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Chapter 31: Breakout
Storm
palladian23 wrote in superwebnovel
Author's Notes/Warnings: Bad dreams, violence, mental manipulation

A little true confessions, here, dear readers...a death in my family has forced me to step forward to administer the estate of one of my siblings, for the benefit of an orphaned child. Unfortunately, my very busy job didn't stop, and I still intend to continue posting this according to my schedule, but I have to admit I'm reaching my limits. If any of you have it in good with any deity, please have a word with them to look over me and protect my efforts and my orphaned niece. Also, due to all the craziness, I didn't have time to get this chapter to my editor in chief, gwoman, so please let me know if anything is out of place or wrong; please don't just snicker.


Back to Chapter 30

“So, is everyone ready to go?” Casey asked, her smile insanely cheerful.

Riss and Lou looked at each other and sighed, but then nodded as they picked up the last of their things to pack into the van. Kate let out a cheer as she got into the van, and Lex and Victor looked at each other for a moment before they got in, too. Victor nodded and Lex answered Casey, “Yeah, I think we're all ready.”

It had taken Casey about a month to set up the next tour, and everyone had been busy preparing in the break they'd had. One of the reasons was that Lex had bugged everyone until they'd all agreed to do team training again.

“I don't see why we're doing this right now,” Casey grumbled as they’d all gotten together for the first session. “There's still so much to do to get ready for the tour.”

“Trust me, it's a good idea,” Lex had assured her, darting glances around at the rest of the group, hoping no one else had objections.

Riss, Lou, and Victor had all seemed to have no problem with the idea, and Kate had stepped forward to put her hand on Casey's forearm. “I think it's a good idea, too,” she’d said. “I know we've worked together before, but it's smart to practice as a team. That way if something unexpected happens, we'll already know how the other people on the team will react.”

Kate had winked at Lex as she had stepped forward and they had all got started with the session. Lex had breathed a quiet sigh of relief that everyone had seemed more or less on board. She'd continued having the dream with the reddish eyes pursuing her every week or so, which had left a feeling in the pit of her stomach that something bad was about to happen.

They’d continued with their normal music practice sessions and had written some new material, but Lex had thought everyone had seemed to be trying to take it easy before the next tour started, not wanting to get too burned out, she’d guessed. Casey had been preoccupied with setting the tour up, and Victor and Riss had seemed to be working on something together, so Kate, Lex and Lou had spent more time together. Mostly they’d worked out, but Kate had wanted to visit all the local zoos and aquariums, so Lou and Lex had gone along with her.

“So,” Lex had asked one day as she and Kate had pressed themselves to the glass to watch a shark circle its tank, “is there any animal or fish here that you haven’t seen before?”

Kate had laughed. “Maybe, but that really isn’t why I wanted to go.” She had paused and looked thoughtful for a moment, then continued. “It’s hard to explain, but somehow, the longer I’m able to watch an animal, the more I’m able to, I don’t know, get on its wavelength, I guess? Some animals I feel like I can imitate as easily as breathing and the shift is perfect, but others are more difficult. So, I like to visit them as often as I can because it helps me learn all of them better.”

Lex had continued to watch the shark as it swam and thought about it. “So, it’s not only fun for you to see the animals, but you get something out of it, too,” she’d said, turning back to Kate with a grin.

As Lex had watched, Kate had changed somehow, and when her friend had grinned back at her, Lex had had to laugh at her shark-like smile. “You don’t know the half of it. Where did Lou go, by the way?”

Lex had moved her head to one side, considering. “He said he was going to see if he could find some lunch. You want to see if we can figure out where he is?”

“Yeah, let’s go,” Kate had said with a smile.

And after what seemed like much too short a time off, she found herself sitting between Riss and Kate and on her way back to Los Angeles.

“This seems so familiar,” she said almost to herself at one point, causing Riss to elbow her and Kate to giggle.

That night when they'd reached Los Angeles and were hanging out with their friends from End of the Road again, Lex looked around at her band and at her friends from the other bands and smiled, feeling lucky to be surrounded by such trustworthy, capable people. She ended the evening in Laura's little garden in the backyard, lying on a small patch of grass and looking up at the stars. As Lex glanced to one side, she could see Riss on a nearby deck chair, her face all angles and intensity, illuminated by the laptop screen in front of her. She slid her eyes over and smiled at Lex, as if she'd known her friend had been watching.

“Kind of nice here, isn't it?” Riss asked as she continued typing, absorbed by the screen again.

“Yeah, pretty nice,” Lex answered, her own face breaking into a wide grin.

It might have been her imagination, but it seemed to Lex that the rest of the people in the band caught her own happiness and enthusiasm. To her, everyone seemed more at ease and much more able to laugh off the problems that cropped up during the normal course of a tour.

Instead of having moments of dread when the stage butterflies got the best of her, Lex had learned to channel the anxiety into a feeling of excitement. Most of the time now she felt able to get out on the stage and just feel exhilarated to be there and to pour it into her performance. Everything seemed to go smoother during the performances, and when she talked to the other members of the band, they all agreed that they were putting on some of their best shows ever.

Casey, Laura, and Jack all shared responsibility for documenting the shows, and Riss had continued posting the still shots and videos and publicizing them on all of the bands' websites. “Look,” Riss pointed out to Lex several weeks after their joint tour had begun and the two waited backstage for their time to go on, “that first video posted for us, the fan video, has over a million hits now.”

Lex felt a twinge of nervousness in her stomach but just shook her head and smiled about it. “Doesn't seem possible, really.”

Riss shrugged. “Doesn't surprise me at all,” she responded. “People just like to hear you sing.”

“Hey,” Lex said as she fixed Riss with a glare, “it's all of us out there making the music. I'm just one part of it. Well, I guess two, if you count the keyboards.”

Nodding, Riss conceded the point as she turned her head, smiling, and continued working on the laptop.

The group headed south first in an attempt to appreciate the warmth there in the spring before the summer rolled around. They played at a few of the same venues as the previous tour, but due to the number of their original places that had been overcrowded or sold out, Casey had decided to book a few bigger places this time around. Lex felt it when they all arrived, nervous as they seemed at first, but somehow she managed to walk in, turn around, and smile at all of her friends.

“The sound is going to be really great in here tonight,” she said, and she could almost feel it as everyone relaxed and started to smile or laugh in return. It had been a great show that night.

As the tour progressed, on nights when they were staying in cheaper motels Kate and Jack had started getting a room together. No one said anything about it, but Lex began feeling bored since she'd been hanging out with Kate when they got back from shows and talking for a while until they could get to sleep. Riss and Victor both always had things they were working on, so what Lex often did on nights while she was alone was see if she could get into the pool, if the place they were staying had one, and then stop by to see if Rachel and Sarah wanted to go for a swim with her. About half the time they would, and the three of them would float, looking up at the moon and chatting, until they felt tired enough to attempt to sleep.

Everything just seemed to go more smoothly, and Lex began to feel she wasn't only connecting with the audience. It seemed that now when the four members of Alexander’s Army got up onto the stage to play, they worked almost like one person. The music just seemed to flow, and the crowds seemed to love it. They had to order more CDs in the middle of the tour because they'd been selling so many, and the venues they played at continued being pretty packed and sold out fairly often.

They had actually even started to get some press attention, mostly from the local papers in some of the towns they'd pass through. Lex couldn't help but laugh as she read some of the articles and saw their new names.

“Robert Louis Stevenson, huh?” she asked late one morning as she sat across from Lou and read the latest article that had been written about them.

He smiled quietly in response. “Treasure Island was my favorite book as a kid. So, how about you, Jane Mansfield?”

Lex rolled her eyes. “Obviously, I should have researched the name further before I chose it. I guess I have the white hair down, though. Wasn't she supposed to have been a platinum blonde?”

She laughed then and continued reading the story, briefly admiring the photo that they'd taken of the four of them under some flowering trees. It had been windy that day, and at the moment the picture had been snapped they were being showered with countless tiny flower petals.

One place flowed into the next as all of them enjoyed the tour and continued to work hard to give good performances. The change started to slide in gradually, almost unnoticed. As they began heading north and got past San Francisco, Lex had a longer dream about being sought by the reddish eyes. She did her best to forget about it the next morning, telling herself that it was probably nothing, that she should just continue enjoying the tour.

It felt easy to do, at first. Every new town that they came to seemed to have its own charm, its interesting people and areas. The group had also made sure that they had a few days off now and again during all of their performances so that they didn't get too burned out. It seemed to be working, because the members of all three bands still agreed that they were giving some of the best performances of their lives.

Their days off allowed them to explore some of the places they came to stay. They all loved the rugged coastlines they encountered as they went farther north, and Casey especially loved the mountains. Lex admired that her friend never seemed to get tired of looking at the hills they would pass while on the road and always managed to arrange a hiking expedition to a local park for anyone interested whenever they had a couple of days off.

They'd been in Oregon a few days when Casey called one of her trips together. They hadn't had any luck enticing any of the members of the other bands to go with them, so it was just the six of them. After following a short trail to an overlook, they stopped for a picnic lunch and gradually fell into talk about the future.

“Lou and I have been discussing it,” Casey said as she looked at the assembled group, “and we both agree that we like it here, everywhere from San Francisco north. It's beautiful and the people here seem like folks I wouldn't mind living around.”

Lou nodded to back her up as he finished his mouthful of sandwich, and then Kate spoke up. “I really like it up here, too. I want to see the rest of Oregon and Washington, though. I've heard really good things about both, and I want to see what the towns and cities are like.”

Victor nodded as well. “I'd like to see what the rest of the North holds for us, but I've been enjoying it so far. I think if we went any farther south it would just be too hot.”

Riss shot a curious look at Lex before she said anything. “I think you've all got good points, and I have to admit I like it here better than Phoenix because it's too dry for me there. What do you think, Lex?”

Lex couldn't manage to look at any of them because her dream started to loom large in her mind. “It's so beautiful here that it would be hard not to love. How about if everyone thinks about it as we finish the tour and makes mental notes on all their favorite places? Then, once we get back home we can start voting and making some plans?”

Everyone seemed to agree and went back to eating lunch. Lex noticed Riss frowning out of the corner of her eye and sighed. At one point when the group was heading back down the trail and Riss and Lex fell slightly behind the others, Riss confronted Lex.

“That was your chance to speak up, you know,” she said, shooting a hard look at her friend.

Lex could feel her shoulders droop. “I know, Riss, I know. It's just...hell, what would I say? I've had some bad dreams? I have more the farther north we come? It probably doesn't mean anything,” Lex finished, shaking her head as if trying to drive the idea away.

Riss shook her head in return. “You don't know it's nothing,” she responded with a dark look.

Miserably, Lex nodded in response, unable to say anything more. Riss was the only one awake when she had her nightmares, and was often the one to calm her down enough to sleep again. Lex felt as if she would be throwing an alarm out to the group for nothing, though, if her fears proved to be only that, so she kept silent.

That evening, however, the nature of the dream changed yet again.

The group of them walked down a quiet city street to their van. Lex could see everyone dressed in the clothes they usually wore on stage, and they all talked with animation about something. Suddenly, a chill ran through Lex and she looked around, but nothing was there except them. They reached the mouth of an alley a moment later, however, and Lex drew back in horror as she saw the reddish-brown eyes hanging in the darkness of the alley. When she turned, seemingly in slow motion, back to the rest of the group to warn them, she woke up.

Lex sat bolt upright in bed, trying to catch her breath. She shut her eyes once to try to blink away the final vision, and then spotted Riss in a chair nearby in the room they shared, laptop open. In the small circle of light that the tiny lamp shed, Lex could clearly read Riss' watchful, knowing expression.

She opted for changing the subject. “Why is it that you're always awake late?” Lex murmured as she got out of bed and pulled a chair over to sit next to her friend.

Riss shrugged. “This is my favorite time of day. I always feel more alive when it's dark; I feel tired when the sun comes up.” She paused for a moment to bring her attention from her computer screen to Lex. “So, same nightmare again?”

Lex rubbed her eyes and shook her head in agreement, figuring there was no reason not to tell her friend. “No, it changed. I dreamed that we'd left a show, and walking to the van I got a bad feeling. A minute later we walked by this alley and there those weird eyes were. I tried to warn everyone, but then the dream ended.”

Shaking her head, Riss sighed. “Are you really sure you don't want to tell anyone else about this? We don't know all of the effects the drugs might have had on you. Maybe the dreams mean something.”

Lex snorted a laugh, but in the back of her mind she was thinking about seeing herself through a curtain of water the way she appeared now. “It's probably nothing, just worry because everything's going so well.”

“You're really stubborn, you know that?” Riss asked as she shook her head again and went back to typing. “I know it probably won't make you feel any better, because the team who's after us is in the general area, but I'm still showing that they don't seem to have any active leads on us.”

“I'm glad to hear it,” Lex said, leaning her head back in the chair and resting her it on the back. She awoke some time later, hearing Riss getting ready for bed, and she crawled back under the covers, dreamless for the rest of the night.

The farther north they got, however, the more frequent the dreams became. By the time they'd reached the Seattle area and only had a few tour dates left, Lex had been having the dream at least once a night. She tried to be quiet and not wake anyone else, but she had enough disturbed sleep that she'd become irritable. Lex tried to bite her tongue a lot because of it and fade into the background, but she knew the others had noticed.

Casey had put it down to Lex being tired of the tour. “Don't worry,” the taller woman had said to her friend at one point, “not too much longer now and we'll be headed home.”

Lex had nodded and smiled quietly, still reluctant to tell Casey the real problem. She kept her fingers crossed that they'd just finish the tour in the next few days and return home with everything exactly the same. Unfortunately, on the first date they were supposed to play in Seattle proper, Lex woke after little sleep to find Kate in the next bed, a t-shirt over her head. Victor stood nearby watching her, a look of concern on his face.

“She said that she had a headache and was having trouble focusing her eye,” he told Lex when she asked.

Lex returned his look of concern as she watched her friend for a few minutes, then gestured Victor over to the little kitchen area where Lex poured some coffee for him and started tea for herself. “Let's let her sleep a while longer,” Lex said in a low tone. “Hopefully she'll feel better when she wakes up.”

Kate did awake a while later, but she seemed out of sorts even when she emerged after her shower. “Do you need any headache medicine?” Lex asked, then produced it from her purse when Kate nodded.

The group had made it to the venue on time and everything went smoothly once they arrived. The club seemed sizable, like it would hold a couple hundred people on the main and balcony levels. People had already started to arrive as the bands did, and when Jacob's Hammer went on an hour later, the place seemed packed.

Lex thought the three members of the band sounded great that night, despite the air of slight irritability that had been hanging over the larger group due to Kate and Lex's moods. Lex felt everyone start to relax as they watched from backstage, Kate paying special attention to the bass player and part-time singer. Lex found herself watching her friend as the band started up one of the songs that she knew Jack sang on.

Changing tides under endless waves
I was watching the mindless days roll by
Ever fine, ever blue
The lightening air around always brings me thoughts of you

Wavering in the fire of ages
Singing sounds are born in timid sky
In time, in mind
The morning trains will ever bring me sight of your face


Lex smiled as she saw Kate seem to completely relax for the first time that day, and she tried to follow suit, smirking as she caught Riss shooting her a knowing look over the top of her computer screen.

The crowd cheered Jacob's Hammer's performance for a while once they'd finished their last song, and Lou helped them clear their gear off the stage, then started carrying Alexander's Army's gear onstage. Once they set everything up and Victor had walked them through the sound check, the band jumped right into the performance. They started with a song off their first CD and then one off the new CD. Lex found the crowd active that evening and thought that they seemed to have grown since the time Jacob's Hammer had been on stage. The cheering continued through the beginning of the third song, but as the song played, Lex could tell something felt off. Lex didn't think it would be something anyone outside of the band could detect, but Kate's playing seemed a little out of time.

When they broke after the third song, Lex smiled at the crowd for a moment and bowed, then quickly went over to the guitar player. “What's up?” she asked. “Are you all right?”

Kate held the heel of her hand up to her new eye. “Fuck, Lex, my new eye is acting really funny. I had trouble focusing earlier today, like I said, but I thought it was gone until I got onstage. Now all I can see in that eye is this pair of eyes, brown with red. It's really weird, but I get the feeling they're looking for us.”

Lex could feel her mouth hanging open, and a shudder ran down her spine. As soon as she could get some words together, she asked Kate, “Can you get a sense of how close they are?”

Closing her eyes for a moment, Kate seemed to concentrate, then opened them again. “I don't know, exactly, but they seem close by.”

Lex sighed and glanced out at the crowd as their applause started to die away. “Three more songs and we'll call it quits. I'll let Lou and Riss know at the next break,” Lex said, glancing at Kate, who looked grateful.

She didn't really remember singing the next song, but since it was one of the first ones they'd written, it came so naturally to her by now that she didn't need to concentrate on it. When the applause came up, she ducked back to Riss first.

“Kate says the only thing she can see in her new eye is those same red ones I've been seeing,” Lex murmured into Riss' ear and watched as the other woman's eyes grew wide. “She says they're not far. Two more songs and let's get out of here.”

Riss gave Lex a serious glance as she nodded. Lex stopped by Lou as she returned to her place on stage and stood on tiptoes to reach his ear. “Two more songs and we're wrapping up,” she said. “I'll explain afterwards.”

He looked at her curiously but didn't argue, nodding his head. The next couple of songs Lex sang on autopilot, but she felt more concerned about Kate stumbling through her parts and whoever might be out there looking for them. Throughout the whole ordeal the crowd still seemed enthusiastic, even though a number of people called for an encore as they finished and many seemed disappointed they'd stopped.

They all packed up their things as fast as possible and Lou started moving their amps and speakers off stage. Lex reached for Riss' arm as she walked by. “Go get Casey and Victor and meet us out back,” Lex said, to which Riss nodded and disappeared.

Kate nearly tripped as she carried her guitar case offstage and Lex stood near Lou for a moment, speaking quietly into his ear as he put a speaker down. “Kate and I are pretty sure someone is here looking for us. I thought it would be best for us to get out of here as soon as we could. Can you pack this stuff in the van and help Kate?”

Lou nodded, picked up a huge armload of things, and headed out the back door to the loading dock. Lex rushed around backstage and finally found Laura.

“Look, I'm sorry we stopped so early today,” Lex told her. “You know how Kate was having that headache earlier? She's feeling a lot worse now and we think it would be better if she rested, so I figured it would be better to cut the set short.”

Laura waved a hand in front of her face as if to wave off the idea. “Don't worry about it, Lex. We've got it covered. We'll just play a little longer tonight, maybe dust off some old songs.”

Letting a sigh of breath out that she hadn’t realized she was holding, Lex managed a small smile. “Thanks, Laura. You guys are real friends.”

“Just get back and get some sleep. I hope Kate feels better. If she doesn't, I'll never hear the end of it, anyway,” Laura replied, smiling a little wryly over at Jack and Kate talking.

Once all five of them made it out to the loading dock, Lex had a moment of horror as she saw a large delivery truck and not their van, but after a few seconds that seemed like hours, Lou appeared.

“Sorry,” he explained, “but this truck got here and so I had to move the van. It's not too far away.”

They started walking, Lex trying to walk quickly, but Casey reached out for her arm. “So, what's this about, Lex?”

Lex sighed, not sure how to tell the story. Finally, she said, “Well, I've been having these dreams. I figured they were just nothing, that I was worried. But they were about this pair of weird eyes following me, well, us really.”

She looked over to see Kate staring at her, dismayed. “Yeah,” Lex continued, nodding at Kate, “so when Kate told me that all she could see in her new eye was the same thing I'd been dreaming about, and that she had a feeling they were close by, I figured we should get the hell out of here. I'm sorry; I should have said something earlier. I screwed up.”

Casey looked over at Lou, who returned her glance with a serious expression. “Don't waste time being sorry; it may be nothing anyway. Let's just focus on getting out of here.” She leaned over to whisper urgently into Lex's ear. “And stop acting so freaked out; you're taking everyone else along with you.”

Biting her lip, Lex nodded and then took a deep breath. “Thanks for that,” she replied, giving Casey a shaky smile. “Hey, Kate, let's walk out front,” Lex continued, grabbing her friend's arm.

Kate's worried expression had disappeared. “I can see out of that eye again,” she quietly told Lex, then smiled.

“Do you think that means everything's OK?” Lex asked in hushed tones.

Shrugging, Kate looked forward again. “I have no idea; I just hope it never happens again.” Raising her voice, she turned her head to see Lou. “Hey, how far ahead is the van?”

Lex didn't hear what Lou answered, however, because a chill ran down her spine and there seemed to be a wind rushing in her ears that blocked the chatter around her out. She began to recognize the quiet city street, the cars, and all of the surroundings.

“Fuck,” she said, coming to a stop. Riss nearly ran into her and the others were suddenly clustered around her. “In the last dream I had, it centered on that alley,” she said softly, pointing to an opening between the buildings several yards away.”

Lou and Casey slid to either side and flanked Riss and Victor, and Lex and Kate stood in front. “Look sharp, everyone,” Casey said in a low voice, and then they started moving together. Some of Lex's nervousness melted away at that, because they'd stepped naturally into one of the same formations they'd practiced in the team training she'd insisted on. All the same, she found herself swallowing against a dry throat as the approached the mouth of the alley.

The unearthly calm she often sensed just before a fight fell over her. Five people had stepped out of the alley and stood in their path. At the front a slight woman with a smug look blocked the way, shorter than Lex, her brunette hair in a bob hairstyle and her arms crossed, her expression a smug grin. Behind her was a man whose hair looked like stubble and who stood at parade rest. As Lex's eyes widened, she saw the man leer at Casey and at the same time could feel Lou tense behind her. A slim blonde man half a head shorter than Casey, with artfully tousled hair, leaned against the nearby building. The woman who stood near him, closer to the mouth of the alley, was a head shorter again, her long dark hair in a braid down her back, her arms crossed over her chest, and her head turned away in annoyance. The fifth person was also another woman. The first four wore something similar to the jumpsuits Lex, Casey, and Riss had worn when on a job with the M Agency, but the final woman wore what looked like a one-piece spandex bodysuit. She kept her brown hair in a pixie cut and eyed the group in front of her with suspicion.

“I told you they'd be here,” the one with the bob said, angling her head back slightly as if speaking to the man who looked like he'd been in the military.

“Whatever, Alison,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“Who are you people and what do you want with us?” Casey's voice rang out loud in the previously quiet street, and Lex couldn't help sliding her eyes to look at her friend's annoyed expression. She seemed to be skewering the newcomers with her gaze, so Lex turned to support her friend, giving the people blocking their path a hard look.

“Oh, don't try to look so innocent!” Alison replied, narrowing her eyes. “Someone in your group was using unnatural power. I could feel it.”

“Don't be ridiculous,” Casey thundered. “We're here minding our own business, not bothering anyone or breaking any laws. There's no reason for you to harass us.”

“It doesn't matter to me how much you deny it. I'm going to take you in and the people back home can examine you and find out if you're telling the truth. It's the same to me one way or the other.” Alison finished and gave Casey an insincere smile.

“So you're a dog for MSI,” Riss said, surging forward for a moment to glare at the woman. “Don't think that'll save you,” she continued, and Alison looked nervously in Riss' direction at that comment. “They'll take you in and experiment on you as soon as they feel like it.”

I guess playtime's over, Lex thought as she took a wider stance between Kate on her right and Lou to her left and slightly to her rear.

Then, a number of things seemed to happen all at once. The woman with the bob scowled at Riss and raised her arm, the blonde man who'd been leaning against the wall disappeared, and the woman who'd been standing next to the blonde said, “You know I'm not going to help you, Alison.”

A heartbeat later, Lex and Kate stepped forward as one, easily skirting the charge of the big man that had been standing behind Alison, now headed for Lou, while at the same time Lex heard a sizzling pop behind the two of them and the smell of something burning filled the air.

Lex gave a quick backward glance to see Victor fiddling with a gun he must have produced from his bag and goggles Lex didn't ever recall having seen him wear. The thin blonde man sat half-leaning against the wall of the building behind Casey and Riss, looking stunned. Lex turned her head back to the front as Kate tapped on her arm.

“Keep your head in the game,” Kate said with a smile that looked to be all teeth. “You know they've got it back there. How about you take the mouthy one and I'll take the one in the bodysuit? It doesn't sound like the third one is going to attack, but if she does, whoever finishes first gets dibs, all right?”

“No problem,” Lex said, feeling her answering grin pull wide. “I should be able to finish this in no time at all.”

“You wish,” Kate snorted, grinning even wider. “I'm going to be done so soon I'll be standing around bored.”

As she approached Alison, Lex's heart iced over as the woman turned in her direction and the orange light from the street lamp caught her eyes. They seemed to glow red even through the strangely colored light. After a heartbeat, however, Lex started to get angry.

“So you're the one who decided to dog us,” Lex growled.

Alison sneered at Lex. “What's it to you?” she asked, but something about her voice told Lex that what Riss had said earlier had shaken her.

A moment later, however, the thought vanished as a sudden wave of pain washed over her head. Looking up, she saw the smug expression back on Alison's face as she stared back at the other woman. After a minute of just enduring it, anger rushed through Lex again. She imagined the pain that Alison seemed to be sending her way as a physical entity and pushed it out of her head. The other woman went from looking smug to panicked and fearful as Lex felt the pain subside altogether.

Lex felt fierce confidence bloom in her as she moved in to engage Alison, but the first punch she threw sent pain shooting up her arm without even touching the other woman. Alison looked smug again as Lex brought up her hand to run it along a curved, invisible surface surrounding the other woman.

“You're a complete idiot,” Alison said with a sneer. “Haven't you ever heard of a force field?”

Lex just ignored the words as she worked her way around Alison, feeling the force field and trying to find a break in it. She felt frustrated until she made her way around the back, and then she became worried, not having found a way in.

Over Alison's shoulder, Lex could see Lou and the ex-military guy exchanging blows. Lou got knocked into a dumpster, and the resulting screech of metal as his body made an impression sounded deafening. The stranger, however, had been knocked to one knee from Lou's blow, cracking the pavement of the sidewalk. Lex thought they seemed evenly matched enough that the fight could go on for some time. While searching the force field, Lex had heard Lou ask Casey to back him up if needed, but otherwise not to join. Casey helped Victor stand as she watched Lou and the other man fight, itching her other palm against her jeans. Victor looked shaken, probably thrown out of the way of the two other men fighting, Lex realized. Riss stood in Casey's shadow, but appeared to be somewhere else, deep in concentration. The woman Kate fought had somehow managed to take a hold of Kate's arm, bent at the elbow and holding it hard enough so that Kate seemed unable to shake loose. Kate kicked at the woman instead, but as Lex watched, she grabbed Kate's leg and held on. To Lex's dismay, as her gaze traveled outwards, she realized they'd started to attract a crowd, including people looking out of nearby windows. It'll only be a matter of time before someone calls the police, Lex thought.

Her mind reeled as she tried to think of how to address her opponent but thought it over and realized how many of their opponents had been using delaying tactics. A wave of fear washed over her as she realized reinforcements may have already been called. “Fuck,” Lex muttered, “we just don't have time for this. Orange!” she called in a voice that seemed to penetrate all the chaos going on around them.

All of her team immediately stopped and drew back from their opponents. Kate looked alarmed for a moment, but tilted her head to the side so that her ear brushed the arm her opponent held. When a glance told her that all five of her teammates had jammed their fingers into their ears, she opened her mouth at the same moment that Alison started saying, “Wait! She's going to—”

“Stop!” Kate yelled as loud as she could manage, feeling the sound seem to condense in her chest just before she let it out.

The silence that resulted seemed unnatural, with the normal sounds of the city still going on at a farther distance. Lex took a long breath out then, turning slightly as she watched the rest of her team start to take their fingers out of their ears. Kate started to struggle to remove her arm and leg from the now frozen woman's grasp and Lex rushed to assist. When they got her free seconds later, the rest of the team had gathered around Lex and Kate.

“Let's go,” Lex said, but then had an awful realization that as soon as the people here got free, she and her friends would be pursued, likely by people worse than police.

She looked up to see everyone watching her and sighed. Lex didn't want to exercise the idea that had come to her, but she did want to make sure everyone would be safe. She closed her eyes and sighed again before opening them and speaking.

“All of you, please go a little way down the street. Try to stop somewhere out of sight of these people here,” Lex said as she gestured at the group they'd been fighting some minutes before. “Put your fingers in your ears and hum, because I'm going to try something. I don't know if it'll work, but I don't want any of you to get caught up in it. Keep your ears covered until you see me walking towards you.”

All five of them nodded and began to move off, but Lex caught Riss' arm as the other woman turned to go. “Could you lend me that black hoodie you have in your bag?” Lex asked her. “I thought I saw you wearing it before we went on stage.”

Silently, Riss took off and unzipped her backpack, then handed Lex the sweater before she walked down the street with the others. Lex watched them until she could see them stick their fingers in their ears and then she turned back to the unmoving circle of people. She circled them, trying to find a spot where they would all be able to hear her, but she would be seen at a minimum. Finally, she found somewhere to stand and pulled the hood over her head.

Looking at the woman who'd said she wouldn't help Alison, Lex smiled ruefully. “I'm really sorry,” she said in a quiet voice and then took a deep breath and felt the power gathering in her. “Forget us!” she cried, feeling the words pour from her like a wall of sound.

Lex tried not to look any of the group in the eye as she turned to walk down the sidewalk, but her eyes slid across those of the woman she'd addressed earlier and she felt her stomach twist at the blank look in them now. She tried not to hurry as she walked to rejoin her team, but she put a hand up to them as she approached to let them know everything had been done.

“Let's get to the van and get the hell out of here,” she muttered as she rejoined them. “Don't run or do anything else to bring attention, but let's keep moving.”

“Right,” Casey replied, shepherding the group along.

Casey took the wheel while Lou settled in back, Riss sat in front, and the other three sat in the middle seat.

“Is everyone OK?” Lex asked once they'd begun moving. She mentally cursed herself for the waver in her voice, but looked at Victor to start with.

“I'm fine,” he said, looking a little embarrassed. “I just hit the wall a little hard when the big guy tried to smack me. I dodged most of it, but what did hit me sent me flying.”

Kate, who'd been fussing over Victor, laughed. “I'm fine, don't look at me,” she said.

“Lou? How about you?” Lex asked, looking over the back of the seat.

He nodded in response. “I'm a little beat up, but I'll be fine. It's definitely not the worst I've ever gotten. I'll be fine in no time.”

Casey tried not to meet Lex's eyes in the rear view mirror. “I'm fine,” she nearly growled. “That guy just grabbed—” she stopped, took a breath, and started again. “He just really pissed me off.”

Aghast, Lex considered what the man might have grabbed after seeing how he'd leered at Casey just before the fight. “Sorry to hear it,” Lex said, an eyebrow raised. “Riss, you OK?”

Riss nodded and turned to face the back of the van. “I'm fine, but none of the security cameras in the area will ever work again, and any modern car within a three block area will need to have some of its computer parts replaced before it'll move again.”

“Hell, you were busy,” Lex breathed, her eyes open in wonder. Riss smirked in return and turned back to face the front of the van.

“So, what was that, anyway?” Lex asked as she turned to Victor.

The man beside her grinned as he took something about the size of a paint ball out of his pocket. “Well, it's something I'd been thinking about for a while,” he responded. “Some of these little batteries they're making these days can take a big charge. I guessed that if I could figure out a way to get them to discharge all of it at once, it could stun most people. Once I figured out how to make it fly through the air, I weighted it so that the capsule will fly with a certain orientation, break on contact, and push the prongs into whatever the capsule hits. Once both prongs contact something, as long as it's any kind of conductor, the full charge will be expelled.”

Lex turned the little thing over in her hand a few times before handing it back. “How did you hit that guy, though? He must have been moving amazingly fast: it looked like he just disappeared, to me.”

He chuckled. “Oh, so you noticed? Well,” Victor continued, pulling the goggles off from around his neck, “I built these with a number of capabilities, like night vision, but one of the experimental things I built into them was a sort of movement predictor. Riss helped me out a bit with some of the programming,” he said, looking ahead at the other woman with grin. “The goggles and the gun are wirelessly connected, so the predictor tracked the guy, because he was too fast for me to see, and let me know when I should fire. I wasn't sure if I'd calculated the speed of my own reflexes correctly or the speed of the gun, but it must have been close enough. I was surprised he didn't dodge my shot; I think he might have been fast enough to do it, but I don't think he was paying me any attention.”

Victor fell silent then, obviously still thinking about the encounter. Kate leaned around him so that she could look at Lex. “You know, I was kind of pissed that you stopped things where you did,” she said, a pout on her face. “Why did you cut it so short?”

Lex sighed. “We were starting to draw a crowd, people looking out their windows and stuff,” she responded. “I figured it would only be a matter of time before someone called the police, and I was worried that they had other people coming from the labs. Besides, I know no one would want any of us to get hurt.”

Kate tilted her head to the side, considering. “I guess you're right about that. Why did you have us go down the block, though?”

“As soon as they snapped out of it they'd just be after us, and they'd probably have MSI and the police and everyone else tracking us down, so I did the first thing I could think of,” Lex said, her voice small and unsteady. She could feel all of the blood draining from her face and straight to her churning stomach. “I told them to forget us. And, of course, any bystander within earshot. I have no idea what that will even do to those people.”

She fell silent then, staring at the van's carpet, and everyone was quiet all around. After a few moments, however, Lex started to feel hot waves of nausea roll over her.

“Stop the car, please, Casey,” she asked desperately, her hand over her mouth. She managed to hold it together until the van pulled to a stop at the side of the road and she could pull the door open, and then Lex threw up anything that remained of their long-ago dinner.

Someone pushed a couple of paper towels into her hands and a bottle of water, and in a few minutes Lex stopped trembling so much and felt ready to set off again. As she came back into the van, however, she saw Casey watching her.

“Hey,” Casey said, half-turned in the driver's seat to look at Lex. “You and Riss switch places, emo girl. Come on up here.”

Riss silently undid her seatbelt and moved to one of the bench seats in the back while Lex moved to sit in the front passenger's seat. She settled in and took another drink of water, waiting for Casey to have her say.

The taller woman waited until they'd begun moving again before she spoke. “Look, Lex,” she started, glancing over at her friend before looking back at the road again. “I can see you're feeling guilty about what happened, but you need to let it go. If anything, you and Riss and Kate are the reason that we got out of here before we got ambushed, and because we all worked together as a team, we got out.”

“Yes, but I should have—” Lex started, but was cut off by Casey's strong voice again.

“Yes, you should have said something sooner about your dreams, but you didn't know. You won't do that again in the future right?” Casey threw Lex a hard look after her comment, but then she smiled.

“Right,” Lex responded, trying to return a grin. “I won't do that again.”

“OK, so lesson learned,” Casey said briskly. “And I don't want to see you moping because you think you did something bad to those folks in Seattle, either. They knew what they were in for, and they attacked us first. Hell, when we were on one of those teams we knew we could be up against anything, too.”

Lex nodded way too many times, looking down at her hands. She heard Casey sigh beside her and then continue speaking.

“Look, if it's any consolation, I doubt you permanently damaged them. Your commands wear off after time, right? Who knows: maybe it didn't work anyway.”

“If it didn't, we're going to have a lot of things to worry about really fast,” Lex said in a low tone, then winced as the pain in her head that had started when her opponent had attacked her started to throb.

Casey glanced over at her again. “Head bothering you?” she asked, to which Lex nodded. Casey nodded in return. “Well, we're not going to be able to do much until we get home, anyway. Take some medicine and go in back with Lou and sleep. I'm sure you'll get some ideas in the morning and we'll all sit down and figure out what to do next.”

Suddenly feeling a lot better, Lex nodded. “OK,” she replied, then more quietly, “thanks, Casey.”

Casey smiled at her as she got up and moved to the back, and Riss gave Lex a nod as the computer genius moved back into the front passenger seat.

Forward to Chapter 32
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Comments about anything you liked or that you thought could be improved are extremely welcome!


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  • 1

Typo?

(Anonymous)
“Stop!” Kate yelled, as loud as she could manage, feeling the sound seem to condense in her chest just before she let it out.

Pretty sure that Lex is supposed to be the one doing the yelling. :)

Yes, I was confused about that too, we don't know all Kate can do but that didn't seem to fit in with the animal derived nature of her powers

You're absolutely right! Thank you for being my second set of eyes, and for reading and commenting!

Condolences and best wishes to you and your family. What a sad situation. I hope things work out as best as they can.

Storywise, I'm glad to see our band finally confront the pursuers. They came off quite well, but I'm sure that won't be the last of it.



Edited at 2014-11-21 05:25 pm (UTC)

Thank you...it's definitely been a lot to try to deal with, so we're trying to just take it one day at a time. On the bright side, one of my sisters and her husband have become my niece's guardian and she seems to be adjusting well (thank goodness for the ability of the young to bounce back!).

It was pretty much inevitable, even though I think they hoped they could 'hide in plain sight' forever. You're quite right about that...next moves for everyone coming up soon!

Thanks for coming by to read and comment!

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