V
The Emergents

Chapter Two

Searching for the L.A.-based Resistance at night was far easier than in the daytime, the young girl decided. No crowds, no cops, no people asking questions about a twelve (almost thirteen!)-year-old girl wandering the streets of the Open City with a large backpack and rather conspicuous rifle. . .

No people to ask questions of. . .

"All right, so it has its drawbacks." The young girl, Alexey Landry by name, said in frustration, kicking at a can lying on the sidewalk. The can rattled into a nearby alley, startling a couple of cats scrounging in a garbage can. They hissed in unison then took off across the street.

Alexey watched the cats until they disappeared into the darkness of another alley then slipped off her backpack and leaned against a lamp-post. Tiredly, she sank down next to it and rested her rifle across her knees, looking down the deserted street with sober golden eyes.

With a sigh, she pulled off the dark cap she wore and ran a hand through short auburn hair. Idly she thought over the past couple of nights of searching. Nothing! No Resistance, no Emergents. She expected that of the latter but the Resistance. . .well, maybe they had learned something from Tyler after all. Unfortunately, it appeared they'd learned too well. It was beginning to look as if this search would ta. . .

A loud wail interrupted her thoughts.

Alexey's head snapped up at the sound. It was a siren, a police siren and, as she listened, two more joined it. And they were close. Too close.

Quickly Alexey scooped up her pack and shoved both it and the rifle into the shadows. She carried no personal weapons--her powers made it a very dangerous thing to do--and willed her body to air, the one-piece bodysuit she wore compensating automatically.

Air. Intangible, invisible air. The perfect disguise for an inspiring mutant-cum-resistance fighter.

Despite the fact she no longer possessed a physical form, Alexey could still, in a sense, 'see' and as she watched, three police cars screeched around a corner and sped by her. She watched until they were out of sight then willed herself back to human.

"Well, hell, who could they be after?" Alexey muttered as she retrieved her pack and rifle. Slinging the pack across her back, she reviewed the possible answers to that question. Common crook, jaywalker, murderer, Resistance fighter. . .

**Hit the nail on the head, 'lexey.**

Startled, Alexey whirled, bringing up her rifle as she turned. Behind her, floating about a foot off the ground, was the semi-transparent figure of a young--perhaps 11 years of age--mulatto girl, her multi-hued hair swaying in a breeze Alexey couldn't feel. Her silver eyes met Alexey's golden ones calmly.

"Jame!" Alexey lowered her rifle. It wouldn't do much good against a mental image projection anyway. "What are you doing here?"

**Same thing you are, ah think.** The younger girl's mouth didn't move, Alexey noted, she was hearing the voice in her head. Even after all this time, she still wasn't use to it. **But that isn't important right now. What's important is that Resistance fighter the cops have cornered near here.**

Alexey wondered briefly if Jame meant the 'here' where she was or the 'here' where Jame was then saw a slight smile appear on the girl's face as she caught that wayward thought.

**Both of us, actually. We're about five blocks straight ahead and two to the right. Hurry!** She started to fade then paused. **An' be careful!**

Hurriedly pulling on her cap, Alexey raced down the blocks, moving as quietly as possible. It took her less then two minutes to reach the end of the fifth block, thanks in part to her father's strict exercise program. Carefully, she peeked around the corner. Almost two blocks away, lights flashed and men in uniforms crouched behind a number of cars set in a semi-circle in front of a deserted, Visitor-scorched building. To Alexey's surprise, not all the men were cops. Some appeared to be private police.

"Bates!" Alexey muttered. "Gotta be!"

"Pssst! 'Lexey! Up here!" A whisper rumbled from above.

Alexey looked up. High above her, on the roof of the three-story building she was peering around, was the familiar hulk of Yvette Revok.

"Toss up your pack, 'Lexey." She rumbled quietly.

With a grin, Alexey shifted to her stronger earthen form and tossed up first her pack and then the rifle, the big girl catching them deftly. Shifting casually back to air, she floated up to the rooftop and settled down on it gently, reverting back to human form.

"'lo, Yeti." She said, calling her friend by the name the Emergents had dubbed her. "Got taller, didn't ya?"

White teeth flashed briefly in the fourteen-year-old's ebony face as she straightened to her full height of 8"3'.

"A couple inches. Yvonne's still a little shorter though. C'mon." Yeti turned. "The others are over this way."

"How'd you get here?" Alexey asked as she fell into step with the giantess, taking fours steps to Yeti's one.

In a few easy sentences, Yeti told how she and two others--her cousin, Jamethial Revok and a fellow Emergent, Nadine Dubios--left the main Resistance base in the Cajun Bayou and traveled to L.A., walking--like Alexey had in her journey--at night.

"Why didn't Yvonne and Rashea come?"

"Me an' Yvonne thought one of us should say with the Bayou Resistance an' Rashea's too young. Jus' 11. 'sides, her powers just ain't that well developed yet."

Alexey nodded thoughtfully. Odd how most Emergents 'emerged' with their powers complete and ready to use while others had to learns slowly how to use them. She'd been one of the lucky one, she supposed, being able to use her powers since she'd found out about them and with little problem. "Where's the others?" She asked as they crossed over to a second rooftop.

Yeti didn't answer, just lowered Alexey's things and jerked her head at two figures watching the scene below. Nadine turned to greet her, a smile on her lips and a mischievous glint in her silver eyes. Jame, on the other hand, made no move to acknowledge her presence.

"Hey, Alexey." Almost three years her senior, Nadine was tall, her slender form clad in black jeans and turtleneck. Her long red hair--just a few shades lighter then Alexey's--was pulled into a chignon at the nape of her neck. A M17 was slung over her shoulder and a handgun--a .375 Magnum by the look of it--was strapped around her waist along with a Commando blade.

The sight of the handgun made Alexey painfully aware of her own lack of personal armament. A quick glance at the other two girls showed that they both wore holstered guns--Jame had a H&K MP5 submachine gun in a low holster while Yeti had an Ingram (minus the trigger-guard) strapped around her waist--and knives, though Yeti's was more of a machete. Yeti, however, carried no rifle--none had ever been made for an eight-foot-three marksman--and, on second glance, Alexey realized that Jame didn't either. Instead, the giantess had a cased long bow and a quiver of arrows slung across her back while in one hand she held a thick blackthorn quarterstaff roughly three inches taller then she. Jame, on the other hand, had a crossbow and a quiver of bolts leaning on the pack next to her.

"What's up?" Alexey asked, her attention caught by the eerie glow of police lights.

"Take a look." Nadine invited, turning back to the street.

Alexey walked to Jame's side. The young mulatto leaned forward, the palms of her hands resting on the low wall that enclosed the rooftop. The multi-hued mohawk was now hidden beneath a black pull-over cap while her dreamy silver eyes looked down at the scene below. Alexey followed her gaze.

There were six police cars below, plus one with the Science Frontiers logo on it. Well over a dozen men scurried about, firearms ready. One of them, dressed in a Science Frontiers uniform, was obviously in charge. They were all staring warily at the building the four girls were standing on.

"Her name's Brandy Lightfoot." Jame said suddenly in a far-away voice. "She's 30 and a Cheyenne Indian. She worked for Bates. Appears he found out about her bein' a Resistance member yesterday. A friend--security guard--went to her place to warn, only they killed him an' she escaped out the window. She's holed up in this buildin'." She paused then added. "She's got an important message fer Ham but ah can't read it. Her mind's blocked pretty well. Too much excitement."

Yeti grunted. "Does she know the way to the main Resistance base?"

Jame concentrated briefly, her eyes losing focus then nodded

"Good. Me an' 'lexey'll. . .ah. . .divert the boys in blue while you and Nadine get down there an' help her out. 'kay?"

The other girls nodded. Yeti set down her bow and pulled out her Ingram, giving it a quick check before stepping up onto the low wall. Alexey followed suit.

"Ah'll take the car just to the right, 'lexey, you take that one over there." She pointed toward the Science Frontiers car and Alexey nodded, grinning. "Ready?"

"Ready!"

Simultaneously, the two girls leaped from the roof, Yeti feet-first, Alexey in a perfect swan-dive. As soon as she left the roof, Alexey shifted to her much-heavier earthen form, gaining speed rapidly as she descended toward the car. She hit the car with the force of a well-projected cannonball. Metal buckled and tore like paper then flew as sharp, jagged shrapnel as the gas tank exploded. Through the flames, Alexey saw three men fall, bleeding as the shrapnel hit them. Looking to the left, she saw more men fall as pieces of the car Yeti destroyed struck them.

"What the hell was that!?" The private cop in charge yelled.

"We're being bombed." A young cop screamed, almost in hysterics. "The Resistance. . !"

The first man grabbed the other roughly and slapped him. "Shut up, you damn fool!" He shoved the other man around and turned to another cop crouching behind the open door of a squad car. "Peters, get on the radio and call for reinforcement and fire trucks!"

"Right, Mr. Jenkins." Peters said as he reached for the radio."

"Ain't necessary, man." Yeti's voice rumbled as she stepped from the wreckage of the car. She presented quite a sight what with the trigger-guardless Ingram in one hand and the quarterstaff in the other and flames licking up her massive frame yet not burning the simple dark tunic she wore.

The sight of the flames brought Alexey's attention beck to the fire surrounding her own earthen body. Casually she shifted form, becoming one with the flames then stepped from the car. The men gaped at them in mute astonishment.

"Who are you?" Jenkins demanded, stepping forward.

"Someone y'all don't wanna mess with, Jenkins." Yeti rumbled. "So why don't you an' your boys-in-blue take a hike, eh? 'fore me and Elemental here get nasty."

The cop snorted in contempt. Puzzled, Alexey studied him. He didn't look very alarmed at the sight of a giantess and a girl composed of fire. That seemed to support the theory that Bates had a few of the missing Emergents.

"This is police business, 'children'!" He turned back to Peters, who was also gaping at the strange duo. "Make that call, Peters?"

The other man broke off his staring and nodded, reaching inside the car for the mike.

"Now, now, Peters." Alexey said, her voice the crackling hiss of flames. "That isn't very wise." With a fiery smile, she aimed a fire bolt into the squad car Peters was reaching into. The cop barely managed to draw his arm back and get out of the way before the bolt totally incinerated the inside of the car.

Jenkins stared at the burning car then at Alexey incredulous then turned to the remaining officers. "Fire!" He bellowed.

"Whatever has the LAPD degenerated into?" Alexey asked Yeti as the men opened fire. They both ignored the bullets, which merely shattered when they struck Yeti's near-invulnerable hide and melted long before they hit Alexey.

Yeti shrugged. Idly she swung her quarterstaff, taking out two officers with that single swing. "You want the rest?" She asked.

"Sure. There's this little trick I've been wanting to try. Why don't you take care of the cars? No use letting the cops keep them all."

With that, Alexey turned back to the men. The remaining men were clustered in a group, she noted. Good, that made what she wanted to do much easier. Shifting to water, Alexey reared up into a tidal wave then swept forward to crash down on the men, driving them to the ground. Immediately, Alexey began to spin, becoming a land-bound whirlpool. The men screamed and choked as they spun in her watery gasp. In mid-spin, she released them, sending the men flying into walls and cars. Those still able to run did so. . .in every direction except the one she was in.

"How was that, Yeti?" She bubbled to her large companion. Yeti laughed and tossed the last intact police car onto the scrap heap she had made of the other cars.

"Not bad, 'lexey. An' we finished jus' in time. Here come the others."

Alexey shifted back to her normal human appearance and turned to follow Yeti's gaze. Nadine and Jame were just exiting the building. With them was a young woman with two black braids that fell to mid-thigh and dark eyes that held a hint of suspicion and a lot of wariness. She had the classic high-boned features of the Plains Indian with an almost perfect copper-hue to her skin. Her only noticeable weapon was a .45 which she held in her hand.

"Probably all she could grab." Alexey thought sympathetically.

"C'mon, y'all. Firetrucks'll be getting here soon an' we best be long gone 'fore then." Jame concentrated briefly and the gear they had left up on the roof appeared next to her in a flash of silvery light.

"You're getting better, Jame." Alexey picked up her pack and rifle. "Last time I saw you, you could barely teleport 20 pounds maybe 10 feet."

"Practice makes perfect." Jame said, ignoring the woman's astonished look. "Now, what say..."

"Alexey! Look out!" Nadine interrupted.

Alexey spun. Jenkins stood not ten feet away, gun in hand. He was aiming straight at her. The young girl quickly ran down her options. Air, earth, water, or. . .

A black disc spun over her shoulder and exploded just above the man's head. Ignoring it, Jenkins took careful aim, pulled the trigger and. . .

The gun jammed.

"Thanks, Nadine." Alexey said, recognizing the black disc as one of her friend's bad luck 'charms', capable of affecting the probability fields surrounding a person or thing in her favor.

"Anytime." Nadine stood ready, a second black luck disc in her hand, watching as Jenkins, unable to unjam his gun, whirled and ran down the street. "You want me to stop him?" She raised the disc.

"No, don't bother." Jame said. "We gotta go."

Nadine shrugged and concentrated. The disc turned from black to white, from bad luck to good. Idly, she tossed it to the woman. "Here, Ms. Lightfoot. Have some good luck."

Startled, the woman caught the disc. It dispensed, leaving her staring puzzled at her empty hand.

"You know the way to the main Resistance base, Ms. Lightfoot." Jame asked.

"Uh?" She looked up. Her black eyes narrowed as she digested the question, staring at the four girls politely waiting for her answer. Coming to a decision, she nodded.

"Good. Then ah suggest we be goin'. With luck, maybe we can reach it 'fore dawn."

Nadine grinned. "I'll provide the luck..."

"And I'll provide the car. . .as soon as we can find one I can hot-wire." Alexey grinned.

"Make it a van. Or truck. With tarp." Yeti rumbled. "Which way, Ms. Lightfoot?"

"This way." She started down the street. "And it's Brandy."

There was something wrong, the young woman could feel it. On her third step, it hit her.

She'd never told them her name.


Five hours later and several miles away, a young woman stirred, waking slowly. Her green eyes opened and she looked around in momentary puzzlement at the unfamiliar surroundings then memory returned and she smiled. Stretching lazily, she rolled over the intention of greeting her avid bed-partner of the night before.

Only he wasn't there.

Frowning Maggie reached over to touch the still-warm pillow. He couldn't have been gone long. She sat up. "Ham?" She called. There was no answer. Slipping off the mattress that served as the mercenary's--and, at least for one night, her--bed, Maggie walked over to the door and eased it open just in time to see Chris Faber, Ham's best friend and fellow mercenary, pass by. Suddenly aware of her nakedness, she positioned herself statistically behind the door and smiled self-consciously at the big man.

"Ahhh. . .have you seen Ham?" She asked in a small voice. Chris grinned cheerfully.

"Probably downstairs, hon, fixin' breakfast."

"Breakfast?" Maggie blinked in surprise. Ham had never seemed the cooking type. Then again, last night. . .She smiled fondly in memory.

"Yeah, he's pretty good at it." His smile grew broader. "You're showin', hon."

Maggie hurriedly slipped back behind the door, acutely aware of her full-body blush and Chris' teasing smile. "Um. . .is there a bath nearby?"

Chris gestured toward a door across the hall. "Shower." He grinned at the surprised look on her face. Showers were a rarity at the base. "With hot water. Or, at least, lukewarm. We've a limit though, so you'd better hit it 'fore Becky does."

"Thanks." She started to close the door then paused as a thought struck her. "Speaking of Becky, do you know if she and Jeff are up yet?"

Before Chris could answer, the door he'd just indicated was flung open, revealing one of the kids she'd just asked about, Becky Tyler-Harper. Very naked and dripping wet, the young girl threw them an amused-sheepish look and promptly shifted from her natural human appearance to that of a young wolf. With an almost human look of smugness on her lupine face, she leapt forward, planted her feet firmly and shook as hard as she could. Water flew in every direction.

"Hey!" Maggie took refuge behind the door while Chris, unable to take shelter, let out a series of raunchy curses. Finished shaking off the excess water from her soft brown fur, right down to the single white forelock, Becky shifted to her transitional form, a form that combined the best qualities of girl and wolf.

"Is something wrong?" She asked, claw-tipped hands folded primly before her.

"Why, you little...!" Chris growled, towering over the little girl threateningly. She stood there, balanced easily on her hind paws, completely unimpressed. After a moment, Chris lowered his arms. "Get outta here!" 

She got, laughing. Chris shook his head, chuckling despite himself. "Better hurry, Mag. Can't be much hot water left."

Maggie grinned and ducked back into the bedroom. Ten minutes later, dressed now in faded jeans and a t-shirt that proclaimed 'Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle Science Fiction' Maggie trotted down the stairs and started across the main room of the mock-up saloon only to pause at the sound of a thump. She stiffened and wished she had brought her gun. "Who's there!?"

There was a second thump and a reptilian head appeared over the bar. Maggie relaxed immediately. "Jeff. You scared the hell out of me." Maggie smiled as the young Visitor walked around the hard-top bar, rubbing his injured crest with a clawed hand.

"Sorry about that." He apologized as he walked toward her. Early morning sunlight flashed into his exposed eyes and he hissed a curse in his native tongue, hurriedly pulling up the goggle-like sunglasses that hung around his neck. As the sunlight flashed on the boy's scales, Maggie was surprised to see an intricate pattern of blue, green, black and even yellow scales appear. She had thought Visitors had a plain green-black shade. Then he was out of the sunlight and the patterning vanished.

"Still wearing Becky's clothes?" She asked, indicating the jeans and sleeveless t-shirt he wore.

"Yeah. An' she's starting to get mad about it, too. Wants them back." As he spoke, his red eyes dated about, obviously looking for something.

"I'll be going shopping later. Maybe I can get you something then." She watched him for a moment then curiosity got the better of her. "What are you looking for?"

"Breakfast. Seen any mice around?"

"No, sorry. Why isn't Becky helping?"

"She's in there." Eyes still searching, he gestured toward the kitchen. "Trying to beg some breakfast off of Ham."

"Oh. Good luck."

Jeff grunted in reply, eyes now glued on a movement in a corner. As he began to stalk toward it, Maggie walked to the kitchen door and eased it open, smiling as she caught sight of the scene within and realizing that when Jeff had said Becky was begging for her breakfast, he wasn't kidding.

Ham Tyler, her lover of the night before, stood by the stove, a plate in one hand. With the other, he was filling the plate with hot, steaming food. Sitting up at his feet, watching his every move, was his niece in her full wolf form. Paws tucked up against her chest, she whined occasionally and, every time Ham walked away from the stove, reared up on her hind legs to follow, sinking on her haunches when he stopped.

Ham ignored her until, at last, the plate was heaping full then he turned to look down at her, face expressionless. "You want some of this?" He asked, indicating the plate. She barked and wagged her tail hopefully. "Gimme one good reason."

Looking up appealingly, Becky whined deep in her throat then barked again.

"Not good enough." Ham walked to set the plate on the table then started to fill another. Becky's ears drooped and she fell over backwards, hitting the floor with a thump. She laid there, crying pathetically, until Ham once again held a filled plate. However, instead of putting it on the table, he turned and thrust it at her.

"Here." He growled in his deep voice. "Take it. Shut up. Get out."

His niece promptly lunged back onto her hind legs, shifting to human form as she snatched the plate and ran for the door. The single white forelock bobbed as she threw Maggie a grin.

"Works every time." She muttered as she raced by. Maggie caught a glimpse of the sharp canines the girl possessed even in her human form then she was gone and the door swung shut behind her.

With an amused smile, Maggie turned back to look at Ham. He had a smile on his face, a real smile, not his customary wolf-grin, as he watched his niece disappear out the door. It changed his whole appearance, taking the hardness from his dark eyes and giving his face a gentle look. Then he realized she was looking and the smile vanished to be replaced by his habitual indifferent expressions. He turned back to the plates.

Still smiling, Maggie moved behind him and gently slipped her arms around his waist, resting her cheek against the roughness of his t-shirt. "I woke alone this morning." She murmured softly.

The corners of Ham's mouth twitched and he set down the spatula long enough to pat her hand gently. "Sorry. You looked so. . .peaceful. Didn't have the heart to wake you up."

This time, he did smile.

"After all, you didn't get much sleep last night."

Maggie's smile turned wicked.

"Neither did you." She reminded him.

Ham laughed as he returned to filling the plate. The young woman studied him thoughtfully, noting the fact that this time he retained his smile.

"You should do that more often." She said finally.

He threw her a puzzled look. "What?"

"Smile." She traced his lips with a fingertip.

Unnerved, Ham stared at her then dropped his gaze, fixing on the filled plate in relief. "Uh...hungry?" He almost stammered, changing the subject abruptly. "There's coffee on the machine and some juice and milk in the frig."

"Real coffee?" She couldn't keep the surprise from her voice.

"Yeah. Real juice, too."

Maggie started to ask him where he got real coffee then decided not to look a gift coffee cup in the mouth. As she found the cups and reached for the coffee pot, her smiled deepened. She'd never seen Ham so flustered.

"You know, I was surprised to find you have electricity here. Do you have a generator?"

Ham grunted. "Two."

"Two? Why two? We haven't a one over in the women's dorm!"

Ham shrugged as he set the plate down and pulled out a chair for her. "Always keep a spare, someone once told me." He said.

Becky catapulted into the room, once again in transitional form, dirty dishes in hand...er, paw. "Ham, me an' Jeff are goin' over to the tavern." The dishes clattered as she set them ungently on the counter and whirled to dash back out the door.

"Hold it, young lady!" Ham bellowed in a voice that shook the rafters. The girl-wolf froze, tottering on one paw. "You wash those dishes off and put them in the drainer!"

Meekly she obeyed then stood there, hands once again folded in front of her, total innocence in her silver eyes. "May I go now, Uncle Ham?" She asked politely.

"Go. Be careful." He growled as he sat down next to Maggie. "Pass the butter, Mag."

Maggie waited until Becky was out of sight before she spoke. "You're nothing but an old softie." She commented softly, smiling at him fondly as she offered him the butter.

Ham's head snapped up and he stared at her with hard eyes. His voice was chilled as he spoke. "What?"

"You heard me." Maggie's smile deepened.

The look on Ham's face grew even harder and he scowled then abruptly he laughed. Shaking his head, he looked at her with eyes still hard yet with a faint trace of quiet fondness in them. "Dammit, woman, you're gonna screw up my mean reputation. I just know it."

Maggie laughed.


Chris strolled into the mock-up tavern that served as the main meeting room for the L.A. based Resistance and looked around, grimacing at the mess left by Linda's birthday party. No one had taken the time to clean up last night--or rather this morning--when the party ended. Ah, well.

Ambling over to the hardwood bar, he noted that the three coffee-makers were brewing. Pulling a mug from the mismatched assortment on a nearby table, he filled it with the chicory-laced coffee and headed for a table, only to pause at the sound of a voice.

"Hey, Chris." Mike Donovan emerged from the back room, Julie right behind him. Both were carrying armfuls of computer printouts.

"Mornin’, Mike. Julie." He eyed the printouts. "Are those from the disks Ham gave ya last night?"

"Yeah." Mike said in disgust. "She stayed up all night running this stuff off!"

"And this is just from three of the disks." Julie placed the printouts onto a table and sat down. "There's seven more. It's going to take forever to go through them."

Mike groaned, dropping the bundle he carried. "I'm gonna kill Tyler when I see him for giving her those disks. Want some coffee, Julie?"

"Yeah, sure. Cream and sugar."

Pulling out a chair, Chris sank down next to Julie. "You read any of these?"

"Not yet. I glanced through them but..." Julie shook her head and sighed, rubbing her eyes tiredly.

"It's gonna be a long job, sortin' these out." Chris commented.

"Yes. Especially since I still haven't finished the printouts I got from Science Frontiers on these. . ." Julie, at a loss or words, gestured at the printouts.

"Emergents." Chris supplied.

"Emergents?" Mike and Julie chorused.

"Well, technically they're called Homo Post Hominen. . .man that follows man. . .but the kids started callin' themselves the Emergents. Short for the emergin' man."

"Technically? I never saw that name in the Science Frontiers printouts."

"That's probably 'cause Bates didn't know about it. Ah doubt very much any of the kids told him about it." He sipped his coffee.

Elizabeth walked into the room, more printouts in arm. "Here, Julie." She set her load on the table and looked shyly at Chris. "Where’s Becky?"

"Last time I saw her she was still at the saloon." He threw the young Starchild a warning look. "Don't expect to be too friendly, honey. Beck's a lot like her uncle. She don't cotton to many people."

Elizabeth's face fell and she returned to the back room. Julie scowled at the big man. "Was that necessary, Chris? Elizabeth just wants to talk to someone unique like herself."

"Trust me, Julie. They may each be unique but they ain't nothin' alike. Becky an' the rest of the Emergents just ain't that friendly, 'xcept maybe to their families. An' even then it's up in the air."

Julie sighed and pulled her glasses from a breast pocket. Slipping them on, she pulled a printout to her. "Listen, Chris, do you think Becky could come see me today? I'd like to check her out. That wound she took yesterday was a pretty bad one. I still can't see how she could recover from it so quickly. Or even just recover from it."

Chris shrugged. "She's an Emergent an' a metamorphic one at that. They heal real quick."

"I'd still like to examine her."

Chris finished his coffee and stood, walking over to the bar to refill his cup. He could guess at Julie's real reason for wanting to examine Becky. "Ah wouldn't worry about it, Julie. In a day or two, you'll have all the Emergents you want to study."

"What do you mean?" Mike asked sharply.

"They'll be arrivin' for the next few days. Becky contacted them before she left Wisconsin." Leaning back against the bar, he looked at Donovan. "Better tell the sentries so they don't freak out too bad. That is, if they even see them."

Mike scowled at Chris but before he could say a word, another interrupted him.

"Hiya, all."

The trio turned to see Caleb Tayler saunter into the room, carrying a rifle. Behind him, they could see a dozen other Rebels, all armed and looking tired, walking down the dirt road. Some followed Caleb into the saloon.

"Hey, Caleb." Mike gestured the older man over. "Have a sitdown. How'd it go?"

"It didn't." Caleb grunted in disgust as he pulled out a chair and sat down. The other Rebels gathered around the coffee pots, chatting among themselves.

"What didn't?" Chris asked, puzzled. He offered Caleb a cup of coffee and sat back down.

"We were supposed to raid an ammo supply truck that was going to Bates." Caleb explained as he took the cup. He shifted his gaze to Donovan. "Only there wasn't anything left to raid. That New Moon on Monday cleaned it out two miles up the road."

"Damn!" Mike swore. "We needed that ammo"

"Well, at least Bates didn't get it." Julie consoled. She looked at Caleb. "Did you see them?"

Caleb shook his head, sipping at the coffee, grimacing at the bitter taste.

"Damn!" This time it was Chris that cursed. "Who are they? What are they?"

"Coffee." A voice groaned from the doorway. Looking up, they say Rico Jones stumble into the room and over to the bar, looking pale and hung over.

"'What' is a good question." Caleb returned to their conversation. "You know, I heard they were Visitors."

"Yeah, so'd ah." Chris looked up briefly at the sound of laughter erupting from the group near the bar then turned back to Caleb. "Maybe someday we’ll meet them."

"Hey, Faber!" Chris looked up. Heather Jenkins, one of the just-returned Rebels, was leaning against the bar, Rico gulping coffee next to her. The others sat on barstools, amused looks on their faces. "Who spiked the punch last night?' She continued.

Chris looked at her, puzzled. "I told them about Becky," Rico scowled. "But they don't believe me."

"What's there to believe?' Heather said in a patronizing tone. "You just had far too much to drink. I mean, girls turning into wolves."

"Uh-ohhhh." Mike said. "I forgot. . ." He grinned at Chris.

Chris grinned cheerfully. "Girl." He said absently.

"Uh?" Heather gaped at him and the others fell silent.

"Girl. One." Chris held up a finger while Rico grinned broadly, obviously relieved that he had not been seeing things. "Wolf. One."

"You're kidding." Caleb stared first at Chris and then Mike.

to be continued. . .

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