The Emergents

Chapter One

Ham woke up to the realization that he hurt worse then he ever remembered hurting before. Every bump and pothole the car hit caused pain to shoot through his body. Slowly, painfully, he opened the one eye that would open and straightened as best he could only to gasp in pain as the cuffs jerked painfully on his lacerated wrists. The cuffs were apparently attached to something behind him.

"Awake, Tyler?" Cesaro's voice came from next to him. "Good. Mr. Bates would like to speak to you."

"Tough luck." Ham's voice rasped painfully in his aching throat. "I don't wanna speak to him."

Cesaro laughed. "You have little choice in the matter, Tyler." He said mockingly.

The car slowed to a stop and the two officers in the front seat stepped out. While one of them stood nearby, the other opened the door next to Ham and reached in to free the cuffs from whatever they were attached to. Yanking Ham roughly from the car, the officer steered him into the main Science Frontier building and into a small side room where the Rebel was put through a thorough--and intentionally humiliating--body search. They discovered all the ex-covert operator's hidden weapons. Having been through much worse, Ham remained quietly stolid throughout the entire search.

The search finished, Cesaro took Ham's elbow and led him through the sprawling building to Bates' office. The tall man signaled their arrival and the door opened. He jerked Ham inside, leaving the two guards accompanying them outside.

The office was just as Ham remembered it, big and spacious with a combination desk/computer console as the centerpiece. Behind the desk was Nathan Bates, his back to them as he watched a news report on the big screen. "Mr. Bates?"

With a hum, the chair turned. It took a moment for Ham to realize that Bates was sitting in a motorized wheelchair. He grinned, teeth bared. So the rumors were true and his bullets did some damage after all.

"I'm so glad to see you're amused, Tyler. You'll be equally amused to learn the damage is permanent."

"Good." Ham sneered, earning himself a punch in the ribs from Cesaro. He grunted as fresh pain exploded in his already aching body. This time, it was Bates' turn to grin. "I'm surprised your pet pigs didn't shoot me on sight." Ham gasped, ignoring the pain as best he could.

"It was tempting." Cesaro muttered.

"Now, now, Cesaro. Settle down." Bates waved a pacifying hand.

"Rough translation, shithead." Ham interjected. "To heel."

Cesaro clenched his fist but didn't hit Ham. Much to Ham's surprise. Instead he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the communiqué, handing it to Bates.

"Ahh, the communiqué." Bates said mockingly as he took the paper from Cesaro. "You realize, Tyler, that you're already condemned to death for carrying a firearm, plus other offenses. However, I'd consider reducing the sentence to. . .say. . .a prison term. If you cooperate." He held up the communiqué. "Beginning with this."

Ham gave a short bark of laughter, ignoring the pain it caused. "Go to hell, Bates."

"Somehow I knew you'd say that." Bates looked at Cesaro. "What about Ms. Blodgett?"

Ham clenched his jaw. How good was Bates' spy system in the Resistance?

"The car went over a drop into a river. When the men got down there, she was gone. They're searching for her now."

The intercom on Bates' desk buzzed and a voice politely informed Mr. Bates that Diana had arrived. At the sound of his hated enemy's name, Ham stiffened. Bates noticed and smiled. "Send her in."

The door slid open and three people, that is if you could call them that. . .he certainly didn't, walked in. At the sight of Diana's smug expression, Ham felt a surge of pure hatred. It took all his self-restraint to keep himself from throwing himself at the Visitor. A useless gesture with his hands cuffed behind him.

"Nathan." She greeted her human counterpart.

"Diana." Bates greeting was just as cool. "I believe you know Mr. Tyler."

"Of course." The alien woman faced the Resistance fighter, a cruel look on her deceptively beautiful face. "How have you been?" She asked in mock-concern. "Still having. . .nightmares?"

Tyler's eyes flared and he clenched his teeth painfully as the memory of the conversion nightmare flooded his mind. Only sheer-iron will kept him in place. "Don't worry, Nathan." She continued, ignoring Tyler. "I'll get the information we need from him, even if I have to take him apart to get it. Or maybe I'll just reconvert him. I'd do a far better job of it than Charles did." Diana turned back to Tyler, a taunting gleam in her eyes. "I think I'd rather enjoy having you on a leash."

Something inside the Rebel snapped and, with a mindless snarl, he lunged at the Visitor. One of her guards intercepted him, slamming a fist across Ham's face. Stunned, the human fell to the floor, blood oozing from a split lip. Diana laughed and gestured to her guards. They hauled Ham back to his feet and started to drag the resisting man from the room.

"Bates!" Ham looked over his shoulder at his hated foe. He pulled back his lips in a bloodstained snarl. "This isn't over yet, Bates. Not by a long shot!"

"Oh but it is, Tyler. Good-bye. We shan't be meeting again." Bates smiled as Tyler and the Visitor guards exited. Diana turned to follow. "Oh, Diana. . ."

She paused, looking back at him.

"I'll forgive the shuttlecraft this once. But from now on, remember, shuttlecrafts land only at the Embassy here in L.A. Nowhere else. Ever."

"Of course, Nathan." The alien woman said stiffly, then left.

Bates turned his attention back to Cesaro. "Did you take care of the homing device?" He asked.

"Yes, Mr. Bates. It's concealed in the lining of Tyler's jacket. If the Rebels manage to rescue him, it'll lead us straight to where ever take him. Hopefully to the Resistance headquarters." Cesaro gave him employer an unpleasant grin then asked. "But are you sure he'll escape?"

"In Diana's hands? He can't help but."

Cesaro chuckled. "Why doesn't our spy in the Resistance just tell us where the h.q. is?"

"He. . .or she. . .doesn't trust us. It's his proverbial ace up his sleeve." He tossed the communiqué to his employee. "Get this to Peters. I want it cracked as soon as possible. Sooner even."

With this dismissal, Bates turned to the computer console, flipping on the monitor covering the courtyard and turning his chair to look at the big screen.

The four Resistance fighters sat in a nondescript van just a few yards from the east gate of the Science Frontiers. A sentry threw them an occasional glance but otherwise ignored them. One the other side of the gate, they could see a great deal of activity, most of it centering around a Visitor shuttlecraft.

"What's going on in there?" Julie asked Mike, who was watching the scurry of activity through binoculars. Mike adjusted the binoculars fractionally. "Lot's of Visitors, not so many of Bates' cops." He lowered the binoculars. "Other then that, I can't really tell."

Rico, sitting--literally--in the shotgun seat, looked at his watch. "It's 11:57. Where's Fox?" He asked, tapping his foot nervously.

"Right here."

Automatically, the Rebels spun to face the open side-door, guns in hand. Standing there was a beautiful Indian woman, her long, black hair bypassing Rico's in length. Mike, the only Rebel ever to meet the elusive Fox, was the first to lower his gun.

"Fox! You're taking a big chance." He shot a glance at the sentry.

"If I wanted to be safe, I'd have stayed in the upper Rockies with the rest of my people. Don't worry about the sentry. He's one of us, more or less. Right now, the problem is Tyler."

Mike chuckled. "So what's new?"

"They're giving him to the Visitors."

Mike's grin vanished.

"They're taking him now." She continued, gesturing towards the gate and the courtyard beyond. "Once they get him in that shuttle, though, he's a goner."

Mike scooped up the binoculars again and spun to look out the windshield. As he watched, a door a door opened and two Visitor guards strolled out, Ham between them. The former cameraman winced at the sight of his sometimes-friend's battered face. "You were right, Julie. Ham's going to need a doctor. If we get to him in time." He looked back at Fox. "You said you had a plan."

"Yep, so listen up. In exactly," She looked at her watch. "59 seconds, there's going to an explosion by the Red Dust containers. . ."

"What!?" Julie threw an alarmed look at Willie. "But the friendly aliens. . .?"

Fox made an impatient gesture. "Don't worry. The containers won't be harmed in any way but what Diana doesn't know could hurt her. A couple of our people will set off red smoke bombs. With luck, the Visitors won't realize it won't hurt until them too late. Go right through the gate. . .it's not locked. Wound the sentry. Don't kill him! Like I said, he's one of us. I'll try and get a copy of the communiqué to you later." She said all this in one breathe then vanished.

Mike turned to the rest of the group. "Willie, head in fast and go straight for Ham." Briefly, Mike looked though the binoculars. "He's right ahead of us so just go straight ahead." The alien nodded. "Rico, you cover us. Julie and I'll grab Ham." He took a deep breath." This better work. I am not going to explain to Chris how Ham got killed with us just a few yards away."

"You'll explain. I'll be on my way to New York." Julie said. "Start moving, Willie."

Willie started to ease the van forward, gathering speed gradually. Right on cue, an explosion ripped the air. Clouds of red mist appeared in the courtyard.

"Go, Willie!"

Willie floored the gas pedal and the van surged forward. On the way by the sentry, Rico took careful aim and fired. The bullet took the man in the leg and he went down but not before throwing the Rebels a wary grin and the 'V' sign.

The van hit the gate with a clang and it flew open. All around them, Visitors were panicking, trying desperately to avoid the floating clouds of red mist. Directly in front of them was Ham, a Visitor to each side.

Willie swung the van around so that the open side door faced the Rebel and his captors. Rico leveled his rifle and shot the Visitor to Ham's right while Mike took out the one on his left. Ham grinned and lunged forward, blue bolts exploding around him as the Visitors realized the red mist was harmless. The Rebels could hear Diana, safely hidden, egging her troops on.

"Come on, man! Move it!"

At Julie's cry, Ham forced himself to ignore the pain and run faster. Mike and Julie each grabbed an arm and yanked him into the van. The three of them fell backwards, Ham on top.

"Go, Willie!" Mike managed to gasp.

Once again, Willie floored it and swung the van around to head back out the gate. Mike quickly shoved Ham off the top of him and slid the door close. The Rebels heard energy bolts hitting the van then they were out of Science frontiers and headed down the road.

"Rico, keep watch for any pursuit." The Indian nodded and walked carefully to the back of the van. "Willie, head for the safe house. ' Round about way."

"Right, Mike."

Mike turned back to Ham. Julie had removed a pair of blood-stained handcuffs from his wrists and was helping him sit up against the side of the van. Mike bit his lip at the sight of blood on the older's man face and wrists. "Jez, Tyler, you look a mess."

"I wouldn't know." Tyler flinched slightly as Julie wiped the cuts on his face with an antiseptic swab. "Haven't been able to see myself lately."

"Take my word for it." Mike sat down next to Ham. "So what happened, hard-knocks?"

Ham began to talk, starting with when they left the L.A. base and omitting any mention of the Emergents. It didn't take him long to relate all that had happened, interruption it occasionally to yelp whenever Julie hit a sensitive spot. Finally finished, he looked at Julie. "Well, ladydoc, what's the verdict?"

Julie sighed. "You'll live. You're lucky none of your ribs broken. Just a couple cracked. What you need know is rest."

"Maybe." Ham grunted.

"Mike." Willie called. "There's the car."

"Car?" Ham threw the other man a puzzled look. "Yeah. Someone had to have spotted the van so I had a car waiting for us. Rico's ditch the van later."

Ham threw a look of grudging respect at Mike. "Smart, Gooder. You're learning."

Becky gently lifted the semiconscious woman and coaxed the warm broth down her throat. The woman swallowed automatically, then coughed as some of the liquid went down the wrong way. Her eyes opened to stare at Becky vaguely.

"So you're finally going to wake up, eh, Sleeping Beauty?" Becky carefully stayed in human form, despite how heavy the young woman was becoming. She didn't want to send her into shock. "C'mon, girl! All the way!"

A scaly hand appeared over Becky's shoulder, offering her something. "Here try this. Found it in the medi-kit."

Becky took the offered ammonia capsule and broke it under the woman's nose, wrinkling her own at the smell. Despite the fact she was in human form, her senses were still much keener then an average human's and the ammonia smell hit her like a sledge hammer.

The woman's eyes cleared abruptly and she jerked her head away. As Becky drew the capsule away from her nose, the woman sat up and looked away the cave where the duo had made their encampment. Her eyes widened when she saw Jeffrey standing behind the young girl.

"I'm Becky." The young girl said calmly. And this is Jeffrey. And you are. . ?"

The woman hesitated, clearly debating her answer. "Maggie." She said at last, looking from one youngster to the other. Finally she asked. "Are you both Visitors?"

"No, I'm human." Becky grinned.

Jeffrey snorted. "That's debatable."

Becky turned to look at him then tossed the young alien the ammonia capsule. He looked at it for a long moment then tossed it out the cave mouth. Wrapping both hands around his neck, Jeffrey began to comically choke himself, complete with sound effects. Becky laughed and, much to her surprise, so did Maggie. She regretted it almost instantly as her head began to ache. Gingerly she reached up to feel an egg-sized lump on the back of her head.

"That appears to be your only injury." Becky said.

"I guess I was lucky." Maggie looked warily at the duo. "Did you. . .ah. . .see the accident?"

"Accident?" Jeffrey chortled. "Why were the cops chasing you?"

"I. . .don't know. They don't seem to need a reason anymore." Maggie said cautiously. "You didn't happen to see a tall, stocky man with. . .?"

"You mean Ham?" Becky interrupted.

Maggie stiffened. "How. . ?"

"He was captured." Becky continued. "Do you. . .?" The young girl's words were cut off abruptly as Maggie grabbed the straps of the harness she wore. Jeffrey reached for his gun only to stop at a gesture from his human friend.

"How do you know it was Ham?"

Maggie suddenly found herself holding onto part of a harness. . .attached to a young wolf. With a gasp, she recoiled against the cave wall. The wolf stood and shook herself, causing the harness to rattle. Then, as Maggie watched, the wolf's features changed subtly, human and wolf features combining to form a totally new creature. With a start, Maggie realized it was Becky.

"I know it was Ham 'cause his scent was on you." The girl-wolf said. "And I never forget a scent."

Speechless, Maggie gaped at her then something Ham had said floated into her mind. 'One of them can turn into a wolf', that's what he had said.

"You're one of them." She finally managed to stutter. "An Emergent."

Startled, Becky shifted back to full human form. "Ham told you about us?" She sounded more then a little surprised.

"Yes. Just before the cops latched onto us. He didn't manage to tell me much though." Maggie peered at Becky intently. "How do you know Ham?"

Becky bared her teeth in a grin that reminded Maggie of her fellow Resistance fighter. "He's me uncle."

"Well, I guess that explains how he knew about you guys."

"Uh-huh. He's known about us form the beginnin'." Becky stood. Do you have any idea where they may have taken to him?"

"Probably Science Frontiers." Maggie also stood, albeit gingerly. She was surprised to find herself able to stand with only a little dizziness that passed quickly. "If we could join up with the resistance, we can maybe get him back. There's a safe house nearby."

"Yeah, we know." Jeffrey spoke up. "The ranch house, right?"

"How. . .?" Maggie threw him a surprised look.

"It belongs to Ham. Under a different name, of course." Becky explained. "That's where we were headed when we saw you car go over." She reached down and picked up her duffel bag. "C'mon."

The trio walked out of the cave and into the after noon sun. Jeffrey pulled the bush that covered the motorcycle to one side and took the duffel from Becky. As he tied it to it's proper place. Becky opened a storage compartment.

"Boy, am I glad I brought these extra weapons. I never thought I'd get so much company." She looked at Maggie. "What kind of weapon would you like? An Ingram, crossbow, AR-7 rifle. . .?

"Ingram, please."

Becky handed her the Ingram, it's holster and a couple extra clips then proceeded to show the older woman the hidden compartment in front of the seat and what it contained.

"You and Jeff'll take the bike." Becky handed Maggie her helmet.

"What about you?" Maggie asked.

Becky grinned. "Don't worry about me. Hell, I'll probably beat you there!" With that, the young girl shifted into full wolf-form and vanished into the brush.

"You know how to drive this thing, I hope? Jeffrey asked, patting the bike's seat. "She taught me but I've only had a couple days practice."

Maggie didn't answer. Instead she pulled on the helmet and swung onto the bike. Kicking it to life, she looked at Jeffrey.

"I take it that means yes." He pulled on his helmet and climbed on behind her.

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