A Matter of Fact: Chapter 3 (part 7 and Epilogue)

A Matter of Fact: Chapter 3 (part 7 and Epilogue)

By Camospam

July 10, 2007. Ottawa

 Cameron was dragged out of bed … in a rather abrupt and forceful manner, Ken pulled the mattress off the bed frame, dumping the sleeping boy onto the floor, then his RCMP guard kneeled down beside him drawing his pistol and aiming at the door.

“What!!! it’s like - two in the morning?” moaned the groggy youth

“We’re under attack” supplied Ken, motioning the boy to lower his voice

“Not another drill!” whispered Cameron

“This is all too real” cautioned Ken. “The perimeter has been breached; a sentry called in spotting 5 mercs in assault gear approaching from the South, his call was cut off”

 Cameron looked at his protector, he was not in uniform instead dressed in his sleepwear, if anything about Ken he was always prepared - to see him without proper clothes: Cameron knew it had to be serious.

“How far away was the perimeter set up at?” asked the boy slowly coming awake

“Two blocks” informed Ken

 Adjusting his vision Cameron began making a sweep around the safe house to assess what was happening “Wow! Theres a lot of people outside, I’ve counted 30 so far, all of them in combat gear. I can’t tell them apart.”

“Your detail has 12, that means …”

“Yeah. I get what that means” sighed Cameron “There’s guys out there: out numbered and outgunned - trying to protect me”.

“It could get ugly.” Admitted Ken. “Do you have your protections up?”

“Let me try something” Bowing his head in concentration Cameron focused hard, extending himself further than ever before, the boy visible shook from effort, grunting and straining for minutes before facing Ken.

“I’ve had to incapacitate everyone around us … including our own men, I’m sorry”.

 Ken looked at the boy for a long moment making mental calculations “How long will everyone be down?”

“I’ve blocked neural pathways, they won’t wake till I release them” informed Cameron

“Good. I’ll make a call for support, is anyone hurt?” asked Ken

“Three had been knocked down - better get an ambulance just in case” added Cameron

 Once Ken made the call, the two dressed to brave the night air. Walking amid the fallen men, Ken pointed out his RCMP contingent - both sides wore near identical gear, which had made it hard to distinguish who was who, it also spoke to the fact that the assailants had access to government tech. Each of Cameron’s guards was waken and ensured healthy; with Cameron personally apologizing. The revived force then began collecting up and securing the weapons while restraining the attackers.

 As the reinforcements arrived, those officers who had engaged in hand-to hand fighting got checked out, with only one man suffering a broken arm: which Cameron helped repair. All told there was twenty assailants, none had identification on them but considering the guns and armour they used these had to be trained soldiers.

 The RCMP confiscated the transport trucks used by the black ops team, it had been parked within Cameron’s range and the drivers were also among the arrested men, as soon as the ‘bodies’ had been gathered and shipped away; Cameron released all his safe house’s neighbours to let them return to their peaceful sleep, undisturbed and unaware of the near war that could have broken out. Once freed the safe houses surrounding area resumed usual activity with a dog barking a distance aways.

 The safe house was located in a nice quiet residential area of Ottawa with beautiful tree lined streets, the house used was a welcoming two story home that Cameron had just begun to feel comfortable in, his second story bedroom becoming his safe haven, that sense of security having been shattered.

 Ken and Cameron joined the detail as it took the arrested covert team to secure holding facility, and once all had been confined Cameron removed the neural blocks and stepped back to watch the men awake: finding themselves in jail and completely screwed. Included within the confiscated weaponry was tracking equipment that linked to bugs which had been placed on the vehicles used as part of Cameron’s protective detail.

 Cameron was offered a bunk in a secluded area, and the boy settled in to resume an interrupted dream. So much for life and the carefully crafted plan he’d made, it was now in shreds; the trail which was to have started July 16 was now postponement to August 7th . He would be arriving late to Whateley now – not exactly the first impression Cameron had wanted to make.

July 13, 2007. Somewhere beneath Ottawa

 Cameron once again found himself relocated, now being moved to a new, better, stronger safe house. Since arriving he was having difficulty keeping occupied, sure there was his remote school work which had helped pass many hours, but all work and no play makes Cameron… uptight.

 One thing about it: this safe house was certainly safe - but lacked the house aspect. The RCMP had put him up in an old bomb shelter from the cold war days, they told him it had been built for the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, considering the telltale 60’s decor it might have been pretty posh 50 years ago.

 To be fair a few renovations had dragged the bunker: which he nicknamed the ‘Dugout’, into the new century: like a wide screen TV in the Rec room and Wi-Fi throughout, but with Cameron having a difficult time zeroing his sight onto motion pictures; TV didn’t interest him, although he would tune in Jeopardy nightly and get somewhat rambunctious - nothing like Annie’s crew back at the Care Centre mind you, but once his wardens started chipping in it became a ritual that they all seemed to enjoy.

 Ken had requested that he be allowed to remain on ‘Cameron Detail’ and given his relationship with the boy, it was granted. Ken helped to alleviate the boredom; and had somehow arranged shipments of all sorts of broken items to keep Cameron on his toes, so that - and during his wanderings Cameron had repaired most anything that was broken in the Dugout.

 Today for excitement: a meeting had been scheduled with an RCMP official which Ken had no knowledge about - and couldn’t provide Cameron any ‘inside’ information.

 Cameron sat alone in the large meeting room that had a plague above the door reading ‘Cabinet Room’, he was working away on his laptop when the knock on the door announced his meeting guests’ arrival. Cameron yelled “Its open” to the two men waiting at the door.

 The first to enter was Ray Martin; the Special Investigations Officer that Mike Williamson was working closely with, the second man was introduced as Yvan Garrick: an RCMP Chief Superintendent. Cameron could only imagine this had to do with the court case so asked if there was any news about the trial. Ray assured him that Mike and Karen had it all well in hand, however - since the assault team, the RCMP had re-evaluated their security arrangements: Mike and Karen would be joining Cameron in the bunker shortly as a safe workspace, it would also become their accommodations while in Ottawa. Having company sounded great to Cameron.

 Yvan was not a man to dally about and got to the point “Cameron: would you be interested in working for the RCMP?”

 Curiosity piqued, Cameron asked “What would I be able to do?”

 Yvan elaborated how he had been tasked to review all the reports which had been generated concerning Cameron: the assassination attempts, the train wreck, and rescues. It had become apparent to him that Cameron could be of great assistance to the Force; especially considering his ability to effect capture of dangerous individuals without conflict or damage.

 It was Yvan’s firm belief that the RCMP would benefit greatly having a resource like Cameron available for neutralizing hazardous individuals and dealing with risky situations. Cameron carefully considered what the man had said, but it really struck home when Ray said “Please”.

 Cameron expressed his priorities: first the trial, then attending school. Should there be situations in which he could provide assistance during that time frame he would gladly support the RCMP.

 The men readily agreed to Cameron’s terms, it became obvious that the men had planned ahead since it was a slippery slope to be hiring a technically underage minor, however it turns out that a long forgotten clause remained on the books which allowed for hiring a person with specialized skills, plus it had no age restrictions attached. It felt sneaky but was legit: Cameron was hired as a ‘Scout’ assigned to Special Investigations with the temporary rank of Special Constable. All in all - Cameron felt very special at meetings end.

July 16, 2007. Ottawa

 Cameron tore into the box that had been special delivered – when your bored it’s the little things that brighten your day. The box contained a jacket and shirts with ‘RCMP’ emblazoned on them, sure he could have peeked into the box but where’s the fun in that. Donning his new duds there was little chance he could be mistaken for anything other than being associated with the RCMP, the big bold reflective lettering stood out worse than his eyes at midnight, at least he wasn’t expected to carry a gun or arrest people – two points everybody agreed upon in negotiating the job.

 Cameron settled down and got to business: working on his latest school assignment, when the Dugouts PA system blasted out, alerting everyone (except those who’d died of fright) that he and Ken were needed to attend a meeting in ‘Cabinet’. Cameron looked up at the huge horn that was the speaker in his room – ‘that’s one thing I shouldn’t have fixed’ muttered the boy.

 Upon entering Cabinet; Ken was already seated and had been informally introducing himself to the other members of Ray’s Special Investigations Operations Team. Aside from Ray it consisted of two men and a woman.

 Looking at the assembled folks: Cameron could tell there was more to this ‘Special Investigations’ team than just the name. Ray was normal, however the three others – they each had different signatures: a) the lady: Pamela Robertson, code named ‘Smith’, she was medium height but very thin so looked gaunt, however she also had a field emitting around her head that looked like Saturn’s rings: Pam was introduced as the teams’ technical support and being a gadgeteer. b) next was Al Koenig, a French Canadian who stood just below six-foot-tall but had a barrel chest and thick arms, he had chosen the code name Roche de Boule, but answered to Roche (Ken said it translated as ‘the boulder’), he shared energy traits with Grace so when he was described as an exemplar it made some sense to Cameron, although Al was also something called a PK Brick. c) Then came John Bastain; who Cameron already knew, Cameron had noticed John had an odd appearance before but now being introduced as a teleporter - Cameron was beginning to sort out what his sight told him as energy streams rolled out from and around him then would cascaded into John, John’s code-name was Leap.

 Ray; who everyone had been calling ‘Bossman’ headed the briefing, he set about explaining that Outlook would be joining the team temporarily, with Ken riding shotgun since Outlook was officially un-official. Ray started by opening Ken’s file which contained numerous awards and notations of merit: many stemming from his mixed native heritage; a talented marksman, fluent in French, English, as well as 3 native dialects, in the top ten of the class in scholastic marks (Cameron chuckled recalling what Ken had said about winning a contest: babysitting Cameron being the prize). Ken received approving nods from his new teammates.

 The teams’ eyes turned upon Cameron as they each appraised the kid sitting amongst them. Not having won the man’s confidence Al asked “What’s it do?” pointing his thumb at Cameron from across the table. He and John exchanged heated words to which Pam added fuel to the fire, from appearances the team had not jelled at all and it had come to feuding between them, noting that Ray had not inserted his authority – Cameron stood and addressed his vocal teammates “To answer your question: He can drop you in a heartbeat”.

 Roche rose quickly to the implied threat, scooted his chair away from himself as he leaned far over the table to sneer “I would like to see you try boy” Cameron observed Roche’s protective field pulsating.

“As you wish” replied Cameron, the man simply flopped onto the table top like a sack of potatoes pushed off a truck.

 Ray wasn’t shaken – nor did he seem overly concerned, just asked “Is he still conscious?” to which Cameron nodded an affirmative “Good, just leave him be and lets continue, shall we?”

 The remainder of the meeting set out the rules under which Outlook could engage in conflict, not being a full fledged officer he was going to need to be supported and protected by each of them - since he would not be carrying a sidearm nor have the authority to arrest someone. After explaining Outlook’s roll Ray put the question to the room: seeking the commitment from each team member whether they would agree to work with Outlook. When asked; Roche could blink once for no and twice for yes, the two blinks ended his enforced timeout.

 ‘Smith’ distributed gear to each of the ‘newbs’: phone’s of her own design which were satellite linked, having GPS, audio and video recording features, and a Taser – only Ken’s Taser was enabled, in explaining the phone ‘Smith’ showed them the earbuds which let them communicate to the others on a secure channel called ‘Com’. Smith then supplied Ken handcuff’s rated for exemplars, Ken was issued a highly modified revolver in place of his field issue. Pam then handed them both batons that would stun – Cameron looked at it and tested it out but handed it back saying “Don’t need it, but thanks”. Smith then explained that the clothes Outlook wore had been made from a new fabric that was bulletproof, Ken was to receive his uniform of the same material soon.

 Ray approached and addressed Cameron in front of the team “Welcome to Special Investigations: Sergeant ‘Outlook’” handing Cameron a badge and shaking his hand.

 Al objected “Boss, you can’t be serious, he outranks me!”

 Ray looked at the team as a whole “Outlook alone is responsible for twice the number of arrests than all of you combined … also, it’s the only rank that the union reps would allow us to put him in for his job classification. If you have issue with it: bring it to me in private”.

July 17, 2007. Ottawa

 The Dugout had an open area which was re-designated as a Gymnasium and some exercise equipment was set up, Cameron had been trying to spend some time each day to strengthen his muscles and build stamina. Ken had been working with Cameron teaching him how to roll and fall without hurting himself, it was helping to develop better movement and more fluid motion.

 Al’s entrance into the Gym had not gone un-noticed by Cameron as he and Ken continued to practise, Al stepped onto the mats they had been using - barking that it was his turn, Cameron recognized the man’s belligerence noting how his skin was flushed and his fists opened and closed in anticipation of a fight. Ken and Cameron began to leave when the man demanded “Not you boy! Time you learned something”.

“Some other time Roche” responded Cameron with a slight bow before turning to leave.

 The man raged “Now!” reaching over he grabbing Cameron’s shoulder in a vise-like grip, the sickening crunch of Cameron’s’ shoulder blade echoed through the room. Cameron took a knee cradling his left side wincing at the pain. Ken rushed to place himself between the two.

“You idiot” yelled Ken into the man’s face.

“The twerp had it coming” retorted the man with smugness.

“He’s just a kid!” demanded Ken.

“Yah, so what! he’ll be out of our hair now, and good riddance” spat Al.

 Un-noticed by the others Cameron had stood, stretching his arm and rotating it nodding his approval.

 Looking past Ken; Al grunted “What? You a regenerator?”

 Cameron simply replied “Nope – something completely different.”

 Ken cut in “Cameron, get some distance.”

“Ken, one thing I’ve learned; bullies love to bark a lot but lack any real teeth.”

“I ain’t no bully like you’ve ever seen before BOY!” shouted the brick around Ken who had tried blocking Al.

“It’s best I give you a warning” resolutely said the much smaller youth.

“I don’t care how fast you heal, you’ll not be waking up till next week, if ever” snarled the man as he flung Ken across the room his body striking the weight lifting bench hard.

 Cameron watched Roche amp up his brick field, Cameron took the readiness stance that Ken had showed him, but didn’t flinch as Al telescoped his roundhouse punch towards Cameron’s face – the big man grunting from his exertion, Cameron calculated the force to be roughly 3 tons but it only came to within an inch as his kinetic defence prevented the blow from connecting.

 Sir Isaac Newton had expressed what happened next this way 'for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’, since Cameron had not absorbed the force of the punch it rebounded back into the angry mans right arm: which was still confined by his own PK field. Al’s hand, wrist and forearm bones splintered into small fragments, all of them - up to the elbow, it would have been worse if he wasn’t an exemplar.

 Shock etched across the man’s face once realization of the injury he had sustained began to register, his arm hung at a disturbing angle since it had no internal structure to support it.

“I suggest you get that looked at” informed Cameron as he walked over to give Ken a hand. Al used his good arm to hold his injured one against his body and left the gym fast. Cameron could see that Ken had been hurt; his ankle was sprained and he would get some big bruises elsewhere from the rough landing, having Ken sit on the bench Cameron carefully eased his friends pain then began to fix his injuries. Ken limped his first few steps until he convinced himself that he was no longer hurting.

“Shall we see what they have for lunch at the Cafeteria?” asked Cameron.

~o~O~o~

 Ken, Pam, and Cameron shared a table in the Cafeteria, the offerings coming from the kitchen had improved now that more people had started working and living in the Dugout; which Cameron had just suggested as the new name for the bomb shelter. The three had been talking about how SI (Special Investigations) looked to be moving in wholesale to the very secure facility, so far Ray had brought in more support staff along with his ‘Field Operatives’, so including Mike’s people there was nearing twenty occupying the ‘Dungeon’ – the name Pam just proposed.

 Mike and Ray entered the dining hall and easily spotted the three and approached, bringing an additional chair to join them.

“Cameron, Ken. Can we have a word?” asked Mike, after sharing a look the two nodded their assent.

“You should stay too Pam” added Ray.

“John got Al to a hospital, the prognosis isn’t good” spoke Ray trying not to involve the entire room in the conversation.

“What happened?” questioned Pam.

“Would you two care to tell us your side of the story” offered Mike.

 Ken spoke up “Yes sir, we had been in the Gym, I was helping Cameron improve his co-ordination by teaching him some moves, Al interrupted us and assaulted Cameron, he injured both of us, then when Cameron protected himself, Al was hurt.”

 Ray turned to Pam “Smith, I need you to please review surveillance footage from the Gym. We are getting two very different stories” glancing at Cameron “Al wants to press charges”.

 Mike added “He is being kept at the hospital, it looks like the doctors will have to amputate the arm. Do you have anything to say Cameron?”

 Cameron took a long deep breath and held it as he collected his thoughts “Do you think it right for a person to live without conscience?”

 Mike weighted his response before saying “No, I don’t think it would be right.”

“Then I am guilty on two counts: I could have walked away, and I could have healed Al” admitted Cameron, turning to face Ray he added “There are jail cells located down the South corridor, I suggest you arrest me.”

 Pam looked aghast, and Mike rocked back in his chair saying “No, no, no”. Ray sat straight and sighed “Ken, please escort Cameron to a cell, then come and fill in a complete report. Pam: those video’s please.” He rose slowly and left with Mike taking off after him – their voices carrying as they went down the hall.

 Ken was shaking his head as he stood and showed Cameron the way to the door, Ken did not walk with his normal vigorous stride, instead he seemed to labour with each step “I don’t get it kid, you have every right to charge him with assault” Ken swung the cell door open and motioned Cameron to enter, the lock clicked into place as the door closed.

 Leaning against the cold metal bars, Cameron replied “I’ll tell you after you’ve made your statement, if your still interested in hearing it?”

“See you later kid” remarked Ken as he left and slowly walked away.

~o~O~o~

 Ken sat in the chair he’d dragged closer to the bars, he’d finished his account of the incident over an hour ago and the report was officially submitted to Ray, but it took him time to build up the resolve to return and hear the boy out. Ken leaned forward, his hands linked together and his arms resting on his legs, he drew in a breath as he looked with heavy eyes at the boy “Spill.”

 Cameron smiled at the reference, he was seated on the rooms cot facing Ken, his hands clasped propping up his head. “Did you ever get bullied as a kid?” he asked.

“No, not really” responded Ken.

“I’ve faced a few; at school – in the neighbourhood. I ran home crying plenty, the worst was when Mom dragged me to a bullies’ house and argued with his parents – lets say I was never able to live that down. Dad talked to me about why bullies act that way, and he tried to show me how to protect myself. Putting it simply: I am not going to be brought down to his level – ever again.

 Mystified Ken asked “What do you mean?”

 Cameron continued “Al, the MCO, Frankie down the street: none of them. Each bully wants to own you – get the better of you, know they can push you around and get their way. I’m not going to play that game.”

 Cameron stopped to check that Ken understood “There’s more, I have to walk on my own two feet now - and I’ve noticed it’s a great big world, plus I have to do it without a safety net. When Al attacked us: you said I was ‘just a kid’ like I had an excuse for playing in the ‘grown-ups’ sandbox. I’m sure you can understand why Al would be concerned that I would be a liability to the team, but there’s no excuse for how he acted.”

 Ken mused for a minute “So … what then, your going to let an insufferable jerk win by having you suffer in the cooler.”

“If Al had known there was a camera in the Gym, he wouldn’t have made a bogus claim. He has chosen the tune for himself and will have to dance to the music. But consider this: If I had whined and made a fuss - nobody would look at me with any respect, and all anyone would ever do is treat me just like a kid.” confided Cameron.

~o~O~o~

 Laying on the cot, going over the voice exercises Marcus had taught him, Cameron heard footsteps coming down the hall; turning to look through the walls he saw Mike and Ray coming towards him, Cameron rose to be seated before they reached the cells bars that opened to the hallway.

 Upon seeing Cameron, Mike grabbed a cell bar and nearly yelled “Cameron! Come on – get up. You’ve been cleared of any wrong-doing.”

 Ray positioned himself stiffly before saying “Smith retrieved the Gym’s video and got the audio from both your and Ken’s communication units. Your free to go.” He waited a second before adding “Al’s claim is unsubstantiated. Did you want to press charges against him?”

“No, I don’t think that will be necessary” answered the boy as he moved closer to the door “How is Al?”

“He’ll be going into surgery tonight … being an exemplar they can’t anesthetize him; he’ll have to watch them take his arm.” informed Ray.

 Cameron then asked “Can you get me to the hospital before his operation?”

 Mike chipped in “Should only take a couple minutes once we get you out of that cell, you got the key Ray?”

 Ray patted his pockets “Ahhh, no actually.”

 Cameron looked at the two of them “seriously!” then shaking his head saying “fine” the jail cell door disappeared and he walk through the opening – restoring it once he’d past through it but now it had a key inserted into the lock.

 The two men stood motionless for a moment staring at Cameron – both not knowing just what to think right then.

~o~O~o~

 The hospital was not too far away, and en route they drove past Parliament: the first bit of sightseeing Cameron had been able to do in Ottawa. Ray lead the way to Al’s room and he entered first, directing that Cameron and Mike wait outside; their conversation was somewhat vocal.

 Cameron moved about the hallway and noticed that a young boy was in the surgery preparation room next door. Since the door was open Cameron knocked before entering quietly saying “Hello?” receiving a ‘hello’ in reply he walked in saying “Hi, I’m Cameron”.

 The boy: who Cameron found out was named ‘Timothy’, had been in a car accident, his mother was in the same hospital and couldn’t come see him before he was getting operated on, Cameron scanned the boys’ injuries and saw that his back was badly messed up – hence the traction he was in. Cameron spoke with Timothy for a few minutes explaining that he had spent a lot of time in hospital too and asked if the chocolate pudding here was any good?

 Timothy became animated saying that the pudding was by far the best food in the place, he could choke down most of the other stuff on the plate knowing he got pudding afterward. The boys laughed together in agreement over that. Cameron had; during their conversation, been able to repair most of the damage that had been inflicted, he would still be sore while the swelling went down but he would no longer need the surgery and Cameron noted on Timothy’s medical chart that he wouldn’t need to go under the knife.

 Mike leaned against the doorframe having watched the interchange, he smiled as Cameron walked by him; both having heard Ray calling for them.

 Al was laying in bed, his arm had been prepped, the hair shaved, the skin disinfected, and someone had drawn a dotted line indicating where the amputation was going to be. Al looked at Cameron and gave out a dejected sigh “Have you come to gloat?” he said with a tone of resignation in his voice.

“No Roche, I came to offer to knock you out for your surgery” responded Cameron.

“I … I would be glad if you would” reasoned Al.

“Unconscious or asleep?”

“Will I feel anything if I’m asleep” questioned Al.

“Probably.”

“Unconscious then please.”

“Alright, you’ll be out for a solid eight hours, I’ll let the doctors know” instructed the boy, Cameron then switched off Al’s mind and he slumped down completely unaware of his surroundings.

 Ray asked “Shall we go?”

 Standing bedside Cameron asked “Give me a minute please” Cameron set about knitting the fragmented bones back together, rebuilding the cartilage, then re-attaching the ligaments.

~o~O~o~

 Al awoke mid morning, having an intense feeling of dread: his world was in shambles because of his arrogance, he knew he should have handled the boy differently – worked with him maybe, get him ready for the rigours of ‘Field’ work, instead he had to be the big-man, try and scare him off.

 The most disturbing part was that the kid had even warned him: but he was too proud and stubborn so ignored it. Wincing at the twinge of discomfort, Al remember the Doc’s saying he would feel ‘ghost pain’ afterwards; he just didn’t think it would be so real.

 Absently he scratched an itch on his right thigh – then paused for a moment, raising his right arm he held it in view and slowly rotated it looking at his hand, wrist and forearm, he touched it with his left hand and pinched the skin. He let his arms drop as the emotions welled up inside, he let loose a choked laugh as his eyes fought the build up of excess fluid.

July 20, 2007. Ottawa

 Cameron, Ken and John Bastain stood at the railing, the overspray left droplets upon their skin – the roar so loud it made speaking difficult.

 Leap had taken the newbs on a hop to show them how his teleporting ability worked, it was pretty straight forward; once it had been explained, before John could teleport he needed to be in motion then jump into the air to minimize his contact with anything solid: like the ground, hence his code-name Leap.

 John’s ability was proportional in that he alone could ‘port’ great distances, if he carried gear or someone else the distance was reduced, so if he took a lot with him it was short hops or as he called them ‘bounces’. John had just taken Cameron and Ken for a quick look at Niagara Falls which helped demonstrate the action needed to ‘port’ and become familiar with the sensation: Ken didn’t take to it very well and leave it that shall we?

 The three stood at the viewpoint watching the huge waterfall when ‘Smith’ contacted them over Com.

“Decimal is up to his tricks; Bossman would like Outlook to meet him” said Pam.

“Location?” asked Leap.

“Downtown Toronto, sending you the co-ordinates. Have fun” quipped Pam.

 The three took their practised positions and made the leap.

 The alley was unoccupied as the three appeared, it took a couple moments for Ken to get his sea-legs, Cameron guessed something wasn’t on the up and up: “John, who’s Decimal?”

“How does one describe ‘Decimal’” hhmm’d John “he surfaced almost ten years ago, not quiet a superhero – not a villain that we know of either. The MCO hate him something fierce, local folks love him, the police treat him as a nuisance and call us if he makes an appearance.”

“Is he dangerous?” questioned Cameron.

“Best as we can tell: he’s trying to help people, but the MCO tend to trip over themselves trying to catch him - and end up blaming him for their mess” chuckled John.

“Are we trying to capture him?” was Cameron’s next puzzled question.

“Nah, we’d just like to talk with him honestly, he’s one slippery character” added John with an ever-widening smile “Al’s almost caught him twice now”.

“So, see if the kid has better luck?” piped in Ken.

“Something like that” was John’s reply “Smith: any further intel?”

“MCO are in pursuit, passing your position in three” was her instruction.

 Looking out the mouth of the alley the three watched as a small man around a foot and a half tall went running past, closely chased by two suited men barely a step behind with their arms stretched out trying to grab him with only their fingertips occasionally skimming him as he taunted them, Cameron nearly blew a gasket at the sight – who knew real life was funnier than cartoons!

 Moving out of the alley Cameron watched as the small man dove under a parked car, the MCO agents split up to box him in, when one of the agents knelt down to look under the car Decimal grabbed him – pulling him under the vehicle and wedging him fast “Bob!” called the other agent as he ran over to assist his partner, Decimal tripped him as he rounded the car and quick as a wink he was on the man’s back riding him rodeo style as he fell to the ground, before the agent could react he found his hands secured by zip-ties and his foe blowing a raspberry in his face.

 Having watched the shenanigans Cameron applauded, it registered to the tiny man that he had an audience and took a bow.

“Nicely done. Bugs Bunny would be proud” spoke Cameron as he casually sat down on the curb “Would it be okay if we spoke for a minute?”

 The man shook his head indicating: no – pointing to the RCMP printed on the boys’ jacket.

“Alright, better amscra before more MCO show up” hinted Cameron, making no move to prevent the man from fleeing on foot.

 Ken and John who had kept a distance, walked up to Cameron with uncertain looks, looking up at his companions Cameron asked “Do we have to help the MCO?”

 John lent a hand to get Cameron to his feet, and then they freed the stuck and bound agents.

 The agent that had been suckered under the car who Cameron gleaned was ’Bob’ started tearing a strip off of the three SI officers for letting Decimal get away, the other was staring questioningly at Cameron until his eyes got real big with a look as if a light bulb just came on.

“Bob, we’re outta here” said the enlightened agent.

 His partner scowled at that replying “Dan, I want to put these bozos’ on report”.

“Now!” added Dan as he hooked onto Bobs’ arm and dragging him away.

“That was – interesting” stated John.

“Fascinating! can I say fascinating?” quipped Cameron

“So; why did you let Decimal go?” pondered Ken “You could have just – you know, stopped him!”

“Did either of you spot Decimal’s twin across the street? Or their … okay what do you call a third twin?”

 Ken and John looked at each other with amused expressions. “Triplet” chimed Pam over Com.

“Thanks, triplet – riding on top of the bus that went by” continued Cameron “I think I have a lead on Decimal. John – see that office tower, eighth floor, corner window. Can you ‘port’ us in there?” to John’s affirmative reply.

 Ken didn’t look happy but joined the leap, the office space they arrived into was vacant, empty except for some furniture that remained from the last tenant, however laying on a desk was a spitting image of Decimal but four feet tall, Cameron kept the others back as suddenly Decimal grew to five feet – then quickly became six feet. The man stirred: moaning then opened his eyes, his shock at seeing three people in what had been his secret space alarmed him, but he was too tired to fight, with a sigh of resignation he said “You caught me, take me in.”

 Cameron spied a bottle of water and granola bar in a nearby bag which he retrieved and gave them to the man. Holding out his hand Cameron said “My names Cameron, what would you like us to call you?”

“Crooked nose?” asked the man.

“Yes, well: you can blame the parental units, its’ my name” Cameron explained.

“Rob, call me Rob” said the man reaching up from his prone position to shake the offered hand, Ken and John each introduced themselves and assisted Rob up when he felt he could sit.

“Rob, we are not here to arrest you, the RCMP would just like to talk with you” informed Cameron to prevent the man from panicking or doing something foolish.

“So you’ve said, but first I need to know how you found me?” was Rob’s terms.

“Very well. I could see energy lines linking you to your - other selves, all three pointed to this office. What is your ability called? Multiplier?” commented Cameron.

“Some have described it like that, I basically break off into smaller pieces of myself which spreads my mass between them, so technically I’m a divider” offered Rob sliding off the desk to see if his feet would carry him “I think I can walk, are we going downtown?”

“Think you can hop?” asked John.

~o~O~o~

 Ray and Decimal had a long meeting together back at Ray’s office in the bunker, when finished Rob located the team in the cafeteria to get taken back home by John, before leaving Decimal announced that he would be attending the next RCMP academy class in Regina: Ray had asked him to join the Mounties – with hopes of him being assigned to SI when graduated.

July 25, 2007. Ottawa

 The staff had jokingly started a contest to come up with the best name for the bomb shelter that had become headquarters of Special Investigations, the bulletin board in the Cafeteria listed suggestions: ‘The Dungeon’ and the ‘Pit of Despair’ looked to be the front runners but ‘The Shire’ was gaining favour too. Since the shelter had been constructed to house government officials and staffers; there was amply office space at the ready, separate areas had been portioned out between Ray’s team and Mike’s ensemble of lawyers.

 Overall Cameron was glad there was company now, but the constant demand for his attention was beginning to be a burden, and it had worn him down, he was spending the morning in his room doing school work on his laptop when Smith knocked on the partially opened door.

“Hi Cameron, are you alright?” asked the gadgeteer sticking her head into the room.

“Yeah, fine! just been working on school stuff” replied Cameron not looking up from the screen “something I can help you with?”

“Mike’s been looking for you, you’re not on Com.” chided his teammate.

“We’ll it’s not like I’d be anywhere else than here” noted the tired teen pointing to the drab surroundings.

“They do have you on a short leash don’t they” sympathized Pam, pausing a moment before adding “Mike needs you in Cabinet.”

 Cameron walked the hallways towards the now familiar meeting room, looking inside before opening the door, within sat Ray and Mike with six people Cameron didn’t know, two of them mutants. Knocking on the door as he swung it open Cameron stepped inside and greeted Mike and Ray.

“Cameron; please come in” responded Mike “The MCO is claiming that the trial should be dismissed because you’d be influencing proceedings by using paranormal powers, these folks are here to interview you and conduct some testing to determine if you’re Psychic.”

“Let me guess: all previous test results are disputed - and these new tests shall be administered by the MCO” asked Cameron receiving an affirmative nod from Mike “Do we have a means to ensure the results don’t reflect their bias?”

“Dr. Carpenter here” motioned Mike to the man setting up equipment “is from Arkham. He will record this interview (Cameron visibly cringed at the use of the word) and will provide the final summary to the legal panel for assessment. The others are: Ms. Newcomb, Mr. Pascal – both psychics, and Mrs. Orson - a wizard, they work for the MCO. Next are: Wanderer and Starling, independent psychics that have agreed to be impartial third party observers.”

 Cameron sized up the panel, who was each returning the favour, Cameron however spotted a number of unusual objects the MCO contingent had brought to do testing with. He had no doubt that this was going to be a scam, seeing an opportunity to mess with the MCO Cameron asked “When do we begin?”

 Ms. Newcomb placed on the table between them a deck of cards and a shuffling device, “This is a standard psychic test, the cards have four patterns: square, circle, triangle, wavy line” as she showed Cameron what each card looked like from the deck she held. “Tell us what the next card will be. The dealing machine will deal out the cards so I don’t influence the outcome. Fair?” Cameron nodded agreement.

 Cameron looked at the little machine and dove into it’s inner workings, it held a little something more, snuck into it was a printer head so each card would be printed to match whatever was instructed: Cameron traced the wiring to a voice processor and a wireless connection. An idea came to mind. “Is anything needed before we begin? Do you need to shuffle the deck?

 Ms. Newcomb checked the machine, a green light indicated it was set “Please proceed.”

 Cameron took a moment, his finger tapping his lips to indicate thinking deeply “A circle” stated Cameron and the machine spat out a card, turning it over Ms. Newcomb revealed the circle, Mr. Pascal smiled that the trap had been set.

 Cameron understood that the machine had been keyed to his voice, so next said “wavy square.”

“That’s not one of the patterns” protested Ms. Newcomb.

“But I’m certain that’s the next card” said Cameron reaching over to turn the card that the dealer dispensed.

“Don’t touch it” demanded Ms. Newcomb.

“Then, please, show us the card” requested Cameron.

 Ms. Newcomb flipped the card to show the wavy square.

 Cameron pondered for a second then announced “Now I’m seeing – a blank card.”

 Ms. Newcomb refused to turn the card so Wanderer took over, sure enough he showed everyone the blank card.

“How about a duck on a wavy line” questioned Cameron.

 Wanderer who sat closest; turned the card to show exactly what Cameron had said, a duck sitting above the wavy line. Mike and Ray glanced at each other with masked smiles.

“Anything you’d like to see Dr. Carpenter?”

“Try an Octopus” said the man.

“Good one. Next card is an Octopus inside a square” called out Cameron.

 Wanderer simply flipped the card; letting everyone see the stylized Octopus sitting inside a square.

 Cameron hadn’t been able to determine what made Wanderer special yet but he had an energy field so must be a mutant. Wanderer had opened up the dealing machine and pulled out the stack of cards ready to be printed and showed it to Dr. Carpenter then around the table.

“I think this test has been rather informative” stated Starling “Who wants to be next?”

 Mrs. Olsen handed Cameron a crystal shard almost six inches long, instructing him that it sensed magic, Cameron was to hold it for a five minutes to get it attuned then the test could begin, Cameron immediately saw the wiring inside that connected a light to a battery, it also had a switch that was triggered remotely, looking at his ‘testers’ he saw the trigger in Mr. Pascal’s palm. Cameron drained the battery then waited for the five minutes to end. Starling was watching him very closely – it was a touch unnerving to just have her stare, she had the same signature as Rachelle but with a difference so Cameron guessed a type of psychic.

 Mrs. Olsen checked her watch “Good, times up. Now focus on the crystal, try and make it glow.”

 Cameron looked at her curiously “How do you make a crystal glow?”

“It reads your essence, the stronger your essence the brighter it will glow, just focus upon the crystal and it does the rest.”

“If you say so!” Cameron held the crystal up near his face and stared, he noticed Mr. Pascal frantically pressing the trigger, but Cameron continued to hold the crystal and made strained facial expressions as if trying to force it to work.

“It’s broken” muttered Mr. Pascal.

 Lowering the crystal Cameron asked “How can you break a crystal?” Handing it back to Mrs. Olsen he suggested “Here, you give it a try”.

 Taking the offered crystal, she held it up and looked into the opaque interior. Cameron sent a slight touch of energy to the light inside and it flashed dimly then grew to a small intensity making the crystal glow. Mrs. Olsen had a surprised look but handed the crystal back to Cameron as directed by Mr. Pascal with her adding “Seems to work fine”.

 Cameron took the crystal back from Mrs. Olsen, during the transfer it had gone dark again, Cameron held it for a minute rotating it slowly with nothing happening, quickly Cameron tossed the crystal “Here Mr. Pascal, you try” the man reacted instinctively and caught the object thrown at him, once in his hands Cameron flashed the light and the crystal glowed brightly – far brighter than it had in Mrs. Olsen’s hands.

“Why Mr. Pascal, you told us you were a Psychic” commented Cameron.

 Mr. Pascal grumbled as he put down the crystal “Dr. Carpenter, I propose we have the subject perform your new polygraph test.”

“Quite right, I’ll just need a couple minutes to set it up” agreed the Arkham representative.

 Arkham’s polygraph was a new spin on the old take; it still relied upon how a body reacts to lying such as tensed muscles and pulse rises, the new was that it checked subject temperature, chemical responses, and electrical impulses in the brain. The improvements increased effectiveness to almost 100%, although it was still in development.

 Cameron would only agree to undergo the polygraph on condition that one of the MCO testers would as well. Mr. Pascal took him up on his condition.

 Dr. Carpenter needed to secure Cameron to a chair: his arms, legs and torso had to be bound with restraints to keep him from moving as it might skew the results, Cameron considered his position for a moment, how that he would be helpless, so took protective measures. Dr. Carpenter finished his preparations and sat near to Cameron.

“I will ask you a couple questions to ensure the calibration is correct, then the questions everyone has agreed to after that. First: Is your name Alexis Cameron Burke?”

“Yes” Dr. Carpenter checked the machines output.

“Now lie to me: Are you playing hockey?”

“Yes” The machine made some ticking sounds.

“Good, now: Are you taking a polygraph test?

“Yes.”

“Are you lying to me?”

“No.”

“Are you a Mutant?”

“No.”

“Are you lying about being a Mutant?”

“No.”

“Are you Psychic?”

“No.”

“Are you lying about being psychic?”

“No.”

“You are not a Mage?”

“Yes.”

“Are you lying about being a Mage?”

“No.”

 Dr. Carpenter asked questions over the next half hour, however when the question about being a boy and his age the machine gave readings that indicated lying. Cameron calmly explained that the questions as asked couldn’t be answered to satisfy the machine: he was both 13 and 21 years old, as well he had been born a girl and was now a boy. Dr. Carpenter asked his questions again to be more specific and the results reflected a truthful response.

 Cameron had kept an eye on the MCO testers, each had been struggled to get out of their chairs, but found their clothing was bonded to the chair along with the chair secured to the floor, all they could do was sit through the testing. The glances they gave each other spoke of frustration and worry.

 Cameron was released from the test chair and it was offered to Mr. Pascal. The man was furious and refused to submit to the test: Ray in a less than gentle manner assisted him into the polygraph chair to then be strapped in and held down as the doctor hooked up his machine.

 Once secured Ray released the man who was ready to spit nails.

 Cameron turned to the doctor “Now Doctor, I wanted this next testing to demonstrate something that could become an issue and get challenged in court. You may benefit as well to build confidence in your polygraph as an effective instrument to determine truthfulness. I happen to have the ability to impel a person to tell the truth - even against their will. I hope you don’t mind being part of an experiment to illustrate the effect”

 Dr. Carpenter delighted in the proposed tests, and readied the machine, Wanderer asked how Cameron was able to force the truth from someone “It appears that the light from my eyes hits the optic nerve in such a way that a person cannot excuse what is true – nor can they suppress speaking that answer.” Cameron added “I have been building light fixtures to mimic that effect, maybe Dr. Carpenter would like to examine those another time?”

 Cameron sat across the table from Mr. Pascal keeping his visor in place, he began to ask the man questions:

“Is your name Pascal?”

“Yes.” The machine fluttered.

“Are you lying about your name being Pascal?”

“No.” again the machine baulked.

“Do you want out of that chair?”

“Yes” the machine was quiet.

“Doctor do you have what you need to calibrate the machine?” The man nodded “Good, lets get this started then” stated Cameron removing his eyewear; looking at the man “Are you using an alias to hid your identity?”

“Yes”.

“Do you work for the MCO?”

“Yes”.

“Did the MCO send you to discredit me?”

“Yes, they want the trial stopped”.

“Did you come here with rigged tests?”

“Yes, the cards, the crystal, and another we didn’t try”.

“Are any of you actually physics or wizards as you claimed to be?”

“No, none of us have abilities.”

“If you failed to discredit me; had you been instructed to kill me?”

“Yes, we were trying to bluff our way until an opportunity rose, you being fastened in the chair was when we would make our move.”

“Did you attempt to kill me while I was restrained in the chair?”

“Yes, we couldn’t get out of our seats to attack.”

“Are you in any pain?”

“No.”

“Do you feel like you’re being tortured?”

“No, I don’t want to tell you these things, but cannot stop myself.”

“Have you ever killed an innocent person because they were a Mutant?”

“Yes, twice.”

“Do you remember their names?”

“Yes. Ramone Valdez, and Paul Fullerton.”

“Have you lied to any of these questions?”

“No.”

“I have no further questions for Mr. Pascal, and unless Dr. Carpenter objects; I suggest he be arrested under suspicion of murder. Also, please check his shoes – he has six blades in the soles and monofilament wire in his belt” then pointing to Mrs. Olsen “her necklace is a garrote and her fingernails are poison dipped” next to Ms. Newcomb “she has razor edged cards in her deck and a small pistol in the hollow of her bra. I can interview them later if the Boss wishes.” Turning his attention away from the three stunned MCO representatives - who now had police officers beginning the process of arresting them, he asked the Arkham representative “Doctor, do you have other tests you want to conduct?”

 Dr. Carpenter boggled, he had just witnessed a man confess to two murders and an attempted assassination, however, he still needed to ask “but the polygraph confirmed you are not a mutant?”

“And I am not” supplied Cameron.

“Then how did you just…?” questioned the scientist motioning to his equipment and the three being arrested.

“That might have been a good question to have asked while I was connected to your machine Doctor. But I did answer all the questions asked of me: truthfully and respectfully.” Turning attention to the two observers bringing them into the conversation, Cameron asked them “Is there anything you might be needing in-order to complete your assessment?”

 Starling had hardly taken her eyes off Cameron during the entire ‘interview’, she now spoke up “You have impressive blocks to keep psychics out, would you let me in – it’s the only way I can be certain of your claim.”

“I need you to promise that you will do me no harm.”

“I so promise.”

 Cameron got comfortable in a chair and made an opening for Starling.

~o~O~o~

 Starling walked around the tall white walls, she had walked the entire circumference several times already, but now a small doorway appeared which was being held open for her. As Starling accepted the invitation she found herself standing in a great circular entranceway, her host guided her into a parlour and was shown to a seat, before her was placed a hot cup of tea and a tray with delightful looking sweets.

“You need to try the brownie’s; they’re my Gramma’s recipe” said Cameron as she offered the plate to her guest.

“You are not the same – as who you are out-there?” taking one of the offered squares from the young girl and tasting it, nodding appreciatively.

“This is me, who I think of myself as, maybe in time I will see myself differently.”

“Is this why you hide behind a wall?”

“Out-there, you wear clothes don’t you?”

“Certainly.”

“And you’re wearing clothes mentally to, do you actually need them to keep warm here? or is it your personal preference?

“I see what you mean, mentally you still see yourself as female … and you prefer a wall to keep a separation – I would guess you’re an introvert!”

“Joan my psychologist said the same thing, that I need alone time to gather my thoughts. A wall lets me be private while still being around people.”

“And you have learned to make it into a formidable defence.”

“It became necessary and I had help from a good friend. But – what do you need, how do you know if someone is psychic?”

“I knew you weren’t one once I saw your entrance, a psychic’s mind looks more like a communication hub – ever seen pictures of the old telephone switchboards? That is the best way to describe it.”

 The two had a cordial tea, then Cameron escorted Starling out, and resealed the wall.

~o~O~o~

 Dr. Carpenter was in the process of packing up his equipment, Ray and Mike had been talking to Wanderer when Starling and Cameron re-joined them, the two had only been ‘away’ for a short time but they had talked for nearly twenty minutes. Wanderer desired to know about the card trick – how Cameron knew it was a fraud, so Cameron dis-assembled the clever little machine to show him the built-in printer, Ray commented “that’s the first time I’ve ever seen where the house doesn’t win.”

 Cameron gave the scientist a hand with his gear and asked “I hope you have enough information to make your report” shaking the Doctors hand in thanks.

“That and more” said the man with wide eyes nodding his head in amazement “I have to ask; The boys in the lab would plotz if you came to us for testing?”

“I think not Doctor, but if I change my mind I’ll give you a call. Thank you.” commented Cameron as he left the room.

~o~O~o~

 Cameron was sitting on his bed reading one of the books Mike had given him when Ray knocked on the door. “You enjoyed messing with the MCO today, didn’t you?”

“How often do you get to torment your tormentors?” sassed the boy.

“True, true. Those three will be behind bars for the foreseeable future” added Ray with a nod of appreciation.

“Seems only fair” posed Cameron.

“Smith told me your getting a case of cabin fever” asked Ray stepping deeper into Cameron’s bedroom, looking around the small quarters with bare walls and no amenities.

“I suppose the décor is wearing a little thin on my nerves” sighed Cameron with a sweeping gesture at the drab grey / green walls.

“I would imagine so, a bit Spartan for my tastes, but you’re the only one of us that actually lives here – we all get to go home. Do you have a home?” sympathized the Boss.

“Mom always said ‘Home is where the heart is’, I don’t think mine has settled into one yet” confided the youth hanging his head low.

“No family?” questioned Ray.

“No sir, all gone. I still had a grandmother alive after the accident, but she died while I was in a coma. Turns out she left me the family homestead back in BC in hopes I would recover - but I’m not ready to return there. Can’t deal with the memories just yet.” supplied Cameron..

“Understandably, it must be hard to wake up one day and ‘poof’ its 8 years into the future” pondered Ray

“I’m coping … it’s just that sometimes I feel so out of touch; I have more in common with people twice my age, I simply don’t ‘get’ most cultural references, I’ve missed out on movies and music, what I knew as being new is now ancient history, and what’s now new I can’t see well enough to figure out.” After a moment continued “Fitting in with kids my own ‘age’ is the worst: we’re on different pages and I feel like an outcast, of course the whole gender thing isn’t a cake walk either” said Cameron after giving the points consideration.

“You have every reason to be angry” reasoned Ray.

“It isn’t anger, frustration perhaps. I don’t get why the MCO blames me when none of this is my fault – I didn’t ask for any of it” whined Cameron getting upset.

“You didn’t, and its unfair, the issue is: it’s the hand you’ve been dealt, do you sink or swim” comforted Ray.

‘You do realize that when you mix up your metaphors like that it gets hard to follow” teased Cameron.

“It’s how I make sure people are paying attention” joked the man.

“Well, everyone says ‘the boss is always right’. I choose to swim, its why I’m going to court” Cameron said resolutely.

“I thought as much.” reasoned Ray “Cameron, if you need some quiet time - close your door and turn off Com from now on, I’ll let personnel know that you deserve privacy. And I promise I will make a schedule for you so we don’t just drop stuff on you unannounced like what happened today.” Moving to the door he turned and added “I’m also assigning you an office.” offered Ray.

“Thanks Bossman, I appreciate it” said Cameron as a smile grew onto his face.

July 28, 2007. Ottawa

 Smith’s call on Com alerted the team that they had a situation developing, a newly manifested mutant was creating a stir in Quebec City. Ray had the team gather to be briefed and brainstorm, the MCO had the girl cornered in a warehouse, SI’s info was coming from local police. Bossman asked Smith to call up a map that he took great interest in. “Outlook, have you had your fill of tormenting folks this month or are you game for more?”

“What have you got?” questioned Cameron.

“The warehouse is on federal land, we have jurisdiction: Leap, Outlook and Ken on point, Roche prep a containment plan and be ready to jump. Smith scramble and cover – usual protocol.

“Aye Boss” the team called out as they dispersed.

 John brought them into a spot within ear shot of the MCO command post, Ken had been itching to be the thorn so he took lead in handling the MCO, Cameron had to turn and hid his smirk when the senior agent erupted at the news the RCMP was taking over: French is such a colourful language, full of emotion.

 Cameron and Ken approached the side door to the warehouse, Cameron looked around and found the door barricaded, the girl was facing the main entrance certain that any danger would come from the bay doors ahead of her. “Door is barricaded, debris placed in front and welded fast, I’m guessing an energizer with extra strength given the weight of the debris.”

“Rodger. Need Roche to come knock?” questioned Smith.

“Roche best watch our backsides, the MCO is restless and making plans to enter, so Leap: if you don’t mind making a delivery please. Ken stick close you’ll need to translate”.

 Cameron found a concealed point to make an opening in the wall, he and Ken entered quietly finding that the girl had tried to make a defendable position. Cameron watched her for a moment: she had been crying, obviously scared, yet she stood in defiance ready to fight, she was big: six and a half feet tall (why’s everyone get tall but me he thought) as they took cover behind a stack of tires.

“Confront and confide” spoke Cameron, Ken questioned his call but agreed when Cameron showed him two things: the stuffed plushie at her feet, and the scorch marks on her too small jacket.

 Cameron asked Ken to translate what he said and keep his head down, Cameron moved into the girls’ view with his hands held in front taking a non threatening stance.

“Hello Miss, I am not here to hurt you, my name is Cameron” Cameron spoke slowly so Ken could repeat each word in French.

 The girl reeled in surprise, her adrenaline was so torqued up that she fired a blast which shot from her right hand, the high voltage discharge moved like fragmented red lightning striking Cameron just above his heart. Shock tore her features; in part because Cameron remained standing, but mostly due to her not having wanted to send that bolt. She stood with her hands glowing a fiery red and sobbed, raising her hands to her face but thought better of it and tried to wipe her tears with her sleeves instead.

“Please, let me help you” spoke Cameron hoping to sooth the stressed girl.

You are one with the goons – these mutant haters”.

“We are with the GRC, we’re keeping them from attacking.”

And why is your friend hiding, he is wanting to shoot me?

“He is not as resilient as I am, and I make a better first impression” the girl giggled at that admission; Cameron wasn’t sure just what Ken had said. “My friend showed me how her energizer ability works, it might help get yours under control too”.

 The girl was undecided, but the stiffness in her movement indicated an injury. Cameron dove into her anatomy, she had bullet holes on her left side – it appears she cauterized the wounds to stop the bleeding, but she was still bleeding internally from the damage, even more concerning was her temperature: it was way above normal. “How long ago did you manifest?”

This morning”.

“You might be going into burnout, please let me help.”

No, you seek to trick me”.

 Cameron spotted two MCO agents that slipped in thru the opening he had made, they rushed to get a firing position on the girl, their demeanour showed no interest in anything other than taking the girl down which meant taking her out: on a slab. Cameron scrambled their neurons and they slumped onto the floor in an unmoving heap.

 The frightened girl asked “How?” having seen the men fall down.

“It’s what I could have done to you, but like I said – I’m here to help. My names Cameron.”

R.E.D.

“Your code name?”

My initials, what I want people to call me”.

“Okay R.E.D., may I see about getting your hands under control?”

 At her nod Cameron approached, he gently reached out to hold her hands – she pulled away at first; scared that she might burn him, but did slowly present her hands for Cameron to touch. Cameron could see R.E.D.’s massive energy reserve which he tried to draw off but it only had a minor effect by reduced the glow of her hands slightly, he also saw that panic was driving her metabolism into a frenzy – he feared it would escalate into burnout.

“R.E.D., you need to try and be calm, your power is linked to your emotions: focus on happier thoughts, your also very warm - I need to try and cool you down.”

 Again she nodded.

 Leap spoke over Com “Outlook, the locals are kicking up a stink, Roche has them at bay - but not for much longer.”

“Ken, can you come out please and keep watch. Smith; find us a Doctor.”

“Smith?” asked Red without need of a translation.

“Another friend, on the radio”.

 Smith called back “I have a friendly in Montreal”.

“Give them a heads up, explain her condition. Roche you’re going to have to carry her – shield yourself: she’s a hot one. Leap get the co-ordinates. Ken and I will stick around and watch the fireworks” turning to R.E.D. “We have to get you to a Doctor. Right now!” Cameron reached down and picked up her stuffy, pointing to it he said “We are your friends, we’re going to make sure you’re okay” then placed the toy inside her jacket “Friends are going to take care of you.”

 Roche was running fast after having busted through a side delivery door, he scooped the girl up at speed to which she let out a squeal, Roche then veered towards Leap and they both jumped into the air in mid stride vanishing.

“You have to admit, that looks impressive” confided Cameron.

“Sure. Better them than me, I haven’t been able to eat carrots for a week” confessed Ken.

 The MCO began to enter piecemeal into the warehouse, Cameron and Ken watched them come. All the while Cameron was softly singing
“Carrots are divine, you get a dozen for a dime, their magic” in his best Bugs Bunny voice.

 Ken mocked him “That’s cruel”.

“Say Smith; could I get a confirmation on what made R.E.D. laugh” asked Cameron over Com.

“It works out roughly as ‘I’m the sacrificial stick, and he’s too handsome to let be hurt’” she deadpanned.

“It worked, didn’t it?” defended Ken.

 Smith pipped “It’s good to finally have a code name for you: GQ”.

“Nobody said anything about the abuse when I signed up” remarked Ken / GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly).

~o~O~o~

 The MCO had found their unresponsive men and came towards Ken and Cameron bursting with murderous intent.

“Where is she, she has killed two men” said the head agent his hands a wild flurry of gestures. Cameron released his neural interference on both of the downed agents and they stirred flopping about like landed fish.

“Which two men?” asked Ken looking about.

 The man’s flushed face was gratifying, as he watched his two agents “They have been mortally wounded.”

 Cameron mic’d on Com “tis but a scratch”. Smith’s end was quiet, and full marks to Ken as he kept a stiff upper lip.

 Ken pointed at the men who had started to stand “It does look serious, have you notified their families?”

 The man’s ire couldn’t be contained “You will hand the girl over to us now!” he screamed.

“As you can see, she is not here, we have taken her for medical attention, she has gone into burnout” informed Ken.

 As was mentioned before: French is such an expressive language, their cursing is almost reverential.

“Then we take you in for interfering with the MCO, for certainty this one is a mutant” pointing at Cameron “bind him” directed the head MCO agent.

“If you touch either of us you will be obstructing a GRC investigation. I am Constable Tallman and this is Sergeant Burke” both slowly produced their RCMP identification and badges.

“Pffht” he sounded in disgust “And your MID!” demanded the man of Cameron.

“I don’t have one ...” responded Cameron only to be quickly cut off.

“Then I arrest you for failing to show the MID” delighted the agent at having scored a point.

“I don’t have an MID because I’m not a mutant” finished Cameron.

“Impossible, you must be taken for questioning” dictated the anguished man.

“Or; you can call the number on this card” which Cameron presented to the man; presenting it for him between two fingers.

 Looking at the card “Some kind of hoax not doubt” he muttered as he turned it over inspecting it. He dialed the number printed on it and after following the prompts he spoke with someone, his expression soured which was quite remarkable considering he already looked like he’d been sucking lemons. Handing the card back to Cameron he spoke through clenched teeth “Leave”.

 Ken had Cameron walk ahead of him as they exited the building, Smith pipped “Outlook, Leap is inbound, meet at your original arrival site. R.E.D. needs your help to get stabilized.”

~o~O~o~

 The medical center R.E.D. had been taken to was small but well equipped, it was a private practise with a good surgery. R.E.D. had been placed into a tub filled with ice water, between her burnout and the hot hands it was difficult to keep the water cool enough to do what was needed. The scar tissue over the bullet wounds had cracked allowing blood to discolour the pool. Cameron at first just tried to slow the waters molecules down, but observing the girl he saw that the injury was pushing the burnout which drove the angst making her charge up. Cameron decided to focus instead upon the gunshot wound, the single bullet had gone completely through – but its exit wound was like an explosion when it left and blew much tissue outward, Cameron worked slowly and methodically rebuilding the damaged flesh, the bullets passage had nicked a kidney causing a lot of bleeding.

 When Cameron finished minutes later he explained to the Doctor what he had done and why, they continued to watch her temperature which had at least begun to stabilize, Cameron monitored her spark as it slowly declining as her pain ebbed. The Doctor observed that she was still stressed – so Cameron in desperation drained her built up charge and put her into a deep sleep by spiking her dopamine level. Cameron left the surgery and found Roche sitting in the waiting area. Cameron plopped down tired beside the unflinching man.

“Is she going to make it?” Roche asked.

“The Doc says if the heat is kept down long enough, the burnout flare will pass” answered Cameron.

“She cried on my shoulder, as I brought her in, she cried on my shoulder” mentioned Al.

“She was upset and scared” consoled Cameron.

“She wouldn’t let me leave, I had to hold her hand” continued Al.

“I saw you in the room with her; she needed your help” added Cameron.

“I – I’m the guy that makes people cry… She cried on me.” said Al almost in shock himself.

“I’m going to stick around; see how she is when she wakes up. You can head back” comforted Cameron.

“I’d like to stay” was all the Brick said in response.

 Cameron reached over to pat his knee for reassurance, he let Cameron actually touch him, Cameron gave him a small but heartfelt smile, the two sat together silently into nightfall.

August 20, 2007. Ottawa

 Mike and Karen had made coaching Cameron through the formalities of the courtroom a number one priority, they wanted to prepare him for the anticipated antagonism and verbal assaults that the defence would employ. Cameron had been taken to a tailor and been fitted for suits to make a good impression, now Karen had the unenviable task of creating the right image for presentation to the courtroom, plus teaching him how to tie a tie: whoever came up with the idea of making someone wear a ready-made noose has a strange notion about fashion.

 Karen commented that he cleaned up well but when Smith came in asking for Cameron: looked around, and left without recognizing him, it kinda blew his self confidence.

 Mike had described court proceedings to be like a game of chess, there are rules that had to be followed and certain steps to take, with the judge being a referee that can call ‘out of bound’ fouls. When Cameron mentioned to Mike that he had been hanging around Ray too much since his metaphors were slipping, Mike simple said ‘keeps em guessing’.

 They wanted Cameron front and center: as a constant reminder and focal point, he needed to look respectable and respectful, if they could keep the wrongs that had been done in front of their faces – it would help ensure a win. It sounded like those wrestling matches Granny had liked to watch – define the lines between right and wrong.

 Cameron stood with dwindling patience wrapping the length of cloth around his neck hoping to arrive at a semblance of a proper tie, Ray walked by and noticed Cameron’s dilemma “I’ve lost track of how many times women have said ‘men have it easy by only having to wear suits’, but honestly, Rocket Science is easy compared to tying a tie, especially when your nervous. Let me help – I only know one knot but I’ve managed so far in life with it.”

 Cameron lowered his collar and straightened the tie, “Thanks Boss”.

“Aren’t you taking your glasses?”

“Mike doesn’t want me to, something about throwing them off their game.”

“It’ll make it interesting.”

“I think that’s exactly what Mike is aiming for”.

August 24, 2007. Ottawa

 Four days of being poked at with a stick by the MCO lawyers had resulted in Cameron letting his thoughts wander.

 In the days of the Klondike gold rush, at a location just outside Skagway Alaska, the reporters waxed poetic tales about the riches and adventure that awaited anyone with a goldpan – sadly maybe one in a couple thousand found anything at all, hence why the camp the journalists stayed in was called Liarsville, the next time Cameron came across a TV show that put court in a positive light he was going to toss a brick at the silly thing.

 Cameron had already put up with daily torturous debate over how worthless a person he was: mutant or not, each reference to him was made as an insult, he was infuriated, it felt demeaning to just be sitting there listening to the blowhards spout off – the opposing lawyers took perverse pleasure in highlighting Cameron’s freakish nature: objecting to his very presence in the room and his uncovered eyes drew seething animosity.

 Cameron held tightly to Opus: the only one in the room who could get away with wearing tartan (visibly). Then something interesting happened, Mike took to the floor and thanked the MCO for proving a point he would not have been able to convincingly make otherwise - Cameron indeed was not normal, obviously he was not a healthy 21-year-old woman, and he also wasn’t surrounded by a loving family either, all of which was the MCO’s fault! The trial was not about what Cameron was – but what he was not.

 The judges used the stunned silence as an opportune time to adjourn for the weekend with the gavels bang sounding the days’ end. The MCO posse exited with dour faces realizing they had been suckered into having done the prosecutions job, worse still they would have a very big hole to dig themselves out of – one they had put much effort into making. Karen was certain they would be doing big damage control over the weekend involving long hours, and would be testy when they returned Monday.

 A lone reporter had stayed behind and approached the table Cameron had remained seated at, as Cindi introduced herself to Mike and Karen, she asked Cameron how he had been doing since their interview alongside the highway, the discussion moved to a discrete little café and under Mike and Karen’s watchful eye he provided further details of the MCO’s antics. She questioned them about when releasing the interview for broadcast would be agreeable, Mike took great interest in establishing a timetable and the date was set.

August 25, 2007. Ottawa

 There was a time when Saturday mornings were all about sitting in front of the tube watching cartoons and eating cereal – or as Mom called them ‘chocolate frosted sugar bombs’, Cameron never found that box! but they sure sounded great. Most people had the weekend off so the bomb shelter was quiet which made the alarms claxon sounding off that much more unhinging. Cameron scrambled to don his RCMP shirt and jacket then dashed to the command room, the team trickled in with Leap delivering someone and then be off to collect the next. Ray was second to arrive behind Smith, they had been gathering intel together when Leap brought in Roche.

 The briefing everyone received detailed what was known about a group of thieves / terrorists holed up in a shopping center in Windsor Ontario, they had taken hostages when the robbery had gone south, SI was called up because it was reported that some in the group had shown powers. Mall security had been evacuating the patrons and local police had cordoned the area off. Bad news (if what they had just heard wasn’t already bad) The ‘Knights of Purity’ were onsite as a stop on a ‘good-will tour’ sponsored by Humanity First.

 Ray gave out the assignments putting Roche on point, “Boss, give the kid point – he has better eyes than me” suggested Roche. Leap needed to make multiple bounces to get two people to Windsor at a time: Cameron and Ken went first, Roche and Smith arrived within minutes – Smith went to connect into the Mall’s security system. Cameron and Ken liaised with the local forces and found the ‘Knights’ had offered their services to assist, the locals hadn’t committed to their offer yet; instead saying the RCMP would call the shots, Ken officially declined their help.

 Cameron was brought in to scout out the mall interior by a burly security guard near to where the group held the hostages, from their hiding point he carefully examined the situation then returned to the others.

“This doesn’t add up” Cameron said over Com “Seven robbers, armed and wearing bulletproof vests, none have a signature – so I’d say nobody has powers. Three women hostages which are not bound or guarded, and are acting real cozy with their captors, each ‘hostage’ has small arms hidden on them. They are positioned in an atrium at the intersection of three corridors. There are no banks or jewelry stores in that section of the mall.”

 Leap asked “Your assessment?”

“Pretty sure it’s a trap”

“Do we walk?”

“The question is: who’s the trap for – and why? I say we spring it! Boss; what’s the word?” commented Cameron

“High alert everyone, Smith capture every angle – lets see if we can trap the trappers, your game Cameron” directed Ray

 Cameron detailed how the ‘robbers’ had positioned themselves and what weapons they had, then set about describing how he felt this would play out, giving each team member a role.

 Both Leap and Roche supplied ideas and pointers to support the plan, and once Smith gave a ready signal over Com a collective agreement split the team up.

 Ken gave the locals a modified briefing of what SI was going to do and stayed to explain what was happening. Roche circled to the corridor to the left of the group and took position, Leap did the same in the right corridor. Cameron donned a bulletproof vest and Swat helmet before entering the mall’s main entrance and walked down the hallway towards the group, he watched them closely, how they reacted when they saw someone coming – two pointed their guns at the so-called hostages who had taken a seat on the floor.

 Cameron called out “RCMP. I’m here to negotiate for the release of the hostages” a spotter gave a signal and two of the group approached, they searched Cameron and found nothing, he was taken into the groups middle and he asked “What are your demands? Money? An escape route?”

 The leader sized up Cameron and just said “You!”. The stunner that was fired at Cameron ricocheted off his kinetic field and contacted one of the gun carriers, his spasm looked painful. A shock stick was jabbed at Cameron with the arc of electricity just fading away as the charge died not even having touched the boy, it gave a pitiful beep indicating it was out of juice. The leader grabbed one of his hostages and used them as a human shield pointing a pistol at her head.

“So” questioned Cameron “what has the bounty risen to now?”

“On the floor, spread eagle” shouted the man “Now! or I kill the girl”

“It would be gratifying if they would at least give you guys a warning about me, you’d think they’d have learned something by now!” at that Cameron shorted out all the ‘crooks’ motor functions, post events review showed how they fell over just like bowling pins, Cameron starting to walk around between them; gathering up the assorted guns then throwing the weapons into the water fountain at the atriums center, he hadn’t gotten far when two of the hostages approached pulling pistols and began firing at Cameron – the third was busy calling on a walkie-talkie. Cameron’s energy absorbing ability prevented the bullets from impacting, but a few stray shots smashed store fronts or lodged into walls.

 Cameron ‘tsk’d’: “Interesting way you have of showing gratitude for being rescued” Ken’s message over Com alerted Cameron to a KoP drop ship positioning overtop the mall, so he stunned the false hostages letting them sprawl onto the floor unconscious.

 Time for act two.

 The ‘Knights of Purity’s’ shortstop was the opener, he’d entered the mall following Cameron’s route and was building up speed as he ran down the hallway, Cameron was tending to the fallen; putting them into comfortable positions and disposing of the guns, Cameron was braced but still the impact from the much heavier shortstop ramming into him sent the boy flying across the atrium into a planter box, he tucked and rolled as he’d learned in his lessons, but just knew he’d be feeling that in the morning.

 The shortstop struck a poise of superiority with his hands on his hips and laughed, his team came crashing through the atriums skylight being lowered from rappel lines from above. Cameron stood: taking out his badge and holding it forward “RCMP, stand down, we have the situation under control”. The Knights paid no heed – although a couple scoffed, they unhooked the heavy cable lanyards that had brought them down except for the Catcher who remained tethered, the Knights swarmed around Cameron.

 The pitcher spoke through an amplifier “Surrender peacefully.”

 Cameron sized him up, the suit was a mechanical exoskeleton which was remotely powered via a carrier wave coming from above, the suit had an awful looking paint job – even to someone technically blind, inside was a man in his mid forties manipulating the rig, he was the same man that had been out front when told their help was not needed.

“You are violating Canadian sovereignty and interfering with the RCMP, again – stand down.”

 The Pitchers amplified laugh echoed around the empty mall “We answer to a higher authority than you boy” he fired a projectile that; as it deployed, spread out into netting – it’s webbing crackled with energy. “We came to collect you – they didn’t object with dead if you resist. Please resist.” The net encircled Cameron; wrapping him up tight when the stunner charge burst making the netting flash, Cameron wasn’t impressed and his ‘seriously’ comment as the netting simply vanished made the ‘Knights’ reposition.

 The teams Batter moved closer taking a swing with a metal bat almost eight feet long aimed at Cameron’s head, the bat never connected instead Cameron took the inertia and returned it with additional force directing it into the power suits midsection resulting in the Batter being flung down the East corridor “Roche; piñata coming your way” spoke Cameron into Com.

 The Pitcher tossed another canister which began spewing a noxious grey smoke, Cameron stopped the smoke bomb in mid flight with it vanishing, a second later tinkling could be heard inside the Pitcher’s frame: he was coughing and gasping as smoke worked its way out of the openings in his suit – he popped a latch making the entry hatch swing open releasing a cloud of the gas, the man was gasping for air amid wisps of grey smoke as he tossed away the spent canister that had been at his feet. He was suffering from the customized tear gas keeping his eyes held shut as he wheezed, Cameron dissolved the suits power converter which had been using the energy covering the atrium from the ship above, the power-frame unit drooped: powerless and immobile.

 Shortstop had started another run by looping around the atrium, he was moving fast when he came at Cameron trying to make another connection on the boy, Cameron angled his kinetic field to rebound the impact. “Leap, special delivery – don’t care where” called Cameron into Com, this time the attacking rush sent the “Knight’ careening towards the west corridor; Leap appeared as if in flight and grabbed Shortstop before he landed and away they went.

 Cameron’s back was to the Catcher and his oversized entrapment ‘glove’ came up from behind Cameron, the power frame slammed into him as it sprung the cage, upon closure the cage sent a shock wave to incapacity its’ captive and streams of knock-out gas filled the void within the shut glove, Cameron felt the tug and rapid lifting as the Catcher’s tether pulled him skyward up to the Knights of Purity’s dropship which had taken position overtop the mall to empower the suits. The vessel; once it had its’ payload and bay door snapped closed, began a midair rotation to head North across the border into Detroit.

 Cameron dematerialized his entrapment - the gas had not gotten near his lungs as Cameron sent it into containment in the Warehouse. The cargo bay was cramped quarters which forced the Catcher to stoop, he had expected his prize to be neutralized and give no resistance, he didn’t know what to do when Cameron walked out of his ‘mitt’, the man inside the Catcher suit tried to react by grabbing onto his prize and stop Cameron - who at a glance disabled the power frames mechanical systems and welded every joint rendering the entire unit immobile “I hope you wanted to be buried in that coffin” he said to the man inside the husk of metal. Cameron looked about the ship, it was the launch bay that the Knights had deployed from, he scoured the walls and found a power junction behind reinforced plating, he made an opening by dissipated the metal, reaching in and grabbing the cluster of wires and cables bundled within.

 The KoP dropship had begun to make forward movement when it lurched, the port side dipping and the entire ship shuddered violently, the engines roar grew as they fought to stabilize but it quickly sputtered, the metal groaned as it strained to stay aloft – it wasn’t designed to handle a critical failure in all its electrical systems, it gave a final gasp and dropped from the sky. Ken watched along with the onlookers as the dropship descended out of sight on the farside of the mall, followed by a massive crash.

 Leap was the first to arrive at the crash site, the mighty ship had taken substantial damage with its spine folded and the body crumpled, it lay across a large part of the parking lot with it’s nose blocking a roadway, it was fortunate that the area around the mall had been evacuated and cordoned off, still: a couple of parked cars had been crushed under the airship when it fell – one was the ‘Knights’ own tour bus. John looked around to find a door to get inside the ship but upon trying to open it - it had been damaged and wouldn’t budge, he resorted to banging on the hull and shouting “Are you allright in there?”.

 Leap heard Cameron’s yell from up at the cockpit and he jumped to get closer, Cameron had busted out a window and was with the flight crew, from what John could see the crew was unhurt and still strapped into their seats but unconscious – or sleeping, could be either knowing the kid. Emergency vehicles began to arrive with the fire department setting up ladders to extract everyone out of the cockpit. Cameron was requested to create a hole into the damaged rear section that held the Catcher and his sealed suit was split apart by the fire department using the ‘jaws of life’ which acted like a can opener.

 Leap had returned with Bossman who took charge of the situation, the so called ‘robbers’ had been restrained on gurneys before Cameron released the neural inhibition he had used to drop them, some had injuries that the EMS folks tended to – sustained from when a Knight had stepped on them. The Knights had been removed from their disabled power suits, once the ship fell their power feed terminated and any working units ground to a halt, each of the Knights had been arrested and now sat restrained in a van waiting to be transported to jail. Smith had wrapped up her equipment and made copies of all the footage sharing it with local enforcement and mall security, she had snuck into the dropship and started to snoop around.

 Cameron was being checked over by an EMT in an ambulance, his teammates gathered beside the ambulance to wait as Cameron’s bruised ribs and sprained ankle were wrapped in bandages. Ken lent support as Cameron hobbled out of the ambulance, grimacing when he put pressure on the leg “Okay, next time I fall out of the sky – I want a parachute” joked the youth to his team. Ray had started his debrief before Smith returned “Me likey! can we get one Boss?” she asked pointing to the defunct dropship.

 Cameron looked at the grounded skyship and asked Bossman “What’s going to happen to it?”

 Ray paused before saying “It was used in an attack upon federal officers, I would think it will be impounded and seized – probably sold as scrap metal, I imagine they’ll have to cut it up to get it out of here”.

“Can I have it” asked the injured boy balancing on his good leg.

 Ray should have known the boy would want it, but it wasn’t a question he had been prepared for, the groups Boss made a couple phone calls before he gave Cameron permission. Cameron with assistance moved up beside the husk, Ken asked “what kind of crazy are you?” to Cameron’s wry smile “Like a fox” it took Cameron a moment to build up the charge he needed, the entire dropship picked up a blue hue which grew in intensity then simply vanished, he took some time repairing the roadway and parking lot – leaving the pancake that was the Knights tour bus, and repaired the two cars that had sustained damage.

 Leap asked “How are you with classic corvettes?”

“Them’s some tasty vittles” retorted Cameron looking around expectantly.

August 30, 2007. Ottawa

 The Judges had made a ruling after review of the evidence: deciding that Cameron did not fit the definition of a mutant since he’d didn’t have any genetic markers as commonly used to identify a mutation, henceforth he would not be referred to as a mutant – doing so at risk of being held in contempt of court. That was a blow the MCO didn’t like, their entire focus so far had been to label Cameron a threat only they could handle.

 The proceedings could now proceed into the prosecutions argument and moved into presenting evidence in support of Cameron’s case, naturally the lawyers tried to prevent the MCO’s own accident recording from being submitted, but it got entered using Mike’s original argument again successfully, the recording was watched a half dozen times to explain key points. Each showing was damning with it’s all encompassing display, the MCO’s legal guru’s ran out of objections after the fourth time around as the completeness of the detail left no questions, Cameron cringed in anguish each and every time it played, even if he could only see little snippets of the video – the audio recording tore at his soul, and he was sobbing fully during the last descriptive running to Mike’s supplementary narrative.

 Cameron was shaking, raked with grief and in a state of shock onset from replaying the accident again and again, his nightmares now had new fodder. Arriving back at the shelter; after the second worst day of his life, waiting for Cameron was Marcus and Grace, the boy didn’t say a word as he ran up and buried himself into Graces arms. It felt like an eternity before he regained composure to pull away and welcome his friends. Mike made a point of speaking with Cameron – to ease his own conscience over putting the youth through a most torturous day.

 Grace and Marcus had rooms in Cameron’s area and would stay at the bomb shelter during their testimony, which may only take a day or two according to Mike, Cameron was just glad to have their company and spent every minute talking and catching up with his friends.

August 31, 2007. Ottawa

 Grace / Polaris was on the stand and getting grilled by the MCO lawyer, Mike had already established she was only to be know by her codename, and that was a point being hammered on. Mike’s comment about how the badgering would work nicely into her own court case raised questions from the judges, a point of order was made that a legally established code name was suitable for use in court as it protected a witness and was under precedence from other cases.

 Grace spoke describing her role as the accident recording played yet again, adding her own insights having the recording pause to explain certain points.

 The MCO lawyers smartly didn’t open the floor to why Grace had been arrested so Mike broached that fact, which drew scrutiny from the judges and them asking question to the MCO for clarification – they provided simple yes / no answers. Their cross-examination was almost laughable since her account matched what was visible for all to see on the monitors.

 Marcus / Timbre was next to be sworn in, he also talked about the accident to the backdrop of the recording. Under exploratory questions Mike had him explain why he removed the recording out of the MCO vehicle, his response was intriguing as the MCO had never claimed it was missing – Mike worked that point to a fine edge hinting that the MCO had wanted to keep it from ever surfacing, as evident from how vehemently they tried to prevent it’s use, Mike next drew out what had happened after the accident, how the MCO ruthlessly hunted them for years trying to recover the recording.

 The MCO again had little recourse to the severely damning testimony against them, their tactic of trying to keep silent only drew more attention from the judges whose questions only got answered with basic yes and no answers, or commenting that a response could impede a separate trial.

 RCMP accident scene investigators provided accident details, fully supporting the testimony given, they seemed very pleased that their calculations matched so closely to the footage details that had surfaced later – a feather in that science’s cap.

September 4, 2007. Ottawa

 RCMP evidence was again center stage with the ballistics report, next came the medical evidence – Doctors Kathy and Amanda gave concise depositions recounting Cameron’s coma and injuries. Doctor Samuels testimony about the bullets was like a nail in a coffin when Mike brought out the resultant gender complications and the emergency surgery Cameron had undergone.

 Court was to resume next week, to allow the judges time for other business.

 That night in the entertainment room everyone gathered to watch Cameron’s interview broadcast on TV, his teammates sat with blank expressions horrified as the story unfolded, once it finished they each tried to console the kid as they themselves attempted to deal with the emotionally wrenching details of his story – they had known he had had it rough but they just didn’t understand: till now. It was probably the greatest irony ever that ‘Tales of the MCO’ had been preempted for the special broadcast.

 Cameron was very thankful that Grace and Marcus had stayed, he coped with the emotional rollercoaster he was on - only by means of the strength they lent him.

September 11, 2007. Ottawa

 The courtroom had been pretty quiet with only a few interested parties previously attending, that changed after the broadcast, there wasn’t an empty seat as reporters had been sent to get the scoop on the breaking story that rocked the nation. Curious spectators also came with many holding photos of missing children.

 The MCO visage as ‘Canada’s protectors against the mutant horde’ had begun to crack, and the media was looking for rocks to toss.

 The judges had barely taken their seats when the MCO attacked, they waved the non-disclosure agreement in the air and howled how Cameron had broken a contract. Mike calmly entered his copy of the agreement into evidence, he pointed out that the agreement was null and voided since mediation failed due to the assassination attempts, Cameron was free to speak and had only exercised his right. The Judges after a brief discussion asked Mike “How many assassination attempts have been made?”

“So far a total of nine, at least that we know of” supplied Mike “We are prepared to begin entering that evidence in the coming days to illustrate the prejudice our esteemed opposition holds for my client”. The murmur from the ‘bench’ lasted a minute before Mike was instructed to continue.

 Mike summed up what had already been established, he next brought out a binder that turned out to be the agreement between the MCO and Canadian government, he had marked pages and read paragraphs that established the mandated authority under which the MCO must operate under within Canada’s borders, he paused occasionally and asked the MCO if he was incorrectly presenting the documents contents.

 His reading explained in great detail that the MCO would provide testing of mutants, create files using code-names of registered mutants, provide information storage and share data with researchers and medical personnel, attention was given to when a mutant manifested and would have a ‘grace’ period before having to have testing conducted and then be issued an MID.

 The next section addressed their role regarding the movement of mutants: how the MCO could conduct screening at airports to ensure safe passage for everyone with the provision they could deny travel to unregistered mutants or any mutant that posed a danger to themselves or others from not having their mutation under control.

 Mike continued reading from the agreement, the MCO would assist enforcement agencies: be they federal, provincial or territorial in the investigating of mutant activities that contravene duly enacted laws or may endanger the populous, the MCO’s sole role to provide support to enforcement agencies of a technical nature to help in the identification and classification of mutants thereby aiding in the determination of a potential threat. Mike again asked the MCO if he had made a misinterpretation of the agreement so far. Without objection Mike entered the agreement into evidence.

 Mike next brought out a large blue manual, embossed with the MCO name and logo “This is the MCO manual which describes how they will conduct their operations to meet the terms of the agreement, it can be found at any MCO office or public library”, It too was entered into evidence after Mike had read a few paragraphs detailing how a field agent would work under the direction of an enforcement officer.

 Once more Mike asked if he had made any misinterpretation that the MCO disagreed with, The MCO sought to know if this line of reasoning was going anywhere. Mike straight forwardly replied “I’m am trying to determine under what authority the MCO arrests someone – terrorize them – detains and then conducts interviews unheard of even in medieval times. What in your mandate gives you the right to perform those acts?”

 Mike had set, baited, and now sprung a trap, the MCO made several efforts to backtrack and shift responsibility and attention - but Mike kept on them and pinned them down at every turn. It felt really good to watch them twist in the wind and Cameron was hard pressed not to smile as the gaggle of lawyers attempted to tack a course to get out from Mikes noose, Karen nudged Cameron saying “Goal!”

 After the MCO had failed miserably to save face, Mike continued by presenting a black manual that he introduced as the MCO’s actual field agent guide. Once the MCO heard that: it got their hackles up bad! every possible way to stop it from being entered as evidence was tried, even accusing Mike of theft and being in possession of stolen property.

 Mike produced the envelope and letter from Andre Gatineau: the MCO Director, as being the source of the document. The Judges asked if Mr. Gatineau was available to add testimony, Mike informed them with regret that Andre had been killed by a car bomb outside his office by an MCO assassin. After a recess the judges decided that Mike had not broken any laws and the guide could be entered as evidence, The MCO side was outraged.

 Mike tore into the MCO, as page after page was dissected and shown how an agent could quickly classify and categorize any mutant, if they ranked low they should be ‘culled’, however; if ranked highly they could be ‘herded’ through terror and torture tactics – brief details such as the most effective methods to incite panic and fear were listed along with diagrams showing the best points on the anatomy to strike, it was shocking to discover that much of the information was being sourced from Nazi internment camp files. The judges asked the MCO “where are mutant’s being herded to?” when the MCO refused to answer they were charged with contempt.

~o~O~o~

 Grace and Marcus had been present in the gallery for the proceedings but they had to fly out that evening, so a pizza and beer celebration was held (Cameron got root beer) before they had to leave. Cameron’s teammates had taken to the mutant couple and were sorry to see them go, Cameron though had the hardest time letting the closest people to his heart walk away with only a faint promise they’d see him soon.

September 12, 2007. Ottawa

 The courthouse had become a circus, spectators and media vied for seats in the gallery, news crews had set up vans with satellite feeds and a bank of camera men and reporters broadcast updates hourly.

 On the steps leading up into the courtroom people had begun laying wreaths, cards and candles, a pile of plushie animals had also joined the collection – when Cameron walked past the toys he visibly fought a losing battle with tears: with microphones thrust at him he said “I appreciate your kindness deeply, please give these to sick kids, Thank You”. That news bite resulted in Children’s Hospitals across the nation being inundated with donations of stuffed toys.

 Cameron had noted that fewer and fewer lawyers would show up to represent the MCO, Mike had found out private law firms had begun to distance themselves and sever ties to keep from being labeled either anti-mutant or in league with the MCO.

 Mike and his team had been preparing detailed accounts for each of the assassination attempts upon Cameron, he used a timeline chart to show that within 24 hours of awakening the MCO wanted him dead, the first submitted file contained the photographs of Ryan Coddet (aka Codfish) held fast with a poison laden syringe, plane tickets and phone records linking him to the MCO and Mr. Bartholomew Sigil a lawyer hired to suppress Cameron’s case.

 Karen handed Mike folder after folder in succession; ended with the Knights of Purity, the closed circuit camera footage along with sync’d audio provided a telling story how they had acted without any regard for Canadian law when they attacked Cameron and attempted to kidnap him, retrieved records off their ship showed they intended to take him by force into the States and turn him over to the MCO: he was to be taken to a discrete location, tortured and killed.

 Each file had drawn fire from the opposition, trying to distance the MCO from any involvement; but Mike had been able to; with help from Special Investigations, securely attach each attempt to the MCO, as well he tied it neatly into their own ‘standard operating procedures’ citing the page and paragraph as they precisely followed their own prescribed steps.

 Mike had taken a very long time when presenting Cameron’s ‘interview’ at MCO headquarters in Prince George; showing how the agents had followed the ‘book’ to the letter - however the branding had been a local office inspiration. The collective gasp of seeing Cameron handcuffed dangling from the ceiling had warranted asking those with weak dispositions to exit the gallery, since photographs couldn’t be taken: handsketch artists had to work fast to capture images – most of those had to be censored from the public on the nightly news.

 Mike provided the RCMP file regarding three ‘disposal sites’ that had been found, each on property owned by Humanity First or their devoted members. Next of kin had been notified on remains upon which an identification could be made, they still had 12 bodies needing forensic identification. Sobbing in the courtroom directed attention to parents who had lost their child. The numbers of dead and still missing children that Mike provided was staggering.

 The evening news carried the story about what an MCO interview entailed, it was corroborated by a few other mutants that told their own stories. It resulted in picket lines forming at MCO offices demanding to know ‘what have you done with our children’. Posters with faces of missing children sprang up in-front of MCO offices and H1 chapter houses getting vandalized with spray painted swastikas.

September 13, 2007. Ottawa

 Before the days’ proceedings commenced the judges asked for each party to meet in chambers, Mike later told Cameron it was about why had the MCO ended mediation when they could have kept this away from public scrutiny. Politicians were getting dragged into the fray with constituents demanding action, mothers on the TV crying “my baby; where’s my baby” doesn’t win elections.

 At the start of session Mike entered one more piece of evidence into record, it was the personal letter from Bruce Goodkind, Mike had ensured it could be used and been given permission, it carried the acknowledgement that Cameron had been grievously wronged and he sought to correct any part that the Goodkind’s might have had in it, the details of the settlement remained undisclosed. That letter had firmly thrown the MCO under the bus. Mike ended the presentation of his case against the MCO, attention turned to the depleted defendants table, the lead lawyer stood and approached the bench “Your honours, the MCO would like an adjournment until tomorrow before presenting our defence.”

 The judges granted the request, and the room was dismissed for the day.

 Mike and Cameron had received a discrete invitation to join the judges in chambers, as they entered the private room Cameron was introduced to the robed men, standing off in the corner was a women hidden in shadow near a bookcase, the lead judge asked her to come forward with her taking a seat at the large table Mike and Cameron had been shown to. She looked with intensity at Cameron, his eyes still uncovered and shining, he had seen her in the gallery and noticed her aurora. “Miss Selina is a registered psychic, she has a unique ability in sensing and blocking paranormal activity and has been used by many courts to prevent influencing and meddling. She has been in attendance during your case on our behest. Selina, what can you report?”

“Your honours, the young man here has no psychic abilities whatsoever, I have sensed nothing coming from him but waves of sadness and grief: but the entire gallery shared those feelings including your honours.” She paused a moment “however, The MCO has been employing at least two psychics to either harass the prosecution or instigate Mr. Burke into acting rashly”.

September 14, 2007. Ottawa

 The spectators buzzed in anticipation of the courts next revelations, the media was in a frenzy looking to be fed. As the room was called to order, the expectant eye was cast upon the MCO table. The lead lawyer stood and stepped up near the judges’ podium, turning to the audience instead of the judges. “The MCO refuses to participate any further in this farce of a trial, these proceedings are being influenced by a mutants’ psychic powers, any ruling will be biased from that tampering, we request an immediate judgement so a mistrial can be called and an appeal made to the Supreme Court”. The lawyer took his seat without saying anything further.

 Court was put into recess; Mike was called into chambers twice during the break.

 A couple minutes after two in the afternoon the Judges recalled session and handed down a guilty verdict on all charges. The case was now being referred up to Supreme Court.

 It was a bittersweet victory.

~o~O~o~

 Mike called his legal team together for a briefing, he recognized how solidly the case had been constructed and handed out sincere thanks to all, his praise for outstanding efforts made by each of them had resulted in a remarkable outcome, he had no doubts that the trial they all had worked so hard on would come out as a milestone case.

 There was no way of knowing when the Supreme Court might conduct a review, what they might conclude, or when a re-trial might be called. Mike was freeing them from their commitment and letting them return to their own practices or jobs. He asked all to leave a contact number if they wanted to participate should the case resume.

 Cameron wanted to shake everyone’s hand – it ended up being hugs. A skeleton staff would remain to deconstruct the case and see if any holes needed plugging.

September 16, 2007. Ottawa

 The bomb shelter lost a vibrancy that had become the norm, it had become quieter where once the drone of activity had been. Cameron had been spending time in the Warehouse and Workshop keeping busy, but felt the need for refreshment, as he walked the lonely corridors which had become a more solitary place, he heard his own footfall as he approached Mess to get some juice, he jumped out of his skin when the claxon sounded. He backtracked to his room to grab his official gear then ran to Cabinet. Roche was already there – he had been in the workout room, Smith was a step behind Cameron and hurried to set up the board, Leap arrived with the Boss.

 Ray asked Smith to bring everyone up to speed with what had been called in when Ken slipped into the room – he apologized for being late: he had been in the shower. Pam called up a map of Labrador, she pointed to an area along the continents Eastern shore to a First Nations Community. “A bush pilot reported seeing HELP spelled out on a rooftop when he did a flyby, he didn’t see any activity and the runway was scattered with debris preventing him from landing. It is only accessible by air or sea – we are the quickest response. Leap: the co-ordinates for the airstrip”

“This is going to take a lot of bounces, one at a time folks” commented John

 Ken asked “Do the locals speak Inuit?”

“Looks to be a mixed bag; English and French also” added Pam.

 Roche volunteered “Boss, If I go first I can at least clear the runway while Leap brings in the others, the community looks to be a klick or more away.”

 Ray took a minute “Alright, Al clear the runway - keep a heads up, Cameron back him up till Ken and John arrive, Cameron takes point, Smith any concern with the Com signal.”

“None Boss; satellites can carry its ears, video would be grainy at best” supplied Smith

“See if it can give us eyes too” asked the Boss

~o~O~o~

 Cameron strapped on a backpack while waiting the couple minutes it took for Leap to return, Cameron handed the teleporter a sports drink knowing long jumps wore him out faster. The ‘port’ took six bounces (additional leaps) to catch up to Roche, John needed a second to recoup before heading back, Cameron checked the vocal Com link and got a ‘five by five’, Roche clicked in he was to the North moving equipment and trees that had been dragged out to block the runway. Leap waved before his port then Cameron started walking to Roche, Cameron spotted movement! a super fast blur, he cycled through his vision and nearly gaged when he layered energy sources over heat signatures, an animal vaguely looking like a bear was stalking Roche, it was hideous. The best Cameron could decipher was it looked to be covered in cancer, it was reminiscent of what he’d seen inside little Eric, it oozed and pulsed but still had the outline of a bear mixed with a something else: a deer maybe. Over Com Cameron called Roche “On your right in the undergrowth, shield yourself, ugly doesn’t even come close”.

 Cameron watched as the beast burst out of hiding to attack the Brick, his protective field had gone up in time but he was knocked to the ground and struggled with the wildly thrashing thing - this encounter was besting him fast but his field was holding. They rolled about, the snarling beast lashing with claw and fang trying to penetrate Al’s defence, Cameron approached closer and sought a way to help Roche; he couldn’t see its nervous system so just froze the beasts’ muscles and skeleton, it was motionless but in doing so its molecules went into overdrive, Roche barely touched it to push it away when it exploded sending black slime everywhere, Cameron was not impressed as he had to clean some slop away off his clothes. Roche was struggling to stand up but when Cameron looked at his teammates face he saw the same black mass forming around his teammates eyes and burrowing into his skull, given how fast acting this black was he could only think of one thing – his dimension without time: Storage. He had never put anything alive in there before but this infection wasn’t giving him a choice. Roche disappeared into the blue without a trace.

 Cameron Com’d “Situation is extreme danger – repeat extreme. Infectious agent present, Roche is down - I have him stable: I hope. Keep Leap and GQ clear.”

 Smith replied seconds later “Message carried, what’s your plan.”

“I need to find a safe location to help Roche, and learn more about what’s happening here, suggest I head to the settlement, recommendations?”

“I can port in and get you out” Leap put forward.

“I was in as close a contact as Roche, no signs of infection yet, but can’t risk spreading it” said Cameron “Leap get a full medical – look for a black mass similar to cancer - spreads fast – eyes seem most vulnerable. Smith - check for any similar reports, an animal was fully engulfed in the black when it attacked us.”

“Cameron; did it bite Roche?” asked Ray.

“No Boss, he was in his field, didn’t see any physical contact, it could be airborne” postulated Cameron.

“Head to town, Godspeed son” was Rays instruction.

 Cameron walked as briskly as he could down the dirt track that connected the airstrip to the settlement, he removed his visor and put it into his pack so he could better scan the area - only to see that it was completely devoid of life: not a squirrel, rabbit, or bird left. However, mosquitoes and black flies a plenty.

 A personal force field to prevent anything from touching you would be awful handy he mused, frequently checking the area where the black slop had landed - with no infection starting. Cameron was still thankful that he could stop bullets and taken time to refine how he absorbed energy since his first attempts.

 As he neared the houses that the satellite photo had showed him in the briefing, he spotted two more of the black animals, they had just walked past each other as if guarding a perimeter, a third beast rounded a clump of trees - it looked like a midsized bear, it either spotted or smelled Cameron as it barked and began a vicious run at him.

 Not having time to make a better plan he recalled one of the tips from Parks Canada about being in bear country: he charged at it. It didn’t faze the bear beast in the least, Cameron hardened and angled his kinetic field shaping it into a plow blade, which effectively deflected the fast-approaching bear once they almost touched sending it into a boulder knocking it senseless, Cameron noticed as the distance between them narrowed its skin boiled and peeled back – revealing flesh underneath, Cameron ran past as fast as he could.

 A dog type beast had joined the hunt and was moving in on Cameron to intercept him, it would cut off his route into the town so Cameron needed to discourage it. Cameron put a layer of slick lithium underneath its feet and formed a runway to lead it past Cameron’s’ path, the ‘dog’ stood on all fours giving a yip as it spun 360 degrees before slamming into a house broadside: winding it.

 Cameron passed the downed beast as he entered town between two buildings continuing to run, another of the ugly beasts following closely at his heels, Cameron heard the shotgun blast and detected the yelp behind him as the beast dropped grinding into the ground, Cameron slowed once he saw his pursuit had stopped, he moved cautiously up to the downed black beast, its body rising and falling in shallow breaths, as he neared the ‘black’ boiled again as he’d noticed it had done before on the bear, it’s ‘paw’ peeled back to show raw and pitted flesh with exposed muscle tissue having blood that was crusty and flaked quickly, but it definitely was a mans hand. The beasts laboured breath stopped with a final gasp and the body sank as the air left its lungs, the black turned to liquid and the entire body evaporated leaving only a wet spot behind.

“Boy! over here” shouted a man from inside a doorway. Cameron hastened over and slid through the crack that had been made as an entrance for him, it was closed as soon as he had gotten through. The building was a great hall, the single large roomed building that acted as a social centre for many small northern communities. Inside Cameron found twenty-two people, mostly children, and three adults who stood as a barrier between him and the others in the room, it took Cameron a moment to sort out the energy signatures, but these people were definitely all Weres! What he witnesses outside started to make some sense.

“Hello, I’m Cameron, I’ve come to help” offered Cameron as he set his backpack down

“What can you do boy? Except maybe be a night light” sneered the male adult, the only one left in town

“For starters, I have communication out” as Cameron pointed to his Com unit

“Fat good that will do, we have people starving here” complained the man as his arm was getting tugged by a female to his side.

“Then isn’t it fortunate I brought food, which would you prefer: beef, buffalo, or fish? Weres seem to like a high protein diet”

“You’re not one of us boy, how do you know about us” asked the man becoming leery of the stranger

“I have met your kind before; you have complex energy signatures that are unmistakable” remarked Cameron

“Stop speaking rubbish, you can’t see our other forms” doubted the man

“Don’t need to. Human or Animal the energy stays the same” stated Cameron

“George, give the boy some slack, can’t you smell he’s marked, show some manners” interjected the woman who had started more aggressive yanking his arm

“Hello I’m Ruth; Cameron was it? You said you had food?

“It’s not in this pack” grumbled George rifling through Cameron’s backpack

“Never said it was, which is best: buffalo or beef? questioned Cameron

“Haven’t had buffalo in ages” Ruth hemmed

“Do you have means to cook it?” asked Cameron trying to not sound impertinent

“We can light a fire; how much did you bring?” Ruth replied beginning to think the boy was touched and needed humouring.

“A couple hundred pounds of buffalo, more of beef” a table was cleared onto which Cameron brought out several large cuts of raw meat he had placed into his Storage, the lady Weres set about preparing the meat for cooking while George built a fire in the centrally located wood stove, Cameron lent a hand ensuring the fire caught and burned hot. The towns folks had run out of water as well so Cameron filled the empty bottles and the large coffee pot sitting on the stove from out of his Reservoir. As the meal was cooking Cameron was shown around the hall and introduced to the occupants – as he had surmised, the parents had sent the children to the hall for shelter, leaving Ruth, George, and Megan as guardians while the rest of the town fought the attackers, the hall was soundly built and stood up to the attempts to breech the walls – so far anyway. The smell of the sizzling meat said food was ready with Ruth apportioning out the meal to ensure everyone got some.

 The mood in the great room improved vastly once the hunger pains had been chased away and enough drink was to be had to wash the food down, Cameron sat in an offered chair and took a small amount of the roasted buffalo meat. Ruth joined him once everyone was beginning to unwind and relax.

“Are you a wizard?”

“No, I just kept this in a storage space, no magic involved” said Cameron noticing this seemed to relive the woman “Can you tell me what is going on around here? What the black goop is?”

“Five days ago three of the dark arrived, they just tested our defences at first, an incursion now and again. The attacks began in earnest once they knew our strength and numbers, we had a community of a hundred and fifty it’s whittled down to twenty now. We had a couple normals in our midst, they turned without any direct contact, it takes a bite or a wound for the dark to spread to a Were.”

“Did the ‘dark’ start on the normals around their eyes?”

“Yes, they went mad quickly, it twisted them, deformed them. I’m sorry to say it was a mercy to kill them and end their pain. Were take a couple hours to twist, we discovered that silver can wound and maybe if enough used could kill - but it’s not like we have much of that around.”

 George stood quickly and directed everyone to be silent, a faint noise of something moving around on the roof could be heard, suddenly the stoves chimney began to make a rattle and then clatter as it was torn apart from above, pieces of the flue fell to the ground with the fires smoke beginning to enter into the room, a horrendous sound of the roof getting torn up brought fear to the halls occupants. Cameron watched the lone black beast as it shifted about on the roof trying to make an opening big enough to come in through, it tore up small parts to widen the hole. Cameron moved up to the stove and his blue light made the large piece of cast metal glow: he reshaped the stove into a basin then added more material from out of the warehouse until in the middle of the great hall stood a metal tank, Cameron dematerialized the roof under the dark animal causing it to drop flailing wildly into the tank - which Cameron in a blink placed a cover over, looking up Cameron then reconstructed the roof.

 Cameron watched the dark beast throw itself about the thick metal walled tank in vain checking the integrity, it soon relented to the fact it was caught but continued to snarl loudly.

 Ruth came to stand beside Cameron “Why did you bring it in here? No one is safe now”

“Nobody is going to be safe unless we find out how to stop these things” spoke Cameron deep in thought “We need to know a whole lot more about this ‘dark’ than we do right now” turning to face Ruth he reassured her “it can’t get out – there are no openings”

 Cameron tapped on the tank and asked “Hello, can you speak?”

 The only acknowledgement he received was a low growl and another bang as it threw itself against the tank. Cameron formed thick glass in his hands then held it against the tanks metal, the metal shifted to mold around the glass making a viewport, the minimal response did indicate intelligence – he hoped. He set himself in-front of the small window: the beast was misshaped and disfigured but the outline was that of a large cat, his observation seemed to bring the animal pain as it tried to move away from his view, Cameron noticed the boiling black making tiny eruptions as it festered. Cameron alternated his vision until it appeared that the ‘cat’ reeled in agony – the black cancer shriveled and scattered to stay out of direct contact with the light from Cameron’s eyes, the dark was vacating the area around the ‘cats’ muzzle, the longer Cameron looked at the same spot the more flesh was exposed until a persons’ face was able to be seen down to the neck. The face was covered in loose hanging skin and open sores, veins looked like black tendrils set against the deathly pale colour of the skin.

“Can you talk?” asked Cameron to the face who’s features contorted in pain.

“it hurts, it hurts, it hurts so much” was the feeble response from a voice deeply pained.

 Cameron gathered his composure before asking “Do you know who you are?”

“Alan, my names Alan”, he spoke just above a whisper

“Alan. What happened to you?”

“I was fighting – help protect a village – last I remember was getting bit.”

“What todays date?”

“Middle of June” came the distressed voice, his face wincing at the waves of intense pain.

“Can you tell me about the dark that you fought?”

“Small at first, then built numbers by changing villagers.”

“Was it a Were village?”

“Yes.”

 Cameron was watching the black, it tried to return to the flesh that had been uncovered, but it appeared to melt when in direct contact with the light so stayed hidden. Cameron noted Alan’s energy level had faded during their brief conversation, it didn’t bode well. Taking another look Cameron spotted a similarity that grieved him.

“Are you Alan Franklin, son of Doug and Terry?”

“Keep them away from me, don’t let it get them” fear was evident in his clouded grey eyes from the recognition Cameron’s question brought.

“I met your parents, they are nowhere near us.”

“Mom! she will be worried sick” was accompanied with a groan.

 Cameron looked at the wretched sight, he didn’t know how to help or even if it was possible to save Alan, but maybe he could offer closure. Bringing out his Com unit he spoke “Smith, I need to make a call, I will reconnect in a couple minutes” turning away for a second he dialed a number he’d memorized by heart, as it rang he returned to looking at Alan, the black had begun to reclaim what it had lost but retreated under the lights return.

 Terry had been busy in the home office taking care of the books when the phone rang, she pushed away the stack of papers before she reached for the handset. “Hello?”

“Hi Terry, Cameron calling; are Doug and Lynn with you?”

“Hello Cameron, I’m sorry – Lynn isn’t here right now. She and Doug have gone to Lethbridge for parts, you need to call more often you know!”

“Terry, I have Alan on the line with me, I need to tell you that he is in a bad way” The phone was quiet for a second.

“Can he talk?”

“I’ll put him on” Cameron placed the phone up against the tank wall and let it mold into the metal, the phone passed through the wall, then it extended up to Alans ear suspended on a metal outcropping.

“Mom?” Asked Alan hopefully.

 Cameron gave the two as much privacy he could while still needing to keep his sight on the black slime so it didn’t overrun Alan. The mother and son spoke for a few minutes – Alan was so very brave as he tried to mask the agony he was feeling, he had difficulty keeping his train of thought although his emotions tore into him – making it hard to not cry. Cameron had been monitoring Alans energy and it was really waning, his inability to say more than a couple words a result of his unsteady condition. Alan slipped into unconsciousness.

 Cameron pulled the phone out of the tank and ensured it was sterilized, speaking into the phone he told Terry “He doesn’t have long.”

“Thank you for letting him say goodbye” Terry was speaking between sniffles trying to hold back an outburst.

“I wish I could do more” commented Cameron in remorse.

“You gave him love, you can’t ask for more than that” said Terry crying openly on her end.

“I need to go. I’m so sorry” wanting so desperately to console her, the dial tone indicated that the connection had ended, Cameron established the connection back onto Com “I’m back, thanks for your understanding”.

“Cameron. Do you have anything you can update us on?” asked Ray.

“The black goop is a contaminating energy, it corrupts a person on visual contact; first attacking the brain then consumes the body, Roche’s current condition is early stage infection. Were’s seem to be the target, I believe it is making recruits among the Were’s – maybe building up numbers. Of the hundred and fifty in town only 22 accounted for, three original invaders now amount to 9 who are surrounding the survivors.”

 Alan stirred so Cameron broke off Com

“Alan, this is important, what village did you fight at?”

“In Oregon” was all he could supply. His breathing was laboured, his pain had drained him to exhaustion and he had nothing left to fight on with.

 Alan turned his head and looking at Cameron through the window: “My sister” he agonized catching another breath “be good to her” was the last thing he said before his eyes fluttered and closed, Cameron had to bow his head and let out a sob, looking back into the tank the black had covered the unmoving body, the revolting mass writhed as it reaffirmed its hold. Cameron smacked himself on his forehead: he had forgotten the doorway to the dimensional realm with constant light, his Sunroom! It had just enough space to put a thin glass containment tank into, it was a slim chance but he took it, Alan disappeared from the solid metal tank and Cameron put him in the clear tube he’d made from materials out of the Warehouse and tried to impart a spark into him.

 Cameron removed the large metal tank and put it in Warehouse so the people around him wouldn’t be nervous. “Alright, we have some good info now, light at the right wavelength hurts the dark beasts, maybe with enough intensity it could even kill them. I’d like to get some materials brought in, but can’t risk sending anyone out yet” turning to Com “Leap, think you could port inside the hall?”

“Smith can get the co-ordinates off your Com, just clear a space for me: meter wide by three long should do.”

“Rodger that. Smith can you round up a couple boxes of 12-gauge shotgun shells and say: a pound of silver, also a half dozen flashlights?”

“Be ready within 30 minutes” was Smith’s reply.

 Cameron took some time to check on Roche, he hadn’t moved, which was best since the black hadn’t progressed. Cameron looked at the corrupted parts of Roche’s eyes then followed the path that had been bored into his brain. The diagnosis wasn’t favourable; the eye sockets had pretty much turned black, the eyes had been seventy percent damaged, the optic nerves not much better, fortunately the area of the brain infested was pretty small. Cameron attempted dematerialising the blackened cells while Roche was still in Storage, it was very difficult as it was like looking through a key hole on a door on the other side of the room. It took twenty minutes to clean out most of the contaminated cells, as he finished he decided to put Roche in the sunroom, it would block his collectors but he had amassed a good ‘charge’ in the Battery, he placed Roche inside a glass cylinder, then Cameron moved him over and kept him unconscious.

 As his attention returned to the great hall, Ruth had started to clear the space Leap needed, Cameron asked on Com “Please let Leap know we’re ready for him”. Smith replied “he’s just putting on a pack - I have a green, he is making four bounces and will be arriving in: three, two, and … one”. Leap arrived on cue, his forward momentum was caught by George who grabbed onto him, Leap shook the man’s hand in greeting and thanks, then Leap turned to Cameron giving him a one-armed hug as he ruffled the boys’ hair “We’ve been worried about you, any news on Roche?”.

 Cameron explained the impromptu surgery he had performed, then excused himself as he checked on Al and Alan, Roche was being bathed in the intense light which seemed to be doing some good as the black Cameron hadn’t taken didn’t overtake more of his eyes and brain, if anything it appeared to be shrinking. Cameron dug into the molecular structure of the black, it was haywire – the neutrons bounced about violently instead of the delicate dance he normally saw at a molecular level, he looked at some cells that had been exposed to the light and saw why the black looked to have shrunk, the neutrons still behaved erratically only slower and had less area of travel; it had indeed shrunk. Cameron materialized mirrors and set them up directing more light at Roche’s eyes, he made thin fibre optic cables and placed them along the black pathways following the optic nerves into the brain, the black began to smoke as it died. Alan looked like a mound of boiling tar, the black bubbled and would pop as a section of cells got over stimulated and exploded.

 Looking up at John, Cameron smiled and said their teammate was progressing. John had been unloading his pack and placing the items on a table. Cameron took the shotgun shells and the silver: swapping the lead pellets for silver ones, then returning the shell cartridges to the table. Cameron held a flashlight and examined it, the bulb had to be remade so the light would match what he’d found to be effective, the intensity wasn’t enough however - so he built energy receivers that he could power up. He tested his creation and the light illuminated the hall as all shadow disappeared within it’s beam. Now that he had a design pattern; he set about making the same changes to the remaining flashlights.

 Checking on Roche again he was pleased to find all the black had died and shriveled, it was easy to clean away the destroyed cells leaving behind pink healthy flesh. Cameron made bandages and wrapped the mans head, then allowed him to wake and brought him into the great hall.

 Roche took a moment to regain his balance, while John and Cameron talked to him, Cameron closely watched his cells as the molecules had returned to normal activity once again synchronizing to time. It was difficult to explain what had happened to him as he had no memory of being attacked by the dark beast he fought, keeping him from removing the bandages was worse still.

 Sitting at a table the five adults and Cameron devised a plan: Roche volunteered to be one of the three who would exit the hall to draw in the dark beasts, Cameron and Ruth would go with him, George protested that he should be the one to go but Ruth explained that if she failed he would be the best hope for the children, so he and Megan would each be shooters out the halls windows. Roche would put up as large a PK shell has he could, Cameron would link his kinetic field onto Roche’s shell making connecting loops to hold them together, Ruth would be positioned between: she would have a shotgun. Leap wasn’t happy about being kept out of the fight – but as he had no protection against the dark – his role of loading rifles was also a key position. Cameron affixed a flashlight onto Ruth’s gun, then placed two into Al’s hands, Cameron left one flashlight for each of the Weres and kept one for himself.

 Ruth lead Roche to the door and with a hand on his arm took him outside, Cameron was right behind them, as was planned Roche built up his shell with Ruth finding a spot against his back and Cameron backing against Ruth, she was wrapped in a protective cocoon between them. Ruth acted as the driver and directed each to move away from the hall and into George and Megan’s view. Roche branched out his shell to anchor them.

 It didn’t take long for the beasts to get their scent and two of the black nasties came running at them from the direction Cameron had entered town, their attack was met by a solid wall as they dived at Roche, Ruth directed Roche to point the light at them and once the intense beam touched either of them they wailed – the black exploding as the focused light moved across their bodies it’s high intensity and refined beam acting like a sword slashing at the dark leaving a deep gouge of charred ooze, one had been hit in the legs and it hobbled away. As the other one of the ‘dark’ moved around Roche; Ruth’s rifle was pointed at the beast’s head and in a mere second after the blast it’s head caved in resulting in the beast dropping to the ground.

 Cameron saw a third beast moving in on his side, and called out a warning, it was his friend the bear that came around the corner of a house, it lolloped towards them but once it was within George’s range he took a shot and a gapping hole in its side took down the bear beast. Ruth had dispatched the second of the first attackers with a single blast from her shotgun, Ruth was giving a commentary so Roche knew what was happening, he called out “Three down, how many left?” Cameron took another scan of the area; he had counted nine of them before but could only locate 5 now - one was missing.

 Turning his head in a sweeping motion Cameron alerted his trio to which direction the next beast was approaching from, it was coming up from behind the great hall and would come around it closest to Roche, It was big: maybe the size of a moose, it covered ground fast and before Ruth could get Roche positioned it rammed them causing them to twist from the impact, Cameron’s face was inches from the beasts; Cameron could see into its eyes and there was simply nothing there: no intelligence just a glassy grey, Cameron brought the lights beam up carving a lines into it’s neck, it reared up in surprise and Roche swung them about so he was nearest, the moose beast locked in against Al pushing hard and the three left drag marks in the ground, Ruth gave Al direction allowing him to raise his lights up one on either side of its chest and then turned them both into its neck, he then swung them in an upward arc with the effect that its neck was severed. The large carcass slumped weightily against them until it liquefied like the others and dispersed.

 Ruth directed them back to the original positioning and they shuffled around it time to see two beasts racing at them, they moved very quickly, maybe wolves, the larger jumped and took a swipe at Ruth as he sailed over the group, the shielding prevented any harm but Ruth’s rifle was knock out of her hands when the beasts paw struck the barrel which extended beyond the fields coverage. The second wolf attacked low and bounced off Roche’s PK field as it tried to bite his legs, he kicked out and connected with the beast sending it a few feet away, two shotgun blasts sounded almost simultaneously as both Megan and George had targeted and shot at a beast, neither shot hit critical points and only wounded them, Megan was able to fire her second round and took the beta wolf down, George got a reload and took his shots, the animal was on the ground but not finished yet, Ruth grabbed one of Roche’s lights and shone the beam through its head; ending it.

 Ruth bent down to retrieve her gun, and returned Roche’s light to him, Cameron swept the area again and found the last two beasts, the one had been sneaking closer and was climbing a nearby tree, it looked to be a medium size cat, Ruth was warned and when the beast showed its head she took her shot, the spread only nicked the animal so it leapt at them out of the tree, Cameron angled his field to catapult it overtop them and into the range of the other guns, Megan was ready and her shot was true.

 The last dark beast was akin to a rabbit; or fox, or both, very hard to track and near impossible to get a bead on, Ruth had reloaded and quickly emptied her rifle with only making puffs of dirt to show for it, the little terror was a blur that weaved and bobbed around the group of three, it looked to be making a run at the hall. Ruth directed all light to point at the halls door, the effect was as if it was lit by a searchlight, the beast ended its attempt to get into the building and tried to take off back into the trees, Megan made the final shot that brought it down.

 Cameron asked if they could make a 360 rotation allowing him to scan the entire surroundings, his sight saw nothing, even after they separated he continued searching but found no more foe, the only remains of their battle was the wet spots where the beasts had fallen.

 Cameron aired his concern that one dark beast was missing and unaccounted for, it may have run away or gone for reinforcements, either way, it wasn’t safe for the Weres to remain. Leap began to teleport them to the nearest community after he had taken Roche to get medical attention. Cameron and Ruth were the last to leave, Ruth had 20 people in her care – to find a new home: make a fresh start, her attitude wasn’t bitter; rather she embraced possibility and welcomed opportunity: neither of which would be possible if Cameron hadn’t been there, it was a lesson Cameron needed to take to heart. Cameron faced hours of report writing and debriefing when he returned to the office, but first he and Leap dropped off Alan Franklin at Arkham’s Toronto facility with Cameron helping to set up a room to keep him under bright lights.

September 17, 2007. Ottawa

 It was getting close to Lunch time when Mike pipped Cameron over Com, he asked if Cameron could come to Cabinet as something important had come-up. Stepping into the meeting room he found Ray. Mike and another person seated at the table, he was invited to also take a seat.

 Ray started by introducing Cameron to Canada’s Governor General.

“Young man, I have been asked to meet with you, it would appear you are making waves and certain people don’t know what to do with you”

“I apologize for making trouble for anyone, but don’t understand what you mean about ‘do with me’?”

“If you win your court battle, it may require the Government to rewrite human rights law, and force either the curtailing or cancellation of Canada’s commitment to the MCO accords. The powers that ‘be’ want to know what you hoped to achieve from all this.”

 Cameron needed to consider the question before responding “It would be nice if people stopped trying to kill me. But I don’t think that was what you meant, do I want to see the MCO disbanded or destroyed; not really. When Mike read what their charter actually was – it kinda made sense. But to be honest: that is not who they are anymore, maybe if you could make them be what you had purposed them to be.”

 The Governor General nodded in understanding, but continued by asking “And for yourself, what are you looking for: money, popularity, position?”

“Please don’t think I went looking for any of this; I found myself in the middle of a war, to which I have no interest in being a casualty of” Cameron looked around the table “I did try to avoid this fight – but I wasn’t given much of a choice … I guess it means I have dragged even more into it”

 Ray commented “It was brewing long before you got pulled in”

“True, but its your face that has become firmly attached to the problem” spoke the Governor General to Cameron “What are your plans?”

 Cameron sighed “I just wanted to go to school”

“A reasonable ideal, let’s see if we can’t make that happen” offered the government official.

September 19, 2007. Ottawa

 The trial was now in hiatus with no firm commitment as to when the Supreme Court would be able to review the Federal Courts ruling to determine if a miss-trial had happened. Cameron decided to stick to his plan of attending Whateley; even if he would be a couple weeks late arriving.

 Ray was very understanding when Cameron informed him of his need to leave, he called the whole team together to break the news, his teammates took his leaving with heavy hearts – even Al who joined them over Com in hospital was saddened.

 Ray took Cameron aside for a private conversation, Ray explained the dynamics of an effective team (he used hockey to illustrate), that each person on a team had a role to fill: Smith was like the goalie always there backing up everyone, Al was a defenceman stopping attacks, John was a winger keeping the team moving forward, but Cameron had become the center – always in the thick of it and making the plays that counted. Cameron should consider it a compliment that nobody wanted him to go - he would be missed.

 Cameron visited Al at medical, the doctors gave him a good chance of regaining sight, they had a healer coming to work with him. He had no memory from the time he and Leap left base until he awoke in the great hall, that piece of his life was gone which was for the best, Cameron boosted the mans health hoping it would be of help.

 Rhubarb crumble and vanilla ice cream was being served at the mess hall, the room was filled with SI members and legal staffers, all whom had gathered as a send off for Cameron. A select few gave speeches that made the shy teenager blush from being the focus of attention, Ray had been very kind in describing the help Cameron had been to SI, Mike was humourous in describing how the trial unfolded and that it was certain to be studied in law schools for years to come. Cameron was invited to speak, and with a bowed head he stood before the assembled group, then looking about the room acknowledging them all, Cameron commenced; “A proverb has it that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, I am so fortunate to be surrounded by those who have the courage and determination to build a home that lets children grow and live. My friend Ken tells me that the native name for Canada is Kanata: which means village: Each of you are part of that village - my village. Thank You”.

September 20, 2007. Ottawa, Ontario

 Cameron’s luggage had been loaded into the car’s trunk, his friends gathered around looking at the shiny new limousine as it sat parked inside the underground government parkade. Ray had been busy co-ordinating Cameron’s travel arrangements, he mentioned having to call in a few favours.

 Ray handed the boy a couple letters saying these should be hand delivered and Cameron placed them into his Cupboard for safe keeping. Ray gave his final - parting instructions and wished Cameron well, Pam needed a hug and handed him a going away gift, Karen also hugged the young man and gently kissed his cheek, as John shook his hand he said that if Cameron needed help he would be there ‘lickety split’.

 Mike placed an arm over Cameron’s shoulder and walked him to the waiting car, going through a mental checklist as his guardian made certain everything was in order: “Whateley knows your coming, you have your credit card, your monthly allowance will be deposited into your account, you better keep in touch or I’ll get in trouble” Looking down upon the boy, he said “When I became your guardian - I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into, I have to say; I have never been prouder than I am of you” the two stood in a prolonger embrace.

 Ken in full RCMP uniform opened the cars back door and Cameron got in and settled onto the floor having a blanket put overtop him. Ken and another RCMP officer sat up front and they drove a short distance then parked in front of a Government office, Ken got out and assisted with loading baggage, then opened the door for a lady, once Ken took the shotgun seat, the black limousine with Canadian Diplomatic plates pulled away.

 Seated inside the rear compartment was a very attractive young woman wearing a chic business suit, the car had traveled outside central Ottawa and had entered onto the main highway heading East, a few minutes later she leaned over “You can come out now”. It was suggested that Cameron be hidden to prevent his whereabouts becoming known, he was relieved to finally be able to come up for air.

“And just who is my mystery person I share my ride with” asked the woman in English seasoned with a strong French accent.

“Cameron, Cameron Burke: and Thank you.”

“Ahhh! the young Cameron who puts the politicals into furor, I think our ride will be much interesting, Non?” she remarked.

“Umm, Yes – Oui.” Cameron stammered “sorry, how might I address your ladyship?”

“And he is charmer! Much fun we shall be having. I am Veronique Gosslin: attaché to the Canadian embassy in Washington, but please to call me ‘Nique’, I am deliver new embassy vehicle as I take up my posting in Washington.” Spoke the French Canadian woman gesturing with a flourish.

“A pleasure to meet you, sorry to be such trouble.”

“Trouble? Non! As enjoyable as drive in the countryside is, company is welcome, besides who better to act as tour guide thru ‘La Belle Province’ than Quebecois.”

 As the scenery was completely new to Cameron he smiled at the prospect of having someone point out the surroundings “Is this where you live?”

“Home is Trois Reverie, but familial is near here, and vous? You go home?”

“Non, mademoiselle, I travel to school, in the States.”

“tut, Nique – please, ach: of course… I am having papers for you” Veronique quipped, looking into her bag she drew out an envelope and handed it to Cameron “I was instructed to provide once underway, tis direct from Prime Ministers office – I am suspect you are being the hot potatoe, silly me forgetting as I was such occupied with the intrigue” apologised the endearing woman with a smile.

 The envelope was nothing like one of the inter-office mailing pouches SI used, it was embossed with a Canada insignia and had an old fashioned wax seal that Cameron felt guilty about having to break in order to open it. Within he found a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs informing him he was officially posted as a member of Canada’s diplomatic mission to the United States of America: as an RCMP officer assigned to inspect training facilities for specialized instruction; to determine suitability for Canadian citizens. The packet contained assignment documents and his diplomatic passport. All Cameron could muster was that Ray must have been very busy. Nique’s curiosity could not be contained so when Cameron offered his papers for her to read she jumped at them and whistled as the mystery began to be unveiled.

“You are the VIP, Non?” asked Nique behind a masked smile with a twinkle in her eyes “I am to help with embassy functions: the formal dinners and etiquette, so you are spy upon our neighbours, I am always wanting to met the spy. You said your name was Bond, Oui?” teased the lady.

“Heavens no! I am just going to school, I would say all this is to keep the MCO off my back” replied Cameron, who then began to tell the story of his trial and all the assassination attempts, he was certain that Ray had wrangled all this cover to protect him; which made him all the more thankful to have had such a great Boss.

“And so, my young friend, have you ever ad the famous Montreal sandwich?” quizzed Nique.

“Not to my knowledge” replied Cameron.

“Then we have the perfect luncheon to prepare” directed Nique as she tapped on the glass divider which then lowered, she handed Ken a card

“Monsieur, in Montreal we shall dine at the restaurant”.

 Ken replied “I will plan our route right away. How you doing back there Cameron?”

“All good Ken!” responded his charge.

“You two are knowing each other?” quizzed Nique.

“Ken is to make certain I get to school” informed Cameron.

“You are the truant officer to ensure the miscreant attends the school?” teased Nique.

 A flustered Ken sheepishly answered “It’s not like that, I...”

“You are then the junior officer escorting the superior?” further roasted the pretty French spitfire.

“No, Cameron’s not my superior.”

“I think maybe so; the papers are saying other, non?” handing the diplomatic assignment page to Ken.

“Holy Guacamole” astounded Ken “kid, you just keep pulling off the darnedest stuff.”

“Hey, this is all Bossman. But for the record – its great you decided to stick with me.”

“I was assigned to get you to school – and you’re not there yet” affirmed Ken.

~o~O~o~

 Veronique had them visit a marvelous café that had some of the finest Montreal smoked meat sandwiches and poutine to be found, Cameron enjoyed his so much he ordered another dozen to go: and set them, along with the three dozen bagels he had bought, into safe keeping before the limo set course for Sherbrook.

 The day was mixed cloud that brought sunny patches that highlighted the rolling landscape which Nique provided a joyful narrative to as they passed along. She was: bubbly, animated, and funny, understandably Ken had taken an interest in her. Cameron had spotted indicators in Kens’ heart rate and flushing skin whenever she would tease him – which was frequent.

 The highway was not overly crowded so when a sedan passed them then moved in front it didn’t seem out of place, however it slowed down causing the limo to slow as well, a car moved up beside them and stayed in pace as a third vehicle; a truck with an oversized bumper took position behind them. Cameron took interest in the situation that had made the two RCMP become anxious, the car ahead had a bumper sticker that read: ‘If You Don’t Put HUMANITY FIRST, Then HUMANITY Won’t LAST’.

 Looking at the vehicles occupants; Cameron noted that they all had weapons with one occupant in the car beside them preparing (what Cameron took to be a machine gun) to fire at them.

 Cameron alerted his companions that trouble was brewing, Cameron started by increasing the flow of gasoline into the lead cars engine, it roared to life and began to speed up; it began to swerve when the brake lights came on but continued to open a gap between them.

 The car alongside started to move into the lane the limo occupied; at which Cameron located and turned its steering mechanism – the car careened sharply across the highway and took to the ditch on the far side as is spun out.

 The truck behind began making a threatening approach intent on ramming them, Cameron gave a mirthful smirk and showed Ken two round metal cylinders with rods attached to the bottoms, asking “You don’t suppose they need these do you? I did leave them six!”

 Ken looked quickly at them “Pistons! Yes, I would think so.”

 The three turned to watch the truck as it sputtered and belched smoke until it shook with a loud bang as the exhaust system was blown apart and pieces of it trailed underneath making sparks as it grinded along the asphalt, all eyes returned to looking forward in time to see the ‘lead’ car crumpled up off on the side of the road where it had struck a signpost.

“Well looks like the MCO know where we are” voiced Ken in concern.

 Cameron chipped in “Maybe not, first thing I did was disable their cellphones and CB radio’s”.

~o~O~o~

 A few miles before the Canada / US border crossing at Comins Mills / Stewartstown, Ken had the limo pull over, he went to the trunk and handed a garment bag to Cameron “I didn’t know why Bossman wanted me to do this until I read your letter. You better put this on, it will help getting through customs” directed Ken. Cameron unwrapped the package to discover an RCMP dress uniform: the iconic red serge including Stetson, it was emblazoned with his name and new rank of Staff Sergeant. Cameron fidgeted within the clothes, which elicited Nique’s comment “He is the handsome one!” which helped sooth Cameron’s feeling of being improperly attired in a suit of clothes he was unfit to wear – Ken sensed his wards unease and added “bout time they put you into clothes that fit”.

~o~O~o~

 MCO Agent Steve Donnelly sat with his feet propped up against the dash of the car they had been assigned for watching the border, a bulletin had directed that all customs houses be observed as a dangerous mutant might try crossing in from Canada, all available agents had been deployed to have as many border crossings monitored as possible. Donnelly had been putting in long days, and his partner Matthews was sleeping behind the wheel as they sat parked on the roadside in view of the Stewartstown border station. An approaching car bearing diplomatic insignia made the man sit up “Bob! Wake up, we might have something”. Bob awoke with a start then let fly a stream of curses befitting one who had spent time in the merchant marines.

 The two agents watched as the limousine pulled into the inspection zone, The Customs agents had asked the driver to park so credentials could be checked and asked all in the vehicle to step out and wait beside the car: the extent of a search that could be conducted without creating an international incident. The agents through binoculars viewed the cars occupants; Donnelly was ecstatic when he spied the shorter one with the sunglasses “I think we have our target, lets go get him.”

 The Border Guard kept an eye on the vehicles four occupants as the passports got checked in the computer: three RCMP officers and a young woman, the diplomatic papers provided indicted that the woman was an attaché to the Canadian embassy, two of the officers had been assigned as members of the embassy security detail, the third officer; the short scrawny one, was hardly even a teenager, but he was an envoy on a diplomatic mission approved by the Secretary of State, it all checked out. Before she could gather up the papers and return them to the Canadians; the MCO cruiser which had been parked just down the street all day raced up and in a screeching manoeuver blocked the traffic lane, the two agents in dark suits bolted out and with guns drawn ordered all four onto the ground.

“Monsieur, I should advise not mistreating a member of the diplomatic mission, it could be taken as an act of aggression against the Dominion of Canada” cautioned Veronique as she knelt following the threatening order that had been given.

“Pots to that, you’re in the States: and I’m arresting this one” said the man as he grabbed Cameron by the arm

“Are you a representative of the United States government” requested the woman, on her knees with her hands held over her head

“I am MCO agent Leonard McCoy, and I am authorized to interrogate who ever I want” barked the man holding the course of intimidation.

“Non, you cannot! His detention must be directed through Canadian Embassy by your own diplomatic office. Such is the way of international etiquette.” Beamed Veronique having wanted so badly to use her training.

“Lady, shut up” yelled the MCO agent as he fastened the exemplar 4 handcuffs onto Cameron and started dragging the youth to the back of the MCO cruiser. After forcibly getting pushed inside and having the door slammed shut, Cameron positioned himself on the seat in the secure confinement area, as his companions remained motionless under the watchful eye of ‘Bob’ who kept his rifle trained on them.

 Nique whispered to Ken “Are you going to do something to stop this travesty?”

 Ken replied “With Cameron, I’ve learned it’s best to keep out of the way and let him do his thing”

 Both agents climbed into their car and sat there, and they continued to sit there.

 Nique stayed on her knees as had the two RCMP, but she opened her cell phone and placed a call, speaking briefly before hanging up.

 The two MCO agents looked to be having a heated argument inside the car, after almost ten minutes the driver exited the vehicle and opened the hood, “The battery is dead, I swear – if you hadn’t listened to the radio all day this wouldn’t have happened”

“Oh, its my fault you broke something with your fancy driving” rebuffed Agent Donnelly (Leonard McCoy) “I just said we needed to arrest him, but no! You had to go all ‘Dukes of Hazard’ on me”.

 The two agents continued to bicker as they both worked under the hood, not noticing the phone ringing in the Border Station, moments later - one of the Border Guards came out and ushered the three Canadians into the station, un-noticed by the MCO still embattled as they sough a solution to their car troubles. A single Border Guard approached the stricken car and knocked on the side panel to get the men’s attention. “I have someone on the line that wants to speak with you”

“Tell them I’ll call them back later” directed the Agent wiping a bead of sweat off his brow.

“You’ll want to take this now” returned the voice with a note of urgency, presenting the wireless phone to him.

 Relenting Donnelly took the handset and sharply spoke “Donnelly! What the heck do you want?”.

“Son, this is the President, can you explain to me why the Canadian Prime Minister would call me in the middle of a baseball game demanding to know why his embassy staff was being forcibly detained at the border – and while you’re at it; tell me why the camera feed from that Border Station has a handcuffed RCMP officer in the back of your car?”

“Sir, I can explain” recoiled the agent

“Before you do, let me explain, you have put me in a bad situation Son. The US government has a duty to treat the duly appointed representatives of foreign governments as guests - in hopes that our own representatives be given similar hospitality in return. That young man behind you is a foreign nations envoy allowed to enter our Country and conduct research. I would say your treatment of our guest has been: aggressive. Certainly not how I want my own people to be treated; I have enough trouble keeping relations with hostile nations amiable – you have given cause to make our most friendly neighbour angry … have you ever heard of an angry Canadian? I know I hadn’t but it seems you managed to piss them off”.

“Sir, yes sir, I can explain”

“Good, good, I hope you can. If the Border Guards don’t shoot you before you release that young man and apologize to him, I’m sure they will love hearing your explanation down at McMurdo Station’s Airport in Antarctica where you and your partners next posting is. Nod if you understand what I just said – that’s fine. Now Mr. McCoy kindly give the phone back to the Border Guard.

 Agent Donnelly tried to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat – it didn’t go down, instead the taste of bile held on his tongue, after handing over the phone he noticed the string of Border Guards pointing their weapons at the two agents, as Donnelly slowly stepped over to the rear door of the car with his hands held high up in sight, he opened the door and asked his prisoner to exit, once outside he half-heartedly offered

“Sorry”

“Yes, you are” calmly remarked Cameron, who walked away from him, heading towards Ken and Nique.

 Nique had been handed the telephone and she was engaged in a conversation acting very prim. Nique motioned Cameron over and presented the phone to him.

“Hello?” asked Cameron.

“Hello Son, this is the President of the United States, I wanted to welcome you to our Country, and express best wishes in your studies.”

“Thank you, Sir” said Cameron feeling a touch shocked.

“And; I’d like to see your report on ‘our school’, think I could get a copy of it?”

“Yes sir, I’ll make certain it gets to you.”

“When you get to Whateley, please pass along a greeting to Nikki Reilly for me, her father and I are great friends.”

“Yes sir, I’d be happy to do that. Good-bye.”

~o~O~o~

 The drive through New Hampshire roads twisted within river valleys framed by treed hills, an idyllic setting for a school: serene and quiet. Dunwich was a quaint town, it held to the New England motif that Cameron was recognizing in the designs of the building they had passed. The limo arrived later in the day than had been planned and it was too late to drop Cameron off at Whateley, so Nique found a Bed and Breakfast that could accommodate them, the group was taking a walking tour of downtown to stretch their legs after having visited a restaurant the Bed and Breakfast lady recommended, it felt good to exercise muscles that had sat all day, Cameron stopped suddenly as they walked past a clothing boutique, he checked the street for traffic then walked into the middle of the road.

“There’s a watermain break! The water is making a sinkhole; could someone call an emergency number to alert the town. I’m going to try and plug the break”

 Cameron looked intently at the ground and circled around where he had been standing, looking up and down the street groaning “can I get someone to provide traffic control, I’m going to have to repair the pipe for a couple blocks, it’s so rotted that it can’t hold the pressure”

 Ken took position in the street in front of Cameron and directed the couple of cars that came around them.

 Cameron walked slowly to the end of the street then backtracked and went two blocks down, he nearly finished when a Dunwich public works truck pulled up in front of the original leak. Cameron and Ken hastened back to provide details of what had happened. The man was the foreman and was ‘On-Call’ to handle emergencies; he listened to Cameron’s explanation and had him pace out the area that was washed out, the man then painted lines and set out barricades. Cameron took another look at the area and then followed the path of damage: the water had seeped through the foundation and had flooded the boutiques basement.

“You will need to let the owner know their basement has flooded” the saddened youth informed the Utilities man.

 He flipped thru pages in a book and then dialed a number, from what he said into the phone it was obvious he had only reached an answering machine and left a message “Cecilia’s most likely at Whateley teaching dance tonight” remarked the man.

“If the water is left everything will go moldy, think she would be mad if I cleaned up?”

“If you could – I think she’d appreciate it, I can speak with her tomorrow” instructed the man.

 Cameron stood outside the building, walking the length of the buildings frontage a couple times “I did the best I could, it’s dry and I tried not to mess with stuff she has stored down there”

 The man shook everyone’s hand, and Veronique told him the name of their lodgings.

Sept 21, 2007. Dunwich

 It was a peaceful morning, the breakfast part of the Bed and Breakfast had lovely homemade breads along with fresh jams that made Cameron’s tastebuds sing. Everyone had been seated when two men entered, The Public Works man everyone recognized, as he stood next to the table he introduced them to the Town’s mayor “Thank you for your quick thinking and resourcefulness last night, Albert here told me what you did”.

“The road settled last night and opened a void, if a car had driven over it; people could have been hurt” added Albert from Public Works

“Glad I could help” offered Cameron, as a smartly dressed lady – very pretty, entered the now crowded dining room, Albert pointed toward Cameron.

“I believe I have you to thank for saving my business last night” smiled the woman “Cameron isn’t it”

“I, umm, your welcome” sheepishly replied Cameron

“I keep so much material and equipment downstairs, if I had lost that I wouldn’t know what to do” giving Cameron a nod

“I didn’t mean to intrude; I hope everything is allright”

“I looked at it last night, it’s better than allright, I really needed to give that basement a good cleaning – you do good work, its spotless”

“Thank you” responded the boy to the praise.

“I understand you’ll be attending Whateley?”

“Yes ma-am.”

“Please, Cecilia. And I insist you let me make a school uniform for you?”

“Ohh, no ma-am” to which she gestured to correct him “sorry, Cecilia. you don’t need to do that.”

“Allow me the favour of returning the kindness you have given me.”

“Thank you then. Do you know if students get days to be able to come to town?”

“There are shuttles on weekends, you won’t be able to leave for the first couple weeks, but I am at my shop Saturday mornings – please come bye when you can. And Cameron: do you dance?”

“A little, Mom showed me a couple steps, I’m not very good.”

“Then I accept the challenge, you must sign up for dance class.”

 The three guests left, leaving the table to finish up breakfast.

~o~O~o~

 The limo wove thru the lanes following the directions given to find Whateley Academy, it was a distance outside of town, Cameron asked the driver: Brian, to stop at something that had caught his eye beside the road: a large patch of ground lay desolate, devoid of any growth, a tree at the patches center stood dead and withered, Cameron walked over and touched the tree with a curious look etched on his features. Ken asked what that was about, “Its an energy sinkhole, never saw anything like it before” answered Cameron.

 The large fence and impressive gates indicated they had found Cameron’s destination: Whateley Academy. Atop the gates pillars sat two gargoyles whose featureless faces seemed to follow your every movement. Cameron exited the limo and began looking about which mystified his escorts who saw nothing “The school has some heavy duty shielding” Cameron informed them, he mused how violently his absorbing ability might react to touching them so decided to curtail his energy absorption to prevent an interaction until he could figure out a way to keep them apart. Ken approached the lone guard who had a little booth near the gate “Delivering a new student: Cameron Burke, might be under the Outlook”.

“One moment” directed the uniformed guard “yep, we have him as a student due to arrive. You can drive in or I can get a cart to take him up.”

 Cameron decided that arriving in a diplomatic limo might be a first impression he didn’t want to have to explain, so asked if a cart could come. Cameron gathered up his few pieces of luggage and hefted his backpack containing his SI Com phone (a gift from Smith) and his laptop onto his shoulder.

 He gave his heartfelt thanks to his traveling companions, Nique broke her diplomatic calm demeanour and hugged him, Ken was all about formality but when shaking Cameron’s hand Cameron pulled him in hugging his friend, saying in a whisper “You know; she was a dental hygienist going through school, she might be able to help fix that problem you have with your wisdom teeth” Ken coughed trying to suppress his laugh and shock.

 Cameron cautiously walked through the schools shielding, he saw it spark and surge but eventually yielded as he slowly moved forward, placing his bags into the carts cargo racks, Cameron turned and waved farewell before hopping into the cart. The gravel driveway crunched under the carts tires, the driver pointed out the cluster of buildings as the schools’ dormitories: each named after a famous author.

 The cart passed by groups of students out enjoying the sunny day between classes, the cart pulled up near to a brick building with signage stating it was the administration building. Cameron sat transfixed for a minute, his sigh leading into his saying “It’s been an adventure getting here, all roads end somewhere, and all stories start someplace.”

 Cameron swung off the cart and stepped to collect his bags, his peripheral vision caught movement approaching rapidly from behind, in the time it took him to say “Bear!” the light of the world was turned off.

The End

Epilogue

Friday: Sept 21, 2007; Outside Schuster Hall

 A frightfully large bear stood motionless atop the ragged body of the boy, who looked minuscule compared to the beast, it’s powerful front paws placed heavily upon the victim’s limp frame – weighting 800 pounds it’s mass alone would prevent the youth from breathing: were he even physically able to draw air in.

 The massive muzzle, alert to any indicator of life, was stayed low - just millimeters away from the unflinching - unresponsive boys face. The bear lingering as it used it’s senses to ensure its target wasn’t playing possum; the painstaking scrutiny was intense as the beast sought any signs of life.

 The attack had been brutal … savage perhaps. The unawares prey had been set upon from behind and been completely overwhelmed, there had been no fight and an opportunity at flight wasn’t granted. It was a predatory take down without compromise – no quarter or question as to who won.

 An indignant snort was accompanied by a head shake exaggerated by the bears long fur, using a muscled foreleg the bear batted the unresponsive body beneath it - resulting in the carcass rolling around lifelessly, as a final insult the great bear reared up onto its hind legs and let fly a victorious roar.

Doyle Medical Centre

 Dr. Ophelia Tenant was dressing the superficial wounds on Leroy Jacobs: aka Skyhook, the exuberant young African American man had been showing off his flight ability to impress new found friends in the Quad, the Doctor saw this same sort of thing the start of every school year – kids wanting to fit in by pushing their abilities beyond their untrained skills.

 This particular boy could manifest a PK field that made him buoyant and float in the air, and while he could lift great weights airborne his field wasn’t capable of providing much protection which was apparent once he collided into a tree, nothing more than a few scrapes - and some hard-earned humiliation; which just might in the end teach him more than any course Whateley Academy offered.

 Ophelia was finishing the bandage wraps on the boy’s knee, her long strands of hair skillfully passing the roll around the appendage while keeping it taunt, a few more and she’d be done bandaging him up, but that silly pager had other ideas; it vibrated and buzzed in her Doctor whites pocket drawing her attention. Before she could acknowledge its buzz a broadcast over Doyle’s public address system upped the urgency, the very tone in the voice calling her name alone said something bad had happened. Adrenaline started to kick in fueling yet another rush.

 Hastily she asked Leroy to finish up his own bandage before running out the door and down the hall towards main reception: Doyle’s Emergency admitting area. While the Doyle Medical Facility was extremely well equipped: it was still a small centre, everyone had to come in through the main admitting doors. What she saw awaiting her made her want to turn around and go back to tending to the scraped knee. Ophelia had become a Doctor to help people; it was her life’s calling and passion, seeing one of Whateley Securities finest covered in blood, straddling a student as he called out the compression count for CPR, Ophelia’s first instinct told her this was not going to end well.

 The first aid stretcher had been laid upon the floor, its occupant swarmed by gathering medics who transferred the rather small youth onto a gurney which halted CRP momentarily - only to resume once the providers had repositioned, the Doctor tried to collect vitals amidst the swarm of well trained nurses and orderlies, the team hurried the gurney into Trauma Room 1.

 Ophelia carried great pride over the exceptional staff that had been assembled, along with the first-class medical equipment which Doyle Medical Centre boasted – any Doctor would give their eye teeth to have access to the resources Doyle had at the ready. Trauma Room 1 ignited instantly into a finely tuned orchestra with no one skipping a beat, Ophelia voice activated the internal recording system to capture events.

 Dr. Tenant directed a nurse to cut away the clothes from off the boy as she began to assess the massive chest wound. The Security Officer who had been performing CPR was relieved from his efforts by a male nurse, the officer stood away: he visible shook while staring at the blood covering himself, he was spent from the exertion extended trying to preserve life - the Doctor directed a nurse to get him into a shower and instructed he get checked over – being exposed to mutant blood necessitated extra precautions.

 Before he could leave the room Ophelia asked “How long ago did this happen?”

“Less than five minutes” supplied the security officer.

 That was the first bit of good news, maybe this kid stood a chance after all.

“Let’s get him aerated people; careful with the neck, from that angle it’s undoubtedly broken” directed the Doctor.

 The nurse who had been using a bellows bag with facemask backed away to allow another skillful nurse to hold the boys neck while an air tube was inserted down his throat, the aspirating machine was turned on with everyone watching the chest expectantly for it to rise and fall: it didn’t.

“Is the airway blocked?” questioned Ophelia.

“No Doctor, the air tube slid in without obstruction” replied the nurse.

“Prep a scope to check the lungs” she shouted over her patient.

 Ophelia gently opened the chest wounds to gauge severity - while one nurse swabbed the blood to improve visibility, another nurse was applying the adhesive heart monitor leads to the few places where enough skin remained intact amidst the slash marks that had torn long gouges crisscrossing the torso.

 The worst damage was directly over his heart: three distinct claw slashes intersected at one point on the chest: the heart. The flesh had been ripped deeply exposing white rib-bone; within that mess the Doctor spotted heart muscle which exponentially worsened the degree of damage inflicted, the claws had gone deep – very deep. She placed her gloved hand into the chest cavity and couldn’t feel the heart beating, looking at the heart monitor it too showed no pulse.

 Panic stricken; Ophelia asked for the defibrillator to get charged and the crash cart was brought bedside, when the tone sounded ‘ready’ she shouted “Clear!” and depressed the paddles against the boy’s chest.

 The anxious team watched the heart monitor as it registered a couple beats then faded away: “Again” called Ophelia, when the tone sounded ready she cried out “Clear!” with even less results when only two blips indicated heart function.

“Get me a heart simulator” within seconds another cart was wheeled in, the specialized devise would act as a pacemaker to activate and regulate the heart. Ophelia grabbed the wires within clusters of her hair and with the scalpel in hand began making precise incisions to the flesh around the heart and inserted the tipped wires against heart muscle. The machine was adjusted to mimic the heart function of a young boy and the area around the heart could be seen inside his chest, it visibly constricting as an electrical current shocked it; simulating the beat vital for sustaining life.

 Ophelia timed the pulses as the lines danced across the monitor, it was irregular and weak – but beating, she checked the clock: 8 minutes – give or take, she prayed the CPR had worked and kept suppling the body oxygen.

 The Trauma Team was collectively, unconsciously holding their breath as the Doctor gingerly lowered a small scope into the boy’s mouth, a monitor displaying the picture from the fibre optic camera as its light illuminated the throat wall, the tiny camera worked its way slowly down stopping only when it entered the lungs “No obstruction, lets reinsert the tube and give him 40 percent Oxygen” directed the Doctor.

Kane Hall: Whateley Security

 Security Chief Franklin Delarose watched the security camera footage from near Schuster Hall yet again, playing each angle available. He rewound and replayed certain scenes exhaustively. He couldn’t find the trigger to explain what caused this to happened?

 Whateley Security held responsibility for a most challenging assignment: to provide impartial on-campus security, an extra hard assignment due to the school’s charter. There had been many frustrating arguments over the years, but Delarose eventually came to understand how to saddle … not nessicarily ride the beast that was Whateley Academy. At times Whateley’s status was akin to being a nation unto itself; being neutral territory operating under the scrutiny of villain and law-enforcement alike. Security’s main duty focused upon trying to ensure the safety of those attending this school, students whose very existence drew the attention of every powerful group and organization: be they within or outside the law.

 Whateley Security always needed to walk a fine line of not showing partiality: to any particular creed, in-order to uphold the schools prime concern - neutrality. Whateley Security could not enforce law - so his staff were not sworn policemen; most of them coming from military backgrounds, soldiers used to the notion of simply keeping the peace – by force if needed.

 The real problem was when serious crime happened, it sent the balance askew and put his team under the microscope, all parties watching like vultures - waiting for any opportunity to gain more control and influence.

 Although neutral Whateley had layers of rules to abide under: Rules crafted by the trustees to guide school operation, Laws enacted by governments for how a civilized populous should live: Tribal, State, Federal. All being weighted and deemed as acceptable for granting each person their own peace and security ... but a crime; it infringed upon another’s liberty with serious offences even costing a life. Chief Delarose was thankful that the sole person to administer judgement at Whateley was Elizabeth Carson: The Headmistress.

 Delarose and his men worked under her authority - allowing them freedom to just be agents of security. But it still meant Whateley Security needed to conduct investigations, make arrests and provide confinement … all to be done equally and fairly without bias. Each offence - every conflict was walking into muddy waters, so acting rashly was Delarose’s worst enemy and finding clear indisputable proof his best hope of holding onto Whateley’s reins.

 Delarose was fully aware of the clandestine surveillance he and his department was under, in a backward manner it was providing proof to all parties that no-one from any ideology was being singling out, he had grown to accept the ever-present scrutiny as part of the job.

 Just as Delarose understood he needed to retain personnel ‘on the take', those whose services could be bought and to turn a blind eye; the pendulum had to swing both ways to establish balance. The Chief tried to keep the graft and scams in check rather than stopping it, since he saw the bigger picture at play… a vision that his second in command: Admiral Everhart, was as yet unable to fully grasp. The ongoing argument between them about the need to bring the men ‘in line’ showed that his second hadn’t figured Whateley out.

 The familiar knock on the office door announced Sam Everhart’s arrival “Come in Sam” called out the Chief and pointed the young looking female Admiral towards a chair across from his desk.

“You have the look of a man expecting bad news” supplied Everhart.

“Trust me, I’d love to get some good news right now?” ground out Delarose

“I’ve got to disappoint you Chief, my preliminary investigation hasn’t revealed anything new” was Sam’s response “and word is spreading around campus that the school is under attack”

“Gear up squad Four heavy - and do a perimeter sweep” directed Whateley Securities supervisor “best not to take any chances.”

“On it” confirmed Sam as she exited the office.

Doyle Medical Centre

 The last few hours had drained the Doctor to beyond exhaustion, cleaning the deep cuts and trying to seal up the long gouges was painstakingly slow, Ophelia had had to resort to stitches to draw the flesh closed when her healing spells had no effect, the body laying before her looked like a patchwork quilt.

 Watching the monitors intently, checking once more if her patient was stable, Dr. Tenant finally left the room which looked as if a tornado had swept through it, shaking her head sadly that the results weren’t as promising as she had hoped. Ophelia slowly stretched her aching muscles as tresses of hair massaged her shoulders, she untied her surgical mask enjoying the breath of fresh air, next freeing her hands of the surgical gloves she stepping up to the wash basin - started the water and built up a lather.

“How’s it look Doc?” Chief Delarose’s booming voice startled the Doctor, peeling her away from that place of routine which only comes from doing something so often it becomes second nature. He stood next to her in what had to be a long-practiced stance, giving her space but not letting her avoid his presence either.

“It’s too early to tell, the kid was dead when he came in the doors, he is on life support now” assessed Ophelia “Tomorrow! I’ll see if he’s breathing on his own.”

“How do you classify the injuries ?”

“With you asking that question: I have to say it was an assault with intent to kill; we’ll know soon enough if you have a murder on your hands.” claimed the Doctor “Does my patient have a name ?”

“His school file has him registered under ‘Outlook’” supplied Delarose.

Kane Hall

 Franklin Delarose shook his head in frustration, hating how Whateley Security held the double-edged responsibility of protecting some of the more frighteningly powerful mutants in the world, while at the same time having to police some of the more frighteningly powerful mutants in the world.

 There were days that retirement sounded like a mighty fine idea.

“Chief: I just got in. Nothing happening along the school’s barrier, no incursions and no sign of invaders.” Informed Sam speaking through his open door

“We had to check.” Detailed Delarose, grimacing at the news “Did you have time to take a look at the security footage from outside Schuster?”

“I saw it”

“Notice anything odd?”

“I suspect you’re asking about that second when the boy stiffened - just before being collided into?”

“You spotted that too? good. What do you make of it ?”

“Kid might have a weak danger sense, or empath. But if he knew it was coming … why didn’t he react?”

“Can’t postpone it any longer, we need to try and glean what triggered this ?” Intoned Delarose as he and Everhart approached the small meeting room, the shared look between them braced each other for the task at hand as they entered.

 The avatar bear sat in the chair which was tipped back leaning it against the wall, giving the two Whateley Security officers who entered the room a toothy grin that exposed fangs.

Saturday: September 22, 2007; Whateley Academy

 Ophelia greeted dawn by rolling over and muttering; “Just five more minutes”.

 As she lay there; warm and cozy under the blankets, her mind began to race. Being a Doctor is much like being obsessed – be that true: Ophelia had a bad case of OCD.

 Elizabeth Carson had kindly informed her on many occasions that she needed to take some time off and get rested, but instead; here she was, worried about a young boy on deaths door on her first day off since early August.

 Preparing for the day, she stood in front of her closet befuddled by a decision ‘work duds or casual?’ when her thoughts demanded to know how the boy had faired through the night, instinctively her hand reached for the familiar medical garb.

 The walk from the small but functional staff house in the village over to Doyle only took a couple minutes, she passed a few other staff members with the exchanging of ‘Good Mornings’ and to the few students she passed who greeted her with either a wave or a “Hi Doc” as the youngsters darted off to an early morning class.

 Walking into Doyle, Ophelia noted with relief to see it was quiet, she had discovered long ago that the ‘best days’ were those in which she had nothing to do. Checking in at reception to verify the current status, she walked the short distance to the Medical Centre’s specialized Critical Care Unit that she had Outlook moved into last night. Rounding the rooms doorway, she was mystified to find it empty, hurrying back to the nurse’s station she quickly ran her finger down the folders of patients and found Outlook’s file.

 That mornings duty nurse approached as Ophelia read the charts, “Bonny; do you know where Outlook is?” Asked the Doctor

“Opie: you’re supposed to have the day off remember?” Scolded the nurse.

“I know, I know … but the poor kid is in such bad shape.”

“Security came in in a panic after you'd left last night, they had the night shift move your patient to one of the warded rooms downstairs. I can put his stats up on the board for you?”

 Ophelia nodded her thanks, she was irked that a critical care patient was getting juggled about – but was willing to give Delarose and his group the benefit of the doubt. Watching the board made her heart sink and a sigh followed as her disappointment was manifest; he was not improving – his condition had worsened in the last few hours, the electrically dictated heartbeat was losing its effectiveness and the hearts beating had slowed and even skipped one of every four pulsations; if not for the highly sensitive electrodes being used you wouldn’t even find a pulse.

 Bonny allowed her some time to digest the boards readout before mentioning “Security will be bringing some students by later this morning.”

“He’s in no shape for visitors!” commented the disturbed physician.

“I was told they are needed to help verify something for Security, they’re slated to be here in an hour – enough time for you to get some coffee, OH! try the Danish; their de-lish. Now shoo!” spoke the friendly nurse giving the Doctor orders.

~o~O~o~

 The warded room wasn’t designed to handle a critical patient, the various machines being employed to keep the young man alive had to be placed upon wheeled carts then positioned in an array that nearly surrounded the bed, wires and tubes ran everywhere and the equipments power cords filled all electrical outlets available in the hallway, the room was stark and windowless, mystic glyphs etched onto the walls.

 Ophelia had taken Bonny’s advice and was better off for it, although; a half cup of cold coffee now sat on the corner of one of the wheeled carts near the door, Ophelia had been attending to her patient, checking and re-checking connections and responses, she barely heard the knock on the door announcing the visitor’s arrival.

“Doctor, Is it possible to allow myself and some students to come in. I require their assistance with my investigation” spoke the Security Chief.

 Ophelia grimaced but had to acknowledge that he had the grace to ask: which only helped reinforce that she liked the man, he might at times be gruff and too harsh for her taste, and he certainly sent plenty of business Doyle’s direction, but he had a job to get done and she knew very well that he was good at keeping the kids safe, and she respected that.

“Can I stay and keep an eye on my patient ?” requested Ophelia.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way” remarked the big man as he stepped into the room, calling down the hall he asked “Nikki, Kayda, Mrs. Grimes. Would you come in please”?

 The two second-year Mystic Arts program girls were skittish as they entered followed by the teacher, all three-hanging close to the wall nearest to the door, each face conveyed a feeling of wariness, fear, and curiosity.

 Delarose had ceded that Kayda was one of the best suited Wizards available to discover if Mythos magic was at play and begrudgingly included her. But also asked her teacher to be an observer as he had no clue about finger-wiggling.

“As I mentioned to you on the way over; I would like you to tell me if this person is a user of magic, particularly if it’s Mythos magic?” As soon as Delarose mentioned Mythos magic, Ophelia’s hair stood on end and she too moved further away from the unmoving patient.

 Upon the Chiefs invitation Nikki Reilly cautiously approached, while she didn’t draw upon the Mythos - she had encountered its stain enough to feel when it was present, along with her ability to see leylines and collect essence at will: it made Fey an obvious choice for identifying magical entities and sources.

 Nikki circled the room ever mindful of the rooms occupant, keeping the bank of medical instruments positioned between her and the prone body at the rooms center, she took great care observing the room and the wards upon the walls. Returning to stand close to the door the redhead gave her head a shake to the negative, the movement allowed her luxuriant red tresses to bounce about her face “The only magic present is limited to that which was brought in by Kayda, the Doctor, Mrs Grimes and myself, the wards are preventing anything from entering or leaving”. Not having found any hint of magic with the boy she added “Quoting the vernacular, he’s a Null”.

 Kayda was encouraged to step forward next: responding to the Chief’s gesture of invitation. Carrying a small wooden bowl Kayda asked Nikki to hold onto it as she withdrew from the sheath on her belt a decorated ceremonial blade, nervously she moved between the life support equipment and approached the bed – looking over to the Doctor and then her teacher, she indicated her need to cut some hair, Ophelia nodded in acceptance and Mrs. Grimes granted her permission understanding what was needed.

 Using the ceremonial knife Kayda sliced off a few strands of hair, returning to stand beside Nikki she then placed some water, the hair, and a pinch of herbs from out of her deerskin pouch into the bowl. After a brief incantation; a spark of light and a puff of vapour rose from the bowl. Almost breaking into tears the Native American girl said in a pained - near disappointed voice “No indication of Mythos magic, his hair would show its presence on him like a fingerprint - no history of essence at all”.

 Nikki Reilly, the Sidhe girl also known as Fey gave her friend a comforting one armed hug to relieve some of the obvious tension while the two moved toward the exit. Seeing an opportunity Dr. Tenant made a request: “Fey, could you try casting a healing spell. I tried making several yesterday without success, would you please try?” Nikki looked into the eyes of the pleading Doctor then down upon the near dead figure on the bed, after struggling with what looked like a debate - she nodded affirmatively.

 Kayda moved to the wall bracing her back against it - as Fey stepped into the corridor to be free of the protective wards. Ophelia provided the powerful mage some insight “Life support is keeping him alive, a machine is telling his heart to keep beating due to all the damage it’s taken, he’s being aspirated to force his lungs to work, he has a broken neck, and multiple deep cuts mostly on his chest”.

 Kayda gulped upon hearing the detailed list of injuries sustained, and Nikki held a shocked look as she slumped from the dire prognosis, nodding her head in understanding.

 The Sidhe queen spoke a series of words then set about gathering the essence she needed and collected it into a healing spell, from the positioning of her hands it was quite a large working, re-entering the room she moved near to the rooms focus and sent out her casting towards the stricken youth’s chest. Fey watched as the accumulated essence merely fizzled like a deflating balloon to then end with a tiny pop as it faded completely. She turned in puzzlement to Ophelia and her Teacher saying “I don’t understand what just happened. It didn’t work.”

 Ophelia’s hope was dashed “Thanks for trying dear” she gave as reassurance to cover her own disappointment.

 Chief Delarose released both Kayda and Nikki, ushering them out of the room with Mrs. Grimes following to give support and debrief them about the experience. After thanking them for their assistance in the hallway, the Chief next directed another youth to enter; which really surprised the Doctor that more investigation was required. Paige Donner stepped into the room.

“Are you able to tell me if this person is a Were?” Delarose asked.

 Paige sniffed at the air and assumed a confused expression; she shifted to her Werecat form, then with fluid ease moved between the machines surrounding the bed and began gathering a scent, the sleek black cat moved away from the bed and retook her human form. “He is not a Were, but he has been marked.”

“What do you mean ‘marked’” questioned Delarose.

“I’m not completely familiar with everything ‘Were’ but as I understand it - a female has claimed him” supplied Paige, the confused expressions upon the other rooms occupants faces required her to say more “I can’t explain it all too well, there are intricacies of Were society I haven’t had fully explained to me, it’s just that he’s carrying a scent, it was told to me he’d be welcome in the tribe. Maybe my step-folks can explain it to you better?” informed Paige.

“Do you know who’s scent is on him?” was the next logical question to be asked and the Chief beat Ophelia to it.

“I’m not familiar with who marked him” revealed Paige.

~o~O~o~

 Ophelia finally received clearance from Security allowing her to return Outlook into a Critical Care room, she established a vigil to keep his condition monitored and she was to be notified at any changes.

 Returning home, she stood under the soothing spray of the showers pulsating nozzle; deep in thought, her ‘quick’ shower turned into forty-five minutes before she noticed the water cooling and stepped out. She had mentally reviewed every possible treatment she could think of, berating herself in concern that she might have missed something – forgotten something.

 Firing up her computer Ophelia searched for a potential solution, an article in a medical journal about a boy in Western Canada that could reconstruct bone and muscle caught her eye for it’s potential merit but quickly passed it over. She skimmed over to the heart transplant site resulting in her interest being piqued: the waiting list was long since donors were hard to come by – but it was at least a chance, which is more than what she had a minute ago, Scrolling through the requirements for transplant: she was aghast to discover that each patient needed to have a mental assessment before being considered for viability and only then be placed on the wait list. Ophelia jumped to her feet and shouted into the air “LOUIS, I need you”.

 The mental representation of Louis Geintz appeared in her living room, wearing a corduroy sports coat, faded jeans and a well worn pair of moccasin slippers, he stood for a second with a shocked expression - then turned around “Doctor – Please.”

 Ophelia drew closed her bathrobe in embarrassment “Louis: can you make a mental assessment of a patient?”

“That would be more Dr. Bellows specialty, why do you ask”?

“I have a boy in Doyle who is dying, my last hope is to get him a heart transplant, for that I need to get a mental assessment of him … Louis; he’s unresponsive, I need you to go in and gauge his mind.”

“Ophelia, I…” and there it was, that look of desperation; the look that FUBAR had seen too often in his lifetime – on so many faces, be it on one of the students in Hawthorne, upon teachers grasping at straws, and if he was to be honest … at times in the reflection of his fish bowl. “I’ll meet you at Doyle” he finally offered.

 The fierceness of determination rose within Ophelia “I’ll be there in five!”

“Make it thirty, so you can get something to eat first and it’s a deal” bartered Louis. Opie’s ‘drive’ was the stuff of legend – that and her habit of forgetting the simple things; like food.

~o~O~o~

 Louis Geintz stood with Ophelia in the Critical Care room, the boys sad small figure lay on the bed amid tubes and wires: pale and unmoving surrounded by beeping equipment. Ophelia checked and assessed the monitors as if begging the blips to do more than indicate a life fading away. The Doctor pointed her little flashlight into the unresponsive clouded white eyes which provided no hint of reaction. Looking at her possible salvation she asked “Anytime Louis ?”

“That’s just it Ophelia, I’ve been trying; there’s nothing there to work with, just blank walls” hating to break that information to her “I’m so sorry!”

 Ophelia broke into tears, and grabbed onto Louis as she sobbed; wailing in disappointment. Maybe the shoulder she was crying on didn’t exist, and maybe a Doctor should have more separation from a patient, but right then: the biggest hearts on campus were in that room, and Opie’s was breaking.

Sunday: September 23, 2007; Doyle Medical Centre

 Ophelia was trying to not think about the boy in Critical Care, but her rounds had her pass that open door too many times during the course of the day, she knew what needed to be done but any little distraction was excuse enough to avoid entering.

 The usual afternoon rush had passed – odd to think it usual to have a stream of teenaged patients coming in with breaks, strains, and sprains as being usual; but Martial Arts held classes on the weekend and the new students always took a beating ... unfortunately too literally.

 The clock approached four, and Ophelia resigned herself to her dreaded task, asking Bonny to assist her since she was the one nurse she knew who wouldn’t doubt or question the decision that really had no other option. They entered Critical Care room 1 and unplugged the life support machines, without the electrical stimulation the patient’s heart ceased beating resulting in the monitors lines riding flat across the screen. At three fifty in the afternoon of September the twenty third, in the year twenty ot seven: Alex Cameron Burke was pronounced dead.

 Bonny solemnly assisted Ophelia in disconnecting all the wires that had kept the boy artificially alive, and the two-bore witness on the documentation announcing the boy deceased. Ophelia sought to take the body down to the morgue against Bonny’s saying an orderly could do it “No Bon, I need to do this – it’ll give me closure” said the Doctor not wanting to feel numb but not giving way to tears either.

 Doyle’s basement housed a small but regrettably too often used morgue, the refrigerated little room felt colder than it actually was, Ophelia moved the rolling bed through the door and positioned it against a wall. Ophelia placed the young boy’s few personal belongings underneath the gurney for processing at the mortuary.

~o~O~o~

 Lieutenant Simeon Trout had been keeping an eye on the happenings in Doyle with great interest, ever since he’d done an online search for ‘Outlook’ he had been secretly working out the details of a grand scheme which would be a score that could have him set for life. The carrot being dangled before his eyes was a bounty tallied at two and a half million for proof positive on the death of one Cameron Burke: aka Outlook.

 He nearly jumped through the screen when he saw Dr. Tenant wheeling the body down to the morgue.

Monday: September 24, 4:30 am; Doyle Medical Centre Loading Dock

 Lieutenant Trout had fought over the need to bring in some help to pull off a heist, greed won out over caution. The Lieutenant had disabled the security cameras viewing Doyle’s basement and loading area; putting them into a playback loop – something he’d done hundreds of times before throughout the school’s security network and been paid handsomely for doing it. He backed his truck up to the loading dock behind Doyle, then noiselessly crept into the building using the falsified entry codes he possessed.

 Ensuring nobody saw him he took the stairs down to the basement and walked up to the morgues door. Opening the heavily insulated door he used a flashlight to find the body within, it was resting atop a gurney inside a plastic body bag, he unzipped the bag uncovered the boys face and took photo’s of the deceased along with the death certificate.

 Trout decided the kid was small enough that he could carry the body upstairs to the waiting truck instead of risking using the gurney and an elevator. Wrapping the boy’s body in the blanket he hoisted him onto his shoulder, he didn’t bother with shutting the door behind him as he lugged the dead weight up the stairs. Moving cautiously through the hallways he backed into the door pushing it open.

 Approached his vehicle he allowed the body to drop into the truck bed, he straightened up in time to hear “Freeze!” Franklin Delarose’s unmistakable voice bellowed as it echoed around the loading dock, it brought panic to Simeon who simply held still as four darkened figures moved in closer with guns at the ready - pointing nowhere other than directly at him.

“Is showing disrespect for the dead an offence” asked one of the men positioned in the confining circle around Trout.

“I’ll see if there isn’t something that’ll stick” said Delarose as one of his men put Trout into handcuffs. Chief Delarose directed that Lt. Trout be taken and confined at Kane Hall, that he would be along shortly to start the paperwork.

 Delarose stood over the enshrouded body lying in the trucks bed, bending low he scooped the light weight boy into his arms then stood cradling it. He grunted as he stepped over the tailgate onto the loading dock, then entered Doyle, the Chief cradled the body in his arms as he carried it back down the stairs to the cool room it had been stolen from, he set the bag gently upon the gurney. Chief Delarose straightened; removing his beret and bowed his head, holding his stance for a moment, then turned to leave the room.

“gah - Louis! Are you trying to give me a heart attack ?”

 FUBAR assessed the Chief for a second “Sorry Frank, I forget that people can’t hear my walking or breath” as he stood in the doorway.

“What’s got you wandering the campus tonight?”

“Ophelia cried herself to sleep tonight. So much emotion … it’s hard to ignore.”

“She’s got a heart of gold that one, it will be her undoing.”

“She put everything she had into trying to save this boy, it wasn’t enough. To have your limitations pushed and find yourself lacking, it’s a hard pill to swallow. ”

“The poor kid didn’t stand a chance, his heart was pretty near torn out of his chest… sorry - had you known the boy ?”

“No, not really. But I - I wanted to… needed to say goodbye” revealed Louis

“We end up losing some each year” surrendered Delarose.

“You can’t fool me Frank, don’t even try and trivialize this.”

“What would you have me do Louis? I’ve seen too much pain over my career!”

“I get that Frank, but still - this hurts you: whenever one of these children you’ve sworn to protect dies, You carry guilt and blame yourself”

 Franklin Delerose stood silent collecting his thoughts “I failed him Louis, I let this happen on my watch”

“Could you honestly have done anything to keep it from happening ?”

“Had I known he had enemies … maybe, but we had no warning!, there are plenty of feuds between students but they can be headed off from escalating. There doesn’t seem to ba any reason for his death - and the motive being given is doubtful.” Cursing under his breath “Damnit - there was one of my men right beside the kid when it happened.”

“This is burning you up inside”

“Darn straight, his attacker will receive what? A week detention and end up raking leaves or some such.” Complained Delarose “How is his family supposed to feel about that for justice ? We’re talking about taking somebodies life!”

“Whateley’s absolved from harm to students” offered Fub.

“Maybe it shouldn’t be! Administration and the School Trustee’s have taken the value of life and reduced it to a; a - minor inconvenience at best! Just what kind of lesson is it we’re teaching these kids ?”

“We’re trying to help them survive in a world that hates them”

“Look at how that turned out for Outlook here!” Said Delarose with a degree of scorn as he pointed at the body “I worry we’re just demonstrating to these kids that rules don’t apply to them ! That mutants are above the law !”

“Frank, you know how this school needs to operate - no favouritism.”

“You’re right Louis, it’s just that it’s a sore point for me …”

“And you’d normally find solace at the bottom of a bottle.”

“But the Doctors told me if I kept up that habit it would kill me.”

“Have you considered chess as an alternate ?”

“I’m more of a checkers man.”

“I’m flexible, you know where to find me.”

“Give me an hour, paperwork never rests.”

 Franklin Delarose closed the morgues door as he left, leaving Louis alone in the cold room.

 Standing beside the body FUBAR lowered his eyes and considered the pain wrought upon his friends.

 As the Psychic Arts teacher was deep in thought, his gaze cast over the corpse, a blinding golden aura began to emit above the body causing the encasing bag to dissolve, the intense light expanding outward to encompass the whole body, a brilliant flash suddenly occurred saturating the room within the golden hue. Louis Geintz backed away - pressing his manifested body up against the wall in shock. As the illumination subsided the exposed body was glowing gold as Louis watched the many scars fade until the skin held no blemish.

 The boys eyes opened revealing shining eyes but the emitted light was pale against the rooms glow, the boy lay on the gurneys surface blinking a couple times before rotating his head toward Louis with the boys face holding a questioning look.

“Are you here to kill me - again ?”

The End



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