away. Mix it up Jack.” He threw another punch combo and a knee but finished up with a spinning backhand. “That’s better, you almost caught me sleeping with that one.” After a few more combos he said, “Alright let’s take a break.”

“I can still go,” Jack protested.

“And there’s no point in fighting Mitchell if you’re just going to drop from exhaustion.”

“And I told you I didn’t want anybody to hold back on me.”

“There’s holding back on you and then there’s trying to smarting you up,” Lance told him. “Tiring yourself out is not the way to get you any better. Hell I’m surprised you picked up anything during this crash course we got going.” Taking the gloves off he went, “Come on sit, the water is on me.”

Reluctantly Jack did so, although he gratefully took the offered water. “It’s just frustrating you know. When we’re both in our armor I’m barely able to keep my head from getting knocked off. But the one time I had the advantage he was holding his own without any problem.”

“Yeah, and he and every single one of Anderson’s shock troopers is a trained fighter. Mitchell has years of experience and training over you Jack,” Lance told him, how he could make a lecture not sound like one amazed Jack to no end. “You can’t expect to close that gap in this short of time.” That was not what he wanted to hear right about now. “Look Jack I’ve seen you fight a few times, and from what I can tell you have some pretty good instincts. But you have to fight a little smarter too.”

“You say that every freaking day,” he groaned. He knew it was true but he was getting sick of hearing it.

“And you know you can do it too. Arron and Sparky both told me how you outsmarted him last time.”

Jack turned away, “I just got lucky.” He nearly fell off the bench when Lance punched him in the arm. “OW, what the hell?”

“New rule, “Lance pointed a finger in his face, “any time you put anything you’ve done down as luck you’re getting punched.” Snorting a bit he added, “Rachel told me I’d have to whack you in the head to get you to listen but I didn’t think she was serious.”

Rubbing his shoulder he asked, “And what would you call what happened?”

“Thinking on your feet,” Lance answered plainly. “That’s the one real advantage you have.” Jack wasn’t convinced and apparently it showed. “Look Rachel told me about this luck thing Mitchell apparently stuck on. And maybe in a couple of the fights you’ve been in you did get lucky. But I sincerely doubt luck played a factor in all of them.” Lance looked around then leaned in, “like I said I’ve seen you fight. I even talked to Sparky, Rachel, Arron anybody who had ever seen you throw down with a Drakan. And I’ve got the same thing from all of them. When you think you have a purpose you’re a totally different person. Even if you don’t realize you had one at the moment.”

Jack eyes narrowed a bit as he looked at him, “Who told you about the champion crap?”

Hesitating a bit he eventually answered, “Melissa. She didn’t know what to make of it either. But I think I have an idea though.”

“Do you want to clue me in then? I kinda like to know what in the hell I’m supposed to be doing.”

“I don’t think it’s my place to say.”

“Damn it,” Jack blurted as he got up. “I’ve been wrapping my head around thing crap for weeks trying to figure what it’s supposed to mean. Do I hang back and wait for them to do something? Or do I go after them before they get a chance to do anything?”

Lance waited until Jack sat back down before saying anything, “This is one of those things you’re going to have to figure out for yourself. But from the way people are talking you’re close to figuring it out.” Putting a hand on his shoulder he said, “When you do figure it out my gut’s telling me Anderson better watch out because his days are going to be numbered.”

“Thanks Lance,” Jack eventually said.

“You kidding, I should still be thanking you. I though Dusty was going to kill me the other day for accidently ripping those stitches over your eye.”

“I was more worried about Rachel ripping you a new one,” Jack laughed. “Me and Dusty just got in each others way.”

“Come on break time’s over,” Lance said. “Let’s spar for awhile.” They got on the mat and started circling each other, throwing a kick or a punch to test the others defenses. Almost casually Lance said, “Speaking of Rachel, when are the two of you going to stop beating around the bush and make it official?”

Stopping what he was doing Jack exclaimed, “You to?” Next thing he knew Lance grabbed him by the arm and he went flying over his shoulder and crashing into the mat. And judging from the smirk on Lance’s face that was a lesson on being prepared for anything. Jack pointed a finger up at him, “That was low.”

“How are the canned goods?” Michelle asked Rachel. It was time to do inventory of the supplies. Usually she wanted to do this by herself so she would get some time alone to think. But every so often it was good to have someone to talk to. It defiantly made the job go by quicker.

“Looks like we’re a little low on green beans and corn,” she replied. “Sparky said he has them growing the green beans so we should be good there.” Rachel paused for a moment, “That still doesn’t sound right for some reason.”

Melissa grinned, “No it doesn’t.” She wrote something down on the clipboard, “So how are you doing?”

“Outside of trying not to go out of my mind I’m doing ok.”

“Anything bothering you?”

“Just going a little stir crazy, that’s all,” she explained. “And it’s not like I can step outside to get a walk for a change of scenery.”

“I hear you,” Melissa told her. “It’s kind of hard to keep yourself entertained when the TV only gets two channels and you’ve done everything there is to do about twenty times. I’ve done the puzzles we have so many times I can do them without looking at the picture on the box.”

“I never watched that much television,” Rachel said. “And I can deal with the long stretches of boredom. It’s the sudden spikes of excitement that we don’t know that are going to hit or how bad that gets to me.”

“Welcome to rebel life Rachel,” Melissa said. “I’m afraid to ask but how’s the bread?”

“Ew,” Rachel looked as she crinkled her nose. “One loaf and it’s green.”

“Yuck,” Melissa stuck out her tongue. “We’ll give it to Dusty, he’s been saying he’s looking for some penicillin. This way he can make his own.” Both of them chuckled a bit. But she did get something from Rachel when she said rebel life. “So what is bothering you?”

“I hate it when you do that,” she told her.

“Sorry but it doesn’t come with an off switch,” Melissa said. “I can ignore it for the most part but every so often something slips through. So spill it.” She wondered how much she was going to have to prod her before she actually talked.

Thankfully not much. “I just feel a little guilty at times. I mean I was helping World Inc. track you guys down and take you out. I never knew I was on the wrong side of this thing.”

“I’m sure my cousin thinks he’s solely in the right in this situation,” Melissa said. “But as somebody once said this is a war, there no such thing as a good guy or a bad guy. Just two sides that think they’re right and the other side is wrong.”

Rachel just looked at her, “Didn’t Jack say that?”

Melissa just shrugged, “I never said it was a smart person who said it.” Rachel kept looking at her and she couldn’t help put laugh. Eventually she joined in. “Don’t sweat it Rachel, you were just doing your job, just like we were. I know Chris kept himself up at nights wondering if he made the right decision or not. I’m still amazed he never got an ulcer. And if he did he did a great job of hiding it. I wish I could ask him what his secret was because I feel like one is coming on every so often.”

“I think my aunt had a remedy for that, “Rachel said trying to remember. “I’ll see if we have the stuff to make it for you.”

Smiling to herself Melissa said, “Does it involve stopping a gator with a look?”

There was a brief flash of annoyance from Rachel’s direction, “That really happened.”

“If you say so,” she replied causally. Like she thought there was another flash of annoyance.

Emily walked the halls trying to find Lance. He had received a call from his people not that long ago. They discovered something but didn’t want to check it out in fear of being caught. Of course Melissa said that they would check it out and Lance said he’d go along since it was suppose to be his cell’s job. Jack, Rachel, Sparky and Arron all agreed to go along. That was why she had to talk to him about it. Finally she found him, “Lance.”

“Oh hi Emily,” he said, “sorry but I can’t really talk now, the others are waiting for me.”

“That’s why I have to talk to you.”

“What’s wrong Emily? Is Mitchell going to show up or something?”

“It’s possible but I can’t say for sure,” she answered. “But Anderson has been targeting your cell lately.”

“Don’t remind me,” Lance grimaced. “I want to yell at my guys for dropping this in Melissa’s lap but I can’t really blame them either. Besides if Mitchell does show up Jack can hold him off.”

“I’m not so sure child,” Emily said.

“You don’t think Jack can do it?” Lance looked like he could believe what he was hearing. “You’re the one who got this whole champion thing going. Besides Jack’s gone one on one with him a few times now.”

“And what happened in those encounters child?”, Emily asked, urgency at the edge of her voice. “The first time if the others did not get to him in time we would have lost him. The second time Rachel interfered. Last time he had Arron and Sparky with him. There has not been a time where he has faced him totally alone. I know there will be a time when Jack will be able to face him one on one with no interference. Now is not that time.” She clutched his arm surprising him, “Please child, we need Jack if we are to finish this. I ask of you, please don’t let him face him alone.”

Lance looked unsure of what to do, “I’ll do what I can,” and he left. Emily hoped it would be enough to bring them all home safe.

How did he just know this thing was going to be in the middle of nowhere? They had passed nothing but trees for the last twenty minutes or so. At least it was night so they’d be able to see any headlights coming their way. Rachel grip around him got a little tighter and Jack smiled under the helmet. If it wasn’t for the fact this was an actual job this would have been fun. “Hey,” he called back to her, “want to try and beat them to our destination?”

“Save it for the track ‘Masked Rider’,” Rachel told him. Despite hating that tag Sparky stuck on him he grinned even more. “Besides they got he map, we could get lost out here.”

“You make that sound like a bad thing.”

“Just keep you eyes on the road,”

“Yeah,” he deadpanned, “I don’t want to miss a different shape of rock.” After a few more moments Sparky’s hand came out of the driver side window single them to stop. They jumped out of the van while Jack and Rachel took of their helmets. “What’s up, are we there?”

“I thought I saw something,” Arron said while looking into the woods around them.

“Am I the only one who gets a bad feeling every time somebody says that?”, he asked.

“No your not,” Rachel said as she got off the bike. “So how big was this something?”

“I really don’t want to know,” Jack muttered.

Arron answered anyway, “I really didn’t get a good look I just saw a flash of something.”

“I think that would be me,” Mitchell said as he came out of the tree line in front of them and stepped into the beams of the van headlights. Jack got in front of the group before anybody could stop him. “You see there’s a bunch of guys up there waiting to ambush you, but you probably already knew that before I even showed up. Now the rest of you can keep on going and fall into it, I really don’t care one way or another. But I want you,” he pointed right at Jack, a particular hatred in his eyes, “right here.”

Reaching behind him he pushed Rachel toward the others, “Get her out of here.” Stepping foreword he stared at the other man, “Alright Mitchell let’s finish this here and now.” Doing the movements to activate his system he got out, “Hen…!”, then something crashed into the back of the head and everything went black.

“What the hell?!”, the one with the blue dreads cried out. Rachel and the boy immediately checked on Jack and tried to wake him up. Mitchell was scratching the back of head too, he did not see that one coming. The blond haired one just stood there with the fist he used to knock out Jack still clenched. He didn’t look happy with himself, almost ashamed with himself. The blue haired one pushed him, “What the hell Lance?!”

“Get Jack out of here,” was all he said. The others weren’t letting up. “It’s something Emily told me before we left. She hasn’t been wrong yet. I’ll hold him off.” The others looked unsure. “I got no plans on dying, I’ll meet up with you later. Now hurry up and get him out of here.” He stepped foreword and got between them. After a few more seconds the blue haired one and the youth picked up Jack and put him in the van. Rachel got in with him as the youth got on the KR-1000 and they got out of there.

“Lance,” Mitchell said slowly, “you’re the guy in charge of the cell that’s super friendly with theirs aren’t you.” Bowing with a sarcastic smile he said, “I am honored. We’ve been after you guys for a while now”

“Don’t be,” was all he said.

Pointing to the retreating vehicles he said, “You do realize you’re just delaying the inevitable right? I’m going to get him all by his lonesome sooner or later.”

“Emily said he needed more time before then, so I’m giving it to him.” Before his eye Lance turned into a red wolverine.

“Whatever,” he told him. He did the movements for his activation sequence, “Transform!” The black body suit and red armor formed around him. They wasted no time at starting things either. Mitchell was mildly impressed with that. He knew the reds were trained fighters, but after fighting Jack it was great to go up against somebody who could give him a workout. Still he was surprised when the Drakan caught him and sent him flying. “Oh this is going to be fun,” he laughed.

“You have a weird definition of fun,” the rebel told him. Mitchell jumped to his feet and went after him again. This time Lance took the fight to him. He was forced to back up from the Drakan’s attacks. Lance started turning around and unleashing a kick with each spin. Mitchell went low and tried to sweep his legs out from under him but he jumped over it. As he landed the Drakan slashed his claws at his head. He could see the sparks fly through the blue lenses of his helmet. He forced him away and got under one of the Drakan kicks and popped back up with an uppercut. Lance head snapped back and he looked dazed. Mitchell charged and he was caught again. His head smashed into a tree and he saw stars as the blackness almost took him. “I’m out of here,” Lance said as he went to leave.

“Not yet,” Mitchell said as he lunged for the Drakan. Grabbing him by the leg he tripped him up. “It’s over once I say it’s over!”, getting up he tried to cave in the Drakan’s head with a vicious kick. Lance tried to kick at him again. Mitchell caught it. With a quick snap he broke the Drakans’ leg and he screamed in pain. But he kept trying to fight from his back despite the new handicap. Begrudgingly Mitchell gave him some respect for that. Lance was still able block some of the strikes being thrown at him but more than few were getting through and making contact. One punch landed right on the rebel shoulder, he felt it dislocate from the socket. Behind the helmet he grinned like a maniac at the pain he was causing, picturing that was Jack clutching at his shoulder in his mind. Kicking him in the side Lance rolled over and tried to crawl away. The meter started to flash. Four limbs one choice, decisions, decisions. “Now it’s over,” he followed the Drakan, “time to put you down.” Grabbing the right pod he twisted it down, “You’re luck just ran out, just like Jack’s will.” He stomped him in the back and walked away.

“Two coming in!” Melissa heard the guard shout as she waited. She was wondering what was going on since Lances’ cell said he hadn’t shown up yet. That was the plan, they would check out what was going on and after it was over they’d drop Lance off on their way back. So what changed? Before she saw any of them she was getting an almost overwhelming mixture of emotions, it was staggering. But the one who was angry quickly became apparent when Jack got of his motorcycle and threw his helmet across the room. “What the hell is going on?”, she demanded.

“Lance knocked me out!”, Jack snapped at her. Then he immediately regretted his tone of voice as soon as he said it.

Her mind was refusing to recognize the words he said,” What… wait? Lance did what? Where is he?” She tried to look into the van as the others came out. She wasn’t seeing him.

“We ran into Mitchell,” Rachel explained trying to stay under control. “He informed us we were heading into a trap.”

“He really didn’t care about us,” Arron continued when she couldn’t.

“All he wanted was Jack,” Sparky said.

“Jack was going to fight him and let us get away,” Rachel spoke back up. “Before he could Lance punched him in the back of the head.”

“Where is Lance?”, she demanded again.

“He took Jack’s place,” Rachel told her. “He told us to take Jack and get out of there.” Starting to tear up she continued, “When Jack came to and figured out what was going on he demanded we turn around and head back.” Jack sat down as she continued, “When we got there Sparky…,” she couldn’t continue.

“Sparky said he smelled Drakan blood,” Jack voice cracked as he put a hand over his mouth.

Michelle knees gave out before she knew what was happening, “No.” Rachel was immediately at her side with her arms around her. Jack couldn’t stop the tears from falling as he sat there in silence. Sparky and Arron looked too stunned to do or say anything. Everyone around them was quiet. She kept thinking about Lance, she knew him since she was a girl He was one of the few people who genuinely believed she could do this. Now he was… gone? “NO!”

*Ending Theme – Linking Park – What I’ve Done*
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Old August 11th, 2019, 10:19 AM #47
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<Episode 44>

*Opening Theme – Smile Empty Soul –Who I am*

Word about Lance got to his cell faster than she expected. Melissa half expected them to blame her for what happened. But there were as stunned as she was. They got there quickly in order to perform the ceremony. Unfortunately as the, technically, highest ranked person there she was the one who had to lead it. She really didn’t want to be doing this but she knew it was her duty. Her and Lance’s cell crowded into the main living area of the habitat as she broke away and stood in front of them. Melissa was grateful when she turned around and saw Rachel standing right up front. Jack was standing behind her with his arms wrapped round her, both looking to the other for support.

“We lost a good man today,” she began. It was against protocol but right now she didn’t give a damn. “The life we chose to lead, we knew it was going to be rough. We knew there would be losses. But some losses are harder than others,” her voice cracked a little. Pausing for a moment she forced her way through it. “Lance was one of the best of us. He tried his best to make everybody he worked with better. Some of us kicking and screaming.” She knew she was supposed to be smiling there but it wasn’t coming because she wasn’t feeling it. “He did what he did because he believed in the cause and more importantly he believed in each and every person he worked with. And because he believed in us I know he would want us to go on.” She closed her eyes to get herself under control. Damn it she as not going to lose it before this was over. She owed him that much. “So let us herald him to the after life and make sure his ancestors know he is more than worthy to join them.” She changed into her green tiger form and the other did the same. Almost as one the Drakans in the room raised their head and howled at the ceiling.

Melissa only got half the howl out before her knees failed her again. The tears started to fall freely and she didn’t even try to stop them this time as she sat there crying in front of everybody. She knew they expected her to be the strong one but damn it she lost somebody important too. Rachel was by her side in no time holding her, “It’s ok,” she whispered, “we’re here for you.”

It took a few minutes but Melissa was finally able to change back into her human form and get back to her feet. A few from her cell came foreword and echoed what Rachel had said. Before long somebody from Lance’s cell came forward and said, “Melissa.”

She looked up and remembered seeing the red haired man in front of her from the few times she visited his cell, “Jaime.”

“I wanted you to know we’ve talked on the way here.” She braced herself for the worse, seeing a replay of what happened with Trent after Drake died. “And no matter what you decide we’ll back you one hundred percent. You’re right, Lance would want us to go on.”

“Thank you,” she wanted to feel relieved but her voice sounded a little hollow. This was still the same cell that didn’t want to do that last job because they were scared.

“I’m more than aware that we messed up big time. And because of it Lance is dead. I’ll know we’ll never make that up but that’s not going to stop us from trying. I’ll even pick up where he left off in training Jack if I have to.”

“You would actually work with the Drakan Killer?”, Jason asked.

“Lance was against him helping us at first,” Jaime said. “But he ended up believing we need him if we’re going to have a chance against Anderson. That’s good enough for me.

Rachel said nothing as she looked around. Looking a bit confused she ended up saying, “Where did Jack go?”

“I saw him leave,” Arron said. “About the same time I noticed Emily was gone.”

“Uh-oh,” Sparky muttered. With everyone looking at him he admitted, “I kinda let it slip that Lance stopping Jack was Emily’s idea.”

Knowing what kind of emotion was flowing threw him at the moment Melissa told them, “Find him.”

Emily wanted to get away from the gathering as fast as possible. This was not what she had in mind when she warned Lance. The guilt was almost overpowering. So deep in thought she almost ran into the person in front of her. Before she was even aware of who it was she instinctively knew it was Jack. There was an anger that was foreign to his eyes while he stared at her. “What did you say to him?”, he demanded.

“This outcome was not my intention child,” she tried to tell him.

“What did you say to him?”, he repeated a little more forcibly

Sighing a bit she answered, “That you were not ready to face Mitchell alone.”

“You said I was supposed to be their champion,” he snapped. “How can I do that if you don’t think I can protect them?”

“It wasn’t a lack of faith in you…,” she started to tell him but he cut her off.

“Then what was it?! What was so dangerous about that situation that I couldn’t handle it? What was it about because Lance is dead because of it?!”

“I didn’t send Lance to die,” she told him, almost shouting. “I was expecting him to face Mitchell with you not to take him on by himself. You are too important to us to lose. Lance knew that. You will be ready to face Mitchell in time. Please believe me, I had your best interest in mind.” She reached out to him but he backed away.

He hurt her more than he would ever realize by saying, “I guess you can’t see everything then huh?” Walking past her he added, “You still put the idea in his head and I don’t think my best interest is you had in mind.”

Melissa and Arron came around the corner. “Jack wait a moment,” she grabbed his arm. He pulled away and kept on walking. Then Melissa went to her, “Emily are all right? Jack didn’t saying anything did he?”

“It was nothing I didn’t deserve,” she told her and walked away in the other direction. She knew he was right, she did have more than his best interest at heart.

It had been a week since Mitchell had put down that rebel and no sight of Jack any where. He was more than ready to take another crack at him but apparently Jack decided to go into hiding. So this group of rebels that he, Perez and an assault team had surrounded and ready to take down would have to do. Sucks to be them. “Transform!”, he shouted as Perez gave to go sign. Breaking away from the group he zeroed in on a blue dragonfly. Oh the irony. Although part of him did feel sorry for the poor bastard, but not by much. Landing a solid punch to his face the Drakan crumpled to the ground. “Get up!”, he shouted at the Drakan in frustration. A red hand grabbed his shoulder. Mitchell didn’t care what it was as he turned around and clocked it.

Around him the men were containing what rebels they could. Double and triple teaming where they had to. So that left several Drakan more or less free. That just meant there was more for him to pound. He picked the closest one and went to work. Red, blue he didn’t care what color it was just as long as it was a Drakan in his way. He caught glimpse of a green bee trying to get away and knocking down a few of the men in the process. He just went to the top of the list. An overweight blue grizzly bear tried to get in his way. After a brief tussle Mitchell was able to snap his neck and continued after his target. The moment he got to him the dragonfly got back in his face. Now it decided to put up a fight? In fact it fought a little like Jack. Maybe with a little more control and a little more technique but there was a strong resemblance. Picturing Jack in his mind he broke the Drakan defenses and quickly pounded him into the ground. The bee threw him off and dragged the dragonfly with him. Mitchell got to a knee and watched them for a moment then at the meter. “Run, run as fast as you can,” he mumbled, smiling behind the helmet. Chasing after them he twisted the right pod up and the left pod down. Catching up he punched the dragonfly in the side of the head and the bee kicked the bee in the ribs.

As they both recoiled from the impact of the charge and exploded Mitchell stood there. Did Jack ever enjoy the feeling of power the system gave him? Did he ever get lost in the fear in their eyes when they saw him? Probably not, he was too busy feeling sorry for himself or some crap. Turning back to the conflict behind him he saw a couple of the Drakan were still fighting. “The fun’s not over yet.”

Anderson read over the mission report of the strike last night. For the most part things went according to plan. The rebels were captured and were currently being interrogated. Those that were captured alive that is. There were three unexpected causalities from the raid, and one man was responsible. That man was currently standing in front of his desk. “Mitchell,” he said leaning back in his chair, “I realize that in combat plans can change on a moments notice depending on the situation. But I did give specific instructions that the leader of this particular group of rebels was to be brought in alive.”

“I realize that sir,” he said, “but I wasn’t sure which one was the leader.”

“The reports said there was a green Drakan in their midst.”

“That wouldn’t necessarily make him the leader,” Mitchell countered. “If they are trying to live up to that all classes are equal crap then chance are the green Drakan was following orders from somebody else.”

He hated to admit it but Mitchell had a point. It was hard to imagine a green taking orders from a lower class, but the rebels were obviously doing just that. It made him sick. But there was still a question left, “Then how do you explain that the ones we captured are claiming the Drakan Killer murdered their leader?”

“Well there was the bear and the dragonfly,” Mitchell looked almost casually as he thought it over. “The bee looked like he was trying to get the dragonfly out of there so it could have been him.”

“And yet he’s dead,” he reminded him. Mitchell just shrugged his shoulders. Anderson raised an eyebrow slightly. “Despite the fact we lost the leader we did get a majority of the group. So I would say mission accomplished. Let Perez and the other know I said good job.”

“Right away,” Mitchell gave him a quick salute. “I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear it,” and with that he left.

“Quite,” Anderson responded as the door closed. There was no doubt about it in his eyes, there was something different about Mitchell. Ever since Davidson got the best of him that one time there was something in his eyes. He had known this particular human for years and he had never seen that particular look in his eyes before. No, he did see that look before, when Davidson paralyzed him. The fact he actually lost to Davidson. That ate at him for those first few days while he was waiting to be bonded to the mark two. Now that he had the superior system Davidson still found a way to outsmart him, it was eating at him even more. Anderson could see it. He would have to tell Perez, secretly of course, to keep a close eye on him. The last thing they needed was for Mitchell to become a loose cannon. He could become a bigger threat than Davidson ever was.

Rachel spent the next week trying to play peacemaker. After the ceremony for Lance Jack and Melissa started shouting at each other. All over how Jack was talking to Emily. Things got so heated he went so far as to dare her to throw him out after she brought up the leash he was apparently on. As much as she wanted to take a side she saw both of their arguments. It was Lance’s choice to do what he did, but would he had made it if Emily didn’t say anything. Although this champion thing Jack kept bringing up was new to her.

So they spent most of the next week avoiding each other as much as possible. Melissa more or less threw herself into her duties. Jack pretty much increased his training time, sometimes with Sparky, Arron or that Jamie guy. But mostly he trained alone. Well not alone, she stood by and watched him. Just wanting to be there incase he wanted to talk.

And eventually he did, going so far as to explain this whole champion thing. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Lance said he had an idea but he wouldn’t say anything. He told me it was something I figure out on my own.”

“How come you never told me about it before now?”, she asked.

Dropping his head a bit he answered, “Because I’m still not sure if I even believe it. How can I be anybody champion if I don’t think I have it in me?”

“It might be one of those ‘the person who doesn’t want it is the person who deserves it’ type of things,” she offered. It didn’t look like he was buying it. She thought it was kind of lame too but it was all she had at the moment. “I wish I had something better for you but I don’t. I just wish you told me about this sooner. We could have figured it out by now.”

“I don’t know, maybe,” he said. After a moment he went, “Rachel, am I really that different when I think I have a purpose?”

“Who told you that?”

“Lance did during our last training session.”

“Oh,” that caught her off guard. “I wouldn’t say different. More focused than you usually are maybe. Not that you lose focus.” She smiled a bit, “Well there was that first time you activated the system and you stopped what you were doing when you saw what you look liked.”

“I wasn’t expecting to look like a bug,” he said quickly. Apparently finished training for the day Jack took a quick shower while she waited. As hard as she tried she couldn’t make heads or tails of this champion thing they put on him either. It wasn’t exactly a role she could see him in. Then again there were moments… No, she was thinking about it too much. Jack came out of the shower room with his jacket slung over his shoulder saying, “Want to get some dinner?”

“I’d love to,” she replied. On the way to the cafeteria Melissa came around the corner. “Play nice,” she warned him. He grunted in response. Melissa looked unsure too but came toward them. Something about the way she was looking told Rachel this wasn’t going to be good news.

“We just got word Mitchell and an assault team attacked one of the smaller cells last night.” Jack turned away swearing. “A couple were able to get away and Lan…,” she corrected herself, “Jamie’s cell took them in. But from the sound of things Mitchell is living up to the Drakan Killer legend.”

“We have got to stop him,” Jack said, “and now.”

“But how?”, Rachel asked. “We never know where he is until he shows up or finds a way to pull your strings.”

“Then we pull his strings for a change,” Jack told her. “We fight him on our terms.”

“And how do we do that?”, Melissa asked. “They can cover things pretty good if you haven’t noticed.”

Jack thought it over for a bit, “The old habitat.”

“They’ll have the place guarded,” Melissa argued. “The moment we get there they’ll be on us.”

“Yeah but they had it for what a couple of months?”, he countered. “You guys were living there for years. You know the ins and outs of that place better than they ever will.”

“They’ll have some sort of alarm in place at the entrances,” Rachel said. A group of kids ran by. Jack gave her a particular look and she remembered the whole incident with Jennifer. “But maybe they don’t know all the ways in and out of it.”

“But how do you get Mitchell there?”, Melissa asked. “As much as I want to take Mitchell down I am not going to risk Freidman’s safety.”

“Neither do I,” Jack admitted. “We got to iron out this part of the plan and fast before Mitchell decides to go hunting again.”

An idea came to Rachel. It was so absurd she almost didn’t say anything. But it was a long shot and it was the only idea she had. “I wonder if they still have that phone he took from me?”

Anderson met Mitchell on the way to R&D. He looked as surprised as he was when Armstrong called him in. When they got here Armstrong and his workers where hovering around an ordinary looking cell phone. “Why are they using it now?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” Armstrong replied. “I as so positive they were going to drop it from their system I forgot we had it until it started ringing. We’re ready to trace it but I doubt he’s dumb enough to do it anywhere near their current hideout.”

“Did he say when he’ll call back?”

“Should be any time now.” After a few seconds it started beeping. Armstrong answered it and quickly attached it to a speaker.

“Hello?”, Davidson voice came through. He saw Mitchell tense up slightly. “Hello? Seriously you guys are eating up my minutes here.”

“Mr. Davidson,” Anderson said. “It’s a pleasure to hear from you again.”

“Oh it’s you,” he sounded a little disappointed. “Is Mitchell any where close?”

“Right here buddy,” Mitchell answered.

“What, am I on speaker? Hey, did Tim ever get a life? I was wondering about that the other day.”

“Some how I doubt you took the trouble in calling in just to play catch up. And didn’t you take quite a risk in calling this phone? How would you have known if we didn’t dismantle it?”

“It was either this or tie a note to a rock and chuck it through a window. To be honest the rock sounded like more fun but they insisted I try the phone first.” Any doubts he had this was actually Davidson were quickly put to rest.

“What do you want Jack?”, Mitchell demanded.

“I want to finish it,” he told them. “Just you and me, no backup and no BS.”

“Just say when and where Jack.”

“The place you ran the group of rebels I’m with out of,” he answered. “As for when, how fast can you get there?”

“Faster than you think ‘buddy’,” Mitchell sneered.

“I’ll be waiting.” The call ended before anybody could say anything else. Anderson looked over to Mitchell, he looked like he already won.

“He’s trying to get me on what he thinks is going to be home field advantage for him. I’m going to show him how wrong he actually is,” Mitchell looked way too pleased with the situation.

“So are you going alone?”, Anderson inquired.

“Of course not,” he said with a smirk. “Do you think I believe that no back up no BS crap? His friends are going to be there because they know he can’t beat me one on one. That’s why that one sacrificed himself the last time. I’ll bring a couple of teams with to take care of them. Then Jack is all mine.”

“I want Davidson alive,” Anderson told him. Mitchell protested and after a few moments of that he simply said, “Just think of what it will be like for Davidson behind bars. Knowing he can’t get out. Knowing if his friends try to rescue him they will be right there next to him.” That appeared to appeal to him. More than likely the idea of being able to taunt Davidson for his failure being the biggest draw. Despite his concern for his mental state, Anderson still knew how to appeal to his human ego.

“He’s here,” Arron announced as he came through the tunnel. It was connected to an old factory, and it was so small a child had to hunch over to navigate it but they got back into the old habitat. It was really strange to see something most of them still considered home so quiet and empty. Too bad it wouldn’t be quiet for long. They had a small group, just large enough to cause a distraction if needed. Of course the one person who wanted to be wasn’t. Luckily Melissa agreed with Jack about the danger and forced Rachel to stay behind. He was going to have to find a way to make up to her later. If there was a later.

Do not be thinking like that. “I called him twenty minutes ago,” Jack exclaimed. “Either he booked it here or this place was closer to Anderson than I thought.”

“A little bit from column A and a little bit from column B,” Sparky joked.

“He’d bring company with him?”, Jack asked.

“Was there any doubt?”, Arron asked in return. “We’re set to go in here and Jamie has his group outside ready to sandwich them as soon as they get inside.”

“Right,” Jack nodded. “Remember, make sure Mitchell gets to me and nobody else. I’m going to have a hard enough time as it is without any extra surprises.”

“You still haven’t told us how you’re going to get Mitchell to come to you,” Arron said.

All he said was, “I got an idea how.”

“You’re going to do something stupid, aren’t you?”, Sparky quipped.

“Yup,” he told them as he walked away. As soon as he turned the corner and was out of sight he reached up and pulled back the foil lined hood covering his head.

“What do you mean he’s inside?!”, Mitchell demanded. Anderson had guards and cameras on this place the moment they capture it. None of the surveillance teams had seen anything and none of the sensors had been tripped.

“The signal from his tracking chip just popped up a few moments ago,” Perez told him. “It took a few moments for the guys to recognize it as Davidson’s signal. He’s in there and he’s going deeper inside.”

“They must have had a few entrances we didn’t know about,” he muttered. “I’m taking a team inside,” he told Perez as he went into the van and took one of the handheld scanners. It picked up his and Jacks’ signal as soon as he turned it on. “Keep an eye on things out here just in case there are any other surprises.”

“I’ll get a hold of HQ and let them know what’s going on.” Mitchell said nothing as he rushed in. Studying the scanner he could tell Jack was still on the move. They didn’t get far before they heard fighting going on outside. He paused to look back, but only for a moment. His only concern was Jack. Every so often he would motion for some of his men to split off and take a hallway. Again it wasn’t long before he heard some conflict behind him but he stayed his course. It wasn’t long before he was actually alone but he had Jack’s location, he finally stopped moving and he quickened his pace. Not even looking for traps he followed a particular hallway. He started hearing water and his nose was assaulted by the smell of rotting vegetables. He kept on going and found Jack standing in the middle of what looked like a farm, or an attempt at one.

“It took you long enough,” he said.

“It’s a pretty out of the way place,” Mitchell said as he dropped the scanner. “So why did you pick this hole any way?”

“I don’t really know,” he said looking around. “I could say it was because it is a pretty isolated place with only one way in or out. But this is also where I started to find myself again.” He looked over to a particular hole in the ground, “It’s where I started helping something live instead of die.”

“Touching,” Mitchell snorted, “doesn’t mean anything to be but touching.” Neither said anything for a moment then both of them moved at once. Jack got his left arm across his chest. Mitchell got his left arm up and bent, “Transform!”

“Henshin!”, Jack slammed his right hand on top of the belt. The armor formed around both of them as they ran. Both threw a punch that connected with the other jaw. Mitchell took a step back from the impact but Jack took several steps back. Some of the training started to pay as he was able to keep up with Mitchell’s attacks. Mitchell may have been faster but he was better at avoiding some of it. Unfortunately a few of his strikes got through, a knee to the gut in particular dropped Jack to a knee, but he popped back up with and uppercut that caught Mitchell flush. He jumped up a bit and surprised him with an elbow strike on the way down. He swung his leg for a kick, Mitchell ducked it then caught Jack in the side with a kick of his own. He grunted in pain but tried to make sure he didn’t leave himself open for anything else. That was something Lance drilled into his head over and over.

Mitchell did just that going at him full force. Jack was forced to back up from the assault as he kept up his guard. Seeing an opening he threw a punch that Mitchell caught, again. Thinking quickly he pushed foreword a bit to make Mitchell push back. Falling back suddenly he got his foot up as the other man came foreword and flipped Mitchell over. Both of them got to their feet and Jack struck first with a right cross. He went for another one that Mitchell caught and threw him. Jack twisted in the air and landed on his feet. Grabbing Mitchell by the back of the head he started throwing knees. Mitchell quickly broke the hold and in matter of moments had him on the ground. He stood there looking at him instead of following up, “What the hell got into you?”

“When you think you have a purpose you’re a totally different person,” those words of Lance ran through his head as he got to a knee.

“I don’t know,” Jack grunted, “but I think I like it.” He jumped foreword without warning, caught Mitchell around the waist and charged foreword yelling. Slamming him against the wall Jack backed away just enough to start pounding away at him with everything he had. Mitchell got his hands up and pushed him away. Jack fell and rolled backwards to his feet and ran in again. Using the wall to jump up he slammed his knee into Mitchell’s face. His head was forced into the wall behind him cracking it. Falling back Jack grabbed onto his head to make sure Mitchell face slammed into his knee again on the way down. While Mitchell was still stunned Jack pushed him to his back and got on top of him and pounded away at his head.

The meter started flashing but he held off on grabbing the pod. He had an idea that hit him a few days ago, try and overload that redirecting system he had. It was a slim chance but it was still all he had. He got rocked by a straight punch to the face that got through his attack. Jack was stunned just long enough for Mitchell to push him off and throw him into retaining pond by the field. Jack heard a click as he got up and saw Mitchell’s reflection come up behind him. Rolling out of the way Mitchell’s fist hit the water. There was an explosion almost immediately as Mitchell pulled away with a smoking hand and shouted in pain, “Goddamn it!”

Jack went on the attack almost immediately, it was now or never if he was going to take him down. Mitchell fought back despite the handicap as the fight disintegrated into a slugfest. They pounded away at each other for several minutes. Both men had tunnel vision as they saw nothing but each other. Mitchell spun around and kicked him in the head. Then he did it again and again and again making Jack drop his guard and fall backwards. He used the wall he fell against to get up in pain, but not from the assault. The inside of his gut was hurting as the meter was almost one continuous flash. Now or never. Mitchell came at him at a run. Jack got out of the way, gritted his teeth and twisted the pod down. Electrical arcs traveled down the outside of the armor as he clutched at his leg. He was cooking the inside of his leg again but it was his only his only chance. Jack turned slightly as Mitchell whipped around and pinned him to the wall with a kick at the waist. His foot was on the faceplate of the belt as the full charge hit it. Mitchell was covered in electricity as the turbines started spinning. He grabbed Jack by the back of the head and threw him against the wall as little arcs of electricity danced around his helmet. He slumped to the ground feeling like something in his head was on fire.

Mitchell stumbled foreword holding his gut as his armor went back to normal. Jack lay against the wall totally helpless as Mitchell faced him. “You thought that would work huh?!”, he taunted. “You luck just ran out. I don’t care what Anderson wants you’re dead!” He twisted the right pod down. There was a brief whirling sound right before the belt started to spark. Mitchell looked down and saw some of the cracked faceplate fall off. The visible turbine looked damaged and barely moving, like it was stuck in place. He backed away as his belt started to spark more violently. He looked at Jack and shouted, “You lucky son of a bitch!”, right before the belt exploded and various parts of his armor erupted in sparks as he fell to the ground.

Jack watched him, barely able to move. Mitchell wasn’t getting back up, he was just smoking there on the ground. It took him a bit to realize he actually won. He tried to get back up but he couldn’t move. OK, he was just tired and needed a moment. But nothing was moving when he was trying to deactivate the armor. His fingers were barely twitching on his hand. If his head would stop killing him maybe he could figure this out. Wait a second… that burning sensation in his head. He started to have a hard time breathing. Oh God… the chip in his head…


*Ending theme – Linkin Park – What I’ve Done*
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Old August 17th, 2019, 11:23 AM #48
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Power Ranger
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405
Power Ranger
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405

<Episode 45>

*Opening Theme – Smile Empty Soul – Who I am*

He felt himself floating. He had no idea which way was up or down. All he knew he was in some blue stuff that was slowing his movements slightly. His hand hit something metallic. His eyes opened wide as memories flooded his head. He had to get out of there and he had to get out of there now. Thrashing around a bit he felt wire attached him that he quickly pulled off. Reaching out toward the light in front of him he found a barrier blocking his way. He started pounding away with all he had, he had to get out of there. Shadows suddenly hovered in front of him. He stopped pounding and tried to get away from them. Another barrier behind him blocked any chance of escape. The barrier in front of him lifted away and several hands started reaching for him. He resisted as hard as he could but the got a grip on him and hauled him toward the light.

He hit cold air almost immediately. He heard a jumble of voices and tried to yell at them but something nasty spilled out of his mouth instead. He still struggled as they got him out of the goop he was floating in. There was only one group who could have brought him back and he would be damned if he was going to let them have him without a fight. He almost broke away but somebody grabbed him from behind. A voice with a familiar drawl spoke into his ear, “Easy son easy.”

“Dusty?”, Jack coughed. He wasn’t sure what was going on but he gripped the old man’s arm with all he had. He tried to focus his eyes but everything was still one big blur, “I can’t see!”

“It’s ok son,” he tried to calm him down. “You opened your eyes in that goop and it affected them.” He felt somebody else grab him and heard Dusty say, “Help me get him on the table.” Jack let them guide him to the table and help him get on it. As he sat there somebody wrapped a blanket around him that he closed around his frame. “Your sight should clear up soon. You gave us one hell of a scare son. And waking up ahead of schedule isn’t doing this old man’s ticker any favors either.”

“You never were any good at keeping a schedule,” another familiar voice said.

“Rachel,” he reached out for her. She gripped his hand tightly. “You playing nurse again?”, he joked.

“No that was me and Sparky,” a third voice he recognized as Freidman said.

“I was an assistant, not a nurse,” Sparky protested. “Arron was a nurse when it was his shift.”

Like Dusty said his vision was slowly getting better. Now he could make out man shape blurs in the big blur he was seeing. “How did you bring me back? The chip in my head was fried.”

“It was on the fritz son not fried,” Dusty told him. “It was flickering on and off but it let enough juice through that it kept you alive until they got you here.”

“But the chip…”

“We took it out son.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t bypass it unless you were at World Inc.?”, he started to get an uneasy feeling about this.

“We had to improvise,” Freidman said. “Unfortunately with Mitchell at hand as the only thing compatible we had to cannibalize his…”

Jack blinked a few times and stared at the blob he thought said that, “You ate him?”

After an uncomfortable moment of silence Dusty said, “I’m going to put that down to the fact he’s still a little groggy.”

Rachel squeezed his hand, “He means they used him for spare parts.”

Tightening the blanket around him he said, “One of those ideas is a little more disgusting than the other, I’m just not sure which.”

“Any way we had to implant Mitchell’s chip into your head,” Dusty went on to explain. “I think I modified it enough but you’ll probably want to still wear the foil in that hood just in case.”

“I hope you don’t mind Jack,” Freidman spoke up again, “But when we replaced the chip we noticed the old one shorting out damaged some of your other systems. We were able to use some of Mitchell’s system to replace them, but I’m not sure how it’s going to affect you.”

“How long was I out this time?”

“All in good time son,” Dusty told him.

“How long?”, he demanded.

“Another six months,” Rachel said.

“I spent over a year floating in goop,” he said to nobody in particular.

“Maybe we should give Jack some time to take all of this in,” Dusty said.

“Well be in the next room Jack,” Rachel patted his hand and let go of it.

“Rachel could you stay for a moment?”

“Sure Jack, what is it?”, she asked.

“I know this is going to sound a little weird,” he started, “but I could really use a warm body next to me right now.”

“No problem,” she said. Jumping on the bed she sat next to him. He waved his hand in front of his face as his vision started to clear. He was right he was in Dusty operating room. Out of no where Rachel wrapped her arms around him, “Thank God you’re all right!”

Reaching up he patted her arm, “I’m kinda happy about it too.” Finally his vision cleared that he could almost see normally. Rachel still didn’t let him go. Tell her before you lose your nerve. “Rachel I h…” he looked at her and stopped. Her hair which did go past her shoulder was now hanging above her neck and styled differently. “When did you cut your hair?”

She blushed a bit, “Melissa dragged Angie up here last week and talked me into it. She told me the change would do me good. I hate it personally and can’t wait for it to grow back out.”

“It... it looks good,” he said more or less automatically.

“Now you’re just being nice,” she said with a smile. “I’ll go find your clothes, I know Dusty washed them while you were out. You’re probably freezing.” She hopped off the table and went into the next room to talk to Dusty. The things you get lost on when you’re out half a year.

Although she was glad he was finally coming home Melissa was still a little apprehensive. She wasn’t sure how Jack was going to react when he saw her, or more importantly Emily. They may have gotten over things in the past six months but Jack, more or less, was still there in his head. Either way you look at it things could get a little uncomfortable. It was probably why Emily decided to stay in her room right about now. Well they couldn’t put it off forever, and this way she could judge how he was going to react.

Looking down the way to the garage she saw Rachel and Jack enter. Everybody else noticed them a moment later. She felt the mixed emotions coming from the group around the same time. Most either didn’t or were pretending they didn’t care. The rest were happy to see him and weren’t ashamed to show it. While a few came up to him Jack looked like he was looking for somebody in particular. Melissa finally decided to walk over to him when he found who he was searching for. He broke through the crowd and walked over to little Jennifer. “Hey kid you’re getting big.” He kneeled down and handed her bear Polly back to her. “I’m happy Polly gave me some company while I was out, but I think she’s really happy to come back to you.” Jennifer grabbed bear and gave it and him a big hug. “See you around kid,” he said as she went off.

“Well somebody’s in good spirits,” Melissa said. She saw Jack tense up a bit, yeah he was still there alright.

“I’m still walking so why wouldn’t I be?”, he said. Well, at least he was trying to act like he wasn’t still sore about what happened. Rachel was watching him intently as well. “So what have I missed since I’ve been out?”

“Jack there’s plenty of time for that,” Melissa told him.

“I know Anderson had to be pissed I was able to take out Mitchell,” he said. “So what happened?”

Eventually Melissa admitted, “There was an initial outburst. A couple of the cells had to relocate. The rest of us more or less went into hiding. None of us had seen anything like it. The closest anybody could match it with was Anderson’s original push against us. Things have calmed down a bit but we’re still a little on edge. But that’s the least of our worries.”

“What could be worse?” Jack started to look worried, “Did something happened to my mom?”

“No she’s fine,” Rachel assured him. “I would have told you that first thing. You,” she looked over toward Melissa then answered any way, “got outed.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he told her.

“The other cells know about you now,” Melissa said. “Dusty was working on somebody when they brought you in. You were still in your armor and they couldn’t make up anything to cover it.”

Jack looked guilty after he heard that, “How much trouble did I cause you?”

“Outside of Jaime nobody would have anything to do with us. Officially that is. Behind the scenes a couple of them asked me what in the hell I was thinking. Things aren’t so bad now, thanks to Jaime and a couple of the others we’re on talking terms at least. But they still don’t understand why I decided to house the Drakan Killer after what happened.”

“She even told them Emily’s vision was the main reason why and they still refused to understand,” Rachel added. “I even tried talking to them to explain what was going on, but I don’t think my word goes a long way.”

“You talked to the other cells?”, Jack said in disbelief. “Are you out of your mind?”

“I made sure they talked to her here,” Melissa assured him.”It was the only time we got her away from Dusty’s while you were healing up. Outside of that she never left your side.”

“That’s a real bad habit you’re falling into,” Jack told her. “People are going to think you don’t have a life or something.”

“I had nothing better to do,” she told him. “I hate to run but I told Amber I’d help out with the French lesson again as soon as I got back.” With that she left the both of them alone. This could get awkward.

Jack watched Rachel leave before he said, “She says her new do was your idea.”

Melissa smiled a bit, she knew he could be dense but he would have to be blind not to notice it. “It looked like she was ready for a change. So what do you think?” He didn’t answer right away, then again he didn’t have to. “You don’t like it?”

He quickly said, “I didn’t say that.”

“No but you were feeling it.” Crossing her arms Melissa narrowed her eyes a bit, “Please tell me you’re not one of those guys who think women should only have long hair.”

“What… no,” he was telling the truth, he was lucky. “I’ve seen some women who looked absolutely smoking with short hair. Rachel…,” he trailed off. “It’s not a big deal, I’ll get used to it.” Without another word he walked away.

“Not one of my best plans to get one of them to admit it,” Melissa said to herself. Hell if Jack was a different type of guy that could have backfired. Then she would’ve been forced to hurt him.

The class went smoother than she thought it would. She was a little worried since it was a larger class than she was expecting. But it went like they always did. After talking with Arron for a bit she started looking for Jack. He wasn’t in his usual haunts so that just left one more place. Opening the door to their room she found him sitting on his cot studying his arm. “They did a pretty good job,” she said. “I doubt you can tell where they cut into you.”

“Here, here and here,” he quickly pointed out two spots on his forearm and one on the back of his hand. “I’ve been living with these for a long time now. I should know when there some new ones or not.”

Not sure what else to say she attempted to joke, “I didn’t want you to worry about your warranty.”

It was a lame one but he smiled anyway, “I think Anderson voided that out a long time ago. Who’s been taking care of my plant since you’ve been with me?”

“Emily volunteered,” she said. Rachel watched him. While Angie was cutting her hair Melissa and her talked about what to do about Jack and Emily. They weren’t on the best of terms before he had his final fight with Mitchell. They both agreed to stay out of it for the moment and let them work it out.

“I’m going to have to remember to thank her,” he said, “eventually.”

“I’m sure you have time for that,” she said. Sitting next to him she added, “So how are you holding up?”

“I’ve spent over a year in goop,” he said. “That’s time I’m not getting back.”

“You haven’t missed much,” Rachel told him. “But I’m betting a couple of those cells were wishing that had you watching their back after Anderson came after them.”

“I missed more than that. Things changed in that time. They always do, and I’m stuck playing catch up for a week, if I’m lucky.”

“I’ll help you out,” Rachel told him, “you’ll be caught up in three days tops.” He laughed a bit. “Come on,” she said getting up and pulling on his arm, “I need to get you to the garage. Dusty setting something up down there that he needs you for.”

“What could he want me for?”

“I don’t know,” she answered, “Arron didn’t say.”

Grabbing his jacket they walked to the garage. True to her word Rachel told him what she knew about what was going on for the past six months. Of course most of her information was second hand but it was all she had. Getting to the garage she found Dusty as he waved them over. As they got closer they noticed the contraption he had set up on the far wall. A pad was hanging between two poles. Wires from the pad connected it to a series on computers nearby. A line on the ground and a basket of baseball was there as well. “You have got to be kidding me,” Jack muttered. Rachel was getting a sense of déjà vu herself.

“Hey there son, little lady,” he greeted them. “I thought you might want to throw a few to pass the time.”

“Last time I threw a few I got news I didn’t like,” Jack said. “So how did you come up with this?”

“I remember you and Rachel telling me about it,” the old Drakan answered. “I had a good idea of what they used. Harry confirmed most of it.” Jack continued to look at it with a dubious look. “Come on son, just one to see if it’ll work. You’ll make this old man happy.”

“The things I do,” he mumbled as he took a ball. Like he did back at World Inc. he juggled the ball a few times before throwing it with all he had.

He turned away not wanting to see the results. Rachel saw them and immediately said, “Jack.” Turning around he saw the numbers flashing on the screen, ninety-five. Dumbfounded he grabbed another and threw it, ninety-four.

Dusty watched with a smirk on his face, “Never send a technician to do a mechanics job. A little surprise on my part,” he told them. “I figured since we were in there anyway replacing and upgrading stuff I figured I’d tweak that ratio thing they were talking about.” Turning to Arron he said, “Talking about him like he was a car, if I was that boy I’d been insulted.”

Jack said nothing as he stared at his hand. Rachel smiled at him, “Looks like you’re going to have to get used to not compensating for everything again.”

“That’s one thing I’m not going to have a problem getting used to,” he said smiling back. “Dusty…”

“No words needed son,” Dusty told him. “Just think of it as a welcome back present. And trust me Jack it is good to have you back.” Rachel definitely seconded that sentiment.

Closing the door behind her Melissa watched Emily tend to her plants. Too be honest she wasn’t that surprised when people still told her they haven’t seen her all day. “So who’s avoiding who in this situation exactly?”

“I think you already know the answer to that child,” was her reply. “He still needs time to adjust before we have our confrontation.”

“And you used to say Chris had a way to make things sound overly dramatic,” she smiled. “I was talking to Jack and Melissa a while ago. He wants to try and talk to the other cell leaders now. I think he wants to convince them we’re all on the same side.”

“Perhaps he wants to show them the man behind the legend.” Finally facing her she asked, “Do you think it’s a good idea?”

“Part of me does,” she admitted. “The other part thinks it’s going to be a disaster in the making. I have to know, is this part of that whole champion thing?”

“I think he’s still trying to figure out what it means to him.” Turning back to her plants Emily added, “It is a difficult role to define for oneself. But I’m sure he can do it.”

She could only nod. “So how long are you planning on staying in here?” she asked.

Emily was quiet for a moment, “When it is time for both of us to speak we will.”

“Well that’s the closest thing I’m going to get to an answer,” she said to herself. Melissa’s hand was on the door knob when Emily said something else.

“When you arrange the meeting child perhaps it would be best to keep the fact Jack was the one who wanted a chance to speak to them from them.”

Just what she needed, more lies. But she couldn’t disagree with Emily’s logic. More of them might show up if they didn’t know Jack was the one who wanted the meeting. “I’ll do it if Jack thinks it’s a good idea.”

Jack wasn’t thrilled about the idea but he had to admit it made sense. Rachel suggested they let Jaime in on it to see what he thought. He agreed it was a good idea too. He and Melissa contacted the other cell leader to arrange it. To help sooth things over he suggested someplace neutral. Arron suggested that campsite he and the other kids were using that one time. With that set they all agreed to meet in a couple of days. Jack rode his bike while Melissa, Rachel and then others rode in the van. Like he and Rachel learned that one time, and that seemed like it’s been forever, they made the rest of the way on foot. About halfway Melissa stopped them, “Me and Jack should take it from here.”

“I think Rachel should come too,” he said. “They know her at least.”

“True, but I don’t think having two people who represented World Inc in the past would be a good idea.”

Looking at Rachel Jack said, “Man, getting typecast does suck.”

“You’ll get used to it,” she said plainly. “I know I did.”

“I am never gonna live that down.”

“Watch the perimeter,” Melissa told the others. “They shouldn’t be planning anything but you never know.” The group told them good luck as they headed off toward the lighted campsite and the other cell leaders. They did talk about him holding back a bit and letting Melissa ease him into the conversation first. But with the winds at their backs they probably already knew he was there. “I see them,” Melissa said. Both of them took a deep breath and stepped into the clearing. Nine other cell leaders were staring at them and Jaime was the only friendly face. This might be a long night.

“What in the hell is he doing here?” a red headed woman demanded. At Jaime he said, “You knew about this didn’t you?”

“I guess you all know this is Jack Davidson,” Melissa started to say.

“You mean the Drakan Killer,” another one cut in.

“I answer better to Jack,” he said. They kept staring at him, “I get it, you thought I’d be taller.”

“Why are you here?”, another one asked, this one a bald headed heavy set man.

“I had the idiot notion I could convince you were on the same side,” he told them. There was no point in beating around the bush now.

“Why should we believe you?”, the woman demanded. “You hunted us down and killed us.”

“Do you really think I’m proud of that fact?”, Jack asked her. “Because I’m not. I’m know I’m not going to be forgiven for what I did back then. And I’m not asking for it either.” That caught a couple of them off guard, including Melissa but she nodded in understanding. But a few of them still looked furious.

“Why did you do it then?”, the woman demanded.

“I was going on what I was told and what I personally experienced.” Melissa took over them telling them about how he came to be like this. Even mentioning the fact they were partially responsible for the birth of the Drakan Killer. That went over about as well as they expected as chaos more or less broke loose. They yelled over the top of each other and barely heard Melissa pleas to calm down so they could discuss it. After several minutes of this Jack let out a sigh and looked around. He was really hoping they weren’t going to need Rachel and the others help in getting out of here. One more time he studied the group, and one more time he noticed something was off. One petit woman with brown hair kept fidgeting and looking into the forest. At first he thought she brought some of her crew too. But as much as she was looking around she must have brought the entire cell with her. Looking over to Melissa she was shooting the woman some looks too, and looking worried.

“Are you all right Paula?”, she asked.

“What…?”, she acted startled. “I’m… I’m fine. I’m just nervous he’s here.” Jack offered to leave, it seemed like the simplest solution. “NO!”, she quickly said. “I mean… I…”

“You were acting nervous before they got here,” the red headed woman said with a little suspicion.

She tried to talk but eventually dropped to her knees. “Oh God what did I do?” Jaime and a couple of others looked around as Melissa immediately went to her. “They captured my cell. You have to get out of here.”

Sparky ran into the clearing followed by the others yelling, “We got company!” Arron shot through on his bike as spot lights flooded the area. World Inc. Shock Troopers walked out of hiding. All the Drakan dropped their human form, well except for the petit woman, and got into a defensive position. Jack did the movements that activated the system.

“Henshin!”, the armor formed around him in moments. He looked back when he realized the cell leaders were staring at him. Those who were seeing him for the first time live had had a mixture of fear, awe and hatred in their eyes. “One problem at a time,” he told himself, then he ran toward the closest set of troopers. Tackling a group of them to the ground he quickly popped back up and planted a forearm into one dumb enough to come at him. “You must be a new guy,” he commented. Hearing a crack he turned and saw a shock stick coming at him a little too late as it jammed into his side. Gritting his teeth in pain he grabbed the guy by the uniform and threw him. He went further then Jack was expecting. Looks like that upgrade Dusty was talking about increased his strength a bit when he powered up the system, sweet. The group he tackled started to run away so he turned toward the rest of the group who decided to rush the rebels, “Next.”

Jack plowed through the troopers getting them off the rebels and buying them some breathing room. He still had no clue about this champion thing, but this had to be part of it. Every so often he caught a glimpse of the woman still kneeling on the ground. She still refused to drop her human form. Her only movement was when she looked up to see a trooper come toward her. Organic looking armor started to form as he changed into a red armadillo. He grabbed her by the neck and held her in the air. Before anybody could stop him he snapped her neck in one quick motion and let her drop to the ground. Feeling a fury he only felt a couple of times before Jack ran through the troopers and bowled the Drakan over. Pounding on the armadillo a trooper got on his back and tried to pry him off. Jack stood and threw him off. The armadillo was able to kick a leg up and hit him in the back to make him fall foreword. The Drakan jumped on his back and started pounding at his head. Muscling out of it Jack quickly turned around and kicked him in the head.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Sparky and Arron of other try and head for something while the troopers held them back. Looking in that direction he saw a few of them had Melissa cornered. The armadillo could wait. Getting an idea he ran for the bike and tried not to think what this was going to do to the suspension. Bringing it to life he raced it toward Melissa and through any trooper dumb enough to get in his way. He leaned over and scooped Melissa up and sat her in front of him. He continued speeding off as the green tiger looked back at him, “Are we running away?”

“Not exactly,” he said as he turned the bike around. The meter started to flash as he pointed the front tire at the armadillo. “You think you can handle the bike?”

She quickly understood his plan, “You’re crazy.”

“It helps,” he said as he sped foreword. She took the handle bars as he adjusted himself so his left foot was on the seat. He twisted the right pod up. The charge ran up his side and down the outside of his armor focusing in his right fist. When they got close enough to the armadillo he tapped her on the shoulder. She quickly turned the bike to the left and he jumped off. Looking like he was hanging in mid air for a second he launched his fist foreword as he landed. The red Drakan flew back hard, knocking over a couple of shock troops before exploding. Jack looked at his fist. That was the same effect as when he fired his leg those two times but nothing felt fried this time around. Melissa yelled at him and threw him his staff. Grabbing it he snapped it to it’s full length and started toward the remaining troopers. Somebody ordered a retreat and those who could got the hell out of there. Waiting a moment he deactivated the systems and turned around. None of the rebel leaders said anything, they just stared at him. Letting out another sigh Jack said, “You’re welcome,” and walked away.

“Are you sure?”, Anderson asked. Taylor confirmed the report. They had seen Davidson during that ambush. The men who came back had no doubt about it. Anderson stared out the window and smiled to himself. Apparently the rumors of his demise were a tad premature.

Jack sat on the ground and looked at the night sky through the grating overhead. Dusty explained to him that when they upgraded his systems they enhanced the shielding around the conduits as well since more power was going to be running through it. “I thought I’d find you here,” Rachel said as she walked over and sat next to him. “Melissa’s still on speaking terms with the other cell leaders from the sound of thing. They’re agreeing taking out the armadillo was the right thing to do. And none of them are thinking ill of the woman who told World Inc. about the meeting. Melissa said she did it out of fear for her cell and not spite like Trent did. They’re still not sure what to make of you though.” He grunted in response. “So what’s going through your head?”, she said with a yawn. “Sorry, it’s been a long day.”

Looking at his right hand Jack flexed his fingers a few times. “When Emily told me my upcoming battles would forge me into something stronger I assumed she meant mentally.”

“It can’t be that much of a bad thing,” she said. “I mean you don’t have that little problem any more so that has to be a good thing.” Yawning again she looked a little embarrassed, “I must be more tired than I thought. It must the adrenaline coming down or something.”

“I guess so,” he agreed, “I know I could crash for a week right about now.” She rested her head on his shoulder and watched the stars with him. After a few minutes she was asleep. Jack watched her, remembering the times similar things happened when they were on the run. Taking shelter in anything they could find, from an abandon building to a sewer drain. Even when she was sleeping on the ground he was amazed at how peaceful she looked. Looking so… Looking at her for a long time he softly said, “I love you Rachel.”

A moment later she woke up looking embarrassed again, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to doze off like that. You didn’t say anything did you?”

They made each other a promise, no more secrets. “Nope, didn’t say a word.”

*Ending Theme – Linkin Park – What I’ve Done*
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Old August 20th, 2019, 03:32 PM #49
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 405

<Episode 46>

*Opening Theme – Smile Empty Soul – Who I Am*

Lunch time was it’s usual controlled chaos. Despite her limited insight into human, and Drakan, nature Emily was still surprised at how often somebody wanted to fight over the last bit of whatever they wanted. It must have happened more times than she was aware of seeing how Melissa would catch the eyes of whoever was involved and get them to stop in their tracks. On more than one occasion she heard the child utter, “How did we get so many Alpha males?” Living underground was rough enough as it was, but being in a war at a same time, well she was just grateful emotions didn’t explode more often. When they got their food, Melissa always insisted on waiting in line with the others, so much like her brother, the child stop as she saw something, “When did that happen?”

“When did what happen?”, Emily asked. Holding both of their trays Melissa gestured as best she could to the other side of the room. Emily looked in that direction and saw Rachel and Jack sitting next to each other. Jack leaned in and said something to Rachel that made her laugh. Emily wasn’t seeing anything out of the ordinary. “They always sit together child. They have done so ever since they started living with us.”

“I know that,” Melissa informed her. “But they always sat across from one another in here. This is the first time I have ever seen them sit next to each other.” Watching them a bit longer she started smiling, “You’d almost think they were a couple or something.”

“Well don’t push them child,” Emily told her. “It will happen if it’s going to happen.”

“I know but the will they or won’t they crap is getting on my nerves.” Melissa headed over there, “Come on let’s see if we can join them.” Emily hesitated for a second trying to think of an excuse. “You can’t keep avoiding him forever. Look Jack’s even been asking about you. I’m getting genuine concern from him when he does. I think he wants to bury the hatchet.”

“It’s not wise to open old wounds child.”

“Emily,” she said firmly, “what would you be telling me to do in this situation?”

“I do believe that is what they call dirty pool,” she said but she headed over there with her. Rachel smiled as she saw them, as did Jack. Although to be totally honest she was watching for any sign of the anger he showed before his final confrontation with Mitchell.

“I was wondering where they were hiding you,” Jack said. “I’ve been meaning to talk with you.”

“No better time than the present,” Rachel said. Melissa quickly agreed. Emily eyed the both of them, almost thinking this was a set up. If it was both of them was going to feel her cane.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened,” Jack began. “I’m still angry about what happened, but I think I was more freaked out that somebody died for me more than anything. I’m not used to having that hanging over my head.”

“Maybe if I had worded things different Lance would still be with us,” Emily admitted

“I think Lance would have done it any way,” Melissa said remembering him.

“I can’t take back what I said,” Jack continued. “We might not have been the closest of friends but I hate to think that ended it.”

“I hate to think our friendship ended as well,” Emily admitted.

“See,” Melissa said, “I told you this wasn’t going to be as bad as you thought.”

“Fortunately Jack’s grown up a bit,” Rachel joked. Jack looked in another direction entirely. “Are you actually getting embarrassed? Mark the date down because I never thought I see the day.”

“Leave him alone child,” Emily told her. “It’s hard enough for one to admit their maturing without somebody rubbing it in.”

Over the next couple of days Jack and Emily talked more and more. Before long things were close to back to normal as they got around here. Which made Melissa’s job a little easier without that potential powder keg hanging over their heads. Personally it was great to see Emily back to her old self and not see her watch which way Jack was going. Walking into the common area Jason stormed past her in a huff and then she saw Jack with a satisfied smirk on his face. Yeah things were back to normal alright. “Do I want to know?”

“It would probably be better if you didn’t,” Rachel said shooting an annoyed glance toward Jack. He tried to look innocent.

“I’ll hear about it later more than likely,” Melissa sighed. She looked around the room, she was getting something from somewhere she just couldn’t place it. She knew she felt this before she just couldn’t remember what it was. Jack turned his attention back to a group that was trying to fix this old radio that hadn’t worked for awhile.

“I think I almost got it,” one of them said. “All we need is an antenna and we should be set.”

“I think I saw an old television with some rabbit ears in that closest over there,” Rachel offered.

“It’s worth a shot, I think I might be able to jury rig something. I’ll go get it.”

“I’m right here,” jack said. “I’ll go get it.”

He went over to the door as Melissa watched. The moment he put a hand on the doorknob she suddenly realized where the source was coming from. And more importantly what it was. “Jack wait…”

She was too late as he already opened it. Everybody saw him pale. “Whoa!”, he quickly slammed the door shut and pressed his back against the wall his eyes as big as saucers.

“Jack what is it?”, Rachel asked as she hurried over to him.

Pointing a shaky finger toward the door all he said was, “Old people doing it.”

Dusty rushed out of the closest cramming his shirt back into his pants. Closing the door before anybody could see inside he looked at Jack and snapped, “Boy have you ever heard of knocking?!”

“It’s a closest, you ever heard of a lock?!” he shot back. He looked Dusty in the eyes then his gaze went south before quickly turning away. Grinding the heel of his hands into his eyes he said, “That’s going to give me a whole new set of nightmares.”

“Oh grow up son,” Dusty said getting defensive. “That was a beautiful act.”

“There nothing beautiful about your old wrinkly ass!” Jack walked away saying, “I have to go bleach my eyeballs.”

“Would you go talk some sense into that boy,” Dusty told Rachel. She muttered something but stayed where she was. In fact everybody was looking at the closest door with some interest. Dusty noticed and got a little huffy, “Don’t y’all have anything better to do than just stand there?”

“No not really,” somebody answered back.

Looking defeated Dusty opened the door a crack and told the person inside, “You might as well come on out. I don’t think these perverts are leaving until you do.” Melissa walked foreword and joined the rest as they waited. She knew she should get them out of there, just for the other person’s dignity if nothing else. But she was too curious to do anything. Eventually the door opened and the other person came out.

“Emily?” Melissa and Rachel both cried out.

“I have needs too,” was her only explanation before walking off. Dusty started to say something before thinking better of it and following her.

Everybody was stunned for a few long moments. Breaking the silence Rachel said, “I have got to tell his to Jack,” and went to find him.

“Emily?”, Melissa repeated, still not believing she just saw that.

“It’s kind sad those two,” the guy working on the radio gestured toward the retreating Dusty and Emily, “are getting more action than those two,” he pointed in the direction Jack and Rachel went.

“Don’t push them,” she said without thinking. But the more she thought about it the more she had to admit, it was really sad.

After an awkward couple of hour that whole situation with Emily and Dusty finally blew over. But Rachel still couldn’t get that image out of her head, and she didn’t even see them. At the moment she found herself without anything to do. Anderson was keeping quiet for some reason, and that made everybody a little nervous. They had more than enough people in the garden center at the moment and they really didn’t need her. She really didn’t feel like hanging out in the cafeteria or the common area. So she headed for her room.

When she got there Jack was sitting on his cot talking on the phone. Rachel knew who it was so she kept quiet while she entered, only waving a greeting when he did. “Yeah Mom everything is fine now. Now when have I ever done anything stupid? I didn’t ask for a list.” He listened for a few more minutes before saying, “OK Mom, I love you too. Bye.” Hanging up he smiled a bit.

“How is she doing?”, Rachel asked as she sat on her bed.

“She’s doing great,” He answered. “She says hello by the way. Thanks for keeping her updated on things while I was out of commission.”

“I didn’t want to keep her in the dark,” Rachel said. “Especially after going through everything to get you back in contact with each other.”

“Yeah she still gives me an earful about that every so often.” Rachel watched the expression on his face then looked down a bit. Jack noticed looking confused, “Is anything wrong?”

“No, I’m fine,” she quickly said. “Why would you ask?”

“You look a little down about something.”

“Jack nothing’s wrong,” she told him, hoping he’d drop it.

“And I’ve seen that look one too many times in the mirror.” He got up and sat next to her on the bed. Putting an arm around her he said, “Come on now, tell you buddy Jack what’s the matter.”

“It’s stupid,” was all she said.

“It’s not stupid if it’s bothering you like this. That no more secrets thing works both ways you know.”

Reluctantly she told him, “Sometimes I get a little jealous of you and your Mom.”

“Ok I wasn’t expecting that one.”

“I told you it was stupid.” She really wanted to drop the subject but he encouraged her to keep going. “I’m just amazed at how close you and your Mom are. Even after everything you’ve been through. I thought me and my parents were that close. But I don’t think we ever were.”

“Have you called them?”, he asked. When she didn’t reply right away he held out the phone in his hand. “Give them a ring. I’m sure they’d loved to hear from you again.”

“I did,” she finally admitted, “a little while after we got your mom safe. It didn’t exactly go like I thought it would.” He kept quiet so she could continue. “I got a hold of my Mom. She called me a disgrace to the family. I tried to tell her what was going on. She wouldn’t listen, she kept saying innocent people don’t run.” Her voice started to crack a bit, “She said I was a whore for hanging round a known criminal.”

“You should have told me,” Jack said holding her close as he tried to comfort her. Out of the blue he said, “Give me their number.”

“What?”, she asked.

“Give me their number,” he repeated. “If you got a way to get a direct line to your mom tell me now ‘cause I’m going to give her a piece of my mind. Who in the hell does she think she is talking to you like that?”

“Jack no,” she said trying to get the phone out of his hands. He stood up and walked to the other side of the room.

“Is there a memory function on this thing? How long ago was it?”

“Jack just drop it,” she told him. “I know my Mother and it would only make things worse.”

“Alright I’ll do something better then,” he started dialing a number. She started to protest but he held up a finger while he held the phone to his ear. “Hey Mom, sorry to call again so soon but I need some help here. I don’t want to impose or anything but Rachel having some family problems and it’s a little out of my league.” Rachel hid her face in her hands from the embarrassment. “Yeah she’s right here. Rachel Mom wants to talk to you.” She mouthed the word no. “Come on you need to talk to somebody who knows what their talking about.” Again she mouthed the word no. “Sorry mom,” he sighed, “apparently I jumped the gun, so you can add it to the list.”

Looking at her funny he turned around, “Mom I’m not saying that to her. Mom… Mom would you listen… Mom… Mom… All right.” Turning back around he said, “Rachel, Mom said if you don’t take this phone right now she’s going to come down here, drag you in front of everybody and beat you.”

“She wouldn’t… would she?” Jack nodded. Thinking it over she held out a hand.

Putting the phone in her hand he told her, “You’re lucky she considers you to be like family. Otherwise she would have just hung up on me and not even bother with that threat.”

How did he let Sparky talk him into this again? That thought raced through Jack’s head more than once as he sat in the chair while Angie carefully applied the scar make up to his face. It was more elaborate this time around since Sparky explained his absence as him traveling around and getting into another accident apparently. After his breakdown and his six month goop nap Jack really hoped he was done with the underground racing circuit. But Sparky mentioned they were a little low on hard cash and could use the funds. Trying to convince himself that it was all part of the whole champion thing he reluctantly agreed to go another round. Angie stepped back to admire her work, “I don’t usually blow my own horn, but this is the best job I’ve done so far.”

“You won’t hear me complain,” he told her.

“Jack what in the hell is going on?”, Rachel demanded as she came into the room.

“I’m just doing a couple of races to get us some money,” he said. “I’ve done it before.

“And what’s this crap about an after party?”

“I’ll leave you too alone,” Angie said.

“Thanks a lot,” Jack said as she left the room. “Sparky said this set of races was different. They’re only going to give the winners their money if they attend the party. I don’t like it either but Sparky said that’s how this one was done.”

“Then don’t go,” Rachel told him.

“If they really didn’t need the money I wouldn’t even think twice about it.”

“It’s too big a risk,” she persisted. “You’re still a wanted man, somebody could recognize you.”

“I’m going to have Sparky watching my back.”

“Then I’m going too,” she informed him. Jack stuck a finger in his ear trying to clean it out. There was no way he heard that right and said as much. “If you’re going to be an idiot you’re going to need all the eyes you got watching your back.”

“You’re going to go to an underground bike race?”, he asked.

Getting a weird look in her eyes as she rethought the things she said, “Maybe I should get Arron to go instead.”

“Too late you already volunteered.” Jack grabbed her before she could run. “Angie!”, he called out. When she came back he pointed right at Rachel, “Slut her up.”

She had never been so embarrassed in her life, and she was going to make Jack pay if it was the last thing she did. The “outfit”, if you could call it that, Angie came up for her was nothing like she usually wore. A pair of leather shorts, stockings, knee high boot, a tight shirt and a vest to go over it. Not once did Jack say they went a little over board with it. She was going to kill him. At least Angie found her a brown haired wig to go along with Jack’s blond one. So she could at least pretend she was a different person. She was so going to kill him.

When they got to the races she saw other dressed like she was. So maybe he knew what he was doing. But she was still going to kill him. Jack looked around as he took his helmet off. They both got off the motorcycle as Sparky took a deep breath and took it all in looking totally in his element. “I think we’re early for a change, now we can relax a bit before racing.”

“Oh joy,” Jack deadpanned. “I just want get the money and get the hell out.”

“Dude would you chill out, we got this.” Sparky patted him on the shoulder as he passed him, “I’ll go get you set up. And don’t blow any races this time.”

“And they’re going to ask questions if I win them all,” he said to his back. Looking back at her he said, “You’re standing out a bit and not in the good way. I know the first time the hardest because of the nerves. But you have got to try and relax and not look quite so guilty.”

“I am really uncomfortable right now,” she said. “It’s bad enough I look like this, I don’t need any extra help from you.” Not to mention she was cold. Jack tried talking to her, tried cracking a few jokes to get her to relax a bit. It worked a little but she still hated the fact she was dressed like this. They settled into some crowd watching where Jack pointed out a couple of people that the “Masked Rider” beat. She barely paid them any attention. On the other hand she was paying very close attention to how some of the other riders were treating the women with them. Especially this one particular act and how Jack reacted to it. She was going to put a stop to this before it even got started. Standing right in front of him with her arms crossed and giving him her sternest look she told him, “You even think about slapping my ass and I will wring your neck.”

He looked slightly insulted, “That never crossed my mind thank you very much.”

Feeling satisfied she told him, “As long as we understand each other.”

Jack walked past her and didn’t see the smile cross his face. “But now the thought’s in my head.”

“What?” Rachel jumped foreword a bit as his hand popped her on the butt. He wisely started running for his life. She quickly gave chase, “You are SO dead!”

Hours later the races were over and everybody moved to this huge mansion where the after party started. Jack ended up being in eight races, winning six and losing two by close margins from where she was. That caused Sparky to drop a few choice words. But she just wanted this night to be over with already. During the party itself a couple of guys tried to get her away from Jack if not feel her up right then and there. Jack immediately put a stop to it, almost getting into a fight a couple of times. After awhile she found an open and empty balcony and decided to hide out there to get away from the chaos inside. “There you are.” She turned around and saw Jack join her out there. “What are you doing out here? We got a cover to keep,” he put his arms around her but Rachel pushed him away.

“Don’t touch me,” she said turning around.

“You’re still not mad about that little pat on the butt are you?”

“That wasn’t a pat Mr. One Sixty fastball.” Rachel knew he couldn’t do that anymore but damn it she was getting groped tonight and didn’t care anymore.

He looked apologetic as he told her, “I held back.”

“It still hurt.”

Giving her that stupid half grin of his that she missed while he was out he said, “Want me to kiss it and make it better?” She pushed him a bit but ended up smiling back any way. Putting his hand on her hips he pulled her closer. “We’re supposed to be a couple, can we at least try and act like it?”

Rachel grabbed his hands and slid them up her sides, “Keep them above the Equator and below the Tropics.”

“You’re no fun.” He said faking a pout. They could hear the music from the party in the background and slowly started to dance in place. Out of the blue Jack said, “It just occurred to me, I think I missed your birthday again

“It’s not that important,” she told him

“It’s the day you were born of course it’s important,” he told her. “The entire time I’ve known you and I’ve only given you half a muffin that you gave me.”

“I got the present I really wanted,” she said with a smile. He smiled back, maybe that half grin of his wasn’t that stupid looking. She looked behind him and she panic a bit and pulled him close so her mouth was by her ear. “I think we’re being watched.”

“Bald headed guy, tattoo over his right eye and uglier than sin?” She confirmed it was the same guy. “Dude’s been eyeballing me all night. I already got my winnings so let’s get the hell out of here.”

“That’s the best idea you ever had.” Going back into the house they made their way through the crowd to the first floor and the door. Along the way Jack got Sparky attention as they passed and said they were leaving. Taking longer than either of them would have liked they finally made it outside. Heading to where all the motorcycles were parked they both stopped and looked between them when they realized something was different. When did they start holding hands? Both looked confused and a little embarrassed as Rachel said, “We’re staying in character, right?”

“Yeah,” Jack quickly agreed. Rachel started to head for his bike again but he held on to her hand. “Wait no… I have to tell you something.”

“Jack it can wait until we get back,” she told him.

“No I have to tell you now while I still have the nerve. Rachel I…,” he wasn’t sure where to go. “I’ve been… I…” Lowering his head a bit he said, “This shouldn’t be this hard. I’m really grateful for the friendship we have, in fact you are my best friend and I’m afraid if I say this it’s going to ruin it. I’ve done it before. But I have to say it. Rachel I…”, he stopped again. Without any warning he reached up and took the wig off her head. She protested but he wasn’t hearing any of it. “It’s bad enough I have to look like this while I’m trying to tell you, I need you to look like you.” He lowered his head again before taking both her hands, “Rachel I nearly died…”

“Jack,” she tried to stop him, but the look in his eyes when he looked up stopped her.

“I nearly died,” he repeated. “And the last thought I remember having was about you. How I never told you. How I’d never get a chance to tell you.” His head went down again before looking her straight in the eyes, “Rachel I’m in love with you.” Rachel’s heart nearly stopped. Jack… loved her, actually loved her. Her mind was reeling so much she couldn’t speak. “I’ve been in love with you for a long time now. You don’t have to feel the same way. But I had to tell you before I never get another chance to.” She wanted her mouth to move, to say what she really wanted to say. But nothing was working the way she wanted it to. A shout of pain that sounded like Sparky’s voice caught his attention and he ran for the source. It took Rachel a couple of seconds to get her legs to work so she could follow.

The source was on the other side of the garage. The bald guy she saw watching them stood in front of Sparky while two of his friends held him up while he pounded on him. “Why are you hanging around the Killer?! Why did you bring him here?!”

“Henshin!” Jack activated the system as he ran toward them. Some of the fingers on the bald one’s hand fused into flippers as tusks grew out of his mouth as he changed into a blue walrus. Jumping up at the last second Jack smashed his knee into his face. It recoiled from the blow as Jack came in swinging his elbow into the side of it’s head. He ran in again and was caught off guard as the walrus bent down and flipped him over it’s head. He was surprised again when it jumped up and plopped right down onto his chest a couple of times. As he shakily got to his feet the walrus ran for one of the bikes and took a long length of chain from one of the compartments and started swinging it around. Jack tried to avoid the end being whipped at him as best he could.

Rachel looked around and saw the KR-1000 close by and ran for it. Grabbing the staff from it’s holder she ran back. “Jack catch!” she shouted as she threw it. He caught it and snapped it to it’s full length. He tried blocking the chain with the staff but the walrus was just too quick with it. Suddenly it ran in and hit him with a shoulder that knocked him up against a wall. The chain came at him again and he got his left arm. It wrapped around his forearm, Jack grabbed it and they both started pulling. Rachel heard a humming in the air right before seeing him pop the electrode on the end. He swung the staff around and nailed part of the wall behind his head with the electrode. With one more pull of the chain he got the walrus staggering foreword, he swung the other end of the staff into the back of the Drakan’s head making it stumble foreword more. Part of the wall exploded and a sizeable chunk nailed the walrus between the eyes, stunning it long enough for Jack to unleash a haymaker of a right hook that knocked it out. He turned to the ones holding Sparky, who promptly let him drop to the ground and ran for the hills.

“That was faster than usual,” Jack commented as he deactivated his armor. Going to Sparky he asked, “You all right?”

“Am I still pretty?”, he asked as Jack helped him back to his feet.

“They can’t make you any uglier,” he said getting under his arm. “Do you think you can ride your bike back?”

“Give me a little time, I’ll be good to go.”

“I hope we get that time,” Rachel said looking where they went. Sparky looked up and asked where her wig was. “It’s a long story.” She and Jack looked at each other briefly. Why wasn’t her voice coming out of her mouth?

When they got back to the habitat Jack tore the wig and makeup off his face almost immediately. Between that, getting Sparky some medical help and telling Melissa what happened he lost track of Rachel. He got back into some normal clothes and headed for their room. He stood in front of their door for a long time silently debating to himself. Finally making up his mind he walked into the room. Rachel was already in bed, and facing the wall. After a bit of waiting he started getting ready for bed himself when she finally said, “What did Melissa have to say about what happened?”

“I think I scored some points back with her when I was able to save Sparky without killing anybody.”

“That’s good,” was all she said. Rachel didn’t even turn around to look at him. Jack kicked himself, it looked like he ruined a perfectly good friendship by putting that out there. Getting in his cot he wondered if either Sparky or Arron wanted a roommate. After a few minutes he heard movement and looked over to see her sitting on the edge of her bed. He sat up and faced her. Neither of them said anything before she said, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“I was afraid,” he told her honestly. “I threw a one sixty two fastball and I was scared that if I ever got lost in the moment I’d accidently hurt you. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did that.” He looked at the scars on his arms and legs, “I’m not even totally human and you deserve better than this.”

“I told you you’re the most human person I know,” she said.

“I know.” They were quiet again for a moment before Jack asked, “So where do we go from here? I can’t put this genie back in it’s bottle and forget it happened.”

Rachel didn’t say a word. She got up and walked over to him. Jack watched her wondering how much this was going to hurt. She grabbed his head, leaned in and kissed him. He was stunned but only for a moment before he started kissing her back. Jack gently pulled her down until she was sitting on his lap. He didn’t want this moment to end. She finally pulled away resting her forehead on his. She told him, “I’m in love with you too.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I was afraid part of you still saw me as part of World Inc.”

“Oh Rachel I’m so sorry,” he said holding her tight. “I never wanted you to think that. They are the farthest thing on my mind when I look and think about you.” He kissed her again, he‘d been wanting this for so long he couldn’t believe it was actually happening. If this was a dream he didn’t want it to end.

“So what do we do now?”

“This might sound a bit strange,” he began. “Considering the position we’re in and especially how I don’t want to let you go. But maybe we should take things a little slow. I know we’ve been through a lot but…”

“But you don’t want us to rush into anything just yet,” Rachel finished for him. He nodded. Caressing his check she said, “I guess we’ll know when the time is right.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. He got off his lap and sat next to him. They stayed there talking for hours, almost until the sun came up. They both told each other they confided in Melissa about how they felt. Neither wanted time to move forward at that moment. They just wanted to stay in this moment for as long as they could. It almost felt like this huge weight had been lifted from their shoulders. A new chapter in their life had started and they didn’t care what the future was going to bring. Right now they had what both of them really wanted, each other.

*Ending Theme –Linkin Park – What I’ve done*
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